Sunday, May 26, 2013

Television-Smellevision (Who needs it?)

Well, we survived our first 24 hours without the TV.  In fact, we had an amazing day!  Here are some of the things I have learned already:

1.       The kids really don’t care about the TV after all.  First thing this morning my daughter asked if she could watch a show and my son led her into the living room to show her the sheet over the television and reminded her of the challenge.  They then moved on to the playroom to get out some toys instead.

2.       Putting a sheet over the television was a genius idea, if I do say so myself.  I didn’t have to remind the kids of our no-TV challenge a zillion times – they looked at the TV, saw the sheet and knew that they weren’t going to watch it.

3.       The television doesn’t actually have to be on for the kids to be entertained by themselves.  I had a lovely long shower this morning while the kids played with Play-Doh and snacked on orange slices.  Who knew that was possible?!

4.       There are lots of quiet things to do other than watching TV in lieu of nap time.  For instance, just as our fun day was turning into a mid-afternoon of arguing, whining and crying (exactly the moment when I would normally reach for the remote control), the kids and I sat around the patio set, crunched on our apples and enjoyed a riveting game of I Spy with My Little Eye.

5.       I actually had a lot more time to myself when I was engaging with the kids all day, if that makes any sense at all.  My focus was on them, (which they loved), but I could also do this:
And in so doing, I made this:
Thanks to this tutorial I found on Pinterest.)
All in all, a lovely day.  Tomorrow is a brand new one – here’s hoping it’s just as productively wonderful.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

the day i took the tv away

CONFESSION: My children watch too much television.

It’s not like they’re a couple of little robots sitting in front of it all day or anything, but they'll usually watch a show or two first thing in the morning, a movie in the afternoon and another movie or another couple of shows before bed. 
We’ve been using the TV as a means to keep the kids quiet while we get things done around the house, a way for them to cool down in the afternoon in lieu of taking a nap and, if I’m being completely honest here, it’s also been a case of lazy parenting.  It’s just easy to put on a movie and let it keep them entertained for a little while.
A couple of movies and a show didn’t seem too terrible at first thought.  When I stopped to think about it a little more though, it dawned on me that it was 3.5-4 hours of television every day.  Over 24 hours of TV a week!  It has to stop so I’ve just introduced my family to the NO TV CHALLENGE.  That’s right, I’ve taken it away for one week.  Not too much time, but enough to hopefully make a huge impact on our family.
My husband refused to help me physically remove it from the wall (he said that was taking the challenge a little too far), so this is what I did:

This is the reaction I got from my daughter:

And this is the reaction I got from my son:
Wish me luck!  It’s going to be a long week.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why I support my daughter's love of the Disney Princesses

Every few months or so, social media is surging with links dissing the Disney Princesses.  Articles and blogs by proud mamas that dress their daughters up as real-life heroines or send their daughters to school as superheroes on princess day fill my Facebook news feed.  Don’t get me wrong, these are important lessons to teach our daughters.  I might add though, that the majority of people sharing these articles and blogs either don’t have kids or don’t have daughters.  It’s easy to have an opinion on something when you don’t live it. 

Believe me, I said the same thing.  I was going to protect my kids (both of them – my daughter AND my son), not only from the horrendous female role-models that are the Disney Princesses, but from the Disney branding itself.  And I did, for a while, but then they went to daycare and school, and were suddenly exposed to all sorts of things that I wasn’t prepared for.  Next to the junk food and toy guns that other people let their kids have, the Princesses are the least of my worries.

And here’s why: I am a strong, independent woman.  I not only manage the household and its finances, I fix things when they’re broken, I take out the garbage, and I cut the grass.  I take care of myself, I stick up for myself, and these are the female traits I’m teaching my kids purely by example.  I am the leading female in their lives.  I am the role model that they learn from every day.

So what if they love to watch Rapunzel fighting off the bad guys with her frying pan?  It’s no different than watching the carnivores in Dinosaur Train hopping on public transit or the Mystery Inc. gang running from goblins at the amusement park.  It’s make-believe.

My kids have have amazing women in their real lives every day, and that makes me okay with some Disney Princess magic when they play.  After all, isn’t magic and make-believe what being a kid is all about?

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Incredible Years Program Part 1: Play With Your Child

 The Incredible Years puts play at the foundation of their parenting pyramid.
I know, I know.  You already play with your kid, right?  That’s what I thought too, and then I started being mindful of HOW I was playing with mine.  I quickly realized that I was the one leading the play, I was always within arm’s reach of my phone, and I was playing just long enough to get my kids occupied so I could sneak away to load the dishwasher or get started on dinner.  I wondered why my kids were still so desperate for my attention (positive or negative) when I was spending so much time with them.

The Incredible Years program recommends playing with your kids for just 10-15 minutes every day.  If the kids are in school and both parents are working outside of the home, there really isn’t much more time available after homework, dinner, bath and bed-time routines are done.  If you have more time to spare, your kids will love it.  If not, don’t sweat it – a dedicated 10-15 minutes (per kid, if possible), is all you need to make a difference.

Here are a few tips to make your play time most effective:

  1.  Put down your phone, turn the TV off and give your child 100% of your attention.
  2. Let them lead the play, even if it makes no sense or goes against what you think they should do. They might want to start colouring before they’ve finished a puzzle – that’s okay! Just do whatever they want to do during your play-time.
  3. Don’t play a competitive game, especially with a younger child. It’s better to play with unstructured toys such as dolls, trucks or blocks.

There were three sessions dedicated to play.  (THREE!  That’s SIX HOURS of class time!)  The most important thing I learned during this section of the program was the concept of descriptive commenting.  This is talking like a sportscaster while you’re playing.  It might sound like, "You're colouring the car red" or "You're putting the doll in her bed."  Sounds crazy, but I always asked questions ("What colour is the car?" or "Where is the doll going?") when playing with the kids because I thought that was what I was supposed to do and that I was “teaching them” but apparently, when you ask too many questions, they feel like they're performing rather than playing and it takes all the fun out of it for them.  Once I stopped asking and started describing, my kids were way more engaged.  Believe it or not, just making these changes and being mindful in how and when I played with my kids, made a huge difference in their behaviour.
Try taking these steps with your kids this week and let me know how it goes in the comments below.  Just remember to have fun and let them lead the way!  This will build their self-confidence and they will absolutely love this dedicated time with you.  Now, if you’ll please excuse me, it’s time to be a Brachiosaurus mommy searching for yummy trees with her babies!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Incredible Years Indeed

When hubby and I decided to start a family we were pretty sure we already knew all there was to know about raising a child.  We could feed it, snuggle it, change its poopy diapers – that’s all there was to it, right?  Piece of cake!
Pan to a few years later when we’re practically pulling our hair out because our 4-year old is hitting, spitting, swearing, growling and being kicked out of daycare (twice!).  Our son was clearly going through something and we didn’t know how to help him.  That was seven months ago.  That was when I left work and we looked into getting some real help. 
After what seemed like constant appointments with different pediatricians and psychologists to confirm that there was actually no diagnosis to be made, we were pointed in the direction of a 12-week parenting program called The Incredible Years.  It seemed as though, despite what we were hearing from past daycare providers,  there was actually nothing wrong with our son (thankfully!) and in fact, the problem was with how we were parenting him.  We clearly needed to brush up on our skills so we breathed deeply, checked our egos and committed to the 12-weeks.
The Incredible Years is a free program offered through the City of Hamilton’s Public Health department.  I don’t think I have ever been more grateful to live in a city with such amazing resources at our fingertips.  The change we have seen in our son’s behaviour is astounding and all because we have committed to slight changes in our parenting habits.  There were six families taking part in the program and all of us have seen amazing results in our kids.  I’m sure that isn’t a coincidence.
I encourage you to check out the resources offered where you live and sign up for the program yourself.  If you prefer the quick and dirty version instead, fear not – I will share it here every Thursday.  Parenting is a hard gig; I think we could all use a little refresher now and then.