Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

I finally dusted off my old copy of Siblings Without Rivalry and Oh.My.God…. I should have opened this book YEARS ago!  Years meaning as soon as I was pregnant with my second, who is now 2.1 years old.

Lately I had been using basic reframing and acknowledging feelings, but it just wasn't doing the trick.  I needed more help.  After reading the book, I was doing all of the things this book tells you NOT to do too. Ooops.  

Just basic things like labeling your kids ‘she’s my little active one, she’s my quiet one.” And always pulling the ‘work it out, work it out’ or ‘let’s try sharing, take turns!’ Uhm. Ahem…don’t we all?

And then I read the book and I am now determined to change, because let’s face it. Going through the ‘not getting along’ phase is going to be the rest of my life!  Does sibling rivalry ever end really?  I really want to make a difference in my girls’ lives.  I don't want to look forward to the years of fighting in the backseat or hearing who is not sharing.

For you readers, I will attempt a book review here, but seriously the best thing to do it just buy Siblings Without Rivalry on Amazon for 9$, or your local book store.  It’s an easy and fast read and I love the different approach the authors take in writing it chapter by chapter as if they were teaching a workshop.

The first example they use in getting parents to empathize is to imagine this scenario:

    Imagine that your spouse puts an arm around you and says, "Honey, I love you so much and you are     so wonderful that I've decided to have another wife just like you!"  When she arrives you see she is       much younger and cuter and when you are out in public people say, "isn't she adorable?" then they       turn to you and ask, "how do you like the new wife?"

    Then, your husband comes in and takes clothes out of your closet and gives them to her, because she     needs new clothes. When you protest, he points out that since you've gotten bigger, and they are too       tight on you, they will fit her perfectly.

    Then the new wife wants to use the new computer you got for Christmas, and when you tell her it's       yours and she can't have it, she runs to your husband crying and he comes in and says, "you need to       learn to share!"

Pretty good perspective huh?

Of course there are many examples in the book of how older kids pick on younger kids and also younger kids pick on the older ones too (which happens in my house a lot)!

The first step?

-Accept and acknowledge all emotions. If we want to 'end' the bickering, then the very emotions that we want to close the door on and lock out, need to be invited in, made welcome and treated with respect.  If we forbid the anger and rage, they will reappear in other forms, physical symptoms or emotional problems.

Simply saying, "you are being ridiculous, you have no reason to feel that way" or "you make me very angry when you say mean things about your brother..I don't want to hear it!"

Hearing things like that from parents may make you despise your sibling even more and you feel misunderstood.

It's MUCH more helpful emotionally to hear parents say things like:

"You look like you are feeling really sad that he is not sharing with you"

"It must be very hard for you having a sibling around all the time."

"I want to know how you feel...because your feelings are very important to me..."  "Take as much time as you want to tell me what's bothering you"

Wow, hearing those words from parents can make all the difference in the world.

What to do when you see siblings disagreeing?

1) Put the feelings you see into words:  If your child is saying, "You're always with the baby!" Then saying, "You don't like me spending so much time with the baby" can help validate them.

2) Have the hurtful emotional actions stopped, then redirected:  Instead of telling your child to stop whining about a sibling, say, "It's no fun being left out.  Want to draw me a picture of how you feel?" Or have them  hit a pillow, 'use your words to show how angry you are' such as "You can tell your brother very loud, I'm MAD!"

The book has a TON of examples in it of real stories.  One that really stood out is when a mom sat down with her child while the other napped, and put her arm around her and said:

"I'm glad we can be alone together, because I haven't talked to just you in a long time.  I've been thinking..sometimes it must be a pain in the neck to have a younger sister.  You have to share everything with her, even your mommy" Wow, really gets ya!

Comparisons and Putting Kids in Roles:

The next chapter talks about how we put our kids in roles and compare them without realizing it.  Roles such as 'the hard worker', the 'lazy one', the 'tom boy', etc.

And parents comparing kids: "Alex why do you always have to keep the family waiting while your sister was in the car 10 minutes ago?"

And I found myself doing it too the other day, "This one doesn't eat a thing, she is a terrible eater, but my other daughter eats her fruits and vegetables much better!"  Poor things, I am already assigning roles to them AND comparing them. I am setting them up to compete and feel bad about things before they are even old enough to understand!

What to do?

1) Don't say anything about a child that is in reference to the other siblings. Instead, DESCRIBE what you see, like or don't like:

Instead of "You don't leave a mess lying around the house like your brother does"  say,
"I see you picked up your blocks, put away your truck and the puzzle pieces." No comparing and no roles assigned.

2) Then describe what needs to be done:
"I see a new jacket on the floor, it belongs in the closet" and then when they comply, "I appreciate that, I like seeing our hallway looking neat."

The book also talks about making things equal and what you can do to avoid that complaint from kids. "But you gave him more cookies!"  Or comparing attention, love, needs, etc.

It also gives great suggestions on how to stop roles we give kids like assigning a child as the 'bully', or playing a 'victim' role, and children with disabilities.

Then of course they assign an entire chapter on How To Stop Fighting with older Children!

How to stop the grabbing toys from each other, to name calling to actual physical fighting. Right now in my house I have a lot of grabbing toys and not sharing, to my youngest pushing and biting my oldest child and laughing about it.  The mornings we don't have anything planned start off so nice and fun, and then after an hour I am trying to get them out the door to distract them because I can't hear anymore:

 "it's mine!  I had it first!"

The authors give great tips:
-Acknowledge the anger you see: "You two look really mad at each other!"
-Listen to each side respectfully: "I see, so it was your idea to build a tower with the blocks, but you saw the fun she was having and wanted to build one too."
-Express faith in their ability to figure out a solution, "That's a tough one, you both want to build a tower, but I am sure you two can figure out a way you can both do it"
-Leave the room: "I'll be cleaning the kitchen while you two work it out"

This helps them learn how to work things out on their own (which will help them as they get older in the real world) and can help stop the tattling and constant relying on parents to solve everything.

Of course it works better with older kids who can understand, but you can still use the language with toddlers.

An example for toddlers, when a child starts to grab a younger baby/toddler sibling, say "No hurting your sister, You can show me your feelings with your doll (or show me on this paper how mad you are!)"

For Physical fights with older kids, they suggest the following:
-Describe what you see: "I see one boy on a chair about to throw a block and the other one about to hit with a baseball bat!"
-Establish limits: "This is a very dangerous situation, people are not for hurting. We must have a cooling off period"
-Separate them: "You to your room, you to yours"

They then go into what to do after situations like this as well as what to do in 'other situations' like teenagers, fighting over property, when kids play fight, etc.

Can you tell how excited I am to have finally read this book? I can't wait to start putting these skills to practice. I'll get back to you on how it's working.  In the meantime, anyone have any other tips that have worked??  I know there are moms of 3 and 4 kids out there with tons of practice :)

AND LASTLY, Remember, that parents put too much pressure on themselves to 'say it right' or 'do it right' all the time.  Don't be so hard on yourself if you mess up! You always get a second chance with your children :)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Fun in Dallas

Now that my kids are a little older, I have come across a pretty good list of places to help beat the heat in Dallas this Summer!

  • Pump-it-Up on Forest Lane has open gym play Monday-Fridays from 10-11:30am and from 12-1:30pm.  Check out their calendar here.

  • Walnut Hill Rec Center on Walnut Hill and Midway Rd. has open play/gym for children through age 4 Monday through Fridays from 10:30-11:45am for 5$
  • The new Ridgewood Splash park at 6800 Fisher Rd. just remodeled and is amazing:

  • Splash Parks at various Dallas Recreation Centers, free!:

  • Northpark Bookmarks Baby Bounce and Tickles for Toddlers. Music and story time!  Check out their calendar for weekly times: 

  • Arboretum picnics in the morning (before it gets too hot)

  • Top Golf  for putt-putt

  • Playgrounds that have padded surfaces are Scottish Rite Hospital's playground and Coffee Park at Hillcrest and Northwest Highway

  • Storytimes at Lochwood Library on Fridays at 10:30m or Skillman Library at 10:30am on Thursdays.  Also Highland Park Library has them daily at 10am, click on link here.  The Preston-Royal location also has a different activity each Tuesday at 10:30am from music classes, to storytimes.

  • Cry baby movies at the Angelika recommended for babies under 6 months on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1:30pm. 
  • Studio Movie Grill has Summer Kid Movies Mon-Friday at 11am for 1$ kids and 2$ adults, check the schedule here.

  • Indoor Playgrounds at Galleria Mall and Willowbend Mall
  • The Treefort at Watermark Church has a great indoor play area. Check out the daily schedule of open hours here (scroll down).
  • Richardson Public Library I've heard has the best area for kids with an aquarium, lots of stocked kids books and a train table. Check out their schedule for storytimes though as you have to register beforehand here.
  • JumpStreet indoor trampoline park has open jump from 10am-9pm Monday-Sunday and is 4$ if under 4 and 8$ from ages 4-7.

  • Best indoor restaurant playground is at the Chick-Fil-A at Southwestern and Central Expy and Hillcrest Ave (not as crowded!)  
  • Klyde Warren park downtown also has a lot to offer, including splash areas for kids to run around, food trucks and a park. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try to take the Trolley down there too. 
  • The Perot Museum has an area on the lower level for children under age 5 to play and run around in, with water play, climbing structures and art activities.  Just beware the museum and parking gets crowded in the summer with kids out of school!
  • Monster Yogurt is also a great way to cool off the summer with a froyo AND an indoor playground!  Check out their site here.
  • Barnes and Noble at Lincoln Park also has storytime on Tuesdays at 10:30am
  • Tuesdays at Whole Foods Park Ln has storytime and crafting at 10am! We love going here for the free snacks too.
  • Pottery Barn Kids off Knox also has a Tuesday storytime at 11am
  • For fun weekend storytimes, visit the Half Price Bookstore on Sundays at 3pm for children under age 10.
Hope this list helps fill up your Summer fun! If there are any other places I've forgotten, post in a comment below!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Indoor Summer Activities

I posted some great indoor summer preschool activities last year and they were so much fun, I decided to do a re-post of them!  Now that my children are 2 and 4 years old, they are at different developmental stages so it's fun to see how they work on the activities now that they are older!

1) Busy Bags! 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Potty Training and Accidents in Preschoolers

How many of you parents out there dreaded and still do dread potty training? Maybe you tried the 3- Day-Potty method and it worked great, or maybe it didn't and it's 6 months later and you are back to square one.  We trained our 4 year old when she was 2.5 (read about our 3 day training here), and we lucked out in that it worked amazingly well and hasn't worn a diaper at night since.

But it doesn't always go that smooth for a lot of families.  Last week, being on our preschool parent committee, I helped interview new teachers to hire for the school.  One of the questions I asked was, "what is your philosophy on potty training, rewards and punishments?"

This question is a HUGE deal to me because I have strong feelings when it comes to potty training and shaming a child for 'not getting it.'

My first job out of college was as a preschool teacher, and I was so excited to be at an award winning school that was NAEYC accredited.  Well, my first week there, I was in the gym with our class and one of the 3 year olds had a pee pee accident on the floor.  An aide stepped in, SHAMED the child and made him go stand in the corner! I just.about.died. I marched right over to the director's office (after helping the poor child), and told her I refused to work at a school where the staff shamed a child for having an accident. She didn't seem to think it was a big deal, so I quit.  I was 22 and looking back maybe I could have made a difference if I stayed, but I was so shaken and upset about it all.

So with that being said, I felt like a blog post about potty accidents and possible causes was needed. Plus I also recently came across some medical articles about reasons children have accidents and thought I would share, since I feel so passionately about helping kids through this delicate but HUGE life milestone. (Pat Bass III, MD, MPH). Let's start with what causes accidents..

Urinary Accident Causes:

Whether your child can control their bladder or not has to do with their nervous system.  Ok, going to repeat this one because it's important.  YOUR CHILD'S ABILITY TO CONTROL THEIR BLADDER HAS TO DO WITH THEIR NERVOUS SYSTEM.  As the nervous system matures, the child's brain is able to get messages that her bladder is filling up.  It's a developmental milestone and nervous systems mature differently for all children, kind of like learning how to walk. Some may get it earlier than others.  There are also other medical causes like hormones, fluid retention (see below).

By age 5, 90% of children are able to get through the day and night without having an accident.  By age 10 it's about 5%.  So yes, there are still some 10 year olds out there that will be wetting the bed.  I have some family members that had this problem growing up and it was hard on them, especially when they had sleepovers, but thankfully they have special Pull-Ups now for big kids to help.

Other causes of daytime accidents:
  • Overactive Bladder:  Sometimes a child can hold the bladder so much that they exercise the muscle and it makes the bladder stronger, which isn't good for the urinary system.  The bladder can become so strong that it overpowers the muscles around the urethra and it can't hold back urine so they have an accident.
  • UTI: More common in girls, UTI's can also cause an overactive bladder

    Night Bedwetting:
    Getting through the night without an accident can take a little longer to master than daytime incontinence.  It's more common for children to wet the bed after age 5 than it is for them to have accidents during the day.  Here's what could be happening if your child is experiencing bedwetting:
    • It's hereditary:  If both parents experienced bedwetting, a child has an 80 percent chance of having problems staying dry at night.
    • Deep sleeper: Nighttime incontinence is also related to a child being a deep sleeper.
    • A smaller bladder: Your child’s bladder may simply be smaller than other children her age, which makes it easier for the bladder to become full and spill over.
    • Fluid retention: Children who wet the bed tend to retain more fluid than other children. Our bodies retain fluid for our organs, such as our heart. But when you lie down, your heart doesn’t need to work as hard and your body gets rid of the extra fluid. Children who are more active during the day retain more fluid than children who aren’t as active.
    • The internal alarm is still developing: We all have an internal alarm that wakes us when our bladder needs to be emptied. The alarm becomes stronger as the child gets older.
    • Hormones aren’t lowering urine levels:  Antidiuretic hormone is released at night to slow down the production of urine, but some children may not be producing enough of the hormone to stay dry while they sleep.
    • Anxiety: Anxiety and stressful events, such as a new baby sibling, can cause a child to take a longer time to potty train at night or cause a child who’s already potty trained to start having bladder problems.
    • Sleep apnea: If she’s having trouble breathing at night due to inflammation or an enlargement of her tonsils or adenoids, it could be causing nighttime incontinence. Often, treating the sleep apnea can also help keep her dry.

    Other Causes:

    Dr. Hodges, MD is a specialist that also states that a child that has daytime and night time accidents can be caused by constipation.  In most cases the cause is chronic holding of pee, poop or both. He believes that constipation issues are often the cause of pee pee accidents.  Holding pee thickens and irritates the bladder, causing spontaneous, forceful contractions like hiccups. Holding poop stretches the colon, which presses against the bladder and irritates the nerves feeding it. When you treat constipation aggressively, wetting episodes almost always cease.

    Dr. Hodges believes that constipation in children often goes unrecognized, even in children with grapefruit-sized poop masses lodged in their rectums.
    One of his patients was a 3.5 year old girl who was having "excessive" potty accidents; her previous doctor had missed a giant mass of stool in her rectum that made it impossible for her to stay dry. After she became his patient, he found her mass on an X-ray.

    Most kids with masses like hers poop DAILY (softer poop oozes around the hard mass), so no one is the wiser! Many doctors don't look for clogged rectums when patients present with accidents and bedwetting.  The answer is fueling your child with fiber rich foods and less processed, chicken nuggets and mac n cheese (I know, easier said than done.)  Since mine are the pickiest eaters on the planet and refuse all vegetables, I have them taking Juice Plus chewables and I signed up to sell it since it helps curb the cost :) You can read more about it here. Sorry, just had to throw in a plug there.  But it is my saving grace because without it, my kids would be more sick and definitely not be getting enough fiber.

    Also, here are a few books to help get your child to eat more fiber rich foods:

    Hope this helps some of you out there struggling with potty training your kids!  Hang in there, and if you need assistance with accidents and potty training, definitely talk to your doctor about options.
    Wednesday, May 28, 2014

    Birthday Milestones

    Sorry for not posting anything in awhile.  My life the past few weeks has been double birthdays for my daughters, which also means each one entering a new birthday milestone: Terrible 2's and the 4's.  I've always heard if you didn't have a Terrible 2, then you will have a Terrible 3's and possibly a 'Fits at 4'. In our house, my oldest was more of the Terrible 3's.  And now she just turned 4 and my youngest just turned 2.  So, here we go right??

    My 2 year old so far has been pretty normal, a few tempter tantrums but it's mostly because she is learning to talk and can't express herself as much yet, so she gets frustrated, etc. etc.

    But my 4 year old, eech!  Yes, so far the 'Fits at 4' is a for sure.  All of my friends with daughters have told me that right before they turned 4 and a little bit after, their daughters turned into little monsters. Mood swings, nap transitions, bickering, etc.

    We definitely have crazy mood swings going on.   I told my husband our 4 year old has the hormones of a pregnant woman right now.  One minute she is smiling and laughing, and the next a demon has possessed her, tears all over the place.  I swear she is manic.  The funniest is when she wakes up so cranky, she comes into the kitchen and says, "nobody look at me, don't talk to me!!  I don't want anybody to talk to me!"  Who is this child?

    And on top of the mood swings is her nap transition phase.  Going from napping to not napping.  Goodness me, I never knew how hard this was going to be.  There are days when I know she is T-I-R-E-D.  Like, she is not even speaking English anymore she is so tired.  And she needs a nap, because she will not last until 7:30 (her normal bedtime).  So I always put her in her bed at 'Rest Time' and give her some books to read and her ladybug nightlight.  The days she is exhausted, she falls asleep immediately.  The days she is not as tired, she will read, talk, sing and dance around her room until I tell her rest time is over (usually about 1- 1.5 hours).

    BUT THEN, there are days when I know she is exhausted and she doesn't nap, and I get her up from rest time and she is crying, whining and super tired until bed time.  This is when bedtime gets moved up to 7pm.  Even one day last week she didn't nap and she was so tired she could barely stand up. We were at a park in the afternoon for a playdate, so I took her home at 5:30pm, fed her dinner, put her to bed and lights off at 6:30pm, she was sound asleep immediately!  She hasn't gone to bed that early since she was a baby.

    Then there are the times when she goes a few days without a nap, doesn't sleep much at night and is OVER tired and cranky.

    Or the times when she does nap during the day, I put her down at her regular bedtime at 7:30pm and she doesn't fall asleep until 10pm! She's in her room singing, laughing, dancing and using every stall technique possible: "I'm hungry, I need more water, I need another book, I'm ready to wake up!"
    I think the answer is to try to get her to stop taking naps, have rest time, then put her to bed early.  But it's so hard when she really needs a nap.

    Teacher friends have prepared me for Kindergarten too, telling me that when they start school be ready for them to fall asleep at 6pm each night as they'll be super tired the first few months adjusting to the long day and schedules.  Eek, what happened to half day Kinder programs like when I was a kid? Oh well.

    Then there is the drama of not Sharing that is taking over my house right now.  The authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen wrote a great book called Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too  (9$) and I need to start putting it to use, now that my youngest is understanding things more.  (Stay tuned for a review of it in my next post).

    But lately all I hear is, "but I had it first!," "mommy, she took it from me,"  "mommy she's not sharing" and crying, screams and tears.  This is when I just say "work it out, work it out." :)  Ha, well, sometimes it works, but mostly I use a lot of timers for taking turns (iPhones are great for this and kitchen timers), or if it gets really bad, the toy is put in time out.  And a LOT of modeling, teaching them how to ask for a turn, waiting, then giving it back.  Of course a 2 year old has the patience of a flea so we are working on it.  Baby steps, baby steps.

    So that is my life right now in a nutshell.  Just surviving the day to days of preschoolers and toddlers. Any suggestions on nap transitions??  I mean, don't we all need a Siesta every day?  :)
    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    Happy Mother's Day

    Happy Mother's Day!  I loved celebrating Mother's Day before I became a mother and honoring my mother and grandmothers, but now that I've become a mom myself, it has become even more of a special holiday to me.  All my life I knew I always wanted to be a mom, and I am so happy my wish came true!  I just LOVE spending all of my days with my daughters, and this day makes me realize how lucky I am.  

         Walk along side me, Mama. and hold my little hand. 
          I have so many things to learn that I don't yet understand.
                                             Teach me things to keep me safe from the dangers everyday.

                                                Show me how to do my best, at home, at school, at play.

                                            Every child needs a gentle hand to guide them as they grow.

                                                               So walk along side me, Mama. 

                                                                    We have long way to go.

    Friday, May 2, 2014

    Picky Eaters and Whole 30

    My life lately has been stressed when it comes to meal times.  I loathe feeding my girls because they are the pickiest eaters!  I know all kids and toddlers are picky, but my toddler refuses ALL FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. I am not kidding. I put a banana, strawberry or blueberry on her plate and she throws it on the floor.  Let's not even talk about putting a pea on her plate.  So right now I can only get them down via smoothies.  My 3 year old is a little bit better, but she still only wants to eat cereal, granola bars and cheese.

    AND, I have become a monster mommy lately because I have decided to do a food detox for my body. If you haven't heard of it, it's called the Whole 30.  You basically eat only fruits, vegetables and natural meats (hormone free, grass fed, antibiotic free). That means no sugar (not even honey), no dairy, no grains, no alcohol and no beans. I know, call me crazy!  You can eat healthy fats like avocados and nuts, and you don't have to count any calories.  No calorie counting, yay!

    So my whole life right now has evolved around this and it has been eye opening to say the least!  I decided to do it because I have a huge sugar and carb addiction, and I want to teach my kids better habits. I always have to have something sweet before I go to bed, and if I was trying to be good, then I thought a bowl of honey cheerioes was considered a good alternative before bed! Hello carbs.  I heard of these crazy people doing sugar busters diets and I thought there was no way I could give it up.  But I feel like I had reached the breaking point and with small children loving sweets too, I needed to do something to help change our family's habits!

    I figured cutting out all of it, no substitutions or points systems, would help me stick to it, and believe it or not, it has. I am on Day 20 of my 30 days and it's been an amazing journey!

    The book, It Starts with Food, is eye opening.  It's amazing to learn how much our diet affects our health, I mean we all know we are what we eat, but it's the little things we don't think about.  This diet makes you basically cut out all foods that cause inflammation in our bodies, which are causing an increase in autoimmune disorders as well as causing us to feel low energy, poor sleep, disrupting hormones, etc..  One of the amazing success stories was about a man who had asthma his whole life, and then started this diet and was able to go for a run for the first time without an inhaler!  Amazing, right?  My sister has an autoimmune disease and we are doing this together for support and she may even do a Whole 60 to help determine her triggers.

    I also know this will help me long term think about what I put in my mouth from now on and for my children.  They recommend after you finish to first reintroduce dairy, then gluten foods, then non-gluten foods, etc so you can see which ones cause any triggers.  I feel like I am sleeping much better (if only I would go to bed sooner though) and I do have more energy in the afternoons.

    My poor kids have had to put up with a few mood swings, as I have found I can not skip a meal and need to eat as soon as I get hungry!  But I've learned I need to start working on their diet and taking more time to focus on what goes in their mouths. I have fallen into that lazy pattern where I just give my kids whatever they will eat because I'm lucky if I can get anything down their throats.  Putting veggies on their plates only to have them go uneaten, sigh, is hard work and you just want to give up.  There may be a big battle ahead for us, but I need to focus on giving them more healthy choices.  "You don't want this, then no soup for you!" Just kidding.   I know there will be a lot of choice giving and limit setting, but giving in lately to whatever they want to eat to avoid a tantrum is also not healthy either.  Sigh.  I'll let you know how it goes, wish me luck!