Posted in Family, health, Mental Health, toddlers

Difficult Behaviors & Discipline- Toddler edition

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Some toddlers are just a little more difficult than others. Spirited, strong willed, imaginative, energetic; all those nice flowery phrases that people without difficult toddlers like to throw at you, can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out. Or theirs. Don’t do that, it hurts. And you’ll look a sight with patches of hair missing. I was already writing this post when my article about anger was published last week. Seems to me we have a pattern…

I will say I have seen some definite improvements in my own daughter (finally!) after trying multiple things I’ve seen online, in books, and even discussed with a doctor. Some parents now argue discipline is actually detrimental to children and shouldn’t be done at all. I think that’s a wee bit on the ridiculous side. Rules are a part of life and kids must learn to adhere to them, end of story. But there’s so many resources out there now, not to mention the countless pieces of unsolicited information you get from your own parents, in-laws, friends, siblings, your weird neighbor with an affinity for flowered hats. Here are some things that worked for me, some things that didn’t, and why.

Yay! These Worked:

 

Remaining calm- Make sure to check yourself first. Make sure you are as calm as you can Image result for check yourself before you wreck yourselfbe while angry. Use a firm voice, at your child’s level, whenever possible. This can be a real struggle during a tantrum storm and a bout of defiance. When you want to scream, when your teeth start to clench, walk away. Go in your room and breath a few times.

Show them how to calm down. Calming yourself is not something you are born knowing how to do. Show them how to take deep breaths. How to relax their shoulders. How to express their thoughts into words once they have caught their breath.

If you have a partner who is helping you with your kids, have a tap out term. We just say “tap out” but whatever works to get the point across that you are getting to that point of no return.

Language- Use “what” instead of “why”. I have learned a lot of the time the “why” isn’t understood by your child. The “what” is much easier to grasp. So for instance, if you are trying to get your child to put on their shoes so you can leave, and they decide instead to throw them across the room, it’s honestly more effective to say “what are you supposed to be doing right now?” than “why did you do just do that?”Image result for kid shrugging shoulders

Also, using the same language is very important. For awhile my husband and I didn’t have the same terms for things. I would say “that’s not how we act like a good girl” and he would say “that’s not following the rules”. To us, we know these mean the same thing. To her it can be a little confusing.

Picking battles- Understand the difference between annoying and aggravating behavior versus unacceptable behavior. Constantly swinging their feet in a seat can be annoying but is it wrong? Interrupting you when you are trying to speak can be extremely annoying but still, is that them intentionally misbehaving? Painting on various surfaces of your home may make you want to cry a little but really, again, not being bad. Just being a kid. If they throw their drink cup at your head while you are driving, that is unacceptable. If they try to see how high they can throw their little sister, that is unacceptable. You see the difference. Pick your battles.Image result for mischievous child makeup

Limit all distractions when something important needs to be said- Again with my daughter possibly having ADHD this is very important in our house but I think is pretty universal if you are not seeing results from your disciplining. ALL kids are easily distracted to a certain degree. Make sure there is quiet, make sure you have eye contact, and if possible get on their level for your message to be made perfectly clear. Keep instructions short and sweet.

Stop idol threats- Coming up with punishments off the top of your head when your child is pushing you over the edge is never a good idea. I think at one point I threatened to give all of my daughters toys to charity including her favorite bunny. I know I would never do that, and she knows I would never do that. Kids are smarter than you think. I would also threaten that she wouldn’t be allowed to go to her grandmother’s in the past. She knew she was going, she did every week. I knew she was going, she did every week. Now, we have a system of repercussions. Snacks go first, than tv, than a toy, than early bedtime. In that order.

Face chart- This seemed so silly to me when I first saw them. And I wasn’t excited about having that picture hanging in my house. However, after trying the sticker chart (see below in the did not work section) I figured why not. For my daughter, visually seeing herself getting into trouble I think really helps. She wants to stay in the yellow (on our chart that’s the good face). When her clothespin moves down she genuinely gets upset about it. Which is a good thing!

 

Boo- These Did Not Work:

Sticker Chart- Since we are on the subject, the sticker chart was not a success for us. I’ve seen different opinions on these and I have to say it did seem like it was helping originally but the excitement of it wore off, fast. The first couple of weeks of seeing the stickers get put up made my daughter pretty happy. But the big old X on the bad days didn’t really have much of an affect on her. She pretty much just stopped caring about it after a few weeks.

Time Outs- This is not to be confused with “calm down time”, which we have plenty of in our house. Calm down time is time for my daughter to go in her room and play with her calm down box. Time out made her go from a 7 to a 20. Having to sit somewhere for over a minute when she didn’t want to was almost torture. Again, ADHD has a lot to do with that and that may not be the case for your child, but we can’t do time outs. Before ending them just the phrase would send her into hysterics. I even tried holding her in time out once or twice but just couldn’t see how it was that beneficial. So now we just start removing luxuries one by one (see above) and that has worked much better.

 Spanking– and the debate continues. I want to be very clear that I have spanked my child. Image result for spankingIn some instances I think it’s called for. In most however, I think it’s really overused. My problem with spanking is parents tend to do it when they are already angry, hot tempered, and out of ideas of what to do at that exact moment. Again, my daughter may have underlying issues but when she did get spanked she took that as a good reason to hit
others. The few times she did get spanked, she got in trouble at daycare the next day for hitting. I don’t think it was a coincidence. So, we removed spanking from our discipline routine. Honestly, we still get the “we had some violence” issues talks from school but not as many. I do not allow it anymore purely for not being able to explain to her when she asked why mommy can hit her but she can’t hit when she’s upset.

When changing something always give it an appropriate amount of time to see whether or not it’s going to be effective. This is something I struggle with since I want to change things all the time and try everything I read but you do really need to allow for adjustment.

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Posted in Education, Family, parenting, toddlers

Imaginative Play

I don’t understand why LARPing isn’t a job. As an adult, it’s hard to get away with it sometimes, but that’s the beauty of having children! 

There are a lot of advantages from imaginative play for your kids. Part of early literacy education stresses the PLAY factor. Most parents don’t think of playing as a form of learning but it most definitely is.

“Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.”- Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
For one thing, imaginative play requires problem solving and creative thinking skills. Building things, designing a playhouse, making a blanket fort; all require your child to use their problem solving skills to make something that will actually work as a fort.

Children use role playing and dramatic play as a way to understand things they have seen. Usually, kids want to pretend to be people they have seen in real life (nurse, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, parent, etc) or people they have read about or seen on TV (knights, princesses, scientist, etc). They may also want to play by doing…what you do everyday. Cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, all the tasks you may think are completely mundane may actually be really fun for your child.


By pretending to be these people they are learning more about them. This teaches them flexibility and gives them an understanding of other people. They may also use this to understand things that scare them. For instance, many times you see a child playing doctor you will see them give a shot. This is because the idea of getting shots is scary to most children and they are working out the situation for themselves.

Imaginative play also helps your child to improve on their communication skills. They will be speaking about things and using words while playing that maybe they wouldn’t know otherwise. They also need to communicate their ideas and what they want to play to you or to other children.


For some parents, coming up with imaginative play ideas is easy. For others, it’s a struggle. Below are some ideas to get you started and help you bring imaginative play into your home.

 

COOKING/KITCHEN

If you don’t have fake food/kitchen tools, do yourself a favor and get some. A play kitchen can occupy a kid for hours. It’s a great learning tool too. They learn colors, vocabulary, numbers, how to sort, problem solving. There are so many cool ideas out there for creating a play kitchen too.

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You don’t have to just buy a brand new one from WalMart. My husband and I built a small lemonade stand style play kitchen for my daughter when she was one, and she still uses it.

(She was still in a big Winnie the Pooh phase so the stand says “Time for something sweet”- I know it’s adorable…okay moving on)

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DOCTOR/VET

I always thought that all kids hated going to the doctor. My daughter has since proved me wrong; however, a lot of kids do hate going but LOVE to play doctor. It’s something they Vet-Clinic-Dramatic-Play-Activity-1024x683know and something that is fun for them to pretend. Playing doctor or veterinarian can be as simple as giving a stuffed animal a check up. Or you can get dressed up and play out having the plague, the whole nine yards. This site has free printables for pretend play that I think are amazing and worth checking out.

 

 

KING/QUEEN/KNIGHT/PRINCESS

Some of the play castles I have seen online make me extremely sad my house isn’t bigger. However, even with lack of space, playing castle is pretty easy. You can find many items online on purchasing or making a play castle, most are relatively reasonable too. If you don’t want the whole castle, or don’t have the room, then just make some of the accessories.

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Some ways to play would be to save the princess (or fairy, or
king, or anything else). Have one person be the dragon and “take” the princess. The other must steal her back. Have sword fights (with paper or cardboard swords preferably.

 

 

 

SUPERHEROES 

Obviously, not just for boys anymore. Any kid likes to be a superhero. Again, this can be as easy as making a mask out of a paper plate. Creating a brand new superhero just for your child is a fun way to go about it. But if they really love a certain character than try to capture that.

Superheros may be an imaginative play game you want to take outside (you don’t have to, but flying can get iffy indoors).

 

SCHOOL
Playing school is one of my favorites because I’m a nerd. But your child may actually love to play it. Especially if they have an older sibling they see going to school. Playing school can mean your child is the teacher, and “reads” you a book. Basically they can make up a story to go with pictures in one of their books.

If you have a child chalkboard or dry erase board, then that’s a great way to play school. You can even have snack time and recess during your imaginative play time!


This is a great article with some more ideas.

 

Posted in Education, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Just sit still!

With summer about half way over, you may be wondering how you can get your child to actually sit and focus this year at school.shutterstock_68372572

Many children struggle with focusing and being able to concentrate on instruction. There has been a huge rise in the diagnoses of ADHD and ADD among children  preschool age to third grade. There are arguments to both sides of this issue. Some believe that the reason the rise in diagnosis has occurred is because more people are becoming aware that these issues exist and help is more readily available. Others believe that children are being too easily diagnosed because more is expected from them academically now than in the past. The age for starting Pre-K can be as low as 2 in some areas.

Either way, ADHD is something hard to target. There’s no physical or neurological testing that will show definitively if a child has some sort of hyperactive issues. Basically, a counselor or therapist (sometimes even your child’s primary care provider) will try to pinpoint certain triggers or activities that your child struggles with. If they struggle in more than one area (ie behaviorally, socially, academically) they may be apt to say there’s a problem.

With the rising demands on children to sit, be still, and focus, sometimes it’s just a matter of helping your child become comfortable with sitting still and being able to calm themselves. I have discovered the amazing world of fidget toys. Things you’ve probably seen a hundred times and never really got their purpose or thought much of them. I’ve seen them work wonders with my own daughter so I thought I would share some ideas.

 

 

Oil timers- these have been amazing with helping us learn how long to sit and also to use for “calm down” time. Watching the colors is soothing and helps distract your child from whatever was getting them amped in the first place. Since the oil doesn’t take more than a few minutes it’s a great toy to teach patience as well.

 

Fidget seat- That’s what we’ve been calling it but there’s a bunch of different names for these blow up cushions. One area we have majorly struggled is eating dinner together at the table. Sometimes sitting at the dining room table tends to take it’s toll so I decided to give one of these a try. They are designed for chairs and desks. So far I can honestly say I have seen some improvement with being able to stay in her chair for the whole meal (usually).

 

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Sensory bottles- look on Pinterest and you can find plenty of ideas on making your own sensory bottles. Or you can now purchase them. Sensory bottles and I Spy bottles basically are more for distracting than for letting the child with their fidget needs, but it does help them sit still.

 

 

 

Water tubes- Again something that helps with fidgeting and to help your child calm down. Something about the feeling of water and watching whatever is inside seems to help children get distracted in the right way.

 

 

Weighted stuffed animal- This is next on my list to try. Weighted blankets and stuffed animals tend to be expensive (the one pictured here seemed reasonable from what I’ve seen) but I’ve read great reviews. The weight and feeling of security that comes from weighted items can help calm an anxious or fidgeting child. If the restlessness seems worse at nap or bedtime then these items may be a great idea for you.

 

Sometimes just simple wood block games, putty, clay, or stress balls can help your child when they start to get restless. If you are having issues with that try sending them to school with a fidget toy for them to keep in their desk. Let the teacher know ahead of time so that they don’t get in trouble for “playing” during class.

 

 

Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen

Teaching Teens Tolerance

In light of recent events, I thought it was fitting to do a post about teaching tolerance of others to teens. I honestly am not a fan of the word “tolerance” since it has the connotation of just “putting-up with” or merely “tolerating” those who are different from you. I instead like to think that teens can be understanding and accepting of others. I think they can actually enjoy the differences, imagine that. We as a society have obviously messed something up somewhere but this cycle of hate doesn’t have to continue.

In a lot of ways young adults today seem to have more experience with different races, religions, and sexual orientations than past generations. Classrooms are becoming more diverse and even the media is breaking down a lot of diversity stereotypes (on the other hand however, they are making some worse). Most parents welcome this, as they should, while others seem less enthused.

One way to promote understanding is to make all students aware of the truth. This means teaching them history accurately. Not the watered down, Disney esque, version that is taught in most politically run schools today. I mean the real history of the world. All the nitty gritty details of it. The book Lies My Teacher Told Me is one of my absolute favorites. A tough read for teens but as a parent, who is educating your child, I suggest you give a read through.

I have to mention, that I believe you should try to be unbiased as possible when teaching history to your children. It’s very easy to sway historical events to be the fault of this group or that because you personally feel that way. Stick to the facts. Come to the understanding that no group has clean hands when it comes to history. I will be posting a history cheat sheet for anyone who needs a little help to better explain some complicated historical events, like the Crusades.

We can just talk about the elephant in the blog and mention Islam education. Their religion is a complex one and it is important for our teens to understand it. It would appear that tensions in the Middle East and tensions with the U.S. are not going to subside anytime soon thanks to the control that ISIS has acquired. I think teens should have a general understanding of all world religions in order to be able to make better assumptions and judgements of current world issues.

Tolerance isn’t something that needs to even be as vast as world religions and politics. Teaching teens to be tolerant of other students and members of the community is a great place to start. Most teens I have encountered understand to respect others who are handicapped or impaired in anyway. Some will still find an opportunity to mock the other’s pain but for the most part I feel that young people are generally good natured in that way. However, I think it’s much easier for teens to make fun of, or belittle, those with less visible ailments. For instance, a student who is suffering from Asperger’s may be a target because they do not understand the same social cues as everyone else. Their impairment is not a visible one making it easier for teens to target someone with a social problem.

I think a great way for parents to explain this to a teen if they talk about a student who maybe isn’t the best at socializing (or who is extremely solitary or who takes too long to answer questions in class) is to explain they think and process information differently than your teen does. This doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than your teen. In fact, the student struggling may have skills your teen does not. For instance, they may be very artistic or know more about a particular subject that your teen struggles with. Making light of their talents instead of their social inequalities is a good way to see them as equals for your teen.

Getting out to volunteer is another way to teach tolerance. Places like homeless shelters, nursing homes, other schools, libraries, and other community outlets will introduce them to people they may have not encountered otherwise. Seeing the less fortunate can do the same. There are many inspiring stories out there about young people starting fundraisers and doing great acts for those who need it. There’s an organization called Teen Line where teens volunteer to speak or text with other teens who may be in crisis or just need someone to talk to.

Never discourage your teen’s (or younger child’s) curiosity of those around you. Sometimes you may be asked something that you think is rude, or racist, or unacceptable; however, if they are generally unsure about something you need to be able to answer them honestly and respectfully. Steer them towards the appropiate response and reactions to the world around them.

The biggest and best way to teach tolerance to your teens? Be tolerant yourself. I know, this is groundbreaking stuff. But if you are accepting and helpful to others they will see that and emulate you. Remember that they are listening, all the time. So be wary of using hateful slang and furthering any sort of stereotypical ideology that you may have grown up with yourself.

 

 

Some reading recommendations for teaching diversity to teens:

 

 

“Chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.”

 

 

“Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness.”

 

 

“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

 

 

 

“Tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces.”

 

 

 

 

“A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.”

 

 

“The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl.”

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, Opinion, parenting, summer, Uncategorized

Review of Geek Parenting

Occasionally, I actually get to read. As a librarian, I get asked all the time for recommendations and I’m sorry to say I don’t get to read nearly as much as I would like. However, some books just stick with you and I recently read Geek Parenting by Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it. 

 

A short book that uses examples from other books, movies, and shows to mirror life as a parent. It’s an easy read, and an entertaining way, to show parenting through glimpses of literature and cinema.

One analogy references The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (if you haven’t read it, read it). The argument made is that in the book, Nobody Owens is raised by everyone in the graveyard. It’s not only his adoptive parents who raise him, but many other people and ghosts who prepare him and educate him. He says, “ In the modern world, it is rarer than perhaps it once was to be closely tied to the people who live around us. We may live our lives behind fences, both literal and metaphoric, but there’s something to be gained by turning nearby strangers into real neighbors.”

My favorite section (surprise) uses The Princess Bride to show the importance of reading to your children. In the film version the grandson is sick in bed playing Nintendo. His grandfather comes to read to him but the boy is extremely reluctant to sit and listen. However, once the story gets interesting and he starts to fear for Wesley and Buttercup, you can see his excitement start to rise. In those moments he has developed a new love for reading and storytelling. “Today’s kids have more forms of entertainment competing for their time…let’s not forget the unique appeal of reading a story aloud to our kids. We can pick up the pace, slow it down, or hit pause, depending on their interest. We can revisit favorite parts again and again.”

Another point the authors mention, along the same lines as above, is that children need to be allowed and be prompted to use their imaginations. They use the Chronicles of Narnia series as an example. “Now take a moment and imagine what might have happened if Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy had smartphones or iPads.” They say “boredom is creative potential.” Which is now going to be a motto in my house whenever it looks like boredom may be kicking in. Don’t just assume that because there is downtime, and because you’re inside, that the television has to be on. Just because it’s a long summer day doesn’t mean everyone needs to be on the computer or on their phones. There’s plenty to do and plenty of resources now to help you come up with imaginative play.

Using Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker as an example the authors explain the power of positive reinforcement. They stress that constant negatives are not good for the psyche of a child. The classic phrase “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is one they mention that really shows the outcome of such behaviors. I will admit, the praise for the good things is something I struggle with as a parent and just in general. It’s so much easier to notice the bad then it is the good.

These are just a few examples of things that stuck out from reading this book. I would highly recommend it as a light read for any parent (or anyone dealing with children honestly).

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production

Posted in Family, health, parenting, toddlers, Uncategorized

Toys Do Not Equal Happiness

I am a reformed hoarder. As a librarian I work in an industry of hoarders. My whole system of work is about recruiting items and storing history and information for the general public. But over the years, and many many many weedings later, I have really understood the power of quality over quantity.

So I applied this to my home life and have read a lot of great resources on the topic of minimalist living. More importantly, being a minimalist with children.

Part of being a minimalist is helping your children realize the importance of living without material items making you happy. This is easier said than done. Luckily we don’t have cable so my children do not see many commercials but when we go other places, advertisements are all over the television. And they look so cool! And fun! And every new toy I see I want to get for them because that will make them happy…and then I snap back into the real world and remember we have small house, a small budget, and no need for it.

 

The thing about it is you want to inspire your children to play more. That may sound a little counterproductive if you take their toys away but it really isn’t. You want to keep things that inspire them, make them use their imaginations, and for God sake go outside once in awhile. Me personally, when I weeded through my daughter’s room I kept her puzzles, books, play ponies, two baby dolls and clothes, and dress up items. Most of the other toys were donated. That is not to say she doesn’t have plenty of things to play with, even if they aren’t toys.

It can get tempting and I have read blogs where parents NEVER let their kids get toys or items. I think that is a wee bit extreme I am just very selective now of what comes into the house. So, here are some ideas for gifts and items for toddlers and kids that aren’t just toys.

 

Blankets and Sleeping Bags- My daughter could play with blankets for hours, and some days when we’re stuck inside she does. She plays camping, makes sheet forts, makes dresses, has play picnics, etc etc. Great thing about blankets is I have one space for them, so when she gets too many, I ask her which one she wants to get rid of.

Kitchen Tools- Whenever I update something in the kitchen I ask my daughter if she wants the old one for her play kitchen. So she has real measuring cups, mixing spoons, and a spatula to play with. This eliminates the need for so many toy items that are smaller and usually end up all over the living room.

Memberships- The intangible gifts probably won’t be appreciated right away by the little ones. However, when summer hits and they want to go to the pool at your YMCA or to your local Zoo (if they have a fee) then remind them about their gift they got from you (or grandparent or aunt Millie, whoever).

Gift Cards- another intangible. I think adding pictures of what the gift card is for will help them get excited. Make a handmade card with ice creams on it and a gift card for an ice cream date, or a movie date.

Lessons- Maybe a toddler won’t appreciate piano lessons, but an older child might. Maybe there’s a unique instrument that you have seen out or at the library or in a movie. Maybe your child likes to draw and wants to get better. Maybe they want to be a better swimmer.

Dress Up Clothes- Yes, these can start to get out of hand just like regular clothes or toys if you’re not careful. But the whole point of limiting toys and clutter is to promote your child’s imagination and creativity. I think that is exactly what dress up clothes can do! Just keep it to a few items. If they get something new, they have to get rid of something old.

Art Supplies- these go fast at my house, I don’t know about anywhere else. Markers run out, crayons get snapped in two, paper gets used, coloring books fill up within a few days. So art supplies are always a great way to go.

Bubbles- same as art supplies.

 

Some other articles I found helpful: 

 

Great article about living as a minimalist with kids and why to start it in the first place.

 

This mother has two posts about taking her children’s toys away and I love both of them.

 

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, Social Change, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

Early Literacy Starts with You!

 

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Finally! It’s ready for sale, on Amazon.com. Early Literacy Starts with You! is my eBook that 1) explains why early literacy education is so important. 2) Gives you a better idea of our education system today and why we need to he;p our students at home. 3) Tips and tricks to get your child interested and excited about reading and writing, no matter your schedule.

It’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited 🙂

 

Please share!