Thursday, February 14, 2013

Finding your calm in the tornado of tantrums

I have to admit...I was raised to become a yeller. And that neural pathway is slowly being changed over, but not in light of a LOT of hard work and perseverance on my part. There is a lot of checking in with myself that has to be done during the process. And believe it IS a process.

Bad habits are hard to break, especially ones that have been nearly hardwired into your brain for 30+ years.

I was on the fence at one time, thinking that allowing my children to freak out, scream, go boneless in the store and cry when I asked them to comply with something I wanted them to do, would only lead to uncontrollable and manipulative children that I wouldn't be able to trust to have the same respect for me that I thought I "deserved". This was where my backwards thinking began.

I wouldn't say it was the way I was raised that allowed me this skewed perception, even though I was raised in a spanking/punishment/grounding environment. At one time, I honestly believed that pure discipline created a stronger, more structured child. I didn't come to a different perspective because of some horrid moment, or a knock on the noggin. I came about the change because I wanted to and made a serious decision to change how I reacted to my children and the children around me. I don't personally believe any parent actually "wants" to yell at their children. They merely don't know what else to do.

Well, as cliche as it may sound, here are some tips:

1) Breathe: It may sound easier than it actually is, and you may think to yourself as you read this "I AM breathing. I'd be dead otherwise.", but that is not what I have in mind. When it comes to a struggle emerging within your child and you, when a request has been sent from you and isn't being given the respect that you wish it would, it's time to step back and take at least 3 solid, deep from the diaphragm breaths (in from the nose, out through the mouth, with a steady count of 1,2,3,4,5 for each inhale/exhale). This gives you 30 seconds to see what happens after you've made the request to your child. Sometimes, this waiting period is all it takes for your child to notice that something is different (that you are not yelling and freaking out), and change their patterns as well. Sometimes it doesn't work! Then what?

2) Give 2 Workable Options: When your first request hasn't been answered with anything other than difficulty and a stressful looking tantrum AND you've already played your first hand of 30-seconds of deep breathing to give your child time to respond, it's then time to send out a negotiable request. Keep them simple (IE: "You can walk to the car or I can help you", "You can pick out the book to read or you can go to bed now") and ALWAYS keep them in your boundary zone. Do not give your child an option that doesn't exist or that you really aren't comfortable with. This only leads to more confusion, stress, and unnecessary resentment on both your parts. The idea here is to give them a choice and follow through with the options you have set into place. Remember, children thrive upon consistency and structure. I haven't met a child yet that wants chaos and disorder (except that one "Damien" kid, but he's a whole other parenting blog altogether).

3) When all else fails, FOLLOW THROUGH: I cannot say this enough. YOU ARE THE ADULT HERE. You have the conscious mind to make the choices that have to be made once reasonable options have been set out into play and none have been chosen.
Reminder: There is a way to execute your option all the while keeping a solid state of respect between you and the child, and there is a way to merely follow through with anger and resentment that the child didn't make a choice. Never follow through with anger behind you. Always refer back to your breathing exercise before you go ahead and follow through. This again gives the child enough time to make their decision about which option to choose (if they choose any at all). It may be frustrating that they didn't choose any of the reasonable options you set forth for them. That's ok. That was their prerogative. And now, you get to show them that one of those options was your choice. And that's ok too.

Reminder #2: Unless you are honestly "the baby whisperer" and have magical spells and mysterious ways about you, your child will ultimately display a tantrum or just plainly NOT LISTEN at one time or another. This isn't because they hate you (even if they say it). It isn't because they are trying to annoy you (even if it does). These displays of emotional outpouring come from very simple sources, and as much as it will sound completely out of the box to look at it this way, you should feel honored they are bringing their tantrums to you! This shows an amount of trust that you will be there to take care of them, that they trust their tantrums safety and response to you, the parent.
Their screams and cries pierce you to the bone because they are supposed to. It's a primordial quality engineered into mothers and fathers to trigger the fight or flight response, based on our predecessors, commonly known as neanderthals.

All in all, it's not a perfect world, and I am by far and large, not a perfect parent. Nor do I want to be. I want to be the parent that my children deserves to have. One that trusts and respects them, and one that they trust and respect as well. This takes work. Especially after all the wiring has to be re-soldered together.

It took a while, but I am on the road to recovery from being a YELLER to a NEGOTIATOR, all with one purpose in mind - get everyone out alive. Note that I didn't say "alive and happy" because that doesn't always happen. It's a dream, and one that perhaps the amount of respect and trust I am willing to give will instill a sense thereof in my children down the road.

But not something I expect or even count on happening. Where's the fun in that?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Grown Up Time" - How to talk/deal with adults (Pt. 1)


       There is going to come a time in our lives when, as parents of little people, we will eventually have to conversate with other adults, in regards to our needs and desires as parents to these beautiful kids we have. Whether that conversation is intended to inform, compliment or even criticize, how you go about it can be a decisive factor as to it's success, failure or (in worst case scenarios) complete and utter explosive ball of confusion and displacement.

        Reasoning with adults is difficult, to say the least. We have been raised by different people, usually have a different structure of family values, and as parents, we know what is right for our child. Right? But, what happens when someone you have put your trust in does something against your best wishes as a parent? What about when a family member acts in a way that is contrary to the way we would like our children treated? What happens when you, as a child care provider, have to talk to a parent about a tricky situation with their child?

       These are the situations we come across daily, in one light or another. And the execution of the conversation, the undertones, the midtones, the entire feeling behind your cause...all of these aspects have their role to play into whether or not your message is sent and recieved with the intention you first had.

Here are some keynotes when it comes to dealing with adults, whether they be a child's parent, a care giver to your child or even your child's adult relatives, when it comes to issues of your child and the care you & they administer (IE: how they act around your kid/s). Feel free to adjust as necessary to your situation:

 Always remember one initial rule of thumb when it comes to 
these skills and the possibility of volatile situations/conversations:
Don't have these discussions around the child. 
Their lives are stressful enough 
(especially at pick up/drop off - in child care)
it leads to confusion, 
and your tones 
(even if you don't mean to) 
can be scary to them.

        In my opinion, one of the worst things to experience in an adult relationship (parent/caregiver, parent/parent, parent/relative & vice versa) is for someone to feel like you are not listening to them and what they have to say. There are always two roles in a healthy conversation. There is the sender and the recipient. As the sender, it is always best if we are clear and concise as to our message (without shame or blame..."I feel" statements). As recipient, it is a good practice to repeat, in as kind and gentle a tone as possible (without shame or blame), exactly what the sender has spoken to you, afterwards asking them for more information, in order to bring a sense of validation to the sender that:

"Yes, I heard you, and this is what I heard you say. Tell me more."

This method of communication helps you as the recipient in three distinct ways. It helps by telling the sender that you actually heard what they said. If you misheard, it allows the sender the ability to correct what you said and restate their cause.And finally, it sends the message that you are genuinely interested in hearing more of what they have to say.
In addition, as recipient during a conversation, eye contact is a good way of showing you are paying attention to the sender. Never try and "fix" the situation after the sender states the issue. At times, these conversations can be lengthy, some lasting days, if not weeks, to finalize a secure solution (one that both parties can agree upon). Merely appreciate and validate, by repeating

The worst thing you could do to another parent/child care worker/relative is for you to sugarcoat how you feel when confronting them about how to act and administer care around the child. This can be a tad bit tricky, depending on who exactly you are speaking with.

            Always try, whenever possible, to mention something about the issue as soon as the issue comes up. This doesn't mean jumping down someone's throat in the heat of the moment. If you are finding that you are upset about the issue at hand, take a moment and breathe before saying something. If you do that, and you are still upset, step back, take another breath, and ask if there is a good time in the future where you can speak to them about something involving the child. This allows you a bit of space between moments. If they say something to the effect of:
"Now is good for me!"
and "now" is not good for you, let them know you can't talk about it right then and there and either move on to something different or take a walk, get some space, etc. Always a best idea to leave a statement like that for when you can make an exit without seeming rude or like you are trying to run away, like when you are actually leaving to a different destination.

Food for thought:
Research has shown that it takes 5 positive interactions to neutralize 1 negative interaction. Whether it be an insult, a lie, not showing up on time, whatever the case may be. In addition, it takes 20 positives to 1 negative to equal true happiness. 

This is only the beginning of making sure both parties are treated with respect and honesty. be continued...


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Put down the blog and nobody gets hurt!!!

       In the world of self-help parenting books, blogs, newsletters & workshops on raising the ideal baby by being the ideal parent and all that lies inbetween, there lies that dead zone that I, myself, admittedly sometimes forget about.

       Putting down the proverbial 'book' and just being.        

       I know, it sounds so elementary, but you would be surprised at how many parents get wrapped up in the constant unraveling of solutions, almost to the point of being blind-sided by the fact that their children are sitting there displaying the exact same behaviors that they were attempting to draw out of them in the first place. All the while, they read and read, agree with their internal self-dialogue, and pursue to no end, the gaining of insights and skills necessary to do whatever it is they are wanting to learn how to do with their children.

"You will learn by reading. You will understand with love."

       And, yet, I maintain my stance: Put the book down and just BE. You are going to be so much more the parent you are reading about being by merely being present, than you ever will perusing chapters in the latest and greatest creation on early childhood development. Please do not mistake this article as a shunning of all things written form, created to aide in your development as a successful parent. I merely suggest that you take a little more time in just remaining present and loving for your children, and a little less time reading about it.

        As much as your child is lucky and will most certainly benefit from the knowledge that you gain from that book/magazine/blog/newsletter/graffiti on the wall at the local coffee shop, there is nothing that can substitute true presence in their life. So, without further adieu, I am going to exit virtual-stage left and ask that you do the same, if only until the next article ;-)


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pride and Playtime aka The Fixer's Nightmare!!!

The male peacock is a beautiful creature, and fancy dresser to boot! They strut around the peahens all day, spreading their marvelous plume of feathers for all to see, as each one proves they are the suitable mate and would-be father to a plethora of chicks. And why shouldn't they be proud? They have stamina, drive, been in the game of being male for as long as they can remember, right? We all know this pride as parents.

The first time our little one rolls over. Holds their head up. Shakes a toy that was "meant" to shake. Crawls for the first time, only to be surpassed by them walking, running, catching and throwing balls. The list goes on as to the accomplishments our children strive to and blow us away with. And we have every right to be proud of them. In the grand geneological scheme of things, our children are a perfect mirror image of our success as parents. Who wouldn't be proud of their child as they learn to use the bathroom, or sleep all the way through the night. These are highlight moments that we shall forever treasure.

And yet, as proud parents, we still take our own sense of responsibility and accomplishment with the natural progress our children have done. We, after all, were there for them when they needed us most, right? When the ball fell out of their hands, we picked it up and put it right back for them. What handy helpers we are to our children! 

There comes a time, in children's play and exploratory practice, whether it be in the classroom/daycare or at home, that the parent needn't assist in what is or could happen to your child. This is not to say that if you see a toy about to fall on their noggin that you should merely ignore said toy and "see what happens". That's simply cruel. And besides, you would expect your child to yell a resounding "Look out!!" were it about to occur to you, right?

All too often though, we as parents, and as fathers as well (we are the "fixers, by nature's engineering), find an inherent need to step into the picture of our child's discovery periods and right what seems wrong.

For example: Child A grabs a plastic ring, while experiencing some well needed tummy-time, while CaveDad sits idly by, and monitors his child's playtime. Child A drops the plastic ring, due to some manueverability issue affecting their gross motor skills. CaveDad assumes it is time to "help" Child A, and picks up the plastic ring and puts it back into Child A's hands. Child A drops said ring once again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The "problem" here is CaveDad's preconceived notion that Child A wants to hold on to the plastic ring. Perhaps Child A was testing to see what noise it made when they dropped it on the ground. Perhaps it was too awkward for them to carry, and they wished to try something different. Perhaps the texture wasn't what they liked to feel at that time of the day. The idea here is that we don't know, and should've taken a little more time putting less energy into "helping/fixing" the situation, and more time into waiting and watching.

We, as parents and care workers, have a sense of pride that, at times, can be our downfall when attempting to relate to the smaller people in our care. We take on the role of "assistant" to their desires, even when we don't necessarily know what those desires are. It's high time we sit back and wait and watch for a while. Perhaps a long while. Remember, trust is key here. We have to take the time and swallow our pride if we are ever going to learn what our children are trying to teach themselves.

So, when your child rolls off the rug during playtime, and you put them back on the rug, only to have them roll off once again...take a moment, breathe, step back, and watch your child become nature's scientist.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's trust got to do with it?

       Jacques Cousteau was a brilliant cinematographer and documentary maker. He has possibly thousands of real-life instances documented and showing all throughout the world. He brought to life, in the click of a TV button, the world of aquatic nature. And yet, we never did see him attempt to brush the teeth of a great white shark. Or wrestle that sea lion out of the orca whale's mouth. And why not?

       It seemed unfair that that poor, cute fluffy sea lion had to fall prey to that evil, giant, black and white monster...

       Trust is an integral part of the child care process. It takes restraint on the part of the parent/child care worker, in order for nature to take it's course and make what is going to happen as natural a sequence of events as humanly possible. Right or wrong in the adult mind doesn't matter when it comes to really listening, observing and allowing the child to grow at their own rate, both intellectually and emotionally.

As adults, we tend to stray from trust easily. It has been engineered out of us through time at work, contest, unwilling compromise in faulty relationships, etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.

"Waitaminute, Mr. CaveDad! I absolutely do not agree! I trust my children wholeheartedly! They're my children, after all!"

Is that what you were thinking? Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn't. I can say, having been one of those parents, that was what I was thinking when I was told I didn't trust my children.

       The situation here is a matter of mixed intention. While it is easy to jump to the defense and say things like "Of course, I trust my children.", it isn't always a practice that we, as parents and child care workers, stick to repeatedly. It just isn't how the world looks at children.

       The world sees the child as the baby. Unbeknown to even themselves, they have no semblance of reasoning capabilities beyond crying, throwing and defecating themselves. The media world has taught the adult world that you must be the voice of reason for your child, because they don't know any better.

This is an assumption that needs to be rethought. If you sit down on the sidelines, and truly watch two children that haven't the capacity to speak clearly their intentions, you will be lucky enough to witness natural communication/decision-making in it's purest form. The key to all of this divinity lies in our ability to TRUST the child.

       When we put trust into people, we see what would have naturally occurred, without resistance. The same goes for children. As long as there is no acts of violence involved (that is where we intervene, gently and calmly, with only the intention of not allowing the violence to happen - "I won't allow you to hit him/her"), children have their own necessary desire to obtain structure in their world. You will witness it, surely. Interference only muddles their concentration on what is happening directly in their minds. This is where we, as adults, have the ability to stretch and witness nature taking it's course as it should.

       When we just "let go", and let life happen, especially when it comes to your children, they are allowed to create their own solutions to life's problems. It allows them the respect that, ultimately, you wish to instill in them towards you.


Trust is the key to giving the gift of respect to the child.

So, next time you hear screaming from your children, and there isn't any unnecessary (IE: violent/unsafe) contact happening, just "let go" and observe from a safe distance (safe distance = a point away from the children where, if need be, you can cross and intervene, if violence/unsafe acts are about to occur). Watch and trust that they will figure it out. Whether it's two children squabbling over a toy, one child throwing a tantrum, a child struggling to fit a puzzle piece in place. Let go, give respect to them as people in this world, and trust that they have their own idea of how to resolve and complete their own scenarios.

One day, they will have to own up to their own actions.

Why not let it be today? 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Let the child choose...

If you have seen the movie "Accepted", you are on your way to understanding what emergent curriculum is....

If you haven't seen it, go out and rent it, torrent it, or cue it up in Netflix. It's a brilliant example of what it means to instill a free-spirited and yet stabilized method of teaching.

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Getting prepared to enter into the world of early childhood education, I take higher interest in emergent curriculum as a form of teaching. Because, hey, who knows better what they want to learn than the child his/herself. I, for one, am certain that were I able to pick my own curriculum at insert local community college here, that I would've jumped (nay....leaped) at the chance!

For those that aren't quite familiar with the term emergent curriculum, it stems from the idea that we follow the child on their journey through life, uninterrupted by our need to instill a destination or outcome. When focus is given on a certain topic, whether that be slugs, bugs, paint, water or holes, we help to broaden their concept of what they are interested in and thus build our lesson around the focus of their discovery. Quite brilliant, eh?

Children have a way of showing us what they need in order to progress intellectually and emotionally. I believe it to be high time more child care centers start taking a little less time worrying about what the child should be learning, and a little more time focusing on what the child wants to learn.

The worry over teaching and involving children in dynamically structured lessons due to your crucial desire to stuff as much into their little heads during what has been overtly and obtusely referred to as their "formative years", is grossly overrated and highly unnecessary. Your child (just like mine and everyone else's) will formulate synaptic patterns just as efficiently as they are naturally meant to.

I believe the key here is to repeat this mantra everytime you hear the words "lesson plan":

Let the child choose.

It'll never let you down, because, all in all, they know what's best for their brain.

Let nature take it's course. It's been doing a great job for about 250,000 years or so.

Isn't it time to change, Dad?


               I see it as I apply for child care positions in and around the Portland, Oregon/Multnomah County area. There is a subtle, yet disturbing complexity and even more upsetting simplicity to the thought that men weren't made to care for children in a professional environment, nevertheless a personal environment. It saddens me, and yet, doesn't truly surprise me. Not yet at least.

It's easy to assume that when dad is at home, he is dad. Play with the children at his leisure Make sure there is bread to toast in the morning, that his coffee is sitting beside him when he wakes up. Don't bother him if he's in the garage because he is dad. These are mild examples of how the western world thinks of the male figure in the household environment. That's not to say that it is like that everywhere in this country. It is a pretty standard and prevalent thought pattern that has developed, and I only blame one person. Dad.

Not my dad, persay. Not your dad. But dads everywhere. It's our fault, guys. We didn't stop this assumption from taking place, and now it's our duty to oversee it's deconstruction and rebuild the world's eyes from the ground up.

               Ever since we asked "What's for dinner, dear?", we played into the almighty contraption. One that speaks volumes about our negligence in the homestead, and even more so, towards our partners and children. We have allowed our partners to take the brunt of our bad days, and yet still tend to our needs, our children's needs and the needs of their employers, not to mention the rest of the world, as well. Did we ever come to think what their world would look like were they to just "let go" and tell us exactly what they were thinking, all the time? I don't have a keyboard sturdy enough to exercise all that would entail in that conversation, but I can assure probably wouldn't be pretty.

All in all, we are responsible for what we have done to our reputations as men and dads. We need to stand up & take charge of our selves in such a manner that we are able to bend and flex, for the greater good of our children, our relationships with them, as well as those with our partners.

Flowers do not say you are sorry. Band-aids do not say they will heal. Action, and being pro-active in our lives. These lives we have created. This is what will move the restrictions of what we have constructed. We stood around for so long, waiting to be served upon. Hand and foot. For ages it's happened. And it is time for change to occur, for the benefit of all human beings. Being sensitive to the needs of all beings does not mean we are less than men. It means we are whole men.

I, for one, have began the change in myself. I look forward to meeting more complex cavedads out there that have began this change, for the greater good of the leaders of tomorrow. They deserve and desire our masculine energy, just as much as our feminine counterparts.