Merry Christmas! I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season.
This is actually a two part blog. 1. The worlds best chew toy! and 2. A reply to some folks who have been upset about my blog content ...
So, the worlds best chew toy? Kong! Yes, not just for your dogs!!! I can't believe it took me this long (and with my mom's suggestion, too) to give my kiddo a Kong! My first one never chewed ... really, never. We didn't baby proof anything! My second little one, he chews everything (including drywall so we have to watch our windowsills!)
As a zoo keeper, pretty much one of the best toys for the zoo animals is Kong chew toys - from vultures to primates, they all love them. They are bouncy, fun to put treats in and can take a ton of chewing. I have purchased a huge variety of chew toys made for babies, but not a one has held up to the kind of chewing my little one wants to do! Not until we got him a Kong, that is! I just switched phones, so I don't have a great picture of my kiddo chewing, but please enjoy this blog (click on photo) from the Oakland zoo. If Kong is good enough to stand up to their bears, I bet it will work for your cubs at home too!
Chew on this (Part 2)
I have been told there are people who are extremely upset that I have not written more about being a military wife in my blog.
Well, this is not a blog about being a military wife. While I have mentioned it and my husband's service in my bio and my very first post, it apparently was not enough to satisfy some sort of quota military wives are supposed to meet in blogs about parallels between animal training and raising kids.
I am very thankful for my husband, his service and his commitment to doing what he thinks is right. There are many who sacrifice (whether a combat veteran like him, or having served in times of peace) and I am appreciative and thankful for all of them. There are also many military families who sacrifice through multiple deployments. I have only been through one. I suspect the wives with multiple deployments under their belt might be best qualified to write a blog about how to deal with deployment issues.
There are many events which define us as a person. While my husband has been military for many years and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he has also done many other things which are important and defining of his character. Get to know him and you will find that out! Still, if anyone in our family should write about military it should be my husband, not me, and he has a great writing style too, so feel free ask him.
One of the things that defines me as a person is being a military wife ... but that is not all. I have had many years being an animal trainer, so for those who are interested, I parallel aspects of my animal training experience to raising kiddos. If you are interested in reading it and discussing it, I love it! I love hearing responses from those who agree and also hearing counterpoints from those who disagree.
If you are not interested in this blog, well this is a free country, you are welcome to read it and say whatever you want ... but isn't your time better spent elsewhere? If you don't like it, why get yourself all worked up? Just don't read it.
If you all know me or read the little blurb about me on the main page, I worked as an animal trainer for many years. More than that, I have worked as a keeper in zoological institutions, sanctuaries and animal labs. I started my career volunteering on a farm at 14 years old. So, needless to say, a lot of what I have learned to do as a parent comes not only from my parents, what I read and research, but also my experience in working with all sorts of animals.
My last blog started a conversation between myself and my mother. She complimented my blog post (aww thanks mom!) and also added her comment (P.S. she is a retired child psychologist who worked with some of the most violent kids in Detroit) that there already exists a power differential between adults and children. A power what? Look, you are the adult, you have been there, you are grown up, you get to do grown up things, one of those grown up things is guiding your young ones. They don't need reminders that you are the adult, they know you are the authority ... that is already built into the relationship. That is part of why we speak to them gently and we guide them instead of bossing them or yelling at them - you are already the authority, to do things just because you need to prove to them that you are the authority only makes them feel more small and helpless in their relationship with you, it makes them feel bullied, not parented.
The conversation my mom and I just had reminded me of one I had with my aunt years ago (who is also an animal person). We talked about how zoo and sanctuary animals are already in cages. Yes, they may be dangerous wild animals, but they are dangerous wild animals stuck behind bars. There is no need to be an authoritative punisher in animal training, the power differential exists (if only by reason that they are captive). This is why animal trainers have moved to only positive reinforcement as a method of training ... there is no need to make animals submit to your greater authority ... that just makes them angry and unwilling to participate (they already know they are caged, no need to bully them). Cough ... cough ... also why a lot of us are not on board with the type of training that Cesar Milan uses. It is not what is best for the animal or your relationship with them ...
Why do we remain calm and use positive reinforcement with zoo animals? Well, most importantly, it works. IT WORKS. Sometimes, it may take longer to get the behavior that you want, but you get the behavior and create a positive beneficial relationship with the animal. You create a relationship of trust and respect, despite the fact that they are captive.
The last thing anyone wants is to create an antagonistic relationship with a large wild animal ... there may be bars, but there is also space between the bars and if you accidentally get to close, well let's just hope you have a good relationship. Or, as when I was in Africa where there were no AZA regulations, when you end up fixing wiring in an enclosure with full grown male baboons, you best hope you created a positive relationship because they could greatly hurt you or kill you quickly. After all, male baboons have canine teeth longer than a lions!
Bringing it back to your kids. We already discussed that the power differential is there. They know you are the authority. They fully have to rely on you for shelter, clothing, food, love, education ... well everything. There is no need to bully that into them, they know it. That is why, just like with zoo animals, we try to create the best positive loving relationship possible. Isn't what you want with your kids the best loving relationship possible?
So what is positive reinforcement? Well I guess I can get to that in another blog later ... there is a lot to discuss ... but here is a neat basic start http://www.positivereinforcementforkids.com/.
As we discussed in the last blog ... your kids are watching you to see how adults behave, everything you do teaches them how adults should be and how they should handle situations. Whatever you teach them that adults do, plan on being fine with them doing the same thing to you when you are old and unable to care for yourself and the power is switched.
This is something we have all heard from someone in our lives at least once, right?
"Why can't I mom?"
"Because I said so, that's why."
Haven't we all heard some variation of that? What does telling a child, "because I said so," really accomplish?
Before I became a parent, it always made me cringe to hear other parents use that to quiet their kids. I knew I didn't like it, but I hadn't before examined why. Now that my 3 year old asks me why on, well, pretty much everything, I have figured out exactly why I don't like that phrase.
First, what I have noticed is that "because I said so," is frequently code for you are about to get in trouble. I am just not really a big fan of speaking to little kids in code unless it has to do with bathroom habits at the dinner table.
Second, is that it takes a moment where you could teach your child valuable reasoning skills and crushes it.
I dared the shopping on Black Friday this year, and heard the screams of kids wanting to do all sorts of things parent's were not okay with. One in particular really hit me. I heard a mom tell her child that he had to hold her hand to cross the street, "Because I said so." It struck me very strange that the mom wouldn't tell the child that the street can be dangerous, that cars might not see him ... I could think of a ton of reasons why that child should hold hands with his mom, why wouldn't you share one ... or all of them if he needs to hear them. I realize that she was probably rushed, but it takes just as much time to say, "to be safe," as it does to say, "because I said so." I thought about it in the car and realized that I have never told my kid, "Because I said so."
One of the most difficult things to teach a child is how to think. Our schools teach our children how to answer multiple choice questions, how to regurgitate answers in a 5 part essay, but few classes have time or funding to teach children how to think and reason through things. If "because I said so," becomes a regular part of your parenting dialogue, how can the child learn reasoning and thought from you? They can't.
I realize we are all busy and feel like moments are precious and the last thing we want to do is sit there and answer question after question. But the thing is, most of the time children are actually asking questions because they want to learn! It isn't until they get older and learn that having to answer the questions frustrates you and makes you cave that they will use it to get what they want ... and at that point, you kind of set yourself up.
If we do our best to remain calm and answer questions accurately for our children we might actually impart lessons with each of these questions. They may have to ask the same question a hundred times but if you give them a real answer then they learn and you might not get that battle or even that question as frequently. If you give them, "because I said so," you just teach them not to get caught by you doing whatever it is they were doing.
You set the example for them, show them that you think through your day, that you care enough to think through the answers you give them and that you respect them enough to share with them why you have arrived at a certain decision.
One of my regular battles at home is not giving pop to my 3 year old. Every time we go to a grocery store or out to eat, he wants Sprite. While I am fine with the occasional pop, I prefer him to be in a healthier habit of having water with his meals. It used to be a bit more of a battle than it is now. My kiddo wanted Sprite and would question over and over, cry and even scream. He would say "I want Sprite!" And I would reply with, "Sprite has too much sugar, we are going to have water." If he pressed more I might tell him that it could upset his belly or that it is getting close to nap time and we don't want to have too much sugar before trying to go to sleep. I even have told him that it is not as healthy and we want to be healthy, so we will have water instead. If he got really upset, I would hug him and let him know I could tell he was upset and frustrated but we were still only going to get water. It only took a few times explaining (and calmly not caving in to his tantrum) why we were not going to have Sprite for him to stop being so upset at me telling him that we were not going to have any. Does he still ask for Sprite? Sure. And sometimes I say, "I think it is a special occasion, sure we can have a Sprite." Most of the time, however, I say, "No Sprite today, too much sugar, we will have water instead." Now that is all it takes, no tears, no frustration, no sadness.
So why do kids get all that frustration when we say "No" but don't give them a reason? Children are concrete thinkers and they think in the present tense only. If you say "Yes," one time and "No," the next, all they know is that you are not letting them have something and they don't know why. Now since even until their teens kids think everything is about them, they are prone to faulty logic like "they are just doing that because they hate me." It seems crazy right, but really, remember what being a kid was like, I bet you might have had similar thoughts like all the other kids in the world.
The strongest method to teach is through observation. Take advantage of that! They are watching you more than you know.
In case you are wondering: I have had my child question why he can't do something and because I had to provide him an answer, I realized I was telling him no just because with no good reason. While we were putting up the Christmas tree he wanted to vacuum. I said to wait until I was done. Because he questioned me, I realized that there really was no good reason that he shouldn't be able to vacuum (after all he was doing something helpful and something that would keep him entertained while I put up the tree). I let him know that I thought about it and I think it would be okay for him to vacuum while I put up the tree. He was happy, I was happy and by the time my tree was up, there were no needles left on the ground to have to clean. :)
At least that is what I like to call it. We recently put in laminate where we had carpet and our 10 month old was not happy, he kept sliding everywhere. He would try crawling in his cozy jammies and rompers and would have a very difficult time crawling ... and had a few slips that made us all not happy.
I had to figure out a way to let him crawl. It is too chilly this time of year to let him go just in a diaper and shirt. We had thought about rugs, but the reason we got rid of the carpet was to help his allergies. Why would we want to bring another rug in the house?
I kept thinking that I wish someone would put grip pads on baby clothing knees like they do for the feet. Then it came to me ... get ready, I bet you have this around your house!
What you will need:
Cardboard (small enough to fit in pant leg)
Low temp hot glue gun and glue
What to do:
Place the cardboard in the pant leg to ensure glue does not go through to the back side of the pant leg. ENSURE CHILD IS NOT IN CLOTHING WHEN APPLYING GLUE.
Squeeze glue on the area you would like there to be traction. To ensure glue sticks well and cannot be peeled off, press glue into fabric firmly, don't just lay the glue on the fabric (this is why I use a low temp glue gun, so it doesn't melt the fabric). Let glue dry and it is ready to wear!
Feel free to get creative! You can see in the picture, I have glued a star design on the left leg (right side of the photo). The other leg is not done, so you can see the difference.
My kiddo was so happy he started crawling immediately. I told him to smile for the camera and he kept throwing his head back and giving the biggest smile I have ever seen, it was cracking me up! I realized after taking pictures that I should really take video ... so here it is, me asking him to smile over and over and me cracking up about it!
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