Mom: So, how was school today? Kid: Fine. Mom: So what did you do? Kid: Nothing. Mom: Who'd you play with? Kid: I don't know. Mom: Just tell me one thing, something...?!?!?! What gives? If you're the parent of a child who goes to school and gives these sorts of answers.... well, I am and I am frustrated! I want to know more about all that my child experienced and lived with during that time: I'd love details about who they played with, how they felt during learning, what stories...
My twins bounded out of camp, leaping into my arms with smiles, but as soon as we got into the car, one burst into tears. The other held a small gold coin in her hand lifted high, and chanted “I got one, I got one!” I inquired. Turns out, this camp I’d sent my daughters to has a gold-coin reinforcement system. When children “did things to help each other,” “caught at least ten water skeeters,” “won games” or “seemed like they were going above and beyond” they were awarded a shiny gold coin. ...
This morning, I try to get my twins to draw their favorite animal, an assignment we were supposed to have done for kindergarten yesterday. One sobs because her deer does not look like a deer. I want to sit with her but I forgot to print the alphabet for today and I can’t find the password to GoogleClassroom and I don’t know which app is for math. I squeeze my eyes shut and whisper, “I am doing the best I can” – and I almost believe it.
At first I quieted: containing my grief. After all, it is not high school graduation, or college graduation. It is not a wedding deferred; it’s not the most important adolescent social relationships disrupted; it’s not a job loss or a death or harrowing illness. It’s not anywhere near to the most heartbreaking havoc that COVID-19 has spurred.
Let’s be real- sometimes the hardest part of parenting is your co-parent. When you’re working with the Positive Parenthood approach, it can be challenging to have one parent totally on board with a positive, gentle approach when the other just isn’t. And many of you have been asking….in this situation, what do I do?
We were a “moderate” screen use family, and I’m a screen-positive mama- until things went South. It was on the drive home from our annual family Tahoe trip as my three year old screamed “Give! Me! My! Phone!” (it was actually my phone) that I realized I had to make a shift. Two and a half weeks into “No Screen March,” which I was using to reset our families’ screen practices…. COVID-19 hit. I’m proud that we stayed screen-free through March, and that we did indeed, reset.
We are visiting my in-laws in Mexico. There are many different cups for my children to drink juice and water from, but there are two that have built in straws. I have three children, and they all love these straw-cups. We’ve had a lot of big feelings about the straw-cups, and who gets to use them.
My parents used to put me in time-out in a wooden chair backed up to the kitchen wall, with a watch to use as a timer. I have vowed again and again to never do this, and I know intellectually why not to do this: I know my children have less access to the part of their brain that would allow for thinking and processing when they are stressed, and I know poor behavior is stress behavior. I know that they are learning to calm themselves down, and that they need to co-regulate with me. And I know that cannot happen in time-out.
I said nothing but YES to my children for 24 hours. Though others warned me this would spoil them and cautioned me they’d want to go straight to Target to pick out all the biggest toys, this wasn’t what happened at all. In fact, we had zero meltdowns, no whining episodes, and zero sibling squabbles despite the fact that we did donuts, zoo, beach, pizza, ice cream, Target, and bonfire all in one day.
I’ve finally found my Buddha phrase. Two years into taking the signature, 12-week Positive Parenthood course for the first time, I finally found my Cool & Calm phrase. I’ve made them up when pressed- I’ve tried “this too shall pass” and also “don’t worry, be happy.” None of them really fit, though….
This afternoon, I watched my five year old niece swing her two braided pigtails behind her and furrow her eyebrows so that they nearly touched, after a child grabbed a block from her stack. And then another kid knocked over a fence she had been building around two plastic cows. And then a cousin playing a poking game with a younger child poked her in the side, and she turned and swung at him, nearly leaving a black eye in her wake.
Exactly what you need after you’ve spent what feels like forever preparing your children to leave the playspace and swing by the grocery store is to freaking lose your keys and have your child ask you approximately four hundred and seven times if we are going to find them.
Look, parenting is hard. Sometimes we experience a gap between how we want to parent and our actual lived experience of parenting. It happens to me when I get stressed, and my kids are all home with me, and we get stuck inside the house. I start snapping, they get whiney, I get snappier…. and on and on. Aside from leaving the house for an adventure, which always works for me, here are five tips for being the parent you want to be.
When I put her into bed, she screams. I am not exaggerating- it really is screaming. She wraps her arms around my neck and refuses to lay down in her crib. It is severe enough that I actually made a doctor appointment, because I thought maybe she was in pain, like with appendicitis or something. I don’t know why she’s crying so much. She used to be so easy to put to bed, and I don’t know what to do.
It went down like this: one twin was pretty into it and excited until we walked through the door and I made motions to leave; the other twin was never really into it and was similarly even less into it when I made motions to leave. After extracting myself from their grips and dashing out the door, I stood outside and listened to them scream.
At Positive Parenthood, we have eight principles for creating Rules That Work. We are going to share the first three here, and applying these three rules should help your family in terms of building a more peaceful home and encouraging children to behave in calm, socially appropriate ways.
Here’s the secret that every camp counselor knows: everything is better with a song, no one cares if you’re off-tune, and anything can be made into a song. This carefree, must-sing attitude would do well to sneak into your everday parenting.
Lots of research suggests that if possible, parents should keep little eyes away from screens. At the very least, most studies show that children under two should not be exposed to screens because the impact on their brains is pretty negative.
However- there’s little research on the impact of screens and parenting… and yet we all know how deeply cell technologies have shifted parenting practices.
Before I had children, I imagined our Sunday mornings would be like this: sunshine streaming through the windows, we’d be flipping pancakes and the children would be giggling and sipping fresh-squeezed OJ and there would be lots of singing. I guess I thought parenting would just be an extended musical. Laugh with me though, because my Sundays now look like this: regularly burning pancakes which I flip with a butter knife because my children inform me the spatula is “hiding” in the sandbox; intermittently pulling squabbling children off of each other so that they don’t really hurt each other; cold coffee and no singing.
I’d barely slept the night before, because the baby was up and down, up and down, up and down. And I had a big work project on the horizon. And so when my toddlers started having an enormous fight over the single red spoon in our home, I started to lose it. Don’t ask why I only bought one red spoon (lesson learned), but let me tell you, when I saw one twin grab the other’s hair and yank, I really got pissed.
We all know how hard it is to stay calm when your child is having a tantrum because soccer practice is over (or in the grocery checkout line, or after school…). Especially when that lady watching you leans in and says “You just need to….”
Seven Year Old comes in from school. He’s hot. His baby sister has been crying the whole ride home from school because she hates her car seat. Mama is tired too, and as they stumble in from school, Seven Year Old kicks off his shoes in the doorway. He is so happy to be home. He is so happy to take off his sweaty sneakers. He is ready to play Legos. But Mama sighs. She has already asked him about one hundred times to place his shoes in the basket in the entryway. Baby sister trips over the shoes in the doorway and starts to cry, again. Mama asks Seven Year Old to move the shoes. She reminds him again. She warns him he has one minute to put them away. But he is already immersed in his Legos and doesn’t even hear the fourteen requests.
Praising children frequently can feel awkward, especially if you don’t have experience telling others, very frequently, what they are doing well. Most of us don’t go around telling our colleagues or spouses “Nice handwriting during the meeting!” or “Great work pushing your chair in,” or “You are excellently waiting in line.” It seems mundane, but when we are supporting children to be able to participate in daily life, this kind of praise is exactly what will help them to flourish.
Because many children with special needs have sensory issues, touch can be an important piece of communicating, relationship building, and teaching. Learning how to give your child the touch that is right for her or him can deeply enhance your parent-child relationship.
AJ had never, ever left a park on his own two feet. You know that mom who has to drag her kid out of the park, and he is screaming so loud that all the other parents kind of pretend not to stare but are actually staring, and the mom feels mortified and awful and judged and like the worse parent ever? That was AJ and his parents every time they went to the park. Until it wasn’t.
My husband Sam and I went away for a weekend when our twins were about fifteen months. We needed the break – the girls had been stealing, grabbing, and fighting over every. single. toy. They even fought over toys that we had two duplicates of, sometimes hitting each other over the head, often pulling hair, and always screaming and generally wreaking havoc despite our insistent requests to share, be soft, keep their hands on their own bodies, take turns, and all the rest.
They all act like that. You acted like that. She’s gonna act like that. Then she said that it didn’t have to be this way. Sienna didn’t have to scream for the sangria, ruin dinner, throw her sippy cup across the table, make her twin start crying to, and then cry because she wanted the root beer and the sangria.