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.