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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

15 Family Rules to Keep Your Household Running Smoothly


These clever, sanity-saving house rules are parent-tested and approved.

Our rule is that everyone must knock before opening a closed door. Several times my kids have expressed their appreciation for it after going to a friend’s house. They’ve also told me they feel respected by my husband and me because of it. — Tina Z., Walterboro, South Carolina

My husband and I made a rule when we first moved in together that we only get to talk (OK, complain) about our workday after we sit down at the dinner table. Then the conversation has to change. — Amira Melnichenko, Maitland, Florida

I teach middle school; my teenage boys knew not to knock on my bedroom door for a full hour after I got home from school. I needed some me time between teacher time and momma time. — Karen Hinds, Memphis, Tennessee

We don’t get upset about spills. They’re just accidents. — Amber Sprengard, Cincinnati

Once, on a hike with a couple of other families, the kids started to complain. One mom stopped and asked, “Are you a problem solver or a problem maker?” That mantra has stuck in our family for both kids and adults. It’s a great way to reframe negative thinking. — @GIRLYTWIRLY

Put others first. We started using this simple phrase with hand signs as a silent reminder, pointing to our hand (“put”), then pointing outward (“others”), then pointing up (“first”), when our children were small and continue to use it 18 years into parenting. When it’s applied, our home becomes a well-oiled machine. — Nicole Schrock, Plain City, Ohio

No video/computer games on school nights. Placing a priority on schoolwork has worked for us. — @MANDYHOFFMAN

If something that you would rather not eat is served for dinner, you have to have a “No, thank you” bite. — Brie Ghinazzi, Boise, Idaho

Family meeting once a week, on Sundays. Everyone updates the calendar and looks at the schedule for the week so we know what to expect. — Connie Lenorud Schroeder, Niles, Illinois

I can’t take credit for it, because it was my mother-in-law’s rule first: No talking while packing up the car for a vacation. This rule has helped my husband and me start our family trips much happier. — Michelle Wigand, San Francisco Bay Area

If you pack it, you carry it. We all make better decisions about what we need/want for the day or a trip, and everyone chips in! — Debbie Burke, New Albany, Ohio

No name-calling. Disagreements happen—we have four kids—but name-calling is a one-strike rule. — @AMYOMEARA428

No TV in the morning on weekdays. In the morning chaos of getting dressed, brushing teeth, and eating breakfast, we managed to get out of the house mostly on time and were able to finalize pickup arrangements and practice schedules. — Michelle Knell, Keaau, Hawaii

If it’s not on the family calendar, it doesn’t exist. — @SHANNIEBG

If it’s full, empty it. From the trash to a sink full of dirty dishes to a full laundry hamper, this rule is practical. It also works as a mind-set. — Cecilia Tavera, Santa Barbara, California

Only touch something once. It eliminates shuffling objects from one place to another instead of just placing it in its home. — Laura Davies

Ours was passed down from my father-in-law. He said, “There is no such thing as women’s work or men’s work—just work. And we’ll all work together till it’s done.” It makes for very grateful spouses! — Barbara Knomholz


This article was written by Real Simple Staff from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Four Ways to Encourage Children to Share

Learning to share is important, but it can be challenging to convey this to children. Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers four ways to encourage children to share.


  1. As is so often the case, children grow to give what they have received. Valued and generously loved children find it much easier to be generous to others – in due time. Parents who behave generously (and talk about it) help their children develop the language of sharing early on. Phrases such as “Want to share my grapes?” or “I’d love it if I could share your orange, okay?” afford your child the chance to hear the vocabulary of sharing in the context of positive emotions like appreciation and generosity. This helps children begin to understand that generosity is a way of staying emotionally close to the people they want to stay close to.
  2. Avoid parent-enforced sharing whenever possible. The umpire is the least popular position in any sport or family. Acting as the referee supports the fantasy that, when a child wants something another child has, you can make things fair or right by forcing that other child to share. Instead, whenever you can, use the huge power of your affection to comfort the child, reassuring him you are staying right there and helping him wait for his turn.
  3. When you catch your child sharing, which they are more likely to do with younger, less intimidating peers, praise her for it, tell her how proud you are that she shared. This works far better than teaching or trying to make children share.
  4. Children in mixed age groups often find it easier to share than those who interact with their peers. Older children are usually less territorial and more likely to share, which can be a cue to younger children to share. These moments should be met with praise.

New Year’s Resolutions

The start of every new year brings the excitement of the unknown and offers the opportunity for reflection on the year that has passed. The idea of a clean slate, even a new beginning, gives us the opportunity to create goals that we want to accomplish over the course of the next year.


In 2018, you can make creating New Year’s resolutions a family event. Give your children a pen and paper for them to write out three goals that they want to accomplish. You can ask questions to help get them started:

  • What hobby, sport or instrument do you like?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • How many books did you read this year?


While they develop their goals, work on a few of your own. Make this time together a chance for your children to experience your “grown-up” life. When all of you are all finished writing out your New Year’s resolutions, take turns reading them out loud to each other. Reasonable, well-thought-out goals can empower your children to achieve something that they had not considered before.

Tack up your lists on a pin board or put them on the fridge. Review them occasionally throughout the year to see how everyone is doing. At the year’s end, have a celebration, whether you hit your goals or not, and start planning for next year!

Increasing Self-Esteem

Encourage self-esteem in your children so that they grow up to make confident decisions. Being confident will allow your children to get back up after being knocked down by something not going their way, such as not making a sports team or getting a bad grade on a test.


Here are some tips to help boost self-esteem:

  1. Give your children options. Choosing from options helps children learn to make their own decisions at an early age.
  2. Assign age-appropriate tasks. Ask your children to help around the house to teach them to contribute to their team.
  3. Let your children dress themselves. Let them use their skills to complete simple tasks like picking out an outfit or buttoning and zippering their clothes.
  4. Refrain from praising your children. It’s great to let them know when they do something awesome, but instead of telling them how great it was, tell them why it was great. Include the details of why their painting is spectacular or why you appreciate how they did their chores.
  5. Let your children see that you enjoy spending time with them. We all have busy, hectic lives, and sometimes we forget how important our affection is to our children. Plan weekly time with your child and plan the things you will do together each week. Consider visiting the local library, going on nature hikes or cooking a new recipe. Planning a specified time will give you and your child something to anticipate each week.

What are some ways that you try to boost self-esteem in your child?

Jogging Memories with a Journal

As your children begin to learn to write, encourage them to keep a journal. This practice will enhance their arithmetic skills while allowing them to create memories from their childhood. Many of us might not have clear memories of when we were young. By encouraging your little ones to record their favorite remembrances and exciting milestones, they will have pages of memories on which to reminisce.


Begin by asking your children to write a great, funny or inspiring thing that happens to them each day. Doing this will also boost their moods by noting uplifting things that are surfacing in their lives.

Five Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

1. It develops the ability to sympathize with others. Once we understand how difficult it can be to learn a second language, we begin to see how people who come to America knowing very little English must Feeling empathy encourages our little ones to develop patience at an early age.


2. It inspires interest in other cultures. It’s natural for children to want to understand more about the people who speak the language they are learning. Learning the language will increase your child’s ability to retain information about the cultures and customs of the people who speak that language.

3. It provides a great opportunity for career advancement in the future. In many career paths, knowing more than one language creates more opportunity for job positions. Incorporating a foreign language at this young age will increase your child’s ability to retain the second language.


4. It enriches travel experiences. If your family loves to travel, learning the language of the country where you visit will enhance your experience. You will be able to interact more easily with the people who live there. Encourage your little one to find a pen-pal from a different culture.

5. It develops awareness of tone in music. When children hear tonal foreign language sounds, it increases their ability to understand music pitches, especially with Mandarin (a language spoken in China). Your little one will not only be well-versed in a foreign language but in music as well.

What languages are your children learning?

How to Create a Story with Your Child

Many parents read stories to their children. But have you ever created a story with your child? Crafting a story with your child helps boost creativity, literacy and critical thinking skills. It is also a great opportunity to bond with your child, and it’s a lot of fun. Here are the four steps to creating a story.


  1. Create two or three characters. Make a character checklist with your child to flesh out the characters. Are your characters boys or girls? What kinds of food do they like? How old are they? What do they do well? What do they not do well? Where do they live? How do they know each other? This is a good starting point for coming up with interesting characters, but feel free to give your characters additional attributes.
  2. Give them something to do. All characters should want something, even if it’s just to get ice cream. Once you figure out what your characters want, have them try to obtain it.
  3. Put obstacles in their way. If your characters want ice cream, for example, and are trying to get to the ice cream parlor or supermarket, put obstacles in their way. The obstacle, in this case, could be the simple problem of not knowing the way to the ice cream parlor or supermarket. Stories come from the characters having to overcome challenges to achieve their objectives.
  4. Write the story down. If your child isn’t old enough to write the story down, write it down for him. You could even paste those pages in a scrapbook, turning your story into a keepsake.

Five Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Disappointment

Disappointments happen to everyone, and there is no way to avoid all of them. Here are five ways to help your child cope with disappointment.

  1. Be there, but give him space. Children react to disappointment differently. Depending on Girlwhether your child is extroverted or introverted, he might want a hug and a pat on the back, or he might want to be left alone for a little while. Wait until he comes to you to comfort him.
  2. Turn a negative into a positive. Reframing a setback in a positive light can help to alleviate your child’s disappointment. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” (Elkhorne, 1967, p. 52). Looking at a mistake or disappointment as a learning experience can benefit your child’s development.
  3. Try to take your child’s mind off it. Suggest an activity that your child enjoys to help cheer her up. You could also suggest going on an outing. If these don’t appeal to her, let her know that the offers are on the table if she changes her mind.
  4. Set a good example. If your child sees you handle disappointment with dignity, he might, too. Taking responsibility when you make mistakes shows your child that you’re okay and that disappointment happens to everybody.
  5. Watch what you say. Try not to downplay your child’s disappointment or say something like, “That’s life.” Instead, ask your child questions about how she’s feeling or about what happened. Offer to talk through it if she wants.


Elkhorne, J. L. (1967, March). Edison: The Fabulous Drone. 73, 46(3), 52.

Language and Literacy Series: Talking with our Hands – A Hidden Key to Learning!

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

It just amazes me the way newborn babies come into the world as natural communicators. After their first wail, they exhibit an increasing variety of gestures and sounds; quickly becoming full-bodied, kinesthetic communicators, successfully letting us know their needs and desires through a barrage of gestures and gesticulations.

Throughout his/her early growth spurts, a young child’s gesture vocabulary expands in complex and Handsfascinating ways.  Children begin with what is called deictic gestures (pointing at actual objects), and metaphoric gestures (movements in space to represent an abstract idea, such as gesturing upward to indicate “high”).  Then, as their use of language and vocabulary become more fluid, they begin to slowly connect words to objects and abstract thoughts.  Little ones form a fully integrated relationship between gestures and words as they grow from toddlers to preschoolers. This relationship with language will continue to be refined throughout life.

Recent research in language acquisition has revealed just how important gestures are in supporting word acquisition, as well as in other learning areas, including math.  The Goldin-Meadow Laboratory at the University of Chicago, headed by Susan Goldin-Meadow, is an important research hub for the exploration of the role and value of gestures. The lab focuses on topics related to cognition, development, education and linguistics, including the study of non-verbal communication, like gestures.

In a 2011 TexXUChicago TED Talk, Goldin-Meadow makes the case that gestures not only reveal what is on a child’s mind, but can also help change a child’s mind in order to support instruction and learning. This exciting discovery reinforces and supports our innate impulse to use gesture as a way to convey meaning.

Families can play an active role in word recognition and vocabulary skills simply by incorporating gestures, creative movement and meaningful play experiences into a child’s world, whether at home or on the go! Here are five easy activities that use gesture to generate vocabulary practice and boost literacy skills over time.

  1. Trust your instincts: Use your own hands to gesture with your children.  It’s not clowning around, it’s communicating! And nothing works better than modeling.
  2. Words and actions go together: When reading, encourage your child to point to images and identify them not only with words and sounds, but also by making shapes with their hands/bodies.
  3. Sing along: When in the car, play simple songs that encourage children to use gesture and movement. There are a ton of great silly songs – remember “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”?
  4. Play: Encourage make-believe play where kids are given the opportunity to pretend and act out ideas.
  5. Practice: Try ‘Simon Says’ using gestures.  Practice is fun and it reinforces word and object recognition.

Whether you start with simple hand gestures or animated body language, by incorporating these elements into play and daily routine, you’ll be supporting your child’s literacy growth right in your own home!

Language and Literacy Series: Context, Conversation and Non-Verbal Clues

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

Young children are natural experts when it comes to learning critical skills. Unlike ot072O4649her mammals, babies need adult help for nearly everything. In their first year, while kittens are already batting at mice and colts are walking on their own, young humans are studying and mimicking their parents. Children come to understand that their survival depends on learning from their families and environments. As they acquire language skills, little ones become attuned to using words and gestures to help express what they feel and to get what they need.

In 1995, University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley published a seminal study on vocabulary acquisition in preschool aged children, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. Hart and Risley spent over two years studying the lives of 42 families of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, discovering substantial differences in how families spoke with children and how many words children were exposed to regularly. This research underscored the core principle that exposure to language early and often is crucial in preparing young children for success and closing achievement gaps at the elementary school level.

But language is not only about verbal skills and words. Context, gesture and environmental awareness are key factors in the way humans communicate, and young learners pay close attention here as well.

Erica Cartmill, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCLA, has produced fascinating research on the dynamic relationship between early social interactions and infant communicative development. Her research reinforces the theory that preschool vocabulary is a major predictor of school success, with particular focus on the role that both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication play in language acquisition. She notes that gesture in particular is an essential tool for children before they are fluid with verbal language.

As we can easily imagine, most of the words very young children acquire are derived from their parents’ vocabulary. But more than hearing words, the non-verbal clues that parents give toddlers about words are part of the context of learning, and influence the depth of children’s vocabularies upon entering school.

As parents and caregivers, we can take advantage of the experiences we share with our children to support language acquisition, especially if we keep in mind their perspective.

Here are our top six practical, everyday suggestions to help boost vocabulary in early learners:

  • See Something, Say Something: Describe things that are happening as they are happening, e.g. “Here comes a dog,” as opposed to “We’re going to see a dog.” Children have been shown to learn words more quickly when they can see and feel the object, as opposed to an abstract word with no apparent context.
  • Be Descriptive: Encourage children to describe what they see. Typically when we point out objects to young children, for example a cow, car, boat, etc., we get stuck on nouns. Invite descriptions including shape and color (adjectives) and movement (verbs).
  • Practice Anytime, Anywhere: Take advantage of time in the car or at the supermarket to practice word play, pointing out objects of interest as you talk about them to help provide immediate context and explanation.
  • Provide Feedback: Reflect back what children say to you. This confirms their experience and affirms their ability to have a successful conversation.
  • Use Non-Verbal Clues: Remember; children are sensitive to gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and other non-verbal actions, both in conversation and in educational situations.
  • Offer Positive Reinforcement: When children are pointing at people or objects, validate and name them.