Being Bad

I was working with a kindergartener yesterday. She was loving the one-on-one attention and kept trying to talk to me and tell me little stories between practicing her letters. She let me know that she had a little brother, but that her mom wanted a baby girl, not a boy. We practiced writing some more letters and then she said, “My baby brother is bad!” I wasn’t expecting that and thought for a second before saying, “Babies don’t know how to be bad.” I know that babies can be exhausting, messy, tiring, and colicky, but they aren’t wicked. The way she had said the word ‘bad’ made it sound terrible. She insisted that he was bad and when I asked what he did that made him bad she said, “He always takes off his diaper.” I told her that I was certain that he wasn’t being bad, but maybe he thought his diaper was uncomfortable so that’s why he took it off.” I could see her really processing that idea.

This made me think two things:

1) kids are listening to everything and really soaking it up.

2) Just because kids or people make bad decisions it does not mean that they are bad.

I have really worked hard throughout my career to never say that a child was bad. I stressed to my students that we can all make bad decisions, but that does not make us bad.

How great would it be if that mother could say, “Oh, your brother took his diaper off again. That wasn’t a good choice! He might accidentally go to the bathroom on the floor and that will make a mess.” That labels the choice as a bad one, but not the person. Everyone will make bad choices occasionally, but we all need to understand that that is normal, it’s okay and it’s part of the growing process. We also need to remember we are still good and the next time we have to make a choice that we have the power to make good or bad choices. Remember, separate the person from the behavior, NOT bad choice bad person, INSTEAD, bad choice good person.




Determination vs. Determination Who Will Win?


Below is the type of conversation that most likely happens several times a day in homes that have children ages 2 to 18. The dialog is skeletal intentionally because it represents the format for hundreds of different conversations. The words may vary but the format is the same, you want one thing and your child wants something different. There could be endless variations to this conversation however each starts with two people each wanting a different thing.

You tell your child to do something.

They say no.

You say yes.

And they say no.

You insist.

They disagree.

You’re biggest and have more power so you win.

They cry a lot.

This is a classic example of a POWER STUGGLE – parent and child each trying to get what they want. Parenting would be so much easier if our children always just did what we told them to do, right? However that would produce a child/teenager who does not have the life skills to become a well functioning adult.

A very determined child can be so difficult to parent and yet a child needs lots of determination to grow up in this controversial world. So, our goal as parents should be to try not to squelch the very thing that would help them fight off negative peer pressure – DETERMINATION.

In the Sistine Chapel one whole, huge wall is filled with a huge mural titled ”Last Judgment”. An over simplified description: On one side of the painting it depicts a group of angels descending from Heaven to retrieve souls who are coming up out of their graves. There are demons sneaking out of a crevice in the earth grabbing the legs and arms of some who are trying to rise to heaven. In several cases there is a tug of war going on between the angles and horned demons with the resurrected body in the middle. In other sections some souls are trying to rise up because they want to get into heaven and the angles are pushing them back down.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit the thoughts I had when I first viewed this magnificent painting. I was definitely viewing it through the eyes of a parent, rather than an Art professor. I thought, “That’s how parenting feels sometimes”, lots of emotional pushing back and forth, a conflict of two competitors”. Then I thought, “Wait, parents and their children are on the same team so there should be no tug of war happening”. But there often is.

So, to avoid power struggles and help steer you child’s determination in the right direction, remember:  

Determination is a trait your child will need to survive in the world as they grow up.

Your job is not to break their will but help steer it in the right direction.

You and your child are “on the same team”. You should be pulling together rather than against each other.

Let your child be governed by choice and consequence rather than expecting them to do what you say because you are the parent.

Car Time

The longer I’m a parent, the more I realize how precious time in the car with my children can be!  We are in the car a lot and I used to dread the rides when my children were little because they would mostly cry or fight.  I wanted to give them media devices or install TV screens in my car so I could just have some peace and quiet!!!  Then I decided there were better options.  I started with Books on CD.  My children were quite young when I played them the reading of “The Polar Express” for the first time. I will NEVER forget how quiet and mesmerized they were by a deep voice reading a book to them in the car.  They were a captive audience because they were buckled in and there was nowhere else they could go, but it kept them quiet, entertained and was teaching them all at the same time. They couldn’t do the really long chapter books at first, so we did some fun Disney stories, Jumanji, and other short ones we could check out from the library.  We would have the cutest little conversations after the book was finished.  As they’ve grown a little older we’ve transitioned into listening to chapter books and it has surprised me how well they listened and retained.  We have listened to:  “Old Yeller”, “Little House, Big Woods”, “Where the Red Fern Grows”, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, Prince Caspian”, and several other great classics including the Old Testament (for children).  If we come to a part in the book they might not understand I pause the reading and explain and they can ask me question.  We have had so many amazing discussions in the car because one question would always lead to another. Often times I don’t even turn the book back on because we get so caught up talking. I find out so much about my children and their curiosities during these conversations in the car. I talk to them about so many things, ask them questions and they can talk to ME about anything.

Now that some of my children are older and can read on their own I love to have library books in the car next to them so they can read to themselves instead of just listening.  Some of my friends have kids who get carsick easily and can’t read in the car so that’s where the CD’s would come in handy. Did you know the public library carries a book/CD combo that enables the kids to be able to listen and/or follow along in the book?

I have learned that the car is also a great time to introduce good and uplifting music to my children. Everybody has their favorite kinds of music however I try to feed my children a variety of all kinds of music. I love playing CDs from musicals or great Broadway shows and explaining the basic story to my children. They love hearing the stories behind each song.  It’s fun to see what type of music each child prefers. I let them each choose their favorite track on the particular CD we are listening to and even my little 4 year-old has a definite preference.

Sometimes at home, there is too much going on to have a good long conversation with my children. Our car rides have become our uninterrupted conversation time. My husband and I don’t even bring a video player on long road trips anymore and my kids don’t expect it because they know we will either read, talk or listen to great music.  I never thought that could be possible!!

Our time in the car is so precious!  Listening to good books and music has completely changed the way we fell about out time in the car.

Thanks to my daugther-in-law Karlie for contributing this post!

Soft, Soft


When I was a young mother I was standing in the foyer at church with a friend whose youngest child was the same age as my oldest child. She was an experienced mother who had raised several well-behaved, happy children. We were in the middle of a conversation when her 4-year-old son kicked her in the shin. My first thought was, “My child will never get away with that”, and felt like she should stop talking to me and punish him right then. But she just looked down at him, made a sad face and said, “Oh, please don’t kick me, that hurts”. I thought, “What…” she didn’t spank him or even get really angry with him.

Side note: she also told him that she knew he was ready to go home because that was the reason he was trying to get her attention. Likewise hits can also be a result of an underling, unresolved problem that needs to be addressed.

Now that I’ve parented a little longer I realize that if a child is yelling it is ineffective to yell, “stop yelling”. Or if they hit someone it’s not a good example to spank them and tell them to not hit. So what should you do what should you do when your child hits?

Modeling appropriate behavior and teaching empathy can be ways to teach a child to be kind and not hit. Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others”. If your child hits you, or another child let them see how it made you feel. Make a sad face and tell them it hurt and made you feel sad. If they are old enough to understand ask, “Do you like it when someone hits you”? “How do you think it makes your brother feel when you hit him”?

Once when I was holding my toddler while he was being really rough he hit me on the jaw. It really hurt and my natural instinct was to feel angry or physically punish him. Instead I tried something different. I made a frowning face and kindly said, “Oh no, don’t hit, be soft” and then, smiling I softly stroked his cheeks and repeated, “Soft”. He imitated what I did and said “boff”. After that when there would be hits he’d remember and say, “Soft” and he’d want to gently stroke some ones arm or cheek.

Now, the bad news is that this is not usually a quick fix. It can take a long time for a child to learn not to hit when they are feeling frustrated, mistreated or uncomfortable. But if you are able to muster enough self-control to not strike back, or get angry, they will eventually learn by example to be kind and not hit.

To learn more about how to teach children to appropriately deal with feelings in a kind way, take a look at the last post Lindsey wrote titled, Feelings.

6 by 4

Jack be nimble,

Jack be quick.

Jack jumped over the candlestick.

He jumped so high he touched the sky,

And didn’t come back till the fourth of July.

There was an old woman….

Mary, Mary quite contrary…

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater…

How many nursery rhymes do you know?

In my job I work with children 3, 4 and 5 years old and part of my work involves literacy. This week I was working at a library and saw this poster on the wall:

6 by 4

I have always liked nursery rhymes but I never considered them to be so educationally beneficial. So I did a little research and found that some benefits of teaching children nursery rhymes are:

  • Builds vocabulary
  • Language development
  • Creates phonemic awareness
  • Teaches memorization skills
  • Teaches how language works
  • Teaches rhythm and patterns of language
  • Teaches kids how to memorize

So to help your child be ahead teach them nursery rhymes, read books that are written in rhyme, or sing nursery rhyme songs with them. As they get older do activities that teach rhyming skills.

Nursery rhymes can be fun AND have educational value.

This is the end from the parent-writing partner of our team, the teacher partner, Lindsey adds:

I use “eenie, meenie, mynie, moe, catch a tiger by the toe…” with my 2nd grade students. Every time I do it they are SO INTRIGUED! Some of them have tried to learn it and it’s so cute to hear them say.

Your Child IS Your Work

One of my fellow grandma friends told me that her daughter-in-law would always ask her to babysit her child when she went to the grocery store. My friend was trying to figure out if it was really necessary because she had always taken her son to the store with her.

That said, I know that it’s a LOT easier to do things without having a little helper or two around. But I think it’s important to remember that your child is not in the way of your work, rather your child is your work. We need to go to work to have money to buy the things our families need. Making healthy meals is important for our families. It’s nice to have a clean, organized house and cute job chart for our kids. However we do all of those things because we have kids.

In the book Letters of CS Lewis he suggests that a housewife’s work is the most important in the world. He writes, “What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government, etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes?… So your job is the one for which all others exist”.

So next time you’re trying to do the dishes and your 2 year old is hanging on your leg, pull a chair up to the sink next to you, take off their shirt, put an inch of soapy water in the sink with a few plastic cups and let them help you do the dishes (throwing a towel on the floor to mop up all the water they spilt was often my version of mopping my floor). If you’re trying to fold clothes and they are unfolding faster than you can fold, dump out the clothes, put your child in the basket (my kids loved to sit in and be pushed around in laundry baskets), put the clothes on top of them and call out what article of clothing you want and have them throw it to you as you quickly fold it and put it on the couch behind you. If you’re mopping or sweeping get them a toy mop and broom and let them imitate what your doing while you’re doing it. I’ve heard it said a child’s play is their work – that’s how they learn. So let them play house cleaning while you are working. You get the idea, rather than think of what movie you can put on for your child while you work, try to figure out how they can be constructively involved in what your doing.

I know moms cannot do this 100% of the time. At some point you are going to have to stop and sit down and read them a book or play a game for a few minutes. But just remember that your children are the reason you’re doing all the housework in the first place.

For more ideas on grocery story trips: A Little Helper at the Store or Now What Do I Say?


Sharing – An Argument Free Method

Have your kids ever fought over sharing something to eat? “He got more than me”, “His piece is bigger than mine”, or “That’s not fair”. Sound familiar? If so, here’s an idea to try. Assign one kid to cut and the other one gets to be the first to choose which piece he wants. This method assures the one doing the dividing tries to be exact and the one choosing first feels the power of getting just what he wants. Using this method we almost always came out with two satisfied children.


Less Stressing About Morning Dressing

Do you ever find yourself scrambling to find one of your child’s shoes 2 minutes before the school bus pick up? Or it’s a cold morning and your child needs some long pants to wear and they are nowhere to be found? A friend recently told me of her system I thought was a great idea that I’d like to pass along to help your mornings be a little less chaotic.

She bought a hanging fabric shoe rack; the ones with rows of individual pockets. After her Saturday laundry day she takes complete sets of school clothes for her son – pants, shirt, underwear and socks and rolls them up and puts a set in each pocket. That way in the morning he can grab them and dress quickly. If you have a child who likes to choose their own clothes, they could even be in charge of choosing the outfit for each day. If you have a daughter who is a fashionista she could help choose her outfit for Saturday.

Shoes can also be put in the bottom row for a quick find. I don’t know about you, but for me anything that helps save time in the morning and make for a little less contention is a great trade off for a small Saturday job.

Runny Noses

Little kids + cold season = runny noses. Whether it’s a constant, clear runny nose or the kind where they wake up in the morning with a thick crusty mess that makes it hard to breath, it’s not fun for the child or parent.

Kids always seem to run away crying when they see the tissue coming toward them. Why? I think it’s because often we pinch and wipe too hard.

Recently my 21-month-old grandson had a runny nose. I got a tissue and said, “Come here and let me wipe your nose”. I half expected him to turn the other way and take off running. But instead he walked over to me and tipped his head back and let me gently wipe his nose. I surprised myself when I realized how softly I needed to pinch to get his upper lip clean when he held still. His cooperation made me realized that part of my hard nose wiping must stem from the ritual of me chasing the snotty nosed child around the house, hog tying them to immobilize their flailing arms and legs so I don’t get wacked, and then chasing their face around to be able to reach their nose. By that time my adrenaline is so high I WIPE HARD so I won’t have to do it again for a while.

Next time you have a runny nose notice how much pressure you use when you’re wiping your own nose. Next, try pinching hard and see how much it hurts. It does not take much pressure to clean a runny nose. If your child’s nose is crusty try laying a warm washcloth on the area for a little while to make cleaning less painful. Also applying a little Vaseline under a clean nose makes the next wipe easier. Nose wiping does not have to hurt.

One… Two… Three… Then What?

While I was at the store last week I rounded a corner just in time to see a little boy pick up a plastic sword he saw leaning against the return counter and heard his mom say, “Anthony! One”.   At that moment I had several questions come to my mind,

“Will she get all the way to three or will her young son know that hearing “One” means he better stop what he’s doing immediately”?

“What will happen when the mom gets to “three”? Then what will she do”?

“Perhaps the kid knows that if he hurries he can play with the sword for three seconds before his mom does anything”.

            Actually, this whole counting to three thing has always been mysterious (or silly or interesting) to me. As parents, what are we really doing when try to terminate a child’s actions by counting to three? Are we giving them time to consider what to do? Do they know what’s going to happen if they don’t conform before we say, “three”? It’s all so arbitrary to me.

I think we should throw the whole counting thing out as a discipline technique. Rather, we should tell our child what we would like to have happen, or give them a choice. For example, the mom could have said to Anthony, “Son, we did not pay for that so we should not play with it” or “Put it back because if you play with it and break it, we’ll have to pay for it and we don’t want to buy a broken toy”. These type of comments help a child understand what’s happening better than just hearing, “One, two…”.

Of course, the tricky part comes when we give some nice explanation and they still choose to continue with the undesirable behavior. There are so many ways to explain what you would like your child to do, which do not contain any numbers or counting. For more on this see: Set the Expectation and Consequence and You Have Two Choices.