Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
Graphic novels are a huge hit, but did you realize that they bolster students’ confidence and reading skills? Kids enjoy reading them, and this makes them want to read more. They also build a sense of story structure, character development and vocabulary. Here’s a selection of new graphic novels to share with kids this fall.
“The Great Art Caper,” by Victoria Jamieson (Henry Holt/Macmillan; 64 pp.; $7.99; ages 5-9). The second-graders’ classroom pet, George Washington the hamster, continues his adventures with friends Barry the bunny and Sunflower the guinea pig, this time saving the students’ art show from sabotage by the mischievous mouse Harriet. Young readers new to graphic novels will love imagining the secret life of their classroom pets.
“Older Than Dirt: A Wild but True Story of Earth,” by Don Brown and Dr. Mike Perfit (HMH; 112 pp.; $18.99; ages 9-14). This engaging nonfiction graphic novel explains a wide range of earth science, including the Big Bang, the formation of landmasses and the development of different life forms, all the way to modern climate change. The illustrations and brief text make the complex issues accessible, and the groundhog’s banter with her worm friend adds essential comic relief.
“One Trick Pony,” by Nathan Hale (Abrams; 128 pp.; $14.95; ages 8-12). Hostile aliens have devastated Earth in search of technology, but Strata and her friends stumble upon a cache of robots, including a super robot pony. Determined to protect her family and friends from the wrath of the alien Pipers, Strata leads the aliens on a wild chase in this fast-paced sci-fi adventure.
“Real Friends,” by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (First Second; 224 pp.; $12.99; ages 8-12). In this graphic novel memoir, Shannon Hale focuses on the trouble she had figuring out friendship issues throughout elementary school. The format is perfect for this audience — blending images, short text and visual storytelling to help young readers see just how hard friendship issues really are and understand some ways through them.
“The Sand Warrior,” by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel, illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller and Boya Sun (Random House; 256 pp.; $12.99; ages 10-13). This complex fantasy launches a new series, 5 Worlds, as young sand dancer Oona Lee finds the courage, wisdom and skills to save her planet and friends from destruction. This epic quest will appeal to fantasy lovers who will want to read it carefully, gleaning many clues from the interweaving storylines. Outstanding visual feel to the many worlds, with characters of many sizes, shapes, and skin tones.
“Star Scouts,” by Mike Lawrence (First Second; 192 pp.; $14.99; ages 8-12). Avani Patel is having trouble in her new school, but life becomes much more interesting when she’s abducted by a cheerful blue alien named Mabel. Avani joins Mabel’s group of friends in their Star Scouts troop as they earn badges in teleporting, jetpack racing and “xenoscatology” (yep, identifying alien poops). Kids will love the adventure, humor and especially Avani’s spunky character, as she discovers that she doesn’t have to fit in to find friends.
“Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt,” by Ben Clanton (Tundra; 64 pp.; $7.99; ages 6-10). This is a terrific graphic novel for beginning readers, with cheerful Narwhal who’s determined to be a superhero. Narwhal’s superpower turns out to being a true friend, especially when his best friend Jelly is nervous at every turn. Adorable and charming, perfect for kids who’ve moved beyond Elephant & Piggie.
“Swing It, Sunny,” by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Graphix/Scholastic; 224 pp.; $12.99; ages 9-12). The book is set in the 1976-77 school year, and Sunny is starting middle school after spending a summer with Gramps (in “Sunny Side Up”). When her big brother Dale is sent to military boarding school after getting into trouble with drugs, Sunny worries about him. This poignant narrative authentically captures a young tween’s family struggles and developing friendships.
Mary Ann Scheuer is a teacher librarian for the Berkeley Unified School District. Find more books Mary Ann recommends sharing with children at her blog, Great Kid Books, http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.com.
Teaching children to sustain the earth that they inherit comes along with eating local, seasonal foods. It is a teaching moment to take them somewhere near their homes where food is grown and allow them to see how much work goes into each bite they enjoy. Having a child go through the process of picking, washing, hulling, macerating and baking a strawberry pie really makes every bite count. I find my children are more apt to try a new food if they get to choose it, and that goes double if they get to pick it and help prepare it as well.
Having a backyard garden is a great idea, but not everyone has space or time for that. U-pick farms are a wonderful way to get fresh local produce with a learning experience built in. Customers go with baskets and buckets (some wheelbarrows are provided) and reach into the earth for their dinners. Kids can help with the low-hanging fruit and ground items like strawberries and beans. They will see how corn grows tall, how beans grow on their wily vines and how each meal eaten came from hard work, lots of water, weeding, plowing, sunshine and the extreme care of farmers within the community. The picked produce is warm from the sun and smells of the earth. It doesn’t get more authentic than that.
Many local U-pick farms have special dates and times where customers may come and pay by the pound to take home freshly picked produce. Oftentimes, these places will make an event of it and have a jam tasting or have fresh eggs and other items for sale as well.
It is also in poor taste and, in many cases, prohibited to “sample” the produce as it is picked. Farmers appreciate that families wait to weigh and purchase their bounties before eating. Most farms are also cash only.
Dogs and other pets are not permitted to come along on the adventure due to the need for food cleanliness and safety.
Lastly, as these are working farms where there is real and very expensive and dangerous farm equipment, most farms have strict policies against children exploring, playing, climbing trees, or climbing on tractors and trucks. If a branch of a fruit tree is broken by climbing children, this is a detriment to the farm’s livelihood.
Be sure to get sun hats for all and clothes to get dirty in. Pack a cooler with ice if traveling far with delicate produce. Make a game to see who can pick the most, or spot lady bugs while picking. Talk about colors, smells, flavors and recipes, and brainstorm ideas with the children to get them excited to eat the produce. Follow favorite farms on Facebook, or check them out on Yelp before going to see who has what. Always call or email to check who is open and when before making the drive. From Petaluma to Brentwood to Pescadero, here are just a few well-reviewed local U-pick farms, with many others to explore with a quick web search.
WHERE TO GO
3175 Sullivan Rd., Sebastopol
Annie’s Happy Farm
2017 Walnut Blvd., Brentwood
925-513-8495 • www.annieshappyfarm.com
Swanton Berry Farm
25 Swanton Rd., Davenport
Farmer’s Daughter Produce and
Northwest Corner of Walnut Blvd. & Marsh Creek Rd.,• Brentwood • 925-634-4827, www.farmersdaughter.farmvisit.com
Coastaways Ranch U-Pick
640 Hwy. 1, Pescadero • 831-469-8804 www.swantonberryfarm.com
4606 Suisun Valley Rd., Fairfield
Haley Reen is an East Bay-based freelance writer
Once summer rolls around and school lets out, kids find themselves indulging in several fun-filled activities, and school is quickly forgotten. Summer reading is an effective routine to help prevent kids from sliding down that slippery slope of learning loss. Reading for fun could develop into a lifelong habit that will not only help with gaining knowledge but will also aid in acquiring important life skills such as empathy, acceptance and gratitude. It is not very difficult to find the right book for even the most reluctant reader. The expert curators at SmartFeed have put together an extensive list of books encompassing different genres for kids of all ages.
Find below a few of the highly recommended book titles. The complete list of summer reading books can be found here (https://www.thesmartfeed.com/staff_picks/summer-reading).
Guess How Much I Love You (Ages 1+)
Little Nutbrown Hare sets about to show how much he loves Big Nutbrown Hare but he always seems to be one-upped by his parent’s unequivocal love for him in this true classic for the littlest readers.
Steam Train, Dream Train 1-2-3 (Ages 2-4)
Perfect read-aloud book for little kids with trains, counting numbers from 1 to 10 and cute animal antics.
My Heart Fills with Happiness (Ages 2-4)
A comforting book for little ones (and grown-ups) that tells about the little things in life, when shared together with loved ones, that bring us the most joy.
The Thank You Book (Ages 4-8)
Piggie is feeling grateful and is on a mission to thank everyone, but Gerald is worried that Piggie will forget to thank someone very important...find out who that is in this last book of the wildly popular Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.
We Found a Hat (Ages 4-8)
Two turtles are in a pickle when they stumble upon one hat that looks good on both of them. Young readers will enjoy the hilarious turn of events in the story, which ends with a wonderful resolution to the conflict.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker
The inspiring story of Hiawatha, a brave Mohawk warrior, and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, who are crucial in bringing about peace and unity among the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century.
Pax (Ages 8-12)
Set against the backdrop of a war and its terrible consequences of loss, suffering and separation, this story of an unconditional and loyal friendship between a boy and his fox is heartwarming and emotional.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (Ages 8-12)
City girl Sophie Brown is learning the ropes of life on a farm, which her father inherits from a great-uncle, where she ends up learning to care for and protect a flock of chickens with superpowers! Written in an epistolary format, this book will be a delight for middle-grade readers.
Roller Girl (Ages 9-12)
Themes of girl power, teamwork, perseverance and friendship feature heavily in this graphic novel that revolves around 12-year-old Astrid, who is gearing up to perform in her first-ever roller derby bout even as her best friend for life seems to be slowly drifting away from her. Will she able to save her friendship from imminent doom? Will she forego her dreams for roller derby?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal, this book tells the story of Luna, a young girl who is raised by the Forest Witch after she is offered up as part of an annual sacrificial ritual to protect the people of her homeland. An enchanting story interwoven with fantasy, magic, friendship and love, tween and teen readers will be thrilled by this book.
The Sun Is Also a Star (Ages 14+)
Two strangers who are brought together by fate end up falling in love with each other. As cliché as this sounds, it’s the beautifully written coming-of-age story of how they come to realize they are meant for each other that will captivate the hearts of young adult readers.
Parents and teachers sometimes wonder if listening to audiobooks helps children develop reading skills. If you don’t have a book in front of you, are you really reading? In order to look at this question, we have to understand the complex processes that are involved in reading.
What happens when we read a book? How does the story come alive in our minds? What helps us understand the information the author is trying to convey?
Reading definitely involves decoding skills — making sense of the string of letters and shapes on the page. These skills are very important for children, but they are not the whole picture.
Understanding the story, thinking about the author’s message, using imagination to make a movie in your mind — these comprehension skills lie at the heart of what it means to be a reader. They’re what bring kids back to books again and again.
These broader comprehension skills come from recognizing the words used, understanding the story structure, and connecting the story to your experiences and knowledge. It’s important to recognize that reading is a thinking process, and that much goes on beyond decoding the individual words. The question then becomes: If these are the elements that impact comprehension, how do we support children developing and maintaining these thinking skills?
Audiobooks allow children to focus on the key skills of understanding words and the overall story, and this helps develop their deeper comprehension skills. This happens when children listen to audiobooks on their own, not just when they listen and read.
As a third-grader told me last week, “When you read you have so much in your head. When you listen, it’s easier.” One of her classmates added on, saying, “The audiobook reads the book really fluidly, so it’s easy to understand what they’re saying. They’re really expressing the story. They don’t just talk.”
In 2015-16, WestEd conducted a research study in Berkeley that examined the impact of audiobooks on literacy skills for second- and third-graders. Students listened to a selection of stories each week, without reading the books at the same time. They were just listening and enjoying the stories. Students were asked to listen three times a week at school (each time for 20 minutes) and twice a week at home (again for 20 minutes).
The results were clear and remarkable. Students who listened to audiobooks on a regular basis developed stronger reading skills — attaining 58 percent of their annual reading gain in just 10 weeks. In the study, the students who listened were three months ahead of the control group. How did they do this? Let’s look more closely at the component parts of reading development that the study measured.
Students who listened to audiobooks increased their reading comprehension skills three times more than their counterparts. Their vocabulary gains outpaced their control group counterparts by seven times. All of this made students want to read more. We see this in their increase in reading motivation by four times, relative to their control group.
As a teacher and librarian, this study confirms exactly what I’ve seen with my own eyes. When students listen to audiobooks, they are more engaged, they understand stories better and they WANT to read more. This is because audiobooks help them develop their vocabulary, give them access to more complex text and help them create a fuller mental picture of stories.
As a parent, I’ve used audiobooks on long car trips but I’ve also used them at home. When my daughters were younger, we would listen to an audiobook while I prepared dinner and they colored at the kitchen table. Other children I know enjoy building with Legos while they listen to an audiobook. Listening can also be relaxing at bedtime.
Listening to audiobooks provides essential support to the development of reading comprehension. But even better, it helps readers young and old discover the rich world of stories.
By Susan Solomon Yen
Our most memorable summer vacation as a family was a cross-country trip from Boston to California. We landed at LAX and visited all the Southern California landmarks — Hollywood, Universal Studios and Disneyland — before heading north to San Francisco where our oldest son had just moved. It was two weeks of family togetherness. Well, we certainly appeared to be together, but the truth is my husband and I were already living apart.
Even though his home was 30 miles from the children and me, he often visited on weekends. This was not the only time we traveled as a family during this tumultuous period. I think he was still conflicted and maybe a little guilty about leaving us. Perhaps these shared vacations were his way of saying he wasn’t ready to abandon us completely. If the children had any expectation that Mom and Dad were getting back together because we were on a vacation, they did not reveal it.
Shortly after returning home, we legalized our separation and within the year began divorce proceedings. Since then the vacations we have taken have been separate.
Traveling on Our Own
One of my proudest moments as a mother took place when I was still married. My husband, who was on a trip to Asia, had a stopover in Paris and asked me to bring the children and meet him there. Our three oldest boys were two, four and seven at the time. I was nervous about making this trip, but I had been to France before and spoke passable French.
The boys and I spent four days on our own. In one of those “what was I thinking” moments I even let the seven- and four-year-old walk to the patisserie for bread and chocolate by themselves. It was pre-9/11.
Several years later the children and I took another solo trip from Boston to California. The two youngest and I clocked 1,600 miles on a rental car traversing south to north again.
But I am a nervous traveler and I’m not very adventurous. I also had to work during that season when my kids were on school break, so for my children to truly enjoy summer vacations, I had to ask friends to include them in their own plans.
For two summers, my daughter went to New Hampshire with a large family who somehow managed to squeeze her into the car amidst luggage, toys and water gear. My youngest son, Jake, went to Michigan for six weeks with one of his best friends. In later years, he flew on his own from Boston to San Francisco to join his oldest brother in a celebration of their shared birthdays.
From Visitation to Vacation
While I missed my children, I did not worry about them while they were away. We communicated often and I trusted the families they were with. I wish I could say the same about the trips Jake took with his dad. By the time we divorced, most of my children were independent college students. Only Jake was still at home and still connected to his father. Unfortunately, our communication had just about completely broken down. When he took Jake on vacations, he did not tell me where they were going or when they would return. Needless to say, I was not comfortable with this and eventually the visitation agreement was changed.
San Mateo-based family and marriage therapist Sarah Proemsey encourages parents to respect each other and to keep those lines of communication open. “I think it is important for parents to continue to function as a team when it comes to parenting. That means making some decisions together because you are keeping in mind the needs of the child.”
Proemsey continues, “Having the stage set for healthy communication allows the child to be a part of this process, which will increase their feelings of safety.”
And I would add, confidence in the parent who is traveling with the child. “When divorce is in the picture, it is even more important for the parents to exemplify respect and cooperation for the good of the family. Having this healthy system in place is fundamental and makes it easier to do things like vacationing with trust,” says Proemsey.
Time and Travel
It took a while to choose which week to travel this summer. Jake has a summer job so probably won’t be going anywhere. He will once again celebrate his birthday with his brother, but they live in the same state now. I’m going to San Diego with my daughter. Their father? He’s in Paris again—with his new family.
By Tracey Sutherland, cPNP
Trauma Nurse Practitioner, Boston Children’s Hospital
Self-balancing scooters, commonly referred to as hoverboards, became wildly popular in 2015, when several manufacturers developed similar versions and marketed them in the United States and around the world. Right from the start of their popularity, safety issues were identified, leading to significant consumer concern and soon after, thousands of recalls. There have been several deaths directly linked to the use of hoverboards, whether related to injury while using the board or fire while recharging. Emergency Departments, pediatric as well as adult facilities, around the world began to see an acute elevation in hoverboard injury. Falls from the boards lead to concussions and more serious head injuries, fractures, internal abdominal injuries, hand injuries, and even death.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Committee (CPSC) launched a safety investigation and linked the hoverboard’s lithium-ion battery pack to the source of the fires. They developed a voluntary safety standard and urged suppliers to only import and sell those boards that were certified by the CPSC. This helped make the newer versions of the hoverboards much safer, however, safety issues remain and not all the boards have been certified to CPSC standard. Fatalities related to uncertified hoverboard fires have occurred as recently as 2 months ago in the U.S.
Due to the increase in hoverboard related traumatic injuries, the Department of Health in several countries has recommended a minimum age of use as well as restricted where the hoverboards can be used. Some cities in the U.S. have banned their use on public streets, restricted use to bike lanes or have implemented speed restrictions.
What does this all mean to the consumer? Can a hoverboard be used safely? If you’d still like to enjoy the use of a hoverboard, here are some tips to follow to keep you and your family safe:
Before being a parent, I would never have imagined how challenging it would be to dress my children. I don’t mean putting little legs into leg holes, Im talking about that ominous collection of special circumstances that eliminate so many kinds of clothing items from the possible pile. Between the school dress code, my personal dress code for my children, my youngest’s sensory needs, my budget, and what’s on the market, there are a lot of limits on what I can buy for my kids to wear to school. Sometimes I look in envy at kids in their uniforms, but then again I know my own kids would fight me on the uniform every single school day if it were part of our curriculum. Shopping is complicated with two kids, a tight budget, special needs, and a lot of rules, but I do it! I am sharing my wisdom with other parents who are at their wits end trying to find quality clothes their kids can and will wear for school.
My top tip is to shop off season in the next size up. Kids are going to keep growing. They will fit in even the biggest clothes you buy, eventually. If a favorite online retailer is having a clearance on parkas and winter boots this month, that’s the time to buy! Get those things you know will be perfect next winter or even the winter after that.
My next tip for parents of girls, especially rowdy girls like mine, shop for jeans and shorts in the boys section. I can’t be the only parent who squirms at the length of most shorts in the girls department. But boys shorts come to the knee, and boys jeans are tougher and more durable. The boys department also has more to chose from in the shirt department for parents who, like me, have strict rules about characters, logos, extra distracting bits of flair on the clothing, and impractical sleeves and necklines. With a solid polo shirt and a denim scooter, and no one will be the wiser that the shirt came from the boys section.
My most utilized tool is definitely thrift stores, consignment stores, consignment apps, and other parents with older kids! Kids grow so fast sometimes they don’t have time to ruin an outfit before it is too small, and most parents I know have a pile in the garage of outgrown stuff. Get a bunch of families together, bring the piles, and it’s a free for all with everyone going home with new stuff and getting rid of the old. What doesn’t get taken can be donated to children in need within the community.
There are a few new online options for the thrifter crowd. Poshmark, Thread Up, and Tradesy are all consignment apps. If your kid loves a specific type of shirt and it’s discontinued or hard to find, these apps allow users to search by name brand and size for items. The discounts are huge and some items are even brand new with tags still on, most are very gently worn. I recently bought a whole summer’s worth of shorts and tees for sixty bucks!
Some parents need to touch and feel things before buying, and some kids need to have a choice in the clothes they wear or they may refuse them. In those instances, brick and mortar thrift stores are the best option. The Bay Area has quite a few, and they are clean, organized, and have quality gently used items. Here are some favorites:
Thrift Town — Richmond
El Sobrante boasts the best thrift stores in the Bay, because Thrift Town stores are kept meticulously organized. The prices are unbeatable, a dollar or less for many things. One drawback with these stores is that the merch is as-is. It can be pulled, stained, or missing buttons, or smell bad. Always check first, there are no returns! Sign up for their VIP program for even more discounts.
3645 San Pablo Dam Rd., El Sobrante. 510-222-8696.
Kelly’s Corner — Laurel Heights
This store has lots of great reviews online. In addition to the used kid’s clothing, they also carry some baby gear and toys, and do awesome gift wrapping! They carry local artist’s products too.
3901 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 510-531-6810
Bird and Bean — Berkeley
Bird and Bean is a little more upscale than other stores on this list, but they have a variety of price points, and lots of sample sale items from brand names that are usually too expensive for many families.This store has items that are more unique and stylized than the average kid’s clothing store. Elmwood is a cool neighborhood to stroll and this store also hosts a toddler music group.
3212 College Ave., Berkeley. 510-328-6485
Kids Are People Too —Castro Valley
This store is a gem, especially because the owner, Sharon, is great at her job. Meticulous about what consignment she accepts, shoppers can be sure they will not find items with rips, stains, or missing bits. Customer service at this spot is A++, and prices are right.
3326 Castro Valley Rd., Castro Valley. 510-247-1258
Monkei Miles —San Francisco
Monkei Miles is a refreshing burst of bargains in one of the most expensive cities in America. Here, guests will find brand names ranging in price from Old Navy to Mini Boden. This store is on trend yet affordable, and everything is EUC ( that means Excellent Used Condition!)
1523 Irving St., San Francisco. 415-650-3031
Bloom — San Rafael
This shop is not only a great place for shopping, they donate professional wardrobes to unemployed women so that they may interview and work with confidence. There isn’t much in the way of baby clothes or kids clothes, but there are on-trend and upscale brand items for teens, which is almost unheard of in the thrift world. Seriously, these are used items teens would actually be willing to wear! Everything is pressed and clean, the store is beautiful, and the customer service is great, plus parents might find treasures too.
1557 4th St., San Rafael., 415-453-1694, www.bloommarin.org
Haley Reen is an East Bay-based freelance writer.
Is a screen-free summer possible? Andy Crouch, author of The Tech-Wise Family, offers some tips for reducing the amount of time kids spend with their devices this summer:
Crouch, a senior strategist at the John Templeton Foundation, wrote about his philosophy on technology and kids in his new book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place.
By Rona Renner, RN
“My four-year-old daughter Molly is a bundle of energy, and I just can’t keep up with her. My older son is content playing by himself or reading a book, but Molly wants my attention all of the time. Will she always be this way, or can I train her to be more like her brother? It’s only when the TV is on that I get a break to hear myself think.”
Chances are Molly will always be a high-energy and interactive child, but as she gets older you should be able to direct her energy into creative or athletic outlets. Your son’s mellow temperament probably lulled you into thinking you could have a peaceful and quiet home life. At all stages of development, active and intense children need help directing their energy and often want someone around for company. Parents like you find they can get a break when the TV is on or if another child is around to play. Stay mindful of not using the TV more than the healthy limits you have set. Kids like Molly love attention and can be draining for parents who are lower in energy or stressed. Have a plan ahead of time to prevent frustration and yelling when your child’s energy gets too much for you. Setting up an art table can help, or having a child record a story or song. Try having a dance session with fun music while getting the table set for dinner. Creativity is required with spirited kids.
The Lens of Temperament
For all parents, understanding a child’s temperament is an important way to make sense of behavioral issues, social interactions and power struggles. Temperament traits can stretch or change over time, but acceptance of your child’s current temperament is a first step in figuring out strategies for more harmony at home.
“Temperament” is a person’s first and most natural way of responding. It’s the way we move in the world. It’s the “how” of behavior — for example, how adaptable, persistent or intense a person is. Some children are high energy right from birth (and sometimes in utero) and want to climb and run non-stop, while others are happy to just watch you while you cook. Children come into the world with a style all their own.
In the 1950s, parents (especially mothers) were blamed for all behavior problems. The pioneers in temperament research, Drs. Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas, were convinced that children had innate differences that played a key role in determining a child’s behavior. They knew competent and loving parents who had challenging children. Chess and Thomas defined these differences as nine temperament traits: sensitivity threshold, activity level, intensity of reaction, rhythmicity, adaptability, mood, approach/withdrawal, persistence and distractibility.
There are many factors that influence your child’s behavior — including parenting style, environment, genetic makeup, past events and siblings. Temperament is one part of the equation. There are no good or bad temperaments, but some children have temperaments that may be more challenging than others. So much depends on your own temperament, and how well you and your child fit with each other. For example:
Your high-energy daughter wants you to play ball with her when she wakes up, but you have lower energy and like to read the paper. Her high energy gets on your nerves, even though it’s normal for her.
Set a routine for how long you will read and help her decide what she’ll do till it’s time to play with you. Set a timer.
Your son is slow to warm, and when you go to a friend’s house he wants to sit on your lap. You’re outgoing, and it’s hard for you to tolerate his caution.
Give him time to get comfortable, and then he’ll be more likely to play with other children once he’s checked out the situation.
You are fast adapting, high intensity and yell easily. Your daughter is low intensity, sensitive and slow to adapt.
Lower your voice and calm down before you react to difficulties getting dressed in the morning. Take three deep breaths before responding, and then redirect her.
Strategies for addressing temperament can be as simple as providing fun activities and chores to keep high-energy kids busy, plenty of transition warnings to kids who adapt slowly, and making sure spirited kids get healthy food and the sleep they need. Parenting strategies also include making time for yourself, paying attention to your needs and getting help from the “village” around you.
Keep thinking about your child’s strengths and passions. Sometimes you won’t know if a behavior is because of inborn traits, environmental factors, developmental stages or past experiences. See it as a puzzle with many pieces, and when you put them together you get a picture of a child who is complex and beautiful.
Rona Renner, RN (“Nurse Rona”), is a nurse, a parent educator and a temperament specialist. The mother of four grown children and grandmother of two, she is the author of “Is That Me Yelling? A Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool.” Rona has been a radio show host for over 15 years and is currently a producer and host of “About Health” on KPFA radio 94.1FM. You can learn more about her at www.nurserona.com.
By Susan Solomon Yem
My oldest son was an adolescent when my mother died. Although he was quiet at the funeral, he was impossible in the car ride to the cemetery. No amount of correction either his father or I attempted, worked. We finally decided keeping our distance for the remainder of the day was the only option.
It did not occur to me until much later, that my son’s behavior was not naughty; it was his reaction to the loss of his grandmother. From that experience I realized that a child’s bad behavior might not be naughtiness; it may just be a response to a circumstance.
Mountain View based family coach, Susan Stone Belton (www.susanstonebelton.com), says, “Naughty behavior is a request for parents to pay attention. Kids usually misbehave when they are hungry, tired, frustrated or need attention.”
Susan explains that sometimes children just do not have the energy or the words to communicate. “Misbehaving earns our attention and the child gets what he needs.”
Chantal Dubuisson-Myllymaki, a Parent Education Instructor at Family Paths (www.familypaths.org) in Oakland, encourages parents to identify a child’s positive actions more than the negative. “If parents are spending the majority of their time focusing on the negative behaviors, they might be overlooking the efforts children are making to behave.”
She adds that it is a child’s job to fit into the family — to feel significant and loved. “If a child is made to feel unimportant, insignificant, and unloved they might fall into negative behavior to establish a role in the family.”
To help parents determine if their child is entering a negative cycle of behavior, Family Paths uses a tool called the Mistaken Goals of Misbehavior. “This helps parents and caregivers to notice how they feel when children mistakenly display negative ways of gaining attention and seeking power.”
Identifying their own emotions helps parents not only understand what their children are feeling, but find ways to deal with the behavior.
Limits and Rules
Susan’s book, Real Parents, Real Kids, Real Talk (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011) teaches parents how to build healthy, loving relationships with their children. One of her recommendations is that parents set limits and create rules; “kids like knowing what is okay and what is expected. I encourage parents to set a rule, determine the consequence and follow through.”
An immediate response to bad behavior teaches the child that Mom and Dad mean what they say. “The hope is that this kind of follow through will result in the child making better choices the next time,” says Susan. “Behavior management is all about teaching our kids to stop, think, and make the right choice.”
Chantal offers, “giving a child an acceptable alternative is productive. Let them know what to do, rather than what not to do,”
What Is He Really Saying?
When my youngest son was two, he had a monumental temper tantrum in the car because I would not buy him a toy at the mall. It took a lot of willpower on my part, but I kept quiet. Because I was not reacting to him, he ran through a litany of reasons why his was the saddest life, including, “You don’t love me. No one likes me. I hate myself.”
I was fascinated by this toddler’s attempt at manipulation. My lack of response finally dissipated his fervor and he settled down. He never attempted that type of tantrum again.
“Actions are usually indicators of something else in the child’s life that could be tilting his or her sense of balance and feelings of being grounded,” says Chantal.
“Often the child who is behaving the worst is the one who needs support, comfort, and understanding the most.”
It’s the Behavior, not the Child
It is important to not label a child naughty as Susan counsels; “Children might act in a naughty way, but the child is not naughty. When we label a child, that label can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Children are good. Their behavior might be bad.”Chantal advises, “pay compliments to your children often when they are well behaved. “
She also suggests that parents be positive role models. “Be courteous and gracious to your children and they will turn out to be like you.”