If there is one thing that all parents struggle with; it is transitions.

There are two kinds of transition with which we really struggle.  One kind is getting a child to switch gears.  Whether it is transitioning from home to out of the house or leaving the park to go to lunch, this is often a struggle.  The second transition is moving a child from one routine into another routine.  These kinds of transitions are moving from a diaper to no diaper, moving from a family bed to an independent bed or no longer using a bottle.

Parents often feel even more isolated around transitions because they frequently happen at home. It really feels like you are the only one going through this difficulty when actually the opposite is true.  Everyone (and I mean, everyone) goes through a hard time with transitions.

But don’t despair!  There are some things you can do!  For switching gears transitions, there is a very effective tool you can use:

Focus on what is just beyond the transition.

Instead of saying “Get your shoes on. We have to go.  I said Now!”

Say, “Do you want an apple or an orange to eat in the stroller?”

Or, “Do you want to stop at King Soopers or Trader Joes on the way home from school?”

And if the case is leaving the house to go to school (or wherever, it just seems like school is pretty much always the hardest transition): focus either on something good at school or focus on something after school.

Instead of saying, “Stop dilly dallying!  Get ready now!  We have to go!”

Try, “Which friend are you going to play with at school today?” (While you hand them their jacket)

Or, “Which errand do you want to get done this afternoon?” (As you are opening the door)

This can work for leaving the house in the morning or for leaving somewhere fun.  So if you are at the park or a friend’s house, you can talk about the next step rather than the leaving part. “What do you want for dinner tonight?” or “Who should we facetime when we get home?”

I often hear parents bribing their children through transitions.  They say that there is a treat waiting for them in the car.  Or they say that there is something special at home.  There are two reasons for this: 1) it is effective 2) children often forget the bribe through the transition and parents know that.  But there are two reasons that we don’t want to do this.  One is because bribery breaks down relationships and trickery destroys trust.

 

The second type of transition is a much bigger transition.  It is a change of routine such as no longer using a bottle, or no more diapers at night.  This kind of transition feels really hard because you know that there is the other side of the transition, but you just can’t imagine getting through all of the muck and sludge to get there.

But the idea is the same as the first transition;

Focus on the end of the transition in other words: you can do this!

Know that so many parents have gone through this before you and they had just as much difficulty as you are having, but they made it to the other side just as you will.

Change is tough and your kids will resist.  They will cry and they will fuss but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t change your routine.

Let’s say that you have always given your child milk or yogurt or cereal just before bed and you want to take that part of your routine away.  You know in your mind that this is going to be horrible and that they may not sleep as well for a couple of days and that they will be super fussy.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go through the transition, it just means that it will be tough.

But focus just beyond the transition and know that they will eventually eat better at dinner, they won’t have a higher risk for cavities and it will overall be a better routine for health.  So know that the outcome will be optimal and be ready for some fussing.  

Transitions are hard, but as they are a big part of life, be there as support for your kiddos and know that everyone is going through the same thing!

 

 

Disappointment and failure are two things that you want your child to avoid at all costs as they are growing up.

Just kidding!

We all know that having a perfect rosy life isn’t possible and probably isn’t the ideal either and yet we try to provide that for our children; to their detriment.

Let’s start with disappointment.

As soon as your children turn two years old (or often just a couple of months before they turn that amazing age) they start to experience disappointment.  They are disappointed that they didn’t get to turn on the light.  They are disappointed that they didn’t get the red cup.  They are disappointed that they can’t eat the chocolate muffin for dinner.   As soon as they fuss and cry to show their disappointment, we want to relieve that discomfort of being disappointed and we give them the chance to turn on the light, we get them the red cup, we get them a muffin and then we become the saviors of the day!  Hooray! Disappointment averted!

However, disappointment is the best and healthiest experience for a young child.

Disappointment teaches resiliency, it teaches them about life, it helps them become an adult.

My husband works with young adults and he often talks to me about how parents can shape children to become functional adults.  He is currently reading Ownership Thinking: How the End Entitlement and Create a Culture of Accountability, Purpose and Profit.  Apparently this is a hot topic in all business as one google search of “Creating Ownership” will give you pages and pages of how to reduce entitlement.  The book talks about how employers should not “rescue” their employees just as a parent shouldn’t “rescue” their children.  

We have the option of creating the next generation of adults who aren’t entitled and who feel empowered.

How do we do that?  Allow our children to experience disappointment and failure.

Failures

Failures are different from disappointment as disappointment is the external world not going your way and failure is when your own actions/ choices/ attempts don’t work as you would have hoped.  As your children grow, they will start to have little failures and then bigger failures.

It might start with a lego set that breaks. Or maybe it is a lunch that was forgotten.  It might then be a bad grade or forgetting to do homework until the night before.  These are all little failures that are important for your child to experience.  These are tears that need to fall.

You can be there for your child to give them a hug and, but you can’t fix the failure.  Failures are how children learn and grow.  Failures are how children become adults.

So don’t avoid these two parts of your children’s lives.  Raise your children to become adults!

Do you want a quick fix to help behavior?

Try this!  Be curious!

How does this work?  Ask a lot of questions; in your head and out loud.

Most behavior problems are learning opportunities so it will help minimize anger, frustration and short fuses if you start asking questions and start being curious.

Here’s a scenario:

Your child smeared poop all over the bathroom walls.

If you are not curious at all, you would get mad and start yelling and punish your ridiculous child for smearing poop everywhere. Why in the world would he do such a thing?!?

But then if you are curious, you would actually ask; Why would he do that? You can ask your child directly if they are verbal and say, “Hmmm.  That is interesting. How did poop get on the walls?”  Or you can be curious, look for clues, try and see what might have inspired him to do art with poop.  Did he have poop on his hands and didn’t know what to do?  Was he trying to be independent and didn’t have the motor skills to do things on his own and therefore accidentally got poop on the walls?  Was he wondering what would happen?  Did he just see some cool art and wanted to recreate it?

Chances are that he didn’t do it with the intention to make you mad (although that option does exist and shouldn’t be ruled out in all cases) but that he did it in a way to learn something.

So talking with your child and having him help you find a solution (“We can’t have poop on our walls- how should we clean it?”) will help immensely with behavior.  When children feel heard, when they have some part of problem solving and when they have a little bit of control, they don’t need to take control through temper tantrums.

I just read a post this morning about asking people to “Guess the Good Reasons” and it was in reference to rude people out in the world.  It was talking about the back story of why someone cut you off in traffic or why their child was melting down in the checkout aisle.  We don’t know what is happening in their life and we shouldn’t judge.

It is the same with our children.  We need to Guess the Good Reasons for their behavior.  What is their back story?  Being curious will not only help our children’s behavior but it will also help us manage our frustration with them.

Picture this:

Your toddler just chased after your cat and then full-on hit your cat with her toy.

Or:

Your 4 and a half-year old just went up to his baby sister and pulled her hair.

Or:

You walk in on your 3-year-old twins with everything in the kitchen thrown everywhere.

Your first response?

“Why did you just do that?”

There’s really no point to this question even though we ask it all the time.

“Why did you just do that?”

This question looks to find out the reason behind the behavior, but we already know the reason.  Just look online for toddler behavior and you’ll hear about children throwing their food, hitting their sibling, drawing on the couch.  Why did they do it?  Because they are toddler’s that’s why.  What is the answer that we are looking for when we ask that question?

The reason so many parents ask this question is because they want to start the problem solving process by asking this question.  When we ask, “Why did you do that?!?” we want the child to say, “Well, I hit my sister because we both wanted the same toy, and I figured that I could get the toy if I hit her and she started crying.”  Then, in this ideal world, we say, “So you both wanted the same toy and so you hit your sister, however, hitting is not ok.  What are some other solutions if you both want the same toy?”  Funny enough, I don’t think this scenario has ever actually happened in real life.

Instead of asking this silly question that has no answer; start the problem solving process right away.  What are the steps to problem solving?

First, Identify the problem:

“Uh oh!  Your sister is crying… What is the problem?”

“Did you both want the same toy?  Is that the problem?”

Then, brainstorm some solutions:

“What are some solutions?  You could both take a break from the toy.  We could find a different toy to play with.  Or you can give your sister a turn for two minutes and then you can have a turn with the toy. Or do you have another idea?”

Then, choose a solution:

“Which solution works best for you?”  Depending on your child’s age, you may have to choose for her or you can offer to choose it they are not sure.  I usually choose the worst solution which is putting the toy away.

Finally, see if the problem was solved:

“Did that work?  Did you both get a turn?”

Sometimes the last step is the one that falls apart since toddlers tend to forget things and parents will use that to their advantage, but it is actually really important to follow through and at least check in (“your sister is done with the toy, did you still want your turn?”) because you want to build these skills so that your children are problem solving on their own in a couple of years.

This will drastically improve your children’s behavior as well as create more harmony in the house.

So change your one question from “Why did you just do that?”  To “What is the problem?” for better behavior today!

I’m going to cut to the chase and give you the three steps to better behavior right now.  Before you do any thing (go to the grocery store, get ready for bed, go to a friend’s house, etc) tell your kids:

  1. What it is going to look like
  2. What are the expectations
  3. What will happen if they don’t do what they are supposed to do

 

Ok, now that you know the 3 magic steps, let me walk you through some situations and why these 3 steps are so important!

Kids thrive on routine because they know what is coming next.  If you always get dressed right after breakfast, then kids often run to the clothes dresser right after breakfast because they know what is coming.  They know what to expect.  So just take this same idea out into the world.

Are you going to the library?  Tell your kids.  Are you going to let them check out 55 books.  Tell them that they get 55 books.  Do they get to play on the computer for 20 minutes.  Let them know.  Do you only have space in your bag for 6 books?  Then tell them they only get 6 books.  Do you have time to play at the park afterwards or will your parking limit run out of time and you’ll have to head home?  Let them know ahead of time.

Where else could you use this technique?  The store, the doctor, grandma’s house, running errands, a playdate, going out to dinner, flying on a plane, road trip up to the mountains, getting ready in the morning.  The possibilities are endless.

A lot of parents don’t tell children what is going to happen ahead of time with things that are unpleasant like going to the doctor or dropping them off somewhere.  But we need to build trust with children and we do that by preparing them for the good and the bad.   Before we go to the doctor, I tell them whether they are getting shots or not and then we talk about what we’ll do after the shot (go get ice cream or go to the park).   This way they know what to expect and they are actually less nervous than they would be if they were guessing the whole time (Is this the place that hurts?  What’s going to happen? Am I going to be safe?!?)

The second part is to let them know what the expectations are.  This is true for adults as well. I mean, we all like surprises now and then, but what if you signed up for a hiking trip and then found out that it was a hard-core rock-climbing trip or maybe the hiking trip was actually walking a 1/4 mile.  Both of those would be difficult to deal with because your expectations were totally different than what was presented.  So if you are going to a friend’s house and they don’t mind if the kids jump on the couch, let your kids know.  But if there are going to be fancy tables and maybe even a glass vase somewhere in the living room, tell your kids ahead of time, “no running around AT All at our friends house. We can run outside afterwards, but no running while we are there.”   

I once met up with some college friends and their toddlers at a fancy hotel room that an out-of-town friend had booked.  One of the friends walked it and said, “oh jeez, this place is nice, too bad my kid is totally going to tear it apart.”  So the kid looked up at his mom right after she said that and subsequently began to tear the room apart.  That was her expectation for what he was going to do and so he fulfilled that expectation like any kid would.

This works for bedtime too.  If bedtime isn’t what you were hoping it would be and it is a mess of emotions, push-back, fussing and headache, then make a plan of what bedtime should be.  Find a picture schedule online and use the parts that work for you.  Add in other parts and take out what won’t work.  Then let your kids know.  Talk to them about what they need to do.  Do you help them with their pajamas but they need to brush their own teeth?  Let them know what the expectations are.

Finally, let kids know what will happen if they do or don’t do what is expected of them.

On long days with lots of errands or chores, I list the things that need to be done and then the last thing is something enjoyable, something outside, something relaxing or energy releasing.  This way, kids have something to look forward to and know that they need to hold it together for such and such amount of time before they can release it all.  And if there are issues, problems, etc, then the errands stop and everyone heads home.  Now they can still run around at home, you can still take some space in your room if it was really bad, but the last stop at the park didn’t get added into the mix if the kids just couldn’t handle everything.  And it’s ok.  Your kids won’t always be able to run 3 errands in a row.  They won’t always be able to sit while they eat at a restaurant.  And if they can’t sit, then it means it is time to go home, maybe time to go to bed.

Time to start again new tomorrow.

And the next time, let them know ahead of time and chances are, they’ll be able to do it.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Have you ever yelled at your children?  Have your children gotten angry and screamed at you or threw things?  You may feel like your family is the only family that ever gets angry, but the truth is that everyone feels anger and that feeling angry is perfectly OK.  But what do we do when we feel angry, or after we feel angry?  We weren’t really ever taught how to deal with it, so it is important that we teach our own kids about this unique emotion.

A lot of parents shy away from showing or talking about strong emotions.  We were brought up to think that emotions should be hidden.  But teaching empathy and talking about our emotions is the healthiest way to take care of our minds and bodies.

So we are going to get angry.  And our children are going to get angry.  And that is perfectly OK.  But we also talk about it and read about it.

My favorite book about anger is When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry… By Molly Bang

Here’s why:

It’s the classic kid problem.  Both kids want the same thing.  How often does this happen?  Every. Single. Day. About a hundred times.   The classic kid response to this classic kid problem?  Anger. 

The description of anger is dead on.  She is like a volcano, she is like a tiger.  She wants to roar.  She feels like she is going to explode.  That is exactly how I feel.

How she deals with it.  She runs. She leaves.  She doesn’t hurt anyone. She breathes.  She cries.  She stops and she starts coming back through awareness of her surroundings.  It’s like Buddha wrote this book.  It is so sweet. 

Connection to nature. Being outdoors.  I heard someone say once that it is impossible to be angry while looking at a rainbow.  Sometimes just getting outside will help with our emotions and this is exactly what Sophie does. 

It’s an example of a perfect time out.  Time outs are effective when they are used as a calming down strategy.  The strategy is talked about before the child gets angry and is modeled by the parent.  So when I get angry, I say, “I’m going to take some space like Sophie and take some deep breaths.”  Then later, I can talk about how I calmed myself down and read the book again with my children.  When they get really angry, I can offer, “Do you want to take some time like Sophie?  Do you want to go outside by the tree like Sophie?”

Kids really relate to this book and it is perfect for teaching children about anger, emotions and empathy.

 

 

 

I was talking with my husband about kids last night and how difficult it is to raise children with drugs, media, violence, diseases, addiction and all the other bad things out there in the world.  We were starting to feel a bit depressed when I remembered that there is one thing that you can do to guard your children against all that.

The Family Dinner

Here are the top 5 reasons why you need to have a family dinner with your children this week:

1) Connection

When you sit down at a dinner table, all facing each other, there will be conversation, questions, and connection.  You will build memories, vocabularies, world knowledge and just know more about each other.  This connection will be with your family through the thick and thin.

2) Screen-free

An important part of the family dinner is to turn off all screens.  Not only does this set a precedent for how to eat with others, it will carve out an automatic screen-free time where everyone can be in the present and not connected to something else.  

 

If there is just one change that you make to create a stronger family, more resilient kids and a better world (corny, I know, but it’s true) then have at least one family dinner this week!

 

3) Nutrition and picky eaters

Do you have picky eaters?  Family dinner is one of the many ways that you can help them, but the most important thing to remember, is no pressure.  When food is presented in an attractive way, everyone is eating it and everyone is happy and comfortable, children are more likely to try it.  That doesn’t mean that they will eat it, or like it, but if a child just tries a bite of food, science shows that after 20 tries, they will like the food.  So don’t pressure them, just enjoy the food yourself and over the years, your children will be less picky.

4) Family stories

One of my favorite New York Times article talks about how children who have more of a foundation can weather trauma better.  So if they have heard more stories about their family and know more details about their parents and their lives, then they have more tools in their toolbox when things get rough.

5) Routine

With routine, you build trust and create rituals that will ultimately build a foundation on which your child can grow.  One of my favorite routines is to have everyone take a deep breath before everyone starts eating (or once everyone is sitting at the table).  “In through your nose” *breathe* “Out through your mouth” *breathe* “Smell the flowers” *breathe* “blow out the candle”.  This daily exercise will not only help you as a parent to relax and ground yourself, but it also teaches your child essential calming skills.

The days are getting longer and all I can think about is getting outside with the family.

Here in Colorado we have 13 National Parks and they are a great place to start your spring and summertime adventures.  On May 21, the National Park Trust is hosting a Kids to Parks Day to get your kids excited about what theses parks have to offer. Why do we want to get kids into our National Parks?  They are some of the most amazing parts of Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park, Sand Dunes National Park), they have interesting history (Bent’s Old Fort, Mesa Verde) and they are great for everyone in the family.

At the end of the post, I have information about a National Parks Giveaway!

Here’s 5 reasons why it is so important to do that:

1. The outdoors are screen free!

Are you attempting to keep your child screen-free or limit the amount of screen time?  Well, the easiest way to do that is to get outside!  Every day and every weekend that you plan to be outside, you can also plan to never hear, “Can we watch that video?” or “Mama, phone!”

2. Good exercise and better mental health

Getting outside pretty much guarantees exercise and good exercise guarantees fewer tantrums, better mental health and happier families. If you head to Mesa Verde National Park, you will be climbing ladders, and if your choice is Sand Dunes National Park, you might be sand boarding or just a simple trek to Colorado National Monument and you could be hiking or biking.  Live longer and happier by just getting outside.

3. Awareness of our world

It is crazy that most people can name TV characters, sports team stats, and the names of famous people’s babies and yet they don’t know any names of birds, trees or flowers.  Getting your children outside will balance that out.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t be aware of social media or what is happening in our government, it just means also being able to recognize the song of a robin.  Just being outside a couple days a week will give your children an awareness that can be invaluable to their life.

4. Learn new skills

Depending on your kids’ ages, you can learn lots of new skills in the outdoors from map reading, to fishing, to climbing, to learning about different plants and animals.   Our boys each have an animal tracks book and a flower book to bring along on our hikes.  The National Parks Trust also has a great booklet you can print before heading out with lots of activities.

5. Nature

This one parallels #2 and includes one of my favorite quotes: “Nature; cheaper than therapy”.  Being in nature is good for mental health and when children learn to appreciate nature at a young age, lots of great things happen.  They will be healthier adults, they will be more likely to advocate for conservation, and they will have more awareness of their environment.

So start planning on which National Park you will visit this May 21 and join the almost 73,000 other people who are pledging to take their kid to a National Park!

Leave a comment below about your plans to visit a National Park and you could win a Buddy Bison stuffed animal and two books (Kid’s National Parks Guide and Buddy Bison’s Yellowstone Adventure) to accompany you and your children on your trip!   This set of books values at $25 and is a great way to make life-literacy connections. Winners will be chosen at random by May 21, 2016.  This giveaway is sponsored by The National Parks Trust and Kids to Parks Day.