If you are a parent, chances are you’ve spent more than a little time worrying about your children. It’s normal and it’s healthy to be concerned about the safety and well-being of our children. We are given a great responsibility when we are blessed with children and those of us who take our responsibility seriously are likely to have some concerns about keeping our kids safe.

The problem begins when we worry so much that we become anxious or we make decisions based solely on the emotion of fear. Fearful parenting clouds our judgment and leads us to parent in a way that may pass on our anxieties to our children. This type of parenting does not set up our children for success and it may actually cause them to lose their natural instincts for safety.

Did you know that all of us are born with innate safety instincts? It’s that “spidey-senses” feeling you get in a situation that lets you know that something is not quite right. I believe that mothers are gifted with a generous amount of this instinct and that enables them to properly care for their young. However, the media manipulates that instinct on a daily basis by presenting everything bad that has happened in the world. It leaves many parents feeling as if the world is a horribly unsafe place for children. This leads us to both limit our own children and judge other parents’ decisions harshly. It’s a recipe for a scared world that may not actually be as scary as we think.

When my children were younger I suffered from what I now realize was an abnormal amount of anxiety concerning their care. It was very difficult for me to trust anyone besides my husband or our mothers with my children. My youngest child was six before we used a babysitter for the first time. Still, I was eventually able to turn things around so that I did not pass my anxieties on my children. Here are some of the things our family has put in place in order to practice fearless parenting.

1. Teach Safety, Not Fear

We teach our children what to do in case of emergency. We explain the difference between an emergency situation and a “kind of a big deal” situation. We explain the steps to take to remain safe in each type of situation. To give children information about how emergencies are more likely to occur and what to do if an emergency happens helps to lessen their anxiety, as well.

2. Stop Worrying About What Other Parents Think

In the past I have curtailed my children’s freedom in some situations based solely on what I imagined other parents might think. Stories like this one make us think that other parents are watching us all the time and are ready to label us a bad parent if our standards differ from theirs, even if there is no real threat.

If you are the kind of parent who is judging other parents on what you perceive to be unsafe parenting practices, now is the time stop. It seems to me that we can do more good by helping to watch out for children who are unsupervised for whatever reason than we can by reporting these parents to the police and disrupting a family’s life.

3. Think Critically and Back Up Your Worries With Proof

If you’re going to spend time wallowing in your anxiety, at least be able to provide proof that your anxieties are founded. Don’t just listen to the media’s account of stories. Research the facts. Figure out the statistics and you’ll probably see that the likelihood of most of the dangerous situations you fear is slim.

This practice starts before birth. If you are currently pregnant and wading information concerning childbirth practices, vaccinations, co-sleeping and many more, do your research. Your research should rely on more than what you read in the newspapers and catch on the evening news.

4. Monitoring is Fine, Hovering is Not

Be aware and be prepared. Then relax.

It’s really that simple. If have prepared yourself and your children by using the steps I’ve already listed, then there is no need to hover over them as they walk to a friend’s house, go to the park alone or stay home while you run to the store.

5. Provide Your Child With A Mobile Phone

The best solution for monitoring without hovering is to provide your child with a cell phone. It doesn’t have to be expensive — prepaid is great. If your eight year old is walking down the block to a friend’s house or your ten year old wants to go play at the neighborhood park, send them with a phone. You can check in with them, they can check in with you. It’s an important step toward empowerment and self-assurance and it will help to lessen your worries.

6. Practice the Buddy System

When we are traveling for soccer games with my oldest son, my 10 and 8 year olds like to go to the sports complex playgrounds while I watch the game. Our deal is that, if the playground is more than a quick run from me or my sight of them is limited, they must go together (and often, bring a cell phone). (The buddy system is for restroom breaks, as well.)

If one child were to sustain an injury, the other child could come get me. In the unlikely event that they are approached by a stranger, they can reinforce each other with the tools we’ve given them for dealing with strangers.

This post was originally featured on Allison Goines’ blog. Featured image via

“Mom, are bad guys real?” asked my son, who was 4 years old at the time.

“Of course not,” I was ready to say. “Bad guys are only in the movies.”

But that’s not what I said. I paused, as we mothers often do when we don’t know how to answer our kids. I ummmed and coughed and weeeeellled as long as I could. How was I to answer this question?

We’ve chosen to expose our kids to some movies with bad guys — Darth Vader, Ursula, Scar. Hell, there’s even an “evil pony” in My Little Ponies. And if we see a look of fear in their faces, we always tell them the same thing: “The good guys always win.” And in kids’ movies, they do.

But we are raising our babies in real life. In a world where bad guys are real. Columbine was real. ISIS is real. Newtown. Newtown was real.

Like many parents, we often flounder and fear that we aren’t doing or saying the right thing. How much is too much information for their still developing little brains? We don’t want to terrify them unnecessarily, but it is our job to teach them about safety. In our house, we have decided to walk the tightrope—expose them gently to the truths of the world outside, while trying to help them maintain an optimistic view from their childhood eyes.

So, here I was. On that tightrope, teetering between a complete lie: “Nope! Bad guys are all pretend!” and blatant honesty: “Yes. A bad guy can be anywhere.” I stuck out my arms for balance and went with, “There are some people who are sick, or mean, or sad, and sometimes they do bad things.”

I waited for his response, hearing the thud… thud… thud… of my heartbeat.

“Well, are superheroes real?”

Shit. Round two.

“Ummmm…Batman and Superman are characters in movies and books. But there are heroes in real life, like police officers and firefighters, your teachers, and even your mommy and daddy. Lots of people are heroes. You could be a hero. You just need to be brave and do the right thing.”

Okay, I think I fielded that one pretty well. But I was not ready for what came next.

“What if a bad guy tries to get me and a superhero doesn’t come in time?”

Thankfully we were in the car and my son was two rows away from me in my bus of a mini-van. Thankfully he couldn’t see the tears in my eyes, and he couldn’t sense the strain in my voice, as I forced out the words, “Then you’ll need to be brave. But try not to worry about that, buddy. You’re safe with Mommy and Daddy and you’re safe at school.”

Because good guys always win, right? He’s safe, right? For a brief time recently, I didn’t know if he was. We received an email and phone call from our elementary school principal that their school was on lockdown. There had been “police activity” in the area, and the school officials felt it prudent to close and lock all doors to ensure the children’s safety. Stories swirled around the neighborhood of a shooting and a gunman at large. I tried to breathe and pray and believe that my little boy was safe. That there were no bad guys and that if one did come near my baby, a superhero would be there to save the day, because I wasn’t able to. I was at home, on lockdown in my own house, with my other babies, waiting. After about an hour, the news reported that it had been a false alarm, everyone was safe, and no gunman was running the streets shooting at people. We all let out a breath, picked up our kids, and hugged them extra tight on the way home. He’s safe, I said to myself. There are no bad guys. Today.

Since that conversation, and since this unnerving event in our community, I continue to walk that tightrope, every day, trying to expose my kids to some truths to keep them safe (“Don’t talk to strangers… No one touches your privates…”) but also shielding them from others. I tell them they are safe at school and when they are with Mom and Dad. Does that mean a bad guy can’t get us? No, but just let one of them try and then he’ll see some real superheroes in action.

This post was originally featured on Karen Johnson’s blog, The 21st Century Sahm. Feautred image via.

Before I had kids I thought problems were black and white. Right and wrong. And in most situations I thought I was right.

I had my 2 boys (4 years old and 17 months) to myself as Pat was traveling. My little guy fell and cut his hand at the playground so when we got home I cleaned it out.

This was my workout for the day: holding him steady through the Triple Lindy he performed to get out of my arms while I ran the washcloth over his small wound. That was BEFORE the neosporin came out.

I’ve always imagined that Olympic sprinters’ mothers knew they had winners from an early age. To see my little dude bolt out of the bathroom like the gold medal was on the line made me hopeful for future glories. But today, I was more concerned about infection.

The 4 year old was trying to talk him back into the starting blocks: soothing him, calming him, patting his head, telling him that he will get him “a Thomas Bandwich” (yep that’s how he says Band-Aid. We know that’s the sort of thing that we’re supposed to correct for his development and wellbeing and… you know what? Instead, why don’t we all just start using “Bandwich”. It’s WAY more fun to say). I appreciated the back-up – all the while marvelling at how calm and graceful he could be when the cut was on someone else.

But after much Greco-Roman wrestling, (a two-sport Olympian?) I got the neosporin on the hand. The 4 y.o. did, in fact, get the bandwich as promised. His eyes beamed with pride as he opened it and gently applied it to his brother’s hand.

The Bandwich survived about two seconds before the baby tore it off – an action the 4 y.o. found hilarious.

That evening as I cooked dinner, the boys were of course only capable of playing in a 12 inch radius of my feet the entire time. But all was well. My big guy announces, “I have to listen to my feelings.” That’s code for Potty time. He ran in. I don’t have to go with him anymore, so I took a moment to enjoy the sensation of release and freedom that having only one child climbing your legs can bring.

After a few minutes, I realize he is taking a little long. It happens a lot… he gets distracted washing his hands and starts brushing his teeth. That or he lays down a white bath towel and starts to make snow angels. But I found a moment when everything was good to simmer and I walked over to check on him.

As I opened the door I see the plastic syringe in his hand from the Infant Ibuprofen. Oh my Lord.

My child got into the medicine cabinet. He’s drinking ibuprofen like it’s a juice box. How did he get there? What else do we have there? I’m gonna find a spoon in the vapo rub! We have to go to the Hospital for the first time ever! RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW! HE KNOWS BETTER HE KNOWS BETTER HE KNOWS BETTER!

“What the heck are you doing?!!!?” I bellowed.

He froze.

And then the crying started.

He couldn’t get a word in as I freaked out. “What were you thinking?” “You don’t touch this.” “Ever!!!!”

I could see he thought he had an excuse. A perfectly reasonable answer for why he would touch medicine which I have told him to never touch. He kept trying to speak up like a man who’d been framed, but he’d lost his words. Even if he had them, the lump in his throat was closing off his ability to speak.

Finally, I settled. I wanted to know what, in the madman’s logic of a four-year-old, would ever justify going against a clear, bold fonted rule. I sat on the Potty and looked him in the face and very sternly said, “What were you thinking playing with medicine?”

Pause as he caught his breath between cries.

“I was getting medicine to make baby’s hand better.”

Pause as my brain processed what he just said. I looked up. Though the syringe was out, the ibuprofen was still sealed in the box – a remnant from a low grade fever the week before. The medicine cabinet was closed. Even if there was a spoon in the vapo rub, it would have undoubtedly been my husband’s. Everything was fine. Everyone was safe.

Not only safe. I had to face it: my son had been trying to do something wonderful.

That is really what he was thinking. I couldn’t yell. It was so sweet. He wanted to take care of him. Now I know some of you are thinking, “You are naive. He’s manipulating you.”

But in that moment I saw the kid he is. Kind. Thoughtful. Caring.

Wow. One of my kids is going to be an Olympian and the other one is going to be a Doctor.

All I could do was hug him hard. Very hard. Now the tears were now coming from me.

As we separated I looked him in the eye and told him how sweet and thoughtful that is. But “NEVER EVER TOUCH MEDICINE!“

I’m not a complete pushover.

Being a mom I thought most problems are black and white but this was my first foray into gray. I am really proud of him for being so caring and so confused how his little brain thought it was ok to open the box that I left on the bathroom sink the week before.

After some contemplation about it, what shocked me was that in this situation it was clearly black and white. Right and wrong. He was right to let his instinct to help motivate him to action and boy was I wrong to not put that medicine out of reach.

Photo via.

Parents make empty threats to their kids all of the time. I totally feel you should occasionally follow through on some of those threats–I’ve even written about it before (here).

READ MORE: What If Parents Followed Through On All Those Empty Threats They Make? (VIDEO)

 

A lot of these threats I remember my mother using on me and even then I thought ‘yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen.” As a mom I still have that thought, yet I still use them with my kids every now and then.

1.) Get ready to go or I’ll leave you here.

No way in hell I’ll leave you home by yourself. Not until you can pee without getting it all over my bathroom. So at this rate: never.

2.) Get dressed or I’ll take you to school naked.

I will totally never do this to you. You’ll either enjoy it too much or not even care and I’ll be the one smiling nervously at the school principal.

3.) Eat your dinner or I’ll stop feeding you.

As if. You know if you don’t eat properly I’ll be shoving food at you!

4.) I’m not doing anything about it if you get hurt. 

And I’ll be the one holding you while the doctor stitches up that 3 inch gash in your arm. You know, the one that you got because you didn’t seem to hear me tell you to “stop doing that” at least a billion times.

5.) Don’t make me come in there or you’ll be sorry.

I really have no idea what I’ll do once I come in there. Just please behave so I don’t have to come up with something.

6.) Come take a bath this instant or you’ll go right to bed.

No way in hell I am letting that sticky, smelly body of yours into clean sheets. It’s the end of the day and I’m just totally not in the mood to wrestle you out of your clothes and into the bath.

7.) Pick up your toys or I’ll throw them away. 

I’ll be damned if I throw away thousands of dollars in toys that I paid for!! Just stop being a shit and pick them up because I almost broke my back when I tripped on Barbie and Ken making out in the corvette.

8.) I’ll stop this car right here and come back there.

We’re in the middle of traffic. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. Plus, by the time I find somewhere to pull over, park, get out, and climb in the back seat, I’ve added at least an extra twenty minutes to our trip, which will make us late. Knock it off and believe me!

9.) That’s it, I’m taking you back to your real mom.

That demon child, thrashing about on the floor because you can’t have a cookie since you didn’t eat your dinner, surely cannot be mine. Could it? No, impossible. I must have been given the wrong child upon leaving the hospital. I’m quite certain no child of mine could act that way….

10.) Do you need me to call your father?

I don’t even know what this fully means. Really, like what is he going to do? It’s not like he can come through the phone to provide more empty threats.

11.) This is the last time I’m going to ask you….

Until tomorrow, when I’ll ask you to do this same thing another hundred times.

12.) I’ll call Santa.

Really I’m just going to call other mommies to bitch about the rough day I’m having, but if you think I’m talking to Santa about that Barbie Dream House he won’t be bringing, then points for me.

This post was originally featured on Ashlen’s blog, The Kidsperts. Photo via

There is one question I realized I am never asked as a daycare provider during interviews and admittedly, I fail to ask this question of potential families as well:

“Why did your last daycare child leave?” (for providers, asking the similar question: “why did you leave your previous daycare?”).

I get asked numerous questions during daycare interviews: if our house is up to code, schedules, what food I feed the kids, sick policies, discipline policies, pay schedule, but never have I been asked ‘why did your last daycare child leave?’

This question can give answers to many questions and can raise the red flags if there’s any to be raised. Mostly it can give insight as to whether or not the daycare is a good fit for your child and your family. This question is also a  great gateway to other questions you may not have thought to ask and additional conversations.

If you are a parent looking for a daycare provider and ask this question, don’t expect an incredibly detailed answer. Daycare providers shouldn’t be giving out too personal or private information. It should be concerning if the provider gives out specific details (names, ages, medical information, etc.), instead of explaining in generalizations. Likewise, if you are a daycare provider and ask this question, this can provide valuable information providers should be concerned about: issues at home that the previous provider was having issues with, issues with paying on time, behavior issues, etc.

This question has been moved to the top of my list when interviewing new families. I’ve overlooked the importance of this question the past four years, but my daycare provider friends and I agree that this question holds significant value in asking for both families looking for care and the provider(s) taking a new child.

Also a few other things to take into consideration while interviewing in-home daycare for your child(ren):

  • Don’t expect a clean house in the middle of the day. I usually have dishes overflowing in the sink because I haven’t had time to unload the dishwasher and toys will be covering the floor from the kids playing. What you shouldn’t see: dirty diapers laying around, used tissues or napkins not in the trash, dirty toys, or anything else that could spread germs.
  • Ask about safety procedures and what baby proofing has been done to the house. Are doors kept locked or open? Windows? Cabinets? Outlets? Where are knives kept? Are baby gates used? After three years of doing daycare, I was asked if we kept any guns in the home. I had never once thought of this question and was really impressed by it. This should be one of the top safety questions to ask a provider.
  • Ask for an example of food served (meals and snacks). Fruit snacks are not an appropriate snack for daycare’s to give kids every day.
  • How nap times work, where your child would be sleeping, and check the condition of what he/she would be sleeping in/on (pack n’ play, crib, cot, nap map, couch, etc.). Also check how old/new all equipment is, how often it’s replaced, if sheets and pillow cases are used.
  • Open door policy. Be weary of the provider that wants notice whenever you’ll be showing up at their house.
  • Ask about any emergency situations: what happens if a child is hurt, chokes, etc.? Ask if anything has happened before (again, they shouldn’t go into great detail). This can give insight how closely the kids are being watched and monitored.
  • If there are any pets in the home, ask about any past situations involving the pet(s). All pets at an in home daycare should be up to date on their shots and be seen by a vet regularly.

Choosing a daycare provider for your child(ren) is never easy. These questions are things that should be gone over with anyone who would be caring for your children, but often times, are forgotten to be asked.

Ah, the dreaded “my stomach hurts.” Monday morning, third week of school, everybody’s tired. It’s 6:30 a.m. I had already picked up my older son at school on Friday mid-day for the same reason. Stomach cramps. He rested all afternoon, then was fine over the weekend.

Let me first say, I am not one of those “You’re only sick if you’re vomiting or have a fever” moms. I get that my kids, whom I think I know pretty well by now, can be sick enough to stay home without puking or chills. I can tell by looking at their eyes, by the intensity of their protest, by just talking to them. Neither is the type of kid to fake (even subconsciously) sickness to get out of school. No Ferris Buellers here. They’ll rally after a shower, a little private time in the bathroom, or breakfast.

I also work from home, and very part-time. I’m a writer. My husband and I are fortunate that a sick kid doesn’t involve a round of Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who misses work. I often have to cancel appointments, but I don’t answer to a paycheck.

“Is there anything going on at school that you’re worried about, like a test or another kid? I know 7th grade is a lot harder, especially in the beginning.”

“No, Mom, it’s not anything like that, my stomach really hurts.”

“Can you take a shower and see how you feel after that?”

“OK, I’ll try.” He’s a good sport that way.

The other one starts moaning. “My stomach hurts too.”

“Buddy, I think you’re OK, maybe just some breakfast.”

“No Mom, I feel really sick.”

My mind needs quiet. This was not my plan for today. I like things to go according to plan. Breathe. Jenny, what does your Mom radar say? Your MomDar. It says they’re sick. You’re not wrong about these things. You are lousy at remembering phone numbers, never file that pile of papers on your desk, and you’re not much of a cook, but if you have anything nailed, it’s your instinct.

But seriously? Both of them? No. Somebody throw up so I can make a decision. I had stuff to do today. OK, I take a walk around the house. Kind of a reboot. We have a single story ranch so I can do a lap and still hear the moaning.

The younger one crawls onto the couch with the coveted purple blanket. The soft, fleecy, most comfortable blanket we have. He means business. I go sit by him (careful not to touch any body parts that might have germs, hey, I’m not an idiot).

“Buddy, what’s going on?”

“It really hurts, Mom.”

“Like how, like throw-up hurt or cramps or what?”

“I don’t know just cramps. I don’t think I’m going to throw up but Mom, I don’t feel good.”

I look at him. He looks like crap. He’s pale and looks exhausted. This is a kid with so much energy he uses a small indoor exercise trampoline just to chill out. OK, he’s sick, I think. And his brother was sick on Friday and is still sick and now they both have it.

My husband is worried. “He’s already missed one day.”

“I know dear, but I’ll send him and get a call from the nurse before 10 a.m. If he’s sick he’s sick.”

To my husband’s credit, he lets me make the call on these issues. He rarely gets sick and unless he’s completely bedridden, never takes a sick day.

“It’s your call, dear.”

The older one gets out of the shower.

“Mom, it’s worse. I really feel sick.”

“OK boys, everybody back to bed.”

Within a half hour, my older son starts with symptoms. And it’s coming from both ends. He’s doubled over in pain.

Trust your MomDar. It’s radar, for Moms. We all have it. If we listen. If we are still. If we forget the “Oh, he’s missed a day already,” “Oh, so-and-so thinks he’s fine,” “Oh, he’ll have so much work to catch up on.” No. If, your kids are sick they’re sick. You know what’s best. You’re Mom.

This post was originally featured on Jenny’s blog. Photo via