Raising said child takes up a substantial amount of your time. Between the speech therapy and the play therapy, the sensory diet and the occupational therapy, it's amazing you and your best beloved even know what the other looks like.
Now let's imagine that even though you always keep one eye out on the horizon for the one thing that could finally be It - someone, somewhere, somehow, still finds it their duty to tell you how you should be running your child's life.
And not just one someone - a whole truckload of someones.
Wherever you go, whether it's the teenage bagger at the grocery store, a "concerned" mom at the local playground, a friend, neighbor, brother, sister, uncle, or goodness knows who else, everyone seems to want to tell you exactly what to do.
Actually, there are a lot of things you have to do. Bathing is one thing. Wiping after you go to the bathroom is another. And there are definitely things you have to do if you want have a particular outcome. Like, it's a good idea to pay your electric bill on time if you like seeing when it's dark outside.
You can't do everything. You can't even do half of everything.
You know it's a recipe for failure, but can't seem to stop yourself.
Are you struggling with a toddler or preschooler who refuses to go to sleep?
Getting children to go to sleep is one of the most talked about issues that concern parents, second only to getting your child to behave. I've had parents in near hysterics, trying to deal with a child who throws huge tantrums when asked to go to sleep.
While I certainly wouldn't suggest you go as far as the cop in this video did (or the mother who called him), lack of sleep has been proven to cause temporary insanity.
At any rate, there are several things you can do to help your 3-5 year old go to sleep without too much trouble:
1)Do stick to a schedule. It's tempting during summer break to ease up on bedtime routines and allow your child to go to sleep late. If done occasionally it doesn't present a problem. However consistently allowing your child to dodge regular bedtimes creates confusion.
Persistent children will challenge bedtime, since it's their nature to push the envelope. Other children may feel insecure when routines aren't followed, and react with disruptive and unruly behavior.
If you decide to allow your children to stay up late occasionally, schedule it first. You can decide to let your kids go to sleep late once a week, and choose a specific day.
2. Do follow a consistent bedtime routine. This is an obvious one, and many parents feel that they've got this base covered. The key to this, however, is giving over the responsibility of carrying out the bedtime routine to your child.
Even if your child is as young as three years old, they're capable of following a chart with pictures, putting a sticker on a picture when the action is completed.
The magic of this lies in the fact that many children view bedtime as something imposed from the outside, causing them to rebel simply because "Mommy told me to." Putting your child in charge as much as possible reduces this natural resistance.
3. Don't use incentives or prizes for going to sleep longer than 30 days.
Incentives and rewards are a great way of providing the extra push a child needs in order to attempt a difficult task. The best way to use incentives is in helping your child to stick to a habit.
Since acquiring a habit takes about 30 days, this is the maximum amount of time you should use prizes or incentives for a particular behavior.
4. Do allow your child a crutch, if they need it.
As long as the crutch isn't damaging to your child's health, go ahead and let your child sleep with all 25 cars in his car collection. It won't hurt him, and if he manages to go to sleep despite the space limitations, why not?
Most children discard such unusual sleeping arrangements when they get old enough to be embarrassed about it (usually by the age of 9 or so).
5. Consider using natural sleep aids or remedies.
There are numerous safe natural alternatives that will help your child settle down. Passiflora, for example, is safe for small children. It can be made into a soothing tea, and can help calm an overtired toddler or a too-full-of-energy preschooler. Lavender in a pillowcase has also been shown to promote sleep.
note:This is not medical advice, nor should it be taken as such. Use common sense, and ask your doctor before you give anything to your child.
6. Don't forget to try and make up for lost sleep yourself.
Living with a child who refuses to go to sleep can affect your work, health, and your marriage. While you may not be able to make up all of the sleep time you've lost, do try and "power nap" for 15 minutes or so sometime during the day.
When it comes to recognizing intelligence as more than doing well in school, well - we’ve come a long way baby.
No longer is the kid who sits in the front of the class answering all the questions considered the smartest in the bunch.
At last, Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences has finally penetrated the masses. Teachers now know that the world’s future dancers, artists, architects – even politicians- are just as smart as the teacher’s pet.
If that’s so, then why do we find so few children that are highly creative?
Maybe it’s because we parents are engaging in some bad habits that literally crush our children’s creativity, almost from the moment they are born. If we want our children to truly be creative-even the therapists, landscapers, and animal whisperers-then here are 8 habits that we need to avoid like the plague:
Creating and evaluating at the same time.
You can’t build a bike and ride it at the same time. They’re two completely different activities. Likewise, creating and evaluating are activities that take place literally on opposite sides of the brain. So whether your child is in the process of creating a new dance move or a new recipe, save the critique for later.
In the same vein, you can encourage your child not to worry about what other people will think while they are in the throes of inspiration. Reassure them that there will be plenty of time to check out their work when they are ready.
The expert syndrome.
So your child has thought of something that goes against all the rules? Get over it. Throughout history some of our greatest inventors have bucked the norm, and in doing so, given the world some of our most important discoveries.
Let your child work it out on his own, and if his theory doesn’t work out, he’ll find out soon enough.
Fear of failure.
There’s really no way around it: at first, you’ll suck. There’s no question about it because everyone when they first start out sucks. Mozart, Picasso, John Steinbeck: everyone starts out a long ways away from where they end up.
So help your child get over the idea of not succeeding every time. Hold a red-letter failure party, if you have too. Just make sure they understand that failure is crucial to success. Not only does it force your child to reconsider the problem from a different (possibly better) angle, but without failure there would be no success.
Fear of ambiguity.
Most people like to remain in the comfort zone. They naturally shy away from anything that is unfamiliar, or doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, though, the act of creation involves quite a mess: think of finger paint, for example, a product that many mothers wish were illegal.
However, in order for your child to create, he (and you) need to learn how to tolerate a little mess and confusion. Order out of chaos, construction out of destruction; sometimes the process is more important than the product. So get out those aprons, and let the games begin.
Lack of confidence.
In children, lack of confidence is often tied to a need for perfection. I remember my daughter as a young child, refusing to draw pictures of people. I began to worry if maybe there was some deep psychological reason for this, and so I dug out a picture of a child’s drawing to show her.
I was floored when she looked at the stick figure and literally laughed out loud. “Mommy, that doesn’t look ANYTHING like a real person!” she stated, indignant. “That’s a ridiculous picture.”
Occasionally lack of confidence in children may also be due to a need for approval. Some children fear rocking the boat, lest they be asked to dock at the next shore. Reassure them it’s okay to make mistakes, and make sure they know you love them because of who they are-not for what they produce.
Discouragement from other people.
Okay, it’s true: sometimes other people can be real downers. Whether they intend to or not, some people have a tendency to pick on the negative and ignore the positive.
Be your child’s rock: help her weather the storm of people who feel threatened by your child’s willingness to tackle the unknown. If necessary, keep things under wrap until you have to.
If your child does end up hearing a bit of negative sludge from the black hole society, help them write a list of all the good things about their creation. Then take an ad out in the New York Times Sunday paper. Well, maybe putting it on the fridge is good enough.
Being trapped by false limits.
I once spoke to a friend who was has a disabled child. Searching for a diagnosis, she noticed that every professional gave a diagnosis consistent with their specialty.
Sometimes we can only see what we are used to seeing. It takes a lot of effort to break out of the mold and do a little bit of “lateral thinking,” but with practice, it can be done. You can help your child think out of the box by encouraging them to imagine they are someone else. Make up a name, a city where they live, and a fake history. Then help them to put themselves in that person’s shoes through role-play.
Next, present a particular problem or issue, and guide them in imagining how their character would respond. Not only will your child learn how to step out of their self-made corrals, but they will also gain a valuable interpersonal skill.
Feeling overwhelmed because you have a few of these bad habits? Don’t sweat it. Try tackle a new problem each week, rotating back to the first one after the last habit.
After all, you never know if your child is the next Columbus, Einstein, or Ignaz Semmelweis.
One of the most difficult things I find about raising children-big or small- is the way it forces you to call upon every one of the abilities you possess (and even some that you don’t). I like to give the example of my job as residence manager at a 24-hour supervised residence for emotionally disabled women.
Those were the days before cell phones were popular, so I carried a beeper 24 hours a day. I was responsible for 12 clients and nearly double that in staff. My work days were regularly 10 or more hours long, and on any one of those days I might have been running a staff meeting, preparing for a state inspection, or evaluating whether or not a client’s out of control behavior warranted a trip to the psych ward at the local hospital- to be escorted by yours truly.
Still, after all of that responsibility, it was ten times harder to be a stay-at-home mom with my EIGHT MONTH OLD daughter. Yep, to some of you out there it may seem like an exaggeration. Others of you out there I’m sure are nodding your heads in agreement. So, for the clueless I’ll spell it out: raising a child is hard work if you take it seriously.
Now I DON’T mean running around to take your child to Little League, or piano lessons, or a local swim meet. Nor do I mean the time it takes to find the right school for your child, or pick out the best educational toy on the market. That’s just the busy work, the little details that clutter up the big picture.
In reality, the hardest part of raising children is being suddenly faced with YOURSELF.
What the heck does that mean?
Being a parent, and especially a stay-at-home one, means you are suddenly on your own. No longer will your boss praise you for a job well done, while your colleagues look on with envy. No longer will you finish the day with a good day’s work behind you, closing the book on a list of old tasks completed and new ones yet to be done.
At home, you face the same jobs over and over. You will spend an hour doing dishes while trying to supervise play time, and then someone will come along and put a dirty plate in the sink. Then you’ll spend a few hours trying to put children to bed who have absolutely no desire for sleep, despite the fact that you are dead on your feet.
How will you react? Will you let your tiredness and your frustration rule the roost, or will you be able to take a step back and remember what parenting is all about anyway? Will you be able to reach deep down inside, and motivate yourself- without relying on the praise of others- to get the job done?
Being a good parent especially means being forced to evaluate your values, beliefs, and ideals. For example, when your preschooler throws a fit in the canned goods aisle at the local supermarket, you’ll be forced to make a split second decision: will you choose to care about what people think about you? Or will you let your fear of what other people override what you know is best?
Will you put yourself before your child, because you have one more thing to buy that can’t wait, or will you be able to put your child’s needs before yours?
Fortunately, parenting is not an all or nothing venture. I have days where I realize I spent all of my time glued to the computer, trying to get a little bit of work done. I didn’t have to; it was just easier than facing the hullaboo outside my door.
Then there are times when I realize I spent the entire day ordering everyone around, attempting to maintain order among the masses. It was only after I went to bed, that I realized I never read that new library book I brought especially for my seven year old, or that I never made the homemade fingerpaint I promised myself I’d make together with my 2 and 3 year olds.
It’s those times, after a final circuit through the house covering up little bodies and looking in on bigger ones, that I am thankful that tomorrow I’ll have a chance to do it all over again.
Your third-grader was sent out of class again for shoving a classmate in the hallway. Frustrated, discouraged, you wonder what set him off this time. Was he tired? Did he get a bad grade on a test? Whatever the reason, you’re at a loss of what to do: how can you help your child learn how to control himself?
1) Keep an eye on the intake/outtake pipes.
I was often bewildered when out of the blue, one of my children would suddenly go ballistic for no obvious reason. Eventually I figured out that he hadn’t eaten; once he ate, he was transfigured back to hi s regular persona.
If you notice your child turning aggressive with no noticeable pattern, consider insisting he eat a protein snack, such as cheese, peanut butter, or natural beef jerky. Bananas, which are full of potassium, are also a quick picker-upper.
A friend of mine noticed her child often acts out when he needs to use the bathroom. For some reason, the sensory stimulation is too much for him.
2) Consider whether your child is in sensory overload.
Children with sensory issues can appear persnickety. One morning they can handle seeing tomatoes on a sibling’s plate, while the next they can smell them in the closed refrigerator. It’s not done purposely, although it may seem like it. Picture your child’s sensory system as a plastic 8 oz. cup. Loud alarm clock (2 oz.) + strong shampoo smell (1 oz) + getting your hair brushed (4 oz.) =OVERLOAD.
Some days this happens sooner, and some days it might not happen at all, depending what your child’s triggers are. While some children turn inwards when this happens, others explode in a cascading ball of rage and frustration.
Teach your child to be more aware of his sensory triggers, and encourage him to engage in soothing activities that will help him empty his “cup,” and you’ll uncover a more peaceful child.
3) Teach your child to express himself.
No, I don’t mean your child should take up mixed martial arts or explore the fine art of hang gliding – though that may be interesting. Instead, consider the fact that because children with language development issues have trouble expressing their feelings, needs, and wants, they are often trapped by unpleasant feelings and thoughts tumbling around in their heads.
Talking about how he feels may be a task beyond your child for the moment, but you can help him loosen the release valve by joining in while he plays. Letting him take the lead helps give him a sense of control, while pretend play is a safe way for him to experiment with his desire for control, or need to be dependent.
4) Don’t forget to spend more time with your child.
When your child acts up, it’s a natural response to be so angry at your child that you can’t even look him in the face for a while. While it’s understandable to you however, it will definitely sour your relationship with your child.
Tightening the valves on one aspect of your child’s behavior means you need to find a way to loosen them somewhere else. Be sure to spend more time doing something enjoyable with your child. Whether it’s reading an extra chapter of a favorite book at bedtime, or sharing a cuddle in the early morning, it’s important to spend time accentuating the positives.
In fact, some people are so fearful of failure that they’ll do anything to avoid it – even if it means sacrificing their careers, families, or worse.
Kids aren’t any different. In fact, for kids, especially kids with learning disabilities, its worse. There are plenty of opportunities for failure in school, whether it’s giving the wrong answer when called on in class, messing up a homework assignment, or bombing a big test.
For these kids – and plenty of grownups – failure means you’re a loser, a screw-up, and a hopeless imbecile. You’ll be lucky if you can get a job working as a NYC street sweeper.
Let's say you just found out your kid is not quite up to where they should be.
Or maybe they're not even close to where They say they should be.
Or heck- let's just go all out. Let's say you knew they were behind, like, a while ago, but didn't do anything about it.
You had your reasons. Maybe some of them were even good, sensible ones. But, like the Road Runner when he realizes he's about to fall off of the cliff, it just hit you that you messed up big time.
Yep, you heard right. SO WHAT!
Now head to a mirror and sing to yourself, "I screwed up but I don't care!" to the tune of Oh, I'm a Lumberjack and I'm okay. Because life happens. Even the best of us don't get around to doing the stuff they should be doing, when they should be doing it .
So you have two choices: Suck it up, or suck it up. Meaning: you can accept the fact that you were off-track, and get to work, or you can wallow in guilt and chocolate (not a bad plan actually - just kidding). In which case you'll still have to suck it up, but it'll be gooey and lumpy and full of undigested particles.
Believe me, you don't want to do that.
And just to prove that stuff like this happens to be the best of us, I'll share with you the not-so-earth shattering revelation that hit me today:
This evening the kids and I spent some time reading books together. It was almost bedtime, but not quite close enough :), so I decided that instead of having them run around and get wild, I’d do a quiet, focused activity.
As we sat at the dining room table and read, I noticed that G., the 4 ½ year old is still having a lot of difficulty with her expressive language. Like many children with expressive language issues, she has plenty to talk about – except when you ask her something specific. In fact, usually I have to stop her from talking, since (as is also common with hyperactive girls) she often talks around, under, and over everyone else.
I’ve actually been quite concerned about her overall language development. Initially, I decided to go easy on her and let her develop at her own pace. She is very petite, and between her size and her behavior is very much like a child a year younger than her actual age.
I’m not always into pushing therapy on a child unless I have to, and since I had seen steady progress with her, I decided to just let her be.
But this year I’m noticing that her progress in language has pretty much slowed down to a crawl. There are a lot of things she has trouble remembering the names of, although about a third of the time she knows what it is once she’s told. And although her ability to remember what she’s learned in nursery school is a little better, it’s not even close to where it should be.
I could beat myself over the head about this: You should have found time. It doesn't matter that your daughter just got married and before that you moved to a new city, and that you have 2 other children with learning issues, one who just started first grade. You're SuperMom, right?
But I'm not going to. Chocolate is cheaper. And less painful. At least in the short run.
Yes, it does mean that there are now 3 kids that will need help. It will also mean that my gifted son't extra stuff is going to have to take the back burner - again. But that's life.
Sometimes parents ask how I manage to teach so much to my LD children.
“How do you find time to work with clients, run a house full of 9, and work with your children?” they ask.
The truth is, it’s not easy! I plan topics monthly to learn with the kids, and then break that down into weekly lesson plans. We don’t homeschool, but I do have about an hour a day set aside to do “table work” with them. Those are activities that I want them to do that are either in my lesson plan, or relate to learning skills like auditory memory or expressive language, that they are weak in.
Still, I can’t say that I always cover everything I want to. Some days they get involved with one activity, so everything else gets pushed down. Other times technical difficulties get in the way, like I ran out of ink, couldn’t find the resource that I wanted, or like last Thursday, when I sat down to go through a song with my youngest- the computer speaker died. And sometimes it’s such a beautiful day that we drop everything and decide to go to the park.
That’s why I try and focus on everyday learning as well: whenever I see a learning opportunity, I try and involve my kids in meaningful, hands-on activities that will help them understand what we’re learning.
Today we folded and packed envelopes for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. As I folded and they placed the invitations in an envelope, I explained to them what letters are, and how they get to where they’re meant to go.
I focused on sequencing with the 6 year old, by asking her periodically to repeat the steps the letter takes on its way to its destination. She also learned some new vocabulary, such as “sender,” and “receiver.”
The 4 ½ and 3 ½ year old learned some new words as well: letter, mailman, post office, address, and mailbox. I don’t expect them to remember everything at once, but since we’ll be mailing the envelopes later on in the day, and working on other activities, they’ll pick it up in a few days.
Then I remembered that we have a song that was a favorite when I was a kid, called “The Mail Must Go Through.” So after we folded envelopes (and put in another load of laundry, tidied up the bathroom, and thought about what to make for lunch – no meal plan, I’m not that organized :)) – I put it on. I let it play several times (good thing I like that song!) until they were familiar with it. Then I stopped it after a key word – “go”- and let them fill in the blank.
Then in the afternoon I read them a book about mail (you could read “A Day With a Mail Carrier” with your child if you like). We again focused on our new words as I read the story. When I came to a sentence with one of the new words, I stopped, and let the kids fill in the blank. If they had a hard time, I pointed to the picture to give them a clue.
I also remembered seeing this make your own letter box a while back, so even though I don’t have time right now to make it look fancy, I found a hanging file folder lying around and after rummaging in our art supplies (plus I cheated- I printed out some fancy paper), and put those in, adding some colored pencils and a few lone markers. The box will be a great way to store all of our letter making supplies.
It’s not as pretty as I would like, but after labeling it “We send letters” it does the job. The kids were excited to write to their Grandma and Grandpa, and everyone learned a new concept.
Here are some more related hands on learning games we'll be doing the next day or so:
TIP: Here's another game, plus some extra resources you can use if you want to do these activities with your child:
For most children with learning disabilities, learning is about as enthralling as a nails dragged recklessly across a dusty chalkboard. Day after day, year after year, they are forced to bare their weaknesses to the world, told to “try their best,” and work without an end in sight.
If you’re the parent of one of these children, it seems impossible that your child could grow to love the very thing that is seemingly their downfall.
It is possible however. And it isn’t something that will take years or months to accomplish, either.
Learning and school are NOT the same thing.
When many people think of learning, they think of homework, tests, and surprise quizzes. Of course many children can and do learn numerous things in school. However, it might surprise you to realize that some of the most important learning your child does is not in school.
Let’s take a look at the practical side of things. Before your child entered school, they mastered an enormous variety of skills: that Mommy and Daddy will come back if they go away, how to let you know when they want something, how to walk, talk, and feed themselves, and much more. The fact is, if our children had to rely on us to teach them all of those things in full, most of us would probably be sitting around drooling in our soggy diapers.
If you disagree, think about how much work it is for a therapist to teach your child even the smallest of subskills.
Children are born with a natural drive to learn.
Children are naturally hard-wired to learn. And not only are they hard-wired to learn more about themselves and their environment, they are driven to try over and over again until they succeed. Any parent who has tried stopping a toddler determined to take out the covers from an electrical outlet knows what I mean.
So even though a learning disabled child may have a harder time of things, until he enters school (or a school-like environment) the drive to learn is still pretty strong. In fact, it only peters out by about 3rd or 4th grade, when he and/or his parents finally realize what they’re up against. That’s the age of a large number of my clients are when they approach me for an evaluation.
Help your child see learning as a natural thing to do.
One of the most important things for your LD child to understand is that they are learning successfully all of the time. It may not be something as mundane as which three ships sailed the ocean blue, but it may be just as important.
According to http://missiontolearn.com, learning is “the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes.” That means that each time your child figures out how to advance to the next level in his favorite video game, that’s learning. Every time your child considers how he and his friend can get to a football game when you can’t drive them, that’s also learning.
Instead of rolling your eyes the next time your child spends an afternoon plugging away at this favorite game so he can get to the next level, use specific praise to point out an important factor in successful learning: “You are really persistent; you don’t give up! And you figured out how to beat the system too.”
Or, the next time your child argues with you about why her curfew should be extended, defuse the situation – and throw in a little specific praise about your child’s use of problem-solving skills: “Hmm, I can see you’ve been thinking about both sides of the situation pretty carefully. Let’s write down what you’ve come up with so far.”
Let your child’s natural interests fuel his learning.
You can encourage your child to develop important learning skills if it’s done in the context of a favorite hobby, or other interest. Help your child find magazines, books, websites, and specialty groups (check appropriateness for children or monitor your child) or forums.
But if your child is into dinosaurs, for example, don’t automatically go out and buy everything a kid could possibly have about dinosaurs. Half the fun is trying to acquire that elusive piece that will round out collection. And the time that your child spends drooling over the 17-inch life size model of a rex and reciting all the relevant facts about its habitat, eating habits, and strength, is time well spent.
Work around your child’s limitations.
Even if your child has significant disabilities, nowadays there’s really something for everyone out there, in nearly every format available. For children who are visual learners, there are YouTube videos on nearly every subject imaginable. And free programs like Natural Reader can be used to give a struggling reader access to material that would otherwise be beyond him.
Don’t forget audio books, podcasts, and even free powerpoint presentations at places like Scribd. Not only is it usually free, but there is often excellent content available for people on all different levels.
Don’t add “school-like” assignments, hoping to get more bang for your buck.
Sometimes parents see how deeply involved their kids are in a particular interest or hobby that they decide to “sneak in” some learning task. They mean well, imagining, “Ahh, here’s a perfect opportunity to get Justin to finally read more. I’ll just pick up a few books and maybe ask him some questions about it…” It almost seems criminal to pass up an opportunity like that when you see your child is anyway sticking his nose into a big encyclopedia anyway.
Don’t do it!
Not only do you introduce a type of learning that is instinctively unpleasant for your child, but you end up essentially taking over something that should be mostly in your child’s hands. Parents who do this will find their child suddenly display a complete lack of interest in something that used to excite them.
And even if you realize your mistake and try and woo your child back, you’ll probably be unsuccessful: your child will always be suspicious that any kind of interest on his part will just be another chance to get him to do more boring stuff.
Show interest in what your child enjoys.
I know your busy, and that sometimes hearing for the tenth time exactly how, where, and what army ants eat may lose its appeal, especially at the dinner table. But by sharing your child’s excitement, you not only fuel his interest in the subject (it’s no fun if you can’t share something you love), but you also build a stronger, closer relationship with your child.
Hi! I’m a parent of 8 children, 3 of whom have learning disabilities. I have over 20 years experience working with kids and adults of all ages. My specialty is disabilities on the autistic spectrum, and language delays.