Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Potty training

Potty training is a pretty loaded subject - and pretty much everyone will give a different answer, since every child does it a bit differently.

I think potty training is the first opportunity to allow your child to figure things out on their own, mostly, or it can be the first time power struggles really heat up between parents and their children.

In our current culture children are being asked to start potty training earlier and earlier. Since every child develops differently in regards to when they are aware enough of their body to start potty training, the "when" question to me really is a question of personal body awareness. You'll meet some (extremely few) babies who are using the potty reliably at 1 year old, and you'll meet others who are just getting to the reliable stage at 4 years old.

Body awareness means that they are conscious of when they are going to the bathroom, they know where it comes from and can predict the outcome of the tickle or pressure they feel in their body to producing urine or a bowel movement. Children who are potty training are almost always able to verbalize what they are experiencing, and have simple words to associate with the happenings in the potty or their diaper.

Parental pressure vs. parental support:
It's easy to get overbearing when it comes to potty training as a parent. But if you haven't noticed already, pushing your child to do something generally results in the pushing back by the child in the opposite direction. So how can you gently introduce the idea of the potty without using pressure and only using support? Start by talking.

1. When changing diapers, talk about what is in the diaper, and their body parts. Choose the language you want your child to use, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

2. Observe your child's behavior around diaper changes. Are they responding to what you're saying? If there's no response, moving ahead is probably not going to do anything but create frustration. If they're mimicking, touching, and talking back - then it's time to start the next step.

3. Observe your child's real time life behavior - are they touching their diaper and starting to use body or verbal language to show their awareness of activity? Most often, they will do a little dance, or touch, or look for privacy BEFORE they actually produce anything in their diaper. This is the time to gently ask if they are going to go pee or poo (or whatever your language is). The only purpose of this is to start helping them understand the process of pee or poo - they feel a sensation, and it means that they are going to make something in their diaper. At this stage it is not appropriate to rush them off to try and sit on the potty. That's too much too fast.

4. Introduce the potty. Some families choose a child size potty, others just put a special chair so the child can reach the regular potty. Either is fine, however some children need to re-learn how to use a big potty down the road if it hasn't been being used all along. The easiest way to introduce potty and keep positive for me has been to have the child come in the bathroom with you. Then, as you're using the potty, you narrate what you're feeling, and doing. If you're uncomfortable with this, I would suggest using a book that shows the real process, and reading it daily. Let your child know in the beginning that they can use the potty too, instead of their diaper. Remember to phrase it as a choice.

Depending on the age of the child, you can also say things like:
"When you're a big kid, you'll use the potty all the time, and you won't use a diaper anymore!"
"Mommy used the potty when she was three years old. Do you think you'll use the potty when you're three?"
"The potty is great! It keeps your skin clean and you won't have to do diaper changes anymore."
Keep all statements positive, shame and competition free. Beware of using statements too often - this will come across as pressure, instead of support.

5. When the child shows interest, is responding to their body, and feels comfortable exploring the potty, ask them if they'd like to try. That's all. Just ask - no telling, no pressure, just a simple question. Also, make sure their "no" is heard loud and clear. The response to a "no" might be "Okay, when you're ready, you'll do it!" In a light tone. Then change the subject quickly.

6. Provide fun potty related activities. A special book only for reading on the potty for when they're ready to sit on it is perfect.

7. Avoid rewards. Have trying something new and getting a positive response be the reward. No M&Ms, no special treats. Do you really want food and using the potty to be tied together in your child's neurology? Potty use can be fun, it can be exciting for parents to see the first successes, but it really is just something you want them to just do. It won't be a big deal for long if it's taken in stride instead of it being a big opportunity for drama - even positive drama!

8. Peer pressure. If possible, having your child hang out with other kids their own age or a bit older can do wonders for getting them excited about potty. Using "heroes" has also done amazing things. Elmo has a great potty video, have a hero show up a the door in costume (superman always uses the potty, and he leaves behind a special potty figurine of himself just for Ben). Talk about how the dog goes outside to go potty, or how the cats use the litter box. Talk about how the mail carrier, the people they see on a walk, Grandma and Grandpa - they all use the potty.

9. If you're in a time crunch: Daycare is often a great motivator for parents to get their children potty trained. I sure hope you aren't in a time crunch, as most potty training takes a solid year to really master. If you really are and have no choice, then using heroes, and rewards (not food, please), buying special underwear with their heroes on it (yes, that's why underoos were created) or anything else you can think of might help.

10. Remember that potty training can be fun, if you keep it that way. Accidents are just that - make sure to keep your temper, even as your child has a huge wet accident in the pew at church! While potty training don't expect instant success. Allow your child to wear those fun new undies over her diaper, or let her know that using the diaper is okay, too - when you're out and about. At home, you'll try to use the potty, and accidents are okay.

11. Don't be surprised if pees are consistently done on the potty long before poos ever are. It's very typical to put a child in a diaper for the night, tuck them in, and then have a poo that needs to be changed 5 minutes later. Again - no shame, just keep it light and loving.

12. Setbacks are usually related to stress, illness, or pressure.

Best of luck, parent of a future potty user!

Monday, February 11, 2008

What are we teaching our kids?

A client recently brought this to my attention:

Madeline is four years old, and her mom, Alice, avoids any situation where she would disagree with Madeline, as Madeline just doesn't like it when they disagree. The most recent situation involved choosing a gift for a friend of Alice's - Alice knew Madeline wouldn't approve of Alice's choice so she just didn't involve Madeline in the decision process at all.

In reading the last paragraph, who is acting like a child, and who is being given the adult/decision making energy?

There's nothing wrong with Alice choosing a gift by herself for a friend of hers. What isn't going to work in the long run is that Alice is not gifting Madeline with the opportunity to learn how do disagree, have different opinions, and different ideas. This isn't just when Alice is buying a gift - it's when they're making plans for activities, choosing which photo to use from the photo proofs for the christmas card, it's picking a library book, or what to listen to in the car. In every situation where Madeline might not like Mom's choice, it just isn't brought up, or Alice sneaks it past Madeline to avoid confrontation.

Alice mentioned thinking that four years old is a hard time developmentally to be disagreed with.


I disagree:

I think that when our kids can't handle having a different opinion from us as caregivers or parents, and we change our behavior to not make them upset, we're setting them up for a lifetime of confusion and angst over opinions and people with different beliefs than ours. Also, I can only imagine that Alice may have the very same problem, and therefore Madeline not only does too, because of the example she's been given, but it's escalated.

Alice is teaching Madeline how to use and live in a Boundaries problem style (see www.joancasey.com for more about healthy boundaries) called "invisible". Invisible is when we don't state our likes and dislikes, even if we know that we do or don't like something. It's saying "okay" to things we don't want to do. It's eating foods we're allergic to so we don't hurt someone else's feelings. Invisible is a problem. And usually when using that problem style, we'll eventually get really fed up and jump over to another problem style called "Rigid". When using rigid, it's "my way or the highway", it's having a very strict set of rules that I think everyone needs to use. It's unapproachable, and also really unpleasant to be around. Alice is training Madeline to be invisible by kowtowing to her dislike of differences.

Four is a brilliant age to learn new things. All ages are, but four is especially cognizant and curious about what other people are doing. Especially what other poeple do that is different than what their family does.

The classic statement I'll hear from a four year old is "But Mommy doesn't do it that way, you're doing it wrong!" To which I say "The thing that makes people special is their differences. How else are you and I or me and your Mommy different?" And then lead them into more concrete ways that we're different: Per hair color, eye color, clothing, the cars we drive, the cell phones we have, our handwriting, different words we use, and then the different ways we do things. And then how it's okay for others to be different, and how it's okay to disagree with people and how they do things. And what to do when those differences do pop up. "This is how we agree to disagree". Something many adults really don't know how to do.

Four is a great age because they know how to share by now (whether they like to do it or not) and teaching that we can disagree and still be friends or family is up the same alley as sharing. It means taking turns getting to talk, or play with a toy a certain way, and that we don't get to tell them what to say or how to play. In the same respect, we don't get to tell people they're wrong just because they don't think like we do, or play like we play.

I often will create experiences for the children i'm around where I do something silly with a toy, like putting a block on my head instead of in a tower on the floor, and then we get to discuss how it's okay if I want to do it that way, and that they can do it differently when it's their turn.

The last thing i'd love to get through on this point is that avoiding conflict with our children is only teaching them how to avoid conflict. It's not teaching conflict resolution at all, which I think we all can agree is an imperative skill in the world. Something most of us wish we were even better at.

Oh, and a special note to the grown ups out there: Remember not to believe everything you think. It's okay to think things and then throw them out the window because you've decided that the THOUGHT is not something you're going to take on as a BELIEF.

Happy parenting,
Schyler

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Helping baby sleep through the night

I talk to every single one of my families about sleep. Sleep is so important, and I have known only one family that wished their baby would sleep less. One of the first things I share is a study I heard about years ago. They took a number of healthy, happy, normal college age folk, who slept regularly. For one month they woke them up only once, to fully awake, and then let them go back to sleep. Those previously healthy, happy, normal kids were all clinically depressed at the end of the month.

Not good news, is it? So why do I tell that story? It's to stress the importance of sleep, and to hopefully help parents to see why teaching their infant to sleep well from the beginning can be a lifelong gift!

A lot of parents think their infants can sleep through the night. Most can't. They biologically are not able to. A few are, and no, we don't know why the few that can, do. Under 8 months, most infants require night time nutrition. They need to eat. After 8 months, unless there is an exacerbating factor medically or with their digestion, they do not need to eat in the night. They should be able to go a good 12 hours sleeping without a meal.

If your baby is under 8 months old and not sleeping through the night, you can help them, but expecting them to be able to do it just isn't reasonable.

The infant's sleep cycle is one of the reasons your baby wakes up. The other is that they may not know how to fall asleep on their own on a regular basis. When our babies are infants, it's the sweetest thing to nurse them to sleep, let them sleep on our chest, or in our arms. We love to rock them, swing them, sing to them. There comes a time, say, at 15 pounds and 3 months or so of age, though, that we start thinking we'd like them to fall asleep on their own. In their beds. And sleep. For a long, long time.

Why is baby's sleep cycle and their ability to fall asleep on their own connected? Every 45 minutes, a baby's sleep cycle goes through one nice big arc on the graph, picture a mountain with a soft peak and two valleys on either side, starting and ending at zero. At the top of the peak, baby is sleeping tight, and can barely be woken. At the valleys, baby is in a very alert state which is built in, for survival. If something is different than how baby fell asleep, then they'll wake up more, maybe all the way up, then if nothing is different, where they'll see nothing is new, and will be more likely to sleep through to another sleep cycle.

For ultimate happiness in babies, naps should last at least 1.5 hours, and sleeps at night should be in 4 hour or more chunks of time.

To get these chunks of sleep, the first thing is to help baby fall asleep on their own. This is most easily done if you start at 4-6 weeks of age. Simply lay baby down sleepy, but not asleep. This means not breastfeeding or letting baby fall asleep on the bottle. I know you might be reeling from me saying "simply", but it is. If baby falls asleep eating, then burping should wake them enough to be slightly awake when they get layed down.

If baby is in bed and starts to wind up instead of down, then calming baby with as little energy as possible (a hand on the chest, some shhh sounds) until baby is calm again will help baby learn they can do it! Only pick baby up if she has actually escalated into a cry. The older the child, use less and less eye contact so you're not "feeding" the energy of wakefulness or agitation.

Baby's sleep cycles, once she is getting herself to sleep by herself, should start to lengthen. Be aware though, that we are constantly training our children. What are you training them? If they wake in the night, are you giving them lots and lots of attention? Or are you giving them a chance to calm down on their own, and then going back to simple calming and having them stay in bed unless necessary? You can teach baby this wonderful skill by supporting them in learning this way!

*Note on the Furber method of letting baby cry in increasingly longer intervals: It doesn't work on infants. Even Dr Furber has said this. It occasionally works on older children who are 1) verbal 2) using not sleeping/crying as a manipulation 3) over 2 years old at least. If those conditions are in place, and you want to try the Furber method, be cautious. Power struggles can often occur with this method, as can the increase in manipulations by child in other areas of their lives. Also, keeping your own calm during the process is difficult, yet imperative.

*Note on food and sleep. Yes, to a point, children need a full tummy to sleep. After that 8 months, we expect baby to have a nice dinner, then maybe a snack, and then sleep. Before, baby needs food, yes. But if under 6 months please don't add cereal to the bottle unless recommended for medical (reflux) purposes by your pediatrician. Adding food to bottles and doing solids close to bed time usually causes causes more problems than it cures.

Sweet dreams...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Help! My baby won't take a bottle!

I hear from a lot of families when Mom is heading back to work. All of a sudden, "D day" is a week away and all of the attempts they've made to get baby to take a bottle just aren't working, and they're getting panicked. I hear all sorts of plans they've come up with if baby really never takes that bottle, from spoon feeding to daytime visits to Mom at work, to letting baby just be hungry all day until Mom gets home, and then letting her eat all night to make up for it. I'm so grateful when families call in help from me so they don't have to do any of those things!

Megan and her family are a great example for how we can help her take a bottle, still be loving to her, and get the job done!

Megan was almost 12 weeks old, and was a champion breastfeeder. Sweet little round cheeks and all. She's also a very smart baby, and knows what she likes. She likes breastfeeding with Mom. And she knows what she doesn't want to do - she doesn't want to take a bottle, or, if she's willing to have it in her mouth, she's certainly not going to suck from it.

Mom and Dad tried so many things:
  • Different nipples on the bottles (almost never makes a difference)
  • Different people feeding Megan
  • Sitting in different positions
  • Warm milk in the bottle
  • Cold milk in the bottle
  • Sippy cups
  • Spoon feeding
  • Getting her really comfortable with having the nipple in her mouth
  • Teaching her to use a pacifier

Megan would have nothing to do with the bottle, except letting the nipple sit in her mouth while she played with it with her tongue. And Mom was only 7 days away from heading back to work. They called me, and asked if I could help. I set aside a whole day if they needed it, and went in. I left 5 1/2 hours later, after Megan had happily taken a bottle once from me, and once from Dad. So, what did we do that worked?

I typically see babies do one of two things when learning to take a bottle.

  1. The Stand Off: Baby refuses and refuses, crying and fussing, falling to sleep from exhaustion and waking from hunger until finally, no more than 8 hours later, they give in and drink hungrily from the bottle.
  2. I walk in, present the bottle, and the baby takes it.

The second option happens about 10% of the time. I think it has something do with having someone new cruising in with the full expectation that it'll just work that easily, and baby says "okay!"

The first option is more along the lines of what Megan did. Mom and Dad had done a great job of getting Megan to accept the nipple of the bottle in her mouth, and let it be there peacefully, so she had no bad thoughts about the bottle. So smart! The problem was that Megan just didn't see the bottle as a source of food. That's what Mom is for!

Mom, Dad and I had decided that today was the day - we'd do an all day stand off if need be to get Megan taking that bottle, so this was what we did:

When I arrived, Megan was sleeping, and we knew she'd be hungry when she woke up. Mom had fed her that morning for her first feeding, but her second feeding had been slept through, so we knew she'd be really raring to go. When she woke up she was hungry right away, so I held her for a minute and said hi, getting acquainted, then presented the bottle, which was plain room temperature breastmilk Mom had pumped that morning and left out on the counter. We only had 2 ounces of that liquid gold in there, so we wouldn't be wasting much if we needed to toss it.

Megan let me put the bottle in her mouth, looking at me and gurgling. She played with it for a moment, then spit it out and looked at me as if to say "okay, we played the put the nipple in my mouth game, now give me to Mom so I can eat!" I gently had been telling her that like Mom had told her, she needed to learn how to use the bottle so that when Mom went back to work and she was home with Dad that she and he could share meals together. When she spit the bottle out, I put it down and let her sit up, connecting with her by talking and cuddling.

She clearly gave another hungry cue, so I cuddled her back on my lap and presented the bottle again. This time she got mad, and started fussing and whining. I told her I understood, and that she needed to do this so she could eat when Mom was at work, and that I knew it wasn't what she wanted. After presenting the bottle a number of times more, giving her a break until she was calm before each time, we stood up and started bouncing and walking around the room. I discovered she loves a certain window looking over the valley, and we stayed there for a while, enjoying the window and eachother.

We tried the bottle again, me being firm with it, putting it up against the top of her palate, yet removing it when she spit at it or turned her head.

Finally so frustrated and tired, she fell asleep on my lap. She woke about 30 minutes later, hungrier than ever. I presented the bottle again, and she was really furious. I got up, and headed back to her window, waiting until she was calm until presenting the bottle over and over again. About 3 hours had passed at this point, Mom had left to take a break anticipating a full day of stand off, and Dad had been there, doing work and observing.

Then, after many yelling fits from Megan and repeated attempts from me, the moment came. She took the bottle and started sucking. I kept holding her, bouncing gently, and crooned to her what a very negotiable baby she was being. She sucked down that 2 ounces so fast, within 30 seconds, it was almost too fast for Dad to see!

We got her more milk as fast as we could, but she had already dropped off to sleep - just enough milk to let her relax. When she woke, we moved to Dad, so he could feed her this time. Mom was home now, and waiting to see if it would work. Again, Megan wasn't happy about it, but she took the bottle from Dad as well. Success!

Here's the steps to helping your own baby learn to take the bottle:

  1. As young as 3-4 weeks, once baby is breastfeeding reliably, start introducing a bottle at least once every other day, no matter what. Stopping even for a week might put you back to square one, and cause the need for the above mentioned "stand off". This is great for you and baby - it covers your bases in case of emergency, or if Mom gets sick and needs to take a medication that transfers with breastfeeding, or if Mom and Dad would like to go on a date!
  2. If baby isn't taking a bottle, do what Megan's Mom did, slowly and gently introducing the bottle so baby is familiarized with it. Just put a tiny bit of milk in, so you don't waste.
  3. Help baby with motivation by offering a bottle instead of the breast when she's hungry, but not starving. Tell her with your words what you're doing and why you're doing it.
  4. Hold the nipple of the bottle to the roof of her palate, to stimulate her suck response.
  5. Acknowledge and respect her turning her head or spitting out the nipple - her way of saying "no".
  6. Wait, wait, wait. Choose a day when you'll have a full day to put towards this, just in case it takes a long time. Make sure you have someone with you for moral and physical support, so you can tag team.
  7. Don't give in and feed baby - no baby will starve themself, but this is one of the first major stand offs in your relationship, so it can be hard to get through.
  8. Get professional support if you need or want to. It's a matter of making it happen once, and there's no hard and fast rule that says it has to be Mom or Dad that makes it work. There might be a little stand off later with each, but it'll be much much less.
  9. Stick to your guns, reminding yourself that this is for the ultimate happiness of the whole family, even if baby disagrees in the moment.
  10. If baby is around 6 months or older, consider doing this with a sippy cup instead of bottle, it might save you from having to wean her off the bottle in the near future.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Back to work and pumping, but is my supply okay?

Alexander's mom just went back to work - he's 3 months old and staying at home with his wonderful Au Pair, and is happily drinking breast milk his mom has pumped for him. She had a concern though, that Alexander has had a growth spurt, and is drinking more than she's pumping during the day. Also, her pump suddenly seems to have less suction. Here's my reply!

Hi Alexander's Mom!

In regards to your pump not working as well: First, replace the little white plastic flanges in your pump's attachments. There should be replacements with your kit or you can order them from the pump's manufacturer. It seems silly that something so small can make such a difference, but it really can. Also, I'd look at the insert for the pump - there's probably a troubleshooting guide. Play around with the settings for suction and speed that your pump is at. Alexander is now bigger and is also sucking differently, so that can make a difference too.


In regards to your supply, the more stress for you the less milk you make. Stress can here be defined as "doing anything but being with my baby". Make sure you're getting the sleep you can at night, and getting good support. Do you know other moms you can talk to who have done the same thing? Just knowing you're in the same boat with others can help.

When pumping, have photos of him around you, and gaze at them while pumping. You can also call and talk to him on the phone, keep a blanket of his nearby that smells like him, call your husband and talk about him, or think of other things that help you feel connected to him while you're pumping. Also, putting some warmth on your breasts before pumping can help too - heating a towel in the microwave and applying it for 10 minutes before pumping can help simulate his presence on you. Doing breast massage can help also.

Drink more water than you can imagine, and eat more - snacking on high protein foods at work can be a great help. making enough breastmilk can take a lot of calories -now is not the time to cut back to lose weight. Focus on eating healthfully rather than low calorie. If you're hungry, eat!

Since worrying that he doesn't have enough milk during the day won't help you make more milk, consider having a "just in case" substitute in the house. There are great organic formulas nowdays, and you can also look into "goat milk formula" which can be used as a supplement at 6 months, though I know families who used it at their discretion and only in combination with breast milk earlier.

http://www.askdrsears.com/html/3/t032400.asp

Know that if he is given a supplement, it takes a few days at least for his body to get used to it - he'll probably have a bit of constipation and gassy belly. Doing it in combination with breast milk will really help.

Don't choose soy unless all other options are exhausted - it's the most highly processed and unlike mother's milk possible.

I know it's hard being away from Alexander during the day. Take care of your emotional self during this transition. Expect to feel sad, grieving the loss of the time you spent with him 24/7. Expect to feel angry at having to work, even if it's a choice you've made. Expect to feel scared that he might not be okay, and you won't be there for him, even though you know he's safe with his childcare person. Expect too to feel happy and glad that you get this time to yourself - that you feel valuable as an intelligent person in the workplace and that you do love the work you do. Anything you feel is okay.

Big hug!
Schyler

Friday, July 13, 2007

My baby only takes 45 minute naps!

A client of mine recently e-mailed to ask about her 4 month old only taking 45 minute naps. This is so common! Read on...

Hi Schyler!

any tips to help pro-long a nap?? Grace is great about going to sleep on her own in her crib but wakes up (almost on the dot) right at 45 min and sometimes earlier. I've just been trying to have lots of naps b/c she sleeps so short but think it would be better for her to have some chunks. wondering if you have any suggestions? thank you!!

Grace's Mom

Hi Grace's Mom,

Just because she wakes up doesn't mean she's ready to get out of bed! It's time to be a little more stubborn, and have her continue her nap if she still seems tired when she wakes up. Calm her down, and tell her with words that it's still sleep time, and that she needs to finish her nap. That 45 min wake up is the end of one sleep cycle - predictable as a clock. But with practice, she'll realize that she's not off the hook for napping if she isn't rewarded each time with getting out of bed. The best case is if she's getting a good 1.5 hour nap in each time. A 45 min "cat nap" here and there is fine, but for the most part those little naps don't allow her to get enough rest, or her brain to have enough time to assimilate new information! Try getting her down for a nap before she appears tired, and if you're not sure of how she's scheduling naps these days, track it for a while. You'll find that her best naps will be taken if she has only been awake 1-2 hours between sleeps. Good luck,

Schyler

Monday, April 10, 2006

How Conscious Parents Praise their kids

"Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you."
~ William Arthur Ward

This is a wonderful quote! It inspired me to write this post. Children are so aware of when we adults are being truthful, or when we're stretching the truth.

Here's a story to illustrate exactly what I am referring to.

Six year old Jack was working hard at creating some artwork Saturday evening before bed. Sitting at the kitchen table while Dad is doing dishes, he is showered with praise. "Wow, Jack! Did you use every color in the crayon box? What an amazing idea! You are such a perfect artist. Your picture is the best. Let's frame it." Jack is thrilled, excited, and decides to take his picture in to school the next Monday. As he happily shows his picture at show and tell on Monday, he is surprised, and sad that the kids don't seem to really even look at it. The teacher only says "thank you for sharing your picture Jack". Jack goes home feeling rather down that day, and leaves his picture stuffed in his cubby. His mom and dad just don't know why he's in such a sour mood.

Do you ever tell your kids that their picture is the "most beautiful"? Do you tell them they're the "prettiest", the "best" or the "most amazing" in relation to what they do or who they are? This is a mistake. Your children know, or will soon know that their picture may be the most beautiful to you, but to others, won't even turn a head.

How do our kids feel when they're shown such opposite reactions to their work, or who they are?

We'd like to think that they'd feel that everyone else must be wrong, or color blind. We'd hope our kids would have a strong sense of self, and accomplishment because of all of our encouraging compliments. But that may not be the case, and we may be the cause. Giving unrealistic, outrageous encouragement to our children in the form of flattery will not give them high self esteem. It will not make their sense of self blossom. On the contrary, they will feel confused, and maybe even tricked by us, since we told a lie. Their art, they find out, isn't museum quality to others, just to us.

So what do we do? How do we encourage our children so that they are strong minded, healthy, with full self esteems and great ideas about what they're good at, without misleading them? It's actually easier than you might think, and won't be much of a change from the huge exagerated praise they've been receiving. Here's the re-do of the story above, with conscious parenting:

Six year old Jack was working hard at creating some artwork Saturday evening before bed. Sitting at the kitchen table while Dad is doing dishes, he is quietly observed by Dad. Jack finally finishes, and shows his picture to Dad, feeling proud of his art. Dad says "I like your picture, Jack. I like the colors you chose, and the design. Will you tell me about your picture?" Jack proceeds to explain the dinosaurs, plants and action he's installed in his picture, and makes sure Dad sees the details he's put in, even the bloody injury the dinosaur received from a mean T-Rex! Jack loves his picture, and decides to take it to school for show and tell on Monday. As he happily explains his picture at show and tell on Monday, giving the exciting story of the dinosaur in the picture, he has some of his fellow students captivated, the others? Busy with something else. But Jack isn't looking for praise, he is just sharing something important to him. The teacher says "thank you for sharing your picture Jack". Jack says "welcome!" happily, and sits down to see the next child's sharing, knowing that the next kid has something imporant to them to share as well. Jack goes home feeling just right that day, and gives his picture to his Dad when he gets home to have in his work office, because he knows his Dad liked it.

What is the difference? In the second story, Dad did a really good job of showing interest, telling Jack what he liked, and didn't pass any judgement about the picture. By encouraging Jack's imagination, and just listening, Jack felt heard, and like he has good ideas. Jack's sense of self got to grow a bit, and he didn't get upset when other kids weren't as excited as he was.

Consciously encouraging your kids by showing interest, and encouraging them to tell you about what they've done is a great way to love them!