Why is Art Important?

Isn’t art just something fun that we let our kids do to keep themselves busy and ward off the dreaded boredom?

Not so much.

Life Lesson: It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

In my own life I have struggled with allowing myself to make mistakes. Often times, I was afraid to begin a DIY project for fear I would mess it up. I could feel the struggle inside. “Just go ahead and try your idea – Oh, you’d better not, you’ll mess the whole thing up and waste all your time and materials.”

But my daughter, on the other hand, has no problem trying something new, mainly because of her art training. During high school she attended a local visual and performing arts program. One day, she came home and told me how her beautiful 3D creation had plummeted to the floor. Her instructor demanded that she, “make it work.” He told her that mistakes and accidents happened to make art more interesting and it could very well be the best 3D art she’d ever create. Well, as it ended up, her project turned out amazing. He was right!

That experience taught her that it’s okay to step out and make mistakes (and not just in art). She also learned that there’s more than one answer to every problem. And to be honest, I learned through her lesson too.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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The Absorbent Mind

Do you have a little person in your house between the ages of birth and six years old? Do you know someone who does? Then, you need to know about the Absorbent Mind period because there are some very specific things parents can do to make the most of these very important years.

This week we’ve been talking about the Montessori education method and philosophy, and in our post on creating a Montessori Toddler Room, we touched on the Montessori concept of Sensitive Periods — the developmental stages in a child’s life.

From birth to about age six, Dr. Maria Montessori identified a crucial period in a child’s development that she called The Absorbent Mind, and she believed that what happens during this period lays the foundation for all future intellectual and psychological growth.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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THE Best Potty Training Method

After having potty trained my first five kids, I had decided that potty training was surely the armpit of parenting. But all that changed with my sixth.

My oldest is autistic. That, coupled with no prior experience, made for potty training hell.

My second was born shortly after my first, and I spent so much time trying to figure out what my firstborn needed and become an expert in his disability and keep him from hurting her that potty training was not on my radar. She wasn’t trained until she was three.

When I used the 3 day potty training method to have my third potty trained before 2 1/2, I thought I was superwoman, but the whole experience was still tenuous, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull if off again. Of course, I did. Our fourth and fifth were also potty trained around 2 1/2, and each time, it felt like we were playing a guessing a game and that at some elusive point in the game, we’d guessed right and they began to put their pee and poop in the potty.

However, what was successful by day didn’t always translate to night. A few of those first five were longterm bed wetters.

With our sixth child, we learned about Elimination Communication, and I began following one blog in particular. It was written by Andrea Olson of GoDiaperFree.com (formerly of EC Simplified). When my son was a year and a half, Andrea wrote about her son’s transition to full-time potty training, and she linked to the method she was using.

Who knew that clicking on that link would change my life? Well…at least this part of my life. That day I downloaded Oh Crap! Potty Training, and since then my whole outlook on potty training has radically changed.

Now, for those of you who are planning to do as I did, and promptly download this game changing book, let me warn you…the author Jamie Glowacki is a straight shooter, no-nonsense (albeit hilarious) writer with a great fondness for 4-letter words. If that offends you, I strongly urge you to push past it and make bleeping sounds in your mind when your eyes fall upon one of them. Her perspective on this topic is so profound and her method is so effective, that is well worth overlooking some bad words. And it’s is a quick read. So keep the good; toss the bad words, and be enlightened.

I used the Oh Crap! method with our sixth child, and not only was he potty trained at 21 months (and in a just a few days!), but her method taught me how to prevent the whole bed wetting thing. So now, as Matty Jay nears the 2 1/2 year mark, he’s a potty champion who sleeps in his own little bed, in his own room and wakes up dry in the morning (on most days)!

I kept a potty training blog diary, so you can see how it all worked. Have a look, and be sure to tune in to our radio show TODAY at 10:00AM on WSRQ Radio. We’re going to interview Jamie Glowacki and talk more about the Oh Crap! Potty Training method.

Local listeners can find us on 1220AM or 106.9Fm or 98.9FM. Out of town listeners can go to the WSRQ Website and listen live, streaming or get instructions on how to download the mobile app and listen on the go.

And if, by chance you miss it, we will post the podcast here on our website sometime after Monday night.

Potty Training Diaries

Potty Training Diaries — Day 1-ish

Potty Training Diaries — Day 2

Potty Training Diaries — Day 3

Potty Training Diaries — Day 4

Potty Training Diaries — Days 5-7

Potty Training Diaries Update — Have Potty Will Travel

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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I Want a Do Over!

Sadly enough, when I was growing up my mom told stories of how she and my dad barely had enough money to feed and diaper me. She reminisces about destitute times of eating potatoes for days on end and washing my cloth diapers in the tub, sink or whatever was available to clean my butt covers and then hanging them to dry all over their one-room apartment. I would laugh and think, “Wow! We must have been really poor if we had to use cloth diapers.”

The truth is my mom had it right! Even though at the time it was all being done out of necessity, her only option was to take the natural route in almost everything she did. She fed me table food, carried me everywhere, had me sleep with her and didn’t put chemicals on my behind.

I started this post with the word “sadly.” The sad part in all of this is that during that era, all of those things were looked down upon. Only women with no money handled their babies this way.

Isn’t it sad that the cultural norm in our society says that doing something natural (the way God intended it) is basically low class?

Well, I WANT A DO OVER!

When I had my first baby I was nineteen years old. I knew NOTHING! But, my mother-in-law had FIVE children. To me, she knew EVERYTHING and was clearly experienced. Now, let’s remember, this was before the days of the internet, and I lived out in the country in a very small town where people didn’t really educate themselves about better ways to parent. They just did what their moms did.

I was schooled in the cheap way to formula feed your baby. Yep, my sweet little one enjoyed whole cow’s milk with Karo syrup and a splash of vitamins. I was instructed to NEVER let my baby sleep with me because it would cause him to be insecure and clingy.

And how about this one?

“LET THAT BABY CRY! Don’t you be pickin’ up that baby at every scream. He needs some tough love. He’ll sleep through the night if you slap some cereal down his throat and let him cry himself to sleep.”

Now, in light of all the new information I have, it hurts to even type those words.

My son Chase had cereal at three weeks old (this was 26 years ago, mind you). I’m lucky this poor kid lived through it all. Well, he did live through it, but we paid in spades with allergies.

I felt horrible. It was so hard to listen to him cry himself to sleep. So much so that I cried every time it happened. Why didn’t I just listen to my instincts? Oh, that’s right, I was inexperienced.

I can remember long hard nights of just wanting to nurse him on my side and fall back to sleep. I was told I could smother him, and it was simply unhealthy. I remember fighting diaper rash on a daily basis. No one told me that cloth diapering pretty much solves the diaper rash crisis. UGH!

All I wanted to do was hold this precious little life and smooch him for days on end. I didn’t want him to lay and cry. I wanted to hold him everywhere I went. I’m fairly certain that’s what my mom did considering that car seats (the ones we use as baby carriers with handles) didn’t even exist when I was an infant. Moms used to lay their babies in the seats next to them, no straps. (Okay, so some progress is good!)

How much easier would it have been for me to “wear” Chase than to lug him around in that heavy, clunky infant seat?

Oh, and I was told, “Don’t scrub your floors or do any type of manual labor – your milk will dry up.” What the heck?!

Then came potty training. It was so disgusting to me that my little ones pooped and peed on themselves. Okay, I’m a bit of a poop-phobe. The idea of poop touching anything is gross to me, including your own tushy.

“Just give him an M&M everytime he goes on the potty,” I was told. What? I was not into bribing my kid and feeding him unnecessary sugar (but that’s a whole other story). So, when I first heard about Elimination Communication, it made total sense to me. Of course it’s not natural to poop in your pants then sit in it and squish it all around until someone decides they’re ready to stop what they’re doing and change you! Does that sound comfortable to you? NO! It makes total sense that there is a particular cry when a baby needs to poop, and we need to learn that cue and how to communicate with our babies.

I must have been the dopiest mom ever and completely insecure in being a mom. I DID know what my baby needed. I DID know what to do, but I allowed all the voices around me to take over, first with Chase and then with my two girls.

My biggest heart’s cry for moms of babies is to know that YOU HAVE A VOICE! Listen to your instincts. Don’t question yourself. It’s okay to ask questions, seek council, do research, but be sure YOU have the final say. And ya know what? If you make a mistake, big deal – you made a mistake. You and your baby will live through it. I promise. I’m proof of that.

Do I want a do over? Absolutely! Do I beat myself up over it? No way! Reason being, my experiences now allow me to encourage moms to have a voice.

Oh, and my other regret . . . NOT HAVING MORE BABIES!! (but that’s a subject for a different post)

If you’re interested in learning more about Elimination Communication and how to potty train without M & Ms, tune into this Saturday’s episode of Parenting on Purpose with Jenni and Jody at 10AM (EDT). If you’re local to Sarasota, you can listen live on 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen to the streaming broadcast or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

So…anyone else want a do over? Or is it just me?

 

 

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

More Posts

Understanding Baby’s Cries

I guess after having six kids (Jenni here), I’ve become pretty fluent in the baby cry language. It is an actual language, you know. Don’t believe me? Keep reading, and be sure to click on the video link below. You will be blown away.

I recently had two encounters with infants that left me feel terribly frustrated. The first happened in Walmart one night. I was in the bread aisle and I heard a very distinct baby cry. I spun around and saw a young dad anxiously bouncing a newborn and trying to rock the baby in her car seat, hopeless trying to calm the baby whose cries were escalating.

There was no doubt in my mind what was happening. I’d heard that cry countless times, and I knew exactly what that little guy was saying: “Feed me!” He was hungry…very hungry!

It Seems I’ve Become “That” Lady

In my older age, it appears I’m becoming that annoying lady who tells young parents what to do. I hated those people when I was a young mom, and I vowed never to be one, but alas, I can’t seem to help myself.

“Your baby is very hungry,” I told the young dad, as gently as I could and with as much compassion as possible.

“I know,” he said. “His mom is the only one who can feed him, and she’s not done shopping.”

As I weaved in and out of the next few aisles, I could hear that baby’s cries reach fever pitch, and my blood pressure seemed to follow the intensity of his little pleas for help. I could picture him gulping down the milk (and lots of air with it) once his mom finally heeded his cries. I imagined what would follow once the air traveled into his GI tract. It would likely bring a different kind of cry, perhaps one with his knees pulled up to his chest.

Later that same week, Jody and I were working at a local Panera, and next to us was a tiny little baby. He was there with his young mommy, a grandma and a great-grandma. He was so very little that we knew he had been born prematurely. His mom said he was 4 weeks old, but he was smaller than any of my babies were the day they were born.

As the ladies passed him around and studied his precious little features, he began to cry. Although it was nothing like the hungry cry I’d heard in Walmart, I was just as familiar with this one. Jody recognized it too. He was uncomfortable, and most likely it was because he was cold.

We do live in south Florida, and it is hot this time of year, but indoors it’s pretty chilly. This little guy was wearing only a onesie — no hat, no sweater, no pants, no blanket. His arms and legs were a mottled purple, and we were picking up the message of his cry loud and clear. Her was saying, “Help! I’m cold.”

On today’s radio show, we’re going to talk about a great resource for parents called The Fussy Baby Network, and we’re also going to share with our listeners the fascinating Dunstan Baby Language, which explains the five basic cries of newborns.

Dunstan Baby Language

A number of years ago I watched a fascinating episode of The Oprah Winfrey show that introduced me to The Dunstan Baby Language, which is basically a hypothesis that there are universal infantile vocal reflexes in humans that cause five basic sounds, each with unique meaning, used by infants of all cultures before the language acquisition period.

The hypothesis was developed by a former mezzo-soprano opera singer from Australia. Her name is Priscilla Dunstan, and she says that she has a photographic memory for sounds and that this, combined with her years in the opera and her experience as a mother, allowed her to recognize certain sounds in the human voice.

Priscilla Dunstan, founder of the Dunstan Baby Language

Priscilla Dunstan, founder of the Dunstan Baby Language

She released a DVD set in 2006 called The Dunstan Baby Language. The two-disc set covers the five universal words of the language, methods of learning how to recognize the vocalizations and sounds, numerous examples of baby cries from around the world to “tune your ear,” and live demonstrations of newborn-mother groups experimenting with the language.

Between 0–3 months, infants make what Dunstan calls sound reflexes. She says that we all have reflexes, like sneezes, hiccups, and burps, that all have a recognizable pattern when sound is added to the reflex. There are other reflexes that all babies experience, and when sound is added to these, a distinct, preemptive “cry” will occur before the infant breaks into what Dunstan calls the hysterical cry.

Dunstan states that these preemptive cries can indicate what the baby needs (food, comfort, sleep, etc.). But if they’re not answered, she says, they escalate to the hysterical cry, which is much less discernable. As the infant matures past 3 months in vocalization, the sound reflexes are replaced with more elaborate babbling.

Although her theory has not undergone rigorous lab testing, we couldn’t find any real criticisms of it.

The Five Basic Newborn Cries

Neh –  “I’m hungry”

Apparently, as a baby’s sucking reflex kicks in and the tongue is pushed to the roof of the mouth, the sound that comes out is a “neh” sound.

Owh – “I’m sleepy”

The “owh” sound is made in the reflex of a yawn.

Heh – “I’m uncomfortable”

Although the “heh” sounds similar to “neh,” if you listen carefully, you’ll catch it’s distinctive “h” sound at the beginning. This particular sound lets you know that the baby is uncomfortable – cold, itchy, needs a new diaper, needs a new position, etc.

Eair – “My lower tummy hurts”

The “eair” sound is a deeper sound that comes from the abdomen. There is often a kind of grunting associated with it, and although Dustan attributes this to lower gas pain, those of us who have used Elimination Communication with our babies, also recognize it as the “I have to poop” cry!

This sound is often accompanied by a newborn pulling his knees up or pushing down and out with his legs. The baby’s body, not only his face, will look uncomfortable.

Eh – “I need to burp”

This is similar to “neh” and “heh,” but remember that you are listening for those beginning sounds, not the ending sounds. When you hear, “Eh, ehhhhh” your newborn is telling you, “Burp me, please.”

It’s hard to communicate these sounds in writing, but we’ve included this clip from The Oprah Show, and it gives examples of babies making each sound. Check it out!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgkZf6jVdVg

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Help! My Baby Has Colic

I have a distinct memory of my young husband (Jenni speaking here) out on our patio on his hands and knees hitting his head against the concrete in complete despair. Our firstborn was four weeks old at the time, and he had been crying — no … screaming — for hours.

We had tried everything — rocking him, feeding him, walking with him, changing his diaper, making him warmer, making him cooler — nothing we did helped. We had a colicky baby, and it was one of the most helpless and frustrating experiences we’ve ever faced, even more than when I played video games without services from Elitist gaming.

Baby colic is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months.

No one really knows what causes colic. Research has shown that it seems to be more likely to occur in babies whose mothers smoke, but they’re not sure why. Researchers also have found correlations between childbirth complications and the amount of infant crying. More stressful deliveries were linked to more crying, but other than that, there seems to be no consistent answers.

People used to think colic was caused by cow’s milk, but breastfed babies can be colicky too. It’s not necessarily linked to gas or reflux or to psychological or social problems.

So since we can’t exactly know what’s causing it, we just have to try different methods to manage it.

Suggestions for Managing Colic

Before you take ANY advice (on our blog or anyone else’s), talk to your doctor and make sure there is not a medical issue causing the crying. Once you get a clear bill of health, here are some things worth trying. Just keep in mind that what might work for one baby could make it worse for another. You’ve got to try a bunch of things and figure out what what works best for your baby. The most important thing is for your baby to feel safe and loved.

  • Ask your doctor to recommend a probiotic. Studies have shown that infants with colic have different intestinal microflora.

  • Place a warm water bottle on baby’s tummy.

  • Gently massage tummy or lay baby across your lap on her tummy and gently rub her back.

  • Place baby near white noise (vacuum, blow dryer, fan or TV static) or noise that emulates a mom’s heart beat.

TV static makes white noise, which can be helpful for some colicky babies

TV static makes white noise, which can be helpful for some colicky babies

  • Try a rocker, baby swing or car ride.
  • Try a new environment. If you’ve been cooped up in the house all day, take baby out for a walk and give her a change of scenery, smells, landscape and noises. On the other hand, if you’ve been on the go, try a quiet home with a serene atmosphere.

  • Hold baby in a dark room and be completely still and silent.

  • Softly bounce while holding baby and gently whispering “shhhh,” keeping baby close to you so she can feel your heartbeat.

  • Swaddle your baby tightly. When babies are in the womb, they feel resistance every time they move. It can be scary in the outside world where there are no tangible boundaries.

  • Try a warm bath. It can sometimes distract your baby. She may even like the feeling of water being poured down her back.

  • Give her something to suck on — a pacifier or your finger. Non-nutritive sucking is both soothing and important for infants.

 Keep a Journal

Here are some things to track. Try to look for patterns.

  • How long crying bouts last

  • How often they occur

  • Behavior during the episodes (clenching fists, knees to chest, etc.)

  • What happened prior to an episode?

  • What happened directly after the episode?

  • What you did to try to sooth your baby and how long did you do it?

  • What were the results?

  • Record your baby’s diet and feeding schedule

  • Record weight loss/gain

Helping the Rest of the Family Cope

Colic can be stressful for everyone in the family. Here are some quick tips to help minimize the impact of colic on your household.

  • Keep routines in tact so the rest of the family feels secure in the midst of chaos.
  • Be sure to schedule one-on-one time with each member of the family so no one feels left out or ignored.
  • If you’re journaling, you’ll probably have a good idea when the bewitching hour is coming — that time when colic is at its worst — so prep your home. Get all the daily chores done. Have dinner ready to go (the crockpot is your best friend!). Have kids homework done, checked and school bags packed and ready to go for the next day. This way, when the crying comes, you can focus on soothing baby.

Letting Babies Cry It Out Is Dangerous

Research has shown that leaving babies alone and letting them “cry it out” can be damaging. It can damage neural interconnections (in layman’s terms, that means it can cause brain damage). Instead of helping babies learn how to comfort themselves, which is the general philosophy behind “crying it out,” it seems to do just the opposite. “If they are left to cry alone, they learn to shut down in face of extensive distress–stop growing, stop feeling, stop trusting,” says an article in Psychology Today.

That being said, if you are feeling extreme stress or even anger, the best thing to do is put the baby in a safe place and find a way to help calm yourself. You are NOT a bad parent if you feel this way. Sensory overload is one of the five causes of anger, and a screaming baby can be a HUGE burden on your senses!

Don’t beat yourself up. Just put the baby down for a few minutes and help yourself stay calm. If necessary, call a friend or family member and ask them to come over and give you a break.

It goes without saying, but just in case you grew up in a remote part of the jungle and missed all the media hype about Shaken Baby Syndrome, it’s worth repeating that no matter how stressed you feel, NEVER…EVER…EVER shake a baby in frustration.

Tune In To Learn About the Fussy Baby Network

This Saturday, May 31, 2014, we have a guest joining us on Parenting On Purpose who will tell us about The Fussy Baby Network and offer some ideas on how to handle colic. Sarasota listeners can tune into 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM at 10:00AM. Everyone else can go to WSRQ Radio’s website to listen streaming or get instructions on how to download a mobile app and listen on the go. If you missed the broadcast, check back next week. It will be in the podcast section.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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How to Build a Creative Environment

Embracing boredom helps build imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Although we can’t stuff these things into our kids, we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

Supplies

Stock the house with lots of supplies in easy to reach, organized ways. Recycle glass jars, boxes, plastic containers, and other things to hold supplies. Collect items to store in these containers. The list is really endless, but here are a few suggestions to get you thinking. Just be sure to group like items together and to make it easy for kids to see what’s available and easy to clean up when they’re done.

  • old socks
  • bubble wrap
  • cork
  • googly eyes
  • pom poms
  • popsicle sticks
  • paint
  • a variety of different glues and other adhesives
  • drawing supplies
  • paper of different colors and textures
  • string
  • shells, rocks and sticks
  • straws
  • empty spools
  • bottle caps
  • Nails, wood, hammers, saws, etc

Painting and Drawing

Limit coloring books, but have lots of paper in all different colors, weights and consistencies, and have a wide range of things to draw with (pencils, oil pastels, chalk, markers, crayons, pens, quill and ink, etc.). Encourage kids to use brush alternatives occasionally when they’re painting: string, cotton balls, bubble wrap, potato stamps, q-tips, wine corks, fabric, Walmart bags, leaves…the list is endless.

Encourage kids to use a variety of different surfaces for drawing and painting: old cereal boxes, blocks of wood, tiles, junk mail, t-shirts, etc.

Music

Music speaks the language of the soul. Fill your house with all different kinds of music. If you’ve got cable TV, chances are you have a wide range of music channels. You can also create customized music lists on Spotify.

Play classical, jazz, blues, rock, rap, gospel, Latin, swing, funk, ska, show tunes, country, hip hop, techno, dubstep, Asian, disco, folk, polka, opera, blue grass, R & B, punk, world fusion…play it all! Sure you want to filter out songs with bad lyrics, but there are plenty of acceptable options within each style.

We find that this is a real challenge for some Christian parents. It’s as though they think the only music that’s acceptable to God is on the Christian radio station. God created music, and He loves it! How do I know? The angels sing; heaven is full of music. David, a man after God’s own heart, was a musician, and the Psalms are all set to music.

Encouraging kids to listen to and play music is God honoring because it explores something He created and is quite fond of. Plus, playing music is one of the few activities that actually builds NEW brain cells!

Language Promotes Creativity

Jody and I must sound like a broken record when we say that conversation is king, but we believe so strongly in the power of language that we just have to squeeze it in at every opportunity. Talk, talk, talk and listen, listen, listen! Filling your home with conversation helps build a creative environment.

Encourage kids to journal. Almost everyday we have our kids do something we call sensory writing. For at least ten minutes, we have them sit somewhere unique (under a desk, in the car, in a tree, on the sidewalk, etc.) and write about all the things their senses are experiencing (what they see, hear, smell, taste and feel).

It goes without saying that books are great boredom busters and obvious tools for promoting imagination. Stock the house with books. Listen to audio books in the car. Read poetry and plays together. Read newspaper editorials and talk about them.

Words are imagination building blocks. In fact, according to readaloud.org, the number of words a child has in his vocabulary on entering kindergarten is a key predictor of his or her success.

Science

Stock the house with science supplies and experiment books. If you don’t know how many baking soda benefits exists, then I suggest a little reading on your poart, everyone should have baking soda, vinegar, glue, food coloring, iron shavings, magnets and other science basics on hand. Home Science Tools has just about anything you could need for reasonable prices.

Fill your bookshelves with experiment books. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Toys

Toys can either be creativity boosters or busters. Avoid single purpose toys — toys that do only main thing. Instead, look for open play toys — toys that can be used in many different ways. Here are some examples:

  • Blocks
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Tinker Toys
  • Legos
  • K’Nex
  • Snap Circuits
  • Play Silks
  • Dress Up Items
  • Dollhouse
  • Play Dough
  • Cash Register
  • Play Kitchen
  • Sand Pit
  • Water Table

Skills

If we can empower our kids with a wide range of skills, we’ll give them more choices for boredom-busting, imagination-sparking activities. With YouTube and Instructables, Squiddo, Pinterest and Google, your kids can learn how to do just about anything.

Arm them with some basic skills to help them build imagination through boredom:

  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • sewing (by hand and on a machine)
  • drawing
  • origami
  • using a power drill
  • using a hot glue gun
  • hammering
  • using different screw drivers
  • using different saws
  • making paper
  • knot tying
  • paper mache

Here is more info about the tools to use.

Babies

It’s never too early to inspire babies. Make non-toxic finger paint and play dough. Put the baby in a contained place like the high chair, and let him have his way. Don’t worry about whether or not he eats it; that’s all part of the experience.

Give babies big chunky crayons and blank paper and let them play with it as soon as they can hold the crayon. Again, don’t worry if they want to taste the crayon. Just make sure they don’t bite off a chunk that can choke them.

Line the floor with old towels and pull a chair up to the sink. Fill the sink with bubbly water and a variety of utensils like ladles, measuring spoons and cups and a colander, and let baby stand on the chair and play.

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about how to embrace the mess that comes with inspiring creativity. Check back and be sure to leave us a little note!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Negative Reinforcement is Not All Bad

Negative reinforcement gets a bad wrap! But it’s a real world tool for discouraging bad choices, and when it’s used in the right way and in the right circumstances, it can be a powerful teacher.

Take the transportation system for example. If you get caught speeding, you’ll get a ticket. You’ll have to go to court, pay a fine and get points on your license, which will stay there for a few years, alerting insurance companies that you’re not exactly a safe driver. As a result, your insurance premiums will go up. Get caught often enough, and you’ll lose your license. Car insurance is very important, but don´t forget to get some Private Medical Insurance for those unexpected accidents.

That’s negative reinforcement, and it works!

Some friends of ours have traveled to countries that don’t have these kinds of laws, and they say those are scary places. One friend told me she was shocked there weren’t more dead bodies strewn about. She did see one person who was fatally struck while she was there, but the driving experience was so terrifying, she was amazed that the streets weren’t lined with dead bodies.

I’ll take our negative reinforcing traffic system any day over one where anything goes.

Negative reinforcement doesn’t have to be harsh or unforgiving or hurtful. It’s simply a tool to help teach the concept that bad choices equal bad results.

BAD CHOICES = BAD RESULTS

Negative reinforcement can be useful for helping kids to break bad habits, to get through challenging situations, to correct a repeated bad behavior (bickering, forgetfulness, poor grades), for dishonoring or disrespecting someone…basically, for most bad choices.

An Element of Fun

But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Even bad results can have a fun twist.

For example, when we want to help our kids break a bad habit (nail biting, nose picking — it happens!), we tell our kids to do 10 push ups every time they’re caught doing the bad thing. It works! And they get in shape in the process.

A friend of ours shared something with us a few years that has stopped our kids from mistreating furniture (standing on chairs, jumping on beds, sitting on tables, etc.). If you mistreat the furniture, you lose furniture privileges for the day. That means the kid eats meals that day picnic-style (the table and chairs are furniture, you know), does homework and watches TV from the comfort of the floor and camps out with a sleeping bag and pillow on their bedroom carpet (the bed is furniture too).

The Punishment Fits the Crime

Okay, so we don’t really mean punishment. We’re not our kids’ punishers or jailers. We’re their mentors and teachers. What we really mean here is that a negative consequence should relate to the misbehavior. For example, if your child didn’t do his homework, it doesn’t make sense to say he can’t go out to dinner with grandma and grandpa tomorrow night. First of all, that punishes grandma and grandpa.

Whenever possible, try not to punish other people for your child’s offense (birthday parties, family get-togethers). Sometimes it can’t be avoided, and in that case, you can talk about how their actions affect other people too.

But in the homework scenario, grandma and grandpa didn’t have anything to do with the child not doing his homework. The truth is, he was too wrapped up in a TV show and was too tired by the time it was over. A better consequence would be to ban television until homework is done and inspected.

If the reason he didn’t do his homework had been that he was disorganized and forgot what was due, you wouldn’t take away TV. Instead, you might sit down with his teacher and enlist her help. Ask her to look over his homework before he leaves to make sure it’s accurate, and check his backpack to make sure he has everything he needs to complete the assignments. Then sign his homework list so you know she’s checked it.

When he gets home, have him show you the list and the supplies and together you can make a plan for the evening to make sure he finishes everything. Then have him bring you each thing as it’s done, so you can check it and make sure he puts it neatly where it belongs. At the end of the night, sign his homework list to show the teacher you’re on board. This is a negative reinforcement in the sense that it’s a loss of independence, but it’s also a preventative method as it helps him become more organized so he doesn’t miss future homework assignments.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, the goal of correction is to teach – not to punish!

Time Out

Time out is a negative reinforcement, and when it’s done well, it can be useful. For a complete description of how to do a successful time out, check out the post on Willful Disobedience. Time outs are helpful for young kids (preschool and elementary age) who are having a bad attitude (it can help them cool off and reset their mood) or arguing with you (it’s a reminder that mom is the boss and it’s their job to obey without arguing). But if you are using Time Out as your consequence for Willful Disobedience, it should never be used for any other misbehavior.

Here are some other ideas for negative reinforcements:

Behavior

Negative Reinforcement

Nail biting

Do 10 push ups

Interrupting

Serve others (to recognize that you’re not more important than others)

Complaining

Lose upcoming fun occasions (movies, sleepover, etc.)

Incomplete chores

Loss of privilege (i.e. TV or computer time)

Not doing homework

Loss of freedom (i.e. not able to go to a friend’s house, or loss of cell phone or ipod)

Mistreating a sibling

Do the sibling’s chores that day

Jumping on Furniture

Loss of furniture privilege

Check back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about Positive Reinforcement.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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How to Handle Tantrums

If you’ve been with us for a while, you know that we LOVE a good definition. Shared language brings peace and order.

So for the sake of child training, let’s start with a good definition for tantrum. We hear the word thrown around a lot, but when it comes to this method, a tantrum means “a violent demonstration of rage or frustration.”

We’re not talking about Willful Disobedience, which we covered yesterday. We’re talking about a total loss of emotional control. It can look like screaming, kicking, flailing, hitting, spitting, throwing things…TANTRUM!

When a child is in the midst of a true tantrum, no training method will be effective. Instead, we need to help our kids learn (hopefully at an early age) how to regain control of their mind, will and emotions when they’re nervous system is flooded with intense emotion.

Jody and I often say that the prison system is full of people who couldn’t control their emotions for just five more minutes.

When we teach our kids how to manage their emotions, we give them a great gift.

My Tantrum Journey

As many of you know, my oldest child is autistic. When he was two years old, he had absolutely no expressive or receptive language, which means he said no words and understood no words. He couldn’t even point or gesture to communicate. So when he was hungry or tired or bored or cold or wet or unhappy or uncomfortable in any way, all he could do was throw himself on the floor and cry. My husband and I went through all kinds of mental gymnastics to figure out what this child needed. We were slaves to his outbursts.

For most of his second year, Griffyn wore a big contusion on his forehead from banging it against the ground. And we wore circles under eyes from sheer exhaustion.

But toward the end of his second year I learned something that forever changed our lives. It’s called The Extinction Method, and it works on tantrums like nothing I’d ever seen before or since.

We’ve used on all of our other kids during the terrible twos and with many of the families we’ve coached, and we have found that after using The Extinction Method correctly two or three times, tantrums are a thing of the past because the child learns the valuable skill of getting his emotions under control all by himself.

Disclaimer

Before we tell you how to do it, we have one important disclaimer. If you are consistent and committed to the process, The Extinction Method WILL break tantrums. However, if you give in, even once…even a little bit, we promise that the next tantrum will be longer and louder. Once your toddler knows that you have a weak spot, he will up the ante until he finds it again.

The Extinction Method

Here’s how it works. When you see a true tantrum coming on, put the child in a safe place, remove any items that could get broken or could hurt him, and stay nearby so that he can see you. If your child sleeps in a crib or uses a playpen, these can be useful places to place the child as soon as the tantrum comes on.

Get down on their level, make eye contact and very calmly say, “You are having a tantrum. You need to calm yourself down.” Then, do not say another word or make eye contact again until the tantrum is over.

No matter what the child does or says, DO NOT respond AT ALL to the child until he has calmed himself down and has brought their emotions under control.

But DO stay nearby where he can see you. Remain fully aware of your body language and facial expressions, and no matter how hard it becomes, do not tense up, sigh or show any outward signs of anger, sadness or distress.

Make no mistake — this is not for sissies. This is where the rubber meets the road in parenting. It’s hard work and it could take every ounce of self control you can muster. But it is worth it.

Keep busy. Do dishes, read a book (or at least pretend to read a book), clean the room, fold laundry, make a grocery list…and all the while, stay totally calm and quiet, as if nothing were happening.

Avoid getting on the phone, computer or iPad. Those things can make the child feel like you are escaping him. During a tantrum, you need to let him know that you are there, while also giving him the space he needs to work this out.

How Long Should You Let it Go On?

A truly willful child can keep this going for a LONG time! Griffyn’s first tantrum during The Extinction Method lasted for two hours. I thought I was going to jump out of my skin! But the next one was much shorter, and the third lasted a matter of minutes. There never was a fourth. He had learned what to do when overwhelming emotion flooded his nervous system.

The only acceptable reason to acknowledge the child at all during The Extinction Method is to remove him from harm’s way. During Griffyn’s two-hour tirade in the crib, he pooped in his diaper, took it off and smeared it all over the crib and walls. I lifted him out of the crib without a word, as calm as I could be (but thoroughly FREAKING OUT on the inside!). Put him in the tub, washed off the poop, all without making any eye contact or saying a word. He continued to scream and thrash, and I did my best to act as if nothing was happening. I got splashed, hit, kicked and got poop in my hair. I wanted to scream and quite frankly, to throw him out the window, but I forced myself to stay completely calm and even aloof.

Once he was clean, I put him in a playpen in the room with me as I calmly cleaned the crib and walls. He eventually exhausted himself and fell asleep, and I cried and then scrubbed down the bathroom and took a shower. It was HARD work, and on that night I had little hope that it would ever change. But I remembered the workshop instructor who first taught me this method saying that it would get better. I held on to that hope and held my breath.

The next time Griffyn had a tantrum, it was remarkably different. I put him in the crib and although he kicked and screamed for a while, he didn’t have the panic and desperation he had had the first time. No poop catastrophe, and this time, he calmed himself down without falling asleep.

By the last tantrum, you could see in his face that he knew he was going to have to work it out on his own and the sooner the better. It took a few minutes, but he did it.

We’ve helped many families successfully use this method. Along the way, we discovered a few things that may help any of our readers who are currently dealing with tantrums.

When to Acknowledge the Child

If the child falls asleep, don’t disturb him, but be aware that he may wake up and start the tantrum again. Just continue as before.

As soon as the child calms himself down, go to him gently, and tell him you are very proud of him that he calmed himself down. Give him lots of hugs and kisses and then ask if he’d like to read a book with you or play a game.

Calm can look like a gentle cry or whimpering, as long as the violent outburst that characterizes a tantrum has stopped.

Sometimes the tantrum will start up again once you acknowledge him. Just gently say, “You are having a tantrum again. You need to calm yourself down,” and go back to The Extinction Method. But be careful not to confuse crying with a tantrum.

Sometimes, once you acknowledge the child, the relief of finally getting your attention again can be so overwhelming that they can’t help but cry. Once they recover from a tantrum even toddlers can feel remorse and even guilt for having been so out of control, and that can also make them very sad.

As long as there’s no violence involved (no screaming, flailing, kicking, angry words, etc.), just show tenderness and compassion. You can say, “I understand that you feel sad. It can be scary to have a tantrum. But you did a great job of calming yourself down. I’m so proud of you, and I know that next time you feel very angry or frustrated, you’ll be able to calm yourself down again.” Even if your child is still too young to understand all those words, he will understand your love and compassion.

Some Notes About Older Kids

If you use this method in the toddler years (i.e. the terrible 2’s or even 3’s) you won’t have tantrum issues after that. But if you didn’t know how to do this when they were toddlers, you might have a preschooler or school-aged tantrumer on your hands. First, let me say, you need to let yourself off the hook. Do not, for one moment, feel any guilt or condemnation for having not done this sooner.

The truth is, this method is NOT obvious. It’s not something you “should have known.” In fact, it defies every natural instinct we have during a child’s tantrum.

Older kids can be more challenging in some ways. For one thing, they’ve got a better command of language, and often they’ll use it in violent ways. Don’t be ruffled by hateful words or harsh accusations that you don’t love them or that you’re torturing them. Kids can be master manipulators. Don’t be tricked into responding in any way during a tantrum. Continue to stay busy nearby until he calms himself down.

The good news with older kids is that they understand more, so when the tantrum is over, they will have a much better understanding of what is happening. When the tantrum is over, you can assure him that he’s not a bad person but that he just became overwhelmed with anger or frustration and didn’t know how to handle it. Then you can tell him that he calmed down all by himself, and that you are so proud of him for learning how to do this. Let him know that the next time he feels rage coming on, he can calm himself down again, and that he’s just going to keep getting better and better at it.

If you have any questions about The Extinction Method or tantrums, please feel free to leave a comment, send us a message or go to our Facebook page and contact us there.

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Winning the Grocery Store Battle With a Social Story

Question:  My three-year-old pitches a big fit whenever he doesn’t get what he wants in the grocery store. How can I stop these fits?

Everyone talks about the terrible twos, but I have always thought that three is a more difficult age. At two, a child throws tantrums because she’s frustrated about something and can’t communicate her needs effectively. But at three, a child knows what she wants and is just figuring out how to assert her will to get it.

Social Stories – A Powerful Tool For Little Ones

A social story is a homemade book that helps your child navigate a difficult situation. Typically, your child is the main character, and the plot revolves around the situation or behavior you are trying to address.

In the case of our Grocery Store Rascal, a social story can be a fun and creative way to prevent future tantrums.

Start by writing a short story about a successful trip at the store. It could look something like this:

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Johnny. One day, Johnny and his mom went to the grocery store. They had to buy many different things. First they picked out a cart, and Johnny got to sit in it. Then they began their journey through the store. They had to get milk and apples and toilet paper and other things. Mommy had a big list. Johnny had his own list too. Together, they found the things they needed and put them in the cart. In one aisle, Johnny saw a really cool race car, and he wanted his mommy to buy it for him. “Not today, Johnny. A race car is not on my list. Is it on yours?” Johnny looked at his list and answered, “No.” He felt sad. He even felt a little mad. But then he remembered that some days he gets special treats, like on his birthday, and other days he doesn’t. Johnny looked up and saw toilet paper. Toilet paper is on his list! His mommy helped him out of the cart so he could get the toilet paper off the shelf and put it in the cart. Then he checked it off his list. When it was time to check out, Johnny helped his mommy put some of the things in bags. At the car, he helped put the bags in the trunk. When they got home, Johnny’s mom gave him big hugs and kisses for doing such a good job at the grocery store that day. She even gave him a sticker for a job well done, and when all the groceries were put away, Johnny and his mom made a snack and cuddled on the couch to read a story. The End.

Once the story is written, plan a fun photo shoot day. Tell your son you’re making a new book with him as the main character, and you need pictures for your book.

Type or write out the story lines and attach some pictures to go along with it. Then have the book laminated at a local Kinkos or office supply store. Plan a special time to read the book with your child, and then let him look through it on his own. Read the book again and again to help him understand what a successful successful grocery story trip looks like.

Grocery Store Day

When you go shopping, give him a list with a few items (use pictures instead of words) just as he had in the book. As you go through each aisle, ask him if he sees anything on his list in the aisle. When you get to one of his items, have him take it off the shelf and put it in the cart and then cross it off his list, just as he did in the story.

Narrate what you’re doing and create conversation throughout the trip: “Now we need to get bananas? What color are bananas? Can you count them with me? Now we’re going to pay for our food and put it all in bags so we can take it home.” Whenever possible, allow him to help and be a part of the process.

At the end of a successful trip, shower him with affection and praise for a great day at the store, and say, “You are an excellent shopper!” The more you set him up for success and remind him that he is an excellent shopper, the more he will identify with that description and realize that excellent shoppers don’t pitch a fit when they don’t get what they want!

When you get home, have him help put things away, and offer him a special treat for being so well behaved at the store (perhaps a snack and story time with mom, just as he did in the story, or maybe a special playtime at the park).

What other ways can you use social stories to set your child up for success?

 

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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