How to respond when adults tease your child

My brother has long been known to tease the heck out of anyone, and my toddler is no exception. The teasing can be simple; for instance, we were at the dining table when he positioned his head close to my toddler’s point of view, all the while claiming that he’s just looking at the food on the table. And even though my toddler, not appreciating the invasion of personal space, vexingly told him, “No!” my brother responded with, “Oh, but I’m just looking at the food!” It’s similar to when kids point their finger all but one inch away from another sibling and claiming, “But I’m not touching you!”

And yes, my brother is an adult who is in his 30s. (Ironically, he hardly teased me growing up. In fact, he was the one who would protect me from one of my older sisters who on her worst days threatened to throw my dolls out the window—for fun. The battles between those two, however, were quite the scene. Thank goodness we survived childhood and all still love one another.)

He’s not alone in teasing my toddler—my own husband sometimes has his fun with him as well. He too has done exactly what my brother does (what is it with sticking your face in front of a toddler that’s so hilarious?).

In my husband’s and brother’s defense, I could see why they would turn to teasing: my toddler wasn’t exactly Mr. Good Mood. When he is in one of his funky moods, he can either appear comically amusing or downright infuriating, that teasing seems the better option to getting frustrated with a stubborn child.

Still, I should have stepped in more aggressively in his defense. After all, he’s not an adult or even an older child who can retort in the same sarcastic manner. Nor are children’s ‘no’ always taken seriously. I could have switched places with my toddler or even explicitly told my brother to stop, saying, “LO already said ‘no’.” In doing so, my toddler would understand that his word can be quite powerful, and that his mom will always back him up.

Obviously I’m much more comfortable telling my husband to stop, but in social situations, even among my own family, I hesitate. I’m likely reluctant to step in because I don’t want to police everyone’s actions and learn that everyone thinks I’m that kind of parent. I don’t want to discourage others from playing with my kid or feeling like they have to walk on eggshells around him. I also don’t want to be rude. And so I stay quiet, or even laugh it off.

And more often than not, the teasing isn’t a big deal and doesn’t exasperate my toddler too much. But sometimes interactions with adults are often tricky because well, they’re adults. Handling social interactions between kids seems like a breeze in comparison. So sometimes I need to be more mindful of whether my toddler has had enough with teasing from anybody, even adults. After all, he has already taken the first step—saying ‘no’—so I need to follow up with ensuring he gets his point across.

How often to the adults in your kids’ life tease them? How do your kids react to adult teasing? When do you let it be, and when do you step in?

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How to hold kids accountable for their choices

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Without further ado, here is today’s post:

This past weekend, my husband, toddler and I came home from the rose garden close to nap time. Once home, we offered him two choices: “Do you feel like napping now, or do you want to nap in half an hour?” We weren’t surprised when he chose to nap later, expecting him to want to settle in at home first before conking out in bed.

When half an hour elapsed and we announced that nap time was here, he protested: “Want to stay in the living room.”

We then reminded him about the choice he made, and how it was him who decided when to nap. Miraculously, that simple reminder helped him understand (or at least believe there was some logic to this napping business) that his very own choices determined his nap time. Maybe he felt that since he made the decision to nap at a certain time, that the idea must be a good one.

He was held accountable for the choices he made.

We’ve since applied this same accountability to other circumstances, including giving him options on which food to eat or what activity he wants to do next. And so far he has accepted responsibility for what he chose. In addition to a higher likelihood of following through with the choices that they make, children also benefits from accountability in other ways:

  • They learn that consequences follow choices and actions. Assuming that parents follow through with consequences, kids will realize that their choices have a direct relation to what comes next.
  • They are more likely to think through and be deliberate with their choices knowing that each one bears different consequences, rather than spouting off impulsive actions.
  • They feel like a contributing member of the family. When we take their choices into consideration and especially when we follow through with consequences, they’ll learn that they too can be decision-makers in the family and that their choices bear weight. If we’re fickle with the consequences to their choices, they might learn instead that we may not always take them so seriously.

Keep in mind, however, that kids can’t be held accountable for everything. For one thing, kids don’t have a choice all the time—if it’s cold, they should wear a jacket, regardless of whether they would choose to or not. They’re also too young to bear the responsibility of being 100% accountable for their choices and shouldn’t be burdened with choice-making for every possible action—that’s a job for parents, not kids. And sometimes you just have to pick your battles.

Lastly, too many choices can inundate everyone, even adults. According to psychologist and author Barry Schwarz’s The Paradox of Choice, offering people a bazillion choices isn’t freeing; in fact too many choices often stump people into not making any at all, whereas offering a few choices helps make clearer decisions. That may be why I much prefer shorter menus at restaurants than the ones with hundreds of fine-print size options.

As our toddler grows up, he’ll be held more accountable for his choices as he begins to assume more responsibilities and is given new privileges. With consistent consequences, he’ll hopefully learn to weigh his choices and follow through on the ones he makes.

How has the opportunity to choose affected your kids? What accountability do you enforce in your home?

Practical advice for first-time moms

Practical advice for first-time moms
Last week, I participated in my first ever Tweet chat. My friend Jennifer is a  news anchor in Seattle and eight months pregnant with her first baby, so her station hosted a Twitter chat discussing the dos and don’ts of new motherhood. The conversation led me to consider how my own entrance into motherhood transpired and what advice I would give myself that actually worked. This is what I would say:

Relax—you’re pregnant.
According to Brain Rules for Baby by biologist and author John Medina, one of the best practices pregnant women can do for their unborn child is to relax. That means don’t stress, particularly during the first trimester. I heeded this advice most of the time and fortunately didn’t succumb to chronic stress.

However I did take pregnancy paranoia to a whole new level. I didn’t drink any tea—even decaf—for fear that a single drop would harm the baby. Same with any deli meats, even if they were heated or not. I also stayed away from all canned tuna and peanut butter, didn’t cook with any alcohol, nor traveled anywhere even though my due date loomed far in advance.

Sleep. Yes, even when the baby is asleep.
Most moms bemoan the common advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I get that. After all, when else are you able to get anything done when the rest of your time your arms are occupied holding a baby? I hardly napped when my baby did, which led to some serious sleep deprivation. Granted, I probably clocked in a full eight hours at night, but because my sleep was always interrupted and I hardly reached deep sleep, the eight hours felt more like four. Any opportunity to sleep would have surely helped.

Life will be different—accept it.
Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was accepting that life would be different with a baby, including household maintenance and self-care standards. Silly of me to realize this long after the fact—especially since everyone tells you how different life would be—but I didn’t know just how much (or maybe wasn’t prepared to make those sacrifices so suddenly). For some insane reason I thought I could still keep up with my weekly chores and take my time getting ready. I had to learn to put those needs aside and trust others when they said I would eventually have more time—just not right now.

Try not to get the baby used to rocking to go to sleep
When SSBE reader Mommy’s Organics asked me what I would do differently if I could go back in time, hands down my answer was not to rock my baby to sleep. We do what we have to do, but in my particular circumstance, I felt like I could have given him more of a chance to lie down on a blanket or his crib much more than I did. The constant rocking led him to quickly rely on motion to sleep, which led to a long path of insanity that eventually ended in sleep training.

If I could do this again, I would try putting the baby down to sleep and give him the chance to fall asleep on his own first before assuming that he needed to be rocked. I particularly liked SSBE reader Rashida’s advice to set up a blanket or activity area and lay your baby on her back with a few toys nearby. The baby will enjoy watching her surroundings while getting used to laying flat on her back.

Limit methods that you plan to wean your baby off of
During the chat, many moms recommended swaddling, and of course I had to be the black sheep of the group that actually didn’t recommend swaddling my friend’s baby. At least not the ridiculously tight ones. Along with excessive swaddling and rocking, I also wouldn’t recommend white noise and any other sleep aid that you plan to wean your baby off of.

I understand desperate times call for desperate measures (and believe me, my husband and I were pretty desperate), but I also feel like we jumped in too soon with these tactics instead of allowing my kid to sleep unaided first. So sure, swaddle, but maybe a loose one to see if he’ll fall asleep that way before applying the strait-jacket method.

Keep your baby’s awake time to a minimum
While you don’t have to stick to a strict schedule, having some sort of rhythm and flow proves extremely helpful. Looking back, I probably kept my baby awake way too long, contributing to his fussiness. I only learned much later that babies don’t really stay awake for longer than an hour to an hour and a half at a time. That means if your baby has been up five hours entertaining guests, it’s time to prioritize her sleep and have her rest. You’ll also be able to create some sort of schedule and routine by reminding yourself to put her down frequently.

Follow the eat-awake-sleep rhythm
I initially nursed my baby to sleep but soon ran into a major problem: like swaddling and rocking, nursing was yet another sleeping aid that he relied on. I then read about the eat-awake-sleep rhythm and decided to try it: rather than nursing my baby to sleep, I would nurse him when he woke up. After eating, he would begin his play time with plenty of energy. Then once he had enough play time (remember, not too long!), we would put him down to sleep. And once he woke up, then we would begin the cycle and nurse once again.

My biggest advice
Whether Jennifer heeds my words (or any of the other bazillion pieces of advice she has probably heard by now) is up to her and her family. They don’t kid when they say every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Given my personal experiences though, I would follow my own advice again until results prove that I need to switch things up a bit (maybe babies really do need that darn swaddle!).

To Jen and other first-time moms to be, perhaps my biggest advice to you is to remind yourself that you are learning on the job. I read a ton of parenting books long before my baby was born, but even that was nothing compared to actually experiencing caring for a newborn. We all continue to learn as we go along and make many mistakes as we do. With that, realize that things won’t always be perfect and that while weeks and months seem eons away, your days really will get better. You’ll adjust to motherhood, and your newborn won’t be so new anymore.

And you’ll find that you’re actually getting the hang of this mom business, sleep-deprived and everything.

What advice would you give first-time moms, based on what worked and didn’t work for you?

State of the blog: new things are brewing

Starting tonight, I’m going to attempt to make some changes around here that I’m hoping will benefit everyone. What does that mean for you? For one, this place might look different from what you’re used to, if not downright quirky as I gradually update the design. Another issue is that I may have to ask WordPress followers to receive their email updates via Feedburner instead of via WordPress.

Otherwise, the web address stays the same, and I’ll continue to churn out posts. Hopefully my shenanigans turn out all right and I’ll be able to move on with these upgrades and have a nice, new look over the next few days and weeks. If however things look the same then you’ll know I probably spent the night wishing I was more tech-savvy when it comes to blogging and deciding to throw in the towel in the meantime.

But here’s hoping that I’ll figure out this tech stuff all right.

Note: I wish I could re-write this post and include the wealth of advice you ladies offered in the comments section; you guys are amazing. If you haven’t already read through what others have said, please do—these have been some of the most meaningful and insightful comments I have yet to read here.

How to exercise while caring for young children

How to exercise while caring for young children
“I’m blocking off tomorrow morning for a dance class,” I informed my husband, leaving all kid duties to him while I work out a sweat. I had been slacking with exercise the last several months and needed something fun to kick me back into gear. With taking care of a toddler, working, and a slew of other lame excuses (“I’d rather watch How I Met Your Mother” and “I just ate dinner” among them), exercise wasn’t a priority.

Not that it was ever a huge priority to begin with. See, ask me to run around the block and I’ll be ready to pass out in five minutes tops. I was good during pregnancy though, when I scheduled appropriate workouts like walking, stationary-cycling and cardio workout videos at home. But now that I have a kid, I regret not taking advantage of working out when I had a zillion more hours to myself.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce Erika from You Just Did What?! whom I interviewed for this very topic. You might remember Erika from the guest post I wrote on her blog, and she’s now paying us a visit here at Sleeping Should Be Easy.

Erika explains the importance of finding activities you want to do (hence the dance class) instead of those you don’t. She’ll also describe how she went from barely running for two minutes to running several races—all while parenting a two-year-old. She’s an inspiration to any mother who has ever doubted her abilities and strengths, and I couldn’t wait to feature her story.

Who knows, maybe I’ll give running a second chance after this:

Sleeping Should Be Easy: How did you get into running? How would you compare yourself now to when you first started?
Erika: I ran off and on since college, running a couple of miles here and there. It wasn’t until after having my daughter that I began to take exercise seriously. Needing to shed the beloved “baby weight” I had gained during pregnancy, I joined Strollers Strides, a group fitness class designed for mamas. The group happened to have a couple of runners, and I decided that it would be a great idea to get back into running. On a whim, I signed up for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland. At this point I could barely run comfortably for 2 minutes, and the race was only seven months away.

During my training, I signed up for a shorter 10k and realized how much I enjoyed running, so I kept signing up for more races. It can definitely become an addiction.

I have changed a lot over the course of my running journey. I am stronger both physically and mentally. My endurance is greater, and running has provided me with an outlet to relieve tension and stress—perfect when raising a toddler!

SSBE: Speaking of toddlers, I can’t imagine exercising regularly while taking care of a young child. Clearly it’s possible since you’re a great example, so how do you make time to exercise with a toddler in tow?
Erika: I am asked this question all the time! Exercise makes me feel good, so I make it a priority. With that in mind, it’s easier for me to stick to my guns and make sure I squeeze in a workout. When I was training for my Half Marathon, I had a specific training plan in place—I followed the same routine every week and made sure I had babysitters lined up on those days.

I’m not training for anything at the moment, so when I do workout, my daughter comes along with me. She will ride in the Bob Stroller if I’m going for a walk or jog. Or I take her to the gym where she plays in the kids club. I also take her to Stroller Strides. And I often wake up at 5am to get my workout over with before anyone wakes up!

SSBE: What’s a typical day for you and your daughter?
Erika: We wake up around 6am and see my husband off to work. We lounge around until about 8am, eating breakfast and playing quietly. If I decide to work out to a video, I’ll do it then while my daughter plays quietly or joins me.

If I don’t work out then, we’ll hit the gym or go for a stroll. After that, she gets in her outdoor play time at the park or with friends. We head back home for lunch and nap time. When she wakes up, we usually play in the backyard (and now that it’s summer, we love to turn on the sprinklers!). I’ll also get chores done in the afternoon and head over to the store to run errands.

We eat dinner once my husband comes home. Then, we start the bedtime routine at 7:30pm. The next day, we get up and do it again!

SSBE: How do you stay motivated when you just want to quit?
Erika: Ha ha—good question and one I am still trying to figure out myself. Exercise makes me feel good so I try to keep that in mind. I’m most motivated when I’m working towards a goal (I usually have a training plan set out for me, so knowing what I need to do and having my workouts planned makes it easier).

I’ll also add that nothing has helped me more than the support of friends and family. I would much rather work out with someone than by myself. It’s so much easier (and way more fun) when you have accountability partners who are going through the same thing!

SSBE: What advice can you give moms who are just starting to run or exercise?

  • Find a community of other mothers who enjoy working out. There are tons of mother running clubs out there catering to moms getting together, becoming healthy and having fun. Plus, they are sure to have some Mom Night Outs, as well.
  • Set a goal for yourself and don’t be afraid to dream big (for instance, sign up for a half marathon when you know you can only run 2 minutes at a time).
  • Get a babysitter. Try to reserve some workout time for yourself.
  • If you work, try to get up early and do a short 30 minute workout (if only for a week). My favorite runs are in the morning, when the air is cool and crisp.
  • Find an activity you enjoy and mix it up. You don’t have to do the same thing over and over again! Don’t let yourself get bored. Exercise should make you feel better afterward. If it doesn’t, rethink your activity.

Thank you Erika, for sharing your story and hopefully offering other moms the inspiration they need to exercise and be healthy. I know I’ve since made working out more of a priority. Even if on most days my workouts consist of brisk walking or simple cardio videos, my heart is pumping, my muscles moving, and best of all, I feel so much better for it.

Do you exercise regularly, or whenever you can squeeze it in? What workout goals are you trying to reach? How can you involve your kids in your workouts?

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The double standard of “missing out on kids’ childhood”

One of the reasons moms weigh the decision whether to resume working or stay home with the baby is the feeling that we’ll miss out on his childhood. I understand this sentiment—when I was pregnant, I wanted to find any way to stay at home with the baby so that I could spend more time with him. With most working people clocking in some nine hours at the office plus whatever commute they have, time seems limited when you only get to see your kid a few hours of the day.

This discussion isn’t anything new. We moms discuss all this and more: Some women battle with working mom guilt. Others have to weigh whether to sacrifice potential career growth in lieu of being more available for our kids. And more of us struggle to balance motherhood and careers and having it all (as Taiia My Brown Baby writes).

But this isn’t a discussion on staying at home versus working, or who exactly is “raising our kids” when we go back to work, or whether or not we could truly balance motherhood and careers, or even whether we’re really missing out on our kids’ childhoods to begin with.

Instead, I want to talk about the double standard: Why don’t we ask these same questions of dads?

The decision to go back to work or stay at home often falls on the mother’s shoulders, but in this era where women work just as much as men, we still expect men to continue working while women are the ones to decide whether they need to go back to work or stay at home.

Maybe there’s some sort of biological, evolutionary explanation to this. Maybe women are the more nurturing of the gender and therefore would feel more inclined to consider staying at home. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

But whenever I hear moms bemoaning other moms for missing out on their kids’ childhood or pitying working moms because someone else is raising their kids, I can’t help but wonder about their husbands and think, “Does that mean then that your husbands are missing out on your kids’ childhood?” We don’t tsk tsk when dads work and only see their kids a few hours of the day just as working moms do, yet we create this guilt trap on moms and place the decision on ourselves when maybe we need to start including dads in this equation.

There’s no doubt that someone has to work. Rare is the situation where both parents can avoid working for a few years. Perhaps the next closest arrangement is where both parents work from home and take turns in caring for the kids, as a former coworker of mine did. But more often than not, at least one parent brings in an income.

But why do we assume dads will continue to work regardless of having children or not? Why don’t dads debate whether they should take a sabbatical for a few years, or choose the path of homemaker while mom brings in the bucks? Maybe we’re still too fresh from the generations where dads work and moms stay home. Or maybe it really is that biological makeup that defines genders and drives women to want to be with their kids more so than men.

Nonetheless, we need to do a better job about balancing these expectations nowadays. When moms make a decision to go back to work or not, that discussion needs to include dads too. Maybe we need to discuss how both parents feel about going back to work, and which situation works best for both mom and dad instead of making this a “mom and career” issue.

Thankfully no one has yet to tsk tsk me about my decision to work or wonder how on earth I could be missing out on my toddler’s childhood (hint: I’m not). I’m pretty sure no one has ever wondered the same question of my husband. I actually thought about this topic mostly from reading mom boards, and how easily we pity working moms for missing out on said childhood or burden ourselves with the decision to work or not, as we are the only ones who should be weighing our options. Maybe that’s why we hardly hear about “working dad guilt.”

Before we feel bad for moms missing out on their kids’ childhood, let’s consider whether we would feel just as bad for dads as well.

Have you wondered if dads miss out on kids’ childhood just as much as moms?

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