[Parenting Toolbag] Three Effective Discipline Tactics That Don’t Involve A Switch, A Belt Or A Fist

I’ve already stated where I stand on spanking/whooping your kids as a form of discipline. Short answer: I don’t spank my kids.

But this post is less about the “why I don’t spank my kids” and more about what I do use to make sure my children grow into healthy, emotionally capable adults with respect for themselves and the world around them. True, they are “only” 7 and 6, so time will tell on the effectiveness of my parenting methods. We’ll see.

1) Instead of getting louder, go softer.

I used to yell at my kids all the damn time. And truthfully, it just made me feel tense and anxious and I never felt like it accomplished much but giving me a sore throat. My kids would be tiptoeing around me, not wanting to talk to me for fear I’d erupt and they’d be caught in the cross-hairs.

I got tired of it before they did. So I decided to switch up my tactics and instead of yelling at them to do things or erupting because they’d done something wrong, I tried going softer and getting closer. When my kids would act out in the store (very rare, but it happens), I get down on their level and pull them close to me. I re-state how they are supposed to behave and give them space to comply. 90% of the time it works. If it doesn’t, we leave the store. When I’m frustrated about a mess they’ve made or an argument they’re having with each other, I take a deep breath and draw them closer. It helps them see that I do care about their feelings (and yes, this is important to children) but that their behavior is what needs correcting.

Going softer (hugging your child when they are misbehaving, holding their hands while you’re talking to them) seems kind of counter-intuitive. Who wants to try to wrestle a screaming kid into a hug? But positive physical touch releases feel-good chemicals in your child’s brain, allowing them to really hear what you’re saying.

2) Instead of getting physical, get intellectual.

Sometimes, children just do dumb stuff because they lack the mental capacity to know better. True story: When I was about my daughter’s age (third or fourth grade), I took $10 out of my Mom’s purse. I didn’t spend it. I didn’t lose it. I just kept it. When my dad questioned me about it, I told him I had it and showed it to him. When he asked me why I did it, I simply said because I wanted to have money in my pocket. That was one of the only spankings I remember. And it wasn’t bad (I actually remember giggling because he didn’t want to hit me, but he thought he should so they were really soft taps LOL).

But thinking about the incident now, I think I would have handled it differently with my kids. At 7 and 6, they’re old enough to understand the cause and effect of working hard and getting paid for it. So I would have made them clean the house, shovel a driveway, rake up some leaves, anything to teach them that this is how you earn money. You don’t take it. You earn it.

Here’s where positive reinforcement comes into play. So often we’re looking to “catch” our kids doing something they’re not supposed to, that we don’t look to “catch” them doing well. I hear some of you scoffing now. “What do they want? A cookie for doing what they’re supposed to do?” But really, we all crave positive reinforcement, whether it’s at home or in the office or with our friends.

So how does it work? For example, when your kids put their homework away without you having to fuss about it, point it out to them and let them know you’re happy they’re being responsible. It gives them an opportunity to feel like they’re doing something right, so they are more likely to keep that behavior going.

3) Instead of being lax, be consistent

The hardest lesson for me to learn as a parent is that kids need consistency. Whatever I tell them on Monday has got to be the same thing they hear on Tuesday and Wednesday. I used to be really lax on what behaviors were fine and when, simply because I was tired. Who has the energy to tell the kids to stop running through the house all the time? But I was doing them a disservice and creating more work for myself. Consistency in our expectations is 70% of our task.

The point is: Get creative

I think we don’t give ourselves enough credit when we reach for the belt at the first sign of disobedience. Even the “best” child will test you from time to time and you’ve got to learn to roll with it. Yup, roll with it. Perfectly obedient children don’t exist.

Ask yourself: What’s the lesson here? How can I get through to them? And sometimes, it’s less about getting through to them (you pouring in all your “wisdom” into them) and more about you allowing them to teach you how they can best be parented. We tend to treat children like they don’t matter, like they are our property to do with as we please. But if we’re patient and we really listen to our children, we will learn a more effective way to parent them.

It requires a LOT of talking. Talking in the mornings. On the way to school. In the evenings. On the way to the grocery store. On the way to their grandparents’ house. It’s more work than just popping them in the mouth when we don’t like what they say or how they are behaving. But parenting is never easy. It requires more of us than we sometimes know how to give. But that doesn’t mean that we stop trying, or we somehow settle for less.

REVIEW: AlternaVites Powdered Multivitamin & Minerals

I can’t swallow pills. Well, I can, technically, but I have to get practically a gallon of water and they have to be super small. I’ve tried everything. Putting water in first, tilting my head back, doing it super fast, trying to swallow with food. It’s just a nightmare. I was in tears during my pregnancy trying to take those horse pill-sized prenatal vitamins. Yuck.

I was delighted when I was asked to try alternaVites, a comprehensive multivitamin & mineral in crystal powder form. Hallie Rich, the founder of alternaVites, knows my struggle. For years, she just didn’t take vitamins at all because she couldn’t swallow pills either. She created the first-of-its-kind vitamin company in 2010.

It melts quickly in your mouth (think Pixie-Stick) and kids can sprinkle them in their smoothies, in a beverage or simply on their tongue. Currently, the alternaVites Kids come in two flavors: Strawberry Bubblegum and Raspberry Cotton Candy. 10458440_691418510893708_3728768524738462647_n

What excited me most was what the vitamins did NOT contain:

  • Gluten
  • GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
  • Egg, fish, milk, soy, peanut, shellfish, tree nut, or wheat
  • Artificial sweeteners, colors, preservatives or flavors

My daughter has a ton of food allergies and sensitivities to dyes and artificial flavors, so it’s wonderful that I can give her these vitamins without worry. One

A daily dose is one full packet and the price is comparable to other vitamins on the market. My kids loved ‘em and went straight to put them on their tongues, versus putting them in a smoothie or drink. I was only able to try the kids’ version, but they have an mixed berry version for adults that I will have to check out. Adding a boost of vitamins to my morning smoothies sounds like a win to me!

To find alternaVites at a retailer near you, check their store locator or purchase from one of these online retailers. If you’d like to try alternaVites, they have a coupon good for $2 off!


REVIEW: Layers of Me Coconut Shea Body Butter

2014 has been a year for me to stop just “playing like a grown-up” but actually becoming one. I’m upgrading my life in all the ways that matter and carving out the space for me to determine what a adult Tara really enjoys.

One thing I’m getting back to is taking better care of my skin. In my teens, I had this elaborate skincare routine that kept me looking impossibly young and acne-free. I can count on two fingers the number of pimples I’ve had. But then I had my kids in my 20s and my skin has suffered for it. I washed my face maybe once a week. I grabbed whatever creams I was putting on my kids and dabbed a little on my feet so my cracked heels wouldn’t scratch my husband at night. I stopped using face masks and just…went about my life.

But I miss it. I miss feeling pampered and taking good care of what is my body’s largest organ. My good friend Jennifer Jones launched a line of body butters last year, through her company Layers of Me, and she asked if I’d like to try it out. Of course, I said yes!


Jennifer is a homeschooling, PhD-pursuing, stay-at-home mommy of two under 4. She had been making the body butters for her family and friends, until it hit her one day that she could be selling it and using the money to support her family! She gave me the Coconut Shea Body Butter to use and I’m impressed!

What I love most about this product is that the ingredient list is made with fully recognizable ingredients: grape seed oil, apricot kernel oil, glycerin, coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax! No preservatives or harmful chemicals of any kind. I’ve actually used all of these ingredients (minus the beeswax and glycerin) as moisturizers on their own, so having them together in one product is a joy. Plus, I like the fact that my money is going toward a mom who is trying to make her mark on the world, just like me.

I’ve been using this product on my body from head to toe for a little over a week now, and my skin is softer and retains more moisture than it has previously. I give it a 10. She also has a Mango Shea Body Butter that I know is divine.

If you decide to order it, know that the body butter is unscented. I find this to be a plus, because most of the artificial fragrances on the market aren’t good for sensitive skin and could cause more problems than they’re solving!

Support moms making it work and try Layers of Me. Stay tuned for more products and sale on its Facebook page.

My #1 Tip For Getting Kids To Read Daily (Without Nagging From You!)

My daughter is in the third grade this year. Normally that’s a ho-hum age, academically, but this year, our state has the Third Grade Reading guarantee, where, if students don’t pass the reading portion of the third-grade standardized test, they have to repeat third grade.

Luckily, I have little doubts about my daughter’s ability to pass. She is brilliant, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mama! I’ve got proof! I’ve got report cards! Receipts! LOL

My son is in first grade and while he is great at reading, he doesn’t want to read. Every once in a while, I’ll hand him a book and he’ll breeze through it, looking bored. So you know what I’ve been doing?


1. Keep books in the car.

Even if you have a reluctant reader in your family, if you have at least one child who knows how to read and is good at it, your problem is solved! My daughter loves to read and will digest chapter books in a matter of minutes if you let her. My son on the other hand doesn’t like sitting still long enough to read. But in the car, they’re stuck there anyway, so reading works. She reads to him every day on the way to school and on the way home. When we’re going to my parents’ house (a 45-minute drive), they read on the way there. It’s easy and so far, it’s fun for them.

I ask them questions about the books and it’s a good way to get them to understand plot and story structure and test their comprehension skills. Plus, if you get your books from the library, you don’t have to look for them when they’re due. They’re just in the car!


Try The Bold New Menu At Bonefish Grill #HelloNewMenu

To say “my husband and I don’t get out much” would be an understatement. For one, we’re busy. He works incredibly long and strange hours and I handle most of the childrearing while bringing in a hefty paycheck of my own, so we’re constantly negotiating when one of us will be home to watch the children. Time together without the children is rare.

So rare, that when Bonefish Grill asked me if I’d like a night out to go try their new menu, it was all I could do to keep my composure.

oprah gif

I asked my parents to watch the kids and off we went! We went to Bonefish Grill to celebrate our anniversary last year, so I already knew their food was going to be good. The new menu features new appetizers, a brand-new selection of bowls (tuna, strip steak, roasted veggies and shrimp!), new steaks and more.

First off, my husband and I had the new Bang Bang Shrimp Flatbread. (I’m going to use the Bonefish Grill photo here because, if you’ve ever been to Bonefish, you’d know that the lighting is low. Perfect for date night and cuddling in the booth, but horrible for iPhone photography.)

bonefish grill bang bang shrimp flatbread

It was delicious! It had just the right amount of kick to it, and I would have eaten all four pieces by myself if I didn’t have an entree coming. The waiter told us the sauce had a bit more spice than the regular Bang Bang Shrimp and it was a nice heads-up. I’d definitely recommend you try the flatbread if you go.

For our entrees, my husband tried the new ribeye with Asian peppercorn demi-glace. I asked for a bite of his before I even tried my food because it looked so good! And it was moist and cooked perfectly. Next time we go, I’m getting one.

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I got the sockeye salmon with lemon basil butter sauce, spinach and goat cheese. It was one of the daily specials, so I’m not sure if it will be available whenever you go. But it was delicious! I just realized that I got almost the exact same dish the last time we went. I took a bite of my salmon and told my husband, “This tastes different…like, it just came out of the ocean or something.” He laughed at me, but I was serious. That fish couldn’t have been more than a few hours old. LOL Both times the salmon has been incredible and it was so much food I honestly couldn’t finish it.

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The closest Bonefish Grill is about 30 minutes from us, but it’s worth the drive. The food is delicious and fresh without being horribly overpriced and we always receive excellent service while we’re there. If you’re looking for a new date night spot, Bonefish Grill is it.

 Disclosure: I received a gift card to facilitate this review.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.


Ask Yourself, “Is This Worth The Fight?” Chances Are, The Answer Is No

My new thing (and something I honestly learned from my husband) is that I need to guard my energy. That means assessing where I am mentally and making sure I don’t let outside forces burrow into my spirit and take what’s left. No, no. I’m guarding against that type of foolishness.

If I woke up at 100%, I’m not wasting 5% of that on a Twitter fight with some troll who tells me I’m encouraging teen pregnancy. I’m not wasting my energy packing my kids’ lunches when they can do it themselves. I’m not wasting my energy participating in petty gossip or trying to set someone straight who is insistent that they are correct.

It’s about being mindful of how you are spending your time and what activities you could easily drop that would allow you to feel lighter and more energized every single day.

I realized that having an argument with my daughter every morning about her outfit choices (she likes to mix prints and create outrageous “looks”) was not worth my energy. She’s dressed appropriate for the weather, she likes how she looks, she’s 7. Who cares?

I realized that my career will unfold how it should and stressing over every single interaction and email with clients is not worth my energy.

I realized that stressing about making meal plans and giving my kids beautifully “designed” lunches was not worth the energy.

I realized that maintaining relationships with people who unload their personal problems on you but never ask how you are doing, that was not worth my energy.

Learning to manage my energy over the past few months has been life-changing. I don’t have to engage with every foolish thing that crosses my path. Now I simply step aside and keep it moving.

Remember: 75% Of Parenting Has Nothing To Do With Money

As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly thinking about money—how much is in my account, whether a client owes me money, whether I have enough set aside to pay my taxes. It’s exhausting, but my real concern beneath the anxiety is that somehow, the money will stop coming in and my children will suffer.

I had to stop and remind myself that so much of what I do for the children, day in and day out, has nothing to do with how much is in the bank.

Taking a walk with your kids is free.

Sitting down and listening to them tell you about their day is free.

Brushing tears away after they fall and kissing the boo-boo is free.

Allowing them to spend time to relatives and friends who love them is free.

Teaching them that beauty comes from within is free.

Sharing your wisdom is free.

Giving them the space to be themselves is free.

Saying “I love you” is free.

Having dreams for their future is free.

Hugging them every night before they go to bed is free.

Checking their homework is free.

Loving yourself so that they may have an example of what it looks like is free.

Being patient is free.

Teaching them to be respectful with their words is free.

Showing an interest in what they are interested in is free.

Teaching them compassion is free.

And I could go on and on. The point is that, while our stress about getting kids new clothes, food on the table, and a stable roof over their heads is real, great parenting can happen at any socioeconomic level. Don’t forget all the non-monetary gifts you’re giving your child, all the love you give that no money can buy.

GIVEAWAY: Family Challenge: Have Financially Savvier Kids In 30 Days

My children and I already talk about money very regularly. I look for teachable moments in our everyday lives to discuss the importance of saving money, spending money wisely and using money to fuel our dreams and goals. Just last week we had a long discussion about mortgages (!!!) because my kids wanted to know how much our house cost and, after hearing the number, wondered how in the world we could afford to spend that much! We talked about what a down payment was, the difference between a 15-year and a 30-year loan and more.

piggy bank

Sometimes as parents, we think our children are too young to understand money, but truthfully, the sooner we start engaging them in these lessons, the better off they’ll be in adulthood when it’s time to manage their own households.

I’ve partnered with T.Rowe Price on their campaign to help families grow more financially savvy children! I’m participating in their Family Fitness Calendar, which gives you a month-long list of activities to do with your children. I took part in three of the activities with my children, who were all too excited to jump right in:

ACTIVITY #1 Organize a blind taste test.
HOW-TO: Prepare a blind taste test for kids to compare brand name and generic products, and explain the cost comparison between items. Is the difference in taste worth the difference in price?

RESULTS: My children are well versed in the wonders of generic products! We buy generic whenever possible and shop at stores like Aldi to stretch our grocery budget all the time. There are only a few products we have to buy brand-name and that’s for items like ice cream, salad dressing (this is my all-time favorite brand!) and deli meat. The rest of the time, generic is the move. We bought generic cereal for this taste test and the results were clear! They could not tell which was the brand name Cinnamon Toast Crunch and which was the generic kind.

Ayanna said: “I don’t care what kind it is. As long as it tastes good!”

Thomas said: “I like Frosted Flakes.”

ACTIVITY #2: Plan a weekend road trip.
HOW-TO: Work with your kids to plan for a weekend road trip. Help kids identify all of the expenses associated with traveling, such as transportation, dining, lodging, and entertainment.

RESULTS: We’re planning a trip to nearby Columbus, Ohio, because we love the science center there. (My kids are big science nerds!) We sat down and looked up hotel prices and tried to calculate how many miles we would have to drive (132!). We estimated that an overnight trip to Columbus would cost us:

$125 for a hotel room

$30 in gas

$70 for food (dinner the first night, then lunch the second because the hotel has a free breakfast!)

+ $62 for tickets to the science center

$287 TOTAL

The kids didn’t realize a quick trip could cost so much.

Ayanna said: “But…what if I don’t like the breakfast at the hotel? Can we go somewhere else?”

Thomas said: “I want to stay in a hotel with a pool. And a balcony. And a refrigerator in the room!”

ACTIVITY #3: Compare the cost of dining out versus cooking at home.
HOW-TO: Cook your child’s favorite dinner at home and keep track of the approximate cost with them. Then use an online menu to calculate how much it would have cost to dine out.

RESULTS: We made pizza because it’s cheap! When we order pizza, it’s usually $30 because someone wants wings and then another person wants cinnabread and my daughter can’t eat wheat pizza so I have to order something gluten-free for her! It’s a nightmare. So we bought a “bake it yourself” pizza from our local grocery store (and it’s completely plain so you add the toppings.) Total price: $6.99. You.can’t.beat.it!

Ayanna said: “I like going out to eat. It’s like a special treat and I wish we could go out more often!”

Thomas said: “I want to go get pizza!”

T.Rowe Price partnered with the family calendar site, Cozi.com, to give parents even more ways to make cents (ha!) with their kids. Use this link to add 16 fun family activities to your Cozi family calendar. Visit T.Rowe Price’s MoneyConfidentKids.com for more tips on raising financially savvy kids!

GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a $50 gift card and a cute piggy bank courtesy of T. Rowe Price!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with T.Rowe Price. All opinions (of course!) are my own. 

Have Some Late Summer Fun At Wildwater Kingdom

Disclosure: I am a Cedar Point blogger and I was given free tickets to bring you this review of Wildwater Kingdom.

Earlier this month I headed to Wildwater Kingdom for a fun day at the waterpark with my family. I was extra pumped because my son’s only birthday request was that we go to a waterpark and I managed to make it happen.

This was our fourth time coming to the waterpark over the past few years but this was the first year my children were finally old enough and tall enough to experience everything in the park. The day we went was a horrible day weather-wise (thunderstorms forced a park closure for about two hours) but in the two hours that we got to splash and play, my kids had a wonderful time. Here are their highlights of the trip.

Splash Landing


This is easily my children’s favorite part of the park. Everywhere you turn there’s water spraying on you and a giant bucket drops 1,000 gallons of water every few minutes. It never ever fails that I inadvertently get turned around in there and end up right underneath the bucket as it unloads on poor, unsuspecting me. It never ever fails. *shakes fists*

This is a great area for younger children (provided they really like water LOL) because there are tons of smaller slides and climbing structures for them to use and have fun. There are life jackets for smaller children if your child needs one.

Thunder Falls


This picture does not do these slides justice. I can readily admit that I was too chicken to go down the slides, but my 7-year-old daughter went down twice by herself. Don’t judge me! I don’t like heights! The tallest slide is 100 feet tall and I’m just a fraidy cat. My daughter teased me the entire ride home. LOL.

Riptide Run


Even though it was kind of cool the day we went (72 degrees isn’t the best water park weather), the lazy river was absolutely perfect! The water was warm, the flow was slow and gentle. It was no surprise I saw most of the adults in this section, looking absolutely blissed out. This was my favorite part of the park for sure.

If you’re looking for a late summer getaway with the family, Wildwater Kingdom is still open for two more weekends of fun! August 23-24 and August 30-September 1, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (And remember to bring towels for the family!)

Testing Out The NewAir AF-520 Outdoor Misting Fan!

We are now entering year four of battling my daughter’s eczema. I don’t talk about it much, because it’s frustrating. But the near-constant presence of itchy skin can be unbearable for her, and it’s been a heck of ride trying to figure out what her triggers are.

We know one for sure: When she gets too hot outside, she gets itchy. Then she doesn’t want to play and simply wants to go back into the house, into the air-conditioning. It’s unpleasant for everyone and a disappointment to me, as I want her to be able to run and play outside like the other kids.

The good folks at New Air sent me their outdoor misting fan to review and now I am in love, mainly because it provides her with cool air AND a reasonable amount of mist when she’s playing with her brother. We put it on the back patio for them to run through as they scurry from the house to the backyard. (Think sprinkler, but more refined and with the added bonus of a strong breeze!).

When it shipped to me, it needed to be assembled, but despite my lack of assembly know-how I got the thing up and operational within 15 minutes. (Yes, I’m still patting myself on the back for that.) Once we connected it outside, the children grabbed the hose, we hooked up the fan and they had a blast! It reaches a 500-square-foot radius and even on the lowest setting, it provided a strong breeze and cool mist.

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Yes, that is my son’s Halloween costume

It solved one of our eczema problems, which was a HUGE load off my mind. With the misting fan, my daughter could run and play and get cool when she needed to. I’m going to try to have a little get together before the summer is over, because I think it would be great for parties, particularly backyards and outdoor area where there is little shade.

We’ve used it a few times this summer and I can’t wait to use it all next summer too!

To learn more about the misting fan, visit NewAir.com.

Disclosure: I received product from New Air in exchange for this review. All views and opinions are my own.