Thursday, April 23, 2009

Discipline Strategy #453

After visiting with some girlfriends that all have kids just shy of three, I realized this group of ladies really has seen and tried it all in toddler world! We've been a hub for new product reviews, parenting methods, nutrition news, and our latest topic of mommy dilemma: toddler discipline! Although these women and their children are delightful and really quite behaved, the old "child management" corundum has come back full circle.

It seems that three becomes the magic number! Now the 438 discipline strategies that you may have tried out, that may have worked, are put to THE test. That being, the sneaky intelligent, holder of promises, fairness meter, and self proclaimed family authority... The Three Year Old! No longer, do gentle pleas for cooperation, mild threats, or parent power plays work on these mini Stephen Hawkings! It's as if they woke up one day, synapses' ablaze, decided that THEY will dictate their own lives with you standing there baffled and confused, holding a white flag for peace! Weak from battle, I decided it's now or never! I told my husband afterward that.. "..We must climb up to that family summit, stand firmly in place, and confidently display a new and improved parent team that will guide and nurture our pod to a place of peace and happiness!" Of course, he just laughed, rolled his eyes like I was crazy, and hesitantly agreed to be on board with whatever I thought would work. Which in husband language meant he'd be okay with me training him as well. Hey that's one step in the right direction!

Everything I have read, seen, and experienced tells me that the management strategy you choose when they are this age goes with you to that next teenage tantrum phase, except multiplied by loudness, headache, and consequence! I refuse to be a slave to my kids for the rest of my life, but especially when they are teens! So I keep trying out strategies until something works and makes sense to us all. Plus, I need something that will adapt as we all mature! Having the most "spirited" kid in that group of ladies and always feeling like a parenting underdog, I have to say that I have settled into a routine that kind of seems to be working. Better yet it seems to be improving more and more each week. During those "challenging times" where an angry, scary, mommy-monster used to live, a renewed calm and confident Mommy-Jedi, equipped with good lingo, fair rules, and consistent consequences, has blossomed in it's place!*

After sending my almost three year old out for some test runs at play dates and playgrounds, I have to say that I am pretty proud and pleased that this management style is working. Just weeks ago, I was yelling, bribing, threatening, breaking a sweat anytime we were around other kids, anxious in anticipation of something to go wrong, and now, well, now I am okay with whatever happens. Don't get me wrong they're still kids and we're still learning, but it's not as toxic anymore and we have rebuilt the support wall of our family!

For most of you, I am sure "cool and collected" is your middle name. You have sweet children that usually walk inside a pretty well behaved, cooperative line and allow you the room to parent with ease. But, just in case you are one of the few blessed with "spirited" children, lacking a parenting model that works, and are haunted by a mommy-monster when things get tough, I have laid out a few tips I have collected that may help smooth out some of the wrinkles in your day. I am just a mom trying anything to make life with my toddlers more enjoyable, cooperative, and peaceful; and love the opportunity to share what I have learned with you.

First step: Set the Expectation
We were going bonkers with anger, time-outs, punishment over this and that. Anything we saw unfit for our toddler to do, we reacted. I am sure our son thought his name was "Gentle Jake" as we constantly said "BE GENTLE Jake!". We had no set box of expectations for our son other than our subjective decisions on behavior for that day. In retrospect, I can see how confusing and ambiguous that must have been for such a little person trying to find his way through our big world. To boot, we weren't necessarily following the few rules we set for him. We expected him to use appropriate voice levels but yelled when we got upset. We expected him to be gentle but on occasion tried spanking. It was time for some concrete rules that made sense for him and for us. As an educator that was one of our first group activities, set rules and expectations that were fair and kept order in a respectful manner. Why it took me, as a parent, this long to put in place, I have no idea. So we came together and decided on 5 rules that would work for us. These five rules, we would ALL abide by. These rules are the ones that we stand our ground on, worthy of timeouts or consequence. Anything outside these rules we approach with dialogue but don't stake battle over. These rules reign supreme inside and outside our home. Feel free to sit down and come up with some that work for you and your family but below I listed the five we ended up on. We call them our "House Rules" in honor of The Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George who is constantly teaching my husband and I the importance of patient parenting!

Our House Rules:
Be Kind to Self and Others
No Hurting Self or Others
Respect Personal Space
No Yelling or Sassing
Use Words to Express Feelings

Once you establish rules you are comfortable with, post them proudly on the fridge or somewhere local and visible to your main hub; just in case you need to refresh yourself when mommy-monster tries to take over! Discuss these with your little guy and let him know what's going to happen from now on so everyone is in the loop. Most importantly make sure your partner is on board AND willing to participate with the new game plan. Kids can smell management differences and will play sides early.

Second Step: Clear and Consistent Consequences
This one gets more and more challenging the older they get. I think it has something to do with these little people starting to think for themselves. Uggh! We hit our low-low about two months ago when we hopelessly tried to get consequence through to our son. We were as successful as using your toes to eat with chopsticks! We were using timeouts, separation, negotiations, bribery, and finally spanking out of desperation. All that just seemed to escalate the tension, aggression, and continuation of this negative cycle.

So with strategy #425 we started rewarding positive behavior with stickers and a prize jar. We were on the right track. I drew up pictures of 5 objects he liked and once all five (whales) were topped with stickers he got to choose a prize from the jar. Hoping, he would get a prize every other day to keep the positive spirit alive. Then, (Thank you Nanny 911) we decided upon a new and improved time-out location. A neutral, localized area in the hub of our day space. We chose a little corner in our kitchen. With that set, we visited our local antique shop, got a little sturdy chair, and plopped it nicely in that corner. Prior to this transition, we were stopping in the middle of an episode, walking upstairs to his room, leaving our younger son downstairs with the gate locked, which he saw as punishment, all the while creating such a scene of drama and chaos that a tornado would stop still! Ridiculous! No point in buying nice face cream with stress like that around! Finally, we also got a LOUD, I mean LOUD, kitchen timer that can be heard anywhere in the house so I can leave the area and we all still know when the time-out is officially over. These simple transitions helped enormously!

There was just one small problem. Now that we had this new time-out strategy down, it seemed we were going bonkers overusing it. As if all that past tension was being taken out on this chair like the poor guys from Office Space beating the copy machine in the field!!! I once read that if your child is having more than two or three real time-outs a day you need to regroup. So I did and came up with a checks-and-balances system. I created a chart that shows how many time-outs "we" are at during any point in the day. Plus it, shows with simple pictures the progression of the consequences so everyone remembers what needs to happen with each broken house rule. Come up with whatever consequences work for you and your family. Just in case I have made you curious, here are ours.

Consequences for breaking a House Rule:
First Offense: Time out in chair 1 minute for each year of age = 3 minutes
Second X: Time out in chair AND no TV options until next time block
Third X: Time out in chair, still no TV, AND immediate separation from group for 15 minutes in room
Four X: Time out in chair, still no TV, AND one toy of MY choice will be taken as payment for the continuous disruption and given to a local charity (I haven't had to get to this one yet but we talk about it often)

Remembering that my son is only almost three, I chose to break up the day into three time blocks, hoping to give more opportunities for success and growth. So our day is broken up from 1)wake up to nap time, 2) post-nap to dinnertime, and 3) post-dinner to bedtime. This also helped for those days you just wake up grumpy and blow it all before breakfast.

With this in motion, our days have gotten a tremendous amount calmer!

Step 3: Break down the Lingo
This one is simple! Once you establish your rules and consequences start choosing words from those lists. Erase all those ambiguous generalizations from YOUR vocabulary. They will just get in the way. Break down the twenty minute explanations of your disappointments and expectations and replace that energy with re-iterating your rules and consequences. I tried this in desperation to get the rules quickly ingrained and not only did it click for my son but I empowered myself with a confidence to know what to say in those tricky situations. Now instead of pleading with him to be gentle because "the other boy is younger and didn't mean to cut in line and we shouldn't touch other people anyways and it's hot outside so you're probably just cranky and if he doesn't stop we are just going to go" and on and on .... I just say, "Jake remember the house rules. We don't hurt others." And if he does, he knows what to expect regardless of where we are. I have taken all the other synonyms for the words in our rules out of my mind and try to just use those same rule words over and over. Nice, good, gentle,...=KIND. Push, hit, bite,....=HURT. It seems to really be working. Plus, my husband is even picking up on it! This way of talking frees up so much energy that the fun mom can resurface! Before you know it, YOU will be that mom everyone envies at the park for being such a skilled mommy-Jedi!!!

Step 4: Rediscover your Parenting Philosophy
Three years might not seem like a long time in the big picture of this job, but from newborn to toddler to preschooler it has been trip to the moon and back! I started off so strong and grounded in the mother ideal I wanted to be that first year. Luckily, that was easy without much protest on babies' part. The second year I swayed back and forth trying to get a grasp on really what kind of parenting style would work best for our new team. In the third, I grew desperate trying anything that made some sense. I was holding on by a sippy cup, trying to remember all my great intentions and hopes I had for myself as a mother. Thankfully, I found my way back to the path that I wanted to be on all along!

This regrouping for you and your family, may be as simple as a trip to the coast or a good bond session with your mom. For me, with usual form, it was in a book. One mommy-monster day, I packed up the boys and headed out to Borders to pick up some suggested parenting books. Of course both tots were already fighting the double wide. As I pulled up to the "You think you Suck as a Parent" section of the store, the boys and I had a power struggle ensuing a scream-a-thon which then interrupted the lovely children's book reading right in front of us! Totally embarrassed, I just grabbed the first two books I saw and left. To my surprise upon getting home I had bought
Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. My cousin had actually recommended it because the entire school district that she teaches in required it as their suggested classroom management philosophy. I didn't expect too much more than the usual parenting methodologies, but after the first chapter I was hooked. It just made simple sense of my experiences. My the second chapter, I had completely stopped yelling! People, I am not lying when I say this, I haven't lost my cool since! Mommy-monster has taken a permanent nap! This philosophy worked for me, it may or may not for you. Whatever your intentions are with parenting, now is a great time to recollect and refresh! Let's face it, our kids are getting smarter by the second. We need to stay on top of our game so we can facilitate the growth they need to achieve their potential!

Step 5: Take care of YOU
Bottom line, everyone acts and feels better when mom is happy! So take that time to re-energize yourself! I don't mean clean your bathroom, I mean get a pedicure, have lunch with your girlfriend, take a nap. Whatever you would love to do most if you had the time! It's not just for you, it's for your family! They need you to be happy, fun, calm, and ready to be a mommy-Jedi! This positive energy you will be emitting will affect your kids and marriage in profound ways now and probably for years to come. Have fun with it! Call your best girlfriend and set up a check-in system with her that you will call each other every week or two to demand a get together sans kids! Life can get busy and sometimes you need someone else to pull you to the surface! This is probably the most draining time of our lives. We can and will get through it but we still need to foster love for ourselves! We need to be role models for our kids and show them the importance of "taking care of and loving you". This love might be the biggest gift we can offer them!

So with this new discipline strategy, the path ahead of us is much more clear! Don't get me wrong my toddlers still push the envelope, as they should, but now I maneuver our family around those obstacles with much more ease and confidence! I know I am far from perfect. I see each day is an opportunity to learn and grow. But, now I can sleep a little sounder knowing that our days are more peaceful than stressful. The guilt of turning into a mommy-monster is gone. I love the new Mommy-Jedi I am becoming! Now, I am starting all over with my one year old, it's already easier, whatever he brings to the table I know I can handle it. No matter what, this time no white flags!

*This new reality may not hold true on days with full moons, rice krispy treats, or hangovers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baby Buzz: Books and Such

Recently, I found out that a few distant friends were good on their way to Mommyland! There is no greater joy than the anticipation of an expected and sometimes long awaited arrival of a baby! You just have no concept of how large your heart and soul will become to absorb this angel into your world! Once it happens, you are changed in such amazing ways that you will never be able to look back! Congratulations new Mommies! You're journeys have just gone into a fantastic overdrive!

I remember when I was first pregnant. I was overcome with excitement, hopes, and wonder, but stricken by fears and worries. Would I be a good mom? Would I know what to do? Will I love this person enough? What about my husband? Who do I ask for help? How will I know if I need help? This list went on and on! As a result, I became a MAD researcher!!! I am a planner/preparer and I thought the more of these questions I could get out of the way, the more time and energy I could spend on cuddling with my baby! I probed friends and doctors, joined groups, took classes, read books and magazines, and spent countless hours with my pal Sir Google. Plus, I was the oldest of five, have 40+ first cousins, have a degree in Elementary Education and taught almost every grade in school. Needless to say, I felt like I stood on a pretty good foundation for motherhood, but NOTHING really prepares you except the experience itself! You think you know how to handle something and then POW the situation changes itself completely and you have to be flexible and resourceful enough to adapt. This basic skill is genetically programmed in us all and this instinct is what makes us good mothers! So don't waste the hours I did worrying. Enjoy the experience, stretch marks and all; for each phase from pregnancy to preschool lasts only for a moment! Savour the journey of becoming a supermom!

However, looking back there were some resources I wish I would have had before the going went tough and I was forced to find solutions! With the support from certain books, certain facts, and certain people maybe I would have had an easier go of it the first few years. Plus, these tools became extra handy with the arrival of my second son! He benefits from a wiser, calmer, more experienced mother. Yet, had I not kept notes, books, ect.. it would have been like having a first child all over again. I went through some sort of Mork & Mindy telaport and seemed to forget all I knew about babies! I mean I even forgot how to nurse!!! I had no doubts in my head beforehand that I had this mommy thing covered the second time around but whoa was I mistaken! Each child is it's own unique being and with that comes it's own unique joys, challenges, and journeys! I was lucky to have kept and already highlighted so many of these great books I list below! (The pink ones I couldn't live without! If you have to start somewhere on the list start there!) They are a constant resource for me and I am so happy to share these with you! I hope that you find at least one tidbit of info that helps you feel like you can handle anything!!!

With that, I must say there are TONS of resources out there! By no means do I advocate everything in all of these books for everyone! These were just the few that I stumbled across and within them have found some information or inspiration that I have come to love and appreciate through the years. Please take and use what feels comfortable for you and your family. I am a fan of ripping and pasting a bunch of ideas together to make something beautiful! Your instincts are the best resource you can use! Bottom line is: If you are happy and baby is happy, YOU are doing a GREAT job! Remember that! You will need to pat yourself on the back a lot! So do it! You hold your world and your baby's world on your shoulders! It is no easy job!!!! But, it comes with many rewards! Congratulations!

Basic Baby/Mommy Info:
The Baby Book, by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.
The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, M.D.
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, by Tracy Hogg
Mothers Know Best, by Connie Correia Fisher and Joanne Correia
The Expectant Father, by Armin A Brott and Jennifer Ash (good for you to read too!)

The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, by Tracy Hogg
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.

Nutrition & Health:
The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for your Child, by Robert Sears
Top 100 Baby Purees or First Meals, both by Annabel Karmel
Organic Baby and Toddler Cookbook, by Lizzie Vann
The Family Nutrition Book, by William Sears, M.D.
Seattle Children's Hospital Homepage
Wholesome Baby

Parenting Styles & Discipline:
Parenting with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline M.D., and Jim Fay
Becoming the Parent You want to Be, by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser
Happiest Toddler on the Block, by Harvey Karp, M.D.
The Five Love Languages, By Gary Chapman
Nanny 911, by Deborah Carroll and Stella Reid

Having Fun: (Great simple ideas for any age!)
Curious George, PBS Kids (There is a lot to learn from the Man in the Yellow Hat!!)
Eebees Adventures, All in a Day's Play(Watch these parents play with Eebee and other babies!)

Other Great Related Info:
Real Boys, by William Pollack, Ph.D.
Signing Time Board Book Vol. 1: My First Signs, by Rachel de Azevedo Coleman and Emilie de Azevedo Brown
Sign with your Baby, By Dr. Joseph Garcia
The Garden of Fertility, by Katie Singer
Parenting center: WebMD
A Place of Our Own (I Tivo this show and watch when I can! I ALWAYS learn something relevent!! The website rocks too! Plus, they really will answer your questions if they can!)
Cookie Magazine (This has grown on me! I rip out recipes, travel ideas, and inspiring stories almost every month! Check it out if you don't subscribe already!)

By the way, if there is something you think I must have on this list or would like me to check out, please let me know! I am always seeking out the advice and wisdom of others! And that includes you! Thanks for your support!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Honorable Underthings

With my newly inspired attempt to turn myself back into a woman when I enter my bed at night, I have stumbled across some fantastic lingerie. There are tons of options out there from Target and TJMaxx to Nordstrom and fancy boutiques if you look you are bound to find something to suit your style and your budget. I have highlighted some great places and pieces that I found worth mentioning. Enjoy the journey, the feeling of fabrics other than fleece, and most of all enjoy the slumber!

Zovo Lingerie Boutique:
A beautiful collection of brands and designs to start your journey with feminine silhouettes, fantastic fabrics, and sleep friendly accessories that should make your bed a place of peace and romance. My Favs: Zovo Cotton/Sateen Pajama Top, Pants and Bermuda Shorts in White, Zovo Supima Cotton Lycra Tank in Ink, and Cadolle New Belem Babydoll in White
My favorite site for nursing bras and maternity intimates has turned into a must have resource for fuss-free basic and fancy but, always beautiful underthings!! Check out the new Baby Bumbum collection too! My Favs: The Flutterby Nightdress in Blue, The Lotus Nightdress in Black/Pearl, The Mata Hari Cami and Loungepant in Amethyst, and The Fleur Lace Triangle Cami and Girlshort in Grape. For Maternity and Nursing try the Lotus Basics and Loungewear line! Just Divine!
For it's East-into-West spirit and it's luxurious fabrics, Natori is an old favorite. It's a nice place to find something unique like Kimono style robes, caftans, or elegant gowns. These pieces will surely make you feel like a woman! Plus, inspire yourself and read Josie Cruz Natori's story. Anything is possible!
My Favs: The Chrystie Chemise by Josie, The Julep Cami PJ by Cruz, The Basho Gown by Natori, and The Ikat Print Robe with Kimono sleeves by Natori
This designer offers us a beautifully affordable and casual collection that deserves some attention. From playful ruffles to scalloped trims, these intimates are reminiscent of what you wore when you were a little girl but of course much more grown up!!! Don't be discouraged that this is a woman's underwear brand from Abercrombie and Fitch Co. These pieces will remind you why you used to sleep in your panties and excite you to do so once more! My Favs: The Edgecliff Cami and pantie in Light Grey and the HayMarket Sleep dress in Navy
A great place to find all your sleepwear must haves. Nordstrom offers a nice variety of designer and in house brands that surely will entice the woman out of any sleep deprived mom! Check out the in house brand "Make + Model" for cute, cozy, affordable sets, "Josie" from Natori, "PJ Salvage", and for more fancy feelings enjoy "Huit", "Vera Wang", and "Cosabella".
My Favs: Make + Model Rib Knit Henley in Peacoat Stripe; Josie "Karma" Pajamas in Buttercup; and PJ Salvage French Cut Chemise in White
The old standby that mainstreamed lingerie into America's public circle has added new and surprisingly sassy yet comfortable pieces for woman outside the "Pink" age limit. The place I used to reference for sexy night things and cotton "comma" panties has lured me back with it's nice collection of chemises, tank and pantie sets, and cute silhouettes that even make cotton seem like silk! If you need to feel like an Angel again check out their latest looks!
My Favs: VS Soft Maxi Nightgown in Heather Chocolate, VS Soft Silk and Cotton Cami and Tap pant in Aqua Floral, and the Silk and Cotton Nightie in Mini Stripe