Have you ever considered becoming a parent-blogger? The Barefoot Books Studio in Concord recently had the pleasure of hosting a blogger networking night co-organized by Raising a Reader MA and Boston Parent Bloggers, and Barbara Meltz, one of the original parenting bloggers and a writer for the Boston Globe for over twenty years, was the guest speaker. Barbara was full of helpful tips, advice and insights for fellow parent-bloggers, and we were inspired to share with you an interview on her top parenting tips. Read on to learn more!

Q: What are your tips for raising school-aged children?
Have a no-screen rule on school nights, but be flexible enough for exceptions, like for a sport event or a favorite show, if homework is done. As they get a little older, say fourth or fifth grade, build in an opportunity for screen time, say, 10 minutes of IM in between subjects or as a reward. BUT – and this is important – set a timer for the 10 minutes.

Establish a routine for homework starting with the first homework assignment, even though it is only a little bit of homework in first grade. That routine includes: where she does it; when she does it (negotiate this; do you want to do your homework before dinner? After dinner? When you first get home? That gives a child a sense of control) and the tools she needs to do it – give her a drawer or cabinet for the tools she needs. For kids who struggle, create a homework contract: Mom and Dad agree not to nag John about when he does his homework, and John agrees to do his homework by xxxxxx. The contract should include consequences for failure to comply, as well as any other potential sticking points, and both parties need to sign it.

Q: What do you think is the best way to get a young child to sleep?
I think parents get into so much trouble with their kids’ sleep issues because they can’t follow through on whatever limits they set. So before you set limits, make sure you and your partner are on the same page, whatever it is you agree to, including how long you let a child cry before you go in to comfort him, and agree on what action you take when you go in. If you’re checking for a fever, wet diaper, etc., and then you agree that you won’t pick him up but will only rub his back, then that’s what you need to do. If a 3-year-old starts to play you off each other (“I only want Mommy to put me to sleep!”) and it’s daddy’s night, mom has to be able to say, “Tonight is Daddy’s turn. Tomorrow will be my turn to read to you,” and leave the room.

Q: How can families raise creative kids in today’s online/computer-based world?
Keep computers out of a child’s bedroom.

Q: What are the two most important things parents can do to raise great kids?
Eat dinner together as a family as many nights as possible, the more nights the better, but aim for at least three.

Turn off your cell phones when you are with your kids, even if you’re pushing the stroller. It’s a matter of getting into the habit and also of sending a message to your child: “When I’m with you, you have all of my attention.” Obviously there are exceptions; treat them as such.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think our community would benefit from knowing about?
Read to your child from the beginning (and no, Leah didn’t ask me to say this!) It establishes so many healthy habits, including forming a lasting parent-child bond.

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