Tag Archives: eagle mom

The Unchapter – What the Parenting Books Are Missing

Up above me sits my modest collection of parenting books which are nestled next to my books about California civil procedure (i.e. litigation).  Both basically deal with the same thing – how to address challenging moves.  When I glance above at the books I have a new perspective.  I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s the five years of mommy hood, observing trials and tribulations with my own boys and those of my friends.  The reason doesn’t matter – but here is the thing.  All parenting books are basically the same.

Just think about it.  Using the books on my shelf as an example there is the book on positive discipline, touchpoints on emotional development, and healthy sleep happy child.  Each of these books have one thing in common.  They tout one particular theory and give examples of how to implement it.

These examples seem good in theory.  For example, calmly telling the escaping toddler to come back and using positive reinforcement to encourage results.  But what happens when the toddler is running towards oncoming traffic?  Will calmness work then? Not for me.

Then what are these books?  I think they are ideals.  They set forth paradigms to think about parenting, strategies for dealing with different behaviors.  This has to be checked against the reality that no single theory will work all the time, nor should it.  We are complex beings.

Even typing this makes me question my thought – as these are the books professed by experts to raise happy and healthy kids.  Like there is some sort of recipe – 50 positive affirmations + 0 timeouts = happy child.  But there is no recipe for successful parenting as each child is different.

We live in a culture where everyone has an answer to something.  Hell, even before our children are born, we read books that tell us what to expect. They give detailed pictures, diagrams, charts (ya da ya da), to try and explain the unexplainable.

When I first read those books, I did gain some sort of comfort.  But now looking back, I wonder what they really added.  Those precious hours spent studying different books, parenting philosophies and even educational philosophies, could have been spent just enjoying the then present moment of pregnancy.

This outward direction ensues beyond pregnancy and into parenting.  Maybe it’s technology, the internet or fear of duplicating the mistakes of our own parents.  Everything directs parents outside of themselves to seek external answers – in books, on the internet or experts.

I’m not saying that all expert opinions are bad as I have gotten wonderful advice from behavioralists and professionals. What I am saying is that we ourselves are our own experts.  And sometimes our instincts provide answers.  Take the birth of my second son for example.  The nurse nearly sent me home 45 minutes before he was born.  She was convinced I wasn’t in labor.  If that was the case, then I guess C’s labor was some sort of record.

Sure birth and parenting are two different things, but both give reason to trust ourselves.  We know what’s best for our kids.  On an instinctual level we can read their smiles and body language.  Sometimes we can understand what they are experiencing without them saying it.  And this connection is so so important.

For me, I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I know what’s best for my boys. And if it is questioned, then after fully exploring the rationale for it, then I always reconnect with my instinct.  After all it is about doing what’s best for them, and sometimes the answer to that is within us.

So at least for me the next time that I feel the need to reach above to my shelf of parenting books, I am going to step back and try to find the inner answer.    Maybe yoga, meditation or a walk.  And then if after that I still feel the need to consult the written word, then I’ll peruse the book, but knowing that no book has all the answers and that sometimes the best answer lies within.

 

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Building Confidence One Step At A Time

Recently B has hit a remarkable stage.  He is all about telling elaborate stories, building things and causing havoc.   It occurred to me that there had to be a way to direct his interests into a way to build confidence.

so we’ve been taking the interests one at a time.  One day he started talking about building a tree-house in the backyard.  So, he scouted out the perfect tree.  Then, I had him draw a plan for it.  The plans weren’t complete until he finished drawing the crocodile slide.   Rolled up and secured with rubber bands, the plans became his treasure.  His  great uncle came to visit who also happens to be an architect.  And, Uncle P was all ears at hearing about B’s concept.  His other Great Uncle, a contractor, chimed in as well.2014-02-19 15.34.25

This experience just made me think about the positive effects of redirecting the boy energy.  Not to mention the importance of mentors.  Thank you Uncle P and Uncle T for encouraging B to think big.

For me, this was a major experience in letting go.  Until now, other than his preschool teachers, either myself of my husband have been teaching him about the world.  But we’ve come to a crossroad where it is time to let him gain learning from others.  It’s a humbling thing to have your child want to learn something that you don’t know.  Hockey –  ya right.  I can hardly skate straight, taekwondo, again another potentially lifelong goal but not at present.  Allowing other adult figures to step in to teach things that are beyond me has been eye opening in many ways.  Humbling yet empowering, as I know B is growing from his expanded exposure. 2014-03-01 09.11.30

As for redirecting the boy energy into positive experiences, in addition to hockey we’ve tried ninja school.  B has been talking about ninja school for months.  We visited and watched awhile ago and he has kept talking about it.  So, I thought why not let him try.

Reluctant at first, he clung close and absorbed the scene.  For me it was a parenting dilemma – to push or not to push.    After driving a half hour to get there and the days of anticipation, was expecting him to participate asking too much?  Clearly he was cautious and unsure about the experience.  and, I was getting frustrated at his hesitation.

As he sat on my lap, I thought about how comfortable he is in his little nest and the idea of eagle parenting.  Encouraging but making the nest a little less comfortable to make young explore outside.  But deciding to honor him and his interests, I held back and gently encouraged him.  So playfully I made a little earthquake with my legs, which made B stand up.  A baby step closer to participating.  That coupled with the gentle encouragement by the  teacher, made B eventually join the ranks.  2014-02-28 17.45.09

But he wasn’t sold until he was told to hit hard.  Then you should have seen him hit the red bag.  Smiling, laughing, not to mention expending all that energy in a positive way.  Yay!  And he left asking if he could go back tomorrow.   Success.

So begins a new chapter in parenting and in B’s development.  Luckily C is waiting in the pits ready for his turn.

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You Know You’re A Mom When…

IMG_4672The other day after all the Christmas decorations were tucked away in the garage, I was admiring how clutter free my mantel had become.   Amidst my moment of admiration, I noticed a new item –  prominently displayed; a country treasure.  My son found it while we were enjoying a nature walk with some friends.  Who knew we would find a bone from some creature.  And, who knew it would end up next to the pewter candlesticks that my late grandmother gave me as an engagement present.

How things change.

I don’t know about you, but I have been shocked at how quickly 2013 went.   It flew by.  With the start of 2014, I find myself noticing reminders of all the humorous aspects of mommying two boys.  Those little reality checks.  Like the bone on the mantel, these reminders make me laugh.

So here ya go, you know you’re a mom when:

  • You look forward to running around playing [favorite game];
  • This play can last all day;
  • You find yourself at a loss after your child asks you for the millionth time why they shouldn’t dig for treasure (in their nose) in public;
  • Tellers, grocery clerks and even the friendly mail lady use the words adorable and terrorizing to describe your child(ren);
  • A room or your whole house displays amazing abstract art of all shapes, sizes, and materials;
  • You sit and admire a bone prominently displayed on your mantel; and
  • You wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Picking a Preschool

The preschool hunt, for some begins as early as they are pregnant, for others long after the child is born.  For me, the thought process began when Bobby was merely weeks old hanging out in a baby carrier.  I was shopping for apples at my corner market in Oakland when a fellow mom stopped me.  She asked whether baby was on a list for school.  A little shocked by the question – I said no.  At that point, I was really thinking about buying produce, not about preschool options for my little guy.   Since Bobby was not even old enough to hold his head up, I thought it was a little early to start thinking about it.  What I learned was that the waiting lists at some schools start as early as when kids are in utero.  Yikes, I was already behind the ball!

Researching Different Options

With this in mind, when I moved to Sonoma when Bobby was six months old, I began the hunt.  In foreign territory as neither child development nor teaching is my profession, I searched for information.  Looking for expert opinions I consulted books and numerous articles (like these 1 and 2) detailing different educational philosophies like Montessori, Waldorf, Emilia.  There is only so much you can surmise from a book though.

The best advice came from local moms at the playground as they had actual experience with kids at the schools.  As I learned that there were different degrees with which the philosophies would be implemented at particular schools.  From strict implementation to lax, from focusing on daycare to the preschool program, there were so many things to consider.

Visiting the Schools

A shopper by nature, I visited the top schools that I had heard about.  Armed with my lengthy list of questions in hand like student to teacher ratio and schedules, I carefully observed what each school had to offer.  As I became more educated about programs, my list of questions evolved.   What were their goals for their graduates? What approach did they employ? How did the school develop confidence in the child? How did they engage children?

Of course, practical considerations like location and schedule came into play as well.  As one particular school that I fell in love had a very short program.  The short program coupled with the travel time to get there was impossible for my work schedule.

The decision involved other things more specific to Bobby like temperament and handling food allergies.  In addition, Bobby’s reaction to the school was key.  This even required a separate visit for some schools.  When Bobby visited, there were some schools where he immediately seemed comfortable.  There were other schools where wanted to be held the entire time.

Factors to Consider

Ultimately, the following factors helped me compare schools and make a decision:

  • Kids – did the kids seem engaged?
  • Teachers – what was their approach to teaching? How did they interact with the kids? How long had they been there?
  • Structure – what schedule did the day follow?
  • Art – what was the school’s approach to art? Was it free form or worksheets?
  • Curriculum –  what was the curriculum? Was it play based, Montessori, Waldorf or a hybrid like High-Scope?
  • Environment – was it organized, bright & cheery?
  • Play spaces – how did the space seem? Was it safe, clean, inviting?
  • Approaches to Discipline – what was the approach to discipline?  Would kids be in timeout chairs wearing a cone of shame? Or is there another more positive approach?
  • Socialization – how does the school encourage socialization?

Shortcut for Sonomans

With so many great options, picking a preschool can seem like such a tough and even overwhelming decision at times.  The good news is that there are resources out there to make it easier.   Cindy Studdert, owner of FarmTots, put it best when she described her decision not to open a formal school due to the great and numerous child centered programs in town.

In Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley Mother’s Club hosts a preschool fair every other year.  As a past coordinator of the fair, I can say firsthand that it is a unique and fabulous event.  Numerous preschools and other kids’ activities attend to showcase their programs.  It is the event where you as the shopper can comparison shop for preschools under one roof.  Take your list of questions and go booth to booth!  It is a fabulous way to start comparing different schools.  This year, the Preschool/Tot Fair is on Saturday, March 16, from 10 – 12 at the Veterans Building.

If you’re outside of Sonoma, check your local mothers club to see if they host such an event.  If they don’t, maybe start one.

 

Thanks for reading and letting me share my musings with you.  I hope this article is helpful.  I’d love to know what helped you pick a school?

If the Twos are Terrible then What the Heck are the Threes?

For years I have been hearing about the terrible twos.  And, yes, with little ones finding their independence the twos can be and were most challenging.  Now though that I am experiencing the threes, I am wondering why the twos got so much hype.  Why isn’t anyone talking about the threes?

Today must have set some sort of record.  The day started off with what was supposed to be a lovely short trip to the store which quickly reminded me why I prefer to shop solo. Bobby wanted to hold the box of kosher salt, then he wanted to throw it on the floor, then he wanted to grab something else, then he screamed for no reason.  All within a ten minute period.  I won’t go into what happened after the grocery store, but let’s just say more of the same thing.

Wanting some guidance, I did a little research to help me understand what this behavior is all about.   Some articles on websites like BabyCenter explain that tantrums are about the child gaining independence and that children will tantrum as a result of being unable to express how they feel.  These articles were totally unhelpful to the parent of the child who knows how he feels but just seems determined to pitch a fit.  After digging some more, I came across an article on WebMD that was informative.  Children between the age of 3 and 4 have a hard time knowing the consequences of bad behavior.  Allegedly after awhile a tantruming 3 year old will learn that the behavior results in a some sort of consequence and as a result they’ll tantrum less.

What should the consequence be?  Some experts suggest time outs, others just a lack of attention.  Apparently ignoring the tantrum can work well.  And for me, it has worked.  But what do you do when they’re tantruming in public.  One expert advocated for the parents to remain calm and detached.  After reading that, I started to wonder if they had kids.  It’s so hard to stay calm when your child is sprawled out on the ground somewhere with a group of onlookers.

Lucky for me, I got to try to stay calm. On the way to the park, Bobby had a meltdown. At first it was about a green dinosaur – he wanted it, then he didn’t want it, then he wanted something else, and went back to wanting the dinosaur.  Usually, I try to talk him down from his tantrum.  This time it was clear that my usual approach wasn’t going to work. So, I tried something new.  I ignored him.  I tried to keep my cool and counted to ten.  By the time I got to ten, he simmered down and was looking out the window.  So, maybe there is something to ignoring the tantrum.

Applauding Bebe: The Battle Hymn of the Eagle Mom

There has been a lot of hype about the different ways to parent.  Not only does the discussion go significantly beyond spanking or not spanking, foreign cultures are being praised for their different, more intuitive approaches.  Now the question becomes does one subscribe to the Tiger Mom mentality, or the French, ‘Bringing up Bebe’ parenting style?   Before answering that, we should stop and ask what ever happened to the good old American Mom?

The book ‘Bringing up Bebe,’ by Pamela Druckerman, does offer much to think about.  By praising the laissez-faire style of French parenting, the book in essence criticizes American parenting styles, much in the same way as ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’.

With stories lauding infants who sleep through the night by four months of age, children who dine patiently during multi-course meals, and kids who play independently at home while parents have adult time – the laid back parenting style supported by the book begins to sound attractive.

The thought of being able to sit down at a playground and have a conversation with a fellow mom rather than chasing after my little sprinter (who has been complimented by strangers for his speed) struck a chord.   After all, it would be nice to enjoy a bit of an adult life amidst the chaos of mommyhood.

Then, I read on.  As a foodie, I took to heart the discussion about how the French encourage children to eat a variety of foods.  Described as a “cultivating a child’s palate,” Druckerman gives examples of how the French diversify a child’s culinary tastes.   French children experience a variety of foods in not only their home but also school.  In fact, there are government meetings, Commission of Menus, during which time multicourse meals are charted out and scheduled.   For example, one meal would start with a salad of shredded red cabbage and yogurt, proceed with white fish with dill sauce with a side of potatoes, after which the children would enjoy brie cheese, and lastly, a baked apple for dessert–straight from the wish list of Jamie Oliver, and drastically different from the pizza and hot dogs we Americans are known for.

After reading about children who enjoy fish mousse, I started to become a convert.  It wasn’t until the end of the book where things got a little more interesting and, for this mama, the proffered parenting style became less attractive.

The role of praise within French parenting struck a dissonant chord.  According to Druckerman, French parents “don’t believe that praise is always good.  The French believe that kids feel confident when they’re able to do things for themselves, and do those things well.  After children have learned to talk, adults don’t praise them for saying just anything.”

Another approach was recently described by the Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, who explains how children can develop  their own personal inner praise.  Basically by having children work hard to accomplish things, they develop an inner praise and confidence when they reach their goal.

Druckerman kindly jokes about how Americans praise the smallest things like kids jumping on trampolines.  Yes, I am guilty of cheering on Bobby as he jumps.  What is the harm? Arguably doing so will encourage children, i.e. Bobby, to do things purely for praise.

This is compared against the French model where praise is intentionally withheld.  Praise is not only withheld by parents, but also doctors and teachers as well.  In fact, children are to expect criticism.  Now mind you, Druckerman throughout her book gives examples of French toddlers doing exceptional things.  She describes in detail a   three year old making yogurt cake entirely by herself  –  measuring ingredients, cracking eggs, and even filling muffin tins.

So why not praise the cake-making child for accomplishing these things?  By praising the little things are we really hindering more than helping our children?  But what is the alternative?  Acting indifferent to the cake making child, or criticizing the eggshell in the batter?

It would seem that actively withholding praise and promoting criticism would lead to having children work harder to seek approval.  And, it seems that some experts out there agree.  The Raising Children Network out of Australia is an impressive partnership of organizations addressed the issue by acknowledging parents who praise children “might be worried that [their] child will start needing the approval of others to feel good.”  According to the Raising Children Network such an approval response isn’t the case.  “

In fact, children who are criticized all the time are more likely to seek approval to feel good.”

From experience with my two-and-a-half-year-old, Bobby, I can say that that praise seems to be everything.   I can even see at his precious age how happy he is when he accomplishes something – when he pieces together a train track or whisks pancake batter, Bobby has a distinct smile.  Often he exclaims “I did it!”  With so much confidence, he tells the world about his triumph.  If I were to subscribe to the French view, then I would respond by acting disinterested or pointing out that the train track isn’t quite finished.

So, I had to ask myself, what is the real harm of praising his accomplishments? Where will this lead?  Or the converse, where will withholding praise lead?

Encouraging accomplishment whether it is putting away a toy or later getting good grades, would seem over time to encourage productive behavior.   Work hard and secure good results to obtain a reward.  This is a quintessential American philosophy, dating back to the Puritan culture that landed on Plymouth Rock.  Maybe this is why American workers have been found as being more productive than others internationally — This is after Japan’s productivity boom of the 1980s and the recent productivity surges by Chinese and Indian workers.

It turns out that praise is important in developing confident children.  In the Right Way To Praise Your Kids, Heather Hatfield, explains that “not giving enough praise can be just as damaging as giving too much.  Kids will feel like they’re not good enough, or that you don’t care, and may see no sense in reaching for their accomplishments.”

The question becomes what is the right amount of praise?  According to Hatfield, “Experts say that the quality of praise is more important than the quantity: if praise is sincere and genuine, and focused on the effort, not the outcome, you can give it as often as your child does something that warrants a verbal reward.”    The article goes on to list examples of ways to praise your kids.  Giving descriptive praise – praising the effort that went into the action is singularly the best way to praise your child.

It seems by praising specific efforts and actions, a parent can help their child cultivate an inner sense of confidence.  So, American mamas like me are on to something.  From now on, I will continue to praise Bobby’s accomplishments.  I’ll be more descriptive though –  be applauding Bobby’s determination in piecing those train tracks together, or the coordination and focus in whisking batter in a bowl.   And, even if it’s not on the same level as making a cake from scratch, I’ll let him share his triumphant smile with the world.