October 12, 2016

Tempering a Tantrum

When I was on maternity leave for my daughter a few years ago, I felt it was also important to bond with my 2-year-old son so that he didn’t feel left out.
So instead of holing up in the house, I decided to take him to story times, art classes, indoor play areas and anywhere else I thought might interest him.
On one memorable occasion, we went to a story time at Barnes and Noble. It was a sunny February day, the story was great, and my son seemed to really dig the energy of the storyteller. Even more interesting to him though, was the Thomas the Train set in the kids’ area. He loved playing with it and probably could have stayed for countless hours.
After a time though, we needed to go. And what started as the perfect day quickly became a major fit-throwing episode.
I initially tried reasoning; I nicely and politely stated more than once that it was time to go, and Mommy would not tolerate his throwing a fit. But desperation set in, and right before that moment of no-return anger, I literally tossed my son under my arm and grabbed the stroller, scooting it down the elevator, across the sales floor and out the front door while he screamed.
This “pick-up-and-go” tactic is a well-known parenting tool: When your child is out of control, react nicely first, and when they don’t listen, remove them from the situation. It shouldn’t be considered giving in, and in fact should teach them that there will be consequences for not listening to a parent. I know it works, but somehow I have been forgetting to use it recently.
A few weeks ago my children acted up in the grocery store. Wait, let me rephrase that: They acted like wild, crazed animals in the grocery store. They were OK until we got into the checkout lane, where they unleashed the crazed-animal scene. I tried my menacing mom growl and stink-eye, however my children continued down their path of insanity until I very loudly snapped.
I am certain the checkout gal, who knows me as a regular, now thinks I am a terrible parent. But I was simply out of patience and worn down, which resulted in my not-so-perfect parenting moment. I wanted out of the store, but I did not remove myself or my children from the situation, even after warning them. What I should have done is left, despite being in the checkout lane.
I’m amazed it took me weeks to realize this, but it seems my children now know they can act up in public because I have been letting them slide. When we’re in public, I don’t want others to judge my parenting. Ironically, when my kids act up and I do nothing, I am the one to look bad because I appear to not be “parenting.”
These are scenarios almost every parent has had to face at one time or another. While lamenting over the grocery store scene, I was reminded of some expert tips to help parents deal with tantrums in public.
Schedule accordingly: If you know your child needs a nap or otherwise becomes cranky at specific times of the day, try scheduling around those times.
Extraction is best: If children misbehave, no matter what is happening or where they are, be willing to remove them from the situation. It shouldn’t matter how costly or fun it is; leaving will help them understand who is the parent and whose word is law. Give a clear warning in a calm yet firm voice and explain exactly what will happen if the behavior continues. Then - and here’s the important part - follow through with your action. It’s tough when a child leaves kicking and screaming, but in the long run it will make life easier.
Set clear rules, and reward the positive: Parents need to define expectations at an understandable level, and repeat these laws faithfully. Parents can also use positive rewards — anything from a favorite activity to a special dessert. Rewards of praise or small treats can also be handed out on the spot for good behavior.
What parenting tools have you used to get your children to behave? Have they worked? How have you changed these tactics as your children age?

First published on annarbor.com in 2010.

September 22, 2016

Free Youth Day Activities Sponsored by Ford Motor Company

On Saturday, September 24, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. kids ages 5-16 can spend an afternoon of design education and exploration sponsored by Henry Ford Learning Institute. The free event will have kids making human scale weaving, making sun prints, and creating inflatable sculptures.  The event is part of the 2016 Detroit Design Festival program, taking place Sept. 21-25. For more information and to register visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ddf-2016-youth-day-presented-by-ford-motor-company-fund-tickets-27193113334

September 20, 2016

Preventing Illness: Have Fun Learning to Scrub

Republished from my 2009 annarbor.com post

It's two weeks into the school year and already my son has to stay home from school because of illness. I kept hearing about neighbors and friends whose children have became ill this past week, and let's face it, as parents that is the worst part of the school-year. Bringing germs home to spread among the family is no fun. This year it seems to be an even greater fear for families, with the threat of H1N1 lurking everywhere. So what do we do?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that proper handwashing is the most simple thing a family can do in the prevention of infection and illness. That's great, perfect really. My son has received countless fliers on doing this, and even the health insurance company is spending their money printing helpful hand-washing fliers. As parents though, this really doesn't help me. Yes I can teach my children to sneeze into their sleeve, use a tissue, and wash their hands - But how can I make it FUN for them? Being "fun" is sometimes the greatest motivator for children. So where can I go for help?
This is really a trick question for me, because I have already found an excellent resource in the NSF Scrub Club!
Each year, more than 164 million school days are lost due to illness, which could be greatly reduced with proper handwashing. That’s why Ann Arbor based NSF International created the Scrub Club® - to raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing and ultimately improve the health of children and reduce school sick days.
The program is the first of its kind designed for children 3 to 8 years of age - This fun, interactive and educational website teaches children the proper way to wash their hands. The site consists of Webisodes, interactive games, music, many educational downloadable activities for kids, educational materials for teachers and program information for parents. My son loves the Scrub Club theme song and has even begun singing along!
So be sure to visit the Scrub Club® website with your preschool aged and young children - Everyone will benefit from the fun and informative learning experience through the website interaction. Don't forget to pass along the word to your children's elementary school teachers, as there are some great classroom resources as well including the 6 Steps To Proper handwashing Poster.

September 15, 2016

Does The Cupcake Ban Help?

First published on annarbor.com in 2010

To fight childhood obsesity should
cupcakes and other treats be banned
from birthday celebrations at school?
As a parent who makes homemade cakes and cupcakes from scratch for every birthday celebration at school and at home, I was disappointed to hear that some Michigan schools are banning cupcakes to fight childhood obesity. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that a generation of children is going to have problems due to their weight, and that ultimately society has to pay for it. However I don't think that the occasional cupcake is causing this problem. Ultimately it is kids having bad eating habits, overall, and not enough exercise.
As a child I played outside from dawn until dusk, only coming in when my parents insisted. The current generations are not getting outside to play, have less gym time in school and sit in front of the television, computer monitor or with a handheld gaming system for hours on end. So why are schools banning cupcakes instead of other solutions? Are there better solutions to help children eat better? Does your child attend a school where birthday treats have been banned?
My opinion is that children only get to be kids for a short window of time. Since the focus on birthdays lessens as the years pass, why not let them have their cake and eat it while they are young and solve the issue with more time outdoors, exercising and parents teaching their children to make be

September 5, 2016

Pittsfield Township Annual Harvest Fest

On Sunday September 18, 2:00-5:00 p.m., Ann Arbor area families can enjoy the Pittsfield Township Annual Harvest Festival at the  Sutherland-Wilson Farm Museum (797 Textile Rd., Ann Arbor). Hear the sounds of the Saline Fiddlers, enjoy hay rides, games, a petting farm, and hands on demonstrations. Hand-made items will also be for sale.

Tour historic building and see photo displays as well. A bake sale and pumpkin picking can also be enjoyed. There will be everything we love about the fall!

Adult Wristbands (ages 16+) $5.00
Child Wristbands (ages 3 – 15) $3.00
Free admission Children 2 and under

Schedule of Events:
2:00 p.m. Welcome Message & Event Kick off
2:15 p.m. Saline Fiddlers
2:15 - 5:00 p.m. House Tours
3:30 p.m. Prizes in the Straw (under 4)
3:40 p.m. Prizes in the Straw (ages 5+)

Free Parking & Shuttle available at Harvest Elementary (1155 Campus Pkwy). For more information visit the Harvest Festival website or the Harvest Festival Event on Facebook!