POTTY TRAINING 9/1/15
Potty training: two words that strike both hope and fear into the heart of every parent of a toddler. It’s exciting — no more diapers! It’s daunting — no more diapers? But it’s a rite of passage that every parent and child must go through. Sure, the end result is cheaper and easier, but getting there? Ugh. Any parent who has will tell you that while potty training a child is worth it, it is a hard-fought challenge.
Sure, potty training is different for every kid depending on whether they’re a boy or girl, if you start early or late, and a whole host of other factors, but for most parents, the process is pretty similar: we go through the same feelings of frustration, anger, and elation along the way.
Here are the stages of potty training that most parents experience:
Is the baby ready? You’re done changing diapers. You’re so done buying diapers, but the baby is so small! So what if he’s talking in sentences and can eat half a chicken? He’s just a baby! How is he old enough to give up diapers? Oh my God, he’s such a big kid! He was just born yesterday and tomorrow he’ll go to college!
Potty training is happening, and nothing will deter you. You’ve got potty seats in every room, potty books, a potty DVD, and even special rewards lined up to entice your kid into using the potty. Nothing can get you off track.
Why is everything getting off track? Your son is not doing anything that the books or the articles say he should be doing. He sits on the potty for 30 minutes only to stand up and pee on the floor. He holds it in so long that when you give in and give him a diaper, he pees through it. Why isn’t anything going according to plan?
Ok, this is too much. You’ve been trapped in your house for three days so you can be mere steps away from a potty should the need arise. You’ve been plying your son with water, juice, popsicles — anything to make him feel the urge to go. And what do you have to show for it? Pee on the floor. Poop on the carpet. A child who, at this point, is acting more like the family pet than anything else.
Oh! My! Gosh! He did it! He peed in the potty!! On purpose! He recognized he needed to pee, walked to the potty on his own and peed. In the potty! Amazing! Did you climb Mount Everest? Win the lottery? Lose 10 lbs? No, but it feels like that only better. You call your parents and your in-laws. You write an excited Facebook post. Must tell everyone. You are the best potty-trainer ever. Your son is potty-learned ever. You make the best potty team ever! Hurrah! Success!
You quickly learn that one successful use of the potty does not a potty-trained child make. If he was able to do it once, he should be able to do it again, right? Not necessarily. Or even likely. Why is this so frustrating? It’s not such a hard concept — wait, is he spiting you on purpose? Do the defiant years start now, not when they become teenagers?
Oh my God. Will this ever end? This will never end. Is this going to be your life now? Are you going to be the mom no one ever hears from again? Will you ever be able to leave the house without regressing back to diapers? Will your next baby be named Potty as incentive to get this one trained?
Maybe you should go back to diapers. Just for a while. Just to regroup so everyone has a break. Your kid could use less pressure. Your floors could use less cleaning. Your nerves could use less stress.
But if you go back to diapers, will you lose the small amount of progress you’ve already made? Will it just make this process that much longer? If you don’t forge ahead, are you sending your kid the message that quitting is an option? That he can just up and quit the basketball team or piano lessons and there are no consequences for anything?!
You’ve started promising anything and everything you can think of in order for your kid to pee-pee or poo-poo in the potty. A congratulatory phone call from “Elsa” (aka your sister). Fine, an Elsa doll. Ok, FINE, the Elsa castle set, tiara, wand, and dress. Happy now? Will THIS make it happen?
And suddenly, there it is: progress. Things aren’t perfect, but he is starting to get the hang of things. For the first time since you started this process, you actually let yourself hope that yes, this will happen. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but there is a pee-colored light at the end of this tunnel. You remember that this is not a one-time act but a process. One that the two of you will get through together.
Ok, this is potty training. Sometimes she makes it to the potty; sometimes she doesn’t. If she pees in her pants, we wash them. If she makes it to the potty, we clap. She’s not going to figure it all out today, but with your help and encouragement, she will figure it out. And soon enough, you’re family will have a Big Kid.
Helping Kids Learn Self-Control 8/1/15
By learning self-control, kids can make appropriate decisions and respond to stressful situations in ways that can yield positive outcomes.
For example, if you say that you're not serving ice cream until after dinner, your child may cry, plead, or even scream in the hopes that you will give in. But with self-control, your child can understand that a temper tantrum means you'll take away the ice cream for good and that it's wiser to wait patiently.
Here are a few suggestions on how to help kids learn to control their behavior:
Up to Age 2
Infants and toddlers get frustrated by the large gap between the things they want to do and what they're able to do. They often respond with temper tantrums. Try to prevent outbursts by distracting your little one with toys or other activities.
For kids reaching the 2-year-old mark, try a brief timeout in a designated area — like a kitchen chair or bottom stair — to show the consequences for outbursts and teach that it's better to take some time alone instead of throwing a tantrum.
Ages 3 to 5
You can continue to use timeouts, but rather than setting a specific time limit, end timeouts once your child has calmed down. This helps kids improve their sense of self-control. And praise your child for not losing control in frustrating or difficult situations.
Ages 6 to 9
As kids enter school, they're better able to understand the idea of consequences and that they can choose good or bad behavior. It may help your child to imagine a stop sign that must be obeyed and think about a situation before responding. Encourage your child to walk away from a frustrating situation for a few minutes to cool off instead of having an outburst. Praise kids when they do walk away and cool off — they're more likely to use those skills again.
Ages 10 to 12
Older kids usually better understand their feelings. Encourage them to think about what's causing them to lose control and then analyze it. Explain that sometimes situations that are upsetting at first don't end up being so awful. Urge kids to take time to think before responding to a situation. Compliment them as they use their self-control skills.
Ages 13 to 17
By now kids should be able to control most of their actions. But remind teens to think about long-term consequences. Urge them to pause to evaluate upsetting situations before responding and talk through problems rather than losing control, slamming doors, or yelling. If necessary, discipline your teen by taking away certain privileges to reinforce the message that self-control is an important skill. Allow him or her to earn the privileges back by demonstrating self-control.
When Kids Are Out of Control
As difficult as it may be, resist the urge to yell when you're disciplining your kids. Instead, be firm and matter of fact. During a child's meltdown, stay calm and explain that yelling, throwing a tantrum, and slamming doors are unacceptable behaviors that have consequences — and say what those consequences are.
Your actions will show that tantrums won't get kids the upper hand. For example, if your child gets upset in the grocery store after you've explained why you won't buy candy, don't give in — thus demonstrating that the tantrum was both unacceptable and ineffective.
Also, consider speaking to your child's teachers about classroom settings and appropriate behavior expectations. Ask if problem-solving is taught or demonstrated in school.
And model good self-control yourself. If you're in an irritating situation in front of your kids, tell them why you're frustrated and then discuss potential solutions to the problem. For example, if you've misplaced your keys, instead of getting upset, tell your kids the keys are missing and then search for them together. If they don't turn up, take the next constructive step (like retracing your steps when you last had the keys in-hand). Show that good emotional control and problem solving are the ways to deal with a difficult situation.
If you continue to have difficulties, ask your doctor if family counseling sessions might help.
7 Secrets of Toddler Discipline-10/1/15
Just saying “no” doesn’t always work. How to get your child to live and learn -- and not lose your cool in the process.
Have you ever found yourself in deep negotiations with your 2-year-old over whether she can wear her princess costume to preschool for the fifth day in a row? Have you taken the "walk of shame" out of the local supermarket after your toddler threw a temper tantrum on the floor? There may be comfort in knowing you’re not alone, but that doesn’t make navigating the early years of discipline any easier.
Toddlerhood is a particularly vexing time for parents because this is the age at which children start to become more independent and discover themselves as individuals. Yet they still have a limited ability to communicate and reason.
Child development specialist Claire Lerner, director of parenting resources for the nonprofit organization Zero to Three, says, "They understand that their actions matter -- they can make things happen. This leads them to want to make their imprint on the world and assert themselves in a way they didn't when they were a baby. The problem is they have very little self-control and they're not rational thinkers. It's a very challenging combination."
Here are a few simple toddler discipline strategies to help make life easier for your whole family when your self-asserting toddler needs direction.
1. Be Consistent
Order and routine give young children a safe haven from what they view as an overwhelming and unpredictable world, Lerner says. "When there's some predictability and routine, it makes children feel much more safe and secure, and they tend to be much more behaved and calm because they know what to expect."
Try to keep to the same schedule every day. That means having consistent nap times, mealtimes, and bedtimes as well as times when your toddler is free to just run around and have fun.
Warn your child in advance if you do have to make a change. Telling your child "Aunt Jean is going to watch you tonight while Mommy and Daddy go out for a little bit" will prepare her for a slightly different routine and may prevent a scene at bedtime.
Consistency is also important when it comes to discipline. When you say "no hitting" the first time your child smacks another child on the playground, you also need to say "no hitting" the second, third, and fourth time your child does it.
2. Avoid Stressful Situations
By the time your child has reached the toddler stage, you've spent enough time with him or her to know what triggers reactions. The most common ones are hunger, sleepiness, and quick changes of venue. Avoid these potential meltdown scenarios with a little advance planning.
Pediatrician Lisa Asta, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, says, "You have to anticipate, which means you don't go to the grocery store when your child needs a nap."
Try to make sure your child is home at naptimes, bedtimes, and mealtimes. If you are out, always keep food on hand in case of a sudden hunger attack. Keep excursions short (that means finding another restaurant if the one you've chosen has an hour-long wait or doing your grocery shopping at times when the lines are shortest). Finally, plan ahead so you don't have to rush (particularly when you need to get your child to preschool and yourself to work in the mornings).
You can ease transitions by involving your child in the process. That can be as simple as setting an egg timer for five minutes and saying that when it rings it's time to take a bath or get dressed. Or it can be as easy as giving your child a choice of whether to wear the red or the blue shirt to school.
Remember to think out loud and update your son or daughter about what is next on the schedule. Toddlers can understand much more than they can express.
3. Think Like a Toddler
Toddlers aren't mini-adults. They have trouble understanding many of the things we take for granted, like how to follow directions and behave appropriately. Seeing the scenario from a toddler's perspective can help prevent a tantrum.
"You might say, 'I know, Derek, you don't like getting into the car seat. But it's what we have to do,'" Lerner says. "So you're not coddling, but you're validating their feelings. You have to set the limit, but you do it in a way that respects the child, and you use it as an opportunity to help them learn to cope with life's frustrations and rules and regulations."
Giving choices also shows that you respect your toddler and recognize the child's feelings. Asking your child if he or she wants to bring a favorite book in the car or take along a snack can make the child feel as though he or she has some control over the situation while you remain in charge, Lerner says.
4. Practice the Art of Distraction
Make your toddler's short attention span work for you. When your child throws the ball against the dining room wall for the 10th time after you've said to stop, it's pretty easy to redirect your child to a more productive activity, like trading the ball for a favorite book or moving the game outside.
Rex Forehand, the Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher Professor of Psychology at the University of Vermont and author of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child, says, "[Parents] need to create an environment that is most conducive to good toddler behavior. If they're into something they're not supposed to do, the idea is not to punish them but to get another activity going or pick them up and put them in another room."
5. Give Your Child a Break
Time-outs are one of the foundations of child discipline, but they may not be the best approach for the toddler stage. The negative implication of being sent away can teach kids that they're bad rather than promote good behavior.
If you do give your child a time-out, limit it to just a minute or two at this age. Instead of calling it a time-out, which can be confusing to children under 3, refer to it as something more positive.
Lerner suggests creating a "cozy corner," a safe place free from distractions and stimulation where your child can just chill out for a few minutes until he or she can get back in control. That time away can help you regroup as well.
Correct bad behaviors, but also take the time to praise good behaviors. Asta says, "If you don't tell your child when they're doing the right thing, sometimes they'll do the wrong thing just to get attention." When you tell your toddler he or she has done something good, there's a good chance your child will want to do it again.
6. Stay Calm
It’s easy for your blood pressure to reach the boiling point when you’re in the middle of watching your child throw a tantrum. But losing control will quickly escalate an already stressful situation. Give yourself some time to cool off, Forehand says. "Otherwise, you're venting your own anger. In the end that's going to make you, as a parent, feel worse and guilty. And it's not going to do your child any good."
6. Stay Calm continued...
"I call it the 'Stepford Wife' approach," Lerner says. "As your child screams, say, 'I know, I know,' but stay completely calm as you pick him up. Don't show any emotion."
Sometimes the best tactic is to ignore the behavior entirely. "You just literally act like they're not doing what they're doing," Lerner says. "You ignore the behavior you want to stop." When your child realizes that his screaming fit is not going to get him a second lollipop or your attention, eventually he'll get tired of yelling.
Your child may drive you so close to the breaking point that you're tempted to spank him. But most experts warn against the practice. "When we spank, kids learn that physical punishment is acceptable. And so we are modeling exactly what we don't want our kids to do," Forehand says. At the toddler stage, redirection and brief breaks are far more effective discipline tactics, he says.
7. Know When to Give In
Certain things in a toddler's life are nonnegotiable. She has to eat, brush her teeth, and ride in a car seat. She also has to take baths once in a while. Hitting and biting are never OK. But many other issues aren't worth the headache of an argument. Pick your battles.
"You have to decide whether it's worth fighting about, and about half the time it's not worth fighting about," Asta says. That means it's OK to let your son wear his superhero costume to the grocery store or read The Giving Tree 10 times in a row. Once he gets what he wants, you can gradually get him to shift in another direction -- like wearing another outfit or picking out a different book to read.
Finally, know that it's OK to feel stressed out by your toddler sometimes. "Realize that none of us as parents is perfect -- we do the best we can. There are going to be days that we're better at this than other days," Forehand says. "But if we parent consistently and have consistent rules, then we're going to see more good days than bad days."
List of Tips And Ideas For Limiting Kids' Screen Time 06/02/16
Try to limit overall TV and “screen” time to 2 hours a day.
Turn the TV off during mealtimes.
Set a timer to remind kids to take an activity break away from the computer after 20 minutes.
Teach your kids to set down the remote and get up to change the channel.
Celebrate National Turn Off Your TV week! Have the family make a list of other activities they can do instead of watching TV.
Limiting your child's screen time to two hours a day includes computer, video games and iPods.
Turn off the TV and play some family games.
Eat at the table since it is easier to talk with each other, rather than in front of the TV
My Little School House
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Fighting for a Toy
Situation # 1: Fighting for a toy
Two 4-year-old girls were playing and were happy to be with each other. Everything seemed fine until Emma started screaming. Her friend Jenny was on top of her, yanking her hair. Emma was screaming and pointing to a broken doll on the floor.
Why is this happening?
Because children at this age:
Have difficulty sharing their things and toys.Still don’t know how to control their emotions.Are learning to use words to solve problems.Want to control the people and things in their lives.Can be angry when they cannot decide how things should be.Have a hard time understanding that other people have different ideas.
What can adults do in the situation described here?
1. Stay calm: Don’t yell and don’t use physical punishment.
2. Stop the fight and comfort the injured child.
3. Give time-out to the aggressive child to calm her: No more than 1 minute for each year of the child’s age.
4. When both children are calm:
Ask them to use their own words to explain what the problem was.Ask them to use words to tell how they are feeling about the fight.Help them think of nonviolent ways to resolve the problem.Tell them clearly that it is NOT OK to hurt someone.Praise them if they go back to playing peacefully.
What can adults do to prevent this problem in the future?
Have different kinds of toys so the children can move from one to another.Put away the toys that your child absolutely does not want to share.Make sure that your child understands that the friends will not take the toys away when they leave.Use everyday life situations to teach your child to share his/her things.Whenever there is a conflict, teach your child to use words to show his/her feelings and to think of different ways to solve problems and resolve conflicts.
A Crying Baby
Situation #2: A crying baby
My 4-month-old baby just won’t stop crying. I’m exhausted. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for months, and here it goes again: Another night of horror — A screaming baby and no sleep!
Why is this happening?
Cry to tell us that something is wrong and that they need help.
Cry when they are sick, hungry, cold, have a dirty diaper, are tired or can’t calm down.
Can be frightened by the presence of strangers.
Can cry until someone takes away the discomfort or until they are too exhausted to stay awake.
Can be different: Some cry a lot, others hardly at all. This depends on the baby’s temperament and personality.
Remember: Babies don’t cry to annoy their parents or caregivers.
What can adults do in the situation described here?
Check the causes of a baby’s crying and do what is needed to eliminate it.
Comfort the baby: This will not spoil the child. When babies cry, they need warm and caring attention to feel secure and safe.
Don’t punish a crying baby — be patient. Harsh responses will frighten the baby and will make the situation worse.
Never shake a baby. It can cause serious injury like brain damage and even death.
Watch for patterns. Some babies cry a lot, others not much, some cry at sunset. Try something different, like walking outside or having music in the room.
Know your baby’s style: Some need quiet, dark places to calm down; others can sleep in the midst of a crowd.
What can adults do if nothing works?
Call another adult to be there to help calm the baby or simply to listen and support you.
Leave the baby alone, safely in bed or in an infant seat, then dim the lights, close the door and get some rest.
Tantrum in the Grocery Store
Situation #3: A toddler in a grocery store
A father was in a grocery store when his 2-year old son grabbed a box of candy off the shelf. The father told him that he couldn’t have the candy and that if he wants something, he has to ask. Instead of obeying him, the boy started to cry, scream, and hit the father and then fell on the floor in a full blown tantrum.
Why is this happening?
Because children at this age:
Think they are the center of the universe and want things immediately.Have difficulty waiting for what they want and are easily frustrated.Don’t know how to control emotions like anger and frustration.Still don’t know how to use words to express feelings and desires and use tantrums instead.Are beginning to develop a sense of being separate individuals with their own power, and they regularly test the limits of this power. They frequently say “NO!” or grab what they want.Are learning how to behave in public.
What can adults do in the situation described here?
1. Stay calm and remember that tantrums are normal at this age.
2. Use a few gentle but firm words to calm the child.
3. Do not use physical punishment because it will teach the child to use violence.
4. Ignore the behavior and wait for the storm to pass.
5. Distract the child with something else, like a toy or a book.
6. Ask the child to help you choose something else in the store.
7. If the child can’t calm down, take him/her to a quiet place.
What can adults do to prevent this problem in the future?
(a) When you have to go to a public space:
Be patient: Children at this age are learning to behave in public.Make the trip short, and never go when the child is tired or hungry.Always have toys and treats to entertain the child.
(b) Avoid bringing a toddler to:
Adult places, like restaurants, movie theaters, hospitals.Tempting places such as grocery stores.
(c) Teach your child:
To ask things in a polite way.To choose between objects and activities that are permissible.
Let Kids Stumble, and Learn to Get Back Up
I don't think a cello lesson ever hurt anyone, but I'm a member in good standing of the Go Out and Play Club. I believe in the power of boredom to teach a kid how to amuse herself, and the power of consequences to teach her what happens when she fails to do her math homework. When my daughter was little, I wanted her to screw up on her own, and fix it on her own. My one caveat was that she not make any mistakes from which she couldn't easily recover (felony drug possession and teen motherhood spring to mind).
Helicopter parenting — and yes, I've done my share; I got a little more involved in prom preparations than was perhaps strictly necessary — may keep our kids on the straight and narrow though middle school, but it always backfires in the end. An 18-year-old who has never suffered disappointment, failure or frustration is ill-equipped to live as an adult in an unjust world, and is also, usually, completely insufferable.
It's easier to overparent than to stand back and let maturation take its awkward, harrowing course.
Part of our job as parents is to allow our children to experience life's basic difficulties while they're young. They practice sorting stuff out for themselves under our roof, while we can still comfort them, so that when the world spanks them, they've developed the internal stamina and resources to deal with it.
Easier said than done.
It's much easier to exhaust ourselves overparenting than it is to stand back and let maturation take its awkward, harrowing course. We hover, in part, to protect ourselves from having to see our children struggle, fail and have their hearts broken. We are worried, a little, that the selves they will become on their own may disappoint, and thus break our hearts. Whoever said a mother (or father) is only as happy as her most miserable child was probably the first helicopter parent.
My daughter, now 20, just ordered and paid for a six-month supply of contact lenses with no prompting from me. She used money she had earned at her summer job. Part of me wanted to rush in and reimburse her, but her life is only going in one direction, toward full-fledged adulthood. Which, alas, includes buying your own contact lenses.
Do you think that your child is lazy? Is she constantly telling you that she is bored? These are the two most frequently uttered critical words that I hear parents use to describe their children (of all ages). Indeed, it can be frustrating and disheartening to feel that your child is not working up to her potential, or not enjoying the world around her. If this sounds familiar, then you might think me a renegade when I say that, when it comes to children, I don’t believe ‘lazy’ or ‘bored’ are real. In fact, when a child’s behavior elicits either of these descriptors more than occasionally, we must dig much deeper to discover the real reason she is behaving this way.
When a child can frequently be described as lazy or bored it means that the child is not fully engaged in his work or play environment. The lazy or bored behavior is a symptom of an underlying concern—a red flag to look deeper. Below I present the three most important triggers, each of which could cause a child to become lazy or bored.
A learning disability, ADHD, or other neurological difficulty: Often, when a child or teen finds schoolwork overwhelmingly difficult or confusing, he will become disengaged and give up rather than continuing to try. A child who has stopped trying will avoid homework and studying for tests, become distracted in class, and appear not to care about school. Neurological issues can be very subtle and can affect even very bright children. If you have any concern about your child’s academic functioning, speak to a school psychologist about having your child evaluated.
Depression: This diagnosis can cause a child or teen to become unmotivated or disinterested in school or socializing. Even mild depression can cause a child to become apathetic and appear lazy, and it is common for depressed kids to express feelings of boredom because they are not able to feel enjoyment in their daily experiences. If your child seems sad, disinterested in activities, withdrawn, weepy or has changes in sleeping or eating habits, she may be depressed—especially if she is experiencing any major changes in her life. Consult with your pediatrician or school psychologist to find appropriate resources to help you and your child.
Overindulgence and overstimulatation: We love our kids, and often we express our love by giving them toys and technology and by providing them with a constant stream of fabulous experiences to enrich their lives. Some kids are able to absorb our ‘material love’ in a way that is positive. However, many become dependent upon this external stimulation, and when they don’t get it, even for a brief amount of time, they feel bored or slump into the couch lazily because they don’t have the internal resources to occupy themselves or feel satisfied without excitement. The best solution to this type of unenthused behavior is to reduce your child’s reliance on you to provide constant entertainment. Instead, he needs to learn how to occupy himself with what he already has, to use his imagination, and to become age-appropriately independent. Retraining a child in this way can be difficult, and could, at first, result in whining and tantrums. However, the payoff is worth it because learning self-soothing techniques is a critical life skill that will benefit your child far into adulthood.
I've made a lot of bad rules in the decades I've been a mom, from irrational threats ("No graham crackers in the house ever again if you eat them in the living room even one more time") to forbidding human nature ("You may not fight with your sister"). But occasionally I've come up with rules that work better than I'd ever contemplated. These made-up rules have an internal logic that defies easy categorization, but their clarity and enforceability make them work. Several of them are not, technically, rules at all, but declarations of policy or fact. And they're all easy to remember. A few personal favorites, plus those of other moms:
Rule #1: You can't be in the room when I'm working unless you work, too
Goal: Get your child to help, or stop bugging you, while you do chores
It might seem odd, but I don't mind doing laundry, cleaning floors or really any kind of housework. But I do mind my kids, oblivious to the fact that my arms are full of their underwear, asking me to find their missing doll shoe or do a puzzle with them. Until recently, this was a source of great frustration, especially when our household grew to five kids when my husband, Taylor, and I became temporary foster parents for two months.
I tried to explain to my expanded brood that if they helped me fold laundry, we could do something together sooner. But they knew I'd be available anyway if I finished folding myself, so the argument wasn't compelling.
And then one day, as my oldest foster daughter sat and watched me work, asking me favors and waiting for me to be done, I came up with a rule that takes into account two important facts about kids:
They actually want to be with you as much as possible.
You can't force them to help you in any way that is truly helpful.
I played fact one against fact two and told her that she didn't have to help me but couldn't just sit and watch. She had to go elsewhere. Given a choice between being with me and folding laundry or not being with me at all, she took option one.
Why it works: I didn't care which she chose. And it was her choice, so it gave her control even as it took it away.
Rule #2: I don't work past 8 p.m.
Goal: Regular bedtimes and time off for you
You can't just announce a rule to your husband and kids that says, "Bedtime has to go really smoothly so I can get a break at the end of the day." It won't happen. But if you flip the problem and make a rule about you instead of telling everyone what they have to do, it all falls neatly—and miraculously—into place.
When this occurred to me, back when my oldest was 6 and my youngest was nearly 2, I announced to Anna and Taylor that the U.S. Department of Labor had just created a new rule and I was no longer allowed to do any kind of mom jobs past 8:00 in the evening. I would gladly read books, play games, listen to stories of everyone's day or give baths—the whole mother package—before then. Then I held firm—I acted as if it were out of my hands. Sort of like Cinderella and midnight.
Suddenly, my 6-year-old (and my husband) developed a new consciousness of time. My daughter actually rushed to get ready for bed just after dinner so that we could have lots of books and time together before I was "off." My husband, realizing that if things dragged past 8:00 he'd have to face putting both girls to sleep himself, became more helpful. Anna's now 11, and my hours have been extended, but the idea that I'm not endlessly available has been preserved and integrated into our family routine.
Why it works: You're not telling anyone else what to do. The rule is for you, so you have only yourself to blame if it's not enforced.
Rule #3: You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit
Goal: No more haggling—over which pretzel has more salt or who gets their milk in the prized red cup and who in the cursed green, or which cast member of Blue's Clues adorns whose paper plate
My friend Joyce, director of our town's preschool, told us about this terrific rule, now repeated by everyone I know on playgrounds and at home. Not only does it have a boppy rhythm that makes it fun to say, but it does good old "Life isn't fair" one better by spelling out both the essential truth of life's arbitrary inequities and the only acceptable response to the world's unfairness: You don't throw a fit.
When I first heard this, I was skeptical. It seemed too simple. But to my utter surprise, not only did it do the trick but kids seemed to rally around it almost with relief. They must have seen that if it applied to them today it might apply to someone else tomorrow.
Why it works: It's irrefutable—it almost has the ring of runic or prehistoric truth to it—and rather than focusing on an abstract notion like "fairness," it speaks directly to the situation at hand.
Rule #4: Take that show on the road
Goal: Peace and quiet
Is it just me or does someone saying "one-strawberry, two-strawberry, three-strawberry" over and over in a squeaky voice make you want to smash some strawberries into a pulpy mess? I want my kids to be gleefully noisy when they need and want to be. But I don't feel it's necessary that I be their audience/victim past a few minutes or so, or that I should have to talk (shout?) over their, um, joyous clamor when I'm on the phone. So once I've shown attention adequate to their display, I tell them that they're free to sing, bang, chant or caterwaul to their hearts' content, just not here. The same goes for whining, tantrums and generic pouting.
For the irrational and long-winded whining jags sometimes used by her 4-year-old son, my friend Denise has turned this rule to a pithy declaration: "I'm ready to listen when you're ready to talk." She then leaves the room.
Why it works: It gives children a choice rather than a prohibition and does so without rejecting them.
Rule #5: We don't argue about money
Goal: Short-circuit begging and pleading for stuff
This rule has to be enforced consistently to work, but the basic deal is that you can tell your child yes or no on any requested purchase, but you don't discuss it. If your child protests, simply repeat, calmly, like a mantra, that you won't argue about money. The key to success is that you have to have the courage of your convictions and not argue. Thus the calm repetition.
It cuts both ways, though: When your kids want to spend their "own" money, point out potential mistakes and give advice on the purchase if you'd like, but at the end of the day, don't overrule them unless it's a matter of health or safety. After all, you don't argue about money. They may make some bad choices, but they'll learn. And you'll all enjoy shopping together a lot more.
Why it works: It shifts the focus from the whined-for treat to financial policy. You're almost changing the topic on them, no longer debating why they should or shouldn't have gum or some plastic plaything and, instead, invoking a reasonable-sounding family value.
Rule #6: I can't understand you when you speak like that
Goal: Stopping whining, screaming and general rudeness
This one requires almost religious consistency of application to work effectively. But, essentially, you simply proclaim incomprehension when your child orders (rather than asks) you to do something, whines or otherwise speaks to you in a way you don't like. Whispering this helps; it takes the whole thing down a notch on the carrying-on scale. This is a de-escalation tool, so calmly repeat the rule a few times and don't get lured into raising your voice. A child who's whining or being rude is clearly seeking attention and drama, so use this as a way to provide neither.
Why it works: It empowers your child by suggesting he has something valuable to say (if he says it nicely) and allows you to completely invalidate (i.e., ignore) the rude presentation.
Rule #7: There's no such thing as boredom
Goal: Prevent your child from saying "I'm bored"; teach her to entertain herself
A friend of mine says this is one of the few things he got right with his kids. The first time his older daughter claimed she was bored he simply denied that the thing existed. Now he sometimes adds: "There's no such thing as boredom, only failure of the imagination" or "...only mental laziness." Surprisingly he's never gotten the "There is too boredom!" argument, only an exasperated "Da-ad." Regardless of the phrasing, the result is the same: The burden of amusement lands directly on your child, which is precisely where you want it.
Why it works: By the time your kids have figured out the puzzle of how something that exists can also not exist, they won't be bored. Also, it changes the terms of debate, from a challenge for you (list all my toys, then cave in and let me watch TV) to one for them. Besides—if your child learns how to entertain herself, there truly is no such thing as boredom, only failure of the imagination" or "...only mental laziness." Surprisingly he's never gotten the "There is too boredom!" argument, only an exasperated "Da-ad." Regardless of the phrasing, the result is the same: The burden of amusement lands directly on your child, which is precisely where you want it.
Why it works: By the time your kids have figured out the puzzle of how something that exists can also not exist, they won't be bored. Also, it changes the terms of debate, from a challenge for you (list all my toys, then cave in and let me watch TV) to one for them. Besides—if your child learns how to entertain herself, there truly is no such thing as boredom. And that's a gift that will last all her life.
MLSH would like to thank: Parenting.com for sponsoring this year's blogs.
Contributed By: Parenting.com