The ‘Neighbor’ Everyone Felt Good Around

Dear Parents,
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” a documentary about the beloved children’s TV personality Fred Rogers, contains some of the most solid parenting advice ever given. Every parent would benefit from seeing it, now in theaters.
Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, felt children deserved more from TV than the cartoons that modeled disrespectful and crass behavior. He was drawn to educational TV as a tool to model trust and respect for young children. Continue reading “The ‘Neighbor’ Everyone Felt Good Around”

Sugar Cookies and Sweet Memories

I just finished stirring up a batch of Grandma McConnell’s sugar cookies. This age-old recipe was made year after year by my maternal grandmother, in a little farmhouse in Wyoming. The familiar, sugary aroma wafting through the house as the cookies were baking, said, “It’s Christmas!”
I did not know my grandmother, as she passed away before I was born. But I am well acquainted with her sugar cookie recipe. Every Christmas when I was a little girl, my mom and I would make these traditional treats, just as Mom had done with her own mother when she was young.
Continue reading “Sugar Cookies and Sweet Memories”

Halloween’s Horrors are Insensitive to Younger Children

Dear Parent Coach,
In the past week my children (ages 5 and 7) have had trouble getting to sleep at bedtime. We haven’t had any obvious changes in family life, and they can’t exactly verbalize what they’re bothered by, so I’m starting to think it might be caused by Halloween images they may have seen recently. Could they have this effect?
Signed, Mom   Continue reading “Halloween’s Horrors are Insensitive to Younger Children”

Serve Simple Summer Pastimes as Teachable Moments

Dear Parents,Dear Parents,During the summer, a break from classes does not mean all learning comes to a halt for children. Consider the various experiences your children might possibly have on a daily basis, and what could be learned from a simple outing.

Of course, one important key to learning is how parents teach their children to be observant of the world around them, and using any experience, can give their child a better understanding of how the world works.

After suggesting a simple, summer fun activity in one of my parenting classes, one mom took it to the next level and created a wonderful learning opportunity for her children.

My suggestion was to take children once a week to a new and different ice cream parlor to help get them through the blazing summer days. This creative mom took the idea several steps further.

First she invited her children to help research and list all of the independent ice cream shops in the San Gabriel Valley. By doing this, she taught them how to search for and where to find needed information.

She then took the opportunity to explain the difference between a “Mom and Pop” store and a chain store. She explained how much work and ingenuity it takes to start and maintain your own business. In doing this, she’s planting seeds about creativity and hard work.

After making their “sweet destination” list, the family set out to visit one unique ice cream parlor after another, one per week throughout the summer.

When entering each store, Mom encouraged the children to look around and notice what made it special and to verbalize what they liked. Some made comments about decorations on the walls, others felt warm welcomes by employees as they entered. She’s teaching them to be observant and notice details in their surroundings.

Then it was time to get down to business. Most ice cream shops are gracious enough to offer samples, and of course children take full advantage of this, especially these ice cream connoisseurs. After sampling and making a final, educated decision, this mom had her children take the time to explain in detail what they liked about their final choice. She’s teaching them to think analytically.

When each child had declared his or her chosen flavor, Mom helped them order by teaching them to look the ice cream employee in the eye, and clearly state what they wanted. After receiving the cone, a firm thank you was offered by each child. These important social skills and manners were taught in a pleasant setting.

As the children were enjoying their carefully selected treats, Mom took their picture. Upon returning home, they wrote a little description about this particular ice cream shop and what they liked about the experience. Mom encouraged a little reflection on their recent adventure, and the jottings were kept in a notebook to look at later. They are collecting memories.

This summer experiment proved to be so enjoyable for the entire family that they’ve decided to do it again this summer. Family traditions are born in this manner. A fun adventure is shared by all, creating close feelings between family members, and children ask to repeat the family bonding adventure.

The second time around, Mom says she will throw a little math into the mix, and let her children pay for their own ice cream. Of course, she will require them to count the change. Then maybe some comparisons will be made between various ice cream shops to see which one offers the best deal for a double dip!

There is no end to what children can learn in a good ice cream parlor with a savvy mom. One more summer might include “chores for pay” around the house, earning a little spending money to support the ice cream learning adventure.Try these well-tested ice cream parlors:

Mother Moo Creamery —  Sierra MadreCarmela — PasadenaBittersweet Treats — PasadenaScoop — Los Angeles,  York BoulevardFair Oaks Pharmacy —  South PasadenaAlma B — San MarinoFosselman’s — Alhambra21 Choices — Old Town  Pasadena What favorite ice cream spot does your family enjoy?

Father’s Day Reminds Us of an Important Bond

Dear Parents (especially dads),
Father’s Day is approaching in a couple of weeks, and hopefully the dads in your family will be properly pampered and honored for their very important role in family life.
The crucial bonding that takes place between a dad and his children during the simplest times they spend together, lays a solid foundation for lifelong learning and security.
The wording on a billboard once seen around town declared boldly, “Take Time to Be a Dad.” A tousle-headed little boy was pictured standing on his dad’s bare feet and holding onto dad, as he takes his son for a “sure-footed” ride.
This brought back pleasant memories for me as I remembered at a young age, waiting for my own dad to walk in the door at the end of the day and begging for this familiar transport, resulting in a giggly ride around the house, just Dad and me and our feet. So simple, so memorable.
Dads are busy. They’re the hunters and foragers. For many families, they provide the main financial stability for those they love.
They plot and plan, investigate and invest, search for the best deals, envision a future, grow a nest egg, transfer funds from here to there, worry about paying for camps and cars, colleges and years abroad, super-duper family vacations and eventually, destination weddings. Dads are busy providing. Admittedly, this takes time.
However, a dad’s work world is pretty much a mystery to most children. They have a vague idea of what type of work Dad does, but don’t have a clue as to the concerns that go into adequately providing for a family.
Unfortunately, children lack the ability to fully appreciate what a dad provides and will not have many memories of his days at work.
But children are sure about one thing. They always want to spend more time with their dad.
Observed recently: A local young father is taking his 2-year old son to day care. He is not in a hurry. He stops by a fence to let his son observe the nearby construction site with big noisy trucks and workmen with bright yellow hard hats. The little boy sits on his dad’s shoulders and they watch together. They do this several days a week. This dad gives a gift of time to his young son. So simple, but memorable.
Another dad takes his preteen daughter shopping for a birthday present for her mom. His chatty tweener talks nonstop. She is comparing, deciding, changing her mind, finding more ideas, frustrated at not finding the right thing. Dad lets her talk and talk, encourages her ideas, laughs at her indecision, admires her reasoning ability, patiently waits for the final purchase, then smiles. This dad gives his daughter a gift of time. So simple, but so fun to share a secret.
Another dad worked a long, four-day week and devoted Fridays to his family. On Friday mornings, before the children were old enough for school, the family went out to breakfast together. As the children grew, he took them for Saturday breakfasts. This was the intentional gift of time this dad (my husband) chose to give his family. Simple, memorable mornings.
Yet another dad took his son and daughter hiking in local mountains, taught them to swim in the bay, rode bikes with them, spent sunny Sunday afternoons looking for treasures in the seaside tide pools, took them miniature golfing, instructed them in archery, helped with science projects, taught them how to drive, and was patient with homework help. These are memories that I hold dear, as these were gifts of time my own dad gave to me and my brother.
The time my dad invested in me when I was a child created a lasting bond of love, which provided a solid foundation for life: He shared his sense of humor, he showed me how to face problems, how to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors, how to be adventuresome and creative. During these times he shared with me, he passed on his life values and his faith.
Like all dads, my dad was busy as well, running his own business. He was a hunter and forager who provided well for his family. But in the midst of doing life, my dad made a conscious decision to “take time to be a dad.” His decision greatly affected my life.
My dad passed away a few years ago at age 101. Until the day he died, my dad was one of my best friends and a lifelong supporter. He gave me the most important thing a dad can give — himself. In doing so, he formed a lasting bond of love and security with his children.
There will always be work to do, it’s never-ending. But childhood is fleeting. Often times, children learn the most important lessons of life by simply spending time with their dads. It doesn’t matter very much what they’re actually doing together. What really matters most is that dad is giving his honest and pure self to his children — and that he’s taking time to be a dad during the fleeting days of childhood.

College Kids Home for Summer Can Shoulder Responsibilities

Dear Parent Coach,
My daughter is just finishing her freshman year at college and is coming home for the summer. Of course we’re excited to have her back, but it feels a bit awkward not knowing how to deal with a few issues. I’m wondering if I should allow her to have a messy “dorm room,” and are the days of having household chores over? Do we set curfews, or will she keep college hours — after all, we haven’t known how late she’s been coming in while at college. I’d appreciate ideas on how to handle some of these questions.
Thanks, Mom Continue reading “College Kids Home for Summer Can Shoulder Responsibilities”