Teach Your Children The Value of Showing Appreciation

“Thank you.” Saying it is truly magic. Those two simple words can lift someone’s spirit, foster relationships, instill feelings of belonging, infuse an awareness of appreciation, improve happiness, and strengthen emotional well-being. And the magic happens for BOTH the person showing gratitude and the person on the receiving end.

When you say thank you, you feel good and your perception of gratitude increases. When you hear a sincere thank you, your happiness increases and you are more likely to show gratitude to others. It’s a lovely, warm-fuzzy, positive cycle.

So when you invest the time and make the effort to teach your child the value of appreciation and thankfulness, you will arm them with emotional strength that will improve their quality of life, now and in the future.

Here are my top tips to teach children how to show appreciation.

  1. Be sure “thank you” is said at home

Courtesy begins at home. Make “thank you” a commonly used phrase within the walls of your house. Parents who verbalize appreciation to other adults and the children in the home are setting an example. You can remind your kids to say “thank you” all you want but unless they hear you say “thanks” and see you show appreciation, it won’t matter much. Your child pays much closer attention to your behavior than she does to your advice, so practice what you preach. Say “thank you” often, even for small things.

  1. Prompt your child to say “thank you” if he or she forgets

When you give your child his lunch, sippy cup, toy, or anything, pleasantly remind him to say “thank you Mommy” if he doesn’t remember himself. It takes a bit of dedication on your part (and sometimes for a while) but the end result is that the consistent reminders will eventually plant in his brain and he will say “thank you” himself without the prompting.

  1. Recognize everyday courtesies

Most people make an effort to express their thanks for gifts, favors, awards and such but it is important to show appreciation for the everyday courtesies. Help your children recognize when someone does something nice for them, like share a snack or to allow them to pass in a room. If you are with your child, you should say thank you first and encourage your little one to say the same. Speak openly about seeing the kind actions of others. Soon your little darling will notice the civility in others on her own and show appreciation for it.

  1. Practice random acts of kindness

You don’t have to have a reason to do something nice for someone, like share some tea, send a nice text, or make dinner. But sometimes an event like a holiday, birthday, end of the school year, or International Siblings Day can give us a little motivation. My daughter loves to bake and so we are in the kitchen often, which mean we often have a little something sweet around the house. We have made it a habit to always make enough to share with someone outside of our house: a neighbor, a classmate, a teacher, a coach or friend. My little lady takes such joy in sharing and delivering the treat. But I think my joy in watching her is greater.

  1. Write thank you notes

While a thank you message sent via email or text is great, nothing shows you really care like a handwritten note. Even if your child is too young to write, a little scribble still counts. You can fill in a simple “Thank you for helping me/for the birthday gift/for being my teacher/for thinking of me” message if necessary. If you encourage this nicety early, your child will have it as part of his civility arsenal throughout life. And the art of the thank you note always draws a positive reaction and will always benefit your child now matter how old he is.

As a licensed etiquette trainer one of my favorite things to do is host children’s manner’s training sessions. Ask me about it at +1-868-757-1017 or laura@pearl-strategies.com

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THIS ALSO WAS PUBLISHED IN THE JULY 2017 CARE MAGAZINE DISTRIBUTED WITH TRINIDAD & TOBAGO GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER.

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The Unspoken Mom Dress Code

As I navigate through the adventures of motherhood sometimes I find myself wishing I could relive some highlights of my youth: my body (oh how I wish I had my 20-something body back), relaxing weekends (there are no days off for parents), an uninterrupted meal (family dinners are lovely but I’m always the last to finish), and my wardrobe. Recently I pulled on a pair of my old shorts and … well … fellow mothers … there are just some things we should not wear anymore. Here’s my list of top Mom Dress Code do’s and don’ts.

Do cover your tail.
Strutting through the grocery with kids in tow and your bumsie hanging out doesn’t reflect a confident, composed woman … rather it reveals more of you than what others want to see. If you have to keep pulling down your shorts or skirts, they are not the right fit. Shorts and skirts should cover your bits at the top AND the bottom.

Do not let clothes cling on you more than you child already does.
Clothing that clings to your EVERY curve, bump, and lump means it SHOWS every one of them – even the unpleasant ones. Instead wear pieces that skim only certain curves. If you wear a form-fitting top, pair it with something flowy on the bottom. If you wear something form-fitting on the bottom, pair it with a loose top. On the flip side, don’t go for tent-like shape-less clothes. Bigger clothes create a bigger visual so a little body skimming is flattering.

Do avoid peek-a-boo clothing.
While the game of peek-a-boo may be part of your everyday mom life, peek-a-boo with your clothes should not be. See-through shirts exposing your bra (or lack thereof) are just wrong and so are belly-baring tops. And, sure, it may be handy for breastfeeding, but low-cut tops and overly exposed cleavage as part of your normal attire isn’t appropriate.

Do not let your clothes say what they will about you.
As tempting as that funny “More Issues Than Vogue” t-shirt is, think twice before putting on shirts with childish statements for your school parent-teacher meeting. And please SAY NO to butt messages. Pants with anything printed on the seat are neither attractive nor appropriate for mothers. It doesn’t matter how comfy those Pink sweats are.

Do ask yourself “Can I chase my child in it?”
I love myself a gorgeous part of stilettos but I save them for a girls’ night out and instead pull on wedges or ballet flats for family activities. Also, as easy as it is to reach for the easy flip-flop slippers, trade them for low-heel sandals or trendy Converses for a more put-together look.

Do not wear vanity and other people’s judgments.
You’re a mom. You’re gonna have the occasional spit-up spot, pencil mark, lap-child wrinkles and messy-mouth smear. While you should try to stay neat and tidy, wear the imperfections with pride! There are some days when you will feel like you have it all together and there will be days when you won’t. Accept it and love yourself anyway.

Do remember who you are.
Lead by example. Remember as a mother you should be an example for your children and their friends. If you don’t want your daughter running around in a barely-there dress kept together by a string, then don’t wear it yourself. Even if you look and feel amazing in that teeny-tiny number, maybe just keep it for the bedroom.

No. 1 Take Away: If people focus on what you’re wearing more than they focus on you, you are wearing the wrong clothes. Always consider where you’ll be and who you’ll be with and make your clothing choices accordingly.

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This also was published in June 2017 CARE Magazine distributed with Trinidad & Tobago Guardian newspaper. 

Fried Bake 

 

Acting on a not-so-subtle hint from my hubby, I whipped up my first batch of Fried Bake (or “Fry Bake”). I tried cookingwithria’s easy recipe and it was certainly simple and even fun to prepare with my three-year helper, Oliver.  I look forward to tweaking the recipe a bit to taste a little more like the fried scones I fell in love with in during my college days in Idaho and Utah.

We had a lovely breakfast with fried eggs and cheese packed inside the sliced bake. I got Adelaide’s vote of approval when she said “This is good good.”

Ingredients
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar ( add a little more sugar if you want them a little sweeter)
Approximately 3/4 cup water
Oil (for frying bake)

Makes 8-10 Fried Bakes depending on the size. I made them smaller since I have small kids. 

Directions
1. In a large bowl, add flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Mix well. 
2. While gradually adding water, knead to make a soft, smooth dough.
3. Form into a large ball (or two) and cover with a wet paper towel. Let it rest for about 15-30 minutes. 
4. Divide dough into small balls. On a lightly-floured surface flatten (1/4 inch) using hands or rolling pin. 
5. Warm oil into a frying pan on medium heat.  
6. Fry the dough disks, turning once, until golden brown and puffed, about 30 seconds per side. 

Transfer the bakes to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon. 

Lemon Cake with Sour Cream Frosting

So yesterday was my birthday. A big birthday with a big number. How can I be 40 years old already? So in the spirit of still feeling spritely, fresh and bright (yes … yes … I know age is just a number) I made myself a lemon cake for the birthday candles to adorn. Holla to all you other moms that … ahem … *get to* make your own birthday treats.

This was the first time I tried this recipe from 5BoysBaker and it is definitely Cotton-Kong household approved. I used a basic sour cream for the frosting recipe but 5BoysBaker suggest a sour cream lemon frosting here.

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CAKE INGREDIENTS


Cake:

  • 1½ cups sifted flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs , separated
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup buttermilk

Lemon Syrup:

  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons hot water

CAKE INSTRUCTIONS

  1. anPreheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 8×8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. I like the line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit so that the baked cake is easier to remove. Set aside the prepared pan. (NOTE: I like petite cakes so I used two 6″diameter glass Pyrex dishes.)
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in bowl and set aside.
  4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light d fluffy. Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, mix until combined.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, alternating with buttermilk.
  7. Fold in the egg whites.
  8. Spread the batter evenly in a greased 8×8 inch pan. (NOTE: Since I use the 6″ baking dishes, I divide the batter evenly between the two dishes and usually reserve a little batter to make a few cupcakes, too.)
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until top is golden and cake springs back when touched in center.
  10. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan. Poke holes in cake with a fork or a skewer, making sure not to go all the way through the cake.
  11. For Syrup: Combine all syrup ingredients until sugar dissolves, s
    poon over cake while still warm. Let cool and remove from pan.

SOUR CREAM FROSTING:

  • 2.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cups butter, softened
  • 1/3 cups sour cream
  • Milk, if needed to get desired consistency

(NOTE: I usually add more or less sour cream and milk depending on the consistency I want.)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. Frost cake when completely cooled.

Giving thanks for family

The older I get the more I realize how amazing my parents were. How did they manage eight children? My sanity limit is tested with my two kids. Thank you, Mother and Daddy, for teaching us that people are good unless proven differently. Thank you for instilling in me the confidence that can only be had when you know that you have unconditional support and love. Thank you for teaching me about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Thank you for teaching me faith, hope, stick-to-it-ness, optimism and the value of hard work. I love you and am thankful for you on this day and every day.