Toilet Teaching
September 30, 2014 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments (0)

pottytrainingtipsI just did a toilet training workshop for 30 parents of 2-3 year olds. We had a lot of laughs since no matter how old you are potty humor is still pretty funny. But when we got down to business, it was clear that the idea of “pushing kids” as being psychologically damaging is still alive and well in the 21st century.

I just did a toilet training workshop for 30 parents of 2-3 year olds. We had a lot of laughs, since no matter how old you are potty humor is still pretty funny. But when we got down to business, it was clear that the idea of “pushing kids” as being psychologically damaging is still alive and well in the 21st century.
Parents are nervous to take the lead, be the teacher, and guide their children to understand how their body works and how to use the potty. In the effort not to “push,” parents don’t take action but rather the talk, talk, talk, cajole, and talk talk, talk, talk some more. “Sally is in underpants, do you want to wear underpants too? “ “Do you want use the potty?” “Big boys use the potty!” They hope against hope that these toddlers will just come to their senses and agree. Anyone who has toilet trained a kid knows – you can’t just talk them into it. You need to put in the time. Naked time, reading stories on the potty time, hang around the house time. Explaining time, cleaning up accidents time. laughing about butts and poop and penises time. Your approach to potty training should be one of guidance and comfort, but expectations as well. As one mom kept saying, “Oh, so you just keep teaching!?” Correct, teaching it is!

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Sleep Training “What If’s”: Part One
September 11, 2014 · Posted in Infant Development, Parenting, Sleep · Permalink · Comments (0)

Tips from our book, A Mothers Circle:

Parents often second-guess why their baby is crying. They feel guilty and, looking for an out, they imagine that their baby is sick or teething or hungry. Here is the first of a three-part series answering frequently asked sleep training questions.

“What if he is hungry?”

The specter of a miserably hungry baby crying out in the night hangs over most parents on the eve of their sleep work. Parents are somehow not reassured upon hearing again that a three-to-four-month-old baby who weighs at least twelve pounds can get through an eleven-to-twelve-hour period of nighttime sleep without a feeding. They have become so accustomed to feeding their baby at regular intervals through the night that this seems incredible to them.

If your baby is only taking one night feeding you might be ready to cut out that feeding completely. If your baby is like Leslie’s, needing only a minute of nursing before falling back to sleep, it is easy to see that he is not actually hungry. But if your baby has been taking eight ounces of formula or nursing for ten to fifteen minutes several times a night, he has without doubt grown accustomed to refilling his belly throughout the night. In this case, we do not recommend doing sleep work all in one fell swoop, particularly if your baby is only three to four months old. Rather, you can first help your baby to learn the skill of falling asleep on his own at bedtime. Then you can gradually cut down on his night feedings.

Some parents choose to wake their babies for one night feeding before they go to bed themselves. Having slept from 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., babies typically are so soundly asleep at eleven or twelve at night that they wake up only partially, then fall directly back to sleep after a feeding. Even though he is still getting this one night feeding, the fact that you are waking him up instead of the other way around makes your message consistent. Once your other goals are accomplished, you can eliminate this late-night snack.

Another option is to respond with a feeding only once during the middle of the night, but do it when your baby awakens on his own. Then do not feed the baby until morning. This done over a week-long period will teach your baby to fall asleep on his own and to only wake once for a nighttime feeding. After this is firmly established you can move on to eliminate the nighttime feeding completely.

Babies are creatures of habit. And they are smart. On the first night without his middle-of-the-night feeding your baby probably is a little hungry and is expecting to be fed. He cries because he knows he will be fed. But he doesn’t need to eat. Giving up the middle-of-the-night feeding is not easy for your baby; it is stretching him. But almost immediately he will naturally begin to eat more during the day and he will not be hungry at night.

Some parents prefer to gradually train their babies to expect less during their nighttime feedings. They continue to feed their babies when they cry at night, but diminish the number of ounces, or minutes on each breast, until a feeding is so minimal that it is clear their baby no longer needs it.

“What if he wakes up soon after he goes to sleep?”

Sometimes a baby will awaken forty minutes to an hour after he has fallen asleep at bedtime and parents can misread this short sleep as an early evening nap. Treat it as a night waking, not as a nap.

“What if he is teething?”

Parents regularly invoke teething to avoid sleep training. The truth is, babies are teething throughout this entire period. Unless your baby’s tooth is actually just cutting the gum, or his gums are inflamed, there is no need to interrupt or forestall sleep work. If the erupting tooth is obviously giving your baby pain, consult your pediatrician about options for relieving your baby’s discomfort.

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Will What’s Real About Childhood Please Stand Up?
September 3, 2014 · Posted in Buddhism/Parenting, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (0)

by Bethany Saltman

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting with Azalea and reading a fine book called The  World’s Biggest Tea Party. It is about the My Little Pony crew and how on “one bright spring day in Ponyville, a group of pony friends gathered at Sweetberry’s Sweetshoppe.” One pink pony named Rainbow Dash, Azalea’s personal favorite, posed the question of what they should do that day and they came up with the crazy idea of having a tea party, and not just any tea party, but, as suggested by Pinkie Pie, “the world’s biggest tea party!” Azalea was riveted.

It’s such a trip learning who my daughter is—what she likes and how her mind works. And the craziest part is that she really is just four and a half, meaning she’s not faking it. When T and I first got our Siamese cat Jimmy we used to joke that he felt to us so sentient, so totally aware, that he seemed like a human in a cat suit. And when I look at Azalea sometimes I see a grown-up in a kid suit. Not because she acts like an adult, but because I kind of can’t believe that her kidness is so real, so true, even honorable. Azalea really likes cartoons. She loves to put rings on her toes, a scarf around her waist, be tickled, and then jump from the couch to the chair, and then back again. Not only would I rather not do any of those things now, I don’t think I ever let it rip like she does; according to my family, I have always been pretty serious. It is just impossible to imagine myself popping up and down from the dinner table in order to check on my horses in the next room, or hiding under my covers, begging to be found. Again! To people who know what it’s like to feel that type of playful exuberance, perhaps my dawning realization that childhood is real might seem bizarre, or even absurd. But I actually think that we are all parenting based on some pretty funky assumptions about who our kids are and what they’re capable of.

The Buddhist term for these assumptions is conditioning. It often feels like what we believe about the world is utterly personal, idiosyncratic, and sometimes it is. But conditioning also comes from forces larger than ourselves or our families. One of my very favorite books about the cultural conditioning of children is called Preschool in Three Cultures, Revisited: China, Japan, and the United States. In the original edition of this juicy ethnography, the authors traveled (in 1984) to these three countries, spent time in preschools, interviewed teachers about their pedagogy, shot lots of video, then showed video clips to teachers in other countries, asking them to respond to what the other countries’ schools were doing. In the Revisited edition, the authors returned to the schools in 2002, asking the current teachers to reflect on their schools’ past practices, as well as what is presently happening in the other countries via updated videos. What results is a cornucopia of conversations about who we think children are, and should be.

In the 2002 edition, the authors discuss how, as they continued to travel around the world, one incident in the 1984 Japanese classroom persisted as the most controversial. The Japanese preschool was housed in a Buddhist temple, which is typical. The incident of intrigue, however, was not about Buddhism so much as Japanese ideas about children (though the two are certainly related), and involved a boy named Hiroki, who in our great land would have been given a hefty dose of Ritalin (or worse, see the New York Times article on medicating children, from September 1, 2010) right off the bat. He fought with other kids, pulled out his willie during circle, threw flashcards off the balcony, and sang loudly while other kids were trying to talk. And the amazing part is that the teacher did nothing to intervene. She sent the other children to fight their own battles with him and generally ignored his misbehavior. The authors, Western-trained educators, said it took everything within their power to not put their cameras down and tell the kid to cut the crap. Likewise, Chinese and American teachers who watched the video were appalled at the boy’s “spoiled,” disruptive behavior and what was seen as the teacher’s lack of control.

At one point the authors asked the principal of the preschool if the teacher ever punished Hiroki, and he responded by asking, “What do you mean? Like, tie him up or something?”

The Japanese teachers believe that deliberate and respectful waiting is the most effective strategy for working with children, and believe that Hiroki and his classmates benefit from learning how to deal with one another, becoming “more complete human beings.”  While we in the US tend to foster independence, Japanese preschools give kids as much space as possible to discover, for themselves, their amaeru, a word that describes the presumption of benevolence of others, and thus, dependency. Hiroki was not seen as a problem that needed to be fixed, but just a kid exhibiting tereru, the behavior of someone who is ashamed of his wish to be dependent.

When the authors asked the Japanese teachers what kind of children they thought they were shaping, they answered, “Kodomorashii kodomo,” which means “childlike children.” Cultivating child-ness in children. Something for me to consider.

And another thing to consider is how much all these people care. It’s heartbreaking, really. Human beings have wildly different opinions about childhood, education, and adulthood, not to mention radically different resources and capacities. And I think it’s really important to know where we are coming from and where we get our big ideas. And to ask questions. But it’s also incredibly healing to look around and see how many people try really hard to do the right thing for kids. Most educators just want a good life for their students. And parents love their kids! Around the world they get them ready for preschool, ribbons in their hair, favorite shoes on their little feet, little pockets stuffed with random things. Regardless of what I happen to think is real, there is something unconditioned there.

This article first appeared in Chronogram Magazine on September 28, 2010.

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Don’t Overdo the Prep for Going Back To School
August 13, 2014 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments (0)

Finding balance between acknowledging that a new grade begins in a months’ time and reveling in summer fun is hard to strike. Here are some ideas about how to do it:

  • Don’t talk about school everyday. Let your child be in the present, without the new school year hanging over their head.
  • Do answer any questions that come up, like, “Will so and so be in my class?” or “Will you stay with me at school”, honestly and simply. No long monologues.
  • Do go and walk by school the week before class begins. Point out landmarks, like the pet store, the deli etc. so you can look for them on the walk to school the first day.
  • Do get a little back pack or lunch box to bring on the first day.
  • Do expect stomach aches, difficulty falling asleep or grumpiness around the first days of school.
  • Do tell stories about your first days of school.
  • Don’t talk about the beginning of school with your peers and assume the kids can’t hear.
  • Do remember that a parent taking their child to school is one of the most important jobs. Try to adjust work schedules so one parent can do drop off at least a few days a week.
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Talking To Your Kids About Sex in Spoonfuls
July 27, 2014 · Posted in Communication, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (0)

If you feel like everything happens to kids earlier now, you are right! Puberty now begins for girls as early as nine years old, and boys as early as 11. To ensure that kids are not more horrified than they need to be, parents should start talking about the changes their bodies will undergo much before they start to happen. One spoonful at a time. When the topic comes up, which it will given the world we live, you can be ready to take it just as far as your child wants.

Here is where our over-sexualized culture can come in handy. It’s pretty hard to get past kindergarten without being exposed to grown up bodies and sexual energy. So when the topic comes up, you can steer it to their growing bodies.

“Look at her boobies” your six year old daughter says while pointing to a billboard. ”Yes, those are big boobies, boobies usually start growing in 4th or 5th grade.” Stop.

“Mom, those two are sexing!” your eight year old son exclaims in response to a smoochy kiss in a movie . “Those two were kissing in the movie. Not “sexing”. Stop.

If we stop after a statement like that, you get to take the temperature of the discussion. Does your son or daughter squirm and slip away, or do they have another question or comment. If you child has more interest give another piece of information and then wait.

“When will I get my boobies?”

“Well, I was about 13 when mine started growing, but it happens a little sooner now. I’m not sure exactly when yours will grow but we will know when they are starting because you will get little bumps under your skin called breast buds–that’s the sign that they are starting to grow.”

 

“Josh told me sexing is when a penis plants a seed in a lady.” He replies giggling and jumping around.

“Well Josh has the right idea, want me to explain it more?”

“Penis plant! Penis plant!..”, he chants and marches around the living room.

“Ok, buddy, we won’t do that now, but another time we can talk about it.”

These little spoonfuls of conversation show your openness, aren’t overwhelming and pave the way for more and more communication about a necessary and important topic.

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Savoring Summer
July 16, 2014 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments (0)

Summertime is for collecting. Collecting shells, sea glass, fireflies and memories. Collections are like strings of little pearls of summer, a physical remembrance of special times growing up. Think back to your memories of summer. The smell of grass, the ocean, the feel of diving into a clean, cool swimming pool. It is a sensuous time of the year and hopefully, a slower one. Summer is a time for regrouping. For adults it goes by in a flash, but for children the summer is a long stretching season.

This summer, focus in on the sights, smells and tastes that are sacred summertime things:  Watermelon and bar-b-q, sand castles and catching frogs, sun-kissed skin and fireworks. Quiet New York days in the hot, hot park. Savor these times with your children. They will be embedded in their minds forever.

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Being Right
June 25, 2014 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments (0)

The Curse and Seduction of Being Right

by Lisa Merlo Booth

 

Many people struggle with the curse of being right.  When people struggle with being right it feels as if you’re constantly in an argument about the “facts.”  Sometimes it can feel as if you’re talking with a lawyer instead of a friend or partner.  For example, you might ask your partner to lower their voice and they respond with, “My voice isn’t loud.  I was just being passionate.”  Or perhaps you start to tell a story about work and say, “When I left home at 8 a.m.…” and your partner quickly butts in and corrects you with, “Well, actually you left after 8 a.m.”  Whatever the circumstances are, you feel as if you’re in an endless battle.  All you want to do is share your thoughts or make a request, yet the other person is busy checking your facts instead of listening to your message.

Needless to say, if you’ve ever been on the other side of this dynamic, it can be incredibly frustrating.  If you’re the one constantly “correcting” or arguing the facts, then you can be incredibly frustrating.

Stop correcting and start listening.

Being around someone who is constantly telling others how they’re wrong blocks intimacy and connection.  Ironically though, many people get caught in the being right trap…because being right is seductive.  After all, people think, isn’t it important to have the right facts?  If my partner says he’s angry that I was late for our dinner on Saturday and I know we went out on Friday—shouldn’t I correct him and tell him I was late on Friday, not Saturday?  After all, I’m right—I happen to know for a fact that we went out on Friday because Saturday was our son’s soccer game and we ate dinner on the road while driving to his game.  Shouldn’t I correct him when I know I’m right?

No.

The seduction of being right is that often our information…is right.  We’re not making it up, we’re not giving false information and we’re honestly correcting wrong information.  What’s wrong with that, we wonder?  Several things are wrong with that.  To start with, when we’re so ultra-focused on arguing the facts, we miss the bigger point.  In the dinner example, my husband was upset that I was late.  My focusing on the “accurate” day is irrelevant—even though my information may be correct.  Second, if I’m busy critiquing what he says, then I’m shutting down the conversation.  If I shut down the conversation then I’m blocking repair.  It’s often only a matter of time before people give up trying to talk with someone who seldom listens and instead corrects the minute details.  At some point we just say forget it.When it comes to healthy relationships, remember to not get lost in the details and instead hear the main message.  If you’re stuck on critiquing the messenger, s/he is likely to stop relaying messages.  When that happens, your relationship is in trouble.  The other person gets tired of being blocked repeatedly and in the end they often just turn away.  It’s in your best interest to have the courage to stop getting lost in the details and instead hear the message…and fix your part in the situation.  Insisting on being right is damaging.  Don’t give in to the seduction.

 

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Tapping into Our Best Adult Selves: A Short Breathing Practice
June 10, 2014 · Posted in Mental Health, Parenting, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (0)

Here are the core emotional qualities of our best adult selves.

Calm, Compassionate, Curious, Connected, Confident, Creative, Courageous, Clear, Patience, Perspective, Perseverance, Presence

When we can lead our lives from this essential self we have healthier relationships, make better choices, and feel more flexible and calm while we ride the waves of life. These qualities make a great leader, and what is a parent, if not a leader?

Though we are rarely in a state of feeling all of the above qualities, we do our best job as parents when we have a combo of at least a few. Cultivating and strengthening  these feelings helps when daily tangles with children leave you frustrated, helpless or angry.

Here is an exercise to develop these emotional states:

Take a full ten minutes when you won’t be interrupted, shut off your phone, and get in a comfortable position. Notice your breath. Is it shallow, or fast, or deep or jagged? Then take 25 inhales and exhales and try to even out the rhythm. Scan your body from head to toe. Notice every sensation. Tension in your jaw? A rumbling stomach? Tightness in your lower back? Imagine sending breath to that area. Consciously try to release tension in any tight area. When you realize that your mind has gone on a tangent — planning, worrying or problem solving, just take note and try to gently come back to your breath. You may notice a sense of lightness, or relaxation. Check and see if you have access to a deeper sense of calm, patience, and compassion for yourself. Even if it only lasts a moment, this more spacious place is where our best parenting flows. Memorize the feeling in your body. You can actually call it up at other times when you feel more riled or triggered. The ups and downs of parenting can be brutal – being able to tap into a more balanced state is a is like a built in oasis. Try it!

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Media in Moderation
June 1, 2014 · Posted in Infant Development, Media, Parenting, Technology, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (1)

 

Media and Children– From The American Academy Of Pediatrics

 

Media is everywhere. TV, Internet, computer and video games all vie for our children’s attention. Information on this page can help parents understand the impact media has in our children’s lives, while offering tips on managing time spent with various media. The AAP has recommendations for parents and pediatricians.

Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. To help kids make wise media choices, parents should monitor their media diet. Parents can make use of established ratings systems for shows, movies and games to avoid inappropriate content, such as violence, explicit sexual content or glorified tobacco and alcohol use.

Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.

By limiting screen time and offering educational media and non-electronic formats such as books, newspapers and board games, and watching television with their children, parents can help guide their children’s media experience. Putting questionable content into context and teaching kids about advertising contributes to their media literacy.

The AAP recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.

Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.

 

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“Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire”: Punishment and Children’s Honesty
December 1, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (0)

A recent article in Child-Psych gives important data about children and discipline and lying. In a nutshell, the harsher the punishments, the more kids lie. Yet another piece of date to support the goal of  approaching punishment from a calm, centered place instead of reacting in anger.

A study conducted by Talwar and Lee looks at two separate West African schools, one with punitive disciplinary practices, the other non-punitive. Children at both schools participated in an experiment to test resistance to temptation and honesty or lying about their success or failure to hold themselves back. While almost all children  failed the resistance portion of the program, the response afterwards varied greatly. Only half of the children at the non-punitive school lied about their actions, compared to the punitive school where nearly all of the children lied. Additionally, the children at the school with harsher punishments made up more elaborate lies as compared to the other.

Harsh and severe punishments will actually increase the likelihood of a child developing a habit of lying. Consequences to bad behavior is crucial, but it is also just as important to keep a level head when communicating it to your kids.

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