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How to Raise Happy and Healthy Children, by Ailsa Forshaw (Mother of all Mothers, so-to-speak! haha!)

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1. Be an emotionally stable parent. Well, do your very best on this one! Some days are full-on crazy, so those days are the tricky ones, where you need to keep a level head. I never did bother with 'Time Out' for the kids -- so useless. "Go to your room with your TV and your DS and all the great things you ever wanted!" Nope. If all hell broke loose, I was the one to get a Time Out. That's right -- I gave myself the Time Out. I went to MY room, closed the door (when the kids were old enough, of course!) and cooled off. Depending on how God-awful the kid has been, or what God-Forsaken thing they've done, a little time and space from it will allow you to come at it from a slightly better angle. Go in your room and breath deeply. Lay down, close your eyes, try the 'Soooo Hummm' method of relaxation (you say quietly, with Soo on the intake of breath, and Hummm on the slow outtake of breath -- is 'outtake a word?? Who has time to check to see if words really exist! You knows what I mean!! lol! This method is from Deepak Chopra, a brilliant, brilliant man and wonderful writer...). Anyway, the key is to try to be as calm as you can. Whatever has happened will pass. I used to always hold on to the hope that everything frustrating was 'a phase', and would tell myself that for as long as I would listen! lol! And if you're all in the house, and the house is heating up with whatever bad thing is happening, maybe head out the door, get in some sort of exercise. Kids like to run, so a park is great when they are little, and any sort of outdoor activity that gets them some fresh air and movement (for you, too) might do wonders. It's worth a shot!

2. Be a Finanacially stable parent. I know, this one's hard, especially in today's economy. It's very stressful dealing with money difficulties, and if you add a screaming two year old, with their baby brother on your knee, it can be a living nightmare. So best to plan ahead, whenever you can. Get the best possible job you can -- find out what jobs are actually hiring in your immediate future, in your own area, if you are not open to moving (I am always in favor of moving, especially if it means a stable job with a good salary), get the appropriate training you need for this sort of job (hopefully training you can use on a variety of jobs, so you can be flexible in the type of work you can do... this is just practical, when jobs that seemed stable can fall right out from under you, which is a horrible feeling...better to be prepared in advance, so you know you can deal with anything, and still keep your family afloat...). Hopefully, you'll get your Training and Education early, but in today's job market, people have to be open to going back to school at any stage of their lives, to be fully trained to keep their jobs, or find new ones.

Okay, aside from having a job that pays reasonably well (and please-oh-please consider the Trades -- soo many great jobs for men and women in the Trades, and the wages are high!), the next most important thing is to manage your money wisely. This means, often, making sure your partner, if you have one, manages their money wisely, too, since if one person is good with money, and the other constantly sabotages everything by over-spending, over-indulgence, with no regard to the family, that is a disaster waiting to happen, except for in the filthy rich... (All the Housewives of Orange County /Housewives of New York City come to mind, here... but we're not talking about extravagent lives, just your regular 'Are we gonna make it 'til the end of the month' lives...). It's hard to juggle all the bills, and stay calm all the time. It's a horrible feeling when you just don't have the money to buy groceries, or pay the regular bills. Learning how to be Financially Responsible should be part of every High School Curriculum -- forget the massive push on Algebra we have in Middle and High Schools, right now. Please. Our economy would be way better off if all kids left high school knowing exactly how to get a job, keep a job, and then manage the money they make to live within their budget. Seems obvious, doesn't it? Maybe someone will revise the Math Programs, teach kids what they really need to know.

So some financial basics, which I'm sure you've heard before, but they will lessen the financial stress in your life, and that will make parenting more fun, since you won't constantly be worrying about money. Be painfully aware of exactly how much money is coming into your house, and what is going out. Write it down, make everyone be accountable, at least until you're completely on track with your money. (Wait 'til I get my money right, as Kanye says!) Honesty is essential, here, with yourself, as much as with others. That Starbucks in the morning might easily add up to $3,000. a year. It's often the things you think are 'little', don't matter that much, that put you over the edge. Lunch out every day costs a fortune. And might make you fat -- that not good, as Neanderthal Ned would say! You're better off bringing in food from home. If you really have to get lunch on the run, use the Value Menus -- they're great. Just not every day... smoking, of course, is very expensive... often $5,000. a year. That's a lot of money for something that is trying to kill you! Maybe not now, maybe later, just when you're starting to have fun... I know, that's not pleasant, but the truth hurts, baby! I sorry! So sowwie! I try to keep the truth hidden from youse from now on!!

Okay, now that you know what is coming in and what is going out, make sure you organize your money so all the essential items are paid, first. Anything after that is now a luxury, so savor whatever else you do. Don't just buy something because it's there, or it's on sale... but it because you truly need it. Then figure out what you can do to bring more money into your house. Is there anything at your current job you can do extra that will bring more money into your house? Or perhaps a second job that doesn't impact on your family time too much, or maybe you could do from home? Really, I don't understand the new trend not to live together or get married... we always did this 'back in the day', because not only did you love each other, but it was the financially sound thing to do. Two incomes are better than one -- d'uh!! (Okay, I just quoting Homer, now! lol!) If you are a single parent, it's okay to look for someone else who will be a good financial partner, as much as a great companion for you. There is no harm in this -- screw those people who say that money doesn't matter. No. It does so. You can feel it when there isn't enough to go around, and all adults should be able to carry their own weight, in some way or another. And if they are at home, they should be doing something constructive, not lazing about all day. You don't lay about (hopefully!) and neither should they. We're all in it together -- everybody gotta do their part!

Now here's the hard part -- get comfortable saying No to your children. "Mom, can I have...?" No. "Dad, I really want a ..." No. Don't worry, your children will still love you, and perhaps you will instill a Work Value in them that makes them say to themselves, "Oh, for God's Sake, I better go make some money of my own, buy my own stuff", just like we did when we were kids, right?? hahahaha! (Okay, this just makes me laugh! I'm envisioning all the 3 year olds, out pounding the pavement, trying to find they a job!! haha!) If you say Yes to everything the kid ever wants, you will have an adult on your hands (yes, your hands, because this kid is never gonna move out!! haha!) who will have the expectation that they can have whatever they want, whenever they want it. Remember when you were a kid and you had to save up for something special? Didn't you love it all the more because it took so long to get it?? Why can't this generation get to know that feeling, too? It's good to wait... plus, you can try that tried and true, "Write it on a list, Honey, and we'll see how much it is next time we go to Toys R Us..." With any luck, your child will have moved on to the next great toy, and you can save the big gifts for the major holidays, rather than every day. And you can try this on your partner, too! Who knows, might work... or on yourself -- wait a few days, see if you still want the same thing... you might be really surprised at how much you save when you don't buy 'on the spot' or out of guilt. Guilt schmuilt. You have a budget to keep! :)

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3. Be a happy parent. Yes, Don't Worry, Be Happy. I knows, that a little simplistic. Of course you are going to worry, and you are not always going to be happy, but what you want to do for your kids and for yourself is to find as much happiness in your life as possible. If something is regularly getting you down, or making you downright miserable, do what you can to change that situation. Come at things from a new angle, see if that helps. I know when I read The Four Agreements, it really helped me change the way I dealt with difficult situations that were making me very, very unhappy, and helped me to find my way to an entirely new and much happier life. Hey, books help! Get out and have some fun, with the kids and sometimes without them... it's important to feel like a regular adult, with a fun life. You will be happier and 'fresher' (if that is a real word!!) for your children. Hang around with other people who make you feel happy -- this'll do wonders for you and the kids. Have someone you can tell all the horror stories to, and then laugh about them... someone who will understand, and help you through it. Watch something light or whatever you find most entertaining on TV -- who ever said TV was the enemy was annoying as hell! TV is great! It's good for everyone -- you and the kids! There are highly entertaining shows on TV, so that whole 'it'll turn your brain into mush' is a whole lot of crap. Just balance it out with lots of activity, reading, the computer,etc., and you're good to go. Do what feels right to you, and forget about what some 'expert' with no kids has to say... you know what the rigors of your own life are, so do the very best you can with what you've got, and you and the kids will be fine.

4. Be funny. Keep that sense of humor when all hell breaks loose, and you can't believe what you're seeing / hearing / experiencing / feeling... parenthood has a zillion crazy moments, and keeping that humor at close hand will help you to maintain your composure, and see things in a better light... hopefully! Kids do and say insane things, they just do. It's like it's their job. So your job is to see as much as you can with a grain of salt, or in this case, with a cup of sugar. Keep things light. If you can feel a fight coming on, lighten the situation with a little humor, whenever possible. Try to get the other person to smile, or soften a little. If they're little, go in for a hug, do an "Okay, Little You, let's change this up a little bit...", and then say whatever it is you need to say. There are lots of things that kids can say that will push your buttons, but you can change how you react to these things, and turn the ship away from a storm. Storms bad, Peace good. (Neanderthal Ned told me that, and I believe him, since he is very earnest when he speaks!) Think of yourself as Julie on the Loveboat! haha! Maybe not so perky... Julie before her morning coffee, perhaps! lol! You're the Captain of your family vessel, and you want to do what you can to steer a smooth sail... now I just wanna go on a cruise! Must look into that! Laughing with your kids is a great feeling, and instilling a great sense of humor in your children is really great for them socially and emotionally, not to mention how big their brain will get from thinking up new and clever jokes! lol!

5. How to stop the Whining, start to live normally, again! hahaha! No, fer reals, whining is phenomenally annoying, for everyone involved. Nobody likes a whiner, so don't let this little habit catch on with your child, and if has already started, try this little trick to stop it quickly. The best thing is to start this when your child first begins the whole whining process, around 2 or 3... you gently hold your child's face, look them straight in the eye, and say very, very clearly, exactly how you want to words to sound. They must mimick your voice, entirely, volume, tone, pitch.

"I wanna cookie, I wanna cookie, I wanna cookie. Plleeeeaaaasseee!! Puh-leease.... come on, I wanna cookie, I wanna cookie...", you get the drift! This kid needs to be stopped before you lose your mind.

Stop what you are doing, look down at this lovely child, hold their little face in your hand, gently around their chin, so they are completely focussed on you and you alone, and say firmly and with a very controlled, relatively low-pitched voice, "May I have a cookie, please?" When the child repeats it exactly the same way, you will then respond Yes or No. I used to love saying No, right when the kid had the sentence right, and then we would both laugh and I would say, "Yes, Little Baby, you can have a cookie! Thanks for asking so nicely!" That way, there is laughter, the child sees that there is a more effective way of possibly getting what they want, and your mind stays intact. Sound good? It works. The goal is to stay sane until the kids graduate from High School!! hahaha!

If you happen to be a whiner already, oh-uh, but you probably not readin' this if you iz! haha! Good time to train everyone! Every single time you hear something said a way you find annoying, stop it immediately. Same thing for 'autistic movements', which can happen often with boys, but sometimes with girls. If they are doing the quick hand movements, quickly and firmly hold their hands together and say "No." Like you mean business. No playing around here. You can laugh (or cry!) with your spouse or a friend, later, about whatever crazy thing your kid did that day, but right now is the time to be firm. The kid will get it, and frankly, this may sound controversial, or not, but it works. Dealing effectively has nothing to do with being 'politically correct', for the sake of someone else, who is not in your house, and not dealing with a very, very challenging child, right? Your job is to teach and guide your child to be able to fit into this world with as much ease as possible, and be the most pleasant, polite and kind human being they can be. Teaching them how to behave, how to speak properly, and know what they can and can't do, and when, will do wonders for their social skills, and make their lives better, which will, in turn, make your life better. See how easy it is to parent?? (This article should come with a condom! hahaha!)

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6. Keep your composure. You are waaay bigger than they are, (until they grow up, dammit!), so always remember that you are in charge, not the tiny Napolean, in case you happen to have a human child, between the wonderful ages of 2 & 6! haha! Someone once told me that 6 was the magic age for a lot of the crazy stuff to iron itself out, so if you're in the 6 'n under category, hold out this tiny bit of hope to help you get through the tricky years!

7. Be fair and reasonable. If you have more than one child, love them each for their uniqueness, so they know they are separate but equal... this goes a long way to maintaining family harmony. Nothing worse than sibling rivalry that is brought on and/or encouraged by a parent... this is even more difficult if you are not the parent doing the favoring, with biological children, or, as is the case in so many blended families, with 'Step Children'. For the record, I don't care for that term, since all children are 'children', and if you love the person they came from, you have to be kind to their children... decent and kind, and the children have to have the same decency and respect for the adult -- only the biological parent can manage that part, but it's critical. When a child either just feels like they are being treated differently, or the poor kid is blatantly being treated differently, there is going to be a reaction, and chances are waaay high it won't be a good one. This is tricky to maneuver, but if you set down some 'Decency Rules' for everyone to follow, right from the start of a new relationship, it's much easier when the sh*t hits da fan... and you know that will happen, eventually. Bizarrely enough, these situations of one parent managing children much differently than you would is a much more difficult problem with two biological parents, since they both think they have it right, so often not a whole lot of room to budge -- hey, just thought -- I wonder if this is why so many young people in my generation (growing up in the 60's & 70's, when the vast majority of kids you knew were from 'intact families', where one or both of the parents were nuts, so the kids used to move out at a very young age... just to get away from the craziness! hahahaha! Maybe divorce made it easier for kids to stay home longer, and want to come back home later! Hmmm... a little food for thought! :)

As long as your children perceive you as a fair and caring parent, with their best interests at heart, even when you say No, which you will say often, you're good to go. Explain it any way you want (Honey, I know you really, really want a tattoo of your new girlfriend/boyfriend on your back, but I can't drive you there, right now. Maybe when you're 50, and still in love...). Your kids will get the idea that you're not a pushover, and that you are truly looking out for them. Plus, maybe they'll go get a great education, so they can get a great job, buy their own car to drive to the tattoo parlor in, just to show you who's boss around here! You can buy them a nice new shirt, so you won't even know it's there! lol!

8. Don't stay in a bad marriage 'for the kids'. Or in an abusive relationship 'for the kids'. Nope. Believe me, I know from personal experience (my first marriage was an abusive nightmare) that children (and you) are far better off in a happy, quiet home, than in a home filled with fear and anger. This all ties in with raising a Happy Child, and who can be happy in a horrible environment? And that's not to say that millions of Good Adults aren't walking around, all okay with themselves, even though they endured a difficult childhood (really, who thinks they had a great childhood?? Okay, maybe you did, but who else?? hahaha!), but we're talking about hard-core abusive relationships, here, and those are just plain horrible for everyone, especially the children. And this whole thing that I hear in the loser-*ss courts, where the father has abused the mother, and the court says what a great father he is?? Puh-leeease. Great fathers don't beat their wives, or bully them, or anything else that is reprehensible. No. And it is just a matter of time before it happens to the kids. So there. I've waited 21 years to say that! I never was able to say anything at all about my horrible first marriage until I was well out of the custody battles, but those days are over, now, Thank God, and so now the truth can start to seep out. I want to tell you, though, that my daughter is a very happy and well-adjusted young woman, despite all the crap we went through in her youth, and I raised her to believe that Marriage is Good, with the right person. Just because one marriage is bad, and one man is horrible, doesn't mean that every man is bad -- not by a long shot. She is aware of the signs of an abusive nature in a person, though... healthy to know that! She has a wonderful relationship with a really nice guy, and they are planning to get married one day, so it's all good!

Okay, I'm goin' to watch some TV! I'll write more when I feel like it! See the beauty of owning your own website!! lol! If you have 'come in through the back door to my site, looking desperately for a way to get your sweet little child from whining, perhaps you'd get a kick out of my 'At Home with Ailsa' Update page... it's fun... or have a wee look at my favorite recipes! See you soon! Ailsa!

9. Make decisions that are good for you and your children, forget everybody else. They are important, but you and your children are at the top of the list for all the people you want to please, right now.

10. Be honest with your children, with as much information is as reasonable for them to know.

11. Treat your self and your children with the utmost of respect.

12. Love your children like crazy.

13. Be available for your kids -- as much time as humanly possible... everyone's lives get so super busy, but to just be there when a child is looking for a parent, that's a Good Thing, as Marth Stewart would say! lol!

14. Let your children be free to live their own lives, but with your gentle and loving guidance. Be there when their choices work out differently than anyone thought, be that positive or otherwise...

15. Live an Adult Life that you are proud of, that brings you joy, and replenishes your soul. This will only bring even more joy and happiness into the rest of your life.

16. Keep your addictions to yourself -- don't share them with your children. Know what your addictions are (food, smoking, gambling, drinking, over-spending, negative behaviors, what have you...), and be extra-careful not to pass them along to your children.

17. Feed them well. (Or just feed them!! haha!) This doesn't mean, 'No Sugar', or 'No McDonalds', either... all things in moderation, right? Any healthy, balanced diet, low in fat and high in fiber, with moderate carbohydrates will build a healthy child -- and keep you healthy, too, so it's all good! Snacks are an important part of life, though, and I see more people with eating issues whose Mom made the poor kid eat a bag of carrot sticks when all the other kids were having some cookies or chips... this just sets up a future for the kid to hardly wait to get out on their own, eat as many damn chips as they can get their hands on, which is sorta funy, except that it can have serious food ramifications later... all you have to do is create a healthy environment where snacks are not held out as something you can never have, but the child can make their own decisions on what they might like -- you get to decide what type of snacks, occasionally, you have in the house. And make fruit appetizing for children -- I have been making my son, Aidan, a fancy Fruit Plate since he was a baby... he loves it! You know, slicing the bananas to put around the edge of the plate, put grapes for the eyes and nose, kiwi for the mouth... or any fancy pattern that makes the fruit look really appealing. Whatever you can do to get lots of fruits and veggies in those little mouths is a good thing to do! lol!

Now go give your kids a big hug!! Give 'em one from me, too! Children are The Best!! Little Sweet chilluns! We love 'em, and only want the best for them. Love them, they'll love you back, your life will be so great! Thanks for popping in for a wee read! See you soon! Ailsa!

Yes, this is me, with my sweet little dog, Tia. I was soo extra careful not to put too many pictures of my children on my website for years.. I'd love to put pictures of my daughter, Cara, now, since she is now an adult, and very, very beautiful... one day, I will figure out how to put more pictures on my site -- when I moved, the same photo icon didn't come up on my computer, so that's the problem -- I only knew one way to do it! haha! (Story of me life!! lol!) But I have raised two wonderful, loving, caring children, through all kinds of trials and tribulations, and we all came out the other side happy wee folk, so I am very grateful for that. Believe me, there were a lot of tears and prayers along the way, but lots of laughs and great times, too. Any tiny tidbit of Parental advice that you can take from this, or share with a friend, is good, right? And free! And you know what they always say about Free Advice?? haha!

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The best way to get the word out about a Website is by 'Word of Mouth', or in my case, by e-mail. I'd love it if you would tell your Friends & Family about -- you know I'll love you for it! (You know, from afar...! haha!) Thank you! Ailsa



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