Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Way We Talk to Our Kids

In my parenting classes I teach a specialized workshop on using respectful language as part of a loving parenting approach. Recently I overheard a parent in a store talking to their child is a way that just made me cringe. "Get over here!" "What did I tell you?!" " Do you want me to put you in the cart like a baby?" I do not approach parents in stores and give them parenting advice, much as I would like to, but it did remind me that there are lots of parents who struggle with their own anger, frustrations, stress and other emotions and don't realize how they sound to their children, or what kind of damage they do to their child when they speak to them with hostility, irritation or disappointment. 

I hear from parents in my workshops who say they always felt like their children would simply 'forget' the things they said because they were too young to remember, and it wouldn't affect them long-term, or they thought/hoped their children would simply forgive them or be understanding that they lost their temper. Unfortunately, while children are very forgiving, the emotional and psychological damage words said in anger can inflict isn't always as easy to erase, and the longer it goes on for, the harder it is for the child to recover.

How we speak to our children matters. It matters now, when they are very young, and it matters when they are older. 

In our home, respect is our number one rule. I respect Alex as a person, not just as a child. I speak to him the way I want to be spoken to. That doesn't mean I don't parent or set rules. I do. But we discuss things together rather than me dictating how things will be. I respond to his emotional needs with the same love and respect I would want. His feelings are not treated like insignificant 'things' that aren't real, because I know they are as powerful and as real and my own. Maybe even more, because as a child he doesn't have the regulators over his emotions that I as an adult do.  

Respectful parenting is not permissive parenting. I think parents who were raised with strict or authoritarian parents themselves tend to believe that if they validate their children's feelings, or allow their children to make decisions or ask for their input they are giving up their control, their power. And they are. But that's a good thing! Because parenting respectfully is not at all about power and control. It is about love. When parents fear losing control over their kids, at the root of it what they are really afraid of is their children will grow up and be out of control, they won't be stable, well-adjusted adults. Yet hurting our children emotionaly is the very thing that could cause that to happen. Talking to our kids with love and respect lets children develop into the best versions of themselves. 

Power and control in a relationship is harmful & damaging. It is disrespectful, belittling, condescending, dismissive, controlling or impatient. When we parent this way, it affects what kind of adults our children will one day become, and it affects what kind of parent they will be to their own children. Some parents believe that if they don't physically abuse their children, there is no harm. But our words matter so very much, and should be chosen carefully when we speak to our children.

As an adult, these sentences would hurt my feelings if said to me:

Stop crying.
Knock it off, you're fine.
There's nothing wrong with you. 
Be quiet.
Shut your mouth and do what I told you to do.
You'll get over it.
I don't want to hear another word about it.

Whether you are 7 or 70, being emotionally shut down hurts. And yet, in some households these are common phrases used by parents. 

In my workshop, we do an exercise where I have parents close their eyes and picture in three separate rounds, their spouse, boss and one other adult of their choosing- a sister, parent, co-worker, friend, etc.,  saying phrases like the ones above, then rating how they feel after. No one ever rates that they feel supported, loved or respected after doing this exercise. Yet almost all had previously stated at the beginning of the exercise that they had said one, some or all of these phrases to their child at some point. 

Parents emerge from this exercise with a new understanding of how their words affect their children, and a new awareness of the double-standard often accepted by society that lets parents speak this way to kids but not to other adults. If your boss told you to 'Shut your mouth and do what I told you", they could probably be fired, sued for creating a hostile work environment, or you would want to quit. How would words like that make an adult react? You probably wouldn't do your best work for that boss anymore, and you would not have a very good attitude about being at work either. You would certainly have no respect for that person, and you would likely be angry, bitter and resentful toward them for treating you that way. Yet, children can't quit, fire their parents or sue them. They just have to take it and internalize or externalize the damage it causes.  

Children are people first, and deserve our love and respect just as any other person we interact with does. Children deserve to be spoken to the way we ourselves would want to be spoken to. 

Using loving, respectful language with your child helps them achieve positive self-esteem, develops trust, confidence, positive attitudes, healthy relationships, self-love and respect for themselves and others. 

So the next time your child is upset, sad or is telling you they need you, and you are feeling tired, frustrated or stressed, think about the words you want to say and try to imagine how those words would make you feel if your partner, spouse, boss, co-worker or neighbor said them, and adjust your words accordingly to be words you would want to hear in that situation, words that would make you feel loved, respected and valued as a person. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I find mini muffin tins to come in handy for soooo many arts and crafts projects. When children begin painting it's important to teach the basics of how to care for their materials. One of those is to help them learn the habit of using one brush for each color, or a new brush when switching colors. If they are taught this, you will have so much less waste and they learn the value of taking care of their art supplies. 

When they are older, they can learn to rinse and dry their brush properly between colors so they don't have to use several brushes, and even how to use a pallet with just a smear of each color to do as they please. But little ones don't quite have the dexterity to manage holding a pallet and painting at the same time, so for now they learn it this way. 

Using just the primary colors, plus the white and black on their own, we made all of these shades and colors! Color mixing is one of my FAVORITE art activities.
Little ones, and even big ones don't always remember to use a new brush for each color, and colors can get mixed and muddy, rendering them unusable for future use. 

I like to dole out small dollops of paint into the muffin tins so if any of the colors do get too muddy it's not the whole paint container that gets wasted. 

Plus it's a little easier for little ones to see and reach all the colors when using the tin. 

If the colors don't get too badly mixed up, I can even stick the tin in a gallon size zip lock and keep it ready for the next time.

For very young toddlers who are not ready to hold a brush or who haven't developed the desire to hold one yet, I like to just squirt some paint onto their paper and let them smush it around and hand or finger paint. Littlest ones shouldn't get left out of art experiences just because they aren't ready to hold a brush! It's a great sensory experience they shouldn't miss out on and a fabulously enriching activity that supports their development.

When we paint, we always have lots and lots of paintbrushes on hand. You really can not have too many brushes! 

Tunnels of Fun

The play tunnels are another one of those toys that I pull out sometimes when we're stuck indoors that I think if we just had THAT and nothing else, the kids would be happy as clams.

And they aren't just for crawling through. In an exciting discovery made last week, apparently they make great silos to fill with toys and stuffed animals. The fun of lifting the tunnel up and watching the tower of toys and animals collapse NEVER gets old. Luckily I have AMAZING kids here who LOVE to clean up! :-)  

Go Kings!

This Saturday was Alex's 2nd basketball game this season. They won 48 to 14. Amazing!

Here is Alex after the game with the snacks the assigned snack parents of the week provided. 

Next week it's me and another mom who will provide the snacks and drinks. I see cut apples and carrot sticks in their future! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This weekend Alex played his first game of basketball with a team. I was so giddy I could hardly stand it. 

Final Score- Alex's team won 40 to 18
Team Huddle
Mommy helping Alex with his jersey :-)
(Dad is behind the camera)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Self Help

Our snack station is really a hit with the kids. They are learning great self-help skills like pouring,   cutting their own food and spreading things like nut butters & honey (with dull plastic knives of course). 

"I'm not allowed to do this at my house!"

I hear this a lot! Messes are a certainty, but letting kids do these things for themselves doesn't just help them practice and learn important skills- it boosts their confidence and self-esteem!

It's important for kids to learn how to clean-up their messes, like spills, too. As they practice they will get better and better at it! 

What we had for snack station today. Yum!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


My amateur photography talents don't do this oatmeal justice. It doesn't look like much here, but up close in real life it looks oh so yummy.

  • Organic whole oats, ground by hand or lightly in a spice/coffee blender 
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds, freshly ground
  • Organic Raisins
  • Blackstrap molasses that is unsulphured (and organic if you can find it), add to your taste
Boil your water, add your ground oats and raisins, cook for a couple minutes. Take off heat and add your seeds and molasses, stir until well blended and serve! 

*You want to add a little more liquid along the way because the flax will absorb a lot after the fact, so compensate as you stir until you have the consistency you want, it should be pretty easy to stir when you first get finished adding everything, and as it cools will firm up. 

*I often use buckwheat in place of oatmeal and it works the same for the recipe. 

*The molasses can be substituted with raw honey, too.

So much nutrition packed into such a simple morning meal!

My Blackberry Sauce

This sauce is soooo good on our spinach and flax pancakes and kale crepes!

  • Fresh blackberries
  • Raw honey
  • Cream cheese

  1. Warm berries and honey together on stove, maybe 3-5 minutes on med/med low heat (try not to boil). I eyeball it but if I had to estimate I'd say about one or two cups of berries, and maybe a half to one cup of honey? You really can't go wrong here. I just heap the honey on until all the berries are covered well. 
  2. Once the honey and berries have mixed well and the honey is very liquid, strain the berry mixture in a mesh strainer and use a spoon or spatula to scrape and push it through. You're just removing the seeds, you want to keep as much of what's left as possible. Don't forget to scrape the bottom of the strainer sometimes, too! That's where the good stuff is!
  3. Add cream cheese to stained berry mixture, about a half package
  4. Stir together and continue to  heat on med/med-low until cheese is well blended
  5. Pour while hot/warm over fresh pancakes, toast, biscuits or muffins
*When using strawberries, you can skip the straining part and use an immersion/hand blender to mix it up a bit in the pan to get nice strawberry chunks.

*Will keep in the fridge for about one week (Ha! Like there will be leftovers-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Snack Station

Snack station is coming along nicely. I really like it. The kids are still getting used to it being there and I'm still doing a daily call to let them know snack station is on the table. They don't all really know what it means yet but I trust they will get the hang of it. The older kids are great for modeling what to do so the younger ones can take their cues from them without much prompting on my part. 

We are working on finding a good rhythm for it to flow and be a natural part of our day. So far I've been putting out snack station around 9am until lunch, and then again after nap until the end of the day. I keep it refreshed and I've found I want to put things in the fridge for a bit after it's been sitting for an hour to re-chill it. Maybe I'll make an ice bowl or tray for the snacks to sit in.

I'm also trying to keep it super simple. I have a tendency to go overboard when I get excited about things, and I am excited about the snack station! So I'm reigning in myself and keeping the choices to just a handful and saving fancy choices for the occasional station. :-)

Dental Hygiene

This week we are talking about how to take care of our teeth. And we made these cute mouths with teeth and little toothbrushes to practice taking care of them! 

And a short song to help reinforce healthy habits...

Say "ahhhhh"!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cloud Dough

Cloud Dough

1 cup baby oil plus 8 cups flour.
Stir or use a pastry blender to mix. Easy peasy!

Cloud dough is like moonsand, only way cheaper and smells great. It packs and crumbles so nicely, great for beach toys and digging toys. 

An all season sensory activity, but since we have so much snow outside and experimented with ice painting this week, I thought it was time for  a change of pace. 

The best part is our hands feel so soft after we're done!

Alex's Out-of-Focus-Yet-Awesomely Arty-Pictures

I love digital cameras. Alex loves taking pictures of everything. Sometimes I will find dozens of his pictures on my SD card and I get a glimpse into his really unique, inspiring and awesome  world. It lets me see how he sees his environment and what is important to him. I love these...


Evil kitty laugh as he contemplates torturing the castlefolk...

No one is safe. 'Change my litterbox or the Queen gets kneaded to death!"

He Shoots- He Scores!!

We just put up the basketball game and right away Jace was all over it!

Just look at that form! He's a natural!

He shoots...

He scores!

The crowd goes wild!!! :-)

Making Slime

This week the kids (and me and Alex because it's soooo much fun) got to experiment and play with slime. We made it using cornstarch and water and food colors. 

Ice Paintings

Yesterday we made ice paint with water and food colors, froze them in popsicle trays and used canvases to create!  

The kids helped mix the colors and fill the containers, then carry the trays to the freezer.