Use Your Words

“Stop whining!”

“Stop acting like a baby”

“When you act like that I can’t tell what you want”

These are poor examples of some things I said to my children before I learned to say,  “Use your words please”.

When a young child wants something and starts to whine, cry, or point and grunt, try saying, “Use your words” to help them remember there is a better way to communicate.

Sometimes it’s even good to give them words to borrow until they learn how to think of them by themselves. Let’s say they are crying and pointing at the loaf of bread you could ask them to use their words. If they keep whining your response could be, “Say, ‘can I have some bread’ ” or “Bread please”.

It may sound too simple but it can be helpful now and beneficial down the road as well!

Summer’s coming … Are You Ready?


What’s your idea of a good summer with the kids home from school?

Do you like everyone to get up early with kids heading off to swim team practice, going to summer school or getting work done first so they can play.

Or is your ideal summer day everyone sleeping in late and having lazy laid back days?

I think kids function better when there is structure. That does NOT mean you have to do it like me, your neighbor, your sister’s family or anyone else. But I do suggest everyone under the same roof have the same idea of what summer vacation from school will be like. It will make life better if kids know what mom would like to have happen and mom knows what the kids want to do.

So moms, ask your selves, “What do I expect the summer break to be like”?

After all, how can your kids know what you want them to do if you aren’t sure what you want?

When I was a young mom an experienced mom suggested that on Mother’s Day I should tell my family what I would like them to do to make my day enjoyable. She said if you have a lot of expectations in your mind and don’t tell anyone you’re setting yourself up for disappointed when no one does the things you want. She said, “Your family can’t read your mind”. Wow, that was insightful to me. I think it’s similar to summer vacation. We may be thinking it’s finally a time we can get some much needed projects done around the house while the kids might be thinking it’s time to watch TV and be on the computer all day. Since we can’t read each others minds we need to do some planning to keep our days from being filled with complaining, nagging, and ultimatums.

When my children were young they thought they didn’t want to have any responsibilities during the summer break from school. But I quickly learned they felt better about themselves and did not fight as much if they did some productive things each day.

Here are some things we did in our family during the summer:

For lots of summers we had a wooden chart with daily activities listed:

30 minutes of music
30 minutes exercise or a sport
15 minutes math
30 minutes reading
2 hours max. Computer/TV/video games

The board had columns for “to do” and “done” and the kids moved the pegs from one column to the other each day. A paper chart with stickers would work just as well.

I also wanted to make music a part of our summer. We didn’t take weekly music lessons in the summer. Instead we had a “piano jar”. I took some of the money I would usually spend on the lessons and bought items to fill the jar. I assigned each item a price in points. Anyone could earn 1 point for 1 minute practicing an instrument, or other musical activities such as musical flashcards. My daughter had a neighborhood friend who played the piano beautifully and she would sometimes come over just to play some songs, eat a candy bar then go home. I loved it; I got to hear beautiful piano music and I believe it helped motivate my kids to practice more so they could play so well.


Our piano jar was an old pickle jar.

Below is a copy of one of our piano points chart.

IMG_1059 - Version 3

Some other ideas that were successful in our home were:

Allowing my kids to earn more TV or computer time by reading – one minute of TV for every minute of reading. Double points could be earned if they read to someone younger.

We went to the library each week

We did field trip Fridays. We’d go to a museum, to a splash area at a park, a community event we had seen advertised, etc.

We watch old movies or musicals on Wednesday afternoons; The unsinkable Molly Brown, My Fair Lady, and old versions of shows like Absent Minded Professor, Love Bug, Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, etc.

There are certainly no shortages of sites on the Internet to give you ideas. Here are a few suggestions:

101 things to do

Kids Summer To Do List

25 Cool Places For Kids

100 Things to do With Kids This Summer

When school gets out make a Family Summer Calendar (ours was pages from a big desk calendar, decorated and hung on the store room door) and fill it up with big and small activities for your kids to look forward to. Even something as simple as making popsicles in the morning, and eating them in the afternoon could be written in for a day’s activity to look forward to.

Enjoy having your kids home this summer. Plan, discuss, involve the whole family, and write down your plan. This summer make pleasant memories rather than just trying to survive.

“Oh Where Oh Where Has Our Teacher Gone…”


Lindsey in Thailand

Lindsey here!  I’m over in hot, humid, tropical Thailand! .  Why am I here? How does it affect you? Well…. I got a job here!  I am going to be spending the next year teaching English to little Thai kids.  That means that you get to hear about teaching from the standpoint of teaching in a different country.

In the last week I’ve seen a centipede, lots of fresh fruit, dozens of crocodile statues (the town I’m in is nicknamed ‘Land of the Crocodiles), fabulous old architecture, a million scooters, and some of the very cutest kid.

The thing about kids and teaching is that many of the facets are universal.  As I share some teaching tidbits this next year you will see that Thai kids have a lot in common with American kids, German students, third graders in Russia, etc.  I am excited for this opportunity that will push me professionally and socially.  I’m also excited to share my insights with you.

So visit us each week to learn more about teaching in Thailand and parenting in the United States. Together we’ll discover how kids all over the world have so much in common.

A Little Helper at the Store

I saw a child sitting in the grocery card being pushed by her mother. The child was holding a bag containing several tomatoes. It was a time of the year when tomatoes were not cheap, so the bag of tomatoes the little girl was holding was a relatively expensive purchase. It was apparent, by the short conversation I heard between her and her mother, that the young girl did not like tomatoes.

Here’s what I saw and heard:

When the mother turned her head, the little girl tossed the bag of tomatoes out of the cart, onto the floor. When the mother turned back around and saw what had happened she was angry. She slapped the little girls hand and said something like, “don’t do that!”  She put the bag of tomatoes back into the cart, turned her back, and again the little girl found the bag of tomatoes and tossed them from the cart. When the mother turned around and saw that it had happened again she was even more angry and proceeded to punish the child more.

What could have been more effective and kind?

Child throws a bad of tomatoes out of the cart.

Parent: Oh, don’t throw food out of the cart or it will get smashed or dirty and we’ll have to pay for food we don’t want to eat. Don’t you want us to buy tomatoes?”

Child: “I hate tomatoes!”

Parent: “You don’t have to eat these tomatoes if I buy them” (It’s okay for a child to not like tomatoes, there are things you don’t like, aren’t there?). “There are other vegetables that we can buy for you. But dad and I really like tomatoes and want to eat some but we don’t like them when they’re all squishy. So please be really gentle with them. Here, if you give them to me, I’ll put them over here (somewhere out of their sight and reach) and you can hold something else. The carrots? You like carrots don’t you?” (Or whatever food they like, preferably something not as easy to damage).

Remember, if a child who doesn’t have great verbal skills or doesn’t know how to express himself yet does something you consider inappropriate, ask yourself, “What is this little person thinking?”

Perhaps they do not like the food you are trying to buy.

Maybe they want to see if a round tomato bounces, like a ball.

Maybe they wonder if something will make a noise if it’s dropped.

Perhaps they wants to see if their juice poured on the floor makes the same shape every time.

Maybe they are just tired of sitting, or bored and want something to do.

That brings us to …

Activities to entertain and educate kids while at the store:

While pushing through the store ask your child to look for certain categories of things:

  • Items that are green, blue, all white, etc.
  • Packages that have a picture of a person or animal on them.
  • Find things that have writing on them. Find ones that contain the same letter of the alphabet that their name begins with.
  • Look for things that are bigger or smaller than their hand.
  • Find things that are cold and put them all together in one place in the basket (let them touch each item to their cheek to test the temperature).
  • Find items that are soft that can easily break or be smashed; tomatoes or eggs. Or things that are hard, like canned food, potatoes, or carrots.

These activities can be continued all through the store. Chances are that you’ll get tired of these “games” before they do. Keeping a child busy and involved can eliminate boredom, which in turn often eliminates poor behavior.

Appropriate Behavior or “Be Good”


 In the grocery store I saw a mother who had a young child sitting in the front of her shopping cart. Apparently the child had been doing something the mother didn’t approve of so had been made to sit in the basket. The child was screaming to get out and the mother asked, “Are you ready to be good” to which the child answered, “Yes”. I though to myself, “What does it mean to be good?” It means different things at different places, right? For example, it would be “good”, or appropriate behavior for a child to run wild and yell at the park, but not at the grocery store or inside a church. So perhaps an important thing for a parent to do is to make it clear to a child what their expectations are in different locations.

Now What Do I Say??

There are so many answers a parent could give their child if they are not behaving while they’re at the store. I decided against the, “don’t say this, say this” method because I didn’t want to write any things you should NOT say, because that’s probably what you’ll remember when it’s time to act. Instead, here a some suggestions of things you COULD SAY to your child while you’re in the store –

At the grocery store, if a child has been made to ride in the cart because they keep wondering off:

  Parent: “If I let you get out of the cart will you stay close where I can see you?”


Parent: “If you choose to stay where I can see you and not open the things we haven’t paid for yet, you can be out of the cart. If you choose to run away, or mess things up in the store, you’ve choose to get back into the cart, do you understand?” Get them out and say, “Okay, lets see you make some really good choices.”


 Parent: “I’m concerned when you run away where I can’t see you because you might get lost and I won’t be able to find you and that would make me feel worried and sad”


 Parent: “I feel concerned that if you run away to a place I can’t see you, someone else might try to take you home with them. They might not be kind to you.  I don’t want that, I want you to be safe with me” This is something I tried not to say unless it was absolutely necessary because it can scare the child. But now days it’s a sad reality. If the problem becomes chronic, it may be what they need to hear.