Showing posts with label Discipline. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Discipline. Show all posts

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I forgot my mantra



I love that quote by Jeff Goldblum in Annie Hall. I don't always get Woody Allen's jokes, but I get that one because it so accurately represents how I feel. I would try to meditate, but I'm certain I would forget my mantra because my pursuit of meditation would be so poorly executed. You see, I'm an ideas girl. I leave the execution of details to my life partner. We make a great team, he and I.

My church is a small congregation, and we take a break over the summer due to so many families traveling and to give our pastor some much needed time off. During the summer months, they invite speakers on Sundays to discuss any number of topics not covered over the rest of the year. Our family typically skips these non-sermons because we also need time off, but this Sunday covered spiritual meditation/prayer so we decided to give it a try. I felt I could use some lessons on learning to quiet my mind, for I lack the discipline to do so on my own. Even as I type this sentence, I'm thinking "I wonder if I have a load of laundry in the washer." Focus, girl!

It was an interesting experience just to converse with the other people who came. As it turned out, their reasons might not have been so different from my own. I have been contemplating how best to assist a family member who seems to be experiencing a mental decline lately, and it was the primary reason for my desire to meditate that day. During the candle lighting for concerns and celebrations, another member of the congregation stood up and asked us to pray for him as he helps his mother and father move into a smaller home. Then after the service, Nate called his parents and discovered his dad was also spending that weekend helping his mom move into a smaller home. Does it ever feel like you're being spoken to, LOUDLY, if you would just stop to listen?

The other immediate benefit of meditating, apart from the always wonderful shared experience I get from church, was that once I quieted my mind, solutions for a bunch of half-answered problems that have been floating around my mind suddenly jumped out at me. Could it be so easy? Whenever I have a problem, I could just sit quietly and empty my mind of thoughts, and the answer would jump out?

My theory has yet to be tested, but I like where this line of thought is headed. Slow down. Stop trying to think so much, and you might do some actual thinking. What stands out to you about this concept? Have you done any meditating?

Friday, May 10, 2013

we can improve upon this

I made what is hopefully going to be an improvement to the blog by removing the Disqus commenting feature. I had heard from quite a few people that it wasn't working right, and from my end I noticed that about every fifth comment would disappear for no apparent reason before I could reply. Not deleted, just gone. So I hope if you found it frustrating to comment before that you will do it now. Okie dokie?

This change to the blog got me thinking about other life changes I and others could make. Vivi has been trying to quit the thumb-sucking habit for some time now. Her most recent goal was to quit by her fifth birthday so she could wear nail polish. When that day came and went, she announced "Oh well! I guess we can try again next year." Noooooo!! We've been told by just about every child development professional that we should avoid negativity where the thumb is concerned and make only gentle reminders, but Reader, it is so hard. Any advice here is heartily appreciated.

In return for my gentle suggestions to Vivi, I've allowed her to comment freely on my slouching problem. Who knows if it's a habit developed from my embarrassment over being the tallest by a foot in eighth grade, my desire to go unnoticed in the public school system, or if I just have weak stomach muscles or something, but I slouch...A LOT. If you know me, you are already aware of this problem, along with the fact that I have a funny gait. I saunter, in fact. Imagine, if you will, a mash-up of Goofy and Meg Ryan, and maybe throw in a dash of Olive Oyl. Can you picture it? That is my amble. I am not in any hurry, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't be even if I wanted to.

Some people have notedly tried to help me out with my funny walk by offering me some tips:

"Stick your chest out, like you want men to notice you!"
No thank you.

"Try pilates!"
Um, what?

"You have shin splints because you run so damn weird."
Thanks, Coach.

[When discussing silly walks, are you already picturing Monty Python? Me too!]

So yeah, I could stand up a bit straighter. I think that will be my new self-improvement project. Where's Henry Higgins when you need him, amirite ladies?

Oh, and I'll also add "Stop yelling in the tone of a shrill siren wail" to that edification list. It is so un-lady-like and generally embarrassing. What would you change about yourself if you could?

Reading a book with a grandparent while sucking her thumb might be her all-time favorite activity.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

on not becoming The Goops

Alternate title: But I still refuse to eat snails.

Have you read French Kids Eat Everything yet? I'm not finished with it, but it's already a game-changer for us. A lovestruck Nate turned to me at dinner last night and wistfully said, a hint of a glistening tear in his eye, "This is just how I wanted dinner to be." Okay, I'm kidding about that. That kind of husbandly praise is the stuff of dreams...

With how much I talk (read: gloat) about feeding my kids real food, it might surprise you I have a lot to learn about teaching kids to eat well. Yes, I usually manage to get my kids to eat healthy food, BUT I have come to dread meal time due to their whininess, messiness, disregard for normal decibel levels and decent personal space, and sibling rivalry that accompany every meal. I was becoming a cross between a hair-raising psycho and a punch-drunk lunatic at dinner, getting into immature discussions with my kids about who was going to get the purple plate and which child would be allowed to sing the third verse of the rainbow song.

Then, the clouds parted, and this book fell into my lap. Or something like that.

But, seriously y'all, I was skeptical at first about whether the tricks in this book would work for us. I have employed some aspects of attachment parenting, and one of them that I associate with the trend is to offer children choices and let them articulate their preferences and control aspects of their food world. If I had to pick one thing I've learned in the last week, it's that the science does not agree; in fact, it suggests children aren't capable of deciding what they should eat, and these decisions actually stress them out.

But the proof is in the pudding: how did the experiment work for us? I am dumbfounded by the fact that not only did these fancy tricks work, but they have made ME enjoy food more. Who could have thought that was possible?

Here's a nutshell about why I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, with a few caveats (so maybe, one enthusiastic thumb and another regular thumb):

Caveat first: I don't have as many ingrained issues with food as the writer apparently does [Example: she is a self-professed lover of McDonald's. Gag me with a spoon.], so I had trouble identifying with her tendency to whine about her great luck. She seemed to have begrudgingly taken on the challenge to feed her kids French food--WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE AND MARRIED TO A FRENCHMAN--whereas I look at these opportunities to mold and change my kids as fun experiments. To me, a person who doesn't thank her lucky stars that she can benefit from the wisdom of the best foodies in the world has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. But then again, I try never to judge a woman for a reaction to her mother-in-law's advice.

Having said that, I learned loads from this book. I've only been to France once and then only to Paris, but even after a few days there, I learned easily that the French have figured out how to make good food. They enjoy food so much and so well. What I didn't know was that they have many rules about what, when, and how to eat. Being someone who likes to cook and eat--and someone who is sometimes painfully attempting to teach my kids good manners--I appreciate a culture that is willing to take time in crafting good, well-mannered eaters.

I also didn't realize how many bad American eating habits I have--and even worse--that I'm passing down to my kids.  I had become resigned to my fate, forgetting--or perhaps never knowing to begin with--that I have role in their meal-time education (Rule #1). Could it be as simple as they were misbehaving because they weren't aware that there were meal-time rules?


French Food Rules

Food Rules
Illustration by: Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything

Here are few of the rules she discusses in the book that I am most taken with (in my own words):


Up the formality! 

The French lay a tablecloth (!!), even for small children; they forgo paper napkins and sippy cups, opting instead for glasses, cloth napkins, and real silverware; and they announce the beginning of the meal with a quick phrase, "To the table!" When everyone is seated, they say "Bon appetit!" to signify that everyone may begin eating. My kids love rituals so took to these improvements like buttah. Vivi sets the table with a purpose, as though she has been lying in wait for the chance to be given this task. We've always said a blessing, which is now like icing on the cake instead of the only ritual.

Documentation of our first foray into tableclothing. It's a Kenyan wrap skirt. Cute, huh?


Respect each other...and the food! 


Imagine a meal with small children in which you don't have to endure loud interruptions and whining. Wonderful, right? How is this magic accomplished??

Actually, it isn't that hard. Once I got started, I figured out quickly that the rules I was implementing were exactly what they were already doing at school. Duh. If they say "But I wanted the purple plate!," I say "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." If they say "I don't want tabbouleh!," then I say "You don't have to like it, you just have to taste it." And after both of those phrases, they pipe in with "That's what my teachers say!" Oh, right.

I can't believe I didn't use these rules sooner. I always imagined that if I stopped them from jumping around and yelling, I would somehow be stifling their joy. But while I previously would have used my "Let kids be kids!" go-to parenting rule, I now realize that what I was doing was robbing everyone, including myself, of a chance to eat a peaceful meal. By stopping the chaos, I offer respect to my dinner guests and myself--and to the food we are eating, for that matter.

Plus, I've added an element of fun by asking them a few questions about their day, like their favorite thing, something they didn't like, a funny part of the day, and a time they helped someone. Both of the girls relish this time to shine with everyone listening. And I relish the opportunity to start new Mom catchphrases.


No food bribes or rewards (Rule #2). 

This rule is actually harder for me than I had thought. In my opinion, this rule exempts the once-a-year bribe of "If you do well at the doctor, you can have a lollipop!" But it also means that you can't stuff your kid's face with animal crackers every time you're in line at the bank. You can't jump into the car knowing you're going to get stuck in traffic and bribe your kids with fruit snacks and chips to make it the duration. You can't swoop in after your kid falls down or doesn't get the purple plate and say "If you eat your peas, you will get a popsicle!" What I failed to realize is that I was teaching my kids to fill their voids with food, and by doing that, I was making their relationship with food emotional. Yikes.


No snacking (Rule #7). 

This rule is tied with the rule above. "It's okay for them to be hungry" has become my new internal mantra. Once I attempted to stop our constant snacking, it occurred to me I had been teaching Charlotte to be a snack monster (see: toddler terrorist post). Her hunger monster still rears its head on occasion; however, just as I wouldn't back down when I tell her it's time to brush her teeth, I feel confident that keeping her from simple carbs and sugary juice is going to pay off in the end when she learns to reward her patience with satiety instead of stifling it with empty calories.


Eat family meals together (Rule #4).

I always wanted to enact this rule, and I had done it sometimes, but I admit there were many occasions that I would spend their meal doing dishes or reading blogs in the kitchen instead of sitting with them. Now I look upon meal time as an important part of their education and sit at the table with them, even if I on rare occasion am not eating a meal myself (and I try to make sure I am eating with them). When they are finished with the meal, I let them have time to blow off steam and be silly (read: not at the dining room table), and I take that time to do my quiet recharging or cleaning.


I've been reciting a poem to the girls called "The Goops" that my parents recited to me as a child, and it has taken on a new meaning lately. Turns out that "The Goops" is actually a series of books written in the early 1900's to teach children manners, so it's no wonder it stands out now.

The Goops 
by Gelett Burgess (1900)

The Goops they lick their fingers,
The Goops they lick their knives,
They spill their broth on the tablecloth-
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew,
And that is why that I 
Am glad I'm not a Goop--are you?


the goops
Image credit: Gutenburg.org
Author's Note: I shared this post with Tasty TraditionsWorks for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

p.s. I'm not raising toilets either

Among members of my dad's family, there are some well-known parenting phrases that came from my great grandmother, who had eight children and lived to be 92. It's hard to pick a favorite. When asked how she raised so many children so well, she always replied "With one blind eye and one deaf ear." I love that one because it's basically the only way I've stayed sane since becoming a mom.

The one I've got on my mind this week is "I'm raising children, not furniture." She would say it whenever one of the kids would spill, break, or generally mistreat an object in her home. I love it because it's so true! Whatever angry outburst that I am inclined to have when my kids break something is never worth it compared to the positive and lasting worth of the patience and love I can show them instead.

 photo ae6eefaf-4857-441b-8d8d-6994310809d8_zps42ef99b7.jpg

That's not to say I don't erupt from time to time, like when they combined forces to make the toilet overflow yesterday, just so they could "use the potty fixer thing like Mommy does," and I walked in to find water drowning the floor, the kids, and my humility. La di da, la di da.

I find another use of this phrase--perhaps unintended by Great Grandma--is an internal mantra when I'm pondering whether to play with my kids or clean up. Tonight we voted for playing dominoes at the dining room table instead of doing the dishes. And so, okay, dishes aren't furniture, but the general meaning is the same.

Random assortment of above-the-sink collectibles. Items change weekly but never disappear completely.


The likely reason I've got the phrase on my mind this week is that instead of doing my nightly cleaning and organizing, I've been writing and reading. I have gotten back into the swing of writing every day, even if it's only a paragraph, and I'm immensely enjoying myself. NaBloPoMo (the blogging every day thing) really helps me get the gears turning. Tonight I'm doing more reading than writing, since I am doing my part to vote for The Bloggies. Check it out, but don't say I didn't warn you about the potential for time suckage.

Be well and stay dry,
~J

Friday, September 07, 2012

parenting a "spirited" child

Picking a Halloween costume. Much to Mommy's dismay, Raggedy Ann is not the winner.

Although I realize I handily place myself into a parenting cliche with this next observation, I'm going to say it anyway: Vivi is a special kid. I know, I know, I went there. I even nerdily bolded the text. Go ahead and call me a trite mother. But it's true, she is special! Ever since she turned to me at eighteen months old after a lengthy car trip and said "Oh my goodness, that was long!," I knew I was in for a parenting experience I wasn't quite expecting. The child knew about 150 words (counting what she knew in Spanish too) and spoke in 5-word sentences by the time the doctor told me at her check-up that she should know "about three to five words."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

parenting: my shaolin crane kung fu style

Last May I wrote about my achievement of zen-like calm around my kids. I was remembering the post a few days ago when I read an honest, unapologetic post by a good bloggy friend Emily about parenting difficulties. She really laid on the table, and I applaud her frank portrayal of motherhood at its most challenging. As I unveiled yesterday, I'm pleased she's stopping by the blog on Friday to share some of her best stay-at-home mom tricks.

Her words particularly struck a chord with me right now because Charlie is rapidly heading toward the second half of her second year, a time that is already proving to be more challenging than anything we've dealt with so far. She wants WHAT she wants WHEN she wants it. It hasn't helped that she and Vivi have swapped sick germs for the past month, so I felt I had to comfort her every cry and whim. A few days ago, in the midst of making her what must have been her fourth bowl of crackers and cheese (because she will only eat a trifecta of yellow foods this week: eggs, cheese, and applesauce), it occurred to me I was setting a bad pattern. Yup, back to square one. Serenity now!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

1-2-3 magic

1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (123 Magic)1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This has been the most effective discipline method we've tried so far. It's a keeper for sure. Vivi is a challenging kid on whom it doesn't work just to praise the good behavior. She needs some discipline for the times she challenges our authority and is just plain obnoxious. The best part about the method is that it removes emotion and talking (my two previous favorite discipline tactics!), which leaves nothing but a clear message about what she did wrong and allows for a quick decision about changing her behavior. I liken it to the clicker some people use for their dogs.

I owe this book recommendation to my excellent therapist. She also works with parents and children who are having difficulties with discipline, ADD, etc.; I was ready to give up on child-raising books altogether, but since she recommended it so highly, I decided to give it a chance. I am so glad I did. What I love most about the author is that he notes the fact that the more you discipline your children, the more you are able to enjoy them. I couldn't agree more. I know I said in a recent post that I am attempting to ignore the annoying but tolerable behaviors. And I am! But there are plenty of annoying and intolerable behaviors, like asking "Why? Why? Why?" after I've already provided an explanation and whining. As sweet as she is, Genevieve is also an astute and clever child who is prone to boredom, and thus a perfect storm of A#1 annoyance is born. Lord, beer me strength.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

i love you, you're perfect, now change

I love the title of that play because I think it so aptly describes human interaction, especially with spouses and children, at its basic emotional level. As Vivi grows into an intelligent and headstrong three-year-old, I am continually challenged to strike the balance between instruction and acceptance. After all, what are parents if not adults who impose our values and expectations on our little sponges?

Parents who've seen the proud smile of a praised child--and any child psychologist worth their salt--can attest that the secret to achieving lasting behavior modification is positive reinforcement. In our case, Nate and I realized the most glaring example of this truth last fall in a manner too disgusting to describe here, even for a mommy blogger. I'll sum it up by saying after your kid does the most dirty of deeds on your living room floor and then dances a little jig while you and your husband scream and pull your hair out, it doesn't take long to realize you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Sure enough, as soon as we stopped making a big deal about it...voila! Potty trained child.

So if we have hard evidence of the benefits of positive reinforcement, why is it so hard to enact consistently? I've been pondering this question frequently. Perhaps it seems counter-intuitive to praise the good and ignore the bad given our adherence to the Biblical adage, spare the rod, spoil the child. And an authoritative parent like myself who has witnessed many gross displays of overpraising ("Oh good, Johnny! Thank you for not smacking Mommy in the face! What a good little boy you are!") desires to avoid going down that laissez faire road at all cost. But I find with some compassion and a lot of patience, I can offer both discipline and praise. After some soul searching and good old fashioned hard work, I believe I've come to strike a zen-like, albeit sometimes stressed, disposition in my household. In my mind, the key to this delicate equilibrium is to punish consistently the behavior you find intolerable, whatever that might be (for me, it's back-talk and hitting), but ignore the annoying but tolerable behaviors like thumb-sucking and seat-kicking.

"When you understand, you cannot help but love. You cannot get angry. To develop understanding, you have to practice looking...with eyes of compassion. When you understand, you love. And, when you love you naturally act in a way that can relieve the suffering of people." -Thich Nhat Hahn

I am a lover of Buddhist teachings, less on a spiritual level than a practical one. A former psychology student, I routinely scrutinize my interactions with those I love most dearly, and I seek advice of the wise and experienced out there, whatever their philosophical or religious leanings might be. Since I haven't yet found myself a personal monk or guru, I read books and attend therapy sessions instead. I freely admit I have needed both lately to tame the beast I've previously described here. Again and again, my studies lead me to one word: compassion. Who would think that such a primitive and vital principle would be at times so elusive? And yet, even with all of the outpouring of emotion, the unconditional love, the joie de vivre I express to and for my family, it is unconditional acceptance that I find tricky to attain. Managing my expectations and withholding attempts to control my kids are my parenting Achilles' heels. I am reminded again of Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, who says parents love their children not because they are good but because they are their children. And so, I will endeavor to be more compassionate.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

toddler tip: intervention tactics

Here's another list I stole from my current favorite parenting book (and no, the authors aren't paying me to advertise). This list will give you some ideas of what to do if your child breaks a rule. I promise I will begin posting my own ideas; these lists just help get the ball rolling.

1. Ignore, if it's not a major infraction. Remember, attention is toddler currency.

2. Redirect. Sometimes I feel I spend 99% of my day doing this.

3. Use humor. When I can keep my wits and sense of humor about me, this works amazingly well.

4. Time out. We save this for hitting and talking back,  i.e. major infractions.

5. Positive reinforcement. Hugs and praise go a long way, as do rewards like TV and chocolate.

6. Give choices. Our favorite is when it's nap time and she refuses to get up, we say "Do you want to walk or be carried upstairs?" She doesn't want either, but when given the choice, she chooses to walk.

7. Teach consequences, i.e. cause and effect. I think this one is more sophisticated, and Vivi is just now ready at almost 3 years old to begin learning. It is also the hardest for me to follow through on.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

toddler tip: the 20 commandments of discipline

I frequently note that parenting isn't for sissies, especially when you are outnumbered. I often feel as though I am barely hanging on by a thread, but when I am able to step back, I see that I do occasionally get something right. When I feel like I have constructive wisdom to pass on, I think I'll start posting those tips too, rather than just continuing to request tips from others or rant aimlessly about my challenge d'jour.

You've heard me say I love to organize my life, so why should my blog be any different? I'm going to experiment with posting a tip every Thursday. Since I am currently working with very little brain power, this plan will hopefully help me stay on track, and it doesn't hurt that tip and Thursday both start with T. If you see a tip on Tuesdays every now and then, don't hold it against me.

Disclaimer: This list isn't actually my own tip. It comes from my current favorite parenting book, and I thought it was worth sharing with other parents of young kids. Although I hate the expression "Terrible Two's," I have had my fair share of difficult moments as a mom, and I find this list very handy to review. Some of them are a bit repetitive. I underlined my favorites, which I say as mantras in my head in the midst of battle.

1. Use a 'prevent defense.'

2. Don't back down to avoid conflict.

3. Anticipate conflicts.

4. Anticipate attention-seeking behavior.

5. Act immediately.

6. Be consistent.

7. Pick your battles.

8. Make your comments short and sweet.

9. Focus on the behavior, not the child (i.e. what your kid did was bad, but the kid isn't bad).

10. Remind your child that you love her.

11. Don't yell! (remember The Godfather).

12. Show respect.

13. Be a good role model.

14. Catch your child being good.

15. Use age-appropriate and temperament-appropriate techniques.

16. Don't treat your child like an adult.

17. Lower your expectations.

18. Take emotion out of the equation.

19. Don't negotiate or make false promises (personally, I would call this one "Never negotiate with terrorists).

20. Remember to take a step back.

I am certain I fail more than I succeed, but somehow my child still turned out sweet and happy for the most part. Funny how that works.

Friday, February 11, 2011

the monster inside

When I shared the story of the mom who had rage over goldfish crackers, I promised to follow up with more later. I am reminded daily of that story while I struggle to find inner...and perhaps more importantly, outer...peace in a chaotic household. I have often been told how patient, calm, quiet, or even keel I am. Once asked to describe me, my partner in seventh grade Spanish class said "Luisa es aburrido;" translation: Louise (my middle name & alias in class) is boring. Not bored, boring. But I digress.

I take these normally complimentary remarks with a twinge of guilt because deep down I know the truth. I suppose it's true that very few people besides close friends and family have ever seen me lose my temper. Alas, the beast is there all the same, lying in wait for me to drop my guard. Often I am surprised to see it surface, as I usually pretend that I am impervious to anger. I am a hollow reed, I accept the things I cannot change, I'm rubber and you're glue.

The cause of my recent tirades is the same; for some reason or other I don't sleep one night, and following in quick succession, I endure a day with little or no napping by both of my children. Enter Genevieve, my brilliant but sly child, who seems to sense my weakness and decide she'd like to toy with me. I could relay the exact nature of her crimes, but that's really not the point, is it? The point is I snap and drag her to time out. And oh no, I never spank her, not because I think it's wrong but because I feel I can inflict more torture if I pray on her emotions, so I play mind games instead. I attempt to make her feel guilty for her behavior by telling her how sad or disappointed I am. And why am I so sad and disappointed, you might justifiably ask?

I'm actually not. If I could cool off before I hauled her to the corner of shame, I would see that I am in fact just tired and frustrated and looking for someone to take it out on. I would also see that I had just provided her the exact response she wanted. I got played. As my wise pediatrician puts it, "Attention, positive or negative, is toddler currency. When you give it to her, you pay out." Ca-ching!

This is where it gets funny. Even now I find myself chuckling a bit at her response. I call her my little sociopath, for as much as I squawk and moan and pull my hair out, she stays cool as a cucumber, never betraying a look of fear or regret, even smiling slightly at my insanity. God love her for her ability to shrug me off. I can only hope I will manage to quell my tidal wave of fury before I entwine us both in a permanent dance of anger. For now, I seek the wisdom of less emotional mothers out there, like this woman.

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