Okay, I’m leaving…

Source: school-crossing.com

How many times have you been in a store and overheard a parent say these words to their child? “Okay, I’m leaving.” Some will go so far as to say, “We’ll see you when you get home,” or “Let’s hope they leave the lights on for you tonight.”

Often, these words are said in jest, but not always. You can imagine a child who’s engrossed in whatever toy or book has caught his eye. If he hasn’t been trained in first-time obedience, he has learned that it’s okay to ignore his parent’s voice. Then what is the parent left to do?

My issue with the “Okay, I’m leaving…” crowd is that it’s a giant, empty threat. Our children know that we wouldn’t leave them in the store. This empty threat might work the first two or three times, but after that, our kids figure us out. They know that these words are meaningless. They know that we won’t walk too far away or turn a corner and leave their sight.

The problem with this scenario is that the child isn’t listening to the parent in the first place. By issuing empty threats, we are only making it worse. Whenever we say something we don’t truly mean, we are teaching our kids that our words mean nothing. We are teaching them that it’s okay to say something you don’t mean. We are teaching them not to listen.

So what is a parent to do in this situation? Unfortunately, there is no quick fix in parenting. The solution is to train your child to listen, to obey. Before you enter the store, explain what you expect, and have the child repeat it back to you. Give the child some empathy and say that you know how hard it is to tear ourselves away from the things that interest us. If you still have an issue with the child not coming when you need to leave, simply pick them up (if they’re little) or take them by the hand. Then if you meet resistance, use your stern mommy voice, and simply say, “It’s time to go.”

If you’re having this problem with a child who’s too big to pick up or guide sternly by holding a hand (perhaps beyond the age of 6 or 7), then you might have bigger problems on your hands. And rather than leaving the child home whenever you leave the house, work on your obedience training at home.

Babywise Week: An Activity a Day

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Emily Parker, Journey of Parenthood
· Friday: Jessica Cook, The Mommy Teacher

Our surprise blogger this week is Jessica Cook, co-author of The Mommy Teacher. It’s a super-cute blog that is a wonderful resource for activities for moms to do with their kids. The blog’s tagline is “schooling parents to teach their children, one activity at a time.” That pretty much says it all!

Jessica’s post for today is about how real moms in real life can do just one activity a day to make a big impact on our kids. I know that I personally feel somewhat overwhelmed when it comes to creating activities for my kids. I know activities can be so important to their little developing minds, but I’m just not a crafty person. I’m getting better though, now that I’m homeschooling my boys.

I’m always on the lookout for fun activities that will make our schooling a little more fun. As a case in point, we just got home from our local consignment shop where I found a kid’s microscope for $15 (originally $50)! I’m a sucker for a deal, so I was worried it wouldn’t make the impact that I was after, but my kids couldn’t keep their hands off the thing! As I think about our school plans for next week, I’m going to have my boys create their own slides that we can view on the microscope. And I’ll see if I can find a book from the library that talks about magnification or atoms and molecules. It’s this gentle introduction to a complex topic, with a hands-on activity, that is the foundation of our homeschool.

But I digress… Here’s my favorite quote from Jessica’s post:

I give myself lots of grace because I believe there is a huge learning curve when it comes to raising these little impressionable people.

It’s so true. It can be so easy to put so much pressure on ourselves given that they are so impressionable. And really, they’re only little once, so we get one shot. But that’s not the point. The point is that we do our best while giving ourselves grace, knowing that we always do the best that we can.

Go Outside!

My boys playing in the sand

My boys playing in the sand

How much time do you spend outdoors? Do you make it a point to take your kids outside daily? Do you realize the benefits of a little fresh air and activity? I’m writing this from my favorite spot at Starbucks after walking here from my house. The minute we set foot outside the house, my mood changed instantly.

It’s too easy to get wrapped up in our indoor lifestyles, especially this time of year. When it’s raining or snowing outside, all we want to do is curl up in front of a fire with a good book. Even if we do get out, it’s from one indoor activity to another (piano lessons, gymnastics, grocery store, etc.). Our kids may be getting exercise through their sporty activities, but how much play time do they spend outside?

More than that, how much time are they given the freedom to truly explore our outdoor world? An indoor basketball practice pales in comparison to running through the forest, catching butterflies, handling bugs, finding that perfect stick, and soaking up some sunshine. Our natural world has so much to offer our kids.

This is true especially with boys. If you have a hyperactive boy on your hands, what do you do? Say he wont sit still during a meal, he tilts his chair back at school, or won’t sit still long enough to do his homework or listen to a story. Should you be more strict in your insistence that he sit still? Should you threaten to take away the toys that seem to distract him? Should you take away his prized park outing?

The first thing you should do to deal with a hyperactive child is to go outside! Set the homework aside. Piano practice can wait a bit. The amazing thing is if you give him that outdoor time, he’ll be able to focus so much more on the important work he needs to do. You could stay inside and slave away, with both of you getting frustrated. Or you could spend 15 minutes outside and get the work done in half the time it would have required if you didn’t go outside.

Having two boys has been such a growth experience for me. I’m a girly girl at heart. I do my hair and shave my legs every day (even in winter). When they were toddlers, I could tell that my boys needed outdoor time. I’m sure if I had girls, we’d be inside doing crafts all day, especially on our misty Seattle days. But my boys? They need to run around outside. We simply cannot let rain stop us.

I came across an article on the Growing Kids site that talks about ADHD and outdoor play. In it, the author talks about the “natural cure” of ADHD. She references a book that discusses the lack of time we spend outside, or the “nature-deficit disorder”:

Rickard Louv wrote Last Child In the Woods, which has the most interesting subtitle, Saving Our Kids from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In it, he shares recent studies that have been done concerning the effect of natural surroundings on kids with ADHD. These studies indicate that kids with ADHD tend to calm down and function better in a natural setting.

The article’s author talks about her days outside with her son who may have been diagnosed with ADHD if he had gone to a traditional school:

Lesson one: a large, open field and a butterfly net. I remember sitting on a towel and watching my son burrow through the tall grass in pursuit of the yellow “flutter-bys,” as he called them, experiencing the wonder of capturing them a putting them in a peanut butter jar for observation! We most often let them go, but “school” had happened in that meadow — and at least some of the “wiggles” had been released so that he was more ready to sit for a while and do traditional school when we got home.

I’m learning more about the value of outdoor play through my Charlotte Mason readings. (Charlotte Mason was an educator who has inspired a homeschool philosophy.) No CM homeschool is complete without nature study. We are to take our kids outside and let them experience nature, and we should do so for an hour or more every day. When we get home, the kids are to create a drawing or painting of whatever it was that caught their eye outside. This is beneficial even if you’re not a homeschooler.

Whenever you find yourself at your wit’s end with your kids, put on their coats and shoes and walk out the front door. The mere task of coats and shoes may seem insurmountable, but once you get out, you can relax a bit, and everyone will be happier when you come back in.

Sweat the Small Stuff

Source: northtexaskids.com

Yes, you read that right. Typically, this phrase is preceded by the word “don’t” but I think in parenting, it’s perfectly fine and good to sweat the small stuff. As parents, our job is to train our children, in all things, big and small.

You probably know what I’m talking about, too. There are little habits that don’t spell doom for the rest of the child’s life, but they simply drive us crazy. They look something like this:

• Your child uses a ton of soap but still doesn’t manage to get his hands fully clean.

• He holds his fork horribly wrong.

• He fails to wipe his feet on the mat when walking through the door.

• She takes her shoes off the instant you get in the car.

• He turns his nose up at anything green on his plate.

• She forgets to flush the toilet.

• He eats with his mouth open and makes a ton of noise while eating.

• Every time he eats, he ends up with food all over his face.

• She doesn’t do a thorough job with anything (showering, sweeping, homework, picking up toys).

None of these examples will ruin a child. Yes, she will eventually flush the toilet every time she goes. Yes, he will eventually eat his vegetables. But the issue is whether these things drive you crazy and whether they’re important to you. If good manners are important to you, then by all means, teach him to hold his fork correctly and chew quietly. If you hate putting your child’s shoes on (again) every time you arrive somewhere, then train her to keep them on. If you want to teach your child that excellence lies in the details, then work with her to learn how to do every job carefully and thoroughly.

The next time something your child does nags at you, rather than letting it go, stop and decide whether it is something you want to train your child in. Decide whether it’s important to you, and if so, come up with a plan. It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain HOW to train a child in these things. The point is just that, as a parent, you have the power to train your child. Your job is to pass on your values. If something is important to you — even the small stuff — then make sure you are instilling that value in your child.

 

Children Are Made Readers…

Source: society6.com

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ~ Emilie Buchwald

I ran across this little quote recently. I love it! It really is so true. My husband and I read to the kids every night without fail. I majored in English in college and recognize what great literature can do for our minds. So I knew that when I had kids, I always wanted books to be a big part of our lives. I started reading to William when he was 4 months old. My hands were a little full when Lucas came along (with a 3yo with SPD and a deployed husband), so our nightly reading with him didn’t start until he was 6 months old.

I’m seeing the effects of all this reading pay off. William is a fairly advanced reader, speller, and writer. I attribute his success in this area to all the reading we do. I’ll read fairly advanced books to him while lying next to him in his bed, and he’ll follow along with me, reading over my shoulder. I find this to be so much more beneficial than having him read to himself. As he reads along with me, he can hear how words are correctly pronounced and how the inflection of my voice changes with various punctuation marks and as the book flows from one element to the next.

I remember reading along in a book in a high school English class and learning the pronunciation of the word “facade.” A classmate had read the word, and I was following along, so I learned how it was pronounced. Having read the book to myself at home, I never would have guessed that the word is pronounced as it is.

William is also gaining a great vocabulary from all of our reading. He received the Fablehaven books for Christmas, and at first, I wasn’t sure what to think of them. I was worried they would be too violent or mindless twaddle. But we started reading, and we love it! He likes the story line and the fact that a young boy is one of the main characters. I like the story line as well, but what I love most is the rich vocabulary! I read a sentence the other day that had several multi-syllabic words. It took me a minute to read and process the sentence.

Here’s a sentence from the book that gives you an idea: “But if I lose the protections afforded by the treaty, the consequences of my vulnerability would inevitably follow,” (Fablehaven, p. 278). Try saying that five times fast!

William won’t always ask me what the words mean, and that’s fine. Just exposing him to this rich vocabulary is what’s important to me. After he hears and sees a word for the third or fourth time, it will start to register. And again, me reading it to him is different from him reading it to himself. If he were reading it himself, he might stumble on the words. In fact, I wouldn’t even have him read a book at this level. It’s quite advanced. So since I read to him, he’s “reading” a level that is far above his own reading level.

My husband typically reads picture books to Lucas, and I was just saying to him the other day that I think he’s ready for chapter books. Lucas seems to have caught the reading bug, too. When we read chapter books for school, he has no trouble following along, and sometimes he’s more capable of giving me a narration (describing what happened in our reading) than William. I think I’ll recommend that they start on classic chapter books like Boxcar Children, Indian in the Cupboard, and Cricket in Times SquareMasterpiece by Elizabeth Broach is also a good one.

So if you haven’t started reading to your child on a regular basis, there’s no time like the present! And as you can see, it’s beneficial to read to a child long after he has begun reading to himself. Head to the library and grab a few books that catch your eye and get started. If you’re looking for more great titles, feel free to connect with me on Goodreads. You’ll see all the books that I’ve read and recommend (for myself and the kids).

My Vaccine Story

Source: consciouslifenews.com

The AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) has just released a new vaccine schedule. It’s interesting that this should just come out because my own vaccine story had an interesting little development last week. Along with apparently 21% of the parent population, I choose to follow a delayed vaccine schedule with my kids. I follow a fairly natural lifestyle and diligently take my multivitamin, Vitamin D, and fish oils. When it comes to medication, I shy away from it as much as I can. In fact, both of my kids were born drug-free. Well, I had two small doses of an IV med with William, but no epidural with either of them.

Having given birth in a fairly natural setting, I learned that I didn’t necessarily need to give my kids that Hep B shot at birth. If I didn’t have it, they weren’t going to have it. That much was clear. Throughout William’s first year, for the most part, I listened to his doctor when she said which vaccines were recommended when. But she was also really good in helping me determine if I needed each and every shot at the time that the AAP recommended it. I had an inkling that I might wanted to follow my own schedule but I didn’t know where to start. I also knew that MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) was the one most commonly associated with problems, so I knew I was going to put that one off.

When William was a year old, I took him in for his well visit, and she told me about all the shots that were recommended for his age. I was a little bewildered by the fact that they wanted to pump all of this medication in my sweet child all at once. My sister’s kids came down with a case of whooping cough, and I knew it was bad news for babies, so I kept up with the DTaP vaccine. And while I had chicken pox as a kid, it wasn’t fun and I wanted to spare him the torture if I could. The doctor was also really adamant about polio since his own aunt suffered life-long trauma from it. So we left it at that. MMR was off the list…for the time being.

Well, just two weeks later, I heard in the news that an international traveler had brought measles to our area. A short 20-minute drive and a back luck encounter would have been bad news. So we headed back to the doctor for MMR.

Not long after, I happened to notice a little hiccup in William’s development. He stopped talking. He had been saying “mama” for about a month, starting at 11 months. Right around 12 months, at the same time he got the shots, he stopped talking altogether. I know there’s great debate about vaccines contributing to our Autism epidemic, and I’m still not sure how much stock I put into the idea, but I couldn’t help but make the connection. In fact, I feel lucky that I didn’t allow William to have all of those vaccines all at once. At least we waited the two weeks for MMR.

But here we were on this road to developmental delays. At about 18 months, William started getting speech therapy. And it wasn’t until he was about 2.5 that he started saying individual words, and then at age 3, he was speaking sentences.

Mind you, his SPD (sensory processing disorder) hadn’t yet been diagnosed and could have been a key player in his speech delay. The same holds true for his dairy allergy. I knew he didn’t tolerate dairy as a baby, but around a year old, I reintroduced it thinking that he had outgrown the allergy. (Little did I know that we rarely ever outgrow these things.) It’s entirely possible that it was a combination of all of these factors that contributed to his speech delay.

Soon after William turned 3, Lucas came along. I did my research and came up with a delayed schedule that I felt comfortable with. His doctor and I went over it, and while he disagreed with me (he’s a “by the book” doctor), there wasn’t much he could do to prevent me from following it. And we had much bigger things going on with Lucas, as he was admitted to the hospital at 2 months old with RSV and was subsequently diagnosed with asthma.

But as with William, I was preparing for the time when Lucas would hit a year old and we’d have to decide what to do about MMR. I spent countless time on the phone hunting down a pharmaceutical company that made the three vaccines (measles, mumps, and rubella) separately. Unfortunately, I had no luck. They had stopped making them separately.

Then when Lucas was about 13 or 14 months, we were exposed to the chicken pox. My sister had recognized it in her child after we had spent several days with them. Again, I didn’t want my child to have to suffer through the disease, so we rushed to the doctor and got the varicella vaccine. Apparently, it had done some good. Lucas suffered a very mild case of it, and luckily, he was well enough in time that we didn’t have to cancel our trip to New York!

After a change in doctors (and bad record-keeping), a visit to a naturopath, a mission to rid ourselves of food intolerances, and William’s SPD diagnosis, I became all the more fearful of vaccines. In fact, I learned that one of the symptoms of a food intolerances is red ears, and many times, when my kids were vaccinated, they walked away with bright red ears. There was something unnatural going on in their bodies, and it made me uncomfortable.

With William’s SPD diagnosis, I became all too aware of Autism, SPD, and all of the other afflictions that happen to children these days. With a year of speech therapy and 3.5 years of occupational therapy now, I am surrounded by it. Once a week, I get a glimpse into the world that exists for these children who don’t seem to have control over their bodies and their parents, some of whom seem to live life hanging by a thread.

Ultimately, my rule for vaccines became one of simplicity. It was merely this: I would allow one vaccine at a time (and discuss it with the physician, giving him great control over the decision) and that I would never vaccinate a child who showed signs of illness. If their immune system was already in overdrive and if vaccines were called into question by parents of kids with Autism, I was going to take a cautious route.

Well, it turns out that Lucas’ little life has been full of sickness. We were dealing with constant colds and tummy bugs (made worse by dairy), ear infections, fevers, asthma, and more. The child has never been healthy at his “well” visits. So his vaccines got pushed out. Always, in the back of my mind, was the idea that he had yet to receive MMR.

Now, as you might be able to tell, I’m not some dread-lock-wearing hippie who shuns all medical care and all vaccines. I eat organic food because it’s healthy. I got rid of our non-stick pans because of the chemicals that leach into our food. I did the same with all the plastic in my kitchen. So I choose to follow some natural lifestyle choices, but I always have a reason behind them. I didn’t unilaterally reject all vaccines. I know they are important, and there’s nothing more important to me than my children’s health. There just didn’t seem to be a driving force behind the MMR for Lucas.

This brings me to last week. A few days ago, I saw that our local newspaper posted on Facebook about a case of the measles in our county. And not only was it in our county, but the person who had contracted the disease frequented the same grocery store and Starbucks that we go to all time. This shopping center is within walking distance of my house, and it’s a nice little outing when we need to get out.

As you might imagine, I freaked out. The weight of my vaccine choices came crashing down on me in one fell swoop. Here I was with a child who could have been exposed to measles, and I could have had him vaccinated (while sick or otherwise), but hadn’t. The case of mommy guilt I had from giving birth to a second child with my husband in Kuwait paled in comparison to this vaccine doozy. And of course, I looked up the symptoms on the Internet (never a good idea) and was hit in the face with the word “encephalitis.”

The next morning, I had a doctor’s appointment for myself and brought my brood along with me. The minute we got there, I requested that Lucas get MMR. By this point, I had calmed down a bit and realized that we were never in the grocery store or Starbucks at the same time as the person with measles. It was close, but the grocery store is big, and the odds of him catching it hours later were slight. Nonetheless, he got the shot, even though he was sick. Of course, he was sick. But I couldn’t chance it. I figured, if anything, the shot might help reduce the significance of the illness, as it had done with the chicken pox, if he ended up getting it.

He spent the entire day after getting the shot sweating up a storm, apparently caused by a low-grade fever. But he tolerated the shot without incident. He’s still got a runny nose and a nasty cough, but I attribute that more to the cold and asthma than the shot.

William and I also got a couple shots. I was vaccinated against whooping cough since it’s going around, and William needed a second dose of MMR.

I also walked away from the experience with a renewed determination to get my kids caught up on their vaccines. I have printed out the AAP’s new schedule and I’ll compare it to their records to come up with a plan. Besides, now that they’re older, I feel like there’s very little chance that my kids will become Autistic.

So there you have it: my long, meandering vaccine story. I tell this not to influence you in any way about vaccines. I think everybody needs to make these choices for themselves, but I do think every parent should make a conscious, educated choice about vaccines. Perhaps you can learn a bit from my story.

How to Manage Screen Time

Lucas with remote, age 2

Lucas with remote, age 2

We all know that we are supposed to limit our kids’ screen time, right? Whether it’s TV, video games, the iPad, or our smartphones, a screen is a screen. It can be so nice after a long day to let our kids veg out in front of a screen and give us some much-needed quiet. But while we’re enjoying that quiet, we know deep down that our kids’ brains are rotting from the inside out!

So what are we to do to manage their screen time? Some would say we should eliminate screens altogether. I know of a couple families who have lived without a TV. I commend them for living a TV-free lifestyle. But ultimately, I think depriving our kids completely does more harm than good. When they hear friends talk about their favorite TV shows or hear about the latest Angry Birds app, these kids will feel like social pariahs. Not only that, but when they are finally introduced to TV and all its flashy goodness, they’ll want nothing to do with their former TV-free existence. As with anything in life, when we feel deprived of something (TV, food, etc.), we want it all the more.

For those of us who do have TVs, computers, and mobile devices in our homes, we are called upon to actively manage our kids’ exposure. (That TV-free life sounds kinda good in comparison.) But knowing that we don’t want to deprive them completely or let their brains rot, our only choice is to manage.

Fortunately for you, I seem to have found the answer to managing screen time: trade time.

By trade time, I mean that we trade our kids for the time they spend in front of a screen. I started this recently and it’s working wonderfully. I require my kids to earn minutes. For every minute they earn, they can spend it in front of a screen. Here’s the key to trading time: to earn minutes, they have to do something I want them to do. And when I think about how I want them to spend time that is completely different from zoning out in front of a screen, it involves reading!

Sometimes my kids will earn minutes by finishing their school work early or by having a good attitude. But mostly, they earn minutes by reading. Lucas is still learning to read, so I simply require him to leaf through a book. Any book is fine, and oddly enough, he will sometimes choose chapter books. My only requirement is that he tell me that he wants to earn minutes so I can time him. We have a simple digital timer that I use to track his time.

William is a fairly advanced reader, but he will still choose comic books and magazines over chapter books. But to earn screen time, this doesn’t cut it. He has to read a chapter book. I bought him a bookmark that has a digital timer attached, so he can easily track his own time. I know he would never lie to me about it, so I let him track his own time.

The beauty of this plan is that it puts all the power of screen time in their hands. If William has only 5 minutes, he will choose to read for another 25 before he asks for a device. And they get a sense for how time can fly when you’re in front of a screen, a skill that many adults haven’t mastered.

The other wonderful benefit is that they seem to spend much less time in front of a screen. They can make the choice to read and earn time or simply play with Legos or some other toy. It’s all up to them, and I’ve learned that sometimes Legos are just as attractive as screen time.

And one final benefit of this plan: no nagging required!

I can even get them to do their more difficult chores before I allow screen time. They will come to me with the number of minutes they have earned, and I will allow them to have their screen time. But before I do, I make a quick request for them to put away a few toys, empty the dishwasher, or any other quick chore. They do it without complaint since they know that device (usually my iPhone or iPad) is calling their name.

I will admit, there are still times that I allow screen time simply because I need the quiet. But I make the clear distinction when the TV is on for my benefit or theirs. If it’s for my benefit, they don’t have to earn minutes. I just use caution and don’t do this very often.

Take Care of Yourself

One of the most fundamental things we can do to be the best parents we can be is to take care of ourselves. The airlines got it right when they tell us to put the air masks on ourselves before we put them on our children. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a direct correlation with the amount of sleep I get and the amount of patience I have with my kids. So the first thing I do when I recognize that I’m frustrated with my kids is evaluate the amount of sleep I got the night before.

On that note, you’ll forgive me if I keep this short. It’s been a long week! I’m off to bed!

Find Your Inner Cheerleader

Source: fancydressball.co.uk

I’m amazingly fortunate to have a friend who is traveling the homeschooling journey with me. Her kids are slightly older than mine. All four went to the same school together last year. As luck would have it, before the school year was over last year, I took Lucas to a birthday party and overheard another friend say that Missy* was going to homeschool her kids. If there was ever a purpose for those crazy birthday parties, this was it.

I bring this up because Missy is an amazing cheerleader for her kids. She is so excited to be homeschooling her kids, and her excitement is infectious, both to her kids and me! While I’m rethinking my decision to homeschool, she plans to homeschool her kids the whole way through. She loves every minute of it. I think her attitude towards homeschooling completely sets the tone for their days. She is the ultimate cheerleader.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no cheerleader. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of girl. But recognizing my weakness is the first step to changing it, right? When I face an obstacle with my kids — whether it’s related to school or some behavioral issue — I now ask myself, What would Missy say?

Last night, William was almost done with his math books (yay!) but he had to make a few corrections before we could call it done. After therapy and a quick trip to the mall, we came home and sat down to finish. After he redid a few incorrectly on his own, I realized that I needed to sit down with him and help him through. It was late, we hadn’t eaten dinner, our routine was completely off, there were quite a few corrections to be made, we had a difficult morning, Lucas was off playing, and I wasn’t going to let him go to bed until it was done. It had disaster written all over it. I’m happy to say that with Missy sitting on my shoulder (figuratively, of course), I cheered him through it!

At every turn, I had to stop myself from spouting out something negative and defeating. I then mustered up the most positive thing I could say. I uttered “You can do this!” quite a bit, and while I was going for variety, the repetition didn’t hurt. We even laughed together at some of his crazy incorrect answers. We were in it together, and he got it done!

So if you are struggling with a particular issue with your child — whether it’s a behavioral issue, a difficult chore, homework or anything else — find your inner cheerleader. I once read a quote that said something like, “Who came up with the idea that making our kids feel bad about themselves (through discipline or derision) would make them change their behavior?” It’s so true! If we want them to improve, we need to make them feel good about themselves.

Here are a few negative phrases I’m sure I’ve uttered at some point and their cheerleader alternatives:

1) You’re 5 years old. You should know better. –> You’re such a big boy. I had no idea you were so smart.

2) Come on. You know this. Why can’t you do it? –> You can do this! I believe in you!

3) Please try folding laundry. You may not do it perfectly, but that’s ok. –> I had no idea you were so good at folding laundry! That was really hard! (Refold after the child has gone to bed.)

4) Did you really think that snatching that toy from your brother was a good choice? Really? –> I know you like that toy, and it can be so tempting to take the things you want. But I think your brother would feel better if you asked first. Do you agree? Let’s give it back and find another toy like that one.

5) You were good at riding your bike last time. What happened? Try harder! –> I see your bike-riding skills are a little rusty. That’s okay. It happens to me, too. Let’s keep going and it will get easier.

6) I see you got a good grade on your spelling test. Good. That’s as it should be. –> Wow! You got such a good grade on your spelling test! Let’s put it up on the fridge so Daddy sees it when he gets home!

Try to step outside yourself to listen to how you speak to your child. Honestly evaluate whether you are defeating or lifting up your child. If it’s the former, make it a point to work on it and stop yourself before you utter another negative phrase. Our kids want to please us. Let’s encourage them by making them feel good about doing so.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. :)

An Update on My Kids: Lucas, Age 5

Lucas bike rideOn Monday, I gave you an update on my oldest, William. Today, it’s all about Lucas. He turned 5 years old in October, and he’s currently in pre-K.

As you may have noticed, William is giving us a run for our money. It all began at birth when he started acting colicky (which we determined was from a dairy intolerance). Actually, scratch that. Our troubles with William began in labor! My water broke before I had any contractions which made it all the more painful.

When I was pregnant with Lucas, I “told” him that he needed to compensate for all of my troubles with William. The obedient little thing that he is, he seems to have agreed! :) In every way that William’s issues complicate life, Lucas is decidedly normal. In so many ways, my boys are complete opposites. William has blond hair and blue eyes. Lucas has brown hair and brown eyes. William is tall and thin. Lucas is short and squat. (Though sadly, he’s lost his baby belly.) William is a thrill-seeker. Lucas is cautious. Name any characteristic, and I’ll tell you they’re opposites! Even their belly buttons are opposites (inny vs. outy)!

Always a goofball, here's Lucas (right) doing school at Starbucks

Always a goofball, here’s Lucas (right) doing school at Starbucks

School

Lucas is also being homeschooled for the first time this year. After a year in a Montessori preschool last year, I determined that a self-directed method just wasn’t right for him. While he’s easy and fairly obedient, he does sometimes like to take the easy route in life. So this year, I’m fully directing his learning. I have just a few goals for him which include basic addition, early writing, and some reading. I can say that we’re well on our way to achieving our goals. I’m using “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lesson” and it’s working wonderfully. I’m really amazed by his reading. By the same token, his writing and math skills have improved tremendously since the start of the school year.

As with William, it remains to be seen where Lucas will go to school next year. He seems to really enjoy being homeschooled. It’s funny because I had actually considered sending Lucas to preschool and keeping William at home. Apparently I had it backwards. As odd as it sounds, my kids’ and their nail-biting tendencies are telling me a bit about their school preferences. Lucas started biting his nails last year (at the Montessori school), and he told me he did it because he was nervous around his friends. A little while into our school year at home, Lucas stopped biting his nails. He had been doing it for several months and I had given up all hope. I haven’t seen him bite a nail in a long time.

Sadly, William started biting his nails at the beginning of our school year at home. I’m trying not to put too much stock into it, especially given his SPD and oral-seeking tendencies. Nor am I putting all of our school decisions into the hands (literally) of a couple of nail-biting boys. But it’s hard not to make the connection!

Sleep

Lucas sleeps about 11 hours at night and takes an hour-long nap every day. He goes down around 8:30pm and wakes up around 7:00 or 7:30am. His nap is usually from 1:00-2:00pm. Sleep has always come easy to Lucas. While I gave up on William’s nap at age 2.5 (so young!), Lucas is showing no sign of giving up on his nap. He has no trouble falling asleep at night, and he’s happier after he’s had a nap. He will say that he doesn’t want to take a nap, but he never protests when I put him down.

If there’s one issue with sleep that we’ve dealt with in Lucas, it was when he was waking before 7:00am to play. He seemed to think that he was missing out on something, and always wanted to be the first one awake. Then realizing he was the only one up, he’d attempt to wake us all up. Unfortunately, William was all too willing to wake up when Lucas entered his room, even if William had fallen asleep late the night before. So we were dealing with two tired boys. We have since put a lock on William’s door to prevent Lucas from going in his room. It works so well and is so simple, I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of it before. William wakes when he needs to, and it encourages Lucas to sleep longer since he knows nobody will get up early with him.

Meals

Raising William has taught me a lot about food intolerances. At the same time that I had William tested, I had Lucas tested as well. I suspected that Lucas also had a dairy intolerance because at a year old, when I switched him to regular milk, he had severe constipation problems. We masked the symptoms with Miralax, but I wanted to get to the root of the issue. I switched him to goat’s milk, and the constipation cleared up, but it was clear that he didn’t tolerate that either. (I learned that the hard way, after an entire sippy cup of goat’s milk went down and right back up in the middle of a restaurant!)

Not knowing what to do, I switched him to Kefir thinking the fermentation process would make dairy easier on his stomach. Nonetheless, it was still dairy and after a year or so on Kefir, I took him off all dairy completely. The last straw, after the hundredth time he went running to the bathroom in a fit of nausea, was when he said, “Mommy, my tummy doesn’t like cheese.”

The results were incredible. His constant runny nose cleared up almost instantly. All of his issues with the “stomach flu” went away. All of my friends were telling me that it’s normal for a three- or four-year-old to get sick frequently. But I knew there was more to it. He’s been incredibly healthy, and even his asthma has improved.

Our only trouble with Lucas at mealtime is that he’s somewhat picky. We’ve made huge strides in this area, I’m happy to say. We’ve never given in to his picky eating. We took a slow and steady approach, just putting green stuff on his plate every night. He will always choose a burger and fries, but I’m happy to report that he will now happily eat a large serving of green beans, peas, broccoli, salad, and many other vegetables that we never thought he would eat!

Behavior

Lucas has always been my more compliant child. He says “yes, mommy” when I call his name almost every single time. He will come to me when I ask him to, and he will comply with any instruction I give. I started my first-time obedience training from day one, and it’s paid off. I remember a time when he was about 2 years old. I had to meet with William’s teacher for a conference, but couldn’t get a sitter. I brought his “blanket time” blanket and a few toys, and he sat quietly during the whole conference. He stood up one time and immediately sat back down when I told him to.

And recently, I allowed them to watch TV without cleaning up first, since there were just a couple toys on the floor. Apparently Lucas is a bit of a neat-freak because he couldn’t sit down without putting them away!

We also experienced a few years of bliss with Lucas being the peace-keeper in the family. He always did what we asked, and always gave William whatever he wanted. Sadly, all great things must come to an end. Lucas began to assert himself a couple months ago. So for the first time ever, we’re dealing with sibling rivalry. In some ways, I’m happy to see him stand up for himself. And it’s sometimes nice that he puts William in his place. But boy, I do miss those days!

Play

As with William, I continue to place a high premium on play. I make sure there is plenty of time in their day for free play. Legos tend to consume Lucas’ free play time as well. There are many times that I think we don’t need any other toys. They all collect dust while the Legos remain spread out over the playroom floor! We also make time to play outside and take walks or go for bike rides.

This is our solution to family bike rides

This is our solution to family bike rides

Interests

Lucas’ interests have yet to fully emerge. Of my two boys, he is my sporty kid. William is great on his bike, but nothing else seems to interest him. Interestingly enough, Lucas struggles on the bike, but loves any sport with a ball. We are using a balance bike approach to teach him to ride a bike. We simply took the pedals and training wheels off his little 12″ bike. It worked well for William. Lucas is a cautious child by nature; we learned this when he didn’t start walking until he was 20 months old! So whenever the bike would slightly tip, he would freak out. Luckily, he’s finally gotten over this — and his legs have gotten longer (such a peanut he is!) — that he can happily ride. I’m guessing that next summer we’ll be able to put the pedals back on.

Aside from the bike, Lucas is great with many sports. He took a Sports Sampler class offered by our local parks and recreation department, and he loved it so much, we did three sessions last year. He learned to play soccer, T-ball, and basketball. It’s a shame he’s too young for football because that boy could throw a perfect spiral when he was three! The jury is still out on whether he’s academically gifted, but his crazy ability to throw a ball is certainly a gift!