Life and Health

Stories I Tell Myself About Family Dinner

Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

I have been dealing with a (minor) parenting crisis as of late: dinner time. This isn’t the normal dilemmas where my child won’t eat anything or that we’re constantly running to different events so we can’t get a good dinner in.

Luckily my daughter will try almost anything, and we have followed Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility in eating so we very rarely have fights during dinner about the food. I also work to curate our schedule so that we aren’t running all the time, every night of the week because I know how that go-go-go schedule burns me out so I can only imagine how it would affect my five-year-old. My dilemma comes from the stories I tell myself about a “good” family dinner.

I grew up privileged enough to have sit down family dinners with my whole family (dad, mom, and older brother) and I don’t necessarily remember a lot of individual meals, but I remember the feeling I had and the cumulative effect these meals had on my attitude and well-being even on days when I was the less than perfect little sister or daughter. Family meals meant everyone sitting at the table and the food was passed around as everyone took their helpings. Talking about the day or whatever came to mind. Most of the time our meals were the traditional meat (usually a beef product because my dad hated chicken unless it came in a bucket), starch (potatoes or rice) and vegetable (corn and broccoli seem to be the two that stick out in my memory). Looking back, I was incredibly lucky to have the food security and family time that was not available to everyone and these mealtimes have impacted how I view mealtime for my own family.

However, as my daughter has grown up, I’ve become more beholden to the ideal and the “should” around family dinner than the reality.

My partner works a shift job that often has him out of the house for dinner and it is usually just the two of us. Sometimes as this pandemic has worn on and I’ve had to balance on the ever-shifting sands my job in education requires I am too emotionally and physically spent and unfortunately my daughter gets what’s left some nights (let’s not talk about the guilt that has brought on in the past year — I’ve worked on rectifying that which has made a difference) and the reality that as a working parent in general creating the family meal is just sometimes exhausting.

I have new appreciation for my parents who seemed to get a complete, relatively balanced (for the 80s) meal on the table most nights of the week. But as I’ve explored this I have new appreciation for their prowess in the kitchen and how they ended up getting it done when they were both teachers themselves; I’ve also started to remember that sometimes it was pizza, sometimes it was fried chicken, sometimes we just went out to eat. We didn’t always eat at the table; sometimes it was dinner in front of the TV (on TV trays) and sometimes it wasn’t all four of us at once with different members of the family involved in different things. Sometimes there were “fly bys” (my mom’s phrase for drive-thru) — it wasn’t always this idyllic Normal Rockwell scene gathered around the table.

While there is a lot of research to suggest having a family meal is helpful to everyone’s well-being it almost always comes with the signifier “regularly”. What does regularly mean? It doesn’t mean every day and it doesn’t always have to mean dinner.

There is a growing body research that describes the effects family meals have on parents and children but does that research mean that I need to provide a perfect family meal every night? As I’ve worked through this story in my head the answer is a resounding no. There are just not enough hours in the day or energy in the tank sometimes to prep the meal and sit at the table eating it but the flip side is that sometimes there is enough.

I’ve realized that I should capitalize on the nights when there is enough time (not Tuesday) and enough energy (not Friday) to sit down at the table and eat with her — even if it’s just the two of us because having that time to talk and be focused on each other does do wonders to improve our “family functioning” which is a fancy term the scientists use to discuss interactions and relationships between the family members.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Even without the scientists telling us that family meals are important I intuitively knew that sitting down at the table with my kid is a good idea. Remembering what it felt like as a child myself to have those times with my family was something, I didn’t need the scientists to tell me. I recognize that talking with her about her day also clues me into what she’s thinking, feeling, or going through because I know if I don’t lay the groundwork now, I might be shut out in the future.

However, now I also realize when the risk-reward ratio is off and heaping this “should” onto my shoulders for the day would make it too much. There are days were forcing myself to do a family dinner would not improve my relationship with my kid or myself. I have come to understand and accept that while family dinners are important to me, they are not a hill I need to die on making them happen. There are many ways family dinners can happen: we can “eat watch” (my daughter’s phrase for eating in front of the TV) or we can have cereal at the dinner table. This doesn’t always have to be an all or nothing scenario.

We also build our relationship and spend quality time together in other ways as well so hopefully all of these things together will give my daughter the same comfort and security my parents were able to give me even if it’s not always at the dinner table.

Life and Health, Tips and Tricks

Why The Pomodoro Technique Works…In This House

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

When the world turned upside down in March 2020, I was one of the millions of people (luckily) sent to work from home with really no guidance or structure. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you’ll know that I am a high school science teacher by day and it’s a career, despite its challenges, I really enjoy but in March 2020 the regimented and controlled flow of the day was thrown off its axis and now I was at home. The guidance of what we were supposed to be doing, lessons we were to be delivering, or how we would interact with students was a constant change and everything was different.

The time span of March 17, 2020 until June 17, 2020 was a free for all as far as how to organize my day and still attempt to connect with kids during this difficult time. I worked hard on preparing and delivering lessons that were easy enough to do without my supervision but interesting enough to not just feel like busy work. I sent emails to students and their adults trying to stay connected; sometimes my work paid off and sometimes it fell flat but during that time frame we were trying to survive. During that season, I realized how the structure and routine of the school day with set periods I was teaching and set periods I was supposed to be accomplishing prep work or grading really kept me on task and organized so I searched for a way to recreate that structure at home even though I was basically left to my own devices and often in the house alone since my partner was an essential worker allowing my daughter to stay in daycare and me to keep working without losing my mind.

It was during the spring of 2020 that I discovered the Pomodoro Technique; originally described by Francesco Cirillo and named after the cute kitchen tomato timer he used to delineate work and break. Since discovering this technique myself, I’ve read more and more research about how “microbreaks” are really important to overall functioning and productivity both from a mental and physical standpoint. Now I’ve tried to implement it in my classroom especially since my district has lengthened the class period and I have seen it work for myself, my kid, and my students.

The basics of the Pomodoro Technique is that you work for a certain period and then you’re able to take a short break — this cycle is called a “pomodoro” and after 4 of those such pomodoros you can take a longer break. I almost never make it to 4 pomodoros because I’m either finished what I needed to work on at home or the period has ended at school but you can accomplish a lot in just 1 or 2 of these cycles. The “perfect” pomodoro is usually 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break but I usually use 20 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break.

Flash back to the Spring of 2020 when I implemented this technique for myself to continue trying to do my job in such a way that I had never tried to accomplish it before — lo and behold I found it worked; it kept me on task and working on my to do list often completing all the things. The key to the work period though is to cut out distractions. For me that meant putting my phone on do not disturb or airplane mode so it wouldn’t constantly suck my attention away. I also installed impulse blocker and pomodoro browser extensions so if I needed to work online, I wouldn’t just be able to go check what social media or deals on Amazon for “just a minute.”

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

It is these “just a minute” distractions that ultimately made the to do list take a lot longer to accomplish or make it harder to focus and understand what I’m working on; by constantly diverting my focus to something else it takes me ANOTHER minute to reorient myself to the task on hand.

When I’m working on crafting a project or lesson plan, I even close out my email at work because I can’t afford the constant “ding” notification because the noise itself is enough to through my mental train off the track even if I don’t go check that email.

I also started implementing this at home with my daughter when it came to cleaning or doing anything she fights me on. I ordered a sixty-minute time timer (I also ordered a bigger one for my classroom) and I’ll set it for 15 or 20 minutes. If the time timer isn’t handy, I’ll use a timer on my phone or even the sleep timer on her radio to measure it. We’ll do something for x minutes and then she can take a break. Or I’ll play with her for x minutes and then she plays by herself.

In my world it works beautifully for all ages. I get more accomplished in a focused 20 minutes than I get in a distracted hour and I often find that I’ve completed all the to do list items with time to spare.

It’s amazing what cutting out the constant distractions and interruptions can do; by giving myself the structure and I know a break is coming relatively soon so I don’t even feel like I’m being deprived of all the “fun”.

Part of being successful for me has also been to use technology to help me not just to hurt me. In my experience, many people bemoan the distractions but don’t use the tools available to help manage them so here is a list of my favorite techniques that help:

1. Tomato Clock (Firefox) Browser Extension

2. Impulse Blocker (Firefox) Browser Extension

3. Forest App (App Store and Google Play)

4. Actually closing down my email

5. Quality Time (Android App) — this is really great for setting and forgetting times when you want your phone to be unavailable you can also set this through the “digital wellbeing” settings on some phones (I have it set to lock my phone from 5:30p-8:15p for family time and 9:15p-6:00a for bed time and get ready for work)

We decry the digital connected-ness because our nostalgia takes over and it was so much “easier” to get things done or focus on the task at hand before all these distractions but on the flip side, we revel in what the digital age has brought us in the ability to connect across time and space or to see, experience, and learn things we never have before. I believe the way forward is finding the way that blends the nostalgic, rose-tinted glass look of the past with the possibility and opportunities of the future. The phones and technology are here to stay so finding the ways to work WITH them instead of AGAINST them is an important part in crafting the future we want.


Why Do The Leaves Change Color?

Photo by Autumn Mott Rodeheaver on Unsplash

If you live in the northern temperate regions around the world the leaves are changing colors and falling. This causes many people to put away their lawn mowers and break out their rakes and leaf blowers. I remember jumping into freshly made leaf piles as a kid, much to my father’s dismay, spreading all the leaves we had just raked into a neat mountain, so we’d have to rake them again. But what is the scientific process happening that’s resulting in leaves changing color and falling off the trees? Why does it happen during “Fall y’all”? If you, or your child(ren), have ever wondered why we suddenly have this beautiful array of colors during this season read on and I’ll try to explain it.

If you remember there are types of trees; we could classify them in lots of different ways but for the purpose of this explanation we’re just thinking about trees that lose their leaves (deciduous) and trees that don’t (coniferous). The deciduous trees are trees like oak, maple, elm, and linden trees; these turn a beautiful mix of colors during Autumn and coniferous trees are needle leaved trees that make cones and are typically green all year round like pine, fir, spruce, and cedar trees.

Trees are green because of a chemical called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the pigment that absorbs the energy from the sun. I’m not going to get too involved in photosynthesis, but chlorophyll is the molecule that can absorb the light energy and use it to push photosynthesis along. Chlorophyll is what makes plants and leaves green. It is also the pigment that works the best for harnessing sunlight so during the spring and summer when sun is plentiful plants and trees make a lot of it.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Chlorophyll is very good at trapping the energy from the sun to use it but it’s also a very expensive molecule for the plants to make; it takes a lot of resources: you need a lot of sun and photosynthesis happening to make chlorophyll. Once the seasons shift and the amount of sun is starting to wane deciduous trees stop making chlorophyll because they must put energy into preparing for the upcoming winter when photosynthesis isn’t going to be happening as much. That means the trees will stop putting the energy into making the expensive pigments. Once they use up the pigments that means it won’t be replaced with new pigments and the leaves are slowly going to lose their green color.

But the magic of beauty of Fall reminds us of something, the trees are also making other pigments at the same time as chlorophyll — they’re just not nearly as abundant. It would pretty short sighted for a plant to only make one color pigment because that doesn’t give it full access to the colors of the rainbow, so plants make other pigments that help them get energy from all the colors in the rainbow. While we only see the green during spring and summer, the beautiful colors of Fall that have been capturing our imagination for generations remind us of all the other pigments that work with chlorophyll to feed plants.

The yellow leaves are caused by a group of pigments called xanthophylls. The orange leaves are caused by the carotenoid pigments first identified in carrots and anthocyanins are the beautiful reds of the maple leaves. All these molecules work together to help plants get the most bang for their buck from the sunlight. 

As the sunlight fades, so does the chlorophyll and we’re reminded of all these other players behind the scenes.

Here is a simple experiment you can do with your child(ren) to see the different pigments in plant leaves:


1. A fresh, washed spinach leaf per child. I don’t recommend baby spinach from a bag

2. A small glass or container like the size of a yogurt cup per child

3. Rubbing alcohol

4. Knife to chop the spinach with (I recommend these as kid safe knives or make sure the adult does this part)

5. Spoon or something to gently stir the leaves once they’re in the container

6. White coffee filter that is cut into a long enough strip to hang out of the container


1. Chop up the spinach (make sure to supervise this part) and layer it in the bottom of the container. You don’t need very much; you’ll need less than a quarter of an inch in the bottom of the container

2. Pour the rubbing alcohol on the leaves and make sure you cover the leaves entirely

3. Stir the mixture gently, just enough to get the leaves in contact with the alcohol

4. Place the coffee filter in the alcohol-spinach solution and drape it over the side of the container

5. Let it sit for at least an hour, the alcohol will travel up the coffee filter using some of the magical properties of water

6. During this hour would be a great opportunity to ask your child(ren) to make some predictions. What do they think is going to happen? What are they expecting to see?

7. After an hour you should see bands of color on the filter paper and your child(ren) can see the different pigments in the spinach leaf.

If you have a particularly curious kid interested in learning more about pigments, you can try these other activities:

1. You can pick up leaves from outside that have fallen and do the same prep to see if the color bands are the same.

2. You can also draw a line on the filter paper with a marker (one color per strip of paper) and just put them in the rubbing alcohol to see what pigments make up your child(ren)’s favorite colors.

With some simple household supplies your child(ren) can investigate the natural phenomena that makes Fall such a beautiful time of year.

Have fun!

Life and Health

Trust the Process

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

I’ve embarked on this journey of really trying to commit to my writing practice; both here on the blog and I decided to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this month again. As of Halloween I wasn’t even sure I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo because the blog itself seemed like a lot of work on my plate after the first couple months of the school year between work and personal stuff.

As one of my writing discord servers hopped into action for NaNo, I was inspired by other writers starting their stories and working on their writing projects that I opened a blank document on November 1 and started typing. I had no idea what the story was or where it would go and 13 days into NaNo I’ve written over 10,000 words (not on target to reach 50,000 but that’s ok) and have the beginnings of a story I actually like and think could BE something.

But as I try to wake up at 5am on weekdays and write something I am reminded of the journey and not the destination. As someone who is sitting down to write, I am a writer. I don’t need to publish, I don’t need to make money (although it would be nice if it became a side hustle), and I don’t necessarily need anyone to read what it is because that’s not what makes me a writer. Sharing my work is great but it’s the actual process of writing that is fulfilling — words on a page (or screen in this day and age) is what matters.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Whether that writing comes in the form of this blog, in a journal, or the 5am stream of consciousness story writing that is currently happening for Nano — all those things inherently make me a writer. Maybe I’m not a very good one or maybe I am? However neither of those things matter when it comes to getting the enjoyment and fulfillment out of the practice. I have realized that this journey is more about the actual journey than the end goal.

The end goal will happen and will be whatever it’s meant to be but at the end of the day it’s the sitting down and WRITING that’s the important part for my sanity, mental health, and creative need.

Now it’s not to say that having a goal in mind is a terrible idea or we shouldn’t have goals but by enjoying the process and setting process or journey related goals instead of itemized end goals it is easier to work the process since those goals become part of your identity and not some arbitrary accomplishment.

Consider the two statements:

  1. I will write for at least 15 minutes a day each morning.
  2. I will make $XX publishing a story in 6 months (or whatever realistic time frame).

They are both SMART (Specific, Measurable, theoretically Achievable, Realistic and Timely) goals but the first one relies solely on me doing the thing whereas the second one relies on other conditions to create an outcome. While I could work on all the other things that might turn this project into a side hustle, is that what I really want? And is that what I’m really doing this for?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for my hobby to magically start making me extra cash, who doesn’t want extra money in their bank account right? And maybe someday it will but the writing is what makes me happy. I’d love for people to read what I write and take meaning from it but at the end of the day, especially in this blog, it really is all about me and the experiences that I can share. Hopefully there are others out there who find value in what I’m relating to the world but ultimately, I am doing this for me, from the heart, to enjoy myself.

Focusing on walking the path and not the end of the road means I take small steps every day on that path. Getting up at 5am isn’t easy, especially now that the time changed here on the Eastern Seaboard and it’s just always dark but getting up with the expectation that I’m going to start my day doing something I enjoy and start the day with a full cup, nourishes me in a way that wouldn’t happen if I was just focused on the end goal.

By trusting the process and doing what I enjoy, no matter what happens at the end of the road, I’ve done something for me and something that refills my own energies to be a better woman, wife, mom, teacher, person, etc.

Damn the idea that the “end justifies the means” it’s the means that will ultimately create the end. If I’m happy and don’t enjoy the means than the end doesn’t really matter in the long run because that’s not what I’m shooting for. I want to be a writer in my spare time so that means I need to write.

If I am authentic in my journey, it doesn’t matter who comes along for the ride and who doesn’t; because ultimately the writer isn’t made by the audience: the writer is made by the writing.

As I work on giving up control over the outcome and just focus on the process, I find more fulfillment and enjoyment than I would have guessed. Habit and process oriented SMART goals seem to be more effective and sustainable than outcome-based goals. And the funny part is, as I work through habit or goals based on the journey the outcome seems to follow. I guess this is what “build it and they will come” was all about.

Life and Health

F*** Yeah! Celebrating the Wins

CW: Language

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

A few months ago I was working on trying to develop some good habits (eat balanced meals, exercise regularly, and writing to name a few) and I was doing some research into habit formation and stumbled across the article How You Can Use The Power of Celebration to Make New Habits Stick by BJ Fogg who is described by as “PhD, is the founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford. In addition to his research, he teaches boot camps in Behavior Design for industry innovators and also leads the Tiny Habits Academy helping people around the world.”

This article presented three scenarios in an attempt to find the micro-celebration you would do in these instances. The scenarios were: getting your dream job, making the coveting recycling or trash bin basket from across the room, and your favorite sports team won a championship game. How would you react in these instances? How you would react to these events is the perfect way to celebrate small wins, according to Fogg, and celebrating small wins gives you the emotional rush to help make a habit feel good right away instead of waiting for the rewards to come. 

As pointed out in most habit research, and you’ve probably experienced it yourself, bad habits feel good in the moment and take time to have negative effects whereas good habits feel difficult in the moment and take time to have positive effects. Fogg points out that these little celebrations build positive emotional connections between habits that might take a little while to show positive effects. 

I proposed this question to a few of my girlfriends and asked what would be their response to any of these scenarios? And we settled on “fuck yeah!” as our celebration in the moment. This is the mantra we use to celebrate doing the things we know are good for us and will be important in the long run but maybe things we don’t REALLY want to do now. Every once and a while one of us will send a message along the lines: “Fuck yeah! I folded the laundry!” or “Fuck yeah! I took the trash out!” 

By celebrating these small wins with each other we’ve been able to make the necessary evil of habit formation a little bit easier when it comes to some things. My friend even made a set of planner stickers for our celebrations which she has for purchase in her Etsy shop (no I don’t get a commission).

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

By celebrating the “fuck yeahs” in our day to day life it helps us use the power of positive emotional association to allow us to create habits that are helpful for getting things done. By working on building good habits a little bit at a time you’ll be a whole lot farther along your journey than if you go crazy for a month and then can’t sustain it.

I have found that by incorporating the “fuck yeahs” into my daily routine it helps me move the needle a little further along to where I want to be. By nudging the needle just a little bit along the continuum from the habit I want to break to the habit I want to build I take small sustainable steps towards the lifestyle I want versus the lifestyle I fall into because it’s easier.

Making time for these micro celebrations, even just to yourself, will help build the neural pathways needed for success. Sometimes we can’t wait months for the weight to drop off or the readership to grow, we need the little immediate wins to propel us forward. 

By creating our own celebration ritual we create the conditions for feeling those immediate wins just by celebrating that we DID IT, whatever “it” may be. It may have been sending the email to a client/boss you are dreading to send or exercising for 15 minutes when you felt like you had no time. It could be taking a walk on your lunch break or just not working during your lunch break. Whatever positive habit you’re trying to build will benefit from micro celebrations. Mine is “fuck yeah!” and sometimes raising my arms in the air like my team just scored.

Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash

What could your micro celebration be? Figure it out and start implementing it ASAP.

DIY and Organization, Things I Like

Productivity Tools that Really Work (for me)

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

Disclaimer: This is not an ad. I have not received or been paid by anyone to write this, these are all my own thoughts and opinions based on years of trying to hone my own planner style.

I blame my mother, I am an office product addict. When I was a teen my first real job was in an office supply store. Pens, notebooks, highlighters, sticky notes…I am in heaven. But how do these things coalesce into a functioning system that keeps me (mostly) on track and getting my $*** done? It’s been a long, evolving road but currently I’m going to share the top items or techniques that help me use my stash to be an effective planner.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 
 ― Abraham Lincoln

  1. Bullet Journal Style — if you’ve been involved in the planner world for any time over the past decade you’ve probably run across bullet journaling or BuJo for short. My first experience with it was the insanely beautiful artistic spreads on instagram but I discovered that bujo was a technique that was designed for minimalist functionality and brain dumping. This is what I need, I am not a visual artist but I need a way to record my to dos, my activities, and somehow get it all done. The core of the bullet journal is rapid logging ideas to get them out of your brain and on paper as fast as possible. This really helps me keep tabs on the important information without losing it or fear I’m going to forget it later because it’s already been cataloged somewhere.
  2. Hero’s Journal — Currently my favorite notebook is The Hero’s Journal, pictured below. It’s a 90 day planner that “turns your goal into a quest.” Each page is structured enough to give you focus on the tasks or information for the day but enough free space to do what you need to. Since my days are all pretty similar (and I get up at 5am) I just use the timeline as a running list through out the day of my rapid logs which consist of appointments, to dos, quotes, or good ideas I have. I’m still working on migrating ideas into collections (a bullet journal thing) but at least I know I have those good ideas down somewhere. I also love that the Hero’s Journal is decorated enough without me needing to be an artist and as a bonus you can color the pages yourself if you want to.
  3. Papermate InkJoy 0.7/0.5 mm black click pen — this has become my go to pen, see above comments about not being so artsy and being a minimalist planner. I love this pen for all my general writing needs, I also love that I can secure it to the Hero’s Journal elastic band and ALWAYS have a pen with me. It writes so smoothly but also it’s a nice fine tip which I feel like gives me more space to work with on those days where I fill my planner up with all the things.
  4. Zebra Mildliners — Another explosion on the planner scene in the past few years and there’s a reason for it: these are highlighters that come in a wide variety of colors and opaqueness. This is the one way I “decorate” my journal; I’ll use these highlighters to color code things by priority when I feel like the world is getting away from me or just as a way to call special attention to something for the day. They add a nice pop of color to my generally black and white spreads while also being super functional and helpful.
  5. Setting an alarm — Every night my alarm goes off at 8:30pm and this is the reminder to sit down and review my day: what got done, what still needs to get done but can wait until tomorrow (or later), what’s on my schedule for tomorrow? Even if I don’t look at the planner during the whole day, this time allows me to review, reflect, and plan to do better tomorrow. After all, planners only work if you actually use them, right?
photo by author

Without these tools right now I probably wouldn’t be keeping it together nearly as well as I am. I didn’t think anything could be as exhausting as the 2020–2021 school year but apparently the beginning of the 2021–2022 year said “hold my beer.” Each day feels like a ping pong game where I am the ball being knocked around; some days are better than others but it’s been a rough couple of months. 

I spend a lot of mental energy being the “adult in the room” at work and when I get home, if I’m not careful, I quickly avoid being the adult in the room except here I really have to be: I have a child to take care of and responsibilities to keep the household running. These tools help me prioritize, direct my energy, reflect, and ultimately keep me moving forward during some really difficult times. These tools also help me to carve out ways to refresh my mental energy (filling my cup or putting spoons back in the drawer if you’re familiar with those phrases) so I can continue being the adult in the room both at work and at home.

These tools rein in my inner teenager, help me do the things I need to, while also making space and planning for the things I want to do. Planning in ways to be selfish, take time for myself, do the things I love ultimately helps me be a better wife, mother, teacher, person than if I am constantly focusing on the “have to do” and not any of the “want to do.”

I found that finding the system that helps me balance out the needs and wants is critical to being a happier and healthier person.


Questions to Ask Your Kid

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

From personal experience and interactions with other parents we want our children to grow up to be the best people they can be. And sometimes it is exhausting; there are definitely times where it is easier just to give them the answers or do it for them but ultimately that makes it harder on them in the long run.

In this short read I’ve compliled a list of easy questions to ask your children to get their brain flowing and make sure they are taking ownership of their observations in this world.

  1. Why? The easiest way to get your kids thinking and processing what they’re saying or doing is asking them why. Why do you think that? Why will that work? Why won’t that work? Asking them why (similar to the way they ask you when they’re trying to figure the world out) makes them truly think about what they’re saying/doing instead of them just blinding moving forward.
  2. What do you think will happen? Asking them to predict the outcome and then following up with a “were you right or wrong?” helps them begin to make connections between actions and consequences. It will take some time before this part of their brain is fully formed and functional but you can start building those neural pathways as early as 2 by having conversations with your kids about what they think will happen when they do x, y, or z.
  3. How would you solve this problem? Whether it’s the “new” math, an issue with friends or a problem with a teacher asking your child(ren) how they would solve the problem and then walking them through their predictions about it (see number 2) you give them agency over their choices and decisions. You can guide the discussion to help get them to the right answer but ultimately this allows them to feel confident in making decisions or solving problems when you’re not around.
  4. How would you feel if you were in her/his/their shoes? We are naturally self-centered beings. It’s what allows us to stay safe and quickly identify potential dangers because we have a lot of “me, me, me” on the brain. However when it comes to being a functioning member of a society whether that means as a global citizen or as a member in a family it is critical for kids (and adults) to develop empathy for the way things we say or do will affect others. It’s not always perfect and we do screw it up probably more often than we’d like but by asking your kid(s) to put them in someone else’s shoes that helps them understand how to be a better person.
  5. How did you (or can you) figure that out? When our kids come to us with issues or questions sometimes it is super easy just to fire off the answer but in the long run that doesn’t help them become comfortable at finding the answer themselves. There will always be questions to answer or problems to solve but when we offer up the solution to our kids right away in the name of being tired, making it easier, or having to get something done (or out of the house) it will be harder on them (and us) in the long run.
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

When you engage your child(ren)’s critical thinking skills at a young age you start building the neural pathways they need to be better people in the long run. School will be easier and life will be easier if you discuss and let your kids come up with some answers on their own — even when you know their wrong. Wrong answers or failing at something isn’t a bad thing until you, as the parent, make it so. Wrong answers are just an attempt at gathering more information about the world around us and stepping back into the fray to try and get the right answer will give your child(ren) much more confidence as they move through this world.

Don’t be afraid to get messy, make mistakes, and ask questions. This is how we all learn but sometimes adults forget that magic.