Posts Tagged: Alyson Schafer

Make a lunch kids will eat

You might know what’s best when it comes to your kids’ lunch. But if they aren’t eating it, who cares?

We have all seen it: That uneaten and mushed sandwich, mustard bleeding through the pores of compressed slices of bread. The apple decomposing at the bottom of a backpack. A mysterious and empty potato chip bag floating between homework papers.

Parents often struggle with the lunch game. Packing five meals a week for the kids is not always easy to manage. The misconception is that micromanaging this tricky task will produce healthier results.

While nutrition is important, so is eating. Experts say that getting your kids involved and having them participate in packing their lunches can tackle an important part of the school year and hopefully bring home empty lunch boxes.

This really speaks to self-sufficiency. They ultimately need to know how to take care of themselves and one of the tasks that we need to do is make ourselves lunches.

Banana or apple? Chicken, turkey or veggies? Yogurt or cheese? Children can be picky, but giving them the power to decide what food comes out of the fridge and into their brown bags is a powerful example of ownership. By taking part in the lunch packing process, their choices are recognized as something they want to eat.

Young kids get really excited about getting the bologna from the fridge and putting it on the bread and getting the mustard and smearing it on, because they are making their sandwich. A lot of parents will think if they pack the lunch, kids are going to make poor choices, but it’s actually a great opportunity for parents to teach about food. You can put the Canada Food Guide on the fridge, or whatever food policies you are following, and say ‘do we have one thing from the protein, two things from the vegetables?’, so that you are able to show them what balance looks like – and yet they still get selection.

Timing also comes into play. Mornings can be rushed, while preparing in the evening is asking a lot of pre-planning from a busy family. The idea is that you find the formula that works best for you and if you find doing it the night before is better – great! If you find doing three lunches in a row and keeping them all pre-packed and in the fridge is going to work for you, then great! It’s all about thinking creatively about how to do it better so that it’s not a stress point.

This can also be great chance to get some quality time in with the kids while you take care of the task at hand.

Don’t forget, being rushed or grumpy about picking out a piece of fruit or the filling for a sandwich is going to rub off on your kids. If you put on some great music and you show that it’s supposed to be fun time, things will unfold in the spirit of that. What you are really trying to do is get yourself out of a job. Eventually you are going to wake up in the morning, read the paper and have your coffee and your kids are doing everything on their own, which is what you want. No rushing, no hassles because you have spent time doing the proper training.

Some reasons why food returns home:

  • Too much food. Sometimes parents have no idea that they put so much food in their child’s lunch. If it’s coming home, it’s because you are over-packing.
  • Lunch is boring. There are a lot of fun ways to get kids to actually eat. They have these great little things called bento boxes that have come out of China and Japan and they are great because it is a way for food to look fun, be fun, but still be small, reasonable portions.
  • Timing is everything. Some schools have a policy where the kids eat and then play. In those schools, kids take two bites of their sandwiches because they want to get out and play. It’s the only time they are allowed to socialize in school now, because everything is about learning and desk work, so they get very little free play and they want to get to it. In schools that flip it around and say you can play first and then eat, kids eat much better. So you might actually be curious about what is going on at lunchtime, because it may not just be appetite, it may mean that the school schedule is against them. You may want to see if the school wants to try something a little bit different.
  • When and where they eat. A lot of kids don’t want to eat in public. They find it a private thing, like going to the bathroom, so sometimes it takes them time to feel comfortable.

I would lay off and pack a little less and trust that over the course of 24 hours and 7 days, most kids manage to compensate and get it in at other meal-times. It’s probably ineffective to nag, it’s just going to hurt the relationship and it won’t really bring about the change you want.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Bedtime Potty Training: Using the Toilet After Tuck-ins

The Situation

I recently received an email from a distraught mother who complained that every night after tuck-in time, their 3 1/2-year-old daughter would call out, “Mooooomy, I have to go peeeeeeeee” even though she was put on the potty right before tuck-in every night.

The Way I See It

I suspect that this 3 1/2-year-old has discovered a behavior that mom can’t ignore.  She thinks, “If I’m thirsty or I’m hungry, mom might be able to disregard the complaint.” But what kind of parent wouldn’t respond to a toilet-training-tot when they cry out they need to pee?  After all, we don’t want to be inconsistent. We don’t want to take a step back in bedtime potty training. We don’t want them to be wet all night. So we go and put them on the potty again.  No doubt there is a small conversation, an additional tuck-in kiss, maybe even a song.  It’s really a very social experience for the child.

(Note: This late-night bonus socializing is the “usefulness” that sustains the nightly behavior that we need to address in finding our solution: undue attention-seeking.)

The Immediate Solution

Lose the “payoff” or social benefit of these extra night-time potty visits mom is making by teaching the child self-sufficiency.

During the day, take time for training (T.T.F.T.).  Show your child how to pull their own pants up and down, and practice wiping themselves. You might find wet wipes are easier for kids than dry toilet paper.  They can wipe first and then you can be the “checker” until you are satisfied they have the manual dexterity to get the job done properly.

Once they have this skill, you can put night lights in the hall and explain that they don’t need to call you to go to the washroom: “You are so capable! You can go to the toilet and tuck right back in all by yourself!”

You may also opt to simply leave a potty in their room with some wet wipes and hand sanitizer (again, after some T.T.F.T.).

Some children find this new limit exciting and want to test it out. However, after a night or two, most children prefer to void before bed since they no longer have a successful stalling/attention tactic, and they just get on with going to bed.

The Long-Term Strategy

As with all the behavior guidance tips, you’re not going to have long-term success unless we solve the unmet goal of feeling encouraged. Every child needs to feel secure about their worth and place of belonging in their social group (the family or classroom).  That means parents need to bring on the encouragement and connecting time with our children during those times when they are not demanding our undue attention.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

If You Hit, You Sit

“If you hit, you sit (out)” is a great short and snappy way of remembering and offering a logical consequence to your kids for bad behaviour, such as hitting. Even better, it meets the requisite 3 R’s of consequences: respectful, related and revealed in advance.

If your find your toddler hitting, the consequence must be logical to them: “If you choose to play co-operatively you may stay here with your friends. If you choose to hit, which is unsafe, you must go somewhere else because we need to feel safe when we play together. When you decide to play without hitting we would love to have you back”.

Here’s my advice on how to use a time out (the “sit”) properly:

1. Of utmost importance: the length of time is decided by the child. Whenever they decide to choose to play without hitting they can come back.

2. The emphasis is on participating in the group with safe pro-social behaviours that meet the needs of the situation. It is about safety and other ways to problem solve, not about being “nice” or “not doing what you’re told” which is all about listening to authority figures.

3. I recommend not using the phrase “time out” as it is has a negative connotation with children.

4. I recommend the child stay close to the fun they want to get back to rather than hiking all the way to their bedroom. You want the children to be motivated to quickly decide to act differently and come back ASAP.

5. Do not have a time out chair/area – that introduces a stigma which is punitive, and speaks to having negative expectations for the child’s future behaviour. Very discouraging.

6. “One minute of time-out for every year” (often recommended by time-out proponents) is NOT a good method. If the child decides they want to come back and there is still time on the clock, they’ll spend the remaining time building resentment and anger, and the child may seek revenge.

TTFT: Take time for training

After the time out, try saying the following:

  • “Our hands are for hugging and holding” (Invites the behaviour we want to see)
  • “It is not okay to hit people. We need to feel safe when we play.” (Be clear, not angry)
  • “You need to speak up and use your words – not your hands.” (Help start problem solving through verbalizing)

Once you have said these things once – YOU ARE DONE. They are bright, they heard you. After all, how many times did you have to tell them that cookies are kept in the cookie jar on the counter?

To recap:

Offer Choice: “Can you stay and play safely or do you need to go?”

Follow Through: “I see (because you keep hitting) that you need to go” and guide them to the side of the room or someplace neutral on the sidelines of the action out of the centre of the action.

Action Not Words: Once they’ve been in this time out once, you can just take their hand and guide them to the side. No words needed.

Firm and Friendly: Watch that body language. Stay calm and composed. Your emotions, disapproval, or exasperated looks interfere with the learning.

Remember: When they choose to come back – that is fine. “Hi – I am glad you’ve chosen to come back. It’s more fun when we play all together.”

Tip: Don’t go overboard with this noticing. If you do they may decide that is enough payoff to encourage them to get themselves into time outs just so they can steal the show with a grand re-entrance! And this does happen.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

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