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I have two dogs and when they were pups my vet gave me sound advice: Always make sure you assert yourself as the "alpha" dog of the pack.  Otherwise, she said, they will walk all over you.  While I know that parenting is a far cry from dog training, I happen to believe that the whole alpha dog thing can many times apply in both cases.  Since this topic is a bit lengthy I’m going to touch on a few points today and then wrap up next week.

Like most of you, I know people on both ends of the parenting spectrum.  My friend Maureen is someone I use as a measuring stick of good parenting.  While her two girls, ages 5 and 8, aren’t perfect, I must say they are a pleasure to be around.  They are well mannered, behave appropriately and are able to interact easily with other children.  I attribute this to their upbringing.  Maureen has always set boundaries for the girls and is very active in her role as a mom so I’d like to share some of her tips with you.

Responsibilities and Rewards
One technique that has worked for Maureen is the use of a chore chart.  Each girl has her own chart and every time they do a chore they select a sticker and apply it to their chart.  When the chart is full of stickers they are allowed to go to the store and select a book (they LOVE books!).  The idea of earning a reward motivates them while teaching them about responsibility.

Addressing "Attitudes"
All kids can give attitude or try to sass their parents–it’s going to happen no matter what.  The key is nipping it as soon as it starts so you’re not dealing with an obnoxious and disrespectful teen in 10 years.  Maureen has handled this by immediately letting the girls know she doesn’t like the tone they are using with her.  If it continues the girls are sent to their rooms.  After a few minutes, she’ll go in and discuss the situation with them (why they were sent to their rooms, what they did wrong).  In almost every instance that little bit of time alone makes them realize what they’ve done and she’s greeted with an "I’m sorry Mommy."  She uses a similar routine when they are bickering amongst themselves.  They are given the opportunity to work it out between each other, but if it continues they receive a time out and spend it in their rooms to think about how they could have better handled the dispute.

A common theme in Maureen’s parenting success is setting the rules and then sticking to them.  Each action or behavior from the girls has its own set of consequences.  There are no hollow threats or endless warnings.

Next week, we’ll see how Maureen handles one of the biggest challenges for parents–how she gets her girls to eat healthy.

 

This week I’d like to write about something a bit different from my usual healthy lifestyle topics.  As a parent, I feel I’d be remiss in ignoring something we’ve seen making headlines in recent months and a very real problem for many of our children–bullying.

Due to recent media exposure on this issue, many school districts around the country are taking it seriously.  "Anti-Bully Zones," along with severe punishments for those who target other kids are becoming more common, but we’re still seeing a surge in abuse, both physical and emotional, that has devastating outcomes.  It doesn’t help that the Internet and social networking give bullies another channel to harass their victims.  While I encourage every parent to be active in your community to ensure the proper rules and penalties are in place to help reduce or eliminate this problem, I believe we as parents must also convey the proper messages to our own children at home.

No parent wants to think their child would bully another, but it happens.  Take my kids for example.  I have always preached tolerance toward others in our house, yet when they were 11 I received a visit from a neighbor with some unpleasant news.  My kids, along with a few others from the block, were teasing a younger child and throwing worms at her.  After I got over my initial shock and embarrassment I immediately dealt with the situation.  I wanted to make certain they realized how nasty they had behaved and ensure it wouldn’t happen again.  Apart from being grounded for the week (no T.V., no video games and no outdoor playing), I had them accompany me to the child’s house so they could apologize to her and her parents in person.  I also had them write a paper on why what they did was so wrong and how they would feel if they had been in the little girl’s shoes.

Our family hasn’t had any issues since then, but I regularly talk to my kids about bullying.  We’ve discussed the recent news of the teen who committed suicide as a result of being targeted by another group of girls.  The thing I stress over and over again is tolerance of others.  We use the term EMPATHY–put yourself in that person’s place and think about how you would want to be treated.

Trust me–your kids will listen to you if you make it a priority.  Recently, John came home from school and told me he received a demerit for being late to class.  I figured he was fooling around with friends, but it turned out he was helping another kid with his locker.  Seems the boy has some learning disabilities and is occasionally made fun of by his peers.  John saw him struggling and stayed to help him.  I told John I would never be upset with him for being late when it’s a reason like that.  I’m proud of him–he did exactly the right thing.

Take a look at a recent "About the Buzz" that highlights obese children and their increased risk of being targeted by bullies.  We have some valuable advice on how to decrease that risk for your child.

 

Although cranberry sauce is one of the main items associated with Thanksgiving, I was never a big fan.  I know a lot of folks enjoy it and that’s great–I just could never quite warm up to that red, jiggley mass, which still held the can imprints on it.  Is it a sauce, is it Jello and exactly how am I supposed to eat it (do I slice it, scoop it)???  So, for my first 30 years I basically avoided the stuff.

About 12 or so years ago my mom introduced Cranberry-Orange Relish to our Thanksgiving table and WOW–what a difference!  It’s both tart and sweet with a bit of a crunch and goes perfectly with roasted turkey.  In fact, I forgo the gravy these days and put the relish on my turkey instead.  It also works really well as a condiment for those leftover turkey sandwiches you’ll be eating the following week.

If you’re like me when it comes to the traditional cranberry sauce, give this recipe a try.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Let me know what you think and if you have an alternative cranberry recipe you’d like to share with us. 

Finally, I hope everyone has a festive and healthy Thanksgiving–enjoy this wonderful holiday with the people you love.

Cranberry-Orange Relish

4 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Combine the cranberries, sugar, water, orange juice and orange rind in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until the cranberry skins pop (you will actually hear them popping!), stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in almonds.  Cool and store in the refrigerator.  This recipe makes 4 cups.

 
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