Playground Etiquette

Okay, so picture this… It’s a beautiful summer day. Lots of sun and a light breeze. You decide that you’re going to be a “good parent” and take your child to the local playground for a nice afternoon of bonding (that will hopefully lead to a tired child and a subsequent nap). You feel genuinely good when your child goes running towards the playground with excitement! You plant yourself on a nearby bench (or follow close to your child, depending on their age). Pure parental bliss. UNTIL…..”THAT” child appears!
You know the one. The child who bullies the other kids. The child who hits/bites/pinches. The child who is too big for the playground and pushes the little kids out of the way. The child who sits in the tunnels and blocks the other kids from passing. The child who teams up with the other kids and does their very best to make everyone else feel left out. The child who repeatedly runs to get to a piece of playground equipment as soon as they see another child going for it. You get the picture right?

I am confident that I know the cause of “THAT” child’s behavior. In this setting….I truly believe that it is the parents fault! I am usually VERY understanding of parenting differences and do not believe that a child’s behavior is always in direct correlation to a parents behavior (not in the short term anyway). But on a playground, I can’t stand bully kids and lazy parents! So I thought I’d jot down a couple of playground rules that I think we can all agree on.

FIRST…..SUPERVISE YOUR CHILD! Sounds easy, but I’ve been at way too many playgrounds where the parents are sitting as far from their child as they can, (once I saw a parent sitting across the street on a bench) on their phone, and not watching their child AT ALL! I have no problem with trying to get a bit of a breather while your child plays. But your break comes ONLY when your child is playing appropriately. How can you correct a behavior or teach your child how to interact with other children when you have no idea what is even happening. A playground is not just a place to have fun. It’s a GREAT way to teach kids how to interact with others! But you have to actually be watching!

SECOND….Assuming that you are actually watching your child…if your child gets physical with another child you need to address the behavior right away! I don’t care how big or little the action, it needs to be addressed. How the behavior is address depends on what exactly happened. Exactly how you should handle a blaintant misbehavior on a playground (or during a playground) will be addressed in a future post. But to keep it simple, the unwanted behavior needs to be identified (No hitting), the desired behavior needs to be taught (keep hands to yourself), an apology needs to be given and a consequence needs to happen (maybe sitting for 2 minutes or leaving the playground all together, depending on the offense).

THIRD…Please only allow appropriately sizes/aged kids on the playground. A tiny toddler playground is meant for….ummm…tiny toddlers. An 11 year old who’s feet touch the bottom of the slide while sitting on the top doesn’t belong there. One exception to this is if you have an older/bigger sibling or child who is the “care taking” type. If your 11 year old gently helps the little kids play, I give them a pass on this rule.

FOURTH…This is needed especially with older children (by older I mean 5 years and up). Don’t be fooled to think that just because your child is able to physically manage the playground that they don’t need supervision. They do! But in this case, it’s especially important to LISTEN to the conversation that are happening with the other children. This is the age when exclusion happens, inappropriate games are played, hateful words are spewed and gossip starts. If the kids know that a parents ears are close by, they are more likely to be polite and play games that are appropriate. And if a parent hears inappropriate behavior or conversation they can step in. I’m NOT suggesting that you stay within 6 inches of your child at all times, breathing down their neck, whispering in their ears what they need to say and totally embarrassing them in front of their friends. I do think that kids should have a little space to figure things out, and that you shouldn’t be on top of your child ALL the time, BUT it is your job to keep your child safe and to teach them how to act in this world. You can’t do that unless you at least know what’s going on. Maybe a situation (or conversation) will arise that you need to step in right away. Or maybe it’s something that you’ll just put in your “mommy vault” and bring up in the car on the way home as a teachable moment. Either way, you have to have the information.

It really is that simple!! Unfortunately, I’m likely preaching to the choir, but lets spread the word!:0)

Feel free to add any other ideas of playground experiences that you may have had with your child. Another thing to think about (that I will post about later)….if a parent ISN’T supervising their child, is it YOUR job to discipline that child? If it IS your job, what are appropriate ways to deal with another persons child?

June 23, 2012Permalink 2 Comments

The Power of Walking Away

When in the mood, my 4 year old daughter will give me a fight over just about anything. Her favorite fights usually pertain to getting dressed, brushing her teeth and hair and getting ready for bed. She will say ‘no’ and give me a fight just to fight, stall, get attention or sometimes for fun I think. This past week I’ve taken to just walking away from her and it’s amazing how much power that takes away from her fight. So for example, if I’m trying to her get into her pajamas and she’s giving me a hard time, I simply put the pajamas on her bed and say something along the lines of “I’m not going to help someone who’s being mean and uncooperative. Let me know when you’re ready to be kind and I’d be happy to help.” Without fail she’s calling me within minutes, calm and willing to accept help.

I think this is just a reminder that our jobs as parents is to defuse a situation, not to add to the drama and the fight. Not only is that our jobs but it makes our lives easier too. Walking away, with a few simple words, immediately calms the situation and puts you back in control. I had a professor once who told us that “the person yelling is the person losing.” Always keep that in your mind as you’re dealing with difficult behaviors.

Just a little aside: Please don’t think that this post implies that I never yell or that I am always calm, in control and diffusing power struggles with my children. We all get impatient sometimes and sometimes it does help to shock our children back into line. It’s just a good reminder for me, as for everyone else, that we can shock them with our calmness too!:)

To TV or Not to TV?

The topic of how much TV a child should watch has been a hot debate for years and years! Since this is a question that I often get, I figured I should give my opinion here. As with EVERYTHING that I write on this blog, this post it’s my opinion based on my education and experience, but it should NEVER replace your own judgement or the advice of your pediatrician.

My opinion on TV watching is based on an overall philosophy. In general, I believe that moderation is key. I have met some kids who don’t ever watch TV, who end up glued to it later because they never had access to it. I’ve also met kids who sat in front of the TV all day, without interruption, to the exclusion of other activities.

So maybe the question shouldn’t be TV or no TV. Maybe the question should be HOW to TV?

- Monitor what your child is watching! To me, this is one of the most important issues around TV. Make sure they are watching age appropriate programs. Make the decision on what’s appropriate based on your child and your family. Please don’t just let them watch what their friends are watching or what’s popular! TV exposes your child to things that are outside of your home. This exposure can be good and bad. If you let your child watch shows are are for older children, or adults, it can expose them to things that they don’t have the ability to understand. If  your child doesn’t ‘understand’ those older issues already, they will try to figure it out! When in doubt, ask yourself, ” will this program enhance my child or teach them something useful?” If the answer is no or if you’re unsure, why not just pass and let them watch something else.

- Watch with your child. If you’re watching with them (or if you’re at least near them while they’re watching) then you can monitor what’s on, and most importantly, you can be available to explain what’s happening. If you’re available during the show, TV can be a productive and educational activity.

- Focus on other activites throught the day. Make sure that your child is busy with creative games and activities in the house. Encouraging non-TV activities will act as a built in TV monitor. If a child is having fun playing with friends, spending time with family, cooking with you in the kitchen or doing arts and crafts, they won’t be watching during those times.

-Don’t hand over your parenting. You are the parent! Don’t ever hand over your parenting to the TV, to video games or to another person. I think that watching an educational TV show or movie is just fine, but don’t expect these shows to make your child smarter or to take the place of you!

-TV AS an activity. I think that TV can actually serve as a useful tool if used correctly. It can be used to encourage some quiet, down-time, can be educational and can bring up discussion points to talk about together. As with just about everything in parenting, just be thoughtful and moderate in your decisions and you’ll be in good shape!

Bribe or Reinforcment?

If you have a child over the age of 2, more than likely, you’ve bribed them at one point or another. Often it happens in a public place, in order to avoid extreme embarrassment, when your child is on the verge of a total meltdown. In a perfect world it wouldn’t happen, but as we know, life can be messy, especially with kids! It’s okay! Yup, we’ve all done it in an emergency. The trick is to make it the exception in your parenting, rather than the norm.

GOOD NEWS, I bet you haven’t bribed your child as much as you think!

Let me first say that I am mostly a behaviorist at heart. For every action, there is a reaction. A child’s behavior is often the reaction part, we sometimes have to back up to see what the action part was. When behaviors are changed, the reaction is changed. This is also the school of thought of Pavlov’s dogs. Remember Pavlov? Think, “ring bell, get food, dog salivates”. After doing this over and over again, the dogs starts to salivate just when they hear the bell. The food was no longer necessary to get the physical response.

I wrote all of that because using things like bribes and reinforcement all fall under the behaviorism category.  Things like sticker charts, M&M’s for going potty, or a trip to Toys R Us for not screaming, and climbing up the wall, at the dentist can all be forms of bribry or reinforcement. In general, the message is simple. Reinforcement is good. Bribery is bad. So what’s the difference?

It’s all in the timing. A bribe comes before the desired behavior and a reinforcer comes after the desired behavior.

Example: You HAVE to get through the grocery store with your 3 year old child. It’s nap time and you can tell that she’s about to blow. As you are taking her out of her car seat you give her “the speech”

BRIBE:

You: “If I give you this candy bar will you behave in the store?”

Child: “Of course mommy!”

The problem with a bribe is that the child already has the reward. They’ve eaten the candy bar before you’re even through the produce section and now they have no motivation or reason to behave. You’re stuck.

REINFORCEMENT:

You: “If you behave in the store, then you can get a candy bar at the checkout before we leave.”

Child: “Okay mommy!”

Halfway through the store your child starts to wiggle in the cart. You can tell she’s about to act up:

You : “Oh, remember, you’re working for a treat on the way out. What kind do you think you’re going to pick?”

Child calms down and you talk about what she might pick.

In the reinforcement example, not only does the child have to perform the desired action to get the reward, but it can also be used as a reminder throughout the activity (i.e. “you’re doing great, candy bar, here we come!”) . Distraction and conversation can a great tool to get child back on track! The trick with reinforcement is to ALWAYS follow through with the stipulation of the reward. It will only take one time of not getting the reward for your child to learn that you mean business.

So next time you feel guilty for “bribing” your child, think again! Was it really a bribe or were you just rewarding your child’s good behavior? See, you’re doing better than you thought!:-)

Always Ask “Why”

Last night my 11 month old, who usually sleeps about 11 hours straight at night, woke up at midnight and was up on and off for 2 hours! Whenever something unusual happens like this, I always ask myself why it’s happening. The only way to fix a problem is to figure out why it’s happening. So, let’s brainstorm about this one!

  • Is he sick? We’ve had a nasty stomach virus going through our house. He had it last week and now has a cold with a runny nose. Maybe he’s having a hard time sucking on his paci because he’s congested? Maybe he’s just feeling sick and wants to be cuddled?
  • Is he getting a tooth? I always knew when both of my kids were getting a tooth; they spent the night before it broke though waking up all night and crying. He got 8 teeth very quickly (started at 5 months)  but hasn’t gotten another tooth for several months, so I’m sure he due.

Considering these two things, I gave him some Tylenol and used Baby Orajel Teething Swabs on his gums. I love these for teething because it’s easy to get the medicine where you want it, and it feels good on their gums to be rubbed with the q-tip. Unfortunately, neither of these things seemed to stop him from waking up and crying for me every 15 minutes.  So now what?

  • Is it a “Touchpoint? A “Touchpoint” is a term coined by a man names T. Berry Brazelton. He’s considered by many to be the father of early childhood education. In his book, Touchpoints, he describes times in a child’s life where there are bursts of development. Think about when a child starts to crawl, walk, talk, etc. The urge to perfect these skills is so great that a child has a tendency to practice them all hours of the day and night. When they come out of a deep sleep at night (which we all do several times a night), instead of just falling back to sleep, they practice these new skills and therefore wake themselves up completely. That’s why a child has a tendency to begin night wakings again during these times of growth, even if they had been previously sleeping through the night.

Just yesterday, my son went from taking one little step at a time to taking 5-6 steps at a time. For weeks, he would only take one step before just falling down to a crawl. Then, all of a sudden, as the day went on, he took more and more steps at a time. It was so much fun to watch! As I’ve said, things appear to happen suddenly sometimes.

Considering this, I’d say that he was waking up because of this new skill that he was working on. If that’s the case, then there’s not much to do when he wakes up at night.  I need to just keep putting him back down, not reinforce the waking by picking him up or feeding him (giving him too much attention at night will encourage the waking, even beyond his new skill building), and know that once he perfects walking he will go right back to his old routine.

See why it’s important to ask why?  If I assumed that he was sick or teething, I would probably have taken a different path, tried to figure out what to do to help him feel better or gotten frustrated at him for being awake.  Now I know to just accept that it’s a phase, and I know when to expect it to end.  It’s all about the big picture and looking at the whole child!

February 17, 2010Permalink 1 Comment

New Baby Rules

Here are the rules that you need to follow during the first 3-4 months of your newborns life.

  • Feed your baby. This can be done via nursing or formula feeding (more on that later since no “kid blog” can be complete with a bottle vs. breast discussion)
  • Keep your baby clean: This includes changing wet/dirty diapers, changing excessively spit up covered cloths and wiping away any other substances that may have ended up on your child. Lets face it, aside from in a diaper, newborns don’t get all that dirty. They spend most of their time wrapped up in your arms, not too many opportunities for dirt, yet!
  • Keep your baby safe. This includes keeping them in an appropriate car seat while driving, giving them a safe sleeping environment, and not exposing them to any unnecessary situations that can cause any kind of harm.

If all you do are those few things, congratulations, you’ve had a successful day!! Give yourself a pat on the back!

Now…I said all of that so that I can now say that aside from those things, during those first few months, there are NO RULES!! There are so many books out there that will make you believe that caring for a newborn should be a well calculated scientific set of activities that have been defined for you after years of research. No way!

I’m here to tell you that your job during those first months is to keep your baby fed, clean and safe. Other than that, just maintain your sanity, sleep whenever you can, and enjoy what you can without feeling guilty if you don’t enjoy EVERY second of your child’s first months. You’re going to be tired, hormonal (if your the mom that is, if your the dad then you’ll be trying to figure out what to do with your hormonal wife), and overwhelmed. That’s all normal, and I promise will get better!

So…

  • Hold your baby as much as you want. You can’t spoil a newborn.
  • Put your baby down if you need to. At this age you should go to your baby to sooth them when their crying, but if you need to put your baby down for 20 minutes to regroup, take a quick shower, go to the bathroom, or just to take a deep breath. It’s okay!
  • Remember that just because your baby is in the outside world, it doesn’t mean that their ready for it. It takes 3-4 months for their brains to mature enough to effectively be put on a lasting schedule. As soon as their ready, it’ll happen quickly! Babies can and will change often and suddenly. I think that because we’re so focused on our child those first few months, we forget that their just brand new and figuring things out too! We not only push our kids to do things sooner and faster these days, we do it to our babies also. More than that we push ourselves as parents to be perfect! Maybe it’s just the “mama and papa bear” in us protecting our child. It’s not a bad thing to want to do your best but give yourself a break. You’re doing a great job!
  • Take a deep breath, enjoy what you can, don’t worry about what you don’t. Just know that ALL parents have been there (whether they talk about it or not)! It’ll all works itself out, I promise!
February 10, 2010Permalink Leave a comment

Developmental Areas

As a place to start so we’re all on the same page, I wanted to write about the different areas of development that most “young kid issues” fall under.

Language Development

This includes both receptive and expressive language. Receptive language is what a child is able to understand. When you say “Go get the ball” or “point to the duck,” those are examples of questions that would show what your child can understand (receptive). Expressive speech is what actually comes out of a child’s mouth. When you say “what’s that” or “say dada” those are questions that would illicit your child to say something (expressive) rather than to just follow a command or to point to something.

There’s another part of speech that you’ll hear about called articulation. This is HOW they say things. When we’re talking about young children (birth to 3 years old), we’re mostly concerned with receptive or expressive language. Since a child is just learning, we’ve got to give them some time to really figure out how to say words correctly. Unless words are totally unable to be understood by anyone, articulation is something that does not need to be addressed until a child is older.

Physical Development

This includes both gross and fine motor movements. Gross motor movements include the bigger movements of the body such as walking, running, and bike riding. Fine motor movements are mostly the smaller movements of the hands such as picking up small objects, coloring, writing, block building, and later cutting.

Cognitive Development

In an older child, this would include things such as knowing numbers, colors, and letters. For a younger child (birth to 3 years old), cognitive pertains more to concepts such as problem solving, identifying objects, and following instructions. Many cognitive ideas at this age overlap with receptive language concepts. As I’ve said before, we need to look at the whole child since so much overlaps at this age.

Social Development

When people hear “social developmen,t” they often jump to think that this area is all about how kids play with other kids. For young kids, however, we do not expect much peer social interaction. We want to see that young kids show some interest in others their age, watch what other kids are doing and eventually play next to them, but kids are not expected to play WITH other kids until they are a bit older (over 3).

Social development at a young age deals more with how kids get their parents’ attention (eye contact, crying, etc),  attachment to parents (ex. separation anxiety), and their overall ability to cope with their environment.

Adaptive Development

This area is the catch all area for how a child takes care of their needs. It includes such things as dressing skills, diapering/potty training, brushing teeth, bathing, sleeping, and feeding. These are the “survival skills” that are done exclusively by parents early on, but as a child grows, they learn to be more independent in these skills.

Keep these areas of development in mind as we’re talking about all of the issues and concerns that come up surrounding your child. Remember, just because these areas are clearly defined does not mean that every concern will fit neatly into just one of these areas of development. Young kids are complicated; we’ve got to look  how each area influences the other areas. For example, if a child can’t walk, it can effect how they interact with others, as well as their ability to explore and learn new things or follow instructions. See what I mean? It’s all about the big picture.

Welcome

Welcome to First Milestones! My name is Bonnie Kenewell, and I will be your guide on your journey through parenthood. My experience and education has led me to create this blog as a place for parents to come to receive some real life advice is a no pressure, worry free zone!

One of the common ties that binds us as parents is that we all worry. We worry in a way that can not be explained to our childless friends, don’t we? I believe that knowledge is a powerful tool in releasing some of that anxiety. But as we all know, there is an infinite amount of information out there about kids that hits us in the face every day.  Just go to the “Child” section at Barnes and Nobles, google “baby information” and skim over 340 million sites, or ask your mother-in-law or your friend whose child walked at 6 months and talked full sentences by a year.

They are all there to help you to raise a happy, healthy child who will contribute positively to society without driving you totally insane in the process.  Sounds great, right? Wrong! It might have been great, except that those sources all seem to give different information about the same topics and most of it is not personal for your child. The goal of this blog is to be a place where much of that information is condensed into a nice, easy-to-read package for you to enjoy!

What makes me different, you might ask? I have a unique perspective in that I am not only a mom of two, but my education and work experience is in child development. I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Special Education. I’ve worked for almost 10 years with young children, ages birth through 4, with special needs.

Most of my work experience has been with babies and toddlers in their homes. The evaluations I provided helped determine the developmental levels of children.  After this initial evaluation, I would visit weekly to help parents with issues that they may have surrounding their child’s speech, eating, social skills, behavior, and even their physical development.

I believe that you have to look at the “whole child” in their natural environment rather than breaking kids into little pieces of developmental stages.  I started working before I had children and always felt that I did a good job understanding parents concerns and giving suggestions that were realistic and effective. Since I’ve had my own children, currently ages 1 and 4, my training and experience came full circle. Now, I really “get it!”

It is my hope that this blog will be  your new guidebook! I will be blogging about those daily mommy experience that I may have with my own children, about philosophies and ideas that I have about child rearing that I have developed after years of studying and living with children, and I will be answering YOUR personal questions.

Please e-mail any and all general questions that you have about your young child to firstmilestones@gmail.com. I will  do my best to answer them on the blog in a way that will help you as well as others who might be in a similar situation. Also, please let me know other ways that I can help answer your questions, or brainstorm with you, as I am in the process of creating a service that will allow us to talk one-on-one about your child.

January 28, 2010Permalink 1 Comment