One of the best moms I know, Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship, joins me again this week for a discussion of natural parenting tips and organizational strategies that she has learned in her years as a teacher and mom of four.
In her seven years blogging, Katie has published eight eBooks covering the spectrum of real food from lunch to dinner, snacks, and even camping. She has also created the Kids Cook Real Food course, which helps moms include their children in the healthy cooking process.
Tips for Natural Parenting
Katie offers this advice for raising helpful, well-behaved kids:
1. Be Consistent
Katie has found that sticking to what you say helps her kids believe what she says and learn to behave accordingly. She acknowledges that this isn’t always easy (as any mom knows) but shares tips for learning to stick to a consistent routine, schedule and parenting style.
2. Acknowledge Your Mistakes
No mom is perfect, but that’s ok!
In fact, one of the best lessons to teach a child is to let them see you work through your mistakes. Katie suggests to acknowledge the fact that you’ve made a mistake in the first place, and explain that you’re trying to do better. This will not only show vulnerability and work to build your relationship and mutual respect with your children, but also provide a valuable example of humility.
3. Create a Culture of Service
Another lesson best taught by example. Encourage your kids to help each other and serve others in the family. This has helped Katie’s kids move through the self-centered phases of childhood faster. This can be as easy as little acts such as helping a younger sibling or fetching a diaper for a parent, or a bigger action like taking canned goods to a food kitchen or helping at a local charity.
4. Let Good Behavior “Trickle Down”
A great suggestion and one I’ve noticed in my kids as well. If you have (or plan to have) more than one child, spend a lot of time teaching your oldest. Inevitably, he/she will pass on the knowledge to the younger siblings and the process will get easier with each child. This also creates a positive culture among the children where they help each other and remember rules more easily (because they remind each other). Little kids love to emulate older siblings so positive habits that older kids learn get passed on easily.
The Teacher Perspective
Katie Kimball taught 3rd grade before having kids of her own. Her educational background has influenced her parenting in many positive ways, including:
- Teaching her kids language through talking without “kid language.”
- Making reading fun.
- Value and encourage curiosity
The Summer Vacation Survival Kit
Now that summer has arrived, many parents are struggling to keep their kids occupied with positive activities. Katie Kimball has put together a guide to help parents make summer fun and healthy for you kids (and doable for moms). Here are a few of her suggestions:
- Gather ideas for chores, learning, work and fun activities together, then choose one of each after breakfast each day. (This is Katie’s “Lazy Summer Vacation Organizational System”)
- Create routines around breakfast, because it happens every day
- Encourage your kids to create their own pretend activities
- “I’m bored,” means they get to do a chore
Last Piece of Advice…
Katie Kimball rounded out this episode of the podcast by expressing just how powerful it is to love your kids, especially through physical touch. Hugs and snuggles at an early age make a huge difference!
Katie: Katie, welcome back. Thanks for being here.
Katie Kimball: Hey, Katie. Great to talk to you again. Thanks for having me.
Katie: Awesome. If anybody missed the last 3 episodes, I would encourage you to
go check those out. We’ve talked to Katie for 3 episodes so far about baby
steps eating real food, about real food shopping tips and tricks, especially
on a budget, and my favorite with teaching kids to cook real food and all
the benefits that has for the whole family. If you missed those, please go
check them out at wellnessmama.com/podcast.
Katie is back for a final episode to talk about natural parenting tips. I’ve
gotten to see Katie in action as a parent and also to spend time with her
wonderful kids. They truly are great kids and they’re so respectful and kind
and helpful, so I can’t wait for Katie to share some of her tips and wisdom
about that as well. Welcome back, Katie.
Katie Kimball: Well, thank you. Your compliments are hard to hear because I feel kind of
humble about my parenting. I don’t feel like I’m a parenting expert at all,
but I do feel like I have wonderful kids so something must be right. I’ll give
it my best shot talking about it.
Katie: Awesome. I think all of us are just doing the best we can, but I really do
think you are doing an incredible job with your kids. Like I said, I’ve had the
privilege of spending time with you guys in person and I love that even my
children got to spend time with yours because your kids are really, they are
so kind and helpful, and just I enjoy being around them. They’re such good
kids. I’m sure that probably doesn’t seem like it to you every single day, but
can you share some of the ways that you have fostered these different
personality traits with your kids?
Katie Kimball: I will do my best. I’ve been thinking hard about this for you because it’s not
a topic I talk about quite as often as real food and natural stuff in my
house. I definitely, like I said, my husband and I feel like we try very hard
and maybe that’s the key, is just that we’re super intentional about like, we
do not want to fall down on this job. This is a massive responsibility to raise
these children up to be as incredible adults as they possibly can be and
we’re certainly not perfect. I know I snap too much and sometimes I expect
to much out of him. I look at the end of the day and I go, oh, I messed up
here and I messed up there. I have this unfortunate tendency of being very
self-deprecating, but in the end we’re trying really, really hard and I think
our major key is consistency, as far as once we say something we know
we’re locked in and we have to be consistent.
My husband said, because I’m like, what am I going to say about this topic? I
don’t know what to do. He said, “You know what? I think you and I are both
very good at delayed gratification, more so than most people, where we
see the end goal and we know that even thought it stinks right now and it’s
really hard to be in the trenches, and it’s draining every last ounce of
energy to say ‘No, that’s what we said, we’re going to stick to it, it’s what
we said. No, you can’t, I’m sorry. I hear your begging for the umpteenth
time, I’m still not changing my mind.’ The kids, they can literally suck every
last ounce of your energy out, but we have to stand strong.” So both my
husband and I really work hard to be consistent.
Again, he said, “I think we’re more consistent than most,” and I’m like, not
that it’s a comparison game, it’s not about winning against the other
parents or anything, but when I do look at my kids in a group of other kids
I’m like, huh, they are more calm than the other kids and I can see qualities
that I’m really proud of in them. I think being consistent has been super
I can remember one in particular time where I hated being consistent. We
were going to the library one summer morning and I think it was before
number 4 was born so I had my girl and my boy and we were all excited to
go off to the library, I think we were even meeting friends there, and
something silly happened with toothpaste. Maybe he was squeezing it too
hard or he was not listening, and I said, “If you don’t do such and such, you
are not going to the library,” because I was sure that he would do the such
and such that I’d asked. Well guess what? Of course, he pushed me and he
did the opposite of what I’d asked and I’m like, “Huh.” My jaw just dropped
and my heart sank into my feet and I went, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you
just did that.” I don’t want to not go to the library, what did I do? Everyone
really wanted to go the the library, I totally messed this up. I’m like, darn
it, I’m the parent here. I said what I said, and if I back off I’m breaking the
parent handbook rule of being consistent, but I really wish I hadn’t said
that. I totally messed up.
It was a huge scenario. We ended up, luckily, I didn’t have to wreck my
daughters day. She got to go with the friends to the library, and poor John
had to stay back home with me and we did boring things like chores, and it
was awful. It was like pulling teeth. He threw a huge fit and just wept and
sobbed and threw himself down, but to me, that in my brain is one of the
good examples of where I won the battle. I have battle scars, it was not
fun, it was awful, and in the future I need to think harder about when I
throw out a big consequence or a little thing, because they’re not always
going to do it right, but I stayed consistent and I didn’t back down. It’s so,
so hard, but I think that’s a huge page in the parenting handbook that
everybody need to do. Once you say it, you do it, so you’ve got to think
about what you say.
Katie: That brings up a good point about not … I think it’s tempting as a parent
sometimes to really levee the huge, looming, big consequence, or to, in the
heat of an angry moment with the kid, be like, “You are never watching TV
again if you don’t do this right now.” Then if they actually don’t do it you’re
like, oh no, that was … There’s no way to be consistent with that, so
having realistic consequences that actually fit the action, I think that’s such
an important point, and not letting yourself get so emotional that you
throw out something that you couldn’t ever enforce.
Katie Kimball: Yep. If we do … Sometimes I do that and I’m like, that wasn’t smart. I will
have conversations with my kids and admit my mistake and say, “Listen,
Mommy said this and that wasn’t the right thing to say and here’s why …”
and backtrack. That’s probably another tip that’s important for parents, is
to let kids see you work through your mistakes and acknowledge the fact
that you’ve made a mistake and you’re trying to do better. I know that my
older kids, especially Paul, my oldest, he understands that parenting is a
process. He’s actually said to me before, “Wow, Mom, good parenting
Katie: That’s hilarious.
Katie Kimball: The fact that he even realizes, that he has that consciousness in his mind
that parenting is a thing, is an activity, I think that’s more than most kids
even know. They’re parents are just their parents and they’re there and
they do stuff for them, so we must … I think we’re making it more
intentional. We’re very intentional about teaching our kids to think about
others and think outside themselves. We’re Catholic Christians and so we
pray for people all the time and so we’re always thinking about others and
being thankful for our day. I think that has to make an impact on their
We do lots of acts of service. Not the, put them on the calendar, we’re
going to the soup kitchen kind of thing, because we don’t have time and we
have a baby. We just can’t do service acts like that, but when I say acts of
service I mean the little things like we all serve each other our drinks and
we help each other out in these little tiny moments all throughout the day.
“Leah, can you get John’s pants for him from his room?” Or, can you help
someone do this. We’re just constantly encouraging our kids to help each
other as siblings. I think that’s part of having four, you just have to. If you
just have one or two, you might have to work harder to make that happen,
whereas you have four, it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, please. Somebody help
somebody else.” It’s a good thing though because they end up thinking
about others and getting through that egotistical phase, that self-centered
phase of childhood a little faster because it’s a very consistent part of our
family culture that we think about other people, we think about our impact
on the world.
One thing that drives me nuts, do you ever go to a family gathering or party
or potluck and you see a child with their plate loaded up with food that
they’ll never eat and the kid takes a couple bites and they’re distracted by
their cousins running around and they run off, and the whole plate of food
gets thrown away. That totally kills me and I contrast that with my kids
where we talk all the time about taking only what you can eat or trying a
few bites, you can always go back for seconds, and not wasting. If my kid
did load up their plate, I would probably eat it, because I can’t stand
wasting food. I think we do, again, we create a lot of family culture things
and being conscious of the world around us and being conscious of people
around us and how our actions affect other people. They’re not really
specific strategies, it’s not like we have buzzwords for these things, it’s just
the way we talk. It’s just the way we do things.
Katie: Yeah, and I love just the small acts of service for each other because I think
that’s one of those things as a parent that you can genuinely praise and feel
good about every single time. In the last episode you talked about with kids
cooking, when they develop an actual skill, they get to take ownership of
that and they feel so good and it builds their self esteem and you can
actually say things like, “Wow, you did a great job chopping that,” or
whatever it was, and they can feel good about that, then it’s not just, “Ooh,
yeah, pretty picture that you colored.” I think that’s another great example
is when they’re helping out their sibling. There’s never a time when you
can’t genuinely say, “I really appreciate that you just did that for your
sibling,” or “Thank you for helping out your little sister,” or whatever it was,
because you as a parent, do actually really appreciate that, and because
you’re seeing your kid develop that virtue and it’s really neat to see as a
Katie Kimball: It is. We call it the “trickle down parenting” and “do it right the first time”.
If you’re going to have multiple kids, spend a lot of time with that first one
because I constantly catch my older kids literally teaching stuff to my little
ones, and whether it’s like kitchen skills, I know my daughter has taught the
one below her, my younger son, some of her kitchen skills that she learned
in the cooking class and she’ll start teaching them to him. The other day
she was teaching our 18 month old how to wash his hands. “Here’s what we
do, we sing the ABCs, you do it every time …” I’m like, oh my gosh, she is
helping to raise him. This is so wonderful. Trickle down parenting, man, if
you get the top one right, it just kind of falls down and you don’t have to
do quite as much work on the rest of them.
Katie: It’s true. Just because that, like you said, the family culture and the
positive peer pressure just encourages it more easily. I think that, and
watching my kids read their younger siblings are some of the most special
moments as a mom. Just to watch that you’re like, wow, it’s amazing.
Katie Kimball: You’re so right.
Katie: You actually are a teacher and you taught school before having children, is
Katie Kimball: I did, yeah. A couple of years in 3rd grade.
Katie: Okay. Has this shaped the way you parent at all or do you have any advice
from a teacher’s perspective that would relate to parenting?
Katie Kimball: Yeah, I think because I spent a lot of time with children I learned the value
of consistency before most parents probably do. You hear it, you read it in
the parenting books or whatever, but when you have your first child there’s
so much to think about and there’s so many different ways of discipline or
whatever, but at the very least, I wonder if that gave me a leg up because I
knew how vital it was because I’d seen what happens when kids don’t
believe you. If you’re not consistent, that’s the risk, is that you’ll say
something and they don’t believe that you’re going to follow through,
therefore your words are null. I totally understood that.
I think also, being a teacher, I’m very academically minded and I have really
high expectations for my kids right from birth. When we were talking about
grocery shopping maybe 2 episodes ago, we talked about the value of
talking to your kids all the time and so I’ve always talked to my kids and I
don’t really rely too much on kid language. I’m not afraid to use big words
around them and we do so much reading and make it fun so that they want
to read all the time and we do so much conversation about the world.
I don’t know that being a teacher made me do certain activities, but I think
the fact that I have a teacher’s heart and a teacher’s mind has helped me to
teach my kids how to learn and how to be curious about the world, how to
ask questions and look for answers and dissect things and the value of
conversation and of talking about what you don’t understand, just because
that’s what we do. That’s naturally what I do as a teacher, is looking at the
world and what can I learn about this today. I think that has created a lot of
my kid’s ability to learn I guess. They’re pretty good learners in school
because they know how to learn and how to be a good questioner and a
good curious, creative person, not just following 1, 2, 3, 4 instructions but
thinking about what can I do with this and how can I learn about the world.
Katie: Yeah, that’s a good point. I can say from a home-schooling mom’s
perspective that I have so much respect for teachers who have a whole
classroom full of kids because I on days, at least feel like I have the hang of
teaching my own kids. I always say, I don’t think moms ever have days
where we’re just like, “I did spectacular today. I totally have this
motherhood thing down,” …
Katie Kimball: Right.
Katie: … But I have days where I feel pretty good about it. Then I think about
having a classroom of 20 kids the same age and I just have so much respect
or teachers because that’s a completely different animal. That’s some good
advice and I think, as a home-schooling mom, my kids are always home so I
don’t even think about it, but this is the time of year when my friends who
have kids in school start going, “Oh my gosh, the kids are almost home for
the summer,” and usually by the end of summer they’re going, “I don’t know
how you do this with your kids home all day long,” but it made me think
about, with summer vacation you do have kids home all day and most
parents don’t just want to park them in front of the TV. You have something
called “A summer vacation survival kit.” Can you talk about this and give us
some ideas and tips of what you do with your kids during summer break?
Katie Kimball: Sure. What’s kind of funny about the summer vacation survival kit, it’s not
really my personality. It’s 20 things that you can do with your kids and it
ranges from a couple of recipes to some crafts to some games and stuff like
that, but it grew out of a kit that I had created when I was still a teacher
for an auction that our school had and I made the kit with all the supplies
you would need in it and put that in the auction. It was called “the rainy
day/snow day/summer survival kit” or something. You’re just ready if the
kids are suddenly home and you weren’t prepared.
I try to push myself a little bit in the summer out of my comfort zone
because I’m not a crafty person. One thing we did, it’s probably been 3
years ago now … I’ll give you the link to this post on my blog. We did what I
call the lazy summer vacation organizational system, where we just put
some ideas of cool activities or things that we thought we might like to do,
and divided them into 3 categories, learning, chores, and fun activities, so
learning, work, chores, and fun activities, and we just wrote them on little
pieces of paper and put them in envelopes and then at the beginning of
each week we pull a couple out and stick them to a piece of paper on the
wall. Again, I’m totally not crafty.
It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. That way, each morning after breakfast,
before they could go off and play with their friends, we needed to do a
chore and a learning work and hopefully had time for the fun activity too.
Again, it was super loosey goosey, I didn’t happen everyday. If we had a
summer camp we were going to we totally didn’t do it, but that was the
beauty of just having these little pieces of paper. It wasn’t a schedule, we
could just move them around and pick one here and there, but it pushed us
a little bit to do some of those fun things that you see on Pinterest that you
feel like you’ll never actually do but you feel like you would like to because
it looks like fun.
We’ve done a couple of those things that are from the book, but really, for
us in the summer, beyond making sure that we have some routine, and I
like to connect it with breakfast because they’re there, everyone’s still
there at breakfast and they haven’t played yet, so that’s my strategy.
Before you can play and after you eat you do this. You do your chores, you
make your bed. We had a ton, we had great consistency in the summer
because they weren’t always running off to school, and I loved it. I love
having my kids home in the summer and I don’t under- To me, when parents
are like, “Oh no, I’m not looking forward to summer,” it makes me kind of
sad because I love having my kids home. It gives me a chance to be with
them. Maybe I’m lucking out but I’ve never had my kids say, “I’m bored.”
Perhaps they know that I’ll give them the chore. That could be it. They
might know. They might know that if I hear the word “bored”, I’ll be like,
“Oh I got something for you to do.” I’m kind of old school that way.
We encourage a lot of creative play and just letting them make their own
life in the summer, make their own pretend play activities. We’re not very
structured, other than making sure that something good and learning
focused or chore focused happens right after breakfast, but other than
that, they’re off making forts and they’re playing house and they’re playing
in the sandbox and they’re just being kids and I love that about summer is
that they don’t have to be so structured and I know they’re learning. You
know they’re learning by playing. So much research talks about how kids
play to learn and to build their brains and all that stuff, so I’m always
thrilled when they’re just running around and knocking each other with
sticks or whatever. As long as they’re not sharp sticks, they’re fine.
Katie Kimball: Seeing them get moving and get roller skating … They need to learn things
climbing trees and how to roller skate, not just reading and writing and
Katie: Yeah, that’s such an important point too, I love it. I’m excited that we’re
almost to that point for our kids and just the act of building forts outside,
and our kids have actually done that together, they love it and it’s like a
cherished memory for them and they’re just really playing with sticks in the
back yard but they love it. It’s awesome.
Katie Kimball: Yeah. You see they end up learning so much. One thing I was thinking about
when I knew we were going to talk about parenting is … Anytime you talk
about parenting there’s that whole nature versus nurture dispute and
because most of the time I spend my time writing about food and the
environment, I thought, does that connect at all to our conversation here? I
almost wonder if the real question of nature versus nurture is nature versus
nurture versus environment. How they’re born and what your genetics say is
one part of your personality, what your parents teach you in the
experiences they give you is the nurture part, but then there’s the nurturing
physical environment, what you put in and on your kid’s bodies. There’s no
way to prove it I don’t think, we’re too complex, but I do wonder.
I wonder if part of the fact that my kids do seem to be calm and have some
self control more than their cohort group often when I see them in a big
group of kids, is it possible that what we do with food and what we do with
the cleaners we use and the plastics we don’t use. Is it possible that that’s
giving my kids that leg up? I’d love to think so. I have no idea, but if I’m
going to throw my chips on one side or the other, I’m going to throw my
chips on the side of feeding them whole food and treating their bodies and
the environment well and hope that it does give them a little bit of a leg up
on being able to have self control and discipline and kindness and
generosity and all that stuff.
Katie: Absolutely. It certainly doesn’t hurt anything for sure. Perhaps you’re right.
Maybe the question isn’t nature versus nurture at all but more of a both/and.
Katie Kimball: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Katie: Especially with seeing all the rising rates of problems that a lot of kids are
having in today’s world, we probably should be especially focused on all of
those factors, not trying to debate which one’s more important but just
improving all of them as much as we possibly can as parents.
Katie Kimball: Exactly.
Katie: Awesome. Do you have any other thoughts or parting words that you want
to leave parents with when it comes to parenting and natural parenting?
Katie Kimball: I think just loving your kids. I heard a great study done on dads and girls,
and you will love this. It showed that dads who show love to their daughters
through physical touch, like hugs and snuggles and whatever, throughout
their whole lives, those girls are less likely to be sexually promiscuous and
taken advantage of and more likely to have high self esteem. I’m like, that
is fantastic because that’s so easy.
Katie Kimball: So easy to do, just love your kids and touch them and make sure they know
they’re loved every day. It sounds like, especially dads, is important. I am
so grateful to have the husband I have. He’s an amazing dad and the kids
know he loves them so I’m grateful.
Katie: That’s a great tip. Yeah, something so small but it’s kind of easy to forget in
the day to day business of just giving your kids a hug or just touching their
arm when you talk to them, making eye contact. Those little things
probably do make a bigger difference than we realize on a day to day basis.
Katie Kimball: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Katie: Awesome. Katie, it’s been such a fun four episodes of the podcast with you.
I appreciate your time so much. I know as a mom of 4 you’re very busy and
I’m so honored that you would take the time to come share all your wisdom
Katie Kimball: Goodness, I’m honored that people are going to listen to this. All my tips in
my whole life. I hope it makes a difference.
Katie: Oh it absolutely will. I’ll include links to everything we’ve talked about
under each episode. Like I said, if any of you listening have missed any of
the episodes, please go back and listen to them. They were not only so fun
to record but there’s just so much valuable wisdom in them for parents.
Katie, thanks again for being here.
Katie Kimball: You bet. Thank you so much, Katie. It’s been my pleasure.
Thanks for Listening!
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