Thursday, October 21, 2010

Common Behavior Stumbling Blocks...for parents with young preschoolers

Common Behavior Stumbling Blocks
For parents with young preschoolers

Bedtime is a pain?
Bath time is a mess?
Getting Dressed is pure hell?
Eating dinner is deadly?
Staying at the table for meals is impossible?
Playing fairly (sharing)…are you kidding?

These are typical times that create havoc for parents. If you are the fortunate parent who has a well behaved child and one who always cooperates, then pass on this article to someone you know who is struggling.

First things, first: You are not a bad parent. Even if you have thoughts of throwing your own tantrum….give yourself a little break. Relax, ease up. What I have found are the biggest issues for parents are one or more of the following:

Expecting to accomplish too much in one day
Expecting perfection from yourself or your child
Not being firm with your child (not mean, not angry) but clear and direct.
Feeling guilty for not giving in to your child’s desires
Resenting the other parent or absent partner who is not aligned with you

There are usually 3 areas of struggle that all conflicts go back to. They are:
Personal Space
Personal Property
Individual Attention

The ideal approach is to see the potential for distress before it has occurred and create a new pattern that will alleviate the appearance of a violation of space, property or attention. A child who feels “in control” of their own space will chose to use it properly. A child who feels forced to be in a space they don’t want will be in conflict (or clinging to you.) I will discuss SPACE in this article.

Set up personal space areas to encourage, enhance and excite your child’s independent use of space. Create small trays or buckets of a limited number of toys or playthings that go together. (3-5 small cars in one bucket, 2 dolls and clothing in another bucket…)
Your child should have no more than 3-5 options in their play space to choose from. Of course you may have more than that. Put them in the closet and rotate occassionally. Then the items are so much more fun because they are new! Your child should have access to items (not the ones in the closet, the other ones) and be physically capable of lifting and moving them, picking them up and so forth.

Set up personal space in common areas, too. For instance, create a crayon tray (with paper, stickers, markers, scissors and other writing needs) that keeps those items in their space and creates a place to be used. (This will lead to a great homework area in later years.)

Bath time and bedtime also can benefit from organized personal space. Choose a basket for your child’s shampoo, towel, wash cloth and limit to one or two water toys. This should be accessible to your child so that bath time issues are in their power. They can bring it out and set it near the tub ready for your help.

Dinner time or any meal can be easily encouraged with more child involvement. You don’t need to cook with your child to make this happen (but you can). Meals and snacks can be an event all into themselves. Parents tend to make the mechanics of life like bath, bed and meals efficient. Slow down. These are some of the best learning opportunities you will have and the most enjoyable times. Allow your child to spread peanut butter on a cracker, dip an apple slice in nutella or use a toothpick to skewer fruit pieces into a mini kabob. Using placemats will delineate space and be helpful for instilling personal responsibility.

These are just a few ideas for getting a better look at working through the transition times with young ones. Don’t forget to take pictures of the ordinary moments.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Parents Who Bluff
Julie Jenkins Sathe
Author of Enlightened Discipline©

You know who you are. And you and I both know how it is: You’re at your wit’s end and your child refuses to….get in the car. You ask, “Johnny can you get in the car?” Then you demand it, “Johnny. It’s time to go. Get in the car.” Then you make it worth his while, “If you get in the car, we can go to the store on the way home.” Then you make it a bargaining session, “If you don’t get in the car, we can’t have pizza tonight.” And finally, when all else fails you BLUFF.

“Okay. I’m leaving.” You stomp your feet to the car, hoping you didn’t take the plunge over the deep end….waiting….worrying….will he come? Please come. I’m out of ideas, now….

And what if he doesn’t?

Your four-year-old is on the sidewalk NOT in the car and he is completely in control of this win-lose scenario. OMG what will you do? Is he moving toward the street? How long do I rev the engine? Oh, God this isn’t safe!

Once a month I see this “technique” used when parents at my preschool, in utter frustration do not know what else to do. They are completely at the end of their rope and have stepped into the abyss of THE BLUFF. Why is it wrong? Because it is a bluff and you can’t (or certainly shouldn’t) leave your toddler or preschooler, even your school age child in most circumstances….alone to make your point and as a method to make them do something. But, deeper than that, it is a breach of the basic rules of Enlightened Discipline’s philosophy which herald back to: Safe, Kind and Clean…safety being always the first rule of parenting and ….the most basic element of kindness which is honesty.

So here it is. I’ll be blunt. Bluffing is lying.

It is leverage that cannot be used. Of course, it isn’t safe to leave a child alone, really alone. But more than that it is a breach of trust, of love, of comfort and of confidence in YOU. Even if your child hops into the car and you get away with it this time, eventually it will not even be successful. Eventually he will wonder, “Will she really leave?” If you keep walking down this parenting road and with this tactic, you will reduce yourself to the driving around the corner when your seven-year-old doesn’t comply… and fast forward your life to: locking the door on your 13-year-old that breaks curfew.

All of these bluffs may work to manipulate your child a few times but alas, they chip away at your basic principles and the trust and honesty you want to establish with your growing child.

Once a month at my child care center a parent will try this with their stubborn child, “Jenny it’s time to go home. Okay, you’ll have to stay at the school all night.” The parent will walk out the door and usually the child will begin to scream and wail. Of course, we intervene and explain that we aren’t open and no one is will be here. Therefore you must go home with your mom. Too bad for the parent, we had to bust their bluff. But we have an obligation to their child, too. One of honesty and safety.

Five Steps for Getting Children to Comply!

1. Stop and get eye to eye contact with your child. Find out where they are, mentally and emotionally. Find out what they are in the middle of doing and communicate that you see them and make sure they ‘get’ you.
“I see you are still finishing the book, but my watch tells me we must go now.”

2. Don’t ask a question unless you will allow their response. Is it really an option? “Do you want to go?” is begging for a response. It is not clear communication, if it was intended as a direction. So when you pull the rug out it may seem like a trick. “It is time to go” is much clearer.

3. Give your child a warning and time to prepare. As parents we forget that we have, in many cases, asked our child to make the most of a situation we have created. They may feel completely out of control. Then, they finally get their bearings and we are ready to leave. For instance, you are chatting after a social event. Your child has been bored and ready to go since you arrived. You stop to visit with friends for a few moments which seem like forever to your child. Then, your conversation is over and you are in a hurry to go to the next thing on your list. But, your child has just made acquaintance with a passing puppy; just found flowers to look at; or just realized they can run up and down the hallway….and now you want to leave! No fair! They just got comfortable. Give them a warning, and then follow through. “Okay, Roger I’ve finished my conversation pet the puppy three more times then we must go to the store so I have time to make dinner.”

4. Use all of your senses. Quit hollering at your child and go to them, look at them and touch them with kindness. Hold his hand; put your arms around her; give him a big hug and thank her for waiting for you. Then, walk hand-in-hand to the car.

5. Make it fun! “I’ll race you to the car.” “Let’s take off our shoes and walk barefoot the rest of the way.” Hold hands and try to walk backward. Make sure you choose something that is possible for your child. Try to avoid picking them up and carrying them. This again reinforces their lack of cooperation and may make them feel more out of control.

You will feel better, more honest and have more success if you quit bluffing, bribing and manipulating your child. Be with them. Look into their eyes and get what they are feeling. You won’t get these moments back. Turn off your cell phone and give your child your undivided attention. It’s worth it!

Julie Jenkins Sathe is building a reputation for her humorous and straight forward
inspirational workshops for both educators and parents. She has published
two books, Enlightened Discipline and Teens! Change is Your Choice.



Julie Jenkins Sathe
Author of
Enlightened Discipline©

Maybe it’s your first child and you really haven’t figured out the next few steps from toddler to prekindergarten. Maybe it’s your last baby and you really want to relish this “toddler” time because you are keenly aware how fast childhood passes. Or maybe you have simply lost track of the development and abilities your child has developed…..who knows all the underlying reasons?

You may not see it, but as you pick up your four-year-old child from the child care center where he has: recited the alphabet, weighed and measured in science, negotiated his playthings with his peers without conflict, and has begun to write parts of his name (albeit in mirrored writing), you greet him at the door with his pacifier, his binky or his sippy cup. Huh?

Or maybe your child has successfully used the toilet all day in child care and when you arrive to transport her home, you switch her from underwear to diapers.

Or maybe this is your scenario…you have company over for dinner. Your preschool child plays dress-up in the play room with their child. The kids have spent hours making up names, trying on hats and scarves, putting on beads and baubles…. and when they wind down, getting tired your child is ready for her bottle. Her bottle? Reeeeally?!

Every so often I hear someone refer to their 7 year old as, “Baby Johnny”; or their 4 year old as “the baby”. (Not to be confused with “my baby” which any mother might use even when describing the youngest of her four children who are now approaching middle age.) But the reference I mean is: “the baby”, (who is now approaching 1st grade or beyond). It’s as if you have freeze-framed your child. What is up with that?

So, you’re feeling a little beat-up by this article. I’m pushing your buttons and maybe I haven’t exactly described YOU but you can see a little bit of your behaviors. So, what am I getting at?

We, as parents have to determine what ‘developmental’ needs our child has and which habits, limits and crutches we are promoting far beyond necessity. Even though childhood is lovely and sweet, even though we are mature enough to know it is the best of times….we must allow and encourage our children to mature from one step to the next. We need to allow our toddler to walk because SHE CAN! We must encourage our three year old to hold and use utensils, because that is the next step. We must trust that our children can HOLD IT to the next toilet or communicate their needs well enough that the car can be stopped. We must allow them; encourage them to … grow up.

It’s true. If you can’t see it, if you are too close, if you have blinders on….listen up to your friends, your neighbors and watch your children’s peers. Do they have bottles? Are they sucking on a binky? Not all comparisons are fair because all children develop at their own personal rate, but there is a range of development that your child should be close to. But most importantly, you as a parent should never be inhibiting that growth. If you are, then YOU may be the problem.

One of the big ones I have encountered is parents who feel their child simply isn’t ready to toilet independently, to be potty trained. (Not full time. Not a night time. Not during church. Blah, blah, blah….) You work, you cook dinner, do laundry, pay bills, you have a two page list of all the things that you don’t have time enough to do. The risk of putting your two-year-old, three-year-old or four-year-old in underwear is just is too big of a risl FOR YOU.

As parents, this will not be the first time that you will need to give your full time and attention to your child and set your needs, plans and desires aside. But it’s just momentarily. Keeping your child in a diaper so that you can avoid a wet seat in the car, or not have to change the sheets in their bed is not in your child’s greatest interest. In this article, I won’t get derailed into the conversation of potty training vs. independent toileting and how to successfully reach the latter, because if you are the parent who is delaying your child’s underwear-wearing progression for your own reasons, put yourself on notice, it is more than toileting!

Usually parents who have found themselves in one of these scenarios mean no harm to their child. Read that again. I know you mean no harm to your child. In fact, most parents are usually acting out of love and the desire to hold on to the sweetness of the magical years of childhood. But, I promise you that your child will unfold much more appropriately make better friendships and feel better about the relationship with you if you can follow his or her lead to the next natural step of growth and development. Change is hard. But… not for kids, for us adults. Kids change and adapt at a rapid pace, if left to their own devices. We are the ones who resent change, are fearful of failing and sometimes present that to our children until they indeed begin to carry our fears and reluctance and make them their own. Most children are naturally fearless. That’s why we need to teach and protect them before they know all the reasons why.

So do your best. Observe and listen to your friends. Ask the advice of your child care professional or pediatrician. “Is it okay for my 4 year old to have a bottle at night? Is it unusual for my preschooler to want his binky at home?” You want to support your child’s growth. You want to encourage their personal development. You want to be your child’s escort into their next precious step of life. Enjoy all of the steps. Don’t get stuck in one. Have fun!

Julie Jenkins Sathe is building a reputation for her humorous and straight forward
inspirational workshops for both educators and parents. She has published
two books, Enlightened Discipline and Teens! Change is Your Choice.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How are YOU Modeling Eating for Your Child? Ready to eat your own words??

Are you ready to eat your own words?

As the next generation of teenagers cross the threshold into adulthood I begin to wonder….and when I wonder, I write.

Our diets have changed so completely from when even I was growing up. I was speaking to my 23 year old about “fast food” when I was a child. There really wasn’t any, not like today. You still had to go into the hamburger restaurant to order To Go, but there was no drive through for many years. And now, we drive through for sodas, coffee, banking prescriptions and more. This is a convenience but at what cost to our fitness and longterm health? If you are one of the young adults who are now having children, planning on having children or preparing to give birth you must look at your eating habits before you start parenting. If you have already begun to parent, then it’s time to get a rude awakening in the best interest of your child.

Young girls and boys in today’s college age generation have, unfortunately been raised on fast food, deep fried foods, sodas and convenience meals. These are loaded with a lot of calories that have very little nutritional value. So…before you begin parenting your toddler or preschool child you must begin to eat healthy and learn to like the foods you may have avoided for years. What you do is what your child will do. Even if you say, “eat your spinach” if you are not eating it….what message are you giving? Either you are a hypocrite or you’re just plain mean. Neither is what you want.

Hints for you to start NOW!
1. Fresh vegetables and fruits. Start here.
2. Potatoes, pasta, yams in place of crusts and breads.
3. Use meats without pre-breading, preferably fresh that you cook.
4. Throw out the grease and use olive oil or spray.
5. Avoid adding salt. Really!!!!!! Salt is already in everything. Lay off!
6. Prepackaged fruit snacks and granola bars are candy and candy. Go for real fruit.
7. Sit at the table. Start now. You will be grateful for this habit when your child no longer finds you interesting company. Look into her eyes, listen to his stories. This is what they mean by quality time.
8. Baby bottles should never have soda in them. Never. Ever-ever. Your infant and toddler need water and ONLY diluted, real fruit juice.

…and my next article will be the down-side of: SIPPY CUPS! Get ready!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Hidden Guilt and Shame of Parents

The Hidden Guilt and Shame of Parents
By Julie Jenkins Sathe
Author of Enlightened Discipline ©

No, I’m not talking about the mass murderer’s mom or the serial killer’s dad, I’m talking about all of the normal parents with normal children whose child occasionally does something to another person (usually another child) and we, the parents feel so BAD. Awful, horrible, ashamed, guilty, wretched, distraught……….

….Your child has hit someone, they’ve scratched, spit, yelled, and screamed, they've lied, they knocked over the nice, little girl in the sandbox, they kicked the little toddler who took their favorite shovel……and YOU, the parent feel horrible.

The worst example I’ve seen in my 30 years in the early childhood field is parents of (drum roll, here) the dreaded....BITER. I’m not sure who is more emotional, the parents of the child who was bitten, or the parents of the BITER! (Certainly most parents are way more emotional than either of the children).

So, of course if you are the parent of a child who is hurt in any way it is easy to become overly emotional and want immediate revenge and retaliation to whomever has harmed your little one. But, all that being said it is not and never will be appropriate for a parent to confront a child (or the parent of the child) over childlike behavior. The child who has hurt your young one should be treated as unemotionally as possible. You may not be able to do it. You are simply too emotional. The teacher or playground aide or parent of that child must be the one to intervene. It is unlikely that you, the parent of the injured toddler will be able to remain as detached as is appropriate.

Even the parent of the child who has caused harm, must make sure they separate their own emotions from the way they respond to their child’s actions. As a parent, you are to a degree responsible for the behavior, lessons and manners of your child; but as more time passes you must begin to separate from him/her. We hear a lot about young children needing to learn to separate from their parents, but indeed the reverse is also true. Parents must learn to separate themselves, emotionally from the behavior of their children. It continues to be your role as parent to teach and re-teach what you expect and depend on your child to DO or NOT to do. But your job as a person is to separate what your child does from your own actions and teach without guilt, shame or emotion.

If, as parents we remain too emotionally involved in our own child’s behavior it is difficult to keep a perspective that supports us to be good teachers of our children. Instead, in a state of emotion, we are likely to walk a dangerous road of influencing them with our own strong emotions of guilt, shame and embarrassment. As parents, we must do our best to discipline without strong emotions. Strong emotions mixed with discipline lead to actions that are either too severe or too passive. Parents may go over the top with their own humiliation and resort to discipline that piles up all the frustration they have ever felt and exert that punishment now, in this moment. Or, alternatively, parents may feel like such a personal failure that they don’t hold their child accountable for their own behavior.

Balance is key. Your child is responsible for their own behavior, good or bad. They must know what it is, see the consequences and do what is developmentally appropriate to correct, heal or help the one they hurt. Creating an avenue for success for the offender and healing for the victim is the best way to move through this type of experience to the other side and move on. Teaching these skills without emotion is the way you can be the best parent for your child.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


By Julie Jenkins Sathe
Author of Enlightened Discipline ©

Yes, heard me. So many times, as parents, we get stuck in: what can I do? What methods can I learn? What techniques can I employ? I want to begin this article by beckoning to parents who want to improve the results of their young child’s behavior by STOPPING some of their own behaviors.
(Don’t ya’ just hate that!)

Asking a question, when it’s not really a request…….

Asking a child to do something when you really are not ASKING at all is a real problem for you both and a habit worth breaking. I hear this style of speech from frustrated parents all the time. Parents don’t need to sound mean, belittling or even demanding when they need a specific response. They just need to make clear statements.

For instance, “I need you to put your toys away before we watch the video you picked out. Not later, right now.”

“In five minutes it will be time to pick up for dinner. I’ll remind you one more time.”

These statements are much clearer and more honest than, “Can you pick up the toys, please?”

Doing it for them…..

Logical and Natural Consequences are THE WAY to teach children. In your past you may have known parents (perhaps your own) that punished with an action that was completely unrelated to the offense. “No sweets for a week because you didn’t clean your room.” (Huh?)

The more connected you make the reaction to the offense, the better learning opportunity you have created. For instance, “You spilled juice all over the floor. You will need to clean that juice up, Johnny. Here are the rags. I will spray the cleanser, it’s not safe for you to use. But you spilled it. You must clean it up.” (Depending on the child’s age, of course.)

“Oh Johnny, it is still sticky from the juice. You’ll need to do the floor one more time. Yes, I know it’s hard work. That’s why Mom and Dad have a rule that you only drink juice at the table. Try to remember it so you don’t have to clean up these messes.”

The biggest struggle many parents have is around food. Please find a way in your household to let little Suzie or Johnny serve their own food at meal times. Make up a friendly term like “try-it-taste” so that all foods gets a shot and yet no one is forced to choke down tastes and textures that make them sick. But allow your child to learn the judgment of their own food, with your assistance and how to operate spoons, ladles and salad tongs. Let them learn by always knowing they can have seconds, but too much is a waste. Sometimes children who repeatedly overfill their plate (of course, were you watching?) can save that for the next meal or snack. But follow through with it, if you say it.

In any case, keep the consequences as directly related to the offense as possible. And for heavens sake, let your child struggle over the work a little. Don’t do it for him!

Being stuck in your own right-ness!

So, you think Suzie broke it, but ….Bobby did it. Admit that you were wrong. “Oh, wow. I got very upset at Suzie. I apologize Suzie. I was making you clean up the mess that wasn’t your responsibility.” (You will may make this a great opportunity for Suzie to speak up for herself, if she didn’t.) Seeing that an adult can show a child that they have made a mistake, admit they were wrong and move on will help children trust that they can do the same.

(I always think, what a better spouse they will be. What a better employee they will be…)

Talking to your children like dogs (and your dogs like precious children.)

How many times have you heard (or said), “Get down.” “Stop it.” “Knock it off.” “Quit it.”
Of course it gets worse as kids get older. “Shush up.” “Shut up.” “Shut it.” And of course, even worse. We won’t even go there!

DOG TALK is telling children what NOT to do. (Not to mention saying it in a very belittling and intimidating way.) Your tone says, “You are nothing”, “I don’t have time for you” and “You don’t matter”. Ouch!

An Enlightened Parent will tell children what TO do and WHY. “Susie, your singing is too loud right now, the baby is sleeping. Wait until later.” “Johnny, it is never safe to walk on the couch. Not even at Grandma’s house. Put your feet on the floor.”

Sneaking up the rules on kids without giving fair expectations.

Adults tend to think children just innately know rules and the reasons why. They don’t. It’s our job to teach them, prepare them. We all are more successful if we are prepared.

“In one half hour it will be bed time. Turn down the music and read for awhile so you are more ready to sleep.”

“When I’m done with the dishes we will put our coats on and go to the store. Be ready to sit in the car seat.”

“As soon as I’m done with my shower we can read a book before bedtime. Put your pajamas on so you are ready, too.”

Giving your kids a little heads-up will go far to give them a “clock” to run with. They may not know how to actually tell time, but they will mentally prepare for change. (Some of us do better with change than others.)You know your schedule but your children don’t. Give them the advantage. Set them up for successful cooperation. The same thing goes for leaving a fun event.

“Three more turns down the slide, and then we have to leave the park. I’ll count with you. One….Two….Three! Let’s Go!!” (Make it fun, not sad.)

“As soon as the movie is over, we have to leave Lindsey’s house. Finish your hot chocolate, too. Then off we go!”

Start by stopping yourself from these habits. Start by creating a new positive way of explaining what you want for your child and why it benefits you all. Start by stopping the complaining, the whining and the tantrums by setting your child up for success, preparation and a mental clock of your plans. Start by giving yourself time to be wrong and be okay with correcting your mistakes. Start by making this role as parent filled with joy and love. Stop the stress and start having fun!