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Strengthening the Bond

Caroline Manzo tackles questions on keeping your kids close, getting "me" time, and discipline.

By Caroline Manzo


How to Watch

Watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey on Peacock and the Bravo app.  

Got a question for CarolineSend it.

Brittni from Ceres, CA says: Caroline - Love the show, I watch it while feeding my one month old. I only have one baby right now, but my husband and I do want more. I love how close your kids are. What actions can we as parents take to make sure our kids are close and always there for each other? Also, how far apart do you think kids should be? My husband is ready for number two already, but I want to wait a couple of years.

Caroline says: Thanks for watching, Brittni, I appreciate it! 

Albert and I were very hands on with our kids. We still are. I think the key to our kids being so close was the fact that we did so much together as a family. For example when the kids were involved in sports growing up, we went to their games together, we made it a point to teach them to support each other rather than staying home and ask questions later. If one of them was struggling in school with a subject we would ask the other two to help with studying, etc. It created a sense of teamwork, again strengthening the bond. We spent a lot of time talking, sharing our daily experiences, and watching them go through every single emotion. They fought, laughed, and cried, but we let them go through it and watched them from the sidelines jumping in only when necessary. It taught them how to forgive and understand the value of communication.

One very important side note, Al and I never compared one child to the other. We treated them as individuals. We celebrated their strengths and worked on improving their weak points with positive reinforcement. Comparing one sibling to the other will only cause hurt and resentment between them, that's a big no-no.

I have no suggestion as to when you should expand your family. That's a decision between you and your husband and no one else. I will however say that it should be mutually agreed upon between the two of you. Having children is a lifetime commitment and you both have to be on the same page. Good luck, Brittni, and give that little baby a hug for me!

Kelly from Bergenfield, NJ says: Hi Caroline - I am a mother of two extremely active, young children (ages 2 and 4). I find it hard to give them the constant attention they want while keeping all of the other balls in the air (i.e. house work, cooking, cleaning, job, etc.). I feel like I loose my patience sometimes and yell more than I should. How did you handle all of your responsibilities along with your three children when they were little? Please help. I need your advice.

Caroline says: There's an old saying Kelly, "A mother's work is never done." Isn't that the truth! 

Unfortunately we sometimes allow ourselves to believe that we're invincible and can be all things to all people at all times. Not true, not even close -- you need to take a step back and give yourself a little breathing room.

A couple of things popped out at me in your question. The first was the idea that you have to give your children the "constant" attention that they ask for, and the second was that you believe you yell "more than you should." Children need attention, but they don't need your constant undivided attention. This will only create a separation anxiety issue whenever you leave the room. Your children are still young so they need to be watched for sure, but you need to teach them to play on their own; it's important, it helps stimulate their mind, and gives you a little breathing room. The second thing you mentioned was yelling "more than you should." Believe me, I can understand your frustration, we've all been there, but the kids don't know why you're yelling. They're too young to understand the emotion. If they've done something wrong take them by the hand and show them what they did. Speak sternly, tell them why you're angry. Yelling only scares them and doesn't really solve the problem. When you feel the frustration building, try to take a step back and relax before you address the kids. I'm not suggesting you let them get away with any wrong doing, I'm simply saying to change your delivery. it will make you feel better too. Why get your blood pressure flowing? Relax and breathe.

I know it's hard to juggle all of your responsibilities, but you can't allow yourself to get run down. Try planning ahead for your morning routine, put the kids clothes out the night before, and if they go to preschool or daycare, pack their lunches the night before too. It saves some running around time and unnecessary stress. 

Do housework a little at a time rather than planning one specific day for it. I keep cleaning supplies under the sink in every bathroom. After you're done with your morning routine, give the sinks and countertops a quick cleaning, takes less than a minute. If the kids are playing in their room, vacuum the hallways, living room, etc. Little spurts of cleaning here and there lighten the heavy cleaning workload and the house will always look fresh and in order.

I can go on forever with little tips, Kelly, but the bottom line is you need to manage your time effectively. Put yourself and your kids on a schedule and create a routine that works for you. VERY IMPORTANT: Take the time you need for yourself and your husband too. Everyone needs a little "me" time; it's good for the soul. 

My final thought is this -- you are not alone. There are millions of Kellys out there, and although you may feel overwhelmed right now, this too shall pass – you're kids are growing everyday, and before you know it, they'll be in school and within the blink of an eye married with their own kids. Take the time to stop and smell the roses (and the poop and the spit up). You'll miss it when it's gone.


Candiss from Newport News, VA says: Dear Mrs. Manzo - I have watched this show for both seasons, and I must say, you are the mother I aspire to be! I have a 14-year-old daughter who is hard to speak to. She doesn't like doing ANYTHING. She is barely passing, she talks back to teachers at school and has an attitude that nothing is ever her fault. It has caused many arguments between my husband and I, because if she can do it, our other two children feel they can as well. It's easier to stop the younger two. I have tried everything. If you find it in your heart to advise me, please know that your advice will be put into action! Thank you for all you do!

Caroline says: Wow, Candiss, it sounds like you have your hands full. I feel like I need more information. Has there been an incident in your daughter's life that has caused her to behave this way? What kind of friends does she have? Is your home environment a stable one? These are just a couple of things that may have an effect on her behavior.

My first suggestion would be to seek counseling either through school or your physician. Something is wrong; a 14-year-old child doesn't rebel on this level for no reason. You need to go through the process of elimination and try to pinpoint where this could be stemming from.

I'm not sure, but it sounds like you and your husband argue in front of the kids. Big mistake. You need to be united in your parenting strategy, if you disagree, do it behind closed doors. Showing children a disconnect between the two of you only confuses them, and if they're smart enough they'll use it against you. They'll go to the weakest link to get what they want. 

It sounds to me that you've lost control and are beginning to let the inmates rule the jail. You are the parent; you set the rules and the overall tone of the household. Children need boundaries, they crave them, and sometimes they act negatively for attention. Both you and your husband need to take back control and work as a team. Set rules, curfews, and make sure you enforce them. If a rule is broken then a punishment has to follow and above all must be carried through! If you ground them for two days then make sure they are grounded for two days, not two hours! Doing anything less than that only shows them that you're not a force to be reckoned with. It's a matter of respect and a certain level of "fear" of consequences that needs to be instilled in them. By fear I mean being held accountable for their actions, never, ever get physical or verbally abusive with your children.

No one ever said parenting was easy, Candiss, it's probably the biggest emotional roller coaster we go through in life. However, you have to dig in, hold tight, and keep your eye on the ball. Do whatever is necessary to maintain a healthy nurturing environment for your family, don't be ashamed to ask for help and don't blame yourself. As long as you and your husband are committed to regaining control of your household and getting your daughter into a positive state of mind you have nothing to be ashamed of. Keep the faith and good luck.


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