Threenager

I’ve heard the term “threenager” before but never fully got it until S turned 3. He’s always been a clockwork baby/toddler and this change was no different. When he turned 3 it’s like someone whispered “game over mama”!! To say it’s a difficult phase is an understatement. Not so much because his behaviour can be challenging (it really can!) but because it’s like dealing with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Just before lunch we were lying down and I was doing silly dance moves which had him laughing hysterically (my favourite sound in the world) and this evening I had him screaming, hitting and being downright strong-willed. Even when on holiday I try to keep him routine because a tired child is a cranky child and often I can put his behaviour down to him being tired but at other times it comes out of no where.

The other thing I’ve noticed is it’s only really with me *should I be offended?* If I leave S with my mom for the afternoon, he’s an angel but he feels the need to test his boundaries with me. I suppose as his mama I am his main care taker and he looks to me for guidance/limits.

We’re in India at the moment and I can tell you that the heat makes me a lot less patient (I think it’s time to go home now!!) and I was questioning how to handle my strong willed boy when my cousin put this link up on Facebook:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/Parenting-Strong-Willed-Child

One of the things I’ve always tried to bare in mind with S is that it’s a good thing he knows what he wants. I truly believe those that know what they want, get what they want and so I don’t tend to push him if he says he doesn’t want something.

I also try to judge if he’s tried and put him down for a nap before he gets over-tired. Although he cut his naps out completely back in November, I guess the heats been getting to him too because we’ve been in India and Sri Lanka for the last couple of weeks and he’s napped almost everyday.

As I was saying to a friend just the other day, parenting is a work in progress. Just when we think we’ve found our parenting groove, our protégé’s grow, develop and change, forcing us to do the same.

Have you gone through the “threenager” phase yet?? Any pearls of wisdom?

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It’s just a phase

There’s one phrase that I hear lot’s of moms use…whether talking about a child who doesn’t sleep, a child who won’t eat, a child who throws tantrums…you name the issue and you’re most likely to get a “Don’t worry, it’s just a phase”. And to be perfectly honest, it’s so true.

When I think back over the last couple of years, there were several things S did and I’d think “I hope this doesn’t last” and it didn’t…a few weeks tops and he was on to something else.

He went through a phase of wanting to eat his meals in the car…I kid you not, we were eating in the car at least once a day.

He went through a phase of having to “drive” the car every time we came home, before he’d come inside. Even if we were in a rush, even if it was cold!

He went through a phase of needing to turn the microwave off when it started beeping. He could be engrossed in an episode of Peppa Pig or busy playing with his train set but if he heard the beepbeep beepbeep, he would drop whatever he was doing and run into the kitchen saying “I want to press it, I want to press it.”

He went through a phase of “bubbling his milk” (he drinks his milk with a straw). My patience wore thin with this one. When I got rid of his bottles, I went through a couple of weeks of having to pretend one sip was for me and one sip was for him. Or one sip for dinosaur and one sip for S.

Whether it was throwing his food off his high chair, emptying cupboards or fussing over bath time, it was all just a phase while he learnt, grew and developed emotionally and physiologically.

When friends with kids tell me they’re exhausted or their child is doing xyz…I just say “This too shall pass” because in reality, they’re all just phases and they grow out of them so quickly.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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“A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, in 2014.”

We’re still in Mumbai and not far from where we live they offer horse rides for children each evening. S absolutely loved it and it was a pretty nostalgic moment for me because my mom used to take me horse riding there when I was a child 🙂

Relationship Based Parenting 1

A couple of weeks ago I signed up to listen to a telesummit (21 interviews) on Relationship based parenting by Abby Bordner.

Abby Bordner understands that family life can be tiring but all parents want what is best for their kids. We don’t always have the time to read books or attend parenting workshops. She set up a series of interviews with professionals in the fields of child psychology, child development and famous authors of childcare books. You can sign up for these free interviews here. The idea is to give us advice that will help us deepen our understanding of children’s behaviour, improve our relationships and find balance in our lives. All of which will make us better parents.

In case you don’t get a chance to listen to them, over the next few weeks I’ll be giving you brief outlines of some of the interviews.

The first one is with Emily Plank. She’s an early childhood professional who started her career teaching Middle School.  She wanted to make a difference to kids and realised that the younger the kids, the more impact she’d have on them. She’s now doing research and writing and working with adults (educators and mothers). It turns out she says working with adults and working with children aren’t very different. If we become better people as adults, it’d easier to then model the behaviour we’d like our children to have. Being a parent forces you to look at and improve yourself.

From the ages of 0-3 children’s neuro-pathways are developed which impact their later life. Skills developed long before children enter formal schooling help shape their future.

One of Emily’s passions is the extent to which parenting and our interactions with young children is culturally embedded. The way we raise our children is often the way we were raised and conforming to our cultural norms. In the US, independence is important. From a young age Emily would encourage her children to sit at the table and eat by themselves. Use their hands and feed themselves. In Portugal however, it is highly offensive to use your hands to eat and so children are spoon fed until they are at least 2-3 and can use a spoon and fork by themselves.

So often we feel like how we are doing things is right but when we take a step back we realise our values are not unanimous. Different cultures have different values and norms. She started a project called “The Global Voices Project” where she puts various questions out there and people from all over the world give their take on things.

There are so many things we assume are universal when in fact they’re not. It’s not that one way is right or wrong but it just gives you some humility with regards to how you raise your children because you realise there are people who raise their kids completely different to the way you do and they are smart, successful and happy.

“There’s no expert out there who knows how to manage your child. You are the expert for your child”.

Back in the day kids were not praised constantly, praised was earned. As time went on and we moved into the new century, we wanted kids to grow up with a strong self-identity and so we lavished praise and rewards on them. Now what we’re learning is that all of our praise and rewards for children is actually having the opposite effect. When we praise kids for things that they should be doing anyway, there are some negative consequences. Kids look outside of themselves constantly for self validation. They constantly need someone else to reassure them rather than knowing themselves what feels or is good. Praise puts a lot of pressure on kids so if you’re constantly praising them, children have a lot of pressure to live up to the expectations of others.  We need to give children feedback for what they are doing rather than evaluation. E.g. if your child tidies their blocks away, rather than say you’re such a good girl for tidying your blocks away, you could say, thank you for tidying your blocks away, that was very helpful.  So then they internalise the idea that they can be helpful. The more we offer feedback to kids and describe what they are doing, the better. We should praise and comment on kids effort, not their product. E.g. I noticed you were helpful at dinner, that made me happy. Children who are constantly being told they are smart don’t feel the need to make an effort when they are doing things.

We praise kids for very nobel reasons but what we don’t realise is when we praise them, research shows us they become less likely to do it in the future. So rather than say good job, comment on what they are doing. Make your child feel proud by showing you have noticed what they are doing.

If a child comes to you showing you a picture and says “what do you think of my painting?” You could say “I saw you work very hard on that painting, tell me how you did it.” Put the ball back in their court and get them reflecting on their painting.

Kids need space, time and materials to play. Emily Plank teaches parents and educators that to play, you don’t need toys or things that light up and make noise. You need materials that are multipurpose that children can use and play with which then help them move from one developmental stage to another. We always think we need to give our children cognitive skills to do well in the world when in fact we need to allow them to have unstructured, open-ended free play. Children then learn skills of self-regulation, focus, engagement and independence. And these are the skills they need to help them later in their life. We’re constantly trying to get our children ready for the next stage when actually readiness comes from just being in the moment. So when children want to play and we provide them the space and materials, they will automatically get ready for what comes next.

Spending time with your child is allowing your child to be the leader and doing what they want rather than what you want. Many people talk about children’s behaviour as being attention seeking but when we are with our children we need to think about how much attention we’re really giving them. Are we sitting on our smart phones the whole time? We need to be able to give them 100% undivided attention. Not all the time but at least while they are playing. When we really pay attention we can see what they are fearful of, what they are struggling with and then work together with them to help them. Show them that what they are doing is valuable and important and more important than your phone or to do list.

When you have materials that are multipurpose and not just toys with one purpose, it encourages creativity.

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The last question Abby asked was “What are the qualities of healthy, successful kids?”

Emily responded saying she thinks the most important qualities have nothing to do with their cognitive intelligence but children who will be successful long term are children who are capable, confident and compassionate. As parents, we have to look at children and say what you are doing right now is what you should be doing right now. Trust that your child’s inner development is exactly as it needs to be. This makes children feel capable of doing anything. Confident children are children who know who they are and know that their opinions matter. They tend to seek out meaning in life. This goes hand in hand with praise and rewards. Kids who have a strong sense of who they are can approach life with enthusiasm. Compassion; she hopes to raise kids who find out that they can have their own needs met while making sure that other people’s needs around them are met as well.