Me in a Tree

Archive for November, 2013


music and family
Newer isn’t always better; the latest video games, large screen TVs or handheld devices may provide short term fun, but what about meaningful memories that last? Sometimes, putting aside the electronics for some more “old fashioned” forms of shared entertainment can lead to deeper bonds and development of valuable skills. One of the most educational ways parents can interact with their children is by involving them in making music as a family.
Introducing your child to music at an early age is ideal because a child’s brain is like a sponge. They’ll amaze you with how quickly they can learn a new instrument. Whether you’re dancing with your preschooler or singing your toddler to sleep, it’s never too early to share your love for music with a child.
Bang Around on Anything and Dance
The best way to get very young children involved in music is to encourage them with percussion. Whether you are listening to the radio, playing acoustic guitar, or even having a full-fledged jam session, you can encourage your child to help keep a beat. Click here for a very simple guide to finding and teaching the difference between the rhythm and the beat. With a little bit of ingenuity, you can make music out of nearly anything! A child can easily turn a bucket into a drum and a toilet paper roll filled with beads into a shaker. Imagination is key in music, and it’s what continuously makes music magical for folks of every age.
If your younglings can walk, encourage them to dance! They can wiggle their hips, tilt their head and swing their arms. As long as they are having fun, they’ll keep learning and your family will keep bonding!
Encourage Advancement
As children progress further in the years, their manual dexterity becomes more developed. With this new advantage they can begin to cultivate the skills necessary to start learning a more advanced instrument. For elementary school children, perhaps get them started on basic instruments like the recorder or keyboard, and let them proudly show off their skills with weekly “recitals” in the living room.
It’s always wise to introduce little ones to basic music theory and appreciation on more affordable options before purchasing the household a Baby Grand; there are plenty of resources like West Music that offer children’s musical instruments at reasonable prices.
If you have exposed them to percussion and they’ve grasped it, then your child has already reached a point of musical understanding that many adults never attain. At this point you should expose them to all varieties of music and musical instruments. Here’s a listening guide from PBS for you to follow with your child. If they ask about a particular sound, be inquisitive with them in order to pinpoint exactly which sound or instrument is their favorite.
Chances are, with time they will pinpoint a musical style and instrument they really love. And that’s your chance to open the world of music for them.
If You Can, Teach Them Yourself
If you already know how to play an instrument, then this is a huge advantage! As your child learns, you, your partner and other siblings can play along with the new ‘band member’ and encourage their development.
The camaraderie from engaging in the family hobby fosters a great sense of belonging and importance within the family structure. And most importantly, you will create many great memories for the child: bright ones where everyone’s having fun, laughing and singing together.
Build Family Tradition and Heritage
Sharing musical experiences with your children also allows for an avenue in which to share family and cultural traditions. Take out that old family violin and tell them about the world their great-grandma lived in back when she played it. If you are lucky enough to still have great-grandma around, encourage her to play music with the child too!
Explain to them where the old-time music styles originated, and just how far back the tradition reaches. The child will love hearing the stories about their heritage, and these tales will undoubtedly add even more significance to the music they’re playing.
You can do this with every type of music; and even try extending it past your own heritage. For example, teach percussion along with explaining the significance of African tribal drumming, Caribbean steel drums, the Irish frame drum, or one of the many other traditional sources of rhythm. The options for education are endless when it comes to musical history.
Combining musical entertainment with stories will bring your family much closer in a fun-loving way. And what’s more, your children will learn seamlessly about both family and world history as they play along.

• “North Carolina native Joseph Douglas has been playing the violin since he was eight-years-old, and has garnered years of experience as both a performer and instructor.”


Me in a Tree

Television can offer children an educational experience, but when certain programs on TV such as news broadcasts present violent or scary images, questions can arise. Reports of violent and scary things that happen in the world can teach children to see the world as a threatening place. However, talking with your kids can put these frightening situations in to context. It is important to tell your children the truth, but only to the extent that is necessary. You want to be honest, while making your kids feel safe. Allowing the space for your children to express their fears about whatever the situation is important, as they can communicate exactly what they are feeling or what they are afraid of at that point.

Here are some tips to help you.

• Ask them questions. Ask them what they know about the situation, what they are scared of, or anything else. It is important to let your children express what they are feeling toward the situation.
• Keep an eye on your children’s TV habits.
• Introduce them to programs designed specifically for children
• Discuss current events with your children. Keeping the lines of communication open is important. Asking them what they think or feel about these events will allow them to process the situation for themselves.
• Stress the context of the situation. Let your children know that these events are sometimes isolated or helping them connect one event to another will help them make sense of the situation.


watch yourself

A popular children’s cartoon, The Magic School Bus, shows children the wonderful world of science while getting in to some hairy situations like being miniaturized and baked in to a pie! Obviously, nothing bad happens, but every episode resounds with the teacher, Ms. Frizzle’s, pivotal phrase: “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.

Mistakes are an important part of a childhood. Being curious about things and dealing with the consequences – both good and bad – of curiosity is a normal and healthy part of a child’s growth and development. However, the thing to stress when you or your children make a mistake is extracting the lesson. There is something to be gained with every mistake or chance. The problem is that society has developed a system that tells children that if they make a mistake, they won’t learn the correct information. This increases the pressure for children to always be “on” and they are never given the opportunity to make a mistake and really learn! Studies have shown that learning is, in fact, enhanced when a mistake is made because it forces the child to find a different way of accomplishing a task, which in turn encourages critical and creative thinking.

So, parents, how can you guide your child through his or her mistakes to ensure a positive development? Here are 10 ways.

1. Let them know that you don’t expect them to be perfect.
2. Give them unconditional love. Show them that a support exists even when they make a mistake.
3. Don’t correct the mistake for them. Encourage them to focus on a solution.
4. Show them that you made mistakes and what you learned.
5. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions. Blaming others is not right.
6. Focus on one mistake at a time. Don’t bring up past mistakes.
7. Praise them when they admit to a mistake.
8. Encourage them when they make an effort to correct their mistake.
9. Teach them to say sorry when their mistake hurt others.
10. Teach them to looks on the good side of a mistake. Focus on the lesson learned.

In the words of Ms. Frizzle: take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.


Me in a Tree

A journey to a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy habit, and a healthy habit starts with a routine. Building healthy habits for your family isn’t necessarily hard, nor should it take a lot of extra work, but it does require intention and attention. Here are a few tips to help you and your family develop habits that will you will keep for a long time, and encourage your children to keep these habits into their adults lives.

• Start every day with breakfast. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It helps you start your day in a positive, nutritious way. Stay away from the quick breakfast pastries as those tend to be high in sugar and preservatives.
• Eat healthy. Introduce your family to a different variety of fruits and vegetables. Eliminate or reduce the junk food, fast food, and sugary soda intake.
• Get moving! One of the best things you can do as a family is exercise together. From a simple walk to a Saturday at the rock climbing center, getting out and working out together is a very important step to developing a healthy lifestyle. Make a commitment to exercise together for a set amount of time, whether that’s one or two days a week. Stick to your commitment and you will see results.
• Rest. In today’s busy world, it is hard to find time to relax and renew yourself, as individual people and as a family. Turn off the television. Get to bed at a reasonable hour.


dealing with power hungry children
Don’t Get Caught in a Power Struggle: 3 Reasons It Is Important to Teach Children Effective Discipline

Sometimes, your cute little tykes can transform into little tyrants in a moment. And what can be intended as consequences when children misbehave can often be perceived as punishments.

Restitution can be an effective form of discipline. It is defined as the act of restoring to the rightful owner what has been taken away, lost, or surrendered. When restitution is used as discipline, it can provide kids with the opportunity to learn new skills, make better choices, and maintain healthy relationships.

Here are three other reasons why restitution can be an effective form of discipline.

1. You can teach your child self-discipline. When you give your child the opportunity to think about why their behaviour was wrong and what they need to do to correct it, you give them the skills and the power to prevent future misbehaviour and make better choices.
2. Children learn how to problem-solve. By thinking through why they misbehaved, they learn the difference between good and bad behaviour, and the consequences (and rewards) of each. Giving your children the space and skills to understand the reasons behind their misbehaviour and why they need to correct it, they will more likely be able to do this on their own.
3. Children explore their feelings, and build their self-esteem. Apologizing for their misbehaviour and being consciously aware of how their personal behaviour affects others around, whether directly or indirectly. Being in control of their behaviour and correcting it themselves can give your children a sense of empowerment.


report card
Your child brings home a bad report card. Your first instinct may be to punish him in order to make him
raise his marks. However, will that really solve the problem? We know from research in the workplace,
that punishment never solves motivation or performance problems, so why would it work for children?
What can do you do to encourage him instead? It’s good to keep in mind that a report card is only one
“view” of your child. It’s a picture to report to parents what the child is like in school. However, he is a
multifaceted learner with strengths and room for improvement in all areas of his life, just as anybody is.
Think of your child’s performance like a three legged stool. All three legs are required for the stool to
function and all perspectives can give an accurate assessment of the child as a learner.
One leg of the stool is from the teacher who is gives an academic skills report. This report should include
information on how the child is doing learning subject matter in the four cores of math, language arts,
science, social studies, and options. Schools like to report on character and other things that are not
academic, but they only see the child participating in an institutional setting with many peers. The
teacher does not see the child at home, or “outside of school” social situations.
The other leg is the parent who also gives a report card on two of the most important learning’s: life
skills and people skills. The parent can present the report card to the child at any given time. Life skills
include chores, money management, organization skills, problem-solving, initiative, responsibilities,
health and well being maintenance, and volunteer commitment. In other words – all the skills that
parents witness at home. People skills include sharing, sibling conflict resolution, attitude, listening,
assertiveness, and politeness, emotional intelligence at home and out in social situations. Most people
with academic and technical brilliance lose their jobs not because of inefficiency in that area, but
because of lack of people and life skills. These are the some of the most important skills to develop.
These skills can be learned and practiced by all children. Not all children can get an “A” in math, but all
children can learn to be polite and organized.
The final leg of the three legged stool is the child. He can self-evaluate and give himself a report card on
all three components – Academic skills, life skills and people skills. This is the most important evaluation
and parents and teachers can ask how they can support growth and success for the child in all these
Finally, the parent, teacher and child should discuss where the strengths are and room-for-improvement
and come to an agreement on how to go about setting improvement in place.
Education is a journey, and is not a race. The letter or number grade does not indicate learning or selfawareness.
In fact, when children only chase a grade, they can be more prone to cheating and learn
nothing. We learn the best when we fail or make mistakes which over insight and reflection, give us
ideas for change. When children make mistakes, ask them “what did you learn from this?” The ability to
self-evaluate, and find motivation to start again is the real learning and the upmost key to success. The
Winklevoss twins learned more about life and resilience in their court battle with Facebook, than all
those academic years at Harvard.
Parents, de-emphasize the numbers. As a society, we tend to treasure what we measure, but learning
can’t be denigrated to a number. Most of what we do in life that really counts; love, help, volunteering,
life learning, and kindness can’t be evaluated by a number, but can be observed, noticed and
No one is perfect and we all have room for improvement. Your job as parents is to figure out with your
child, how can you pick him up, dust him off and support him moving forward? Judy Arnall, BA, Certified Family Life Educator and toastmaster speaker offers webinars and conference breakouts on every family life topic from babies to emerging adults.
JJudy Arnall, BA, is a Certified Canadian Family Life Educator, author of the bestselling, “Discipline Without Distress” book and offers classes and live webinars across Canada.
Judy Arnall is Me in a Tree Advisory Board Member.


Remember the good old days when you were single and bad hair days were a once-in-a-while thing?

Even though you have more bad hair days than good, pampering yourself is important to not only your well-being, but also your family’s. When you have demand after demand flooding in and dropping itself on your to-do list, it’s easy to become miserable, exhaust your physical and emotional reserves, and start snarling at your partner and children. One of the greatest gifts you can give your family, especially with the holiday season sneaking upon us, is to give them a healthy, happy mom. So, mom, take care of yourself, and your family will thank you.

Here are some ideas to relax.
• Take a bubble bath – take two hours, grab some wine or your favorite beverage, fill the tub with some fabulous bubbles or salts or whatever suits your fancy, and indulge in pure relaxation for a couple of hours.
• Go to the hair salon – nothing feels quite as good as when someone plays with your hair. Make a recurring appointment to get your hair styled, colored, cut, or blown out. If hair salons aren’t your thing, try a nail salon and get a mani/pedi.
• Go shopping. Depending on who you are, shopping can be one of the most relaxing activities, but expensive, so limit this activity a little bit.
• Read. As simple as this is, an hour of reading something other than a magazine or a children’s book can do wonders to clear your head and relax your body (and mind).
• Go on a date. Go to a restaurant or a movie with your partner and enjoy some time together.
• Arrange a weekly get together with other moms. Spending time with other women who are experiencing the same issues is cathartic and it builds a support community.

Remember this one thing: don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. It is one of the best things for a happy and healthy family.



Scheduling time with each child (if you have more than one) is a very important part to creating valued traditions that your children will cherish forever. Scheduling time with each individual child builds a special rapport and allows you to bond in a way that is unique to each child.

Spending alone time with each child doesn’t have to be stressful – in fact, it should be the opposite. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to cost anything at all. It doesn’t even matter what you do. What matters is that your child has your complete, undivided attention.

Carving out the special time in your schedule is not easy, as there are an increasing number of demands placed on families. It can take a great deal of creativity and intention, but even taking 15-20 minutes of your day to connect with your child can reap amazing benefits.

And if you have no idea what to do during your special time, check out these ideas.

• Child’s choice: let your child pick whatever he or she wants to do.
• Go for a walk and talk about each other’s days.
• Play a board game.
• Watch your child’s favorite movie or TV show.
• Bake.
• Kick a soccer ball around, or throw a football around.
• Paint each other’s nails.
• Build a fort in your living room – this one can be messy, but it can be twice the amount of fun as it is messy.
• Go shopping.
• Take a trip to a museum.

Whatever you choose to do with your child can become a special ritual that your child will come to cherish. They will value that fact that you have one activity that you do with him or her only. It will make them feel special, cementing a bond between you two.


Me in a Tree

Our fast-paced world values multi-tasking, and this can translate in to our homes, particularly with homework. How many nights have your children been doing homework while watching television or listening to music, or tuned in to another electronic device? Some children (and even college students) might say that television helps them study because it creates background noise. However, our brains are not wired to focus on more than one thing (via Study Skills). Instead, we shift from one thing to another rapidly, and we don’t retain as much information. It is important to turn off all distractions while doing homework to encourage learning and discipline.

Here are some helpful tips from Study Skills to study better:

1. Turn everything off. When you have no distractions, you are able to focus on your studies more.
2. Try to learn when you study. When you turn off electronics and rid your study space of other distraction, you can think more clearly and actually learn the information.
3. Make use of time in school. There are plenty of situations during school hours that can be used to do some homework. For instance, when the teacher is taking attendance or setting up the projector, there are a few minutes to get some homework done. Then, the majority of your homework will be done before you get home.