You can always count on illustrator Emily McDowell to come up with the perfect card. I loved her adorably Awkward series where she wrote these lengthy descriptions of feelings you only think about in your head. This time, she’s tackling a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, parenting.
As a mother of two toddlers under five, sometimes I just want to pull my hair out, I’m so frustrated. Just yesterday, Parker got mad at me for helping him with some homework and chucked a pen at Logan’s eye. I was furious! Luckily, the soft side hit Logan’s eyelid. We reprimanded Parker but I think it left a permanent mark in my heart. How could situations like this happen?
Though Emily just started this series with three cards, we can expect to see more in the spring.
As she wrote, “I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while, because parenting is HARD. And having a baby is like signing up for a 24/7 job at the judgment factory– both from yourself and the world at large. It is 100% possible to both love your kid AND struggle with the day to day realities of parenthood, but so many parents (especially moms) don’t talk about this because they feel like there must be something wrong with them or they don’t want to be judged. But we need to talk about it– because talking helps. And laughing helps. And feeling normal helps.”
I just watched Bad Moms. (It was better than I thought.) These cards remind me of that movie.
Back in January, Adam Grant wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times Opinion section about how to raise a creative child. Interestingly, it was one of the NYT’s most engaging pieces on Facebook this year. I just read through the article and thought it had a lot of great points.
Sam and I raise Parker and Logan with a lot of rules. Don’t hit each other, no soda, iPad time only certain times of day. Yes, the kids break them but we try our best to enforce our rules. I never quite thought of teaching them “values” instead. Here’s what I mean.
“The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule.
“Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it’s easy to thwart. By limiting rules, parents encouraged their children to think for themselves. They tended to ‘place emphasis on moral values, rather than on specific rules,’ the Harvard psychologist Teresa Amabile reports.
“Even then, though, parents didn’t shove their values down their children’s throats. When psychologists compared America’s most creative architects with a group of highly skilled but unoriginal peers, there was something unique about the parents of the creative architects: ‘Emphasis was placed on the development of one’s own ethical code.'”
Now, how do we teach our kids to be creative? That’s a question I often ponder. In this highly competitive world, how do you get your kids to succeed?
Heres’s the general answer:
“Yes, parents encouraged their children to pursue excellence and success — but they also encouraged them to find ‘joy in work.’ Their children had freedom to sort out their own values and discover their own interests. And that set them up to flourish as creative adults.
“When the psychologist Benjamin Bloom led a study of the early roots of world-class musicians, artists, athletes and scientists, he learned that their parents didn’t dream of raising superstar kids. They weren’t drill sergeants or slave drivers. They responded to the intrinsic motivation of their children. When their children showed interest and enthusiasm in a skill, the parents supported them.”
Instead of pushing Parker and Logan into certain sports or interests, I need to follow their lead and then support them.
I love the last paragraph in the article:
“Hear that, Tiger Moms and Lombardi Dads? You can’t program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you’ll get is an ambitious robot. If you want your children to bring original ideas into the world, you need to let them pursue their passions, not yours.”
For today’s Photo a Day, I thought I’d go back in time and put together a short compilation post. (I know, I’m cheating a bit.) At what age do you stop kissing your kid on the lips? Sam and I talk about this often. Eight, nine, can I push it to ten? We love giving our kids tons of affection and there’s nothing quite as sweet as being able to kiss them on the lips. Until we have to stop, I’ll keep (secretly) taking these pictures of Sammy smooching Parker and Logan. Full of emotion, these photos just lighten my heart.
Yesterday, we went to Santa Rosa Plateau to go on a hike. While there, I decided to try out one of the suggestions in the post 9 Times to Take Photos of Your Children, via A Cup of Jo, the one titled In the Air. Sam picked up Parker, who is well past that light baby stage, and threw him up as high as he would go. Parker reveled in the moment. I was able to catch this shot of his ecstatic expression. It was one of those sad yet sweet moments when you say to yourself, “I wish I could just freeze time!”
The Whole Brain Child explains in layman’s terms how the brain works. As it states in the introduction, “While the book is certainly scientifically based, you aren’t going to feel like you’re in science class or reading an academic paper. Yes, it’s brain science, and we’re absolutely committed to remaining true to what research and science demonstrate. But we’ll share this information in a way that welcomes you in, rather than leaving you out in the cold.”
Chapter 1 starts off by talking about parenting with the left and right side of the brain in mind. What’s going on inside our brains? How do the different parts of our brain work together? First, there’s the left side of the brain that helps you think logically. Then, there’s the right side of the brain that’s more emotion based. If our goal is to help our children use their whole brain, both their left-brain logic and their right-brain emotion should integrate, and we should provide our children with experiences where they can create connections between the different parts. Why isn’t integration easy? Because our children’s brains haven’t had time to develop. A person’s brain isn’t considered fully developed until the mid-twenties!
Chapter 2 goes into how to integrate the left and the right hemispheres. The left brain loves order, it’s logical and literal. The right side is more intuitive and emotional. Now here’s the interesting part. “In terms of development, very young children are right-hemisphere dominant, especially during their first three years.” They live completely in the moment, unable to use logic and words to express their feelings. As they grow older, when they’re conflicted, they may still start off with emotion. So first, you connect your right side of the brain to theirs by asking your child to explain what he’s feeling and then you echo back their emotions. That way, they feel as though you understand them, that they’re being heard. “When a child is upset, logic often won’t work until we have responded to the right brain’s emotional needs. We call this emotional connection ‘attunement,’ which is how we connect deeply with another person and allow them to ‘feel felt.'”
After that part, we redirect to the left side. This means we logically explain to them why things can’t be and/or provide realistic alternatives. This is the time to talk about their behavior and when we can discuss solutions. It’s called “connect and redirect” and though it won’t always work, especially when your child is past a point of no return or is overly tired and hungry, it’s a thoughtful way to parent.
Here’s an example of how we used this technique recently. Parker was going to sleep over at his grandma’s house but forgot to bring his bag of candy. He wanted to give a piece to grandma. As we were approaching her house he started to scream, “Go back! I forgot my candy! I have to give a piece to grandma!” It seemed like no big deal to us but to Parker it meant everything. Instead of turning the car around or telling him, “No way” we said, “Parker, you really want to give halmuni (grandma in Korean) some candy, don’t you? You think she’ll like it right?” He nodded yes. Then Sam said, “Well, halmuni can’t have too much sugar because too much sugar is bad for you.” To which Parker replied, “Ok, I understand.” It worked! There was no screaming and he didn’t throw a fit.
There are many more tips on how to parent in this book but I wanted to share the “connect and redirect” approach because it’s been effective in my family! After we connect with Parker on an emotional level, we then reason with him on a logical one and it seems to calmly resolve our problems. In fact, it’s been a full week since we started implementing this technique and we haven’t had one major blow up.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
Can someone please hand me a tissue? Maybe it’s because my own mom died when I was just 20 or that I’m thinking about my two little sons that this new P&G Olympics ad is affecting me so much. I knew, in general, what would be coming. Procter & Gamble has been using the same formula (“Thank you, Mom”) for the last six years. This two minute video, ok let’s call it a commercial, though, still hits close to home. As a P&G spokeswoman said, it was “inspired by the simple human truth that the daily courage a mom shows echoes at critical moments throughout her child’s life.” Maybe that’s what it was. The moments showed were ones you could relate to. It makes me think about how I need to be strong for both myself and my children.
We’re now just 100 days before the start of the Olympics. (Yay! Bring it on.)
Sam and I have been searching for a way to get rid of time-outs. Who wants to reprimand their kids? Also, do time-outs really work? A new article on The Atlantic asked Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center, to give us parents some new tools instead.
The Atlantic: So what’s the short version of how to change behavior without punishment?
Kazdin: What it amounts to is an area of research that’s called applied behavior analysis, and what it focuses on are three things to change behavior: What comes before the behavior, how you craft the behavior, and then what you do at the end.
There are a whole bunch of things that happen before behavior and if you use them strategically, you can get the child to comply. Let’s say the child always just folds her arms and says, “no.” That’s not such a big deal, that’s actually easy to change, but a parent’s not going to be able to do it. They’re going to say, “you better do it because I say so,” or “we have to go,” or “you better do it now or I’m going to force this on you,” and that’s typical parenting.
So what comes before the behavior?
One is gentle instructions, and another one is choice. For example, “Sally, put on your,”— have a nice, gentle tone of voice. Tone of voice dictates whether you’re going to get compliance or not. “Sarah, put on the green coat or the red sweater. We’re going to go out, okay?” Choice among humans increases the likelihood of compliance. And choice isn’t important, it’s the appearance of choice that’s important. Having real choice is not the issue, humans don’t feel too strongly about that, but having the feeling that you have a choice makes a difference.
So now that’s what comes before the behavior.
And now the behavior itself. When you get compliance, if that’s the behavior you want, now you go over and praise it … very effusively, and you have to say what you’re praising exactly.
And now, there’s a game:
I say, “We’re going to play a game and here’s how this goes: I’m going to tell you you can’t do something, but you really can, and you can have a tantrum and you can get mad, but this time you’re not going to hit mommy, and you’re not going to go on the floor. And it’s only game, but if you can do that, I’m going to give you two points on this little chart.”
So the mom leans over and smiles and whispers in this cute way, “Okay, Billy, you cannot watch TV tonight.” And Billy, have your tantrum, and don’t hit mommy or go on the floor.
[After the fake tantrum], the child is probably smiling a little bit and the mom says with great effusiveness, “That was fabulous! I can’t believe you did that!”
Getting the child to practice the behavior changes the brain and locks in the habit. And we’ve only done it once. So now we say to Billy, “Billy, I bet you can’t do it again. I don’t think there’s a child on the planet who can do this twice in the row.” Billy’s smiling and says, “No I can, I can do it,” and I say, “Okay, okay, we’ll do one more.”
Now you do this again and the same thing happens. If the tantrum has many different components, you change your requirement—this time, you don’t do whatever. You practice it, maybe once or twice a day, and you do this for a while.
As you do this every few days, now there’s a real tantrum that occurs outside the game. And that tantrum is either a little or a lot better. Now, you go over there and say, “Billy I can’t believe it, we weren’t even playing the game, and look at what you did, you got mad at your sister, but you didn’t hit anybody! Billy, that was fantastic.”
Think this will work? I like how it incorporates positive reinforcement.
The basic fundamental approach is, what is going on before the behavior that you can do to change it? Can you get repeated practice trials? Can you lock it in with praise? What happens is that parents think of discipline as punishing, and in fact, that’s not the way to change behavior.
Yesterday was a monumental day, not only did Parker turn four he got his first real bike. Sam and I had been planning this moment for awhile, he started off by riding a Radio Flyer 4-in-1 trike, but had slowly outgrown it. For balance, he still needed to stay on more than two wheels but we decided to bump him up to a real bike with training wheels. After looking over all the inventory at Toys “R” Us we decided on the 16″ Disney Cars bike.
Sam’s parents asked us to buy Parker the bike on their behalf so we took it to their place for the big unveil. Parker got right on that bike and rode it like a pro! We were so impressed. In these pictures you can see the big smile on Parker’s face as we showed him his gift. Of course, we had to get a present for Logan too (since we didn’t give him a proper birthday present) so he got the Activity Ride On Thomas. Instead of actually riding it, he scooted it around. In between, Logan found some time to stop and smell the flowers. Love that mindful kid.
(We bought Parker a helmet but it didn’t fit on his head, that’s why you don’t see it in the photos.)
Today, my first child Parker, turns four-years-old. Where did the time go? I still remember his birth like it was yesterday; the grueling 26 hours of labor and then the critical C-section that followed. After that unspeakable ordeal, I was both physically and mentally exhausted but I remember waiting anxiously in the hospital room until the nurse wheeled him in. Though I should have rested, I cradled Parker in my arms and kissed his sweet head for hours on end promising him that no matter what, I’d take care him. There was no greater or purer love than this, I felt in my heart.
His first few years are now like beautiful dots in my memory. Dancing to “Gangnam Style” while standing up in his crib, his first walk cajoled by a promise of a sweet potato. The body convulsing glee when he sees his grandparents. Now four, Parker is a curious child who challenges us every day. Though he can be trying at times, he shows us love like we’ve never experienced before. From his tender “I love you”s to his warm hugs, we couldn’t ask for a more loving son. I feel as though I’ve been blessed a million times over for my family.
On this day, I give an extra “thanks” to the man upstairs for my son Parker. I call him my angel, someone I don’t deserve to have in my life but one I wouldn’t give up for the world. Happy Birthday, sweetie. Mama loves you most in the universe.
Back a few years ago, I read this article on Huffington Post about the 6 simple words you should say to your child: “I love to watch you play.” I can’t remember my own parents ever saying that to me and upon reading the article I realized that it would have meant a lot to hear it. Why? Because as the article describes, it takes the pressure off a kid, it lets them enjoy their competitive sport or their play time. It’s a way to show that you love your child, that you’re not distracted by something, that you’re in the present moment and that he or she has your full and complete attention.
On Mondays, Parker goes to gym class and Sam and I watch him from the sidelines, usually with our phones out. While I’m catching up on the news, Sam’s looking over Reddit and every so often we’ll glance up at Parker to make sure he’s ok. In the beginning I thought this was fine but soon Parker started shouting out to us, “Mom and Dad, get off your phones and watch me!” Of course I was mortified but I was also proud of him for speaking up. I had no idea that it means so much to him that his parents watch him play.
This morning, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I noticed a list that a friend posted (see above). It shows 66 positive things you can say to your child. Like everyone, I scanned it quickly for what I have said and then I paused at the sayings I hope to incorporate more with my children.
Here’s what I regularly say:
#9. You are loved.
#5: I love being your parent.
#22: You make me happy.
#44: Thank you for being you.
Here’s what I want to say:
#7: Your opinions matter.
#19: We can try your way.
#30: I love seeing the world your way.
#31: It’s good to be curious.
#49: That was really brave.
#57: I love how you said that.
Sam and I tell Parker and Logan that we love them countless times a day but I want to go beyond that. I want to instill in them a sense of confidence, I want them to know that it’s ok to speak up, and, most importantly, I want them to know that they don’t need to earn our love, that from day one, they already had it, and that they’ll continue to have it for eternity.
Hi, I’m Alice Yoo, founder of art and culture blog My Modern Met, where I curated and wrote about art, design and photography for seven years. I live in southern California along with my husband and two boys, Parker and Logan. I’m also the co-author of a book called For Love: 25 Heartwarming Celebrations of Humanity, which is out now.
This blog chronicles the adventures of my family as well as my new foray into fashion. My goal is to own a clothing line. See what I learn about along the way.