There is nothing more precious to a parent than a child, and nothing more important to our future than the safety of our children.
William J. Clinton
The beginning of a school year holds many “drills” to practice for safety situations. We have fire drills, tornado drills, and lock down drills. Our society has come to accept and understand the fire and tornado drills. I imagine people are more accepting of these as they seem like uncontrollable situations for us to solve. Talk about a lock down drill with a parent and you are likely to get a very passionate and emotional response.
Being an administrator of an early childhood program, I understand the need for the practice. Practice is what can make us proficient in a real life situation. On the flip side, I have sat in a dark room with a three year old child who asks,”Is this how we hide from the bad guys?” As a mom, my heart broke. I was sad to realize that a three year old child understood the purpose of a lock down.
The world has become a complicated place to raise children. In the school setting, teachers and staff always have safety at the front of their minds as they should. It requires those of us in decision making positions to be constantly evaluating the safety plan. People in the world of education take the safety of children seriously and work diligently to provide a safe environment to our students.
The unfortunate reality for parents is that there are many places that are now experiencing violence where safety plans are not a priority. How do we deal with daily life? Trips to Walmart, festivals, and places we’ve felt safe no longer hold the same level of comfort as we have felt in the past. The challenge before us is to raise our children so they are not fearful of everything. How can we do that?
To begin, we live our lives without fear. We still hold hands when crossing the street. We still teach our children to look both ways while crossing the street and to wear a helmet while biking. We teach them about their inner radar and stranger danger. We teach them about the many dangers in life (HELLO-driving a car!!). At the same time, we teach them about the wonderful experiences of life. Meeting a new friend at the park. The magic of live music under the stars. The thrill of Disney World. What we focus on is what grows in our lives. Focus on the good. Teach about the bad. Like every other parenting situation, do the best you can. Your best is enough.
In Early Childhood, You may lay the foundation of poverty or riches, industry or idleness, good or evil by the habits to which you train your children. Teach them right habits then, and their future life is safe. ~ Unknown
As a parent, making the decision whether to send your child to a pre K program can be daunting. The cost of preschool can be a hurdle for many families. The challenge of half day programs for working parents adds another challenge to overcome- how do I get my child to and from school? These are just a couple of the many factors that play into the decision of whether to send your child to a preschool program. The decision is certainly not easy.
If you choose to send your child to a pre K program, there are a few other items to consider. This will be your child’s first exposure to school in a formal setting. What message will you send your child about the importance of school? That message will stay with your child for a lifetime.
Will you be the parent that allows your children to show up late to school every day because class begins with circle time and really how important is that? How about the parent that pulls children for extended family weekends out of town or family trips because the deal was just too good to pass up? Maybe the weather is bad and you don’t feel like driving to school. Let’s face it- as parents we can find a million reasons to stay home with our children. What message are we sending to them?
If school is not important in pre K, Kindergarten, or 1st grade, when does it become important? As parents, if we decide our children need to begin taking school seriously at grade 7 as this marks the beginning of deep subject learning- how do we turn the corner to say to our children, “You can’t miss school now. It is important.” Is that message consistent with what we have told and shown them from the beginning of their career as a student?
When we send our children off to college where they are completely responsible for their attendance and education, will they go to class? If we are paying the bill, I bet we will want them to attend. Have we spent a lifetime teaching them that they need to attend in order to learn? Once our children begin their adult professions, will they believe they need to show up for work every day? What example have we given them?
Our children learn more from what model for them than they ever will by what we say to them. This is just one of the reasons that parenting is difficult. Making the choice to have children means you begin to make decisions based on how those decisions will affect your children and begin to build the foundation of their life. As parents, it is our duty to choose wisely for them. We don’t get to jump on a plane to take a trip any time we want. We can’t spend a long weekend in a hotel because we got a great deal.
Opportunity to jump on a plane and stay in a hotel or take a road trip will come back to us once our children are grown. Our commitment to our children is a big one, but in the journey of life, the commitment is short. We have a mere 18-20 years to give them the foundation for success in learning and life. Making sacrifices for them is part of the journey. I guarantee you won’t regret your sacrifice in the long run.
Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.
One of the interesting parts of being a grandparent is watching your child raise their own child. You learn pretty fast some of the bad habits you had as a parent because you are seeing those traits passed along to your grandchild.
My son and his son were recently visiting us. They live out of the country, so when they visit, it is an in-your-face, long term commitment with your child and grandchild. I often wonder how I might feel if I could play with my grandson for a few hours and send him home to his house. (SIGH) No matter! It’s not going to happen! So, back to the visit, my son was feeding dinner to my grand baby and the exercise was escalating into a battle of wills in a hurry. Raising competitive kids can backfire in this situation. My son really wanted to WIN this battle of wills at the dinner table.
I will admit- I had this same exact battle with my children when they were little. I like schedules and consistency, therefore, dinner needed to be taken care of at the same time each day. My husband saved my kids from this battle on more than one occasion.
While watching my son re-create this experience that I had lived many times in my young parenting life, I witnessed something I had never before taken the time to see. The more irritated and stubborn my son became, the more irritated and stubborn became the baby. The reaction was directly proportional to the initial action of the parent.
What a light bulb moment! Children really do take their cues from parents on how to act in any situation. When we show them our less desirable actions, we are teaching them those very actions. You’ve probably seen a stressed out mother with a crying child. Which came first? Maybe you have noticed parents yelling at children and seen those kids scream or yell back. Isn’t that what they should do? How about those happy-go-lucky parents who never seem to worry about a thing? Their kids are usually exactly the same way.
The next time you are seeing behaviors in your child that are making you unhappy, take a step back and examine your role in the situation. Did you bring home stress form your job? Did you just get a bill in the mail you weren’t expecting? Your kids can sense your feelings. Do your best to give them positive emotions and behavior to give back to you. It’s like the old saying goes- You get from the world what you put into the world.
Thinking of your child as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment. Thinking of your child as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help them through their distress.
Working in early childhood education, our staff often talks about the behavior of kids. We work with 3 and 4 year old children, so these kids still have lots to learn regarding behavior in a school setting.
I read an interesting article recently that put a new light on how we handle the behavior of the children in our school readiness programs. It stated, when children don’t know how to read, we teach them. When children don’t know how to write, we teach them. When children don’t know how to compute math problems, we show them how to handle the problem. When children don’t know how to behave……. we need to teach them.
So often, adults can throw their hands in the air and exclaim, “What are we going to do with this child?” Here is what you are going to do. You are going to remain calm and help your children learn to identify feelings. Ask if are they frustrated because they are unable to do something they want to do? Are they sad because they had to leave somewhere fun? Are they tired, happy, irritated, or what? By teaching kids to name their feelings, they learn to identify them and we adults can help them deal with their issues. Yelling at a child “Why are you crying?” is not going to help them understand their emotions and feelings.
You may have heard of the educational emphasis on social emotional skills. These are the skills that employers say they are looking for in employees. Can the person, cooperate and communicate? Is the person self motivated, self regulated, and able to work under stress? These are the skills we are beginning to work on in the preschool environment.
Remember when your little person is showing big emotions, it is our job to remain calm. If parents join into the emotion, situations escalate quickly. Keep in mind dealing with emotions is a life long issue, and the more we help our children handle emotions in their early years, the easier puberty will be for all of us!
People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.
Leo J Burke
I think one of the hottest topics in parent education class is SLEEP! How can parents get some? Why does it feel like kids are never tired? How can we stop the night time madness? My oldest is 26 and I am still trying to catch up on sleep from when he was an infant. He had colic(but that’s a whole new story).
There seems to be one theory for every question about getting kids to sleep……meaning there is far too much information flooding the market all with the good intent of helping parents. The challenge becomes what method should you adopt in order to make bed time cozy and cuddly like you see in movies? I am about to give you the magic answer….. the one you have been waiting for….. the absolute best system for putting your kids to bed! Are you ready? It’s called CONSISTENCY. Whatever system you choose to use- stick with it.
Making bedtime a ritual and predictable will help your children understand what you expect from them at bedtime You can even have them sleep in THEIR OWN room should you choose. Bedtime is a perfect reason to eliminate wishy-washy actions from your parenting tool set. One night, you may be feeling soft and you may let your child get out of bed to watch one more show, listen to one more story, or sit on your lap for a “little while” longer. Once you have made the decision to be soft, you have set your self up for much more difficulty in the future.
Kids are BRILLIANT and they will learn which buttons they can push in order to get a desired outcome. One outcome may be a later than normal bedtime. I still remember when my youngest child learned how to climb out of his crib. My husband put him to bed as he was normally pretty easy to get down for bed. We were chillaxin in our recliners, set to watch some grown up television and out popped Ryan, “Hi!” This is one of those time where you will want to laugh…..don’t do it! Ryan was also the kid who had a difficult time transitioning to a big boy bed because he could get up from that with no challenge!
What did we do? We stayed on message- both of us or life gets difficult. We put him back in bed every time he got up. Once he was old enough to understand, we told him he would have a ten minute earlier bedtime the next night for every time he jumped out of bed. The first time we gave him this ultimatum, he ended up going to bed 30 minutes early the next night. That was IT! For him, he didn’t want to miss out on anything that might be going on, and he figured going to bed early was one way to be sure to miss out.
It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t prayer. It wasn’t begging or pleading. It wasn’t trying every method under the stars. Consistency. It worked for us and I know it will work for you too! You may even discover some time to read a book, watch a movie, or just relax after the kids go to bed. Consistency=Simplicity.
You can find magic where ever you look. Sit back and relax all you need is a book.
I have been an avid reader all of my life. I am the younger sister to a sibling who had a difficult time learning to read. Because I was ever present when he was working on reading…. I became a very young reader, and I never slowed down or looked back when it came to reading.
I thought my children would be the same as me. I modeled reading to them plenty! I had an environment rich with books as I had kept many of the books I owned in my childhood. I cherished lap time with my children and a book.
My first born was a lot like me. You know those first born kids are parent pleasers for quite awhile, so I believe he knew it made me happy to read to him. He took to reading quite easily and started reading the Harry Potter series in second grade. Yeah- I was confident I knew how to raise a reader.
And then, I had another child. This one didn’t like to sit still. He gave up his night time feeding early in his life, so that he wouldn’t have to sit on my lap. Once he had the ability to move- he was off! He was penned pinball by some family friends because he never stopped moving. We always knew when he got out of bed in the morning, as we would hear him running across the floor. Forget walking- running gets you there faster!
He didn’t have much interest in books. I put forth lots of effort to find the shortest books I could with the least amount of words to keep him interested in a book from start to finish. Ever heard of No David! By David Shannon? Yep- that was his favorite book. It has 60 words in the entire book. That was his limit.
We started reading only nights in our home when he was 7. I actually turned my non reader husband into a huge reader by doing this! My older son loved those nights and kept on his journey with Harry Potter. My younger son would try to sit in a chair to look at a book. I say try because he would literally complete an entire circle with his body on the chair while reading. Picture his feet where his head once was & his head nearly on the floor! It was his way of moving when we told him he needed to stay in his chair. We started with 10 minutes- we didn’t think sitting still for that short amount of time would be that difficult!
I didn’t give up. I bought him books about the activities he loved. I think we owed every hockey story on the planet! I battled his discouragement when he needed to read a book at school that was far too difficult for him by reading with him. I would read to him, and then with him, and then have him read by himself. This was all done with one page of the book. Repetition is supposed to help- right? Not with everyone.
In addition, my kids went to a small school and teachers, staff, and the librarian would compare my kids and their reading ability. Some even compared my youngest son to me when I was in school there. Geesh. That was tough on him! We didn’t do comparisons in our house. We reminded him that everyone had strengths and weaknesses. We loved him through the hard times and he continued to work on his reading skill. In high school, he chose to take a literature class- it was short novels.but I took that as a small victory!
My youngest is nearly 23 now. He still wouldn’t choose reading as a way to fill his spare time, but he recently became interested in reading John Maxwell leadership books and has been working his way through those. I asked him recently if he thought there was anything more I could have done to help him with his reading challenges. He said “IDK. Maybe read to me more?” He obviously doesn’t remember the struggles we had when he was young trying to read to him. I thought a bit about what things I never tried with him. Maybe I could have read with him on the trampoline? A little weird, but not impossible. Jump up and down and read. It might have worked. I could have tried reading to him when he was tired enough to begin sleeping. I could have read on car rides while my husband drove.
I guess the message is to be creative with your kids. Realize they will be individuals and may not be anything like you. No matter what- love them through the struggles. Don’t forget to forgive yourself when you feel like you should have done more.
Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. Remember the old days when you had eye contact during a conversation? When everyone wasn’t looking down at a device in their hands? We’ve become so focused on that tiny screen that we forget the big picture, the people right in front of us.
If you have been a parent for awhile, you have probably already found that one friend your child has that is addicted to screens. I have had several experiences with battling screen time throughout my parenting career.
One time, on a beautiful summer day, my youngest son had several friends over to play. They were running around the yard, using squirt guns, and making up a very strange squirt gun baseball game that I didn’t quite understand. I was in my usual spot watching them through the kitchen window. I suddenly realized one of the boys was missing from the game. I turned to walk outside, and came upon the missing boy sitting in the family room playing video games. “WOW!” I thought. How could this be more fun than a beautiful day outside with your friends? I sent him outside to play. A few months later, my youngest, at age 8, had a new friend stay overnight. I woke up at 1:00 AM to see the light on in the hallway. I opened my bedroom door and found this little boy sitting in the hallway playing on a portable gaming system. I sent him to bed.
Maybe your child is the one who is addicted to screen time. I have a nephew whose parents worked very hard to limit his time in front of a television screen as he seemed a obsessed with any show he could watch. When he was invited to the homes of his friend’s, he would spend all of his time watching television and would ignore his friends.
How do we as parents compete with screen time? Let’s face it! Screen time has most of us engaged more than we would like. Social media, streaming television shows, news venues, and lots of video games are at arms length waiting for us to join. Can we tell our children to limit their screen time if we are unwilling to do the same? You know the old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Unfortunately, kids pay attention to what we show them. It’s time we limit our own screen time.
Children from birth to age 18 months are recommended to have NO screen time. Zero. Zip. Nada. Got it? None! At 18 months, parents can choose high quality programming and watch shows with their children to make sure they understand what they are seeing. From age two to age 5, children can have one hour of screen time per day, but, again, the programming should be high quality and parents should participate in the screen time. For children six and older, parents need to place consistent limits on screen time and must make sure screen time does not get in the way of sleep or physical activity.
Children playing video games are physically altering their bodies. The heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, dopamine is released, and quite often, the fight or flight response begins. Blood flows away from the gut, kidneys, liver, bladder, and toward the limbs and heart. Adrenaline is flowing throughout the body. The transition that must occur when you ask your child to stop playing is overwhelming. Children have a difficult time calming down and releasing the pent up adrenaline. Does this sound fun?
The rise of use and popularity of one to one tech devices for children provided by school districts adds another difficult dimension to the battle parents are facing. How do we limit screen time if our kids are saying they need to do homework?
The answer is to begin. How do you eat an elephant?….one bite at a time. With younger children who have not entered school, teach them all the ways children used to fill time. Play outside. Read them a book. Paint a picture. PLAY! Once your children are school age, be in communication with teachers as to how many minutes of homework has been assigned each day. Limit your children to the number of minutes required by the teacher. In addition, NEVER allow the technology to go into their bedrooms. Provide homework space in a common area of your home. This helps in several ways….. you will be available for help to them and you will be able to monitor what is happening on the device. Finally, all technology stays in the kitchen, family room, entry way, or somewhere other than the bedroom at night. Buy a $5.99 alarm clock and stick to no technology in the bedroom- ever.
Will it be easy? NO WAY! Not only do you have to help your children learn to develop limits on screens- you need to develop limits for yourself. We parents didn’t need to learn about self control with technology growing up, so it will definitely challenge us. I am confident we can win this battle. I believe we care enough about our children’s development and their future that we will battle until we win!
References: 1. “Screen Time may Harm Toddlers”. Michelle Roberts. BBC News. January 28, 2019. 2. “This is Your Child’s Brain on Video Games”. Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. Mental Wealth. September 25, 2016.
The thing about parenting rules is there aren’t any. That’s what makes it so difficult.
You have done it. Just admit it. You have heard it happen all over the place. It happens in doctor’s offices, stores, schools, airports, and at home. It happens EVERYWHERE! Parents set out a guideline for their children and follow it with….. OK? Honey, pick up your toys ok? Johnny, it’s time to get ready for school ok? Macie, stop hitting the dog ok?
Do we really mean to ask this question? Why do we ask a question at the end of a directive? What is happening to the parent/child dynamic when we ask this seemingly harmless question?
By asking a question at the end of a direction for children, parents are giving away their power completely. Parents give direction to their child to do something they want done which is expected of parents and fits the parent/child dynamic. Yet, all of a sudden, the parent inserts an ok? at the end of the direction and now the direction is a question. Do you want to do this or not? I think parents develop a habit of inserting ok? because they are trying to sound nice to whomever may be around at the time. Stop caring what others think of you parenting your child! It’s perfectly acceptable for you to tell your child to do something. “Johnny, don’t walk out in the street…ok?” Sounds ridiculous right?
Children come away from the experience of a direction followed by ok? confused about what they should do. Did mom just tell me to clean my room or not? Is she asking me if I think it’s ok? Seriously, I don’t WANT to clean my room , so I guess I will pass on that. “No. mom. It’s not ok.”
Think how funny it would be if your boss starting using this tactic with you at work. “George, I am going to need that information on my desk by Monday morning…. ok?” Wait….What?! Do you need to get the information to him or not?
Communication is hard in every relationship. We take items that should be simple and complicate them because we don’t want to sound harsh, demanding or rude. I believe communication is worse for everyone when we are wishy- washy. Don’t add confusion to a conversation by adding ok to your sentences. It’s a bad habit and you can break it!
“OK” (spelling variations include “okay”, “O.K.“, and “ok“) is an American English word denoting approval, acceptance, agreement, assent, acknowledgment, or a sign of indifference (Wikipedia)
My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.
Wilma Rudolph~ Olympian
Being a parent is hard. Maybe nobody ever came right out and told you that, but parenting is a little like putting together one of those K’nex ferris wheels (at least 10,00 pieces) without any instructions. Seriously- how are we going to do this?
One tactic I used to guide my kids in an acceptable direction was goal setting. Goal setting can start when kids are very young. Really- how many 4 year old kids have you heard exclaim that they are going to be professional athletes?! My youngest was one of those kids. In reality, he wanted to be a professional hockey player or the leaf blower guy in the park. YEP! I have that recorded in a scrapbook! So- how did I use this information when parenting?
Any time my children were making choices that weren’t consistent with our family values, I would remind them that professional athletes need to attend college to play college athletics first. (Well- that’s mostly true!) I told my kids they need to have good grades and that colleges didn’t accept kids who got in trouble in school or in their community. The beauty of this system is that parenting happens with the child’s own wants and needs. It wasn’t me telling my kids what they couldn’t do, but it was there own goals that would set their behavior back on the path of acceptability! My oldest son wanted to be the President of the United States for an extended period of time in his life, and I was able to ride the character train with that goal for several years! I realize I probably wouldn’t be able to do that in our current political culture!
Just about any goal can be used in this way with your kids. Does your child want to be a trapeze artist in the circus? Great! People who are able to handle that job need to be physically fit, eat well, sleep well, and graduate from high school. Maybe your child would like to be a pilot for an airline? Fantastic! Pilots need to have great grades, and oftentimes work their way through the military (so no to tattoos), and people in the military are THE BEST at following rules. Hopefully- you see where I am going with this goal setting idea….
What do you do if your child chooses a goal you just can’t handle? My youngest child also said that he would like to be the weatherman because they never have to be right and they don’t get fired! I wasn’t too thrilled that my son was looking for the easiest career he perceived and didn’t care if he was good at the job. I did my best to point out to him any details I knew he wouldn’t like. Meteorologists needed to dress up every day to go to work. Sometimes, those same meteorologists would get talked to in public by people who were none too happy that they were wrong about the weekend forecast. You know your child and what the triggers may be to guide them in a different direction. Don’t be afraid to do just that! At Kindergarten graduation, I heard a student say they wanted to go to jail when they were a grown up. This may be one of those goals that needs some tweaking.
Start goal setting with your kids by setting some family goals. Maybe all of you can read a book by the end of the month. Perhaps your family is saving money for a great trip? That’s a perfect goal. Do your best to start with goals that will be attainable for you and your children. They need to know they can succeed! Once you have accomplished a family goal or two, set some personal goals. How about brush your teeth without being reminded? One of my favorites is go to bed without complaining for a week! You can have all kinds of fun with the goal setting process.
Children learn to be resourceful through the practice of being goal-directed. In an article at Edutopia, teachers learn that fostering resourcefulness involves encouraging students to plan, strategize, prioritize, set goals, seek resources, and monitor their progress.
In similar ways, parents teach resourcefulness when they walk beside children through the everyday practice of being goal-directed rather than attempting to set objectives and problem-solving for kids.
If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.
Recently, I was at a meeting and the topic of parenting came up. There was a mom like me who has older children- one high school graduate and one still in high school. She was sharing that she believes ECFE* classes should continue throughout all stages of parenting as she has found parenting older children is challenging! What an understatement!
Because my children are now 26 and nearly 23, I often tease that I am a semi-retired parent. The truth is my kids would like me to fully retire on many days…… that is until they need me. My kids still ask me to edit papers for them or give them a bit of advice on handling relationships with roommates, teammates, or significant others. I can tell you it’s darn scary to offer up advice when your child is talking to you about the person they love and would like to spend the rest of his/her life with. No one wants to mess that up. Mostly, I ask questions and listen a lot.
Simple idea…… listening to our children. How often do we take the time to set aside everything else including cell phones, television, and cooking dinner to listen to what our kids have to say? Have you figured out how to get your child to open up to you? Years ago, I read that boys have an easier time talking to adults when they don’t have to look right at you or have you look at them (face it- there is judgment in a look sometimes), so I would take my boys in the car or on walks with me. There were many times in the car when concentrating on driving became difficult because I was getting an earful about the life of my child! I have a friend who found that bedtime with her daughter was the very best time to listen. I specifically said listen & not talk….did you notice? Try to avoid talking at your child. No advice unless they ask for it or you ask permission to give it. No judgment. No consequences. Can you do it?
Invest time to find the place where your child opens up to you. If you haven’t found that place yet- don’t give up! Keep trying. Maybe your child is highly active and will talk on a bike ride or jumping on a trampoline. Perhaps your child is introverted and you will need to have an abundance of quiet time before opening up to you. You might find that once your child starts talking- the talking won’t stop! Just keep listening.
So, back to my original question. Do we ever get to retire from parenting? My soon to be 89 year old mom would say absolutely not! You will forever be a parent- your role will change through the years, but you will never stop wanting the best for your children and worrying about them. The hope is by creating a relationship with children where they can safely talk and we can listen, you will not only survive this lifetime career with no retirement date in sight, but you will enjoy the ride.
*Early Childhood Family Education offers classes for children up to age 5 with parents. Education is intended for both parent and child.