goat cheese

I made this with my students at school and they loved it too- so it is kid-tested by many picky eaters.

The secret: honey!

I made step-by-step cards for my students and the boys used those so if you have a bit of extra time to make cards that show each step then you will for sure get participation in the making of dinner and with that comes an extra bonus: kids are more likely to eat what they help cook!

I don’t have great pictures of the steps of the recipe and the pictures don’t have to be well-drawn by any means.  Just go for it; you’ll have fun and your kids will love it along with learning early reading and math skills (that’s the preschool teacher inside me).  Get 4 index cards and draw a picture of 1) knife, cheese, a piece of toast 2) grinding or chopping walnuts and piece of toast 3) a couple of leaves of thyme and toast 4) smiley face and yum!

toastIf they are part of the process, kids will be excited about what is served for dinner.  But make sure that you also have something else with dinner that you know they already like.  This takes the pressure off and allows your kids to just try the new food.  If you force it, it won’t happen.

Make sure also that you eat dinner together as a family.  I can’t stress this enough.  If you make yummy things like goat cheese toasts, then you’ll be more likely to share your meal with your kids and you can all enjoy the food together.  Michael Pollan talks a lot about this and says that sharing meals together is what life is all about.

INGREDIENTS

whole-grain bread, 4 slices, each about 2 1/2 by 5 inches, lightly toasted
fresh goat cheese, 3 oz, at room temperature
walnuts, 1/4 cup  coarsely chopped
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
honey, for drizzling and fresh Thyme leaves

PREPARATION

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 375°F. Arrange the toasts on a small rimmed baking sheet. Spread the toast slices evenly with the goat 1 cheese, and sprinkle with the walnuts, dividing them evenly. Bake until the walnuts are toasted and the cheese is warm, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the toasts to plates and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle each toast with honey, then sprinkle with the thyme leaves and serve.

I just realized that I toasted them before so that the kids could do the rest of the recipe themselves and then eat them.  But next time I’m going to try the recipe the original way.

This recipe is from Kitchen Garden Cookbook by Jeanne Kelley

twos

Even if you don’t have kids or ever thought of having kids, you have still heard of the “terrible twos” which has now expanded into the “threenager” and the “F- you fours”.    I love all of these descriptions because it really helps parents navigate these ages and it says, “You are not alone.”  “These ages are tough!”

But after spending some time outside of the good ol’ USA, I started to wonder if the “terrible twos” were an American fabrication.

Basically the terrible twos are children exploring independence.  It’s not a bad thing as I explain in this post about independence. But we have interpreted the constant “no’s” as terrible rather than as an opportunity for learning and responsibility.

So what happens in other countries that doesn’t happen in the states? Or vice versa; what doesn’t happen there that does happen here?

Good question.

I think the answer is two-fold:

Parents don’t put up with s#*$t in other countries

In the USA, we want to take such good care of our children, that we let them run the show.  Parents want to support their children, they want to nourish their children and they don’t want to squelch their children.  This desire for their children to bloom can co-exist with setting limits and letting children know what is allowed and what isn’t.  But unfortunately (often due to social media, but also other cultural factors) it manifests itself into never wanting the child to cry or be distressed, so sometimes we as parents backtrack until everyone is happy again.  But this just creates more strife and more terrible behavior.

Parents allow their children independence in other countries

We all grew up with stranger danger and it is so strong that even though it has been proven that most child abductions and child abuse come from people that children already know, we are still scared of the world.  It is OK to give our children some independence.  Even if it takes twice the amount of time, we need to let them put their shoes on.  And they can wear shoes that don’t even match and are on the wrong feet.  We can let them help us cut vegetables without worrying about ending up in the emergency room.  They can climb trees, they can dig holes for our garden, they can choose a cereal box off the grocery shelf.   This is a gift that only you can give them.  They deserve the chance to be more independent and you deserve the respite that it brings when they fuss less.

 

How can we learn from other countries?

Get your little ones a passport and book a flight to learn all the different ways to raise a child.  Then start setting some limits on what behavior is allowed in your family and what behavior isn’t allowed.  Then open the door to your children.  Let them explore the world.

 

 

 

defiant

As very young children get older, they start to become more independent.  But there are two things working against that independence.

1) They don’t fully understand all the implications of independence, (i.e. responsibility, safety and sometimes independence is scary)


2) We aren’t always ready to give them independence because they are still our babies.


Because of these two obstacles, independence often takes the form of defiance. 


My two-year old (almost three-year old) boys are dabbling in defiance.  I am slowly giving them more independence-

  • They can get in and out of bed by themselves
  • They can wash their hands by themselves
  • They can get dressed by themselves
  • They can prepare some of their food by themselves

But really, they don’t have that much independence yet and as they grow older, they will request more.

How do they do this?

By asserting themselves.


This comes across as being defiant.  But a child who has opportunities throughout the day to be independent will be less defiant.


How does this work?  Well, this goes hand in hand with the “giving-children-more-opportunities-for-risk” post.  


It is hard to allow children to fail, fall, hurt, cry, or fumble but we need to give our children those opportunities and it will help with the defiance we see in young children as well as the defiance we see in teenagers. 


We have scares, and like many parents, we have them often.  But instead of shielding and sheltering my children more, I love feeling the confidence of a child who just learned that it is not OK to play behind a truck.  So that if he ever finds himself in a place behind a truck that is starting, he will get out of there and not wait for someone to come get him.

A child who is acting defiant is a child who needs more independence.

What does this look like and what can parents do?

Let’s say you are getting ready for bed and your child starts acting up.

“NOooo!”

or

“I don’t like those pajamas!”

or however it manifests in your household.

These are all signs of defiance that could be turned into independence.

Your child can take control over what pajamas they want to wear.  They can have control over who brushes their teeth.  And of course they have the independence to choose what book to read.

These are all easy ways to give our children more independence that they are craving.

They are asserting themselves as individuals and we need to give them that opportunity.

Here’s another thought:

If we give children more opportunities to assert their Independence throughout the day, will they ultimately be less defiant?

Try it tomorrow and see what happens.

 

cio

This was the exact question that I got asked yesterday and I love this question!  Unfortunately it isn’t a short yes or no answer, but there is some concrete information out there that can really help parents.  But there are also a lot of emotions out there that can really complicate this topic.

So the shortest answer?

There are two extremes:

  • Cry-it-out extinction where the parent leaves the child alone in the room for the night is on one end
  • Attending to every single whimper so that the child never cries is on the other hand.

Neither of these is recommended by a single expert.

 

So now for the longer answer:

Your child is going to cry at some point.  That is OK and is normal, expected, not going to cause any harm and is actually recommended with you there to support your kiddo.

You and your child are going to go through transitions as they grow.  You will eventually stop night feedings, your child may develop fears, you might return to work, your child will develop separation anxiety, your child will drop naps, your child will develop independence, and with each of these transitions, there will be some adjustment to the change.

There will be tears.

You can be there to support those tears.

You can also give some space.

So on one end of the spectrum cry-it-out might look like this:

Your 6 month old baby sleeps in a crib in another room.  You have your baby on a pretty good schedule but she is still waking every two hours at night.   You make a plan with her and your husband that you are only going to feed her two times at night.  You tell her that she can do it and that you will be there for her.   Then when she wakes when it isn’t time to feed, you or your husband are there to comfort her.  You may lie by the crib or you may rub her back for 2 minutes and then leave for 5 minutes until she stops crying.  After a couple of nights, she gets used to the new schedule and only wakes to feed twice a night. 

And on the other end of the spectrum, cry-it-out might look like this:

You share a bed with your 13 month old.  You feed her when she asks but it is getting to be too much because it is every one to two hours at night.  You would like to bring the feedings down to one or two feedings per night.  You make a plan with her and your husband that you are only going to feed her two times at night.  You tell her that she can do it and that you will be there for her.   Then when she wakes when it isn’t time to feed, you or your husband are there to comfort her.  You may sleep in another room while your husband comforts her so that she doesn’t try to get milk.  Or you may just remind her while rubbing her back or cradling her that there isn’t any food until a certain time.  There will be crying and you will be there for her and comfort her while you cut back on night feedings.   After a couple of nights, she gets used to the new schedule and only wakes to feed twice at night. 

 

What does the research say about cry it out?

You have probably heard that there are studies that say that cry-it-out will cause long-term damage to your child.  You may also have heard that cry-it-out is just fine for your baby.  There are actually only two heavily referenced studies on cry-it-out and both of them only give limited info on the subject.  The only thing experts truly know about this is that we don’t know enough and we could do a plethora of studies to learn more.

The cry-it-out is bad for babies study

This study was done with a group of babies in a lab and it was testing the synchronicity of the mother’s and baby’s cortisol levels when they were crying-it-out.  We don’t know much about how the babies were supported but what we do know is that after 3 nights, the mothers’ cortisol levels went down and the babies’ cortisol levels remained high.  We do know what cortisol levels are an indicator of stress and we do know what certain amounts of stress are bad.  We also know that it good when mothers are in tune with their babies.  So yes, there will be a certain amount of stress with crying-it-out.  Does it cause long-term damage?  This study doesn’t show that it does.

The cry-it-out is fine for babies study

This study was done over five years with a group of families and one group of families was given sleep training information and the other group got no additional information.  After 5 years, they couldn’t tell much of a difference in either behavior or sleep habits.  So what does this show?  Nothing really. It just says that the babies who may have been sleep trained turned out fine and that the parents who didn’t sleep train have children that sleep just fine. 

Summary:

Your babies are going to cry and that’s OK.  All babies will cry.  

You choose the level of support and when you want to make transitions.  

It isn’t recommended by anyone to leave your baby to cry for hours by yourself.  You baby may cry for hours, but you will be there so support them. 

 

 

 

calm

Does it seem like all your toddler does is fly off the handle? Do you feel overwhelmed by your toddler’s behavior?  Or is your child pretty awesome, but still has these moments where you just don’t know what to do?

Here’s my top 5 tips to help calm your toddler.

Control

Toddlers are learning about their world and asserting their independence and the easiest way for them to assert their independence is to throw a fit.  So to help them navigate their world, you can help them to be in more control by giving your children some control.   When you give control, they don’t need to take it by way of a tantrum.  So give your child little bits of control throughout the day, and they will be more calm.  Let them choose which shoes to wear to the park.  Give them control over how many necklaces they want to wear.  Allow them to choose their snack.  Ask them which pajamas they want to wear.  This will lessen the amount of time that they are battling you and will create calmness in the house.

Get outside

Nature is Therapeutic.  If you are feeling at the end of your rope, or if you child is losing it; head outside!  Nature will raise your spirits, it will help you breathe, it will calm your nerves.  Once you are outside, you will probably get some exercise and if you get some exercise you will sleep better and if you sleep better, you will be more calm.  This works for your kiddos too.

Check sleep routines

On of my mantras to my children is “when I’m tired, I get pretty fussy.”  They see this in action as I can be short with them when I am more tired.  The same is true for my kids.  If they are getting fussy, it probably means that I need to move bedtime sooner or get a nap in.  If tiredness is a constant, then looking at how much sleep kids are getting and how the routines are working is a must.

Teaching calming down techniques

It’s hard to calm down if you don’t know how to do it.  So, what are some techniques? The first technique is taking a deep breath.  Teach this technique all the time and do it when everyone is happy and calm.  When is the best time to do that?  Right before dinner or right before bed or during a bath.  Say, “Smell the roses” as you breath in deeply.  Then say, “Blow out the candles” and release your breath.

Another technique is taking space or taking a break.  When children are very little, just a change of scenery will be enough to calm a child down.  Read a book, look outside or go to a different room.  Sometimes they will need more space and will need to be alone for a little while.  Also known as a “time-out”, if children are taught this technique in a calm way, it can be very effective.

Model behavior

I hear over and over again how parents feel bad when they get upset with their children.  But getting upset isn’t a bad thing.  It is totally normal.  It is also a perfect time to model calming down techniques.  You get upset at something.  You yell.  Then you say out loud “I am really upset right now and I need to find a way to calm down!!” (If you can identify your behavior, your children will learn how to do the same.) Then you say (or yell!) “I’m going to take some deep breaths right now and I hope that helps!!!” or “I’m going to take 5 minutes in the bathroom or my bedroom right now and try to calm myself down!!”.  Your child will be staring at you in disbelief but will be watching and learning about how to calm down.

Once you are calmer, you can talk about what worked and what didn’t.  You can also apologize if you did something that you wish you hadn’t.  That is also a great learning experience for children and better in the long run for children than to have parents that never make any mistakes at all.

 

Lying

It happens all too soon; your super sweet child tells you something that you know is the exact opposite of what actually happened.  If you can’t trust them, what can you do?

It is pretty normal and not at all devious for children to lie at a young age.  Up until the age of 5, imagination and reality are very nebulous in a child’s mind.  Around 5 years old is the age where Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and other stories start to get separated into fiction and non-fiction and with it, children start to experiment with truth and fiction.  They don’t see it as manipulation at this age.  One thing that you could do to help with those situations is to ask about the future, rather than the past.  This is an important part of problem solving.

In each situation, you will never know exactly what happened so whenever you come up on a situation where something undesirable has happened, you try to figure out what the problem is and what some solutions are.  Instinctively, we want to find out what happened and who did what and this is an open invitation for children to either fib, lie or just state the situation from their point of view.  This often looks like:

Mom: “What happened?”

Child A: “I didn’t do it!”

Child B (if more than one child is involved”): “He broke it!”

Child A: “It wasn’t my fault! He did it!”

Either Child: “No I didn’t!”

Mom: “You are both grounded!”

And this could could go on for a while and I didn’t make specifics because the conversation is often the same and we never really find out what did happen and it’s possible they are both lying.  When you are problem solving, it looks more like this:

Mom: “What happened? What’s the problem here?”

Child A: “I didn’t do it!”

Mom: “Is the problem that the toy broke?”

Child B: “He broke it!”

Mom: “Is the problem that the toy broke?  If it is, then how can we solve the problem?”

Child A: “We could put it back together?”

Child B:”But it will never be the same!”

Mom: “So one idea is that we can try to put it back together.  Another idea is that we can try to find a way to get another of the same toy.  What do you guys think?”

And then it goes on this way with more discussion and finally either a solution that everyone is happy with or a solution that mom puts the toy away. Your whole goal with problem solving is working into the future and not delving on the past.

 As children get older (5 years old and on..) then may lie to get something and this will feel like a dagger to the heart, but it is still normal and not something to fret over.

It is important to look at what is the reason behind the lie?  What is he trying to do?  Is he trying to fit in with his friends?  Is he questioning the purpose of a rule?  This is a great conversation starter to see into his mind and start problem solving.

 Most older children will lie to protect their interests.  When I was about 8 years old, my mother told me that I HAD to wear my hat to school or I would freeze to death.  So everyday, I would put my hat on and as soon as I was around the corner, I would remove my hat so that I wouldn’t have hat head when I got to school.  I needed to protect my reputation, make sure that the other kids liked me.  And when my mom asked me later if I wore my hat, I would say, “yes.”  Our interests were radically different.  She wanted me to stay warm, I wanted to have friends. You have to look at the motivation behind the action and start the conversation there.   

Natural consequences are the best teachers.  You can tell children over and over not to lose their toys or that if they are wet, they’ll be cold, but until they experience it themselves, they aren’t really going to learn.

Another instance where a child might lie is if you tell them not to bring a toy with them to school, and then later you find it in their backpack.  They were lying to you, but they were only trying to protect their interests.

 So you can set up a situation by saying, “I wouldn’t bring that toy if it were me, because it is special and irreplaceable.  It would be a huge bummer if it broke or was lost.”  Then it is up to them whether or not to bring it.  You have set it up that it isn’t a good idea, but they won’t learn until they lose or break a toy.  Then you can be very empathetic (don’t say “I told you so!” No one likes to hear that and it doesn’t teach empathy) and say, “I’m so sorry that happened.  I can help you look for 5 minutes but then we have to leave.”

 All kids lie to a degree especially when no one is getting hurt by the lie.  It is normal and even adults will have small lies here and there. The best way to teach honesty is to model it and know that no one is perfect.

love

Is your child fussing up a storm right now because you told her that she can’t have the one thing that she wants?  That sounds about right.

And as parents, we need to set limits so we keep telling her no.

And that just makes her fuss more so we want to give in so that the fussing can end.  But here’s what you can say,

You can’t have that one thing that you want, but you can have lots and lots of love.

Tonight was tough because everyone was tired and when papa came to give good night kisses, one of my boys refused.  So we said, that’s ok if you don’t want a kiss and a hug, now it’s time to go to bed.

Ten minutes later, when I was laying with the boys, a quiet voice said, “I want a kiss and hug from papa.”  Who in their right mind would refuse that?  Oh man, how sweet.  So there I was, smack in the middle of every parent’s dilemma.  Do I just give in and let him have this that will help him fall asleep? Or do I hold my ground?

I said,

You can’t have a kiss and hug from papa now, but you can have lots and lots of love from me.

Trust me, this wasn’t the first time that this has happened.

My boys are typical toddlers and they fuss about what they want, then they change their mind and then they fuss some more.  And as parents, we need to set limits but we also want to parent in a positive way.   So as soon as we tell them that they can’t have what they want, they start to fuss.  They start to yell, cry, kick, scream and throw themselves on the ground.  We want to follow through and not let them get whatever they ask for, but we also don’t want to yell, kick and scream back at them.

So we hold our ground, follow through, and still give them all the love that they need.

Let’s say that your child wants the green shirt.  So you give him the green shirt.  Then two seconds later, he spills juice on the green shirt.  This is a recipe for disaster.

I probably don’t have to go into describing the following scene which then gives you three choices:

  1. You can clean the juice off the shirt, run it through the dryer, and move on with your day
  2. You can take the shirt, prepare for the tantrum storm, deal with the tantrum in whatever way you can for that day or
  3. You can take the shirt and give a big hug with lots of kisses and snuggles (which probably won’t be taken) and say:

You can’t have that shirt, but you can have lots of love and hugs from mama.

I’ve been talking a lot lately about positive parenting and time outs and this is where we set limits and clear and consistent boundaries in a positive way.

 

tantrum1

I talk a lot about tantrums, mostly because they are the center of toddler-hood, but also because they cause a lot of unwanted stress.

So here are two things to never do during a tantrum:

1) Give in.


2) Get mad.


Most likely in your journey as a parent, you are going to do both, but you should do differently starting tomorrow and here is why:

1) Don’t give in.  You child is looking to see where the wall is.  Where the limit is.  As soon as you give in, he has to keep looking.   This is very hard on children and very hard on parents.

For example, your toddler wants the crusts off his sandwich.  In the midst of cutting off the crusts, you cut the sandwich in half which is what he usually likes.  You give him the sandwich.

Toddler: “NOOO!!” Tears start streaming, face turns red.  “Put the sandwich back together!!!!”

You (not giving in): “I’m sorry, I thought that was how you liked it.”

Toddler (potentially throwing the sandwich, hopefully not): “NOOooo!! Put it back together!!”

At this point, you could give in and make him another sandwich.  It would diffuse this situation, but it would only create future situations where your child has to learn what the limit it.  DO NOT GIVE IN. Do not make another sandwich.   Your child can either eat the sandwich you made or not eat the lunch.  

I realize that you want to make another sandwich.  You don’t want the tantrum and the new sandwich will calm everything down.  But if you do give in, then your child has to test the limits again later and will have to see if it is OK to tantrum about something else. 

Don’t give in!

You (still not giving in): “So sorry, but sandwiches don’t go back together.  Do you want to eat or are you all done?”

2) Don’t get mad.  Again, your child is looking to you to see what is ok and what is not ok.  Is it ok to start screaming about sandwiches?  If you start screaming too, then the answer is “Yes.”  If you remain calm then the answer is “No.”

Toddler: “NOOO!!” Tears start streaming, face turns red.  “Put the sandwich back together!!!!”

You (remaining calm): “So sorry about the sandwich, do you want to eat it or are you all done?”

You are going to want to say, “What?!? Are you effing ridiculous? You always want me to cut it up and now you want me to put it back together?!?!?”

Toddler: “No no no no no. put it back. put it back. put it back. put it back.  put it back TOGETHERRRRRRRR!” 

You (remaining calm):  “Are you all done then?”  

You are going to want to say, “If I hear one more word out of you, you are going straight to time out!!”

But if you escalate the situation, two things happen, 1) your child doesn’t learn any skills to calm down and 2) that he can get a lot of attention out of one sandwich and that if he escalates more, then you will as well.  Empathy and calmness will shut the tantrum down (not immediately, but much more quickly).

What to do instead?

Just shut down the whole tantrum by saying “I’m sorry, but no”.

So, instead of giving in, hold strong and say, “I’m sorry, but no”.

And instead of getting mad, say, “I’m sorry, but no”.

I’m sorry, but no.


I-2Bcan-t

“I know, it’s really hard.”

That’s it.  That’s all you have to say.

We hear “I can’t” a million times a day and often during meltdowns or tantrums and it’s really quite simple.  Just respond with, “yes, it is hard.”

They may not actually be able to do what they are saying they can’t do and then you can ask them if they want help.  Or you can just stand back and watch.

If they do achieve what they previously couldn’t, then they look up at you like, “Oh my gosh!  Look what I just did and it was really hard!!”  

If they don’t, then you can just commiserate and say, “There are some really hard things that I can’t do either.”

So next time you hear your kids say, “I can’t!!” then refrain from saying, “yes, you can” and just say, “I know, it’s really hard.”