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Reestablishing the School Rules of Your Routine

Amanda Houle

Depending on where your kiddos go to school, their summer days might be drawing to an end sooner than later. While most schools resume after Labor Day, some get back in the swing in August, and others start as early as July. If your school system falls in the latter camp, you need to get started reestablishing the school rules of your routine -- stat!

Realizing the Root Strength of Routine

A rock-solid routine is absolutely essential to rocking the school year from the very start. The details driving your routine are like the roots anchoring your schedule, no matter which way the wind blows. While it’s tempting to celebrate summer with lazy days and a devil-may-care approach to dedicated bedtimes, running from reality too long will catch up with you.


When families fail to prepare for the school year, they run the risk of increased struggles with expectations. As too many of us know, these struggles often manifest as defiance, Oscar-worthy tantrums, and all-around apathy about school, homework, and extracurricular activities.


Bedtime is the baseline of effective routines for children. You can even start the bedtime process by encouraging activities like choosing outfits the night before and either making or setting out lunch components ahead of time. In addition to these broad strokes, pay attention to the finer, day-specific details. For example, is gym on Tuesday? Make sure the sneakers and appropriate clothes are packed in a bag, ready at the door the night before.


Ditto any after school activities -- sports, chorus, drama -- you name it. And whatever IT is, make sure you model packing and preparing, accordingly, ahead of time. Remember, the routines you demonstrate now will prove invaluable as your kids mature and encounter more responsibilities with each passing grade. This is a learned habit, a lifelong skill your kids need to master in order for them to succeed in school… and beyond.  


You’re their first teacher. But, as the saying goes, “it takes a village.” So, if you’re struggling or have already experienced difficult behavior from your kids this summer, don’t wait a moment longer. Enlist the help of your tribe and be proactive about putting your best foot forward, so that your kids can confidently follow your footsteps.




Getting Busy Begets Better Parenting

Amanda Houle

As the saying goes, “hindsight is 50/50.” Bearing that in mind, one of my recent podcasts should have simply been titled, “Let’s Talk About Sex.” Cue Salt n’ Peppa, Marvin Gaye, whatever gets you in the mood, but in all seriousness, when it comes to effective parenting and optimizing the well-being of our family units, it’s time to get down and dirty.


The problem, of course, is that honest discourse about intercourse is still practically taboo. We all have questions, concerns, and challenges, but few of us are able to own and operate the functions of our sex lives. Ultimately, the real shame comes from our inability to navigate the conversation alone, as well as with those around us. Open dialogue about sex, masturbation, orgasms, etc., has the powerful potential to connect us with our authentic selves and our partners. Shame-faced silence results in tension and trouble that spills over into the larger family dynamic. Sound familiar?


Is there a solution?


Well, there’s no one-size fits all solution for any one person, couple, or family. However, what I have for your consideration is five quick tips to take your conversation from taboo to topic #1.

Tip #1 - Own the Obvious

Yes, let’s just acknowledge the naked elephant in the room. Talking about sex, for most of us, is uncomfortable. The reasons for this are vast, but often rooted in some sort of shame surrounding what is simply a natural part of life. Pleasure is our birthright. So, go ahead and blush for a hot minute, but then get to the nitty-gritty of what is and isn’t working in your sex life. If necessary, rehearse what you want to say to your partner alone until you can do so with calm confidence.




Because the relationship between you and your partner is the foundation of your family. Need I explain the threat posed by cracks in a foundation?

Tip #2 - What Do You Want?

Before you can make any progress with this candid conversation, you have to isolate what it is that you want from your relationship. Understand your role in this partnership; in other words, keep the blame game out of it. Begin your conversation with “I” statements. For example, “I think it’s important that we have a rich and vibrant sex life;” “I think we deserve to have more sex on a regular basis,” or “I think we should talk about how to make our sex life a priority.”


If you must address a concern with your partner, leverage the “sandwich technique.” Start with something positive, even if that is just a desire, ie., “I want the fire that we used to have.” This is far better than saying, “You never initiate sex anymore.” No one responds well to attack, especially not when the subject is already a sensitive one. From that initial positive tone, you can illustrate a negative experience or example, but make it clear that you are only doing so to demonstrate your point. Once that point is made, slap the lid on that sandwich with something encouraging and hopeful. 

Tip #3 - Communicate, Don’t Control

Even if you have to practice what you want to say beforehand, do not come to the table with an agenda. Your goal here should not be to control the conversation, but to communicate effectively -- with kindness -- about what is at stake. Acknowledge that these are awkward topics, which might result in uncomfortable or uneasy feelings.


Unfortunately, hurt feelings might be inevitable. No one likes to be criticized, no matter how gently, particularly about bedroom performance. Acknowledge any potential for bruised egos and be clear that the intention is not to injure. Ladies, we know we tend to talk more. Make a concerted effort to practice listening and avoid interrupting or overriding your partner’s chance to express what he or she is feeling. Doing so kills the conversation and challenges future communication. Think of a snowball gaining in size… stop it while it’s only a few little flakes.

Tip #4 - Hone in on Your Homeground

What built your relationship in the first place? What values, aspirations, and guidance do you embrace for your family? If you can hone in on your homeground, you can celebrate your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and make the shared choice to move forward, happily and confident in your ability to prioritize your relationship, while parenting effectively. After all, the best thing you can do for your kids is to model a solid and happy relationship. Your family began as a couple. Putting your relationship first is not selfish, but smart for the sake of your growing family.


Part of that process involves protecting that homebase. How so?


Keep it simple and consider the basics. Have you and your partner set clear boundaries with respect to your shared space relative to your children? In other words, does your door lock securely? Are you children taught to respect locked doors by knocking before entering? Are you co-sleeping with your children? If so, have you imagined a timeline for when they will embrace their own sleeping environments? In the meantime, how and when do you address your own needs?


Your ability to answer these questions and establish the boundaries necessary to protecting your private relationship will prove crucial to how authentically, soulfully, and happily you present to your children.

Tip #5 - Good Work is Often Work-in-Progress

Listen, no one masters this overnight.


Any balancing act takes skill, determination, and perseverance. No sooner have you figured out how to parent one child while protecting and prioritizing your relationship with your partner, that you find out you’re expecting your second. The one thing all kids have in common is their ability to highlight the differences between you and your partner and to bring things into focus that you might otherwise want to look past or beyond.


Banish the blinders. Be clear-sighted, confident that you can take on these challenges, and, in times of struggle, communicate the need for help; first, with your partner and then, if need be, with available support from a professional.


The bottom line?


Getting busy begets better parenting because it benefits you and your partner. Shore up any cracks in your foundation by getting the support to strengthen your home from the ground up.







Managing Sibling Harmony The Right Way

Amanda Houle

Managing Sibling Harmony The Right Way

Featured in Mama Goose

February 26, 2018 Leave a Comment

Author: Amanda Houle, Parenting Strategist

| Sibling harmony is manageable with the right tools

Sibling harmony can be really tough to manage for many families. With the right mindset, tools, and strategies to set your children up for success you can succeed. Modeling for them, teaching children kindness, and the importance of getting along with your sibling is the recipe for a harmonious home with less fighting.

On a daily basis sibling harmony can make or break a parent’s sanity. Parents constantly ask how can I make it so they get along? First of all, it’s important to note that you have to let them learn how to work through their problems on their own without stepping in every single time! This approach teaches children to be independent, learn how to use their voice to advocate for themselves, and communicate more effectively their feelings. I suggest having a conversation with your children about the importance of having a close relationship with their siblings as they will be the only ones around to share childhood memories with especially when their parents are no longer around.

Adopting the mindset that you can’t fix or make children get along the easier it is. You can instill boundaries, expectations, and house rules. For example, talking disrespectfully or hitting is not an option. Model for children to use their words to communicate how they feel in replace of inappropriate behavior. “ I am upset that you won’t share right now.”

You are not alone when it comes to expecting sibling harmony. I’m here to tell you it is possible! Do you find yourself always reprimanding your youngest or is it your oldest for instigating fights? Are you in the same room often when they are fighting? Children often will retaliate if their sibling says or does something they do not like and often hear from parents that they don’t know exactly what happened as they weren’t there. It is important to learn the full story and hear from each child.

 Tips/Tricks to encourage Sibling Harmony: (Age appropriate)

  • Speak with each child to learn their version of the story (if you don’t it isn’t a teaching moment as next time 1 child could feel targeted and get mad at their sibling)
  • NO taking sides so they each validated
  • Have each child speak 1 thing that they feel they did wrong to take ownership for their actions
  • Ask your children what they could try and do better next time (ex; tell my brother I don’t like it when he does x or y.
  • Give reminders when they are playing nicely
  • Be specific when it comes to setting rules in stating exactly what it is you DO want not want you don’t want
  • Give an opportunity for each child to choose what they want to do so they each get time to do something they enjoy (only if this is an option)
  • Let your children fight their own battles

Author: Amanda Houle, Parenting Strategist, Parenting With A Punch

Amanda hails from Brooklyn, NY back to the Greater Boston area. She has a Dual Masters degree in Special and General Elementary Education with a specialization in Early Childhood and an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Her niche is working with families with children ages 2-6 years old. Amanda gets so much joy from teaching families how to learn to enjoy their parenting journey. Amanda loves yoga, coffee, and is training for her first half-marathon!