Parenting Success and Not-as-Much Success

I have a couple of stories to share: one about a parenting victory that is worth celebrating; an occasion where I feel like my child got it right. The other story: an occasion where I see that I’ve missed the mark and my child did not get it right.

Let me first begin with the success:

My 8-year-old, Jocelin, came home from school the other day and told me that a nice boy she has become friends with asked her if she would marry him when they grew up.

(Note: I wanted to include some pictures of Jocelin. Turns-out, the only pictures I have of her by herself are ones she has taken while holding the camera – and therefore are close ups!!)

Now, some explanation is required for you to fully appreciate the end of this story. We have talked about the issue of girls and boys many times in our household. The subject of boyfriends and girlfriends is probably one area that I’m prone to over-parenting, because of how I was as a child/teen…

I can remember chasing boys on the playground in Kindergarten and trying to kiss them, they would, in turn, do the same to us girls and we would giggle and wave good-bye at the end of recess feeling like we had the best time ever. I can still see Craig Schwartensky (yes, that was his name) acting all silly as the pack of girls would blow kisses as he lined up to go back inside the school.

For me, my desire to have a boy of interest in my life began then – in Kindergarten!! Throughout my childhood years adult relatives and family friends would ask me if I had a boyfriend, of course in a harmless and cutsie kind of way, but I began to feel like I was always supposed to have a crush on someone and should indeed always be looking for a boyfriend.

Turns out, that became the story of my life. I have several friends that can attest to my boy-crazy personality from the time I was a child and especially in my middle school, high school, and college years.

Since I can trace many undesirable qualities and actions to my early misplaced affections on boys, I’ve really worked at addressing this topic with my kids.

Before they start school, we discuss how they can have friends that are boys/girls but there is no need to call them a boyfriend/girlfriend since the reason to have a boyfriend/girlfriend is in preparation to find a spouse and I don’t believe they are going to get married any time soon. Now, I realize the subject of dating is a whole other can of worms, one I am not going to open in this post!

So, I’ve taught my kids to have some tools in response to a child who asks, “Will you be my girlfriend/boyfriend.” Or more importantly, to respond to other kids who say, “Oooh, is that your boyfriend/girlfriend?”

The response is simple, “No, but I’ll be your friend,” or “No, we’re just friends.” I also suggest they can say, “I’m not old enough to have a boyfriend/girlfriend,” but I’m not sure if they actually say that.

I realize many people feel these type of interactions with grade-school kids are harmless, but I found, for myself  as a young child, that I began to feel like an outsider if I wasn’t always liking some boy. And, for me, this “harmless” desire did not die off once I was old enough to actually start dating; instead it was a match to a big fire and I got burned

Okay, now that you have some understanding of the back-story, let’s return to what Jocelin did when her schoolmate asked if she would marry him.

“Will you marry me when we get older?” “No,” she said, “If you ask me to marry you when I’m 8, my Dad will get you.” (This made Bradley so proud he can hardly stand it).

For further explanation, she said, “And it’s God’s choice for a husband, not mine.” Woo, hoo! That’s my girl, you tell him! I could not have said it better. You are listening and confidently standing up for yourself! I’m so proud of you.

One victory down, umpteen thousand more to go.

Well, since this post is plenty long, I’ll write about my sweet Brooklyn and her not-as-successful story in my next post! Tune-in…

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A Frightened Child

As I sat down to continue working on this post this morning, I realized that my post about being scared coincides with Halloween. That was not planned – I’m not that mindful or that cheezy. Well I guess I can be that cheezy, but I was not meaning to be in this case!

This post is in reference to a comment from my new friend Danielle: Okay, what do you do with a child that has a tendency to develop fears or phobias. The first one we noticed was the deathly fear of stick horses, screamed every time she saw one. Next she hates her sister’s infant bath. Cries during her bath time “Move Jessie’s bath”. She doesn’t like her bath-time anymore, stays in long enough to get washed. We have tried moving it, hiding it, ignoring the problem, reasoning with her, singing songs hoping they would distract. She still cries. Also it’s the dogs when they bark and the cows when they moo and oh we can’t forget thunder. Hates them all and cries. I am pretty sure she cries more than my two month old. She finally got over the stick horses when her friends started playing with them. Any input?

First of all, it is important to note that this is super normal for Audrey’s age (18 months – 2ish). Everything is new to them and so they can get scared of things easily – especially if they became scared once before by the specific thing or something similar. So even though it doesn’t seem rational to have a fear of a stick-horse or an infant bath (both of which are too cute to me but probably not as cute to you anymore!), your sweet girl probably has a rational reason for being scared.

It seems like you are doing the right things.  If you aren’t already, I suggest  talking about the “scary” thing before it happens.  For instance, before you head into the bathroom for bath-time, you can talk to her about it. Say something like: “Audrey, we are going to go take a bath, I’ve put Jessie’s bath away and so you don’t need to cry, you’ll be just fine and Mommy’s here with you.”

My next thought on what you can do when your child gets scared: watch your reaction. I had a friend over to my house the other day with her sweet boy and a baby that she watches. In the time they were visiting, both the toddler and the baby fell down and got a bump and her reaction to them was fantastic.

I saw/listened to her go to both of them calmly, not rush quickly to them as I usually do, and with a super-chipper tone, just simply said, “You’re okay.” And that was it. She didn’t say, “oh did you fall” (which is what I usually do), she didn’t rush to them panicy, she just calmly tended to them and they were okay in mere seconds.

It was in watching these children calm down so quickly that revealed to me that she was doing something right, and I was not doing that thing since my girls will literally cry for a full minute if they get a scratch that is so small I can’t even find it!! So I assessed myself for a few day and realized that I tend to:

  • focus on the boo-boo and say “what did you hurt” or “oh what happened”
  • run quickly in to swoop them up
  • make a bigger deal out of it than I should – So now, my girls do the same: they overreact to any minor ouchie.

What my friend did right was to:

  • reassure the child that she was there
  • offer comfort but not over-do it (even just rubbing their back put not picking them up)
  • keep herself upbeat and calm so the child knew they were okay by her reaction

The other thing I realized, a few years ago,  was that I used the words “scared” or “afraid” when I was directing my kids to do something: “Sit down, I’m afraid you’ll fall.” “Don’t touch that, I’m scared it will break.” etc. Now, this may seem trivial, but what I noticed was that I was using these words out of context.  I was not fearful they would fall/break something, I just didn’t want them to do what they were doing; but I was teaching them that I was scared quite a bit instead of communicating what I meant in reality.  So I changed my phrasing: “Please sit down, I don’t want you to fall.” And I took “scared” and “afraid” out of my vocabulary as much as possible.

I know changing your words can seem very minor, but I do fully believe that the tongue has the power of life and death. I just didn’t want to go on speaking fear into so many situations of my kids lives.

On a different note, Danielle, in your specific case, it seems like Audrey is sensitive to sounds. Watch her reaction to loud noises to see if this holds true. So maybe the sound of the bath filling up is too loud for her and that is what she doesn’t like – easy fix: fill it up before you take her in there. Now, you can’t fix each loud-noise situation, but if you are aware of her tendency, then you may more understand why she cries or gets scared.

When Mason was around this age, we were at a stoplight when an ambulance came through and honked their horn SUPER loud. We all jumped but he started scream/crying instantly.  We live close to a fire station and every time he would hear the fire trucks, he would scream/cry – even if he was asleep.  He probably did this for a year and it finally donned on me that it stemmed from the initial encounter with the ambulance.

Brooklyn, as she entered this age, also became scared of the sirens, so I started telling her, “That’s just the fire truck, it’s ok.” But then I realized that I never said anything else, so to her, a fire truck only meant something loud that came by our house a lot and scared her. So then I started telling her, “That’s the fire truck, they are on their way to help some one and they are telling everyone to move over so they can go help quicker.” Once she realized they were going to help someone, not just drive by our house and make loud noises, she didn’t seem scared any more.

So, you might see if there is a way to add some explanation to the scary situations so that she might more understand what they are actually for – not just to frighten her.  Good luck with the explanation on the mooing!!

Now, Danielle, I have no idea if these suggestions will be useful in helping Audrey. Whether it applies to this specific situation or not, I thought these things were worth mentioning for all the parents reading. Just watching my friend with her two little ones certainly changed they way I react to the everyday bumps and frights that my little babes encounter. I can’t wait to hear more about cute Audrey and her freedom from phobias!

“Use Your Words”

This post is in response to the following comment:

Okay, so Eva came to me this morning with a good question: what should she do when she is playing with something and another kid takes it away. I don’t want to teach her to be a tattle-tail but I also don’t want to teach her to just let people walk all over her either. What should I tell her to do in a situation like this?

These are my ideas on this comment in general. Most of these concepts can be used with a child 18 months (or even younger), but some of them are for children a bit older: 3-4 years and up.

One of my mantras is, “use your words.” (I begin saying this when my child starts grunting at something or screaming at someone.) At our house, we have plenty of occurrences of someone taking another person’s item.  What I teach my kidos is to “use your words.”

This means:

  • First they should try to work it out themselves with words. I help them learn what to say for a while: “May I have my toy back please?” “I was playing with that, may I have it back?” Of course the tone of the words is a key in this process too.  I say, “You have to use kind-sounding words.” In my world, the tendency is to say, in a whining/mean voice, “Give it back!” So my reply is, “How could you say that in a better way?”
  • Also, if they just try to pull the toy away, I say, “Instead of taking the toy, what should you do if you want to play with that toy?” Teach them to say, “May I have a turn please?”

(Applicable for around 3+ years) If my kids try to work it out, on their own, and still can’t find a solution, then they may come and ask me for help.  To help with the tattling issue, a good idea is to have the child needing help to come and say, “I need your help getting my toy back,” instead of “He took my toy!”

Sometimes one of my children will come to me saying sibling-A did this or that.  The first thing I say is, “Did you try to work it out?” If the answer is no, they have to go back and try to work it out themselves.

And if you hear them doing it the right way, you run in with praise-galore.  “Great job. I like how you worked that out. That is excellent!” Always, always, always praise good behavior.  Praising good behavior is a huge key to keeping the bad behaviors at bay.

A side-note on tattling:

  • If two of my kids come in tattling on each other, I stop them and then they are only allowed to say what they did, not what the other person did.  I usually have to remind them of this a few times as they are recounting the details.  So this is what it might be like: “Mom, he hit me.” Then I say, “Ok, tell me what happened, what were you doing when he hit you?”

The reality is, you will not be able to help them solve every problem so you have to teach them how to deal with the situations on their own. So, to keep your child from telling on every wrong that happens to them, you can teach them to try to work it out themselves and if a kid/sibling is still being unkind, then your child should just walk away and go find another toy or someone else to play with.

If after trying all of the tools they know of, a child still is causing them trouble, they may go and ask for help (again not tattling on what the other person did, but asking for help).

Remember, this is a process that will take time to teach your child(ren) and my kids still need reminders about the correct way the majority time.  They do get it right on their own sometimes though!!!!

Now, I am no expert on tattling and still feel like my family needs much work in this area, so for those of you who have some good no-tattling techniques, please share!

Sibling Play/ Siblings vs. Friends

Here is a comment from my friend Amy:
I have two boys who are two years apart. The youngest adores his brother and wants to be right on his heels. The oldest gets annoyed by the youngest and shows it by yelling, pushing, or saying mean things. Or he refuses to play with him at all. He also joins up with his neighbor buddies (who are older than both my boys) and tells his younger brother that he’s a baby. So, the youngest comes in crying because he’s not being treated fairly. ONGOING CYCLE!!!

Okay, so I have a few random ideas on this subject, but no example of like, “oh, my kids do this same thing; here is what worked for me.”

1. We have a rule around our house that sibling treatment is most important.  I feel like some kids can be tough enough to get along with; a brother or sister should not be a part of that group.  At our house, we talk about not joining up with a friend to gang up on a brother or sister.  If we see that action, it is instant removal from the friend/situation.

2.  I also do not think it is fair for a sibling to be required to play with his/her siblings all the time.  So Amy, in your example, maybe Isaac gets to play with the boys down the street for 15 minutes, or so, alone, while Josiah gets some quality time with you or something fun to do during that time.  Here’s my hypothetical example, “You (Isaac) can go play with the boys down the street for 15 minutes.  When that time is up, Josiah will be coming to play too.  You can treat him with kindness and let him be a part, or you will be done playing and come home.”

3. I think this same concept of independent time can also be so great at home too. Allow each child time for alone-play.  This can be scheduled into each day – or maybe weekends since that is when school kids are all home together.  We like to have room-time (I’ll make another post for a full explanation of room-time soon), or sometimes, if I just see the need arise, I’ll just tell everyone to go to their room and play by themselves for a certain amount of time.  I usually set a timer for 15-25 minutes.

My Jocelin (the oldest) likes to play by herself the most (maybe it’s a 1st child thing). So sometimes I tell her that I’ll set a timer and she can play alone for that time. After the timer goes off, she needs to be ready to play with her brother and sisters.

4. General comments on sibling relationships:

  • Specifically in my home, we have to work a lot on not delighting in the pain or irritation of a sibling.  I am frequently saying, “You may not be a bothersome (or pesky) brother.” We also talk about the heart issue if you are glad someone is hurting at your expense.

How could this sweet boy be pesky?!

  • I believe that siblings can be loving and kind to one another – in general of course. Relationships with siblings are such good practice for so many other relationships.
  • And, of course, the golden rule is so appropriate here too.  I say often, “How would you feel if you were the one being made fun of or the one being left out?”, etc.
  • I try to think how I feel about my relationships: I like to have quality time, one-on-one with my friends from time to time and I most definitely need time to retreat and refresh all by myself.  Now, finding that time with 4 sweet kidos is a whole different issue, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t need it!

Okay-so hopefully this will give you some ideas.  Let us know what you try and what works.

Also, for the other moms who have found some good ways to encourage sibling play, please give us your suggestions.

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