Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bringing Up Bebe

So I finally finished reading Bringing Up Bebe and so glad I did!  I have had it on my list of reads when it came out 2 years now, and now I wish I had read it back then.  For anyone who knows me, I think I lived my former life in Paris ;) Bringing Up Bébé (14.99 Amazon)

Anyway, so in case you haven't heard of this book, it's basically about an American mom living in Paris and raising her 3 children there.  She used to be a journalist in NYC, and after moving to France with her British husband, they had a baby girl, and a few years later had twin boys.  So you could say she has a good perspective on the whole parenting thing.

This book has totally changed the way I think about things when it comes to my current parenting woes..aka whining kids, constant attention and poor eating habits, not to mention sleep!

I am not doing a book review here, but I have to give a few highlights of the book which have really helped give me new perspectives:

1) Sleep!  When my babies were not sleeping through the night, I would wonder all the time how other cultures dealt with baby issues like crying.   I was so glad that this book was finally written to help gain some perspective on American sleep parenting vs. a European view.

The author finds the magic secret that all French babies are sleeping through the night or as they call it, 'doing their nights', by 3 months of age.  How do they do it? By using the 'pause'.

Basically instead of rushing to the baby's side at the first cry (during the day or at night), they wait and try to really listen and figure out why the baby is crying: is she hungry, teething/pain, dirty diaper, etc. They are 'observing' the baby to see what they really need.  They take a couple of minutes to figure this out, and let the baby learn how to communicate their needs.

They also say that the baby wakes up during the night in between regulating sleep cycles and if we rush to them immediately, then they won't learn to link their sleep cycles together on their own.  I know some Americans and some sleep books that do advocate this type of not rushing to calm a baby, but I am a sucker and can't stand to hear an infant baby crying.  I think I was one who rushed to their side even before they would start to cry!

But if I had to do it all over again (which won't be happening at all), I'm thinking maybe waiting 1 minute isn't such a bad idea. Not 5 minutes, but maybe just 1.  I mean, they do have to learn that we can't be there immediately every time they need us right? Which brings me to the next part...

2) Learning to Wait

Apparently in France, children/toddlers can sit and play by themselves and the adults can have a real conversation around each other.  They aren't demanding of their parents, they aren't pulling on their pant legs for attention and they don't scream and throw tantrums at restaurants.  Say what?  Not really the case here in America :0

The secret?

The French say that their children learn to wait.  They have learned the art of entertaining themselves and distraction.  They don't teach them these skills, they just give them opportunities to learn it themselves.  Basically involving delayed gratification, such as buying them candy, but making them wait to eat it after dinner.  It's setting firm limits and learning to say 'no' to their kids.  In fact the author goes into a long story about how to say 'no' and mean it, so your child will actually listen to you :)

They recommend teaching their kids that they can't have everything right away, especially in a store. Or when a child starts to whimper for more food, rushing to feed them is viewed like giving in to an addiction, and teaching them to have patience is a way of respecting a speaking of food and waiting...

3) Eating

The French also teach patience through meals.  Apparently they all eat 3 main meals a day and the children don't have a single snack until the 4pm 'gouter' snack.  All I can say is wow!  In my house, my toddler is demanding 'snack!' like 15 minutes after her breakfast and wants Goldfish crackers, or a pouch or her Cliff children's iced oatmeal bar.  Since reading this book, I have learned to tell her 'no' as she runs to the pantry and I tell her no, set a limit, then distract her and it has surprisingly worked!

I would love to have my girls wait for meals too.  The author talks about a dream world where moms don't "walk around with baggies of Goldfish or Cheerios in their bags to patch over the inevitable moments of angst" tantrums.  She says, "Americans have decided that it is impossible for children to take part in any activity without shoving something in their pie holes."  So true!  We don't leave the house for an errand unless snacks are packed.

They also have 4 course meals at home and most families eat together to teach them manners as well as patience.  They serve the kids fruit and veggies first to munch on while they wait for the protein part, that way they get the nutrients first.

The author also talks about how they learn to eat normal food, not kid food like nuggets and pizza!  In France, daycare and preschool is free, and it is government run, so ALL employees go through rigorous trainings and have advanced degrees in childcare.  They go through tough interview processes with 500 applicants and sometimes only 3 are hired, and they all have a psychological evaluation.  And so when it comes to the food, they are also very picky about the diets of the day care kids.

The chefs of daycares do big time menu planning and come up with menus such as: first course of shredded red cabbage, and white cheese, then a white fish in dill sauce and a side of organic potatoes, followed by a cheese course of Brie, then a dessert of baked organic apple.  And it is either pureed or cut up depending on the age.  Did I mention these are free, government run daycares??  Toddlers here people! These are not 15 year-olds but toddler meals!

The best advice she gives in teaching your child to eat good food, is making sure to re-introduce foods each time, even if they don't like them.  To make sure that your child 'tastes everything on their plate.' They don't have to eat it but at least taste it.

French parents also encourage good eating habits by discussing the texture of the foods on their plates, the smells, etc to get them interested.  They also make them help prepare the meals they eat, so they are invested in how it turns out and willing to eat it more.  And to get them to eat the veggies (and prevent battles), they ask them to eat each veggie item on their plates with as much enthusiasm as the sweet fruit sitting next to it.

The book also goes into a lot more about the different cultures, and even how the French push independence so much that 4 year-olds go on 2 week long away school trips!  Okay, that one I am not a fan.  But for the most part, she has given me a lot to think about and some great tips. I totally recommend reading the book and all of the drama she encounters along her parenting journey!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Me First!

My house has all of a sudden been taken over by the words, "Me First!"  Ugh.  It's my 4 year-old's new favorite phrase.  It centers around her younger sister, and ranges from, "mommy, I wanted to get in the car first!" to "mommy, I wanted to wake up first!" Seriously? Wake up first?

When my second child was born, my first born didn't have a lot of jealousy going on yet.  She was only 24 months old and I honestly think she thought the baby was a doll.  My older was also at the age where she was still baby 'cute' and got a ton of attention from family.

Fast forward 2 years, and now she has finally been bit by the jealousy bug.  I also think it's the age as she is now able to compare more, plus her younger sister is more mobile and able to do the same things she can. AKA competition.

So I try as much as I can to reflect her feelings, as the good counselor mom I am, but it still seems like a broken record:

"Sweetie, you look really frustrated and I can see how much you want to get in the car first."  I say similar statements all day long, including "it must be hard having a baby sister, etc".  Hoping it helps.

But for the most part, I can tell it's just plain competition in my household.  With siblings, I know how important it is not to compare your children in front of them. Even basic, seemingly harmless statements like, "Look at how much of a great eater your sister is"..when my toddler refuses to touch anything on her plate and her sister eats everything.  Just harmless little statements like that one can set the tone for competition.

And we are also at the age where losing a board game is the end of the world.  It's just one of those things that children learn. Losing isn't fun, but it's part of life ;)

I've also tried to spend some alone time with my older child, so she can get more attention from me, and I have been doing weekly 15 minute play sessions at night when my younger one goes to bed.

Another thing that has helped, is a good story book for preschoolers that teaches about being first in line, first in sports, etc.  It has a really clever title called Me First :) (6.30$)

I am hoping this phase goes away soon.  I think my next technique is going to be some sort of reverse psychology.  I can't help but keep chanting, "first is worst, second is best, third is the one with the hair on their chest!"
Friday, August 8, 2014

Testing Limits

Children testing limits, or in my house we call it 'pushing' limits.  You know, when your child asks for one more piece of candy.  Or better yet, you are at a restaurant eating and tell your child 'no' and they scream and cry for whatever they can't have.  Sound familiar?

Why is it that kids LOVE to test limits on their parents more than anyone?

It's because kids act out more around those that they trust.  They trust enough to push limits with their parents (or any close family member), and see how far they can go.  Makes you feel really special huh? It's why they are usually perfect for the babysitter or a family member that they don't see as often.  "Oh he is just so well behaved, a perfect little angel!"  Little do they know he had a full on tantrum earlier in the day when he refused to eat his lunch.

But it is a funny phenomenon that kids push their limits around their parents more because they feel secure enough to fully be themselves.  So that means if a child is super tired, they feel safe enough to be their cranky self in front of mommy or daddy.  Believe me, happens in my home All. The. Time.

Adults are the same way for the most part.  It's like when I hear moms complain about the ever hard mother-in-law relationship.  Most of the moms of children I know have to smile and put on their best face around the MIL.  They don't feel safe being their real self in front of them.  But with their spouses? Ha, they feel safe enough to be whoever you want.

I do feel very special that my child feels free to fully be themselves, but at the same time it is hard to constantly redirect them by setting limits.  I feel like a broken record half the time.

As annoying as it is, it is still super important to keep those limits in check.

Limits make children feel safe.  They need boundaries.  They need to know what they can and can't do. Even if you are more of the permissive parent, or the authoritarian strict parent approach, they need consistent, firm limits.  It will cause less tantrums, less tears and more confident and secure children in the long run.

The child you see running all around the store like they are hyped up on candy, who doesn't listen to his parent and runs off, or better yet, talks back to the parent. Yes, it will happen to all of you one day here or there.  But kids that do this all day long are not having consistent limits in place, or consistent care-giving.  Being told one thing one time and something else another- they are learning to not trust their care givers or the environment and that equals chaos.  Limits help develop self-control.

So as much fun as it is hearing tantrums all day, keep reminding yourself it is temporary and they are TESTING you.  They feel safe enough to act out around you.  They are learning to trust their environment, so keep enforcing those limits, and reflect all those crazy feelings they are showing you.

For tips, click here on limit setting and here for reflecting feelings.