The old saying, “when mom’s happy, everyone’s happy”, is true (t-shirts available here). Families don’t work when parents are overwhelmed and burned out, especially when it’s mom. Life falls apart when mommy gets the flu. It’s a full blown natural disaster when mom is depleted and struggling.
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. The kids are screaming at each other. They're becoming so demanding. I want to scream. I've read all the parenting advice I can take. Nothing works. Nothing! I just want to run away! No, you're not fired...sorry. But it is definitely time to set the timer - ...
It isn’t easy to lead your child into new adventures, especially when they are new for you too. But you can do it! In this fast-changing world, the child raised with roots and wings is the child who is prepared for anything. Teaching optimism and resilience will teach your child to fly.
Potty training is a parenting milestone as well as a developmental one. Parents are learning how to lead without overwhelming or overstepping, how to cultivate responsibility and independence in someone else, and how to remain positive through frustration, doubt and uncertainty. The good news is: all children become proficient potty-goers. And parents learn invaluable lessons about themselves and their child.
There's an old proverb that you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die. Turns out that proverb has some wisdom behind it. According to the Hygiene Hypothesis, exposure to dirt, pets and everyday germs is good for the body and the soul. The health benefits of "dirt" include a stronger immune system, fewer allergies, better digestion, less heart disease, better stress management and a natural anti-depressant agent.
Magic in tantrums? Are you kidding? Any reasonable person would choose to avoid tantrums, prevent tantrums, stop tantrums as quickly as possible. Emotional meltdowns, whether they are colossal storms or slow-gathering floods, are deeply uncomfortable to a child and to any caring adult in range. T ...
Toddlers are growing exponentially. It takes years to figure out how to put thoughts, ideas, strategies and solutions into words. The exciting part is that language and learning are partners for life. And what parents say truly matters now and for years to come.
Every action, every thought, every feeling is your child creating a self-portrait of who they are and what they need to grow. It’s up to us to see, hear and cherish that child and that expression…even if the “portrait” has an extra eye or has legs coming out of the head!
Young children do not and cannot see themselves “as they are” – nor should they. It is developmentally impossible – a child’s sense of self is “under construction”.
Without adequate sleep, children are at risk for increased stress from increased cortisol levels, decreased memory and learning, compromised immune system and muscle repair, insulin resistance that leads to obesity and a higher coincidence of ADHD. Bodies and minds need sleep, much more than the current national averages.
Toddlers and preschoolers often experience clingy periods of neediness just before mastering new developmental challenges like walking, separation, and potty training. They teeter in an emotional push-pull of independence and dependence that can feel like fingernails-on-a-chalkboard to a confused parent – a new toddler clinging to a parent’s legs, a whining preschooler frozen by inaction, or a sobbing child overwhelmed by new emotions. How can a parent help without coddling or forcing?
The arrival of baby #2 feels very different than the arrival of baby #1. First babies arrived after months of preparing to become parents for the first time - preparing nurseries, wondering what kind of parents you would be, wondering how your lives would change. Well, your lives changed and changed for good. You can barely remember life-pre-baby! There's very little time to rest as you wait for baby #2 because you are so busy being a family - running around with baby #1.
Neuroscientists and developmental researchers are contributing valuable insights about how children learn. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University is documenting how critical early childhood experiences prepare children for successful lives. Much like the Marshmallow Test of decades ago, children who demonstrate "executive function" and "self-regulation" have greater success in school, in relationships and for lifelong health.
Grandparents come with many names and countless ways to be a grandparent. The grandparent-child relationship is unique, without all the pressure of being a parent. Grandparents love unconditionally and spoil endlessly, then go home to let the parents suffer the consequences.
Babies are born with a temperament that shapes how they learn, love and experience new people and new situations. As they grow, their individual temperament shapes how each new developmental stage and skill emerges: for example, mealtimes, bedtime, starting new classes or school, and potty training. Children discover their unique place in the world while parents are continually adapting what works best for each child.
In potty training, as with all developmental landmarks, there comes a time when you start to wonder, “Is now the time?” Is now the time to feed your baby solid food? Will your baby be crawling soon? Should you begin potty training? Just because you’re asking doesn’t mean the answer is “Yes, now.” However, when you begin asking the readiness question, it is a good time to start observing your child.
Accidents are likely when your child is busy. Your Potty Weekend was finely focused on potty-going behavior. Your child had on-going reminders. The entire day revolved around making pottying fun and easy. Now, real life adds hundreds of distractions – an interesting video, a bug he’s never seen before, or the last bite of a cookie. Young children have difficulty stopping whatever it is they are doing, even if that thing will be waiting there when they return.
Discipline is especially challenging when your kids catch you off guard, explode without warning or surprise you with new precociousness. Out-of-control kids are not a fluke of nature; out-of-control kids are the inevitable. Kids by their very nature make poor choices, do incredibly stupid things and either intentionally or accidently break many of the rules that keep them safe and happy. They either don’t know better or haven’t been taught differently.
The secret to the A.A. Milne quote isn't strength, courage or intelligence. It's holding on to the unwavering belief that you already have all the super powers that you need and that your child is and will be capable and successful. The best parenting promise is: believe! Everything changes if you believe. Young children need to believe in themselves and they need to believe in you.
A one-size-potty-training plan does not fit all potty training situations. Your potty training experiences will be as unique as you and your child. Liberate yourself and your child from external pressure. Design your perfect potty plan with a full awareness of your child’s personal strengths and complete respect for your child’s individuality.
Kids, just like the busy grown-ups around them, live in a world of sensory overload. They are busier than ever, spending increasing amounts of time out of the home. Many even claim to be “bored” on stay-at-home days. They live in artificially stimulating environments – from technology-connected computer games, television or car DVD players to super-sized enrichment experiences in music, movement, art and literature. Kids as young as a year old are being wowed on a daily basis.
Fear - Doubt - Guilt - Uncertainty are all a mixed bag that sabotage everyday parenting interactions.
Fear for imminent danger, like tigers in your bedroom, is "real". In those cases, stewing about the fear is not a good idea. It's flight or fight time - do something or hide in the closet immediately. Fear creates a fight or flight reaction that ignites the reptilian brain, silences the over-talking and over-thinking brain, and heightens adrenaline - all very important when you need to stop a tiger or get out of a burning building quickly but not typically effective when responding to an out-of-control or needy child.
Before you know it, the quick fixes start to define your parenting style, creating a spiral of entitlement. Your child starts to feel entitled to an immediate solution. Pretty soon, you’re not just giving in, you’re giving up. You are exhausted, frustrated, and hopeless. Your child’s sense of entitlement fuels more parenting panic, which escalates to the next quick fix. When you feel the frenzy to fix your child’s unhappiness, you grab for the first solution you see. There’s no time to think. You feel like a person being swallowed in quicksand. As every quick fix falls short, you find yourself sinking deeper and deeper.
Sharing and taking turns are not ends in and of themselves; they are the means to getting along with others. Tenacious toddlers are acting their age. They need guidance, boundaries and lots of social practice. Toddlers who learn compassion and empathy are better prepared to navigate social minefields than those who are learn begrudgingly to “be nice”.
The research is monumental because it shows that very young children have an enormous capacity to understand other people's feelings and preferences, even when different than their own. Kids are socially smart.
In a world of princesses and pinkalicious, it's time for all children to have strong voices, to know what they need to solve problems, and to feel capable and successful. It's especially time to raise the glass ceiling on preschool gender stereotypes and let girls be girls. Change begins at home as we help every child discover their age-appropriate power and their fullest potential.
Change isn’t scary at all when you know you are creative, resourceful and prepared for anything. Parents lift the weight of fear and doubt off children every time they show them that tomorrow is safe and fun.
Fear is inevitable in every child’s life, because children do not understand cause and effect logically—darkness can “eat” a room, and children can get “sucked down” bathtub drains. But your child doesn’t have to face fears alone. Families face difficulties together, and every fear has an age-appropriate response. Don’t help your child avoid fears; help her cope with them.
"Stop!" "Be careful!" "Don't do that!" "Watch out!"
Imagine yourself test driving a brand new Porsche Carrera convertible onto a busy freeway while a very nervous passenger reminds you to "be careful" or "watch out". Did that reminder help your confidence or undermine it? Did it improve your skill, your focus and your problem solving ability or did it raise doubts about whether this was really a good idea after all? Nervousness and helicoptering distracts children and grown-ups alike from evaluating situations and acquiring personal mastery.
Should you be perfect? Absolutely not, role models don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. Role models do, however, understand that someone impressionable is watching, listening and learning from their example.
Setting limits is one of the hardest things parents have to do. And it doesn’t come naturally to most. It is acquired only after years of witnessing the resilience of children who thrive with age-appropriate expectations, high standards and consistent boundaries. Good parents are fun, kind and loving. Good parents are also “mean” and “unfair”, at least in the words of their children.
Toddlers pout "no" with a hopeful grin to remind you that they are still lovable with their new-found sassiness. Preschoolers cajole their way out of longstanding rules building a resume for future hostage negotiator. Is it normal that toddlers and preschoolers can have so much attitude? Yes, rest assured, it's normal. It's also a developmental necessity that young children experiment with finding their voice and their power.
Motherhood is a self-less act. It requires placing someone else’s needs above your own, from sleepless nights to time-consuming carpools. Motherhood is a lifelong journey of nurturing, guiding, consoling and teaching. But, as any marathoner can tell you, you have to build your physical and mental endurance.
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Toddlers and preschoolers are walking around with a great big new emotional life that doesn't quite fit yet. When your child feels intense new emotions, you can hear her thump clumping around like she's wearing your oversize shoes. She tries to stay steady. But more oft ...
Some children get “stuck”—they know they don’t want to poop in the pull-up, but they are still frightened by the alternatives. Unfortunately, getting emotionally “stuck” can lead to getting physically “stuck.” Potty training is not fun or easy when your child is constipated. The Potty Training Answer Book has these suggestions for withholding poop, when children often regress from initial potty training success. If you’ve done all the proactive strategies of a healthy high-fiber diet with lots of fluids, have physically active playtimes, and you notice your child is not pooping regularly, check with your pediatrician. Do not give your child over-the-counter laxatives or medicines without your pediatrician’s approval.
It takes time, practice, experience and wisdom to figure out emotional needs: Do I need a Band-Aid or a hug? Do I need a Band-Aid or a minute to calm down? Do I need a Band-Aid or a crazy-releasing temper tantrum? No one else can tell a child exactly what he or she needs because one person's strategy may not work for another.
Those "terrible two's" got their name from the emotional Xtremes of being two. Of course it all starts at 18 months when your child first says "no" and "mine". And, if the 2's are mild and easy-going, then the 3's come in with even more intensity. There's just no avoiding the emotional storms of toddlers and preschoolers feeling big feelings and learning how to manage the wilder parts of their developing brains.
The visual effect of a mountain of presents is dramatic, filled with all the excitement of surprises and wishes fulfilled. Your heart glows when you hear your child “oooh” and “ahhh” with anticipation. But how much is “too much” without turning into Ebenezer Scrooge?
Consistency is essential to successful parenting. But all parents know that you need to be consistent and flexible. Here are the suggestions for how and when to be consistent.
As parents, you can expect the monsters. Be prepared with age-appropriate strategies that fit into your child’s magical thinking. Your child will learn to be strong and brave with your support. Eventually, your child can face any old monster.
Halloween is one holiday that, if played “right”, gives children enormous power and excitement, not to mention the candy part. Yes, it just might be fun to be scared! No, not unpredictable, incomprehensible, out-of-control horror but the dark, suspenseful, turns-out-ok-in-the-end scaredy fun.
Remember, it isn't you against your child. It isn't your child driving you crazy "on purpose", though it definitely feels that way. You are on the same side and your child needs you more than ever in the volatile moments. Your child needs the safety and security of a grown-up who's smart and trustworthy.
Solitary play is one of the mainstays of childhood - a magical place created by kids for themselves. It is an essential source of personal power, refreshing self-directed mastery, creative originality and an unfailing path to self-discovery. It is a safe place to come to understand emotions, other people, the science of objects, to problem solve, investigate, hypothesize and experience an uninterrupted sense of self.
Parenting in public is hard. Time stops as you imagine a thousand eyes staring at you. Embarrassment is burning a hole in your brain, and you cannot think. You imagine a neon sign flashing over your head: I’M A BAD PARENT, AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING.
Big, powerful emotions are inevitable as young children grow into thinking, feeling little people. When the world feels volatile, toddlers and preschoolers need emotionally reassuring grown-ups to help them to understand what they feel, to feel safe and to find a positive way through the emotional storm.
It takes a confidant parent to stay strong through the guilt of asking “too much” of a child. Children don’t often know they are capable until someone shows them, particularly when the behavior requires delayed gratification. You can dissolve under the self-doubt or find your own sure footing to help your child move forward toward self control and helpfulness. Parents don’t want to be the bad guy, don’t want to see their kids cry, especially when their children are too young to understand the reasons behind it. Parents want to protect, comfort and remove every barrier and burden – except that they know that will in fact unintentionally harm the very child they love so dearly.
Children’s friendships are unique. They flourish in the moment yet they change unpredictably. If a child is happy, friendships are spontaneous and easy; if he’s tired or frustrated, his ability to be a friend is seriously handicapped. Learning to be a friend is on-going process of discovery and curiosity.
Preschool, at its best, is a celebration of childhood and everything children truly need to grow and thrive - child sized furniture (and bathrooms), interest centers with a child's favorite kind of play, predictable routines that flow with the rhythm of children's needs, new friends who laugh at the same silly things, and creative loving grown-ups who actually choose to spend their days with children. Preschools celebrate innocence and curiosity, messy play and the building blocks of lifelong learning. Preschools comfort and encourage, accept and strive. Preschools are extensions of home, places where children learn to love and love to learn.
Teacher, do you see me, do you know me? I'm too little to tell you everything you need to know about me. Heck, I'm too little to know everything I need to know! Young children are looking to parents for help but how? Back-to-school is equally stressful for parents trying to guide, lead, reassure uncertain children into this big unknown - new teachers, new classroom, new peers, new routines, new expectation. HEEEEEEEELP!
Oh, the anguish of leaving a crying, confused, uncertain child in the hands of "stranger", even when that "stranger" is a loving teacher reassuring you that "everything will be ok". It doesn't feel ok! Separation challenges can raise heart-wrenching doubt for parents expecting a fun and happy experience for children to play and learn. Is my child not ready? Is it worth the struggle? Why am I doing this to my child?
Backpacks are a tell-tale sign that back-to-school is here. But like teddy bears and bedtime books, backpacks are not ordinary objects. A backpack gives your child magical power – the power to walk into a new classroom knowing he belongs. Like little turtles carrying their houses wherever they go, children carry a corner of home and a place of their own in those not-so-little backpacks.
Potty training is always an adventure. Potty training doesn’t begin the month you want your child to use the potty. It’s a developmental learning process that begins around 18 months as your child first begins to notice there’s pee and poop in diapers. It’s true that some children “potty train” in a day or a weekend but only when the child has all the readiness skills and has been exposed to the significant pieces of the potty puzzle.
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. What goes up must come down. And so it is with children's energy levels. Young children, however, do not always have the skills to ease down from high activity levels. Hence, the crash and burn generally seen as whining, screaming, and bouncing off walls. Teaching your ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Imagine so much "curb appeal" to your backyard that children flock from every corner of the neighborhood to play, to learn, and to relax. Ok, maybe that's not such a great idea. How about - imagine a backyard that gives you the freedom to say to your children: "go play ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Young children are learning math every day. They count fingers and toes and by rote to numbers that are older than mommy. They compare quantities large and small and negotiate for more. They measure, add, and subtract. Children are learning more than math facts. They ar ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Artists thrive in a studio of their own - a place to dream, experiment, and create. Atelier is the French word for an artist's workshop. Your home is your child's atelier, the place where your child learns how to see and interpret the world. Home is your child's gallery ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. No one wants to be the messenger of bad news, especially parents who want to create happy childhoods for innocent young children. However, childhood is more than a magical place for rainbows and moonbeams. Childhood is also the place where children learn about life. You ...
The preschool year is coming to an end, For many parents, it's the bitter-sweet, excitement-n-fear of saying goodbye to an extended school-family and embarking on the next adventure of "big school". And it's definitely not your grandmother's kindergarten with lots of free play, messy art projects that have little resemblance to identifiable creations, rest-when-you're-tired nap mats, and wild recess games. Yes, kindergarten looks a lot more like first grade, maybe even second.
Social-emotional skills help preschoolers successfully manage the school day. Preschoolers need the assertiveness to speak to teachers and classmates, the independence to open their own lunchbox, the patience to wait for 30 seconds while another child finishes his turn, and the confidence discover new opportunities to learn and play.
Fears are a normal part of childhood, and therefore to be expected during potty training. From auto-flush toilets to pooping at school, children often regress in pottying when faced with new situations. Addressing fears as they arise will teach your child flexibility and adaptability. It's a big world out there, and it's full of potties!
The first part of successful discipline is managing the moment: setting clear limits, disengaging from emotional power struggles and taking decisive action to “mean what you say”. You don’t always get perfect results, that is, your children rarely say “oh gee mom, thanks for that good advice. Now let me make a better choice and never do that again.” Remember, kids by their very nature make poor choices, do incredibly stupid things and either intentionally or accidently break many of the rules that keep them safe and happy. Parents are disciplinarians, eh hem teachers, whether they like it or not.
Toddlers are motion and emotions, power plays and exponential growth. Toddlerhood is a stage unlike any other, with the possible exception of becoming a teenager. Actually, becoming a toddler is very similar to becoming a teenager - defiant, oppositional independent. Toddlerhood is that transitional stage between the loving, secure bonding bubble of babyhood and the capable preschooler with personality, style and self-mastery. It's a great ride when parents understand that those toddler edges are the places where toddlers are growing the most.
Toddlers feverishly defend their piece of the world. “Mine! Mine! Mine!" Parents recoil in embarrassment. Onlookers shake their heads and wave judgmental fingers as if they can’t understand a child’s need to claim, to own and to protect.
Learning to play well with others is lifelong skill children learn in early childhood. Toddlers and preschoolers are learning how to express their needs, wants and preferences while accommodating a friend’s needs, wants and preferences. Sometimes, children’s play-styles blend easily; other times it takes a little work – just like grown-ups.
Surely, “it takes a village to raise a child”, a village full of hands and more time than any one person has in a day. Wouldn't it be simple if everyone would simply do everything one way? That’s heaven – one person, knowing what’s best, making all the right decisions, and everyone else in unanimous agreement! Does that sound like your house?
Everything grows from love - confidence, joy, resourcefulness, kindness, compassion, acceptance and peace. You convey brain-boosting love to your children every day in a million ways as you "fill their bucket" just like the bestselling book How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer.
Parents are protectors. They create safe, secure lives for little children to learn and grow. They tell stories about the world so that children may learn about danger and take the side of good over evil. Parents carve tools out of love and shields out of experience that children use to become competent, capable and masterful. Regardless of all their parents’ best efforts, young children experience doubt and fear. The world is scary sometimes, especially to small children trying to figure out their place in it.
Bedtime opposition is one of the many “normal” struggles for parents of young children. Children have tremendous difficulty accepting the end of one day and facing the long, dark night. While parents cannot “force” a child to sleep, parents can step back from bedtime battlegrounds and lead children to peaceful nights.
Stop, listen, pause. Be tuned in to the scales tipping over the redline. Every pause creates space to breathe and for your children to breathe. More importantly, every pause is time for your child to get reoriented to sanity. 5 minutes of slowing down is 5 minutes for your child to connect to you, to feeling seen and loved. You are your child's lifeline to peace, joy, calm and sanity.
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Children everywhere will be doing a lot of receiving this holiday season. Whether it's Santa delivering gifts under a Christmas tree or eight presents next to a glowing menorah, children will revel in magically wrapped surprises. Parents will do their best to teach chil ...
Remember, the less a toy does, the more your child does. So, choose toys that encourage problem solving and imagination, and that honor your child's unique style of play.
Here are just a few of the many fun and fabulous toys out there. This first list has a ton of STEM toys
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Compassion and empathy are powerful feelings at any age. As adults, we have the ability to make a difference in the world by helping others. Imagine the power of teaching children they can make a difference too. Children notice when they see others sad or hurting. Wh ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. You've seen this year's toy-buying lists in all the popular parenting magazines, age-by-age suggestions of must-have toys. Unfortunately these can lead to a houseful of forgettable toys. Gift giving is not about checking each toy off the annual list of hot new products, ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. 'Tis the season for stuff! You buy stuff, build stuff, wrap stuff, ship stuff, return stuff, and buy more stuff. And then we say we love this time of year because it reminds us of what really matters in our lives - and it's not the stuff. What's a parent suppose to do? ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Think back to your childhood for just a minute and remember what you did during the holiday season. What was the weather like where you lived? What room in your house had the most activity? What kinds of holiday decorations were around? Who were the special people aroun ...
Believe it or not, you can improve your child's health and fitness, test scores, and social/emotional competence with one simple daily event. Numerous studies all tell us that the family that eats together is the healthiest and maybe even the smartest! Here are the facts:
- According to ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. From Twinkle Twinkle to Good Night Moon, the night sky holds endless fascination for young children. The magical combination of science and ritual is brimming with early childhood trinkets. Young children are the philosopher kings, drawn to the vast ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Summer in Florida is hot and it's wet. You can complain all you want but surely it's better not to hear complaining children's voices. So, here are a few strategies to make those daily rainstorms happy teachable moments. Summer showers are kid-friendly experiences. The ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Shout it from the tops of the highest mountains. Announce it at all the NBA playoff games. Pipe it into every shopping mall in America. WE NEED YOU DAD!!! We may not say it as often as we should and we really like to pretend that our way is the only way. Nonetheless, we ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Motherhood is a blessing, no doubt about it. But have you noticed there are some mommy-moments in raising children that are better not shared with the children. Like when your three year old discovers how to make the milk come out of his nose - and you want to fall out ...
By Karen Deerwester, the owner of Family Time Coaching & Consulting Warning! Warning! The world is laughing entirely too little. First, the reports claimed it was the adults who had lost the gift of laughter. They said children were laughing 400 times a day, while the adults were only laug ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Parenting can get very confusing in today's world. Here are 5 valuable tips on how to approach the overwhelming amount of parenting information available to parents today.
- YOU ARE THE ONLY EXPERT WHEN IT COMES TO RAISING YOUR CHILD."Experts" ...
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Literacy involves four interconnected activities: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Interestingly, children do not learn these literacy skills one at a time - they do not first listen, then speak, then read, and finally write. All four domains develop simultane ...
The image of children as egocentric “takers” has dominated the psychological landscape for half a century. Maybe it was a convenient excuse to lavish children with all the accoutrements of a happy childhood. Of course, happiness can’t be bought. And self-esteem is earned. Children are actually capable of enormous generosity, particularly when children understand the happiness the gift brings to others.
Does mealtime feel like a three-ring circus in your house and you’re the one jumping through the hoops? Well, no more. Here are tried-n-true tips to help your child have "happy meals" - eat more, feel competent and capable at meal times and create positive, healthy habits.
By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S. Babies don't arrive by storks and money doesn't grow on trees. Sometimes it seems easier to avoid certain discussions than to try to teach children the facts, the values, and the skills that accompany complex adult topics. Money is a "complex topic", not because it requ ...
o you want your child to be a better listener? Try adding listening games to your family routines and child’s playtime. You’ll help your child acquire critical auditory skills needed for literacy as well as a better appreciation of the world around them.