Even Firefighters Go To The Potty: D-

UnknownEven Firefighters Go to the Potty by Wendy and Naomi Wax receives a D- because it’s horribly stereotypical and heteronormative.  As stated in the title, this is a potty training book, but what it really seems to be “training” or instilling in it’s readers is digressive social stereotyping.  Almost all of the professions feature white-males, the only other race imaged in the book is African-American, this is a typical race quota. The race quota can be seen in many late Nineties and early 2000’s shows, where a once all white cast, simply throws in a black person to “diversify.” But really all this does is amplify, and naturalize racism, by assuming that white and black extremes take care of the diversity quota. What about all other races?

The two-African-American MEN imaged in this book fulfill a race stereotype, one is a baseball player, the other is a server.  There might be one woman in the book, but her gender-ambiguity is hard to visually read, especially in comparison with the hyper-masculine male characters.

The ONE (possible)  woman featured has long hair, virtually the only “tell” this might be a woman, all other features are masculine, or hard  to read. In another, more progressive book, I wouldn’t assume this doctor were female, the long hair wouldn’t automatically make me think “female” but in a book that has proved to be socially digressive I’m leaning toward female. Long hair on a guy is just too much.

The possible woman is a doctor… great right? Maybe not, because either the doctor is a male, or the female doctor is, stereotypically unattractive, i.e., looks Vs. smarts. Women, stereotypically are not thought of as being both attractive and smart, you’re either one or the other.

Not every book needs to be ambiguous about gender relations, nor, does every book need to display different races, i.e. books centered around one-race families. The images, alone are to blame for the D- rating this book receives.  They’re so visually digressive that it overshadows any good message which could have been accomplished by simply doing the socially responsible thing of diversifying biological-sex and race through image. In a book which references many different professions including cop, firefighter, baseball player, server, doctor, there should be diversity in biological-sex and race.

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Toys Toys Toys

UnknownDo you depend too heavily on made for baby/toddler toys? It’s easy to use solely store-bought toys, especially when given to you for free at baby showers, but maybe it’s time to step back, and look in your house and outside for the stimulation your kids need.

You really don’t have to stock up on a ton of baby-deemed toys (other than books) to get your child’s interest, house-ware can be just as stimulating, if not more so.  From my many years of experience with infant-3 years I’ve found that they are most stimulated, and interested in real-world, purposeful objects around the house.  Bookshelves and the books in them become a mecca for defining fine motor skills, i.e., taking the books out and putting them back.

For infants and toddlers, gaining physical control of their bodies is a huge educational feat, from rolling over and reaching for objects, to fine motor-skills, like holding a crayon, so I try to make sure activities and toys influence them physically. Reaching for a stuffed animal or textured, colorful towel is good for their motor skills. As they get older, and more physically capable, putting objects inside each other serves a similar purpose.  You can buy blocked/stackable toys, but you can also use different sized tupperware or boxes to create the same effect.

What I look for in a toy or house-hold made toy is that it serves 1 of the 5 senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight.  Most store bought toys easily include touch and sight, when hearing is involved the sounds emanating from said toy are usually arbitrary.  Music around your house would be much for influential, for tonal patterns, beats and rhythm, and, lets face it, far more enjoyable for the adults.  My point is, infants and toddlers need to be stimulated, consistently with objects, things and people that influence their 5 senses, and most of the time you can find these things in your house.

When we depend solely on store-bought toys we can easily forget about 2 senses which are typically excluded, smell and taste. It also becomes easy to assume that “educational” toys are doing the education, so we don’t have to. But this isn’t true, as parents and caregivers we need to consistently talk about what they are doing, seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting.  It’s fun to think about all of the educational resources around us at all times that we, as adults take for granted, but will thoroughly intrigue and stimulate our babies.

Touch/physical:  Textured objects, this can be anything, cloth, wood, plants/flowers, rocks, paper, etc. When your baby starts to eat solids this is an amazing time for them to explore textures, and amazingly it includes all 5 senses! Hearing? Yes, if you consider the noise of squishing their food, or smacking a spoon against their plate, and adults talking about the food your baby is eating. Everything I listed can be easily found in house, or outside, i.e, plants, flowers, rocks.

Taste: Taste is something store-bought toys do not have (I don’t think….) As I said above, food is a great educational source, because it stimulates all senses.  When your baby is eating, talk about the food, what the food is, the texture and the taste.

Smell: Flowers, soap, food: Smell is also something typically excluded from store-bought toys, so we have to go in house or outside for these resources.

Hearing/Language: Music, books, drumming on objects in the house…really anything, toy or otherwise can stimulate language, all we have to do as adults is talk about what they are seeing, i.e., colors, animals, numbers, etc.

Sight: Everything!! You don’t need to buy colorful toys (you can, but you don’t need to) everything in your house and outside when coupled with some kind dialogue can stimulate sight awareness.

Some store-bought toys I do like: BOOKS!! Puzzles and blocks, and art supplies.

Examples of toys I find useless: Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes, Fisher-Price Go Baby Go! Poppity Pop Musical Dino,

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Endorse Bad Parenting?

What’s wrong with this commercial? Just about everything. This commercial, in a nutshell, sums up a parenting style I fundamentally disagree with. The commercial implies that our children should not be taken seriously, that we should literally tune them out when they ask questions we are ill-prepared for, or simply too embarrassed to answer. This commercial says: use media distractions as a way to get out of parenting.

Why as a society would we think bad parenting is funny?

Follow Through.

mom-debateIt’s easy to come up with, and devise a parenting style within the confines of your home, it can be much harder to maintain that same style when confronted with the outside, judgmental world. 

It can be hard to follow through on your own parenting style, when others around you are collectively doing something else.  It’s hard when strangers look at you like you’re crazy for implementing some parenting technique, whether it’s enforcing a rule, or letting your child play on the playground with other kids while you’re on a bench watching.

At playgrounds I often have an inner, self-encouraging mantra running, telling myself not to jump into the sandbox, or pointlessly follow ‘my’ kid around on the actual playground. I have to do this because all around me I feel parents judging me for not following their lead of over-parenting (yes, I too judge their over-parenting.)  While I love, and will happily play with the girl I watch, I think that she should play at the playground with other kids, not with me.

The other day, while I was out with the girl I nanny, who is now 22-months, I encountered this stranger-judgment.  I had two choices, 1. stray from my “parenting style” so as not to be judged, or 2. Maintain my style, and possibly be wrongly judged for it.  I chose the latter. While we were walking she (we’ll call her Turtle) decided to set her water bottle on the ground, walk away from it and then demand that I pick it up. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Turtle, can you please pick up your water?

Turtle: No, you pick it up. I need you to pick it up.

Me: Turtle, I’m not going to pick it up.  If you don’t want to carry it, bring it to me and I’ll put it in the bag. But you need to pick it up.

At this moment a stranger glared at me and went to pick up the water bottle, I intercepted saying…

Me, to stranger:  No, thank you, but I want her to pick up the water bottle.

Stranger: [Disgusted face]

Unknown

Me:  Turtle, you can take your time, but we aren’t going to walk any further until you pick up your water.

2 minutes later….

Turtle picks up her water and brings it to me.

Me: Thank you.

Turtle: You’re welcome.

The moral of the story is, yes, it was hard for me to have this stranger judge me, knowing she probably thinks I’m a terrible, mean, evil caregiver, but I have a specific “parenting” style and so, to maintain consistency, I let the stranger judge me.  Plus, I know I’m not a mean, terrible of evil-caregiver, which helps.

Cupcakes and Hoo-Hoos

My Body

The first few years of your child’s life, and of your being a parent, come with many exciting, scary, and even dreaded milestones, like the naming and talking about of your child’s genitalia.  As with a lot of my posts, this, too, is founded on what has become my “parenting style,” that of clear, honest, educated communication.

We are the first teachers our children will have.  While a lot of what they learn is through pure observation i.e., watching and hearing us, talk, walk, socialize, etc. We also coach them in these skills, we have mini “lessons” where we ask them questions or ask them to practice a new skill.  We even make up games and songs, because we are so eager for them to learn that, wheels go round and round and that, doors go open and shut.

One of the most popular teaching songs even delves, lightly so, into anatomy, Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, head, shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes, eyes and ears and a mouth and nose…. We happily sing this song while touching the corresponding body part, and relish when our little ones can do it all on their own. However, some parents and caregivers do not share the same enthusiasm for teaching their sons and daughters the names of their genitalia.

A lot of parents and caregivers spend little time explaining anything about their child’s genitalia to their child.  I rarely hear adults refer to their baby’s penis or vulva/vagina using the proper anatomical name.  Most commonly babies’ genitals are referred to as just, “down there,” some mystery location, referring to something below the waist: knees, shins, feet?! Some adults adopt some fictional, cutsie name for their baby’s genitalia, such as, cupcake, hoo-hoo, pee-pee, wee-wee, va-jay-jay.

I don’t think vagina is an ugly word.

Oprah Winfrey, unfortunately, helped coin the cutsie term va-jay-jay to replace the “obvious” ugliness “vagina” exudes. It became okay to make up “pretty” names for your vagina, all under the guise of a misrepresented feminism, i.e., a pseudo take back/reclaim your vagina movement, but really only further separates us from our sex and sexuality.  When grown men and women refuse to call their genitalia by the correct anatomical name, they do so out of embarrassment, a feeling I think most can agree should not surround our genitalia, a very important part of our bodies.

Why it can be hard to say P and V:

  • It’s hard for some parents and caregivers to say penis and vulva/vagina because we associate these parts with sex.
  • Our parent’s never said penis or vulva/vagina, so now we can’t say it either.
  • Baby talk: some parents/caregivers have a hard time talking in anything other than baby talk, so knees could become kneesy-weesies without a moments thought.
  • Adults are uncomfortable talking about their own genitalia by the correct names.
  • *Some people think penis and vagina are “adult words.”

*While searching for some examples of cutsie names for genitalia I came upon a web conversation on the site, JustMommies entitled, “G-rated names for penis, vagina, etc.”  Similarly, I searched “body parts Kids” and while there were many diagrams, none of those diagrams included genitalia.  Apparently kids don’t have penises or vaginas.  It seems safe to say we have an overarching problem with how we talk, or rather don’t talk about our genitalia.  The words Penis and vagina do not need a G-rated synonym because they are not bad words. Penis and vagina are anatomical names, just like elbow or collarbone.

Parents’ and caregivers’ inability to say penis and vulva/vagina when referring to their child’s genitalia bothers me beyond the obvious, which is simply that of embarrassment. I believe that at such a crucial learning stage we should be teaching them the correct names for things, in general. Just like we don’t want our kids to use slang or mispronounce words, we shouldn’t want them to use slang for their genitalia. Our jobs as parents and caregivers should be to present them with correct information. If they decide to change the name of their penis or vulva/vagina to something else, that’s fine. But I believe they should be presented with correct anatomical names for these reasons:

Why we shouldn’t make up cutsie names for P and V:

  • Miscommunication:  If you call your daughter’s vulva/vagina a cupcake, she will face confusion when someone offers her a cupcake.
  • Miscommunication: Others will not know what she means when she says “My La-La hurts.”

Why we should say penis and vulva/vagina:

  • Clear communication: Every adult knows what a penis is.
  • Clear communication: Every adult knows what a vulva/vagina is, right?! Vulva refers to the outer genitalia, while, vagina refers to the inner orifice.

I believe, strongly that having an open, and clear line of communication in regards to our bodies is key in creating a well-informed, inquisitive child. A child, who will know how to talk about their bodies without embarrassment, is a child who will also know their body’s limitations. They will be able, later in life, when they hit sexual maturity to make informed decisions, based on those early years of clear and open conversations about their body.

Rest Easy:

You can properly identify your child’s genitalia without sexualizing them. The reality you can take comfort in, is that your babies genitals are not something sexual, and wont be until puberty or after. Even if your baby is touching his/her penis or vagina, they are not doing so out of sexual curiosity.  They are touching themselves out of pure and innocent, A-sexual curiosity, so name those parts the way you do when your baby pulls on their ear and you say “that’s your ear!”

Teaching Moment:

Because we want out kids to learn body parts, we should also acknowledge and help them identify their genitalia and anus.  These areas will gain a lot of interest from your child, especially during potty training, so get comfortable identifying and saying the names.

  • When changing the diaper, simply get comfortable saying something like, “Oh, don’t touch your penis right now, there’s poop on it.”

 

Character Matters

Tall Nanny, Small Nanny, Slow Nanny, Fast Nanny: How many different nannies you meet! 

How to choose a nanny:  This is the topic of conversation in Park Slope. Speaking with parents on this subject has led me to believe a lot of parents go into the process of finding a nanny, with, well, not much of a process at all.  This shocks me because Park Slope parents are notorious for being overbearing in every other aspect of child rearing. Parents spend hours, weeks, maybe months, carefully choreographing their 5 month-old’s weekly class schedule (dance, music, art, etc.)  Yet, not much thought seems to go into the person who will spend 40+ hours a week with their child.

Of course parents think and care about who watches their children, but without a clear structure, or rubric to choose a nanny they become overwhelmed, the process becomes something akin to shopping in a grocery store: pick one important “no” ingredient i.e. high fructose corn syrup, and ignore the rest.

Looking back about a year and a half ago, before I got my current job, I put myself on SitterCity, a website designed for nannies and parents.  I remember the submissions by parents including such things as “flexible hours, experience,” but then the requirements often leaped to language… “Must be fluent in…” most popular being Spanish, but because I’m in New York, more obscure languages such as, Hungarian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Russian enter into the mix. After hours, wage, language, and maybe education, that’s about it in terms of job requirements.  The process is similar to any other job someone may get (Cook, Lawyer, Waitress, etc.,) unbiased to personal character.  The problem with this is that being a nanny is not like any other job, your character does matter, or it should.

I think choosing the right nanny should, ideally, include elements of character (values, lifestyle, religion, etc.,) The key is for parents to decide, even loosely, what’s important to them, both as an employer and parent (monetary vs. character).  This part can be difficult because it takes time to decide what is important to you in someone’s character, should their values, religion/non-religion, match yours or do you want variation?

The truth is, if you have a full time nanny that nanny is going to have a pretty significant impact on your child, in more ways then you can see.  It can be small things or big things, maybe you’re an atheist but your nanny is a god-loving woman or man and is preaching the Bible all day.  Maybe you don’t want you’re child to be a racist, because, who wants their child to be a racist? But, guess what, your nanny is a racist. Maybe you’re healthy, but your nanny eats all day and is extremely over weight? This is not only a safety issue: what your nanny is physically capable of in terms of protecting your child from harm, it also becomes a character issue: will your child also learn to over eat, or use food for comfort? All of these things matter, your children will learn from the behaviors of the person near them, meaning parents, and also caregivers.  So be critical of their character, because unlike other jobs their personality and character matter.

So, what would this look like? Below is a loose list of what is most important to me, and my partner, that is, if we were in the market for a nanny.  You’ll notice that business (salary, sick days, paid vacation, etc.) is the last item, this is in an ideal situation where financial constraints do not apply, where I can choose my child’s nanny based on her character and experience, not on her low rates.

  1. Character matters: I would want my child’s nanny to have similar values as my partner and I.
  2. Experience.
  3. Parenting: I absolutely would want my child’s nanny to have a similar parenting style as my partner and I.
  4. Dietary:  I would want my child around someone who is healthy; carnivore, vegetarian, vegan: I don’t care. But I do care if they eat all day, and go to McDonalds with my kid.
  5. In Shape: I don’t mean a muscle builder, just someone healthily mobile. If my child runs into the street can my nanny run after him?
  6. Doesn’t watch TV on the job
  7.  *Business:  This includes salary, time off, paid vacation, sick days, Health Insurance, etc.             *And, yes, these should all be included for a full-time nanny position.

What this means:  I want my kids to have a consistent upbringing. For others this might be different, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is important to think about, and figure out, what is most important to you as parents.  Obviously money comes into play for most, which may limit your options, or may not because low and high salaries do not necessary correlate to the dedication/character of the nanny. A lot of nannies don’t know what they’re worth (please don’t take advantage of that,) and some nannies think they’re worth way more than they are.

When you’re getting ready to hire a nanny think about what you want: make a list of character traits you want your nanny to have, and a list of more business end things: experience, flexibility, job duties and pay. When it comes time to open your pocket book remember that this person, the person of your choosing, who ideally matches your criteria is spending 40+ hours a week with your child. The nanny you choose will play a significant role in building your child’s character, emotional capacity, education, etc., so pick your nanny wisely and pay accordingly. And if you’re not sure you can afford certain rates, consider your life style.  Maybe it’s worth it to give up some extra luxuries, like a fancy car or cable TV in order to ensure your child has a proper upbringing.

Crying Babies and Screaming Adults

We’ve all been at playgroups when the inevitable screams of a parent/caregiver demanding their irritable-tantrum-raged toddler to “Stop! You’re being so bad! We’re going home!” resound over the screams of the toddler, demanding the question: Who’s having the tantrum, the child, or the adult?

The thing that makes, or breaks, a public tantrum is the parent/caregiver’s reaction to the crying child. Does the adult keep his/her composure, or, out of embarrassment and frustration, loose it as well?  The reason a crying child can be unbearable isn’t because of the child, it’s because of the screaming adult accompanying the child.  Screaming attempts to “Stop!” your child from being upset only fuels the fire, that is your screaming child.

Like adults, children have bad days; unlike adults they haven’t yet learned to control their emotions, leading them to display, publicly, just how upset they are with slight signs of frustration, or massive tantrums.  Sometimes a child can be calmed down with an easy fix of a clean diaper, meal, a nap or a calm conversation. Other times, there isn’t a ‘thing’ to be fixed. They’re just in a funk and there isn’t much a parent or caregiver can do to stop it. I’m not saying we should accept crankiness, nor am I saying we should praise our children when they aren’t fussy.  What I think is important is that we (adults) maintain our composure, even while our children are completely loosing it.

We can try to help them calm down, by figuring out if they are hungry, sleepy, or need a new diaper but after those things are checked off, there isn’t much we can do other than talk to them calmly and explain the situation at hand to them.

At the beginning of any given day I discuss with ‘my’ toddler what the day will entail, whether it’s a fun play-date or a not so-fun doctor appointment.  I believe, (as I’ve stated in other posts) that preparing our babies/toddlers for the days activities and involving them makes it less likely a tantrum will occur.

If a tantrum does occur in public I try not to leave right away, or at all.  I try to figure out if there is something I can do, by talking calmly and understandingly to the child. Giving the toddler time to adjust to the new environment and people is key.  She may just need 15 minutes to realize that she’s safe where she is.  Running out because she’s crying, or wont leave my side, will not teach her independence or patience, because I’m not allowing her time to adjust.

Most everyone can excuse and empathize with a screaming child; the same does not go for an angry, screaming adult.

If you’re out in public and your baby/toddler starts to scream or cry remain calm and remind yourself that everyone with kids has been here.  Try to figure out what’s upsetting your child, if there’s something you can do to make it better, do it, but if they’re just in a funk, leave them alone.  Talk to your child calmly and reassuringly. This will go a long way in calming both of you down and will relax the people around you.

I cannot count the times that saying something like “I understand how you’re feeling, take your time” or “I understand you’re upset right now, but we are around other people, so lets try to be a little quiet” has led to a calm child.  When I say these things it calms me down and it also works to calm down the toddler.

Children want to be acknowledged in their frustration, saying things like the above can completely turn a mood around.

So if talking to your child calmly and reassuringly works so well…(sometimes,) why don’t people use this tactic more? My guess is, people think it’s just too simple, we have it in our minds, our way of thinking, that we must talk them out of their frustration with negative reinforcement, “Stop!…We’re going home!…” when most of the time a calm and understanding tone will do the trick.

Leave when necessary, but don’t chastise your child for it (unless they are hitting, or pushing.) Use your judgment, but you don’t have to run out of a playgroup because your child is upset, give them some time to adjust to the new environment and people.

If you’re at a ceremony of some kind you should leave, know your audience.  If there are tons of kids, and it’s a kid event, stick around.  If you’re at an adult gathering, head outside for a bit until your child calms down.

Things you can do to avoid and calm public tantrums:

  • Prepare them for the day, talk about the new class, play-date or activity for the day.  If they know what’s coming and are excited, its less likely they’ll be overwhelmed upon arrival.
  • Try to figure out what’s wrong and help them if it’s something “fixable”.
  • Reassure them, e.g. “Everything is ok, we are going to play here for a bit and then we can leave.”
  • Be understanding, e.g. “I understand you’re frustrated…”

What’s Up Dogs?

I was recently asked by first time parents of a toddler how I, “deal with their [children’s] dog obsession?” I assumed (correctly) the question related to safety rather than the weaning off of dogs. Not all dogs love to be touched, poked and sat on by children.  So, here is what I do when that inevitable dog obsession takes over our little people.

As I’ve repeated in most of my posts, explain everything early, dealing with dog obsessions is no different.  Teach your kids early, meaning in the first few months of their life, how and how not to touch living things.

Before the obsession begins, I always show babies/toddlers how and how not to touch dogs, you can show this by using books, stuffed animals and real dogs.  I show babies to touch gently, by lightly stroking or patting an image, stuffed animal or real dog.  Most parents and caregivers have witnessed their baby/toddler smack, throw or be rough in some other way with stuffed animals.  I use these opportunities to correct, show and explain how “we touch animals.”

Like most things children learn behavior from watching the adults in their life and then copying that behavior themselves. Because I am cautious, I always approach the dog first. The steps involved are as follows:

  1. Ask the owner if the dog is okay with being petted and with small children.
  2. After a positive response from the owner I put my hand to the dogs nose, giving him time to give me his okay.
  3. I then pet the dog.
  4. After I say it’s okay, I tell her to repeat what she saw me do.

The toddler I watch knows how to approach a dog and how to pet the dog. She knows this from watching me and from practicing being gentle at home with her books and stuffed animals. She knows to ask me first (I assess by first asking the owner and then going to the dog myself), with my approval she knows to put her hand to the dogs nose and after a few “okay” sniffs she knows to, again, wait my approval and then go in for the nice gentle petting I’ve shown her.  She knows to do all of this from watching me and listening to my endless explanations of why some dogs don’t like to be touched, even gently.  And when a dog doesn’t want to be touched, or I say “No,” because the dog is barking at her stroller, she understands with abundant disappointment…that is, until the next dog appears.

Stay Calm

Parents, nannies, and friends often wonder at my “ability” to stay calm and patient when dealing with children, especially toddlers.  I’m commonly asked shyly, sometimes bitterly, by parents and nannies how I remain so calm when “They walk so slow…Ask the same question over and over…Have a tantrum.”

My ability to remain calm and patient isn’t because I have a super power calm/patient gene. To the contrary, I’m quite impatient in daily life, when dealing with adults.  I am calm and patient with children because I consciously decide that being calm, patient and taking the time to listen and explain is the best way to teach kids these behaviors.

First off, let me say I too get frustrated.  Even after my conscious, educated decision that this “is the best way of parenting and co-parenting.”  I have moments when I too would like to move at a reasonable pace. I think, perhaps we will make it one full block without 5-10, stoop-stops, pebble- stops, adjustments of exactly what she wants to carry as we walk-stops.

During these moments of frustration, I remind myself that we are moving so slowly, that I need to repeat exactly why we have to leave the sandbox, not because I’m dealing with a fall-over, incoherent drunk, but a small child, who does deserve patience and explanations as she learns how to walk and talk and everything else.  I remind myself how wonderful it is that she takes everything in, and then I too can look at the scenery and smell the flowers with her—because when do we do this as adults in New York City?

Remember that letting your child walk allows him to practice new skills, gives him independence and even tuckers him out for a later nap.  This isn’t an anything goes experience, if you actually have to be somewhere explain to your baby/toddler why you must carry him or put him in the stroller.

Here are some tips to get you through the slow walks, and repetitive conversations:

Every day, multiple times a day, remind yourself that everything is going to take two-times as long, and that is okay.

I learned long ago to never stress about time when dealing with toddlers (an attribute I do not maintain in my adult, daily life: I am known as extremely, and maybe annoyingly punctual.)  If you, like myself, have always been a punctual, quick paced person, the slow movements of your life with a toddler will be a more difficult transition.

Assess if you actually have to be somewhere, or if you’re just ready to leave.

When you are asking your toddler to move faster because you “have to go!” assess what exactly you need to leave for.  We are in the habit, especially as New Yorkers, of going places, doing things.  Because of this on-the-go-mentality, we often assume after being somewhere for 20 minutes that we “MUST” leave, but maybe that isn’t true. If you don’t actually have to be somewhere, like a playdate, or doctor appointment let your toddler walk. He has just learned this amazing new thing, so be patient and take your time.  Remember that when you are calm and patient, you are simultaneously teaching him calmness and patience.

Getting ready to go:

So, you do have to be somewhere.  Allot two-four times the amount of time to get yourself, and baby/toddler ready.

My ease with children and the reason I don’t stress about time is because I allot a significant, literally two to four times, more time to get myself and baby ready, and the same goes for getting to the place.  If we are going on foot to a play-date, doctor appointment, class, etc., I decide beforehand whether we are going to take the stroller, or just walk.  I try as much as I can to allow enough time for her to walk, at least part of the way.   A walk that would take me 10 minutes, I decide will take me, and toddler 40 minutes and I leave the house accordingly (Yes, I know I tacked on 30 minutes for a one way trip-this gives us leeway, so I’m not stressed.)

Get everything you can get ready while baby/toddler naps.

I always get her diaper bag stocked with the things I’ll need, or might need.  If we’re out for the day this means any of the below:

-Water/milk bottles.

-Diapers.

-Wet whips.

-Bib.

-Extra cloth bib, for other cleanups.

-Change of clothes.

-A book or 2.

-Food (If you’re out for lunch or dinner.)

-Blanket.

-Hat.

-Sunscreen.

-Bathing suit.

-Sweater.

*Have yourself ready too!

Prepare them for the activity.

While you’re getting your baby/toddler ready to go, explain what you guys are doing (As I describe in my previous post “Baby Talk.”)  Prepare them for the activity, this will help them understand they are apart of it and can also be a motivator for them to move more quickly.

Ask them to keep walking with you and explain why.

If we are in a time-crunch, I’ll ask her nicely to “come along,” and I’ll explain to her why we need to move faster, with information that will likely excite her. “We have to get home to see Mama and Dada…We have a playdate with (name of good friend).” Filling them in on the details is always helpful, especially if what you’re doing is fun.

If you need them to move faster, be fun and make a game out of it!

Another nanny, and mother, I know sings a cute song while marching, the kids love it and always happily follow along.

Remember that like everyone, toddlers are going to be less likely to be motivated by an irritated tone. Stay calm and relaxed. Speak to them kindly, not only for their benefit, but for yours as well.  If you speak in a calm voice with some excitement about what you are doing, it will motivate them, and also, amazingly, make you excited and will rid you of your irritation.

Baby Talk

Most parents have read enough baby books to know talking to their baby while in the womb is crucial. This communication, the sound of your voice, will be a future comfort for your infant (even though your voice will sound distorted.) But what about once the baby is born?  What do you talk about?  It’s easy to see the discomfort while parents attempt to talk to their infant; by trying on different tonal patterns, speaking in baby-talk and searching for conversation topics which might interest their baby. The discomfort largely has to do with the fact that infants are terrible conversationalists, the other end is that we just don’t know what or how to talk to our infants.

I think there are two major things parents/nannies are unsure of when talking to their infant.  The first order of business is how to talk to them; do you talk in your normal voice, or do you raise the pitch? Do you speak in proper sentences with proper pronunciation, or speak in “baby talk”? Second, what do you talk about? Do you talk in long personal monologues or pointed conversations involving your infant, or both?

How to Talk:

Tip: Think about how you want to talk to your baby.

While it can be tempting to talk to your infant in a higher pitch and baby-talk nonsensical “sentences”, I try to avoid this form of communication.  We, as parents and nannies, are their model for verbal communication. Don’t we want to teach them the proper way to speak, form sentences and communicate at large?

Tip: Say words correctly.

I fight the urge to talk like this, “Who’s a tubby-wubby tummy flubber?” because I think pronouncing words correctly is important for our future talkers. I make sure to annunciate, use short and concise language and I even raise my pitch on occasion. I say, “I love you.” Instead of, “I wub you.”

Tip: Break your language down.

Remember to break your language down, so that words will be more accessible to your child when they are able to talk. Use words they will be able to say, don’t say she’s “flabbergasted” say she’s “shocked”. If you are a linguist remember that “big words” will be more difficult for your baby to say, so save your vocabulary for adults.

Be concise with your sentences, and avoid complicated grammar.  Don’t say, “Although when the temperature is appropriate this would be a lovely toy to utilize, today a storm is forecasted, so let’s just play with the ball.” Instead say, “It might rain, so we will stay inside and play with the ball.”

Tip: Be consistent.

In order for your child to understand, and eventually use words, they need to understand the words: both how to say them and how to use them. Be consistent with your words, decide what word you will use to describe something and continue to use that word, repetition is the best way for your baby learn language.  If you decide to refer to your baby’s stomach as “belly” then use that word every time. And use repetition, “This is your belly, can you touch your belly?  Can you show me your belly?”

What to talk about:

Tip: Involve your infant in the conversation.

A lot of your communication with your infant will be talking about whatever comes to mind.  A running monologue of your daily activities together is great, keep doing it, but also involve her in the conversation.  Ask your baby questions, even though she can’t respond, this shows her that you’re interested. “How was your nap? Do you want to eat? Do you like this book?”  Your perceived patience and willingness to involve her will give space for her to communicate when she can verbally or physically do so.

Tip: Take time to describe and explain.

I believe asking questions, and taking the time to describe and explain things in detail will promote verbal communication, and makes for “good-listeners”.  Babies learn communication skills through us, they learn listening, and verbal techniques by watching and hearing us listen and talk.

They will replicate our actions, so pay attention to their moods, and ask them questions about how they are feeling, even if they can’t verbally respond. Ask your infant/toddler why she is upset, happy, frustrated, etc., then repeat what she either shows you or tells you. “You’re upset because you can’t touch the stove?  I understand, but the stove is a thing for big people…” Acknowledging how they feel and giving them language to describe their feelings shows them you care, and will be patient with them, characteristics I’m sure we all want our children to have.

Tip: Explain EVERYTHING.

Explain everything, how things feel, the purpose of objects, safety, etc. It’s easy as adults to take for granted all of the things we know without ever consciously thinking about it.  Remember that your infant, baby, toddler does not know how to describe things, what things are and what they are used for (windows, fans, stoves, etc.,) so explain everything. Instead of ignoring your child’s screams explain why you are lathering her in sunscreen for the 5th time, “I know you don’t like this but sunscreen is important, it protects our skin.” It will be soothing for your baby because you’re acknowledging their frustration, but you’re also filling them in on what’s happening.

Tip: Think about what can be a learning opportunity for both your child and you.

If your infant pulls your hair, bites your nipple, or does something that is too rough, take this opportunity to explain how to be gentle.  This is not a moment to reprimand your infant, because she does not know “right” from “wrong” but begin to teach her these things when they happen. Explain being gentle both with words and show her with your touch what “gentle” means; lightly touch her arm, or the place on her body where she was rough with you and say the word “gentle” or “soft”.

This is also an important learning opportunity for the parent/nanny, because you will need to learn how to explain and show your child acceptable vs. unacceptable behaviors, so start early.  Beginning conversations of safety and behaviors early will prepare you for when you will have to do it daily, when your baby becomes a toddler.