Three Ways to Teach Our Kids Their Bodies Are Not Just for Looks

Three Ways to Teach Our Kids Their Bodies Are Not Just for Looks

By Melissa Martineau

Our kids are constantly bombarded with images about how their bodies should look. From the moment they wake up, televisions, billboards, and even peers at school celebrate computerized, filtered views of an impossible beauty standard. It can be overwhelming trying to escape the way our society and culture have glorified and determined the importance of our physical appearance. This sad perception that physical beauty is the highest standard of existence often leads our kids to having a negative body image and the feeling that they will never measure up.

So, how can we help our children combat the negative ways they may look at themselves?

One of the most critical things we can do to help our kids is to refuse to let them have social media accounts. Even at age 16 or 17, our children’s undeveloped brains are ill-equipped to deal with the pressures, criticism, sexualized imagery, and glorification of beauty, extreme dieting, and even eating disorders available on social media. 

But even without social media, our kids are still exposed to many unhealthy voices and messages. These messages push their ideas onto our children about how their bodies should be shaped, used, and displayed. We must take time to help our kids understand that their bodies are so much more than what our society chooses to celebrate. 

Here are three ways to teach our kids that their bodies are more than just for looks:

Our Minds 

“Oh the places we can go,” Dr. Suess says! And it’s true. Our minds can be our greatest asset as we set goals to achieve scholastic endeavors and explore different career paths. As we help our kids understand the value of education and goal setting, we can teach them how their minds are such valuable assets and an important part of their bodies. With our mind, we are able to create a path forward, use our bodies how we want, and be a good example for those around us. 

Some examples of ways we can improve our children’s minds include:

  • Reading a book in a new genre with our kids
  • Exploring a new talent or hobby together
  • Practicing using positive self-talk with our kids
  • Setting short term and long term goals as a family
  • Researching a new topic that interests you and your children

Our Athleticism

Whether you want to be a track star or just love taking walks around your neighborhood, using our bodies for athleticism and movement is an integral part of our experience here on Earth. Teaching athleticism and showing our kids all that their bodies are capable of is essential to a healthy body image. Give them a few encouraging examples of this, such as professional athletes or olympians. Try using our lessons, “Teaching Your Child about Body Image” or “Teaching Healthy Body Image To Boys,” to help teach these ideas to our children. As we teach our kids how they should approach the task of maintaining a healthy body, it’s important they understand that “having a positive body image should always include a knowledge of what they need to stay strong and healthy.

Here are a few simple ideas to get you and your kids’ bodies moving:

  • Biking and exploring your neighborhood
  • Playing at the local park with family and friends
  • Running relays at a local track
  • Swimming at the public pool or local lakes
  • Practicing yoga with the family

Our Emotions

As humans, we feel our emotions very deeply. It’s crucial for us as parents to teach our kids healthy ways to manage their emotions, and to develop their natural abilities to nurture others and show kindness. As they use their emotions in a positive way to empathize and comfort those around them, they will cultivate more and more emotional intelligence. 

It is also critical that we teach our kids to understand and control their emotions, especially in this digital age. This can be particularly difficult when they are surrounded by images and media that are altered and manipulated to confuse them and bring them down. These messages are constantly trying to make them feel “less than” or incomplete without a certain product, clothing item, or body type. Learning to recognize how these messages influence us is such an important skill for any child or adult living in our image-based culture.  

In our book, Messages about Me: Sydney’s Story: A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image, we feature some essential questions for adults and kids to help us understand these messages.

  • What messages do our parents give us about our body? 
  • What messages do our friends and other people give us about our body? 
  • Have you ever tried to change things that changed things about our body because of the messages we see? 
  • And how do these messages make us feel? 

Our bodies are more than just a before-and-after image! We are a beautiful work in progress. As we teach our kids these valuable principles, they too can learn to pay attention to how they feel as they work on their own positive body image without comparing themselves to others. 

For more great discussions on healthy body image, check out our new children’s books: Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story: A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image and Messages About Me: Wade’s Story: A Boy’s Quest for Healthy Body Image. Helpful features for parents and teachers include great conversation starters, workbook questions, and simple, meaningful activities.

All of our books are available on our website and Amazon.


*There are affiliate links in the blog post. When you use them to make purchases, we thank you for supporting Educate and Empower Kids!

M. Martineau is an intern for Educate and Empower Kids and a student at BYU-Idaho. She is a mom of two, who is currently finishing up her marriage and family relationships degree before heading to graduate school shortly thereafter.

Commonly Used Emojis That Every Parent Should Know

Commonly Used Emojis That Every Parent Should Know

By Emie Marulanda

*This article is part of a series. You may find it helpful to check out our other articles on common slang used by our kids, text codes, or other search engine terms that have become part of our culture in the digital age. 

It’s no secret that scrolling through social media, texting friends, and using apps for online chatting are big parts of your pre-teen or teenager’s life. And it’s unfortunate that a lot of the content that they come across is often sexually motivated, and texting or chatting can sometimes turn into sexting. 

Do you know what emojis your kids are using in texting, social media, and online gaming chats, and what they mean?

Here are some of the most common used emojis of 2022:

General Slang Emojis

These emojis have more general slang word meanings behind them rather than sexual slang.

🍃= emoji slang for Marijuana/weed

= puffing or smoking a juul, weed, or cigarette. Fat clouds which means a big puff of smoke 

= a plug which means someone who deals marijuana or other drugs

= “I’m dead”; dying from extreme laughter, frustration, or affection

= tea; spill the tea. To share or reveal gossip

= chef’s kiss which means something is really good
💯 = a stamp of approval; “I agree”

🥶 = used in response to a snarky or “savage” comment (as in, “That was cold”)

🧢 = cap, meaning a lie or lying

🚫🧢 = no cap, meaning no lie or not lying

🤡 = acting like a clown. Used when getting caught in a mistake or when feeling like a fraud; clown behavior

👻 = being “ghosted” (dumped from a relationship with no explanation)

👁️👄👁️= an individual who witnessed the recording of a bizarre, funny, or cringey TikTok video; staring in shock, disgust, or confusion.

= red flag. Used to indicate finding an undesirable trait in a relationship; when someone easily loses their temper, etc.

🚫 = straight fax, no printer. Fax means facts. It’s a play on words and is a way of heavily agreeing with something/someone. They’re only speaking the facts

= being unbothered; nonchalance and confidence or used to shut down an argument with a fact or statement

= caught in 4k; to be incriminated with concrete digital evidence, typically on social media/on film. 4k is a high-quality camera setting that creates a clear picture. This emoji is

also used on Instagram to give photo credit to whoever took the picture (example: : @instagramuser) 

= gold digger 

= silly, goofy mood

= party time, turn up, dancing

=  implies “queen” or “king” status, much like being a “baller” or a “G”

💳 = used on TikTok to express wanting something portrayed in the video. This means you want them to take your money

Sexual Emojis

These emojis have sexual subliminal messages behind them. 

👅 = oral sex

😩 = orgasm

🌮 = vagina

🐱 or = vagina. Kitty, cat, or pussy is slang for female private parts

🍆or = penis

= testicles or balls

💦or = discharge, vaginal wetness, semen

= nut, meaning male ejaculation

🍒= boobs; breasts

🍑 = butt

🧠 = brain or head which means giving/getting head, meaning oral sex

🤤 = desiring someone sexually (often used in response to nudes)

🚛 = “dump truck,” which refers to a large and/or shapely bottom; big butt

🍝 = represents nudes, which are often called “noods” used to ask for nude pictures to be sent via social media or text

🌶️ = Indicates “spiciness,” i.e. inappropriate or risque content 

= blood, when a woman is on her period 

🌽 = represents “porn,” especially on TikTok. They use corn as a code word for porn

🌽 = filming porn or watching porn

⏳ = used when someone has an “hourglass” body shape

= feeling frisky or naughty; in the mood to have a sexual encounter with someone

= very horny

🥵 = “hot” in a sexual sense; a kid might comment this on their crush’s Instagram selfie, for example

= scissoring or lesbian sex

= homosexual or LGBTQIA+

= tossing the salad, oral sex to a women, or female mastrubation

=  flipping the bean, oral sex to a women, or female masturbation

= eating or oral sex. Combine this with any one of these: 🍆🌮🍑

= tented pants or a boner 

= hard wood, when a penis is hard; a boner

= sexual intercourse

= humping or sexual intercourse

= 6 and 9. A sexual intercourse position

= cowboy. A sexual intercourse position when the women is on top

= vulva

= slippery drip or sexual intercourse. Can also mean sliding into someones DMs

– touching sexually

= nipple stimulation

Finding messages containing many of these emojis on your kids’ phone or on their social media can be shocking. To get conversations started with your kids about these topics, check out our books: 30 Days of Sex Talks; How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, (also available in Spanish), and 30 Days to a Stronger Child.

*This article serves as an updated dictionary of emojis that are used when they are digitally communicating and what the message/meaning is behind each emoji. This is an updated version of our previous article on this topic. 

All of our books are available here on our website and on Amazon!

Emie Marulanda is a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho who is currently studying Marriage and Family Studies. She is passionate about empowering parents to empower their kids for a bright, healthy future.

The Powerful Role a Good Dad Plays in a Child’s Life

The Powerful Role a Good Dad Plays in a Child’s Life

A Father’s Day Message

By Emie Marulanda

A good Dad can change the world! Just as mothers play a vital role in their children’s lives, father’s play an equally powerful role in their children’s lives–that no one else can truly fill. And this role has a significant impact on a child’s development. 

In a study from The Fatherhood Project, a non-profit organization, they found a number of distinct and significant changes in children when a father is present and engaged with them during their early and formative years. Some of these findings include: children will be less likely to have a teen pregnancy, do better in school, have reduced mental health issues, and much more. “Father involvement using authoritative parenting (loving and with clear boundaries and expectations) leads to better emotional, academic, social, and behavioral outcomes for children.” (Children’s Bureau, 2018). 

Whether you are a father, grandfather, step-father, single father, or father figure, you have an important role to play in your child’s life! There are 3 vital roles that we’ll focus on here: Leader, Teacher, and Provider.

Good Fathers are Leaders 

Fatherhood is leadership, and it is the most important kind of leadership you could have. You are the leader of your children, and it is your responsibility to guide them on how to grow and take up their own responsibilities in life.Together with your spouse, you must be actively involved in establishing a home where there is love and guidance available to your children, that they may feel they can seek out your insight and wisdom when it is needed. 

Being a good leader means to keep order, but to also show an increase of love towards your family. Establish and enforce the rules and routines in your home, and give affection and praise for well-doing as well. Actively help set goals for your home and family, and lead each of them in what it takes to accomplish said goals. Father’s lead with patience, honesty, empathy, respect, and love. 

Great Dads are Teachers 

A father plays an essential role with their children’s education and development, and encourages inner growth and strength. “A father has the capacity to influence their children for good or bad. Their influence impacts all areas of a child’s development including; self-worth, prosocial development, education, and emotional and physical development.” Countless studies have shown that fathers who are affectionate and supportive of their children have a significant impact on their cognitive and social development. It also gives them a general sense of well-being, self-confidence, and self-assurance. Additionally, children will model their father’s behavior. 

For fathers with daughters, daughters depend on their fathers for security and emotional support. Fathers who are loving and gentle can set the bar high for other relationships in their daughters’ lives. They will look for the positive characteristics and qualities that their fathers embodied when they’re old enough to start dating. For fathers with sons, they will model their behavior after yours. Fathers who are caring and show respect to others will give a good example for their sons to do the same. 

Children Need Dads Who Are Providers 

The role of provider can be commonly misconstrued as primarily providing monetarily for the family. However, probably the best thing a father can do for their children is provide their time. Not only spending time with your children, but actually being mentally present makes your child feel that they are cared for. Now, being present doesn’t mean simply being in the same area as your children while engulfed by your phone, TV, or video games. It doesn’t mean standing on the sidelines of their sports game or flute recital while reading emails from work the whole time. 

Being present with your children means putting away all distractions and listening. Really listening. It means being available, listening, playing together, watching your child accomplish something, attending their extracurricular activities, meeting their friends, etc. You will become a resource to them that they can come to for advice and love. “Many times we get so carried away with our lives that we sometimes forget to be part of our children’s lives. Do you truly know your child? Take some time to play with, talk to, and have one on one time. Get to know your child and what is happening in their life. This is the best way to tell your child you love them, spending time together–without screens.”

Living these roles doesn’t come with a play by play or a handbook, so it’s a good idea to use your intuition and remember the good examples you’ve had in your life. Just be the best dad you can be–you’re doing better than you think! 

Moms, encourage your spouse or partner to be a central figure in their child’s life. Be their support and their full partner when it comes to making the rules and routines of the house. Celebrate their gifts and talents. Both father and mother working together can have extraordinary results in a child’s life.

For amazing ideas and discussions to help you become this powerful father, check out our books 30 Days to a Stronger Child and Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age.

All of our books are available here on our website and on Amazon!

Emie Marulanda is a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho who is currently studying Marriage and Family Studies. She is passionate about empowering parents to empower their kids for a bright, healthy future. 

Citations:

(2021, March 19). A Father’s Impact on Child Development. Children’s Bureau. https://www.all4kids.org/news/blog/a-fathers-impact-on-child-development/ 

Be Your Child’s First Choice for Sex Ed –Instead of Google

Be Your Child’s First Choice for Sex Ed –Instead of Google

By Kim Yerkes

As an adult who grew up in the ”90s”, I didn’t have constant information available. I remember fighting with one of my friends over whether there are people in the world who don’t fart. She was adamant that she didn’t pass gas. We never resolved that fight. We didn’t have the all-knowing Google available to tell us she was wrong. Google can be a great resource to help with our jobs, find parenting advice, shop, and may even help prove your friends wrong. On the other hand, Google can contain some extremely harmful content. Imagine how “helpful” it may seem for a curious child. 

How The Trap is Set

Anyone, children included, can view graphic pornography by typing in the word “porn” and then clicking once. You may think that your kid would never search the word porn, but many children hear this word on the playground at their elementary school. 

Perhaps your child is simply curious about sex. They may search, “what is sex?” Or they may have questions, like, “what does it look like, how does it work” and “why is it such a big deal?” They may find some information that talks about male and female anatomy, but they still don’t understand how it’s done or why it’s a big deal. They get curious about what it looks like and see a video link. You can see where this goes. Innocent curiosity can lead a child down a dangerous path. 

How can we talk to our kids about the dangers of learning sex education online? Let me share with you three steps that parents can implement to fight against negative sex education.  

  1. Start the Conversation Early

Start talking to your children about sexual intimacy early on. The younger the better. This makes the topic normal and establishes a foundation of good communication. If this is out of your comfort zone, a great book suggestion is 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 3-7. This book helps make conversations easy and natural, and provides conversation starters and questions on essential topics, including affection, anatomy, predators, online dangers, and relationships.

  1. Find Good Educational Tools

Be prepared and informed when you talk to your kids. It may not be easy explaining how babies are made to a 4-year-old, or what masturbation is to your teenage son. Keep in mind, the way we answer their questions now will determine how often they come back to ask in the future. Taking them seriously and answering with a well thought out answer will show that their questions are valued.

  1. Keep the Conversation Open Ended

Make a plan to touch base with your kids often. The conversation about healthy sexuality should be ongoing. As kids reach middle school and high school, the conversation about sex becames more complex. I made a plan with my kids and asked them to talk to me if they had questions about what someone said or did at school. An example of this was when my son in 6th grade came home and wanted to talk about a group of students in his grade pretending they were gay. This is exactly the type of situation I hoped he would come and talk to me about. We talked about various types of sexual orientation, being kind, and not making fun of someone’s sexual orientation or pretending to be gay as a way to mock someone else. He agreed and we had a wonderful talk about sexuality. 

Today, make a goal to be the most trusted source in your child’s life. Prioritize talking to your kids about difficult subjects like sex, intimacy, and digital citizenship. Be informed and educated about their world so that you can better understand the issues they are dealing with. Keep talking to them and find moments to connect.

For more inspired suggestions to start these conversations, check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age. Included are tips on starting conversations about healthy sexuality, the dangers of pornography, racism and tolerance, changing technologies, and so much more. Parents, we are not alone. There are many resources available to help us build lasting, meaningful relationships with our kids. Keep up the good work.

All of our books are available here on our website and on Amazon!

Kimberly Yerkes is currently earning her bachelor degree in marriage and family studies at BYU-Idaho. She’s been married for 19 years to her best friend and the boy next door, Josh. They have three kids, ages 10-15. Her family loves to ski, play tennis, play football, hike, read, and perform all kinds of music. Kimberly is a classically trained singer, and her kids found a love for many different instruments. They love to perform as a family in church and at retirement homes in their community. Her family is her greatest joy, and raising emotionally healthy kids is her passion. 

25 Fun Things to Do This Summer Instead of Screen Time

25 Fun Things to Do This Summer Instead of Screen Time

By Mackenzie Nelson

Last summer I gave birth to our third child. It took years for us to get her here and I was euphoric. That is, until debilitating postpartum anxiety and depression hit. During that time, I relied on screens more than I would have liked to entertain my older kids. Now that I’m feeling better and summer is just around the corner again, I’m determined to limit screen time and make this summer count. During the summer months we get to enjoy our kids all day. However, sometimes those summer days begin to feel a little long, making it easy to just let our kids hop on the computer or tablet, play their favorite video games, or stream movies on Netflix.

Unfortunately, the convenience is adding to a growing problem. Statistics show that kids between the ages of 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours on screens every day. “Over a year, that adds up to 114 full days watching a screen for fun,” (CDC, 2018). This number is just the time spent on entertainment and does not include screen time for schoolwork.

When we interact and have fun with our children, so many good things come from it. Over time, children will feel more important and loved. That sounds pretty great, especially when our children and youth are dealing with difficult things in life such as peer pressure, anxiety, depression, and the like. Just think of the powerful impact we can have on our kids’ lives if we cut back on screen time and choose to use our time with our kids more intentionally this summer. 

Here are 25 suggestions to help get you started:

Getting outdoors:

  1. Go on a hike
  2. Play “catch” in the yard
  3. Go on a walk
  4. Take a bike ride
  5. Try your hand at fishing
  6. Fly kites or blow bubbles
  7. Gaze at the stars
  8. Visit a zoo or aquarium
  9. Go mini golfing
  10. Have a barbeque in the backyard
  11. Find opportunities to serve
  12. Go to the park
  13. Discover fossils, rocks and gems while rockhounding
  14. Go camping
  15. Visit a state or national park
  16. Plant a garden

Beat the heat:

  1. Go swimming at your local pool
  2. Play water balloon baseball
  3. Play at a river, a lake, or a beach

Indoor activities:

  1. Have a “reading picnic” (Lay a blanket on the living room floor and read books together)
  2. Get crafty at home: draw, paint, or create something with air-dry clay
  3. Tour a local museum
  4. Go to an indoor trampoline park
  5. Take an art class or go to a ceramics studio
  6. Try a new restaurant or dessert spot

Rather than springing limits on them when they least expect it, I’d suggest sitting down as a family and discussing the nature of technology and what too much screen time can do to our brains. This can be a great teaching moment to help your children understand the “why” behind  screen time limits. Limiting screen time should go a little smoother if everyone goes into summer knowing what those expectations are as well as the “why” behind them. After setting some ground rules, discuss screen-free activities that everyone would enjoy doing together. Going into summer with the intention of cutting back technology use can be a little daunting at first, and will likely be met with resistance. But remember, you are the parent and you get to enforce the rules in your home. Once you formulate a list with your family, get to work making memories!

I’m beginning to understand that my kids will only be under our roof for so long, and as the years go by, time seems to go quicker. Right now, my husband and I are our kids’ greatest influence, and there is a lot of power in that. I want each moment to count!

For awesome ideas to connect with your child and build deep, meaningful relationships with simple conversation and activities, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child. This will be a great resource to have going into summer!

All of our books are available here on our website and on Amazon!

Mackenzie is a student at BYU-Idaho and is currently preparing to graduate this summer with a Bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies. She and her husband of 13 years have three children. She is a homeschool mom, a painter, and she loves to grow plants, exercise, and organize.

Citations:

“Screen Time vs. Lean Time.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 Jan. 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/multimedia/infographics/getmoving.html#:~:text=About%20Screen%20Time,watching%20a%20screen%20for%20fun. 

Is Technology Manipulating Your Kids’ Emotions? 3 Tips for Teaching Emotional Regulation

Is Technology Manipulating Your Kids’ Emotions? 3 Tips for Teaching Emotional Regulation

By Mariana Pacheco

You’re coming home after a long day, the kids are running around the house, there’s toys everywhere, they’re hungry, the dishes are piled on the sink, and there’s still a few hours left before bedtime. At moments like this, it has become a common practice for parents to turn to smartphones and tablets as a way to keep kids entertained in order for them to be able to get things done. And keep their sanity intact.

Unfortunately, these “high-tech babysitters” may come with a high cost. According to a study done by the University of Foggia in Italy, it has been found that digital technology use can directly impact children’s brain functioning. This may result in higher levels of anxiety, anger, and aggression in children, since the overstimulation they get from the tiny screens depletes their mental energy which often results in explosive behavior (Limone, 2021).

If you’ve noticed that frustration, anger, and aggression have become more common in your child’s behavior, here are a few strategies that can help you:

Teach Your Kids to Understand and Identify Their Emotions

Help them become aware of their feelings. Children may need help understanding what they are feeling and what caused them to feel that way. When a child doesn’t understand their emotions, their frustration levels rise, and they might react by lashing out.

Help them name their feelings. Start out with simple ones, like: sad, angry, scared, and happy. Give them examples of when you’ve felt those feelings, and then ask them to give examples of times they’ve felt them. Once a child is able to recognize what they’re feeling, you’ll be able to introduce healthier ways to cope with these feelings.

Implement Calming-down Activities Throughout the Day. 

Just like a pressure cook pan, it’s harder to control explosive behavior if your child has been keeping things inside. Giving them opportunities to vent and calm down throughout the day will help keep them in a more balanced state of mind. These can include drawing or painting, writing in a journal, playing an instrument, participating in sports, talking to someone they trust, reading a book, hugging, spending some time in nature, mindful breathing, and playing with playdough.

Cut down digital technology use. Early childhood is a time that is crucial for brain development, so everything we expose our children to has a lasting impact on the brain’s future functioning. Replacing smartphones and tablets with other activities will help prevent the negative impacts they have, while at the same time giving you a much deserved break. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Legos and/or Tinker Toys
  • Cardboard building kits
  • Puzzles
  • Origami
  • Clay/ Playdough
  • Reading
  • Word searches
  • Coloring books

Being a great parent is hard work! There is so much going on, and it feels like the time we have to get things done only gets shorter, which makes technology seem like a simple way out when we need to entertain our kids. And regardless of the benefits technology can offer both us and our kids, knowing the impacts it may have on our children, how to deal with the side effects, and understanding that there are alternatives, can help us make better choices as we navigate this amazing adventure called parenting. How we handle moderating technology with our kids now will lay the foundation for them for years to come.

Talking about technology, limits, and how to best use phones can be overwhelming. Try Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good to help you have great conversations! An engaging story with a super helpful workbook, Noah’s New Phone is a great investment in your kids’ futures! If you are looking for meaningful activities and positive discussions to build an amazing connection with your child, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child

Find all of our books here on our website or on Amazon.

Mariana Pacheco is a senior in Marriage and Family Studies student at Brigham Young University- Idaho. She’s married and has a 7 year old son and a 6 year old golden retriever. She has been working as a cultural educator for the past 4 years, where she teaches kids and teens social-emotional skills through stories, activities, art, and games.

Citations:

Limone, P., & Toto, G. A. (2021). Psychological and emotional effects of digital technology on 

children in COVID-19 pandemic. Brain Sciences, 11(9), 1126. 

Lök N., Bademli K., Canbaz M. (2017). The effects of anger management education on 

adolescents’ manner of displaying anger and self-esteem: A randomized controlled trial. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 32(1):75-81.

The 10 Dumbest Things I’ve Done as a Parent

The 10 Dumbest Things I’ve Done as a Parent

*This article is part of a series. Please check out the 10 Smartest Things I’ve Done as a Parent 

By Dina Alexander, MS

I’m a good mom and I can honestly say I have tried my absolute best since day one. I’ve  made thousands of choices where I have put my children’s needs above my own. I have been a full-time mom despite the temptation and pressure to do otherwise. I’ve researched the best parenting techniques and I started a non-profit to help the world be a better place for my children. However, I’ve done some dumb things. My hope is that you will learn from my mistakes and do better with your children. You should know, all of these are misdeeds that still make me cringe, hurt my heart, or bring me tremendous guilt. 

1. Allowed My Anger or Frustration to Guide a Decision

All of us get annoyed or even enraged with our kids, but there is a point where it becomes destructive. This happened to me a few times over the years with terrible consequences –mostly for me! Nothing has made me feel worse than when I acted in anger toward my children. A handful of times this resulted in me spanking my kids, telling them to “shut-up,” or yelling at them. The worst thing is that I know I could have controlled it. Just as I have always kept my cool when a police officer has pulled me over, I know that I can keep my cool with my children. And so can you. If you need to, take a time out, count to ten, or just walk away.

2. Compared My Kids to Other Kids

It can happen in a split second, but please know, there is no benefit to us or our children. Over the years I have unfortunately compared my kids to other kids. Whether it was negatively comparing my kid’s artwork at Back to School Night or patting myself on the back when I hear another parent complain about their child’s grades, this is wrong. Even if your child always “comes out on top” with these comparisons, it won’t help your child to think they are better than other kids. And it’s worse if you are measuring your kids’ efforts and finding fault with your kids simply because they are not meeting an indefinable goal. Comparison really is the thief of joy! Our children need to be praised for their individual efforts, based on our knowledge and experience with that individual child. We can do better!

3. Bought My Child a Smartphone

Yep, I made this doozy of a mistake too. I even had the audacity to think I was being a good parent in doing this. I was silly enough to think my child “needed” it for school. Then on top of that, I allowed my child to get social media. Can you believe the stupidity? Like other parents I learned how rude, cold, grumpy, and selfish a teenager becomes when they have free access to a smartphone. I also learned that depression and anxiety are very real for many kids who have social media. Even with blocks and monitoring, allowing two of my children to have smartphones was one of the dumbest parenting mistakes I have ever made! Thankfully we got smart and took the smartphone away from my second child when he was a junior in high school and gave him a Gabb Wireless. (See below for a huge promo code to buy this “dumb” phone.) My youngest child already knows we will never pay for a child’s smartphone again and that he cannot have one until he moves out. 

If your child tries to tell you they need one for school, that just isn’t true. Every teacher knows how to work around a child not having a phone and every school has tons of internet-enabled devices that your child can use. Be bold and email all your kids’ teachers. I emailed all fourteen of my two higher schoolers’ teachers a couple years ago and each one told me that my child did NOT need a phone in their class..

4. Allowed My Teenager to Go on Single Dates (Instead of Group Dates)

I have good kids, really good kids! But no teenager is emotionally mature enough to do single dating well. While still growing into their undeveloped brains, they are dealing with raging hormones and poor impulse control. Not to mention living in a hyper-sexualized culture with hyper-sexual expectations. Our teenagers are just NOT intellectually or emotionally equipped to go on dates alone with one person (going steady or even just casually dating one person). Our kids faced pressures and ugly situations that they were not prepared for, even with supposed good, “Christian” kids as their dates. Avoid the drama, the trauma, and the emotional rollercoaster. Allow your kids to only group-date. You won’t regret it.

5. Responded Sarcastically to a Sincere Question

Ouch! I hate that I’ve done this. When my kids were littleI sometimes thought I was being cute or funny by making a joke out of a question they asked me. But I wasn’t funny and I’m sure at some point I made one of my kids feel bad or feel embarrassed. Thankfully I grew up and stopped doing this. I hope you are smarter than I was.

6. Put My Children in a Progressive Private School 

Yes, there were some great teachers and yes the grounds were nicer than a public school. However, my kids were babied, lost some of their work ethic, and indoctrinated with some ridiculous ideas. I forgot that school was really for learning science, English, math, art, history, and foreign languages, not for an administration or teachers to teach their political or social opinions. I’m not saying public school is a great choice for everyone, especially with the current political climate, but for our family, a progressive private school was a poor choice. 

There are certain difficulties each of our kids needs to go through (not extreme circumstances like relentless bullying!) to make adulthood easier. Being intellectually challenged, understanding academic standards, working hard, making and keeping friends, and learning that there are unkind, difficult people in every school, business, church, and family makes our kids stronger and more successful adults. 

7. Didn’t Hug and Kiss My Kids Enough When They Became Teenagers 

Why do we hug and kiss our kids less as they get older? It happens in every family. Teenagers become more independent, they initiate hugs with us less, and are sometimes very prickly people. But they need us and they need healthy, physical touch. When I noticed I was hugging my kids less I made an effort to initiate more: while they were doing their homework, while thanking them for doing a chore, saying goodbye in the morning, or saying goodnight. There are other great ways to show physical affection: putting your arm around your child while watching a movie, squeezing their shoulder as you pass by them in the hall, scratching their back, or giving a kiss on the cheek. And it is always a good idea to tell your children that you love them and love being their mom.

8. Worked While My Kids were Home

I started a non-profit a few years ago to help parents and their children. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about time management, being a boss, and working from home. But the thing that took me the longest to figure out was how to not work while my kids were home and awake. They needed me and I sometimes put their needs aside so that I could get work done or do something “important.” It was not worth it! Work is just that, work, and it is NEVER as important as your child. If you can avoid this, please do!

9. Let Myself Get Fat

In my twenties as I struggled with depression and finishing graduate school, I ate junk. I gained weight and kept eating. Then I started having kids, getting bigger and bigger. Finally after my third child I found the motivation and support I needed to lose the weight. My biggest motivation in all this? My children, I wanted to have the energy to keep up with them and I never wanted them to be embarrassed of me. I hated that I couldn’t run and play with my children at the park and I had a real worry that if one of them ran off I would not be able to catch up. Over the course of a few years, I lost 100 pounds. If you are struggling in this regard, please get help. You and your kids are worth it!

10. Made an Empty Threat

If you tell your kids that they will receive a consequence to a certain behavior, you need to follow through.There are very few times when it’s okay to not follow through. This is usually when you have received more information about the situation and have explained to your child why they will not receive the consequence or will receive an alternate consequence. 

If you don’t follow through on a consequence, your child will not learn how much their actions matter. Your child needs to see you as a loving parent who cares enough to teach them and provide rules and boundaries. Then they need to test these boundaries and rules and know there are limits and consequences to behaviors. How else will they learn to regulate their own emotions and actions?  Be a parent–not a friend– and set realistic rules and consequences, and then keep to them! If someone else has set the rule and consequences (school), allow your child to receive their consequence. Do NOT step in and save them!

I Hope You Learn from My Mistakes

Okay, that’s my list. I sincerely hope you learned something and will recommit with me to doing better, loving more, and teaching more wisely. All of us make mistakes and all of us have done tremendous things to help our kids be strong, healthy, good humans. Hang in there! You’re doing better than you think! 

If you’d like some great discussions and activities to do with your kids that will help them develop integrity, grit, and kindness check out our books 30 Days to a Stronger Child and Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age.

*Use EMPOWERGABB at checkout for a huge discount on a new Gabb Wireless Phone.

All of our books are available on Amazon!

Dina Alexander is the founder and CEO of Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org), an organization determined to strengthen families by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education—including education about the dangers of online porn. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She tries to be a great mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. She lives in New Mexico.

The 10 Smartest Things I’ve Done as a Parent

The 10 Smartest Things I’ve Done as a Parent

*This article is part of a series. Please check out the 10 Dumbest Things I’ve Done as a Parent

By Dina Alexander, MS

As parents, we usually spend more time condemning our own bad decisions than celebrating all the great things we do for our kids. However, we need to reflect on the helpful, intelligent things we do and share these with other parents. It’s a great way for us to learn from each other. Here are the 10 smartest things I’ve done as a parent.

1. Decided to Be a Full-time Mom. 

I know not everyone can do this, but if you can, you should! It is THE best decision I have ever made besides deciding to marry my wonderful husband. Our kids need us, more than any of us realize, and way more than they will admit. From their first steps, to coming home from their first day of school, to telling you about the woes of middle school —being there for those important moments is critical. The more presence, both physical and emotional, a mother has —particularly during a child’s first three years— the greater the chances that the child will grow up emotionally healthy and secure (Komisar, 2017). 

I am going to say something “mean” now. Please don’t have kids if you are just going to put them in daycare when they are infants and then put them in after-school care while you and your partner work full-time. Seeing your kids for only a couple hours a night is not enough. This is not raising kids! This is simply housing them (Schlessinger,.n.d.). Children need you and NO ONE can love and care for them as much as you. 

2. Researched Kid/Teen Phone Use, Social Media, Internet Safety, and Porn 

When I began this journey, I certainly didn’t think I would start an organization and end up writing over a dozen books. But thank goodness I did! There is no sure-fire way to prepare to be a parent in this digital age, but starting and continuing my research has helped me and my family in ways I cannot even begin to express. Not only did it make me a smarter, wiser mom, it helped me protect and prepare my kids for very real dangers. As you study the dangers of kids’ smartphone and social media use, don’t let the information just scare you. Look for solutions and teach other parents what you learn!

3. Got Myself Physically Fit

After having my third child, I weighed over 250 lbs. In my late 20’s, I battled depression and used food for everything: coping with sadness, celebrating, rewarding myself, occupying myself when bored, etc. Finally, I had enough, and with the proper motivation and some help from loved ones, I got going. It was so great to have more energy, keep up with my kids, lessen my physical aches and pains. On top of that, I felt good about my eating habits and work out routine. It was also wonderful to be an example of healthy eating habits and proper exercise to my kids.

4. Lived Within Our Means and Required Our Kids to Earn Things

For the first 12 years of our marriage, my husband and I were poor. I remember that feeling of being “strapped,” which made every other problem seem bigger. Certain arguments between us seemed way more frustrating because we had the continual cloud of semi-poverty hanging over our heads. 

Through those years of financial hardship, we managed to never acquire credit card debt (yes, we did have medical school debt though) and lived as frugally as possible. We didn’t realize the favor we were doing ourselves until we saw what financial mismanagement was doing to some of our friends’ marriages and to their children. Whether you talk about it openly or not, your kids know when you are stressed, and it can be damaging.

Earning Things: When our adorable kids look up at us with their big, sweet eyes and ask us for certain treats or gifts, it can be difficult to say “no.” But we need to say “no” more often. Allowing our kids to work for something is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. There is nothing quite like knowing you earned something and you accomplished something that perhaps you didn’t know you could do. I wish I had done more of this. Just because you can afford something doesn’t mean you should get it or give it to your kids without them earning it in some way.

5. Taught My Kids that They Won’t “Need” Me as Adults

As my kids leave the nest and go to college, or on a mission for our church, I am particularly proud of how well they function on their own. They still have hard times, but they are prepared for challenges, they know they can figure things out, and they don’t need to come home to their mommy and live in our basement. 

How was this accomplished? We taught them real life skills, like getting along with others, picking yourself up when you fall, financial planning and investing, where to find truth, and how to get help in the community when you just can’t do something all on your own. We often tried to let them figure things out while they lived with us, and we have not attempted to solve their problems now that they are out of the house. 

Part of teaching my kids that they don’t “need” me when they are adults includes not paying for their cell phones, cars, car insurance, or their living expenses after they graduate from high school. They need to live within a budget. If we are always kicking in money when they overspend or choose to live in an expensive apartment, they won’t learn to be completely independent and be able to “own” their successes. (As a personal choice, we do pay for our kids’ college tuition, but everything else is up to them.)

I love that when they finish college, their missions, or whatever they choose to do, they will know that they did this almost entirely on their own. They can feel proud of themselves and know their success belongs to them!  

6. Used Boredom as a Punishment 

My kids have angered me off on countless occasions, and I’ve been tempted at various times to go overboard on discipline. But this is not only unnecessary, it is guilt-inducing. Having a child sit in a time-out chair or on the stairs while the rest of the family or friends continue to enjoy themselves, (for most children) is one of the greatest punishments of all time. It is not only highly effective to get a child to stop a certain behavior, there is almost no guilt involved.

7. Apologized to My Kids

I’ve made lots of mistakes and I’ve always wanted my kids to understand how important it is to own up to our blunders and to know that we can forgive each other of those missteps. Leading by example has been the best way for me to teach this to my children. I’ve apologized for raising my voice, getting angry before I had all the information, overreacting, accidentally embarrassing them, and more. 

8. Did Arts and Crafts with Them

Although I don’t consider myself to be a creative person, I love using crafting as an emotional outlet. Over the years, I have learned to sew, quilt, and do all kinds of small DIY projects. This has also been one of my favorite ways to spend time with my kids! From the time they were big enough to hold a pencil or paint brush, I’ve encouraged arts and crafts.At home, we had a little craft room where my kids and I could work together. This was not only a great bonding experience and outlet, it prepared them for more advanced art classes. 

9. Read to Them Like Crazy 

I love reading, and I always wanted my kids to find that love of reading too. This all began when each child was less than a year old and has consistently been my favorite parent-child activity. It’s always been the one activity that I said “yes” to even when I was exhausted and felt like I had nothing left to give. Having plenty of books available for my children has also been really helpful. I bought them to library sales, thrift stores, and took them to the library whenever I could. As they got older I learned that it didn’t matter if they were reading silly books like Captain Underpants or comic books. It just mattered that they were reading. Each of my kids developed a love of reading and have been very successful students. When all three were still at home, nothing warmed my heart like kissing them goodnight and then seeing them reading in bed.

10. Taught Them about God and Took Them to Church

You might balk at this if you don’t care for organized religion; however, taking my kids to church has been one of the best ways to reinforce various ethics and morals that are disappearing from our culture. So many important life lessons are going by the wayside these days because all of us are living in a state of constant hurry and busyness. It has been a major blessing for my kids to hear other voices –besides Mom and Dad– teaching them about charity, honesty, patience, sacredness, meditation, hard work, self-respect, empathy, the power to change, and so much more.

These smart moves didn’t make the Top 10, but are things I hope you will consider when raising your little darlings.

  • Teaching them how to clean house, do dishes, and wash and fold laundry –not only did this help me out, it taught them valuable skills for adulthood.
  • Not allowing sleepovers –I have lost count of how many parents have told me that sleepovers are when their child first had alcohol or drugs, was exposed to porn, or sexually abused. Sleepovers are simply not worth it! 
  • Traveling with them. Seeing new places, learning about new cultures, taking beautiful hikes, trying new foods, and going on road trips together has given my family so many amazing memories.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a mom, but I’ve also made some pretty smart choices too. I know that these good choices have helped my kids become stronger, wiser, and better human beings. If you’d like some great discussions and activities to do with your kids that will help them develop initiative, critical thinking, empathy, and optimism, check out our books 30 Days to a Stronger Child and Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age.

Citations:

Komisar, E. (2017). Being there: Why prioritizing motherhood in the first three years matters. TarcherPerigee. 

Schlessinger , L. (n.d.). Heard daily on SiriusXM Triumph 111 & The Call Of The Day Podcast: Stay-at-home mom. The Dr. Laura Program. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.drlaura.com/tag/stay-at-home-mom 

Check out all of our books on Amazon!

Dina Alexander is the founder and CEO of Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org), an organization determined to strengthen families by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education—including education about the dangers of online porn. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She tries to be a great mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. Together, they live in New Mexico.

Bullies: When the Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

Bullies: When the Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

By K. Parker

Bullying has always been a problem, but with the anonymity of the internet and the ease of being cruel behind a screen, cyberbullying has become all the more rampant. When I was fifteen, I had my first experience with this, both in-person and cyberbullying. A girl my age who had been my friend decided to alienate and lie about me, for reasons unknown to me. Despite these lies, her parents believed her and their reactions and choices made the situation worse, not better. I received cruel messages online, lost a fair number of friends, and was more or less shunned for things I hadn’t done.

I learned later that she didn’t get enough attention from her parents, namely her mother, and lying about being a victim of bullying herself got her a lot of attention from her parents. She never really apologized in the end, but all I feel for her now is pity. She was simply a fifteen-year-old girl who was starved for attention, so she went to extremes to get it because she didn’t know of any other way.

I’ve had a harder time forgiving her parents for their behavior, however. Instead of trying to intercede and understand the situation, they resorted to bullying my parents, which likely only encouraged this girl’s behavior. The girl’s dad called mine and verbally abused him, while her mother ensured that my mom was shunned from their social group. They used unrelenting hostility and power-moves to get back at our family while never attempting to find out if there was truth to their daughter’s claims.

Now that I’m grown, I know that there are ways of dealing with this better than my parents or I had known, and I wish such resources had been available to my parents.

Encourage Honesty and Open Discussions With Your Kids

  • Teach your kids about what bullying is, and how to treat those around them with kindness and understanding.
  • Make your home a safe environment where your kids will feel they can share their feelings and thoughts openly.
  • Take a step back from the situation and think about it as objectively as possible. Don’t automatically believe everything your child says, but don’t discount their fears and concerns either. We live in a world where so many parents don’t want to give their kids the opportunity to be responsible for their own behaviors and feel the benefits of positive self-worth when they do make good choices.
  • Be honest in your own life and teach through words and example on how important it is to be honest with everyone.

Talk to Personnel at Your Child’s School/Church/Sports Team, Etc.

One of the routes my parents took was arranging meetings with ours and this family’s congregation leader, asking him to be a mediator between us to help resolve the issue directly. I believe, had the parents of this girl tried to understand what exactly was happening, this method would have worked. Communicating effectively can solve a multitude of problems.

Still, this is the best route prior to legal action that can be done to put a stop to it. 

  • Talk to an administrator at the school, a church or community leader, or a coach. Help he or she understand the situation so that he or she can be a better mediator.
  • If possible, sit down with the parents of your child’s bully and gather information, while discussing the situation in a civil and compassionate way. Try to find understanding without accusations.

Record and Report Abusive Behavior

Knowing what I know now, there were absolutely legal actions my family could have taken against this family based on not just the cruel messages I received online, but also the fact that my dad was being verbally abused on a regular basis over the phone. Getting a No-Contact Order or a Restraining Order may seem a little extreme, but there are times when it’s necessary and can bring peace of mind. Sometimes legal help is the best method to stop these behaviors from abusers.

  • Take recordings or pictures of abusive language being sent to you or your child for evidence
  • Research or talk with a law enforcement officer about what can be done

Through this experience, I learned that it’s so important as parents to teach and guide your kids through situations like this, and teach them beforehand about bullying and how to avoid it, especially teaching kids how to avoid becoming a bully. 

Our book Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age is an excellent resource to build deeper connections with your kids and start tough conversations about bullying, integrity, overcoming fears, and much more. Check it out!

K. Parker is a writer and editor for Educate and Empower Kids, and a graduate from Brigham Young University-Idaho in Professional Studies in English. She is excitedly pursuing a career in copy editing as she grows her little family. 

Serving with Your Family at Christmas and Always

Serving with Your Family at Christmas and Always

By K. Parker

The Christmas season is upon us, parents! During this time of year, it can feel pretty daunting to try and see past all the hustle and bustle around us. It’s often so hectic, we tend to forget what this holiday truly means (and what we should be teaching our kids throughout the season). Which leads to the topic I wanted to address: service and Christmastime.

Many parents tend to think that all kids go through a selfishness phase, that will pass as they get older and understand more of the world. That’s not entirely accurate. It’s not necessarily growing up that teaches them to think outside themselves, it’s what they are taught and the experiences they have as kids with giving to others. 

Service Teaches Kindness

Teaching kids to serve others is not only going to help them overcome being self-centered, it will give them a sense of purpose, boost self-worth, encourage kindness and empathy, and feel gratitude for what they’ve been given in life. Overall it creates a basis on how they will interact with whatever social environment they find themselves in as they grow. 

There’s no better time to teach kids to serve than the holiday season. This Christmas, find ways to teach compassion and empathy by searching for service opportunities. There are many service projects being done by different groups at school, work, or church, so there are many options to choose from. Look around you, you will find needs and a chance to fill those needs.

Christmas Service Opportunities are all Around Us

Here are some great service ideas you can do with your family this Christmas:

  • Adopt a family or child to fulfill Christmas wishes. This is a great opportunity for kids to see that what they do makes a difference in others’ lives. If you really want your child to learn about sacrifice or putting someone’s needs above their own, don’t just take your kids shopping to buy a gift for a needy child. Have your child spend their own money to help make this giving experience possible. 
  • Go Christmas caroling to your neighbors or friends. This might seem nerve-racking for many of us, but giving of yourself in this way can really bring a wonderful spirit to those you visit. You can even contact a senior living center and see if you can carol for their residents.
  • Visit the JustServe website to find various service opportunities within your community. There are even remote service activities that you can do. All you do is fill in what kind of service would be the best for your family and then pick from a list of available options. 

When I was a child, my dad invited my siblings and I to help out with a fun and simple service activity. We got to help choose and wrap Christmas gifts for families in need. The families wrote letters to ‘Santa’ of the things they wanted or needed, and each group went through the warehouse picking out things that matched the list. Then we’d wrap up the gifts and get them ready to send off. It was a very uplifting activity to know that we were making Christmas possible for people that wouldn’t have had anything otherwise. It really put Christmas into perspective for me by giving back. And I was that much more grateful to my parents for the life they had provided for our family.

When you give your kids the opportunity to serve, it will make a strong impression on their lives! These experiences will remain with them as some of the best, most memorable Christmases of their lives. Give the gift of service this Christmas and see the impact it will make on you and your family. 

For a great resource to teach your children gratitude, community, friendship, empathy, self-confidence and more, check out our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child. Chock full of great discussion questions and activities, you and your family will love this book.

K. Parker is a writer and editor for Educate and Empower Kids and a graduate from Brigham Young University-Idaho in Professional Studies in English. She is a mom and is excitedly pursuing a career in copy editing as she grows her little family.