RSS Feed

The Thing About Vaccines That Most People Forget

Vaccines_KateSurfs

I wonder if people have forgotten that a debatable topic means there are two plausible arguments to both sides? If it was 100% clear that vaccines were bad, then nobody in the world would give them to a child. If it was 100% clear that vaccines were awesome, and you couldn’t live without them, then nobody would think twice about giving them. Read the rest of this entry

Kid Acting Defiant? How Power Reversal Games Can Save You, Without Using Punishment

Powerreversal games

My daughter, Margo (4 1/2), had been acting so difficult for the past few days. Really, annoying her sister and me to the max. Refusing to leave the playground when I needed her to leave. Refusing the shower. Refusing to go to the toilet, even when I knew she was busting. I wasn’t being over-anal either, she was actually driving everyone insane!

On this particular day, Margo was refusing her nap, even though she usually still has one and really needed it that day. I said, “Ok, go out in the other room and wait until I put your sister to sleep.” So, she happily went to the other room and played by herself while I put her sister to bed.

After her sister fell asleep, I went out to Margo and said, “Let’s have a pillow fight!!!

She said, “YEAH!!!!”

We got the pillows out and had an epic pillow fight. I let her hit me really hard with the pillow and let her knock me down. I pretended that I was really weak and that she was very powerful. I fell over and put my arms up over my head in defeat. We were laughing and laughing! When we got tired of pillow fighting. She asked to play a game. I said, “Sure.”

She asked me to play ‘red light, green light‘. We’ve played this game before. She told me to get two pieces of paper and to draw an ‘X‘ on one that means ‘stop‘ and told me to write ‘go‘ in green on the other piece of paper. Every time I held up the ‘X‘, she could not jump. Every time I held up the ‘go‘, she could jump forward. Then she was the one running the game and making me stop or go. Then, she started breaking the rules and we started acting totally goofy. We crumpled up the paper and she made me copy her motions. Stamp on the paper. Jump in the air and stick out your tongue, etc.

For half an hour, she was free to boss me around, 100% and afterwards her mood became delightful.

Of course, I had to make sure I had enough energy to do this. But, do you know what? Once I started playing with her and laughing, I actually had more energy myself! This half an hour of play was an extremely valuable time of connection, not only for Margo, but for myself as well.

It’s not the child who is defiant, it’s their behavior that is defiant! This part is important to remember.

What is a Power Reversal Game?
Power reversal play can be done in very small doses, yet they are extremely effective. Half an hour a week or even five minutes a day if that’s all you have time for.  You can call it ‘present time‘ or ‘connection time‘ or whatever. A power reversal game is any activity that allows your child to be in charge and to be the boss. The best type of power reversal games are ones that are physical in nature, especially if you child is acting aggressive. But, power reversal games can also be done in an imaginative way, such as your child pretending to be a mean mother or father. To some people, this sort of play can seem dangerous, because it may seem that it would give the child the license later to try and boss the parent around when the child really needs to cooperate. But, it’s completely the opposite! If you give a child a high dose of connective play, they will really surprise you later in how well they cooperate!

When should I use power reversal games?
There are many reasons why kids can act defiant, but one of them is because kids get tired of always being told what to do. No matter how hard we may try to let kids have autonomy in their world, upsets and frustrations over the power balance can happen. What often happens is that a child begins to feel like they have no power and they have no say in what they do. This helplessness can make them act defiant or causes them to act very difficult when trying to do simple things, like getting in and out of the car, brushing their teeth, etc. There is no harm done in trying a power reversal game, so long as it’s done without any anger or frustration on the parent’s part. So, one of the first things you can try, when your child is acting difficult, is a power reversal game, to rule out any feelings of powerlessness.

Contingency Games
Contingency games are a slightly different type of play, but can also be incorporated into that specific play time. These types of games means that your child makes something happen. One of my favorite, quick and easy  games is one I play with my kids on the swing. I tell them in a joking way that if they kick me, they’re going to be in the most trouble they’ve ever been in! Then, I turn around, and let them kick me (gently) on the back. I pretend to be shocked and exasperated that somebody kicked me and I turn around and say, “Oh, that’s it, you’re in trouble!” They laugh so hard and ask me to play again and again. Even the kids on the other swings look over as if to say, “I want to play too!” You can even play these games with a baby. For example, if the baby touches your nose, you snort like a pig (without scaring them).

What if your child does not want to stop playing, plays rough, or continues to play after the play is over?
This is when you need to set a loving limit. Tell them that it’s not time to play anymore…(with fair warning of course, they may be really enjoying this time together). What usually will happen is that they will start to cry. If they try to hit you or start getting aggressive, you can gently, yet firmly stop them or hold them back.  The crying that results in this scenario is actually a good thing and is a cry that needed to come out. There is no need to stop the crying. Just let them know that you understand their frustrations and that you are there for them. Let them finish their crying without interruption, it’s all part of the healing process.

I love this list of power reversal games. If you start with the few that I mentioned, plus the ones in this list, you will find that your child will start to make their own games up. You simply have to follow their lead. The only trick is remembering to use these powerful secrets when you find your child acting defiant and you don’t know what to do!

Why Are Kids Getting Into Trouble For Being Kids?

TroubleThe little boy at the playground could not have been more than 20 months old. Although I had seen him with his parents before, when he came wondering slowly over to the water play area, his parents were nowhere to be seen. My girls had asked for permission to get wet in one of the fountains. I told them it was ok because we had a change of clothes in the car.

The little boy wanted to play in the water, but  I didn’t know what to do because he certainly didn’t look like he should have been getting wet. He was dressed nicely and even had shoes on (unlike mine, who are perpetually unshod). But, I didn’t really think it was my place to tell him to not get wet. I mean, he’s a toddler. He sees water. He wants to play in it, right? Anyway, in this part of Australia, on the Gold Coast, kids are always playing in the water. If I had seen he was going to get hurt or was in danger, then, of course, I would have stepped in. But… it was just water…

After a while, he couldn’t contain himself, he got right in there and became soaking wet. A few minutes later, the dad, who looked like he had just had a rough day at the office, yanked the boy away and said, “Ahhh! That’s it! We’re leaving now! I can’t believe you did that! We still have to go the shops and you’re going to have to go just the way you are!” So, they strapped him, soaking wet, into the stroller and off they went. I felt so bad for the little boy, and regretting my decision to not stop him from getting wet.

What’s ironic is that it was really the parent’s fault for not watching him! What 20 month old could resist themselves from the temptation of playing with running water!?

This story is not trying to point fingers or to cry ‘bad parenting‘, it’s simply to illustrate the fact that far too often, I see kids getting into trouble, just for being kids!

Stop being so loud!

Pay attention!

Don’t run!

Sit still!

You’re getting messy!

Stop splashing!

Hurry up!

Stop annoying me!

Kids hear this stuff all day long. I admit, it’s not easy to break the habit of constantly saying these things. but, it’s worth the effort to be more aware of what I say to my kids.

I’ve even seen a 3 or 4 year old child get into trouble for not watching his toddler sister, who ran out into a road!

Let’s be realistic about  our expectations from kids. Kids live in the present moment. By nature, they’re not naughty, irresponsible, reckless, rude or disrespectful. They are natural, uninhibited and curious little human beings. They’re learning about the world around them in ways that have been long forgotten by us adults.

When an adults sees a child playing with a water fountain, to us, we see them getting wet and ruining their clothes. But, to the child, they are learning about trajectory, gravity and sensory feelings. The fact that their clothes are getting wet (and that mum didn’t pack a spare set to change into) is inconsequential to them. At 2, they’re happily playing in the fountain, getting wet and dirty.

But, what if they’re always getting stopped from expressing this natural, unquenchable desire to learn and explore?

Then, by the time they get just a little bit older, they stop playing so freely. They stop learning so freely! Simply because, they know that they could get into trouble for just being themselves. I’m a high school teacher, and I see, that by the time kids become teenagers, many of them are so used to being told that they’re doing things the wrong way, or are fearful that they will make a mistake, that they can hardly learn at all! Do you see where I’m going with this?

I’m not saying we should always let kids do whatever they want, and whenever they want, just because they’re kids. If there had been some legitimate reason why I didn’t want my kids to get wet, I would have told them “No“. Or, I would have given them some other option for playing, like, letting them play in their undies to save the clothes. Sometimes, we really don’t have the patience for usual kid behavior and that’s nothing to feel bad about. Also, when a child is acting out in aggression or is failing to cooperate, there is more going on than meets the eye. We don’t need to be permissive in our parenting all the time just because we want our kids to be able to act like kids.

But, a child’s actions are pure and innocent. It’s not easy for adults to accept this! Letting kids ‘be‘ is a learned skill on the parent’s end. It’s so important to provide suitable playing/learning experiences for our children without loosing our cool! For some of us, it’s a real challenge to just let our ‘kids be kids‘ and to look at the situation from their point of view. We have to ask ourselves? Are they being destructive? Or, are they being creative and learning? There is a fine line, and for the sake of our children’s future, it’a line worth taking into considering.

What to Do When Kids Get Scared to Go Poo

Poo

I was in the kitchen and I heard some crying from the living room. I ran in to find Goldie, just turned 2, sitting on the potty. Her face was bright red and she was shaking. Whatever she was pushing out was super painful. She was all alone and had gotten very frightened. Usually, she’ll just wonder over to the potty all by herself and calls me over when she’s finished. But, this time it was scary and it had hurt. I helped her finish, then cleaned her up. Unfortunately, she was still constipated the next day and the SAME exact thing happened. It was a bad combination of me not being there and of it hurting, and then it was all over but the crying.

The next day, she was terrified to go. The day after, we all got sick with this crazy flu that had us in bed for almost a week. The week after, I had to go to work full time, while everyone was still recovering. Everyone was stressed and tired and sick and I didn’t really have time to deal with the poo situation immediately. Every. Single. Time. She had to go, it was a nightmare. This is the kid who has been potty trained since she was 15 months old. I’ve done elimination communication with her since birth, so ever since she was about 2 months old, all of her poos landed either in a bucket, toilet, sink or potty. Even though she is only 2, she has been well and truly toilet trained for a long time.

We tried prunes, probiotics, drinking more water, etc. And, although the bowel movements were now soft, she was still majorly scared to go. To get her to go, I had to hold her over the potty or toilet while she screamed and tried to wiggle away. Letting her go in her undies was not an option, as that was very disturbing for her. So, it was either hold her screaming over the toilet or nothing…

Address the Fear
One of the best ways to eliminate fear is through laughter. To get Goldie laughing about poo, I let her watch me going to the toilet and pretended to push really hard and to say “Owww.” In a way that I knew would make her laugh (being careful not to make her more scared). We also pretended to get dolls to go and in the same scenario, pretend that it hurt, etc. If I had been really organized, I could have let her play with brown coloured play dough in the potty to let it represent poo, but I didn’t have time to find some brown play dough. Instead, whenever she did do a poo (with all the crying and screaming involved), I would show it to her afterwards and we would say funny things like, “Wow, big one!” Or, “Nice log!” or “It’s a poo pile!” and we would all start laughing (not at her, but with her). Everyone got involved too, my husband and my older daughter would say, “I want to see too!” They would take a look and everyone would laugh, and be like, “Wow, what a fantastic poo, Goldie!” Of course, not making too big a deal of it, but more like an excuse to have fun.

Address the Trauma
I realized that the biggest trauma Goldie had endured, was not so much of the pain of the poo, but that I wasn’t right there when she got scared.

Every time I sensed she had to poo (and I knew because she would start scratching her butt furiously), I held her over the potty and she screamed bloody murder and she tried to escape. I certainly wasn’t hurting her, and I’m 100% sure that her butt wasn’t hurting her, rather that she was releasing the trauamatic memory of being alone on the potty.

Thus, the crying.

Crying is a natural inborn healing mechanism to help us overcome from traumatic events. Each time I held her over the potty, she was releasing a little of the stress from the scary event of having a painful poo when I was not there to help her. She really tried to escape, but there was nowhere for her to run to… I tried it many times. I would let her go and then she would run back to me and say, “I have to poo, mama, huggle me.” It was clear that she wanted me to help her poo on the potty, but was scared to do it by herself. So, I would take her back, hover her butt over the potty and after about a minute or two of crying and trying to escape, she would do a nice soft poo. (If she had not be potty trained, I definitely would not have chosen this approach).

To a passer-by, this crying and poo thing probably would have looked like a torture session, but I could sense that she really needed to get this crying out. Every time I held her over the potty, I would say things like, “Mama’s here, I’m going to hold you, I’m right here to help.”  

While it did take about a week to sort the poo issue out, it was over fairly quickly. Through laughter and tears, she overcame her poo-fear rather quickly. I probably could have had it resolved in a few days if I hadn’t been so sick and/or working. She’s back to normal now, with no residual poo issues. Kids can develop lots of issues around eliminating, so it’s really important for us parents to be comfortable and to address the problem with full understanding of all the emotions involved.

In case you’re wondering, the photo is of a stuffed poo we actually have in our house. Yes… I know… just don’t ask…

It’s important to be sensitive to your child’s situation. I was only holding Goldie over the potty because I knew that’s where she wanted to go. If your child is more comfortable eliminating in a diaper, then certainly let them do that instead!  It’s also important to never tell a child that their poo is ‘yucky’.

Why I Love My Child’s Temper Tantrums

 

Crying

Margo, 4 1/2, had been acting really aggressive towards her 2 year old sister for several days. No amount of asking her to “Be gentle” or “How would you feel if somebody did that to you” was working. Everyone in the house had been worn down from weeks of recovering from the flu. On top of that, I had been working full time on a two week contract. Where usually, I would be able to stay home with the kids and help us all to recover, I had not been available much. The kids had been clingy and grumpy. A big storm was brewing and finally, the time came that I had the energy to deal with it. Read the rest of this entry

Why This School Teacher Thinks Tests Are Really Stupid

tests

Please tell me of one single job on this entire planet where you would have to recall facts all by yourself, without talking to anyone, without LOOKING at anyone, without the help of resources and without the help of the internet or technology.

That’s right.

There are no such jobs.

I mean, unless you’re a highly trained military covert operation specialist on a solo mission deep behind enemy lines, then yeah, *maybe* you might find yourself in that type of situation. Yet, that’s what we make kids do. We make them sit silently at their desks so they can ‘recall‘ information. How far from reality is that? Read the rest of this entry

The Funny Things About Getting Sick

katesurfssick

Have you ever gazed at the scratches on your mug in dumbfounded wonder and taken the time to imagine how they would have gotten there over the years? Have you ever acknowledged the brand name of the ceiling fan in your bathroom for the first time in four years and wondered why you never noticed it before? Have you ever stared at a wall for at least five minutes, without even once thinking it’s about time to move? I mean, when do we ever stop and notice that stuff? Well, that was me and my family for the past few days. Sick with a flu, and not just any flu. Like, worst flu ever flu. All at the same time. Like, even our doctor gave us a sympathetic, “You poor things.” When he saw the state we were in. Read the rest of this entry

When Your Co-Sleeping, Breastfed Child Wakes Up 800 Times a Night: What to Do

Katesurfsbabywakes

I could have done nothing and eventually, she may have started sleeping better at night. But, when my daughter was five months old, she started waking almost every hour looking for boob to put her back to sleep and I was beside myself. She had been sleeping so well up until then! I knew that all babies woke a little at night, but were they supposed to wake every hour for days and weeks and months in a row?! It wasn’t just developmental stuff or teething, it had to be something else…

Read the rest of this entry

Unsolicited Breastfeeding Advice from Clueless Health Care Professionals

Posted on

Katesurfsdoctor

I’d walked by this Chinese medicine place a thousand times before and had heard good things about it. The girls were happy, and both in the shopping trolley, so I thought it would be a good time to stop by.

Hello!” I said to the lady at the counter, “I was wondering if you have any herbs or medicine for the gall bladder. This cold windy weather always seems to make it hurt.

Ok” she said with a smile back, “Just a minute.

She went into another room to go get the doctor. Now, I know that doctors of Chinese medicine are not ‘medical‘ doctors. But, they do have to train for many years in order to become certified. They have to learn all about the body and about acupuncture and about medicine herbs, etc. I actually think I had my life saved once by a doctor of Chinese medicine. I stepped on something crazy in the ocean and my feet turned all purple and blue and I couldn’t walk. She did something crazy that involved blood and hot needles and smoke and by the next day I was fine.  Read the rest of this entry

Be Careful saying “Be Careful”

Posted on

be careful

Margo asked me if she could hop up onto the kitchen counter. I wasn’t really feeling well and didn’t have much patience. I told her “No“. The sandwhich press was on, cooking our lunch, right next to where she wanted to sit. There were things she could knock over, I thought she might fall, etc. But, she kept nagging me and wouldn’t tell me why she wanted to sit up there. I was too tired to argue, so I told her to go grab the stool and do it herself. She skipped away and came back with the stool and climbed up onto the counter.

I had my back turned, making lunch, in my sick-ish middle of the day can’t-wait-for-naptime daze, when all of a sudden, from behind my back, I heard a yelp and then crying. I rolled my eyes… just as I suspected, Margo had touched the sandwhich press and had burned her little finger. She cried and cried and cried for at least 2 or 3 minutes. I just stood next to her and smoothed her hair, without interrupting her crying. When she finished crying, I asked if she wanted to run it under cold water. She said, “Yes.”

I didn’t tell her that she needed to be more careful, or that she should have listened to me, or that annoying, “I told you so.” But, I’m 100% sure she learned a lesson.

Now..What happened?” I said

I touched the sandwhich press and burned my finger!” She said.

Yes, it was really hot, wasn’t it?” I repied

It was hot, but I bet that sandwhich press isn’t as hot as the sun!” She told me.

I giggled, “Let’s go get some aloe vera from the balcony.” And, for the rest of the afternoon, she played with her little blade of aloe vera and nursed her burn.

Did she get hurt? Yes. Did she get hurt badly? No.

I’m a firm believer in the power of children learning through natural consequences. I let my kids use sharp knives, the hand held grater and scissors (with proper guidance and under close supervision, of course). I let them climb and tumble and fall. I’m not foolish about things though. I use caution around roads and I put safety plugs on the electrical sockets, because those are mistakes that could cost them their lives. It’s not like I encourage them to get hurt! But, little stuff, like trips, burns, cuts, bruises… I mean… that’s just life. That’s how they learn!

I tell my kids to “be careful“, but I do my best to use the phrase sparingly. I often find myself saying it automatically, but, if possible, I like to reserve, “be careful” for times when they’re about to do something that is actually dangerous. The other day, my little two year old got too close to a busy road and when I told her  in a stern voice “Ah, Goldie, be careful, come away from the road.” she came running back without a second’s hesitation because she knew I meant business. But, if it’s not a dangerous situation, I don’t like saying “be careful” for three reasons.

1) It makes them stop, second guess their ability and sometimes startles them, when really they may be able to do the thing you think they can’t do (for example, climbing the stairs).

2) If I say it too often, they won’t listen for the times when I really mean it.

3) By letting them learn through natural consequences, they become more confident in their decision making ability and how to use their judgement.

I’ve heard it been said that a child is born with enough fear as there is salt in the food. In others words, they have enough fear to keep them safe, most of the time. It’s up to us parents to not give them too much fear, while at the same time, keeping them from really getting into danger. As a kid, I was always way more scared of things than I needed to be, and I don’t want to pass my scaredy pants tendencies down to my children.

What about ‘Accident Prone’ Kids?

Often, I find my kids will start doing things like climbing and jumping on the bed, simply if they haven’t had enough exercise that day. Another thing, is that when kids are in a grumpy mood and are probably in need of an emotional release, through tears, they are way WAY more accident prone. I welcome the tears that come from an accident prone day. I feel as if though the child just finds way to hurt themselves just to get those cries out. I know not everyone will agree with me on that one, but it’s what I’ve observed in my own kids as well as in others.

When I feel like saying, “Be careful” I look at the situation and think, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” If the worst possible scenario is a cut, scrape, bruise or minor burn, then I let it go. The first time I let Margo use the hand held grater, she was about 2 1/2. I showed her the correct way to use it, but she nicked her finger anyway.. She cried for a second, and kept going. She really wanted to learn how to use that grater! It was hard to bite my tongue and not say, “Be careful” a million times. at the end of it, she had only endured one tiny scrape and she had grated half the zuchinni. She was pretty proud of herself!

I’m not saying it’s bad to say “Be careful” but I think it’s certainly an overused phrase by most parents. Of course, we want our children to stay safe, but maybe sometimes it’s ok to let them learn the natural way.

This is my favorite Ted Talk of all times on Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do.

This post is not to say that you ditch common sense and let your kids trash your house. We also need to be keep our kids from getting badly hurt, but without instilling fear in them. There are other ways of bringing awareness to danger, like giving them options or discussion what could happen, etc. Also, if your child is always used to you saying ‘be careful’ and then you stop saying it cold turkey, they might not be used to using their judgement, so they could get hurt badly, it’s probably best to ease them into it.

 

Read the rest of this entry