Category Archives: Toddlers

It’s coming…aargh! The worst day (and week) of the year: the switch to Daylight Savings Time.

This can be really hard on families with children and teens. Not to mention every other person.

Here are a few strategies that have helped me as an adult and a few ideas I’ve found online. Please share your own strategies.

Start now by moving bedtime a little bit earlier each night—if you have a lead time of five nights (Monday-Saturday) then 12 minutes earlier each night gets you to an hour.

Some people recommend simultaneously waking up earlier as well. I’d suggest NOT doing that or at least not doing that until closer to Sunday. My rationale is that it’s better to get as much sleep as you can in advance of the change. Many of us are already short on sleep. See waking up strategies below.

Practice healthy sleep habits:

Fresh air and exercise during the day

De-stressing/relaxing times during the day and/or evening

Dark room

Cool room

Shift meal schedule gradually as well (if possible) It isn’t just bedtime and morning that gets thrown out of whack by the time change. If you can’t move meals try to incorporate more snacks (healthy ones and maybe some high tryptophan foods for dinner and bedtime snacks). See https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/food-and-sleep

NO CAFFIENE!

One hour before you want to get to sleep: No screens. No full spectrum, LED or fluorescent lights. Use a yellow, amber or red bulb for reading (see https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep). Red Christmas lights work well as nightlights. Googling “blue light blocking products” will get you to many sources of bulbs. Candlelight probably works as well, but please be careful!

Change your clock during the day on Saturday (if at all possible). I got this idea from crossing the Atlantic Ocean by ship. Going east, they changed the time at noon (since they had total control over the schedule, this was possible). I don’t know if part of it was psychological but it really helped. The change made dinner earlier so that also contributed.

Waking up. Just as light interferes with going to sleep, it helps us wake up. Gradually increasing the light in the morning will help you (and the kids) wake up. There are products “dawn simulators” that provide this (sorry to keep you Googling and spending money but it can be a good investment-some are less expensive than others so research options). Or you can do this manually for your children.

Make morning a pleasant time: snuggling, talking, reading with your child can make for a happier transition. Breakfast in bed anyone? Allow enough time for morning routines.

The real key to happy waking up is getting enough sleep the night before. Most of us don’t get enough sleep so this is a good time to focus on more sleep. Here are some more guidelines and resources.

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Childhood-Sleep-Guidelines.aspx

Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. She also has a website with a free download of sleep suggestions http://www.parentchildhelp.com/Resources.cfm

 

Also on ParentingSuccessNetwork

What’s the Point of Punishment?

What’s the point of punishment?

Clarification: For this article, I define “punishment” as “penalty.” I’m talking about any consequence imposed by a parent on a child for misbehavior.

There are certainly many differences between different disciplinary techniques, but I believe parents usually use them for the same reasons:

“My child ran into the street, therefore he or she must be punished.” “My child disobeyed me, therefore he or she must go to time out.” “My child hit his or her sister, therefore he or she must experience consequences.”

But why? Why respond to misbehavior with a punishment or consequence? What do you hope to accomplish?

Here are some reasons parents have for using any form of discipline:

  • To stop a dangerous behavior
  • To teach that a behavior is not acceptable–ever or within a certain context. For example: It’s never okay to hit your little sister, or It’s not okay to scream at the dinner table.
  • To empathize the importance of what we are trying to teach. To show that we are serious about it.
  • To assert our authority as parents
  • To teach that there are consequences for behaviors
  • To prevent the behavior from reoccurring
  • To make amends for damages caused by the behavior

These are all legitimate goals. They are part your job as a parent. They are not, however, all the same goal. The same tactic may not work for every goal.

There are many ways to protect and teach, to show you are serious, to assert your authority, to help a child make amends. Punishment may help in some situations, but it is only one strategy.

I often hear from parents that the whole day has become one misbehavior followed by a punishment, another misbehavior followed by a punishment, another misbehavior followed by a punishment . . . and on and on.

When this happens—or before it happens—stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. Identify the particular goal(s) you have in mind.

Instead of thinking: “I need to punish,” you can say to yourself “I need to protect” [or teach, or prevent, or assert, or whatever the goal is at that moment].

Meeting your goal(s) may require several different actions. You may need to discover more about why the behavior is happening; you may need to change the environment; you may need to involve your child in creating family rules—the list of problem-solving ideas is endless.

Identifying your goal(s) is the first step.

 

Originally published Parenting Success Network

The Magic of Wishes

What happens when you make wishes with children? They believe that you understand their heart’s desire. In other words, that you have empathy for what they are feeling.

Having empathy for a child enhances your relationship and can make parenting easier. Having empathy for the adults in your life enhances those relationships as well. Having empathy for yourself helps you to be emotionally healthy and enables you to have empathy for others.

Empathy is the respectful understanding of what someone (yourself or another person) is feeling and experiencing. You accept that the feelings are real—not made up to annoy you, not a sign of a moral flaw. Don’t try to suppress or minimize the feeling(s), simply acknowledge them.

Empathy means you are able to see a situation from another person’s perspective. Empathy doesn’t mean that you always agree with the other person’s point of view, just that you acknowledge that it exists.

It can be extremely difficult at times to be empathetic. It can also be challenging to convey to the other person that you have empathy for them. In the classic book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, authors Faber and Mazlish suggest using wishes as an effective way to convey empathy. Listen and think about what that person (or you) would wish for: “You wish ___(the fish was still alive; Dad didn’t have to be gone for work; all the children were snug and quiet in their beds).” Listen and describe a fantasy that the person would want: “You wish you could wave a magic wand and make it all better.”

I have found that using wishes is particularly helpful when what the other person would wish for is NOT something that is feasible or that I would want to be part of or help to make happen. Using “wish” implies that the desire may not be gratified, but that I respect that the other person really wishes it could be.

Some guidelines for using wishes.

Respectful tone of voice. Most of us have used the phrase “You wish” in an extremely unempathetic tone. Say it sincerely.

Make it positive. Not “You wish your brother would disappear” but “You wish your brother would leave your toys alone.”

Exaggeration can help. “I wish we were already home. I wish that the car could transform into a helicopter and fly over the traffic and land in our driveway!” Exaggerated wishes provide distraction and help the person transition to another activity. Exaggerated wishes can transform whining into a game.

Originally published June 9, 2013 on ParentingSuccessNetwork

Look At Me!

Look at Me!

Children need attention as much as they need food–perhaps more so. At least there are times when it seems that way. As one mother put it, “My child is a bottomless well. I never seem able to fill him up with enough attention.” 

What is attention? Awareness, recognition, courtesy, consideration, concentration on one thing, affection, detailed care–the definitions of attention can help us to find effective ways to give it to our children—and to ourselves.

Attend to your own needs. If your child seems to be extra needy, don’t forget to look to your own needs. Children sense when their parents are distressed or preoccupied. When we are stressed we may be less attentive than usual, but our children may also crave more attention than usual. Some activities can help meet your needs while meeting those of your child.

Gary Chapman, counselor and author, theorizes that children (and adults) have different “love languages.” What makes one person feel loved and attended to may leave another person wanting something else. Chapman’s “languages” are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service.

Physical touch: Mothers often feel “touched out.” My own experience as a mother with little ones was that receiving loving touch helped me to relax and recharge even when the idea of giving touch made me cringe.

* Carrying your baby or toddler in a cloth sling or wrap is a time-honored way to connect while meeting your own needs.

* Poor parent’s massage: you lie on your stomach and let kids crawl on you/pound on your back/drive toy cars over you…

* Teach your child the “weather report” back rub (using your fingers to mimic rain, thunder, wind . . .). Or how to massage your feet

* Hold a child in your lap or sit next to a child when reading, waiting, etc.

* Ask for a hug

 When your child need for touch is greater than yours, try briefer, less intense touches:

* Hello/Goodbye/Good Night/Comfort hugs and kisses

* Hugs/High Fives with “Thank You’s” and celebrations of accomplishments

* Tickling, wrestling, tag, Twister [done respectfully “No means No”]

* Holding hands, dancing, gymnastics

Using physical touch also provides opportunities to educate children about personal boundaries and respect for their bodies and for other people—including you.

Words of affirmation: “I love you,” specific, positive comments about your child, “you really enjoy playing with your train and you put all the tracks together yourself,” and acknowledgement of your child’s feelings, “it’s hard to share mom with the new baby.”

Child-focused playtime: As much as possible, let your child be in charge of the activity and tell you what to do. What a great opportunity to unwind! Even brief times when you truly focus on your child are valuable to both of you. The Incredible Years curriculum suggests describing what your child is doing—like a sport’s announcer giving a play-by-play description. That helps shift your thoughts away from whatever is stressing you, lets the child know you really are paying attention, and offers opportunities to expand your child’s vocabulary.

Setting a timer may help you be able to focus on your child. Have another positive activity planned for when playtime ends—like a snack for both of you. Or continue announcing what your child is doing as you start doing something else. Give your child a role in whatever activity you are doing. One dad gives his toddler one folded piece of clothing at a time for the child to put away. Just being in the same room together with occasional acknowledgements can also fill the need for quality time

Giving a child too many things or always doing things for a child, when he or she is capable of doing them, are not effective forms of attention. In fact, they indicate that you are not being aware of your child’s actual abilities and needs. However, thoughtful (affordable or free) gifts, given in a fun and celebratory way, can help your child feel valued. Appreciating a child’s gift—whether a dandelion or a macaroni necklace—is another way to show attention.

Finally, especially in times of stress, having someone lovingly do for you what you could do for yourself (act of service) is a wonderful form of attention.

Pay attention—everyone will benefit.

 

Originally published April 22, 2014 on ParentingSuccessNetwork

Driven to Distraction

Driven to Distraction

I was driven to distraction by my almost one-year-old grandson last year: I distracted him from the Christmas tree, the fireplace, my eyeglasses, the dog’s water dish, and so on. To distract him, I moved him to another part of the room, introduced other activities, and substituted interesting toys for the things I didn’t want him handling. My grandson and I both benefited from my use of distraction. I didn’t need to yell or say no to preserve my property (and sanity) and he was able to continue exploring and learning by focusing on objects that were safe for him.

Distraction is a valuable parenting tool—for all ages. With infants or toddlers, it is usually easy to direct their attention to something else by physically moving them to another location or substituting another object. With an older child or a teen, using distraction requires more thought and attention. This is a good sign, as it indicates the growing ability of the child to maintain focus on one thing. Distraction works best when parents involve the child in the process. By actively participating he or she will learn how to use deliberate distraction independently.

Deliberate distraction consists of helping a child to replace one behavior with another—playing with a toy instead of a dangerous object, for example. It can also help a child learn how to delay gratification by focusing on other activities while waiting for a desired activity, event, or object.

Partial distraction—having something else to focus on in addition what you are doing—is useful for:

*Making a boring or unpleasant task easier to do—setting a timer so getting dressed is a race against time;

*Staying on task to the finish —by using background music, taking frequent short breaks before returning to work;

*Getting through a difficult emotional experience—using physical activities such as going for a run and/or creative activities like drawing a picture or writing a letter.

Deliberate distraction is not about ignoring unpleasant feelings or situations. Instead, it can be a way to work through or cope with those feelings; or it can help calm emotions so that one can begin to problem-solve.

Before using distraction it’s helpful to identify and acknowledge what the child is currently focusing on and what the child may be feeling. You might describe the situation from the child’s point of view: “When Dad has to go to work you feel sad.” “You are having a lot of fun getting wet.” Ask your child what he or she is paying attention to. Or stay silent and wait beside your child for a while. Allowing time to acknowledge the situation shows respect and will help your child become aware that he or she is focusing on something—that awareness makes it easier to shift focus to something else.

Being able to redirect attention from one thing to another isn’t just a parenting tool. It is also a valuable lifelong ability. As adults we all encounter boring tasks, long waits, and challenging emotions. Deliberate, positive distraction can help us as well as our children.

Published on ParentingSuccessNetwork 2.13.13

http://parentingsuccessnetwork.org/parenting_tips/2013/driven-to-distraction/