Beyond ???Mom:??? How Parenting Defines Us

By Demetria Gallegos

Everett Collection
Parents fall into roles within the household. How hard is it to change them?

When my daughters ask what???s for dinner, I have the extreme pleasure of saying, ???I don???t know.???  Because I rarely do. Their dad makes almost every meal, usually from scratch, and in his hands, it???s tasty, economical and healthful.

John???s reign as Meal Parent began almost 16 years ago, shortly after our oldest was born.  When Jamie was ready for solids, she got home-made baby food, which made other mothers in our playgroup feel a little insecure.  I don???t remember ever asking him to be in charge of meals, but he was good at it, and ??? as the parent at home ??? he felt it was his responsibility.

At the time, with just one little baby, I never would have imagined who I have become.  Turns out, I???m in charge of Homework, Housekeeping, Photos and Tech Support.

I never understood how unrelenting the chores of parenthood would be, and how we would naturally fall into these roles.  It???s beautiful when it works (did I mention he???s also Laundry, Shopping and Dishes Parent? ??? I know, I hit the jackpot).

But sometimes you have to take on jobs that no one wants.  Midnight Parent, to help the child with the bad stomach. Sewage Clean-Up Custodian, after a basement shower drain kept exploding. Bug Killer. Shoveling the Driveway for Three Days After a Blizzard to Extricate the Cars Parent.  You step up when duty calls.  Every time these roles are invoked, I reflect anew with deep humility on how single parents do it.

I wrote this week about how John has been Pet Parent all these years, and how I considered challenging his primacy when one of the girls set her heart on adopting a cat.   In the end, I chose not to, in part because of my respect for the thoughtful process he has gone through with the girls to evaluate different potential pets and our ability to care for them well.  It???s always been his turf.

But things are changing and roles are shifting as our daughters get older, and we all become more mindful of how entrenched these patterns have become.

Propelling the four of them through homework can still be onerous, but increasingly, they track their own responsibilities and progress.

The girls and I have finally begun to feel guilty about leaving dishes in the sink, and realize how much John has been spoiling us.

One of our girls is very interested in cooking, and has begun trying recipes on us ??? to our delight.  We need more of that to happen.  And, in truth, I should probably make more than the occasional grilled cheese.

Jugglers, which parent are you? What do you think of the division of labor?  Would you set up things differently if you were starting over again?

Ron Asks: “How do you divide the parenting roles in your household?”

Transracial Adoptions

Based on the book by Amy Ford

Helping adoptive parents with advice and experience in raising children of different ethnicity.

Top 10 Things White Parents Need to Know When Raising African American Children

  1. Darker skin is drier than lighter skin
    Expect to use a generous amount of lotion daily. Find a brand with the least amount of water content in order to maximize the amount of hydration.

  2. Sandboxes are not your friend
    Sandboxes are not your friend It takes an enormous amount of time and effort to remove sand from your child’s hair. Avoid the sandbox until you are ready for the challenge.

  3. Limit Your Child’s Exposure to Water 
    Your child’s hair is naturally dry and washing their hair as often as you wash your own will cause the hair to dry even more and break. Hair washing once per week is fine.

  4. Hair is Huge 
    Your child’s hair is nothing like your own. Your child’s hair is nothing like your own, don’t treat it as such.
    • Wash weekly with a hydrating shampoo
    • Condition, Condition, Condition
    • Oil
    • Comb for boys, brush for girls
    • Silk Scarf for girls overnight

  5. Do what it takes to master the hair 
    The hair of a minority child is an expression of cultural pride and is directly linked to self-esteem.

  6. White Privilege 
    You have it, your child doesn’t. White privilege is the undeserved, unprompted advantages afforded to whites in this country in the areas of banking, education, and society.

  7. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions 
    Not everyone in your life will support your decision to parent a child of a different race. You may lose some friends or family members. Can you handle it?

  8. Be prepared to become a minority
    Adopting a child of a different race automatically moves you into minority status. Gone are the days of being anonymous. Prepare yourself for the attention coming your way. It is helpful to practice how you will respond to questions about the unique nature of your family. Decide as a family how much information you are comfortable sharing. 

  9. Racism is wide spread in this country in ways that may not be visible until you accept a child of a different race into your family. It may take a while for you to feel it or see it, but your child will feel it immediately. It is part of his every day experience. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Embrace the differences and celebrate the likenesses. 

  10. Your African American child has needs you cannot meet. It truly takes a village to raise a child and never has it been truer than in raising one of a different race. Your child has physical, cultural, and emotional needs that you cannot meet without taking the time to build a support system. Look to churches, sports teams, parenting groups, child care workers, teachers, and play groups for support.

Ron Replies: I am currently working on a seminar on Adoption Clinical Skills concerning transracial adoptions and thought this could be helpful to prospective adoptive parents.

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Backyard Water Games and other game resources

Backyard Water Games

The pool ain’t the only place for wet summer magic. Put on your suits and stay poolside. More fun to come!

Water Limbo

This game can be played on the back lawn. What you’ll need is a hose with a nozzle that will allow for a straight, steady stream of water. You can either play the game as a limbo game or a hurdle game. Use the steady stream of water as the limbo stick. Kids must maneuver their bodies under the stream of water without getting soaked. The lower the stream is, the harder it is to go under it. The stream will be lowered when every kid makes it under the previous stream.

You cannot crawl on the ground to get past the stream???you have to walk???arching your back as you go! If the ground is too slippery for kids to arch their backs while walking under the stream, let them hunch forward instead???we don’t want anyone to get hurt!

If you decide to play the game as a hurdle, you might want to put some padding on the ground because kids could slip when they land on the ground. Try some rubber matting???something that might have a little traction for wet, slippery feet.

Water Gun Wars

Here’s a good way to enjoy a hot summer day without a swimming pool. For this game, you might want to invest in some of those supersoaker water guns. They don’t have to be the super-powered supersoakers because, again, the idea of water play is safety. But some of the super capacity but low-powered supersoakers are perfect. If you can’t get a supersoaker, a regular water pistol will do. To play the game, you can just fire at each other, or you can include a game of Tag in all the squirting!

The player who is ???It??? gets the water gun and must tag the other players by squirting them with the gun. The person who is tagged first gets to take over the gun and do the squirting.

Try playing this game as Freeze Tag. You must freeze in place when you are squirted by the water pistol. You can be unfrozen by having another player crawl (or swim) between your legs. If ???It??? manages to freeze everyone, he or she gets to squirt again.

You can also play that ???It??? has the pistol, but only until he or she is tagged by another player. If ???It??? cannot squirt the player before being tagged, he or she must relinquish the power of the pistol to the person who tagged him or her.

Three Strikes

Please only use the water pistols inside your yard and always make sure they are brightly colored. There are too many horror stories in the news these days about kids and realistic-looking toy guns. Be careful!

You can also play this game in the pool. It just makes it harder to get out of the way when you’re waist-deep in water.


Try this game on a really hot summer day in your backyard kiddie pool. Kids will love it, but believe me???if it’s hot enough adults will play, too.

Fill the kiddie pool with water and add ice cubes! Have each person try to remove the ice cubes with their feet. You’ll be cool before you know it! For a real challenge, have each person remove the ice cubes using only one foot. The person to remove the most ice cubes is the winner. With adults, don’t worry about who wins???just think ??? ???cold!???

More on: Games

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Family Games ?? 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon’s web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

Mary Hartzell | Parenting from the inside out

If you are interested in learning more about relationship based parenting, you can go to Mary’s website at, where you will find parent education CD’s on Parent/Child Relationships that help parents make positive, practical changes in their everyday life with their children. 

Q: Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to First Presbyterian School in Santa Monica.

Mary Hartzell:

A: “I went to graduate school in UCLA where I completed my master’s degree in Early Education and Psychology. While I was there I was invited to join the teaching staff of the Early Childhood Unit at the UCLA Elementary School. This wonderful opportunity gave me a very strong foundation of integrating theory and practice. Because the school is part of the UCLA Graduate School of Education, I was involved in research projects and mentoring student teachers. The aspects of visibility, team teaching, dialogue, research and innovation that I learned there have continued to inform my work as a teacher and a director of a school to this day.

I became the Director of First Pres 26 years ago and had the opportunity to work with the teachers to evolve the school in a way that supported children’s thinking and development in social, emotional, physical, and cognitive areas. When I read an article in the journal of The National Association for the Education of Young Children, called “Beautiful Spaces, Caring Places,” I became very intrigued about what was going on in the schools in the municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and set out to learn more. It’s a philosophy that is constantly evolving. We never say we are a Reggio school—because we are not in that part of Italy—but we have been inspired by their philosophy.

*While I was at home with two young children, I organized a parent education class for a group of my friends that met with success. After starting at First Pres, I began an individual consulting program as well because I found that some parents wanted more personal support. I continue to teach parenting classes and consult with parents as well.”

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Reggio Emilia and how this approach to education works within a school?

A: “At First Pres, we have been inspired and working with the Reggio Approach for 13 years. We continue to consult with Amelia Gambetti, a liaison between Reggio Children and schools in the U.S and throughout the world. She encouraged us to embrace our identity within our own context and community.

The Reggio Approach sees the school as a system of interactions and relationships and the daily life of the school reflects and values children, teachers and parents as protagonists in the learning process. The system is about facilitating children’s own powers of thinking. In doing that, there’s a sense of the expressive and the communicative and cognitive capacities that each individual has. The environment is rich with many materials, which can give form to their ideas. They are learning through all their senses. It is a pedagogy based on listening. Teachers listen to children’s ideas, document and reflect with them as they formulate, test and revisit their theories while building knowledge and skills. When children come to school, they already have their own theories and ideas developed through their early experiences. We begin with a strong image of the child as capable and competent. Children are protagonists in the learning process and learning is co-constructed with the teacher and other children as they work together in small and large groups sharing their ideas and listening to others’ ideas.

There is a pedagogy of listening that gives respect to each individual’s ideas within the context of the community and a give and take between children as they talk and solve problems together. Most of the learning takes place in small groups, which promotes deepening levels of thinking. Children are provoked by others’ questions. Everyday there is engaged, dynamic learning!”

Q: You co-wrote Parenting from the Inside Out (which I would recommend as required reading to any parent) with neurobiologist Daniel Siegel, M.D, and if you had to sum up what this style of parenting is, how would you describe it?

A: ““Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Helps Us Raise Children Who Thrive,” is a parenting style based on relationships. Becoming a parent can trigger unresolved issues that we may unknowingly carry from our relationships with our own parents, and can interfere with us being the kind of parent we want to be. I work with many parents who are stuck in ineffective relationship patterns with their children. Because our book integrates both left and right brain processing, offering both narrative stories and neuroscience research on the brain and relationships, it offers a hopeful message to parents. The feedback I receive from parents often includes that their other relationships become more satisfying as well.

Learning to communicate is at the core of effective parent/child relationships. Reflective dialogue supports the child in feeling understood and strengthens their core sense of selves. When we are able to listen with an open mind and open heart, our child feels understood even if they are not getting what they want. Respectful communication is very important to develop, because when we have children, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re essentially telling them who they are. We are giving them an image of themselves, and we want to give them an image of themselves as being confident, capable and lovable.”

Q: What are some simple exercises we can think about as parents to help us overcome our own negative patterns and not hurt our children?

A: “I think we have to start by being self-aware and honest with ourselves. It helps if we check in with ourselves to see how we are feeling to help us slow down our reaction. We are then less likely to act in a way that we might regret later. If we don’t take care of our own feelings, they will most likely come out in indirect ways, which disconnect us from our children and family.

When everyday routines aren’t working well, talk with your children about the problem and include them in a conversation about possible solutions. Ask them what they think would help solve the problem. When we include children in the process of making a plan they are more invested in its success because they have been given the respect of being part of a collaborative problem solving process. Here’s an example of how you might begin:

What do you think would help us get out of the house
on time in the morning because we’ve been late the last three days. It’s just not working. It seems like every morning I’m getting mad and raising my voice and you probably don’t like that. Let’s make a plan so that we can have a pleasant morning and everyone can be ready to leave the house on time.

Inviting your child/children to offer some ideas of what they think could help, makes a significant difference. It helps to have an honest conversation with kids about what’s not working, rather than getting angry at the same thing over and over again every morning. Stop doing what isn’t working. Getting angry at our children in the morning is unlikely to have any positive results. When we’re angry at our children, they’ll often defend themselves by getting angry at us. Sometimes children get mad at us because they think we’re going to get angry at them. When both we and our children are defensive, communication breaks down.

I often advise parents who feel stuck in a negative pattern with their child, to stop doing what isn’t working, and observe and reflect on both their child’s behavior and their own before making any change.

This is a good time to journal. Journaling can be helpful as it gives witness to our thoughts and feelings. The very act of writing can begin movement towards calming and healing and we are able to become more compassionate to our children and ourselves. When we are angry at our child, we may also be angry at ourselves because our child’s behavior makes us feel like an incompetent parent.

Another good time to journal is when you become more aware of what triggers a negative, unsuccessful response. When you notice that your reactions are more intense and extreme than the situation might merit, this awareness gives you an opportunity to change. The disruptive issue may have more to do with leftover or unresolved issues from your own childhood than with your child’s behavior. Writing your thoughts and feelings can be very helpful and begin to give us a deeper understanding of our child and ourselves.”


6 Ways to encourage a love of reading in preschoolers

How To Raise A Bookworm

It???s never too early to fall in love with reading. Help your little bookworms develop a lifelong love of reading with these simple tips.

mom reading chapter book with daughter

Read together every day

Encouraging a love of reading begins with making reading part of your everyday life. Children love to snuggle on the couch and listen to a good story. In fact, they may enjoy hearing their favorites over and over again. Don???t worry! This isn???t a waste of your time, even if you think your ears may bleed if you have to listen to The Cat in the Hat one more time. Repetition is a natural part of learning and helps reinforce your preschooler???s comprehension and vocabulary building. Choose a wide range of books to read to your child from nursery rhymes and timeless classics to lift-the-flap and touch-and-feel stories. The more you and your child interact with the book, the more everyone gains from the experience.

Play pre-reading games

Help your little ones get excited about reading by playing pre-reading games together. You can play some of the excellent store-bought games available like Cariboo, Zingo or Very Silly Sentences. Or make up your own games with alphabet puzzle cards, foam letters, lacing letters, alphabet magnets and more! Little children learn the most when they can get their whole bodies involved in the fun so try activities that keep them moving. Hide alphabet cards around the house and give your preschooler five minutes to find a group of letters. Draw your names in the sandbox. String necklaces with letter beads and name the letters as you go. Your kids will have so much fun, they won???t even realize how much they???re learning!

Write stories together

Spark your child???s creativity and encourage a lifelong love of reading by helping your little ones write their own storybooks. Children are the most creative storytellers, so grab the crayons and paper and let the fun begin. If your child is too young to write the story him or herself, have your child dictate the words while you write them down. Afterwards, let him or her illustrate each page with colorful drawings. Make sure to bind the story when you are finished (staples or ribbon will do the trick!) so that you can read it again and again.

Show your love of reading

Children learn best by example. At this age, they are like sponges absorbing the world around them. Want to teach a love of reading? Model the behavior yourself. Show your children how much fun reading can be by spending some of your free-time curled up with a good book or magazine.

Use your public library

Libraries have come a long way since our childhood. Nowadays, the children???s section in your public library is as entertaining as your local play area. With so many fun and educational toys, puzzles, books and games, your children will love coming to the library. Be sure to take advantage of storytime where your children will hear new stories, sing songs and do crafts. Afterwards, give your preschooler his or her own book bag to fill to the brim with new reading treasures for the week ahead.

Establish a family read-aloud

Bring the magic and power of literature into your home. Instead of turning on the boob tube at night, try establishing a family read-aloud. Little ones can play with Lego blocks or draw pictures while they listen, while older children may enjoy just focusing on the story. Consider picking longer chapter books so that your kids will look forward to a new installment each night. GoodReads has an excellent selection of fun family read-alouds that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Quick Tip

Do you have a high tech kid? Check out the fabulous selection of interactive children???s e-books on Kindle.

More ways to make reading fun

Free online reading games for kids
Make time to read to your kids
7 Reading games kids love


Top 7 Ways to Respond When Your Child Shares Feelings | Kinship Center

“Top 7 Ways to Respond When Your Child Shares Feelings”

One of the most important skills for a child’s emotional healing is the ability to identify and express emotion.  When a child can communicate their internal experience, he or she creates the foundation to alleviate past loss, abandonment, or trauma.  When the child connects to caregivers through sensitive sharing, the parent simultaneously becomes better equipped to understand the child’s joy, sorrow, fear, and frustration.

Some children easily share thoughts and feelings while others quietly leave the room or become “invisible” when anyone asks about feelings.  Whatever example describes your child, your response can either keep the conversation going or shut it down.   

There are times when every parent thinks, “What do I say back to my child?” or “How do I encourage my child to talk to me?” Use the following strategies to guide you: 

  1. Praise your child’s feeling comments- When your child tells you his or her emotions, express your appreciation to reinforce their behavior.  Say, “Thanks for sharing,” “I’m glad you told me,” or “I like it when you tell me how you feel.”  
  2. Mirror your child’s remarks– As you listen, summarize your child’s statement to ensure you heard the words correctly and to show the importance of his or her comments. Be careful not to simply repeat your child’s exact words as most kids consider this practice to be irritating!
  3. Help your child feel heard and understood– When a child feels heard and understood they are more likely to share and to feel connected to their caregivers. Convey that you are listening and understand your child’s point of view through sentence starters: “It makes sense to me . . .,” “I understand . . .,” and “It sounds like you’re saying . . .”
  4. “Is there more?” When you are listening to your child’s communicate about the situation and how they feel use this question, “Is there more you want to tell me?” You have heard everything they need to say when their answer is, “No.” 
  5. Check on your child’s needs or wants- After your child has explained his or her feelings, they may need further help or reassurance from you.  At this time ask, “Is there anything you need or want from me?”  “What can I do to make this situation better for you?” Your child may need you to intervene on their behalf, give them a hug, or spend time alone with you. 
  6.  Differentiate between thoughts and feelings– Help your child to visually delineate between thoughts and feelings through their location in the body.  Explain feelings reside in their heart while thoughts are located in their head. For example, “Can you tell me about the feelings in your heart?” or “What are the thoughts in your head?” 
  7. Do not jump in to fix the problem- Understandably, most parents can not stand to see their child in pain, and we want to fix it as soon as possible. But, by overlooking your child’s emotions leaves your child feeling alone and misunderstood. Before you work on fixing the difficulty, listen carefully with open ears!

One of our Kinship Center social workers recommended this interesting blog post by Kentucky therapist Carol Lozier…to follow her blog,  click here.


Ron Raves: A great company and great advice…yes, I am biased because I work here 🙂