Because Childhood Summers are Limited (50 Bucket List Ideas)

Friday, June 23, 2017 No comments


The hot day stretched out before me. I had absolutely nothing on the agenda. The calendar box was blank as all of them were. I sat on my daybed writing poetry, aspiring to be a writer someday. When I ran out of words, I began to draw. Horses, unicorns, and rainbows filled the sheets. I've never had much artistic talent, but I wasn't aiming for an award. I was filling my days with the things I enjoyed.

Outside, the sun had been beating down. My bike seat was hot, but it didn't deter me. I rode back and forth, basket bouncing and fringes flying from the handlebars. The 80's summers were unhindered by the constant rings and dings of today's always-online world. It felt slower. Longer. More intentional. 

I recently wrote a post detailing how I felt about the 9 summers I have left before my children are both adults. I am not claiming to be giving my children an 80's summer. In fact, as I write this, one of my children is playing XBox. The other has been on the iPad watching YouTube earlier today. It seems there is no escaping the draw of the screens entirely, but in our dining room is a poster board bucket list filled with experiences that we intend to make into summer memories. In the spirit of the bucket list, here are 50 slow, intentional experiences you can choose from to add to your summer days and nights.

1. Make a bonfire and tell stories.
2. Watch a meteor shower. (The Perseid meteor shower is August 12, 2017)
3. Go to an outdoor movie theater.
4. Blow bubbles and chase them.
5. Pick dandelions and make lots of wishes.
6. Play with water balloons!
7. Run through a sprinkler.
8. Go to an outdoor concert and dance.
9. Spend the day fishing or relaxing by the lake. 
10. Have a sleepover with friends.
11. Stay up late watching a movie marathon. 
12. Create art with sidewalk chalk.
13. Explore local hiking trails.
14. Visit a water park.
15. Watch a fireworks show!
16. Have a barbecue.
17. Make S'mores.
18. Listen to an audio book together.
19. Explore a museum.
20. Make your own slip and slide.
21.Watch a sunset.
22. Wade in a creek.
23. Go berry picking.
24. Camp out in your backyard.
25. Read under a tree.
26. Ride bikes together.
28. Catch fireflies,
29. Play a game of Chess.
30. Take a road trip.
31. Make homemade ice cream
32. Fill out a journal together.
33. Stomp in puddles.
34. Dance in the rain.
35. Watch a sunrise.
36. Take a nature walk.
37. Start a rock collection.
39. Pick a wildflower bouquet.
40. Run your own lemonade stand.
41. Gather up unused and unwanted toys and have a yard sale.
42. Visit your local animal shelter and give them some love.
43. Eat a snow cone.
44. Go to a festival, parade, or carnival.
45. Float down a lazy river.
46. Go swimming.
47. Write poetry.
48. Gaze at the clouds.
49. Create a summer scrapbook.
50. Build a fort.

Great Summer Vacation Ideas

Summer is here, and it is awesome! So far, our family has just taken day trips to our local water park, but I’m excited for the months to come. Unfortunately, though, we haven’t planned any major trips. This won’t be a tropical trip summer, and the ocean isn’t making waves for us anytime soon. However, I have a few tricks up my sleeve for keeping the fun alive and the kiddos entertained.
If you’re still not sure what to plan for the next few months, relax…you have time. Some of the best family memories are made during spur-of-the-moment road trips or day ventures. We drove to Florida last summer, and, even though it was last-minute (and, unfortunately, influenced by a family emergency), we still made the trip memorable for our kids.
Summer vacation is what you make of it. Sure planned-out family vacations are great, but, sometimes, you just have to live and be a bit carefree. Take life by the seat of your pants! Life is a fun adventure, and, maybe that’s why I love summer so much. The warm weather beckons you to get out and explore.
This summer, create family memories with a few unusual travels, trips and explorations. Here are some unique destinations to venture with the kids:
Bonneville Salt Flats (Utah)

Salt? Yes, salt! Unusual, but amazing. The Bonneville Salt Flats are next to…Great Salt Lake! You can camp in areas nearby (not on the flats, though). Beware, temps can be desert-like (try 100 degrees in the summer). Kids will enjoy exploring this unique area and seeing the Great Salt Lake. Just make sure you wear sunglasses with UV protection on the flats; the sun can reflect off the crystals seem incredibly bright to the eyes....some refer to this as “salt blindness!” Give your retinas a break, and protect those eyes on the salt, please!

History lovers or those with a spooktacular sense of vacation can check out Salem, Mass.—the site of the infamous witch hunts! Salem is now a fairly popular little destination, and there are many areas that capitalize on the notoriety of the city’s past. If you’re up for history lessons and a little bit of fright, take a Bewitching tour of the city or a candlight ghost tour. There are also numerous magic shops that sell herbs, candles, spells and other enchanting delights.
Hershey, Pennsylvania

A chocolate-lover’s dream! Head to the headquarters of Hershey’s Chocolate! Hershey’s Chocolate World offers tours for kids to watch how chocolate is made. Guests may even taste-test chocolate and make their own chocolate bars. Hershey, Penn. also is home to Hersheypark—a sweet-themed amusement park! The city offers numerous places to stay and lots of sweet diversions for the family!
State Landmarks
For families who are looking to stay near home, check out your state’s historic sites. Take kids on a history tour of the state by stopping at important landmarks. Or travel to the state capital to give kids a look at their local branch of government. Families may even choose to include the more off-the-wall roadside attractions of their state. Collinsville, Illinois has the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle!
Throw a Dart
 ‘Throw a Dart’ isn’t a destination…but it is a surefire way to find one. Ready for an insane method to choose your next travel destinations? Tack a map of the United States (or just your state) and throw a dart at the map. Where it lands is where you’ll go! The dart decides…and there are no second throws. The point of the dart game is to go where you might never venture. Just hope you don’t land in the ocean!
Summer is adventure! If you haven’t selected a summer vacation hot spot, find someplace out of the ordinary this year. Kids will enjoy the mystery and excitement of a new destination, and a crazy unusual vacation means that they will have some equally crazy stories to tell their friends!



Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. 




Children Need a Safe Place to Feel Bad

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 No comments


I don’t think I’m alone in this – I hate when my children feel bad. I don’t want them to have to feel sadness or loneliness, grief or pain. I wish they were in a permanent bubble of joy, and no bad feelings could touch them. When they come home from school feeling sad because they were rejected or when they feel angry because something didn’t go as they’d hoped or planned, my initial reaction is to make it better. Then come the questions I desperately want to ask. “Why did he not let you play?” “What did you do?” “Why did the teacher say that?” “What did your brother do to you?” I’ve learned to breathe through those initial reactions (most of the time) because in my 11 years of parenting, I’ve learned that they don’t need 20 questions nor do they necessarily need me to fix it. What my kids really need is a safe place to feel bad.

That’s hard, isn’t it? Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable when they feel bad. Their sadness becomes my sadness; their pain is my pain. That’s par for the course in parenting, but allowing them space to feel all their feelings, even the rough, prickly ones, is a tremendous gift. Let’s look at parents’ typical responses to negative feelings:

1. The Dismiss – “Oh, cheer up. It can’t be that bad.” “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” “If that’s your biggest problem, you’re pretty lucky.” We just want them to learn some perspective, right? A broken toy isn’t the end of the world. Kid problems seem really small in comparison to our adult problems, but to our kids, kid problems are the only problems they know, and they feel just as big to them as our adult problems feel to us. In fact, how they learn to handle the kid problems now will have a big impact on their overall happiness and success in life. When we dismiss their feelings, they either learn not to trust their own emotions (Why does this bother me so much if it’s not a big deal? What’s wrong with me?) or they may feel like we just don’t truly care about their emotional world or that don’t “get them,” and that harms our relationships.


Try this: Instead of “it can’t be that bad,” try telling your child about a time you experienced something similar and how you felt at the time. Feeling like their parents understand and empathize with them helps them feel closer to us, and connection is important in guarding against depression and addiction.

2. The Fixer. “I’m sorry Zack hurt your feelings. I’ll call his mother and talk to her about it.” “I can’t believe you got a C on this. I can see why you’re mad! You worked so hard. I’m going to see your teacher.” “I know you’re sad that your cat died. We’ll go get you another cat.” It feels like we are doing right by them, stepping up to fix the problem, but it isn’t always the appropriate response. Sometimes we can fix it, but sometimes they need to fix it themselves, or just accept that sometimes, things are bad for a while. That’s life. We’ve all heard the stories of parents still coming to college to intervene, and if we don’t step back and let kids deal with the tough stuff sometimes, that might end up being us! A deeper problem with being “the fixer” is that kids learn that bad feelings are, well bad and need to be avoided at all costs. They become extremely uncomfortable when things don’t go their way and may always be looking for a fix, which could lead to dangerous territory. Kids need to know that bad feelings are normal too. Emotionally intelligent children learn how to feel their anger or sadness and move through it without letting it become destructive.

Try this: “I’m sorry you’re feeling bad. Would you like a hug?” One of the toughest but most mature things we can do as parents is to learn to hold space for our children through tough emotions and not become engulfed in them ourselves. This is especially true with anger as it often evokes our own anger that we have to breathe through. We have to be the steady captain when the waters get choppy so that our children feel safe with us. When we sit with them through their bad feelings instead of rushing to fix everything, they learn that bad feelings are temporary anyway, and that’s a really important lesson.

3. The Isolator. ...Continue reading at Creative Child Magazine

Pamper Your Children the Right Way

Thursday, May 25, 2017 No comments
Guest post by Amy Williams

****

Being a parent requires a tough and constant balance between disciplining your children enough and pampering them the way they need in order to feel loved, confident, and secure. It goes without saying that in a world where it’s easy to spoil your children rotten, maintaining that balance is difficult to do. We are here to help decipher the best ways to pamper your children without going overboard. Keep reading to learn more.

Pamper them the right way!

You don’t need to go crazy to make your kids feel loved and adored. Here are some simple, everyday ways to make them feel extra special:

Read with them every night - most times, what our kids crave most is our time and attention. And amidst the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day, it can certainly be difficult to carve out that time. However, creating a nightly routine that includes reading together - whether that be a couple favorite picture books or a chapter each night from a longer story - guarantees some togetherness time where you focus your attention solely on your kiddo. Plus, encouraging your kids to read has a myriad of other benefits, which is a huge plus!


Take them for ‘happy hour’ - this may not be the type of happy hour you’re accustomed to, but it’s kid friendly and bound to show your little one how much you love them! Take them for a milkshake one night and spend the time chatting and catching up. Your child will love the one-on-one attention as well as the delicious drink!

Take trips down memory lane - keep a photo album or scrapbook of special memories throughout your child’s life and them relive them together! They will love hearing stories about themselves and it’s always fun to look through old pictures. This is a great way to make them feel important and very, very loved.

Treat them to something sweet - subscribe to a monthly treat to show your love and affection. This can be something they are permitted to indulge in for dessert a couple times each week or as a reward, and the best part is that it’ll be automatically restocked for you each month. Talk about convenient!


How to make sure you’re not spoiling them

Every parent worries that their kids are becoming spoiled. Here are a few tips to help you maintain a healthy balance:

Give them an allowance - providing your child with a weekly or monthly allowance and holding them accountable to doing their chores to actually earn that pay will teach them the value of a dollar. This is a tough one to keep up with, but is definitely a habit that will deter children from becoming spoiled.

Set limits and don’t give in - be firm in the limits you set with your children, whether they be surrounding monetary limits, time designated for playtime, or anything in between. Showing your children that you are in control and that you are the one to set boundaries is a meaningful way to work against them feeling entitled.

Teach them gratitude - teaching your child to always say “thank you” and to truly be thankful for all that they have is a great way to ensure that they appreciate everything in their life. Keep them humble by instilling manners from an early age.


While it’s a tough line to straddle, pampering children and ensuring they do not become spoiled is indeed feasible. Follow the tips above to ensure that you’re raising grateful, well disciplined, and happy children!



Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. 



Bedwetting is Not Behavioral: A Doctor Explains

Thursday, May 18, 2017 No comments


By Steve Hodges, M.D.

When a child develops type 1 diabetes or a urinary tract infection, nobody says the child is “lazy” or has anxiety or is “seeking attention.” Nobody sends the child to a therapist.
Yet when a child well past potty-training age has daytime accidents or wets the bed — conditions also outside a child’s control — adults often assume the root cause is psychological.
I hear this daily. Parents will tell me, “He’s too lazy to get up in the night” or “I think it’s because he’s being bullied.” A school will issue an ultimatum to one of my patients: See a behavioral therapist or find a new school. A parenting expert will write that accidents are “a reaction to heartache.” A child will quit soccer because his coach thinks his constant toilet trips are an excuse to avoid practicing.
Just last week a bedwetting teenager emailed me: “I cannot feel any urine going out, but I wake up wet every day. My mom thinks I'm stubborn and I don't want to wake up at night.”
I’d like to set the record straight: Bedwetting and daytime accidents are almost always caused by chronic constipation — not behavioral or psychological issues (and not “deep sleep,” an “underdeveloped bladder,” or “hormonal imbalance,” the other common explanations I debunk in It’s No Accident).
When children delay pooping, as they often do, stool piles up in the rectum, forming a large, hard mass. I mean, large! On X-rays I routinely see stool the size of a softball. The mass may stretch the rectum to triple its diameter — I take measurements. The stretched rectum presses on and aggravates the bladder, which in turn hiccups without warning, before the child can wake up or sprint to the toilet.


Eventually, the stretched rectum may also lose tone and sensation, becoming floppy like a stretched-out sock. The child can’t feel the urge to poop, and stool just drops out, sometimes on the floor of the school gym.


No amount of behavioral therapy will change these facts.
 
Medicine has advanced in so many ways over the last half century, but in my specialty — bedwetting and accidents — we’re stuck in the dark ages.
The constipation-bedwetting link was first documented back in the 1980s, in a series of studies by pediatric kidney specialist Sean O’Regan, M.D., practicing at Hôpital Sainte-Justine in Montreal.
At the time, bedwetting children were blamed by their parents and shrugged off by their doctors. “These kids were told that it was all in their heads, that they were psychologically disturbed,” Dr. O’Regan told me.
Dr. O’Regan, searching to explain his own son’s bedwetting, knew that was not the case. Ultimately he tested several hundred children with a procedure called anal manometry, whereby a balloon is inserted into the child’s anus and inflated.
A child with normal rectal tone will notice a balloon inflated with just 5 to 10 ml of air, whereas a constipated child might not even detect the balloon until it’s inflated with 40 ml of air. Dr. O'Regan's bedwetting patients could withstand an astonishing 80 to 110 milliliters of air without discomfort.


Dr. O’Regan’s studies also showed that when his patients’ rectums were cleared out with daily enemas, the accidents resolved. My own published research shows the same thing.


And yet, psychological explanations for bedwetting and accidents persist — not just among parents and school administrators but also among many in the medical community.


Many of my patients have been referred to behavioral therapists by their own pediatricians. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) states, “Enuresis [bedwetting] can be triggered by separation from a parent, the birth of a sibling or family conflict.”


The evidence? The DSM-V cites exactly one study, published in an Indian medical journal, which itself cites no evidence.


A number of studies claim to have found a link between “difficult temperament,” “behaviour problems in early childhood” and bedwetting, but almost none of them considered whether the children were constipated. The omission alone renders these studies useless. And even the rare studies that have considered (and dismissed) constipation as a cause are of no value because their methods of detecting constipation are highly unreliable.


How do they check children for constipation? They have parents fill out a questionnaire asking whether their children a) poop fewer than three times a week and b) strain to poop.


I cannot emphasize how unhelpful these questions are. First of all, pooping frequency is a poor gauge of constipation. MANY chronically constipated children poop every day — even two or three times a day — because they never fully empty. Though these kids appear to be "regular," X-rays prove their rectums are chock full of poop.


Second, how many parents know whether their school-age kids are "straining" to poop? I don't know many moms who hang out in the bathroom while their 5th graders have a bowel movement. I was severely constipated throughout childhood and strained plenty to poop. I never mentioned this to my parents.


Dr. O’Regan conducted anal manometry on his patients because he knew parent reports were unreliable. I X-ray my patients for the same reason. Well over 90% of my bedwetting patients prove to be severely constipated, yet only about 5% of the parents had any idea.


Most of their pediatricians missed the constipation because they did nothing more than ask the parents how often the child poops and feel the child’s belly. But even small, wiry children can harbor massive amounts of poop in their rectum without anyone noticing.


To some extent, I can understand why adults seek psychological explanations for accidents. It’s just hard to believe a perfectly healthy 8-year-old could poop in his pants and not notice. Or that a 10th grader could fail to outgrow bedwetting, like most of his friends, or suddenly start wetting the bed.


But when you perform the right tests and ask the right questions, you can see why.


When I have a patient with "secondary enuresis" (bedwetting that starts after a long period of dryness), I don't assume the bedwetting actually came out of the blue. And I don't simply ask how often the child poops. In addition to doing an X-ray, I ask more relevant questions, such as whether the child has any history of daytime urgency, or frequency or extra-large poops, and whether the child has recently been in an environment, such as school, where he or she won't use the bathroom.


In talking with these families, I usually find the child has shown signs of constipation over the years — signs that went unrecognized — and that some relatively recent event has caused the child to use the bathroom less often.


A typical scenario: A kindergartener suddenly starts wetting the bed or having accidents after being dry since age 2 or 3. The parents attribute the accidents to the “stress” of starting a new school. In reality, the child was too intimidated to use the school bathroom (or was restricted by school rules) and started withholding pee and poop.


Something similar often happens in high school, because students encounter stricter bathroom policies, are grossed out by bathroom conditions, or fear being bullied in the bathroom. Many of my patients never use the restroom between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. In kids with a history of moderate constipation, that change is enough to trigger bedwetting.


Of course, I always rule out medical causes for bedwetting, such as an anatomic or neurological condition or diabetes. On very rare occasions, the cause turns out to be something other than constipation.
But virtually all the time, constipation is the culprit, and aggressively treating the rectal clog resolves the accidents. They key is to keep the rectum clear on a daily basis so it has time to shrink back to size and stop bothering the bladder. A one-time clean-out will not do the trick.


While it is clear that stress and behavioral issues do not cause bedwetting, it’s also clear that bedwetting can cause children tremendous stress. These kids get teased by peers and blamed and shamed by adults. They avoid sleepovers and camping trips and feel crummy about themselves. They sit in my office and hang their hands.


But when they get properly treated and their accidents resolve, their entire demeanor changes. They brighten up, become more social, regain their confidence, and start participating in activities they’d avoided for years.

About the Author
Steve Hodges, M.D., is an associate professor of pediatric urology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and co-author, with Suzanne Schlosberg, of Bedwetting and Accidents Aren’t Your Fault, Jane and the Giant Poop, It’s No Accident, and The M.O.P. Book. http://bedwettingandaccidents.com/ 



How to Explain Cyberbullying to Young Kids

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 No comments


Today, it is believed that 87 percent of teens have encountered cyberbullying in some form. This number is up dramatically from just a few years ago, when only 27 percent of our kids acknowledged witnessing these cruel online behaviors. That means that all of our school assemblies, news programs, and campaigns to delete cyberbullying aren’t working and the rates have now tripled!

This is disheartening, because we often hear about cyberbullying and the impact it is having on tweens and teenagers. Victims of cyberbullying often experience depression, loneliness, anxiety, and thoughts of self harm. If those effects aren’t frightening enough, kids who are cyberbullied tend to remove themselves from their friends and favorite activities while their grades often decline.

To make matters worse, cyberbullying happens in a variety of ways and is always changing with new technologies. Regardless of how the cyberbullying takes place, this is a dangerous threat facing all of our sons and daughters as they grow. However, there is hope. Childhood is the perfect time to begin dealing with cyberbullying so we can stop it from occurring or spiraling out of control before it even begins.

Building Empathy Early to Prevent Bullying Later

One of the best ways we can combat cyberbullying is to help our small kids develop empathy. We need to help our sons and daughters understand what other people feel or more importantly, how they would feel if they were in the same situation. Thankfully, empathy is a learned trait that can be taught.

We can teach our boys and girls how to “walk in another person’s shoes” and develop this skill as they grow. This is good news, because research shows that children who are empathetic tend to perform better in school, social groups, and even as adults in the workforce. Small kids learn this skill at different rates, because we all know a 3 year old won’t be able to understand the power of words like a 6 year old.

Trying to describe or explain cyberbullying to small children can be difficult, because typically young kids are very concrete, literal thinkers. As a child ages, they will develop abstract thinking skills so they can comprehend objects, principles, morals, and ideas that aren’t actually present or visible. However, this higher level of comprehension typically doesn’t develop until between the ages of 11 and 16.




Explaining Cyberbullying to Small Children

We can help small children build on their natural empathy to comprehend the true scope of cyberbullying and overcome their lack of abstract thinking by implementing the following suggestions:

     Lead by example by modeling kindness and respect. Avoid name calling, yelling obscenities, and being respectful when you talk about others.
     Clearly define bullying and empower them with coping skills in case they encounter these behaviors in real life or online. Let them know they should seek an adult, avoid arguing, and stand up for themselves safely.
     Keep the definition simple for young children. They will not comprehend the true scope of cyberbullying until they get older and too much information can confuse them or lead to some very grown up discussions a child isn’t prepared to handle. However, they can understand how someone feels if they are getting picked on or called names.
     Start early when it comes to discussing bullying and gradually build on this basic foundation as a child ages. Make sure to include cyberbullying when a child begins using technology.
     Use stories and movies to help children process the topic of bullying and show how words can hurt.
     Role play scenarios that involve bullying and teach one or two methods to diffuse the situation. You don’t have to go out of your way, just bring it up while playing dolls or Legos and use playtime to build empathy.
     Communicate, communicate, and communicate. It sounds cliche, but we need to keep the dialogue lines open. This process starts when our boys and girls are young. As they grow, we need to encourage them to talk to us about everything and anything so they know we are there to support them or help them solve problems they face.

What tips do you have for explaining cyberbullying or developing empathy when it comes to small children?

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. 


Don't Spit-Smudge My Face: Respecting Children's Personal Space

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 No comments


My son had food crumbs on his face. Absent-mindedly, I began wiping them off in the presence of others who were just feet away. Apparently, this was quite embarrassing for him. Of course, I didn’t mean to embarrass my child. In fact, I thought it would be more embarrassing for him to walk around school with crumbs on his face, but his look of disdain caused me to take pause and think of my actions. How would I like it if someone started wiping my face in front of my friends? My honest answer was, I wouldn’t.

I think of myself as a respectful parent. I honor my children as valuable human beings and do my best to treat their minds, bodies, and spirits with respect, and yet I realize that there have been many times when I have unintentionally disrespected their personal space. Let’s look at some of the common practices most parents do that we generally don’t think twice about.

Wiping Hands and Faces Without Warning


It would feel bazaar to say to a baby “I’m going to wipe the milk off your chin now” or to a toddler, “Your hands are sticky. I’m going to clean them with this wet wipe.” We usually wipe them clean without permission or often warning, but isn’t this rather rude? When I consider how I would feel if perhaps a waiter came up to me at a restaurant and wiped my face abruptly, I cringe. We wouldn’t dream of disrespecting an adult in such a way, but it is common practice in how we relate to children.

Scooping Them Up and Away


There have been countless times I have swooped in and scooped up my children without so much as a whisper of caution. Come to think it of it now, it probably gave them quite a fright! I can no longer do this because they’re half grown, but when they were little and light, I would scoop them up and away from undesirable objects and predicaments or just casually pick them up for a snuggle, and they never saw it coming.

Smacks, Slaps and Spankings


Still very common practices, many parents smack little hands away from outlets or hot stoves. They slap legs and spank bottoms to deter unwanted behavior, but these common methods disrespect a child’s body and dignity. While many still argue that the occasional smack or spanking is a necessary tool in child-rearing, I believe all humans have the right to protect their own bodies and that we send a dangerous message by violating this right with our young ones.

Tickles, Hugs and Kisses


I believe strongly in showing affection to our children, and I’m not going to assert that we must ask permission every time we want to hug them. What I am suggesting is that we be aware of the cues our children give us and know when to ask and when to back off. One of my children loves hugs but not kisses. Another despises tickling. I think it shows our children respect when we honor their wishes regarding tickling and affection and allow them to have a voice. Relatedly, it is quite common to expect children to hug and kiss family members they may not know well or feel comfortable with, and I think it is good idea to give children the option of a handshake or high-five in those situations.

Honoring Children by Giving Them a Voice
 

We can honor our children and show respect by starting when they are babies. Though it may feel silly at first, voice what you are doing as you change a diaper or wipe them down. I know they will not understand your words early on, but your gentle, respectful demeanor will be communicated nonetheless. As they grow, give warning before you pick them up, and explain why they mustn’t touch the outlet or get so near the stove. Point out the smudges on their faces and hand them a wipe, allowing them to take charge of keeping their bodies clean. Offer hugs and kisses often but never force them, and allow them the opportunity to say “no” to tickling and affection. Give them a voice by teaching them to say “Please don’t do that to me” or “I’d prefer a high-five, Uncle Jim.” Children are valuable, whole human beings from the beginning. Giving them the message “you are worthy of respect” from day one tells them they are safe with us and that we value them as people.

This article was originally published by Boston Parents Paper.

Great Expectations: Holding Children to Higher Standards Than Adults



I once said in a book, “So often, children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.” This quote has gone viral, being seen by millions around the world, and has received mixed reactions by people who love and understand the meaning of the quote and by those who misunderstand it to mean we should let children by with being disrespectful.

I, of course, believe in teaching children to be kind, considerate and respectful. I believe in coaching them to have positive attitudes, and to be aware of their emotions and how to manage them. I also happen to believe this is best done by providing an example, and if I’m honest, when I listen and look at many of the adults around me, I’m just not seeing it.

We generally expect children to be on their best behavior at all times, yet this is a feat we can’t accomplish ourselves. Who of us has never lost our temper? Who of us doesn’t get grumpy or have a bad attitude from time to time? I’d be a hypocrite if I said I was always perfectly well-behaved, and I dare say most readers would as well. It is not possible, in our human condition, to be perfect, and if I, in all my nearly four decades, haven’t managed to attain perfection yet, why should I demand it of my children who have only be here a very short while?

Consider the way we behave toward children in contrast with the way we expect children to behave toward us. We tell children “hands are not for hitting” but the majority of Americans still spank their kids. We tell them to use “inside voices” but we yell at them when we are frustrated. We tell them to be patient but quickly become irritated at backed up traffic or other daily annoyances. We demand respect but humiliate them on social media. It seems to me that adults aren’t upholding the many values we try to impart on our children, and we aren’t behaving in the excellent manner in which we expect them to behave.

When I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I see name-calling and rude behavior. When I watch politics, I see much of the same. When I run errands, I hear cashiers being fussed at and bank tellers being yelled at. I worked in banking for more than a decade and was on the receiving end of many adult tantrums. I am not suggesting we are all bad people. It’s the opposite, in fact. We are mostly good people who, on occasion, behave badly.

As a parent, I’ve lost my temper and yelled at my kids. I’ve ran to my room and slammed the door. I’ve yelled at my spouse, hung up on telemarketers and said negative things under my breath to the person who cut me off in traffic. I’m not a bad person. I’m a human person. Our children aren’t bad kids. They’re human kids. They make mistakes. They get angry. Sometimes they’re rude or grouchy. It’s never OK to treat others badly, and of course they should be taught that, but when we correct them, let’s do so bearing in mind that we, ourselves, are sometimes guilty of the things we are correcting them for.

My opening quote isn’t a suggestion to lower the standard we have set for our children so much as it’s to raise the standard for ourselves. It’s a call to rise up to our own fullest potential as people and parents and behave in a manner suitable to be imitated. And it’s also a call for understanding and compassion because being a kid is hard sometimes. Being a person is hard, sometimes. We all need a soft place to land. As parents, let’s not fail to teach our children all the right things, but just as importantly, let’s not forget to wrap them in arms of grace and say, “I am your safe place. Here you will always be loved.”

*This post was originally published by Boston Parents Paper.

This One Thing Helps Children Behave Better

Friday, March 17, 2017 No comments


“You can’t teach children to behave better by making them feel worse. When children feel better, they behave better.” – Pam Leo

Nearly eight years ago, I found the above words by Pam Leo to be absolutely true, and this truth led me down the path of connection-based parenting for which I am so grateful to have followed. When I used punishments such as time-out and tricks like behavior charts, my son’s behavior became increasingly difficult and we were locked in what I perceived to be constant power struggles. I felt like my son was always struggling to gain the upper hand when really he was only struggling to regain our connection. When I provided his attachment needs, he felt better. He was able to rest in our relationship, and his behavior improved.

Much of today’s parenting advice is based on behavioral theory. Time-out, for example, is a result of B.F. Skinner’s work on operant conditioning. We tend to think in terms of positive and negative reinforcement because Skinner showed us that a hungry rat will quickly learn to push a lever for food (positive reinforcement) or push the lever to avoid being shocked (negative reinforcement). As a result, we spend our days handing out food pellets or shocking children (metaphors for punishments and rewards, of course) to condition them to behave how we want them to behave, but, as Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting, explains, “Behaviors are just the outward expression of feelings and thoughts, needs and intentions. In a nutshell, it's the child who engages in a behavior, not just the behavior itself, that matters."

Here are 3 ways we help our child feel better, thereby helping them behave better:
  1. Be the light reflector. While punishment may temporarily stop a certain behavior, it makes children feel bad about themselves, and when children feel bad about who they are, their behavior will reflect that. Rather than being behavior managers, we can become light reflectors (click the link to read more about becoming a light reflector). In this nurturing role, we simply reflect back the light that our children already possess. When they get off track, as humans do, we remind them of their goodness, their kindness, their willingness to help. We hold faith that their intentions are good, even when behavior is bad, and we guide them back to their true (good) selves.
  1. Use positive discipline. Positive discipline looks beyond behavior to the heart of the child. It seeks to determine why a child is behaving in a certain way so that the root cause can be fixed. Punishing or rewarding behavior is like slapping a Band-Aid on an open and bleeding wound. It might cover up the problem, but it doesn’t heal it. Positive discipline has 3 simple steps: Assess the need (find out what is driving the behavior), calm yourself and your child (because until you are both calm, your brains aren’t ready to engage with one another with empathy and the ability to solve the problem), and teach/problem-solve (look for a solution to the problem).
  1. Continue reading at Creative Child Magazine.


How 10 Minutes of Joy Can Change Your Life



I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately. After dealing with a bout of depression in 2016, I decided I wanted to wear joy like a suit of armor. I wanted my children to remember the sound of my laughter. I wanted them to remember my smile. I knew that the prior months didn’t offer much in the way of reaching either goal, and so I made it my mission to find simple strategies that would increase my joy. Did you know that if you carve out just 10 extra minutes a day to focus on joy, you’ll collect more than 60 joyful hours per year? Imagine how that could impact your life!

I got curious about just how an extra 10 minutes per day would impact my own motherhood and my life, so I added up how many joyful minutes I’d add over the next 9 years (until my youngest child reaches 18 and could potentially leave my nest). If I practice joy with my kids for just 10 extra minutes per day, I’ll gain 32,850 joyful minutes.

That might be 10 minutes of reading aloud.
10 minutes of Lego building.
10 minutes of Monopoly (okay, we all know Monopoly takes forever, but stick with me).
10 minutes of stirring the cookie dough and rolling it out.
10 minutes of snuggling.
10 minutes of listening.
Or talking.
10 minutes of undivided attention.

10 minutes a day equals 32,850 more minutes of happiness during their remaining childhoods.

32,850 more smiles my kids see.
32,850 more minutes of feeling loved, cherished, and seen.
32,850 more minutes of feeling connected.
32,850 more minutes of focusing on those that matter most to me.

.....Continue reading at Creative Child Magazine.