Fight TV With Duct Tape

The duct tape bug bit our families about a few years ago and inspired our kids to make a wide range of multi-colored fabrications, from wallets and purses and messenger bags to hair bows, pocket folders, and book marks – all out of duct tape. But they have only begun to skim the tip of the duct tape iceberg. For a treasure trove of duct tape creation ideas, visit DuckBrand.com.

In the Stahlmann and Hagaman homes, TV and other screens are very limited. We’re big Netflix fans, and we use TV for family movie nights, documentaries, and rewards for a day of hard work. But TV, video games, iPods, and the computer are not allowed to consume much of our kids’ time. Although I will say the iPhone has created a bit of a challenge, but that’s a whole different blog.

We’d so much rather see them exploring, learning and creating. By the way, we’d LOVE to hear your suggestions. You can never have too many creative options!

Sometimes, when our kids learn a new thing, they like to make a YouTube video about it. What a great way to practice communication and public speaking skills. Here’s one Jody’s daughter Sydney made a couple of years ago, teaching viewers how to make pretty duct tape flowers. She’s so stinkin’ cute!

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Successful Car Rides for Pre-Schoolers

Originally posed in April, 2012

Today there was a question in a Facebook parenting group that I belong to. I started to offer a response, and realized two things:

  1. My response would be too long for a FB comment
  2. Our readers might have a similar problem and could benefit from the suggestions.

Here’s the gist of the question:

Four-year old J. is battling mom when it’s time to get in the car and go somewhere. The only time he didn´t battle was when we got our new car form all car leasing, take a look at their specials. The only exception seems to be when they are going somewhere he wants to goWhat can she do?

We need to look at this from two different perspectives:

  1. Preventing disobedience is always best. So how can mom set J. up for success?
  2. How can mom let J. know that willful disobedience is never tolerated?

Setting Our Kids Up For Success in the Car

Battling mom about the car ride is J.’s way of communicating a problem. In this case, it seems like there could be two things going on.

  1. He’s anticipating a boring ride
  2. He’s feeling anxious about not knowing where they’re going and what will happen next

Fun Activities for Car Rides

There are a bunch of things we can do to fight car boredom for little ones. A few kid-friendly CDs might help. Raffi is an all-time favorite in our house. Check out his 20th anniversary collection.

Stop by the library and pick out a few book and CD combos. Four-year olds like to listen to the stories and turn the pages when they hear the beep.

A bean bag lap desk lets kids color, draw, and put together simple puzzles in the car.

You can also get a pocket organizer that attaches to the back of the front seat. Fill it with car-friendly activities. Fill a plastic bin that fits under the seat with more activities, and rotate things out of the pocket organizer to keep car play new and fresh. You can even get a tablet and let them play on these all new bingo sites to win money.

Here are some fun things to fill the pocket organizer:

  • Books
  • Finger puppets
  • Travel BINGO
  • Sewing Cards
  • Stickers and a notepad
  • Aluminum foil squares (they can use it to model into all kinds of sculptures)
  • Pipe cleaners (make bracelets or other creations)
  • Etch-a-Sketch
  • Magnadoodle
  • Colorforms
  • Small metal baking pan and magnetic letters and/or magnetic words
  • Black construction paper and chalk (they work very well together!)
  • Treasure bottle: fill a clear bottle 2/3 full with rice and a variety of small items (screw, pom pom, large paper clip, old earring, etc.). Glue the lid on so the contents can’t be poured out, and let kids try to spot the treasures by moving the bottle around and looking inside.

Car Conversations

The car is a great time to bond with little ones. Talk about the four seasons or practice the days of the week or the months of the year. Brainstorm ideas together for the next family outing or family fun night. Tell stories and sing songs together. Play I-Spy or other car games.

Also, use the time to talk about where you are going and what is expected of the child when you get there — another great way to set kids up for success.

If the time is used well, kids will often look forward to car rides.

Anxiety Busters

My oldest is autistic, and a day of errands used to be very stressful for him. He needed to know what was coming, and how long it would take. The following strategies helped him tremendously, and I found that my other kids appreciated them too!

  1. A list goes a long way – get a small, travel-size dry erase board and make a list of what you’ll be doing on your errands. Even if he can’t read, you can tell him how many things there are all together, and then read him the list. As you accomplish a task, let him wipe it off. And at each stop, remind him of what’s still to come, and praise him for behaving well.
  2. Time tokens – fill a snack size Ziploc with tokens (we used math counters). Each token represents a certain time frame (say ½ hour).  When that time has passed say, “A half hour is gone, and have him hand you a token.” If he behaved well, offer a small treat (i.e. a sticker).

Also, be sure to have a small snack and water available. Hunger and dehydration (or even the anticipation of it) can cause kids to misbehave.

Willful Disobedience is Never Tolerated

Once we have done our part to create a successful environment for our kids, they have to know that willful disobedience is never tolerated.

In our home, obedience means “immediately, cheerfully, and thoroughly.” There is tremendous power in definitions. For more detail on these definitions, check out the Power of Definitions post. If you like to listen on the go, you can also download the podcast of a recent radio show on the same topic.

Everyone needs reminders from time to time, so if it’s time to leave and J. starts to complain, the first thing mom needs to do is name the misbehavior (“You are disobeying me,” or “You are arguing.”) and then say, “Would you like to try that again?”

If he obeys, great, if not, she can say, “J., if you continue, you are willfully disobeying me.” Those words, once defined, should be a clear signal that his behavior will not be tolerated.

Willful disobedience is a rebellious, stubborn, and determined intention to do what one wants, regardless of consequences or effects.

In order for this to work, there MUST be a swift, stern, predetermined consequence. Parents need to decide ahead of time what the consequence will be for willful disobedience. It should always be the same, and it should be uncomfortable. When a child is willfully disobedient, there should be no delay in giving the consequence.

Parents must stay completely calm, get on the child’s eye-level, use a low-tone, firm voice, and say, “You have willfully disobeyed me. Now we have to ___________.”

If the consequence for willful disobedience is Time Out, and J.’s mom suspects he misbehaving intentionally to avoid the car ride, she can say ahead of time,  “If you willfully disobey mommy when we have to leave, I will have no choice but to pick you up and put you in the car, and you will not be able to listen to your music or play with any of your toys until we arrive at our first stop.”

If you follow the three C’s of Authority (Calm, Consistent, Committed), in time, the disobedience will be a thing of the past!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Does Your Baby Still Use the Potty?

Originally posted in June, 2012

Question: I saw your post a few months ago about how your infant uses the potty. Are you still doing it?

Answer: We get this question quite a bit! And the answer is yes, our baby still uses the potty for poop. Baby Matthew (or Matty J, as we call him now) is five months old (actually, TODAY he turned 5 months!), and now he sits on his own potty chair. My arms are relieved! LOL We use the Baby Bjorn Potty. The high back makes it perfect for infants who are just learning how to sit up independently.

He’s on a counter in this picture, but typically, he sits on the floor, on his potty, next to the grown up potty. For the most part, he’s on a good schedule now, pooping when he wakes up in the morning at 6:30, like clockwork. That’s usually it for the day, but every once in a while, he makes the telltale grunt, and we know it’s time for a potty visit!

We don’t focus much on pee — as we said from the beginning, we’re part time ECers (check out the post to find out what EC means). For that we use cloth diapers. If anyone is looking for an EXCELLENT cloth diaper resource, check out Everyday Baby. The owner, is precious! And she ships all over the country. You can also like her page on Facebook.

October, 2013 Update

Many people wondered if we ever made the switch to cloth, and we did. But after he was about a year old and began having poop misses, we reverted back to disposable. Even after six kids, I’m still pretty poop-phobic. But we won’t be using diapers for much longer.

Matty Jay gearing up for full-time diaper free living! As of now, he tells us when he has to poop (although since he started walking at about 11 months, he often tells us just after he pooped). He pees on the potty when he gets up, before a bath and before bed.

At about a year old, he didn’t like his regular potty, so we got this great potty seat for the big toilet. It’s contoured so that even little ones can sit securely. But since he has trouble getting on and off by himself, we’re bring back the Baby Bjorn chair when training starts in a few weeks.

Stay tuned for more info on our journey to a diaper free baby!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Infant Potty Training – How Did I Miss This One?

Originally posted March, 2011

Some people call it EC (for Elimination Communication), which happens to be a better name than Infant Potty Training, because it really is more about communicating than training. But whatever it’s called, I’m seriously bummed that I missed it with my first five kids.

We first introduced Baby Matthew to the potty the day he was born. It was slow going the first week, but by the second week, we were getting the hang of it, and although we’re only part time ECers, Baby Matt is a full-time potty pooper. With the exception of two or three misses over the past five weeks, he poops exclusively on the potty. It turns out, poop is pretty easy to catch.

I first heard about this phenomenon when my third child was a newborn (almost 10 years ago), but as most parents who hear the words “Infant Potty Training,” I thought it sounded ridiculous. In hindsight, my main misconception was that parents had to hover over their child and serendipitously catch him in the act. One of my friends made a comment recently that reflected my original misunderstanding of the whole thing. She said, “That is not baby training. It is parent training.”

I guess she’s sort of right. EC is parent training in the same way that understanding your baby’s hunger cry is parent training and recognizing a tired cry is parent training. Her comment reflected my own misconceptions, but I’ve since learned two important truths:

  1. Newborns are completely aware of their elimination needs and have control
  2. Newborns are as capable of communicating the need to pee and poop as they are able to communicate the need to eat

Newborns Have Control and They Can Communicate

I’ve learned that newborn babies are born with an awareness of the need to eliminate. It makes sense when you think about it. I can’t think of another mammal who is born wanting to poop and pee on itself. Based on what I have recently read, babies have control up to three months. After that, if it’s not used, they lose the ability.

Yikes! Could it be that we are actually TRAINING our sweet babies to use diapers? I can tell you for sure that my baby does NOT want to go in the diaper. He squirms and grunts, and if I don’t respond, he eventually cries – sometimes hard. Having had five babies before this one, I am no stranger to these signals. I remember every single one of them crying the exact same kind of cries. I simply did not know what they meant. So basically, I trained them to use a diaper, only to have to un-train them two years down the road.  Hmmmm….

Some things are fairly universal when it comes to babies. Most moms can clearly discern a hunger cry, even in other people’s babies. And they can usually understand a tired cry too. When our babies are hungry, we feed them. When they’re tired, we put them to sleep. And now that I understand the potty cry, when I hear it, I simply hold the baby over the toilet.

I think many moms are concerned that they’ll spend the whole day taking their baby to the potty. It’s as if they think fluids constantly drain from their little ones, like the Baby Alive doll. Actually, I think that’s somewhat true of babies who are trained to go in a diaper. It’s as if they let poop eek out incrementally. But the truth is, babies can eliminate a lot of poop at once. After such a big poop, they don’t need to go numerous times throughout the day. In fact, some of my EC buddies say that pretty soon, Baby Matt will likely go just once a day at a predictable time. Makes sense – that’s how my body works.

We’re Part Timers

So here’s how this whole thing started for us. When I was pregnant with Matthew, we were at a playground with a bunch of families from our school. My baby-wearing buddy Tanya was trying out a new sling with another mom’s one-year-old (Tanya makes great slings). After carrying little Sally around for a while, Tanya recognized the telltale squirm. “Your baby has to pee,” Tanya told Sally’s mom.

“Oh, no. Sally’s not potty trained.”

“Yeah, but she has to pee. If you take her now, she’ll go on the potty.”

Well, this opened the door to a big conversation about EC. And as I listened, I found myself slowly warming to the possibility of trying this. I went home and began researching it, and I read that it was possible to do this part time, which meant we could give it a try, and if it didn’t work out perfectly, it would still do our baby some good.

Our goal for EC is not to have a diaper free baby. Although there are many families that are successfully diaper free. Tanya’s youngest wore panties at three months. You have to special order those.

The average age for potty training in America is 3 years old, so they don’t sell infant panties at Target! Not yet, at least — maybe we if increase awareness of the benefits of EC, that will change. It could happen. In my grandmother’s day, very few women breastfed, and we all know how that has changed. Maybe when my daughters are having babies, the common culture will embrace EC. There could even be EC-friendly day care programs! I know some moms who want to do EC, but don’t know how to handle it when their kids are in daycare. Well…here’s to hoping! Maybe if everyone who reads this post retweets it and links to it on their Facebook page and emails it to friends and family, we can help do our part to bring about change.

In the meantime, our family’s goal for EC is to help our son maintain the awareness of elimination and the ability to control it. Although he poops almost exclusively in the potty, we don’t catch all the pees. Perhaps if I wore him in the sling for most of the day I would be more in tune to the pee squirm. He certainly does signal when he has to pee; I just don’t always see it because I spend a lot of time on the computer writing.

Jody and I write homeschool curriculum, and we teach parenting classes, which means writing the workshops and workbooks. We are also working on our first non-fiction book, and I freelance for parenting magazines…in addition to blogging, tweeting, and of course, homeschooling my five kids. Baby Matthew doesn’t like being in the sling if I’m sitting. So I can wear him when I’m working with my kids or teaching a homeschool co-op class or conducting a parenting workshop or even sometimes during a parent coaching session. But when I’m home at my desk or in the Panera working with Jody (a.k.a. our office), baby Matt is not wrapped to me, and I often miss his pee signals.

From what I’ve read, part time is enough to help him maintain the elimination awareness, and there’s a strong chance he will be diaper free before he’s two. But again, that’s not necessarily our goal. Although, I am thoroughly enjoying NOT changing poopy diapers! Baby Matt is now six weeks old. We have not wrecked one outfit yet, and his little bottom is not red and irritated. All of our kids are so fair skinned that diaper rash was a regular occurrence in our house – but not this time!

Baby Steps

Although the idea of going diaper free is alien to our common culture, it’s normal in other parts of the world, especially cultures that regularly wear their babies. In fact, I’ve even read that in some cultures it’s shameful for a baby to eliminate on her mother because it means the mother was not paying attention to her baby.

I’m certainly not at that point, but I am making small, subtle changes. For one, we are gearing up to becoming a cloth diaper house. For now, we still use disposable diapers (you don’t have to be the crunchy, tree hugging type to do EC!), but since Baby Matthew only pees in his diapers, there’s no reason we can’t use cloth. In the past, I cringed at the thought of cleaning a yucky poop out of a cloth diaper. But for the most part, there’s only one small pee in his diaper when I take him to the potty. I certainly don’t want to put that back on him, which is causing me to go through more diapers than the average family. It’s getting expensive, and I do feel guilty about filling a landfill with all these extra diapers. So…we’re going cloth!

Perhaps the next step after that will be to catch more pees, but in the meantime, I am content to go slowly and enjoy being able to meet yet another need for my sweet boy. There is something very bonding about EC. It’s as though his body and face show how grateful he is that I have understood his signal and helped him meet this need. My husband and other children have also bonded with the baby through EC. It’s been a rewarding journey for everyone so far.

Resources

I’m sure you have a boat load of questions. So I’ll to point you to the experts who have helped me. After all, I’m just a newbie here. If you’d like to learn more about EC, check out Christine Gross-Loh’s book, The Diaper Free Baby.

You can also visit the website ECSimplified. They’ve got some good info, including a downloadable book that I have yet to read (but I plan to).

Be sure to leave a comment below, and let me know what you think about the whole EC thing. And if you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them or point you in the direction of a better resource.

Update -- It's October, 2013, and Matty Jay is a great communicator! He talks up a storm and can tell me when he has to poop. He's totally ready for full potty training. We just moved, and Jody and I have a parenting conference this month. So in the first week of November, we're taking the plunge and going completely diaper free! Check back often for our progress. I'll document the journey here.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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