Archives for January 2013

Teaching Children to Self-Regulate is Setting Them Up for Future Success

“I want it now!”

I can still hear the screams in my head as I think back to my daughter’s reaction to the fact that she can’t have the dolly on the shelf at the store. I know it is my job to help her work through this impulse successfully as she falls out on the department store floor kicking and screaming. But how? And what reaction should I realistically expect from her at the tender age of two? What I did not even consider was that my reaction in the moment — that “teachable moment”– would play a huge part in laying the foundation for her future success.

In a past post we discussed a current “hot topic” in child development– self control. The development of self-control, impulse control, or self-regulation in young children has been linked to success later in life. So this has many parents asking, “What do I need to be doing to help my child develop these skills?”

Before we begin to answer this question we must first begin to understand a few things that can have an impact on self-control such as:

*a child’s temperament

*the child’s development of executive functioning skill development

*children’s context (the situation the child is currently in)

*child’s mood

*child’s experience of a particular event (such as schedule change, life change, trauma)

*and most importantly, the relationship that the child has with the primary caregiver, the person that teaches the child how to manage and regulate their behavior as well as models how they manage their own.

As parents, we want to do what we can to ensure future success for our children. The good news is that there are a lot of simple things that we can do to set them up for success. And most of them are FREE! For more information about what parents can do to promote healthy development of self-regulation skills in young children check out the podcast Beyond “Use Your Words!”: How Babies Begin to Develop Self-Control in the First Three Years Featuring Brenda Jones-Harden, Ph.D. brought to you by


Protecting Their Sleep

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Leonne Bannister.  Enjoy the post and look forward to future posts from Leonne.

Having too much fun at a friend’s party a few weeks ago, I kept the kids up too late. And while we were all having fun at the party and no one showed signs of tiredness at the time, we all paid the next day. The late night for the kids totally threw our next day off. There was such an extreme change from our kid’s typical behavior, that my husband and I vowed never to keep them out that late again.

Later that week, I participated in a webinar hosted by best-selling author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Ed.D and the Minnesota Department of Education. It was an online presentation titled “Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep?” I realized, after that webinar, that I hadn’t been a good steward of my child’s sleep needs. The term “protect their sleep” came up several times in the webinar and it was something that really stuck with me. Kurcinka’s presentation was full of convincing information as to why it’s important to protect children’s sleep and I’d like to share some of it with you.

Kurcinka spoke about the emotional signs of a tired child. A child who loses it over little things, gets easily frustrated and is generally irritable and cranky is likely sleep deprived. More serious emotional and physical signs of a sleep-deprived child, according to Kurcinka, are complaints of stomach and headaches and a general sense of anxiety. She also mentioned that a child’s ability to focus and pay attention at school is greatly affected by how much sleep a student receives. She even referenced a study that showed 41 minutes of sleep deprivation effected math performance of students.

Kurcinka offered some advice for parents who are committed to “protecting their child’s sleep”.

  • be aware of your child’s tiredness cues
  • have a consistent morning routine
  • differentiate between evening and morning activities

Kurcinka also gave tips to improve your child’s sleep.

  • place a thermos of cold water near their bed at  night
  • have your child eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking

As a parent, I have benefited from Kurcinka’s strategies. It seemed as though my kids never quite managed transitions for bedtime well. Moving the kid’s bathtime and playtime to the afternoon has drastically improved our sleep routine. There are two less transitions during the evening which make for happier kids and parents. I hope some of the information I’ve shared with you today helps your family as well.

For additional information on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, visit her website, or check out her book, Sleepless in America.

To view Leonne’s full article which includes additional details about helpful ways to protect your child’s sleep click here.

 Leonne is a wife and a mother of 2.  She has been a member of the LBCC Cooperative Preschool at the Benton Center for 3 years. She is a part time Parenting Education Instructor with LBCC and a CASA Advocate. She is also on the Board of Directors of CASA-Voices for Children. Leonne enjoys spending time with her family and volunteering in the community. In her “free” time she enjoys exercising and reading.

I Resolve NOT to Resolve

I have never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I suppose that it has something to do with the fact that I can never seem to maintain them for the entire year. New Year’s Resolutions have always been a way for me to set myself up for short-term (at times way too short) success and long-term disappointment. I experience more success when I set out to do something positive for myself and my family and I do not associate the decision with any particular time of year. These usually turn out to be positive changes that last a lifetime. They remain consistently on my mental radar and as I adopt them as a way of life, I need to focus on them less and less. Some of my more lasting life changes have been: regular exercise, healthier eating choices, spending quality (“ifree” in nature) time with my kids, and volunteering my time to help others in need.

Even though many of the things I do are not resolutions, I have had to conciously commit and recommit to them at times. Take volunteering, for example, I get a lot of joy out of helping others in need and like many of you, I have felt the forces of the financial strain that the country has been under for the past few years. So volunteering my time has been a way for me to help others without further straining my pocketbook. Plus I have tons of fun, I get to meet other people with similar interests, and I make lasting friendships and community connections. Dr. Martin Luther King himself acknowledged the importance of volunteerism stating, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

Volunteering has been so rewarding for me that I have recently decided to share the experience with my children. I have become very purposeful by involving them in planning and selecting our family volunteer opportunities. It has been a great way for us to spend quality family time together and they benefit from the experience of volunteering. Volunteering teaches them very important life skills and values. They learn, for example, that there are a LOT of hungry, homeless, and sick people (and animals) in our community. They learn that their time is valuable, both for themselves and others. They learn that people are counting on them and they need to act responsibly. They learn the importance of community and their role(s) in the community. Most importantly, they learn that one simple act of kindness can change someone’s life forever and that makes it all worth it.

I encourage all parents to consider ways that they and their families can get involved through volunteering. One great opportunity is president Obama’s annual Day of Service in honor of Dr. King. This year it is on Saturday January 19th and there are volunteer opportunities in 50 states around the country. It is so easy to get involved. Just go to and type in your zip code. All of the volunteer opportunities in your area will pop up on a map and you can choose the one that best suits you and your family. There are both indoor and outdoor opportunities around Linn and Benton Counties for adults and children of all ages. You are never too young or too old to be part of this important day.

So I hope you will join my family and I on Saturday and get involved in a volunteer opportunity in your area. We’ll have fun, meet new friends, reconnect with old friends, and help others along the way.

Don’t resolve to do it. Just do it!


The Nerf Gun Dilemma

In our efforts to make the winter holiday “ifree” and “electronic-free” our family gave and received a variety of creative and memorable toys and gifts. Some of my personal favorites are the games, craft kits, and framed pictures. Both my husband and I have especially enjoyed taking a walk down memory lane and thinking of some of our favorite gifts from childhood– you might remember some of them if you enjoyed play before the mass marketing of console-based and handheld computer games. Yes, I am talking about “throwback”  or “old-school” toys. Well, whatever we call them, here are some of our favs: the Big Wheel, Life (the board game), the Easy-Bake Oven, Leggos, marbles, pick-up sticks and the simple balsa wood airplane that comes (almost) ready to go, with all the pieces. Growing up, my sisters and I got one of those airplanes in our stocking every year. Of course, it never lasted longer than Christmas day, but it was, by far, one of our favorite gifts. In fact, I still look forward to putting it together and flying it until it breaks, about 2 hours or so. One of my husband’s favorite gifts was the Nerf gun he got when he was seven years old. Like the balsa wood airplane, the Nerf gun provided him and his sisters with hours of strategic, imaginative, and energetic  fun. So, what did our kids find in their stockings on Christmas morning? Three balsa wood airplanes and three Nerf Guns. Imagine that!!!

The airplanes were a hit. They lasted less than the usual 2 hours. Probably because the wings barely survived the assembly process. But what wonderful fun they had while it lasted. Much more fun than a video game, in my opinion. And the Nerf guns were a HUGE hit as well. At least for the kids. As I watched my children run around the house pelting each other and various pieces of furniture with those orange foam sticks, I couldn’t help but wonder if this “play” was desensitizing them to gun violence. They were aiming (with surprising amounts of accuracy) at each other, laughing, running, dodging foam “bullets” and screaming “I got you! You’re dead!”. I just couldn’t help but picture the children of Sandy Hook Elementary and how they might have tried to dodge the real bullets during the horrific tragedy of December 2012. I fully understand that this event is still extremely difficult to process and, at times, to talk about, but I think it’s worth considering when we open our homes to certain media, toys, and various other imagery that impacts our children. After the fun (for my children) but troubling (for me) Nerf gun battle had gone on for a while I couldn’t stand it any longer and I directed my children toward another, more soothing (at least for me) activity. We baked holiday sugar cookies together. And as we rolled out the dough, we talked about why mommy asked them to take a break from the “Nerf  war”. It was this discussion that made it all worth it. I took the opportunity to talk to my children about gun violence and how playing with Nerf guns can be fun but playing with real guns can be deadly. Knowing that they understood my concern by the end of the conversation gave me peace of mind, so that now I can watch them play “Nerf war” with less reservations. And they better watch out because mom might be hiding around the corner with her very own Nerf gun, ready to join in the fun.