My child doesn’t listen!

Do you repeat the same thing over and over again without response? Are you frustrated because your child doesn’t listen to you?

If your answer is ‘yes’, you’re not alone! Those are some of the most common complaints I hear from parents during my private consultations; and whenever I hear that, two questions always come to my mind:

1. What do we really mean by ‘listening’?

Is it a synonym of ‘obeying’? More often than not, when parents complain about their children not listening, what they really mean is that their children do not drop whatever it is they’re doing, right the second the parent asks them to do something.

Therefore, the issue is not so much about ‘listening’ as it is about ‘compliance and obedience.’ I believe in parenting with love and respect, and ‘obedience’ does not fit into this definition. The same way I wouldn’t expect my spouse or any other adult to blindly obey what I say, I don’t expect that from my daughters either. Obedience, in my book, is NOT the epitome of good parenting.

As Alphie Kohn points out in his book ‘Unconditional Parenting’ that when parents are asked what their long term goals for their children are, they say they want their kids to be ethical, compassionate, independent, happy, accomplished, self-confident, etc. No parent says they want their children to grow up into obedient adults. I certainly do not want my daughters to grow up to be compliant women, I want them to question authority, to have their own opinions, to make their own decisions (and their own mistakes), to be creative… and to not mindlessly obey anybody (not even me!).

Most of what we see as disobedience in our children is either natural, curious, discovering, learning, developmentally appropriate behavior; a way of letting you know that one of their needs is not being met; or a reaction to a situation in which they do not feel comfortable or safe with, or have no control over.

Child not listening

The need for children’s obedience that many parents have is usually associated with parents’ fear that…

  • the child will grow up to be a rebellious, sociopath, anarchist monster. This terrible view of humane nature is not based on any empirical evidence.
  • they will be misunderstood by their peers and by family. After all, most people still believe a good child is an obedient child.
  • their child will have trouble at school with her teachers. Many teachers are still not open to the idea of having their students questioning their lessons.

Forcing children into blind obedience has terrible consequences. Children might not learn to think for themselves and will always value their parents’ (or other authoritative figure’s) voice over their own. They might not learn how to make their own decisions. They might be pushed around and manipulated by their peers.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating permissive parenting, I am not arguing that children can be disrespectful and have no limits, I am not suggesting that children can do as they please whenever they want. I am proposing a way of parenting that is based on mutual respect, love and cooperation; and that will eliminate the power struggles between the parent and the child and will allow the child to turn into an independent, confident and mindful adult.

 

2. How well do we listen to our children?

As with many other issues in parenting, the way our children do something tends to be a direct reflection of how we do that same thing. What does this mean? It means that in order to get your child to listen, you first have to listen to her. If they feel listened to, they will be more inclined to listen to you. It is that simple and that complicated!

We are giving our children the best example of what listening is all about. We are modeling a certain way of listening and communicating for them. How do you listen when your child talks to you? How do you usually respond when your child talks to you or asks you to do something for her (read a book, tell a story, play on the floor, go see a bug…)? Is your common response any of these…?

  • Delay request (i.e. ‘Just a minute,’ ‘I can’t right now, I doing something else’)
  • Casual nod, but no eye-to-eye connection (i.e. ‘Umm’)
  • Uninterested response while you’re still looking at your cellphone (i.e. ‘I see’)
  • No response, just ignore and go on with what you’re doing
  • Repeated (and not very uplifting) lecture (i.e. ‘I told you many times not to…,’ ‘That happened because you….’)
  • Constant interruptions
  • Frequent commands
  • Response before they are done talking

Ignoring

As parents we often create communication problems with our children, because we don’t really listen to what they are saying. Whenever we don’t listen to our children, they notice. Not listening does not only mean that we are not hearing what they are saying, it also means that we are not plugged in with what they are trying to tell us. We make assumptions about what they are trying to say, we draw conclusions without making sure we understood the message. We talk too much or launch into lectures.

The best way I know to get children to listen is to listening to them first. Listening intently, listening with interest, listening making sure we ‘get’ what they are saying, listening making sure we understand what’s not being said, and listening making sure our children know they are loved, always and that we are listening.

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Parenting is a journey in which we have the opportunity to learn about ourselves, about our children and about human nature. Parenting is the best journey towards self-understanding, personal improvement, mindfulness and consciousness.

Let’s love the ride!

Much love, Diana-

 

Stress Free Bedtime Routines Hack #6: Bedtime Routines and Kid’s Charts

 

“Sleep patterns and sleep routines matter because they have both long-term and short-term implications for health and cognitive development. […] If it sets a pattern in the way you treat sleep or bedtime, these patterns may last your whole life unknowingly.”

– Lauren Hale. MD, Preventive Medicine

Calming, Bonding and Safe Sleep Rituals

Sometimes, it is easy to forget your little people are actually a little person with thoughts, feelings, and expectations of their own.  If you are consistent in your parenting, children very quickly begin to anticipate the natural flow of the day based on what you have done in the past.

Our children should not associate sleep with feelings of abandonment, fear, desperation, anxiety, punishment, excitement, or stimulation.  Instead, sleep should be associated with feelings of tranquility, relaxation, love, trust, restfulness, empowerment, and peace.

Developing a soothing and calming routines that helps your child transition from awake to sleep is an essential part of your sleep training process. Setting sleep routines can improve sleep quality and quantity for infants, toddlers and older kids; and it’s a fantastic way to bond and cuddle with your child. A child’s sleep routines could affect her sleep pattern throughout a lifetime. Your goal is to teach your child the process to fall asleep and to help her feel safe, secure, and comforted.  If the feeling around bedtime is a good feeling, your child will fall asleep easier.

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Consistency

Don’t change your child’s routine every day, but let it evolve as your baby grows. For example, your bedtime routine with your newborn might involve giving him a bath, massaging him, putting him in his pajamas, giving him a bottle (or nursing him), rocking him a little, and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 9 months, it might evolve to giving him a bath, massaging him, putting him in his pajamas, giving him a bottle (or nursing him) while you sing to him, giving him his lovey and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 2 years old, it might evolve to giving him a bath, putting him in his pajamas, brushing his teeth, reading him a book, giving him his lovey, and putting him in the crib.

Don’t start anything that you are not willing to continue down the road. If you know you don’t want to co-sleep, don’t bring your baby to your bed. If you won’t want to have to rock your baby to sleep when she is two years old, don’t do it when she is 2 months old. If you don’t want to have to nurse your baby to sleep in the middle of the night, do not nurse him to sleep at bedtime. Be aware of the associations that you create with sleep from day one, and make sure you only establish healthy and sustainable ones.

Keep Electronics Away

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is a major connection between time in front of the screen and sleep disorders. Avoid television watching, video game playing, and other exciting activities the hour before bedtime. Do not allow children to have a TV in their bedroom, and do not allow them to watch TV prior to bedtime.

Children who watch a lot of television, especially at bedtime, and those with a television in their bedroom are more likely to resist going to bed, have trouble sleeping, wake up more often, and have a poor quality sleep overall. Watching television tends to stimulate children, whereas for adults it can be relaxing.

Do not allow children to watch violent television programs. They can contribute to restless sleep and nightmares (among other things). Similarly, video games can impact a child’s quality and amount of sleep. Do not allow children to play video games anywhere near bedtime and always check the appropriateness of the rating.

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Bedtime Routine Charts for Toddlers and Older Kids

Once you’ve decided on the best schedule for your child, get him involved in choosing the steps she wants to add to the bedtime routine. Do not offer her options you are not comfortable with; for example, watching TV before bedtime or mom lying on the bed with her shouldn’t be an option.

Once you both have come up with a routine, create a mural with pictures of the different steps of her bedtime routine and go with her over it, every day. Before you start implementing the new routine, practice every step and take a picture. Once you have all the pictures, stick them in order on a large piece of paper, with the help of your child. You can also add numbers to each part of the routine.

Get your child as involved as possible in the process of making the picture routine mural. For example, your child can help you stick the pictures on the paper. Make sure you put a time for each of the steps in the bedtime routine, and create a beginning and end time for the whole routine.

BEDTIME ROUTINE CHART

When the mural is done, hang it close to the bathroom or bedroom so that she can see it when she starts the bedtime routine. During the first days, walk her through the pictures during the day, and tell her what the steps are going to be at night. At night, let her lead the process of getting to bed. Ask her, “What do we have to do next?” She can then go to the mural and tell you what comes next. Every morning, praise her for following the routine the night before.

I hope this was helpful!

Much love, Diana-

8 Simple Hacks for Stress-Free Bedtimes

As we near the end of March, I continue with my resolution of improving our family routines to have a more peaceful and connected life with my daughters.

Bedtime routines are not only important to help your children develop healthy sleep habits. Children who have irregular bed times are more likely to have behavioral issues than children who have a regular bedtime routine. Most important of all, bedtime is a specially important time to connect with our children and help them go to sleep feeling unconditionally loved and accepted. Bedtime gives us a daily opportunity to build a strong relationship with our children.

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Many families struggle to keep a consistent bedtime routine. Many moms and dads are so exhausted by the end of the day, that their patience is gone, and they find themselves wanting to get it over with and have some alone time to relax. Additionally, worn out from a busy and day, our children seem to wind up at the end of the day. Therefore, bedtime becomes a struggle, instead of a relaxed time to finish the day.

However, we should do our best to keep this time as calm and smooth as possible. The first step is to have routines in place for each of our children. Consistency and a clear structure help children feel safe. When our children know that the same thing happens each night before bed, they don’t have to worry about what’s coming up next. In the next few days, I will share with you some tips on how to set up bedtime routines for each age.

Just like I did with Morning Routines, I will go over 8 simple hacks for smooth and peaceful bedtime routines. In the next few days we will cover each of the following hacks:

  1. Complete Tasks As The Day Goes On
  2. Keep Everything As Organized As Possible
  3. Set Up Before Kids Get Home
  4. Drain Energy And Get Ready For Bed
  5. Safe and Soothing Environment
  6. Bedtime Routines and Kid’s Charts
  7. Remain Calm
  8. Fill Up Their Love Tanks: Connection & Communication

Much love, Diana-

Is your bedtime too late?

One of the most common (and easy to solve) mistakes regarding baby sleep is having a bedtime that is too late for our baby. Here are some tips on how to know whether your bedtime is too late:

  1. The 4-5pm test. Look at how your baby is around 4-5pm. If he/she is cranky, sand, whinny… your bedtime is too late! A well rested child  should be happy, playful, and in a good mood around 4-5pm.
  2. The Sleep’s Speed test. It takes an average of 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. This applies to grown-ups and babies. Experts argue that if your baby ‘falls asleep before his/her head hits the pillow’, or if it takes him/her more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, she/he is probably sleep-deprived and an earlier bedtime is needed.

A good bedtime for most babies should be between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. If you’re having trouble getting your baby to sleep at night, do the previous tests, and try bringing up her/his bedtime 15-30 minutes earlier. You won’t believe the difference those 15 – 30 minutes can have on a child’s sleep. Sweet dreams!

Much love, Diana-

Bedtime Routines #2: Sleep Patterns and Children’s Health

Following up on Friday’s post, I would like reinforce the message of how important bedtime routines are for our children. A child’s bedtime routine could affect his or her sleep pattern throughout a lifetime. Setting bedtime routines and bedtime can improve sleep quality and quantity for infants and toddlers. Not getting enough sleep affects children’s behavior, memory, attention, and emotional well-being.

“Sleep patterns and sleep routines matter because they have both long-term and short-term implications for health and cognitive development,” said Lauren Hale, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center in Stony Brook, New York. “If it sets a pattern in the way you treat sleep or bedtime, these patterns may last your whole life unknowingly.”

Devote time and effort to make sure your children get enough and proper sleep, it’ll be a fantastic health gift for life.

Much love, Diana-

 

Bedtime Routines #1

As promised, I will share some tips about how to set up a good bedtime routine that fosters connection, good sleep habits and peace. Our bedtime routines should be calm, relaxing, loving and smooth.

A large part of creating positive sleep associations is crafting sleep time routines that will reinforce good sleep habits.  Developing a soothing and calming routine that helps your baby transition from awake to sleep is essential. Setting sleep routines can improve sleep quality and quantity for infants, toddlers and children of every age; and it’s a fantastic way to bond with your child.

A child’s sleep routines could affect her sleep pattern throughout a lifetime. Our goal is to teach our child the process to fall asleep and to help her feel safe, secure, and comforted so she can feel asleep on her own.  If the feeling around bedtime is a good feeling, your child will fall asleep easier.

There is a major connection between time in front of the screen and sleep disorders. Avoid television watching, video game playing, and other exciting activities the hour before bedtime. Do not allow children to have a TV in their bedroom, and do not allow them to watch TV prior to bedtime. Children who watch a lot of television, especially at bedtime, and those with a television in their bedroom are more likely to resist going to bed, have trouble sleeping, wake up more often, and have a poor quality sleep overall. Watching television tends to stimulate children, whereas for adults it can be relaxing. Do not allow children to watch violent television programs. They can contribute to restless sleep and nightmares (among other things).

Similarly, video games can impact a child’s quality and amount of sleep. Do not allow children to play video games anywhere near bedtime and always check the appropriateness of the rating.

pexels-photo-101523.jpeg

Don’t change your child’s routine every day, but let it evolve as your baby grows. For example, your bedtime routine with your newborn might involve giving him a bath, massaging him, putting him in his pajamas, giving him a bottle (or nursing him), rocking him a little, and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 9 months, it might evolve to giving him a bath, massaging him, putting him in his pajamas, giving him a bottle (or nursing him) while you sing to him, giving him his lovey and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 2 years old, it might evolve to giving him a bath, putting him in his pajamas, brushing his teeth, reading him a book, giving him his lovey, and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 9 years old, it might evolve to let her take a bath and get ready for bed, and lay with her on her bed as you read aloud a book together.

What routines do you have around bedtime? Are they working? Let me know!

Much love, Diana-

 

3 bulletproof ways to connect with your child

February is the month of love. The best way to make our children feel loved is to improve our connection and bond with them. As I mentioned in a previous post, every child’s love language is different. However these are three things we can do that will improve our connection with our child, regardless of what love language they prefer:

1) Talk and listen to them:

Ask them questions about their lives, get to know them, discover what makes them feel loved, figure out what you could improve as a parent, and take interest in their interests. Listen with the intent of getting to know them better and creating a connection.

Avoid jumping into immediate judgement or problem solving mode. As parents we tend to offer our advice even before our kids finish telling us their stories. That’s very disempowering for them, let’s learn to listen to them and sit with whatever they’re telling us.

I once read that when we are trying to improve our communication with our kids, we should consider ourselves to be on a “word budget”, and try to use as few words as possible. Listen more than you talk.

You will be amazed what a huge difference these simple changes in the way you communicate with your child, will make in your ability to connect with your child.

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2) Have special one on one time with each child:

Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, make sure you connect individually with each one of your children. Of course, it would be fantastic if you can take more than 10 minutes a day, and if you can incorporate longer periods of time at least once a week.

This special one on one time doesn’t have to be a whole production. You can play together, read together, cook together, go for a walk, go for dinner, lay in bed before the lights go off at night… let them choose how they want to use those 10 minutes that they have you all for themselves. During those, imply BE with them, look at them, set aside the electronics, and dive right into your child’s world. You will be surprise how just 10 minutes of undivided attention can change your whole relationship with your child.

3) Find them doing good:

Make sure you point out when you see your child doing something good, so they feel appreciated and loved. I am going to give you an example, one of my daughters has been going through a phase of pushing boundaries for the past few weeks. We were trying everything we know, but were still not getting through to her.

A few days ago, I remember this positive principle ‘catch them doing good.’ So, that’s what I did, I started focusing on everything she was doing right, and making sure I told her, and it has made a huge difference. She feels better about herself, and she’s starting to do good things on her own without being asked, and taking the time to make the rest of us feel loved and appreciated.

On Valentine’s Day, when I came out of the shower I found my bed already made and two teddy bears on the bed, with a mom and dad hearts. I went downstairs and I learn that my daughter – who actually hates making beds by the way – had made our bed, bought Valentines for us, and placed them on the bed. It melted my heart!

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When we are going through rough patches, we sometimes forget that our children actually want to do good, and when we acknowledge all the good things they actually do, they just want to do more. When interacting with your children, remember the 5 to 1 ratio, for every criticism, correction or negative comment, we should give them 5 positive ones.

Let me know if you try following these tips, and how it goes!

Much love, Diana-

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Children spend more time dreaming than adults do, so they have more dreams—both good and bad. What is the difference between a nightmare and a night terror? Additionally, what should you do in each situation?

Nightmares are bad dreams that happen during rapid eye movement (REM) or dream sleep. Your child may be afraid to fall back asleep, and he’ll probably remember that he had a bad dream. A baby or child who had a nightmare is likely to have a clear idea of what scared him, although he probably will not be able to vocalize his fright until he’s about 2 years old.

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The best responses to a nightmare are:

  • Be there and offer comfort.
  • Stay with your child until she feels relaxed and ready to sleep.
  • Stay calm and convey to your child that what’s happening is normal and that all is well.
  • Reassure your child that she’s safe and that it’s OK to go back to sleep.
  • If your child wakes with a nightmare, stay with her until she feels relaxed and ready to go to sleep.

The best way to prevent future nightmares is to help your child confront and overcome his fears of the dark, such as leaving a nightlight on or having a special stuffed toy to sleep with.

Night terrors occur in at least 5% of young children and can start as early as 9 months. These mysterious disturbances happen during deep, non-dreaming sleep. When a child is having a night terror, they will cry, whimper, flail, and even bolt out of bed.

Although his eyes may be wide open, he’s not awake and isn’t aware of your presence. Night terrors can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, or more. Once it is over, your child will return to a sound sleep, and he will have no memory of the incident in the morning.

The best responses to night terrors are:

  • Give him a gentle pat, along with comforting words or “shhh” sounds.
  • Make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.
  • Don’t speak to him, ask him questions, or try to hold or soothe him.
  • Don’t try to shake or startle him awake or physically restrain him—all of which could lead to more frantic behavior.

If it’s a night terror, in 15 to 20 minutes, your child should calm down, curl up, and fall into a deep sleep again. If it’s a nightmare, he might need a little more time to calm down and go back to sleep. To prevent night terrors, make sure that he is getting enough sleep, since children who go to bed overtired are more likely to experience these types of sleep disturbances.

I hope this was helpful!

Much love, Diana-

 

Are your discipline methods turning you into a bully?

Children need boundaries, rules and discipline. Children need know limits and to have a structure in their lives. Having said that, how do you discipline your kids? When I talk about discipline I’m not talking about punitive actions, I’m talking about teaching our children consequences and raising them to become healthy, happy, succesful and contributing members of our society.

Every child is different and we must adjust our parenting and disciplining techniques to each of them. However, there are major lines that I belive we should never cross as parents. You know where I stand on spanking and/or physical punishments.

I’ve been puzzled by all the news about extreme parenting and discipline measures that have come up over the last few months, such as parents shaming their children on facebook for not listening, a house of horrors where multiple kids are abused and neglected… The list goes on and on, and on. What’s really happening? Are parents getting more out of control? Why do they think these parenting techniques are appropriate? Are some parents becoming their own children’s bullies?

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We all get angry, feel stressed and sometimes don’t know what to do with our kids. We all do! However causing emotional and/or physical pain to our children should never be the course of action, no matter what the lesson we are trying to teach them is.

As parents, we need to remember that part of our job is to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of our kids. We cannot let ourselves become the bully we fear they’ll encounter in school, by acting like this. It is not ok to privately or publicly humiliate our children, it is not ok to cause them physical harm, it is not ok to make them feel unloved, it is just not ok!

When it comes to disciplining, these are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Maintain your cool and composure. If you need to take a break (time-out), do so. But do not depart from the good behavior you want your kids to emulate.
  • Teach them by doing. If it’s not ok to lie, don’t lie to them; if it’s not ok to hit, don’t hit them; if it’s good to have a balanced diet, eat a balanced diet with them…
  • You’re not the disciplinarian, their actions are. Their actions are the ones creating consequences. Help them understand that they are disciplining themselves, not you.
  • Don’t become the ‘bad guy’. We cannot become ‘the bad guy’ in our kids’ lives. As I mentioned in my previous post, they need to feel unconditionally loved, even when they’re misbehaving.
  • There’s nothing wrong with them, their behavior is the problem. Make sure your children understand that they are not bad or naughty, but that their behavior can be improved.
  • Don’t hold grudges. Once the action has passed, once your child has been disciplined and learned the lesson, let it go! Forgive and move on. Do not stay mad at your child for long, avoid dirty looks or bad answers.
  • Choose consequences that match the behavior.
  • Remember that our child is not trying to give us a hard time, he’s having a hard time (managing his emotions, controlling his impulses, trying to communicate with us, being tired or hungry…).

When it comes to raising our children, we need to always have present in our mind, that we love them and that they need to feel that love. If you ever feel that you’re getting out of control, that you need to physically or psychologically harm your children to teach them a lesson, that you don’t know what else to do, that you are about to snap… seek help! Help in the form of a friend, a spouse, a relative, a childcare professional, a parenting coach… Don’t let yourself go to the extreme when it comes to disciplining your children.

I know this is easier said than done, and I also know that most of us will fail a this at some point. What’s important though is that we keep this is mind and that we do our best every day.

Much love, Diana-

4 Steps to Remain Calm During Sleep Coaching

Every time I work with a new mom on a private consultation, the first thing I do before implementing anything or talking about plans is to make sure that mom and dad are in the right place emotionally. You can’t give what you don’t have; to be there for your child, you have to be there for you.

Believe me when I say, I know how frustrated and exhausted you feel right now. But, remember that you are your baby’s whole world, and surrounding him with love, nurture, and guidance starts by you having the right attitude when you are with your child. Your attitude and the energy that you project affect the outcome of your baby’s sleep coaching process.

Some parents I’ve worked with admitted to having put their babies in their cribs or bassinets a little bit too harshly, out of anger and desperation for sleep. If you are angry, anxious, frustrated, defeated, or agitated, your baby will sense that, and that will make it harder for him to fall asleep. Please, be patient and always enter your baby’s room in calm state.

If you feel overwhelmed; your patience is evaporating; you are exhausted; you can’t take it anymore; and you think you might be reaching your breaking point, please follow these steps:

1. Place your baby calmly and softly on a safe place (crib, bassinet, stroller, bouncy seat, etc.).

2. Back off—step away to another room, go to the bathroom and wash your face, or open the window and breathe some fresh air.

3. Ask for help from your spouse, a family member, a friend, or even a neighbor.

4. Calm yourself down before you pick up your baby again.

Changing a habit takes time. Sleeping is an innate ability to babies; parents, without any bad intentions, create poor or unhealthy sleep habits that need to be addressed later on. Remind yourself that you helped your child get into this situation (habit), and now you have to help him get out of it. Do NOT ever shake or hit your baby!

Much love, Diana-