Simple Steps: Ditch Disposable Straws

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That plastic straw in your take out cup seems inconsequential. However, each straw adds up. Over the course of a single year, consumers use enough plastic straws to fill more than 46,000 full-sized school buses. That is a lot of straws ending up in landfills. You can take one simple step to making an impact regarding this matter: ditch the disposable straws.

Ditching the disposable straws doesn’t mean you have to get rid of straws. Reusable straws are not only environmentally friendly but are becoming popular. There are two healthy options when it comes to reusable straws: glass and stainless steel.

straws

Glass straws are undoubtedly my favorite. I like the fact that I can see through the glass to make certain everything is clean and I haven’t left any food or something growing inside. The straws are made of borosilicate glass. This is the strongest glass on the market (think Pyrex) and is often used in laboratory settings. They have a nice feel when drinking through them, and there are a lot of options. We have ordered from both Strawesome and Glass Dharma. Both are great companies with fantastic products, and they both have lifetime guarantees. If a straw breaks, the company will replace it. We have been using glass straws for many years now, with kids of all ages and haven’t experienced causalities yet. You can even buy glass straws in colors or with glass decorations on them.

Stainless steel straws are a more economical option for reusable straws. You can generally buy entire packs, complete with cleaning brush, for $6-10. These are great for straws on the go. They won’t break. Your toddler can drop or drum with them without fear of broken glass. Because they are stainless steel, they won’t rust or have any funky flavors. Our family has personally tried the following:(affiliate links) Leadtry Stainless Steel straws and LIHAO stainless steel straws. Both are quality products, as I m sure many others on the market are. We personally prefer the regular size straws, such as the Leadtry ones, as opposed to the longer versions. The longer straws are just too long for a normal glass and are massive for kids size glasses. I like to have stainless steel straws on hand for young visitors who may want a straw for their drink but may not be used to glass straws.

Regardless of what type of straws you buy, all sets should come with cleaning brushes. These allow you to properly clean the inside of the brush. Don’t worry. It  takes mere seconds. Then you can get back to drinking your favorite tea, smoothie, or other drink.

smoothie

 

Looking for more simple steps to living a cleaner, greener lifestyle? Check out Homemade Cleaners.

 

Family Game Night and the Green Monster: Helping Children Deal with Competition

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

I am a big proponent of family game nights. I have written before about how my dreams of family game night where a failure until my oldest was around four and we gave up on traditional games and delved into the serious world of the board-gaming community. There, we found a love of geekiness that we embraced and which embraced us. We now spread geeky boardgame love to others and have gotten other families hooked on different games. But how to you help children deal with competition that can erupt in what was seemingly an innocent family game night? You work on it, as with anything else. There are a few tips which can help.

Don’t Make Losing a Bad Thing This is especially true if you are new to playing boardgames or are currently having competition issues with your kids. Remember, losing isn’t a bad thing. It is an opportunity to learn. So try different strategies and tactics. Encourage children to open up and go a new way.

Photo by Hub (Flickr)It’s About Having Fun  Remember the goal of playing the game is to have fun. If you aren’t having fun, you are missing the point. Talk about how much fun you are having throughout the game. Talk about how you enjoy spending this time with your kids. If someone is upset that they are losing, ask them if they are having fun. If they say yes, remind them that that is what matters. If they say no, offer that they suggest the next game or activity so that they can make certain to have some fun.

Play on Teams This is a great strategy for all families with young kids and will open up your possibilities for playing. You can play teams with just about any game, allowing younger players some help with older players who may have more experience or necessary skills like reading or offering older players a reminder of why you are playing.  Working together is part of the fun. Try different combinations and mix it up.

Play Cooperative Games There are several cooperative games out there, including ones which teens and adults will enjoy. Pandemic, along with its various expansion packs, is a great cooperative game for a variety of ages. Forbidden Island is another cooperative game that is readily available. But a game doesn’t have to specifically be a cooperative game for you to play it like one. Try picking up a game like Carcassonne and seeing if you can work together to make the biggest city or longest road. Use Dixit as a way to see how well you can figure out how other family members think or for an awesome story telling game. Your possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

House Rules Special rules for a family are a pretty great way to practice communication and negotiating skills. Work together to help everyone agree on any special house rules. This is also a great way to negotiate to make things more fair when one child has a disadvantage. Perhaps the last person to lose the game gets to go first. Maybe a younger child receives an extra bonus. This can help every family member think about the other people playing and to empathize with their needs.

Have Fun This is a repeat, I know. However, it is a serious one. You need to have fun when playing games with your kids. if you aren’t having fun, they aren’t going to either. This was part of the reason our family didn’t have fun with typical kids’ games. They just weren’t fun to us, and I was afraid we never would have our family game nights. When we switched to games we enjoyed, it changed things around and opened up an entire different world. We also get to see other aspects of our children’s personalities that aren’t always in the forefront.  Each child has their own unique perspective and way of playing. It is awesome to see and also something we can challenge to help them view other points. We have all sorts of family jokes that pop up when it comes to boardgames, and we keep it fun.

Interested in trying out some new games? Besides the games mentioned above, here are a few more which are more readily available: A Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Terra Mystica, Qwirkle, and 7 Wonders. More and more of these games are popping up in big box stores, making them easily accessible to everyone. These “gateway” games will have your family playing gaming style boardgames for years to come. For more information on various games, I recommend checking out BoardGame Geek. The website has all sorts of information on various games. Our family recommends looking for games with a rating of 7 or higher.

Ways to Help Your Child Develop Empathy and Generosity

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

One of the main reasons given behind forced sharing is to help children learn empathy and generosity. While forced sharing actually teaches the opposites of these traits, here are some ways to help children develop those attributes:

  • Photo by cogdogblog (Flickr)Empathize with your child. Empathy starts with an understanding of self and putting feelings into words. Help your children do this by talking about feelings: theirs, yours, and those of others.
  • Model empathy and generosity. This sounds like a given, but our children learn so much from our own actions. Model these actions and your children will pick up on it. Discuss with them why you do certain things so that they can know the thought process behind your actions.
  • Point out similarities and humanize others. We often relate better to others with whom we share something. Help children recognize similarities with others. Use current events as a way to humanize victims so that children are better able to understand.
  • Expose your children to other cultures and points of view. Read books. Go to events and venues celebrating diversity or diverse cultures.
  • Ditch the punishments and rewards. These extrinsic motivators require a child to focus on self. Instead, talk with your kids and work with them to come up with solutions to problems which work for everyone.
  • Volunteer. Learn about giving to others by volunteering your time to a local organization or to individuals.
  • Participate in random acts of kindness. This helps children to think about others in the moment and to help out where they can.
  • Actively listen to your child. children who are heard and understood are more likely to listen to others. They are also learning the skills that you model.
  • Connect with your child. Children who feel connected to a loving adult feel better about themselves and treat others with more connection and caring.

It takes children time to develop these skills. You can’t force it. You can, however, nurture it.

Why Conflict is Good for Kids

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

Photo by Shermeee (Flickr)As parents, we want our kids to get along. For many of us, part of the thinking process behind having multiple children was that our kids would be there for one another. They would have built-in friends for life. It can be difficult to watch our children fight. There may be times when we find ourselves wondering, “Why can’t they just get along?” Life may seem like it would be easier if there wasn’t any conflict.

However, conflict itself isn’t bad. Conflict pushes us to grow, at any age. It forces us to question ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions. Conflict breeds opportunities. For children, conflict helps develop morality. By facing conflicts between their own needs and the needs of others, children learn to think about people besides themselves. They learn about right versus wrong. They learn to think about problems and also solutions. They learn to brainstorm and to communicate their viewpoints, needs, and thoughts. They learn to listen to others. They learn conflict resolution.

The goal in parenting is not to prevent or eradicate conflict. The goal is to help our children learn how navigate conflict peacefully and in appropriate ways.

The 3-C’s of Helping Children Work Things Out

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

 

Helping our children learn to work things out with others, sometimes with us, is an important skill and often one that leaves parents struggling. Whether you have an only child or an entire brood, helping our children learn to communicate effectively in any given situation is a life skill. So what can you do to help yourself help your children? Try remembering the 3-C’s.

Photo by Peter E. Lee (Flickr)

Photo by Peter E. Lee (Flickr)

Calm Down. This is probably something we should be reminding ourselves of more often. When dealing with a given situation, we need to first calm down. If we approach everything as an emergency with anxious energy, our children will pick up on that. We aren’t at our best when we are stressed out, and we can’t communicate effectively when we are all over the place. Take a second to calm down. That might mean you take a deep breath, count to ten, or some other technique that works for you.

Communicate. The main component of working something out is effective communication.

  • Try describing a situation which just the facts rather than bringing in judgments or blame.
  • Name feelings. We tend to shy away from talk about feelings in our society, but by opening up this pathway, we can better connect and communicate, empathize and see things from another point of view.
  •  Identify the problem. The problem isn’t always what it seems, and most conflict actually occurs from miscommunication. Help everyone to determine what the root of the problem is, again without and blame.
  • Express the needs of everyone involved. Besides understanding what the problem is, we also need to be aware of everyone’s needs if we are going to find a solution which works for everyone involved.

Cooperate. Once everyone is calm and has communicated what the problem is and what the needs of everyone are, cooperation can commence. Brainstorm solutions and evaluate them to see if they will work for everyone. The goal is to find a winning solution for everyone rather than only meeting the needs for some. You are looking for a win/win situation rather than a win/lose situation.

Non-violent communication may seem tedious at the beginning. It does take more time than barking out an order. However, before long, as you and your children build these skills, it will become second nature to work out problems together and make life much more peaceful.

I Don’t Love My Children the Same

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

 

I love my children. I love them until it feels as if my heart may burst. I love them with every fiber of my being. But, I do not love them the same.

I can hear the gasps. Surely, I don’t mean that. Aren’t we supposed to treat our children the same? After all, isn’t that part of being fair? How dare I even think of admitting that I don’t love my children the same? Think about the children!

Photo by Fabio Trifoni (Flickr)

Photo by Fabio Trifoni (Flickr)

And this is why I am honest with my children. No, I don’t love them the same. My children are very intelligent. They know they are different people; they are wonderfully unique individuals. Sometimes those aspects are frustrating in the moment. Sometimes those aspects make my heart swell with pride. However, each child is his/her own person. A fantastically complex, individual person that is uniquely them.

For me to love them the same would mean that I ignore those nuances, those differences, those things which make them….them. Loving them the same would be unfair.

Do I love them equally? Yes. I love them all with every bit of who I am. I love them for who they are. I love them for themselves.

Why We Won’t Be Scheduling Melt-Downs

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

Melt-downs, also known as temper tantrums, occur when a person, in this case a child, no longer has the resources or experience to deal with a situation. It is a literal cry for help. Picture your child saying, “I can’t deal with everything going on in my current situation and need you to help me.”  It could be that the child is lacking in a physical need such as those for food, water, or sleep. It could be a lack of connection. It could just be that child is overwhelmed with all of the big feelings and doesn’t know how to express them appropriately. Whatever the reason, a melt-down can be a stressful situation for all of those involved, especially if you have the added pressure of an audience.

In her book, Dr. Markham discusses a technique to schedule melt-downs. To be fair, she makes many fine points with which I agree. Our children need a safe place to express all of these big feelings inside. They need to know that we are there for them. They need to feel connected with us. They need us to help guide them through whatever it is they are going through. They need to have their needs met. They need us.

However, I can’t agree with her idea of scheduling melt-downs. In her example, the parent spends time connecting with a child whom she knows is dealing with some big emotions. Then after a while, the parent says something they know will upset the child, such as that they will have to stop having special time soon, all  in an attempt to trigger their child’s reaction. It is mentioned that this is so the melt-down can occur in a safe place, such as home, rather than out somewhere such as the store.

Photo by motherszone (Flickr)

Photo by motherszone (Flickr)

On the surface I agree that having a safe place to release emotion is important. However, it seems more that the scheduling of the melt-down is for the convenience of the parent, so that it occurs at a time and/or place which is deemed better. Parenting isn’t convenient, and we shouldn’t expect our children to schedule their emotions to make life more convenient for us. As I read this section, I realized that I may feel this is unorthodox merely because of the uniqueness of parenting my particular children, so I spoke with some good friends, including friends who have children with sensitivity issues and who are prone to melt-downs when their feelings overwhelm them. Those parents agreed that they would never want to use this technique for the one reason that bothered me the most: the technique requires the parent to intentionally provoke the melt-down, and hence the child.

I can’t, for the life of me, imagine having turbulent feelings or being on the verge of not handling life well to find my husband intentionally saying something for the sole purpose to upset me. Sure, you can say that the purpose was to release those feelings, but the perception from the person in the situation was that you just laid one more straw – the one that broke the metaphorical back, and you did it on purpose.

There are many ways to connect with our children and to help coach our children through expressing their emotions. We can snuggle and roughhouse. We can have special time together. We can talk with them and share our own struggles. We can meet their needs, whether those are physical or emotional. We can fill them up with love. We can support them and help them work through emotions in so many ways without intentionally poking the bear.