Shut Off the Water

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

adbhalloweenThose big crocodile tears spell nothing but trouble. You not only have to deal with the cuteness factor that makes you feel like an evil parent for not just giving in to whatever it is will make those tears go away, but the wails that often follow are not pleasant (especially when you’re in public).

No matter what though, in these desperate times, you’ve got to stay tough.

Kids turn on the waterworks for a number of reasons, but often the tantrum arises simply from want. They really do need that third cookie, or they don’t want to go to the grocery store, or they do not want the purple dress today.

The reason for the meltdown is not nearly as important as your response. You can understand their distress, but unless you’re willing to have the same behavior when your cute little toddler is a teen, you’ve got to be firm. Your child will learn all too quickly that it will only take a bit of wailing and tears until they get what they want.

[Tweet “The reason for your toddler’s meltdown is not as important as your response. #parenting #toddlers”]

There’s a good chance that things will get worse before they get better. The last thing you want to do is reinforce bad behavior, so you have to tough it out. Let your child cry it out (only when it’s a tantrum, not when they’re hurt, scared, sick, or otherwise truly in need). The second the tears stop, that’s when you want to offer attention. They’ll learn pretty quickly that they will only get a response when they are not screaming. In the moment (especially the public meltdown moment) it is easier to give in, but staying strong will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Ask Teens Questions (Just Ignore the Eye Rolling)

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

teenWhen your kids are young, there seem to be no bounds to what they will say. There is no filter, which can be both precious and embarrassing (ask me about the bitch song sometime).

They want to tell you literally every single thing that happens each day. To this day, asking Anika about her day at school results in a very long monologue.

Unfortunately, it kids grow out of that desire to tell you everything.

As your toddlers and tots turn into tweens and teens, the “how was your day?” question becomes an annoyance. The response is typically an abrupt “fine” – if not just a roll of the eyes. Any probing questions are treated with exasperated groans or a long, drawn out “mom!”


Kira (whose eyes still have not recovered from the rolling they used to do) was capable of producing the most exasperating sighs at our persistent questioning. Don’t let “teen ‘tude” deter you! Your teen may act tough and independent, because they are genuinely working to find their own identity, but they still need you (even if they don’t necessarily want your input). Your teen (secretly) wants to know that you are there and that you care.

[Tweet “#Teens still want to know you are there and that you care. Talk to them!”]

Knowing where your teen is going, what he’s doing, who he’s with and when he’ll be home should be an absolute necessity. Our kids don’t leave the house without providing every last detail. It’s not about control; it’s about safety and having the ability to guide, albeit from more distance.

Discover the Why Behind Your Child’s Behavior

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

tantrumChildren of all ages engage in irritating behaviors that are likely to drive you crazy. Sometimes, it seems like it is wired into their systems to figure out exactly what provokes parents the most and then repeat the behavior as much as possible.

As much as we love our children, they are expert button-pushers at every age, but sometimes those behaviors are worth a closer look.

Causes of Behavior Issues in Toddlers, Tweens, and Teens

Most disruptive behaviors are the result of some trigger. While asking your toddler, tween, or teenager exactly why they are engaging in some sort of behavior  might result in a flippant response like, “Because I can,” or something vague like, “I don’t know,” there usually is a reason. You just have to figure it out, and because you’re the parent, you also get to play the role of metaphorical dentist and do some teeth pulling.

At any age, disruptive or obnoxious behavior may simply be an effort to get attention. But it can also be a sign of anxiety or insecurity. Jealousy or resentment is also common, especially if changes have been made to the family, such as a new baby or stepparent. School issues may cause behaviors at home, whether it’s younger children being scared or older children experiencing frustration, peer pressure, or academic pressure.

Why You Need to Discover the Why of Your Child’s Behavior

Sometimes, behaviors from your kids are more than just an irritant; they are a sign that something is not right. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover what’s underneath the monster who took over your child whose goal is to drive you crazy.

Taking the time to discover the why behind your child’s behavior will bring you closer and you’ll get to know your child that much better.

Home Alone

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

When you finally decide to trust that your child (or children) won’t burn the house down it can be a big step for the whole family. As a parent, the anxiety can be enormous, but your kids will more than likely be thrilled with the responsibility/freedom. I’s important, however, to establish ground rules and a clear understanding that the kids don’t have free reign.

home aloneLeaving our kids alone for the first time resulted in so many additional gray hairs I should have invested in Garnier. The list of emergency numbers we left them was as big as a phone book.  Ground rules do help. Ours included:

  • Absolutely no leaving the premises
  • Cookies and other similar foods are not an acceptable meal
  • If you wouldn’t do it with us here, don’t do it with us not here
  • NO ANSWERING THE DOOR or peaking to see who is there
  • Always answer the phone (because every five minutes, it’s likely to be us) – this is much easier now that everyone has cell phones
  • Never tell anyone we’re not home

Many of these rules came about because they did these things. They never left the house without our permission, but cookies (and candy, if it was around) disappeared like magic. It wasn’t until Parker had a Facebook account that we even realized how scary it was to see the kids announce our departure. In all innocence, they were just excited, but it resulted in an immediate call to delete the post.

These are simple rules for the most part, but they are not always easy to follow. Not every child is ready to be left home alone at the same age. Kira was ready at 9; Derek wasn’t really ready at 11. Parker has always been good about being home alone, but leaving him and his sister together took time, patience, and several short practice trips.

It is an important step to take with your kids when they – and you – are ready. Not only is it wonderful to reach the point where you can run to the store without packing up the entire clan, but date nights get a lot easier.

Some states have laws about the age at which you are allowed to leave your children alone. Be sure you know the laws in your state.

No Doesn’t Mean a Whole Lot to Your Child

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

toddlerThere’s a reason that one of the first words your child masters is “no.” Children copy what they see and hear, and it’s an easy assumption that you are saying “no” quite often. But what does “no” really mean?

“No” and “stop” are often confused for the same thing, but when it comes to eliminating certain behaviors and promoting others, it’s going to be important that you recognize the difference.

Let’s say your child is throwing blocks. Saying “no” could mean many different things to your child who is still learning. You didn’t technically specify what your child should not be doing. More importantly, you likely didn’t mention what they should be doing. As silly as it may seem, being more detailed with your child offers learning opportunities at every moment. These same opportunities will be presented again when your children are teenagers.

A better approach to the child throwing blocks would be to say, “Please stop throwing blocks. You might hurt someone. Instead of throwing blocks, why don’t you build a zoo for your stuffed animals?”

Demonstrate the right way to do things, and top it off with a nice compliment when they do make the right decision.

Explaining why kids should STOP and rewarding good behavior with hugs and compliments will be much more productive than a generic “no” without any sort of clarification.

Make “no” a less popular word in your house, because even young children have the ability to understand simple instructions and demonstrations.

Are Video Games Corrupting Your Child?

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

violent video gamesViolent video games are always getting the blame for the destruction of today’s innocent youth. Yes, it must be the violent video games that are teaching children poor values, right? Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at what the culprit might really be.

Violent media in general could certainly be contributing to how children understand the world. It’s not exactly what we would like our children to be learning, but it’s what is out there to an extent. But what happens to be more harmful than the presence of violence is the absence of parental guidance. If you haven’t spoken to your child about the nature of the games they play and played them yourself, you don’t even have an idea what you’re up against.

[Tweet “More harmful than the presence of violence is the absence of parental guidance.”]

Video games have ratings for a reason. If they are rated M for Mature, perhaps your pre-adolescent shouldn’t be playing those. But if you view a game and can talk on a competent level with your child about proper behavior and values, it might be acceptable for your child’s personal level of maturity.

At the end of the day, it is only a game. What is essential — as with everything with raising kids — is your involvement in your child’s life. Talk to them about what they are exposed to, and they will be able to prepare for it and face it with the values you have taught them. Violent video games alone are not going to predict behavior. In fact, a new study says that violent video games can increase moral awareness. involvement and a supportive environment have a greater effect.

[Tweet “Parenting tip #487: Essential to #parenting is your involvement in your child’s life.”]

Helicopter Parenting vs. Advocating for Your Child

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

wordcloudIn writing and talking to Dave about the damage that can be done when helicopter parents won’t allow their kids to grow, learn, and make their own mistakes, we discussed how likely it was that certain school administrators around the country where our kids attended school might have the perception that we are such helicopter parents.

After all, we did withdraw our son from art class to prevent him from being exposed to her toxic ways. There were times when we were in contact with at least one of our son’s teachers almost every day. And, even as he heads off to high school, we already have started drafting our introductory email that will beat him to each classroom.

Are we helicopter parents?


We are involved parents of special needs kids. And for those parents out there who have a special needs child, you will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say there is a difference.

Our older son had Down syndrome. He could not communicate for himself because he was born deaf and has no appreciable language skills. We had to be heavily involved in advocating for him because he could not advocate for himself.

Our younger son has Aspergers as well as a seizure disorder. While he has truly learned to navigate school and society so much more successfully, we do still stay much more heavily involved as advocates to ensure that he is treated fairly – and by fairly, I mean as an individual.

Advocates of special needs kids can certainly become helicopter parents, but there is a difference. Every parent should be involved in their children’s education; it’s when you do not allow your child to take risks they are ready to take, have a voice in their own future, or make decisions they are capable of making that the line is crossed.


When Skipping a Grade Is the RIGHT Step Forward

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

20140504_122120Our education system is nowhere near perfect. It’s definitely come a long way, but it seems like we still have a long way to go in acknowledging the talents of individual students. It seems that with laws such as the NCLB Act, a child that shines bright must dim in the classroom, as if it were possible to draw energy from one to “light” the others. Common Core Curriculum has made it even worse, and we are losing our best teachers by the thousands.

While equal opportunity for all students is a must, there should also be a path for those that would like to go above and beyond.

Anika is an excellent student. She has just completed 5th grade, but she is reading at a 12th grade level. Her free time is spent writing essays on prominent political figures, reading, writing her own book, running her own website, and dancing. She is a well-rounded individual who has pretty much been in the driver’s seat of her own destiny. We have done nothing except encourage the passions she has herself developed.

At one point during this school year, she expressed a wish to skip sixth grade. The material was boring to her. With an average of 99% in her studies, we certainly weren’t going to hold her back. Dave and I agreed that she wasn’t being challenged and pursued skipping a grade.

The school, of course, was not thrilled with our proposition. Testing demonstrated an overall average IQ (parts of it were extremely high; spatial skills were lower) and they didn’t see a reason for Anika to move forward. They recommended enrichment in the classroom (as if any elementary school teacher has time in their day to individualize the education of a student who isn’t on an IEP).

The problem with the school’s reasoning is that Anika’s success – and everyone’s success – has far more to do with motivation than IQ. Anika’s passion for learning and willingness to work hard is what carries her, and after some deliberation, the school district is allowing her to move to 7th grade.

Are we worried that she might feel a little out of place? Not really. She already socializes with her 14-year old cousins and brother on a regular basis. We are confident that she will find her way and continue to be successful. She has our support, and at the end of the day, we know her better than the school does.

We are bridging the small gap between 6th and 7th grade math this summer, but otherwise Anika has got it covered.

Teens Driving You Crazy?

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

teen driverThe teenage years are wrought with challenges that parents have to come to terms with, but one of the biggest is teen driving. There is something terrifying, in my mind, about placing a teenager (we’re talking about someone whose frontal lobe has not yet finished developing; someone with impulse control) behind the wheel. Yet for all the obvious reasons to worry about your teen driving, they normally take driver’s ed and are required to spend time driving with you, so they get the skills.

[Tweet “There is something terrifying to me as a mom about a teenager behind the wheel of a car. #teendriving”]

No, what really worries me is the fact that a license equals freedom.

When you entrust your teenager with the keys to a vehicle –  yours or their own – the mom brain in me thinks of all the horrible things that can happen. Letting your teen have the freedom to drive is something that should be accompanied by a lot of communication and understanding.

Before your teenager ever leaves the house with their new privilege, there should be clear ground rules established, such as where they are permitted to go, who they can offer rides to, where they will be the entire time they are gone, and when they will be back – and that’s just for starters.

Driving is a privelege. It should only come with earned trust. It simply isn’t feasible or safe to allow your child to meander off in a car if you aren’t sure that they are being honest about their plans. The safety of your teen shouldn’t be compromised by a teen who (being a completely normal teen) will try to barter, wheedle, or badger out of you.

[Tweet “Driving is a privilege. It should only come with earned trust. #teendriving”]

Driving is a privelege. If your teen has not earned the privilege, do yourself the favor of keeping the keys.

Reading (and Comprehending) with Your Toddler

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABooks are one of the best educational tools for toddlers for several reasons. Reading to your child promotes learning and literacy, encourages creative thinking, and it is wonderful time for you to spend together. However, if you’re simply reading the words on the page you’re wasting an opportunity.

It’s easy to underestimate toddlers, even with books. I’m guilty of avoiding longer or more complicated books or avoiding explanations over new vocabulary, but these can be real learning opportunities.

Pointing out tough vocabulary in books is the perfect way to improve literacy as well as comprehension. Using the illustrations as your guide can really enhance the story for your little one.

And then when you read it again (because you will read it again), you can ask your child comprehension questions to build greater understanding, such as “Do you remember what happens next?”

Reading just the words in a child’s book is not exciting as an adult. But asking about the character’s emotions and predicting what happens next makes stories more exciting for the both of you and offers your child a better learning experience.