With summer fast approaching, a chief complaint among many parents is worrying about boredom!
“My children are always complaining about how bored they are! We have millions of toys and activities, but if our children have 15 minutes free minutes, they are lost. I am dreading summer!”
As a parent coach with young kids myself, I know it can be tough to allow your children to be bored. And I also know that the answer is as simple and as it is difficult.
You have to allow your child to be bored.
But how? “How do I allow my child to be bored?” you ask. Well, you just do. You have to not get sucked into the whining and complaining. You have to not get sucked into, “All of my toys are stupid” or “I have plaaaaayed that game a hundred times, mooooom.”
To begin, start small with allowing boredom!
“You have time between 1-3 PM to find something to do. I can give your one or two ideas. Let me know.”
Then you have to hold on for dear life. Your child is going to follow you around, whining, crying, and muttering about his or her extreme boredom. As the parent, you will have thoughts like, “This child has everything, how can he possibly be bored?” Or, “I work and work and work and still, these children are sucking me dry. I NEED A BREAK.” Or “I never bothered my parents like this when I was younger.”
As these thoughts cycle in and out, you must simply breathe. Rest-assured that as you weather this storm, the child will eventually tire and find something to do. The more you have interfered in the past, the longer this process may take, but it is worth it. Why?
When children are bored, their creative juices start to flow again. The BBC recently published an article citing the importance of the boredom-creativity link.
“The academic, who has previously studied the impact of television and videos on children’s writing, said: “When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.
“But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them.”
It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen “tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity’.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21895704
The irony is that the more we don’t allow our children to be bored, the more accustomed they become to being entertained. The more entertained the children are, the deeper the brain habits are ingrained. Their young brains are literally conditioned to constant entertainment, whether it is from a parent or caregiver or technology!
Look at this summer as an opportunity to break your children from this cycle! Go on technology fasts and, while I love enrichment activities, think of holding a firm boundary on only one or two.
Stay strong, don’t give into the whining, and watch what happens. Creativity will bloom before you know it!
While 6 PM is often a tough hour for many small children, there are some easy steps every parent can take to have dinner go from frenzied to fun.
1) Recognize that kids don’t typically have much of an appetite for dinner. They have front-loaded their calories (which is good), and are not interested in your meatloaf at 6 PM. It isn’t personal. The less personally you take the misbehavior, the more calm you will be as a parent.
2) Have the children help you meal-plan. They can pick a protein, a carbohydrate and a veggie and create a dinner one night a week, or more! The more invested the child is in the food, the more likely they are to eat it.
3) And speaking of planning, have the children help you make the dinner. Tearing and washing lettuce, stirring, mashing…these are all tasks children can perform, from even very young ages. The sense of pride a child has when they have contributed works meal-time miracles!
4) Keep the focus on the family and chatting, not the food. Ask each other interesting questions (“If you were a color, which one would you be?” or “If you had to live in one room in the house, which one?” or “Which super-power would you want and why?”) Questions like this spur interesting conversations (“What did you do in school today?” is not an interesting question!)
5) Do not count “bites.” “Three more bites of peas,” is food-policing and, unless your child has medical issues, this is not a way to spend a meal. Notice when your child tries something: “I see you tried your peas! Delicious, right?” Encouraging the behavior you want to see will get you further, especially in the long run.
6) Do not offer dessert as a reward for “finishing dinner.” This makes children sweets-obsessed and turns you into the food police again. A good policy? Dessert is offered Friday and Saturday nights and the children can eat it whenever they want during the meal. Take the power away from the dessert by simply giving it to them early and twice a week. Otherwise, no sweets during the week.
7) Most importantly, remember that dinner is a time for the whole family to come together, share, laugh and simply enjoy each other. As parents, try not to get mired down in the food choices and number of bites. Stay positive, stay smiling and truly try to enjoy their company. You will be surprised how quickly the children will follow your lead!
Photo Sources: Thinkstock/iStockphoto (upper right) and Thinkstock/Photodisc (bottom)
Imagine you are with extended family, out to a special dinner. Or there is a group play date at the park with lots of parents around. There’s a birthday party where tons of family and friends gather. Either way, you’re in a very public place and your child has decided to have a meltdown — in a big way. Hitting, screaming, throwing things, it isn’t pretty.
A public tantrum is one of the most embarrassing events for parents. What can be annoying and irritating at home is gut-wrenching and horrifying in public. As parents, we start to feel instantly judged by others.
No one else’s children are behaving this way. Everyone is waiting for me to do something here. I look like I am not in control of my own child.
It is this pressure, this embarrassment, this shame that makes it very difficult to parent well in these moments.
Our brains are screaming: This is unacceptable. I must punish this child. This child must learn a lesson.
It is in these public moments that you can only do two things:
1) Get out of the public eye.
With the situation going from bad to worse, the only thing you can do is get out of dodge. If you can go home, go home. If you must stay in the vicinity, then go to the car. If you don’t have a car, go for a walk. Just get out! As soon as you leave, your temperature will start to go down and you are less likely to have your own tantrum. When the eyes are off of you and the child, you can start to breathe, calm yourself, and start to be a positive presence for the child.
2) No punishments, lectures, threats, and as little physical contact as possible
Your child’s brain has short-circuited. When they are in a full-blown tantrum, language is not getting through to them. No lessons will be learned, nothing will be reversed, and the best you can do is to wait the tantrum out. As well as the child not being able to listen and receive, you are not usually in a loving and calm place to speak or act. When you feel publically humiliated, you are more likely to lash out, feeling shame and hurt. Sometimes as parents, we simply need to wait.
Parents often ask me whether they should stay near the child or go into another room. Some children need for the parent to just sit on the sidewalk and wait. Some children want the parent to hold them and hug them. If walking away from a child sends them further into the tantrum, then stay close. If you feel like staying close is making it worse, give them space. You know your child best, so do what is best for them and for you. And as always, if simply being near them makes you feel angrier and possibly violent, then find a safe way to get away from your child.
When this public tantrum has passed (and you have sufficiently cooled down), you can look back at the incident more objectively. Was your child getting sick? Were they hungry? Was it naptime? Were they bored? When you are out again, how can you change the course? Or was it simply a young child being…a young child? Children throw tantrums.
It is that time of year again! School is starting to wrap up and as a parent, you may find yourself wanting to give the teachers something special. But before you make your best cookies or fudge, let’s think about what the teachers really want or need!
I am a parent coach now, but I spent almost six years as a teacher. I have seen gifts come and go, and here is truth: I was grateful for every single gift. Yes, even the “World’s Best Teacher” mugs. Yet, looking back (and seeing my childrens’ teachers now), I know that some gifts aboslutely stand out. So, here is a short list of some great gift ideas (and a couple of gifting no-no’s!)
Whatever you give, be sure to include a personal note and give a big hug (if the teacher is the hugging type!)
I sent my kids to the beach this week (to be with my parents).
How wonderful it will be, I thought, just me and my hubby.
It’s been a long winter and we are connecting poorly.
This time THIS TIME is what we need.
Upon driving home, I call him. “I dropped them off! We are FREE.”
Hubby: “I just started throwing up. I feel like shit.”
Oh, yes. I thought of his welfare first (no I didn’t).
And yes, I worried about how he would get to work (nope, not at all).
Okay…maybe I was a tiny bit PISSED OFF.
We were SUPPOSED TO CONNECT, GODDAMMIT.
I HAD MADE A PLAN. WE HAD CONCERT TICKETS.
Karen Maezen Miller talks about meditating facing the wall. The wall can be a literal wall (which really does suck by the way, until it is an odd relief..and then it is wonderful). Or the wall can be your tantrum-throwing child. Or the wall can be your canceling client. Or the wall can be the rain on your photo-shoot day.
Or the wall can be your vomiting husband when you have MADE PLANS.
WE ALL FACE THE WALL.
All of the time. Day after day. Sometimes minute after minute.
I e-mailed every human I know and pleaded, “I have a concert ticket…will you come? Please…”
Sorry, Meghan…no. I am traveling. I cannot, I am busy. I am tired.
The wall of purchased tickets and no one to come.
I went by myself. I sat by myself. I drank a gin and tonic, by myself.
And the music was better.
No one to make small talk with…no one to check in on…no one to say, “HEY, aren’t we CONNECTING SO WELL?”
I bounced my head to the music. I watched these people create total craziness (do you know how fucking creative people are?)
I came home and took care of my husband. Got him the ginger ale and chicken soup.
He’s doing better.
Life will present what it needs to, when it needs to present it.
And the hubby and me? We are all good. As soon as I dropped my desperate need to attach…we were all good.
This post was inspired by this brilliance, right here.
First, let’s all agree on one simple precept: every human on Earth loathes being bossed around. Every. Single. One.
We are programmed to do the opposite of what we are commanded to do.
That is what a healthy human does! We are not meant to obey rude and brusque commands and demands.
How would we ever become a freethinking, creative, and inspired people if we blindly followed commands?
So, how can parents stop all that bossing around?
1) Acknowledge that you are being bossy and have been calling that “parenting.” This is not a failure on your part. This doesn’t mean that everything is a mess. It means you have fallen into a pattern that is not working for you. Accept the pattern, accept the responsibility, and begin to forgive yourself and move on.
2) Think before you speak. Ask yourself: “How can I say this in a way that is more respectful? More kind?” If you cannot think of another, keep your mouth shut until you can.
3) Check your own stress. The more we stressed we are, the more bossy we become. We need to simply pause and, unless someone is in danger, decide that our request is best left for later. When we are stressed, our brain is telling us everything is imminent. Our brain is trying to protect us (thanks, brain!), but it is really just creating more mayhem. And bossiness.
5) Ask yourself if the request is developmentally appropriate. This is not necessarily by age; this is also about your child! Often, we are commanding and demanding our children to do things, but they are either not ready, brain-wise or physically. The child’s lack of readiness or our poor routines lead to nagging and then POOF! We are bossing them around.
6) Get support. Your spouse, your partner, friends, childcare, other family members…have them catch your bossiness and have them call you on it. Hang up stickies that say, “KIND REQUESTS.” Whatever you need to do!
April is Autism Awareness Month and I felt it would be best to feature a parent who truly knows what is like to mother a child with autism.
E.V. Downey is friend and former colleague from my teaching days. I consider her to be an Autism expert and advocate, as well as all-around great mother. I was so pleased and grateful she agreed to this interview!
When did you realize that your son had autism? What were the behaviors that compelled you to seek out support?
As is the case with many kids with Asperger’s, our son initially presented as a typically developing child. In fact, we first saw signs that he was extremely bright by about 18 months, he knew all his letters at 21 months, and was teaching himself to read at age 2. In hindsight we realize that these are signs of hyperlexia, an early indication of Asperger’s. By age 3, he was emerging as a child with an incredible ability to learn and retain information, plus he was adorable, relatively easy-going (always intense, but not unpleasant) little guy. We started to realize that there was something “wrong” after he started school at age 3 ½. It was actually around age 4 when he started reacting poorly to the other kids around him at preschool. He was bothered by the noise, wouldn’t play on the playground, had problems with certain activities. He was also extremely late in potty training (another common trend with Aspies), resistant to costumes, new clothes, had poor gross motor skills. We started with his pediatrician and progressed quickly to an Occupational Therapist who diagnosed him with Sensory Integration Disorder and a Physical Therapist who diagnosed him with hypotonia (low muscle tone) and delayed gross motor skills. He did both OT and PT for approximately 1 year. He has been in one therapy or another (or several) for the 7 years since then.
What has surprised you about parenting a child who has autism?
The biggest surprises are how incredibly good I can be at parenting sometimes and how incredibly bad at it I feel at other times. The other surprise is how judgmental other parents are despite my efforts. I have lost from friends due to this.
What is the hardest part, in terms of parenting, of having a child who has autism?
The hardest part is that my autistic child is so delayed in gaining independence from us as his parents. The other hardest part is the impact on my daughter. No matter how much we do for her, and it’s a lot, she feels like she’s not as important as her brother because he gets so much attention. She’s jealous of his therapies (because I take him to them without her) and the attention he demands from others and us.
What has been your experience re: getting your son the resources he needs in school?
Ah, I could write a book on that topic alone! It has been an absolutely constant struggle for every day that he has been in school to get him the resources he needs. Asperger’s poses a particular challenge in school because Aspies are often (as our son is) quite bright and advanced academically. It is hard for schools to understand that, despite their academic abilities, Aspies need A LOT of support at school. I will leave it at that.
What is like to parent a child who has autism and a child who is neuro-typical child?
I hate to say it, but our neuro-typical child is just SO much easier. There I said it. Our daughter makes us realize what it would be like to have a “normal” child and, at the risk of angering every parent of a neuro-typical child out there, it’s just SO much easier. There, I said it again. Our son is just so much MORE.
How has parenting your son changed you?
How hasn’t it changed me?!? There’s really no way to answer that. It has made me a better person, a more patient person, an exhausted person, a poorer person. In has made me somewhat of an activist. It has made me a whole lot more compassionate and a whole lot less tolerant of intolerance.
Which aspects of your son’s character do you cherish? What have been your parenting triumphs?
My son is so incredibly bright, it is actually frightening sometimes. His brain truly operates on a way that other brains do not (certainly not my own). Because this is common with Aspies, I can only assume that it is a part of the Asperger’s. He has shown evidence of this intelligence since he was not even yet walking. He is an amazingly loving child and extremely dedicated to his family and friends. He is, usually, a genuinely delightful person with whom to spend time.
What do wish parents of neuro-typical children knew about your parenting life?
I wish they would understand that, just as they make mistakes, so do we. It is so hard to parent any child, let alone one with needs. We try to do all we can and be at the top of our game at all times, but sometimes we just can’t accomplish what we should. Please don’t judge us!
What have seen change over the years, re: resources and support for parents of children with autism? What do you see as the glaring need, right now?
Public school programs for children on the spectrum are, generally, absolutely inadequate to meet the needs of our children. In order to, supposedly, save a small amount of money and a lot of face, the system is determined to attempt to educate our children, despite multiple failures. There are many excellent people in the system, especially the teachers, but there are so many prohibiting factors that so many of us are desperate to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education or, really, an education, for our children. This is especially true for kids such as our son who can achieve academically but needs the right atmosphere and support in order to do so.
Downey School Consulting provides services to families to help them navigate the educational system in the Washington metropolitan area. Families can come to a group lecture and/or have a private consult or a series of consults to learn about and apply to public, charter, and private schools that are appropriate for their child/ren. For children with special needs, services can include advising on testing, reading results from tests, evaluating IEP’s, and selecting an appropriate school for the child. https://www.facebook.com/DowneySchoolConsulting
So you have more than one child, born at the same time? You are in good company! The most recent data shows that in 2009, 137,217 twins were born in the United States, as well as 5,906 triplets, 355 quadruplets and 80 quintuplets or higher. That’s a lot of children who share a birthday!
Of course, we all know how different each child can be within a set of multiples, even when they appear to be identical. These differences can range from the obvious (different genders) to the more nuanced, such as personality, developmental stages and personal preferences. What is a parent of multiples to do to manage so many variables?
Luckily, the parenting virtues that work for all children work for multiples as well. Love, patience, clear boundaries, flexibility, respect and a good sense of humor are the cornerstones of all good parenting, and needed two-fold (ha!) in raising multiples.
But what about the nitty-gritty details, the day-to-day minutiae, the work, of raising multiples? Well, why not ask the true experts…parents of twins! I am lucky enough to know parents raising multiples, so I posed questions to them, and yes, they had answers! Read on!
How do you prepare for multiples?
Beyond the obvious answers (such as reading the books, talking to your doctors, finding a good pediatrician and finding parenting support groups for multiples), many parents spoke to me about sleeping while you can, going to as many movies, restaurants, and date nights with their partner and seeing friends. The end of multiples pregnancies can become quite uncomfortable, so as much as the mother can walk, swim, and move her body; it improves her overall mental and physical health.
And when the babies are born, it’s all about organization! Rachel S., mother of four-year-old twins says, “Being organized is my number one tip. The more you can prepare, the better…I am also a BIG believer in routine. If I didn’t get them both on a schedule when they were younger, I would spend my life feeding. Developing systems for two is also a time and lifesaver. When they were smaller, it was a color that we used to remember who was drinking what amount, etc. I also used charts because I was so sleep deprived and sometimes couldn’t remember who had done what.”
Cooking for multiples: should I cater to specific needs?
“You give them whatever they want as long as they stop that whining. (Wait, is that the wrong answer?)” says Mike D.
I know for a fact that Mike and his wife feed their twin 2.5-year-olds nutritious food, but his funny quote speaks to the frustration of trying to accommodate different palates. Many parents suggest having a little bit of everything on the plate.
Rachel S. says, “I didn’t ever want to be a short order cook, so they eat what they get. I try to make a variety of things so that if one doesn’t like one item, there is usually something else on the plate they do eat. And probably the next night, I will make something that the other one I know will eat.”
Laren P., mother of 21-month-old twins, says the food issue has been made better by the option of choices! “Meals at my house go like this: the adult decides what’s to eat, and options are given within reason. For example, everyone has chicken and green beans, but everyone decides on if they want applesauce or yogurt or a banana. They also get to choose which fork or spoon they want to use. I’ve found that if they have a few options that don’t impact the overall nutrition of the meal, they will eat happily…especially with their favorite fork.”
Photo Source: Thinkstock/Creatas
Going on vacation with multiples: how can I manage it?
As any parent knows, traveling with kids requires three main things: organization, organization and more organization. With multiples? Traveling also requires a healthy dose of patience, a sense of humor and some tricks that only a mulitples parent would know!
Laren P. says, “I ALWAYS travel with a heart beat bear or white noise maker.” Mike D. and Rachel S. both agree that ordering the diapers and wipes ahead of time and having them delivered to your destination can really cut down on the packing! Rachel also adds, “For each girl, we pack a travel bag that has items to occupy them in the car or on the plane. They have their own items. Then we do one family bag of snacks, etc.” And if your multiples share a gender, try to pack similar outfits to make dressing the kids easier.
Going out to eat with multiples: how to get in and out alive!
Everyone with multiples agrees that yes, it is a nice idea to go out, but when they are very young, it is often just too hard (especially if you are bringing other siblings along).
Laren says, “Eating out: we’ve avoided it. My singleton is 3.5 years old, and the twins are almost 21 months. I’m brave, but I’m not dumb.”
Mike agrees it is tough, but “if they’re behaving and coloring quietly, live it up: order dessert, have a chat, take advantage of the fact that you do not have to clean up afterwards (but tip well). However, if one of them is tossing French fries over his shoulder like he’s a new bride, and the other one is half a dozen sips into the ranch dressing, it’s time to go.”
When does it get easier???
A good friend, Colleen F., has four children, eight and under, with twin six-year-olds. She reports that, “Having twin babies and a 20-month-old was the most exhausting time in my life. I walked outside, and four months had passed! And so, yes, the physical work does start to become easier. Now they dress themselves, eat, bathe, walk to the car, etc.”
But, it’s not just about physical work. Colleen adds, “What has surprised me are the emotional challenges. I have realized that their emotional needs, the need for separation and to be recognized as individuals, arenow what we need to balance. For instance, now we balance when one twin scores two goals and the other scores none. What we say and do, to grow them as unique and different children, is my new parenting challenge.”
And while discovering who multiples are as different children is a challenging balance, Colleen also states how exciting it is, “Watching these boys become two very different people is fascinating. They have always had each other: to play together, eat together, share a room. Yet, they are so different. It is amazing.”
Parenting multiples, while more and more common these days, has its own set of challenges and joys. As a parent coach, I always recommend support, asking for and being able to recieve help and cultivating a good sense of humor. And while the work is most intense, self-care and attention to your marriage is key. Parenting mutiples isn’t easy, but the rewards are unique and sweet! Enjoy them!
Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/Comstock
Did you know February was National Children’s Dental Health Month? Nope, me neither! I do know how important it is, as a parent, to take care of children’s teeth. Like doctor’s visits, taking care of their little teeth is a non-negotiable. Regular dentist visits, brushing and flossing are like money in the bank for helping guarantee good oral health for years to come…but it’s not always easy, is it?
Parents chasing children with toothbrushes, bribes, begging, threatening, etc. – these are the many tactics parents use (I have been guilty of some of them, too!) to promote healthy teeth, but there must be a better way.
I decided to turn to the wise, nurturing, gentle and patient pediatric dentist whom my own children see, Dr. Mahnaz Shahinfar. As recently as this past week, my eight-year-old had a cavity filled with no tears and my four-year-old wanted to go along, because she “loves this dentist.” That’s all the proof I need that this is the dentist who knows kids and teeth.
How long have you been practicing pediatric dentistry? How long have you been in D.C.? And do you have children of your own?
I have been practicing and teaching pediatric dentistry for the past thirty years. I have started my practice in Washington D.C. in 2006. I have two sons 29 and 23.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Why is it important children take care of their teeth at an early age?
Decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease in the United States.
Primary teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Oral conditions can affect child’s self esteem and performance at school. Severe decay can affect growth and development.
There are many so many different ways to prevent future dental problems (and cavities) while the children are still young. What do you recommend and why?
We can prevent cavities through the following procedures:
What top three tips you would give parents who are struggling to get their children to brush their teeth?
For more information on dental health for you and your children, go to the American Dental Associationwebsite. They have facts, tips and games for kids!
More on Children’s Dental Health:
Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/iStockphoto