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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Rewarding Progress

The homework is to make a reward chart.  We will do this because Aslana thinks its good to help me with my homework but actually the children really liked their charts downloaded from  Edward had Bob and Aslana my little pony.  Specific behaviours is the key to the tangible reward system and that the reward chosen is selected by the child. These were colour in charts with a favourite character featured. Has really helped Edward with positive behaviour eg please and thank you but less well with the negative - ie tantrum throwing or not kicking off shoes when we need to go out or holding hands by the road because when you praise him for it he resumes the undesired behaviour, so ignoring the negative works better than praising the positive.

But today and yesterday Edward has been using praise for others - Well done, mummy or Well done, Lani Boots or even for his monkey Well Done, Norman.  So somewhere in there he does hear it and take it on board its just harder to record the reflective child's approach to praise - he does not respond in the instant but some time later and the indication is not in pleasure expressed but in how he shares it with others as a good thing  He is so proud of himself for using praise!

Cbeebies had a recent bedtime story which is worth noting here called Hugless Douglas - I would recommend it for toddlers because both children who love hugs and give and receive  them enthusiastically
and children like Edward who seem a bit perplexed or even scared about sharing their personal space can find it helpful.  When the programme began Sanjeev Bhaskar was using toys to demonstrate hugs "I expect you like hugs too" he said - Edward was pushing himself back in the chair and saying "No Don't want to!" because he felt so unhappy with the theme.  He really isn't all that tactile and feels threatened when people get too close,  but the story was about a friendly looking bear so he didn't want to miss it either.  The bear learns about gentleness and the importance of hugging someone who he knows really well rather than people he doesn't and who do not wish to be hugged.  It helps give place to gentleness and to thinking of other people's feelings, but also demonstrates the hug to be something special to share and enjoy rather than fear and in the case of Edward it meant I received the best hug ever and a rare one just to say Lub You Mummy rather than night night or I'd rather stick with you than anyone else.

Anyway all that about progress and now I have to be honest and say I feel more at sea than ever because now we are facing a move unexpectedly since the landlord has given notice on the property.  Aslana has been briliant - staying positive and thinking hopefully about everything.  Her faith that God loves us and won't leave us through everything is something of an inspiration.  She has no doubt that he will provide what we need, it is only us adults who stress because we don't really know which way to go or what to do for the best. Nothing we can offer as a home to our children seems to provide security.  If we buy a house big enough for all of us we will be stretching to do so and if a small change in interest rates occurred we would find ourselves struggling and having to have both adults in full time work  We did not have children not to see them and besides in such a situation we would be put at greater risk of homelessness if a job fell through and we were not able to keep up with repayments.  Renting is still cheaper than a mortgage on a property that meets our needs, but is in our experience an increasingly short term measure, landlords talk of long term let but they mean a year or two not the length of primary school education.  Making children have to give up their home with all that entails is of no concern to them or the law.

I took it for granted in my childhood that we had a home we never had to leave - in fact as a very young child  I remember thinking it quite dull that we never moved unlike other children - it seemed like such an adventure.  Now I am a parent though I would rather the adventures my child experienced were imagined ones not the tension of parents wondering where to go when there is a shortage of choices and a deadline for moving. But then again I think a child like view of the world is going to be the only thing to save my sanity.  If I think too hard about interest rates or the whims of landlords I get very depressed, much better to take a walk outdoors everyday feed some ducks, splash in some puddles and be grateful to be alive.  I may not know where the roof over our heads will be but I am pretty sure there will be one.  I just pray we find it sooner rather than later.  Chris tells me we are going to find it tomorrow.  May be Aslana's faith is catching.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Interesting Times

Its difficult to know where to begin with not launching in to even more off topic issues than I usually do.  So lets start with friday's parenting session.  Edward was not happy about being left with his childminder.

There were no boy toys out since the girls arrived first and if there's not at least one vehicle in sight he will get a little distressed in any setting! I let her know this was the main problem and once cars were mentioned his mood improved.  He still didn't want me to go so I did not prolong the agony and just gave him a brusque (is that a word??) hug and said, "See you later, love you." By the time I picked him up he was pleased to see me and ready to go but not unhappy so that was good.

Now my brain freezes as I try to recall what we were talking about and I feel a little pain above my left ear  Is that where the bit of fluff I call my brain is residing? I remember finding it really helpful.

I quickly google webster stratton to check where we were upto on week 5 - are yes, continuing praise and moving to discussions of deferred rewards - where children's sticker charts are used to build up to a reward of their choosing. 

I had printed out charts for the children a week ago - Aslana's because I don't think she recognises that I value her good behaviour - so its helpful to her to see a taangible record so she knows I am proud of her.  With quite a degree of doubt I also printed off a chart for Edward - too young surely? But I used it for my tangible record.  The behaviour looked for with Edward was very specific I wanted to see some acknowledgement of other people's needs and wishes - beginning with saying please and thankyou and recording each instance, but also compliance to simple requests without a tantrum.

My childminder who has him once a week for 3 weeks has partnered me in this - eg keeping rain cover on when it is pelting down, holding hands to walk near roads, saying or signing please and thank you, putting toys away and not upending toyboxes (um with the child not with me!!) .

Unfortunately my husband his Dad is not around till 7.30 so it has been harder to feel supported in the home.
I don't think he will even be aware of what the course is covering except where I am doubtful about it,  or have found it hard to manage. eg the descriptive play was possible and valuable one to one with either of my children but impossible and sanity stealing with both together because they used it to vie for affection and would not cooperate with each other. In addition Edward is praise resistant but Aslana is praise seeking and thrives on it so it is hard for Chris to see that it might work longer term, especially since he does not value or trust praise himself. He like Edward is also not one for physical affection. Here our reading on love languages is helpful in terms of expressing encouragement non verbally.

Anyway to return to the session 5 focus - Reward charts.  OK not now,later everyone waking up!  If you want to find out about this session  while you wait for my personal take on it this link provides a good summary

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Invention of Lying

Edward was not happy about being left for our now usual 3 hours apart today.  I go and do a little bit of work and he has a lovely time with his grown up friend who happens to be a really gifted child minder and all round good person. He loves her not only for her superior train track and bob the builder toys but also for her lovely sense of fun. He often tells me she is funny. He has learnt new phrases from her too - okeydokey and messy were carefully shared with me today in perfect context.  He doesn't use many words but does try to make them apt ones.

So I went to work - I say work but  really for that you must read pleasure, because my boss is my friend Angie and in return for some data entry, some sharing of ideas and script development I receive a good number of cups of tea, a large breakfast, a few snacks and some freedom to be thinking about some less domestic issues than is there enough bread for sandwiches tomorrow and how long til the nappies run out and so on. And since it is so much fun I do really wonder if I should abandon my son but I know I would go slightly insane if I did not. He was very distressed when I left him this morning though and I did feel a heel.

Part of the reason I enjoy work is that what we do is meaningful. Here a Tangent. is a new company, which is only just finding its feet  It began from a Christian ministry for missionaries and sunday school teachers but is taking new directions.  It is still holding to those roots, but we also see opportunities to develop it for new audiences so that there are bags for sharing experiences with under fives such as going to the zoo and down to the farm as well as Christmas, Easter and old favourite bible stories.

My experiences with Edward are leading me to look at what is offered to under fives in a way I had not previously. I think the idea of story telling to impart values is kind of frowned upon in some way by a lot of parents, we have got used to the idea that the concept wrong does not exist and the concept right is purely one's own subjective value judgement and should not be forced upon anyone else. We are also so scared of offending others that we tend to regard sharing our thoughts and ideas as forcing belief  on others.

The parenting course emphasises we should praise children for being compliant and letting others go first.  This is how my eldest has been raised to this point.  Its consistent with Christian values, but it is not consistent with life in the real world where if you are compliant and hang back you will just be pushed aside because the world, propelled forward by its ambitious parents  is a very very competitive place.

 Simultaneously though, the course teaches us to make our children believe they have the very best ideas, are never wrong and are incapable of making a mistake since we should not correct them. This seems to me to put self right at the centre - self esteem without humility does not reckon much to other people's needs or talents, I am not comfortable with this, but it is a tension that highlights the difficulty of raising not just well adjusted children but creating a Christian family where moving forward together is what is aimed for, that we should develop 1 Corinthians 13 style of love but maintain a sufficient grasp on what the world is truly like to be salt and light in it not a complete irrelevance.

I think it is ok to think the way I think and share faith with my children and let them know they can share that with me or go their own path, but I do think this way is the right one.  I want to signpost what I believe to be right and wrong to save them pain in the future, but I wouldn't see any point in forcing belief. I'd rather my children would trust me that fire is dangerous and not experiment to find that out, and spiritually speaking I feel the same way, I don't want them to take emotionally harmful routes through life any more than I would be happy that they suffer injury to their physical being. To be honest even the harm being done to my daughter's spelling and grammar because of the do not correct culture is distressing to me.  I assume by the time she looks for work the people hiring will also be illiterate so she won't miss out but its a shame really that she won't be able to treasure language or manipulate it with facility because the building blocks at the base of learning are arranged by her 8 year old  thought not the consensus of generations  Thank the Lord she reads widely and has the Bible in her cultural lexicon there is at least a chance for her being able to understand why justice is as it has been developed in this country, why our landscape is littered with churches even if many now redundant and what countless references in Shakespeare were really intended to say in his own generation.

 I want my children to grow in faith and be able to express themselves in the world, but I see that as a process of nurture not of my forcing belief which would be counterproductive - the parable of the sower is exactly what it is all about.  The Seed is the word of God, we sow it at every opportunity in the lives of our children in actions as well as words but it is the environment in to which it is sown that really makes the difference as to whether it takes root and flourishes or withers and dies with no discernable effect on the happiness or fruitfulness of that life.

Wow that was quite a tangent and may be it only made sense to me. So to The point.  Today my darling Edward told me a whopper for the first time.  He told me he fell on his bottom (he was sitting in bed and the last story had been read and prayers prayed  and hugs hugged) and he produced some crocodile tears and a wobbly bottom lip.  And I said Oh really?  And when did this happen? Sniffed dramatically he pointed at his stuffed toys and said "My Toys Did it" I laughed and told him not to be a pickle and go to sleep.  Which he did. But I was impressed.  I remember Aslana's earnest reception year teacher telling me with straight face that Aslana could not possibly have been lying to her to get out of PE because a child of 4 is not capable of doing so. So I was slightly proud, and slightly mortified in nearly equal measures.

Its definitely time to read him the one about the boy who cried wolf.  Ah, there is some consensus on what truth is after all - its the opposite of that porky pie you are telling me darling child of mine and if we disagree with all the world what it is still you and I need to share what truth is in order to have trust and once we have trust real love can grow. You test me with your fibs and when I hold you to truth you know love forgives all things and hopes all things but it still knows what the difference is between right and wrong.  Goodnight

Sunday, 13 February 2011

On praising . . .

We had a lovely dinner today.  Also a bit of a row between the supposedly adult. mmmm.  We'll ignore the row. Bad behaviour goes away if you do that apparently.

Not convinced on that point, and it seems particularly unfeasible when talking about danger situations where intervention is immediately and swiftly required. Attention seeking or not, it cannot be ignored out of existence.  And the row was about feeling ignored, so ignoring it made it escalate. Guess none of the child behaviour management is meant to apply to adults anyway.

Chris made a fantastic beef bourginion (as peace offerings go this is much better than cut flowers) and I contributed stuffed mushrooms and laying the table with Aslana. She made heart confetti and she and I wrote on large hearts what we appreciated about each person. I'll quote mine from her verbatim:

Mummy I love you because you cook my dinners & you help me tidy my dinners room. You take me to school & you know how the sofa should look.

This last refers to my constant battle with the sofa throw and cushions.   Being praised is alright.  I can handle that.  Aslana can have a good helping too.  We're both very verbal creatures.  Christopher's affection much more practically expressed both to me and Aslana. I interpret it for her and she's happy. Edward not happy with praise.  If you praise the way he holds your hand when near traffic for example he will instantly desist and throw a tantrum.  If you praise him for saying please he will thenceforth only use thank you.  If you praise him for playing nicely with his sister he will pinch her.  You can bribe him though with video time or colouring favourite characters (hurrah for cbeebie web site) or visiting ducks.

Children are weird.

Friday, 11 February 2011

"Self Praise is no recommendation"

To quote what was often quoted to me.  This is the antithesis of the Webster Stratton approach so I really struggled this week. I found it hard to find anything of merit in myself or my achievements on demand and it was exruciating to have a room of people waiting on me to do so. I came up with not burning the home made burgers last night.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Its February 2011 but I am not 100 per cent sure what exact day it is.

I'm eating humble pie today (slightly over done and burnt at the edges) because I had a big self righteous row with DH last night. I really lost my temper because when we were talking about holiday plans the date of Edward's birthday came up.  "I know when my son was born!" I shouted " I remember every excruciating minute of his birth!  I can't forget when he was born!! We moved the day before.  I am certain he was born on 25th April and you are just WRONG!" und so weiter und so weiter . . . increasingly hysterical and apalled at my husband being such a poor father he could get the date wrong.

But, dear reader, it was me that was wrong.  With considerable restraint he handed me the notes from the birth so I could see that each excruciating minute (of which there were only about 70) was on Sunday, April 26th 2009 not Sunday April 25th which is just a fiction of mine. Another helping of humble pie and though its good for me I really don't like it.

The worrying thing is I don't recall when I got this wrong first.  Have I registered the correct date with the doctors? His child minder? His family will presumably know. What about Godparents and friends of the family??  Is this the only erroneous belief I have been holding?  Are there many more? 

Forgetting TD days or PE Kit or sending A in uniform when everyone else is wearing what they like pale next to this. I am struggling to maintain hold on my few remaining marbles (my brother gave me a beautiful carved wooden pot to hold my marbles, but come to think of it, I can't think when he gave it to me, though I do know it is on the mantel piece in the living room.

Time to fight Edward into the buggy for the school run and I would really rather not.  Parent strategies for this? Um, just that he can't fight too hard with hands full. A snack in advance and clean nappy hopefully he'll just comply and nod off. Wish me luck or pray as takes your fancy. I'm pretty sure I remember where A goes to school and when she's due to leave. Best take her a snack too to avoid strops, its a cold walk home.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Better week

One big tantrum on thursday night when Chris did not get back til 7 45pm. Apart from that not bad at all. Different kind of week though - Edward had his first reguar child minding session with childminder he already knows well, his friend was away for half of this week (a friend who tends to be quite huggy which non tactile Edward is not that keen on) and he had more of me than expected since the parenting course was cancelled.  I dropped him off and arrived at the Children's Centre for 9.15 again impressed to find I was on time only to read a note on the door that it was cancelled. Strangely though the door was opened and I was offered a biscuit by a staff member who said she couldn't run the course on her own and that both she and her colleague were ill. They both called in sick, but since she was less sick she decided to come in any way.

That made no sense to me, but I was pretty certain I didn't want to take the biscuit.  Since it was cancelled I went back for Edward but he was very happy with the Childminder not keen to leave

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sunshine breaks through

No Tantrums on monday or Tuesday.  Tuesday I left him with Childminder for first time. He had a wonderful time playing with another slightly older boy.  They put wooden train tracks together apparently. His sister has been pretty good, although today she came home from school and tried to take over all the building bricks to make a roman mosaic - of course her brother thought she wanted to play with him and continued his building up and knocking down game to her extreme annoyance.  I don't know why she wants to play with his younger toys and then gets cross that he wants to as well. I guess I am not managing their interactions very well.  Parenting courses seem so much about one to one interactions parent to child, not very real world! I need more help with the sibling side of things. How to stop them to competing for my attention and help them to enjoy a relationship with each other. How do you learn or teach being family? E really responded to descriptive commentary today, but still indifferent to praise. A not very well today but quite stoic about it. I am keeping her off school tomorrow. I really hope they can get along.