I find it so valuable to look back at the posts throughout the year, which really resonated with parents. There were some amazing articles published in 2015!
I asked my parenting educator colleagues to send along their most shared posts and was delighted to be looking through incredible, well-written information. I suggest book-marking these posts and reading them as you have time. The content here will certainly help you to be at your parenting best.
Here is a roundup of some of the great parenting articles written this year.
Kelly Flannigan Bos, MSW is an individual, marriage, and family therapist. As a mom of two very active children, she knows to find moments of calm amidst the busy-ness. Kelly wrote a very helpful post: 24 Clever Activities to Keep Busy Toddlers Happy.
One day, the daughter of Ariadne Brill, founder of Positive Parenting Connection, yelled, “You are an IDIOT, Mama.” Ariadne’s response shows great awareness: instead of yelling back, she realized her daughter wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, she was expressing the disconnect between the two of them. In this post, Positive Parenting: Punishing Misbehavior Doesn’t Have to be the Answer, Ariadne shares how to handle this kind of situation while strengthen the relationship at the same time.
Alice Callahan, PhD is a trained research scientist with a doctorate in nutrition. Alice shared that her most-read post of 2015 answers a common question mothers of babies have: What is your opinion of starting solids at four months versus six months? You can read Alice’s answer to that question in her post, Starting Solids: 4 months, 6 months, or Somewhere in Between? Alice’s book The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year is also my suggested reading for all parents with babies—she does more thoroughly address this question and more here.
Tracy Cutchlow, a former editor at the Seattle Times and author of Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based On Science, wrote about a great sleep tip to help keep your child in his or her bed at bedtime. The technique is called: “Excuse me.” Read more here: ‘Excuse me’: A sleep doc’s secret for getting kids to sleep on their own.
Children who have more heightened sensitivity to their environment can end up releasing this irritation as tantrums—sometimes many of them. Mona Delahooke, PhD, is a pediatric psychologist who writes about children with special needs. In her popular post, When the Tantrums Won’t Stop: Understanding the Impact of Sensory Triggers, Mona shares what parents can do to address this situation.
Joanne Foster, EdD, author of Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids, wrote a popular post about why fostering creativity in children is key. Joanne writes, “Whatever the circumstances, creativity is an important foundation for learning, productivity, and success.” Read the full article here: Why Should Creativity Matter to Kids? What’s the Big Deal?
This article is wonderful; it helps us understand how to increase our children’s happiness: 4 Ways to Raise Happy Kids in Times of Stress. I’m not surprised it was shared widely, because the writer of this post, Katie Hurley, LCSW, also wrote the successful book The Happy Kid Handbook. As a parenting educator, I receive and read many parenting books each year; this has become one of my favourites!
I’m not sure if this was the writer’s intention, but I laughed my way through this article. Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure, and contributor to The Atlantic and The New York Times Motherlode, wrote this hilarious and very helpful post about being clear with instructions: Special Care Instructions.
Sarah MacLaughlin, LSW, has been studying about and working with children for twenty years. In those years, she has learned that one of the most “potent” bits of parenting information received is that punishment does not work. Sarah wrote a post about why punishment won’t help increase cooperation, improve relationships, or positively change behaviour: 4 Reasons Punishment is For the Birds. I suggest passing along this article to your children’s caregivers who are still using punishment and you would prefer they didn’t.
A concern that parents share with me is they want to avoid raising an “entitled” child. This is certainly a valid concern because we can inadvertently turn our intention to be very helpful into over-parenting. Thankfully, Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, released a book to address this topic called, The Me, Me, Me Epidemic. Amy shares some of the key messages of her book in this popular article from Maria Shriver’s website: 6 Tips for Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in a Self-Absorbed World.
Alanna McGinn, founder of Good Night Sleep Site, and one of my favourite sleep educators, wrote this helpful post about setting bedtime limits with toddlers: Four C’s of Setting Limits—Banish Toddler Bedtime Sleep Struggles. It is so important that parents and their children get enough sleep. We are all better when we feel rested.
Susan Newman, PhD, a social psychologist, wrote this very interesting post addressing the issue of bullying—of parents. Based on an interview with psychotherapist Sean Grover about his book When Kids Call The Shots, Susan explains what parenting styles are more likely to trigger bullying and what can be done: The 3 Types of Parents Who Get Bullied By Their Own Children
Casey O’Roarty, founder of Joyful Courage, passed along her most shared post. The article, Three Tools for Taking Back Bedtime gives parents tools to reducing defiance at bedtime. The end of the day can certainly be a tricky time when everyone is tired and desperately needing rest.
Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, author of Tomorrow’s Change Makers wrote a beautiful post about how to increase the happiness and well-being of every child. Through the story of a boy who lost his life in the Boston marathon bombings, she explains how parents can teach children about kindness. Martin Richard was the boy’s name, and he inspired many with his poster: “No more hurting people.” Read more in Marilyn’s post: Acts of Kindness: Teaching Children to Care.
Sarah Remmer, RD, wrote this very popular post about a bad habit parents can inadvertently get into (me included!): How This Well-Meaning Habit is Enabling Your Picky Eater. What is that bad habit? It’s grazing! Thankfully Sarah sets us on the right eating path.
Nicole Schwarz, MA, LMFT, author of Positive Parenting for Imperfect Families, addressed a question I often receive by parents: what do you do when your child back-talks your requests: “No! I don’t want to go! You never let me do anything fun!” In Nicole’s post, How to Respond When Your Child is Disrespectful, she shares tips for responding to this kind of remark.
There are many aspects to life that our children learn just by watching us. Empathy, communication, and manners are some of those big concepts that are absorbed by our children less through teachable moments and more through how we act. Licensed social worker, Andy Smithson, LMSW, wrote this article to inspire us to think about what we are teaching our children in those non-teachable moments: What are we teaching our kids when they’re not listening?
I have had the fortune of co-hosting book events for New York Times bestselling author, Rachel Macy Stafford, founder of Hands Free Mama. I just love chatting with her—she is so genuine and inspirational! It isn’t surprising to me that Rachel’s most shared post this year was this one: The Conversation I Almost Missed & the Future It Could’ve Cost. Rachel has a real gift for turning tough parenting moments into moments of change.
And lastly, I’d like to contribute my most shared post of the year: 32 Phrases to Use With 3 and 4 Year-Olds. It has been shared over a quarter of a million times! Parents were contacting me with comments like, “I need to tattoo these phrases on my arm!” and, “Wow! These are life-savers.” I took these comments to heart and developed an app for that! The Taming Tantrums app is now available for iPhone & Android. I’m so grateful the app has actually reached the #1 spot on the worldwide iTunes education chart.
Happy reading! The books I have mentioned above are all excellent: I recommend reading those, too. Very best wishes for a wonderful 2016!
After a rushed morning, getting my young boys out the door to a function I needed to attend, I pulled into the event parking lot a bit flustered. While thinking about what I had to do to get ready for this event, I heard a bang. I swung around in my seat to see that my son had opened his car door with too much “oomph,” and had hit the vehicle next to us.
For the first time in my parenting life, I said a swear word, which I had been trying so hard not to do in front of them. Actually, I said it a few times. My children both got very quiet. It took all I had to not freak out! There was so much I wanted to say and do but I forced myself to just stop talking. I’ve coached other parents to calm first, talk second, and I had to make myself listen to my own words (which was really hard!).
I walked around to my son’s side of the car to discover that our red door had left quite a substantial ding in the new white SUV’s front quarter panel. I stared at the dent until my mind reminded me that I was late, along with the thought: this is going to cost us some serious money. More importantly, I was afraid someone was going to come running out and yell at me! This was certainly fodder for a big reaction from an angry person.
I told the boys to get back in the car while I quickly wrote out a note for the driver of the other vehicle. They started asking lots of questions, but I said, “Please be quiet right now. I’m very angry. I need to write this note and calm down.” Fuming, I carefully wrote out an apology, leaving my name, phone number, and email address. I put the paper under the SUV’s driver side windshield wiper. I really did want to get the heck out of there! I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to leave my car right beside that one, but decided it was the best thing to do.
I walked straight over to my young son who looked very worried. I said, “Sweetie. You made a mistake that might cost us some money. I know you didn’t mean to bang that vehicle. Let’s all make sure we are very slow when we open car doors.”
My son whispered, “Mommy. I’m so sorry.”
“I love you and I forgive you. We all make mistakes.” As we quickly walked away from the car, I remember thinking that I needed to explain what I had done. I said, “Guys, we could have moved the car and not put a note under their windshield. How do you think they would have felt when they came out to discover this dent?” Both boys agreed that the other vehicle owner would have felt mad and sad. “It was our ding so it is our responsibility to take the yucky feelings and consequences—not them. We have to do what is right… to leave a note… even though that might cost us money and cause someone to get really angry with us.”
They smiled at me and my young son jumped in front of me to give me a big hug. I could feel a huge crease in my brow, so I wiggled my shoulders out and said, “Let’s carry on bravely. We can handle this.” I said this but I was feeling pretty down and quite scared.
As we came back out of the event later that morning, I noticed that the white SUV was gone. There wasn’t an angry note on my windshield or a loud message on my phone. I braced myself: expecting to hear from them shortly.
Days, then two weeks passed until one day I saw an email with “White Buick” in the subject line. I was afraid to open it! I began reading the note, holding my breath.
Here are the words that were in the email:
Sorry for the late response. I would like thank you for leaving the note on my truck. Not many people nowadays acknowledge opening a car door on someone else’s vehicle. By my late response I'm not too worried about it. I work at a body shop anyways.
Thank you again for being honest.
I got to the end of the note with tears flooding my eyes. My sons saw this and ran over to me, “Mommy, what’s wrong?” I showed them the email. My older son could read it: he smiled, hugged me, then returned to his piano playing. My younger son asked me to read it to him, which I did. His eyes got so huge—I won’t forget the beautiful look on his face. He gave me the biggest hug.
I whispered to him, “This might not always happen, but it is so important to be honest. This lady gave us a huge gift. I’m so thankful.”
He smiled and said, “Me, too!”
I was able to reply to the email sharing our gratitude (I have tears in my eyes even as I write this). I hope the woman who sent this note knows how much her generosity of spirit means to us. This was a beautiful act of kindness. There are so many reports of bad things happening in the news; it was good to be reminded of how amazing and wonderful people can be.
I believe it is so important to use these experiences as teachable moments for our children. When my kiddos and I got home, I talked with them more about how scared I was to leave my name and contact information for the other driver because I didn’t know how that person would react. We chatted about front brain and back-brain stuff and what I did to get my actions under control so I didn’t make things worse. We also talked about what to do if this person called to yell at me (validate their feelings but also remind them I wanted to correct our mistake and yelling wasn’t necessary.) There were certainly many ways this could have turned out so I’m very pleased it happened the way it did. Have you had a similar "teachable moment" with your children? I'd love to hear about it: please do post a comment here or over on my Facebook page.
I knew last night’s bedtime was going to be tricky when I spotted my youngest son jumping back and forth across the room from his bed to his brother’s. I was right: it took him quite a long time to settle down. I don’t blame him, though; it is pretty hard to get to sleep when we are very excited about what’s happening the next day.
I feel the same way as him when we need to get up early to catch an airplane! I can’t tell you the number of times I wake up to make sure the alarm is set.
I’d like to add some points to a post I wrote last year about creating good conditions for sleep. In addition to keeping our children off screens at night, connecting with them, and making sure they had enough outside time, here are some techniques to try for helping our children who are just too excited to fall asleep.
There are two areas to consider that cause our children (and us!) to be too revved up to sleep: active minds and restless bodies. First, I’ll share two strategies for calming a child’s mind at night:
You may have heard the recommendation to make your to-do lists and write your thoughts out before heading to bed to “get things off your mind.” The same strategy can work for children. Get a blank piece of paper and ask your child to draw the thing he is feeling excited about. If your child is old enough to write words, encourage that.
Ask him to talk all about this thing/ event/ person until he feels it is all out. I suggest doing this before you start the bedtime routine. Focus on the feelings words mad, glad, sad, and scared so those feelings have an opportunity to move through and not keep your child awake.
It would be great if you have time to do this activity first and then go for a walk outside afterward. If it is already dark, hold hands and use your senses to see, hear, and feel what happens outside at night. This combination of thinking about the exciting thing first, voicing or drawing it, then walking in fresh air is incredibly helpful to let the excitement settle.
Again, before starting the bedtime routine, ask your child what he needs to feel ready for the next day. Some of the responses to this question amaze me! Perhaps you’ll hear your child say: “I need to pick my clothes,” or “I need to make a pile of the things I don’t want to forget,” and maybe, “To go see my LEGO (yet unassembled) set one more time.”
*Here are two techniques to try calming the body down: (These techniques happen after our children have completed their bedtime routine and are in their beds.)
Ask your child to lie on his back, and sit in a place where you can reach both arms at the same time. Gently, yet firmly squeeze your child’s arms right under the shoulders, then move down a little and squeeze again. Continue inching your way down the arms, slowly squeezing as you go. When you get to the hands, squeeze in between and on each knuckle, then finish up with squeezing the flesh between the thumb and first finger.
Move down so you can reach both of your child’s legs at the same time. As with the arms, squeeze both legs above the knee and continue down the legs onto the feet. Slow, firm squeezes on the feet should stop any ticklish responses. You can try squeezing in between and on the toe joints to see if that’s helpful. Again, end by squeezing the flesh between the big and second toes.
If your child lies still after you do that, try snuggling a bit before you leave. If he is still fidgeting, try this process again. Check in with your child to ask if he likes this kind of touch and adjust it (more or less firm) as necessary.
Do you or someone you know sleep better when they have a heavier blanket on regardless of the weather? I do!
Weighted blankets are often used as part of occupational therapy for children who have anxiety, sensory overwhelm, are stressed easily, and on the autism spectrum. Children without these experiences can benefit from this same strategy!
Try using a heavier blanket on your child—perhaps lower the temperature in the room to accommodate for this.
In addition to having a heavy duvet, I sometimes put my leg over my son’s legs and arm over his arms when he is just too squirmy to lie still. While doing this, I breath slowly on his face. See if this works for your child: you’ll be able to tell if the bit of weight helps or not. Make sure you let your child give you feedback if these strategies feel helpful or not.
If your child is continually agitated at bedtime, I suggest enlisting the help of a trained mental health professional or sleep educator. Not getting enough sleep can often be the root of a lot of other problems that might look like “misbehaviour.”
If you would like some resources to help with sleep and bedtime, I suggest reading The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon, MFT and Julie Wright, MFT, looking through the bedtime section of my Taming Tantrums app (for iPhone & Android), or contacting sleep educator Alanna McGinn and her team at Good Night Sleep Site. I also invite you over to my Facebook page where I post positive parenting resources.