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5 Top Cognitive Development Goals for Preschoolers

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The preschool years are an exciting and rewarding time for both you and your child, but they can also be a period of worry and doubt for parents who aren’t quite sure of the developmental milestones their children should reach between three and five years of age. Few things are more frightening than the idea that your child isn’t developing along the normal timeline and may be exhibiting signs of developmental delays. In order to either allay these fears or take the appropriate action in order to address any potential concerns, you must first learn what the primary cognitive developmental milestones and goals are for this particular age group.

Primary Cognitive Milestones During the Preschool Years

Between the ages of three and four, your child will be growing and learning at a rapid pace. New skills are constantly being acquired and improved upon. Most children will be starting to assert their independence on a larger scale. In addition to the desire to do things for themselves and to explore new concepts, there are some key cognitive goals that you should be working towards and milestones your child should be reaching, according to data released by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Color Recognition – While a preschooler probably won’t be able to correctly differentiate between “lavender” and “periwinkle,” she should have a basic grasp of color recognition and be able to name basic hues. By the time she reaches four years of age, your child should be able to identify basic colors, like red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and brown. Actually, color recognition skills are typically separated into three separate aspects: naming, matching and identification. If you hold up a piece of red construction paper, your child should be able to locate an object within the room that is the same color or select an identical piece of paper from a stack of multicolored sheets. She can perceive the differences between red and other colors, and is able to demonstrate that ability. When asked what color crayon she’s using, your child should be able to accurately identify it or to find a blue crayon when asked to do so. By telling you what color she’s using or producing the one you’ve asked for, your child is demonstrating the ability to identify and name colors, respectively.
  • Counting and Number Concepts – The ability to understand the concept of numbers and to accurately count at least five objects is a cognitive milestone that most children will reach between three and four years of age. From simple concepts of quantity like “more” and “less” or vague measurements like “bigger” and “smaller” to basic addition, your child should be able to understand what numbers are and how they apply to the world around her. When confronted with five apples, your child should be able to count them accurately. She should also be able to understand basic addition and subtraction when you take some away or place more apples in front of her. When you tell your child that you have three crackers and she has two, she should be able to tell you how many crackers are at the table, collectively.
  • Following Commands – Your willful preschooler may not always follow directions when she’s feeling particularly impudent or isn’t paying attention. Still, she should be demonstrating the ability to follow three-part commands under most circumstances. Commands like “Go to your room, find your shoes and bring them to me,” should not be too much for her to grasp or retain. As long as your directions are clear and concise, she should have little to no trouble following three-part directions. The Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media outlet KidsHealth.org states that the average vocabulary size for a child between four and five years of age is between one to two thousand words. In addition to following simple, three-part commands, your preschooler should be able to speak in complete sentences that incorporate five words or more. She should also be capable of giving simple directions when prompted.
  • Recollection and Memory – Your preschooler should also be exhibiting the ability to recall names, specific events and parts of a story after it’s been read to her. She should be able to remember the next step in a familiar activity, or things that happened within the last few days. Larger and more important events may be recalled weeks or even months after the fact. During the preschool years, your child’s brain is developing rapidly. One of the areas in which she should be reaching developmental milestones is an increased capacity for memory and recollection.
  • Engaging in Imaginative and Fantasy Play – Kids learn about the world through play, and explore more complex concepts through the safety of imaginative play. Your preschooler should be creating fantasy constructs or imaginative role-play scenarios without prompting. This is the age at which most children will begin to “play house” with dolls or toy kitchens, or fabricate games of make-believe without being fed concepts or ideas.

While these are the most common milestones for preschool-aged children, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both advise parents that there may be some deviation from the timeline that’s still well within the bounds of “normal” development. It’s also normal to have concerns or questions about the rate at which your child is reaching these milestones. If you’re feeling those concerns, you should speak to her pediatrician or family physician to schedule an evaluation or learn more about potential developmental delays.

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5 Things to Think About Before Letting Your Older Child Babysit

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There are plenty of situations when it might make sense to ask your older child to handle babysitting your younger one (or ones). Maybe you aren’t going to be gone that long and just need them to keep an eye on the house while you run an errand or head to the market. Maybe you don’t have the financial resources to find a sitter for the occasion, or maybe you looked for one but came up empty-handed.

It’s important to think about the situation before entrusting your older child to babysit, though. There’s no magic age at which kids become fine for babysitting jobs, and no switch you can flip to give them the necessary tools (both emotional and physical) to succeed. Keep these things in mind before you sign off on letting your older child babysit:

Maturity

Many babysitters start working as young as age 12, but that doesn’t mean that all 12-year-olds are automatically fit for the job. What kind of grades does your child get? How do they get along with peers? With teachers? With you? Maturity level is a huge indicator of whether your child will be able to babysit. The Red Cross offers a babysitting training course designed for students 11 and up that covers the basics of babysitter childcare, including safety, mediation and how to handle an emergency. Courses like that can be a good indicator of your child’s maturity level, so use them as a measuring stick before you let them babysit.

Attitude

This is a huge one, too, and though it’s tied to maturity, it’s definitely its own concept. In short, how does your child interact with others? Are they positive, reliable, calm, upbeat, friendly? Or, when given a chance to run things, do they become combative, panicky, unsure of themselves? Their overall attitude is going to determine, to a large degree, how successful they are at babysitting. It goes double since they’ll be looking after their own siblings, which means they’ll be in charge of caring for someone they ordinarily just live with. That’s a serious advancement, and some kids don’t have the attitude to pull it off.

Dependability

You should also examine how your older child responds to crises and other demanding situations that a babysitter might face. When it comes to run-of-the-mill stuff, how much are you able to rely on the older child? Do they complete their chores, help out around the house, turn in their homework, and follow through on their promises? Or do they instead flake out on commitments and ignore responsibilities until you cajole them into obedience? You have no idea what kind of situations they might face while babysitting — and they might never have to deal with anything more stressful than corralling younger kids for bath time — but they have to be the kind of person who can respond capably in emergency situations. Courses like the Red Cross training program are great for this, since they give younger students a look at emergency responses.

Desire

Seriously: Does your child want to babysit? Sure, you can press them into service and make it worth their while, but a good way to ensure success is for them to want to help out, at least a little. Talk to them about the benefits of taking on more responsibility, and how babysitting isn’t just a way to help you out, but also a way to become a more helpful part of the overall household. If the desire isn’t there, you might have a hard time motivating them with other perks.

Trial Runs

If at all possible, don’t just dive into the babysitting pool. Have your older child assist you on trial runs that give them the lay of the land and help them see what kinds of routines they’d need to manage, such as playtime, basic meal preparation and communicating with the younger kids. Have your older child at your side and walk them through the steps. On one level, they already know this stuff because they’re living through it, but it’ll be a lot different when they’re being trained as a potential babysitter.

If there’s one big point to keep in mind, it’s probably this: take your time. The more time you devote to training your child and showing them the ropes of babysitting, the better they’ll be, and the easier your life will be.

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How to Talk to Your Children When You Get Divorced

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Getting through a divorce can be challenging, but it becomes even more strenuous when there are children involved. Although parents deal with plenty of emotional and mental turmoil in most cases, children often need additional comfort and guidance to properly deal with the emotions they are feeling. Knowing how to talk to your children when you get a divorce can help with coping, releasing emotions and getting to know how your kids truly feel about the situation.

Assess the Circumstances

Before you can begin talking to your children about the divorce you are facing, it is absolutely necessary to assess the circumstances and the current family dynamic within the home. Whether you are amicably splitting from your spouse or if there has been physical and verbal abuse leading to the separation, it is important to note these circumstances before you sit down to speak to your children individually. Consider your children and their ages as well as their relationships with both you and your current spouse. Understanding the dynamic of all relationships within the home will help you create a plan that is right for your entire family.

Be Sure to Include Your Former Spouse

Although it may be challenging or nearly impossible, it is vital to include your spouse with your children and with the future planning for your current family. It is essential to have both parents available for support during the process, as it can often drag on for months or longer depending on when you have chosen to get divorced and the age of your children.

Talking openly and honestly with your spouse is key to coming up with talking points and to determine the best course of action when it comes time to tell the children. Consider everything you want to say to your children, and be sure to talk it over with your spouse before you begin speaking one on one or holding a family meeting.

Consider Your Children and Their Personalities

It is also important to consider each one of your children’s personalities individually. Each child in a family household is likely to react to the divorce differently, some acting out and others acting as if they are relieved to see the turmoil end. It is important to take note of how your children behaved during arguments and other issues you and your spouse may have experienced with one another in the past and/or in front of the children.

Talk One on One

Talking one on one with each of your children is highly recommended to avoid bombarding all of them at once with the information and news about the divorce. Speaking with your oldest child can help to ensure you are giving him a more mature, nuanced approach.

Be sure to inform each one of your children that the divorce is not a reflection of them or any behavior they may have exhibited. It is also important to reassure each one of your children one on one that you and your spouse still love them, and that this does not change the relationship they have with each of you.

Have a Family Sit-Down

Have a family sit-down with all of your children and your spouse. Hosting a family meeting can help clear the air and show your children the family unit as a whole is still available for the support they will need going forward. You and your spouse should know what you want to say and how you want to announce the divorce. Discuss ahead of time who will speak first and how the issue will be brought up to the kids.

Sitting down with the entire family is also a way for you to get your children more involved in the conversation rather than having them shut down emotionally. Some children may respond with apathy, others with rage or sadness. Preparing yourself for how your children may react can help you come up with various methods of diffusing the situation based on each one of your children’s personalities.

Although divorces are extremely emotionally painful, it is possible to navigate the minefield. The more openly you communicate with your children and how the divorce is affecting them during all stages of the process, the more likely you are to effectively help them cope during this traumatic time.

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Is Your Child Ready for Music Lessons?

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There has been much written on the benefits of music lessons for children. One of the most obvious benefits is that music helps develop creativity. Another lesser known advantage is that it helps children with mathematics. Several studies published in Scientific American have shown that learning to play music stimulates the same areas of the brain that are used in mathematical processing. By building those neural pathways through music, your child can access them easily again later when doing math. Researchers also found that musical training activated the region of the cerebral cortex used in auditory processing, so if your child is one of the many with an auditory processing disorder, music lessons can help improve this. In addition, skills that govern reasoning, verbal memory and reading skills are largely enhanced when a child engages in musical training. With all of this fascinating research to prove the numerous perks of music lessons, it is no wonder that parents are anxious to get their children started. However, before you hastily enlist your child in instrumental boot camp, you’ll need to make sure he is ready.

Age Isn’t Always Just a Number

While there are some age stipulations with certain instruments, it is not always cut and dry when it comes to knowing if your child is ready to learn music. Regardless of the benefits, music lessons can be expensive and time consuming. Before you shell out the money for lessons, be sure your child is capable of learning and enjoying music, and that the lessons won’t become a source of frustration.

There are some developmental milestones that should be reached before attempting to learn to play an instrument, and not all children hit these marks at the same time. First, observe whether the child knows her right from her left. She should also be able to recognize her letters, and preferably be able to read. Some fine motor skills are necessary as well. To test for these, have your child wiggle each finger independently. Not all children can do these things, even by the age of nine when most schools begin to offer instrumental lessons. If your child needs help in one of these areas, put off the lessons and work on mastering the basic skills first.

Test Basic Skills

To test if your child has some basic musical abilities, clap to a rhythm and see if your child can repeat the same rhythm back to you. Also, play different notes and see if your child can tell you which are higher and lower. Recognizing patterns in sounds and rhythms and being able to differentiate between frequencies in tones are two signs that your child is ready to learn music.

Next, observe your child’s attention span. Can he sit still and listen for 30 to 45 minutes at a time? Also, ensure that he knows what music lessons actually entail, and that he understands that learning will take time and repetition. Be certain he is aware that he will not be pounding out Beethoven or playing rock and roll guitar riffs within the first few lessons.

After you have ensured he has the skills necessary for playing an instrument, you’ll want to ask the obvious questions. Namely, ask him questions like “Do you really want this,” “How much do you want this,” and “What are you willing to do to have it?”

While that line of questioning may seem rather intense, the bottom line is that your child is not going to learn much if he is not really interested in the lessons he is taking. Also, to get the most out of the training, he is going to have to practice. You should ask him up front if he is willing to do so. Learning music takes self-discipline and commitment, in addition to the other skills that were mentioned. Arguably, the willingness to learn and to put forth the effort required can often make up for any lack of skill. Asking these questions can help you find if your child has what it takes to get the most out of his musical instruction.

Consider His Schedule

Before signing your child up for lessons, you’ll also want to take a good, long look at your child’s schedule. Ensure that he has the time for both his lessons and practice. If he already has sports five days per week and a couple of hours of homework every night, it may not be the optimal time to start instrumental lessons. Although parents often worry about their children not learning everything, sometimes it is better to have them learn one thing well rather than having a child that is so tired and overwhelmed that he is unable to grasp anything at all.

If you decide to put music lessons off for a year or two, it doesn’t mean he won’t be successful in his musical pursuits. There are many successful musicians who did not start lessons exceptionally early, and some who even started rather late in life. There is no “missing the boat” when it comes to learning an instrument. You can jump in and get started at any time. That being said, if your child is ready and willing, you may find that music lessons greatly enhance every aspect of his life.

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Is Your Child Ready to Play Sports?

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When it comes to signing your child up for a sports team, it’s natural to feel a bit of trepidation while they’re still young. While you do not want your child to be behind the other children in terms of skills, you may wonder if your child is ready to devote the time and effort it takes to learn a sport and to be a part of a team.

Make Sure He’s Old Enough to Know What He Wants

The first question to ponder is an obvious one, but it is one many parents often forget to ask. That question is, “Does my child want to do this?” Your child is not going to be ready for something he has no interest in doing. He will also have no motivation if he feels he is being forced into something he does not want to do. So, the first sign of sports readiness is a love for the game or at least a love of sports in general. Consider whether or not your child enjoys watching this sport being played.  Also, notice if he likes doing similar activities. For example, if he is going out for soccer, do you see him kicking the ball around in the backyard?  If your daughter is going to sign up for gymnastics, do you often find her turning cartwheels?

Determine Basic Skills

Once you know that the interest is there, assess what skills are needed for the sport. If you’re not sure, you can always ask one of the coaches or organizers. If your child needs good hand eye coordination or well developed gross motor skills, gauge whether or not your child has these skills in place. If he doesn’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t ready. More important than the physical skills are the right attitudes and coping skills. Going out for swim team, for example, requires a lot of well-developed motor skills and body strength. However, swimming can help to develop the skills necessary and strengthen all the muscles in the body. If it is going to be difficult physically but still beneficial, your child will need the positive outlook necessary to keep from getting frustrated and to celebrate all his small accomplishments without comparing himself to others.

Consider His Ability to Work With Others

If you find that your child’s physical and mental skills are in the right place, think about what is needed socially to be a part of a team. Does your child know how to play well with others? Can he win and lose gracefully? Does he know how to both lead and follow? Maybe your child does not fit this criteria yet, and that’s okay. Sometimes sports are just the thing to teach these skills. The key is knowing if your child is ready to be taught. See how he responds to you when you try to teach him some of these values. If he is open and responsive, he’s probably ready on a social level for participation in sports.

Take His Schedule Into Account

Now it’s time to think practically. How much time will the sport take compared to how much time your child has to spare? Children are busier now than ever before, and it’s taking a toll on them. Adults often have difficulty managing their time, and it is even harder for children to do this. If your child is already signed up for several activities and has a couple of hours of homework each night, a sport might just be too taxing to add to the mix. For that first sports season, it may be best to ensure that the sport is the only thing your child is doing other than school. If your child gets overloaded and overwhelmed, it will turn him off to sports altogether.

Take Stock of Your Own Readiness

After you’ve figured out all the ins and outs in regards to your child, take a few moments to think about yourself. It’s often just as difficult on the parents as it is on the child when a new sport is undertaken. Do you have someone to share the carpooling with, or will you have to be at every practice and game? What mandatory volunteering will you be obligated to do, if any? How will all this fit with your schedule? If you can make it work time-wise, be sure you can handle it emotionally as well. It’s not always easy to watch your child play sports. Sometimes parents worry about their child getting hurt. Other times, they find themselves feeling overly competitive and pushing their child too hard. Ask yourself if you can commit to this sport and if you can also commit to keeping it light and fun for your child.

Unfortunately, another factor that often comes into play for families is money. Sports can be expensive. You not only pay to play, but you often have to buy equipment and this can add up quickly into a major expense. Be certain that you know what you are getting yourself into and that your child wants it bad enough for it to be worth both the time and money that the family will be putting out.

Reasons to Ensure Readiness

Sports are wonderful experiences for children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids should get at least one hour of exercise per day. Participation in sports programs can help to provide this to them. Being a part of a team also builds social skills, leadership, and peer relations. Learning new skills increases confidence, while winning and losing provide opportunities to develop lifelong coping and sportsmanship skills. There are not many negative things that you can say about sports, but if your child is not ready, their confidence can plummet and they can wind up avoiding sports in the future because of a bad first experience. Also, if the parents aren’t ready, the whole family’s quality of life can suffer until the season ends.

Carefully Consider Your Child’s Individual Needs

There are no set answers as to when a child is ready to play a sport. Every child and every sport is different. Some children are ready for sports as soon as they can run, while others need time to develop more both physically and emotionally. Ask yourself the important questions and look deeply into the program you are considering. If you find your child really is not ready, there are always other programs that are less intense. For example, if the swim team is just too much, there are always swimming lessons. If the soccer team is too demanding, consider a beginner’s soccer clinic or a Pee Wee sports camp. Whether you decide to sign your child up right away or wait until the following season, finding ways to instill the values of exercise, teamwork, and sportsmanship are some of the best things you can do as a parent.

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6 Tips for Single Dads With Adolescent Daughters

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The teenage years can be tumultuous and overwhelming for girls, and difficult for their parents as well. A single father of a teenage daughter may feel overwhelmed and under-skilled for the task of parenting alone. It’s fairly common to see a woman raising a child or multiple children on her own, but single fatherhood is still considered an odd situation, especially a single father raising a daughter. The most recent data from the US Census shows that only about 14% of children living in a single-parent household were living with their father.

Issues Faced by Single Dads

Many of the issues a single dad will face are not related to gender. For example, many may have no financial support from their child’s mother; less than a third of single fathers are ever awarded child support. This may mean that a single father will have to spend more time working to provide adequate support, and as a result, many may be forced to spend more time than they would like away from their kids. Other issues, though, have entirely to do with gender: mothers have the advantage of having been a teen girl once, which allows for insights and perspectives that a single father simply cannot provide. However, there are certain things that fathers can do to prepare themselves.

Tips for Single Fathers of Teen Daughters

Here are some things these fathers should do:

  • Educate themselves about how girls develop. The goal is to get an understanding of the different stages of a girl’s adolescence, including what will come in each stage. A girl will change psychologically and socially as well as physically during puberty; it is important that her father knows what to expect. Raising a daughter alone is relatively easy in the preteen years, but often gets progressively more difficult the older she gets.
  • Apply discipline and avoid being hesitant to do so. Providing rules and structure for the daughter regarding what is expected of her will make a father’s job easier. They should enforce the consequences of rule-breaking and set firm boundaries.
  • Learn about nutrition. Girls have different nutritional needs from boys and men, especially during their teens. A father will have to take steps to ensure that their daughters get the minerals they need, such as calcium and iron.
  • Seek advice from other single fathers of teen daughters. Female relatives are helpful, but advice from men who have been in the same situation and dealt with the same problems is also important. Forums and messageboards on which single fathers talk to each other can be a valuable source of support. There are also social networks for single parents and single fathers in particular.
  • Communicate with your daughters. Communication is an essential part of building a healthy bond and making a teenager can feel relaxed and safe. Single fathers should make sure that their teen daughters feel comfortable talking with them.
  • Don’t be overprotective. The temptation to be overprotective is an understandable one, but it should be avoided. Instead, single fathers should help their daughters to develop their own critical thinking and coping skills.

The Importance of Having a Mentor
It is understandable for a single father to be apprehensive when facing his daughter’s teenage years. No matter how close the father-daughter relationship may be, there are just some things that neither party will feel comfortable discussing with the other. That’s why it’s a good idea to help your daughter find a strong female mentor to balance you out and help your daughter with any other questions or issues she might have. In most cases, that mentor is someone like an aunt, sister or grandmother, but you can also look around your community (schools and churches are a good start for many). The most important factor in this is that your daughter feels comfortable talking to this person.

Single parenting is a tremendously difficult task, regardless of the gender of the child or of the parent. There is nothing simple when it comes to taking responsibility for a child with no one else to help. Being a single father of a girl presents an additional level of difficulty for fathers. Compound that with the hormones of adolescence, and a single father is in for one of the biggest challenges he will ever have to face. However, with the right planning, communication and attitude, you’ll get through it.

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How to Teach Your Child to Stop Hitting Others

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Aggressive behaviors like hitting, biting, scratching or shoving are often difficult for parents to deal with. It is very easy to overreact when your kid hits others, especially if they don’t stop.

These aggressive behaviors are both developmental and social in nature. Very young children, or those with communication delays, are more likely to hit because they lack the ability to better communicate what they need or want. As younger children become more verbal and learn other methods of communication, their aggressive behaviors should minimize or stop completely. This is totally normal. It’s also normal for a child to still be aggressive if they feel threatened. However, if a child seems to display a tendency toward aggressive behavior past the age of four, then interventions to correct their behavior may be necessary.

Understanding the Source of the Problem

Most children are not naturally inclined toward aggression. They learn aggressive behaviors from those around them, or they turn to aggressive behaviors because they are instinctive and they lack other tools. They may also be seeking attention, and they learn very quickly that negative behaviors bring immediate attention from parents, nannies, teachers and other caregivers.

Observation is very important in these first stages. Watch your child closely to see if anything in particular prompts aggressive behavior. Common causes include stress, feeling threatened, lack of routine, exhaustion, over-stimulation and lack of adult attention. Often, simply removing the source of anxiety will curb aggressive behavior.

Learned Aggression

If observation doesn’t seem to point to a common cause of aggression, then it’s possible that the child has learned aggressive behavior from their environment, peers, or even, unfortunately, parents. Often, parents inadvertently teach a child aggression through interactions they believe to be proper discipline. In these cases, steps must be taken to correct the relationships teaching aggression and also correct the behavior.

This is where things can get tough. An all-too-common response to physical aggression is yet more physical aggression. Parents instinctively feel the need to control their child by grabbing them or restraining them, and sometimes that leads to anger or embarrassment that then turns to physical control. It’s crucial that you don’t do anything to convey to your child that physical forcefulness is the be-all, end-all of conflict resolution.

Guidelines for Positive Discipline

Self-control is the first step. Parental discipline is one of the most common causes of aggressive behavior. This does not mean that aggressive behavior should be ignored or that discipline shouldn’t be carried out, but execution is key. The most important thing to remember is to not react in anger, embarrassment or any other negative emotion that might flare when a child hits or bites. Controlling the child and restraining them might be needed to avoid injuries, but don’t use it unless absolutely necessary. Use a firm voice to stop the behavior, but don’t yell, shout or act panicked. Once the behavior has stopped, remember that you are the adult. The child, whether obvious or not, is silently looking to you for cues on their behavior.

Do a self-check. Are you, the adult, able to calmly and constructively teach the child at this moment? If not, redirect the child to something else and tell them you will be talking to them later. Give yourself the time you need and return as soon as possible. If you are, then take the child aside. It is very, very important not to publicly humiliate the child by disciplining them in front of their peers. All conversation should be done calmly and as privately as possible. The child may also need some time to calm down. Give them what they need. The conversation does no good unless it is calm.

In the private conversation keep these things in mind. They usually work for any scenario:

  • First, reinforce that you care about the child and that this discipline is all about you trying to help them be better.
  • Second, see if they understand why they are being disciplined. Too often, children are spanked, yelled at or isolated and they don’t know why, even though to an adult it seems like the reason should be obvious. Remember that you are dealing with a child’s brain and a child’s perspective. Never assume they know that what they did is wrong, even if they have been punished for it before.
  • Third, either explain to them why their action is wrong or acknowledge that they understand the situation correctly. Often, they may have a partial understanding. Fill in any blanks for them so they fully understand. Just don’t go over their head. Keep everything age-appropriate, but don’t dumb things down. Children are remarkably receptive.
  • Fourth, give the child other options for the future. Give them words to use or alternative actions to take. It may have been a problem of communication, or it may have been a situation that required an adult from the start. Be sure the child understands that they have these options and should use them first.
  • Finally, end the conversation with another affirmation that you care about the child and are helping them. This positive ending makes it more likely that the child will be receptive to what you’ve talked about and use it in the future.

These actions may not seem like punishment, or they may seem “too soft” for some parents. It is important, however, to consider that traditional punishment accomplishes very little except instilling fear of that punishment into the child. It is far more constructive to build the child up and give them positive options than to try and rule them with fear. (It will also result in a better overall relationship between the child and caregiver.) Proper discipline can work wonders in your child and help them learn that physical violence is never the answer.

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How to Teach Kids to Make Up with a Friend

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Childhood is not always full of rainbows and unicorns for kids. Adults often like to think that is the case because they look back and remember fondly what they now see as carefree days without the responsibility and pressure of work and managing a household. What some adults seem to forget is that kids sometimes have problems, too. These problems can be particularly difficult for them, in fact, because they don’t have the benefit of experience to draw upon in knowing how to deal with and cope with particular situations. One such situation is a falling out with a friend.

Children have fights amongst themselves, and it’s tough for them to know what to do when it happens. This is where parents need to step in and coach them. In the end, it is up to the child to rectify the situation, but as a parent you can be there to guide him and help him make sense of the situation.

Get to the Bottom of the Particular Situation

The first thing you are going to want to do is find out what happened. Kids fight about a lot of things. Sometimes kids feel left out when a friend plays with someone new. Two kids may fight because they both want to get their own way.  Sometimes, one child hurts the other, either physically or emotionally.

Let your child tell you what happened and just let them vent. Use reflective listening to tell him you understand how he feels. Don’t tell him his feelings are wrong or assign any blame to either party. Just tell him you understand that he is upset.

Talk About Perspective

Once your child has vented, you can try asking him what both kids could have done differently. Your child may say something you view as the ‘wrong” answer, such as, “My friend could have done what I wanted.”  Just respond with something like, “Okay, that’s one thing, what else could you have done?  Do you think if you guys had taken turns you still would have had this argument?”

Try to get your child to see the situation from the other child’s point of view. Ask him why he thinks his friend did or said what he did. Ask him how he thinks his friend felt. Again, don’t try to get the “right” answers out of your child. It is enough to get him into the habit of trying to view difficult situations from different perspectives.

Determine Whether Your Child Wants to Salvage the Relationship

Ask your child if he wants to make up with his friend. Making up won’t work if he doesn’t want to. If he says no, which is highly unlikely, just tell him that is fine and to let you know when he does so you can help him. If your child does not want to make up with his friend and there have been many instances in the past of your child being hurt, maybe it is for the best. If your child is clearly in the wrong, such as if he physically harmed the other child, let him know he needs to apologize either way.

Hatch a Plan

When your child is ready to resolve his dispute, brainstorm with him ways in which he can do this. Ask him what he would want if he were in the other person’s shoes and what he wishes his friend would say to him. Think of different ways to approach the situation, such as simply asking the child to play again and moving on, making the friend a card or telling the child how he felt by saying, “It made me feel mad when you would not let me have a turn with the truck. Next time can we take turns?”

Talk About Conflicts as a Normal Part of Everyday Life

Let your child know that everyone has a falling out from time to time, and sometimes going through these hard times together with friends makes relationship even stronger than before. Also, let them know that it is normal to feel awkward and uncomfortable after an argument. Tell him if he is brave and pushes through it, everything will get back to normal quickly and both kids will feel better.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if going through these steps is not bringing about a resolution. You’ll want your child to be able to ask for help throughout his life when things get too difficult to manage, so show him now that reaching out for assistance is a viable option. If the altercation occurred at school, calling on a teacher or the school counselor can be extremely beneficial. You can also contact the other child’s parents and see if they will also talk to their child. Then, see about setting up a play date for the kids so they can enjoy one another’s company again.

Remember to talk about forgiveness with your child. Remind him that nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Ask him if he can forgive his friend and, if your child is in the wrong, be sure that he takes the time to forgive himself. Children can be very hard on themselves, and sometimes try to run away from a friendship because they do not want to face the mistakes they made. It’s important that they face their difficulties and fears with you by their side for support, so that they can build experience and confidence.

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30 of the Best Blogs to Read When Planning Your Baby’s First Birthday Party

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Some say that first birthday parties are pointless, given that the baby won’t remember anything about the occasion, but as a parent, it is an important milestone in your baby’s life. It marks her first year on the planet and as a new addition to your family. Your baby’s first birthday party gives you the opportunity to not only celebrate her life, but her future, too. These 30 blogs will help you organize your baby’s first birthday party, so that you have invaluable memories that will endure throughout her life.

Create a Checklist

As with any party, organization is the number one key to success. With a baby’s first birthday party, however, you will have a number of uniquely important decisions to make. Once you have made those decisions, you will need to create a checklist to help ensure that the party goes off without a hitch. In these five blogs you will find some great advice on how to structure your child’s first birthday party.

Choose a Theme for Baby’s Party

It may seem like overkill, but one-year-old infants often have a singular focus on color, movement or a particular show or book, so a themed party isn’t something you should dismiss as an idea. If your baby has a favorite toy, book or color, try focusing the party theme on that. She may not be able to fully communicate yet, but she is the party girl and deserves to have some fun. If you’re struggling for ideas, take a look at some of the examples in these five blogs.

Get Ready to Party

Don’t get “creating a checklist” and “preparing for the party” confused, because they are two completely separate things. You will have to send invites, check for RSVPs, ensure that none of the guests have allergies and much, much more. This task will begin immediately after you have settled on a theme and created your checklist. You will have to put your organizational and communication skills to the test, so don’t get frustrated. When it comes to first birthday parties, the authors of these five blogs have plenty to say. Take as much advice as you can get – you’re probably going to need it.

Baby Party Games

Activities at a first birthday party are all about balance. You will have children across the age spectrum in attendance, as well as teenagers and adults. You don’t want to alienate any of your guests, so do try to cater to everyone just this once. A mixture of games is recommended so that everyone can take part. Plus, it will make life much easier for you if you don’t have a bunch of hyper kids and parents coming at you all at once. Here are five blogs with some great suggestions for birthday party activities, ideal for one year olds.

Baby Party Food

Food choices are important since some kids and adults may suffer from allergies. While it’s hard to find party food that will suit a one year old, it is not impossible. With a little help, you can host the most extravagant first birthday party your friends and family have ever seen. Take your lead from these five blogs for the best first birthday party food.

Creating Memories

After the party is done, you won’t want to discover that you were too busy to record a single moment. A single picture is said to be worth a thousand words, and in this technological age you can do so much better than one snapshot. Check out some of the suggestions for creating those beautiful memories in these five blogs.

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How to Protect Young Children’s Hearing

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Just like the rest of your infant or toddler’s body, her ears are sensitive to sounds and environmental noise in a way that yours may not be. Loud sounds that you’re able to process without much trouble can be difficult for a small child to deal with, and can even be potentially damaging to their ears due to her smaller ear canal. Protecting your child’s ears during loud events and in noisy spaces is not only helping to keep her more comfortable, it’s also helping to prevent possible hearing damage as a result of exposure to loud sounds. In fact, hearing loss from repeated exposure to loud noises is cumulative, and is also irreversible. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health states that more than 15 minutes of exposure to sounds over 100 decibels is unsafe; the sound at a stadium-style sporting event can reach up to 130 decibels, and can be up to 20 decibels louder to an infant’s small, sensitive ears. You can’t repair damage done to your little one’s hearing, but you can help to prevent it.

Skip the Earplugs

Adults who are aware of the damage that exposure to loud noises can do to their ears may reach for a pair of earplugs before venturing out to a sports event, parade or fireworks show, but they’re not ideal for young children. In addition to being too large for little ear canals and posing a choking risk, they’re also difficult to position. In fact, many adults don’t even insert them correctly into their own ears. So while it’s wise to be conscious of your little one’s hearing, earplugs aren’t the answer. Be aware that there are some earplugs marketed as a solution for protecting the hearing of small children, but they’re usually just not worth the risk. This also holds true for the gel ear plugs that can be molded to fit the shape of an ear canal. Should a child manage to dislodge the gel and put it into their mouths, it can present a choking hazard and may not be a substance you’d like for her to ingest.

Choose Headgear Carefully

There are earmuffs on the market designed specifically to protect kids’ hearing, but not all models are ideal for very young children. They’re made of lightweight ear cups filled with foam, but may be too large for babies’ heads if they’re not designed for infants specifically. There are also heavier models on the market that look similar to those used by adults in shooting ranges, but they can exert too much pressure on a small skull and aren’t recommended for kids under the age of three. Look for age-appropriate headgear, and make sure that it’s adjustable so that it will fit your baby’s head snugly enough to block out loud sounds, but not so tight that it’s painful or potentially unsafe.

Consider a Sitter

If you’re not able to find headgear that will adequately protect your child from loud noises, it may be best to consider the benefits of opting for a sitter when you’re planning an outing to a particularly loud event, or at least moving farther back from the loudest point. At concerts and festivals, front and center may not be the most appropriate place for an infant. Hanging back on the grass at a distance from the stage may be a better solution, but it’s just not always practical to keep your child a manageable distance from the source of extremely loud sounds. In some cases, you may find it easier and more practical to spring for childcare and enjoy a child-free night on the town.

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