Archive for June, 2008

And the Battle Wages On

As a mother of a three-year-old who likes to go to the movies, I have a rant. My husband and I took Three-feet-of-fun to see Pixar’s new movie, Wall-E. My rant isn’t about the film, which was excellent by the way, but rather the amount of time it took for the movie to actually start.

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you’ll see that I’d cracked the code on taking our son to the movies. This movie blew the code out of the water. Luckily for us, Three-feet was so excited about seeing the movie, and is closer to four years old as opposed to three, he was able to weather the kink in our otherwise perfect plans.

The movie was supposed to start at 11:20 am. True to our schedule we found our seats at 11:15 and then we did the last potty break before the movie started. We were back in our seats at 11:19. Precisely at 11:20 the screen came alive with film but to our surprise the lights didn’t go down. They called it Children’s Play Time or something equally vague and started showing children’s previews and commercials. They rolled this for TWENTY MINUTES! Then the lights finally went down and then began the REAL PREVIEWS.

The movie didn’t start until NOON!!! Three-feet-of-fun was such a trooper he sat patiently through all the other stuff for the movie to start and was able to sit for the entirety of Wall-E, which by the way, was excellent. Other parents were not so lucky and several had to escort their screaming and impatient children out of the theater while others whispered frantically that the movie was going to start any second — it would be just a moment longer.

So I’m needless to say, miffed. I had broken the code. It had worked perfectly for only, let’s count them, two movies and now I’m back at square one. I have no idea what the “genius” who invented the FORTY MINUTE trailers into an actual children’s movie was thinking. Obviously said idiot doesn’t actually have a child of their own.

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A Day in the Life

I earn a living from home doing a little bit of everything: writing, illustration, design, and culinary type stuff. I’m often asked how I’m able to do all of that with a toddler underfoot. Well I guess he’s considered a preschooler now, but you get my drift.

There’s only way to do it and it’s not some high tech secret answer. It’s really all about time management, and the nice thing about being self-employed from home is that I can slate work in at any hour — from 4:30 am (it was ugly, but I was already up, so what the heck) or in the evening after Three-feet-of-fun goes to bed. The huge drawback is the motivation and to make sure when you slate the time to do it — you, in fact, do it. Let me show you.

A rundown of my day:

5:45 am My thirty five pound alarm clock wakes me up. Instead of zoning on children’s programming, I turn on the computer. By the time Three-feet has his snack and drink, the computer’s waiting for me, raring to go. (I’m hoping it’s just a phase for Three-feet and he’ll eventually learn to sleep in.)
7:30 am Breakfast. I’ve already gotten nearly two hours in on whatever project I have going. So I take a break and Three-feet and I sit down and have breakfast together.
8:15 am The meal’s been consumed, the table cleared off, and the dishes stacked in the dishwasher. That’s when Three-feet and I play games of his choice for an hour.
9:15 am I sit down for another hour on the computer to work. We have a timer system in place at our house. I set it and tell Three-feet he needs to entertain himself until it goes off. So, he’ll go off and read books, play blocks, color, whatever it is he wants to do. We have now built that up to an hour and a half of “don’t bug mommy time.”
10:45am The timer buzzes reminding Three-feet that he can now “bug” me which he promptly does — it’s like Pavlov’s bell. It doesn’t matter what that kids doing or how enthralled in the game, that buzzer goes off and he’s all over me like bees on flowers. It’s rather adorable. Since it’s almost lunch, we play for a bit and then make lunch together.
Noon Three-feet of fun is allowed a movie of his choice and I work for the length of the movie, appropriately commenting when it’s deemed necessary by my little tyrant (it’s amazing what you can work through).
1:45 pm We do arts and crafts. So I get all our art supplies out and while he works on his masterpiece I work on my illustrations and designs. I’m able to do this until he realizes I’m actually “working” then naturally he wants to play Play-Doh or something not drawing related. He’s a clever one.
3:45 pm The timer comes into play again so I can squeeze more work related stuff before dinner.
5:00 pm I stop working to make dinner and include Three-feet in the preparation. He loves helping me cook.
6:00 pm I’m blessed with my husband, who takes Three-feet to the park for an hour and a half every weeknight. This is my creative time. I work on my novels and personal projects that aren’t a paying gig yet. But, to be honest, sometimes I just veg out on a book or take a nap — you know have some mommy alone time.
7:30 pm Bedtime routine begins and we get Three-feet in bed by 8:30 at the latest.
8:30 pm It’s a toss up here. Sometimes I’m actually the better person and put in more time on my personal projects, but I’m also just as guilty as curling up in a blanket on the couch and watching a cheesy movie or playing video games.

I’ve found that a structured routine around your work and the child really helps the child understand that you’re working. I also make sure that I intersperse mommy and Three-feet time because he is after all only three and can’t go out and get a job yet (yeah, I know, what a little shirker).

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The Royal Flush of Potty Training

We have mastered potty training, finally. Three-feet-of-fun is three and a half years old and is now a champion underoo wearer. He didn’t have much of a choice, he’d outgrown public changing tables and I was tired of changing diapers. It had nothing to do with the baleful stares I used to get from the parents of potty trained angels. You know, the perfect little darlings that have been potty trained since birth with no trouble whatsoever. Okay, so I’m being sarcastic, they were more like 3 months old. Nonetheless, it was really tiring to have, “He’s how old?” asked of me again and again when I would need to change his diaper like I was some horrible mother that was too lazy to teach him the ins and outs of the joys of using the toilet.

When Three-feet was 18 months old, my husband and I couldn’t go to the bathroom without him following us in and wanting to flush the toilet. So being the avid baby advice reader, and having read when a child shows interest in bathroom pastimes, go out and get a potty chair to start acclimating them to the idea, I ran out and got him a potty chair. I’d done my homework and had made sure it had a splash guard (you mom’s of boys out there know what I’m talking about) and that it had a comfy seat.

Three-feet was overjoyed at the prospect of having his own big boy potty. He would sit on it for hours, fully dressed of course, and read books, sing songs, and keep us company while we were using the facilities. I thought well he’s going to be a dream. I’d read that boys were harder to train and I thought well obviously not my little overachiever. Then, when I was going to start trying to get him to use it, he suddenly hated it. Looking at the seat, made him cry, let alone trying to sit him on it. I didn’t even bother. He wasn’t even two yet and I figured it was a phase.

That phase lasted a year and a half. When he passed two I tried every trick in the book to convince him to do it. I’d try to bribe him with: stickers, M&M’s, inexpensive dollar store toys — nothing worked. I didn’t want potty training to be a battle and everything I read said it was better to wait for the child to be ready. If some expert said it, then following it doesn’t make me a bad parent, just saying.

When he turned three, was too long for the changing tables, and still refused to go in anything but a diaper, I was at my wits end. I tried switching to pull-ups because then he could actually feel that he was wet, more so than in diapers anyway. He still didn’t care. Then one day, we were at the library for story time, I was complaining to a friend whose daughter is five months younger than Three-feet who had been potty trained forever about how Three-feet refuses to even participate. She told me how she did it. The answer was so wickedly simple that I can’t even believe it’s not written in any expert book I’ve ever read.

So now, in the spirit of a Pay It Forward, I’m going to share this knowledge with you for no charge whatsoever. Isn’t that nice of me?

It’s mind blowing. Are you ready for it?

Just put your child in regular underwear and let them go potty in it.
Yes, that’s it. It’s as simple as that and it totally works.

Obviously, you have to be prepared for messes and all the laundry that’ll entail. You’ll also need to buy several pairs of “big boy or girl” underwear because in the beginning you’re going to go through them. I recommend letting the child pick out which kind they want so they’ll have more reason to want to wear them.

Here’s why I think it works. Diapers and Pull-ups are designed to pull the moisture away from the child’s skin to help avoid diaper rash and other uncomfortable ailments. Even the so-called training pants that turn cold or the ones that the pictures disappear when they’ve gone still doesn’t let the kid “enjoy” the full pleasure of being soaked through when they’ve gone to the bathroom. Three-feet absolutely hated being wet. Hated it.

The first day I put him in underwear, I didn’t bug him about going at all. He picked out which pair of “big boy” underwear he wanted to wear. I explained to him that he was a big boy now and that he wasn’t going to wear diapers anymore. I told him he needed to tell Mommy when he had to go potty and we’d go. Three-feet is a strong-willed child and I knew the more I harassed him about going the more he was going to dig in his feet about not going. I didn’t want the war. I figured he’d learn soon enough. When he did potty in his underwear I would calmly explain to him that he should tell me he has to go, this method can’t use yelling — you’re basically setting them up to learn by error and it isn’t fair to punish for that.

In less than a week, he’d figured out he didn’t like to go potty in his underwear. Being the precocious kid he is, he begged and cried for his diapers back. So that’s when I instituted the potty awards system. We went out and bought a bunch of stickers. I let him pick out all sorts of different kinds and then every time we had a successful potty trip he’d get to pick out a sticker and put it on his shirt. He’d be so proud of everyone he’d received that he’d count them and tell anyone who would listen why he had them. (Just remember to peel them off the clothes before you wash and dry. I learned that the hard way.)

I’m not saying we don’t have an occasional accident, he’s three and a half so, naturally, he gets so involved in playing he tries to hold it as long as possible and sometimes he doesn’t make it to the toilet but all in all the whole process worked like a dream.

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Taking Tots to the Theater

My husband and I took our three-year-old, three-feet-of-fun to the movies to see Kung Fu Panda on Friday. He loved it and sat enthralled the entire time from the previews to the end credits. After the movie he talked animatedly about his favorite parts, reenacted some awesome Kung Fu, and played in the arcade for about half an hour and then we went home.

We had a perfect movie going experience. It wasn’t always that way.

Three-feet was two and a half years old when the third Shrek hit the theaters. He loved Shrek 2 (but really who didn’t? Especially Puss ‘N Boots) and could even sit and watch the entire movie. We thought it’d be a fun to take him to Shrek the Third. So we did.

What a nightmare. We took him at the worst possible time, way to early, and tried to make him stay for the show — basically we did everything wrong. He’d missed his nap (oh how I miss naptime) so he was tired and cranky, we went fifteen minutes early, before the previews even started, as we’d done before we had Three-feet, and shockingly, when he got bored, wanted to leave, and started fussing, we tried to make him sit, be quiet, and stay still. We finally gave up and left with a screaming child twenty minutes into the actual movie.

We thought well maybe he just didn’t like the movie which was why he wouldn’t sit and watch it. Nope, we rented it when it came to DVD and he sat through the entire movie spellbound and it quickly replaced Shrek 2 as his favorite.

When Horton Hears a Who came to the movie theaters we endeavored to try again. This time Three-feet was older, now three, and we had a new plan of attack. We would take him to the earliest showing and avoid the crankiness. We would still go early (old habits die hard), but I would hold our seats, and my husband would take Three-feet to the arcade until the movie started. We were also prepared to up and leave at any moment’s notice.

Our plan worked like a dream. We talked up the movie before we went, showing Three-feet posters and pictures — getting him excited. He’d given up his naps by then, but we still went to the earliest showing because we still had surly afternoons sometimes. We got a big tub of popcorn (Three-feet’s favorite food) and then I went and held our seats and the boys found me when the movie started.

At first I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I think Three-feet might’ve remembered the horribleness of our last theater trip as he wanted to leave when the lights went down. But I’d thought of that, thus the big tub of popcorn. So I sat him on my lap and bribed him into trying out the theater experience with yummy buttery goodness — “You catch more flies with honey…” had echoed in my mind in my mother’s voice. By the time the popcorn was gone, Three-feet had succumbed to the allure of Dr. Seuss’ animated world and sat on my lap the whole movie.

We’d inadvertently created a monster that day — now the kid asks me every day if we can go to the movies. He was beyond delighted when we told him we were taking him to Kung Fu Panda. We still went to the earliest showing, we still hit up the arcade prior to the start of the movie (I’m neurotic about getting to the theater early), but now the glory that is movie popcorn is a treat not a bribe. Although I don’t know if he’d still want to go as bad without it.

Tips for a successful trip to the theater:

Attention span. Before you even think of taking your little one to the movies make sure they have the attention span to enjoy it. If your little one can’t sit through a feature length animation DVD at home then there is no way he’s going to sit through a theater experience. Why waste the money.

Build up. Talk the theater and the movie up with your child. Get them excited about the whole experience. That was something we’d neglected to do the first time around so Three-feet didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. I think it makes a difference. If your child is jazzed by the idea of going you’re more likely to get better results.

Early shows. Go to the early shows, the earlier the better. Kids are always at their best when they’re well rested. They listen better, have better attention spans, and are capable of sitting somewhat still in a theater seat.

Arrival time. I hate navigating a dark theater and being forced to sit in the only seats not taken. So, if you’re like me then you like to go early. There is nothing wrong with going early as long as you don’t expect your little one to sit in his chair from the time you get there until the movie starts as well as the entire movie. So have someone hold your seats for you and go play until the movie starts. It’s one thing to find your way through a dark theater when you don’t know where you’re going for crap seats, it’s another when you know where you’re going and have the pick of seats you want.

Snacks. Concession stands are a nightmare. They’re expensive and lets face it all the food is junk — well everything except movie popcorn. That stuff is gold. So make sure you enjoy a healthy snack or a light meal before you go. Hungry children are cranky children and popcorn just isn’t that healthy or filling to substitute a meal.

Bathroom breaks. Kids hate missing things to go to the bathroom. Three-feet-of-fun makes me pause his movies so he won’t miss a thing when he runs to the bathroom for movies he’s seen a hundred times but in a theater you can’t do that. Take the pressure off of pee time. Make a special trip to the bathroom before the movie starts and then only have a small beverage so that their little bladders can make it until the end of the movie.

I hope these tips help for you first-time-movie-goers with munchkins. I wish I had someone fill me in on the secret before I had tried to take Three-feet to his first movie. May your first times be more pleasant and fruitful than mine was.

Posted in Uncategorized, Parenting, Child Development, TV and Pop Culture | 2 Comments »

Welcome, Lisa!

I’m a bit late in welcoming Lisa as the new Family Resource Feature Blogger. I hope she’ll forgive me!

Lisa is a good friend and a great writer, I hope you enjoy her posts as much as I enjoy them. Her post on behavior techniques was a great first post!

I’ve resigned from the feature position, but you will still see me now and then. Not a lot, but some. :-) Good luck, Lisa and thanks for taking over the blog, can’t wait to read all of your upcoming posts.

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Unexpectedly an Expert

Woman: What’s your secret?

Me: Secret?

Woman: Your son. Is he always that well behaved?

Me: Well he has his moments, but yeah, usually.

Woman: How do you do it?

Every evening after dinner my husband and I take three-feet-of-fun, our three-year-old son, to the park and last night I unexpectedly became a child behavior expert. Apparently it had shocked the woman when I told three-feet-of-fun not to throw sand, he said sorry and immediately dropped his other handful without protest. He then sat down and started “making me a cake.”

Her son, only two months younger than mine, she told me, wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t mind, talked back to her, and was aggressive. She was feeling discouraged and wanted to know if I had any secrets for success or was my child just naturally easygoing. I laughed — it had been a long and painful road to get my strong willed child under control. Since she asked, I told her.

My top tactics for molding a good listening, well behaved, child:

Pick your battles. So what if your kid wants to eat ketchup with a spoon. Sure it’s gross but really you have bigger battles to win. You’ll have an easier time enforcing the important rules if you don’t sweat when your child wants to wear the same clothes he wore yesterday, dip his cheeseburger in applesauce, or lick the nontoxic chalk dust off his hands.

1, 2, 3. I’m a firm believer in counting. However, counting only works if, when you hit three, you deal out the consequences. I tell three-feet-of-fun to stop whatever it is he is doing and if he doesn’t respond right away, I start counting. 1….. 2…… He always stops by two. The trick is in the tone — I use a stern, no nonsense tone that he can’t ignore. It didn’t always work, though, and every time he didn’t listen, he’d get a timeout, even when he’d wait until I said three and then stop. I’d tell him he was too late, he had to stop before I said three, and then I’d stick him in timeout — he spent a lot of time in timeouts at the beginning.

Timeouts. They say for every year the child is old that’s how many minutes to give them in timeout. When I first started to do timeouts, three-feet-of-fun wouldn’t stay in the chair so I would calmly put him back in the chair and add more time. I explained to him that for every time he got up I’d add on more time until he stayed seated and the timer went off. I had to do it several times but he finally got it. Now, if I threaten a timeout to stop misbehavior, it’s a rare occurrence that he pushes me to enforce it.

Spankings. I know that spankings are a controversial punishment and are mostly frowned upon in today’s society. But I confess that I have used them on a rare occasion. If what three-feet-of-fun is doing is especially dangerous, I don’t feel like I have time to calmly reason with him and count to three. If he doesn’t listen and it’s going to hurt him I will spank his bottom, once, with an open hand. I don’t spank that hard, I know it doesn’t hurt him because it doesn’t hurt my hand, but it gets his attention immediately.

I don’t agree with spanking a child for crying. I’ve read books that say if a child cries for longer than five minutes, he needs to be given something to cry about. If three-feet-of-fun is particularly whiny or crying for no reason, I simply tell him I’m sorry he feels that way but there’s nothing I can do for him. Then I direct him to his room where he can carry on until he feels better and can come back out and use his words.

Consistency. I can’t stress this enough. If you say continue x behavior and y will happen. Y must happen. Once you establish the rules, you have to consistently enforce them. If you don’t, children will know they can sometimes win, and it will always be a battle. Kids are smart and they’re going to consistently test your resolve. Don’t get discouraged, it always gets worse before it gets better — but it does get better.

Redirection. When three-feet-of-fun was younger he had a nasty biting habit. He’d either be mad and bite, or he’d be playing and get so wound up he’d bite. I couldn’t break him of it so I tried a different approach. When he’d go in for a bite I’d tell him don’t slime Mommy, and made it a game. Granted, I get licked now, but I’d rather be slobbered on than bit. Children need to find outlets to express themselves, find them non painful ones.

Rewards. I have a hard time doling out stiff punishments for silly things like brushing teeth and taking baths. I’ve found for daily chores that need to be done that a reward system works best. We’ve instituted a responsibility chart that has things on it like brushing teeth, picking up toys, no whining, helping out, taking a bath, getting ready for bed — you know stuff of that nature, he is only three after all. At the end of the day if he’s done them all he gets to mark them off with magnets and when he fills up the weekly chart, he gets to pick out an inexpensive toy while we’re out shopping. So when he fusses about having to do something I remind him if he doesn’t, he won’t get a magnet. That usually ends the argument and gets the job done.

I think the most important thing is that for every punishment I have to dole out, I deal out at least three times as many praises. Anytime he listens without my having to count or anytime he does something without having to be asked I make sure he knows I noticed it and I lavish attention on him.

These tactics worked for me. Since no two kids are the same, they might need some modification to work for you. I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination so I was taken by surprised when this woman hung on my every word and said she was going to incorporate them into her approach. I was just a mom hoping that something I’d done would prove helpful to her.

Posted in Uncategorized, Behavior Issues | 2 Comments »