“When they placed you in my arms, you snuggled right into my heart.”
Our children are born into unconditional love. How many of you set your first glance upon your baby and knew in that moment that you would do anything for that child? This is the first gift that parenting offers, the experience of pure unconditional love.
In the instant that your child was placed into your arms, life offered up new meaning. Love is energy. It is from this unconditional love that you will find the energy and strength to endure the thousands of challenges this child will put you through over your lifetime.
Unconditional love is limitless and unending. It satiates because it is essential for the nourishment of our souls. Marianne Williamson wrote, “Love is to people what water is to plants.”
It is important for you to build a sense of trust in your child that your love is limitless. So often sibling rivalries begin over a parent’s attention or love. One child may not feel that they are getting their share of you. This often is the direct result of you giving your children the wrong message; that love is given as a reward and that your love is something that can be earned as a prize for good grades or good behavior.
Valentines Day offers the perfect time to talk about love with your child. Because children’s lives are so concrete, it may be hard for them to understand something so vast and invisible as love. One way to explain to your children that you have enough love for all of them is to give them something concrete to visualize the invisible. Below are two activities that can be adapted for a variety of ages.
A Love Lesson
What you will need:
Several candles of different colors or battery operated candles
This activity will offer you a way to bring the invisible essence of love into something visible. It is recommended for older children capable of handling a lit candle. You can duplicate this activity for younger children by buying battery operated candles. Instead of lighting the candles with a flame, you can just twist the light on.
Make sure you have a candle for each child and yourself. Let each child pick out the color they like. Explain to them that the different colors represent being different people. Now light your candle and tell them that the flame represents your love. Turn out the lights in the room so that it is dark except for the light of your candle. Only do this last step if it won’t scare your children. Younger children may appreciate the lights on and the message will still be able to be seen.
As you light each child’s candle, ask the children to describe to you what they see. If you are using the battery candles touch your candle to each child’s candle as you twist it on. Explain as you light each candle, your flame doesn’t get smaller as you share it with them. Instead, love actually grows as we share it. Have them count how many flames there are now from just the one flame. Explain how each one of them has some of your light (love) and you still have your candle lit as well. This is a great visual way for children to see that something can be shared but not diminished or used up.
Using the same candles (unlit), here is another fun demonstration you can do to carry the idea further. Go into a dark room. Tell your child that once again the flame represents love. Ask them how they feel being in the dark room. Are they scared? Do they feel alone? Now light your candle and show them that once there is light, (love) in the room it feels quite different. Go around and light each one of the children’s candles. As you do this, the room will get brighter and brighter. Explain to them that as you share love, the good feeling grows from one person to the next. Ask them how they feel with the room being lit by their candles (love). Do they feel safe? Do they feel connected with each other? Let them give words to what they feel and experience. They might surprise you in their ability to capture the message you are trying to convey.
Family Love Necklaces
What you will need:
Several types of colored beads
When beginning this project explain to your children that love is the invisible thread that connects all of us, as humans, on this planet. Each one of us is unique, but we all share the need to give and receive love to feel safe, feel happy and live a full life.
Begin by showing your child that the colored string represents the love that each of us has in our hearts. Next, show her the many types of colored beads. Explain that everyone is different and that each bead can represent a person who she loves. You can also begin a discussion about how everyone shows their love in different ways. Ask her how she shows her love to the people she has chosen to place onto her necklace. Talk about how those same people show their love to her. You may have to initiate the conversation by giving her some examples. Maybe Grandma brings her gifts and that is the way she knows how to express her love. Maybe the dog licks her face with his wet tongue. Maybe Daddy reads her bedtime stories.
You can then ask her to pick out a bead that she likes the best. This bead can represent her. Now ask her to think of all the people she loves and ask her to choose a bead to represent each of them. If you have more than one child it will be necessary for you to remind each of them that they have their own thoughts and feelings and that it is fine for them to choose different beads to represent the same person. (Sarah can choose a blue bead to represent you and Matthew an orange one).
Ask her to string the beads together to make a necklace of all the people she loves. You can do the same. You can then wear the necklace or hang it up as a decoration.
The following is an excerpt from chapter 4 in Marcie’s book
Parenting with Awareness
The Power of Words
Our words and our language set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. In any relationship, words are extremely important. They are a way to express our ideas and emotions.
For a young child, words are the building blocks of a sense of self. They create an understanding of a place in the world and how things work. Words can motivate or humiliate. They can inspire or limit us from ever trying. They can build one’s self esteem, or make one feel small and insignificant. Take a minute to think about what types of words you choose to use with and around your child.
Before your child was even born, she was listening to your words through the sound of your voice. Research has shown that fetuses know their own mother’s voice because an increase in heart rate and non-nutritive sucking has been documented.
It is through your words and the way in which you speak them, that you will begin the lifelong process of interaction and relationship with your child. You will use them to praise, discipline, educate, and love. Most child developmentalists agree, as written in Einstein Never Used Flashcards, that the amount and type of language an infant hears has an impact on her development. “It is a fact that language stimulation is one of the best predictors of later vocabulary, reading and mathematical skills.”
Some ways to enrich your young child’s development through language is through songs, nursery rhymes, and reading aloud. As they begin to converse it is important to engage children in open-ended conversations. All of these activities will help build attachment between you and your child.
It’s also paramount to remember that your child’s receptive language develops long before her expressive abilities. Little ears are hearing all that goes on around them so be kind with the words you choose to use when speaking about yourself and to others.
The following word game will bring awareness to your child that the words we choose are important because they affect others and the universe.
Words in a Bucket
What you will need:
Paper or cardboard
Small container or a plastic bag
Piece of felt – they usually come in an 8 1/2 x11 size available at a craft or fabric store
Similar sized piece of sandpaper
Clear contact paper for protection
Sticky back Velcro (optional)
This is an activity that will begin to teach your child about the importance of words she chooses. One thing about words is that they can be categorized. This is a great game because it connects a sensory experience, something tangible to the spoken word.
Begin by explaining to your child that there are both positive and negative words. Positive words create good energy and make everyone feel good. Negative words create negative energy, hurt other people and make them feel bad. You can bring this awareness to your child by telling her that you are trying to use positive words instead of negative words. Have her come up with an example or two to see if she understands the concept. If she is too young to fully grasp the idea of negative and positive, you can label words as good and bad. You can also label them by how they make you feel such as happy or sad, scared or excited.
Write several “good” words and “bad” words on small strips of paper or cardboard approximately one by two inches long. You and your child can choose words together if she is old enough. This is also a good way to expand her vocabulary. Explain to your child that “good words” are words that create love and happy feelings. Bad words are words of anger that generate bad and sad feelings. You can also explain that negative words that discourage or instill fear in us are words that make you feel dark while other words that are sincere and full of love and inspiration make you feel light. Give her a couple of examples and let her offer her own ideas. Measure across the top of the paper every two inches. Do the same at the bottom and draw a line between the top and bottom markings. This will give you four columns. Down each vertical side measure one- inch increments and connect those markings. This will create a grid of rectangles approximately one inch by two inches. Write a word into each block and cut each one out separately. Place the words into a small container or bowl. Make sure you use the same color markers when writing the words so your child won’t pick up on the visual clues of the color. Children are quite perceptive and if you write out all the good words in red, and all the bad words in black, they might cue in to the colors to play the game rather than focusing on the context of the word.
If you are using Velcro, you will need only the rough side on the positive words since this will adhere to the felt easily. For the negative words, you will need to place Velcro on both the sandpaper and the back of the negative word. Make sure you use both the smooth and rough Velcro so they will match up.
For children who cannot read, it will be necessary for you to read the words to them. If your child doesn’t know the meaning of a word, you can act out the feeling it creates or show the facial expression it may evoke. This will help your child associate the emotion with the word.
Have your child place the kind words onto the felt and the hurtful words onto the sandpaper. Follow up the game with a discussion of how it feels when someone uses a bad word against you or around you? How do nice words make you feel? How does it make you feel when you use bad words against yourself or someone else?
You can then make a pact with your child that you will both try to use positive words and that you will both remind each other if the other is using a negative word. Children love to teach and I am sure you will give her more than one opportunity to “mind your words.”
Drop off Pressures
In recent years, mothers have experienced an incredible pressure to send off their toddler to a ‘Drop Off” program. Most of this pressure is self -created stemming from the following fears:
My child will fall behind others if she doesn’t go.
My child will not be able to leave my side when it is time to go to preschool.
My child won’t get in to a preschool if I don’t start in their toddler program.
My child will not know how to socialize if she doesn’t go to a toddler program.
Unfortunately none of these fears address the needs of toddlers. I can guarantee you that when developmentally ready your child will leave your side willingly and without tears. She will make plenty of friends when she has appropriate language skills and develops a sense of autonomy usually between 2 and 3 years.
There are no required skills to attend preschool other than the necessary ones of being secure and confident. These she will learn from being around the best toddler teacher in the world. Someone who can predict her needs and knows her best, and that someone is YOU! Everyday life presents numerous opportunities for toddlers to practice and learn their primary skills within the security of your relationship.
When preschool was first conceived it was meant for children turning three. This has a lot of reasoning behind it.
Developmentally children are more ready because…
1.This is the age that children start to socialize, interact and play together. This is due to the enormous fact that they have language and can express their needs and wants to others. They also have an understanding of their sense of self and others within the world, which offers them an appreciation for others.
2.Children this age are able to perform many self-help skills that include toileting, eating, getting what they need within the classroom and getting oneself dressed. This allows for them to have their needs met within a group setting.
3.Along with their understanding of language, children are developing a sense of time and can understand the concept of later. They understand what it means that mommy will be back at the end of the morning allowing for less stress when being dropped off.
It is critical to be honest and ask yourself what is the motivation for sending your child off before preschool. If it’s that you need alone time then that is a valid reason since you will be a better parent when rested and happy. If it’s because you don’t want to deprive your child, remember: All learning between 0-3 occurs around a relationship. It is built on love and trust. No one can offer your child what you can during these essential years. I speak from experience when I say; The days may be tedious, long and exhausting but the years go by so quickly. Enjoy the time you have with your child when you are her primary influence. It is precious and limited.
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
Making Something Good Even Better
My homemade Play dough is a favorite in our classroom for both toddlers and moms. In fact, sometimes I observe moms continuing to play with it long after their toddler has moved on to something else.
Play dough offers both children and adults many benefits. For adults it offers the opportunity to reflect and relax while reducing stress. For children, the benefits are numerous. Here are a few:
- Fine Motor Development
- Eye-Hand Coordination
- Stress reducer
- Pre-Math skills
- Language development
For quite awhile, I have added extracts into our play dough recipe to enhance sensory stimulation. For example, if it is orange in color, I’ll add orange extract. Recently, I have been experimenting with adding essential oils.
Essential oils have numerous medicinal properties. One of the most well known is Lavender, known for its properties to promote sleep and relaxation. There are too many types of oils to mention with each providing several distinct benefits. I recommend checking into them on line and then going to Whole Foods where they provide testers. This way, you can align your senses with the benefits you hope to experience.
Essential oils shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin. Because they are potent, it will take only a few drops to scent your play dough.
Below is the Recipe. You can double or triple it if you have several children to entertain. It will last several weeks in a baggie without the need to refrigerate.
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Water
½ Cup Salt
2 Tsp. Cream of Tarter
1 Tbs. oil
Food coloring mixed into the water ( I use the Gel kind available in craft stores)
Essential oil of your choosing
Mix together and cook over medium heat just until it congeals.
This can take a few times of practice. Undercooked will result in the dough being sticky. If overcooked it will be crumbly.
Making the play dough is an enjoyable activity in itself for you to do with your children that offers math skills, eye hand coordination, socialization and language.
As parents, we strive to offer our children opportunities with the goal of helping them reach their full potential. We are drawn to the latest child rearing techniques, scour parenting articles, Google experts and purchase products promising all sorts of child advancements. We enroll in the best schools and programs promising to enrich our children’s lives. All of this is done with the altruistic goal to do everything in our power to help our children become successful adults. Despite all this effort, most agree there is no method of parenting proven to directly correlate to adult success. Parenting has no manual other that it requires unlimited energy, unconditional love and immeasurable patience.
However, there may be one simple skill we can help our kids learn that is a predictor of future success. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence sites something called cognitive control in his new book, A Force For Good. The interesting thing is “Cognitive control the power to stay focused and ignore distractions, to delay gratification now in pursuit of a future goal, and to put a damper on destructive emotions “ can be taught. Goleman, 2016. p.128.
Goleman sites a study called the “marshmallow test” done at Stanford University with four year olds. Children were told they could have one marshmallow now or wait several minutes and get two. The children who were able to wait, were tracked through high school and had higher college entrance exam scores than those who couldn’t wait. Research results also showed Cognitive control was a better predictor of adult financial success over IQ.
How wonderful! This information offers you a legitimate reason not to try to fulfill your children’s every need or request as soon as they ask. I can hear you taking a deep sigh of relief right now! You no longer have to feel guilty saying; “You need to wait.” Or tell your children “no” when they ask for something. Instead, require them to earn the money for what they desire. This would force them to set a goal and work hard to achieve it.
When you think about it, the concepts of success and dreams are always in the future for children. According to Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be proficient at a skill. Obviously, those 10,000 hours of practice requires determination and the ability to delay gratification in pursuit of a future reward.
We all understand that accomplishing one’s goal requires discipline, focus and withstanding failure. Those who succeed, do so because they had the courage to pick themselves back up from defeat, re-focus their aspirations and self-motivate to try again.
These skills are easier to find when the goal or dream comes from one’s heart and soul. Allow your children the opportunity to dream their own dreams.Even if this means that they are different from your own for them. Guide them through the necessary steps and love them when they fail. Over time you will see that their discipline, drive and ambition for something they love will carry over to other areas of their life too.
Gladwell,M.Outliers. New York,NY: Little Brown and CO,2008.
Goleman,D. A Force For Good. New York. Random House, 2016.