Happy Birthday, America!

June 27, 2012

I believe that we must begin early if we are to raise patriotic children.  We live in one of the greatest countries in the world, and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that our children know all we can teach them about our great nation’s history, its present, and its future. To grow good citizens of our country and our world, we must show them how to function in the family, in their small group of friends, in their early school years, and eventually in their communities.

Most Americans’ hearts swell when hearing, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and our eyes fill with tears as we watch our soldiers return home from war zones. Our pride and compassion come from our understanding of the struggles that brought our great nation to its place in the world today. We did not learn everything on our own that we needed to know to become great citizens … and neither will our children. To raise patriotic children, we must be purposeful and intentional. What do you want your children to know about the United States of America? Here are a few thoughts:

1.     Even very young children can learn the Pledge of Allegiance. Teach them to stand tall with their hands over their hearts and face the flag as they say the pledge.

2.     Consider having a birthday party for our country. Children can easily understand this concept, and it might become a much anticipated summer tradition in your family.

3.     Seize the teachable moments and define them for your child:

a.     Participate with your child in cleaning up a city park and explain that this is “being a good citizen.”

b.     Show your child real-life heroes. Plan a trip to the airport and wave flags to welcome home soldiers who have served our country.

c.     Teach your child the art of conflict resolution in the home. This is crucial to becoming a good citizen.

d.     When you see someone disobeying the law, find an appropriate moment to explain to your child why it is important that we have laws in our country, city, community, and family. Just remember that the younger the child, the simpler the explanation.

4.     Plan trips to the cities, monuments, national forests, and other places that you believe are important to your children’s patriotic growth. Introduce these sites by reading about them long before you actually invest in traveling to them. Remember that travel isn’t always necessary—you can go so many places with books. Just because you cannot travel does not mean you cannot nurture a deep appreciation in your children for the great places in our nation.

I hope that each and every one of you has a safe and very happy 4th of July!

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

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Parenting Tips for a More Peaceful Summer

June 20, 2012

Some families keep their routines during the summer, but many families find that they are together more and that their schedules are not as predictable as they are during the school year. This can be a source of great joy but can also be a cause of stress and frustration at times.

Perhaps a few parenting tips will remind us all of ways that we can have a more peaceful summer.

1.     Respect must flow both ways between parents and children. Children have the right to be heard.  When there is a conflict in your home, give each person involved a chance to express his or her feelings.

2.     Declare your home a safe place where NO ONE is allowed to act like a bully.  Simply do not tolerate name calling, hurtful teasing, or any negative action toward someone by a child or an adult. If children are old enough, include them in deciding the consequence for violating the safe-place rule.

3.     Never underestimate the power of touch. Do you put your hand on your child’s shoulder when listening to him? Do you hold her tight when you give her a hug? A gentle pat on the back or a high-five for a job well done means so much. All touching is communication so touch your child often. Make sure that you find ways to communicate how special he is to you.

4.     Watch how your child communicates with her peers. Perhaps mirroring her style when you attempt to communicate with her will strengthen your connection.

5.     Get on your child’s eye-level when having a conversation. This shows that you respect who he is and value what he says.

6.     It isn’t always WHAT you say but rather HOW you say it that bruises a child’s spirit. Some believe that up to 93% of communication is non-verbal. Be aware of your tone, gestures, and body language.

7.     Set aside family time each week—an evening to play games, a family tradition that everyone enjoys, or just playing outside together. Children need to know that they can count on the family focus each week.

8.     Your children need chores. This makes them feel that they belong to the family unit, and it teaches them valuable lessons. No matter how badly you want to just do it yourself, it is in your child’s best interest to assign chores and hold him responsible. Start early with age-appropriate tasks and be consistent.

9.     Safety First! Don’t ignore your gut feeling in any situation. Disregard the peer pressure that you or your child might be feeling and always keep in mind that your child’s safety comes first.

10.  Read to and with your child. Insist that she switches off all electronic gadgets so that you both can read and experience life together.

11.  Be fully present during time with your family. Turn off YOUR gadgets and give your family your undivided attention. Children need to see that they are the top priority in your life.

12.  Plan, plan, plan! Keeping children engaged and on a routine will allow your family to have an exciting, fun … and yes, a more peaceful summer.

Happy Summer!

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.  


Children in America Are Hungry

June 13, 2012

I post this blog weekly hoping that something I say enables, inspires, or compels someone to improve the life of a child. I simply write from my heart and trust that I am helping in a small way by sharing my knowledge, education, and experience.

Today, I want to pass on some statistics from a study by the ConAgra Foods Foundation (www.conagrafoodsfoundation.org) that haunt me and have compelled our company to get involved. Children in America are hungry. Children in this great nation of ours should not be hungry, and we CAN change this if we all work together. Certain social purposes are overwhelming and seem too daunting to even begin to address. We CAN end child hunger in our country, but we must first know the facts:

  • One out of every five children in America does not know where the next meal is coming from.
  • Approximately 21.6% of America’s children are “food insecure.” This means they do not know how long the food they have will last and if they will have money for more once it’s gone.
  • In 2010, 4.8% of all U.S. households (5.6 million families) accessed a food pantry one or more times.

These startling statistics make it clear that there is an urgent need and that there are hungry children in your community. I want to encourage every parent, regardless of the age of your child, to not only get involved but also to get your child involved.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” As a society, we have long underestimated the value of serving others—both to the recipients and to those who serve.  Consequently, we have failed to instill in our children the value of service to others.

I encourage you to visit http://nokidhungry.org/ and http://www.childhungerendshere.com as starting points for your research about ways to get involved. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of the 16 million American children who face hunger every day. In the process, we can also make a difference in our own children’s purpose and self-worth by teaching them empathy, compassion, and the tremendous value of serving others.

Written by:  Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.


Choose Kindness

June 6, 2012

“It is impossible to treat a child too well. Children are spoiled
by being ignored too much or by harshness, not by kindness.”

–Sloan Wilson

Summer is approaching … a time of year that many families spend a little extra time together. But while they want to create wonderful memories, the reality often plays out much differently. Vacations are filled with stressful arguments, shopping trips are just pure chaos, and visits with extended family are simply too wearing for words.

Have you been in the airport, at the mall, or at the water park and heard a family that was supposed to be “having fun”? I grieve every time I hear angry words exchanged between family members. So many opportunities to build each other up are lost. The same information could be exchanged—it just needs to be exchanged with kindness.

No matter how well we plan our summer, it will have adversity. Our response is what matters. There will be frustrations. There will be disappointments. There will be times when things don’t go as we hoped they would. If parents choose to be kind in these moments, they will teach their children an amazing life lesson. If children choose to be kind to their parents, their parents will be encouraged. If children choose to be kind to one another, so many frustrations can be avoided.

Make an oath of kindness for the summer. Gather your family together and agree to hold each other accountable for a summer of kindness. This does not mean that you don’t enforce the rules or that there will be no discipline. It actually means the opposite. Children need firm and loving discipline, and they want to know very clearly what you expect and exactly what will happen if they continue the undesired behavior. Have rules and then implement them with kindness and consistency.

Anita Roddick said, “The end result of kindness is that it draws people to you.” If this is true, then it follows that being unkind pushes people away. Do you want to draw your family to you? Remember that every harsh word you use and every word spoken in anger pushes those you love away.

Choose kindness.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.