Saturday 29 October 2011

Thursday 27 October 2011

Cardboard fun

I often get offers for various products from companies wanting reviews. Most of them, dear readers, I turn down for your sake; who wants to read one more mommy-blog-turned-review-blog? But once in a while something catches my attention as being truly unique and interesting. Boutique Cascade's eco-friendly cardboard furniture for children was one such product.

This cardboard furniture is made from a minimum of 84% recycled material, and can later be recycled again to continue the cycle. Children love the creative outlet it affords, as they can decorate the furniture with crayons, markers, paint, and stickers.

When the table and chairs arrived at our house, the boy could hardly wait to get them set up.  We decided to start with the chairs.  I pulled them out of the box and had a flashback to my days as an accountant, setting up banker's boxes for our files.  Those attempts often resulted in me chucking a lid across the room and leaving the box for someone else to fold.  I was momentarily tempted to just leave the whole thing up to the husband...but no, goshdarnit, I am a grown educated women, I can surely figure this out for myself.

The instructions, printed on the outside of the box, seemed fairly clear. Sure enough, a few minutes later, I had one perfectly-executed chair ready and waiting for the boy.

He wasted no time giving it a test run. I was surprised at how unyielding and sturdy the cardboard was. I was tempted to give it a go myself, but decided not to risk it. Mostly because I didn't want to get my rear end stuck in it. The boy, on the other hand, loved having furniture that was just his size.

Soon the second chair was done and it was time to move on to the table. Cue second oh-my-goodness-maybe-I-should-just-leave-it-for-the-husband freak out.

No, no.  Smart educated woman and all that. Plus, it wasn't exactly rocket science. The instructions were excellent and the table came together without any trouble. And voilĂ ! There she is. Please ignored the rumpled couch and messy pillows in the background.

The table top was an adorable cat-and-mouse version of Snakes & Ladders.  It also came with a hockey arena table top - perfect for these Canadian boys of mine.

The boy promptly challenged his dad and me to a game. You'll be happy to hear I won (woohoo!), and the husband was left shame-faced halfway back on the board (he had a bad run of being eaten by cats).

The mice also decorated the table legs and one chair...

...while this hilariously cute cat graced the other chair.

The boy then challenged his dad to a game of finger hockey. He was too impatient to set the table top up properly; the sides of the arena actually fold up to contain the puck, and there are cardboard nets to be inserted as well.  The space below the nets holds the Cats & Tunnels game pieces, crayons, and anything else your child decides to store in there. Mine, unsurprisingly, quickly filled them with cars.

"Hey, I'm awake now! Is it my turn to play?"

A week later, this furniture is still going strong and shows no sign of wear. The chairs are now proudly covered in the boy's drawings, and the tabletop game is much more colourful. The pieces have also been used as forts, shelters, and step stools. They are light enough that the boy can (and frequently does) move them between rooms as needed - out in the living room when the toddler is napping, in the bedroom when the boy has his quiet time, or in the kitchen when he wants to add to his artistic efforts with more marker. The perfect combination of fun and practical!

Interested in buying a set for your own child? Boutique Cascades has generously offered Hippie Housewife readers 25% off any children's furniture when using the code HHWIFE. Discount code expires November 30, 2011.

(This is an unpaid review. I received a complementary table and chairs set in order to provide my honest review of them. I receive no compensation for any sales made as a result of this review.)

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Strength and clarity

(Photo courtesy of the preschooler, my budding photographer.)

"Deep down, Jack really does want to be good, but he is also strong willed and volatile, often at the mercy of his emotions. What he most needs from me then is not an emotional hurricane of equal fury, but just the opposite - a living example of the kind of strength and clarity that will ultimately show him the way to make constructive use of his own energies. Children need clear boundaries as they learn to master socially acceptable behavior, but they also need exposure to the art of self-control. Where else will my sons learn grace under pressure, if not right here in their own home?"

- Katrina Kenison, "Mitten Strings for God"

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Bedtime bonding

"Mommy, when my bruzzer is asleep, come and say goodnight and snuggle and talk with me, okay?"

He repeats his request each night as I go to nurse his little brother off to sleep. "Yes, I'll come," I always reply. "Good night."

I turn my attention to the baby. He's not such a baby anymore, walking and talking and counting and using the potty, but oh, he's still my baby. He nurses for a while, his ever-fidgeting hands flying all over the place. He sticks a finger in my mouth and I nip at it; he stops nursing long enough to grin at me in response.

Eventually he stops, or I stop him, and I sit beside him while he wiggles and fidgets and whispers to sleep. Sometimes I get drawn in, laying nose-to-nose with him and giggling at our silliness. Finally his body stills and his breathing deepens. I brush a kiss across his cheek and inhale his sweet scent before I leave. He is perfection, this sleeping child of mine.

I leave our bedroom and head down the hall to the kids' bedroom, where the older one is waiting for me to "say goodnight and snuggle and talk" with him. Sometimes he's asleep when I get there. I kiss his warm forehead in the dark and whisper a prayer over him before silently leaving.

But when he's awake, I scoot him over and sit down beside him. We talk about our day - the best parts, the worst parts - and about our plans for tomorrow. I don't know what it is about that dark room after bedtime, but somehow it makes the whispers run even more freely than usual. He tells me his thoughts and worries, hopes and confessions. He asks me his biggest questions, often questions so big that I hardly know where to begin in answering them. I wish I had all the answers, darling.

Eventually I bid him a good night, returning shortly with a glass of water in exchange for one last hug and kiss. "I love you, sweetheart."

"I love you too, Mommy."

I melt.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Weekend Reading

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Long and short

(Their hair, that is.  Baby's second haircut!)

Monday 17 October 2011

Attachment Parenting: Beyond the baby years

Today in our Attachment Parenting Series, we will be discussing Attachment Parenting beyond the baby years. If you have written a post on Attachment Parenting children, please do share it with us in the comments below!


Attachment Parenting during the baby years is fairly straightforward. While the specifics and application varies with each individual family, the seven "Baby B's" provide a basic foundation to caring for a baby with an attachment focus.

Once the toddler years hit, however, many parents are caught off-guard. Parents often find themselves without the practical tools nor the underlying philosophy needed to carry on with AP as their children grow. Suddenly nursing isn't the answer to every difficulty. Crying becomes more difficult to solve. Discipline becomes a challenge. Some parents, unsure of how to navigate their child's big feelings, begin resorting to time outs and other punishments. Others, accustomed to meeting their infant's every need, carry this dynamic into the older years in the form of appeasing their child's every desire. Both of these responses, punitive and permissive, fail to meet the needs of the child or to strengthen the parent/child relationship.

A starting point

A good starting point for parents who have passed the baby stage is Attachment Parenting International's eight Principles of Parenting:

As with Dr. Sears' seven "Baby B's", the specifics and application of each of these principles will vary according to the unique needs of the individual family. Browse through each article to get an idea of how the principles may be applied in your home.

The core of AP

Far more than merely the decision to breastfeed or co-sleep, however, the core of Attachment Parenting is the promotion of a responsive, relationship-based approach to raising children. It encourages the parent to respond sensitively to their child's needs, seeking ways to build and strengthen a mutually-trusting parent/child relationship.

With that in mind, the parent can better determine the specifics in a way that is right for their family. Each AP tool serves to strengthen and build on this relational foundation. Not every family will use every tool or use them in the same way. It is the heart behind the tool – the desire to respond sensitively to the child's needs and to seek ways to build and strengthen a mutually-trusting parent/child relationship – that is of true importance.

Four keys

So how does this play out practically once the baby years have passed? There are four key ideas that will assist parents in staying relationally-focused as their children grow:

1. Focus on solutions: Rather than relying on threats, punishments, bribes, or rewards to control our children's behaviour, keep the focus on seeking solutions. This will allow the parent to discipline the child in a positive, proactive, and connective manner. Provide the child with the opportunity to fix their errors by having them brainstorm solutions and be responsible for making amends. This responsibility should be given to them at increasingly greater levels as they grow.

2. Teach skills: As with focusing on solutions, teaching skills will assist our children in navigating life in a way that keeps their dignity intact. The skills range from the most basic (taking turns, cleaning up messes) to the more complex (problem solving, conflict resolution) We are to actively teach, guide, and disciple them to maturity. Teach them what to do instead of what not to do. Model these life skills as well, and narrate decision-making processes out loud for children to overhear and learn from.

3. Accept emotions: Keep in mind that happy is not the only acceptable emotion. Children will face a number of strong emotions throughout their lives. On the one hand, your job is not to keep your child happy at all costs; on the other, a child should never be shamed or punished for feeling and expressing negative emotions. The goal is to teach them healthy ways to understand, express, and work through those emotions. Parents should not allow the presence or absence of tears to dictate their decisions, but should always come alongside the child to support them through those times using reflection and empathy. Remember that crying is not always something that needs to be fixed.

4. Strengthen relationships: All of our efforts will be futile without a strong parent/child relationship as the supporting foundation. Connect through physical touch, verbal affirmation, and focused quality time.

For more detailed practical tips, refer to The Hows of Discipline and Gentle Discipline for Toddlers.

Avoiding punitive and permissive responses

As mentioned earlier, the two potential downfalls of AP parents who are leaving the baby years include punitive parenting on the one side and permissive parenting on the other.

An AP parent who lacks positive discipline tools may fall back on the popular punitive model in an effort to clamp down on troublesome behaviour. Punitive parenting seeks to modify a child's behaviour through punishment. It is an adversarial style of parenting where the parent comes down on the child from above with the goal of controlling and conquering, rather than coming along side the child to connect and disciple. Parent and child are pitted against each other instead of placed on the same team. A reliance on punishments, however, controls only the outward behaviour and fails to instill strong internal motives. By design, punishment prevents the child from accepting responsibility for their actions, taking ownership of the problem, developing problem-solving skills, and making amends for their mistakes.

In contrast, permissive parenting neglects to provide children with the safety of consistently enforced boundaries. Permissive parenting may rely heavily on praise to achieve the desired results, but the absence of punishment fails to make this a positive parenting technique. This is the more common downfall for the AP parent who, having acknowledged that a baby's needs and wants are very much the same thing and being accustomed to meeting their baby's needs in a sensitive and responsive manner, carries the same attitude over into the toddler and older years. Even though the child's wants and needs are no longer one and the same, the parent continues to act as though they are.

Children thrive best within a framework of healthy boundaries. Without these limits, the child will act out in search of them, seeking their safety and predictability. It is this desire for predictable boundaries that makes punishment-based parenting programs appear to work. The parent is instructed to consistently punish the child when they overstep a boundary, and it is this consistency, rather than the punishment itself, that has positive results. Unfortunately, the physical and emotional pain that accompanies punishments has many negative results, and the child will internalize this bad along with the good.

Much of what is considered punitive parenting is actually permissive parenting. Rather than calmly and consistently enforcing age-appropriate boundaries, this style of permissive parent allows the child to overstep boundaries over and over again until the parent explodes with frustration and overreacts, coming down strong to get the child's behaviour back in line. This may happen with no warning, leaving the child walking on eggshells for fear of triggering the unexpected annoyance, or it may happen after several unenforced warnings. This latter sort of inconsistency is equally confusing the child, who never knows when the parent "really means it" and when it's just one in another long stream of baseless warnings, culminating in the final punitive enforcement when the parent decides they've had enough.

Attachment Parenting is incompatible with both of these parenting styles.  It eschews the punitive response, with its focus on external behaviour above the internal, as well as the permissive response, with its lack of consistently-enforced age-appropriate boundaries.  Attachment Parenting focuses instead on building the parent/child relationship and, from the mutual trust and respect that arises from that relationship, coming along side the child to teach and guide them to maturity.


Attachment Parenting can be fairly straightforward during the baby years, but many parents are caught off-guard by the more difficult demands of parenting children.  While the eight "Principles of Parenting" offered by Attachment Parenting International can provide a starting point, which parents can then implement in a way that meets the unique needs of their family, it is helpful to first have an understanding of the underlying core of AP.

The heart of AP is the promotion of a responsive, relationship-based approach to raising children.  It encourages parents to respond sensitively to their child's needs, seeking ways to build and strengthen a mutually-trusting parent/child relationship.

To maintain this responsive and relational focus, there are four keys that can provide positive direction. First, focus on seeking solutions rather than imposing consequences. Second, teach the child useful life skills, such as problem-solving and conflict resolution, rather than focusing on instructing the child on what not to do. Third, assist the child in understanding, expressing, and working through their emotions in healthy ways, rather than allowing either parent or child to be controlled by the child's emotions. Finally, always seek to strengthen the parent/child relationship through the use of physical touch, verbal affirmation, and focused quality time.

This parent/child relationship is not adversarial, with the parent coming down from above to control or conquer, but rather places the parent and child on the same team, with the parent coming along side to connect and disciple. Conversely, the parent/child relationship is not indulgent, with the parent seeking to appease the child's every desire, but instead aims to provide the child with the security of consistently-enforced boundaries while providing them with the skills and support needed to grow into maturity.

By avoiding the dangers of both punitive and permissive parenting, the AP parent is free to focus instead on building the parent/child relationship and, from the mutual trust and respect that arises from that relationship, coming along side the child to teach and guide them to maturity.

Recommended Reading:

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, Ph.D.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish
Kids Are Worth It!: Giving your child the gift of inner discipline by Barbara Coloroso
The Discipline Book and The Successful Child by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Weekend Reading

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Mischievous

Monday 10 October 2011


For the life you have given us, in this world and the next...

for the love of family, friends, and God...

for the laughter born of rich joy...

thank you, Lord.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Thursday 6 October 2011

Tips for travelling with young children

Tomorrow we leave for another of our frequent eleven hour drives to visit my in-laws. Because we have family spread across Canada, we've spent many long days and nights travelling by car, plane, and bus to spend time with loved ones, right from the time our babies were tiny little things.

With Thanksgiving on Monday in Canada, next month in the United States, and Christmas the month after that, chances are you might be travelling with young children soon as well. Below are ten things that have helped our day-long travels go as smoothly as can be expected; please do share your own travelling-with-children tips as well!

1. Stickers

We once arrived at our destination and found the baby covered head-to-toe in stickers, courtesy of his big brother. It was well worth the silence during the long drive, let me tell you! Stickers are our number one go-to activity when travelling with children. You cannot bring too many stickers.

To save money, check out the office supplies section. There you can find packages of stars, circles, numbered stickers, and coloured labels, each with hundreds of stickers instead of just a sheet or two of the same few licensed characters.  Sticker activity books are great alternatives as well.

2. Crayons and bound paper

Second on our must-have list is Crayons and bound paper. Crayons are preferred over markers because of the lower mess potential, and bound paper (a ring-bound notebook, a colouring book, or a pad of paper clipped into a clipboard) works far better than a stack of loose paper.

3. Ink-less drawing tools

Various ink-less drawing tools have also been brought along with us over the years. Etch-a-Sketches, Aqua Doodles, Magna Doodles, and so on provide excellent non-consumable entertainment, especially for the younger ages when they aren't as proficient with Crayons.

4. New toys

I once attempted to wrap a number of small surprises to hand back to the then-three year old once every hour along the way. Bad idea. This is probably a great idea with younger ages, older ages, or very patient three year olds, but halfway through I gave up from the incessant "is it time for another surprise yet??"

A new small toy, however, is still a great trick to be able to pull out of your bag just as everything begins to go south. Naturally, avoid toys with small parts or many pieces. Our favourite travelling toys are cars and Schleich animals.

5. Audio books

Children's stories on CD can hold their attention for a while; we often bring a few of these along. Even better, however, is a family-friendly audio book that everyone can enjoy. Our family favourite is the dramatized version of The Chronicles of Narnia.

6. Embrace the mess

Embrace the mess - or at least accept it. Crumbs will happen, toys will be strewn around the car, ice cubes will be dropped in airplane seats, bottles of water will be dropped on bus floors and promptly roll all the way to the back of the bus. Accept that mess will happen and it won't be so stressful when it does.

7. Minimize the mess

That said, do what you can to minimize the mess! Avoid stickiness or stain-potential. Stick to drinking water. SnackTraps can be an effective way of minimizing snack spills. Bring along wet wipes and facecloths to clean hands and mop up spills.

8. Pack intentionally

I used to be a terrible packer. If it was in the house and we had used it even once within the past six months, it was probably something I needed to bring along. I've since learned how to pack lightly. Even with children's activities for the trip, less is often more. Filling the seat beside him with bags full of toys always resulted in chaos; a few well-chosen items in a small backpack goes a lot further.

So choose carefully. We often try to bring our small portable booster seat because the stress it minimizes is worth the space it takes up. Our stroller, on the other hand, stays at home, as I prefer to use a baby carrier and have two hands free to deal with luggage and the older siblings while navigating the airport (often husband-less, as too many of our travels must be at this point in our lives!).

9. Push when you can, stop when you need to

If things are going well, we push through for as long as our gas tanks and bladders can possibly last. When things start going hairy and our other distraction tactics are failing us, a brief but well-timed visit to a park or open field does wonders for everyone's spirits.

10. Keep it simple

This is the time to make use of the convenience items that have wormed their way into far too much of our daily lives. I used to travel with a small suitcase dedicated to our cloth diapers; I've since switched to disposables during our travels. We break out the ultra-exciting (100% fruit, no sugar added) fruit snacks that our deprived children never get at home. We bring a Klean Kanteen filled with water for the kids instead of dealing with juice boxes or pop bottles. Keep it simple.

Above all else, remember that attitude is everything. When you can let go and accept what is, things flow far more smoothly than attempts to micromanage every last detail. Happy travels!

What are your best tips for travelling with children?

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Blackberries

Across the street picking blackberries for his snack

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Nurturing parent-child relationships through play

When we talk about playing with our kids, the typical things usually come to mind: imaginative play (dinosaurs, cars, house), creative play (Lego, crafting, colouring), or board games (Candyland, Go Fish, Snakes & Ladders).

But beyond that, we can nurture parent-child relationships through a different sort of play. This play is the fun, light-hearted play that occurs over the course of an ordinary day. It is the type of play that diffuses a tense situation, softens an angry heart, engages cooperation, and says that "life's too short to take things too seriously". Below are three of our family's favourite ways to nurture parent-child relationships through this type of playful atmosphere.

"Even if...I will still love you"

Most kids thrive on routine, structure, and boundaries. They like to know what the rules are and what will happen if they try to step past those boundaries. But they also need to know that they are loved, always and unconditionally.

Sometimes a child will challenge their parent in response to a request. Sometimes it won't even be a challenge, but a sincere request to know what will happen if they choose not to do what you have requested. Now, we can tackle that head on, wax eloquent about responsibilities and consequences and blah blah blah.

But sometimes, we take a different approach.

"What if I don't set the table?"
"Even if you don't set the table, I will still love you."
*giggles* "What if I throw the dishes?"
"Even if you break every dish in the house, I will still love you."
"What if I break every dish in the whole world?"
"Even if you break every dish in the whole world - and every cup, too! - I will still love you."

And so it goes. A power struggle is side-stepped and silliness abounds. A kiss and a hug and the child is sent off to carry through with the original request - because, after all, playful parenting is not permissive parenting!

Exaggerated threats

Exaggerated threats are a favourite in our house. They are a wonderfully silly way to diffuse tension and regain cooperation.

I have fond memories of my dad and his frequent threats to "hang you from the ceiling by your toenails!" if we didn't shape up; I've adopted that particular gem for use on my own boys. Threatening to eat them, toss them outside, or lock them in their room forever are other common mock-threats here, usually met with a squeal and a giggle and an “oooh, will you REALLY?”

The older boy likes to join in with his own threats now, turning it into a contest to see who can come up with the most outlandish threat in the end. Again, the intent is to create an atmosphere of fun and playfulness rather than antagonism and power struggles.

(Disclaimer! Don't use this if it would actually scare your child! We're not trying to terrify them here!)

Fun competition

While things can't be fun and games all the time, silly competitions can be great motivation for children and excellent sanity savers for parents.

Race to get shoes on the fastest. See who can scoop up the biggest pile of Lego to dump back into the bin. Have a "whisper supper", where all conversation must be held in a whisper. See who can be quietest the longest in the car! Even toddlers can be coached into cooperation with some well-placed silliness. The options are endless, and few things tickle a child more than being able to say "you talked, Mommy! I won the whisper game!"

What about you? What tips do you have for maintaining a playful, light-hearted home environment?


This post is part of the Attachment Parenting Month blog carnival, hosted by Attachment Parenting International.

Learn more by visiting API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.

Monday 3 October 2011

Ten alternatives to time-outs

As parents begin to seek a more gentle method of discipline, they often start by dropping the obvious punishments, such as spanking or removal of unrelated privileges. Finding themselves without tools to enforce their instructions, they begin to rely heavily on traditional time-outs in place of their former punishments.

The traditional form of time-out involves sending a child to a particular spot (their bedroom, a "naughty chair", the corner, etc) for a particular length of time (often one minute per year of age) in order to "think about what they've done." For most children, however, the time is spent in anger, stewing over the apparent injustice of their punishment. When used arbitrarily or too often, it prevents the child from understanding the true consequences of their action and fails to get to the root of the behaviour. The overall message becomes one of rejection rather than teaching, causing the child to withdraw and damaging the parent/child relationship.

Sometimes a child does need time and space to be alone in order to cool off. In those instances, rather than setting a timer, it is preferable to allow the child to return when s/he is feeling in control once again. "You may not continue to hit/kick/speak rudely/etc. Go cool down in your room and return when you are able to treat your family kindly." This is followed with a calm discussion and reconnection. However, this method works best for an older child who has already been taught the skills needed to know how to calm themselves down, who has previously exhibited the need to be alone in order to do this, and for whom being alone is not a frightening event. Many other children and situations require a different response.

While there is no single answer to cover all circumstances, having a variety of tools will allow parents to best meet the needs of their unique child in their unique situation. Here we will explore ten alternatives to time-outs; as always, I welcome your additional gentle discipline tools in the comments below.

1. Time-In

Children must be actively parented through their intense emotions in order to learn how to process and move past them in a healthy way. A time-in is a prime opportunity for this type of teaching, providing the child with vital skills that will serve them throughout their life.

Rather than depriving children of their parents' attention, a time-in is time together to build relationship, communication, and cooperation. It places the parent and child on the same side rather than pitting them against one another.

During a time-in, the parent and child can focus on working through the situation. It is a time of connection that includes both physical touch and eye contact. The parent can teach the child a variety of calming techniques (deep breathing, drawing, physical outlets, etc) and then move on to discussing the emotions behind the behaviour. What led up to it? What are better alternatives for next time?

A time-in can also be used proactively. In this sense, the parent ensures the child receives focused attention at regular intervals, thereby strengthening the parent/child relationship and meeting the child's emotional needs. This builds cooperation while reducing negative attention-seeking behaviour.

2. Comfort Corner

A comfort corner is an opportunity for the child to regroup in a calming environment, surrounded by things that bring them comfort. A comfort corner may include pillows, blankets, books, stuffed animals, water, snacks, a mind jar, a notepad and pencil, music, or any other item that brings the child comfort or helps them to refocus. It should be private but not isolated; it may be located in a corner of the main living area, in a bedroom, in a small alcove, on a comfortable chair, or even tucked away in a tote bag to be pulled out when needed.

A comfort corner is often used, particularly with young children or when first introduced, in conjunction with a time-in. Again, this is an opportunity to assist the child in dealing with their intense emotions, teaching them the skills needed to regroup and refocus. A child must be taught how to calm down and regroup before you can request that they do so. The goal of the comfort corner is for the child to learn how to do these things for themself.

Rather than a punishment, the comfort corner should be a positive experience, a place of calm and comfort. When the child is in need of a quiet break, direct them to the comfort comfort. If they protest, guide them there for some cuddling. "I can see you are having trouble controlling yourself. Let's go to the comfort corner together and I will show you how you can help yourself to feel better." The child is free to leave the comfort corner when s/he feels they are ready.

Parents can model this practice when they are feeling frustrated or angry. "I am feeling ___. I am going to go sit somewhere quiet and listen to music for a few minutes until I feel more calm." This is modelling the essential life skill of recognizing when you need to remove yourself from a situation to calm down, regain your composure, and correct your attitude.

3. Prevention

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." A parent can set the child up for success by ensuring the child's physical needs (healthy diet, adequate sleep, physical activity, sensory outlets) and emotional needs (love, attention, security) are met. Consider the child's environment as well. Excess clutter or noise can negatively impact a child's behaviour; anger and tension will have negative effects as well.

4. Look Beyond the Behaviour

Look beyond the child's behaviour to its underlying cause or driving need. Is the child hungry? tired? hurt? lonely? Is the child teething? Does the child need a physical or sensorial outlet? Does a growing child need additional responsibilities to challenge and occupy their growing minds? A traditional time-out deals with only the symptom; move beyond that to deal with the root cause.

5. Playful Parenting

Playful parenting can be an ideal way to diffuse tension and regain cooperation. Play can also be used to help a child work through their feelings. Rather than engaging in a power struggle, lighten the situation with silliness. Role-playing, task races, and exaggerated threats are some common playful parenting techniques.

6. Distraction and Redirection

Sometimes a simple distraction or redirection is sufficient to deal with the situation; not every incident requires a direct head-on approach. As with playful parenting, this is an ideal way to circumvent a power struggle, given the right circumstances. In the same vein, a change in the environment can shift everyone into a better mood: head outdoors, run a bath, go to the library, or put on some music.

7. Empathy

Sometimes a child just wants to be heard. Take a moment to empathize with the child. Listen to, reflect back, and validate their feelings. When necessary, assist the child in expressing those feelings in a healthy, appropriate, and acceptable manner. "Try again" is a useful script for a child who has already been coached on appropriate expressions of feelings and just needs the reminder to use a proper tone.

8. Put the Ball in Their Court

Empower the child to take responsibility for rectifying the situation. Depending on the age and particular circumstances, this can take a variety of forms, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • offer them a choice between two or three acceptable alternatives
  • use the "when...then..." script ("when your room is clean, then we can go to the park")
  • sit down and brainstorm solutions to a problem with them, allowing them to be a full participant in the process
  • give them the responsibility for righting the wrong (cleaning up the mess, making amends to the hurt party, following through on given instructions, etc)

The goal is to empower them to accept responsibility for their actions, think for themselves, consider the alternatives, make a decision, and follow through with solving the situation.

9. Talk and Problem-Solve

In a quiet, calm voice, talk through the situation if the child is the right frame of mind for a discussion. Seek their perspective on the matter and offer your own. If emotions are running too high in the heat of the moment, talk through the situation later after both parent and child have had time to calm down and regroup. The purpose of our parenting should be problem-solving and teaching, not behaviour-training through consequences or punishments.

10. Shift Perspective

Sometimes we allow our own feelings and frustrations to erupt on our families. We overreact to innocent childish behaviour, wanting them out of our hair so we can have a few precious moments to be still and think. Sometimes it's us who need to take a time-out of sorts.

Regardless of the situation, a parent can begin by taking a deep calming breath. Walk away from the situation if you need to calm down, regain your composure, or gain perspective on the situation. Is the situation as urgent or important as your initial reaction would suggest? Are you able to separate the child's behaviour from the child themselves? What do you want to teach your child, going forward, through the way you handle this situation? Keep in mind that the goal is to find a solution, not a consequence or punishment.

Once you have regrouped, go back to your child and request a do-over. Be willing to apologize if your initial reaction warrants it. Get down on your child's level and reconnect with a hug. Take a moment to hear their point of view, and then seek a solution together.

A special note about aggressive behaviour:  Most hitting can be prevented by consistent action when the child is very small. The first time a toddler swings with the intent to hit, catch their arm mid-swing and firmly say, "no hitting; hitting hurts". Then gently stroke your cheek with the child's hand while saying "gentle". Repeat consistently. This nips most hitting in the bud, with a simple "gentle" being sufficient to remind them to use their hands gently.

However, sometimes hitting behaviour will persist, appear at later stages, or simply occur in the heat of the moment. When a child hits another child, a logical consequence is removal from play with the other children. "You hit, you sit." This gives you an opportunity to comfort the child who was hit. You can then attend to the child who did the hitting, reiterating that hitting is unacceptable and allowing them the opportunity to explain the situation (if they are old enough) and/or calm down with you until they are in control of themselves and ready to resume playing with the other children. This can be used in conjunction with the techniques listed above.

When a child hits a parent, the parent can state clearly and firmly that they will not allow the child to hurt them. This is an excellent opportunity to model strong boundaries. A particularly aggressive child may need to be restrained until they have regained control. Once the child is calm, teach the child what they can do to express their anger (drawing "angry pictures", writing out their feelings, talking through the situation, doing an "angry dance", etc). Anger is acceptable; hitting is not.

Additional Resources:
Positive Time-Out by Jane Nelsen
Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Saturday 1 October 2011

The Saturday Evening Blog Post

It's time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther. Elizabeth collects the "best of" posts on the first Saturday of every month, an opportunity for bloggers to gather and share their favourite post from the previous month.

Tonight, Elizabeth invites us to share our favourite post from September. I've chosen my poem If I Err, which unexpectedly wrote itself one evening in response to the many statements I've been coming across that suggest Christians are being "too compassionate" in how we relate to others. Oh, if I am to err, let it be in love.

If you've written something you'd like to share this month, swing by her blog and add your link!

Weekend Reading