This Blog Has Moved!!!

I have combined blogs into one centralized location. You can now find all entries from Positive and Effective Parenting at The Homeschool Advocate – “Where hilarity, learning, and parenting challenges collide.” Even if you are not planning on homeschooling, come take a look and recommend it to other parents. There is much more to the site that simply homeschooling topics!

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Your Reaction Counts

Every parent wants to think their child is perfect, and I’m no exception. However, there is a large gap at times between what we want and what the reality is.

Recently our little 4-year-old has been misbehaving in stores. She will be fine at first, somehow convincing her dad that she should be free to walk beside him instead of sitting in a cart.Within moments of being freed she is running up and down aisles, grabbing at things, tripping up shoppers and causing general mayhem.

I will not comment on how often he falls for this, but suffice it to say, it’s been plenty. And recently she’s taken her mayhem up a notch, acting out from her seat, reaching to grab anything close to her, demanding treats, demanding to be released, or that a certain parent push her, wanting to know (quite loudly) why the store is so stinky (we were in an Asian market) or (just as loudly) speculating on whether “that one with the really big tummy is the mommy or the daughter of the other one with the really big bottom.”

Yes, she said that and yes, they heard her. I was so embarrassed I couldn’t look at them, but the DH said at least one of them was staring knives at us.

We finished with the Asian supermarket and DH said, “I just want to make one more stop.” He pulled into a parking lot and left the car running. “I’ll just be a moment.”

Emily began to holler and cry. She wanted to go with him (undoubtedly she felt the need for more mayhem) and we both said no as he exited the van and walked quickly away.

“Why didn’t Daddy take me with him?” she asked, seemingly both outraged and offended at being left behind.

“Why do you think he left you behind?” I responded.

“Well…I don’t know.”

“Perhaps it is because of your behavior in stores recently,” I suggested, “think back to how you have been acting.”

There was a long pause. “I like Daddy better than you, Mama.”

Ouch. “I don’t care who you like better, I care about your actions and behavior. Now tell me, how do you think your behavior has been today?”

Another long silence.

“I grabbed stuff off of the shelves. And I yelled at you and Daddy.”

“Yes you did.”

“But I want to go in with Daddy! I’ll be good, I will…please?”

“I’m sorry Emily, but when you act like that, it takes a lot more than a promise to be good. You have to change your behavior for a while, and then you can go back and we will try again.”

We talked back and forth a bit more, and there were tears and kicking of seats. When my DH returned, Emily said sadly to him, “I wanted to go with you, Daddy.”

As if he had been listening to our conversation all along he said, “I would have liked to take you, but your behavior has not been the best today. I hope that will change so you can go with me next time.”

Sometimes our kids can really put us through the wringer. They are capable of embarrassing us and making us angrier than is healthy (for us or them!). It is important, therefore, to step back and proverbially count to ten, before reacting.

Emily had received plenty of verbal warnings from us, including the tried but true, “You know better than that!” She was attempting to gain our attention through inappropriate means, and also to control her surroundings, again through inappropriate means, by grabbing at items and issuing demands for food, freedom, et cetera.

The exclusion from an activity truly bothered her. She is very attached to both of us, and loves to go with us into new places. That said, she is not always willing to behave when there. So our reaction must be a calm yet firm denial of freedom (or choice) until her behavior changes.

And as for the ladies with the large tummies and bottoms…well, that just needs to be included in my list of “when we are out we do not…”

So far that list includes:

  • You will not pick your nose
  • You will not talk about your farts
  • You will not comment loudly on how a place smells
  • You will not discuss other people’s body size or appearance

I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones we typically review before leaving the van. What are some of yours?

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Coin-Operated Boy Redux

I love my daughter. Actually, I love both of them, very much. However, today, I’m speaking of the younger one, age four years three months.

Recently, she has had an obsession with the song “Coin-Operated Boy” by the Dresden Dolls. Now, let’s ignore the phallic symbolism and self-love implications for a moment here. After all, she’s four, she has no idea what the song is talking about. She only knows that she likes the song, and only remembers one line from the song, “and I’ll never be alone” which she will sing over and over and over and over, and yes, over again.

As we were driving to her grandmother’s house she began to sing (rather loudly, I may add, it drowned out the radio) this one phrase for about three minutes straight. I thought I would lose my mind. 90% of me wanted to yell, “Enough already! Shut up, you!”

Thankfully I listened to the quiet 10% instead. The conversation played out something like this:

Emily: And I’ll never be alone, and I’ll never be alone, and I’ll…

Me: Wow! You really like that song, don’t you?

Emily: [enthusiastically] Oh yes!…[begins to sing AGAIN] And I’ll never be alone, and I’ll never be alone, and I’ll…

Me: What other songs do you like?

Emily: Well, I like the song that has the bananas…and I like the song with the rainbow in it.

Me: Really? Bananas and rainbows? How fun? Let’s see, do you remember any of the words?

Emily: No…

Me: Would the song with the rainbow be…[singing] Somewhere, over the rainbow…

Emily: Yes, yes! That was it!

What followed was a ten minute discussion on lyrics and songs that she liked, of which there were many. And thankfully, I didn’t have to listen to “and I’ll never be alone, and I’ll never be alone” any longer!

What struck me the most was the joy in her voice when I first commented on how she liked the song, and then again when I asked what other songs she liked. Joy at sharing her interests with me, joy at the personal attention she was getting, it made a difference to her. I realized, hearing that joy so evident, that she hadn’t been trying to drive me insane, which I had certainly contemplated after three solid minutes of hearing her repeatedly sing “and I’ll never be alone.”

It reminded me of the four goals of behavior:

  • Attention/Contact
  • Power/Independence
  • Revenge/Protection
  • Inadequacy/Withdrawal

When we examine our children’s behaviors, they typically fall into one of the four main categories and are exhibited in either appropriate or inappropriate ways. For example, if your child is constantly bothering you while you are on a phone call and will not stop, that could be Attention. However, if he comes up, asks if you will read to him, and then accepts your answer of “no, I’m on the phone and I will read to you when I get off of it” then that would be Contact.

Power struggles often arise out of a need for Independence. We see this in toddlers and often refer to this age as “The Terrible Twos” – the child wants to dress herself and you find yourself arguing that “no, you can’t wear a bathing suit outside in December!”

Judging by Emily’s response to my interactions, she was definitely in the Attention/Contact category of behavior. When I think back, I realize she had no idea she was annoying me, so she wasn’t even going about it in a way that could be considered inappropriate. But the simple repetition of it was enough to make me want to change the paradigm, and quickly! So I used distraction and engagement – and as a result we had a lovely discussion and a peaceful remainder of our drive to grandma’s house.

Understanding the goals of behavior is important. Once you understand the need your child has, you can adjust your own reactions to turn an inappropriate behavior into an appropriate one. This strengthens your relationship and helps with future communications. One of the keys to understanding which of the four goals of behavior your child currently is exhibiting is to pay attention to your own reaction. The next time your kiddo says or does something that has you all riled up, ask yourself the following:

  • What is my reaction to this behavior?

Annoyance and Irritation – If you feel annoyance or irritation, your child is most likely asking/demanding attention.

Threatened, provoked or intimidated – If you feel any of these emotions, your child is most likely seeking Power/Independence

Deeply hurt, resentment, or even hatred – Your child has most likely done something to seek Revenge

Helpless and discouraged – Your child may have retreated, given up on something you think he is capable of doing, or in other words, Display of Inadequacy

There is an excellent article here that describes the four goals of behavior and gives some tips on how to deal with them.

More often than not, our children are not deliberately trying to drive us crazy. Instead, they are seeking to fill needs, just as they did as infants in regards to comfort (food, clean diaper, rest). One of our jobs as parents is to help them make appropriate choices, and encourage appropriate behavior, while helping them to fill those needs and goals.

Happy Parenting!

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Lessons from “Jack and the Beanstalk”

The other day as I was snapping my daughter into her car seat, I noticed a strange bulge.

In her pants.

“‘Don’t look!” she wailed, covering the bulge.

I ignored her and pulled out…a golf ball.

Weird, yes. Out of the ordinary? Quite.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“From [name of playmate].”

“Does she know you have it?”

A guilty look, “No.”

“Emily! When you take something that doesn’t belong to you, without someone giving you permission, that is stealing! And stealing is bad.” She promptly burst into tears.

A few minutes later, we had returned the ball and apologized for taking something that was not ours. But the discussion was not over, and as we drove home, Emily and I talked about how it must feel to have something taken from you, how it hurts people’s feelings, and on and on.

How ironic is it that she should choose “Jack and the Beanstalk” for her bedtime story that night.

For those who have not read this little gem recently, I will recap it for you:

Jack and his mother are dirt poor and they sell their cow. In return they get magic beans which Jack’s mother throws out the window. The next morning Jack finds a beanstalk. He climbs it, goes into the giant’s castle [a classic case of breaking and entering], steals the giant’s gold coins [felony] and runs away. After Jack and his mother blow through the gold he returns and steals the golden goose [misdemeanor?]. After a while, he returns and steals a golden harp [felony] and the giant, having already been stolen from and trespassed upon twice, gives chase. Jack shimmies down the beanstalk and the giant tries to follow, instead of catching Jack, he falls to his death [involuntary manslaughter].

For all of this mischief, Jack and his mother [his accomplice and/or mentor] live happily ever after – having stolen repeatedly from and then having killed the giant.

So what if the giant eats Englishmen or likes the smell of their blood? He sure as heck never got a chance to eat Jack who is, after all, a classic repeat offender and overall malcontent.

I mistakenly thought that these old fairy tales were supposed to encourage children to be better behaved, not turn to larceny. Silly me!

Needless to say, I’ll be avoiding “Jack and the Beanstalk” for a little while. I don’t think it is giving my impressionable young daughter any more reason to turn towards a life of crime.

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Homeschooling – Yes, It Really Is “That Simple”

I just wrote a line that I’m especially pleased with…

Homeschooling is something that occurs naturally in all healthy and loving homes – it is a child’s natural learning state, conducted by a person who understands them better than any hired teacher ever could.

I was writing it to a friend and the words just flowed out, but I recognize the essential truth of it. This past Monday I attended a homeschooling meeting with L.E.A.R.N. (Let Education Always Remain Natural), which is a secular homeschooling group in Kansas City. My daughter will be four years old in October and while it is early still to begin ‘official’ schooling, I think it is the perfect time to begin making connections and finding other homeschooling moms with children her age range.

I homeschooled my older daughter, now 21, through her high school years out of necessity. I wasn’t happy with the school district we were in and she was so unhappy in school. After I pulled her out I gave her a few weeks to decompress and asked her what she wanted to learn. She would go on to study Women’s History, American Politics, and College-level Algebra, among other things. Sometimes she would spend an entire week on history, other times writing essays on what she had learned. No day was the same, no week planned to the nth degree.

And then along came her baby sister and her dad and I decided we would try homeschooling from the start. And so I have been planning on this for years.I went on to write:

The thing about homeschooling to keep in mind is this: You are already homeschooling. You’ve been homeschooling since the day she was born. Every time you count with her, involve her in cooking, cleaning, exercise, pet care, reading, or nature – you are homeschooling…Whenever you answer her questions, teach her something, ask her a math question…that’s homeschooling.

There are dozens of websites, scores of books, and plenty of people who can tell you more about homeschooling. No, it isn’t for everyone, but it is a real and wonderful option and opportunity that could make the difference for your child and instill a love of learning that is lifelong.

Something to think about…

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“You Get What You Get” – Lessons from “Pinkalicious” and other books

A friend of mine gave my daughter a couple of cute books – “Pinkalicious” and “Purplicious” And a line from “Pinkalicious” keeps recurring around our house.

Pinkalicious’ mom tells her, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

What is it about some lines in books that kids grab a hold of and never forget? In any case, Emily has done just this. It certainly has come in handy for me in a pinch.

“Mama, I want [fill in the blank] to eat.”

“You can have a slice of apple, but I’m serving dinner soon.”

“BUT…” The whine begins.

“You get what you get.” I remind her gently.

“And you don’t throw a fit.” She responds.

“Exactly!”

And that’s it. That’s all it takes. Oh, thank you “Pinkalicious!”

Another favorite phrase around our house is “Green Eggs and Ham!” This usually comes up with new food or food we haven’t fixed in a while.

Emily looks over the food cooking on the stove, “I don’t want that!”

“Green eggs and ham,” I say to her, “Try it, try it and, you might like it!”

A small suffering sigh in reply, “Ohhkay.”

Sometimes she likes it, other times not, but at least she tried the food.

I look forward to the day she uses these phrases on me…

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I Just Couldn’t Resist

On Monday I had a friend and her daughter over for a play date for the girls. We were swapping kid stories and she mentioned the intricate tea parties and said, “Well, I’m sure you are familiar with all of that.”

Not so much.

Yes, my daughter has tea set. It’s in her play kitchen in her room. And yes, occasionally she brings it to me to ‘drink’. But long and involved tea parties where a full-sized adult crouches at a miniature table and balances precariously on a pint-sized chair?

Not so much.

“When I was a kid, I was rather lonely. No siblings, not even a lot of playmates on my street, I spent a lot of time alone.” I told my friend. “I used to tell myself that when I had a child, I would play with her all day long.” I shrugged, “But then I grew up and had Dee and I just didn’t have any idea how to play with Barbies or at ‘let’s pretend’ any more. So I told myself that I would do what I could and not worry about being my child’s playmate.”

I even quoted Annie Dillard’s essay, “Handed My Own Life” in which Annie writes, “I did not understand then, but soon came to realize that you do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself.” My time for Fisher Price Little People or Spirograph or Barbies has faded into sweet memories. I have no real interest in playing with them any longer.

That was on Monday.

On Wednesday Emily was with me in a client’s house and she saw some Play-Doh in the little boy’s room. The only way I could get her out of there without opening the Play-Doh was to promise her some of her own. And so, that evening we drove to Wal-Mart to find some for my little princess. Play-Doh hasn’t changed a lot in 35 years. A few more new colors and other than that, it’s pretty much the same. We picked out a set of four big canisters and a “Sea Creatures” play set.

And somewhere between unwrapping the packaging and tossing the plastic and cardboard into the trash I found myself on the floor, absorbed in making the octopus’ tentacles grow and cutting out the perfect fish. Eventually my feet fell asleep and my back ached. We had a great time playing with the Play-Doh.

I’m not changing my position. I’m a mom and business owner and domestic goddess first…childhood playmate falls pretty far down on the list. But this one time I couldn’t resist. The next day saw me down on the floor again when the vintage Fisher Price Little People Circus I bought on eBay came in the mail.

For a few moments, it was 1976 all over again.

How about you? Do you play with your kids? Games? Cards? Pretend play like tea parties or sword fights?

Fun with Play-Doh!

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