Dear Mom on the iPhone: You’re Doing Fine

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Dear Mom on the iPhone,

I see you at the park with your kids, phone in hand. Your cherubs are running around playing and calling out “Mommy, watch me!” They go down the slide squealing in delight, yelling “Mommy, watch this!” As they climb the ladder to go again, they shout “Mommy, I want you to watch me!! Mommy, watch! Mommy! Mommy!!MOMMY!!!!”

But you’re not watching… because you’re on your phone — checking Facebook, email or Pinterest.

You’re not watching… because you just spent every waking hour before arriving at the park watching everything your child did. Every. Little. Thing.

You watched as he ate his breakfast and “drove” his waffles around his plate. You watched as he held the fork upside down and stabbed at bites with the handle and said “Mommy, now watch me do this!” And then he picked up his napkin and put it on his head. And you were watching.

You also watched as your daughter picked out her clothes — only the shirt with the monkey on it would do today. Then you watched as she got dressed. You watched while she struggled to put on her socks — determined to do it herself. You watched — sometimes helping and guiding, but knowing that letting her figure it out is an important part of learning and growing.

You watched when she twirled around her bedroom. You watched as she played with her stuffed animals. You watched as she put away her toys. Slowly. Stopping to play with most of them on the way to the toy box. You were watching it all.

You watched as your kids brushed their teeth and hair. You watched as they played blocks and Play-Doh and had a dance party. You joined in because you love being a part of their fun. You watched while they pooped and helped wipe their bottoms. You watched them wash their hands with too much soap — or maybe not enough. You watched as they splattered water all over the sink. You watched them jump off the stool and run around the house with wet hands.

You’ve been watching your kids — playing with them, helping them, singing and dancing with them all morning. All day. And now, at the park, when they can run around and play, you’re taking a few minutes for yourself on your phone.

Maybe you work from home and you’re still actually working, checking email, responding to clients, sending a proposal. Your lucky kids have the benefit of spending some of that time playing outside, making new friends, running off steam, enjoying the sunshine. Kudos to you for giving your kids such a fun way to spend part of their day while you take care of business.

Maybe you have a friend or family member who’s been ill and you’re taking some time while the kids are happily occupied to send some texts to check in on them, arranging the timing to know when you should drop off dinner at their house. Or you might be looking for the email follow-up for your own test results you’ve been waiting on. Maybe you’re writing or reading kind messages on Facebook, offering condolences for the loss of a loved one. All while your kids are outside, enjoying some free time to play.

Maybe you’re on Pinterest looking for ideas to help your kids adjust to their dad’s latest deployment — finding tools to help them stay connected or searching for party ideas to welcome him home.

Maybe you have an older child in school and his teacher emailed you about a concern with behavior that you need to address… and now that you have a few minutes with your younger kids happily playing at the park, you return a message.

Or maybe you realize that watching your kid every second of every day isn’t necessary and that it’s totally acceptable and actually good for everyone involved — for you to have a few minutes to yourself. At the park. On your phone.

So, to you, dear Mom on the iPhone, I say this:

I’m not going to judge you. I don’t know you. I don’t know your story. But I do know that you don’t need to watch every hop, skip, jump, twirl, swing, bite, song, dance, blink or breath to be a good mom. There’s a lot that demands our attention in this parenting life — and a lot that we want to soak in and enjoy. There’s also a lot that happens in our lives outside of parenting that we cannot neglect.

While parenting might be our most important and rewarding job, it’s not the only one. We’re all working on balance and finding that area where we can be satisfied that we’re making enough time for it all. For the record, we’re all failing at that. Every single one of us wishes we were better at juggling our responsibilities… and many of us spend time beating ourselves up for how we’re doing. You’re doing fine.

 As long as you’re doing your best to make it all work for your family, you’re doing just fine, and that’s what matters.

It’s actually good for your kids to know they’re not the center of your attention every second of every day. It’s good for them to learn to play independently and do things on their own without accolades for Every. Little. Thing. That’s good parenting — allowing them to learn that some things are satisfying just for the fun and enjoyment of doing them, not for the praise or attention that comes with them.

So, find your balance. Be a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, mentor, employee — wear all the hats you need to wear. Do what needs to be done… which sometimes includes taking a little time for yourself — even if it’s just checking Facebook while your kid runs around playing at the park.

Sincerely,

This Mom with an iPhone who isn’t judging you for yours

This post originally appeared on reallifeparentingblog.com

Understanding My Son’s Learning Styles

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Vincent ( far right ) engaging with a ‘tactile’ learning style during a class activity.

For several years, Vincent’s teachers have sought our attention because apparently he is having a hard time focusing in school, sometimes not participating in class, and always needing to do something with his hands. Because of these concerns, we have sat down and had talk with him a million times regarding these issues at school. We were getting frustrated! It’s always dreadful every time we receive an email from his teacher saying the same things.

At one point, we considered home schooling him so we don’t get this kind of pressure from the school. We have to admit, and to our shame, there were times Moses and I yelled at him and took away some of his privileges at home. I compared him to other kids and to my own study habits when I was in grade school.   We were aware that it isn’t fair to him to be treated that way. It was very challenging and frustrating that we lose our patience.

We also enrolled him to Kumon hoping it’ll help him develop concentration and better study habits. Although we help and support him doing his homework at home, we make sure that he takes responsibility as well. We know that Vincent is a very smart, clever and witty boy. But some teachers have suggested have him checked, maybe he has ADHD. Though we were in denial for long time, we are now considering seeing a specialist.

What’s interesting is, every time we get his report card, he excels basing on California Standard Test although his learning behavior is below average. We also get different opinions from our friends and family as well so it can be very confusing sometimes.

Our minister in our church also helped us understand that we, his parents should be his number one fan when it comes to learning. If he feels unloved and ‘not accepted’ because of his inability to concentrate, he will develop low self-esteem and more insecurity in life. I’ve been reading a lot about this topic and it’s overwhelming.

I bumped into an article written by Denise Mann of WebMD site. It is very enlightening and for the first time I felt there are ways how to help my son succeed in learning.

According to Denise Mann, you shouldn’t panic if your son has trouble spelling or your daughter can’t sit still during history class. It may be that he or she simply has a different learning style. She emphasized that every child learns in a slightly different way, experts say, and figuring out your child’s own learning style can help assure academic success.

In some cases, it may even help do away with labels, like “attention deficit disorder (ADD)” and “learning disabled (LD).” So she recommends a step-by-step guide to identifying, understanding, and making the most of your child’s learning style.

Identifying Your Child’s Strengths  

Parents need to keep their eyes and ears open to figure out what works best for their children when it comes to learning, says Mel Levine, MD, co-founder of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit institute for the study of learning differences. “Some children are hands-on, while others work best through language and do well with reading,” says Levine, a pediatrics professor at the University of North Carolina Medical School. “Some children understand things better than they remember them.

”There are many different patterns of learning, and the best thing that a parent can do is step back and observe what seems to be happening and what seems to be working with their child.”

Levine suggests that parents begin evaluating their child’s learning style at age 6 or 7. Learning styles really start to crystallize during the middle school years.

Understanding your child’s disposition can also help you determine his or her learning style, says Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, MS, a learning coach based in Ventura, Calif., and author of Discover Your Child’s Learning Style. For example, is your child adventurous? Inventing? Or thinking/creating like a poet or a philosopher? “An adventurous personality really has to move to learn, so sitting at desk all day doesn’t do it for them,” she says.

By contrast, “a child with an inventing disposition asks a million questions, such as ‘How does this work?’ ‘What about this?’” Another factor to observe is your child’s “learning modality”, she says. This refers to which senses your child best learns through. Are they auditory (listening and verbal), visual (picture or print), or tactile-kinesthetics (hands-on, whole-body, sketching or writing)? “Some people are more visual and need pictures to learn, while print learners need print,” she explains.

Another aspect of learning style involves the environment, she says. For example, noise, temperature or lighting may affect some children’s ability to learn. “For one child, temperature might not make a difference, but some children can’t concentrate if it’s too hot, and/or lighting can be a crucial factor for some people if fluorescent lighting causes eyestrain,” she says.

Playing to Your Child’s Strengths

Once you have identified your child’s learning style, you can begin to build on his or her strengths to compensate for learning weaknesses — without labels. “If a little girl has a lot of spatial problems (difficulty picturing things), but is terrific in English, she can learn math by putting everything into her own words,” Levine explains. “If you show her an equilateral triangle and ask her to talk about it, boy, will she understand it. “She can only understand things in words, which is why she is such a terrific English student.”

Another way to enhance learning is to focus on your child’s affinities and areas of interest. “A lot of strength could ride on the coattails of their passions, and you can build academic skills in that area,” Levine says. “Have him became an expert in the area that he feels passionate about.” Pelullo-Willis agrees.

“Parents really should encourage children’s interests, talents and what they love to do,” she says. “Parents tend to say ‘If you are not doing well in school, you can’t take horseback riding lessons,’ but those are things that can build self-esteem.

Further, she says, “acknowledging and honoring their interests and talents tells you a lot about their learning style. If your child is really interested in plants and gardening, you can see if they are more hands-on and they need to go out there and garden. Or do they learn better from pictures about gardening, or reading about gardening?”

Increasing Awareness in Schools  

As it stands, schools mainly teach to print, auditory and language learners, according to Pelullo-Willis. “They teach by saying ‘Read, answer the questions and listen to me talk’ and that only covers a small percentage of children,” she says. If your child is a hands-on learner, “You can say: ‘Of course school is so hard for you; you need to move a lot and they don’t do that in school,’” she says. “Then learn everything you can about how to use their learning style to make school easier.” Adds Levine: “We are learning more and more that there are differences in learning, and to treat everyone the same is to treat them unequally.”

The good news is that growing numbers of teachers are focusing on learning styles and reaching out to all types of learners. For example, Levine helped launch the Schools Attuned program. This professional development program helps teachers acquire the knowledge and skills they need to accommodate learning differences.

To date, the program has offered training to 30,000 teachers. But if your child’s teacher has not been trained in learning styles, don’t despair, Pelullo-Willis says. Instead, talk to him or her about what you have observed about your child’s learning style. “Say, ‘Wow, I have just discovered this and I tried it, and he got it. Do you think we could work together using this kind of information?’ And the teacher may even get interested in reading a book or article on learning style,” she says.

Now I have more in depth understanding of my son’s learning style. Vincent responds very well with visuals (picture or print), or tactile-kinesthetics (hands-on or whole-body participation. He has an adventurous personality and he really has to move to learn, so Levine is right, sitting at desk all day doesn’t do it for him.

Because I’m now empowered to support him in his study habits, I feel more relaxed and calm. I now have full acceptance that my son is different from the rest of his class. I am my son’s advocate and I will focus helping him with his strengths. Vincent’s success in learning is not defined by the school but through his parents who believes in him.

Becoming A ‘Parent’ To My Parent

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My mother was 84 years old when she passed away in March of last year. Everyone in our family mourned of her loss but at the same time was relieved that she now can finally rest in peace from her long suffering illness. We have prayed to God to extend her life, but we have also surrendered to His sovereignty; God has been in control of my mother’s life.

My parents live in the Philippines and I live in the United States with Moses and our 2 young children. We did our best to visit them every other year because they were getting old and I wanted our children to build memories with their grandparents while they are still able to walk and talk.

My mother was a strong woman but her years of smoking took its toll. In 2007, she broke her left hip and underwent  a successful hip replacement. After months of extensive physical therapy, she regained her strength and was able to walk around town again.

The following year, she broke her other right hip and a new replacement was needed for her to be able to walk again. Because her health was deteriorating, the surgeon advised to postpone the operation until her body gets stronger. After several months, her health was declining instead of getting better. She couldn’t walk at all and just relied from the assistance of her caregiver.  .

When my mother started getting seriously ill and was visiting the hospital more often, my husband and I decided to see her for a longer time in 2009.  My dad, my 2 other siblings and a caregiver were caring for her 24/7 and I wanted to personally care for her as well.

In the Philippines, there are no nursing homes for the sick and elderly. It is the immediate family who cares for them and for some who can afford it, they hire  a helper or a caregiver to assist them especially if they have full time jobs.

I love my mother dearly and i will do what it takes to make her feel she is loved and cared for. My mother did her best raising me up and made sacrifices to be a great parent to me. It is now my opportunity to serve her and my turn to be a ‘parent’ to my parent.

When I saw her again, I could feel her hopelessness. I cried seeing her physical condition. She was very frail and weak. The following days of my stay, I got to fully care for her. I prepared her food, fed her, bathe her, massaged her whole body and tucked her to bed. I read to her scriptures of hope and encouragement.

I brought home a special food blender so it’s easier for her to swallow the food. I also purchased a toilet and bath chair that is designed for elderly people which we don’t usually have in the Philippines. Because she was lying down on her bed most of the time, she developed bed sores. I had to clean them and apply the ointment every 6 hours until the flesh dried up. I could feel my mothers physical pain. I retired every night with a heavy heart and I allowed myself to cry until i fell asleep.

During my stay, I rearranged some of the furniture in her bedroom to accommodate her wheelchair so she can have easier access to everything she needed. I had our kitchen and dining room remodeled as well. It was a huge undertaking for a very short period of time but i had to do what is best for her.

Although my mother was barely talking, I could sense she was asking for help. She wanted to walk again. I asked her if she is ready to have another hip replacement and she nodded without hesitation. We went to see her doctor to check whether she is physically able to have another major operation.

After a week of testing, her surgeon said she can be operated but it is going to be risky. If she will go under the knife again, she may lose a lot of blood and may not make it. I took a deep breath and communicated clearly to my mother about the risks, that she may possibly die on the operating table.

She whispered to me “I am ready to take the risk.” I realized she was making a ‘matter of life and death’ decision because I was committed to see her get better. For her, as long as i am physically beside her, it is going to be okay. She has a deep faith in God and i knew she was praying for a successful operation but I also understood she was also drawing her strength from me.

So the date was set and we prepared for the big day. My dad was not 100% on board with my mother’s decision not because he didn’t care, he was just extremely scared of the possibility that she may not make it. I had to be the one to sign a Waiver of Responsibility. The surgeon and the hospital are not liable in any case something happens to my mother during the surgery.

On the day of her operation, I told my sister I didn’t have the courage to be at the hospital. Instead, i checked-in to a hotel and prayed overnight. I pleaded to God to help my mom’s weak body handle the operation. We were all praying for a successful surgery. He granted our prayers and praised Him for his faithfulness.

I wanted to stay longer to assist in her recovery but Moses and my two young kids are waiting for me in America. On my flight back home, I had the time to recollect my memories with my parents when i was younger. I was grateful God gave me the chance to care for my mother even for a very short time. There was peace and joy in my heart.

When did they start looking so old? You keep thinking of them being the same two people they were when you were in high school, but they’re not. One day you just looked up and your parents were older or had become ill. That’s when it hits you that you might have to take care of them, like they once have taken care of you. Now is the time to start making plans and restructuring your life in order to be able to take care of your parents.

The first thing you need to do if possible is talk with your parents to see what plans they have made for their future. No one wants to get older or sick where they can’t take care of themselves, but sometimes in life that will happen. When you realize that has happen to your parents, it’s time to talk to them about their future.

Have they provided a way for themselves to be taken care of from illness or if they have become too old to take care of themselves? Will you be totally responsible for their well being in the future? Have a family discussion about their future plans, so everyone will know where they stand.

Once the decision has been made that you will take care of them from old age or illness, you should start preparing your life for that right then. Taking care of your parents is going to be a big adjustment for you and your family.

The aging parent/child relationship cannot and must not supersede the relationship between husband and wife as first priority, as this goes against the marriage vows spoken before God and witnesses to “leave and cleave unto each other”, thereby creating needless stress and strain on the marital relationship. It is extremely important to understand the difference between caring for needs versus wants, as taking care of elderly parents can often lead adult children to become enablers of their own parents without realizing it.

Some elderly parents can be very difficult to deal with, perhaps even controlling and manipulative, in a selfish attempt to dictate the lives and activities of family members. Some may even claim they are unable to care for basic needs when in reality they are fully capable physically and mentally, but choose to expect family members to cater to their every want and whim.

Having your parents move into your house will mean changes for everyone. Once you feel they will be at an age where someone else will have to take care of them, start preparing your household now. Start putting into place right now their living arrangements, especially if they’re going to be living with you. Everyone in your household need to start adapting to this living arrangement before they actually move-in.

You might have to make changes to your household from reconstruction of your property for more space, to adapting to having extra people in your house. If possible try to have separate living quarters built for your parents so they can still have some privacy, along with you. If your parents have to go to a nursing home start looking around now for a place.

You want them to be somewhere, where you and they both can feel comfortable and it’s convenient for you to get to them. Start looking early for the right place that will meet all of their requirements. If your parents are going to live with you because of an illness, start setting up your household for whatever they might need to be comfortable through-out their illness.

If they need special equipment or a nurse, start arranging that in plenty of time and not at the last minute before they have to move-in. Having an area set-up with the right equipment for all of their medical needs will make their stay more comfortable and healthy.

Changes like that to your household don’t need to happen overnight, you and your family need time to prepare mentally and physically for these changes. Planning ahead for this is the best way for everyone to deal with this change that will affect everyone’s life. When the realization finally does happen that your parents can’t take care of themselves anymore, this will be hard for the both of you.

Watching my parents turn older or becoming ill is one of the hardest things I have to go through. In my eyes I want to always see my parents, young, active and alert, unfortunately that won’t happen. As time go on our parents will get older or sick with something and need us more than ever. That’s the one thing all of us want to do is to provide for the people we love, when they can’t provide for themselves.

Taking care of your parents will make you feel good and if you have children, it will be a good example for them. Who knows, one day they just might have to take care of you.

Nearly 25 Years of Fathering — and All I’ve Got Are These 3 Lousy Tips

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post of Jim Higley of BobbleheadDad.comfather-and-son-by-jan-paul-yap

I haven’t read many parenting books. And I know, that’s a little surprising for a guy who spends most of his time talking and writing about being a dad.

So, if you chose to read no further, I understand. It’s pitiful. I know.

But what I lack in reading and scholarly research, I’ve compensated for with a lot of observations, conversations with professionals and good old-fashioned trial-and-error. A little over 24 years of it. One of the things I’ve learned is that being an effective dad requires strong communications with your child. If you can nail that part of the dad job, the rest comes much easier.

A daunting task for sure — especially as kids get older. So, here are my three top tips to help you grease that two-way road to trust-filled communications with your children.

Put It On Ice

You don’t need to react so quickly to every situation. Slow down and think. Erupting like Mt. Vesuvius, spewing words and emotions, doesn’t work. It’s scary and models inappropriate behavior for your children.

Give yourself a little time to think. A minute. Five. With older kids I might wait several hours or even a day.

The key is to plant the seed with your child that the topic is “open” and that you’re going to revisit it with them after the two of you have a chance to mutually think about it.

With little kids who are misbehaving, you can literally pick them up, carry them to their room, and have a firm chat after a couple of minutes of cool-down time. But with older kids, that tactic doesn’t work. Additionally, if you verbally attack an older kid in the heat of the moment, they are likely to feel cornered and trapped. You’re simply inviting them to verbally attack you back.

That’s why (unless someone is at risk of being hurt or hurting someone), I’m now far more likely to say something like, “You know, the way you talk to me is just not working for me. But I’m not going to scream and simply hand you a punishment. I want you to think about it before we talk later this afternoon.”

Kids desperately want respect. Even when they don’t show it towards you. They want to be heard. When you introduce topics with respect and consideration, it makes it much harder for them to continue their cycle of behavior. Try it.

30-Second Rule

Stop lecturing.

And when you feel the urge to lecture, limit it to 30 seconds.

Kids hate lectures. I bet you do, too. If you can’t get 95 percent of your point made in 30 seconds, then you need to think through your message.

When I feel the need to preach to my kids, I introduce it with, “I need 30 seconds to share something with you that’s been on my mind. Is your head in a good place to listen?”

And you know what? Nine times out of 10, my kids tell me to bring it on right then and there.

And you know something else? They listen.

I end my half-minute sermon with something like, “Okay, that’s what I wanted you to know. I want to hear your thoughts later today when you’re ready to talk.”

Sometimes they want to talk right away. Sometimes they noodle and come back on their own. And sometimes I have to bring the subject back up a bit later. But it’s almost always a smoother road to a sincere, open conversation.

Start with 30 seconds. It works.

Stop Solving Everything

This one took me years to figure out. It’s one that is really hard for dads to get good at because we love fixing and solving things.

I’m talking about those times in life when your kids are mad, upset, hurt, frustrated, or angry over a host of things. Mean friends. Unfair coaches. Tough teachers. Annoying siblings. The list is miles long. I know for me, any time I used to hear another problem de jour, I’d reply to it with strategies for fixing it and make it go away.

“Here’s what you need to do with your friends -”

“Next time your coach tells you blah, blah, blah, you should -”

“Well, you should never let your friends tell you -”

And you know what I’ve learned? Kids don’t always want you to tell them what to do. They don’t always need you to strategize. They’re also far more resilient and capable than you give them credit for.

A lot of times, they just want you to be in the zone with them. Empathize. Go deep. Be in the moment. Experience their feelings. I figured this out one day when my 13-year-old daughter was sulking in her bedroom, angry at mean friends. It tore me apart. I didn’t want her to hurt. But at the advice of another wise dad, I tried something new.

I went into her room, laid on the floor, and just stared at the ceiling with her.

And eventually she said, “I hate my friends.”

And I replied, “That must suck to feel that way.”

And what followed was a dad-changing moment. She told me details of what was going on while I just stared at the ceiling. She told me about her hurt and pain. And I just kept reaffirming my love for her, my sadness at the situation, and my understanding of her feelings.

And she was fine with that. She didn’t need me to solve it.

She needed me to experience it with her.

I’m convinced that my actions sent her a far more important message than had I tried to give her an assortment of ideas to fix the specific problem.

***

So there you have it. My top three tips. And just in case you’re thinking, “Taking the easy road, huh?” the truth is all three of these ideas require you to stop, think and really focus on what your child needs. They require conscious parenting.

But slowing down, taking time to think, fine-tuning your message, and acknowledging your child’s emotions are collectively some of the best ways to build strong communications.

Try them out. Modify them to work for your family. The rewards are plentiful.

///

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