Thursday, September 30, 2010

Children and Chores

Children who have regular household chores not only help keep the family home running smoothly, but also learn responsibility and the skills they will need for their own homes. There are several steps parents can take to make the process work for everyone.

First, make chores part of the child’s routine so that their jobs are done at regular times. A chart or list of chores can help children remember, and so can a simple reminder like, “It’s trash time.” Teach the child how to do the job by first showing and explain how it’s done, let them try while you watch, then let them do it on their own.

Experts advise parents to start early in assigning children their own chores based on what they can safely do at certain ages. Even a 3-year-old can help set the table. Older children can vacuum, help prepare dinner, load the dishwasher and run the washer and dryer. Don’t underestimate your children. The same child who runs a complicated computer game can certainly manage the washer and dryer!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grandparent Care

For centuries, grandparents have been an important source of support and care for grandchildren, and grandparent care is still common.

According to a study conducted by the nonprofit research center, Child Trends, today’s grandparents provide care “when parents are at work, out for the evening, or must be away for a short time,” such as to run errands, keep doctor’s appointments, or attend social events. Using data from two national surveys, Child Trends found that nearly one half of all grandparents give some type of childcare to their grandchildren. Not surprisingly, grandparents who live nearby are more likely to provide child care than those who live far away.

Grandparents do give substantial time to care. The study found that about 70% of young children in grandparent care received care for more than 10 hours per week, and almost half were in grandparent care for more than 20 hours. When thinking about grandparents and grandchildren, you might imagine a doting grandmother, and this study found that 54% of care was provided by grandmothers. However, more than one third of grandfathers provided care.

This research suggests that grandparents play an important role in family life by providing care for grandchildren, during parents’ work and non-work hours. This can be an opportunity for grandparents and grandchildren to build their personal relationship, cement family bonds, and also to pass on family traditions, history and values.


Guzman, L. (2004). Grandma and grandpa taking care of the kids: Patterns of involvement. Child Trends Research Brief #2004-17.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dealing With Toddler Temper Tantrums

Most of us have experienced the incredible tantrums of toddlers. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, all toddlers experience those moments. Toddlers have tantrums because they get frustrated easily and have very few problem-solving skills. Most likely, a tantrum will happen when toddlers are hungry, exhausted, or over-excited.

So what are you supposed to do when faced with a tantrum? Here are a few recommendations.

First, try to remain calm. Shaking, slapping, spanking or screaming at your child will only make the tantrum worse. Set a positive example for your child by remaining in control of yourself and your emotions. Count to ten (or 100) if you have to, but keep yourself in control.

Second, pause before you act. Take a deep breath, then take at least 30 seconds to decide how to handle the tantrum. Consider distracting them or taking them to a private place to calm down. Also, you might just hold them. Gently put your arms around them. You might even try whispering softly, telling your child to take a deep breath and then let the bad feeling go. This can be comforting to children because they don’t like to be out of control – it scares them.

Third, always wait until your child calms down before talking about the situation. You cannot reason with a screaming child. When your child is calm, talk about how he or she felt just before the tantrum and offer ways your child can show his or her frustration without the tantrum.

And, fourth, comfort and reassure your child that you still love them, even though you disapprove of their behavior. Tell your child that as he or she grows, they will be able to be in better control of their frustrations and angry feelings.


Monday, September 27, 2010

School Drop Outs

According to the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, remaining in school is the single most important action adolescents can take to improve their future economic prospects. Individual state laws, along with innovative dropout prevention programs have helped reduce the number of teens dropping out of schools nationwide.

A variety of factors influence whether or not a teen will do poorly or succeed in school. We know from research that students who do poorly in school tend to believe their success or failure is beyond their control, while students who do well tend to believe their success is because they are smart, and any failure is because they did not try hard enough. To help, parents can applaud their children’s ability when they do well in school and their effort when they do poorly.

In addition, students whose parents were not involved in their school are more likely to repeat a grade, be suspended or expelled, have poor grades and have behavior problems compared to those whose parents are involved.

While most parents want their children to do well in school, by the time teens reach 12th grade, only half of parents are involved in school activities, such as attending a school meeting or event. It is especially important for parents of teens to remain involved in their school. Creating partnerships among schools, parents and key community organizations in joint responsibility for adolescents’ educational achievement and healthy development can continue to reduce the number of kids dropping out of school.


What to Know about Dropping Out of School: A publication for professionals who work with adolescents and the parents of adolescents, (1998), Kathleen Boyce Rodgers, University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service.

Great Transitions: Preparing Adolescents for a New Century: Concluding Report of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. Carnegie Corporation of New York. (October, 1995). New York, NY.

Steinberg, L. & Levine, A. (1990). You and your adolescent: A parent’s guide for ages 10-20. New York: Harper Collins, 1990.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Teens, Drugs and Family Dinners

Did you know that the more often children eat dinner with their family, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs?

A study by the center on addiction and substance abuse reveals that teens who eat dinner with their families more than three times a week have half the risk of substance abuse than teens who eat with their families twice a week or less. This study adds to the growing pile of evidence that family dinners help strengthen family bonds.

Some may find this hard to believe, but, teens want to spend time with their families. Research from the Hawaii Department of Health reveals that two-thirds of the 10th and 12th graders surveyed want more opportunities to do fun things with their families, to share personal problems with their parents, and participate in decisions that affect them.

Children develop and maintain a sense of belonging within the family from these dinners. No matter what kind of day the child experiences, the routine of being part of a family is re-affirmed each night at dinner. This feeling of connectedness carries over into other aspects of the child’s life.

Scheduling family dinners gets more difficult as your child nears the 16 or 17-year old mark, because they are busy with their own life and able to drive themselves to school, jobs and friend’s houses. However, that’s also when their risk-taking behavior takes an abrupt upswing. Insisting that the child value the family’s shared dinner times may take some doing, but providing the tools to help your child resist drugs and alcohol is a worthwhile goal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reframing Your Toddler's Annoying Behaviors

Raising a toddler sure is fun. But it can also be frustrating can’t it? Many behaviors during early childhood leave parents questioning their parenting skills. Have you ever caught yourself thinking that your little ones are just trying to drive you crazy? Relax. They are not. Their behavior is probably following the normal “ages and stages” journey to growing up. If we reframe our thoughts about their behavior, it can be easier to deal with.

Crying – Instead of: “She’s trying to get at me.” Think: “She sure lets me know she needs something. What a communicator!”

Thumb sucking – Instead of: “He’s such a wimp. He’s going to ruin his teeth.” Think: “Isn’t it great that he’s found a way to comfort himself?”

Separation protests – Instead of : “She’s so spoiled! I can’t move without her hanging on my leg.” Think: “I sure am special to her. She really knows I’ll take care of her.”

Getting into things – Instead of : “What a pain in the neck. He won’t ever stay out of my stuff.” Think: “He’s so curious and eager to learn. He wants to see and touch everything. That must be so exciting for him. I need to childproof his world.”

Saying “No” – Instead of: “She’s so defiant. She better learn some respect fast.” Think: “She’s becoming so independent. She needs to show me she has a mind of her own.”

Throwing food – Instead of “She’s so messy and badly behaved.” Think: “She must be finished eating. She’s going to have a great fast-pitch some day!”

Reframing doesn’t mean you don’t take steps to teach the good behavior, such as “Let’s not throw the food. If you’re done, you can go play.” It simply means if you put a more positive though in your head, you can deal with the behavior in a more constructive way.

If you are frustrated over your child’s behaviors, educate yourself about your child’s age and stage of growth. This will help you react to your child’s difficult behaviors in a better way. Spend some time this week reframing your thoughts and let me know if it helped.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

When your child doesn't want to go to school

When a child says she or he feels sick, has a headache, stomachache, or a sore throat right before it's time to leave for school, and does this frequently, this is likely a case of school phobia or school refusal. What parent hasn't faced this issue?

The reasons for this frustrating behavior can vary. Family problems may play a part, such as a recent move, a new baby in the house, separation, or illness of a parent. Bullying at school, homework that isn't finished and problems with school work are also common reasons that children don't want to go to school.

First, take your child to the doctor for a physical to make sure there are no true health problems. Have a talk with your child's teachers, ask if they know the cause of your child's behavior and if they have any helpful suggestions.

If your child still appears anxious about going to school or has been allowed to stay home because of school refusal, make sure your child knows you are there to support him and that you are available to talk. This will help your child to know that her problems are being taken seriously.

Involve your child in planning how to best overcome the issue. Ask, "You seem to have a tummy ache every morning, what do you think the real problem is?" or "Let's talk about your morning headache and try to figure out what we can do about it because you can't be missing school like this."

Missing a lot of school can be damaging and keeping your child out of school will usually make the problem worse. Once you have investigated the possible causes, and offered your support as a parent, you may have to "push" your child out to school.

When you do allow your child to stay home and believe that he or she is sincerely sick, don't make his or her day a fun day. If watching TV, eating cookies and playing all day becomes more rewarding than going to school, you'll never get your child into the classroom - at least not with the attitude he needs for learning.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Accessing Your Child's Readiness for Self Care

During your child's school years, you will eventually consider the possibility of your child caring for him or herself instead of being cared for by others. Many children take care of themselves after school, in the evening, on weekends, or during school vacations - whenever a parent or other adult cannot be home with them. It is estimated that a quarter of our children care for themselves after school. Of course all children will eventually have to take care of themselves as part of their maturing process.

I often get asked at what age is a child allowed to stay at home alone for a few hours. There actually is no "legal" age set in Hillsborough County for this. It depends on many factors, including the child's maturity level and safety of the neighborhood. There is simply no magic age at which children develop the maturity (and good sense) needed to stay alone.

Your own feelings as a parent are also important in making this decision. Do you feel comfortable with your child staying alone? Are you ready to give your child more independence and freedom? Has your child earned more freedom? Are you confident that your child will be safe and will make wise choices while home alone? Will you feel good about your child's care?

For more information on how to prepare your child for self care, see our publication "Home Alone: Children in Self Care" at

At what age do you think your child was (or will be) ready for self care?