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Emma’s Halloween Tips & Tricks

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. Costumes, decorations and watching all the kids’ faces light up as they trick-or-treat!

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Here are a few of my tips for having a safe and fun Halloween night. Go over my list before you leave the house so your child is aware of your expectations.

  • Map out a route before you go trick-or-treating and stick to it
  • Go to areas with plenty of people around & only go to welcoming houses with decorations and lights on
  • Explain about staying on paths & respecting people’s property – no trampling flower beds or touching decorations (unless they say it’s ok!)
  • Stay outside & never go into a stranger’s house
  • If your costume is dark, remain visible with glow sticks or a flashlight
  • Look at your candy before you eat it to make sure no one tampered with it & ask before you eat!
  • Take only one candy unless offered more –  let them know there will be a lot of kids out trick-or-treating & we need to leave enough candy for everyone
  • Remind them to say “Thank You!” even if they don’t like the candy offered

Most importantly, be safe, have fun & get plenty of candy🙂

Money Saving Back-to-School Lunchtime Tips

Whether the kids are back in school or you’ve made a resolution to bring your lunch to work more often, here are my money (and time) saving tips for lunchtime:

1) Cook in big batches 

Schedule one day a week (preferably Sunday or Monday) where you cook a giant batch of your household staples: Grains, beans, roasted veggies, grilled chicken, etc. Incorporate the item(s) into lunches all week. Another kid-friendly favorite I often make in batches is pasta or healthy pasta salads. Pasta is a staple in many households and it’s something that keeps well. Many people actually prefer leftover pasta. If you don’t, cook just the noodles so all you’ll have to do is add sauce. One day add a ground turkey bolognese, next a fresh kale or basil pesto.

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2) Go ham with soup

This is one of my favorite money-saving tips. I love soup, and the kids I work with do too. Soup is a great item to make a huge pot of and freeze smaller portions in mason jars for later. Soup is convenient, hearty, and can be super healthy.. not to mention it’s pretty easy to make! There’s really nothing else like the comfort of homemade soup.

Here are some excellent kid-friendly soup recipes from Today’s Parent. You can find some on my Pinterest too.

3) Take advantage of case discounts

Whether your kids love granola bars or those organic milk boxes, you can get discounted pricing on many items when you buy a case. If you’re not sure whether or not a case is available for purchase, you can always ask your grocery store’s Customer Service for details. They’re usually more than accommodating and can grab one from the back if needed.

4) Bulk bins are your friend

Use bulk bins and get a little. Or a lot! I love bulk bins because I get what exactly what I need, which means less waste. Especially if you have a recipe that calls for a certain amount of say, black rice, but it isn’t something your family eats on a regular basis. Buy grains, seeds, dried fruits, nuts, granola, flour, sugar, coffee beans (and much more) in bulk and you’ll notice big savings.

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5) Go organic with essential items

Most grocery stores now have their own brand of organics. For example, O Organics at Safeway and 365 at Whole Foods. Buy your family’s everyday essentials (peanut butter, crackers, cheese, yogurt, etc.) with these more affordable organic brands.

6) Transform leftovers

My favorite item to use for leftovers is a rotisserie chicken. It’s makes for a tasty, nutritious dinner as well as yummy sandwiches the next day. Or use it to make a chicken salad, in tacos, for chicken stock.. the possibilities are endless.

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7) Clip coupons

If you don’t see a coupon book displayed at your grocery store definitely ask Customer Service. They most likely have weekly coupons. It’s great to buy items that are already on sale, but a lot of the time you can combine sale items with a coupon for extra savings. Sometimes you’ll get extra savings if you buy 2 or more of an item – take advantage of this with items that won’t spoil quickly, like almond milk or frozen veggies.

A Little Book About Safety: Book Review

“Nothing is more important than keeping our children safe – but how can we talk to our kids about personal safety without scaring them? How can we be sure they know what to do to keep themselves safe when we’re not around?” The Mother Company has found a way to do just so… by following the lovable Hugo the Hippo as he navigates his way through a fun day at the pool with his family.

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The Mother Company is an excellent resource for parents, especially those with preschool-aged children. Their expertise in social emotional learning makes them a trusted source when it comes to communicating with kids.

I love their Ruby’s Studio series so naturally I was thrilled when they sent me A Little Book About Safety. The book is meant to be a companion to their applauded Ruby’s Studio: The Safety Show. Both are fantastic tools for parents and caregivers to explain the importance of safety. Your child will be empowered and feel like they have the skills to be the boss of their own safety.

The storyline is adorable, as are the characters. The Mother Company touches on topics that are important but in a fun way. The points are still getting across to your child without them getting overwhelmed.

The best thing about the Mother Company is they know kids, so they use language that your child can understand and relate to. They’re able to explain safety in a non-scary way. Safety is an important topic that shouldn’t scare our children, but it is something we need to discuss with them. A Little Book About Safety makes touching on important topics easy to talk about and creates an open dialogue with your child.

One thing I always ask myself when choosing a children’s book is, is it interactive? This is the best way to keep kids engaged. The Mother Company does a great job with this. They insert “Safety Tips” throughout the book that work as breaks in the storyline where you can stop and discuss. It has the key element in a good children’s book – making it all about your child! Even from the inside cover, “This book belongs to                   ”, your child will feel like it’s a special book just for them. I also like how they use the term “Safe Adult” because you can go over who is and who isn’t a “Safe Adult” in their life. Every child’s situation is different and this book allows you to tailor it to your little one.

There is honestly nothing I would add or remove from this book. It covers a wide-range of safety topics, like: Knowing a safe adult’s name and phone number, it’s ok to be scared and it’s ok to say NO, and what to do if they get lost. I especially like Safety Tip No. 2, “the parts of your body covered by your bathing suit are private” and Safety Tip No. 5, “YOU are the boss of your own body, and it’s ok to say “Stop!” to anyone… No one should touch you in any way you don’t like.” This isn’t any easy topic to cover but they touch on it perfectly.

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My favorite part? “All his smart choices will keep him strong, happy and SAFE.” Kids understand this. It gives them the right tools to take control of things that will keep them safe. As I say in Keep Calm and Parent On, give your child some power. They need to feel in control and feel ownership of their choices.

You can purchase A Little Book About Safety here!

Impatient Kids? Read this.

Impatience and childhood go hand in hand. There’s a reason “Are we there yet?” is such a common marker of traveling with kids. We cannot expect our children to come into the world as patient and understanding as the Buddha, and we’d probably worry about them slightly if they did. But as they grow, it’s a parent’s job to help them understand that they don’t get everything they want the moment they want it. Teaching them patience teaches them how to operate in the world as healthy, well-adjusted adults. It teaches them how to monitor their emotions, how to think of others and how to be in relationships with others — including their own children one day. Teaching patience makes your life easier, too — you know your children won’t have a meltdown the second you’re not able to fulfill their every request.

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Here are some questions to determine if you’re teaching your child patience:

If you’re having a conversation with a friend and your child has something to say, do you stop talking so he can share his thought?

If the answer is yes, stop. Not only is it annoying to the friend, but it teaches the child that he is so all-important that any word out of his mouth is worthy of stopping an adult’s conversation. Tell your child that you’d love to hear what he has to say, but he must wait his turn.

If you’re out at the zoo and your child is thirsty, do you drop everything and make for the food court to get her something to drink?

I certainly hope not. If you’re enjoying watching the baby lions, then by all means, continue watching the baby lions! Your child can wait until you pass a drinking fountain — there’s no need to make a beeline for a $4 beverage. Unless it’s 100 degrees and you’ve been out for hours, I seriously doubt dehydration is a great risk.

If you’re eating dinner and your child wants a refill of his milk, do you get up to get it for him or finish your dinner first?

Nothing irritates me more than when moms claim they haven’t had a hot meal in weeks. Have your hot meal! No one is depriving you of it but yourself. Tell your child that you would be happy to get him another drink, but after you have finished what’s on your plate.

Does your diaper bag, purse or backpack contain an answer to every need of your child that might possibly arise?

If the answer is yes, what are you afraid of? That your child will experience a tiny bit of discomfort that you can’t make go away that very instant? Guess what? That’s called life! It is OK to ask your child to wait for her crackers, her lovey, her bottle, her favorite toy. It’s OK if she’s slightly uncomfortable for a few moments. It will teach her forbearance!

Do you pull up Caillou on your smartphone every time you’re in a waiting room?

Whether it’s at the pharmacy, the doctor’s office or even the lobby of a restaurant, if you have instant entertainment waiting for your child, you are not actually teaching him to wait. You’re teaching him that he must be constantly engaged.

Do you become short-tempered when dealing with traffic jams, slow sales clerks or even your child taking a long time to put on her shoes?

If so, then you could probably do a better job modeling patience yourself. It’s not easy! Children will test every ounce of that patience. But know that they see it when you snipe at other drivers, when you roll your eyes at the sales clerk, or when you tap your foot when your 6-year-old is trying to tie his shoes. We could all do better in this department, and so let your child know that you struggle with having patience, too, and that you are trying to have more of it — just as you’re asking them to have more of it.

Trust me, patience is one of the best skills you can teach your child. It will make your life easier now, it will make him a stronger adult… and if enough parents join the fight, it just may etch away at a culture that expects instant gratification, no matter the cost.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Join the discussion! Connect with me on Twitter @emmaschildren or facebook.com/emmaschildren

This article was originally posted on HuffPost Parents

The Perils of Attachment Parenting

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of writing an opinion piece for The Atlantic. I discuss the controversial topic of “attachment parenting” and why I think a philosophy of putting children’s needs above parents’ can be a slippery slope. I’ve never been a fan of any one parenting technique. I prefer to use a more simple, “back to basics” approach where we expect more out of our kids. Manners, respect and boundaries aren’t a thing of the past.

Extremes like on-demand breastfeeding can take their toll on parents and children alike.

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I could tell from the dad’s voice that he was at the end of his tether. He hadn’t slept in eight months and was utterly spent, all the time. He would fall asleep at his desk or neglect his work. He and his wife always fought and they hadn’t had sex in nearly five months. “What can I do?” he begged me.

I have been a nanny and parenting consultant all of my professional life. Often friends of the families I work for will ask me for advice. The dad on the phone was the friend of a former employer. After asking him a few questions, I knew immediately what the problem was.

The dad and his wife had decided to try “attachment parenting” with their newborn son. That meant they slept in bed with their son every night, fed him milk every time he cried, and carried him everywhere they went in a baby sling. Though the intentions behind the philosophy are wonderful—let’s raise secure, attached, emotionally healthy children—attachment parenting is an unsustainable model. I am an absolute proponent of meeting a baby’s needs—and especially to meeting every need as soon as you can in those first couple of fragile weeks. And some elements of attachment parenting—such as sleeping in the same room as a newborn (but not in the same bed), and baby-wearing when it’s convenient—are great. But like so many trends that catch on through social media and word-of-mouth, it’s gotten out of balance. And like many well-intentioned practices, when taken to an extreme, it loses all value.

One of the tenets of attachment parenting is that you breastfeed a child on demand. That can lead to a habit where a child will snack—eating a little bit many times throughout the day. It’s much harder to get the baby on a schedule when he’s snacking constantly, and it’s hard for the mom to get anything done, let alone take care of her own needs, while feeding her baby all the time. I also fear that breastfeeding on demand can limit the role of other caregivers. If the baby is eating so frequently, he probably just wants his mother. This limits the potential involvement of dads and non-breastfeeding parents. And though it might seem to make life easier when you don’t need to worry about feeding schedules and having bottles ready, it means the mother must be available to the baby 24/7. That is simply not sustainable. It often means that when a child cries, the first thing he gets is the breast as an offer of comfort, so he doesn’t learn other ways to self-soothe. Nighttime feeding on demand disrupts parents’ and babies’ sleep. If parents set a precedent that nighttime is not mealtime, and feed the baby when he’s hungry but not every hour or so for comfort, children can be sleeping through the night by the time they’re four months old. This leads to a happier and more content baby, not to mention much happier and more rested parents.

Attachment parenting advocates would say that’s one reason mom and baby should sleep together. When the baby wants to eat, the mother can just roll over and feed him. Aside from the safety concerns with co-sleeping, babies do not learn to sleep on their own when they’re snuggled up with their parents. They become used to sleeping with a warm body and heartbeat next to them, and they will come to depend on that. The same is true for constant baby-wearing. It’s hard for a child to be put down alone on a blanket when she’s used to being held all the time. And it’s hard to get anything done—let alone be intimate with your partner—if there’s constantly a baby on your chest.

Attachment parenting encourages responding to your baby immediately each time he cries, or better still, before he cries. But parents don’t get a chance to learn their child’s different cries if they always pre-empt the crying. Is your child hungry? Gassy? Tired? Soiled? Parents learn to develop an ear for their baby’s distinct cries. But in an attachment model, the parents run at the slightest fuss, never giving them the opportunity to recognize their child’s needs.

Babies will often put themselves back to sleep if they’re given the chance—but these children never get the chance to self-soothe, to calm themselves down, one of the most important tools a child can develop at an early age. I know eight-year-olds who can’t go on sleepovers because they can’t leave their mother’s bed.

Some people argue that throughout history, all over the world, parents have kept their children by their side at all times. Yet our Western culture hardly resembles these cultures. (Did these parents have commutes and nine-to-five jobs?) Parents need to be able to focus at work, not be sleep-deprived, and devote their affection and attention to their kids when they get home.

Perhaps what’s most concerning to me about attachment parenting, though, is the thread that runs through each of these practices—sharing beds, feeding on demand, keeping the baby close at all times. It is a philosophy of putting children’s needs above parents’, all the time. Parents are at their best when they’ve taken care of themselves—when they’ve had a decent night’s sleep, when they’ve had a chance to connect with their partner, and when they’ve had the opportunity to move around baby-free.

When parents begin a pattern of meeting their child’s every need at the expense of their own, it sticks. It’s hard to pop out of that mindset when your six-year-old wants another cup of milk even though you’ve just sat down for dinner, or when your 10-year-old is eager to add yet another activity to his schedule that would require you to drive across town at rush hour. I’m not suggesting that parents be selfish or ignore their child’s needs, but rather, a balance. Children who grow up seeing that mom and dad are individuals who have needs, too, learn that there is nothing wrong with a little independence, a little patience, and a little self-reliance.

Modern-Day Parenting in Crisis

My last Huffington Post piece went viral and I can’t believe it’s now at over 1 million “likes”! I’m glad so many parents joined the conversation to discuss the state of modern-day parenting with me. This means we can start making a change and to quote the article, “straighten these children out, together, and prepare them for what they need to be successful in the real world and not the sheltered one we’ve made for them.”

Since it’s still getting a lot of attention I wanted to share it here, on my blog, to encourage more comments and open conversation. Let me know your thoughts. Do you agree that modern parenting is in serious trouble?

Here’s the full article from Huffington Post:

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I generally am quite an optimistic person. I tend to believe that everything will work out for the best unless the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not prone to drama. That’s why when I say that modern parenting is in serious trouble — crisis, even — I hope you’ll listen, and listen carefully. I’ve worked with children and their parents across two continents and two decades, and what I’ve seen in recent years alarms me. Here are the greatest problems, as I see them:

1. A fear of our children.
I have what I think of as “the sippy cup test,” wherein I will observe a parent getting her toddler a cup of milk in the morning. If the child says, “I want the pink sippy cup, not the blue!” yet the mum has already poured the milk into the blue sippy cup, I watch carefully to see how the parent reacts. More often than not, the mum’s face whitens and she rushes to get the preferred sippy cup before the child has a tantrum. Fail! What are you afraid of, mum? Who is in charge here? Let her have a tantrum, and remove yourself so you don’t have to hear it. But for goodness’ sake, don’t make extra work for yourself just to please her — and even more importantly, think about the lesson it teaches if you give her what she wants because she’s thrown a fit.

2. A lowered bar.
When children misbehave, whether it’s by way of public outburst or private surliness, parents are apt to shrug their shoulders as if to say, “That’s just the way it is with kids.” I assure you, it doesn’t have to be. Children are capable of much more than parents typically expect from them, whether it’s in the form of proper manners, respect for elders, chores, generosity or self-control. You don’t think a child can sit through dinner at a restaurant? Rubbish. You don’t think a child can clear the table without being asked? Rubbish again! The only reason they don’t behave is because you haven’t shown them how and you haven’t expected it! It’s that simple. Raise the bar and your child shall rise to the occasion.

3. We’ve lost the village.
It used to be that bus drivers, teachers, shopkeepers and other parents had carte blanche to correct an unruly child. They would act as the mum and dad’s eyes and ears when their children were out of sight, and everyone worked towards the same shared interest: raising proper boys and girls. This village was one of support. Now, when someone who is not the child’s parent dares to correct him, the mum and dad get upset. They want their child to appear perfect, and so they often don’t accept teachers’ and others’ reports that he is not. They’ll storm in and have a go at a teacher rather than discipline their child for acting out in class. They feel the need to project a perfect picture to the world and unfortunately, their insecurity is reinforced because many parents do judge one another. If a child is having a tantrum, all eyes turn on the mum disapprovingly. Instead she should be supported, because chances are the tantrum occurred because she’s not giving in to one of her child’s demands. Those observers should instead be saying, “Hey, good work — I know setting limits is hard.”

4. A reliance on shortcuts.
I think it’s wonderful that parents have all sorts of electronics to help them through airline flights and long waits at the doctor’s office. It’s equally fabulous that we can order our groceries online for delivery, and heat up healthy-ish food at the touch of a button on the microwave. Parents are busier than ever, and I’m all for taking the easy way when you need it. But shortcuts can be a slippery slope. When you see how wonderful it is that Caillou can entertain your child on a flight, don’t be tempted to put it on when you are at a restaurant. Children must still learn patience. They must still learn to entertain themselves. They must still learn that not all food comes out steaming hot and ready in three minutes or less, and ideally they will also learn to help prepare it. Babies must learn to self-soothe instead of sitting in a vibrating chair each time they’re fussy. Toddlers need to pick themselves up when they fall down instead of just raising their arms to mum and dad. Show children that shortcuts can be helpful, but that there is great satisfaction in doing things the slow way too.

5. Parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own.
Naturally, parents are wired to take care of their children first, and this is a good thing for evolution! I am an advocate of adhering to a schedule that suits your child’s needs, and of practices like feeding and clothing your children first. But parents today have taken it too far, completely subsuming their own needs and mental health for the sake of their children. So often I see mums get up from bed again and again to fulfill the whims of their child. Or dads drop everything to run across the zoo to get their daughter a drink because she’s thirsty. There is nothing wrong with not going to your child when she wants yet another glass of water at night. There’s nothing wrong with that dad at the zoo saying, “Absolutely you can have something to drink, but you must wait until we pass the next drinking fountain.” There is nothing wrong with using the word “No” on occasion, nothing wrong with asking your child to entertain herself for a few minutes because mummy would like to use the toilet in private or flick through a magazine for that matter.

I fear that if we don’t start to correct these five grave parenting mistakes, and soon, the children we are raising will grow up to be entitled, selfish, impatient and rude adults. It won’t be their fault — it will be ours. We never taught them any differently, we never expected any more of them. We never wanted them to feel any discomfort, and so when they inevitably do, they are woefully unprepared for it. So please, parents and caregivers from London to Los Angeles, and all over the world, ask more. Expect more. Share your struggles. Give less. And let’s straighten these children out, together, and prepare them for what they need to be successful in the real world and not the sheltered one we’ve made for them.

You can see me elaborate on the subject on this HuffPost Live segment with Alyona Minkovski!

KTLA Morning News

LA is one of my favorite cities and a place I called home for many years, so I was thrilled when the opportunity arose to film a segment for KTLA. Their news team was a delight to film with and I had a great time. I’m sure you can tell! Watch it here:

Child development and behavioral specialist Emma Jenner joined us live with the 5 reasons why modern day parenting is in crisis.  She is the author of the new parenting book “Keep Calm and Parent On: A Guilt-Free Approach to Raising Children by Asking More from Them and Doing Less”. Emma is a British native who spent 17 years as a professional nanny and baby nurse for a variety of high profile and celebrity families in England, Germany, and the United States. You may know her as  “Nanny Emma,” from the 2008 TLC series Take Home Nanny, when she traveled across America helping families put harmony back in their homes.  The book is available online, click HERE and in book stores everywhere.

For more information on Emma’s parent consulting company that’s based in LA, click HERE.

This segment aired on the KTLA 5 Morning News on July 25, 2014.

Book Giveaway!

The lovely team at Twigtale is running a giveaway of my book, Keep Calm and Parent On.

Head over to their Facebook page and let them know your favorite “Keep Calm” saying in the comments and voila, you’re entered!

Good luck & keep calm,

Emma

https://www.facebook.com/twigtale

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Twigtale Books: Mama Always Comes Back.

Twigtale offers parents an innovative way to work through common early childhood transitions smoothly. Twigtale books are personalized stories, scripted by experts, which help your child know what to expect. This covers a variety of issues and topics, such as: starting school, using the potty, moving, a new sibling and many others. They also have an option to create your own book from scratch, so you can cover literally any topic. It’s quite brilliant!

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Storytelling is one of my favorite activities to do with children, and it is a helpful way for them to understand bigger situations and life events, but Twigtale makes storytelling that much more effective. Why? Because it’s all about them; your little one.

My favorite Twigtale book is, “Mama Always Comes Back!”

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In all my years working with children, separation anxiety is something every child faces at some point. I’ve personally used this Twigtale book and recommend it to every family I work with. I fell in love with “Mama Always Comes Back!” instantly because this is something ALL children need to be reassured of.

Twigtale books are truly customizable in every sense of the word – right away, you can pick to title the book with the name your child calls you (mum, mama, mommy). You can also customize this to be daddy, papa, etc., so don’t worry dads, you’re included too. Then add a photo to match and voila, your child is the star!

Let your child help you make suggestions for what you’re putting in the book. Ask them, what does mummy like to do? Exercise, read, go out to dinner, spend time with Auntie Jenny – things that you need to and like to do for yourself – that they need to learn are “adult” times.

One of my favorite pages is, “When Mummy says “goodbye”, sometimes I feel sad. Sometimes I cry. This is okay.” – Because it IS okay. They will cry and be upset but as long as they know you will always be back, it will help them cope with the fact that sometimes you have to leave them.

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Twigtale is also an excellent tool for your nanny or teacher. Keep it in their cubby or backpack so they can look at it whenever they get scared or are just simply missing mum! It isn’t a security item like a blanket or lovie that they may not be comfortable taking to school. It’s a cool book that all their friends will want to see and make one of their own.

Believe me when I tell you, your child will want to read their book over and over again because it’s all about them. I’ve seen this with the kids I nanny for. They always go to the shelf and pick out one of their Twigtale books. They love the fact that they can look at pictures of their grandparents who live all the way in New York and relive their special moments with mum or dad, brother or sister, and other special family members.

If you’re leaving for a night out remind them, “I always come back! Have fun and I’ll see you soon”, and leave the book out for a special nighttime reading. They will love showing their sitter or nanny the fun book all about them.

Be sure to check out their website!

Good Morning America!

It was an absolute pleasure to be interviewed by Deborah Roberts for ABC News. I loved being on Good Morning America and spending time in New York City. It was so amazing to see the cover of my book Keep Calm and Parent On in Times Square!

You can see the segment here if you missed it.

 

Excite and Explore

One mom, one toddler and a passion for learning and adventure.