Parent Tips: Allowance

If you're just starting out with allowances, or planning to in the future, I highly recommend the book Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats: Love and Logic Solutions to Teaching Kids About Money by Jim Fay and Kristan Leatherman. They also have a simple, step-by-step blog post on giving an allowance. 

Many of the experts, including the Love and Logic authors, recommend separating allowance from household chores. Chores are something everyone in the family does to contribute. They are part of being needed and valued by the family. They teach responsibility. They are not optional. If you tie them to an allowance, a child can decide they don't want to do their chores with the consequence of just skipping their allowance. Probably not an issue at age five, but I can certainly see it being an issue at age 15.

At age five, Sydney is the only one old enough for allowance in our household, but it’s made a world of difference in many ways.  She’s already learning how to spend wisely (and not so wisely) and the value of saving. 

One of the biggest benefits has been in our shopping experiences. Sydney was infamous for having meltdowns at stores. She’d spot something she wanted and the dam would break. Through tears, she’d be screaming, “It’s SO IMPORTANT! I can’t live without it! PLEASE MOMMY! I need it!” and that could go on for the duration of our shopping experience, with nearly every eye on us (and consoling smiles from the parents who’ve “been there”).

Once we implemented a weekly allowance – we pay it every Sunday – the nightmare shopping trips were (mostly) over. She must bring her money with her for any shopping trip. She can purchase whatever she wants with her money. I only ask that she wait until we’ve traversed the entire store before she makes a decision, and in several cases what she held onto for dear life at the beginning of the store has been tossed for something else she can’t live without by the time we're checking out. 

Sydney now understands that everything she sees has a price and that sometimes she can't afford it (that's why there's a "mostly" in the paragraph above - we've still had a few meltdowns when she's out of money or when something is out of her budget). I can see the wheels turning as she decides between two items and compares their cost and value.

It’s also made her a bigger helper around the house – she’s always looking for ways to earn more money. Being an American Girl Doll lover, she's started to ask, “How can I earn $100 Mommy?”

Hmmm…

Lessons Learned: Parenting after Years of Infertility

 Photo by Melissa Glynn Photography

Photo by Melissa Glynn Photography

I haven't thought much about how our parenting was impacted by the years we spent trying to conceive, but looking back now, I realize there was a dramatic effect.

We ached for a child. We went through test after test, and treatment after treatment. I was finally pregnant with our first in vitro cycle, and then I wasn't. After our second in vitro, we were blessed with this beautiful baby girl in our arms. After more than four years of trying.

And so we lavished her with our affection and attention. 

And I mean lavished.

The sun revolved around Sydney Addison Miller. And so did our family.

Sydney never spent a moment by herself unless she was sleeping. If she fell asleep for a nap in the car, one of us would stay with her, no matter where we were or what we were doing. Even on Christmas Day. Chris literally ate Christmas lunch on a china plate, in the car, while Sydney snored on.

Speaking of the car, when Chris was driving, I rode in the backseat with her to keep her company. Always. I think back now at just how crazy that sounds.

As a baby, I would sing her to sleep nearly every night, slow dancing with her in the dining room where there was the least amount of light. When she climbed out of her crib at 18 months and moved to a "big girl bed," one of us would lie down with her for an hour until she fell asleep. 

We constantly entertained her, read to her, taught her and played with her.

The first time I remember Sydney actually playing on her own was at exactly two years old, three months before her little sister was due. She spent an hour lining up her collection of chapsticks. I remember being amazed just watching this feat. Not the balancing of the fruity sticks across the couch, but that she didn't require any attention for a full 60 minutes.

We had date night once a week, and I would feel so guilty as we walked out the door while Sydney screamed and cried loudly in the background to make sure we understood the depths of her disappointment and despair at our abandonment.

Now, I will caveat all of the above with the fact that Sydney was a fussy baby (at least in the opinion of this mom, who admittedly had very little experience with babies). Which is the reason we spent so much time with her. She cried often, and once she got going, it was hard to get her to stop (and still is today, at age six). She cried nearly every minute in the car unless we were singing Old McDonald Had a Farm. She cried at bedtime most of all. And cry-it-out, which I tried to brave at the four-month-mark when Sydney was still awake at 10pm, did not work for her. It just made her more, and more, and more riled up. To the point where she almost threw up. You know that hormone that gets released when children cry that makes them sleepy? That doesn't happen with Sydney for some reason.

I spent endless hours online researching why she was crying. I took her to the doctor five times as often as there was a fixable problem, like an ear infection. I changed my diet to make sure it wasn't my breastmilk that was making her colicky. 

As Sydney's grown up, she has gotten easier. As a baby, she was upset more times than not. As a two-year-old, we'd have four outbreaks a day. At three, she was down to two outbreaks a day. At four and five, she would have one spell a day or less. And at six years old, we can make it a few days straight without a "crazy" moment.

We do still tiptoe around anything that will trigger a "Sydney Spell." For example, Sydney used to get very upset when anyone held their hands to their lips to tell her to be quiet. And once she got upset, she would stay upset, squeezing her neck and gasping for air. For an hour or more. So instead of shushing her, we created a secret phrase to ask her to be quiet. Spell avoided.

Have other parents gone through these great lengths to keep their babies and kids happy? Maybe. But had we started trying to conceive, gotten pregnant in that first year, and had our little boy or girl without any complications, I think our attitude would have been different. And our attention a little less lavish. As is evidenced by our behavior with Sydney's younger sister Sabrina (3), and brother Luke (2), who received a lot less attention (as often happens with the second and third kid).

I believe they are the better for it. They are much more laid back. They are not as strong willed. They aren't nearly as sensitive. They are comfortable playing on their own. They are capable of entertaining themselves. They are happier more often.

Here is how I describe our three children to a new babysitter: If Sydney gets a shot at the doctor's office, she will still be crying an hour later. When Sabrina gets a shot, she cries for about 45 seconds, until she can pick her lollipop. When Luke gets a shot, sometimes he doesn't even cry out, but if he does, he stops as soon as the nurse says, "All done!"

Were Sydney, Sabrina and Luke simply born with their temperaments, and different actions would not have resulted in different outcomes? I honestly don't know the answer. But in the end, our lesson learned is that while attention is great, too much attention may not be.

Parent Tips: A Trick for Bad Dreams

Someone once taught me a great trick about conquering bad dreams that worked for me growing up, and now works for our young kids.

If they're scared about something BEFORE they fall asleep, then you can help them picture whatever it is as silly or funny. Take sharks, for example. My nephew started having bad dreams about sharks after watching Finding Nemo. Before bed, we talked about turning them into a huggable best friend, or a silly shark in boxer shorts who can't stop dancing. And, like magic, his bad dreams about sharks went away.

If your kids wake up in the night from a bad dream, the same process applies - tell them to imagine tickling that silly shark or playing hopscotch with him as they're drifting back to sleep. 

Apparently, the same process applies to bad thoughts too. If you can't stop thinking about something negative, you need to give your brain a new image to replace it with that makes you happy instead of mad, sad or scared. For example, if you've accidentally closed the door on your child's finger, and you keep going over that terrible moment in your head, any time the thought creeps back in, imagine her happy face after-the-fact instead.

Parenting Authors & Experts Interview: 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

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Q&A WITH KARI KAMPAKIS

Author: 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

Question: How did you first get into writing?

Answer: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but 8 years ago, while pregnant with my third child, I quit talking about writing a book and actually started to work on one. I began by writing essays on motherhood, then I spent five years writing three novels, all unpublished. It’s easy to consider all that unpublished work a waste a time, but I don’t see it that way. I needed the practice to hone my writing skills and find a voice that suits me. 

Question: How did your original blog post, 10 Truths Young Girls Should Know, turn into a book?

Answer: I published that post in July 2013 on my blog, and immediately it started getting shared all over Facebook and Pinterest. I knew from the emails I got (from moms, dads, and youth pastors) that the message struck a chord. It was two months after all the excitement calmed down, when everyone had moved on to other stories, that I heard from an editor at Thomas Nelson who expressed interest in expanding the post into a book. They wanted the book to release before Christmas, so the whole process - from me writing the book to them launching it - happened quickly and in a year’s time.

Question: If readers were to take away one key lesson from your book, what do you hope it would be?

Answer: The main thing I want my young readers to know is that God loves them, God sees them, and God has a plan for their life. I want them to know there’s more to life than junior high and high school, and by making good choices now, they set themselves up to thrive long-term. 

Question: For the moms out there like me, with young girls, what is the most surprising thing we should prepare for in the tween/teenage years?

Answer: The most surprising thing I’ve learned is how early the negative influences start.  After talking to parents, school counselors, psychologists, and others who work with adolescents, my eyes have been opened to the hard realities of teen culture today. For our kids to make good choices, we need to prepare them for difficult situations and have some uncomfortable conversations so they don’t enter this world blindly and follow the crowd simply because they’ve never been given alternative options to consider.

Question: Your #1 Lesson is Everything You Need to Find Peace and Happiness is Inside You. How did you teach your girls that truth?

Answer: I try to teach my daughters to trust their instincts. When something feels wrong, there’s a reason. When someone seems untrustworthy, there’s a reason. I’m a big believer in tuning into your conscience and what that inner voice says, because that’s God talking. Even at a young age, kids can understand that when they’re kind to others, it makes them feel good, and when they’re not kind, it creates unrest. The sooner they get a handle on their feelings, and develop some sort of emotional intelligence, the better equipped they’ll be to recognize cues that can help draw them closer to God.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kari Kampakis started her writing career with her first PR job out of college. She began writing fiction novels while pregnant, and played the chicken-and-the egg routine to getting an agent or publisher. Then the door opened when two community newspapers began carrying her column.

In 2013, she re-launched her website and began blogging. Four months later, her first blog post went viral. Titled 10 Truths Young Girls Should Know,  it caught the attention of Thomas Nelson, a major Christian publisher, who expressed interest in creating a book. On November 4, 2014, Thomas Nelson released 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, written for teen and tween girls.

Ella, Sophie, Marie Claire, and Camille are her pride and joy.

Book: 10 ULTIMATE TRUTHS GIRLS SHOULD KNOW

Facebook: Kari Kampakis, Writer

Twitter: @karikampakis

Instagram: karikampakis

Pinterest: Kari Kampakis

BITLY LINKS to books

·      Amazon: http://amzn.to/1AOH49X

·      Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1sltw0I

·      BooksAMillion:  http://bit.ly/1kz1izP

·      Christianbook.com: http://bit.ly/1qLPyrv

Child Development Authors & Experts Interview: Love & Logic Facilitator, Jessica Johnson

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Q&A WITH JESSICA JOHNSON

Love & Logic Independent Facilitator

Question: What made you decide to be a Love & Logic Instructor?

Answer: My husband and I took one of their classes, and right from the start we were taught techniques that we could implement at home with our children. We did, and they worked! I am a preschool teacher and I kept telling my director all about it. She suggested that since it worked so well with my family, I should consider becoming a facilitator.

Question: For those who aren’t familiar with Love & Logic, what’s the basic premise?

Answer: Love and Logic teaches parents to set firm but loving limits, to allow children to make mistakes in a loving environment, and to let them learn from their mistakes - not from parents lecturing, threatening, or warning them.

Question: What’s your favorite example of how Love & Logic has worked in your home or classroom?

Answer: One of my favorite books by the Love and Logic Institute is on chores and allowance, called Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats. By giving my children an allowance, I have eliminated the begging and tantrums that used to come whenever we went shopping. Now that they have their own money and can make their own purchasing decisions, running errands with them is pleasant again! And I am no longer deciding what is or isn’t important to them. For example, my son decided he wanted a $60 Halloween costume. I told him I would be happy to pay for half of it if he would pay for the other half. He had been saving his money for a video game and he told me he'd need to think about it. The next day, he let me know that the video game was more important to him and that he would just wear a costume he already had. I love that he had the ability to figure that out on his own, without my input.

Question: What’s your favorite Love & Logic tip?

Answer: My favorite tip or technique is called the Enforceable Statement. This technique teaches you how to word limits in a positive “I will” message, rather than a negative “you will” message. For example, saying, “I am happy to take children to the park who have finished putting away their toys,” instead of “I told you to put your toys away five minutes ago!”

Question: What kinds of skills can parents expect to walk away with after taking your class?

Answer: Parents will walk away with skills that will allow them to handle any situation their child can throw at them. My favorite thing about Love and Logic is that it truly gives you the language to effectively communicate with your children – to know what to say in any situation.

Question: For those parents in Austin, please tell us when your next set of classes will be. For those outside of Austin, how can they find a local class of their own?

Answer: I will be facilitating the Love and Logic Early Childhood Made Fun curriculum at Westminster Presbyterian Day School starting Sunday, October 26th and running through November 23rd. We will meet every Sunday from 4 – 6 pm for five weeks. Anyone interested can email me at jpriour@hotmail.com for more information on this or other classes. For those outside of Austin, they can call the Love and Logic Institute at 1-800-338-4065 to find a facilitator in their area. 

ABOUT JESSICA

Jessica Johnson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with high honors and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She has been teaching toddlers at Westminster Presbyterian Day School for 10 years. She has been a facilitator for Love and Logic for two years. She lives in Austin with her husband Chris Johnson, and their son Brooks (age 9) and daughter Adelaide (age 6).

Website: loveandlogic.com    Email: jpriour@hotmail.com

Parent Tips: Ailments and Frets

It all started six months ago. All of a sudden, we couldn't get through a day without Sydney (6) saying something hurt. Her throat, her neck, her head, her leg, her foot, her ear, her stomach. You name a body part, it's hurt at some point in the last 180 days!

We took her to the doctor and there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with her medically. She sleeps well, eats (well enough), and gets her exercise. So what do we do now? Is she faking it to get attention? Or does she really feel these ailments. And if so, why?

We've tried to be empathetic, instead of dismissive or frustrated. This can be challenging when you hear the words, "Mommy, my tummy hurts," or "Please take my temperature," for the sixteenth time in less than an hour.

We've provided her non-medicinal options that make sense for the situation - rest, massage, ice pack, etc., etc. Those ideas haven't quelled the ailments, or the complaints.

Sydney is a dweller and it is hard to distract her from what's bothering her or turn her attention to the positive. When this first became "a thing," I researched to see if any other parents had the same issue with their young children. I came across a great forum thread with the following suggestions:

  1. Teach the difference between reasonable worry and dwelling - and how to disrupt the dwelling through activity.
  2. Talk to your toddler about the importance of a positive outlook - that believing one is healthy is a great way to stay healthy.
  3. Tell them to write any negative feelings in a journal that you can review together once a week instead of talking about it constantly.
  4. Set time limits around worrying and fretting, letting them know the rest of the time must be spent doing something else.

I'm hoping with our help, Sydney will realize she does have control over her feelings and what she chooses to think about.

And so we've been trying all of the tactics above. Some days it seems to work (especially that journal idea, even though she's never actually written anything down - just the suggestion stops the whining). 

Suddenly, it's summer and I can't remember hearing one complaint in two weeks. Could it be as simple as Sydney wanting to steal away some of our attention because she doesn't get enough of it when school is in session? Or so busy playing she can't be bothered fretting? We'll see. For now, I'll relish the break from the ailments, and the complaints about them.

Lessons Learned: Temper Tantrums

Do you have a strong willed toddler like we do? Up until Sydney was seven months old, she would fuss briefly when she didn’t get her way, but was easily distracted. Then suddenly we experienced her first real temper tantrum – over wanting a popsicle. She was tired, and probably hungry, and started to fuss while we were fixing dinner. It escalated from fussing to a screaming fit when we tried to get her to sit down and have dinner. We let her know that once she ate with us, she could have a popsicle and go outside, but instead she decided to hold onto the freezer door, jump up and down and cry hysterically.

We learned many lessons in that 15 minutes:

  1. Ignoring the tantrum didn’t help at all, but sitting down beside her didn’t seem to help either, nor did carrying her back over to the table to try to get her to eat.
  2. Letting her know that we understood exactly what she wanted did not make her feel any better about the situation.
  3. She can work herself up so much that she throws up (though it appeared to be mostly phlegm).
  4. I wish we’d never let her try a popsicle, or a piece of candy, or a cashew for that matter (she always wants one, but then spits chunks of it out all over the floor), or anything else she pitched a fit over, even though I know that’s only a temporary solution.
  5. And most importantly, she needs to be taken far away from whatever she’s coveting.

As soon as we finished with dinner, Chris took her outside (without a popsicle needless to say), and although she fussed a bit when she came back in, she did not touch the freezer again and was happy as can be by bath time. 

Funny how much easier it is for kids to forget the tirades than it is for their parents.

Lessons Learned Recap: Tantrums will happen. All you can do is ride out the storm and figure out the best approach to shorten their duration.

Parent Tips: Cleaning Up the Toys

When you have young kids, it's impossible to keep the house clean all day long. Here are the strategies we've adopted to keep our sanity and avoid breaking our ankles on stray toys:

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  1. When our kids are ready to move on to "the next thing," they need to clean up the activity they've just finished first. As I type this, our 3yo has every art item out on her office table - markers, paper, hole punch, scissors, tape, glue, old business cards, stamps, stamp pads, gift boxes and a bucket (not sure what the bucket is for?). When she's ready for Legos or puzzles or to jump outside on the trampoline, everything needs to go back in its place first. Using the Love and Logic enforceable statements, we say, "You can [go outside] as soon as you've cleaned up the [art supplies that are out on the table]."
  2. Clean up time is at 5pm every day. We sing, "It's time to put the toys away, toys away, toys away. It's time to put the toys away. Where are all my helpers?" (a song we learned at Sydney's first preschool). Everyone helps get the house in order and then we head to the kitchen to make dinner. If the kids complain that they don't want to clean up, that's fine! I reply, "I only charge $1 to clean up the mess for you." Every once in a while I actually get a taker, but usually that spurs them into action.
  3. Once all the kids are in bed, I go back through the house and put away anything else that's been left out (sippy cups, books, etc.) so that we end and start the day with a relatively clean house. Unless I'm totally out of energy. Then I just close my eyes, imagine what it would look like clean, and head to bed.

What tricks do you have to keep your house tidy?

Parent Tips: Finding The Bright Spot in Every Age

Sabrina is three. Sabrina is three. Sabrina is three. That was not a typo. It’s the sentence I repeat to myself most days when she’s doing something “very three.” Like fussing about the fact that her smoothie is too small (even when it's larger than her head), or making Luke cry by taking the toy in his hand (again), or throwing a temper tantrum over something crazy like wanting to open a child-proof bottle all by herself. 

Here is one of the biggest lessons I've learned with three children five and under. There are pros and cons at every age.

When they're babies, the crying and their neediness is exhausting and often pushed me over the edge. I've handed off all three of my babies to their dad at times and exclaimed, "Help! I can't take it anymore!" (That's the G version.) Those were the times I appreciated single moms or dads the most - just the thought of having nobody there to save my sanity makes me shudder.

But once I had a toddler in the house too, I realized all the benefits of babydom. They can't throw a tantrum. They can't throw anything at you (at least not with any accuracy). They can't fight with their siblings. They can't tell you they hate you. They're just these beautiful, loving creatures who crave attention and companionship and nourishment...and sometimes cry a lot.

Toddlers gain their independence and can play on their own and can bring you such joy. But then you also have to deal with having to carry them kicking and screaming out of a store, while they're trying to tear all of your hair out, because they wanted to buy a $50 mermaid that you politely informed them they couldn't afford with their weekly allowance.

I don't know what having a teenager is like yet, but I can guarantee you it will be more of the same. The good with the bad. Just like human nature.