Parenting

5 Reasons Your Child Should Journal This Summer (and how you can get them started)

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Whether you have a major family vacation this summer or you plan to take a more low-key and local approach, your child is sure to have some fun experiences and adventures.  Capturing these experiences can be done a variety of ways, and one way is to write them down! Journaling has many benefits for children (and adults, if you would like to join in on the fun).  Even very young children who are not yet writing can journal!

First things first: it’s important to make sure you get the right journal for your child.  If your child is a writer, take them to your local bookstore or office supply store and have them select a journal or notebook they like.  This small act of choice will make them more likely to use it than if you decide for them.  Keep in mind the size of the lines on the pages should be a consideration; early writers often need slightly larger lines to make handwriting a bit more comfortable for them.

For children as young as three years old that have not started writing yet, a drawing journal is your best bet.  We love this one, as its large, spiral-bound pages hold together well and provide plenty of space!

In addition to the journal, you can just use whatever pencils, markers, or other writing utensils you have on hand.

Journaling can be done daily, whenever the child has experienced something special, or just as the mood strikes.  Remember to encourage your child to date each entry, or date it for them if they are on the younger side.

On to the benefits…

1. Journaling is an excellent creative outlet.

Whether the journaling consists of drawing, writing, or a combination of the two, having a designated place to record our thoughts is a perfect way to encourage creative thinking.  This is a space that is truly the child’s own, and they get to write their own perspective in a way that is pleasing to them.  They are likely to explore rich language, dialogue, or testing out phrases they have heard others use.  Use of color can help convey different meaning and feeling, and they will experiment with this!

Creativity is the place where we come up with new ideas, ways to solve problems, and take risks in a way that feels safe and supported.

2. The practice can help children observe the natural world.

Maria Montessori was a scientist who believed strongly in the power of observation, and as educators who follow her methods, we hold this practice in high regard.  Taking the time to notice what is going on around us, using our senses, and recording these observations helps us make sense of our experiences.

Did you and your child move worms from the sidewalk after a rainstorm?  Did they discover pieces of a crab shell on the rocks by the beach?  Did you spot an interesting mushroom while walking in the woods?  If it sparked something in your child, encourage them to write about it as soon as you get home.  They likely learned something important in that moment, and writing about it will solidify that learning, and perhaps lead to even more.

3. Journaling is a great way to explore emotions.

Children experience the same range of emotions we do, but they have not yet developed all the skills for making sense of them or regulating them.  Having a place to write down their feelings is a healthy habit to build, and a positive way to work through difficult situations.

There is something to be said for getting our thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper.  Even if no one else ever reads it (and your child may prefer it that way), finding words that express our emotions can feel validating. 

The next time your child is feeling sad, angry, frustrated, or even joyfully elated about something, remind them that their journal is a great way to feel their feelings and figure out what they can do with them.

4. Using a journal helps children record important memories.

What would you give to have a childhood journal detailing your summer vacation adventures?  Perhaps you do, and it’s a treasure you will hang on to and share with your own children.  Starting a journal while we are young is a gift that keeps giving.  In the moments that a child writes in it, they reap so many positive benefits.  Months or even years later when they return to their writing, they will be able to relive the memories.

So many of the small moments we experience are fleeting.  If we don’t take the time to acknowledge them, they are gone forever.  A written record helps us enjoy those moments forever.

5. They will become better writers (even if they’re not writing yet).

Just the act of retelling what happened - in words or pictures - is great practice for writers.  Features such as logical sequencing, main events, and supporting details will become naturally woven into the pages of your child’s journal.  Like anything in life, the more we practice, the more proficient we become.

For those that are beginning to write words, they will have unlimited opportunities to experiment with vocabulary, punctuation, and sentence structure.  Without the pressure and confines of standardized conventions (like a teacher correcting spelling), they will feel free to stretch and take risks as writers.  While conventions are important in formal writing, the development of unique and authentic writer’s voice is just as difficult and perhaps even more important.  Having a journal all their own creates the perfect space to learn what their own voice sounds like.

We hope your child enjoys trying our journaling this summer.  If you find the idea inspiring, give it a try yourself and journal right alongside them.  Happy adventures!

5 Simple Ways to Show Her You Care on Mother’s Day

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Everyone loves to feel appreciated.  With Mother’s Day coming up next Sunday, it’s a great time to think of how you might show the moms in your life what they mean to you.  We offer five simple ideas to celebrate and care for the woman who cares for everyone.

1. Remember to have a card ready.

You could absolutely buy a Mother’s Day card; there are plenty of great ones out there.  Another option (that is free and will likely be treasured forever) is to have your children make a card.  Be sure to write the date inside!  Some quick ideas for children of all ages:

Infants - Paint those chubby little hands and/or feet to make a print on the front of the card.  On the inside you could write a few reasons why you think she’s great, or use one of these beautiful poems: 

“Home” by Carl Sandburg

Here is a thing my heart wishes the world had more of:
I heard it in the air of one night when I listened
To a mother singing softly to a child restless and angry in the darkness.

“Mother, A Cradle to Hold Me” by Maya Angelou

It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
It owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.

Full poem here: https://adoption-beyond.org/mother-a-cradle-to-hold-me-by-maya-angelou/

Toddlers - Let them draw a picture on the cover, then interview them!  Ask them fun questions and record their answers inside the card.  A toddler’s perspective of the world is sure to make their mother laugh (and perhaps melt her heart).  Some ideas:

  • What is your mom’s name?

  • What is your favorite thing about mom?

  • What is mom’s favorite thing to do?

  • What is mom’s favorite food?

  • How do you know mom loves you?

Preschoolers - Whether they like to draw or paint, let young kids decorate the card themselves.  On the inside, have them tell you three reasons they love their mom for you to write down.  If they have started learning to write their own name, have them sign the card.

Elementary-aged children and older children - Encourage your old kids to write a letter to their mom.  If they seem hesitant, it’s okay to brainstorm ideas with them.  Ask them to think about what’s special about their mom, what they love about her, or a time she did something really nice for them.  If they love art, they can find a special way to incorporate that, too.

2. Take your time and enjoy brunch.

You have two options here: go out to eat or make a meal at home.  Think about what she would love best!  If you choose the former, think ahead: many popular brunch spots require reservations on Mother’s Day.

If you’d like to tackle making brunch at home, you can make it special without it being complicated.  Some ideas:

  • Place fresh flowers and a couple candles on the table.

  • Make her a fun drink.  Think herbal tea, flavored coffee, or a mimosa!

  • Try a new recipe.  This one for crepes is sure to be a hit: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/16383/basic-crepes/

  • Have the kids help!  They can assist you in cooking, setting the table, serving Mom, or even cleaning up afterward.

3. Get some fresh air together.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate and you can enjoy a gorgeous spring day together.  Consider a spot near your home that will be low-key and fun for everyone.  Would she enjoy a stroll in the park?  A short hike?  A visit to a nature preserve?

To make the experience extra-special, make sure to do all the planning and prep work.  It’s not easy getting young children out of the house!  Gather water bottles, diaper bags, and snacks.  Get the children’s shoes on, buckle them into their car seats, and do whatever else you can to give her a minute or two extra with that cup of coffee.  These gestures will not go unnoticed!

4. Pamper her.

We would like to re-emphasize that this does not need to be complicated.  Just like with brunch, you have two options: outsourcing or doing it yourself.  

Does the mom in your life enjoy spending time at spas, getting manicures, or treating herself to a massage?  If so feel free to book her an appointment or even give her a gift certificate to her favorite spot.  

Is she the type of mom who never seems to have time for herself?  If so, make sure to build some into the day.  Some simple ideas:

5. Give her something sweet.

One thing that is sure to bring a smile to her face?  A sweet treat!  For most moms, you can’t go wrong with chocolate, but think about her individual tastes.  Whether she’s into cheesecake, candy, croissants, or ice cream, make sure you have some on hand.  As with many of the other ideas we have mentioned, this special Mother’s Day dessert can be store-bought or homemade.  

Mothers give so much because they love their families.  No matter how you decide to celebrate, she is sure to appreciate the time, effort, and love you shower her with.  Enjoy!

Math on the Go!

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You already know that reading aloud to your child daily can have a huge impact on their literacy development.  Did you know that doing math together at home is also important?  By integrating math into your daily lives at home, you as parents are teaching your child not only that math really is applicable to our daily lives, but that you value it as an area of study.  Finding a variety of ways to work through problems together prevents children from developing the self-narrative of “I’m not good at math” before it ever starts.  

Looking for tips to get started?

In the Kitchen

While there are likely nights you need to whip up a quick dinner, get everyone fed and off to bed, it can be nice to find ways to invite your children to cook with you sometimes.  Doing so has a host of benefits, including the development of practical life skills, confidence building, and family bonding, but there are also plenty of opportunities to learn about and practice math skills.

Consider what it takes to make a meal.  From reading a recipe, to combining ingredients, thinking about cooking temperatures, and even how long to cook a meal, there are a wide variety of skills your child can experience first-hand: 

  • Reading written fractions in recipes

  • Comparing differences in volume while adding measured ingredients

  • Adding fractions or utilizing fraction equivalencies

  • Using multiplication or division when halving or doubling a recipe

  • Calculating elapsed time while waiting for a treat to bake

  • Understanding units of measurement concerning temperature

At the Store

Shopping is one of those frequent life necessities, and we often have our children in tow.  Turn this family chore into a fun learning experience by incorporating math.  Here are some ideas for a variety of ages:

  • Counting specific items

  • Identifying numbers on signs

  • Estimating costs of items

  • Rounding costs of items to the nearest dollar and adding mentally

  • Identifying coins and their values

  • Comparing price and quantity to determine product value

  • Weigh produce on the scale

  • Use addition or multiplication to determine cost when buying multiples on an item

  • Determine how much change will be received from the cashier

In the Car

Whether you’re making the quick drive to school in the morning or settling in for a lengthy family road trip, it’s possible to incorporate math skills along the journey.  The key is to make it fun and not work!

  • Notice numbers on signs.  Talk about place value.

  • Similar to the alphabet game, play the number game.  Look for numbers outside and call them out in order.  “I see a 1 on that sign!’  “I spotted a 2 on that license plate!”

  • Play a shape-finding game.

  • Clue kids into mileage information.  Have them figure out how far you’ve traveled or how much further you have to go.

  • Keep track of time.  Solve problems similar to the mileage ones.

  • Make your real-life word problems multi-step: ask your child how their answers might change if you need to drive a certain number of miles or minutes out of the way to make a stop.

  • Estimate fuel costs, both before you arrive at the pump, and guessing how much the tank will need to fill.

  • Skip count together in silly voices.  Count by 2s, 5s, 10s, and more!

The Backyard

Believe it or not, your own backyard is likely full of real-life math opportunities.  Whether you’re gardening, making repairs, or building something together, keep an eye out for things like:

  • Size comparisons: which tree is taller? Wider?

  • Notice the temperature.  If you’re really motivated, keep track over a week and make a graph.

  • Measure everything!  Younger children can stick to non-standard units.  “How many ‘mommy feet’ long do you think this piece of wood is?  Now let’s try your feet!”

  • Kids love to use adult tools, so show them the correct way to use a measuring tape.  Start with length, and explore perimeter and area with older children.

  • Kids always seem to be collecting small objects.  Use these rocks, acorns, or sticks to count, add, or subtract.

  • With older children, use seeds for math before planting.  Show them an array and how it relates to multiplication and division.

  • Estimation opportunities are everywhere.  How many leaves are on that branch?  How many insects might we find under this log?  How many dandelions are blooming right now

No matter where you are or what you’re doing, your children love just spending time with you.  Finding simple ways to incorporate mathematical thinking can be a fun way to squeeze a little bit of learning out of an already enjoyable experience

Remember to ask your child lots of questions, but don’t feel like you need to give them the answers right away.  When we discover something for ourselves, the information is so much more powerful.  Of course, if they seem confused or ask for help, it’s okay to model and teach!

Let us know what you learn together!

Chores: They’re Good for Your Kids!

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Chores: the word has such a negative connotation.  But does it need to be that way?

Do you remember doing chores when you were growing up?  For some of us, we remember them as a negative consequence.  For others, we never had them and it took us a while to learn how to do them as adults.  Still others remember helping out around the house but not thinking it was a big deal.

It’s all in how we, as parents, frame it for children.

How we present the concepts of chores makes all the difference.  Having kids pitch in isn’t just helpful for us (because, let’s face it, it’s often more work for us on the front end), it’s really good for them, too!

What are the benefits?

There are so many important reasons to incorporate regular chores into your children’s routines at home.  Here are just a few:

Developing independence

As Montessorians, we see great value in teaching kids to do things for themselves.  It feels incredibly empowering to master a task and be able to complete it by oneself.  Young children are at the perfect age to begin this work, as they are constantly looking for ways to do things independently.  

Fostering a sense of belonging

By giving children ways to contribute to maintaining the home environment, you are effectively letting them know they are a valued, important member of the family.  Besides, working side by side to tidy up is bonus time spent together, and couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

Learning practical life skills

We all need to learn how to do our laundry, wash our dishes, and pick up after ourselves.  Just like children need guidance when learning how to read or add, they need the same with basic life skills.  When we get down to their level and show them how to do the job, we are setting them up for a future of success as adults.

Options for all ages!

Well, we can let the infants take a pass here.  Even young toddlers, however, are perfectly capable of learning some basic chores.  The following is a collection of suggestions.  It would likely be far too much to implement all at once, or even for one child to be wholly responsible for an entire list.  Think of it as potential inspiration, or guidelines to help you determine what your child is developmentally capable of.  

Toddlers (yes, toddlers!)

Even little ones have a lot to offer around the house.  Start small and offer child-sized tools.

  • On the floor beside where your child eats, use painter’s tape to create a small square.  Using a small dustpan and brush, show your child how to sweep the crumbs into the square, then into the dustpan.  It can be fun to keep the dustpan available on a nearby hook, beside a small container of colorful pom poms or the like.  Your toddler will love practicing!

  • Teach your child how to fold napkins.  Keep a small basket with napkins in it available for them to practice.

  • Let them help set the table.  Watch their tiny face light up at being given such an important task.  Resist the urge to straighten things out when they’re done!

  • Teach them to put their own toys away and be consistent about having them clean up as soon as they are finished playing.  They may need some help, but they are capable of putting toys back into a bin or on a shelf.

Preschoolers

This is a great age for children to learn chores. They are able to do more than we often think they can, and they are so excited to help! 

  • Clear the table.  They will probably need to make multiple trips to avoid breaking dishes, but they will delight in collecting plates and cutlery to bring to the kitchen.

  • Teach them to wash the table.  First, show them how to carefully brush crumbs off into their hands (you can also buy a special crumb set here if it’s easier: https://www.forsmallhands.com/small-crumb-set ).  Next, show them how to wash the table with whatever method you prefer.  It can help to have a small bucket of soapy water with a sponge and dry cloth.  They will need lots of modeling (remember to emphasize wringing out that sponge!).

  • All that sweeping practice they had when they are toddlers?  It can continue now, and they can also learn to mop.  Remember that child sized tools make it easier for them to get the job done.

  • Kids this age can feed pets, although they may need you nearby.

  • Give preschoolers the task of choosing and laying out their own clothing.  In the beginning they will need guidance as to what is weather-appropriate.  Be prepared for some outfits you will perceive as wacky but take that moment to appreciate their blossoming independence and sense of personal style.

  • Show them how to care for plants.  Chances are, they’re already doing this in their classrooms at school to some extent.  Teach them how to water and talk about how we know when plants need water.

Young children

As the child gets older they are capable of so much more.  Children ages 5 through about 8 are very competent, though they may be a bit less enthusiastic than they once were.  Building chores into the family routine will make this easier for everyone.

  • Children at this age can fold and put away laundry.  Start small: a full load of laundry to put away by themselves the first time will only set them up for frustration.  Sit together and teach them how to fold various items.  Sort through clothes and let them choose a category the first few times.  For example, they may fold all the shirts while you work on the rest.  Slowly increase their responsibilities as they gain the skills necessary to complete the task.

  • Kids who are eating lunch at school can help pack it themselves.  Teach them how to make a sandwich, chop vegetables, and even how to select a balanced variety of foods.  Remember that choice and independence are very empowering.

  • Let them empty the dishwasher.  If they can’t reach a particular shelf, keep a step stool nearby.

  • Chores that are tedious for adults, like dusting or washing the baseboards, are great fun for kids.  If it gives them the sense that you trust them with an ‘adult’ task, they will likely be thrilled to give new tasks a try.

  • Depending on their size, let them vacuum rugs.  

Older children

Again, as certain children get older you may be met with initial resistance whenever introducing a new chore.  Try to keep it light and fun, and present it as a positive: as we get older we may have more responsibilities, but we gain new freedom and privileges.

  • Weeding the garden is a great task for older children, but they’ll likely enjoy it more if you’re weeding alongside them.

  • They are now old enough to do the laundry.  Start small and set the expectation that they do their own laundry.  They will need reminders, but having a system (a basket of their own and perhaps a sticky note with how-to reminders) will help get the job done.

  • Again, depending upon the child’s size, they are likely able to take out the trash and recyclables.  

  • You may consider increasing their responsibilities in regards to pet care.  They may be able to walk the dog, clean dirty cages, and do some basic grooming.

  • If they haven’t already learned, now is a great time to teach them how to make their own bed.  This includes learning how to change the sheets.

  • If your child has been attending a Montessori school, they’ve been learning how to prepare their own food since they were 3 years old.  Take advantage of that knowledge base and let them make lunch for the family once in a while.  They may even want to try more cooking or baking on their own (but with supervision).

Teenagers

Teenagers are able to do most, if not all, of the chores we do as adults.  Remember, we are not suggesting they do all of these chores all the time, but reinforcing the idea that they are capable of any of them will help set them up for success.  Sitting down together and agreeing on a schedule or rotation might be a good starting point.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Let them mow the lawn or rake the leaves.

  • Have them wash the dishes.

  • Give them a chance to watch younger siblings while you run errands or go to an appointment.

  • Teenagers can do some more thorough cleaning, like wiping down counters or washing the bathroom.

  • Let them cook dinner.  Instead of viewing this as a chore, they may enjoy the opportunity to choose the recipe and help shop for the ingredients themselves.

When giving a child of any age chores to do, the key is to find balance.  Chores are so important for their development, but so are things like play, reading, time together as a family, and time with friends.  Be aware that children can often do more than we think they can, but also be aware of the big picture that is their life.  

Looking for more ways to cultivate independence?  Montessori may be the answer.  Call us today to learn more.

How to Build a Better Lunch

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Lunch.  It’s something we enjoy every day, and if your child is at school you’re likely helping your child pack one.  We’re here to help you turn this often mundane chore into a fun, healthy, eco-friendly, Montessori-style part of your child’s day.

Pack it up!

As you likely know, Montessori schools rely on the use of natural materials.  In our classrooms we tend to use materials made of wood, glass, and natural fibers.  Although it’s not always possible, we think it’s great when families find ways to incorporate the same approach into lunches.

Let’s start with the lunch bag itself.  You can pick one of these up almost anywhere, and it’s a great idea to have your child reuse the same one from year to year.  Find something durable.  Some families pack the types of lunches that would benefit from having an insulated bag, so consider that as well.

Are you crafty?  Want to create something really unique?  Check out this tutorial that will teach you how to sew a paper bag-inspired reusable lunch bag:

Whatever bag you choose, it’s helpful to have some reusable containers that fit inside.  Many families find stainless steel to be an ideal option for their children, as it’s more eco-friendly than plastic, but a lot less likely to break than glass!  Here are some models that have worked great:

  • LunchBots offer a wide array of shapes, sizes, and configurations.  Choosing a couple different boxes to pack together allows you space for a sandwich on one box, and fruits, veggies, and whatever else in another.

  • PlanetBox provides an all-in-one solution.  The stainless container opens to reveal multiple compartments for different foods.  They come in various sizes, and kids love choosing the customizable magnets that decorate the outside.

  • Multi-tiered bento boxes, like this one, are another great option.  The metal clamps pull off to release 2-3 layers.  This makes it easy to pack different types of food in a small space without everything getting mixed up.

What’s inside?

The actual contents of the lunch are the most important part.  Involve your child in the planning process as much as possible and you will find them much more likely to eat what you pack.  Keep these tips in mind when you get ready to shop:

  • Ask your child what vegetables they would like for the week.

  • Chop vegetables up on Sunday night so you can grab a handful daily.

  • Always keep favorites on hand.  Does your child love peanut butter and jelly?  Make it your go-to and have plenty of everything you need.

  • Use leftovers: dinner can become lunch!

  • Buy lots of fruit.  Kids love it!

  • Think about extra protein options that will keep your child’s energy up throughout the afternoon.

These lists may be helpful if you’re looking for inspiration.

Note: It is very important to know about allergy policies for your child’s classroom.  Some of the items on this list may not be safe for every child.

 

Fruits

Banana

Apple

Pear

Grape

Melon

Pineapple

Kiwi

Berries

Mango

Orange

Apricots

Peaches

Plums

Pomegranate

Guava

Papaya

Cherries

Vegetables

Cucumbers

Bell peppers

Celery

Carrots 

Fennel

String beans

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Salad greens

Tomatoes

Pumpkin

Seaweed

Squash

Asparagus

Sweet potato

Jicama

 

Proteins

Meats 

Fish

Dairy 

  • Yogurt

  • Cheese

  • Milk

Eggs

Legumes

  • Chickpeas

  • Beans

  • Peas

  • Lentils

  • Lupins

Tofu

Seeds

  • Pumpkin (pepitas)

  • Sunflower

  • Sesame 

Nuts (*Be aware of classroom allergies*)

  • Almond

  • Cashew

  • Macadamia

  • Pistachio

  • Walnut

Grains

Quinoa

Rice

Oats

Corn 

Pasta

Cereals

Bread 

  • Whole wheat

  • Tortilla

  • Bagel

  • English muffin

  • Baguette

  • Pita

  • Naan

  • Pizza dough

  • Biscuit

  • Corn bread

  • Lavash

  • Pretzels

  • Croutons

  • Challah

 

Don’t forget…

Please pack a small cloth napkin and placemat for your child to use.  It’s okay to pack two cloth napkins with the intention that one will be used as a placemat.  When groups of children sit together at lunch, there isn’t room for a full-sized placemat.  You can use whatever you already have at home or find them just about anywhere.  

If the food you pack requires cutlery, please pack some of the reusable variety.  You can use what you already have at home, but if you are looking for a nice child-sized option, these are lovely: 

https://www.forsmallhands.com/cooking/serving-clean-up/children-s-hammered-flatware-set

Some classrooms have cups for children to drink from, but it can be nice to pack them a reusable water bottle for lunch as well.  

Most lunches won’t require an ice pack, but in case you include something that may spoil it doesn’t hurt to have one or two small ones in the freezer.

Do you have any lunch tips or ideas to share with us?  Let us know!

How to Handle Challenging Behaviors

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This post goes out to the frustrated parents.  (So, likely all of us at some point.)

Challenging behavior is an unfortunate part of growing up and parenting.  We know that it’s normal, we know our children need to experience it to grow and learn, but that does not make it any easier in the moment.  If you are anything like us, you might pause from time to time and ask yourself, “What would Montessori do?”

There are no perfect answers, and Dr. Montessori would have recognized that what works for one child will not necessarily work for the next.  We can, however, rely on our knowledge of human development and typical child behavior to help guide us.  We hope this post will provide you with some helpful tips!

As Montessorians, we tend to follow a hierarchy when we address issues with children.  We look at:

  1. The environment

  2. Ourselves

  3. The child 

The Environment

Environment affects us all, and as adults we can carefully craft an environment that suits the needs of our children.  This is why Montessori guides meticulously create classrooms with a specific order and flow to them, and why they are constantly observing and analyzing what should remain the same and what should change.

We feel confident in saying that most of the time, a change in the environment can change the behavior.  Some examples:

  • Does your toddler enjoy dumping the contents of whatever they can find?  While this is a very normal stage for them to go through, it can cause a lot of extra work for us as adults.  Limit their options!  Keep dumpable baskets and boxes up higher where your child cannot reach them and rotate them on a regular basis to keep their interest going.

  • Have you noticed your three-year-old spilling their snack and frequently leaving crumbs behind?  Leave a small dustpan and brush in a space where the child can access it.  You will likely need to show them how to use it many times, but they will get it!  When they do, the joy they will feel from sweeping will be adorable.

  • Are mornings with your seven-year-old rushed and chaotic?  Make a list and post it where they will see it (perhaps the bathroom mirror).  What do you expect the child to do independently in the morning?  The list may contain items like: brush teeth, get dressed, brush hair, eat breakfast, and so on.  Make sure everything they need to get ready is in one centralized space.  Have the child prepare as much as they can the night before to ease the pressure when they are tired.  They can pack their own lunch and lay out their own clothes.

  • Is your teenager having a hard time focusing on their homework?  Create a distraction-free zone.  Have a clutter-free desk in a quiet area of the house.  Make sure devices like cell phones are left to charge in a completely different area of the house.

Ourselves

This is perhaps the hardest part for many of us, but sometimes children’s undesirable behavior is tangled up in our own actions and/or perceptions.  Some questions you may want to ask yourself and reflect on when you feel frustrated include:

  • Is this behavior truly a problem?

  • Are my expectations appropriate for the child’s age and developmental stage?

  • How might my reactions be contributing to the behavior?

  • Am I well rested/fed/de-stressed/fully able to work with my child without letting my own problems be a factor?  

  • Are my reactions based on my own experiences as a child?

We realize that these can be some pretty deep questions.  Our jobs as parents are hard enough and there is no need to be judgmental, especially of ourselves, but reflection can be helpful.  We also know that it’s not always possible to deal with a child’s behavior while being completely stress-free, well-rested, etc., but it can be helpful to recognize when we might be playing a role in what is going on.

The Child

Sometimes there really is something going on within the child that needs to be addressed, and it can be a simpler explanation than we might expect!  Some possibilities to consider:

  • Is the child getting enough sleep?

  • Is the child hungry?

  • Is the child getting sick (coming down with a cold or the like)?

  • Is the child entering a growth spurt or new developmental phase?

  • Has there been a recent change in the child’s routine?

  • Are there changes occurring in the family?

Sometimes a child might be upset about one area of their life and behaviors manifest in a completely different way.  For example, an eight year old may be facing friendship challenges at school.  Instead of talking about the problem, they may unintentionally take their frustration out on the parents.  This is a common occurrence when a child has not fully understood why they are upset, are unable to articulate the issue, and yet feel safe to be themselves fully at home.  Of course we must set expectations that our children are to be kind, but having this insight may help get to the root of many issues.

Regularly talking to our children, especially as they get older, can be very helpful in helping them navigate through the common (yet sometimes painful) experiences of growing up.  Many families find that bedtime tends to be when their children speak freely about what’s bothering them.  Even as your child gets older, set aside time in the evening to be together.  This can be time together reading, cuddling, or talking about the day.  

Final thoughts

Two last bits of advice that are perhaps the most important: do not expect perfection and find yourself a supportive group of parents to talk to.

We know our children will not always be perfect, and neither will we.  Children will push boundaries and make mistakes - lots of them - and as parents we won’t always know the best way to handle things.  We will learn together.

Having a group of parents that you can vent to and celebrate with is so helpful.  Whether you meet up for coffee, chat on the phone, trade tips on Facebook, or sit on the sidelines together at soccer games, remember to reach out to others.  We are all in this together.