Monthly Archives: January 2014

Friends helping other friends

In the La Crosse School District, a community art project is taking place involving over 6,000 students who are painting their idea of compassion on 6″x6″ panels.  The project aspires to help teach the practice of compassion through the use of art and writing.  These panels will be on display at the Pump House for the public to see – May 2nd through June 28th.  I look forward to seeing them.

Many parents wonder what they can do to teach their young children to become compassionate people.  I encourage them by saying compassion is “caught  not taught”, when children are treated compassionately themselves, and observe compassion being  modeled for them in their lives.

Every time we reach out to someone who needs our help – shoveling an elderly neighbor’s walk, bringing soup to a friend who is sick, inviting a new-to-the-community- family to join us for a holiday meal, passing on out-grown- clothing and toys to friends and others who can use them, holding doors for people, stopping at pedestrian walks to let walkers cross, being a respectful driver, offering assistance to someone in need, we are modeling and “teaching” compassion to our children.

Compassion grows through understanding emotions – our own and others.  Parents can help children with this understanding by naming the feelings they and their child may be experiencing, talking about facial expressions on illustrations in books and pictures in magazines,  (why do you think he’s looking like that?}  and discussing how they think someone might be feeling in certain situations.

Notice children’s displays of compassion and remark on it – ” that was very kind of you to share your M&M’s when your sister dropped hers on the ground”.  ” I noticed how generous you were in letting the little boy at the park who didn’t have anything to ride, use your big wheel today.”  “Thanks for noticing that little girl was sad and helping her to look for her lost teddy bear.”

We see instances of compassion beginning very early.  Toddlers, hearing another child cry will often look very concerned and even go to the child to offer comfort.

Recently in the children’s room at The Parenting Place, some children, ages two and three, were joyfully playing some little “game” they had come up with on their own.  There were three or four of them and they were quickly going up the steps of our little slide, and whoosh! down the slide as fast as they could, and then waiting for the next child to come down, offering a helping hand to them before starting off again.  All the while, they were chanting “Friends helping other friends, friends helping other friends”.

And that’s as good a starting point as ever – when it comes to teaching compassion – friends helping other friends.

On February 7th, La Crosse Play Shoppe’s first Friday outing will be to meet at Bethany St. Joseph’s Care Center to visit the residents there, hand out valentines and say hello. This is a perfect way to plant the seed of compassion in our children helping make the residents’ day a bit brighter, sharing our hearts with them. Join us.

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a true gentle man

I think all parents dread the looks and sighs of aggravation and impatience from others when their child talks too loud, runs too fast, or has a melt-down in public.

This fear can be always present, however, for a parent with a child who has special needs.

So it was when a mom and her 3-year-old daughter, who is diagnosed with autism, took their seats on an airplane flight recently.  This mom expected the worst when a business man, dressed in a suit, carrying his briefcase and computer, took the seat next to her daughter and her.

But the worse did not happen – the best did – the best flight experience her daughter has ever had.

The little girl’s comments, questions, requests, playfulness, even calling the man “Daddy” did not begin to ruffle this gentle man’s feathers.  Instead, he responded playfully, paid attention, answered questions, engaged with her, played “turtles” with her, connected with her, and kept up this exchange throughout the flight.

It was only when the approach for landing  began to go on too long for this little girl that she began screaming and didn’t stop until she got off the plane.  Yet, her “daddy” angel looked on with patience and kindness throughout.

This man really was an “angel” – above and beyond.

Yet, as parents, friends and co-workers, we all need to take these kinds of opportunities to offer even a moment of support and empathy – “I’ve been there – it’s hard” – an offer to help with another child who might be  present, a touch on the shoulder, an on-going out-reach of friendship and inclusion toward the parent and the child so they do not feel isolated.

We need to check our “judging responses” for even a quick negative exchange or look with another can be seen and felt by the parent whose child is acting out.

This particular mom wrote a public letter of thanks to the man on the plane, whose name she did not know – “Dear Daddy in Seat 16 C”.

It was the best flight her daughter had ever had, she said.  She appreciated this gentle man’s openness, patience, sense of humor and non-judgmental nature on this flight.

She appreciated that he “liked” her child.

She appreciated her child.

And for that she will be forever grateful.

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Do you love me?

Sometimes children ask us “do you love me ?” by their behavior.  Sometimes when children are being at their very most challenging selves, they are shouting for us to hear, to notice, to show them they are indeed loved.

I spoke with a parent recently who was so frustrated with her two- and- a- half- year- old daughter because every night when it was time to go upstairs to bed, she wanted mom to carry her up.  Mom already had her one-year-old son in her arms and so felt that this little girl needed to walk up the stairs on her own.

The little girl would sit on the bottom step, ask first, then whine, then shriek, then bawl.  Mom would insist she could walk upstairs on her own, to which this persistent child would sob, “but I want you to carry me”.  On this would go until both of them were exhausted, and mom would go down and resentfully carry her daughter upstairs.

I asked the mom, “can your daughter walk up the stairs?”  “Of course”, she said,” and does so many times a day.”

“What do you think might be going on here?” I asked the mom.  Mom immediately answered, “She just wants her own way.”

“You’re right about that.  She does want her own way, but do you think she might also be askinsomething elsedo you think she might be asking ‘do you love me’?”

I suggested to this mom that for the next few nights, she cheerfully give her daughter a choice – ” would you like me to  carry you upstairs tonight, or would you like to walk up with me?”

Simple as that – before the fact, before her daughter had to ask, before the drama.

Perhaps Mom will have to make two trips – put brother in his crib and go on down to pick up her daughter.  But I believe, given the gift of being invited to be carried upstairs to bed, at this vulnerable time of day, as this girl’s little brother was, it will validate her mom’s love for her in her eyes and reaffirm her spot in the family.

I doubt this need to be carried upstairs will extend for long – this little girl will probably soon be capable once more of scampering upstairs at bedtime.

When our children are growing, everyday does not have to be a leap.  Sometimes they lean back and linger for a moment or two – even taking a few steps back – to get their balance, to feel that their place in the world is just right.

Look for those moments, consider the need behind the emotion, don’t be afraid to meet the need, as you both continue on – in love.

The Parenting Place is offering The Magic of Connection on Tuesday, January 28th, 6-7:30 PM in La Crosse.  Register for this class to learn strong strategies for developing and maintaining a positive, healthy connection with your child.  Find out why a healthy connection with your child is basis for his or her development and life-long well-being. Join us and let’s learn to make magic! Give us a call at 784-8125 to register.  Limited childcare is available.  Call early.

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winter’s here

I’m grateful for … the glorious sunshine, the clear blue color of the sky, the lovely, intricate limbs of the bare trees, a lone squirrel braving the cold, “Jack Frost” on my upstairs windows, my warm house, my cup of gingerbread tea, and the very cozy throw that covers me now and has been shared in my family for years.

This is definitely the time of year when we need to focus on the things that bring us pleasure.  It’s really up to us.  Summertime is different; summertime is easy.  But on one of the coldest days in decades, it’s our responsibility to make the best of our winter hours.

I think that people really are staying inside today.  I’ve only seen a UPS truck, a fuel truck and a pick-up go by all morning – much to Tootsie’s dismay, as she sits watching and waiting on the chest by the window for some action.

I bet in your homes there are little ones also looking for some action, something different to do.  Here are some things to consider.

  •  This is definitely indoor “fort” weather.  Blankets, pillows, sheets – under the dining table, behind a chair, an    excellent cooperative sibling project.  Then let them play in it, add to it, bring things into it.  Don’t focus on the clean up.  Be happy for the involvement and imagination going on.
  •  How many “stuffies” do you have in your house?  Are they up high on a shelf for decoration or in a box ready for recycling?  Bring them all out, every last one of them;  set them on the stairs, line them up on the couch.  Your child will find “play” with them.
  • A tea party mid afternoon – a definite.  Invite the stuffies or just the two or three of you.  Use your “best” cups, a sweet treat, enjoy the conversation, relax, and feel the connection.
  •  Books – in my life, they are always my go-to and toting out a pile on a cold winter’s day, to cuddle up close and read together, one after the other, will soothe restless spirits – both of yours.
  •  Do you have a shoe box handy?  Take the top off and stick it back in vertically; add a small blanket, make a hole to tie a string on and a special bed/truck pull toy is born.  Trust me – children love these.
  •  Can you just feel the wiggles growing in your child?  Blow up a balloon or two.  Batting a balloon around and   keeping it up in the air is a sure action pleaser – fun for everyone.
  •  Here’s  a good activity for preschoolers and older – alphabet high fives.  Cut out 26 hand prints, one for each letter and stick them up all around the house.  Put some of them up a bit higher that need a bit of a jump to reach.  Let the kids high five them as they discover the letters in order – a great way to get them moving.
  •  Okay, you can just feel the antsiness in your kids.  How about some “sumo wrestling”?   Yes,” sumo wrestling”.  I saw this activity recently and it seemed hilarious.   Have the kids put on Dad’s t-shirt, stuff in some bed pillows front and back, and go at it for lots of squeals and laughter.

When we find ourselves tucked in our homes because of dangerous temperatures or bad weather, we need to remember to change our pace, relax our routine, perhaps even let the kids stay in pajamas for a day.

Just think of these days as gifts – time slows down;  let it, and try to notice and appreciate the simple things around us. (even as we look forward to the January thaw)

If these long days of being inside are challenging you, please give us a warm line call at The Parenting Place – 784-81`25. Together, we can listen and  figure out how to make things easier. (and I also have lots more activities up my sleeve.)

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