parenting Archives - Real Mom Recs



Mom Talk Monday: The Great Video Game Debate

Back when I was a perfect parent (you know, before I actually had real kids) I was a firm believer that my kids would never play video games. I rolled my eyes when I saw kids in public glued to a handheld device. I’d heard about the video game epidemic plaguing a generation of young people by taking away their ability to socialize in real life. The decision to withhold video games from my children seemed like an easy and obvious one.

Fast forward a few years and a few kids, and my stance on the video game debate has started to change. My son has a lot of energy and not a lot of attention span. Somewhere along the way, bringing along an iPad or Nintendo DS seemed like a great way to get him to stay quiet and happy when we go places that require a lot of waiting. He gets dragged to his sisters’ dance classes several times per week, and being able to hand him a device has made these waiting room hours much more pleasant for everyone.

Like lots of parenting decisions, the video game decision easily turns into a slippery slope. Several of my son’s friends have a Wii or Nintendo Switch, and now he is begging and pleading of one of those. It’s tempting to have a gaming system to use as “currency” for him (i.e. if you do all your homework and 20 minutes of reading, you earn XX minutes of video game time). However my initial concerns are still there. Will he become addicted and not want to engage in the creative and active play he does now? Do video games actually hinder social skills? Will he grow up to become one of those husbands that plays video games all the time?!

I’m still on the fence here but I’ve laid out the pros and cons:

Video Game Pros:

  • fitting in with friends and peers who play video games
  • can use as a reward (bribe) to encourage homework, chores, etc.
  • Just Dance, Wii Fit, etc promote physical activity
  • could give Mom and Dad opportunities for peace and quiet

Video Game Cons:

  • less time doing other more brain-boosting types of play
  • could get expensive
  • could get addictive
  • doesn’t help develop social skills

Moms and Dads, weigh in! Do you allow gaming systems in your house? What parameters do you set?

video game debate


How to Manage Your Kids’ Expectations Around the Holidays

As if parenting isn’t challenging enough from January-October, when the clock strikes 12 on November 1st parents everywhere have to deal with Kids During the Holidays. The parties, the sweets, the carols, the toy catalogs, the commercials. It’s like a Christmas bomb goes off all around our children.

Like most parents, I try hard all year not to spoil my kids. I try to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and not entitlement. I long to embrace minimalism. When November and December roll around, I don’t want to undo all of that by going over-the-top for the holidays.

Kids are a marketer’s dream and it’s natural for them to want everything they see on TV. They’ll also see plenty of images of Christmas trees with presents just pouring out from underneath it. They may think that is what’s normal, and they’ll develop huge expectations. Here are some ways to manage their expectations and keep your sanity around the holidays.

managing kids expectations around the holidays

1. Keep the lists small

Ever hand your kid a toy catalog and tell them to circle what they want, only to get it back with 90% of the toys circled?

Children are literal, and if you ask them what they want for Christmas they may decide they want ALL THE THINGS. And once they’ve asked for it, their expectation is that they’re going to get it.

Don’t leave it so open-ended for them.

Instead of encouraging my kids to add everything in their wildest dreams to their Christmas list, I try to get them to think of a few things they truly want. We’ll write down a list of 3. Then when they see a commercial for a blanket in the shape of a shark that they just HAVE to have, I’ll refer back to their list and ask which thing they want to replace. Typically they look at the list and within moments the shark blanket is no longer a necessity.

2. Be upfront when the answer is no

Call me a mean mom all you want, but there are some things I’m just not going to give my child even if it’s the only thing he wants for Christmas. I don’t want my kids to have video games, so if they beg for an Xbox I know it’s not going to happen. Same thing goes for a puppy. (I already have 4 kids who act like animals, so as far as pets go- just no.)

It is better to disappoint your child on whatever random day they ask for these things rather than to disappoint them on Christmas morning. As soon as they mention something that off-limits for you, just be straightforward and tell them they won’t be getting that so they should choose something else. I like to be honest and give them the reason behind the no:

  • That is very expensive and we don’t spend that much on Christmas gifts.
  • Kids often get hurt using those toys so we won’t be playing with those at our house.
  • We don’t do video games because too much screen time isn’t good for kids.

“But Santa will get it for me!”

If your kid is smart they will try to pull the Santa card. We stick with the story that Santa knows all, including household rules. And Santa would never give a gift that breaks a household rule.

managing kids' expectations around the holidays
Sorry, son. Even if you’re on the nice list, Santa still won’t bring you a puppy.

3. Make it about giving

All of us parents hope our kids will get in the spirit of giving, but that’s not necessarily something that comes naturally for children. To shift their thinking from themselves to others, I make a concerted effort to individually plan out each kid’s  own Christmas shopping. Each one has a brainstorming session where they jot down ideas of what they think their family members will like, then we shop for it, they wrap it (with assistance) and make a card.

Whether they are spending their own money or not isn’t really the point, but the thought that goes into the gift is. It truly warms my heart to hear one of my children deliberate on which gift their sibling will like more. My 7 year old son once stood in Target for 15 minutes holding two My Little Ponies in his hands coming up with different reasons why his little sister would like one more than the other. When Christmas morning came, he watched her open that gift with more interest than you’d ever imagine a 7 year old boy can- all because he wanted to see her reaction.

We Moms take great joy in seeing our kids happy with their Christmas gifts, don’t deny them the same feeling of joy!

This year in addition to having our kids give gifts to their siblings, they will also be shopping for Grandma and Grandpa, their teachers, and children in need who put lists on the angel tree.

4. Focus on experiences

Prepare your kids in advance for how the holiday will go. Let them know they may or may not get all the presents they wanted, but they can be sure they’ll get to have a special day with family. Talk about how they’ll get to decorate Christmas cookies and leave some out for Santa. Get them planning what they’ll do with their cousins when they come to town.

Do you always watch a special Christmas movie? Or go to a religious service? Make handmade ornament to put on the tree? Incorporate your children’s ideas and preferences into these holiday traditions where you can. Build excitement around these experiences. When Mom is enthusiastic about something, the rest of the family will follow.

manage kids' expectations for the holidays
Family time together beats a gift grub any day

5. Don’t be afraid to keep it small

While we want Christmas to be a special time for our children, some kids just can’t handle all the hoopla. You know your kids and how much it takes for them to become overstimulated. Be mindful of their needs and plan accordingly. Sticking to their daily routine or giving them a secluded place for some quiet play on Christmas will prevent an epic meltdown.

Kids with past trauma, sensory issues, ADHD, autism, anxiety or a myriad of other issues especially will need some help getting through the holidays. This article Parenting Kids Who Sabotage Big Days offers more advice about keeping the holidays small and manageable for kids who can’t handle everything that goes along with a huge holiday.

With some advanced preparation, you can manage your kids’ expectations around the holidays and keep the spirit about love and togetherness instead of presents, presents, and more presents!



6 Useless Phrases Parents Need to Stop Saying to the Their Kids (and what to say instead)

Parents: Ever feel like a broken record talking to your kids? We say the same things over and over again and wonder why they just don’t listen.

Maybe the problem isn’t just with kids listening, but also with what we’re telling them.

When we put more thought into how to talk to kids, we can connect with them better and reduce our own frustrations.

Here are 6 useless phrases parents need to stop saying to their kids:

1. “Be Careful!”

Why it’s useless: Kids need specific, actionable directives. The generic “be careful” does not tell them what to do. It’s also so overused (just listen to moms on the playground), it has lost all significance.

What to say instead: Be specific! Say exactly what you’re concerned about. “You need to have walking feet in flip flops because it’s easy to trip.” “Did you notice the big crack in the pavement right there?” “Please walk slowly when carrying a tall glass of milk.”

Also, assess the situation. Do your kids actually need to be more careful, or are you underestimating their ability? It might make you nervous to see your child zipping around on their new bike. But if they are wearing a helmet and appropriate gear, you should probably fight the urge shout “be careful!” every 8 seconds. If they fall, they will learn on their own how to ride safely, and shouting “be careful” isn’t likely to prevent any falls anyway.

2. “Calm Down.”

Why it’s useless: Have you ever seen that meme on Facebook that says “Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down”?  Yeah, that.

What to say instead:

  • Take a deep breath with me.
  • Let’s count to 10.
  • Look around the room and tell me 10 things you see.
  • You are safe.
  • How can I help you right now?
3. “Stop Crying.”

Why it’s useless: Same reasoning as “calm down”. We are all guilty of saying it, but it isn’t going to help.

What to say instead: Focus on validating their feelings, even if it seems like something not worth crying over. (To them, it is.)

  • It’s ok to feel sad. I feel sad sometimes too.
  • Do you need a hug?
  • How can we solve this?

A distraction might also help, but don’t use distractions without first validating the child’s feelings. Think of it this way: You might love wine, but if you’re crying to your partner about the horrible day you had, do you want his response to be “here’s a glass of wine”? Or would you feel better with “wow, that does sound like a bad day. I’m sorry you didn’t get that gig you worked so hard for. Would a glass of wine help?”

4. “Let Me Do That.”

Why it’s useless: This is Mom Code for “I can do that better than you can.” Your kid knows you can do it better, but they don’t need their self-confidence and independence shot down by having you remind them of that.

What to say instead: If your child is managing the task on their own, you need not say anything.

  • If they seem to be getting frustrated, ask “would you like any help with that?” If they say no, back off.
  • When possible, validate their efforts. “You’re making a lot of progress with shoe tying. Last time you didn’t get as close as you did this time!”
  • Even if they are completely failing at the task at hand, you can still frame it in a positive way with something like, “It makes me happy to see you trying new things.”
5. “No.”

Why it’s useless: Ok so I’m not saying the word “no” is useless. There is certainly a time an a place where “no” is the only acceptable answer. The issue is when everything is “no”- especially for certain kids where the word “no” is a guaranteed trigger for tantrums or meltdowns.

What to say instead: Always try to frame the answer in a positive if at all possible. For example, child A asks to go to the park when they have ignored their daily responsibilities. Rather than a blanket “no”, spin it around so they hear the part they want to hear first. “We can definitely go to the park as soon as your homework is done.” This emphasizes what they want to do while still including the steps they need to take first.

If there is no positive, a message of understanding and a basic explanation will probably go over better than a flat-out “no”. One of my children is constantly asking for desserts for breakfast even though she knows I’m not going to say yes. If I just answer with “no”, she will continue asking again. A validating explanation can hold her off from asking again in the near future. “That cake we had last night was really good, wasn’t it? I can see why you’re still thinking about it. We don’t have dessert for breakfast though because it won’t fuel your body for the day.”

6. “Good job!”

Why it’s useless: I know you’ve all heard this one before. Beware the dangers of overpraising our children! They will stop putting effort in and become arrogant!  Ok so like all parenting trends, take that with a grain of salt. I really don’t think it is going to any damage to say “good job” to your kids. However there are other more thoughtful responses you could give that would encourage your child a bit more.

What to say instead: Praise their effort or a specific detail of their accomplishment.

  • I can see how hard you worked on that painting!
  • It was very creative of you to make the sky pink!
  • I love watching you do artwork!
In conclusion

All kids are different and we parents know we can’t read off a script and have it work for all children. But by following basic principles of how to talk to kids (and really, all people) we can avoid at least some of the conflict and frustration that goes along with parenting. When we validate their feelings, they feel understood. When we give explanations, they will be more likely to follow directions. With a little effort, we can stop wasting our breath on useless phrases and improve communication with our kids.



The Dark Side of Parenting: 7 Truths I Wish I Knew Before Having Kids


dark side of parenting what I wish I knew before having kids

Everyone tells you having kids will change your life. The part they don’t always tell you is, it’s not always for the better.

Yes, the half-pints are adorable (just look at mine!) and yes, you will love them like you’ve never loved anything before. But all the rosy stories about kids that end with “and I wouldn’t change a thing!” are a flat-out fraud. Who wouldn’t change the baby that wakes up every two hours into a baby that sleeps all night? Who wouldn’t change their tantrumming toddler into a child who says “that’s ok if my blue cup is in the dishwasher Mom. Just give me whichever one is available”?

Let’s be honest- there’s a lot we would change. The Moms with the flawless family pictures on Facebook paint a picture of life with kids that is glorious, a life that somehow transcends any possible joy or fulfillment childless people could ever experience. Oh, how young childless me longed to experience such enlightenment!

Now here I am on the other side. In the trenches. With four tiny, loud humans depending on me for everything. Demanding. Needing. Wanting. Competing. Yes, there are wonderful, beautiful moments like I’d never experienced before. But there is also a dark side to parenthood that I never hear people talking about. Since they don’t talk about it, it’s easy to feel alone. You might wonder what’s wrong with you that this new life isn’t providing you with a constant state of bliss. The self-doubt starts to creep in.

Some days I have to remind myself, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

Parenting hard RealMomRecs

If people had been more open and honest with me, I would have been better prepared before having kids. Looking back now there are some parenting truths I wish I understood before permanently changing my life by becoming a Mom.

7 Truths I Wish I Knew Before Having Kids

1. Don’t even try to plan it.  You are not in control.

You might have had success planning every detail of your life up to this point and you may be entirely sure that you can plan parenthood just as well. Let me just tell you now, it won’t go according to plan.

Maybe you’ll get pregnant when you weren’t supposed to be trying yet. Or maybe it will take 3 years and two rounds of  IVF.

Maybe you will time it perfectly so that your due date will be right at the most convenient time for you to take off of work. But then you get sentenced to bed rest during your most busy time of year.

Maybe your dream of a natural, medication-free water birth is shattered when you end up having an emergency C-section.

Maybe your water breaks at 24 weeks and you end up spending months going back and forth to the NICU and your entire universe is turned upside down.

No amount of skill or OCD-esque personality traits will allow you to be in control of your entry to parenthood.

2. It might not be love at first sight.

You spend months, maybe even years dreaming about the first time you lay eyes on your child. So many people tell you it will be love at first sight.

Maybe it will be.

But if it’s not, that’s normal too. Of my four children, I can honestly say I felt love at first sight once. The other three took time. You give birth and the doctor hands you a stranger. It’s OK if it takes some time to develop that bond. Love grows at its own pace.

3. Your marriage will change.

Before having kids, my husband was my world. I wanted to know his every thought and feeling every single day. It was the two of us in our own private universe where nothing else mattered.

Until the kids came.

Four kids later, there are times when it feels like my husband and I are more like coworkers than intimate life partners. Conversations revolve around schedules and task delegation. We still love and care for one another, but the entire focus of the relationship has shifted.

4. Friendships will change.

That friend you’ve had since elementary school that you always envisioned your child calling “Auntie”? She might fall by the wayside after you realize how little time you have to devote to anything other than your little one.

Parenthood is so all-consuming, especially in the beginning, that you will feel you have nothing left of yourself to give. And even if you manage to put effort into the maintaining the friendship, she might decide that she’d rather go out with other childless companions rather than sit on your couch and listen to you gripe about colic.

5. It can be lonely.

Dark Side of parenting: It can be lonely.
Even though you’re never alone, being a Mom can still be lonely.

Once you’re out of the newborn haze, you will find yourself ready to make some Mommy friends. This sounds so simple, yet it ends up being an even more complex process than finding your spouse.

First you need to like her, and she needs to like you. Then the schedules need to sync up (a stay at home mom looking for a morning playgroup will have a tough time befriending the mom that works 9-5). Your kids and her kids need to be similar ages and get along reasonably well. Parenting styles need to mesh well or you will end up feeling judged the entire playdate for bringing your kid a juice box into the house where sugar is considered a sin.


Of course before having kids I was aware that they would be permanent. Or at least I thought I knew that.

Eight years later, the reality of how ever-present kids are continues to smack me in the face on a regular basis. When considering having kids, have a good honest sit down with yourself and ponder this: Do you like sleeping in on the weekends? Do you sometimes spend lazy days binge watching Netflix? Ever wake up hungover and need to lounge for hours until it wears off? Do you enjoy spontaneously deciding to go somewhere and just grabbing your purse and heading out the door? These are things you will not be able to do for YEARS.

You can’t call in sick to Mommyhood.

7. You might miss your old life.

I love my family infinitely and would be heartbroken if I didn’t have each one of my children. I’m sure all parents feel the same. But when parenthood gets exceptionally challenging and tiresome, you may find yourself longing for the days when the only person you had to worry about was yourself. It’s not that you want your kids gone, you just wish you could freeze them and save them for later. Then you’d go back to your child-free life and take a couple more vacations. Sleep in a few more weekends. Go check out the new sushi joint without being at the mercy of your 15 year old neighbor to come babysit. You might find yourself fantasizing about the most basic of things like being able to eat a brownie without sharing it or being able to use the bathroom without an audience.

I have never heard another mom say out loud that she misses her old life, but I know they sometimes have those feelings. And if you are a Mom who sometimes feels this way, you are not alone.


3 Little Buttons