Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

Say “I’m Sorry”: Teaching Kids Good Manners

Well, actually, I figured out that it is not about “teaching kids to have good manners.”

It’s not about teaching my child to say please when she wants something.

It’s not about teaching my child to say thank you when she has received something.

It’s not about teaching my child to say sorry when she has hurt someone or something.

Those awkward moments grate on me, when others (or the voice in my head) expect my daughter to say or do something to show she is good-mannered. I want my daughter to feel what true compassion feels like, what true gratitude feels like, what a true request feels like. When I try to do these things we, as parents, should be “getting our children” to do, I have found these things hard to manage myself.

I have realized that my child’s manners are all about me and my most powerful parenting tool: my example.

It is about me saying please when I ask something of her.

How many times a day do you ask your child to do something or not to do something? How many times do you say please? When you are out at the store or running errands, how many times do you say please when you are asking someone to do something?

Part of Nonviolent Communication is to make requests (as opposed to demands). It is difficult sometimes to maintain a headspace where I am asking my daughter to do something instead of demanding or commanding. Saying “please” reminds me that I  want her to choose to do what I am asking, not just to do what I say.

It’s about me saying thank you when she gives me something or does something for me.

Out of the three of these, I do the best on this one, but only because gratitude is something I have integrated into my whole life. Still, I often have to make a point to stop, recognize and acknowledge the gratitude I feel for my daughter, who she is and what she does.

As parents, we give and give and give to our children. I feel joyously connected and humbled when my child says “Thank you, mama” for doing something that felt important to her. Makes it all worthwhile. (And keep my attitude in check!)

It’s about me saying I am sorry when I have done something I wish I had done differently.

Marshall B. Rosenberg, of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, has a powerful perspective on “sorry” and what we might say instead that would be more accurate and meaningful.) He describe the feeling of sorry without using the word sorry. It’s about me understanding what need I was trying to meet in the moment, doing what I did or saying what I said, and also understanding what need I did not get met by my actions and words.

It is much clearer for me, knowing and acknowledging what I wish I would have done and how I feel hurt/sad that I wasn’t able to meet the needs of myself and others, than saying “I’m sorry.” I actually say I’m sorry too much, almost without thinking. I have recognized this in myself and want to set an example for my children that is mindful.


All these efforts to use my example to show my daughter what we value as a family actually has proven to be effective in my life.

The most recent example went right to my heart:

My daughter was having feelings when I was attending to her brother for something. She hit me. (She’s been having bigger feelings, for the bigger number of years she is, perhaps.)

She stopped, her face fell from angry to desperately sad as she said, “I’m sorry I hit you, mama,” and crawled up next to me and then into my lap to sit and rock for a few minutes.

This girl knew what the meaning of sorry was. She felt that she was trying to get her need for closeness met but disrespected and hurt me in the process. She shifted to doing something that actually got her needs met, acknowledging with an “I’m sorry” that what she had done was, as Rosenberg says, “a tragic expression of an unmet need.”

We cuddled close like when she was a baby, renewing and reaffirming our bond as mother and daughter. It was a precious moment.

Spontaneous. Unforced. From the heart.

Just like “good manners” ought to be…



Screen Free Week

April 30 – May 6 is Screen Free Week.

I had never heard of this. When I researched it, I found out it was started by Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood. Their motto is “Reclaiming Childhood from Corporate Marketers.” I can definitely get with that idea. They have lots of resources on their website on media issues, including body image, the sexualization of childhood and the commercialization of babyhood.

This celebratory week represents putting all this invasive media messaging in its place.

Before I found out about Screen Free Week, though, I had already gone back to screen free for my daughter. She now Skypes with her grandparents, but is otherwise playing. Usually she can be found singing a little song while “cooking,” “riding a horse,” or “going farmers’ market.” I don’t know if it’s a result of no screen time or if I’m noticing more, but her imagination has gained strong foundations. I find myself joyfully pretending scenarios with my daughter, much as I spent my time as a little girl myself.

Although I have my daughter screen free, I continue to have issues with computer use.

I am using Screen Free Week as an excuse to reevaluate my relationship with this device called a computer. I considered scheduling posts, but I decided that it wasn’t really supporting Screen-free Week if I encouraged others to get online. I hope that I still have folks reading and commenting when I come back in a week. I’ve really enjoyed the increase in discussion on the Facebook page, appreciated the “likes” and new subscribers to the blog and found support for many aspects of my life through other people’s sites.

It’s just that I find myself wondering what life would be like without it.

No computer at all.

No electromagnetic waves hitting my energy field.

No time spent waiting for uploading and downloading or sending or posting.

MY PLAN: After Screen Free Week I will shift my relationship with the computer.

I want to have a time boundary for a tasks.

I will have 30 minutes, say, to do things on the blog and write, over the course of the day. What I don’t finish, I don’t finish. I want to see how far that time gets me. Work to use those minutes efficiently. I think this will help me move forward on multiple fronts rather than over-focusing on one area. I can use this as a starting point from which to evolve.

I want to try out different timings for computer work.

I tend to feel like checking everything in the morning when I get up. I don’t think that is necessarily the best thing for me. Maybe I would be more efficient doing computer things at another time. Maybe I write in the morning and do FB stuff in the night. I want to find what my rhythms are, what my family’s rhythms are.

I enjoy the work I am doing online.

I feel vibrant and guided as I build A Living Family community (locally and online). I feel passionate about supporting other families I connect with online. I am constantly growing and learning from all I do online. This computer has made me a better parent, truly.

I just need to put the computer use in its proper place in my life, to use it effectively as a tool to enrich and further my life.

With that, friends, starting Monday I will be off finding out what life is like without a screen….


Tagging Tuesday: Reggio-Emilia and Play-Based Learning

Although Tagging Tuesday originally began on Facebook, there are so many wonderful resources on the Internet that are not FB-connected. I’ll focus on those here as well as post links to FB pages that have websites. Please comment if you have any additional resources to share!

Reggio-Emilia Resources

Reggio-Emilia Books

Play-Based Blogs

Sunday Surf: Alternative Parenting Info for Family and Friends

Holidays and celebrations usually mean family get togethers and all that comes with those situations.

For many, this is a joyous time when perhaps people who rarely enjoy sharing the same space have a day or more to “live together” in some ways. What happens when the small family unit chooses to live differently than the family at large? For parents who subscribe to alternative/gentle/positive/natural/attachment whatever you call it parenting, the coming together of different styles of raising children can cause tension and frustration. Some families also have a hard time over the phone or the internet.

A few things I think cause trouble are a lack of compassionate understanding of the various “sides” and feelings of judgment and defensiveness that block communication. This happens for everyone, but it seems that the hows, whats and whys of a less typical type of parent are less known (and also, therefore, respected?). I know I wish that my family could read some of the articles that shape my parenting choices.

What follows is a rough draft of my dream list of 10 blog posts to give someone a sense of where I am currently coming from as a mother. (Yes, I reserve the right to change and learn and grow.)

***Last minute addition!***

I just found this post on the 10 RIE principles of caregiving, and it addresses all the main issues I’ve been trying to raise with my own family. I may even share it with said family…….

10 Articles to Help Understand My Parenting Aspirations


Recently graduated to butter knife cutting

Recently I have had this little thought floating around my mind about children and readiness. It’s pretty basic. When they are ready, they will.

This applies to potty “training,” breastfeeding/weaning, transitioning to solids, walking, talking, manners…..just about everything you can think of they will do when they are ready. (Particularly provided the environment reinforces an independent exploration and learning of these things.) This readiness can make itself quite apparent when all of a sudden a child is doing something they never were doing before or when (after weeks or months of cajoling and coaxing and whatever other desperate parental tactics) all of a sudden a child easily and willingly does something they have previously refused or chosen not to do.

Two recent incidents with my daughter brought this idea of readiness straight home in a concrete way.

For months and months we have had a basket of blocks available for my daughter to play with. She rarely would go to them, and when she did she would dump them out. End of game. When an adult would begin building a tower or something, she would knock it down gleefully, as many a toddler will. (Isn’t that the purpose?) For better or worse, I just stopped building towers since I only ever got to a maximum of three blocks. I began to wonder if she would ever start building up instead of knocking things down. I was starting to doubt my trust in her unfolding at her own pace and wondered if maybe I should be doing something. Since I couldn’t think of anything, and I didn’t feel concerned at all (more curious), I did nothing.

My wait ended abruptly a few days ago. My daughter dumped the blocks out as usual. This time, though, she stacked one block on top of the other (haphazardly) until they fell. With a loud shriek of excitement, she built the blocks up again. The word tower was thrown out there and she began to say “I building a tower, tower, tower!” Then they would fall. She got up to 10-11 blocks at one point, with me watching on the sidelines as she bumped the shaky snake of blocks with her elbow. (I wanted her to see what happens rather than have me “fix” the tower and her not learn the important laws of cause and effect that apply to blocks — Jenga, anyone?) After months of not a hint of interest in doing so, she played “tower, tower, tower” non-stop for over half an hour with little to no encouragement from an adult.

Why did she build towers for so long all of a sudden? I was surprised. She was ready.

Another readiness moment happened last night. For two weeks of her life, we (I) took my daughter in and out of a crib to nurse her and put her down to sleep (often bringing her into bed at some point because it makes more sense for us). Then that thing sat in the corner gathering dust for over a year….a year! When I finally got ready to get rid of it, we got pregnant and I began envisioning a possible use as a sidecar. Once I got past the serious nausea phase and had more energy to think ahead to another baby, I had my husband set up the crib, minus one side, between the bed and the wall.

For months, my daughter has had the opportunity to sleep in this comfy space. As soon as she saw it she was thrilled, so I first thought she would be sleeping in it pretty quickly. I never asked her to sleep there or put her in there myself. I wanted to see when she was ready. She regularly played in “my own bed” and put babies to sleep in there before sleeping herself in the bed with me. When she didn’t ever seem to be interested in laying down in there herself, I wondered if she would ever see that as a place for her to sleep.

Then last night, as she was almost asleep, she sat up and said “I want to go sleep in my own bed.” She crawled over me and lie on her belly and went to sleep in a few minutes. She slept there for about half the night or so before crawling over to be with me.

What?! My daughter chose to sleep in her own bed, all of a sudden? She was ready.

The reason this simple concept of readiness has been striking me so hard is because children are sponges, gathering information and learning at an unimaginable rate. We are always showing and leading our children by example. Sometimes, though, there are are things that they haven’t figured out and want to explore.

It’s so easy to try dominate our children in every aspect of life, including learning, and parenting can sometimes feel like an endless roll of choices about how I use my power. I can watch my daughter figure out how to open a jar, or I can show her how to open the jar. I can tell and show her about the “wrong end” of a strawberry, or I can let her explore for herself why that isn’t the tastiest end to begin with. I can tell her the names of a whole bunch of things, or I can wait to see what things she asks me about (another sign of readiness — asking to be shown or asking questions).

With all there is to learn in life, here’s the hard part about readiness: There is a balance to find between my showing and telling and her exploration and discovery. When it comes to readiness, I feel that patience and observation are gifts I can give my daughter. I watch with wonder and joy as the mystery of who she is unfolds and emerges before my eyes. Watching my child develop more and more personhood feels like one of the blessings of being a mother. I hope to honor her process of becoming as much as I can possibly manage.

Wordless Wednesday: Making a Sensory Bin of Leaves!

Pick up the leaves....

Put them in/near the bin!

I Helped Mama! (She is signing "help.")


More Interested in Raking

My Plan to Be a Better Mom: Update!

This is where I get to focus on the things I have done (right) in the last week! Mostly I just wanted to share a few activities I tried spontaneously that ended up working out well.

My daughter seems to have been having some fussy days lately. Needless to say, necessity is the mother of invention (and creativity). As I said in the latest Better Mom post on activities, I want to create and offer more hands on learning/play activities. Here are three things that came to me after all I read all the awesome things other mamas are doing with their littles. (See activities post for lots of resources for learning/play ideas.)

Sensory Bin: Paper

I get these circulars in the mail that frustrate me because I don’t want them and it’s such a waste of paper. The other day I felt like ripping them up. Just after, I walked by the bin I wanted to use as a sensory bin. I decided to have my daughter help me crumple them up and toss them in the bin. Then I let her play. She got to explore texture, sound, her body and more, turning an annoyance for me into a wonder to explore for my daughter!

Crumple Crumple

Stomp Stomp Stomp

Squish, Smash

Scoop and Pour Activity

Then the other day I had my daughter help make Vietnamese spring rolls by giving her the bean sprouts, chopped cilantro, and chopped lettuce to put into separate bowls for my husband to assemble. I went to put the peanuts in a bowl myself and realized it was the perfect scoop and pour “Practical Life” Montessori activity that I read about all the time. She was so into this. After an initial spill (see the peanuts on the counter?) she realized on her own how to be more careful and spilled not a single peanut more. It was quick but a great learning experience for us both, I think.



Open and Close Activity Bin

More recently, she had gotten her pep back after a cold and wanted to play. I was doing dishes, washing out a ketchup bottle, when I decided to look around for “open and close” jars, boxes and things for an activity box. I surprised myself by easily finding a number of things. I had fun along with her realizing how fun and different containers are to open and close. She did ask for help with the inner spice top, but ended up actually opening it once herself. The best part was hearing her ask for help and then say “Try it” to who I thought was me. After initial frustration, she actually told herself to try opening it, and she did try a couple of times rather than giving up as easily as she initially intended.

Some of the open and close materials, found around the house....

Little screwtop


Larger screw top (spice jar)

Was more complicated and exciting than we thought!

Yet another unexpected open and close experience awaited us!

It even came with a smell that led to a cooking conversation. (Plus we needed to put something inside. See it?)

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