Friday, January 04, 2008

More Cabin Fever Cures

I'm a little late with this - sorry to anyone who's been checking for it. Had to help my daughter and her friends run the snack bar for the high school wrestling match last night, and I was just too whupped when I got home to get this up.
BUT, as promised, here is the "LE" of my SMILE strategies for no-fuss parenting. My six-year-old nephew Geoff, above, is demonstrating the "E" - Empowerment - as he tackles washing up all by himself after cooking his own scrambled eggs for breakfast (with only a little help with the hot stove). During my time as a toddler day care teacher and a preschool teacher I learned how much kids can do themselves with a little support and supervision - lessons that my own kids have re-taught me many times over the years.

LOOK! OVER THERE! Hah! Distracted you, didn't I? Refocus your child’s attention (or your own) to end battles. Distraction remains one of my favorite parenting strategies, even with teens.
  • Kids melting down? Instead of getting caught up in a squabble, circumvent it with an activity. To get small fry involved, try the teacher tested-technique of "Plop and Do." Just gather the supplies to build a block tower, or set up a blanket and pillow fort, or whatever, and start doing it. Little guys will be attracted to it like fruit flies to those aging bananas on the counter. Bonus: as soon as the kiddies are engaged, you can slip away to do something else (as long as it's not something even more appealing to your kids, like mushing up the gross bananas to make muffins).

  • You'll get more mileage out of your kids' toys during the long winter if you follow the strategies used in schools and childcare centers: stick to toys with many, many uses, like dolls, plastic animals and action figures, a dress up box, classic building toys, art supplies; avoid like the plague any toys that make electronic noises (these should be "accidentally" broken as quickly as possible and put out in the trash, or else you can just forget over and over to buy new batteries); keep most toys stashed out of kid reach and rotate what's available for play on a regular basis - this keeps the mess to a minimum, interest high, and prevents kids from getting overwhelmed by too many choices; and shift activities often, alternating a quiet activity with a rowdier one, a do-alone activity with a do-together one.

  • You can check out some specific activity ideas on the list I provided to KDKA before my appearance at this link to their website.

EMPOWER YOUR CHILD Give him the tools to grow and to be an important member of the family - life will be easier and more satisfying for everyone.

  • Set the stage by doing your job as parent. I know, it can be hard to act mature when you've spent the last 12 hours scraping playdough out of the carpet, playing 75 straight games of Candyland (and losing every one), and cutting the crusts off PB&J, but if you don't meet your kid's basic needs for good nutrition, adequate sleep, and plenty of exercise, nothing else will work.

  • Set up a “Yes, I can” environment with child-sized equipment. Stock up on step stools and sturdy chairs, buy unbreakable dishes, choose safe cleaning supplies (it's amazing how well baby wipes clean things), and invest in real but small-sized tools (like a tiny snow shovel, kid-sized kitchen utensils, a little broom and dustpan).

  • Assign chores (like making the bed – yes, it will look like crap, but that's okay; setting the table - make placemats showing the positions of utensils; and emptying waste baskets - provide a box with a wide "mouth" that your child can push room to room). Also invite kids to participate in family decisions whenever possible (like what to do for fun on the weekend, menu-planning, which choice for the summer vacation is best).

  • Teach emotional control strategies like "spitting out grumpies" (take a cup of water in the bathroom, swish water and grumpies around, spit out in sink) or "holding in hitting" (with a tight self-inflicted bear hug if necessary) to manage strong feelings.

  • Let your kid experience frustration – and learn he can try again; let her be bored and discover how to be resourceful. Teach problem-solving approaches, like asking, “What if..?” and “What else could I do?”

  • Finally, get each kid a Power Rangers outfit (or Spiderman suit, Incredibles costume, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle get-up, etc.) and whenever your kids whine that they can't do something, say, "But a Power Ranger can! And you're a Power Ranger, right?" (When they get older, this strategy can switch to: "But someone mature enough to drive a car can do that! And you're mature enough to drive, right?")

    Here are links to my FussBuster books on amazon, if you're searching for more detailed, specific ideas: FussBusters at Home and FussBusters on the Go.

Oh! One last thing. I'm planning to make Tuesdays my day for posting general parenting tips, and as well as tips for reading with your kids and/or reviews of kids' books - I'll use the title "Tuesday Tip Day" when I do. I'm not promising every week or anything, but I'll try to make it fairly regular!

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