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The visualization technique that will help you go from chaos to calm in minutes

The visualization technique that will help you go from chaos to calm in minutes

The visualization technique that will help you go from chaos to calm in minutes

By Jailan Heidar

When I talk with mamas, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is; “How do I stay calm when my child is driving me crazy?” or “This all sounds great but how can I find it in me to stay calm so I can practice all these Positive Parenting tools?”. Trust me, as a person who suffers from anxiety I know how hard it can be to stay calm in a stressful situation.

The good news is that there is definitely something that can be done to help you stay calm and be more responsive rather than reactive.

This simple yet extremely effective visualization technique is a tool I share with almost all my clients and in my online classes. Follow the steps and you will find yourself responding calmly, firmly and with kindness to your child in the most frustrating situations.

First, do a quick assessment if your child is in danger or harming others. If yes, respond quickly by removing your child from the situation then continue the steps. If your child is not harming himself or others and is in a safe environment, you CAN afford to leave the situation for a few seconds to calm down. Either remove yourself physically, the bathroom is usually a good location to be alone, or close your eyes to separate yourself from the environment and everything happening.

Take 5 deep breathes, inhaling through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth

Next, close your eyes and visualize how you impulsively want to react. Do you want to yell, threaten or call a timeout? From past experiences, ask yourself, how is this going to end? How is my child going to react to my impulsive reaction? What lesson is my child learning at that moment? If you realize this situation isn’t going to end the way you’d like it to, with you dragging your crying child out of the supermarket, then it’s time to look for alternatives on how this solution could be better and give you the outcome YOU WANT.

Now to find a positive outcome to this frustrating situation. You’ve still got your eyes closed. Go through these problem-solving steps inspired by Dr. Dan Siegel’s No Drama Discipline Workbook.

1. Why did my child behave this way? You may impulsively think he’s acting out because he’s a spoilt brat or because he’s being stubborn. That’s the anger and frustration in us as adults, but then look deeper. Was he trying to communicate and was ignored? Is he seeking attention? Is he tired or hungry? When we understand what our child is trying to express, we can respond more effectively and compassionately.

2. What lesson do I want to teach at this moment? I talk with parents a lot about their long-term goal of parenting. The goal of raising a future adult with positive skills and characteristics. Remember those BIG goals shouldn’t be to give consequences or deal out punishment. We want to send a message and teach a lesson. It could be in self-control, the importance of sharing or maybe even learning to wait.

3. How can I best teach this lesson? This is what Positive Parenting is all about. Depending on your child’s age and abilities, what is the best way to send your message across to your child? Do you need to involve him in your task? Give him limited choices? Communicate your expectations? Maybe model sharing and monitor taking turns.

This is where you get to decide which tool to use now that will connect with your child and align with your family values while still be effective in discipline.

Finally, now that you’ve decided what to do, visualize what the new outcome will be to this situation when you choose the more positive, responsive method.

By asking yourself these questions, you give yourself time to calm down and also set a more effective plan. Instead of reacting impulsively, handing out a consequence, a threat or giving in, you are responding calmly, positively, firmly, appropriately and effectively. You are also using everyday moments to teach your child valuable life skills and building positive characteristics.

Of course, it is understandable that not every difficult or challenging moment is going to be a teachable moment. There will be moments when you lose it, that’s normal. It’s Okay, give yourself a break and don’t feel guilty. You can always stop yourself, take deep breaths and start your visualization technique at any point.

Practice, practice, practice until it becomes a habit.

“Positivity is like a muscle: keep exercising it, and it becomes a habit.”
– Natalie Massenet

The Gift of Gratitude

The Gift of Gratitude

 

 

How do we get our kids to focus more on what they have instead of what they want? There’s so much available in stores, supermarkets and even most homes it can be a challenge at times to help children look beyond their little world of games and toys. Young children tend to be egocentric, which is a normal part of development. They usually start showing outward behavior of thankfulness or appreciation by the age of 3.

There are however a lot of things you can do to help your child start practicing gratitude in the early years. Here are a few of my favorites to get your started.

 

 

Make a Giving List

Sit with your little one and talk about the idea of making a giving list. For every item he’d like for Christmas have him think of something he can give. It can be something handmade, bought from his allowance, giving away one of his toys or clothes and even just helping someone out with something. For your young child keep it simple and help by offering choices and suggestions. For older kids give them time to be creative and think of things themselves if they’d like. Kids can surprise you. Talk about who would be happy with these gifts. Someone in the family, neighbors, friends or maybe look further beyond in your community to local shelters. Encourage your child by modeling and having the whole family join in.

 

Give Experiential Gifts

Both children and adults tend to focus on giving toys and other material gifts on most occasions. These are great and fun of course but kids tend to lose interest in toys pretty quick especially if they have too many options. Consider giving an experiential gift instead. It can be something simple like a Make a Volcano Kit, a nature magazine subscription or a fun outing with friends and family to the zoo. It can also be something more complex like going to camp, horseriding weekend camp or a family trip. According to psychologist Jeffrey Froh, a gratitude researcher, kids get to feel happy and fulfilled with these experiences because they feed their personal growth or their interest. Kids get to feel more appreciation and create more meaningful memories than just receiving a toy.

 

Visit those Less Fortunate

This may be a cliche but most of us even as adults have a tendency to take any privileges we have for granted will we come across those who are less fortunate. Children are the same, especially if their circle of friends come from similar economic backgrounds. Talk to your children about what they think they can do to help others in the community or even beyond. Maybe choose a few toys or clothes they don’t use anymore to pack for the local shelter. Take a trip to a child friendly shelter (if possible), children’s hospital, animal shelter or any other place of need. Don’t just make this a drop off but try to spend a couple of hours to volunteer. Read stories for children at the hospital or help groom the shelter pups. It’s all about having a real experience helping your child be a giving and empathetic person.

 

Talk about Receiving

Gratitude isn’t just about empathy or giving. It’s also about being thankful for what others have done. Instead of asking your child to just say “Thank-you” when she gets a gift talk about how nice it was for grandma to remember that she liked soccer and made the trip to the special sports store to get her the ball. Your child will start to realize there’s more to it than a gift she wants appearing magically. This way the Thank-you comes from the heart.

 

 

Appreciate Effort

We don’t always get what we want in life and that can be very disappointing and hard to handle for young children. Gratitude is also about being OK when things don’t go as planned. This is a tough one even for grownups but it’s a good habit to model and practice. For young children it can be hard to grasp what they should be happy about when it rains and they don’t get to go play outside or if they get sick and can’t go on the school trip. These are perfect opportunities to help them think about the positive side; “If we hadn’t decided to play inside today we wouldn’t have gotten to spend such a fun time together making this puzzle that we’ve decided to frame”. Model this in situations when you yourself are disappointed that things didn’t go as planned as well. Children learn best when we practice what we preach ourselves.  

 

Make Gratitude a Family Habit

Finally, gratitude isn’t something to focus on just during the holiday season or around birthdays. Although those are yearly hot spots, it’s a habit to practice year round. Simply have a gratitude conversation once a week during dinner where each member of the family talks about something they are thankful for.

 

For further reading on raising a thankful child. Read my article published in The Daily Crisp

 

Image courtesy of Claire Bloomfield/Free Digital Photos

OPINION: The Positive Parenting in Baby Led Weaning

OPINION: The Positive Parenting in Baby Led Weaning

This is a new series of Opinion entries which will be different from the research based articles I usually post.

When my son turned 6 months like all parent we began looking into how to introduce solid foods to him. Like most people I knew about starting with fruit and vegetable purees and had already bought a couple ( OK maybe more than a couple) baby cookbooks with all these puree combinations and meal plans. We were ready to start!

Then I came across Baby Lead Weaning (BLW). I had come across the (misleading) title before and ignored it because we had no plans to wean our baby any time soon. On further inspection it has nothing to do with weaning per say and everything to do with introducing solids in a very interesting way.

BLW  (a term attributed to Gill Rapley ) is basically about allowing your child to self feed and skipping purees altogether and going for appropriate finger food. You can read all the details and guidelines about BLW here on their official website.

Going through the process with my own son it made me realize how much BLW supports the philosophies we try to follow in Positive Parenting:

  • Choosing an age appropriate activity for your child:
    One of the first guidelines of BLW is waiting till your child shows signs of readiness. Is he sitting up independently? is he reaching for objects and interested in putting them in his mouth?
  • Supporting your child’s development:
    Children at that age naturally place things in their mouths. Self feeding is a natural extension to this instinct as well as exercise fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
  • Helping your child develop positive eating habits: 
    Feeding himself allows your child to regulate how much food he eats when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full on his own. He also gets to practice his independence by choosing what to eat and what not to eat. There is no “last spoon” to finish off, just his own self monitoring.
  • Avoiding feeding power struggles:
    Mealtimes can turn into real struggles as parents negotiate with their kids to finish their food, eat one more bite or threaten no dessert. Practicing BLW helps you learn to trust your child and his food intake. He may eat very little for breakfast but have a good dinner or he may have a lousy day eating but eat double his portions the next day. An article I read once on baby and toddler eating had very good advice; it said it’s always best to look at how much your child is eating within the week. That is a fairer estimate than judging day-to-day eating.
  • Avoiding raising a picky eater:
    Children are people like the rest of us, they like and dislike different things, and sometimes they change their minds! By placing diverse and healthy choices in front of your child you are teaching them how to value food and decide for themselves what they want to eat. Don’t be discouraged! Reintroduce rejected foods over and over again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your child starts eating them!
  • Eating together as a family and creating a positive habit:
    Often times I see families experience this scenario; parents eat separately then baby is fed alone either before or after parents. Sometimes it can last an hour feeding the child and it can feel like a chore! Other times parents let their children roam feed. But at a certain point and age you are going to start requesting that your child “grow up” and sit at the table and eat “properly”. So why wait to introduce this? Babies and toddlers learn instinctively through imitation. When you model eating and proper dinner behavior they’ll pick up on it and be encouraged. That’s not to say they won’t fling food or throw their spoons. These are all natural behaviors that children do as they explore the world and their limits.

Finally, I have to say starting off with BLW sometimes isn’t always easy. On our first day of feeding I found myself wanting my son to have more of the spoon instead of just a taste as he’s supposed to. Parents are told that suddenly children should be consuming several spoonfuls of food 1-3 times a day and that can put a lot of pressure. I believe the biggest issue to overcome is the parent’s own emotional one of letting go and trusting your child and the process. That being said, sometimes BLW doesn’t match your child or your family’s needs and may not be for you. Sometimes a blend of spoon feeding and BLW is what works. I spoon feed my child when he gets lazy or is tired as well. These are all natural. The important point at the essence of positive parenting is to keep a flexible mind about things; some days baby will eat well and others not, sometimes he’ll self feed and others need help, he may love carrots today but hate them tomorrow for no apparent reason. In all cases there is no need to feel pressured or stressed, ask yourself these questions:

  1. At the end of the week; did my child eat well?
  2. Did he have a diverse selection of healthy choices?
  3. Was mealtime a pleasant and stress-free experience for everyone?
  4. What can be changed for next time?

It’s an ongoing process. Here area a list of references I’ve found useful on young children and eating.

4 Tips to an Enjoyable Day Out with your Toddler

4 Tips to an Enjoyable Day Out with your Toddler

Do you feel like you’re going out less since you had the baby? Going to out to dinner or shopping with your toddler can often feel more like a battle than a relaxing night out. The good news is that with a bit of planning and compromise you can still enjoy nice outings and dinners WITH your toddler!

First of all let’s try to put ourselves into your toddler’s shoes… “How exciting is it to go to a fancy restaurant where everything is sparkling and shinny but I’m not allowed to touch any of it! I have to sit still all the time, I can’t use my hands to eat and it sounds like it’s a big deal if I spill my drink. I don’t know why we came here in the first place, no one told me where we were going and this place doesn’t even have a swing!”

 

From your little one’s point of view this isn’t such a great experience either which can cause him to become restless and start acting out. Here’s what you can do to make outings a more pleasant experience for everyone.

Pick a suitable location

Try to find a place that is family friendly that has a children’s menu or high chairs for your baby. Check to see if they have a play area for kids. If you’re looking for a quieter setting without a lot of kids running around check to see if place has an outdoor area or space where you can walk around with your toddler in between courses to make sure he gets his energy out. This will make it easier for him to sit at the table when food is served. You can also bring along a story or crayons to keep your child entertained while at the table.

Let your child know in advance

Prepare your child for what to expect by telling him where you’re going, what you’ll be doing there, what behavior is expected of him and everyone else (no banging on the table or running around) and what he can look forward to as well. Make sure your sentences are positively phrased; “We should use our forks properly instead of banging with them”.  Let your child know that there’s something in this for him as well. He can bring a book, crayons and coloring book or his headphones to listen to music. Let him know if there’s a playground or outdoor space you’ll visit together before dessert. Remember to make sure you stick to your promise and follow through.

Compromise and respect your child’s needs

If none of the family friendly facilities are available then try to create your own! You might think of skipping dessert and walking to the ice-cream store next door for a treat and to get your toddler moving. Take your toddler for a brief walk to see the fish tank if you’re in a seafood restaurant or other interesting things while you wait for your order.

Don’t spend the evening prodding your toddler to finish his food or eat his veggies. Make it a treat and order something special for him off the menu. If there’s no kid’s menu ask your waiter if they can make a mini pizza for your child. Pasta is always a hit with kids! If you’re out shopping and don’t know where you’ll end up for lunch then pack an appropriate snack for your child that you can take with you on your outing. Similarly let your child know that after shopping is done that you’ll be going to a place just for him. A few places you can go to are the playground, toy store, children’s bookstore for story time, pottery painting café or even just sitting in a space where your child can run around with other kids.

Accept that tantrums may still happen

Remember that even if you go through all the planning and your child still ends up throwing a tantrum and throwing his spoon on the floor that it’s OK! Children are people too and can’t be molded to neatly fit a plan every time. They have needs and wants that might be different than their parents’. Don’t let this discourage you and make sure you respond to your toddler with love and patience when a tantrum happens. Remember to ask him what happened and how he felt after he calms down. This can help prevent the same problem from reoccurring.

I hope these tips help make your outings a more pleasant experience for everyone!

Image courtesy of Stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Supporting the Shy Child

Supporting the Shy Child

Children have individual and unique temperaments which are apparent from birth. Some children are fussy while others are calm. Some hate new situations while others don’t mind being the center of attention. Each child is different and no matter how difficult you may think your child is sometimes he is special and has qualities that work best for his personality.

We may often think about the introvert child as lacking in social skills; he doesn’t want to play with other children, he prefers to observe rather than join in and he’s wary of new situations. These situations may all be true, however, keep in mind that your introvert child has developed an ability to be independent and self-reliant. He isn’t impulsive but takes time to observe a situation before deciding what to do. These are all useful traits that could be lacking in other children. There isn’t a right or wrong temperament. Each child is unique and needs a different form of support from the adults around him.

In our life social skills are important. More importantly is that your child feels comfortable and confident about himself. If your child is an introvert there are some ways you can support him to make difficult situations easier for him.

  • Give your child enough notice about a new situation. If you’re going out or having a visitor over let your child know in advance what will be happening, what he can expect and what you expect of him.
  • Join small gatherings and playgroups. Large groups may overwhelm your child so try smaller groups with familiar friends to engage your child.
  • Reading and modeling are great ways to show your child how to interact with other people. Your child may not know how to approach other children in a new game or an unfamiliar setting. Books and observing real life experiences can help your child in figuring out what to do.
  • Find friends who have the same interests. You don’t have to force your child to play with active children or limit him to introverts like himself. A good balance gives him comfort in the type of activities he enjoys and also challenges him to develop new skills.
  • Respect your child’s interests and desires. Don’t brush away your child’s quiet interests. If he wants to read a book or do a puzzle on his own instead of run around that is OK.  Acknowledge his feelings and give your child the time he needs to feel comfortable in a new situation.

When to Seek Help

While it’s normal that some children are introverts or slow-to-warm-up-to, it is important that your child reaches some developmental milestones at certain stages in his development.

The Zero-to-Three Journal recommends seeking professional help if:

  • By 4 months your baby isn’t smiling back
  • By 9 months your baby isn’t participating in back and forth sounds, smiles or facial expressions
  • By 12 months hasn’t started babbling or waving/pointing/reaching
  • By 18 months doesn’t recognize (by pointing or looking at) familiar names of people of common body parts.
  • Has limited eye-contact or shows little pleasure in playful experiences.

References:
Zero to Three Journal

Image Credit to © Carlan |Dreamstime Stock Photos Stock Free Images

Thumb Sucking and Young Children

Thumb Sucking and Young Children

It is quite normal for most young children suck their thumb or use a pacifier. But when is it too much and how can we help our kids to stop this habit?

When does thumb-sucking start and stop?

Sucking is a normal reflex for young children. At 10 weeks your baby has already begun thumb sucking in the womb! Thumb-sucking is a natural way for babies and young children to soothe themselves when they feel stressed or anxious.

Most children out grow this habit on their own between the ages of 2 and 4.  Usually by the time kids enter a school setting the habit stops because of peer pressure.

Keep in mind that even though your child has stopped sucking her thumb she may go back to doing it in time where she feels stressed or anxious.

When is thumb-sucking a problem?

Thumb-sucking is not usually a problem unless your child continues the habit frequently after the age of 4.
Thumb-sucking and pacifier use can also cause dental problems. If you notice your child’s upper front teeth tipping towards the lip this may be a concern. Talk with your dentist about your child’s dental health.

Your child may have started to feel embarrassed by thumb-sucking and may need your help in stopping the habit.

How can I help my child stop thumb-sucking?

  • Ignore: sometimes children develop habits or behaviors to get their parents’ attention. If you notice that your child is sucking her thumb to get your attention it’s better to ignore that behavior. That way your sending your child the message that this behavior won’t get your attention and to try something else.Thumb-sucking usually goes away on its own and sometimes the less attention given to it the better to help children stop the habit.
  • Positive reinforcement: Praise and encourage your child when she doesn’t suck her thumb. This shows your child what behavior is acceptable from her and that she can get your attention in this positive way. 
  • Find out the triggers: If your child is sucking her thumb as a way to cope with stress or anxiety you can identify those moments and help your child relax in other ways like offering a hug or talking with her to prepare her for the situation.If your child is sucking her thumb in moments where she is bored then keeping her occupied or using her hands in play can help discourage this habit and help her have fun as well.
  • Gentle reminders: Sometimes your child may return to sucking her thumb out of habit. When this helps a simple reminder for her to stop is all that’s necessary.­­

What not to do:

We’ve talked about how to help your child stop thumb-sucking, however you should also keep in mind there are things to avoid when trying to stop this habit.

  • Embarrassing or making your child feel guilty: Don’t try to use embarrassment as a way to stop this habit. This will only make your child feed bad about herself and more self-conscience. Avoid phrases like “be a good girl” or “stop being a bad girl” since these phrases talk about your child not the behavior itself. 
  • Punishment: Thumb-sucking can sometimes be a hard habit for children to stop. Young children especially find it hard to control their impulses for biological reasons. Therefor punishment for this kind of behavior is not very suitable and may just upset your child rather than stop the habit. In general positive reinforcement of accepted behavior can be more effective than punishment for unwanted behavior.
  • Avoid placing bitter tastes on her finger or pacifier: A common method parents use to stop thumb-sucking is to place a bad taste like vinegar on the child’s fingers or pacifier. Avoid using these negative methods, in general positive reinforcement is a more effective method. As mentioned, most children outgrow this habit in their own time. If your child is sucking her thumb to self sooth when she feels stressed or when she is bored it is more effective to address the reason behind the behavior to stop it altogether.

I hope these tips are helpful. Remember to talk to your child about stopping the habit as well so she accepts your reminders and cues.
Remember not to worry too much about it, this is a habit most children experience and usually outgrow on their own at some point.

References:

Zero to three

Mayo Clinic

American Academy of Pediatrics

Children’s Dayton

“mage courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net