Monthly Archives: April 2013

from here to there

We see it in different ways and “says”.  Children who have reached four-years-old are wanting more power in their lives. They have reached the  point developmentally where they are begging for less constant direction from Mom and Dad and more sense of control in their lives.

I heard a story recently about a 4-year-old girl, who being very independent herself, often tried to direct what others were doing besides.  At times like this, her mom would tell her gently, “Just take care of yourself, Anna”.  One weekend their family was out on a hike.  As four-year-olds tend to do, this little girl was “bopping” along the trail, turning her head, checking out everything.  Her mom, behind her, told her to pay more attention to where she was going, to which 4-year-old Anna turned and replied, “Mommy, you just take care of yourself”.

One Friday in Play Shoppe a grandma was sitting back watching her very competent 4-year-old granddaughter do an art project.  She was experimenting adding a few more embellishments than the other children had done.  Grandma asked her what she was doing.  She quietly turned, looked directly at her grandma and very seriously said, “Never you mind” – a grandma expression if I ever heard one!

Of course very few of us get through parenting a 4-year-old without being told  – with no two ways about it,  –” I don’t need to listen to you.  You’re not the boss of me!”

That can send most parents into a complete state of fear – what did we do wrong, what do we do now?

This, however, is actually a time to celebrate – this healthy strive toward independence – this drive toward relying on one’s self, trusting one’s instincts and showing initiative in making age-appropriate decisions.

Choosing outfits that suit his/her personality, taste and comfort (most of the time), letting children serve themselves at the dinner table, having healthy choices available so you know whatever snack choice your child makes will be a good one are all simple beginning ways to allow children the control they crave.

Asking fun questions within the family while driving or at mealtimes – where there is no right or wrong answer and everyone’s answer is acceptable is very empowering.  “What’s your favorite color?”  Ever notice how every child seems to have one at an early age?  It’s a first step in building one’s own personal opinions/likes.   “If I was a bird, I would be a ______. ”  “My favorite flavor of ice cream is ______. ”  ” When I grow up I want to _________.”

Questions where there are no right and wrong answers – just practice in sorting out and feeling a sense of confidence and power – “this is what I think without it being wrong”.

The other day my sister shared that she had just gotten a phone call from her 21-year-old grandson who will graduate from college in two weeks.

He asked her, “Gram, do you have any advice for me?”

I don’t know why that brings tears to my eyes, but I guess I sense the full circle – from the grabbing of control in “you’re not the boss of me” to the swagger of the teen years to the maturity and self-knowledge of this 21-year-old that he can actually seek and appreciate words of wisdom and advice as he faces this next independent developmental phase of his life.

A momentous time – one that takes the courage, confidence and independence, begun way back in those early years

If you are in the throes of dealing with a child exerting his need for more control and independence, and would like some help in sorting it all out, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8125

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the middle years

Who hasn’t seen the beautiful face of 8-year-old Richard Martin from Dorchester, MA proudly holding the poster he made, “No more hurting people.  PEACE.”

Not only is it his youth and innocence, robbed from him as he cheered the Boston Marathoners on, that has captured the world’s attention – their hearts – but also that sensitive message he offered and the irony that he would lose his life from an explosion purposely set off to “hurt people”.

As parents we cannot imagine the agony of this family’s reality.

This week I found myself in the middle of sixty second graders – 7 and 8-year-old youngsters – just like Martin.  I was invited to read the picture book I wrote, Old Blue Buggy, while the Hintgen Elementary School 2nd graders added in their musical accompaniment.

The result was very charming.

I haven’t spent a lot of time around a large group of 7 and 8-year-olds lately.  My time is spent more with toddlers and preschoolers  who come to Play Shoppe and other programs at The Parenting Place.

But what an absolutely endearing opportunity it was.

I found these kids to be impressively positive, respectful, open, friendly, and attentive to the work at hand.  Yet,  at the same time, I sense a vulnerability lurking in children at this age.  Perhaps it is because they are so open – so forthright – so trusting – so much like the face of Martin Richard and his honest, direct, from-the-heart statement “no more hurting people“.

There is a wide variety of differences in size and abilities of children at this age.  I noticed most of the girls in this group appeared to be very socially aware, outgoing, extending friendly greetings to me at every opportunity.  The boys made eye contact, gave half smiles, were very courteous.

I was struck by these children because I sensed so strongly that they truly had one foot back where my Play Shoppers are and one foot taking giant steps toward independence – shaping into the adults they will become.

And that’s the part to not forget about the middle years.  They still very much need the adults in their life.  Their work is to become autonomous – to grow in independence from the family.

But what we, as parents, should recognize is that this growth takes time, the leap is wide, and we need to  continue to offer our hand – to build a different relationship with them that balances peer culture along with our family units.

I saw in everyone of these children the desire to talk, to share, to be recognized.  However, for busy parents, this is an easy age to “let be”.  They seem happy enough.  They have friends – birthday parties, activities, sleep-overs, sports, some even have the use of social media.

Sometimes it seems easier to chock their schedules full.

But we are not finished as parents and their need is still great.  It is a balancing act to both encourage friends, peers, and activities while also holding dear our family time together.

Family traditions and rituals are a good way to offer our maturing children times to connect, to feel a strong sense of belonging to the family, to feel secure in this circle.  We know the ways – holiday traditions, pizza and movie night, board games, family meetings, meals together, reading aloud chapter books, one on one time, taking a walk, bike riding, family projects, just hanging out home – each perhaps doing their own activity yet the sense of accessibility to each other – palpable.

At home that evening after the performance, I was filled with such fervent hope that all of these children I met this week would experience those things.

Before the beginning of the show as these sixty performers stood on the risers, bursting with anticipation, their wise music teacher gave them the opportunity to get out the waves of acknowledgement to their families in the audience, make the connection to their loved ones, celebrate the moment to have someone there, to be noticed, recognized and loved.

What a moment.

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Crash, bang, alakazam

Last week Mother Nature provided us with a vivid demonstration of her power.  There was rain, sleet, snow, thunder, lightning, and a pelting of hail that struck the rooftops with a fury.

Sound familiar?  Often parents share their child’s temper tantrums with me, and indeed, many of them fall into this severe weather category.

We all know what to do when Mother Nature declares her worst.  We’ve heard it many times – how to protect ourselves during severe storms – from staying away from windows, taking cover in the basement or interior room -being prepared with flashlights, etc.  It is a part of living in Wisconsin that we accept.

Very often, however, we are informed that there is only a severe weather watch.  This is different from the full-blown warning.  The watch means that conditions are ripe for severe weather to develop.

As parents and meteorologists of our children’s behavior barometers,  it is this attention to the conditions that are ripe for a full-blown temper outburst in our child that will make all the difference.

What might they be?  Fatigue, too much stimulation, too many errands in a row, hunger, too high expectations, stress in family, needing connection/attention, too many restrictions, lack of time and space to be boisterous and active in a positive way, lack of time to play alone,  need for more routine and structure, insecurity – the list goes on.

Careful observation of a child’s behavior will tell us what he/she needs.

By paying attention to what sends your child over the top, what makes his cloud open up and rain down, with thunder and fury – you will be prepared to provide him/her with what he/she needs to keep the sunshine bright.

If your child is experiencing meltdowns and you are wondering why and how best to handle them, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 608-784-8125.

Together we can weather the storm.

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baby steps

I  remember the game we often played as children – “Mother/Captain, May I?”  The person who was “mother/captain” stood across the yard from the rest of the players.  One by one, she/he would say a child’s name- “You may take two giant steps forward”, or”You may take one baby step forward”, or “You may take three bunny hop steps backward”. The players needed, however, to always remember to first say, “mother/captain, may I?” before moving.  (If not, back to the start you went.}

The goal of the game was to be the first to reach and tag mother/captain and then take her/his place.  Of course, as kids, we always hoped to be given giant steps – the bigger the better, the faster, the best.

But in real life, on many of life’s developmental contin Continue reading

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Puddle season

Driving home on Saturday from the Bunny Hop in the rain (yes – pouring down, raining cats -and -dogs- rain), I passed a dad and his young son, 5 or 6-years-old, hooded rain jackets on – in an empty parking lot riding their bikes through puddles.

I definitely “get” the fun of riding through puddles.  When I am on a bike and see a puddle, I still need to go through it – every time.  I love the quiet swish of the wheels through the water.

And now that April is here, so is puddle season upon us.  Make sure to get out and take full advantage of the free entertainment nature provides for the child in all of us.  And hardly a child anywhere can resist the lure of a puddle.

So often, however, I know  our first response as busy parents is to quickly and firmly say ” NO” to puddle exploration.  It’s wet, muddy, messy and who has the time?

But the fact is, that if at my age now,  I can still feel like a 7-year-old when riding through a puddle on my bike, wading through puddles in my boots, chipping away at stubborn remains of crusty snow banks to allow my “rivers” to flow – and floating sticks down those “rivers” – it means that way back, when I was a young child – these passions began, appreciation grew and continued – sensory memories resonating warmly and joyfully within me to this day.

It was a gift pure and simple.

Thank you, Mother Nature.

I wish all of you a very happy Spring!

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