Monday, July 27, 2009


Broccoli! I have harvested and frozen the last large heads of what I planted this year. I like using the thawed florets in salads or warmed with a little butter and salt. While I finished my task I thought about a little boy at a potluck dinner this summer. Jack and Jackie Pederson's son Eric had come from Alaska with his wife and two children to visit. The older child is a little boy about 2 1/2 years old. As he ate he talked about many things that were about to happen after lunch. He began to negotiate with his mother concerning the finishing of his lunch.

The negotiation apparently went well on both sides. As I watched, the rest of his bratwurst was removed from his plate and three pieces of broccoli remained. He continued to sit and finish the broccoli. Quite impressive!

There are at least two lessons we can learn or surmise from this story. The first is about giving children the responsibility of making decisions for themselves. The little boy's mother could have 'put her foot down' on the topic of finishing everything on his plate; after all there was only a bite or two of bratwurst left. In this scenario, she would have had all the power and the child would have had none. I have seen this story play out many times. Eventually, the parent loses out. The child will probably make a scene over the decision and everyone will go away stressed and unhappy. In the long run, the child will not have learned to make good choices because he hasn't been given the opportunity to practice making choices as a young child.

The second lesson is about being consistent and following through on what you say. If this child's experience with his mother is that she would eventually give in about eating the broccoli, I don't think he would have finished it without more negotiation or worse, whining. I can surmise that in his home he more often hears his parents following through on what they say. In other words, he has had some power in making a decision, and by being consistent his parents help him follow through on his decision.

Next week, I'll tell you another story about broccoli. It is called The Most Amazing Broccoli Experiment.

Toad House Publishing

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

More on Lullabies

Last week's lullaby column has touched a "chord" with our readers! Thank-you, everyone, for your lovely comments. Many of you shared your favorite lullabies with me and Roberta Baye told me about her enjoyment of singing lullabies to the little ones in the baby room at Tender Learning Center.

One of the important parts of singing a lullaby to a baby is how the act of humming or singing is helpful and calming to the parent or caregiver. A crying or colicky baby in our arms creates a need to "DO SOMETHING!" However, at that very moment we may have exhausted all the possibilities we think we have. The anguish of not being able to help, to fix the problem, creates tension and anxiety in our own bodies. That tension is subtly communicated to our child. Sometimes our communication is not so subtle and we do things we are not proud of . yelling or worse.

But there is something very valuable we can do for our child and for ourselves. This something takes self-awareness, trust, and patience. Start humming a quiet song, don't start with words. Neither you nor your child has need of the words right now. It will only add confusion to an already chaotic moment.

If you can do this, you will become more aware of your own feelings and need to help your child. While you hum you can think. You will begin to think and to trust that the crying will not last forever. You will begin to trust your instinct that the very best thing you can do is what you are doing. You will need patience to do this, but in return you will become more patient, more trusting, and more aware. It is love made real by your actions not words.

Toad House Publishing

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Sunday, July 12, 2009


Lullabies are sung around the world by people of all cultures to 'lull' babies to sleep. The Brahms Lullaby, Rock-a-bye Baby, Bye, Bye, Baby Bunting, and Hush Little Baby come to mind for many of us in the western culture. I have been partial to the gentle sounds of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when my own children were little.

I now have a new favorite lullaby. It has an everchanging melody and lyrics that are made up on the spot. I heard this lullaby sung by the mother of my sweet little grandson and I was privileged to listen and watch as she used her lullaby to help him get ready to sleep.

It is not easy for a two year old with seemingly boundless energy for learning and doing to relax enough to let go of the excitement of his day. The lullaby she sang gave him something to think about after she layed him down in bed. I think it gave him pleasant memories as he calmed down and drifted off into sleep.

His mother tells me it also gives her the opportunity to remember her day with her small son. It wasn't all dirty diapers and refusals to try a spoonful of food and struggles with dressing and the toys all over the house and the cries that come when a two year old doesn't get exactly what he wants when he wants it.

She softly sings a happy song of his day: the playing in the sand, the yummy lunch, the tickle game with daddy, the visit from his grandparents, aunts, and uncle. Then she sings the words of tomorrow's day: getting up with daddy, eating a good breakfast, playing with the new truck, doing the puppy puzzle.

Unlike the Brahms lullaby, this song will never be sung again with exactly the same words and melody. Tonight's lullaby will be forgotten tomorrow, but each night she sings it, it is the most beautiful song my little grandson has ever heard.

Toad House Publishing

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Natural Hand Sanitizers

Last week we spoke about health hazards for young children who may, in their curiosity, taste common household products such as lotions, mouthwash, and hand-sanitizers. These products, so common to our culture, are said to be safe "when used as directed". The risk lies in unsupervised their unsupervised use and the young child's drive to learn through their senses. Babies and toddlers taste almost anything they can put their tongues on!

Aside from keeping these products, medicines, and cleaning products out of reach of young children, (For the two to three year old climber, this means also assuring that they will not be able to get into medicine cabinets by crawling onto the bathroom sink.) there are a few more things parents and care-givers need to consider.

A child poisoned from the alcohol contained in hand sanitizer was giving a squirt of sanitizer in his hand. The well-intentioned adult assumed the child would rub the sanitizer around his hands and prevent the spread of germs. The child did not do that. Instead he brought his hand to his mouth and licked the squirt of sanitizer off of his hand. "YUK," you say, "Why would children do that?"

The question of why is not as important as knowing that it can and does happen. If you choose to use hand sanitizers, medicinal creams, or hand lotions with children, you need to be responsible for making sure the child "uses as directed". You can read the labels on products you feel you need and choose products that do not contain alcohol or other ingredients that should not be ingested.

With that in mind, I searched for all natural hand sanitizers with no alcohol, wondering if such a product could be found. Viola! I found two on the web: Zogics alcohol-free hand sanitizer and CleanWell all natural hand sanitizer. I haven't seen either of these in our stores, but if you find them, let me know!

Toad House Publishing

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