Interview Series: Kelly Bartlett

Today I have a real treat for you: an interview with API Speaks contributing blogger Kelly Bartlett!  Kelly is the first of our bloggers who are opening up and answering questions.  I’ve been reading API Speaks for a long time now and am so excited to get to know all the contributors better.  Read on to find out more about Kelly, her journey to AP through a “high needs” baby, and more about her gorgeous family of 4.

Tell us about your family.

I grew up in Chicago and my husband, John, is from Whitefish, Montana.  We met at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and now we love living in beautiful Portland, Oregon.  I was a high school biology teacher before our 2 kids were born and I stopped working to stay home with them full-time ever since.  Our son JJ is 4 1/2 and our daughter Elia is 6, and they are complete opposites!  The phases we went through with one we didn’t go through with the other, and vice versa.  Between the two of them we are learning first-hand just how different kids can be.

Kelly and Family

With you from Illinois and your husband from Montana, how did you end up in Portland?  I hear that it is a very pro-AP city, do you find that to be true?

We moved out here several years ago for John’s job, and this city has been a great fit for us in many ways…the most recent being our parenting journey.  There are lots of AP families here, which is so nice.  Just going out in public it’s not uncommon to see several breastfeeding and baby-wearing moms & dads, so it’s easy to meet like-minded parents, even when we’re not at an API meeting!  Although I wouldn’t say the majority of Portland parents practice AP, I think it’s more common here than in other places I’ve lived.
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Liking My Spirited Child

I was browsing– okay, I fess up–I was googling the term “spirited child.” I immediately came up with some book advertisements and then with a few pages that explained what a spirited child was. My son is a “textbook” spirited child. The next few pages I came across were things like “taming your spirited child” and how to “cope” with having a spirited child, how to “survive.”

I am not big on always using positive words. I am actually somewhat of a self-proclaimed pessimist and don’t mind that I look at the glass and see it as half empty. I have had troubles with that before. Wishing I was more “positive” and “upbeat” but the truth is this is the way I am and if I am to embrace the way my son is and teach him how to embrace himself I will need to start by embracing myself. Fairly basic priniciple but easier said that done.

Now I understand how difficult it can be to have a spirited child. Though in some ways every child has their rough points. It is difficult to be a parent period. My son has had me in tears of frustration and exhaustion wondering if I was going to make it until bedtime only to find no relief because he wouldn’t sleep. If you have a spirited child, I don’t have to explain this to you.  You are already nodding your head and going through your own personal lists.

I in no way think that I need to “tame” my child. He is not going to change. He is going to be spirited for the rest of his life. Thank goodness! He is never going to be boring! He is going to be a creative and passionate person. I would not want to take that away from him. I don’t need to survive raising him. We both have to find a way to embrace our life today and all the tomorrows that are coming.

Here are just a few things that I have learned about my spirited child and that have helped me to embrace him and have helped him to organize himself.

  1. My son needs time to organize himself, I need to make that space and time for him. Since he is so disorganized he has had to learn discipline early, he has to discipline his mind and body, I can’t do that for him, but because of his age I have to help him identify his times of overload and help create the space he needs to organize himself.
  2. It works best if I let him know everything that we will be doing and where everyone is. This is no small feat sometimes considering we live in a community and there are 13 people here. He doesn’t feel “right” when he doesn’t know or understand what is going on, it creates confusion.
  3. My son can be loud and mean on occasion. This has to do with being a toddler but also has to do with him being spirited because he does not easily identify that he has hurt someone. This is not okay because no one wants to be around a child that is inconsiderate. I don’t want to be around a child that is inconsiderate! Appropriate discipline should be decided on before something happens because it is easy to become angry or frustrated with a spirited child. Discipline needs to happen immediately as a spirited child does not have a great attention span.
  4. A spirited child definitely changes a household (all children do) but they do not need to rule the household. Adjusting schedules so that they get a good amount of sleep and are not too distracted to eat is important but it is also important to be able to flex a schedule a bit without having your child freak out and ruin your time. Planning favorite stops, or for us, favorite snacks or activities along the way works great, something along the lines of “We are going to the coffee shop. They have toys there. Won’t that be fun?” We limit our time there so that we don’t push him too far and then suggest that we head to Target and while we are there we will get a chocolate milk. We do not bend to demands but calmly repeat exactly what we said we would do before, “No book today honey. I told you we were getting a chocolate milk remember? We’re going to do that now.”

None of this guarantees that we won’t be pulling our hair out at the end of the night but they are a few things that I have found that work for us. I also have found that it is very important that I get a little “me” time, especially if we have had a rough week. It doesn’t have to be much but it is extremely necessary.

In conclusion, why is it important that we discuss our spirited children? Because we want to do more than love our little ones, we want to like them and want them to become likeable people.

Any other spirited children out there? What do you all do to handle difficult situations? How about everyday life?

10 ways to gently respond when children say “I can’t!”

2010-08-12 03Our son, Kieran, has been struggling with a bout of the “I cannot’s” lately.

I cannot take my shirt off, you do it mama.”
I cannot ride my scooter! I cannot!
I cannot glue the ribbon on.”

Before teach a toddler to ride, I tried to isolate the problem:

Am I asking him to do too much? His “can’ts” are sometimes, but not always, in response to something I’ve asked him to do, so I don’t think they are the result of request overload or mere unwillingness. And they are usually in reference to a skill or activity that I know he can do, so they are not based on inability or even fear of failure.

Are the “can’ts” related to a mood or condition? I have not connected them to a time of day (i.e., when he is tired or hungry) or an emotional state (i.e., when he is upset). Nor do they appear to be a matter of disinterest.

Does he really think he can’t? The frequency of the phrase made me worry about his developing self-esteem. It is important to my husband and I to respond in a way that will acknowledge Kieran’s feelings as well as empower him, but we weren’t sure how to address the “can’ts.” After researching, reading, and soliciting the advice of some wise mama friends, I came up with the following list of ideas parents may use to respond to a case of the “can’ts.”

10 Ways Parents Can Respond Gently and Constructively When Children Say “I Can’t!”

1.Brainstorm Solutions: Rather than rushing to fix your child’s upset, engage him in the problem-solving process. Be attentive and validate your child’s emotions, and then empower your child to come up with his own solution. Trusting him to figure out conflict will help him develop lifelong coping skills and a healthy self-esteem.
“It looks like your blocks are having a hard time staying stacked up on this carpet, and I understand why you are frustrated when your blocks fall over. What do you think we could do so that you can enjoy building with your blocks?”

This idea is based on Naomi Aldort’s S.A.L.V.E. method, which you can read more about in her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.

2. Help: And then there are the times that your child is feeling tired, hungry, or overwhelmed and just needs some assistance. Your simple offer to help may make things seem a little more bearable. Depending on the age of the child and her level of frustration, your offer to help may be specific or open-ended.
“I can see that you are getting frustrated dressing your doll. Would you like me to hold her for you while you dress her?” or
“I can see that you are getting frustrated dressing your doll. Would you like me to help you? What can I do to make it easier?”

3. Offer a Break: If your child has been working at a task for a long time, they might just need to step back from it for awhile. This is especially helpful for a mentally intense activity (i.e., building a model or reading a difficult book) or an activity that is developing a new skill (i.e., tying shoes or riding a bicycle).
“Would you like to help me water the flowers for a few minutes? You can finish your puzzle after we are done if you’d like to.”
“Sometimes when I am frustrated it helps me to do something else for awhile. Would you like to take a break from your book and play some music?”

4. Identify and Redirect: If your child is making negative generalizations about his abilities, he may be setting himself up for failure and poor self-esteem. “I can’t hit the ball. I will never be able to play baseball.” Instead of hushing him and dismissing his fears, identify the irrational belief and reassure him. With young children, it is also a good practice to identify their feelings.
“You can hit the ball, I’ve seen you! It seems like you are feeling discouraged right now. I know you can play baseball, it just takes practice. Would you like me to throw you a few balls?”

5. Be Present: Some kids might express frustration or inability just to see if you are listening and available. By being actively present for them – especially when they are doing a challenging activity – your attention might be enough to get them on the right track.
“I can see that you are working hard on it. I’m here if you need me!”

6. Focus on Their Effort: The old adage to “focus on the process, not the product” rings true with a case of the “can’ts.” Help your child shift her focus to the process. Comment on her effort or concentration.
“You’ve been concentrating very hard on that drawing!”

7. Give Some Extra Attention: If it seems like your little ones are regressing – four year olds who suddenly “can’t” get undressed alone, three year olds who have lost the ability to feed themselves – it may be that they just need a little extra TLC. Give out lots of extra hugs and cuddles, remind her she will always be your baby, make an extra effort to show her she is your most precious gift.

8. Reassess Your Requests: Are you asking him to do too much? The authors of “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” recommend that parents make a list of everything they ask of their children – all of the things we ask them to do and all of the things we ask them not to do. You may be shocked by the number of requests you make of your child any given morning or throughout the day. Similarly, are you asking your child to do something when he is hungry, tired, or preoccupied with his own problems? Kids are more likely to feel overwhelmed if their bodies are low on sleep or fuel or if they are under stress.

9. Be Silly: Instead of getting exasperated when your child feigns inability, turn it into a playful parenting moment. After you both dissolve into giggles, you may be surprised when your little one forgets that she “can’t” do something.
“I can’t take off my shoes, either! I forgot how to untie my shoelaces. Whatever will I do? I will have to wear them to bed! In the shower! Heeeeeelp!”
(While putting her shirt on her feet) “This is how you do it! You put one foot in this hole, and one foot in this hole – voila! What a cute pair of pants! But where is the zipper and snap?”

For more ideas on how to connect with your kids through play, read Lawrence Cohen’s excellent book Playful Parenting.

10. Ask What They Need to Succeed: If your gut reaction is to feel annoyed when you hear your child say “I can’t,” take a moment before responding. Breathe and remember that what your child is feeling is a normal part of the human condition. A friend of mine shared a story to illustrate this point: it is common to hear a woman in labor say “I can’t do this anymore!” Her support person will inevitably respond with “but you are doing it!” We all feel like that sometimes – tired, burnt out, exhausted. When you are at the end of your rope, would you rather someone say “get over it!”, or does it help more to hear “what can I do to help you feel more confident?”
“It looks like you are having trouble tying your shoes. What can I do to help so that you can do it?”

There is usually something more going on behind a child’s “I can’t” than meets the eye. Taking the time to gently respond is an investment in helping our children grow in confidence.

Part1: Rewards, Incentives, Consequences, and Punishments (Oh, My!)

At a recent API meeting, a few moms asked questions about the differences between rewards and punishments which I thought was very useful.  We hadn’t specifically discussed them before, and it was helpful to define our understanding of the words we often hear regarding discipline.  Based on attachment parenting, positive discipline, and unconditional parenting, here is the break-down:

Rewards vs. Incentives:

A reward is something that is given conditionally; you only get X if you do Y. An incentive is letting someone know of an enjoyable activity that is soon to come.  As soon as Y is done, X happens.  The difference here is that enjoyable thing (X) happens even if the behavior leading up to it wasn’t perfect.  It’s unconditional.

For example, a mom always gives her son a snack when they drive somewhere, but sometimes there’s a struggle actually getting him into his car seat.  Because having a snack in the car is something they do every day, the snack is not the reward for getting into the car seat; it’s the incentive. She reminds her son that, “After everyone gets buckled in our seats, we have a snack.”  That’s the order of events, and something he can look forward to after getting in his seat.  She wouldn’t withhold the snack if, despite her best efforts, there was still struggling and crying about getting into the car seat.  Her son is hungry and he needs it; it’s snack time.
Continue reading “Part1: Rewards, Incentives, Consequences, and Punishments (Oh, My!)”

An Episode in Positive Discipline

The other night, my husband and I were talking in the kitchen, and Elia (5) & JJ (3) were in the living room when we heard Elia shriek, scream & start crying.  It is instantly followed by “SOR-RY!” from JJ.  We look over and Elia is getting up from the floor, holding her neck & crying and JJ has hidden himself between the ottoman and the couch, with his face buried on the floor. Elia said that JJ kicked her.

John comforted Elia, and I picked up JJ and carried him into the front room, intending to “deal with him” (oh, doesn’t that sound nice?). There, he flopped to the floor crying, and I said, “You hurt her!”  I had been intending to continue yelling & berating, BUT… realized that I had Flipped My Lid; my prefrontal brain (where the logic & reasoning skills are) was no longer communicating effectively with my middle brain (where emotions are regulated, as is the “fight or flight” reflex). So I walked across the foyer into the office and stood there…the computer was right in front of me so I checked Facebook.  This took all of about 20 seconds before I felt calmer and walked back into the room where JJ was still crying (and he could still see me this whole time).

I sat on the couch not knowing if I felt calm enough to say anything yet.  But when I did that, he crawled right up next to me and laid his head down on my lap.  He stopped crying & sucked his thumb, and I put my arm down on his shoulder.  IMG_3743Then I was sure we both were calm, and our conversation went like this (I was trying to “Listen for Understanding”):

Me: Why were you mad?

JJ: I don’t know.

Me: Were you mad?

JJ: No

Me: Were you frustrated?

JJ: No

Me: Were you sad?

JJ: Yes!

Me: You were feeling sad about something?

JJ: Yes because Elia was making scary faces  and I didn’t like that and I told her to stop and she didn’t!

Me: Ohhhh… were sad that she was ignoring you.  You didn’t like the scary faces, and when you told her to stop and she didn’t stop, that hurt you; your feelings were hurt.

JJ: Yes

Me: Oh, OK.  You know, Elia got hurt too.  When you kicked her, that hurt her neck.

JJ: Mm-hm

Me: Right now she needs help feeling better.  What could you do to help her feel better?

JJ: Give her a hug.  But I don’t want to do that.

Me: OK.  What else could you do?

JJ: I don’t know.

Me: I think you could either tell her that you’re sorry, or you could do something nice for her like color her a picture, or do something else she would like.

JJ: Yeah, I could color her a picture. Will you help me? (Just an aside here, coloring is something JJ rarely does.  He never asks for me to get the crayons out, and even when crayons are out and Elia is coloring, he wanders away and does something else. He’s just not too interested.)

So I get out the crayons and paper, and help him get situated at the counter, and he decides to draw a fairy for Elia.  He wanted to do it “right” so he kept asking how to do it…he drew a head, body, wings, and then colored it “pretty colors” like pink, yellow & orange.  It was so sweet, because he was clearly thinking of her the whole time!

He gave it to Elia, and I was nervous that she would say something about how it didn’t really look like a fairy, but she didn’t.  I asked her if that helped her feel better and she said, “Yes, a little bit.”  I thanked JJ for helping Elia feel better and he went to sit down & watch basketball with John.

Well, then Elia sat right down at the counter and used the crayons to draw and color a picture of a tank for JJ!  I think she realized that she was not so innocent in this whole situation; it was true that had JJ triggered the outburst, but she was the one who had been doing the “poking” all along.  She gave him the picture, and he was surprised and said that he felt better too!

I couldn’t have been more proud of my kids, or pleased with the effectiveness of Positive Discipline.  Throughout the ordeal, I had used 3 PD techniques: positive time-out (for myself), listening for understanding, and not forcing an apology. The whole encounter started out tense, but ended so sweetly!  We all ended up in the living room playing Blokus, and I felt very thankful for my Positive Discipline skills!

Kelly is an API Leader and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor in Portland, Oregon.  She blogs at Parenting From Scratch.

Shopping at Toddler Pace

Online children toys are currently accessible in a lot of magnificent decisions for all ages

With regards to looking for toys, as an observing guardian, you will absolutely consider a wide range of elements, for example, age fittingness, wellbeing, nature of development and even the brand name. For a parent, for example, you, online children toy shopping has all the appropriate responses! There is a lot of decision, accessibility of brand names and the accommodation of home conveyance.

How to visit an online toy store?

You essentially sign onto the Internet with your PC, whenever of your accommodation and from anyplace and you are in an online toy store! How advantageous is that! You don’t need to stroll down unlimited passageways and be annoyed by apparently supportive salesmen. You can pick what you need to see, think about costs, read client surveys and get the correct sort of item for your valuable one.

Shopping on the web

Their are plenty of the sites available on the internet for shopping, but one always prefer to click on the most popular site

Toys for kids turns out to be simple since you have a lot of decisions. Things being what they are, how might you want to do your shopping? Basically get the principal item that you see or search for explicit classifications, for example, the accompanying?

• Crafts units

• Early advancement toys

• Fun toys

• Playsets and pretend

• Puzzles

• Building squares and sorters

• Traditional games sets

• Learning and action toys

• Dolls and various extras for the equivalent

• Remote controlled toys and numerous others.

On the off chance that you have a specific item or a toy as a primary concern, you just need to glance through the various classifications that will be accessible on the site of driving retailers and get the item that is the correct one for your kid’s sexual orientation and age.

Building a list of things to get

Making and conceding wishes isn’t constrained to the fantasy world alone! You can likewise do it when you decide to go web-based looking for kids’ toys. This is conceivable when you visit the site of an online retailer who permits you the alternative of adding a specific item to your list of things to get.

Basically manufacture a list of things to get on the web and you will be advised of the accessibility of arrangements and limits on your preferred items. In this way, on the off chance that you are searching for a house model creation unit yet don’t have the spending limit for the equivalent, essentially add it to your list of things to get that you have made on the site. You would then be able to screen this rundown and get your preferred items at a later purpose of time too.

Limits on all the enjoyment stuff

At the point when you go out on the town to shop online for toys for kids, you can likewise have some good times at the same time. One of the manners by which this is conceivable is to search for the arrangements and limits that online retailers offer from time to time. For example, you could get offers on explicit brands, blend of explicit items, etc.

There is positively no denying the way that looking for kids’ items, particularly to decide to do it on the Internet, should be possible rapidly and all the more significantly, advantageously. You can basically sign onto the Internet whenever you pick, from the solace of your home and request the items. Online retailers have different installment choices too. When you have completed your shopping exchanges, you essentially need to trust that the transfer will get conveyed to your residence. All of which basically implies that your purchasing choices are very much educated and taken in light of a legitimate concern for your youngster.

Parent Support is Prevention

Lydia and Zariah Schatz and children like them need our help now.  Their story underscores the critical urgency for evidence-based parenting support and information to counter physically and emotionally dangerous parenting tactics that proliferate.

Our hearts were ripped open to learned of the torment that Lydia Schatz,7, and her 11 year old sister Zariah suffered at the hands of those who were entrusted to love and nurture them safely into adulthood.  For Lydia, we are too late and we wish for her and other children like her, sweet peace and love at last.  For Zariah and other children, there is still life and hope here in our midst. **

Billions of dollars in public funding goes toward the physical health, crisis interventions, treatments and the related judicial processes for children and youth in our country.  Comparable spending and intense focus indicates that education is considered a real solution to the problem of helping children.  Meanwhile, it’s a well known secret that early experiences -especially parenting – are the most profound influences on learning capacity and social, emotional and psychological functioning.

Parents and caregivers are not passive guardians of children in the earliest years; we’re active participants in building their learning foundations and we need support, not blame, in this extraordinarily important role.  In the most simplistic view, spending on education can only be as successful as its antecedent:  early care. The void in parent education and support cannot be back-filled by more education and what’s more, the social pressure of school that many children face without a secure foundation can compound the challenges.
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How Not to Practice Positive Discipline

I came across this YouTube video several months ago and just chuckled because the first thing I thought of was that this is a shining example of how not to practice positive discipline. The rabbits were obviously having a disagreement and the chickens immediately responded with physical punishment. Okay, obviously a chicken isn’t going to be able to discuss the rabbits’ reasons behind the altercation and chat about alternatives but the video did lead me to reflect upon API’s 7th Principle of Parenting – Practice Positive Discipline.

The following is a short summary of the basis of positive discipline as well as the impetus behind my decision to practice positive discipline.

Attachment Parenting incorporates the “golden rule” of parenting; parents should treat their children the way they would want to be treated. Positive discipline is an overarching philosophy that helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Positive discipline is rooted in a secure, trusting, connected relationship between parent and child. Discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful strengthens that the connection between parent and child, while harsh or overly-punitive discipline weakens the connection. Remember that the ultimate goal of discipline is to help children develop self-control and self-discipline.

I wanted to be connected to my child.
Continue reading “How Not to Practice Positive Discipline”

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