Tag Archives: Parenting Tips

It’ll make your famous Daddy look so dumb

We suspect The Boy is sprouting his first teeth. For the past week or so, that nasty window of time in the evening most parents lovingly refer to as the witching hour has been far more stressful with The Boy. He cries, writhes, grimaces, chomps, drools, and cries some more before falling into a 12 minute sleep, only to wake up and repeat.

However, I think I might have discovered a temporary antidote. Music. Not just any music but one particular song, St. Judy’s Comet by Paul Simon (with the great lyric “cause if I can’t sing my boy to sleep, it’ll make your famous Daddy look so dumb”).

3 nights ago, during the peak of the witching hour, I was feeling flustered so I walked into the office with a crying Boy in my arms. I fired on the computer and tossed some music on. The first song was St. Judy’s Comet. The Boy stopped crying and cocked his head towards the glowing computer screen. I got up and started dancing around the office with The Boy in my arms. By the end of the song, he had dozed off.

Next night when the cranking started, I again threw on Paul. Again, The Boy stopped, listened and dozed.

Same thing tonight.

I hope it will work for the next few days. Like all solutions with infants, you hope one buys you enough time to think of the next one. But for now, music does hath charms to soothe the savage beast.

Doodoo, Beep and Gwanka: The Influence of Imaginary Friends

The friends as bad influences has already begun with The Girl. Only, these friends happen to be imaginary and we are trying to figure out how best to deal with them.

Beep, despite her name, is the quiet one and Gwanka…well, we’re not too sure about Gwanka, other than she is from Mexico and occasionally shows up to play in the backyard. But that damn DooDoo is really getting on my nerves. If there is a convenient scapegoat in our house, it’s DooDoo. Continue reading

Things We Tell The Girl to Keep Monsters Away

  • That’s why we painted your bedroom pink. Monsters hate pink.
  • Monsters don’t want to eat us. We taste awful.
  • When we bought the new house, we told the Realtor we wanted to live in a no-monster neighbourhood.
  • Monsters won’t come into your bedroom. Monsters are lazy and don’t like climbing stairs.
  • Monsters can’t come down chimneys because the people who make chimneys know how to make them to keep monsters out, but let Santa in.
  • Mom and Dad’s protect their kids from Monsters. That’s one of our jobs.
  • Bad monsters don’t like coming into houses with love in them. Bad monsters don’t like love.
  • Maybe the monsters are lonely? Maybe they want to be your friend?

In addition, we hung some nazar (blue eye) amulets we got when we traveled in Turkey a few years ago. We told he that those were designed to keep away monsters. So far, no monsters, so everything looks like it is working as it should.

6 Strategies to Reduce TV Time

We all know watching excessive amounts of television is not good for ourselves or our kids. But how exactly do you go about reducing the number of hours your family spends in front of the box? That is challenge many parents in the U.S. are facing, according to a recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which outlines 6 strategies for parents to get their kids watching less TV.

The study showed that kids are watching 3 hours of TV per day, considerably more than the AAP recommendation of 1-2 hours for children over 2 and that families have, on average 4 TV sets in their house. Most kids (63%) have TV’s in their bedrooms and almost half the families (46%) have TV’s in their eating area.

According to the study, many parents agree in principle with the 2 hour rule, but do not seem to have any concrete strategies on how to reduce screen time so the researches devised 6 strategies to help parents.

  1. Pay Attention to How Much Time Children Spend Using All Screen Media.
  2. Do Not Put a Television Set in a Child’s Bedroom. Children with a television in their bedroom watch more television and have fewer rules about television than children without a television in their bedroom.
  3. Eliminate Background Television. An easy starting point for many families may be to turn the television off when it is on in the background or when it is not considered the primary activity.
  4. Limit Television on School Days.
  5. Identify Nonscreen, In-Home Activities That Are Pleasurable to Children. This one was tough for a lot of parents – they simply could not think of other things for kids to do at home. Many feared that they would have to become their child’s entertainment if they shut off the TV. If you are stumped, here are some ideas and some more and yet more.
  6. Do Not Put a Television in Household Eating Areas and Do Not Connect Television Viewing With Eating of Any Sort, Including Snacks and Meals. The study suggests that there may be a link between eating more energy-dense and less nutritious food when you eat in front of the TV.

10 Things I Learned From My 4-Year Old

I loved this blog posting from Dad Steve Olson called 10 Things I Learned from My 4-Year-Old. Too bad that the comments section degenerates into juvenile name calling regarding Steve’s wish to teach his kids that when the cat dies he went to heaven. Regardless of what my beliefs may be, if Steve wishes to teach his kids that there is a heaven then great. If he wanted to teach his kids otherwise, then that is great as well. The key point here is that he is teaching and passing on his values.

It’s tough to know how to handle the death thing. On one hand, saying that when things die they go to heaven seems to be an easy concept for kids to understand, despite the fact that it leads to bigger questions, which can also be handled with concrete answers. I think kids like concrete, and I can see where the idea that there is a physical place in the sky called heaven would be comforting for kids. The notion that we may just “stop” is hard for grown-ups to comprehend, let alone a pre-schooler.

At our house, we talk openly about death and dying with The Girl – my wife’s Mom passed away before she was born and we still talk about her to The Girl to keep her spirit alive. As my wife says, she wants The Girl to grow up knowing her Grandma despite the fact she is not physically here.

In addition, one of The Girl’s favorite books is called Day of the Dead, all about the Mexican celebration. This is a favorite.

I think may parents – both moms and Dads – can relate to Steve’s list, and it is a good reminder that in the school of life, we are both teachers and students.

10 Ways Dads Can Encourage Daughters to Participate in Sports

The excellent Dads and Daughters newsletter this week came with a great top 10 list on how to encourage girls to participate in sports. Studies have shown that not only are sports great for your body and mind, but girls who participate in sports are more likely to abstain from alcohol and drugs and defer sexual activity until a later age.

1. Make sports fun from an early age. Keep a relaxed approach when she’s young. For example, have athletic-theme parties, like kickball and pizza.

2. Demonstrate interest in her athletic programs and activities. Attend her games and other extracurricular activities. If you live away from your daughter, be sure to talk or email with her after every game to hear how it went.

3. Go to the games to cheer. You can cheer hard for your girl, and then cheer for everyone who is playing. Every kid (and parent) should remember why they call it “playing” sports.

4. Leave coaching to the coaches. Tina Syer of the Positive Coaching Alliance says, “You’re there to fill the kids’ emotional tanks and make sure they bounce back from mistakes, not to tweak their throwing motion or tell them where to be on the field.” Be smart about choosing coaches tuned in to her age and skill level. If there’s a lack of adequate coaches, sign up to volunteer!

5. Be a model fan. Think about what you would look like on the sidelines if someone were videotaping you instead of the game. Be sure you (and your daughter) would be proud of what you’d see.

6. Ask, “What do each hope to get from the experience?” Then tell her what you hope she gets. If you don’t talk (and listen), she may assume all you care about is a winning record or how good her stats are. Make sure she knows you want sports to be a fun place to make friends, test herself, be healthy, and feel good about herself.

7. Let her play with boys. In “Raising Our Athletic Daughters: How Sports Can Build Self-Esteem and Save Girls’ Lives,” authors Jean Zimmerman and Gil Reavill suggest utilizing coed or single-sex programs according to your daughter’s comfort level and what will contribute most to her learning and growth.

8. Help her use “mistakes” productively. When she messes up, she’ll look to you first. So illustrate how to put mistakes in perspective by 1) showing her how to let go of them and 2) encouraging (but not demanding) her to use them as motivation to improve her skills.

9. Make sure girls and boys have equal sports opportunities and resources. Support Title IX and encourage school and other sports programs to be aware of and promptly address inequities.

10. Keep a relaxed and fun approach. Team sports teach girls how to be self-reliant while also working collaboratively to be competitive. If she loses interest in sports, you and she can still be physically active together–and there are plenty of other ways to relate and have fun together.

Tantrums

Yes, they have hit. Big time.

These are not tantrums to “get” something – these episodes are full on meltdowns that seem to be triggered by minor of things. When one of these episodes comes on, it’s as if all coping skill developed in The Girl’s 2 1/2 years go flying out the window.

They have become daily occurrences – sometimes multiple times a day, which has sent both Mom and I scrambling back to the bookshelf and baby/toddler library we have assembled. So far, Mary Sheedy Kurkinca’s book Raising Your Spirited Child has provided the best advice, and the best definition of what might be going on with The Girl, that is “spillover tantrums” caused by emotional overload.

In a nutshell, once one of the episodes begins, I make sure The Girl isn’t going to hurt herself, stay close but give distance and let them go until they get it out. So far, this advice seems to be working. When one of these episodes comes on, I basically shut up, stay close to The Girl and let it run it’s course.

At first, I tried to pick up or hug The Girl, but she wanted no part of it. So, instead of trying to hold her, I stay with her, but let her take the lead in how much physical contact she wants. I’ve found that, after completely losing it for a few minutes, The Girl eventually calms herself down enough to come over on her own and cuddle in my lap. Once she has calmed down, we talk about what happened.

It’s pretty tough sometimes for me to maintain my cool, but the times I have lost it myself and done things like walk away or get frustrated only make the tantrum worse.

There is, of course, more to Kurkinca’s method than this. And, regardless of whether you have a Spirited Child or not, the book is well worth a read.

Tooth Brushing Hint

Amazing how much easier things go with a toddler when you turn everyday chores into a game. Recently the chore that has been “game-ified” at our house is brushing teeth, only it’s name has been changed from brushing teeth to hunting sugar bugs.

I’m not sure where this came from (I think my wife’s dentist first put the thought of sugar bugs in our heads), or even if it is original, but I do know that the game has been a favorite with the girl. We sit down and pretend to catch sugar bugs in her mouth. Whenever we catch one in the toothbrush, we make a big deal of pinching it off the brush, throwing the imaginary critter to the floor and stepping on it – the bigger the stomp the better. The girl squeals whenever we pull one of these little critters out of her mouth, and gleefully stomps on it to stop the sugar bug.

Not only does the girl look forward to brushing her teeth, she’s becoming a real ham, using her imagination and catching invisible sugar bugs. Great fun.

MMMMMinti Good

A peer-to-peer advice site for parents called Minti is up and running. Articles and advice are contributed by parents, giving the whole site a very nice community feeling, free of the spin (corporate, religious, ideological, political, what have you) of most parent advice sites. And users can rank the advice.

Minti – Powered by Parents – parent to parent advice-opedia

7 Tips for Potential Stay at Home Dads

While the benefits and rewards of staying home with the girl vastly outweigh the downside, there are a few things I wish I would have know about being a stay at home Dad before I walked down this path. In the interest of helping other men decide whether this lifestyle is for them, I offer these 7 tips for men who might be contemplating staying at home.

  1. Lower Expectations. When my wife and I first started discussing reducing my work hours to spend a few days a week at home with the girl, I naively envisioned scenes of the girl colouring away contentedly at her play table while I whiled away the day completing a thousand different projects for a hundred different clients. HA! In retrospect, I can see now why some people had funny little grins on their faces when I told them my plan. They were the parents. They knew better.
  2. Let Dirty Dishes Lie. Just because you are at home with the kids doesn’t mean you have to be a “homemaker”. To me, this is like a complete flipping of traditional family roles – roles that women successfully banished to the dustbins of history long ago. I never expected my wife to have the house spotless and dinner made when I was working fulltime and she was home with the girl, and fortunately she doesn’t expect the same. However, when my adventure began, I was surprised to find myself feeling guilty for not having a meal ready when Mom got home, and it took awhile to lose the guilt associated with having a fireplace mantel coated with dust. That’s not to say I don’t do any housework or cook a meal – far from it. But realize that just because you are at home doesn’t mean you need to revert to the traditional role of a “homemaker”. Being a stay at home Dad, like being a stay at home Mom, is not synonymous with being the primary homemaker. It’s still the responsibility of the entire family to make sure a household runs smoothly.
  3. Routine, Routine, Routine. Oh my goodness, how much simpler life is when you have a daily routine. Everyone knows what is expected, first and foremost the girl. She craves structure, and the days where we deviate from the routine tend to be difficult days. To combat this, we have settled into a rhythm that seems to work for us. We are not ruled by the clock, but we certainly go out of our way to keep the structure of the day similar from day to day.
  4. Plan Events for Outside the House.Much like breaking our routine, the days when the girl and I stay at home all day tend to be hard days. I think this is because the girl needs stimulation. A toddler’s need for stimulation is second only to their need to breath. So I try to plan an outside the house activity every day. Fortunately the girl is at the age where everyday things still feel like an adventure, so sometimes a simple ride on a transit bus downtown and back suffices for her daily adventure. I’ve also found that doing our outside the house activity in the morning makes for an easier transition to nap time in the early afternoon, so most of our activities are morning activities.
  5. Build a Support System.I’ve found that being a stay at home parent can be a lonely, isolating experience, and I think this goes double for men simply because the infrastructure and support is not there for us (yet). Among my friends, there are not many Dads doing the stay at home thing, so I can’t exactly pick up the phone and chat with them when I need a pick me up. I sometimes get lonely. I’ve tried playgroups and find that, while the girl has a great time, they are overwhelmingly dominated by Moms and I am often seen as a bit of an outsider. So, on the days I feel lonely the girl and I will meet Mom at work for lunch, or I sometimes do call up one of the other Moms in our circle of friends for a walk or coffee. But to be honest, this is one I am still working on.
  6. Feed Me! As obvious as this sounds, I can’t believe how long it took me to make the connection between the girls mood swings and her blood sugar level. Toddlers need to eat and eat often. While I am good with 3 squares and the occasional piece of fruit throughout the day, the girl needs a more even flow of food. She is an eating machine and since I’ve figured out that the vast majority of her mood swings are tied to her hunger level, her attitude and moods have really evened out. So the girl eats like a Hobbit – breakfast, tenzies, elevenzies, lunch, onezies, etc..
  7. Slow Down and Live in the Moment. One of the amazing things about the girl is that she forces me to slow down and re-examine the everyday world because the everyday world is so new and exciting for her. We can spend an hour walking around the block, which may sound about as exciting as watching paint dry, but trust me, through a toddlers eyes the world is a pretty interesting place. So I make a point of moving at the girl’s pace. And since I have long ago lowered my expectations (#1) and exorcised my inner homemaker demon (#2), I can free my mind to help the girl separate the red leaves from the yellow leaves on the front lawn.

There you go. 7 lessons learned from the front lines of stay at home daddydom. So, what about you? If one of your buddies came up to you and said “I’m thinking of taking some time off work to stay at home with my kid,” what piece of advice would you give them?