Posts Tagged With: parenting

Learn About The Night Sky With Constellation Collector Cards and Astronomy Fast Facts!

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Simple, bejeweled constellations on rounds of cardstock add a tactile (and glittering!) experience for learning new things about the night sky!  Add a few reference facts on the back of each card and you may just be answering questions about the mythical story of Andromeda at the dinner table…

Greetings star lovers! Captain has been interested in the solar system, stars and constellations lately, and this project really goes nicely with the process. Stars really do twinkle up there in the sky, and why not have a little fun with some simple supplies to stimulate the imagination?

I got the idea to make constellation “rounds” from designer, and artist, Dina Edens of Country Eden. In her version, the stars of the constellations are made by using a hole-puncher, which means you can hold them up to any light and behold the lovely shapes of the pictures in the sky. Click here to see Dena’s cool astronomy punch-hole cards for kids.

To make our version you will need:

Cardstock in blue or black (we used a heavy “textured” cardstock and they came out nice and sturdy)

A glass, pencil, scissors, hole-puncher, ruler, fine black sharpie, book of constellations (pictures and facts) or internet, and adhesive jewels (*see photo below of the Recollections brand adhesive jewel pack that we purchased from Michael’s Crafts for $6.95.  It has a nice assortment of sizes, and plenty of leftovers for other projects)

A “toilet chain” key chain, string, or a thin, old bracelet (which is what we had on hand to use 🙂 )

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Trace the glass onto the cardstock and cut out your rounds. This is an ongoing project for us, as it is fun and relaxing to make a few at a time and talk about them for a while. Using photos or drawings, draw the stars onto the cards and use a ruler to add the lines.  Older kids can do this part themselves. For the littles, a parent, or other helper, can draw the constellations for them. Do this all in pencil so that you can erase a bit to get them as accurate as possible.

Go over your lines and star “dots” with the black sharpie and write the name of the constellation and stars onto the card.

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Help your child choose sizes and apply the jewels to represent the real stars. On the backs of the cards, write a little bit about the particular constellation. There are so many things to learn!

Here are a few fast facts about stars and constellations to share with your little astronomer!

1. Stars are gaseous spheres that appear close to each other, but they can really be millions of miles from each other!

2. Some star formations appear to form the outlines of figures, and observers throughout history have given these shapes the name “constellation”.

3. Constellations are usually named after mythological characters, people, animals and objects. In different parts of the world, people have made up different shapes out of the same groups of bright stars. It’s kind of like connecting the dots!

4. In the past, these “pictures” in the night sky helped people navigate and keep track of the seasons.

5. Stars are composed mostly of gas and plasma, a super heated state of matter made up of subatomic particles. Cool!

6. Our planet’s sun is a star.

7. Why do stars appear to be different colors? Because their temperatures are not all the same. Hot stars shine white or blue, cooler stars appear to have orange or red hues.

8. Stars occur in many sizes, which are classified in a range from dwarfs to supergiants!

9. The constellation Andromeda is named after a mythical princess who was chained to a rock as an offering to a sea monster called Cetus. The star Alpheratz marks her head, and with binoculars, you can see lines of stars marking her chained, outstretched arms. The constellation also holds the Andromeda Galaxy. At 2.5 million light years away, it is the farthest object visible to the naked eye. The name Andromeda means “The Chained Princess”!

10. How many stars are out there?

According to astronomers, there are probably more than 170 billion galaxies in the observable Universe, stretching out into a region of space 13.8 billion light-years away from us in all directions. And so, if you multiply the number of stars in our galaxy by the number of galaxies in the Universe, you get approximately 1024 stars. That’s a 1 followed by twenty-four zeros. That’s a septillion stars!

But there could be way more than that, and isn’t that delicious to think about?

Cosmic Cheers to all,

Karen

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Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Visit a Street-Artist!

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Who wouldn’t love to capture themselves in cartoon? I want to share an inexpensive, and really fun, idea for a wonderful memento of a city visit. If you live in a big city, or have plans to go with your kids, perhaps you’ll try a visit to a street artist!

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Captain and I had a wonderful time last year in the great city of San Francisco! We were lucky enough to go with Captain’s two Grandmas (the “Grandma Patrol”) and we stayed in a lovely hotel and got to experience many wonderful sights. One thing we did was to stop at the stand of a street artist, who sketched our portrait, capturing us in all of our pink-cheeked, freckled wonder. The experience itself is delightful, especially for us mountain-dwellers, for we sat surrounded by the powerful smells of coffee, flowers, baked goods, and salty ocean air, mixed with the exhaust of passing busses and cars, all topped with a slight whiff of urine. There were people everywhere, going by with intense briefcases, baskets of apples, rolls of paper, and flowers in their hair. There was a single man’s black leather shoe in a bush, as though placed there as a little sculpture of imagination. I still think about that perfect shoe in that exquisite bush. Fantastic!!

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We only paid $20 (including a tip!) for the sketch & matte frame, and the experience itself was priceless. Even though we live in a remote forest-cabin and relish the excitement and energy of city visits, I think that someone who lives in a place large enough to support street artists would enjoy doing this with their kids. If I could, I would do this one time each year, just to see the little cartoon face of my daughter change with age, the seasons and the particular artist who sketched for us. Our artist was a wonderful man, who told us all about his life and artwork. Doing street-sketches is how he earns money to live and to pursue his true artistic endeavors. He was quiet and reserved at first, but when I asked a few questions, without prying, we ended up sharing all kinds of interesting things about our lives and travel. Oh how I love people!!!

IMG_0691So if you get the chance, go out and support your local artists, in whatever form they choose to express themselves, earn income, and make memories for our families. I would like to wish our artist, who would rather his name not be mentioned, good travels and let him know that a couple of pine trees are waving to him from the Sequoias!

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

DIY: Mom & Me Journal!

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In the photo, Captain and I are BOTH inside my shirt..

Here is our version of the “Mom & Me” journal!  Basically, it is a composition notebook with a label on the front for you and your child to write notes, letters, share pictures, etc. I made this one morning, wrote a note inside inviting Captain to share notes with me, anytime we feel like it, and left it on her bed. She was thrilled and sat in bed for a long time with a pencil, drawing pictures and writing notes. We have had it for about 6 months already and both love it. Sometimes we forget about it and a lot of time passes before one of us adds something to it, and that is just perfect. There is no pressure to do anything but tell each other little things…  She has written notes to ask me to make her favorite dinner, which I love! There are so many “I love you’s” and pictures of our dogs. It is also surprising how some honest, hard to talk about, things can come up. There is something safe for kids to be able to write down some feelings and ideas that they have a hard time saying in person. They KNOW their mom (or Dad) will see it, but don’t have to talk about it, just yet.

I think this notebook idea could be adapted to boys simply by changing the colors and making it suit their personality more. It would be really easy to make a “Dad & Me” notebook as well! Because it is a solid book, clearly marked, it doesn’t get lost in all of the other paper and notes that seem to fly around our cabin!  I am especially looking forward to reading it again one day when Captain is all grown up. What a wonderful keepsake! I got the idea from Mama Jenn on her blog, and she got the idea from another, who got the idea from another…

I do hope you try this.  It is fun and pretty special.

Here’s to good memories (and notes that state that a certain someone would rather NOT clean up her room, complete with little, drawn, grumpy faces… love it!)

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Positive Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Ammonites Rock! 10 Fast Facts For Kids…. Plus Ammonite Craft and Homeschooling Note

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Ancient, and beautiful, ammonites!

Have an interest in prehistoric carnivores? We certainly do! Learning about ammonites is wonderful, and interesting, for kids of all ages, and there is a lot of available information to be found. Captain and I have been talking about ammonites a lot lately, and we have been doing an ammonite art project as well.  We will share our ammonite art project on a post very soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for it!  Here we go….

Ammonite Fast Facts:

1. Ammonites were predatory, squid-like creatures that lived inside coil-shaped shells.

2. Ammonites had (very sharp!) beak-like jaws inside a ring of tentacles that extended from their shells to snatch prey.

3. They ate small fish and crustaceans.  (Crustaceans are animals that usually have a hard covering, or exoskeleton, and two pairs of antennas, or feelers, like crabs, lobsters, and shrimps.)

4. Ammonites constantly built new shell as they grew, but only lived in the outer chamber.

5. Some ammonites could grow as large as 3 feet (1 meter) across! Scientists suspect that creatures such as the giant mosasaur Tylosaurus preyed on them.

6. A group of ammonites was called a “school”, just like fish.

7. Ammonites scooted through the shallow seas by squirting jets of water from their bodies. A thin tube-like structure called a siphuncle (sounds cool!) reached into the ammonites inner chambers to pump and siphon air that helped them move through the water.

8. Female ammonites grew up to 400% larger than males.  Could this have been to make room to lay eggs?

9. Ammonites first appeared about 240 million years ago!

10. They went extinct with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.  Scientists use ammonite shells to help date other fossils.

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Ammonites are among the most abundant fossils found today and they are amazing! Try drawing a simple coil and turn it into a colorful ammonite. How big would it have been? What did it hunt to eat that day?

Ammonite Fossil Ornaments:  You can make a craft dough with your kids (recipe here), roll it out and make ammonites!  Cut out a simple shape, like the one above, and have the child etch a deep coil into the dough. Alternately, you can have kids roll out dough “snakes” and coil them tightly and scratch the lines on it with the tines of a fork. Follow the recipe instructions for baking and painting. Perhaps the pre-cooked dough could be pressed into some sand for texture?  Or a bit of food coloring could be added to the dough. Or, something we have been meaning to try: adding brown food coloring to the dough, then coiling into an ammonite and pressing the raw dough into dirt or red clay before baking.

Before I say goodbye, I would like to add a homeschooling note. Captain first became interested in ammonites because of her Auntie Sheryl. It was when she was two years old that they first began to talk about them together at family gatherings. Auntie would print information for her, and bring ammonites to show her. She would hold Captain in her lap and let her play with her ammonite jewelry. Because of her Aunt, Captain gained an interest in learning about ancient things that is much deeper than zipping through “subjects’ because she was interested, curious, and wanting more. As homeschooling parents, my husband and I cannot possibly know all of the things we should be teaching our daughter.  I was afraid of this very idea about a year ago, when we really had to decide about what we were going to do about school/unschool/ANY school!  How could we know what to do? We aren’t scientists, artists, or mathematicians! Family, friends, tutors, and cool people in general, are vital to teaching kids. Exposure to other people’s ideas, art, interests, and skills really do change the lives of kids. Within the circles of our family and friends, we know so many people who have so much to offer.  Our job is to be sure that our daughter gets to spend as much time as she can with the people that can light her up with what they know, and sometimes, something very special will happen too.  Children benefit from being connected to their place in their family history as well. I don’t think my daughter will ever look at an ammonite and not remember her Aunt Sheryl.  Prehistoric carnivores and family love. What more could I ask for?

Good thoughts, Karen
Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Our Homeschooling Plan, Science Rocks For Kids!, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Captain: “Mom, take my picture! I just drew on my face with markers and became a lion!” Me: You look great, but did you use permanent markers?” Captain: “I don’t know. Let’s find out!”

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A happy Saturday to all from Sequoia National Forest!

Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

Babies Communicate! The Importance of the “Stop Hand”

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Sweet baby Captain telling me very clearly that I was being too loud.

When my husband and I discovered we were pregnant back in 2007, we were thrilled and appropriately nervous.  How could two people who had been living alone in a remote cabin in the forest, miles from town or other people, who had absolutely NO experience with kids, have a baby and raise it together in a healthy, happy and safe way? We had the most basic components: love, healthy relationships and excitement to welcome a new life into our family, but there were so many things to learn!  I would like to share one of the things that was very clear, easy to respond to, and helped us tremendously to listen to our baby, before she was able to use words, or other gestures, to tell us what was going on.  We called it the “stop hand”.

I spent a lot of my pregnancy in the mountains, without a lot of interaction with other people, while my husband was working during the days.  I was not alone however!  I was in the good company of 4 dogs, 2 cats, a load of chickens, and 2 beautiful geese named Ping and Vail.  The male goose, Ping, was my constant companion, as I sat in camp chairs outside reading.  He would honk at my big tummy and try to get my attention as I poured through birth and baby books.  Someone had given me a copy of Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child by Katie Allison Granju, Betsy Kennedy and William Sears, for which I will always be grateful.  The ideas presented really rang true for me, and just seemed like the right thing to do.  Co-sleeping, baby wearing, breastfeeding and elimination communication, among other things, were not hard practices to want to do.  Every parent makes different choices and these were just ones that struck an instant chord for us.  I plan to share our personal experience in elimination communication, and other natural parenting choices we made, at a different time.

Listening to our baby’s cues and doing our best in general helped us through a far from ideal birth experience, both mine and my husband’s postpartum depression, and endless sleepless nights.  What I want to focus on in this post is a specific cue that our daughter gave us as a baby, without words, to communicate that something was bothering her, before she started to fuss and cry.  It was the “stop hand”.  As you can see in the photo, Captain had her hand, palm out, open and nestled against her cheek. She was telling us “please stop”.  She would do this while awake, or asleep, to tell us if a noise was too loud, a movement or environment was making her uncomfortable, she didn’t want to be touched a certain way, or if she generally just wanted something to stop.  If we acknowledged this cue and stopped whatever it was that she didn’t like immediately, she was fine and would continue to sleep or go about her baby business.  If not, she would crinkle up like a piece of pink tissue paper and cry.

My husband and I started noticing the “stop hand” being used by other babies on our trips to town.  Once, we were picking up Grandma from the airport and saw a family with a tiny, brand new baby in a car seat carrier. The baby’s parents were hugging the grandparents, and we could see how hard it was for them all to say goodbye. The baby started to fuss in his sleep.  His mom suddenly reached for the straps and quickly lifted his still sleeping body from the carrier to hold him up to everyone for one last look. The stop hand immediately shot to his little cheek and stayed there for quite a while, as though trying to ward off the ooohs and ahhhs, before he crinkled up and wailed in misery.  I remember my husband whispering to me, “Oh look at the stop hand over there!”  We weren’t judging the parents at all as they were sadly saying goodby to loved ones, but we noticed how clear it was that the baby did not want to be touched while sleeping peacefully.

One other time that comes to mind was when I was in a Costco one day. Costco, with its bright lights and warehouse shopping vibe, probably isn’t very comfy for a babe anyways, but I saw a mom talking with a friend and all the while she was pushing the tiny baby back and forth rhythmically in the stroller to “soothe” him.  Each time she pushed and pulled the stroller, she would stop it with her foot and it would go bump, whooosh, bump , whoosh….  The women were admiring the baby, who had a stop hand pressed to his cheek like a little shield. He was sleeping, but starting to wake and really wasn’t ready yet.  I heard his mom say, “I wonder why he always puts his hand on his face like that?” and, 30 seconds later he was screaming.  Again, no judgement here, it is just something we noticed!

The “stop hand” baby cue seems to be fairly common and it helped us soooo much with Captain to recognize it!  It is a wonderful thing to respond to some of the things that babies are “saying”.  Reading their cues helps keep them happier and feeling secure. I would love to hear more about the cues we can experience with babies from any parents who care to share.  I am happy to say that Captain is 5 now and healthy, happy and doing great.  It is funny that still, on occasion, we see the stop hand pop out while she is sleeping.  It just happened the other night when she fell asleep in the car and I picked her up to carry her into the house.  Ohhhh little stop hand! It just fills my heart with the love and tenderness that I have felt toward her for all these years to see that little hand on her cheek!

I wish gentle love to all babies out there, and health and happiness to the children they become.

Good thoughts, Karen

Categories: Positive Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Look What I Keep In My Mama-Car-Pack! …What’s in Yours?

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From safety kit & spare toothbrush to change o’ clothes & coloring book, it may look like a heap, but it fits neatly into a little bag!

It was a vomit explosion! Yes, we were bumping down the road and, with no warning, my little girl went “braaahhhh” all over herself, the seat, the floor… well, you get the idea. Poor thing. She was okay, be we still had about 40 minutes of driving left and a big mess to clean up. I was never so grateful for my mom’s car-pack than at that moment. I was able to give her a piece of ginger gum, wipe her down and get her into clean clothes. I also had a towel and the wipes came in handy as well. All the messy stuff went into the plastic bag, she had some water and we were on our way.

I want to share what I keep in my personal “Mom-Car-Pack”. It has changed over the years, as she has grown, and this is what we feel we need to get down the road with a 5 year old. Any parents out there who care to share what they find useful for their pack, please write in here as we would love to hear new ideas!

Here are our essentials, which pack nicely into one of those thin “book bags” that we often get at events, but don’t really have a use for!

1. Safety kit including: Scooby Doo bandaids, neosporin, thermometer, Arnica cream, sunscreen stick, nail clippers, tweezers, Hyland’s bumps ‘n bruises ointment, ginger gum (for upset tummies), spare toothbrush & travel toothpaste.

2. Change of clothes, including undies, socks, pants, t-shirt & sweater.

3. Towel, rolled up tightly and secured with 2 rubber bands (never know when you’ll need a rubber band!).

4. Sani-wipes.

5. Activities (In case of car trouble, or other delay): Brand new coloring book, 2 packs of stickers, small packs of crayons & markers.

6. 4 travel tissue packs.

7. A small bowl with lid, spork & knife and a couple of “emergency” snacks like little cracker packets & raisins

8. FLASHLIGHT with hand-crank and/or spare batteries

9. Swiss army knife (can’t leave home without that!)

10. Couple of plastic bags

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I drive a Volvo so my little bag fits right in behind the seat. I should note that if you live in a hot climate (like California!) you should be careful about storing food, creams and other heat-sensitive items. I never keep water in plastic bottles in the car because of heat and just bring it fresh when I head out the door.

So what do you keep in your car when you’re on the go? C’mon, you want to tell us!! 🙂

Happy travels, Karen

Categories: Mom's Junk Trunk | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dr. Laura Markham: How Loving Guidance Raises a Better Behaved Child

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Kids… gotta love them and can’t strangle ’em!

I want to share with you an wonderful thing I discovered last year.  It is called “Aha! Parenting” with Dr. Laura Markham.  At the time I thought I was having trouble dealing with my 4 year old daughter’s behavior, but what I was really having trouble with was my own reaction to her behavior. My wonderful friend, Annabell, shared with me the link to AHA! and I started receiving their weekly emails.  It changed my life, and that of my husband as well.  As soon as we implemented these simple things, that already reflected many of own beliefs, things changed a lot. Empathetic parenting really works! 

For example, the other night when it was time to get ready for bed, Captain was fired up and resistant.  When she saw the toothbrush she started screaming at me that I was bugging her and that she wasn’t going to brush and, quite suddenly, she smashed right into me and hit me in the stomach.  I was totally surprised and she even shocked herself and started screaming even more and crying at the same time.  Honestly, my very first thought upon being socked in the tummy was WTF?  But, I took a deep breath and put my hand on her shoulder.  She screamed again and pulled away.  I made her look into my eyes by getting down to her level, and as soon as she did she relaxed into a flop into my arms saying “I’m so sorry mom!!” First, I empathized.  I said “Honey, I know how tired you are feeling and it’s hard to get ready for bed sometimes.”  She nodded, sniffling.  Then I said “It hurts to be whammed in the tummy like you just did and we just aren’t a family that hits”.  She nodded and said “I really didn’t mean to Mom, I’m sorry if I hurt you”.  She then checked my tummy to see if it was okay and we brushed her teeth and were off to bed.

There are so many positive parenting helps and hints on Dr. Laura’s webpage.  I highly recommend signing up for her newsletter because when I receive mine each week, it somehow always seems to apply, and gentle reminders are fantastic for parents like me!  Here is the Positive Parenting page, with links, and I hope you read on.  Thanks for listening.

Good thoughts, Karen

Why Positive Parenting?

Why Positive Parenting? Because it works, from toddlers to teens.  Positive parenting raises a child who WANTS to behave.

Strict Parenting raises angry kids who lose interest in pleasing their parents.Permissive parenting raises unhappy kids who test their parents. In both cases, the child resists the parent’s guidance and doesn’t internalize self discipline.

Positive parenting — sometimes called positive discipline, gentle guidance, or loving guidance — is simply guidance that keeps our kids on the right path, offered in a positive way that resists any temptation to be punitive. Studies show that’s what helps kids learn consideration and responsibility, and makes for happier kids and parents.

“Children misbehave when they feel discouraged or powerless.  When you use discipline methods that overpower them or make them feel bad about themselves, you lower their self-esteem. It doesn’t make sense to punish a child who is already feeling badly about herself and heap more discouragement on top of her.” — Kathryn J. Kvols

Why Spanking Is Bad Parenting

When most people think of discipline, they think of physical punishment. Fear is a time honored and potent motivator, right? It certainly nips problem behavior in the bud.

But research confirms what intuition should tell us, which is that physical force teaches children all the wrong lessons. Children who are spanked learn that might makes right, that hitting is justified in some circumstances (such as when you are bigger), and that people who supposedly love you may hurt you.

Not surprisingly, study after study shows that children who are physically disciplined are more aggressive toward other children, more rebellious as teenagers, and more prone to depression and violent acting out as adults.

“But then how do kids learn lessons?”

Kids who are physically disciplined are actually less likely to learn lessons, because, as anyone who has ever been harshly punished can attest, they become obsessed with fantasies of self-justification and revenge rather than considering how to control themselves to prevent future misbehavior. Instead of becoming motivated to change and avoid the misbehavior in the future, they become motivated to avoid more punishment – not at all the same thing.

As a result, kids who are physically disciplined are not only more likely to repeat problem behavior than other kids, but are more likely to exhibit increasingly worse behavior, including deception.  If you’re still considering physical discipline, please read the section called Should You Spank Your Child?  If not, you’re probably wondering what does work.

Positive Parenting is the Most Effective Discipline to Stop Behavior Problems

“So what kind of discipline does a conscientious, compassionate parent use to coax good behavior out of immature little humans who are still developing the ability to control themselves — and are completely capable of driving you crazy?”

Every parent grapples with this issue. Discipline is one of the most googled words for parents. And even parents who refrain from physical force usually assume that discipline means some form of punishment, because our culture’s view of human nature assumes that humans must be punished so they will learn not to repeat transgressions.

But the word “discipline” has nothing to do with punishment. The root of “discipline” is “disciple,” from the verb “to teach.”

“Ok, so the question, of course, is what kind of discipline is most conducive to learning?”

Photo: Soulful

And, presumably, the ultimate goal of that learning is self-discipline, so the lesson doesn’t have to be repeated. So what helps kids stop themselves from acting in ways they know they shouldn’t? What gets them to start desirable behavior, and keep doing it?

Let’s start with the child acting in undesirable ways. When a child misbehaves, there are three possible explanations:

  • He doesn’t know what is expected of him
  • He does know but can’t control himself
  • He does know but doesn’t care.

If he doesn’t know, teaching is clearly in order: “HOT! The stove is hot!” or “We have to wait our turn for the slide.” But most teaching of this kind is modeled, as you thank Aunt Jane for inviting you, or wait for the light to turn green before you cross. Kids learn what is desirable behavior from watching you, or their classmates.

“What frustrates me is when my kids DO know the behavior is unacceptable but do it anyway!”

If he does know but can’t control himself, we need to help him learn to manage himself. But how?

Most discipline takes the attitude that children learn to control themselves by developing more motivation and stronger “consciences.”

But we all know that “doing the right thing” and overriding our “lesser” impulses doesn’t result from admonishing ourselves to do better, or from making new and improved resolutions. If that were sufficient, we’d all have perfectly balanced diets and fit bodies.

The secret of managing our impulses is becoming aware of and motivated by competing impulses. “I’d like to eat this entire pint of ice cream, but my cholesterol level and waistline are more important to me,” or, for your son, “I really want to skip my homework so I can play outside, but I don’t want to face my teacher without it.”

More challenging, of course, are crimes of passion: “This colleague is really attractive, but my marriage is too important to me,” or, for your son, “I really want to hit my sister over the head when she teases me like that, but Mom would be really mad.”

Eventually, we hope, he will move from his concern over losing Mom’s love to awareness of what he wants in his connection with his sister: “I’m really annoyed at my sister right now, but I know that when she’s not being obnoxious I do love her and I don’t really want to hurt her.”

Obviously, all this takes considerable maturity, which kids need our help to develop. It takes practice. Kids get this practice naturally as life deals them upsets and we help them handle them.

The key is providing our children with the experience of relationships where compassion trumps anger. When the body is flushed with the hormones of “fight or flight,” it’s hard for anyone to make wise decisions or to choose positively between competing priorities.

Helping children toward this level of emotional insight and self discipline doesn’t happen in the heat of emotion, whether the emotion is related to the original transgression (“But she was teasing me!”), or created by our punishing response(“I’ll teach you to hit your sister! Take that!”). Instead, we need to reduce the amount of time our child spends in the overcharged physical states of anger and fear, and give him an opportunity to calm down and reflect.

Once kids are calm, we can work with them to strengthen that positive motivation and help them to recognize and control their emotions, so they can manage the opposing impulse.

When It’s Not a Behavior Problem, It’s a Relationship Problem

“But what if the child does know that the misbehavior is off limits, but doesn’t have the competing impulse to control himself?”

This was our third possibility, right?  He does know what’s expected of him, but doesn’t care.

The misbehavior in this case is a symptom of a much greater problem. The competing impulse to control himself should come from his relationship with us.Children only learn to behave and manage themselves because we want them to, and because they want to please us. If he doesn’t care that he’s upsetting us with his misbehavior, it means our relationship with him needs strengthening.  Of course kids need our guidance, but if the relationship isn’t strong enough to support that guidance, then our primary focus needs to be on repairing the relationship.

Eventually, of course, kids reap the rewards of good behavior – good grades, self-esteem, approval from peers – and it begins to come naturally. It becomes part of their self image, and they automatically act to preserve that self-image. But this positive way of being always starts with their desire to please us.

Photo: MMarsolais

On the beach recently, I saw a two year old knocking down sand castles. He took such immense pleasure in this activity that it made me want to try it myself. When his mother saw what he was doing and came running, he looked chagrined, and allowed her to lead him reluctantly away. His desire to be loved by her was already slightly stronger than his desire to knock down sand castles.

Why don’t all of us run down the beach knocking down sand castles? Because we’ve discovered that it’s more rewarding to be loved.

Ultimately, love is the only leverage we have with our children. Even if they worked, fear and “Because I say so!” only last for as long as they can be physically enforced.

Every parent knows how fast children grow; fear works for a very short time if it works at all. Love, on the other hand, becomes a more effective motivator over time. And it raises kids who WANT to behave.

10 Tips to Put Positive Parenting into Practice in Your Home

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Dear John Stewart (One Moment With a Toilet…)

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What a great day it has been in the mountains, the bits of last storm’s snow melting, listening to birds singing, and taking a nature walk with Captain. The feeling of the sun and fresh air lift us and we feel like two flowers high on fresh water, sun, and freshly split daffodil bulbs. Life is wonderful when the kid is happy and lively, spring is in the air, and all the good things are just whirling and spiraling into the great mystical whiteness.

Yes, there’s the twirling whiteness…porcelain white. Duty calls and I must get caught up on housework and, desperate to be cleaned, is the lonely toilet, calling with a sweet rendition of “Flower Duet” from Lakme and promises of chocolate buttercreams if I just get in there and take care of business. Oh, back in my youth, when I refused to be helpful with house cleaning… I suppose I am getting my just desserts, so to speak.

There is always a moment I have before I clean a toilet that I resist it, as though I am a Princess from the land that the porcelain rump-bumper has forgotten. I sigh to remember that, as a kid, I would watch my Mom in action, cleaning like a maniac and I would think that I would never get married, have children, or clean all day, and I would never, ever use my thumbnail to scrape unknown bits of dried stuff off of anything. My how do the times change. As I arm myself with the toilet brush and some Bon Ami and get to work, I feel myself begin to drift to a wonderful place, a happy place and I just have to let go…

There, in the bowl itself, I see a face start to form and it is, of all people, Jon Stewart. I sprinkle his face delicately with the white scrubbing powder and can see his lovely eyes, with just a touch too much eyeliner, smiling back at me. He gives me a wink and I wink back, our unspoken understanding that scrubbing the toilet isn’t just about the importance of bathroom hygiene, but rather something disturbingly humorous and slightly strange. Yes, Dear Jon, I fantasize about you during some of my more mundane chores, and crazy or not, let’s just say it works.

I have been invited to visit the show and of course Jon has tons of extra time and even reads my blog and his wife is dying to try new projects with the kids. The guy, for all his popularity, has time for a “little person” and since my book has just been picked up, he wants to have me on his show and rave about bloggers and all of the good work they do, and my amazing book. I am at the show. My hair is done up to an incredible gloss and I am wearing the perfect jeans, 1950’s blouse and a great necklace. I’m pink-cheeked and smiling as my name is announced and I carry my black bag smoothly across the stage to my seat next to one of the coolest guys I’ve ever seen on the tevvy. He jumps up and kisses my cheek. My cheek! I laugh and we chat about “kartwheels” and it’s unimportance in American culture. I say some really funny things and the crowd laughs appreciatively and then I tell Jon that I brought us a little something special and proceed to pull a bottle of whiskey and two glasses from the bag and pour us each a drink. The audience gasps and Jon makes a funny about it being only 11am, because that is when the show is shot. We all laugh as we lift our glasses, make funny faces into the camera and drink. The crowd goes nuts and we drink another. Now he thanks me for being one of his most delightful guests and, as we cut to a commercial break, he leans over and touches my arm and admits that he has always dreamed of taking his family to a cabin in the Sequoia National Forest and maybe we can get our families together sometime. K, Captain and I leave the studio and head to our hotel room to celebrate. What a great day. I love New York City!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I find myself on my knees in front of the cabin loo. It is sparkling clean all the way down and around the back. Really, you could drink whiskey from it. I pull myself up and close the lid. As I move out of the room, I see a blob of something on the sink and reach over and give it a quick scrape with my amazing thumbnail, dust off the crumbs and move on. No imagination necessary.

What do you think about when YOU are cleaning??

Cheers!  Karen

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