Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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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?


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Terrible or Terrific… It’s All Perspective

terrible-or-terrific-journeyOnce my son turned two many people commented on the “terrible two” age. They shared how their child was when they were two. Many stories of the many things like coloring walls and tantrums in the mall. Many people have suggestions as well as ideas for discipline. I’ve been reminded about teaching no and wait time as extremely important tools for this age. As I think about all of the stories that people share I examine how most seem negative. After hearing about the turmoil of toddlerhood I begin to wonder what I am going to do with my children. So I did some deeper digging.

One of the first places I usually look to get development information is the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) website. According to NAEYC, “toddlers (16 to 36 months) are working on their identity; they want to know who they are and who’s in charge.” After reading this my suspicions started to become reality. It’s all a matter of perspective. My two-year-old is working on establishing his identity and is experimenting with the boundaries of who is in charge.

The next thing I began to think about is what I can do to help him develop his “self” and practice decision making. Here are some things that we have found and have tried. It’s a journey; it takes time, so be patient.

  • When planning to do anything, try to allow for plenty of transition time to move onto the next thing. This can be hard when you are busy trying to get things done quickly but allow for your journey with your child to go on the road less traveled.
  • Work on your redirection skills, this can help set them up for success. These mini successes build self-esteem.
  • Allow for emotions to run their course. Help them talk through and handle what they are feeling. It’s hard from a child’s perspective when things don’t happen the way that they want. It’s hard for adults as well, but if we can help them learn how to recognize and regulate then we are giving them a huge tool for the future.
  • Finally, let them be in charge. Let them choose things especially things that they can easily handle and control. These are the beginning steps of being independent. When working around the house let them be part of what you are doing. Let them sweep or hold the dust pan. Give them a choice of which they want to do. Let them choose what they will wear for the day.

At the end of the day its all a matter of perspective and when I get down on his level and see things through his eyes, it’s better for both of us.


Oh, the Holidays! Be Merry Be Bright!

holiday-family

I think every family has one, a few, or several holiday traditions! I know I have many. My childhood was full of holiday traditions. I remember going to my grandparent’s house on Christmas Eve and playing with all my cousins, (all 15 of us). We would eat, open gifts, then play with our new gifts. We laugh now as adults that it was not Christmas until someone threw up their dinner. No joke—every year! My family has grown so much over the years we no longer have Christmas at my grandparent’s house. We are way too big and grandmother can no longer cook for 50 people. So we all chip in now.

My traditions have changed over the years. I still have fond memories of my parents’ annual Christmas party with our friends, putting up the tree and singing Christmas songs when it was done, driving around looking at Christmas lights, making cookies, drinking eggnog, and of course our trip to the outlet malls for our Christmas gifts.

The biggest, funniest and craziest tradition that I have a love/hate relationship with was how my parents wrapped mine and my sister’s gifts from them to us. They would wrap our gifts and put them under the tree with our friend’s names on them. Yes! Our friend’s names! So we had “gifts” for Jaime, Mandy, Anne, Heather, Keisha, Abbie, Kathy, Andrea, Holly and so on. My sister and I hated it, but looking back on it now, I think its hilarious!

This holiday season, I hope that you are able to take time to appreciate how precious it is to see how fascinated kids are with all the events of the season. The lights, the fun things to do, seeing all the people that they love, and creating memories and traditions that stick with them through adulthood. I recently watched a new show on TV that I have fallen in love with called “This is Us,” that is about the ups and downs of a family. I laugh and cry every week. One of their holiday traditions is to watch Police Academy 4.

Even though my adult traditions have changed through the years, I still think back on the great traditions that my family has left me with. To this day I have great relationships with my now adult cousins and my extended family. We value our traditions and the family memories that we have created. I hope you and your family create memories that last a lifetime.

Happy Holidays!


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?


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What Does This Season Mean for Your Family?

holiday-magic

Every family has their own idea of what traditions the holiday season should hold. After having children, my wife and I have discussed traditions and the societal influence of the holiday season. Imagine if the only thing that you knew about Christmas was what you saw on television or in the movies. You might imagine a snowman, elves, and jolly man in a red suit with white beard racing on a polar express train to get to Kevin who is home alone before a green grumpy Grinch steals all of this year’s most popular toys, only to be saved by a red-nosed reindeer.

My wife and I come from different backgrounds. She grew up with a vision of a commercial Christmas with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents and special foods. I have a Christian connection to Christmas with a baby being born, along with fitting in some of those same traditions of a tree and presents. How do we as a family unit celebrate and teach our children about the holidays? How do we learn about the holidays, specifically Christmas, for our family?

Working together and having open communication has been extremely important. We have chosen a traditional approach that focuses on our religious beliefs while embracing some of the popular cultural practices. We put up a tree together as a family and have pictures taken with Santa Claus. We spend time visiting a live nativity depicting the birth of Jesus. We will attend our church for a night of music and performance that is very family-friendly. We will be making Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes with grandma. We will exchange presents with family and friends, but we focus on the people and not the gifts. (Although the box was the largest, best toy last year and I’m sure it will be again this year.) We have begun to do random acts of kindness for some people we know and others that we don’t. We will read the story of the first Christmas in the Bible and talk about the blessings we have to be thankful for. We have also begun to plan a trip to have a new experience and memory to celebrate.

We don’t have everything figured out as parents, but we are doing our best to provide as many positive experiences that our children will remember. That is what a tradition for the holiday has become for our family. My son already says Merry Christmas and we greet others with a smile.

We realize that everyone has their traditions, including not celebrating the holidays at all. We want our children to grow up and respect that this season is different for different families, and when they have their own families they can even make their own traditions! I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday season, or Delightful December.


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.


Nature: The Original Classroom

natures-journeyNature has a wonderful basic quality that has so many opportunities for learning. I believe that many of the things that we learn can be explored in nature. We learn nurturing and responsibility as we care for our parks, yards, feed birds, and plant gardens and flowers. We learn in the rain, in the water as we jump in puddles. We learn about feeling when we fall or when we have to come inside.

Nature is so valuable. The earth provides an amazing opportunity for learning and the potential from the excitement from being outdoors is electric. We see the value of nature as a way to create calm in our emotions. We spend a lot of time outside simply experimenting with the environment and investigating everything. We learn in the backyard, we learn at the park, we learn while on a hike, we learn everywhere.

The outdoors has provided a fantastic classroom for me and my children. We generally take at least one hike every week at a local park or in our neighborhood. Our son walks during most of the journey and explores everywhere. Exploring and being prepared for the journey is very important. I usually have a small bag with snacks, water, and wipes. We occasionally get off the trail and really find some interesting things. Recently we went on a hike a day after a rain and the creek trail was so muddy and full of puddles. I was prepared with clean clothes and towels in the car. What a wonderful opportunity to explore. He stomped through every puddle large and small as we were on our walk. Then it happened. His feet got wet enough that he didn’t want to walk any more. I had a few choices but I chose to put him up on my shoulders as we finished our hike. It was cold and messy but messy is fun.

About a week later we were on the same trail and it was rather dry but we found a wet space for him to learn and play with the water. I was interested in what would happen if he got muddy again. He was slow at first, but gradually got more and more wet. I got down in the mud near him and painted my face with a little mud. The best part was when he looked up at me and smiled and was inquisitive whether he could have some mud paint too. He lifted his face up with excitement and let me share some art on his face. We walked down the trail where my wife and daughter were waiting and my wife was surprised with our choice of organic facial material but it was such a wonderful memory. Yes, it will get hot or cold, rain or snow, and there will be scrapes, and the bugs will bite, but it is all worth the journey of learning outdoors.