Friday, June 29, 2012

The Benefits of Sports


As Lucas gets older, I am thinking and planning on what sports to get him involved in. When I was a child, my parents encouraged active participation in sports, as I played soccer almost year round. I know that the lessons learned from different sports, both individual and team sports, have helped me in numerous ways, but I wanted to see what kinds of benefits sports can truly bring to a child’s life.

1. Lifetime commitment to health
It is pretty obvious that getting your children used to being active at a young age can only help them maintain healthy behavior, as children get older. Sports are an easy way to keep children moving, increasing cardiovascular health and improving mental health. Regular exercise reduces feelings of anxiety while boosting hormones that improve mood.

2. Learning to set goals
Sports are an excellent way to help a child increase discipline, and improve goal setting, and goal actualization. The repetition of increased practice to improve skills at a sport teaches discipline in an easy and focused way. This same discipline can be used to help children achieve any goal, as the routine of practice and hard work in a focused direction is ultimately the way that any goal is achieved.

3. Playing fair
Playing fair is one of the essentials of playing sports, especially team sports. Staying within the rules, always respect your opponent, and supporting your teammates are just some of the activities that children can learn by playing fair as they learn different sports. A parent has to truly make a committed effort to having their children learn to play fair, as it is not often a natural instinct, especially amongst more competitive children. The end result of learning to play fair has been shown to help a child develop positive social skills, emotion-management, and empathy for others.

After analyzing the benefits of getting your children involved in sports, it pays to take a look at what sports are out there. Team sports like soccer and basketball are great for teaching children valuable social skills, learning to work together, and sharing. Individual sports like tennis, golf or martial arts see more benefits in teaching children goal setting and discipline. Both settings require dedication from the parents so that the child can get as much positive benefit as possible.

It is vital that parents teach their children when enough is enough when it comes to sports. Oftentimes parents can lose themselves in the competitive spirit and not understand that they are pressuring their children in unfair ways. Remaining cognizant of this as a parent is a great way to ensure that your children don’t get burned out on sports and always see them as a positive force in their own lives.

Happy Parenting!
Damir

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Magic and Belief



I was watching the first “Harry Potter” movie with my son the other night and wondering about what he believed about this movie and about whether magic is real. That got me thinking about all the more “magical” things we, as parents, have our kids think about. Are there benefits to having children believe in the wondrous things they are capable of believing when they are young, or should you be brutally realistic and prepare for your children for life as an adult?

 1. Magical thinking is an end unto itself
When you do think about how things work and how to solve problems, people generally have some sort of belief about how to get things done. If this belief involves rubbing a rabbit’s foot or knocking on wood, sometimes the act itself calms the mind down enough for that person to accomplish what they need to. In short, magical thinking can give practical solutions to real problems. Why shouldn’t children be taught to think this way?

2. A boost to mental development and social skills?
Psychologists have found that believing in fantasy or magic can help children mature faster with regards to cognitive development and social skills. In fact, the power of belief during a certain “season of giving” can help a child’s sense of charitable giving, and of thinking of those less fortunate. Fear can be turned into hope and good behavior by the simple promise of a tooth fairy. What does the truth matter so much if so much good can be done based on a belief?

3. Inner peace and contentment
The world can be a difficult and strange place to navigate, especially for a child. There are a wide variety of benefits to belief that simply help alleviate the stresses that await all of us. Children can benefit mightily from having beliefs, and especially if there are rules within those beliefs that can provide structure.

4. Creating a secondary world
Catering to a belief in magic, especially in a child’s life, can help a person achieve a healthy fantasy life. In a fantasy, the secondary world you create can help you envision a world in which you have no limits. You can fly, you have wings, and you can jump over buildings; this is very similar to pretending. This is where literature and film can have a profound effect, as the imaginary world you create as a child to understand what you are reading can also be a powerful place for you to go in your mind and achieve those things you might think are unachievable.

All of these thoughts came to me from watching a movie with my son, and wondering if he saw the world with any limits. My hope is that my own belief in magic and fantasy are strong enough to help my son see the world for what it can be, not just what it is at a certain moment.

Happy Parenting!

Damir

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Staying Safe on my First Boat Ride!


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Friday, June 22, 2012

Best Friends

 In life, you meet few people who you trust and love enough to call your best friends. This can mean so many things to so many people in different ways. In my world, my best friends are those that I can trust to always be there for me when I need them. These are people who make time for you, but can also go long moments without talking to you and still know how important they are to your life. There are so many positive aspects to friendship and it can truly enrich a child’s life and help them develop social and emotional skills to match their physical and mental development.

Many popular and often-quoted psychologists agree that friendship can provide emotional support and validate one’s own thoughts and feelings. Children with friends feel less lonely, and are able to develop the knowledge to build positive relationships at a faster rate.

2. Relationship skills emerge
The skill of being a friend and maintaining a friendship is important to helping a child understand their role in a relationship. Friendship teaches negotiation, compromise, and sharing.

3. True self-esteem building
Having friends is a great way for a child to build natural self-esteem. Having a friend is a feeling that makes children feel good about them and helps them feel accepted. As the adult, it is also important for you to have good friends to show a good example.

4. Behavioral influences
New studies have shown that the friends that child develops over their lifetime and the social environment they are in are actually more important factors than parental upbringing when it comes to behavior and attitude. What this means for parents is to watch out for what kind of friends your child is making, as a friend’s influence is greater than a parents on many levels.

5. Keep kids healthy
Having friends also can help keep your child healthy and fit. This is another occasion for parents to have some influence over their child’s behavior, as children tend to act in ways that are similar to their friends. Friends who play sports together and, in general, do active things together, tend to help each other stay healthy.

It is important to note that not all friendships are good and healthy, but learning how to be a friend at a younger age can help you spot those negative relationships, as you grow older. How has friendship affected your life?

Happy parenting,

Nicole

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Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Pool Time!


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Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Grandfathers, My Son, and My Father’s Day

 This year, my family and I are traveling back to Croatia for our son’s first trip to my ancestral homeland with him, and to see his grandparents in their hometown. I have so much to show him, and have so many emotions riding on this trip, that I wanted to share them in the world. It makes me feel so proud to be sharing this special experience with him, as my grandparents and the town of Rijeka have meant so much for me emotionally, but it will be hard to not introduce to the two greatest men I knew, my two grandfathers. This Father’s Day, I am looking to the past to find those ideals, to teach my son, and to always try to be a man worthy of my two grandfathers.

My dad’s father, Tonci (pronounced “Ton-chee”) was the smartest man I knew. He knew rhymes, poems, and stories from before the 20th century. He could till the earth and plant a garden better than anyone I’ve ever known, while at the same time make his own wine and converse on philosophy. Nonno Tonci went to church every day, yet never made anyone feel that his view of faith was the only one. He loved animals with all his heart, but that could not compare to the love he shared with his children and his grandchildren. To top that all off, he was a faithful husband and was able to celebrate 67 years of marriage with my grandmother. My heart still fills with joy when I tell my son the little Italian rhyme my grandfather taught me about always chewing slowly; chew your food carefully, and your health will improve. My grandfather was also always concerned about his health, did 100 pull ups a day until he was 90, and was always careful to never drink or eat in excess. He walked miles every day and had a wink and a smile for everyone he saw.

My mom’s stepdad was a different man. I only knew him until I was 8, but I never forgot his joyous spirit. My Nonno Peppi was the most fun person I have ever been around. He helped everyone in his neighborhood with anything they needed. All the neighborhood children would visit him every day, get some fruit from his fruit trees, and play games with him. He went swimming every morning in the summertime, it is because of him that I have a lifelong love of being in the water. He always had a sympathetic ear for anyone who needed to talk, and you could never have known a more loyal man. My mom lost her real father before she was even one, and my grandmother married this wonderful man who was always a father, not just a stepfather. His family was everything to him, and he was hopelessly devoted to my grandmother through her cancer and eventual passing. My Nonno Peppi was also a survivor of Nazi concentration camp during World War II, a hurt he never shared, as I only knew a man whose boundless joy made everyone happy around him.

In short, I am thinking about the man I am and the man I still want to become. I am thinking about the man I want to be for my wife and for my son, and I still think about the kind of son I am towards my parents. I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, and for the love that has surrounded me for all my life. I hope Lucas will always understand how much his daddy loves him, and how proud I already am of him. As we prepare to go see the land of my ancestors, and the land of my youth, I hope he can also feel the immense history in our family. My two grandfathers taught me about what being a man and a parent truly is. Love is the key, and being able to meet the world on your terms and always come out smiling is the greatest lesson a man can learn. I miss you Nonno Tonci and Nonno Pepi…and I still love you both so much. I see you both in Lucas every time we are together; this Father’s Day, I honor you both.

Happy Parenting, and hope your Father’s Day is wonderful.

Damir

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Toddlers and General First Aid


Summer is a time of year that children spend more of their time outdoors, and in the outdoors, the chances of getting scratches, cuts and small wounds increases exponentially. What is the best way to treat these injuries? What are some ways to keep your children safe? Here are a few things we have found!

1. For wounds that are bleeding
Make sure to get the wound clean first. Using a sterile bandage or cloth, apply firm pressure to the wound.  Maintain steady pressure until the bleeding stops. Try to stay calm, and keep your toddler calm, as anxiety causes blood to rush and the wound will take longer to stop bleeding.

2. Insect bites
It is very common for children to get insect bites, and most only cause slight itching or irritation. An antihistamine cream can help alleviate any discomfort to these wounds. Some insect bites or stings (bees, wasps, fire ants) can have greater discomfort and may even cause an allergic reaction, which could be indicated by breathing trouble, hives, or swelling to the area. Read here for additional information on allergic reactions.

3. Sun burn
Sunburn is another common summer injury. Preventative maintenance is the key, as there are enough lotions and creams to keep your child safe in the sun. Remember to choose an SPF of 30 or greater, as ultraviolet radiation is strong enough to burst through any cream that is weaker. Use this at least 20 minutes prior to being outside or in a pool, and remember to re-apply as directed. In the case that actual sunburn occurs, make sure to keep your child hydrated, wear loose clothing, and use a non-aspirin pain reliever.

4. Cuts and Scrapes
The most common summertime injury, the vital part of treating cuts and scrapes is keeping the wound area clean, with warm soap and water. Do not blow on the area, as blowing increases the movement of bacteria that might cause an infection. Antiseptic sprays or creams are not necessary, and should be used at a parent’s discretion. Bandaging should only be used in the case of excessive bleeding, as most cuts and scrapes heal faster and feel better if left in the open air.

5. CPR
With increased swimming in the summertime, it is important for adults in charge of children to have some knowledge of CPR. Most local hospitals have classes for parents or caregivers to take to become CPR certified.

These are some common summertime concerns for parents. Let us know of any suggestions you might have for different injuries and what is best to do!

Happy Parenting!

Nicole

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shifting to Positive Discipline for Toddlers

Disciplining is such a difficult decision, and as my son is turning three, he is experimenting with the world in ways that lead us to have to discipline him some times. There are times when it can get so frustrating, you want to use some corporal punishment, but most parents want to achieve their goals without resorting to such primordial methods. The recent rise in popularity in attachment parenting is shining a brighter spotlight on positive discipline. Here are some methods from positive discipline to help struggling parents:

Parents learn this as their kids get older, but children are looking for boundaries. They want to know freedom within the rules, and parents need to be prepared for this. Knowing the rules first can help children stay within them.

2. Encourage with Praise
This technique involves telling children that they are doing good and praising good behavior. In this case, you try to ignore bad behavior, so that the child tries to earn more praise.

The trick with this method is to give the child two choices that are both positive and gives the child some sense of control over their behavior. For example, if a child is acting out walking towards a door, you give them the choice of either holding your hand or walking through the door on their own. Both choices get your child off the street where he or she was acting out, and get you to where you are going.

4. Modeling behavior
Most important of any parenting technique is modeling good behavior. If you are a well-mannered and well-spoken person, your child will emulate you. Just like table manners, if you want your child to have good manners, you need to have good manners yourself!

Children often have meltdowns or challenge a parent when their feelings are not being understood. When some of these occur, it is important to try and understand, even empathize, with your child. This is also a good time to help teach a child how to appropriately express an emotion, and both the parent and the child can grow from the experience.

Part of the reason for this attention to positive discipline is that psychologists are finding that the older style of corporal punishment may not work. I have recently read that the vast majority of the world's 7 billion individuals live in countries that have, in principle, signed and ratified commitments to end violence against children in all its forms, including corporal punishment in the home. What this effectively means is that we need to find more productive ways to educate our children and introducing positive behavior.

Happy Parenting!

Damir

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Weekends in Rainbows!

Keep enjoying your summer!

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Exactly What is in a Name?



When we had our son and named him “Lucas”, we had so many people tell us how much they liked the name. While we had many reasons why we named our son what we did, it got me thinking as to what people think about names and why. Most parents truly struggle with coming up with baby names, and it made me wonder; what are the effects of a name as a child develops?

1. Behavior problems?

Children at young ages do not show any signs of problems, but as they get older and get closer to junior high, names can become a problem. A boy with a name that sounds feminine might start becoming a behavioral problem, especially if there is a girl in his social circle with a similar name. Girls with more unique names are exhibiting the same misbehavior.

2. Interesting or weird?

Parents are choosing more unique names for their children every day. Today’s baby name industry (websites and books) lists hundreds of thousands of unique names with their meanings. 

 3. Success?

Parents have to ride a fine line with how unique to name their child. Material success can mean different things, but overall, it does involve a lot of fitting into particular groups. Sadly, there is research out there, you determine the validity, that even shows that some teachers might pre-judge children by names before they meet and assess the children. This does lessen the energy a teacher might devote towards that student, and quality of education is a strong factor in material success.

These are just a small sample of the possible effects a name can have on a child. The important thing to remember is that a name is the first gift that a parent gives to their child. Choosing a name for a child is an important and wonderful step in the parenting journey, and needs to be entered into with the same energy, dedication and seriousness that you would enter any other commitment. Just as a final note, it is interesting that 1 in 5 parents in a survey wish they had giving their child a different name. Just know, you are not alone in your trepidation on naming a child, as it matters more than anyone would think.

Happy Parenting ~

Nicole


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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Benefits of Pet Ownership for Your Kids

Both sound asleep!




Our dog, Kaiser, has brought our family unknown joy and happiness. He has been a boundless ball of energy, and has even bonded with our nearly 3-year old despite turning 10 and becoming slightly crabby. Despite all the feeling of being tied down, it has been such a positive experience, that I thought about what pet ownership can mean in a child’s life. Here are a few great effects:

1.  Stay Happy!

Animals are known to have a positive effect on reducing stress and anxiety in a family’s life. Experts overwhelmingly believe that the unconditional love that animals bring into any situation is the cause of the stress reduction.

2. Stay Healthy!

Having animals as pets, specifically dogs, can have a positive effect on a child’s health. Not only does a child’s emotional health benefit from the reduced stress and anxiety that an animal brings, but statistics are also showing that children with animals in the house exercise more and have less occurrence of allergies.

Best Friends!

3. Be Responsible!

The obvious effect is the responsibility that a pet brings into a home. Because a pet will typically need its needs met by its owners, children can be placed in charge of different things that a pet might need. Feeding, brushing, and washing are just some of the responsibilities that a parent could give a child. By giving this chore to your children, they learn to be responsible for something that is counting on them. They can also be in charge of treats, if you provide these to your pet.
 
4. Be Nice!

Having a pet can teach a child empathy and sensitivity. Studies are showing that children with significant exposure to pets at younger ages are scoring higher on empathy quizzes. Empathy, the ability to see things from another person’s point of view, is a skill that ensures that a person can have healthy and satisfying relationships throughout their lifetime.

5. Be Smart!

Studies are also showing that children who grow up with a pet show healthier cognitive development and wind up doing better in school than their counterparts.

All in all, the research and the evidence are showing what pet owners have known for years. Having and taking care of a pet is a learning experience, but it is mostly a loving experience!

Happy Parenting,

Damir

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy Summer from the Luca Lashes Family!


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Friday, June 1, 2012

The Well-Mannered Child

 One common complaint among older generations is that children do not have good manners anymore, so I thought I would look at what this actually means, and think of some ways to teach good manners. In my family, good manners meant respecting your elders, having good table manners, and always being a nice person (specifically in a public setting). Right now, my wife and I are trying to teach our 2- year old how to behave at the table and have good table manners, so I thought it appropriate to look at some common ways to teach good behavior.

1. Act the Part
As with most parenting issues, what you do as a parent usually is reflected in how your children behave. If you are a loud and crude regularly, chances are your child will be. So recognizing your own behavior so that your child can emulate appropriate behavior is very important. Do you want your child to learn table manners? You need to have good table manners first!

2. Tell your children what you want
Having good manners is a learned behavior, not something that comes to a child innately. Children like to know what is expected of them and what is appropriate and inappropriate. If you want your child to say, “Excuse me,” after burping, you have to teach them this behavior before they burp or immediately after, so they know what you want. Children having to guess what a parent wants leads to confused, ill-mannered children who don’t know how to fix their behavior.

3. Watch out how you correct
One important issue is how do you correct behavior, specifically in a public place? It is not appropriate to be correcting your child repeatedly in public places, as the child should be removed from the situation and reprimanded in private. If the child learns that you are well mannered and expect a certain behavior in public that will make it easier to correct slip-ups and bad behavior.

4.  Accept some age-appropriate slip-ups
In our case, with a 2-year old, we are not expecting the moon. We obviously expect our “Please”, “Thank You’s” and “May I’s”, but if there is a slip-up, there is no need for a major correction. Children cannot be expected to always be on their best behavior, but gentle nudges in the right direction can go a long way. Let your kids be kids, but expect some level of maturing to occur, as they grow older!

These are just a few suggestions, and every situation can call for a different response. However, it is vital for our children to grow up with some level of maturity and emotional intelligence that can come from learning proper respect and manners at a young age. A great word of advice I received from someone older was to raise your children so other people enjoy their company and want to be around them. If other people don’t, then you have not done your job.

Happy Parenting!

Damir

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