One Man’s Trash is a Kid’s Treasure

Remember as a kid how you would always want your mom’s old stuff? I used to get my mom’s old wallets, purses, and eventually clothes and shoes, and I loved it. Every time she would sort through her files I would get old file folders; if she found random notebooks, I would inherit those.

Ah, to be a child.

My kids do the same exact thing. In fact, I just gave a bunch of old shirts to my oldest daughter because I used to be much skinnier and she’s growing like a weed, so it worked out for the best. The rest went to the clothing bank.

I also recently found a whole bunch of kids’ books and handed those over… and my younger daughter is obsessed with arts and crafts, so anytime she sees a container, box, or other discarded materials she thinks she can use to make something, she pesters me until I let her have it and then proceeds to raid my scissors, tape, and glue.

Why are kids so fascinated with our stuff? I remember when I was small, my mom got me a little fake check book because I saw her writing checks all the time and wanted to do it, too. I figured that would make me more grown up, more like her.

And that’s exactly it.

Kids want to be like their parents. They want to have similar things, they want to be able to do what they want, they want to act just like us… I guess that’s why they say that setting a good example is so important, right?

That’s perfectly okay with me. Aside from a couple of bad habits, of course. But as far as the kiddos wanting my old stuff goes? I am so fine with that!

I am a paper person. I have a lot of journals, full and yet to be filled, and I’ve been writing song lyrics and stories since I was young. That means lots and lots of old notebooks, half-filled journals, a million different kinds of pens, and scrapbooking stuff galore. I also have an art set with crayons, colored pencils, and three different types of paint (watercolor, oil, acrylic). Not that I know how to use all this stuff, but who cares? It’s all part of getting creative in the kitchen.

Every time I decide to paint, journal, or do anything craft-sy in the kitchen, all three of my kids are right there by my side, watching my every move. They observe very closely, and it doesn’t take long for them to decide that they want to write/draw/paint/cut/glue, too.

My younger daughter used some weird-shaped plastic from dessert packaging to make the nose of a little character she cut out. Kind of funny that the person is so flat with a sizeable nose… but it was still cute!

I have a lot of stuff that I either never use or am just about ready to sell or give away.

If my kids want it and are going to use it, then why not let them? It just means that I don’t have to buy them wallets and purses because they simply use the ones I don’t anymore.

Now I need to go get an iPod or an MP3 player so that I can use all of my old CDs for crafts….

The Temper Tantrum: Surviving the Terrible Twos

It happens to every parent. Your child gets to the age of 18 months or a little older and suddenly they run the universe. They’re worse than cats! I know cats like to take over the household as soon as they arrive, but toddlers literally think they rule the world… at least their world.

I’m dealing with a 2-year-old right now, and he is something else. I don’t remember either of my daughters having this much of a temper, but my son? He’s all over the place emotionally.

One minute, we’ll be discussing what TV show he wants to watch, and the next he’ll scream about it being the wrong one. We have Netflix, so I literally have to pause on each show’s icon and wait for him to say, “That one!”

Don’t even get me started if he wants a particular snack and then changes his mind. The world ends each and every time.

So how in the world do you survive this time in their little lives? The messed up thing is that they call them the terrible twos, but these “twos” last anywhere from 18 months on up to 3 or 4. How do you stay sane?

First, keep in mind that the child is a child. Though they may be testing their boundaries and gaining a sense of independence, they still need love, nurturing, support, and play time.

Want some practical tips? Keep reading.

1. There is no past and no future, only NOW.

And no, I am not trying to sound like Jack Bauer, but as far as toddlers go, there is nothing beyond the here and now. This means two things for you, the parent: you cannot praise r punish a toddler unless you do it right away, as soon as the behavior warranting each response is performed. If they do something unacceptable, the disciplinary action must be immediate. If they do something praise-worthy, the praise must be immediate. If it isn’t, they can’t connect the behavior to the consequence, and it doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

2. Ignore tantrums.

Yep. You read that right. Ignoring a temper tantrum is the best way to let your toddler know that the behavior isn’t getting them anywhere. Any kind of attention will do, be it bad or good. That’s all they’re trying to do with a tantrum: push the boundaries (and your buttons) and get your attention in some way.

3. Don’t fight with your toddler.

There’s nothing more frustrating than arguing with a toddler when virtually all responses will be the same. It’s a toss-up between “no!” and “why?” and “mine!” There’s no arguing with that! The best bet is to ignore your toddler and let them wear themselves out. You may also get the same statement or question over and over: “Mommy! Hungry!” – “Wait just a few, I have to make something.” – “No! Hungry!” Hm….

4. Time-outs are suitable for toddlers, too.

Making them stand in a corner is a great way to punish them, even if they are only 2. They usually understand if they’re in trouble, so putting them in a corner is an excellent way to communicate to them that you mean business. The general rule is to make a child stay in time-out for the number of minutes that matches their age, so for a toddler at age 2, it would be 2 minutes. Doesn’t seem like a lot to us, but remember how 20 minutes seemed like an eternity when you were 7? To a toddler, 2 minutes is a lifetime!

5. Take advantage of using positive reinforcement.

Just as there should be punishments for negative or bad behavior, i.e. behavior that is unacceptable, there should always be praise for a job well done. I don’t care if it’s something as little as identifying a color or naming something they see on a walk – the response should be, “Good job!” or, “Awesome!” My experience with this has been pretty vast – by now, my son is beginning to learn colors and numbers, can tell me what a handful of animals “say,” and can follow basic directions such as putting his socks in his hamper and his dirty dishes in the sink. Smart boy! And every time he does something like this correctly, I praise him for it because I want that behavior to continue.

Sometimes it can be difficult to overcome that annoyed and frustrated feeling in your head. However, try to keep in mind that your toddler is just a learning baby – they don’t know any better than to copycat behavior and words they see and hear and apply what they have learned to their everyday lives on a subconscious level. It’s important to encourage that without encouraging the bad behaviors.

Misbehavers

Ah, parenting. A never-ending onslaught of giggles, chaos, and time-outs. The misbehavers: this is our new nickname for the small gaggle of children we call ours.

What age is appropriate to begin using time-outs as punishment? Why do kids do so much crazy stuff, especially in groups?

Mine do everything from sneaking chocolate to stashing sodas in their room to taking random bites out of fruit in the fruit basket. What gives?

I can’t believe half the stuff these kids do and get into. I almost regret painting the walls because they are now accented by my toddler’s scribble-art. As a work-at-home mom, it’s hard for me to chase him around all the time, otherwise I would never get anything done. Never!

So I decided to check out some resources on parenting to see if they have any good ideas about how to stop some of this behavior as well as take off the pen and market from the wall (without taking the paint with it this time).

The toddler throws tantrums on a fairly regular basis. This is usually categorized by whining, screeching, or screaming, throwing himself on the floor, or hitting something… or someone. Not okay!

Not only does he do this, but he also laughs when he knows he’s in trouble. He thinks it’s hilarious! It’s crazy. So what’s the best method to change his behavior?

Consistent positive reinforcement for good behavior. What?! Seriously?!

So what am I supposed to do with his temper tantrums and hitting and throwing stuff?

One tip that really struck me was to plan ahead for consequences and post them to the fridge or something in writing. I’m going to do this with the older two so they know exactly what will happen if they don’t do as they’re told. This could definitely work for them, but that still leaves me with the boy. The screecher creature. Crazy small humans….

Fortunately, there is the awesome time-out idea. The older kids already know the drill, but the younger one is still clueless. He thinks a time-out is being trapped in his room with his TV and toys for a few minutes.

And no, 2 years old is not too early to begin implementing the time-out rule. This is awesome news for me! Those kids have a knack for driving everyone crazy.

This is one of those times when I really wish that each kid came with a user manual. Unfortunately, every child is different, and every home is different…. most of the time, it’s a “learn-as-you-go” scenario. Good thing we have access to the internet!

Helping your toddler’s speech develop

There’s nothing more amazing than watching your toddler begin to speak. For me, my son has been especially intense because he soaks up knowledge, words, and behaviors like a sponge – this can be a bad thing when he’s around people who have some weird or not good habits, but the fact that he’s 2 and almost speaking in full sentences amazes me.

There are certain things that I feel are common sense with young kiddos, but have seen ignored and resulting in a child that doesn’t speak as well. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post – to share what I’ve been doing to help my son’s speech develop more quickly and accurately.

Last night at dinner, he repeated a word that blew me away. My 9-year old says this wrong, but my son doesn’t: Raphael! Crazy, right? He’s also repeating words in German and Spanish as my mom is a translator and knows snippets of several languages and is fluent in German, and he tries really hard to put sentences together… even though he skips some words, but he’ll be there very soon.

A couple of weeks ago, he sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star almost all the way through. I started cracking up because I was so impressed! What a little sponge!

His sisters teach him things on top of me and my fiance teaching him, so he’s getting 4x the instruction compared to an only child… but there are some key things that I like to keep in mind and point out to help kids’ speech develop more quickly and accurately. These things are compiled through personal experience.

NO Baby Talk.

DO NOT speak to your child in baby talk or let other people do it. This is the worst thing you can do for your toddler’s development because they will try to repeat it as they hear it. If you say, “Who’s my wittle handsome man?” you can’t expect your toddler to say, “little.” Making noises at them doesn’t do too well, either, although it is pretty entertaining when they figure out how to growl – growling kids are hilarious =). But they need to know that growling isn’t a good communication method…. unless you’re John Casey, but his are more like grunts than anything else.

Unfortunately, toddlers will copy everything. If they’re exposed to a child who cries loudly to communicate and that works for them, then they will copy it. If they’re exposed to a child who fakes crying and over-exaggerates it greatly, then they will do that. If they’re exposed to a child who repeats swear words after their parents, chances are your toddler will do that, too.

This is why baby talk can be detrimental to your child’s development. What I’ve always done is speak to my kids – even as newborns – like I normally speak, maybe just with a slightly higher pitched-tone. No fake words (although I have always called a diaper, “butt…” so I ask, “Hey, do you need a new butt?” so that’s a little off. But “butt” is still a word, in my defense!), no incohesive babbling, nothing like that. No, “wooosjeewoosjeewoo,” or, “goo goo ga ga,” (and toddlers are too young to know who Lady GaGa is), just plain English (or whatever your native tongue is – or both because small children can learn languages very quickly).

Speaking words clearly – and sentences, especially when they’re beginning to put their own sentences together – helps a great deal in a toddler’s development.

Ask Questions.

If your toddler knows what they want and tells you when you ask, then ask more questions! My son is a pretty rowdy one, so when he gets a time-out, he gets sent to his room. I put a door knob cover on the inside so he can’t get out unless someone lets him. I know, it sounds a little harsh, but if he were to be able to open his door, he would likely throw the cat litter all over the house, do more artwork on all the walls, and rip up as many books as he could get a hold of. Plus… the best punishment for this little man is to feel trapped. When I used to swat him on the butt or even on the back of the hand, he laughed in my face and hit me back… so this is the happy middle ground.

The reason I bring this up is because my daughter literally just asked him why he was in time-out for a few minutes. The girls had been cleaning their room and one of them started bawling like crazy, so I had my oldest put him in his room for a time-out. Several minutes later, my younger daughter opened his bedroom door and said, “Do you know why you were in a time-out?” and he replied right away, “Hitting!”

He may be a bully, but he’s a smart bully.

Repeat What They Say.

I don’t mean when they tell you, “Milk” you repeat the word. What I do mean is repeating the word they use in a sentence, preferrably in the worm of a yes or no question. For example, let’s say your toddler runs up to you and says, “Mommy! Hungry!” (mine does this all the time… lol)

I always repeat it back to him: “Are you hungry, baby?”

Then he yells: “Yea!”

Simple conversation, but he’s learning about sentence structure without even knowing it. You can make this a habit so easily – not only does it help you to understand exactly what they’re saying, but it also helps your toddler to develop their language skills more accurately and quickly.

Him: “Dog! Pet it!”

Me: “Do you want to pet the dog?”

Him: “Yea!”

There are a million different things that this works for, and it’s obviously helping because he’s 2 and weeks away from full sentences. Now if I could just get him to stop being such a meanie….

Whatever the case may be, these are three things that I do consistently to help him develop verbal skills. Other proven and strong methods include reading to your baby, letting them see the words and associate them with what they are as an image (like in, “Your Baby Can Read!”), and singing songs with them.

The only issue I’m going to have is when he gets to the really hard questions like, “What is forensic science?” or “Why do I need to go to college?” By the time those questions hit your influence is weakened and they start to think for themselves…. but maybe, if adequate skills are developed in toddlerhood, the rest won’t be so hard… right? Let’s hope =).