The Little Things

dad with kids on beachEvery once in a while, I read something about connecting with our kids that stops me in my tracks.

I’m reprinting an article today that did just that. It reminds me how important the little (and the not-so-little) things are to our kids – and to life. Rachel Martin of findingjoy.net wrote this piece. It appeared in the Huffington Post last week. Thank you, Rachel, for this reminder:

20 Things I Will Not Regret Doing with My Kids

1. Tucking them into bed at night. Someday, they’ll be too big and I won’t get that moment back. Saying goodnight, pulling up the covers and kissing their heads is a gift.

2. Telling them I love them. Start this when they’re young. “I love you” is a powerful three-word phrase that matters.

3. Listening to their stories. Their stories teach me about them and their hearts and what they love. I think of their stories as a way to learn more about them. And this is the real listening, not the distracted mom who wants to move onto the next thing on her never-ending to-do list.

4. Looking them in their eyes. Nothing tells another person you matter more than looking at them in the eyes while they talk. It shows that what they are saying truly is important to you. I want my kids to remember that there were times when their mother looked them in the eye and smiled. And for me, this often means shutting my laptop, putting down my phone, taking a break from my my to-do list and just giving them time.

5. Saying “yes” when it’s easier to say “no.” Like those times when I just want to keep to my agenda and they want to join in. Or for those late-night sleepovers. Or those times when I am simply tired and don’t want to walk up the stairs to say goodnight. Or for the extra story. Or to play a game. “Yes” simply matters.

6. Showing them new things. I can read to my kids about history or I can start to show them history. In August, when Grace, my 12-year-old, and I were in Mexico, it was such a cool experience to show Grace the Mayan ruins in Tulum. Now, I’m not saying go to Mexico, but there are things we can show them. Do science. Look at the stars. Go to the museum. Let them learn and see the world.

7. Teaching them to say “please” and “thank you.” No explanation needed. Politeness matters.

8. Letting them help even if it means it takes longer for me. Does it take longer to wash the windows if I’m teaching my children how to wash the windows? Yes. Same with laundry, cooking, cleaning, folding and more. But they need to learn — these are life skills. I would be doing them a disservice by NOT teaching them and letting them help.

9. Saying “no” to things even when it would be easier to say “yes.” There are movies and television shows that I don’t let my kids watch. Books that I want them to wait to read. iPods and computers that are only allowed on the main level. Sometimes, the answer needs to be “no” — even if everyone else’s answer seems to be yes.

10. Laughing with them. Or smiling with them. Or having fun with them. I simply want them to know I love being around them. This is the aspect of liking my kids, not just loving them. I want them to know both.

11. Making them learn the value of work. I want my kids to know that work matters and that a good work ethic — where you go above and beyond and don’t complain — is an excellent skill. My kids know how to do laundry, to sweep the floor, to bring their dishes over, to clean their rooms, to make their beds and so on. I will never regret teaching them the value of work.

12. Rocking them to sleep. Holding their hand. Giving them a kiss. I love them. Even after those days where they drive me a bit crazy and I wonder what in the world I’m doing. Those little acts of love are important life acts of love.

13. Saying I’m sorry. Because let’s face it — I’m not perfect. I mess up. I make mistakes. So, they need to hear me say I’m sorry and that I love them and that they’re important to me. So, that means sometimes I will say “I’m sorry.”

14. Teaching them to be respectful of others. This. And this again. And this. I want my kids to respect others. To listen to them, to learn and to not judge. This starts with me teaching them this skill and me being respectful of them. Often, it is looking for the good first and giving grace.

15. Encouraging them to take risks. Sometimes, the fear is the biggest obstacle. Kids need to learn to look at the fear and to push through the fear.

16. Not holding onto a record of wrongs. Each day is a new day. Learn from the past, but don’t hold onto the past. I want to see the good first and not all the negative — so often, that means letting go of the record of wrongs.

17. Letting them see me thrive. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking I was a good mom, but a not-too-happy and joyful mom. They need to see me thrive and be interested in things and expand my creativity as well.

18. Teaching them compassion. I want them to see the world beyond me and ourselves. I want them to give back, to care about others and to be a person of change.

19. Showing them that the stuff doesn’t matter. Nothing in Target really matters. Nor the stuff on the shelves. Or the clothes one wears. Or the fancy birthday parties. If the stuff clouds the vision then the relationships are lost. Relationships first. Stuff after that.

20. Letting them grow up. Sigh. This. It has to be done. So, I look back with nostalgia, embrace today and look forward to tomorrow. They’ll grow. And I’ll savor the moments that we’re blessed to share.

Those are just 20 things I won’t regret doing with my kids. Simple things, really. They’re the living intentional type things that sometimes just need to be written down.

This post originally appeared on Finding Joy.

Connecting to Your Child’s Teacher

Ever wonder what it really takes to start out on the right foot with your child’s elementary teacher?

While many parents think it means volunteering in the classroom and showing up for parent-teacher conferences, building a positive relationship with teachers actually begins with what you do at home to connect to your child’s education.

kids in classroomTeachers know which families support their children’s learning — and which do not. That’s because it shows up in the classroom every day through students’ work and the stories they tell. Just as your kids talk about school at home, children come to school innocently sharing stories about what mom or dad said about school, homework and teachers. And research shows, not surprisingly, that teachers have higher expectations for students whose parents are involved in their child’s education in productive ways.

Here are four ways you can show respect for and build a positive relationship with your child’s teacher:

1. Do your part: Teachers need your help with the basics and get frustrated when that doesn’t happen: Fill out school forms before the deadline – teachers and schools need this information to connect with your child; read the teacher’s newsletter so you know what’s going on in the classroom; get your kids to school on time every day; and fuel their little brains and bodies for learning. Make sure your children get 10-11 hours of sleep and eat a healthy breakfast every morning (protein, healthy carbs and less sugar) so they can concentrate, process and retrieve information for six and a half hours.  Sleep and diet impact your child’s behavior and learning more than most of us realize. Teachers notice and appreciate when parents prioritize these basic needs.

2. Connect with your child’s reading and homework: 

dad reading kids

Teachers also know which parents are reading with their kids and supporting homework in productive ways. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children(and their teachers) is reading to, with or in front of them throughout their elementary years. Finding just 15 minutes to read every day influences your child in many ways. Read the class newsletter or website so you can reinforce at home what your kids are learning at school. Make sure homework is done, but don’t do it yourself – or correct it. Homework helps teachers identify which kids understand the material and which need a reteach.

3. Communicate effectively: Everything you write or say to your child’s teacher either strengthens or weakens the bridge you’re building. How you communicate with teachers plays a big role in whether your concerns are heard — and how quickly they are addressed. Use my Power of P3 to keep messages focused and productive. Start out on a Positive note whether you’re communicating via note, email, phone or in person. Be Professional (polite and respectful in your observations and feelings) and Persistent when needed. Discuss difficult issues on the phone or in parent-teacher conferences, not via P3email. And never go over the teacher’s head without letting him or her know you plan to do so. It’s not always easy to follow P3, especially if you feel frustrated about your child’s situation. But when blame and accusations seep into your communication, teachers will defend their actions rather than respond to your concerns.

4. Say “thank you” in words and actions: With higher standards, new teacher evaluations, and endless testing, teachers are under a lot of pressure today. Acknowledge and support their efforts by sending a thank-you note or saying thanks when you see them. Even better, have your child write a thank-you note. If you can, send in materials when teachers ask for them. Most teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies and appreciate whatever parents can give. And if you do have the time to volunteer in the classroom or at school, be as helpful as you can.

Showing up for conferences and volunteering in the classroom are important, but need to be combined with the above to build a positive relationship with your child’s teacher. And the beginning of a new school year is a perfect time to start.

(This article was written by ML Nichols and published in Books for Better Living on August 14, 2013)

Pinch me! Parents magazine features The Parent Backpack!

IMG_1349WOW!! Really? 

I can’t believe I’m reading a review of The Parent Backpack in Parents Magazine!

Can I get any luckier? Here’s what Parents magazine writer Kristen Kemp wrote on page 18 of the September back-to-school issue:
 
Every so often, I run across a book so good it belongs on every family’s shelf. That’s the case with The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5: How to Support Your Child’s Education, End Homework meltdowns, and Build Parent-Teacher Connections.
Author ML Nichols, director of nonprofit The Parent Connection, has written a guide for surviving and thriving in elementary school. She explains the system – from testing to special education to how administrators choose your kids’ next teacher. Best of all, she outlines whet to expect academically at different ages, defines fancy edu-terms, and offers advice for advocating for your child. Hopefully, you won’t need to contact the teacher and principal often – bit if you do, this book provides fantastic strategies.
THANK YOU Parents magazine and Kristen Kemp for this awesome review! And thank you, once again, to all the amazing teachers, parents, writers, friends and family who helped me make this book the best it could be. This would not have happened without you!

 

These next couple weeks will be exciting and nerve-wracking as kids and parents face a new school year. If you’d like to take a peek at the first chapter of The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5, you can do that here on my “Look Inside” pages. 

Better yet, if you’d like to buy a copy for yourself or someone you know, click on any outlet in the top right corner of this page. The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5 is available in paperback or as an e-book.

Still pinching myself…

 

ML

 

 

 

From Embarrassed to Proud: Emily’s View of Mom’s Book

 

It’s every 13-year-olds’ nightmare. Your mom or dad is featured in the newspaper. Or worse yet, becomes a published author.

That’s how my daughter Emily felt about her mom writing a book. Especially a book about parenting around schools and education.

But that was four to five years ago, when she was in middle school. Now that Emily is about to enter her senior year in high school, she feels differently.

But I had no idea how differently, until she told this story about The Parent Backpack at my first book launch gathering:

I cry every time I watch it. Thank you, Emily. I am so proud of you.

If you live in the Boston/Cape area and would like to hear more about The Parent Backpack, check here for locations, dates and times where I’ll be speaking.

And who knows, maybe Emily will show up and surprise us again!

 

The Parent Backpack Released!

launch photo with kids
It’s here!

The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5 is now available wherever books are sold – in print or ebook.

Here’s what other authors of parenting books are saying:

“This is a smart, wise, and practical book every parent of a young child should own. Read this beautifully composed trove of well sorted advice and enjoy with confidence your child’s elementary education.”

–Edward Hallowell, MD, best selling author of Driven to Distraction and The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness [Read more...]

It’s Summer – Let Them Slide…





lots of kids on slide…and swing and ride and build. Then play some more.

More than anything else, kids need time to play, especially in the summer months when unstructured time is abundant. Play is how children learn. How they process, discover, and master life skills. [Read more...]

School Buses & Seat Belts

bus with kids in backIt’s the question new parents with incoming kindergartners ask more than any other.

“Why aren’t there seat belts on school buses? Is my child safe?”

It’s a logical question. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends – and many states now require – booster seats in cars until a child is 4 ft. 9 in. and at least eight years old. That’s second or third grade for most kids. So why aren’t seat belts required on school buses? [Read more...]

Dodging Hatred & Prejudice

jackie 42If your middle or high school kids haven’t seen the movie 42 yet – make sure they do.  And see it yourself, too.

Predictable it is. But the historical film of Jackie Robinson’s journey to become the world’s first African American major league baseball player has a fabulous message for older kids – and adults. Some schools are making it a year end field trip for social studies or history class. [Read more...]

Getting Kids Organized

I’ve been there. Maybe you have too.

You walk into a neighbor or friend’s home and think, “Ugh. How can this house look immaculate when she has three kids and works full time!?”

What keeps that home so together is a trait called “executive functioning.” It’s a skill – planning, organizing and completing simple or complex tasks – that some of us have more DNA for than others.backpack messIt’s also a trait that our children inherit that either wrecks havoc on schoolwork, desks, and backpacks – or propels them straight to the exemplary column. [Read more...]

Top 10 Parent Resources

dad-and-mom-on-computer2It’s hard to believe that kids are back to school already. Amazing how summer gets shorter and shorter every year.

To help your family get off to a great school start this fall, I’ve created a Parent Resource page with some terrific websites related to school, learning and education. [Read more...]