Archive for the 'discipline' Category

Quick Parenting Tips from Betsy Brown Braun

You're Not the Boss of Me

Oh, yes I am. Really. I mean it. Um....

Like all busy moms, I’m constantly looking for new quick-fix parenting tips. So when a book I’d never encountered before caught my eye over on Cool Mom Picks, I went straight to the author’s site to check it/her out.

The title of the book grabbed me: “You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing Your 4- to 12-Year-Old Child,” by Betsy Brown Braun. Mmm, hmmm. I’m listening…. (Her other parenting book has an equally-grabby title: “Just Tell Me What to Say.” Yes, please do!)

She has some great tips on her site — all very relevant to life with a 4- and a 6-year-old — and I’m putting them into immediate use. They also made me want to pick up a copy of the book.

These are the tips — answers to frequently-asked parenting questions — that stood out to me (I’m paraphrasing and condensing her answers, read the full list of tips here):

How do I get my kid to listen to me?

Listening’s not the problem — the problem is that your child isn’t doing what you want him to. Position yourself right in front of your child, not across the room. State what you want your kid to do, be clear and specific, and explain what the consequences are for non-compliance. Give him one warning and then a moment to cooperate. If he doesn’t, throw down the punishment. Repeated, empty threats create children who don’t listen. (Now if only I could get Braun‘s take on something that happened OUTSIDE this morning with Magnolia, where she was far away from me and any attempt to put myself in front of her would have met with her moving on up the block…. Anyway, moving on….)

How do I get my kids to stop fighting? (As an only child, I don’t get the sibling rivalry thing, which is too bad for me, ’cause there’s a lot of it happening at my house at the moment…. And more to come, I’m sure.)

Fighting’s not always a bad thing, it helps them learn to resolve conflict. It is, however, annoying to parents. If your kids are over the age of 3, leave the room. Remove yourself from the situation and let them figure out a resolution on their own. (Physical fighting is a different thing — this strategy is for everyday, run-of-the-mill sibling skirmishes.)

How do I get my kids to eat something healthy?

Don’t fight about food! Let it go. You cannot control what your child eats. Ending the battle over food consumption gives your child permission to eat on his own terms — and that is often what he wants…control. So just don’t fight. Serve the food you’ve cooked and if your child chooses refuses to eat, let him. (But there is no getting food later if he’s hungry — it’s eat at mealtime, or nothing. Here are more tips on dealing with picky eaters.)

Don’t bother with time outs. (I was happy to read this one — we haven’t found them all that effective with our kids.)

A time out will stop a behavior, but only temporarily — and it isn’t specific to whatever the bad behavior is. Try to come up with logical consequences that fit the infraction — that will help your child get it. Time outs are really for parents — to give you a chance to calm down. But your kids don’t learn from them.

As CMP said, all very no-nonsense. I don’t know that I think it’s possible to completely brat-proof my kids, but I’m all for trying — with a little, or a lot, of help from some experts.

Buy “You’re Not the Boss of Me” on Amazon.

Get other great parenting and kid book recs from Cool Mom Picks.

 

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Are Boys Easier Than Girls?

Jasper on Fire Island

After an elaborate negotiation with Magnolia about some minute point over the weekend, I turned to Chrissy and quietly spelled out:  “h-e-a-d case.”  Our daughter’s got a lot going on in that little noggin of hers, and it’s often dauntingly complex.

Which is why I found a recent post on Yahoo! Shine intriguing — and, no, it wasn’t 6 Ways to Make Family Memories on Super Bowl Sunday. (By the way, that hasn’t happened, right? All of my Facebook friends who were posting loyalties to one team or another last weekend — that was all playoff stuff, wasn’t it? I am not kidding when I say I have absolutely no idea.)

But the Superbowl thing relates to where I’m going with this post…. We’re a two-mom family — there’s no one here to make sure we know when Superbowl Sunday is, who’s playing, or what the outcome is. There is no sports talk happening. There is no wrestling on the floor or getting physical in a “guy” kind of way. It would be the same for a single mom, and I don’t think it’s bad — it’s just different than a more traditional mom and dad household, where there’s a daily male influence.

And I do think about that lack of male input in relation to parenting styles. Which (finally) leads me back to the Yahoo! post Raising Boys: 5 Things Dads Can Teach Moms About Raising Sons. (A longer version of the post appears on Babble, too.) Despite some of the negative comments it received in both places, I took it as a fun, lighthearted piece — but it also rang a little true. And it made me think about some of the differences we see in raising Jasper and Magnolia.

Basically, the Babble writer says that boys (maybe not all, but some) are less intense than girls — they are more straightforward emotionally, even if they might have trouble articulating their feelings. He says (playfully, I thought), that moms should:

Think caveman. “Boys tend to feel one of three emotions: mad, sad, happy.” His needs are more basic, not complex. Your young son either wants to “eat, poop, or run.” So don’t bother over-articulating whatever the issue is at hand.

I kind of get this, and think it’s sort of true. Jasper‘s kindergarten teacher and I were talking last year about the differences between boys and girls — while we were watching Magnolia have a mini-tantrum over something I’d told her she couldn’t do. Ms. P. said girls know exactly what they want, even from an early age — and if they don’t get it, that’s where the trouble comes in. Boys, on the other hand, she said, pretty much want to be able to eat and run, and if you give them a snack and time to play, they’ll be happy.

Hhmmm.

The Babble writer/dad also instructs moms to:

Watch your son’s body language, not his mouth. “Jumping up and down with six-inch vertical leaps is the natural state of being and is good. Slumped shoulders are bad. Yelling is good. Quiet needs attention.”

Again, this makes sense to me. I do feel Jasper is pretty straightforward and it’s not difficult to produce a happy reaction from him — moving and running make him happy! So does being loud and silly! Frankly, it’s pretty easy to navigate and manipulate his moods and behavior. Offering a little treat, suggesting a spin around the corner on his scooter, or even grabbing him for a quick tickle or a hug can dispel a bad moment in a hurry. (There’s a nice nod to the just “give a hug” theory in the Yahoo! article, too. Also a funny riff on the importance of poop in a boy’s life. Again, sort of true for us — poop-time is a real “occasion” for Jasper. Read the whole Yahoo! Raising Sons parenting post here, or the longer version on Babble.)

It’s all harder, at least for now, with Magnolia. Getting her mood to turn around if things aren’t going her way, or getting her to do something she’s really dead-set against, is tricky business. And, honestly, sometimes unpleasant. Even at 4, she’s swift with a verbal barb, dismissive gesture, or criticism of how a mom is handling the situation.

I don’t know. Six years into this parenting thing, I’m still making it up as I go along. Trying to figure things out, understand my kids, and do the best I can. But I have to say, I do think in some ways boys are easier than girls.

What do you think? Easier, or just different?

Parenting Styles: Things I Don’t Let My Kids Say

no talk/yes kiss

Don't say that, honey! (flickr photo by: Arte & Design Anna - ShaKti-)

Mom confession #73: I can curse a blue streak. And I often do. But never in front of the kids — I edit my word choice carefully. You might catch me saying “rats!” or, occasionally, “shoot” or “darn.” But I use even those rarely, because there’s no denying that kids repeat what they hear, and whatever you put out comes right back at you.

Obviously — like all you fine, upstanding parents — I don’t want my children cursing. But there’s a whole litany of other things I don’t want them saying, either. I’m by no means claiming we get total compliance 100 percent of the time on this, but the kids do pretty well (and take great pleasure in correcting the other if someone slips up.) And if they do let one of the offending words or phrases slip, we’re quick to correct them with a more pleasing substitute.

Basically, my barometer is: I don’t want them saying anything I really don’t want to hear coming from a child’s mouth.

Here’s the list of no-no’s:

Butt — Sorry, it just doesn’t sound nice! Also, it tends to lead quickly to additional hiney talk, touching, pointing, or exposing, so best just not to go there. Acceptable instead? Bottom, behind, bum, or tushy. Which takes me to….

Fart — Like butt, it leads other places — namely, bathroom talk. Poop, pee pee, penis — you get the idea. It also leads to silly sounds, especially from Jasper. He’s a boy. It’s apparently in his DNA. And when he’s older and ignores everything I say, I’m sure we’ll be in for plenty of fart jokes and bathroom humor. For now, say toot, please.

Oh my God — I say this all the time myself — and think absolutely nothing of you saying it, believe me — but not in front of the kids. To me, it sounds inappropriate coming from a child. Oh my goodness, instead, if you don’t mind.

What the heck? — It’s one step away from “what the hell?” and you know it. Jasper‘s starting to know it, too, so we go with “what in the world?” or the ever-useful “what is up with that?” in its place.

I hate that — Don’t be a hater! Again, just doesn’t sound nice. Instead, we try to say “I really do not like that.”

When the kids hear another child utter one of the above, they always point it out to me. And I respond with that old chestnut, “Different families have different rules.” And I’m certainly not saying my rules are the right ones! I’m just making it up as I go along and, like everyone else, trying to do what feels right for me.

Are you strict about what your kids can and can’t say? What’s off limits, and how do you enforce what you’re comfortable with?

(flickr photo: Arte & Design Anna-ShaKti-)


3 Parenting Tips for Calming the Chaos

ice cream in Prospect Park

I’m not the best at dealing with the chaos of raising two little kids. The messiness, the yelling, the arguing, the constant activity — it’s all completely par for the course, and I know it, but it’s still hard for me. I like neatness, calm, and order. This is not an advantage in parenting.

In the course of one year staying home with the kids, though, I have come up with a few “mom rules” to help me deal with the day-to-day chaos. And they’ve given the kids certain expectations, too, which has been helpful.

The rules relate to a few of the things that occur routinely during a day — snacking, behavior issues when out and about, and arguing between the two kids. I’m not saying these will work for everyone, and of course we all have our own parenting styles. Maybe you’re all about no rules and no structure — and if that works for you, AWESOME! I hope you can teach me a thing or two.

In the meantime, I’m just saying these little mantras have helped me.

“If you’re snacking, you’re sitting.” — Whether we are at home, in the park, or in the playground, I see no reason for my kids to be running around with food in their hands. If they’re eating something, I want them seated for a moment. Focus on the activity at hand. Enjoy your food. Then resume with whatever wildness was underway.

“If you’re not listening, we’re leaving.” — Call me mean mommy (you wouldn’t be the first), but I have absolutely NO problem making my kids leave some fun activity because of bad behavior. If we’re headed to a birthday party, or Coney Island, or an excursion into the city, I remind them before we go…. What’s the rule? Jasper now recites it back to me: “If we’re not listening, we’re leaving.” Damn right we are.

“You can either agree, or it’s “mommy’s choice.” ” — Two kids seem to somehow = a million arguments a day. I mean, really. “He can’t use my stool!” “I want to wash my hands first!” “I want to watch the Barbie DVD!” “No, I want Thomas!” I try to employ this rule often. You two can either work it out and agree — sometimes they actually do! — or it’s my choice, and I make the call on whatever issue or argument is at hand.

Do you have any basic mom rules that work for you? I’d love to hear!

Should We Expect More from Our Caregivers than from Ourselves?

mad mom

I am losing it! (image from Retrographix)

I had lunch the other day with a mom friend who was looking to hire a very part-time nanny for her son — to share with another family for a couple of hours one day a week. She had already offered the position to the woman when she happened to overhear the nanny with her other full-time charge. It was time to leave preschool and the kid wasn’t cooperating — she told him he was acting like a baby and she threatened to leave without him.

That was it for my friend — she decided not to hire the lady and said she would absolutely take issue with the nanny condescending to her son that way. Unacceptable.

I kind of hoped we could just change the subject but when she went on for a bit and made it clear she was mildly outraged by what the nanny had said, I copped to the fact that I’ve probably said the same thing. I couldn’t give you a date and time or anything, but I’m sure at some point, when someone was tantrum-ing out, lying on the ground, crying, and refusing to leave someplace, I probably said something along the lines of “come on now, you’re acting like a baby” and “OK, I’m leeeaving now….” As in, stop that — get up, please, and let’s go.

After I admitted my sin, my friend said, OK, she had probably said the same thing at some point, too. But she expects more — better, more controlled behavior — from someone she pays. She expects more from a caregiver than from herself.

Hhmmm. I’m not sure what I think about that. Full-time kid-wrangling is a tough job and sometimes frustrating — whether you’re the mom or the caregiver. I’m not always 100 percent happy with the choices I make during any given day and I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect a nanny to be above reproach either.

What do you think? Should we expect better behavior from a caregiver than we expect from ourselves? Does paying someone mean they shouldn’t make the same “mistakes” moms sometimes make?


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