Category Archives: Motherhood

Family Rules!

Food on the couch? That’s ok; it’s not one of our rules!

As the parent of a two and a half year old with a strong will and curiosity, I have given a lot of thought to the topic of discipline.  Though some of my friends and readers have asked for my take on discipline, I haven’t yet broached the subject on my blog in-depth, and I’m not sure that I will get into the usual debates.  Children’s diets, sleeping habits, and discipline seem to be among the top most controversial topics discussed on blogs, and I’m not sure I am interested in opening up to the possibility of a judgment fueled debate in my space.  Trying to keep it a little Zen here, but I always reserve the right to change my mind if the muse inspires.

HOWEVER, I think most parents, educators, and child development experts will agree that rule-setting is an important piece of children’s discipline.  So today, I’ve decided to share our family rules as well as some social story resources that we are using to help V to learn and understand them.

We have had consistent rule setting in our house for a while: rules that both my husband and I agree upon and address when the rule is broken.  One day, while on a play date, I noted that my friend had posted a list of their family rules for their son on a little wipe board within his viewpoint.  When discussing behavioral concerns, she would refer to the rules by number which indicated to me that she and her son had shared previous conversations where rules were reviewed.  I thought that was a great idea.  Though we educate V on our family rules through repetition and behavioral discussions, actually posting a concrete list and inviting her to learn the rules with us made perfect sense.  In fact, it’s what occurs in most classroom settings as part of classroom behavioral management.

So I sat down and drafted a set of rules which my husband reviewed, edited, and printed for our gal.  We reviewed them with her in a quasi family meeting  and posted them at her eye level so we can reference them with her as needed.

I would like to differentiate our rules from “limits” which we also have defined in our house.  We have established limits about treats, juice, TV viewing and other topics that are generally followed but we can be flexible about if the occasion warrants.  Limits address things V wants to do but that aren’t permissible ad nauseam. Rules address her behaviors. Knowing the limits helps V to understand what to expect from us, but limits are more malleable, while rules are consistently reinforced (at least we try!).

V’s Rules

  1. Respect other people’s bodies (no hitting, kicking, biting, licking; stop when asked)
  2. Be kind and gentle to others
  3. Use your listening ears when Mom and Dad are talking
  4. Help with chores and cleaning up when Dad and Mom ask you to help
  5. Stop, look, listen, and hold an adult’s hands when crossing the street or in parking lots
  6. Don’t go anywhere with someone unless Mom or Dad say it’s ok
  7. Use your big girl words (not whines) when you are upset about something
  8. Respect toys, books, and belongings (no throwing, ripping, smashing)
  9. Use big girl manners (say please, thank you, excuse me, sorry, and excuse me to get down from the table)
  10. Tell the truth

I know that learning family rules will be an ongoing process.  Rules will be tweaked as V grows and matures.  At some point, we’ll invite her to participate in the family rule making process as we teach her how to handle conflict and emotions.  Some of these rules are good reminders even for us (be kind and gentle, using listening ears, no whining, using manners), and I am reminded daily how self-discipline and emotional regulation is something that we pass onto our children by example.  Striving to set a good example is an ongoing challenge as we wrestle with our own complicated histories, patterns, and emotions but M and I are committed to improving our efforts and selves as we try to be better parents for our little gal.

When setting rules, it is important for us to remember the developmental limitations of our little V.  Rules are used to guide her behavior and help us know which behaviors require immediate, developmentally appropriate consequences.  I think much of the discipline debate centers around these questions:  how many and what rules to establish (are you relaxed or strict with your expectations of your child); what behaviors constitute a violation of the rules; and what are appropriate and effective consequences.

We struggle to find the right answers to these questions, and while I have read, considered, and tried many approaches with regard to discipline, I feel every parent and child find a different balance that more or less works for them.  The important thing is that consequences are developmentally appropriate (which some parents struggle to understand without education or previous experience with young children), that they respect the physical and emotional well-being of the child, and that they are applied consistently.  I think there are a rare few parents (if any) who can honestly claim to do all of this perfectly and I think many parents wrestle throughout the parenting journey to adjust rules and develop appropriate, effective consequences.  I know that I will have (and already have had) many successes and mistakes over the years.

For me, it’s important that the rules we create help V to respect people and property.  By setting these expectations for her, we are communicating that they are valued and important and I hope it will help her to learn good social boundaries with others.  We have experienced times when our child was the “model child”, following her rules and treating others with respect.  We have also experienced times when our gal was frustrated, angry, and aggressive toward us or her little friends.  Toddlers do not yet have fully developed brain pathways that allow them to regulate their emotions.  They get easily flooded, as do many of us adults!  They need boundaries to help them understand what behaviors are hurtful to others so as they develop the capacity for self-control, they have other resources to draw upon when experiencing challenging emotions.

V has responded positively to her rules, often reciting them back to us when we have “behavioral discussions.”  She proudly tells us, “I followed my rules! No hitting, no biting, no kicking!”  when she has a particularly great stretch of kind behavior. We make sure to reinforce those times with specific, positive praise so she knows that we are proud of her kind and loving actions too!

Using Social Stories

Our daughter, much like her parents, learns through story-telling and reading as well as her real life experiences.  We have selected some social stories to help our little one learn about rules and have found them to be a helpful tool when discussing positive ways to handle emotions, the impact on others when rules are broken, and establishing what kind and helpful behavior looks like.  I know we will be adding to this list through the years and welcome hearing about any helpful titles you may want to share in the comment section.  I also welcome hearing about the rules that guide your family!  As always, thank you for keeping comments positive and respectful so that everyone feels welcome to share.

Teeth Are Not For Biting by Elizabeth Verdick

Hands are Not for Hitting by Elizabeth Verdick

(and the whole Best Behavior Series by Free Spirit Publishing)

Be Polite and Kind by Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed

(This is one of V’s current FAVORITE reads.  Seriously, she loves it.)

Listen and Learn by Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed

(and the whole Learning to Get Along Series by Free Spirit Publishing)

*Incidentally, I did not know until I searched for the links to the above titles for this post that Free Spirit Publishing published both series of books that we’ve been reading!  I am not being compensated for recommending these titles, but I encourage you to check out their website for additional resources.

QEB Everybody Feels… (Happy, Angry, Sad, Scared) Series by Jane Bingham

(V had us read the one on anger four times in a row…until Mommy suggested exploring one of the other four titles.  She told us that “When you are angry, you feel shaky and hot!” demonstrating it for us by tensing up her body and clenching her fists!  At first reading, she is already learning so much from these wonderful titles passed onto us by my mother.)


What You Can Find in a Blueberry Patch

Our sweet gal picking her blueberries (Photo by PML)

As a child, I spent my summers on the shores of Lake Huron at our family cabin in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  It was an idyllic sort of time in my life, one that I will probably write more about in future posts.  One of my favorite pastimes was roaming the forests with my sister gathering flowers and berries.  I remember seeking out the rustic lanes where the wild blueberries would grow, and filling up buckets alongside my family.  My mother would bake the most delicious muffins and pies from our yield and we had the opportunity to spend an afternoon enjoying nature.

(Photo by MEL)

In an attempt to buy local and fresh seasonal fruit (which benefits the environment and our budget), my husband M and I have been visiting local U-Pick farms for our summer berries.  V and I went on the first strawberry picking yield with some friends, and brought back enough for two batches of strawberry jam, made by M and I.

This past weekend, we decided to visit a small family run blueberry farm near our home.  They follow organic practices and sell berries for only $1.55 a pound, which is fabulous!  Together, V, M and I spent the morning filling our bucket with lovely, plump berries.

Zen Picking (Photo by MEL)

Together we worked, alternating between restful silences and chatting amicably.  Though the morning was quite warm and humid, gentle breezes relieved the heat.  The sunshine dappled the bushes, highlighting the green of the leaves and the blue-purple ripeness of the blueberries.  In the next lane over, two gentlemen talked in deep, soothing twangs about family.  I could have listened to the one man read the phonebook; his Garrison Keillor voice was hypnotic.  Somewhere in the bushes, an older lady with a lovely voice taught a friend a hymn.  V ran about “sploring” the bushes and discovering bugs and birds.  Everyone was in pleasant moods, delighting in the beauty of the morning.  In that patch of garden, everything seemed in harmony and I absorbed the peace.

V ‘splorin’ (Photo by MEL)

We got so much more than a bucket of berries from our trip to the blueberry patch.  We shared a pleasant time together as a family; V had a valuable learning experience about where her food comes from; we spent time enjoying a natural setting and restored some peace to our spirits.

M & V finding some berries for our bucket (Photo by PML)

As an added bonus, on the way to the patch, we stopped at a yard sale to ask for directions and I scored some awesome loot:  a two poster headboard and nightstand for V, a Melissa and Doug money set for educational play, a large basket to house V’s busy bags, a Mercer Mayer story collection, an I Spy book, a large metal standing coat rack for our hallway entrance, and more for $31.00!  I plan to refinish the headboard and nightstand with a white, cream, or matte French black appearance.  And fortunately, we were able to enlist the help of a friend to haul it home.

Yes, it’s the world’s ugliest pie, but it sure tastes good! (Photo by PML)

With our blueberry yield, V and I made homemade muffins and pie and we froze a bunch for the winter months as well.

Yummy, yummy muffins! (Photo by PML)

What are your favorite berry picking/harvesting memories?

A Thank You Letter to My Husband On Father’s Day

Last year, I wrote a post about why I think my husband is a wonderful father.  This Father’s Day, I would again like to remember and appreciate his role in our family by sharing some of the many reasons I am grateful he is V’s daddy.

Husband, I am thankful for the mornings you sacrifice precious extra moments of sleep to help V get her morning drink and go to the potty.  Speaking of potties, I am thankful that you are a dad who is willing to help take her to the potty when we are out in public.  I am thankful for the times you come home, exhausted from your day, and take over making dinner or playing with V, or listen to me vent about some frustrating events of the day.  I am thankful for the moments when we are zoning out in front of the TV at night in that post child-bedtime haze, when you see me setting down to fold an engulfing mound of laundry and though you, too, are so exhausted you really don’t want to move, you get up to help me anyway.  I’m thankful that you help me scurry around the house to pick up before play dates, even though you are more comfortable with a messier house, because you know it is important to me to have things tidy.

I am thankful that you give us the last taste of whatever food we are all sharing even when I know you really like it.  I am thankful that you mow our lawn, even though you hate doing it, because you know it aggravates my asthma and that V loves to play on it.  I’m thankful that you pry out her splinters and in one instance, a tick, while keeping her calm and unafraid. I am thankful that you help her and I not to be scared of things.  I am thankful for your goofy antics that keep us smiling (I won’t embarrass you by sharing here).  I’m thankful that you are always there to comfort me when I cry or to support and uplift me when I feel like a parenting failure, even when you are busy at work and I feel like a dork for bothering you.

I am thankful that you value creating our own family traditions and special times together.  I am ever thankful for the sacrifice you make, giving up precious time with V, so that I can be home with her, especially when we are doing the kinds of projects and going on the sort of outings that you would enjoy.  I know you miss those moments and it’s often hard for you to leave when V tells you she’s sad that you are going to “workadays.”  I’m grateful that even though I know you are missing those precious moments, you don’t begrudge me when I express some gripes as part of the less glamorous aspects of the at-home parent role. I’m thankful when I see you creating your own special moments and experiences with V; reading in her Book Nook, snuggling watching Star Wars shows, dancing in the living room, going shopping for pretty outfits, crafts, and baubles, doing “ahrt projects”, having gigglefests.  I’m really thankful that your efforts have made it possible for us to have the kind of close knit family life we do. 

I am thankful (mostly, and sometimes in spite of myself) for the ways you challenge my parenting perspectives.  I don’t always tell you, but I know that your questions sometimes provide a really good balance to my own parenting style.  I know we do things differently, but I think, ultimately, V will benefit from having both approaches integrated into her upbringing. 

I am thankful that you value learning (ours and V’s) as much as I do and that you create opportunities for V to grow and learn with our family.  I am thankful that you value my needs and interests and create space and time for me to take care of myself, often reminding me that I need my own time to renew my energy and spirit. 

And I’m so thankful for all our precious family moments, none of which would be the same without you.  I’m thankful that you are there to hear all of V’s funny quirks and sayings, that you are aware and involved with all aspects of her growth, and that we are sharing this crazy parenting gig together.  I’m thankful, even though I sometimes miss those 10 couple-centered years we had pre-kid, that we get to experience raising a child together. I’m thankful that one day, when our little V grows up and moves on to do her own things, that we’ll still have each other for the next phase of our lives, whatever adventures and struggles may come our way.  And I’m thankful that I know your heart will be as full as mine when that day arrives. 

Thanks for sharing, learning, loving and being part of our lives.  Happy Father’s Day! 

Pouring my heart out at “THINGS I CAN’T SAY”


Jousts, Caverns, But No Dragons In Sight: Our Mini-Vacation in Photos

Recently, our family took our first vacation alone since our daughter was born 2.5 years ago.  It wasn’t long (two days) and we didn’t go far (4 hours) but it was a change of scenery and we did some fun family stuff.

First, we attended the Virginia Renaissance Faire.  This year, M and I went as pirates with purple pirate princess V. Last year, V was knighted at the faire, but opted not to do it this year(there was a HUGE crowd of kids).  We did however, make sure to see the joust:

V considers the joust atop the shoulders of her knight…or in this case her pirate!

V tried on some armor, attempting to lift the helmet onto her head all by her big self!

V knows exactly what to do with the gauntlet without even being told…

Putting on a more “kid” sized helmet.

Ready to fend off dragon fire with her stout shield!

Daddy models the helmet for V.

Sword raised, V takes on Pirate Mama and fells her with a single blow!

Along with all the action and armor, we enjoyed playing with V in the kid’s area where they had coloring, medieval toys, costumes, instruments, bubble blowing, and other fun activities.

V’s excited to color a picture of Queen Elizabeth!

Pirate Mama with V in the kids area before I met my demise.

A goofy pirate captured having fun in the kids area!

After a day of travel back to the Renaissance, we decided to go even further back in time and check out some spectacular caverns at Luray, VA.

It takes 100 years for the stalactites (hang tight from the ceiling) and stalagmites to grow an inch.

I was inspired to write a poem after viewing these two formations, reaching over hundreds of years towards each other.

Mama and V

V was part nervous, part awestruck by the caves, but she did great and started pointing out pictures for us to take.

Anyone else see Jabba the Hutt here?

It took millions of years for these spectacular formations to develop.

A waterfall appearance.

Daddy and V

Some interesting formations

The cavern seems infinite…

Some scrambled eggs, anyone?

We had such a good time and I wanted to capitalize on V’s interest for some additional learning.  We had a playdate with two of V’s friends (aged 10 and 8) where we spent the day in costume listening to Renaissance music, completing Renaissance themed crafts and baking activities which I will feature in an upcoming post.  Additionally, I checked out a book for V on caves, which she enjoyed, Cave Detectives by David L. Harrison.

Though we did not encounter any dragons on our adventures, we are surely prepared through our armor training and cave explorations should any venture our way!

A Spring of Thoughtful and Fun Titles

It’s been a while since I’ve done an adult book review, but not for lack of reading.  Here’s what has been occupying my mind this passing Spring season.

Hiking with V and M in the woods; so she won’t be “The Last Child in the Woods,” the next book on my reading list.

Already Finished:

Generation Me:  Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before by Jean M. Twenge

I really enjoyed this thoughtful review by prominent Psychology professor Dr. Jean M. Twenge, who is a member of the generation she describes in this book.  The tone of the book is casual and conversational, but I found that a lot of her assertions resonated.  Twenge posits that Generation Me’s high expectations combined with increasing societal obstacles and a victim mentality make the current generation more frustrated and unhappy than previous generations who were not as focused on achieving dreams and finding personal happiness.  As a member of Generation Me, I could not disagree with most of Twenge’s conclusions and I think this read is an important characterization that both Generation Me members and their older counterparts should read for insight and understanding of current social trends.  I plan to purchase a copy for more in-depth reading and note-taking.

The Price of Motherhood:  Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued by Ann Crittenden

If you didn’t get enough of social science reading with Generation Me, I would highly recommend this now slightly dated title by Pulitzer Prize nominee Ann Crittenden.  Her analysis and summary of the many issues faced by mothers (and now many fathers as well as men increasingly are involved with child care) is spot on.  She describes the difficult balancing act of mothers trying to manage work and childcare obligations, the financial cost of leaving the workforce temporarily, the obstacles faced by mothers chasing after child support, the way divorce impacts the financial stability of families with children, the lack of social support and social programs that reflect true family values compared to other industrialized nations, and the many misperceptions of all types of mothers.  If you aren’t incensed reading this book, you should be.  Though published in 2001, over a decade ago, little change has been effected in the areas Crittenden discusses in her book.  Ultimately, Crittenden believes that if we don’t value mothers and our human capital, the cost is great.  And I happen to agree.  Read it yourself and then read it again; I plan to.

Montessori Learning: A Parent’s Guide to Purposeful Play From Two to Six by Lesley Britton

Lesley Britton is a well-known UK expert on Montessori learning.  In this book, she describes many activities and Montessori concepts that parents can use at home.  While the book is certainly very dated (check out the lace collars worn by the kids in the pictures?!), some of the activities are great and can be easily tweaked or adapted if you don’t have  all of the materials Britton shows.  I like the way Britton encourages practical living skills; this is something that I strongly encourage with my own daughter, V, who at 2 and a half can get her own cereal from the cupboard, pour it into a bowl, select her clothes and dress herself, put on her shoes, and help with age appropriate housework.  V is eager to do everything herself, and I think Montessori learning embraces rather than fights the interest children have to learn more. I also like how the book gives a breakdown of ages for each activity.  Some of the activities I can flat out say would bore my two year old, but many of the sensory activities, nature activities, and language learning, I plan to give a try.

The Hand That Trembles  by Kjell Eriksson

To lighten up this non-fiction heavy reading list, I enjoyed this murder mystery by Swedish author Kjell Eriksson.  The story centers around Sven-Arne Persson, a Swedish politician who disappeared years before Detective Ann Lindell investigates the discovery of a female foot.  The stories are told in parallel fashion until you finally understand the character’s connection in the end.  It’s not as obvious as you might first imagine, and I enjoyed the read.

Currently Reading:

Alphabet Art by Judy Press

This book leads you through children’s art projects that correspond with each letter of the alphabet.  What I like about them is that they are relatively simple and mostly use easily obtainable items.  However, some of the craft themes are somewhat repetitive (heavy use of paper plates and paper towel rolls to make creatures and animals).  Still, I think that children would enjoy the projects and I plan to give them a try with my daughter as we work our way through the alphabet.

On My Nightstand:

I hope to find some time to read these titles before I have to return them to the library!

The Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

The House of Silk:  A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz

Nightwood by Charles Frazier

What are you currently reading?

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