Archives for July 2013

What’s the point of punishment?

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Esther Schiedel.  We hope you enjoy the post and look forward to more posts from Esther.

What’s the point of punishment?

Clarification: For this article, I define “punishment” as “penalty.” I’m talking about any consequence imposed by a parent on a child for misbehavior.  There are certainly many differences between different disciplinary techniques, but I believe parents usually use them for the same reasons:  “My child ran into the street, therefore he or she must be punished.” “My child disobeyed me, therefore he or she must go to time out.” “My child hit his or her sister, therefore he or she must experience consequences.”

But why? Why respond to misbehavior with a punishment or consequence? What do you hope to accomplish?

Here are some reasons parents have for using any form of discipline:

  •  To stop a dangerous behavior
  • To teach that a behavior is not acceptable–ever or within a certain context. For example: It’s never okay to hit your little sister, or It’s not okay to scream at the dinner table.
  • To empathize the importance of what we are trying to teach. To show that we are serious about it.
  • To assert our authority as parents
  • To teach that there are consequences for behaviors
  • To prevent the behavior from reoccurring
  • To make amends for damages caused by the behavior

These are all legitimate goals. They are part your job as a parent. They are not, however, all the same goal. The same tactic may not work for every goal.  There are many ways to protect and teach, to show you are serious, to assert your authority, to help a child make amends. Punishment may help in some situations, but it is only one strategy.

I often hear from parents that the whole day has become one misbehavior followed by a punishment, another misbehavior followed by a punishment, another misbehavior followed by a punishment . . . and on and on. When this happens—or before it happens—stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. Identify the particular goal(s) you have in mind.

Instead of thinking: “I need to punish,” you can say to yourself “I need to protect” [or teach, or prevent, or assert, or whatever the goal is at that moment].

Meeting your goal(s) may require several different actions. You may need to discover more about why the behavior is happening; you may need to change the environment; you may need to involve your child in creating family rules—the list of problem-solving ideas is endless.

Identifying your goal(s) is the first step.

Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to two boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.


Finding Joy in Music

Today’s blog post is submitted by our summer contributor, Kara Olsen-Becerra.

Cultures all around the world listen to and create music. Music has always been an important part of culture and humanity. It has been known throughout centuries to have an effect on mood. Although each culture may have its’ own way of appreciating or making music, it is a beautiful thing to know that music is something that unites and creates community throughout the world.

Music is something that was an important part of my childhood, and it continues to play an important role in my life now as an adult. I come from musical parents, and they instilled a love of music in each of their children. Although my siblings and I may have some different tastes and preferences in music as well as varying ability levels in creating music, we all love music and appreciate the effect it has in our lives.

I grew up learning to sing and harmonize with my siblings, but I never realized that when I became a mother, I would use music as a parenting tool to help create familial harmony and unity. Because music can influence our mood, we as parents can use it to help create a peaceful or happy atmosphere in our homes.

There is a reason that we play and sing lullabies to babies and young children. The repetitive patterns within lullabies can have a great calming nature, which ideally leads to sleepy babies. I have also used music with a faster tempo to help lift spirits at my house. When one or more person wakes up on the wrong side of the bed at my house, I like to bust out some Aretha Franklin or other music that is fun to dance to. I have witnessed the small miracle of seeing my children transform from whining and frowns to dancing and fun within minutes. On the other hand, there have been times when my house has felt too chaotic and loud(sometimes created by sibling quarrels). In a desperate attempt to calm the wild energy, I will choose more mellow music to play in my house.

Although my attempts to help create a mood or feeling with music don’t work 100% of the time (it is still possible for kids to be doing karate moves or fighting with Enya in the background), I am amazed at how often it does help. For parents who may not feel musically inclined, the good news is that you don’t have to be a musician to instill a love for music in your children. Here are a few tips for using music to help create harmony and happiness in your home, even if you claim to have no musical ability:

  1. Sing to your child from an early age on. Even if you think you are a horrible singer, you can be a rock star to your child. Singing can promote bonding and fun times as a family.
  2. Music is a great way to be silly and have fun with your kids. It is also good for their development. Singing songs that create build up and excitement like “This Little Piggy” are great for development. Not only can you have fun watching an older or baby or toddler’s face light up when he/she knows that she is about to be tickled, but you can also feel good knowing that you are helping him learn how to anticipate and learn the song sequence.
  3. There is a lot of fun children’s music out there now. It is true that there is a lot of annoying children’s music, but there is also a lot of good stuff out there too. If you are looking for musicians that both you and your children will enjoy, try Elizabeth Mitchell, Frances England, or the “Curious George” soundtrack by Jack Johnson. Many libraries will have a children’s music area with music from these artists and many more.
  4. Don’t feel like you can only play children’s music. It is wonderful to expose children to many types of appropriate music! While you listen to music together, ask your child how the different songs make them feel and what they specifically like or dislike about the music.
  5. Spontaneous dance parties are one of my greatest joys in parenthood. I am assuming that there will be a day not too far in the future when my dance moves may embarrass my children, so I say that while they still are too young to know how dorky my dance moves may actually be, we will dance!
  6. When you are helping your children with their homework, you can use music as a way to help them learn and memorize. There is a reason we sing our ABC’s instead of simply saying them. Music can help children learn and grow! When my oldest daughter was really resisting doing her reading homework, I decided to mix it up, and we sang together with the lyrics in front of us to follow along to.
  7. We started a family tradition at the birth of each of our children where we dedicated a song to each child. All 3 of my children delight in the fact that they have their very own song dedicated to them. Even my two year old lights up and says, “This is my song mama” when her song comes on in the car.
  8. Use music as a tool to help create different moods and energy in your home. Give it a try and see how it works for your family!

If you want more information on music and mood, check out this article from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Music and Mood

Kara Olsen-Becerra loves working with children and families. She taught the Live and Learn with Your Baby classes in Corvallis for 6 years, and she is currently working as a nutrition educator with the Linus Pauling Institute-Healthy Youth Program. She loves being a part of this great community, and she loves being silly and playing with her husband and three young children.


Playing With Our Children

Today’s blog post is submitted by our summer contributor, Nicole Kalita.

How often do you play with your kids? I mean, really play. Not just sit on the floor and let them play around you while you are distracted with thinking about the next item on your to-do list. Can you think of the last time you let them lead you into their imaginary world, convince you to play tag at the park, or had a contest to see who can swing higher? When was the last time you set aside your thoughts and just had fun with your kids?

This is not always an easy thing to do. As a stay at home/work at home mom, I often find myself physically sitting on the floor with my kids while I am plotting how I am going to get the next 5 items on my to-do list done and they are playing around me. This is not fair to my children and I am really missing out on something special when I am not mentally available while playing with my kids. I have found that I  have to “schedule” it in. Put playing with the boys on that to-do list. If I could, I would play all day long.  It’s fun!  And I love spending time with my children.  But I have to get my chores done around the house and I have deadlines that need to be met.  I have found that if I give my children undivided attention and play with them in the morning, they are more understanding when I have to get my work done in the afternoon. If I don’t have play time scheduled into my day, I end up dealing more with extra whining, sibling rivalry, etc, and I end up getting less work done. It’s definitely worth setting aside a few minutes. The key to it, though, is being present in the play and keeping my mind from being distracted.

These focused play times are how memories are made. One of my favorite quotes is, “To be in your child’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” The Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) suggest parents use these tips while playing with their children:

  • Let them take the lead during play. Wait, watch, listen, and then join in.
  • Talk, talk, talk! Describe what your child is doing while you are playing together. However, try to avoid asking too many “learning questions”, such as, “what color is the car?”
  • Encourage your child’s creativity and imagination. You may learn that some days cow say, “bah” not “moo”. A farm has dinosaurs instead of cows, chickens, and horses. You never know what you’ll learn.
  • Watch for cues that your child might be losing interest.
  • Avoid power struggles.
  • Last, but not least, HAVE FUN TOGETHER!

For more tips on playing with your children read “Make the Most of Playtime”. But first, go have some fun with your children!

Nicole Kalita is a mother of two young boys. She has a degree in Human Development and Family Sciences and has been working with families for 11 years. During the school year she teaches the Live & Learn classes in Albany, Oregon through Linn-Benton Community College. 


Alternatives To “No”

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

One of my favorite parent educators is Barbara Coloroso I relate to her parenting philosophy and down-to-earth style. One of her parenting strategies that is well received in the parenting classes I teach is three alternatives to “no.” Coloroso states that if parents are constantly saying “no” to kids, they begin to tune out those “no’s.” Then, in a moment when a “no” really means “no” (running into the street, going out with a questionable group of kids, etc.), the child doesn’t listen and the consequences may be costly.

Her three alternatives are easy to remember and very effective. Instead of saying “no,” try:

  1. “Yes, later.” Rather than answering with a “no,” state a “yes,” but with the condition that it needs to happen later. For example, when your child asks for a cookie or treat. “Can I have a cookie?” they ask. You respond with “Yes, later.” You may then go on to explain when the child may have a cookie (most reasonable would be after the next most nutritious meal). Therefore, the interaction would conclude sounding something like this. “You may have a cookie after lunch.” This allows the child to get what it is they requested, yet at a time that is best for him and you.
  2.  “Give me a minute.” This is an important alternative at my house. About a year ago, I got into the habit of responding with a quick “no” to my kids’ requests for things that, quite honestly, are unimportant. It was a bad habit that was easily and simply addressed with giving myself a minute to think about their request. I use a little bit different language than Coloroso suggests, but the end result is the same. Rather than “give me a minute,” I respond with “let me think about it.” I explain to my kids that I need a minute to think about it and I’ll respond once I’ve had a moment to think. This alternative is an excellent example of modeling thoughtful decision-making with our children. It sends a message that decisions can sometimes take time to make and putting thought into what we decide is normal.
  3. “Convince me.” This is a great strategy for older children. Instead of immediately rejecting a child’s request, ask the child to convince you. This alternative, like the second alternative, allows you time to think about it and, most importantly, gives the child an opportunity to practice articulating a convincing argument. Coloroso gives the example of a teenager asking his mom to use the car. Many parents are reluctant to loan their car out to their child, but what if that child presented a convincing and reasonable argument.

For more information on Barbara Coloroso visit her website

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.



Summer Play

Today’s blog post is submitted by our summer contributor, Kara Olsen-Becerra.

It is officially summer here in the Willamette Valley! There are so many wonderful things to do, people to see, and places to visit during summer in Oregon, but as you are making your family’s summer schedule, don’t forget to allow plenty of time for unstructured play. In David Elkind’s book “The Power of Play,” he says: “Play is not a luxury, but rather a crucial dynamic of healthy physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all ages.” Because play is so beneficial in promoting all of the areas of development, it truly is the great work of a child.

A snapshot of how Gabe spends a lot of his time

A snapshot of how Gabe spends a lot of his time

Most parents realize that play is important for children, but life can be so hectic and filled with distractions and barriers that often don’t allow for the right amount of time and conditions for a child to really take off with their imaginations.

  1. Too much on the calendar. It is possible to fill a child’s schedule too full, even if it is with good things. As you are signing your child up for summer camps, play-dates, and planning your summer vacations, try to be thoughtful about leaving plenty of down time for your child to get lost in imagination. I can see a big change in my children’s behavior when we are in always on the move and rushing around to our many activities or commitments.
  2. Media and Technology. For current recommendations on how much screen time is recommended for your child’s age, you can visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website. If you feel like your child is in the habit of too much screen time, summer is a perfect time to start weaning them away from too much use of technology. There are so many wonderful things to do and explore outside, so many children may find the weaning process easier during the summer. It truly is a gift to help a child realize that they can create their own entertainment instead of feeling like they need to always be entertained.
  3. Too many toys. It seems like a child who has tons of toys will always have something to do, but this isn’t always the case. Children who have too many toys and options often bounce from toy to toy or activity to activity instead of really engaging in any one toy. If you’ve been meaning to simplify your child’s toy pile but haven’t found the time, summer is a great time. You can have a garage sale or set some of the toys out of sight and occasionally rotate toys and books.
  4. It is great for children to spend time playing by themselves, with friends, or with siblings, but we also know that our children love to play with us. I know as a parent, it can sometimes feel a little monotonous to play with our children how they want to play. I can not even count how many times I have been asked to read “Llama Llama Learns to Share” by my two year old, but she is thrilled and learning something new each time she hears it. I know that it often feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done that we need to, but to take even 15 minutes to play in a child centered way will speak volumes to your child about modeling play yourself and showing them that their interests matter to you.

Here are some ideas that you can try this summer to help your children really get lost in play:

Sofia, age 7, lost in a book

Sofia, age 7, lost in a book

  1. Have simple art supplies available for your children to use at will. You don’t need anything fancy: crayons, markers, paper, watercolors, envelopes for letter writing, scissors, glue, and paper can create hours of entertainment.
  2. Make sure to when possible allow plenty of time for transitions between scheduled events or errands. We all know what happens when we have tried to squeeze in that one extra errand when our kids gave us signs long before that they were ready for down time. Sometimes there are many things that need to happen or get done in a day, but when possible, try to slow the pace down.
  3. Let your children be outside as much as possible this summer! Go berry picking, to local parks, to the swimming pool, set up a sprinkler in your own yard, or take a nature walk at your child’s pace, stopping to collect sticks and to look and bugs.
  4. Set up a tent in your yard just for fun. My husband did this a few days ago with our kids, and they have entertained themselves for hours.
  5. Go on bike rides as much as possible.
  6. Most young children are excited about helping out around the house. Find creative ways to make work play. My kids love to help wash the cars or to help harvest food from the garden.
  7. After checking out books from the library, set out a picnic in your yard in the shade with a nice blanket with all of the books on it. My kids love to explore books and be read to outside.
  8. When my kids whine that they are bored, I like to remind them that my mom would put us to work doing chores if we said that at my house growing up. This will often be enough for my kids to run off to play, and although sometimes it can be helpful to redirect or give a new idea to a child, it can also sometimes be beneficial to let them deal with their boredom. Sometimes the most magical and beautiful play I have witnessed my kids engage in has happened minutes after listening to them complain about how bored they were.
A sibling tea party

A sibling tea party

Fewer things in life make me happier than seeing my children lost in play. I love hearing my 5 year old belting out the new song that he made up while he swings. I love watching my 2 year old talk to and care for her babies. I love when my 7 year old leads the other children in theatrical role plays in the yard. I hope that you also find joy this summer in playing with your children and in observing them lost in play, knowing that you are helping your child bloom and grow. Happy Summer!

Kara Olsen-Becerra loves working with children and families. She taught the Live and Learn with Your Baby classes in Corvallis for 6 years, and she is currently working as a nutrition educator with the Linus Pauling Institute-Healthy Youth Program. She loves being a part of this great community, and she loves being silly and playing with her husband and three young children.