Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Enlarging the Meaning

As a play therapist student back in the day, our big time goal in a play session was "Enlarging the Meaning" with our clients.  It was hard enough learning the whole Play Therapy language: tracking statements, reflecting feelings, etc but the 'Enlarging the Meaning' was the hardest.  And for you new blog readers out there, yes, Play Therapy has its own language.  It takes practice, in fact, I have one funny story about just that.  I was training a client's mom in our 'language' to use in her own home, and her son one day told her, "Mommy, you talk funny, you talk like Miss Kira," :)

But let's back up one second and go over the whole non-directive thing. Remember that when you have 'quality' play time with your child, reserve at least 15-30 minutes of UNINTERRUPTED play. No cell phones, no tv, no cooking dinner or other family around.  Schedule this time for just the 2 of you.

Non-directive means the child leads the play session.  You don't suggest what to play with and no subjective statements. Just sum up what you see, and mention feelings you see as much as possible. The general underlying message you want to send your child is:

"I am fully here. I accept all of you. I hear you."

(More info about this special playtime here.)

So back to, what is Enlarging the Meaning?  It means as you are playing with your child in a non-directive way, you sum up a few minutes of their play with a REALLY BIG objective (somewhat subjective) statement.

Like if a child is playing with dolls in the doll house and the mommy keeps punishing the kids, sending to room/timeout and the child dolls begin to cry.  For awhile you would be reflecting feelings of sadness/anger and tracking the play about children getting in trouble.

Then I would make an Enlarging the Meaning statement such as: "Hmm, sometimes kids can feel lots of feelings when they get in trouble; they can feel really sad and also really angry and sometimes they feel this towards their mom."


It doesn't sound like much, but when you have been fully present with a child in a play session, making this big statement sums up and the child usually feels like, "WOW, SHE HEARD ME!"  It can definitely help the child feel heard and understood.

Sometimes if you are wrong in your statements, the child will let you know. Ha! But most of the time when I make these statements, the child looks up at me with huge bug eyes, like, "Wow, you do understand! And I'm not getting in trouble for thinking the same thing!"

As for my home play sessions lately, let's be honest, I sadly haven't been having as many quality play times with my child. And I recognize it more in her behavior as she gets clingy and temper tantrumy. AND I haven't been giving it the full 30 minutes, so it's hard to get an Enlarging the Meaning statement in there, since you have to be playing for awhile to use it.  But I am going to schedule more playtimes in my calendar so they actually get done!

You have no idea how powerful special playtimes are with your child.  If you have noticed your child acting out, throwing tantrums, feeling sad/anxious/depressed or stressed, I can not recommend this quality non-directive playtime enough. You will see a huge difference in your child if you can manage it once a week :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Encouraging Autonomy

I was re-reading How To Talk So Kids Will Listen the other night and was laughing out loud about the chapter on Encouraging Autonomy.  Because the authors were describing some of my morning routines and feelings with my preschooler:

       The whole business of encouraging autonomy can be quite complicated.  There are forces within us that work against it (with our children)... Most of us today are busy and in a hurry.  We usually wake our children ourselves, button their buttons, tell them what to eat and what to wear, because it seems so much easier and faster to do it for them.

      Then we have to cope with our strong feelings of connectedness to our children.  We have to fight against seeing their failures as our failures.  It's hard to allow those so close and dear to us to struggle and make mistakes when we're certain that a few words of wisdom could protect them from pain.

      It also takes great restraint..on our part not to move in with advice. I know that to this day, whenever one of my children asks, "Mom, what do you think I should do?" I have to sit on my myself not to tell them immediately that I think they should do.  

    I remember the deep satisfaction that came from being so totally needed by three small human beings.  And so it was with mixed feelings that I discovered that a mechanical alarm clock could wake my children more efficiently than all my motherly reminding.  And it was also with mixed feelings that I gave up my job as reader of bedtime stories when the children finally learned to read by themselves.

   It's a bittersweet road we parents travel.  We start with total commitment to small helpless newborns. Then over the years we worry, plan, comfort and try to understand.  We give our love, labor and knowledge and our experience- so that one day they will have the inner strength and confidence to leave us.


So hard, as we travel down the road of parenting to let things go.  I thought to myself this morning as my preschooler was getting ready for school (or I was getting her ready for school), that the helping her brush her teeth and wiping her nose is something that one day she will do for herself.  At times the toddler clinging to my pant leg and not wanting me to use the bathroom and hold her instead, will one day be a distant memory.  And maybe I will long for those days with the pitter patter of little feet wanting me to be there to help them with everything.

It also reminds me of Psych 101. For those that took that course, remember Erikson? The task preschoolers must accomplish is AUTONOMY vs. SHAME/DOUBT.  These early years are the building blocks to self-esteem, and we want them to go forth in this world with feeling they can stand on their own, and not doubt themselves.

To encourage independence and autonomy, we have to start at some point.  Here are some tips to help get us started:

1) Give choices.  Yes, I know, you have heard me preach this before.  Give big choices to big kids, little choices to little kids.  Use the word 'choice' in there too. Giving kids 2 choices on what shirt to wear will help them feel empowered.  "Would you like to wear your pink pants or your blue pants?, you can choose"

2) Show empathy for their daily struggles.  "Zippers can be difficult.  Sometimes it helps to zip it all the way at the bottom before you start."

3) Don't rush to answer questions.  When they ask, "Why is the sky blue?" don't come up with a solution, ask them instead, "That's an interesting question, what do you think?"

4) Don't take away hope. For those kids who dream, fantasize, and anticipate things, try to let them prepare on their own.  When a child says, "I really want that Barbie dream car" you can ask them ways they can think of to earn the car, save for it, etc by saying, "So you wish you could have the Barbie Dream car.  Tell me about that.."

Other tips to encourage their own independence:
-Don't fuss over your kids  (brushing hair out of their eyes) or saying "Sit up straight", "Take your hair out of your face"
-Don't talk about your child in front of them
-Let the child answer for themselves when people ask you in front of them
-Don't focus on them not being old enough for something. Instead say, "When you are ready, you will be able to..."

And lastly, try not to say "no" too many times.  It can cause a child's autonomy to be directly attacked.
Here are some alternatives:
-Give Information "Can I go to my friend's house next door?"  Mom: " We are having dinner in 5 minutes" aka "no you can't"
-Accept Feelings  "Mom, I don't want to leave the park!"  Instead of "No, we are leaving now!" Say: "I can see how much you enjoy the park and you would love to stay. It's really hard to leave a place that's so fun"
-Substitute a "Yes" for a "No": "Mom can we go to the playground?" Instead of "No we have to eat now", say "Yes we can, after dinner."

As hard as it is to 'Let Go', it will do your child a great service to be taught how to do things on their own.  When they spill, show them how to get a rag and clean it up.  When they are having problems with their friends, don't rush to give advice. Ask them what they think can make the situation better for them.

Hang in there! We are all in this together, right?  I seriously needed to re-read the chapter on autonomy because I am that mom that is in a hurry and buttoning and putting on my child's shoes myself is faster than her doing it.  But I need to remind myself that even if we are late, it's just preschool and she will learn far more by doing it on her own at a sail's pace :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

One Tired Momma Beauty Help

I am venturing off today and doing a beauty product post! Fun fun.  I know, not my normal topic, but I just had to brag about a couple of products that've been helping this tired momma look somewhat awake.

After having 2 children, my face has aged like crazy from lack of sleep.  From babies not sleeping through the night to not enough hours in the day.  I vow to go to bed early every night, but we all know once the kids go to bed, it's a race to get stuff done around the house and actually have some 'me' time and next thing you know, it's 12am and you are getting to bed. And then I wake up at 6:30am to start all over again and think to myself, "I don't know if I can make it through today."
Ever have that feeling?  Caffeine is my new best friend.  But I am also so excited about a couple of beauty products I found that helps me look alive AND are super fast to apply.

The first one is a great eye concealer.  I had been searching and searching for a great concealer to get rid of my dark circles.  I was finding that most looked good on me the first hour, and then a few hours later, I'd go to the bathroom and glance in the mirror and gasp in horror at the sight. The concealer always seemed to wedge into my fine lines and make them look 10 X worse.  Ugh, not the results I was looking for. Plus they required an extra makeup brush to put it on around my eye area, which takes too much time in the morning with 2 children clawing at your legs.

That's why I was so excited to come across this amazing concealer and brush-in-one.  The Maybelline Dark Circle Instant Age Rewind tool (5.50$):

See that little sponge brush at the top? LOVE it.

You just twist the dial, and the formula moves into the brush and then just dab it on.  It literally takes 3 seconds top.  SO sooo easy and the formula is not heavy, so it goes on well and doesn't settle into fine lines! It's almost like a light tinted moisturizer.  It's a double bonus for me because I can't believe you can put it on so easy AND it's the first eye product that doesn't age me. And no, I was not compensated for bragging about this stuff, it's just that good :)

Here is a photo of the Maybelline Dark Circle concealer with one eye done and one without and NO other makeup on either so don't judge! (Left side no concealer, right side has the concealer:  See how it takes away the pink and inner eye darkness and covers up my crows feet?)  It lasts all day too!

And my second favorite product that helps open my eyes and doesn't make me look like zombie is L'Oreal Voluminous Mascara (7$).

I have tried sooo many mascaras because I have blonde eye lashes and mascara is a must for me. If there is any makeup I have to put on before I leave the house, it's mascara. See below, amazing huh?

See what I mean about my blonde eyelashes making me look super tired?  This is why this formula is magic.

Sometimes I try new mascaras that people rave about, but I always come back to this one!  It is the bomb. The formula is amazing and the brush works well.  It really does make my eye lashes have extra volume and I hope they never take this off the shelves!  Or I really be one tired and angry momma :)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Love and Logic and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen Book Reviews

Sigh. I have put off this book battle review for awhile, because let's face it. Discipline is a big, big deal and everyone has their own method, means and opinions. Very sensitive subject, am I right?

And what I ALWAYS tell parents is "you have to find a discipline approach that fits your personality" (and lifestyle, morals, beliefs...).  That means if you are a super laid back, permissive style parent, then adopting some new parenting style you read in a book that involves corporal punishment and authoritarian strict styles, is probably not going to work for you and your child.  It will go against everything you have been taught and believe and will backfire.  Big time.

So with that being said, when it comes to reading these 2 books: Parenting With Love And Logic  by Cline and Fay and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish, you have to decide which one fits your style the most.  And it may be that neither of them fit your style, so you go another route.  Read these and several more out there until you find one that sounds like something you agree with and are able to implement on a daily basis.

I have found that most people these days follow the Love and Logic discipline style over others.  And you know if you've read my blog, that I mostly follow the How to Talk So Kids Will Listen parenting style.  Back when I was a child the popular parenting book most parents read was Dr. Spock.  Plus, How to Talk's techniques have been around way longer then Love and Logic, and come from a Psychologist named Haim Guinott but I digress.

Why do I prefer How to Talk vs Love and Logic? 

Again, it has to do with what fits your style the most. After reading Parenting With Love and Logic, I just knew it wasn't a good fit for me. I am a play therapist, so my 'parenting language' goes better with How to Talk's style.  Play therapists are big on feelings, acknowledging them, and reflecting them, then giving choices and redirecting when we set limits. (Ha, now that doesn't mean I practice this every day and every hour, believe me, I make my mistakes and forget).  So I lean more towards How to Talk but that doesn't mean Love and Logic won't work for you, you just have to find the right fit.

Here is what I like about Love and Logic:

- I love how they try to teach children alternatives and logical consequences.  Children need to learn on their own how their actions will affect their lives.  It teaches them how to be responsible which will go so far in life!
- I really like how they push for parents to give Encouragement vs Praise. I wrote a post about this here awhile back as to how beneficial it is to push for Encouragement to foster a high self esteem!
- They are great at teaching parents how to model behavior to teach our children.  So true as our children are like sponges soaking everything up.
-I like how they tell parents to set limits without threats, anger and lecturing, but to show care and empathy.
- I like how they teach parents to try to say 'yes' more than 'no' such as, "yes, you may go outside as soon as you finish your homework."

Now as for the main reasons Love and Logic doesn't fit for me: 

-Their Choices are not choices and they focus too much on this one technique
Sigh..... I have posted LOADS about choices on my blog but in a nutshell, the way you give a choice is SAYING THE WORD "CHOOSE" when giving them!  If you say, "you can either wear this outfit or this one" is NOT A CHOICE people.  You have to say, "you can choose to wear this one or choose this one, which do you choose?" I forget here and there for sure when I give them to my kids, but it's important to get that word in there.  Giving choices empowers the child, and also the parent is still in charge, but it gives the child the power so there are less power struggles.  Click here and here for more info on giving them.

-The Empathy 
The way they tell you to express empathy is...not very empathic.  I'm sorry, but if I was a child and my mom said, "uh-oh, what a sad choice you made" or better yet, if I was a teenager and my mom said, "bummer, that's really sad that you just made that choice." I would be so PO'd at her.  I would probably throw another temper tantrum.  Seriously.  It's more of a condescending tone.  Their examples just sound too fake to me and when a parent comes off sounding fake, it sounds condescending.  Just imagine if your spouse said that to you.  You would take one look at them and scowl and walk off, not feeling understood or heard.  The opposite of empathic.

-The sending your child to their room after any temper tantrum/disobedience
I remember being sent to my room as a child. It wasn't fun.  It was horrible.   I ended up getting even more mad at my parents for it. I didn't learn a thing from being sent to my room.

Now as a parent, I understand the frustration you can feel at times towards your kids and you want to send them off to a room because you get so mad.  But I think there are better options out there.  Not going to get into a debate about it here, but just think about times when you as an adult are mad. How would you feel if your spouse or a parent told you to go to your room?  If a child needs to cool down and we need to cool down, there are other options for that and other ways to say we all need a break to cool off.

So those are a few reasons why I am not so big on Love and Logic.  Now, onto the next discipline book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk (phew, that's one long title!).

The main things I LOVE about this book:

-The Feelings chapter.  This is exactly how Play Therapists talk and the reason almost all play therapists love this book.  In fact, when I used to train counselor interns, I would 'prescribe' this book to them as it's written so well and easy to 'get'.

And the first sentence of the book I just love, "I was a wonderful parent before I had children. I as an expert on why everyone else was having problems with theirs.  Then I had three of my own."

They go on to describe how to acknowledge feelings and be empathic towards our kids instead of denying feelings or minimizing them.  They give 4 ways to give first aide to a child in distress: to Listen, Acknowledge their feelings with a word, give the feeling a name and/or give their wish in fantasy. Tons of great examples, personal stories, cartoon examples and 'what not to dos'.

-The next chapter then tells you how to use the feelings to ENGAGE COOPERATION: Describe, give information, say it with a word, talk about feelings or write a note.

-Encouragement!  They give great advice on encouraging children to have high self esteem, but one downfall is that they use the word PRAISE in this chapter. They really aren't using the word praise the way we know it (this was written in 1980), and it really means encouragement.  It's a great chapter, just ignore that word :)

-Encouraging Autonomy.  A great chapter on how to teach logical and natural consequences

-Problem Solving with Older Kids: Have a discussion and each parent and child write down alternatives and then come up with a solution both can agree on. I LOVE this!  It shows you respect each other and if a teenager is involved in the decision process (like curfew times), then they are more willing to be compliant!  Just not, "because I said so!" This is something that I would have responded well to as a teenager myself :)

-And the book also has a ton of examples and stories from real parents in the group seminars they have held.  Hearing so many real life stories really helps put things into practice.

-One note about their choice giving:  The authors mention giving choices as an alternative to punishment, but they do not talk much in detail about them, and in fact they mention giving choices, and then instead of using the word "choice" they have the parent say, "you decide." This is a good way to end a question but also remember to use the word 'choice' when you are giving them the choices. And as much as I love choices, giving choices is not the only method you should use when disciplining.  You would sound like a robot if that is all you say all day long!  Give small choices to little kids and big choices to bigger kids and keep them to a minimum each day.  Use them only when you are sensing a temper tantrum coming on (which I hope is not 50 times a day :)

So that's about it in a nutshell.  Best advice I have is to read both of these books and then decide which one fits better with your parenting style and personality! Again, there is no right or wrong way, it's more what is best for you and your family.  A lot of parents get great results from one or the other, and that's wonderful.  We all want a happy family as the end result!  And one last note: Not every parenting technique will work every time!  It's hit and miss and you just have to pray it works 99% of the time for you :)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Goodnight iPad

Yep, there is a book out there called Goodnight iPad.  Aannd it deserves it's own blog post because it pretty much is that awesome. I wish I could take the credit of having written it myself.   It sums up today's culture (and sadly my house at times).  Even though it's for adults, I can't wait to read it to my 3 year old as hopefully I can throw in there a lesson about why she can't always watch TV or play on the iPad.

If you click on the link, it will take you to the Amazon page then scroll down to watch a video clip of the book. Hillllarious! (9$ Hardcover)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine Crafting

So this year, Valentine's Day kind of came in the middle of mommy having a little medical procedure. Last week I had to schedule a quick outpatient surgery procedure for February 11th, so I knew I would be out of commission in shopping and putting together Valentines after that.

Needless to say, it was not the best, but I think I pulled it off!  I was able to get them all assembled this past weekend.  We went with the Play-Doh Valentine theme for school friends and also made some quick Valentine-just-add-water- cookies :)

Peanut Butter Valentine Cookies:

1 Package of Peanut Butter Cookie Mix (I used Betty Crocker)
1 Bag of Reese's Heart Shaped Peanut Butter Cups
1 cup of granulated sugar

Mix the batter as instructed, then roll the dough into a ball, then dip in sugar and place on cookie sheet. I first tried my heart shaped mold (see attempt below), but they didn't spread well, so I used my regular baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 9 minutes, then once they are out of the oven, place a Reeses heart in the center.  Let cool and enjoy! Double yum with peanut butter cookie dough AND a Reeses!

Play-Doh Valentines

Want a really simple Valentine that also looks cute and doesn't involve candy?  I printed out my "Doh You Want to Be My Valentines" printables from The Nerd's Wife and then used scissors to cut a hole out of the center (or if you are crafty and have every size Fisker hole punch, then that is a faster option) I bought a package of mini play dough (found in the toy aisle section at Target) and voila, instant Valentines. Yes, I love the old school cards with the envelopes and didn't want to go all Pinterest mom here, but these were just as easy: just cut, fill the hole and you're done!

Valentine Craft

Now on to the fun craft I found online but didn't have time to do this week... a blogger (the classroom creative) from Blog Her came up with this amazing craft. I love anything handprint from my kids, so this one stole my heart when I saw it! I wish I was crafty enough to come up with something like this on my own, but alas, that is what the internet is for right?

Maybe we will do this one next year.  The instructions look very simple too.  Plus I love the frame for an added effect!  Click here for the Classroom Creative's instructions.

Happy Valentine's Day!
Sunday, February 2, 2014


Gosh, I had no idea it'd been awhile since I posted anything. I don't know why my life seems hectic now considering the holidays are over but it seems like after the kids go to bed, there is less and less time in the evenings to get anything done. There are some days I haven't checked my email until 10pm at night!

So as far as my mom life has gone lately, the past few weeks I have had a few a-ha moments and a few uh-oh moments.

The a-ha moment being the constant question that every 3 and 4 year old asks. Need I say it?  Yes, you guessed it.


It is something that every child asks at this age and it is really cute at times and when I have free moments I love teaching my children the whys of the universe.  But at other times I swear my child asks me why over and over because she thinks it's really funny. Over and over.  And "Let it Go..." anyone? anyone? Yes, Frozen has also taken over my house.

Anyway, so I decided that even when I don't feel like taking the time in answering her 'why' questions in an insightful way, I try to also teach her how to try to figure things out for herself by asking "what do you think?"  

Turning the question around helps me not get a little aggravated at the constant questions but it also teaches her to be insightful, use deductive reasoning and use her imagination.  So when you can't take hearing 'why mommy?  why, why why?" one more time, try turning it around.  A great teaching tool and it makes you feel less like Groundhog Day.

So my uh-oh moment came last week when my preschool daughter asked where her grandmother was. Uhm?  My husband's mother passed away when he was in college.  Yep.  She is finally asking these hard ones.  My preschooler is really getting interested in learning about families: what an Uncle means, how my mom is her Coco and my mom at the same time, etc.  So when she asked where her daddy's mommy was, I was like, 'oohhh, well, uhm, yeah, she, is well, she is not living anymore."

Oh, the death question!  This is when I wish children could remain innocent and 2 years old forever. But alas, they must grow up and learn about violence, guns, death, murder and yes death.  And thanks Disney for introducing this fine topic to preschoolers.  Why do all of the mothers and daddies have to be dead?  Seriously.

Anyway, so I looked in my collection of counseling books about death to read to my 3.5 year old and realized the ones I have aren't all that great.  Hmm, maybe I need to write one myself.  My favorite one for young kids is The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages (12$ Amazon):

It's a classic story about leaves that grow, get old, and with the changes of the season, die.  It doesn't talk about what happens after, which is kind of good so you as a parent can then tell your children your own beliefs.  It's a little long but still the best I have found for a young age.

The only other book on the topic is the When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (7$ Amazon)

and good grief.  Soo not appropriate until your child is older in grade school.  It talks about reasons people die like drugs, suicide and then the pictures of an 'accident' is a little too graphic and scary.  Just click on the link above and then click on the 'look inside' feature.  You'll see what I'm talking about.
A little.too.much.

So after our little talk about how when people get old, they die, she heard me talking to her Grandpa on the phone and said, "mommy, Grandpa is old, so he is going to die soon." Great.  Way to scare my child.  But at least I say it matter of factly and don't make a super huge deal out of it, so it doesn't sound scary and she goes right back to playing.

And remember, for children death is something that is very hard to grasp.  This is why suicide can be so scary for children because they don't understand that death is final. They think it's like going to sleep and then you wake up.  So as much as we want to sugar coat the topic, we also need them to know the seriousness of it.  Wow, I so did not mean to get into the whole 'how do you talk to your kids about death topic' so I will stop here for now :)