Taking Responsibility- You are the sum of your choices.

Sometimes life is ironic. Today is one of those days. Writing this blog has been a long time goal, but like many goals, I didn’t realize how much work it would entail. Writing is fairly easy for me, but coming up with ideas about what to write….that’s a whole different ball game! I now keep a running list as ideas come to me (they usually do when I am in public watching parents with their kids). I take that list and put the title in my drafts with a picture or quote that will help remind me where I was planning to go with the topic. So….. this topic has been sitting in my drafts for about 5 weeks. The funny thing- I am writing about how choices affect your life on the day our president is facing Impeachment. Huh. I guess we get to see how choices affect people around us every day!

Challenges, decisions, choices….. how did we get here and how can we use this in our parenting? The fact is our lives are a summation of our choices. Some may want to argue this point, saying we didn’t choose to have some of the issues we have, but along the way, we made a choice that put the issue in our path. The true question is- can we teach this concept to our children? Of course we can! It’s called taking responsibility.

When children are very small, it is our job to keep them safe and protected. Some of us forget that as our kids grow up, they need learn to face the consequences of those choices. I believe these parents are termed “helicopter” parents. You will find them buzzing around their children’s life at every age providing them with excuses and blaming anyone else for any poor choices their kids make. This is a mistake.

People need to face up to their mistakes. Children included. Haven’t you heard, “Experience is the best teacher”? We remember the mistakes we made more often and more deeply that the perfect decision made at the exact correct moment. Why is that? We have a bigger lesson to learn from mistakes. Don’t be afraid to allow your children to goof up once in awhile.

I remember having this discussion with my husband years ago as our first born was a stereotypical first born -people pleaser who always wanted to do everything “right”. He had reached the ripe age of 14 or 15 and I said to my husband, “We really need him to make a big mistake while he is still at home and we can help him learn that he will recover from it.” My husband looked at me with a bit of horror in his eyes and then realized what I was saying was true! Our son did screw up pretty big not too long after this discussion. Someone at school told him you could buy an app for your phone & if you deleted it the same day, you wouldn’t have to pay for the app. HAHAHAHA! $500 cell phone bill in one month!

It was a great learning opportunity. He had to look his dad and me in the eye and tell us he had downloaded all of those apps. He took responsibility. First and foremost- my son learned he could mess up and we still loved him. Next, he learned the responsibility of paying off a bill. He worked extra chores around the house for 3 or 4 months to pay that off. He learned the feeling of pride and accomplishment. We congratulated him for following through. He learned tenacity.

Taking responsibility for your actions, tenacity, persistence, control over your choices…. These are some skills many adults are challenged by. My son took a big step toward learning all of those lessons in this one big mistake.

The next time you are faced with your child stuck in a bit of hot water, don’t be afraid to let them stew. You are allowing them to grow up. You are allowing them the opportunity to realize their choices make their consequences. Both good and bad. Remember, we could use more people in the world who have learned that lesson.

Fostering Independence- It’s not easy!

I have read multiple times the main goal of parenting is to make our children able to live without us. It is also the hardest part of parenthood. We know if we do our job correctly, our children will one day leave the nest.

Fostering independence in your children is a lot like math….. one skill leads to another. Think about how young we begin these lessons with our babies! The first lesson is often having children learn how to put themselves to sleep. The very first step of independence!

We follow up by helping our kids learn to get dressed independently, use the bathroom on their own, feed themselves, and so much more! It can be a wild ride helping your child learn a skill that you could do for them in 1/4 of the time it takes them to complete on their own. Helloooooooo- how about cleaning their rooms? I know I could have finished that task 12 times by the time my kids got through the task once. Of course, I don’t rediscover toys that I forgot I had along the way. As parents, it is our job to step back to allow our kids to learn and yes, sometimes fail.

There are so many lessons to learn from failing a task. We teach responsibility to our children for the failure. Don’t blame someone else when you are unable to do something. Buckle down, try again and again until the skill is mastered. Don’t practice until you are good, practice until you can’t fail. Take responsibility for mistakes. By doing this, we take control of the situation and place the fixing in our own hands. If we blame someone or something else for our failures, then we no longer have control of fixing and mastering that issue. Don’t take away the ability from your child to overcome something that has been difficult for them! These are the skills that will serve them well in the future!

There will be times when we need to step back in to help out our children. We never want the frustration level of our children to overwhelm our kids. Every child will have a different level of tolerance for difficult tasks. Some kids love tackling a challenge, others will need to be coached through unbuttoning clothes, or getting those shoe on the “right” feet. Consistency is key. Don’t jump in to help because you are running short on time. Plan ahead to allow for your child to have the opportunity to take the tasks they are willing to try. YEP! Sometimes this takes a lot of time! But, not quite as much time as following your child into a sports locker room to help them get dressed at age 10 because you couldn’t find time when they were younger. I know you can do it!!

What do you do if your child is struggling in a particular area? As always, answers to this issue vary. Is the task they are struggling with related to the health and well-being? Perhaps they are choosing to eat unhealthy foods. Maybe they don’t want to go to bed at a time to give them adequate sleep. It could be that they are having trouble using the bathroom when they need. What do you do then? The health of your child comes first. Ask for help from your pediatrician if you are able. Attend Early Childhood Family Education classes and talk with the parent educator. Ask parent friends for suggestions.

Remember- any tasks relating to the health of your child are not negotiable. Children need to go to bed. Bed time is only chosen by children on special occasions. Kids need to eat foods that are good for them. They must drink water- lots of it! They need to use the bathroom. These items are a must because you care about your child’s health.

When you child needs some decision making power- let them pick out their shirt, socks, or pajamas. You will have many opportunities to have your children flex their decision making skills. Decisions regarding the health of their bodies is not one of those areas.

Independence! It’s the goal of parenting. Sitting on the other side of the fence, with children who are entering adulthood, I can tell you that sometimes it’s painful knowing my kids don’t need me the same way they did when they were little. I have never experienced a more satisfying feeling than seeing them handle difficulties in their lives. The marathon was worth it. It will be for you as well.

Love Lessons in Early Childhood

The people who love you don’t treat you badly. Love doesn’t hurt.

~Oprah Winfrey

The lessons we learn about relationships and how they work (or sometimes don’t work) begin very early on in life. Research says that children feel secure when they see their parents hugging, holding hands, or being generally supportive of each other. The first love lessons children will learn will be the ones they learn from watching how their parents treat each other.

As kids grow a bit older, they branch out with relationships. They make first friends and develop favorite playmates. In the preschool setting, we often get to hear who kids will be marrying when they get older. Often, they choose a classmate they enjoy being around and they plan the wedding for two or three weeks down the road when they are “really” old. As staff, we may smile or even laugh a bit at kids develop their first love interest at school. In reality, there are many lessons to be learned from these first relationships.

How many times have you heard a little girl complain that a little boy is “mean” to her and he may pull her hair, or take away toys that she is playing with? How many of those times did the adult listening to the little girl say, “He must like you!” Stop for a moment to consider the message sent to that little girl. To be loved is to be picked on, physically hurt, or made to feel bad. I bet that isn’t exactly what the adult meant to teach the little girl. For some reason, this lesson has been passed on from generation to generation. Maybe our generation can be the one who puts an end to this lesson.

How about we say, “He is looking for attention in ways that aren’t nice. You can use your words to tell him that.” Teach her to protect herself from being treated inappropriately. She can say directly to the little boy, “That hurts me (my feelings) and I don’t like it. Please stop.” If this reaction is not helping her end the behavior, teach her to engage an adult to help her. With this lesson, we can tell our children that love shouldn’t hurt. People who care about us want us to be happy and feel good. We also taught her to stand up for herself, and to ask for help when she needs it. All of these skills are vital over the course of a lifetime.

The secondary benefit of this lesson for our daughters is teaching young boys they can grow up to be good men. My boys have been swimming in the dating sea for several years, and they find that many women aren’t interested in long term relationships because they are “too nice”. Seriously? Maybe if we can put a stop to girls thinking boys being mean to them is a sign of love, we can put a stop to women being attracted to men who treat them badly. We owe our children nothing less than believing love is a part of life that makes everything better. Think of the societal problems we could eliminate with this message to our kids!

Raising a Reader: Learn from my Struggle

You can find magic where ever you look. Sit back and relax all you need is a book.

Dr. Seuss

I have been an avid reader all of my life. I am the younger sister to a sibling who had a difficult time learning to read. Because I was ever present when he was working on reading…. I became a very young reader, and I never slowed down or looked back when it came to reading.

I thought my children would be the same as me. I modeled reading to them plenty! I had an environment rich with books as I had kept many of the books I owned in my childhood. I cherished lap time with my children and a book.

My first born was a lot like me. You know those first born kids are parent pleasers for quite awhile, so I believe he knew it made me happy to read to him. He took to reading quite easily and started reading the Harry Potter series in second grade. Yeah- I was confident I knew how to raise a reader.

And then, I had another child. This one didn’t like to sit still. He gave up his night time feeding early in his life, so that he wouldn’t have to sit on my lap. Once he had the ability to move- he was off! He was penned pinball by some family friends because he never stopped moving. We always knew when he got out of bed in the morning, as we would hear him running across the floor. Forget walking- running gets you there faster!

He didn’t have much interest in books. I put forth lots of effort to find the shortest books I could with the least amount of words to keep him interested in a book from start to finish. Ever heard of No David! By David Shannon? Yep- that was his favorite book. It has 60 words in the entire book. That was his limit.

We started reading only nights in our home when he was 7. I actually turned my non reader husband into a huge reader by doing this! My older son loved those nights and kept on his journey with Harry Potter. My younger son would try to sit in a chair to look at a book. I say try because he would literally complete an entire circle with his body on the chair while reading. Picture his feet where his head once was & his head nearly on the floor! It was his way of moving when we told him he needed to stay in his chair. We started with 10 minutes- we didn’t think sitting still for that short amount of time would be that difficult!

I didn’t give up. I bought him books about the activities he loved. I think we owed every hockey story on the planet! I battled his discouragement when he needed to read a book at school that was far too difficult for him by reading with him. I would read to him, and then with him, and then have him read by himself. This was all done with one page of the book. Repetition is supposed to help- right? Not with everyone.

In addition, my kids went to a small school and teachers, staff, and the librarian would compare my kids and their reading ability. Some even compared my youngest son to me when I was in school there. Geesh. That was tough on him! We didn’t do comparisons in our house. We reminded him that everyone had strengths and weaknesses. We loved him through the hard times and he continued to work on his reading skill. In high school, he chose to take a literature class- it was short novels.but I took that as a small victory!

My youngest is nearly 23 now. He still wouldn’t choose reading as a way to fill his spare time, but he recently became interested in reading John Maxwell leadership books and has been working his way through those. I asked him recently if he thought there was anything more I could have done to help him with his reading challenges. He said “IDK. Maybe read to me more?” He obviously doesn’t remember the struggles we had when he was young trying to read to him. I thought a bit about what things I never tried with him. Maybe I could have read with him on the trampoline? A little weird, but not impossible. Jump up and down and read. It might have worked. I could have tried reading to him when he was tired enough to begin sleeping. I could have read on car rides while my husband drove.

I guess the message is to be creative with your kids. Realize they will be individuals and may not be anything like you. No matter what- love them through the struggles. Don’t forget to forgive yourself when you feel like you should have done more.

Why Do I (as a parent) Have Homework?


“If John Lennon was right that life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans, parenting is what happens when everything is flipped over and spilling everywhere and you can’t find a towel or a sponge or your “inside” voice.”

Kelly Currigan author of Lift

You have just gotten home from an exceedingly exhausting day of work after picking up the kids, and now you are doing your best to tackle dinner before you run the kids to music lessons or practice, or whatever new activity they MUST do tonight. That’s when IT happens…….

Your child pulls out homework. It’s a science kit that the entire family should work on together, or an art project that you need to find all of the supplies for, or you have been assigned parent/child reading time. You can’t help yourself- you think “I already graduated- why do I need to do homework?” In my case, I was working on my Master’s degree while my kids were still in school as many educators do. Inside my head, I would scream at the top of my lungs, “I don’t have time to do your homework project!” On the outside, I would plaster a fake smile on my face and do my best to talk my husband into working on the science kit.

He often did help with the science kits. I always tackled the spelling words and sentences. He would also take responsibility for math help for the kids. We survived IT by dividing and conquering the tasks that seemed overwhelming and far too much to ask of parents who are doing their best to get through the tasks of parenting. At the time, we struggled, but we did the science kits, the art projects, and the family interviews or family trees that came home with them in seemingly endless supply.

Our boys are 26 and 22 now. Our parenting duties are greatly changed and severely diminished. I often tell people I am a semi-retired parent as my boys are in the stage of life where they want to figure things out on their own. You know what is surprising? I actually miss the chaos of life at night when we were working so hard to do all that we expected of ourselves to be the best parents we knew how to be. Not too long ago, my older son stopped by to visit. Over dinner, (HEY! He did visit after all!) He talked about his memories of his dad and me working on the crazy dioramas, science projects, and, of course, the last minute run to the store for supplies at 8:00 because they were needed for the next day at school. He said, “Thank you. I know I would not be where I am today if you hadn’t done all of those things for me.”

Yep! It was worth it. The next time you are screaming inside your head about the fact that you are too darn old for homework, remember that this too shall pass. Do your very best. One day, you will also see it was worth all of the effort.

What can They Learn from That?

I think it’s very important — no matter what you may do professionally — to keep alive some of the healthy interests of your youth.
Children’s play is not just kids’ stuff. Children’s play is rather the stuff of most future inventions.

~ Mr. Fred Rogers

In the world of preschool education, we often get asked questions about what children are learning from the daily activities in class that can be seen as “play”. Recently, we spent a good part of class playing board games such as Chutes and Ladders and Candyland.

From playing board games, children can learn how to take turns, follow directions, patience (while waiting for their turn), sportsmanship, as well as colors, numbers, and shapes that they will need to know when they get to Kindergarten!

Recently, in our office, the older adults (like me) were fondly remembering playing games and having game night with our own children when they were young. One of the younger staff members was talking about playing Memory with her 3 year old girls and said “It was hard!” I shared a tip from this older mom to her…. It’s much easier when beginning to play games with your children to shorten the game a bit. Try taking out 5-1o matching sets with the Memory game and start with that. Each time you play, add an extra set or two and you will be amazed at how quickly you will be using the whole set of cards to play the game!

Take time to get down on the floor (or sit at the table) to play games with your children. Your modeling of the aforementioned skills as well as the time spent with your children will be some of the greatest lessons you can give to your children and you will have fun!

The Journey Begins

“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.”
—Sue Atkins

We at Esko Community Education understand how challenging parenting can be. Our staff consists of mothers, fathers, grandpas, and grandmas with children ranging in age from newborn to over 30. We are here to provide you with tidbits of knowledge when you need them, motivation for the difficult days, and give you a few laughs along the way.

With a staff who hold degrees in Early Childhood Education, Educational Leadership, Journalism, Environmental Education, and a few master’s degrees in the school of hard knocks, we hope to provide you encouragement for the most difficult job you will ever love!

Buckle up! It’s going to be a great ride!