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How to Avoid Over Scheduling Your Kids

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It’s easy to fall into the trap of over scheduling our kids. Maybe you swore to yourself that you’d never be one of those parents, but like all traps, you don’t realize you’re stuck until after it’s too late. There are many paths to being overscheduled — here are a few.

A Little of This, a Little of That

4 Years Old
“Johnny’s 4, let’s find a local soccer team. It’d be so much fun!”
Soccer: practice 1 – 2 nights/week, 1 game on weekends.

5 Years Old
“I’ve always wanted little Johnny to play piano, let’s find some lessons.”
Piano lessons: 1 night/week

6 Years Old
“Johnny is so popular, he gets invited to every birthday party!”
Weekend parties for 25 classmates: 1 afternoon every other weekend

7 Years Old
“Mom, Trevor plays basketball. Can I play too?”
Basketball: practice 1 – 2 nights/week, 1 game on weekeds.

“Johnny, have you practiced piano?” “No.”
“What about your homework?” “No.”
“What were you doing?” “Soccer practice, piano practice, that birthday party and the basketball game.”

Uh oh.

The Over Achieving Parent

“I was a star baseball player growing up, Johnny is going to be amazing.”
Baseball: practice and batting cages 3 nights/week, 2 games/week

“Karate will give Johnny physical and mental strength to succeed in school and on the field.”
Karate classes: 1 – 2 nights/week

“Johnny needs to be well rounded — he needs music too.”
Piano lessons: 1 night/week

“He needs to be a strong swimmer so he’ll be safe at pool parties.”
Swim lessons: 1 – 2 nights/week or once on the weekend

Oh my.

The Over Achieving Kid

“Soccer is my favorite sport…”
“Basketball is my favorite sport…”
“Baseball is my favorite sport…”

“I don’t want to play on teams where all the kids don’t know how to play, I want to play the best kids.”
Competitive sports: 2 to 4 nights/week, 1 – 2 games on weekends plus travel

Your life will never be the same again.

How do I know if my kids are over scheduled?

A quick way to tell if your kids are over scheduled is to count how much unstructured free time they have to play. This is time for them to run amok, not terrorize the neighborhood, but be kids. This is a time for kids to explore, learn how to entertain themselves, build friendships and be bored. Extracurricular activities are great for so many reasons, but there is a balance between the benefits of those activities and unstructured time.

If you’re having a hard time finding free time on your kids schedule, you may not have problems today, but you will soon.

Your kids will give you many signs that they are over scheduled: 

  • Irritability
  • Burnout (I don’t want to go to practice!)
  • Behavior problems at school
  • Loss of focus

Another obvious sign is when various school, personal and activity commitments are consistently colliding with one another. This is stressful for us and our kids and makes it so our kids aren’t able to fully participate in one or more areas of their life. The added stress and inability to fully participate takes away from the fun of the sport/activity. Cutting back by making choices between different activities will probably make everyone in the house happier.

Different kids will be able to manage more or fewer activities. Just because the oldest is able to manage the heavier schedule doesn’t mean the youngest can too. We have to take into account our kids’ age and personalities when deciding how much scheduled time works for them.

How do I avoid the over scheduled trap?

If you haven’t already been trapped by a busy schedule, congratulations, that is not easy for most families! To keep from getting trapped in the future, use the same tips and tricks described below for getting out of the trap: 

  • Know your priorities
  • Take advantage of the off-season
  • Give the kids the choice

How do I escape the over scheduled trap?

Escaping the over scheduled trap is not easy. It involves making choices and saying no to things that either we want for our kids or they want for themselves. Once you realized that you’re trapped, the only solution is cutting back. Here are some ideas on how to manage it best:

Know Your Priorities

Look at all of the activities and know why you are doing each of them. Scheduled time comes in all shapes and sizes and each will be important for different reasons. However, in the end we will have to prioritize around strong personal obligations like church, educational needs like tutoring and our kids’ desire to play sports, dance or act in the school play.

Take Advantage of the Off-Season

Most sports and activities are not year round. Take advantage of the off-season to try a new sport/activity or take a break and enjoy some more free and unstructured time. This will help avoid burn out, keep your schedule from being over-the-top crazy and expose your kids to a larger variety of activities.

Give the Kids the Choice

Whenever possible, let the kids decide what they want to do. This accomplishes a few things: 

  • empowers them by making them part of the conversation and decision making
  • gives them ownership over the decision which may be useful later if things don’t go as planned
  • gives them practice at making decisions when there aren’t a lot of risks involved

A tip to make this process easier — present the kids with clear choices that they can choose between. Nothing is harder than making a choice when there are too many options. Do you and your kids a favor by limiting the options for them. Also, be sure you are comfortable with the options you present. Don’t give them a chance to choose something that you will veto down the road or aren’t willing to follow through on.

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Children

5 Tips To Help Structure Your Teaching Approach For Your Home Schooled Child

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Home schooling can be a lot of fun, especially for both children and parents who are tired of the traditional way of educating a child in a prototype format.

It does not however, necessarily mean that if you opt to home school your children, you can teach your child whatever you want to teach and do whatever you want to do.

Like the formal method of teaching in schools, home schooling is also a process that parents have to learn and understand in order to provide their children the benefits of the program.

Hence, parents who have decided to home school their children but do not know how to format an overall plan in order to come up with the best structure in teaching their children, here are some tips that that might help you:

1. Knowledge about the benefits

It is important to know the reasons and the benefits for which you have opted to home school your child. 

Once you are aware that you and your child are more benefited in home schooling than the usual type of schooling, it would then be easy, for you to a make a curriculum that both you and your child will appreciate.

2. Have a goal and devise some motivations

It is better if you outline your goals at the outset. Identify what you want to achieve with your children as well as for yourself. Doing this you will be inspired and focused while teaching. Your goals act as your guide in formulating the necessary approach to teaching.

3. Determine a budget

Many parents think that since home schooling provides a cheaper means of educating their children, it’s alright for them to spend on expensive books, in spite of other cheaper options. 

Home schooling materials are indeed, important in order to provide the best teaching methods. However, it does not always mean that you have to overindulge your children.

Set a budget for your home schooling program. Many items on the Internet could help you to come up with the best strategies and methods without too much expenditure. 

4. Know your child’s capacity to understand and the way he learns things

Though many home schooling programs and methods are available on the market today, nothing comes close to perfection in providing your child the best education if you do not know how you and your child should go about the program. This can only be done easily if you are familiar with your child’s style of learning.

You have to identify the curiosity level and interest of your child in order to decide on the best approach to teaching that would motivate your child.

Why most children do not excel in school is because the method of teaching is inappropriate to their interest and level of curiosity. Hence, focus on this aspect is necessary.

5. Communicate with your child.

Communication with your child helps you identify the things that bother them and the areas where they need improvement. Most parents are so focused on providing their children the best education that they forget that the best education that they could provide is to listen to their children’s needs and from then guide them however they can.

Most parents forget that the essence of learning is based on the child’s wish to study. Usually parents have the tendency to push their children into the direction that they think would be the best for them.
By this, the children wind up miserable because the things that they need, are not provided simply because their parents failed to understand their children.

The teaching approach in home schooling compared to the usual method used in the typical schools is that parents should concentrate on the child’s learning style, interest. Parents should have the ability to understand what they want to learn. Only by this method can they teach their child in the best possible manner whatever is necessary.

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Children

Why are kids picky eaters

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There are multiple factors on why a child may be a picky eater and it depends on your child’s age. Dr. Carson offers up these three reasons as to why kids can be picky eaters:

Exerting Their Independence

Kids coming into their “terrible twos” want to exert their independence. They like to say “no” which is a healthy developmental stage. Food is one way that they can declare their independency.

Children pick up right away that you can’t make them eat. Dr. Carson recommends parents implement strategies to deal with their child’s independence with food.

  1. Don’t let your child see that you are upset and worried. If the child sees a reaction then they realize they have received the upper hand. When that happens do not get worried. Stick to what you want to feed them. It is okay if they don’t eat it. Find one food they like and have it on their food plate for each meal.
  2. Take a back seat to food battles. If your child doesn’t eat it, try introducing that food to them again at another time. Dr. Allen Schwartz, M.D. (In Memoriam) also from Children’s Healthcare Medical Associates and over 32 years of pediatric care, once told me that so many families just don’t have family meals together any more, we have all gotten so busy, so when you do have a family meal, he suggested, keep it positive. There is no need for food battles at the family table. He said to establish your food “rules” before you sit down to eat.
  3. Don’t cook around the child. If your child doesn’t like their meal, don’t make them a special meal. Dr. Carson admits that cooking a around your child is a terrible approach and gives the child control.

Sensitivity to Textures

There are lots of explanations for a child’s sensitivity to textures such as variations different than the “normal swallowing” and the struggle with too thin or thick foods. Also those kids who are autistic or have developmental problems also have a challenge with healthy eating patterns. Find textures they like. If they don’t try it at first, reintroduce at a later time. Try taking foods they like and adding it to food they don’t like and augment accordingly.

Reaction to Food

Your child might have a milk, protein, or nut products allergy. If your child eats foods that they are allergic to it can create an unpleasant reaction. They might have gluten sensitivity. They might be sensitive to acidity and citrus foods.

As an example, when I was a child I would gag on applesauce and would not eat apples. My mom would never force me to eat applesauce and would then offer me some other fruit. She didn’t make a big deal out of it. Later we found out that I am allergic to apples and to this day I still don’t eat them. Not even apple pies.

Some kids don’t like spicy foods. Some kids are also born with salt cravings or a sugary tooth. Dr. Carson advices parents to not build your family’s meals around your child’s unhealthy cravings.

This answer is part of Sharon Smith’s interview with Dr. Stephen Carson from Children’s HealthCare Medical Associates in San Diego, who has been a pediatrician for 33 years.

I don’t like to point fingers, but to be honest, I have to. In the vast majority of clients I see, parents are to blame for picky eating habits. There are some medical exceptions, but they are rare.

What usually happens is kids are enthusiastically eating and trying new foods from about 6 months to 1 ½ years old. Many parents agree it’s an exciting and enjoyable time watching with wonder as their kids move through different tastes and textures. And then…pickiness sets in. Kids start refusing certain foods or skipping meals and snacks all together.

What parents don’t understand is that at about 18 months calorie needs decrease so kids just don’t need that much food. Skipping meals and snacks is normal, but not to parents who saw their little one’s love for food for so many months prior. Because parents are not use to their kids refusing food, they panic. The panic causes parents to reach for any food the kids will eat. And this is why many kids develop into picky eaters.

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Children

Parenting Pro Tips 11 ways to drive your teenager nuts

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Today’s topic: how to drive your teenager completely bull-goose loony, in just a few simple steps (without receiving a phone call from Child and Youth Services or your local equivalent). We both have considerable experience in this matter, and have decided, out of the goodness of our hearts, to share it with you.

Why would you want to know how to drive your kid up a wall? If you’re asking this, you’ve probably never actually had a teenager. Trust us. At some point, you will need this information.

Okay, your kids may have already left home, but with a little creativity you can probably find ways to apply at least a little of what you’re about to learn, even if your children have long since fled halfway around the globe. So settle in, and get ready to take notes. There will be a test.

Friend your kid on Facebook.

No caption needed, really. We think the image says it all.

For some teens, this will be taken as an act of aggression, equivalent to hiding their iPhone or implementing the parental control setting on your TV cable box, such that they only have access to one channel: the Ontario Legislature Channel, to be specific. (Actually, this isn’t a bad idea, either. We might be speaking from experience.)

2. Once you’ve friended your kid, look around for his or her friends, and send each of them a friend request, too.

This works best if you actually know who your child hangs out with, but it can be fun to branch out, too. Friend everyone your kid knows on Facebook, regardless of who they are! After all, you want your kid to be popular, right? And when your teen’s friends see how open and welcoming her parents are, they will be unbelievably impressed. Your kid’s cool factor will skyrocket.

3. If any of your child’s friends reciprocate and friend you back (don’t laugh, it has happened), make sure you post on their Wall.

Post early, post often. Post things on your own child’s wall, too. You wouldn’t want your kid to think you value his/her friends more than him/her, would you? Exactly. Oh, and “like” everything your kid does. Even those pics of your kid barfing at last Saturday’s party. This is called “unconditional positive regard,” and all the parenting books recommend it. We do, too.

4. Some parents aren’t sure what they should post.

We suggest that you simply respond (in a sensitive manner, of course) to whatever issues your kid (or their friends) seem to be experiencing that day. For example, if your teen mentions that they found it hard to get up that morning, you could say something like, “Yes, Snookums really was a fuzzy-wuzzy gwumpy bear this morning, wasn’t he?” Your child will appreciate your sympathetic approach. Pet names are optional, of course, but they do help to convey your caring message.

5. Don’t forget: teens love it when we speak their lingo.

It shows them that we are real killer-diller hep cats. And kittens. So sprinkle your posts liberally with slang and text-speak. For example, let’s say you want to respond to a picture of your kid at a recent party. Instead of saying, “My goodness, son, you look like you were inebriated!” try posting, “Yo! Dude!!1! PARTAAAAAY!1!” This may not be English, but trust us, your kid will know what you mean. And will love you for it.

6. Deliberately mis-pronounce words that have only one possible pronunciation.

A favourite word to mess with is “psychological”, which, when you give it a little effort, becomes “psy-ko-logg-ih-cal“. When they say get annoyed and try to pronounce it the other way, look at them with pity in your eyes and condescension in your soul and reply, “but that’s not logg-ih-cal“.

7. Lie.

A lot. When a big holiday comes along, like, say, Easter, who would blame you if you sat inside your locked bedroom and ate all the chocolate eggs and jelly beans? I mean, you’ve had them hidden in your room for a week prior, you’re only human, you just wanted one…and next thing you know, your face is covered in chocolate, you’ve got tinfoil in your teeth and your tongue is every colour of the rainbow. Well, oops. Sue me. I ate them and I enjoyed every pre-diabetic moment of it. But now it’s time for the Easter Egg Hunt and the cupboard is bare. This is when lying comes in handy. Tell your little kiddies that the Easter Bunny’s flight got delayed and she’ll be coming tomorrow with her baskets of joy, not today. Once you’ve placated them, run down to See’s Candies and stock up again, making sure to buy extra just in case you, um, want more.

7.1. Lie to make your life easier. I read a good one the other day: when the ice cream truck drives through the neighbourhood ringing its bells, tell your child that they only do that to announce they’ve run out of ice cream.

This is brilliant in its simplicity and cunning. I’m surprised our mother didn’t think of it back when we were young.

8. Whenever your kids ooh and aah at someone else’s startling act of genius, like winning an Olympic gold, for example, claim that you won one as well.

The bigger the story, the better. How to ease into this fabrication: “Well, Johnny, I actually invented that lightning bolt stance when I broke the 9-second barrier at the 1934 Olympics in Timbuktu. It was written up in all the record books, you know and the government gave me free cheese for life.” This one works a treat as well: “Oh my god, it’s much more difficult than it looks, wearing that lingerie, stilettos, and those angel wings down the catwalk—do you have any idea how heavy wings are???” Kids love this. Trust us.

9. Make sure to vacuum their room early and often.

Don’t do it while they’re out, as they may not notice your efforts, and won’t have the chance to thank you properly. Rather, wait for the right moment, such as when they’ve been out late the night before, and the room smells like stale beer. While you’re vacuuming, it’s a nice touch to sing along with the vacuum cleaner. Kind of a “whistle while you work” thing. It’s easy: just open your mouth and go, “EEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeEEEEEEEEEEE…” as loudly as possible. We promise you, they’ll thank you for the clean living space. They may also offer you their allowance if you JUST. PLEASE. SHUT. UP.

10. On the dance floor, be the Parent With the Mostest by knowing all the words and actions to YMCA or The FunkyChicken.

If you feel ambitious, go look up the latest viral video on YouTube, Gangnam Style.

Doesn’t this look like a fun little dance move? You will definitely be Top of the Pops with your kids if you can nail this one. (Image from allkpop.com)

Your kids will be unbelievably impressed if you can emulate these dance moves—especially if you dress the part! Don’t be afraid to attempt a little air-guitar, either. Most kids will be riveted to the spot by your awesome moves. This is not the time for lip-synching. Sing loud, sing proud.

11. When the waiter comes to take your order at a restaurant, make sure you say in a plaintive but loud voice, “Mummy needs a liddle drinkie.”

Kids think this is quite hysterical, especially if it’s breakfast time. Don’t be surprised if they fall off their seats with laughter. This tip works, whether you’re ordering from McDonald’s or a 5-star Michelin restaurant. For extra bonus points, you can follow them around while they’re shopping in their favourite hip, happening places, wailing, “But [insert kid’s name here], slow down! Mummy needs a drinkie-poo!” This is sure to bring the house down.

If you follow these helpful tips, developed by us through years of hard work and diligence, you are guaranteed results of a spectacular nature.

It took us 30 years to perfect the ability of driving a teenager wonky—after reading this, you’ll be able to achieve the same positive results in just hours. You’re welcome.

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