Thursday, 31 March 2016

Yesterday's Papers

I know that it's not just me and that I'm not saying anything new here, but many events going on both within our City of Toronto and globally have been downright gut-wrenching and absolutely terrifying. As someone removed from the situation, who gets this news via web, radio and TV it's difficult not to feel downright helpless.

Recently the topics of life, growing up, growing old, and death has come up a lot in our house. This matter has been punctuated by the death of our beloved family goldfish, who is now buried in our backyard.  I'll also be the first one to admit that I've been listening to the news more often than I should be, particularly in the presence of little ears, even though I routinely need to shut off the radio and wipe away tears whenever I hear Jennifer Neville Lake talk about the loss of her father and three children at the hands of a drunk driver, I can't help but listen. Maybe I should take a break as Molly has been asking me a lot of hard to answer questions like, "Can a person make me die?" and "Why would someone want to make someone else die?"

My favourite Mr. Rogers Quote

It's easy to wallow and to focus on the bad in this world, so much so that we can lose sight of all of the good.  Yes the news has made me cry, and it's made me downright furious as a woman, mother and person on this planet.  I wouldn't wish the tragedies that have befallen in Brussels, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Chad, Turkey or Jennifer Neville Lake on anyone.

A friend of mine commented on Facebook about how parenthood has increased her tender heart and made her feel things even harder and deeper, which makes all of the tragedy we see even scarier.  The amount of love I have experienced since Molly and Jack have been born is unreal, and that isn't just parental love, it's love as a friend, daughter, sister and spouse.  Parenthood aside, Maybe I'm just growing up, maybe I'm growing soft, but I am more aware of everything today than I was just a few years ago.

Here are some things that I want to share, that I've learned, been reminded of, and want to teach Molly and Jack, because we can all make a difference, even when things may feel otherwise.

  1. I won't always be able to protect you but I will always try my hardest to.
  2. I will do my best to be honest with you, always.  Even when you ask me tough questions that I don't have the answer to.  That's what Google's for, right?
  3. Bravery isn't always rewarded and bad people get away with terrible things, but I will believe you, and believe in you, even if others or the legal system does not.
  4. When you feel helpless, I will try my best to empower you and when things get tough and I'm not there, look for the helpers, and try to be a helper yourself.
  5. No matter how short or long our time is together know that I love you truly, deeply, in a way that words could never describe.
  6. Being respectful of adults doesn't mean that grown-ups aren't accountable for their actions. If someone does or says something that you think is wrong or makes you feel bad, please, please, please, tell me.
  7. I will always defend you, just like Little Foot's mother defended him from Sharp Tooth.
  8. It doesn't matter how angry I am, I will always love you.  
  9. Your body belongs to you, period.
  10. I will come and pick you up, pay for a cab or uber (or whatever) no matter what.  Even if (when) I complain (a lot) I won't be mad, and would rather drive across the country to get you if it meant that you didn't drink (or smoke) and drive or get in the car with someone who has.
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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Tub Thumping - I Get Knocked Down, But I'll Get Up Again

As somewhat self-aware humans we all have things about ourselves that we work on.  As parents sometimes this pops up with our kids, they face challenges and we try to provide them with an assist that will, hopefully, make their lives better.  With Jack, communication has always been a key focus of our efforts and despite fantastic strides because of hard work in speech therapy and with his teachers there are still issues, specifically in emotional maturity, his emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), and how he deals with conflict.

Here's the thing, we've had ho-hum results surrounding Jack managing his recent bouts of anger as we work towards helping him learn coping mechanisms that are socially acceptable.  We've all been working with him as he moves from parallel play into associative play (the third stage of child play development where kids still play independently, but are often doing the same things as the children beside them) with the hope that he will soon be enjoying cooperative play with other children beyond his sister.

When hitting isn't a bad thing

One of the reasons why we put the minions into separate classes was to encourage them to make their own friends, and to stop Molly, a quite typical twin A, from interceding and speaking for her brother. While for the most part I agree with our choice, it hurts when I see him struggling on his own as he's slowly trying to reach out to other kids to play with.

On Attempts at Getting Social

In the past month we've personally seen Jack ask other children to play, only to get rejected (always by little girls), then get frustrated and angry, act out, and pretty much solidify their reasons for not wanting to play with him.  Jack is used to playing with girls:  he is the George to Molly's Pepa Pig, and the Olaf to her Ana, but little girls who have known him outside of the preschool "twin" context don't see this and won't play with him.  This has me asking, Why are little girls such b$*#&es? and did we separated him from his sister too soon, setting him up for loneliness?

This weekend at a birthday party after a girl said no to a game of house, he decided that the best course of action was to lay down on the floor beside the house and refuse to move.  Earlier that day when a boy shoved him in the ball pit, instead of asking the shoving boy to stop, he stood there and screamed at the top of his lungs.  My guess is that because I told him that screaming in frustration wasn't an appropriate response to anger and disappointment, that he took the option of passive resistance, laying on the floor in front of the play house refusing to move.

Picking Flowers with his sister

On Communicating Frustration, Physically

Once the hosting mother found me to peel him up off of the floor, Molly decided to step in and confronted the little girl about not wanting to play with her brother and got him an invitation to play. Jack was unimpressed, because most kids don't want their sister standing up for them, and the rest of the party was a blur of bad behaviour and a complete "s" show for Jack.  When I announced that it was time to leave he even tried to throw himself back into the ball pit to avoid going home, I caught him mid-air (an unprecedented move of coordination on my part). This made him furious and led to a bout of hitting himself in the head to express his anger and annoyance at the situation, an unfortunate regular response of his in the past week.

Chris and I have both researched the head hitting and this is a somewhat common reaction for frustrated pre-schoolers, particularly boys, to hit themselves instead of others when they are angry, but as a grown-up his reactions can be quite upsetting.  Right now we have two interrelated things we need to work on 1) Helping Jack find constructive, non-head banging ways to deal with conflict and anger and 2) Encouraging him to continue to ask other kids to play, even when he gets rejected, again and again.

I am frustrated and sad, but not defeated as I look for solutions. I get embarrassed by the stares from other parents when Jack has his outbursts, then I feel guilty for getting flustered by his behaviour, when all I really want to do is pick him up, give him a hug and say, "Ignore that girl.  Let's get a juicebox, this place is dead anyway."

To read about self-soothing and the buddy bench click here.

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Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Way the Bunny Hops - 9 Easter Activities that don't involve candy

With Easter being early this year I can't help but groan at the thought of yet another candy filled (and fuelled) occasion.  There is still Valentine's chocolate in our cupboards and I'm bracing for even more. With the weather being up and down (ice storm today and 11 degrees and sunny by Sunday) it can be hard to know what to focus on during a long weekend that doesn't involve copious amounts of treats.

9 Easter Themed Activities to enjoy that don't involve chocolate

Easter Egg Painting circa 2013

Have an Easter Yarn Hunt
Basically you tie one end of a sizeable ball of yarn to your start location (think the door knob of your child's door) and then wind the yarn wherever you can think, up and down stair cases, in the kitchen, bathroom you name it!  Your child has to follow their yarn everywhere to the very end where their prize or Easter basket is (which doesn't have to be chocolate).  If you have more than one kid, designate a yarn colour to each child to follow.

Teach your child the real story of Easter (the one that doesn't involve a bunny)
I was raised in an agnostic family, while Chris's family attended every Sunday during his childhood. Despite our lack of church my father made it a priority to integrate bible stories and Greek Mythology into regular bedtime reading rotation, this paired with being an English major in university, who routinely wrote essays about biblical imagery in literature has given a fairly good understanding of certain facets of the bible.

A number of months ago we were at church for a baptism of a friends' daughter, in the middle of the service Molly turned to me and asked, "Who's the guy in all the pictures on the wall, the guy with the beard?"  It felt like a big parent fail to me.  Religious debate aside, there are some great lessons and interesting tales to discuss in some bible stories. While you may not want to lead off with the death and resurrection of Jesus, as that could be pretty scary to many little ones, you might want to consider adding some bible stories into your reading rotation.  I found this blog entry on teaching your kids about Christian Easter without scaring them senseless.

Paint some eggs
This is a huge tradition in our house that also gets some brightly coloured, healthy protein into everyone's belly while we do a little arts and crafts.  The only break the egg, you have to eat it, like now!  To read in more detail about the egg painting tradition click here.

Easter Scavenger Hunt
Indoors, outdoors, it doesn't matter, let the weather and your mood dictate where and when you play.  You can write clues, or simply hide plastic eggs filled with non-candy treats like hair clips, elastics, stickers, temporary tattoos and more.  Have really little kids....Consider a bathtub sensory easter egg hunt.

Easter themed healthy meals
Pinterest and other online resources are filled with fun recipes and food ideas with varying levels of difficulty for creating your own Easter Theme meals.  From bunny shaped pancakes, to veggie displays shaped like carrots, or bunny shaped devilled eggs there are a number of things you can create for or with your kids that err on the side of healthy.

Dino Eggs
Last year Molly and Jack's Aunt and Uncle bought them a hatching Dinosaur egg....Not really entirely Easter themed, but they got a big kick out of watching it "hatch" all weekend long.

Easter Themed Crafts
You can go simple with printing out Easter or Spring themed pictures to colour or paint, or you can make something a little more elaborate.  My favourite ideas include a Popsicle stick baby duck, shaving cream Easter eggs, and paper plate bunnies.  For access to 40 easy Easter crafts click here.

Watch some Easter themed movies
These can be spring or Easter themed movies.  Consider watching Hop, Winnie the Pooh, Springtime with Roo, or The Prince of Egypt (Molly and Jack love this movie, again a movie that is based on a bible story).

Looking at the baby geese circa spring 2012

Go for a walk and see some baby animals
Ate a ton of Cadbury Cream Eggs?  Don't worry, walk off some of that chocolate at a local park.  If you're lucky you might run into some baby animals.

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Thursday, 17 March 2016

This is Our Playground: McCleary Playground

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows that I'm pretty obsessed with exploring Toronto area playgrounds, hikes, and other activities that embrace nature.  I'm thrilled that Molly now shares this passion with me and routinely asks when we're going to visit a new park or playground. I have been excited about the prospect of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, a popular concept among urban dwellers who also love nature.  

Bienenstock is a leader in producing innovative, safe playgrounds that are built using natural materials taken directly from nature.  When a friend asked us to meet him in Toronto's east end neighbourhood of Leslieville on a sunny weekend afternoon, I knew we had to visit Toronto's own Bienenstock Playground, McCleary Playground.

My park review disclaimer: If you don't live in the area I hope you enjoy the pics and can use some of the ideas to inspire and explore in your own city. If you have any recommendations for great playgrounds (or new criteria I haven't thought of) please post a comment on this post or email me.

Park Name:
75 McGee Street Toronto (Just East of Queen and Broadview)

This park has local street parking and is also steps away from the Queen Street Car Stop (Boulton Avenue Stop). 

Theme of Park:
Natural Playground in an area with a lot of young families, that required green infrastructure.

Ground Coverage:
Primarily dirt, with some wood chips.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
There are some awesome rocks and ropes for climbing, playing and imagination games. There is also a giant rope to use as a balance beam and a sizeable sandbox for kids who want to dig and build castles.
Best Parts of the Park:
This playground area has a number of picnic giant benches and armchairs made out of trees that are great for both picnics and imagination games.  It also has a wheelchair and stroller accessible track of sorts around the perimeter of the grounds, complete with wheelchair access to the two slides.

Wheelchair accessible slides at McCleary Playground 

Low risk, high reward rope climber for lil ones

This is an imagination based play area, so if your children are used to letting big and elaborate playground structures guide their play this might take some getting used to.  The playground was empty, besides us, on a sunny and warm day, fortunately our play encouraged a family I saw watching from their home across the street to come out and use what was available in their own "backyard".  A set of swings would really go a long way, but I doubt this playground/parkette had the real estate available to actually install any.
Balancing Molly

Jackie climbing through the tree arm chair

Overall Rating:
I would rate this park a 3.5 out of 5.  The kids had such a good time climbing the rocks, playing hide and go seek, tag and digging in at the sandbox.  As a kid I know I would have loved playing house among the tree arm chairs.  The concept of this playground is so neat, just come prepared to assist your children in a nature focused play, or by possibly bringing supplies to build in the sandbox if they aren't used to it.  It really bummed me out how empty this park was, but I also know that we often ignore our local parkette in favor of some weekend adventure and exploration.  To view the Bienenstock portfolio for a playground near you click here.

To read my review of a book that discusses the importance of nature play, How to Raise A Wild Child, The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature click here.

To read my review of Perth Square Park in Junction Triangle click here.

To read my review of Jean Sibelius Square in the Annex click here.

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Monday, 14 March 2016

Zootopia - Movie Review

We'd been creeping on the positive Rotten Tomato reviews and hearing news of box office record smashing for nearly a week when we decided Sunday afternoon was a good time to check out Zootopia with the minions.

Disney Zootopia promotion courtesy of Forbes

Movie Review: Zootopia 

What's in it for the Kids?
An engaging story about determination, sticktoitiveness and fighting prejudice (both of others and your own).  Animal character Judy tries to navigate her new life in the big city, Zootopia, as the first ever rabbit police officer, finding help in an unlikely ally, a fox named Nick.

What's in it for the Adults?
This is another "cool" concept movie.  Essentially imagine a world with no humans, where animals (both predators and prey) live together in a modern North Americanish way. Some homage is paid to film classic The Godfather, and the choice of sloths as DMV employees will entertain the adults throughout the movie.  The movie features the voice talents of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, and Shakira.

Best Parts of the Movie
There is relatable messaging about getting along, preconceived notions, and some good teachable moments you can talk to your kids about afterwards.  In looking around the theatre I'd say the kids that were most engaged by the film were around ages six to nine, so there's a bit of a sweet spot there. I can see this movie becoming a part of school curriculum.

Worst Parts of the Movie
Maybe I read too many amazing reviews before we saw this movie and it spoiled it for me, but I was disappointed in this film.  It was looonggg for a children's movie (1 hour and 48 minutes) and did not hold either Molly and Jack's attention all the way through (granted they've both said they enjoyed it). An adult we attended with admitedly fell asleep for a few minutes in the middle where the movie dragged.  There are certain plot points and moments during the movie where Molly got really scared and hid under a sweater, whereas Jack remained unconcerned about "bad guys and scariness, through the entire flick.  I know this is irrelevant to the plot of the movie, especially when I'm already complaining about length, but so much thought was put into the Zootopia world, yet couldn't they address what the meat eaters consume instead of other animals, are they all vegan?

Overall Rating
I would rate this movie 3.5/5.  It's watchable, particularly if you have kids aged six to nine or ten, but I don't think it's quite worthy of the Frozen record smashing we're seeing here. All of that being said, seeing a slightly longer movie on a rainy March Break week might not be the worst thing to entertain.

To read my review of Kung Fu Panda 3 click here.

To read my review of Good Dinosaur click here.

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Friday, 11 March 2016

First Day of Spring - 10 March Break & Spring Activities

This Sunday many of us are going to spring forward, with the promise of longer days, shorter nights, and warmer weather.  It also marks the beginning of March Break for many families, which means keeping everyone busy and happy is at a premium.

Below are 10 activities to consider working into your late winter/early spring "To Do" list when the weather is still a little unpredictable

Watching the rain

  1. Go jump in a muddy puddle, seriously.
    A couple of weeks ago I was unimpressed when Molly gleefully jumped in a giant puddle on the lawn of her before and after school program, spraying a mist of dirt all over both me and her brother.  As she squealed, "Look at me, I'm Peppa Pig and I love to jump in muddy puddles!" I knew it was worth the extra load of laundry.  Let kids be kids, get dirty, put on a pair of slush pants, rain boots and get dirty.  Take a hike and see what's blooming, just remember to dress in layers.
  2. Tackle some yard work together
    Clean out your grates and gutters, and rake up any winter debris, so when the weather gets really warm you can sit back and enjoy it a little sooner. For tips on getting yard work done while minding toddlers click here.
  3. Maple Syrup Season
    For the love of all things sugary sweet and maple infused, North America has so many events you can attend to get your maple on!  Some are more hands on and educational where you (and your kids) can learn about how maple syrup is made, or others where you can enjoy pancakes or maple infused bourbon.  For a listing of Ontario Maple events for 2016 click here.
  4. Hit the Markets
    While there aren't many outdoor farmers markets up and running yet, the quality of the produce available is improving each day.  For a listing of Ontario based winter indoor farmers markets click here.  Toronto residents, consider a trip to St. Lawrence Market to get some produce, meat and cheeses.
  5. BBQ
    Clean off your barbeque and enjoy your first grilled meal of the season.  Consider using an onion to clean your grill and amp up the flavour of your meats.
  6. Spring Clear-out
    Work on the garage, sort and donate old clothes, have your kids prepare some toys to give to kids less fortunate, and then all celebrate by doing something fun together like watching a movie.
  7. Watch some spring movies
    Speaking of movies consider busting out some kid movies with a spring theme like The Secret Garden, Bambi, Hop, or join Winnie the Pooh for some outdoor adventures in the Hundred Acres woods. For suggestions on spring themed kids books click here.  For adults or older kids I consider Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist to be critical spring viewing.
  8. You may not be ready to plant your garden, but start planning
    The sooner you get your kids involved in helping and planning a garden, including what you plant, the more they'll want to be involved.  Let them pick their favourite flowers, plants, and veggies to ensure that everyone can enjoy the bounty in the summer and fall.  
  9. Create your seasonal bucket lists togetherWork together to create lists of the best things you did this winter to consider for next year, what you missed (there may still be some time for some skating, even if it is indoor, or to hit a snowy hill).  Look forward with your calendar and figure out what you want to do this spring and summer in terms of booking camping sites, visits to amusement parks, walks along the beach, and more.  The sooner you mark it down, the more likely you can put your plans into action.
  10. Indoor Beach Party
    So maybe you didn't book that all inclusive this year.  You can still book a hotel room where there's a pool for an overnight, look at pool day play passes, or turn your house into a tropical destination.  Blast the beach themed tunes, eat an indoor picnic, go "fishing" in the bath tub and take comfort that warmer weather will be here before you know it!

    Cherry Blossoms blooming High Park 2015

    To learn more about what gardening teaches your children click here

    For some great indoor kid friendly activities click here.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Just Because I'm a Woman

Today is International Women's Day, a day dedicated to celebrating women, their political and human rights. For a number of years I have written a post on a topic that is meaningful to me about being a woman to commemorate the day.

I consider myself a feminist, and since becoming a parent have set out to provide a solid example for both of my children on what it means to be a woman.  I want them to know about what equality means, what friendship means, and that there is no right or wrong answer for what a family or romantic partnership is and can be.

Here's the problem: sometimes it's hard not to feel like a fraud.  My husband and I have a fairly traditional relationship, and have lived an extremely privileged life.  The exception I have felt is how motherhood, the perception of motherhood, and my position as a parenting or "mommy blogger" have impacted my career.  Career wise things changed when I became a mom, there's no doubt about it, but at the end of the day am I just another family in a cookie cutter mold of societal norms, perpetuating the nuclear family?  What am I doing to promote the cause, to help create a world for my children where they both will have ample and equal opportunities to be and do what they want when our family is the status quo?  Here's the big thing, my family structure, my relationship, my partnership, what I've been doing with my career, it's all my choice, and one I'm incredibly thankful for.

Who said construction workers can't wear pretty dresses?  Me at 4 years old.

For the most part I feel like Chris and I are rocking the whole parenting open minded children who are both aware and accepting of the many different lifestyles around them.   We want them to know that they should aim for their own happiness, not what they feel they should do or become because other people have told them to.

Then something gets said or asked of me by my children that makes my blood boil even though I know that my four and a half year olds are not trying to oppress their mother, they are simply trying to better understand the world around them.

For example when a child says:

"You're sitting in daddy's seat."

We both assure them that we share the drivers seat and that not one of us "owns it"


"Did you ask daddy for permission to X (INSERT RANDOM THING I AM DOING HERE)?"  Then it is explained that mommy and daddy work together as a team, and don't always need permission for everything they do.

It's hard not project your own personal hang-ups on your kids, I'm still learning alongside them and happily.  We are all so lucky that we live where we do, that we have the choices that we do.

What feminist inspired children's book you are you going to read with your kid on International Women's Day?

Here's what's on our reading list:

Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Girl Power 5 Minute Stories by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch

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Friday, 4 March 2016

Good - Movie Review, The Good Dinosaur

Sunday night was movie night, so we decided to see if any of Chris or my childhood obsessions with dinosaurs could possibly rub off on the minions, cause how awesome would that be?  We decided it was time to check out Pixar's 2015 release of The Good Dinosaur.

The Good Dinosaur Promo ad Courtesy of Pixar Wikia

Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur

What's in it for the Kids?
This movie is a fairly predictable coming of age story where runt of the litter Dino Arlo tries to face his fears, and find his place in the world and on his family farm.  Along his journey he finds an unlikely friend in a human boy, who essentially acts as a human version of a pet dog.

What's in it for the Adults?
The concept of this movie is pretty cool, especially for dinophile adults. Basically it explores an alternative universe of what would have happened had the asteroid it is believed to have destroyed the dinosaurs took a slightly different path.  In this re imagined worlds many dinosaurs are farmers and ranchers, with less evolved cavemen humans co-existing as feral animals. As a stickler for theorized accuracy it bothered me enormously that the aerial view of earth was not presented as Pangea, but as current day multiple continents. Voice talents of Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand and Steve Zahn make things a little more entertaining for older viewers.

Best Parts of the Movie
There is some good messaging along the lines of "don't judge a book by its cover".  As Pixar's 16th film has the fantastic artwork they've become known for continues in ways visuals that are innovative, clever, and at times breathtaking.  My favourite scene in the film artistically involves the introduction of the T-Rex characters (any more info then this would qualify as a spoiler).  The movie features relatable themes like the importance of family, friendship, loss, bravery, and the challenges of discovering your own strengths and weaknesses.

Worst Parts of the Movie
This is a story that we've all seen before, but likely the kids won't be as sick of it as the adults. SPOILER ALERT: In a typical children's story plot device, Arlo's adventure begins as a result of the death of his father.  This particular scene could be scary for little kids and eye-rolling level cliche to the adults.  Molly spent a good portion of the movie talking about "how she'll need to find a new daddy when Chris dies", naturally he was thrilled.

Overall Rating
I would rate this movie 3/5.  It's watchable, but nothing I'd ever purchase for regular viewing rotation and neither kid has asked to watch it again or to own it.  If you can see it for free, if your kids are crazy about dinosaurs, or you stumble across it on TV or online check it out.

To read my review of Kung Fu Panda 3 click here.

To read about villains and the ways they fit into a child's moral development of black and white issues click here.

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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Angry Chair - Dealing with anger, rage & tantrums

You know that scene from the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland where the caterpillar turns bright red and screams at Alice to mind her temper in an ultimate act of contradiction?  I am experiencing that moment every single day in my life right now, where I play the part of the Caterpillar and the part of Alice is played by my son.  The scene is running on constant, levels of frustration are at an all time high and sadly no one has transformed into a butterfly.

Image of  Disney's "Angry" Caterpillar care of And Clouds Like a Stone

Jack's temper has been intense lately, and it's been taking a toll on all of us.  I understand that being four and a half is frustrating, you have very little control over your own schedule, destiny, and people are constantly bossing you around, that's gotta suck.  I don't enjoy the passive resistance game of possum that I've been on the receiving end of daily for almost two weeks now, which is usually followed by an opposingly aggressive yelling and screaming fit carried out in front of other parents at after school program pick-up.

Last week, after a series of time outs one of us got our very first "I HATE YOU!", I am shocked and amazed that it wasn't me, but I also know it's coming for me sooner or later, and it's going to be terrible.

I also know that our reactions to recent infractions are giving him the negative attention he wants.  On an average day we go from the first few "incidents" with calm(ish) reactions, followed by the "dude, come on, you know I don't want to spend all of my time punishing you" phase, to the final, "IT'S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG B%&#H!" where the boy is usually exiled to his room, the timeout chair, or begins losing the three Ts (toys, TV time, and treats).

I decided it was time to complete some research, compile it, and come up with a plan for operation everyone calm down.  Here's what I found, hopefully it works!

 6 Tips to help you & your kids deal with anger, rage, & tantrums

  1. Stop giving a reaction
    A tantrum is only a "success" if your child has an audience for his performance of the one man play, The Jerk.
  2. Separate yourself from the tantruming child whenever you can until the tantrum is over
    Obviously don't ditch them at the grocery store, but if they're throwing a fit at the dinner table pick up your plate and enjoy dinner in your living room. Let the tantruming child know that they are welcome to join you when the tantruming is over (AKA when they've calmed the frig down).  This tells the child that they won't get what they want, and that their bad behaviour isn't working.  The thought is that if you continue to make the tantrums ineffective they'll figure it out and start to ease up on them.

    Image of Anger (Inside Out) courtesy of Pixar Wikia
  3. Improve your child's "emotional literacy"
    You know how Ari Gold on Entourage wanted everyone to hug it out?  Kinda like that, but you'll need to talk it out.  Read books on feelings and talk about them when things aren't heated. If a character in a movie or a TV show is frustrated talk to your kids about it to give them language to use to express anger, and emotion.  Also talk to them about solutions and asking for help.  
  4. Identify and acknowledge your child's rage
    I know this may seem contradictory to number one and two, but hear me out.  Calmly identify what's going on to show your child that you understand why they are upset.  A simple, "You're upset that I made you put on your coat." helps, just try to resist the urge to point out that it's minus 10 outside and that it would be ridiculous to go outside without your coat on.  If they continue to tantrum follow the process for number one and two.
  5. Create Anger Rules or Process
    This is an extension of number four, teach them appropriate coping strategies for when they are becoming frustrated or get angry when they are calm.  Teach skills to resolve conflict, things for them to say to peers and teachers when they are getting upset, and how to work things out themselves peacefully. Giving them options like counting to ten or walking away before things escalate are good starting points.
    Image of Incredible Hulk Courtesy of Marvel Hero Wikia
  6. Offer both positive and negative consequences
    Don't punish your kids for getting upset (even if you think their reasons are ridiculous). Positive reinforcement of positive consequences are really important tactics for kids who usually have a hard time managing their Incredible Hulk like rage.  When your kid manages their anger effectively reward them with praise, stickers or whatever else motivates them. When they break the rules calmly enforce negative consequences (like walking away, time outs, withdrawing of privileges etc.) Consistent responses are key to making the system most effective.
What anger management and tantrum reduction tips have worked best for you and your kids?

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