Dear Customer Service,
I think my computer needs professional help. I just don’t know what to do anymore. It won’t respond to me half of the time, and the other half its response is so slow it might as well not respond at all! I need help, and I don’t know where else to turn. Here’s the story:
I remember how excited I was when I first got my computer. I carefully cut the tape on the box, gently lifted it out, and gingerly settled it in the well-appointed and super organized office I’d had decorated and waiting for what seemed like forever.
Now what to do? I’d never owned a computer before and was so nervous I’d somehow break it. I searched through manuals and how-to’s for dummies, looking for tips from experts and guidance from other computer owners with years of experience. It was so frustrating because everyone seemed to have a different opinion about what to expect and what was important and how to handle all the hardware and software issues that were bound to crop up with computer ownership.
Over time, though, I got more comfortable in my new role as a computer owner. My tentative key tapping became more confident, and I operated my computer like a pro. But then minor irritations began to creep up. I’d input a command and have to wait for my computer to process before it responded, but why should I have to wait? I’d issued the same commands hundreds of times since my computer had arrived. Shouldn’t it obey instantly? I certainly thought so! So, I’d push the enter button a couple more times, and then a couple more, then some other buttons, and the darn thing would freeze up on me!!! Seriously?!?
I’m no push-over, believe me, and I wasn’t about to be manipulated by my own computer! So, I started unplugging it every time it froze. After a few minutes, I’d plug it back in again, but even after extending its time-out of the outlet to longer and longer periods, my computer was still giving me that ring of delayed obedience and then freezing when I pushed its buttons. So, I started giving it a gentle whack on its CPU. (No, I was not abusing it. I was just giving it a little tap to get its attention!) But nothing seemed to be working. I was still having to wait for it to process my commands, and it was actually getting worse!
Then my computer started popping up demands, right in front of what I was working on! ”Updates needed.” ”Virus software update available.” Me, me, me. I want. I want. I want. Isn’t it amazing how completely self-absorbed computers are? Didn’t my computer realize I had a schedule to keep? I had things that needed to get done, an agenda, a life! And on top of all that, I’d just purchased a new little laptop that needed my attention. Why couldn’t my computer understand that it just had to do what it was told and stop giving me a hard time?!? Selfish, that’s why!
Well, time went on and my computer kept up it’s delayed obedience and just kept escalating its constant demands with pop up after pop up after pop up. But I knew better than to give in. All it wanted was attention! So I alternated between time-out of the outlet and well-deserved whacks to the CPU, but all I got was slower and slower obedience, longer and longer freezes, and just general unresponsiveness.
I’ve tried to be a good computer owner, but I’m at the end of my tether. Please help!
Computers are designed to process input. Basically, that means you get out what you put in. That “demand for attention” is actually your computer communicating a need for input from you, whether it’s for an update or a virus scan or whatever it’s indicating it needs. If you meet it’s needs, that will not only stop the ”demands” but also free it up to run more smoothly and responsively for you. As far as the “delayed obedience,” that’s just how computers are built. It needs time to process your input so that it can respond appropriately. Pushing its buttons over and over is actually causing the freezing you’re concerned about, and unplugging your computer when it freezes just shuts it down right when it’s trying its hardest to work things out. Remember, interaction between owner and computer is the core of computer processing. Finally, stop “whacking” your computer. Call it what you want…hitting, tapping, popping, or whatever…it’s just causing internal damage and resulting in the very problems you’re trying to solve.
Shak N. Mihed
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
I was one of those children who was incredibly picky when it came to food and, despite my mom’s gently enforced ‘one bite rule,’ I went on to become an incredibly picky eater as an adult, as well. I vividly remember as a young child gagging as I tried to force down a bite, my throat feeling like it was closing up, and like there was no way food was going to fit through there. As a very compliant child, it bothered me immensely to disappoint my mom, and, being the logical person that I was even at that younge age, I remember feeling that her expectations were very reasonable and being frustrated at my own inability to comply.
Fast forward a few years to when I began having children of my own and needed to make parenting decisions about everything from breastfeeding to cosleeping to discipline. On my journey to gentle parenting I revisited my childhood memories often, finding myself appreciating my mom’s gentleness and her way of using silliness to help me see the ‘silver lining’ in life when things were hard. In some things, I chose to follow the parenting path my mom took, and in others I took a different course and blazed my own trail.
When I was at university, I worked as a certified nutrition consultant with a focus on natural approaches to nutrition, health, and fitness. I took that knowledge, along with my studies in developmental psychology, human behavior, and communication, and incorporated all of it into my parenting decisions.
As I muddled through the toddler years with my firstborn, I decided to take an approach to nutrition that was unheard of, as far as I knew. I would offer to nurse, offer the food on my plate, and offer food I’d made specifically for him, and then let my little man decide. That was the beginning of our baby led weaning, though I didn’t know that term at the time.
What I discovered then and have seen proven time and again through the years with my own six very different children as well as with the families I’ve worked with, is that, given the freedom to choose, children will generally experiment with more textures and tastes than if they are forced to eat their parents’ choice of food for them. It’s simply human nature that, if a child (or an adult, for that matter!) knows that they don’t have to try a new food and that they can run to the trashbin and spit it out if they do try it and don’t like it, then they are far, far more likely to give it a chance. And if they don’t try it the first time it’s offered, or if they do try it and don’t like it, making it available again off and on in the future will give them more opportunities to try the food and perhaps end up liking it when their tastes mature a bit more.
In our home, my children know that if they don’t like what’s being served for a meal there is always an alternative in the form of a PB&J or a reheat later if they just aren’t hungry at mealtime, though if we’re sitting down together I do expect them to sit with the family and chat with us while we eat. Even if they like the food being served, they may not feel hungry for a heavy meal just then or perhaps the last time they ate that meal their tummy got upset or maybe there are other reasons they don’t want the meal that they simply can’t articulate. As the adult, I can choose to make an issue out of it and end up in an unnecessary power struggle, or I can choose to offer my children the same respect I offer myself, because you can bet your bottom dollar that if I don’t want to eat something, I’m not eating it!
Among the many benefits of this approach, beyond the greater propensity for a child to experiment with tastes and textures and beyond the elimination of mealtime battles, I also saved myself a ton of mommy guilt through the years. I had no way of knowing early on that my renaissance girl had Sensory Processing Disorder which was strongly affecting her ability to eat or that my little caboose was missing an enzyme and couldn’t eat meat. Had I spent their toddler years forcing foods on them and engaging in coercive or punative mealtime parenting, the damage to our relationship, not to mention their health, could have been disasterous. Additionally, children who feel powerless over their lives can begin trying to recapture a sense of power by exercizing excessive control over their eating with the danger of a resulting eating disorder when they get into their teen years.
So, on a practical level how do you get a toddler or preschooler to eat? Well, first and foremost, rigidly scheduling mealtimes creates a battleground in and of itself. Toddlers’ and preschoolers’ ever-shifting growth patterns cause them to go through slow-growth periods where they simply aren’t hungry and other periods where they’re hungry 24/7! Grazing, or eating multiple small meals and snacks throughout the day, not only fits these growth patterns better, but is actually a much healthier way for all of us to eat because it stabilizes blood sugar which, when low, leads to overeating as does simply eating because ‘it’s time.’ Teaching our little ones to listen to their bodies’ hunger cues is a hugely positive step toward avoiding obesity later in life, as well!
Secondly, a combination of keeping little ones active so they work up a good appetite (which also sets them on the path toward an active physical lifestyle!) and offering a variety of healthy foods throughout the day will typically be all it takes to meet their nutrition requirements. As a general guideline, toddlers and preschoolers need:
- Two to three servings of dairy (i.e. 1 oz. cheese, ½ cup milk, ½ cup yogurt);
- Four to six servings of grains (i.e. ½ slice bread, ½ cup non-sugared cereal, ¼ cup pasta, 2 crackers);
- Two servings of protein (i.e. two 1” squares of chicken, fish, or beef);
- Two to three servings of veggies (i.e. 2 tbs peas, corn, cauliflower, etc);
- And two to three servings of fruit (i.e. ½ banana, apple, orange, etc., ¼ cup raisins, blueberries, raspberries, 3-4 strawberries or grapes, etc)
Here are some fun ways to invite your little ones to make healthy eating choices:
- Need an easy and healthy breakfast for little ones? Try an ice cream cone filled with almonds & bite sized chunks of fruit & cheese!
- Start little people’s day healthy & happy. Make a smiley face clock on their plate with almonds, cheese & fruit with yogurt to dip them in!
- Try making ‘apple cookies’ (apples sliced into round discs) into faces with almonds, raisins & cheese!
- Sundae breakfast! Yogurt sprinkled with granola & raisins & nuts & drizzled with local honey (helps control seasonal allergies, too), yummy! *Note: Never feed honey to a baby under a year old.
- Here comes the sun! Make frozen pancakes more healthy by surrounding them with fruit & topping with berries & almonds & drizzling with local honey!
- Banana Boats~Slice of whole wheat bread spread with peanut butter & local honey & wrapped around a banana. Top with just a sprinkle of brown sugar for a treat!
- Double Trouble~Celery, carrot & pretzel sticks with a scoop of cottage cheese & a scoop of peanut butter for double dipping!
- Picasso PB&J’s~Round whole wheat flat bread with small dollops of peanut butter, fruit preserves & yogurt around the edge in a colorful palate with pretzel sticks for paint brushes!
- Boil some cauliflower, carrots, zucchini & yellow squash until a bit mushy & puree.
1) Mix with your favorite meatloaf recipe for a hidden veggie serving!
2) Mix with spaghetti sauce & freeze in single serving containers.
- Spaghetti Twisters~Make rotini noodles instead of spaghetti noodles for a cute ‘twist’ and add your special spaghetti sauce for a tornado of veggie goodness!
- Pizza Racers~Use rectangular flatbread & lightly coat with olive oil and broil for a couple of minutes to crisp it up, then add your souped-up spaghetti sauce & let your little ones top with mozzarella ‘racing stripes’ & pepperoni ‘racing tires’ for a super-charged dinner!
- Pureed cauliflower also works great mixed with mac & cheese, stuffing, and mashed potatoes for a hidden veggie to round out any meal!
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost available on Amazon]
“People are telling parents like me that we are failing our children because we practice controlled discipline in our homes. I say: the children that are raised without it are the ones being abused and robbed of the chance of success in adulthood.” Controlled discipline in the eyes of this author of I Don’t Like Spanking My Kids, But I Do It Anyway is physical punishment. Equating discipline with punishment is a common misconception, but she is, unfortunately, not alone in her stance.
Many of today’s most popular self-proclaimed parenting ‘experts’ also equate physical punishment with discipline and go to great lengths to describe the best methods and tools for hitting children along with instructing parents to maintain a calm, controlled, and even cheerful demeanor as they ‘lovingly’ hit their children.
It is interesting to note here that, when it comes to the law, crimes of passion are treated as less heinous than premeditated, planned, and purposefully executed crimes which are termed ‘in cold blood.’ And yet when physically punishing a child, a crime in many places across the globe, hitting in anger or frustration (i.e. passion) is deemed wrong by proponents of spanking, while hitting children with calm and deliberate intent (i.e. premeditation) is encouraged.
It is also interesting to note that, in the not-too-distant past, husbands hitting their wives was also viewed as not only a societal norm, but a necessary part of maintaining a harmonious, successful marriage. In fact, a man who epitomizes the words calm and controlled, Sean Connery, shared his thoughts on the ’reasonable smacking’ of his wife in a 1987 interview with Barbara Walters:
The core belief behind ‘reasonable smacking’ of wives was that there was no other effective way to control them. I have to agree. If controlling another human being is the goal, then force is necessary. Fear, intimidation, threats, power-plays, physical pain, those are the means of control.
But if growing healthy humans is the goal, then building trust relationships, encouraging, guiding, leading, teaching, communicating, those are the tools for success.
Many parents simply don’t know what else to do. They were raised with spanking as a means of control and “turned out okay” so they default to their own parents’ parenting choices without researching alternatives to spanking or considering whether “okay” could be improved upon.
As to the I Don’t Like Spanking My Kids, But I Do It Anyway author’s contention that “We are raising a generation of children who are over-sensitive because they eventually find out that they aren’t as good at baseball or ballet as some other kid and their parents promised them that everyone is equal. They feel entitled because we teach them that they should. They throw tantrums when life doesn’t go their way because their parents have tiptoed around them to make sure that it does,” that reasoning sounds strangely familiar.
People throughout history have complained about ‘the trouble with kids these days.’ They’ve pinned all the ills of their society on permissive parenting. They’ve ranted about out-of-control children, disrespectful youth, entitlement, spoiling, disobedience, violence, self-centeredness, etc:
“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders…. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and are tyrants over their teachers.”
~Socrates, 5th Century BC
“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions.
Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”
~Plato, 5th Century BC
“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and
respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint”
~Hesiod, 8th Century BC
“The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.”
~Peter the Hermit, 13th Century AD
My grandpa notes the world’s worn cogs
And says we’re going to the dogs.
His grandpa in his house of logs
Said things were going to the dogs.
His grandpa in the Flemish bogs
Said things were going to the dogs.
His grandpa in his hairy togs
Said things were going to the dogs.
But this is what I wish to state:
The dogs have had an awful wait.
~Unknown, circa 1936
Small children disturb your sleep, big children your life.
Perhaps, just perhaps, there isn’t any ‘trouble with kids today.’ Maybe the trouble is with societies who view normal stages of development as somehow abnormal. Maybe the problem is with parents who repeat the patterns their own parents set and don’t delve into the belief system they are now passing along to their children. Or maybe the problem is simply the rose-colored glasses older generations tend to have about their own youth when they share idealized versions of ‘the good old days.’
Could it be that ’kid’s today’ are just kids like they have been through the ages, full of exuberance and curiosity and learning their way in a great big world? Could it be that a listening ear, gentle guidance, and trusted arms to turn to when inevitable mistakes are made are really all children need to grow up into kind, helpful, responsible, productive members of our society?
Consider this, ”Since more than 90% of American parents admit to spanking their children, it’s hard to accept that a decline in spanking is responsible for the purportedly escalating rates of youth violence and crime. Could it be that the 90% of children who are subject to violence at home in the form of being slapped, paddled, smacked, yanked, whipped, popped, spanked, etc. are taking those lessons out into the world? Is it just possible that children who are hit learn to hit? That children who are hurt learn to hurt? Perhaps the lesson they are learning is that ‘might is right’ and violence is the answer to their problems, the outlet for their stress, the route to getting others to do what they want.” Better Children, Better World
Could it be that sowing peace in our homes is the answer after all?
Remember the days when your little ones were just babbling their first ma-ma-ma’s and da-da-da’s and Cookie Monster was the only adult conversation you heard all day? Remember feeling a bit at sea as you tried to figure out what each grunt and cry meant and how relieved you were when your tiny tot began using actual words to communicate, even if you had to really work to translate “Mender tmowow I wost my dowie?” into “Remember yesterday when I lost my dolly?”
Well, don’t drop anchor in port just yet, parents of middles and teens, your days of feeling at sea aren’t quite finished! Yes, their vocabulary may be nearly as large as yours and they may talk enough to drive you batty, but their ability to process, analyze, and articulate their emotions, especially the negative ones, is still far from mature.
Expecting them to be able to use words as easily and with as much insight as adults is like someone handing us a box of computer components and expecting us to be able to assemble, program, and operate the computer like an expert, but without the expert’s knowledge and experience!
Our middles and teens still need help communicating their inner world to us, and that takes patience and understanding on our part while we give them time to process without adding the pressure of unrealistic expectations. Stress just increases their cortisol levels (cortisol is the stress-hormone associated with the ‘fight-freeze-or-flight response’ which essentially drains their brains of the ability to think just when they need to think the most!) which results in less communication, not more.
Case in point…a couple of days ago My Renaissance Girl injured her ankle while playing on the back porch with our new kittens. (Yes, you read that right, first of my six to end up in the ER from playing with kittens!) She’s newly thirteen, and the hospital staff all directed their questions to her instead of to me. I stood back quietly and let her navigate this new ground as long as she was comfortable, but when she started shooting me panicked glances, I stepped in and helped her out. One of the doctors rather rudely said that she should be able to answer all of their questions herself, and I literally watched her shut down. The next question was her birthday, and she couldn’t remember it. She was already in pain and embarrassed (mainly because self-consciousness and the resulting embarrassment is just a fact of life at thirteen, poor thing) and the doctor putting pressure on her like that just sent her stress level soaring. If he’d have been standing next to me, I might have Gibbs-slapped him. (Not really, but it did irritate me and my fellow NCIS fans will appreciate the reference, lol).
When he left, I just quietly waited to give her time to process. After a few moments, she said, “All those eyes looking at me…I couldn’t think!” We chatted for a moment about it, and I told her about my absolute refusal to walk up to the counter at McDonald’s and ask for a ketchup package one day when I was her age. I remember not being able to explain why it made me so uncomfortable, but looking back it was probably a combination of worrying about people ignoring me while I stood there (as happens all the time to middles and teens, unfortunately), suddenly realizing I hadn’t shaved my legs that morning, feeling like my shirt was unflattering, and a dozen other thoughts that raced through my head, but I couldn’t articulate at the time with anything more than a shrug.
So when you ask how your middle or teen’s day went at school and get that classic shrug or when you notice they’re a bit down and ask what’s wrong and get an “I dunno,” remember, they aren’t really giving you the brush off, they just aren’t ready or able to put their day or feelings into words. Pressing them to talk before they’re ready only increases their stress, which in turn causes that mind-numbing cortisol to flood their brains and slows down their processing abilities even more.
I’ve found that it’s far better to let them know you’re available to talk when they are and then let it go until later. When the house is quiet for the night and everyone else is asleep, my middles and teens tend to open up like night-blooming flowers. If I know they need to talk, I’ll tap on their door and wait ‘til I’m invited in, then sit on their bed and start chatting lightly about the day. After a bit, we’ll lapse into a comfortable silence, and then, sure enough, the words start coming. Sometimes they come out all in a tumble, sometimes slowly, awkwardly, but they get it out there so we can take a look at things and process them together.
Sometimes, though, I’m the one who hears a little tap on my door and a head poking through to see if I’m awake. We do some fancy hand signals while they let me know they need to talk and I let them know if the baby’s still nursing and they need to wait a few minutes or if I can slip away and join them immediately.
In an odd way, this time of their lives feels like a return to the nighttime neediness of infancy. One of the payoffs to the gentleness and consistency in meeting their nighttime needs then is their assurance that their needs will be met now. They seem to be more likely to approach me with the need for one of our ‘midnight talks’ based on the confidence that I’m available to them, day or night, rather than being hesitant because they are unsure of their reception.
The heart of the matter, though, isn’t what time these chats take place. It’s that they take place when our middles and teens are ready to share, when they’ve had time to process their experiences enough to get them out in the open where we can work through the rest of whatever processing, analyzing or interpreting they need.
Through these interactions with our children we are not only helping them to get things out instead of bottling them up, but we are also letting them know in a very tangible and practical way that they are not alone in coping with life, a valuable lesson indeed when you consider that one of the mantras of depressed, bullied, and/or suicidal youth is “I feel so alone.”
In addition, rather being an indication of immaturity or undesirable dependency, a child being willing to talk through challenges, as well as just the ordinary stresses of life, is actually showing a healthy openness to sharing and growing. And the beauty of it is that each time we help our children through the ‘processing process,’ it prepares them to do a bit more themselves the next time, and the next, and the next until one day we realize we haven’t heard that little midnight tap on our door in a while…and we sleep a bit better in the knowledge of a job well done.
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
Talking to Teens
Communication is always a huge concern for parents in the teen years. The strong, open communication channel created in the early years through Gentle Parenting, coupled with the mutual respect and trust foundation established, provide a powerful platform for a healthy parent/teen relationship. Simply put, children/teens who feel heard and understood and respected don’t need to fight to be heard, understood, and respected. Or, conversely, they don’t slip away into the sullen, angry, withdrawn teen who doesn’t bother to even try to be heard anymore because they never felt heard or understood as a young child.
Again, this is not to say that the gently raised adolescent will be perfect. None of us are! But with a healthy relationship based on open, honest communication, issues can be addressed as they arise and in a respectful and timely manner instead of a teen feeling the need to go ‘underground’ with their behavior or problems.
So, that said, what are some practical tips for talking to teens?
- Honesty is paramount. Teens will tune out faster than you can imagine if they sense you’re being less than transparent with them. (See ‘Dealing with the Hard Stuff’ below). Only in a mutually honest environment will a teen be willing to share their deepest fears, hopes, disappointments, etc.
- Along with this goes the need to be able to say anything, anything at all, and know they will be heard and accepted without judgement, without repercussion. Consequences for broken rules should never come as a result of a heart-to-heart discussion, or it may well be the last heart-to-heart your teen will have with you. You can and should honestly express your concern and even disappointment if appropriate, but don’t make it all about yourself or the conversation and chance for real connection will end.
- Respect is key. Embarrassment is like Kryptonite to a teen. Ridiculing them, making light of their feelings, minimizing their experiences by ‘one-upping’ them with yours are surefire ways to shut down a conversation with a teen permanently.
- Reassurance is healing. Teens need to know they are normal. They need to hear that everyone has ‘bad’ thoughts sometimes and that doesn’t make them ‘bad.’ Sharing some crazy thoughts that have popped into your head through the years and how “It’s not the thought, it’s what you do with the thought that matters” will help them realize they aren’t abnormal. (You’d be surprised how many teens think they’re abnormal! ‘Normal’ matters to them HUGELY.)
- Burn the midnight oil with your teen. For whatever reason, adolescents seem to be naturally nocturnal creatures. When the house is quiet and nothing is competing for attention, guards begin to drop, emotions mellow, and in the stillness of the night soft-voiced conversations invite deep, meaningful discussions. Don’t let the busyness and business of life rob you of these sweet moments with your teens who will so very soon be off on their own in the adult world.
Too Late for Teens?
So what do you do if you’re the parent of a teenager and have only just discovered Gentle Parenting? Is it too late to implement any of the Gentle Parenting philosophy to establish connectedness and mutual respect and ease the transition into adulthood? And what if your teenager is in full-on rebellion mode? Is there anything Gentle Parenting can do for you?
The answers aren’t easy, by any means, and they aren’t given with a ‘let them eat cake’ attitude as if I am unaware of how challenging making changes at this stage can be, let alone how challenging teens themselves can be! But, that said, there are some basic tenets that you can begin the hard work of weaving into your parenting even at this late stage. So put on your hard hats, because you’re going to need them!
1) Don’t engage! Win or lose, they’ll enjoy the argument, and you won’t.
2) Apologize! Take responsibility for past and present parenting mistakes. As mentioned earlier, teens can sniff out hypocrisy like bloodhounds, and acting like you’re perfect (which is how they’ll interpret that missing apology) smells an awful lot like hypocrisy to them.
3) Be real! Nothing will make a teen more resentful than you demanding behavior from them that you aren’t modeling in your own life.
4) Be available! If you haven’t been available in the past, openly let your teen know that you’ve made mistakes and would like to change, then let them know you are available to them, day or night, whether your favorite tv show is on or not, even if you have work to do, or emails to read, or phone calls to return…no matter what!
5) Communicate! If you feel your early parenting hasn’t established the open communication vital to a healthy parent/teen relationship, it isn’t too late to make some renovations to bridge the gap. Just start talking…about your own life, your own struggles, your own needs, and just start sharing, about your love for them, your hopes for them, your pride in them.
6) Let go! When a child reaches the teen years, it’s time to begin slowly releasing them from parental controls and start letting them make more of their own choices. This is not to say that you stop being their parent, but that you begin to consciously shift your role in your teen’s life further and further away from guardian and caretaker, and closer and closer to a supportive, accepting, mentoring role…in short, a friendship role that will set the stage for your relationship with your adult child. This conscious shifting on your part will help to make your teen’s transition from child to adult a cooperative effort between you rather than a source of conflict.
7) Move! No joke. If your teen is involved with a bad group, is immersed in drugs, gangs, etc…pack up and move. I know it’s easier said than done. I know there are all kinds of job and economic issues involved. I know it’s a huge sacrifice. And I know they’ll fight you on it. But if everything else has failed, removing them from negative influences and situations to give them a chance at a fresh start may be the best, or only, choice. And, letting your teen know that they are the first and most important priority in your life, more important than your job, home, the life you’ve built, or anything else, will in and of itself go a long way toward healing your relationship.
8) Pray! Don’t discount God in your parenting. After all, He’s the parent of a lot more people than any of us will ever be! God is very clear on the fact that He cares, that He listens, and that nothing is impossible when we ‘cast our cares on’ Him. So don’t forget to make daily calls (prayers) to the one Gentle Parenting Expert who’s on-call 24/7.
From tantrums to whining to tattling to the endless ‘why’s,’ the evolution of children’s communication proceeds at a steady and relatively predictable pace, though the timing is influenced by factors such as individual personality, cognitive development, home environment, etc. Once children have a solid grasp of language and have developed more advanced reasoning and processing skills, and once they’ve examined the in’s and out’s of their parents’ thoughts and beliefs, they begin to turn their attention to discovering their own interests and gifts and personalities.
Parents often begin to notice their children ‘becoming their own person’ during this time and we hear laments such as “She’s eight going on eighteen” and “He’s already changed career plans four times, and he’s only ten!” It is during this period in childhood that children often develop into a chatterbox or a dreamer, though most will be unique combinations of the two.
When you have a chatterbox, whether you have a seven-year-old who could literally spend entire days describing every super hero’s powers, weapons, weaknesses, enemies, and transportation or a nine-year-old who can list every horse breed, how to handle grooming, and what type of equipment to use for each kind of riding, the chattering can be deafening! The common theme is exploring who they are and what they like and what they think, all of which is accompanied by an intense need to share this fascinating process with the people they respect and admire the most…their parents, teachers, grandparents, siblings, anyone they’ve built a strong trust relationship with in their earlier years.
Chatterboxes can be challenging, to say the least. The endlessness of their talking, the intensity of their focus, and the often fickle nature of their passion (just when you get used to the daily commentary on the virtues of all things aquatic, their interest shifts and you’re getting a lesson in martial arts that would make an encyclopedia look dumb!) can really keep you off balance.
A common problem parents encounter at this stage is dealing with how to encourage their children in their interests without pushing them. So often when a child expresses interest in music a parent immediately buys a trumpet and enrolls him in lessons only to find that their budding Louis Armstrong has suddenly decided music is for the birds. His interests have flown elsewhere, and he’s now too busy pursuing his new passion for veterinary medicine to bother with something so pedantic as practicing the trumpet!
While encouraging our children to follow through on their commitments is important, we need to let them lead the way as much as possible. One way to avoid this situation is to watch that we aren’t jumping into things too quickly rather than giving our children a chance to explore their interests unhindered by the demands and pressures of lessons and competitions.
The constant nature of the chattering can be grating on parental (and sibling, teachers’, grandparents’!) nerves, to be sure. However, not only allowing, but also encouraging, our chatterboxes to share their thoughts as they begin to navigate the “Who am I? What inspires me? What will I be?” stage is important for a number of reasons.
- First, for a chatterbox, the need to be heard is intense, and it’s a wise parent who meets that need. Not only does remaining open and available at this stage continue to build the trust that is so vital for a respectful and peaceful relationship, but it also sets the stage for healthy communication in the rapidly approaching teen years.
- Second, a child who is heard and encouraged in discovering themselves at this stage tends to enter adolescence a more well-grounded and focused individual. Young people who head into the teen years without having begun the process of self discovery in middle childhood are more likely to be rudderless and vulnerable to peer pressure.
- Third, there is a unique window of clarity, a ‘honeymoon’ so to speak, in the middle years of childhood wherein language skills have been acquired, cognitive processes have matured, and the clouding of adolescent hormones and pressures and outside relationships aren’t in the mix to muddy the waters. This is prime real estate for encouraging self discovery while parental wisdom still seems wise to a child.
On the other end of the spectrum of middle childhood is the dreamer. Some children become extraordinarily introspective during this period. They are often lost in thought and may be perceived as inattentive or withdrawn. Oddly, it may seem harder to parent a dreamer because, while we rarely have to wonder what’s going on in the mind of a chatterbox, it takes a constant, subtle level of awareness to stay in tune with a young dreamer. That awareness is vital, though, because your young dreamer still needs your attention and empathetic support and guidance, just in different ways.
Some of the subtleties to be aware of are
- Signs of discomfort in social situations that they may not verbalize, but that we can offer insights into or alternatives to;
- Signs of anxiety such as frequent headaches or stomach aches which could be non-verbal cues that need our attention;
- And watching for what topics inspire their interest so we can encourage them on their road to self-discovery.
Checking in frequently with a dreamer is important since they may not volunteer information. Asking questions such as “That must have been difficult” and “I feel like you’re struggling with that. Can I help?” along with observations such as “You seem to find that interesting” are discussion openers they may or may not take you up on, but let them know you care. Don’t push them to open up, though, by constant probing questions or being unwilling to follow their lead if they aren’t ready to talk.
Just create the opportunity for conversation and, if possible, do so at regular intervals and in a quiet place so that they know they can count on a private time to share when they are ready. Prepare to simply sit in companionable silence during these times so your young dreamer won’t feel rushed or pressured, but don’t be surprised if they occasionally transform into a chatterbox and let all their pent up passions out at once before drifting back into their inner world.
It is important to be aware, though, of the subtle signs that can differentiate a dreamer from a withdrawn, angry, or depressed child. While a dreamer may often be in their own little world, it tends to be a happy world. If your child seems sad, is overly irritable, has trouble concentrating, seems overly tired, becomes extremely sensitive to and negatively affected by social situations, etc (read more here) then it may be wise to seek a professional evaluation.
Sharing yourself, your thoughts, your culture, and your values with your child; growing a strong, open communication channel; and encouraging a healthy curiosity are all invaluable investments in your child’s future, even if they are at the expense of a bit of peace and quiet in the present! Why, oh why, do children always ask WHY?
When a child tattles, what they are actually doing is a rudimentary form of the advanced life skill of ‘Pause. Think. Respond.’ but they need help finding an appropriate and effective response. The child who seeks out an adult for guidance is indicating trust in the adult and respect for the adult’s opinions and abilities. Rethinking Tattling
Here’s a shocker for you: Whining is actually a sign of maturity! Yep, that unnerving, endless, nails-on-a-chalkboard, make-your-head-explode whine is a sign that your little one is growing up and, get this, gaining self-control! I can see your heads shaking, but read on, parents, caregivers, and bleeding ears of the world, read on. Why Whining is a Win!
One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar. Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-Ins, Oh My!
We’ve added a Dr Seuss Quiet Bag to our Parenting in Public: Toddler Time page, and we’re working on a Dr Seuss Quiet Book, too!
The most challenging, independent children tend to be the ones who need the most intentional parental reconnection. Strong will=Strong need! Testing the Boundaries~What’s A Parent To Do?
For Captain America, the dream became a reality because of a diabolical villain trying to take over the world and a risky scientific experiment to create a hero who could stop him. (Seriously, though, who would really let strangers stick them in a radiation chamber and inject green slime into their body?!?)
For children who feel like nobodies, though, who struggle everyday, who have to work harder in class than their peers, Captain America might just be the key to unlocking the power to read.
Children like My Renaissance Girl who struggle with severe dyslexia and/or other learning disabilities as well as children who don’t have learning disabilities but are reluctant readers [ImaginationSoup.net] often rely heavily upon illustrations to help them keep track of the storyline. This provides them with the motivation to continue to read, which in turn increases their ability to read, thus increasing their motivation to read…success leading to success…a virtuous circle!
However a problem arises because, while high quality, beautifully illustrated children’s picture books abound, books appropriate for and of interest to older children often are either sparsely illustrated or not illustrated at all.
Enter the comic book!
Comic books, now generally known as graphic novels, have increasingly been finding their way into classrooms and school libraries as teachers search for tools to not only help their students learn how to read, but to tap into the vivid imagination that is the hallmark of childhood and turn their students onto a lifelong love of reading.
The Graphic Classroom founder, Chris Wilson, has made it his mission to seek out excellent graphic novels covering a wide range of subjects and styles and get them into the public education system here in the U.S.
From Da Vinci: The Renaissance Man to The Action Bible, the graphic novel industry has come a long way from the days of Archie and Jughead. The venerable Stan Lee, himself a rags to riches story on the order of his Marvel character, Captain America, is credited with a large portion of the popularity of the ever more sophisticated world of the graphic novel. His relatable characters, real-world storylines, conversational style, and stunning graphic art have contributed immeasurably to the emergence of graphic novels from the dark ages of the dime store shelves to a powerhouse industry with much to offer the literary world.
When it comes to literacy, Stan Lee brought his own superpowers into play with the formation of the Stan Lee Foundation “to do whatever I could to fight illiteracy in children. Any child who grows up illiterate, unable to read and write — or even semi-literate — can be considered handicapped. Competition throughout the world has grown so keen that every young person needs every possible advantage to even the competitive playing field. The ability to read well, to study, comprehend, and process information is absolutely vital for success as an adult.”
Utilizing graphics in teaching reading is certainly not a foreign concept. Picture books for younger children have been used for centuries to interest children in the written word. (Check out this incredibly cool Superhero ABC graphic art novel for early childhood education!) But incorporating art in the form of illustrations and graphics into curriculum for older students seems to be a relatively new and somewhat controversial concept as evidenced by the Common Core State Standards [Education Week] being adopted in all but three states so far which states “the text should be central, and surrounding materials should be included only when necessary, so as not to distract from the text itself.”
Clearly, the object of the Common Core State Standards is to focus on the mechanics of reading, in effect producing students able to read manuals and textbooks, but with no engagement of the heart, no delighting of the soul, no enrichment of the imagination. In short, the purpose seems to be to produce a generation of automatons who can pass a test on Da Vinci, but can’t think or create or imagine or invent like Da Vinci.
When you consider that “Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed, from scholarship and job success to voting and playing sports.” [BookReporter.com], it makes more sense to raise bookworms than to program robots.
Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. Children who love to read…READ. Adults who love to read…READ. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice.
Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms
8 Reasons to Let Your Kids Read Comics. Imagination Soup
It’s time for a return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of pursuing happiness…it’s time to let children be children again. A Return to Childhood
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
There’s another teenager in our house! My Renaissance Girl turned thirteen this week. It’s hard to believe my little preemie who started her days in the NICU, came home at 3 lbs 13 oz on an apnea/heart monitor, has struggled with severe dyslexia, sensory and auditory processing disorders, vestibular issues, attention deficit disorder, and more, is now a poised and confident young lady who is frequently absorbed in classic literature, enthralled with the art of Masters such as Van Gogh and Degas, and who’s musical tastes run from Mozart to The Beatles.
My children are homeschooled and are quite used to interacting in a mutually respectful manner with adults in banks, doctor’s offices, libraries, etc, so it’s always a bit of a culture shock when we run into society’s negative view of adolescents as we did on Renaissance Girl’s birthday. Literally, every time we mentioned that it was her thirteenth birthday as we shopped for gifts and took her for a birthday lunch, the reaction was rolled eyes and either expressions of condolences or warnings to my husband and I. Well, except for the one waiter who leered at her until my hubs caught his eye and shut him down!
What a world we live in, seriously. Is it any wonder that teenagers seem to have anti-social tendencies when, based on chronology alone, they’re either pigeon-holed as miscreants without anyone taking the time to actually talk to them (or, more importantly, listen to them!) or immediately become the object of sexual attention?
For those of you willing to look beyond the number of years a person has lived on this earth and see the person themselves, let me introduce you to a young lady who has some amazing gifts to offer this world…my Renaissance Girl!
Renaissance Girl has a heart for the elderly, the poor, the hurting, for anyone who is suffering. From her earliest years she would toddle up to an elderly person sitting alone at church or the park and climb up beside them to ‘chat’ or sing them a song or show them a flower she’d picked. Her heart breaks when she hears of children being abused or neglected, and she plans to adopt as many as her future husband will agree to (and with her sweet, strong spirit, I imagine she’ll follow through on that!)
The paintings of The Masters ignite Renaissance Girl’s imagination. For her birthday we ordered a Van Gogh’s ’Starry Night’ inspired ice cream cake from our little town’s best kept secret…Donna C, the decorator at our local Dairy Queen!
As part of our interest-led homeschooling, we’ll be working our way through unit studies on Michelangelo, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, and more with materials from here.
Renaissance Girl has decorated her room like a small artist’s loft with a drafting desk, a custom mural of a Parisian street scene (by your’s truly!), a romantic little reading nook with twinkle lights, and a stainless steel cable (Ikea!) stretched across the wall for her to hang her art, along with an art wall waiting to be filled.
Renaissance Girl studies with Mozart filling the silence (an SPD and ADD coping technique), and then rocks out to the Beatles on her brother’s Xbox Rock Band. She picks out tunes on the piano, trying to teach herself to play by ear, and is working on teaching herself to play the guitar.
Her beautiful mind sees the world through a unique lens similar to those of historical icons such as Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. While academics have been a huge challenge for her, the artistic and musical gifts she’s been given are incredible, and her gentle, sensitive soul is a rare and precious treasure. Many years of therapy have yielded the ability to read, and she’s like a butterfly newly emerged from her cocoon. Jane Eyre, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, all have sent her beautiful mind soaring to different times and places, and all have become intimate, lifelong friends with my sweet Renaissance Girl. (From Beautiful Minds)
From her own artistic ability to her fascination with The Masters, her beautiful voice to her eclectic taste in music, and her humorous storytelling to her love of literature, my Renaissance Girl is much, much more than ‘just’ a teenager or ‘just’ a girl or ’just’ anything. She is an incredible gift to the world, and our family is blessed beyond measure to have her!
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again!
From goofing around in Goofy hats at Downtown Disney to playing Just Dance 3 on the Xbox Kinect, from gales of giggles pushing each other on the tire swing to gathering around to check out the awesome cello mastery of ThePianoGuys, from chowing down on mexican food at Tijuana Flats to burning waffles for breakfast, and from trying on jewelry to decorating cupcakes, these homeschooled girls are as All-American as apple pie!
Check out Renaissance Girl’s favorite YouTube version of ThePianoGuy’s dueling cellos!
Happy 13th Birthday, My Renaissance Girl!
An aged beauty tips her face up, and her elderly companion leans down out of life-long habit to catch her soft voice. His old eyes see past the ever-deepening lines to the vision of youth he married decades earlier. His hands reach out to steady her fragile, but oh-so-familiar frame, and she smiles the same smile he’s woken up to and kissed goodnight his entire adult life. Theirs is an old love, subtle with wear, ripe with age, its rich beauty lost to those without the palate to plumb its boundless depths or the senses to delight in its warm bouquet. They are a living love story, two hearts time-stitched into one, beautiful old souls stepping in tandem toward eternity.
Truly, love does have many seasons and faces, each revealing its own power, its own purpose…
Young love shouts from the rooftops and expresses itself in passionate displays. Its flames are brilliant, stoked with newness and fueled with idealism, but at times it burns itself out with its own heat or through lack of care and tending.
Old love whispers quietly, “I’m here. No matter what, I’m always here.” It is a silent glance, a hand clasp, a timeless commitment.
Young love, blind to the rich time-tested tapestry, deaf to the wealth of meaning in quiet companionship, lost to the supple oneness of hearts in accord, often looks at old love and calls it dead.
Old love sometimes looks at young love and smiles with fond remembrance, but ofttimes shakes its head and declares it foolish.
Each has a place in the world, a purpose, a time, and a season.
And then there are the other faces of love…
The exhausted young mother tenderly cradling a brand new life in the early morning hours. The middle-aged man getting up at four o’clock in the morning for another backbreaking day of work to support his family. The teacher spending her meager pay to make sure her students have pencils. The pastor visiting a convicted felon just to play a game of cards. The teenager stopping to help a stranger push their stalled car to the side of the road…
Each speaks love in a different language, but the message is the same…love is alive.
There is another Love, a living, breathing, timeless, endless, lavish, inconceivable, unconditional, sacrificial, unlikely Love. His Name is Love because He is Love. He and I have an old love, a stalwart and enduring love, a time-tested, unraveled and rewoven, wounded and healed, shattered and renewed love.
In the beginning, when I was newly in love with my Love, His passion fueled mine and I was consumed. I flared white-hot and brandished His Name like a sword, intent on conquering the world all on my own and presenting it as a treasure to my Love. I scorned the quiet love of my elders as a burned-out relic, not fit for my King.
Then time passed and life happened. My Love clung to me fiercely through the storms, even as my own grasp weakened and slipped. My Love held me close in the dark and never let go even when I kicked and flailed and railed at Him because I couldn’t see Him through my tears.
And my young love grew into an old love, deep and rich and still. Our old love is a stunning tapestry of life and loss, triumph and tragedy, joy and heartache, woven from the tattered and torn remnants of our young love.
Now, in place of conquering the world, I let Him love the world through me. Instead of proselytizing, evangelizing, and sermonizing for my King, I let His love permeate all I do like the subtle fragrance of rain as it washes clean the earth. Rather than feverishly working to present My Love a treasure, I bask in His presence knowing I am His treasure.
And our beautiful old souls step lightly toward eternity…
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
A young girl is curled up in an old, over-stuffed armchair, totally absorbed in the pages of a book. A television sits nearby, silent and black with jealousy. In a corner, a computer gathers dust in concert with an abandoned gaming system. No one would guess that this girl lost in the world of Regency England crafted by literary great, Jane Austen, couldn’t read at all until fifth grade and fights against the headaches and blurred vision brought on by severe dyslexia. No one would believe that this beautiful twelve year old preteen who has devoured Little Women, Jane Eyre, and is nearly finished with the entire Anne of Green Gables series was still unable to recognize all the letters of the alphabet in the third grade.
So, with all the barriers to reading this young girl faced and all the preconceived notions of the demise of the book and the rise of the electronic age, why does this child choose a book, an ink and paper relic to some, over the hypnotic allure of technology?
Children who love to read…READ! It’s just a simple fact of human nature that we are more inclined to do the things that interest and excite us rather than the things we are forced or obligated to do. So how do we engage our children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics?
Think of learning to ride a bicycle.
Your dad props you up on a shiny red bicycle, gives you a few pointers and an encouraging smile, then runs alongside you with his hand securely on the back of the bike seat, steadying and supporting you as you fly down the sidewalk with the wind in your hair and a thrilled and slightly terrified grin on your face.
Your dad sits you down with a diagram of a bicycle and drills you on its parts, making you list them over and over and recite them back to him in alphabetical order.
Which teaching style would result in a bicycle rider rather than just a memorization of bicycle parts? Which scenario would encourage a love of bicycle riding?
When it comes to reading, do you want your children to become readers or just learn the mechanics of reading? Do you want them to love to read or just know how? If a love of reading is your goal for your children, here are some ideas to get you started:
1.) Let them see you reading! Children learn more by watching what we do than by listening to what we say. Seeing your books laying around the house, trying to get your attention while you’re absorbed in an intense scene, giggling when you ‘sneak’ away to the bathroom with a favorite tome, all of these things will have a huge impact on their perception of reading as a desirable activity.
2.) Read to them from infancy on, and let them in on it! Don’t make reading a one-sided exercise with you doing all the talking. Make reading interactive by letting your little one turn pages (yes, even if they want to go backwards!) and point at the pictures and talk about the binding and maybe even chew on the book a bit (bookworms actually do eat books, after all!)
3.) Play, play, play! Seriously, stop being so serious! Children learn best through play, so grab some sidewalk chalk and head outside to the best classroom ever invented. Make up your own games or check out Pinterest and just have a blast! If your children associate learning to read with mommy playing abc hopscotch with them or daddy hiding abc eggs in the bushes, you’ve turned what could be a battle into a playground!
4.) If a child doesn’t love to read, they’re reading the wrong books! Surround them with books of every kind. Fill your home with paperback thrillers and dime-store novels and comic books (yes, comic books!) and nonfiction books on horses and whales and art and music. Creating an atmosphere ripe with knowledge and adventure at your children’s fingertips will go a long way towards making reading an active part of their lives. (And don’t forget the power of the fort! Creating a cozy nook that invites settling in for a reading adventure is really…well, inviting!)
5.) Oh, the places you’ll go! (A la Dr. Seuss!) Make monthly library ‘dates’ to return books and explore new and exciting genres at no cost to you. While you’re there, check out the library’s calendar of events for author visits and book readings and craft activities and mom’s groups. You’ll be amazed at how much the too often forgotten library system has to offer in most areas!
6.) Indie bookstores are the bomb-diggity, no joke! Most cities have one or more independent bookstores struggling to make it through the downturned economy and the advance of the electronic age. These small stores are little niches of wonder just waiting to be discovered, and by supporting them you will not only help keep a local business afloat, but you will also introduce your children to the warmth and beauty of walls lined with books, shopkeepers who can converse about every title like an old friend, and possibly even some local authors that you never even knew existed!
7.) A lifestyle of reading puts the vast knowledge of the ages into the hands of our children. Exchanging the life-long riches of a love of reading for the temporary value of facts gleaned from required reading lists is a paltry deal, indeed. Encourage reading, yes, but let their hearts, their interests, their imaginations choose their reading material. Whatever momentary facts they need for the next test or quiz can be found just as easily on Google. A passion for reading can only be found in the heart of the child.
8.) Parenting matters! Parenting choices strongly impact a child’s level of trust and security. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are also fostering a love of learning in their children which translates directly into a love of reading!
I love that my older children have already met and fallen in love with my old friends such as Sense & Sensibility, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, Of Mice and Men, The Red Badge of Courage, War and Peace, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and so many, many more. And I love that my younger children still have new friends waiting to be discovered between the covers of wonderful, beautiful, ageless books. Happy reading!
There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. A Return to Childhood
Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice. Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!
In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Love, Play, Learn!
On a Winnie the Pooh style ‘long explore’ my little Pooh Bear discovered the world in The Many Adventures of My Little Pooh Bear
If you give a toddler a book
He’ll climb into your lap
While he’s in your lap
He might lay his head on your chest
When he lays his head on your chest
He’ll hear your heartbeat
When he hears your heartbeat
He’ll probably ask if you can hear… If You Give A Toddler A Book…
My SPD/SLD/ADD (Sensory Processing Disorder, Specific Learning Disability-Dyslexia, Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, etc) sweetie, aka Renaissance Girl, has raised the bar on my homeschooling skills more times than I can count. Her beautiful mind sees the world through a unique lens similar to those of historical icons such as Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein…Beautiful Minds
- Your two-year-old digs his heels in at bedtime in an Oscar-worthy imitation of a mule. Give the ‘one slippery sock’ routine a try. Put socks on your feet and, when you call him to head off with you to begin your bedtime routine, start slipping and sliding on one side. Just little slips and slides will do the trick, along with a good helping of parental confusion over the possible reasons you’re having so much trouble walking. Little people love slap-stick, and you can bet your dawdler will hurry along to get in on the fun!
- Your eighteen-month-old suddenly stops enjoying the novelty of tooth-brushing and locks her little jaws tighter than a bulldog latched onto a bone. Try ‘tickling the ivories.’ Brush your own teeth first, giggling and dancing around the bathroom the whole time like you’re tickled at being tickled (while your little one watches, of course). Then release the gentle tooth-tickler on your most likely already giggling baby and say, “Tickle teeth! Tickle teeth!” while brushing those pearly whites.
- Your three-year-old eschews the use of shoes no matter how many choices of style and color you offer. Try the ‘superhero’ approach. Instead of the tired, old, “Time to get your shoes on,” routine…say, “The terrible-toe-tickling super villain is on the loose! We need some superhero armor on those feet, quick!” Be prepared to take the time to discuss the relative protective qualities of the available ‘armor’, but then get those toes to safety!
- Your six-year-old chatterbox could make a monk revoke his vow of silence just to say “Shhhhhh!!!” Try the ‘seven super silly seals sent slippery slippers to their sisters’ treatment. Give your little chatterbox a tongue-tying-twisty-treat and the promise of your full attention for five minutes when she thinks she’s ready to say it ten times fast. Then enjoy your two minutes of quiet until she returns!
- Your nine- and seven-year-olds are at each other like cats with their tails tied together. How about a ‘bag on your head while you listen to the ’he said/she said’? When you head in to break up the gazillionth argument of the day, slip a paper bag with a great big goofy smile and a couple of googly eyes drawn on it over your head first. It may not solve everything, but it’ll be super hard for them to stay mad at each other, and a little levity might just diffuse the tension!
- Your high-schooler is one stressed-out teen with SATs looming, homework mounting, friend drama annoying, and hormones swirling. It’s time for a ‘pajama-night-out-orama’! Wait until the house settles, everyone’s in bed for the night, and all is quiet…then leave your spouse in charge of the house while you sneak your teen out the back door with you for a one-on-one run through Dunkin’ Donuts and sit in the car in your driveway stuffing your faces and letting her unstuff all the angst that’s been building up inside of her. Might not be good for your arteries, but it’ll do her heart a world of good!
Silly works! Don’t handicap your parenting by forgetting one of the most powerful tools in your parenting toolbox.
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
~~Who are you raising, parents, Pinky or The Brain?~~
Steven Spielberg’s short-lived spinoff of the popular Animaniacs series in the 1990’s was a farcical tale of two mice and their ill-fated attempts to take over the world of men. The Brain was a maniacal manipulator and dastardly deceiver who plotted endless ways and means to get what he wanted. Pinky, by contrast, was a guileless and childlike mouse, who continually foiled his counterpart’s plans with his trusting and good-natured ways.
The Brain…master manipulator, diabolical deceiver, cunning conniver.
Pinky…innocent ingénue, naïve neophyte, artless amateur.
Both small, both mice…mirror images, one evil, one good.
So, parents, are you raising Pinky or The Brain? A sweet, innocent child or a cunning, manipulative liar? It’s vital that you decide, because your perception of who your child is and what motivates them will influence not only your attitude toward your child, but your response to your child as well.
“My two-year-old is a little dictator.”
“That kid is going to be a handful when she grows up.”
“My newborn pitches a fit when I change him.”
“Gotta go. The brat needs me.”
“My six-month-old is so stubborn.”
“Here comes trouble.”
“She’s spoiled rotten.”
“My two-year-old is a little genius.”
“That girl is going to be somebody special when she grows up.”
“My newborn cries when I change him, poor little guy.”
“Gotta go. My little angel needs me.”
“My six-month-old is so smart.”
“Here comes my little man.”
“My little lady knows what she wants.”
Look at the contrast in descriptive phrases: little dictator, a handful, pitches a fit, brat, stubborn, trouble, spoiled rotten…little genius, somebody special, poor little guy, little angel, smart, little man, little lady. Let’s face it, parents, we’re human. And, as humans, we are far more likely to respond kindly to someone who we see in a positive light. No one likes to feel used or lied to or manipulated, and the words we use to characterize our children’s behavior not only reveal what our feelings are toward our children themselves, but also will strongly influence our responses to them.
- A baby cries in the night. The parent who hears the cry as communicating a need will respond quickly and consistently. The parent who hears the cry as angling for attention will likely ignore the cries.
- A toddler has a meltdown. The parent who sees a small child overwhelmed by big emotions and unable to articulate his needs will respond with empathy. The parent who sees a stubborn little dictator pitching a fit because he didn’t get his own way will typically ignore or punish the toddler.
- A preschooler complains of a stomach ache every morning before being dropped off at daycare. The parent who hears a vulnerable child with limited language skills trying, in the only way she can, to express the loneliness and anxiety she feels at the daily separation will respond with understanding and comfort. The parent who hears a lie and feels manipulated will likely react with anger or impatience.
- A child comes home from school and has a meltdown when asked if he has any homework. The parent who sees a little person overwhelmed and struggling will respond with compassion and assistance. The parent who sees a lazy spoiled brat will typically react with yelling and demands.
- A teenager screams, “You don’t understand me!” The parent who hears the hurt and need behind the words will stop talking and start listening. The parent who hears rebellion and disrespect will likely respond with anger or a lecture.
Parents around the world and across the ages have listened to the cry of a baby, coped with a toddler’s meltdown, confronted a child’s will, and faced an adolescent’s attitude, and in each and every case the motivation that the parents attributed to the behavior has been the single most determining factor in the parents’ response. But the impact of the parents’ perception is even more powerful than just a momentary appropriate or inappropriate response.
Hear this carefully, parents…Who you think you are raising is who you will raise.
If you call a child a liar often enough, they will become deceptive. If you treat a child like they are manipulating you often enough, they will become conniving. If you label a child a spoiled brat, they will become impudent and rebellious.
By the same token, if you treat a child like a priceless gift, your own special angel to care for until they spread their wings and fly out on their own one day, they will become a blessing, not only to you, but to the world.
So who are you raising, parents, Pinky or The Brain? A sweet, innocent child or a cunning, manipulating liar? Remember, who you think you’re raising is who you will raise!
You entered your teen years with a bang a few years ago, and the explosions have been shattering our home ever since. I’ve begged, threatened, and bribed; cried, shouted, and bargained; but I just can’t find a way to reach you anymore. You constantly say I don’t listen to you, but how can I when you won’t talk to me? You say I don’t understand you, but how can I when you push me away? You say we aren’t a family, but then spend every day with earphones in your ears, blocking us out. You ask me why I hate you, then roll your eyes when I tell you I love you. How did it come to this? We used to be such a happy family. Please, let me be there for you during this huge transition in your life. Let’s really try to communicate with each other. I’m just lost here, honey, and I need you to reach out and help me reconnect with you. I love you.
Happy family? Are you kidding me? No, I guess not. You never did get it. Okay, you asked, so I’ll tell you. You were always happy because you were always in control. Want to know why I don’t talk to you now? Because you never listened when I was little. When I was scared in my room at night and called you, you either ignored me or threatened to spank me if I didn’t go to sleep. I’d lay there, crying so hard I’d almost throw up, terrified of the sounds and shadows in my room, but even more terrified of you. So, sorry, but I don’t buy that you’re ‘there for me’ when it’s only ever been at your own convenience. When you were mad at something I’d done and I tried to explain myself, you’d call it backtalk and smack me in the mouth. So forgive me if I don’t really believe you when you say you want to ‘communicate’ with me now. When I’d try to show you a dance I’d made up or tell you about how someone had pushed me on the playground, you couldn’t even be bothered to look away from your stupid computer while I was talking, so if I’m wrapped up in my electronics, I learned that little trick from you, father dear. Oh, and ‘reconnect’? Really? That implies that we were once connected. But when I was a little girl and invited you into my world and asked you to play with me, you were always too busy. So if you don’t understand me, sorry, but that invitation expired years ago. Want to know why I think you hate me? Because your actions told me so. Your ‘love’ is just words.
Parents, you’re building your relationship with your teens while they’re still toddlers. Listen always. Respond gently, quickly, empathetically. Laugh and smile and hug and play. Give them your undivided attention. When they invite you into their world, it’s a huge deal to them, and how you respond will set the tone for your future relationship. Accept and enjoy! This season of their lives is as short as they are, but its impact will last a lifetime.
I’m not big on making New Year’s Resolutions, mainly because statistically they are almost certain to fail. While failure is a normal and even healthy part of life, setting myself up for failure seems illogical to me. Instead, I prefer to start each new year by evaluating my long-term goals and where I am in relation to those goals, and then plan the reasonable steps forward in the new year toward accomplishing those goals.
Or at least, that’s what I used to do.
Then came loss. One miscarriage after another, each knocking the wind out of me, shaking my faith, draining a bit of life with all its zest and hope and glory from me. One, two, three…nine miscarriages, the last with triplets, three babies lost at once. I was crushed. But I survived, bruised and bloody and scarred, yes, but not broken.
And then came my Sammy. His twin was lost at nine weeks, but Sammy lived on, waving and bouncing around at every ultrasound as if to say, “I’m here, mama! I’m still here!” What a tough little guy.
A tough little guy with a death sentence. A random mutation, incompatible with life. But he did live. With my body playing a most willing hostess, my little invited guest grew and thrived, kicking and rolling and LIVING. I enjoyed every moment of his life, treasured every movement, stored up every memory. It was all I would ever have of him, so I drank deeply of the days and saved my tears for the nights when all was still and the knowledge of death pressed too hard to ignore.
And then one day my Sammy unexpectedly slipped into and out of the world, still and silent and beautiful, bearing the imprint of his siblings on his tiny features.
And I was broken.
And I have remained broken. Someone in a similar situation asked me how I ever got over losing my son. My answer, “I didn’t.” There is no getting over the loss of a child. There is moving on. There is healing. And there is living. But I am forever changed. A part of me will always be broken while I live on the underside of Heaven and my son awaits me topside. That is a fact of life and loss. I have moved on. And I have healed.
But living is another matter altogether. Living, really living, is embracing life in all its fullness, laughing and loving, twirling in dizzying abandon in the rain with my little girls and playing a sorry game of basketball with my boys while they alternately chuckle at my crazy aim and earnestly try to help a lost cause. Living is cuddling on the sofa with my hubby watching midnight movies while he snores in my ear. Living is feeling and hoping and stretching and experiencing. It is breathing in all the joy and breathing through all the hurts. It is planning for the future, the unknown, brilliant with possibility and studded with thorns.
Living is not hiding. It is not stale and distant and cold. Living doesn’t cower under covers or behind locked doors…or in front of computer screens.
I thought I was done, that I’d handled losing Sammy to the best of my ability and moved on and healed and started living again. But as I stopped to take stock of 2011 before moving onto 2012, I was brought up short. The incredibly sharp rear-view-window vision of hindsight revealed a startling fact to me. I had moved on, and I had healed, but I was functioning, not living.
I do love, and I do laugh, but hope, that most basic of human needs, is transparently thin and unutterably fragile in a heart afraid to live like mine. The future, that great unknown, brims with more pain than possibility when viewed through a veil of tears. Fear reigns, and life suffers under its dictatorship. Life abundant has become life restrained.
And planning for the future is too breathtakingly daring to even consider.
Until now. I have felt the pull back into life this year…in the tiny hands of my one-year-old miracle baby tugging me to follow toddling steps into adventures untold…in the never-give-up attention-seeking of my five-year-old dirt magnet…in the budding womanhood of my daydreamer-artist twelve-year-old…in the endearing, emerging solidness of a man of character in my seventeen-year-old…and in so many more ways that I can no longer hide from the message, “It is time.”
And so, though my first response was to cringe and retreat when I read the One Word 365 post about a one word focus for the coming year, a seed was planted that quickly sprouted into a word, my word, my theme for the year 2012. I won’t be making resolutions, and I won’t be going back to my former pedantic planning just yet. I’m still too fragile for that. But I will take a step forward. I will let God show me the fullness of meaning He intends for this word, the impact He plans for it to make in me, the transformation and liberation and newness that can come from embracing one single word.
For 2012, my word is…LIVE.
Parenting involves lots of creativity, yes, but wouldn’t interacting with our children (i.e. playing basketball with them, setting boundaries, communicating about health and fitness, cooking together, taking hikes, bicycling, etc.) be better than stealth and trickery? I’m all for playing outside, but these PSA commercials by Let’s Move.org and the accompanying catch-phrase, Mom Was Here, seem to be the exact opposite of involved parenting, or parenting at all for that matter. Mom actually isn’t there…she’s too busy skulking around in the basement, carrying out her nefarious plans, and cackling bwahahaha with a sinister smile.
Here’s the latest PSA in the series:
Wouldn’t this be better…
And here are some interesting statistics:
- According to the formula the U.S. government employs to measure weight, any person with a BMI over 25 is classified as overweight. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is a number that shows body weight adjusted for height. BMI can be calculated with simple math.
- The B.M.I. doesn’t tell you the percentage of body fat you’re carrying, or how your fat is distributed. According to this measurement, half of the National Basketball Association is overweight or obese. [Muscle mass weighs more than fat, so the more muscular you are, the more likely you'll be labeled obese!]
- Until a weight-loss industry funded report by the National Institute of Health in 1998, “overweight” was defined as having a BMI greater than 27 and “obese” meant your BMI was greater than 32. After the 1998 NIH report, suddenly tens of millions of Americans became “obese” even though they had not gained a pound. Shifting the BMI down two points helped turned obesity into moral panic.
I’m thin and active and healthy. I have friends who are also super active and healthy, but would be considered obese by these standards. Should we be placed in separate ‘classes’ for insurance companies to have an excuse for not providing coverage? Who is all this stealthy number-shifting benefitting? Does tweaking the standards really serve the American public? Does making healthy people feel bad about the body God gave them seem like a good plan to you? And why does tricking our children instead of parenting them seem like a good idea to anyone? What do you think?