Catch Them While They're Young

mother kissing her daughter
Photo by Irina Murza on Unsplash

From a very young age, children know the difference between right and wrong. They’ll lie to cover up their own wrong doings even though the lies are often nonsensical. It can be tempting to view their stories as cute and entertaining and let them go, but don’t fall into the trap of letting them go. In no way should you shame the child or berate her/him. Instead, you can gently lead them to the truth and praise them for telling it. This is a teaching approach and will help build their self-esteem and trust. (two developmental assets that are a foundation for future successful living and living a life that enables the child to thrive.)

assorted-color bottles on white surface with paint scribbles
Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash

Caregivers, guardians, and parents can begin with questions like, “So, the dog did this?” “How did the dog get the ______?” “How could the dog do that when it has paws and not hands?”, etc. Next, gently move to personal questions involving the child. “Where were you?” “What did you CHOOSE to do?” “Why did you CHOOSE to do that?” “What did you hope would happen?” “Were you just curious?” and so on. Taylor your questions to the circumstances and responses of the child, for sure, but always keep in mind that you want the child to tell the truth and that telling the truth will help them grow in a positive direction.

When the child tells the truth or something close to it, you can follow with more questions: “That sounds more like the truth, how do you feel about telling the truth?” “Will you tell me the real truth?” Praise them for telling the truth. “I like it when you tell the truth, that helps me trust you!” “It takes a lot of courage to tell the truth!”

A CONFESSION! First, ask again how the child feels about him/herself for telling the real truth? Tell them how you feel about people who tell the truth–you can trust them and help them. Recognize their courage, but gently acknowledge that the act was still a mistake and when we all make mistakes we need to act to try to fix our mistakes.

Involve the child in the planning of the action of restitution. “Now we need to figure out how to make this better. What do you think we could do?” Depending on the age of the child, it is often helpful to guide them with suggestions so that you’re modeling for them that there are different ways to solve a problem and that they have the power to help make it better and you will help. For example, “Do you think you should help clean up the mess?” “What can you do to help?” Why do you think I’m wanting you to help?”, and so on. Again, depending on the age of the child, the adult might need to guide these answers with questions such as, “Should we “blank” or “blank”? “Should you “blank” or “blank”? (limit choices to avoid overwhelming young children with options)

The final step in the process, after the restitution has been completed, is to engage in a conversation about the entire event. “You chose to a mistake by ________ . You helped make the problem better by choosing to ________ . How do you feel about that? I feel happy that you told the truth and ________. So, what can you choose to do differently next time so that this doesn’t happen again? (help the child formulate a plan by providing a selection (no more than 2-3) of options. And finally, reaffirm that a mistake was made but the truth was told and the NEXT time, the child will know to do something different.

boy holding a ball
Photo by Lukáš Rychvalský on Unsplash

We do all make mistakes and we all want to be forgiven. Restitution that is appropriate to the offense (natural consequences) teaches children that they can learn from mistakes and have the power to try to help make things better. Taking responsibility for personal behavior will go a long way throughout the rest of the child’s life especially as his/her mistakes often become more serious. This approach empowers children to be able to plan ahead by anticipating behaviors/consequences. Depending on the circumstances of the event, this can also be a great opportunity for building empathy. “How would you feel if _____ and why?”, “How do you think _____ felt when _____ and why?” “How do think _______ will feel after you _____ (take action toward restitution)? Why?”

Consider bibliotherapy: What books can you find to read to a young child where the main character makes a mistake and makes restitution? You can work these kinds of books into your daily reading routine. 🙂

What would you add to this discussion? Why? If you’ve had this kind of conversation, what did you notice about how a youth reacted and/or felt about the situation when it was over? What are the benefits you see in using this method? Please share.

Eco-tip: Help make your family good stewards of the environment by making your own fabric softeners instead of using chemicals. This post gives you a good recipe that will not hurt the planet and does not necessarily contribute to the problem of plastic waste: https://brendid.com/natural-homemade-fabric-softener/. From the article: “Commercial fabric softeners leave a slippery film on fabrics that makes it feel soft to the touch. This chemical film makes contact with skin when you wear clothes, sleep on sheets, or dry off with a towel. There are lots of opportunities for your skin to absorb these dangerous chemicals!” Enlist help from youth to make eco-friendly solutions and talk about why you are doing so. Teach your child to love our Earth.

Do Babies Know?

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

In an earlier post I discussed the myth that a baby will be spoiled if it’s picked up or held too much. The answer is an emphatic NO! The opposite is true. Babies who are held more in their first year of life develop a stronger sense of security and belonging. I held my infants to the point where I had in-laws telling me I shouldn’t hold them as much and I should let them “cry it out” sometimes. NOT TRUE. https://www.babble.com/parenting/cuddling-babies-study-benefits-touch/

Photo by Brytny.com on Unsplash

Infants don’t cry for no reason. They can be hungry, tired, need to be held, need to have a diaper changed, and they CAN be bored! DANG! 32 years ago baby kangaroo carriers were made so that the infant faced inward toward the mother. My daughter wanted none of that from a very young age. (If you could see my face, you’d understand why.) LOL I had to face her outwardly and it was so uncomfortable. THAT wasn’t enough either–I had to talk to her constantly and tell and show her everything I was doing. She became an appendage. At age 32 I have put her down and she’s on her own. LOL

The first developmental asset is a sense of family security. In cases of extreme neglect, infants who aren’t attended to adequately when they cry or otherwise indicate they need attention learn mistrust and can reach the point where they can never trust the affection of others. This can negatively impact a person’s ability to form intimate relationships throughout their different life stages and into adulthood.

Another way to interrupt an infant’s development of a strong sense of security is the environment of the home. If there is nearly constant turmoil in the form of fighting, arguing, and other kinds of discord, an infant can sense and understand the negative environment which can also create a sense of insecurity. BABIES DO KNOW.

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash (this advice may not pertain to birds)

Every family experiences at least occasional outbursts of negative communication. It’s something that is unavoidable but, when it happens, it’s important to make sure that infants and children are not involved and do not directly witness fights.(https://www.parentingscience.com/can-babies-tell-when-parents-are-fighting.html) As much as possible, we adults should be aware of little ears and make sure they’re not in the room and can’t hear the arguing. Our wee ones need to feel that they’re in a secure family filled with mostly love. SO, go ahead and pick them up with reckless abandon when they’re newborns and keep the adult fighting confined to places and times when the young ones are not within earshot. All I am saying is “Give security a chance.”

What have been some of your experiences with your infant? What works for you when Baby is crying? How do you contain parental discord (fighting) so your infant is not a witness? Please share your stories.

What Do Our Youth Need?

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Some of our happiest days were when our home was filled with our children and their friends whose family origins began in a wide variety of countries and a variety of sexual identities. We had a rainbow rich with learning, laughing, and loving and we came to know, first hand, that what we all had in common was far greater than the differences we had in customs, religions, etc. The most important commonalities we shared were respect and value for others as humans. I often find myself longing for those days because there was so much laughter and fun and love.

How do we raise our youth to value others? How do we instill respect and the love of learning from other cultures so they don’t grow up with hate and vitriol for others who are not of the same beliefs as they?

In my experience, it’s all about how we adults in all of the systems I discussed in a previous post, model the behaviors we want to instill. Kids are sponges when it comes to observing our words and actions, what we watch on TV and listen to on the radio. You may BELIEVE they’re too young to understand but they never are too young.

Equally important is how we adults in their microsystems value them as individuals. The Search Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota identified 40 Developmental Assets that are essential to a youth and helping them to thrive. They need to feel loved and secure and know that they are valued before they can value others. Pictured below are all of the assets that were identified as part of a study in 2010. I’ve omitted the survey results because they’re 10 years old. (You can read the original document by clicking on the image.) Given a strong sense of self-value and security, youth will be able to more readily appreciate others. Below is the list of assets.

Copyright © 2011 by Search Institute, 615 First Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55415; 800-888-7828; http://www.search-institute.org

I view this list as a starting point for parents to consider. No child will ever have 100% of each developmental asset and that is OK. Life isn’t perfect, parents are perfect, the world is imperfect. The crucial goal is to enrich these assets as much as humanly possible. There will be some days, of course, that are better than others. That is the human experience and helps us develop empathy. As this blog progresses I will integrate some of these assets individually or in clusters as they relate to the topic. Stay tuned. 🙂

What Now?

All of the build-up for the holidays abruptly comes to an end and the next day is business as usual. There are even songs about wanting the spirit of Christmas to last all year. Why can’t it?

REWIND

don't give up. You are not alone, you matter signage on metal fence
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

I’m changing my topic here and now because of the current news reports about a mass stabbing today in a Jewish Synagogue and a shooting in a church in Texas.

“WHY?” is what we usually lament after these mass killing/wounding events. We condemn the attackers, mourn for the lost souls and their families and feel sad for 5 minutes until the next big news story or the next mass killing. It seems that mass killings happen almost daily and the losses are unbearable. They are also overwhelming and wouldn’t occur without direct teaching of hate beginning at a very young age.

The answer to “WHY?”, in my opinion, lies in the original topic of what I was going to write about initially today. I was not going to focus on Christmas but on other holidays as well including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. (just because those are the celebrations from this time of year with which most people are familiar)

The climate of hate that seems to prevail in our world today is terrifying. While our executive branch is focusing on somewhat exaggerated threats from terrorists of other countries, our greatest danger is, according to our intelligence agencies, from those who were born and raised in our own country.

It is true that children are not born hating others because of their skin color, religious beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, countries of origin, varying abilities, etc. Essentially, they are blank slates who will be taught to value differences or to view people with differences from themselves with disdain.

When considering the holidays mentioned above, it seems that it takes a conscious effort to ignore their commonalities of the basic tenants central to the mainstream ideas anchored in most religions. From my studies, one of those tenants is valuing others no matter their differences and appreciating the richness of embracing and learning from so many different cultures and kinds of people. So why is this ideal so overlooked by those who choose to reject others instead of embracing them? I’m afraid that the answers are too many and varied to address in one blog post. I will begin by discussing a developmental psychological point of view.

Urie Bronfenbrenner, is a developmental psychologist Who developed a nesting model of development. (The model discussed below is of the early model only.) Think of a stone landing in the water. The stone represents the individual and the waves that spread out around the origin of the drop represent the models of increasing societal influences on the development of the individual. (child)

landscape photography of mountain
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The first wave surrounding the stone is the smallest and represents the microsystem, or the smallest system and consists of the immediate family including parents, caregivers, siblings, and school system. Children have direct contact with these individuals on an almost daily (school) basis.

The second wave is called the mesosystem and it surrounds the microsystem. In this wave, the influences on a child include all of those in the microsystem as well as the relationships between people in their microsystem and those with whom they have direct contact. Examples would include a child’s teacher and parents. In this example there is a direct relationship between two people in the microsystem. Both the parents and the teacher are in a child’s microsystem and they both have a relationship with one another. The parent/teacher relationship constitute the mesosystem.

Surrounding all of the people in the micro and meso systems is the exosystem. This circle of influence in a child’s life includes all of those in the micro and meso systems as well as those who do not have direct influence on the child but those who impact the child’s life. One example of such a person might be a parent’s boss who promotes a parent and issues a raise in pay. The influence on the child may be that the family is no longer stressed financially and the child’s needs can be easily met. The child benefits because the parents are also experiencing a benefit and there might be less stress in the overall life of the family.

Finally, the macrosystem encompasses all individuals included in the other systems and encompasses “cultural and societal beliefs and programming that influence an individual’s development“. Some examples would be rules, laws, and regulations of local, state, and national government, religious beliefs, and gender norms among others.

Our first and most important development influences are those in our microsystems. From birth our parents and caregivers model and promote their values and beliefs which children absorb like sponges. Listening to a very young child speak and interact with others can be a window into the world of their immediate families. This is where children are mostly taught to value or degrade others. Youth hang on every word and deed of their immediate family members and these become their truths. In homes where differences are appreciated and embraced, children learn loving attitudes and conversely, when children hear judgement, hate, and vitriol toward groups or individuals they learn to hate and judge. An example of this is my mother who, upon meeting a friends African-American housekeeper, turned to her friend and exclaimed, “Barbara! You have a n****r working for you?” (This housekeeper and my mother later became very close friends.) One would not have had to have met her immediate family to understand what she had been taught by them. She learned what she lived.

What do we want our children to learn and embrace? Do they benefit from isolationism and hate? Do isolation and hate enhance a child’s sense of well-being and belonging in the world and help create a sense of community or do they separate and isolate the child creating a sense of fear and being alone in a very small community? Overall, how do we want a child to develop in a most beneficial way to the child and the world in which that child lives; hate or value?

Why Does Santa Love Them More?

brindle French bulldog puppy in Santa hat
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Many school children are home now for the winter holidays including Christmas. When they return to school after the beginning of the year there will be so much chatter about who got what from Santa. It’s exciting to share and compare but sometimes the comparison can lead to feelings of sadness as the children from less economically advantaged homes wonder why they weren’t as loved by Santa as their peers. In my teaching career I have heard children lament that they must have been bad because Santa only brings toys to “good” children, right? (Such exchanges with our students encourage so many of us teachers to give “Santa” gifts to families who would otherwise not have them. Numerous organizations can also be counted on to save the day for families but not every child is able to be reached.)

A friend of mine from the gym explained that he and his wife have never let their 5 year-old believe in Santa. She has known from the time she could understand that the gifts were from Mommy and Daddy. Their belief is that honesty will keep her from being let down or feeling left out when other children’s gifts exceed the perceived value of hers.

What is the answer to these two very different celebrations of Christmas for parents who are seeking to build compassion and empathy in their children? We have families who attribute most if not all gift giving from Santa and others who attribute nothing to Santa. Is one way of celebrating Christmas right? Is way one wrong? That’s up to the families to decide. One excellent compromise that I wish I had heard when my kids were wee tots is that Santa brings one or X numbers of toys and the parents and other family members give the rest. I would have adopted that story because it is so much fun for some of us to keep Santa alive and see our children eagerly anticipate his arrival. Santa is what so many of us grew up thinking about Christmas and the idea of Santa is certainly a tale perpetuated in the media. It’s also a way to make Christmas more inclusive for less fortunate youth.

No matter how a family chooses to celebrate, there will still be comparisons between classmates of the numbers and kinds of toys each has received so if you child receives X numbers of toys and you give the rest you can easily explain that YOU asked Santa to do so in order that more children could get presents for Christmas. My mother would take us on a journey through the Sears toy catalog and she explained that the prices indicated how many hours it took Santa’s elves to make a toy. She wanted us to be considerate of Santa’s time and cautioned that if we asked for too many hours of toys that Santa might be disappointed because he couldn’t have his elves spend that many hours on one child because there were so many others for whom he had to make toys, after all. That wasn’t a bad idea either.

There is no right or wrong way to share the spirit of love and giving in a family but there are ways to make Christmas more inclusive for children whose families can and can’t afford extravagant gift giving. Maybe re-framing our tales of Santa to our to children might be something to consider.

Has your family grappled with how or whether or not to introduce Santa into Christmas celebrations? What was your decision? What did you consider when making the choice? Please share your stories.

Batteries! Lights! Bleeping! What's Under Your Tree?

assorted-color interlocking blocks on floor
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

With the holiday season being upon us, our focus turns to the latest and greatest toys (which are often electronic) in the store. There is nothing wrong with electronic toys here and there but the toys of quality are books and those that require imaginative play. My kids won’t even be married until summer of 2020 and I’m already collecting toys for grandkids (with my fingers crossed). I’m collecting Legos, K’nex, wooden trains and train tracks, marble works, blocks, etc. Why? Because these kinds of toys engage a child’s brain and teach him/her problem solving skills while the children are actively engaged in their activity instead of their being passive observers. When they build/explore/share they develop language skills, social skills, understanding of physics concepts, problem solving, planning, seeing a work of theirs to completion, a concept of permanency, and so much more.

When our kids were young, they received far too many toys from relatives and friends that were fascinating for 10 minutes and never touched again. There were too many and there was little variation in play. The batteries polluted our Earth and the plastic will last forever. (I donated all working toys.) The toys they always came back to were the most simple. We’d play games like build the tallest building, make the longest train track, and more. Counting, organizing, categorizing and other skills played an important role in our “games”. Play is the best teacher for children (and adults). Play never grew old for us because the variation in their use was infinite. No play session was ever the same allowing different skills to be explored each time. When the play becomes a family affair, memories that will never be forgotten are created and the bonding is strong.

The other fantastic quality of imaginative toys are the inclusion benefits. No particular skills are required and children of all ages can play at the same time. Children with all kinds of different abilities can play and be included and all children involved can benefit from interacting with a variety of children with a variety of abilities.

Quality toys can be pricey which is why I usually bought ours at garage sales. Today, there are numerous on-line sites where toys can be purchased inexpensively. I just recently bought a HUGE tub of Legos for $25. for instance. Thrift stores can also offer great deals. Sometimes, parents form a sharing cooperative with friends where toys move from family to family every so many weeks or months. (determined by the group) Toys don’t have to be expensive to be good.

There is more information about the benefits of simple and fewer toys in this article: https://returntonow.net/2019/04/02/study-having-fewer-simpler-toys-makes-children-more-imaginative-and-intelligent/

What are the toys your children (or children of others you know) play with the most? What do you notice about their play when it comes to cooperation, talking, problem-solving, planning, etc? I’d love to hear your stories.

Petitions

OPINION: I must get 5 bazillion petitions to sign in my email every day. (MAYBE they just want my signature but are too shy to ask?) Today’s petition contained the following verbiage:

Young black and brown girls have long been the victims of discriminatory rules and punitive practices that push them out of the classroom and into the crosshairs of the criminal injustice system. Black girls are seven times more likely to be suspended than white girls. Black girls are also four times more likely to be arrested at school.

Schools police black girls’ bodies, hair, and ability to express themselves. Worst of all, school resource officers often use excessive force when engaging with black girls over simple infractions.”

There have been numerous stories about how young girls of color have be punitively punished for natural hairstyles, (might as well punish someone for the appearance of their face–it makes as much sense.) girls who have been slammed to the ground over seemingly nothing, and girls of color who are given consequences for indiscretions that are much harsher than those given to their Caucasian counterparts who commit the same infractions. This has to stop.

In 2006 the FBI issued a report warning of infiltration into our law enforcement agencies of white supremacists. ( https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/fbi-white-supremacists-in-law-enforcement ) They also teach in our schools, work in public offices, and are sometimes administrators in school systems. This is why parents who are NOT of color need to pay attention to what’s happening in our children’s schools.

I often wear a sweatshirt that reads, “It takes white people to change white people. Be the change.” To me, that means it is our responsibility to call out bad behaviors and discriminatory discipline in our educational institutions. WE MUST be the ones in great numbers who are calling the school and demanding better treatment of our girls of color when we know of discriminatory actions. To ignore these occurrences is to give tacit permission to continue.

Recently, there was a young girl of color who was not allowed to have her school picture taken because of her hairstyle. HER HAIRSTYLE? That hairstyle was adorable. SHE is adorable and SHE’S EIGHT!

I’m retired now, but when I was teaching White girls had all different kinds of color streaks in their hair or their head of hair was an unconventional color and the same is true now. Crickets on that from school photographers and administrators.

What I would have hoped would have happened in this little girl’s defense is that all parents, regardless of skin tone, would have called that school and raised the roof. Sending this little angel the message that something was so egregiously wrong with HER that she couldn’t get a simple school picture taken, is beyond the pale. In fact, people who didn’t have kids in the school should have called. I called. I hope I wasn’t the only one.

Why are His Hands so Dirty?

woman sitting on wheelchair during fun run
Photo by Kevin André on Unsplash

My mother tells the story of the first time I saw a person of color when I was very young. The person was someone we had seen while we were out shopping or something and I not so quietly blared, “Why are his hands so dirty?” (I was a curious very young child.) and I embarrassed my mother greatly. I was probably wondering about the dirt because as kids we were always told to wash our hands and my parents checked our hands to see that we had done so. I was keenly aware of hand cleanliness and I guess I must have had high standards. LOL

In today’s society we encounter a wide variety of skin tones, physical abilities, appearances, variations in so many different areas of human appearance that it is totally natural for children to ask questions when they see someone whose appearance, for whatever reason, isn’t like the appearance of others in their world. What IS unnatural is to give our children the notion that there is something wrong with an individual’s difference(s) in how they look.

When I not so discretely inquired of the “dirty hands”, my mother simply told me that some people have darker skin than ours and that his hands weren’t dirty but were just a different color. That was that. That is all that needed to be said. The answer was direct, factual, and non-judgmental just as it should have been. Had I continued questioning why, a simple factual answer might have been, “Because people in different parts of the world have different skin tones. Families of darker people once lived in areas where the sun was strong so their skin had to protect them from it. Darker skin is better protected from the sun that light skin.”

Different abilities: Questions about people using wheel chairs and various other assistance tools can be answered in the same manner. Asking about wheelchairs, for instance, can be addressed by responding, “because the person can’t walk so they have a special chair that lets them get around. Isn’t that great that they can have that to help them?” Later, follow up discussion can also be a great teacher. “What do think it would be like to not be able to use your legs and have a wheelchair to help you get around?” (building empathy and acceptance) “Can you think of some ways people in wheelchairs might need help from people who walk?” “How could you help someone if they needed your help?” “Remember to ask before you help if the person wants assistance.” Of course, parents need not ask all of these questions or use these exact words. Let the conversation occur naturally. If the child is satisfied by your first response that can be the end of the discussion and at a future time other ideas related to that topic might be appropriate to talk about.

Children who are differently-abled are very frequently the targets of bullies. Life in school can be miserable for those youth and the negative effects of the bullying can last a lifetime. These victims need other children to be their advocates and if children have developed an understanding and empathy for these children, they are more likely to be advocates. How can they learn to be advocates for and accepting of all different children?

BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS!

MAYBE because of my background as a reading specialist, I strongly suggest books written for children about those with disabilities. It’s a great way to introduce the topic and create a natural environment for discussion. If you’ve shared books featuring a rich diversity of people, perhaps your child will understand people using various equipment when they’re in public and not view someone in a wheelchair, for example, as someone to be feared. Where or where can you find these books? Take your kids to the library to find Your local library is an excellent resource and it’s free!

For more information: (read the introduction and the conclusion unless you’re interested in statistics) https://publikasiilmiah.ums.ac.id/bitstream/handle/11617/10080/ICCE%20Proceeding%20FULL%20rev06062018_50.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

How Do I Answer That Question?

woman in gray top
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Kids notice random things and they ask SOOOOOOOOOO many questions. Sometimes the questions are never ending but that’s a good thing. They are thinking and learning. Once in a while it’s fun to ask them, “What do you think?” then “Why do you think that?” Praise guesses and reasoning when they’re wrong but not falsely. You can offer, ” I can see why you might think that.” or, “That makes sense.” then maybe offer some clues if their answer is not correct. Before you offer to supply the answer, ask. “Do you want me to tell you or do you want to think some more?” Kids need to learn it’s OK to be wrong and that thinking and venturing a guess is always good.

When our kids were young we passed an ice cream stand. It was the end of the season and the flavor of the day was posted as “potpourri” because the store was clearing out their various flavors. Our son tried to read the flavor (I don’t remember what he guessed.) when our daughter turned to him and in her most authoritative big sister voice corrected him. “NO, that’s not __________. It says POT PARTY!” Sorry, I couldn’t help it and I laughed out loud. I was surprised and amused. It was a good guess from both of them but not quite accurate. To this day I don’t know if she even knew what a pot party was, but we now laugh at the story. At age 32 she now knows what “pot” is. Has she been to a party? I don’t know.

There are times, however, when they ask questions that feel uncomfortable or inappropriate at the time to answer due to the age of the child or the nature of the question. Questions like, “Why are those two men or women kissing/holding hands/have their arms around each other?” can cause us to pause in an awkward silence. In a previous post I spoke briefly about developing empathy in our children. When answering questions that seem unanswerable at the time, remember, simplicity is best. We don’t want our children to condemn others for their love interests or think that something is wrong about them so a short answer like, “Because they love each other,” is more than acceptable. Delivered in a matter-of-fact way, we tell the truth and answer the question without more detail than is needed. Many times that will be that but if the questions persist use the KISS principle. “Keep it simple, silly.” “Just the facts, ma’am (or sir). If the questions persist to the point that you don’t think it’s appropriate to answer keep in mind “I don’t know” is always an option.

Our young ones pick up on EVERYTHING, not just our words but our tone and manner. If they see that we are uncomfortable, they will learn that there is something wrong with their question or the concept and that could create a negative interpretation of what they see. I hope we want them to accept people for who they are and to learn that differences among us are good and natural and we can learn from one another. (Some of us adults could do well to keep this in mind too.) Our children live in a far different world of information access than we had when we were young. (technology is obsolete once it’s sitting on the shelf waiting to be sold) Kids may ask all kinds of questions of home devices like Alexa and the like but YOU are the most important teacher your child will ever have . You probably want to be the first source of information for your children. My young children were playing with an anatomy program on which I thought I had turned on the privacy feature to disallow sexual content. I was painting a ceiling when I heard the program ask, Do you want to know how Adam uses his penis and Eve uses her vagina to make a baby? Crap. I yelled, “no” and got off the ladder faster than I’ve ever gotten off of a ladder before. I SUCCESSFULLY set the privacy feature this time and simply told my kids that I didn’t want them to learn about that from a computer and if they wanted to know, to come ask their dad or me. They were totally uninterested. WHEW!

What they learn from you is probably what they will keep in their mind and hearts for a lifetime. Let’s make our answers to their questions are empathetic, simple, honest, and accepting.

For more information about this topic, you may want to read the following article:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/004005990403700108

How do you handle discussing questions with your children that make you feel uncomfortable? Please share your experiences in the comments. We’d like to learn from you.

Not-So Terrible Twos

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

HAHAHAHAHAHA you thought YOU were in charge at your house? Your toddler begs to differ. While “NO” seems to be the word of the day, you can solve that problem pretty easily by giving your young ones a choice. They want to exert their independence but they obviously can’t be allowed to run the house.

What’s a parent/caregiver to do? Simple! Give choices when ever possible. Instead of mandating, “Go to bed” and then fighting about it for who knows how long, try, “Do you want to go to bed now or in ten minutes?” (whatever time you want to give) There is a good chance the choice will be in 10 minutes but the choice will have been determined by the toddler, hence giving her/him control. Once the choice is made, make sure you set a timer and announce the countdown so the little one isn’t taken by surprise when the time is over. This is but one example but the principle can used in many different situations.

I remember walking behind my daughter when she was a tot. She’d chosen her own clothes (as she did on most days) and was feeling very fine, thank you very much. I was thinking I wished I had a camera to show her her clownish choices when she was older and I just laughed a little out loud but mostly to myself. When wardrobe matters, and on that particular day it didn’t, for example, giving easy choices like, “Do you want to wear this or that?” are a good alternative when free range choices are not an option. Allowing the child to make the decision instead of being dictated to will reap abundant rewards when the child is older–even during the teen years. Nobody wants to be told what to do and most of us want to make our own choices. Our children are no different. We all want our children to grow up being able to make their own good decisions and allowing these decision making opportunities from a young age will give a child a feeling of autonomy. I used to joke that I would ask my kids, “Do you want to eat your broccoli or have me cut your thumbs off?” They both still have their thumbs.

Psychology Today has a great article about giving kids choices and explains the benefits and circumstances under which kids making choices can be rewarding. Remember: your child WANTS AND NEEDS structure. They will test your boundaries so it’s critical to be consistent. A stronger sense of security develops when youth (of any age) know what the limits are and who have parents who enforce them. Be consistent. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/joyful-parenting/201602/5-guidelines-giving-kids-choices

How do you give your child choices? What works for you? Please let us know in the comments.

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