Friday, 29 March 2013

The magic of stickers

I know, I know, I have been blogging a lot less lately and I keep having inspired ideas about what to write about…and then I forget them. So I apologize for slacking on the blogging lately but life is busy!

I’ve come to a new realization about parenting toddlers…. Having a baby is physically exhausting – you spend a lot of time carrying them around, lifting them in and out of their cribs, and if your child is anything like me, you have many sleepless nights. But having a two-year-old is mentally exhausting – they may be more physically independent but their burgeoning language, social and motor skills require you to always be “on.”

When my son was a baby, when my brain was tired I could tune him out…plop him in his high chair with some Cheerios or set him up with some toys and just ignore him for awhile. Now I’m sleeping better (hurray!) and I spend far less time carrying him and attending to his physical needs – but I am constantly in behaviour modification mode. We talk and chatter, he tries daring new things like flushing the toilet or reaching into the cutlery drawer to find himself a knife, I have to reward his good behaviour and manage his not-so-good behaviour. Ignoring him and tuning him out is simply not an option. Because if he’s being quiet, you can bet he’s up to no good. It’s freaking exhausting!

In an effort to try and understand the psyche of a two-year-old and see how I could best navigate this golden age, I read the book by Dr. Harvey Karp “The Happiest Toddler on the Block.” I must say that Dr. Karp provides some very interesting ideas. They’re far from revolutionary and definitely nothing new, but it’s nice to have a summary of ideas for communicating with a toddler, managing tantrums and encouraging good behaviour. And since implementing some of these ideas, I have to say – they work!

One of the tried and true methods I decided to implement this week is the infamous sticker chart. The idea is that you want to encourage and reward existing good behaviours and teach new ones. One thing that we have been trying to teach my son is to clean up after himself, especially following a throw-everything-on-the-floor rampage. Those little scenes had been happening more than I care to admit recently and both my husband and I agreed that it was time to get him to clean up his act.

So taking a cue from Dr. Karp, I purchased a whole whack of stickers, drew up a chart with three behaviours that I want to encourage – two of which my son already does fairly well, but that I want to continue to encourage and one new one. The three things are hand washing, tooth-brushing and cleaning up. So since Monday, every morning before we leave for daycare, I tell my son it’s time to do our “sticker stuff.” We go wash his hands, brush his teeth, and then clean up whatever mess he has made in the two hours he’s been awake. Let me tell you, this thing works like a charm!

I will admit that the first two days, he was not interested in cleaning up but with repeated promises of stickers, he grudgingly did it. After seeing his accumulated stickers posted on the chart on the fridge, he started getting really excited. Now he loves sticker time! Heck, we’ve even thrown in a bonus sticker for when we want him to do something else, like finish his dinner.

What a cheap and easy way to motivate good behaviour! Obviously, I’m far from the first to do this and it’s not revolutionary by any stretch. But I’m pretty amazed that it actually works. At first my husband was worried about this being too close to bribery. But I don’t see it that way. It’s motivational – aren’t we motivated by incentives after all? Points and loyalty programs, bonuses at work…you get the picture. I don’t think giving stickers for good behaviour are going to spoil my child. Especially if you consider that we had started to go down the old “if you stop crying, I’ll give you chocolate” route! Now that is bribery.

So to come back to my original point, things are just busy around our house these days because we are always in teaching mode. It’s hard but at this stage of life we just can’t let our guard down if we want to teach our child to behave well. There is so much more that we have to do on a regular basis than just giving stickers, but this small win has made me feel like this week, I’m doing something right.

…ask me how I feel next week!

What are some of the methods you use to encourage good behaviour with your children?

Friday, 8 March 2013

Leaving a legacy

A week ago, I became an aunt for the first time as my brother and sister-in-law welcomed their first child into the world. On the same day, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital and our family learned that she would not be coming home. A week later, she passed away, surrounded by her children in palliative care.
It seems almost fitting and seems to happen often that when someone enters the world, another person leaves it. As the expression goes, when God closes a door, he opens a window.  I know that my brother is very sad to have never had the opportunity to introduce his newborn son to his great-grandmother. But he paid her the greatest tribute by keeping our family name alive, as the only grandchild who was in a position to do so.
If my grandmother taught us one thing about life, it’s the importance of family.  Absolutely nothing was more important to her than her family – and she had quite a big family.
Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest
She came from a family of six children, who as young adults, left their parents behind and immigrated to Canada from Greece in the early 1960’s. Her sister came first with her husband and slowly the others all followed suit with their families.
As immigrants in a new land who didn’t speak the language and who had to work around the clock in factories and kitchens to make ends meet, their objective was to create a better life for their children and families. As a new Canadian, my grandmother was poor but she was proud. She and my grandfather only wanted the best for their children, and over time, they achieved it.
When my grandmother passed away, she left behind five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren (and one on the way). She was so proud of her great-grandchildren, the oldest of which is my son at two years old. She would proudly tell people in her heavily accented English: “Me grandmother two times!”
To her, there was no greater accomplishment in life than to have children. From the time my husband and I got married seven years ago, she began to harass me to get pregnant. She didn’t understand that we were still young and that we weren’t ready to be tied to the responsibility of being parents. She didn’t understand that my husband had gone back to school and that for us it was not the right time. In her view, there was no more important job for us to do. Yes, she was proud that we were well-educated and had good careers. But in her view, life is not complete without children.
When my son was born, she was bursting with pride. In her view, I had finally begun to achieve my life’s purpose. Except that by that point, she had begun to suffer from a mild dementia. So she very freely told everyone exactly what she was thinking, over and over again. And she informed me that while it was wonderful that I had a son, it was now time to have a daughter.
A daughter, she told me, will take care of you. A daughter will be close to her mother. A daughter can do for a mother what a son never can. All I could do was laugh, because obviously it’s not the kind of thing that I can control. And while I hope that I am one day blessed with a daughter, I am happy that I was able to give her a great-grandchild.
As I saw my grandmother live her last few days of life, I finally understood while she felt it was so important to have children. She did not go alone. At every moment in the last week of her life, she had someone beside her. Someone who loved and cared for her, who cried for her and smiled as they reminisced about her life. She left her mark on the world, in the form of two children, five grandchildren and five (soon to be six) great-grandchildren. She has left a legacy.
While I know it’s not in everyone’s destiny to have children of their own, whether by choice or not, I am happy that I have become a mother. I am happy to be surrounded by a loving family of my own. My grandmother’s lesson is one which is close to my heart; because I too believe that the most important thing in life is family.