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How to Raise Decent Children without Spankings or Time-Outs

Problem solving fine motor games, like matching bolts and nuts, develops patience and tenacity when things get tough.

Long before I became a mother, before I entered the world of early childhood education, I had long conversations with friends about raising children, specifically, how to raise decent ones.  Conversations like these were usually sparked by some horrendous spectacle at a restaurant, or shopping mall, or while walking down the sidewalk, and always came around to the conclusion that no matter what I did, my eventual children would never do or be anything less than I wanted them to be. Period.  Anything else was a failure of parenting.

Oh, naive and ignorant younger me.  Somewhere along the journey from that former self to where I am now, I came into a marvelous collection of books, resources, and amazing mentors in the field of early childhood education who shared a secret with me.  To be successful as a parent, raising children who will grow up to be compassionate, capable, integrated souls, I needed entirely different methods: no physical punishments, no coercion cloaked as emotional management.  I needed to teach my children how to get their needs met.  As they grew clearer about how to meet their needs in pro-social ways, we would all be better off.


Who’s Driving Your Car?

Process-oriented art a la Cadence

Metaphorically speaking.

I was at a park, sitting a few feet away from my very capable 1-year-old who was climbing up and down the stairs and skillfully maneuvering the slide.  The mother of a young toddler followed her daughter through the structure close to Desmond.   She spotted him, and looked concerned, thinking (I assume), “Where is this boy’s parent?  Should I intervene?”  She was alarmed – unaware of Desmond, his context, his mad climbing skills.  From my place, however, she was hovering – crowding her daughter’s exploration, and giving her daughter a false sense of competency.  Our eyes met almost immediately, and she asked, “Is he yours?”


They Are What They Eat: What to Feed Hungry Children

Lots of color at the table

Greetings on this lovely Monday!  Today, I’m addressing one of the common areas of concern for parents and care providers of young children: serving healthy, delicious, easy-to-prepare, delicious meals.  When I mention that my program serves vegetarian meals and that I do not cook processed foods, I often get looks.  What do you serve?  You mean no hot dogs? No fish sticks?  No tater tots?  Not that there’s anything terrible about hot dogs or fish sticks or tater tots, but I believe that in order to preform and learn their best, children need high quality, nutrient dense foods, low in sugar and salt.  Children have unpredictable appetites: some days, they eat through several servings without blinking, and at others, they nibble like little birds.  Making each bite count helps ensure that throughout the day, their bodies get what they need to grow.  (more…)

How Do You Get Kids To Clean Up?

My sweet one-year-old

I found an e-card floating around on Facebook a few weeks ago that said, “Cleaning with kids in the house is like eating Oreos while brushing your teeth.”  I laughed.  Our little Desmond just turned one, and my husband and I oh-so-affectionately refer to him as the “One-Man-Tornado.”  [Do understand that I have the utmost respect for all of the critical brain development happening in his “one-man-tornado-ness” and I mean no disrespect to his process with this moniker.  Okay, carry on.]  He is in a dumping phase – wiring up some important neural connections by unloading basket after basket of blocks, balls, animals, metal baby food lids, and so on.  I am passionate about keeping materials accessible to children to foster their learning, but such a design permits Desmond to undo a tidy space in a matter of nano-seconds.


“That’s Not Fair!” Three Words You’ll LOVE To Hear

Supplying food items for our local food pantry.

Me: “Tekoa, I have two strawberries left.  Which one would you like?”
Tekoa: “Hmm…which one is bigger?”

I smiled.  Tekoa and I were sharing a snack while on our recent vacation, and while I would not expect such a straightforward response from anyone other than my four-year-old daughter, it is generally what anyone in Tekoa’s position might be thinking.  As she grows, her thought process will be more complicated and strictly internal: Which one is bigger?  Is my mom hungrier than I am? Does she want the bigger strawberry?  What does it mean if I take the bigger one?  Will I look greedy? Selfish? What if I save the bigger one for her…she would like that?  But at four years old, issues of strawberries are pretty cut and dry.  I love them.  I’d like a lot of them.  Simple.