How Can I Help You Feel Loved?

DisclosureThis post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. All opinions are my own. #StonyfieldBlogger

How Can I Help You Feel Loved

When inspiration strikes, you write. And what better inspiration than love? Especially love for your child. We love our children to our very cores, it’s so deep that it’s never ending. My dad has taught my son that he doesn’t just love M to the moon and back, but he loves him to the Oort cloud and back. That’s our new thing “I love you to the Oort cloud and back.” But how do I know that my children really feel loved? What do I do on a daily basis outside of saying the actual words? I was challenged to ask my son one simple question: How can I help you feel loved? So, I asked.

Continue reading How Can I Help You Feel Loved?

I Believe in Gentle Parenting But…

I Believe in Gentle Parenting But... - My Mama Adventure

Yes, I’m a gentle parent and believe in gentle parenting techniques. We don’t use corporal punishment (spanking), we use calm voices, we state the positive rather than telling our son what not to do, we believe in cuddles and expressing feelings, and we don’t do time-out for tantrums, we babywear. I believe in breastfeeding (if it’s what works for you), room sharing/co-sleeping (if it works for you), responding to my child’s cries.

Continue reading I Believe in Gentle Parenting But…

The Homeschool vs. Brick & Mortar Dilemma

The Homeschool vs. Brick & Mortar Dilemma - My Mama Adventure

In all seriousness, Hubs and I have been having a lot of conversations about homeschooling recently. And we are seriously having a homeschool vs. brick & mortar dilemma! Now, I know, M is only 3 years old, he still has 2 years of preschool left before he’ll start kindergarten. But, I’m a planner! And these next 2 years will fly by and I want us to know what we’re planning to do before the eleventh hour.

Continue reading The Homeschool vs. Brick & Mortar Dilemma

Innovative #Babywearing {HIPSTER™ Baby Carrier Review}

Innovative Babywearing {HIPSTER Baby Carrier Review} - My Mama Adventure

As promised, here is my review of the new and innovative HIPSTER baby carrier by MiaMily. HIPSTER is still on Kickstarter, but the good news is, they’ve been funded!! You can still head over and donate to further support their campaign, in addition, if you pledge $120 or more, you will get your own HIPSTER. If they reach $50,000, each backer will receive a HIPSTER baby onsie, they’re almost at $50,000 so definitely help them out and share, share, share!

I received the HIPSTER from MiaMily as compensation for this review. I’ve had a couple weeks to give the HIPSTER a try and I can honestly say, it’s nothing like other carriers we own or have tried. It has an actual seat that baby sits on and supports baby’s hips. This is what gives the HIPSTER its ergonomic design, so don’t let the narrow looking base fool you. M’s hips were fully supported and he was quite comfy while in the carrier.

What is truly interesting about the HIPSTER is that the seat of the carrier can be used alone, with a double shoulder attachment, or single shoulder attachment. With these options you can actually use the HIPSTER in 9 different positions! The seat can be worn on your front with baby facing you, facing out, or on your hip. Add the double shoulder attachment and you can wear baby on your front facing you, facing out, or on your back. The single shoulder attachment allows for you to wear your baby on your hip, facing you, or facing out. That’s 9 different ways!!

HIPSTER Baby Carrier - 1 carrier. 9 different ways - My Mama Adventure

I tried out the HIPSTER in all carry options except the facing out with the single shoulder attachment. While I am not usually a big fan of facing out carries, I can say that in the HIPSTER it felt comfortable and M really seemed to like it, he had a big smile on his face! I did not try it for an extended period of time though.

The HIPSTER has a nice safety feature at the zipper area. At the ending point of the zipper, there is a snap to hold the attachment and the seat together. The first time we tried the 2 shoulder attachment with M facing me, the zipper came undone from the starting end – pretty sure I did not have it in the entire way though, as we’ve had no further issues since that first time. I also think that when I was fiddling with the shoulder adjustments, I pulled them too tight, putting too much strain on the zipper. However, I would love to see a 2nd snap on the starting end of the zipper to add extra support in this area.

Since that first attempt, we have had no issues and M has been super comfy in both the front carry and back carry of the double shoulder attachment. It was actually much easier to get him on my back with this carrier because of the seat, an added bonus! I also love that the front panel of both the double shoulder and single shoulder attachments zips off to reveal a mesh layer, perfect for warmer weather! I did find that the single shoulder attachment was difficult to adjust when M was in the carrier, it was a minor issue, but I’d love to see the straps have the same adjust feature as the double shoulder attachment. Otherwise, I love that I don’t have to unhook 2 shoulder straps and try to figure out a hip carry. It’s really a nice feature to have the single strap attachment that is perfect for hip carries!

So many babywearing options and features with the HIPSTER- My Mama Adventure
The hair toss in the first picture was a happy accident!

My Favorite HIPSTER Features:

Versatility – no other carrier, that I know of, has 9 different ways of carrying a baby.
Seasonal – attachments are double layered so the top layer can be unzipped. Underneath is a mesh layer that allows for air to circulate through during warm months.
Ergonomic – despite what it looks like at first glance, this carrier is ergonomic. It appears to have a narrow base that would make baby’s legs dangling, but in fact, the seat that is provided keeps baby’s hips supported to help prevent hip strain. Think of it this way, instead of the fabric creating a seat like other soft structured carriers, the HIPSTER has an actual seat.
Easy to use – it appears overwhelming at first, but really, it is quite simple and works like most other soft structured carriers. Everything easily zippers on (just make sure you have it zippered correctly) and is easy to unzip.
Cell phone pouch – Love that this carrier has a pouch for a cell phone, many carriers do not come with extra pouches so this is a nice feature. There is also a pocket on the outside removable layer when using the top versions of the HIPSTER.
Detachable hood – since M never liked hoods on carriers, I like that I can remove the hood and stow it away.
Wide waist strap – this is nice for added back support and if you’re a mama with a little extra pooch in the tummy, it doesn’t dig and is comfortable.

If you’re looking for more information on the HIPSTER, their Kickstarter Campaign, or MiaMily as a company, head over to my previous post: HIPSTER™ Baby Carrier by MiaMily on Kickstarter where you can read more about how they got started and their awesome One for One Charity campaign.

Where to Find HIPSTER™ by MiaMily:

Win it! Giveaway ends 8/15/14

**All pictures belong to the creator and writer of My Mama Adventure blog. Pictures are not to be reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the creator and writer of this blog.**

HIPSTER™ Baby Carrier by MiaMily on Kickstarter

Alright all you babywearing enthusiasts out there! I’m really excited to present an amazing opportunity for a Kickstarter campaign!!

Here’s the deal: Kickstarter is a platform that helps projects take off, and a way for people to be involved in helping a business for a product they believe in. MiaMily is launched their first project, HIPSTER™ on July 21st, and can use all the help they can get for everyone to get involved or even just help spread the word!

HIPSTER™ is this new, crazy innovative, baby carrier design that you will L-O-V-E!!

One baby carrier, 9 different ways. And now, you have the opportunity to get involved in helping a company take off AND get your very own HIPSTER™ for a steal on for this awesome new baby carrier that takes care of both you and your little one.  Designed by parents for parents, this baby carrier is sleek in style, AND functional. If MiaMily launches Kickstarter successfully, the company will initiate its One for One Charity campaign, where each future sale of HIPSTER™ will donate one can of formula milk to babies in need.

For a limited time, MiaMily is offering their $159.99 HIPSTER™ for a steal!  To get involved, click here.

Follow MiaMily on Facebook and get up to date information on how their campaign is going!
To learn more about our One for One Charity campaign, please refer to Giving Back – MiaMily.

Check back soon for my own detailed review of the HIPSTER™ Baby Carrier by MiaMily!

Don’t wait! Head over and show your support now!

The Formula Mom vs. The Breastfeeding Mom – I Support You!

No matter how your baby is fed - I support you! {My Mama Adventure}

Here’s the thing, I am pro breastfeeding. I do believe that “breast is best.” I do think that if a woman wants to breastfeed they should try and do what they can to make it work – if that’s their choice.

I follow a lot of pro-breastfeeding pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. I see the research that supports breastmilk, I see the conversations about breastfeeding, I see a lot of judgment. Enough judgment that I have never admitted on these pages/groups that M got {*gasp*} formula.

M got a lot of formula, in fact. When he was about 4 weeks of age and we were in our 4th week of a 6 week hospital stay, the NICU doctor suggested fortifying M’s breastmilk with formula. I asked why, this was not what I wanted for him. I wanted him to have breastmilk and only breastmilk. My goal was to get him nursing full time and off the feeding tube as quickly as possible. He explained that since M is recovering from open-heart surgery, it was vital for him to be gaining weight to heal and, unfortunately, the breastmilk wasn’t cutting it for him to heal. I caved, figuring, at least he’s still getting breastmilk and it will be temporary. Or so I thought, but this is not a post about his feeding tube journey. This is a pro mom post.

By the time M was 10 months old, I was lucky if I was even able to give him 4oz of breastmilk a day by pumping. I exclusively pumped for 10 months and kept a frozen supply from when he was hospitalized. This is how he got to over a year on breastmilk, but he was not exclusively fed breastmilk. Even at a year, switching from fortified breastmilk or fortified formula, was not an option. We still had weight gain issues and we needed him to have as many calories as possible since he wasn’t taking much of anything by mouth yet.

I don’t share this story of our formula journey on the pro-breastfeeding pages. I fear the backlash. I fear the comments of breastmilk should have been enough, or my NICU baby survived on breastmilk just fine, or why not get donor milk when your supply dropped, or I would have never let the Dr. say formula, or I didn’t try hard enough to nurse, or I didn’t trust my instincts….and so on and so on.

I read the discussions, I know this is what people say! It is so judgmental and it aggravates me to no end. I question our decisions and the Dr’s decisions everyday. Yes, EVERYDAY. M is now 2+ years old and if he had taken to nursing, I absolutely would still be nursing him if he hadn’t weaned himself yet. I am pro extended breastfeeding. I am pro child.

So, yeah, I question everyday if I made the right decision to listen to the doctors. I question if I made the right decision to take a never-ending break from trying to nurse my hysterically screaming baby that refused to even look at my breast because of an oral aversion, I question many of the decisions we made every single day. I would love to still be nursing my toddler. It was magical when he was at the breast. It was perfect, he was made for me. His latch was perfect from day one (which was when he was over 3 weeks old by the way and it was a “dry” – pre-pumped – breast), it was obvious that he was made for me to nourish him. But other things got in our way, other medical stuff got in our way, and the only thing he had control over was nursing, so he flat out refused in the best way that 3 month old could refuse.

I question whether I gave up on him too soon, did I make the right choice? I don’t know. I will never know if our situation would have changed. All I know is that I did what I needed to do at the time to maintain my sanity and to keep him from losing weight in his medically fragile state.

So there you have it. I’m a formula mom, I’m a breastfeeding mom. I’m both. We made a choice, the best choice for us. I will never again judge a mother for choosing formula, I will never again question why she made that choice because until I walk a day in her shoes, I have no room to judge.

I beg all of us to stop judging each other and just support each other. That’s all a mother really needs, is support, no matter what choices we make. All that matter is that our babies are loved, they are cared for, and they are safe. End of story.

Judgment Free Zone - Support Other Mamas {My Mama Adventure}

**All pictures belong to the creator and writer of My Mama Adventure blog. Pictures are not to be reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the creator and writer of this blog.**

Why I (Still) Respond to My Child’s Cries

M is now 2 years old and I continue to respond (almost) immediately to his cries. In the middle of the night, if he cries, I’m there. If he is cranky and crying for cuddles, I’m there. He bumps his head and cries, I’m there.

Some of these may seem like no brainers:
Child is hurt —> Comfort child;
Child asks for a hug —> Give child a hug.
These seem pretty innocuous and most parents would probably respond the same way.

The crying in the middle of the night though? Some parents have chosen to take a different approach to help teach their child to self-soothe, sleep through the night, etc. This is truly a personal decision and what is going to work best for your family and your situation.

I am simply sharing my perspective. My opinion.

When I was pregnant with M, I read all the baby books. I read that the first year of a baby’s life, you cannot spoil them with your attention. It is best to respond to their cries to begin building that secure attachment.

This absolutely made sense to me. I had spent the last year of my graduate school career studying a lot about brain development in the early years (birth to 3 years specifically, my thesis was dependent on this information!). So when I read about responding to a baby’s cries, it made sense to me as to why it would be beneficial for a baby’s brain development and parent attachment.

Those recommendations that I read about though were for the first year of life.

I’ll admit, when M turned a year, I wondered if I would feel okay to let him cry it out more, self-soothe, etc. And to be fully honest, there were times around a year that I was so at my wits end with his lack of napping that I would lay him down, go take a shower, and then check on him. If he was crying, I’d attend to him, if he wasn’t I’d enjoy my 45 minutes of peace. A lot of the time he’d be crying when I laid him down. It broke my heart, but I knew I wasn’t calm and my tension and stress was not helping him. I did what I needed to for my own sanity in those days.

But all in all, even after he was a year, I still didn’t feel comfortable letting him cry. Even when he’s having a tantrum, I still struggle with not providing him some comfort in his emotional time. But why?

Did you know that from birth to 3 years of age the brain goes through some of the biggest changes brain development can go through in a person’s lifespan? Birth to 3 years are kind of pivotal in a child’s ability to develop secure attachments, with anyone. Children who are severely neglected or abused, those neural connectors get pruned (e.g., they go away) and once they are pruned, they’re gone for good.

Now, don’t get me wrong, please do not misunderstand me. I am absolutely not saying that letting a baby cry or a toddler cry equals neglect or abuse. No, not at all. Read above, I also let my child cry for my own sanity at times. As parents we do what we feel is best in the moment. There is also a big difference between responding to whining and responding to crying (we don’t do whining, we ask he uses his words in those moments).

However, a toddler is still learning how the world works, they are still learning about how to respond during certain situations. Their brain is still making a lot of neural connections. We are their model, they do what we do. I want to raise a son that is kind, sweet, gentle, and caring. I want him to see someone in pain or in trouble and want to help them. I feel that by responding to his emotional cues, I’m starting him on this path to being a gentle adult.

I personally don’t see why there is so much controversy around responding to a child’s cries. I do know that we are very lucky with M. At 2 years, he wakes up at night, maybe a couple nights a week. Many other parents are dealing with several times a night. I feel for you, I really do. I’m sure if I was in that situation, I may be thinking differently.

But society looks at a waking toddler differently than they do at a waking 8 year old. When an 8 year old wakes in the middle of the night because of a bad dream or because they are scared, no one bats an eye at a parent comforting that child. We think of nothing for a mother to comfort her 13 year old daughter when she gets in a fight with her best friend. Or a parent to comfort their 20 year old when they break up with a significant other.

When I’m feeling sad, lonely, scared, I want to be comforted, I want my husband, my son, my parents, in-laws, friends, etc. to be there for me when I need them. Sometimes as adults we cry and need a comforting person nearby.

So why not a toddler? When M cries, he needs something. Even if he just needs a quick cuddle, he needs something. And why would I deny him that comfort? Why would I tell him “no, you need to self-soothe” when no one tells me to self-soothe when I’m upset? I learned to comfort myself because of how my parents responded to me when I was a child. They showed me how to self-soothe by comforting me, talking to me. This is how children learn.

As an adult, if I was crying and needing comfort and my husband walked away or told me no. I’d be heartbroken! I wouldn’t understand why. And if this happened over and over again, I’d probably shut down my emotions altogether. This is not what I want for M. I want him to know that, no matter what, we will be there for him. When he’s hurt, when he’s sad, when he’s angry, I’m there for him, I’ll help him get through that difficult moment. Because if it were me, that’s what I would want.

What do you think? Do you still respond to your toddler’s cries?

**All pictures belong to the creator and writer of This is my life… blog. Pictures are not to be reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the creator and writer of this blog.**

Gentle Parenting through the Meltdowns & Tantrums

Gentle Parenting through the Meltdowns & Tantrums - My Mama Adventure
Photo Credit

I was told by a friend that my blog is “psychology-meets-crunchy,” and I think you’ll find this post falls in line with that description.

There is a way to use gentle parenting techniques and still provide your child with consequences. Pay attention to your feelings, if you’re feeling stressed/frustrated/angry/sad/etc., then chances are, your child is feeling it too.

First, let’s look at some definitions so that we’re all on the same page:

  • Behavior: Anything that we do, that can be seen by someone else. If a dead man can do it, if it’s not observable, it’s NOT behavior. Feelings are not behavior, the actions associated with those feelings ARE behavior.
    • Example: Crying (behavior) when sad (emotion); Hitting (behavior) when angry (emotion).
  • Reinforcement: Anything that increases or maintains the likelihood of that behavior occurring again.
    • Example: Giving an allowance for doing chores. Taking away chores for an A+ test.
  • Punishment: Anything that decreases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again.
    • Example: Giving extra chores for staying out late. Taking away TV for poor grades.
The key part of Reinforcement and Punishment is the direction the behavior goes. I’ve learned that I have to let go of my preconceived notions about what I think is reinforcing or punishing and focus on what the child finds reinforcing and punishing. Letting go of our preconceived notions and the standards of reinforcement and punishment can be difficult. 
So, where am I going with all of this? Toddlerhood. It’s rough. Tantrums, crying, screaming…and that’s just me! Ha! It is so easy to resort to “the standards” when it comes to dealing with toddler behaviors. Time out, cry it out, spanking, yelling…I once had someone tell me that a child is never too young to get their bottom swatted – M was 4 months old. I smiled and changed the subject. It wasn’t worth getting into with that particular person.

What’s a Parent to Do?

1.   Stay Calm. Think Tone, Volume, Rate. When your tone changes, your volume goes up, and you start speaking faster, it actually escalates the situation. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, collect  your thoughts. Trust me, yelling will get you nowhere. 
2.   Listen to Your Child. Your child may be crying, screaming, pounding fists on the floor, but listen to what they are saying. What they are trying to tell you may actually be a valid argument. Offer choices when possible, let them know that they have a (some) say in what is going to happen.
3.   Sit with Them, Talk to Them. Let them know that you will not leave them, even in times of struggle. You may need to walk away for a minute or so to calm yourself, but return to them. Let them know that it’s okay to be angry and sad. Give them the words to express their anger and sadness. Especially toddlers, they don’t know how to express their feelings, when you take away the marker they were using to color on the wall, all they know is they were having a great time and you just came over and ruined their fun. Say to them “I know you’re sad, I know you’re angry.” Cuddle them through the moment of frustration; it will decrease the duration of that meltdown if you talk them through the moment.
4.   Model. Our children learn from us. They mimic and imitate everything that we do and say. If you want your child to use nice words, then use nice words when you’re around them.
5.   Reinforce. Make sure your day is filled with more positive and reinforcing statements than negative statements. If you find that you’re using the words “no, stop, don’t do that” several times in a day, hour, minute. Take a moment to get things in perspective. Find something that your child is doing that is positive. Turn the day around by looking for the good stuff and praising those good things.
6.   Redirect. Find something for your child to do that is allowed. If your child is anything like M, when you’re trying to prepare a meal is the time when he absolutely needs you to march around the house with him. Not really a great time for a parade as the water is boiling and the bread is burning. Take a moment to redirect that energy into something else. Taking that minute to redirect the behavior makes a huge difference and keeps you from getting frustrated and this keeps the tantrum from occurring at all. Use gentle words such as “Mommy is cooking dinner, can you build me a tall tower?”
7.   Give Transition Warnings. If you know that you’re going to have to interrupt a preferred activity or the time frame for that activity is going to end, give a countdown warning or use a timer. You can let them know, “5 minutes before we leave (2 min, 1 min),” so they know it’s coming. M responds best to a timer. I totally thought we’d have a meltdown over some markers when it was naptime today. I set a timer for 2 minutes and let him know, “when it goes beep beep, it’s time for a snooze.” Timer went off, he put his markers down, and he went down for his nap. It was actually quite surprising that it worked so smoothly, but it really does work.
8.   State the Positive. Young children have a difficult time understanding what they should be doing when we say “don’t do _____.” Developmentally, they just don’t have the ability to flip it around to know what they can be doing instead. Try using phrases to let them know what you want to see such as “walking feet,” or “gentle hands,” or “sit down.” You can also use “first/then” statements such as “first brush your teeth, then we can watch a cartoon;” to let them know that they can have what they want after they do the requested behavior.
9.   Know Your Limits. If your child is pressing every possible explosive button you have, recognize this and ask for help. A neighbor, friend, family member, spouse, anyone you trust. If that’s not an option, call for a time out. Not the traditional time out, but one where you and your child get a break from each other. Maybe that means an extra long bathroom break, maybe it means going for a walk (both of you) to get some fresh air and new surroundings, maybe it means turning on the TV and letting your child go zombie for 30 minutes so you can have some peace.
10. Be Consistent. It’s all about consistency, lay out the expectations and rules for your home and follow through. Kids get confused if expectations aren’t consistent.
I am by no means perfect at following the above tips myself and there are definitely days when I raise my voice too much, say “no” too much, and many other ‘mom fail’ moments. It’s all a work in progress as I grow into my parenting role.

Please feel free to ask questions and state your opinion, but I do ask that it is all kept kind and respectful. Anything mean or hateful will be deleted.

Side Note: Would you believe that in the picture at the top, that looks so sweet, M was having a meltdown because I wouldn’t let him jump in the creek on a cool September day?

What techniques do you use at home?

**All pictures belong to the creator and writer of My Mama Adventure blog. Pictures are not to be reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the creator and writer of this blog.**

Can a Toddler be TOO Gentle?

So M and I attended a babywearing playgroup today. I wanted to try out a few things and it was an opportunity for M to interact with some other littles. Since he’s an only child and doesn’t attend daycare, he’s not around other kids that frequently. I like to get him involved with little ones when the opportunity arises
and my schedule is willing.

I’ve always been very proud of the fact that M is very gentle. He’s gentle with our animals, with babies he’s always very gentle, and with other kids his age he’s always very gentle. He’s not the toddler that grabs things and screams “mine,” he doesn’t hit other kids, he’s always very willing to share. In fact, this summer at his music class, when it was time to pass out the interactive materials, he would take a couple and hand them out to the other children. Even his own items, he’d willingly share with the other kids. Today, when a little girl dropped her pacifier (the same kind M has used), I immediately ran to keep him from putting it in his mouth, but he didn’t, he just handed it back to the little girl. So sweet! Right?!

But then as I continued to watch him interact with the other kids, most were toddler age, I began to worry. I noticed, at one point, he kept trying to play with a specific toy (a zebra on wheels with a string to pull around). Once the owner of the toy (the coordinator of our babywearing group’s daughter) decided she wanted to play with the zebra. No big deal, it’s her toy, she’s allowed to decide that she wants to play with the toy and M needs to learn that it’s not his toy and he can play with it when she was done with the toy. He handled it very well, the girl’s mom and myself both said to him, he can have it when she’s done with the toy. He found something else to play with, a fire truck. Later though, when it was his turn to play with the zebra on wheels, another child took it from him. I watched to see what would happen. M tried to take it back, the boy turned away, refusing for M to have the toy. M signed for please and pointed to the toy, the boy at this point was totally unaware of M and continued to play. M, looking broken hearted came to me and pointed to the toy. I told him that he had to share and could play with it when the other boy was done. Learning experience, right?

Wait, there’s more. The boy puts the zebra down. M runs for his chance to play with the zebra, a huge smile on his face. As soon as M went to grab the string to pull it, the boy snatched it back up. The above scenario played out again. My brokenhearted, M chose a train to play with instead, the boy then grabbed the train from M! M, seeing the zebra was free, went for the zebra, then a totally different boy grabbed the zebra from him! My poor sweet child never once grabbed the toy back, never yelled “mine,” never cried, never hit, he didn’t do anything but sign for please and then come to me.

Here’s my dilemma. While I’m thrilled that M handled the situation so well and did everything we’ve taught him (use his words, ask for help), I’m concerned. Am I teaching M to be a pushover? Am I teaching him that it’s okay when people take things from him? As his parent I was conflicted in the moment, and I talked to another mom about it as it was happening. One side of me wanted to grab the toy and tell the other boy that M was playing with it first. The other side of me knows that M has to share and accept when he can’t have something. A totally different side of me was thrilled at how well he behaved. And then yet another side, after 3 times of the toy being taken from him, wanted him to grab it back himself and stand up for himself!

But wait! He’s only 22 months! I don’t want him to have to worry about being assertive yet, do I? I want him to have manners, use his words, ask for help. But was I failing him as a mother? Should I have gone to this other boy and said that M was using it and he had to wait his turn? Would that make me “that” mother?

UGH! Parenting is hard…

So, you may be wondering, where was this little boy’s parent? She was legitimately engaged in something else. She was helping another mother with a baby carrier, so she did not witness the interaction between our boys. I’d like to believe that if she saw what had happened that she would have stepped in, but maybe she wouldn’t have. And I’m only responsible for my behavior and my child’s behavior, I can’t depend on the other parent to follow through or teach their children how to behave. And did that child do anything wrong? To me, as M’s parent, yes. He took the toy my child was playing with! But, at the same time, M has to learn to share.

But M is already good at sharing. He loves to share!

I’m conflicted. But I’m also wondering if I’m worrying for nothing. Hubs perspective is, he’s not even 2 yet and we want him to have good manners so lets just be happy that he’s such a gentle soul. But is he too gentle? I guess I’ll have to see how all this plays out as time goes on.

What are you thoughts? Am I being over protective?

How to Get Your Toddler to Communicate (it doesn’t have to be tantrums!)

I’m going to start by saying that all toddlers are different! I may just be really lucky to have a mild tempered son. This would be a stretch though considering his parents. M is, by no means, perfect (I know! Shocker!). He’s of course perfect in our eyes, but not behaviorally, there’s no such thing.

I’ve worked with children with Autism since 2005. One of the main areas that we focus on is communication. In Autism the child has a communication delay, frequently the children I’ve worked with have little to no form of verbal communication. This creates behavioral nightmares for parents. When you have a 5 year old that cannot communicate their wants and needs, they will resort to the methods that will work. Usually this is some form of whining and worse yet, a full blown tantrum or even aggression. Enter therapy services. These services may include (but not limited to) Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Behavioral Therapy (me).

Even in behavioral therapy, we focus on communication, and not just verbal communication. Tantrums are a behavior, you can see it happening, you can describe it, picture it in your head. I’ve learned from my experience in the Autism field that verbal communication is not the only form of communication. There are many ways that a child (or adult) can effectively and appropriately communicate their wants and needs. These methods that I’ve used for children with Autism can absolutely be applied to your typically developing toddler.

Sign Language:
Using your hands to communicate. In the U.S. we use American Sign Language. Other countries do have other forms of sign language so it is not universal. If you live in a bilingual home, you may want to agree on which signs you will use if you choose to use sign language. Sign language is a great way to help your toddler communicate. You may not get perfectly formed signs out of your 1 year old, but some sort of sign approximation is perfectly acceptable, meet them where they can be successful. There are tons of videos online to show what the different signs are to look like. There are also programs like Baby Signing Time that many parents have used with their baby/toddler. Since I took 4 semesters of sign language, I have not used any specific baby sign language program. I chose the words I thought would be most functional for M to learn and taught them to him. The first words we chose for M were: MORE, EAT, ALL DONE. We later added: PLEASE. We have not gone any further than that, as his verbal communication started to develop better. You may decide that you want to take it further, even with verbal communication, sign language is a great way to help to understand your toddler’s very special way of saying things verbally.

Picture Communication:
Communicating through pictures. For children with Autism and special needs, there is a very specific program called Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) (this is a copyrighted system). I have absolutely used this system for the children I work with. For your own toddler, it does not have to be an official program. Printing out pictures of items in your fridge, toys in the toy box, books, etc. and having them on Velcro strips or taped up somewhere will serve the same purpose. With picture communication your child could get the picture and hand it to you, letting you know they want a drink of milk. Typically you would want to pair the verbal word with the picture when they hand it to you so they will eventually learn to say the word rather than hand the picture. I did not choose this route for M since he picked up on sign language so quickly. I also felt signs were more function for out and about.

Yes, this is a form of acceptable communication, pending the whining is not also accompanying the gesture. If your child can point to what they want, this is fantastic and should be encouraged! Even as adults we gesture and point, so why not encourage this in our children when they struggle with communication. M absolutely points to what he wants. He’ll point, sign more, point again, nod yes. We definitely know what he’s trying to tell us…most of the time.

Verbal Approximations:
Something that sounds like the correct word. Our toddlers are still developing their oral motor skills. How to work their tongue, the throaty sounds, etc. Putting vowels and consonants together takes some skill. This is why you frequently hear a baby/toddler say, “baba” for bottle. Or “mama” instead of mommy. Putting together two of the same sounds is much easier than two different sounds (i.e., mom-mee). Use this to your advantage. Instead of trying to get your toddler to say water, have them say “wawa.” Then follow it up with, “yes, water! Good job!” You do want to model the appropriate word, but again, work with what they are able to do. Set the bar too high and they’ll just get frustrated and let the tantrum ensue. As M has developed his verbal language we get a lot of verbal approximations. If he goes into the kitchen and just starts saying “babababa” I’ll totally ask him what he wants and get him what he asks for, I frequently at least prompt for “mama,” an actual word, but if he’s not whining, I’ll reinforce.

So, how do you get your child to do these things? One word: REINFORCEMENT. Specifically, Positive Reinforcement. When your child signs “more” you give them more of what they wanted. When they hand you the picture of crackers, you give them crackers. When they point to the bubbles (with no whining), you give them the bubbles. When they say “wawa” you give them water. Every. Single. Time. At least in the beginning anyway.

You want to structure these learning times as mini lessons. If your child loves blueberries, give them one blueberry at a time and for each blueberry have them sign for “more” or give the picture, or point, or say “baba” (or whatever their verbal approximation would be). This is how I taught M the signs for “more” and “all done”…in one weekend, at 11 months. I started out by doing a hand-over-hand technique. I first started by modeling the sign, then I placed my hands over his and had him sign, then I handed him the desired item. We did this over and over again during a meal. By the end of the day he was signing for “more” without my prompting. At the end of meals I would model “all done” and then place my hands over his to have him sign “all done.” By the end of the weekend he was signing for “all done” rather than whining to get out of his high chair. The more practice they have the quicker they will pick it up.

The benefit of taking the time to teach an effective form of communication is that you can minimize (not eliminate…sorry) whining and tantrums. M still has tantrums, he still whines. But we are able to prompt him through those moments to get him to communicate with us in a more functional way. “All done” has become very universal in our house. We use it all the time when there’s something he’s not allowed to have (i.e., the DVD player, remote controls, etc.). We just say “no, that’s all done.” If he doesn’t want something, he’ll sign “all done” rather than whining and pushing it away. As he’s gotten older he’s transformed this into actually shaking his head no or saying “no.” When he’s getting worked up over something, we ask him to use his words or say to him “how to do you ask nicely?” He’ll sign for “more” or “please.” Sometimes we have to accept what he’s capable of in the moment. Tantrums can be tough. Toddlers have no emotional regulation so it’s hard for them to just stop crying. They literally feel like the world is coming to end when they can’t have the very specific bubbles that they wanted. This is when we prompt for him to ask nicely, he may still be crying some, but if he’s at least signing “please” or “more” we’ll compromise. He’s only 20 months after all, we can’t expect perfection.

We chose sign language and now lean towards verbal approximations. It’s what has worked best for us, something else may work better for you. You have to choose what is going to be best for your family, your toddler/baby, and your situation.

M signing for “more”

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