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    How to Stop a Tantrum






    When a child is having a tantrum, is it really our job as a parent to physically stop that tantrum or punish a child for having one? I say no. Our job is to acknowledge the tantruming child’s upset, to give them words for feelings they may not have experienced before (or just don’t know how to express), to help guide their anger or frustration or extra energy in a productive way, and to keep them and those around them safe in the process.  But those emotions - expressed as a temper tantrum - they BELONG to your child, not to you. You aren’t responsible for your child’s feelings, and It isn’t your job to stop them emoting. You are responsible for keeping them safe, but curtailing or punishing expression of emotion isn’t healthy in the short or long term!


    A tantrum is an expulsion of energy and emotion from a child who doesn’t yet have a full understanding of the range of human emotions, nor the knowledge or control to express them in a reasonable manner. Sometimes a tantrum comes from a child wanting to say something, but not having the right words. Sometimes they are overstimulated. Sometimes, they’re just plain tired. Kids are NEW to all of these things - excitement, fear, large groups of people, boredom, jealousy, anger, frustration, feeling super tired but not being in their bed… and the list goes on. Children are new to the WORLD! They are still learning - everything.  

    Of course, tantrums aren’t fun. And they usually aren’t convenient. But they are normal, and can be awesome learning experiences!  Here are some ideas to help you help your child navigate a tantrum:


    1) Practice patience. Both for yourself, and for your child. Seeing you calm in the midst of her storm is an awesome lesson to be teaching. Remember no tantrum lasts forever; this storm will pass - so it’s really okay to allow your child room and to express themselves. As long as they aren’t in danger of being hurt, or hurting someone else, there’s no harm in kicking the floor for a bit. If it’s upsetting to you, give yourself some space. If you’re worried about your child getting hurt, gently move them to a safer spot, or if they’re bigger, suggest they move themselves (this is something that’s great to be talked about ahead of time - when things are calm - choosing a “calming spot” or a place that’s okay to kick around in).


    2) Acknowledge their feelings. Let them know you understand through your words & actions (and in doing so, you’re giving them words to describe how they feel) by describing what you see:

    I see you are upset because I didn’t let you have a cookie.

    I can tell you’re really frustrated because the game didn’t end up the way you wanted.

    I know you’re not feeling great right now because your friend can’t come play.

    I hear you are really angry because I changed my mind about our plans.


    3) Empathize. When you’re not feeling good, it helps to know you’re not alone. Let your child know you’ve been there:

    I know how it feels to be mad; I get mad sometimes too.

    It isn’t fun when we have to stop playing; I don’t like to be interrupted either.

    It stinks to feel left out.


    4) Accept them. Let them know it’s okay, emotions are normal, and that no matter what happens, you love them:

    It’s okay to feel bad sometimes, and it won’t last forever.

    It’s alright that you’re upset, that’s normal to feel that way when something happens that you don’t like.

    It’s okay to get angry at me, I love you even when you’re angry.


    5) Wait. You DON’T have to teach anything in the middle of a tantrum. You can wait it out. Once the storm has passed… THEN you can talk about what happened. Or, you can leave it. Sometimes a kid just needs a release, and moving on can be in everyone’s best interest. A hug, a high five, or a pat on the back, then continuing with your day may be just what’s needed. Another time, apart from the emotional event might be a better point to discuss what to do next time.


    If and when you do choose to talk about the tantrum, here are some ideas:


    1) Remember the good stuff. Don’t hang on to the bad feelings or even the why’s of what happened, instead, bring up what they did right.  If your child used words you’ve been working on, praise them for that, if they took themselves to their quiet area without being reminded, let them know you appreciated that:

    I heard you say that you were really frustrated. Thank you so much for using those words, I really understood what you were feeling!

    I noticed that when you were so angry, you went up to your room. I bet you felt proud to recognize your feelings and choose to move yourself to your calming spot.

    I saw you kicked your pillow instead of your sister. That was really good self control, thank you for not hurting anyone.


    2) Suggest alternatives. If your child tends to be destructive during a tantrum - throwing or breaking things or kicking, think about some things that they could physically do that would be OKAY with you, like (suggesting SOFT stuff ahead of time may help direct their behaviors towards those things):

    Hitting a pillow or punching a punching bag

    Lying on the bed or couch & kicking

    Tossing/kicking stuffed animals into a laundry basket


    3) Talk about prevention. It’s amazing to see a child recognize they are getting angry or upset, and refocus their energy BEFORE they have a tantrum. It is possible! Giving your kids some ideas for getting their feelings out without hurting themselves, others, or damaging things around them. Let them know those feelings are real, but they will pass, particularly if they are able to focus them onto something else. Some ideas:

    Building a fort with pillows and blankets

    Rolling, pounding, sculpting clay or playdoh

    Drawing - can be about how they feel or not - just the action of drawing can help

    Weaving potholders or rainbow loom rubber band bracelets

    Stacking blocks or building legos

    Acting out how they feel or what happened to make them feel angry/sad with dolls/Barbies

    Meditating or reading


    When we are tired as adults, we take ourselves to a place we can rest. We we are frustrated or angry, we say so. When we’re overstimulated, we say goodnight, and leave the party. ;) We’ve had years and years of practice at recognizing how we feel, and learning how to curb it, act on it productively, or express it without hurting others or ourselves - emotionally or physically (and sometimes, we even fail). Your kids are new at all of this. Give them the tools to succeed and... give them time to figure it out. Work with them to find solutions, and things will get easier.

     

    Peace.

    Posted: Nov 25 2013, 23:45 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    WPPW (Week 5): Enjoy





    I've so enjoyed the experience of writing poetry over the last five weeks; it's hard to believe the month of April has gone already! This week brought so many experiences and changes to our lives - overwhelming at times, and yet, I still found the time to sit and write; I think that says something good about poetry. Having not written poetry before, I found it challenging and frustrating, and yet - satisfying in its simplicity, and so I hope to continue - even without the gentle push of a weekly goal. Thank you Lauren for hosting, and thank you - anyone - for reading along.

     

    This week's poetry theme was Enjoy. As there is nothing I so enjoy as time outdoors with my children, it seemed only natural that experience would inspire my final week's poem.

    Weekly Parenting Poetry Workshop


    Gardening  

     

    Afternoon Spring sun warms our shoulders as we crouch, hunched over our hardened-off sprouts.

    Searching for the heartiest amidst curved shoots, wilted leaves; small fingers examining each stem, you are engrossed.

    A swallow - darting,  just inches from the sun-warmed top of your head; you are undeterred.

    This one looks strong.

    And I agree. I haven't taught you this; selection is innate.

    Each one you gently separate, place, settle down into fertile soil.

    Dirt in your hair, fingernails, in the scrapes on your knees.

    And wonder in your eyes - perhaps imagining a future filled with fruit and vegetables.    

    Until - suddenly - concern crosses your countenance, interrupting your calm:  

    The water is knocking him over.

    It's okay, I say, Time will make him stronger.

    You nod, returning to your work.

    The swallow darts again, and we smile.


     

    Posted: May 05 2013, 17:25 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    WPPW (Week 4): Trust





    There were many inspiring prompts this week, but life got in the way of writing a bit, as life is wont to do. I felt the strongest spark from "Why: What big questions from your children have you been terrified and privileged to answer?" as I find so many of the questions my children ask to be formidable to answer - less in the mechanics of answering and more so in the self-examination they command. And so, this week's Parenting Poetry Workshop entry:

    Weekly Parenting Poetry Workshop

    Teaching

     

    Knowing more than we see

    You sense before you have words to tell us

    Feelings

    Intentions

    I struggle to define death yet you already understand

    In the young speech you have, explaining more than I've described

    I am humbled, struck  by your awareness

    Otherworldly

     

    Makes me wonder how much I am teaching you

    When really - should you be teaching me?

     

    Posted: Apr 27 2013, 12:11 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Food for Thought on the Gender Binary





    Last night we were at a restaurant as a family - my husband, myself, and our two children. As we were waiting for our food, one of the servers approached our table and singled out one of my children.

    "Is this child a boy or a girl?" she said.

    We answered as we understand our child in question to be - what our child has asserted to us to be their gender. (for the purpose of this piece, the gender choice of my child has been withheld)

    The waitress appeared puzzled, and continued to linger at our table, scrutinizing our child. She got closer in - right up to our child's face, in fact.

    "Are YOU a boy or a girl?" she inquired directly of our child, obviously unhappy with our response - perhaps seeking  clarification or perhaps just confirmation of our assertion from the source - it was unclear. Her interrogation wasn't mean spirited, just, well... overtly skeptical.

    Our child shrugged, unbothered, and answered.

    Still, the waitress lingered; still looking. Bewildered.

    And then, as if in attempt to justify her incredulity to both us, AND our children,  

    "oh, well, this child has such a girl's/boy's face!"

    And with that, left our table.


    We were, in a word, flabbergasted. That is, my husband and I, anyhow. In fact we both felt unable to fully enjoy the rest of our meal.

    At issue for me, primarily, was WHY someone felt so compelled to even ASK the question she had, to override the - what I would believe to be - generally understood code of appropriate conduct when addressing "strangers": that is, basically, to be polite and NOT impertinent.

    But beyond that - giving that an assumption of appropriateness might vary from person to person - why CONTINUE to pry after the question had been answered ; to continue to meddle into an area of personal definition that is, well, PERSONAL?

    What gave someone the right to take the liberty of assumption well beyond casual observation and into interrogation?

    And then, we were plagued with trying to answer our own questions: Was it because our child was dressed as our child felt they'd like to dress - perhaps not conforming to the understood gender expectations of bright colors = girl and dark colors = boy? Was it because our child was wearing their hair in the way they choose - perhaps not conforming to the understood gender-aligned expectations of short hair = boy and long hair = girl? What makes anyone feel they NEED to classify another person into box A or B? Is our society so hung up on defining personhood by gender assignment? Was it because we didn't loudly put our foot down and insist that our child was A or B? Was it because our child is... a CHILD, and adults tend to take liberties in speaking with children that they wouldn't dream of taking with adults?

    I don't know.

    Incidentally, the interaction didn't seem to faze either of our children - not the one whose gender was being questioned, and not the one who - apparently - fit neatly into the gender binary. I wonder, perhaps, if our children's reactions - or lack thereof - mightn't be a lesson. Gender is but one piece in the very large puzzle of being. We needn't make it the primary nor the ultimate in defining who a person IS.

    Food for thought.  

     

    Posted: Nov 12 2012, 19:00 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Parenting

    Hurricane Sandy and the Jersey Shore





    If you'd like to donate to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, click here (to jump right to the bottom of this post).


    Two weekends ago, we took the day to travel "down the shore" (that's how we say it here in New Jersey). We went to Long Beach Island because it's the closest to us - a little over an hour drive - or 35mi due West as the crow flies.


    (running along Spray Beach in LBI)


    (one of the street markers located at each opening in the dunes along LBI)

    I'd been meaning to share our trip with you here in pictures, because it was such an idyllic  weekend at the beach. But then... Hurricane Sandy (known pre-disaster by the moniker "Frankenstorm" for its proximity to Halloween) came through my state.

    For my family, the hurricane meant a bit of scrambling around in preparation - gathering supplies, the unique opportunity to witness a hurricane up-close, 24 hours of lost power, frantic working to keep our warehouse up and running, and a delayed Halloween. We were truly fortunate to have missed some of the worst weather and after effects.

     

    For other families, some I know personally and others I've only seen in the media reports, the hurricane brought power disruption, home destruction, and most devastatingly, loss of life. The pictures I see coming in from the shore (where we JUST. WERE.) and from the surrounding towns and cities are almost incomprehensible.


    (looking towards the ocean on LBI during the storm - source unknown)


    (car buried in sand on LBI after the storm- source unknown)


    (the dunes, no longer there - LBI after the storm - source unknown)


    (a beach marker, nearly covered in sand during post-storm cleanup efforts on LBI - source unknown)

    My heart goes out to those still struggling. It's COLD here in New Jersey right now; and there's a Nor'easter coming this week (that means a BIG snow storm for those of you not from the North East USA). Millions are still without power, thousands of homes were damaged, and there's a gas shortage in the Northern part of my state. It's hard to watch the news, to talk about it with my children, to understand what happened so close to home. But it helps to know so many people have have donated time and money to help those most in need. The generosity of the human spirit is alive and well in New Jersey; I am so thankful.


    If you'd like to donate to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in my state, and the surrounding areas hit hard by the storm, here are a few places you can do so. (Each of these charities are non-religiously/politically affiliated and have received a commendable rating at CharityNavigator.org)

    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy child welfare efforts: Save the Children

     

    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy hunger relief efforts at the Jersey shore: The Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties

     

    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy medical supplies and equipment: Direct Relief International

     

    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy companion animal rescue and care efforts: Best Friends Animal Society

     

    To donate directly to general Hurricane Sandy emergency relief efforts: American Red Cross

     

    To help find or to offer breastmilk storage to those without power: Human Milk for Human Babies - New Jersey

     

    Thank you for reading, for donating, for keeping those affected by Hurricane Sandy in your hearts and thoughts. Peace.

    Note: I am not affiliated with any of the above listed charities. When you click on the above links, you will leave my site, and go directly to the individual charity pages.
    Posted: Nov 03 2012, 17:10 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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