Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Keep it positive

I don't know if it's just late-summer impatience or what, but lately I've been hearing a lot of "Stop doing that" from parents out and about with their children. Of course if your child is doing something that needs to stop you need to tell them, but to keep on telling them to stop whatever they're doing is annoying to them and to everyone else within earshot.

Just for one example, yesterday I was in the grocery store and a mom with three children was trying to shop. It was morning, and the kids weren't tired or hungry (a perfectly good reason for meltdowns and tantrums), they were just bored while she was picking out the stuff she needed. Naturally, the older boy was bugging the younger one, just for something to do, and the little girl was touching everything. The mom kept telling them to stop-- stop making noise and stop bothering each other and touching things-- and telling them that now they wouldn't get a treat, or go somewhere, or whatever the distant prize was going to be. All negative.

Now, we've all been in situations where our baby is screaming or our toddler won't get off the bus or on the bus or whatever, and no one but us knows what created the problem or what's really going on. But all these kids in the grocery store needed was something to DO. I don't know the kids, so I don't know what that something would be-- something they could have brought with them to do? Or an easy or difficult assignment like finding one green apple, or finding the exact product that the mom wants next, or sorting what she has in the cart already or answering questions she might ask them or some other thing. They were bright, normal kids who just needed an assigment, any assignment. Something to DO instead of NOT DO.

One suggestion, for times when there seems like nothing at all to assign to a child to do, is to suggest that you do the thing you're doing with the child really fast. I've never met a child who didn't like the excitement of doing things fast or being timed. Even if their assignment is to count while you pick out what you need speedo-quick-like, it's something.

Next time you feel like saying "Stop" or "Don't" more than once, think of what behavior you'd like to see, and ask for that instead.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Do, don't tell: Transitions

One area of conflict with toddlers and preschoolers which seems universal is times of transition.  "Okay, now we're going outside" or "Now it's time to eat dinner" can make a toddler upset since they're likely absorbed in whatever they're already doing.  Some parents make it worse by not only announcing a complete change in activity, but also asking for approval for such a strange and upsetting idea:  "Now we're going in the car, okay?" the parents ask.

I ask, why make announcements, why ask questions?  Sure, everyone needs a warning of something they'll have to do soon.  A fifteen-minute warning, a ten-minute warning and a five-minute warning works wonders.  Just matter-of-fact statements about what's going to happen so that everyone knows.  
But when the time comes, it's best just to go ahead and start the process-- start putting away the toys, putting on the shoes, taking his hand and leading him to the car-- whatever it is that needs to be done, even with a fun challenge attached like "ok, let's see if we can get in the car in 10 seconds."  This way, the child is not put in the position of approving of anything, or disapproving-- it's simply what is happening, and he already knows about it from the warnings. 

Try it and let me know what happens.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Karate??

Kicking, punching and yelling?  Yes, and also focus, body control, discipline.  I started studying karate about five years ago for exercise and the art of it, at a very traditional school.  Seeing me practice inspired our younger daughter, who was then nine, to join also.  Now we're both black belts (just tested this past year) and I have to say it has been a great thing and a calming thing for us both.  If you're interested, check out the video I made there in the column on the right.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What kinds of things remind you to slow down?

Once I was on the beach with our younger daughter Natalie, and she and I were walking from where we'd parked to where our towels were.  I don't remember where everyone else was or why I was walking so fast, but I stopped to look back at her since she was lagging behind.  She was about 3 at that point and she was holding a shell.
"Mama," she said, "if you go slow, you'll see stuff."
Yes, including her.

Toddler and preschool years

I am thinking of writing a follow-up to Baby Love about the toddler and preschool years.  I have a lot of ideas for topics-- Sleep, Food, Play, Outings, Learning, Body-- but I'm also interested in your ideas for topics you'd like to see me include or touch upon.
Please write a comment listing any topics you'd like me to include.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Let's hear it for the fathers!

Happy Fathers Day to the Dads!
The strong snuggly arms, the slap-dash diaper changes, the shoulder-carries, the airplane-whooshes, all the support of the moms-- you may not have milk, but boy are you the best!