Monday, October 21

Toddler Behavior and Sugar

Alright my friends. How many times do I have to say it? Sugar = bad behavior.

First a quick excerpt from a recent study [Click here for the full study article]:
'...The study, which will be presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference next month, also made another discovery: Rats, like humans, like to eat Oreo’s creamy center first. To test how the animals responded to Oreos vs. drugs, the team trained rats to navigate a maze. On one side, Oreo cookies were provided, and on the other side plain rice cakes were offered.

As you’d guess, the rats were significantly more likely to spend time on the Oreo side of the maze. The team also compared these results to rats who were trained with morphine or cocaine rather than Oreos. They found that regardless of what "substance" the rats were offered (Oreos, cocaine, or morphine) they spent about the same amount of time on the "drug" side of the maze. These behavioral data aren’t so surprising, but the researchers also reported some interesting neurological results. When rats were given Oreos, a protein called c-Fos was expressed strongly in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which is well known to be active in pleasure and addiction. "It basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos," said Connecticut College professor Joseph Schroeder, who led the research. Oreos actually activated cells in this brain area more than did either cocaine or morphine, which suggests that that magical combination of sugar and fat may be even more delectable to our brains than drugs. "Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Schroeder said. "It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."'


This study shows evidence that our brain treats sugar the same way as drugs, and sugar may be even more addicting than drugs. OH MY GOSH. And look, I love Oreos. As soon as I'm stressed, I want some double stuffed, pronto. So I'm not knockin' those delish little babies. I'm just saying, we cannot fuel our kids with sugar and expect them to behave like angels.

If your child is having behavior problems, first and foremost, look at diet!! I say it all the time. Yes, there are things we can do differently as parents so we do not reinforce negative behavior, but that little step alone will do nothing for the child who gets Sugar Crunchies and chocolate milk for breakfast, white bread peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cookies for lunch, and fast food and ice cream for dinner. Cut that crap out! I know it's cheap and fast, but so is celery, carrots, and apples.

If you read this study, it's like we're giving our kids drugs. You wouldn't load up some cocaine and hand it over to your baby, now, would you? So if it doesn't work for me to bonk you over the head with "sugar = bad behavior", then maybe this will scare the bejeebers out of you more effectively. We MUST STOP giving our kids so much sugar. Not only is it bad for behavior, sugar can be linked to countless physical ailments; diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer just to name a few biggies.

If you research people who stop taking in sugar and processed foods, you will be amazed at the change in their physical makeup and how so many of their ailments just magically disappear; skin problems, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, wrinkles, poor immunity, insomnia, depression, anxiety . . . sugar is the consistent bad boy in the gang of ugly we put into our bodies. I know personally that sugar affects my mood, energy, and guts. I drank a flavored coffee last week without having breakfast, and my blood sugar plummeted, leaving me shaky, irritable, and feeling rotten for the rest of the day. And if I have too much sugar, I can actually feel my body respond to the overgrowth of yeast.

If you don't believe this article that sugar is addicting, just try cutting it out of your own diet. It's freaking hard! And when you get stressed, sugar is the go-to fix. Donuts are my nemesis. (I swear I can't stay away from those things; I'm a donut addict.) So after you try to cut sugar out of your own diet (good luck), and you realize the insane pull that sugar has on our chemically altered brains, be aware of the addicting factor on your kids. If you give sugar the heave-ho in their diet, expect some horror flick behavior. Until they get through the withdrawal (research online for best ways to overcome the cravings), you might see lots of screaming and possibly throwing sharp, GI Joe-like objects. So you'll need to duck.

And if THAT doesn't convince you that sugar turns our bodies into a blob of disease infested, addict-prone yuck, then you're on your own. I've got to step back and throw my hands in the air. But if you resolve to do better, just try this first step in changing your child's behavior. I'm pretty darn sure you will see positive results.

Wednesday, October 16

Toddler Patience...What?

Have you guys seen this? Overcoming Temptation (In Marshmallows and in Life)

It's a take on that cute Marshmallow test. This one is actually a commercial. (And by the way, I'm not affiliated, so if the company does something horrible and immoral in the next two weeks or two years, I don't know nuthin and I'm not pushing you to buy anything!) Anyway, it's terribly cute, and it begs the question, can you really teach a toddler patience?

Many of us roll over and concede defeat when it comes to tantrums, whining, or fussing, because they're just itty bitty people. How can you expect them to refrain from trying to destroy the high chair while you prepare a sandwich and fruit? I mean, they're starving. Poor babies! Okay, so maybe the screaming gives us a wee headache, but what are we supposed to do?

Here's the thing about patience and toddlers: it's possible, but always a work in progress. When it comes to hunger, or being tired or over-stimulated, forget it. You can't win those, so just take care of the need. Next time, however, don't set yourself up for that kind of meltdown. Do your best to anticipate that hunger and start meals earlier. Don't drag them all over creation wearing them out and forcing missed naps, and avoid situations in which there is a lot of stimulus. You may not recognize it as such, but ANY place with a lot of people, noise, or eye-catching stuff everywhere intended to grab your visual attention...that's stimulus. As adults, we live in it all the time and we're used to it, but being sensitive to it myself, I can completely understand why toddlers go bonkers and get upset when you haul their sorry butts to fairs, weddings, concerts, the zoo, and cousin Teddy's fifth birthday party. Yikes! Even schools have way too much stuff on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, over-stimulating my poor eyeballs. The intent is to stimulate learning, but for me, it just stimulates a headache, and I want out. Toddlers don't have a way to filter all that nonsense yet, so don't expect them to!

As for the rest, practice making them wait when they are fed, rested, and in a good mood. Maybe it's just waiting for you to get a toy off the shelf for them, and you can use that opportunity to help them learn. If they start to fuss, stop it early and use your "no"'-without-saying-no-voice. I always advise toddlers moms not to use "No!" so much because it becomes irrelevant to the child. Not only do they put no meaning to it coming out of your mouth, but it models what word for them to use every five minutes. Thus, the incessant "NO!" we get from toddlers. Instead use something like, "Aah" or "Enh." "Un Unh." Then pair it with what you want them to do, not with what you don't. For instance, you can say, "Enh! We do not whine. I am getting your toy and you need to wait." What will not work is, "Enh! Stop whining." The reason being is that it doesn't tell them what you want instead. When you say something like that, it tells them what you don't want. So they focus on "whining" and they don't know how to stop. You have to teach them! So tell them what to do instead. "If you want me to hurry, say, 'Mommy, please hurry.'"


1. Anticipate situations that can cause a meltdown and prepare well enough to keep the tantrums and overstimulation at bay.

2. Practice patience phrases ("I need you to wait quietly,") when they are fed and rested.

3. Teach them how to stop whining by giving them things to say or do. "Tell mommy, 'I want that please,'" or "Hold your blankie while you wait for me. It will make you feel better."

It will take constant practice, but one day you will wake up to a child who can wait patiently. (And you'll freak out just a little.)


Tuesday, August 27

Sibling Bickering and End of Summer CRAZY!

My kid was not up for 30 seconds the other day before starting a crying jag worthy of Scarlett O'Hara - all about bickering with her sister over (heaven help me, please) a newly ebay-purchased Barbie house and something about stealing existing Barbie furniture . . . because, hey, in this house, everyone has to have their OWN Barbie house and OWN Barbie furniture, lest we be forced to contact the authorities due to a civil war about to erupt.


You know, we parents have done the vacations, movies, crafts, play dates, library, and the hauling everyone around all summer long in our valiant effort to entertain and make the most of this fabulous time off from school. And while I completely dread getting back into the swing of school (after all, it means diving right back in to forms, field trips, homework, lunches, before school practices, after school practices, and all the eight million little things to keep up with), there is this tiny (okay, moderate to large) part of me that can't wait to let the "entertaining" be choreographed by someone else. Don't get me wrong - I love my kids, and I'm honestly not completely happy unless all my little duckies are safe and sound and huddled together in our family unit. But I'm not much on long term fun, being that I'm not exactly Captain Fun to begin with.

My friend Amy, however, IS Captain Fun, and texted me a few days before school started to haul our butts 45 minutes out to Fort Worth Texas for a trip to the Zoo. "One last summer hoorah!" as she put it. And who could fault the woman for wanting to take her only non-committed day off to buzz around the state for the sake of her children having a good time? I mean, she just got off a 17 day vacation of hiking through Colorado and New Mexico. I don't think that's enough to wear anyone out at all.

So I wallow in Catholic guilt as I cancel my volunteer job for the day, and load everyone up for a day of fun with Amy and her kids . . . which ends up being zoo, water gardens, two museums, a quick tour through the Stock Yards, and a foray to Joe T. Garcia's for dinner. It was Fort Worth a-la-Amy, who was horrified at my lack of clocked adventure hours into the unknown territory of that endlessly fabulous city. She felt like she had to get in as much "you have to see this" as possible so my brain wouldn't rot away from lack of stimulus in the next nine months. My feet were about to fall right off my ankles by dinner time, but oh my gosh, that restaurant was the most fun place E-VER. Since we were so hot, gross, and dehydrated from being in suffocating heat all day, Amy and I kicked back with ice cold drinks while our five apparently not-tired, not dehydrated, don't-care-if-we're-filthy kids literally ran through what must have been three acres of totally enclosed outside patio filled with tables, gardens, out-buildings, fountains, bars (they didn't tromp through the patio bars, thank heaven. I can just see a shower of lime wedges pelting staff and patrons . . . ) several visits to the way-cool bathroom, and even a get-to-know-you session with the pet doves (don't ask; I have no idea why they keep birds on site).

But as much fun as we had, as a mommy, there is always, always a price to pay. Mine included having to dive right in to aggressive negotiations (sans the light sabers) the morning after and distracting the exhausted kiddies with a heavy-handed list of chores.

Which brings me to my point. This summer has been stressful for us; we've had a big move, we were displaced in our living situation for several months, and had quite a bit of uncertainty regarding course of life and where-in-the-hell-are-we-going-to-live talks. We did our best to keep things stable for the kids, but the stress of the instability still came out, mainly in the bickering of two of my kids, and a slight depression in the third.

My dear people, we MUST keep a stable environment for our kids, and we must learn not to over tax them with "fun." Yes, it's great to see the sights and experience life, but can I just say how many strollers, high heels (Are. You. Kidding.), and VERY pregnant women I saw tromping through the zoo towing kids that were much to young to remember anything at all, much less have any fun in this insane Texas heat? (For the uninitiated, think "so hot the oxygen is sucked right out of the air to the point where you can't breathe," and you're in the ballpark.) Why?? Why on earth do we drag young kiddies to do these things, exhausting their poor bodies and wearing them out so they're forced to act like monkeys because we're too hell-bent on the entertainment??? They don't need that stimulus! They won't remember the baby elephant, the frozen lemonade, or the coolest snake on the planet.

I know it's boring for you, but the younger tikes can do without the heavy field trips. Mine are plenty old enough to tolerate the busy day, yet they still had morning after issues due to exhaustion. If you must get out, pace yourself, respect any naptimes, and make it a quick outing. I understand that being cooped up with out-of-school kids all day long for months on end is a stinker for those who are any less than Über moms. And I don't know about you, but I am not about to lie my tush off and claim to be a super hero in the mommy department. Some of you are, and more power to you. But most of us aren't, so please allow the whining and grappling for entertainment ideas. We'll be back to faking it well once the little angels return to school and we've had time to restock our fridge and pantry, clean up the sea of toys on the living room floor, get a decent haircut, and take a nap. Until then, it's all about frazzle.


Wednesday, July 24

Cut it Out!

We tell our kids, "Cut it out!" so much that we might as well be trying to fill up a sieve with sand. It will never stop. But as much as I preach to the contrary, I did it myself this morning. Great balls of fire! And what did my child say in reply? "Mommy, I don't know what you mean when you say that, so it makes me think I can't talk at all!"
Really, now. I'm a speech therapist. I deal with behavior all the time, and it's second nature to "explain" exactly what I mean, in very blunt, specific terms so that kids don't get confused. I do it all the time, everyday, and no doubt my own kids are sick of it. So you would think that might buy me one or two times snapping, "Cut it out!" at the breakfast table and my kids might actually problem solve and figure out what I mean. Sheesh. We try so hard to be good mommies; calm, kind, and lovingly instructive. Aren't we allowed a stressed moment and shouldn't our kids just "figure it out" once in a while?

Apparently not. Sure, we can stress all we want, but it doesn't help our kids act better. I wanted my nine-year-old to understand that by, "Cut it out," I meant, "Use kind words, soften your tone, and don't boss you sister by telling her she's putting too many croissants on her plate." Then I want my twelve-year-old to understand that the same "Cut it out," is directed at her as well, and it means, "Don't snap back at your sister that she's got crumbs on her shirt just because your feelings have been stomped on and you don't like being told what to do by a younger sibling."

I'm giving myself a headache just putting this down into words. How on earth were my children supposed to interpret that convoluted, wordy message out of a completely empty and curt, "Cut it out"?

I'm just lucky enough that when I slip up, they use more communicative words than their mother and kindly remind ME to cut it out.

Cheers friends!

Thursday, June 27

Does Discipline Break a Child's Spirit?

Discipline often breaks down into a battle of wills, but it has nothing to do with breaking their spirit, even as much as it seems the contrary. They're crying, you're crying, the house is in turmoil; "This can't possibly be good for them or anyone!" you think.

But of course you think that. It's because you're an awesome mom! However we are all - ALL of us - at the mercy of our love for our babies. And that can cloud our judgment.

Discipline is not "breaking them." It's not mean or hateful or unloving. True discipline is about teaching. Plain and simple. And when you teach toddlers, you have to relate to them on their level, which is primitive. When they are pushing and pushing and pushing, you have to hold out longer than they feel the need to disrespect you. It's a learning teach them what is okay and you are allowed to treat people, and what is and is not acceptable.

Example: screaming for a bottle when you are trying to wean. It may seem like you are flat our torturing your child for no good reason (and what good mommy would ever do that?) but here's the truth about what's going on: the longer you let them scream for a bottle, the more you teach them that they can't do that (and that the world will definitely not end). BUT when they scream and hit you each night for 5 minutes until you give in, that is exponentially worse. True, you're giving it a try until it seems ridiculous to carry on, but in actuality, you are teaching them how to behave badly (versus letting them cry and teaching them that you can't be manipulated). When you give in, you teach them that it is okay to hit and scream - it works, and they get what they want.

Look, I know you are freaking exhausted and can't take another minute. But long term, you are creating a huge, never-ending headache. Parenting is about headaches, believe me. But those long term jobbers can be nipped by standing your ground now. It's not easy, and it really is every single day, because they are learning so much at this age. But over time it gets better and better. When you are consistent and firm but loving, your child will be happier, more secure, and definitely a joy to be around. This versus a child who grows up getting more and more demanding, tantrum prone, and guilt provoking...hmmm. Wonder which is better? Which child do you think is truly happier?

Friday, June 14

Bad Behavior "Makes Me So Sad"...

My friends. Serious topic, here. I really, really hate to burst your well-meaning bubble, but can we collectively please stop telling our kids how much it hurts our heart or makes us sad to see them act unbecomingly? "Oh, that hurts my heart to see you make that choice," or "That makes me so sad to see that," or "Oh, that's a sad choice."
UGH!! Your child could care less how you feel, think, or what you had for dinner beyond getting them what they want. I see Mommies do this all the time but I have never, ever seen it actually work. Is it working for you? Does your child immediately act sorry, apologize to the offended party, and straighten up to the point where you don't have to repeat that phrase ten times a day? Because I'm apparently blind, here.

The thing is, the Mommies I see using this have kids that are pretty much out of control. So I know it seems to you a way to calmly and sincerely let your child know that you disapprove of a certain behavior, but it teaches them nothing. Nothing! They do not care how you feel; they are too young. So expecting that to make a smidgen of impact is unrealistic. What they NEED is for you to say, "No. We don't do that," and intervene. Intervene, my lovely ladies! Take their arm, or block the physical behavior, or move them into another room, and tell them what you want to see instead. "We keep our hands to ourselves," "Bottom on the chair, feet on the floor," "Use a big kid voice because I can't understand whining and crying," "We do not throw our toys when we're upset. You may stomp your foot instead." Tell and show them what you want to see instead of the offending behavior. This whole telling them what you think and feel business is going to put me over the edge. Make them behave. Insist on it. Otherwise, you are running a hamster wheel.

I so absolutely get that you are tired. But please do something for me. If your child has a ton of energy that is bursting out in bad behavior, set him/her to a physical task. Outside is great - make them run and run and run. But make an actual task out of it so that there is a focus beyond the need to explode upon a piece of equipment, an animal, or another child. Make it running from one end of the yard to the other, collecting acorns or sticks, or collecting the sticks and then making a giant pattern out of it, whatever. And do NOT make this a "Oh, look, let's play a game, honey! It'll be fun! You try it, okay?" Because believe me, if you act like there is a choice or you desperately want to engage him in something, he will sniff it out in no time and use that stick to whack your fanny in a clear communication that he's not interested. When you go about it in a "Here's what we're going to do," sort of way, and use a firm, authoritative demeanor and voice, it changes things. You might get some balking because that is not your usual pattern, but make your child do it before he does anything of his chosing. He may throw a fit, but I'm telling you, the structure is needed and you must, absolutely must, win this battle of wills. (Another blog on battle of wills vs. breaking their spirit later...) Do not give in to a normal pattern of letting your child's behavior slide; it teaches him to do that exact behavior over and over because you ultimately do nothing about it beyond yammering something that they translate into, "Blah, blah, blah...."

So change your language and demeanor, give them a physical task to release some energy and create a sense of boundaries, and tell and show them how to act.

Good luck, friends!

Wednesday, May 15

How to Get Toddlers to "Drop it!"

So they're eating a crayon. Or a cricket. Or a dryer sheet. You get the picture. Something is in their mouth or hand and they need to drop it.

If you are normally rather calm and happy, letting out a good gasp and "No! Give it to Mommy," usually works. However, there are still the little guys who crave the attention and seeing Mommy get all worked up over nothing, so they let out a squeal of delight and take off with the offending object stuck in their oral cavity and inches away from their airway.

Please remember, you are (give or take) a good hundred pounds bigger than the critter in question, so you can outrun, overtake, and grab the source of angst with little or no problem. This may mean some screaming afterward, but it's the price we pay for keeping our duckling safe. The thing to watch out for is if this running away business is a bad habit. If so, it probably means a) the child is needing the attention, and positive attention or negative attention, it doesn't matter because he doesn't know the difference or b) you aren't really saying what you mean and doing what you say with any real consistency...and they know it.

I could give you some trite song and dance about trying to give them something else to distract them or negotiating a less offensive or destructive item for the one in question, but you aren't stupid and you know all this. Sure, we could all work on our presentation of making a cookie or string of beads seem much more attractive than a dead bird, but the bottom line is that they aren't stupid either. They know that you want what they have, and that means they have your undivided attention. So what this really boils down to is attention and consistency. Kids need positive attention, and if they aren't getting enough, they will go for negative attention. Period. Plus, the little guys will always, always try the running-away-with-a-mouthful-of-marbles thing at least a couple of times just to see what you will do. And if you always, always make sure they listen and do what you say, chances are, they won't try it often.

So make sure you are routinely giving them positive attention and guiding them on how to act, not just re-acting when they do something bad. And be consistent. Follow through on what you say day to day, hour to hour. It's a whip, but it shapes your child into a secure and happy little person.

Cheers, friends!

Monday, March 4

Tired of Being Made to Feel Bad About Discipline

So you get home late, need a hug and some food, yet your child refuses to be loving at all, throwing a fit over who knows what instead. Then you have to discipline when you aren't exactly rested and on your A Game, and you end up having a horrible night, full of guilt and a little justified self-pity.

There are a couple of things that strike me in this scenario, and I'm going to be super honest with you. (That means get out your big girl pants and try not to be offended.) First off, I don't know you, but if you're reading this, you are reaching out for help and that in itself is HUGE. Understand what that says about you as a mom...that you want what is best for your child and you will do whatever it takes. That makes you an amazing parent! We all make mistakes, but the best parents are the ones who vow to do better and put some action behind it.

Second, the discipline aspect is a simple enough problem to solve. Research books, video series...whatever you think could give you some very basic places to start and how to understand your child. There are plenty of resources that can help you understand where your child is coming from and how to give them what they need so they act better: ways to communicate, and how to reword what you have to say so that it makes sense to your child and they will respond positively.

The last, and more important point, I think, is addressing your needs. I sometimes hear from parents that they want their child to act more loving and they don't want to be made to feel bad. (Here's where I get tough...) That is not actually a discipline issue. Yes, if you change the way you react to unloving or poor behavior, you will in turn change the child's reactions, and that is discipline. But it goes more basic and deeper than that. As parents, we are there to meet the needs of our kids. But we absolutely cannot expect them to meet our needs. Yes, we need our kids to love us - or at least act loving so that we have some reason to be nice to them - but they are kids. They cannot and will not understand that we have worked all day and busted our chops trying to provide them with a good life. They will only need, need, need from us. So when we get home at 9:00, they will not understand that we need a hug and some time to shovel down five bites of food. They only see life from their perspective and their needs....and they will probably need love (and a glass of water and two books read to them) from you even though you're exhausted and having nothing left to give.

You know all this, but let this post serves as your official reminder. It's not that they don't love us. Their brain just works in a very limited space, and it's all about them. Those happy family images you see on T.V. - kids running and greeting the parent after a long day of work - that's a rare gift, and it generally just doesn't work that way. First of all, to GET kids to a point in life that they look beyond themselves and see or care about your needs takes a very secure, devoted parent, and a boatload of time. Second, life is just crazy and busy and we don't always act our best.

Forgive yourself, keep perspective, and do your best. Remember that kids need us to discipline and provide a consistent, loving environment for them. It makes them feel secure and happy. You may feel like the bad guy today, but if you reflect on the lesson you are trying to instill, and you feel it is appropriate, stick to your guns. Project a loving and firm stance. Long term, you may just find out that, glory be and hallelujah, it worked!

Best wishes,

Wednesday, February 20

Older Kids Won't Listen!

So I have to rant a bit (what's new?)

My kids. Won't. Listen. Aaaaaaahhhh!!!

Third, sixth, and seventh graders, good kids, good grades, all of it. I love my kids. But when I ask them to do something, they do only that one tiny thing I ask, then go right back to their game, book, or chasing the cat. Example: I get home from work yesterday totally wiped out and want to crash on the couch. Can you guys make dinner? Spaghetti, no bread, no salad. Not rocket science. And do I get, "Sure mom"? Ooooh, no. No, no, no. I get "the look." The exasperated, my-life-is-so-hard-Do-I-have-to?? look.


YES, you have to! For crying out loud! Get some water boiling and put some pasta in it! Sheesh. So my oldest gets a pot, salts the water, turns on the burner, and leaves.

Cue crickets chirping.

Hello??? Is anyone watching that water? Apparently...not. So I yell for my youngest. She checks the water but doesn't know if it's boiling (guess we haven't gotten that far in the cooking lessons yet). So I have to haul my tired butt off the couch and go check. Great balls of fire, the pot is only 1/3 filled! So I add water and yell, "Poppy, you have to add more water!" No answer. I give up and look around. Table isn't set, sauce isn't out, cheese isn't out...blah, blah, blah. So I call to my 6th grader. "Mimi, come help me!" She wanders in and graces me with a blank stare, so I try to poke that stare in the eyeball with a fierce, "Get dinner ready!" By now I'm getting super fed up and just want the simple curtesy of them looking beyond their immediate twelve inch radius and figuring out what else needs to be done. "Mimi! Good grief! What else needs to be put on the table? What's missing?"

And we all know the end to this story. I end up having to spell every little thing out and direct traffic, pissed off beyond helping. And it didn't help that as soon as the meal was over, they just walked away from the table, leaving their dishes, crumbs, and good will to mommy.

I could scream.

So I query my husband with an exhausted, "Why, WHY won't they listen to me?" And he looks at me like I've just tried to drink lemonade with a fork. "Honey," he cautiously ventures, "you're too nice. Of course they don't listen to you."

WHAT???!!!! Too nice?? Are you freaking kidding me? I've got a broomstick! People think I'm fierce, dominant, commanding. I've got a reputation to keep, here! I tell him all this and add, "When I'm at work, I keep my therapy kids in line! I don't let them get away with squat!" He just shakes his head and stares. "Honey, I have a hard time believing that."

OH my gosh.

People, are we too nice? Is that why our kids don't listen? After spending a little time to reflect, I don't think that's it (just like me to argue). I think we're just checked out. I was checked out yesterday - didn't feel like giving my kids the time and direction they needed. I just expected them to mind read and know what to do. News flash to's not happening! If the house is a mess, it's because I don't sit on them to clean it. A quick yell to clean it up isn't going to work. We have to sit there and stare at them until they get off their duff and do it. To me it kind of defeats the purpose of teaching them how to do stuff on their own (thus giving us a tiny break) but I guess that's life. If the goal is overall independence, we must trust that one of these days, it will all click and they will be ready for the challenges life throws at them. In the meantime, we are still desperately needed by our kids to keep them marching toward that little road sign that says, "Success."

Thursday, January 3

Teaching Toddlers Responsibility

Teaching responsibility should start when kids are toddlers.  If done correctly, they grow up with the right idea that they are responsible for their actions, messes, behavior, all of it.  When you miss that opportunity to teach them early, it creates so many problems later that you'll be kicking yourself.  And listen, I'm not saying it's an easy thing to do.  For example, it's usually easier for us to clean up after them and get it done quickly because we've got another screaming child that needs dealing with, and to heck if we have the time to sit down and walk our toddler through the process of putting away toys.  But by not insisting that our child clean up, wash up, be accountable for their behavior, etc., we are teaching them that it is okay to act in a way that will not serve them well as they grow older. 

I'm currently subbing in middle school doing my little speech therapy thing, and can we just talk about the lack of responsibility?  Kids don't do their homework, they lie about attending tutoring, they have to have incentives galore just to complete assignments (do not get me started), and then when they don't complete them, oh, no big deal, Johnny . . . just get it to me tomorrow, okie doke sweetie pie?

Hello!  Oh my gosh.  Do we really think that the big, bad world is going to allow them all these chances?  They grow up and have no idea how to deal in an environment that cares very much if you screw up.  No second chances there.  I've heard from managers who say you can't tell these people they did anything wrong, lest they break down into tears.  Or they get kicked out of their frat house in college because they don't lift a darn finger to help clean the place up.  How stupid and wasteful is that?  Nothing to do with grades - it's all character!! 

So believe me when I say, it matters.  I know it's difficult to see that far ahead now, as you're just trying to make it through each day, but teaching responsibility is so important.  It does take some time upfront, but it will make your life SO much easier in the long run, and it teaches your child how to be well-adjusted and happy.

Of course, as a toddler, it's no fun when mommy or daddy isn't your slave.  You mean I can't just run amok and be jolly?  Clean up after myself . . . what??!  So herein lies our problem: just how do we make teaching responsibility fun?  A bit of a pickle, as it's not necessarily a fun thing to learn that we aren't king of the castle.  However, we can ease the transition and harsh reality by introducing a responsibility chart.  We found a cute one that gives a visual cue and builds self esteem as kids go through the process of figuring out that a job well done is something to be proud of.

This one is magnetic.  If you find it's working well, you can get creative and customize it by making your own little magnets to meet your specific needs.  Just get some index cards, cut a strip to size, write your "chore", and glue to a small magnet.  It can be that simple, or you can jazz it up and be as creative as you like.  Just remember that the most important aspect to teaching anything is consistency (you've only heard me say this twelve billion times).  So stick with it and you will see results!

Have fun!