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Posts Tagged ‘freedom to choose’

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.

Video: Operating a CD Player

Monday, November 12th, 2012 6:01 pm | By Stephanie Woo
M listening to music on Muji CD Player

Mackenzie listening to music on her Muji CD Player

I was introduced to the Muji CD player by my friend Seiko, during my Montessori training. It was an expensive purchase but really worth it. It’s nice to look at, compact and easy to operate – pull the string once to start, pull again to stop (see video below).

If you purchase it, make sure your children have developed good impulse control. Then give them several clear demonstrations on how to use it. Just a warning, they may break it. The way I see it, everything I prepare in our environment ultimately belongs to the children and I’m prepared for accidents. Besides if it breaks, they are the ones who really experience the consequence.

As you can see in the picture, each CD is labeled with a picture of an instrument: harp, guitar, cello and violin. On the CD, I’ve included music of the corresponding instrument. This way, they can choose which instrument they want to listen to and begin to recognize the sound that instrument makes. They definitely prefer string over woodwind, though they are warming to brass instruments. I love the independence this little machine gives them. They can now play music anytime they want and not a day will go by without a little classical music in our household.

Never underestimate what the youngest children can and will appreciate – their love for music, art and beauty never ceases to astound and inspire me.

How I talk to my children when I’m frustrated with them

Friday, October 26th, 2012 3:45 pm | By Stephanie Woo


Brooke cutting paper into tiny pieces at 10pm last night

Last night, Brooke wouldn’t go to sleep. I could tell she wasn’t tired, so I let her come out to play for a while (see picture above). By then Mackenzie was already asleep. When I took Brooke back to her room and tried to leave, she started crying. Not wanting to wake Mackenzie, I stayed with Brooke till she fell asleep at 1130pm. The whole ordeal took 3.5 hours. I was about to pull my hair out.

I woke up this morning extremely frustrated. Brooke came over to give me my usual morning hug and I said, “Who would not go to sleep last night?” Her hands dropped and she frowned. I then asked my nanny if Brooke was doing this during her afternoon naps, she said no, she always falls asleep quickly. Then I said, “But two nights ago you stayed with her till she fell asleep, right?” I added, “Brooke never did this before!” I could tell that my nanny got upset because she thought I was saying it was her fault that Brooke was doing this. What I really wanted, but could not get across, was my desperate need for a solution.

I went upstairs and cooled down. I could tell the way I was communicating was upsetting everyone. I was taking my frustration out on them, but it didn’t make me feel any better. And then I remembered Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication.  He said to communicate your feelings and your needs. I decided to give it a try.

I went downstairs, picked up Brooke and sat her on my lap. My nanny was there too, which was good because I wanted her to hear it too. I said, “Brooke, last night you did not go to bed by yourself. I was feeling extremely frustrated because I need my freedom at night. Do you know what ‘freedom’ means? Mama needs freedom at night. Tonight, would you be willing to go to sleep by yourself?”

These simple phrases changed the entire space in the room. My nanny, who looked glum and angry before, had a empathetic look on her face when she said, “I do always pick her up immediately when she cries. Maybe I should wait before picking her up and let her cry a little.” Oh, it was such a relief that she was trying to find a solution too.  

Upon reflection, I realize I love Non-Violent Communication because of the way it makes me feel and the reaction I see in others when they hear my words. I was able to 1. express my feelings 2. communicate my needs and 3. make a request. I also love being able to talk to my children in this way – it’s clear that they understand every word. This is the kind of communication and connectedness I want to foster in our home.

Brooke clearly had a need last night too.  Looking back, I realize we did not go to the park yesterday afternoon, so she wasn’t able to run, climb and use up all her excess energy. Today, I’ll make sure to meet her needs. Hopefully tonight, she’ll meet mine.

To learn more about Non-Violent Communication: