Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Positive Reinforcement: How NOT to Talk to Your Kids

toddler whining on mom's legI was trying to do two things at once -- cook (in the kitchen) while deciphering some paperwork (in the next room). I'd been interrupted a thousand times with requests for snacks, shrieks over spilled paint water, questions about what squirrels like to eat, and arguments over whether clouds could be blue and flowers could be green. And did I mention that a ruptured disk in my back was throbbing even worse than my head?
Still, nothing can excuse my behavior that afternoon.
I erupted like Mount Momsuvius: "Enough! Get out! Stop bothering me!" The look on my daughters' faces said it all. The 2-year-old's eyes widened. The 4-year-old furrowed her brow and jabbed her thumb between her lips. Immediately I wished I could stuff the hot-lava words back into my mouth. They certainly hadn't come from my heart, or my brain.
We all say the wrong thing sometimes, leaving our kids feeling hurt, angry, or confused. Read on for some of the most common verbal missteps moms and dads make, and kinder, gentler alternatives. 

"Leave Me Alone!"

A parent who doesn't crave an occasional break is a saint, a martyr, or someone who's so overdue for some time alone she's forgotten the benefits of recharging. Trouble is, when you routinely tell your kids, "Don't bother me" or "I'm busy," they internalize that message, says Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D., founder of the Ozark Center for Language Studies, in Huntsville, Arkansas. "They begin to think there's no point in talking to you because you're always brushing them off." If you set up that pattern when your children are small, then they may be less likely to tell you things as they get older.
From infancy, kids should get in the habit of seeing their parents take time for themselves. Use pressure-release valves -- whether signing up with a babysitting co-op, trading off childcare with your partner or a friend, or even parking your child in front of a video so that you can have half an hour to relax and regroup.
At those times when you're preoccupied (or overstressed, as I was when I exploded at my girls), set up some parameters in advance. I might have said, "Mom has to finish this one thing, so I need you to paint quietly for a few minutes. When I'm done, we'll go outside."
Just be realistic. A toddler and a preschooler aren't likely to amuse themselves for a whole hour.
"You're So..."
Labels are shortcuts that shortchange kids: "Why are you so mean to Katie?" Or "How could you be such a klutz?" Sometimes kids overhear us talking to others: "She's my shy one." Young children believe what they hear without question, even when it's about themselves. So negative labels can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thomas gets the message that meanness is his nature. "Klutzy" Sarah begins to think of herself that way, undermining her confidence. Even labels that seem neutral or positive -- "shy" or "smart" -- pigeonhole a child and place unnecessary or inappropriate expectations on her.
The worst ones cut dangerously deep. Many a parent can still vividly, and bitterly, remember when her own parent said something like "You're so hopeless" (or "lazy" or "stupid").
A far better approach is to address the specific behavior and leave the adjectives about your child's personality out of it. For example, "Katie's feelings were hurt when you told everyone not to play with her. How can we make her feel better?"

Don't Cry."

Variations: "Don't be sad." "Don't be a baby." "Now, now -- there's no reason to be afraid." But kids do get upset enough to cry, especially toddlers, who can't always articulate their feelings with words. They do get sad. They do get frightened. "It's natural to want to protect a child from such feelings," says Debbie Glasser, Ph.D., director of Family Support Services at the Mailman Segal Institute for Early Childhood Studies at Nova Southeastern University, in Fort Lauderdale. "But saying 'Don't be' doesn't make a child feel better, and it also can send the message that his emotions aren't valid -- that it's not okay to be sad or scared."
Rather than deny that your child feels a particular way -- when he obviously does -- acknowledge the emotion up front. "It must make you really sad when Jason says he doesn't want to be your friend anymore." "Yes, the waves sure can be scary when you're not used to them. But we'll just stand here together and let them tickle our feet. I promise I won't let go of your hand."
By naming the real feelings that your child has, you'll give him the words to express himself -- and you'll show him what it means to be empathetic. Ultimately, he'll cry less and describe his emotions instead.
"Why Can't You Be More Like Your Sister?"
It might seem helpful to hold out a sibling or friend as a shining example. "Look how well Sam zips his coat," you might say. Or "Jenna's using the potty already, so why can't you do that too?" But comparisons almost always backfire. Your child is herself, not Sam or Jenna.
It's natural for parents to compare their kids, to look for a frame of reference about their milestones or their behavior, say experts.
But don't let your child hear you doing it. Kids develop at their own pace and have their own temperament and personality. Comparing your child to someone else implies that you wish yours were different.
Nor does making comparisons help change behavior. Being pressured to do something she's not ready for (or doesn't like to do) can be confusing to a little kid and can undermine her self-confidence. She's also likely to resent you and resolve not to do what you want, in a test of wills.
Instead, encourage her current achievements: "Wow, you put both arms in your coat all by yourself!" Or "Thanks for telling me your diaper needs changing."

"You Know Better Than That!"

Like comparisons, quick gibes can sting in ways parents never imagine. For one thing, a child actually may not have known better. Learning is a process of trial and error. Did your child really understand that a heavy pitcher would be hard to pour from? Maybe it didn't seem that full, or it was different from the one he's successfully poured from by himself at preschool.
And even if he made the same mistake just yesterday, your comment is neither productive nor supportive. Give your child the benefit of the doubt, and be specific. Say "I like it better if you do it this way, thank you."
Similar jabs include "I can't believe you did that!" and "It's about time!" They may not seem awful, but you don't want to say them too much. They add up, and the underlying message kids hear is: "You're a pain in the neck, and you never do anything right."

How do you keep the positive w/ your kids?
You can read the full article here:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

6 Ways to Improve Education Outside the Classroom

star gazingYour children don't need to be in close proximity to notebooks, book bags, whiteboards, and pop quizzes to learn. True learning isn't just about memorizing history facts and solving math problems. Learning is an interactive -- and lifelong -- process of analyzing, questioning, and discussing; learning is looking for new meanings and unique applications of knowledge in every situation.
There's a big world of questions, places, and people out there: Try to expose your children to as many meaningful experiences as possible. You'll broaden their knowledge, improve early childhood education, and cultivate the type of awareness and appreciation that can't be taught from a textbook. Read our seven suggestions for helping your children learn outside the classroom.

Recognize the Value of the Public Library
Libraries are invaluable resources that provide (free!) public access to a well-curated collection of books and archives. Libraries are hubs for information on a staggering amount of fascinating topics -- all just waiting to be gathered and shared with your child. Helpful professionals are available to guide and encourage your child's quest for knowledge.

Explore the World at Every Opportunity
When you travel with your kids -- whether it's a day trip or a week-long vacation -- they can learn so much about the world. You can teach children about history, geography, and the diversity of cultures, traditions, and customs. How your family travels can spark curiosity and conversations.
Embrace "Everyday Education"
While they may seem mundane, everyday activities can open the door to exciting new lessons. For example, baking a batch of cookies can illustrate the practical applications of math, science, and nutrition; attending a Little League baseball game can illustrate statistics, history, and teamwork.
Get a Dose of Culture
Expose your children to as many artistic and social highlights as possible. Museums, zoos, historical sites, and cultural events such as plays, operas, ballets, and concerts are great ways to teach and entertain kids. Often, kids will find these adventures more fun than sitting at a desk in school. Plus, they can broaden their horizons and possibly excite lifelong interests, hobbies, and passions.
Take Every Opportunity to Answer "Why?"
Even the most unremarkable moments can become teachable, milestone events. Accompanying Mom or Dad to the office can spark a conversation on commerce and industry; looking at the night sky can inspire questions about celestial objects in the vast universe. Look for everyday opportunities to learn as a family -- and remember to embrace the natural curiosity and wonder of your kids.

Monday, February 27, 2012

6 Ideas for Rainy-Day Fun

Rain, Rain, Go away, Come again another day.... but not if you have these FUN activities! 

Puddle jump. Go ahead -- get wet. See who can make the biggest splash, jump across the widest puddle, and be the first to fill up her boots.
Create a "tie-dye" craft.Do the first part indoors: Grab some coffee filters and have the kids color them with markers (not washable ones), and lay them on a cookie sheet. Then put them outside in the rain and watch the colors run. Bring them inside, and after they dry, the kids can make flowers: Pinch each filter in the middle and twist, then wrap a green pipe cleaner around to make a stem.
Take your kids on a "rescue the worms" walk. (You don't have to touch 'em!) Stroll around the neighborhood and let your kids pick them up off the sidewalk and toss them back into the grass. When you're home, go to and search for cool info on earthworms.
Do a rainy-day Monet. Head outside with some sidewalk chalk. When it's wet, it works almost like paint!
Have a splash. Take a bunch of bath toys outdoors -- boats, buckets, cups -- and play in a puddle, or find a "stream" at the edge of the street (if you live on a safe one) and race a boat against a lightweight ball.
Make a rain catcher. If you just want to stay inside, have your child decorate a two-liter soda bottle, and measure and mark half-inches with a Sharpie. Then you cut off the top and put it outside a window where you can see it from inside. Set some fun goals: "When it gets to half an inch, we'll play a board game. When it gets to an inch, we'll make cookies..." etc.!

What do YOU do for entertainment on rainy days? 
You can read the full article here: 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guide-by-Grade: What to Expect for Each School Year

  • Once upon a time, kindergarten was all about teaching social readiness, learning how to line up, sit quietly in a circle, and put things back. In recent decades, "readiness skills" in language, reading, writing, and math have been emphasized. Experts generally agree, however, that much of the "learning" that happens in kindergarten should be nonacademic. Make-believe and fantasy are a big part of the kindergartner's approach to the world. Enjoy it.
  • What to Expect 1. Lots of activity. Kindergartners are doers, not sitters. While children will learn, increasingly, how to sit still and listen, the emphasis in the classroom will be on hands-on reality and action, action, action, both indoors and out.
  • 2. Imagination! Children in kindergarten are, in some ways, at the imaginative peak of their lives. Kindergarten should make the most of this special time. That is what the paints and dress-up clothes and blocks and Play-Doh are for.
  • 3. Learning letters. The most common formal instruction in kindergarten is the teaching of the alphabet and its associated sounds. Teachers will teach this to an incredibly diverse crew: Some children will already know how to read, while others will struggle with the letters all year and may still not know them well.
  • 4. Families and holidays. Social studies do not usually exist, per se, in kindergarten. But the rudiments begin as the teacher encourages a discussion of families. Holidays are useful, too. They're fun, they teach about customs and other people, and offer many arts-and-crafts-related tie-ins.
  • 5. Ongoing social and physical maturity. As the year moves along, your kindergartner should demonstrate an increased understanding of rules and cooperation, a longer attention span, and better coordination.
  •  6. Print curiosity. Another feature that may emerge toward the end of the year, if not before, is a marked curiosity about printed words your child sees  -- on signs, boxes of food, stray household objects, even clothing labels.
  • Watch Out for:Toilet accidents. While not uncommon, some of these are avoidable if you help your child learn how to make his needs known to the teacher. Some are quite shy about this.
  • Not getting along? A persistent inability to share or a lack of playmates may indicate a problem that deserves attention.
  • First Grade
  • Elementary school begins in first grade. But in spirit, children begin first grade as kindergartners. Much happens over the course of the year to transform little children into young boys and girls. First-graders do not seem as wild as kindergartners  -- after all, they are more developed physically, neurologically, and psychologically. They are gaining more control over their bodies, both at the fine motor level (first-grade art often shows a big representational leap over kindergarten art) and at the large muscle level (first grade is when children often begin to show interest in specific sports). Your child has a better sense of self than she did a year ago, and less of a need to live in the here and now. And she is ready and willing to use her mind. This is what first grade is all about. It is a fun and fulfilling year.
  • What to Expect
  • 1. A big emphasis on reading. Children range from reading fluently as preschoolers to still being unsure of their letters when they leave kindergarten.
  • 2. Numbers, numbers, and more numbers. There is lots of math in first grade  -- and it all seems like fun: sorting and classifying, reading and writing numerals, seeking patterns, working with tallying and statistics, exploring shapes and measurement.
  • 3. A little bit of homework. These days, most first-grade teachers tend to give a few minutes of homework once or twice a week to reinforce some classroom lessons.
  • 4. Writing, but not spelling. First-graders are given many chances to write. But what is on a child's mind at this age can outstrip his physical ability to hold the pencil and form the letters. Acceptance of "inventive" spelling is another part of helping children embrace the writing process.
  • 5. Increased emotional and physical independence. Children quickly learn to walk into the classroom themselves, then progress into other areas of self-management, such as hanging up coats (as the weather cools), returning library books, and handing in homework.
  • 6. Concentration. Kindergartners learn to listen in a circle; first-graders sit at their desks and listen to what is going on without getting distracted or requiring attention. This ability to concentrate develops over the course of the year, and sets the stage for second-grade academics.
  • Watch Out for: 
  • Slow readers. Do your best not to pressure your child into reading if he does not seem eager, and try not to force him to show you what he has been learning. How quickly a child learns to read has nothing to do with overall brightness or long-term reading ability.
  • Too much television. Research has shown that limiting television to 10 hours or less a week may assist a child in his reading; more TV-watching has been shown to slow reading achievement.
  • Pent-up feelings. First-graders are still emotional beings, likely to cry, yell, hit, or even throw tantrums when upset. This is a good age to begin urging your child to talk about feelings, and to guide her in beginning to find her own solutions to problems.
  • Second Grade
  • In second grade, a child becomes a student. By now, children should have a strong grip on all the rudimentary skills of learning, from reading and writing to arithmetic. With evident pride in what they know, second-graders are among the most eager learners to be found. They tend to be attached to the literal and concrete, and begin to pay attention to the world around them and expect to have some input and control. But they are still marvelously open to new experiences, and they have an appetite for stories, poetry, music, and other arts-oriented activities.
  • What to Expect
  • 1. Reading. The emphasis this year moves from reading as "decoding" (being able to convert letters into sounds; combining the sounds into words) to reading for understanding. (Second-graders, however, still love being read to, so teachers should provide regular story time.)
  • 2. Real homework. Though not generally time-consuming, second-grade homework usually becomes regular, perhaps 15 to 20 minutes a night. It is a good grade to begin a homework routine: Decide on the time and place homework gets done and see that your child stays with it as much as her schedule permits.
  • 3. Uh-oh: Spelling! In most schools, second grade marks the beginning of the spelling curriculum. There may be textbooks, photocopied lists, tests, or some combination of these, all in the interest of introducing children to the idea that spelling does matter after all.
  • 4. Math as a subject. If not before, this is the year that math becomes a formal subject of instruction (best taught in the morning when children are more alert). Math moves beyond counting into more complex addition and subtraction, simple fractions, measurement, and problem solving.
  • 5. Journalizing. Second grade is a big journal year. Children write about everything that happens to them, and in the process create one of the most adorable and enduring documents of their school careers.
  • 6. Outside experiences. While your child may already have a history of extracurricular activities, in second grade she may, suddenly, begin to express her own ideas about what she would like to be doing outside of school.
  • Watch Out for:
  • Excessive self-criticism. A second-grader will notice how his friends and peers do things and compare his own abilities. He may need help putting self-criticism in perspective and not judging himself too harshly.
  • Lack of concentration. Children who still have trouble sitting still and listening will begin to have trouble achieving at a high level.
  • Slow readers, redux. As the year passes the halfway point, if your child is still struggling with reading, it may be time to confer with the teacher.
  • Third Grade
  • School gets more serious in third grade. And so do the children. They begin to become aware of themselves in a wider context than children in a family. Third-graders can now draw on their own mental resources (memories, problem-solving skills, personal experience) when learning something new. In third grade, school becomes not just a place of learning, but also a place of socializing; children look forward to seeing their friends there day after day after day.
  • What to Expect
  • 1. "Big kid" responsibilities. Children will be expected to pack and unpack their own backpacks, write down their own homework assignments, and hand in their work. Third-grade homework moves into the 20- to 30-minute range.
  • 2. Textbooks. Many schools shift much of the curriculum into textbooks in third grade, often for spelling and social studies, although this varies a lot by school system.
  • 3. Group work and projects. Third grade is project heaven, with hands-on science experiments, literary dioramas, and social studies construction projects providing varied and colorful activity  -- and a lot of fun  -- throughout the year.
  • 4. Writing gets sophisticated. Children curb their self-expression and become more self-conscious in their writing, as they are taught more explicitly about crafting prose and poetry. And, adding style to substance, cursive is typically introduced during the third-grade year.
  • 5. Fruitful multiplication. Multiplication "facts," as they are usually called these days, fly hot and heavy around the third-grade classroom. The goal is to have all single-digit multiplication down cold by the end of the year.
  • 6. Instrumental music. If your school has a music program, your child may learn the recorder in third grade. If there is no music program in the school, this is a good age to pursue lessons on the outside.
  • Watch Out for: 
  • School blahs. This can be a make-or-break year regarding your child's attitude toward school. Try to foster a positive attitude about learning.
  • Grade pressure. Grades are a guide to what your child has learned and what she still needs to learn, no more; not a reason to pressure your child.
  • Gender rivalry. In third grade, boys and girls dissociate, flagrantly. Same-sex clusters rule the day. This is not anything to worry about  -- just funny.
  • Fourth Grade
  • In fourth grade, for perhaps the first time, school can get tough. Gone is the gentle focus of younger-grade teachers on basic skills and social development. Now, there are hard subjects to grapple with, more schoolwork and homework to organize, and real tests to study for  -- as the saying goes, in fourth grade, children stop learning to read and start reading to learn. What is more, fourth-graders must navigate an increasingly complex social environment, with new sensitivity to who the "smart" ones or "popular" ones are. Fourth-graders are not as ready to distance themselves from their parents as children another year or two down the road. For some it is the last innocent year.
  • What to Expect
  • 1. Homework gets serious. If your child does not have a homework routine in place, he might find himself overwhelmed as fourth grade  -- with its 40 minutes or more of homework  -- gets under way. And now there are plenty of real tests to study for. Be sure your child's organizational skills are up to the task without being too bossy yourself.
  • 2. Three-ring binders. The next sign of a maturing student, after the textbooks in third grade, are the three-ring binders (complete with dividers) of the fourth-grader.
  • 3. State history. Expect to find out more than you yourself ever knew about the state you live in.
  • 4. Shapes of things. While fourth-grade math is largely an extension of third-grade math (more multiplication, more division, more fractions), there is also more geometry, which often fascinates children this age.
  • 5. Researching skills. One of the ways fourth-graders utilize their reading skills is by learning how to apply reading to gather information and to understand other subjects  -- especially history, geography, and science.
  • 6. Physical differences. Fourth grade is marked by potentially large physical differences in children. While some still look young, others look nearly ready for middle school.
  • Watch Out for:
  • Math hesitancy. If your fourth-grader considers math "hard," talk to the teacher. Fourth-grade math should not be beyond most children's abilities.
  • Sensitive feelings. In cliques and rivalries brews much opportunity for hurt feelings. Friendships can also bring tension and conflict. On top of this, fourth-graders are more sensitive than younger children to what other people think of them.
  • The end of reading at home. Just because your child is old enough to read on his own does not mean you should stop reading to him out loud. Most children still love this time with their parents.
  • Fifth Grade
  • In many schools, the fifth-graders are the oldest, and they love it. While they still tend to have a natural love of learning, they are also moving toward preadolescence. Some are more willing than ever before to test their limits, question authority, and be distracted by nonacademic activities. That said, many fifth-graders are still happy children, keen on acquiring knowledge and learning facts. This is a year, too, in which technical proficiency in special areas, such as music, may blossom. While fifth grade is a lot like fourth grade in the academic ground it covers, fifth-graders are expected to act with an ever-increasing amount of independence and responsibility.
  • What to Expect
  • 1. Long-term research projects and reports. In fifth grade, reports get longer, require independent research, and delve into more complex materials. If there is a computer at home, you may suddenly see your child doing more than playing on it. The Web may become a useful resource.
  • 2. Current events. Regardless of the appropriateness of the news for children, fifth-graders are captivated by the world around them, and will often have assignments oriented toward reading the newspaper.
  • 3. Public speaking. Dynamic fifth-grade classes encourage a lot of public speaking opportunities  -- from writing and delivering actual speeches, to a variety of chances for oral presentations. Attend to how your child handles this.
  • 4. Math gets hard. Maybe not for your child, but for you. Parents often find that fifth-grade math takes them beyond what they comfortably remember. As in fourth grade, it's crucial for you to stay in touch with your child's mathematical progress, or lack of progress.
  • 5. Sex in the classroom? The time has come, in fifth grade in most schools, for presentations on health and sexuality. Bodies will be changing soon  -- it's natural, and so, too, should be learning about it.
  • 6. Fifth-grade events. Especially as the spring arrives, fifth grade may end up seeming to be, most of all, about itself: A celebration of the upcoming graduation and the end of the elementary-school career, through a series of special events, often including a major field trip.
  • Watch Out for:
  • "Forgotten" homework. Fifth grade is a big year for nightly calls about homework. If your child is making, rather than receiving, these calls, explore the reasons  -- there could be organizational problems.
  • Overscheduling. Inherently busy and social, your fifth-grader may end up with little time to do her homework and get a good night's sleep. 
  • Peer pressure. Fifth-graders can become very sensitive to having the "right" clothes, hairstyles, and musical tastes. Be aware of this, but be sure, too, not to approach conversations with your child judgmentally. Keeping the lines of communication open will be one of your greatest challenges.
You can read the full article here: 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Parents Mag: "The One-Week Fix for Bad Behavior"

"Why does Julian have to be so annoying?" Usually, when my 9-year-old daughter, Charlotte, poses this question about her 4-year-old brother, my response is, "Don't call your brother annoying." But one rainy day, after spending hours listening to Julian's whining, I asked myself: "Why do kids have to be so annoying?"
Nothing drives me crazier than my son's high-pitched complaints, except Charlotte's tendency to pinch or smack her brother. Sometimes I wonder if my stress level is higher because I'm a single mom. Still, the married mothers I know say every child has a behavior that's like fingernails on a chalkboard. But we may be as much to blame as our kids. "If you focus on what a child is doing wrong, he'll naturally resist, which leads to arguments and worse conduct," explains Bernard Percy, a parenting consultant in Los Angeles.
Percy is right: My kids' annoying tendencies tend to bring out the worst in me. "I can't take this for another minute!" I found myself yelling recently. Then I stopped to think. I couldn't expect my kids to change their negative habits instantly. So I asked experts for their top behavior-modifying tips and agreed to try a different one every day for one week.
Day 1: Don't React
My first move was to determine what I've been doing wrong. "The mistake most parents make is responding to the misbehavior, since negative attention is better than none at all," explained Ed Christophersen, Ph.D., clinical child psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, in Kansas City, Missouri.
But I was afraid of what would happen if I ignored them. Would Julian's histrionics burst my eardrums? Would Charlotte give him such a pounding that he'd need to visit the E.R.? Dr. Christophersen suggested telling them about my new policy during a calm moment. "Guys," I announced at breakfast, "from now on, if there's whining or bickering, I'm going to pretend I don't see or hear you. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, whatever," Charlotte shrugged.
"Uh-huh," said Julian. "Can I have more juice?" His reaction came later, when we were clothes shopping for Charlotte. "Why do we have to be in this stupid store?" he asked. "I want to go home!" Ordinarily, I would fish a candy out of my purse to keep Julian quiet. But this time, I simply continued sorting through shirts.
"Mommy! Do you hear me? I hate it here! I said it's stupid!"
Ignoring my son and the glares of the salespeople, I smiled brightly. "Look, Charlotte, they have your size in blue!"
Julian screeched louder and louder. It took all my willpower not to respond. But then, suddenly... silence. He had discovered some key chains that looked like Lego people and played with them until we were ready to go.
Apparently whining loses its appeal when Mom doesn't acknowledge it. Still, I never want to show my face in that store again.
Day 2: Stay Positive
I woke up the next morning dreading the inevitable tantrums and sibling showdowns I'd face that day. But Robin H-C, a family coach and author ofThinking Your Way to Happy!, set me straight: Expecting kids to be bad is a self-fulfilling prophecy. "When you label your child, make sure it's positive so he has something to live up to," she told me.
I tried that when Julian complained that he couldn't find the right blocks to build a house for his action figures. "You're good at making things," I said. "Use something else."
"Noooo!" he yelled.
But then--miracle of miracles!--Charlotte stepped in. "Come on, Julian, I'll help you," she said.
"Charlotte, thanks for being such a helpful big sister," I said. Half an hour later, the kids came running in with a shoebox they'd turned into a house using tape and scissors.
"That's a great house," I said, "and I'm so proud of you for playing nicely together." The rest of the day was oddly peaceful. Could the solution really be this simple?
Day 3: Walk the Walk
Next, I decided to change my own bad behavior, since Jayne Bellando, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at Arkansas Children's Hospital, in Little Rock, pointed out that I was modeling the very thing I wanted to curb in my kids.
While I don't whine at them, I do tend to nag. So during morning madness, instead of imploring my kids to get a move on, I said calmly, "Just reminding you that we have to leave in five minutes or you won't make it on time." Charlotte and Julian gathered their things faster than usual. Then, remembering that Dr. Bellando had told me to label my positive actions, I added, "See, I asked you guys nicely to get ready." Charlotte looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. "That's good, Mom," she said, in the tone one would use to talk someone down from a window ledge. Oh well--at least they didn't wind up needing late passes.
Day 4: Validate Before Disciplining
I could swear my kids go out of their way to drive me nuts. I asked Gary M. Unruh, author of Unleashing the Power of Parental Love, if this could be true. "No, kids usually act out for a reason," he answered. "That's why you should point out the feelings that caused your child to misbehave, and then give her a fair consequence." This will help her feel accepted and understood, even as she's being disciplined.
I had the chance to test this approach when Charlotte hit her brother after he accidentally broke her bracelet. Rather than going with my instinct ("It was an accident, and you know better than to hit"), I said, "You must be really mad at Julian for ruining your bracelet."
Charlotte' eyes welled up. "He's always messing up my stuff, and you never get mad at him," she said.
"I need to correct Julian more," I said. "You have a right to be angry. But I need you to go to your room for a time-out. That's what happens when you hit."
To my surprise, Charlotte went straight to her room. When she came out, there was none of her typical post-punishment sulking. I'm tempted to proclaim that "feelings first, discipline second" is the best behavior trick I've ever tried. The one drawback: Its success is dependent on having the patience to implement it.

How do you deal with tears, tantrums and tiffs? 
You can read the full article here:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Get Your Kids Psyched About Fitness

Now it's time to think about upping the amount of activity your family gets each day. Since when do tykes who are barely out of diapers (or perhaps still in them!) need to "work out"? "As soon as they can crawl!" says Avery Faigenbaum, Ed.D., a professor of health and exercise science who specializes in pediatrics at The College of New Jersey, in Ewing. But of course we aren't talking about the same sort of fitness routine you put yourself through (or think about, anyway). Exercise tot-style is really all about the physical play that young kids engage in pretty much whenever they have a chance. "Children this age are innately active," says Faigenbaum, "but in a very different way than adults are. You'll never see a child jog for thirty minutes without stopping. He'll run around for five or ten seconds, stop, then run again."
And that's just as it should be. The workout objectives of toddlers and preschoolers are different from the fitness goals of grown-ups; little kids don't need to get their heart rates into a certain range, for example. Sure, activity is important for building stamina, strengthening bones and muscles, and honing balance and coordination. But at this age, it's most vital for developing fundamental movement skills -- running, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking, climbing, and the like -- and establishing healthy habits. "Negative and positive behaviors are ingrained in early childhood," notes Faigenbaum. And that applies to exercise. Your kid is a natural fitness buff (does she ever really sit still?!). The trick is to keep her that way. "A body in motion tends to stay in motion," says personal trainer and Parenting Mom Squad member Larysa DiDio of Pleasantville, NY, the coauthor of Sneaky Fitness: Fun, Foolproof Ways to Slip Fitness Into Your Child's Everyday Life. On the following pages, you'll find a guide to the physical milestones the 5-and-under set should achieve, great toys that will help them do it, and a menu of activities to keep it all fun. The goal: to set your child up for the healthiest future possible. Let's get started!
Fit Milestones: What Most Kids Can Do…
By the end of the second year:
  • Walk without holding your hand
  • Pull a toy while walking
  • Carry a toy while walking
  • Begin to run
  • Stand on tiptoe
  • Kick a ball
  • Climb onto and down from the sofa
  • Walk up and down stairs holding on to support

By the end of the third year:

  • Climb well
  • Walk up and down stairs, alternating feet
  • Kick and direct the motion of a ball
  • Run easily
  • Pedal a tricycle
  • Bend over easily without falling

By the end of the fourth year:

  • Hop and stand on one foot for up to five seconds
  • Go up and down stairs without help
  • Kick a ball forward
  • Throw a ball overhand
  • Catch a bounced ball most of the time
  • Move forward and backward with agility

By the end of the fifth year:

  • Stand on one foot for ten seconds or longer
  • Hop
  • Do somersaults
  • Pump on a swing
  • May be able to skip

Ways to Sneak in Exercise
exercise table
What are ways YOU get your family excited about fitness?

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