little-tree

Oh my goodness. If you haven’t seen this book yet, go check it out.

The Little Tree by Loren Long is about a tree that wants to hold on to its leaves.

There are a lot of things that we want to hold on to and it shows up in our bodies in a not great way.

The word that Loren Long uses over and over again is, “tight,”

That’s how it feels.  Your back? tight.  Your neck? tight.  Your body? tight.

We know that it isn’t healthy for us to hold on to this and to create this tension so teaching this idea at a young age is genius. We can show our kids how tight feels and how letting go feels.

When you get to the part where little tree lets go, watch your child.  Watch how things float away.  Watch their body and watch how it melts.

It’s magical.

Get this book and read it.  It will help you as well!

 

some-days

It happens, our children are driving us up the wall and to be totally honest, we don’t want to be around them.  We don’t want to hear their voices.  (We don’t really like them) and it feels horrible.

We react differently when we feel this way and we want to get out of this cycle but they are just so annoying.

So practice gratitude around your child.

We know this makes a difference.  In another one of my favorite articles in the New York Times, the author talks about how a bad situation is flipped upside down when he invokes gratitude.  It can work with your kids too.  When you add in gratitude, your whole perspective will change. 

  • So while you are making breakfast, think about one thing that you love about your child.
  • Before you go to bed, write down one thing that you enjoyed about your child during the day
  • Your children may be pain in the necks, but remember what you do have, food on the table, a safe place to sleep, clean clothes to wear.  When we put things into perspective, it is easier to practice gratitude.
  • Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or a group that works with refugees.  When you give, you are also practicing gratitude and if your kids are old enough, have them participate too.

This is real.

When our kids are complete pains, we can really turn things around by practicing daily gratitude.

 

 

 

travel

For the longest time, I never knew that people actually traveled with young children.  In fact, for most of my life, I thought that it was something that everyone avoided.

But then I started traveling as a young adult and I saw all of these people traveling with their young children and I started asking questions.  I started thinking that someday, I might have children and someday, I might want to travel with them.

Which is exactly what we did.  So after traveling with our little ones for a year and a half, I have compiled my top ten list of why you should also travel with your young’uns

1) To show yourself that you can.

I’m not going to lie and say that it is easy, but it is something that you can and should do.  Before we traveled with our young children, I would lie in bed at night and think of all the reasons that we shouldn’t.  What if the boys fuss?  What if they don’t sleep?  What if we don’t sleep?  What if our car breaks down?  Things can and do happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel.  You survived sleeping on the airport floor.  You children got through three days of not-so-appetizing food.  You realize that you can do just about anything.  

2) To get out of your routine

In pretty much every other post I write, I talk about routine and how important it is.  That is still true.  But traveling gets you out of your routine and in a good way.  If you are stuck eating sugary snacks every day, traveling can get you out of that routine.  If you are in a routine of late bedtimes, it’s possible that traveling will get you out of that routine.  Either way, you are changing stuff up.

2015-01-28 04.59.05

3) Mindfulness

It is so tempting to bring along technology and screens to entertain the young ones, but traveling with young children is a great way to instill and teach mindfulness.  Once you are out and about in the world and you see young children sitting on buses for hours on end, you realize that this is possible and yes, your child can do it.  It requires more work up front talking to your child about all the things around them (“oh wow, those trees look different than all the rest.””Oop! I just saw another white bird!”) but the payoff is huge once they are doing it themselves.

4) To get along with less stuff

When you travel, you can’t bring it all with you so you really have to pare down.  That means not as many toys, not as many gadgets and not as much stuff.  After a short bit, you realize that you didn’t need it in the first place.  And when you children start playing with dirt, sticks, string and rocks, you realize that they didn’t need all that stuff either.

5) To try new things

If you are like me, you don’t always jump into things head first.  So trying new things doesn’t always come easily.  But when you have no choice; you just do it.  It builds character and it builds your child’s character as well.

6) No school issue

Once kids are in school, planning gets a little bit more difficult.  Some schools don’t mind if you miss a lot of school to travel and some schools won’t allow it at all.  To avoid the headache completely, travel while they are young.

7) To build brain pathways

I remember my uncle asking me why we were traveling when the boys were 3 and 4 years old. “They won’t remember any of it”, he said.  He’s right in a way, but the travel will make an imprint.  The new languages, the new people, the new experiences.  They will affect how they grow and how they experience life even if they don’t remember it.

8) To deal with the “I-want-this-this-way” in a real way

Young children will throw tantrums for the smallest things.  “I want the red cup!  No! I want the blue cup!”  Well, guess what, when we are traveling, we have whatever cup is available and no other options.   We don’t have the specific bread that they like and nope, we can’t do that one thing that they want to do because it is on the other side of the world.  Children are more resilient than we think and traveling puts that into perspective. 

9) To see how other families live

Perspective is really everything (in raising children and in life).  When you travel and see how simply some people live, you begin to appreciate the small things more.  When you see how other children eat, play and communicate, you get more insight into your own children and parenting.  

2015-01-28 05.13.48

10) To enjoy your family

Kids grow up so fast.  We hear that everyday and it seems like it is taking forever, but it is really gone in a second.  When you travel while your kids are young, you are really spending time with them.  Once they are older, they will be off doing their own thing.  We only have one go at this, so book your ticket and create some great family memories. 

yes

You have probably said your share of “no” before breakfast if you have a toddler (or any age child for that matter..) and you might be wanting to say that dreadful word less, but don’t know how.  You want to set limits, but you also want to parent in a positive way.

Here’s a way that you can do it:

When you want to say “no”, tell the child what they can do, when they can do it or when you can help them.

Here’s a bunch of examples and we’ll start with my favorite one:

When you are at the park and it’s time to leave and your child starts to get fussy, your reaction might be to say, “No more fussing!  Let’s get in the stroller!”

But instead, you can say, “Would you like to come back to this park next week?”

If your child is sitting in their high chair or at the table eating and they start throwing food, your first thought might be to say, “No throwing food, we eat our food.”

But instead, you can say, “Are you finished eating?” and then take the food away.

If you are getting your child ready for bed and they are asking for another book, your instinct will be to say, “No more books for tonight.”

But instead, you can say, “Let’s save this book for tomorrow!”

If your child is saying, “Pick me up, up up up!” you might respond by saying, “No, I can’t right now, I’m making dinner.”

But instead, you can say, (even if the child is fussing), “I can pick you up as soon as my hands are clean!”

If your child hits you or another child or person, you will need to set a limit, but you can do it in a positive way.  You will want to say, “No hitting”

But instead, you can say, “We take good care of each other.  If you need some space, just let me know.”

I find that the majority of the fussing happens when my children are hungry or tired, so many times, instead of saying no, I say, “Do you want a bite to eat?”  or “Would you like to lay down and snuggle for a bit?”  This doesn’t work at first because most children take a while to develop enough self-awareness to know what is bothering them.  But soon, they will be able to answer with a “yes.”

So if you stop saying “no”, you are not allowing the behavior, you are just letting the child know what is allowed.

This is still setting limits, but in a positive way.

The benefits from this type of communication are many:

Increases vocabulary

If you are just saying “no” all the time, chances are, one of the first words your child will say is “no”.  Then the tables will soon turn and they can use that word against you when they get a bit older. But if you are really talking with your child and explaining things, then they pick up on all of those words and will have a bigger vocabulary in the long run.

Helps with problem solving skills

When you tell your child what can happen instead of what can’t happen, you are teaching your child that there are different options.  For example, when you tell your child, “You can throw rocks into the river if there aren’t any people or animals around, but it isn’t safe to throw rocks at people”, you are telling them that there is more than one option or more than one solution to a problem.  What is the problem? Throwing rocks hurts people and animals.  What is one solution?  Not throwing rocks at all.  What is another solution? Throwing rocks only when nothing is around.  What is another solution? Throwing balls or seeds instead of rocks. What is another solution? Going home.

 

Teaches delayed gratification and waiting skills

It is really hard for young children to wait.  Unfortunately, the best way to teach waiting is to have children wait. Instead of saying “no”, you can tell your children, “Yes, in a couple of minutes.”  Or as they get older and you can start teaching delayed gratification, you can say, “Yes, this weekend we can do that.”

 

So think about the Conditional Yes when your child’s behavior is unacceptable and instead of saying, “NO!”, say what can happen instead.

sibling rivalry

If you are expecting another child or you already have multiple children, then you have two wishes for them: to be good friends and to not fight all the time.

Good luck.   However, there are several things you can do to facilitate a great relationship between them and fewer headaches for you.  The most important technique (and maybe the most overlooked) is to not pit them against each other.  You want to build them up as a team.   This can happen several ways:

 

Don’t ask them who did what

This is so common and it make sense, you want to know what happened when you walked out of the room for 5 minutes and now they are both upset and presumably, one of them is to blame and we need to know who.  But what this does is immediately asks one to get the other into trouble.  It immediately asks them to rat on the other and make everything worse.  You watched Breaking Bad right?  Ratting somebody out isn’t a good thing and certainly doesn’t gain points with anyone.  So when you walk in on siblings who are crying, wrestling, upset, etc., ask, “What is the problem?  How can we solve it?”  This way you are working towards a solution rather than stuck on blame.  And you know who was to blame? (probably both of them…or hunger, or tiredness)

 

Constantly talk about how they are so good to each other

Even if they aren’t.  This is the magic of positive thinking.  If they believe that they are great siblings, then they will be great siblings.  If you catch either one do anything for the other then talk about how they are taking such good care of their sibling.  Let them over hear you say to another adult how they are great siblings and always look out for the other one.  They will absorb that information like a sponge.

 

Help them problem solve

This is just an extended version of the first tip.  They are going to have opposing viewpoints, ideas and thoughts on just about everything.  One wants to go to the park and the other one wants to go to the pool.  One wants pizza for dinner and the other wants steak.  It takes a bit longer and it can be exhausting to talk them through problem solving but the benefit of having them work it out themselves before too long is SO worth it!

Let me break it down:

Child a: I want pizza!

Child b: No I want steak!!

You: OK, we have a problem, what is the problem? (Identifying the problem is the first step to them solving it on their own- if they can’t identify the problem they get stuck in you vs. me.  At first they will need lots of support in identifying the problem but will be able to do it by themselves after a while)

Child a: We want different things for dinner.

You: OK, what are some solutions?

Child b: We can have steak this time and pizza next time.

Child a: NO! That’s not a good solution!  I want pizza! We have pizza this time and steak next time!

You: Either of those solutions might work, or I have another solution: we can have neither and have grilled cheese instead.

(Other solutions depending on your parenting style can be that each makes their own dinner, go out to dinner so that they can get their own, have neither, have both, etc.   Be creative!)

 

Don’t force them to share when taking turns is more appropriate

Children feel resentful of siblings when they feel like the sibling is taking their stuff.  So be sure to never use the term “share” as a reason to give another child a toy.  There should be a handful of things that belong to only one child and can only be used by that one child.  Examples of these might be a lovey, a super special toy, or things that only fit a certain child like a bike.  The other child never gets to play with that one or two things.  Every thing else may “belong” to one child but can be used by all or belong to the whole family (like books, balls, dolls, trucks or blocks).  If it isn’t the special toy, then turns can be taken.  This doesn’t mean that a child has to give up a toy, just that the other child gets a turn when the first child is finished using it.

 

Enjoy them for their differences

Last but not least, your children will likely be complete opposites from each other.  This may mean that one of them is more like you and one of them is not like you at all.  Embrace those differences and don’t try to fight them.  I often find that spending time with the child who is less like me can be an eye-opening experience and I learn so much.   Also don’t comment on how you would like one to be more like the other.  For instance, if you are a clean freak and so is one child but the other one isn’t, refrain from saying, “Why can’t you help clean up like child A?”  Or if you love to go biking but only one child has that same drive then be sure to hold yourself back and not say, “Why don’t you like biking? Child B loves it!”  When you embrace their differences rather than point them out and get frustrated, they will embrace their differences as well!

flowers2

I just wrote a post on positive mind-sets after reading this article in the New York Times and it is so provocative that I still can’t stop thinking about it and all the implications.

But it gets tricky when you change a couple of words to be more positive because we also know that praise can ultimately make children and adults less motivated rather than more motivated.

So now we just need to tease out the differences since we know the power of just one single word.  And really, this difference is big enough that if you take notice and change what you say starting today, you will make a huge difference in your child’s life.

So let’s start at the base level and move up from there:

Praise consist of adjectives: beautiful, smart, great, wonderful, perfect, fast, pretty, etc.

Positive mind-set consists of verbs: run, sing, draw, breathe, play, swim, jump, dance, write, and so on.

Let’s go back to the article and look at one of the adult examples which I believe is so fascinating.  They worked with a bunch of housekeepers who said that they didn’t have enough time to get in good exercise and be healthy.  So they took some of them and told them how many calories each task burned (vacuuming burns this many calories, making beds burns that many) and without changing anything else in their lives, the housekeepers who had a different mind-set lost weight.

Now they just acknowledged the action of the housekeepers which is what made them healthier.  They didn’t try to change the mindset by saying, “You are thin!” But they did change the mind-set by saying, Your work burns calories”.

Children are the same: you can change their whole outlook by  acknowledging their actions.  However, you can also kill their motivation by praising them.

Let’s break it down another way:

If you say: “Oh, look at you- you look soo pretty!” (Which by the way, you should never say for so many reasons, so if you do, stop right now!” Adjective= praise)

Change it to: “Oh look at you- did you pick out your clothes all by yourself?” (Action= positive mind-set)

If you say: “What a beautiful picture!” (Adjective= praise)

Change it to: “You chose to draw with so many colors!” (Action= positive mind-set)

Another article I read that really resonated with me was from Hands Free Mama titled Six Words You Should Say Today which is specifically about kids and sports but can be used with school work, arts, or any activity and is perfect for steering away from praise and towards positive mind-set.

The six words are: “I love to watch you (fill in the action)”.

It is that simple.  Just acknowledging the action and that it makes you smile.

Nothing more.

The takeaway:

No more praise.  No more adjectives.  Acknowledge the action and watch how your kids change.

 

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This article in the New York Times has been out for a couple of days but it really took me a while to read it because I know that mindset affects age.

Everyone knows that.

If you think you are younger, you’ll feel a little bit younger.  

What if Age is Nothing but a Mind-Set?


But the results in some of the studies in this article are mind blowing!  You can lose weight, be younger, be happier just by changing one word in your vocabulary.

But one thing they don’t mention is children and I think it is even more poignant how children can change through perspective.

Imagine– if adults can physically lose weight just from believing that they are healthier, what would happen to your child’s behavior if they thought they were great kids.

Here’s a scenario (imagined only after you read the whole article): You are at a friend’s house and a mom with a toddler walks in and says, “Oh man, Let me sit down a second before my son starts tearing up the whole house and breaking things.”

And within five minutes, he is running around and trying to get things to throw.

Here’s scenario number two: The same friend’s house, and the same mother walks in with her toddler and the friend says, “Should I get these things out of your way so that he can’t reach them?” And the mom responds, “No, he is very respectful and your things will be fine.”  And even if in five minutes the toddler starts to reach for something (which he probably won’t), the mom can remind him, “no touching, that’s not ours”.

In the first scenario, the mom is setting her child up for poor behavior, however in the second scenario, the same mom is setting up the same child for success!

What if Age is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

I have twins boys so just about everywhere I go, I hear, “Are they twins?  Wow, they must be a handful!”  

Can you imagine?  All my boys’ life they have been hearing that they are a handful which is a really nice way to say that they are difficult.   

But get this, I always respond, “A handful of love!

So for their three long years, they have been hearing about how they are full of love every time they meet a stranger.

You can change your child’s behavior by changing the words you use around them, to describe them, and when you ask them to do things.

This isn’t about praise, I’m not telling you to start telling your children that they are smart, or that their picture is beautiful.  I’ll talk about praise another day, this is about changing one or two words in how you describe your child to other people and how you set their course and give them the perspective that they are good kids!

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challenges

Life is tough.

Many days, I wish that someone would come and take away some of my challenges, but it never seems to happen.

So why then, do we so often remove challenges from children’s lives?

As a teacher, I was often in team situations where other teachers would remove challenges from their classroom, In fact, it was sometimes the theme of a professional development workshop.   

They would say things like:

“In order to have less conflict in your classroom, be sure to have multiple copies of one toy.”  

Now I’m not saying that we should limit the number of toys in classroom (because I think that there should be enough toys so that every child has one) but I don’t think that there should be more than one of a certain toy just because it might cause conflict.   

In fact, I think that teachers should deliberately have just one special toy in their classroom in order to create a challenge and teach children how to manage it!

I remember sharing a gym time with one teacher who would always remove all the obstacles from the bike track and it drove me crazy every day.  I wanted signs and obstacles in the way so that they had to learn how to get around them.  When I asked her why she always wanted the track free of debris, she said that she didn’t want the kids to get into a traffic jam.  When I asked her ‘why not?’, she didn’t have an answer.  

One day I asked her to watch the kids if we didn’t move things out of the way for them and see what would happen.  These children (3-5 years old) with many different abilities and languages communicated more, interacted more, worked together and problem solved when before they would just go around in circles for 45 minutes. 

 

Here’s the thing-

They will struggle.

They will get frustrated 

And that will be hard for you.

But it is ok for them and they don’t need you to take the challenge away.

This will seem counter-intuitive, because you will want to help them and relieve their frustration.  But as I have said before, parenting is no longer intuitive.  Only in the last fifty or so years has parenting become so interactive with children.  Children used to watch each other or help out with chores all day and there wasn’t time for a parent to just “be” with their child.  Now a parent’s job is to hang out with their children and that puts us into many situations where we can “help” our children but we end up helping too much.

But you aren’t going to let your child run around the neighborhood completely independent so since you will be around your child, you can coach your child when a challenge arises.  Instead of doing it for them, helping them out of a fix, you can talk to them and:

1) Tell them that they can do it!

2) Offer up some solutions of ways that they can solve their problem.

3)  Acknowledge how hard it is and that it might take a lot of work.

4) Sometimes you can empathize and talk about hard things that you do and how sometimes it is really frustrating.

This way of parenting is hard, and will cause more tantrums, but in the end will be worth it and you can do it!

 

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days-of-lives

This is a quote from Annie Dillard and it really speaks to me on the first day of the new year.


Are our days rushed, stressed and unfulfilled?

Or are we able to breathe and enjoy our days?

The negative moments in our lives are just a moment, but strung together, they are our lives.

There are many days that I still can’t believe that I’m a parent.  I keep thinking that one day I will actually feel like a parent and will know and understand what that feeling is, but it may end up that I’ll be lying on my death bed and finally realize that I was a parent this whole time.  

So what does that mean?

  • It means making conscious decisions about parenting.  
  • It means deciding that we will all eat together at least once per week.  
  • It means that there will be no devices at the table.  
  • It means that I will take a deep breath in front of my children as they are losing it and I’m about to lose it as well.
  • It means that the majority of my interactions with my children will be positive.  So if I find that I have three snippety utterances, then the next nine things I say will have to be positive!
  • It means that I will be clear about my expectations with my children rather than assuming that they know what I am asking of them. 

Because the way that I parent today is the parent that I am.   

Seriously, I still don’t feel like a parent.  What does that truly feel like?

If you want your 2014 to be calmer, your children to listen better, your family to be more connected, contact me today and we will get you started on a parenting plan.  The initial consultation is free

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gratitude

With Thanksgiving fast approaching and the warm feeling of holidays creeping up on me, I feel compelled to write about gratitude.

I see lots of people talking about feeling thankful and being grateful and I love the reminders.  It is so important to be thankful and to express gratitude.  

I love this article from New York Times which talks about the physical changes that your body encounters from expressing gratitude.  Better sleep, less anxiety, acting kinder and feeling happier are all results of the simple act of being thankful.  It is a couple of years old, but deserves to be revisited. 


It is something that we can do for the month of November but since the month is coming up on a close, start practicing it now and then try to refresh your gratitude as the winter continues on into the spring.  It can be part of your dinner conversation or can be done right before bed as part of the bedtime routine.

“What are you thankful for?”  Or even “what was the best part of your day?” can be a reminder to what you appreciate in your life.  Life gets tough, life gets rough.  Children start fussing and crying, bills pile up and sometimes it seems like everything is going against you.  But just looking at one thing that did go right today can change things around.  It helps your shift your perspective.   Even if all you can muster out is “the best part of my day was the corn dog.”   Then smile at the corndog and know that you just changed your life physically and mentally.

Be thankful for all the big things and all the small things (especially the small things) in your life and then watch this video:



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