travel

Before I traveled with young kids, I was deathly afraid of traveling with young children and couldn’t understand why anyone would do it.

I remember reading pieces like Don’t bring your child on a plane or Leave your kid at home next time

But another thing stuck with me as well.  When I was young, single and traveling the world I would see young happy children living in these amazing places that I was going to.  AND I would see families traveling with their little ones!

The two pictures didn’t mesh well in my mind- “don’t travel with kids” and “little kids are experiencing things all over the world”.

So when my boys were born, my husband and I started thinking about how we could travel around the world with our little ones.  And I’m so glad we did.  Here are 8 reasons why traveling with kids is the best:

1. You don’t always get what you want.  Yep, it sounds like a nightmare to most parents (and toddlers) that when you are traveling you don’t always get your way.  This can end up in a tantrum.  It happens.  But when you are home, you have the temptation to give in to your kiddo.  When you are traveling, and your child wants a particular snack, a different kind of wipe, a blue cup instead of a yellow cup, they have to learn how to deal with what you have.  It can be rough for a short bit, but most kids are fast learners.  Once they realize that there is no pizza hut, they get over it.  For the first week of traveling with 2 three-year olds, they didn’t eat much because all the food we had was different, but now, they will eat mostly whatever is offered to them.

2. Building awareness.  Again, this one has a learning curve and it was something that we started before we traveled and has only grown.  I’ve written about it before and believe that it is a very important topic.  It is tempting to find ways to entertain our kids when we travel but one of the huge benefits of traveling is building awareness for our world and seeing all the amazing things out there.  Children will be fascinated with what is going on outside the plane, on the road, or next to them on the bus so allow them to just watch and ask questions.

3. Trying new things. We often get into ruts and although routines are a good thing, doing something different is also a good thing.  Especially when your kids are young.  I found that as an adult with young children, I didn’t always feel like an adult.  I felt like my life revolved so much around the young kids that I always ate the same food, I would draw silly pictures and play with blocks on the floor and I just needed something else!   When we traveled, I tried new foods (and my kids did too!).  I looked for hermit crabs on the beach instead of blocks on the floor.  I heard different music and went to new places.  It was all very invigorating for me and the children.

4. Letting go of expectations.  Have you always made your child wear shoes since you know that they could step on something sharp?  Do you stress about how many vegetables your child has eaten in one day?  I’ve done all these things and more- until I traveled with my little ones.  The one expectation that I haven’t dropped- seat belts.

5. Seeing how differently other cultures raise children.  Kids menus don’t exist in many other places in the world (unless they are heavily visited by North Americans).  Children climb trees without supervision in some places.   My friend in France said that young children went to the bakery by themselves in the morning to get the family baguette.  I’m not saying that these things are better or worse, but just observing or even experiencing another way to raise children is such an eye-opening experience.

6. Getting your routine down to a science.  I talk about creating a routine all the time.  It creates structure and security for a child and improves behavior drastically.  Traveling will take your routine to the next level.  If you always read two books before bedtime, then you will use that routine to help your child fall asleep in any old place.   If you always sing the same song before nap time, then you have that amazing tool to let your child know that it is nap time even though your are 5 hours off from your regular time zone.  Having a routine in place allows you to travel with children by changing everything else- except the routine.

7. Not having to worry about school. Once your children are in first grade, it is much much much more difficult to travel.  Every school is different, but most schools require attendance and will put you in touch with the truancy officer after missing more than 10 days of school.  But this gives you a pretty big window of about 6 years to travel with your little ones.

8. Paring down and traveling light- The first time we traveled with our 1.5 year old twins, we took two carry on bags for two weeks at the beach.  Now, most travel sites will recommend planning ahead and making sure that you have everything that you need.  Those two sentences may not look synonymous but they are compatible.   See, you do need to plan ahead, and you do need to bring everything you need, but when you travel, you really get down to the questions of “what do you really need?”  Do you really need that noise maker enough to haul it around?  Are toys that important or can your children play with sticks and string?  Can you get away with not bringing the special nose cleaner outer or the spoons that your children request everyday?  When you travel, you realize what you actually need and what is truly important.

Book your ticket today!

 

 

owlbabies

Using literature to deal with issues is one of the easiest ways to approach just about any subject and it comes with the added benefit of increasing literacy skills.  

When someone experiences a feeling, they feel validated when they realize that others are experiencing the exact same feeling.  So when you read about children or animals who are feeling the same way as your child, your child can relate to the situation and can work through those feelings with more ease.

My absolute favorite separation book is Owl Babies by Martin Waddell.  Not only are the illustrations amazing, but the repetition in the book is just right.

It goes through all the emotions of the baby owls as they wait for their mother to return.

This book is great because it can be for any separation and is great for any age.

I could read it over and over again.

 

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My other favorite separation anxiety book is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

This book is specifically for children who are going to school and talks about the desire for staying home.  It has great lines in it that you can repeat to your children as you are preparing them for school.  “You’ll have new toys to play with, new friends to play with and new books to read!”   

It is very important when you are dealing with separation anxiety to keep your children in the loop.  Oftentimes we want to protect them from what is going to happen, so we just don’t tell them what is going to happen.  But that actually creates more anxiety when children don’t know what’s going on or what’s going to happen.   

So let your child know when they will be going to school, or when you will be leaving and never sneak out.  Always say goodbye and tell them when you will be back so that you can build trust and reduce anxiety.

 

how-5c-20to-5c-_35311498 (2)

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!

be curious

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.

Gratitude

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about how to raise a grateful child. Or how to not raise an entitled child.

Is this even possible if you have family that shower them with gifts all of the time?  Is this realistic when their friends get everything they ask for and more?

Does your child whine when they don’t get the toys they want or whine for more?

Does your child expect things to be handed to them even if they aren’t appreciative?

Do you want them to be more mindful about taking care of others?

How can you create gratitude where there is none?

Model it

When you are feeling frustrated and at your worst, think about what you are grateful for and say it out-loud to your kids.

When you feel like the world is against you and nothing is going right, think about what is going right and tell your children.

When your children are being pain in the necks, stop and give them a hug and tell them how grateful you are that they are your children.

Your children will learn that not everything is perfect and that we can still find appreciation in our lives.

Volunteer

Do you ever feel different after you volunteer your time?  Do you feel energized or appreciative?  This will be true for your children too.  They get to do something productive that doesn’t have any concrete results for themselves, it is simply to do something for others.  This will help create empathy which then can translate to not being entitled.

When children are surrounded by people like themselves, then they tend to think that everyone is like that.  So if all of your children’s friends have everything that they need and more, then they might believe that they also should have everything they ask for plus more.

When volunteering, sometimes I say to my children that I help out now because someday, I might be the one needing help which leads me to the next one:

The tables can turn

Without creating anxiety in my children, I tell my children that sometimes we are able to help and sometimes we may need help.  Obviously, we are planning for the future and we don’t expect anything to happen to us but I create hope with my children that if things were to change and for some reason we were to lose our house or we weren’t able to have enough money to buy groceries one week, there are people out there that will help us and we’ll be OK.

But since we are able to buy groceries right now, we’ll buy a couple more groceries and donate them to the food bank just as someone would do that for us if the tables were turned.

One of my kids has a bit more of a tendency towards anxiety and he really does well with this message because it is part of the “We take care of each other” message that I’m constantly teaching and instead of feeling overwhelming to him, it actually feels comforting.

Allowance

When your children are 5 years or older, you can use allowance to help children from becoming too entitled. If your children are asking for more and more things you can tell them that they can use their allowance for whatever they want.  If they get 2 dollars a week then they can buy whatever they want for two dollars and that will drastically reduce the consumption of toys and goods.  If they want something that costs more than 2 dollars then they will have to start saving and stop asking for things.

Travel

Last but not least, you can travel to other countries and to other cultures. This one is a little tricky because going to an all inclusive resort in Mexico probably won’t create gratitude in your child.  It may only say, “Oh look at the have-nots. Aren’t we glad that we are part of the ‘have’s’  instead of the ‘have-nots?'” Don’t set it up as a look at them versus us situation because that can be damaging towards building community and creating understanding.

Instead, try a different approach where you are able to interact with other families on a beach or maybe through a homestay.  Learn about what similarities your families have.  Create a connection where your children can see how other people live and can find happiness through means other than possessions.

Practice Every Day!

Make a gratitude journal.  Ask each other at your family dinner what their favorite part of their day was.  And also ask about their challenges or their failures because being grateful doesn’t always mean being happy!

question

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!

take care

This is your new mantra:

‘We take care of each other.’

This isn’t just for parents with more than one child because parents of only children can benefit from this phrase as well.

Wondering how to keep your kids from hitting each other?

We take care of each other

Wondering how to get your child to help with the dishes?

We take care of each other

Wondering how to have less squabbling?

We take care of each other

So here it is in practice:

It’s morning. Your kids ask what papa is making for breakfast. “Papa’s taking good care of us and making eggs and toast for breakfast”.  As you are getting ready for work and they need your attention you say, “I can’t right now because I’m getting ready for work. I work so that I can take care of you and provide food for all of us.” Your child goes over to pet the cat, “You take such good care of Felix.” Then one child grabs another child’s toy. “Uh oh, did you want a turn with the toy? Let’s take good care of each other and ask for the toy instead of grabbing it. Say, ‘Can I have a turn after you?'”

So on and so forth.

Why would we do this?

Families are units.

Families are important.

Families take care of each other.

If we keep this as a mantra, then the children realize that their siblings aren’t their worst enemies, but rather someone on whom they can rely. 

What you hear becomes your inner voice.  When children hear that they are a valuable part of a unit or a pod, then they feel more secure and become more responsible.

So then this translates into chores and keeping the house nice. 

Children should never be paid for chores (chores and allowance can start at the same time, but one is not dependent on the other). Children do chores for the same reason adults do chores.  To take care of each other.  My husband helps with the laundry so that we all have clean clothes.  He is taking care of us.  I make dinner so that we are all taken care of.  My children bring in a bag of groceries from the car because we all take care of each other. 

What do you do when your child grumbles? “I don’t wanna” or even just “NO!”

Bring it back around to taking care of each other, and say, “I would love to put away the utensils for you and then you can make dinner for me.”  They will end up choosing the easier job (until they don’t!!!) and then you get them to make dinner for you.  I would be lying if I said I never had toast for dinner.  

Because toast is what they made.

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Problem solving skills are useful for a variety of reasons and can be brought out in any situation.  If bedtime isn’t working for you, your spouse, your children or your neighbor upstairs, then bring out your problem solving skills!

First: what are the steps to problem solving?

  1. Name the problem
  2. Come up with some solutions
  3. Try those solutions
  4. If they worked, you’re all good- if they didn’t work, go back to number 2

OK, so, what’s the problem?

The kids whine and keep asking for things and bedtime takes forever?  Or, they go to bed just fine but an hour or two later, they are up and in our bed and won’t fall asleep? Or, I have to lay with them for hours and hours thinking about all the work I need to do? Or just before bed they start jumping and yelling and playing and throwing things?

Let’s pick one:

The problem is that bedtime takes forever.

We start the bedtime routine at 7 and the kids are finally asleep at 9 or 10 at night.

So now let’s go to step 2: find some solutions.

First talk with your partner to see what ideas you each have and what each person is comfortable doing and then take the problem to the whole family.  If you have kids over a year or a year and a half, they can participate.  If they are younger than that, then they can’t give input but they can still hear the verdict.  An infant who is told what their bedtime routine is does better than one who has no idea.  True story.

So, the whole family is sitting around the dinner table, and you say, “We have a problem.  Bedtime isn’t working.  We need to come up with some ideas to make bedtime more enjoyable for everyone.”  Then start asking for some ideas.  No idea is a bad idea.  One idea is to move bedtime to 9 or 10 pm since I met with one sleep expert who gave out that idea and it works for some people.  Another idea is to move bedtime to 6:30 since many children get over-tired and become hyperactive just to stay awake and then they have difficultly falling asleep.  This also works well for many families.  Ask your children what they think.  Would a picture schedule help?  Would cutting out chocolate help?  Let’s try it.  What do you think about having a timer during bath time so it doesn’t go on forever?  Maybe we could all lay together in one bed and then one child switches to their own bed so that I don’t spend two hours laying in each bed every night.  Idea after idea after idea.

Then try the ideas. Not too many changes all at once.  Depending on the age of your children, you can choose one or two changes and try those for a couple weeks up to a month before revisiting and seeing if the new idea works.  

If it works, then great!  If it doesn’t work, that’s OK- back to the problem solving table!

You don’t have to be stuck in the spot that you are in.  Changes can happen and although there might be some tears with the changes, you can be there to support your children through the different routine.

Finally, set up a plan for when things don’t go the way they should.

Let’s say that you talk with your family and you make a picture schedule with dinner, bath, pajamas, brush teeth, story and bed.  Then make a plan for what happens when we get off-track.  Listen to ideas from your children.  Then add in your own idea of losing one of the stories.  “We don’t have enough time to read a book since we had a big problem when it was time to put on pajamas”.  Or maybe you have another idea when things aren’t going well.  At any rate, have a consequence for that boundary so that you can all stay on track for a reasonable bedtime.

It may take a couple of weeks for the changes to show up so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see anything right away but know that a more peaceful bedtime routine is just around the corner!

 

Have you seen this video about failure?

It changes your whole perspective on how to deal with failing.  We have been asking our kids about their failures for about a year now and the other day one of my boys fell pretty hard on his bike when he was trying something new.  After crying for a minute or two, he looked up at me and said, “Mama, that was my failure for today!”

 

What was your failure today?

twos

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

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

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

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

Good question.

I think the answer is two-fold:

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

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

Parents allow their children independence in other countries

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

 

How can we learn from other countries?

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