Sparkle Stories

Sparkle Stories

SparkleToday I want to introduce you to the fantastic work of David Sewell McCann and Lisabeth Sewell McCann, the creators of Sparkle Stories.

Our discovery of Sparkle Stories turned out to be the spark of inspiration which led me to create the children’s audio stories of Imagining Aloud.
David and Lisabeth create high-quality children’s audio stories for families to subscribe and enjoy each week. Sound familiar?

When Sarah learned about Sparkle Stories via a podcast interview which featured Lisabeth, she couldn’t wait to introduce it to me. She just knew that this would be the inspiration for me to share the children’s stories I was already creating with families just like yours across the world.

1. Good Quality

David never fails to deliver a high quality story every single week.

There is always something in every story that will engage both parents and children, too. I now know how difficult a feat that is to pull off week in and week out.

Yet David’s stories never sound like a stretch; they sound effortless and ring with truth and the simple, authentic joy of family life.

David uses humor, warmth and a heavy dose of his own authentic sense of wonder to build his characters and worlds. My children responded to David’s comforting, professional delivery and his instantly relatable stories.

They often want to listen to a favorite story over and over again. This is the mark of a good story.

2. Good For You

There is a ‘goodness’ about Lisabeth and David which permeates and informs their stories, their website and their company as a whole.

When you explore their site, read their blog and learn about their motivations for creating Sparkle and Sparkle Stories, it becomes clear; these are ‘good guys’ in the world of children’s media.

Sometimes I feel like I spend so much time limiting and shielding Mr. B and Mr. C from overly commercialized or objectionable sources of children’s media that it’s a breath of fresh air to discover a company so committed to providing media with only the very best outcomes for my children in mind.

David and Lisabeth want my kids to love themselves and grow up to be even better adults for it. They want them to be more creative, more joyful, more in tune with their feelings and more resilient as a result. They want my kids to be happy and healthy.

 

These guiding motivations aren’t shouted at you from ad copy. Instead, they inform every story, every blog post at Sparkle Stories.

In children’s media, just like everywhere else in the world, you can tell who the ‘good guys’ are by their actions, not their words.

In Conclusion

Please click here to visit Sparkle Stories. I believe that you will discover a company that produces stories and content which have nothing but your family’s best interest in mind.

I credit David and Lisabeth for providing the inspiration to turn my passion for storytelling into the stories of Imagining Aloud.

But owe both of them a debt of gratitude for opening our eyes to the power of children’s audio stories to create a valuable, enduring alternative to the screens that had begun to permeate our children’s lives.

screen time, tv time, tv limits, parenting

Yes Our Kids Watch TV

screen time, tv time, tv limits, parentingWe get asked TV questions a lot, so today we decided to tackle the questions and give some insight into how our family handles TV time.

If you are a first time parent with a little one and trying to decide how much or what kind of TV time is right for your family, or if you’re in the middle of the toddler years and are trying to make some TV boundaries, this post is for you.

When we became parents I think we approached the issue of TV more from a place of fear than a place of intentionality.

We read the AAP’s recommendations for no screen time for kids under two along with various other studies, and decided that TV was not going to be a part of the boys lives for at least the first two years.

When that two years was up, we had to start thinking about the TV more realistically and figure out what we felt comfortable with as a family.

Below are some guidelines that we’ve found help us maintain a healthy, intentional relationship with TV in our family.

1. ROKU Box

ROKU box has been a great addition to our family.

Aside from the occasional sporting event (the Olympics, football games), we only allow streaming programs on our TV.  This eliminates public enemy number 1, TV commercials.

Chris and I both agree that one of the most damaging parts of watching TV, for both kids and adults, is the onslaught of advertising.

With a device like a ROKU box, you never have to worry about commercials, and you can always have control over what’s on the screen.

2. Slow and steady

There is a huge difference between watching Yo Gabba Gabba and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Fast scene changes, lots of loud, blinking sounds and lights – none of this contributes to peace of mind, or peace of living room.

The shows we allow in our house are slow-paced, even arguably boring.

3. We screen the screen

Before putting any new TV show on for the boys, either Chris or I or both screen it first.  Sometimes we’ll watch only 5 minutes, before restarting it and then watching the whole thing with the boys.

When we’re pre-screening, we’re looking for villains, adult issues, questionable language, and the pace of the show among other things.

4. No villains

Life is full of villains.  Our children will have plenty of time to figure that out for themselves.  We don’t want to use screen time to introduce more villains or needless, fictional stress into their lives.

That’s why the typical super hero shows are not seen in our house.  This could change as they get older – but for now, they think their shoelaces are villain enough, and that’s fine by us.

5. No overly merchandised shows

For this reason, we watch a lot of shows from the UK, Australia, Finland, etc…

Our kids don’t ask for lower-quality, more expensive Dora toys or Spiderman backpacks. Because our kids don’t watch Dora or Spiderman.

It cuts down on stress when at the store, and it cuts downs on the amount of minutes that advertisers get of my kids attention- which we try to keep as close to zero minutes as possible.

6. If nobody is watching, the TV is off

We never have the TV on in the background when we are doing other things.

The world presses in on our family with distractions enough as it is.

7. Amount of time

When the boys first started watching TV, it was just a 15 minute show every other day.

We started letting them watch more ever so gradually as they got older.

Now that they are four, they can watch 3-4 twenty minute shows a day.

We’re working on a system right now to have them do chores to “earn” shows, but we don’t have that fully worked out yet.

8. Watch with them

Yes, we watch kids TV with our kids.  We use it as an opportunity to answer their questions, highlight lessons with recent real-life examples and laugh with them at funny moments.

We watch shows that are appropriate for their age, not shows that are meant for older audiences.

9. Limit or completely get rid of other screens

One reason we feel more comfortable with our children watching TV, is because it’s the only screen they use all day.

They don’t turn off the TV and then get on an iPad, or a computer or a video game.

The TV is the only glowing screen that they have access to at this point, so we know that 3 twenty minutes shows will be the only hour of screen time they will spend each day.

10. Watch the same amount of TV or less than your kids

Chris and I don’t watch much TV.  Chris watches football, I sometimes watch HGTV to unwind and together we enjoy watching a good comedy like Parks and Rec or Arrested Development.

Remember that you are setting habits and priorities for your kids right now by your actions. They always weigh more heavily in your child’s mind than your words do.

You are undermining your message if you are telling your kids to go outside and play when you rarely leave the couch.

In Conclusion

TV is a part of our family’s lives, but we keep a tight leash on the time we spend with it.

If you’re wondering, here are some of the shows we currently have in rotation:

Pingu

Octonauts

Kipper

Justin Time

Trotro

Mighty Machines

Shaun the Sheep

Pocoyo

We hope these guidelines can help you and your family to use the TV in a more intentional way.

Please let us know, is there something you do that makes TV watching more intentional for your family?

Family Story Time

Family Story TimeHere at Parents Who, we tend to advocate for putting down your smartphone or DSLR and being present in your life events as they unfold.

But that’s not to say that enjoying family photos and videos shouldn’t have an essential place in your family time.

After all, it’s one thing to take a bunch of pictures and another thing to actually look at them and enjoy them with your family!

One thing I want to put an emphasis on with today’s post is the importance to build your family’s history by telling family stories in an intentional way.

We use a method which is effective for our family and I believe it will enrich and enhance your family quality time, too.

1. Family Story Time

You might not know this, but if you take pictures and makes videos of your kids you possess a treasure trove of media which will be more interesting to them than just about anything else.

Of course, the problem many parents run into is keeping all the pictures and videos organized in a way that makes them usable to your family.

Fortunately, there are many good online solutions which solve this problem and my wife Sarah has even taken the pain out of the process by outlining how to use our favorite online solution in some previous posts.

But once your photos and videos are organized and easily accessible, how do you go about enjoying them with your family?

I’d like to suggest that you try scheduling a Family Story Time one day soon.

Set aside an hour of time on a day that all of the members of your family has free and clear it with each member a week in advance. A good time for our family to schedule this is after dinner on a weekday.

Then, pull up some family pictures and videos on your computer or TV and gather round.

Yes, this is a post advocating gathering your family around a screen. I bet that many of you never thought you would see a post from us which advocates this!

But we believe that screen time has its place in family life, especially when that screen time is spent intentionally.

So, which photos and videos should you choose and how can you facilitate this time as an intentional, family-enriching experience?

2. Make Stories the Focus

We find that if we simply click through pictures or passively watch family videos we miss out on the really valuable experiences that this scheduled time can provide to our family.

Instead, treat this hour as an opportunity to crystallize the stories, characters and “legends” that have naturally occurred in your family history.

For example, many of you have photos and videos from the recent holidays which you have hopefully uploaded and organized by now (If you haven’t done this yet or don’t have an organizational method for your family yet, please let our articles about This Life serve as your guide).

Now is a good time to look through those pictures and watch those videos from the holidays, while the experiences and stories are still fresh in your minds.

The key is when you come to a picture or video which prompts the telling of a story, stop and let the story unfold.

For example, when you come to a picture which shows a gathering of extended family, take this opportunity to tell an interesting anecdote about the rarely-seen uncle in the picture.

If this story leads your kids to ask more questions, stop the slide show and address the questions right then. Let this story organically lead to other stories.

What’s even more fun and valuable is when a picture or video leads you to recall a picture or video from your own past.

For example, maybe a picture of your child excitedly opening a gift reminds you of a picture or video you have of yourself excitedly opening a similar gift when you were a child.

This is the moment when having an organized system for your pictures and videos pays invaluable dividends. Browse to the picture or video and pull it up right then and there.

I can almost guarantee this will result in delight for you and for your children. For us, this often can lead us down a totally unplanned tangent of fun as we identify similar and contrasting themes from our childhood and our children’s, or relate funny stories from our own youth.

Despite their young age, Mr. B and Mr. C (our twin little boys) have noticed things in pictures and videos and made connections which would have never occurred to Sarah or me.

We have found that certain themes can become a family “legend” or story of your family history, to be lovingly told and retold time and again.

If your first experiment with scheduling a Family Story Time is a hit, consider making it a recurring fixture of your family each month.

In Conclusion

At Parents Who we advocate for putting down your camera and being present in the moment as much as you can. But we also recognize that the pictures and videos you take can be sources of joy and connection for your family.

Try an experiment of using your organized and uploaded pictures and videos as the centerpiece of an intentional and engaging Family Story Time.

Not only will this put your family photos and videos to use in an enriching and intentional way, you will also find an endless source of fun in telling and retelling the stories which emerge.

The end result could the stuff of years and even generations of family legends and family history.

setting family goals, parenting, parenting tips

Setting Family Goals

setting family goals, parenting, parenting tips

 

I am not a fan of new year’s resolutions.

Not because I don’t think they’re useful or motivating, but because I suck at them.

I had one “resolution” this year.  To write in my journal every day.

It’s been 7 days, and I’ve written in it once.

So, instead of beating myself up about it (which I’ve done enough of), I’ve decided to try something new this year.

This year we’re going to set some Wehkamp family goals.

I think Mr. B and Mr. C are old enough now to understand goals..

There is no hurry in accomplishing these goals, and I realize the goals may (and probably will) change at any time.  But it will be a place for us to start, and a reference point for our family as we move through the year.

Here is how I plan to establish our first Wehkamp family goals:

1. Set a time to sit down as a family. For our family, this will probably be during or after dinner. We enjoy chatting during dinner, and after dinner is nice because we all have full bellies and are usually looking for something to do together.

2. Explain to the boys what goals are by using examples they can relate to.  For Mr. B this might be prompting him to remember his goal of putting on a puppet show last night, and how he had to come up with the goal, a plan for it executing the goal, and then the feeling of accomplishment when it was over.  For Mr. C, I might remind him of how he had a goal this morning of loosening a knot in his shoe.  We can talk about determination, proud feelings and the need to ask for help sometimes.

3. Encourage everyone to brainstorm some goals they would like to accomplish this year.  I realize a year is a long time for a little one, and I fully anticipate that the initial goals they mention will take an hour tops to accomplish.  Chris and I will try to guide them to more long-term goals (a week maybe?!).

4. Ask everyone to choose 1, maybe 2 goals.

5. Let the boys help us write our goals on a piece of paper

6. Decorate, and display

Sharing our goals will fly in the face of the research and practices Chris described in his post last week, but these goals aren’t meant to be just individual tasks.

My hope is that this can be the start of a new family tradition, and that sharing our goals with each other will help us to get on the same page as a family, not just better ourselves individually.

What about you?  What are some goals that your family is working on right now?  Have you ever sat down to make goals together?

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Loose Lips Sink Ships

“Loose Lips Sink Ships” was a piece of American wartime propaganda that was created during WWII. It was used as an admonition against careless talk. At its core, this phrase contains an assumption that speaking too freely about certain topics is risky.

I believe this phrase is beneficial to keep in mind throughout the year if you make a new year’s resolution for yourself or for your family.

This opinion runs counter to much of the latest self-improvement trends you’ll find in everything from personal finance, to weight loss, to writing a novel.

You can purchase specialized apps, website memberships, electronic wearable gadgets and more; all which claim to improve your results and keep you accountable to whatever goal you set for yourself.

I have tried many of these myself and experienced limited success. I believe these accountability programs can be useful, at least in some capacity.

However, what I’d like to share with you today are some specific pieces of research and behaviors which I have personally found to be effective in setting goals for myself and for my family.

I hope they can be of use to you and your family in 2015 and beyond!

1. Tell No One

When setting a goal for myself and for my family, I have had much more success when I tell absolutely nobody about it.

As a small example, I didn’t announce to anyone that I planned to sit down and write this post today. I made the plan to write this blog post 2 days ago, and I have been thinking about it each day since.

But I haven’t spoken to anybody about it, I haven’t posted any statuses on social media about my thoughts, I haven’t even talked to Sarah about what my post would be about this week.

To give myself the best chance of executing fully on my intentions, I have found that I must delay any and all satisfaction I might receive from achieving the goal until the very end, when the goal is totally complete.

If I allow myself to chat with a friend about an exciting new idea I have for a post, I get a small (but powerful) feeling of satisfaction. If my friend compliments my idea as being valuable or interesting or original, I feel a nice little ego boost.

As a result, some part of my subconscious will lower the priority of executing the goal to full completion. I find that I will feel less motivation and less urgency to actually write the interesting, or original, or valuable post.

I came to this practice by my own intuition and experience after learning which of my behaviors helped me succeed and which undermined my efforts. Since then, I have found research which helps explain why this could be so.

Derek Sivers in his TED talk speaks very persuasively to the proven power of keeping your goals to yourself. Peter Gollwitzer in his research addresses the “premature sense of completeness” we get once we tell others of our intentions.

If you have ever made a new year’s resolution and failed to keep it, as 92% of those who make resolutions have, consider doing the following this year.

Consider writing your resolution down on a piece of paper, stuffing it in an envelope with a stamp and mailing it to yourself. Don’t tell anybody, not even your wife or your kids.

When the letter arrives, store it unopened in a safe place, hidden away. This method costs much less than the latest electronic wrist tracking system or personal coaching session, and you might even get better results from it, as I have.

 

2. Fantasize Carefully

But how, you might wonder, do I achieve my goal with nothing and nobody to keep me accountable when I falter?

It turns out that you can be your own best motivator and coach if you practice fantasizing carefully and with intention.

Visualization has been highly popularized by athletes like Tiger Woods, media personalities like Oprah Winfrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger and self-help gurus like Anthony Robbins.

But research has shown that some forms of visualizing or fantasizing are more effective than others.

Researcher Gabriele Oettingen has produced some valuable research into specific ways we can use our own daydreams and fantasies to bolster our efforts toward reaching our goals.

In fact, her research has found a very specific sequence and method of fantasizing about your goals to be much more effective than any other method for keeping you accountable and producing the maximum amount of positive results.

First, I’ll define a few terms.

Positive fantasies are pleasurable free-floating internal images or self-talk about a desired outcome. An example of a positive fantasy might be me imagining the good feeling of accomplishment I will feel when I finish this post and upload it to our site. Essentially, imagining the benefits.

Negative fantasies are unpleasant free-floating internal images or self-talk about a desired outcome. An example of a negative fantasy might be me imagining how time-consuming the research will be for this post, or how difficult it will be to write and edit this post. Essentially, imagining the obstacles.

Counter to what much our current ‘think positive’ self-help culture would have you believe, Oettingen’s findings were that positive fantasies most often correlate with LOWER goal achievement and negative fantasies most often correlate with HIGHER goal achievement. 

These correlations were found to be true regardless of whether the fantasies are spontaneously generated by the mind, or deliberately generated intentionally.

A possible explanation for this is that positive fantasies can make a goal seem too easy, thus creating a very weak sense of optimism, which falters at the first obstacle. Negative fantasies take obstacles into account, thus creating more preparation when the obstacles are encountered.

Based on these findings, a method called mental contrasting was found to be the most effective way to visualize, fantasize or daydream about your goal.

Mental contrasting involves mentally contrasting an aspect of a desired future with an aspect of the present, which stands in the way.

This can be practiced for any goal using the following sequence:

  1. Think about the outcome you want (i.e., “I want this post to be well written, valuable to my readers and posted on time.”)
  2. Remind yourself of your realistic expectation that you can achieve this outcome (i.e., “I have posted well-written, valuable posts on time before, so I can do it again with this one.”)
  3. Contrast your desired outcome with your present reality, which will highlight the obstacles you must overcome to achieve your desired outcome (i.e., “I need to set aside time on this date to sit down and research my post, then write the first draft and set aside time afterward for proofing and editing.”)

Oettinger also found that the higher your level of realistic expectations of success based on past experience of success with a particular goal (considered during step B), the higher the correlation of actual success in the future.

This finding can actually help you set your goal appropriately in the first place, which will give you a much higher probability of success in the long run!

For example, if you want to set a new year’s resolution to save more of your money in 2015, you will provide yourself with the best chance of success by reflecting on the most money you have ever saved before and only increasing this amount very slightly.

You could expect to have a very low chance of long-term success in this example by deciding to save 50% of your total income, if you have only ever been able to save 1% of your total annual income in the past.

Instead, a much better goal with a high chance of success would be to plan to save 2% of your total annual income in 2015.

In this way, step B is very important in the sequence above. If you can’t honestly remind yourself of past experiences which give you a realistic expectation that your desired outcome will be met, you should redefine your desired outcome along more realistic lines based on your experience.

Where I have failed in the past is in sequencing and in completing the full sequence.

For example, I have fallen into the trap of stopping after step A! I only fantasized about the desired outcome without ever progressing to step B or C.

I have also fallen into the trap of following this sequence out of order. For example, I have thought of a desired outcome (step A) then skipped to imagining all of the obstacles that stand my way (step C) without ever considering which of my past successes and experiences either equip me well or poorly to tackle these obstacles (step B).

In Conclusion

When I keep my goals to myself and follow a very specific sequence of visualization, I find that I have a better chance of achieving the goals I set for myself.

As you consider setting a new year’s resolution for yourself this week, it could be beneficial for you to remember “loose lips sink ships” and to fantasize intentionally.

It won’t help the economy much, since these self-help methods are free, but you might just find that free resources can be the best ones when it comes to achieving your goals in 2015!