August 7, 2013

BACK-TO-SCHOOL: Give your child a fair advantage!

It's that time of year! Colorful Crayola displays offer a cheerful greeting at t
he entrance of each supermarket and grocery store front. Pencil sharpeners everywhere, hum a steady tune, as pencils with untouched erasers are filed to a point of perfection. New backpacks are well-stocked with supplies, and are lined by the front door, ready to go. Shoe laces are bright, and new shoes sit patiently, waiting to be scuffed. Closets are lined with new clothes, clothes which will soon carry the stains that will tell the stories of your child's 2013-14 school year. Excitement is in the air.

I'm certainly not an expert on the subject of raising children, but I would like to share a few thoughts for you to consider, before you set foot in your child's classroom.

Pretty soon you will be meeting and greeting the teachers who will be working with your children throughout this new school year. As you do this, please remember that your words are a powerful paintbrush. Be mindful of the image that you paint of your child, and their character. You may feel an obligation to share your child's history of academic or behavioral weaknesses with his new teacher, right out of the gate. Unless it is information that absolutely must be shared for the safety of your child, or the safety of others, then use discretion. Give your child a fair chance at making a good first impression. It's a new year, and a new opportunity. If your child had a difficult time last school year, then explain to him that this is a clean slate. Make sure he knows that you are in his corner. If and when issues arise, there will be time for you to find an appropriate way to deal with them at that time. When you speak to their teacher for the first time, be sure to carry a positive tone.

On that note... keep your tone positive, but your words realistic and attainable. Don't storm in and set verbal expectations for your child that will be hard for them to reach or maintain. They may be the smartest kid that you've ever known, and they may have an incredible skill set that is hard for you to keep quiet about. Keep quiet anyway. Maybe they have been the fastest, smartest, sharpest, most talented kid in their class for the past 3 years, give them the space to continue to grow at their own pace! Their teacher will have plenty of time to discover the amazing qualities that your child possesses, all without your help. Let their teacher come to YOU throughout the year and tell you how fabulous your child is at drawing, or reading, or math! You can smile, and say thank you... then go home and call grandma to tell her ALL about it! Spare your child the pressure of feeling like they always have to be "THE BEST."

I'm not suggesting that you be uptight and close-lipped. Have a natural conversation. If your child loves to paint, and the teacher mentions how wonderful the school art program is, then tell her how much your child enjoys art! I'm merely suggesting that you not build your child up in such a way, that that the teacher may build false expectations for them before the school year has even begun. In the same breath, give your child a fighting chance. Even though you may have good intentions, don't divulge every issue that your child has ever confronted, before their teacher has a chance to get to know them and form their own opinions!! I sincerely hope that this is a beneficial bit of encouragement. I'm wishing each of your littles a fabulous school year filled with learning, laughter, and love!,

If you think that this post could help bring some perspective to another parent, then please SHARE! :)

To join me on my journey, please click HERE to LIKE the SIT DOWN AND TAKE A BRAKE Facebook page.

Image source: unknown

August 2, 2013

Five Ways To Be a Better Mama

1. Lighten your tone.

In other words, speak gently. Occasionally, without even realizing it, I start navigating on autopilot. Unfortunately, my autopilot voice, isn't very loving or affectionate. "Pick up your toys!" "Stop making that noise!" "Go sit down!" "Speak SWEETLY to your sister!!!" (Some irony in that last one, huh?) Instead of being an encouraging source of guidance, I turn into a drill sergeant. {shiver} Not. Good.

I've found that the drill sergeant in me, usually makes an appearance when I'm running late, exhausted, or frustrated. When I realize what I'm doing, it takes a CONSCIOUS EFFORT to turn myself around. I have to go to my children and INTENTIONALLY use my sweetest, calmest voice, while substituting these alternatives: "It's time to clean up now, if we all work together we will get this done much faster.""That noise is too noisy for inside the house, we'll go outside in a while and you can be as noisy as you'd like." "Daddy will be home soon, please play sweetly while I finish dinner." "It makes me sad to hear you speak to your sister in that way. We all love each other, so let's speak words that are loving and kind."

It's an awkward transition at first, to go from barking orders to speaking calmly. Your kids may even be momentarily startled to see that the drill sergeant, has been replaced by their loving mama without warning... and on such short notice. That's okay, do it anyway! Make it happen. It will only take a minute for moods to lighten, and for your new and improved tone to feel comfortable. Everything will begin to run much more smoothly, and your lightened mood will give you the ability to think more clearly as you face any new situations that may arise.

2. Go to bed.

If you are like me, after the kids are in bed you take some "me time." Lots of mamas use the hours just after the kiddos are asleep to catch up on laundry, read a book, or watch some television. It's true that it can be a useful time to re-energize our child rearin' batteries, but don't get lost in it. It is too easy to fold just one more load, read just one more chapter, or watch just one more episode. 

Give yourself a bedtime. The next morning, you will thank yourself for using self-control. What you don't get done around the house can wait until tomorrow, that oh-so-tempting next chapter isn't going anywhere, AND that television has a remote. Turn it off and get some rest. Your body, and your mind need sleep. Both you and your family will reap the benefits that come from setting limits for yourself before bedtime

3. Give yourself extra time.

It is hard work for a mama to get herself and her children dressed, ready, and out the door. Throw in a time crunch and run her late, and she might just become unraveled!!! 
Schedule  in an extra 15 minutes to get yourself where ever it is that you are going. 

You know that moment when you are standing by the front door with your arms full reciting the words, "Come on... it's time to go!!" Your car keys are dangling from your finger beneath the load of necessities that are required to take a day outing with children, and you've got one foot on the mat outside of the front door. Suddenly your five-year old emerges from the bathroom covered in toothpaste, and your infant has a diaper explosion of colossal proportions. When this happens, you can call those extra minutes a gift to yourself, and your children. Those minutes will be what keep the fine line between "loving mama" & "drill sergeant", from being breached. For that... your kids will thank you!!!

4. Plan ahead.

Life is ALWAYS less stressful with a plan. If you are taking a big day trip on Friday, then have everything prepared and ready to go on Thursday night. Keep a change of clothes in your car for your little ones. Stash a bag of goldfish or animal crackers in your glove box for an emergency, such as a traffic jam or flat tire. Always. carry. wet. wipes. Have a couple of "go to" options available for a quick dinner fix in case your day runs away from you. Figure out what the needs of your family are. If you get caught out in a bind, learn from it and make a provision that will help if you are in that situation again. 

Of course there will be moments when "things happen". There will be times when unexpected events foil our daily, or even weekly plans. It's a great life skill to be able to "roll with the punches", but the best plan, is to have a plan. If Plan A fails...  then gracefully laugh as you move to Plan B.

5. React slowly.

Clearly there are occasions in mothering that require a "quick reaction." These aren't the instances that I'm referring to. Not every teachable moment requires a lightning speed turnaround. Sometimes the best tool we have available... is time. If your child is in need of discipline and you're not sure which route is most appropriate, ask them to sit quietly on their bed while you take a few minutes to think. Or if it's a matter of answering a tough question, or addressing a difficult situation... have them play for a bit so that you can take some time to gather your thoughts.

Want a quick "for instance?" I'm not sure if this is the best example, but I'll tell on myself and share a time that I "got it wrong, with a quick tongue." It was a Friday evening, we were on the way home from picking up a pizza. My then 7-year old, innocently asked: "When can I start shaving my legs?" There I was, a mama raising two little girls in a world that seems to be spinning faster and faster. A mama who, in a society that seems insistent on encouraging little girls to grow up before their time, is determined to preserve their innocence and let them be little. Needless to say... I overreacted. I snapped back, "Why in the world are you even thinking about shaving your legs. You are way too young to be considering that!!" My husband didn't say a word, but he shot me a sideways glance. I got it. Later when we were alone, I brought it up to him. He simply reminded me that it was just an innocent question, and that he knows how important it is to me that she feels like she can talk to me. 

If I lose my cool when she asks me about shaving her legs as a 7-year old, how in the world can I expect her to feel like she can come to me with more important issues as she gets older?! If I would have put to use the age-old adage, "Think before you speak", I would have realized that a more appropriate response would have been to smile at her sweet innocence, and gently tell her that we could discuss it in a few years.

We are raising children in a busy world. A busy, sometimes scary world. We're gonna slip from time to time, and that's okay. It's okay to make mistakes, but grow from them. When you get it wrong, go to your child and explain to them that sometimes mommies mess up, too. Tell them that you are sorry, and let them know that being their mama is the most important job you've ever had. Let them know that you are still learning, too!

Please don't be mistaken... by writing a post titled, "Five Ways to be A Better Mama",  I am NOT claiming that I've got this motherhood thing all figured out. While I sincerely hope that what I write will bring great encouragement to other mamas, much of what I write is written as a BIG reminder for myself! There are thousands of ways to be a fantastic mama, this list certainly is not all inclusive. These are just a few tips which I've learned through my personal experiences. When I've made these applications in my daily life, I've found that I've felt better about my experiences as a mama.

Have a blessed day!
-Victoria Brake-

If you think that this could benefit other mamas in your life, please use the links below to share!

Click HERE  to  LIKE  THE  SIT DOWN AND TAKE A BRAKE Facebook page!!!