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.

Babies Grow, Wallets Shrink

Baby bootiesGetting Real With Shadra Bruce

Planning for a newborn can be exhausting and it doesn’t necessarily end once the baby is born.  Creating the new room, finding the perfect crib, and selecting the most adorable clothes you can find (which is of course the best part) can be an ongoing process. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how much sleep you’re getting, babies grow in and out of everything pretty quickly.

As much as you may want to purchase anything and everything for your baby, this is a time to be budget-conscious. Your baby will be wearing diapers more than anything else, and in all reality, those cute clothes will be stained in no time. The bassinet will be used for a few months at best, and the many toys you buy will not be nearly as entertaining as the packaging they come in.

[Tweet “The many toys you buy will not be nearly as entertaining as the packaging they come in. #parenting”]

Your baby will grow faster than your budget, so keep in mind what exactly your baby will need. Your money will be better off heading towards indispensable things like bottles and onesies. But you should still definitely splurge every now and again. Who can resist an adorable dressed baby or that multicolored singing cow? Try to think about wants versus needs and spend more time than money on your baby.

Traditions Aren’t Just for Holidays

20140430_120015Every family has their own traditions, especially on the holidays. Hot chocolate on Christmas eve, the Memorial Day wiffle ball tournament, even knowing who gets the wishbone at Thanksgiving dinner….these are all special and cherished moments.  But you shouldn’t just reserve traditions only for the holidays.Traditions can also be daily moments that bring your family closer together.

[Tweet “#Traditions can be daily moments that bring your family closer together. #parenting”]

Even with our hectic schedules we always make our time spent together as a family a priority and dinner is a great way to make that happen. Do we spend every night gathered around a dining room table? No, but we enjoy our favorite shows together and still have a great time. We also have a goodnight ritual with the kids, which consists only of talking about our favorite part of the day while cuddling together. So simple, yet so incredibly special.

Traditions don’t have to be a big production, and they can be flexible. As Parker and Anika get older, our nightly talks may become a little different and that’s ok. Especially with blended families, flexibility about traditions helps everyone feel a part of the family. The goal is to just spend time together, and you don’t need the excuse of a holiday to make that happen.

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.”]

Lead Your Own Life – and Let Your Kids Do the Same

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

cross country moveIf you haven’t guessed yet, we are pretty comfortable with change and upheaval. We have taught our children to confidently live their own lives, and we’ve done so through example. If there was something we wanted, we went for it. Of course, it was always within reason and the understanding that our children are our priority. But that doesn’t mean we forgot our own passions.

We made the decision to make our fourth cross-country move to Utah, which has been a great move for us. We are closer to my sister and other beloved family and we love the area. We are even a little bit closer to Derek, who is in Texas . On the other hand, we are much farther from Kira, who is in New York and will be relocating to Virginia.

Yes, Dave and I are sad that we aren’t closer to our oldest children. But we were never meant to be landlocked. We raised our children to embrace different paths and they are doing just that. Not only that, but we are pursuing our own dreams as individuals and not just as parents. Parker and Anika swear that they’ll live with us forever, but we doubt those feelings will last. And although we love Utah, it’s most likely not our last stop.

We’re proud of Derek for joining the Army and choosing a life that was right for him even if it took him away from us. We’re proud of Kira for moving to New York City on her own to pursue her dreams and to continue chasing those dreams wherever they take her. Just because there are miles between all of us doesn’t mean we’re not still a close-knit family who celebrates each others’ adventures. And we’re glad our kids have learned from us that you’re never too old to start a new adventure.

We can’t base our lives on those of our children. Our doors are always open for our children and the plane ticket is paid for when they say the word (until they’re fully employed at least). Sure, it would be nice to be close to everyone, but someone would be limited. Where’s the adventure in that?

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.