Forcing your child to say hello, shake hands, give a kiss or hug to a friend, acquaintance or relative. What do you think?
I just had an encounter last week at dinner where a complete stranger (restaurant owner) decided he could ruffle my 3-year old’s hair and then asked to shake his hand. My son felt visibly uncomfortable after the hair ruffling and I could see his whole body cringe when the guy put his hand out to shake it.
Everyone at the table chimed in that my son had to shake hands and say hello. Except for myself and his Dad. I firmly said he didn’t have to shake hands if you didn’t want to. I asked him if he was uncomfortable or sad and he nodded yes. He said he was sad the man had touched his hair.
Why did I do this? Because this is the first step in teaching CONSENT! Consent and respecting another person’s personal space and body is an extremely important lesson to teach our child. Those lessons start at a young age when they are 3 not when they are 13.
Would you allow a complete stranger to ruffel your hair? I don’t think so. Would you be happy if a relative (loved or not) grabs hold of you and gives you a big smooch? I doubt it. Would you feel safe/secure/relaxed/comfortable if your spouse/partner pushed you onto another adult who expected you to great them with a hug? Definitely not.
Let’s ask ourselves, why do we allow this behavior on children if we don’t allow it on ourselves as adults? The point of letting children choose whether they want to give hugs, kisses or even shake hands is not about letting them be rude or letting them get away with getting out of social etiquette.
This choice is empowerment. It’s letting your child know his/her space and body are their own. They get to choose who can come into that space. Isn’t that a completely natural and important lesson to learn?
This is the kind of message children need to hear so they know when to say no when a touch feels inappropriate. So they can know it’s safe to come to a grownup and that they WILL BE HEARD and helped.
They need to hear this message so that when they are young men and women they understand what NO means and that NO is an option they have a right to voice.
Some of you who read this might think this is an exaggeration. It’s just a handshake, it’s just a kiss, it’s just a hug. It’s only for her uncle, it’s only for their aunt, it’s only for the restaurant owner. Where do you draw the line? How can a 3-year old understand where the line is drawn?
To them it’s simple; they felt visibly uncomfortable yet their needs, feelings, comfort, security, and emotions were ignored/dismissed/set aside to abide by social niceties.
I will do my best not to be the parent who does that. I will do my best to be the parent who listens to my child, sees the cringe, recognizes the sincere discomfort and supports their choice ❤️
I hope you join me as we all try to be that parent who teaches that security, boundaries, limits, and consent are far more important than societal pressure and niceties ❤️
Let me know your thoughts. I’ll be talking more about this and other Positive Parenting topics on Saturday during our Live Parent Talk
I know a lot of families just started school this last month and things get a little busy in the morning getting everyone out the door on time. Some of you may be feeling overwhelmed or frustrated in the morning because of this and I want to help you with that! Which is why I want to talk to you about routines.
The reason i want to talk about routines is that they are easy and effective and great for kids of almost any age
It’s something you can do tonight and can make a difference with your family within a week.
You can watch my talk here as well!
A great way to start is with a routine chart.
The chart gives kids what they need which is a visual reminder and a sense of independence when they do things themselves
Making a chart
- Do it together involve your child
- Talk about the stressful situation with your child if they are old enough already
- Suggest a chart to help us remember what to do in the morning
- Make it together by asking your child to list all the things that need to get done
Gives children a great sense of accomplishment and pride!
Ideas fun ways to get this done
- Pictures of your child, print and hang in sequence → great for toddlers
- Choose pictures, Print out , cut , color and stick on a chart → great for 4-6 year olds
- You can also have them in writing and have your child add activities they want or take things away —> great for older kids 7 and up
Practical tips on getting it done in the morning
- Remind your child of the chart. Don’t give in to nagging
- Make the chart the boss “what does the chart say we should do next”
- Put a sticker next to each one that is done
- Don’t have to focus on sequence
- It takes time and practice
Try it out
I want you to make a routine chart of whatever area of your day is causing stress for you and your child. It can be getting ready in the morning or bedtime or even stating the steps to getting dressed in details.
Here’s a giant Pinterest link to give you a lot of ideas!
Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I grew up in Egypt celebrating it every
year with my parents, godmother, close family and friends. One of my favorite holidays growing up I remember it not for the presents and toys but more for the people, food, activities and memories.
Whatever holiday or occasion you are celebrating, having family traditions is a wonderful way to create long lasting memories for yourself and children.Today, I’m sharing with you some of my fondest memories for the holidays that are in my family tradition.
Food is such a big part of most cultures and definitely a huge one in Egypt. For my family our tradition was making Christmas cookies with my Godmother. As a young child my role was to meticulously decorate every gingerbread man to make each one unique! As I got older I learned so much about making other holiday dishes and brought my own twist on some.
Today our family tradition in my little family is making Christmas cupcakes, also decorated with great detail. The best thing about cooking or baking is sitting at the table with everyone else and sharing.
Cooking and baking are fun ways to involve your little one. Kids really enjoy decorating cookies, pie toppings or helping out with peeling onions. Any simple task can help your little one feel like they have an important role.
Special Parent-Child Activity
Most of my Christmas activities were done with my godmother but I do have one special memory just for Christmas with my mom. Every year we would take the time and sit together and make stockings for every person who was joining us for Christmas dinner. We’d cut, sew and stick each one and finally fill them with all sorts of stocking goodies. Being a working mom it was a great treat to have my mom take the time and do this with me. For your family you can do any craft that you both enjoy; stockings, ornaments or cards. In the end the point is really about spending that special time together as a family.
This is not a custom I grew up with but I love this idea. My brother’s family send us a family picture with their Christmas card every year. It’s a great way to update family or friends that don’t live close. For me it’s great to see how my nieces and nephew are growing and changing over the years and feeling connected as a family.
Every year after Christmas my godmother takes the time to write thank-you letter to everyone. As a child I was always encouraged to join and write my own thank-yous and got my own thank-you notes stationery to help me out. This is one thing I’m still not good at but greatly cherish and value. It’s also a great way to teach children to be and show thankfulness after the holiday rush is over.
Those were some of my family traditions. What are yours?
Image courtesy of bplanet/Free Digital Photos
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.
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