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

Posts Tagged ‘freedom of choice’

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. 

Mental Preparations, Reminders and Happier Toddlers

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 11:23 am | By Stephanie Woo
M playing with her farm animals

M playing with her farm animals

I like to know my schedule ahead of time so I can prepare myself physically and mentally for the day ahead. Children need the same thing. This applies to the schedule of the day or the schedule of the next five minutes. Have you ever tried to take your child away from an activity he’s doing because you want him to eat dinner or take a bath? Sometimes he’s fine; other times, it turns into a screaming tantrum.  

Yesterday, M was working with her farm animals. It was time for dinner, so I took the cow out of her hands without thinking and she started screaming. I should’ve known better!  So I gave the cow back to her and said, “Okay, you can play with it for a little longer and then we are going to eat dinner.” She repeats, “A little longer.” Two minutes later, I gave her a second reminder, “Okay, we are going to eat dinner in two more minutes. In two minutes, you can put away the farm animals or I will put it away for you. You can choose which one.” After two minutes go by, I said, “It’s time to put the farm animals away.” She didn’t respond, so I stuck out my hand (rather than grab it) and asked her, “Do you want to put it away yourself or do you want me to help you put it away?“ She said, “By myself.” And then she puts it away and joins everyone for dinner.

 When you give this level of preparation, and follow through consistently on your word, then your children know that they have some control over the situation (because you gave them choices) but Mom means what she says. On days they still resist, it will be a whiny resistance that lasts for a short period of time, as opposed to the high-pitched screaming you might have to endure for a long time if you force the change on them.  When children feel like they have REAL CHOICES, they are much more likely to work WITH you, rather than against you.

Happy New Year!

Bedtime and Toddler

Thursday, December 13th, 2012 11:51 am | By Stephanie Woo
Toddler and Bedtime

Toddler and Bedtime

For the past two months, it’s been really hard to put B and M (23 months) down at bedtime. They take turns crying when I try to leave their room after lights-out. Anyone else experiencing this? I’ve had to try A LOT of different things to keep them in their bed and me in mine night after night.

Here are things I’ve tried that I don’t like: 1. stay till they fall asleep (exhausting, habit-forming and my least favorite of options), 2. cry it out (second least favorite option which I resort to when I’m absolutely exasperated, but it has worked on occasion) 3. let them stay up and play outside of their room.

Well, I also started compiling a list of things that HAS worked for us. Things have gotten better in the last two weeks. I can usually leave the room 5 minutes after lights out and they will stay in their room and fall asleep by themselves till the next morning at 7am. I’m also looking for more ideas in case these run out of steam! Please post yours in the comment area.

  1. Involve both Mom and Dad with bedtime. I cannot count the number of nights I just cannot extricate myself from a child’s hug and the only thing that would keep them from a meltdown when I try to leave is to say, “Daddy’s gonna come in to say good-night to you. Do you want to see Daddy?” That usually results in a yes. And somehow, Daddy only needs a 5-minute appearance to put them to sleep. Maybe not all Dads can do it in that time, but I’m completely convinced (and use it with my husband all the time) that Dads are better at bedtime than Moms. He believes it now, too.
  2. Give your child a “Toddler Massage.” I came up with this after observing Brooke, who has recently been asking to be held A LOT. So this what you do: after you turn off the lights, hold your child against your belly tightly. Using your whole palm, rub your child’s back, legs, arms and feet firmly, gently and slowly. Hold her as close to you as you can. It’s like an infant massage, except it’s for your toddler. I do it first to one child, then to the other. When I’m massaging one child, I’ll say to the other, “I’m holding your sister now, Please don’t interrupt us.” Both Brooke and Mackenzie love this. Mackenzie will say to me in Chinese, “Mackenzie wants tightly.”  After 5-10 minutes of this intense intimacy and skin contact, they’ll crawl back to their little pillows and say good-night to me. This has been the most successful thing I’ve tried in recent weeks, especially during the week my husband was on a business trip.  Not only do babies need a lot of skin contact, toddlers (and adults) need it, too.
  3. Never ever change the bedtime routine. We eat dinner, take bath, drink milk and do storytime. Then it’s lights out somewhere between 815-830. No exceptions. Daytime schedule may change (though I make every effort to honor the 1pm nap schedule as well), but this bedtime routine never ever changes. If my husband and I need to go out, we ask our nanny to follow this schedule. Many families will make an exception here and there (holidays, birthdays, special events, weekends), but a toddler’s need for order and routine is so intense that expecting him to accommodate to your schedule will just mess with his ability to fall asleep at bedtime on his own.
  4. Talk them through the bedtime routine an hour before bedtime. When we’re bathing, I’ll give them a rundown of what’s going to happen: “After we bathe, we’re going to have milk, then I’m going to read you a story in bed, and then we’ll turn out the lights. And then Mommy is going to go out and you will fall sleep by yourself.” And then I repeat the rundown again 15 minutes before lights out. Everyone benefits from a little mental preparation.
  5. Giving them freedom within limits around sleeping. When they say, “I don’t want to sleep,” I say, “You don’t have to sleep. You have to stay in your room during bedtime, but you don’t have to sleep.” And I mean it when I say this to them. The floor beds they sleep in give them the freedom to move around till they feel tired enough to fall asleep.

I’ve read many blog postings that tell parents to cherish this time, that after they grow older, they won’t want you the way they do now. I can imagine that being true, but for my sanity and happiness NOW, I also need time to myself. And that happens after they go to bed. If you have a toddler right now, I’m sure you can relate. When I can have a good few hours to myself at night and then a good night’s sleep, we are all much happier when we see each other the next morning!