Step Mom Appreciation


For several years I have had full custody of my precious daughter, a couple years ago I remarried and have watched the family dynamics change. I am no longer the favorite; when it is bed time my daughter wants her step mom to read to her, tell her a story and pick out tomorrow’s clothes. I’ve kind of been etched out but that is okay, I still get my time with the kid and wife plus the joy of watching them interact, laugh and play. They both get along so well and there is genuine love between them.

My daughter gets to see her real mother every other weekend, which was decided by her through the choices she made, past and present. Our daughter misses her mother, which is completely understandable, and sometimes she perceives me as the bad guy because I am her primary parent and she “has” to be with me MORE. But wait, I thought this article was about step mom appreciation… well I am getting there. Sometimes I wonder if this perception is also being imposed upon my wife.

To My Wife the Underappreciated Step Mom

Introduce the wonderful step mom, the person that holds this family together, teaching us right from wrong. Her patience for both me and child overflow and is evident by her love. She embraces her role as step mom by doing all the motherly things nearly 7 days per week. Dance lessons, skating lessons, making sure appropriate clothes are worn to school, getting to the bus on-time and not to mention her love, compassion, brilliance and gentleness. The struggle comes when all this effort and love is given to the child and instead of appreciation she says, “I want to be with my mom.” To this 8-year old everything her mom says is golden and to see her is as good as Disney Land but for a step mom that provides 24/7 care there doesn’t seem to be any appreciation.

Wife, I know you know the child isn’t your “real” daughter yet you continue to love her, nurture her and protect her just the same. Even when you have tears in your eyes because of the hurtful things that come from a child’s mouth; like, “I wish my mom and dad would get back together and you could be my nanny.” Ouch! But then again it could be taken as a compliment, right? What I see sometimes is a child, a spoiled child, at times that doesn’t understand how to express her feelings.

I know when she grows up she will appreciate everything you have given her. Sure you will have to make it through the teenage years and we will both be the enemy at times but the good thing is; we will be in it together. Your love for my daughter doesn’t go un-noticed and the way you have embraced us into your life only makes me love you more.

Fire Safety: What Your Kids Know Could Save Their Life

The risk of fire in your home is present in almost every room, from the stove in your kitchen, the electrical cords in your bathroom, to the lamps in your living room. Although it is nearly impossible to eliminate the risk of fire completely, with a little foresight and planning, you can make your home environment a safer place for the ones you love. The best course of action is to not only teach your kids about fire prevention, but also show them what to do should a fire ever occur. There are three main fire topics you should discuss with your children.

Fire Prevention

Smoke detectors are one of the greatest ways to help save your life during a fire. To keep your children mindful of fire safety, ask them to remind you to test your smoke detectors monthly. Your children should be well aware of the piercing sound the smoke detector makes. Teach them that this sound means FIRE and that they must escape immediately. Also, tech your kids about the fire risk in your home and create rules for your children about “adults only” items such as matches, electronics, candles, heaters, and ovens. Some great tips/rules for the home are: 1) Never throw anything over a lamp (such as a blanket), as it can catch fire. 2) Don’t touch matches. If you see any within reach, tell an adult. 3) Don’t stick anything into an electrical socket or play with anything that has a cord. 4) Don’t play around in the kitchen. Ask an adult first before you cook anything. 5) Be careful around stoves, heaters, radiators, and fire places. These things can be extremely HOT and can burn you.


The most effective way to getting out of a fire alive is to have an escape plan prepared. Practice your escape plan with your children in every single room in your home, and practice it frequently. Your children should know of at least two ways to escape from each room. The two most important things for your children to remember are: DON’T HIDE, GO OUTSIDE and FALL AND CRAWL. It is easier to breath during a fire on the ground. Additionally, tell kids to test the doorknob with their hand before they open the door. A hot doorknob indicates that a fire is close and that they should consider an alternative route of escape.

Fire Safety

If your child does catch fire, they should know to immediately STOP, DROP, & ROLL until the fire is extinguished. They should NEVER run while on fire because running causes the flames to burn faster. You should discuss a safe meeting place for you and your children to meet after a fire- this could be a landmark or a neighbor’s house. Kids should also know to NEVER GO BACK INSIDE A BURNING BUILDING. The may be tempted to do so if pets or loved ones are still inside, but assure them that that is the job of firefighter.

Remember: prevention, preparation, and safety.

About the Author: John writes for Essential Fire Safety, a leader in home fire safety equipment.

Taking Charge of the TV

It’s hard to believe that by the time your child is in Kindergarten they have watched nearly 4,000 hours of TV. Experts agree, this is too much. However, banning TV altogether isn’t the answer. There are many age appropriate shows that can spark your child’s imagination and interests. As parents we should monitor not only the time children spend watching TV but the quality of the programming.

What You Can Do

Instead of letting your child have free reign with the remote you need to take into consideration your child’s age and choose shows that you want her to see. For example; Madalyn, age 7, loves to sing and dance. Picking shows that revolve around these concepts keeps her interested and she often sings and dances herself. It isn’t unusual for her to not learn the songs and sing them on her own.

Look for TV shows that

  • teach your child something
  • hold your child’s interest
  • encourage them to participate
  • teach new words and skills
  • makes them feel good about themselves
  • helps them solve problems
  • get along with others
  • introduces new ideas

It’s up to you to determine how much TV is too much, experts suggest no more than 2 hours per day however, that is completely up to you. For many parents even 2 hours seems like a lot of TV. Nevertheless, it is important to know how much time your child is spending watching TV so you can make the decision.

What to Do Instead of Watch TV

It is challenging to entertain children when they get home from school or during the weekend when it is pouring rain. Parents need to cook, clean and take care of their own needs. The key is to find the balance that works for you and your family. There are many things your child can do besides watch TV and a great way to discover what they are is to sit down together and brainstorm other activities.

Here is a list Madalyn drew up on her own

There are many things your child can do on her own to keep busy but it is still important to interact with her and have fun. Set a night of the week to go to the local library, play board games, a family movie night, play catch or have a tea party. TV shouldn’t be a substitute for raising your child but it can offer many different learning opportunities.

Are You Ready for Kindergarten

I remember when my daughter was close to entering Kindergarten. I had a recurring nightmare that I would forget to register her and show up to school the first day and say, “Here you go.” And hear them say, “Sorry we are full.” It wasn’t until the second grade that this almost happened.

Nevertheless, preparing your child for Kindergarten isn’t as hard as you may think. Children pick up on things as they grow and as long as they can sing their ABCs, count, hop, skip, and jump they are good to go. Reading with your child and providing learning opportunities with other children will prepare them for what’s to come.

As the first day of school quickly approaches there are a few things you may want to do in preparation.

Preparing for Kindergarten

School Registration – This is where I almost got myself in trouble. You think that just because you live near a school your child will get in (okay maybe I am the only one that thinks that). Before you can register your child you first need to determine which school they will be attending. Don’t assume it’s the closest, you never know. Some schools have a limited number of students they can accept so don’t waste any time getting the school’s procedures and policies.

Gather School Information – Learn a few things about the school. Do they have a good report card? Who is the principal? Who will your child’s teacher be? What forms need filled out? What does the Kindergarten program consist of? Can your child take the bus? What food services are available? There are many questions to be answered and you can get most of them before school begins or by attending the school’s Back to School Night.

Child Expectations – Prepare your child ahead of time by knowing the school’s expectations. Sometimes the parent’s expectations and the schools’ differ, for example, the academic program isn’t strong enough. You can meet with the teacher to discuss or consider a different school. If you know what the school expects from your child you can help them meet those expectations.

Visit the School – It goes without saying that you can learn a lot by visiting the school. When you do visit, go with your child and walk the halls, visit the gym, cafeteria, class room and library. Don’t worry about your child getting lost on the first day, or any day for that matter, there are plenty of helpers directing these new students to where they need to go.

Talk with Your Child – Let them know that going to school is a big deal. It is an exciting and special event for both children and parents! BTW – from my experience children are wired to respond to the questions; “How was school today?” and “What did you learn?” with “Good.” and “I don’t know.”

Get Involved – There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with your child’s class. The teacher is always in need of helpers for various activities, field trips and parties. It’s a neat thing to see your kid in the school environment and being the perfect little angel you wish they would be at home.

Starting school is an exciting and nervous time for everyone. It will require adjusting for the whole family but it will be rewarding as your little one just seems that much closer to adulthood.

Preschooler Development

Children between the ages of 3 – 5 continue to make significant changes. It is amazing how fast time goes as they grow and develop into their little own person. You can expect the following as your preschooler develops:

  • Begin to play WITH other children rather than next to them. Group activities become more appealing since their attention span is longer.
  • Are more likely to share and take turns as they realize others have feelings too.
  • Become more self-reliant as they dress themselves, bathe and grab a snack out of the pantry.
  • Are more coordinated and love to run, jump, dance, skip and play catch.
  • They may develop fears (monster under the bed) or imaginary friends.
  • As their vocabulary increases they will be able to understand and follow directions. Use new words in longer sentences and be aware of rhyming sounds and words.
  • They will develop a sense of humor and like riddles and practical jokes. Making faces and being silly will become one of their favorite activities.
  • Many children will be able to recognize numbers and letters. They may attempt to read or repeat sentences from their favorite storybook. Their writing and scribbles will improve.
  • They will be able to recognize shapes such as triangles, circles, squares and rectangles.

Preschooler development requires several opportunities to interact with other children so they can learn to take turns and share. Play time also provides them opportunity to develop coordination. Continue to read, talk and sing to your child to develop their growing language abilities. Explore numbers, the alphabet and help them attempt to write messages.

As your child grows he is going to want to be more independent by dressing himself and exploring. This is okay but it is important to set limits and not allow him to run amuck. Provide clear and consistent discipline and when you tell him no, follow up with what he should be doing instead.

During this stage of development you can include your child in many more activities around the home. They can help fold laundry such as sock and towels. They can help out in the kitchen by setting the table or adding ingredients to chocolate chip cookies. There are a number of things your child can do to help out around the home that will enhance their development. It’s when they are young they actually think household chores are fun.

Continue to provide your child with a loving and supportive environment with plenty of exercise, water and a healthy diet. Remember, your interactions and the interactions of others are shaping your preschooler’s personality and way of thinking.

Toddler Development

As your toddler discovers new things, throws the grocery store tantrum and pushes the limits of any parent you can expect many things (good and bad) as they develop. Their energy, curiosity, stubbornness and self-centeredness can create all sorts of joy and havoc. However, with their self-centeredness and their desire to be independent they are still an amazing blessing.

What You Can Expect from Your Toddler

  • Toddlers like to follow their parents around and imitate what they hear and see.
  • They have short attention spans with activities that aren’t of interest or they aren’t involved in.
  • Their physical skills continue to develop. By the time they are three they will be able to walk, run, jump, hop, roll and climb.
  • They begin to see how they are different and like other children.
  • Their vocabulary will increase substantially from 2 or 3 words to 250 words. They will understand much more of what people say to them. By the time they are three they will be able to put together short sentences. They will begin to count and learn their ABC’s.
  • Toddlers will request their favorite book to be read aloud.
  • They will pretend to read and write the way they see their parents and others do.
  • They become more aware of others, their feelings and thoughts.
  • They begin to scribble and distinguish between drawing and writing making marks that are like letters.

How You Can Help Your Toddler Develop

Healthy toddler development is important to both parents and children. Toddlers will require many opportunities to learn, be physically active and make their own decisions. Parents can assist in providing these opportunities by setting clear and reasonable boundaries.

Provide your growing children with activities that will use their large and small muscles such as running, jumping, dancing and putting together puzzles. Allow them to touch, taste, smell, hear and see new things daily. Talk and sing to your children to strengthen their vocabulary and knowledge. Encourage them to talk back to develop and practice their language skills.

At this stage of development they can pick out some of their own clothes and dress themselves. Get your toddler involved with other children so they can play and develop their social skills. Go to the library, museums, zoos and parks to stimulate your child and give them the opportunity to explore.

One of the best things parents can do for their children to help them develop is reading out loud. Spend time interacting with them and help them to grow into their next developmental stage.

Baby Development

Babies grow and develop at an amazing rate during their first year. You can expect your baby to begin to:

  • Improve control over their bodies. They learn to hold their heads up, roll over, sit up, crawl, stand up and occasionally walk.
  • Become aware of themselves as separate from others. They begin to notice their hands and feet and play with their toes. Later they enjoy playing with toys.
  • Learn to cry when their parents leave the room. Communicate and develop their language skills eventually leading to the very first ‘mama’ or ‘dada’.
  • Distinguish their own name.
  • Relate to others. They respond to adults more than other babies. To them other babies are considered objects instead of people.

What Every Baby Needs

Every child requires the same basic elements such as loving parents and caregivers who respond to their cries and little noises. They need to be kept safe and comfortable as well as have plenty of opportunities to move around, play and hear language. Babies need to become attached to at least one person who provides them with love and security. Developing trust is crucial and this is accomplished by feeling your touch, hearing your voice and physical closeness.

When parents get their little baby home it is natural for them to move her arms and legs and tickle her on her little belly. As your baby develops let her grab at your nose and hair. Lay your baby on your chest and cuddle her. Sing and dance with your baby to entertain or soothe her.
When your baby cries, pick her up promptly and determine what is wrong. Is she hungry? Too hot? Tired? Bored? Need a diaper change? Crying is your baby’s way of communicating that something is wrong or she needs attention.

Babies love to hear the voices of the people in their lives. Talk to your baby and respond to their coos and ‘ga, ga’s’ . Take the time to sing lullabies and read nursery rhymes with repeated patterns and sounds.

Your child has a life-time of learning ahead of her and it is important to get her off in the right direction by nurturing, touching, talking and playing with her.

Grilling Safety 101

There are few things that are more pleasing than the smell of food grilling on the barbeque. Grilling often includes family, friends and neighbors and provides an opportunity to have a great time while enjoying the outdoors.

Grilling and meat safety begins at the store. It is important to choose packages that feel cold to the touch and aren’t torn when deciding which cut of beef or package of chicken to purchase. Place the meat in plastic bags, such as those found in the produce area, to keep the juices from dripping on other food products.

Unfortunately, many stores place meat sections at the back of the store to get people further in to purchase other products. If possible, make fresh meats the last items to go into your cart and keep them separate from other ready-cooked items.

At the check stand, have the cashier bag the raw meats separately from other items and go directly home. Remember that the hotter it is outside, the less time you have to get your food home safely. In some instances you may want to pack a cooler with ice for these items.

Once you get home you should put your meat directly into the refrigerator or freezer unless you plan on grilling it in the next 24 to 48 hours. In this case, the refrigerator should be sufficient. Never leave raw meat, poultry or any other perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour at 90°F and above).

But wait, aren’t we supposed to be talking about grilling safety? Grilling safely is simple; the most critical steps are to keep your raw meat cold, your cooked meat hot and protect your other food or eating utensils from touching the raw meat or juices. Firing up the grill, cleaning it and getting the right temperature is key to any grilling experience but one thing many people miss is how they get their meat to and from the grill. To prevent food borne illness you should never use the same plate or utensils for raw and cooked meat. Either clean the plate before putting the cooked meat back on it or get a different plate altogether.

Meat and poultry should be cooked to a safe temperature in order to remove any harmful bacteria that may be lurking. Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later! If you are grilling a steak you should shoot for a minimum cooking temperature of 145 °F, hamburgers 160 °F or 165 °F for poultry.

After cooking your meat on the grill you are going to want to eat it when it is hot. If you aren’t going to be able to eat the meat right away, keep it warm by taking it off the direct heat but keeping it on the grill or place it in an oven set at 200 °F.

And there you have it-grilling safety 101! Grill safely, protect your food and enjoy those tasty treats.

Dealing with Child Arguing, Complaining and Questioning

At times children can be so well-behaved and then seemingly in an instant, they turn into little monsters. Children are exposed to a variety of influences. School and television are big influences in our kid’s lives but we are the biggest influence and since we cannot always control the messages our children are hearing from television and friends, it is imperative that we are a positive influence.

It feels as if your child is being very disrespectful when they argue with you about everything you say. You could tell them the sky is blue, point to it and they will still find a way to argue. Some children can really push their parent’s buttons by going into auto-complaint mode or constantly questioning and negotiating to the point where the parent hastily, and later, regrettably yells, “SHUT UP!”

Children are naturally curious and want to learn and try things their own way but there is a line between becoming independent and being disrespectful and it is important that they know where that line is and if they cross it there will be consequences.

Before getting into what you can do to help your child you need to first take a look at yourself and ask these questions:

  1. Are you spending enough quality time with your child?
  2. Do you spoil your child?
  3. Are you parenting by example; that is do you handle things in the house by arguing and complaining?

To help your child, evaluate your role as a parent and see what you can do better. For example, Madalyn, age 7, has a tendency to get really nasty, argumentative and bossy after she gets home from childcare. When her parents are preparing dinner she will whine about how hungry she is and gets angry easily. She throws a tantrum when she is told she can’t have the various unhealthy snacks she gets out of the pantry. However, shortly after sitting down for dinner, she becomes a perfect little angel. Madalyn is acting out because her blood sugar is low and she is hungry but her parents are feeling frustrated and disrespected.

It can be difficult dealing with this kind of outburst and attitude. It definitely takes longer to make dinner when you are trying to figure out what is wrong or you have to discipline your child. In cases like this there are some things the parents could do to mitigate the problem. They could give her a healthy snack as soon as she arrives home or send her out to play while preparing dinner. They could also encourage her to help by setting the table, chopping vegetables and getting drinks ready.

Try not to let your emotions overcome you and make you do or say something you will regret. Your child may not be controlling their emotions but as parents we should be able to keep ours in check most of the time.

If your child constantly challenges everything you say and talks back to you, you need to take steps to break this habit. First, realize that children aren’t fully capable of managing their emotions and don’t know how to process fear, anger, anxiety and rage. Any of those emotions may be driving the behavior. Make sure that your child knows that you love them unconditionally, encourage them to talk and listen to what they have to say. Do not immediately shut them down if you are hearing things that are uncomfortable or inappropriate as it is important that your child feels heard and knows it is safe to come to you if they need to talk.

Additional methods for dealing with your child’s behavior include:

  • Taking things away for a period of time such as watching TV or playing the Wii.
  • Time outs – have a certain spot in the home where your child goes for time out.
  • Behavior charts or chore charts are great tools. As your child completes their chores and exhibits appropriate behavior, they are rewarded with a sticker or magnet on the chart. These stickers or magnets can then be used for allowances or special outings. When your child exhibits undesirable behavior, you remove a sticker or magnet.

Being a Step Parent

Common Obstacles to Being a Step Parent

Being a step parent can be really hard work. There are no concrete rules that you can use because every child is different. What works for some situations may not be any good in other scenarios. Most of the lectures go out the window when reality comes into play. Much of how you handle situations simply comes with experience. There are some things, however, that are just a given. You need to know about the following problems and how to avoid them when possible.

The Cold Shoulder

Don’t expect your step children to warm up to you just because their mother or father does. Winning them over is a whole new ball game. You are not going to enter their lives and be accepted by way of the parent. There is still a lot of bonding that must be done. Lots of step children don’t even want to get to know their step parents. The cold shoulder can be one of the most frustrating parts of being a step parent. It’s one of those things that you really have to prepare for. Resist the urge to simply buy them things. Try communicating with them instead.

Disciplining Your Step Child

This is a rough thing that you should realistically discuss with your significant other. Don’t let the relationship go too far without discussing this matter. The two of you may have some totally different methods in relation to discipline. You may need to be able to reach a compromise. Whatever the case may be, there needs to be some communication on this. Parents that are not in sync will be played against each other. No step parent wants to be the bad cop in the role of authority. Both parents need to be on the same page and realistically both need to be able to carry out discipline.

Chores and Allowances

Take time to get things like chores and allowances in order. It’s hard to have any real discipline without setting some rules in place. There should be some chores like taking out the trash, washing dishes and cutting grass. Giving chores may get the kids to resent you even more, but allowances will balance things out. This presents an opportunity for step kids and their step parents to communicate. Step parents should use this and any other chance they get to communicate with the kids.

Blended families take time to come together. It’s not an instant overnight success. It takes work.

Step Parenting Advice

There are some basics that are sound step parenting advice in most situations. Keep in mind that not every child or individual step parent is the same, so nothing is absolutely the same with each family. Being a step parent takes a lot of patience, a good sense of who your step children are, and as much honesty in communication as possible. If you allow for these factors, most step parents will find that they are more successful overall. Here are a few tips that should help along the way.

Remember who you really are. You are not the biological parent to your step children, but you are part of their family. Some step parents try to be a buddy or best friend, yet this is not really the role that is best in most situations. You do want to gain the respect of your step children, but still do not undermine the authority of your spouse in the process. For the most part you should be a partner to the parenting method of your spouse, so that your place is defined by the partnership of your marriage. Try to be both subordinate, yet share the equality of parenting through your role as a husband or wife. It will make more sense to the step children and will not make them feel forced about respecting your place in the family.

Do not try to force your authority upon your step children. This may be frustrating at times, but when you find they are not listening to you, then you should defer to the biological parents. You can say things like, ‘Wait until your mother or father gets home’. This is the most fair and forceful way to show your authority, but not undermine or threaten your step children. Take your time with learning how to interact effectively with your step parenting. It takes patience, but is the better method for the relationship being forged with your step children. Try it and watch the results.

Often step children will want to communicate with you about personal matters, so let this be a way to bond with them. They will eventually open up to you as a step parent, when then do be open to it and do not let past problems block your communication with them. They may have needed to test your patience and trust you will not get unnecessarily angry with them, before they were secure in talking openly about other issues. Learning to communicate with your step children will take as long as it does, but it is worth the effort that you put into it. Communication is the key to any positive step parenting and all family relationships.