daily life

Discipline -Five Ways to Use Connection To Get Cooperation

Discipline and managing toddler tantrums are pretty common parenting topics! After sleep and feeding, discipline just might be the most frequently asked question of parents with young children.

Parenting, discipline, and co-regulation are things that invariably weave in and out of any conversation families have with me about sleep, feeding, and development. Even when discipline and regulation are not the key challenges, they are inevitably part of the solution. How empowered we feel about parenting, and how available strategies are to us "in the moment" can make a BIG difference.

Camp Cooking: "Feeding With Love and Good Tents"

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Camp Cooking: How to Feed the Kids with Love and Good Tents

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE BOOKS...

...about how to feed children is Ellyn Satter's "Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense".  Her approach to a healthy division of responsibility for feeding children is a classic, and guides me in more than just meal preparation.  But sleeping in tents doesn't mean saying bye to good sense.

After weeks of camping with my three boys over the past two summers I've figured out a few things about what to make us for dinner and how to handle the groceries and refrigeration.  How to have freedom and fun with food, while not giving up on the wholesome ingredients my kids need to feel their best.  In the summer spirit, I'm taking a break from infant development and infant sleep blogs to throw a few ideas down on paper about daily life for camping families: what to feed the kids and family.

A few assumptions:  I'll assume that meat is on your menu (because if it is not, you can ignore that advice). 

I'll also assume you are not camping in a group and aren't combining resources (because, again, you can ignore my advice and combine kitchen tools and menus as a group).

I’m assuming, as well, that you are car camping. Overnight canoe- or hiking- trips are wonderful adventures, but I’m focusing here on families who are venturing into camping with kiddos, rather than those with a lot of experience back-country camping.

And last, I'll assume you are trying to pack minimally: pots will get reused in the same meal, tools will tend to be multi-purpose or really worth the space. There is something really liberating about only having what you need.  What you don't have (or what you forget) will usually have some adequate substitute that will make you feel like a powerful pioneer woman, or like a “social connection seeker”, asking the next campsite over if they can lend you a lighter or pair of scissors.

So, here are a few basics:

  1. Bring the right tools, but no extras. Your car will be full enough with sleeping bags and a tent and pillows. Pay attention before your trip on what tools you use for what meals and start a list: Vegetable peeler, tongs, sharp knife, can opener, flexible cutting board --there are work-arounds for all of these, but they are also quite handy items that can make your trip go more smoothly.

  2. The exception to “bring no extras” is propane or fuel for your stove. Bring more than you need or know where you can get more. Until you get used to how much fuel you need, it may be better to have extra for next time than to run out. If you are a large group or are camping a long time, consider getting an adaptor for your stove so that you can hook it up to those large white propane canisters that you use with your backyard barbecue. Note: on windy days you will go through fuel much much faster.

  3. Eat meat early in the trip; focus more on vegetarian meals leading up to pack-up time or grocery trip day.

  4. Two smaller coolers (one for meat, one for veg) may be better than one large one. Also, I find a full cooler with block ice is very difficult to take in and out of the car safely: dividing your food into smaller coolers may help you when it comes time to tuck the coolers away for the night.

  5. Put your cooler in the car. I have occasionally partially 'locked' the cooler under a picnic table bench but that was in campgrounds where there were no seasoned racoons or skunks. Or bears. Better to be safe and still get breakfast in the morning than to attract unwanted guests. This general philosophy applies as much to urban car camping as it does to isolated backcountry camping.

  6. Check the plug on your cooler to ensure it is secure: a puddle of water in your car in the morning, or ants in the drained cooler is no fun. A trip to the home improvement store for silicone is no fun either but it will work if your plug breaks off and you need to McGyver it. (Not that this has happened to me).

  7. Opt for block ice if you are going for more than a day or two. The ice lasts much longer.

  8. Keep meals simple but nutritious. There's lots you and the kids may want to do while camping, and fueling your bodies well will help!

  9. Pay attention to what your family eats as you plan your trip. You may find that some of your regular meals are easily made while camping. Others can be modified.

  10. Don't sweat the normal routines. If bedtime snack is a major theme in your house, know that when camping the kitchen will literally be closed when you close up your car for the night. Many kids have an amazing ability to adjust to limits in choices and restrictions because the camping environment just doesn't support what can happen more easily at home. For those kiddos who have a difficult time with changes in routine, keep it simple and pay attention to the key rituals (is it the type of food they focus on, or is it something else like one on one time with you that is the clincher?).

MENU IDEAS:

BBQ PIZZA 

Sautee onions, peppers on a fry pan.  Add small stir-fry size chicken (or meat alternative) on pan.  Remove from pan.  Pan-heat soft tortilla shells (gluten free, regular...whatever fits your family's diet) with gouda (or alternative), barbecue sauce, the chicken and veg until cheese is melted.  Slide off onto places, cut into triangles, and eat.

PASTA:

Cook your pasta of choice in large saucepan.  On a separate burner (or afterwards if you don't have two burners free), saute onions, peppers in fry pan with oil.  Add ground beef or alternative, stir until cooked.  Strainers are nice but you can also adequately drain pasta with oven mitts and the lid on, and a slow pour down at ground level.  A bit of grass is usually ok :)  Empty pasta into a large bowl.  Put beef mixture into now-empty saucepan and add tomato sauce.  Heat.  Add into drained pasta.    Pasta can be cooked ahead of time if time will be tight for dinner.  

TACOS:

Cook ground beef, chicken strips or alternative ground protein as you do for pasta.  Add taco seasoning (we ditch homemade and bring the Ol' El Paso stuff for camping).  Slice avocados and cherry tomatoes, cut some lettuce, and get out the shredded cheese or alternative.  Bring a jar of salsa, whatever taco shells (or romaine lettuce wraps) you like to eat, and !Ahi Esta!, you've got a meal!  

BREAKFAST:

Either keep it simple: favourite cereal, with milk.

Medium grade: instant or quick oatmeal with nut butter, raisins and seeds.

Or heavy duty: Scrambled eggs and pre-cooked bacon.  You can cook the bacon the night before or when you first get up.  Chop extra peppers and onions the night before to add to the omelette, and hopefully you have extra cheese too.  Bacon is messy, and I tend to avoid it when camping.  I recommend buying eggs in plastic cartons or using the camp coleman-style egg containers: cardboard gets soggy in coolers.

You can also pre-mix the dry ingredients for pancakes and add eggs and liquid when you are preparing breakfast.  Bring nut butter, jam, syrup, or honey.  Or all four!

LUNCH:

We approach lunch as a light, cold, picnic-y meal so that you can make it quickly, pack it in a backpack, or graze between swimming, playing frisbee, or relaxing.  Of course, any dinner ideas work for lunch too if you are hanging around the campsite at lunch time.

Bring romaine, croutons, and Caesar salad dressing; use left over beef, chicken, or other protein from the night before (requires making extra or having kids that are too busy having fun to eat all their dinner --this happens a lot to us while camping).  Store extra meat in sealed container in cooler.

Prepare humus, tortilla chips, guacamole, cucumber, peppers, cauliflower, baby-cut carrots, and any other vegetable that will fit in your cooler.

Have nuts, seeds, raisins, and other trail mix options for hikes, or for hungry tummies while you make lunch.

Bring cold cuts if you eat processed meat.

Have easy warm meals for cooler days: instant or quick cook oatmeal with nut butter, macaroni and cheese (even if you forget the butter and milk), hot dogs if you have a barbecue, canned soups.

SNACKS and DESSERTS:

Bake muffins and cookies ahead of time.  Bring graham crackers, good chocolate, and marshmallows for S'mores.  I've tried the 'prepackaged' S'mores and they were very stale.  Perhaps that is not always the case, but it's not an experiment I want to run again!  If you have kids that are greatly affected by sugar or who go to bed too early for a fire, consider S'mores for after breakfast: for kids, the memories will be great whether the special camping rituals are after sunset or during the day.  Marshmallows can be cooked over a barbecue if there is a fire ban or if smoke allergies are an issue (Mother Earth will thank you, though I do know how lovely a crackling fire is for the camping experience).

If you like kitchen hacks while camping, consider lining a cardboard box with foil and place coals or hot bricks in the bottom to make an oven for baking.  

PACKING YOUR KITCHEN KIT:

One of the pleasures of camping for me is the isolation and (even if urban camping) my expectation is to avoid stores unless absolutely necessary.  As a result, I do my best not to forget anything critical.  And usually I manage that!

Some things, for me, are a must.  Others are an indulgence.  Take what you need, create a bit of a buffer, and leave the rest at home.  Usually, as long as you have the basics, you can make do missing a thing or two.

take a deep breath, and Have fun.

Camping for our family has meant an immersion in simplicity, a realization that our family priorities sometimes are at odds with our modern life, and that having nothing to do is a big blessing. There can be pressure to think that we need to plan our time. Limit your planning to getting there, and let the rest take shape. Let the experience (rained out barbecue, and leaky tent included) be an exercise in letting go, and giving nature her due: we try to control so much in our lives, that taking a deep breath and accepting what comes can be a welcome shift.

If you’d like to learn more….

Join me June 29th in St. Catharines for a presentation that is part slideshow (photos of Ontario and American Southwest camping with our kiddos), part how-to (more menu ideas, kit lists, and lessons learned), and part environmental imperative (a perspective on environmental illness, including guidance for preventing Lyme Disease).

Sign up here to be on the RSVP list for June 29th (you will also receive my weekly newsletter) or email me at heather@heatherboyd.ca to RSVP.

Let’s get camping!

Guest Writing on Motherhood and Sleep Deprivation

I have been less active on the blog front lately, but have certainly still been writing.

You can find my most recent writing in the following places:

  • Kathleen Lockyer’s RxOutside.com, a website and Occupational Therapy practice dedicated to using access to nature as a means for improving health and wellbeing. (March 11, 2019).

  • Rachel Marie Martin’s FindingJoy.net compilation from writers and entrepreneurs on what we would tell our 20 year old self about motherhood. (February 4, 2019).

And soon, a review in Occupational Therapy Now magazine of the book “Broccoli Boot Camp”, which focuses on evidence-based strategies for solving picky eating. This book adds valuable strategies to my approach to supporting families when mealtimes are not going quite as well as they pictured.

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Let's Talk About Pee.

Mannekin Pis, bronze statue in Brussels, Belgium. Pixabay.

Mannekin Pis, bronze statue in Brussels, Belgium. Pixabay.

After sleep, and perhaps after discipline, potty training is next in line as one of the likely questions you’ve had (or will have!) about raising your wee ones. Aside from it being a rite of passage for our kiddos, moving beyond diapers is also a big leap for us as parents. When our children stop using diapers and start regularly using the toilet:

  1. We cut down on purchases and on garbage (extra garbage tags, anyone?);

  2. We spend less time dressing and undressing, wiping, and washing the kids.

  3. We have more freedom on outings, even if initially we are simply trading diapers for a portable potty seat.

  4. And we can relish in a significant milestone that shows us our little ones, regardless of how many other ways they need our support, are developing and growing up.

Getting to that point of diaper free, however, is not like stepping through a single doorway. Just like with infant sleep, it is a developmental skill that is complex and cannot be rushed without consequences. Below are strategies for approaching toilet learning with kiddos. And, as with all things parenting, we can begin setting the path right from birth.

  1. “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”. Awareness of and respect for one’s own body (and all its bodily functions!) starts with how others treat us. Telling your little one what you are doing as you do a diaper change is a simple and yet helpful way of reminding us (and teaching our children) that we respect them.

  2. Pay attention to patterns. Whether you approach peeing and pooing from the perspective of Elimination Communication, or whether you have a toddler with longer periods of time between wet diapers, or an approaching enrolment date for kindergarten, being aware of body language, timing, and triggers (how many pee-infused baths have your kiddos had?!) is helpful.

  3. Each in their own time. Although there are general trends on when children are able to use the toilet regularly for peeing, the age at which children are ready varies so widely that these age ranges are usually not helpful. With the exception of identifying medical, neurodevelopmental, and emotional barriers to toilet learning, the age when most kids are toilet trained may not be helpful in appreciating when your child is ready. Paying attention to signs of readiness, instead of age, can be helpful for taking the pressure off and for respecting your own child’s development.

  4. Model the outcome you want. Kids who see how the toilet is used are more likely to imitate its use, even at the age of one. Consider pointing out why you are using the toilet, and perhaps even invite your toddler to flush! But be prepared that modeling your behaviour might transfer over to putting other things in the toilet —a plumber once told me that in one troubled toilet he found an entire mini collection of playskool people. Pens are surprisingly effective at causing all sorts of back ups (this from personal experience —oh what chaos one little pen can cause). And no one wants their toothbrush to make its way into the bowl. Take it in stride. And keep a plunger nearby!

  5. Offer it and they will pee. Eventually. Having available a potty or an accessible toilet seat (including this one that is built right into the adult seat) along with an appropriate step stool can encourage children to spontaneously try toileting. Getting a potty long before your child is ready results in it being as natural a part of the bathroom as the toilet itself. For kids who don’t like dramatic change, this may be helpful.

  6. Pomp and Circumstance. For kiddos who love to have their milestones celebrated in style, novelty toilets with their favourite characters on it may help. But more importantly, the positive and genuinely pleased approach you take towards their learning may make a longer term impact (and transfers over into all sorts of achievements and milestones without the need to surround yourself with Paw Patrol paraphernalia). Being interested and excited—without been too interested and excited—may take some trial and error. Knowing your child’s temperament, and what works for them in terms of your reaction to other achievements, can help guide you.

  7. Go with the Flow. Whether your child goes diaper-free or bottomless for three intense days in the winter, or for two months in the summer, there will likely be wet clothes and pee on the floor at some point. Cleaning it up without chastising, and (if you can muster it without it seeming like you are punishing them) recruiting their help in a calm way is important for avoiding shame and embarrassment about a tricky developmental skill that will inevitably have its ups and downs.

  8. Know when to hold’em… know when to walk away. If things are not going so smoothly, it is often a sign that they are not ready. Put the goal of potty training aside for a while, and return to it when there are other cues. If, however, you feel like there is more going on, pursue it with your doctor. Urinary tract infections can sometimes be symptom free and yet will cause all sorts of upsets to the progression of potty training.

  9. Natural Opportunities and Oops’s: At one point in the gradual transition to full toileting with my first born, I found myself at a park ten minutes from home when he had to go pee —and we had not brought a diaper with us. This was the first time in the toilet-learning process that he’d been away from home for toileting and he wasn’t so gung ho about the idea of peeing in the public washroom. I offered a choice: he could either pee in the public toilet or we go home right away for him to pee there and remain at home. Although not initially happy with this choice (it was a beautiful day at the park, but boy oh boy the toilet at home was familiar) he weighed his options and chose to give the public toilet a try. It worked! We got to stay another hour, and he overcame the milestone of using a washroom other than our own. The next week, however, at the same park, we ended up with a surprise wet pair of pants. Sometimes natural opportunities (or genuine forced choices) help us make progress. But it’s not always linear.

  10. Dry Nights. If dry diapers at night seem like a distant dream, and you feel like it ought to have happened already, consider constipation. If children are backed up (even if they are pooping every day), it can cause night wetting. If you feel this may be a factor, an x-ray can confirm it, and strategies can be put in place to get things flowing better. Once the bowels are emptying easily and fully, there is less pressure on the bladder and ureter, and more ‘room’ for developmentally-appropriate night dryness. Resolving constipation will also set the stage for smooth transition to toileting for bowel movements too.

When Hurdles Get In the Way

There are a number of situations that delay toileting or that prevent independent toileting. Mobility issues, neurodevelopmental and social-emotional challenges, frequent UTIs, and cognitive delays can impact a child’s ability to progress towards independent toileting. Whether these hurdles are resolved over time (e.g. cognitive development or resolving UTIs) or whether these hurdles remain, respecting a child’s developmental, emotional, and physical abilities is crucial. By appreciating what the challenge is, we as parents may work towards remaining calm about the goal, the timeline, and the barriers.

This patience and acceptance includes when the child is ready and willing emotionally and yet is unable to achieve this milestone, and vice versa —when the child appears physically able but is not emotionally ready.

Signs Your Child May Be Ready for More Progress to Toileting:

  1. Their diaper remains dry for a greater length of time;

  2. They pause activity and take a pee posture (or expresses to you verbally that they are peeing in their diaper) that lets you know they are peeing willfully;

  3. They show an interest in the toilet, especially if it involves imitating you. (However, imitating can happen long before a child is ready physically.) Encourage this imitation, even if it doesn’t ‘yield results’. Toilet habits are a nice thing to develop, if led by your child, even before toilet use is consistent.

Should I Use Rewards to Encourage Toileting?

I generally take an “Alfie Kohn” approach to rewards (see his book Unconditional Parenting for his perspective on rewards and punishment): rewards usually coerce compliance rather than support the development of a skill. Although a well-timed encouraging gesture can tip “almost ready kids” solidly into the “totally potty-trained” category, rewards tend to assume that all the pieces are in place for success, and that all the child needs is a sticker or toy or chocolate to achieve the milestone. This is not usually the case. Kids are built to want to develop new skills. If they are resistant to developing a new skill then perhaps (a) they are not ready yet and a reward will frustrate, rather than motivate, or (b) they are relying a lot on this skill being your priority rather than a priority that comes from within. Occasionally, a reward to sweeten the deal can be helpful in cases where there is a lot of fear —the extra motivation to overcome that fear might help. But in my view, we ought to use rewards sparingly.

All in Good Time

Generally, as with most developmental skills, if we as parents provide the environment (nurturing, supportive, with opportunities for development, and access to the right tools -e.g. a potty!) children will develop new skills when they are developmentally ready, including toileting. If the timing is right, this happens smoothly, albeit gradually and with set backs along the way. And although there may be pressure to speed things up and rush the process, we can remind ourselves that, just as with learning to walk, most kids will get where they need to go when they are ready.

Resources

Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting

Built-In Potty Seat, amazon.ca

Mannekin Pis, bronze statue in Brussels, Belgium. Credit: Pixabay.

Mannekin Pis, bronze statue in Brussels, Belgium. Credit: Pixabay.

How to Encourage Your Young Child to Wear Glasses

Ready-Made Parenting is a blog focused on developing specific skills for the role of parenting. Short, to the point, and printable, each post will focus on one specific parenting challenge, and the collaborative, attachment-based strategies that you can use to morph this challenge into a feel-good parenting experience.


Our three year old recently got glasses.  Although my husband has had glasses for years, I wasn't quite sure how to incorporate this new 'accessory' into our routines.  After all, I was working on getting a routine for wearing and caring for my first pair of glasses!  

After some false starts and a few incidents of misplacing the glasses (how on earth did they end up in the trunk of the car?), we are now in a pretty good groove. 

Here are some non-coercive strategies that may help your young child and you work in this new habit.  Bonus: these ideas may work well for any habit you're trying to incorporate into your child's day.

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  1. Set the Stage.  Wearing glasses may not be the biggest parenting challenge you've faced, but like other changes, it's respectful to approach it collaboratively, and nice for it to go smoothly.  Start off easy.  Offer the glasses.  Help put them on. Check things out in the mirror. Depending on temperament, show a lot of interest, or be quite non-chalant.  Be open to some exploring, curiosity, and complete and utter lack of interest, particularly depending on age and personality.  Problem solve with them as much as possible around where, when, and how (my three year old can come up with zanny and useful suggestions that work: I'd miss out on some great ideas if I never asked.)  Take it slowly and give both of you time to settle into the habit of wearing and cleaning them.  

  2. Look on the Bright Side.  Set a positive tone for wearing the glasses.  That doesn’t need to mean raving madly about how wonderful they look (in fact, that can backfire for some children).  However, a positive and genuine comment, or a sparkle in your eye and a smile can be all a child needs to pick up on your positive feelings about the glasses.  (Telling them they need to wear them because it helps their eyes may or may not be helpful: few young children will care for reasoning at this stage.)

  3. Start Slowly. Gradually get in the groove of this new glasses-wearing habit.  If they take them off frequently, consider this a ‘getting used to them’ stage, and either put them back on or put them back in the case, without fuss.  Re-introduce the glasses when they transition to a new activity (“Time for lunch. Let’s put these beautiful babies back on for eating.”).  Go with the flow and know that patience now will pay off in the long run with more and longer self-initiated wearing.

  4. Make it Routine.  Over several days, work in a routine of putting them on in the morning, and putting them in the case when they are removed (even if you want them to keep them on). FIgure out where to keep glasses supplies and the case so that it is handy and naturally promotes the habit.  Involve your child in the how and where as much as their development allows.

  5. Be Dramatic.  There is no need to punish or reward a child who is developing a new habit (or anytime, really).  However, it can be helpful to be playful and silly, and even a bit dramatic about wearing the glasses.  Be deliberate and goofy about putting the glasses back in their case at bath and bedtime. Exaggerate the process of cleaning the glasses to help young children see the steps and to make it light and enjoyable.  Go along when they decide they want to to try the glasses on you, their doll, and the family cat.  Putting the glasses back on them may require a bit more gentle tact (slipping them on non-chalantly while they settle in their chair for a craft) but try different approaches and see what works for your child.

  6. Play the Long Game.  Habits take a while.  If the glasses are making a difference to your child's vision, perhaps they will not mind the adjustment to wearing them if you take a respectful and non-manipulative approach to wearing them.  If, however, after several attempts at finding a new groove, you find that your child continues to fling them across the room, hide them in drawers, or simply refuse to let you put them on, consider a follow-up with your optometrist to look at proper fit and changes to vision.


Glasses: Printable PDF

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