Rewarding Your Child

Rewarding Your Child

Getting a 100% on a test.

Unloading the dishwasher.

Playing your hardest in a game.

These are all reasons why a parent could reward their child. But is the reward necessary and does it help? Or are the above reasons what is expected of them?

When I was growing up, I never received an allowance for doing chores or was given money for getting good grades. But recently, my children told me about their friends getting rewarded for doing well on a report card. Silly me, I thought that was a kid’s “job” to do well in school. But that got me thinking, “How do you motivate kids?”

Motivating Your Kids

It may be one of the biggest struggles parents and teachers experience. As parents, we remind them to clean their rooms or do their schoolwork. They reply that it’s too hard or boring. We plead with them to do their chores and they whine, procrastinate and even ignore us. So how do we motivate them?

I’ve tried punishment with a timeout or withdrawal of privileges. However, rewards do seem much sweeter than punishments.

When I offer bribes (or threats), this usually leads to the desired behavior I am seeking. For example: as a parent, I want to encourage my kids to clean their rooms, but if I measure room cleaning behavior over a two-week period, I’ll discover that room cleaning is at zero, even with nagging. It just doesn’t happen. But when I implement a reward system to motivate better behavior, I find that room cleaning has increased enormously. It MUST be working!

Eventually, however, my reward system fails because I am tired of rewarding my children for what I think is expected of them.

And when the reward system is taken away, suddenly school achievements drop off and the room cleaning behavior stops. Then the reward system starts again and results improve. It’s a vicious cycle.

Addressing Their Challenges

However, I realized that rewards and punishments ignore what’s going on for my kids struggling with motivation. Instead, I now ask them what their challenges are. Why are they lacking intrinsic motivation? Is the task really boring? Or is there something else going on? When I genuinely understand their challenge, I typically find that it’s not going to be fixed by a goody.

They say things like, “it’s boring”… and a reward isn’t going to remedy that. Rewards don’t make things interesting. They simply shift the focus from the task to the reward. I needed to focus less on behaviors and more on obstacles to desired behaviors. Are they tired? Lonely? Stressed? Is it too hard? Does it seem to lack meaning?

Addressing the obstacles requires me to consider how I might be contributing to the problem and work creatively with my child to find ways around the obstacles. Is the work I’m asking them to do meaningful to them?

I found that giving them a choice leads to an automatic increase in motivation. Or giving them a challenge like, “I bet you can clean up your room is less than 5 minutes” helps with motivation.

Changing the Reward

Finally, I recognized that when my child feels competent, they are going to be more motivated than when they feel incapable. As a parent, my job is to build their sense of mastery so they feel like the things I invite them to do are achievable.

If I MUST offer a reward, I make it unexpected. And assure my child that this isn’t going to be a regular thing.

But I also changed the reward system. A reward is now an investment in our time together, not money. It’s now a trip to the zoo, museum or the movie theater. To me, this is a much better idea than simply getting them the latest game or gadget. I make this a special one-on-one trip with my child and give them the benefit of my attention. Experiential trips make for great rewards and inevitably teach my children that money is not everything, but spending some mindful time together is.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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When Chasing Dreams Changes Course

When Chasing Dreams Changes Course

Many years ago, I read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This book challenged my thoughts on chasing dreams and praying circles around my dreams and goals. It’s this time every year I go back and read my notes and highlights of the book. I spend much time reflecting on what I did and did not accomplish throughout the year. I reflect on the areas I struggled and reflect on those moments that brought joy and growth.

Reflecting on the Past Year

This year like any other year I am doing just that, however, I feel as though I missed something big this year. The stirring on my heart has been different. There are days I am quite envious of my family. I see my husband chase his lifelong goal of obtaining a doctorate of education. I watch our oldest daughter chase an opportunity to serve at a Christian camp in the summer. I see our freshman daughter conscientiously chase her goal of straight As in high school. I relish watching our son chase his goals on the golf course.

Yet, I tell myself to enjoy this moment or that I don’t have the time and resources to chase my goals. I also realize my purpose during this season is to support and encourage all of these dreams my family is chasing. Maybe this is the season of drawing my blueprint and laying the foundation.

I can’t help but think that what I’m chasing is looking different. I look through all of my big dreams that I have been circling in prayer, and I realize that during this stage of life some of those aspirations have gone to the wayside. Some of those aspirations are selfish and some I just do not want to continue chasing anymore.

Chasing a New Purpose

As I define my purpose and change my course, I need to continue laying the foundation to this stirring on my heart that’s bigger than myself. And as I reflect, I can see the blueprints had been started throughout the COVID pause as I learned that busyness is not a way of life. I gradually started taking things off my plate. This realization is going to help me clearly see what’s being placed on my heart.

Here’s to 2021—to chasing this new purpose and to circling this new dream with prayer and mediation. Before I know it, the stirring on my heart will show up in a big way and I will know exactly what my purpose will be. And right now, I need to let my family in on what’s on my heart. And as I said, when the big something shows up, I will have my family ready to encourage me to chase my dream.

I encourage all of you to see what’s stirring in your heart. How are you going to chase the dream in your heart in 2021?

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Losing a Family Pet

Losing a Family Pet

We lost our Maverick (Mavi) two days after Thanksgiving after almost 15 wonderful years with him. At this point, he was blind and deaf and didn’t have a lot of energy this past year, but he was loved and spent his last days sleeping and wandering around the house every now and then to find people.

Every time I questioned if it was time for him to go, he’d give me a good tail wagging while he rested, letting me know he was happy. His passing was unfortunately the right thing to do, and while the kids don’t know all the details, we’re all completely heartbroken and feeling his loss more than I thought I ever would.

I always knew it would be sad when we said goodbye, but I haven’t lost a pet since I was a kid. And while I’ve hugged friends with a good “there there, now” pat and tried to relate to their grief when they’ve lost dogs, I’ve never understood until now that losing your family dog is losing a part of your family. The pain of wanting them back to hug them one more time, to talk baby talk like we all do to our pets and tell them “You MAKE this family. You’re part of us, we love you so much” one more time is deep and recognizable.

A Great Family Dog

Mavi was the dog that my husband and I got in college. Was it a smart decision to get a dog in college? No but we did and he was perfectly imperfect. He was our “first child.” He was with us when we graduated, got married, moved several times and had kids. He was better with the kids though—definitely more patient.

Like a good dog he humbly partook in childhood play, letting the kids dress him in bonnets and capes and baby clothes and, while obviously mortified, always took one for the team—like he was telling me, “Go ahead. Finish cleaning the kitchen. I got this.” He loved them all so fiercely. I have countless memories of going in to check on a baby only to find him already there, reporting for duty. “Look, how many times do I have to tell you? I got this.”

He was feisty, kind of naughty and playful in his younger years. Mavi would grab stuffed animals especially the ones that made noise, initiating a good tug-of-war. He loved a walk around the neighborhood, even though he had to “water” every tree and—my favorite—running around the living room in a mad dash after a bath. In his older years, he fell into a nice rhythm of rest and companionship. While he could not see or hear, he never failed in finding us and letting us know that even when it was hard, even when he was tired, he was still there for us—fighting age and physical challenges to loyally serve for as long as he could.

A Sad Goodbye

I stayed up until 1 a.m. the night he died, searching Facebook for old photos, looking for all the ones with Mavi. And I realized as he showed up in the background in photos of so many events, so many milestones and holidays and memories, what a constant presence he has been in our family. The grief of his passing also represents the grief of the passing of time, the end of The Maverick Era.

This was also the first real experience of grief for my kids. In a way, Maverick has given my children one of the most cherished gifts they’ll have for life. The delicate, beautiful, deeply important subject of loss and grief that will be part of their future began with him. His loss will be the foundation, the first lesson that paved the way for the rest, and because of how we loved him and how he loved us, that lesson is beautiful.

While we’ve talked a little bit about death with our kids especially after their great grandmother passed away; they were both so young that they hardly remembered. We have addressed some of the questions of what happens after, so what do I tell them? I thought saying the right things about death would be a stressful challenge, but it hasn’t been.

Experiencing Grief

I know people have a lot of different beliefs about the afterlife, whether pets go to heaven and how realistically we should approach these things with kids, but I’ve found the most important thing you can do is talk about it. I didn’t plan exactly what I was going to say, and what came out was sometimes messy, but I didn’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep me from talking about everything. It’s important to create a safe place where my kids can create their own ideas and beliefs.

It feels so good to talk about all these different ideas—to talk about what happens after death and about the fact that the spirit of love is greater than any proven law in science. We take what we know about death and add what we know about faith and love and that it lives forever and ever. All of these discussions, ideas and memories comforted us so much.

As my friends told me the other day, “This is your opportunity to model grief for them, to show them how we celebrate and love and remember through the pain.” It’s a great privilege to take this pain together as a family and learn from it.

The house feels like something’s missing, and truly, we’ve lost a part of us that can never be replaced. I miss his quiet presence as I work alone while the kids are at school. I would do anything to feel his paws push against me one more time as I sit here on the couch.

We’ll miss you, Maverick Mitchell Connelly. You will forever and always be loved by us.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue

Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue

The notecard says “unplug and be thankful.” Life as we knew it changed in March. Our family made a choice to seek simplicity, extend grace and find joy in the quiet. Our family made the commitment to be intentional with our time together. Yet, this fall I faltered and gave into fatigue, gave into the negative. COVID-19 fatigue is real. It was (and still is) hard to be thankful.

There are days that I miss all the family time we encountered in the spring when COVID-19 halted our worlds. And honestly, I don’t want to lose those spring memories of how intentional our family was. Now, each day brings about feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed. I could keep going on, however, I want to make a conscious effort to escape those feelings.

Therefore, I decided November was all about being intentional each new day. I want to be intentional about focusing on what I can appreciate this year instead of seeing the negative. I need to go back to the notecard, “unplug and be thankful.”

Being Intentional

When I focus on this mindset while not living my life on autopilot, I can see and appreciate how intentional my family is being right now. And seeing how intentional my family is during this time has been good for my soul and makes the feelings of being overwhelmed or exhausted melt away.

My husband and kids have made a conscious choice to be intentional. My husband has journaled every night since March reflecting upon his day. He has also been intentional about pursuing a doctorate degree in education even on those hard days. Our middle daughter has been intentional on healthy habits such as limiting her soda intake and a daily pushup routine. Our son has diligently been following his pushup routine while also finding time to read each day.

Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue Each Day

Nonetheless, being intentional is a choice. I long for simplicity. I long for love and being thankful. I long for grace. I long for a serving heart without compromising my own health. The choice is mine to make. The choice to unplug from the negativity and be thankful. The choice to not live my life on autopilot. The choice starts each morning with reading my notecard and ends each night with observing my family choosing to be intentional.

Those closest to me have been executing what I subconsciously have been telling myself I need to improve on. Their intentional natures will help me fight the negativity, fatigue and appreciate the good around me. And there is no better time to start being thankful than today.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Introducing Kids to Investing

Introducing Kids to Investing

Investing in your future is one of the best lessons you can instill in a child. Yes, I’m talking stock market, here. It’s never too early or too late, for that matter, to learn all about the stock market. It can be a fun process and you can even use play money.

Let me just start out by saying, I, myself just recently learned about investments. Me being in my 30’s, I never really understood the stock market, bonds, investments, or financial planning. I never had finances to finance. But now that I have two kids, I thought I should invest not only in my future but theirs.

So, where do you begin?

Be Sure to Ask Questions

I met with a financial advisor to explain the ins and outs of stocks and bonds. And then I realized that’s the answer, explain the nuts and bolts of investing to my children, and maybe even have them start looking into what things they like (e.g., toys, games, actual costs of things). Let’s face it, as kids we never learned the actual cost of certain things. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized how expensive it is just to have lights on in a house.

But why is investing a good idea? For me, it helps meet my financial goals. Even though I am years away from retiring, I still need to think about my future and my kids’ future, i.e. cars, college. So, I decided to introduce the concept of financial goals in ways that my kids could relate to. I introduced the concept of investing and growing their money so they have a better chance of reaching that big goal.

Learn the Basics Together

My kids have been doing chores/odd jobs for over a year now and they receive money each week. When we head to the store, I remind them to bring their money so they can buy a candy bar or random toy they think they need! This has the added benefit of teaching kids the value of a dollar; it tends to have greater meaning. It makes them think about if they really “need” that item.

Together, the kids and I learned this investment thing. Together we learned the importance of researching a stock so we better understand the associated risk. After a lot of consideration, together we picked and now follow stocks from our favorite companies and talk about how we can “invest” money by buying the company’s stock to own their very own piece. What kid wouldn’t love the idea of owning part of Disney? Together, we follow the stock price online each day and track its progress. I explained that if the company makes money, so do they. But if the company loses money, they do, too.

Don’t Forget to Set Goals

Giving my kids a reason to set a financial goal is important. This gives them an incentive and a concrete reason to save. My kids love the idea of doing something as grown-up as investing. We love doing it together. And if they see how much money can grow over time, they’re usually excited to save.

I enjoy teaching my children life skills that are necessary! It’s up to us as parents to teach our children money skills to build a healthy financial future. How and why it’s important to invest money should be right at the top. Getting my kids interested in investing early on by taking the time to explain concepts like stocks, savings, returns, risks and rewards will only help strengthen their financial skills for a lifetime. Thus, in return has helped me invest in our future.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Focusing on Positive Thoughts

Focusing on Positive Thoughts

As a coach, I tell my athletes there are always two things they can control: their effort and heart. In life, these are two things I can control — how much effort I put into my actions and whether I have positive or negative thoughts. A majority of the time, I consider myself a pretty positive person and look for the good in all situations, but goodness right now it is so bitterly hard.

Feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, exhausted, concerned and finally tired. This school year has been all of these even when trying to look for the silver lining. As a teacher, I see all of the extras that are happening to keep our students and staff safe.

Worrying About Mental Well-Being

Yet, this is not what consumes my thoughts and tugs at my heart, it is the mental well-being of my colleagues and students. It is the mental well-being of my husband who is a principal. It is the mental well-being of my daughter, a freshman in college, who has all of her classes online other than a chemistry lab.

These are the moments where feelings of anxiousness, exhaustion and tiredness tug at my heart. I also find it hard to separate myself from the negativity that surrounds me. These moments seem to be more and more frequent. In these moments, I must go back to what I know: being kind, controlling my heart and controlling my actions. These three principles let go of the weight when the negative feelings keep crawling in.

The Importance of Taking Time to Recharge

No matter the busyness or how far behind I feel, taking time to recharge and be kind to myself is the starting point. The other night when all of our kids were home, we snuggled in our blankets with our hot cocoas and streamed a Christmas movie. Yes, a Christmas movie but we all needed the downtime to recharge. As a mom that is always serving our family, it is difficult to find time to recharge. Listening to encouraging podcasts while I clean, having a go-to playlist of encouraging music and focusing on positive/healthy daily habits are ways to recharge and reconnect with my life’s mission.

Two weeks ago, I went and visited my mom’s grave. I walked away from her grave site knowing that my purpose in life is still being fulfilled and I cannot grow weary in doing good. However I do need to intentionally think about my purpose. My mom always told me my purpose was to share joy. Joy comes from the heart, and I can control what my heart displays. When joy is not in my heart or negativity fills it, I need to be intentional. Intentionally seeking the good in our home, seeking the good in my classroom and seeking the good around me.

Intentionally thinking about what is on my heart and not letting negativity fill it is a challenge right now. Life is stressful and exhausting. However, I know by focusing on being kind, controlling my thoughts, while also developing positive daily habits, the weight of negativity will leave my heart and it will be filled with joy.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Let’s Play an Instrument

Let’s Play an Instrument

I played sports growing up. I never showed any interest in learning to play an instrument, maybe it’s because my brother “played” the saxophone for less than a year. So, I wasn’t sure what to say when my fourth grader said, “I want to play the violin.”

I forced a smile on my face. You know. You’re supposed to support your kids when they want to try something new. I’m trying my best. I was surprised he wanted to play. Cohen doesn’t like to do much but play soccer, watch videos and play video games. But he insisted he wanted to learn to play, and all the child experts say it’s a good idea for kids to learn how to play an instrument. So I agreed.

The Beginnings of Violin Lessons

Free strings lessons are offered at our elementary school, beginning in fourth grade. So, we leased his first violin—a half-sized violin made for smaller hands. He had class once a week during school and practiced every day.

I’ll warn you now, as soon as you make the first payment on your child’s instrument, you will become insufferable. You will turn into an overbearing ogre who harbors some vague notion of propelling your young prodigy onto the stage of Carnegie Hall. You will make this happen through sheer willpower (i.e., screaming and threats); you will convince yourself this motivational tactic is not crazy behavior.

Learning to Play Songs

Every beginner violin player starts out by learning “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” You will get tired of listening to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for 15 minutes every day.

You will say, “I bet this is how Lindsey Stirling started!” and “Good job! Your playing sounds a bit less like 30 cats in a fight today!”

“EEEEEEEEEE. EEEEE. EEEEE….RRRRRRR,” went his violin.

“Great job,” I said giving him a thumbs up.

So, even though he practiced at school, Cohen, being the video watcher that he is, of course YouTubed how to play the violin. So, instead of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” I heard “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“EEEE. EEEEEEEE. RRRRRRR. EEEEE.”

“Great.” I put another smile on my face. I mean, he was learning. Down the line I imagine it’ll sound better.

Practice Makes Perfect

Cohen’s music teacher must be a saint. She gives kids a solid foundation. She works some crazy magic and makes 60 intermediate-beginner strings, woodwinds and brass musicians sound like the Boston Pops Orchestra….at least by the spring concert, I hope. You may need to strain your ears a bit to hear it during the early fall concert.

In the beginning, Cohen didn’t mind practicing. However, he would get tired of playing the same songs over and over, and I frankly got tired of listening. However, I paid for a violin, so he was going to play that violin. Even if he played while he was kicking and screaming!

Supporting Your Musician

Then one sunny day, without being asked Cohen picked up his violin and began playing on his own. Maybe it’s a sonata. Or maybe he’s noodling through a rough version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” or the Sunday Night Football theme. I didn’t say a word. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I just kept doing the laundry and enjoyed the music.

Whether the lessons are initiated by me, his father, his music teacher or by Cohen himself, he is much more likely to be enthusiastic about them if those lessons are supported at home by my participation. I noticed that when music is a family value, kids learn to value it. Whether Cohen sits first chair in Carnegie Hall or he stops playing the violin after one year, music will stick with him throughout his life.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Learning to Be More Empathetic

Learning to Be More Empathetic

Early in my teaching career, I took a strengths assessment, and I was not surprised at what was at the top of my list: achiever, discipline, learner and focus. I can see the many times in my life where all of these qualities are alive and thriving. For this specific assessment, all qualities that were assessed were listed from top to bottom, and at the bottom of the list was empathy. Seeing this ranking of words stopped me in my tracks.

I was annoyed and confused. I am a parent, a wife, a teacher, a coach, so empathy cannot be at the BOTTOM of this list. I know empathy means being aware of, and/or being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another. Yet, this is a hard topic for me. I want to be empathetic, but it just seems like this quality will never be part of my personality.

Trying to Be More Empathetic

Ever since this assessment, I have challenged myself to become a more empathetic person. Recently, however, I realized I have a love-hate relationship with this word.

There are times where I want to give someone a hug or show I care in some form, but it rarely comes across that way. When I practice being more empathetic, I usually play out the conversation in my head to find the right words…this obviously is not working. I recall three different situations where I was really trying to help and ended up causing more stress and made the person feel worse rather than better.

Why I Have Trouble with Showing Empathy

Reflecting upon those situations, I came to the conclusion that it’s a learned behavior. I feel sorry FOR the person rather than empathizing WITH the person. I try to be too positive and put a silver lining on everything, or I try to relate with a story that really has no connection to the situation.

Both of these are not necessarily wrong—they just don’t help. I’m not connecting. What I’m actually doing is minimizing the discomfort for myself as I really don’t know how to show empathy.

There are days when I want to say being empathetic is just not part of my wheelhouse and I need to quit trying to care and be sensitive to those around me. But is that really the right thing to do?

What I Can Do in the Future

Yet, I can do something about it. I can love those people and acknowledge their pain. I don’t have to always be positive about the situation or connect with a story. I just need to learn to listen and let people share their feelings.

While I am still annoyed that empathy is at the bottom of the qualities I possess and annoyed I am not naturally empathetic, I do realize I can still show love by doing something. And ultimately, that is the route I need to go—be silent and show empathy through love by doing rather than by conversing and storytelling.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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My Child Has No Friends

My Child Has No Friends

We’d all like our kids to thrive in academics, the arts, sports and overall at being a good person. Here’s another item to add to our wish list for their success: friendship. I want to see my children happy, engaged and interacting with their peers.

Is My Child Missing Out?

Last year, my son had a best friend. However, he moved away this past summer. Even though Cohen is involved in sports, Boy Scouts and band, he still doesn’t seem to have friends. There are plenty of kids in the neighborhood, but when I ask him if he wants to play outside with them he says no. He never gets calls for play dates, and he attends only a few birthday parties a year.

So what’s a parent to do when they realize that their child, for whatever reason, is having a difficult time making friends? I feel that my child is missing out or being shunned for one reason or another. As his mother, iI find this very upsetting, to say the least. No parent wants to see their child hurt and left out of the fun. However, he doesn’t seem bothered by this at all.

Encouraging Your Child to Build Friendships

There are very few things more frustrating than watching your child struggle to make friends. We’ve tried following his interests and he is enjoying the activities he’s involved with, but doesn’t seem to have friends. I know it’s important to remember that it will take time for Cohen to develop good social skills.

I encourage Cohen to seek out the kids at school who are shy and tell him to ask them questions that can’t be answered with just a “yes” or “no”. I hope this helps him build relationships with others who might also be looking for a friend.

My husband, who is better at this than I am, taught Cohen about empathy. He told Cohen to focus on what others are saying and then discuss how that feels after the conversation is over, thus helping build relationships. I, myself, have a hard time showing empathy. But as a parent, I am very aware that my children learn from my behavior. I feel it’s important to be consciously aware of how I interact with others when my children are watching.

Realizing Everything Will Be Okay

Again, Cohen has not expressed that he has been bullied or that he has concerns about his friendships. I have reached out to his teachers, and they’ve shared that he gets along with mostly everyone in class and has a great group of friends that he plays with at recess.

Sometimes, I think what I perceive as no friendships or not enough friendships isn’t what Cohen is experiencing. I need to realize that I shouldn’t panic if things seem a little shaky. He has many opportunities to learn and gain new skills and friendships.

As long as I continue to pay attention and keep things in perspective, it will be okay. All I see, hear and experience as a parent in these early years is information I can act upon, but there is no need to panic and overreact!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How the First Day of School Was Different this Year

How the First Day of School Was Different this Year

Anxious. Nervous. Not ready at all. Excited. Overwhelmed. Ready. My emotions and thoughts were all over the place as I prepared for the first day of school.

The planner in me was not prepared for any day beyond the first day. I was even more nervous knowing that the schedule for the first two days did not include seeing all students both days. The uncertainty of how school would “look” made me nervous. I worried about school being ordinary. I hated not knowing what to expect. The planner in me hated hearing “I don’t know” or “let me get back to you.”

A Different First Day of School

However, the first day started and it was exhilarating being back in the building. I worried about not seeing the smiles of students, but I definitely could see the smiles behind the masks. The students had more questions than I had answers; yet they extended grace and waited until I could find the answer.

It had been nearly 160 days since the last time students were in the building, so they all were glad to be back. The worry, anxiousness and uncertainty of the day started fading away as each student smiled and said, “Hi Mrs. Mo, it’s great to be back!”

For how much I longed for a normal ordinary school year after teaching remotely last spring, this year is hardly off to a normal start. There’s social distancing between desks, students wearing masks, lunch in three different areas of the school, and even cleaning classrooms between passing periods. Yet, I am already a better teacher as I adapt to this not normal year.

Learning and Sharing our Experiences

Learning can and will take place anywhere. However, building relationships is extremely hard via remote learning. When I look into my students’ eyes, there are some still filled with fear in the uncertain world, but they have so much to share. They all have a perspective on what is happening. They have found ways to learn, unlearn and relearn, they have found ways to be positive role models and most of them want to share.

And more for me, this is hard. I am a private person and most times, I do not like to share. After two days, my students have made me better, and they have showed me the importance of asking questions and letting them lead discussions.

I spent most of the summer wishing for a normal, ordinary year. And now I am thankful this is anything but normal right now. The bright spot in this unordinary year is that my students are making me a better person. It has taken only a few days for me to realize this. Hopefully by the end of the year, I will have made all of them better.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Drinking In Front of My Kids

Drinking In Front of My Kids

With football season less than a month away (fingers crossed) and the potential for e-learning, there seems to be more alcohol in our household.

Let’s be honest, my children are the reason I drink; therefore, I can drink in front of my children. In fact, given the last several months, my glass of wine may be the reason we’re all still alive today.

Set Boundaries

I don’t judge people with kids who drink but the subject of alcohol when it comes to kids is still a touchy subject. For some, drinking in front of younger kids is an extreme no-no, whereas others might consider a glass or two to be fine when having dinner with family.

Some of my friends can’t imagine drinking an adult beverage in front of their kids. I’ve seen parents sneak a sip when their kids aren’t looking, or wait for when their kids go to sleep, and the coast is clear. However, recently in my mom’s group, this topic was brought up in discussion and I believe that hiding your drinking or waiting till your kids are in bed sends the message that drinking is wrong.

We all know that a glass of wine here and there is not bad for you. It can actually be good for your health. If you think that drinking in front of your children is considered “bad parenting,” I just want you to think about this question, “Is there a right and wrong way to do it?”

Kids Learn By Your Actions

If we, as parents, don’t teach them how to drink, then who will? Their friends? Their friends’ parents? Television? Or maybe behind the bleachers at a football game with a kid who stole his dad’s vodka bottle? When I was growing up there was very little alcohol in my household. I never knew what drinking responsibly really meant. Teaching kids how to drink responsibly is a valuable lesson.

So even now, when my kids ask about what mommy’s drinking, I know my kids are watching and learning from my behavior and I serve as their primary role model. Alcohol is not the problem but rather the abuse of alcohol is. So, when my kids see me drinking alcohol, they know that I am an adult and I am drinking responsibly.

Some days, the day stretches out so long that without the effervescent light at the end of the tunnel, we may not make it through the day. I am in no way advocating getting truly drunk in front of your little ones, but having a drink isn’t shameful or it doesn’t need to be done behind closed doors.

Show Them What Responsibility Looks Like

When my kids leave to go to a friend’s house or one day out on their own, I want them to be prepared. My child’s success depends a great deal on what they learn and see at home.

My husband and I teach them these things by drinking responsibly, by finding a designated driver when we’ve had one too many, and by not reliving our college days with old school friends. Drinking in front of your kids is not “bad parenting,” its “responsible parenting.”

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Should We Play Sports During COVID-19?

Should We Play Sports During COVID-19?

My grandson plays baseball. I think he’s very talented, but I’m the grandma and am always partial. Last spring, schools and all sporting activities were canceled. It was a necessary and wise decision, and we never second guessed it. He never complained.

Attending my Grandson’s Baseball Games

I love watching baseball, even though I only watch games when my grandson plays. Maybe I should say that I love watching him play. I also need to clarify there are times when my grandson has played baseball when it was difficult for me to watch. This feeling has nothing to do with whether or not he played. It has nothing to do with whether his team won or lost.

It does, however, have everything to do with the outdoor temperature and conditions. Did you know the baseball season begins in March in Nebraska when outdoor temperatures can be very cold? It was the norm for me to wear my winter coat, stocking cap, gloves and boots to watch one of his baseball games, and I always brought along a blanket. After sitting still for two hours, your feet go numb but the blanket provides some relief. The good news was the season moves quickly, and soon you were in T-shirts and shorts. Gotta love Nebraska weather!

Changes to the Baseball Season

This summer, my grandson had committed to playing on a select team, which started mid July. The coaches made many adjustments to comply with the guidelines. They followed a short two-week schedule with limited travel, and they only played one team, repeatedly. It appeared they had thought through the whole process carefully.

Our Return to the Stadium

Even so, the first game we attended was weird. During COVID-19, we’ve tried to self isolate as much as possible. I’ve only been outside for walks, and I’ve gone to the grocery and drug stores. So when we walked into the stadium with our masks on, it was thrilling. I felt like I was a kid in a candy store for the very first time. I looked around and realized I really was outside and in a new environment. It truly was amazing. We found seats away from others in order to physically distance ourselves. The ballpark was helpful by closing off every other row in the stands.

However, not all fans were wearing masks. We were outside so I did not give my usual scowl, but I kept my distance from them. I quickly noticed the players didn’t wear masks. WHAT??!! Grandma antenna went up! I immediately wanted to run a mask to the dugout but knew better.

The game seemed normal. Sometimes a player hit the ball, ran the bases, scored and made outs.

My Take on the Situation

I was outside and it felt good, but I found I was very distracted. That’s nothing new, but I would see someone in the stands who wasn’t socially distancing and stare. Everything seemed to be a distraction. Hearing kids laugh, watching them run up and down the stadium steps, watching them eat, watching them run after the foul balls was fun.

The highlight was watching and cheering for my grandson when he threw the ball for an out and got three hits. I yelled and it felt wonderful. I hadn’t yelled for months, except indoors at my husband. I cheered and I clapped more than I had in the past five months. It felt great. I also realized once I started clapping, I did not want to stop. All the fans around me stopped clapping and I wanted to continue. It felt good; it was a release.

Playing and Celebrating Sports Safely

After the game, there were lots of cheers because of our 11-4 win! We greeted and celebrated your grandson as he walked toward his family. We wanted to give him a big hug, but knowing he came from a group of young men who were not socially distancing, we knew it wasn’t a smart idea. But a virtual hug is warranted. Virtual hugs suck, but are better than nothing!

Even during COVID-19, I still love baseball. I had never viewed it as a release for Grandma, but more of an opportunity to watch my grandson. I have a brand new appreciation for the sport and its ability to relieve my stress. So I say, PLAY BALL, as long as you follow the CDC guidelines and no one gets the virus!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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