Monthly Archives: February 2013

wait a minute…

Sometimes it’s hard to wait.

Thanks to a parent who shared an article with me on kids and patience by Pamela Druckerman, author of “Bringing Up Bebe” ,  I started thinking what a significant factor learning to wait plays in getting along in life.

Druckerman suggests telling our children to “wait a minute” and give them the chance to practice, not only waiting, but also figuring out how to distract themselves while they wait.  She says “ kids become good at waiting once they learn how to distract themselves by inventing a little song or burping at themselves in the mirror, for instance.”

Druckerman continues, “French parents know that they don’t have to teach a child how to distract himself.  If they simply say, “Wait” a lot and make a child practice waiting on a daily basis, she’ll figure out how to distract herself.”

She adds if we drop everything the instant a child complains that she’s bored, our child isn’t going to get good at waiting. She’s going to get good at whining.

A parent does not have to make a child wait unreasonable amounts of time Druckerman tells us,  just try slowing down our response time. Starting with a few seconds or minutes helps to take the “panicky edge off things.  Patience is a muscle and one that can be built up with practice”Patience comes from the inside out and not from the outside in, however,  so turning on the television and providing entertainment for the child while he waits does not create the same type of muscle development.

I remember when I was young.  Every afternoon in the summer, my mom would take me and my sisters to the beach.  After lunch, we would get into our swimsuits, gather our towels, our sand toys, our tubes and go outside to wait.  Meanwhile, my mom finished up whatever she had to do in the house and got ready herself.  If memory serves me correctly, it was more than an hour that we waited outside.

We learned to distract ourselves. One of our distractions was a game we made up called cars.  We would each choose a color.  You won if the first car to go by was the color you chose.  You have to remember we lived in a sleepy town without very much traffic so we learned patience even as we played the game.

In this quick -paced, instant gratification world we live in, patience is a dying art.  So as parents, we not only need to encourage our children to learn to stop and wait, but we also need to practice ourselves.

Most of us are in the habit of hurrying to go here, there, to get this done, to not be late for that.  So the climate in our homes does not always provide the time or the atmosphere for patience to develop. Instead we may find it offers a child a pattern of being pressured to hurry which, in turn,  leads to that child pressuring others to hurry.

Even as we run out the door, it’s hard to wait for our 3-year-old to struggle with his jacket zipper so we rush in and zip it for him, plop on his hat – because we need to get going.

“Did you have fun at the birthday party?”  we ask a child and then, within seconds, answer for him before moving on to something else.  A child takes time to formulate his thoughts – his response.  We disrupt this process if we are not patient.

It helps to acknowledge patience in our children when we witness it.  Point out times also, when using our patience will be called upon. “Looks like we’ll have to be patient in this long line of shoppers.  There are four people ahead of us.”

Anticipation can go hand and hand with patience.  Waiting for the cookies to cool before having one; reading a chapter book aloud to a child, one chapter a night; making a paper chain to count down the days to a special event; planting  a sunflower seed and watching it begin to grow, watching for the first star to appear,  all can help a child experience  patience while awaiting something fun.

And as our child practices small doses of waiting, he learns that sometimes when mom or dad says no, it doesn’t mean never.  It just means one has to wait.

We’d be patient if it weren’t for the kids, right?  However, let’s face it,  it’s really the kids who are teaching us how to be patient.

And it’s hard work.

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It happens

Parents are often surprised that it’s not uncommon for young girls to be involved in teasing, bullying and mean cliques even as early as first and second grades.

But… it happens.

Sometimes it’s one child that leads the group, controlling the rest of them.  One mom told me it was her daughter who experienced being on the “outs”, as the leader made the others not include her at risk of being out of the group themselves.

Bullying can include teasing about the way a child looks, dresses, sounds, acts but most often, in these younger ages, it centers around exclusion – a circle of girls excluding a certain child from playing with them at recess,  sitting with them at lunch, sharing secrets,  or not being invited to the birthday party the rest of the group is attending.

Most moms can probably relate to some of these situations.  There’s very few of us who got through our school years without experiencing some feelings of rejection at one time or another.

Often parents and educators brush it off as just the way kids are.  And it’s true – children do experience social situations that sometimes don’t go their way.  They don’t get invited to every party, their best friend of yesterday invited another girl to sit next to her at lunch today.  These are natural learning moments.

But when teasing/exclusion are an everyday occurrence, when a child is in tears often, when she says kids are mean to her, complains of headaches/stomach aches, does not want to participate in activities she once enjoyed, most likely something more is going on.

The important point for parents, however,  is to pay attention, not just if your daughter is being teased and bullied, but also if she is a child who is participating in the group that is bullying.

Research shows that helping a child recognize her/his own emotions from an early age significantly increases that child’s emotional intelligence.

Being able to articulate and have awareness of her/his own emotions transfers to also being able to understand and empathize with another person’s feelings.

Experts say developing emotional intelligence in a child is actually one of the most significant factors for that child’s success in their school years, their social relationships, in their total life happiness.

That’s one of the reasons The Parenting Place has chosen to offer the Active Parenting series, Positive Solutions, and Nurturing Parent classes quarterly.  In all of these classes, parents are encouraged to practice empathy, understand and accept the emotion a child is displaying behind his/her behavior, help the child identify what she/he is feeling, understand cues as to how others may be feeling, talk about their own emotions, model how they handle difficult emotions in a positive way,  make strong connections with their children and develop problem solving skills.

“I bet you can imagine how that feels” allows a child who understands her own emotions to be able to empathize with another’s – a key to stopping bullying.

I spoke briefly with a mom from Massachusetts who has 8-year-old twin daughters.  They belong to a mother/daughter children’s book group.  After reading the selected book, the group meets to discuss the characters, their actions, emotions, reactions to different situations.

This mom said it has made a huge difference in the way the girls relate to each other, to the adults in the group and to their entire sense of self.

Teasing and bullying is a practice that is found in all social situations, all schools and all neighborhoods.  Now, more than ever, it has extended even beyond these smaller groups to the wider circle of social media – texting, face book and e-mails.

On February 26th from 6:30 -7:30 PM at WTC, Lunda Center, Gundersen Lutheran and  Kohl’s  Cares  is offering a free event,  Together Against Bullying.  Family therapist Jeff Reiland will present why girls bully and how their bullying behaviors are different than boys – with strategies to reduce or prevent girls from becoming victims of social bullying.

To register for this event, call Gundersen Lutheran,  608-775-5387 or online at gundluth.org/kohls

If you would like to talk more about helping your child develop social emotional skills or want more information on the classes offered at The Parenting Place, give us a call at 784-8125.

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A perfect antidote

I have been making homemade play dough for many years.  It has always turned out fine – there were no complaints, even though I always felt, personally, there was an element of smoothness that was missing.

But … the play dough I made for Friday’s Play Shoppe was different – all because of one slight change.

Instead of adding the water to the ingredients in the pot and cooking the play dough on top of the stove as I’ve done for years, I boiled the water separately and added it to the other ingredients right in the bowl, stirred, kneaded – and the result?

It was the smoothest, best consistency play dough I have ever made – with no messy pot to clean.

So I offer my new and improved recipe for all of you to know the pure, sensory experience for yourself – that of kneading warm, just made play dough.  It is the perfect antidote to the dreary, gray skies of left-over winter and cabin fever.

A true stress reliever – Enjoy.

And don’t forget to let the children play too!

Beautiful Play Dough Recipe

2 cups flour; 4 tablespoons cream of tartar; 2 tablespoons cooking oil;1 cup salt; 2 cups of boiling water; food coloring of your choice; (I also added some glitter to make it special for our Valentine celebration, but it’s not necessary).  Put all in a mixing bowl, mix and then knead until consistency is perfect.

Store in ziplock bag.

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Can I go play?

How simple it is when your child is young and there’s a play date, it’s usually because the adults are friends and also want to spend some time together.  Then comes preschool and kindergarten and all of a sudden your children are asked to play at another child’s home and you do not know the family.

I remember playing at my best girlfriend’s house when I was little.  We met in kindergarten and, as the youngest of six children, she was my first “real” friend of my own.  I loved going to her house to play.  It was lots messier than my house and the rules were pretty relaxed.  Her mom thought it was fine for us to play in her closet, dress up in her clothes, wear her shoes, even get into (sometimes) her make-up and perfume.

Of course, my mom did know her mom (it was a very small town) and they would always have a cup of coffee together when she’d come to pick me up.

As for me, I loved the different rules at my friend’s house.  We could be wilder, get into more things and were left more to our own devices.  I relished the sense of independence and adventure I felt there.  I believe my mom understood the differences in style, but felt comfortable with who my friend’s mom was and that, even with a bit more freedom, she knew I would still be okay.

I’ve talked with some parents who were concerned about play dates at homes in which they did not know the family.  What would the rules be, who would be supervising the children, what about medicines and cleaning supplies- were they in a safe place?  Are there guns in the house and are they locked up?  What about the above-ground pool in the back yard?  What are the rules for the trampoline? Is the large dog barking at the door friendly to children?

As parents we want to make sure our children are safe.  It is up to us to make the effort to meet the parents of our children’s friends.  Have a cup of coffee together – go to the park with the children.  Ask the difficult questions about supervision or other concerns.  If the parent reacts negatively, then use your own good judgment about what that tells you.

Many of your concerns can be sensitive issues but offered with a smile and a confession that you are indeed a protective parent, most families will appreciate your intentions and do what they can to make you feel assured.

Make it clear to your child what rules from home go with her when she is playing in another child’s home.  She needs to know the difference between the important rules she must never break, like playing with matches, or leaving the friend’s house to go and play at another child’s house without permission, and other ones that are just a difference in style.

I remember at my little friend’s house, lunchtime was help yourself time and she and I would conjure up a “lunch feast” that perhaps only two six-year-olds would.  My mom, on the other hand, always prepared our lunch at our house, but, fortunately, didn’t let this difference in style get in the way of my special friendship.

It’s all about judgment,  your own comfort level, finding the right balance and observing the patterns of friendship as they blossom.

And then, knowing the answer when your child asks,” Can I go play?”

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