Finding the Right Parenting StyleWhen we become parents or if we’re planning to become parents, we develop our own concept of what the “right thing” is when it comes to parenting. We may opt to be the strict disciplinarian or maybe we’ll opt for being more relaxed and even care free and still others may opt for something more in the middle of both styles.

Two children raised by the same parents will likely give very different answers when they are asked about how they feel about their parents because they perceive things differently. While one may believe they were disciplined enough or appropriately, the other may feel that they were over-disciplined or not disciplined enough. When we become adults, many of the decisions we make when it comes to parenting are based on our own experiences and upbringing. We may choose to follow our parents’ style or go in the opposite direction.

Here are a few things to consider when you are trying to decide on the right style of you:

  • Remember that your choices will affect your children’s future happiness, outlook on life and even their future relationships. We all want what’s best for our children but sometimes we don’t always make the best choices or decisions. Evaluate what you are doing and how you are communicating with your children; if you don’t like the results it’s time to change.
  • How much time have you spent reading information on different parenting styles? Obviously not every book is right and not every “expert” is really an expert. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be said for learning something from others – especially when it comes to things like potty training advice or dealing with a biter. If there is legitimate advice at your fingertips, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel.
  • It’s a good idea to communicate your parenting style with the teachers at your child’s daycare.  This way they can adopt the same techniques you use with your child and there will always be consistency in discipline and rewards.  Premier Academy teachers will be happy to meet with you to discuss different parenting techniques that seem to be working for you at home or that work for us here at the center.

In the end it all comes down to: if you like the way you parent, then you’ve picked the right style of parenting for you. You will never find two parents that agree on everything and you will never find a child who agrees with his or her parents about the way they are disciplined. In a nutshell – when it comes to parenting, one size does not fit all.

Children and Technology: Parenting Tips for the Digital AgeSmart phones, laptops and tablets, oh my! We love all sorts of technologies ourselves but worry about the effect of too much technology on our children. According to a study by Common Sense Media in 2013, the total average screen time for children ages 0-8 years is just under two hours a day. Traditional screen time in front of a TV is still the preferred form of screen time, but not surprisingly, mobile screen time is up. According to the study, 38% of children under two have used a mobile device.

The American Academy of Pediatrics along with the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity recommend that children under two have no screen time. For children ages 2-5 years, the recommendation for children and technology at home ranges from 1-2 hours per day. The limits are recommended for many reasons, including:

  • Sedentary activities like watching TV or playing with smart phone apps limit children’s time to be physically active, important for growing bodies
  • Unscreened media content may expose children to food and beverage advertisement for kids, or sexual and violent content.
  • Children benefit from playtime learning and through their interactions with other children and adults. The use of technology is often a solitary experience, limiting chances for developing social skills through joint play activities.
  • Excessive screen time for children has been linked to irregular sleep, behavioral problems, academic lags, and more.

Passive vs. Interactive Technology: Of course, not all technology experiences are equal. Non-interactive or passive technology like television, movie viewing or streaming media provides no opportunities for hands-on learning, which we know is key for young children’s development. On the other hand, interactive media like ebooks, searching on the internet to solve a problem, or experimenting with educational apps for kids have greater potential than passive experiences. Pre-screening is always recommended with either interactive or non-interactive technology. Intentionality refers to the deliberate choices teachers and parents make about what kind of educational technology might be useful to a particular child’s development. For instance, if your child loves to draw and tell stories, give your child many intentional opportunities to build those skills. If you want your child to also be technologically literate, look for software or apps that allow your child to be a media creator rather than just a game player. Or look for technology that encourages creativity, exploration, pretend play, peer interactions and more.

As with most parenting decisions, you have to examine the recommendations and figure out what is best for your family in the digital age. If having your children under foot while you are trying to prepare dinner results in you losing your patience, then maybe a little video viewing at that time may be a preferred alternative. And of course you are not a “bad parent” if you occasionally go over the above suggested daily limits. Here are a few thoughts to consider when establishing your family’s approach to screen time:

  • We can borrow some terms from the field of early childhood education to guide our decision-making about technology and children: developmentally appropriate practice and intentionality. When you consider the development appropriateness of technology for children, you take into account your child’s age, developmental level and individual characteristics. Ask yourself questions like “Is this movie and the violence it includes appropriate for my five-year-old who tends to act out everything he sees?”
  • Establish your own family rules for screen time. Consider less screen time during the week and relax a little on weekends.
  • Consider an occasional screen free week or day for the whole family to participate.
  • To manage children & technology, set a good example yourself.
  • Substitute quality time together for screen time. Plan a special outing, play a board game together or let your child choose the activity and follow his/her lead. School-age kids may act like they are not interested, but what children really want and look for is your attention. It is worth persisting.
  • When possible, watch TV with your child or interact with the tablet together. Do jumping jacks during commercials or take a break to see who can jump the longest.
  • Keep TVs and computers out of children’s bedrooms. When there, research shows there is increased screen time by children.The rapidly changing technological landscape in the digital age has been compared to the historical shift that occurred after the introduction of the printing press, which greatly expanded access to books and printed materials. The impact of technology on children’s lives is constantly changing and as parents and guardians, we are responsible for helping our children maintain healthy technology usage through this important part of their lives.

Digital citizenship in the digital age: Part of our role as parents is also to teach children to be responsible consumers of technology. School-agers can be introduced to the concept of cyber safety and what are appropriate and inappropriate uses of technology. It is also important to explain to children why they have screen time limits.

Financial Planning for Your Baby's College YearsOne day you’re bringing your new little bundle of joy home from the hospital, the next day they’re off to kindergarten and the day after that they are off to college. Ok, it’s not QUITE that fast but you get the idea – time flies when you’re having fun. Because it won’t be long until your baby is heading to college it’s important that you start saving for that time now. In fact, if you haven’t started planning, preparing and saving by the time your child enters kindergarten, you’re just about five years behind the eight ball.

Financial planning for your baby’s college years

Even if you haven’t started until after your child is of school age, it’s never too late to get moving. However, be sure that you are being realistic in your planning. The average cost of tuition at a public university is almost $43,000 and a private school can cost almost $110,000 – increasing more than 40% over the past ten years and will without a doubt continue to rise. Many schools offer prepaid tuition programs that freeze the current rates to allow you to pay off the tuition.

There are also state-operated college savings plans called Section 529 plans. These allow not only parents but also grandparents, relatives and even friends to put money aside to help offset your child’s tuition expenses.

Another option you may have is to invest in an educational savings account. While these accounts are typically small – only $2000 per year – it’s still a help with books and supplies even if it doesn’t do much to offset the high cost of tuition.

Before you can truly prepare for your child’s education costs, you should first have your own solid, financial plan and make sure your goals are prioritized so you know the exact steps you’ll need to take to reach them.

How to Find the Right Bike for Your ChildWith bicycling listed as the second most popular outdoor activity in the US, it only makes sense that sometime in the possibly not-so-distant future you will be looking for a new bike for your child.

When you first start looking, the massive wall of bikes at your bike shop or retailer can be overwhelming to say the least. There are a lot of options to choose from and it may be difficult to know which one is right for your child if you aren’t sure what to look for.

The most important thing and first decision to be made is about the size of the bike. Bikes for children are measured by the wheel’s diameter and can be from twelve to 24 inches. The size you’ll need depends on your child’s age and either his or her height or leg length. An easy example – a two-year-old will likely start on a 12-inch bike.

To make sure the bike has a proper fit with your child, have he or she sit on the bike with hands on the handlebars. A bike that is a good fit will allow your child to sit comfortably on the bike with both feet on the ground.

Safety is also very important and no bike purchase is complete without a helmet. By purchasing a helmet with your child’s first bike, you are setting them on a course of good, solid habits early on, not to mention, some states – like Maryland – require helmets for any bike riders under the age of 16. Helmets can come in all shapes and sizes so be sure to pick one that fits properly: it should be tight against the back of your child’s head while the front is parallel with the eyes.  The helmet should also sit two fingers’ width above your child’s eyebrows.

You may also want to consider bells or horns for your child’s bike as a further added safety precaution. It never hurts to have your child get in the habit of alerting people that a little one is scooting by.

Tips for Potty Training at DaycareWe face many challenges as parents, but toilet training may feel like one of the more daunting ones. And now that your child seems old enough to begin potty training, you also wonder how potty training works in child care. Relax. Like every other aspect of child care, you and your child’s teacher will work as partners in the process of potty learning. Potty training while in a child care or daycare setting may be easier than it is at home.

At school, your toddler sees other children visiting the bathroom, which can create a powerful incentive and example. Teachers are usually very experienced in potty training and can offer you a lot of support. Many schools have toddler-sized toilets and sinks, which can make the process much less intimidating. Ask for the teacher’s insights, and try not to compare your child to other children in the center. Soon, your days of changing diapers will be over and your toddler will seem oh, so grown up.

Tips for Potty Training at Daycare or Child Care Center:

  • Get on the same page. Talk with your child’s teachers about the approach they use. They can help you watch for signs of readiness. These signs may include staying dry for lengths of time, expressing an interest in using the toilet, and being able to pull clothes up and down. You and your child’s teachers will work together to develop a plan for potty training. Share your own philosophy and any concerns you have. Mutually agree on how you’ll handle potty training and make sure that you consistently follow the plan during the evenings and weekends.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Let your child’s teacher know when your child last went potty when you drop off in the morning. Ask for the same information when you pick your child up at the end of the day, and read the Daily Experience Sheet for detailed information. Find out about the times your child uses the bathroom at school and try to duplicate this schedule at home.
  • Come prepared. Accidents are bound to happen during the first few weeks of potty training, so make sure your toddler is prepared to cope with potty accidents. Be sure to send your child with plenty of clean clothes. Skip the onesies, blue jeans, or overalls, and opt for soft, loose pants with an elastic waistband. These clothes help your child be more independent, and they also simplify the inevitable changes. Send your child in shoes that come off easily and don’t forget extra socks.
  • Expect setbacks. Potty training is a major developmental milestone and it’s very common for children to make progress and then regress. Try not to get discouraged or express frustration to your toddler. Make sure that your child is really ready before you start potty training. The age of readiness varies from child to child, but most kids are ready to potty train between 20 and 30 months. Take it slow and use a relaxed, positive approach. Talk with your child’s teacher if you have questions or just need some extra support.
  • Push the fruits and veggies. What does nutrition have to do with potty training? Constipation is a common problem when children don’t eat enough fiber. Children sometimes develop a fear of toileting if they’ve experienced painful stools. Eating fruits and vegetables helps keep their digestive system regulated.
  • Accommodate special needs. A child with developmental or physical delays may need extra support to potty train. Talk with your child’s teacher about ways to help, which might include delaying potty training, using a visual chart, or practicing the steps of pulling down pants or washing hands prior to starting potty training.

As you go through the potty training process, try to keep perspective. Some children are very motivated and learn to use the toilet quickly. Others need more time before they completely master this developmental task. Remember that both you and your child are doing the best you can. Before long, your child will be diaper-free and ready for the next adventure.

Answering The Difficult QuestionsSometimes difficult questions can take parents by surprise. It can be good to plan in advance on how and what to talk to your children about when they ask about death. It is critical not to avoid or try to brush off the questions as that will only cause more confusion and perhaps even fear if children pick up your discomfort on the subject.  Here are some tips on how to talk to your children when they ask the difficult questions:

Stay Child Centered

It is very important to discuss death and dying at the child’s level of understanding. Taking in abstract terms or using common phrases about death to kids will only cause confusion. You certainly can talk about spiritual or religious beliefs about the death and dying with your children but keep them at an age appropriate level.

Be careful not to use terms like “sleeping” or “passed on” or “lost” but rather be compassionate and honest. Children need a clear description that makes sense to them. Even younger children can understand that a body can stop working when a person is in an accident or is elderly. Often this type of honest, clear and simple explanation is enough for a youngster.

Talk About Real World Examples

It is important, especially with younger children, to stay to simple examples and not to try to include too many concepts at one time. It is important for children to understand that death is a normal part of life without stressing the mortality of the child or of you as the parent. It is also important to remember that younger children, especially those under the age of 10, may see death as reversible.

Kids may ask about a pet, family member or loved one’s death repeatedly. Be patient and provide a consistent answer that provides the information the child is seeking. Talking to a counselor or reading a book about death that is at an age appropriate level can help a parent start the conversation and allow children to ask the questions they may be worrying about.

The Importance of Reading to Young ChildrenYour child isn’t going to become a great reader over night, but it can happen one book at a time. But what is the best way for you to choose the right book for your child to read?

It may be second nature to feel like you should be picking your child’s books, but the fact remains that letting your child choose their own books is a skill that they should learn at young age. By allowing your child to choose their own books independent of your input, allows your child to learn the different reason we choose a book to read in the first place.

If your child has reached reading age, here are a few helpful tips to help him or her learn to choose books that will make them want to read more:

  • When your child is ready to start reading, begin instilling the fact that we read for a purpose – whether it’s too learn something or if the purpose is simply for enjoyment.
  • Have your child browse through the books either at the library or the bookstore. If this seems to be too overwhelming, then have them narrow down their choices by either a type of book (fiction or nonfiction) or by action, funny or other subject.
  • Say “yes” as often as you can when your child selects a book that he or she is interested in. Rather than saying “no” try saying that a choice is a “not so great” selection
  • If your child selects a book that is beyond his or her reading ability, solve the problem by reading the book out loud with your child. Let them read as much of the book as possible, you can jump in if there are difficult parts for your child to read.
  • If your child has really enjoyed a particular book, remind him or her of the author name when they are selecting books the next time.

Need more information? Contact Premier Academy Today!

Have a Picky Eater? We Can Help!One of the most common struggles parents have is dealing with picky eaters. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

  • Your toddler takes a few bites of food and announces he’s “done”
  • You can stock your fridge and shelves full but your little one will only eat the same 5 things over and over.
  • Your toddler asks for one thing, you make it, then she asks for something else then decides she wants something completely different altogether.
  • Coaxing your children to just take “one more bite” is a constant battle in your home

First things first – meal times are supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable so you want to avoid these battles every time you sit down at the table. Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 typically have smaller appetites, so if they only eat a little at a time, that’s ok.

However, also realize that their appetites can change on a daily basis and even from meal to meal. If they like carrots, don’t be afraid to throw some in at breakfast. Do they prefer eggs? Who says you can’t have eggs for dinner?

Dinner time is typically going to be the meal that your toddler feels like eating the least. It’s the end of the day and they are tired and unless they have been doing a physical activity like swimming or playing outside or at daycare, chances are they aren’t going to be as hungry as they are at other times of the day.

If you are dealing with preschool or school age children who are picky eaters, you may be able to reason more with them and enforce the “one bite rule” – meaning they have to take at least one bite of every food on their plate and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it again.

Here are just a few ideas for dealing with picky eaters:

  • Don’t nag or coax your toddler. Pick and choose your battles – plain and simply put, your child WILL eat when he is hungry.
  • Have realistic portions: Many parents set unrealistic goals for their children when it comes to mealtime. A good rule of thumb to follow: If your child is under the age of 5-6, use a tablespoon per year of age. If they ask for more when they’ve finished that then you can always give more.
  • Keep trying to introduce new foods – even if they haven’t liked them before. Tastes change and you never know when you find something new they like.
  • Avoid too much milk, juice and soda in place of food. Many kids will fill up on sugary drinks and have no room for food.

Remember, pick your battles and don’t make meal time miserable for everyone!

Need more information? Contact Premier Academy today!

3 Tips to Creative ThinkingHave a real one-on-one conversation with any preschooler, and you’re in for a treat — kids are soaring with ideas. As a mom, an educator, and an entrepreneur, I wondered: When do kids lose their imagination? And what can we do to foster creative thinking skills at home?

1) Ask Your Child to Describe His Work

Your preschooler may sometimes make pictures that look like a one-year-old made them– a series of lines, circles, and a mess of color. But what may look like scribbles can be a whole lot more when you ask your child, “Tell me — what did you make here?” I’ve learned to never assume, and once my kids start telling me about their scribbly-looking masterpieces, I realize they are just that — creative expressions of their ideas. Plus, drawing and describing their pictures is a very early step to literacy. It is the same skill set they’ll use to formulate and write a story someday.

Be sure to motivate your children rather than simply praise them. For example, instead of just saying “good job” or “nice picture,” you will encourage your child a lot more by saying “I love how you shaded the sunset with the colored pencils so carefully,” or “I can really tell you worked hard on drawing the little boat.” Mentioning something specific will motivate your child to be even more creative next time.

2) Let Kids Design Their Own Bedrooms

Support your child to take ownership of his own space by creatively coming up with ideas for his own bedroom design.

Designing their own bedrooms teaches children to step outside the box from one way of thinking and toward feeling comfortable expressing themselves creatively. Today, you see so many kids’ bedrooms that look like they’ve come right out of a magazine. Let your kids take the plunge! Soon he’ll be drawing plans, measuring, and problem solving about whether or not his desk will fit under the window.

3) Answer Questions with Questions

When your child has a question, avoid simply giving him an answer. Instead, respond with a question of your own. This allows him to start thinking with a creative problem solving point of view.

For questions you both don’t know answers to, it’s important to model how to figure out. Continue to prompt your children with questions that will gently lead them to the answer. It makes them feel the success of figuring it out for themselves. That success will give your kids the confidence to ask more questions, find more answers, and become more creative!

Looking for more fun things to do with your children? Contact Premier Academy today!

How to Help Your Child be a Gracious Playdate GuestHosting a playdate at home is one thing but going to someone else’s house – where the rules, snacks, and potty are different – is a whole new experience. Here’s how to prepare your child to have a great time – and be invited back!

The Invite – Say “yes” when you know (and trust) the family, the children get along, and the scheduling works for you. Don’t feel pressured to answer immediately if you’re unsure. Say, “Can I let you know in a day or two?” If you decide to turn down the invitation, for whatever reason, a simple “Thanks, but we can’t do it this time” will suffice. If your child is a playdate newbie, take special steps to make it a good experience. Accompany her to her friend’s home and stay the first time, so that she’ll be comfortable trying a drop-off playdate next time.

The Prep – Exchange contact info, pick-up details, and special issues such as allergies with the other parent. Then go over plans and expectations with your child ahead of time so she’ll be ready. “First, you’ll go with Maddie and her mom after school. They have an extra booster for you in their car. You’ll go to their house and play. I will come and pick you up later, before dinner. Ask Maddie’s mom if you need help with anything while you’re there, and remember to take turns with Maddie. Her mom says you’ll be baking cupcakes for the bake sale. Sounds fun!” Remind your child to be gentle with any younger siblings in the home, and to use her good manners.

The Exit – At pick-up time, spend a few minutes chatting with the host’s family, then give your child a “2 minutes until clean-up” warning. When it’s time, insist that your child helps tidy up, and debrief with the host’s parents to get a run-down of the events, and your child’s behavior. Make sure your child says “thank you” and “good bye.” On the way home, ask your child what they did and whether they had fun, and discuss any behavior snafus. Focus on the good times, and brainstorm ideas for the next playdate.

Looking for more fun things to do with your children? Contact Premier Academy today!