Bed Sharing

Bed Sharing with Toddlers

Recently, my younger son, Polar Bear, has been finding it difficult to sleep through the night without finding his way to my bed. In the very wee hours of the morning, I can often hear his stumbling footsteps down the corridor between our two rooms. I doze in and out as I listen to his “Mama, mama, dou,” semantics. Roughly translated to English, I think this is “Mommy, where are you?”

Then I’m jolted awake as he throws open my bedroom door and, like a heat seeking missile, launches himself into the folds of covers that are around me.

Usually, I am able to fall back to sleep and endure the unprovoked and startling knee jerks to the back and elbow jabs to the face. Some nights, I just needed my mommy sleep and I gently corral him back to his bed or play musical beds and find another place to lay my head. Other nights, I enjoy the nighttime snuggles and wonder if there are negatives to bed sharing.

The Truths about Bed Sharing

The Canadian Pediatric Society does not recommend bed sharing with children under the age of one as it isn’t safe. Bed sharing with infants can be dangerous due to the increased risk of SIDS and suffocation. Please click here to learn more about these dangers and how to prevent them.

For children over the age of one, there doesn’t appear to be a general consensus on bed sharing among experts. Many see it as benefiting children through bonding. Others saw it as disrupting a child’s social skills and independence. A great deal more seem not to take a stance.

However, a study conducted in 2011 helped debunk the 21st century thoughts that bed sharing may decrease a child’s developmental progress. When factoring in the socio-economic factors of the 944 families observed with children aged 1 to 5, there were no obvious developmental or behavioural issues noted between the children who shared a bed with their parents and didn’t. An anthropologist who looked at the study also mentioned that children may have instinctive sleep needs that don’t match our modern-day parenting sleep expectations (click here).

As a parent of young children, I can understand their little person instinct to want to be close to someone who provides comfort and security when woken in the middle of the night. My children use me as a shield for most unpleasant experiences they face; meeting strange dogs at the park, making new friends at their dayhome, trying new sporting activities, and even tasting new green, leafy vegetables. So why shouldn’t they want my comfort and experience when faced with darkness? Surely, it’s only natural, no question, but I, like many, have a modern day life with a modern day career, so I do need my children to be modern day sleepers, at least on weekdays.

Sleep Retraining

Now Polar Bear used to be a model sleeper, just like his brother, sleeping soundly all night and going back to sleep easily if woken. One night, something woke him and, foolishly, I brought him to my bed to comfort him. Since then, he came looking for me about once or twice a month in the middle of the night. It normally did not affect me too much because it wasn’t too often and I was able to get the sleep I required to function the following day. More recently, however, it became once or twice a week, which greatly affected my daily performance at everyday tasks.

I had to get Polar Bear to be comfortable sleeping in his own bedroom for my sanity. And since he was already a model sleeper, retraining him wouldn’t be too hard (or so I thought)!

Sleep retraining Polar Bear wasn’t easy. True, I was starting with a ready-made pro that I had just made a small lapse in nighttime guidance, but he was a stubborn little man and had already gotten to a place of expected nightly snuggles; it had already sunk in that Mommy would comfort him until he fell asleep (if she was too tired to put up a fight). Funny how fast their learned behaviour develops, isn’t it? But, I knew how to retrain him, just like the first time, when he was a small baby. And just like the first time, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Sleep Training a Toddler

It turns out sleep training a toddler isn’t quite as easy as sleep training a baby. It turns out they can stay awake for much longer periods of time than a baby. They also make a heck of a lot more noise. Polar Bear easily woke his brother on multiple occasions and I would have to endure both boys pining for me in the middle of the night. But I persisted, taking these crucial pieces of advice (click here) along the way: pick a good time to start, be persistent, and give plenty of praise!

Pick a good night to start – First, I made sure it was a good night to begin this process. For my situation, this meant a weekend so that we could both sleep in if Mommy-Toddler arguments went well into the night. I also waited until he no longer had a cold and could sleep soundly once asleep. Was he in the midst of changing routines or potty training? Nope, another green light that it was the right time to start.

Stick to the routine – My children and I follow a simple bedtime routine before lights out. This routine consists of brushing our teeth and reading 5 board books (the last one is a goodnight themed one). If your family has a nightly routine, stick to it. When children are able to predict what will happen next, they feel secure and safe (click here). This is especially important to a child learning to comfort themselves during the night.

Lights out and listen – Now this is the tough part, especially if you didn’t handle the baby “cry-it-out” stage well. If your child is like mine, they can dish out explosive fury. I would sit outside his door and wait for him to open it, each time walking him back to his bed and giving him a stern look after explaining that he needed to stay in his bed. In his day, my older son handled this tactic moderately well, only pining for another book or glass of water. Polar Bear just pierces me with dirty looks (we call it the Polar Bear Glare) and clenched fists before letting out angry growls as I closed the bedroom door. Every child is different and they will probably try multiple tactics to make you give in, but it’s important to stay strong!

Nightly gambles – Polar Bear would try his luck at climbing into my bed in the early morning hours. This was the toughest part of our relationship. Mostly because this was the time when I was least motivated to win and because he had already won so many times in the past. But I was resilient and marched him back, hand in hand, to his bed every time he tried.

The victorious morning after – This was the best part of our battles, the morning party held just for him! I would deliver plenty of praise (and gratitude) that he spent the whole night in his bed. His favourite part, other than having the pleasure of picking his own morning juice box, was being called a “big boy just like his brother.”

This did make my older son mimic those Polar Bear Glares!

From One Parent to Another

If you struggle with nightly visits from your child, fear not! You can try some of the tactics here knowing that whatever you try, consistency and persistence always wins! On the other hand, bed sharing does not have negative impacts to your child (just to your sanity), so if you cherish the moments that seem to fly by so quickly, keep snuggling them!

Pick Me Up Mommy

Pick Me Up, Mommy

This evening, as I was preparing supper, leaning against the kitchen counter, a little person with a little set of hands pushed and poked until he was between me and the counter, entirely determined on obtaining my undivided attention. He reached up towards me and, without saying a word, indicated with his big blue eyes exactly what his motive was – pick me up, mommy.

My heart melted as it normally does when one of my children are being affectionate. Without skipping a beat, I scooped him up in my arms and planted a big kiss on his cheek. And here’s why:

Affection – The Importance of It

When you respond to a baby who requires your attention or needs your care, you are strengthening their ability to trust. This decreases stress levels, which increases the ability to learn new concepts.

You cannot spoil babies by responding to their needs. Babies cry because something is wrong. At birth, crying is the only form of communication available to them, their first learned form of communication. As they age, they learn more forms of communication, but crying was the first form, so they use it throughout childhood (and sometimes as adults!).

A survey conducted by the University of Michigan looked at the parenting knowledge of 3,000 adults in 1997. The results indicated that 62% of adults incorrectly believed a six-month-old could be spoiled. It also indicated that 44% of parents and 60% of grandparents thought that by picking up a three-month‑old every time he cried, it would spoil him (click here).

This survey, although older, indicates that not all adults know why babies cry or what babies need, which in short, is affection and reassurance. Use this knowledge when you’re in a situation when someone criticizes your parenting techniques (we’ve all been there). The studies speak for themselves and know that when you respond with affection, you are doing the right thing for your child.

Ability – It’s Not Always Possible

But sometimes it’s not always possible to pick up your child, is it? When you’re carrying a large pile of groceries or already carrying one child, you must make exceptions or have some back-up forms of attention, correct?

Quite recently, I underwent minor surgery which came with doctor’s orders; I was unable to pick up my children for one month (or vacuum or drive, but I was okay with those). With a son who was only seventeen months old at the time, and fully into the carry-me-everywhere stage, twined with an occasionally jealous three-and-a-half-year-old, I had to come up with some crafty alternatives to avoid using my stomach muscles. Here’s how I got by:

Alternatives – Try These on for Size

I would encourage them to walk with me by making it into a game. We incorporated running, jumping (not me), singing, skipping and dancing into the mix. My children had fun keeping the beat going while we would make our way to various destinations. And because they are competitive little boys, we seemed to always arrive with time to spare. I’d say turning adventures to the grocery store or friend’s house into a friendly competition that involved bonding worked the majority of the time. Hooray!

However, my children aren’t always so easily inspired to be independent, as I’m sure no one’s are. Sometimes they just needed to be with a parent to feel safe and reassured. During these moments, I found that kneeling down beside them and cuddling with them on the floor for a minute or two gave them exactly and what the doctor ordered (literally)! I found that these cuddle moments were most often required during times of change or stress, such as changing routines or being worn out. A little bit of affection and talking with them gave me more insight into their needs and gave them the opportunity for some on-on-one mommy-cuddles!

Lastly, if you’re really in a jam and don’t have the ability to play a game or cuddle, I also had two backup methods. My younger son did really well with distraction methods, such as food and toys. We would still bond and he would develop trust by interacting with me and getting what he needed. I found my older child did really well with explanations and tasks. I did explain to him that mommy had a big scratch on her tummy and couldn’t carry him, then I would give him a big boy task to inspire his independence and encourage him. Although this worked extraordinarily well in the moment, he would also lovingly, and with what I can only assume was concern, tell everyone we came across that I had a big scratch on my stomach.

Whatever the crafty alternative, it’s important that children receive the same level of bonding they would if they were being held. You will be able to tell that by the level of fun and trust they are exhibiting during the alternative strategy.

More Information

As all new parent’s know, it’s essential to get all the good information right from the start, including how babies develop trust! If you’re looking for more information on the benefits of picking up and holding your little person, KARA’s free Nobody’s Perfect program has all the tools! This program focuses on the basics of parenting a young child, including helping children learn and develop new skills, among other topics. So feel free to pick up the phone (and your baby!) today!

Child Proofing

Like many Mom’s, I’m overconfident in my children’s understanding of what is okay to touch and what isn’t. In fact, when my second child arrived, my Polar Bear, I did very little to childproof my new home. I felt that children were inherently smart and that they could take most of what the world could dish out, especially in this modern-day age.

The truth is that childproofing will minimize your child’s chances of getting hurt, or worse. According to The National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 10.4 million children under three were admitted to emergency rooms in the United States as a result of household accidents in the last decade. The number one cause of injuries was attributed to falls and the number one cause of serious injuries resulting in death was attributed to furniture falling on the child. It’s no doubt that children need our protection. And the best way to protect is to prevent.

The Huffington Post Canada recommends using anchors rather than latches as effective solutions to preventing furniture from falling on loved ones. They recommend childproofing before children are mobile and state that getting on your hands and knees to explore your home from the child’s point of view really helps parents identify areas of concern.

The University of Alabama conducted a study where they arranged for first-time-moms of children aged 12 to 36 months to walk through scenarios and identify potential hazards. The study concluded that fewer than half the hazards were recognized. Parents Magazine put together their own project for readers to use to educate themselves; they incorporated drawings of typical households and circled potential hazards. I have included a few for reference and more can be found here: preschoolers/safety/toddlerproofing/home-safe-home-childproofyour-

It’s smart to be prepared for the worst, so I’ve compiled a short list of childproofing must-haves that are nearly universal. I’ve used these products before and can say with certainty that they helped protect my

• Toilet lock – As you can plainly see, I didn’t invest in this must-have soon enough (Mommy was
• present through this adventure but it could have happened when I wasn’t there). Childproofing
• the toilet is extremely important and the toilet lock, any brand, is a must-have
• Bath spout covers – These nifty covers are to be placed over your tub spout to protect your baby’s
• head from the faucet
• Finger pinch guards – These guards are placed high up on doors (out of reach) and prevent doors
• from closing all the way, protecting fingers
• Tamper-proof plugs – Have a professional install these for you. I know it’s expensive but I can’t
• stress the importance of this must-have enough. Electricity and children don’t mix.
• Drawer and cupboard latches – These are what come to mind when most people think of
• childproofing. Common as they are, they should not be overlooked when making your home childfriendly.
• Baby gates – A pain to install and use but nothing compared to the pain a child feels when falling
• down stairs. This type of accident always results in a trip to the hospital so it’s crucial to have this
• must-have. Additionally, only hardware mounted gates are approved for stairs. Do not use
• pressure mounted gates as these can come loose and fall with your baby, adding extra danger to
• the situation.

If you need help determining the right childproofing gadgets for your unique home, please contact KARA. Additional tips and resources on childproofing can be obtained during programs or just having a chat with a wonderful staff member. They have years of experience and know quite a few talented handymen to
help make your home safe for your loved ones. All the best and stay safe!

Sibling Rivalry

As a parent of two, I sometimes worry that my children will encounter/experience sibling rivalry. My
children have fairly opposite personalities; while one is fairly shy and contemplative, the other is
boisterous and affectionate. But they both experience jealousy and have a temper to match that of a wild animals.

I do sometimes see one physically or emotionally hurt the other. And I know there is no stopping these
experiences; as a child, I endured it myself, and have relayed stories to those who have shared their sibling rivalry anecdotes with me. They tend to be the most hilarious stories to share. My children are young and have constant supervision in which intervention is continual, so fighting is fleeting, and effects are not permanent, but rather educational. I find it’s easy to teach them to be gentle and have empathy when they are so young, so I use these moments as a tool to prevent future fighting that could have bigger impacts. After all, it’s going to happen either way, so I use them to my Mommy advantage.

Why Children Fight:
· To get attention from their parents (“surely making my brother cry will get my mom to stop
cooking that horrible supper and pick me up”)
· To feel powerful (“I rarely have any say in what I eat or when I sleep but I can impose my
superiority over something that barely moves more than a potted plant”)
· Boredom (“annoying my brother while he is trying to watch his favourite show is so much more
fun than playing with the same old toys again”)
· To release energy (“why run when I can jump on someone who isn’t expecting it, from a great
height of course”)

What Children Learn from Fighting:
· They learn to manage, cope, and survive power struggles (“he won this round… but I’ll be back”)
· They learn to resolve conflicts by being open, communicative, sharing, and taking responsibility
for one’s actions (“I’m responsible for breaking the toy and he is responsible for my black eye”)
· They learn to be assertive and to stand up for themselves (“excuse me, I believe that’s my Barbie
Playdoh play set you are stealing”)
· They learn to negotiate and compromise (“okay, you take the heat for smearing diaper cream all
over the room and I’ll give you half of my dessert”)

Through general parenting (or lack of parenting skills I should say), I’ve learning fighting can be influenced by physical factors such as hunger, illness, and fatigue. Addressing these needs often has a happy outcome, especially for the child experiencing the wrath of their grouchy sibling. My younger child, my Polar Bear, is a feisty little guy and will assert dominance over toys, often tackling his older brother while he isn’t looking to obtain them. However, my more docile child, my Grizzly Bear, can become very troublesome when tired. He often becomes giddy and flat out ignores rules, particularly the rule about jumping off of furniture.

This usually ends with Polar Bear getting squashed as his brother finds new ways
to entertain himself. Children grow through phases where fighting has different effects on them as they view the world differently through each stage.

· These little tykes live in a dog-eat-dog world in which there is lots of fighting and parents must
intervene frequently

Young School-aged Children
· These impressionable minds adhere to a new rule, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, and
parents intervene less and less

Older School-aged Children
· This law and order stage is a society where the children themselves use rules to guide actions and
determine fairness and parents, well, relax

High School and Beyond
· Yes, they have a human conscience now and resolve conflicts with techniques learned in earlier
phases (they still make poor decisions regarding safety and finances)

As my children are still both preschoolers, living in their dog-eat-dog world, it’s in my and my husband’s
nature to be in constant supervision mode. However, it’s important for us to remember that these first
five years are the foundation in which they will build the rest of their lives. I can’t stop, only teach.

Some Helpful Tips
· Encourage communication and understanding of feelings; help your children develop a sense of
empathy and respect for their siblings’ feelings
· Teach them how to resolve problems and let them know you believe they can be creative about
finding solutions
· Treat your children as the unique individuals that they are; if they are energetic and boisterous,
teach them to ask for high-fives rather than become physical; if they are sensitive and
communicative, teach them to strike conversations and make deals rather than scream
· Stay out of arguments that are harmless bickering, but don’t walk away; supervise the solutions
that they develop so that you can praise and encourage them And try to enjoy the young years full of bickering children, after all, these are the foundational years.

Remember how they learned these skills because they will be using them for the rest of their lives!

Bedtime Routines

When I first started researching bedtime routines (I was probably halfway along in my first pregnancy) I found some pretty interesting information. I knew that my husband and I wanted to include reading (at least twenty minutes a night), bathing (who doesn’t want to wash and pamper a little newborn?), and cuddling up with a little tune (I was very excited for this part!).

So, I checked out the information at hand. What I learned through googling, reading Alberta Health Care books, and talking with friends and family, albeit informational, nowhere near provided me for the little Grizzly Bear I was about to bring home. The rest of my three years of parental insight came from plain, old, on-the-job, firsthand experience – something every parent should remember.

What I did learn through research provided me with two tidbits of information that were extremely helpful; don’t start any routine that you don’t want to continue doing until you have a teenager and don’t bathe your baby too often.

The first one made sense right away. I certainly didn’t want to complete an hour-long ritual for bedtime or deal with a tantrum every night I’m unable to complete the routine. The second one made sense to me, as I’d studied microbiology in college. It didn’t make sense to my husband, so I explained: the societal mentality on cleanliness eradicates necessary microbes from our bodies, leaving room for pathogens.

Simply put, if I wash my son every day, the little microbes that are on his skin, the good microbes that I introduced to him by birthing him, breastfeeding him, and kissing him, would be continually under attack from the bath time wash cloth, leaving them unable to battle for space against new, potentially harmful microbes. So, we limited baths to twice a week, one bath with soap, the other with water, and occasional ones whenever he was actually dirty. This also worked with our busy lifestyle, especially when we introduced our little Polar Bear into the mix, making life just that much busier.

On-the-job training, with no manager, supervisor, or foreman available for questioning, was a bit different. Obviously, we let our baby be a baby, we fed him when he woke, cuddled him continuously, and read to him occasionally.

When our baby became a toddler (one year, yay!) we were so excited to start doing the actual bedtime routine and have him SLEEP THROUGH THE
NIGHT. We did as we intended from the beginning, we read to him for twenty minutes, cuddled him while singing a short lullaby, and then plopped him in his crib with a few soft toys.

We didn’t do anything we didn’t want to do every night for the foreseeable future. We didn’t cuddle him until he fell asleep, we didn’t wait outside his room to listen to his snoring, and we didn’t give in to his demands (unless he cried for more than 20 minutes as directed by pediatricians). As Grizzly Bear
grew older and started climbing out of his crib, we moved him to a toddler bed.

He was afforded more toys and books to help him fall asleep. We learned quickly that only board books survived his curiosity and that skinny ones could be shoved under the door, making for interesting clean up in the morning. As he grew older still, his demands became more coherent and adorable than
the pitched crying we used to hear.

“Mommy, my teeth are still dirty, I need to brush them.”
“Mommy, I was crying because I wanted a drink.”
“Mommy, I just wanted to go with you to get a slurpilee.”
“Mommy, there’s a poop in there. And my feet are stinky.”
“Sweetie, Mommy has to sleep too you know.”

These demands were harder to ignore because we knew what favorite toy he was asking for, we knew which favorite cup he wanted to drink water from, we knew which book made him the happiest, etc. However, we also knew that he knew we would only come back once to do whatever task he needed, so he’d better pick a long and arduous one.

Bedtime routines, psychological warfare, whatever you want to call it, it’s a very precious time, especially for those parents that work or only see their kids for short periods of time. Even though I’m tired at the end of the day, I like reading my son his favorite book for the eighth time. But not the ninth, because Mommy needs to sleep too.


Perhaps you’ve set out to find the perfect day home or daycare for your sprouting children. If you’re like me, or any other parent for that matter, you’re looking for perfection, the best of the best. You know the one I mean; it has a brightly coloured, toy filled room, an impressive art supply collection, a fabulous outdoor space complete with a sandbox, over fifty children’s books, and, of course, a one-of-kind allomother.

If you’re not familiar with that term, an allomother is any caregiver that is not the biological parent. Any person in your family that regularly looks after your child is an allomother. They can be aunties, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, or friends. Allomothering is a phenomenon seen through history and is also common in other mammal and bird species. It has and always will be a key component to your child’s upbringing. It takes a village to raise a child and your dayhome attendant is a very important allomother.

I searched incessantly for the perfect person to be part of my children’s upbringing. I needed someone with the same values as me within an affordable price range. This was the process I went through to find the perfect allomother for my Little Bears.

I started by searching the web on what to look for. I knew I needed to interview potential allomothers and I wanted to know what qualities I should look for, what questions I should ask, and what kinds of environments would be best suited to my children’s ages. This is a brief list of what I found:

  • Ask what kind of food they serve on a daily basis and what they sometimes get (don’t phrase the question “what do you normally serve”)
    Be sure to get a tour of the environment, particularly asking to see where the children sleep.
  • Ask what the child/caregiver ratio is and bring up scenarios such as bathroom breaks.
  • Ask what kind of scenarios warrant a time-out and what other specific forms of discipline are used.
  • Confirm that they are the type of facility they are claiming to be and that everyone involved in childcare has their First Aid.

Now, this is just a list of the resonating points that repeated in almost every search I completed. Different childcare qualities may apply to your family based on your and your children’s needs. These may include allergies, extra naps, picky eaters, vacations, sick days, prices, outdoor time, vaccinations, and/or extended hours.

For me, I was even bold enough to ask if they had ever committed a crime such as child abandonment or assault. I knew I had to be extraordinarily comfortable with the place I was leaving my children, so I wasn’t afraid to flip over every rock to get my piece of mind.

The next task I undertook was researching day homes and daycares near me and my place of work. I googled reviews and asked family, friends, KARA staff, and internet strangers if they knew of childcare places nearby and what they thought of them. It was nice to chat with everyone and gain their insight. A few of them did refer me to places, where I completed the last leg of my journey.

Now, this last piece of the project took effort, much more effort, as I was now traveling to and from potential day homes and daycares and conducting interviews, with my children in tow. And it was a lot of interviews, twelve to be exact. I saw all kinds of day homes and daycares alike. I saw ones with no outdoor environment, ones where children greatly exceeded the number of child care attendants, ones that were dirty with used bandaids on the floor, ones where the caregiver seemed to be constantly yelling to be heard over the volume of a TV, ones that transitioned children to one nap when they weren’t ready, ones where children slept on the floor in a pile, and ones where I could tell the caregivers didn’t like looking after kids all day.

At the end of it all, I learned it takes a special kind of person to be an allomother all day, everyday, to many different children. A kind hearted person with a sort of gentle grace. It also taught me something about myself and what I wanted to find. As well as being a safe place, I dreamed of the sweetest girl to reflect the same environment I had at home, complimented by a wonderfully soft voice to laugh and play with my children. Dreams don’t always come true, but mine did. Yes, fortunately, my hard work paid off and I found a dayhome that was exactly what I wanted. It was also close to KARA. A dream come true and the piece of mind I needed.

If you are reading this and happen to be actively searching for the perfect allomother, I suggest asking around. Friends, family, internet strangers and KARA staff are all good resources as they may once have been, or currently are, in your shoes. Your child’s age and needs, and your needs too, should all be considered. Never be afraid to ask the bold questions. After all, you’re looking for your child’s allomother.

Conflict Resolution

After all the hoopla of the Christmas holidays, both of my boys zeroed in on a favourite toy – an airplane that you can build with a toy drill and screwdriver. Listening to them argue over it (little Polar Bear can’t talk yet but makes his feelings well known) isn’t my favourite activity, but it does allow me to reflect on conflict resolutions between children (and myself).

Interestingly, teachers of elementary schools (you can also find variations on Pinterest) use a conflict resolution tool called the Wheel of Choices (see my mini toddler/preschooler one below). Primarily, I’m an avoidance conflict resolver. I tend to walk away to cool down and walk it off. This non-confrontational attitude helps me but it doesn’t seem to be my sons’ first choices.

Grizzly Bear, my older son, never steals toys from his brother but he does guard them. If his little bro arrives on the scene of a very good play session, Grizzly Bear tends to put toys under his arms and hoards them until he can’t actually use his hands for play. Or, if his little bro has a toy that Grizzly Bear wants, he won’t grab for the toy but he will stand in front of his brother like a football player and refuse to let him move from the spot he is currently occupying. If his little bro won’t give up the toy after this ploy, Grizzly Bear will come talk to me about it, using the “Talk” strategy listed on the wheel.

Polar Bear, my younger son, takes a more physical approach. Not able (or willing) to use words yet, he has more of a tendency to lean towards physically demanding he get his way. He does not hoard toys and will, more often than not, share toys willingly. He loves to watch others use a toy first to discover its secrets before taking a turn. However, if there is a favourite toy at stake that is not currently being shared equally, he will grab at or push others in his fury to have the toy. Once a parent intervenes, he is quite happy to share the toy again (as long as the turns are equal in length). Polar Bear uses the “Share” strategy.

Neither of my boys are old enough to use the Wheel of Choices on their own but I use it to help them. Here’s two reasons why:

  1. I want them to see that there are different strategies to resolving conflicts than the ones they have used in the past. I know from experience that my avoidance strategy has not worked for every situation. By seeing me use the tool, this role modeling reflects positively on them and they will be more willing to try new strategies.
  2. I want them to be comfortable choosing their own conflict resolution strategies. As they grow, they may tend to use this tool on their own when I’m not around or use it by memory if they are out of the house. As little as they are, they have constant adult supervision and are prone to seek adult intervention immediately. As they grow and have less supervision, I want them to make the right choices. Being an adept problem-solver is a gigantic skill in later life.

My Mini Wheel of Choices – 4 Strategies for Preschoolers

  1. Numbers – This is another way of saying take deep breaths or calm down. No one likes hearing “calm down,” least of all an emotional preschooler, but they do love numbers! Have your child count to five (or higher if needed). Count along with them and set the pace of counting to a slow, heavy-breathing rhythm. It’s also a crafty mom-way to teach your children to count.
  2. Walk – use this avoidance technique to remove a child from the situation. Give them a chance to think about things silently or have the needed moment to explain their frustrations to you, a caring adult. Also, taking them outside is a great stress reducer and decreases bullying (read about the Chester Elementary School’s Outdoor Play and Learning pilot project in Today’s Parent here).
  3. Talk – try to have the children explain the situation to you in front of one another. I know that this could lead to more arguing in a he said-she said way but I found it also helps children see the other’s point of view. Let the conversation develop and never cut it short (this is tough when you’re entertaining company or are in a hurry, I know). Continue the conversation as long as necessary to reach a resolution.
  4. Share – I practice a “Mommy shares with you, so you share with him” rule. I always try to role model good behaviour and tend to say share more often than any other word, even when it’s not the topic of conversation. Instead of saying “would you like some ____,” try to say “would you like me to share some ____.” This emphasizes that sharing is just a natural part of the world in which we live (and it also helps when you need to get your phone/keys back from your toddler).

As my kids age, they will notice that more and more options will be added to their strategy repertoire. Starting little like this will allow them to be comfortable with these basic options before moving on to other, more complex problem-solving strategies. I encourage you to make your own pin-wheel of choices. Please feel free to use these strategies (and invite ideas from your own family)!

Mini Helpers

This week at KARA you’ll find the guys and gals outside with a Fun In The Sun theme! My little bears love being outdoors and have tremendous fun at spray parks.

The featured photo is of my Polar Bear making his way through a minefield of sprinklers in order to get to me. I feel the right caption to describe the look on his face is “Do I Have a Plan?”

But what if summer days aren’t sunny? We all know The Cat in the Hat children’s classic but do we really want to see our children staring out of windows at the rain in the absence of a large, talking feline? On these kinds of days, I like to get my children involved in something, engaged in what I’m doing, and entertained by simple daily tasks. No, I’m not talking about crafts or building forts out of my freshly laundered towels. We do that often enough during winter months. I’m talking about CLEANING! 􀀀

Cleaning and organizing are what I love to do with my kids and they are young and impressionable enough that they think it’s fun! We put some good, dancing music on, usually a Shania Twain album, and just let loose!
If cleaning, I prep some extra spray bottles of water for my two boys while mine is a combination of water and vinegar. This way, if they pick mine up and spray each other, the worst that happens is that they start to smell like a salad.

Next, I give each of them a scrubby pad and a baby wash cloth. My older Grizzly Bear actually has a fair few muscles now and can actually see the difference when making something clean. We wash floors and mirrors together, after making silly mirror faces of course. My little Polar Bear makes some developmental progress while feeling the different textures of the cloths. The smooth, soft baby cloth versus the rough, bumpy scrubby brush really enthrals him, plus add a bit of water and watch out!

When organizing, I bring my kids into the room that we will be working in and close the door. Clothes, books and long lost forgotten toys move too quickly in the hands of my children and my pulse quickens when watching them cart around dozens of escaping LEGO blocks. I usually only invite my kids to help organize my own room or theirs. They love organizing mommy’s closet and putting on my shoes! When we organize their rooms, I bring down the boxes of toys lingering at the tops of closets. By storing some toys away, it allows me to rotate their toys so old ones become new again, saving a buck, and outdated toys can be sold, making a buck.

There are a few things I’ve learned along the way when it comes to soliciting my children’s help in daily chores, however. Pushing buttons on the laundry machines, using the feather duster, and sweeping dog hair under the rug is all good fun but I’ve learned some areas are just not meant to be cleaned by kids. The dishwasher has led to a few close calls as my little ones are just too little. Likewise, the cleaning of the bathroom isn’t meant for curious little bears. It’s icky enough to clean a toilet as an adult with proper sanitary routines. Add a kid and… well I just don’t want to think about it.

In conclusion, parenthood is a busy time. You’re always doing the right things for your children but the right things often pile up when you add them together. Changing diapers and clothes, potty breaks, brushing hair and teeth, feeding them healthy meals that can take hours to make,
doing arts and crafts, reading to them, taking them to programs, teaching them good manners, and the multitude of other tasks we do for our loved ones add up quick. This is just one way of combining a few tasks together to try and make it easier on yourself as a busy parent. But hopefully our families’ summer continues to be sunny, and if not, at least our houses will be clean!

It’s Potty Time

Today I wanted to touch base on a long and tedious battle between the toilet and my son.

My husband and I started potty training our oldest son, our Grizzly Bear, at two years of age. At the time, my second child was well on his way to being welcomed into the family and before then, we thought we’d try to make things easier on ourselves by potty training our first born. He was a smart lad and willing to learn new skills, this was going to be easy.

We started out with the old fashioned portable potty. Sat him on it and tried to keep him there with books, toys, food, and even the television. Each strategy worked well for a little while and then psychological warfare would have to be kicked up a notch as our Grizzly Bear would grow tired of sticker rewards and saying bye bye to his pee as it swirled around in the flushing toilet.

Fast forward eight months. You read that right; eight months………
By this time, we’d pulled out all the stops including following expensive and temper tantrum inducing advice from family, friends, and internet strangers (like myself).

My sister told me she purchased special underwear for her child, dawning his favourite movie character. When he pooped his pants, she made him throw the undies in the trash. He hasn’t had an accident since. He was three when he successfully potty trained. I tried this tactic with our Grizzly Bear at 2.5 years and the only thing accomplished was the purchasing of very expensive soon-to-be garbage. No success there. My Mom secretly fed Grizzly Bear Smarties for every successful potty pee/poop. This only resulted in my son having extra sweets as he still only used the potty half the time and even expected a candy after going in his pants. Grizzly Bear has a slight addiction to Smarties now.

Internet sensations indicated scheduling potty breaks and determining your child’s poop schedule through what I can only assume is psychic reasoning. It is true that my son is a regular pooper and predicting his bodily functions wasn’t too difficult. That is until he got a cold or slept funny the night before or was fed prune juice at his dayhome.

In the end, my husband suggested one last tactic that we hadn’t heard anywhere before. We were a bit desperate to try anything at this point as it was hard to keep up diapering two children. However, let me start out by saying that this experiment did not work and should not be tried ever again in the history of potty training.

We decided to put Grizzly Bear’s potty in his room with him at bedtime and let him sleep in the half nude. We figured he would either go in the potty if he needed or fall asleep without pants. No big deal right?? Big deal it turns out. I hear him 10 minutes later saying he went in his potty. I enter his room with excitement and joy only to stop short with wide eyes and a speechless expression.

He did pee in the potty (hooray!) but then, in his infinite wisdom, he picked up his potty in an effort to bring it to the big potty and dump it, only to spill it all over the hardwood and attempt to clean it with his bare hands. That’s right, he was covered in wee. I ran for a cloth and began soaking up the mess as my adoring toddler comes up behind me to offer encouragement. I cringe as the smell rolls over me, my toddler stroking my hair, saying “that’s a good girl, mommy.”

Although none of the “tactics” we used worked for our Grizzly Bear, he did eventually potty train at 2 years and 10 months. He did not potty train as a result of our hard work or ingenious potty plotting, but simply as a result of being ready and willing. After reading this, I’m sure you’ll agree that my husband and I are no experts on toddlers and the wonder that is the toilet.

We simply reflect upon the last year and agree that every child is indeed different and each learn on a different time schedule. We had some good laughs and are even looking forward to our next potty trainer, our Polar Bear!

Moving with Kids

Sooner or later, many families face the prospect of moving. Moving can be stressful, especially for children. I recently found myself moving with my two young Bears and, although the experience has been a success, the journey was a little tough, especially for our moving companion, Grandpa. For parents finding themselves thinking about moving, or even in the middle of it, I wanted to share with you some helpful tips to decrease the amount of stress this task poses on young minds.

After all, toddlers and preschoolers have a limited capacity to understand the reasoning behind major changes in their routines, and as parents, it’s our job to help them cope as best we can. When I was a teen, my family moved a lot; most people did. It would be for work or financial reasons and was always done for the best. But as a kid with friends and an established way of life, it didn’t always feel like it was for the best. Sometimes I would be upset. Sometimes I would be fine with it but one of my siblings would be upset. My parents would always explain why we were moving, being honest about the truth behind it.

This helped greatly with the emotional angst of a budding teenager. But now, as a mother of a preschooler and toddler, how would I explain moving? I knew I wanted to be honest as my parents were with me, but the language I would have to use would need to be simple and clear. I tried a bunch of communication strategies (listed below) and have notes as to how successful I thought they were in preparing my children for the move. I also listed a few scenarios I did not do in order to allow my children to settle into their new home comfortably.

Things I/We Did:

• I let my children help pack their clothes and toys; we completed this task while I repeated that the boxes are coming to the new house with us, not being thrown out. This was particularly helpful to my Grizzly Bear, a slightly emotional preschooler.

• I acted out the move with a toy ride-on truck and possessions; this was completed with my Polar Bear, a curious toddler, in mind. This got a little carried away with the road trip music and ended in a friendly wrestling match between my boys as they both wanted to be in the driver’s seat.

• We went to see the new house a few times and I showed them pictures of it. I explained which room would be their new room, which room was mine, and where the dog was going to sleep so they knew we were all moving in together.

• When arranging my children’s furniture in the new room, I tried to arrange it similarly to how it was at the old house; I hung the same posters above their beds and kept the same layout for comfort and familiarity, especially for when they woke up at night.

• We explored the new neighbourhood together and even got a small treat at the new corner store. I decided this was important even if my Bears were too little to go out alone; I felt it still gave them a sense of home and comfort.

• Lastly, I invited over family and friends a few nights after the move: the familiar faces let the Bears know that life hasn’t changed all that much. I found the communication techniques I used worked well. Quite a few of these communication tips came from KARA’s “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen” program and I adapted them to my home switching journey.

For example, when I was a new Mom and had a baby Grizzly Bear, I was told that Santa is a scary figure to young children and that there was one way to introduce Santa without causing tears. I was instructed to show my son a picture of Santa every few days the month leading up to Christmas.

This would help familiarize my son with this new character and by seeing the smile on my face while I talked about him reassured my child that this old, bearded man with a booming laugh was trustworthy. Thus, by showing my newest toddler, my Polar Bear, pictures of our new home, he too would have a friendly, familiar feeling towards it.

Things I/We Didn’t Do:

• We didn’t talk about the move months in advance of it happening; it was a little spur of the moment but I feel I wouldn’t have told them even if I knew myself, as it could create unnecessary anxiety. As parents, we need to plan, but for children so young, it may have created a daunting, unpleasant feeling.

• I did not pack up my children’s possessions while they weren’t watching; I wanted to keep trust and honesty at the forefront of this adventure and taking all their things away without explaining where they were going could cause stress and distrust.

• I did not purchase new furniture; I felt that old furniture would be comforting and familiar to my Bears and new furniture in a new house would be too much for them.

• Although my toddler is ready to transition from a crib to a toddler bed, I felt like waiting until he is comfortable in his new home would be less stressful for him.

• Lastly, I did not drop my Bears off with a new daycare the same week I moved: I was fortunate enough to have a family member care for them, allowing them time to adjust to the new home first. This is where poor Grandpa came to the rescue. Yes, Grandpa, poor Grandpa. I recall the third day after leaving my little Bears with him. “No, they’re good kids, Marnie. They don’t like being in the same room as me, but they’re good kids. Well, I’m off for a nap.”