If You Are Doing These Five Things, You Are Killing The Parenting Game [Whether or not you have a lot of money]

Am I a good parent?

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Who, with children has ever asked themselves THAT question? Present. It’s a good thing the answer does NOT rest in whether or not I have taught my kid how to ride a bike.

Doubting your parenting abilities is a normal part of parenthood. Being challenged by friends because of peer pressure, and especially by your own parents is a Rights Of Passage. “When my kids were small…” has been the be beginning of many a conversation that has left me wondering if my kids will ultimately be homeless and drug-addicted if I don’t enroll them in Jiu Jitsu RIGHT AWAY.

Will my kids end up homeless and drug-addicted if I don’t enroll them in Jiu Jitsu RIGHT AWAY?

Jiu Jitsu lessons can be expensive, especially when added to ALL OF THE OTHER activities your kid is SUPPOSED to be doing. Well, fear not. I have a doubt-free inexpensive way of knowing if you are doing the doggone thing (i.e. succeeding) or if you need to do better.

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1. Your kids eat fruit AND vegetables.


Add a fruit or vegetable as part of every meal or snack. For example, you could put fruit on cereal, add a piece of fruit or small salad to your child’s lunch, use vegetables and dip for an after-school snack, or add a vegetable or two you want to try to the family’s dinner.

Try out a lot of different types with your kids, both raw and cooked. As a child, my husband Dr. Ed McDonald, the founder of, hated cooked spinach. He didn’t learn until college that he loved raw spinach salads. It was the texture that was not loved, not the taste. Who knew?

Our kids recently discovered that they like mini red and yellow sweet peppers. They are tasty and crunchy raw snacks that are amazing even without dressing. We found them in the produce section of Mariano’s. #Chicago

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2. Children participate in at least one art and one sport/physical activity.

Find a sport that your children likes, whether competitive or not. Swimming lessons can save their lives, so that is always at the top of MY list, and often lessons offered at the local park district can cost less than a family trip to the movies.

Regardless of the sport or physical activity selected, physical activity decreases childhood obesity and can aid in team building qualities and life skills. The goal from the CDC includes the following recommendations:

Aerobic activity should make up most of your child’s 60 or more minutes of physical activity each day. This can include either moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or vigorous-intensity activity, such as running. Be sure to include vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on at least 3 days per week.

I miss Michelle Obama, as an aside.

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Michelle Obama on Ellen talking about the Lets Move Campaign.

In the arena of ART, I like the piano. Though having a piano or keyboard in your house can be cost-prohibitive. Lessons can range in pricing depending on the facility or individual who is offering them.

Why do I love the piano? Because some studies suggest that it may actually make children smarter. From a Canadian Study quoted by Forbes:

It’s sure to be music to parents’ ears: After nine months of weekly training in piano or voice, new research shows young students’ IQs rose nearly three points more than their untrained peers.

The Canadian study lends support to the idea that musical training may do more for kids than simply teach them their scales–it exercises parts of the brain useful in mathematics, spatial intelligence and other intellectual pursuits.

Plus, if my children can learn to play the piano well enough to accompany a singer or band, they can make some nice change during college or on the side playing for weddings, church, or wherever. Skills pay dollars.

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Photo by Negative Space on

3. Children have household chores, and it’s okay if they get paid to do them.

A 75-year Harvard study recently revealed that childhood chores were a strong predictor of success later in life. To quote the study:

“When young people have been expected to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, and to ask how they can contribute to the household, it leads to a mindset of pitching in in other settings, such as the workplace,” Lythcott-Haims said. Not giving kids chores, she added, “deprives them of the satisfaction of applying their effort to a task and accomplishing it.”

In fact, A University of Minnesota 20 year study found that the best predictor of adult success was based on if they had begun doing chores at an early age… as young as 3 or 4.   It’s never too late to start.

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Some parents judge other parents for paying children for chores. As though it is wrong to pay for something that the child should “just do.” Well to me, not being paid for a task makes it more of a literal “CHORE” rather than something that the child gets a positive reward from.

I got paid for my chores as a child. I still got in trouble if I didn’t do them, but I could earn even more money by going above and beyond the basic call of duty. Who knows? Maybe that is where I get my work ethic from to this day. Adults aren’t expected to work for free. I think those lessons can start in childhood.

4. Children READ SOMETHING every day.

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Reading is fundamental.

No, really.

And according to the National Education Association, parent involvement is crucial. CRUCIAL. By the way, I’m speaking to myself right now too when I say, read with your children.

  • The substantial relationship between parent involvement for the school and reading comprehension levels of fourth-grade classrooms is obvious, according to the U.S. Department of Education.7 Where parent involvement is low, the classroom mean average (reading score) is 46 points below the national average. Where involvement is high, classrooms score 28 points above the national average – a gap of 74 points. Even after controlling for other attributes of communities, schools, principals, classes, and students, that might confound this relationship, the gap is 44 points.

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5. Children understand that people live in cultures that are unlike their household.

An older family member recently mentioned to me in passing that some of the people working in the building where he works can’t speak English. I asked why he said that.

Because when I hear them talking, they are only speaking Spanish.

I asked him if it was possible that they only speak Spanish to each other, but can speak English just fine? After all, he had never tried to speak to any of them. Cultural awareness requires us to think outside of our egocentric bubble and realize that our worlds are different and similar at the same time.

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One of the 6 essential steps for teaching your children cultural competency is as follows:

  • Teach your child the definition of cultural competency: Cultural competence is having knowledge of people with different cultural backgrounds and being comfortable with those difference. Also, remind your child that culture does not just include race, but also encompasses gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, family structure, and even the food we chose to eat.

I also recently read something that said showing young children international picture books is essential to cultural competency. Oh, I can’t wait until one of my next children’s books is released. It is called The Magical Headwrap and it takes the young reader on a journey through cultures and times. It features art by the amazing Erin Mitchell. I can’t wait!


Sketch by Erin Mitchell of @erinleannworks

In conclusion, there isn’t a perfect recipe for being a perfect parent, but if you follow this advice, your kids will most likely turn out alright.

Whether you have an abundance of expendable income or are living check to check, you can make sure your children do these five things. People with a lot of money can still raise un-intelligent a-holes, and conversely, people without a lot of it can raise the best and the brightest.

Follow these steps and your little people will have the best chance of being the latter, rather than the former.

Don’t forget to follow and subscribe to The Gyneco-blogic above, below or on social. Thanks for the LOVE!


Edited to add, a Facebook friend, Will Johnson, who is an expert in helping people manage trauma contributed this gem:

Nice article. I was hoping that you would mention the manner in which we speak to our children as a way of shaping future behaviors, somewhere in your five points.

As you well know, people form their beliefs and attitudes about work ethic, wealth, self-worth, relationships, etc, during childhood. Our permanent beliefs and behaviors are formed when an experience is combined with strong EMOTIONAL IMPACT. So when a child is told that a choice that was made was “stupid”, while the child is already emotional, or if that statement evokes high emotion, the child might fully adopt that comment subconsciously, making it a “truth” that shapes how ALL future choices are made.

So the point would be to always speak in the POSITIVE because we never know when the event coupled with powerful emotional impact will take hold subconsciously. Lastly, speaking in the positive simply means saying, “One day soon you will learn to do things the right way!”, opposed to… “Damn, you never do ANYTHING right!” The second way can inflict a lifetime worth of damage. I hope that people can see the difference.

Thanks, Will. Follow him on Facebook here.



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