Monthly Archives: June 2012

Do you know what?

On Friday at The Parenting Place Play Shoppe, a 4-year-old boy had a story to tell.  And the story goes something like this.

This little guy was having dinner with his family when he saw something orange on the floor.  Thinking it was a carrot, dropped on the floor from the coleslaw he was eating, he bent over to pick it up – and – it was not a carrot at all, but a piece of orange play dough.

Pretty funny – huh?

I realize I didn’t do the re-telling of this story any justice because it lacked the enthusiasm and charm that this young boy had, sharing something that he truly believed was a totally funny experience.

Young children are bursting with information and stories to tell us.  How many times have you heard a child say, “Do you know what?

As distracted, busy parents, however, a child’s constant chatter and questions can often become just background noise that we mindlessly respond to with an “uh huh”, or a “hmm” or no sound at all.

This type of response can actually do two things – result in louder, incessant talking to try to get your attention, accepting even negative attention or discouragement, or,  giving up on sharing altogether.

Conversation and sharing “do you know whats” offers children a secure sense that what they have to say is important – that they are significant.  The time to nurture and mature this attitude and practice is when a child is eager to tell us things, in their preschool and early grade years.

The benefit of taking the time to be a good listener early is to strengthen the bond between you and your child when young in preparation for having a stronger and comfortable connection during his/her more private teen years.

I noticed a dad and his young son ( striking physical resemblances) of about eleven years old come into a family restaurant recently.  They appeared stiffly formal to me.  They looked at menus – no conversation – they ordered – no conversation, ate their food – no conversation, and then paid and left.  The silence between them was deafening to me.

Granted I don’t know the circumstances of this lunch but I felt the awkwardness that surrounded them.

I encourage all parents of young children to lend your ear as often as you can.  Engage in conversation with your child, offer direct eye contact, respond to their information and recognize this time as a special opportunity.  When you are truly too involved to be able to take the time needed to listen, tell your child this and that you are interested in what they have to say and set a time when you are available to be able to give them your attention.

Dinner table conversation is a great time to encourage sharing and listening.  Notice I included listening.  At the table, everyone can have a chance at telling their story (parents get in on the act too) . Everyone  gets heard and everyone gets to listen.

Young children’s ability to do both is still quite primitive. Telling a story about an incident or experience  as well as listening to another’s story, is an art – the art of conversation – and it takes time to mature and develop. The dinner table lends itself perfectly to the opportunity for children to reveal experiences, feelings both humorous and serious, in the safety of the family circle.

This young boy at Play Group piped up right at the end of our circle time with his eagerness in telling us his story.  I’m glad I noticed him, made the time for his story. I believe this little guy’s spirit and confidence grew a bit more that morning when he knew he was being listened to and his story was appreciated by the group.

“Do you know what?”

Enjoy the stories your child wants to tell you.

It’s worth it!

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Mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful

“The world is ‘mud-luscious’ and ‘puddle-wonderful’!”  – E.E. Cummings

That’s the feeling I had at The Parenting Place’s Friday Play Shoppe’s Mud Day.  Water, dirt, sand, old pots, pans, shovels, myriad assortment of containers and materials added up to a definite mud-luscious kind of morning.

What I observed once again, however, as I have in the past, when most children are presented with open-ended, here-you-go materials, they hesitate, approach slowly, appear tentative about where to start and what to do.

In my observations, it usually takes at least 30 minutes in an environment that is purposely set up to be open-ended with no real directions for children to follow, before they ease into a natural rhythm that is beautiful to experience.  This is not, however, the time to jump in and direct a child.  There is usually a veteran child or two in the group who is one with natural materials and in harmony with beginning their work and setting the pace.  We had our starter child this time and children were slowly attracted and drawn into her focus.

What I noticed again watching the children play was the peacefulness, the purposefulness and the concentration one feels from them.  There was no rowdy wild inappropriate antics that morning.  In fact there was very little noise.  There was, however, a high level of “real work” being accomplished.

For children to have the freedom of making concoctions of their own brings the worlds of science and art together – experiments thoughtfully performed – mud soups artfully created.

But what resonates most for me, again and again when I observe opportunities like this is what is most essential for this type of play to occur – two things – time and access.  Time for the children to trust themselves enough to use the materials as they wish and access to “raw materials” that offer the opportunity to use them in a child’s own way.

This type of open-ended, no- directions- play does not fit into a 15-20-minute time slot.  It’s developed and constructed and evolves within the child’s mind and spirit and takes time.  And anyone carefully watching this type of pure play, without interrupting, can feel this transformation.

So thank you to these young children for re-fueling my spirit and reinforcing my strong belief and passion that this valuable type of play and learning is and will continue to be satisfying and  intrinsic in our children.

All they need is time and access.

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A special gift

I spent the morning on Saturday at the Biggest Baby Shower Ever sponsored by Mayo Clinic Franciscan Healthcare.  I sat at The Parenting Place’s table and got to meet and visit with so many first-time as well as second and third-time-parents-to-be.

It’s very joyful to see so many pregnant woman in one place.  I couldn’t help but “beam” at the sheer number of adorable “baby bumps” so proudly parading around.  Not that long ago, women wore maternity smocks and dresses that hid their pregnancies in tent-like designs.  Heaven forbid we would flaunt our pregnant selves.

However, I believe showing off one’s Baby Bump sends a beautiful message that sings “I am carrying a cherished treasure that we are already lovingly nurturing.

It’s hard not to feel in awe.

There was a time in my life, however, when seeing so many pregnant women would have made me feel sad – for myself.  Then it seemed like I was surrounded by women who just thinking about getting pregnant was enough to do the trick – those who would say we want to get pregnant in the summer and that’s when they did.  I remembered that time as I sat and quietly thought of the number of other couples out there that so desperately want to become pregnant, have a baby bump of their own and deliver a child together.

A baby is the most precious gift anyone could receive.  There are so many people trying to have a child only to face disappointment month after month.

That’s why I encourage all parents to be aware and sensitive to the challenges couples who are trying to conceive face and never take for granted this special gift and privilege that pregnancy bestows  upon you.

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Act your age

This past week I was reminded once again  how challenging it is to parent one’s  child when his/her behavior is bothersome to other adults.  Granted this time around, our 2-year-old was actually our very special dog, Tootsie.

To know Tootsie is to love her,  but to those who are not dog people, her energy and exuberance, her unexpected noisy greetings/warnings, her frequent desire to play, can create tension and unwelcome commotion.

So – how did I find myself reacting in this situation – when I could sense my guests’ dissatisfaction?

Like so many parents have told me they have done, I reacted instead of responding.  I tried my hardest to control Tootsie’s behavior – becoming over-vigilant and forcing unrealistic expectations upon her – and me.  I raised my voice too loud, put her in time-out, restricted her movement, tried to prove that I was in charge – all while watching everyone’s tensions heighten.

Until I realized something I already knew too well.  I was holding Tootsie to a different set of expectations on that particular day, not because she should or could be held to them but because someone else was watching and disapproving of her actions.

So I took her for a walk, gave her some outside ball retrieving, a chewey to relax her when she came in and positive encouragement along the way.

Ah – much better.

For when a two-year-old is involved, even the canine kind, we don’t usually get to sit and relax the entire visit as others might – not if we are meeting the needs of our young charge.

As parents,  we need to recognize and respect our children’s child-like behavior.

Two-year-olds are just that – two-year-olds.  No matter how much we’d like to think we can maneuver their behavior differently, we can’t change what their development dictates.  There will be temper tantrums, spilled juice, sticky hands, running feet – no matter how hard we try.

Because they’re two.

Of course, we can be pro-active when we know our children will be in a challenging situation for them.  We can provide activity to tire them out, make sure they are well-rested, had a good nap and a tummy satisfied by eating healthy food on time as well as attention before they scream for it.

And then let the experience flow.

Parents with young children, own your lives!  Bask in it.

By your consistent response to your children, no matter who else is watching, you will be doing your job.  This is sure to be met, not with disapproval but admiration and understanding.

So when others wish your child would act their age – you can smile and know that he/she is.

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