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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dear New Mom of 2,

*This is part 6 of a series of posts about what it's like to go from having one baby to two.
More to come!*

Dear Mommy of Baby #2, 

Congratulations! A new baby. You get to do this all over again. The snuggles. The itty bum scrunched up and knees pulled close and head on your chest. The firsts. The growth. The smiles and giggles. It's amazing.

Perhaps you finally found out what you were having all those months. Maybe it's the opposite of what you had first and you are SO excited that you get to experience both. Or maybe you are thrilled to have the same gender as your first so they can grow up best buddies and wearing those adorable clothes a second time around. There is so much fun yet to be had. And you can sense this right away.

You are blessed and lucky for sure. 

And I know you already know this from reading my other posts and from surviving pregnancy a second time (and who wouldn't consider it survival, right?!), but it's tough. It's a challenge already having a second one, isn't it? For me, the hospital was amazing, scary and tearful. It was nice to be there, all by ourselves, as you get fewer visitors the second time around. It's like even the nurses have a clue that hey, they've raised one already and it is still around to scream and run around about it, so let's leave them be; they've got this. So you have more time to enjoy this little creature to yourselves.

One night my husband and I just sat there, at 7ish, nobody there, just us with our sleepy baby, and I wrote in the baby book and stared at some of the pretty pink gifts we'd been given while my husband snuggled our baby and read a book. What?! After 2 years of toddlerville and nightmares and teething and tantrums, we felt like we were on vacation for a minute there! 

It's great in the hospital the second time around. You have done this before so you are familiar with certain things, like the fact that the nurses are too rough giving a bubble bath the first time and that you can speak up about what you want and don't want. I had a MUCH better time the second time with nursing and telling nurses what I needed and didn't need. I advocated for myself. I encourage you to do the same. Don't be shy, you've earned the ability to say what you want after doing this TWICE!

Yet, new mommy, I want you to be prepared that you are going to have such conflicting feelings those first few days. You are going to be sooo elated and happy and want to focus entirely on this new little one who has just made your life feel so whole ... and yet at the same time you will feel distracted and worried, sad even, missing your first so much it hurts. Especially those having C-sections and needing to stay in recovery at the hospital for 4+ days. It's so hard being away from our big babies for that long, especially overnight.

Of course, you know they are fine. My son could care less that week without us. He didn't wake up once in the night calling out our names, my in-laws promised us. He came in bouncing and smiling and in fact eager to LEAVE the hospital after he visited us and his new sister. He was fed, dressed, normal. He had great days at daycare (we kept him on his regular routine for the most part). Our sitter said he talked about his new baby sister a few times, but mostly was playing with his toys and eating snack and taking a nap. Business as usual for our 2-year-old.

He was OK. I was the one who was not. 
I cried daily missing my big baby. I felt guilty being here in this hospital, not tucking him in at bed time, not reading him his stories, not making his breakfast, not singing our favorite songs on the ride to daycare. I felt like he was going to be so scarred for life over this transition away from us. I thought he'd be crying and nobody would understand what it was but us and we weren't there to make it better.I teared up EVERY time I talked to him on the phone in the mornings and before bed at night.

I cried every time he left our hospital room (he came to visit every day either in the morning before he went to daycare or in the afternoon/early evening. Keeping his schedule as it normally is helps you to feel like, OK he's fine, he's doing his regular thing). He never stayed long because he was a toddler who had energy to burn and a small hospital room with a newborn wasn't good for that scenario. My husband went to dinner with him almost every night in the hospital cafeteria, which meant I had even less time with him. My husband didn't leave me at all when my son was born, but now with the second it was our first who needed him more at that moment. That's a change from the first to the second.

My mom came to visit when I was sad after talking to my son on the phone. I was SO hormonal and that's where the hormones chose to get me... my first baby. She hugged me and said, "It's OK, he's your baby still, of course you're going to miss him. Even though you have a new baby, he'll always be your baby..." She got it.

Be prepared to be upset in the hospital or even later. It's normal. It does not mean you are unhappy about baby #2. It means you are split in two now. Your heart has grown larger, and with a bigger heart comes bigger space for more emotions. Know that your first is totally fine, really. And it's OK if he misses you and it's OK if he seems totally fine without you. You'll be home SOON.

I loved this picture below of my son and I. I made this huge deal when he came to visit one day that I had a treat for him (peaches from my breakfast!). He loved it. We cuddled and talked about his day. I tried to focus entirely on him, let my family focus on our newborn. My son needed me more at that moment. And perhaps I needed him. This is OK. Your newborn won't notice or care. Your older one will, so it's important to focus on them as you can.

Have some special prizes, presents, treats, etc. at the hospital for him also so when he comes to visit there are things to do and he is also celebrated along with the baby. We were grateful family members also gave him things at the hospital. Giving him a present in the hospital from you will also help you, new mama, to feel less guilty like you did not forget him.

Because I had a first child to focus on, too, and was so busy and preoccupied wondering how he was handling all this, I also felt this strange thing that I still can't explain. The first few days in the hospital I felt SO strange with my new baby. Of course instantly I loooved her. I was happier than ever before having a girl and a boy. Yet, it was like I was not IN love with her yet. How could I be? I didn't know her yet. I hope that makes sense.

Being IN love with our kids is based on knowing their smile, their noises, their looks, staring at their features and little hands and seeing them respond to us when feeding them. It comes from hearing their cries cease when we shush them or rock them. After having had those feelings and experiences with my son for 2 years and now having just met this little girl, I needed more time. I think this was mostly based on the fact that my newborn didn't need a whole lot from me at this moment - eat, sleep, change. Voila. Yet my active toddler was talking to me and needing attention and toys and hugs and a snack, so my focus was directed at him a little bit when he was there at least.

(blurry and exhausted looking... but it's us, happy and content and as one ... smiles... )

It took a matter of a few days to get that IN love feeling with my daughter. This is nothing like post-partum depression or anything like I didn't like her, not at all. It was just this new feeling of, wow, how am I to love someone as much as I love my first child already? Most moms wonder that while pregnant with their second. Will I be able to show love twice as much now? Will doing so make me feel guilty toward my first? The answer is OF COURSE you can love twice as much, a zillion times as much really. And it feels natural, honestly. It comes easily. Those first few days you are just nervous, hormonal, exhausted, and it's all new. So you question and wonder too much. 

My advice to you is feel whatever you feel.
It's OK. And let it all sink in with time before you make up your mind about all this baby #2 stuff.

Enjoy your new baby.
Smell her.
Hold her tight.
Take tons of pictures of your first and second meeting for the first time. What an incredible thing!
You have just given your first the BEST gift you could have ever given to him. A friend at work told me that the week before I was due when I cried wondering how this would impact my son. She said, "Angela, really, look at what you are doing for him. You're giving him a best friend for life. What better gift is there?" So true.

Zero in on what's important to you while in the hospital - your new family of 4. 

The rest will fall into place later.
That's another post coming soon!

A mom who survived the hospital stay

Sunday, January 27, 2013

a day in the life of 2

*This is part 5 of a series of posts about what it's like to go from having one baby to two.
More to come!*

Life with two children is BUSY.
It's loud and there is crying and frustrations on everyone's part. 
It's complicated and a juggling act sometimes.
Someone always has to wait their turn... most often you are the one in line last.

In the beginning it's all kinds of diapers and feedings. 
It's barely eating yourself because you are feeding two kids who neeeeeed you oh so much right now. 
It's new and familiar at the same time; it's exciting, and confusing all wrapped up into one.
It's washing a lot of bottles.

It's never making your bed because you are getting back in in a few minutes anyway to rest with the baby or feed the baby or...

It's setting up camp with the pump and doing what you can to make that situation work and comfy and normal for your toddler to see.

Life with two is awesome when the nursing/pumping thing goes better than it did the first time and you're super proud! But it's busy. Man a lot of milk comes out of a person the second time around!

It's challenging figuring out a system. 
When one baby was here the milk fit in the freezer no problem. 
Now with two, there are frozen waffles and french fries and
 peaches already in there you have to make room for.

Life with two is BUSY, BUSY, BUSY. 
You are on the go A LOT. 
You need to keep track of those birthday parties and doctor's appointments for two now. 
Some days it feels like everyone is going in different directions.

Life does not stop when a second baby comes home. 
Your first needs you to keep on movin'!

Some days you just want to whine about it.
And oh yeah, the laundry ... well don't get me started on how much more LAUNDRY there is with two!

Every single day you feel like you take on the world.
You do it ALL. 

Life with two children is MESSY. 
It's chaos.
Frustrating, annoying, tiring, and crazy.
It's dirty and not picked up like it used to be pre-kids. 
It's more and less - and everything in between. 
It's stressful at times.

Here is my house just a few weeks ago... 
so really the whole messy thing with two does not improve after those sleepless newborn months. 
This is our home after dinner time one night.

There are more toys with two kids. Go figure.
You thought you had no space before... well watch out now! 
I think we have 4,985 toys now... and they're all over the living room here!

I think baby #2 is somewhere in there amidst the mess!

It's multiplied. 
Whatever you used to do for one, you now do two times in a row. 
It's time-consuming. You have little time for anything else when they are awake. 

I wasn't joking about the laundry!

Somehow, you manage to keep a smile on your face despite the craziness.
You're a mother. M-O-M Mom. 
What else would you do but laugh and keep moving forward?

The laughter. The laughing makes it ALL worth it. My daughter giggles NONSTOP when she's with her brother. And he does everything he can think of to make her laugh. He's done that since she was born. It's the sweetest thing to watch.

It's sweet and caring and joyful, too.

It's learning for everyone. It's a new adventure. It's the best roller coaster ride EVER.

My son has learned to share... well learned is a stretch, he's learnING. But it's good. It's a positive thing that we practice at home all the time on this sharing our toys thing so when he goes to school he'll be a better friend.

It warms my heart. It makes me cry happy tears.
It's bliss and true joy.

My little boy turning into a big brother and teaching his sister how to do things... priceless. He shares his tools with her, those are his pride and joy, so that tells us he really does love this annoying little sister thing!

A lot of times they are best buds, happy to have someone by their side.

It's never perfect. 
She cries when he takes a toy away from her. 
He gets annoyed when she can't pass him the toy he wants because she doesn't yet know how to do that. They do check each other out sometimes, like who is this and why am I forced to deal with her/him?

But it's FUN. 

And it's SWEET.

And it's our life. Our new with 2 life. 

Full of chaos and challenges, with love and growth alongside all of that. It's busy, that's for sure. But it's the most amazing journey, too. It's encouraging, uplifting, inspiring and hilarious really to watch these two together. We can only hope they are as smitten with each other 20 years from now as they are today at age 2 and infant.

We know there will be ups and downs, annoyances and yelling and slamming doors and "go get your own friends" coming from them, especially in the teenage drama-filled years. But a bond like this can't be broken. It's a forever friend type of thing. They're stuck together. And honestly, if you asked them if that were OK and they could really answer truthfully, I think they'd smile and say, "yeah, that's pretty cool actually."

book - Raising Your Spirited Child

I recently found on a blog the term "spirited child." I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. I wrote a previous review of another book this month about this topic and this book was a second on the list that I thought sounded interesting. As the mom of a pretty smart, creative, curious, and busy boy I wanted to learn if my son was one of these so-called spirited children. After reading I see that nope, he's just a middle of the road, all-boy, "spunky child," as this author calls it in her book. Some good info in here. A lot to take in, but if you seriously think you have a spirited child this is a MUST-READ for you. Great parenting how-tos in here.

Raising Your Spirited Child - A guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

-From page one Kurcinka explained that spirited children are "more." "Spirited kids are the Super Ball in a room full of rubber balls. Other kids bounce three feet off the ground. Every bounce for a spirited child hits the ceiling," she wrote.

-The author explains that labels are oftentimes negative and hurtful toward these children. Instead of saying aggressive, demanding, etc. one should say excited, creative, curious, etc. The focus is on the child's positive traits versus the frustrating moments.

-Kurcinka explained that asking an energetic child to sit still too long is like asking you to ignore your full bladder. It's going to burst, it's inevitable, unless you shorten the time and do something about the need.

-As for children who are innately louder than the average child, Kucinka said they cannot help it. "They are not loud because they know it irritates people; they are loud because they really feel that much excitement, pain, or whatever the emotion or sensation may be. Their intensity is real," on page 42.

-In chapter 3 the author details a quiz for you to figure out if you have a spirited child, spunky child or low-key cool child. It is based on the traits of a spirited child including mood, energy, persistence, sensitivity, etc.It was very interesting to walk through this and see that some areas my son scored higher (energetic!) and other areas he did not even show anything of concern at all (sensitivity). It's definitely an interesting perspective of seeing our kids this way in that these are character traits, part of who they are, not them going through phases or trying to annoy their parents.

-Kucinka encourages recognizing your child's cues before they erupt into a tantrum or issue. On page 108 she wrote, "Think about your child. What cues does he send you? How do his body movements change? What happens to the tone of his voice? What irritates him that doesn't when he is calm? Take note of these changes. Store them in your brain." She encourages you intervene when you see these signs. For us, we know that our son gets so excited easily when he sees his family. He can't calm himself for at least 15 minutes afterward because he's over the top happy to see them. So if they are coming over we make sure we take care of business beforehand. Last night for example when we were preparing to go out for a date and his grandparents were coming to watch him, we made dinner early, got into pajamas, went potty, brushed teeth, etc. BEFORE they arrived because we knew otherwise it'd be much more difficult for him to calm down his excitement and do those tasks when all he wants is to play with his buddies. Knowing ahead of time these cues that your child needs you to settle them is what Kucinka said makes all the difference.

It takes being two steps ahead all the time. Which is challenging as a parent especially of multiple children. Doing your best and trying to stay focused is helpful.

-Teaching children to name their emotions is so important. It helps it become less confusing and frustrating for them when they experience strong emotions. (page 111)

-Kucinka explained that for many kids lack of sleep causes a stress situation in their body, where they cannot slow down enough to sleep even though they need to. The author actually confirmed something I've said for years about my son regarding their being a "window" of time for nap to happen, and if we miss that time (even 20 minutes past regular nap time) in most cases he won't sleep even a half hour. I've always been sooo big on making sure we stick to nap time because my son really needs it. He's not one of these "spirited children," so I imagine for those who truly are they REALLY will need their rest.

-It's important to help children see you are listening, you understand, you care about their feelings. Saying yes, I understand, is sometimes all it takes to calm a crying child or someone in trouble. (page 145)

-"The problem with consequences is that punishment is the least effective means of getting good behavior. The most effective way is teaching appropriate skills and reinforcing your child when she uses them," Kucinka wrote on page 173.

-Kucinka stresses throughout the book that teaching kids to "use their words" is the best method for working with any type of child. Encouraging them to explain their point of view, wants and needs, feelings, etc. is the best way to understanding them and helping them feel understood, and thus behaving better.

-Helping children calm themselves is important, too. A few ideas:
paint the shower with shaving cream
baths! even in the middle of the day, are so calming
sand and water play
play doh
reading books
rubbing their back or massages
writing letters and numbers on their back or them doing it to you

A very good read. If you feel like your child is "more," like the author wrote, this is a helpful book. There is a lot of information in here though so plan to take some time to go through it if you find that your child really is a spirited one. And for those whose children, like mine, are just a little energetic or other forms of spirit yet not exactly defined as "spirited," it was still helpful to read some of these tips.

Monday, January 21, 2013

preparing big bro or sis for the new baby

*This is part 4 of a series of posts about what it's like to go from having one baby to two.
More to come!*

A big reason why the second pregnancy is different is because you already have child #1 running amongst your house, to care for and think about. Part of that involves preparing your child for becoming a big brother or sister. Here are a few things to remember as you not only nest around the home washing baby clothes and setting up the bassinet, remember your first child needs you even more right now.

How to prepare big baby for a new sibling:

*Nest slowly. Don't rush to change your house, take out all the baby stuff all at once. Do it gradually. Slow it down, be patient, and understand that it will confuse your child if all of a sudden all the baby stuff is out, yet they are not allowed to play on it and there is no baby in sight for months to come. Take things out a little at a time so it's not overwhelming to them.

* Play - baby dolls, feeding, diapers, etc. My niece gave my son a baby doll and we got it some bottles and gave him some old smaller diapers to put on it. He ignored it at first and then just started playing with it as I got bigger in the belly and as we started taking out some baby items like the swing, bouncer chair, etc. It was sweet to see him playing with it. We could insert things into conversation also that we wanted him to know when baby was here - like don't be rough with her, be gentle, and suggesting baby was crying so she needed to be held, etc. Kids learn through playing, so help them realize what some of this baby thing is about with dolls.

* Independence - Because I knew I was going to have another C-section I tried very hard early on in my pregnancy to teach my son to walk up and down our stairs, get in and out of his car seat and high chair, etc. by himself so that he would be used to me not picking him up as much. I know some of you may see that as sad, feeling guilty you can't do it all for your child, but honestly seeing how proud they are of their new independence is exciting. Even if your recovery is smooth after baby comes home you are still going to be holding baby more and not able to pick up your big kid, so preparing for this change in advance is helpful. At the same time as I write that you should encourage your child to do things on his own, do NOT push your child into doing things before he's ready. Don't just move your child from crib to big bed because baby is coming. You have months before you'll need to do that. Same goes for potty training, don't do it just on your time schedule, wait until you see signs and then encourage that part.

*Daddy Daycare - Get dad involved ASAP if he's not already. Put him on bath, bed time, lunch, etc duty. Let him take over the bed time reading routine. Let him pack the daycare lunches. Send dad to the grocery store with little one more often. You need a break during pregnancy anyway, so take advantage of it. My husband has always been a super involved father, but when we brought home our daughter he became almost solely the one taking care of our son for a few weeks until I was back up and moving after surgery. It helped that my son was used to his dad doing things with him all the time anyway so this did not seem like a change to him. Those of you who have dads who are working a lot or just not picking up the slack, get them moving in on the action now so that it's less of a shock to them and your child when you need their help. Big reminder here: Dads won't do it just like we moms do it - and that's OK! Let them do it their way. Your child will survive and when baby is here you'll be too busy to notice anyway.

* Read - There are tons of great books out there about becoming a big sibling, bringing home a new baby, etc. One of our favorites was Arthur's New Baby. These books talk about all the feelings kids might have about a new sibling (that they get all the attention, that babies cry a lot and aren't so much fun in the beginning because they sleep a lot, too, that guests typically bring baby things and not the big kid, etc.). I found these books helpful for me even to realize what my son might be thinking.

* Hype- Make it cool to become a big sibling with special shirts or other things that say "Best Big Sister Ever" on them. Help your child realize this is such a cool thing, a fun thing they are about to do. Talk about all the great things big siblings get to do that babies can't do. Make it a positive change for them.

*Attention - Have other people come over to help play with him to get him used to you not doing it all. Start this early on and definitely enlist some friends and family to play with your older one when baby comes home from the hospital. Special play dates or even just playing at home one-on-one is so helpful. Before baby comes make sure you give your big kid lots of special attention also. They know something is changing, different, about to be strange, but they don't understand it - no matter their age, they can't get it until it happens. I took my son to the playground, out for cookies, and played in the beach sand before my daughter was born as a special mommy and Owen day. I highly encourage parents to do this - if not for your child then for you. It's sad losing that total one-on-one time with our big kids, so having a sort of farewell to that helps us acknowledge it a little better I think.

*Structure. Keep a routine as much as possible before and then during baby's arrival. I never understood why people would send their big kid to daycare when they were home with the baby. I was so naive! When you are up all night with a newborn, recovering from birth, and sooo busy with a newborn's feeding schedule there is little time and energy to spend with a toddler or older child, which causes you to feel bad that they are not getting what they need either. It was the best for all of us to have my son go on his regular routine of going to daycare every day. He stayed home with us the first week while my husband was around to spend special time with him, but after that he went to daycare. It was so good for him. He'd come home and play with us for a few hours before bed and miss the baby and slowly adjust to having her there since he was only with her a few hours a day. With a newborn, things are chaotic and you aren't on a schedule in the beginning, but you need to remember that your toddler has been on a routine for months maybe even years now so you need to do your best to stick to that for his sake. During big changes like this kids need to know that everything is OK, it's all the same as it was despite there being a new person here. Structure helps them feel that it really is normal. Along with structure for the routines, have your child's favorite things on hand like their favorite snacks, etc.

*Expectations. Don't really have them! Expect setback, baby type behavior. Have patience, it's overwhelming for them all these changes. It's normal for kids to want to drink from a bottle now or whine more or cry more or need to be picked up more. Indulge them slightly and offer tons of hugs and kisses and special time together, yet again stay with the routine and structure. They need this. So while your child will try to drink from the baby's bottle you can say something like, "You think it's cool to drink from the baby's bottle, don't you? You used to drink from a bottle like that. But now you're a big boy who can do all kinds of big kid things like ride your bike, too, so you don't need a bottle. Do you want your cup now?" Empathize and redirect.

*Doctor's visit. Early on in my pregnancy I had to take my son with me to the doctor's visit because I had nobody to watch him. It ended up being a great thing because he heard the baby's heartbeat there and for the rest of my pregnancy he would get out his doctor kit toy stethoscope and check my belly's heartbeat. It was his way of really getting involved and connecting to my pregnancy. While I would not have wanted to take him to most appointments (doctor's office, waiting, patience, high-tech expensive things do NOT equal a grand place for a busy toddler boy!) it was really cool to take him once to see what it was all about.

*Hospital. Make a good plan ahead of time for who will take care of your child while you are in the hospital. Will dad go home at night to put her to bed? Will grandparents stay at your home with your child in her regular bed and routine? Put together a bag of things that can be taken to and from the hospital with your child. It can serve as a diaper bag too (spare clothes, diapers, wipes, etc.), snacks, coloring book and crayons (hospitals are boring to kids!), etc. I also planned to make a list of my son's favorite foods, what times he typically ate breakfast, etc. (never got to doing this, as I went into labor a day sooner than my scheduled C-section!). We wrapped a gift from the baby to my son also that we had at the hospital in my hospital bag (coloring books, reading books, art supplies, shirt, etc.). He loved it and felt like this was not just the baby's special day but also his celebration, too.

Also make a plan for that first meeting between big baby and new baby. Do you want just you 4 in the room together, nobody else? Do you want someone to video tape it or take pictures? I had this big thing about not having my son see me holding the newborn baby when he walked into the room. I wanted him to come see me first, adjust to seeing me look weird and tired from a surgery, and then bring the baby to me and him. I don't know why, but I got so fixated on this and emotional over it. Well, he arrived sooner than we thought he would and I was holding the baby and he was fine. But talk this through beforehand with your partner if you do have ideas about it. We did not get great pictures of our son first meeting his sister, something I really regret. It was always so busy and chaotic, trying to contain our busy toddler in a hospital room full of new things to touch and play with, that the pictures were rushed. I wish we'd taken more time with it.

*Wait. Don't push your big kid into liking her new sibling. She will do it when she's ready. She will want to hold, kiss, snuggle, etc. the new baby soon enough. But for now it's confusing (is it even real? is it staying here? where did it come from?). Let your child go to the baby, not the other way around.

*Do your best. No matter how much you do you cannot prepare them entirely. There will be things that you didn't prepare for or know would bother him, it's just life, does not make you a bad parent. All kids react differently to stress, change, new baby, so just accept that it is what it is and it WILL improve.

A great article I found on this topic:

book - Taming the Spirited Child

Taming the Spirited Child - Strategies for parenting challenging children without breaking their spirits
by Michael Popkin, Ph. D. 

-'Taming' a spirited child means to form a strong relationship.

-Spirited children are sometimes impulsive, hyperactive, aggressive, noncompliant, difficult to manage, ornery, tempermental, oppositional, or just "all boy," the author wrote on page 4.

-Popkin wrote a lot about how these spirited children have many gifts, positive traits about them that will aid them in successful futures if harnessed the right way. "While their particular ways of expressing this energy is often out of sync with the times in which they live, the power within them should be a source of inspiration for the rest of us" (page 5).

-Spirited children tend to be CAPPS - curious, adventurous, powerful, persistent, and sensitive, (page 10). Chapter one describes each of these characteristics, explains why they happen and signs of them in children. Popkin wrote that all of these things are really positive and yet can be viewed negative by community members, schools, etc. at times.

-One of the best things parents can do for spirited children is to learn what the triggers are for CAPPS and how to "defuse them beforehand," the author wrote on page 35. Redirecting the child, understanding and teaching kids their own emotions, and capitalizing on their positive traits are all helpful tips as well.

-The author provided a great chapter on 10 Tactics for Avoiding (or Defusing) Power Struggles, including tips like don't fight and don't give in, and give choices not orders. (page 72). Instead of saying, "Do your homework right this instant. Do it!" you say "Do you want to do homework right now, or need 5 more minutes to finish that game before you start homework?" The author wrote that the result of this change is "a mood shift that changes the dynamics from a power struggle to a creative collaboration." (page 85)

-Popkin wrote a lot about effective discipline for spirited children. "Disciplining a spirited child is as much about disciplining yourself as it is about disciplining the child," (page 88). Punishment is not what works with these kids for the most part, in fact in most cases it goes the opposite way. Most spirited children are not trying to make you angry, defy the rules, or go against what you say. They are curious, busy, energetic, etc. and aiming for adventure. They are in their own worlds at times. To discipline this is difficult because the child does not understand what he did was wrong in some cases. 

-Structure, routine bed and eating schedules, using a timer, etc. are all good ideas Popkin wrote about in chapter 6. 

-When disciplining it's important to "focus on the rule, not the child." Instead of saying "You have to go to bed at 8 p.m." you say "Bedtime is at 8 p.m." Instead of "Don't you hit me!" you say "We don't hit in our family." (page 112)

-He encourages kids at age 7 and older receive an allowance, but only for doing extra chores like washing the car, etc. not for doing household family chores that everyone helps out with. (page 117)

-He encourages playing with your kids every single day at least 10 minutes, showing them the respect you hope they give to you, "stay firm and friendly," put yourself in your child's shoes, etc. "Learn to listen to what your child is feeling behind his words and actions," he wrote on page 248. 

Overall, a slightly confusing book with references to historical figures and essays, but well-written and helpful information. There is a lot of info in this book though with many abbreviations for tips. The tips themselves appear to be sound advice. Popkin did a good job explaining what spirited children are like and what they need, as well as helping parents realize these are GOOD kids, they just have challenges that they need their parents' patience and support in dealing with in order to be successful. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

book - ScreamFree Parenting

ScreamFree Parenting - Raising your kids by keeping your cool by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT

This was an interesting book. It is a bit religious, randomly throughout the book references to church, but not so much that if you aren't into that sort of thing it would deter you away from the book. Well-written, easy to read, with simple tips for calming yourself down when stressed in the moment. I admit some of it was confusing to me. The author refers to the fact that some parents yell at their kids or snap at them and lack patience is because parents are anxious, not because perhaps we're just plain annoyed or angry or tired. That part I still don't get after reading the book, but overall the tips in this book are useful to any parent, even if you aren't a yeller.

It's about US
The first page says a lot about what this book discusses: "Parenting is not about kids, it's about parents." The author continued to say that the best thing parents can do for their kids is to focus on themselves.

-"...emotional reactivity is our worst enemy when it comes to having great relationships," he said on page 11. Runkel says this is our biggest battle as parents - not drugs and alcohol, peers, etc. with our kids, but rather our own emotional reactions to what our kids do.

-"Reactive intimidation" does not work long term and hurts the relationship with you and your child.

-"If we want to be influential, then we have to first bring ourselves under control. Only then can we choose our response. Only then can we choose how we want to behave, regardless of how our children choose to behave," Runkel said. (page 13)

- "Becoming a ScreamFree parent involves growing self-awareness, a greater sense of self-direction, and an increased willingness to take personal responsibility for your actions, regardless of the actions of those around you," he wrote on page 18.

A bit nervous
-He said that we are anxious of how things happen, of not being in control. But if we lose our cool, then we as parents are not in control any longer despite feeling like we are when we're yelling. He said how parents handle their anger, frustration, etc. directly impacts how their kids react and act overall.

-He encourages parents to take parenting as a challenge and accept that growth will come, maturity will happen in ourselves if we put in the effort and patience and self-awareness toward our flaws and try to make them better.

- "Whenever we give in to our anxiety, we create the very outcome we're hoping to avoid," Runkel wrote (page 31). Essentially, when we start yelling and snapping at kids and demanding things and giving ultimatums, then we turn into the thing we didn't want our kids to do in the first place. If you match a temper tantrum with another temper tantrum, what does that get you? Nothing but frustration.

-As a middle school counselor I hear this one ALL the time from the adolescents I work with: "What you want is for your kids to talk with you, share their lives with you. You send mixed signals when you overreact to the information they disclose. If you want your kids to eliminate you as a resource for guidance and support, then by all means, stop growing. Continue to escalate in your reactions and allow your emotions to guide your responses. However, if you want to be the calm influence, the 'cool' parent your children really need, then do everyone a favor and keep growing up," Runkel wrote (page 34). Pretty blunt, but oh-so-true.

-"Kids are going to act out the anxiety that exists within their family system ... if you want to feel calm in your family, that calm starts with you," he wrote on page 34.

How is it done?
-Runkel suggests that in order to stay in charge of our kids we have to "inspire them to motivate themselves." It's not doing it all for them. It means giving our kids space, choices, freedom, decisions to make. It means not being the boss, yet guiding them so ultimately we are in charge. (page 43)

-" When you scream at your kids, when you get emotionally reactive, you communicate one single message : CALM ME DOWN! No matter what words are actually coming out of your mouth, no matter how long your tirade is, no matter how old your child is, when you scream the message is always the same: CALM ME DOWN! Whenever you react to your child's behavior by screaming, you are actually begging them to help you calm your anxiety. You are saying you just cannot handle the fact they will not obey or listen or calm down themselves. You cannot handle this, so you flip out," Runkel wrote (page 44).
     Continuing he wrote that we put it all on our kids when we are having a reaction to their behaviors... something that seems totally unfair. When we scream we're saying, "I need you to comply or else I'm going to lose it. And when I lose it, I'm going to need you to comply so I can calm back down. All my emotional responses are up to you," (page 45). It sounds ridiculous written that way, and yet so many parents find themselves in the situation of raising your voice because you think it's the only way to get the respect or compliance you need in that moment. Runkel said this is way too much pressure for a 4-year-old or 14-year-old. That does not work.

-Creating boundaries, space and time helps to cool down.

-Teaching kids to do it on their own is helpful. "If you want your children to become self-directed adults, you have to face the truth that you cannot do it for them." (page 73)

- "What children need most are parents who do not need them.What children need most is for their parents to be the first ones who see them as individuals in their own right, with their own lives and decisions and futures. Children were not put on this earth to make us parents feel loved, warm, respected or appreciated. They were put here to become themselves by becoming self-directed adults. And they need for us to create enough space for them to do that," Runkel wrote (page 77).

Someone once told me when I was pregnant with my first child that the hardest thing about parenting is realizing that every single thing we do as parents is to help them to grow away from us and become individuals who eventually leave us.
That is heart-wrenching to think about, but consider it. Starting from the second we clap at our babies reaching for toys for the first time or saying their first words, rolling over and crawling, or encouraging them to walk. It's all so they can become independent. That's hard to accept in the end. Yet it's necessary and such important work for us to do as parents.

Give kids their space.
-Give them a room and let it be theirs. Don't continue to act like it's yours by barging in, knock first. Or telling them how to keep it cleaned or organized, let them do that - or not do it, it's up to them. They need this one space to feel how they feel, say what they want, do what they want (with parameters of course), Runkel explained on page 84.

-You must give respect to gain it. You have to "initiate and model it toward your child."
-Stop asking them how they feel and demanding to receive an answer. Most times kid don't know how they feel anyhow, so you asking doesn't help it. If you ask once and they say they don't know, don't push it.
-Stop asking "why." It doesn't help in the moment of when your child has done something wrong.

They need us. - Tips on how to help them.
-Kids are constantly testing us. "In doing so, he is not plotting an invasion or laying an ambush. He, instead, is testing you to see if you can be trusted. He is testing you so that he can see that you are dependable, stable, and consistent. And trust me, he desperately needs you to pass," Runkel wrote (page 98).

-Side with your child and ask how they are going to handle dilemmas instead of solving their problems very time. "Wow, you're bored? That stinks. I hate it when I'm bored. What are you going to do about it?"

-Use empathy. Instead of telling your kid to be quiet because we are not there yet, it's another hour in the car, empathize with them by showing them you get how they feel, "Wow, you're already asking that question if we are there yet? You must really not want to be in the car today."

-Do NOT hover when your child is doing homework. Remember it's their homework, not yours. Empathize ("That does look like a hard problem") and encourage they find a way to solve it ("Can you call someone in class to help you out?"). "Our child's homework is supposed to make them struggle. It is designed to be difficult for them. That's the whole point!" (page 103)

-Your child won't come inside. Instead of saying "Oh yes you will or else!" you give him space, say something like "Wow I can tell you really don't want to come inside and you are feeling something pretty big about that right now. I'll give you a minute." Then you go inside. Go back out and give two choices - come inside or if not there is a consequence, you decide... kids inevitably go inside.

-Ask "What motivates my child? What does he really want?" Therein lies your answers most of the time for getting compliance. (page 107)

-Stop talking about your kids. Stop comparing them to others. It doesn't help at all. "Whenever we label our children, we severely limit their space."

-Parents are NOT always right. Really stop to consider your child's point of view.

-Use realistic language. "No one is ever always anything." Stop using "you ALWAYS" do this or "you NEVER do that." This is a good tip for communicating with your partner also.

-Stability and structure are important. Have routines, expectations, clear and realistic ideas about how things should be done. And communicate. (page 138)

-Have fun with your kids AND be their authority in their little worlds. It can be done and it's necessary to do. (page 140) 

"There is a personal side to parenting and a business side." 
I LOVE THAT. So true, really makes sense in my head.

-"Let the consequences do the screaming." Not you!

-"The more our children are exposed to the small consequences of their small infractions, the less they will have to commit large infractions and experience large consequences." (page 158) Again, be consistent, start early and follow through.

-"Empty threats are really broken promises." (page 169). By doing what you say you are showing your kids that there is order in the world, people are held accountable to one another, authority can be trusted, words and actions have power, promises matter, Runkel wrote on page 171.

-Don't set a consequence that is "tougher for you to enforce than it is for them to endure."
-Don't set consequences that are unrealistic for you to follow through on.
-Don't set consequences you don't want to do (like not going somewhere).
-You cannot skimp out or have shortcuts for discipline. It's supposed to be hard. You cant get around it.

Take care of you.
It's so important for us to remember to put on our oxygen mask first before helping others, Runkel wrote.
He said to imagine what it would be like if we treated our kids the way we treated ourselves... packing our kids a donut and stale cold coffee for lunch instead of something with all food groups, fresh veggies and fruits, etc. and a note inside. He said we need to start caring for ourselves the way we put so much energy and love into caring for our family. I've never heard it put this way, what a great way of seeing this idea that WE matter!

Overall TONS of great ideas. It was good to examine some of the things we do for discipline. It's good to be reminded of some things I know we're doing right also. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

book - The Way of Boys

The Way of Boys - Raising healthy boys in a challenging and complex world by Anthany Rao, Ph.D. 

This was a fantastic book. I learned so much by reading this. A lot of it were things I knew to be true, but it helped having it written out in black and white to reinforce those ideas I'd wondered about. As a mother of a very active "all boy" guy, I hear lots of things like "be careful, slow down, put that down, ah, oooh, uh oh, yikes, he's busy, he's active, watch it.... etc." and of course my son's name over and over again with his every move. I have learned so much the last almost 3 years by having a son. Boys are VERY different than girls. They just are. Even calm, easygoing boys are still busier than most girls are.

I share a story of my niece, nephew and my son to explain the difference between the boys and girls I see (this is generally speaking also, I know there are busy girls out there, too!).  We were at a restaurant with the family. My 4-year-old niece sat at the end of the table, quiet, smile on her face, content reading books and coloring all by herself, hands in her lap even. She did this the entire two hours we were there. My 2-year-old son tossed an action figure across the table to his uncle to see how high he could "fly." He then accidentally hit the ketchup bottle, spilling ketchup all over his aunt's shirt and the window and wall behind her. Laughing like it was meant to happen. Meanwhile, my 2-year-old nephew, reached into his diaper and grabbed poop out on his hand, telling me that he had a stinky. Awesome. These boys don't stop! They are busy guys, always moving and thinking of something new.

This book gave tons of examples of how boys are. One of the best books I've read in fact. I started crying within the first few pages thinking, my son is a BOY! The author even jokes that he meets with parents who are begging him for a reason, a diagnosis, a solution for why their child is so different in their eyes. He laughs and says, "Your problem is B-O-Y." That's it. Plain and simple, yet so complex.

 -Most boys "play excitedly or act impulsively." (page 3)

-Too often boys are misdiagnosed too early with Aspergers or Autism, ADHD, etc. The author wrote on page 3, "They are not lagging in any permanent way. There is nothing wrong with them. They are just developing, sometimes unevenly, which is the way development takes place in many boys."

- He agrees medicine can work sometimes but more so to "just let boys be," and chalk it up to developing. "That's what early development is: a constant battle to acquire new skills, to navigate challenging new situations, and to allow the brain opportunities to change and grow in the aftermath of failure," Rao wrote on page 5.

-Boys are more likely to learn by touching, feeling. They are explorers. They engage in motor skills and spatial tasks, Rao wrote on page 12. Boys challenge things to assert their power. They have normal levels of aggression.

-On page 12, "...that ADHD (the most common disorder diagnosed in boys) is temporary in most children and their minds will catch up." Not all boys have ADHD, many are just boys being boys. "Boys at this age fidget and run around and scream and get crazy because it releases healthy energy and helps them calm down. For a boy this age, the only way out of the extreme ants-in-your-pants feeling that builds up in them is to plow through it, mow it down with activity. That activity, those crazy dance moves, the jumping in place, the wiggling, all of it clears his mind and gets him ready to focus," Rao wrote on page 76. This is totally my son! Rao encourages boys to MOVE, get outside, be physically active as much as possible.

-Rao said that "creativity and curiosity" are what drive boys to move, move, move most of the time. "Boys are driven by their internal engine, their brain, to wander, investigate, grab, and take apart the world around them. They are so driven that they may shrug off disapproval from their parents," Rao wrote on page 93.

-Rao described these active busy boys as future successful young men. It's all in re-framing how we view these boys that will help us in working with them and parenting them. On page 13 Rao wrote, "I am often the first person to say to a mother that her son's odd behavior or troubles at school are in fact keys to understanding the unique and successful young man he will become. For example, the boy who prefers to line up and count objects instead of socialize at school may be a future engineer."

-"If parents can manage crises properly and can encourage their sons' development to move ahead, boys will likely be stronger and more capable because of their developmental struggles. ...
      I want to tell you to remember that your own boy's struggle is really his greatest source of strength. Lost underneath our need to diagnose and intervene is a boy trying to become himself. A bossy boy is learning to lead. A shy boy is learning to observe the world closely. A tinkerer is learning to fix. A daydreamer is learning to create. All boys have special skills and special struggles, and often the two are linked." (page 13)
       If we can only re-frame how we view certain frustrating, challenging traits in our kids when they are toddlers or beyond, we can begin to understand where our kids are coming from and manage the behavior and work with our children in a whole new way that is more productive and supportive than anything else.

- "In most cases, it's not the boy who has the problem; it's the people in his life who have a problem dealing with him." (page 14)
This was so powerful. The whole book is summed up in this statement. Boys don't fit into our box that is school where they have to sit all day, look people in the eyes, listen intently, not move, etc. They are not wired to do that. The author suggests we adults have way too high expectations for these boys. The author encourages parents to treat these boys as "wonderful people-in-training," and to view the job as a parent as one of coach and offering support through childhood. He said parents who do that do a much better job and have more patience. 
-Language and social skills develop later in boys than in girls. 
-Boys are uncomfortable looking people in the eyes, even from birth (page 19). 
-It takes boys years to learn to read other people's facial expressions, express emotions, etc. whereas infant girls understand it. 
-Boys who throw sand at another kid are not trying to be mean. That is his way of engaging the other kid in play. He explained that young boys socialize just the way adult men do - barely talking, side by side, engaged in activities, etc. It's meaningful but does not look how girls may socialize. 

-Rao explained that typically just before a big break through in development occurs (learning to walk, potty training, learning numbers or ABCs , etc.) a crisis or setback occurs and throws parents off guard. "...I tell parents to look beyond the crisis for the leap that will surely follow. A boy's development takes time. Rather than worrying about a boy's struggles, parents should spend time imagining the healthy young man he is becoming." (page 27)

-Teaching self control at home is a good idea, as boys will need to understand in the world outside home there are boundaries, they cannot just grab whatever they want. Boys often can't wait either. The author suggested taking a boy to a place where you will have to wait in line 10 minutes (post office, for example) and explain to him beforehand what he'll need to do, the reward at the end if you offer one, and how he should behave. Do this a number of times for practice. Do the same for helping your child learn to be patient waiting for a toy he wants by holding it and playing with it yourself for a bit before handing it over.


"I tell all parents that the playground is not a performance, it is a dress rehearsal," Rao wrote on page 62. He said to think of parties, play dates, etc. as times for learning, making mistakes, figuring out how to socialize. How freeing?! I know so many mothers feel on edge when in the presence of other parents, especially on play dates at someone else's house. Is my kid acting OK? Will my kid throw a tantrum when we leave here? What is she thinking of my kid's actions? This is such a nice reminder that they are KIDS, still learning. "Here your son can get the cobwebs out and make his mistakes. You have to understand that he's new at all this. You can't expect too much beyond where he is now. By making mistakes, and by learning from them, he will grow and mature," Rao wrote.

 Rao wrote that we cannot go to a play date acting like we are not in control, in charge, confident. If we worry about what others think of us our kids pick up on that and act accordingly.
"You go in and set the tone that this is the way your boy is, and that's that. Some days are good, and some days he struggles, but you're dealing with it as a parent and not as a person worried about the judgment of others," Rao wrote on page 63. Acknowledging that it's OK that my son may be busy, active, loud sometimes, and that I don't need to worry what others may think about that because I know we are taking the ups and downs of this toddlerhood in stride and doing our best to raise a confident, happy little boy - that's what matters, not other people's comments or assumptions. More parents need to gain the confidence Rao is suggesting we have when raising our children. Our kids need that from us.

 -Rao wrote on page 69 about kids who hit or act out impulsively. He said they know it is wrong, but honestly cannot stop themselves sometimes. They get caught up in the moment, with their feelings. "For young boys, rage can overtake them and then disappear in a couple of heartbeats," Rao wrote.

-Teaching boys about emotions is important, helping them learn to name feelings will help them to learn to control their feelings when they come up.


On page 69, Rao wrote something that just made so much sense to me: boys need reminders just like we adults do. "... many parents fail to realize that even adults need constant reinforcement of society's most basic rules. I ask parents to imagine what lie in their town would be like without the presence of law enforcement, parking and no-parking signs, and traffic signals - even for one day... We need thousands of reminders each day to do what's expected of us, so let's be fair to our preschool and grade school boys. Most of them don't have signs around them saying, 'Don't grab; please ask your friend to share.'" So true!

Patience is a virtue with boys, especially bright boys. They still need time to practice their skills, develop, process, and learn new things. Time outs typically don't work, long lectures don't work for discipline either. Short, quick words work better, like the "headlines." They need to know if they do X, then Y will happen. Consistency is important, Rao suggested. Yelling, holding or lecturing all are over-stimulating to an already emotional or upset boy, which causes him frustration and confusion. These are not helpful in the midst of a tantrum.

Busy, active, funny, jumping bean - whatever you call them, they are your boys and are made this way. They are normal and healthy and growing, according to Dr. Rao. Have patience with them. Dream of them becoming some awesome engineer or dreamer or doer someday. In the scheme of their great big life, these chaotic toddler years are just a small part of the experience.  
Take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride!