Saturday, November 27, 2010

Behaviour and Feelings

About two years ago I read this statement:

"the child who feels right, acts right"

the statement comes from the book "the Power of Positive Parenting" by Dr. Glenn Latham. I figure I should credit that.

This simple fact resonated with me. It was an "aha!" moment. Throughout the past 2 years, I have used that statement to rethink how I handle my kids and their behaviour and it has influenced how I parent.

Previously, I think I would often deal with the "behaviour". For example, if a child were to whine at me about the injustice of some insignificant event (Arthur won't stop looking at me).. I would point out how silly that is to be whining about that and how they need to ignore it.

Now - it's still silly to be whining about it, and it needs to be ignored .. AND .. the whining tells me my child is tired and needs to go to bed. Or hungry. Or has had a bad day and needs to talk about it. Instead of just dealing with the behaviour, I deal with the feeling that is driving the behaviour. It depends on the situation, but the point is - whining is a clear cue to me that I should do something. Feed them a snack. Or put them to bed now instead of in half an hour.

The point I am trying to make is - I have realized that the behaviour is not going to change until the feeling (tiredness, hunger, etc.) is dealt with. Telling the kid to stop the behaviour without addressing the feeling underneath is less effective, less helpful to them in the long run.

Charlie has temper tantrums, like all children his age do. I think it's very easy, as a parent, to get wrapped up in telling your tantruming child that they are being unreasonable about whatever it was that set them off. Wanting to go outside right now when you're cooking dinner, wanting a treat, trying to extract them from the drivers seat and wrangle them into their carseat. But, truly, there is an overload of frustration or anger or fear, perhaps mixed in with tiredness or hunger, and it's those feelings that are driving the behaviour, not the situation itself that triggered the temper tantrum.

When Charlie has a meltdown, I have found the fastest way to help him get back under control is just to address the feeling and help him calm himself down. I don't think the "growing out" of temper tantrums is the result of the child who understands better what they can and can not do, but rather because they have become better able to handle the emotions they feel when confronted with disappointment, frustration, anger.

I've also done research on how the brain develops from infancy and through child hood, and as a result I believe that one of the best things you can do as a parent is help your child cope with negative emotions. How your child - from birth onwards - is helped to manage their emotions has a long lasting effect on how they react to stress throughout the rest of their life.

On the flip side of all this "dealing with bad days, intense emotions" negative side of life as a parent - "the child who feels right, acts right" gives me a greater sense of direction for how to encourage my children to .. well.. act right. There are so many things we can do, as parents, to help our children feel right. There are equally many things we can do to take that "right' feeling away.

If I can inspire my child to want to fix their own problem, to seek a fair solution in an argument with siblings, to help without being asked, my child is much more likely to do it and to feel good about it. Inspiring feels a whole lot better than belittling, nagging, chastising, ridiculing, demanding.

All of this is pretty important to me. I have watched an evening turn sour because one persons bad mood infects the other people in the house and there is bickering and unhappy children and parents. I've seen what happens when the family collaborates and works together and enjoys eachother's company. Focusing on the feelings underneath the behaviour - the behaviour you want or the behaviour you don't want - has had a big impact on me and my kids.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Structure. Routine. Stickers. Stars. OH my!

If you are a parent, and you haven't heard/thought of/tried/acknowledged that having routine in your life will help your children - I wish you luck :) The idea is everywhere kid-related that you look. I assume it is common knowledge. I do not wish to belabour this point. Adeena reads my blog and she has laminated chore charts. I don't need to preach to the choir :)

Whenever I come across a "sticky point" in my parenting career, I usually "structure it out". That is why the major 3 problem areas in our days are structured into lists for our children.

1) school mornings
2) after school
3) bedtime.

Each list has 6 tasks and asking the kids to "go do 1 through 6" is how we refer them to these expectations.

These lists have been posted for a very long time. And by no means are they followed consistently by every child.

Here is what I have learned beyond the very well known fact that structure and routine helps kids and families survive.

children will not follow expectations automatically

Mind blowing, I know.

But it is true. Even big children, who have had consistent expectations for years and have more developed frontal lobes (eek Psychology!) for higher order processing and thinking and awareness of cause and effect and prediction of behaviour and punishment...

they will not do what you expect them to do consistently no matter how thoroughly they are aware of those expectations.

I am not talking about forgetting. I am not talking about distraction. I am not talking about a lapse in parental enforcement of the expectations.

Kids just DO this. I'd say it's part of being a kid, but I think most adults do it too at one point or another.

For me, it is one of the most frustrating parts of being a parent. I am going to "pick" on Haley for this post because she is the oldest.

We have a video of Haley from when she is 8 years old. She is interviewed by David and I and we ask her to acknowledge - on the camera - that she is to hang up clothes that are not dirty. The expectation is that if she wears a sweater or a pair of pants and they are still clean - she is to hang them up.

Ask me how important it is to me that my household creates as little laundry as possible :)

Anyways, Haley was having trouble consistently applying this rule and she was 8 and so we figured it would be funny (and mistakenly - useful?) to have her admit on camera that she understood the rule.

Haley* will turn 13 on Sunday, and the only thing consistent is that I can expect her to throw a worn-for-one-hour sweater into the dirty laundry. My method of dealing with this is to either bring the laundry back into her room and throw it on her bed, or to ask her to switch a load of laundry or something related to laundry.

*I do not want my older children to be responsible for their own laundry. i don't mind washing it, I don't mind sorting it. I won't pick it up off the floor and I won't hang it up if you are tall enough to do it yourself.

Routine can not solve everything. Every parent who has had a young child who will not sleep well no matter what routine is put in place, knows this. I use it as a tool to make me a better parent, not just to help my children be more civilized human beings. When I take my children somewhere en mass, I often discuss expectations for behaviour before they get out of the car. The expectations are made clear (i.e., we're going into dad's office, we need to respect the people who are working by being quiet and by walking). If one of my kids does not act accordingly, I only need to look at them and maybe point my finger at a chair and they know exactly what they did wrong and to sit down. I can talk to them quietly and remind them of the expectation.

If I didn't set out the expectations before hand, I would then have to get the kids attention, corner them, talk to them about what they need to do differently, and then probably redirect a bunch of other kids who have decided what their sibling just did (wrong) was a good idea. I will likely be much more frustrated and flustered by the process and more likely to lose my cool on them.

Routine / expectations make my life oohhhh so much easier, and it helps my kids be disciplined more positively. It just does NOT make my kids actually FOLLOW rules/expectations reliably. No matter how old they are. And I think that latter part is the hardest to deal with as a parent :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


When I was a new parent, I had the impression that children were the product of their environment. Which is extremely silly, in hindsight, because I definitely do not consider myself to be the product of the environment I myself grew up in :)

Furthermore, I was in school and studying psychology at university and it's pretty hard to take 20 psychology courses and come out of them thinking that people are the result of environment or "nurture". Environment versus genetics, nature vs nurture.

If that wasn't enough to shatter the theory - there was Cole himself. I tried to encourage athletics with Cole - I had him in gymnastics from 18 months, I had him at the park all the time, I had him on a bike, in roller skates, ice skates, etc. etc. He started soccer programs at 3. And it took until Cole was about 5 or 6 years old before he would even RUN. He enjoyed himself, had fun wherever he went - but he did not excel at physical things.

Now that I have Anna - a child who strives to be faster, stronger, achieve every physical feat I wish she wouldn't attempt - I see how it just wasn't in Cole's personality to do these things.

I don't mean to "pick" on Cole, but he is one of six children in our family and he is an "only child" in the respect that he does not share a full sibling. It makes him a bit of a target for my genetics theories. (I feel like I might still be in school. hmmm). There are other aspects of his personality that have been a blinking beacon of *genetics* for me as a parent. Number 1 is the "I am always right"TM personality trait.

Cole is a strong headed boy. Stubborn is another word for it. The chinese believe that a double crown means stubbornness - and I have one and so does my oldest son :) He has a drastically different approach to dealing with such things as "saying sorry" and "understanding that you've made a mistake" when compared to the other children in our household. He does not like to ask for help, he wants to prove he can do it all himself. He hates to acknowledge that he made a mistake, gets upset when asked to apologize, sees the world through a child's distorted view that he doesn't ever do anything wrong. Same environment, different genetics, and very different personality.

So What? Is it a big deal that your child's personality has a lot beyond your "control" (environment) as a parent. Well, it matters a lot in my opinion. When your child resists what you are trying to teach them, be it a value or a house rule (read: learning to bring home a lunchbag from school) - knowing that personality is somewhat beyond your control and you perhaps can't MAKE your child learn to REMEMBER things can free up some stress.

(stress is bad).

If I assume that what works for my older children "should work" for Cole, and keep expecting Cole to react and listen and learn the same way they do - then I will forever have problems (and so will he!). And so, I have begun to recognize that my children will each require me to raise them differently - as they each have their own inherent personality. They will "mature" in different areas at different rates and some will excel at some things and be slow at others.

Do your children have very different personalities? I'm sure it's common in many families. Birth order, gender, environmental differences are some other major factors in how siblings can be different besides genetics. What do you think?

On Parenting

I like to write. I also love to read. I puzzle over things. I seek solutions. I try not to dwell on negative things.

I decide I want to write in my blog and I open a "new post" window. I may not have a clue what to write about.

I write about the first thing that comes to mind. If that evolves, I change my subject. And usually what I want to write about is something I spend a lot of my time reading, puzzling, solution seeking, and dwelling on: parenting.

It's a job I take pretty seriously. I expect that as my children get older, I will have other things to do to occupy my time.

My kids/step kids (who I refer to as "my kids" regardless of parentage) are vastly different. Some are easily motivated, others are not. Some are logical, others are emotional. Some are "tuned in" to the needs of others, others much less so. Some strive to do well at all things, others prefer to get by. Some are athletic, others are not. Some like to help out, others avoid it. Some are self-assured, others are not. Some are easily distracted, others are... well, they all are that - just to varying degrees. Some sleep well, others do not. Some are very truthful, others are not. Some eat anything, others do not. Some are tall and some are short.

From my career thus far as a parent, this is some of what I have learned:

#1 - genetics has a huge role to play in personality. Kids are born different, and it's amazing how little "control" parents have on who their child *is*.

#2 - structure and routine is the way to go, but not every child will adapt ably to it. Consistent expectations are necessary, the framework for what to expect is necessary, however all children will still need reminders of what those expectations are for years and years. Some children need the reminder more often than others.

#3 - "bad" behaviour comes from bad feelings. Children need to learn how to handle negative emotions - but a lot of adults have not learned how to do this effectively.

#4 - you can ignore most undesirable behaviour. You can redirect most of what you can't ignore. You can say something nice to your child about what they are doing every time you speak to them or see them. These three things will foster a desire from the child to behave well and do what is asked.

#6 - If you are married, your family will benefit the most from a solid marriage. Therefore, the #1 thing you can do as a parent is invest yourself in your marriage.

#7 - screen time is inevitably bad for your children/family. Video games and watching television needs to be done sparingly. Quality of life improves when "screen time" is at a minimum. The less your children spend in front of a screen, the easier it will be for them to occupy their brains without it and the less they will nag you to use screens.

I plan to write my thoughts and feelings and opinions on each of these as my next seven posts... and I hope you will share your insight as well :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eye can Flashback on Friday

I've had trouble with blogging this week. I posted two non-entries and the one that was put up I dated for Friday as a flashback and it posted immediately instead.

So here is my flashback friday. I threw a bunch of pictures from my Cole files on here, and decided to write about my evening last night. Then I decided it would be fun to get all the pictures to tie in to my story.

I'm pretty sleepy tonight. I didn't know that contact lenses could become trapped and unaccessible under your eye lid. Did you know that?

It was something of an eye opening experience for me last night when the contact lens I was trying to remove was no where to be seen. That was at around midnight.

I tried looking up towards the lens, because apparently that is supposed to help. But it didn't.

I can't really wear contacts because of my dry eyes. I had them in so I could spar at karate class last night, and wearing contacts is only comfortable for about 2 hours and I can ONLY manage wearing daily lenses with the highest water count.

This meant that I don't have any kind of lense/eye solutions.

And so, eye tried water.

I was hoping to soften the darn plastic thing and help flush it out.

At about 2a.m. I was standing over the sink in our en suite bathroom...

and I saw the two little open foil packets that held the solution the disposible contact lenses are packed in.

I'm fairly certain my husband, who I'd woken up at this point, thought I was pretty crazy when I tried to put my eye into this little pot of solution.

Because some things just look kind of crazy.

But wouldn't you know - that lens - which I only knew was somewhere in my eye, but I had no idea where, soaked up that solution and a few blinks it came out. It was camped in the outer corner of my eye, under the eyelid.

My eyeball was happy.

I finally was able to retire for the night. Unfortunately (because the evening was not yet unfortunate enough, I suppose) my Charlie decided that he needed to wake up and come into our bed.

And demand food.

And to get up and play.

But finally he settled for water, and his dad graciously took him back to his bed and somewhere around 3:30a.m. I got to go to sleep.

and somewhere around 6:30a.m. the children had me up. Needless to say, I wasn't looking my best today.

but that's life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Delayed Posting Fail - so here it is NOW! :)

It's almost my Birthday!

But enough about me.

Because what I am posting is not about me.

Earlier this week I found something.

I found CDs burned with images.

Images from November 30, 2002 until October 2004.

One of my favourite people was born on November 29, 2002.

In fact, he was my favourite person at the time.
(Now I have several equally favouritest people.)

Cole made me a mom.

And I can't believe he is turning 8 in just 11 short days.

I spent my 20th Birthday *very* pregnant.

And when I found these pictures, I relished looking through them.

So much has happened since these pictures were taken.

And I found so many pictures I do not recall ever seeing.

I miss my baby boy Cole.

He's grown and changed so much.

It is hard for me to remember him being a baby.

I can almost put myself there, looking through the pictures, however.

My baby boy.

About to turn 8.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

With a computer this time

Did you know that the iPad will not let you type in the text editor to post an entry? Well, it won't. It will, however, let your husband - who doesn't believe you - randomly touch the screen incessantly and accidentally post an entry with no content.

But I digress.


I was asked by post an entry about what I want for my birthday.

I could only come up with one thing. I asked David if he knew what it would be, and (surprisingly) he did.

Time. Okay - his answer was "Time with him".

So Time! Yep. How exciting is that?

It is exciting to me. Time to relax (and not feel guilty as I am right now that there are bathrooms to clean, carpets to vacuum, laundry to do ...). Time to do something fun with my husband. Time to pursue hobbies. Time to go on a vacation.

ahhh Time.

When I think about how it has been 6 years since I met David, it alarms me. My Cole is turning 8 in two weeks. I am officially aware of how fast time passes. It's shocking. It is disturbing. It is distressing!

As a child, you feel as though time trickles by slowly. That perception changes as you get older. I think having children young and working through highschool makes time feel as though it has flown by even faster. I graduated from highschool 10 years ago. Cole will graduate from highschool in 10 years. In 10 years I will be turning 38. I have the unsettled feeling that I have missed doing so much. I wasn't frustrated by the level of responsibility I have had since leaving highschool at the time, but now as I get closer to 30, I realize the things I missed out on being able to do - things that I can't just "do later" because there will always be needs greater than my own to consider.

These realizations fuel my desire to do more *live in the moment* things. Going to Disney World. Taking kids out of school to visit the zoo. Spending an afternoon doing crafts with my daughter instead of laundry. It's not a bad thing to realize your going to turn around one day and your kids will be leaving home and you will be officially hitting middle age. It has made me realize that, while I may have insurmountable laundry and dishes and cooking and taxi driving to do each day, it's okay to take time out to do something less responsible :)

So what I would like for my birthday is time. Time to go to a movie with David. Time to go out for coffee with a friend. Time to visit a museum. Time to travel for a week without kids. Time to travel WITH the kids.

Some Times will be trickier than others. Some Times will require outside help. But mostly, I can give this birthday gift to myself.

I've never been good at listing things I want for myself. It used to frustrate David, (and no, I realize it isn't only him who has been frustrated by this), but I think he has gotten used to it :). And he's managed to come up with a "birthday" present all on his own that I'm not supposed to know about, but I do - and it's perfect.

And it involves time :)

Monday, November 8, 2010


Tonight I attended a presentation about the Grade 8 Quebec trip. It looks like a really fun trip, and I am a little sad that I did not get to go on my classes trip back in Grade 8.

Haley, however, will get to go on this trip. She is a bit of a worrier, that Haley. She would point out something during the presentation that I might not have noticed that she thought might be a deal breaker and I would say: (whispering, of course).


"Relax. You are going!".

So this post is about Haley. The most level-headed grade 8 girl I have ever met. Avert your eyes if you do not like bragging :)

Haley now does her flyer route of 170 houses efficiently without any kind of reminders or prompting. She has stuck it out!

Haley gets the most glowing report cards, I wonder how many of her teachers would like to adopt her.
I don't mean that she's a straight A student (although, she is). But she participates, asks questions, solves problems with classmates.

Haley is *almost* as tall as me.

Haley wears a size 12 women's shoe.

Yes, really.

Haley loves her family. And of course, we love her.

Haley is a purple belt and has learned basics in 4 weapons.
Haley lets us sleep in on a Saturday morning by pouring cheerios and milk. Of course, she gets perks for this :)
Haley is a remarkable kid, and I'm very proud to call her one of "mine".
even though I'm way to cool (young) to be her "real" mom.
And I felt pretty out of place in that gymnasium full of 40 year olds tonight. I'm 27 and this is my daughter, yep. hehehe.

Haley turns 13 this month.
Can you believe it? I can't. She was 6, turning 7 when I met her.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Autumn Means Apples

Costco sells big things
It sells things that are big.
It sells big packages of things.
It sells a lot of things in one package.
And sometimes it sells a lot of BIG things in ONE big package.
Like these apples:

They may not look very big, but when you see them with my daughter.... before I peeled them

Either she is the size of a 3 month old or the apples are huge... so trust me: these apples are costco big.

I filled TWO pots cutting up just 6 of these babies. That's with cutting out some major bruises on two of them - the downside to bagging 10lbs of giant apples of the soft mac variety. Silly Costco. No Costco, I take it back.. I love you.

Waiting a few minutes with my daughter, looking at our leaf covered hill, while the apples cooked. And perhaps went a little brown from oxygen, but Anna did not care. She is my fake picky eater. She would probably balk at it if I wanted her to eat it, but darn it - this was homemade applesauce, if she didnt' like it - I would eat. it. all!
And... Charlie didn't want anything to do with it. What's with that? He eats everything?

But Anna, she gave it her seal of approval. Even the monkey wanted some, clearly.

And then the big kids walked in the door from school and were led by their noses into the kitchen. Even 6 giant Macs of applesauce did not last long enough. I think next time I will make a crock pot full.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My First Touch-Up Tuesday

I took pictures today! I haven't been lately. I have been slacking in that department. However, as the days get shorter and the angle of the sun changes - our kitchen becomes the perfect place to take afternoon pictures :)

I snapped this one of Charlie while he was eating his "Betta cheese". Anna said "eww, I hate Feta Cheese" and Charlie loves it.

I think Charlie loves it because I spent my entire pregnancy with him eating strong flavoured, NEVER SWEET food. Sugar made me sick when I was pregnant with Charlie. In fact, one of my staples was gobs of plain yogurt. Sweetened yogurt horrified me.

Here it is SOOC

The first thing I did was crop it. I chose to leave the plate of feta in the picture because it explains the white crumble on his lip.

Then I upped the saturation about 25%. The light in the afternoon through my kitchen window is good, but it washes out the colour.

Lastly, I put the colour temperature down about 25%. This toned down the red but left the blue of his eyes.

I do my basic editing in Picassa because it's convenient and works well enough for most pics.

Here they are side by side:

The end!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hallowe'en 2010

Pumpkins, candy, costumes. What is *not* to like?

Sadly, I missed getting pictures of Thomas & Arthur & Cole. (Haley did not get dressed up). My husband tried getting pics of them - and he sort of succeeded, I will put up his results. Also disappointing - I did not get a picture of my husband dressed up as a "ninja manager". Two boys were ninjas, and David must have been DYING to retry the "t-shirt ninja" motif. He wore a suit and a t-shirt wrapped around his head.

I am sure you are dissapointed as well ;)

I hope everyone enjoyed Hallowe'en this year! Parents were given hot apple cider at one place - a courtyard right by our house with 12 houses - and 3 places were done all-out with awesome costumes for the adults. That was our highlight :)

Arthur and his very cool pumpkin.

Thomas as Captain Rex - no pumpkin pic, sorry :(

Cole and his fire breathing pumpkin. (Collaborative effort).

Anna as (of course) princess Aurora. And her princess pumpkin

Elmo Charlie and his Moon! and Star! Pumpkin