My kids love being helpful. I know it can be frustrating when they start sweeping the ceiling, or that vacuuming takes 8 times as long. And yet, it is in our best interest to let them help! They are learning important lessons such as helping and caring for others, taking care of themselves and their belongings, teamwork, problem solving, fine and gross motor coordination, and SO much more. Continue reading “Being Helpful”
It’s funny how when you buy a car you start seeing it everywhere. Or when you (or your spouse) are pregnant you start noticing pregnant women everywhere.
I read an interesting quote from Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting and it opened my eyes to dealing with some of my 3 year old’s behavior.
I almost always answer his questions directly, but this may not be ideal. Apparently, it could be very beneficial for him to think up some answers on his own.
Even when we’re unwilling to give kids the last word, we can still give them the first word— that is, a chance to make their case. Thus, when children ask whether it’s okay to do something, it often makes sense to respond with “Well, what do you think?” This lets them know that their viewpoint counts, and also invites them to play an active role in considering the implications of their request.
After I read this, I noticed Mr. 3 would ask me behavior questions. Perhaps it is coincidence, but I had never really heard him do this before. I decided that he should have the chance to decide a few things.
Mr. 3: Does Blippi put his feet on the table? (Read: can I put my feet on the table ?)
Me: …What do you think?
Mr. 3: No, he doesn’t.
And he didn’t put his feet on the table, which is an improvement because when he is a baby (as opposed to a dog, a squirrel, Blippi, or anything) he and his brother tend to get in contests to see who can put their feet on the table and scream the loudest.
Mr. 3: *giggles while reaching into the toilet a little* Does Blippi touch the toilet water?
Me: (Thinking: EW you JUST peed in there!!) … What do you think?
Mr. 3: *takes hand out* No, he doesn’t.
And later he asked if Blippi sleeps with his hat on and decided that, yes, he does sleep with his hat on. This is not something worth arguing about so I agreed. He took the hat off a few minutes later because it was hot and\or itchy, but it was his choice.
By the way, it’s been over 24 hours since I yelled at my kids, and I am feeling strong!
I was complaining to my mother a few weeks ago about how much I had been yelling at my kids, and her response was simply, “You are going to feel that way for the rest of your life. I still feel guilty today.”
That is both depressing and terrifying and I dont want to feel that way.
For the most part I remember my childhood quite fondly, and was good friends with my mom throughout my teenage years and still today. But if there is a way to avoid the blow ups and yelling and dragging across the room by the hair ( I will never let you forget), then I need to learn it now. Rumor has it that adolescents are even more infuriating than 3 year olds.
I started reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn and he is saying all the right things. He is saying that parenting is hard, really hard, and that we all make mistakes. He is saying our number one job is to love our children and that sometimes the things we do to them make them forget that we do love them.He is saying with an open mind and heart we can change. We don’t have to yell at our children, we have to listen to them. We don’t have to put them in time out to cry inconsolably and forget the reason why, we have to comfort them and explain, show them a better way to do things.
Hindsight is always clearer and it’s so darn difficult in the heat of the moment to remember these things. For example, Mr. 3 poked me in the eye with his toothbrush and did not listen to me in my repeated requests to acknowledge me, brush his teeth, and put on his diaper. He would periodically and with increasing frustration say, “my name is Morgan!”
Well, that is NOT the name I gave him, and in MY increasing frustration I kept not calling him Morgan, which made him not listen to me. Finally I yelled, and then I cried, and then I apologized and said I needed a moment to calm down. Then I realized my mistake, and apologized for calling him the wrong name and I asked him to be patient with me because I had been calling him — for 3 years and it’s hard to stop. He told me he was happy now and we proceeded to read stories and finish getting ready for bed.
I know I have a lot to learn, and lots of patience to build up. I want to try though, because I love my children and I want what is best for them. I want to listen to them, respect them, and teach them some better problem solving skills than I currently possess. I definitely do NOT want to yell at them again as it is bad for everyone involved.
My 3-year-old brought his Safari/Monster Truck into the bathroom with this morning and said something to the effect of, “he’s a bad monster truck. He is mean, he tears the toilet paper and bangs into the door!”
The way Mr. 3 said this made me feel like he was talking about himself, and that he feels like he is a bad or mean person just because he sometimes does bad or mean things.
In that moment I said, “maybe he is just grumpy, and needs a hug. Just because we do mean things doesn’t mean we are mean people.”
Later, as I spent more time thinking about it, I began to think that his attitude is caused by the way I react when he does bad or mean things.
For example, when he pushes his brother I would normally say, “Stop! Do NOT push your brother, that is not a nice thing to do. That is mean! You could hurt or scare him!” I sometimes have even said, “You are being mean to your brother!”.
I would like to change my town and words to reflect his actions, and not his overall attitude. I would like to start saying, “That is not how we do things here. We say, “M– could I have my train back, or ask mommy for help.”
I hope this helps him realize that he is not a bad person. I worry that if he feels like he is a bad or mean person that he will start doing bad and mean things just because he thinks that is what he is supposed to be. A self-perpetuating cycle. I feel that he has been pushing more lately, and I hope that by changing my response we will see a difference in his responses.
I am reading another John Holt book, so I have a lot I want to talk about. This book is Teach Your Own, the how and why of homeschooling. John Holt originally wrote this book in the 60’s, but the book has been updated in 2003 by Pat Feranga.
Chapter two addresses the common homeschooling questions of, “how will my children learn enough”, “how do I teach my kids for x number of hours a day,”. More importantly it provides some background and studies on what it takes to be a good teacher, and to be successful at homeschooling.
Some questions my 3 year old asked me in the last twenty minutes:
How do you take down the curtain?
How do you take down the blinds?
How do you take down the window?
How do you take down the screen?
Why are feet stinky?
Why don’t dogs and cats have stinky feet? (Listen to Stinky Feet by Jim Cosgrove… it’s a funny song.)
Why do we live with dogs and cats? (He was distracted by his brother before I could get into a long explanation about symbiotic relationships, or even to say that they are cute.)
Why do dogs and cats have hair?
Why do we have hair?
Why is your hair black or something?
Why is/what do you mean my hair is like daddy’s?
An hour ago my husband and I had an interesting discussion about the moon and how it orbits around the planet so you never see the other side. This was brought on by questions from Mr. 3 about why he can see the moon and the sun at the same time.
I love questions like these. I wish all of his questions were interesting. I think probably all his questions are interesting to him, but it can get very frustrating when the conversation goes like this:
Me: Gosh, it sure is nice out today.
Mr. 3: Why is it nice out?
Me: Because the sun is shining, and its warm!
Mr. 3: why is the sun shining and its warm out?
Me: It is warm out because the sun is shining.
Mr. 3: Why is it warm out because the sun is shining?
Maybe the problem is that he doesn’t know how to ask what he really wants to know about, but depending on my patience level I usually just end up saying, “What do you think?”
We’ve been having some bed time struggles with the 3-year-old. I think it has to do with the baby regression that was mentioned in a previous post, where my 3-year-old acts like a baby in order to get more attention. At nap time he has been asking me to lay down with him, and it has gotten to the point where he is unlikely to nap if I don’t lay down. Alternatively, if I do lay down and say something along the lines of, “Mommy is tired, I am going to lay down. Will you join me?” he usually (not always) jumps at the opportunity.
And yet at night, he would cry every time mommy and daddy would back out of the room and close the door. He shares a room with baby brother, but it is not the same.
Yesterday he told me he wanted to lay down with someone who “has a mouth” and “can talk”. This was specified after he rejected laying down with his stuffed animals, and he also rejected laying down with our dog.
Well, astute parents that we are, we decided to get him a full size bed to replace his open crib so that one of us can lay down with him at night until he gets settled and calm. 5/7 nights last week he has gone to bed with a minimum to no fuss. He cried once when I left because he was having trouble settling down due to a large fly in the room.
This has also been an opportunity to witness the cuteness that is baby brother (15 months old) and his love for Little Blue Truck. He will roll around with that book and rub it on his face. He will sit and read it and point at all the pictures. It is a wonderful thing to cuddle with Mr. 3 and watch Mr. 1 settle down in his crib. Usually I stay for 10 minutes and then try to excuse myself, but it is a happy 10 minutes. 10 minutes that makes me feel more connected and close to my children. 10 minutes away from the demands of a messy house, phone full of emails, and everything else.
10 minutes just to love my children.
(Before bed we brush teeth, read 1-2 books, and sing 1-2 songs. Then we lay down and try to sleep.)
What do you do for bedtime?
I know that last post was a little hard to read, but writing it out definitely helped me get some perspective and help cement my realization that I just need to be more patient.
Also, the bad times help us appreciate the good times more, don’t they?
After they woke up from their nap, we ended up having a wonderful afternoon. We did a lot of playing outside. They picked wildflowers (weeds) and rocks in a field near the house, and dug a large hole in our backyard.
Little brother kept trying to climb into the hole.
We also discovered that while raw green beans have a tough shell that is kind of gross to chew, the little pods inside the shell are juicy and delicious. We spent quite some time shelling and eating the green beans in the garden. We compared flavors of the different sized pods.
The 15 month old has made some great vocabulary strides in the last few days. He can say “WOW” when we read Wow, Says the Owl. He can also say “baby” out loud, but I think he was really trying to say Brother, which he also just started signing.
It’s adorable when he signs brother and walks through out the house (or toy store) looking for his big brother.
He handed me a bib and said “b b b bib!”
He is trying to jump and just kind of bounces up and down on his toes.
Big brother on the other hand is working on standing on one foot now. And he does great impersonations of his favorite Blippi shows. And he didn’t ask for the Kindle once yesterday, I think he has accepted my computers are for responsible people speech?
And guess what? When he pooped in his diaper in the evening, I calmly asked him if he wanted to go potty, and when he indicated “no”, I told him to let me know when he was done and we could get him cleaned up.
See, I CAN do this wonderful job of taking care of and helping my children explore the world.
Hello. I’m sorry to be such a Debbie Downer but I need a friend today. I feel so very frustrated, and I’ve been crying for the last 30 minutes. I also spent some of that time yelling at my 3-year-old in a public bathroom, car, and bedroom.
I just don’t understand why he refuses to do his business in a toilet like all the rest of the children and people we know.
He is 3 years and 2 months old, and I have been “Potty Training” him since he was able to sit up, at about 5 months old. I would put him on the potty when he woke up and before a bath, and he did great. We saved so many diapers. We would read on the potty and I sometimes would have to force him to get off after long periods of sitting on the potty.
When he was about 22 months old, he wore underwear for 2 weeks straight and would even wake up at night to go to the bathroom.
Then, baby brother came along and everything just got worse and worse until now he is wearing a diaper constantly and seemingly choosing to go pee and poop in the darn diapers.
I tried being patient, and not forcing him. I tried stickers. I tried making him go naked, but he pooped on the floor twice and the dog ate it. I feel like I’ve tried a lot of different methods. I tried talking to him and I still explain several times a day that taking care of yourself is important and that keeping your underwear clean and dry prevents being smelly and getting rashes.
Yesterday, I gave him the same speech standing right next to the toilet after nap time. He was definitely doing the potty dance, and I encouraged him to go potty. Instead, he pees in his underwear and shorts (he had promised earlier to keep them clean and dry otherwise he would have been wearing a diaper) and all over the bathroom floor. Then he says “I want to play on my kindle!”.
Umm, no. If the kindle wasn’t so expensive I would hit it with a baseball bat or throw it in the trash. Instead, I put it in the closet and told him that computers are for people who take care of themselves and their bodies. His baby brother doesn’t get to watch shows or play games on the kindle because he hasn’t demonstrated that he can handle that responsibility, and neither has the 3-year-old. He was very upset by this.
Respectful parents will tell you to imagine your child is an important foreign diplomat, but if that important foreign diplomat deliberately went pee-oee on my floor when I KNOW that HE KNOWS better, I would most certainly react the same way. Respect goes both ways, and when my child refuses to listen to me or doesn’t care about what I want, then it makes it hard to treat him like a person that does.
And I know that rewarding going potty with time on the kindle is maybe not the best parenting decision either but giving the dog treats worked in a few days and she’s only had one accident in 4 years. It’s hard to argue with results.
We went to a toy story for story time and painting today. He was playing with their train table while we were waiting for it to start. I was very much looking forward to seeing my friend who I hadn’t seen in a few weeks, and I was excited for the 15 month old to do some painting around other children. I explained this all to the three-year old, and I explained that I had failed to bring a diaper and baby wipes and how we would have to go home to clean up if he went to the bathroom in his diaper. I said he was acting like he needed to poop and we should try to go to the bathroom.
He refused and not 5 minutes later he had a little poop in his pants. I take him to the bathroom and sit him on the potty trying to salvage the situation, but he REFUSES. TO. FINISH. POOPING. And this is when I get infuriated. So I say everything again, about taking care of yourself, and wanting to see my friend. Only I say it louder and while crying. And I beg and plead and do everything you’re not supposed to do including telling him to stop acting like a baby.
Then I feel super bad because I know what I am saying is wrong and not helpful and that gets me in a cycle of feeling like a failure. I cry all the way home and when I clean him up, and when I put his brother down for a nap and when I tell him to stay in the room because mommy needs time to cry and think about what I’ve done. And then I go cry on my bed a little bit more.
I want to run away, or hide. I have a huge fear that my child will never be potty trained. I have a huge fear that I am a bad mother, that this one sign of failure is just covering up many smaller failures. I have a huge fear that I am not good enough for them.
Thanks for “listening”. I know I’m just being emotional and it will all be okay.
I am still gathering my thoughts after reading this insightful book by John Holt about how young children can and will learn by themselves. (Learn more about the book here.)
There is a section where he explains that children that are praised or punished a lot will lose their inherent motivation to learn and discover, and develop a fear of failure.
I don’t want that for my children. My goal with homeschooling has always been to teach them a love of learning. According to John Holt, I don’t even have to do that, all I have to do is not destroy the desire that they already have.
What children want and need from us is thoughtful attention. They want us to notice them and pay some kind of attention to what they do, to take them seriously, to trust and respect them as human beings. They want courtesy and politeness, but they don’t need much praise. (John Holt – Learning All the Time)
I think my toddler has been trying to tell me this for a while. He is always asking me, “what am I doing, mommy?” or some variation thereof. Perhaps I need to be more proactive about acknowledging him, even when distracted by his baby brother.
The not praising practice will be a difficult habit to break for me. I was raised in a reward\praise system, and perhaps did not receive enough of it because I was always striving for more.
My two older brothers had the opposite, where they were satisfied with the occasional praise… Good job passing that English class! Where as I felt barely acknowledged for (almost) getting straight As.
You could say the system worked for me. I received a masters degree in accounting. I worked as a CPA until I became a stay at mom. I am married and have a beautiful family. One of my older brothers still delivers pizza, while the other is slightly better off. But there I go comparing, and how can you truly compare happiness?
But I don’t want my kids to experience either of these extremes, I want them to be motivated because they WANT to learn about something, or WANT to be good at something.
So instead of always saying “good job” or “that’s not right” I just need to acknowledge what they are doing and not jump in the middle of it. I need to learn to let them be themselves, not who I want them to be.
It’s going to be a challenge to change the way we do things at home, but I’m going to start small and work my way up to it.
A common style of conversation at our house goes as follows:
Mr. 3: What am I doing mommy?
Me: I don’t know sweetheart, what ARE you doing?
Mr. 3: I’m building a garage on wheels!
Me: Ooh, that’s great.
Mr. 3: I built a garage on wheels!
Me: Good Job!
My goal for this week is to end the conversation differently. Not to praise, but to acknowledge and get him to talk more about it.
Mr. 3: I built a garage on wheels!
Me: I see, you are parking all the cars inside the garage!
I know there are a few good books about unconditional parenting, so I should probably check out some of them to get a better understanding of how to put this into practice. Feel free to leave me a suggestion if you have a favorite book. I am also interested in finding out how you convinced your significant others to implement the same parental practices. Consistency is important, after all.
Also, I would like to thank my husband for taking care of me this weekend while I was sick. I don’t know how you managed to do the dishes, fix the laundry doors, install the rain barrel, mow the lawn, pull weeds, take care of the kids and take care of me. You are amazing.
By the way, the book Learning All the Time by John Holt is only $2.99 on Amazon. (Affiliate link, but who wouldn’t?)