Thursday, April 9, 2020

It's ok to say NO!

These days saying NO can be easy.

No, we can’t go to the park. It’s closed. 
No, we can’t go eat at your favorite restaurant. It’s closed. 
No, we can’t go to your friends house, we are not having playdates for now. 
No, you can’t use toilet paper to make a mummy custom right now. It’s hard to find toilet paper in the market sometimes.  

Other times it’s really hard.

No, I can’t play with you right now today is a workday at home. I can play when I am done. 
No, I can’t start this new project now because I am taking care of a little child at home on top of my part-time job. 
No, I have to take this call. Can you pitch in and stay with our daughter for an hour?
No, I can’t have lunch with everyone because I need to catch up on work. 
No, you can’t hit me when you are frustrated. I am going to help you. 
No, I can’t go on an online shopping spree because I am making less money. 
No, you can’t eat all the pirate booty in the pantry. Take one bag and save some for tomorrow. 
No, I have to get lunch ready. You can help me if you want to and after lunch we can play. 
No, I need to take a shower right now. 

Sometimes it’s necessary. It is necessary for your mental health and those around you. We are not striving for balance, we are striving for sanity. Saying NO is not painless or guiltless. The faces of disappointment will be hard to take in. You tears will heal you. We are all facing hard decisions. It’s ok to say NO!


En estos días decir NO es fácil.

No, no podemos ir al parque. Está cerrado.
No, no podemos ir a comer a tu restaurante favorito. Está cerrado.
No, no podemos ir a la casa de tus amigos.
No, no puedes usar papel higiénico para disfrazarte de momia. No hay papel higiénico en el mercado.

Otras veces es realmente difícil.

No, no puedo jugar contigo ahora. Es un día de trabajo en casa. Jugamos cuando termine.
No, no puedo comenzar este nuevo proyecto ahora porque estoy cuidando a un niño pequeño en casa además de mi trabajo actual.
No, tengo que contestar esta llamada. Quédate con nuestra hija una hora por favor.
No, no puedo almorzar juntos porque necesito ponerme al día con el trabajo.
No, no puedes golpearme cuando estás frustrado. Voy a ayudarte.
No, no puedo irme de compras en línea porque estoy ganando menos dinero.
No, no puedes comer todas las papitas de la despensa. Comete una y guarda otras para mañana.
No, tengo que preparar el desayuno. Puedes ayudarme si quieres y después de comer podemos jugar.
No, necesito bañarme ahora.

No es fácil pero a veces es necesario. Es necesario para la salud mental y para la de los que nos rodean. No estamos buscando equilibrio, estamos buscando cordura. Decir NO no es dolor y puede generar culpa. Las caras de decepción serán difíciles de asimilar. Tus lágrimas te sanarán. Todos enfrentamos decisiones difíciles. ¡Está bien decir NO!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Why are we home all day?

Mom: School is closed. We are going to stay home for a few days. 
4 year old: No! I want to go out! 
Mom: Our days are going to be different for while. We are going to have workdays at home and weekends (play/relax) days at home. 
4 year old: I went to go out now!
Mom: I feel the same way! I wish we could go right now. 

4year old: Let’s go to the park or have a play date. 
Mom: The park is closed, too. Everything is closed. We are all staying home for now. 
4 year old: why? 
Mom: Do you want to know why? Germs can make people ill sometimes. The doctors discovered there is a jumpy germ that likes to jump on different things and places. Grown ups were not being that good at washing their hands like kids do. They weren’t coughing on their elbows either so this jumpy germ went to too many places. 
4 year old: Nahhh! You made that up. It’s not true. (I can totally relate)
Mom: It is. The doctors found it. It’s called Coronavirus. 
4 year old: HA HA HA. You just made up that name. 
Mom: I know. It sounds silly! But that is the name the doctors gave it. To make this jumpy germ go away doctors asked people to help. So everyone helping the doctors staying home until it goes away. When it goes away, we will be able to go back to school, restaurants, the park and have play dates again. 
4 year old: Where is the jumpy germ?
Mom: that is the tricky part. We can’t see it. Only doctors can. 

DAY 5 (walking around the block)
4 year old: You can’t see germs, right? 
Mom: No, we can’t. They are invisible. Only doctors and scientists can see them on a microscope. It is a special machine they have. 
4 year old: Are they here?
Mom: No. they might be in things people touch a lot, or in places where there is a lot of people. That is why people are staying a little far away from each other until the jumpy germ goes away. You can still wave, say hi, smile to people. 

4 year-old: I am going bring in the box from outside. 
Me: I know you like to do that, but I am going to do it until the jumpy germ goes away just in case. I will give you another box you can help me carry in the kitchen.

I am sure as the days go by, more questions will arise. When I talk to him, I try to stay grounded and he feels my confidence.  I am not telling it as a story but as a serious answer to his question. Thank you @askthechildwhisperer for sharing tools that round up my explanation. 

When we come back to places one day, I want him to be careful about germs but knows they are a normal part of life. He will be able to hug his friends and family at ease. He understands physical distancing is needed right now but we can be social in many different ways.

The jumpy germ might be jumping around right now, but one day it will be us and children who will be! 

#empowerkidsforlife #explaincoronavirustochildren # hardconversationswithchildren #keepcalm #wearehelpers #consciouswords #mindfulness

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Siblings Rivalry: When the baby becomes a toddler

My son (will be 6 in July) has been showing strange behaviors. He has been peeing on the carpet ON PURPOSE when he gets angry lately and that could be because I didn’t let him watch TV more than what he should. I know most of his anxiety is because of jealousy to his younger sister who is 2 now. When he hits his sister and we ask him to go to his room. He does that, too. Yesterday he did it because he wanted to play with me and I wasn’t available because I was talking a shower.

I try to stay calm and firm as much as I can. We try to have special time with him but it’s very hard with his attitude!  I feel a big disconnect between us since my daughter was born. No matter how hard I try, he usually doesn’t want to go anywhere with me. Most of the time he tells me he hates me, which really hurts. For a special time, we go to his favorite places like Santa Monica pier, CPK or Pinkberry together.

I know he is doing all these to get attention but we do give him all the attention we can. I have been getting help from different child psychologists. Going to lectures and etc. He is in such power struggle with me and nothing works!

Since his sister is now two and starting to have her own opinions and wishes expressed more, their relationship is changing. I am sure your relationship with her is changing too. She is not a baby or a toddler that can be easily redirected anymore. Now, he needs to negotiate with her and probably after a day of doing this at school with peers he is exhausted and has no patience for her. He doesn’t know how to handle this new tiny person in his space. He is not supposed to. This is where you come in.

1) Your role is now mediator instead of only caregiver. You need to show your son that you have his back and understand his point of view. The more he feels you are on his side, the easier will be for him to be more flexible with his sister. We tend to demand a lot from big brothers. Try to find the reason why he is hitting his sister and solve that first. Only until you understand the root cause of the problem, you will understand what is the skill that he is lacking and it’s causing the hitting. Then, you can deal with the hitting saying: " If you are frustrated and she is not listening to you, come get me. I will help. It is not ok to hit her". This will help him with stopping before hitting and move away from the situation. This may not happen right away so, at first, try to be nearby when you think a difficult situation is coming. 

2) Connect at home: It sounds that you are having a special time with him outside the house, which is great. But, I think you should try to find moments to connect at home. I call them rituals instead of routines. I know it is difficult with 2 children, but they don't have to be long to be special. Write a special note that he can take to school in his pocket or have a special notebook just for the two of you to make drawings and write notes to each other. Maybe, when his sister is busy playing approach him. Give him a kiss and your undivided attention even if it is only for one minute. Sit with him to watch a movie or just be nearby. Don't label it or highlight it. The more defiant children are, the more important it is to connect with them. Even though is hard, we are the adults in the relationship. It might take a while to set this in place but take your time to find something that works for you. 

3) Highlight natural consequences and give him new strategies he can use instead of punishing him.  About peeing on the floor, have a conversation when he is calm and say to him: "I have noticed you've been peeing on the floor when you are angry and we have had less time to play together because we have to clean the carpet afterward." Wait for his response. Later on, you can say: "It is hard when I am mad too. When I am frustrated I scream but I am going to try to change that and instead I am going to take 5 deep breaths and pause. (Sometimes I call it "blow the birthday candles" and you use your hand to blow one finger at the time). Would you like to try it with me? It might help us get more time together."  He might not use it right away and in the heat of the moment might be forgotten. He might not want to use it but keep referring to it. "Take a deep breath, let's figure it out". Stay firm on your limits no matter how angry he is. Accept all feelings that come with this. I know it is hard to see it that way but difficult situations are opportunities for connection as well. 

If you catch him before peeing, tell him to go to the bathroom or take him saying: "You can be mad but pee goes in the toilet. Go to the bathroom please." When you are not there to catch it beforehand, I would say "Oh no. You were really mad that I couldn't play with you while I was taking a shower. I really wanted to spend some time playing with you but now we have to clean the rug instead". Make a plan to play or read later in the day if he is asking for it. Look for him later and make sure you follow through on the plan and remind him if he forgets. This is how you build trust that even when things don’t happen right away, you are serious about what you say.

4) Accept all feelings and don't take it personally (this is a hard one, I know!) Hearing your child tell you that he hates you is one of the most painful things in the world. When children say "I hate you", they really mean I didn't like what you did or said, I am mad!. With their peers you might hear "I don't want to be your friend anymore" or "You can't come to my birthday party." Focus on what triggered the response and make a plan for next time. You can respond with: "I get it. You really wanted to watch another show on TV and it is time for dinner. You can watch it tomorrow afternoon".   Then move on to the kitchen confidently. If he doesn’t follow you, come back and help him move to the table gently. 

5) Allow time for transitions and inform the plan beforehand. Try to have transitions when he has completed what he is doing. For example: "After you finish the puzzle we are going to have a snack".  If that is not possible get a 5-minute warning and tell him when he can keep working on it. Especially with TV, transitions are hard. Let him know he can watch one episode or one movie and then you will turn it off. Talk to him before turning it on. Once they are watching they are not listening to you. I usually save screen time before dinner or a snack so there is a clear transition to move towards. 

While a new sibling disrupts an only child’s world when they are born, when they become a toddler/preschooler they not only have to share their parents but also the environment around them. They will both grow in this new state of being and learn from one another. The more you can support them in talking to each other and find solutions together, the more skilled they will become in negotiating with one another. This might seem time-consuming but see this time with them as an investment for the future. This is the first time they are going through this process and so are you.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Transitions to Kindergarten: Big feelings before moving on!

My son (will be 6 in July) has been showing strange behaviors like peeing on the carpet when he is angry. I think he has high anxiety; he eats his nails and chews on everything so hard. His anger and anxiety are much more extreme lately over the last month. He always had a habit of putting EVERYTHING in his mouth. He started to bite his nails right after his sister was born for a year. He stopped after a year with a reward system and he started again recently.
No problem at all at school, he is moving to Kindergarten in the fall. He is nice and kind to others and rational. He is respectful to his teachers and listens. He is very popular and everybody wants to play with him. He is extremely talented in sports and plays all day long. He is super energetic and active.

I know he is doing all these to get attention but we do give him all the attention we can. I have been getting help from different child psychologists, going to lectures and etc. Nothing works!

This is usually the time of the year when children transitioning from pre-k to K start worrying about the transition and this might be the reason for his anxiety and why he is sowing these behaviors. The end of the year is approaching; teachers are probably talking more about it. He knows a big change is coming. He is anxious about it (the same way he was when her sister was born). Since he is very popular and everybody wants to play with him, the idea of going to a new school where he doesn't know anybody can be scary. It's like going to a party where you don't know anybody. He just can’t  verbalize it yet.

Also, it is not uncommon for children to let it all out at home after a long day at school of keeping it together. It is hard I know. 

How you can support him:

1) Talk to him and tell him you have noticed that sometimes when he is nervous he is biting his nails so you got him a special box with some things that can help at those moments. That way he can start to recognize it and have a different outlet for it. I call it a relaxation box: Fill a box with relaxing activities chosen by him and create a relaxation center somewhere in your home. You might include music, coloring books, fidget toys, a mini sandbox, clay, books, and stuffed animals. If you notice him biting his nails you can tell him, "You are biting your nails, let's use the box so your nails don't hurt afterward" (this way you are giving him an internal motivation not to bite his nails and giving him a healthy outlet for his feelings).

2) Tell him when he is calm that whenever he feels worried he can tell you about it. If you are not around he can make a picture and give it to you. Later when you have the time you can sit with him and write about it, if he feels like it. Just ask questions and instead of telling him not to worry try to say: "I know that can be worrisome sometimes". You want to create a space where he can share anything with you.

3) Share stories of situations when you went to school for the first time or did not know anybody at a place. Share how asking for people's names or sitting next to somebody helped you make a friend. Books are also a great resource:

4) A couple of weeks before starting kindergarten, ask him if he has any questions about his new school; if he hasn’t brought it up before. More than getting him excited about the new school, your role is to support him in the process. If he doesn't have anything to say about it you can tell him that the new school will have things that are similar to his preschool and others that will be different. The teacher will be there to help him.
Here is the mom’s response after a few weeks of our consultation. While not everything was solved in a week what I enjoyed the most was seeing how this mom's perspective changed. By doing that, she found new ways to support his son not only in difficult situations but throughout his day. 

I used some of your strategies and I think things are much better. He still bites his nails. I was just thinking about everything that’s going on in our lives. He has a lot more anxiety and stress than just transition to kindergarten. We are actively looking to buy a new house and talk about different options at home.
He will go to our home school but that could change if we move and that discussion comes up every time we put an offer on a house or we see a house we like. I can’t even get him excited about our home school now because we might move. Also, we won’t keep our current nanny whom he is very close to if we move and he knows that. So all these unknowns are adding to his anxiety.

Since we realized that, we decided not to talk about houses or schools too much in front of him. Also, I’m taking it very easy on his eating habits, which has been always an issue with him. He is a very picky and difficult eater. I’m starting to take it very easy on him knowing everything else that’s going on in his life right now. So I think doing these 2 things have helped him calm down a little as well as the tools you gave me to use.

I asked him about nail-biting and he said he is not doing that because he is stressed but I think he is just saying that!

Thanks for all your help!

As we align our thoughts, our words and our actions everything starts falling into place, even when you don't see results right away. Change takes time and comes with different kinds of feelings. Take a deep breath. You have everything you need to handle this situation! 

Monday, October 15, 2018

I miss you! 5 ways to support your toddler or child when you have to travel without them

Leaving your child behind is hard, especially when you are traveling far away. When parents of 19-month-old asked for ideas to support him while they were gone on a trip without him, this was my response:

1. Accept all the feelings
Accept the feelings that come with the process from both sides (I have been dealing with this process myself as I transition my son into preschool). Being apart from each other is hard because you love each other and that shows healthy attachment. This article is helpful for the person staying home with him to support him in this process and specific words to use when feelings arise:

2. Create Family Book
Create a family book or print pictures that the child can have available to look, pick up and hold at any time. Especially in the morning, at bedtime or times when parents are part of his routine. Write a short letter and leave it with the book saying you are on a trip, you will be back in a few days and you love him. Write a note for each day if you feel like it. The caregiver and the child can read it together. Making drawings or writing letters (for older children) to be read when the parents are back from the trip can be cathartic.  

3. Communicate the Plan
Young children do not have a sense of time yet. Tell him the day before what the plan is going to be and who will stay with him during that time.  At 19 months he is young and he will not respond but he will know what to expect. 

4. FaceTime or not FaceTime?
 I think it is ok to FaceTime. Not a million times ;). He might be distracted or not want to talk (which is common at this age) but he will know you called. And if he is sad after the call the person staying with him can remind him you are on a trip, you will be back in a couple of days and offer the family book if he needs it. You can decide the frequency of the calls depending on how he reacts. 

5. How long would you be gone? 
Sometimes having a physical way to know when you will be back can be helpful (example: having 13 blocks on a shelf removing one each day, stickers on a calendar), but at 19 months he might be too young for this one. 

Children are resilient and capable to deal with change even though it might be uncomfortable at times. We all struggle with it, both children and adults, but finding healthy ways of supporting the process will empower everyone involved. 

Safe travels!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bows and Arrows: Parents and Children

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sharing Ideas, Sharing Knowledge

Nowadays everyone wants to be a blogger. I, on the other hand, never wanted to be one. It happened by accident when I was studying Early Childhood Education at UCLA and my final assignment for a class was creating a Teacher Book. It was meant to be a collection of the most valuable resources and information for my teaching career. As I started putting it together, I realized this wasn't meant to stay on my hard drive or in my teacher's inbox. It was meant to be shared. That's how this blog was born.

I had a similar feeling after my son was born and the strategies I used as a teacher made my life easier at home. For that reason, I decided to put together a workshop for parents.  I know parenting is hard. I know you want to read the books and the articles but the life of a parent is a busy one. Here is the information in case you are interested and want to take two hours out of your busy day to get valuable strategies for your parenting journey.

To sign up go to

See you there!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lead by Example

People say babies only cry, sleep and poop. But if you intentionally observe them you notice they are really busy. They discover the world and they are immersed in a very intense social study. They watch the light coming through the blinds. They delight looking at the leafs in the tree moved by the wind. They learn by example, it is proven. Our brains are powered by mirror neurons.

"A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer."

They watch us make faces.  They listen to us talking to strangers and they watch us using out phones and computers...all day. I've heard many people say children are born tech savvy in this generation. My theory is they are born in a world with tech-savvy parents and adults, that is why they are so skilled at it.

If you want your kids to spend more time off the screen start yourself. It's easier said than done.

"Whether a child is 8 months old or 2 or 7, we need to teach children how to process things, make transitions, comfort themselves, deal with feelings and shift gears. We are becoming more and more reliant on computers, whether it’s a game or book, to function for kids in that way. "

Here is the full article about screen time recently published in the Washington Post

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Kinds of Thinkers

I love finding articles that are relevant to the business world, the classroom and/or life at home. Even though we often regard these worlds as different and separate, they are more alike than we think. Working with small groups of children - ages 2 to 5 - I often found the conversations resembled those in the boardroom or business meetings I used to attend in my past life in the corporate world or as a business consultant. Leadership is about understanding ideas and group dynamics. Whether you are a manager, a teacher or a parent; understanding how others think is an important tool to relate and work with others.
In the same way that the theory of Multiple Intelligences developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner helps us understand a child strengths and weaknesses; this article by Mark Bonchek and Elisa Steele at the Harvard Business Review website helps us identify what type of thinkers children might be. Understanding how others thinking is similar or different from ours empowers us to collaborate more successfully with children or adults.

"For example, on the big picture or macro orientation:
  • Explorer thinking is about generating creative ideas.
  • Planner thinking is about designing effective systems.
  • Energizer thinking is about mobilizing people into action.
  • Connector thinking is about building and strengthening relationships.
Across the micro or detail orientation:
  • Expert thinking is about achieving objectivity and insight.
  • Optimizer thinking is about improving productivity and efficiency.
  • Producer thinking is about achieving completion and momentum.
  • Coach thinking is about cultivating people and potential.
When you know your thinking style, you know what naturally energizes you, why certain types of problems are challenging or boring, and what you can do to improve in areas that are important to reaching your goals."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Back to Basics: Don't forget to be human.

Great advice for teachers and parents...and non-parents!

"To be a caring person, though, an educator must first be a person. Many of us are inclined instead to hide behind the mannerisms of a constantly competent, smoothly controlling, crisply authoritative Teacher… To do so is to play a role, and even if the script calls for nurturance, this is not the same as being fully human with children. A real person sometimes gets flustered or distracted or tired, says things without thinking and later regrets them, maintains interests outside of teaching and doesn't mind discussing them. Also, a real person avoids distancing maneuvers such as referring to him or herself in the third person (as in: “Mr. Kohn has a special surprise for you today, boys and girls”).

Here, again, what initially looks like a common sense prescription reveals itself as challenging and even controversial. To be a person in front of kids is to be vulnerable, and vulnerability is not an easy posture for adults who themselves had to strike a self-protective pose when they were growing up. Moreover, to reach out to children and develop genuine, warm relationships with them may compromise one's ability to control them. Much of what is wrong with our schools can be traced back to the fact that when these two objectives clash, connection frequently gives way to control."

Alfie Kohn