Friday, February 25, 2011

Kids Need Sick Time

I'm fortunate to have a husband who has a lot of sick time at his job in the public school system.  He can take something like 15 sick days per year.

I'm not sure how much sick time the average kid needs in a year, but I am pretty sure that it's good for our kids when we parents and caregivers let our kids have time to be sick.

Every kid gets sick.  Every kid needs time to recover from being sick.  This can be a challenge for parents who work and have limited sick time themselves.  It can also be a challenge for parents who are sick and have to take care of their sick children.  Even parents who are healthy and available can find it challenging to change their routine, set aside their busy schedules, and care for a sick child (or children).

Nevertheless, giving our kids time at home to rest, drink fluids, and recuperate is better for their long-term health.  And don't forget the importance of emotionally supporting and encouraging our kids when they are sick.  I don't mean coddling a faker, but I do mean building up your relationship with your children by comforting and cuddling with them when they're sick.  Show them that you care about how they feel and that you are here to care for them no matter what.

Kids forced back into their active daily lives before they've had a chance to recover are more likely to develop secondary infections like ear infections and bronchitis.  They are more likely to need antibiotics.  They are also likely to take longer to recover and may get sick again sooner.

Plus, kids who are still recovering from illness may still be contagious.  Sending a sick kid to school and other social settings may expose other kids and adults, some of whom suffer from weakened immune systems.

So take it easy on kids when they're sick.  Let them rest up and recover so they can face the world again in good health.

Questions for Thought/Discussion:
What do you find most challenging about taking care of sick kids?  What are some tricks or tips you've learned that have helped you through caring for sick kids?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kids Need Routine

Actually, a more fitting title for this post might be "Kids Usually Benefit from a Daily Routine as Long as the Routine is not too Rigid or too Loose," but that seemed a little long for a title.

By routine, I don't mean a rigid, unvarying sequence of events or procedures.  I do mean a schedule of events or tasks that should be done daily in a certain order with some flexibility thrown in.

Kids benefit from knowing that they can count on certain things happening at certain times throughout the day.  Meals, naps, and bedtimes are all important parts of a kid's schedule that should happen at approximately the same time and in the same way pretty much every day.  Irregular schedules lead to things like over-snacking, lack of sleep, and anxiety.  If a kid's body can count on getting fed and resting regularly, the kid will be healthier, happier, and better able to function in the world.

Some kids rely on routine more than others due to personality differences.  Some parents find routines easier to implement than others due to the same.  Even if you are a parent who doesn't naturally do routine, try setting up a loose sequence of events for the day and sticking with it as often as possible.  It will help you make sure your kids are getting what they need when they need it.

I tend to be more of a rigid person when it comes to routine.  I want things to happen in a certain way and in a specific order every day.  I've had to learn to loosen my grip on the routine and be ready to postpone or skip nap time occasionally for play dates, let my kids rest more when they need to, and let them stay up later occasionally to attend special events.  On most days, I find it does my kids and me good to stick with that routine, though.  I don't have set times when things HAVE to happen, but I do have windows of time each day when I serve up breakfast, lunch, and dinner, tuck the kids into bed, and, since I'm a homeschooling mom, do school with my kids.

Bedtime is a key time for family routine.  A routine of bath time, pj time, teeth brushing, story time, song time, etc. can really get kids ready to settle in for the night.  If your young kids have trouble getting to bed on time, I suggest you map out a bedtime routine, including a set time when the routine starts, and stick with it for a week or two.

As your kids get older, family routines help protect family time.  A certain time when the family eats dinner together most evenings can help teens feel more secure.  So don't dismiss routine just because your kids are able to get themselves ready for bed at night.  Some level of family routine helps kids learn to set and stick to their own schedules later on in college and the workplace.

Questions for thought/discussion:
What are your thoughts on routine?  Do you tend to be more rigid or lax when it comes to routine?  How do your kids respond to routine or lack of routine?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kids Need Consequences

When kids push the limits, they need to experience the consequences.  This is the only way they will learn that they are responsible for the choices they make.  What they do matters, and they need to be taught this truth from an early age.

Parents and caregivers set the limits/rules/boundaries for the kids in their care, and they determine what the consequences for breaking those rules will be.  Healthy consequences are related to the rule that was broken, safe, and enforced in love, not anger.  It is best to decide on the rules and the consequences for breaking them in advance.  Then you will know what to do when your kid breaks the rules - because he/she will break the rules.  That fact is certain.  When you teach your child a rule, plan on your child breaking that rule and plan on having to administer an appropriate consequence.

When a child breaks a rule, he or she will learn best if the consequence for breaking the rule is related to the rule itself.  If a child throws food on the floor, a consequence might be losing dessert or having to clean up the mess (or both).  If a child misbehaves and delays bedtime, a consequence might be having to go to bed earlier the next night or losing story time that night.  If a child is disrespectful, a consequence might be taking time out to be alone until he/she can apologize.  A good consequence takes the child's unique personality, likes, and dislikes into account.  For example, if your child loves story time, he/she will not want to lose story time at night and will be more likely to get ready for bed on time.  Another child might care little about story time, but will not want to go to bed earlier tomorrow.

Children should experience safe consequences when they break the rules.  The consequence should never involve any type of abuse such as yelling, demeaning, disrespecting, beating, slapping, ignoring, or depriving the child.  Also, a consequence that is generally considered safe for most children, might not be safe for your child if he/she is experience an extreme reaction to the consequence.  For instance, a child who seems to interpret a time-out in his or her room as being abandoned may need a different consequence.  Perhaps being confined to a chair in the corner of the room would serve the child better.  Be careful about interpreting your child's reactions.  Some children are good actors and will try to manipulate you by over-reacting to an consequence.  There is no substitute for knowing your child.

Parents and caregivers should administer the consequence in a loving and kind manner.  Having an angry, vengeful attitude about enforcing a consequence may teach your children that your love is conditional, that it's okay to seek revenge, and that they can "push your buttons" and control you by making you angry and upset.  If you are angry when a child does something wrong, take a few minutes to get past your anger before enforcing the consequence.  If you know you are so angry you might do something harmful (such as yelling or hitting), send your child to his/her room immediately or take a time-out yourself by going to a room where you can be alone for a few minutes.  Lock yourself in the bathroom if necessary.  If your child is very young, put you child in a playpen or crib before taking your time out.  When you are able to think straight and enforce the appropriate consequence in a calm manner, do so.

Here are two books that give helpful advice for setting limits and consequences for children: 
Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman and Who's in Charge Here? by Bob Barnes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kids Need Limits

Kids need to know what their limits are.  They need to know the rules.  And who makes the rules?  The parent(s)/guardians/caregivers.  It's up to us to decide what the family limits are, teach them to our kids, and enforce them.  The kids are responsible for living within these limits.  And for pushing the limits to see what the consequences will be.  Kids break rules because they want to know whether or not the limits are real.  More specifically, they want to know that their caregivers care enough to enforce the limits.  If there are no boundaries, there is chaos, uncertainty, and danger.

Limits/boundaries/rules keep a kid safely enclosed in healthy, respectful, obedient behavior.  It would be nice if the rules could always be clearly stated, easily remembered, and readily understood.  In some instances, they can be.  "Whash your hands after using the toilet" is pretty straight forward.  However, many rules, such as "be respectful," must be taught and defined over time.  What does it mean to be respectful?  No name-calling, no yelling, no defiant looks?  You can see that rule-making isn't always clear-cut and simple.  It's important to spend time with your kids not only teaching them the rules, but also modeling proper behavior.  The better you know your kids and vice versa, the better you will be able to define the limits and the better your kids will understand them.

When your kids are young, start with the basics: no biting, no hitting, no throwing blocks at other people's heads, no playing with electrical outlets, etc.  Model good behavior for your kids and initiate discussions about what it means to be kind, respectful, and polite.  Some rules will arise as you kids break them: "No throwing food on the floor at mealtimes."  Others are best decided upon and taught ahead of time: "Stay away
from the road when you're playing outside."

Next time, we'll talk about setting the consequences for breaking the rules.

For now, think about the following:
What are the limits/rules/boundaries in our home?  Have I taught my kids what the limits are?  If not, maybe it's time to make a short list.  Customize the rules to your family and kids' developmental levels.  Try to explain the rules in simple language - especially for very young kids.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kids Need Work

Kids need to learn how to work.  I'm not advocating child labor.  I am advocating teaching children how to do small tasks early on; such as picking up their toys, throwing their dirty clothes in the hamper, and picking up the Cheerios they threw all over the kitchen.  Kids need to be taught how to take care of themselves and their homes, and that involves work.

When a kid grows up and leaves home, he or she should know how to do laundry, wash dishes, prepare meals, dust, vacuum, clean the bathroom, take out the trash, organize their belongings, and complete other necessary chores.  Rather than trying to give your children a crash course in domestic tasks like these just before they walk out the door (or over the phone during their first week at college), try to teach them new chores as they become able to complete them.  Teach both boys and girls how to manage and maintain a household.  You don't want your child to be the one who doesn't wash his/her sheets for an entire semester at college because he/she doesn't know how to run a washing machine.

It's important to remember that kids won't be able to perform tasks up to your standards at first.  When they finish a new task and seem to be trying their best, encourage them: "You did a good job!"  And remind your child that the task will get easier with practice.

Be careful about how you reward your children for doing work, or chores, around your home.  Rather than encouraging your children to work only for the prize they will get at the end, teach them that work is a necessary and important part of life.  Since they are a part of your family, they need to do their part to make sure the household functions in a clean and somewhat orderly manner.  That, in itself, is a reward children should be taught to value. 

Read this brief article for some helpful guidelines for teaching kids to work: Household Chores Teach Kids Responsibility by Shannon Hutton

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kids Need Play

Kids need to play.  Our culture tries to push kids into organized activities early on, and soon their schedules are filled with school, sports, lessons, and competitions.  What down time they have is often spent watching TV, playing video games, or on the internet.  Even very young children are quickly caught up in this pattern.

Here are two types of play that are beneficial to kids: 
  • Unstructured play.  This is where the kids are given time and opportunity to play freely amongst themselves or alone - without TV or other media to distract.  Giving kids time to play on their own early on helps teach them how to entertain themselves so you don't have to hear "I'm bored!" over and over again when they get older.  On the other hand, kids who are constantly entertained by TV, video games, shopping trips, or even well-meaning caregivers are more likely to find themselves "bored" because they don't know how to keep themselves occupied.  Another good way to prevent boredom is teaching your kids how to work, but I'll save that topic for another day.
  • Play with caregivers.  There are parents out there who enjoy playing with their kids, and there are parents who hate it.  Even if you hate playing with your kids, you can choose to do it for their benefit.  It will show them that you care about them, it will help you enter their world, and you will be able to teach them new ways to play.  Don't assume that your child will know how to play with a ball or a top.  Teach them how to roll that ball across the floor or spin that top until all the colors on it blend together.  At other times, let your children direct the play so you can find out what interests them and get to know them better.  When my kids are pestering me to play with them, I find that spending fifteen to twenty minutes doing just that is more rewarding than spending half-an-hour to an hour putting them off while I try to do my own thing.  Yes, there are times to say "no" to your kids and tell them that you need to do something important.  But there are also times to put your kids' need for your focused attention ahead of your own desires.
Tip for the day: 
Read this article on the benefits of play: 11 (Not So Surprising) Benefits of Play by Dr. Michele Borba.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kids Need Teachers - And You Can Be One Of Them!

Teaching kids is a big part of parenting.  Parents teach their kids to feed themselves, dress themselves, and use the potty, among other things.  Kids have so much to learn.  If you're a parent or childcare provider, teaching is part of your job.

Most parents know that it's their job to teach kids the basics of self-care and some social skills.  Many even understand that they can and should teach their kids shapes, colors, letters, and counting skills.  But did you know that you, as a parent, can significantly contribute to your child's academic education?

You don't have to be a certified teacher to give your kids a love of books and reading.  You don't have to be a mathematician to teach your four or five-year-old to add and subtract with Cheerios.  You, as a parent, have the power and ability to instill a love of learning in your children from a very young age and to continue to encourage and support that learning throughout their lives.  

When you have time with your kids, use part of that time to teach them.  I'm not suggesting that you make them sit at a desk and give them worksheets to complete, although there are a few kids who enjoy that sort of teaching.  I am encouraging you to have a look at the world around you, consider your child's interests and abilities, and find ways to teach them something they didn't know before.  

It could be as simple as taking your kids for a walk outside and collecting leaves or rocks to examine.  Or looking up information about butterflies on the internet.  Or running sprints across the lawn and timing each other with a stopwatch.  Or teaching your child how to measure the flour for a batch of cookies.  Or figuring out how much of your child's allowance will be left after he or she buys a new toy.  Or looking at your child's schoolwork, finding out what he or she is learning in various subjects, and coming up with ways to add to that learning at home.  

Don't depend solely on schoolteachers for your child's education.  Schoolteachers are important and most of them do an excellent job.  However, they need you, the parent, to support their efforts.  Kids can't learn everything they need to succeed academically and relationally during their time at school.  They need parents who will show them that learning isn't just part of school; it's part of life.

Thought for the day:
Kids need teachers.  I don't have to be a certified teacher to teach my kids.  How can I be a teacher in the life of my child?  How can I encourage academic learning in my child?  What are some small ways I can add to my child's knowledge of the world?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kids Need Rest

Kids need time and encouragement to get their rest.  Not only do they need a good night's sleep as often as possible, they also need down time to relax.

The frantic pace of our culture tends to deny kids their rest.  Many kids get up early to go to school and stay up late to finish their homework (or watch TV or play video games).  Kids need caretakers who will enforce age-appropriate bedtimes.  This varies according to age.  This article on has some sleep guidelines to help you figure out if your child is getting enough sleep and how to set an appropriate bedtime.

Kids also need downtime to stay at home and relax.  Too many activities during the week can keep a kid so busy that there is no time to simply enjoy the home you've made for him or her.  Schedule time as a family to simply stay home and be together.  Read together, play board games, eat together, talk with each other.  Restful time at home together is important for the health of your family.

Rest is important for kids' health (both physical and mental).  Kids who don't get enough rest are more likely to struggle in school, get sick, and suffer from things like anxiety and depression.

Tip for today:
Kids need rest.  Schedule rest into your kid's day.  Determine how much sleep your child needs.  Set and enforce age-appropriate bedtimes.  Schedule time together to rest as a family.  Protect rest.  It is important for good health.