Monday, August 11, 2014

Positive Reinforcement: Why You Should Make It a Habit and How to Do It

Admit it, before you had kids, you rolled your eyes at the mom in Target whose toddler was face down on the ground in a full-blown tantrum, thinking "when I have kids, I'll make sure they never act like that."

And then you have a child, and poof, there you are, at the checkout in the midst of a meltdown because you won't buy the toy your daughter suddenly must have. How did you get here? How can you transform your real-life daughter to behave like your imaginary one and calmly understand how to behave in public? Positive reinforcement could be just the solution you're looking for.

The concept is simple. By praising kids for the good things they do, they learn what kind of behavior is expected of them, and continue to act that way to keep getting praise. Here are some of the benefits of incorporating positive reinforcement into your relationship with your little one and some easy-to-follow advice to do so:

Set a Clear Understanding of Expectations

Does it bother you when someone complains about a problem but doesn't offer a solution? In some ways, that's exactly what you are doing when you chastise your young child. A Dutch study conducted by developmental psychologists at the Leiden Brain and Cognition Lab found that pre-adolescent children respond more to rewards than to punishment.

They theorize that children respond better to rewards mainly due to the fact that it's easier for kids to continue with the same behavior rather than to analyze and correct a mistake. By drawing attention to good behavior, you are clearly communicating how you expect your kids to act instead of leaving them to decipher your expectations on their own.

Tip 1: Praise the behavior, not the child: Instead of saying "you're such a good girl/boy," praise your child's actions. For example, you can say, "Thank you for playing quietly while I was on the phone."

Motivate Good Behavior

Rewarding kids for positive behavior, in turn, teaches them to find their own inner motivation to behave all of the time so they can reap the rewards more often.

The same happens in the opposite scenario when you reinforce negative behavior. When you offer your child a reward if they stop misbehaving, you are simply encouraging them to misbehave more often so they can be rewarded when they stop.

Instead of bribing your child with your iPhone to get through dinner with friends, offer them more iPad time after dinner if they continue to eat quietly and socialize with your guests.

Tip 2: Be specific. Skip doling out generic praise like "good job," and offer a clear explanation. Try saying, "I'm so proud of how you passed the ball and scored that goal during your soccer game."

Increase Your Mindfulness

As a parent, trying to juggle everything from carpool and karate to cleaning and cooking, it's all too easy to let autopilot kick in from time to time. However, autopilot parenting can be your worst enemy. Not only does it prevent you from bonding with your child, but in this state, you're also less likely to acknowledge your child's positive behavior and reinforce it. Furthermore, you're also more likely to fly off the handlebars, drawing more attention to their negative behaviors.

By committing to positive reinforcement, you'll increase mindfulness around your children, and set a good example of how to enjoy living in the moment. And, a reward for positive behavior could include you as the parent. For example, if they clean their room without you nagging them, reward them with an afternoon movie or a trip to the zoo. This way the behavior is reinforced, and you get to spend quality time together.

Tip 3: Don't overdo it. Reserve your positive reinforcement for things that require real effort for your kids. Drinking a glass of water or coloring a picture is hardly an accomplishment if those are things your child already does without your encouragement.

The Great Outdoors: Mom-Approved Tips for Your First Camping Adventure

Camping remains one of America's greatest pastimes, but the number of participants is steadily declining. The National Park Service recorded 9.2 million overnight campers (including both RV and backcountry camping) in 1998, but the number dropped to 7.99 million in 2008, and 7.91 million last year. But rookie first-time campers taking the entire family likely need a pep talk and a little instruction to ensure a safe, memorable trip. These three tips cover all the basics and a little more.

Weather Forecast

It's common for rookie campers to check their local forecast and prepare based on that single report. People living in states like Arizona, Colorado, or California, where the elevation changes thousands of feet in a matter of a couple miles, must prepare for potentially drastic climate shifts. Each family member should have their own backpack with warm gloves, stocking cap, long johns, and a couple extra pairs of socks. The myth that humans lose more heat through their heads has been long debunked. Regardless, the old camping proverb "if your feet are cold, put on a hat," is still followed by veteran outdoorsmen.

Nighttime sleeping essentials are important. Sleeping bags are graded by the lowest temperature which it will keep you warm. For instance, if your bag is a 30-degree bag, it will keep you comfortably warm as long as air temperatures do not drop below that threshold. Make certain your sleeping bags are rated for the lowest possible temperatures you may encounter. You may also want to consider sleeping pads, which add more cushion and an extra layer between yourself and the cold ground—you don't want a caravan of grouchy campers the next morning.


Part of your camping trip may entail fishing or even hunting for those who want to get more adventurous. But, as the matriarch of the campsite, you should always plan for the worst when it comes to both and make certain you have enough food and water to last the entire trip if something bad were to crop up.

The regular 10 or 20 pound bags of ice will keep hot dogs, lunch meat, eggs, and cheese cold for about 36 hours, or longer if you keep the cooler out of direct sunlight. Place a blanket over the cooler during the day for an extra layer of insulation. Try this cool DIY hack—freeze a couple of gallon jugs of water and use those in the cooler. They will keep longer than loose ice, and you can drink the cold water when it thaws.

Dry ice is an option if you want to keep your foods frozen. Chicken breasts, ice cream, and popsicles will remain cold and solid. The general rule is to pack 10 pounds of dry ice for every 24 hours you want your food to stay frozen.

Odds & Ends

Any item that is essential to your health and well-being should be included on a checklist, so it's not forgotten. Medications for you and the kids can be placed in a small plastic bag in the cooler. Bring an extra pair of eyeglasses if you wear them, and replacement lenses for your sunglasses just in case. A solar cellphone charger can be taken if you need to stay connected for whatever reason. Waterproof matches, AM/FM radio, extra batteries, pocket knife, and a basic first-aid kit round out the essentials.

Lastly, relax and have fun. Being outdoors and one with nature is not only good for the soul, but also great for some quality time with the family.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Occurs to Me...

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

(Romans 8:5-8 NIV)

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

(2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV)

Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

(2 Corinthians 6:17 NIV)

... That I don't want to be like everyone else.  I don't want to live in the realm of the flesh.  I don't want to be yoked together with unbelievers.  I want to be separate.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart... 

(Jeremiah 1:5 NIV) 

It occurs to me that I was set apart.

This doesn't make me better than anyone else.  It just means that I have come to a place in life where I finally realize just how great this gift of life is that God gave me.  I realize that His gift of eternal life through His Son is so wonderful, so amazing, so fantastic, that I was set apart for it from the beginning.

Living in the Spirit appeals to me.  Living in the flesh doesn't.  It's pretty black and white.  I live in the world, but I do not have to be of the world.  And I don't want to be.

I've loved God for years.  I've been a Christian for years.  But I think this current understanding is fairly new for me.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Verse of the Week - Romans 12:14

I've been giving a lot of thought to this week's verse.  I think it may be one of the hardest things for people to do.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Romans 12:14

I'm paying a lot of attention to what is going on in Iraq right now.  The persecution of Christians in that country has reached monumental levels.  Iraqi Christians have been told to convert to Islam, pay a hefty fine, or face "death by sword."  And let's face it, the option to die is the one that ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) seems to favor.

Christians in Iraq are fleeing.  They are losing everything they have just to escape death.  It's a horrible situation.  There have been reports of horrific acts of violence.

So how does one bless the people doing this and not curse them?

As I sit here giving this some serious thought, the only answer I have is prayer.  Bless them through prayer.  Pray for God to intervene on these clearly confused souls.  I could go off all day about what I think of what ISIS is doing.  I could scream and yell and rage.  But I'm told to bless and not curse... So I'll pray.  It's the only thing I can think of that seems good enough.  And I know God will listen.

What is encouraging you this week?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Verse of the Week - Jeremiah 17:9-10

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

“I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10

What is encouraging you this week?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

3 Things Debt-Free Families All Have In Common

Total consumer debt in the United States sits at $11.68 trillion as of April 2014, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by NerdWallet. Granted the number of U.S. households carrying debt dropped from 74 percent in 2000 to 69 percent in 2011; however, the households carrying debt owed 40 percent more in 2011 than in 2000.

People who are debt-free tend to possess many of the same characteristics and habits. Here are three of their most common traits:

They Don't Like Chains

King Solomon of the ancient Kingdom of Israel once said "the borrower is slave to the lender." Whenever you owe somebody else money, your income is no longer all yours. Thus, you are basically working for a reduced rate of pay.

The fact is that many of the things people buy on credit are material items that are completely unnecessary. Using credit cards masks the true value of money because no cash is actually leaving your hands at the moment of purchase. Debt-free individuals tend to use cash or debit cards for all transactions. Try this for a month and see how your spending habits change.

Download an app to track your expenditures like Level Money or Mint. Those morning lattes, lunches and drinks after work are simply bad spending habits, which you will discover add up to much more than you probably thought. Learn how to say no to friends and co-workers' invitations to eat out, and instead propose weekend picnics or even potlucks at work.

Goal-Driven Individuals

The 2013 Nielsen Global Survey of Saving and Investment Strategies found that 69 percent of respondents believed they would achieve their financial goals, but only 28 percent believed their plans to achieve said goals were sufficient.

It is much easier to save money when it is being put away for a specific purpose. A mortgage is generally considered "good debt" by financial advisers, but the more money you save for a down payment, the better terms you'll receive on a loan.

Give yourself a boost when starting to save for big-ticket purchases by doing a financial inventory. For example, use your tax return for the initial deposit into this fund or sell your future annuity or structured settlement payments and use the lump sum of cash for a starting point. The same method can be used when saving for retirement, vacations and education.

They Ask For Help

The best annual percentage yields (APY) on savings accounts are all less than one percent, according to MoneyRates. There is little to no advantage to storing your money in this fashion, but you're unfamiliar with any alternatives.

Financial advisers can be pricey to hire, so instead join financial forums online. For example, Saving Advice allows you to post questions and engage in discussion with other members about any financial topic. You can also click on and read the old threads if your topic has already been discussed. StockRants is a great place for discussion about hot and safe stocks if you're simply looking to store your money with potential to earn more than a savings account would pay. Wilmott is another forum to consider when looking for savings options.

Being debt-free is a choice that requires honesty, sacrifice and discipline. No matter how much you owe, once you make that life-changing decision, you can get out of debt and stay out of debt. Share these tips with your family and children to discuss your financial habits and plans—this just may secure their financial futures as well.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Verse of the Week - Proverbs 15:16

Hope Valley, California

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. 
Proverbs 15:16 NIV

What is encouraging you this week?