“How can I tell my child I love him?”

From the mailbag:

"Dear MamaBear,

I love my son, I really do.

But I was raised never to talk of love.

I try to tell him but I just can't.

How can I get over this?


Dear A,

How about this mental image?

Your son is dead.

Bet you wish you had told him, aye?

My apologies for the harshness of my response, but sometimes…getting kicked in the balls with a realization can truly put things in perspective.

I empathize with your upbringing; so often, men are told never to show emotion and indeed, are mocked if they feel too hard.  It's even worse when you're raised that way as well.

Take a look at that sentence…

"It's even worse when you're raised that way as well."

That's how you're raising your son.

Horrible, isn't it?

If you cannot verbally tell your son how much you love him, consider instead writing a note to him.

Or sending it in a text.

Or asking your wife to tell him.

Let your son know that he's the world to you…and you're working on being able to express that.

We're all human, and while it would be great if you could fix yourself today….the probability is, it really will take time.

So let your son know in the meanwhile….you *are* there for him and some day…you'll be able to verbally express your love as well.

Thus speaks…MamaBear

“My teen wants to get lip piercings”

From the mailbag:

"Dear MamaBear,

My 13 year old wants to get her lip pierced.

I say no.

She's very mad at me.

What do you think?

Anne in Jamestown"

Dear AiJ,



MamaBear hates these.

Then again, I don't even have earring holes meself.

While I totally disagree with piercings, I'd first want to know…

What is driving your child to crave them?

  • Is it peer pressure?
  • Is it a way for her to state her individuality?
  • Is it part of the way her clique dresses?

Get the answers *first*.  Don't reject her desire out of hand – truly *listen* to just why she wants to put holes in her body.

Some more resources that might help you are:

Whatever you choose to do, always make certain the lines of communication are left open.  It will help your parenting for the future.

Thus speaks…MamaBear

“How can I get my 11 year old to clean her room?”

From the mailbag:

"Dear Mama Bear,

My 11 year old is a slob.  If I let her, her room would be declared a disaster area by local news stations.

How can I motivate her to clean it?



Dear Frustrated,

Oh wow, does MamaBear hear you!!

It's been MamaBear's experience that unless:

  • Your child was born with the "clean gene"
  • You made neatness/cleaning a priority starting when said child was an embryo
  • You followed up incessantly during the formative years

You're just plain up the proverbial paddle without a creek.

It's like soggy toenail fungus; it's a plain fact of life.  There are ways to lessen/prevent it, mind you, but wow….it's hell to deal with!

So…lots of empathy to you!

Now, here's how MamaBear would deal with it (and actually *has* been dealing with it now for 15+ years).

Step 1.)  Choose your battles.

How important is neatness *really* to you?

If it's more important than surviving your standard everyday tornado, then progress to step 2.

But if not, use this as a negotiation point.  Let your kid know that you're willing to let go the neatness of her room in return for whatever concessions you want.  It has to be a give and take.

Step 2.)  Spell out the rules.

If, however, you do want to be able to at least see the floor (and ideally, the floor should be unmoving from various rodents/buggies and the like)

State your expectations.

Do *not* deal in generalities here!  For example, tell her that the floor must be visible without resorting to excavation equipment…. else XYZ privileges will be lost.

And be prepared to follow up on it!

Explain how, while her room *is* her room, it's part of *your* house and as such, you have the right to insist it meets the bare minimum of human habitation standards.  However, (and this is important), be sure to listen to her take as well.

While ultimatums are satisfying for adults to smoosh upon kids….at the age of 11, kids do have the right to expect their views will be heard as well.

Then smoothly move to:

Step 3.)  Write out a contract that you both sign.

I've actually found this to be most effective myself!  Seeing the expectations laid out in black and white, plus signing an agreement to them….at least gives you the fall-back option should she not keep her end of the bargain up. 

If boundaries are pushed, you can point to her signed contact and explain, "Hey, you chose to drop the ball and ignore what you promised me….hence, here are ABC consequences."

The key here is to ensure there is absolutely zero ambiguity. 


Step 4.)  Make it so.

The plain fact is, your child is more likely to become a star Sumo wrestler than change her habits immediately.

So, do *not* expect a miracle of change…instead, make sure you follow up, day after day, to help her develop the new habits that allow you to tolerate her presence in your home.

It might take several centuries, but if you're consistent, you should see change in the positive direction.

One thing is for sure, *nothing* will be different if you don't try something new.

So….give it your best shot.  Your daughter will thank you (eventually……'way 'way *'way* eventually).

Thus speaks….MamaBear

“How can I teach my kids about healthy eating?”

From the mailbag.

"Dear MamaBear,

I want my kids to learn how to eat right from an early age.

Tell me…how do I do that?


Darlene in Ft. Washington"

Dear DiFT,

Eating right is a very important thing indeed.

And here's one surefire way to contribute towards that.

Walk the walk you talk yourself.

Do you model healthy eating too?

Now, I'm not talking about going overboard and ensuring there's zero yummy things in the house, mind you, but I am talking about:

  • Showing moderation when eating
  • *Not* demolishing a bag of cookies in one sitting
  • Not rewarding yourself with food when good things happen
  • etc.etc.etc.

Your children will look to you as their role model.

So make sure it's a *good* role model!

Let them have desserts, but ensure they've already exercised during the day/otherwise kept in shape.

Some sites that might be helpful too include:

You're wise to start good habits early!  Kudos to you.

Thus speaks…MamaBear

“Where can I find happy stories?”

From the mailbag:

"Dear MamaBear,

I'd like to offer my 5 year old some inspirational stories.  Do you know where the best are?


Dear A,

Indeed I do!  There are lots of great free inspirational story places online – some of my favs include:

You can find bunches of goodness there!

Thus speaks…MamaBear

“My teen hangs out with the wrong crowd.”

From the mailbag:

"Dear MamaBear,

My 16 year old son is hanging out with a bunch of jerks who don't care about school, don't care about success, don't really care about anything that requires time and effort.

Unfortunately, my son is hanging out with them.  I tried to forbid him to see them but he snuck out anyways.


Hopeless in Detroit"

Dear HiD,

Now *that* is one tough situation…and you're probably not going to like my idea.

MamaBear tends to be a wee bit insane when it comes to walking the path of what's right and what's wrong.  So she tends to bring out the big guns there asap.

If your son is dabbling with turning to the Dark Side, you must approach this with a two-part method.

Part 1 – Open communications *any* way possible.

Is your son still willing to talk with you?  If so, you're ahead of the game!  But during your first conversation, *listen* more than you *talk*. 

Try to get at what his friends offer him that satisfies his soul.

The art of talking so someone will listen can be quite difficult if you're not used to it.  Be sure to read:

Now, if your teen is *not* open to talking with you, it will be 'way more difficult!

  • You can write him a note and leave it on his pillow.  Encourage him to write something back.
  • You can start a free WordPress blog over at http://www.wordpress.com and write *to* him every day.  The lack of actual confrontation might encourage him to talk sometime in the future.

While trying to reach your teen this way, do part 2:

Part 2 – Ask your local police for help.

Does your town have a juvenile justice program in effect?

You can learn more at the Juvenile Justice resources.  It includes:

Research there…and see what you can find that will speak to your son's heart and soul.

Lots of empathy for your journey – it will be really tough, but reclaiming your child from evil is always a worthy goal.

Thus speaks…MamaBear



“Is Jesus real?”

From the mailbag:

"Dear MamaBear,

I'm a God-fearing Christian and my youngest child stunned me yesterday; she asked me if Jesus was real!

Am I a horrible mother for raising a child who has doubts?


Dear A,


Organized religion.

The bane of MamaBear's existence.

I confess; whenever asked about God or Jesus or any other religious figure, I first think, "about what religion are we speaking?  Christianity?  Judaism?  Moslem?  Buddhist?"  etc.etc.etc.

Every religion has their own sacred beliefs…and every religion thinks they're right and everyone else is wrong.

It saddens MamaBear, it really does.

But back to your question;  I believe every person and child should have a very healthy dose of skepticism in their lives.

It enables them *not* to be fooled about so many things.

About Jesus, I found some resources that might help you:

Permit me to say, however, that history (ie, Jesus being "real") isn't the main issue; truth and faith are two separate, distinct, non-intersecting entities.

If you're a God-fearing Christian, don't focus on the reality, instead, focus on what your religion teaches.  And when your child is old enough, encourage her to research and think for herself…by that time, her faith would probably carry her through anything she discovers regarding "truth".

Thus speaks…MamaBear

“How can I get my kids to exercise in this heat?”

From the mailbag:

"Dear MamaBear,

My town is in a heat wave, and all my kids want to do is stay inside and marinate.

How can I get them to exercise in all this heat?


Tim in Delaware"

Dear TiD,

You're having a heatwave too?

Over here in MamaBearLand, it's beyond brutal, so I really hear you there.

Here's what MamaBear has done:

NOTE!1.)  Roller skating!

It's air-conditioned!

Okay, roller-skating is a lie.  My local rink closed early because nobody attended.   But hey, just think of how great it would be if it was open!  :)

Find a list of roller skating rinks here.

NOTE!2.)  Ice skating!

Don't want roller skating?  How about ice skating?  At least it's cold!  :)

Find a list of ice skating rinks here.

NOTE!3.)  Dance Dance Revolution in your home!

Don't want to start the car?

Have your kids exercise at home with Dance Dance Revolution!

It's a fantastic way to burn calories and have a blast too.

But be warned – DDR mats are now difficult to find in stores.  You might have to order them online (as I just discovered this morning).

Hope the above gives you some ideas!

Thus speaks….MamaBear

“My child promises too much!”

From the mailbag:

"Dear MamaBear,

My child always tells his friends that he'll be there for them if they have problems, or if they need help with homework, or what have you.

The problem is, after he promises, he often forgets!  It's not intentional but it's starting to cause his friends to get mad at him. 

How can I help him remember?


Barbara in Seattle"

Dear BiS,

My gosh, can I relate.

I remember vividly when I was in 3rd grade; a friend of mine was desperate for my study notes regarding the Spanish explorers in the 1400s to the 1500s.  I happily loaned them out, my friend promised me she'd remember to return them….

And that's the last they were ever seen.  :(

Now, I'm positive my friend had every intention of following through.

But when it came right down to it, words….are just that.


Utterly useless unless followed by actions.

I think that's when I first stopped trusting any of my peers (a trait which lasts to today).  Prepare for the worst and hope for the best, you know?

This trait of your son's…you want to help him nip it in the bud, pronto.

You see, it's not just that your word is, your word.

It's also that if you promise someone, they generally trust you and count on you.

And when that falls through, it damages something deep and something precious.

To help your son overcome this character flaw, you can:

  • Suggest he carries a notebook/reminder thingee and every time he promises something, he makes a note of it.
  • Ask him to write his promise down on a sticky note and stick it to his computer or video game thingee.
  • Help him realize that it's okay *not* to promise in the first place.

You're a wise parent to realize it can only get worse – lots of good luck to you in helping your son overcome it!

Thus speaks…MamaBear

“Where can I find mental math stuff?”

From the mailbag:

"Dear MamaBear,

I've heard that there are resources online that can teach kids mental math.  Do you know where they are?


Patrick from St. Louis"

Dear PfSL,

Ah, mental math!

The stuff that makes MamaBear sing in perfect harmony!

Here's some of me favorite resources, enjoy!

And don't forget: