Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Being Fun and Unpredictable

I’ve given a lot of information over the past 21 days of this series. It’s been a little overwhelming for me and hopefully not too much for you. I feel like a lot of it is freeing and I am very passionate about the idea of Teachable Parenting, but I never want to come across as preachy. You can get so wrapped up in the “how to” parenting stuff that even the gentle discipline approach can become a beating for the adult. It’s not supposed to be that way.

Children are a lot of work. They are for me anyway. It’s exhausting. For the people that comment nearly everyday “You look like you have your hands full” or “they sure are strong willed aren’t they” Yes. Yes I do and yes they are, but I’d rather full than empty. I’d rather strong than weak. It’s not as bad as it may look in passing. I get to have a lot of fun with these little fire balls. So, today I want to share a parenting tip that is more about enjoyment together.

In Wild Things the book recommends changing it up, being unpredictable or risk being dismissed. They give a story of a mother that made spaghetti and meatballs for her husband and two sons (ages twelve and fifteen) and served it on the patio behind their house. In the middle of dinner she picked up a handful of spaghetti and chucked it at the boys. The salad and meatballs shortly followed. Both boys were so amazed that they just sat there, stunned at first, and then began laughing harder and longer than they ever had in their life. None of their friends believed them when the boys told them what had happened. This mother was neither predictable nor dismissed. She was a hero.  

Now, I am not suggested scoring through pinterest for calculated ideas on how to be the unpredictable mom. I think you need to be yourself and I think you need to have fun with your kids in whatever way shape or form that looks like to you. Not everyday is going to be fun. And I think we’ve all been there when our idea of having fun turns out to not be very fun for the whole family. Let it go. Try again another time.

My latest crazy fun which I haven’t shared on this blog yet was the Color Dash Bubble Bash that I did with my children. It was also a beautiful lesson in paying it forward because BB4K is an organization that helped fund my daughter’s summer therapy this year at her dear school. Not only were we able to give through the money raised for the event, but we had blast! The event happened over a month ago and they haven't stopped talking about it since.

That wasn't some creative idea that I came up with and it doesn't have to be. Or if it is like the spaghetti thing than that's great too. Ort it could be spur of the moment idea. Another recent super, crazy, fun activity was when my husband and son were flying a glider in the park and my husband decided to tape his phone to the plane to see video from the planes perspective. You can imagine what my seven year old thought of seeing himself on the video like that.
I gripe about my kids in a light hearted way because I want others to know that for most of us motherhood is not a cake walk and it's normal to feel like your are loosing your mind. It's also normal to feel like you are experiencing the fullness of God's blessings everyday through the beautiful children He's given you. They are a lot of fun, and sometimes it's up to us to join in! 

I previously mention the post I wrote called "Turns Out Mom Was Right" and I share some of her more unpredictable moments, which turned into unforgettable memories. I also explain why these experiences meant so much to me.

Think back to your childhood when did you see your parents kick back and loosen up? What were the times that you laughed the hardest? What kind of fun traditions or wild spontaneous memories are you building with your children? 

I think you know what the next teachable parent challenge is! Have fun… 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tackling Those Terrible Tantrums

I went on and on yesterday explaining the mind of a toddler. If you missed it I would encourage you to go back and read it sometime. I consider it Part One of my toddler spin off series. Some of you have been on the edge of your seats waiting for my ultimate toddler tip and I hope you are not too disappointed to hear that I came up with this one all by myself (thank you very much). This also means you should proceed with caution considering it's like the moonshine of parenting advice. It's just three simple actions that I have found apply to nearly every tantrum scenario in some form or another. The three words are:

 Correct. Redirect. Disconnect. 

Before we dive in, let me address some potentially controversial points. When I talk about a temper tantrum I am going to assume that we can all use our best judgement to know what a tantrum is compared to a legitimate need, and I am also going to assume that these are for children that do not have any special sensory processing disorders or other special needs because I don't know what the best approach is in those situations. And lastly I am going to go ahead and specify that this is for around 2-4 year olds. I personally believe that a child younger than 18 months is not manipulating a parent. There is tons of research to support that babies in the first two years of life need nurturing, loving response above anything else. I do not believe in "disconnect" with babies. I will have to stop there or I'll start another blog post. 

That's my boy during his two year old photo session. He's a doll isn't he? 

Okay, so yesterday we learned that most toddlers are going to act out of control for a couple years. Even though it might be inevitable that does not mean we let them get away with spitting, hitting, biting, screaming, thrashing, yelling… fill in the blank. No way! This is the most crucial time for us to teach our children the right way to handle their emotions and it is a privilege to do so. That is why of course we correct it every time. Even if it takes 100 or more times before we see improvement. 

After we have addressed the issue through correction we can get them to move on to something else which is where the redirect comes in. In some cases this also means relocate. This is the part were we give our child a chance to calm down rather than blow up. 

 However, for those that have strong willed children they are focused on whatever they have their minds set on and they are going to dig their heels into the ground until there are ruts! That means it's time for you to disconnect. I don’t think you should abandon your screaming child completely or leave them in a dangerous situation, but if you have already addressed the issue then there is no need stir the pot or cater to their disrespect. It's time to let them ride the wave until they are ready to return to their senses. According to Love and Logic 
"The best way to raise a chronically unhappy and poorly behaved kid is to make a habit of giving them a lot of attention or pizzazz when they are misbehaving." 
Sometimes it’s best for the child to be screaming in their room so the family can go about their business contecting with each other. It won’t be long before your little bug-a-boo (or whatever pet name you have) is totally recuperated and ready to be involved again. 

Keep in mind this isn't always a 3 step process that has to be done with all three in the same order. Sometimes you just have to correct and disconnect. Other times you don't have to disconnect at all if the redirect part works. Exactly what this looks like will depend on the age and the situation, but I'll give a few examples that I have dealt with in the past six years with my children. I'll put asterisks with links next to the tips that have been previously mentioned in this series.
18-24 Months Old:

The child takes a toy from his playmate. 

Correct: Tell the child "Uh Oh. We don't take toys. You need to give it back and say sorry." *Short and simple*

Redirect: Offer the child a different toy.

Disconnect: If the child is throwing a huge fit about it, you may just have to wait out the temper tantrum. Let the toddler know they can continue play time when they calm down and then do not give them attention in response to their whaling.

Two Year old:

The child wants to walk, but you need them to sit in the stroller.

Correct: "I'm sorry you are upset, but mommy is going to push you in the stroller so that you can stay safe with me." *Enforceable statement*

Redirect: "Do you want to sit and do the buckle yourself or do you want mommy to help?" If they don't decide in 10 seconds you sit them in the stroller if possible. *Choices*

Disconnect: No time for melt downs. Push that stroller mama! I use this example because I have a two year old and he has to go with me to pick up his brother and sister inside their schools everyday and has to be done in a hurry! The stroller is a life saver for me because he can be buckled in and I can keep moving.  

3 Year Old

You are at a gift shop on Vacation and you are buying batteries. Meanwhile your child has decided to pick out a $45 gigantic stuffed horse.

Correct: "Uh-Oh. That horse can't come with us! He has to stay here, say bye bye horse"

Redirect: "Do you want to hold these batteries and we can go see some butterflies?"

Disconnect: In the real life story where this took place my daughter threw herself on the ground literally kicking and screaming. I had to check out, so relocating wasn't an option. I was by myself and she is getting a little too big to try to hold when she's flailing like that. So she made a huge scene and I stood there calmly knowing that despite what anyone else around me was thinking I was aware that "I control myself, but I don't control others". In these situations I will often have people comment "Ewww, that floor is dirty" In a helpful way trying to coerce the chid to get up. I just agree with them and keep controlling myself. No big deal (even if it feels like it is). Eventually it's over, I haven't had to spend the night in the store yet. Rest assured, they WILL grow out tot this.

4 Year Old:

I hope your child is mature enough to never, ever throw a fit at this age, but for mothers like me that may have late bloomers here is my advice. They are crossing a bridge developmentally at this age. Try to introduce a lot more of the timer, choices, enforceable statements, and logical consequences, but be feel free to treat them like a toddler if they choose to act like one.

For example, The child is having a great time on a play date until lo and behold it's over and they have to go home! So they insist that they are not leaving.

Correct: You really love playing with your friend don't you? Too bad, we have to go home. *empathy primes the pump for learning*

Redirect: Why don't you see if there is a CD you want to listen to in the car?If they don't take the redirect bait then go ahead and switch to the relocate tactics. I have been in plenty of situations where I have to use force to break up a play date. If your child is big enough to carry and I pray for your sake they are, then you might have to do what I call the bandaid technique. Just rip it off quick instead of prolonging the agony. In other words grab them and head for the door. Or if not, you'll have to consider some logical consequences, or enlist your friend to help. My kids always listen to other people for some reason.

Disconnect: You might have to listen to a lot of screaming. The good news is you are in the car so it's a little easier to ignore because they are stuck in their seat and you don't have to look at them. 

This is a photo my husband took when I was pregnant with my second and my 2 year old wanted to be carried everywhere! I just couldn't do that all the time and she is my "throw yourself on the ground tantrumer". So It took a long time to get anywhere in that season.

I know these might seem obvious and probably not helpful. I wish I had a magic wand, but instead I just get a chance to practice a lot of patience and perseverance.  It's a wonderful age though. Just consider the Correct, Redirect, and Disconnect approach when facing some of these challenges and last, but not least,

I repeat -This too shall pass!   

This is day 21 of a 31 day series. For more Teachable Parenting click HERE.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Inside the Mind of a Toddler

I was planning on writing about the "Terrible Twos" yesterday, but I had so much to say on the topic that I had to do another post in it's place and break this one up into two parts. That means tweaking my entire 31 days plan. That is how important this topic is to me! 

For the past 20 days I have been talking about some Teachable Parenting methods that rely heavily on Love and Logic principals. The problem is, I know that myself, most of my friends, and many of my readers have preschool age children and the rules of logic don't apply to them. Well, they do the little ones just haven't gotten the memo yet. Hope is not lost though, and over the next two days I am going to be focusing specifically on toddler age children. Even if you don't have toddlers it could give some insight for when you are around them or their exhausted parents. 

I feel like I have read it all and seen it all, but when it comes to the tricks that stick with toddlers I can’t tell you one specific thing that I have had consistent success with. Maybe it's because I wasn’t looking for solution to the long term goal as much as I was hoping for a "get out of jail free" card. I’m entering my third round of toddlerhood with my youngest and even though there are parts I am dreading, I feel like this time I am more prepared than ever. It’s not because I think I know how to fix it, but rather (as with the theme of this series) I know that I can’t. It is going to take a lot of patience, a lot of prayer, and a good deal of Ben and Jerry’s therapy. I have always said God had to balance this age out because they are so stinking cute. 

If it wasn’t for all the headache and heartache we might just spoil them to pieces and they wouldn’t learn any boundaries at all. What good would that be? This is the perfect age for them to see cause and effect by pushing every button and testing every limit.

I so often see moms posting questions on social media or discussing in real life concerns about how their cute little tyrant is misbehaving and the mother is despretaly seeking a solution (get out of jail card). Sometimes there is one, but most of the time the answer is “this too shall pass”. It’s not that you ignore the child’s needs, your needs, or the learning opportunity that is there, but at the risk of sounding like the worst parenting advice ever, set your expectations low until they are 5. In the book Wild Things there is a chapter called The Explorer which deals with advice for boys of this age (2-4) and it says, "Because of where he is in his development, an Explorer is incapable of self-regulating. A common mistake that parents make with Explorers is to place unrealistic expectations on them to control their own behavior. Requiring high levels of self-control at this stage only sets up an Explorer for failure. This is the one part of the journey of boy-hood where we need to expect less from boys and be pleasantly surprised when they self-regulate. We are not suggesting that you have no expectations, just realistic ones." 

 I know people where age two was a breeze, but three was hard. I’ve seen the tantrum stage last from 1-4. A lot of people find tremendous breakthrough at the age of four, but then others swear it’s the climax. If you say that 5 was your worst stage or anything above that, well then you are just dealing with a different issue entirely.

I am not saying that 5 is easy peasy for everybody, but there are a lot of physical and mental changes that take place by this age. A 5 year olds behavioral issues compared to a 3 year old is apples and oranges. I have learned a great deal about neurological pathways since my daughter was diagnosed deaf. I wrote a whole piece about the science of language, which is pretty darn fascinating if you ask me. This applies to more than just language though. Did you know that a two year old has double the amount of connections your adult brain does? No fair, right? We all start out with trillions of neurological pathways and as I mentioned when I blogged about language, you use it or loose it. So while you see your toddler busy dumping out a box of cereal, watching Doc Mcstuffins, or napping, their minds are super busy doing neural pruning. This is a really important stage for learning. It's all about repetition, routine, limits, and social skills, and NOT academics focused, although I'll save that for another post. Anyway, the whole point is their brains are still forming and developing up to age 4, but ESPECIALLY in the first 3 years of life. From what I have researched, the part of the brain that regulates the emotion and controls social behavior (the prefrontal cortex) is one of the last areas to develop and this starts around age 4. Surprise, surprise! 

 By age 5 (without going into detail) things are pretty well set developmentally and your 5 year old has the same brain they will have their entire life. Now they just have to mature and fill it up with the wisdom and knowledge that comes with time.

Anyway Dr. smarty pants Michael Potegla, Ph.D. pediatric neuropsychologist has several years of research and he concludes that you can pretty much anticipate this “out of control” behavior from about 18 months to 4 years. If you read the entire article on you can learn more about the mechanics going on inside that tiny nogen and as mentioned in the book Wild Things "Understanding how your children’s bodies work and develop is a form of lowing them well." I couldn’t agree more.

So fear not fellow parents, you are not crazy and your stubborn toddler is not a lost case. They are at a fascinating important stage of development where a potential side effect is grey hair for you. I've got a few tips to help get through it though and I'll have part 2 of toddlerhood tomorrow. Hang in there.

This is day 20 of a 31 day series. For the rest of Teachable Parenting click HERE.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Children Are People

All the books I mentioned and the whole concept of Teachable Parenting comes down to the realization that children are people too. Did Dr. Seuss not already tell us this in Horton Hears a Who? A person’s a person no matter how small. Obviously a child is different than an adult. They sit in a car seat in the back for their safety because they are smaller. They go to school and not work because their minds are still developing. They don’t drive cars or own real estate because a full grown person is not equal to an immature person, but if anything this should make us be more considerate of these fragile people rather than to overlook their needs because they are merely children.

I came across an article the other day that posed the idea that everything the Bible has to say about loving your neighbor would therefor also apply to your family. She even uses the same Dr. Seuss quote I do on the subject. I believe Jen Wilken really hits the nail on the head when she says

"If children are people, then our own children are our very closest neighbors. No other neighbor lives closer or needs our self-sacrificing love more."

She then goes onto list out some excellent verses that can be applied to common parenting situations and I would really encourage you to go to the link and check it out. A couple of my favorites are:

When I want to correct my kids with harshness:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

When I want to lecture them:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

When I want to make them make me look awesome:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philipians 2:3-4)

Or there is always the golden rule of course (Matthew 7:12)! It's so simple, and yet so profound. The Bible talks a lot about how we should treat other people. Children are people. They are needy, vulnerable, young people and they are a gift from the Lord. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Magic Kitchen Timer

I don't know if you've heard of fly lady. It's a program to help messy people like me try and clean up their act. I implement some their strategies every once in a while if I get motivated, but the one thing that has stuck with me over the years, and I will probably use it forever, is my timer! The reason you use a timer for cleaning is because naturally messy people need to break projects down into sizable bits. One of Fly Lady’s famous sayings is “I can do anything for 15 minutes” and so when I feel overwhelmed by the house I will set my timer on one room for 15 minutes. Or sometimes I do the 3 minute hot spot which is where you organize and tidy up a high clutter zone for 3 minutes flat. I know this series isn’t about cleaning, but if the timer can help someone who is a prone to distraction imagine how it can help children!

When I first checked out my daughters private school I was amazed at how they were able to corral the toddlers and keep such order in the midst of a fun and loving learning environment. I remember watching them transition from one activity to another, and I distinctly recall when snack time was over. As I watched the teacher collect their cups and napkins to prepare for the next thing I was shocked! They weren’t done yet. Wait a minute, Suzie still had a couple goldfish left! I thought to myself, but surprisingly the children moved along smoothly and Suzie did not starve to death (of course Suzie is not her name, and they may not have even been goldfish). It was eye opening to watch. For the record, you won’t find me using a completely militant schedule and routine at home because that’s just not how I roll.  However I did learn how the structure and routine really does benefit children and all the parenting books I’ve read seem to confirm that.

So I do use a timer for many things at home, whether it’s 10 minutes to do each chore, or 5 minutes until  it’s time for bed, or 5 minutes left of snack time. My favorite is the crazy mom I turn into when I use a timer at the park. As soon as we arrive I set the timer for one hour (or whatever the limit is) and when the timer goes off I approach each child with a blarring phone that does a trumpet sound when time is up. I show them PROOF that time is up. They hear it. They see it. They don’t always come a runnin’, but I guarantee you it has made a difference. Transitions are so much smoother with my timer. I love it! I have gone through several just from wear and tear I guess, and I freak out  when that happens. I find myself in panic mode until it is replaced. Timer was one of the first words of my two youngest children. I am not kidding about this you guys!

 Anyway, I am just a mom (ha), let’s hear what the expert Dr. Phelan clinical psychologist and author of 1-2-3 Magic has to say about it. 

"The people who manufacture timers think they’re for baking cakes. They're not- timers are for raisng kids! Kitchen timers can be a great help for just about any routine, whether it’s picking up, feeding the fish, getting up in the morning, taking the garbage out, or going to bed. Kids, especially the younger ones, have a narual tendency to want to beat a ticking mechanicl device. The problem then becomes a case of man against machine (rather than child against parent)."

"Kitchen timers are also effective because they are not testable. Machines cannot be emotionally manipulated."

I never really looked at it that way. I just knew it helped me a lot! I mentioned using my phone and a kitchen timer, but you could use your microwave, an alarm clock, or whatever. I have never tried the hour glass timer, but I bet the kids would have fun watching that one. It really doesn't matter what you use and most options are very inexpensive. Now then, how about we go set a timer and watch the magic happen. Good luck!

Tjis is day 17 or a 31 day series. For more Teachable Parenting click HERE.