Keeping Kids Happy

When first-time expecting parents first find out that they’ve got a little one on the way, they are generally overjoyed at the thought. Shortly after, they begin making trips to Babies ‘R Us and other popular baby stores making lists of all the things they need to keep their little one happy and content. Then, once they find out the sex of the little one on the way, little baby girl dresses and little boy outfits soon begin filling the closet shelves.

This is just part of the fun of having a baby. It’s fun to look through all the adorable baby items for sale and to envision how your life will be with a new family member. However, the problem that many of us have is getting out of this “our kids must have _____ in order to be happy.” It’s just a way of thinking that we get into from the time we find out we’re expecting. After all, our kids aren’t able to talk and express themselves fully for a good two years, which only encourages this way of thinking as we want to please them before a full-blown temper tantrum occurs.

My son is 4 ½ now and I can tell you that I’ve learned quite a few things from him and what it takes to keep him truly happy. Below are some of the things my son (and most other kids) needs to be happy.

  • A clear set of rules. One of the things I’ve learned over the past four years is how easy it is to be inconsistent when it comes to rules and following through with them. For instance, what I may not allow out in public, I may let slide a little at home when I’m busy. All this has done is confused my son which makes him very frustrated when he does get in trouble for the offense. Once my husband and I created a clear set of rules for him (and stuck to it regardless of where we were), we noticed a huge difference in his attitude when we had to get on to him for misbehaving.
  • One-on-one attention. As adults, our lives are incredibly busy and my husband and I often find ourselves rushing around in the evening trying to get caught up before morning comes. The problem is that when we rush around like this, our little guy feels left out and forgotten about. Now, my husband and I make it a point to spend a little one-on-one time with our son in the evenings regardless of the things left on our “to-do” list. It may be that we go for a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood or we spend some time playing in the backyard or we read a book to him before bedtime – whatever it is, as long as we spend at least 20 minutes of one-on-one time with him, he is a much happier guy because he feels loved and appreciated.
  • Plenty of play time. As mentioned above, my husband and I (and I suspect you do as well) lead pretty busy lives. There are many days when I find myself running errands constantly, all day long with my son in tow. This can make my little guy pretty grumpy and he has even said before, “I haven’t even got to play today!” After hearing this a couple of times, I got to thinking about how tiring it must be for a 4 year old to ride in a car all day without time to actually play. Since then, I have purposely slowed down my schedule by prioritizing the errands I have to do and I end up spreading my errands out over a couple of days. My little man’s disposition is much better and easier to get along with when he is able to spend some time at home playing with his toys.

Did you notice out of the three tips above, not one of them talks about how I have to make sure my son has all of the latest toys or always be dressed in name-brand clothing? No, you didn’t and that’s because kids don’t really need those things to be happy. Sure, marketers are great about making kids think that they have to have those things, but what truly makes kids happy is knowing that they have parents who love them and enjoy spending time with them. Giving kids a clear set of rules to follow, one-on-one attention every day and allowing them time to play and be kids all work together and show kids how much they are loved and cared for by their parents.

Does this mean you shouldn’t ever purchase name-brand clothing or the latest toys for your kids? Absolutely not, all I’m trying to get across is that those are not the things that will keep your kids happy and content as material items (fancy dresses, nice tuxedos, iPhones, video games, etc.) lose their appeal after a little while. Being loved and having a good relationship with your parents never gets old.

Chore Ideas for Young Children

Teaching children responsibility is something we, as parents, should start doing when our kiddos are young. If we don’t start when they’re young (toddlers) then it only gets harder to raise good, responsible kids who will grow into responsible adults. And, that’s the ultimate goal isn’t it? To raise our kids so that they grow to become good citizens who are valued within their communities? Well, it all starts at home.

If you are like me then you grew up doing chores around the house. My parents always expected my brother and I to help out as we were members of the household too. Now that I’m a parent, I have come to respect the way my parents raised me. Doing chores did more than make me contribute to the family. It taught me what responsibility was, the satisfaction that comes from starting and completing a task and what it means to help those around me. So, what are some chores you can give young children to do? Below are a few ideas.

  • Hang up clothing. My oldest son is four (4) and while he isn’t capable of folding towels or his clothing yet, he is able to hang up his school shirts and dress shirts and put them in the closet where they go. All I have to do is lay them out flat on the bed for him and he does the rest. When he gets a little older, I’ll teach him how to fold underwear, match socks and fold towels but for now, I’m happy with him hanging up his clothing.
  • Bring the trash in to be emptied. Every child is different and while some four year olds are capable of emptying their trash without making a mess, my son isn’t quite there yet. So, for the time being, I have him bring his trash can to me when I’m emptying trashes in preparation for the “trash man.” I also have him bring me the trash out of the office and the guest bathroom and then put them back up.
  • Put dirty clothes up. Every night when it’s time for a shower, I have my son undress and put all of his dirty clothes in the dirty clothes hamper. In my mind, there isn’t any reason why I should still be picking up his clothes and putting them away. I also make sure he puts the dirty towels in their respective basket after his shower too.
  • Pick up toys. Finally, I make my son pick up his own toys and put them away. I try to do this every night before he goes to bed, but sometimes a day gets skipped. However, I don’t pick up his toys for him. My little guy is old enough to learn the importance of taking care of his things and if a toy gets lost or misplaced, I use that as a learning experience and reiterate why we put our things away when we’re finished with them.

Safe Halloween Ideas

Halloween is right around the corner and as kids everywhere decide on what their costume will be, their parents are trying to figure out how to keep them safe on Halloween night. Over the years, there have been a number of incidents where children have been harmed by eating tainted candy they received on Halloween. Some children have even been kidnapped on this “fun” night.

It’s sad that there is so much danger nowadays surrounding Halloween. I remember going around the neighborhood Trick-or-Treating with my friends when I was little. My parents didn’t worry about people purposely handing out bad candy or the possibility that I may not return home. However, these are just a couple of the fears parents have to deal with now. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to be one of those parents who doesn’t let their kids go Trick-or-Treating because of these issues. Below are some safe Halloween ideas if you also don’t want to see your kids miss out on this fun holiday.

  • Hit the “Trunk-or-Treat” Locations: There are a growing number of organizations around the country that are providing safe Trick-or-Treating experiences for kids. Most of these locations are in the parking lot of a church, school, library or other public building and contain people passing out safe candy from the “trunks” (or “beds”) of their vehicles. There are also a lot of nursing homes that open their doors on Halloween so the residents can see the kids in their costumes and hand out candy. The candy provided is purchased by the nursing home and given to the residents to give out, making it another safe Halloween option.
  • Attend a Carnival: Another great idea is to find a nearby Halloween carnival to take the kids to. Halloween carnivals are fun because in addition to the candy, there are also games to play and rides to ride. Plus, everyone comes in their costumes as there is generally a costume contest!
  • Throw a Party: Finally, why not throw a Halloween Party for your kids? Allow them to invite several of their closest friends for a night of fun. Of course, you will have to have a costume contest, pumpkin carving and a lot of other “Halloween” activities (including at least one scary movie) to keep them busy. You may even want to take them all to a nearby haunted house or to a safe Trick-or-Treating location so they’re able to get in a little bit of “traditional” Halloween fun. Throwing your own party is a great way to ensure your kids have fun on Halloween and stay safe at the same time!

by home of the flower girl dresses.

Teaching Kids about Elections

As you know, this is a big year for America as it’s another election year. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m watching the news coverage of the presidential race as the votes are beginning to come in. Why would I be writing a political blog? Trust me, it’s not to tell you who you should have voted for. I’m writing this blog post because it’s incredibly important that we teach our children about the impact voting has – regardless of what type of election it is.

2012 presidental election

When should we start teaching our kids about elections? As soon as they are old enough to grasp the concept of what it means to vote. For most kids, this happens around the age of five. They may not be able to understand what exactly is going on at that age, but they can understand what it means to win or lose based on voting.

So, why do we need to teach our kids about voting and its role in elections? To put it simply: because our future depends on it. Think about it. In 40 or 50 years, when we’re “old and gray,” we are going to be depending on our kids to get out and vote. Basically, at some point, the course of this country is going to be out of our hands and turned over into the hands of our children. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that we start teaching them about politics now, so that they care when they’re old enough to vote.

For a while, it seemed that parents had dropped the ball as young people were not voting in large numbers. However, as studies have shown over the past two presidential elections, this trend is changing. That’s great news! It means that young people are starting to learn that there are more important things in life than material items. For instance, in twenty years from now, it isn’t going to matter what pageant dress your daughter wore, but who won the battle of healthcare will.

So, how can you start teaching your kids about voting, elections and politics?

  • Hold Household “Votes” – When kids are little and there’s an argument in the house about what to do or where to go, vote for it. This teaches kids what it means to vote and how votes determine who wins and loses an election.
  • Talk to Them about Politics – When there are local elections held, talk to your kids about the things they are hearing and seeing on the radio and television. Tell your kids why these people are running for various positions and what those positions do so, as they get older, they can understand how the various branches of our government (local, state and federal) work.
  • Take Them to the Polls – Today, I saw one of the coolest things. A kindergarten teacher in the small town where I live took her on a field trip to the polling station so they could see her vote. As parents, you should do this with your kids, at least once, when they get older.
  • Watch the Results to Presidential Elections Together – Turn on the television and watch the presidential election results together every four years. This is one of the best ways to teach kids about the electoral college and how presidential elections are won…which also teaches kids the importance of voting during every presidential election.