Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

A Parent’s Goal: Competent Kids

High Five

I’m sure you want to provide experiences so that your young ones can succeed and become competent kids. Here’s how….first, offer new challenges and comment on positive attempts. Always acknowledge your kids’ effort toward a goal even if the goal was not attained or reached to your expectations. Some great pointers are to give your young ones ideas how to accomplish tasks. Demonstrate the steps for them. Then have them complete the process all by themselves. Remember to supply plenty of practice time if needed. All these steps will lead your child to feeling more positive and belonging to the Competent Kids’ Club.

It is extremely beneficial to acknowledge kids’ efforts and the meeting of their expectations rather than to praise a specific task. For example, when kids have completed a task (homework, cleaning their bedroom or playroom, setting the table) guide them in their thinking about how the job was carried out. Does it show progress in comparison to last time? Are their ways to improve the process? The goal here is to help young ones to learn, grow, and make sound decisions with or without others around. They will also feel good about themselves without constant praise or recognition. They in turn will feel a worthy member of the Competent Kids’ Club as they succeed in learning challenges.


1. Give kids age appropriate jobs. Their achievement of regular chores will help them develop a sense of responsibility and the knowledge that they’re contributing to family activities.
2. For kids who have difficulty with organization or memory, set out everything needed to accomplish their daily or weekly jobs without nagging or frustration on your part.
3. Let your kids’ teachers know of a special talent, knowledge, or expertise that they possess. Kids love when their teachers and classmates appreciate their uniqueness and ask them questions in a scheduled show and tell.
4. Let your kids lead. Join them in activities that they enjoy. Ask them what they’d like to play and enjoy how that process unfolds. You’ll be delighted and so will they!
5. This one’s a no-brainer, but we often forget to do it: Tell your kids you like them! Give a couple of reasons why you like them. Watch what happens!

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Current Parenting Trends


With the many demands of family life today, many busy and stressed parents are relying on current parenting trends not often favored or employed by parents in the past, namely TV Babysitting, Helicopter Parenting, and Child-Led Parenting to help the households to run more smoothly.

While I personally understand how difficult it is to satisfy your family’s needs as well as your own, I am, however, a proponent of a middle-of-the-road approach to each of these current parenting trends. Unusual times call for unusual methods but in moderation….that is the key to successful parent-child interactions and most important great parent-child relationships.


I think most moms and dads will agree that the TV can be an enticing babysitter. With so many entertaining, educational programs available today, permitting your kids to watch TV exposes and teaches them many new things they would not ordinarily come across at their young age in your home.
What is important when using the TV as a babysitter is to balance this popular current parenting trend with social interaction that is crucial to developing well-rounded kids.


I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “helicopter parenting”. This current parenting trend describes parents who hover over kids, ready to fly in and save the day for even the slightest issue. From arguing with teachers who they think have “offended” their kids, to making every choice and decision for their kids. How exhausting that would be for any parent and especially how embarrassing it would be for the kids. Children need to learn to make their own decisions and fight their own battles. It’s perfectly OK to step in, and sometimes interject yourself in some situations that you know that your kids could be physically or emotionally harmed. A good rule of thumb is to first ask your younger kids if they need some help in handling a tricky situation that you’re observing.


Child-Led Parenting is a current parenting trend when parents are super sensitive to their kids’ needs. If kids give a parent a hard time at the set bedtime, the parent would permit them to go to bed when they want. Mealtime is another example, kids would choose what they want to eat and when. The main idea with this current parenting trend is that kids are not machines and should be given freedom to make their own choices.

While I strongly believe that kids should be given 2-3 manageable choices of their parents’ choosing, but I can see that this parenting trend could be very disruptive to a smooth family schedule and environment. Young kids developmentally can’t possibly understand that a set mealtime and sleep schedule is necessary for the overall smooth running of the household. Although there are times when a concession is in good order, but not a steady diet of the kids setting the household rules! It can also present an undesirable situation where the kids rule the home, rather than the other way around! Remember, everything, every current parenting trend should
be employed with good judgement, discretion, and above all moderation.

What do you think about the current parenting trends? Do you employ any one of them? Are they successful in your given situation? How?

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Quality Conversations with Kids

imageListening to the quality conversations of my preschool granddaughter with her mom and dad amazes me with her use of big words in correct context. It started me wondering about quality vs quantity of words in young kids conversations with peers and adults. So I did a little research.

What I found out is a growing body of research conducted by Dr. Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University suggests that the quality conversations with kids and their parents is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears. It’s all about having fluid quality conversations with kids around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have a tea party, or using a play telephone to have conversation with dad at work. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek says that this is the stuff from which great language is made.

In a previous University of Kansas study found that in quality conversations with kids, parental tone, responsiveness, and use of symbols affected a child’s I.Q. and vocabulary. So what can you do as a busy parent daily with your kids to further the quality of language in conversations? The answer is easy and doable: speak in diverse ways: use different verb tenses and elaborate more. Instead of just saying “the man”, try adding adjectives:”the big, tall young man”. These two tips will help your kid’s cognitive development. Breakfast, lunch and/or dinner is a great time to start modeling interactive quality conversations with kids.Include your kids in your family discussions, no matter how young they are. Rephrase sentences using simpler words for your toddlers so they can have an understanding of your discussions. What a powerful thing to do to raise the quality not only of their language but also of their knowledge and their understanding of words.

I always say:”Listen, really listen to your kids and what they have to say. If you don’t listen to the little things they say to you when they’re little, they won’t share the big things when they’re older.” Now, I would like to add to this and say:
“Talk to your kids, really talk to them and include them in your family time quality conversations with kids!” Observe what happens. Their vocabulary and understanding of words will grow and have meaning in their own conversations with you and others. And sometimes their use of words in context with amaze you and sometimes provide you with a good laugh!

A couple of weeks ago when I was babysitting my 3 year old granddaughter, she asked for what she terms a midnight snack before she goes to bed. We had a late dinner that evening so I filled her favorite blue cereal bowl up about only 1/4 full with her most liked cereal. To my surprise she said to me:
“Gigi, you’re ‘killing’me! Please give me more. I’m really, really hungry!” To my amazement, she heard, learned, and understood how to use this unexpected phrase in correct, perfect context. I wonder still where she learned that particular phrase. But what I do know for certain is that she or someone else was engaging in a conversation with someone that was not pleased in anyway, shape, or form, and she learned through that interaction how to use those words appropriately.

A note to the wise parent: Be careful and mindful of the particular words you share in your quality conversations with kids! If you don’t they may come back someday and haunt you! And by the way:”Happy Halloween!”

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The Joy of the Present


The joy of being occurs in the present!

We  all want true joy in our lives! So, what’s the problem? Why don’t we have the joy and happiness that we seek to enjoy fulfilled lives?

We all spend a great deal of our lives hoping and dreaming about how wonderful our lives would be if only we lost those extra pounds, had a rewarding job, enjoyed well behaved kids, or perhaps owned a large bank account. Some of us on the other hand remenisce how wonderful things were when we were younger, when we didn’t have these health issues, and when there was time when all we had to do was put our minds to do something, and miraculously we had all the energy and resources to make it all come about in a timely manner.  At times we fluctuate between these 2 types of thinking and we’re all wrapped up in knots, stopped in our tracks, and not knowing what to do now, or where to turn. We all falsely believe that our joy depends on others and situations beyond our control, or worst yet, on fate! When we subscribe to this destructive mindset, we can’t possibily realize how amazing our lives are right now.

To clarify things just a bit, the past is just the past – whether it was 10 seconds, 10 minutes, or 10 years ago and the future is not real!; it hasn’t occured yet, and the chances that it turns out how we envisioned is slim to none. When our thoughts are primarily in the past or future, we rob ourselves of endless possibilities by not totally living in the present. Living in the present is a state of mind, not unlike happiness. Living in the future is easy because we believe all our hopes and dreams will come true at some time or other. This illusion may keep us going for a while, but as illisuions go, they may never, ever come into being.We can’t count on the future to provide the environment that offers us the satisfaction that we currently lack. While we’re planning to be happy in the future, other things happen, both good and bad. Life happens! Life doesn’t stand still because we’ve made up our minds that things as we’ve planned them will turn out exactly the way we want. Time is only an illusion. The more we are focused  on either past or future events, the more we miss the abundance that is right in front of us all along.

The joy of being occurs in the present!





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A Kids’ Best Gift


Ever wonder what the best gift you can give your kids? The most powerful motivator and a kids best gift is you and your undivided attention. The moments you spend talking and listening to your kids will make them feel loved and encouraged to do their best. Your kids  have a profound desire for you to be there for them. No matter what you d0, it is never enough—-if you neglect just being there with and for them totally in the moment when you are both together.

Your usual loving gifts for your kids come in guises of presenting them with new and cutting information, providing them with enrichment activities, and giving them every possible material thing in your power. However, all these wonderful things are not what they really need or want: YOU! You think that these gifts  will satisfy their desires and make you feel better. The reality of the situation is that all you do and give them is not what they truly desire. Furthermore, You will not feel as complete or validated in all this “doing” as you once thought.

Take a moment and ask yourself what do your kids really need and want from you? What is the best gift you can give  your kids?

Ask them if you’re not quite sure. They will tell you every time. Prepare yourself for the answers. They may surprise you!

In a recent survey,  the fact that only 10% percent of the kids surveyed said they wished for more time with mom and 15% answered that they wanted more time with dad. Because your full attention is what kids need and the best gift you can give them, it is so important to make every effort to give more attention during the time you spend with them. Quality is much more important than quantity of time. The survey also revealed that what most kids wished that their moms and dads are less stressed and tired when they are together. Only 2% of the parents guessed that the kids would respond in that way!

You have in your repertoire all the knowledge and  strategies needed to  give your kids the best gift ever: YOU! Don’t ever underestimate your influence to get your kids excited and motivated. That excitement can turn into the necessary motivation that will last far into their wonderful future.

Give the best gift to your kids: YOU! —– The gift that doesn’t cost anything but is so priceless! 

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10 Steps to Build a Kids’ Motivation

Tools for Learning ApprovedThe desire to become motivated comes early in life. Kids naturally want to compete, where they stand with others, and desire real goals even if they are only short term. Few Pre-K students are reluctant learners; The real problem of motivation for academic learning usually comes much later.

Using theses 10 steps to build a kids motivation will be a gradual, ongoing process requiring some insight and patience on your part. They must know what worthwhile effort is and must be assisted to discriminate between good and poor effort. Kids must come to realize that you approve of their best efforts even if they don’t always succeed. Appreciation motivates kids to do their best. They try harder when they know you are pleased with their hard work and achievement.

1. Expect the best from kids. Keep in mind their unique talents and needs. Tell them often: ” I knew you could do it!” “Always do your best!”

2. Set limits for acceptable behavior.  “After you finish your project/chores you can can watch your favorite show.”

3. Communicate confident expectations of success based on individual potential. “You played so nicely in school today, I’m sure your always be kind to your friends.”

4. Acknowledge kids’ feelings. Listen, really listen, to their fears, annoyances, and anger, as well as to their achievements and joys. Positive motivation requires that all emotional space not be occupied by any negative feelings. Allow your calmness to quiet any negative emotions.

5. Be specific when you priase children’s efforts. “Your handwriting is so neat and easy to read!” instead of ” Your writing looks good!”

6. Be consistent in your approval or disapproval. If kids are praised for something. the absence of comments the next time they repeat the same behavior may be misconstrued and taken as disapproval. If you ignore behavior that they have been reprimanded for before, it may be taken as permission to continue it.

7. Give many opportunities to make choices. Help kids to become independent with your support.

8. Give concrete rewards! Adults work for them:  money, promotions, and status. Kids, often, but not always, need such rewards. Too often, more is expected of kids than adults. Use your disctretion when choosing rewards. Tangible rewards alone though, often fail. They are most effective when coupled with intangible ones such as praise, a “high five”, or an enthusiatic pat on the back.

High Five

9. Set goals and celebrate kids’ achievements. This helps motivate them for their next goal.

10. Tell kids they are great!. Back up your words with actions. Show them you care about them everyday in everyway. Be there for them in the moment. Even if you are away at a conference or working late, let them know you will check on their progress in your absence.

Above all “Lighten Up!”   Kids always choose to be with a relaxed, less stressed parent or teacher, and value that model of behavior much more than a home-cooked meal, or a spotlessly clean home. Be good to yourself and your kids. Their motivation will flourish in your watchful eyes. Get them excited about the important things: eating healthy food, getting along with others, completing assigned work, and always putting forth their best effort always. That excitement will be the very thing that can turn into motivation that will last a lifetime for them!

Photo by Sean Dreilinger,,  – high five from an unknown cheering parent

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How Important Is Your Mother/Daughter Relationship?

Mother daughter relationships are special

Mother daughter relationships are special

Being a mom is hard work! It’s not just all the things on your to-do list, and never having enough time to do it all.  It’s also the feeling that what you’re doing or not doing will somehow harm your child, and where do you go for some direction?

A recent study from the University of  Georgia shed some light on this subject. It reported that even more than other family dynamics the mother/daughter relationship determines a girl’s future relationship skills and self-esteem. When mothers are not judgmental or critical of their daughters they are more likely to develop good social skills, and healthy attitudes towards food, as compared to less-supportive moms.

This study raises awareness of the mom’s role in the daughters’ self-views, mental health, and social graces. The mother/daughter relationship is important in a number of ways. It’s a girl’s first experience of an intimate relationship, and through this mother/daughter relationship, girl’s learn about trust, about connection and separation, about who they are as individuals, and putting another’s need before one’s own.

It’s all about communication to ensure a strong mother daughter relationship bond. Focus on the positive. Make the most of your converstaions; be construstive rather than critical. Focus on helping her enhance her decision-making skills rather than the error of her ways  from what’s she’s wearing to making social and emotional decisions.  Don’t focus on weight, focus on a healthy lifestyle and consider the mind, body, and spirit connection. Remember, even if you’re not talking directly to your daughter, she will pick up on and learn from what you say to yourself and others.


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5 Tips for Staying Sane as a Stay-At-Home Mom

If not completely exhausting, being a stay-at-home mom can be physically and emotionally challenging. The tasks of chasing after toddlers, constantly cleaning up, prepping dinners, juggling household chores, grocery shopping, and trying to console a crying infant can stress out even the strongest of moms. It’s important to take small steps to keep you  from losing your grip and stay balanced. In raising resilient, happy, physically and emotionally kids self-preservation is the key. No, this is not selfishness at all! After discussing this issue with moms who have made the important decision to be “career” stay-at-home parents I have tried and successful key tips for stay-at-home Moms.

5 Tips for Staying Sane as a Stay-at home Moms

1. Wake up early – before everyone else. Take this precious quiet time to exercise, shower, and prepare/plan for the day ahead.

2. Get out of the house with the kids. Run short errands together, have a picnic lunch in the park with other moms, unwind at the playground, go to the pool for a couple of hours before the kids’ naps, build a snowman, join a play group.Take a brisk walk. You get the picture! Socialization is imperative for emotional health for both moms and kids.

3. Prepare a daily schedule. Don’t put things off until they seem insurmountable tasks. However, don’t cram too many chores in any one day. Pace yourself. That’s the beauty of making a schedule and sticking to it. If you can, and it’s appropriate, include your children in the work to be done, even if it is in some small way. It only takes a few well designed designated moments to get on the ball.

4. Cut out a least one chore for your schedule. I successfully cut out ironing. I only bought wash and wear, wrinkle free clothes.  Perhaps get your partner on board. Give him/her a important chore that you absolutely dislike. Try it, it’s worth a try.

5. Take time for yourself. Take a class one evening a week. Rest when your kids rest, if at all possible. Get a babysitter and meet friends for lunch. It is important for you to find quality time for yourself, and develop your own interests.

6. You, more than anyone else, know your stressors. Think up a creative way to work around , rearrange your schedule, and relieve unnecessary stress from your busy life. Above all be flexible!

I hope these tips will help you gain more time and stay sane while being a stay-at-home Mom!

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7 Best Parenting Inspirational Sayings

Are you being a positive influence on your kids? Even when you try, and give it your all, you still may find yourself in the middle of uncontrolled circumstances and old ways of doing things. The most important way to love and nurture your kids is to reflect a positive attitude. This is crucial because your children look up to you and say what you say, and do what you do. You are the most important influence in their little lives.

In striving to be a positive role model for your kids my pick for the 7 Best Parenting Inspirational Sayings may help you. Take some time to read them, think about them, and reflect how you can incorporate  at least one or two of them into your daily life with your kids. You may be delightfully surprised at the unexpected results!

1. One thing I know for sure about raising children is that every single day a kid needs discipline….but also every single day a kid needs a break. —–Anne Larmott

2. There are only two lasting bequests you can give your children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.—–Goethe

3. Tell me I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me, and I learn. —–Benjamin Franklin

4. The most beautiful sight in the world is a little child going confidently down the road of life after you have shown him the way.—–Confucius

5. Learn to look at the world as your kids do, and you’ll see an entire universe of new possibilities.—–Unknown

6. The most important thing is to teach a child that good can always triumph over evil. —–Walt Disney

7.  All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better. —–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Parents, Do You Wish Your kids Were Different?

Parents, it’s natural to expect your children to take after you: fun-loving, responsible, balanced, appropriate in all situations. It’s difficult for parents to see their own children having problems of any kind: low grades, being shy in social situations, or exhibiting occasional inappropriate behaviors in social situations but keep your kids in mind. It is a bit narcissistic to want them to be exactly like you, or wanting them to be perfect. Accept your children’s uniqueness, and cherish them for who they are and not what you want them to be. Realize that they are good kids, and let go of the things that you think they’re not.

When you catch yourself wishing that your kids were different: “Why is she so loud and rough?” “Why is he so obnoxious in school?” “Why can’t she keep friends?” “Why is he so quiet and shy?, try to see things from your kids’ point of view. How would you feel if someone was always hovering over you and telling you to do this and that, this way and that way? And be honest with yourself; is being like you in their best interest? Ask yourself: “Am I being so hard on my kids because I didn’t accomplish certain things when I was young because I didn’t have the capabilities or the opportunities?”

I not advocating that you ignore behaviors that harm your kids or others. It is your responsibility as a parent to teach your kids right from wrong, and respect for themselves and others. Letting kids be kids, and be themselves is important in their development. It also helps you get a better perspective of what a great parent you really are, and how extraordinarily OK your kids truly are! It also rids you of any guilt that your kids are not measuring up to an arbitrary standard of yours. Without all the negativity to get in the way of a positive relationship with them, you can successfully focus on getting to know each of your “one-of-a-kind” kids even better.

If you identify yourself living vicariously through your children, you may try to manipulate them into filling the sense of lack in your own life. It is manifested when you say: “I want you to achieve what I never did.” “I want you to receive straight A’s so you’re accepted into an Ivy League University so I can be proud of you.” “I know what’s best for you.” “Don’t disappoint me.” The ego’s dysfunction comes to light with statements like these. Opposition from your kids in similar situations gives you, sadly, a renewed force to continue this inappropriate behavior. Think about what you’re saying and doing to your kids. The relationship foundation that you have and maintain with them sets the tone for all other relationships in their lives.

Expecting to live vicariously through your children isn’t fair to them or you. It’s your responsibility and totally up to you to discover the resources within you to make you happy, and not rely on your children to do so.

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