I am thrilled to be back at the keyboard after focusing on four kids for the summer, playing the role of contractor on our home for a few months, and surviving some rather chaotic interactions with Mother Nature in our dear little town. I have been strategizing future posts and am so excited to get back to this concept of integrating principles from psychology into parenting to help you and your children have more fulfilling interactions on a daily basis. Today’s topic is snacks. If it doesn’t sound like there is a psychological principle in there, read on.
First of all, just a quick reminder that kids are rapidly growing, super fast metabolizing creatures that need to be fed often. Young children need three meals a day and at least two snacks (somewhere around 9am and 3pm depending on their nap schedule and what time your family eats their meals). You probably know that meals should include a protein, fruit and/or vegetable, grain, and dairy. Snacks should also be well-rounded. A friend once talked about how her son’s mood tended to dip in the afternoon. As we started chatting about snacks, it turned out she was not regularly providing a protein at snack time because that seemed like something you save for mealtime. For adults, that might be fine – just have an apple in the afternoon to tide you over until dinner. Young kids, however, need that protein boost in the morning and afternoon. Peanut butter, eggs, cheese, etc. can help your little one stay happy and healthy. It does take time each day to put together five protein-packed dining experiences for your kids but trust me, the improvement in mood, both your child’s and yours in turn, is worth it.
Ok, now where’s the psychology? This is a brief, tangible introduction to the field of developmental psychology, the study of how and why humans change over the course of their lives. Many future posts will touch on topics from developmental psychology, such as understanding developmental stages of growth to help parents have realistic expectations for their children. Here I just wanted to introduce the overarching concept that children are not just little adults. Children have different thinking styles, behavioral patterns, nutritional needs, emotional experiences, concepts of time, etc. Our goal as parents is to help them mature so that one day all of these facets of human life are more consistent with ours as adults, but this happens in baby steps, so to speak. From the time they start eating solids until sometime later in elementary school, they’ll need those extra snacks!
I haven’t written in a little while and some of my awesomely supportive friends have been asking when they can expect more posts. I have a huge list of topics for future posts and am super excited to get them on paper (or rather, computer screen) but I’m falling a little short on free time as our family embarks on two much-anticipated construction projects. Alas, I cannot guarantee when my next post will be but I definitely plan on more, especially when school starts up again next fall.
In the meantime, I have a quick story for you related to this concept of managing your time and preserving as much of it for your little kiddos as possible. A friend recently asked me how I can manage to look at Facebook so rarely and I responded that every minute I am on Facebook is a minute that I’m ignoring 1 to 4 children (depending on how many of the older 3 are at school at that time). This friend has brought this quote up several times and shared it with other moms as a moment of insight where she realized how important it is to consciously balance her own daily routine with her desire to be present for her children. Children certainly do not need to be, and should not be, attended to every minute or responded to immediately every time they request your attention or assistance. But if I am asking a child to wait a minute for my response, I want there to be a good reason like I’m speaking on the phone with your aunt or I’m changing the baby’s diaper – not I’m getting caught up on Facebook. My friends will forgive me for not having seen every picture they posted on Instagram this week but my children will remember how much attention I paid to them and their daily accomplishments forever.
The key to interacting with preschoolers is keeping things light and fun. I credit my munchkins’ preschool teacher with bestowing on us the powerful tool of Mr. Handy: Make a fist with your hand with the knuckle forward and use your thumb to control the mouth or keep your fingers spread and wiggle them like hair – either way your kids will get a kick out of Mr. Handy. The beauty is that he can act as your special helper somewhere your kids need a bit more encouragement.
A few years back, I found that getting the kids ready in the morning had become a frustrating experience; I was calling people into the bathroom with poor response time, they weren’t excited about brushing their teeth, etc. Mr. Handy to the rescue! The kids and I got together and decided there were 5 things we really needed to accomplish every morning: get dressed, make our beds, brush hair, brush teeth, and put on sunscreen. Five is the magic number so you have one finger for each activity; if your list has more than 5 items, you can merge tasks like brush hair & teeth. The great thing about having Mr. Handy help out is that he does all the talking. You can give him a fun voice and ask the kids, “Have you brushed your teeth yet?” and instead of Mom nagging them, it becomes fun! I also love that you can count out the 5 To Do list items (starting with a closed fist and raising one finger at a time) to wrap-up the session and close with a high-5.
Try out Mr. Handy wherever you’re finding challenges in your daily routine: With good table manners, with homework, with remembering things to bring out the door on the way to school, etc. P.S. – The other thing that we’ve found very helpful in the morning is to keep sunscreen and an extra toothbrush for each kid in the kitchen so we can keep the momentum going after breakfast and finish getting ready in the kitchen rather than dragging everyone back to the bathroom.