Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Laugh, Play & Have Fun with Your Child ...On The Cheap!

by Julie Jenkins Sathe

Okay, yeah…yeah…we all have heard the news, the budget, the economy, we are balancing our checkbooks and buying groceries and it feels like spinning plates in the air. Okay, so things were feeling a bit more flush a few years ago….but these are the years of childhood that your little ones have. Don’t let them go because you are stressed over STUFF. Kids don’t want stuff; they want to do what we all should do more of: living in the moment, laughing at what is silly, exploring the world right in front of us.

With preschool kids and toddlers, this is so easy and you have everything you need right where you are. Nothing to buy, no lessons to sign up for….just a slight adjustment to you and your environment.

1st: Start by putting on your comfy clothes and deciding to have fun.

2nd: Stop bragging about how much knowledge or data or skills your child has developed and just let them enjoy and explore their life, their world.

3rd: Look around your kitchen, backyard and look back into your own childhood. There are probably some clues you will glean.

4th: Quit trying to make a product. Make something, do something just for the sake of the action. Nothing to keep, nothing to perfect, no end result to accomplish. This one shift in your behavior alone will remove the adult pressure that we adults sometimes place on our child’s actions.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

*One bowl, rice and a flour scooper.
From your kitchen drawers, pull out these items. Just sit your preschooler or toddler in a chair and lay out the items. You don’t have to say a thing. In fact, it’s more fun…it’s like a surprise! Your little one will begin in a flurry, or slow and steady depending upon their personality. Stay nearby to see if your child requires some parameters, i.e. “try to pour the rice into the bowl, not on the floor, Johnny”.

* Big bowl, water, liquid soap and a whisk.
Who needs directions? Just sit the child on the floor, table or on the porch and watch ‘em GO!

* One fresh orange, an old fashioned manual juicer and shallow bowl.
You may have to get this started, but a preschool child will revel in making their own real orange juice while developing some curiously new skills and understanding of fruit.

* Two, liquid measuring cups, water and a sponge.
Fill one of the measuring cups (you can substitute for an ordinary creamer) with water. Sit your child at the table with the cups and water and a sponge or rag. Eventually the sponge will be filled and the cups will be empty. Great attention builder and develops very good eye-hand coordination skills. If you want, use a tray with a lip around the edge to collect spills or place all on a folded bath towel.

* Boxes, tubes and cans
Before you recycle, fill up the kitchen table or floor with some recyclables for building and creating. Sit on the floor with your child, perhaps you can provide some engineering assistance.

* Go for a walk
Take a paper sack for your walk with your child. Along the way create a game of collecting things. Maybe you want to start with a theme: leaves, shells, feathers, flowers or even litter. You can make a teaching opportunity out of carefully watching for dangers, washing hands and so forth. When you return home your child’s treasures can be displayed or glued onto a piece of cardboard. Take a photo of your collection and add a caption “Jenny’s Tuesday Trash Hunt” or “Matthews Feathered Friends”. Take a photo and release the collection whenever you feel done.

* Turn off the TV and pack a picnic.

Lay a cloth on the front or back lawn and have a picnic at home. If the weather is gloomy, do it inside! Make eating a fun, memorable time. Don’t let those calories get lost in cartoons or movies.

* Color.

* Paint with water on the sidewalk.

* Play with shaving cream on a Formica counter, tile table or kitchen tray.

* Scoop, pour, stir, whisk…..

Put away the bills, turn off the tube, shut down the computer. Smile, laugh, hold hands and sing songs. These years will fly by, create some memories that you and your child will never forget.

Monday, May 11, 2009


“Discipline vs. Punishment”
Julie Jenkins Sathe

I walked into the room and heard a teacher say, “So, I know you don’t believe in discipline, so what do you do when…..”

The rest of the sentence was lost to me. We don’t discipline? I don’t discipline? What?

It occurred to me that this is not really a question of practice, but a question of semantics. I must admit that I even hesitate to use the word discipline when speaking about my book. Originally the title was, “Safe, Kind and Clean: Behavioral Education”. Behavioral Education was a phrase that I liked, a phrase that I coined and used for the past 20-something years. I spent hours teaching my preschool staff to use it. I spent hours enrolling parents in our program and used that term to clearly underline the unique difference between our child care center and so many others. But, people are creatures of habit and it takes a long time to change people’s perceptions. When I wrote “Safe, Kind and Clean” I thought that would be a turning point to the readers hearing it and getting it. Then, I realized when people asked about my book and topic, I struggled to pitch the concept to them while shaking their hand.

You know how it is; someone shakes your hand and asks,  "What you do for a living?". You have a two second window to cordially respond, “I’m a contractor" or "I’m a fourth grade teacher.” Similarly when people shake my hand and say, "What is your book about?" They want a response like “Quantum Physics" or "Remodeling the Farmhouse”. But when people asked about my book my response was unclear, too lengthy and not easy to introduce. I wanted to convince the listener of this new concept of Behavioral Education. What I heard was the rambling of my voice that never really answered their question, took much too long and left me feeling less competent than I know myself to be.

A year or so later, I was at the wedding of a friend and colleague. He, one of the two grooms, introduced me to a table of his colleagues. They all worked for the Department of Education and would certainly be people I would want to know. My friend Norman said, “This is Julie Jenkins Sathe. She has written a wonderful book on DISCIPLINE.”

Internally I felt the swell of objection begin to rise within me. But externally, I saw comprehension, respect and poof…..I was shaking hands and done with the awkward introduction. Wow. This was a Zen moment. Go with the flow. Be here now. All of those lines I know began to fill my mind.

It didn’t take long for me to recognize that others must understand and label your ideas into something familiar before they can give them their due individuation. Even my friend, Norman at his wedding was one of the grooms. His partner, yes, a man was the other groom. Someday this will not be rare. Today it still is. But it is still a wedding. They are still grooms. We understand these roles and identify with the terminology. Then, we can modify the uniqueness of the situation as is required.

Needless to say, it was time to rename the book. So, I did. The new name came very easily for me, “Enlightened Discipline: the Safe, Kind and Clean Philosophy and Techniques". Those couple of zen moments led me to the title, itself a bit zen.

So, I will clearly state that we do discipline children in our care at my preschool, Caring Connection Children's Center. We use Enlightened Discipline. I state with confidence that my book is a discipline book, teaching adults a new set of techniques and a new philosophy of discipline. The title? "Enlightened Discipline: Safe, Kind and Clean".

Staff meetings continue at my preschool as we teach incoming teachers the nuances of Enlightened Discipline and massage and correct our own skills all the time. Parents continue to enroll their children and I have given myself permission to explain to people in the language that they understand the uniqueness of our discipline philosophy. I will say, “Our discipline philosophy is so unique, I like to call it Behavioral Education, as we teach children a way to behave that serves themselves and others.”

Perhaps the reason that the word discipline bothered me so much is that people tend to mix and match discipline with the word punishment. Enlightened Discipline will not ever be confused with punishment. There are consequences and there is punishment. Allow me to share my definitions: Punishment is imposed by someone else, someone in a position of power, authority or rank.

Consequences occur. Consequences are the responses that the universe, laws of science and laws of society and humanness provide without provocation. When you throw something, it will come down. How successful you are -and you feel- is determined on where and when you throw something. If you speak unkind words, you may have an unfavorable response from the person whose feelings have been hurt. If you cause another person harm or property is damaged the harm or damage must be repaired or remain damaged.

In the Enlightened Discipline environment, the teacher or parent is able to use the consequences to teach the child how he/she can better work this life to avoid unfavorable results. Also, they can teach the child how being a participant in the outcome they will feel a sense of personal success. Ahhhhh! That’s the enlightened part.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

15 Tips for Creating Success for Your Preschool Child

15 Tips for Creating Success
for your Preschool Child
By Julie Jenkins Sathe
  1. Begin your child’s day with a healthy breakfast. Avoid quick foods with a high sugar content. Balance carbohydrates with protein by adding peanut butter to a graham cracker or a banana. Stay away from fast food. Really.
  2. Begin your day and your child’s day fresh. Avoid “left over” arguments from yesterday. Let it go! This is old news and not developmentally appropriate for you to expect your child to even remember yesterday’s news. In addition, you have more to concentrate on than yesterday’s bad news. Move on.
  3. Be sure your child is dressed comfortably. Ensure that he/she is wearing clothing that focuses less on fashion and more on weather. This means dress him/her in layers with comfort in mind and freedom to be expressive within his/her day.
  4. Do yourself and the preschool a favor and label your child’s clothing. Even after labeling, don’t send anything to preschool that you love. It’s too great a risk. These clothes are your child’s equivalent to ‘work clothes’.
  5. Be happy and excited with your child about their school, friends and teachers. It's okay that they are happy to go to school and like the other people there. Parents sometimes feel that they must seem concerned, even worried so their child senses their loss and therefore their love. Phooey! Children want you to be happy; then they will be happy! So why are earth wouldn’t you find happiness in the joy and experiences of their life?
  6. Be sure to take a few moments to visit your child’s classroom or teacher. This is a very personal time and an intimate inter-relationship. Don’t fall into the trap of not knowing who your child is connecting with and then waiting for something to go wrong before you try to make a connection.
  7. Volunteer or visit in the classroom or during extra curricular events. Be interested in what your preschooler is trying to share with you. As parents, you are busy and preoccupied with your own job and household routines. Put them away for a few moments. Turn off your cell phone. Quit text messaging. When you are at preschool and with your child before and afterward, be interested in what you preschooler has to share…a new song, a never-ending story….be there. You will enrich both of your lives.
  8. Ask about the ways that you can add to the preschool program from home: an activity to expand at home or something for your child to bring related to the theme or season. Maybe you can save plastic water bottles for a craft or bring in recycled office envelopes for a new dramatic play office area. It takes so little to add a lot.
  9. Take time to read the preschool’s lesson plan so that you can better understand what your child is trying to share with you. They haven't the vocabulary of an adult, so use the adult's plan to help you piece it together.
  10. Be a part of whatever is available to you at school for parents. Perhaps there are parent groups, newsletter photos, articles, work parties or fundraisers. Take photos and send them to the school.
  11. At home, turn of the TV and just visit each evening before bedtime with your child. Not for hours, just 5-15 minutes. You can do that.
  12. Turn off the car radio and cell phone on the way home and to school. Sing with your child; listen to their stories, plans, excitement. This time will be gone so quickly.
  13. Be sure your child is well-bathed, combed with clean teeth and comfortable for a good night’s sleep. This will follow them through their lifetime as the precious, safe time. It will also create for them a vision for how to parent their own children.
  14. Take care of yourself. Make sure you have a few moments each night and every morning to yourself. Make sure your child is safe. Maybe you must wake up early, but make the time. It is well worth it for your peace of mind. Teach your child to understand you require alone time for a hot bath, a warm meal or a good read. Close the door and remember who you are. A better YOU makes a better parent.
  15. Create boundaries with your child. Permissive or inconsistent parenting is very confusing to a child. Make some simple rules and insist they are followed: Bedtime, bath time, how we eat, what words are used, etc. Read more in Enlightened Discipline (c) creating your personal foundational beliefs.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009



It’s every parent’s first job, to strike a balance between home, work, children, personal time and recreation. It is not only important, but striking a balance is the most self-less thing a parent can do. Well rounded parents who are actively involved in more than doing for others (yeah….all you mother-martyrs, I’m talking to you!) are just better.

Parents who find time to play, to rest, to be with other adults are better at being parents when they are parenting. Adults who make the time to go and spend time with other adults, those that they actually like (not at a PTA board meeting) are going to be better parents. So have I made my point? Parents, whether married or single, must find time to rest, play, be a grown up, continue growing themselves and also parent their children. This is the balance that will make parents the best that they can be.

Sometimes parenting and managing a household, whether there is outside employment or not can be overwhelming. The following article will give some simple ways to trick yourself into starting new habits and breaking old ones.

Get a kitchen timer.
While you are at home, allow one hour for the chores that are likely to consume you like housecleaning, bill paying that can consume you. Set the timer and make yourself stop and change to another activity. This will help reduce your stress level and ensure you aren’t spending unnecessary time dawdling or getting lost in the details of a task.

Get a book.
Turn off the t.v. and read. It is important that your mind has the opportunity to upgrade, and rest at the same time. Find some enjoyable reading material, a novel or personal growth reading…..(hear this as NOT a work related topic). The wonderful side benefit of this is that you are modeling great habits for your children, toddlers to teens will benefit from the TV or computer going mute and watching a parent read, in quiet.

Whether you work and parent…or are a stay at home parent, you must make time to move your body, preferably in the fresh air. Stretch, dance, walk, stroll, bicycle….take the children, push the stroller, walk the dog or fly a kite. Dance to 3 songs on the radio, rake leaves, play basketball, play hopscotch, go on a nature walk and pick up leaves, rocks, pine cones or pick up trash. Find a way to move and do it regularly. If you find yourself being resistant here is an idea: write a list of ideas of simple movement like the ones above. Ask your child or a friend for their ideas if you can not think of any others. Write all of them on a piece of paper and cut each one into small strips (or use a small note paper for each). Fold them and drop into a jar or can. Set your timer for the one hour (or half hour to begin with, start with; 15 minutes. Just start.) Draw one of the movement ideas out of the jar and DO IT! Make a game with yourself and your children. Of course, never leave young children alone. If you can include them, even better, Be aware that some parents may find this a great time to be alone. If you have the support of another adult, take this time to be away from the kids if you know it will do you good.

Eat well.
Mom was right. You are what you eat. But mom’s food may be the ones that you need to avoid. Make small changes to your diet and you children’s menu plan. Cut out fast foods, eliminate sodas and sugary drinks. Replace with water. Splash in lemon slices, mint sprigs and so forth. Go to the farmer’s market in your neighborhood. Get fresh fruits and vegetables. If you just start with these changes, it will significantly change your health and your children’s nutritional intake.

Environment matters.
Where you live makes you feel a particular way. If it is cluttered and dirty, it feels cramped and stifling. If it is cozy and lived-in, it feels good and well, like home. A parent can be overly focused on housecleaning to the point of stressing out the children in an effort to be perfect at all times. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a house that is not fresh, smells of smoke or other household odors is not healthy. Every home can be aired out, wiped down and swept. Homes do not need to be new or sparkling to feel good.

One of the most important things parents can do with their children is laugh, play and actually enjoy themselves. Two things to know: it is never too late and….start now. Having fun does not mean spending money. Set up the environment for easy, silly times that will become your family memories. Play board games, get out the deck of cards, watch a silly movie and eat popcorn, play twister, Yahtzee, bingo, pin the tail on the donkey, charades, write poems, have a jingle contest, bake and decorate, go fishing, ride bikes, take a nature walk……the list goes on.

Be still.
Whether it is for five minutes or one hour, every parent must seek solace, peace and quiet regularly. If it is possible to run a bath and light a few candles once the kids are in bed, I highly recommend it. Unplug the phone, step away from the TV and computer and close your eyes…..breath. If you have access to a yoga class, sign up and learn techniques for relaxation. Pick up a quiet CD with no words, just relaxation music. Use this to help young children settle down before bedtime, and again you can model relaxation as a practice for your kids. Remember, all the chores will be there when you are done.

Balance is the way to remember who you are and to know that you will keep growing and maturing, yourself. It isn’t just your children that will grow. Adults need time to grow and stretch themselves. The better adults we are, the better we are in balance…the better we can parent our children.

Monday, May 4, 2009


C’mon, Mom…Let Me Play!
By Julie Jenkins Sathe

To a child, adult approval means everything. Children who are worried about the routine occurrences that can happen during the course of a normal day may run into real problems. Let’s look at it from a child’s view.

I’m small, too short to reach many things that are offered to me, so I miss them, they fall. …spill and there is a mess.

My fingers don’t always hold onto things like a grown-up’s. My small hands don’t fit all the way around the cup that Grandma hands me….it spills. Or the plate that Daddy gives me to hold is much too heavy for me…I drop it.

My arms don’t always know what is behind me and I forget that I have to turn around and look. I knock things off…sometimes things break.

My legs are running so fast because I am so excited to go play. Maybe I will even get to be on that special swing! But, my legs went so fast that I slipped into the mud….now my clothes are all wet and yucky.

My mind didn’t realize that the pee was coming out RIGHT NOW! I wet my pants…again.

As parents, we need to remember to dress our children so that they are ready for play and LIFE as a kid. They will wash after preschool or their play date. Parents need to be gentle with their criticism and think of it from the child’s perspective.

J Do dress your child in “play clothes”. Go to the Goodwill or any second hand store in your town and pay pennies for good, sturdy clothes that won’t bother YOU if they are stained.

J Do make sure children can fasten and unfasten their clothing on their own. They can only be successful with the skills they currently have. Avoid buckles and snaps, trendy zippers and overalls.

J Do make sure you provide a change of clothes for every day. Make life more comfortable mentally and physically for the child who has a mishap.

J Most of all…curb your criticism. They have waited all day for you….maybe all week if you have shared custody. They want your hug, your kiss, your approval. Love them up!

DOG TALK? Stop It!!

Julie Jenkins Sathe

“Stop it!” is a perfect example of what I call Dog Talk. It is really quite startling to parents when I reprimand them on their speech pattern by referring to it as Dog Talk. But they sure do get my point.

Dog Talk is the use of short, clipped commands. There is really no teaching, no compassion and no patience in this style of speech. It is clear that Dog Talk is the use of commands rather than directions. If we really look at the difference to us adults it is a matter of perhaps 3 seconds that sets Dog Talk apart from Teaching Speech. But the difference to a child may be life changing!

Here the difference:

DOG TALK: “Get down!”
TEACHING SPEECH: “Samantha, standing on the table is not safe.”

DOG TALK: “Stop it!”
TEACHING SPEECH: “Jennifer, that noise is too loud. Be kind to your baby brother’s ears.”

Remember that our goal as parents is to teach and re-teach. If you seem to be repeating yourself, recognize that your child needs to hear the directions that many times to learn successful behavior. I’m sure that in your job or household life, you have had to practice skills again and again. That is what children need. Somehow, we adults think these skills should be known. Not true. They must be taught, practiced and learned.

As a parent, if we choose to use short commands (Dog Talk) we are only teaching them OUR desires. Many of us were raised that way and we did learn something. We learned what would make the adult mad. We learned (through trial and error) how far we could cross a line. But there is a better way than this fear based style of discipline. This abrupt style misses the best opportunity we have to teach children the real life reasons why a particular behavior is better, so that the child has the skills to make these decisions for themselves in their future, without you nearby.

As parents, we really do have a reason why we are seeking a certain behavior. But do you ever get caught up in it and actually forget why? This style makes you remember your reasons. I guarantee that your reasons will always lead you back to one of the foundational words that I use in the Enlightened Discipline philosophy: Safe, Kind or Clean.

Go back through the examples above. If you need convincing, think of your spouse or coworker talking to you in Dog Talk fashion. How does that feel? Would you accept that? I hope not.

PROMISES TO CHILDREN...a Slippery Slope!

Julie Jenkins Sathe

For anyone who has children or works with children, making promises is something we adults must all consider. Really consider.

If you watch yourself, the reason that you are making a promise may have motivations that are questionable, at best. Run your commitments by the Promise Meter:

Are you making a promise as a prepayment for something you want? Ex: “Susie, I promise that I will take you to the park if you clean up your toys.” (otherwise known as a bribe)

Are you making a promise because you are paying off a debt of failure? Ex: “Johnny, I know that I promised you that we would go to the park, but now I have to work so I promise you I will take you tomorrow.” (notice this is a new promise on a broken promise)

Are you making a promise for a failure of your character? Ex: “Susie, when I am not so tired I will take you to the park.”

Are you making an unrealistic promise because you don’t want to disappoint your child? “Sure, someday we can go on vacation to Disneyland.”

If you go back and reread all of the potential scenarios and get very honest with yourself, you may recognize some of your promises fit into the above categories. The interesting point is that they are really the same. Promises are creating expectations of children that misuse your power, your personal limitations, and your failures. They are simply manipulation.

If and when an adult chooses to do something for a child or with a child that that child would like, it should be completely clear of any pay off. The adult is in complete control of these relationships and is teaching their child to use promises as currency. A promise that is a commitment and is done on time, all the time is simply lifestyle. A promise that is made verbally and not done is a debt. Debt of any kind is failure and will only lead to disappointment. Most parents try very hard never to lie to their children, but because promises are currency, they are a deadly recipe for lying. Your child may not notice the first time, but eventually he/she will see you for what you are. They won’t call you a debtor; they will call you a liar.

Parents must learn to create a clean ledger page with their child. Do what you can, when you can. Do not make promises of time, activities or property that you cannot immediately deliver.

Adults have a much better understanding of time than do children. “Tomorrow” or “later” to a young child is a concept that they simply cannot yet grasp. Don’t use your power and intellect this way.

Children benefit a great deal from understanding that “things change” in life. A child can understand something like, “maybe we can go to the movies later. I will decide after shopping if we have time to go or not.”

The parent should further explain “Maybe means ‘maybe yes’ ‘maybe no’.” Have your children repeat this back to you any time you say maybe. “What does maybe mean?”

Stop Playing the Maybe Game:
If you have no intention or you are unable to do what your child desires, tell them the truth. Don’t use maybe as a new way to lie. Children will get that quick, too.

Ex: “Mommy, can I have ice cream”. We don’t have any ice cream, Susie. You can have a banana.” This truthful NO answer will be an easier truth for your child to deal with than hearing, “maybe later if I can buy some”. That is a lie and you will be caught.

Quit Negotiating with your Kids:
Give children clear limits and what they can expect of you. Ex: “Mommy, can I have ice cream for breakfast?” “Ice cream is not healthy, how about a banana and scrambled eggs?” “”No I want ice cream?” “How about a Pop Tart?” “No. I want ice cream.” “How about hot chocolate and a donut?” This could go on for days and make you crazy.

When the answer is NO it should not be watered down by negotiations. If you are open to suggestions, make that clear, too. Children can benefit from working through alternatives, but not whittling your decisiveness down. The most successful option for young children is a two choice alternative. “Do you want oatmeal or scrambled eggs?” Now, stick to it parents!

The truthful, strong parenting answer would have been “no.” A no answer will be an easier message for your child to understand what is appropriate and what your word is worth. Parents must consider that the little things, like words do make up their character in the eyes and ears of their children.

Children are smart and will learn from their primary caregiver. They will learn honesty or deceit. They will learn trust or skepticism. They will learn reality or fantasy. They will learn strength and ethics.

Keep in mind that children until age five, or so are still “magical thinkers”. They still believe in fairy tales, in Santa Claus, in monsters under the bed and in daddy coming back from wherever he went to…. Avoid at all costs confusing being gentle or letting them down easy with lying to your children. Remember, liars are always caught. Trying to be too easy on them may end up being hard on you!