Spring is here – and yet we awoke to a virtual winter wonderland.

Two steps forward – one step back.

As parents, we see that a lot in a child’s development.  Everything seems to be going well when,  “oops”, we  encounter some short-lived regression along the way.  This can be frustrating to parents, as their child  perhaps begins to wake up repeatedly in the night, pee their pants, whine and want to be carried, become afraid of the bath – all after months of independent practice.

But take heed – just as we accept the vagaries of nature – the cold front slipping down from the north causing this spring storm, we need to expect and accept these setbacks in development when they occur, and meet your child where he/she is right at that moment.

Usually a regression in a child reflects a developmental leap, some  stress, or change in his life that is troubling him.  It could be a nightmare that he had, a scary video he watched at a cousin’s house, not enough sleep, a new house, a new bed, an ear infection, traveling, sibling issues, or just needing some more and deeper connection with you.

It’s best to meet this in a positive way.  Ignore focusing on the regression and, instead, give the extra love, patience, and attention to your little one.

And just as the snow will melt, the sun will come out and the daffodils sprout in our neighborhoods after this little detour toward spring,  your children will feel your warmth and acceptance,  and bloom  –  once again –  in their own way and time.

Happy Spring!

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On Friday at Play Shoppe many of the children decorated kites.  Perfect timing, don’t you think?  “The March winds doth blow and we shall”  … fly kites!

As the morning drew to an end, Henry, a little guy with kite in hand hurried his mom to get going.  “I want to ‘fly-test’ my kite” he repeated excitedly several times on his way out the door.

“Fly-test” – I really like Henry’s personal word for trying out his kite.

It stuck with me all weekend – “fly-test”.

I came to realize that’s  actually what we do as parents on a pretty regular basis.  We fly-test our approaches to parenting – especially the bigger issues – from the time they’re babies figuring out sleep and feeding schedules and why this baby is crying,  right through toilet learning, school issues, temperaments, extracurricular activities, bedtimes, expectations, sibling rivalry – the list goes on.

We fly-test our strategies to see what works well.

We fly-test our strategies, hoping to make our family’s lives be the best it can be – to make things fly.

But parenting is not a perfect science – and sometimes they don’t.

So we reconsider – what didn’t work, what do we need to do instead.  And we learn, just as with keeping a kite aloft, that parenting takes much energy, positive thinking, balance, thrust, passion, resilience, determination, a whole lot of faith and a dream – like Henry had – that his kite  will soar.

If any of you are in the middle of “fly-testing” a solution to a parenting concern and would like some insight, give us a warmline call at The Parenting Place – 784-8125 and ask to speak to one of the Parent Educators.



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stick to it

“Drop it – put it down – Now!” that’s what the three children walking ahead of us on our Sunday walk heard, as one after another discovered a stick of their choosing.

Obediently they did as they were told.  The oldest child of about 8 years of age took the longest to comply – but did.  He had the most special stick – a sturdy 4-footer with twists and turns.  He recognized its specialness I could tell – the way he held it, the care he was taking in carrying it.  He hoped it could be a “keeper”.

After all, a stick like that doesn’t come along everyday.

What is it about sticks and children anyway?

When I was growing up, my sisters and I would hunt  for “walking sticks” – not the type you see people using as a support when walking or hiking.  No – these sticks were going to walk along with us.  They were not easy to find. They had to be tall and strong but not thick – just thin enough on the bottom to hop along as you walked it – being careful to hold it off to your side, as occasionally it would miss a step and get stuck on a crack,  and you could get jabbed in the stomach.

A walking stick was magical – a stick companion that appeared to come alive as you walked it along.

Sticks offer children an immediate connection with nature.  Just the feel of the rough or smooth bark in ones hands, the different shapes, lengths, curves and hooks can conjure up any myriad uses for this new-found treasure. And a treasure it is – not picked off the boys’ aisle or the girls’ aisle in the toy department of some big box store – but discovered – in nature – by one’s self – the perfect stick for you.

I realize I’m not addressing the concerns this particular mom and other adults might have about the dangers of playing with sticks.  That’s a blog for someone else to write.

This is about keeping the  adventure alive.

It’s about make-believe,  risk-taking , connecting to nature,  imagination, freedom, treasure – and also, yes, self-regulation and discipline.   For only by playing with sticks can we learn and experience just what it takes to be careful with our sticks, to be mindful of others while we play with our sticks.

And in doing so, keep our spirits and imaginations growing and strong.


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Sometimes do we try too hard?

As parents, we often walk on tiptoes around our children trying to be so careful with our responses to them.  We practice ultra patience, empathy and understanding, perhaps to a fault – when  sometimes a child’s actions may actually be begging for that final decisive moment when his parent says “enough”.

Phew!  Often we find the air cleared, our child calm, settled and loving.  Maybe there were tears at first, maybe a good cry.   But as Dr. Laura Markham from Aha Parenting believes –  tears are necessary, considered to be healthy to rid the body of the stresses that build up inside, creating the overwhelming feelings and the behaviors that accompany them.

Often parents will tell me how persistent a child’s behavior can be – no matter how many choices are given, no matter how many feelings discussed and shared, the nagging behavior goes on.  That’s when we can believe and trust our child is looking to us to be the final word – to say what needs to be said – “not now”, “no thank you”, “it is time”, “I won’t let you..” to stop them with kind firmness, to let them feel the reassurance that their loving and confident parents are in charge and can keep them safe.

This is not about” might making right” or” your way or no way”.  This is understanding when your child is stuck and needs your help.  This is sometimes initiating and following through with the very thing your child is opposing – because you understand what he needs, what will help her.

Parenting is all about trusting our children – while also trusting ourselves.


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Last week I had lunch with a very good friend.  We hadn’t seen each other in awhile but no matter – we are always able to just start up our conversation, our connections – where we left off.

Both of us have a child close in age.  Our friendship goes way back to when they were just 5 and 6 years old.  It’s taken us through our children’s elementary school years, high school, college,  even weddings – and ourselves through being stay-at-home-moms to working full-time out of the home – supporting and sharing our evolving roles all the way.

It is such a valued friendship that I am grateful to have.

And one of the biggest joys of my job at The Parenting Place has always been seeing this same type of relationship develop between the parents that come to our parenting groups and Play Shoppes.  For parents come to our groups new to parenting, new to La Crosse, looking for socialization and resources for their child – and so often finding a bonus – a good friend – a support network.

For parenting is definitely a journey that is easier shared with others who are going through the same experiences, stages, joys and concerns.

At our recent Parent Cafe at The Parenting Place, when asked “How do you stay grounded and secure as a parent?”, a participant shared that it’s through being able to parent her children among other parents who know and love her children.   Even if her child might be having a difficult day, there is always that love, understanding, friendship, and support toward both her and her children that she can rely on and trust.


If you haven’t been to one of our parenting groups at The Parenting Place, check out our website – or give us a call – 784-8125 and ask to speak to a parent educator to find the group that works best for you.

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I’ve been more in tune with the vagaries of weather and how we must accept and adjust to it recently, since I am temporarily walking “Tootsie” at the early crack of dawn.  I realize it’s not until I open the door do I really know what to expect.  A few days ago it was so furiously windy and bitter cold, that in the early morning darkness, I definitely felt winter’s wrath.

But … we deal with what Mother Nature offers us.  We accept the plunging temperatures even as we await the sunny, warm days of summer, only to adjust once again when the heat intensifies too much.

And isn’t that what parenting is like?  Every day is not” a sunny 72 degrees in June”.  But when the temps  heat up or we feel the chill seeping in, we make the necessary changes – doing what needs to be done, finding our way through a particularly stormy day.

That flexibility, resilience, and acceptance is what we should recognize and celebrate in ourselves.  It’s an acknowledgement that in spite of inconveniences, distractions, messed-up schedules, loss of sleep, unpredictability, we are there for our children – taming the tantrums, putting out the fires, being the meteorologist of emotions.

And during the storm and in the sunshine, we are growing strongly into parenthood.

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sweeter dreams

“My heart melts whenever I see a little child in their “jamies” I told a mom the other night as she scooped up her pajama-clad children from the playroom after an evening program at The Parenting Place.

And that’s the truth!  They look so darn comfy, innocent and trusting.

But then it comes time for them to go to bed.

We hear from parents all the time that bedtime scenes in their homes are often less than cozy – in spite of their pajama-clad little ones.  I was recently reading an article about bedtimes for children being fraught with such stress, upsets and discord.  And the suggestion was perhaps to change the way we portray bedtime.  So often going to bed is presented as a threat -as a terrible place to go – “You’re going to go straight to bed if you don’t stop”, “You  get in that bed right now”, “the way you’re acting, you’ll go to bed without any bedtime snack”, “Get in bed and don’t let me hear another peep!” 

Often, even time-outs are spent with a child sitting upset and sad on his bed.

So, why not offer a softer tone, a more peaceful approach.   Why not consider and share how helpful sleep is for our bodies – how when we rest, our brains sort out all the things we learned today to be ready for learning new things tomorrow.  Call it growing time …slowing time …knowing time.

It’s a small thing – but maybe it will make a big difference – if we change our bedtime enforcement tone to an invitation that sounds pleasant and special, dreamy and safe.

So -go  find your bunny, your bear, your blanket … it’s time for some cozy time, nestled and snug in your bed.

Sweet dreams!


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