Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Meltdown Maintenance

Power struggles, meltdowns, and the sassies have hit our house! In a really big way! I have definitely had my patience tested a lot lately, wondering what in the world am I going to do when these girls become teenagers? I am in serious trouble if I don’t get a handle on this soon!
So as usual, I scour just about every discipline book I can get my hands on, ask other moms for their advice, and even ask my very soft spoken, always patient mother for some advice. Well, the most common themes that I kept getting were, “oh, they are just testing you,” “they want to see how far they can go,” “ you need to try to stay calm and patient,” “ this is just a phase, it won’t last long.”  Ah! That last one is always my favorite.
Remember the post about “Carpe Diem” and the blog that was posted on so many of our Facebook pages? How as mothers, we need to enjoy this time in our lives (and we do)? That it goes by in a blink of an eye (it does!) and that we need to cherish every moment? Okay…okay, we’ve got this! Right?
I am sure most of you moms out there are enjoying every bit of those precious moments with your little darlings; however, I am also sure there are some of those moments that you would like to forget. Are you with me, Mamas?
We are not perfect by any means. We have those moments where we lose our cool, our children throw a massive tantrum in the middle of Target or better yet, at a friend’s birthday party. You start to sweat and feel all eyes on you to see how you are going to respond. Yes, we sometimes give in to those meltdowns and even have to go as far as bribing our kids to do something we want them to do. Anybody else with me?
So having said all of this, we are never prepared what is going to happen at the grocery store, at a play date, birthday party, or right before we are trying to leave to go to school. However, we can be somewhat prepared in how we react to those sticky situations.
Probably about a year ago, our little “situation” was a power struggle over what we’re going to wear to school that day. So I tried having my little fashionista of a daughter pick out an outfit the night before, like probably many of you have done or heard that is the best way to deal with this issue. Well, of course, my daughter was an exception to this rule because even though we would pick out our clothes the night before, we were going to change our mind right before we left for school. Not a great way to start the day. We were both having meltdowns and were both getting frustrated. I knew this was a power struggle on her part. I knew it but boy, it still fired me up! However, I stayed calm and decided to come up with a solution. I decided that the next time my daughter was going to pick two outfits the night before, and then decide what she was going to wear between the two. In the end, it was her decision and she felt good about getting to make her own choice. It gave her a sense of pride!  
So if you have a situation where you know is going to be a power struggle, and then maybe try to give your child some options. For example, if you think your child is going to fuss about what you have for lunch, give them two options. Do you want apple slices with your sandwich or carrot sticks? If they always meltdown because they have to leave a play date or the park, give them advance notice you will be leaving soon and then give them something to look forward to. For instance, say when we get home, you can help Mommy bake cookies, or color while Mommy makes lunch. Also, what has worked with me, is saying “Do you want to skip or hop from the playground to the car?” This way, it takes their mind off what may cause a possible meltdown and it gives them a little control and independence.
Well, after we knocked the power struggle issue off our list, and thought we should win a parent award for it, we have now come across another problem...the sassies and talking back. Oh boy!  Not good! I don’t know if you were brought up this way, but if you talked back or disrespected your elders, you were in deep trouble! It was just not an option!  However, we are living in 2012, where kids have more options, more things and just more distractions.  
So once again, I talked to some other moms about the sassies, asking if this was age-appropriate, confiding in them how frustrated I was (you all know who you are) and at times, how quickly I would lose my cool. I was not the only one…thank God!
Every Wednesday, I meet with some amazing Moms, to talk about our children, our lives, how we can pray for each other, etc. and when we all started talking, we realized that most of our children are around the same age, and that we are all dealing with some of the same issues…meltdowns, power struggles and the sassies.  Lord, help us!
So here is what some of my Mommy  friends and I talked about and decided what we were going to do to try to do to help maintain our cool and most importantly to raise a more respectful  and loving children.
·         Negative or not, it is attention! It does not matter if it is negative attention or not, your child is at least getting the attention they are yearning for.  Again, going back to all the distractions that all of us are guilty of (computers, IPhones, I Pads, etc.) your children are dying for your attention and they don’t care how they get it. So when they push their sister down for no reason or empty the water bowl onto the floor…ding, ding, ding! They have got your attention! Success! So in those instances, try to remain, calm, address the actual behavior, and then move on. Don’t keep harping on it or beating them up about it. Also, try to notice when that negative behavior happens. Is it when you are holding your baby and your oldest wants your attention? Is it when you are cooking dinner and they want your attention? Try to give them an activity during those times that may cause a negative behavior. For example, get them started on a coloring activity, blocks or a puzzle. Make sure you model it first and then ease out of the activity to finish what you need to do. Remember, it is all about how we respond and just being proactive instead of reactive.   
·         Avoid yelling- as one thoughtful mom pointed out in our group…would you like it if your boss yelled at you every day or every time you slipped up? Would you respond positively? The answer would be “no.” No one likes it when someone yells at them. When someone yells at you, you tend to tune them out or can’t even think straight, much less perform how they want you to. So try not to raise your voice (unless your child is in danger) because your child is just going to ignore you or just shutdown.

·         Try to get down at their eye level-so instead of yelling, get down to your child’s eye level and talk to them in a calm, yet firm voice. It gets their attention and it also makes them listen better. When you talk calming and almost softly, they are really working hard and trying to tune in.

·         Remove them from the situation-if your child does throw a tantrum, talks back or has a meltdown, you need to nip it in the bud right then and there. So if you have to take them away from playing or even out of a restaurant, you do it and address the situation head on. They need to know what you expect of them and how they should behave.

·         Make expectations clear and be consistent- when we are addressing a behavior problem, make sure you are clear and that you are consistent in what you say. Don’t just keep saying, in five minutes you have to quit playing your Mobigo and get ready for bed and then not follow through. Or if you hit your sister one more time, you will have to go to your room. You don’t want to keep giving them empty warnings because then they won’t respect you and they will think they can get away with anything

·         Notice the positive behavior-You know how we always notice the bad behavior and really harp on that more than anything. Well, when you notice the good behavior and even the so-so behavior, your child will start to understand what kind of behavior you expect. For example, “Lilly, you did such a good job picking up your toys when you got through playing with them.”  “Thank you!” Or “I really like how you shared your crayons with your sister.” Kids love to please you and so the more you build them up and recognize what they are doing right,  the more likely they will want to behave well for you.
·         Be a good model-So we want our kids to use manners and be respectful to others as well as us. Well, then we need to do that as parents. Kids are watching and listening to you all the time. If you yell, they will yell. If you don’t respect them, they are NOT going to respect you. If you don’t use manners, such as “please” and “thank you” then why should they?
·         Create a bond- Try to make more time for your children, especially one on one time if you have more than one child. When you give them your time, such a reading them a story, doing an art project together or taking them to the park, you are creating a bond. And when you have that strong bond, your children will respect you, do what you ask them to do and most of all, it just makes for more positive parenting.
We know how hard parenting can be, but we also know how rewarding it can be. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever do. So as your friends at Hands on Mom, we want to be that support system for you. We want to share with you what we have learned as parents ourselves and we would also love to hear what savvy ideas and sanity savers you have to share.  Let’s be a support system for each other as we Moms all need that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is your discipline style?

Would you like to know what your discipline style is? Go to this link and take a quiz to see what it is. You might be surprised what you find out.

Discipline Style?

Monday, February 27, 2012

How early do you set limits with your child?

Do you feel like you are saying “no” to your child more than you are saying “yes”? Do you feel like you get easily frustrated or lose your patience with your child, because you are not exactly sure how to respond to them when they do something that is not appropriate? Especially, when they misbehave in public!
So how early do you set limits with your child? It’s not like you can send your 9 month old to his/her room when they continue to knock over the dog’s water bowl or put so many puzzle pieces inside your speaker (my Livi), that now your speaker is making funny noises. You can’t dock their allowance or take their beloved toy away because they are not really attached to anything yet. You also don’t want to squash their enthusiasm to explore and learn about the environment around them.  So how do you create that balance…from setting limits, to allowing opportunities for your child to explore and learn the world around them?
According to many parenting books I have read and/or those that have permanent residence beside my bed that I tend to glance at in desperate times, saying “no” too often can actually discourage your toddler to be naturally curious. Uh-oh! I’m in trouble!
When children keep hearing the word “no” when they get too close to the water bowl or speaker, they will start to overgeneralize that playing is not okay. Now, I am not saying don’t ever say “no” especially if they are in danger like getting ready to reach their hand to a boiling pot on top of the stove.  Ouch!

What I am saying and what I have learned, is that when toddlers are “misbehaving” they are experimenting and testing their independence, which is so important in their development. For example, when knocking over the water bowl or continuously throwing a sippy cup on the floor, they are learning cause and effect.. When I throw my cup on the floor, Mommy will pick it up. A great game, isnt it? When pulling the toilet paper roll throughout the house or when they are trying to fit those matchbox cars in the speaker, they are learning problem solving skills.  Well, this size car fits in this space, but this car is too big to fit. Hmmm...
Now, can toddlers be naughty on purpose? Yes and no! Really, they are not sure right from wrong yet, according to Parent magazine advisor Ari Brown, MD, author of Toddler 411. So as parents that is where you come in! You have to teach your child what you expect of them, realistically,  and be consistent with setting your limits.
According to Parents magazine there are seven strategies to help keep your baby or toddler out of trouble without squelching his enthusiasm for exploration. So get your pen out and write these down! They are very helpful! Also, here is the link to where we found these very helpful strategies (
1.    Stop It Before It Starts, Avoid Temptation -When your baby starts crawling, you know it's time to put covers on your electrical outlets and store crystal vases in a high cupboard. That makes sense for safety reasons, but it'll also give him freedom to play. "A young child doesn't need to have the run of the whole house, but if you make sure that one or two rooms are completely babyproofed, you won't have to say no as often," says Sylvia Rimm, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in Cleveland. Over time, you'll have to put even more things out of reach -- even things you'd never expect. Amy Caruso, of Cincinnati, had to put her cat's food up on the counter when her daughter, Isabella, turned 13 months. "It had never occurred to me that cat food would be appealing, but she kept getting into it, and it was simpler to just move it than to keep telling her it was yucky," she says.
2.    Change Gears -Because young children usually have a short attention span, it's easy to distract them. If your child insists on ripping up the newspaper, get her psyched to play with a favorite toy instead -- or go to the mailbox together to mail a letter. "My boys love to bang on the television, so when I see one of them moving in that direction, I'll say something like, 'Where's your brother?' and it usually makes them forget what they were doing," says Kathryn Kaycoff Manos, mother of identical twin toddlers in Encino, California.
3.    Focus on Sleep -Overtired toddlers are much harder to handle. "In my experience, fatigue is the number-one cause of misbehavior," says Will Wilkoff, MD, author of How to Say No to Your Toddler. "It's normal for a toddler to throw a tantrum to test the limits now and then, but if he's consistently difficult, he's probably sleep-deprived." Kids this age need 10 1/2 to 12 1/2 hours at night plus one to three hours of daytime napping. If your child isn't getting enough, make his bedtime earlier.
4.    Look the Other Way -Most children crave their parents' attention so much that they're willing to do anything -- even something naughty -- to get it. "If you notice that your toddler starts screaming every time you get on the phone but there's nothing wrong when you check on him, your best bet is to just ignore him," says Dr. Brown. "Giving him attention -- or even getting angry -- will only reinforce his behavior." (Of course, you should always squelch behavior that could be dangerous.) When you're ignoring your child, don't even make eye contact. "You might be tempted to glare at him sternly, but don't," says Dr. Wilkoff. "Glaring is essentially the same thing as saying, 'Be quiet' and that's giving him a form of attention." If you're talking on the phone a lot, however, it's unreasonable to expect your toddler to play quietly. Try to save less urgent calls for naptime.
5.    Introduce Consequences -Dr. Wilkoff recommends a simple three-step approach that can work with even very young kids: 1. Establish a rule. 2. Threaten a consequence whenever your child is about to break the rule. 3. If he ignores your threat, immediately enforce the consequence. This worked for Manos when her sons discovered a new favorite game: standing on the dining-room chairs. She warned them several times that it wasn't safe, but they continued to do it every chance they got -- and she realized she needed to be firmer. "Now when one of them starts climbing onto a chair, I warn him, 'Remember, no standing.' If he stands up, I say, 'When you stand on the chair, you have to go down on the floor,' and I lift him off and put him on the floor." Although the boys still try to get away with standing on the chairs sometimes, they're doing it less and less. Keep in mind that it can take quite a while for a rule to sink in. "Expect to repeat yourself 20 times or more -- especially if you've been inconsistent in the past," says Dr. Brown. But if you stick with it, your child will learn that you've changed your ways -- and he'll eventually change his too.
6.    Try Modified Time-Outs -Most of us think of a time-out as a discipline strategy for older kids, but some experts say that you can use a version of it from about 9 months on, especially for more serious offenses. Let's say your child bites you on the shoulder when you're hugging her -- something that many older babies, unaware of the pain that can be inflicted with their new teeth, do at least once. Say, 'No biting!' and sit her on your lap facing away from you for one minute. "Losing your attention is a severe penalty for a baby or toddler," says Dr. Brown. "When a minute is over, repeat the phrase 'No biting,' and then give her a hug and move on. A young child might not connect the consequence with the behavior at first, but if you respond that way every time she bites, she'll catch on fairly quickly." By the time toddlers are 18 months or so, you can put them in a time-out in their bedroom for two minutes if you have a gate you can put up to block the doorway. "You don't want to close the door, because it can be frightening to young children to be left alone," says Dr. Rimm.
7.    Don't Just Say No -Save the straightforward "No!" for instances when someone could get hurt or your child's safety is at stake -- when she runs out into the street, for example, or reaches for a hot oven door. "In less extreme circumstances, your 'No' can be followed by a compromise or an alternate suggestion," says Rahil Briggs, PsyD, an infant/toddler psychologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City. For instance, you could say, "You can't throw your ball at the lamp because we don't throw things inside. But you can throw the ball outside." Try to find an alternative that captures the energy and idea that your child seemed to have in mind so that you can show him you empathize with what he's feeling, says Dr. Sossin. This approach not only solves the immediate problem but also teaches your child to look for more appropriate alternatives in the future.
So Moms and Dads, remember to set real expectations for your child and be consistent in setting those limits. The more consistent you are at this stage and the more clear you are in your expectations, the more your child will start to understand that you mean business! Also, they will learn to respect you and not walk all over you!
**Please stay tuned for more positive discipline/behavior management ideas for your older children. We will posting more articles and helpful hints to ease your stress and to help you not pull your hair out by the time 4:30 rolls around. J

Friday, February 24, 2012

A child educated only at school...

"A child educated only at school is an uneducated child."

Author: George Satayana

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Turn-Taking 101

Based on the report we posted Monday, turn-taking is high on the list of skills needed for kindergarten readiness.  Games are a great way to reinforce this with preschoolers.
Here are some favorites:
Guess Who
Connect Four
Chutes and Ladders
Scrabble Jr.
Monopoly Jr.
Hi Ho Cherry-O
old-fashioned tic-tac-toe
Winter is a great time for some indoor fun, so grab some games and get busy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

National Teachers' Survey on Kindergarten Readiness Skills

There's a lot of talk about kindergarten readiness, and it's one of our priorities at Hands on Mom, so I was eager to get my hands on the results of the US Dept. of Education's national survey of kindergarten teachers on the most important skills for kindergarten students.  You can read the full report here and a synopsis here.

The survey was a list of skills.  Teachers ranked these, and statistical magic was used to compile the results into categories of importance.  Here's how it turned out:

1. Most important:  that a child be physically healthy, rested and well-nourished; be able to communicate needs, wants, and thoughts verbally; and be enthusiastic and curious in approaching new activities.

2. Next most important:  ability to follow directions, not being disruptive in class, being sensitive to other children's feelings, and the ability to take turns and share.

3. Less important:  knowing English, the ability to sit still and pay attention, and finishing tasks.

4. Least important of the listed skills:  good problem-solving skills, the ability to identify primary colors and basic shapes, the ability to use pencils and paint brushes, knowledge of the alphabet, and the ability to count to 20.

Fascinating.  As a speech-language pathologist I am delighted by the acknowledgement that the ability to communicate (even if it's not in perfect English) is of the utmost importance.  But what I find the most interesting is that self-regulation skills such as following directions, not being disruptive, being sensitive to others and taking turns were more important than the discrete "readiness skills" that parents tend to focus on teaching (colors/shapes/alphabet/counting).  

Know how kids learn these skills?  Playing with others-both with kids they know on playdates and kids they don't know on playgrounds.  They also need to see the adults in their lives model these behaviors, and when the kids struggle with these behaviors they need adults to coach them through sharing and sensitivity when difficulties arise. 

By modeling compassion (sending notes to someone who is sick), taking turns (by playing games together), sharing with others, and having high expectations for following directions at home, you are teaching some of the most important skills for kindergarten readiness. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

101 things

This is an awesome post from the blog "Counting on Me"--it's a list of 101 things to do with a toddler.  The blogger has set a goal of powering through this entire list in 2012--she sure has a lucky kid!
Do you have parenting goals for this year? Do share!