Thank You Notes from Kids

thank you kids thank you notes

Good habits start early

Do you send thank you notes?

Have you ever forgotten to send a thank you note?

I volunteered at our elementary school this month helping with an assembly and the launch of a new school activity, Kids of STEEL. Kids who join this program will get to run together once a week and learn about healthy eating. It’s right up my alley.

But after the assembly ended, our PTO president and principal realized they had forgotten to unroll the giant thank you sign they had created for these kinds of events.

“There’s just so much going on,” lamented our PTO president.

So I opened my big mouth and made this suggestion: “Let the kids take over saying thanks. Have the student government put together a gratitude team, and they can write thank you notes to volunteers and guests.”

We discussed photographing the large thank you sign and creating custom thank you cards. The principal is taking the idea to the teacher who advises student government, and I am hopeful they will give it a try.

The PTO can still write notes or send emails, but I think involving the kids has so many benefits. Writing thank you notes as a kid is almost as important eating healthy and exercises. Writing thank you notes is a physical, active way to help my children develop a strong sense of gratitude. I know that feeling gratitude can go a long way toward helping a child feel happy and satisfied in whatever path they follow in life.

Gratitude and Thank You Notes

I recently finished local Pittsburgh author Britt Reints’ book An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness. Reints dedicates an entire chapter to the science of gratitude. She cites research that argues when we feel and express gratitude, we are happier. She also emphasizes that gratitude is not the same as feeling indebted, and I am working hard to help my children understand the subtle difference there.

Working with volunteers gives me many times to feel and share my gratitude. Over the past ten years, I have often found myself struggling to find ways to express my gratitude that matches the value of the gifts these volunteers have shared. I collected a list of the 100 most creative and relevant ways I’ve said thanks to volunteers and these ideas are available to you as an e-book called Thanks! 100 Ways to Appreciate Volunteers.

Should you force it?

Some families don’t have a habit of writing thank you notes. I often give my grandmother credit for building the habit for me, but really my mom was just as influential. She would often say, “Write the thank you note, or we’ll never hear the end of it from your grandmother.” I guess they had a pretty effective good cop/bad cop system going because even now I say those things to my children.

Technology offers lots of ways to say thank you now beyond the traditional handwritten note. And my family has used a variety of them, like the photo at the top of this blog. But we never abandon the thank you note completely. I do agree that the way we say thank you isn’t as important as remembering to do it in the first place. A true, heartfelt “thank you” is all we need to offer.

I have two requests for feedback here:

Do you value handwritten note more or less than other ways of showing gratitude?

What creative ways you have helped your children – or you have used yourself – to express gratitude?

Tricks For Picky Eaters – Why they don’t work

tricks for picky eaters may not work

Me and my picky eater enjoying an honest meal

Parents, if there is one piece advice I wish you would follow it’s this: Tricks for picky eaters don’t work.

My picky eater recently discovered he likes fresh spinach with ranch dressing. He won’t take it cooked on pizza or mixed in with pasta, but if I set aside a few fresh leaves on his plate and he’ll chomp it down. Another entry in his copy of My Food Notebook! This kid usually avoids salads and fresh vegetables with a passion, so this was a huge victory for healthy eating.

But when we ran out of fresh spinach and our CSA sent us Romaine lettuce, we were faced with a dilemma.

Do we put the Romaine on his plate and tell him it’s spinach?

That’s when I realized: Tricks for picky eaters are not worth it.

Setting aside the dishonesty for a moment, just do the math.

He already likes spinach. If he likes Romaine, too, that’s 1+1 = 2 new fresh healthy foods to enjoy!

He already likes spinach. If we tell him the Romaine is spinach and he decides he doesn’t like it, that’s 1-1 = 0. We’ve just lost a food.

Honesty is the best policy. And you know what? He tried the Romaine because it looked like spinach, and he gave it a so-so rating. That’s better than a no!

Hidden Vegetables

Some parents hide vegetables in recipes in order to get their children to eat healthy, nutritious foods. I’m not throwing stones here, Moms and Dads. I’ve done it. I’m just saying that the payoffs for a kid understanding that they actually like healthy foods are big.

Imagine the bliss of seeing your child voluntarily eat fresh fruits and vegetables! Don’t trick your picky eater into eating them, help them find a way to enjoy them.

There are plenty of posts about tricks for picky eaters, but I’d rather help my kids learn ways to try new things. I believe it will help them when they are at school, at friend’s homes, at restaurants and more.

Simple ways to help picky eaters:

  • Prepare the vegetable in a variety of ways.
  • Ask the child to help you select the vegetable.
  • Involve your child in cutting, cooking and serving the vegetable.
  • Celebrate each time they try a new vegetable – don’t punish them for not trying it.

 

Classroom Workshops featuring The Bumpy, Grumpy Road

DSCN0311I love visiting schools and sharing The Bumpy, Grumpy Road with kids. They all understand exactly the challenges that the main character Dylan faces – siblings who borrow their toys, sibling who don’t listen. And they all struggle with how to handle those challenges.

I recently spoke with a parent who shared that she wants to give her children good advice on handling the rough patches in life but isn’t sure how to tell them in words they can understand.

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road shows kids that life’s challenges are better handled with positive words and calm feelings. My classroom workshops give them a chance to tell their own story of challenges and solutions.

Does your child struggle with grumpiness or frustration? Is your child’s classroom looking for a great program to discuss the tough times kids face and how to handle them? I’m happy to visit and share The Bumpy, Grumpy Road and simple activities to encourage positive behavior! 

 

Grumpy Kid? Angry Kid? You’re Not Alone

I’m a mom of a grumpy kid. Like other moms, I was looking for ways to help my grumpy kid not be so grumpy. In the search for a way to help understand that he could choose to be grumpy or choose to be happy during his days, I told him a little story.

What started as a story just for my son Dylan turned into the children’s book The Bumpy Grumpy Road. And now other moms are telling me it’s helping their grumpy kids, too.

After I wrote it and read it to Dylan, I mentioned the story to a few close friends. They shared it with their kids and told me the idea helped them, too. So, I wrote an essay about our family’s struggle and slow road to success and sent it to one of my favorite magazines,Family Fun It was a delight to learn they also enjoyed the story and published it in their April 2012 issue.

Not long after the issue came out, I received notes from other moms who said reading my essay felt like they were reading about their own families. I received emails, Facebook messages, even a handwritten note from a mom!  It was a relief  for all of us to know we’re not alone, and that’s something I try to remind my own children – they are never alone when they feel sad, angry or frustrated. We’re always there to help them find their way back to the smooth, fast road.

“Steering Clear of Grumpiness” (page 1)
“Steering Clear of Grumpiness” (page 2)

Grumpy Kids? Not these Kindergarteners!

This post originally appeared in June 2012. 

Kindergarten Thank You Notes

At the end of May, I read The Bumpy, Grumpy Road to two kindergarten classes here in Pittsburgh. At first they laughed with delight when they saw Dylan, a little boy, driving a car. They were impressed! But then Dylan started to use grumpy words. In each of the classes, a child called out, “The sky is getting darker!” They were worried for Dylan. One girl even shook her head when Dylan shouted at his brothers.

I continued reading and we got to the page where Dylan sees the first sign. In each of the classes again, a child called out “That stop sign says “Sorry!” They watched with relief and amazement as the sky brightened and the road got smoother with every good choice Dylan made. At the end, they were beaming and laughing again.

Those children traveled the bumpy road with Dylan and sped down the smooth one with him when he learned that he can choose his words and attitude.

I love the fact that not only did I get to share my book with two wonderful classrooms, but that one class of children decided to make their own books! These thank you notes are actually small booklets complete with author’s names and a few pages inside with words and illustrations! Is there a future writer in this class? Possibly!

These thank you notes are the first I received from children, but I hope not the last. Of course the best thank you came from Dylan the night I read him the story, and he cried and said “That’s me, Mommy. Sometimes I am on the bumpy road and don’t know how to get off.” I’ll never forget that moment and hopefully the children who heard this story will remember they, too, can choose which road to drive!

Review for “The Bumpy, Grumpy Road”

Is there anything nicer than a great review from a expert in the field of dealing with emotions? 

I’m lucky enough to be part of an amazing group of women as a contributor to  30 Second Mom. I found many other moms running their own businesses, writing books and dealing with grumpy kids! Dr. Christina Hibbert, a psychologist focusing on women’s health, postpartum health, and parenting issues. Her post on handling whining really hit home with me.  She was kind enough to review a copy of The Bumpy, Grumpy Road and sent me her thoughts:

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road is an adorable book that will help children of all ages learn to navigate feelings of anger, frustration, sibling rivalry, and plain old grumpiness. It not only entertains, it teaches practical skills children can apply to help them overcome their “big feelings” and find their way back to the “smooth path” of sharing, caring, and feeling happy again. I will read the book to my younger kids. I particularly loved your “signs”–what a great way to teach kids how to stop and change their behavior. A really great idea!”

Thanks Dr. Hibbert!

 

Best Children’s Books

I would say the best children’s books are the ones that keep kids reading. As an author of children’s books, I’m always looking for ways to learn what my children and other children love about books to help me write better books.

Lots of character, no plot

Lots of character, no plot

But what makes some books better than others? And what do children value in books that adults overlook? Is it the magical illustrations? Gripping true-life tales? Otherworldly or down-to-earth story lines? I know a lot about what makes my three boys tick, but I needed insight into other children…and girls. I needed a focus group.

So I worked with the director of our local KinderCare and created their first-ever Summer Book Club! I’m a volunteer, totally unpaid, but like most volunteer experiences, I expect I’ll get a ton out of my weekly commitment. I get share my love of books and reading and I also hope to learn more about what little ones love in books. This will help me, as an author, create books that other children will adore.

Our director sent home a note inviting kids ages 5-7 to join the Book Club, and for our first meeting we had 10 members! (Yes, that includes two of my own kids.) But I recently learned we have 2 more kids who will be there next week!

I put together a schedule featuring two books a week. Our wonderful center director ordered journals and fun pencils for the Book Club attendees. After we read the books and discuss them, I’ll make a suggested assignment for the kids to do on their own. There are no grades, no requirements, it’s just a sort of writing prompt for them to complete if they want. We had our first meeting this past Thursday and read two of my personal favorites: Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and The Crocodile Blues by Colemon Polhaus.

This children loved The Crocodile Blues because there are no words and I asked them to tell us what they think was happening in the story. Some answers were serious and scary while others were just silly but regardless, the children were totally engaged. As we read each book, I’m not only watching how the children react and listening to what they say, but I’m analyzing the word choice of the authors, thinking about how they stayed focused on their storyline, trying to study the construction of each sentence. I’m using this as a writing boot-camp.

I can’t wait to see the results of their first writing prompts, if there are any. But I do hope at least one Book Clubber puts pen to paper. I have this feeling their writing will inspire and enrich my own.

I’m not bringing The Bumpy, Grumpy Road to Book Club, but we will be discussing emotions at the end of July when we read Where the Wild Things Are. Writing and storytelling are time-tested and effective ways to deal with difficult emotions. I hope the children choose to write their own stories to help them handle strong feelings, just like the story I wrote for my son Dylan.

If you have a favorite book from your childhood that you would’ve put on our Book Club list, share it here!

Your Kids Are Watching

Do your kids copy you?

They want to be like you!

Of course they do!

I was reminded of how much my children copy my behavior and choices this summer when I trained for triathlons. I usually run every day, but suddenly I was biking and swimming twice a week. And then my children started riding their bikes more, every sunny day. When we went to the pool, my children were eager to swim. My seven year old learned to go underwater and leapt off the diving board! My five year old, who last year could not be bribed to dip even his toes in, was practicing putting his face in the water!

It was great that they copied my triathlon training because we were all active and having fun. Good times.

But kids also copy how we act when we’re angry and frustrated.

Do you shout? Are you rude to the people you love? Do you refuse to calm down and carry a grudge for hours? Days?

Maybe you need help getting off that bumpy road, too. I did. When’s the last time you took a look at the signs and followed them off the bumpy, grumpy road?

 

 

Moms of Grumpy Kids – You’re Not Alone!

I’m the mom of a grumpy kid. Like other moms, I look for ways to help my grumpy kid not be so grumpy. In the search for a way to help understand that he could choose to be grumpy or choose to be happy during his days, I told him a little story.

What started as a story just for my son Dylan turned into the children’s book The Bumpy Grumpy Road. And now other moms are telling me it’s helping their grumpy kids, too.

After I wrote it and read it to Dylan, I mentioned the story to a few close friends. They shared it with their kids and told me the idea helped them, too. So, I wrote an essay about our family’s struggle and slow road to success and sent it to one of my favorite magazines, Family Fun It was a delight to learn they also enjoyed the story and published it in their April 2012 issue. [The story has since been republished on the Parents website.]

Not long after the issue came out, I received notes from other moms who said reading my essay felt like they were reading about their own families. I received emails, Facebook messages, even a handwritten note from a mom!  It was a relief  for all of us to know we’re not alone, and that’s something I try to remind my own children – they are never alone when they feel sad, angry or frustrated. We’re always there to help them find their way back to the smooth, fast road.

“Steering Clear of Grumpiness” April 2012 Family Fun