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Category Archives: Children

The Magic of Not Giving Kids Chores

Think about how you motivate yourself to do chores. Do you give yourself a sticker for making your bed? Or, give yourself a chocolate for folding the laundry? Come on… NO!

Most of us need to be intrinsically motivated to get the job done.

Assigning chores, becomes a chore in itself!

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Parenting With Less Wasted Words

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When my first was little, I used to talk to her all day. Almost a steady stream of explanations, questions and observations. I felt like it was up to me to deliver an experience of the world around her, through my eyes. When I watch old videos of us together, I wish I could have lovingly told the ‘me‘ of seven years ago to just be quiet and let her enjoy the new things she was discovering.

I used to say, “Oh, look at the moon! Look at the doggie! Wave bye bye!” ect. Interestingly, she went through a period where she was scared of the moon and of dogs! It was almost as if me pointing these things out to her and drawing artificial attention to them made her anxious! I also started to realise that it gets tiring always explaining, asking and talking!

This post is about my journey in the way I speak (or choose not to speak) to my kids and other children. I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I’m obsessed over every little thing I say to my kids or that I count my words or something crazy like that! It’s been more about the general awareness level and breaking free of the ‘record player‘ (the way we’re programmed to speak to children from our own past experiences). I feel I have a much deeper connection with my kids when I stop ‘talking at‘ them and really consider if what I have to say is actually helping the situation, or if I’m imposing my ignorance or my past, on their new experiences. The journey of awareness of speech is gradual and on-going.

Now, she’s 7 years old, and the other day, she was braiding a belt for her pants that kept falling down. She was putting in a considerable effort into the task that she had initiated herself. But, I could see straight away that the yarn she had cut was too short. For a second, I wanted to ‘save‘ her from making a mistake. I could have told her to stop and consider if the string was long enough. But, I didn’t. I watched. She finished. She realised it was too short. She simply said, “Wow, this is WAY too short!” and bounced away from her project and didn’t try to make another one.

In the short term, my intervention would have meant she would have been successful this time, but what about the next time and the time after that? I guess I could have encouraged her to make another one, right? Wasn’t she disappointed that she hadn’t succeeded? No… Her final product was only a failure in MY eyes. She didn’t have to know about the dialogue in my head! Who am I to say what learning experience she had gained? She had completed her activity and wasn’t attached by the outcome, only I was attached the outcome.

I found that most of the time when I ‘talked at‘ my children (explaining, asking questions, being unaware of their learning journey), I was interrupting a really important learning processes.

My four year old recently learned how to scoot really well on her scooter. By accident, I told her twice how awesome it was that she was scooting so well! (Cheer leader style). She rolled her eyes and said, “Why do you keep saying that?!” Oops… sorry. They’ll catch you in that moment of unawareness and let you know how irritating you are!

Kids complain. We try to reason with them. Instead of hearing them out.

Kids cry. We talk and distract, rather than listen to their hurts and frustrations.

Kids are sad. We try to talk them out of being sad, instead of allowing their hearts to be heavy (with kids, the heaviness usually only lasts for a few moments)

Kids discover something new! We try to explain their discovery even deeper and accidentally make it seem like they might not be able to learn all the answers on their own.

Kids get scared of something. Again, we try to distract or won’t validate their fears, telling them to stop being silly, or to be a big girl, instead of holding them in their space and allowing the fear to express itself.

The same goes for getting kids to cooperate. Let’s says it’s time to leave the park, I say we need to get going a hundred times, but they know that the first 99 times I say it, that we’re really not ready to go. So, I’ve literally wasted my breath. Same goes for put on your shoes, brush your teeth, etc. Unless the sound honestly does not reach their ear drums… they heard you the first time! Whether or not they cooperate is another story.

Over the years, I’ve gotten so so much better at responding, rather than reacting, but it’s hard to break out of ‘react‘ mode! Even people who have practiced some sort of self help/self discipline for years, suddenly find themselves spewing out words of unawareness from their past experiences when they become parents. Children bring out the best and worst of us!

Kids usually don’t need lengthy explanations on life. They get it. But, sometimes they DO need extra explanation. For example this morning, miss. 7 was bouncing on the bed doing flips and splits. Instead of telling her to ‘stop it‘ a million times, I told her “I need you do do your flips and splits in the other room because Marty is getting distracted by all your noise!” So, she went off in the the other room.

While writing this, my 4 year old came to me complaining about her sister. I listened. I told her in a few words that I understand how she is feeling. She left, happy that she was heard. I didn’t have to explain for ten minutes about another course of action she could take that would make everybody happy. I mean, if she had asked me for some advice, I would have given it to her. But, really, she just wanted a shoulder to cry on.

Young children live in the present moment, so there’s really no need for too much explanation, planning ahead, pondering, etc. If they’re ready to absorb it, they will. If they’re not ready, the event or phenomena will simply pass them by.

Although I do talk now with more awareness, I’m not so serious and rigid that I won’t sing a silly non-sensical song to the baby and do silly fart jokes with the 5 year old. I still talk and explain things and point things out. It would be really unnatural and stiff not to! The key is to be natural with my kids and leave those past experiences aside to make room for something new!

If after reading this post, you feel like you want to speak with less wasted words to your children, but you’re not sure of how to get them to cooperate, there’s a fantastic book that I highly recommend, called ‘Attachment Play’ by Aletha Solter. 

iPad Friendly Preschool Exercise Bikes and The Demise of Early Childhood “Learning”

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Why these things exist in the first place is a whole system fail. I do love Aldi, but when I flipped through their catalog and I saw this Fisher Price think and learn exercise bike for PRESCHOOLERS, I dropped a big ‘WTF‘, right in front of my whole family. My husband laughed and was like, “Oh… mummy needs her mouth washed out with soap.

The gimmicks out there are incredible and marketers work really hard on making innocent parents feel like guilty sacks of crap for, heaven forbid, letting their kids play without learning ‘something‘.

As if riding a bike weren’t hard enough for a preschooler, now we can learn our phonics while we ride! Actually, it’s pedalling a stationary bike that develops none of the decision skills, gross motor skills and vestibular system that riding a real bike would do.

Let’s making learning ‘fun‘ (insert vomit). This type of learning, where the learning has little to do with the game, is called ‘gamification‘ and gamification is a buzz word right now amongst big corporations who want your money. I wish there was a bullshit police who could stop companies from creating products that are designed to prey on well meaning parent consumers (we’re the biggest suckers of all)… but there isn’t. So, you need to monitor your own bull honkey. The educational tools that get kids to exercise while they learn are the biggest sack of baloney on the market.

Kids that age have energy. Yes, it’s true. They have an endless source of energy for bouncing off walls, floors, couches or anything else that they feel like bouncing on or off of. Kids that age NEED to move their bodies. They NEED unstructured playtime to learn how to figure out tricky things with their bodies. They need to do things like learn to use their hands to break their falls, or to learn how to balance walking on a log, curb or any other thing that requires balancing on. Even in places where the weather is horrible 85% of the time (I grew up in one such place), or if they live in a concrete jungle, kids that age still need to play outside (or indoors) as much as they can. For the long term health and mental well being of society, kids need to be active so that they’re healthier. It’s simple.

Of course, kids need to learn ‘stuff’ too. “Learn” as we like to think of ‘learning‘, as in ABC’s. And they will. At that age, you would have to try and physically stop a child from learning whatever they are developmentally capable of learning.

The complicated and stupid thing is to mix exercise with curriculum. When kids play and get exercise, they’re learning, but they’re not learning the things that the curriculum says they need to learn. A child who has had adequate exercise and meaningful connection time, will most likely be able to learn what the curriculum says he or she needs to learn.

Also, it’s been proven that multi tasking doesn’t improve performance. So, if you’re riding a stationary bike, or bouncing on a ball, or doing something else WHILE you’re trying to learn, you’re not really focusing 100% on either thing that you’re doing!

Now, I know some people will say that this toy could be very useful in the inner city, where it’s not safe for kids to go outside and play. Or, where the weather is rotten. Or, in low socio-economic areas, where kids don’t get enough time talking or reading with their parents. Or, in some other isolated scenarios. But, the price tag of this educational item doesn’t exactly fit the demographic, now does it??

Also, adults have these things in gyms, so why can’t kids? Kids will be playing on their iPads anyways, so why not?? Well… let’s not be the enabler, ok?

And, what about the kids who fidget too much while they’re sitting down? Another system fail because kids (especially kids this age) need more exercise and they’re not getting it.

I haven’t actually used this gadget. It could be cool…. Like really, it could be. Yes, it could be true. I may be more full of it than Fisher Price. I may actually have no idea what I’m talking about. But, I’m still not backing down on anything I’ve said until the research comes out proving that getting kids to ride, wobble, fidget, balance or spin, improves how they learn curriculum content. The whole idea of getting kids ready for kindergarten, and why it’s not neccesary, is a whole blog post in itself, but I’ll save that for another time.

Anywho… my rant is over. Let the kids ride bikes. Let the kids learn phonics. But, not at the same time.

How to Take a Shower With a Baby

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It has come to my attention that many mothers with babies and young children often don’t get a chance to shower. So, I wanted to share how I shower with a baby. In case it isn’t obvious, my son and I don’t shower with our swim suits on! I only covered up so that Facebook doesn’t ban my video for indecency.

I’ve taken my babies into the shower with me from when they were newborns. Please keep in mind your physical and emotional well being. If you’re recovering from birth, have any back problems, or feel anxious about holding a slippery baby in a shower, then this method might not work for you, but you can still take a shower and let your baby watch from the bouncer!

Babies are slippery when wet, so you do need a vice grip on them. If you feel a little hesitant the first time you try it, you can have your partner help you by passing the baby in and out of the shower.

Babies might pee in the bouncer! Try to take them in the shower just after they’ve gone, or if you’re not sure of when they went last, you can put a thick wash cloth down or leave their diaper under them, (just leave it open, so you can pick them up easily)

Same as with a bath, make sure the water temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, as baby skin is very delicate. You can also shower your other children at this time… imagine an assembly line…

Enjoy being clean! Share with your friends who have babies or are about to have babies… they might be struggling to take a shower too!

 

I Hate Having Kids

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Sorry if I hold your hand too tight when we cross the street. Sorry if hover too much. Sorry if I ask you, “are you alright?” a few too many times. Sorry if I check all night long that you’re breathing. Sorry that I over react sometimes when I think you might get hurt.

What’s that cough? What’s that bump? Am I saying and doing the right things? I know I have to let you go and I have to have faith that you’ll be safe. But deep down, there’s always that nagging thought… I’ve learned to quiet that thought, but it’s still there. I’m not an anxious person, but you do something to me that defies everything I thought I knew about myself.

The same thing that brings you joy can also make you miserable. I KNOW this. If you told me this knowledge on life about anything else, I can get it. A new car that brings you joy, makes you miserable when it gets scratched. An exciting new job can get mundane after some time. A new love will turn old. A young beautiful body will get old and wrinkled. I know all this and accept it… but when it comes to my babies, it’s so different. I love you, I worry. I can’t help it. I love you so much that I hate it!

To the Little Daydreamers…

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I call her my Little Miss Sunshine. She wakes up next to me with a smile every day. She’s four.

She’s sitting near me while I type, completely absorbed in her imaginary play. After she’s been fed, gone to the toilet, had her dose of cuddles, she just skips off, humming a little tune and finds her things to play with. If it was up to her, she could putz around the house for hours, 100% content to play with her dolls, creatures, you name it. All she needs to know is that I’m somewhere around the house, should she need me. She sits there, chit chatting to herself, in the sunshine. Daydreaming about the day we can live on a farm with 300 animals that she wants to take care of.  Read the rest of this entry

The Power of Frustration

FrustrationI heard a growl from the balcony. “Ugggghhhhhh!!!! This isn’t working!!!” my daughter yelled.

I came over to inspect. The day before, at a friend’s, she had seen a home made fairy house made from colored paddle pop sticks. She wanted to make one too and we already had the materials. I asked if she wanted to do a collaborative one. No, she wanted to make her own.

Initially, I had sat down with her. We chatted about the design of our houses while we built them. I finished mine in about 25 minutes, and then walked away to cook lunch. She remained, battling with the glue and the paddle pop sticks.

Hers wasn’t working. I suggested using another binding material. “How about sticky tape?

Ugggghhhhhh! This STILL isn’t working!

Try using some blue tack maybe?” I sang out, while chopping my veggies.

She tried, it failed again. And again. She was getting really frustrated!

It would have been easy for me to go over and ‘save‘ her. But, I could see that she was still determined to figure this thing out, so I hung back. Meanwhile, her 3 year old sister was getting frustrated that her Duplo tower kept breaking. There was a whole lot of whining. A whole lot of tears.

I was making myself available, but since the two of them weren’t necessary asking me to do it for them, I only offered my advice and stayed a good distance back. Knowing when to step in and when to stand back is a delicate dance. I’m getting better at it as the years go by.

People usually hate hearing when kids get frustrated. It doesn’t sound pleasant. The whining, the raging, the stomping, the tears. We want to stop them from expressing those emotions, so we either tell them to stop with the ruckus, or we come and ‘save‘ them. But the tears of frustration build something in us that make us incredible strong. These tears also release negative emotions, so we should not stop these tears from coming.

When I think of all the things that I really love to do now, there was a considerable amount of tears and frustration involved in learning how to do them. For example, surfing. It took me almost an entire YEAR to learn how to properly paddle, catch and stand up on a wave. Even then, I really sucked for a long time. But, once I got better, surfing became MINE. I wanted it. It was that thing that I had worked so hard to learn how to do and I felt proud. Five years later, after a frustrating start to surfing, I won the USA Women’s Longboard Championships in California. Would I have been so interested in surfing if it had come easily? Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway… Eventually, the little one figured out the Duplos, after a tiny suggestion from me to use a more stable platform. She was thrilled with her tower and stayed engaged in building and knocking down her tower, over and over, for a long time.

Meanwhile, her big sister was tackling the fairy house with little success.

I made my house, but now the fairy is too big to fit!!!” she yelled

*Stomps feet and cries*

I asked her if she had any dolls that might fit.

But, they’re not FAIRIES!” She hollered.

I smiled, “It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

YESSSS!!!” she screamed.

She went back to building. I went back to cooking. Ten minutes later, when I announced that lunch was ready, she called me to come look what she had created. A beach shack with Duplo figurines that fit. All up, she had stayed engaged with that fairy house building for an hour and a half! The rest of the day, the two of them were on fire. Somehow, their cognitive thinking skills had been ignited. I could see the confidence in their behavior, their speech and their play.

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The final product. With Duplos instead of fairies.

Not all frustrating situations end so happily, and that’s ok too.

Allowing a child to get frustrated can teach a valuable lesson of when to give up. If the fruit of your action is not in your best interest, and you have no desire to complete an activity… then maybe it’s better to reassess your commitment and stop doing it without thinking you are a failure. Maybe you are wasting your time. Maybe there really is no hope. The whole idea of ‘never never ever give up‘ can be really stupid sometimes! My kids often get too frustrated and give up and it’s fine. But, I find they give up more easily if I come and save them.

Allowing frustration builds confidence, character, resilience, thinking skills and awareness. It teaches kids when to seek help and when to try and work things through. As a parent, I have to assess the situation… Is the frustrating situation something that I should interfere with? Or, should I let the learning process take its natural course? Sometimes I’m too busy to help (like when driving), so there’s nothing I can do anyway! And, some days, I just can’t deal with the whining, so I come and ‘save‘ them. But, most of the time, if I can just let them be with their frustration, a whole lot of positive learning experiences can happen.

 

The Fascinating Reason Why Kids Have So Much Energy: Balance, Behavior and Longevity

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When I was doing Know Your Child Teacher Training, my instructor asked us if we knew the reason why kids have so much energy.

None of us really knew the answer, but we all agreed that kids have ridiculous amounts of energy. Read the rest of this entry

Questions I Need to Stop Asking My Kids

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Before my children could verbally communicate well, I got really good at reading their cues… Hungry? Tired? Hot/Cold? Upset? Have to pee? Yup, with a little practice, I seemed to be able to figure it all out. Now, they’re older and extremely verbal, but I keep doing something extremely stupid: I keep asking them questions which I (and they) already know the answers to. Asking these types of questions makes me sound like a broken record and is an obvious display of my lack of awareness.

1. Are you hungry?

I can generally calculate this answer, myself, if I think about the last time we ate. If they’re hungry, they’ll either lunge for food or they’ll have a melt down. Simple. Next.

2. Do you have to pee?

I ask the little one at least 29 times a day. If she has to pee, she holds her crotch and can’t sit still. I KNOW when she has to pee… SHE KNOWS WHEN SHE HAS TO PEE. I can just take her, but instead, I ask her. She says “No“. I ask her again 5 times until I take her… I’m an idiot. I could have saved my breath and just taken her at my first chance. Read the rest of this entry

What My Five Year Old Really Thinks About Gay Pride

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I was hanging out the laundry on the balcony, when I overheard my five year old ask my husband why we were so excited over everyone’s rainbow profile pictures (from Facebook). He gave her some explanation and used our friends, David and Andrew, as an example.

I can’t remember exactly how my husband explained it, but it totally made me giggle, because she just sat there with a blank face. My daughter said nothing. She made almost zero reaction to the thing that we were so excited about. Then she bounced out to the balcony to ask me when we could see David and Andrew next. Read the rest of this entry