Sunday, March 28, 2010

Parents as Authority

We began a discussion last week based upon Dr. Harry Ireton’s “Parents’ Development, The Other Half of the Story.” In the first stage parents are creating an image in their minds of what it will be like to be a parent. The second stage is “Parent as Nurturer.” In this stage parents are totally responsible and ever-vigilant. Today we will discuss the third stage, the stage Ellen Galinski calls “Parent as Authority.”

Here parents are faced with a walking, talking, and talking back eighteen to thirty-six month old toddler. The parent’s task is to decide what kind of authority they will be. This includes deciding what the rules are and how the rules are enforced.

It is a not-so-simple tug of war between the child’s developing autonomy and the parent’s wisdom and authority. Whatever happened to that sweet, cuddly baby? Parents are likely to feel a sense of loss and a sense of being out of control. The toddler does something that may not be safe or something the parent does not want the child to do and the parent says “no.” The child persists and the parent responds. Here is a little vignette to tell this story:

Little Susie and mom are in the kitchen. Mom is cooking. Susie pulls her stool to the stove. Mom says, “No, Susie, the stove is hot. I can’t let you play here. This is dangerous.” Mom moves Susie and the stool away from the stove, gives her a different option, a really great option, but Susie persists in trying to move the stool back to the stove. Mom does all the wonderful mom things such as picking up Susie to watch at a safe distance and explaining the hot stove. However, when she puts Susie down on the floor, Susie and the stool are making their way back to the stove.

Firmer now, mom moves Susie away from the stove and confiscates the stool, trying for an earlier strategy of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ But Susie puts up a howl, and between keeping the pot from burning while attending to the ever-autonomous Susie, mom is beginning to unravel. She gives Susie a cracker at the table. The older sibling has come home from school and is hungry and also needs to explain her day at school. Susie climbs onto the table, cracker in her mouth. “SUSIE, NO!” Unceremoniously, mom lifts Susie off of the table and places her onto the floor. Within a few moments, Susie is back on the table and the sugar bowl is tipped over. Mom grits her teeth, sighs, and turns back to the stove.

The challenge at this stage is to be firm, even strict when necessary. Small children like to know what the limits are—they need to know what you accept and what you will not tolerate.

From the imagined world of perfect parenting, to the ever-vigilant stage, to parent as authority—this is a lot to ask of anyone. Nobody’s perfect. Reflecting on your own behavior and understanding that you are doing the best you can at any particular moment in time will see you through this stage and help you develop as you move into the next stage of your development as a parent.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Parents' Development from Dr. Harry Ireton

I would like to take a few weeks to discuss “Parents’ Development.” This is what my friend and mentor, Dr. Harry Ireton calls “The Other Half of the Story.” In these past five years of the column I have focused on how children develop and how we---the parents---meet their needs. But what about us? As our children grow and learn, do we also grow and learn to be parents?

To answer this question, Dr. Ireton uses Ellen Galinski’s way of looking at stages of parent development, focusing on four of her six stages. I will try my best to explain how they look at these stages of parent development.

It is always good to start at the very beginning and I will touch on this only briefly. Before the baby is born, the parents are in the imaging making stage. They are thinking about what their baby will be like and what it will be like to be a parent. This is the stuff dreams are made from.

The next stage is called “Parent as Nurturer.” This stage is from birth through the time that the child starts to say, “No.” In the nurturing stage, the parent develops beyond the idealism in the images they created before the baby was born. Another writer calls this the “All Yes” stage. Everything we do, we do for our baby. The goal is to meet the needs of the infant. In this stage parents are totally responsible and ever-vigilant. As parents grow in this stage they may need to form a new identity for themselves, letting go of past identities as they focus so totally on their child. The challenge of this stage is to be attentive, sensitive, and responsible. The question lurking in the background is, “What about me?”

Some of us are truly great at this stage, we blossom and seem to become what we were meant to be. However, children’s development does not stand still and if you are great at nurturing, that’s wonderful; but hold on to your hat, there is more to come! Next week we will uncover the secrets of the “Yes and No” stage.

While you are waiting for next week’s column, try to go outside with your kids, your camera, and a trash bag. Take a photo of your child picking up trash and bring it to the Ladysmith News in exchange for a musical toad.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

A "Litter" Challenge

Last week I told you about the wonderful birthday party for Dr. Seuss at the library on March 6th. If you recall, I ended the column speaking about how the Cat in the Hat always cleans up the messes he makes. Today I’d like to tell you what I did after the party and end with a ‘litter’ challenge.

When I speak to parent groups about children’s behavior, I almost certainly hear a question about cleaning up messes. How can we teach young children to clean up the messes they make? We understand that a baby crawls around and dumps toys. It would not be appropriate to ask a one-year-old to clean up. It would just add to any stress or frustration a parent might be feeling. We can, however, teach a very young child by modeling and self-talk. In this scenario, the parent does not say, “Clean-up your toys,” but works at putting toys away, saying, “I’m putting all the blocks in the big block container. I’m putting all the little cars in the garage.” Modeling the correct behavior and self-talk are two great strategies.

Another question I hear is “How can I prevent my child from just throwing trash on the ground?” We have all seen someone, big or little, unwrap a piece of candy or gum and let the paper fall to the ground. As we take walks this spring along country or city roads, we see the litter of cigarette butts on the ground. For people who do this, I believe it is automatic. One little piece of trash dropped on the ground does not seem important, but collectively it trashes the environment.

After the party on Saturday, after we all pitched in and cleaned up our messes, my husband and I took a walk along a beautiful country road—but it wasn’t beautiful. Along the side of the road, in the melting snow, there appeared beer cans and pop cans and water bottles and cigarette packs and fast food wrappers and paper cups and many, many cigarette butts. I don’t know who threw them there, but we cleaned them up and now this stretch of road is beautiful.

So, here is the ‘litter’ challenge. When the weather is nice, and you go outside for a walk with your children, take your camera. Take a bag or two for the trash you will see. With your children’s help, pick up all the trash along your favorite city or country road and make it a beautiful place. Tell your kids how great it looks and take a picture of them cleaning up the trash. Bring the picture with your name and telephone number on the picture to the Ladysmith News office. Sally will give you a wooden musical toad, a toad croaking lesson, and the words of an environmental song written especially for the musical toad. Mother’s day will mark the end of our ‘litter’ challenge. We will have a drawing for the picture book, TOADS. All those who submitted pictures will be in the drawing for the book.

I wanted to say that if you win, I would call you to come to the news office to pick up your book—and of course, I will call you. But then I realized that if you participate, we all win.

Toad’s Environmental Song
(One stanza)
If you see some paper trash
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)
If you see some plastic trash
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)
You will help the little toads
By putting garbage where it goes
Please help the little toads
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print