Wednesday, March 28, 2012

False Praise for toddlers.

Think on this...

When you praise your child try to say more than just, "Great job, your amazing, fantastic!" This gives your child no context to go on and later in life may have a difficult time measuring success.

Try instead to state what they have done or notice a behviour such as:

"That is a wonderful red, rabbit you drew, great job!"
"I like the way you took your shoes off, that was very responsible!"

"You are very kind to share your toy with your brother."
"When you share your toys, that makes mommy happy."

These type of statements are more specific and teach children the concept of what "GOOD Boy or GOOD Girl" actually means.

When you lable their behaviour they will learn what RESPECT looks like and what RESPONSIBLE is.

So in school when they talk of these concepts, your little one will already know what that looks like, acts like and feels like.

Happy Parenting!

Signing Tip:

Add a sign like SHOES or SHARE when your teaching your toddler about sharing... even try feeling words such as HAPPY and SAD.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What does driving and sign language have in common?

As we drive around with our babies/toddlers in the car. One thing we may not be thinking about are all the symbols around us we take for granted.

  • The double yellow lines keeping up from passing unsafe.
  • The green, yellow, red lights directing us how to proceed.
  • The shapes of rectangle, square, triangle with the colours green, orange, yellow inside.

Everything having a meaning, a purpose, a direction. 

We all follow these with ease and understanding, most of the time.

Let's think now about what symbols mean for our world.

They are everywhere. They are in letters, pictures, reading, chemicals for safety, in games, cards and more.
Messages are everywhere. Even in how we hold our bodies, our face, our gestures.

So now, why would we not choose to give our children an advantage over this fundamental skill by teaching them sign language?

Their first use of symbols. Babies will be signing YES, NO, BYE BYE soon enough. Most babies even add in their own signs, like flapping wings for bird, or pointing up for airplane. If you take this natural, important skill, like symbols and you teach it to your babies, they will be learning their first step to understanding that all symbols have meaning. Soon these symbols mean something, say something and stand for something.

Soon your baby will learn to use signs to

  • Ask for what they want FOOD, DRINK, UP, LOVE
  • Tell you if they are HURT, need HELP, ANGRY, SAD
  • Share with you their world BUBBLES, AIRPLANE, PUPPY
  • Talk about their memories -how falling FLOWERS remind them of BUBBLES or how BERRIES in the store are same at HOME
  • Book read with you and alone reading STARS, MOON, BUNNY
  •  Tell you what they don't like AFRAID, HURT, DOG, PARACHUTE, LOUD NOISE
Don't underestimate what your 9 month old will come up with.

Practice with your little ones at home. Pretend play with them and use simple gestures and signs. You will soon be bonding with your baby and having conversations you never thought possible at such a young age.

Have fun!

By the way baby sign language has many more benefits such as:

  • Reduces tears, tantrums and frustration

  • Makes learning to talk easier

  • Boosts self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Stimulates intellectual development

  • Strengthens the parent-child bond

  for more details.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Toddlers & The Dinner Table – a war or family time?

Eating can be a stressful time for parents and their toddlers. While an important physical need, eating can be more than just finding healthy food for your young one. There is the task of having them eat it. Adults are in charge of most decisions in a toddlers life, but when it comes to toileting, sleeping and eating. Toddlers have all the control. No parent can force a child to sleep, to pee on command or eat when told to. I know many parents who have tried and failed to do so.

Most power struggles are based on parents lack of knowledge, skills, and confidence in themselves or in their children.

When you understand age-appropriateness, and developmental appropriateness, it may help give you perspective as you work with your child to master his body. Focus on cooperation skills. Remember power struggles take two. Everyone needs to eat, sleep and go to the toilet. Instead of engaging in power struggles over these fundamental abilities, try supporting cooperation and discussion through kind, firm action and choices.

From nursing -to toddlers at the dinner table, it is important for you as a parent, to feel confident in your rules, decisions and follow through. If you are not second guessing your own decisions, then you will have an easier time following through and cooperating with your young one.

Toddlers are struggling to learn autonomy and will use whatever means to gain a sense of power good or bad. We all want our toddlers to feel self confident, self assured, empowered and loved.

Using tactics like, “If you don't eat your vegetables, you won't get dessert!” “If you don't eat your eggs for breakfast, you'll get it for lunch!” “Your going to sit there for an hour and If you don't eat, your going to bed!” … leave you and your toddler feeling frustrated, discouraged, unhappy and sometimes scared. This will not build trust and love in your family dynamic. We've known children who throw up, sneak food to the dog, glare at the oatmeal through breakfast, lunch, dinner and sometimes longer starvation strikes. This approach allows the child to engage in a power struggle.

A parents true task is to prepare, present and invite healthy, nutritious foods and it is the child's task to chew and shallow. It doesn't hurt to include foods on the plate you know your child likes.

All of us grew up in different households with different rules, from the lax to the strict. The trick is finding what works now for your family. Behind closed dinner doors, parents have the unique and honoured job to show your family how you invite your family to make dinner time a comforting, fun and engaging time.

Here are some alternate ideas to help your 'picky little eater' give it a try and to stop the 'war' at the table.

  1. Don't force feed. Insisting children eat particular foods, in particular quantities and in a certain time will only create power struggles.
  2. Use mealtime to invite helpers. Toddler love to help in the kitchen. Having them help with the gathering of groceries, the putting away of fridge food and the preparing of meals will give them the control they seek each day. Talking about what they are making for dinner for the whole family, helps them feel involved and they are more likely to eat what THEY prepared themselves. Teach them to spread cream cheeses or PB on bread, crackers etc... That way when older toddlers push away the food presented to them you can ask, “What can you do about that?” WITHOUT making a fuss, sigh, comment, allow them to choose to prepare crackers, sandwich or fruits they learned how to make with you earlier.
  3. Have a meal drawer... I love this idea. I have a snacker myself... Your little one may not be a big eater, but seems hungry all the time. Make healthy snacks available... carrot sticks, celery with PB and raisons on it etc. Set aside a kitchen food drawer for your little one. Whenever my Geran feels hungry he can then go to his drawer and eat anything he found there... crackers, raisins, dried fruits, nuts etc. Geran loves to see what turns up each day in his 'food drawer' and I enjoy not arguing about meals.
  4. Presentation counts. I couldn't get my little one to eat his fruit the other day and grandma took the nana and apples and raisins and made a 'face' on the dinner plate and he gobbled it up, laughing and making up a story about a dinosaur eating him all up... too funny! Colour counts to kids! Hard boiled egg may be boring, so make a 'hole in french toast' and fry it up... scramble it or make an omelet with shredded cheese they put on themselves. Take vegetables and extra fruits and pureeing them and add milk or yogurt and blend into soups.. whatever works! There is loads of protein in milk, so no worries for your little vegetarian who only drinks milk and eats yogurt.
  5. Have a schedule on the wall. Sometimes just the anxiety of thinking about when dinner time is or isn't can cause undo stress to some children (and adults) If they had a visual to see when snacks, dinner are coming ,it can be enough to relax the child. A relaxed, happy child will be far more likely to eat than a stressed out one. Think of yourself, how much do you want to eat when you are fighting and angry?

These are babies your raising. They are learning about the world from you. Teach them it's ok to say no. It's ok to try new things. It is a safe place to be when your at home. Allow your family time to be enriched with questions and sharing. It is far more important to engage at the dinner table with conversation and questions than the amount of food they are eating. Try asking questions like, “What was the happiest part of your day? What was the saddest? What are you excited about tomorrow or the next day? Toddlers don't know time like we do, but the answers will probably make everyone smile or even laugh.” Enjoy each other, this time goes so quickly.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Self Doubt

As any mother or father knows, the worst part about having babies is the self doubt.

Am I doing this right, am I doing that right? How should I discipline? What should I feed them? Should I have a feeding and sleep schedule or go with the flow? Should I teach music, signing, massage? Do they need to be socialized? Read to? TV watching or more Pretend play?

Questions, questions, questions... that is all we do.

Am I any different? No.

As a signing instructor and a mother. I was so proud of my now 2 year old, Geran, signing so young (4 months) and signing so well by 8 months. He was amazing at it! He loved communicating with everyone and did so daily and consistently at such a young age. I was so proud because I had taught him something I was so passionate about.

And now with my 9 month old, Nashville, well, he is so fickle with signing. I question myself and self doubt myself. Do I give him enough attention? Am I working on it enough? Will he understand as well as Geran? Is he getting enough pretend play and language development? etc...

Nashville signs a few words, but it seems he signs when he feels like it. He is much busier than my last, which I realize, as an instructor, this is one of the signs that he will be a late signer and maybe not as interested as communicating with adults as my first one was. But still I question. So natural as parents to question everything we do.

It is important to value his temperament and his character, especially in the first 3 years. It is hard not to compare the two and want them to 'at par' with each other.

But here my 9 month is pulling himself up on furniture, walking down furniture, taking a step from one side of the chair directly behind him to another. Today he stood (flat footed as always) and bend down (holding nothing) and picked up a toy and stood up again! Geran was not that coordinated by this age and here Nashville is far exceeding Geran physically, but not signing as much... typical? Yes.

Still I wish my 9 month old would use more than 4 signs and use them consistently. I know to be patience and flexible, but that doesn't mean I want to be.

Oh well, all in good time. I need to learn to appreciate the process. Tonight when my Nashville was tired and cranky... he signed MILK so clear to me, I was surprised and then he signed SLEEP. Isn't that amazing enough for me at 9 months?

With love to my boys...


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

React to tantrums

Before we react as moms/dads/grandparents etc, it is important to think first. When your toddler pushes down the baby, or throws a toy, or has a tantrum...try as hard as you can to not react.

Try instead taking a deep breath, going over the to the 'tantrum' child and pick him up, give him a hug, ask what is wrong, pick up the baby who was pushed, have them sit on your lap together. Talk about how the baby must feel and how the toddler feels.

Ask your toddler, how do we touch babies? That's right gentle, show me gentle. "What would baby like right now to feel better?" That's right, a hug. "Let's say sorry."

I know it is hard, cause I struggle with it. It's hard not to shout NO from the other side of the room. It's hard not to say STOP IT! and grab your toddler roughly. It's hard not to spank, hit or shame your child with words when you are worried, upset, angry or shocked.

What will this do for your child?

Shaming and yelling at your child will shock and scare them. They don't quite get what they did as being really bad. They may have reacted out of an emotion such as frustration, anger, jealousy, or fear. We don't always know. Maybe they just do things to see 'what will happen.'

When we add more fear, frustration and anger to the situation, it doesn't teach them anything. There can only be one baby having a tantrum in the house. There can be only one toddler between the adult and child. Someone must be the teacher.

When instead, you hug your child, scoop them up in your arms and say, "Hey, what's wrong?" "How can I help?" "We can't push babies, let's go play with your train set etc" When you teach them, gentle touching, and the 'rules' of the home. You are setting an example of how to be with others in the home. Isn't it far better to be firm, kind and consistent with our toddlers when they 'act out' than if we joined them by acting out ourselves?

Remember... redirect, distract and teach consistently in a calm manner...

I write this to remind myself to stay the course each and every day.

Hope it helped you as well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Boys vs Girls

-Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs.
Have you met boys? They literally bounce... off the change table, high chair, couch, over the playpen, down the stairs, through the tunnel, under the church pews, down the slide and more. They come into this life to give good mothers gray hair. And it doesn't stop at household items, they also bounce up trees, piles of dirt, rocks, hills, park benches and playgrounds. It is a wonder any man has a round head. Surely it is full of dents. Have you seen a boy learning to walk? It's all bumps and bruises and nose dives. Once they get started there is no stopping them. You can lift a little boy up in the air and his feet still run... put them down in any direction and away they go. They don't even care where, cause they are usually looking in a different direction than they are running. Boys don't just come with tops and bottoms, they also come with arms and hands, sticky little hands for the most part. Due the fact that their hands are in everything, the peanut butter and jam jars, the fish tank, the dog food, playdough, glue, bubbles and let's not forget mud. (don't get me started on boys and mud) But these precious sticky hands are always welcome when they want a hug, because if you are lucky enough to have your little boy turn and run to your open arms, you take that hug and you hold on for as long as you can, because in less than 30 seconds, he is mostly likely off running after a frog, a ball, a balloon and more.

-Sugar and Spice and everything their way.
Girls are quite different than boys and they love to tell you this. From bows to pony tails, dresses and purses, girls are born with accessories. It's a surprise when baby girls come out of the womb and they don't have a pink bow in their hair. I suppose most mothers are shocked at this as well, which is why one is promptly placed on their head immediately. Girls are usually clean, neat and tidy and do not like to have sticky stuff on their hands, unless they can put sprinkles on it. Girl do not bounce... they gracefully walk from place to place, making sure to look in all directions, in case a camera is near. They love to try on large mommy shoes, rock small baby doll's and place them in cribs, swings and high chairs. They do not fall off anything, they simply bat their lashes at their daddy's who promptly remove them from high places. They have a superpower that exist in their tears... one welled up tear can bring a grown man to his knees. Some girls do run, especially if you have a tom boy. These girls are what the boys call a 'nuisance' because they win at everything, even when they loose. They trail after brothers and boys on bikes, they out run, out hit, out climb the best, making sure everyone knows. And when they loose, they have the gift of gab to manipulative in a way that suggests the rules are unfair and they actually didn't loose. Girls favourite pastime is to giggle. They have perfected this by the age of 2.5yr old. It can be heard far and wide across the land, a girls giggle can even make a wild dog hide in fear. But these clean, clever little darlings can melt your heart when they sing a song, bat their lashes, offer to help and take your hand in their tiny hand and say I love you.

Enjoy your little ones today.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Worth a read. Toddler's thoughts on discipline.

This list has been shown before again and again... it is a great read. I can't take the credit though, it was written by Janet Lansbury... enjoy.

Many of these ideas come from Jane Nelsen's Postiive Discipline books.

1. Make me your ally. Don’t think in terms of “getting me to do” something. Don’t trick, bribe, shame or punish me. “You against me” is scary when I desperately need you on my side. So, please tell me politely or show me what you want. And stop me kindly (but definitively) from doing things you don’t want, way before you get mad.  Your calm demeanor and the positive options you give me (“I see you’re playing, so would you like to come in to change your diaper now or after you play for 5 more minutes?”), will help me to accept your instructions more gracefully.
2. Don’t be afraid of my reactions to the limits you give me. It’s frightening for me when you are timid or evasive. How can I ever feel secure if the people I desperately need to depend on waver or tiptoe around my feelings? So, please put periods at the end of your sentences. Your directions are more welcome than you’ll ever know.  They don’t hurt my fragile spirit. They free me, help me enormously, and are essential to my happiness.
3. Tell me the truth in simple terms, so that I can feel very clear about what you want. I may need several reminders while I’m learning, so please be patient and try to stay even-toned, even if you’ve already told me.  (Really, I don’t want to be annoying.)

4. Don’t get upset or angry if you can possibly help it. Those reactions don’t make me feel safe. I need to know that my behavior doesn’t “get” to you, that you can handle my issues with care and confidence. If not you, then who?

5. If I keep repeating the behavior, it’s because it doesn’t feel resolved for me. Either you aren’t being convincing enough, or you’re being too intense and emotional. When you give me “the look”, or there’s anger in your voice when you say “don’t hit!,” it unnerves me and I’m compelled to keep behaving that way until you can give me a calmer response.  I need to know that those kinds of behaviors aren’t allowed, but I also need to be assured constantly that they are no big deal at all and can be easily handled by you. You’ll show me this by being patient, calm, consistent and giving me brief, respectful, direct responses so that we can both let go and move on, knowing that our connection is still solid.

6. Consider my point of view and acknowledge it as much as possible…even if it seems ridiculous, wrong or crazy. There are no wrong desires or feelings, just wrong ways of acting on them, right?  I need to know that it’s okay to have these feelings and that you’ll understand and keep on loving me. Let me feel.

7. Remember that I don’t want to be in charge, even though the toddler creed is to never admit that. I am convincing. I can make you believe that your simple request to sit down while I eat is pure torture. Don’t mock me or call me out, but don’t believe it. Keep insisting — with love. My strong will is going to make you proud someday.  When you give in, I feel less strong, far more wobbly.

8. Give me lots of YES time when I have your full attention and appreciation for all the good stuff I do. We all need balance.

9. Let me be a problem solver.  If our wishes are at odds, consider me capable of helping to find a solution, especially as I get older. (This post and video provide a brilliant example: Belief Behind The Behavior: Volcanoes And Cops )

10. Thank you for doing all of these really, really hard things in order to help me be the kind of kid who is enjoyed by his friends, is welcome in their parents’ homes, appreciated by teachers, and is (most of all) one of your favorite people to be with in the whole wide world…forever.