27 Apr

Life of Fred Fans Extravaganza


Are you familiar with the popular Life of Fred books? If you aren’t, it’s about time you made friends. Teaching math to your kids was never so fun as it is with Fred!

life of fred unexpected lessons

Life Of Fred is like no other math program out there. This math book series is known for weaving math concepts into exciting stories about a 5-year-old math genius. The author has tossed in valuable lessons that kids wouldn’t typically find in a math textbook.

Many of Fred’s readers will say that these books are very fun to read. But why? Here’s what one homeschooler says about the books:

“Even if the math concepts are a review, your kids will enjoy learning about the zany extras in each book. My son still enjoys saying toenail in German. That’s an additional important life skill if I say so myself. 😉” -Jamerrill S.

It’s true that the Fred books are full of unexpected lessons beyond math concepts. Here are a few of our favorite unexpected lessons from the Life of Fred Elementary Math Series.

Unexpected Lesson #1

In the Life of Fred Butterflies book, students will learn linear measurements, time, geometry, and specific numbers!

In Chapter Nineteen of Butterflies, “Mysteries of Life,” Fred and his buddy Kingie receive a pizza delivery. Kingie proceeds to chomp down his half of the pizza. (Kingie says he is so hungry because “being an artist is hard work.”) But Fred takes a moment to set the table while the pizza cools off. He shows the reader how to set a table:

Placemat goes down first.
Then the plate and the napkin.
Then the fork on top of the napkin.
Knife and spoon on the right with the knife next to the plate.
The cup above the knife.

life of fred excerpt

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One page later, your child receives practice sheets for addition and subtraction!

Unexpected Lesson #2

In the Edgewood book, students work with concurrent lines, the commutative law of addition, touch on quadrilateral shapes, and more! The topics covered in this 128-page book are parallel lines, right angles, functions, quarter of an hour, half dozen, six examples of functions, math poems, the four kinds of sentences, firearm safety, and more!

In Chapter Fourteen, “Food and Warmth,” your student reviews how to calculate half of a number, measurement of distance, counting calories in a meal, and the phases of the moon. Fred’s bus breaks down outside of town, and he is determined to run to town to get help. It is 6 p.m., and Fred does not want to run in the dark.

“Maybe there will be a full moon, Fred thought. Then there would be enough light to keep on running.”


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In the next chapter of Edgewood, Fred explains the meaning of voluntary and involuntary actions. How does he fit all of these lessons together to create a funny math story? You just have to read the book and find out!

Unexpected Lesson #3

In the Honey book, students work on fun math activities with Fred as he goes through fractions, multiplication facts, unit conversions, and more! Perhaps your child hasn’t thought about starting their own business yet, but it’s never too soon to spark the idea to become an entrepreneur. In Chapter Fourteen, “Starting a Business,” Kingie puts on his businessman hat. (Fun Fact: Kingie sells his own art.) Kingie explains the risks of starting your own business. He then goes over the “Checklist for Starting a Business” with Fred.


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At the end of the chapter, the reader is asked to check Fred’s business calculations. Will his business be profitable? Later in the book, Fred continues to follow his dream of becoming an apiarist. (Yes, the book explains what an apiarist is too!)

More about the Life of Fred Elementary Math Series:

Buyer's Guide Life of Fred Blog Post (2)

Who is it for? Kindergarten to 4th grade

Concepts covered: time, types of numbers, geometry, measurement, facts about stars, morse code, geography, adjectives & verbs, patterns, functions, sheet music, seven wonders of the world, math poems, percents, numbers vs. numerals, division, slope of a line, graphing, notation, the improper use of seat belts, how to prove you are not a duck, reducing fractions, and so much more.

Titles in this series: Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, Edgewood, Farming, Goldfish, Honey, Ice Cream, Jelly Beans

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22 Apr

Books for Young Readers Author Focus: Andrea Beaty

Books for Young Readers

My granddaughter is six years old.

She learned to read this year, and one of the first things I did was start looking for great books that would inspire her to continue reading. Finding great books for young readers is not as easy as it sounds! But when I discovered Andrea Beaty, I knew these would be books R would find fascinating, fun and favorite.

So who is Andrea Beaty?

In my book, she’s a genius. Her humorous picture books are filled with characters who are passionate doers. They are ever curious. Creativity positively explodes from their young minds and they are innovative and persistent in solving their unique problems.

Andrea’s books have been awarded the Friends of American Writers Award, Parents Choice Silver and Gold Medals, Bank Street College Best Books, National Association of Parenting Publications Gold medals. And now, the Prairie State Award.

Who are the characters?

IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT is a young man with an obsessive love of architecture. ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER is an inventive young lady who is amazing in her approach to building and making. ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST uses science to understand the world around her. All three of these amazing books in rhyme also have companion project books so your budding scientist, engineer or architect can pursue the passion within.

Get the books.

In full disclosure, if you click on any of these images, they will take you to Amazon where you can order the books. I will receive a small commission, but even if I didn’t, I would highly recommend Ms. Beaty’s books. They are, quite simply, brilliant.

We started out with ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER. My granddaughter loved it, and we had fun (and still do) reading it together over and over. At first, since she had just learned to read, it was a bit much for her. But now that she’s nearing her seventh birthday and has a school-year of reading under her belt, she easily reads it to her four-year-old brother.

Next we got IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT. The story revolves around a young boy who loves buildings. Unfortunately for him, his teacher does not and forbids architecture in her classroom.

ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST features a girl who uses science to explore and understand the world around her. Brilliant!

Do some projects!

Books for Young Readers

Books for Young Readers

Books for Young Readers

If you’re looking for books for young readers, start here.

These challenging books will become all-time favorites with their beautifully-rhymed words and engaging artwork by David Roberts. Encourage the visionary in your child while you share books you’ll both love.

Download a free reading log and certificate.

While you’re here, download a free reading log and certificate so your young reader can visualize the results of time spent in the pages of great books for young readers! Just click on the image.

books for young readers

books for young readers


11 Apr

Cultivating Self-Discipline in Young People


Some people seem to be endowed with superhuman willpower.

Others seem to lack it to a great degree. I’m one of those last. But it doesn’t mean that I’m relegated to the back seat when it comes to cultivating self discipline. Self-discipline is not in your genes; it is a learned behavior. And if I can master it (to some degree), so can you.

Your teenager can master it as well.

But it’s hard. That’s because when kids hit adolescence, they no longer think of themselves as children. She will almost certainly begin actively and passively resisting parental authority. She will want to choose from a broader base of experiences. She no longer recognizes her parents’ power to dictate what she must and must not do (not that they ever had real power, anyway). She realizes that without her cooperation, her parents can’t make her do some things and stop doing others.

It’s a heady feeling.

Along with the freedom she feels, she also begins to understand that she can’t manage all that freedom on her own. Most kids will return to allowing their parents to help them manage their lives and keep them on track. That’s when they really need to develop self-discipline. Parents no longer strive for control of their child; instead, they work toward consent. Although she may protest, underneath it all she knows that self-discipline is necessary. Without it, life quickly flies out of control.

Helping your child means admitting your own struggle.

Here are six things that can help (they work for me!).

  1. Admit that you struggle. Many people simply refuse to admit that they have a problem, but like in most things, admitting the problem is the first step to overcoming it. Don’t harbor the thought, “I could stop if I wanted to,” just to avoid recognizing that there is a problem to fix.
  2. Make a plan. Help your young person develop a strategy for self discipline. No one just wakes up one day with it. Whether she needs to focus on developing good habits—like reading the Bible everyday—or getting rid of bad habits—like gossiping with the neighbors—she needs to plan some action steps to make the change.
  3. Get rid of temptations. The Bible says, “Walk away from evil and do good.” Don’t leave temptations where they are easily accessed. That’s just asking for failure. If she can’t resist cookies between meals, don’t buy cookies. It only takes one minute of weakness to give into temptation.
  4. Get used to discomfort. Practice makes perfect, so they say. No one likes being uncomfortable, but self discipline is necessary to overcome the negative emotions that flood in when we are. Practice letting uncomfortable situations make her stronger, whether it’s boredom, frustrations, sadness or loneliness. She can tolerate more than you realize.
  5. Keep the long-term rewards in mind. It may really be tempting to give in, just this once, and tomorrow get back on track, but that’s defeatist thinking. Keeping a vision of the end goal in mind can help her stay on track. Visualize what the final result will be, and focus on it when temptation raises its ugly head.
  6. Don’t let mistakes sideline her. Somedays are just easier than others. Stress can cause her to lose her focus for a time. Just don’t let it replace all the hard work she’s already done. Help her pick herself up, dust herself off, and get back on the horse. Remember the long term goal and refocus.

She can do this. You can do this. There is no one who cannot benefit from cultivating self discipline, and anyone can do it. Just remember: the greatest journey began with a single step.

02 Apr

Sibling Wars: How to Negotiate Peace

Sibling Wars

Declaration of War

If you have more than one child, you will inevitably have sibling wars. In fact, when you brought Number Two home from the hospital, you entered the battlefield, because your Number One will at some point feel like you prefer the baby over her. In fact, if you were happy with her, why did you go out and get a new, younger model? Even kids who absolutely love their new brother or sister will feel doubtful about their place in the family at some point.

Sometimes clashes occur because there are personality differences. One child likes quiet and the other wants to create havoc in the house. They want different things because they are different ages, or because they are the same age. And sometimes, just like their parents, kids are just having a bad day.

Whatever the reason, war is bound to erupt and disturb your domestic tranquility.

So what’s a parent to do?

I raised five “only children,” so I’ve developed some tips that seem to work for most people. Here are my top five.

Teach peaceful communication.

Kids aren’t Chatty Cathies, preprogrammed to say the right things. When conflicts arise, so do emotions. We often try to mediate by reminding them to “use their words.” But which words? In the heat of the moment, kids just can’t call up rational language, because they are not feeling rational. So it seems like we’re always telling them what the limits are, over and over. And guess what? It eventually works!

Teaching peaceful communication takes time and repetition. Develop a script and stick to it, even when it doesn’t seem to be working. Teaching kids to interact appropriately can be a simple matter, really. Try this three-step method.

Acknowledge feelings and wants. “You wanted your sister to stop yelling at you so you hit her.”

Set limit. “No hitting. Ever. Hitting hurts.”

Offer alternative. “Tell you sister, ‘Don’t yell at me.'”

Help children stand up for themselves.

If you constantly come to their aid when arguments arise—especially if you tend to take one child’s side more often than the other—you’re simply asking for the behavior to continue. Just because one is older doesn’t mean she should have to take abuse from her younger sibling. Instead of rescuing them, teach them how to stand up for themselves.

Memaw: Liam, you seem upset. What do you need to tell your sister?

Liam: She keeps yelling at me. I don’t like that!

Memaw: Remy, Liam doesn’t like it when you yell at him. Can you stop, please? Do I need to help you find a way to speak quietly?

Allowing each child to express his or her needs and backing them up when necessary speaks volumes to them about how much you believe they are competent and can handle the situation on their own.

There’s a better way to share.

When you force sharing, you are actually perpetuation unhealthy competition. Your child learns that if she makes enough noise, she’ll get what she wants even if someone else has it. They also learn that you are in charge of things and you arbitrarily choose who gets what when, usually based on who is making the most noise. Instead, try using this technique.

When a child picks up a toy, it’s his until he chooses to put it down, or until some specified time (like meal time). He may choose to give it to his sibling, but he doesn’t have to. If he puts it down, the other child must ask, “Are you through with your turn?” Letting the children self-regulate teaches valuable lessons. They learn that everybody eventually gets a turn, even if they have to wait. They know that crying is okay, but it won’t change the rules. When they decided to share, they feel good about themselves and each other.

There’s no comparison.

Comparing siblings to each other (or to other children) is a sure-fire way to start war. “Look at how well your brother is eating his dinner” is not going to endear him to his sister. Even making positive comparisons is not a good idea. “I like the way you always remember to say please and thank you. Now if only your brother would, too!” conveys the idea that she is the “good child” and he is the “bad child.” Since kids often think in black and white terms, she will think that she is loved more because she is good and therefore has a vested interest in making sure he remains the “bad child.” Praise each child individually without comparing them to anyone else. “You are so diligent about doing your homework. I appreciate that!”

Daily thanksgiving.

If you make kindness and generosity the norm in your home, kids will learn to speak and act that way toward each other. In Louisa May Alcott’s book Little Men, Jo Marsh kept a journal where she wrote about the children on a daily basis. Keeping a journal where you write down acts of kindness or generosity from your kids makes for happy reading at the end of the day or perhaps once a week after dinner. Hearing how they both gave and received  promotes happiness and feeling good about doing good.

Love each one best.

If your daughter knows she couldn’t be better loved, she won’t be worried that you love her brother more. If he knows that he will have special time with you, he won’t be jealous when you also have special time with her. Laugh with each child, deeply and fully from the belly. Guidance instead of force will nearly always garner cooperation. Be empathetic so they feel safe sharing their emotions. Make sure they realize that love is a bottomless well. You will never run out of love because you gave so much to a sibling that there’s none left for her.

These things are great ideas for ending the sibling wars and declaring peace. No one needs to live in hostile territory!

19 Nov

Are You Giving Your Child Permission to be Rude?

rude child


You walk into a room with your child by your side.

He’s normally rambunctious and noisy. But when an acquaintance stops to speak to your little precious, he won’t open his eyes or say a single word. “That’s okay,” says the grown up. “I imagine he’s a little shy of strangers.” Problem is, you know there’s not a single shy bone in his body! You’re embarrassed by the rude response (or lack thereof) from your child.  You know you’ll have to make teaching him good manners a priority. Especially when he says triumphantly “I didn’t even talk to that man!”

You know that he’s not just remembering “stranger danger.” He understands about talking to strangers when he’s with mom or dad. What he’s actually just done by being rude is show you how much he likes control. Maximum control.

Uh oh. He’s rude. Are you too late already?

You may have to take stock of what other signals are coming from him that he’s trying to rule the world. Is he allowed to refuse food he says he doesn’t like (even if he’s never even tasted it)? How about the way he addresses adults and talks to his teacher? Does he get to choose first all the time “because he’s the littlest”? Do you insist that big brother or sister include him in play with their friends, even though he’s four years younger?

Are you aware of the words you use about your child to others, especially in the presence of that child? “Oh, he’s pretty shy. He probably won’t talk to you.” “He doesn’t like squash. He probably won’t eat it.” Or how about (said with a little pride thrown in), “Yes, she’s always been active. She can’t sit still for a minute.” Your kiddo has his ears tuned to what you say, and he’s learning from you to make excuses for his behavior. Those simple statements turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. And each time it happens, he thinks that he really does rule the world.

So, let’s correct the rude greeting faux pas. Have a conversation with your young one about polite conversations. Make sure he understands that when adults speak to him, he is expected to look them in the eyes, smile, and use kind words to answer. No negotiations. No hiding behind mom’s back, no cop-outs of any kind. Your child may actually be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean he never talks outside his comfort zone.

Tools for tomorrow

Children who learn how to greet people politely and how to carry on a cordial conversation will have some of the tools necessary to land a job when they’re older. Teach them that others often make decisions based on first impressions. That’s why each time they meet someone, whether it is the first time or the thirty first time, repeatedly being polite and attentive leaves a positive impact. (Human nature being what it is, if there’s even one negative impression, that’s the one they’ll remember.)

I recently read an article about a family that had this very problem with their three year old. After carefully explaining their expectations, it was inevitable that he would test the limits. So they told him if he didn’t greet people as expected, when they got home, they would practice. They role-played a person speaking to their little boy. If he responded appropriately, great! Celebrate! If not, they kept on practicing until he got it right. By that time, he would do practically anything to be released from his “hello lessons.” And he knew that if he didn’t do what was expected in public, he’d go right back to practicing some more.

Rude is real

We once went out to dinner with a couple and their twin three-year-old girls. While we sat and ate our dinner, the children climbed over the chairs and under the table. Then they took a little trip around the restaurant to talk to all the other diners. They even helped themselves to the food on other people’s plates! Their parents thought their precious little ones were so cute that no one would mind being interrupted or having food stolen out from under their noses. When it became clear that the parents were not going to do anything to control their daughters, I finally got up, put the girls back in their chairs and warned them “Don’t move!” And you know what? They didn’t.

I’ve always believed I have two sets of children: the ones who live in my home and the ones who visit other people. Because invariably people they’ve visited with tell us, “Your children are so polite!” It’s a great feeling to know that those early lessons actually took hold.

Do you have polite, attentive children? If so, tell us how you got there. If not, will you try this solution? Why or why not?


30 Aug

Free Homeschool Lessons: Science Club

science Club

One of the greatest things about homeschooling is sharing resources among families. There are a lot of subscription Science Activities in a Box that will bring your child some fascinating things to do and will get her rip-roaring in love with science. But sometimes we like to get together and share lessons because it enables us to use resources more efficiently and is frankly, just more fun! With that in mind, I want to suggest that you gather the homeschoolers your family knows and start a Science Club.

Starting a Science Club

When you start a Science Club with homeschoolers, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know the students and can encourage them to develop interests outside the actual, day-to-day classroom. Here are some things to think about when you start your club.

  1. How will you time your meetings? 30 minutes? An hour? When and how often will you meet?
  2. Will your students be all the same age or a mix of ages? How will you determine what they’re interested in studying?
  3. Where will you meet? Will you include field trips? Who will transport the students?
  4. What will it cost? Will there be class or membership fees? Who will pay for supplies and equipment? Where will those things come from?
  5. What will the focus be? Competitions, either formal or informal? Which ones?

A different idea for your focus might be getting involved in “Citizen Science” projects. These are regional and nation-wide projects. The students record observations in their own communities and upload the data to a project database. As part of a larger project, the students get to see how their data is used and are encouraged to submit research questions of their own. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has several ongoing projects

Try incorporating STEM or STEAM lesson plans in the mix, and you’ll have lessons that can be the main focus for a whole day! I’ve put three lesson plans I wrote for small groups of kids to do together. Each one has a teacher’s version followed by a student’s version, and you can use them for absolutely free. Simply click on the image above and download the plans. Easy peasy! I hope you enjoy using them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

02 May

Helping Children Overcome Anger

Helping Children Overcome Anger

Ever notice that anger is contagious?

Just let your two year old throw a temper tantrum in a public place, or listen to your elementary kid tell you she hates you, or witness a melt-down with a teenager, and you’ll find it’s true. You get angry too. Here’s how to help kids deal with anger.

Everyone gets mad.

It’s not the sole province of either adults or children. And anger is not always wrong or bad. There are very legitimate reasons for anger.

In infancy, babies cannot communicate their needs. So they cry. And when the need is adequately met, they quit crying. But when the need is not met—possibly because the mother can’t figure out what’s wrong—the crying gets louder until suddenly the infant has balled up fists, a red face, and is breathing so hard she sometimes actually loses her breath. That’s developmental anger. Of course, all you can do is try to figure out what’s wrong. Wet diaper? Hungry? Hot? Cold? Lonely? Thirsty?

In toddlerhood, kids understand many more words than they can use. They still cannot adequately express themselves and this leads to frustration and then to anger. The child not only has trouble expressing herself to adults, but to other kids as well. But other kids are more her own size, so expressing anger may result in injury to another child.

Teaching about alternatives.

This is the time we start to teach appropriate ways to handle anger. The one constant most people can agree on is that hurting other people or their possessions is not to be tolerated. When I was teaching a nursery school class of two and three year olds, one little girl came to class almost every day angry. She would scream and cry and flail her arms and legs, and woe to anyone in her path. So we set up an area padded with pillows and stuffed toys, and giving her a hug, we laid her down on the pillows. Then we walked away and ignored her. When her anger was spent, she smilingly came and joined the rest of the class—every time. She had learned an appropriate way to handle her anger. At this age, talking about future events is not very productive, because children of two or three have no clear concept of time. (That’s why it doesn’t help to say, “Mommy will be back after work.” The child lives in the now, not the later.)

Somewhat older kids.

Elementary aged kids still get mad at other kids for many of the same reasons that toddlers do. Another child took his baseball mitt or cut in line or said something mean. And often the response to that anger may look like a toddler’s reaction. But at this age, kids can start to learn about anger when they are not angry. When you and the child are both calm, that’s the time to talk about what’s okay and what isn’t. Is it okay to go outside and scream? Is it okay to punch a pillow? How about a wall or another person? Talk about how the child may act when he gets angry next time. Set ground rules and stick to them. Consistency is the single most important thing (next to love) that a parent can do to make sure a child grows up into a responsible, caring, compassionate adult.

What are you modeling?

Of course, it works in reverse too. If you consistently show your irritation, yelling when something doesn’t go your way, that’s what your child will learn. As your child approaches adolescence, it is very important to be sure you model proper response to situations where anger could arise. This time is so important because it is the time that your child is testing you as she tries to discover who she is. Should I count to ten when I’m angry? Mom doesn’t. She just yells. She tells me to count, but she doesn’t and that makes me mad! Be sure you are setting a good precedent for your teen to follow.

Unresolved anger is dangerous!

It’s important at any age to try and discover the source of your ire so that it can be dealt with in a healthy way. Unexpressed exasperation will show up later, and it may not be expressed as anger. For example, many adults who have never dealt with the source of their anger suffer from ulcers or even heart disease. There is a major difference between expressing anger inappropriately and suppressing it. Deal with anger when it arises. Don’t put it off, or you may hide it from yourself and have much more difficult problems later.


26 Mar

Guide to a Messianic Passover for Christians with Children

messianic passover

This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing something from this link does not cost you more, but I get a small percentage of the sale.

Next month Jews and Christians alike will celebrate Passover, the holiday that recognizes and remembers the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. In 2017, Passover begins on Monday, April 10th at sundown and continues until sundown on Tuesday, April 18th. It is a time of great celebration, for Jesus died on the cross during the Passover week in Israel, becoming the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sin of the world. It is a special time for children, as they learn the story of the Exodus and participate in the seder, the traditional ceremony of the holiday. Here’s how to celebrate a Messianic Passover with your Christian family.

Seder means “order,” because the celebration of Passover is done in a particular order. It is a time both of solemnity and joy, of reflection and celebration. We remember that God is our deliverer, not only of the Jews when they were in captivity in Egypt, but also our deliverer from slavery to sin. If you’ve never keep Passover as a Christian, there’s no better time to start than now!

Here are some links that will take you to several Haggadah sites (the “telling”), where you can see and adapt them to your own family’s Messianic Passover needs. At our home, we celebrate Passover with a traditional seder, changing a few things to more closely reflect the reality of what Jesus accomplished in fulfilling this important feast. For instance, we do not serve lamb, as the lamb was the sacrificial animal. Since Jesus was the last sacrifice, we do not participate in another sacrificial lamb. The traditional seder plate contains a shank bone from a lamb. We substitute a small wooden cross to commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice. Nor do we recline to eat the meal, but this is because we have a bar-height table that does not allow for that particular position. We do eat part of the seder meal standing. We also do not set a place for Elijah, as Jesus said (in speaking of John the Baptist), “But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him whatever they wished.” Mark 9:13. However, we leave the front door open for the foreigner and stranger to join us (you can invite them in).


O! Susannah!

Jennifer Dukes Lee

CRI Voice

Ann Voscamp

Sharon Glasgow

Heart of Wisdom

Here are some more resources to help you build a new tradition of Passover for your Christian family.
The Messianic Passover Seder Preparation Guide

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (10/29/10)

Celebration of the Passover Seder

Passover Seder Steps Follow-Along In-A-Bag

Messianic Jewish Family Bible (this is the Bible I use)

10 Mar

Help! My Child Is An Unhealthy Eater!

Help! My Child Is An Unhealthy Eater!

Is your child a fussy or unhealthy eater?

What does it mean to be an unhealthy eater? We, as moms and caretakers, know what a healthy lunch looks like. Our kids need choices that are diverse, fresh and appetizing, high in protein, vegetables, fruit and fibre, but low in fat, salt and sugar. That’s the easy part. The hard part is how to get them to eat it!

One answer is options.

Giving your child numerous options in his lunch means that he’s more likely to get a well-rounded meal. Offer grapes and raspberries, cheese and  a sandwich. At our house, what doesn’t get eaten at lunch becomes his afternoon snack. Treats are offered after the entire lunch is consumed.

Let them help.

Kids control so little in their lives. When they get the chance to participate in choosing, assembling, and packing their own lunch, they gain a measure of control, and when they do that, we all benefit. Offer options, and let your child choose the components in meals (not just at lunch time!). “Do you want a nectarine or an apple for your fruit?” Asking the child to choose will encourage her to eat what she’s chosen. “Would you like a wrap or a sandwich?” When she feels some amount of control, she’ll also want to follow through. Goodbye, unhealthy eater!

All mixed up.

Preschoolers typically go through a phase where they do not want their food to touch. So separate it for them, and they’ll soon outgrow it. For the longest time, our kids ate macaroni and cheese with peas mixed in. Then, suddenly, they wouldn’t eat it that way. Yet they would eat macaroni and cheese with peas on the side. When we figured it out, they happily ate their meals.

Don’t use food as a reward.

Telling your preschool child or kindergartner that she’ll get a lollipop if she cleans up her mess is setting her up for problems. Offering treats like candy, chips, or soda for good behavior actually interferes with a child’s natural ability to regulate her eating. Kids intuitively know when they’re hungry or thirsty, and giving them salty or sugary rewards teaches them to eat when they’re not hungry and to reward themselves with food.

Schedule it.

Kids need to eat every three to four hours, so schedule breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two to three snacks every day. Fluids are very important, too, so keep plenty of water on hand. A cooler in the car with healthy snacks and bottled water is a terrific idea for staving off the “grumpies” because they’re hungry.

Don’t say it.

It’s tempting to say to your daughter, “Eat your vegetables.” But don’t. She’ll resist it more if you nag. It’s your responsibility to prepare nutritious foods, but it’s her responsibility to eat it. It’s hard, but don’t be the food police and try to enforce how much or what she eats during meals.

Make it a family affair.

Don’t be a short-order cook. Planning and preparing three balanced meals for your family every day should be enough. Don’t get in the habit of making different meals for different members of the family. Fix one meal and have everyone sit down together to eat. Children mimic their parents, so eventually, they’ll eat what you do.

Keep healthy food on hand.

If there isn’t junk food around, your child will choose healthy alternatives when he’s hungry. Replace chips and cookies with fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains so that there’s a good choice when hunger strikes. Healthy choices guarantees your child won’t be an unhealthy eater.

Model healthy behavior.

Lots of studies prove that kids follow their parents’ behavior. So when you choose healthy foods to eat, they will follow suit. Talking about healthy habits is important, too; but don’t say “you should.” Instead say “here’s what I do.” If they see you enjoying good-for-you food, they’ll be much more likely to do as you do.





27 Feb

The Sticker Chart — What Are We Teaching Our Kids?

sticker chart

America loves the sticker chart.

Google “sticker chart,”  “reward chart,” and “chore chart” and it will return over a million hits. Pinterest searches bring up pin after pin of different charts and rewards that parents have tried to get their children to comply with rules of good behavior. Amazon has more than a thousand products for sale that use the same motivation.  Proponents of the sticker system swear by it, saying that it prevents power struggles over things like brushing teeth, doing homework, or going to bed on time.

And in the short term, it works.

But what of the long term? Reward systems, like the sticker chart, do work—too well, in fact. The powerful psychological effects of rewarding good behavior can have significantly long-term negative consequences to the child trained by them. Children’s mindsets can be molded by the reward for good behavior system that reaches beyond the immediate behavior to affect relationships as well.

It’s a common complaint among parents that their children eventually want to be rewarded for everything, and that they won’t cooperate without the promise of a reward. One mother said that her son refused to help his brother clean up a spill because there was nothing in it for him. Eventually, even rewards stop working. Especially with older kids, negotiating for bigger rewards becomes common.

Erica Reischer, a clinical psychologist and parent educator, calls this phenomenon in which a family’s system of rewards becomes pervasive, a “reward economy.” Children in these situations learn to exchange desirable behavior for rewards, and finally adhere to a transactional model for good behavior. They refuse to offer good behavior without a reward.

What’s the motivation?

Children who expect a reward for good behavior often have their intrinsic motivation undermined by the very rewards that are offered for that behavior. In cases where children are offered stars on a sticker chart not only for tasks like cleaning their rooms, but also for pro-social behavior, the results can be very bad. Things like sharing their things, cooperating with others, or helping should be things that children want to do because it is the right thing to do. Studies show that offering children rewards for pro-social behavior can lessen their desire to be helpful and caring.

According to Erica Reischer, “Insights from behavioral economics help explain this effect. From that perspective, the problematic attitude of children raised in a reward economy—“What’s in it for me?”—is a predictable response to the collision of social norms (the invisible forces that shape how humans act) with market norms (a system of payments, debts, contracts, and customers).”

In other words, children respond to requests for proper behavior by expecting rewards. They want to be “paid” for everything instead of integrating themselves into the family social norms. Unfortunately, the market norm mentality can also affect relationships.

Duke University professor Dan Ariely, who has written a book called Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, questions the quality of relationships based on transactions. “If you created a relationship [with your kids] that is very transactional, what do you expect when everyone gets older?” Ariely said. “I’m not saying that giving kids a sticker is going to make them send their parents to assisted living, but if you think about the idea, it’s a step in that direction.”