Parenting

How can I expand my picky eater’s palate?

Dear Mama Drama: My two-year-old won’t eat anything, but macaroni and cheese. I’m afraid to give him other things because if he doesn’t eat it he’ll be hungry. I see other children, even younger than him, eating a wide variety of foods. I am amazed that they will eat things like tofu and vegetables. How can I get my son to eat a wider variety of foods? ~Scared of starving Dear Scared: Many children have difficulty expanding their food choices once they have found a favorite food. Macaroni and cheese, PB & J, and mashed potatoes are common favorites. They may like the texture, smell, or associate a positive experience with that food. However, we have to offer them other foods on a regular basis if we want them to make other choices. Our job as parents is to provide healthy options for o...

Dance Mom Fails and Dreaming the Impossible Dream

One of the most rewarding parts of parenthood is seeing your children wade through the wall of clutter to discover their talents and passions. We tried it all–soccer, gymnastics, swim team and upside-down basket weaving. She had marginal successes but there was one activity that was a complete flop: dancing. You see, my daughter Hadley has inherited my lack of rhythm. Instead, she has a raw, aggressive athleticism that makes her adept at climbing mountains, careening down a ski slope, scaling large buildings and reducing her competition to tears at any sign of weakness. When she was three years old, she had her first – and last – dance recital. We invited the entire family out for the occasion, an event we knew would go down as yet one more painful chapter in the Johnson ...

7 tips to stop nagging your kids

Dear Mama Drama: I am so tired of nagging my kids to do what they’re already supposed to do. How can I motivate them without constantly nagging? Sticker rewards worked when they were younger but now that they’re getting older, nothing is working. ~Nagged Out Dear Nagged Out: When our children are younger we provide lots of structure and supervision for their daily routines. As they get older and develop more independent skills, we tend to relax these and are often surprised to find ourselves nagging constantly. Nagging tends to undermine all that independence we worked so hard for our children to gain. It tells them we don’t really think they can do it and removes any motivation to remember on their own since they know we’ll remind them anyway. It also creates barriers in our r...

How do I handle the bad behavior of my kids’ friends?

Dear Mama Drama: Hope it’s okay I’m a dad. My wife and I have a 4 year old in preschool and have recently been struggling with whom our little guy is friends. There is one particular boy at school that we feel is a bad influence from whom our son seems to be picking up bad habits. Should we let his teacher know and perhaps ask them to not allow them to spend so much time together throughout the day? (photo credit) We even have the kid’s mother now asking for play dates and we’re not sure if we should encourage our son to hang out with this other little boy. Are we being too protective and controlling?  What would your advice be for encouraging our son to hang out with nicer, more well-behaved kids? Thanks ~ Flustered Father

Parenting question: You Want to Read What?!

Dear Mama Drama: I have three daughters ages 13, 11, and 8. They are all avid readers and generally read well above their age level. My eight-year-old wants to read whatever her sisters are reading, but as they get into their teens I am not always comfortable with the content. When there is sexual content or violence, my eight-year-old is often confused, scared, and has had nightmares, especially after reading some of the vampire books. The girls think it isn’t a big deal, but I do.  I am not sure how to handle this with them. ~ Raising Readers Dear Raising: Your concerns about your youngest daughter’s reading material are valid. The themes in books for teens and tweens focus on different experiences and thinking processes than books for younger children. It can be difficult to find e...

How can I help my kids become more independent?

Dear Mama Drama: I am trying to get my five-year-old son to be more independent in bathing and dressing himself. I have been working with him for the past two weeks on this and he still cannot do anything on his own. I am frustrated and he starts crying every time I tell him to do it on his own. I don’t understand why this is so hard or how to help him. ~Confused Mama Dear Confused: Building independent self-care skills for bathing, dressing, etc., is very important for five-year-olds. While as adults we view these skills as fairly basic, we have also been doing them for many, many years. Tasks that seem like one step for us, i.e. washing our hair, are really multiple steps. For your son to try to master all of these things in a short amount of time is probably quite overwhelming. Rather t...

A (Funny) Lesson on Attachment-detachment Parenting

My kids and I are having a fabulous summer. If we’re not swimming, we’re hiking, playing with friends or traveling. I fully realize these years are fleeting and I’m making the most of my time with them. The only snafu is this thing called work I’m supposed to be doing. And by the end of the summer, you’d better believe I’ll be in dire need of some alone time to finally be productive. As much as I enjoy having my kids around 24-7, school is a much-needed respite for all of us. I realize not everyone shares my opinion. Several years ago when my daughter was about to enter preschool, our community had a big ol’ garage sale. My husband Jamie and I stopped at a house a few blocks away and struck up a casual conversation with the home owners. It took onl...

Loving ways you can help kids overcome their fears

“Mommy!! Monsters are under my bed!!”  Our creative and knowledge hungry preschoolers are constantly exploring, being exposed to new things and developing new skills. All of these exciting and new things are wonderful for development and can encourage a very active imagination. However, these new things, ideas and images, combined with an active imagination can create fear and anxiety. Fears and anxiety in preschoolers are completely normal and can take anywhere from six- twelve months for them to be overcome. Typically, your child’s fear will fit into one of these three categories: 1)    Specific Things- spiders, the dark, monsters in the room, the neighbor’s dog etc. 2)    New Situations- new daycare, new people, new events etc.. 3)  &nb...

How can I navigate summer break boredom vs. overscheduling?

Dear Mama Drama: My kids are getting out for the summer and I’m dreading the constant running them here and there and that I’m never able to get anything done. If I don’t schlep them to play dates or other activities they complain that they’re bored. I feel exhausted after these crazy days and then end up staying up late to get the things I need done completed. (photo credit) I’d like a different summer experience this year. Any help you can offer would be great! ~Dreading Mama Dear Dreading: A change of pace sounds like it is definitely in order for your family this summer. Finding a balance between activities and down time is critical to create an enjoyable experience for all – including you! Are you doing too much? Start by looking at the activities you have the kids signed up for. Is i...

5 Important Ways to Teach Your Kids Empathy

Kids say the darndest things! We have all experienced the pure innocence and honesty of a child. “ Mommy, your teeth look yellow” or  “Daddy, your nose is big.” Maybe you’ve experienced what’s even more humiliating … your child’s sharing their innocent, honest and totally inappropriate thoughts to a stranger. Or, maybe your child isn’t the “verbal” type and these examples don’t sound familiar. Lucky you! But what about grabbing toys away from other children and not noticing the other child is now crying? How about hitting their baby brother or sister and feeling little to no remorse? You can’t help but wonder what happened to your sweet innocent baby, and why some of their behaviors resemble, well, a little monster. No, the behaviors described above–or similar ones that mi...

How Can I Tame My Son’s Rude Jokes?

Dear Mama Drama: My ten-year-old son is always cracking jokes and thinks he is extremely funny. The trouble is that his jokes are usually at the expense of someone else. When people respond negatively to him, he acts like they are overreacting and too sensitive. I think he has some sharp wit beneath the rudeness, but I don’t know how to tap into it. Most of the time he comes off acting like a jerk instead of being funny. ~Unamused Mama (photo credit) Dear Unamused: Ten-year-old boys often use humor to engage socially and, as you relate, they don’t always understand the line between funny and rude. Children (and some adults) also use inappropriate humor to humiliate others in order to feel better about themselves or attempt to elevate their social status. This is also bullying behavio...

My overachievements in parenting…thanks to television

Once upon a time when we retrieved my then-3-year-old daughter Hadley from preschool, her teacher pulled me aside. “I need to talk to you about Hadley,” she said in that voice. The same cautionary voice my third-grade teacher used right before she wrote on my report card that I had “verbal diarrhea.” Shockingly, the report was positive. “Hadley is doing such a great job with her letters! Not only is she really advanced on sounding them out but she is already piecing them together in words. You must be regularly working on them with her at home?” After retrieving my jaw from the floor, I paused long and hard. Should I tell her that my kids were addicted to “The Letter Factory” DVD by LeapFrog? And that perky tadpole Tad was even inspiring my t...