Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

You Want to Wear WHAT?

It could be 15 degrees outside and my younger son, Jansen, is wearing shorts and a hoodie. Covered from head to toe and still shivering, I ask him if he’s cold. His reply?


My older son, Jared, did the same thing when he was younger. I struggled every year with it, wondering, would he get sick? Would school staff judge my parenting abilities? I even got pressure from my mother-in-law. She would insist both boys wear long pants and a coat, but I had to step back and ask myself if this was even a battle worth fighting?

Every winter, I asked the same questions, trying to get them to wear pants, long sleeves and coats, but both boys would reply that they were more comfortable in shorts and that their friends were doing it, too. Instead of fighting with the boys every morning, I decided it was more important to keep some semblance of peace in my home. There were more important things to stay on top of my children for: being polite, being kind to others, doing their homework and getting good grades.

Despite the cough he’s had for a while and his classmates asking  if he is cold when his legs are purple upon arriving at school, he persists, and I can’t worry about it anymore. He’ll outgrow it. If Jansen wants to wear shorts during the cold winter months, that is his choice. He will eventually learn, just like his older brother did, that there are logical consequences.

How Full Is Your Bucket?

How Full Is Your Bucket?My children have been fighting a lot lately. Like most siblings they tread the line between love and hate several times a day.

They play. They laugh. They snuggle.

They yell. They push. They name call.

This is all typical sibling stuff and while I know it’s nothing to worry about I also know it’s not something I want to ignore either. I want them to focus on making each other feel good.

My children’s preschool teacher introduced them to the book How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath. This story uses the metaphor of a bucket to explain why happy people make you feel good and fill up your bucket, while others make you feel bad and empty your bucket.

I could tell that this story made sense to them. It gave them a way to visualize how they have the power to affect others. So I took that idea and a created a positive reward system for our home.

Each child has their own bucket. When I observe or hear about them doing something kind for someone else they get a pom pom in their bucket. We talked about how the pom poms were soft and fuzzy similar to the warm fuzzy feelings we get inside when we make others happy.

I asked the kids how it will make them feel if a sibling gets a pom pom in their bucket and they do not. Then we talked about how it’s OK to feel jealous, angry, or sad but how we should try to control those feelings and not to say things that would hurt feelings. I also told them that feeling proud and happy for each other would definitely fill someone’s bucket.

When the buckets are full they can choose a reward. I was careful to make the rewards less about material things and more about meaningful interactions with the family. The coupons they can pick from are:

  • “You Choose Coupon”—good for choosing the movie for our family movie night each Friday or choosing the dessert we share after dinner;
  • “Night Owl Coupon”—staying up past bedtime;
  • “Sleep Tight Coupon”—which is good for sleeping in mom and dad’s big bed.

I love that these rewards are meaningful and focus on quality time. I was surprised to find that my 5-year-old son’s favorite reward is the sleep tight coupon. Knowing that he prefers to snuggle with me versus choosing dessert fills my bucket all the way up!

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My 5-Year-Old Wants to Be a YouTube Star


When Schmee was 2 ½ we received an iPad from my parents (ugh) and he has not been “the same” since. Oh, we let him indulge for awhile keeping to a specific regimen of Shaun the Sheep and a free Curious George game but obviously we couldn’t keep the lid shut for long. Over time Schmee developed great skill at navigating websites and apps and would stay at it for hours—probably days, if we would’ve let him. From time to time, especially when it was convenient for us, we may have let him stay on there for longer than we normally would’ve liked. Who knew that the iPad would be a savior for ridding his head of lice (kept him from squirming and complaining)? But it also led him to a dark place.

After watching what we felt was enough he would get a reminder that his time was almost up and he would seem to agree, nodding and saying, “Uh huh.” When that time came though, he wasn’t cooperative; he was rather combative. It’s almost like you could see the evil swell up inside him and the aura around him would grow black like something out of a Stephen King book.

His fascination with Wild Kratts turned to toy reviews. Oh my! Who knew that toy reviews could be so entertaining? If it’s a toy and someone reviewed it you can bet he’s watching it—regardless of gender, age range, or reviewer. It seems that he has toys on his mind 24/7—I don’t know how many hundreds of hours he’s watched, and it certainly doesn’t help that he gets up in the middle of the night and finds the iPad to continue watching. He acts out reviews in his play. He’s using the same language used by reviewers. You can tell when he channels certain reviewers because the language changes, the emphases change. In short—he’s obsessed.

He asked mom to play with him the other day but that didn’t work out so well. Why? Because she didn’t “do it” right. Schmee wanted to call the guy from YouTube and have him come over to play (cute, but in a that-hurts-Mom’s-feelings kind of way).

So what do you do? He found out that he can make videos and put them online so now he wants to shoot videos and post them. We figured that might be a good way to channel this energy. So now the conversation is about how we need to buy toys so he can review them! Or—I sort of like this— in his words we could, “sell my old toys, but only to my friends so I could still play with them sometimes, and we could use that money to buy new toys to review.” Apparently children make a lot of money doing this toy review thing and I’m all for supporting his interest, but at what expense? This has complications written all over it, don’t you think?

No Halloween! What’s the big deal?

Parents are sometimes surprised to learn that their child care program doesn’t celebrate Halloween. Why won’t they allow costumes and let the kids have some fun, they wonder. Are these child care providers spoil-sports, or are there good reasons for their policy?

While not the biggest issue in early childhood these days, consider this: Halloween can be very frightening to children under 5. While costumes and make-believe are fun for older children and adults, this can be downright scary for younger children who can’t yet separate fantasy from reality.

Though Halloween is widely accepted as a secular activity by most, it does conflict with the religious beliefs of some families. So programs are being respectful of the diversity of the families they serve when they limit celebration of holidays to those that are strictly secular.

If your program is one that chooses to celebrate Halloween, consider discussing with the director or caregiver how he or she will take steps to avoid frightening experiences. One simple precaution is to not allow masks and to keep costumes limited to simple dress-up items.  Better yet, consider a no-Halloween policy!

This blog post was originally published in October 2009 by Elaine Ward, Senior Vice President/COO, 4C for Children.

Apple Crisp, Football and Falling Leaves

What does your child's favorite season say about their personality?

What does your child’s favorite season say about his or her personality?

I often profess that I love all the seasons—and I do. But I must admit that my favorite is autumn. I appreciate the cooler weather, the color of changing leaves and fall flowers and cheering on my favorite football teams. But even more than that, the season of autumn is a time of rebirth for me. It is a time of letting go and starting anew. It’s a time for change.

If you think about it, autumn being a season for change makes sense. Autumn is a time for harvesting and gathering. All of nature is going through a final burst of growth, to eventually let go of its flowers and begin the process of going inward for the winter. And I notice the same kind of energy in myself. I am more energetic and more active, I tend to want to be outside more and I find I take better care of myself. I find I am drawn to opportunities to connect with nature and am energized by feeling connected to the bigger world around me.

In looking back, I can say that I think I have always had this affinity towards autumn. I can recall this feeling of rebirth at the start of the school-year and always loved the smell and feel of falling leaves. It seems that I am just wired this way. Which causes me to wonder—are we all wired the same way? Or do we each have affinity towards different seasons based upon our own individual wiring? I tend to think it’s the latter.

As parents we can be more effective if we pay attention to how our children are “wired”—meaning we pay attention to children’s tendencies or “natural” way of doing things. Through observations of our children we recognize what is “natural” about them—like easy-going, stubborn, out-going or shy. Knowing what is natural about our children provides us with clues on the ways to better parent our child. In addition by knowing what is “in” our child’s nature we are better able to teach him/her strategies for living in the world.

In addition to paying attention to our children’s natural dispositions, it may be fun to pay attention to the “season” our children are naturally drawn to. We all—including our children—are a part of nature. As such we have an inner rhythm that connects us with the world around us. Some find our rhythm in the spring, others in the winter. If you are lucky enough to have a child that is “re-energized” by the fall season, then be sure to get out and enjoy all this season has to offer!

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“No Fair!”

No Fair

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase in my house, I’d be able to buy my kids that Xbox they’ve been begging for. OK, maybe I am exaggerating a little but I’m telling the truth when I say that the expression is a regular occurrence in our house.

I know I’m not alone in this as I have heard other parents express these same frustrations but also, I once was a child and I remember claiming that my life was “so unfair.” I had good reason to make such claims, at least to me anyway. My cousin got the Barbie car for her birthday that I had wanted…no fair! My older sister was allowed to stay up 20 minutes later than me… no fair!

Children are very egocentric, meaning they do not have the ability to see a situation from another person’s point of view. That is a skill they are still developing. When they do not receive the same treatment as another they have a difficult time understanding the reasons why—and so that popular childhood phrase lives on. The expression is especially frequent among children with siblings. A friend of mine told me that her boys would place their cups of juice side by side to ensure they were poured evenly. If mom’s hand lingered over one child’s cup for a second longer allowing for an ounce more juice to fill his cup then the other child would get upset and say it was unfair. Like most things in parenthood these experiences are funny, but they are also frustrating, so what can we do to help kids understand that life is not always fair?

Well I can tell you what my grandpa would do: he would shut down my sister and my grievances with a simple “life’s not fair.” While his strategy worked for the moment (meaning I understood he meant that our behavior was unacceptable and that it needed to stop) it didn’t work long term (I didn’t understand what his words meant and I didn’t know what to do next time).

So when my children claim their lives are so unjust I tell them what fairness means to me.

I tell them that to me fairness doesn’t mean everyone is getting the same thing. I tell them mom isn’t perfect and can’t make everything the same but I do try my best to make sure everyone feels happy, safe, and loved.

When they argue that a younger sibling gets more leniencies on the rules, I say to the older child, “The 3-year-old is still learning, you were 3-years-old once, and your rules were not as firm as they are now.”

When they cry because a sibling’s cookie is larger than their own I acknowledge their complaint. I say, “Her cookie does look a little bigger,” and then I ask, “What is different and special about your cookie?” Honestly, most of the time the cookie, snack, juice, whatever they are comparing looks exactly the same, so I just say, “It looks the same to me and it looks delicious—eat up!”

When I can tell that they are feeling strongly that they are not getting enough attention from me or a caregiver, I listen. Then I make sure to talk to the caregiver or to plan some one on one time with that child.


Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

steps forward

It’s been a few weeks since Schmee started kindergarten and in that time I have seen a lot of behavior changes from him that I wasn’t expecting. As it turns out, we are all trying to deal with new environments, schedules and routines in different ways.

Schmee is what I call “slow-to-warm.” When he is put in a situation that he is unfamiliar with, his tendency is to stay back and observe. My wife calls him “cerebral” which is probably an apt description. He prefers to keep a low profile and soak in his surroundings, and any attention given to him during this time sparks some “strange” (by others definition) behaviors like glaring with his eyes wide and sometimes even roaring like a dinosaur. These behaviors are his coping mechanisms and I know that it’s important for him to take the time to figure out how he feels. I know this is a selfish expectation, but I feel as though I am responsible for his behavior and should somehow control or influence how he reacts to situations. It also feels embarrassing to be the one with the “strange” kid. I am sure other parents don’t notice as much as I feel like they do, but that is the story in my head. The other kids at school seem to really like Schmee. When we arrive at the gates of the playground for drop off they run outside the fence to greet him. I think they really like him and want him to join in their play. And he will. On his terms.

Sweet Pea has also displayed changes in her behavior, which have manifested in a completely different way than Schmee’s coping mechanisms. She appears to know that Schmee no longer attends the same school because every morning she walks in the direction of his old preschool room and looks confused about why we aren’t going that way anymore. She has also begun to be very clingy to her mother. At the same time, she only recently started in her toddler room and is already showing signs of successful toilet training (YAY!), so that is a positive change!

What’s driving us (mom and dad) crazy is that now we have two children going through intense changes. We tried as best as we could to prepare our children for these changes, and yet we are still facing all types of behaviors that we either have not seen in a long time or have never, ever seen. These behavior changes are difficult to understand as parents, partly because we’ve been through some of them before and thought they were dealt with. It’s like a forever loop of constant battles and frustration. But having been through these challenges before, we are prepared to meet them, and better prepared for new challenges that will pop up in the future. I only hope we make it through sooner rather than later.


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