Day 451: Love Your Toddler

Yesterday I was sent a link to a site that had an article about “26 effective phrases to calm an angry child.”  The person who sent it to me is a newer parent and was curious about my thoughts on it because I am dealing with a toddler now and she thought some of the stuff in the article seemed a bit off.  Upon opening the link, I immediately had a sour taste in my mouth, but I couldn’t put my finger exactly on why.

Last night at 2:00 in the morning when I could not sleep because the little guy was having a rough night, my problem with the article hit me:  There was no love for the toddler in the article.  No understanding of what they are going through, no compassion that this toddler thing is not easy for them either. No realization that when a toddler is having a meltdown or being difficult it is because they had some other (probably previous in the day) circumstances acting on them rather than the immediate moment. In fact, the article was more like “things to say when you are exploding at your child but do not want to sound like a total jerk in case other people hear you.”

The other issue I have (besides no love for your child, which is pretty huge already), is that the article flips the situation from you (parent) exploding at the child to you being so condescending to the child that they would probably be disgusted by you, and so will any other parents who hear you.

I’ll give you two examples, can you see why I have a sour taste in my mouth?

  • #12. Instead of: How many times do I have to say the same thing???

    Try this: I can see you didn’t hear me the first time. How about when I say it to you, you whisper it back to me?

  • #19. Instead of: I can’t deal with you right now!

    Try this: I’m starting to get frustrated, and I’m going to be right here calming down.

My issue with these two examples above goes like this.  With the first one, maybe you are not saying it in a way they can understand or remember.  It’s an “encoder / decoder” situation, and you the encoder are maybe not presenting the information in a way that the toddler can process.  You as the parent are responsible for communicating effectively, so saying the same thing and it not getting thru to them is not their problem, it is yours.

The second one is annoying to me.  You should not ever tell your child that they are frustrating you, in my opinion.  First, that can’t be good for their self-esteem.  Second, they will likely learn the ways to push your buttons, and you will probably have a really weird rollercoaster ride of frustration following you thru your parenting years.  Why do you have to tell the child any of the examples in #19?

Admittedly there are more than a few on the site that I like and will probably use .  I like these select few because they foster a teamwork attitude with your child, teach problem-solving, and so on.  For example, I like:

  • #9. Instead of: We. Are. LEAVING!

    Try this: What do you need to do to be ready to leave?

    • I would change this so it was “what do we need to do to be ready to leave” – we are a team, right?  then why is it “what do you need to do”?

All-in-all, I think it’s just so important that you as the adult act like an adult.  Any time you spout off like a child and say things like “I can’t deal with you right now,” you are not being a mature, loving role model for them.  Maybe you can’t deal with them right now, but maybe if you have an attitude where they are on your team, and it is a “we” situation instead of a “you vs them” situation, you will have those “can’t deal” feelings less often.

So at the end of the day if your base parenting style is “we” (a family team) and “love,” then I think you can usually skip these kind of “XX # of ways to stop your toddler from YY” type of articles and focus more on making sure your overall actions and communication with your child show them that base level of support and nurturing that they need.  Focus on how to deliver that love and how to set up an environment where weird toddler behaviors are not given any power, and I think you have a winning formula.  But what do I know? 😉

Day 450: The Goodbyes Begin

Tonight began what I would consider the first of a long series of goodbyes for our friends in Hong Kong.  One of the dads in our friend groups is traveling this week, so today was our last chance to catch him before we take off and he returns.  So we had a nice brief encounter this evening before both parties had to go, and then they gave us a book as a going away gift, from their son to ours.

This book is super cool!  Photos from the first few meetings up until very recently, chronicling the time we and our children have known each other.  Not only photos, but videos embedded with QR codes, so all we have to do is scan them and then they pop up on our phone.  Amazing what they can do these days 😉  The book was so cool because it showed all the little guy’s little friends as they morphed from babies to toddlers, and the little guy looked at this book for at least 30 minutes after he got it.

I have to say it made me almost cry tonight.  I have always been a guy on the move, starting from the very early years of my life, we moved a lot.  Lots of moving, always the next place, always a new set of friends.  As I got older, it was moving for opportunities as life presented them; surely the “shallow roots” a byproduct of a lot of moving growing up.  The friends you make are not always deep-seeded friendships as you go from one place to another, sometimes for a temporary time period (for example, graduate school).

But this was a little different because it made me realize how close I am with these other parents, and how we have been “in the trenches” together learning about having children this last 15 months.  We have listened to each other, supported each other, and just basically became good friends in a pretty short time.  So to leave these friends and go back to Sweden is bittersweet.  Sure we all say “we will see each other again” but with this friend group, I truly hope we will.

Day 449: Usborne “Look Inside” Books

About a month ago I purchased a used “look inside the airport” book.  I thought it would be fun for the little guy, and if he didn’t like it, no big deal.  And now that book is easily his favorite book.

img_6094 img_6096img_6097img_6095The book is made by Usborne, a UK-based book publisher.  What makes them special in my opinion is that they have multiple levels within the flaps.  Like there could be a flap that shows a house, and then one that shows someone in the kitchen making food.  And maybe another flap in the kitchen where you can see what’s in the fridge.  How fun!

If you want variety, the publisher has tons of titles.  Look inside: an Airport, Sports, Food, Space, and on and on, even to the more obscure ones like WWI and WWII (what?!), and “famous palaces”, and so on.  From what I understand, there are 2 series: “look inside” and “see inside”.  The “look inside” series seems like it is for younger kids, and the “see inside” series is for a little older – hence the range in these flap books from airports to WWII.  Check out their catalog here (look inside books) and here (see inside books). I think I’ve purchased about 6 that will be going back with us to Sweden.

I will say that these books are a bit too old for the little guy, because he could rip the flaps off if we are not careful.  But they could be good books to teach him to be careful with books as we go from board books to paper.  The content is also a bit over his head, but I strongly believe in elevating our levels one step before he is there, to help his growth (in other words, read books that are slightly above him instead of books that are below him).

I think the reason the little guy likes these Usborne books is that they are interactive, so he gets to quite literally explore every page.  And he loves books so much, that every flap is like it’s own little book.  I like that they take a while to read, and that means the little guy learns to focus for longer than a few minutes as he does with shorter books.  The books are packed with so much information that you as the parent will learn something, and the kid will learn it too – maybe just not at this very moment for the little guy, who at 18 months is not so interested in how airplanes take off and land 😉

Day 448: I’ll Miss the Baby-Friendly Hong Kong Vibe

One thing I’ll miss going back to Sweden is the Baby-Friendly vibe in Hong Kong.  I should say that it is not really what you would call an “accessible” city most of the time, and it can be frustrating to deal with a lot of city planning and architectural obstacles when out with a stroller.  In addition the MTR (the metro in Hong Kong) is really pushing those with strollers to take the elevator instead of escalator to prevent accidents on escalators.

What I am referring to is the actual people that make up the city.  Not the expats.  I’m talking about the people that blend into the background, who make up the fabric of the city.  The locals.  The people out with push carts, driving buses, and working the hard and unforgiving jobs.  The “real people” if you will.  Amongst this group of people are some of the most friendly, kind, and fun people in the world, and when you have a baby / toddler with you, they light up with a big smile, they accommodate your annoying stroller, and they don’t seem to mind helping – for example opening a door, giving you a seat on the MTR, and so on.  They are kind.

We will be going back to Sweden.  I love it there and think it is wonderful.  But one thing that I could never wrap my brain around is how unhelpful strangers are to one another there.  Just this last trip back, we were trying to exit our apartment building and no fewer than 3 separate people entered when we were trying to exit with a stroller and 2 bags each, and not one held the door open or offered to help.  The first winter I was in Sweden, I was on a bus during a snow storm, and a woman entered at the stop of the supermarket with a load of groceries and a baby stroller.  Nobody did anything to help her.  If anything they looked annoyed that she was taking a bit long.  I got up and tried to help her and then she looked at me like I was a crazy person (she most likely thought I was being sexist).  Interesting learning lesson about Swedish culture, isn’t it?  But if you know people, they will do anything for you – it’s just when you are a stranger that is complicated there.

So imagine what it will be like for the little guy when we go to Sweden.  He will say “hi” and “bye bye” to everyone, and wave at the bus drivers as they go by, and they will all ignore him.  He will try to charm a restaurant worker, and they’ll be kind but ignore him nonetheless, and he will wonder what is wrong.  To be honest it kind of breaks my heart that he will be going from the kindness that he encounters here to the other end of the spectrum, but my hope is that he is still oblivious enough that it will not get to him.

Mark this down as one of the many unexpected treasures I found in this 15 months in Hong Kong – who knew that in one of the bigger cities in the world, there would be so many baby-friendly people?

Day 447: Toddler Eating: Tasting Good + Fun = Success

Today we went to a traditional Chinese restaurant that had a variety of great things to eat.  I ordered for the little guy first, assuming that he would quickly eat like usual and then he would whine at me while I ate under stress.  Sounds fun, right?  I ordered fried rice, which he usually likes, and fried green beans with minced pork, which he had & loved one other time.

30 minutes later, we were finishing our meal, as the little guy ate virtually the whole dish of green beans, followed by cucumbers (of course).  He ate and ate and ate, and that was really fun to see.  To make things easier, we had one other toddler there who sat opposite the table from him, and they kept seeing the other eating, so they continued.

Then at dinner, we had some Tikka Chicken with yogurt sauce for the little guy to dip in.  Again he loved it, along with the “rice balls” (rolling regular rice into bite-sized balls) that he could also dip into the sauce, or act like he was doing so.

And it was then that it dawned on me something that is so common sense that I can’t believe I have not figured this out earlier:

It is not enough for the food to taste good.  It must also be fun for him to eat, too.

He ate the green beans because they fit those two criteria.  He ate the dinner tonight because it fit those two criteria.  He ate regular sized slices of pizza the other night because it fit those two criteria.  He did not eat yesterday’s lunch because it was uninspiring to him.  He did not eat the fried rice today because it was not fun.  And so on.

I guess there are times when the proportion of taste to fun do not have to be equal.  For example salmon and potatoes with peas.  That is his favorite meal, and he will eat it anytime.  But the peas make it more fun for him, so if I want him to eat ALL the food, then I’ve gotta make sure the peas are there.

I think the important thing to note here is that I am not saying that toddlers must play with toys, their food, or do some weird games while eating.  What I am saying is that if the meal itself is fun because it is a new and different flavor, or there is a hands-on element, or whatever your toddler enjoys, then there is a higher chance that the meal will be eaten, and that the meal will be enjoyable by the parents, too.  I guess it seems like the little guy goes into his own “having fun while eating” zone, and that allows me to eat and talk too.

One other thing that I have changed this week is that I am putting less pressure on him at meal times.  So, for example I will simply make something available by getting it out and placing it there with no pressure.  This could be snacks or meals.  So by having no pressure, then it is he who is controls the situation rather than me, and therefore he will eat.  So maybe it is the combination of fun + taste + no pressure (or maybe the no pressure makes it easier to have fun?).

So, all-in-all it is nice to see the little guy eating again more regularly.  It could be simply that he is not teething anymore and his appetite’s back, but I think it can’t hurt to think about how interesting a meal that is in front of him is – after all, we encourage exploration and discovery all day long – this surely happens at meal times too, right?

Day 446: High Tea at Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental

Today me and some friends made a trip to the Mandarin Oriental in central Hong Kong so we could have their High Tea.  If you are into this kind of thing, it is an interesting option, depending on when and with whom you choose to go.

We had a quieter corner where the little ones could be a little noisier and it suited the big group well.  They accommodated us well and were very friendly.

We ordered and in my opinion that’s where everything kind of got less impressive.  So many servers but nobody knew what was going on, and a lot of errors being made on the orders.  They surprisingly had a kids menu and I thought the kids waffle would be a good snack for the little guy until it arrived covered in syrup (why not put it on the side?!)

As for me, I had a wonderful cake and a pot of Orange Pekoe tea.  This is a tea my mom drank while I was growing up, and on some special moments I got to have a cup too, with milk and sugar.  So it was like tasting my childhood when I was able to drink this tea.

All-in-all I can probably recommend this place for a high tea experience if you go earlier in the day and with just one or two other people.  Something special to lighten your day amidst the chaos of central Hong Kong zooming by on the streets below.


Day 445: Tiny Dictator

Stalin.  Mussolini.  The Little Guy.  That’s probably how history will remember things.  I hope not, but at the moment it is seeming that way.

The little guy has really become quite the dictator.  Or diva.  Is there a difference?  Let’s take a look at some examples.

  • When he wants to leave the apartment (usually around 9:00), he crawls up onto his stroller, puts in his pacifier, tries to put on his shoes, and points to the door.
    • whining starts as soon as I am too slow (about 12 seconds)
  • If he’s hungry, he simply lifts his hand and puts his thumb and forefinger together
    • when he doesn’t like what I give him, he shakes his head as if to say “try again, idiot”
  • when he wants what someone else has, he points at it until he gets it
    • this can and does lead to a full-on melt down when he does not get it
    • this can include toys and food
  • If he does not want what I offer him at any time, he will throw it as far as he can away, or he will shake his head and/or hands

So, how do I deal with the dictator son that I have at home right now?  Sometimes I let him have his way, like in the mornings when we are going to leave anyway, it is actually helpful that he is already sitting there.  Other times I simply let him cry and get over it.  He needs to learn that crying does not work as a tool to get things, but sometimes with his friends, it does work (other parents will give him what he wants).

From another angle, it is amusing to me that he thinks he is in charge of everything – he’s mildly delusional, just like any proper dictator.  😉