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Mama Tips & Advice

  • Simple Methods for Teaching Kids Kindness and Empathy

    As a child, my parents recited the old adage “treat others the way they want to be treated” often. This message has resonated throughout my life in situations where I feel triggered or compelled to jump to conclusions. It’s important that my children understand the values of empathy and why it should be employed in our social interactions and relationships.

    In fact, years from now when I look back on the job I’ve done as a parent, I will measure my success in the amount of kindness radiating from my kids.

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    Let’s define empathy as the attempt to understand another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one’s own.

    Empathy allows children to assess how others are feeling and respond appropriately. In the age of bullying, it’s vital to the health of our youngest generation to understand and practice empathy and tactful sensitivity. By teaching children to look outward and identify with the experience of others, we can cultivate kindness and foster compassion.

    Below is a printable learning activity, a printable call to action and a list of picture books to help children explore the value of empathy and grow kindness. We hope you make full use of our simple methods for teaching kids kindness and empathy, and in doing so, make the world a better place.

    Wrinkled Heart Learning Activity

    Start with an unwrinkled heart. Have your child cut it out. Explain negative speak and give examples. With each negative phrase, fold the heart until it is completely wrinkled. Discuss how hurtful words can cause another person harm and are not easily forgotten. Lastly, explain that once something is communicated, it can not be retracted, in the same way the heart cannot be unwrinkled.

    A few more talking points:

      • Explain why it is important to think before you speak
      • Talk to your children about the struggles that others go through
      • Have a conversation about how the different life experiences of others can explain their actions
      • Teach them that words can hurt and have consequences
      • Discuss how speaking with care and sensitivity could save someone pain and suffering

    Random Acts of Kindness Jar

    Help children learn to derive pleasure from the happiness of others with this simple and impactful activity. Use the label to create a random acts of kindness jar. Cut the acts of kindness into small strips and fold them up. Then place them in the jar. Every morning (or week, month, whatever works for your family) have your child pull one of the strips from the jar and complete the act of kindness. Watch as they grow in their desire to give and pay it forward.

    Books that Teach & Inspire Empathy

    There is no better method for delivering a message to a child than via picture book. Research indicates that reading improves a child’s emotional intelligence and increases empathy. Be sure to check out the following reads:

    How Full is Your Bucket?

    Each of us has an invisible bucket. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful. Yet most children (and many adults) don’t realize the importance of having a full bucket throughout the day. Felix learns how every interaction in a day either fills or empties his bucket. He then realizes that everything he says or does to other people fills or empties their buckets as well. Follow along with Felix as he learns how easy it can be to fill the buckets of his classmates, teachers and family members. Before the day is over, you’ll see how Felix discovers that filling someone else’s bucket also fills his own.

    The Last Stop on Market Street

    Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. Help children walk a mile in another’s shoes and gain a different perspective with this award winning read.

    The Invisible Boy

    Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party until a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine. From esteemed author and speaker Trudy Ludwig this gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish.

    We hope you’ve enjoyed our Simple Methods for Teaching Kids Kindness and Empathy. Looking for more on early childhood development? Be sure to read our small steps for Raising Confident Kids.



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  • Fostering Your Child’s Mental Health & Ways to Build a Strong Foundation

    As my son gets older and more submerged into the world around him, I often find myself hard-pressed on how well he will be able to cope. Have I prepared my child for the trials and tribulations of life that is to come? Have I implemented all the tools necessary to ensure a happy life for him? Surely I can’t guarantee his happiness, but I can give him a strong foundation for his mental health – and that could be everything.

    Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life.

    The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a topic near and dear to my heart. And as an advocate for mental health (and a parent), it is not lost on me how influential my role is on my sons childhood mental health.

    As described in a 2013 MMWR report, mental health in childhood is characterized by “…the achievement of development and emotional milestones, healthy social development, and effective coping skills, such that mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.”

    There are many other ways to foster your child’s mental health. Here are some daily steps to keep your child as mentally healthy as possible.

    First and foremost, our children learn by example. As parents, there is so much we can offer to help nurture their mental health during the most developmental stages of their life. Here are just a few:

    1. Build Their Self-esteem

    • Be on Your Child’s Team: Regularly support and encourage your child. Make sure to praise their efforts, not their achievements, and to believe them and believe in them.
    • Let Them Learn Naturally: Promote independent learning. Have your child experience and accept the natural consequences of life and experience the benefits of positive actions as well.
    • Encourage Healthy Self-Talk: Use words of encouragement and daily affirmations. See our list of affirmations for kids here.
    • Ensure Their Sense of Belonging: Your child needs to feel like they are invited, accepted and loved. Make sure to spend family time together, play with them and remind them how valuable they are.

    2. Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment

    Provide an environment that demonstrates love, compassion, trust and understanding every day. Let your child know you are a safe place and confidant when it comes to their feelings and thoughts. Implement a predictable routine in the household, as to create a sense of stability and comfort.

    3. Establish Healthy Habits

    Make sure your child is getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and getting enough play time/exercise. Physical health is just as important.

    4. Explain Feelings and Reactions

    Listen to how your child is feeling and validate their emotions. Guide your child through big feelings and show them important coping mechanisms and ways to manage challenges (like meditation). Teach them the importance of expressing their emotions through language.

    5. Model Healthy Behavior

    Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life – so be sure to lead by example the best strategies regarding self-care, healthy social interactions, communication and emotional stability.

    These guidelines aren’t just for children either, but are important for everyone looking to take care of their mental health! If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read this post on building your child’s confidence.

    Note: Through research, I was able to find these helpful tips on nurturing children’s mental health. If you have suggestions or advice, we would love to hear it! Comment below or email us at contact@rockitmama.com.

     

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  • Small (But Critical!) Steps for Raising Confident Kids

    “I can’t! I can’t!” he shouts as he tries to write the letter F. I can see tears of disappointment welling in his eyes. He puts the marker to the paper again, but for a second time isn’t happy with the product. My son is learning to write his name, and it has proven to be a learning experience for both of us. The word “can’t” makes me cringe.

    I begin to question why he’s being so hard on himself. Do I praise him enough? Does he feel inadequate? Like any negative feeling my child experiences, I want to solve it immediately. However, thats not how it works.

    Self-confidence is learned and developed over time through small achievements and a realistic perception of skills and abilities. It’s an essential behavior to cultivate in our kids, and subsequently set them up for their happiest lives.

    By teaching our children to believe in themselves, we set them up for success. We can start with words of encouragement, but self esteem can be instilled in a variety of ways, big and small. Here are a few small (but critical!) steps for raising confident kids.

    Use Words of Encouragement or Affirmations

    Affirmations work for kids and adults alike. We all begin to believe what people tell us about ourselves. Feel free to reference the guide below for a list of everyday affirmations to boost a child’s confidence.

    Choose Your Praises Wisely

    I am all about using affirmations in any form, but its important to note that using affirmations that include born with traits such as “you’re really smart! or “you’re so beautiful!” sends the message that we only value traits that kids are born with (attractive, smart, etc) and doesn’t convey the notion that anything can be accomplished with perseverance, hard work and dedication.

    Praising an accomplishment (and acknowledging the work it took complete it) establishes the fact that it was their hard work and practice that propelled them to achieve their goal, and that by setting goals we can push ourselves further. It’s also good to remember that confidence is gained in the process of goal actualization.

    Examples:

    Instead of “You’re really smart!”

    • “I’m so proud of you for practicing writing the letter F and working so hard to write your name!”
    • “Your strength and determination lifted you to learn to write your name! Your hard work really paid off!”
    • “I love how much effort and energy you put into learning to write the letter F!”

    In addition, throwing out too much praise can inundate your child’s ego, and could potentially minimize the value of the praise. If we reinforce every small deed our kids carry out, the praise will become less meaningful and thus, less impactful. Save big praises for accomplishments and achievements.

    Step back and Let them Build Resilience

    Remember the first paragraph of this post when I felt the need to eliminate my son’s problem and cancel the name-writing activity altogether so as to prevent him from feeling incapable? I feel that urge all the time. But by allowing kids to experience hardship or discomfort, we give them the opportunity to create solutions to solve their problems. These problem solving skills will be vital in all facets of their lives including our ever so important relationships, and will come in handy when they face the inevitable obstacles life will throw at them.

    When we reinforce a child’s resilience, they  learn to bounce back after a perceived failure. Step back and let them come up with their own plan for overcoming obstacles, rather than mow them down.

    Model Self Love and Positive Talk

    Have you ever caught yourself in a moment of negative self talk? I have. I’ve thrown out the phrases “I’m so stupid,” or “I look awful today,” in front of my kids not realizing the weight or impact of those words. It is true that kids are sponges, and if we model negative behaviors, they will too. Try to eliminate the negative self talk for yourself  (it impacts parents too!) or at least attempt to ban it when in the company of little ones. Confident mommies and daddies raise confident kids. Lead by example!

    Examples:

    Instead of “Today sucked.”

    • “I’ve had a tough day, but tomorrow will be better. I can feel it.”
    • “Today may have not have been the best, but there were a lot of small positives, and I’m choosing to focus on those.”
    • “I will bounce back tomorrow.”

    Let Them Take Healthy Risks

    A healthy risk is defined as a behavior in which the positive reward outweighs the harm in a given situation. Much like building resilience, when kids engage in healthy risk taking behaviors the outcome is worth the parental internal struggle. Risk-taking behavior enables a child to build confidence and strengthens decision making skills. It’s a positive tool for discovery, perception and developing a child’s personal identity. Being able to assess the risk in any situation is a crucial life skill and is important in helping children make good choices.

    Examples of Healthy Risk Taking Behaviors:

    • Getting up on a stage and singing a song
    • Asking a stranger to be their friend
    • Paying for their treat at the ice cream shop
    • Helping measure ingredients in the kitchen

    Try this…

    Every morning I allow my son to be my barista. He fills my mug with water, pushes the buttons on the coffee maker, and adds my sugar and cream. Sometimes it ends with a spill or a coffee that is slightly too sweet (risk) but it has become a morning task and he loves it.

    In the process of making my coffee, he’s mastering skills and learning a recipe which makes him feel important and needed. Little did I know, I’d been allowing my son to engage in a simple healthy risk behavior, and it’s been a small step for building his confidence.

    We hope through this article you’ve discovered new ways to boost your child’s confidence. If you’d like to read more about child development, see 5 Simple Tips for Taming Tantrums

     

     

     

     

     

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  • 5 Simple Tips for Taming Tantrums

    I came across this quote from author L.R. Knost not long ago and it has become my mantra for calming meltdowns, tantrums and anything in between.

    “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our job to share our calm not join their chaos.”

    Tantrums are a completely normal part of child development. It’s how our little ones express themselves over anything from discomfort to simply not getting what they want. But that doesn’t mean it’s not exhausting, frustrating and down right chaotic to try and diffuse them. Sometimes the response that our children need the most is the hardest to offer in the moment.

    In my experience, the most effective method for disarming a tantrum is a calming, positive approach. Here are 5 Simple Tips for Taming Tantrums that may help to deescalate meltdowns and preserve your sanity.

    1.) Remain Calm

    It is entirely true that children feed off of our emotions. If we treat a child’s tantrum with fierce anger and frustration it is possible to intensify the tantrum rather than mitigate it. Try to remove all emotion and focus on yourself, especially the guilt or embarrassment which can heighten feelings of overwhelm (remember, every parent has been there!) Your child isn’t trying to give you a tough time, they’re having a tough time.

    2.) Use Positive Language Alternatives

    Avoid the use of “no” if at all possible and try these positive language alternatives.

    3.) Try a Calming Diversion

    Does your child have a favorite book or comforting blanket? Offering these items could help console a child during a tantrum. Other tools could be a calming jar (such as these), relaxation activities such as deep breaths or yoga poses, essential oils, and songs. When the meltdown occurs in a public place without access to these tools, try removing them from the environment in which the situation began. If your child runs, throws or hits during a meltdown assess surroundings to ensure safety before approaching.

    Hugging is an excellent use of diversion, but always ask if they need a hug beforehand. Studies have shown that proprioceptive input through hugging is extremely helpful for regulating the senses and helping tame a tantrum. Something as simple as a tight squeeze can provide a sense of calm & return your child to the moment.

    4.) Observing and Learning

    Is there a pattern or trend for where these tantrums occur? Say, in the toy section at Target or when deciding on what to wear in the morning? Research indicates that events leading up to a tantrum can be critical to whether or not it actually occurs. Noticing where and when your child is likely to have a tantrum is essential in diffusing or avoiding it altogether. Maybe bypass the toys next time at the store, or offer options on outfits in the morning so your child feels in control. Another thing to keep in mind is choosing battles wisely. Ask yourself this question:

    Will this decision impact my child down the road?

    Examples: Something like, wearing a helmet on the tricycle could potentially have long term effects and is probably a battle to be fought. Forcing a child to hug a relative before they leave (and thus inducing an incident) is likely not life altering. Maybe have a conversation later about hugging and why we show affection instead of ensnaring yourself in an emotionally escalated situation.

    5.) Consistency and Not Caving

    A sure-fire way to keep the tantrums coming is to cave or give in to the tantrum. For example, if a child melts down in the candy aisle begging for a lollipop, giving her the lollipop will underline the negative behavior and reinforce it for next time. If the child is denied the lollipop repeatedly, it’s possible for them to learn that a tantrum in this particular instance will not get them what they want. Be consistent and confident with your choices as you know best for the child, not vice versa.

    Hey mama, taming tantrums can be tough! Check out our Mental Health Task List to encourage self care and preserve your sanity!

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  • 7 Simple Practices for Boosting Mental Health – FREE Printable Included

    As someone who has experienced generalized anxiety for most of my life, I’ve always understood the importance of a solid mental health routine. But since becoming a mother, I’ve prioritized self-care in an even larger effort to bolster my mood, remain energized & be the best version of myself for my kids. It’s amazing what a few simple practices can do for the mind, especially when organized on a weekly task list designed for the modern woman with a thousand items on the mental plate. Let’s dive right in to these 7 Simple Practices for Boosting Mental Health. Don’t forget to download the free printable below!

    Picture of 7 Simple Practices for Boosting Mental Health

    Motivation

    For my Monday focus (because seriously, Mondays are the pits) I like to think motivation, and nothing gets me motivated like setting a goal for myself. Setting goals gives you longterm vision. It offers purpose, direction and something to achieve and work towards. I’m a huge believer in striving for more and continuous improvement. And to put it plainly, achievement equals confidence. The goal doesn’t have to be anything monumental, but it has to be measurable and attainable. Once you set your goal and visualize it in your mind, write it down. Make it real. Begin planning first steps towards achievement, and use your Mondays to apply yourself towards it.

    Self-Care

    To be honest, I could go for self-care any day of the week. If you choose just one of these practices to implement in your weekly routine, let it be self-care. Treat yourself to a pedicure, exfoliate, set aside 20 minutes to meditate. Self-care looks different for everyone, so do what works for you. It’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself in order to boost positive feelings and self-esteem.

    Digital Detox

    This one is probably the most straight forward yet hardest to accomplish, but I promise its worth it. Turn off that phone/television/computer for an evening and go screen free. Read a book, play a game, listen to a podcast.

    Picture of Rockitmama Free Mental Health Task List Printable

    See below!

    Organize/Purge

    Free your mind of clutter, quite literally! When the environment around us is chaos, it can be difficult to feel in control. Pick one item in your house/office/room that needs a good cleanse. Tackle that overflowing junk drawer or delete excess emails in your inbox. This could also apply to a toxic individual in your life that doesn’t contribute to your happiness and should be kindly removed. Release them. Talk about a mental refresh!

    Energize

    Everyone energizes in different ways. Maybe its socializing with friends or grabbing some fresh air. Perhaps it’s binge watching the latest Netflix series after a long week at work or catching up on sleep. Find the best way for you to re-energize for the weekend and make that your focus for Friday.

    Health

    Saturdays are focused on physical health which we all know, deeply impacts us mentally. I use Saturdays to get my long runs in for exercise, but again it doesn’t have to be that daunting. Make a healthy meal, meal plan for the week or take a yoga class at the gym. Focus on yourself physically, and the benefits to the mind will follow.

    Gratitude

    On long, exhausting, frustrating days with my boys (lets be honest we all have them) there is one thing I lean on to pull me through: Gratitude. I started practicing intentional gratitude after my first was born in an attempt to ease my anxiety. Quickly I learned that when I regularly took time to give thanks and share a sense of abundance around me, I attracted a goodness that elevated my mood and carried me through the day. I encourage journaling these feelings of gratitude to really drill down on the good in your life & to help make it a habit.



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  • 15 Questions to Ask Your Daycare Provider

    As far back as I can remember, I woke up to kids in my home, and I’m not only referring to my siblings. My mom started her in-home childcare business when I was only a year old in a career move to spend more time with her kids. For a young girl like myself, it was amazing. I had an instant group of playmates waiting for me in the basement every morning. I was surrounded by toys and crafts and a space for imaginative play that was just waiting to be harvested. I always had someone to play with, learn alongside and grow up against. My mom became licensed, installed her small business in the lower level of our home, transformed it into a colorful, learning & play environment and eventually developed her own preschool program. She’s been doing it ever since.

    I’ve witnessed some incredible child transformations under her care. She has a method of disarming turbulent children that is soothing and transformative. She’s found the balance of being firm, yet nurturing to spirited personalities without dimming their flame. I would go as far as to say she’s perfected it over the past 30 years. Her kids are impassioned. They love learning. They play hard. And they absolutely adore her as their Mrs. Lisa. And because she is a vault of untapped knowledge and the person I go to for motherly advice, I decided it would be fun to pick her brain about early childhood development, what to look for when interviewing a daycare provider, and where to begin if you’re considering starting your very own in-home business. Keep reading for some solid advice from a 30 year preschool teacher and my beloved mama, which includes 15 Questions to ask Your Daycare Provider before enrollment.

    What are some important questions parents should be asking potential childcare providers before enrolling? Can you offer any extra advice on the interview process?

    Parents should ask if a provider is licensed or registered and if so, check the Division of Licensing Website for a list of visits and violations. Important questions can be found on the graphic below.

    We here at Rockitmama are big on promoting outdoor play, as mentioned in the graphic above. Why do you think it is so important to get the kids out once a day if possible?

    Kids are made to move! Running, climbing, and exercising those gross motor muscles is pertinent to a child’s physical development. Fresh air, sunshine and a change of scenery is good for everyone. The children have better attention span, better attitudes and rest harder at nap time after their outdoor recess. Not to mention the nature learning opportunities with insects, leaves, birds, nests, turtles, bunnies, etc. that we encounter! It also sets the tone as they get older and are exposed to screens and devices. Children who are conditioned to outdoor play & exploration at an early age are more likely to enjoy it later on in life.

    What is the most important component of child behavioral transformation? How do you get them to respond?

    Success in behavior transformation really depends on the age, but consistency is crucial at every stage. For very young children such as toddlers, redirection is best. As they become preschoolers the tantrums can be rough. Allow them to feel their full range of emotions without reinforcing the behavior. It’s easy to give in to the wails and meltdowns, but it will make it more difficult to follow through the next time. Children must know that your words are true and you mean what you say. Save the strong tones for extreme behaviors and issues that really matter to emphasize that the negative actions will not be tolerated. In other words, choose your battles wisely. Time away, removal from the situation to discuss what happened, and conversations about how the situation could be handled differently in the future are also useful tools to inspire behavior change.

    What values should parents be instilling in their children from an early age to help them find success in life?

    Empathy – show it towards your child and others.

    Honesty – always be truthful with your children and make sure that they always see you being honest with others. Trust and unconditional love is crucial to any child/parent relationship.

    Accountability – give praise when your child admits to their mistakes and owns them.  Let them know that we all make mistakes but that we are responsible for our actions and cannot place blame on others for what we do.

    Confidence – provide opportunities for them to conquer a new task or skill.  Applaud the mastery but don’t overdo it as the praise will not be as meaningful over time.

    How do you motivate children to focus and get excited about learning? 

    Learning should be fun for young children! Being silly, dancing, singing, and providing fun activities for the kids makes for a successful program. Reading a book and creating a corresponding character craft is an awesome way for children to connect with the material. The most important skills for young children to learn before starting school are social (sharing, taking turns, etc). Additionally, preschoolers should begin practicing to compromise, learn basic problem solving and develop the ability to follow directions.

    For those interested in becoming a provider, where should they begin?

    If you plan to care for less than 5 children, a license is not required. However, taking the effort to become registered or licensed is a big selling point for your business. Parents will know that there is regulation in your daycare and routine inspections are taking place. In regards to advertisement, word of mouth is the best method. Fostering a good reputation among clients will help your business spread like wildfire. Also, advertising with online “moms groups”, utilizing social media, and posting a flyer at your local library are great marketing strategies. Networking with other providers for referrals is also a great way to fill your slots.

    Thanks for the Q&A, Mom. Any additional thoughts as a mother of 3 now-adult children?

    For moms: your love for your children is enough. You will make mistakes or wish you had handled certain situations differently in hindsight, but if your child rearing is done with the best of you and the best of your intentions, that is enough. Be confident in your role as their parent because no-one can love your child the way you do. Children pick up on insecurity- own your decisions and be consistent! Your self-assurance enables your children to feel safe and secure.

    Hooray for enriching educational experiences, and providers like my mom who continue to ready our littles for success with love and attentive care.

    Did you enjoy 15 Questions to Ask Your Daycare Provider? Leave a comment below! Also be sure to check out our post  7 Tips for Returning to Work After Baby and how to survive your first week back!

     

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