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How you say things matters

How you say things matters

One of the points I’ve found parents have trouble dealing with is how to talk to their children while disciplining them. Should they be calm or loud? Should they tell their child or ask?  Through my experience with kids and their parents I’ve found that how you talk to your child can make a world of difference. Positive parenting techniques also encourage certain techniques to help you communicate more effectively with your child. Here are a few tips that can help you communicate positively with your child and as a result help you reduce or eliminate power struggles or conflict and have a relaxing home environment.

1. Get down to your child’s eye level. Your body language is just as important as your verbal language when communicating with your child.

  • What you can do:
    Make sure you are at your child’s eye level when talking by having eye contact or by getting down to your child’s height.  He/she is more likely to listen to what you have to say when you have eye contact then when you are shouting overhead or from the end of the room. Speaking over your child can also make him feel intimidated or scared. However speaking at your child’s eye level lets him know that you take him seriously and that it’s a two way conversation.

2. Be firm and calm. Shouting usually comes from a source of anger which can causes irrational thinking and saying things we’ll later regret. Your child deserves the same respect you expect him to show you and the best way to do that is to model the right behavior. Shouting

  • What you can do:
    If your child is safe and isn’t harming himself or other children you can afford to give yourself a few seconds before reacting. These few seconds can help you calm down and think about how you’re going to react. Keep your tone calm but firm when talking to your child about his misbehavior. You shouldn’t be mean or aggressive but avoid using pet names, this is a serious situation and should be handled accordingly to send your child the right message.

3. Avoid saying “No”. Saying “No” too much will lose it’s effectiveness, after a while your child won’t pay as much attention if you say “No” which will probably lead to you escalating your response and possibly resorting to shouting or more aggressive behavior to emphasize the point

  • What you can do:
    First, keep “No” for few important rules that have to do with safety or important household rules like touching the oven or standing on the table. Second, when you want to tell your child that he can’t do something phrase your message positively. Check point #2.

4. Avoid negative phrases. When you start with a negative statement that just makes your child feel guilty but doesn’t tell him why you’re upset.

  • What you can do:
    Start your sentence positively, let your child know why you’re upset and most importantly redirect to an acceptable activity. Instead of “Stop grabbing my paper!!!” try “I can’t read my paper while you grab it, you can get a story and read it next to me or you can wait till I’m done and we can play together”.

5. State don’t ask. It’s important to respect your child’s individual wants and needs but in certain situation asking your child to behave just sets you up to accepting “No” from your child as an answer!

  • What you can do:
    Children pick up on subtle differences in speech, if you phrase your sentence as a question your child has the right to say No as an answer. I’m not telling you to instruct or force your child but you can try phrasing your sentence as a statement or option. Give your child choices that are fair to her and acceptable for you.  Instead of “How about you stop banging on the table now Sweetie” you can try “Sarah, you’re banging too loud and it’s hurting mommy’s ears. You can stop banging or we can go outside where it’s better to have loud noises ” if going outside isn’t an option then redirect your child to other acceptable behavior you can read more on redirection here. Remember not to overuse this technique so it doesn’t turn into instructing your child about everything.

6. Always show love. Even though you might be furious with your child for whatever he’s done don’t let that interfere or get confused with showing him that you love him. Often when parents shout or ignore children on purpose their child starts feeling guilty and may fear you won’t love him anymore. Which probably results in low self confidence or more misbehavior to get your attention.

  • What you can do:
    Make it a point to let your child know you still care, even when your addressing his misbehavior. Acknowledge his feelings that he was hurt, angry or tired and that’s why he acted out. Separate his misbehavior from him as a person. Using phrases like “stop being naughty” tells him that he’s the bad person not that his behavior is bad. Make sure you are clear that you are talking about his behavior “It’s not OK to hit others”.
    Listen to his side of the story. Don’t automatically go into punishment mode, it’s important to understand why your child misbehaved and for him to explain himself. This helps you avoid similar situations in the future and lets your child know his feelings matter.
    Instead of enforcing consequences help your child reach a conclusion to why his behavior is not OK. How would he feel if someone hit him? What could he have done instead?

Remember that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that your child has her own opinion and interests and work towards a situation where everyone leaves satisfied. The goal is to have a mutually respected relationship between you and your child that fosters her independence and confidence. I hope these tips help you enhance your positive relationship with your child.

Photo from Allparentstalk.com  and blendedfamilytoday.blogspot.com

Using “Time-out” Positively

Using “Time-out” Positively

Using time-out has become a regular disciplinary method that most parents use, but is it really effective? How many times have you put your child in time-out for misbehaving only to have him do the same thing you told him not to after he’s done with time-out? Who hasn’t struggled with making a toddler stay in time-out? You keep on putting him back but he keeps leaving the time-out space and pretty soon it’s turned into a game for him and frustration for you.

Why time-out doesn’t work

There’s actually a very good reason why time-out doesn’t work. Young children under 5 find it extremely difficult to control and regulate their feeling. So when they are asked to go to time-out and clam down they simply can’t do it. Whatever feeling your child is going through at that moment just seems too much to handle for him. He needs you to help him, he simply can’t do it alone. Another reason is that children need immediate consequences to help them learn. Prolonging punishment isn’t really going to help you emphasize your point. When a child is asked to go in his room and “think about what he’s done”  that doesn’t give him any idea as to what he did wrong or what he could have done instead. Young children are still learning and exploring, everything is new to them. What might come naturally to you may be a skill your child needs to be introduced to. This doesn’t mean you should be permissive with your child and just let him do whatever he wants. Time-out can also be an effective tool when used positively.

What you can do

  • Remove your child from the situation to a calm spot if he is misbehaving or is having a meltdown
  • Remind your child of house rules like “no-hitting” depending on the situation
  • Use time-out as a calming space and not punishment. Don’t leave your child alone in time-out and don’t associate it with something negative. Instead provide your child with support and comfort to help him recognize his feelings, listen to why he misbehaved, discuss with him why his behavior was inappropriate and explain the kind of behavior you expect from him.
  • With repetition time-out can become a place for your child to regulate his feelings. Instead of threatening to send him to time-out you can enable him to use time-out to calm himself. If you start seeing signs that your child is feeling frustrated and agitated you can ask him if he needs some time-out. As your child grows older and learns to regulate his emotions on his own he can use time-out by himself.
  • Don’t overuse it. Like anything else don’t resort to time-out every time your child misbehaves. Find out why your child is misbehaving or feeling frustrated and choose an appropriate solution for that specific situation.
  • Distinguish between your child’s behavior and your child. Avoid using words like “stop being naughty”. Labeling your child tells him what to think of himself not his behavior. Instead explain what behavior was wrong “stop jumping on the sofa”. You want to send a message about your child’s behavior not himself to help him find an alternative and maintain his self confidence.

Read more on..

Photo from Sheknows.com

Dealing with Bedtime Struggles

Dealing with Bedtime Struggles

Bedtime struggles are a common problem with toddlers and preschoolers. It can be exhausting and frustrating when your child refuses to go to bed at the end of a long day. The good news is that there is usually a solution. The key is figuring out what the problem is and why your child is refusing to go to bed. Even though it might be a daily struggle that most children do, there can be a different reason on different nights with different children.
Here are some common reasons for bedtime struggles and why your child may not be going to bed, what you can do and finally general guidelines to peaceful bedtime.

1.Rushed or Chaotic Bedtime, if bedtime is rushed or loud it can be hard for your child to go from playing to falling asleep in a few minutes. Other distractions like the TV being on or older siblings playing in another room are a constant reminder to your child that others are still up and “playing”. Naturally, he still wants to be a part of that and will refuse to go to bed or will find it hard to fall asleep.

  • What you can do:
    make sure you give bedtime the time it deserves. It might be tough after a long day but making time before bedtime can save you a lot of time and energy and help you avoid the power struggle at bedtime. Make sure bedtime is a quiet time, give your child some notice that bedtime is near, try to establish a bedtime routine to prepare your child for bed. Turn off the TV and put away all toys in the last hour before bedtime. Dim the lights and try to have the family do quiet activities like reading. Make sure that bedtime is as boring as possible.

2. Your Child doesn’t want to Go or Stay in Bed, If your child doesn’t want to go to bed he may be distracted by other sounds in the house or just not exhausted enough to go to bed.

  • What you can do:
    Like the example above, make sure bedtime is a quiet time. If your child keeps on bouncing in and out of bed and is full of energy, he might not be getting enough activity during the day to tire him out. Make sure he gets enough physical activity during the day, scale back daytime naps or wake him up a bit earlier in the morning. Remember that quiet time is important. If your child is very active before bedtime make sure to give him some extra time to wind down. Don’t turn bedtime into a power struggle, if your child keeps getting out of bed simply put him back into bed, wait a few minutes and assure him you will be back to check on him in a few minutes. Check on your child from the doorway every few minutes and tell him what a good job he’s doing falling asleep. After a few times when he feels safe and reassured he’ll start to fall asleep.

3.Your child won’t go to sleep alone, Your child may also find it difficult to sleep alone and may need some extra comfort to go to bed. He might not want to fall asleep on his own because he feels insecure. At this age children have a very active imagination and shadows and sounds can be scary.

  • What you can do:
    Encourage your child to fall asleep alone.  You can help him  feel secure by giving him a favorite comfort object like a stuffed animal to sleep with. You can leave a night light on or keep the bedroom door open. If your child is afraid of “monsters under the bed” take these fear seriously and  play along by “kicking the monsters out” of the room. This can sometimes be more effective than saying that there are no such things as monsters. Remember to start with a calming bedtime routine. You can also promise your child to check in on him every few minutes like the example above.

4. Your Child wakes up during the night,most children wake up during the night and fall back asleep. If your child is having difficult falling back asleep during the night it might be because he is too stressed by the time his cries reach you. Usually by the time a child’s cries reach the parent he’s already gone through a series of anxious reactions. The initial part of waking up and being alone, then waiting for the parent’s attention, then probably some mild stress and crying which would be easier to comfort then finally full stressful cries that reach the parent. By this time can make it more difficult for him to calm down quickly.

  • What you can do: If you want you can give your child access to get out of bed and come to you during the night. If your child wakes up during the night and needs reassurance he can simply come over to your room and will usually fall asleep without too much fuss. If you can’t do that then try to install a baby monitor so you can hear his initial cries, give him a couple of minutes to settle himself back to sleep. If you feel he is reaching that stressful point then try to go comfort him. You can first try by just being at the doorway so your child doesn’t try to get out of bed and offer reassurance that you are there and can hear him. If that isn’t comforting enough then try standing by your child’s bed, offer reassurance and remind him softly that it’s time for bed. It will take a few times till your child develops a pattern of  secure experiences and feels OK when he wakes up alone.

Suggested Bedtime Routine

  1. Try to have a similar routine every night. Not only is the routine important but it’s important to stick to the time schedule so that your child’s biological clock gets used to it. Remember that your child is still growing so his sleep routines and patterns will need adjusting. He may need to wake up earlier or need to stop napping to sleep through the night.
  2. Give your child a heads up that bedtime is after your last evening activity; dinner, playtime, etc.
  3. Make sure the TV is off and the house is quiet within the hour before bedtime. Most importantly make sure you are calm and not rushed. Children can pick up easily on adults’ emotions.
  4. You can give a warm bath or read a story in bed before bedtime to calm down your child. Each child is different, you need to figure out which activity calms your child best.
  5. Spend a few minutes next to your child just lying there. Make sure bedtime is as boring as possible. Put away any toys or distractions from the bed. You can try humming some songs or softly speaking to your child about his day. This can help him relax and fall asleep.
  6. Make sure your child has his favorite security toy next to him in case he wakes up or leave the door open. Use which ever method you choose that works best to help him fall back asleep. If you don’t mind letting him come to your bed at night then make sure he can easily get out of his own bed and walk to your room if he wakes up.
  7. Remember be consistent and patient. If you give in that sends a message to your child that if he whines or cries long enough then he gets his way. It can be hard and exhausting, try to approach each day with a new perspective, there could be a different reason why he’s having trouble going to bed. Figuring out the problem can help you save time and energy to avoid a power struggle and bedtime tears.

Suggested Bedtime Reading

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight moon is a classic and the perfect book for bedtime. Say goodnight to everything in little rabbit’s room; the mittens, the mouse, the  porridge and the moon. You can include your own goodnights to things in your child’s own room or people who were with you in your day.

Photo from isayx3

Article reference from Mayo Clinic

Understanding your Child: Impulse Control

Understanding your Child: Impulse Control

My second article in the Positive Parenting series I am writing for SuperMama. You can find it on their website in English and Arabic

As part of taking a positive approach towards parenting we previously discussed understanding your toddlers’ temperament. In this article, we follow the same approach and why try to understand our toddler’s impulse control; in other words, why toddlers can’t seem to stop themselves.

What is impulse control?

Even though it may seem at times that your child doesn’t listen to a word you say, remember that your child isn’t out to get you. If you sometimes feel that your child just can’t seem to control his actions, you’re probably right but it’s for a good reason! That’s because at this young age your child is still beginning to develop impulse control, which is a person’s ability to suppress or restrain himself from doing something, like concentrating on your work while shutting out distractions. It also includes the concept of delayed gratification which is the ability to wait in order to get something you want.

Why do toddlers seem to lose control and “not listen”? 

As a parent you may be thinking that your toddler has difficulty restraining himself or waiting for things and you have a point! That’s because these abilities depend on a part of the brain called the frontal lobes, which develop slower than other parts of the brain. By age two development is underway but won’t be well developed till age 7, some reports even state that it continues to it’s mature form by the age of 21.

As a toddler, your child is struggling to control his emotions and actions.  Lack of impulse control is what causes your child to reach for the remote yet again even though you already said “No” several times. It’s when your child persists to want the cookie NOW! And when emotions become too hard to handle and result in tantrums. Understanding what your child is and isn’t capable of can help you have appropriate expectations and result in fewer situations of conflict between you and your child.

So why is impulse control important?

Won’t most children outgrown this phase? Yes, most children will, however the quality and their ability to regulate their emotions and actions depends largely on their experiences as young children. It’s the difference in early experiences that will result in developmental differences later in life. A classic study called the Marshmallow Test was conducted where 4-year olds were asked to stay in a room for a few minutes with a marshmallow and not eat it. They were told if they didn’t eat it by the time the observer came back, they would get the marshmallow in addition to another one. Of course, some children ended up eating the whole thing as soon as the observer left and never looked back. However, there were those who waited and got them both. The interesting part is that years later researchers caught up with the same group of children, who were now in their teens.  Surprisingly, those who had controlled themselves and waited as children were more self-confident, popular among peers, able to cope better with frustration and more successful in school than those who ate the marshmallow straight away.

What You Can Do:

  • Set few clear rules: The more things are off-limits the more likely your child will end up misbehaving. Constantly saying “No” decreases it’s effectiveness when you really need to use it. Try to select few clear rules that cover safety and will allow your child to play and explore at the same time.
  • Provide an appropriate environment:Now that you know why your child sometimes has difficulty controlling his impulses make sure your setting is child friendly. Put objects you don’t want him to touch out of reach and bring along a story or box of crayons when going out to give your child age appropriate alternatives.
  • Remind him of the rules: Don’t anticipate misbehavior but remind your child positively about what is expected of him in certain situations. For example, explaining that she can help you find the items in the supermarket but no running down the aisle. This way you positively redirect your child and give her an alternative.
  • Practice turn taking: Whether it’s with you or a sibling, encourage your child to wait for his turn. This will help foster impulse control as your child eventually learns to trust the situation and that he will get his turn. Remember to always follow through or give an honest explanation if you can’t.
  • Play games that take time: Doing puzzles or using building blocks can help your child learn patience as she works to reach her desired goal.

I hope this article helps you understand your child’s developmental abilities to control his impulse. Remember that when your child feels overwhelmed, sometimes comfort is more effective than correction.

Additional Reading

Bright from the Start by Jill Stamm

 

Understanding your Child’s Temperament

Understanding your Child’s Temperament

The first article in the Positive Parenting series I am writing for SuperMama.  Click for the English and Arabic versions of the article.

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the joys of being a parent are priceless. Still, parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there. Understanding your child’s behavior can help make everyday situations and disciplining easier for you. The first step to that is understanding your child’s temperament.

Temperament isn’t something your child chooses or that you created. Each child is born with his own natural style of interacting with the people and environment around him. This uniqueness is evident from birth; some babies are quiet while others loudly demand attention. Children in the same family can have different temperaments as well. These temperamental differences mean that each child has different needs and parenting can’t be a “one size fits all” scenario. Temperamental traits usually stay with the child into adulthood and differs from personality.
Recognizing your child’s behavioral patterns that are influenced by temperament can help you anticipate  your child’s reactions to certain situations. Additionally, it can help you decide on the best way to deal with your child’s needs.

Temperament Types & What you can do:

There are generally three different temperament types. Most children can easily fall into one of these categories while others show a combination of these patterns.

  • Easy or flexible children are usually happy, calm, adaptable, have regular sleeping and eating habits, a generally positive mood and are interested in new experiences.

What you can do: You may need to make special time to talk about your child’s feelings since your child might not naturally demand that due to her easy style. Make sure you spend enough play time and talk to your baby who may be naturally quiet. She will still need all the early experiences of social interaction and communication to help her develop.

  • Active or “difficult” children are often active, fussy, more likely to be irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, are more fearful of new people and situations and are easily upset by noise and commotion.

What you can do: Give your active child opportunity to work off his energy. Give choices (usually limit them to two options) to reduce conflict. For example, give a choice of wearing the blue or red sweater while getting dressed. Make sure to prepare your child if the situation  will change to make transitions easier. Such as, letting him know it’s almost bedtime and giving him time to prepare for that instead of expecting him to immediately put away his toys and go to bed. Try giving your child tasks to help move from one activity for the other. Such as, brushing his teeth before going to bed. Remember to explain to your child what’s happening, this can make activities like diaper changing and getting dressed much easier once your child knows what to expect and understands his role.

  • Slow to warm up or cautious children are usually inactive, they tend to withdraw or respond negatively to new experiences. However, they slowly become more positive and adjust with continuous, positive and supportive exposure.

What you can do: Your child may need more time to adjust to new situations and people. Make sure to give her enough support and time to feel comfortable enough to venture out. Change can also be difficult to handle, try to give your child enough notice that a situation will be changing. For example, let your child know when it’s almost time for dinner and she has to put her toys away soon, that way she has enough time to prepare herself to move on to the next activity. Routines are also important and a source of comfort, they help children feel in control of their surroundings. Remember not to force your child if she’s not ready. Comfort  and support are much more effective ways to helping her feel secure enough to explore her surroundings.

Parenting with Temperament in Mind

  • Avoid comparing him to other children. Remember that your responses can help adapt his temperament. A timid child can become more comfortable with a supporting parent.
  • Communicate limits and decisions clearly. Involving your child in setting rules will help make routines and transitions easier as well as help your child develop self control.
  • Be aware of your own temperament and try to adjust yourself to your child. This doesn’t mean changing who you are, but realizing that your child enjoys experiencing the world in a different way.
  • Finding activities to bond and understanding your child’s actions which are very different from your own can be a struggle. Those feelings are OK and it’s important to communicate them with your partner.

Remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” temperament. Even though some temperaments might be easier to deal with than others, it’s still one of your child’s unique qualities. It’s important that your child feels  loved the way she is. Remember, the goal isn’t to change your child, but to help nurture her unique strengths and to deal with difficult situations.

Choosing Books: From newborns to preschoolers

Choosing Books: From newborns to preschoolers

The joy of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. Letting your imagination go as you read through the words is an amazing feeling. Get your child into reading early on. You can start introducing books at a very early age, as young as 3 month. Here are some tips on how to choose appropriate books for your infant, toddler and preschooler. With a list of some of my favorites for every age. Enjoy!

Reading with Baby

Birth to 6 months

At this age try to choose books that are either cloth or board books. Avoid paper pages, they’re difficult for babies to turn and will tear immediately. Look for books with high contrast colors with simple, clear and big pictures with a character or two in each page. While reading through the book remember to point your finger at the object you’re describing. This way your baby understands what you’re talking about. Books at this age don’t need to have any text, you can improvise each time you read the story making it a new experience every time! Make sure to give your baby the opportunity to look through the book on his own as well and practice turning the pages.

  Fuzzy Bee and Friends (Cloth Book) by Roger Priddy

 Is a soft and colorful cloth book. Your baby can enjoy touching and squeezing the different insects in the book.

Baby Animals Black and While (Board Book) by Phyllis Limbacher

These high contrast black and white images will grab your baby’s attention while you talk to her  about the animals.

 

6 – 18 Months

Babies at this age start enjoying more color in books as well as feeling different textures. Again stick to cloth or board books and include books with colorful and simple images. Add  more books with textures, tactile experiences add pleasure to your baby’s reading experience and foster sensory exploration. Introduce books that encourage object labeling and everyday life.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? (Board Book) by Bill Jr Martin and Eric Carle Your baby will enjoy reading this book into her preschool years.

Touch and Feel Baby Animals by Dorling Kindersley
This book has beautiful and clear photographs of different animals. As well as different textures for each of them that your baby can enjoy touching.


Reading with your Toddler

18 Months to 2.5 Years

At around 2 years children start experiencing a language boom when words just start flowing and your toddler starts expressing himself easier. Toddlers can understand everything way before they can express themselves. Books that have more detail, a story line and encourage participation are perfect for  toddlers. Lift-the-Flap books are great fun for kids and help develop fine motor skills. Encourage your child to lift the flaps and guess what’s under. You’ll soon find your child joining in with load exclamations of “YES” “NOoo” “It’s a LION” as you read along. Look for books that label familiar people and emotions, as well as books full of rhyme and rhythm. Point out objects that you see in your life. Try rhyming funny and made up words. Remember to often point to the text and images as you read.

For a great list of books for toddlers Click Here!

 Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss
This classic is full of fun characters and Dr Seuss signature rhymes. New  editions are available as Lift-the-Flap books as well.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Watch how this caterpillar make it’s way through all sorts of yummy items and transforms into a butterfly.

Reading with Your Preschooler

2 .5 to 5 Years

Your child is developing very fast now. Language both expressive and receptive is increasing, your child is picking up more and more words and mimicking your sentences. At this age children also start enjoying dramatic and imaginative play. They are also developing skills like sharing and empathy. Books with imaginative and make belief characters are great for this age. Try to include books that foster creativity and imagination as well as those that represent real life situations your child can relate to. Books with a story-line and carry a message like sharing, kindness, etc can be engaging for children. Include your child in the storytelling experience by asking him what will happen next or to make up his own story.

For a great list of books for your preschooler Click Here!

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak  
A beautiful and imaginative classic.

Things That Go! by Richard Scarry
Your child will spend hours enjoying Richard Scarry’s illustrations and discovering new details every time!

I hope this gives you some tips on choosing books for your child at different stages. These are just guidelines for choosing books that children will generally be interested in. Remember to consider your child’s interests and developmental abilities when choosing books.

What do you think ? What are your child’s favorite books?

Happy Reading! :)

Picture from Toddler Lesson Plans