My four-year-old asked me that question a few times, and I couldn’t blame him. How do you explain the stretches of absences, the getting ready to go somewhere you vaguely understand, and why it happens on certain days and times?
From his point of view, going to work seems like a secret meeting. This ubiquitous “work” we run off to and rush back from day in and day out. All without the kids.
So, why do you work? And how do you explain work to your kids?
Swimming has been a hit or miss with my kids. We can go from one week of splashing and making bubbles in the pool to outright fear of dipping their toes in the water. My eldest has been more willing to splash around and play, but still hesitates letting go of the sides of the pool.
How to ease kids into the idea of swimming? In addition to swimming whenever I get the chance (hot weather, at least two adults present, free time), books are again another great way to introduce a new experience to kids.
Kids learn they’re not alone in their fears. They can follow along as a character goes from hesitant to confident. And they realize that swimming can be a fun experience.
Food thrown on the floor. A mouth clamped shut. Plates pushed away. These are the scenes of a typical picky eater—one who has his repertoire of favorite foods and refuses to try others. Yet you hear of other kids who eat calamari and kale, rice and rhubarb. Heck, you just want your kid to eat a mango.
So how do they do it? How do parents raise kids willing to try and enjoy everything?
First, two points:
Some kids have food or texture sensitivity. I’ve spoken with a few of you whose kids have a diagnosed condition where they can’t eat much beyond a select menu. Check with your doctor if you suspect your kid might fall under that category.
Second, all kids are different. You’ll meet parents with one kid who’ll eat anything and another who sticks to grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes food exploration is part of our temperament. Still, those kids aren’t destined to eating sandwiches all their lives. But we should understand this about them and offer food at a different pace than perhaps her sibling.
My story? So far (*knocks on wood*) all three of my kids are fantastic eaters. I’m almost sure my eldest won’t have a problem with trying different food for the remainder of his life. My twins, at one-year-old, can still switch and begin rejecting food in the next year or two as kids their age sometimes do. Still, they’re usually eager and willing to try all sorts of food.
This doesn’t mean however that they love everything I cook. There’s that infamous burrito of course, but each one has rejected food in one way or another. In fact, this past week they’ve rejected half of what I offered. And so I plunge on, doing whatever I can to keep them from being picky eaters.
Just when your baby has fallen into a manageable routine and it’s become easier and more fun to stay home with the baby, your maternity leave is over. And now you have to hand your baby to someone else to care for while you rejoin the workforce.
That’s hours and hours away from your baby. You miss the time spent sprawled on a blanket on the park, or strolling with her around the neighborhood.
To make matters worse, you’re miserable at work. You’re in tears and wonder how much longer you can stand being away from your baby while you’re at work.
Those first days back at work after maternity leave are tough. And you wonder… does it get better?
Admit it. You’re wondering where you went wrong that your kid thinks it’s okay to talk back. You’re shocked at some of the phrases coming out of her mouth. Especially when not too long ago, she was the most angelic person in the world.
You’ve tried everything: taking her beloved toys away, time-outs, no television, and maybe even spanking. Nothing is working—Your little girl still talks back, and you don’t know what do.
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can try to stop your kid from talking back. We won’t go the route of harsh discipline or reacting in anger—those will backfire, as I’m sure you’ve come to realize.
But first, let’s talk about why your kid might be talking back. You just might see it’s a lot more normal (and forgivable!):
Testing boundaries. Kids don’t know boundaries until they test them. That’s why my toddler will throw a heavy toy because he didn’t know—until I told him—that heavy toys aren’t meant for throwing (while it’s still okay to throw the lighter toys or balls).
Getting your attention. Isn’t it ironic that misbehavior is a near-guarantee our kids will get our attention? When you’re busy or harried, kids resort to talking back because they know you’ll respond (even if negatively).
Masking other emotions. Kids talk back because of a slew of other emotions that may be difficult to articulate. They could feel hurt, isolated or frustrated—and it may have nothing to do with you.
They know you won’t go away. As their parents, we get the worst meltdowns. From tantrums to talking back, they act up most around us. Yes, we’re the ones who discipline, but they also know we’ll still be there for them even if they misbehave.
Knowing all that still doesn’t make your kids talking back any better, nor more excusable. In other words, they should still learn that talking back isn’t okay. How? By understanding their deeper behaviors and developmental stages as well as providing them with other means to express their frustrations:
I've been obsessing about Amanda Ripley and her book the last several weeks. Seems like the U.S. has lots to catch up on in terms of our educational system. Some big differences between our schools and other countries who do really well?
Teachers are respected, and it's hard to be one. As in, being a teacher is like being a doctor or a lawyer here. There isn't too much focus on sports in other countries. They don't protect or save their kids from disappointment or low self-esteem. And maybe most importantly, school is seen as the only way to get to college and get a good job. Basically, kids take it seriously.
My suggestion: Read this book. It's not so much a parenting book as just something purely eye-opening and thought-provoking.