Monthly Archives: February 2012

performance debut

I don’t seem to be able to post anything but videos right now. I want to write more, but I’m tired of being negative, so I’m being a little quiet for awhile. That said, things aren’t so bad (I just seem to be thinking about negative things). In fact, BG has strung together almost three weeks of wellness (knock wood) and is really beginning to use his language instead of less desirable physical outlets when he’s frustrated. We are being reminded that, yes, we do have a really great kid, and he’s so much fun.

This weekend, he and I took a visit to my parents’ house to give J a weekend to grade and to give BG some quality grandparent and cousin time. It was the first time he was really able to play with both of his cousins (one a year older, one a year younger). It was heartwarming and wonderful, and I’m so glad he has them. He hugged them, kissed them, held hands with them. It was so joyful.

On our road trip, we listened to lots of music. We always listen to tons of music, and we have long sung to BG. We’ve had him in Music Together off and on since he was one. However, our son has never been one to actually express any sort of musicality. He doesn’t dance, doesn’t sing, doesn’t really even chant the lyrics to anything. Okay, so he does play some decent percussion, but otherwise, he hasn’t been in any kind of hurry to show off any of that music education at all. But he’s always listening and listening well.

Every night, we have a song we sing to him. It’s a song we made up when he was maybe three months old and he was wearing pajamas with frogs on the feet:

You’ve got frogs on your feet

And they’re kickin’ to the beat

Hop, hop hopping along

Singing along to the song

Frog Feet

Groovy Beat

Ain’t it sweet?

Frog feeeeeeeeet!

The tune is not anything you’d recognize, but it’s jazzy, and the last four lines are accompanied by snapping, and the last line ends with what J calls a “jazz clap”–silent snapping over our heads, reminiscent of some sort of beat poetry reading. BG somehow learned to be the epitome of cool long ago, and as soon as he could speak, he added, “Yeah!” to those final silent snaps. He has never sung this song–until last night. Now, he’s not got much in the way of melody, but he has the rhythm, and today, he practiced it over and over and over again (all while wearing just a diaper). He has a very specific routine, as you’ll see because I’m sharing both versions. Note that one rendition is followed by an encore performance of “The Wheels on the Bus.” Apparently, now that he sings, he sings every song he has ever heard. I love this about him. The celebratory clapping is new too.

Here you have it, BG in action:

Frog Feet, Version 1:

http://youtu.be/glH36atlOxk

Frog Feet, Version 2

http://youtu.be/viAhU-5eB58

 

P.S. Why isn’t WordPress embedding youtube videos anymore? What am I missing?

 

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he thought he could

Today my parents came to visit, and we went for a walk in the redwoods. BG refused to walk for much of the first half of our trek. At one point, he stopped, whined, and said, “I’m stuck!” He refused to move for several minutes until I finally put him on my shoulders are marched on.

Soon, however, he remembered we were there to visit the trees, and he got into it. He got down off of my shoulders, kissed and hugged the trees, and actually walked.

Tree Love

He also took his very first photo of the redwoods. Not bad!

 On our way back, BG walked the entire way, but at one point, he became a little discouraged. It was then that his early literary education paid off, as he began to chant, “I think I can.” He did this for nearly half a mile, charming hikers and park rangers along the way. Really, who doesn’t love the little engine? Here he is in action:

Little Engine

 

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what we’re doing

I’m going to say something very obvious to most of my readers: being a parent is hard. There is so much information out there, and there are so many theories that it can be nearly impossible to know what is really “right” at any given moment, especially because what may be right for one set of children may not be right at all for one’s own child.

Because we spent so many years planning to have a child, my wife and I spent a long time theorizing, developing strategies, thinking we’d figure out all of the hard stuff in advance. Certainly with enough brainpower, we could dodge tantrums and outbursts. We’d have an advantage over all those poor parents who got pregnant by accident. Of course, reality is, that wasn’t the case. One can rarely predict just how these parenting tools are going to work because there’s always that x-factor: the kid. The kid can change everything.

Like so many parents, my wife and I just assumed that once behavior issues arose, we’d use time-outs, and they would work, and that would be that. We started using them when BG would bite or pull a tail sometime after his first birthday. We didn’t use them often (really only the tail pulling seemed to warrant it), but they were effective enough. However, because we are always trying to evolve as parents, always considering new perspectives and possibilities, I began to find through my reading that time-outs were maybe a little more problematic than I had ever considered, so we essentially stopped using them. We tried the praising of positive behavior, and more recently, “time-ins” (where one of us essentially takes a time-out with him until whatever issue were were having passes). Honestly, though, we’ve had little in our toolbox when it comes to discipline, and as a result, we have a child who has been flailing a bit. In fact, we have been flailing so much, I can honestly admit we’ve had not much in the way of discipline at all. We had lots of “No hitting!” and “We don’t bite,” but these did precious little to stop our son because he was testing one boundary after another and finding that there weren’t really many there.

As I’ve been trying to find solutions to our aggression problem, I’ve started reading some new material, the first of which has been John Medina’s Brain Rules for Baby. This is a great book for anyone interested in exploring a bit of developmental neuroscience. It’s great, and it’s common sense, and it’s just what I needed to see where I was going wrong with helping my child develop his moral center. So, we’re back to time-outs.

I do believe that for many children and families, time-outs may be all wrong, that they may prove harmful even, but in a home where attachment parenting has been practiced, where a child has a strong, confident attachment to his parents, where he has a good deal of quality attention from both parents each day (we still don’t have him in any sort of daycare), I think a time-out sort of approach can be used with better results. The idea that a child will feel alienated by a time-out approach, that s/he will feel removed and excluded from the family is one that could hold ground, and especially for a younger child, one who doesn’t grasp cause and effect well yet, one whose attachment may not yet be strong. However, I’m beginning to realize that doesn’t have to be the case. So we have implemented abbreviated time-outs. BG hits, we take him very calmly and lovingly to his room. Let him know he’s having a timeout because he hit, and we don’t hit because it hurts. We close the door, and leave him in there no longer than a minute, and then talk with him briefly about why hitting is wrong (it hurts people), and then we move on. It took no more than two days of this before he slowed down on the hitting. I even saw him stop his hand mid-air a few times. He’s starting to think about his behavior. He’s beginning to control his impulses.

I’m not saying we’ve found a perfect solution because we still have some behavior issues, but what I have found is that our inconsistency in discipline was harming our family and was sending our son some serious mixed messages. My next book that I’m very excited about is called The Whole-Brain Child (Siegel and Bryson), and it’s amazing. It beautifully details how we can use neuroscience as parents to help our children integrate both sides of their brains, and in doing so provides some really lovely strategies for helping kids through everything from tantrums to decision-making, to aggression, and more. I’m early into it, but it’s really good stuff.

Something else I’m considering more is just how different boys are from girls–and how different some boys are from one another, especially with regard to the need for physicality. One of my theories about BG’s violent outbursts is that they are little testosterone surges. A friend’s husband told her that he could see these surges in their sons, that he has them, and that the feeling associated with them is really hard to manage. A book J and I have enjoyed since we found out we were having a boy was It’s a Boy (Barker and Thompson), a really great attachment-oriented book that details the very specific development of boys. It’s so insightful, and it covers that need boys have to be more physical, to have some rough play, but also be taught how to have rough play safely (and as one of you mentioned, it’s vital). We’re trying to honor that need to be physical a little more, and at the same time, we’re watching it carefully, tempering it with lessons on how to be gentle, how to play without hurting one another. It’s hard for someone like me who has never been into physical play to do, but it’s important because it provides an outlet for my son that he doesn’t have elsewhere.

So we’re working at it. The biting has stopped. BG is still pushing kids, but when we took a trip to Ikea a week or so ago, we talked him through an encounter with a smaller child with whom he was sharing a tunnel, and he didn’t touch him. This was a big step for a child who has a hard time with other kids in his space, but it showed us he’s malleable, that we have a chance to get this right with him early, and that maybe, just maybe we won’t be worrying about his aggression his whole life. As with so many matters in parenting, the years will certainly show us the answer.

A final note: Thank you for all of your encouragement, support, and advice. I have taken so much of it into consideration as we continue to form new strategies. It is also so helpful to know that we’re not alone in this. Anyway, thank you all for taking the time to help our little family. It means the world. xo

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a placeholder of sorts

I have a big heady post brewing in response to the last one I wrote, but it’s been a challenging week. We’re seeing some marginal improvement on the hitting, have seen no biting, and while we’re still having normal two-year-old outbursts and meltdowns, I would like to think some of the order and consistency we’ve implemented may be helping. More on that later. It’s also entirely possible that the fact that he has another cold has mellowed him out a bit.

Anyway, we’re hanging in there, and mulling over so much of what was written in response to that post, reading some good brain development books (if you haven’t checked out The Whole Brain Child, do so–WOW), and rethinking how we’ve done things around here. I do think after reading what I wrote that maybe BG is coming across as a small tyrant. That is not the case, and I really don’t think he has any abornmal behavior issues that will send us to our nearest behavioral psychologist; I think he’s in need of clearer, more consistent boundaries and responses to undesirable behavior. Again, more on this later. I want to spend some time with it. What I don’t want to do, however, is leave that last post up here as my most current. It doesn’t feel right to dwell on that because this behavior is a small part of who our son is.

Tomorrow, if our family is well, we are off on a roadtrip to visit California’s armpit (don’t ask–ugh) to visit J’s family whom she hasn’t seen in many years. BG will meet his uncle and cousin as well as some great aunts/uncles. This marks twelve years since her parents passed away. BG is very excited about packing his backpack and going for a stay in a “nice room” (hotel room) where he is most looking forward–positively giddy, in fact– to seeing and playing with the in-room coffee maker. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

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what do we do with this?

Our son has taken increasingly aggressive turns. He hits us, bites us, kicks, us, pinches us, and now he has started hitting and pushing other children at his little activities we attend with him (kindergym, moms’ group, etc.). I am horrified. Horrified. We’re really gentle people. We don’t play fight, play bite, etc. We praise positive, gentle touching, and lately have been removing BG from us when he begins to hit/bite/pinch.

Honestly, I’m heartbroken, and while this may seem excessive, overly dramatic, but I am. I have never in my life hit another person. Never. (And I even have two younger siblings.) I can’t believe I have a child who regularly attacks me and my wife, especially because he is also incredibly sweet and compassionate. The thought that he could be pegged as “The Bad Kid” once he goes to school, that he could be pigeonholed in that way, upsets me even more (haven’t we all seen this happen? Yeah. I’m not just being paranoid.)

And it’s not like this is behavior we have ever tolerated. He has had timeouts on his own. We have had “time-ins” with him. We have had him “do over.” We have praised his positive behavior. We have told him over and over “biting hurts!” “hitting hurts!” and so on. We have read him Teeth Are Not for Biting endlessly (he loves it!).  I have cried when he has hit/bit/pinched me. And yes, we have both yelled. I hate that we have yelled, but we have.

Today, when I told him biting makes me sad, he did it again to make me sad again. So he likes that power. Lesson learned. Granted, he also likes to comfort me, but I’m not keen on this kind of cycle.

I’m at a total loss. I know this is a lack of impulse control. I know he’s got some issues with fatigue. I even know that this is often normal two-year-old behavior. I know these things, but I don’t know where to go from here, how to find the gentle boy, how to get him to dominate and to get aggressive crazy boy to simmer down.

If you have good advice on this, good resources, please share. I’m going to be reading like I’m cramming for finals until I find the strategy that works . And please, if you have an encouraging story about a kid who hit/pinched/kicked/bit and who didn’t turn out to be a big bully/social outcast/serial killer, that would be cool too. Because he’s going to be normal-ish right?

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