Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fun with kids

It is so great to spend time with little kids, especially during the holiday's.  Everything is a wonder and is amazing.  Stop for a minute and think of the world through their eyes.  Things that might be annoyances to adults like snow, ice, and rain are fun events for children.  Here is a song we use to sing in the preschool that is sure to bring out the kid in you.
Raindrops and Gumdrops
If all of the raindrops were gumdrops and lemon drops, oh what a world this would be,
I'd stand outside with my mouth open wide.
(tongue out) eh, eh, eh eh, eh, eh eh, eh, eh eh.

What a great thing to be little, what a great thing to be big and still see the wonder like you were little.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How old is too old to Trick-or-treat

Once again I had two good examples of why Haloween is not my favorite.  I have to say I love the cute kids in their costumes.  However the couple in their late teens with a three week old, that held up a bag and said the candy was for the baby, and the family (father and mother who looked to be in their 30's with a girl about 11) that each came up with their bags probably was over the edge.  Why is a 30 year old trick or treating? 

Have a safe and happy holiday.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The end of adolescence

Most professional literature not marks the end of adolescence at about 24 years of age.  This is just one of many statistics that we can look at to try to understand our kids and the world in which they live.  The average age of first marriage is not 27.8 for men and 26.8 for women.  The average length of time to get a 4-year degree is now 5 years.  Most students change their major more than twice while is college.  To those hard working parents of another generation this seems confusing because we see ourselves as being very career oriented and able to see the big picture.  We had many of the same choices to make that our children are being faced with but we seem to have weathered it easier. 

When our teens are having problems it is important to help them plan for themselves but then allow them to make the choices as they are the ones who will have to live with the consequences.  This then brings us to the largest problem.  We have been more invested in our children's lives than any prior generation and it is not easy to break away and become independent.  We want to help them solve their problems when what they need is space and time and to use us as a sounding board when they are ready.  We try to speed the process or help them see what to us is obvious.  All this does is add pressure.  Sometimes it then caused them to push us away or to make choices that make no sense as then are wanting to say, "give me space."

What parents can do:
Meet regularly with your teen to get updates.
Ask a few questions but mainly listen and wait for them to ask you.
Don't try to make everything you say be a lesson to be learned, this sounds like preaching.
Have your teen help you with tasks, don't send them to do tasks or load on responsibility.
Let them know you care and that you trust them to make the right decision.
Encourage them to talk with their bishop or other trusted adult for some issues that they just need another adult view about.
Don't take it personal.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I have to start by saying that Halloween is probably my least favorite holiday.  I have nothing against the candy, the dressing up or the visiting neighbors.  Possibly it could be the begging door to door, or that we see high school students doing it.  It also could be that being scared or scaring someone is not my version of fun.  I can think of better things to do. 

When I took over the preschool program where I am at years ago they had a long tradition of dressing the kids in their costumes and going throughout the campus to all of the offices.  The kids could show off their costumes and get candy.  Even 13 years after ending that practice I still have long term employees of the university who say they miss it. 

It is appropriate to ask, "What is the educational value of doing this?"  Back in the day when children and their parents created costumes out of whatever was available in the house it was not such a big deal, but today where most costumes are bought with little to no planning or preparation all of the value of the holiday is lost.  On top of that, should the costume get damaged in any way while at school you then have both an upset child and an upset parent.  Some parents have said that "I just don't understand how much their three year old looks forward to Halloween." 

Really!  Let's see, she was two years old last time Halloween came around and was that memory something she had or reflective of you and the media hype of the holiday. 

I love holidays but they need to be a chance to celebrate and not a chance to buy happiness.  So on Halloween I have be home with my 400 pieces of candy by the door, hoping that only 100 children come by and looking forward to the end of the evening, hoping everyone made it home safely.  Have a great day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When bad things happen.

It is easy to see why someone would be mad, confused, angry, upset, etc. when bad things happen that are out of our control.  What helps, but is hard to do is to have a forgiving heart and put your trust and faith in God and the future.  Until you can forgive those who have done things that have affected you and others badly you remain trapped in the current of an inescapable whirlpool. 

Model for children what you are having the hardest time managing for yourself.  You are their example.  While it might be hard, it is easier if your focus is on them rather than on yourself or on the person who has caused the problem and the feelings.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Teens being forced to deal with very adult issues

In today's world where families are undergoing such a wide variety of stresses there are more teens that are dealing with some pretty tough issues.  The first thing as a parent to think about is that as bad as it might be there is probably not anything new that others have not had to deal with.  We have always had death, divorce, economic crisis, parental unemployment, etc.  It goes back to that old saying, "The death of 100 men is a statistic. The death of one man is a tragedy."  What is the real issue is that this is new to that individual.  It really does not change the hurt, confusion, depression, etc. that the iindividual has to deal with.  Each individual and each problem is different.  It would be wonderful if there was a prescription for parents on how to respond to these issues in a standard manner. 

What we do know is that there are some basic guidelines for parents:
1.  Every teen needs someone they can talk with and have open honest communication with.
2.  Teens need parents and not parents as best friends.
3.  Teens need rules and role models.
4.  Parents need to work toward simplification when life throws them and their children a curve.
5.  Families in crisis usually pull together to get through difficult times.  This is generally a good thing.
6.  Parents and their teens need to plan together for a positive future.

The biggest tragedy is the loss of hope for the future.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


What are the things that make a couple grow together?
1.  Similar goals
2.  Similar interests
3.  Listening
4.  Being willing to acccept that you might be wrong
5.  Being married is more important than being right.
6.  Serving one another
7.  Say nice things about each other to other people
8.  Date
9.  Plan for the marriage and not just for the wedding
10.  Laugh together.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Guiding Media Choices

Many parents today are concerned about the choices of media that are available to their children.  One father lamented about his 12 year old son, "he has been exposed to so much already and from now on he really won't be listening to what I have to say, so I guess this is what we have from now on."  Meaning he thought that his role as a parent ended when his son hit his teen age years. 

It is true that some things change as children age and the relationship does change.  What does not change is the child's need for a role model that will likely be needed for both this son and also for his peers.  It is likely that other adults in the community are abdicating their responsibility and have similarly given up.  Teen age boys and girls need someone to look to that likes them and is dedicated to helping them reach adulthood.

Worthwhile activities also provide support as long as the leaders are there to help youth take on leadership and growth promoting roles.  These might include scouts, 4-H, church groups, sports, and clubs of interest in the community and through schools.  This age is also a place where service to others is perfectly placed.  They can learn how to work.  It is always easier to work with someone else to provide service that to do that exact same task within your own home.  Doing the service side by side with a parent or other mentor sends a powerful message and shows respect for the youth and for the individual receiving the service.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Who gets a shower?

Today in class we had a brief discussion of who gets a wedding shower / baby shower.  As I figured it would be, the purpose of a shower has been lost through he years. 

When asked what is the purpose of a shower the answer was.  -   To get or give gifts. 

Why give gifts? -   Because they are getting married. 

If someone has lived with their fiancee for 3 - 5 years and they are now going to get married, do they get a shower?  -   Of course they do, they are getting married. 

Wedding showers are no longer associated with the starting of a household together. 

Baby showers are now something that the mother deserves for each child, because they are having a baby.  It is an opportunity to rake in more presents.

This generation has never known of a world without bridal and baby registries.  Having a shower or multiple showers is now a right. 

The only place that they drew a line was if people ask for entertainment (big screen TV's, X-Box or Wii) as wedding presents.  The rationale is "why should we pay for their entertainment."  Why not, we are paying for everything else.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are we raising a generation of nincompoops?

This is an article from the Associated Press:  I thought you might like it.

Are we raising a generation of nincompoops?


NEW YORK — Second-graders who can't tie shoes or zip jackets. Four-year-olds in Pull-Ups diapers. Five-year-olds in strollers. Teens and preteens befuddled by can openers and ice-cube trays. College kids who've never done laundry, taken a bus alone or addressed an envelope.

Are we raising a generation of nincompoops? And do we have only ourselves to blame? Or are some of these things simply the result of kids growing up with push-button technology in an era when mechanical devices are gradually being replaced by electronics?

Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter "literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else."

Teenagers are so accustomed to either throwing their clothes on the floor or hanging them on hooks that Maushart says her "kids actually struggle with the mechanics of a clothes hanger."

Many kids never learn to do ordinary household tasks. They have no chores. Take-out and drive-through meals have replaced home cooking. And busy families who can afford it often outsource house-cleaning and lawn care.

"It's so all laid out for them," said Maushart, author of the forthcoming book "The Winter of Our Disconnect," about her efforts to wean her family from its dependence on technology. "Having so much comfort and ease is what has led to this situation — the Velcro sneakers, the Pull-Ups generation. You can pee in your pants and we'll take care of it for you!"

The issue hit home for me when a visiting 12-year-old took an ice-cube tray out of my freezer, then stared at it helplessly. Raised in a world where refrigerators have push-button ice-makers, he'd never had to get cubes out of a tray — in the same way that kids growing up with pull-tab cans don't understand can openers.

But his passivity was what bothered me most. Come on, kid! If your life depended on it, couldn't you wrestle that ice-cube tray to the ground? It's not that complicated!

Mark Bauerlein, author of the best-selling book "The Dumbest Generation," which contends that cyberculture is turning young people into know-nothings, says "the absence of technology" confuses kids faced with simple mechanical tasks.

But Bauerlein says there's a second factor: "a loss of independence and a loss of initiative." He says that growing up with cell phones and Google means kids don't have to figure things out or solve problems any more. They can look up what they need online or call mom or dad for step-by-step instructions. And today's helicopter parents are more than happy to oblige, whether their kids are 12 or 22.

"It's the dependence factor, the unimaginability of life without the new technology, that is making kids less entrepreneurial, less initiative-oriented, less independent," Bauerlein said.

Teachers in kindergarten have always had to show patience with children learning to tie shoes and zip jackets, but thanks to Velcro closures, today's kids often don't develop those skills until they are older. Sure, harried parents are grateful for Velcro when they're trying to get a kid dressed and out the door, and children learn to tie shoes eventually unless they have a real disability. But if they're capable of learning to tie their shoes before they learn to read, shouldn't we encourage them?

Some skills, of course, are no longer useful. Kids don't need to know how to add Roman numerals, write cursive or look things up in a paper-bound thesaurus. But is snail-mail already so outmoded that teenagers don't need to know how to address an envelope or put the stamp in the right spot? Ask a 15-year-old to prepare an envelope some time; you might be shocked at the result.

Lenore Skenazy, who writes a popular blog called Free-Range Kids, based on her book by the same name, has a different take. Skenazy, whose approach to parenting is decidedly anti-helicopter, agrees that we are partly to blame for our children's apparent incompetence, starting when they are infants.

"There is an onslaught of stuff being sold to us from the second they come out of the womb trying to convince us that they are nincompoops," she said. "They need to go to Gymboree or they will never hum and clap! To teach them how to walk, you're supposed to turn your child into a marionette by strapping this thing on them that holds them up because it helps them balance more naturally than 30,000 years of evolution!"

Despite all this, Skenazy thinks today's kids are way smarter than we give them credit for: "They know how to change a photo caption on a digital photo and send it to a friend. They can add the smiley face without the colon and parentheses! They never took typing but they can type faster than I can!"

Had I not been there to help that 12-year-old with the ice-cube tray, she added, the kid surely would have "whipped out his iPhone and clicked on his ice cube app to get a little video animated by a 6-year-old that explained how you get ice cubes out of a tray."

Friends playing devil's advocate say I'm wrong to indict a whole generation for the decline of skills they don't need. After all, we no longer have to grow crops, shoot deer, prime a pump or milk a cow to make dinner, but it was just a couple of generations ago that you couldn't survive in many places without that knowledge.

Others say this is simply the last gasp of the analog era as we move once and for all to the digital age. In 10 years, there won't be any ice cube trays; every fridge will have push-button ice.

But Bauerlein, a professor at Emory University who has studied culture and American life, defends my right to rail against the ignorance of youth.

"That's our job as we get old," he said. "A healthy society is healthy only if it has some degree of tension between older and younger generations. It's up to us old folks to remind teenagers: 'The world didn't begin on your 13th birthday!' And it's good for kids to resent that and to argue back. We want to criticize and provoke them. It's not healthy for the older generation to say, 'Kids are kids, they'll grow up.'

"They won't grow up," he added, "unless you do your job by knocking down their hubris."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Family Home Evening

Tonight we had Family Home Evening and the topic was using the DISC Personality Inventory to look at individual personality characteristics and preferences for work situations.  It was a fun way to look at differences and also to talk about how we all benefit by blending our "preferred" styles. 

When looking for topics to cover in FHE it is important to blend from a wide variety of content.  Spending time together and learning from each other is the goal.  So no matter if that is done playing miniture golf, studying some scriptural topic, going on a walk together or going out for ice cream, each activity and experience opens the doors for future communication as it builds patterns to be followed later.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Parenting by choice or by chance

So you are a parent.  What does your parenting entail?  Do you wait for things to happen and then respond or do you seek out opportunities?  Think about it this way.  You are in need of some information.  Your choice is to either go seek the information seek out someone who can help you, or you can wait and hope that the people who know will just happen to sit down next to you and just happen to ask the right question or know what is needed. 

As parents you should be the seeker, the one who builds those connections.  On the other hand we tend to train children out of being seekers and the result is having children who sit next to us and that assume that if new information doesn't pop up it must not be important.

You have the option, be proactive or reactive.  The model you set will be the model your children will follow.

Going on walks

Recently I was asked how do you get preteens to talk.  Part of the problem is the level of disruption that interferes with any communication.  What I am finding is that the disruption comes on both the parent and the child side.  Going on walks and leaving the cell phones at home is a great start.  Turning off the TV during meals.  Limit the amount of time by parents and children on the computer.  Do something that the child likes. 

Many years ago a parent said that her children didn't get good grades and that they "couldn't" study.  What I found out was really that there was no culture of sitting down and doing something that was a more sedate activity.  The family activities were all physical outdoor activites and none were things they could do sitting down, playing games, talking with each other.

Turn off the world and go for a walk.  Develop a family culture of doing little things together.  Smile and laugh with each other.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What traits do you want for your children?

There are many traits, characteristics that people "hope" their children have and yet they often seem surprised at their child's behavior.  One of the first questions that I usually ask parents when they tell me something they want to change about their child is, "Which of you is he/she most like?"  Many times the behavior they are wanting to change in their child is something that they don't like in themselves or in their spouse.  Rarely do I get the reply that the child is not acting like one or the other parent.  The answer is clear, work on changing your behaviors and you will see a change in your child's behavior.

Here is an example from a couple of years ago. A mother was complaining that her daughter would not clean her room no matter how many threats or bribes were offered.  I asked her to close her eyes and think of three rooms in the house, her bedroom, the kitchen, and the living room and to tell me what they usually looked like.  She told me that they are usually in disarray because she is a busy mom but that they had a comfortable, lived in feel.  Children use spaces based on how they find them.  If they find them cluttered then they feel comfortable with that.  If they find neatness then they are not comfortable if things are out of place.  What I am saying is that you have to find the right balance for you and your family.  Start with having a family night where you set some goals.  Then have a 10 minute "quick clean" where everyone has to put away or straighten, or clean 20 things each.  It is amazing how fun this can be.  Then let the family know that at the end of every day there will be a 10 minute "quick clean" before bed.  Be consistent.  Some people get out of the habit by making excuses about it being past the child's bedtime or tonight would not be convenient.  Do it anyway.

Additionally, children always need their own money so start special pay for special jobs.  But, if pay is involved then an inspection / evaluation of performance is also required so don't let them off easy.  This will help them distinguish the difference between a job done right and a task to be completed.  Eventually you can even have children serve as each other's job evaluators.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to help children become good readers

I was asked what has the greatest impact on children's future academic abilities.  If we are talking about overall academic abilities I would highlight the following:
1.  Sing with and to children.  It helps with sentence structure, word tone and grammar, it helps with social competence and developing self esteem.  I could go on but this gives you as good start.
2.  Read with and to children.  Also read both at the child's level as well as at levels above the child's level.  This applies for ages 1 - 12.  Reading builds comprehension.  If you can read you can do anything.  If you can't read you can't do math, science, social studies, etc.
3.  Play with children - play is what helps children make sense of their world and process complex information.
4.  Ask children questions.  Young children ask a lot of questions and parents answer some and get frustrated at times.  Turn them around and ask children questions.  If a child says, "Why does the wind blow?" you should ask them why they think it blows.  Find out what they think.  Look for places where you can fill in the gaps in their knowledge.  Don't overfill.  Sometimes adults try to give too much information.  Give information and let them ask the next question.
5.  Help them develop a sense of wonder about their world and look at things in new ways.  How might a bunny see the world?  What would trees see?  What is inside an ant hill?  This will open their minds to their own questions.
6.  Use real words for things and provide labels.  Encourage scientific examination and observation.
7.  Parents have the opportunity to be their children's first teachers.  What you give or don't give is not related to income, or social status.  Anyone can visit a museum, a park, or a store to help explore a child's world.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Video's on relationships

I encourage everyone to watch these clips.  I use them in my class to talk about relationships.
Steve Harvey 1
Steve Harvey 2
Steve Harvey 3

He has a great take on this subject and my students in class always have Aha! moments.

Of course most are not willing to change their behaviors.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What is sometimes not seen

At church this past week I watched a young infant girl (about 9 months) tip over while sitting on the floor.  Her head hit the carpet, not hard, and she looked around from her new vantage point.  After about 15 seconds her father put his hand on her back and asked her if she was all right as he started to help her to sit up again.  She immediately started to cry.  He picked her up.  She stopped crying, took a deep breath, looked around again to see if she had an audience, and then started to cry again. 

Lets look at what was learned.
1.  I tipped over, quick self check, I am okay, wow things look different from down here, look at that man smiling at me, how to I get up, where is my dad.
2.  Dad is saying something to me but I don't know what.  I must be in some kind of trouble or difficulty,  maybe I should cry.
3.  Dad picked me up, I can get more attention if I keep crying, better stop to see if he is still looking at me.
4.  Yup, I have his attention.  Now watch this .....

When young children do something where there is a possibility of getting hurt parents and teachers should consider that the action has already happened.  Rushing over or hugging and attention will not stop the falling.  Therefore the attention should now be to help the child figure out what is wrong and if there is something that is really hurt and needs attention.

Consider this scenario.
Same child tips over and is laying down on the floor.  Dad watches the child to see how she reacts.  Dad moves over nearby and talks to the child.  "You are doing fine, push yourself up.  Wow, good job."

The child continues to survey the scene, realizes she is fine and works to make herself more comfortable.

Children take cues from adults on how badly they are hurt.  In 9/10 times the adult makes more of the situation than is needed and therefore sets the child up for future expectations and learning of what they need to do to get the attention.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I love my rock, what does it mean for my kids?

This question comes from someone who loves listening to hard rock music.  He said that he likes to put on Black Sabbath, AC/DC and others and really crank it up so even my neighbors can hear.  His wive is concerned about the impact on their young daughter and their unborn child.  His rationale is that he has ended up okay so it can't be bad for you.

I can't believe I will use this analogy from my past but it applies here.  As my mother use to say, if all of your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you jump off also?  What I would say is if 10 people jumped off, what is the survival rate and what is the individual outcomes.  The rationale that because one person turned out normal is not an acceptable rationale.  What are the percentages?  Next is what do we know about the impacts of this music on the developing child and the unborn child.  I am sorry to say that both are not what he will want to hear.  Best to leave the music to occasional times when either the family is not around or as a special, lets be crazy and dance to daddy's old music.  Also turn it down a notch as you are impacting everyone's hearing.

Fact:  Hard rock music increases the release of cortisol which is a stress hormone in both mothers and in unborn infants.  Children who are exposed to high levels of cortisol have a greater level of behavior problems and managing emotions as young children and young adults.  In other words your children will pay for your choices and you will pay as more difficult parenting situations will arise.

Can you come live with us?

Over the years I have been asked, in jest, the question,"can you come live with us for a month?" 

Parents are both interested in doing the right thing for their children as well as often are doubting their own abilities.  There is no such thing as a quick fix and therefore I avoid answering the question of what do I do now when a child behaves in a manner other than what the parent wants.  Here are some of the basics.
1.  Parents are oversensitive about their children's behavior - parents are under sensitive about their children's behavior.  What I mean by this is that parents often want to stop behavior in public that might portray themselves in a negative light and yet they allow behaviors in public and private that are really worthy of attending to.  Also parents will let a bunch of behaviors go with a child that is two years old and even label it as cute that when it continues when the child is older they are frustrated by.
2.  Allow children to be children.  They perform for audiences.  These performances might be in terms of increased crying, aggressive behavior, shy behavior, hanging on, whining, running around, showing off, etc.  They are all related to the change in "normal."  They take their cues from you.  Adults also change their behaviors and act differently when "guests" are around and children are still figuring out what this means for them.  Sometimes it means testing limits that you think have been firmly set.  This is a time to understand but also reinforce the limits you have set.

Here is an example:  many years ago I was making a home visit to the home of a child in my class.  Both parents were highly educated, they had a nanny that was with their son during the day.  When I got there he was sitting on the couch waiting for me.  I had never met him or his parents before but he had been told that his "Teacher" was coming.  He was 3 1/2 and had no idea what the word meant.  Within a few minutes he was up and moving.  In the next three minutes he had run around the room, grabbed a ball and started throwing it at things on the mantel.  When his father moved to stop him his wife said, "Let him be, he is just excited because his teacher is here."  My reply was, No matter what the setting or the reason I don't want him to think that his behavior is acceptable just because something has changed.  Had I not done this then I would have been inviting similar behavior once he got to my classroom. 

Rather than allowing the parents to handle it I took it as an opportunity to model what I would do in the classroom for a child who was misbehaving.  Rather than saying, "Philip, stop throwing the ball."  I said, "Philip, you have a really nice ball, will you show it to me?"  He walked over with it to show me.  I held the ball in my hand as I talked with him about it. (I now had control of the object)  I told him how much I liked balls but that they were only to be used outside where it is safe.  He nodded his head.  I asked him if he had toys he liked to play with inside that he would like to show me.  From then on I helped him be in control of being the host rather than the adults knowing that he was the reason for the visit but not engaging him in the process.  As I was leaving his mom thanked me and said that what he was like in the first few minutes was typical for whenever they had guests.

3.  Meet them where they are rather than expecting them to meet you where you are.  This does not mean physically.  It means base your efforts by first seeking to understand how you child sees the world rather than expecting him to understand your view.  Children are still learning the ability called "Perspective taking."  This means being able to be empathetic, aware of others and to tailor their behaviors to accommodate the needs of others.  This means becoming self censoring and self directed rather than it coming from outside (you).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Siblings not getting along

The youngest of three children, a 4 year old girl is always getting in fights with her 6 year old brother, but she gets along with her 8 year old brother.  When she gets frustrated she resorts to yelling at her mother and basically stirring up trouble by trying to get her brother blamed for things.  The parent indicated that he tells her to stop behaving the way she is acting and has tried things like time out or punishing her.  I asked if he had asked her how she was feeling or what she was upset about.  He indicated that he had not done that.  He was mainly concerned with stopping the behavior that he didn't like. 

It really helps if you think of children as being inexperienced communicators who need help.  By saying something like, "You seem really upset, come sit with me and lets talk about it." you are opening the lines of communication.  If she hits you or your wife, rather than moving to punishment think of it as a child who is having such a hard time communicating that she is going to extreme to try to get your attention. 

Stop the behavior, seek understanding, give alternative behavior options to get what is wanted, put limit on unacceptable behaviors, interact in a positive way.

Getting a child to stop saying no

I was asked today by a grandmother how to get her granddaughter (5 or 6) to stop saying "no" every time she was asked to do something.  I asked if it was things like, "Would you like to help set the table?"  That was exactly the time of things that triggered it.  In fact no matter what the grandmother asked the child said no to.  In fact what the grandmother thought she was doing was inviting her granddaughter to help.  What she was really doing was phrase every request in a way that it turned it into a "yes" or "no" question.  At every turn the child said "No."

The solution:  Think in terms of options and not as a chance to help.  The table needs setting, which are you going to help with, the spoons or the forks.  Start simple and don't make the task too large.  If the child balks then make it a choice between a big thing, such as setting the whole table or a small thing, only putting on the spoons.  The child will choose the easy task.  Count this as a success and move on and wait for a few hours before offering the next task.  Too often parents who find some success with this immediately move on to a whole series of choices and children don't want to be manipulated and will figure out what is happening.  Making choices about three times a day is enough for a start with long periods in between.  Over time the child will see that they get to make choices and that the rest of the interactions are positive.  They will start taking more responsibility on their own without the need to be directed.

If given an chance children who feel powerless about their lives will take every opportunity to say "No" so don't take it personal.  Think of it as a journey where over time you are going to teach her that having control can be positive rather than resulting in a negative interaction.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

All day Tantrum

Question:  I am looking for a cure for the all-day temper tantrum. I've done time-outs on the time-out chair and her crib, and of course, the recommended "ignoring" the fit... But really...when all day of ignoring isn't working, what do you other moms recommend? 'Cause I'm really really tired of having toys thrown at me, and whining and crying."

Answer:  Ever have a bad day but can't communicate it.  Very young children may be experiencing distress in a variety of areas.  Most times it is trial and error in finding what the problem is or how to remedy it.  Generally unless I know the child and have some history of predicting the reason I would start with a variety of things and look for the response.  Is it based on anger, tired, unmet needs, frustration, etc.

1.  Hugs and a snuggle
2.  Walk around looking at things
3.  Lay down near her and do nothing for a while

These top three are too look for reactions and if they provide a break in the action.  If the tandrum continues then.
4.  Read a book, listen to music, etc. so that you are near by but you are showing her you are occupied.

Does she seek you out for attention to her tantrum.

5.  Change of scencery - take her for a walk, change her clothes, play with a toy.  (I have actually heard of a situtation where a child threw a tantrum every time one dress was put on because it felt scrtchy but the child was too young to tell anyone).

Last resorts - Time out (with you near by but not paying attention to the child)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Helping children sleep through the night

Question:  How do I get my 9 months old to sleep through the night? I'm tired of waking up with him in the middle of the night 2-3 times. He eats a ton of solid food before bed, goes to sleep and wakes up every single night at 3 am or so. Why? He eats a bottle when he wakes up but IDK why he's hungry bc he eats so much before bed.

Answer:  There are a lot of reasons why a child of this age might wake up.  Based on the information given here are the things that come to mind.
1. He is wet and he feels uncomfortable when he is wet so no matter how hard he tries he can't adjust.  Is he wet and needs to be changed?  Monitor the intake of fluids and food to see if the timing could be adjusted.  Infants have very few ways they can communicate and crying is their only choice.  He is trying to tell you something.
2.  Constipation - are things flowing smoothly through his system?  This can be a reason children are waking at this age because as foods travel through their system the last part can cause discomfort.
3.  People permanance - think of object permanance - but with the focus on people, namely you.  If he has reached the cognitive level that he knows you are out there somewhere and has learned that you come if called then it is reinforcing.  The best way to find out if this is part of the issues is if he immediately calms down when you enter the room (meaning his problems are solved because you are there).  This means that he has gotten used to you helping him to sooth himself.  That is a good thing but it also can be causing the problem.

If he is not good at self soothing then the place to start is during the day time.  When he cries during the day provide a stuffed animal or toy, but don't pick him up.  Distract him, but don't take away his ability to be in control of his own situation.  See how he does.  Children who have parents who are "rescusing" them a lot in situations they can or should be able to manage expect and want to always be rescued.  This is a tough balancing act because what builds attachment and the development of trust is the meeting of physical and emotional needs.

Follow up questions I would ask:
1.  Is he fully awake when you go into the room?
2.  Is he wet or need changing?
3.  How quickly does he settle down?
4.  Is rubbing him back enough or does it take holding him?
5.  How relaxing is the room environment (is there soft music playing in the background, gentle soft lighting, etc.)
6.  What is his temperament like?  Easy going, slow to warm up, rejecting, etc.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The impact of development on behavior

"Children's behavior can evoke feelings of delight, aggravation, humor, confusion, satisfaction, and/or anxiety from adults."  Often the words, "Where does he get it from?", "Why won't she listen?", or "When will they learn?" are heard by parents who can't seem to understand the behavior choices of a young child.  Right there in that last part of the sentence is the key to the answer, the behavior choices of the child.

To adults this implies intent and purposeful actions.  Let me show you by example a few things that are similar.  Have you ever gotten lost because you drove down the wrong street and made it worse by the next turn you made.  Did you mean to end up where you were or did you just make the best choice based on the limited information you had?  Have you ever followed a recipe, and at the end said, "well, that is one I will never make again." 

What happened?  You are an adult and have far more information to go from and yet you didn't end up with a good result.  Now consider that when dealing with young children they have extremely limited experience, are not good observers, and need to experience things multiple times to develop the cognitive connections and the skills to be successful.

Three key principles that impact a child's abilities and thinking are:  Ego Centrism, Centration, and Irreversibility.

Ego centrism is the most critical factor as it relates to social interactions and behaviors.  Young children can not consider their own view of an issue and someone else's simultaneously.  Additionally for very young child they can not suspend their own at all to consider another child's view.

Suggestions for parents:
1.  Talk with children about their feelings.  Help them to label feelings that they might not fully understand or have words to describe.
2.  Point out similar or contrasting feelings of other children.  Direct them to see faces and match the emotion with the facial expressions.
3.  Tell children how their behavior has affected you or another person.
4.  Help children tell each other how they feel.
5.  Remind children of their feelings in prior situations.
6.  Tell children how their behavior has affected you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bedtimes in summer

I was asked if 10:00 pm is to late for a child to go to bed in the summer.  The child is 6 years old.  The parent said that he doesn't have anything going on the next day and can sleep in as long as he wants so she doesn't see any need to send him to bed, especially because it is still light until about 9:00 and she doesn't like the hassle of getting home herself until she is ready.  On special occasions or if he is not tired then it is common for him to stay up until 11:00 or later.

Children learn the habits of self regulation and time management from their parents.  This child should have a bed time of 8:00 in the school year and 8:30 in the summer except for special occasions.  The child should also be up and moving by 8:00 am regardless of if he has anything to do.  Life is passing this poor boy by, and the outlook is not rosy.  There are adventures to be had and books to be read.  Right now he is heading toward starting school behind where he was at the end of the prior year.

Taking infants for a ride

Scary! On my way to work today a car was headed in the other direction and the mom was in the passenger see holding her infant (maybe 2 months old based on the size) in the air in  front of her while they interacted with each other.  Meanwhile the car is traveling over 60 MPH.  I know this because they had just passed a car and swerved back into their lane from the one that I was traveling in.  The speed limit is 55mph.  Car seats and laws about them are there for a reason.  Unfortunately laws and seats can't protect children from the stupidity of their parents. 

Enough ranting, I feel better now.

Now a plug - be sure parents read the directions for use on car seats because most are installed incorrectly by parents.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taking teens for a ride

One of the best opportunities parents have for talking with their teen is in the car.  Usually the lines of communication are more open when parents can talk without maintaining eye contact with their teen.  Also facial expressions are less intense when talking about highly contenscious issues.  After the drive stop for something to drink or get some ice cream and sit in a place where the communication can continue.

Another good location is on the golf course where conversations can flow from hole to hole and the activity you are involved with allows for both direct discussion of issues and a prolonged dialogue.

The main thing is you can not wait to have discussions on major topics until they become a concern. 

In my class this week I gave them a real situation where a 14 year-old girl has been dating a 18 year old boy and they have been intimate for two years.  The questions revolved around how parents should react when they find out. 

It is always surprising that some students react to this by stating something such as the following, "This could probably be labeled as abuse, but if they have been in a relationship that long it must be they really care for each other so the main thing is to make sure the girl knows she has options."  They think the parents must already know because parents should know.  As you can imagine there are some in the class that have themselves lived through similar situations and what I find is that they refuse to condem behavior in others that they engaged in themselves.  What they do acknowledge is that they wish someone would have stepped in and stopped things even if they would not have liked it.

In an interesting study this past week it was reported that over 75% of parents did not think their children were having sex.  When they talked with the teens it turned out that only 9% were not.  Conversations need to start early.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Prepare & Enrich

This is a short version of the Prepare/Enrich Survey and what they have found is that it highlights areas of concern as well as opens up opportunities for discussion.  Couples that discuss these and find resolution become stronger.  The actual survey has over 100 questions and it is copyrighted but these samples are made available by the authors and publishers.

20 questions from the Prepare/Enrich Relationship survey

Instructions: Answer the questions yes or no.

1. I expect some of our romantic love will fade after marriage.    

2. I believe most disagreements we currently have will decrease after marriage.

3. I really like the personality and habits of my partner.

4. I am concerned about my partners drinking and/or smoking.

5. I can easily share my positive and negative feelings with my partner.

6. My partner is less interested in talking about our relationship that I am.

7. We openly discuss problems and usually find good solutions.

8. We have some important disagreements that never seem to get resolved.

9. We have decided how to handle our finances.

10. I wish my partner was more careful in spending money.

11. I enjoy spending some time alone without my partner.

12. At times I feel pressure to participate in activities my partner enjoys.

13. I am very satisfied with the amount of affection I receive from my partner.

14. My partner and I sometimes disagree regarding our interest in sex.

15. I think parenting will dramatically change our relationship and the way we live.

16. I have some concerns about how my partner will be as a parent.

17. My partner and I agree on how much we will share the household chores.

18. We disagree on whether the husband’s occupation should be a top priority in where we live.

19. We share the same spiritual and religious values.

20. We sometimes disagree on how to practice our religious beliefs.

Scoring for Couples

1. On the odd numbers (1, 3, 5, etc.) count the number of items where you both answered YES.

2. On the even numbers (2, 4, 6, etc.) count the number of items where you both answered NO.

3. Add the two categories together.

Interpreting your Score

16-20 Very little risk of divorce

11- 15 Less risk of divorce

6-10 High risk of divorce

0-5 Very high risk of divorce

Monday, July 19, 2010

What men want in women, what women want in men.

Everyone thinks they know the answer to the question, What do men want in a woman? and what do women want in a man?  I can tell who has read their textbook based on what the answers are to this question. 

In reality the top five for men are:  Love, Dependability, Stability and maturity, Good disposition, Looks.  The top five for women are: Love, Dependability, Maturity & Stability, Good disposition, Desire for children and home.

Interesting that these are not the characteristics that you find portrayed within the media (movies and TV) as the preferred characteristics.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Real chance of Divorce

I am teaching a course on Marriage and Family and a student said, "Why get married if there is a 50% chance I will get divorced?"

What is lost in the figure often cited is the real story.
Did you know that if you graduate from high school you have a lower chance of divorce than if you don't. 
If you go to college then it goes down.  If you graduate it goes down.  If you get a graduate degree it goes down. 
If you are religious it goes down. 
Other factors that lower your chance of divorce are:
Being the same religion, being middle class or above, getting married after age 21, getting married by choice (rather than due to pregnancy), going to premarital counseling or taking a course on marriage, not smoking and drinking. 

If you remove those that are at the low end of the socioeconomic range then the actual change of getting a divorce is more in the 20% - 25% range.  Then with the other factors it can be reduced to less than 15%. And that is for the whole population that fit those criteria. 

Some people think their chances of staying married are about as good as winning the lottery.  That is definitely not the case

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Home Sick at camp

Every year boys and girls go to Boy Scout camp, Day camps, Girl's Camp, church camps, sports camps, etc. and every year there are kids of a variety of ages that get home sick and want to go home. What they are having trouble with is the change in routine and predictability. What is a parent to do? Do you go get them or make them tough it out?
1. Parents know which children have more of a difficulty in dealing with unfamiliar situations and people. For some it is a matter of concern and for others it secretly is a matter of assurance that they are still wanted and needed by their child. Keep your eye on the ball here. The goal is to develop confident, self directed individuals. You don't want your child to be unable to go to school, to work, to college, or to leave home to get married.
2. Think of it as a journey. Don't wait for the "big event." Build up to it. Sleep overs with friends. Going to movies or the mall without parents. Taking swimming lessons. Baby sitting for other people. All of these help children to gain confidence and independence.
3. If you are already in the situation with a child (the event is here) then provide a lifeline. The child can call home once each day to report on what they are doing and the call lasts only 5 minutes.
4. If the child is new then assign them a buddy from the start so they have someone to do things with.
5. If you are a leader it may seem harsh, but let them know they can sit and put (cry or whatever) or they can have fun with the others. Be aware of safety issues as there are cases where children have made the decision to walk home.
6. When talking with the child (as the parent or as the leader) don't focus on the homesickness, wanting the parent or things like that. Watch the words you use. (I have had many parents of preschool age children that have conversations like this with their child. "I am leaving now, are you going to be all right. I will be gone for a long time and you won't see me. You will be here with only your teacher. Are you sure you are all right." Then when the child gets upset, the parent says, "see he has a hard time and maybe I should stick around or maybe he is too young."
7. This is not a maturity issues and giving the child another year (whether he or she is 3 or 13 will not make a difference. It is a learned and reinforced behavior built on child temperament and tendencies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sharing experiences with children

Our family likes old movies, The Marx Brothers, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Burns and Allen, and great classics like The Great Race, Paint Your Wagon and Fiddler on the Roof. Throughout our children's lives it has not been kids movies that were different from our movies. We love Disney movies. In fact we just finished the Jungle Book. Our children have grown up with the same tastes in music and movies as we have. We share things together and make it fun and interesting. From talking with parents I find that many send their kids to other rooms to watch things on their own. Parents have different standards for their entertainment.

Many years ago I had a parent who was having a problem with her 5 year old and swearing. She remarked that she was going to come see me earlier in the day but her son was having a birthday party and the movie had not ended yet. The movie she had gotten for him and all of his friends to see was rated "R." Surprise that her son believed that adults swear when kids are not around. It was interesting to find that the 5 year old had seem more R-rated movies than I had.

Be interested in your children's interests and share your interests with them.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

2 & 3 year olds and sharing

When talking about sharing with 2 and 3 year olds it is important to decide if you are talking about sharing or taking turns. Turn taking is easy to teach and in most cases that is what parents mean when they say sharing. The question asked this time had to do with parents trying to get their children to share with another child.

1. Be sure you mean sharing and not taking turns.
2. if it is sharing then both end up with something at the same time so it often needs a little adult involvement initially.
3. If it is taking turns then involve the other parent by saying we will take turns taking turns. It doesn't matter who goes first.

Set the children up for experiences.

Word of caution: Do not force a child to share. It will not teach them sharing skills, but it will teach that their will can be overriden by someone bigger and they will apply that with others who are smaller than they are. If a child has a favoite toy then they should not be expected to give it up.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Talking with Teens

A father has some jobs for his daughter to do around the house. She has slept in some after a late night out with her friends. He has choices on how to approach the situation. Should he:
a. Knock on her door and tell her to get up because it is 9:00 and there are jobs to be done.
b. Knock on her door and ask her if she would be willing to help out around the house.
c. Tell her it is time to get up and that you have jobs for her to do.
d. Knock on her door, enter, sit on her bed and ask about her eveing the night before, how things went, what her plans were for the day and then online those things he needs her help with.

With teenagers it is still the same old principle you should have learned when your children were little. Meeting their needs makes them more willing to meet yours. Take interest in their activities and outline what you need and they will usually be willing to do what is needed. Demand obedience and they will likely pull away and be defiant. They are nearing adulthood and just as you would like to be asked, they too would like to be treated with respect as well as direction.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Traveling with young children

Don't you love airports and delayed flights. I was able to watch a variety of parents and children yesterday for 10 hours of delays. In the airport there were about 8 hours of delays and I watched a family with a mom, two children and two grandparents who were traveling together. They managed pretty well most of the time with each child having a bag of activities to keep them occupied. Everything worked fine until the older child (8-9 years old) decided it would be more fun to torment his younger brother (about 4 years old). The mom was tired and had given up on disciplining her sons. Grandma looked like she was staring at things to keep herself from falling asleep. Grandpa calmly bulled the older boy to his side and talked with him about what he had in his bag. He knew that distraction was the key rather than telling the children to stop. The mom mentioned that her younger son needed a nap but that because they were traveling he had not had one. Because of this he had a short fuse. His mom would have been better suited to force a quiet time with a time limit of sitting down an resting as they know there would be another two hours before a potential plane.

Another couple in their late 20's had a little 24 month old who was thrilled to be able to walk/run as she found everything interesting. Mom and dad took turns as the person watching her and allowed her to move freely (within a defined space) which let her gradually wear herself down. For the 2 year old she fell asleep as her parents were getting ready to board the plane.

Back when we traveled with our children Lisa would buy little snacks or travel toys that the children were able to unwrap every 100 miles. Over the years we would just rewrap the old toys and they were new again. The kids loved getting to unwrap them and see what they got each time. It helped them to mark time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bored and nothing to do

My daughter (21) is very creative and at times seems to be the person that others come to for ideas of what to do. One day as she was going to spend time with friends she suggested that they each make a list of three - five things that they could do. Then they would compare lists and choose what to do. In about an hour she came up with the following list. As you can see she came up with more than 5. She carries the list in case she needs an idea.
1. Watch a movie at home.
2. Watch a movie at the theater.
3. Go to the mall.
4. Play on a playground at a school.
5. Play mini golf.
6. Driving range for golf.
7. Play a round of golf.
8. Bowling
9. Run in circles.
10. Eat junk food.
11. Make prank phone calls.
12. Scrapbook.
13. Make cookies.
14. Make fudge.
15. Go fly a kite.
16. Visit Wal-mart.
17. Tell ghost stories.
18. Hunt ghosts.
19. Give self or others manicures and pedicures.
20. Go to a pet store and play with the animals.
21. Sit in massage chairs in Bed, Bath and Beyond or Sam's Club.
22. Go to Branson and walk around or see a show.
24. Pet a rhino.
25. Dress up like Superheros.
26. Go sky-diving
27. Watch a Sing-a-long Disney movie.
28. TP your living room.
29. Play tic-tac-toe.
30. Play truth or dare.
31. Walk to Joplin on the trails and back.
32. Make things out of clay.
33. Make claymation figures out of playdough.
34. Play in the rain (if available)
35. Go to a club.
36. Rent a movie, buy ice cream, popcorn and snuggle in blankets.
37. Look through the $5 bin of movies at Wal-mart
38. Be detectives and solve the latest crime.
39. Watch viral/funny videos on YouTube.
40. Build a tree house.
41. Put on a puppet show.
42. Make shirts.
43. Whistle showtunes.
44. Listen to books on tape.
45. Build a spaceship.
46. Build a model.
47. Gossip.
48. Lay on the ground and watch clouds
49. Write poetry.
50. Make a video.
51. Take a nap.
52. Make balloon animals.
53. Do homework
54. Look for a job - real or pretend.
55. Look at colleges and pick out fun majors.
56. Sneak into a building without being seen.
57. See how many marshmellows will fit into your mouth.
58. Play card games.
59. Play board games.
60. Draw pictures.
61. Take random pictures of random things.
62. Eat.
63. Exercise.
64. Recite Pi.
65. Read today's most popular MLIA's
66. Dance a hula.
67. Talk a friend into naming their first child after you.
68. Face paint.
69. Ride escalators.
70. Try on prom dresses.
71. Kareoke
72. Reinact Star Wars
73. See how many licks it takes to really get to the center of a tootsie roll pop.
74. Go on a hike.
75. Touch your toes.
76. Climb a tree.
77. Watch "The last Lecture" -

In class we have students think of what they can use a shoe box for. Many students stop after about 10 - 15 things and they have not even started to get creative. I was once told that creativity takes getting beyond the 20 obvious solutions. We sometimes wonder why kids get bored. I think they need a list to refer to.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I got to talk about the importance of fathers today so I thought I would share a couple of things.

Fathers- don't wait to be great.

Fathers need to be good home makers.

President James E. Faust: "It is useless to debate which parent is most important. No one would doubt that a mother's influence is paramount with newborns and for the first years of a child's life. The father's influence increases as the child grows older. However, each parent is necessary at various tines in a child's development. Both fathers and mothers do different things for their children. Both are equipped to nurture children, but their approaches are different. Mothers seem to take a dominant role in preparing children to live within their families, present and future. Fathers seem best equipped to prepare children to function in the environment outside the family."

A noted sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, stated, "Fathers are far more than just "second adults" in the home," Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other parent is as likely to bring. Fathers have a direct impact on the well-being of their children."

Parents who are more responsive, affactionate, and confident with their infants, more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; become better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support.

  • Children with involved fathers have better educational outcomes.
  • Fathers whoa re involved, nurturing and playful with their infants have children with higher IQ's, as well as better language and cognitive capacities.
  • Toddlers with involved fathers go on to start school with higher levels of academic readiness. Theya re more patient and can handle stress better.
  • The positive influence of a father's oinvolvement on academic achievement extends into adolescence and yung adulthood.
  • Children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident, and grow better social connections with peers.
  • Children with fathers are less likely to get into trouble at home, at school, or in the neighborhood.
Children who live with their fathers are more liely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.

You can't make a strong building out of inferior materials. You cannot have strong children with the scraps of your time, energy and interest.

"No man is too rich or too poor to play with his children." Bryant S. Hinkley

"If I were asked to name the world's greatest need, I should say unhesitantly; wise mothers and exemplary fathers." David O. McKay

Be all you can be. Do not wait to be great.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


How to get a chld who obvisously needs a nap to take on.

This problem usually starts with the onset of Person Permanance/Object Permanence. They will lose the battle at that young age, but the desire is still there. They know you are out there and you are doing something that they are missing and they don't want to miss it. There are a variety of methods that parents have tried to address this. I will list a few here.
1. Take a nap with the child.
2. Require resting but not naping
3. Make it a quiet time with a few limited choices such as a book and soft stuffed animals, soft music, unhook the phone so it will not ring, etc.
4. Lead up to the rest time by letting the child know what will be happening. "After lunch you have your rest time while I will be sitting in the living room waiting until you wake up." Don't say you will be with another child while they are resting or they really feel they are missing something.
5. Some children do better with a mid-morning nap rather than an afternoon nap.
6. Nap time should not wait until the child is exhausted and the time should be fairly consistent from day to day (it can't be at 12:30 one day and 3 the next).
7. Nap time is a type of self soothing. Have the child "practice resting."

One week many years ago in my two and three year old preschool classroom we decided to do a unit on "Nighttime" We put dark construction paper on the windows with small holes in them for light to shine through (like stars), children brought their favorite stuffed animal to school (that they usually liked to sleep with), we had a bunch of activities that revolved around what night is like. We also brought in a large size foam mattress and put it near the pretend play area. While the lights were on the children thought it was a place to jump and play, but once we turned out the lights and told them it was a place to "pretend to sleep" we ended up with on average 3 - 5 kids resting (sleeping) for anywhere from 10 - 40 minutes. They would look to see if there was room and if there wasn't they would wait until there was. Weeks later I was geting requests from kids for the pretend resting place again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Potty Training

Strong willed children are sometimes a challange when it comes to things like potty training. It means regaining some control while at the same time allowing the child to have some autonomy. It is also interesting that the "apple usually does not fall far from the tree." Hmm, I wonder where I could find a family full of strong willed children. :-) Parents who raise their children in an environment where they gain a high degree of trust, become more self assured as they move into the autonomy of the second year, They then seek more control over everything. Here are a few steps I would suggest.
1. Cut down on how often you check to see if she needs to go to the bathroom.
2. When you do ask, change the question from: Do you need to go potty? Which allows a no for an answer, to: Do you want to go right now or do you want to go in three minutes? 90% of children will want to wait, especially if they like being in charge. Once they made their choice then you are merely enforcing their choice.
3. Have a book or two that are only for in the bathroom.
4. After the child goes in the toilet the party is not over. Children need to spend more time to fully take care of business. Have them stay until the story is over, the timer goes off, etc. so that they give their bodies a chance to relax from the tensing it does after going a little bit. It is interesting that a large number of children will actually mess their pants within 20 minutes of peeing in the toilet because their bodily functions are not in sync.
5. Use a reward for being successful for a whole day for a child that is almost three years old. They are old enough to understand what you are asking. When accidents happen, say "that's okay we can try again tomorrow." If you think a full day is too long a time then go in half days.
6. Involve the child in clean up but don't make it too special.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I was asked which is better, few rules that are consistently enforced or many rules with intermittent enforcement. You could just as easily add many rules that are all enforced, but that would be exhausting for the parent and the child. This is an easy one to answer but one within the impelementation gets difficult.

Few rules that are on the things that are most important and that are broad enough to cover a range of situations. Rules that concern the rights of others, safety, concern for property are important and things that children of all ages (2 and above) come to understand. Other things fall into the category of things to store away for discussions such as at bedtime, dinner, a family evening together. Parents have a tendency to try to "fix" children's behavior through establishment of many rules. Years ago this was viewed as an attempt to "civilize the child." Sometimes parents can find a variety of ways to put everything the child does into those three categories. Don't over do it.

Once children are about five you can even start periodic conversations about what rules they think you have for them that they like and what ones they don't like. This brings out an opportunity for both discussion (listening and sharing) as well as reflection on what aspects is the child ready to take over for themselves rather than you being the monitor. Remember that this will not mean at any age the child will no longer do what "bugs" you, but just that the day-to-day management of that issue is being shifted to the child.

Helping children deal with difficult times

As parents there are a lot of times when we are dealing with stressful situations that we want to"protect" our children from. This might be work, health, or relationships related. The first thing to know is that children are impacted by anything that impacts you. Therefore when a child is upset it is sometimes difficult to know if they are reacting to the normal things that impact a child of that age or if they are feeling the stress from your situation.

Next, know that children find comfort in the consistent and familiar. Routines and expectations provide the structure within which children live their lives. Try to keep things as "normal" as possible. In addition to that be sensitive to the need to listen more and talk less. Children need you more than they need your directions. Allow yourself a "time-out" if you need a break.

There are also some great children's books on a variety of topics that are good conversation starters. Keep in mind that you need to read through the whole book and make the best choice rather than just selecting a book because it deals with that topic. It would not work, for instance to read a book about divorce that ends with the family living happily separate if that is not the real outcome. Children will remember the story longer than your words or, "but that won't happen to us."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Teaching children self control

Effective methods of teaching self control in children ages 3 - 7 is through fun activities.
1. Play "Simon Says" or "Mother May I."
2. Encourage children to read to each other (even if they can't read words they can read the pictures) and then you or other child as an audience have the role of listener. Your job is to listen to the story as told and ask a question at the end. Then trade places. Younger children can be given a picture of ears to help remind them of their role.
3. Have children help set the table for meals, rather than them just showing up and finding everything already ready for them.

What other things can you think of that require patience?

There was a famous Russian study back in the 1950's where children were told to "stand still" for as long as they could. They lasted two minutes. When asked to pretend they were "soldiers on guard who were standing their posts," they were able to stand still for eleven minutes. Give them a role.

Guiding Principle

Life is not fair,
Get over it.
Handle it with grace.

These simple words say so much and can be used for teaching children and adults of any age. When something goes wrong, don't blame others. When your child is feeling wronged, help them move on. I was watching the reactions of the ump and the pitcher in the Indians/Detroit game this week. What a great situation to point out to our children.

Accept responsibility
Move on and do your best.

Talking with children about race

I was reading a great book that addressed research on a variety of issues. One topic was discussions about race. Children are often seen as being color blind, but in reality even the youngest children start classifying things into simple categories (like me, not like me). However that does not mean that they are biased in their behavior. That comes as they get older. Even when asked by researchers to address issues of race in discussions with young children only about 10% of white families actually did while 86% of black families did. African-American families often did so as a means of preparing their children for potential racism they might encounter (which also might have sensitized them so that they assumed some things were racially biased that were not). White families just felt uncomfortable with the whole topics and felt that if they didn't know what to say or how to say it they should ignore it.

What to do? Many topics are good for including at an early age. Does your young child have both white and black baby dolls? How about picture books? Are a variety of races depicted? To be effective conversations about race have to be explicit and in terms that children can understand. Even a concept that parents think children understand, they don't at a young age (What does equal mean?) When talking about historical events it is important to talk about the context and to not just brush over them. As children get older talk about their thoughts and feelings and help them to be accepting. If you know stories or jokes that have racial overtones then do not pass them on to the next generation. Make the decision to set your children up to overcome the challenges of prior generations.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Increased concern about praise of children

For years there has been a focus on raising children's self esteem through praise. There is increased alarm that we are creating a generation who feel they are entitled to what they want with very little effort. Bad self esteem = everyone thinks I am great and I don't have to do anything to get attention and if I want more attention I just have to do minimal amounts.

Real Self esteem, the kind you do want = Competence, Worth & Control. Competence is having some real knowledge or skills that allows you to perform something at a valued level. Worth is that you have value to yourself and others. Control is that as an individual you can make choices and are able to control your actions.

Telling children how smart or skilled they are is empty praise and the result is that children stop trying because they become praise junkies and they are afraid of failure. Failure is a part of growth. There is little in life that you get right the first time. Parents need to expect real effort and real results from their children and the comments should be reflective of effort given and discussions about what learned, rather than empty words. As the saying goes, self praise goes little ways. Many parents when they praise their children are really in an odd way praising themselves.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why do you have balloons under your shirt?

One of my college students was asked by a three year old why she wore balloons under her shirt as the child touched her chest. She wanted to know what to say.

Answer in simple language using accurate terms. If the child is ready for the beginning discussion then letting the child know that some body parts are considered private is appropriate.

Sample: You are curious about my chest. Women have differnt chests than boys and men do. (This is a good example of answering a question without going too far. if the child has more questions then he/she will ask and then you can give more information.)

Dealing with death: Helping 3 - 6 year olds

Typically a child will not understand that death is permanent. The child may think of it as temporary or magically reversible, or may even appear to be unaffected. Fears that dead people may be cold or hungry in the grave are common. There may be a belief that life goes on just like walking through a door and that they can go visit. Young children might not react immediately to a loss or express grief in adult terms. Because of the limit of what children know they are often very curious about many of the concrete details about death without dealing with the emotional loss. Expect questions about the coffin, the funeral, burial, etc.

Child's reaction:
  • May have frightening dreams, repaeat questions about death, may revert to earlier behaviors.
  • Children may play out the events surronding death. Children of this age will take words literally. Since children have limited experiences, they may make sense of the world by connecting events that don't relate. For example: Aunt Betty had a headache and she died. Daddy has a headache. maybe he will die too.

How to help:

  • Look into the child's eyes and touch the child gently when discussing death.
  • Shorten time away from the child. Be sure he or she knows where you are and how to reach you.
  • Avoid words such as sleeping, resting, loss, passed away, taking a long trip when describing death.
  • Talk about what it means to be dead in concrete terms such as someone doesn't breathe, eat, go to the bathroom or grow.
  • Repeat simple, honest explanations as often as the child asks.
  • Reassure the child of his own safety and your plan for continued presence. Share that most people die when they are older.
  • Allow expressions of feelings such as drawing pictures, reading and telling stories about death or the loved one, or reenacting the funeral service.

More on ages and stages and dealing with death: Birth to 3

Newborn to 3 years old:
Even the youngest of children sense when their family routine is disrupted and those around them experience emotional upset. However, infants and toddlers have little understanding of death. The best thing to do is even at this age to deal with death as being a part of life. Plants die, pets die, etc. This is the beginning of dealing with it.

How are children likely to react to the stress going on around them?
  • You might see changes in sleeping, eating and mood.

How can you help?
  • Keep routines and physical setting as familiar as possible.
  • Provide constant nurturing. If a parent is too distraught, seek a caring adult substitute.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Singing and two year olds

I was teaching my class on toddlers yesterday and we happened to be having a day where students could bring two year olds that they knew for a kind of watch, listen, and learn session. I talked with them about the value of singing in the classroom as a means of building children's language skills. I then said, watch and see what happens. All of the children were busy playing with sand, blocks, hitting musical instruments, etc. I started singing a simple little song that I have used thousands of times with toddlers and almost immediately all of the movement stopped. The noise of the children exploring the materials stopped. All of the children looked over at me. Toddlers are not good at doing two things at once and as long as they are paying attention to the song they stop and watch. I then went on to talk about how this is a useful technique if you are trying to stop a behavior or redirect a child. Adults can think, sing and fix things at the same time and by the time the song is over the play has been re-established and the children are ready to go back to work.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Talking with children about death

I am going to share information in a series of posts about talking with children of different ages about death. Look for more to follow.
Here are some basic pieces of information:
1. Death is a reality that children, like all of us, can learn to live with. It is as natural a part of life as birth is. Children see death every day from plants that whither and die, animals on the road, pets, etc.
2. Even before the death of a close family member or friend occurs, parents and teachers can begin to introduce the idea of death as a part of everyday life. The news, a trip past a cemetery, a dead plant, bird or pet might spark a conversation.
3. Start early and be honest with children before it becomes an event they have to deal personally with. Talk openly about the feelings and your beliefs. It will help you also.
4. Because understanding death is a gradual process it helps to have more than one conversation. Children will take in the information they are ready for and their understanding will develop over time.
5. Children feel the loss of loved ones just as intensely as adults do but they might not understand the why. Their grief is often represented through heir play as they try to understand things.
6. Adults need to help children understand that unhappy times have endings. Sometimes children think their unhappiness causes discomfort to adults so they hide their feelings.
7. Distinguish between grief and mourning. Grief is the label for a set of emotional, cognitive, behavioral and physical reactions following he death of a loved one. Normal responses include denial, emotional numbing, anger, rage, anxiety, sadness, fear, confusion, difficulty sleeping, regression in behavior, upset stomach, loss of appetite, or hysterical reactions.
8. There can be cultural behaviors that help or hinder a child's understanding of how to cope with the strong feelings associated with loss.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My 12 year old won't listen to me

In my class this semester I have a student that says that all adolescents are selfish, don't do anything their parents tell them to do and they are just biding their time until they can get out of the house and be on their own. My reply to her was, "you have a long wait if you are looking for the time when he leaves." This is not the first time that I have heard this in my Youth and Adolescence class. Rather than sending them to work on a task, how about doing one with them. Instead of looking at their faults, how about looking for the good. I have a lot of students who are in their early 20's but say that all teenagers are hopeless and more difficult than any prior generation. You largely get what you are expecting. Look forward to being involved and invested in your teens life. They not invite you in but they want you there.