Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


Handling Feelings

feelingsFeelings. Everyone has them, and handles them differently. Our two-year-old is learning how to navigate the many feelings he has, and we are learning how to guide him. He shows happiness for his favorite toys, activities, and meals by saying things like “Yay! That’s my favorite!” with an excited look on his face. Conversely, it doesn’t take much to upset him—brother takes a toy away, he has to wear a helmet to ride his trike, he can’t play in the dishwasher, etc. This is typical of a two-year-old and also challenging to parents and siblings as far as helping manage the expressive rollercoaster the family goes on with each emotional display.

Through my time here at 4C for Children, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a responsive caregiver. Through responding with empathy and understanding rather than judgment and dismissal, I can help him learn to identify the root cause of his feelings and handle them appropriately. Having phrases such as “Oh, I see tears in your eyes and hear you crying—it looks like you’re feeling upset. I get upset when (insert situation) too” at the ready along with a hug has helped. The situation tends to diffuse faster, and he has started to use feeling words in play.

Putting this knowledge into practice isn’t always an easy task. It takes a fair amount of energy and patience to respond calmly several times in a short time span. I don’t know many parents who have a surplus of energy and patience—I know I certainly don’t! This is why it is even more important to take time for ourselves as parents. We cannot give our best to our children when we don’t get what we need. I try to get as much rest as I can and have found some deep breathing strategies to help me keep myself in a better state to put my knowledge into practice. One of the best ways to support children’s emotional development is to first support our own.


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Help Them Help Themselves

put-on-shoesThe classic parenting struggle: we need to get out the door and on with our day, but your child is this. close. to putting their jacket on by themselves for the first time. Of course, you can insert a variety of skills—putting shoes on, pulling pants up, zipping their coat, etc. These last moments before success seem to be stretching beyond the limits of time. Your child continues to try and try again. What do you do as a parent? I’ll tell you what I do too often: do it for them and get on with our day.

More recently, our two-and-a-half-year-old has been excited about his developing skills. He sees himself as capable and wants to try to dress himself. He lets us know this by saying, “I DO IT!” with a look on his face that tells us he means business. This newfound attitude has made me stop and think about how I’m supporting him in learning these skills, while also considering the realities of our day.

Morning time during the work week isn’t the best in our house for learning new skills. We have “places to go and people to see” as my parents would say. Knowing how important it is for children to develop these self-help skills and build confidence in trying new things, I took a conscious look at what we could do at home to accommodate this. For us, evenings work out much better. When we arrive home, we can practice with jackets and shoes. As it turns out, this is much more fun for our youngest when his big brother helps to show him. When it is time to put on pajamas for bed, we can practice dressing and undressing skills. The boys have fun seeing who can finish first, even though they are both always declared the winner—our oldest says, “I know I won for real but he can win too because he’s little,” which melts my heart. We make sure to start early before everyone is too tired and provide encouragement along the way.

As these skills are practiced and further developed, they’ll make their debut into our morning routine. I’m anxiously awaiting the day both boys can get themselves ready for the day without my help. Until then, we’ll keep practicing!


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Toilet Learning

toilet-learning

“Potty Training”

This phrase conjures many thoughts for me:

“Hooray! No more diapers!”

“’Training’? Is he a puppy? There has to be a better way to put this.”

“He’s ready, right?”

“Should we use training pants? Or go straight to underwear?”

“Do we have carpet cleaner on hand? I’d better stock up.”

I happen to find this milestone one of my least favorite. While it is very exciting to have my child developing and growing, it is not always fun to continuously have another human being’s elimination habits at the forefront of our daily life. Having done this once previously, we are changing things up a bit to hopefully make this more successful.

We are working to not confuse this child’s cognitive and language skills with his body’s readiness to recognize when he needs to use the toilet.

Our first child had great communication and cognitive skills that made him seem much older than he was, and so we fell into the habit of expecting too much from his still young self. This ended up making toilet learning much more stressful for everyone. This time, our two-year-old is showing interest in using the toilet, is open to using it when we’ve made it part of the daily routine, and no one is trying to push or rush him into things. We’re trying to use a much more laid back and open-ended approach.

We are not taking the first little sign that he might be ready as a no-holds-barred full leap into abandoning current routines and starting the whole toilet thing at once.

Previously, we took a small sign that our child liked to flush the toilet as a sign to fully snowball into complete toilet learning. We’re really easing into the process this time around. It started many months ago with us helping him identify what had happened in his diaper during changes, just to introduce language. Then came the option to use the toilet before bath time to gradually incorporate the toilet into this routine. Next, we tried to “catch” him during play routines when he showed physical signs that something was happening. We partnered with our child care provider who began to help him use the toilet at each diaper change.

And here we are now. Ready to make the next step of leaving diapers behind and making sure we have many changes of clothes ready for accidents. I discussed with our child care provider that we are at this next step in the process, and she shared that having him wear rubber shoes (like Crocs) will make cleanup much easier, and special potty shoes can be a fun motivator for children. What a fun idea! Overall, we’re trying to remind ourselves that toilet learning is a process and we’ll arrive at the finish line when our child is ready—not necessarily when we’re ready.

Do you have any tried-and-true tips to make toilet learning easier?


Cutting Through the Noise

holidays-together

The holiday catalog from a popular retailer arrived in the mail recently, and our two sons had a great time looking through the pages and finding countless items they wanted to play with. With every page turn came exclamations of “That’s my favorite!” and “That is just like, so awesome!” They tore, cut, and glued their “most favorite” photos to paper as we talked about what they’d like to do with these new toys. When the excitement died down, my mom brain took over.

“These prices are crazy! Where is all of this stuff supposed to go? Don’t we already have something like this?”

This time of year can be overwhelming! One of my roles as a parent is to make the most of the fun by managing expectations and what is realistically possible. While it would be exciting in the moment to buy everything their hearts desire and watch the joy on their faces as they open everything, it is not at all realistic. And really, where is all of this stuff supposed to go?

Our children are inundated with so much information on a daily basis, through TV commercials, catalogs, and/or peers. Honestly, we as adults are flooded too! It can be challenging to cut through all of the noise. As parents, my husband and I look for strategies for our family to focus on each other instead of focusing on things.

A few years ago, I came across the Something you want, Something you need, Something you wear, and Something you read strategy for gift giving. We’ve done this for the past two holiday seasons, and it has really helped to focus us on being thoughtful and specific with gift giving. We’re also able to talk about wants versus needs, and the boys aren’t nearly as overwhelmed by stuff and can fully enjoy discovering their gifts. This allows us to all enjoy each other a bit more, and is much easier to organize! How will you and your family cut through the noise?


What Did You Do to Show Kindness Today?

friends-kindness

This is the daily question we ask our kindergartener. Along with, “What was your favorite part of school today?” and, “Tell me about what you did in gym class,” we also want to communicate that being kind to others is just as important. We want to make sure we’re doing what we can to help him develop both academically and socially. What good to the world is it to be smart if you don’t share that gift with others?

Kindness can be quite a broad topic for a five-year-old, so we focus in on specific behaviors such as helping a friend up if they fall down, noticing if someone is feeling sad and asking them if they’re okay, smiling and saying “Hi” to people passing by, etc. These target behaviors are meant to help him develop skills in becoming more aware of those around him and treating others how he would like to be treated. We also like to point out when we see these things in others by calling attention to a peer who shares their toy with us or thanking someone who holds the door open for us.

In the early childhood sphere, we often talk about how teachers will see more of whatever they give attention to. As parents, we try to do the same. Very often, we miss the mark—this parenting thing is difficult! Information overload in parenting is a real thing, and it is impossible to do everything we’re told we should do. As parents, we have had to try our best to cut out all of the noise and get down to the basics of what type of people we hope our sons will grow to be. Kindness is one trait we hope they possess. We take this journey day by day, one example at a time, calling attention to the kindness we eagerly anticipate seeing more of.


Confidence in Child Care

confidence-in-child-careAs I send my oldest child off to Kindergarten, I find myself worrying how his day at “big school” is going. Is he being kind? How does his teacher handle his love for talking his way through activities? Is he making progress? This change from our previous routine of being at child care all day has me reflecting on how comfortable we’ve become with our child care provider, and what it is about our provider that eases my mind.

Making our initial child care decision was somewhat overwhelming. We knew how important doing our research and making an informed decision was. I utilized the “Find Child Care” quick link on the 4C for Children homepage, and further explored the “Choosing Quality” tab. Ultimately, utilizing these resources and touring facilities brought us to our current child care provider.

We were greeted over the phone by a loving and professional voice that encouraged us not to schedule a tour, but to come visit at any time. To me, this signified confidence on the part of the provider. When we toured, we were immediately greeted by the director and by every teacher whose classroom we entered. The spaces were calm and organized; the teachers were warm and welcoming. I paid close attention to how the children treated each other, and how they approached the teachers. Everyone was comfortable in their surroundings, which is an essential foundation to learning. After touring the facility, we were given a copy of the age-specific parent handbooks and encouraged to ask any questions we might have. We weren’t pressured to make an immediate decision, rather, we were guided to look over the information and contact them if we’d like to enroll.

After making our decision to enroll, we were able to fill out a questionnaire regarding our children that would help the teachers with basics about our boys before they came into the classroom, as well as scheduled a time to meet with each teacher so they could ask additional questions and get more comfortable with us. This was very reassuring to a nervous mom! Knowing they had an “open door” policy meant I could stop by at any time, and I could call to check up on them. In the coming weeks we received daily communication with special notes about what they enjoyed each day. The attention to detail and development their teachers put into their notes helped reassure me that my children were well cared for. The program director asks for feedback and welcomes questions and input from all parents. The words and actions from our program say “We are partners in caring for your child.”

Overall, every parent needs to have choice in choosing child care, and feel confident in those caring for their children. We are so thankful to have found a program which partners with us as parents while truly appreciating our children for who they are. It is among the most important decisions as parents we’ll make!


“I can do it Mom! You know I can!”

independence

“I can do it Mom! You know I can!”

A familiar phrase from my five-year-old. I reached for the milk to pour in his cup at dinner time, when he reminded me that he is capable of doing this for himself. He’s been reminding me more and more lately that he can do many of the things I’ve built into my routine of doing for him. Whether it’s pouring milk or “fixing” his hair, I’ve had to break my routine and allow him the opportunity to explore his abilities.

This mom is having a hard time with it.

As an early childhood advocate, I know the value of children building their confidence by trying and mastering new skills. I know that a sense of responsibility can help build a collaborative relationship among our family. I know that he’s five and really can do a lot of things on his own. Then the mom in me thinks that my baby really can’t be old enough to take care of most of his needs on his own without my help. He can’t be…or can he?

When I step back and allow him to show me what he can do, he exceeds my expectations. Aside from pouring drinks, cutting food, and dressing himself, he’s shown that he can read, spell, and be a nurturing big brother to his two-year-old sidekick. I can see that when I step back and allow his experiences to guide him, he shows me he has listened and paid attention to my direction.

As he prepares to start Kindergarten, we’ve made a conscious effort at home to give as many opportunities as we can for him to do things on his own.  Of course he needs help sometimes and we’re definitely there to guide him—but it seems to make all the difference to him if he’s tried his way first and asks for help on his own. It is reassuring to me that he values his abilities enough to try things on his own, and also understands that mom and dad are a safe home base to come back to.

The next time he tells me “I can do it Mom!” I’ll reply with a “You’re right, you can do it!” and hand over the task to his capable hands.