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Discover the secret of childhood from 0-3 year old:

1-2 years old

What To Do When Your Toddler Won’t Put on Clothes

Friday, May 24th, 2013 12:30 pm | By Stephanie Woo

My toddler refuse to put on clothes

Dr. Montessori says, “Follow the child.” I adhere strictly to this point of view. Except when it comes to my children staying warm. 

I feel my children are always cold. All the overdressed Asian children on the playground hint at perhaps it’s an Asian thing. As soon as the temperature drops below 72, I want to see everyone in socks and an extra layer. It’s not uncommon to see me tackling my children and forcing them to put on a jacket OR threatening them in numerous ways if they don’t put on their socks. I’ve lost my temper more than once with my nanny or husband as I yell, “The children’s hands are freezing!” Getting dressed in the morning has devolved into something that I do to the children. I know they can dress themselves, I have videos of them doing it that you’ve seen, but for some reason, they just won’t do it anymore. Recently, there is more struggle in our house over putting on clothes than anything else

Two days ago, my friend Brenda and her five-year-old daughter, Gerren, came to stay with us. We were all getting ready to go out when I saw Gerren walk outside only to come back in. She said, “It’s cold outside. I’m going to put on my coat.” Speechless, I looked at Brenda, who explained that she has never forced Gerren to put on a coat. “She knows when she’s hot or cold,” Brenda said matter-of-factly. 

I then called my cousin, Daisy, for advice. She said three words: “Trust. Your. Children.”

I was ready for a change. I told my husband and nanny that from now on, we would ask the children one time in the morning (which is when the house at its coldest) if they wanted to put on warmer clothes, if they say no, we would not force them. And before going out, we would not dress any of the children for them. If someone was not dressed by the time we were ready to go out to play, then an adult would stay home with that child. I then explained all of this to the children, who looked at me and nodded. 

The next morning, while I hung out in my cashmere sweater and wool socks, Mackenzie decided that she wanted to be naked. This lasted for three hours. Brooke wore one thin layer the entire day. I kept my promise and said nothing. Before we went out, I said to them very calmly, “Mama is going to get ready right now. After I’m done, I’m going to the park. If you want to come, then you need to change into these clothes. If you do not have your clothes on by the time I’m ready, you will stay home with Ayi (our nanny).” They got distracted a couple times, but with one quick reminder from me and another from their nanny, they proactively dressed themselves from head to toe. 

It turns out I was the one who needed to change. I was responsible for creating the power struggle because I thought I knew better. I was forcing them to put on clothes because I didn’t want them to get sick. I let go of those fears and trusted that they know best whether they are hot or cold. As I’m writing this one week later, we’ve had no struggle over clothing (and no one is sick). I’m still in shock over how smoothly things are going in this regard. 

If right now, you and your children are struggling over something, stop looking at what’s wrong with them. It is YOU that needs to do the changing. And when you do, so will they. 

For those of you with young children: Peace. Is. Possible.

Make It Hard for Them!

Friday, May 17th, 2013 6:34 pm | By Stephanie Woo

 Climbing a big hill in Baltimore’s Federal Hill park (2 years old)

When Brooke was 11-months old, she loved climbing stairs. Twice a day, I would let her loose in the staircase of our four-story building and she never looked back till she was at the top. When Mackenzie was cruising at 12-months old, I would take her and her red wagon around a whole NYC block. When both of them started walking, we would go for long walks in the park without a stroller.  

Children are born to adapt. Mexican children can eat hot green pepper off the vine without feeling any pain. A Himalayan child is used to climbing big mountains. An African child can see and run long distances. 

Knowing this, I try to give my toddlers lots of active, physical experiences that push their bodies. I let them experience many different terrains and even try to make it hard for them. Big hills, 1-2 mile treks, difficult hikes – even our driveway is unusually steep, which means walking up and down everyday takes extra effort. 

I’m not trying to train Olympians here. I just gives them experiences and observe how they respond. Before they turned two, I took them up the big hill in the Federal Hill Park in Baltimore. They fell and slip so many times, but they never gave up. By the time we reached the top, I was completely out of breath and swore I would never do that again. But when we reached the bottom, all they wanted was to climb up again. And again. Who knew they would love conquering big hills so much? That steep climb quickly became part of our weekly routine. 

The other day, I told B and M, “Today, we are going to climb a mountain.” At the end of the 7-mile paved hike (they were in the stroller for part of it), I asked, “Did you enjoy climbing the mountain?” Brooke said, “Brooke didn’t climb mountain.” She then pointed to a really steep hill in the distance and say, “I want to climb that mountain!” Walking on a paved road did not qualify as mountain climbing to her! 

Toddlers have way more physical stamina than you can imagine. To them, the upward climb is the most interesting part of a walk and that interest keeps them going. So find terrains that challenge them. Make it hard for them. And start them as young as possible! You’d be surprised how far they can go. 

Trekking in the woods behind our house, which was overgrown and had no path before we arrived (2 years 4 months)

Walking on a stone path with big, uneven stones in Portland’s Japanese Garden (2 years 2 months)

Indoor wall climbing gym (2 years 2 months)

When Kids Fight

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 8:34 pm | By Stephanie Woo

When Kids Fight

B and M are currently obsessed with Thomas the Train. During our move, we lost all but one red train. You know where this is going. One day, M has it, but B wants it.

I did my usual. I said, “Brooke, ask Mackenzie if you can have it after she is done.” She started repeating after me, but, well, B wanted it NOW. So it escalates into a snatching contest. B grabs it. M takes it back. Then B takes it again. M starts crying. I’m tempted to grab it out of B’s hands and say, “M had it first.” But I try not to forcefully take things out of anyone’s hands because that just invites copycat behavior from the children. 

So I pick up Brooke, put her in my lap and say, “Brooke, you need to sit here with me until you’re ready to give it back.” 

I say to both of them, “Mama doesn’t know what to do. Brooke wants it. Mackenzie wants it. But we only have one train. What should we do?”

M sort of stops crying for a second. They both look at me. B says, “Mama buy another one.” 

“Great idea!” I immediately add it to my mental checklist. Then I say, “Okay, but we only have one right now.  What else can we do?”

They’re both thinking – and quiet. I say, “What if we go make a Thomas out of clay?” 

Apparently that was a brilliant idea. M immediately goes to get the Playdoh. And then I say, “We can also draw a Thomas!” B goes to the chalkboard and starts drawing a round circular thing. My multi-talented friend Candice who was visiting us that evening – bless her heart – draws several Thomas the trains on the chalkboard and keep the kids entertained the rest of the evening.  

I could have played the judge and decided who gets Thomas and who will just have to learn to deal with it. I could have taken it away from both of them. But not only would I have to endure more crying, they’d always look to me to figure things out for them. Instead, I discovered a new principle: when children are thinking, they are not fighting. Instead of figuring it out for them, let them do the problem-solving.