Book buzz: Rumble in the Jungle

This childrens b00k-writing duo are dynamite. They seem to get it right every time. Their book, Rumble in the Jungle, is the firm family favourite but this one follows very close behind.

The writers’ use of rhythm and rhyme is brilliant and the style and colour of their illustrations are captivating for children.

C and I have fun doing the different voices for the animals but C is much funnier than I am, so he’s always a favourite to read this story.

It’s one of those children’s books which avoids repetition and is funny enough that I don’t dread reading night after night after night after night. In fact, it’s easy to bring something different to every reading.

And look out for the 3 little ants hiding on every page. Sdash was the one who bought this to my attention. He would chant ‘ants-ants-ants-ants’ whenever he turned a page and I had no idea what he was talking about! He quickly showed me where they were hiding.

Shelf help: Parenting by Kathy Walker

Children need to be allowed to be children and parents need to know that’s okay.

I like this book a lot. It’s a great go-to resource, easy to read and the ideas seem straightforward to apply. Walker looks at raising children and the issues that arise from toddlerhood to adolescence. She covers a wide spectrum in terms of children’s age and behavioural issues which is incredible useful. She also provides a number of case studies which well describe her ideas in action.

Walker says that “there is just so much we can do to become better parents, and none of it involves huge amounts of time or money, just thoughtfulness”. I love the simple reminder. Good parenting begins with greater thoughtfulness. And that ain’t hard.

Below are the points she lists at the end of her book under the heading “Parenting Snapshot.” To me the list encompasses the ideas in her book:

  • No parent is perfect, and no child is either! How boring would it be if they were.
  • All parents are influenced by the parenting styles of their own childhood – the trick is to sort out what you benefitted from as a child, and to avoid the mistakes you are determined not to repeat.
  • Children need a consistent and predictable home environment.
  • All behaviour has meaning – it’s up to parents to understand and guide their children’s behaviour.
  • There are few quick fixes in changing behaviour – consequences work better than bribery or punishment. (I like her take on the role of behavioural consequence).
  • Effective parenting means thinking before reacting.
  • Children rely on us to help them manage their feelings. Reflective listening is one way to start; another is to practise talking about your own feelings.
  • Children are not born bad or evil, nor are they miniature adults.
  • Children need plenty of unhurried, play-based experiences in their early years.
  • Overscheduled children burn out.
  • Parents need to be nurtured too (thank you!!)
  • Families cannot function in isolation. All of us – governments, media, local communities, schools, preschools, childcare centres, doctors – must ensure that childhood itself is nurtured and embraced.

I’ve said before that it seems parenting guides often forsake the theory for the practical application or the other way round. While I found this book very useful (and have now read it through a couple of times), I would have appreciated more discussion of the parenting or developmental theory behind the ideas. Sometimes I like to know the why behind the how or the what.

But, as I’ve said, a really practical book to have in the house. It would also make a great present for new parents.

 

 

The power of the lullaby

I began singing the Abomb a lullaby before bed when he was about 2. I only sang occasionally when he asked or when I felt he really needing soothing before bed.

In the past few months, the boys, who now share a room, ask for one each night before I turn their light off. I’ve come to believe this is possibly the most important moment (albeit brief) of the day. It is that moment before slumber, before we give into the night, before we relinquish our souls to sleep. I love that I have the chance to help carry my children through this. A lullaby is an extra cuddle, a soft kiss, a brush of my hand across their brow.

At first, I was singing them ‘You are my sunshine’ every night. I also sing this quietly to Lbaby whenever I put him down for a sleep. So you can imagine, I’ve grown pretty tired of this number.

I’ve been searching for songs to add to my repertoire. I’m an ok singer, not great but not awful. I like to put in an effort for my little one’s, to make those moments before falling asleep as beautiful as possible.

To find the songs I wanted to sing and ones that I knew they’d want to listen to, I went back to some songs my parents played when we were growing up. Songs we’d sing over and over as kids. Here’s are current lullaby playlist:

1. Heart like a wheel – Kate and Anna McGarrigle

2. Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver

3. Moonriver – Andy Williams (written by Johnny Mercer and Harry Mancini)

4. Castle on a Cloud – Les Miserable (written by Adam Boublil)

5. You are my sunshine – Elizabeth Mitchell (written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell)

What do you sing to your children? Do you try and sing every night?

Family fable: 6 things to help Mother Earth

In the lead up to Earth Hour on 26 March 2011

Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way; she better understands her own affairs than we.  ~Michel de Montaigne, translated

I’m pretty damn conscious of environmentally friendly living. But unfortunately, I’m no poster girl for the environmental future. I’m well aware of what I should be doing but there’s a sizeable gap between this and my ecological reality.

There are a few environmentally friendly things I do try and do consistently however. Things I try not to negotiate. I find that if I commit to these things, then adding other ecological efforts (small and big) into our day or our week or our year is much easier. I may not be as consistent with these other efforts but slowly I find myself adding them to my list of ‘non-negotiables’. I’m hoping in a couple of years I can feel confident that our carbon footprint is more of a gentle impression than a firm fixture.

1. Recycling – I’m a stickler for using our recycling system. I make sure that every item is in the correct bin and have been known to go through the rubbish in search of a renegade bottle or tin.

2. Cloth nappies – I’ve used cloth nappies with each of the boys. Their use has grown in momentum over the years. For the first, it was casual. For the second, more part-time and now, with Lbaby, we use cloth nappies all the time. Of course it’s easier now because I do at least one load of laundry a day. In fact, I find using cloth nappies as easy as pie. These are the ones I use. I was given some and others I researched and love. They all work well for us.

3. Environmentally-friendly cleaning products – I make my own washing powder using this recipe. I use bicarb and vinegar instead of multipurpose cleaner. In fact, I use vinegar to clean most things around the house. It works a dream. I also make my own floor cleaner (recipe here). When I find I do have to buy cleaning products, I make sure they are truly ecologically sound even if they are double the price of other brands. We have cleaners who come every two weeks and I am going to start asking them to use the cleaning products I have.

4. Weekly shop at the farmers market – we have a fantastic farmers market every Saturday which is close by. The boys love our Saturday morning ritual of free range bacon and egg rolls with organic juice. Usually there are a few trains taken to play with as mummy and daddy enjoy a coffee and bagel. Importantly, though, I do our fruit and veg shop here. Whether it’s organic or not, the produce is grown locally and each store must comply with certain farming methods in order to be able to sell at the markets.

5. Green energy – we have opted for the 100% green alternative in energy sources.

6. Carbon offset flights – this doesn’t seem a big deal but we fly to Victoria a lot because of C’s family so it adds up.

I find with each of these 6 things I am able to balance their financial commitment with their ecological benefit. This works for us at the moment. But, there are many more things I’d like to be doing. I feel too time and money poor for most of them right now but I know I need to do more research to find more viable options. For example:

- ecological toys

- recycled or handmade clothing

-making more of our own food like bread, pasta etc

- growing our own food (we have not a garden to speak of but I know this shouldn’t preclude our food growing efforts)

What are the ‘non-negotiable’ green options for you at the moment? Have you had any success with those things on my wish list?

Oh yes, rhythm is a powerful thing

Through repetition, the magic will be forced to rise.

– Alchemist precept

Lately, I’ve been really interested in the concept of family rhythm. I’m convinced daily rhythm actually works to foster children’s development. When they’re able to anticipate activities, they are more responsive, more engaged and the magic is forced to rise.

Plus, when the activities of their day are more in tune with their natural energy levels they tend to transition between them more smoothly. It comes as no surprise that morning is a more wakeful and a good time to set more demanding, outdoor activities, like shopping, playgroup, parks, play dates. And the afternoon should be devoted to more restful activity as energy begins to wane. I’m finding this is particularly important since both the Abomb and Sdash no longer sleep during the middle of the day.

I know some families for whom actually allocating specific times in their family schedules is really important. They wake at the same time, eat breakfast, walk to school, eat morning tea etc at the same time every day. One friend says it’s to make sure that she fits everything in the day. I don’t have this need for firm structure but what I have noticed, is that our family operates so much better when we follow the same routine at certain times.

The transition periods of the day, when we wake, and when we are going to bed, are better managed by children following the same routine every time. Now that I’ve incorporated ‘making the bed’ in the Abomb’s morning routine, I don’t have to ask him nearly as much to do it. He does it on this own.

I haven’t yet etched our perfect daily schedule or rhythm but when I do I will share it. I know we have some routine to our day, but I’m not sure it is working for each of us at the moment so I’m trying to tweak it.

I found the following daily schedules for toddlers and school children in Natural Childhood, a fantastic book that I am slowly making my way through. While they don’t fit our needs completely, I thought they made a lot of sense and integrate well with what we already follow. Continue reading

Book buzz: When no-one’s looking at the zoo

This book is a big favourite of our toddler, Sdash (someone remind me again when toddlerdom is meant to end? I’m kind of really over it now – but oops, I’m going to go through it all over again!). Each double page reveals a different animal in the zoo. The left page depicts how the animal normally lives and behaves in the zoo, and the right page depicts how the animal lives and behaves ‘when no-one is looking.’

The illustrations are wonderful, very vivid and colourful. Each right page opens to reveal another scene of animals; what they do when no-one is looking. There are no words and so Sdash loves me to make up a story about the hidden scene (with an implicit suggestion that the animals are doing something a bit naughty). This also gives us an opportunity to talk about the animals and discuss what’s going on.

Sdash is animal mad so I figure he likes thinking that animals have a secret life that we don’t know about. It’s a great idea, animals behaving differently with each other than in front of people and the illustrations bring this to life.

The last page asks the reader what they do when no-one is looking and again, this provides a great platform for conversation with your child. It’s a funky idea that they are just beginning to understand at this age.

Shelf help: Positive Discipline A-Z: A 1001 Solutions

I saw Positive Discipline recommended somewhere and tried to get a copy from my local library. The only book in the series they held was this one. I guess you’d call it the ‘practical guide’ or workbook to Positive Discipline.

It is fantastic. It offers practical and real-life solutions to a range of different behavioural issues while framing these solutions in the theory of Positive Discipline. I haven’t yet read the theory but in terms of what you can get out of this book, it doesn’t really seem to matter.

The main thing is, the solutions they provide make sense; they seem achievable and realistic. And the book covers so much, from Choosing Clothes, to Hitting, Picky Eating to Homework, Birthdays to Lack of Motivation. The writers haven’t missed much. I have already discussed how well the Comfort Corner works in our house and it’s an idea I sourced from

The approaches to children’s behaviour provide a perfect balance between the idea of gentle discipline and strict behavioural consequence for children. For me, the area (or gap) between these two ideas is attractive but ill defined. So many parenting approaches seem to fall into either camp, neither of which provides enough of an answer for our family. This book bridges this gap and I’m really interested to go back to the Positive Discipline theory as I feel it will resonate with me.

Each behavioural situation is set out in the same way. Here is an example:

Chores, Getting Cooperation

“It is a constant battle to get my child to do his chores. He always says he will, but then he doesn’t without constant reminders and hassles that usually end in punishment. I feel like giving up and doing everything myself, but I know he needs to learn responsibility.”

Understanding your child, yourself and the situation

It is normal for children to avoid chores after the age of three or four. Remember when they were two and said “me help daddy!” “Me do it too, Mummy?”? We discourage toddlers by saying, “No, you’re too little. Go play. Go watch TV.” Then we wonder why it is difficult to get them to help again. However, just because it is normal for children to avoid chores doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do them.

Suggestions

  1. Use the “As soon as ______, then ________” formula. “As soon as your chores are done then you can go out and play

(*there are more suggestions, this is just one example)

Planning ahead to prevent future problems

  1. Discuss chores at a family meeting so kids can get involved in the planning.

(*there are more ideas here, this is just one example)

Life skills children can learn

Children can learn that they are capable and can contribute in meaningful ways. They are part of the family and it is important to do their part to keep the family running smoothly.

Parenting pointers

1. Do not use punishment when chores are not done. Keep going back to the family meeting to work out the problems and come up with plans.

Do you get the picture? It’s great stuff. So practical and so user-friendly.

 

Can the use of consequences be positive discipline?

You know I despise making ‘deals’ with my kids. You know I cringe when my eldest attempts to make a trade-off with me in order to get something that he wants. You also know I get pretty mad when my beautiful boys refuse to do something I ask, especially when I’m time-poor and hungry! The use of consequence to shape children’s behaviour has become a little controversial. And I’m not entirely sure why.

I think kids need to understand the impact that their behaviour or actions have and, I believe, the appropriate use of consequences achieve this. For example, if you don’t go to bed now, I will not have time to read you a story before my dinner is ready.  To me, this provides a logical and understandable explanation for the consequence (ie. not ‘if you don’t go to bed now I won’t read you a story’) and it encourages the child to understand that you have your own needs.  As I’ve discussed before, I think the key in using consequences with children is to avoid their use as a trade-off.  (ie. ‘if you go to bed now, I’ll read you a story). NO DEALS!!

So, when the Abomb is refusing to hear my request that he cleans up his Transformers so I can vacuum, I am unhappy with him. What I do next is the key. How I communicate to him what I need doing and why is important. I don’t need to say that I’m unhappy with him because he won’t clean up his Transformers. But I do need to let him know that his behaviour has consequences for me and that this frustrates me.

Thing is, I think it’s a good thing if my kids understand that I’m another fully functioning human being and I have needs like theirs. The notion and use of consequence encourages this understanding. So much of our behaviour impacts others. What other people do and how they behave also impacts each of us. This is such an important lesson for kids to understand. I want my children to feel that I respect their needs and will do what I can to meet them. I also want them to appreciate that I have needs I want met, in the same way they do (as do their brothers, their aunts, their friends, their teachers).

I’ve previously talked about Alfie Kohn and his view of unconditional parenting. He eschews the use of consequence and believes that children need to be able to act and behave without their behaviour necessarily meaning anything (unless of course they’re physically hurting others). I can’t help but feel that Kohn is asking us to suppress the way we feel about our children’s actions and behaviour to ensure  that our children don’t feel controlled by these feelings. To a degree, I understand that we must not let our feelings manipulate our children into doing or not doing something. However, just because I would like my child to do or not do something, does not mean I’m attempting to ‘control’ them inappropriately or unnecessarily. For me, using consequence to encourage certain behaviours is the opposite. It shows respect for the child and encourages him to be an active participant in decisions concerning his behaviour.

I think there are 3 important aspects to using consequences as a part of positive discipline:

  1. Explain the consequence so that it doesn’t feel like a random association for the child (eg. If you don’t go and do your teeth now, I won’t have time to read you a story before my movie starts).
  2. Framing the consequence to reflect both our own and our children’s immediate needs (e.g I know that you would really like a story tonight and I have a movie I would like to watch. If you go and do your teeth now, we’ll have time for your story before my movie begins).
  3. Showing gratitude to our children for recognizing our needs and acting upon them. (eg. Thank you for getting ready for bed so quickly. I’m just in time for the movie I want to watch).

 

 

 

 

 

10 ways to encourage healthy eating in your child


Vita is a guest blogger on Come Parent With Me. She is a trained nutritionist who has a passion for healthy cooking. Her recipes are nutritionally amazing and taste awesome. Join her here every second Thursday for some great ideas on healthy eating and hopefully some of her secret recipes.

One of the most stressful things for parents is trying to get their children to eat well. It is a well-known fact that small bodies need good food to grow and be strong but it is also very common for children to show a disinterest in food. This is not unusual, nor is it the parent’s ‘fault’. It is very important to try to be relaxed about it but still be aware of it.  There are some easy ways to try to encourage better food attitudes in children and in the home generally.

Some suggestion are:

1. Establish rituals. For example, my nephew became obsessed with ‘supper’ at daycare which was fresh carrots, capsicums, cucumber, cheese and crackers. Even when he wasn’t at daycare (and it wasn’t supper time), he would ask for ‘supper’ as he had a good association with it. This was the first time he showed an active interest in vegetables and he has been more open to them ever since.

2. Make food tasty! You don’t have to serve steamed vegetables by themselves for them to be healthy. Add a sprinkle of gomasio or tamari, or even a light sprinkle of vegetable salt.

3. Keep a choice of healthy snack foods on offer- a lot of children prefer grazing to eating big main meals. While this is not ideal nutritionally, as long as these foods are healthy, at least you know they’re getting good nutrients.

4. Always try to make food look attractive and colourful. The varied colours of fruit and vegetables are engaging for children, and encourage them to eat.

5. Encourage the child’s interest in growing foods if you have the time and the space- children love eating something they’ve seen grow.

5. Encourage them in the kitchen– children also love eating something that they have helped cook or prepare.

6. Try to have family meals – children like to imitate their parents and will feel ‘safer’ if they see everyone else eating, and enjoying, something that may be ‘foreign’.

8. Focus on meals being home cooked (so you know what goes in.)

9. If family meals are important for you, limit beverages and snacks anywhere near meal times as they really take away interest and space for food.

10. If you are going to give your child a treat, try and get them to eat a piece of fruit before the treat- it will tone down the sugar craving and make good associations for them with fruit.

 

Book buzz: Goodnight Moon

When we first received this book as a gift, I was struck by the absurdity of it. This got in the way of enjoying it despite the fact I was aware of how widely acclaimed it has been since it was published in the 1940s. Nothing about it made sense to me, so for a long time I avoided reading it to the boys.

You know, there is a fine line between the inane and the absurd in children’s literature and it’s not often easy to make that call. In the case of Goodnight Moon, I certainly made the wrong call and I’m willing to admit my mistake.

As I now read it to Lbaby every night, it is exactly this aspect of the book, the ‘childish,’ nonlinear pattern of the text, which is so enjoyable! Any parent will know that when you’re reading the same thing over and over, enjoying what you’re reading matters!

Goodnight Moon is a beautiful bedtime story in which a little bunny says goodnight to everything around him. It is less a ‘story’ and more a recounting or ritual. The simple use of repetition encourages children to join in and I can’t help but feel this is a good sign of a book’s worth. However, it is my non-reading youngest who, at all of 6 months, absolutely delights in the book. Aside from the fact the cardboard edition provides perfect pages for the teething baby, he loves some of the characters and even laughs at the same pages every night.

There is amazing detail in the illustrations (you can read about them here) and the book links with another of Brown’s books, The Runaway Bunny, another lovely story about what a mother will do for the love of her child.

This is a ‘must’ in any child’s bookshelf and is a lovely new baby gift as well.