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?

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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Get out of the house on time even with young children

How to get out of the house on time even with small children
I’m not a morning person.
Before kids, I would wake up at the earliest 8am in order to get to work by 9. Now that I have a kid, waking up at 6:30am every day hasn’t exactly been one of the perks of motherhood, and this is only worsened when we have to leave the house by a certain time.

These past few months, our toddler hasn’t been too difficult about leaving the house, give or take a few trying episodes. Whether we drop him off before work or attend an event or play date, he has been obliging when it comes to leaving the house. We’ve relied on several tricks to ease the morning madness and actually get out on time in the morning:

  • Get enough sleep in the evenings. Funny how morning madness can easily be avoided by simply getting enough sleep the previous night. I notice that I’m crankier in the mornings when I stayed up a bit later than usual. I find it difficult to wake up on time and therefore feel rushed the rest of the morning. To avoid all that, I make sure to sleep by 10:30 at the latest so that I won’t hate my alarm clock at 6:30 the next morning.
  • Similarly, allow plenty of time for everyone to wake up and play or get ready. Even though we don’t have to leave the house until 8:20, we wake our toddler at 7am so that he feels he has enough play time in the morning before having to leave. He’s a bit of a homebody and could easily stay home all day if he had a choice, so there’s nothing worse than prying him away from a brief play time to leave.
  • If possible, pick a good time to leave, such as after a snack. On days when we don’t have to drop him off at my aunt’s, I tend to go with the flow and run our errands when I find a good opportunity to do so. This is usually after he’s had plenty of play time, a ton to eat and a clean diaper. He’s more willing to leave when the environment and situation are conducive for him.
  • Eat breakfast, preferably together. I can’t imagine rushing out of the house on an empty stomach, so every day we all have something to eat. We also eat together as often as we can so that the day starts off positively.
  • Wake up earlier than the kids. Like I said, I’m not a morning person, but even I can’t help but heed this advice. Sure, we’ve gotten away with waking up when we hear our little guy babbling (or crying) in his room, but to avoid feeling rushed, we wake up 30 minutes before we plan to rouse our two-year-old.
  • Allow your kids a special toy or item to take with them out of the house. For my toddler, this is often any toy he’s currently into: Legos, crayons, even acorns and nuts. He’ll then have something from home to take while he’s away.
  • Give enough of a head’s up. We let our toddler know when we’re about to leave and say, “In twenty minutes, we’re going to…” and continue doing this at certain intervals, “In ten minutes, we’re going to…”
  • Keep optional outings to a minimum. To keep him from feeling overwhelmed, we usually keep our outings to two per day.
  • Break it down step-by-step. I notice that my toddler has an easier time transitioning when I give the exact next step instead of simply saying where we’re going. For instance, I’ll say, “Let’s put on your shoes,” instead of “Let’s go to the park.” After putting on his shoes, I’ll say, “Now let’s go to the elevator,” and so forth.

What are the worst days and times for you and your kids to leave the house? What factors make leaving the house more difficult? Easier?

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Teach your child to be assertive

Teach your child to be assertive
At the library, my toddler was playing with a block when a younger child walked over and happily took it away from LO’s hand. The boy didn’t do so menacingly; in fact, like most kids his age, he probably just assumed that the toy was his for the taking, and take he did.

Meanwhile, my toddler didn’t attempt to get the block back. When kids take toys from him, he typically assumes a carefree attitude of, “Sure, go ahead,” or “Let me find another block.” (Where is this carefree attitude when he’s making demands at home? Hmm…) Other times he’s confused as to what just transpired. Whichever the case, I try to let him know that it’s perfectly fine for him to get the item back if he truly wants it.

In other words, I want him to be assertive and stand up for what’s important to him.

There have been times when he did just that. For instance, we were at the playground when he retrieved a pine cone that another little boy had grabbed from him. But for the most part, he tends to simply move on and find something else to play with.

I’m grateful that he doesn’t immediately react aggressively when his playthings are taken from him. I’d like him to handle social conflicts in a calm way without resorting to whining, hitting or crying. But at the same time, I find it important to let him know that we don’t always have to share our things, and that if we’re not done with something just yet, it’s fine to hold on to an item a bit longer until we’re ready to part with it.

So when another child takes a toy, I follow these steps to teach him to be more assertive:

  1. I ask him if he wanted to keep playing with the toy.
  2. I let him know that he can tell other kids, “I’m not done yet” when he doesn’t want to part with the toy.
  3. I point out that if he really wants something, he can hold on to it and not have to give it away.
  4. If he could care less about the toy, I mention that too and say, “Looks like you’d rather play with another toy.”

At home and among adults, my toddler has zero problem with letting us know of his demands. And even then, we don’t downplay or dismiss his desires or emotions, and instead acknowledge them first. We want  him to voice what he wants and acknowledge and respect that he has wants, even if they’re not always met. We don’t encourage him to use force or aggression when expressing himself, but we do want him to know that he can stand up for what he wants.

This may be the reason why I’m hardly a fan of stepping in and solving social conflicts among kids. While adults are more likely to oblige kids in what they want (“Oh, you want this ball? Sure, go ahead.”), other kids prove to be tougher play mates. Rather than simply forcing him to relinquish his beloved item, removing him even if he wanted to stay, or taking the item away, I much prefer to act like a moderator between the kids. Only in doing this can he identify his emotions, understand the proper ways to act and yes, perhaps learn to assert himself should he decide it appropriate.

In the end, I want him to grow up into an adult that won’t easily back down from something he loves and instead persevere and keep trying.

Do you teach your kids to be more assertive? Have you experienced a situation where your child could have been more assertive? Less aggressive?

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