Monday, 23 December 2013

The Naughty List - A Christmas Tradition

The Naughty List – A Christmas Tradition

Santa Claus is coming to town…or is he?

It is that magical time of year again. The malls are pumping out Christmas tunes and stores have all their Christmas decorations out to remind us that we don’t have much time left before the big day.

Unfortunately, Christmas songs are not the only thing you hear while shopping. It is also the time of year when many parents pull out the threat of the “naughty list”. The threat that Christmas will not happen and Santa will not come if you are bad. They say things like, “Santa is watching” and “Santa won’t come if you are naughty.” I realize that parents are desperately trying to keep their children in line before Christmas – and that the whole hype around the holidays just makes children more and more excited and less and less manageable. But, it is not fair to children to threaten to take away their holiday traditions, just because they are not behaving in a way that is acceptable to you.

It’s funny, because I am pretty sure that people who celebrate Christmas and do the whole “Santa thing” are the only ones dishing out the threats. I have never heard people who celebrate Hanukkah saying, “There will be no lighting of the menorah if you are bad” or what about Kwanza, are there parents out there saying, “No Kwanza for you!” I doubt it.  It seems to be a part of the whole Christmas tradition. It must be the Christians who came up with the idea of Santa watching us. Apparently we always need someone to watch us, just in case we step out of line. Basically, as adults there is the threat of going to hell which keeps us on our toes, and for children it is the threat of no toys (which, let’s face it – is their own idea of hell).

The whole concept of Santa being able to see us is a bit creepy. I can remember as a kid lying awake waiting for Santa to come and my mom saying, “Santa can’t come until you are asleep…he can see you.” So, you are telling me that I have to go to sleep so that a strange bearded man can sneak into the house, eat my cookies and leave me some presents…hmmm, made sense to me.

I have to say though, that I love Christmas. It is such a fun and magical time.  And, not only Christmas - but all of the holiday traditions that people share. The holidays are really about children. So, why are we threatening to take that away? Next time you want to pull out your “Santa isn’t going to come if you are bad card” – consider this.

Here is what your children hear when you threaten to take away their presents.

1)    The only reason to listen to my parents and be caring and considerate of others is to get what I want (presents).

2)     The way that you behave has so much power that you can change holiday traditions.

3)    Getting presents is the most important part of the holidays.

4)    As your parent, if I don’t like the way that you are behaving, I have the right to take away something very special to you.

5)    Santa won’t like you if you are bad.
I know that it is very tempting to use Santa as a means of getting your children to behave – but it is not a holiday tradition that you want to pass on from generation to generation. Besides, we all know how empty that threat is. Would you really take away your child’s imagination and love of that jolly old elf, just because they had been “naughty”? My guess is, no.

Think about all the wonderful things that you want to share with your children. The fun - the magic…and leave Santa out of your discipline strategies.

Here is a really fun way to make the idea of Santa come alive for your children – oh, and make sure that you put all of your children on the “Nice” list.

Happy Holidays!



Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Ridiculous (and hurtful) things parents say – and what children actually hear.
What we say to our children has a huge impact on how they see the world and more importantly how they see themselves. At times we can lose our patience and say things that we don't really mean - things that may seem harmless to us, but what do our children actually hear. This is a list of some commonly used phrases that parents use and the messages that are being received by our children.
1)      You better do _____or else.
“Something bad is going to happen to you if you don’t ______”
2)      Don’t talk back to me.
“What you have to say is not important to me.”
3)      I’ll give you something to cry about.
“Your feelings don’t matter to me.”
4)      Think about the starving children in Africa.
“You should keep eating, even when you are full or don’t enjoy it.”
5)      Don’t make me come over there!
“If I have to come over there, something bad will happen to you.”
6)      When I was your age we didn’t have________.
“Don’t be so selfish.
7)      You are getting on my last nerve.
“I don’t enjoy being with you.”
8)      You are going to get it!
“You are not going to like what I am about to do.”
9)      Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother?
“Who you are isn’t good enough.”
10)  Well…if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you want to do that too?
“You are not smart enough to make your own decisions.”
11)  You are cruising for a bruising.
“What you are doing makes me want to hurt you.”
12)  Life isn’t fair.
“Fairness is not something that we value.”

Choose you words carefully and protect your child’s self-esteem.

What ridiculous things do you find yourself saying to your children? Post them below.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Great Tips on Travelling with Children

Travelling with Children

These tips will be most helpful to those travelling by car, but can also be used when travelling by plane, train, bus etc...
Travelling with our children is inevitable. Instead of dreading that trip to Grandma’s house, try these tips for a smoother ride.

If you are travelling with a young child, who still has naps – try and plan your trip around their nap time. If it can be avoided, try not to plan your trip so that your child will be over-tired and therefore harder to reason with. It is best to travel just before their nap time, so that 30 minutes into the trip they drift off into a nice sleep, and you get 1-2 hours of quiet time. Remember to bring everything that your child will need to feel comfortable having a nap – blanket, stuffed animal, soother (if you use one), milk, story books etc. You want to create the same feeling of comfort and safety for your child that they would get at home. (Some infants will get quite upset when they can’t see you, so travelling in a car can be tricky. If you are travelling with another adult, sit in the back with your baby and play with them, read to them or sooth them to sleep. You can also give them a bottle, soother and/or sing them some songs).  
Ok, so all has gone according to plan (it might not) and now your child is awake, but there is still time left in your travels. Bring a goody bag – this is a bag of toys, books, activities that your child has never seen before. You can either tell your child beforehand that they will be getting a “Goody Bag” or surprise them with it. Each child should have their own goody bag, expecting them to share will only cause conflicts. Make sure that each bag is based on each child’s individual interests. I like to go to the Dollar store and load up on colouring books and other great activities (last time I was there they even had travel sized Mr. Potatoes Heads).

When in doubt, bring a video for them to watch. Some of the mini-vans now have DVD players in them which I am sure that many parents find quite handy. Try to make watching videos in the car a special thing that you only do on trips, so that your children have something to look forward to (of course this is only for children 2 years old and up). If you are not travelling by mini-van, with built in DVD player – as many of us aren’t – bring a laptop or portable DVD player with you. This may save you…especially if your children don’t nap.
Remember to bring snacks. We can all become quite cranky if we don’t get enough to eat in a day and children need to eat even more regularly than we do. So…make sure that you bring enough to eat and drink, so that you won’t have to make too many stops and hear too many complaints about being hungry. When you are packing snacks, keep them healthy and sugar-free as much as possible. There is nothing quite like having all your children jacked up on sugar and then trying to confine them to a car, train or plane. That is not going to be much fun for anyone.

Know your limits and your children’s. If your child hates to travel, no matter what you do…then limit the time that you travel. I realize this may be easier said than done, but do what you can to limit the amount of hours that you need to travel in a day. If you are travelling by car, plan to stop along the way and let everyone stretch their legs and use the washroom. And, if you need to – plan some overnights along the way. Travelling with your children doesn’t have to be about just getting from point A to point B…maybe there is something interesting in between.
Give yourself plenty of time. Now, when I say “plenty of time” – I don’t just mean give yourself enough time on the clock…I mean, give yourself and your children enough time to get to your destination in one piece. That will look different for every family. Some parents might have a child who needs to use the washroom frequently, or a child who gets car/plane sick or even a child who needs time to stop and run around every hour. Know the needs of your family and then plan accordingly. If you are travelling by car, do not give yourself a time that you need to be at your final destination. Example – If you are visiting family or friends…don’t tell them that you will be there by a certain time. This only puts pressure on you and causes you to feel rushed…which of course makes us rush our children. Children hate to be rushed. So, just tell people that you are hoping to be there by a certain time and that you will call them if plans change.

Have fun. To quote Hemingway (which I don’t often do): “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway. What does that mean? Well…it means that you want to have fun and enjoy the travelling part of your journey as much as you can. Play games, talk about things that interest your children and enjoy each other’s company. There are several website that give great ideas on travelling games – see what you can find!
Treat yourself and your children. Our child never gets chocolate…ok, she gets chocolate cookies from time to time…but never pure chocolate. So, her treat for doing a really good job when we travel is a Kinder Egg. If you restrict the candy that your children get in general, they will be much more excited about getting some at the end of a trip. You should also treat yourself!

You made it…you are all in one piece and actually had fun along the way – it is now time for your treat.  Although, getting through a travelling day with your children without any huge hiccups is a treat in itself! If you often travel to the same place, ex. Grandparents – find a place near their house that you can all get out and celebrate with a little treat. Maybe there is an ice cream place nearby? A nice little bakery? Make it part of the journey…

After all, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway

Safe Travels Everyone!


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

20 Things I wish I knew before becoming a Mom.

1.      The word “love” will take on a whole new meaning.

2.      Your relationship with your spouse will change – but time will bring you back to each other.

3.      Sleep will become a luxury, not a right

4.     You will wonder why you ever had children – and also wonder how you could ever live without them.

5.      It is okay not to have all the answers.

6.     You will hear your own mother’s voice come out of your mouth.

7.     Time goes by much faster when you are a parent

8.      Having children – gives you permission to let lose, have fun, be silly and embrace life through new eyes.

9.      At times you will feel very alone – and yet you will never have enough alone time.

10.  Patience and humour will get you through many difficult situations.

11.  You will worry…you will worry a lot.

12.  Be creative – children get bored easily. Try new things and explore every possibility.

13.  Having children will dig up all kinds of doubts and insecurities that you never knew you had.

14. Perfection and parenting do not mix.

15.  Your children do not belong to you. You are there to love and guide them as best you can - the rest is up to them.

16. The stakes will seem very high and you will wonder if your choices will somehow damage your children. If you give your them love, respect, empathy, freedom and consistency…they will be just fine.

17. Parenting is not something that you can just try out. It is a life-long commitment – there is no return policy.

18.  Having children will shine a light on your own mortality.

19.  You will need help raising your children – there is a reason why they say “it takes a village”.

20.  Be gentle with yourself. You will be a great mom and your children will be lucky to have you. After all the sleepless nights, diaper changes and personal struggles – you will know that you are doing something amazing.

©Professor Mom (M. Wright), 2013. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Pretty Princesses and Barbie Dolls -
 Top 5 ways to avoid gender stereotyping young girls.

When I was young, I can remember going to the playground to play basketball with my brother. I loved playing basketball, in fact, I enjoyed most sports. One day when my brother and I were playing basketball, two boys approached my brother to ask if we wanted to play against them. One of them said (to my brother), “Do you and your little brother want to play against us?” My brother and I looked at each other and then back at the boys and said, “Sure”.  I don’t think we ever corrected them – never said, actually I am his sister…that’s right, a girl who happens to play basketball! It just seemed easier in that moment to be a boy. That way I didn’t have to explain myself or listen to boys joke about how they “lost to a girl”. I could just be one of the guys.

Looking back, it was not that I identified more with boys than girls. I loved being a girl…still do. It was just that I didn’t like the things that girls were “suppose to” like.  I remember getting Barbie dolls and then pretending to blow them up with my brother’s G.I. Joe figurines.  I didn’t like to wear dresses or have my hair done. At recess all the boys would be playing “wall ball” (a game where you hit a tennis ball against the wall with your hand) and the girls would usually just watch them play – or jump with skipping ropes. I wanted to play wall ball – that seemed like a lot more fun than just sitting on the side lines.

Boys always seemed to be having more fun. It was more acceptable for boys to get dirty and play rough with each other. They played cops and robbers and capture the flag, while girls just seemed to sit and talk (usually about boys). Of course not all girls just sat around chatting – this just happened to be the group of girls that I was friends with.

Now that I have my own child, I worry about her feeling limited by her gender. I worry that she won’t feel comfortable doing what she wants – because it is something that “boys” do.

The world has changed a lot since I was young and gender roles have changed along with it – but those messages are still out there - the messages that tell children that if you are a girl you should like pink dresses and princesses…and if you are a boy you should like trucks and superheroes.

About a month ago I went to a department store looking to buy Finley (my daughter) her first bike. Going into the bicycle section I was a little overwhelmed by how many bikes there were to choose from.

I noticed a sign that was meant to help you choose the “right” bike for your child. The sign read, “How to choose a bike for a girl – girls want a bike that is pretty and fun.” Further down on the sign it read, “How to choose a bike for a boy – boys want a bike that is tough and can handle all their adventures.” That sign was sending a pretty clear message about what is expected of girls and of boys. (If you follow me on Facebook - – you may have already heard that story).

I was so upset by the sign that I immediately left the store. How is it that in 2013 we still have messages like these? Girls are pretty and boys are tough. Girls sit on the sidelines and boys are in the game – it reminded me of school days watching “wall ball” and wishing that I could play.

So, as a parent – how do I teach Finley that there is no expectation on her to be pretty and sweet? It is not that I want her to reject all things feminine…I simply want her to know that it is her choice.  It is not her parent’s choice or her friend’s choice – and not society’s choice either. It is her choice. She gets to choose how she wants to be in this world. If she wants to wear dresses and paint her nails, fine by me. If she wants to wear a blue polo shirt and play with trucks, fine by me.  This can be difficult when society still thinks they have the right to define who you are by your gender.

I saw this very helpful guide recently on how to choose the proper toys for girls and boys.

Hopefully you find it useful:

Ok…seriously though. What can we do to support the uniqueness in each of our children and stop defining them by their gender? I have come up with a Top 5 list.

Top 5 ways to avoid gender stereotyping young girls.

1)      Choose toys based on your child’s interests, age and developmental level – not their gender.

As the guide above so conveniently pointed out – toys are toys. They are meant for all genders. Do not limit your child to toys that are advertised for boys or girls.  Let your children be involved in the process, you might be surprised at what they would choose to play with if they are not limited to “girls” toys or “boys” toys.

*When you are shopping for things for your children to play with, avoid going to toy stores that have their stores divided by girls and boys toys (ex. Toys R Us). This just causes confusion and reinforces gender-stereotyping.

2)      Avoid complementing your children on how they look, based on their gender.  How many times have you heard someone say,“You are such a pretty princess!” to a young girl. Children love to have our attention and will soak up all the compliments they can.  It is wonderful to compliment your children, but focus more on what they do as a posed to how they look. If we compliment them on how they look with phrases like the one mentioned above, this sends subtle messages to them that a girl’s role is to be pretty and sweet. If we compliment them on what they do, "Look at how high you built that tower" - it sends messages that they are capable and smart.

3)      Read books and watch videos that show men and women in “non-traditional” roles. It is important that we as parents don’t reinforce gender-stereotypes by reading books and watching television shows that always show men and women in specific roles. If we read books where boys are the ones playing with cars and girls are the ones playing with Barbie dolls – we are reaffirming those messages that this is the expectation…really what we are doing is subtly programming them to act and behave a certain way based on their gender.  A good book to read, if you haven't already is “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch.

4)      Choose clothes based on practicality and durability, rather than how “pretty” or “handsome” your child will look in them. This is a hard one, because society puts so much pressure on parents to dress their children a certain way. We want our children to look nice and of course we want them to “fit in” – but sometimes “fitting in” is more about “blending in” instead of standing out. We want our children to stand out – but not so far that they are teased or bullied. This can be a fine line.  My advice…let your children wear what they want to wear. We always give our daughter a choice between many different outfits – some are more “boyish” and others are more “girly”. We don’t buy anything that is pink and frilly – nothing too over the top. Then we just let it be up to her.

5)      Be aware of your own views on what roles men and women should have. This is a big one! I remember working at a childcare centre many years ago and there was a little boy there that loved dressing up. He would carry around purses and wear jewelry, and would often put on dresses and princess costumes. One of the days when he was dressed particularly fancy (dress, purse, necklace, long gloves and a crown) his father arrived to pick him up. Well, he got so upset that his son was wearing “girls” clothes that he started an argument with the teacher and said that his son was not allowed to dress like that. Seems a bit extreme…but we all have our own views about what roles men and women should have. Think about where those views come from and try not to impose those views on your children – unless your views allow your children to express themselves in whatever way they want…regardless of gender.

I personally don’t believe that we need to try and raise all of our children “genderless” – like some people have tried to do…
That just puts the pressure on our children to change the views of our society.

It is our job as parents to give our children the freedom to be themselves, dress how they want and play with whatever toys they like.

I want Finley (our daughter) to know that she can be whatever she wants to be – and that she is in no way limited by her gender...she could even change the world!


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Time Out on Time Outs: Part Two – Positive Discipline

When I first heard the words “Positive Discipline” put together - I thought it was an oxymoron.  Either that or a catch phrase that parents with no backbone came up with so they wouldn’t feel bad about having absolutely no control over their child’s behaviour.

Here is a helpful list of criteria for Positive Discipline – from


1.     Helps children feel a sense of connection. (Belonging and significance)

2.     Is mutually respectful and encouraging. (Kind and firm at the same time.)

3.     Is effective long - term. (Considers what the child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his world – and what to do in the future to survive or to thrive.)

4.     Teaches important social and life skills . (Respect, concern for others, problem solving, and cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the home, school or larger community.)

5.     Invites children to discover how capable they are. (Encourages the constructive use of personal power and autonomy.)

Jane Nelsen

 The words that stand out most for me in this list are : Connection, Respect (ful) and Capable.

For those of you that read my last blog entry on “Time Outs” – you already know how I feel about them.   My intention was not to make parents feel bad about using time outs – my hope was just to get people thinking about them differently.

If we use the list of criteria given for positive discipline – Do time outs fit? When you are giving a time out…Are you being respectful? Are you helping your child feel a sense of connection? Are you encouraging them to feel capable? I am almost certain that it is impossible to do all of these things while placing a reluctant (often emotionally distraught) child on a chair and making them stay there for a few minutes until they say they are sorry.

We are human beings. We are going to get angry, frustrated, irritated, annoyed, upset and disengaged with our children.  There are going to be times that we are going to lose our patience and want nothing more than to put our child(ren) somewhere else for a few minutes. The reality is that any relationship is like that. I am sure there are times that we would love to put our spouses, friends, bosses, or family members on a chair in another room for a few minutes and then force them to apologize (wouldn’t that be nice.)

The only reason we do it to children, is because we can. Because they are smaller than us and we can physically over-power them means that we have the control.  Time outs can be disrespectful to a child (depending on how you do them and why). Does that mean that I will always be respectful to my child? Probably not. In fact, I am often tempted to give my child a time out.  It would be nice if I could say that I will always be respectful– but I am sure there have been times when I was disrespectful to my spouse, friends, boss, and family members. Chances are I will be with my child as well. Because…as mentioned above, I am human and will unintentionally hurt people.

However, by being aware of how my actions impact my child (and others for that matter) I can hopefully build connection and be respectful with Finley most of the time.
Looking for an alternative to time outs? Try time ins! Check out this link from the Positive Parenting Connection:

As I mention above, in any number of difficult situations with your children it can be so tempting to take physical control, e.g., grabbing things out of their hands (I often find myself doing this), picking them up and moving them, or placing them on a chair or somewhere else for a time out.  I am not saying that you will never physically intervene with your children, but it is something to think about. If your child was the same size as you, how would you deal with the situation? Sometimes the easier thing to do is over-power them, but what if you couldn’t?

Taking the time to really think about respectful ways of dealing with your children will result in a longer lasting solution to most difficult problems. It also takes a heck of a lot of time and energy – which you might not always have.  So, don’t put pressure on yourself to get it “right” all of the time.

For example, we were having such a hard time getting our daughter Finley to brush her teeth. She is only 2 years old, so we are brushing them for her – which she really doesn’t enjoy. Partly because she wants to do everything herself and partly because she really doesn’t enjoy having her teeth brushed. She will scream and cry and try and throw herself to the ground – not so easy to brush her teeth this way. We use to sing to her, but it wasn’t working anymore. A few times we just held her in a way that she couldn’t escape and brushed her teeth while she cried. That felt pretty horrible. Again, the only reason that we were able to do that is because she is smaller than us and easy to over-power. We didn’t want her to grow up thinking that it is ok to over-power someone OR that it is ok not to brush your teeth. So we put our thinking caps on. What would be a calm, friendly and respectful way of encouraging Finley to brush her teeth? So, we decided to buy her a sticker book and let her choose a few stickers every time we brush her teeth.  Now, she is usually pretty happy to have her teeth brushed and looks forward to choosing her stickers.
So, we could have continued to force Finley into brushing her teeth, but that is neither positive nor helpful in teaching life skills. Until children learn the value of intrinsic rewards (Ex. feeling good about having clean teeth), parents often need to rely on external rewards (Ex. stickers).

To me, positive discipline is about being creative.  It can be exhausting coming up with creative ways to deal with difficult situations – and you won’t always be able to. The point is to stop and think…how can I build connection, be respectful and encourage capability in this moment and still have my child follow through with what I need them to do.

While writing this blog entry, I have realized how difficult it is to fully describe what positive discipline is – or even what it looks like to me. Each situation (and child) has its (their) own challenges and will require different strategies to deal with them. I feel like I could write an entire book on this subject – but getting people to read my blog is hard enough!

If you have any specific situations you want to share or questions to ask – please feel free to post them below.  It is always great to have discussions and see how other parents/educators use positive discipline with their children.