“Our role as parents is not to ensure our kids are always happy, it’s to prepare them to find their own happiness. So it’s good to let kids fail. They will learn to cope when things don’t go their way, and gain the self-confidence to try new things, and go for it”
Marc Lore, co founder of Diapers.com
I recently came across this quote from Parenting Magazine. I found it extremely inspiring and it really got me thinking about my own parenting and that parenting of my peers. Of course we all want our children to be happy. But how will they ever know true happiness unless they know what sadness feels like too?
Many of us struggle with “being happy” way into our adulthood. In fact in a recent survey only about 84% of Americans consider themselves “happy”. (This statistic found on Nationmaster.com is compiled from responses to the survey question: "Taking all things together, would you say you are: very happy, quite happy, not very happy, or not at all happy?". The "Happiness (net)" statistic was obtained via the following formula: the percentage of people who rated themselves as either "quite happy" or "very happy" minus the percentage of people who rated themselves as either "not very happy" or "not at all happy".)
We want everything to be perfect, and if it’s not perfect than we might consider ourselves “not happy”. Especially in this day and age where everything is so visual….instantly photos and messages are posted on Facebook that remind us just how quickly we need to “keep up” with perfection and even our happiness. This of course trickles down to the happiness we want for our children. Providing them with every opportunity, fixing their problems, and not necessarily giving them a chance to figure out things on their own.
This common phenomenon is often referred to as “overparenting” or what some authors refer to as "high responsiveness and low demandingness" parents." “These parents are highly responsive to the perceived needs and issues of their children, and don't give their children the chance to solve their own problems”.
These parents might be the ones who rush to school at the whim of a phone call from their child to deliver items such as forgotten lunches, or assignments. It might be the few who actually demand better grades on their child’s report card or threaten withdrawal from school. (yea, that actually happens).
Some might consider the parent that still zips their 8 year olds coat everyday an “overparenter”. Or let’s take for example letting your daughter skip school on Monday because she had an exhausting weekend due to a sleepover and birthday parties and needs a mental health day to ‘re-coup’. Doesn’t seem so harmless when it’s once in a while right? But how do we keep a handle on this so called indulging and coddling?
Parents who are overprotective of their children in this way are perhaps molding children that do not learn to take responsibility (and the natural consequences) of their actions. The children may develop a sense of entitlement causing friction not just in school with their teachers and other children, but might follow them later on when they enter the “real world” and their “real job”.
While intervening in every aspect of their day may make things easier for them in the moment, it may also inadvertently send the message that they will always need your help. It could also send the message that failing is unacceptable, they are not good enough and failing in general is terribly traumatic. Watching your child suffer in disappointment is never easy but experts say it’s one of the best things you can do for them and their future.
In addition, it is important to recognize that your child is responsible for their own happiness. By letting go and giving them a chance to figure things out you are allowing them to experience sadness, anger and frustration. If we fix every problem for them or do dances to keep them smiling we are almost holding them back from becoming realistic functioning adults.
Instead here are a few other things you can do to help your child “be happy”:
1. Control your happiness, because children learn everything from us our moods definitely matter.
2. Parents.com stresses the importance of nurturing your relationship with your spouse. “if parents have a really good committed relationship, the child’s happiness usually follows”
3. Try to give your child a Growth mind set…the belief that people achieve their goals through hard work and practice.
4. Be careful not to only praise their innate traits such as their prettiness, athleticism, or intelligence. This can in turn make them feel they are being judged on something that is perhaps out of their control, and can not be changed.
March 2nd marks the birthday of an American favorite Dr. Seuss, and to help celebrate this story book icon the NEA (National Educators Association) have built a program called Read Across America.
Now in its 16th year, Read Across America helps to motivate children and teens to read through events, partnerships and reading resources. Across the country thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books.
This year March 1st is Annual Read Across America Day and will kick off the celebrations planned for this year. The Little Gym of Montclair is also taking part in the festivities while focusing on letter recognition, rhyming sounds, and story telling during our classes this week and next.
While reading every day is a great way to expose your child to books and wanting and liking to read the NEA has some great additional resources that can be found on their website.
We have also complied a short list of some of our favorites below.
1. Read stories again and again. Your toddler enjoys repetition and it helps him become familiar with the way stories are organized.
2. Letter recognition. Use signs and other objects to point out letters and the sounds they make. Experts recommend that when exposing your toddler to letters, start with the capital letters. The lower case letters (such as d, p, b, q, are too similar to recognize and remember).
3. Have fun making letters in the bathtub with shaving cream or bath crayons!
4. Recite rhymes, make them silly and make mistakes!
5. Play pretend. Story telling is a great way to expose your child to new and fun vocabulary words. Paint your story and their world by describing and communicating everything you see!
And remember ….
“The more that you read,The more things you will know.The more that you learn, The more places you'll go” Dr. Seuss
With our Midway Showcase right around the corner, now is a great time to talk about performance. Yes many of us would be thrilled if our children made it on Broadway or perhaps maybe became our local weatherman…. but I’m talking about just that little bit of performance practice to give your child that added confidence they need and that they will take with them the rest of their life.
The Little Gym Midway Showcase occurs during week 20 of our 40 week long season. During this time children have the opportunity to perform and showcase some of the skills they have learned over the course of the year. From our tiny two year olds who finally walk with the parachute without gripping their parents hand, up to the 10 year old girls who have finally mastered their back handsprings….we invite parents and family members into each class to observe and cheer on their little gymnast.
According to professionals, this is just one way for children to overcome stage fright. Along with encouraging your child to participate and perform in more events and providing them with as many opportunities as possible to give them a chance to succeed, we have put a list together of some things you can do at home to boost your child’s confidence.
The Wall of Fame
We have all see the scenes in movies when a proud parent embarrasses their 30 year old son with a wall of fame (or shame) that includes everything from their 6th place ribbon in fencing to their framed yellow belt in karate. But in fact, according to Dr. Sears, pediatric doctor and consultant for BabyTalk and Parenting magazines, “Every child is good at something. Discover it, encourage it, frame it, and display it. If your home is missing this wall, your child is missing his moment of fame”.
In addition, according to Kidshealth.org “Self-confidence rises out of a sense of competence.” In other words, kids develop confidence not because parents tell them they're great, but because of their achievements, big and small.
Words Of Praise
You have heard us talk before of SPF (specific positive feedback) and the benefits it will have on your child if you use this little tool. Also, words of praise mean more when they refer to a child's specific efforts or new abilities. In other words, if you have already told your child that they are great at making their bed, or maybe brushing their teeth, when they walk into school they might hold their head a little higher. When another important challenge presents itself, you child can approach the task knowing that they have already been successful in other areas.
Be sure to provide your child with one on one time to discuss their emotions, nerves, and other concerns and feelings. Make sure he/she knows and really believes that no one is perfect. Share stories of your own childhood and other family members stories in which they can relate to. And every time he falters or does make a mistake do your best not make him feel that he has committed a terrible sin that is irreversible or can’t be fixed.
Probably the most important piece of communication however is to sit back and listen! Stop vacuuming for 10 minutes and give your child the undivided attention they deserve. This simple act will put you 10 minutes behind on your daily chores, but will be sure to give you’re a child a lifetime of confidence. You completely stopping what you are doing tells him YOU ARE IMPORTANT.
There is a great blog on Squidoo that I came across that sums this theory up nicely….”it's not about listening in the moment, it's about the belief that is being programmed into him through this. The belief that by-passes the conscious mind and is embedded directly into the subconscious - the belief that he is interesting, worth listening to, worthy, valuable... and because of that belief, he will become an interesting, confident person.”
This brings us back to our initial point…success as an adult and success in performance. It seems pretty simple, but most of us out there living very hectic lives don’t listen effectively. And I don’t mean just with our children, probably to all the people in our lives. Next time your 5 year old taps you on the shoulder while your knee deep in laundry, push it aside and sit down and have a conversation. LISTEN to what she is telling you before you speak over her words. Using this very basic conversation tool will help in social and business situations later on and will even make a difference in his ability to make presentations and excel in public speaking.
We’ve all heard the term “magic soap” used before. You know, that really fun stuff that hangs from a dispenser on our wall at The Little Gym….you know, the one your toddler is OBSSESSED with pushing over and over again making that cold gooey liquid pour out? Or maybe your Grade Schooler is a Bath and Body Works fanatic and wants every scent of “magic” gel hanging from their back pack? Or maybe you go crazy wiping up every inch of your house with those very convenient antibacterial wipes three times a day?
Well you are not alone! In recent years, more and more of these products have been sold to the public as effective ways to wash our hands and the environment when traditional soap and water are not available. Advertisements sell us on the convenient packaging and their “on the go” methods of staying “germ free”.
However, studies suggest that ultra-clean environments and the persistent use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers may inhibit proper immune system development in children. Higher levels of exposure to common everyday bacteria may play a helpful role in the development of the body's inflammatory systems and our immune system's fight against infection.
Hand sanitizers actually work by stripping away the outer layer of oil on the skin preventing bacteria present in the body from coming to the surface of the hand.
According to About.com, this can INSTEAD potentially increase the amount of bacteria on the hand.
Other side effects can include: Increased UV sensitivity, negative effects on thyroid hormones and estrogen levels, and in some cases food allergies. These results are what scientists are calling “The Hygiene Hypothesis”. Research studies show that higher levels of triclosan (an ingredient in products like hand sanitizer or mouthwash ) found in people's urine was linked to food allergy sensitization.
The CDC warns that alcohol-based hand sanitizers “are not effective on children's hands that are visibly dirty or that are contaminated with organic materials, such as after food preparation or bathroom use.” The CDC also suggests that alcohol-based hand sanitizers may also provide limited help against certain bacteria and the norovirus, another term for the common stomach flu.
“Keeping things clean is smart, but going crazy using antibacterial hand soaps, buying antibacterial kids' toys and other products, and overusing antibiotic medications are actually killing off the microbes that can help strengthen the immune system. Antibacterial products may help to reduce some infections, but they also promote the growth of drug-resistant organisms and weaken the good bacteria within us. Rather than focus on killing germs, we need to think about how to encourage their growth.” says Dr. Alan Greene at Parenting.com.
In fact, supporting the “right” bacteria can have a huge health payoff for our children: fewer ear infections, tummy aches, diarrhea, urinary-tract infections, and food allergies can all be prevented. It can even help kids fight off coughs, colds, and fevers.
Keeping the body's bacteria in “balance” doesn't take a lot of effort and can have huge benefits! Check out some things we SHOULD focus on, and ways that we help keep our children healthy for life.
1. Give them foods that naturally contain helpful organisms. These include yogurt, pickles, dark chocolate, and feta cheese. Cook with foods that contain good germs like garlic, onions, ginger and cinnamon.
2. Keep your kids away from cigarette smoke; exposure can kill off that good bacteria.
3. As for antibiotic drugs, don't insist that your pediatrician prescribe them when he says they're not necessary. These drugs also eliminate both good and bad bacteria. It may also be useful to give a probiotic supplement like acidophilus containing beneficial live bacteria on a regular basis.
4. Don’t be a total germaphobe! Dr. Dennis Ownby, chief of allergy and immunology at the Medical College of Georgia, found that babies in households with multiple pets have fewer allergies at age 6 or 7 not just to animals, but also to ragweed, grass and dust mites.
5. Don’t stress about Day Care! Studies of babies in day care have found that while they have more infections early, they have fewer allergies and less wheezing later.
Still not clear?? We found this really fun and interactive tool on Webmd that takes you through the daily life of your child. It gives some helpful reminders and stresses the important things we should focus on to prevent serious germs and contamination. Spoiler alert! Remind your child NOT to put their backpack on the floor of the bus and don’t eat food that has fallen into the kitchen sink : )
At The Little Gym of Montclair, we often have young children whose parents are fearful that their child is “overweight”. They come to us with hopes of giving their child some exercise and body awareness, and possibly a change in physique.
We believe that is not only important to teach your child about exercise and having good physical habits, it is also necessary to instill healthy eating habits. In fact, the influence you have on your child's eating patterns may never be stronger than it is right now. Plus, the eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.
Studies show that half of American children snack about four times a day with some children eating almost constantly. Others are consuming either snacks or meals as often as 10 times a day! According to professionals, Toddlers need about 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day and in the last decade snacking accounts for about 27 percent of an average child’s total daily calories.
This suggests that snacking has replaced meal time and that children are taking in slightly fewer calories during breakfast, lunch and dinner, when more healthful foods are typically served.
We all struggle with food choices for our children, we want them to be healthy, but also enjoy what they are eating. With all the pre-packaged goodies out there its no wonder kids love to snack!
Even at a healthy place like “The Little Gym”, where parents have enrolled their child into a very healthy physical activity, we see families struggle with staying on a healthy path. All too often we have observed kids come out for a goldfish break while learning their cartwheel or a child who is bribed to get ice cream if they last for 5 more minutes. Professionals would say that both of these habits are major no-nos.
According to Webmd, bribing your child with food and giving food as a reward can actually send the wrong message. Very similarly withholding food as a punishment may lead children to worry that they will not get enough food. For example, sending children to bed without any dinner may cause them to worry that they will go hungry. As a result, children may try to eat whenever they get a chance. Also, when foods, such as sweets, are used as a reward, children may assume that these foods are better or more valuable than other foods.
Again, we know…it’s hard! Many toddlers may seem too busy exploring the world to slow down and eat. Others may be fickle about food or refuse to eat what's served at mealtime. And others...well they are just stubborn!
Instead of battling your toddler (or your grade schooler), try some of these tips and ease into less snacking and better overall heath!
* Try to offer 3 meals at about the same time each day. Offer enough snacks so that your child gets a chance to eat every 2 ½ to 3 hours, but is not snacking constantly through the day. You should eat meals and snacks with your child and eat the same foods they are eating. Children eat better when their parents eat with them.
* If you can’t plan trips around snack times try keeping some healthy snacks with you in the car or in your purse, so you do not end up having to buy something. Make up little baggies or store snacks in re-usable containers. Some great ideas include: apple slices, carrot sticks, or a homemade trail mix of cranberries, oat cereal, and nuts (if your child doesn’t have an allergy). There are lots of websites out there that give parents creative ways to make healthy choices…Check out this link at Parents.com for some other great recipes and ideas!
(these apple sandwiches are from WholeFoods.com!)
*Toddlers should be required to sit down to have a meal or snack. If they are not willing to do this they probably are not hungry. As they grow older, offer meals and snacks at set times, but do not make them eat if they are not hungry. Making kids eat when they don't want to is not a good idea. If children are taught to ignore their "I'm full" cues, that can lead to eating problems down the line, including overeating and obesity.
*Children who come to a meal or snack hungry are more likely to try a new food. Giving in to requests for food between meals and snacks (grazing) keeps children just full enough to refuse new foods at meals.
*Water should be allowed on demand between meals but not juice or milk as it fills children up and interferes with mealtime appetites.
* and don't worry too much about your little bottomless pit! Children are born with an innate sense of how much they need to eat. That doesn't mean that you should give your child free rein in the snack closet, but you should offer your child healthy food whenever he's hungry, while making sure that he also gets plenty of physical activity in his day as well.Of course you should always consult your doctor if you feel your child has a true problem or you are worried that they suffer from childhood obesity.
Sharing is one of the first social skills kids learn, so it's also one of the most important.
Learning to share, take turns, and cooperate doesn't happen by chance: most children need a lot more help and coaching during the sharing process. Just telling kids to "play nice" or “share with your sister” is not going to change their behavior. You need to show them how to share and help them understand why it is important that they do so.
1. 1.Give your child a chance to socialize with peers. Of course your child can learn through playtime with you or other siblings, but he will learn more about society with exposure to other children. Daycare settings introduce children to other boys and girls, and can teach children how to accept and play well with others. For those who do not use daycare, try getting enrolled in a music or gym class, or set up playdates that introduce your child different children in their age group. All of these practices will help prepares a child for a school environment, strengthening the skills he will need to participate within a group!
2. 2. Model good behavior and draw attention to the action. “Thanks Daddy for giving me one of your pretzels, I love sharing with you!”. Or lend her one of your hair barrettes or give her a lick of your ice cream….be sure to include the word “share” to describe what you are doing.
3. 3.Try give-and-take games. You put a puzzle piece in, he puts a puzzle piece in. She turns the page of a book, you turn a page of a book. Your child will begin to learn that taking turns and sharing can be fun and that giving up her things doesn't mean she'll never get them back.
4. 4.Set your child up for success. During a playdate or even during play time with another sibling, set a kitchen timer and tell her that when it dings in two minutes, she has to give her toy to her friend. Assure her that when his turn is over, she'll get it back. (This will help prevent a massive tantrum.) In addition, don't make playdates for toddlers last too long. Even if the parent of the other child stays, one to two hours is probably close to the limit for any two toddlers, at least at first.
5. 5. Recognize when it is OK not to share. Sometimes there are items that your preschooler just isn't ready to give up….and that's fine! If you force him to share something he's not ready to, or something extremely “special” it could backfire, making him very resentful. Before a playdate begins, go through the house and have your child pick out items he'd rather not have someone else play with. Put them away in a special place. Then go through and pick out things that are great for sharing -- art supplies, puzzles, and board games. Make them easily accessible!
6. 6.Set consequence. If despite all your efforts, your child still continues to hoard and refuses to share, it's time to set a natural consequence. It can be something as extreme as "If you don't share, you don't play." Or a more lax approach: if your child refuses to share an item, the toy is given a "time-out" for a specified time. When "time out" is up, the denied friend gets to play with that toy first.
7. 7.And finally, as we ALWAYS stress here at The Little Gym…try to not to hold unrealistic expectations! Your child will get there just like you did!
The days are short and the air is cold! No more afternoon trips to the park and your grade schooler is no longer hitting the playground for recess. So how do we keep our children physically fit and moving, and make sure they still get the daily exercise they need!
According to Pediatrician David Gellar, who writes for babycenter.com“Grade-schoolers need at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day (or a minimum of at least three times a week)” .
Well of course you can sign them up for gymnastics classes at The Little Gym to get that exercise… : ) That counts for about an hour a week. Or maybe you have you child enrolled in another indoor program. Or maybe you still haven’t decided what activity you want to sign them up for…because truly….the weather hasn’t been THAT BAD.
If you are still deciding, here are some reasons (according to both The Little Gym franchise and Livestrong.net why gymnastics in THE BEST choice.
We've all heard the stories of professional football players who take ballet for increased coordination, balance, and gracefulness when moving around the field. But did you know that gymnastics is known as the basis of all sports? Studies show that girls and boys who have participated in gymnastics are better prepared for whatever sport or activity they participate in later on. More so than any other sports, gymnastics will help build overall body strength, increase coordination and agility, and achieve mental focus.
Take these few simple skills for instance. These are activities we work on at The Little Gym that might actually help your child in their FUTURE sports!
Galloping: Think of the short stop making his way to the ball that was hit into left field. He GALLOPS to the ball!
Rolling. Imagine the football quarterback who gets sacked and tackled but manages to tuck his head properly to avoid a severe neck/head injury. He is doing a forward (or maybe even backward roll).
Or maybe they need POWER for a run slam dunk into a basketball hoop.
Those moves seem very close to the same surge of energy that a child is taught to use when approaching the spring board, or pummel horse, don’t they?
So, yes, gymnastics IS a FABULOUS choice if you are looking for physical activity this Winter. But if your child is not going to get enrolled in an outside activity like The Little Gym, dance classes or ice hockey, don’t fret! There are still lots of ways to sneak in little bits of exercise during the day. Just like the Doctor ordered!
Try some of these at home exercises to get their blood moving!
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