Parenting Tips: Be a Better Parenting Team!

You don’t like the kids watching TV on school nights; your guy lets them turn on the Disney Channel after dinner. You think his punishments are too harsh; he thinks you’re too easy. If you two don’t see eye to eye when it comes to parenting style, you’re not alone! Here are some expert parenting tips to help bring your parenting team together.

“Most couples have different philosophies about childrearing based on how they were raised,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “Almost inevitably, one parent is more lenient than the other about everything from allowance and curfews to electronics, homework, behavior and chores.” These differences in parenting style can lead to arguing -- and worse. “Fighting creates tension in a marriage, which often leads to a persistent anger that erodes intimacy,” says Fran Walfish, Psy.D, author of The Self-Aware Parent.

Different parenting styles also affects the children. When kids know that Mom and Dad don’t agree on parenting issues, they may try to manipulate them in order to get their way -- which only makes things worse and leads to problems later on. As Dr. Walfish notes, “If kids are allowed to overpower their parents, they may develop an attitude of entitlement that will not serve them well in school, work or life.”

Here are four parenting tips to help you move from parenting adversaries to parenting partners: 

Get a reality check.

Have an honest talk with your husband or partner about how your disagreements affect your family. First, accept that you won’t agree on everything and try to understand where your partner is coming from. Then pledge to stop fighting about parenting in front of your kids. “Children respect parents who offer a mutually aligned message,” Dr. Walfish says. “Not only do they lose respect for parents who openly diminish and blame each other, but fighting opens the door for them to try to pit one parent against the other.”

Start small.

Find one thing you agree about -- whether it’s a 9:00 bedtime or a homework-before-electronics policy -- and enforce that rule over a set period of time. By being consistent, you’re likely to get the behavior you want from your child, which will make it easier to come together on stickier issues now and in the future, according to Dr. Borba. 

Give notice.  

Tell your kids that you’re presenting a united front -- and then put it into practice. “It’s helpful to post a list of house rules on the refrigerator. When your child tries to wear you down, point to the list and say, ‘Mom and Dad agree that you cannot watch movies on a school night’ or ‘We agree that you must write thank-you notes for gifts,’” Dr. Borba advises. Or come up with sayings that are easy to remember -- “We eat our dinner before dessert” -- and cheerfully repeat them to reinforce the message. At first, expect some big-time resistance from your kids -- and lots of “but whys?” Keep your explanation simple and speak in one voice: “This is what Mom and Dad think is best.” Period. 

Reach out for assistance.

If the two of you can’t come to terms, consider a parenting skills class or consult an objective third party, such as a counselor, pediatrician or clergyman. Parenting challenges don’t get any easier as the years go on, so the sooner you make parenting a team sport, the better it will

Face Your Fears and Win!

In his first inaugural address to the nation, Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Nothing against the venerable 32nd president, but there’s nothing “only” about fear -- not when you’re about to go into a job interview, leave an unhealthy relationship or do anything that seems daunting or impossible. The questions are: Where do your unhealthy fears come from? And how can you find the courage to face your fears?

“The fears that hold us back are our ‘shadow fears,’ ” says Amy Stone, a certified “courage coach.” She explains that these fears are born of negative lessons usually learned in early childhood (often unintentionally taught by parents) and that persist as we grow older. The beliefs are common -- I’m not good enough, smart enough, capable enough -- yet we’re so unconscious of them we don’t even see how they affect us. But the shadows they cast are long, causing us to avoid intimacy or socializing, or a new move, or asking for a raise.

“These fears make us feel small and frustrated, like we’re not living the life we are meant to live,” says Stone. “This leads to frustration -- which only perpetuates the negative patterns, behaviors and beliefs that keep us in the background of our lives.”

On how to overcome fear and to conquer “shadow fears,” Stone recommends a three-step process: 

Identify the fear. For instance, if you’re hesitant to go after a new job, it’s probably not the work itself that frightens you. Think about what’s really behind your worries. Are you afraid that a new boss might judge you harshly? Or are you uneasy about the thought of leaving your familiar workplace?

Ask yourself where the fear comes from. Some fears are instinctive -- we’re cautious around fire to avoid getting burned -- but many others are taught. If you were labeled as “awkward” or “shy” as a child, you may have trouble believing that you could be confident enough to give a presentation at work.

Make peace with your fear. “This is not about ‘muscling through’ anything,” Stone says. “It’s about seeing ourselves for who we really are, without apology, excuse or justification.” It’s also about having compassion for your whole self, even your fearful side. Take some time each day to sit, breathe deeply and meditate on a positive, self-accepting message such as “I love all of myself” or “I deserve happiness and success.” Then, rather than looking at your fear as something negative, think of the lessons you can learn from it. For example, if you’re afraid of entering a new relationship, praise yourself for the strength and wisdom you’ve gained from past ones.

“Once we take small steps to uncover what stops us, we find the courage to take another step, and another,” says Stone. “The new behaviors build upon themselves to the point where we believe that if we face our fears, we will be better off for it. We have replaced fear with faith.”

Make Your Home Serene

For generations, poets have extolled the virtues of home: Its comfort, peace and security; its respite from the outside world; its power to restore the soul. But if your home is more chaos than calm, try these tips from “happiness expert” Sophie Keller, author of How Happy Is Your Home? 50 Great Tips to Bring More Health, Wealth and Joy Into Your Home. Keller is a practitioner of feng shui, the Chinese art of creating harmonious surroundings to maximize the flow of good energy through a space.

 “Obviously, feng shui is a broad discipline,” says Keller, who works with clients to make their homes and offices feel positive and balanced, “but there are a few simple feng shui rules you can follow to make your home immediately feel more serene.”

 

Make a great entrance.

“Opportunity enters your home through the front door,” says Keller, “so make sure the entrance is uncluttered so that nothing blocks the smooth flow of energy through your home.”

That means no strollers, random shoes, piles of junk mail or anything else you need to maneuver around just to get into your home. The result? You’ll feel less overwhelmed and more peaceful when you enter your haven. If your front door opens onto a wall that blocks the line of sight into the home’s interior, adds Keller, hang a mirror to create a sense of spaciousness as you enter your abode. “The openness creates a feeling of expansiveness and possibility,” she says.

Keep bathroom doors closed – all the time.

“Most bathrooms have three drains” – the tub, sink and toilet – “through which energy can escape the house,” Keller explains. “If you keep the doors closed, even when the bathroom is not in use, you’ll be surprised how it adds to a feeling of balance in your home.”

Center yourself next to a wall.

In your bedroom, place your bed so that you have a view of the doorway but are not facing it directly, and be sure that the bed is set against a wall – though not under or against a window. “Otherwise you will feel exposed from behind,” Keller says.

This is called the “command position,” she explains, and it’s advised not just for your bed, but for your desk and sofa, too. Proper placement of these key furniture pieces puts you in visual command of the space – allowing you to feel a sense of ease and security as you face life directly. “If you don’t have a wall for your sofa, a table or open bookcase behind it will help you feel anchored and safe,” she says. 

De-clutter often.

People don’t realize it, says Keller, but objects give off an energy of their own, and it flows toward us. “We need space and freedom to think clearly, so the more uncluttered our space is, the less we’re distracted from our own thoughts and creativity,” she says. “Our homes become places of openness and freedom.”

That’s why Keller advises her clients to do a “spring cleaning” every six months (no matter the season) and to keep their homes in good shape. “If something is broken, fix it,” she says. “If a wall needs a lick of paint, do it. Be vigilant about upkeep and de-cluttering.”

Your reward? A calm and serene haven you’ll be eager to come home to.

Want more tips to a happier life? Visit Keller’s website at www.howhappyis.com.

5 Parenting Tips to Help Raise an Independent Child

Next time you’re about take over your child’s science project or even make their bed, put down the poster board and leave the sheets where they lie. While we may want to do everything we can to make our kid’s lives easier. we shouldn’t.

There’s a fine line between being supportive and doing too much for our children. Here, two child-development experts offer five ways to gently sway you away from becoming a helicopter parent. Bonus: these methods will help your child become more independent and confident. 

1. Create Little Helpers

If your kids are young, it’s easier to get the idea of doing chores ingrained in their heads. For a preschooler it’s as easy as saying something like “When you finish playing with those blocks, the next part of play is putting them away,” suggests Margaret Owen, PhD, director of the Center for Children and Families at the University of Texas in Dallas.

2. Direct over Do

If your school-age child hasn’t gotten in the habit of doing chores, don’t despair. Just be patient. It’s tempting to get frustrated when your child doesn’t clean up his room or put his clothes back in the closet -- but maybe he doesn’t know how. “Did you talk about where his backpack should go after school?” Dr. Owen says. “Or does he know where the knives and forks go when setting the table? You have to patiently demonstrate those tasks.”

3. Give Her a Say

The best way you can prompt independence in your child is to make sure he or she is participating in the running of the household. “Say things like ‘How about you help me plan the menu for dinner’ or ‘how about you help me fold these clothes,’” says Vicki Hoefle, a parenting expert in Seattle and author of Duct Tape Parenting (Workman, 2012). “Life is about helping out. Kids don’t need coaxing, elaborate systems or rewards so long as the chore is a job they can handle.” 

4. Have Faith

By doing things for your children instead of letting them try, you’ll ultimately make your kids question their ability to do anything for themselves. “Our children determine their self-identity based on how we as parents see them,” says Hoefle. “Think about the message you’re sending to your child by saying ‘Let me help you,’ ‘This looks too hard’ or ‘It’ll be easier if you do it this way,’” she says. “After all, these benign statements affect a child’s sense of herself.”  When your kids do make the effort, avoid hovering over them or criticizing the quality of their work. “Think about how you would feel if someone did this to you,” Hoefle says. “The answer is always that you’d feel lousy.” The laundry may not be folded perfectly and there may be a missed math problem or two, but with practice and encouragement, your children will improve.

5.  Be the Support

If you think of your child as a building and that your job is to be the scaffold, you’ll be parenting in a way that sets up your child for life. “As her scaffold, your job is to prop her up when she needs you,” Dr. Owen says. “Ultimately, your job is to then take away some of the layers of the scaffold as she gets stronger.”

Make More $$$ at Your Next Garage Sale!

Summer is a prime time for cleaning out your basement and closets and turning your unwanted clothes, appliances and knickknacks into quick cash with a garage sale. How do you bring in the buyers -- and get the most money for your attic treasures? We consulted garage sale expert Ava Seavey, author of Ava’s Guide to Garage Sale Gold, for suggestions.

1. Plan ahead.
Go through your house – from attic to basement and every closet in between – and pull out everything you want to sell. Then make a list of your sale items, grouping them by category so you can keep track. “Having a garage sale is like losing weight: Everyone wants to lose, but no one wants to diet,” says Seavey. “Write everything down before, during and after the sale.”

2. Know what sells.
Don’t expect to get an offer on everything; certain items are more popular at tag sales than others. “The best sellers are household and decorative goods, tools, children’s things like baby gear, vintage items and jewelry,” says Seavey. What are buyers most likely to pass up? TVs, art and adult clothing.

3. Choose your dates wisely.
Many people hold their sales over the weekend, but that’s not always the best strategy. “The worst day for sales is Sunday,” says Seavey. “Friday and Saturday are the best times to sell, followed closely by Thursday.” Your busiest time will be right at the beginning of your sale -- when buyers are hoping to snatch up the choicest items -- so if your start time is 10 a.m., be prepared to open right on the dot.

4. Advertise!
Stapling a small sign to the lamppost at the end of your block might get you a few customers. But for maximum impact, you’ll need to do a little extra work. “Set clear, simple double-sided signs in the ground, clearly stating the dates of your sale,” says Seavey. Also place an ad in your local newspaper and on sites like YardSaleSearch.com, GarageSaleTracker.com and Craigslist.

5. Know how to price your goods.
“Everything must be tagged -- period!” says Seavey. Not sure what your items are worth? If they’re in excellent condition, charge 50 percent of the original price; if they’re clearly worn or need repair, charge 25 percent. You might also want to set up a “freebie” box for buyers to choose from after the sale is made; it’s a good way to unload inexpensive items and make your customers feel they’ve gotten a great deal.

6. Stay organized. 
Group similar items together (appliances, toys, books) and arrange clothes by type and size. Seavey recommends putting your merchandise on covered tables or high shelves, rather than boxes on the ground.

7. Be a smart negotiator.
Experienced buyers will want to haggle for a better price. Be flexible but don’t feel obligated to take less than you think the item is worth. “Feel empowered when you negotiate, and don’t be afraid to say no,” says Seavey. Another good strategy for negotiating: bundling two or more items together for a set price.