reading

So hopefully, at some point you have built story time into your day or into your nighttime routine.  If not, you can start at anytime.  It felt really weird reading to my infants who couldn’t even keep their head up (why in the world would they have interest in a book that they can’t see, hear, understand?!?) But not long after that, they were looking at the pictures, and then right after that they were pointing and now they can talk for hours about each book that we read!

So- here are my top 5 tips for reading bedtime stories to toddlers:

1) Routine- Read in the same place whether it be a bed, chair, couch or book nook.  Also do the same thing before and after the book.  We would put on pajamas, brush teeth, read our book and then go to bed.  When we would be out traveling (or in our car, or on a plane) we would follow that same routine and the boys would go right to sleep no matter where we were since we had a nice routine.

2) Be OK with the same book every night for the next three years.  Not only do kids love repetition but it is imperative for their learning.   They build relationships with their books and reading through repetition.  They also learn about sounds, letters, reading, rhymes and rhythm when you read the same book over and over and over and over and over.

3) Snuggle – Be comfortable.  If your reading space isn’t comfortable and cozy then find some pillows or a place that you really look forward to every night.  If you are reading in bed and it causes you to strain your neck, then get more head support or move to a seated reading space.  If you really look forward to reading each night, then undoubtedly your kids will too.

4) Be silly– Have voices, read fast, then slow, loud then quiet.  Give the story life!

5) Extend the story – Maybe just read a couple of pages and then be open to talking about anything or everything. If they start talking, don’t shush them, follow their lead.  The goal of story time isn’t necessarily finishing the book, but it is connecting, talking, learning more about each other and the world.  The story might be about a fish going to bed and all they want to talk about are the colors of the fish, then talk about the colors.  There will be a million other nights to read about the fish’s story- let tonight be about the colors.

Enjoy reading with your kids- one of life’s simplest joys.

 

outside

The concept is simple enough- get outside every day.  Sounds too simple right?

But the actual task is quite difficult (daunting even) many, many days.

When I was pregnant, I worried a bit about postpartum depression and the best advice I heard about beating the blues was to get outside everyday.  Even if it was for five minutes.  Even if it was just to your porch.

There were days when it was easy.  The weather was perfect, the boys were happy.  We got a good stretch of sleep the night before.

But then there were days that it was very, very difficult and I just didn’t want to make the effort.  But even if it was just for a short bit, it made the difference in my over all mental health.

But there was something else good that came out of getting outside every single day.  It became part of our routine. 

When I was a preschool teacher, there were 11 different preschool classrooms and so there were about 11 different teaching philosophies under one roof.  When it came to taking the children outside, the philosophies ranged from: “That is too much work, we don’t go out very often” to “We get outside everyday, rain, snow or shine.”

I fell into the latter category and that drew me some strange looks as we marched down the hall to the playground on the worst of days.  I would hear grumbles of “It takes 20 minutes just to get them all ready and then what?”  or “All that work for 5 minutes outside? No thanks!”  And what I would repeatedly explain to the other teachers was that:

Getting ready to go outside is part of the learning process.  Sometimes it is the goal of the day.

But what I should have explained even further was that every time we got ready to get out, we were only making the next time easier.   

As a parent, getting kids ready to go outside has not gotten any easier.  But since our routine has always been to get outside at least once per day, we have the routine down.

I know that it is a lot to get your kids outside, but you have to re-frame your thinking into- “getting them ready is today’s learning goal”.  As you make it part of your daily routine, not only will getting out of the house become easier, but your children will benefit from being able to make that daily transition.

Your mental health will thank you.

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. 

 

 

 

family dinner

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.

sleep 2

If you have a child, or even just know a child, you have probably heard all of the advice for helping your child sleep.  From Ferber to bed-sharing, there is a wide spectrum of philosophies.  Your head is probably spinning from all of the information, so I’m going to break it down for you.

 

the-sleep-spectrum

The crazy thing is, that contrary to the comment sections on blog posts, your children will be just fine no matter which of these methods you choose.  It really comes down to your family and how everyone will get the best sleep.

You may have heard that having your child cry-it-out could be traumatizing for your children, but the reality is that all children cry and get upset. And as you can see in the info-graphic above, if you stop your child from nursing or sleeping with you (no matter where you fall on the spectrum), then you will illicit some tears.   It should also be known that the statement about traumatizing children is based one study that was done with a small sample and in a sleep laboratory.  There is another study that looks at children 5 years later whose parents used different cry-it-out techniques and who show “no lasting harm”.  Until many, many studies that are longitudinal and have a large sample size have been done, you can rest assured that your child will be fine if you allow them to cry it out.

That doesn’t mean that you should, though.  If if doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it.

You may have also heard that if you allow your children to nurse on demand and share a bed, then they might be smothered or they may continue nursing and bed-sharing until they are eleven years old.  The SIDS fear has been blown out of proportion because many people mistake co-sleeping for bed-sharing and they are not the same.  Very young infants are safer if they are in a bassinet or co-sleeper and not in the same bed. However, there are many studies that show the benefits of co-sleeping and bed-sharing as the infant gets older and as long as the parents follow safe guidelines.   So if you are not drinking alcohol or smoking and you are enjoying the night nursing and toddler bed-sharing, then you by all means, co-sleep and breastfeed for as long as you want.

That doesn’t mean that you should, though.  If it doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it.

The one thing that we know for sure is that sleep deprivation is a real thing and it isn’t OK.  It can cause depression, memory loss, grumpiness, the breakdown of marriage, not taking care of your self or your children among other things.  So if you are experiencing extreme sleep deprivation then you should do something!  

Here are some tips that help no matter where you find yourself on the spectrum:

1. Mom needs at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep

This is where dad or another care giver comes in.  If you are exclusively nursing, start introducing a bottle once nursing is established so that you can pump and dad can take care of feedings during those five hours.  This means that mom goes to bed when baby goes to bed and for the next 5 hours, mom sleeps in another room and has earplugs in while dad feeds, rocks, carries, soothes baby.  Once the 5 hours are up, dad has the rest of the night and mom takes over with the feedings.   

2. Routine

Once the baby is 3-4 months old, a routine can start to take shape.  Routines are really the cornerstone for good sleep habits.  With a routine, many children don’t need any sleep help, they simply fall asleep on their own due to the consistency and comfort of knowing what’s going to happen next.  Of course, many more infants, babies and toddlers need more help than just a routine.

3. The “French Pause”

This was made famous by Pamela Druckerman’s book, Bringing Up Bebe, where she talks about how the french culture always waits a minute or two before they rush to the baby’s side.   This allows the parent to determine what kind of fuss they are experiencing and often allows the child to settle themselves.  

4. Sleep associations

Newborns are always going to fall asleep nursing or drinking from the bottle so that is always everyone’s first sleep association.  But you can start to build in other sleep associations that go alongside nursing if you eventually want more independent sleeping.  White noise, music, essential oils, a special toy or lovey, or a certain kind of light are all good things to do while your child falls asleep so that you can remove one association and keep another to help them achieve independent sleep. 

5. Make sure your child doesn’t get overtired

An overtired child is a child who will never go to sleep.  They become hyperactive to keep themselves awake.  They go and go and go until they crash.  This is not a healthy situation for anyone.  Keep a lookout for signs of tiredness and use them to your advantage.  When you see yawns, droopy eyelids, decreased activity, or even some crankiness, it is time to put your child to sleep.  If you can, start the process before this happens so that once they are showing signs, you are right on schedule.

6. Have an active day and get outside

Be sure to get your children outside at least once per day.  It helps regulate their bodies and helps with night sleep.  The more active children are during the day, the better they will sleep at night.  This doesn’t necessarily mean keeping them from napping since sleep begets sleep, but it does mean to have a fun and active day!

 

 

 

calm

Most parents are wondering what to do when their child is having a tantrum, or what to do when they are hitting.   But a lot of parenting challenges can be resolved when everyone is calm.

Sometimes we don’t take advantage of this time because we might forget. But even more often, we don’t want to “rock the boat” when things are good.  We don’t want to lose the good part by bringing up the bad part.

But don’t be afraid!

There are a lot of things you can do when things are calm to help the times that aren’t calm.

Each situation is a little bit different on how to handle the behavior, but here are ten things you can do when everyone is in a good mood:

1) Teach calming down strategies

The best strategy for calming down is to take a deep breath.  It works for kids, it works for adults.  Young children love imagery so you can say, “Smell the flowers. Blow out the candle.”  You may not think that you have to practice, but when everyone is in the heat of the moment, breathing deeper is a lot harder than you’d think.  If you are eating dinner together, you can start the meal with two deep breaths.  That helps your daily practice, as well as setting the stage for a nice meal.  Another strategy for calming down is taking space.  You can talk to your kids about taking space and how it helps calm you down and then actually act it out.  Pretend that you are upset and then go into your room.  Come out a minute later much calmer and talk about how taking space helped.

2) Read a book together

There are many great anger and tantrum books out there that you can read with your children, but the best book that you can use to help your child is one that you wrote about your situation.  Does your child always get upset about their little brother? Write a book about it with real pictures!  Does your child throw things all the time?  Write a book about it!  Then you can discuss the book and the behavior with your child when everyone is calm.

3) Make a plan about a certain behavior

This one is so important.  Don’t wait until the behavior happens to make a plan.  Make a plan in the morning or evening when everyone is calm.  Start by mentioning the unwanted behavior.  “Do you remember what a tough time we had going to bed last night?  You were fussing about not getting enough water (stories/hugs/potty trips/etc). Let’s make a plan so that it doesn’t happen again tonight.”  Then after you mention the problem, you can start coming up with ideas on how to do things differently this time.  Also come up with a plan if things don’t go well again.

4) Talk about how much we take care of each other

Make this part of your daily routine.  Whenever you see someone helping out, mention it.  “I’m taking care of you guys by making breakfast.  You are taking good care of your kitty by being gentle.  Papa takes good care of us by working so hard.  Thank you for taking good care of your toys.  Your hug just made me feel so good- you take good care of me.”  Being part of a family means taking care of each other and it is good to point out each time it happens.

5) Solve a problem

Solving problems can be fun and when you practice the steps of problem solving, you make it easier to problem solve when times are rough.  First, name the problem “What is the problem?  Our spice drawer is really messy.  What are some solutions?  We could organize all the spices; we could build a spice rack; we could move them to a bigger drawer.  What do you guys think?”

top-ten-things-to-do-when-everyone-is-calm (1)

 

6) Let them overhear about what a good listener/ good problem solver/ good helper they are

My favorite quote is “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice“.  So if a child hears that they are “crazy monsters”, then they will become a crazy monster.  If a child hears that they are a “good helper”  then they become a good helper.

7) Let them see you handle a conflict/ calm down

Modeling behavior is the best way to teach behavior and if you are a parent, chances are, you have gotten angry, upset or overwhelmed recently.  This gives you the perfect situation for modeling how to get out of that mood and it is by calming our bodies.  Once you are upset, talk about it. “I’m really upset right now. I’m going to take some deep breaths to help me calm down.  *breathe in*  *breathe out*  (pause) OK, I’m feeling a little bit more calm now.”

8) Eat a meal together without devices

The best way to deal with conflicts present and future is to eat a meal together without devices.  Eating a family dinner is one of the best things you can do to help your child’s behavior.  It is the perfect time to bring up situations in a non-threatening way and you can find solutions to help solve future problems.

9) Look at how much sleep your kids are getting

A tired kid is a cranky kid.  Compare your child’s sleep with how much sleep they should be getting.

10) Have a tickle fest!

Have fun together as a family.  Kids are a riot.  Enjoy them as much as you can and you will release a lot of stress and find yourself enjoying each other a lot more!

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. 

10 tips

Here’s a list of 10 tried and true tips to being a good parent:

  1. Routine

It may not fit your lifestyle if you are used to being more spontaneous and flying by the seat of your pants before you had kids, however it is the number one way to having happier kids.  Doing more or less the same things at more or less the same time of day every day will make your children better sleepers, better eaters and better behaved.

2. Eat dinner together as a family

There is study after study about how eating dinner together as a family insulates your children from many societal ills.  Be sure to use the “no devices at the table” rule or you won’t benefit from the time together.  But this one simple thing will set your child up for life!

3.  Breathe

The best thing I ever heard as a parent is, “breathe in for a count of 5, breathe out for a count of 5”.  Not only does it calm you down, but it is a great model to help your children calm down.

4. Rotate your children’s toys

When your children have fewer toys to play with, they are more engaged and more focused.  Clean up is much, much easier and when they are bored with their toys, the ones in storage will feel like new!  Get some good storage bins (or even plastic bags) and put about half of your kid’s toys away in the garage or a closet.

5. Don’t force your kids to eat

Take all the stress away from food and eating and your children will be better and healthier eaters.  Provide them with three healthy meals a day with fruit for snack in-between meals and as long as there is at least one thing on the plate that they will eat, let them decide how much food they want.  It’s OK if they decide not to eat, or just eat the one thing that they are familiar with.  Have them take one bite of the new food even if it is a tiny bite.  It takes 20 times of trying most foods before children will eat it.

6. Carve out a little time for yourself

If you are burnt out, you won’t be much support for your children.  Taking some time for yourself doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you a good parent.  Whether it is a 5 minute walk around the block, a little meditation in the morning, or watching your favorite show while they are sleeping- just do it!

7. Teach your children problem solving skills

If your children can solve their own problems, then your life will be much easier and your children will have more success in life.  Start by identifying the problem (you both want the same toy) and then help them come up with solutions.  The more creative, the better!

8. Get outside every single day (even and especially on the worst of days)

One of my favorite quotes is “Nature is cheaper than therapy.”  Getting outside is something you can do with or without your children.  When you go outside for even a short time, your whole look on life will improve.  If you have even more time to get a walk around the block or a get out into nature, your outlook on life will increase ten-fold.  And if the weather is super rainy, cold, hot or just uncomfortable, then coming back home will be that much more enjoyable.

9. Get down on the floor (when times are good and when times are bad)

Getting down on the floor does many things:

  • It changes your perspective so that you see things from your kids point of view
  • It moves your body in ways that you aren’t used to and puts you into a mood to have fun
  • If tempers are flaring, it lowers the anxiety level of your children (Seriously. Try this- they immediately calm down)
  • It puts you on the same level as your child which increases connection and decreases power imbalance

10. Give your kiddos a hug every single day

This one is a no-brainer, but somehow I still seem to forget!

 

 

twins

When we found out that we were having twins, I was shocked beyond belief.  The pregnancy was difficult (not for medical reasons, but for anxiety reasons) and the first 3-6 months were really rough.

But then, the sun started shining and I began to realize how lucky we are to have twins.  The disclaimer here is that twins are tricky no matter what and that I’m not discounting anyone’s experience with multiples, I’m just saying that there are certain advantages to having twins.  And here they are:

 

1) Twins learn how to share from day one.  

Breastfeeding was very important to me and with a ton of support, I was able to breast feed my boys for 8 months and 13 months.  For the first month or so, I tandem fed them which meant that they both breast fed at the same time.  It was very difficult to do that and once the feedings got quicker, I shifted to feeding them one at a time.  So from very, very early on, they heard me say (and watched me) as I gave them one turn at a time.  And trust me when I say that the one who had to wait wasn’t always happy, but hey, guess what, that’s life and it is much easier to learn at 3-4 months old rather than at 2 years old. 


So if you only have one baby, play games where each of you takes a turn from when they are wee ones.  You can have a fun toy and play with it for a minute or two while saying “my turn!” before you give it to them.  Continue this daily, “My turn for ‘eye spy!'” or “My turn for a bite of applesauce” so that they have the built in skill of taking turns. 


2) The father has to take a lead role from day one.


Moms take on too much.  That is part of being a mom originating from the days of living in a cave.  One of our goals as mothers is to delegate and give the father some jobs.  But we don’t do that well because we think we can do it just a little bit better.  However, if you have multiples, then there is no way that you can physically handle two babies all the time.  The father has to change diapers, feed the babies with bottles, cook, clean, etc.


It is so so difficult to give up some of these jobs but it is crucial for the whole family and especially for the child to have the father take a big role in raising children.  Even having just one child is very difficult at the beginning but if dad takes care of the bath or the bedtime story, or one feeding, then that is one less thing you have to do and everyone will benefit from it.

3) You start them on a schedule from day one.

There are lots of differing opinions on scheduling children and in this case I’m referring more to a routine, but also to a schedule of sorts.  For the first three months, I fed them when they were hungry but I fed both of them at the same time.  So from the beginning I felt comfortable molding their schedule a bit so that as they got older and I did start a stricter feeding and eating schedule, it wasn’t weird for any of us.


There are some days when I feel a little jealous when I see cute kids running and playing at a friend’s house at 9pm because my boys have never been awake after 8 pm but at the same time, I love love love that when 7/ 7:30 comes around, I put the boys in their beds and they fall asleep.  This is because of routine, this is because of a schedule. 


If you only have one child and want to build good sleep habits, resist the urge to have them follow your schedule. Instead, build your life around their schedule.  It’s not forever and it sets them up for good life-long habits.  Feed them at about the same times every day, put them down for nap in their crib at the same time every day and put them to bed at the same time every night.  It really does pay off in the long run. 


4) Twins learn problem solving skills from early on


This one is similar to reason #1 but is different in that I’m really just saying that children learn how to “argue” at a young age.   People ask me all the time if they fight a lot, and the answer is “Yes, if they are tired or hungry, they are very whiny and irrational, but otherwise, they are constantly using their problem solving skills.”  What does that mean?  It means that they are always negotiating, helping each other, finding solutions with each other and so on.  What it means and that they are each other’s social teachers and the lessons never end.


If you only have one child, it is good to do lots of play dates and allow the children to find conflict.  Don’t solve the problem yourself just to avoid the problem. Instead, help them solve the problem.  Offer solutions, give ideas and see what they come up with.  Non-verbal toddlers can learn lots of problem solving skills if you allow them to experience conflict. 


5) The ubiquitous “two for one” (but it’s true)


I hear this so often that it is annoying, but it is also true.  Pregnancy is rough, birth is rough and if you only have to do it once to get two children, then it is a real advantage.


Twins are the best thing in the world!


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insecurity

Children misbehave because they don’t feel secure.

Children don’t feel secure for two reasons:

1) They don’t know what is expected of them

2) There is a big change in their life

I know I’m simplifying a lot, but with all of the information out there, sometimes it is helpful to simplify.  But I also know that there are often a lot of other factors contributing to behavior so when looking at your child’s behavior, start here, and if this doesn’t work, then look into other factors.  

When parents contact me about their children’s behavior, I start asking questions.  Pretty soon one of two things pops up: 1) there isn’t a routine or outlined expectations 2) there was recently a big change.

The first one- expectations- is very easy to control.  In fact, it is our job as parents to control.  How does it look? First, create a good routine. That means doing the same things in the morning before you head out for the day or the same things before the children go to bed. It means creating the routine with your partner and your children (if they are old enough) and writing it down.  One family was trying to nail down a bedtime routine and they got it all worked out with the father doing the majority of the routine when the father said, “But what about the nights that I’m home late?”  and I asked them, “How often is that?”  “Almost every night.”  We had spent all that time working on the ideal bedtime routine and it wasn’t even possible for most nights. Make a routine that works for you every single night- even if it isn’t perfect.  

Once you have a routine set and followed, you will find that many behaviors disappear. But not all of them. And that is why you need to be constantly outlining behaviors ahead of time.

Before you walk into the restaurant, discuss the behaviors you want to see.  Then make sure that everyone is on the same page if those behaviors aren’t present (such as one child sits in the car with an adult, or your child won’t get a special book before bed).  Before you go to the store, discuss the behaviors you want to see and what will happen if you don’t see them.  Constantly be outlining what your expectations are.

2) There is a big change in their life.

This one seems really obvious because anyone with a huge change in their life will need some time for adjustment. But what isn’t obvious is that what seems like a little change to us, is a huge change for the child since their lives are so small.

So what constitutes a big change?  Just about anything.  Daylight saving time is a big change.  Illness is a big change.  Moving, new school, new sibling, new caregivers, new diets are all big changes.  

So what can you do if practically everything is considered a big change to a little kid?  

1) Don’t fret too much about it

2) Set yourselves up with a good routine so that they can weather the changes.  

I like to put this in a adult’s perspective so that it makes more sense:

 

Let’s say that you have a 9 to 5 job and every day you go in to work at 9 am, and everyday you head home at 5 pm.  Pretty awesome right?  You can tell your daycare provider when you will be there to pick up your kids, you can make happy hour plans with your friends a week in advance, and you feel secure and comfortable in your day.  Then one day, your boss walks in at 2 pm and says, “Hey, I need you to stay until 9 pm tonight.”  You are pretty flexible and say, “Yeah, that isn’t ideal, but I can do it.”  because you know that the next day, you will be able to leave at 5 pm again.  You are able to change your routine simply because you know that you have a routine to go back to

Now let’s say that you have a job that starts most days at 8 am but sometimes you don’t go in to work until 10 am and sometimes your boss lets you leave at 2 pm but sometimes you have to stay until 8 pm and you never really know if it’s going to be a short day or a long day.  It is somewhat stressful because sometimes you can pick up your children, but sometimes your husband has to do it and how to remember it all is such a headache.  When your friends ask if you all want to go out for pizza you have to remember which night will be an earlier night but then it might change so you really don’t know.  Without a routine- it is stressful!  Then one day you boss walks in and says, “Hey, I need you to stay until 9 pm tonight”.  You will probably say yes because you want to keep your job, but how will you feel about it?  You will feel less secure because you don’t really know if you are going to have another late night the next night, or that maybe 9 pm is your new routine.  It is really hard to weather a big change without a routine because you don’t have anything to settle back in to. 
In the first situation, you know that after one really long day you will go back to a normal schedule, but in the second situation you don’t have a normal schedule so when you have one really long day, it isn’t clear if you will continue to have really long days and that is an unpleasant feeling.

It is the same for children.  If they have a consistent schedule and routine, they can have a big change to the schedule without much fuss.  But if they don’t even have a routine, then a big change can be very upsetting and they will show that through their behavior.

Setting up a routine should be super easy, but it’s not. It is hard to look at both what is best for children and what works for the whole family.  Contact Boulder Child Whisperer if you need help creating a useful routine for your family.

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