Monday, August 15, 2016
I had asked my son (who is 21 years old) to renew his passport this summer. He was home on Summer break from college, and was attending two summer school classes and doing odd jobs--so I knew he had some responsibilities in addition to this request, but last week as he prepared to return to college this task remained unfinished. I had reminded him multiple times throughout the summer but to no avail.
Two days before he was to leave he began asking me questions about what to do and how to accomplish this task. Needless to say, I was a little frustrated. But I made a conscious decision to hold back. I did not jump in to help him figure the process out. I did not run and find his birth certificate as he requested. I told him where to look for the documents and tried to refrain from answering any of his questions. All of this did not come easily to me especially as he became angry at my hands off approach. The frustrated parent in me wanted to just handle this myself. But a little voice inside of my brain kept urging me to stay out of the process and let him figure this out on his own.
Did I mention he was leaving for college in two days? Did I mention the mother's guilt that kicked in, when I thought about how I would not be seeing him for the next few months? This whole situation was as much a struggle for me as it was for him...but I stayed strong. I left it all to him--and he got it done.
This situation is an example of how difficult it can be as a parent to allow our children to grow. Although Michael is not a child any more, I can remember other times in the years when my four children were at home that my husband and I consciously pulled back to allow them to grow.
What ways do you allow your children to grow? Do you have them do chores in your home? Do you ask your 'tweens to babysit their younger siblings, or pick up the phone and order a pizza for your family's dinner? Do you have your little ones clean up their toys or practice good manners while visiting someone's home? Growth only happens when parents take the time to pull back and encourage their child to take ownership of his/her own behavior. It is a constant challenge for a loving parent to know when to hold back and allow your child to step up.
At the beginning of the school year, my preschool students often are scared to leave their moms and dads at the door and come into the classroom, but with a final hug goodbye--we encourage the parents to go, as we assure them that we will call if their child is inconsolable. This exercise is often more difficult on the parent than the child.
So Parents, please remember to hold back because: every new experience is an opportunity for growth. And this is a parenting skill you will be practicing for many years to come!
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Wednesday, July 13, 2016
When you purchase a house, usually you take out a mortgage. Getting a mortgage requires you to decide how long of a period you are going to agree to in order to pay off the loan. Mortgages are one of the times in life we are forced to face the future.
Unfortunately, with parenting we are not required to think about the future and and often we parents get so caught up in the day to day that we fail miserably at looking at the long term. Every parent knows that starting from the day that your baby is born, he/she requires a lot of work. It can feel overwhelming at times, and is doubly hard as a single parent to put forth the effort each and every day to be a strong and effective parent. But lately, I have observed in many different settings a disturbing trend of parents who seem to have given up. I can't help myself, but I am an observer of family dynamics. And for whatever reason, in the last few weeks I have observed parents completely ignoring the behavior of their children, when the children were crying out for attention. This type of parenting is likely to have long term effects. I wonder if parents have heard so much negative buzz about "helicopter" parenting that they think that ignoring their children is a better path. Let me assure you--it is equally wrong to ignore your children and their behavior as it is to over manage and interfere with them at every turn.
Children need you to observe and monitor them. As they get older they generally need less minute by minute parenting--but it is not good parenting to completely ignore them and their behavior. Children need to be taught by their parents the standards of behavior required in different settings--a restaurant, a religious service, or a social gathering all require different sets of polite behaviors that children are not born knowing about. It is your job as a parent to prepare them for civil society by teaching them manners and polite behavior in all the settings that they are exposed to.
The long term effects of good parenting will bless you with children who respect you and turn to you for guidance, but at the same time are able to make good choices. But ignoring your children and hoping they will learn to behave somehow from school or other environments will leave you with children who will continually push the boundaries in order to get your attention and feel you care enough about them to notice them. Children who lack boundaries will engage in riskier behaviors in order to figure out where you will finally draw the line. Research backs this up. Children raised by permissive parents show higher rates of risky behaviors.* Why? Possibly because they are trying to get the parent's attention and possibly because they are trying to figure out if the parent cares about them.
Substituting permissiveness or lax parenting for over parenting is not the answer. Remember that your children want and need your guidance. Remember that your children are a reflection of you. Teach them how to behave in a variety of situations so that they are well prepared for a successful future. Think about the long term effects of the parenting you are doing on a daily basis.
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*For further information, read Dr. Diana Baumrind's Studies on Parenting Styles at the University of California Berkeley.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Yesterday at preschool we planted sunflower seeds in little pots. We put on gloves and used a tiny shovel to fill small pots with soil, and carefully poke the seeds into the soft, black dirt. We were so excited to gently pour water over our newly planted seeds and give them their first drink. Our little faces were so serious as we concentrated on each of these little acts--filling a pot with a shovel, carefully poking our seeds into the soil, slowly pouring the water from our colorful watering cans. Our excitement for the entire process could hardly be contained. And our eagerness to be helpful, coupled with our curiosity at each little step touched deep into my heart.
It reminded me that childhood is a magical time. Little ones may talk endlessly about Minecraft and Paw Patrol video games, but their desire for real world experiences trumps the virtual world every time! The message is clear. There is a time and place for I-pad or App entertainment, but children covet simple, real world experiences. Don't forget to give them these. Make it a practice to try new things with them. You will discover that when you expand their experiences, you will have a lot of fun in the process. Their joy is contagious.
Take them on a train ride. Play at a new park. Go to the zoo. Take them to museums and concerts. Visit relatives who live in different areas. Hike in a forest preserve or state park. Go to a sporting event--your local high school or college teams are a great place to find less expensive tickets to competitions. Bake something together. Take a bike ride.
Time spent with your children is never wasted. Take advantage of their curiosity and enthusiasm and explore the world together making precious memories that will last a lifetime.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
I recently returned from a vacation, and I found myself surrounded by families enjoying time together at our resort. There was one family that I noticed had two lively and active boys...and although their behavior did not bother me or the other guests one bit, I came away feeling very sad for their mother. It was clear that these boys did not respect or listen to her at all--ever. She would have to repeatedly ask them to do things, and then plead with them, and then usually give up...because her words had zero effect on these boys. These situations were repeated over and over again, and I observed them at breakfast or by the pool continually ignoring every word that their mother said.
So where does this lack of respect come from? I can tell you. It is a combination of factors. The other parent normally plays a role in this. If the father disrespects the mother, the children learn disrespect. And if the mother disrespects the father, the children learn disrespect. And if you, as a parent don't demand that your children listen to you...then you are disrespecting yourself and teaching your children not to listen to your words.
I felt so sorry for this mom. She was not enjoying the precious vacation time she was sharing with her beautiful boys. She seemed so lonely, and dare I say--pathetic. And thinking about the future, I wondered if these boys would ever see the error in their ways. Would they come to appreciate their loving mother? Would they grow up to be loving partners or disrespect their significant others in future relationships. Had they learned this behavior from their dad? Would the cycle continue?
The takeaway is that teaching our children to respect us as their loving parents is of paramount importance. It sets them up to form respectful relationships throughout the rest of their lives with teachers, coaches, bosses and loved ones. Don't settle for anything less than loving respect from your children. It takes loads of work, but is well worth the effort.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016
These little three and four year olds are capable of demonstrating such empathy and compassion. I see them ushering our new friends to circle time, making room for them on our carpet, helpfully showing them where to hang their school bag or how to find their mailbox. I see them eagerly taking these new students "under their wing" to help them understand what is going on in the classroom and eagerly approaching them at play time.
Our world is so full of negativity. We have gotten so complacent about mean spirited behavior. We accept it from our politicians. We are entertained by it on social media, movies and television. We practice it in our daily lives by passing judgement on others, and filling our days with gossip and snarky backstabbing behaviors.
Our world would be a better place if we reconnected with openness, kindness and empathy that our little ones possess. They give me hope for the future, and we all should take a page from their playbook and adopt it into our daily lives.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Thursday, March 3, 2016
There is wisdom in balance. Keeping the elements of life in balance leads to a calm and peaceful existence. Life with children is rarely characterized as calm and peaceful and with each additional child the chaos can multiply. But balance is an extremely important element of good parenting.
Research has shown that the most effective parents over time are those who combine nurturing with authority. In other words, parents who are responsive and emotionally connected with their children, but who also play the important role of authority figure in their children's lives have been shown over time to raise the most emotionally balanced and less destructive children. For further reading on this research see below*
Many parents struggle with the authority figure role. Does your child listen to you? Do they follow your rules? Do they respect your words? Do they know that ultimately you are the boss of them until they grow up and leave your house? If not, you have some work to do.
Children are master manipulators. They know how to push our buttons for sport. They are not as emotionally engaged when we are really angry. And they have an easy time tuning us out if they have learned that we really don't mean what we say. So how can this dynamic be changed? Here are some tips that my husband and I found worked after years of practice.
1. Have high standards for behavior and communicate those expectations to your child. This means teaching manners and polite social behavior, expecting your child to respect you and his/her teachers and coaches, and in general behaving in a manner that brings happiness and joy to others.
2. Only say what you mean. Children quickly learn that idle threats mean nothing. If you consistently say that you will do something and then don't do it, you are actively teaching your child to tune you out and worse, not trust your words. Words are so important...spend them wisely.
3. Don't allow bad behavior to spiral. Nip it in the bud. If your child has begun to back talk or be sassy, you may find it cute or not a big deal at first, but then you get used to it and somewhere along the way you stop noticing it. And then it becomes a problem. We found that it is much better to be proactive about little behavior slips than reactive when behavior has gotten out of control. Make sure that your child knows what it is you expect and then do not tolerate anything less. (for more ideas on positive discipline read this: splashparenting.com/2013/03/six-steps-toward-positive-discipline
4. Authority Figures Don't Negotiate! My husband taught me to not accept arguing and whining when we were giving one of our children a consequence for bad behavior. He would calmly remind our child that if he/she argued about the consequence, the consequence would be doubled. This tip worked like magic. If your child knows that a punishment could be doubled, he/she usually reflects on whether the whining and arguing are worth the risk, and the answer is always no!
Children want and need you to be the parent and for them to be the child. They need their parents to be loving and kind and yet strong enough to earn their respect and teach them self control. It is counter intuitive--we want to give in to our children and let them do, be, and have anything that makes them happy...but by always giving in to their desires we are not teaching them the important skills of self control and showing them that we care enough to set limits--it is a fatal swap--peace in the present for contentment in the future. Giving in to your child's tantrum is teaching your child that tantrums work, and always giving your child everything they want will set them up for a future of discontent. Good parenting requires the healthy balance of loving our children enough to act as the authority in their lives. This means being strong enough to set limits on our children's behavior. Through limits, our children learn self control, and respect for us. Without limits, children continue to push the boundaries looking for where we will finally set the limits. And if we never set limits at all, our children believe that we don't care enough to set them. So practice that balance for healthy and effective parenting. Be the loving, authority in your child's life.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016
As I was walking my dog this morning, I came across this freshly cut tree stump. It caused me to reflect. This stump revealed to me that this tree was healthy and strong. It was not rotting from the inside out. It had laid down ring after ring of years of experiences. My prayer is that if I were to gaze inside each of my children I would see the same thing, that my children are strong and healthy from the inside out. That they have what it takes to weather the winds of this confusing and at times depressing world. That their self identity will continue to support them in their life paths.
As parents, don't we all hope and pray for this to be the result of our shared time with our children? We all go through the moments and days and years trying to build resilience and strength into our children from the inside out. We want them to lay down rings that speak to their self worth, their talents and abilities, their hopes and dreams. We want their rings to connect to their roots--to us their parents, to their aunts and uncles, and grandparents. The generations of those who walked before us and sacrificed and loved and pushed forward their hopes and dreams and ideals in order that we may become all we were meant to become and in turn grow another generation dedicated to the future hopefulness of our collective existence.
But forming strong rings in our children requires an element of struggle. Children who have everything provided to them and are expected to contribute nothing, do not grow strong rings. Children who have parents who solve every issue and rush in to always make everything better, do not grow strong rings. As difficult as it is to hear, children grow rings through pain. Children grow rings through struggle. Children grow rings through perseverance and work. Children grow rings through controlled rebellion and parental love, nurturing and authority. Children grow rings through a spiritual life. Children grow rings through valuable friendships and positive social interactions--and sometimes by weathering the storms of disappointment in failed friendships and peer relationships.
I hope that as parents, we all can understand the value of raising our children to have strong rings and deep roots, for our good and all the good that is to come into each of our children's lives.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Childhood is a wonderful time. It is a time of innocence and pretend play. It is a time for imagination and creativity. It is a time to feel safe and loved and cared for by your parents. Don't selfishly sacrifice this wonderful time in your child's life because you want to see a movie. Don't pretend that you are being "nice" to your child by including him/her in your movie outings that feature content that is not appropriate. Don't let your child grow up too fast...because you don't monitor or limit his/her media exposure. Allowing your child to swear and act like an edgy, rebellious teenager does not make YOU look cool. This isn't about you...it is about your child. Be an adult. Be a parent. Be a protector. Protect your child from dark and inappropriate messages and content.
Childhood is precious. Childhood is fleeting. Childhood should be protected by a parent who is acting like a superhero...the responsible, caring, unselfish hero that cares about the impacts of his/her actions.
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Thursday, February 11, 2016
Her mother was engrossed in reading some tag on a novelty candle. Even though the little girl asked repeatedly, the mother did not look at her, answer her, engage with her in anyway. She was completely and 100% ignoring her child. This was not a split second observation. I continued to walk through the store and even from across the store I could still here the child sweetly pleading with the mom to come and see this incredibly exciting robot.
Could you imagine if, as a preschool teacher I did that to my students? Could you imagine if I treated a friend that way? What gives the parent the right to tune out the words of their child? What gives a parent the right to disrespect this little life that they created by completely, 100% ignoring her? Is the mom bored of being a mom? Is the mom tired of her darling little girl?
I understand parenting can be taxing. I get that it can be exhausting and boring and repetitive. But if you don't see your children as a blessing to your life. If you can't give them your best self. If you don't have the energy to think about someone else, and sacrifice for that someone else, and be devoted and caring and loving towards that someone else...don't become a parent.
Parenting requires maturity. Parenting requires sacrifice. Parenting is not easy. Don't become a parent if you aren't committed to being a good one.
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Follow my facebook page at: facebook.com/SplashParentingPrinciples
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
As a preschool teacher, and as a mother, I find myself worried about the violence in our society. Often, I feel a sense of powerlessness when I hear about shootings that are happening with alarming frequency in my city/state/country. I wonder why we are such a gun crazed society that willingly accepts the licensing of our drivers, but radically fights the licensing of our gun owners, requiring gun safety instruction and mental health background checks, and regulating gun sales. Isn't owning a gun just as much of a responsibility as driving a car? But I am not a politician. I am not a powerful lobbyist. I am not a well connected political insider. I am just a mom, and a preschool teacher. So I have decided that there is something I can do.
I can choose to not allow any type of violence in my home or classroom. I can choose to teach my children and students that violence is never the right answer. I can choose to not spank my children-- because spanking is using violent means to control another person's behavior. I can stop my students from playing pretend games of shooting and throwing bombs, and rather encourage them to create things with blocks, paint pictures with their little hands, put on dress up clothes and pretend they are a mommy or firefighter or chef in the kitchen. I can speak with other parents about the movies we show to our children, and the toys we buy for them. Hopefully, I can make a difference by asking parents to examine their own homes and toy cabinets along with their attitudes about guns and violence.
Are you glorifying violence in your home? Or are you teaching your little ones to think and create and dream and believe in a brighter future. If our generation cannot figure these problems out, maybe our only hope is in our children. So please raise them to believe that education and creativity and love for one another always trumps violence. No matter what the toy companies want you to believe.
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Thursday, January 7, 2016
My favorite week of the school year was this week! It is the week after Winter break, and my preschoolers are so happy to be back in school. It always is such a joy to welcome them back to the fun and security of our classroom. But why are young children so thrilled to be back in the classroom? It seems counterintuitive to think they would actually prefer a classroom to time at home to play with their own toys, and have the attention of their own parents and siblings. The reasons are clear to me after many years of teaching...and they are the secrets that parents can benefit from. If parents take the time to understand these lessons, they can offer their children a happier childhood. Sounds like a pretty big promise, but from years of experience, I can guarantee these lessons are timeless and effective:
LESSON 1: ROUTINES: Children thrive on routines. They understand them. They feel confident when they understand things. They feel secure and happy when they know what to expect.
PARENTING ACTION: Give your child the benefit of following a routine at home. A daily schedule offers your young child the same benefits that we see at preschool. Children like to know what their day will look like, what they will be doing, who will be caring for them, where they will be going. Often times, we parents drag little ones around from here to their and don't realize that they might want or need to know what the day will bring.
LESSON 2: COMMUNICATION: Children benefit from spoken language. Everyday in our classroom, we spend our time talking and listening to our preschoolers. We ask them questions and encourage them to verbally share their ideas. We wait for them to "use their words" rather than respond to a pointed finger. We play games and have "show and tell" where they have to speak in front of their peers. We celebrate them finding their voices--each at their own pace. We offer them a safe environment for taking verbal chances. No one will ignore or laugh at them when they speak. We are eager to communicate with them.
PARENTING ACTION: The more conversations you have with them, the better--and conversations include listening to them speak back to you. Research has clearly shown that children who converse with their parents beginning at an early age have higher vocabularies and over time perform better in school. You are establishing important patterns for your children when you take the time to converse with them.
LESSON 3: PLAYTIME: Children need play. It is their "work". They learn from it. They need time to imagine and create and experiment. This week we had our sand table open and they flocked to it like bees to a garden. They couldn't stay away. Next week it might be blocks or the train table or legos. In any case, they relish playtime. They want to interact, and create, and enjoy time playing with others. We have NO ELECTRONICS in our classroom--and they don't ever ask for anything related to online gaming. They need real experiences...not screen time.
PARENTING ACTION: Allow time for your children to play. Dragging them from one activity to the next until they are exhausted is not enriching their lives as much as simple playtime. They need time to play. They need playdates with other children or cousins or neighborhood friends. They need time to pretend and create and relax and imagine and dream. They do not need more apps on your smart phone. Value real experiences and steer away from virtual playthings. Children need real interactions and real experiences. There will be plenty of time for online experiences later.
Being a preschool teacher is such a joy. I am so blessed to be able to share moments of happiness and learning with these precious little ones. I hope that through my observations, you will be inspired to give your little one more of what he/she truly needs.
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