Simple Sunday-A Simple Toddler Calendar (for when you are away, or when you’re not)

A few weeks ago Dadda and I went on a little mini-break.  It was some highly prized alone time that we were really looking forward to.  It was not lost on us that our now two-year-old would be more aware of our absence than ever before.  This not something we do often and we wanted to make sure he was prepared for what was to come.  It was also important that he was able to feel some sense of control around our time away.

Being that children his age have a sense of time that is mostly limited to “yesterday” (as in that happened sometime before today) and “tomorrow” (that will happen sometime after today) our goal was to use his daily routine to help prepare him for what was to come.

To this end we made the following “calendar”.  I use that term loosely as it really is an amalgamation of his drawings, a few words and mostly large blocks of time before and after lunch and dinner.

Collin’s completed calendar

 

The process went as follows: As he watched I drew a skeleton of his time with his ‘Mimi’ and away from us.  I filled in the major parts of the day and he helped pick ‘icons’ that represented these parts of the day so he could ‘read’ them on his own.  Following that he and his Mimi went through their time together and they both drew pictures of what they would do during open blocks of time.  As you can see he took great pride in his depictions of things like swings at the park, grass, or a picnic.  Yes it looks to us like he just drew all over it but to him it was really his calendar.

Though we have nothing to measure against I feel confident that he was more comfortable with us a way since he had a visual image of when we would be coming home.  He was free to play and free from worry.  Sure he missed us, but he didn’t seem to have anxiety over it.

Finally the calendar served a second purpose.  Playing at the park the evening after we went home he said he “had feelings Mamma Dadda gone”.  We were able to talk about how we missed each other and then he was able to go to the calendar to show us the fun stuff he had done.  He loved talking all about his time with Mimi. The calendar was up for over a week after we got home, often discussed and revisited.

I would totally use it again, even if we are not separated, just to help him deal with the passing of time in other situations.

Happy Sunday all! Hope the beginning of summer is treating you all well!

Melissa

 

Toddler Tug-of-War; Why the toy is only half the battle

Two tiny toddlers make circles around the table, clomping in their oversized heels.  Around and around they go until one’s heel slips off.  The other one curiously leans over and picks it up, clomping on.  Upon noticing the loss of their shoe the other one throws her self on to the floor in tears. Out of curiosity the clomping buddy returns only to inadvertently begin a loud, tear filled shoe tug of war.

What exactly are toddlers looking for in this situation? What do they need from us as caretakers?

Many of us have been in the middle of a toddler tug of war.  More often than not we operate on instinct doing what is ‘right’ in an effort to keep everyone happy.   We often become right fighters, taking toys away or labeling children with abstract words like nice, friendly, mean etc.  Particularly with toddlers these attempts to impose what we see as socially accpetable behavior leave them confused.  The actions we hope will teach them confuse them often leaving them feeling deeply misunderstood.

So what are toddlers looking for from us when they are embroiled in an emotional tug-of-war?   They need us to stay calm first and foremost.  This can be really difficult if you see what seems like an egregious act of toy stealing.  We have to remember that toddlers are always examining the world and with it all manners of cause and effect.  What we see as “mean” or “aggressive” is simply a toddlers expression of their curiosity.  It may also be an outward manifestation of a difficult to manage emotion.  In any case all toddlers involved in the situation deserve to be heard and respected.  Our job isn’t to fix the situation but rather to help both children get back to a state of emotional equilibrium.

In a broader sense we have the responsibility to use these opportunities as teaching moments.  We can do this by talking through what we see.  By avoiding judgements and narrating the scene in front of us.  In the moment it can be hard to let the judgements go especially if one of the children is your own.  Everything inside of you screams “That was so mean! He was playing so nicely with that! How COULD you?!?” But if cooler heads prevail you will be able to give your child, as well as the other child, a better sense of how to properly handle themselves in future situations.

You will find that what toddlers really crave is to be understood.  If you can reflect back what happened to them and how you think they may be feeling this can calm the storm faster than grabbing a toy and handing it back.  When they are on either side of the emotional turmoil what they really want is for you to speak what they are feeling.  Not give them a toy. 

Dear Mamma (an open letter to those who spank)

Dear Mamma who spanks (or swats, or hits),

I know we sit on different sides of the same coin.  The slightly tarnished, well-worn coin of parental discipline.  Chances are one, or both of us, sit on the same side as our parent and even their parents parents.  It is hard to flip to a new side.  We both love our children deeply.  I don’t deny that the sun rises and sets in your baby’s eyes as it does mine.

You worry about the future.  What will this crazy world hold for them in five, ten, or twenty years?   We hold the responsiblity for all of their triumphs and failures.  They are burned inside our hearts forever, even if they don’t truly belong to us, they will live there.

I agree with you that our babes need boundaries.  They need parents, not friends.  Someone who is firm and clear about what is safe and acceptable behavior.  Out of respect to them we must show them that we are the calm, loving and leading adult in charge.  Out of respect for them we must give them freedom within clear limits.

I agree they need to know who the ‘adult’ is.  But…what is an ‘adult’?  If we want them to grow to be a certain type of ‘adult’ then we must model this for them now.  Our hopes for their future must be reflected in the actions we take today.

I hope that when my boy is grown he will be full with the intrinsic understanding of his own value.  As an adult in his life I grow this by showing unconditional love and understanding, I love him now so he can love himself later.

I hope that my boy will be able to navigate the world using reasoning and critical thinking skills that guide him into making good choices.  My job as an adult is to allow him to explore things safely, have some control over his world and let natural consequences teach him as they may.  As he gets older I will be able to discuss more and will allow him to join in the analysis of his own trials of life.

I hope he will be deeply emotionally intelligent, with an ability to express his own feelings and needs.  I hope he will receive others with empathy, love and understanding.  I teach this now by giving him words to express what he feels and listening for the need/emotion behind his behavior.  I do my best to express my self and my feelings clearly to him.  I apologize if I am wrong.

I hope he will respect others so I respect him now.

I hope he will be gentle and kind so I am gentle now.

I am far from perfect.  Everyday I work toward being a better Mamma.  I know you do too.  I have bad days, I get too angry.  I lose my way and expect developmentally inappropriate things. I don’t always say the right thing and some nights I go to bed wishing I could do the whole day over. This, for me, is why I choose not to spank.  I can’t give myself an option that I don’t feel comfortable modeling.  I can’t do something I wouldn’t want him to do to others.

So you see I am worried too.  I hear you saying you are scared about what will happen if you don’t use firm enough discipline.  I hear you saying you are wonder how anything else might work.  I understand that you were raised with spanking and you love your parents.

Everyday is new with our child.  We have every opportunity to do what is best, to build the best relationships possible.  This is why I practice (and believe me everyday I am just practicing!) compassionate parenting. We can let go of the stress of punishing and controlling our babes and move towards the teaching of life lessons and compassion that will truly make a difference.

Our parenting today will simply be a shadow of the adult they become.  A soft whisper that speaks only to the deeply quiet parts of their souls.  A script they can barely hear that will color everything they do.  I hope I can leave my boy with a heart full of love.
With respect for all Mammas out there,
Melissa

Simple Sunday-Some Simple Honesty

Something has changed in the way that Collin relates to those around him.  He is more conversational and will stop in mid-sentence to look deeply into our eyes as we discuss something.  He will look up at me as we are reading a book to judge my face, my tone and my reaction.  When I try to express my frustration calmly and honestly he will say “Mamma angry” as he analyzes what is going on.  It isn’t that his looking at me is new, this is looking into me.

As a teacher I have built many strong relationships with children I work with.  My support of them emotionally during the school day can noticeably enhance their learning experience.  With your own child  the ability to deeply connect is ten times greater and within the moments of connection lay building blocks for emotional resilience that will last a lifetime.

I admit that as I look deeper inside myself I don’t find answers.  What I find is more confusion and work that needs to be done. This week a few articles have been circulating regarding building resilience, emotional intelligence  and handling strong emotions. (Awesome articles, check them out!)  As I read through these I think two thoughts:

1- Wow, I totally do this!  I empathize with what he is feeling, connect to his emotional side and put words to his complicated emotions!

2- Oh my gosh, this is rough! How do I express my emotions without labeling or blaming him? How can I stay calm and empathize with him when I am frustrated as well?

 

I have found that expressing myself as calmly as possible in very simple terms is all I can do.  It is also one of the best things I can do for him.  I can help to empathize and verbalize his emotions for him, until he is able to do it on his own.  I can be honest with myself, not expecting too much.  Giving both of us the gift of a relationship worthy of those sweet eyes that look so deeply into mine.

Of course I continue to do work on myself.  On understanding him.  On managing my daily stress level so he is not an innocent bystander if something explodes.  But really, as parents we have so much to do.  So much to do right, everyday.  The beginning of strong relationship is built on honesty and care for others.  That I can do, everyday.  The rest we have a chance to do, again and again and again until we get it right.

Happy Sunday! Have a simply great week!

 

 

Simple Sunday – Unplugging our kids

Phew! What a week! My sister is getting married (yay!) and we threw an engagement party for her on Friday.  I have been busy tying up loose ends on my application for a child development home (yay again!) aaaand….Thanksgiving will now be hosted at our house in less than three weeks(yay??) That last one was a surprise.  All in all I managed to keep it together on the home front but haven’t been good about writing.  I have been reading a lot about screen time, especially for toddlers, and thought I would share some brain science and screen time stats.  The first article is not related to screen time but is helpful in giving a frame work for how children do learn.  It also makes you think about the whole child that you are raising and what they really need from us in the way of emotional response.

Maybe on this ‘Simple Sunday’ we can take a few minutes to think about how we can slow things down and not always be worried about ‘occupying’ our children.  I have found that sometimes when you stop trying to distract or engage the child will end up having the most productive fun.

What are your thoughts on kids and TV? How much is okay? What crosses the line?

The most primal cry

A Baby’s Urge to Be Heard | Psychology Today.

I came across this article today thanks to Janet Lansbury and her wonderful blog.  I felt it was worth sharing.

1-This is Psycology today.  Meaning unbiased truth about how our brains develop from birth.

2-There is a long standing debate in the world of ‘parenting education’ regarding ‘Cry-it-out’ that, in my humble opinion, deserves more than just a passing mention.

Now, a little editorializing…

Decade after decade there have been new and ‘proper’ ways to raise your chlid.  There will always be well meaning friends, relatives or strangers who deeply believe that what they tell you about child rearing is the best.  This is most likely because it is how they were raised or how they raised their children.  I understand these paradigms are hard to escape.

However, there is a reality to how our brains develop. The more we learn about how to build cars, the better the cars are.  As time goes on we have gone from room sized computers to idevices in every pocket.  Why then wouldn’t we use that same growing wealth of knowledge to help guide our precious little humans into the most secure, healthy and loved people they can be?

As the article states crying isn’t brought on by cognitively based manipulative thoughts.  To the contrary hormones within your baby’s brain cause them to cry out of a need for YOU.  For your comfort, your food, your touch and the reassurance that they are not being left, quite literally, for the wolves.  Being left in a dark room crying doesn’t teach a baby anything except to give up on you.

This article is not meant to anger anyone. Though I am sure it will. I understand deeply how confusing and painful it can be to try to do the right thing for your family and child when your little baby just will not sleep. I offer no judgement. I also do not propose a completly cry-less life for your child.  To the contrary I believe that emotional expression should be allowed to develop fully along the broad spectrum of human feeling.

What I hope for is a broader debate.  Freedom from guilt ridden ‘sleep training’.  What if as parents we grew to understand more developmentally appropriate sleep patterens? What if we talked more openly about how hard it can be to stay calm, gentle and helpful to our darling babes at 3am?

What do you think? This article serves as just a beginning to what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue.