Disciplining your child: It’s not what you think.

When expecting our first child, we make certain basic preparations. We read parenting books, obtain a crib, stroller, car seat, high chair, layette. If both parents hold jobs, childcare arrangements must be made; new living arrangements, perhaps; a bigger car…
Having children forces us to reconsider and rethink everyday matters that we take for granted, as it becomes necessary to create a safe environment. We need to put covers in electrical outlets; locks on drawers and cabinets; keep dangerous objects (chords, sharps, glass…) out of reach; cleaning supplies, medications, and other hazardous materials locked away. We constantly scan for objects a little one might choke on; enclose areas that might be harmful; gate the stairways…
 In the beginning, our main concern is to keep these vulnerable little folk safe and cared for in a way that babies are incapable of doing for themselves. Paying close attention to details involving basic safety becomes second nature. We become disciplined in remaining vigilant.
Even as babies become mobile, they are not ready to learn what is and is not okay to get into. Punishment is pointless- a slap does not teach a baby not to do something. She feels only the pain, coming from the one she looks to for safety and comfort.
Babies and toddlers are curious and get into everything. We must eliminate temptations—put knick-knacks up; video equipment, and stereos out of reach. When an active baby or young toddler approaches danger, the best intervention is to remove the child from the area while calming telling him no, and distracting him with something appropriate. That is all that is needed at this age.
As their world expands, we begin to teach young children how to avoid dangerous situations themselves. This involves setting limits, creating boundaries- teaching discipline.
Discipline does not necessarily mean punishment. It can be characterized as a rule or set of rules governing conduct, involving self-control, will power, and consequence. It provides clarity and stability and intention and safety, which are necessary for the pursuit and fulfillment of our highest potential. Without discipline, our world is chaos and we become so burdened by confusion and distraction that it becomes difficult to follow any path, let alone to create and pursue meaningful life goals.
Raising well behaved and successful kids are hard work that takes the better part of twenty years of vigilance and consistent guidance. We must learn how to mold their behavior in a way that is effective in teaching them to successfully cope in this world and lays the groundwork for positive learning in all areas of their lives. Being clear and consistent about expectations and consequences regarding behavior eliminates much of the ambiguity that can interfere with having a fully satisfying life.
  • If you destroy that in anger, you will have to use your allowance to replace it.
  • If you’re not careful with your library books, the librarian won’t let you borrow more.
  • If you are mean to your friends, they won’t want to be your friends anymore.
  • If you don’t do your homework, you’ll get behind and it will be harder to learn the material.
  • If you spend all of your money on candy, it will take longer to save for that toy you want.
Over the years I have noticed a definite shift in the current approach to parenting. So many parents are more concerned with being a child’s friend than being the one who enforces (self) discipline.
In more extreme cases, there is no attempt to correct inappropriate behavior. These parents believe that it is best to allow kids to fully express themselves in the way that the child sees fit, and that by interfering with his actions, they are somehow limiting the capacity for him to be who he is.
As a result, these kids tend to walk all over their parents, becoming the literal ruler of the home-(”You can’t tell me what to do-I’ll come when I’m good and ready”). These children may be inclined to show little consideration for the rights and property of others, steamrolling their way through public venues and other people’s homes. Meanwhile, the parents are helpless to intervene, if not oblivious to the upheaval their kids are creating.
At the other end of the continuum is the overprotective, controlling parent who doesn’t let their child out of their sight, limits activities for fear of injury to the child, demands perfection in every endeavor, or constantly steps in on the child’s behalf, thereby not allowing him a chance to work things out for himself or to learn from his mistakes.
Neither one of these approaches is fair to the child.
Kids want to be given guidelines and to know what to expect. Toddlers begin to understand the meaning of no; indeed, it is one of their first words! And everyone has observed a little one mischievously, or defiantly look the parent or caregiver in the eye and proceed to do the very thing he has been cautioned not to do.
When creating rules and boundaries for young toddlers and preschoolers, remember that the bottom line is Safety. Little kids can make sense of this. 
  • Biting, hitting, kicking, pinching, pushing and throwing things at people hurt. It’s never okay to hurt someone.
  • Keep your toys picked up so no one trips on them and gets hurt.
  • Matches and lighters can burn you and start fires. They are never for playing with.
  • Sharp things cut people. Knives and scissors are not for children unless a grown-up says it’s okay and is paying attention.
  • Don’t go near the pool/pond/river without a grown-up: children need supervision near water because it’s not safe.
  • Jumping on the furniture is dangerous- it’s not safe to be wild in the house because there just isn’t enough room- you might get hurt or break something.
Setting limits is good for everyone. A child who has no restrictions lives in pandemonium; with clear limits, he knows where he stands. Being inconsistent confuses him and makes him try harder to get away with everything that he can. Children will test the limits we set, but if we remain consistent, then there is no need for a huge struggle. You both know what the boundaries are, and if they are significantly crossed, there are consequences. It’s just the way things are.

Creativity Rediscovered

How do you respond when someone asks for your creative involvement in a project?
Too many times when I mention to acquaintances the possibility of dabbling in art, the response is, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body- I can’t draw a straight line!”
I usually feel all thumbs myself when asked to put crayon to paper. And certainly it goes back to when I was a child and thought that my art was quite lovely, until it was Jane Colony’s work that was spot lighted time after time. One of my best drawings was a winter wonderland pastel I made in fifth grade, but someone tore it off the wall in the hallway and it got trampled. This is the perfect metaphor for what happens to most of us as the creative genius of early childhood becomes stifled.
Kids love to make art. Children progress through the stages of scribbling and their first attempts at self portrait, to discover that one can draw almost anything simply by putting shapes together. They may learn how to draw rockets or sharks or flamingos or dinosaurs, and this is what they draw…over and over and over and over.

Left to their own devices, they finally move on to experiment by sketching different things with such abandon as to use every scrap of paper available. Until that inevitable time when self-consciousness tries like the dickens to squelch the radiance of who we are meant to be.
We become so concerned with what other people are thinking about us that we come to fear the full expression of who we are because someone might laugh or disapprove of us- if not in reality, certainly in our minds. So we hold ourselves back, disqualifying our thoughts and creations before someone else can. When in reality it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Nurture your child’s creativity by providing a comfortable atmosphere where s/he can discover, experiment and explore. Establish a space- a room, corner, or table, to be the designated art area to keep and use their arts and crafts independently, Allow your child the freedom to create away from your constant supervision. Provide an endless supply of “stuff” including crayons, markers, paint, paper, scissors, glue, tape, clay, natural materials (shells, pebbles, feathers, pine cones) and reusable stuff (bows, spools, boxes, egg cartons).
As you provide opportunities for your child to experiment and discover his/her creativity, it is important to set guidelines. For example:
  • Art materials are not to be wasted and to be kept in the art area at all times.
  • Do not put paste, paint, glue, chalk, or any other materials in your mouth- they are not for eating, drinking or tasting.
  • Work only on your own project and only on the paper you are given.
  • Don’t forget to wear a smock for messy projects!
Set limits early on, with the expectation that they clean up and put their things away each time they use them. You will need to demonstrate the proper way to wash paint brushes, close bottles of glue, and replace marker covers securely. If you show by your attitude that you sincerely trust your child, s/he will be careful. 

As your child practices expressing himself some encouragement may be called for: “I bet if you practice on a different piece of paper, it will come out the way you want it to,” or “If you make a mistake, usually you can turn it into something even better than it was before.”
I have seen kids who are otherwise unable to sit still or focus on anything for more than a few minutes, let go of outside distraction and focus on the creative spirit that is within each of us. Being creative in a nonthreatening environment instillsasense of peace, a connection with something greater than ourselves, and the greatness of our own Self! 
(RDW 2007, revised 2010)


Rules for the Road

The wicked fear that was instilled in me from that young age affected me for many years. This can be avoided by approaching topics of safety (road and fire safety, stranger danger, etc.) in a calm and matter of fact way during the course of our daily activities.

Whether you live in a residential neighborhood or in the country, it is a good idea to walk around town with your child periodically so that s/he has an opportunity to experience first hand the importance of “rules for the road”.

Here are some of the points to be made in your day to day travels:
  • Teach your child to “Stop, Look, and Listen, before you cross the street. Use your eyes, use your ears, and then use your feet.” Repeat this rhyme every time you cross the street so that it becomes automatic. 
  • Discuss the importance of crossing with an adult who loves him/her, because drivers don’t always see little people on the road.  
  • Talk about the dangers of chasing balls, pets, other kids into the road.  
  • Explain the reasons for cross walks and traffic lights. When you are at a traffic light, be sure to obey the “don’t walk” light whether or not there is any traffic, for you are setting an example, and young children don’t have the experience to determine whether there is enough time to cross before the car down the street reaches the crosswalk.
  • Demonstrate looking over your shoulder to see if a car is coming from behind at the intersection. 
  •  Tell your child that running across the street is never a good idea because s/he may trip in front of on-coming traffic.  
  • Talk about the risk involved in darting into a parking lot or between vehicles: “Drivers are not expecting little children to appear from between parked cars and you     might get hit.” 

As children become a little older they may run ahead of you on the side walk. Set a limit as to how far ahead they can go (e.g., to the next driveway, or the corner, or the second tree). Get them into the habit of stopping at each driveway to check for traffic.

If the kids are riding bikes, they need to be wearing helmets (it’s the law!); and to stay on the sidewalk, always checking driveways. Be sure to remind them that sidewalks are for walkers first, and that they need to stop and wait for someone on foot to pass.

These are all things that we take for granted, but it seems that there is a whole generation of kids that were never taught road etiquette. How often do we hear the squeal of brakes; or curse under our breath at the kids walking, riding, skating down the middle of the road as if they own it; or stepping out into oncoming traffic assuming that the driver will stop for them. Little do they know whether this is a student driver lacking experience behind the wheel, or an elderly person whose sight and reflexes aren’t what they used to be. It may be someone distracted by their sound system or telephone, or driving while intoxicated.

We often forget that something which becomes so second nature to us as adults, must be taught with care, and learned by example. And that a refresher “course” may be in order as the children grow older. 

RDW. 2003; revised 2010

Easing the transition when your child starts school

One of the most important rites of passage for both parents and children happens when we send our little darlings off to school for the first time. What an exciting, scary, bittersweet time for parent and child.
Some children march off to school and have no trouble whatsoever settling in. For others, it can be more traumatic. And there is nothing worse than leaving your child in the throes of separation and stranger anxiety when you want so desperately to relieve them of this despair.
My son happily went off to school for the first three days of kindergarten. But the following Monday he decided he had had enough. When we started out to meet the bus, he ran around the house and in through the back door sobbing that he wanted to stay home. My neighbor stepped in, bless her heart, walking and cajoling him to the bus stop. That was the day I cried.
If your child’s anxiety gets the better of them, you will be faced with the agony of tearing yourself away as s/he is begging you not to leave. Their apprehension is so understandable when you consider that this is a whole new experience and your child has no idea what to expect.
Following are some ideas that may help in the transition for you and your child.
Before the first day, plan to visit the school with your little person during a day when the teacher is in the classroom. A Visitors Week or some other event is sometimes set up for this purpose. Otherwise, call the school and leave a message for the teacher to call and arrange a convenient time to visit.
There are numerous story books about starting school. Helping a child to visualize beforehand what will occur, is very beneficial. The Kissing Hand, a lovely story by Audrey Penn, is especially helpful in dealing with separation anxiety, and worth reading with your child before school starts.
Finding a small token for your child to keep in their pocket to remind them that you love them and will be back soon can be a great comfort.
Make a special day of your child’s first day in school. Start the day with a nutritious breakfast of eggs or fruit and toast or whole grain cereal. A breakfast loaded with sugar merely aggravates the emotional upheaval your little one experiences and will make things more difficult for your child, yourself, and the teacher.
If your child wants to bring their favorite doll or stuffed animal to keep them company, let them. Explain that if this little “friend” is too disruptive, the doll or teddy may have to wait in their backpack until it is time to go home.
The first day of preschool or kindergarten is often shortened to allow the children to gradually become accustomed to this new environment. Tell your child that you will be back when it’s time to go home. Give them a frame of reference as to how long that will be (e.g., if it is going to be an hour, say, “That’s how long Sesame Street is on.”)
Plan with your child that when you come back, you will have a special date and go out for lunch or to the playground.
Talk about your child’s feelings. (“It’s a little bit scary when…” or “ I feel that way sometimes too, but you know what? It always, always gets better.”) When I tell young children that I always feel shy on the first day, it validates their feelings and empowers them to feel braver.
Tell your child that some kids become upset when their parents leave, and suggest that if that happens, they can make a special effort to make friends with that child.
Even if a child is distraught, it is much easier for all of you if you just leave (although sneaking out is usually not a good idea). Your hesitation just proves that there is reason to be afraid!
Do not let your child see you cry in this situation.
A child’s distress passes much more quickly if you make a clean break. Once when my husband and I were leaving one of the kids with a sitter, when we left them in his room he was crying- until we reached the first landing.
When you bring your child in the morning, explain that when it’s time for you (the parent) to leave, you will leave, but will be back when it’s time to go home. Then leave! More often than not, a child is distracted enough within the first five minutes to enjoy the day so much that he doesn’t want to leave when it is time to go.
In the parking lot after they have deposited their children, parents sometimes organize meeting for coffee. What better time to support one another in a time of doubt, and start meeting the parents of your child’s new friends?
-RDW (2005, revised 2010)

We all make mistakes

All too often in our struggles to maintain control over a situation, we lose perspective. There are times when what starts out to be a minor annoyance gets blown up out of proportion as a result of the exhaustion and frustration of our day. We have all been in a situation where emotions run so high that they no longer reflect the issue at hand. Something else in our lives (a previous grudge, anger with a spouse, stress at work, financial worries) has impeded our ability respond appropriately.
As a result of hanging on to the residue of hurt and resentment from an earlier interaction, we make mistakes. We respond inappropriately, or misjudge a situation and make false accusations.
Once when I was 8 years old, my mother misunderstood what I said and was convinced that I had used a curse word. She slapped me across the face and forbade me to attend a street fair that we had looked forward to for months, sending me instead to spend the day in my room.
She would not listen to my side of the story, and the punishment so far exceeded the crime. This did not teach me not to swear, but that the world is an unfair place and if I’m going to be punished for nothing, maybe I should do naughty things so at least I will deserve the punishment.
When we are completely frazzled at the end of a long day, we are more likely to respond inappropriately as we reach the end of our rope. We tend to forget that the little people in our lives are only 3 or 6 years old, and that their lack of response is not necessarily a conscious ploy to test or disobey.
Once after nagging my son to pick up his toys, to no avail, I stormed into the play room and said, “You want to play in a mess? I’ll give you a mess!”, and proceeded to dump every last toy in the room onto the floor.
I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself! On some level I had realized things were spiraling beyond the limits of rationality, but didn’t have the wherewithal to take appropriate action or let go of it. After a few minutes I went back to apologize, and we put the toys away together.
Parenting is such an important and difficult job. Usually, the only training we receive is the example set by our own parents. There is no mandatory preparation for dealing with the multitude of situations that arise. We have to make on the spot decisions, and at times we simply react without thinking something through. Even the best and most well-intentioned of parents sometimes act in ways that are harmful to a child. We all make mistakes.
Once when the kids were small it became too quiet in the other room, and upon further investigation I discovered my son and the little girl from down the street playing “doctor”. I knew what they were doing, but rather than telling them that this was not okay and letting it go at that, I proceeded to insist that they tell me what they were doing. A deeply humiliated five-year-old ran home in tears, telling her mother that she was never coming back to our house, ever again!
Thankfully, I realized my mistake and sent the child a note of apology, after which she continued to run through the house with all the other neighborhood kids as if they were part of the family. Years later she told me how much that note meant to her at the time.
Don’t think that it is beneath your dignity to apologize. An honest apology when something like this happens serves to make amends, allows children to see that we all make mistakes, and makes it easier to let go of the guilt we are all too willing as parents to heap upon ourselves. -RDW (7-5-10)

Tricks of the trade

When raising children, we need to learn how to mold their behavior in a way that is desirable and socially acceptable. This is no easy task. Wanting to be your child’s friend seems more appealing than being the one to set limits and enforce consequences. But kids want to be given guidelines and to know what to expect. A child without boundaries cannot develop self control, and lives in a world of chaos. This is not a pleasant place to be.
Daily routine is critical, as are consistency in expectations, and consequences to undesirable behavior, Make your expectations perfectly clear and follow through with consequences even if it would be easier to let things slide. Raising “good” kids is hard work. 
Make sure your child’s day involves fresh air and plenty of exercise.  A long walk or trip to the playground, weather permitting; or dancing, pretending to be every kind of animal you can think of, running up and down the stairs, will serve you well. There are numerous videos leading children in various forms of exercise.  This will bode well for nap time too!
Give up the expectation of keeping an immaculate house, although teaching children to pick up toys as they are finished with them and before getting something else out is win-win for everyone: more room to play and easier clean-up at the end of the day.
It is not necessary or desirable to keep children occupied every minute, because then they don’t learn to entertain themselves.

There are certain things that work really well in changing the level and type of energy in the house. Getting everyone to take three deep breaths rarely fails. Calming music helps keep the level of craziness down. We used to have an aquarium that served as time out. Putting the kids (and/or myself!) in front of the fish tank worked like magic in calming all of us down; and you can have great conversations while watching the fish!

Read to your kids every day. Not only will you teach your children a love of reading, it is a way to take a break from the madness.
Rotate the toys. If you keep some of the toys in the attic and bring them down while putting others away for a time, it’s like getting a whole bunch of new things to play with. Even when the kids are developmentally beyond certain toys, they are certain to find other uses for them. When a command to pick up their toys elicits minimal response from little ones, singing the Clean-up Song often helps to move things along. (I often think it is their way of getting me to stop singing).
Most useful in getting a child to do what needs to be done is to make a game of it. Challenging the kids to do what is required before you count to 20 is a most effective ploy for getting them to comply. I used to count all the time when my kids were little: “See if you can go to the bathroom before I count to 25; go get your shoes before I count to 10… It almost always works.
Note: Many years later, I asked my 19 year old son to go bring something up from downstairs. Upon his refusal, I said “see if you can do it before I count to 10.” First he rolled his eyes and said “no!” “1…2…3….4.. you better hurry!” He started to get antsy as this look of confusion came over his face before he took off, returning just as I got to 10! It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Always remember, as tough as things get, they always always get better, and your head will spin at how quickly the time goes by.

Grocery shopping with little kids can be fun??!

When I see parents in the store with their little ones, I feel so nostalgic for the days when I made an occasion of going for groceries with my four little boys. If you plan ahead, don’t shop when you or your child is tired or hungry, and agree on simple rewards for good behavior (stopping at the park, playing a game when you get home, reading an extra bedtime story), grocery shopping with kids can transform a necessary chore into a fun and educational adventure,
We have all been at the grocery store when a child is throwing a temper tantrum for want of a toy or candy that has caught his (or her) eye. Once you give in to a child’s tantrum, he knows that you can be manipulated to do his will. Children quickly learn that certain behaviors pay off, even if only occasionally.       
This is where being consistent in expectations and consequences becomes critical.
Ignore inappropriate behavior unless it is dangerous, destructive, embarrassing or annoying to others. If we refuse to reward a screaming fit even for the sake of peace, then it quickly becomes an embarrassment to the child, and is removed from the repertoire of behaviors called upon to manipulate parents and other adults.
 Early on, my favorite child care author was Penelope Leach. She gave me one of the best bits of advice I ever received. In response to a fervent plea for the object of a child’s desire, this works like magic: it’s called wishful thinking. When one cookie isn’t enough and a little one insists on another , try this: “I know! I wish I could have six cookies. I wish I could eat the whole bag of cookies!” or, “I wish I could get the red car and the green car!” It works.
Remember that kids are not perfect. Children are impulsive. They need your help to learn how to behave at the store. Talking with the kids about behavioral expectations (manners, not touching things or being wild, staying close to the cart), before you go to the store makes all the difference in the world.
Understanding that most rules are for safety gives them legitimacy. “If you run around you might break something or run into someone’s Grandma or Grandpa, and someone could get hurt. ”
As long as I remembered to lay out my expectations in advance, we were able to get in and out of the store without incident. But I found that if I forgot to remind them, we often paid the price. There were times that I had to abandon my cart and take the kids right out of the store to calm down.
Kids don’t like being out of control any more than we do. If things have escalated to this point, take your distraught child aside, look him in the eye and tell him quietly but firmly that his behavior is unacceptable. Wait, saying nothing, for your child to calm down. When he or she is calm, ask if he is ready to try again. If he cannot calm down, leave, and return to the store later.
At these times we tend to feel so embarrassed that we want to flee from other shoppers as well. We need to remind ourselves that many people in the store have been in the same situation and understand that this behavior is not necessarily a reflection of our parenting.
Setting limits is good for everyone. A child who has no restrictions, lives in chaos. Children will test the limits we set, but if we remain consistent, then there is no need for a huge struggle. You both know what the boundaries are, and if they are significantly crossed, there are consequences. It’s just the way things are.- RDW (10-25-09)

Learning to get along together

      No matter who we are, at some point in our daily walks through life, we encounter someone we just don’t like (or someone who dislikes us) for no apparent reason other than we rub each other the wrong way.
I see this condition arise among people over and over again—in the politics of a workplace, as a cause of upheaval among church congregations, within civic organizations, even on public transportation (“I refuse to ride with that bus driver!”).
      I’m sure every one of us has had this reaction to someone with whom we must come into contact. Does this mean we have to rally others to stand with us against this person, or to stop attending something that is meaningful to us? We must remember that our response to these types of situations sets an example for our children.
     Given the opportunity, children become quite good at working things out between themselves. They cannot, however, be expected to do so just because we tell them to. We need to give them the specific words necessary to effectively express themselves: “I don’t like it when you say this, or do that, or treat me this way—it makes me feel bad. Please stop!”, or “I’m using this right now, you can use it when I’m finished with it.” It never ceases to amaze me how quickly children respond to each other once they learn to communicate in this way.
      Even as children become teens, we will find it necessary to remind them again and again how important it is to practice this kind of communication in order to get along in the world. Indeed, a lesson once learned the hard way runs over us like a train in a completely different situation, sometimes over and over.
We need to remember to learn from their example as well. Because young children live so in the moment they are able to let go of a disagreement without holding a grudge.
      Children will mirror the way they see us behaving, regardless of what we tell them. We forget how much little ones pick up from eavesdropping on conversations we hold in their presence, conversations not intended for little ears. It can be quite shocking to hear the things that come out of the mouths of babes until we realize that they are parroting our very choices in words and intonations.
      When I encounter a difficult relationship, I know there is a little girl inside who is reacting to something that happened long ago, and I need to remind myself that I am beautiful, capable, and competent adult.
      We have a most powerful role in helping to shape these young people entrusted to our care. Rather than allowing ourselves to be sucked into feelings that are petty and mean (we all do it), we need to put principles before personality and remember that children follow our lead. 
RDW (2006, revised 2010)

Napping is not optional

Make no mistake. Little kids will take a nap if it is routine and non-negotiable. It’s true. Nap time needs to be a priority, not worked around errands and phone calls and play dates. 

You will notice that children sleep more during a growth spurt. That’s what children do; no matter how often you admonish them to stop growing, they grow. There must be a routine for sleep.
Be consistent about when it is time for nap. When my kids were little, if nap time was to work, we had to have lunch and cleanup behind us between 12:15 and 12:45 or they would get their second wind and be going strong until late afternoon when they would either fall apart completely or crash until bed time. Some of my friends gave me such a hard time for being so anal about it, but my kids (and I!) were so much happier for our days revolving around nap time.
Plenty of fresh air, light and exercise before hand needs to be part of the routine. (One of our favorite things to do when our kids were little was to find out when the marching band practiced and chase them around the block a couple of times.)

 Good timing

If you give your kids a wholesome lunch such as whole grains, dairy products, rice and eggs to name a few, these will help to encourage sleep because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep. Giving children junk food for lunch is certain to sabotage your efforts.

Establish a nap routine. Just like adults, kids need a few minutes to wind down if they’ve been running around. Story time and a song is a good prelude. If you do this routinely with your kids, they will begin to associate the activity with falling asleep. 

Pull the shades down, turn off the tv and the ringer on the phone. You might want to play soft music. After the kids are asleep, use the time for yourself- reading, writing, dozing, doing something creative. The housework can wait. Taking that time for yourself will make you a better parent.

It is so unfortunate that generally speaking, a nice nap in the early afternoon is frowned upon. I have always had a hard time staying awake after lunch. In fact, when I was working in the field of social work, I learned quickly not to schedule appointments with clients between the hours of one and three in the afternoon. It is amazing how intolerant people can be when you drift off as they are baring their soul. So I would bring a jolt of caffeine to my office and do paperwork during that time. And remain sluggish for the afternoon. Then I discovered the magic of putting my head down on my desk for 20 minutes.
Bad timing

I have mentioned that when my children were young, my soul purpose in the mornings was to wear them out so they would all go down for a nice long nap. When they eventually outgrew naps (after they became accustomed to kindergarten), I remained cranky and lethargic until the end of the day. Until I realized that naps are as beneficial to us as they are for kids. In fact, as Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance proclaims, “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, napping is not optional.”

Several years ago, I was blessed with the gift of being surrogate mother to a one- year-old boy. In my effort to make his time in strange surroundings with people he did not know less lonely, I stayed in the room with him as he went down for nap, so that he would not wake up completely adrift, not knowing where he was. Little did I (and does he!) know that he gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.
Nap time offers an opportunity to let go of the mayhem. Not to be confused with sleeping, a nap is a chance to drift for a moment from the turmoil, to experience your inner being, your soul, the essence of who you are… That state of half sleep allows you to work out creative solutions to any number of things. Having gotten into the routine of letting my self be quiet, I realized how critical to the contentment of my soul this disconnect time has become. When I am finished, I can get up and do another full days work. RDW(4-30-10)

The fearful child

As parents we are given the responsibility of teaching our children to be confident, capable and productive citizens. This task is difficult given that we live in a fearful world. We need to keep our children safe from danger while tempering our own fears. 
Children are extremely sensitive to the emotional response of their parents to various situations, and will respond in kind: they become fearful in varying degrees, ranging from healthy caution to paralyzing fear, largely based on cues received from those around them. For instance:
It is good to be cautious of strangers, but one must be careful not to exaggerate the sense of danger where it is unwarranted. Approaching the topic of stranger danger can be done in a matter of fact way: “Some people are bad; but most people are good. It is okay to say hi when a stranger says hello, but never go with someone you don’t know unless mommy or daddy tells you that it’s okay…” 
A few weeks ago I was in a public restroom and a woman in the stall next to me said to her child: “You stay right with me. If you don’t, someone is going to steal you and you will never see mommy or daddy again. Do you want that to happen?!” A child who is fearful of all strangers becomes immobilized in the face of new situations involving other people.
Getting a shot is another fear common among children. Needles are scary to many of us. The trick is to be honest and matter of fact about the object of fear, sharing with your child, “I don’t like getting shots either because they hurt, but only for a minute. They don’t hurt as much as when you stub your toe, or bite your tongue. I wish you didn’t have to get a shot too, but shots are so people don’t get very bad sickness, and to help people get better…” 
As parents we sometimes say things we ought not to say either because we haven’t thought it through, or because we have reached the end of our rope. I have heard a parent telling a child that if they are not good, the doctor is going to give them a shot! Needless to say, this child is terrified of going to the doctor. Have you noticed that when your child receives a vaccination, the physician is nowhere to be seen? Many doctors purposely remove themselves from the situation so as not to be so closely associated with the infliction of pain.
I happen to be afraid of open heights. Being the mother of four sons, I had to stretch the limits of my bravery to the negligible point of stupidity on more than one occasion. I knew I was in trouble when my one-year old was climbing the arched ladder at the playground. 
Being fearful myself of grated stairs and sewer drains, I knew I did not want him to suffer the incapacitation of my fear. I bit my tongue and held my breath until he reached his destination, standing ready to catch him should he fall. Boys can be fool-hardy creatures, climbing to the top of a 20 foot tree at the age of five, jumping off a huge rock into the river when they are 12. 
I had to force myself to watch the kids graduate from one level of difficulty to the next without my interference, at times against my better judgment. Thankfully they were able to grow into the confident, skilled climbers that they are today. They are able to experience a whole world which remains inaccessible to me, as I remain rooted in fear at the foot of a mountain while they scamper up mighty peaks. RDW (11-6-09)