Category: parenting ponderings

Disasters, Kids, Japan, Helping…

By , March 18, 2011 9:47 pm


The first thing I did on 9/11 was head down to my local Red Cross to join the giant blood donation line, something I had never done before.  Unfortunately there were not enough survivors to need blood, especially mine that was located way far away in New Mexico.  But of course no one knew that at the time.  I felt shocked, confused, helpless.  The only way to regain an illusion of control over life was to attempt to help in some way.

Children are prone to even more confusion and fear than adults when disasters strike somewhere on our planet.  With very young children, avoiding any TV or radio news coverage in their presence is probably the best solution.

With older children, viewing news together (or, in the case of our family, listening together) and answering questions is a better technique.  Children will hear talk at school that might be sensationalist, inaccurate, or incomplete.  Even those who are home schooled and perhaps more sheltered from school-yard talk, need to learn eventually how to analyze news broadcasts and understand the world.  This will be an important learning moment.

  • Stick to facts.  If there is something you don’t understand, research the answer together.
  • Stress that sometimes media coverage can be exaggerated.
  • Reassure them that such extreme events are rare and that they, and family members, are safe.
  • Brainstorm together ways to help, even if only in a small way.

HELPING (my favorite topic!):

Of course this post is inspired by Japan.  Here are some ways for you and your children to help there:

“Hope Letters will find ways to deliver the messages to local schools and school boards.  The messages may be posted electronically if that is available, placed as a hardcopy journal or broadcasted via local news agencies.  (Hope Letters is currently working to establish these distribution channels.  If you have suggestions, please get in touch with Hope Letters at HopeLettersCanada “at” gmail “dot” com.)”

  • Quick Fundraising Ideas (able to be organized within several weeks at most):

For schools – try bake sales, used book sales (like the one we did for Haiti), a penny war, yard sale, car wash, raffle off something cool (shh… for a good cause, people will buy tickets … even if your prize is really not that cool…), 50/50 fundraiser, guessing game.

For home – How about a lemonade stand, garage sale, birthday parties (donations in lieu of presents), street-side bake sale, car wash.

  • Be sure to donate your money to an official disaster relief organization now working in Japan.

It has been exactly one week since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  It has taken me one week to attempt to comprehend what has happened there.  My thoughts are with Japan.

The Perfect Mothers’ Day Gift

By , May 9, 2010 8:08 am

Is it a new DVD player?  A subscription to People magazine?  A case of anti-aging miracle pills?  What could say “I love you Mom” more than a miracle weight-loss drink or anti-stretch mark cream?

(By the way, these examples are extracted from actual Mothers’ Day gift suggestions that I received via email at Unplug Your Kids from eager marketers!)



All real moms will understand. (Take note marketers.)

Happy Mothers’ Day!

PS. This was my actual gift from my 4 year-old this year, presented with great ceremony!

Keeping Girls “Girls”

By , May 3, 2010 12:11 pm

One benefit of no TV that had never occurred to me when I began this experiment after the birth of my daughter nine and a half years ago, is the lack of exposure to “sexy teens!”  I am shocked sometimes when I see how some teens and tweens, dress and act.  I really am not a conservative person, in fact I consider myself to be quite liberal, but I do believe that 9 year-old girls are emotionally girls and NOT women.  What ever happened to childhood?

Some might think it backward (please don’t flame me), but I am SO relieved that my 9 1/2 year-old daughter still believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  She still plays dress-up and fairies with her little sister and like-minded friends.  She is not on Facebook, nor has she ever expressed a desire to be.  Don’t berate me for “stunting” my daughter’s social and technological development.  Believe me, I am sure she will “develop socially” as soon as those hormones hit her system!  She also knows how to use a computer just fine thank you.

There are certainly many factors involved.  Her stage of physical development, her personality, and the fact that she attends a very small Montessori School all surely play a role.  But I do truly also believe that part of the fact that she has not yet become interested in “popular teen culture” is that she is not exposed to TV shows and commercials that cause her to emulate those behaviors.

My good friend friend just sent me a link to a review of an interesting-sounding book by Leonard Sax, the author of Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.  His new book is about girls:  Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls-Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental Toxins.  I urge you to read the review and see what you think.

Meanwhile, I hope that my little girls stay little girls for as long as they need to.


By , February 9, 2010 7:21 pm


Lately I have been extremely impressed with my 7 year-old son’s Lego-building skills.  Homework completion however, has reached an all time low.

Lately I have been extremely impressed with my procrastination skills.  Mandatory Boring Tasks completion however, has reached an all time low.


He sat ALL AFTERNOON at his desk with homework in front of him reading books.

I sat ALL AFTERNOON at my computer with bills, bank statements and half finished snail mail letters in front of me fiddling about (not very “unplugged” of me).


Wouldn’t you think that my son could just come up with a simple poster about a book he loved
(we’re not talking 200-page PHD dissertation here).

Wouldn’t you think that after 20 years of intense homework I’d be able to buckle down and write my long overdue letter, an essay for a contest, or even update my pilot logbook (that used to be my obsession in the old days when I wanted to be an airline pilot).


I think my son is struggling with his first experience of being overwhelmed and behind.

I think I am struggling with a mid-life Mom Crisis of not being sure of my role in life besides that of laundry and cooking machine.


Excuses, excuses, excuses.

Pointers on Points

By , January 13, 2010 4:14 pm

I am annoyed.  My 7 year-old son has begun frequently yelling at his sisters, my 4-going-on-44-year-old is becoming bossier than me, and horror of horrors, I swear I caught my 9 year-old ruffling her feathers and giving me an eye roll!   It is clearly time to reinstate our point system which has fallen by the wayside of late.

Here’s how it works:  Everyone starts with 5 points.  Each child can earn points for “good” behavior and lose points for “bad” behavior.  The goal is to reach 30 points at which time that child chooses from a list of non-material rewards, for example a “date” with Mom or Dad, ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, Kids Cook Night, make cookies, etc. (no money or purchases).

If someone gets to 0 points then they must miss the next bi-weekly class ski/swim trip (during the school year), or they must choose a random chore from the chore basket (summertime).

We keep a list of sample point-gaining behaviors and point-losing behaviors posted on the wall next to the point chart.  The children and I came up with the list together so they have ownership of the consequences of certain actions.  The list is not definitive and I am the final decision-maker as to when a point is earned or deducted.

The system is flexible.  For example when I got tired of all three children having “bad dreams” and ending up in my bed every single night, I started the policy that they would lose a point for every night they came into bed with me and earn a point for every night they stayed in their own bed.  That didn’t work, so I changed it to losing 2 points for coming into bed with me but earning 1 point for staying in their own beds.  Like magic, the “bad dreams” disappeared!  (Note:  Of course if they REALLY have a bad dream, they can still come to bed with me – for free.  Like most mothers, I can tell when the need is real.)


  • Flexible to suit changing behavioral goals.
  • Not entirely negative/punishment based.  The system rewards positive behavior.
  • Easy to keep track:  I track all points on a dry erase board hung on the pantry wall.
  • Does not rely on money, allowances or material goods as an incentive or punishment.
  • I can spontaneously say “Go give yourself a point” when I observe (or am told of) a random really kind or helpful behavior.
  • Sorry, but in my house this is NOT a democratic process.  I am the final judge, jury and arbitrator of points, rewards and sentences, (although the children can make recommendations or defend themselves).

What do you do to maintain order?

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