Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to Con Your Kid

I'm increasingly finding myself having to use choice strategy to work through grumpy moods and challenging behaviour. I remember first reading this in a book I was given as a gift when I was pregnant. The book is called "How to Con Your Kid". (Come to think of it, I should pull it out for more pointers for how to get her to brush her teeth or let me brush them for her properly.)

Tonight for example, Violet was getting tired and was being indecisive about which pajamas she wanted to wear. Sounded a bit like this

V: Santa jamas, yeah..
So I pull out the Santa pink and red pajamas.
V: No santa jamas. Owl jamas. [insert big smile]
Me: OK, here are the owl pajamas!
V: NO! Skel-ton jamas, skel-ton jamas!!
Me: But the Owl pajamas are fresh and clean. Hoot! Hoot! You're so cute! These are nice.
V: NO!! So I pull out the Skeleton pajamas.
V: NO skel-ton!!!

Me (thinking): Ok, I tried. I am not power struggling with my 2 year old.
Me (saying sternly): Do you want to go to bed or do you want to read a story? Those are your choices.
V: Read story.
Me: Alright, let's get dressed so we have time to read a story. If we take too long we'll run out of time and have to go straight to bed.

Back on track.. now we're focused on getting to story time.

I'm sure most people do this intuitively but wanted to make a note to self. I find it is a very effective way of moving past a power struggle without resorting to bribing or fear tactics. Other strategies I see readily used to 'con' kids.

It empowers kids too. It gives them the choice. It also focuses their attention on what's next so that we can move past the current upset. The hard part perhaps is following through with negative consequences if the 'wrong' choice is chosen. Thankfully Violet hasn't started testing me yet.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Teachable Moment: Apple TV

Ok, so TV isn't the greatest use of a child's time, I admit. But there are a number of shows she enjoys and I think some learning takes place. Plus we all have our guilty pleasures!

We just got Apple TV this weekend. One thing it's already been great for is playing YouTube videos. Calliou and In the Night Garden are the current favourites. But.. as for the teachable opportunity in Apple TV.. the search screen. While Violet's in eager anticipation of watching her show she has to patiently wait for us to enter each letter into the search field. It's a crazy slow process as the remote is the basic up/down function which means scrolling through a table of letters - we wish their remote had a keyboard. That would make more sense. But on the bright side, as we spell out each letter one by one Violet sees the letter brighten to a glow once it's been selected. I think in some small way this is going to help her with her letter recognition. Yeah, that's it.. so tv is good. Right?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sleeping, Swimming and Potty Training

These are the three areas of parenting that I am convinced take the most patience... and time. That said, I think that introducing early habits and practice helps speed up the process. The problem with that little theory is that personalities get in the way. Regardless, early habits and consistency are the key with all three...

Why do (most) kids fight sleep? As of late, the answer to that question with regards to my chid is she would rather cuddle than be in bed alone. The problem with that is the cuddle quickly turns into fun time resulting in no sleep. The only solution? Cuddle for a minute, put her in her crib and softly say goodnight. Crying usually ensues (these days) but only for a couple of minutes. She eventually learns to sleep without crying until the next time that we go on a trip and disrupt her sleeping patterns and start all over again.

This one is tough. I see kids close to three years old swimming and jumping in fearlessly. But I don't think that's the norm. Swimming seems to be another one of those things that takes a looong time. Like any sport it takes time for kids to build up the motor skills and ability and strength to play. But I see swimming as a life skill that supersedes any other for safety reasons. For this reason, we've started early. At 8 months we took a diaper fit class which Violet LOVED. It was an hour long class that included a 40 minute workout in which she'd sit in the floating device and the rest was a mini swim lesson. Following that I took her to drop in rubber ducky swim sessions and we went through a period where she'd clutch onto my neck in fear of the water. Something changed in her comfort level in the water. We took a break and changed swimming pools trying a much warmer and brighter pool. The swim instructor gave me some great advice. She said "let her hold onto you, do whatever it takes to make her feel secure". In no time she was enjoying the water again.

We attend a weekly swim lesson to keep up with her slowly developing swim skills.. front floats, kicking, back floats, jumps from the side and blowing bubbles and slowly gaining the ability to reach down and put her head under. I'm super careful to ensure that she remains comfortable in the pool. A few weeks ago, our new swim instructor (who is fantastic) was trying to increase Violet's swim level but instead moved too quickly and scared Violet. It has taken a couple of weeks for the instructor to earn back Violet's trust. We're back on track now.

Potty Training
I have a lot to say about this topic. I'm a big believer in starting early. How early? I think it's important to get a baby used to sitting on a small potty. I know people that started as early as when the baby could sit (5 months). If the baby is regular, why not have them sit and make it second nature right from the start? We started at around 9 months and even more consistently spent A LOT of time in the bathroom at 12 months. We went to the potty first thing in the morning, shortly after meals and after nap time as well as any time she would sign 'potty'. Yes, we spent a lot of time in the bathroom! We used it as a time for looking at picture books and signing what we saw.

By 18 months, Violet was getting the hang of going on the potty for #2's, averaging one dirty diaper a month. Getting #1's on the potty was a slower process. If I get the timing right we're good but like I said, we were spending A LOT of time on the potty. Which also included a lot of sitting, getting up and running around, more sitting etc.

I wavered as far as introducing underwear instead of diapers and decided against it for several months. I felt that it would be better for her to learn through positive reinforcements rather than wetting herself and feeling badly about that. Instead, I wanted her to get used to keeping her diaper dry, then we would transition to underpants.

On the big potty, aka "Violet's potty" at 21 months.

The day of her second birthday, she told me when she needed to go 'pee potty'. The first time was while we were at our first gymnastics class. I held her over the regular toilet and she went! She kept that up for the rest of the day and for a few days afterwards. I think the cold reacting Pampers pull ups helped. Since then I'd say she's 90% toilet trained. I found that I had to get rid of the little potties and use the cushion seat potties on the actual toilet. Otherwise she'd go back to running around. Now at least if she doesn't go right away, she sits captive on the toilet until we establish whether she is done. It's either "more" or "all done" or "finished". She's usually good throughout the day as long as I continually ask her. She still only really tells me she needs to go if it's #2.

The evenings were the times where she'd just go in her diaper so the last couple of nights I've put her in underwear and continually ask her if she needs to go every hour or so. We've also been dragging around the 'magic blanket' (a change pad) based on my friend Marlene's brilliant idea to protect the furniture and carpet! Tonight we ventured out in underwear making sure she made a visit to the bathroom the minute we walked into the store we visited! I had the backup pants, socks and diapers in the space bear backpack - just in case! It's funny what we do to toilet train our children. It was a dry evening!

It's taken A LOT of patience but I'm really glad that she can identify when she needs to go and control her bladder. I know it's common for kids to not be potty trained until closer to three but that saddens* me to think that they go and hide to do their business. I strongly believe that if kids are introduced to the potty early there's no need to bribe or explain or praise. It's just 'what we do'. *Realizing the problem is just that we're a busy society and most people just don't have the time to sit and wait for a child to do it in their time.. which is easily triple the time that we would like.

Now that I've said all, I hope Violet doesn't regress too much over the next several months. I'm sure there will still be a lot of practice and encouragement for her to tell us when she needs to go versus my asking but I'm proud!

Monday, February 1, 2010


I never would have though that my two year old would be so in tune with her feelings. It's really impressive actually. I think it's somewhat natural to teach your child about their emotions: "Show me your happy face!".. "Show me your mad face"... "Show me your sad face" etc. But thanks to a few other tools we've taken this to a new level and now Violet is signing her feelings and identifying when she feels overcome with emotion.

For example the other day when my parents and brother came over to take her out for dinner, Violet started signing and saying 'feelings' as she was bursting with energy and excitement over seeing them. I asked "How do you feel? Are you excited?" She could barely contain herself while she waved her hands up and down enthusiastically saying 'x- ited!!'. It was really cute.

A few weeks ago, it seemed as though Violet's favourite thing to say was "What's wrong??" in a very concerned little voice. More often than not, while reaching her hands out as if to cup my face. It was a little alarming... as in, why is she seemingly anxious? It was also really funny and cute. I'd almost always respond with "Nothing's wrong. Everything is great. How are you?" I figure that she picked it up from us. In any case, it seems to have passed. But I find that when she gets upset and I ask her "What's wrong??" in the same soft and concerned voice she uses and cup her face she seems to find comfort in it and calms right down.

I mentioned there were some tools. The first that I would identify as helping Violet identify moods and emotions is the book "Grumpy Bird".

Not only is this a cute book with cute themes, it teaches children to identify when they are grumpy. I think when you can point out to a child that they are being grumpy, you are communicating that you are paying attention to how they feel and it opens up the opportunity to discuss what the problem is or to re-direct the child to cheer up!

The second tool which continues to be a HUGE hit is the Signing Time video called "Family, Feelings & Fun" (Volume 4). What's great about both the DVD and CD is that A) they are fun for kids (Violet LOVES it), B) the music is really good and more than just tolerable for parents and C) it teaches kids and parents how to sign: happy, excited, scared, surprised and grumpy.


My favourite of course is seeing her sign and say "excited"!!

The third thing I've been doing lately is teaching her some pretty sophisticated words. Words that make her stop and listen because they are so complicated. The first word is "frustrated". When she gets upset or angry I try to teach her this word so that she can better express her emotions. Part of getting her frustration out is expressing it I find. The second word we've been using is "cooperation". This is the word I often pull out when trying to get her to agree to come out of the bath tub. If I can ask her to say that word it usually distracts her enough to actually practice the meaning of the word by standing and letting me lift her out.

Just some techniques I've been finding useful and that will serve her well in life. They may not always work but it's really nice to see her express herself plus seeing her sign 'scared' is priceless!

Craft Time!

"Craft time" has become a regular event in our household in the last couple of months. I'm loving the opportunity to expose V to different textures and the principles and elements of art (as a die hard artistic person all my life). Violet just loves the idea of touching and exploring the materials. Seeing 'our' creations is a bit of a joke amongst my friends because it is clear who had the most fun in the process.. (the crafts are a little too pristine to be the result of little toddler hands).. but I'm working on letting her take control and get messy!

At this stage, touching and feeling the materials is key. But the end product is not to be under estimated. Violet squeals 'craft' in delight while pointing at our creations every time she catches sight on our work on display throughout the house. She's proud of what we create which promotes good self esteem and team work (even if I am controlling the craft most of the time! ;)

This craft was inspired by one of my favourite craft blogs No Time for Flash Cards . The Marshmallow Snowman helps promote fine motor skills and concentration. It's actually really age appropriate given the main material is edible!

Exploring the marshmallow for the first time.

Squeeze! Hmm..

The result!

Practicing peeling stickers and sticking them. This was her idea - really!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ba-by.. Ba-by.. Ba-by Signing Time!

My twenty-one month old daughter has been singing "Ba-by Ba-by Ba-by Signing Time". It's hilarious. She's completely out of tune and the fact that she's attempting to sing when she's just learned to string words together speaks volumes for how obsessed she is with this series! She has been obsessed with Baby Signing Time since we introduced it to her when she was 7 months old.

Violet's first time watching Baby Signing TIme.


At 7 months, she would squeal with excitement and smile ear to ear (especially in between scenes when the black transitional screen would appear which I found interesting). Now she requests the videos by saying "I want Baby Signing Time". She is captivated by the video from beginning to end, often dictating what will come next and always requesting "more Baby" or "one more time".

There have been times when we wonder "how much is too much"? She requests it in the car and whenever she sees a laptop. We usually give in to her guilty pleasure on longer car rides and while getting dinner ready on occasion. As of lately she's averaging 1-2 viewings per day. More than I would like, but I have to admit she has learned a great deal from these videos. First off, she LOVES watching them. Her face lights up with excitement when Rachel introduces Leah, Alex and especially Hopkins. Not only can she identify and name almost every animal, she can sign them too! The best part.. it's not only tolerable to listen to time and again but I actually find the tunes really catchy.

So, my take on Baby Signing Time? Be warned that it IS crack for babies (if your child is anything like mine) but I think the benefits far out-weigh the neurotic behaviour that may ensue.. "You can share what's on your mind.. Baby Baby Baby Signing Time!" :)

(I highly suggest getting the audio cds as well for the car when the dvd is not an option.. it saves us on many long drives!)