Moms & Dads: Stories, tips, and advice on raising your kids from South Florida parents | Sun Sentinel blogs

Moms & Dads

South Florida parents share their stories and advice

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June 30, 2010

Wii are loving our new family toy

I'm a PS3 guy. Plain and simple. I wanted the console so that I could play my Grand Theft Auto (obviously with no kids around) and to finally have a Blu-ray player in the entertainment center. However, I'm also a guy who tries to put his family first. Thus, when it came time for us to finally lay down our hard-earned money we decided upon the Wii.

I knew there was no way my 6, 3, and 2-year-olds would be able to handle a standard game controller, but the motion-controlled remotes for the Wii were perfect. Right out of the box my 6-year-old daughter was navigating through the menus with ease, and my 3-year-old was beating her at bowling. Even my wife—who HATES video games with a passion—became wrapped up in all the fun. Before long, we were rolling on the floor laughing and talking trash.

We've since added a few games just for the kids, but the other HUGE plus of our investment has been the addition of Netflix on demand. Have you heard of this? It has literally revolutionized the way I watch TV. I will NEVER sit through a network TV show again. The endless library of movies and TV shows available ensure you will never run out of stuff to watch, including great programs for the kids. This service is also available for Xbox and PS3, but then you'd miss out on watching your 2-year-old knock out your wife in boxing (fair and square).

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Chris Tiedje (51), Entertainment (114), Toys (15)

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"Huge": Kids battle their weight issues at fat camp

Wow. Did you watch "Huge" on Monday night? It was the first time I've seen teenage cellulite glorified on TV, in a seductive striptease by none other than Nikki Blonsky of "Hairspray" fame.

I wondered what my thin 11- and 13-year-old girls were thinking as they watched the ABC Family show, which explores the issues facing teens at a weight-loss summer camp. I asked them and they shrugged. I could tell they couldn't relate, but I could.

The show explores how the kids face their obesity issues. They sabotage themselves and each other by creating a black market in prohibited food and then tattling about it. There's the pretty girl, the sympathetic girl, the rebellious girl (there are boys too, although girls' issues seemed to be the focus in this episode), and there was an interesting balance between their obvious need to lose weight and get healthy vs. being satisfied with who they are and the way they look.

This series has a lot of potential and I'm going to stick with it, although I'm not sure my kids understood the deeper issues at play.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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June 29, 2010

Booked for the summer

Summer can be a real page-turner. Even getting the kid to read can be a real adventure.

It’s that time of year, a field trip to shop for the dreaded Summer Reading list. That's the list of required reading his school requests from selected book titles.
It’s my favorite thing to do – go to a book store and buy books for my son’s summer reading list.

He has to come with us. That’s part of the fun – because frankly, he dreads it and then by the time we’re leaving the store – he’s a happy camper. He even thanks us! It’s that transformation from dreary task to enthused reader that is fun to witness.

We usually make an evening of it, and he ends up exploring the entire store.

It’s on our schedule of things to do this week.

What about you – did you already get the books required? Or do your create your own summer reading list for your child.

Do you tap into local resources like the library – or do you make it a shopping spree?

photo credit: Les Bryant/flickr Undercover Reader AKA Secret Readers Original Oil Painting on 11 x 14 Hand Streached Canvas

Follow Cindy Kent on @mindingyourbiz

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Elementary School (54), Entertainment (114), Family Issues (231), General (185), Teen (158)

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June 28, 2010

Traveling with kids? Try these books to keep them from wailing

It's family vacation season. I have a small tip on how to prevent your travel time from being ruined by your offspring, assuming you've already checked with grandma and she said you can't leave the kids with her.

We just returned from a trip to Colorado. We had the misfortune of flying during a bad storm, headed towards the Denver airport, which was closed temporarily because of nearby tornados,lilyonplane.jpg

and being subjected to an extra hour of flying time in said storm, as we traveled in a "holding pattern'' awaiting permission to land, well after midnight, during which time we alternated between getting small bites of sleep and being frightened into wakefulness by the jet shaking like a blender due to storm turbulence. That was not the worst part. The worst part is that we were sitting directly behind a child who cried the entire flight.

Hence, I dedicate this blog post to him.

Parents, do yourself -- and the passengers behind you -- a favor and purchase special travel coloring books. It's not OK to just bring along used coloring books from home, or even a new coloring book from the dollar store.

The only thing that is really going to capture your kid's interest enough to stifle some cries is a SPECIAL coloring book that is made just for traveling.

I found one such book at a gas station. It's shown in the above picture, holding my daughter's attention for hours. It is published by the map-maker, Rand McNally. There are a few others in the set, including the one above that's entitled "Are We There Yet,'' another called "The Best Travel Activity Book Ever,'' a third called "Kids' Road Atlas,'' and lastly, "Coast-to-Coast Games.'' There are other publishers of kids' travel books, of course. You can find others online. But I happened to purchase this brand.

The books go beyond coloring to include mazes and crossword puzzles, songs, and a Fun-O-Meter to rate the trip. The contents are all travel-themed, of course. One maze challenges you to "hurry and find your seat before the plane takes off!''

Highly recommended.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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Getting religion: How to explain Satan

On the drive to daycare my 3-year-old usually flips through one of her books. This morning, the reading was from Let It Shine, a lushly drawn book of three spiritual songs.

Now I must make it clear that we are not a church-going family. We believe in being kind to others, being thankful for what we have and not pining for what others have (unless what they have is $24 million and that we want. Actually, we'd settle for a lump-sum of $1 million).

letitshine.jpgSo when the little one got to the line that goes: Don't let Satan blow it out, there came a pause and then the question. What is Satan?

That's when the angel popped up on my left shoulder and said pointedly: See that's why the child needs to be in Sunday school.

My answer was that Satan is a person that we couldn't see. A bad person.

Then came the follow-up question: Why is he bad?

At that point I pulled out my Get-Out-of-Sticky-Situations card and said: I don't know.

And the subject was quickly changed.

Maybe I should have just said Satan was a stranger and she should never, ever talk to him or go anywhere with him.

How have you explained religion to your children? Jesus and Satan? Good and evil?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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June 23, 2010

Where have all the heroes gone?

Anyone else remember this one? Man, I loved this show...

My boys have recently become absolutely obsessed with superheroes, so we made sure that their recent birthday gifts were stacked accordingly. The best of the bunch proved to be the costumes from the grandparents. Before this gift, if the boys wanted to play dress-up they had to hit their sister's princess trunk. Now I come home to find them running up and down the hall with their capes flying behind them yelling, "Superheroes, to the rescue!" Priceless.

The trouble came when I wanted to show them their heroes in action. I started by turning on a recent Batman cartoon, that lasted about 10 seconds before it became so dark and violent that I had to turn it off. Why can't someone make a hero show for little kids? The bigger kids obviously have their shows with the guns and explosions and I'm OK with that, but what about something for the younger fans? Do I really have to resort to watching old Superfriends episodes on YouTube?

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Toddler (127), Toys (15)

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June 22, 2010

The summer agenda: Chill

If I left it up to our cats to teach our son a thing or two…. he’d have a PhD in Sleeping, (see photo) before the summer is over.

cat%20mentors2.jpgIt seems that when school’s out –sleeping is in: staying up until 3 a.m., and snoozing until noon the next day is my son’s idea of enjoying the summer.

Well – that’s just not going to happen – no lay-a-bouts here! And I’m inclined to nip it in the bud.

Yes, I’m going to let him have his late nights and sleep-in mornings.

Sometimes. We’ve told him, it’s the exception – not the rule.

He has to get out and ride his bike, do chores, keep up with martial arts and follow up on some volunteer stuff.

There is no doubt, hanging with friends is good – in fact, it’s important.

And they’re going to stay up late some nights and sleep in – which is fine, but not day in and day out – not on my watch.

I have to admit I am a little hard-pressed for an answer when he asks why he has to get up so early (8 a.m.-9 a.m.-ish.) After all – if I had the time, I might take advantage of a late night/ late morning myself–but only for a while.

Besides reminding him that as the parents we set the rules, I tell him I don’t want his schedule turning upside down – that it will be very difficult to get back on track for school.

I don’t think I’m too hard on him. He’s got more down time that planned time this summer – which is a first.

What are your kids up to this summer – are they over-booked? Hanging out? Or balancing their time with spurts of activities with nothing to do in between?

Photo credit: Cindy Kent/Houdini and Zoe demonstrate the art of chillaxing

Follow Cindy Kent on @mindingyourbiz

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Entertainment (114), Family Fitness (21), Family Issues (231), General (185), Teen (158)

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June 17, 2010

Introducing: Family friendly South Florida restaurant reviews

Today, we introduce a new Food section feature called Family Dining Report Card.

Click here to read our first reviews.

ole.jpgEvery week, we'll take a look at how well a restaurant meets the needs of families with children. Does the hostess flinch when asked for two high chairs? How are the chicken tenders? Does everyone in the family walk away happy?

Restaurants know the importance of families because one-third of all their parties include kids, said Harry Balzer, vice president of the NPD Group and author of the annual Eating Trends in America report.

Families, he says, are concerned with time and money, as well as healthy options. With that in mind, our reviewers will focus on fast, casual restaurants – from neighborhood diners to mega-chains. The places you go on a busy night when cooking just isn't going to happen.

All reviews will be written by Sun Sentinel staffers who are parents and contributors to our Moms & Dads parenting blog.

-- John Tanasychuk

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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The perils of parenting while plugged in

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So here I am to announce it to the world: I am addicted to my smart phone.

I sometimes take it to the dining table in case an e-mail drops into my inbox that needs an immediate response. I will take it outside to my children’s playground and multitask -- push the swing and post to Facebook at the same time. I’ll take it to the beach on the weekend and check on


A recent New York Times article pointed out the possible perils of staying plugged in while parenting. Experts have found that children may begin to act out if they feel they are constantly competing for a parent’s attention. Experts also warn that wired parents may be talking to their young children less, which over time could affect a young child’s vocabulary development.

My iPhone and I have become so glued to each other, my five-year-old son is starting to resent the technology – and he is a fan! He inherited my husband’s old iPhone and now uses it to watch videos, play with apps and take pictures. So it speaks volumes when he tells me, “No iPhone,” as a rule when we’re off to go do something.

(BTW, I just checked my e-mail on my phone.)

So I have decided I need some intervention to put my tech use in check. It’s a delicate balance because my job as the editor in charge of requires me to be available 24-7 if emergencies come up. (And “emergencies” are loosely defined.) I also know that I have technology to thank for the fact that I don’t have to go rushing into the office if there is an emergency. The beauty is that I can handle things remotely, which means I could actually be spending more time with my kids than perhaps I would be if it weren’t for the technology.

Here are a few steps I have taken that you might want to consider if you too find that your new best friend is a handheld device with an unlimited media plan:

Talk to your children and explain your demands from work. I’m a big believer that the more you engage your children in those types of conversations, the more they’ll learn to appreciate what you do and develop aspirations of their own about what careers they’d eventually like to pursue. When my husband and I took the kids to the beach earlier this month, I explained to my son that I was working to resolve a problem at work. That prompted a few questions from him that I gladly answered (while I was e-mailing, texting and checking the website on the phone).

Create phone-free periods of time. For some folks, it may be setting specific blocks of time when you’re not plugged in. For others, like me, it may be committing to focusing on certain activities (going on the playground, playing ball outside, having dinner etc.) without having the phone present.

Avoid using the phone while in the car. Yes, we all know you shouldn’t text and drive – and even talking on the cell phone can be hazardous. But try to disconnect even if you are a passenger and instead enjoy the journey by starting a conversation with your kids or just enjoy the scenery.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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June 14, 2010

Shouldn’t both grandmas get equal treatment?

It’s not fair, my friend belted out to me the other day. newborn.jpg

She’s upset. Her son and his live-in-girlfriend just welcomed their first child. It’s my friend’s first grandchild and she was under the impression that she would get endless time with her granddaughter.

But lately she’s feeling left out big time. She said while the maternal grandmother, who is also local, gets to stop in and see the baby whenever she wants, she doesn’t have that access.

She’s not alone. A lot of grandmothers who are related on dad’s side don’t get the same privileged access mom’s mom get.

In this case, my friend’s son is at work during the days. And the girlfriend is often unavailable when she tries to call to see if she can come by. Most of her visits are therefore limited to the weekend.

She tried to just drop in without calling once and the response was chilly.

She tried to bring up this issue of needing more time with the baby with her son and his girlfriend, but it hasn’t helped much. She feels like a stalker, she says, texting and calling to get some face time with the baby. She'd like to see the baby practically everyday, if she could.

I told her not to worry. She's also mom to three young women. None of them have children yet, but she’s close to all three and I can guarantee if and when they have kids, she will have a lot more access to those kids.

I think it’s natural for women to feel more comfortable around their mom, (if they have a close relationship) especially in the beginning when they're new to parenting.

While new moms should try to be fair, I think grandparents have to learn not to take it personal. New moms may gravitate to their own parents more in the beginning, but at some point they’ll reach out for more help.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44)

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June 11, 2010

How to survive Disney as a family

Walt Disney World is the happiest place on the world.

If you don't go with a 3-year-old. Or on an empty stomach.

We went to Magic Kingdom during Memorial Day weekend and returned with lessons learned and fond memories. Here is my list of do's and don'ts for parents/grandparents/aunties and uncles traveling with wee ones.


Pack a backpack of snacks and nearly frozen bottles of water and juice. You will feel like you're dying of thirst by the time you make it to the entrance gates.

Go at night when the sun isn't beating the life out of you. Sure you'll have fewer pictures to share but everyone will be much happier standing in line in the shade of night.

Sneak away from the parade or fireworks' show about 10 minutes into it and go to the nearby rides. We sailed through It's a Small World queque during the fireworks show.

Risk limb and nasty glares and grab a seat on the resort bus for the little one who insists on sitting in a seat by herself because dammit she's 3.


Wait to get to the park to eat and then ride the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups. You can have Casey's yummy mini corndogs later.

Forget to buy T-shirts, stickers, books emblazoned with your kid's favorite Disney character before leaving home. We hit a home run with the Disney gift bag I made for the little one and had a free pass to not buy stuff from the park gift shops.

Take a 3-year-old on the Haunted House ride and not expect to hear about it. For weeks.

Think you have to do it all.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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June 10, 2010

Contests for moms

Just as school wraps up and summertime schedules kick in, there are several great opportunities, contests and sweepstakes for Moms to take advantage of over the next few weeks. From the Hampton Inn Chain of Friends Sweepstakes to French Toast “U in Uniform” and Solo Cups, there are lots of great ways to win cash and prizes! Watch my video here, and see below for links to contest pages.

French Toast “U in Uniform” contest is awarding $15,000 to a student and school for a winning entry. Go to

Hampton Inn Chain of Friends Sweepstakes gives you a chance to win 100 hotel rooms, plus hotel stays – Also, follow along during the “Where in the World is Maria Bailey?” contest. Every Thursday from 5 – 7 p.m., I’ll post a video on MomTV, then tweet out clues about my Hampton location. Follow me on Twitter @momtalkradio.

Solo Cups, those famous red cups, is holding their annual photo contest at

Good luck, spread the word, and I’d love to see one of you win!

mariabailey100.jpgMaria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media, speaks to over 8 million moms a month in print,online and on radio. She is the author of “Marketing to Moms: Getting Your Share of the Trillion Dollar Market”, “Trillion Dollar Moms: Marketing to a New Generation of Mothers” and “Mom 3.0: Marketing with Today’s Mothers By Leveraging New Media and Technology”. Bailey also writes for several parenting publications such as OC Parent and Pregnancy Magazine. She has been featured in Business Week, Parenting, Child and O magazines as well on CNN, CNBC and World News Tonight. You can hear more from Maria at and

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Are you a 'helicopter' parent?

Parents rarely get it all right the first time. We make mistakes: We’re anxious. We’re impatient. We’re overeager. And, usually, it’s the oldest child who pays the biggest price for our flaws.

Subsequent children are like a do-over – they are our chance to correct our behavior and make things right.

Now that I am a mom of two, there are some things I am doing differently with the second child. And it generally comes down to micromanagement, or what some experts call “helicopter parenting.”

A study published earlier this month in LiveScience says overly protective parents may unintentionally raise neurotic children who are unable to solve their own problems as they enter adulthood and have trouble adapting to new ideas or situations. The study, conducted on college freshmen, came about after college admissions counselors around the country began seeing an uptick in the number of parents who were intervening on behalf of their grown children to solve problems that previously had been handled between the university and the student.

The study is far from being the definitive word on the effects of helicopter parenting. There are plenty of kids who are better for it, I’m sure. But it got me thinking about some of the changes I have made the second time around in parenthood.

Here’s my “do-over” list. What’s yours?

Let them figure it out themselves. My husband and I look back with some disappointment at how much we intervened in my son’s early years. The best of intentions, of course, but was it really necessary, say, to show a one-year-old how to correctly play with that Fisher-Price tree house? If he was holding his spoon or cup incorrectly, we’d jump in constantly to make it right. You name it, and we corrected it in the spirit of showing how things should be done the “right” way. And we wonder why our son now despises doing something if he can’t do it right the first time.

I’ve found with my 8-month-old daughter that less really is more. And it’s mostly a function of me having less time to obsess over the little things (and understanding that it all really works out in the end). I let her play freely and inevitably she figures things out for herself. She’s already holding a sippy cup by herself, in large part because I don’t have time to sit down and hold it for her the entire time.

Ease up on the schedule. I am still a big believer in routines. Predictability makes for happier babies, no doubt about it. But flexibility does not necessarily lead to chaos, as I once believed. When my son was an infant and toddler, I stuck to his routine like glue. Any deviations were cause for stress. He had to eat at a certain time, nap at a certain time, and bathe at a certain time.

My daughter, on the other hand, has had to adjust her schedule constantly to fit to our changing routines and her older brother’s needs. Beginning at three weeks old, she was carted around to soccer or Tball practices and games that sometimes interfered with her naps or feeding schedule. And guess what? She survived. She adapted. She was happy. Amazing.

Germs are inevitable. Good hygiene remains at the top of my list. And I still make sure I always have Purell on hand. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that germs are unavoidable. No matter how hard you try, your kids will get sick. So why turn them into germaphobes? Again, my husband and I took things a bit to the extreme with my son to the point where he refused to get his hands dirty in class. Finger-painting was cause for stress. My son hated it at first. (And, frankly, he can still do without it.)

I’m guessing my daughter’s immune system will be like Teflon thanks to all the germs she’s inevitably exposed to purely by having an active older brother.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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June 9, 2010

School's out for the summer, but should it be?

Can hardly believe that we've reached the end already. Seems like only yesterday that we were shopping for uniforms at Target. We were blessed with a wonderful teacher, and my daughter made many new friends which led to new friends for my wife and me as well. This school year was quite a wild ride.

My oldest has now "graduated" from kindergarten, and this year we passed the giant milestone of learning to read. We were worried that the summer break would put a halt to her learning curve, so we've put together a plan for the summer. Is this something your family does too?

We are blessed with a good friend who has just received her teacher's certification. The plan for the summer involves multiple moms and multiple lesson plans to keep the kid's brains absorbing as much knowledge as possible. Math is the biggest area of concern for our little one, but we want to make sure she keeps up with her reading too.

Don't think of us as being "no fun" kind of parents, because we have plenty of entertaining going on over the summer as well. However, this being the first real summer break (after Pre-K didn't feel this way) for one of my children really got me thinking about year-round schooling. Why don't we do this in the U.S.A.? Seems like a no-brainer to me. Teachers and administrators would work a full year, kids wouldn't go into a brain coma for 2 months, parents who work don't have to worry about shelling out for a summer camp or taking too much time off — why not?!?!

I decided to do a bit of research, and found this site from the National Association For Year-Round Education. This site is a bit dated, but contains loads of information and one study from Johns Hopkins which refers to the "Summer Learning Gap". The study shows a big gap between children of different economic levels in the first 9 years of schooling. So families who cannot afford to send their kids to summer camp and may have to have both parents work full time also are more likely to see their children fall behind because of it. This just seems plain wrong to me. Am I alone here?

The basic argument against a "balanced calendar" boils down to the need for older kids to work summer jobs to earn money for college. That's it, but it is a very valid argument in these tough economic times.

According to another article, our basic school calendar is largely the result of the outdated need for farmers to have their children on the farms during the growing season. Isn't it time for an update? Share your thoughts with us, and have a great summer!

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), School Issues (135)

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Did I buy my way into the gifted program?

I have always had mixed feelings about the gifted program in Florida public schools. I've found it offers highly stimulating work but is filled with kids who don't belong there.

Kids need an IQ of 130 to get in, which is the top 2 percent of the population. Everyone knows if you go to a private psychologist instead of getting tested through the school system, your child has a better chance of getting in. I'm not sure why, because I doubt there are unethical psychologists out there (am I naive?).

My 11-year-old just missed the cut when tested by the school system a few years ago. She asked to be tested again for middle school.

So I took her to a private psychologist, and of course, she qualified. Although I think she deserves to be in the program, I feel like I bought my way in. It's totally legal, but I still feel kind of seedy and dirty.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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June 3, 2010

Take a picture, it'll last longer (Unless your hard drive crashes)

The headline is from one of my favorite scenes in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and it has also become my new mantra. Why? I recently experienced my 2nd computer snafu which cost me precious photos of my children. I literally became sick to my stomach when my hard drive crashed and I realized that those photos and videos were lost for good. I still have the hard drive in my desk drawer in the hopes that some day some new technology will appear that will magically recover all of those great shots. While I wait for that miracle, I have started a new system.

Reliable backup software - The first thing I did after my crash was begin a very regular routine of backing up my photos to DVD. I started by using the very basic Backup software for my Mac, and I'm sure there are very similar software packages out there for PC users. The Nero Multimedia Suite is highly rated. Just to be safe, I would back up to DVD and an external hard drive.

Reliable online backup - So maybe I'm being a bit over-protective of my stuff, but this is my family history. These days there are many online sites which provide large amounts of storage for very little money. There are photo sites like Flickr and Pikchur which are more for photo organization, but also serve well for additional backup. Then you have straight data backup sites like Mozy and Carbonite which will store vast amounts of data very easily for around $60 a year. Well worth it when you consider how valuable these images are. Tip: Don't use Facebook as a backup source as it creates low resolution versions of your photos.

Good, old fashioned prints - If you're like me, then you rarely ever print the photos that you take with your digital camera. Why not? Prints are so cheap these days, and website photo centers like the ones found on and make it extremely easy. Not to mention the fact that you can create beautiful photo albums on these sites, too. Just one more way to be sure your memories are protected.

Have you ever lost any photos? What systems to you use to keep them safe?

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51)

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Three very simple steps to teach your child to write

1. For proper hand placement, put a piece of masking tape around the lower portion of the pencil where the child should grip it. If needed, put dots with a permanent marker on the tape to show where each finger should go. Of course when the pencil is sharpened, you’ll have to move or replace the tape.

2. Teach formation of the lowercase letters first. Most of what we write is lowercase so it's easier to teach the rules of capitalization later, beginning with your child’s name.

3. Demonstrate how to slowly stretch out the sounds in words and help record the sounds on paper. For example, the word "cat" would be stretched out to "ccc-aaa-ttt." Clap the sounds individually for further emphasis.

Maggie Cary, a national board certified teacher has been an educator for more than 17 years. She is certified in secondary education and holds a master’s degree in early childhood education.

maggiecary2.jpgOver the years she has mentored countless teachers and advised hundreds of parents. Cary has taught children from preschool through high school. She also offers classroom advice on website Classroom Talk.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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June 1, 2010

One more thing to worry about: The Choking Game

As if parents don't have enough to worry about. This may be nothing new, but what is new is the glorification of The Choking Game including instructional videos online. The number of children who are cutting off oxygen to their brains in order to get high is seemingly growing, but the numbers are hard to track. Many of the cases are tagged as suicide attempts, even though there may be no evidence to support the claim.

A colleague found this article in The Daytona Beach News Journal which quotes Kate Leonardi, founder of the Dangerous Behaviors Foundation. "The game goes by several different names -- pass out, flatliner, hangman and black hole among them -- and is sometimes referred to as 'the good kids' high' because self-choking often occurs among well-adjusted, high-achieving students", Leonardi said. The CDC reported in January that about one in 17 eighth-graders in Oregon who participated in its study admitted to participating in the choking game.

The problem has become so prolific that there are complete websites devoted to it. There is a Wikipedia page about the Fainting Game, a Facebook awareness page, and there is a very informative video that every parent should play for their kids on the G.A.S.P. - Games adolescents shouldn't play web site. The video starts with a bone-chilling 911 call from a 13-year-old who found the body of his twin brother. G.A.S.P. estimates that as many as 1,000 kids die each year in the U.S. from some variation of the game.

Like me, many parents are apparently in the dark about this. An article in Time Magazine states that the medical journal Pediatrics reported that one-third of American doctors had never heard of the choking game and only 2% had ever discussed it with teenage patients or their parents. The New York Times makes this point more personal with this story of a transplant surgeon who first heard of the game when a victim was on his table. Let's make sure as many parents as possible hear about this. Please share these articles with every parent you know, and hope we can make a difference.

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Safety (59)

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Would you send your child to Israel now?

When you decide to send your kid to Israel, you know you are taking a risk.israel.jpg

You hope there won't be a terrorist incident during the trip. But of course, there has been an international incident right before my 16-year-old's pilgrimage in a few weeks. Israel raided an aid flotilla on its way to Gaza on Monday; nine participants are dead.

I took a similar summer trip when I was her age, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. You connect with the land of your ancestors at an age when it can make a lifelong impression. It becomes an experience you take with you everywhere you go.

There is always a threat of violence in Israel; perhaps there always will be. Hopefully, it will remain peaceful this summer during my daughter's trip.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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Do teenagers these days need a life coach?

I happened to be watching an episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey recently.

On the show, one of the ritzy moms tried to get her teenage daughter to go visit with a life coach. She thought it would help her indecisive teen make up her mind about what she wants to do with herself.

Her daughter struck down the idea, and needless to say mom was all disappointed.

The whole storyline made me wonder though, just how soon is too soon to see a life coach?

I struggle with this one. I can’t help but wonder sometimes what my life would have been like had I sat down with a decent life coach and hammered out a life plan at 18.

And I don’t have a teenager, so this is not a dilemma I’m facing at the moment. My daughter is only seven and her goal in life, changes day to day. The last time I checked she wanted to be a veterinarian, a makeup artist and a cheerleader. And my advice to her was to do all three. (How's that for coaching?)

But on a more serious note I can't help but wonder if we are asking too much of teenagers these days. If you’re mid-30s and you can’t figure out what you’d like to do with yourself, I’d say you need some coaching. If you’re a teenager and you can’t figure out precisely what your career goal is, I’d say, for the most part, you’re a teenager.

I know the role of a coach is to give others the tools they need to reach their ultimate potential. And in many ways a coach can motivate a child on levels sometimes a parent just can’t get to.

But rather than trying to get our children on one narrow path, shouldn't we encourage them to explore as much as they can in college or by working in the real world and then let them use some of that experience to carve out their niche.

How much can these "life coaches" teach these young men and women about life, when these teens have barely lived any life?

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44), Teen (158)

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About the authors
Gretchen Day-Bryant has a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. She’s lived to tell about the struggles of juggling little kids and work.
Joy Oglesby has a preschooler...
Cindy Kent Fort Lauderdale mother of three. Her kids span in ages from teenager to 20s.
Rafael Olmeda and his wife welcomed their first son in Feb. 2009, and he's helping raise two teenage stepdaughters.
Lois Solomonlives with her husband and three daughters.
Georgia East is the parent of a five-year-old girl, who came into the world weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Brittany Wallman is the mother of Creed, 15, and Lily, 7, and is married to a journalist, Bob Norman. She covers Broward County government, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household. Almost.
Chris Tiedje is the Social Media Coordinator and the father of a 7-year-old girl, and two boys ages 4 and 3.
Kyara Lomer Camarena has a 2-year-old son, Copelan, and a brand new baby.

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