Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10 Quick Tips for Parenting

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.” - John Wilmot

I pretty much find that quote to be true. Obviously, there are very few parenting truths that apply to every child. Different personalities demand different methods. These are a few things that have worked well for us (so far in our relatively brief stint as parents); and, a few words of wisdom from parents we respect who have gone before us.

1. When you have multiple children, spending quality time with each child individually is very difficult. We have started allowing 1 child per night to stay up 15 minutes later than the others for one-on-one time with Mommy & Daddy. This has been surprisingly difficult to be consistent with, but has been well worth it. We get frustrated some days when this 15 minutes may be the only 15 minutes that our son or daughter has had alone with us all day; but, as a wise friend pointed out: God can do a lot with a little.

2. In discipline, as in most things kid-related, consistency is key. We've found that behavior is worse when punishments vary. For example, we might put our son in timeout for hitting his brother one day. He might get a spanking another day. He might get a warning another day. His behavior is always better when the punishment is consistent. We now have a rigid process: 1. Head thump. 2. Tell your brother you are sorry and ask him to forgive you. 3. Give him a hug. We do this every time....in public and in private.

3. Counting to 10 is of the devil. Yes, we are guilty of this at times. "You have until I count to 3 to stop _________." We are inadvertently teaching our kids to wait until we get to 3 to make a good decision. The same is true for escalating vocal volume when giving kids instructions. "Junior, stop playing in the water.....JUNIOR, stop playing in the water.....JUNIOR STOP PLAYING IN THE WATER NNNNNOOOOWWWW!!!!" When we are in public, people often (no, not always) marvel at my kids' behavior. People are amazed when my kids quickly exit a play area the first time that they are asked. My wife has trained my kids to listen the first time. We haven't inadvertently trained them that it is ok for them to wait to obey until we are yelling. Are our kids perfect? Yes. Just kidding, but this is one area that they-more often than not-excel in.

4. Your word-Again, consistency is key. Every kid, through some inexplicable inborn knowledge, knows how to ask the question "5 more minutes pahleeeeeeeeeeeeessseeee?" Our kids are learning almost everything from us...including time management. If you tell your child "yes, you can have 5 more minutes" you need to make sure it is a true 5 minutes. Why this is important: You will inevitably find yourself uttering the phrases, "you have 5 minutes to clean your room or else ________." and "we have to leave for church in 5 minutes junior". I know that I have punished my kids for failing to complete a task within a given time frame....which was a huge mistake because I have taught them that "5 minutes" sometimes means 1 minute, sometimes 10, sometimes 45.

5. Apologize to your kids. I screw up. A lot. Sometimes my punishments don't fit the crimes. Sometimes I raise my voice too much. Sometimes, an hour after the fact, I remember that I had sent my daughter to her room. Sometimes I instigate a game of household-item-breaking living room dodge ball. There is no better way for my kid to learn about apologies and humility than to witness one of their God-given role models (I know, scary isn't it?) in the process.

6. Reminder: someday, your kids are likely going to treat you the way that you treat your parents. Do you want your kids to come home for the holidays with the grand kids? How much of an effort do you make to let your parents see their grand kids?

7. "Teachable moments" are all the rage in parenting books these days. Take every teachable moment that you can. For example: your child has saved up some allowance money and wants to buy something at the store. 1. Junior has a great opportunity to learn that $1 bill won't buy something that is priced $1 thanks to the evils of taxation. 2. If your son wants the $9 Transformer and he only has $7, think twice before pitching in the extra $2.74. You are inadvertently teaching him that $7 is really worth $9.74 when dad is around. You'll be amazed what your son will learn by this simple act of refusal on your part. For example, maybe he'll start asking about prices of items he wants. Maybe he'll start calculating taxes and despise them. Maybe he'll learn how to work toward a specific goal financially. Great life lessons.

8. Your kids watch your every move. Sometimes they even watch you while you sleep. Have you ever opened your eyes first thing in the morning to see your 3-year-old standing beside the bed and staring at you from a couple inches away? This happened to me a few times. I don't know how long she had been there, watching me sleep; but, it creeped me out. Anyhow, kids see all. If you order water at a restaurant and fill your cup with Sprite, your kids will blur lines of morality as well. If you talk on your phone while driving, your kids will also. If you answer your phone during family dinner your teenagers will answer theirs during family events also. Life would be much easier if kids would do as we say not as we do...unfortunately, this isn't the case.

9. Read a parenting book. We just went through Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, which I would recommend.

10. Best advice I have received this year: don't let guilt interfere with your parenting. For me, it is easy to get caught up in the "coulda woulda shoulda's" of parenting, and to get caught up in the guilt of my mess-ups. I have to remember to take things one step at a time. If I screw up a hundred times, just put it behind me and try to do better going forward.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

10 Quick Tips for Saving > $1,300 in the Next 12 Months.

1. Utilize the salvage food store at Hillside & Western once every 2 weeks. FYI...they only take cash or checks. Average yearly savings: a lot

2. Buy spaghetti noodles, a can of tomato sauce, and steamable corn every time you go to the store. When you have one of those "I don't want to cook, let's just go out to eat" nights, throw aforementioned spaghetti in a pot of water, boil for 10-15 minutes, drain, dump in a can of tomato sauce, steam the corn, and eat. This takes less time than loading up the kids and driving somewhere. Savings: Well, a family of 5 can eat fast food for around $30. This meal costs about $3. It feeds my family of 8. Fighting your "I'm too exhausted to cook tonight" urge with spaghetti once per week will save you over $1,000/year. That's enough $ for a shiny new IPad. Side note: Adding ground turkey, salt, and pepper to the not-so-great canned spaghetti sauce only adds $1 to the cost. Good luck eating anywhere for $4.

3. If you ignore me and go out to eat anyway, go to the Chick-fil-A on Coulter on Thursday nights. Kids eat free on Thursday nights. Also, Chick-fil-A is awesome.

4. Buy the $9/month Netflix subscription that gives you unlimited streaming. If you have a Wii, get the Netflix disk for the Wii. Con a tech-savvy friend or relative into hooking your computer up to your tv and introduce yourself to hulu. Cancel your cable or satellite. Yes, the lack of tv during football season is sad; but, I can watch most of the games I care about on Espn3.com. Yearly savings: at least $300.

5. Make sandwiches (see costs here), eat, then go to the Paramount Baptist Church Play area (free to the community) rather than eat at McDonald's. Yearly savings (if you go to McDonald's once every 2 weeks with 3 kids): at least $300.

6. When you have kids, birthdays can get out of hand financially. We utilize the Dollar store. For example, for my wife's birthday I took my oldest daughters to the Dollar Store. They got to pick out any item they wished for their mom for her birthday. This cost me $2.16 (yes, I bought her something that didn't come from the Dollar Store). They do the same for siblings' birthdays. Annual savings: no idea...but the kids seem to like it and it makes for some funny gifts.

7. Mortgage Tip 1: Look into refinancing now if your current mortgage rate is above 6%. Rates are at historic lows. Example: You have 26 years remaining on your mortgage. You still owe $150,000 and your current rate is 6.5%. Your current payment (excluding taxes and insurance) is $1,005/month. You refinance to a 15 year mortgage at today's rate of 3.75% and add your closing costs to the balance of the loan rather than paying them out of pocket. Your new monthly payment is $1,120. You just saved yourself $111,960 over the life of your loan. Not bad.

8. Mortgage Tip 2: If you rate is low, and your loan balance is 80% of your home value, call your mortgage lender to find out how to get rid of PMI. Example: You bought a $150,000 house 5 years ago and put 10% down. Your house has appreciated in value to $160,000. If you have paid down your mortgage to $128,000 or less you may be eligible to stop paying PMI. This could save you an extra $1,000/year. Caveat: most companies will require you to pay for an appraisal (usually around $300) and file paperwork to make this happen. It is still worth it. If what I just wrote was gibberish to you, email me and I'll explain it better.

9. Purchase a membership to the Don Harrington Discovery Center. $70/year for a family. We use ours a ton. Yes, I realize it costs money...but let's be honest, if you don't have somewhere to go you usually find yourself mindlessly roaming the aisles of Target. This is cheaper (on an annual basis) than Target or Walmart roaming.

10. Take your kids to the zoo on Mondays. It is free on Mondays. Yes, I realize that you can see the same diversity of wildlife on the road to Wildorado; but, hey, it is free. Again, this is cheaper than roaming around Target with your kids or going to McDonald's.

Disclaimer: Obviously, some of these ideas are Amarillo-specific. Also, you are probably aware of some or all of them. I don't care. This is not your blog. It is my blog. Feel free to leave your own money saving tips in the comments. As you might imagine I'm a big fan of cheapness wise spending.