Posted in Education, Family, literature, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, reading, Social Change

New Release

So it’s been awhile since I’ve made any new posts. It’s not for lack of motivation or even inspiration, but I have finally been able to release my book about special needs parenting. I think a lot of my readers, from some of the messages and conversations we’ve had, can relate to many of the struggles my family’s had to tackle. Now that it is out and ready to be digested by the masses I will get back to regularly scheduled posting.

The book uses a mix of humor and mental health research to try and bring light to pediatric mental illness, which is greatly debated and even denied thanks to overdiagnosis and ignorance by some. If you give it a read please take a minute to leave a review. It would greatly help me out with future writing endeavours.

YOU’RE GOING TO BE FINE is available here in print or eBook.

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

Why so serious (mom and dads)?

It’s amazing how loud pots are when they are being beaten together by little hands. It’s amazing how mud seems that much more impossible to clean when your toddler comes inside caked in it. Craft supplies can seem daunting to get out because every craft requires a mess. Every water play activity requires mopping after. Every play bath requires at least one outfit change on your part.

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Having fun and playing with your kids can sometimes lose it’s spark. You can get more concerned with the aftermath than the actual play time. My daughter asked me the other day if we could make a craft, which she loves to do, and I said “no honey I just wiped off the kitchen table”.

Wait what? We can’t craft because I wiped off a table? What kind of logic is that?

Sometimes it’s hard to drop what you’re doing and say yes! Yes we can. Screw the laundry, who needs clean plates, my pants will wear another day…probably. For me it’s even harder to not dread the aftermath, as mentioned above. But kids don’t grow up and remember having a spotless home, they grow up remembering when you played super heroes together in the backyard. They remember trips to the ice cream shop and visits to the zoo. But you can’t live in a pig sty either. Cleaning and chores kind of have to happen. Sometimes you have to be the grown up and be serious. So how do you balance it all? I honestly don’t know.

I got called a Pinterest mom the other day and at first I was insulted just because I didn’t really know what the hell that meant. But then it was explained that I do things you see on Pinterest but never actually do with your kids. Then I was flattered but I felt a little like a cheat because there is plenty I don’t do, that I should. So, how do you become a not so serious, Pinterest, fun mom? Again, I don’t really know, but here’s the best advice I can gather for that question.

Step one: stop being so serious

My daughter is that special stage of life when she knows exactly what not to say, and that she has the ability to say it whenever she wants. That age when I feel like a 13 year old is trapped in my 4 year old’s body. That oh-so-magical age where I hear “we aren’t friends anymore, you’re mean” at least four or five times a week. We just had a long discussion about what a mortgage was the other day when she decided she was going to run away. More on that later.

I find, the best way to handle a little bit of sass, is to make fun of it. I make fun of how silly she sounds when she’s having an attitude. I put my hands on my hips and shake my head and say “does this look nice to you? or does this look like someone who is not going to get what they are asking for?” I exaggerate her movements and voice enough that usually, it causes laughter. Laughter leads to happiness and happiness leads to no more attitude. At least for the time being. This is not to say that I do that or think it you should look over blatantly bad or disrespectful behaviors. Just pick and choose your battles.

It’s the picture frame argument my husband and I have. When a kid draws on the wall you can a) freak out, b) quietly find a magic eraser and start erasing, or c) frame it. I choose to frame it.

Step two: have family time

This is the step I struggle with because this is the step I want more than anything else. As a working mom I really feel like I miss out on quality time with my kids, and even my husband. We all know that complaint, but it is a valid one. Sometimes family time is also errand time. Like grocery shopping or running into town for a certain bill that needs to be paid. I try to turn these moments into family time. My daughter and I go to the farmer’s market at least twice a month together to get our produce in the spring and summer. It’s always fun to walk around and see the flowers and pick out a special treat for later.

Image result for kids at the farmers market

It’s important to make the distinction between quality time and quantity of time. Just because you might be with your kids all week if you stay home, doesn’t mean you were actually with your kids all week. You probably plopped in a movie or two or maybe three. You probably found some coloring books or crayons and pushed them into a corner somewhere. You did chores, you worked, you prepped dinner, you did things you have to do on a daily basis, which means it probably wasn’t quality time. Not saying there’s anyway around that, just make the mental note that ‘yes, I with baby girl today but we only played together for twenty minutes after lunch’. Then you can try to fit in my quality time at the end of the day or the next day.

Step three: Us Toys

Not Toys-R-Us, Us Toys have saved my relationship with my daughter in a lot of ways. Without going into her anxiety and other issues, the book Growing Up Brave is a great read for any parent that is struggling with a child with emotional problems. It is geared for anxiety but I think a lot of the tips and ideas mentioned would work for a variety of disorders.

Anyhoo, one of the things I took away from that book is “Child Led Play”. For ten minutes, everyday, you play with your child but you let them lead the playtime. Now this may sound easy and like something you already do, but I assure you if you really start listening to yourself while you’re playing, you will hear a person you didn’t know was there. During your child led play it’s good to have a box or bag filled with stuff just you two play with. Ours was a mermaid dress up game, two Barbies, a sticker book craft, and some art supplies to start. Now we usually just do a craft together because her father isn’t very “artsy” and that’s our special thing to do. They do puzzles or blocks. So you get it, you have something that’s just for you two, you pick a place where you won’t be bothered by the other parent, siblings, phone calls, anything.

Completely uninterrupted playtime that they lead. Don’t interrupt them, don’t correct them, don’t even give them ideas to a certain extent. It’s their party for ten to fifteen minutes. Try it for a month and I’d be surprised to find someone it doesn’t help your bond with your kid.

Posted in Family, Mother's Day, parenting, Social Change, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

“Oh Fudge”…only she didn’t say fudge

oh fudge

My daughter is…spirited. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, she’s spirited to the point I sometimes wonder just how she doesn’t explode violently from all the energy flowing in such a small little body. Spirited, anxious, defiant, silly, hyper, restless, intelligent, on and on. All of these things I have known for awhile and I have always (for the most part) watched my mouth around little miss spirit because she is a parrot like no other. So, it was a great surprise when we were getting ready for school one morning and I say;

“Hey Geegee, what are you doing?”

*she’s around the corner so I can only half see her

“Putting my f*****g boots on.”

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“Um, you’re what?”

“Um, putting my f*****g boots on?”

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Yes, it was almost cute but it was more horrifying. Seeing that pretty little face scrunch up and say the dirtiest of dirties right to my face!

Well naturally I was totally calm and cool about it.

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But after, I tried to recap and figure out how to end this cycle of bad language.

To be clear- this is not the first curse word my angel has uttered nor am I that delusional that it will be the last. However, I do think there’s plenty of little tips to keep you from becoming the parent of an Italian mobster.

Ignore it

This was the first advice I was ever given. My daughter’s first word of choice is the “s” word. And she uses it correctly. If she drops something she’ll go “oh s***”. Of course I told her no the first few times, then I tried ignoring it like was recommended. However, in our case when I ignored her she just repeated it, and repeated it, and got closer to me and said it again. How can you can you just not discipline that?

I do agree however, that exploding, or going overboard over something as simple as boundary and language testing (because to me that’s all it is) is a little much and probably doing the opposite of what you want. Letting the child know, “I heard what you said, I don’t like it, and I will now be ignoring you until you apologize or find a better word to use”, has been MUCH more helpful. So now it usually goes;

“Oh s***.”

“I don’t like that language, please say something else.”

“Oh my gravy?”

“Perfect.”

Monitor Language Learned

As I mentioned in World War Mommy, I’m not all about helicopter parenting. Kids are going to hear things and see things that you wish they wouldn’t. I don’t think hiding it is the right way to go. On the same note I don’t think Game of Thrones is a family night show either (sorry GOT, love you dearly). One study I read showed that despite our efforts, “between the ages of one and two, Dr. Jay found boys knew an average of six taboo words, and girls eight.”

There’s a limit to the amount of exposure you should agree is okay. Keeping really violent and seedy things off of the tv and tablets is a great start. Listen to what your child is saying too, a lot of times I hear a certain a child’s name associated with a new choice word. I haven’t had to talk to that child’s parent or anything yet but at least I know there’s an accomplice.oh fudge 2

Encourage Clean Humor

I think majority of kids think they are funny. Not all of them are, the little dears, but they try. A lot of language play is an attempt at humor to make you laugh and pay attention to them. Instead of blowing up over a dirty word, encourage some clean jokes. “Guess what, chicken butt” is one in particular I hear daily.

Anger vs Angry

My daughter struggles with her anger, as do a lot of young children. It’s an intense emotion for anyone. We are learning that it’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to release anger. The difference being how you actually respond to those emotions.

We are now learning how to walk away from an anger evoking situation. When I tell her we can’t watch something because it’s too late or we can’t go outside I’m about to feed her brother, she is learning to walk away (usually to her room or playroom) and start to read or do something to take her mind off of it. After having a small fit of course. The fit is good though as long as she’s releasing her frustration safely.

Learning how to verbally express feelings will diminish the need for foul language in an aggressive way.

Check Yo Self

Don’t curse in front of your kids! I figured that’s a given but after some of the instances I’ve seen, it’s definitely not. I’m not going to say it hasn’t slipped out, it’s just bound to happen at some point. If your child calls you out on it (I think most will) then scorn yourself, don’t give them the old ‘I’m the grown up I’m allowed’ routine. Kids are smarter than that.

I have had to fess up and say “you are right, mommy should not have said that. What I should have said is “why is this lovely gentleman in front of us on the highway going so slow, I’m sure he has good reason”.”

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Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, teaching, Uncategorized

Calm Down Box

I have mentioned explosive behaviors once or twice in past posts, and have written about anger in toddlers before, but I also wanted to offer a solution to these breakdowns.

As I mentioned in a past post about discipline, time-outs did not work for us for our daughter. However, the concept behind a time-out (stepping away from your actions and taking a moment to consider them) can be done in a better way. We have a calm down box.

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Before starting it, make sure to explain that it isn’t necessarily a punishment, it’s just to help get your child back to neutral. We are working on walking away from anger stimulants (ie someone being mean at school) so my daughter can learn to calm herself as oppose to punching the other kid in the throat (yeah…). I know the anti-punishment movement can seem hippy-dippy to some parents, and I’m not saying certain behaviors don’t require discipline (ie punching the other kid in the throat). The calm down box is simply a way to teach your child how to soothe themselves enough to come back to center before moving on to the next thing.

This has been one of the biggest life savers as far as parenting goes for us. Now that my daughter is 3 and is starting to be able to verbally explain her feelings and emotions better, she realizes that the calm down box is helping her. I have a basic plastic storage box and I rotate the items inside, except for a few standard pieces. Below are some options of things to put in your own calm down box.

Ooooh, the bubbles…

These are still mesmerizing to me, even as an adult. We use one as out calm down timer basically. The sound of a ticking timer can be a little less than calming, so instead we have one of these that I flip over. I tell her she has to play with her calm down box until all the bubbles have fallen. Usually after a few moments of watching them she’s so engrossed in something else she forgets that it’s there. These have also helped with not being able to go to sleep at night occasionally.

 

Stress balls are not just for the office. Kids can benefit from them too. The brighter and the more squishy, I think the better.

 

 

Water snakes are a great sensory toy, as long as they don’t break. I guess it depends on just how mad your kid is at the time…

 

 

I may be the only person the world who still uses CDs more frequently than iPods or MP3 players. For my daughter, the process of finding a CD or Audio Book is kind of part of the calming process. She picks what she wants, puts it in the player, and listens. It’s simple and effective.

 

 

Sometimes the CD player isn’t enough and headphones are required to really help her escape. I think that’s easy to relate to.

 

 

 

 

Music is needed sometimes, but I think audio books are also great to help kids learn how to calm themselves down. They have to focus on what book they want and then really listen to the words that are being spoken.

 

 

Touch and feel books are usually for babies and toddlers under two, with some exceptions. However, if your child is playing alone or learning how to soothe themselves a touch and feel book can be very helpful. The act of “reading” along with the physical processes of touching certain materials, can be very soothing.

 

 

Same token, books like Journey are great because without words the child isn’t intimidated to “read” alone. They just look at the pictures and make up their own story.

 

 

 

 

There are many sites out there with recipes and instructions on how to make your own calm down bottles. They can be a great addition to any calm down box.

 

 

 

 

Some other items that help with restlessness and not being able to sit still can also be useful in a calm down box. If you have tried other things that have worked mention them below!

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, toddlers, Uncategorized

Little Bits of Anger

Newly published article at Hip Mama magazine:

 

Pouting toddler with wet hair in the bathroom

“Little Bits of Anger”

I think a lot of parents will be able to relate to this experience. I decided to write about it a long time after it happened. I feel like if I would have tried to write it immediately after our highlighted argument the perspective would have been much different. I hope maybe our experience can help you with yours.

 

Posted in Education, Family, health, Opinion, parenting, teaching, toddlers

Behavior Saviors

I read a book about dealing with toddlers recently called Shit No One Tells You

It is a good read but what stuck with me the most is a line in the very beginning. I tried looking up the exact wording but it was basically something like: “I realize I suck at parenting and I’m not used to sucking at things.” *brain explodes*

It was a moment of realization: I have, literally, no idea what I’m doing, at any time when dealing with my daughter. Whatever issue we are facing at the present moment, it is the first time we have faced it with her at that exact age and me in whatever state I’m in. Each day is different and new, which in some ways is exciting and others it’s freaking exhausting.

We have had some issues with my angel’s behavior and it has taken quite the toll on our little family. As much as I blog about parenting and educating your kids at home, I don’t want it to seem that I don’t understand there are things other than reading everyday. When my daughter is throwing things at us and screaming “go away”, trying to get her to read Wocket in My Pocket seems a little unimportant at that moment.

After reading dozens of articles and books, and doing trial and error, I would like to share the few things that work at my house. I say it this way because it does bother me that “parenting” articles (a lot of the time) seem to be “here, this is the way to do and that’s that,” when obviously every kid is different. Some of the tactics just do not work with our little one but hey, the things that I swear by might not work for you either. Remember, we all suck at this.

1.Talking

Stupidest. Advice. Ever. At least I thought that when I read it for the thousandth time. Talking? Really? She just spit on her father and is now kicking a hole in the wall and you want me to talk to that right now? Well yes and no.

I started thinking about it and she is a little person. A two and a half year old with real people feelings and emotions and no where near the experience of expressing them as we have. It’s actually incredible she functions at all. If I couldn’t cuss people under my breath I don’t know how I would make it through the day.

Talking is actually the best thing I have found to do. You have to have patience (which I am working on with her) and you have to be able to read timing. While the fits are happening (some people seem to think you shouldn’t label them fits so if that offends please call them something else like not-so-happy-times) is not the time to talk. That is when your child needs to express their anger, rage, frustrations, and just plain disdain for their little world. They need to cry and scream. So put them by themselves (where you can still hear them, not out in the shed) and tell them you will wait until they are done. My daughter has actually gotten to where she will put herself in time out basically when she needs to cry. It’s amazing. Yes, she’s still crying and upset but only for a short period and she’s recognizing that she needs to deal with those feelings.

When she is done and gets distracted by (insert anything shiny or moving here) then I bring her out and we TALK. We talk, just like normal people but with funny wording. “So, do you know why you were crying?” “Cause, cause I was sad.” “Why were you sad?” “Cause you were mean to me.” “Why?” “Cause you told me no.” “I did, you’re right. You know why? Reese’s Pieces aren’t good to eat for dinner. We need to eat something else first and then you can a piece okay?”

Yes this is a verbatim example.

2. Acceptance

One of the hardest things to have to do when dealing with a child who is having behavior issues is accepting that your child is having behavior issues. It’s hard to hear from a daycare teacher, or from their school, that your kid is beating up other kids or kicking their teacher or burning down the play area (hopefully it’s not the later). It’s probably even harder to witness these problems first hand. Having to yell the words “No, you do not put the kitty in the washing machine” isn’t really the part of parenting you were looking forward to I’m sure. But once you come to terms with the fact that you need to help, you are much better off.

 

<— Don’t be this

 

 

We aren’t doing our child or ourselves any favors by acting like everything is hunky dory when it isn’t. But when do you cross that line between “oh he/she is just a kid” to “okay maybe that is worrisome”? That was something I struggled with for a long time.

After a tough infancy and being used to a very independent (aka stubborn) toddler, I didn’t think behavior/emotional issues were too big of a problem. Until, I started getting the talk from daycare. Once or twice is one thing, but when your child is acting up daily there may be a concern. It started to spill over into bedtime routine as well and I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. I missed my girl. I didn’t know who this screaming little banshee was but she needed to let me daughter come out and play once in awhile.

I looked at our life situation, there are a lot of changes going on for a little one to process. New room, new bed, new daycare, mommy working full time, mommy pregnant, ect ect. It’s just a lot all around. I analyzed her daycare. It’s a very loud and small indoor area (which for her is not good). She needs quiet in order to focus or nap so needless to say she doesn’t nap during the day now. In their defense, the outdoor area is amazing and I know she loves that part of it. I analyzed myself and her father. We both have some work to do in the emotional department! No wonder this poor kid needs help. Accepting is not the easiest part, it may in fact be the hardest. But once I came to that point, it has changed everything.

She is still in the same daycare but the way I’ve approach bedtime has changed. We have started to do everything early, acknowledging she isn’t napping during the day. I also make sure we talk about any feelings she had during to find out some triggers. I have looked at other daycare options as well but for now that isn’t a possibility for me. If you are struggle with your child at daycare then sometimes it’s as simple as they aren’t gelling with their current place. This isn’t to say anything is even wrong with the daycare necessarily, it’s just not a match for whatever reason.

3. Rewards

Again, some people and professionals are against this now. Behavior charts were all the rage, and some parents still swear by them. In schools, most classrooms in elementary still do something along these lines whether it be an actual chart or some sort of points system for good behavior. One class I know had each child create a flower. Whenever they went above and beyond they got to color in a petal. It’s basically rewarding the good and not necessarily punishing the bad.

Okay, I dig it I guess, until it gets to “Okay so we only had two spits, one punch, and one black eye I guess that’s a good day! Here’s a Twinkie.” No. Stop doing that please.

This is something new that I am trying and I will say it’s not always the best or most feasible approach. I don’t think just giving to the fits is the way to go. Yes, the screaming will stop for the time being but your child isn’t learning to cope with the words “no”, “not right now”, or “stop” when you just cave. However, if you can get them calm and talk and show them that good behavior and having patience leads to good things I think that is something that sticks with them. On the flip side, I have read that some parents think this is installing in your child to expect things just for behaving the way are supposed to and it isn’t actually teaching them to make good choices. Just one area I guess I disagree.

Something I am trying for the holiday season is a good behavior tree. A friend of mine bought a little cardboard Christmas tree. My daughter is obsessed with stickers and making a mess so I know she’s going to be all over this thing. My plan of attack is, for the days she comes home from daycare and has been behaving she gets to put some decorations on it. The days she gets in trouble, she can’t. We have done similar things the past few weeks regarding movie time, snacks, ect and it’s really hit and miss. With their not be a consistent prize for good behavior I feel like maybe I need to limit what the reward actually is. This is a work in progress for me so we’ll see how it goes.

(For older kids- tweens and teens check out this post)

4. Quality Time

This is also one that seems like a no brainer. You see your kids every day of life for the most part how much more time do you need to give?

The biggest difference I have seen in my daughter’s behavior came after I took the time to take her on some “dates” as we call them. Again, going from working part time and being with her the rest of the time to working full time has been hard on both of us. Now our dates can be as simple as going to the store and actually playing with things or looking at decorations to getting food together to going to the park. The important thing is that I don’t have an agenda when we do something. We just go with the flow. This is not “I’m running errands and want you to behave so I’m calling it a date” it’s spending time with your toddler.

Feel free to post below anything you have tried and succeeded with your children (or failed miserably there’s no judging here). We all suck at this.