Friday, August 19, 2011

Help Your Toddlers Learn to do Things for Themselves

I often preach the importance of encouraging independence in your toddlers. They need to try things for themselves to discover what the world has to offer. Oftentimes, they will try something new but won’t succeed. Part of the lesson is in figuring out how to do something differently the next time, until they ultimately figure it out.

Kudos to 2 year old Cody’s mom. Her little guy so desperately wants to be just like his 4 year old big brother, that he is constantly trying to do things he isn’t yet ready for. For example, Brady was convinced he could brush his own teeth, and he actually succeeded…sort of.
Cody hopped up onto the bathroom stool and grabbed his brother’s toothbrush from the stand. He found the white stuff that he was sure goes on toothbrushes and began brushing furiously. At that moment, his mom stepped into the bathroom and realized that Cody was brushing his teeth with hand soap!

It’s not so easy to get an overabundance of hand soap out of a two year old’s mouth! Though Cody’s mom was somewhat exasperated, it was actually a wonderful moment for her son. He may have been confused about the toothpaste, but he was successful in brushing his teeth all by himself.

On another occasion, Cody observed his older brother blowing his nose into a tissue. Cody’s mother found him sitting next to an empty box of tissues and a toilet bowl filled with the ones he’d used in blowing his own nose. My own kids were pretty old before they could blow their own noses, but Cody figured this difficult skill out on his own. Sure, he used up an entire box of Kleenex, and there could have been a nasty overflow in the toilet, but he taught himself an important skill.

Nice job to Cody’s parents and all the other parents out there with the understanding necessary to allow toddlers to learn new things. It takes a sense of humor of to be a parent. Remember that in the moments when it’s easy to forget.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Family Vacations are Not Just About the Kids

Family vacations are a great way to spend quality time with the whole family. It’s certainly nice to have the kids all to yourself without the distractions of friends, homework, and activities. You can have the time to find out what they are thinking and to forge a stronger bond. Yet, don’t forget about your spouse.

Vacations offer a chance to rekindle your marriage, and remember why you fell in love in the first place. During a time without the pressures of work and carpooling, you can enjoy each other fully. A romantic dinner, walk on the beach, or any activity that the two of you can enjoy together and alone, will do wonders for your relationship.

After 30 years of marriage, I have the hindsight to think about the things that have made our relationship work. For one, time spent just with each other was always a priority. We enjoyed regular weekly “date nights” and always one night alone on the family vacation. Those times gave us a chance to connect and appreciate each other without distractions.

It has also provided a great example for our children, who have learned the value we’ve placed on maintaining a strong relationship. Another bonus has been the bond the kids created on their own when we weren’t around. When they were little and had babysitters, they did things with the sitter that were fun and different. They learned how to go to sleep without their parents around and discovered that their siblings were pretty fun to hang out with.

My husband and I share many interests and can look back on special moments that didn’t only revolve around our children. So many of our friends are now divorced, and I feel especially lucky to have nurtured our relationship as our children grew. Now that our youngest child prepares to go off to college, I am fortunate to have a strong relationship with my husband.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What to do When You Don’t Like Your Child’s Teacher Assignment

You’ve just gotten the letter in the mail that you’ve been dreading all summer - your child has been assigned to the teacher that all the moms on the playground have warned you against. You immediately go into protective mother mode, planning how to fix this wrong. Yet, before you call the Principal or check out private schools, take a deep breath and think it over. Like you, I personally experienced that sick feeling with my own child, and I’m happy to share what I learned.

First, how bad can it really be? This teacher must possess some redeeming qualities. I admit my kids had a couple of below average teachers in their long educational careers. But now that my son is a young adult in the workplace, how horrible was it really that I found his grade school teacher lazy? Would I have I preferred the spunky teacher just out of college instead? Definitely at the time, but in hindsight, my son learned ways to compensate. We can’t always make life right for our kids. This was a good lesson that real life isn't always perfect and they will have to figure out how to adapt.

Schools spend a lot of time forming classes. They must match students to both the appropriate teacher and the best class for that child and that is not an easy process. Students’ personalities, temperaments, and learning styles must be considered, but there must also be a broader picture of the entire group.

Think about why your child might have received that placement and question why you are so sure he won’t succeed in that class. If you still feel uncomfortable, call the Principal and politely share your concerns and listen to why she believes your child will be successful with that teacher. Listen to what she has to say and consider if you have over-reacted. If you still feel strongly, point out your concerns rationally, and give examples of how your child will benefit from moving to a different teacher. Use specific examples, not things you heard from other parents.

If in the end, you are unable to switch, try to make the situation work as best you can. Communicate with the teacher when you feel it's appropriate and keep an open mind. Hopefully, you’ll look back on the year and realize it all worked out for the best. But, if you don’t, chalk it up to a learning experience that will benefit your child in the long run.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back to School Shopping: The Preschooler’s Backpack

As stores bombard you and your toddler with many choices for backpacks, choose wisely. This investment should be able to last the full year, not cost too much, and make your child proud and excited with her choice. Believe it or not, something as seemingly insignificant as a backpack can actually help your child’s transition into preschool.

Though remembering a backpack may seem like one extra thing you don’t want to have to deal with each morning, it is the most effective way for the teachers and parents to communicate with one another.

Please allow your child to help choose her backpack. If she loves Cars or Dora, she will be excited to bring it to school and show it off to her friends. It is also a great way to allow your child to make a decision about something that is important in her life. It is fine for you to limit her selections to just a few to choose from that you feel are appropriate for her but it is important to allow her some independence with this decision.

Today, many backpacks are available with wheels on the bottom. For a middle or high school student who is lugging 25 pounds or more of books, that’s a great idea. But for toddlers, wheeled packs often become troublesome. Sometimes, the backpacks are as big as the child, and it isn’t easy for a toddler to navigate them through narrow doorways and around chairs and toys in the classroom. There is very little weight among the notes and art projects that the backpack must hold, so wheels are just not necessary for a preschooler.

Try to choose one that will easily hold an 8 1/2” by 11” piece of paper. Sometimes, we use larger paper for projects, but we can easily fold those to fit. The backpack must also be able to hold whatever the child chooses to bring in for show and tell. I’ve taught students who came with adorable tiny backpacks, which were easy to carry, but pretty much useless for their intended purpose.

And I urge all parents and teachers to check the child’s backpack every day. Sometimes there are important notes that should be reviewed right away. If your child had a rough night for some reason, it makes sense to give her teacher a heads-up, and the backpack is a great place for such a note. From the teacher’s perspective, there are times we want to inform you of something that occurred in the classroom, and it may be important that you know something that same day. It is a shame when a child doesn’t bring in a show and tell item because her parent never read the note in her backpack.

This is the time of year when you are building up preschool and preparing for a smooth transition. Allow back-to-school shopping to help in that preparation.