Author: Julie K. Nelson

I am a wife and mother of 5 children, with only one left at home to spoil. I write, speak, teach at Utah Valley University, cook, travel, and can sometimes be found folding laundry. My newest book "Keep It Real and Grab a Plunger: 25 tips for surviving parenthood" will be released March 2015 and my first book, "Parenting With Spiritual Power" can be found at local bookstores and online book sellers.

Flawed Parenting is Best

The longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve realized we are all connected. There are no insignificant people in our lives. No throw-away humans. We should treat every living soul as if our lives depending on them. And they do!

Who knows if that obnoxious kid you sat next to in junior high math class will grow up to be your own kid’s kind-hearted pediatrician?

Who knows if that neighbor who was hard to get to know might open up one day and become your best friend?

Who knows if your child’s friend, to whom you generously gave milk and cookies for after school snacks, will grow up to be a lawyer who will do you a favor and represent you to save you tons of money and heartache one day?

I’ve had enough recurring experiences with people throughout my life to treasure each human as the most important person…because they may well become that one day.

And even if they just become a more valued friend…that’s worth it.

One such lady was an acquaintance through my children’s elementary school years. We didn’t do anything directly together, just had kids in the same classes once in a while and they took piano lessons from the same teacher. Stuff like that.

I grew up to teach at the local university and one of her daughters came to me, all grown up, asking for an exception to register late for my class. Since I knew her family, and that they were all stellar students, I granted that, of course.

Later that year, her other daughter, a graduate in the same field as mine, asked me to contribute to a wonderful blog called, “The Healthy Humans Project.” I really admire her work and was delighted to contribute. What an honor. The article I wrote is called, “Flawed Parents are the Best Tutors for Children.” 

I’ll leave you with this quote that sums it up for me. We all matter. Treat everyone as if they really do. Because they do.

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Keep ‘Em Safe Out There!

 

A few years ago, I wrote for WalletHub magazine when they came calling for experts to comment on an issue. I am no expert in finance by any stretch of the imagination, so why in the world did a money management business magazine request something from me? I’ll never know. Maybe it had to do with the fact that the topic was about Halloween and kids and well…that’s something I know a little about.

I guess they kept my name on file because they emailed me for another contribution to their upcoming Halloween issue. Here is the final product with my mug in it. If you want to skip reading the article, here is what I wrote plus a little more (no extra charge!)

  • What measures should parents take to ensure their kids are safe when trick-or-treating?

If children Trick or Treat in groups, there should be at least one responsible adult or older sibling who knows how to keep young children safe when crossing streets, approaching doorways, and knowing a familiar walking route. One of the primary dangers of Halloween is being hit by a car. Kids should never run ahead of the group or their parent, but instead, stay together. Use designated sidewalks and cross walks, obey pedestrian lights, and be sure the driver makes eye contact with you before crossing in front of a car.

Attach a piece of reflective tape somewhere on their costume or bag. Children also love to wear glow sticks and this doubles for being seen better at night. The leader of the group should also carry a flashlight. It’s always a safe practice when your child is out in public to write your phone number on their palm or inner arm with a permanent marker, or pin it to their costume.

Although many costumes include masks, it’s much more safe to paint on your child’s face so their eyesight is not limited by two tiny eye holes. Many schools prohibit masks anyway, so avoid buying or making masks and opt in for decorative non-toxic face painting instead. Speaking of costumes, check the fabric to see if it’s flame resistant and that accessories (like a knife or sword) have a soft or blunt end.

Go through your child’s candy (not to eat the good stuff!) to make sure all pieces are individually wrapped. No hard candy should be given to a child who might choke and be sure to check for food allergies.

Check out where registered sex offenders live before sending older kids out to Trick or Treat on their own so they do not go near those houses. Older children should each carry a cell phone and discuss a plan for “what ifs” and a reasonable time to be off the streets.

  • What are some healthy treats or nontraditional goodies that kids might actually enjoy?

It’s hard to compete with good, old fashioned candy as a Trick or Treat reward. Kids don’t usually drool over apples and carrots and this healthy switcheroo will definitely not get you nominated for Best Parent in the Neighborhood. But surprisingly, here are eight sure-fire rewards that kids won’t throw immediately into the trash when they get home. They may even enjoy them long after the candy is devoured (and stomachache ensues).

“Super” or Bouncy balls. Who doesn’t love them? They are popular at any age and they even come in “glow in the dark” which is cool for Halloween.

Natural Fruit Leather. A healthy, naturally sweet alternative to candy.

Stickers, especially if they are high quality. Have a variety so the kids can choose their favorites.

Mini flashlights. They can be ordered in bulk to bring the cost down and they are a bonus for keeping kids safe while they Trick or Treat at night.

Fake Mustaches. What a fun and silly way to celebrate dressing up.

Glow Sticks. Here’s another “treat” that doubles for a wearable item to keep kids more visible and safe while they safely Trick of Treat.

Individual-Sized Popcorn or Pretzel Bags.

Mini Playdough. I’ve never seen a child turn this down. You’ll get “oohs” and “aahs” for sure with this one. Maybe ever Parent of the Year.

No More Monkeys

Does bed time with your kids look more like a crime scene than a sweet dream? Unlike adults, little units seem to get more wound up as the sun goes down. They save all their energy and mischief for the night time, like gnomes or witches.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan once said that kids act like they’ve never been put to bed… EVERY day. “Bed? What’s that? I don’t want to go to bed.” It’s like the movie “Groundhog Day” but every night.

Speaking of movies, there was a fabulous FB post by exhausted parents who suffer this routine every night. They all posted a movie title that best describes putting their kids to bed. And it doesn’t end well or look like this:

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The Series of Unfortunate Events

The Long Kiss Goodnight

The Remains of the Day

Catch Me If You Can

Girl, Interrupted

Awakenings

Never Let Me Go.

The Negotiator

Most nights? Much Ado About Nothing. (With a generous amount of drama that Shakespeare would have been proud of) The especially bad night? 10 Things I Hate About You.

Insomnia (she is currently belting out show tunes and jumping on her bed).

The Crying Game

Something’s Gotta Give

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (I have 3 😉 )

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (me trying to sneak out after she is asleep)

The Fast and The Furious.

The Never Ending Story

The Sound and the Fury

She’s Not That into You

It Comes at Night

Hellraiser

In and out (of bed numerous times)

The Perfect Storm

The Greatest Showman

Never Back Down

The Hunger Games (mainly because they are all suddenly starving)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Sleepless in Seattle.   🤣

Fight Club

The Big Sleep (mine are teenagers)

Scream. And Scream 2

Superman (my husband runs the routine. My hero.)

Good Night and Good Luck

The Parent Trap

Infinity War

Up

Mission Impossible

PS I Love You

There Will Be Blood

True Lies

Night of the Living Dead

Boss Baby

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Kill Me Now

Get Out

Return of the Mummy (every freaking 30 seconds!!!!)

From Dusk till Dawn

The Great Escape

Throw Mamma From the Train

Where the Wild Things Are

Lost In Space

Morning sequel: The Walking Dead.

Dances with Wolves

Eyes Wide Shut

Silence of the Lambs

Darkest Hour

Nightmare on Elm Street.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Zombieland

The Final Showdown

Dazed and Confused

From Dusk Till Dawn

Oh….if I weren’t laughing so hard I would be crying in pity. Have you seen this time lapse video of a mom of three kids sleeping in bed? Warning: it’s painful to watch and earns the movie title, “Sleeping With the Enemy.” You know, one of the ways they tortured prisoners of war was to deprive them of sleep AND play high pitched noises. Hmmm. No wonder we become babbling idiots, willing to hand over the nuclear missile launch codes or at least give in to whatever demands our children make. One more cookie? Sure. Have three. Another glass of water? I’ll be your waiter for the evening.

 

 

 

Want Smart Kids? Play some “rough and tumble”

There’s more and more research proving that “rough and tumble play” or “roughhousing” is beneficial to your kids. Dads do this intuitively. If I’m in a room with male and female adults and a baby appears on the scene, it takes only minutes before that baby turns into pigskin and the men are tossing it around like they are the quarterback and wide receivers on the 49ers. Moms stand aghast, their eyes and mouths wide open.

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What’s going on here? Why are we evolutionarily wired to play differently with kids? This is a photo of a friend whose husband loves to manhandle their chubby baby. She made a disclaimer: no babies were harmed in the taking of this photo. In fact, she promised he is a kind, loving father (who just happens to love to squish the bejebbies out of this cute face).

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The book  The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It is a great resource for parents who want these benefits from wrestling and physical play with kids. Here’s their claim: “Play—especially active physical play, like roughhousing—makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.” Let’s look at each benefit more carefully.

1. Roughhousing makes kid smart.

This is fascinating: Roughhousing fertilizes our brain. For real. This kind of physical play releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which really is like fertilizer for our brains. Roughhousing stimulates neuron growth within the cortex and hippocampus regions of the brain, responsible for memory, learning, language, and logic. Animal behaviorists have found that the youngsters of the smarter species engage in physical play, so it isn’t surprising that roughhousing actually boosts school performance. Who knows? If your kid wrestles everyday, he might win a scholarship to Yale!

2. Roughhousing builds emotional intelligence.

Because roughhousing helps children develop skills in reading the emotions of others—Is he going for my gut? Or is he going to grab me over the head?—as well as manage their own emotions—I am not going to hit him in the gut or grab him over the head—they are well prepared to navigate successfully through the emotional adult world: reading a boss’s mood, knowing how to challenge a co-worker, being able to hang with the family during the holidays. Moreover kids learn how to regain self-control, which makes them more confident in their emotional lives.

3. Roughhousing makes kids more likable.

This is true for four reasons. First, physical play builds friendships and other relationships, and this is especially true for boys, who don’t gush all over each other, much less say “I like you.” Roughhousing can be a declaration of friendship or affection not only for elementary school boys, but for young men, as well. Second, kids who roughhouse are able to distinguish between innocent play and aggression; therefore, it helps children develop social and problem-solving skills. Third, youngsters who physically play learn how to take turns. If they are playing right, each person will get a chance to chase, and to be chased. No one person should be “it” the entire time. Finally, roughhousing teaches kids the concept of leadership and negotiation. Think about the rules that go into physical games. Everyone needs to agree, which is wonderful preparation for professional success as well as committed relationships.

4. Roughhousing makes children ethical and moral.

Interestingly enough, the animals with the highest level of moral development also engage in the most play, especially physical play. One way we can measure moral behavior in animal play is by observing “self-handicapping,” when the stronger animal holds back his strength when playing with a weaker or smaller opponent. Humans do this too, and especially parents, when physically engaging with their children.

Write DeBenedet and Cohen:

When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back. We teach them self-control, fairness, and empathy. We let them win, which gives them confidence and demonstrates that winning isn’t everything. We show them how much can be accomplished by cooperation and how to constructively channel competitive energy so that it doesn’t take over.

5. Roughhousing makes kids physically fit.

This one is obvious. But physical fitness isn’t just about body strength, say the authors. It involves complex motor learning, concentration, coordination, body control, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility. So free play is going to offer different benefits than, say, gym class.

6. Roughhousing brings joy.

As a species, humans are hard-wired for roughhousing, so the body and mind are happy when we let it happen. According to studies in neuroscience, when the play circuits in the brains of mammals are activated, they feel joy.

Source: https://psychcentral.com/lib/6-benefits-of-roughhousing-for-kids/

 

 

The Anatomy of Trust

 

I show the following video of a talk on trust by Brene Brown to a class I teach on relationships at Utah Valley University. It’s dripping with insights. So much meat to chew on! There aren’t enough metaphors to convey my enthusiasm for what she shares! Here is the radio program interview I gave if you want to listen.

Here are some jump start questions to guide your thoughts as you watch:

  1. What is the definition of “trust” and “distrust”?
  2. What is “marble jar” friends?
  3. What does the acronym “BRAVING” stand for?
  4. What is “hot wiring connections” or “Common Enemy Intimacy”?
  5. How does trust involve integrity:Choosing Courage over Comfort

    Choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy

    Practicing Values, not just Professing them.

  6. What are “sliding door” moments?
  7. Why does trusting ourselves begin before trusting others?
  8. Where do you want to improve in building trust?

How To Raise Compassionate Children

Kid-DonatingI am interviewed twice a month (usually the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays) on BYU radio. This week was about “How to Raise Compassionate Children.” The one this week, on Tuesday, September 6th was responding to Hurricane Harvey that devastated Texas, as well as other natural disasters. Many compassionate people have come forward to help and have reminded us that the power of compassion is always greater than the power of any disaster.

If you want to listen to the interview, here is a link. Here are the main points I discussed.

  1. Expose children to a variety of experiences. “Compassionate” is to be open-hearted and open-minded, to feel confident in talking with people who are different. Children need direction and opportunities to get out of their comfort zone and see the wide world around them. In doing so, they will be more aware of the needs of others and respond more compassionately. How do we expose them to different experiences? Travel within your community to see places that reflect a variety of lifestyles and perspectives. Then go beyond your borders into other regions, and even countries. Don’t just stick to the touristy spots and resort strips; drive to where the “real” people live and shop and worship. Stop and talk to strangers to hear their stories. Be interested in others and model to your children how to see into the hearts of others by listening and asking questions. Our children have enjoyed hosting international students from time to time. We’ve also benefited from reading books together at bedtime to learn from the lives of characters very different from us. As you read, ask questions such as, “How do you think that person feels right now? How did that make you feel? How does this character inspire you? What would you do in this situation?” Help to process their feelings and evoke the compassion within them.
  2. Use the technique of “induction.” This parenting strategy teaches children to become aware of the consequences of their actions. It helps develop empathy for others. Rather than stating, “You’d better invite Sarah to your birthday party or she’ll feel left out,” help her to discover that for herself. Don’t TELL a child how to feel but let her feel it herself. “How do you think Sarah will feel if you don’t invite her to your birthday party?” or “How would you feel if you weren’t invited to a party?” Other inductive phrases sound like: “What did grandma’s face look like when you gave her the flowers?” “If you practice the piano, how do you think the people will feel when they hear such beautiful music?” “What do you think will happen when you are honest about returning that money?” “If you share your markers, don’t you think Sammy will want to share his with you?”
  3. Involve children in humanitarian and service opportunities. This can start on the micro level, within the family. Have family members draw names and do secret acts of service for each other. This is a popular “pixie” activity around Christmas time but can be done throughout the year. Ask your children to look for ways the family can serve others: “Who can we serve this week, or this month?” Many families encourage compassionate acts by asking their children at the end of each day, “Who did you serve today?” or “What was one nice thing you did for someone today?” And be sure to tell them what you did as well. If you do this on a regular basis, your children will learn that the question will be coming and they will dial into service opportunities. Soon, it will happen naturally. Be sure to ask the follow up reflection question: “How did you feel when you did that nice thing for another person?” It’s great to do service for others anonymously. Kids love the mystery of it all. It’s also fun to involve the family in projects with others so join clubs or others organizations to mobilize great efforts and outcomes. Finally, when the time is right and you are able, send your children (or go as a family) to do a major humanitarian project. My oldest child went to China as a volunteer to teach English after graduating from high school. Another child went with the Rotary Club in her junior year to build a house in Mexico. Another child volunteered at an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador the summer before her senior year. These are life-changing and eye-opening experiences.
  4.  Discuss community and world events in natural conversations. Because of the nature of disasters like Hurricane Harvey, too much information delivered in an anxious tone can overwhelm and worry children. So as you talk about world events, be sure to keep a positive tone. I love the quote by Fred Rogers who said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” So focus on the helpers when talking about unfortunate circumstances and how you can be helpers, too. Rather than feeling like the world is out of control, doing service helps a child to take control and empowers them to make a difference.

25 Rules For My Son

This blog post is taken from the book by Walker Lamond. Rules for My Unborn Son.

I think there’s a lot of wisdom here and I’d like to share 25 of his rules. It applies to both girls and boys but I appreciate his male-oriented perspective. Fathers are SO important to the healthy development of their sons (and daughters!). These are simple rules with a much deeper meaning. Which of these are you teaching your children?

  1. Never shake a man’s hand sitting down.
  2. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs ain’t one.
  3. The man at the grill is the closest thing we have to a king.
  4. In a negotiation, never make the first offer.
  5. Act like you’ve been there before. Especially in the end zone.
  6. Request the late check-out.
  7. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.
  8. Return a borrowed car with a full tank of gas.
  9. When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye.
  10. Don’t let a wishbone grow where a backbone should be.
  11. If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point.
  12. You marry the girl, you marry her whole family.
  13. Be like a duck. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like crazy underneath.
  14. Experience the serenity of traveling alone (Me here: I would like to add, Can you be at peace when there is peace? Do you feel anxiety to fill the silence with the radio or news feeds on your phone? Can you be okay with just your thoughts? Can you be “in the moment” of serenity?)
  15. Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room.
  16. Never turn down a breath mint.
  17. In a game of HORSE, sometimes a simple free throw will get ’em.
  18. Try writing your own eulogy. Never stop revising.
  19. Thank a veteran. And then make it up to him.
  20. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.
  21. Eat lunch with the new kid.
  22. After writing an angry email, read it carefully. Then delete it.
  23. See it on the big screen.
  24. Give credit. Take the blame.
  25. Write down your dreams.

The Secrets of Self Esteem Part 4

This is the final part in a 4-part series on building self esteem in children. Of course there are more ways than these four, but I highlighted only a few for the television interview this month. There was actually only time for two of the four, so I’ve posted two bonus points as well as elaborated more on each.

I picked these four points because they are all essential to self esteem but they are not the obvious topics when discussing it. They may not be intuitive and can be easily overlooked. That’s why I like them so much and want to share them.  That’s why I’ve titled them The Secrets of Self Esteem. 

Hard Work

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Yes, this one is not obvious at all. Building self esteem in children usually looks like a parent who tries to develop their child’s talents and finds ways for their child to achieve. Once they make the team, or win the blue ribbon or get straight A’s, then the child will feel good about herself, right?

Not necessarily.

My point with this last post is that after raising 5 children to work hard, I’ve gained insight that accomplishing a goal that was just out of reach is extremely satisfying. Like climbing a mountain and looking back at how far you’ve come. There’s a price to pay for such a view. And often the best reinforcement comes from within.

One of my daughters got a job as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant when she was 14 years old. She could barely see over the counter. She locked her knees when taking orders on the first day and was so nervous she fainted in front of the customer. We laugh about that now, but she proved her persistence by going back after that disastrous first day and working there for the next 3 summers. She knows that if she could get through that, she could do anything.

I included a photo of a boy mowing the lawn because it reminds me of my kids who mowed our large lawn when the mower seemed bigger than they were. I won’t lie; it was challenging to get them to do it sometimes. There was griping and complaining from time to time. But sweat and raw hard work is good for the muscles and building self worth. The accomplishment is rewarding and sometimes there is no standing ovation after finishing a grimy job. You learn to dig deep and finish what you started. Children need to learn they have value and can do hard things without a reward.

Sure they can sweat and work hard though being on a sports team or playing a musical instrument. But these activities are really self-interest driven. They are for the glory of the individual. The reinforcement is usually extrinsic. Self esteem is rooted in belonging to something larger than ourselves. Self esteem should not be limited to just what the child can do for himself, but how he makes sacrifices to belong to a family and maintain the life they live together.

So while studying hard for good grades or performing well in a school play are part of self esteem, another overlooked element is the work that gets no public recognition. It’s the physical work that is good for the soul because it’s not self-centered.

Don’t short change your kids by hiring out work they should and can be doing as a family member. Everyone needs to contribute whether through chores or a part-time job. It’s part of ownership and valuing what you have. We take better care of the things we have to care for and we feel more connected to the family when we each contribute our part.