The Best Parenting Resource You Probably Already Have and Never Use.

Share Button

Dear Readers,

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

Index Card Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Check your junk drawer, or perhaps your nightstand. Maybe you’re organized enough to keep it neatly stored in your home office. That forgotten pack of index cards can change your life.

Simple, right? That’s the point.  As modern parents, we’ve all been conditioned to look for digital solutions to create efficiency and keep things “interesting” for our kids.  We rely on Youtube videos, talking toys, digital apps and animated websites to help them learn everything from foreign languages to math concepts.  That’s great.  But the result of all of that beautifully produced noise is an ever increasing expectation from our kids that learning requires Hollywood worthy special effects that are more character than content driven. Case in point, most television programs on Disney Jr., Nick Jr. and even (sigh) PBS.  In four years of faithfully watching Go, Diego Go!, I think my boys probably picked up less than five words of Spanish.  But they could spot (and request) his face stamped on a product at Walmart fifty yards away!  Note to Nick Jr., mission accomplished!

I believe that the best way to break through digital noise is to strategically incorporate old school learning methods into our parenting toolkit.  There is no substitute for taking our kids to an actual library or bookstore and helping them to pick out books.  The online e-book shopping experience, though convenient, cannot replace the sensory thrill of walking around a room and selecting tangible options in unique shapes and sizes.  Or finding out that there are ten books available on a child’s favorite subject and actually sitting there reading through them together.  I love the library!  But back to index cards…

Why Index Cards?  Because they are the perfect way to teach and review any factual concept on a regular basis.  Consistency is king.  I credit Index cards with helping me pass the bar exam. Twice.  With helping me memorize scripture during my downtime.  With helping me teach my children to read.  With helping me increase my sons’ speed in calculating math facts.  With helping me to review Mandarin characters for their Chinese lessons.  With helping me create simple to-do lists to remember to do all of the above.  The possibilities are endless.  In 5-10 minutes a day, index cards can help you teach your child just about anything.   Why not just buy colorful flashcards to do the same thing?  I do.  If you’re reviewing a concept that is picture driven like “flags of the world” or “Animals of the Amazon” then a trip to the local Dollar Store for flash cards could save you time and produce the same result.  However, there is something to be said for taking the time to write or cut and paste the image on the index card by yourself or with your child. You become more invested in following through and it shows your children that you value the information enough to create the learning tool to provide it.   Plus, the simplicity of your handwriting on a basic index card allows your child to focus on the information without getting distracted by how it is delivered.  No sound effects, kid-friendly fonts or 3D images required.

What have you been wanting to teach your child that they won’t learn in school?

Black History figures, Presidents of the United States, complex spelling words, Bible Verses etc.  The list is only limited by your willingness to create it.  If your child is struggling with a subject in school, ask their teacher for the concepts to review and make the cards yourself.  Just create the cards and go through them with your child for five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night.  Or just set aside ten minutes once a day to review.  Challenge your child to improve their response time daily.  What starts as a ten minute task will quickly become a 2-3 minute review.

Try it and let me know how it goes!



Five Parenting Lessons I’ve Learned from my Husband!

Share Button

Dear Readers,

 Like a lot of men I know, my husband has little interest in the everyday logistics of parenting our three children.  If you ask him the content of the boys’ lunchboxes, or our daughter’s favorite pair of shoes, he will quickly point you to me and likely wonder why you asked him in the first place.  Yes, the mundane day-to-day of the parenting grind is my domain.  But lest you label him an absentee father, he is in fact very involved in shaping the big picture of our children’s development.    Here are five lessons he’s taught me through the years:

1) To raise independent kids, you have to let them fail.  The lesson is in trying.  Recently, our family visited a playground where I had just taken the children to play a few days earlier.  During my solo visit, I hovered over my 19 month old relentlessly and carried her almost  everywhere- from the car, up and down the slide, and across the uneven wood chips.  Exhausting! When Daddy joined us, she walked with him from the car, ran-fell-and ran again through the wood chips and navigated up and down the slide alone (with Daddy’s assistance). All with that infectious toddler smile that inspires viral videos and Iphone pictures to Grandma.   I stood there amazed!  I’ve been through this twice before, but each toddler always seems helpless until Daddy shows me how resilient they are.

What a difference a Daddy makes!

What a difference a Daddy makes!

2) Consistency trumps creativity. The golden rule of parenting is “be consistent.”  I’m a creative person and my children will tell you that I delight in coming up with unique consequences to steer their behavior.   Most of these ideas are useful motivators or deterrents for as long as I remember to follow through. Unfortunately, they usually only last until I get the next inspiration.  The result- me very frustrated and my kids staring at me blankly because I haven’t consistently followed through.  My husband’s methods are simple and predictable:  A calm word of rebuke and a physical consequence. Order is restored.  Depending on the nature of the offense, sometimes a raised voice rendered face to face is just what my boys need to submit to his authority and settle back into their appropriate roles.  His methods aren’t cutting edge, but his consistency makes them effective.

3)  Taking care of myself makes me a better person mother.  Such an easy cliche to preach.  Such a hard principle to live by.  When our daughter was born, my husband announced that he would not be getting up at night because he needed his rest for work.  As a dutiful stay at home mom,  I spent the next year getting up with her multiple times most nights so that everyone else could enjoy a restful sleep.  During the day, I was unfocused, resentful and counting the hours until bedtime.  Visions for this blog and numerous other projects were lost in the haze of trying to survive each day.   I finally reached the “cry it out” phase of exhaustion.   Ironically, my husband and sons complained bitterly about their lack of sleep during the two days it took to help my daughter sleep through the night.  I adjusted quite nicely and felt like I could face the world again because I wasn’t exhausted every moment. Dinners were planned ahead to avoid the daily six o’ clock  scramble, school assignments and family events were written on a master calendar(and completed on time!), my daughter adjusted to a set schedule during the day and night, and this blog became more than an ongoing idea.  All because I finally realized that I deserved to sleep too! This experience and several others along the way taught me the importance of taking care of myself.  Having children never robbed my husband of that instinct.  I’m still working on remembering it for myself.

4)  Childrearing is not a politically correct arena.  Sometimes you just have to tell your children like it is.   With the exception of age appropriate commentary, my husband has never been one to filter his thoughts on a matter for any audience- my children included.  He discusses his opinions on faith, race, politics, sports etc. with them freely.  At times I find the discussions cringeworthy.  Not because of the substance of what my husband says, but because of my desire to shield my children from certain truths about the world.  The result is that my sons know exactly where Daddy stands on trivial issues like the politics of college football or critical issues like the reality of their black maleness in our culture.  There is value in that honesty.  Intentional parenting requires parents to expose their children to difficult issues and give them a forum in the home to explore their thoughts about them.  It allows us to frame the discussion in a way that gives them understanding when these issues arise in news stories or discussions elsewhere.  It also allows us to remind them that our Bibliocentric worldview is the standard by which we live- whether or not others agree.

5) Embrace the contradictions.   My husband puts ice cream in our children’s fruit smoothies while I’m a stickler for natural ingredients.  Guess which one they drink first?! Do we need to get on the same page about our family nutrition standards? Probably.  Will this contradiction destroy our family? Unlikely.  My husband and I are not interchangeable, but we both have full authority to parent our children.  That means a certain level of flexibility on both of our parts is necessary.  I’ve also learned that the contradictions can be helpful.  See #1 for a recent example.  I remember telling my son once to go get the brush so I could “do” his hair.  He quickly responded that Daddy taught him that boys don’t “do” their hair, they “comb” or “brush” it.  It’s a small distinction that makes a huge difference in how my son views his masculine identity.  Ultimately, a good thing.   I’m thankful my husband is here to help him navigate those lessons that I don’t even know to teach.

What lessons have you learned from your husband or wife about parenting?



Easter is Not Enough…

Share Button

Dear Readers,

1909701_20764309832_7569_n

An 80s style Easter! My Dad, my brothers and I in the backyard on Easter. This is my favorite Easter dress.

The Easter season is the chosen time each year that Christians have set aside to remind each other and the world about the sacrifice of the cross and the hope of Jesus Christ.  It is truly the greatest story ever told and if you’ve never heard it, please click here to learn more.  This year, as I reflected on the mission of goodhometraining.com, I realized that Easter is really about transferring our faith to the next generation. It is an opportunity to intentionally remind our children what we believe and why it is important.  But truthfully, for Christians, Easter is not enough. If the only time our children hear the story of the Cross is when they are dressed in a  shirt and tie or a beautiful spring dress and amped up on chocolate bunnies, they are destined to reject it for the rest of the year.  As I told my sons during a recent bible study session, this is the core of what we believe. Period.  It all starts with the cross. Without accepting that truth, nothing else matters.  Not good behavior.  Not great academic performance. Not even Mommy and Daddy.  The lesson of the Cross is one that we must teach daily.

Traditions are important.  I celebrate Easter because I believe it is an excellent opportunity to reflect on who Jesus is and why his resurrection changed the course of human history for the world as a whole and for each of us individually.  Secondarily, as a parent, I also enjoy the tradition of  dressing my children up for church and creating Easter baskets for their enjoyment.  That said, I have no problem with Christians who reject the celebration of Easter or Christmas in favor of simply teaching their children the truth of the underlying events that these holidays reference.  The point is we have to be intentional about teaching our children the Gospel.  As Christians, it is the lifeblood of our existence and the most important duty that we are charged with as parents.  This Easter reminded me of that purpose.  I hope this blog post reminded you.  Enjoy your family this Easter.  Teach them everything you can about the Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let’s all make sure class is still in session tomorrow!



4 Tips for Surviving the Flu with Kids

Share Button

Dear Readers,

Image courtesy of Gameanna at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Gameanna at freedigitalphotos.net

For the past week I have existed on a steady diet of Ibuprofen, NyQuil, Robitussin, water and crackers. Yum! On the bright side, I lost five pounds!  Unfortunately, I had to endure the worst flu I’ve had in years while taking care of three children without any backup. Not easy.   The week before that I had a frightening scare with chest pain that ended up being the longest and most painful reflux episode of my life, so its been a rough few days.  Ever in learning mode, here are a few survival tips I picked up along the way.

1.  Green Smoothies are the new chicken noodle soup.  Much has been written about the nutritional benefits of kale/spinach + anything liquid.  I’m convinced. But the soothing sensation of a cold smoothie oozing down a terrible sore throat was a surprising way to get some energy calories and stay hydrated without the effort eating real food.  Before leaving for fifteen hour workdays, my hubby blessed me with a green smoothie each morning and it gave me just enough energy to survive until my 800mg Ibuprofen and cracker lunch.  By energy, I mean the willpower to sit up in bed and pretend to hold a conversation with my two older boys while they watched superhero cartoons and my toddler opened and closed every drawer in my bedroom.

2.  Kids love to compete, so let them.  My ten year old and seven year old boys were fierce competitors in the flu Olympics without even knowing it.  Who can put the perfect amount of ice in Mommy’s  Ginger Ale?  Who can run ten laps around the outside of the house and come back to Mommy first? Who can get your sister to eat the most Cheerios and clean off the kitchen table? Every contest was an irresistible distraction from the fact that they had to spend Spring Break on lock down.  The rewards were simple- tv and video game time that I was too sick to deny anyway.

3.  Peanut Butter and Jelly is a perfectly suitable dinner option.  Eat it. My daughter is a very picky eater.  Peanut Butter and Jelly is one of the few things she eats without protest.  It is also a meal my sons’ both perfected early in their cooking careers. Every evening, I got up long enough to load the dishwasher and washing machine, make myself some tea, and then turn the kitchen over to my boys to “make dinner.”  I’m still cleaning up smears in strange places.

4.  The Iphone Camera is an Excellent Lie Detector.  Instead of getting up to check on assigned chores, I let my Iphone in the hands of my sons do the checking for me.  Photographic evidence doesn’t lie- especially when the photographer has an incentive to use it against a sibling.  This gave me an idea of what state of disaster my house was in and whether my children were making any effort to clean up in my absence.

When the countdown to bedtime begins before breakfast, anything that can buy time for a sick caregiver is truly a tool for survival.  These four tips helped me make it through.  Do you have any tips that have worked for you?



Why Barack Obama is not my children’s role model and he shouldn’t be yours either.

Share Button

Dear Readers,

This is not a political post.  Far from it.  With all due respect to the President, this is not about him, it is about me.  President_Obama_is_not_your_child_s_role_model_-_CanvaThe first time my oldest son looked admiringly at a public figure, I realized that I needed to help him understand the difference between a role model and an inspiration.  The distinction is critical.  In our world, a role model is someone who influences you directly. They are a part of your life experience in a way that gives you  access to them as human beings, not just public images.  Obviously, parents are the primary role models most children will have because of sheer proximity and opportunity for influence.  My children have seen me express every emotion from joy to fury toward both them and the tv screen.  They know how I react when I hear bad news, what moves me to show kindness to others, how I interpret scripture for our daily lives, who I most admire, how I relate to their father, my treasured memories from childhood and my favorite things about each of them. We have even developed our own language to communicate our likes, dislikes and questions when we’re in public.  The last one became necessary when one of my sons loudly announced a pregnancy that wasn’t.  Yikes.

Beyond Mommy and Daddy, the world of role models expands to extended family, close friends, adults and older children at church  and other people who have a direct relationship with my children.  My children don’t have any role models who don’t know their name, their parents names and our general stance on childrearing.  These are the people who I allow to speak directly into my children’s lives with words of affirmation and if necessary, correction.  They are the people with whom we have chosen to walk through life.  Through the birth of children,  birthday celebrations, graduations, weddings, divorces, illnesses and other life milestones.  The inner circle.  They don’t have to be our best friends, our even people we speak to regularly.  But they are people we know and trust.   Do they fail?  Of course.  Just like us.  But because we know and trust them,  we are able to put that failure into context as an age appropriate teachable moment for our children (and ourselves).

I am my child's favorite role model. Pics of our family.

Our family. The world is full of inspirations, but nothing can take the place of strong role models.

So who is an inspiration? Pretty much everyone else.  Inspiration itself is the useful information that we take from our encounters with people, places and things that we can use in our own lives.  The interaction does not have to be a firsthand experience.   I can listen to the President tell his life story and be inspired by his accomplishments and his words. Given our country’s history, his election as the first Black President is an inspiration, by default.  But truthfully, unless I get the opportunity to know him in a personal way, I have no real idea who he is.  How does he really treat his wife?  What kind of a father is he? What does he really value?  I could wake up tomorrow and find out that he has failed miserably on one of these fronts.  In fact, he has already taken political positions that I disagree with completely.  But none of that changes his role as an inspiration because it is narrowly defined to the things I know about him that serve as motivation for me to achieve my own goals.  Examples of inspirations are endless.  Almost anyone can serve as an inspiration to my children because I am teaching them to admire the aspects of others that line up with our core values.  For example, one of my sons is a huge Seattle Seahawks fan. We’ve never met anyone on the team and have no knowledge of anything about their lives beyond football.  That’s fine.  He is inspired by their work ethic and their “toughness.” That works for a seven year old.   Another child looks up to LeBron James in the same way.  No problem.   My job is to narrow their expectations about inspirations so their main focus stays on the role models in their lives.

In my journey as a Black woman, wife, mother, Christian, and creative storyteller,  I take inspiration from many sources that haven’t been vetted as role models.  If you’re a person who likes random quotes, then you do too.  Understanding the distinction between a role model and an inspiration has allowed me to relate on my terms to a morally diverse world.

As I write this, I know that the reality for many children is a lack of real world role models. I get that. To some degree, we are all role models, all of the time.  No argument there either.  This post is about our choice to help shape how our children choose to absorb the influences that surround them. I believe this approach with have lifelong benefits.  Time will tell.

I look forward to exploring this theme further with more real world examples.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Dorrian

And so it Begins…

Share Button

Dear Readers,

Our family just celebrated our oldest son’s tenth birthday. While I was focused on the obvious double digit milestone, a more profound transition crept in:  I am no longer Mommy, I am simply, Mom.

My son and me in full blown Mommy bliss, circa 2007

My son and me in full blown Mommy bliss, circa 2007

Truthfully, I’ve been correcting him for months, trying to hold on to the sentimental security blanket that Mommy represents.   In the Mommy zone, all questions have answers, protection is sure, opinions are designated and teenagers are like mini adults to be observed with a mixture of fear and awe.  But alas, reality awaits all of us in the land of Mom, where simple questions breed deeper questions, protection isn’t guaranteed, opinions are merely influenced and teenagers are like older peers to be followed in lieu of actual adults. Ahhh, welcome to the real world son.   I’ve probably kept you in the  Mommy zone far too long.  The good news is that I still have a one year nestled snugly in the  Mommy zone for years to come.  The bad news is that I also have a seven year old who has watched his older brother cross safely over and is now planning his escape!

Nice story, but what is good hometraining?

I’ve learned that parenting is a journey of transitions.  The exact timeline may be different, but most of us ultimately hope to lead our children to the same place- the world of successful adulthood. Good hometraining is the map that gets us there.

So, what is good hometraining? It’s like obscenity (used to be), we all know it when we see it but its precise definition can be elusive.  On the surface it can present itself as good manners and respect for grown folks. But at a heart level, it is much deeper. It is a core belief system that prioritizes God first, then others then self.  This is manifested in everything we do and how we interact with the world.   Although many parenting challenges are universal, I believe that Black parents have a unique experience that deserves a unique forum.  In my conversations with other Black moms, I’ve noticed that we wrestle with issues of spiritual, family, educational, social and cultural identity in ways that reflect our experiences as families of color.   For more thoughts on good hometraining, click here. By the way, for the purposes of our community,  I define “Black parents” as anyone who identifies themselves or their children as Black.

This blog is about giving those perspectives a voice.  It is about sharing my journey, with its triumphs and failures so that you can share yours.  My goal is to create a community where Black Christian parents can  encourage, equip and empower each other to raise the next generation.   Like everyone else, my husband and I are learning as we go.  I am grateful that we are not alone, and neither are you.
Thanks for stopping in! Feel free to subscribe below so we can keep the conversation going!

Dorrian