Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Happy Child Guide

Children do not listen, they model!

One of the many interesting insights in Happy Child Guide by Dr. Blaise Ryan and Ashley Olivia Ryan. (Thanks Iris for sharing this!)

The book lists seven simple ways to transform misbehaviour to great behaviour! What made it interesting for Parth and me was how the strategies in the book were very different (sometimes even opposite) from what we had seen being used by parents around us. But the authors have been practicing this with their child and seen results. They admit that all the crying and tantrums did not completely stop, but they have reduced substantially.

The key message according to the authors is for parents to understand how to respond to the child's behaviour and instill the principles of connection, trust and respect so that the child listens and cooperates naturally. They see two ways of influencing a child: one is to develop skills that help us respond to her needs and behaviours (internal) and second is to develop lifestyle habits that affect her in positive ways (external).

As in SWOT, we now refer to weaknesses as challenges, the authors refer misbehaviour as challenging behaviour. As in different styles of leadership, there are different types of parenting: authoritarian or violent parenting; authoritarian non violent parenting (rewards and punishments), parenting (giving in to child's needs all the time, here parents usually switch extremes) and the last one....can you guess....yes, democratic parenting! The first three often leave the child confused, angry, disrespectful and alienated. The last one focusses on involving children in the process and setting limits which are gently enforced without anger or punishment or reward.

The skills to respond to needs and behaviour = INTERNAL
  1. Understand the reasons for the child's behaviour: a genuine need (food, sleep, etc), unresolved stress or missing information.
  2. Non reaction: respond to needs not behaviour (speaking and gently is the only way one can reach out to the child, "thinking state")
  3. Natural giggles: instead of inducing laughter by tickling (which the child actually does not like but just can't make us stop), better to make them laugh naturally through other means like games (hide and seek; acting dumb etc)
  4. Listening time: carve out a time when you only listen and be with the child, no phones, no TV, no other distraction...
  5. Connective communication: Using words and phrases, like..."darling, sweetheart", "Not right now" (as opposed to "no"), "we" or "us" (instead of "you"), "that is is a great idea, and I think" (instead of "but"), "I am right here with you" or "I see you".
  6. Limit setting: support the child to help express true feelings. A different approach here is to just let the child cry it out. Suppose you set the limit together for let us say playing in the playground and now the child does not want to go. You explain your need to go gently and ask them to come along. In case they do not and they start to cry, take them to the car and just let them cry it out. Do not abandon them or alienate them when they cry. Let them cry but be with them so they know that you love them and will not leave them, instead of giving in to their demand or offering a chocolate to appease them. Tantrums are part of the healing process and usually there are underlying reasons for the tantrums which as a parent you may need to help your child experience and express.
  7. Avoiding control patterns: the favourite blanket or soother or TV...holding on these makes the child repress their true feelings and just hides them till they explode again next time...
  8. Adult to adult listening time: getting the support for ourselves without being advised or judged
The lifestyle habits = EXTERNAL
  1. Cutdown sugar, use natural sugars
  2. Enough water
  3. Whole food diet
  4. Supplement rest
  5. Play till you sweat
  6. Go to bed early
  7. Turn off the TV!!
They quote numerous studies to support their suggestions.

Alternatives to punishment
  1. Prevention (do not keep those sugar cream cookies in the house!)
  2. Evaluation (how did this happen? could this have been prevented? what is the real reason for the behaviour"
  3. Ask a question (what are you doing? they may have very imaginative reasons for drawing on the wall...)
  4. Offer an alternative
  5. Express how to feel, make a request
  6. Freedom to choose: as parents, we often mirror what how our parents raised us or what we see around us. But there are choices we can make as well about how we would like to do it!
Let us see how this works:)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Much Awaited Baby Shah Baby Shower

My friends and family had been planning my Baby Shower for a month now and by chance I happen to come to know:) It was a good thing for me but not so for them. My nosy and skeptic self crept in much to their chagrin, but they love me for better or worse, right? But on the D day, which was yesterday, I chose not to butt in and stayed away from all the hustle bustle at my parents house, a very wise decision indeed.

When I walked in the house all ready, it just looked so beautiful! All the lovely decorations, the silver strings, the all time favourite colourful streamers, yellow gende ke phool and white carnations, the variety of shapes stuck to the walls, the hanging octopus (unique idea for a stuffed animal!), my photo collage (which my Mom meticulously made many years back and I just love looking at again and again!) and last but not the least Parth and Jyot Bhabhi's unusual diaper cake (yes a cake made with actual diapers!). Nidh had fulfilled her task of making the place light up 120% and we hope to leave it like this for Baby Shah's eyes:)

Mostly all my close friends from work, CCS, school and college could make it and it was such a high to see all of them together in one room!

The games were the fun highlight of the evening. Guessing my tummy size was actually was quite difficult than it seemed, only one person came close! In "What Baby Shah will look like" everyone had to guess which features Parth and I wanted from ourselves in Baby Shah (the "correct" answers: my eyes, ears, legs, hair, lips, nose, accent and Parth's brains, smile, sense of humour!). Some people said none to some of these, we tried not to be offended:). The mommies and baby sitters in the group won easily at fill in the rhymes and baby charades! With some time in hand, we also played the typical kitty party game: tambola!

Ahh the food...the other highlight of the evening was my sister Moni's specialty-Swiss Rolls-Vanilla cake with coffee cream filling and chocolate icing! Shreya brought our all time favourite-apple crumble. Wenger's lived up to its name and the quiches, patties and kebabs were lovely.

We also asked everyone to share advice for parents to be and also ideas for baby names...

My lovely nieces and nephews also sent their wishes, Prnu made an adorable video message and my darling girls send hand made cards....

A big hugs to the master minders: Rohi, Parth, Nidh, Mom, Dad, Moni and Pinks...and Swati (arranged for chocolates), Dipti (helped in shopping), Sunaina (the music bank) and Shreya (apple crumble)....Thanks everyone to making this such a fun and memorable evening:) We loved the useful gifts and your active participation! Baby Shah was super happy, as I could tell from all the post-party kicking!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Monitessori Method: Who, What, Why?

When we heard of our friends looking for play schools for their children, we kept hearing the "M" word quite often. That led Parth to buy us, "How to raise an amazing child: The Montessori Way" by Tim Seldin. It is a fascinating read more so because of its interesting origins and its liberal undertones.

Maria Montessori, born in Italy in 1870, became the first Italian woman to become a physician. In her work with free clinics, she came across many children of the poor. Through her work she became convinced that every child had an amazing potential and all they needed was the right stimulation and environment to bloom in. To prove her point, she took over management of a day care centre in one of Rome's worst slums. The children were rowdy, irresponsible and very difficult to deal with. She delegated various day care management tasks to the older children, like helping with the cleaning, serving meals etc. And her techniques made them independent, responsible and courteous. Her methods gained popularity across the world and soon schools modelling her approach mushroomed all over, and that is what we call the Montessori Method!

In his book, Seldin shares these principles in detail and provides tips for simple things we could do to apply this approach in our homes as well. I liked one of his opening lines a lot, "while not every teacher is a parent, every parent is a teacher."

Montessori's basic approach to babies was:
  • respect all babies as individual human beings
  • allow them as much freedom of movement as possible
  • help them become increasingly independent by creating a safe, child friendly environment that makes it easier for them to explore.
Therefore in Montessori schools, you often see children playing on their own. They choose what they want to play, sometimes with the guidance of the teacher. They are given a specific space to play in, like a work mat on the floor or a particular corner designated for that activity. They are expected to put things back in place when they done. The book describes many such activities which we can do at home with simple materials available in the house itself. (sorting buttons, a treasure box of different types of materials, sorting different sounds..)

Children feel a lot of frustration in an adult sized world.
So another element of the Montessori schools is that its designed for the world of children. The table and chair, the bathrooms, the cupboards and shelves and plenty of play areas on the ground. This is something we can try and do in our homes as well to some extent. For example, instead of having the child play only in the cot or play area, we can create a larger open floor space with a low bed with blockages where children cannot cross.

Children also respond to a calm and orderly environment in which everything has its place. The schools have smaller reachable shelves with all the materials in segregated baskets/ boxes. In our homes, we can create storage spaces in a way which are easy for children to use and put back in place. For example, having many smaller baskets and open storage units rather than one large toy box where everything is mixed up and is too large for the child to use and organise on her own.

They can also be taught to help around the house. Like arranging the table, clearing up their areas etc. The way to teach them is the way we teach any skill in any work training we do. First demonstrate how its done, let them practice on their own, make mistakes, provide constructive feedback until they are able to do it on their own. The way we teach them to use the taps, or pour liquids, carry breakable items, etc. Investing time in teaching them can go a long way in building their own self confidence in being able to do things on their own.

Montessori also found through her work that the years birth to six years are the most fertile ground for learning, senses, music, language, maths, grace and courtesy, writing, order, reading, spatial relationships. Therefore, allowing children to be as free as possible can allow them to explore and learn more. Cutting nails rather than placing mittens to cover hands; allowing them to play on the floor rather in just in a cot, playing with different textured materials and not just plastic, playing with manual toys rather than mechanical etc can help parents make most of this opportunity.

One thing that struck me as I was reading the book was how similar this approach was to the ideal liberal society Parth and I believe in. Regarding every person as an independent individual being with freedom to explore her potential with the government playing the role of providing a safe and facilitative environment with basic ground rules that apply equally to all!