Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Big Boy Night Night Routines

Last Friday James had his 18mth doctors appointment.  It went fairly well.  James is growing, he is 33 inches tall (70%) and weighs a whopping (sense my sarcasism) 24.10 lbs (30%)!!!  At this point, the doctor is not concerned with his weight as he is gaining, so we are happy with our tall peanut.  Luckily, companies such as Gap have prepared for these growing discrepencies and have nicely placed adjustable waist bands inside their clothes -- a godsend for us since James is in 2T's for lenght but could be confortably in 12-18mth for his waist.  James is not showing signs of Autism and is finally talking up a storm.

The only "thing to do" that came out of the doctor's appointment was what I had been fearing...No, it was not fully giving up the binki, in fact, our doctor told us that he doesn't care what or even how much James uses one until he turns two.  (We are still trying to limit his use to night time, but we are not as super obsessed as we were trying to be).  The thing to do was to stop letting James take milk to bed.

James has been taking a sippy cup to bed, and it has worked well for us, but the doctor said no more -- its bad for his teeth and it can lead to an increase in ear infections.  Therefore, we officially stopped giving him milk at bedtime.  We started on Saturday night -- we give him a cup of milk at 7pm, then we brush our teeth at 7:20pm then off to the bedroom to read 3 books (always ending with Goodnight Moon where we pretend to eat the bowl of mush and we tell the whole room hush).  James took his binki out to give me a night night kiss and then confusingly allowed me to carry him to his crib.  He cried a little and even threw out the water sippy cup we had put in there -- just in case he still needed the security of the cup.  James cried for maybe 2 minutes and then he was out.  Even better,  he slept better that night than he has been.  We have now been doing this for 5 nights and its going pretty well.  James still doesn't go to bed without crying, but its getting shorter and shorter and he is sleeping better and better. 

I think that James will fully adapt to this new routine and start to go to bed as easily as he once did with the milk.  It is kind of funny looking back and thinking how much we were dreading this day-- getting the official STOP from the doctor (even though we knew we probably should have stopped about 3 mths ago).  We really didn't think our schedule driven child would adapt so well, but we definitely under-estimated him.  He is doing great!

Changing routines, I believe, can be (and is for us) just as hard on the parents as the kids.  We as parents worry every time we change an aspect that we think our child is attached too -- how is going to effect them, are they going to hate us, are we going to be able to stand our ground.  But at the end of the day, I truly believe that schedules are the best thing for our young children.  Yes, we have veered off scheduled -- which is good because it teaches James to cope, but overall, we stick to a pretty structured routine.  This takes a lot of stress off of James, and a lot of times us.  He knows after lunch we wash our hands and walk to the bed room, say bye to all the people and then he goes down for a nap till 2:30/3pm and he is not taken a back when we say its time for bed.

We have friends that are not schedule oriented and they wait till their kids just drop and fall asleep.  If this works for them and their child that is great -- but how does that child re-act if all the sudden they need to put structure in their life?  I am not really sure, and I can't answer that, but what I can say is that my child asks to go to bed, and does not seem surprised when we tell him its time to eat, sleep or play.  He seems at ease and much happier when we are on-schedule and he knows what the day is going to entail -- for this we are a happy family unit and we are truly happy that James was able to adapt so nicely to the new bedtime routine without milk!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Clean Up on Aisle 15!!

I think of all the articles / lists I have read that tell you what you absolutely need to cart around with you while out and about with a baby / toddler and I laugh.  Seriously, the books would have you packing your entire nursery and then some.  Furthermore, I always laughed when they said to make sure that you have an extra shirt for yourself.  In James' first 18mths of life, I never packed extra clothes for myself.  Yes, I have shown up at work and realized i have a little dribble of milk or spit up down my back or even snot on my shoulder -- but seriously what working mom hasn't experienced this?  I feel like it goes with out saying that every now and then you will be showing the world that you have a kid by what is on your shoulder / back and the fact that you are walking around as if its not there (the reason for this attitude -- you don't know its there till some stupid person points it out and makes you say CRAP!).

Needless to say, I have officially learned when a parent SHOULD pack extra clothes for themselves.  This all began last Friday.  I received a call from daycare that James had a slight fever and that he needed to be picked up.  So, I hung up the phone with daycare and called the Doctor.  With everything that has been going on with this kid, I wanted his ears checked before the weekend.  So, I left work, got home, picked up the diaper bag, a change of clothes for James, a snack including milk and water, and some toys.  When I got to daycare James was striped down to almost nothing to try and keep him cool. We scooped him up and I packed him into the carriage, briefly spoke to the teacher and found out that he had refused to eat his morning snack and his lunch. Joyous.

So, we get to the doctors office and I know that he is truly not feeling well because he is happily just lounging in his stroller and doesn't want to move or to be touched.  So, we go back into the room, and of course I have the huge stroller and we get the smallest room in the world -- in hindsight I should have left the stroller in the waiting room. So, they strip the baby down, weigh him, and take his temperature -- which was 102.6! now i have a burning up uncontrollably cranky baby, oh fun!  The doctor comes in and wants to know what is going on, sits down and then it starts -- World War III of vomiting.  Now when I say vomit went everywhere that is an understatement.  I am now covered in head to toe vomit, and James just wont stop -- I am thinking my god where is this all coming from?  Its in my hair, under my vest, in my shirt on my bra, down my pants, in my underwear and has even soaked through my sneakers into my socks.  Somehow, the baby only has some pooled onto his bare leg and the floor is just covered.  The pediatrician is trying to soak up the vomit that has landed and pooled into every crevice of my body and clothes using those stupid worthless industrial paper towels.  The kind of paper towels that are worse then soaking up liquid then an actual tree.

So needless to say, he is more or less smearing the vomit into my clothes.  Then he starts stating "clean up on Aisle 15!" while trying to get the door open to get some fresh air in, meanwhile I am trying my damnedest not to puke on my own child. Finally he turns to me and states "looks like he had yogurt and blueberries today" -- at that point I turned six shades of green and state "nope that is his milk from this morning and blueberries -- that is all he ate".  Inside I am screaming stop talking, stop talking!  So, I turn to my phone pick it up, dial Matt and start screaming that he needs to leave work, get on the damn subway, get home to get me cloths!!! Then I take a breath and re-group...we get through the rest of the appointment without anymore episodes.

Now James is exhausted falling asleep and I have to change into the jacket that thank god i brought (even though its 70 degrees out!!!).  So now I am leaving the office with vomit ever where, trying to find out where Matt is --- and all I can smell is vomit!  I finally meet him outside the T stop and we stop at Gap (so I can get some new clothes). I literally grab a t-shirt and pants put it on in the dressing room, go up to the counter pull out the tags that are still attached to the clothes I am wearing and throw my leg up on the counter so they can remove the security tag thing.  Then the checkout guy asks having a good day -- I looked at him and said, "no not really -- see these (i lift up my original clothes) they covered in puck, can I have a bag please?"  The poor man looked at me, obliged and gave me a bag.  We then were off to the grocery store to get pedialite and all the things necessary to keep James happy and hydrated! 

At the end of all of this, I have learned that I should bring at least an extra shirt when going to the doctors, that I can actually not sympathy vomit and that I need to learn to settle down when things go spiriling out of my control.  I really didn't need Matt to come home and rescue me, but I had no other way of possibly reacting and I just couldn't confront what was actually happening.  Now, I know we can get through it and sometimes - even though it may absolutely stink - I need to take a deep breath, and not react so irrationally (much easier said then done, but hopefully I can learn to practice this.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Getting Rid of the Binki

James has had a couple of great weeks at daycare. He really hasn't biten anyone, and over the last couple of weeks he has even learned to say the word "stop" and put up his hand to re-enforce this.  The gesture and the word have helped James dramatically in his interactions with his peers.  He now knows he has control -- which is truly a breath of fresh air.

Now that his biting is under control, and hopefully a thing of the past, we have decided to torture ourselves a little bit more, by limiting James' use of his binki to just sleep times.  We are truly at fault for over-encouraging our son's attachment to his binki.  The binki has become a staple item needed to help calm James down -- so much so that he truly relies on it to soothe himself.

The true issue with this is that he isn't fully learning how to self-soothe, and we have taught him that instead of expressing his emotions its easier to just "suck" them away.  Now when he gets tired, frustrated, angry, or even sad -- he goes to find his lovey and his binki.  This is the behavior that we now need to change, we need to teach James that its alright to express himself and his emotions, even if that means we have to deal with tantrum after tantrum.

So, long story short, we started this week to limit binki time to just the time when James is in his crib.  It pains me to watch him have a trantrum in the morning because he has to leave his binki in his crib, or when he comes home at night and is exhausted and goes over to the kitchen crying and reaching for a binki.  All and all, I know its hard for him, he doesn't understand why all the sudden we aren't allowing him to have to the binki, especially when we, his parents, were the ones teaching him to use it to begin with.  Hopefully though as the week progresses he will realize that he truly does not need this sucking devise to get through the day.

You ask if we get rid of it during the day, then, when do we get rid of it at night?  We aren't quite sure.  We aren't going to force James to give up the binki at naptime and bedtime for a while.  He usually only needs it to fall asleep and usually can find it in the middle of the night if he needs it.  Hopefully, by him learning he doesn't need to rely on it during the day, then he may realize that he doesn't need it at night.  Who knows, it may not work out this way, but we will have to determine when the right time (if ever) is to break yet another habit, we as his parents enstilled on him.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Best Friend - The Baby Whisper

In my past blogs I have vehemently blasted articles that constantly tell moms what they do wrong, and this week I was fortunate to come across a new book, The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers by Tracy Hogg (I will refer to this book as SBWT from here on out).  I loved her book for babies and the advice that she gave worked very well.  So, needless to say, I scooped this book up and I have already read it from cover to cover.

As a working mom its hard to find the support group of other mothers, especially when so few of your close friends even have children, let alone live nearby.  We try to find time to meet new moms and do play groups, but a lot of time we find ourselves driving to Connecticut so not only can our child have a play group, but we can have a play group with the parents -- talking about the struggles of being a parent and how to deal with all the every day life, oh and to also laugh (something I think all parents need to do, otherwise you just wont survive).  Therefore, I know I rely a lot on books and blogs, and that is why I was so happy to find SBWT.

When I started reading SBWT I felt at ease -- she understands what I am dealing with.  It is so amazing to be able to take a simple test, and find that the description that ensues is pretty much your child.  All of the other books lump all toddlers into one type, who should develop all the same and in the same way.  SBWT recognizes, much like her baby book, that there are different types of toddlers -- they all have different little personalities.  Because of these personalities we need to approach each of our toddlers in a different way, we need to identify how our toddlers react and what is their driving force.  I found this view a breath of fresh air.  SBTW went into ways to get ahold of normal everyday problems with your toddler -- and she doesn't blame the parent.  I love how she teaches parents to be stronger and to be more positive.  To find the balance between overbearing and loving -- to give independence but still be the guider.

Furthermore, the book really made me think, we have issues with our son crying when he gets up in the morning.  We have subsequently instilled the "making the crib" a fun place to be in during the day when he is awake.  Using the method taught in SBWT for only one day our child woke up this morning -- whimpered a little and before I even got to his bedroom he was happy and playing in his crib.  We are going to keep moving forward with this technique and hopefully we will soon have a baby who wakes up happy in the morning.

Lastly, SBWT made us seriously sit back and think about such things as introducing the potty and giving up the binki...all things we knew where looming, but the advice given was so positive and realistic it made us realize that the sooner we do these things the better for our child, because he is not going to give up the binki overnight and he isn't going to be potty trained over night.  But, if we put the foundation in now, we will be able to really succeed when we start the processes.  That said, we are going to get a little potty for James to sit on in the bathroom so he is aware of it and not afraid, and then when he is ready to really start potty training he isn't afraid.  And, finally, we are going to start getting rid of the binki after we succeed with the step at a time.

Overall, this book made me remember to enjoy my "spirited" toddler and helped us to guide him through this very up and down time -- I must say that SBWT had an email that it quoted in the book, which says it all and makes me look at toddlerhood in a whole new light -- the emailer said that she looked at her toddler as he/she was going through PMS evey single day, and imagine doing that and not being able to speak, express yourself, etc.  Of course there are going to be days of hiting, biting, tantrums but that will make the good moments that much better!

I only wish I could call Tracy today to tell her, unfortunately she passed away to cancer in 2004 -- but, I am still grateful for her wisdom and gentle approach to motherhood.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Do Not Do This To Your Child

Recently there was an article on (which I love, and every parent should subscribe!) that talked abut the 10 innocent ways parents negatively affect kids' behavior. After reading through the article, I think there are some valid points, but while every point has some validity, I believe that some of those actions are not as awful as this list makes it out to be.

1. Clapping every time your baby achieves some small goal -- Praise the process, not the outcome. Raising a child to be aware only of the value of a successful outcome is likely to extinguish natural achievement motivation and a joy of learning. I agree with this to a certain extent, but, especially in the beginning, praising for any step accomplished help encourage young children to keep trying. Also praising when a small goal is achieved gives small children the necessary confidence to keep working on the skill, whether its trying to get a puzzle piece in the right spot or even building and knocking down blocks. I think that parenting through praise is a whole lot more effective and gives our kids self esteem and teaches them that any accomplishment matters.

2. Overusing "No!" to correct a baby's behavior -- We all tend to overuse the word "no," causing it to lose its value. "No" should be reserved for dangerous situations, so that your child knows you really mean it. Instead, start telling your child what you would like her to do, instead of what you don't. That's how learning takes place. HAHAHA...sorry I have to laugh at this. Your average toddler cannot full understand everything you are saying. You can explain things in their terms but you don't always have the time to say "do not throw your food, because food belongs on your plate or your tummy." Seriously! We have found that we use different versions and tones of "NO's"  has helped. Many times we say "no, no, no" in a nice high tone, but when a strict "NO" is needed we use it in its single form very sternly. James knows the difference. We do explain things, but books and songs also do a great job of teaching our children in a fun and effective way.

3. Entertaining competitive parenting thoughts -- It happens to the best of us. You go on a play date with your 20-month-old and notice that his playmate knows his color! On the way home, you buy every flashcard, cue card, color card you can find and begin a crash course in colors with your toddler. Nothing like flashcards or a stressed out parent to take away the joy of learning from a child. Kids learn best through play and real-world learning. Don't let your parenting anxieties get the best of you. I agree with this 100% -- there is no need for competition. James is way ahead in somethings and behind in others, it all evens out and if you start out competing at this age you will only become more obsessed later in life and you will end up being that mom or dad that is banned from little league or soccer.

4. Talking so much that babies can't focus on words -- We know that face-to-face interaction, speaking, reading, and labeling nurture our children's language development. But that doesn't mean that we have to narrate entire days. When it comes to language, remember the rule, "word in, first word out." Children have to be able to hear the word, see how your lips move to form the word, and connect the word to the item. This is very similar to point #9.  I agree that we don't have to talk to our children all day long and its good for them to have quiet time -- they will often try to seek this too.  I do think it is important to read and sing to your child -- make it interactive, especially when singing and they will be able to start to understand the meanings of words.  Show them in books what that cow is...don't just read the words, but use it as a tool to teach language.

5. Using products to speed up gross motor development -- Some people swear by walkers or jumpers to speed up gross motor development. But in actuality, they don't turn crawlers into walkers any faster than nature does. In fact, they build muscles not critical for walking, and can even be dangerous (if they tip over or topple down stairs).  I agree with most of this statement, and I think many toy / baby gear companies do too, as it is near impossible to find a walker, like many of us parents used when we were babies, now a days.  Let your child explore, and cruise.  When we felt James was ready we introduced the new type of walker -- a toy that lets the child hold on and walk forward.  This allows them to use and develop all the walking muscles necessary and not just develop the leg muscles while sitting, which does not develop the necessary core muscles to fully walk.

6. Using punishment to change bad behavior -- Even though you may feel like punishment works, it usually only curbs the behavior temporarily. As your child adapts to your punishment, unwanted behaviors tend to return faster. The best way to get your child to do what you want is to reward desired behaviors with praise and positive attention, while ignoring minor misbehavior. Always remember that attention promotes behaviors. I agree with only one part of this -- to praise good actions.  We have been struggling lately with James' behavior, i.e. biting and hitting.  He is doing this because he is frustrated and does not have the language necessary to communicate his feelings.  That said, we can't just ignore it when he hurts someone...he has to learn that it is wrong.  We have taken the following steps, saying NO, and placing him in a chair away from all of the action, and then giving attention and hugs to the person he has hurt.  This way he can see that he does not get attention from his bad behaviors, and learns that it will not get him what he wants.  We are also really encouraging him to use his words, such as help, no and stop.  We praise him profusely for using those words, especially when he is frustrated and we have seen marketed improvement.  Now, when he bites, he immediately knows he has done something wrong.  I know that we will be keeping this parenting style for many years to come.  That said, we also do not over punish our child, we let him know when a behavior isn't correct but we really don't dwell on it. Praising for positive actions really does work as well as teaching positive actions such as how to be gentle, etc.

7. Not considering your baby's unqiue temperament -- Some babies immediately love to swing. Others may find swinging scary at first. If you force your child into a situation you assume should be fun or educational, without taking her temperament into consideration, you'll end up exacerbating her fears and causing what eventually could be pleasurable to remain aversive. This is so true...its so funny how one kid loves to swing, and another loves to bounce.  James has always hated to swing but we do try it at the park and give him lots of encouragement -- still to this day he hates it, so we really don't try to push it.  He will come around when he is ready.  It is truly funny how even as small infants they are able to show you their temperament and likes and dislikes.

8. Finishing tasks for your child. It can be frustrating to watch your child try to fit a piece in to a puzzle or construct a tower out of blocks, to no avail. But if you demonstrate the correct way to do it, or do the task entirely, your child won't learn to master frustration tolerance or be motivated to stick with a task in the future. I somewhat agree with this...frustration sometimes gets in the way of finishing tasks so its our job as parents to calm them down and show them how to work through the frustration.  As James was learning to put puzzles together or put shapes in a whole, he often didn't get the idea that you had to change the position of your hand to get the shape to fit in the whole.  We would take the hand and show him how to move it so the block fit, then he would drop it in.  Then the next time, you could see him trying to use that motor skill -- it was a task that we tried to do together but with him doing the brunt of the work.  We have really found that this really helps limit the frustration level and has made him more curious and more accepting of doing things on his own.

9.Believing background noise is stimulating or beneficial -- Even mild background noise at home (television, radio, children playing) can impair a baby's ability to pick up language. Babies need to see the face of the person talking, and are easily distracted when the background noise is at the same sounds level as the person speaking.   I agree with this all though we do play a lot of music and a lot of it has taught James body parts, sounds and even help in his motor skills.  We love to sign the "itsy bitsy spider", "The Wheels on the Bus", "Head Shoulder's Knees and Toes", etc.  We do try to keep the TV off, except in the morning.  James loves Barney, Yo Gabba Gabba, and the Wiggles -- interesting all music oriented shows, and so we do let him have TV time, just to not much and not before bed.

10. Giving attention to limit testing and minor misbehaviors -- What we see as big manipulative is often just our children's tendency toward misbehavior that we may have accidently reinforced (by giving attention). Instead, the trick is to focus on what you want your child to do, rather than to waste all of all of your energy and angst on what you want your child to sotp doinjg. Start catching your child being good, and pay attention to that! This is truly the same thing said in #6 -- just re-worded differently.

In the end, I believe as parents there are so many ways we can do things "wrong" but there are many more ways we can do things "right".  I believe instead of reading these article that are so "how you are harming your child" focused that we should be concentrating on how to best influence and teach our children.  If they learn positive attitude now, it will stay with them for life.  We are such a negative society in so many ways and it is very interesting being a first time mother and finding that so many of the guides are in fact "what not to do". How about we start looking at whats working and why and start field guides that are titled " 10 ways their parents positively influence their children."  You could have the exact same article above as the author described how to change the negative attitude.

Finally, I also think that each child has their strengths and weaknesses and each child will need to be parented differently.  I look at myself and my siblings.  It is so funny how we can share the same exact experience and come out with completely different views, feelings and stories.  No one child is going to fit into all the molds parenting books and articles set forth.  Get to know each of your children and decide what type of parenting style works best for bringing out the wonderful person that they are.