Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Teaching Obedience

We've had some trouble lately getting N to obey. When asked to do something he often returns our request with a harsh "No!" Needless to say, it's very frustrating. One morning it was particularly annoying, but I knew getting mad wouldn't solve anything. So, in a fit of desperation and with some help from above I'm sure, I came up with a plan. I quickly drew a little chart that says I CAN OBEY, and on it are 15 circles that say "I can quickly obey". The rules are 1. N gets a sticker every time he quickly obeys without complaining 2. N gets a prize each time he gets 5 circles covered with stickers 3. If he is disobedient he gets a sticker taken away.
Today is the third day of our little experiment, and it's worked pretty well. Today has shown the biggest improvement. He has been a lot more willing to do things that used to be like pulling teeth. He gets so excited when he gets another sticker and even more excited when he gets a prize. The prizes have been very simple, but you could call a rock a prize and he'd love it.
Here he is proudly holding his chart

To help him understand better the principle of obedience, that was our topic for our FHE lesson this week. I just used Lesson 14 in "Behold Your Little Ones," the church's new nursery lesson manual (so much better than the old one). We followed almost all their suggestions, except for an activity I had Joel give an example of disobedience and obedience. First, I asked him to do something and his reply was "No!", and each time I asked he got more whiny about it and threw a little fit. Then I asked N if Dad was obedient, and we decided he wasn't. Then I gave Joel another chance and asked him to do something. This time he said, "Yes Mommy. I will quickly obey." N liked the activity so much that he wanted a turn to see if he could be obedient.
I also talked to him briefly about how sometimes it's hard to obey, but it will always make us happy. That right there has been a big help with his obedience chart. I make sure and reinforce the feelings he gets when he obeys vs. when he disobeys. When he disobeys he is sad, but when he obeys he is happy.
The lesson went very well. He really enjoyed all the activities. The rest of the month I will try to similar topics that have to do with obeying (like helping and doing chores).
How have you taught this principle to your kids? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Time Ideas

Here are a couple things to do at Christmas time with your kids. Sorry I didn't post this earlier. I guess if you like the ideas you can do them next year. Or, if you already thought of these ideas, which you probably did being the wonderful mothers you are, then just say, "Duh, Marianne. We already thought of that like forever ago."

Teaching the Nativity Story

There are two primary songs that make life so simple for parents. They are "Picture A Christmas" and "The Nativity Song." You can use actual nativity pieces for visual aids or you can draw pictures of each nativity piece.

Family Activity

This was fun. For family night last week, after going to see the lights downtown, we came home and had hot chocolate to warm our frozen bodies. The, we all got ready for bed- Mom and Dad included- snuggled up on the couch with warm blankets and watched a movie. The movie we watched was "The Muppet Christmas Carol." I made popcorn, which is a rare treat for N. After the movie was over we made up beds on the floor, read some Christmas stories, and went to bed on the living room floor by the lit Christmas tree. N went straight to sleep because he was exhausted from staying up much later than usual. It was very fun, and N has since requested to sleep in the living room again. I've told him we only do that once because if we do it all the time it isn't as fun anymore. If you decided to do it I would recommend maybe turning off the Christmas tree. While it was fun to have it on, it made it hard for Mom and Dad to sleep because it was so bright.

What fun things did you do with your families this year?

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Human Timer

I've created a monster. A while back I started using a strategy to get N to do things without throwing a major fit. I learned his fits were caused because his world was turned completely upside-down if he was suddenly told to do something different then he was planning in his little head. So, I started giving him ample warning- "In 'blank' minutes we'll have to go home." He showed almost immediate improvement when I started this technique and has since improved by leaps and bounds, although I still have an occasional small fit.

The trouble is this: N has turned into a negotiator. He's started using my tricks on me! Little rascal! Now, almost everything I ask/tell him to do is answered with, "I'm going to [color] for 2 minutes first." Grrr. Kids catch on too quickly. This leads to why I am now the human timer. Sometimes simply saying "okay, 2 minutes are over " doesn't go over too well, so I've found that if I beep like a timer he's more willing to end his task and move on to mine. So, I'm a human timer. I'd rather have this than the fits any day of the week, but sometimes it is annoying. I just want to yell, "No! Not in 2 minutes- NOW!" (and you know I do sometimes- what normal mom wouldn't?) But, what can ya do? In the long run, if I have to choose between a ten minute tantrum with tears and screaming or a willing QUIET boy in two minutes, I'll choose the two minutes.

So...who's in charge here?

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Spirit of Giving

I killed two birds with one stone today. I was able to teach N the spirit of giving and was also able to get rid of some toys before Christmas so that we're not totally overrun with toys Christmas morning.

I told N there are little boys and girls who don't have any toys, so I asked him if he'd like to help and give away some of his toys to kids who don't have any. I was very much pleased when he said yes. Although he did offer a few random toys that were really just junk (I made sure and told him we didn't want to give things like that), I was very surprised and happy at most of his choices. He wanted to give a big fire truck, two of his dinosaurs (which are prize possessions to him), some cars, and two books. We also gave a toy of Clara's she doesn't play with. I was so proud of him. He freely gave those toys because he knew they would make someone else happy. It was a very proud moment for Mom. I'm grateful I was able to teach him the spirit of giving.

How have you taught your kids that lesson?

A Glittery Christmas Tree

This is what N and I did today for a craft/activity. It was easy, quick, and fun. Here's how we did it:
  1. construction paper: green for tree, brown for stump, colors of your own choice for ornaments, and blue for the background
  2. glitter
  3. Elmer's glue
  4. scissors


  1. I drew a big triangle on the green paper and had N cut it out. This teaches them how to use their fine motor skills. N used to really struggle at cutting specific shapes, but he's improving.
  2. Do the same for the stump
  3. Glue the stump and tree on the blue paper.
  4. Cut out or tear small shapes for the ornaments. (We would have had more on ours but N didn't want to do anymore)
  5. Draw a zig-zag down the tree with the Elmer's glue, then immediately sprinkle your glitter over the glue making sure the glue is well covered.
  6. Let dry completely - put it some place where it won't be bothered
  7. When dry, pour excess glitter off of picture. You're done! Now your tree has pretty glittery tinsel.

*Tip: It might be easier to just use glitter glue instead of loose glitter and Elmer's glue

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pure Imagination

N isn't doing preschool. My reason for not enrolling him is because I didn't want him over scheduled. I have him in Kindermusik, which is once a week for an hour, and he also does speech once a week for a half an hour. I felt like adding one more thing would be too much for a 4 year old.

Although I generally feel fine with my decision to not put him in preschool, I occasionally feel a little guilty. This feeling only comes when I hear of other moms who took their kids to preschool and whose kids loved it. I wonder if I cheated N on a great opportunity for him to learn and grow. I know I shouldn't compare myself, but it's so hard not to!

I had a wonderful talk with N's Kindermusik teacher, Ms. Susan, and she helped me see that I don't need to feel guilty. I value her opinion greatly because not only is she a wonderful Kindermusik teacher, but she also has a degree in child development, raised great kids of her own, and is constantly studying about children and their development- especially how the brain develops. She talked to me about how at N's age his imagination is going wild (boy is it ever!) and the best thing I can do is foster that even more. She gave me some suggestions on what I can do at home to help develop his little brain. I was happy that I already do some of them. Here they are:
  • Give him a pen/paints and a blank piece of paper- no lines that would inhibit his creativity
  • Give him play dough with no play dough accessories and let him sculpt to his heart's content (this is one of his very favorite things to do)
  • Let him go outside and explore the world
  • When reading, don't just read the story. Talk about what's going on, ask "what would happen if...", or make up a surprise new ending to see how he reacts
  • Make up stories
  • Talk about things and ask him questions, questions like: what's the weather doing today?

All these things encourage your child's brain to explore different possibilities, to branch out and make new discoveries.

Yesterday I put her advice to action. N was drawing and I sat down with him and drew my own picture. I drew a picture of a Christmas tree and started drawing presents of various sizes and shapes under the tree. He was, of course, very interested in my picture. I asked him what he thought was in the presents. It was so fun to watch him think. I could see the wheels turning as he thought of what treasure could be hidden inside the boxes. I can see that opportunities to do things like this with N are everywhere. I just have to pay attention to them.

N's imagination really is going wild right now. Sometimes it's not good because he imagines scary things and gets very worried if he doesn't know where I am (this I don't understand- we live in a very small house. I can't go far). But for the most part, I'm very glad he has such a vivid imagination because I know his brain is developing in wonderful ways. I love watching his imagination at work. I try to make sure I play with N each day, but I also try to make sure he has alone time to make his own fun. Ms. Susan helped me understand that doing that will help him so much right now. The more I encourage it the better off he'll be.

So, I'm not going to feel guilty anymore. If I was letting him sit on the couch and eat potato chips all the live long day then I would have good reason to feel guilty. Instead, his favorite things to do are drawing, sculpting play dough, making up stories with his toys, painting, and, of course, a movie no more than twice a day (I need a break sometime!) N's learning tons just by letting his imagination expand. Lets all help our kids grow by letting them use their imaginations and color outside the lines.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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I'd Love To

I've gotten into a bad habit. Almost every time Noah asks me to play with him my first response is, "Just a second" or the also popular "In a minute." I didn't realize how often I did it until I noticed N was using it on me! How dare he steal my line! Since he was doing it too I became aware that I say it a lot. So, I started yesterday with my goal to quit that habit. I was better at it yesterday than I was today. Whenever he'd ask me to play with him, I'd stop myself from that easy response of "just a second" and instead would say "okay" or "I'd love to." Do you know what happened? We had so many more moments of playtime, he was happier, and guess what- so was I! And I still got things done around the house.

I noticed the "I'd love to" response didn't just make him feel good, but it made me feel good too. It changed my attitude, and I actually did love playing with him. I think my attitude was the underlying problem. I didn't want to be bothered by him because I had so many things on my to do list, squeezing in a few minutes of play time was becoming a burden rather than a blessing. Saying "just a second" wasn't just a response, it was a way to delay for as long as possible the annoying responsibility looming before me day after day of playing with my kids. You may think my wording a little too candid, but, honestly, that's how I feel some days. I know it's terrible, and I feel awful for it. I get so caught up in the monotony of the day after day after day after day... that I forget to appreciate what I've been given. When did playing with my kids become a burden?

Whenever I get like this I try to remind myself that when my kids are older their most important memories will be of their mother playing with them, not the memories of how clean the house was. I can't just dump the responsibilities of keeping house, but I do have to keep my priorities in the right order. Saying "just a second" to N all the time was sending him the message that he wasn't my first priority, and that's not a message I want to send. "I'd love to" sends a much better message.

It's so hard to keep those priorities lined up where they should be. I know I won't ever be perfect at it, so I can't beat myself up for messing up now and then. I guess the important thing is recognizing a need for a change and being willing to work at it. Soon "just a second" will all but disappear from my lips. And I'm willing to bet that we all will benefit from it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Parenting Books

I'm tired of my old post, so I thought it was time to post something new. I know not very many look at this blog, but just in case someone wanders in, I'll have something new and hopefully useful to look at.

When it comes to parenting books, I haven't read that many and I try not to. Too often parenting books are counter-productive. Instead of giving you helpful ideas and motivating you to be better, they can tend to leave you overwhelmed and feeling like a crappy parent. I think parenting magazines are even worse, which is why I don't like getting those even when they throw me a free subscription just for having a baby.

However, I have read a few that I loved, and I'd like to share them with you.

For the expecting mother, or the mother with a brand new baby have I got the book for you! It is called The Happiest Baby On the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. You will be able to calm you infant in seconds with the strategies he gives. I recommended this to a friend who recently became a new mom, and she loved it too and even recommended it to her friends. Not only is this book helpful, but it's a very interesting read.

For teaching your baby to sleep, which is oh so important, try reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. I haven't actually read this one, but my sister did and she relayed to me the strategies he teaches. I followed them as best I could considering I didn't actually read the book, and they seemed to work and helped create a reliable sleep schedule with my baby. I have a friend who swears by this book. My sister did tell me that this book isn't as enjoyable to read as the Karp book. I plan on actually reading it the next time we have a baby come around.

If you are frustrated and don't know how to handle the behavior of your child, no matter the age, I would recommend Picking Your Battles: Winning Strategies for Raising Well-Behaved Kids by Bonnie Maslin, Ph.D. It's a longer book, but it's interesting reading. I like it because she talks a lot about child development and why kids act the way the do. It really helped me when I was really struggling with the behavior of my toddler, and I still refer to it now and then.

For parenting with love, you need to read Parenting With Love: Making a Difference in a Day by Glenn I. Latham. I loved this book, and here's why: it's very short; he doesn't talk down to you at all, so the language is very easy to read and understand (so many authors of this type of book like to show you how smart they are); the principles are simple but they work. Some of the chapters I didn't read because they were geared to older children with problems that arise with older kids, but everything else I loved. When I applied his teachings, I saw a difference.

My very favorite parenting book is by the same author as the one I just mentioned. It's called Christlike Parenting: Taking the Pain Out of Parenting. This is the most wonderful book. One thing I like about this book is he doesn't write it from the view of one specific religion. All Christians will be able to understand what he's trying to say. What he does is use teachings and examples of Christ to show how to parent the way Christ would. It will change you for the good. I guarantee it. One reason I like this book is because even though when I read it I feel a little chastened because of things I do wrong, my overall feeling is a great desire to be better and fill my home with love. You will love this book! Every parent needs this book.

Last but not least, we moms need a good pat on the back, and I have the perfect book for that. It is I Am a Mother by Jane Clayson Johnson. After you read this book you want to shout from the roof tops "I AM A MOTHER!"

I hope these are helpful to you. Don't feel like you have to read them. The last thing I want is to overwhelm you because heaven knows we moms feel overwhelmed enough already! But if you do decide to read one or two, I think you'll like them. If you have any that you've read that you'd like to share then please do. You know me- I'm always up for suggestions.