Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parenting Books

My baby is about to turn 1 and I want to be prepared for what I know is ahead.  What are some books you'd recommend for parenting a toddler? 

Things are going to change and quick.  If you are lucky your little one will wait until after he or she is 18 months old to really hit the “tough twos”.  My daughter seemed to start the day she turned 1. The phrase “terrible twos” is misleading and so I try not to use it.  It suggests your child suddenly becomes very bad.  The toddler years are a frustrating time for your child.  He or she is beginning to be able to communicate, but is still unable to express his or her needs effectively.  That would make anyone throw a temper tantrum now and then.  

I recommend Connection Parenting by Pam Leo to ALL parents.  It will help give you a good long term view of parenting because so many issues children have as they get older start in those toddler years. 

Positive Discipline for the Toddler Years by Jane Nelsen Ed.D., Cheryl Erwin and Roslyn Ann Duffy is a great one really geared for the 1-3 year old. There is a Positive Discipline for Preschoolers too. 

I love using the What to Expect series of books by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazebut.  But I like the way Baby 411 by Denise Fields and Ari Brown is laid out according to topic instead of age.  So that if you want to know what to do about getting your child to sleep on a schedule you can look at the topic through all the ages, instead of flipping through to the next age category.  These books have great overviews of all the different discipline styles and techniques.  You can then make an educated and informed decision as parents.  

 I think the book The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell is incredibly helpful in understanding how to communicate love to your children.  Every person, including children, have unique ways they communicate love and ways they respond to being loved.  By showing your child you love him or her in the “love language” they speak you will insure he or she is aware of the love you give.   

Parents and child caregivers out there, please comment and let us know what your favorite parenting books are. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

I worry my child will not listen to me when he is in danger. What can I do?

Every parent wants their children to freeze instantly when we yell STOP. We worry that when our children are in peril, they will not respond to us because at times we ask them to do small tasks and they don’t act. If this is happening to you there are ways to communicate so that your children will respond, especially in dangerous moments.

First, make sure you are asking your children to do things (or not do things) with a positive phrase. We instinctively say “don’t ……” because we see our children doing something we don’t want them to. Our mind goes right to the negative. If it is difficult for our adult mind to make the switch from negative to positive, it is even more difficult for our children to make that leap. This means that instead of saying “don’t put your feet on the table,” you ask him to “put your feet on the floor.”

If I were to say “you can’t have ice cream for dinner.” You would have to think about “ice cream” to stop yourself from thinking about ice cream. However, if I say “we are having strawberries for dinner,” ice cream would never enter your mind. The same is true of negative statements. When you tell your children to not slam the door, all that rattles around their head is “slam”. If you were to instead say, “Close the door gently,” the response would be very different. They will be more likely to close it slowly next time and they won’t be fixated on the idea of slamming the door.

If you are using the word “no," “don’t,” or "stop" frequently with your children, the words will begin to lose there true meaning. To your child it begins to sound like background noise. So when they're in danger and you shout a warning, they are less likely to respond.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How can I get my child to do chores? Part 2

On Monday’s post I discussed how encouraging the natural excitement of young children to be with you can foster lifelong habits. I talked about how my mother’s love of doing dishes came from the time she spent with her mother.

It is no secret that children model the behaviors of their parents. Our children also tend to have the same attitude we do. This is another reason your child may HATE chores. If your child sees that whenever you fold the laundry you are unhappy and seem to hate it, he will think “that doesn’t seem like fun.” If it doesn’t seem enjoyable you will struggle to get him to do it. But if your child sees you folding the laundry with a smile on your face somehow finding enjoyment from the activity, he is going to want to be involved in the process. So often we ask our kids to do something around the house because we hate doing it. We can’t expect our children to find enjoyment in something when we can’t find pleasure in.

If your child is already in or near to his teen years this is going to be more difficult. One thing to remember is that if your teen has more input into what your house looks like, he may have more desire to see it taken care of. When you are picking out a new couch, carpet or wall colors give your child an equal voice to what you pick. Let him pick out paint for his room and decorate how he likes. And remember the more you push a teenager the more he will pull away. Making a big deal of a messy room may be doing more harm than good.

There is nothing wrong with incentives to complete a task. Earning a wage for doing chores is one way children learn how to manage money. Be careful with allowances. Because, we tend to give our kids the chores we are unwilling to do ourselves, giving them an allowance will not inspire the will to complete the task. Giving an allowance alone will encourage your child to do the bare minimum to get the job done. However, giving an allowance for work done coupled with making chores a family boding event can help your child develop a sense of satisfaction of a job well done.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How can I get my child to do chores?

Getting a child to do chores is a struggle for a lot of families and generally gets worse in the teen years. Moms and Dads find themselves frustrated repeating themselves until they bribe and then yell to get it done. It is possible to raise children that don’t mind participating in the household duties, but it takes time.

If you can, start when your children are young, just old enough to do basic tasks like put away their toys. Lovingly and without pushing, include them in the clean-up. This is important in a lot of ways. It teaches your children that having respect for their belongings and will lead to habits that are positive. It is a way to turn household duties into bonding time. It can also give your children a good work ethic.

My two year old constantly says, “I help” when I am making meals, doing dishes, and cleaning up. I want to encourage the excitement she has for the work so I try my best to involve her in what I am doing. When she helps me with the dishes, she often makes more of a mess than I would like but I know that as she gets older she will get better at it. I don’t chastise her for making the mess. Making her feel bad for not doing the job the way I want her to will only push her away from wanting to be with me and help.

My mother loves to do the dishes and I believe that is in part because of the connection time she got with her mother growing up as they did dishes together. In a house full of children (7), it was a chance for her to really talk and share her feeling with her mom. This connection time led to enjoyment of the activity and has led to my mom’s lifelong LOVE of washing dishes. Ultimately that is why we want our children to do chores. Not to force them to do something they hate, but to have a love for keeping things at least somewhat clean and in order.

This same principle carries over to all “chores.” If you want the activity to be something your children do even after they leave your house, it needs to be something they enjoy. The best way to make that happen is to engage in the activity with them when they are young AND as they get older. Instead of making them take out the garbage, clean their room, sweep and vacuum, make it a family event. Do it with them, and make it a time you can connect with them.

On Thursday’s post I will finish answering the question. I will talk about how to encourage older children to do chores and will discuss allowances.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why do I sound so much like my parents?

When we are young the experiences we have are stored in our memories. Think of them like videos on u-tube. They are uploaded everyday but only you can see them. When you got in trouble from your dad for playing with his tools, his reaction was recorded. When your mom yelled at you because you drew on the wall, what she said to you was stored somewhere in your mind. As parents the moment our children make the same mistakes we made, these memories are accessed and immediately put into action.

So when your child plays with your tools, you have the same reaction to him as your father did to you. If your parents got mad at you for leaving the toothpaste lid off, there is a good chance you will be frustrated with that when your child does it. The good news is the positive is also true. If your parents allowed you to express your feelings when you were frustrated, this will come more easily to you.

It is important to remember ALL parents love their children. Even the parent that is physically or emotionally unable to care for their children still has love for them. If you have nothing but videos stored in your memory of negative reactions by your parents, remember that they were doing the best they could with the knowledge and resources they had. Every generation figures out the mistakes the previous ones made. It would be really easy to blame past generations for all of our faults and issues. We make our own choices and can choose to continue in an unhealthy pattern of behavior or we can choose to take the necessary steps to block the pattern.

Stopping the cycle is difficult, but not impossible. Here is how to get started:

· Make a list of the positive things about your childhood: things that you know you were loved and made you a better person.

· Then make a list of the things that were negative: things that hurt you and made it difficult to love others.

· Anything that is in the list of positives will be easy for you to pass along to your child. They will come naturally to you because you have them on your video and will recall that as you parent your children.

· The things on the negative list are things that you will likely pass along to your children without being diligent.

It will not be easy reverse the cycle on a lot of these issues, but it will be worth it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why does my child WANT to get in trouble? (Part 2)

The best way to help your child when he is pushing buttons, subconsciously hoping you will set a boundary is to set the boundary in a place that is appropriate to let out his frustration. Once the boundary is set do not hindering him from releasing the hurt. Be positive and let him stay close to you. Simply tell him you understand he is sad he can’t have the “ice cream” right now and it hurts when you don’t get something special all the time. Don’t try to fix the problem or even distract him from the pain. The only way to get all the “hurt” out of the cup is to allow the release until he finishes naturally.

Help your child find healthy and appropriate ways to release hurt. Coloring, chasing the dog, tearing up paper or punching a pillow are a few ideas. You should find something YOU will be comfortable having him do. It should also be something that makes him feel better. When it seems as if your child’s hurt cup is getting full encourage him to engage in that activity and ask him to talk about what is bothering him. He will start to equate the activity with release of hurt and emotion. Soon he will choose to engage in that activity when he feels hurt.

Children have a great desire to model anything they see their parents doing. You may notice their “negative” behaviors are things you yourself do when you are feeling hurt and overwhelmed. Try to show your child how to let go of the hurt by making them a part of YOUR healthy release of pain. Be honest with your child about what hurt you and why you need to release it. “Mommy had a very hard day at work and is running on the treadmill to get the mad out.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why does my child WANT to get in trouble? (Part 1)

Because they do! Here are a few reasons. First of all they might really need attention. Most children do not like negative attention, but if their emotional need for attention is not being met in a positive way, they will seek it out in a negative way. Getting yelled at is not fun, but in lieu of any other link with mom or dad, they will take what they can get.

You could also think of it like this. Children have a “hurt cup.” Every time something emotionally hurts them or they have an emotional need that consistently goes unmet, that cup gets filled a little more. When the cup is full it all comes out in crying or anger. Babies are born with almost no cup so they cry whenever they need anything. As the child grows the cup gets bigger. Toddler’s cups are still very small; this is why they regularly throw temper tantrums.

By the time they are school age they have decent size cups and have generally found a way to control themselves from “spilling” until it is at the top. Some children naturally have larger cups than others the same age. Whatever age, or cup size, when the cup is full, it is full and needs to get emptied. What that looks like is different for every child but is usually categorized as being “naughty” or “bad”.

The reason a child acts some days like he wants to get in trouble is because he senses that his cup is almost full and wants to empty it. He wants it empty but doesn’t have the knowledge, emotional maturity or tools to find a healthy outlet to release that pain. So he “acts out” doing things to push boundaries and your buttons subconsciously hoping that you will set a boundary for him so he can release the hurt inside by crying or getting angry.

Check out our post on Thursday and I will let you know what you can do to help your child release his hurt in an appropriate and healthy way.