I’m Going Back to Kindergarten

I think it is time to go back to kindergarten.

No, I’m not talking about JC. I’m talking about us. People. Everywhere.

I don’t have to recap for you what has been going on in the world. I know you, like me, are probably overwhelmed by 24-hour news coverage of shootings, bombs, rape cases, racial tension and a presidential election that makes me wish I could actually vote for the Hermione Granger ticket.

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I’m not going to rehash the details, and I’m not going to give you my opinion. In fact, I thought for days about even pressing “publish” on this blog. The beauty and the nightmare of social media is that when anything happens–good, bad, controversial–people can post their opinions about it. But it seems recently that people have forgotten the most basic etiquette and manners. And so I think it is time to go back to kindergarten and remember a few things.

Like to BE NICE. When bad things happen, and when people get hurt, we want to put the blame somewhere. You know that saying, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? I feel like social media needs a gigantic dose of that.

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And to TAKE TURNS. Social media allows us to talk. And talk. And not pay attention to what other people might be saying.

Or to PLAY. Being connected all the time is exhausting. Go outside, read a book that is made of paper and has no buttons. Walk around a zoo and see real animals, not just videos of them acting cute on YouTube.

Make sure to have a SNACK. When you’re hungry, you’re crabby. When you’re crabby, you take it out on other people.

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Do something with FOCUS. Little kids have an amazing ability to focus intently on things–whether it be building with legos, poking things with a stick, or walking very, very, carefully on an imaginary path when you’re in a hurry. Can you remember the last time you focused on one thing because you loved it, and not because you had to?

That we need to USE OUR WORDS, NOT OUR HANDS. Is it just me, or is the violence out of control? Situations escalate far too quickly. It is so, so frightening.

Finally, DON’T LIE. Just don’t. It will eventually come back to get you–and if it doesn’t, you know what they say about karma.

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What lesson do you think the world needs to remember right now?

Peer Pressure: Can it be Positive?

This weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about peer pressure.

JC is a really picky eater. As in, eats only three foods. Luckily for me, they are pretty healthy foods. While I don’t have to worry about his nutrition, I do have to pack up and carry around these three foods when we go anywhere, whether it be a play date, day trip, or vacation. When I brought it up to our pediatrician, she said to make sure he sees other people eating real food–especially other kids.

“They’ll make fun of him for eating like that,” she told me critically.

I have carried around her little nugget of opinion with me for awhile. JC has a little friend who is a really great eater, so the last the time we had lunch with her, I pointed out what she was eating and asked if he would like to try it.

“No,” he said firmly. “I like what I like, mom.” Fair enough, kid.

We have recently joined a preschool co-op, and one of the first things I thought about was that JC will get to see other kids eating their snacks, and maybe he would notice he was the odd kid out. Maybe it would encourage him to try something new.

Then when I thought about it, I wondered if I really wanted that to happen.

Of course, I want him to branch out on his eating. But do I want him to do it because other kids judge him and he feels different? Do I want him to change his ways because he feels left out? I don’t know about that.

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My son doesn’t have a lot of experience with big groups of kids. He doesn’t have any experience with peer pressure or the mob mentality. Is the first lesson I want to teach him that he should do what the rest of the group is doing, and that if kids make fun of him, he should change his habits to fit in? Sure, the outcome would be positive–he might try new foods. Peer pressure, I suppose, can be positive–it can challenge children to try harder and be a part of a team. But I want JC to continue thinking for himself. I want him to fit in, but not at the expense of making his own decisions. So will I continue to encourage him to try new foods? Absolutely? But will I compare him to the other kids? No way. As much as I want this change for him, I want it to be one he comes to himself.

How does your child handle peer pressure? Has the mob mentality had a positive or negative effect on them?

Where Do They Get This Stuff? Oh Wait, I Know.

(Alternate titles to this post included, When Books Go Bad and The Bad Habits of Good Books.)

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About six months ago, I introduced The Berenstain Bears to JC. I was really excited about this for 2 reasons. One, I loved the books and videos growing up. Two, I knew I could use them to help facilitate discussions about everything from being kind to other people to visiting the dentist for the first time.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the bad habits he would pick up from Brother & Sister Bear and their friends.

For example, in The Blame Game, Brother and Sister blame each other for every broken vase, spill and accident that occurs in the Bear Family Tree House–until Mama Bears loses her cool and there is a big talk about working together to clean up instead of pointing fingers.

Sounds all warm and fuzzy, right? Well, it was until JC started imitating Brother and Sister whining. He thought it was hilarious. I did not.

Then when he realized he did not have a sibling to blame things on, he invented one. I believe I have mentioned Ansel, JC’s imaginary little brother who is the bane of my existence, before.

JC picked up obnoxious taunts and teases from Too Tall Grizzly in Double Dare. He spent a week jumping out from behind things and scaring people after we read Trick or Treat. 

It wasn’t that he wasn’t getting the moral of the stories–I know he was because we talked about them. It’s just that he was also getting the bad behavior, too.

I figure that he isn’t learning anything that isn’t typical kid behavior. And when the Bad Berenstain Bear behavior pops up, I have a lesson at the ready. And every now and then one of the many good qualities of the Bear Family will stick, and it reminds me why I started reading the books to him in the first place.

What are some surprising places your kid picked up bad habits?

Screened In: Dealing with Screen Time and Preschoolers

I know a lot of screen-free families. I know a lot of families who have hard and fast rules about tablets, iPhones, and screen time.

We are not one of those families. That is not to say we don’t have rules. We do. But when it comes to screen time, we’re not very hardcore. JC mastered my iPhone when he was about a year and a half old. His very first game was called Zoo Train, an app that was worth far more to my sanity than the 99 cents I paid for it. It taught him spelling, matching, and fine motor skills. It also gave my husband and I a chance to eat a meal in a restaurant in peace.

Oh, I know what you’re going to say: children need to learn to sit and behave in restaurants without the help of an electronic. He can do that. In fact, he and I go on what he calls “Mommy & Boy dates” where electronics are banned for both of us. From day one, JC went nearly everywhere with me, and as a result of that, he’s very good in a lot of grown-up places. And because he has those skills, I don’t mind handing over a tablet to let him play games or watch videos.

Speaking of which: I think there is a difference between zoning out in front of a movie or TV show and playing an educational game on a screen. In fact, JC spends very little time “zoning out”. For the most part, he watches educational shows. In fact, last week he told me his favorite part of Curious George was in between the cartoons when they show real kids doing experiments related to the show. I have to pay close attention to those parts because he often wants to replicate them.

JC knows his way around my phone, iPad and computer. Does he have access to the internet? No. Of course not. I might not be hardcore about screen time, but I am about screen content. JC is very used to hearing, “that’s not age appropriate for you” and he is pretty good about policing himself. Big no-no’s in our house include videos with train crashes and Disney “big kid” shows (the last thing I need is a four-year old with a tween attitude). He loves watching videos of steam trains on YouTube–and there are a surprising amount of them available. YouTube launched their YouTube Kids app today on android platforms, and I can’t wait to try it out.

I think because screen time isn’t a fight in our house, we have an easier time: JC knows when to turn off the TV in the mornings and (for the most part) doesn’t put up a fight when game time is over.

My husband and I made these choices for our family knowing the experts recommend. JC plays outside, builds train tracks, reads books. Although we have relaxed screen rules, screen time is not the majority–or, I think, the highlight–of his day. A few days ago I read JC some eBooks on my iPad. He liked them, sat and listened, and when we were done said, “that was nice, but can we read some REAL books now?” It’s moments like those that let me know I’m striking the right balance in our world.

Sharing is caring: what are the screen rules in your house?