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Personality and Temperament

This month, we have been talking about HEP. On Becoming Toddlerwise  talks about HEP--Heredity, Environment, and Personality. These three things work together to help shape and mold your child into herself. Today's topic is Personality.

Personality might be the most complicated of the three things. Heredity is out of your control once your child's genetic make-up has been formed in the womb. "You cannot alter the hereditary influences on your children, but you can minimize the negative propensities, strengthen areas of weakness, encourage areas of strength, and maximize areas of giftedness" (page 19). 

Environment is largely in your control--especially with a toddler. 

So where does personality fit in? Toddlerwise defines a "Personality is a composite of three variables: heredity, environment, and temperament" (page 18). So the genetics and the environment influence the child's personality. So does the temperament. " cannot change your child's temperament any more than a leopard can change its spots. You can understand it and cooperate with it, but not alter it" (page 19).

Temperament is why you cannot parent any two children the same way. This is why a parenting book or blog cannot say: Simply control the environment in XYZ way and ABC will happen. This is why different strategies work for different children.

"You can distinguish between a child's temperament and his personality by saying that temperament traits are inborn while personality traits are the result of nature and nurture" (page 18).

Remember Hogg's five general trait categories? Angel, textbook, touchy, spirited, and grumpy. She calls these Personality Types. This would be akin to what Toddleriwse is calling temperament. Being aware of temperament is super helpful in parenting your child.

Some children are "easier" than others. Maybe it is specific traits, maybe it is the way that child meshes with the parents. Maybe both. 

Some children are inherently obedient rule-followers. Some are logical. Some are more artistic. Some like to test limits. Some enjoy irritating people. Some are always happy. There are so many traits that a child can have.

"Your child's personality is greatly shaped by you educational fervency" (page 19). You teach your child how to behave. Even a limit-testing child can learn to listen and obey. Is it harder than getting a naturally obedient child to listen and obey? Don't I know it! I have one of each in my home. It can take more work and effort to achieve certain things with certain children, but those things are still achievable. And, happily, most children seem to round-out their difficulty. So one who was hard to get to be a sleeper is a super-obedient child. One who is an awesome sleeper might be a challenge in another department. 

Learn to recognize your child's temperament and then work with the given genetics and the environment to help your child maximize strengths and improve on weaknesses. Always remember your child is an individual and will react to live uniquely. Parenting more than one child is definitely an exercise in flexibility as you learn how to best parent each child as an individual.

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Pregnancy: Weight Gain and Eternal Perspective

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After both Brayden and Kaitlyn were born, I never did anything special to get into shape. I would exercise sometimes, but often found myself completely paranoid about affecting milk supply. I also figured, why bother? I was just going to get pregnant again soon anyway (yes, at this point in life, I realize that isn't really the smartest way to go about things).

After McKenna was born, we weren't sure if we would have more children or if we were done. Once I got a diagnosis of PCOS, we knew there was a chance of us being able to ever get pregnant again, so I hit the exercise big time. 

I spent two years diligently working out day after day, week after week, to get into shape. When I finally felt like I was in good shape, I got pregnant. 

And then, of course, the weight gain starts. That is totally normal, right? When you are pregnant, you gain weight. Logical, yes, but also emotionally hard to take after you have spent so much time getting into shape. I really struggled mentally to accept this. Then you have some crazies (yes, I said crazies) saying pregnancy weight gain for a healthy woman to be 0-5 pounds. 0-5 pounds! That doesn't even cover the baby! (side note, I got a phone call from my insurance company where they asked me about my weight and height etc. etc. and then informed me that my BMI was right on and that I should gain about 25-35 pounds with the pregnancy. First I thought, "I don't need you telling me what to do" and then I thought "thank you."). At one appointment, I talked to my doctor about it, and bless her she told me not to worry about my weight gain. I love her for it, and her words help some, but they don't completely wipe away my worry.

One day, my husband was teaching a Sunday School class at church. His lesson was on eternal perspective. In our church, young men usually serve a two year mission when they turn 19. They leave home and pay for the mission themselves. My husband read a story about a young man who worked hard for two years to save for his mission. When it came time to go, the young man had a hard time spending that money on a mission. He thought of all of the other things he could do with that money. Of course, the benefits he would get from serving a mission would far outweigh any benefit from buying a nice car or something else with that money. I thought about his need to focus on eternal perspective rather than what was right before him.

And then it really hit me, and I knew it was an answer to prayer for me to hear it that day. I could easily parallel it to myself. Yes, I had spent two years getting into good shape. The reality is, that work is probably a big part of why I was able to get pregnant (with PCOS, losing weight can help chances of pregnancy). 

Like the boy, I had spent two years sacrificing for something, and like the boy, I was having a hard time with the idea of giving it up.

Also like the boy, I was about to give up my time for about two years. Since pregnancy is hard on me, and babies tend to take up a lot of time, that amounted to about two years of much focus going into this baby.

And also like the boy, what a great sacrifice to make! What wonderful lessons I would learn. I would become a better person. What better way to spend my time than bringing a child to this earth? This decision would be worth more to me, my family, and this child in the eternities than staying in good shape right now. Like the boy can earn more money after his mission, I can work hard to get in good shape again.

Sometimes the sacrifices we make as mothers and parents seem too great for our abilities. It seems like our lives will never be our own again. It seems so overwhelmingly hard. In the end, however, these are the things  that make us better people. These sacrifices make us stronger, more loving, more caring, smarter, wiser, and happier than something as trivial as body mass index. Motherhood brings eternal growth and eternal happiness. 

This is a picture my friend Serra took of me with my children. I see this, and see how happy I am. Sure they drive me to the brink of insanity some days, but they bring me so much joy. Who cares if I have to gain a few (or maybe more than a few) pounds to get another child here? She will be worth it, just like it was worth it for my other children!

No matter what you struggle with in your role as a mother, know that your sacrifice is worth it. Your sacrifice makes a difference that ripples further than you can comprehend in this life. Your sacrifice as a mother is worth it.

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Book Review: Free-Range Kids

I just finished reading  Free-Range Kids  by Lenore Skenazy.

The premise of this book is that as a society, we have become too over-protective over our children and not allowing them to do normal things kids can do. 

I would recommend reading this book to all parents. It is one of those books that causes a lot of self-reflection and reevaluation of yourself and how you parent. It really made me think about the rules we have and what we might want to change.

I do not agree with everything in the book. It is a light read and easy to get through, but she tends to be pretty critical (or mocking) of parents who choose to do things differently than she sees as the "common sense" way of approaching things, and I do not like that. I think her points could be made without that aspect. The earlier chapters are thicker with that feeling against other parents, then she backs off as the book progresses, so trudge through that aspect (if it bothers you). 

Like I said, it is a book that gets you thinking and is absolutely worth your time to read. I think a book that causes parents to be introspective and more deliberate in their choices is always worth the time it takes to read it. That is what makes us better parents, even if we don't agree with everything we read to get there.

If you would like a feel of Skenazy before you read the book, you can see her website here:

Tips for Teaching Morals

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When teaching children, there are a few tips that can make the process easier for them to understand and therefore easier for you to do. These tips are directed toward teaching morality, gospel principles, values, etc., but can certainly be applied to teaching children in general (and really, adults, too).

One thing to remember is to teach bit by bit. You build on your teaching. You start with one thing, then add to it once the child has that one thing down. A simple example of this is teaching moral actions to children. First, you teach to share. Then as the child is able, you start to teach simple reasons why they do these moral actions. As they continue to grow, you add to that. It is the idea of "milk before meat" or "line upon line and precept on precept."

Also keep in mind that you are teaching "people, not lessons." You might think out a plan of what needs to be taught at a certain time. When it comes time to teach that, however, you might find the teaching naturally leads in a different direction, or perhaps it doesn't cover all you wanted to cover. That is okay. Teach the individual and that individual will learn more from it.

Along the same lines, as you are teaching, stop to observe the child and carefully consider what to do next. Silence is okay. You can think for a moment before proceeding. This is true of teaching, disciplining, or even just having a nice conversation. You can think before you speak.

You want to teach your children to value, not just about values. It is one thing to talk about the right actions and another to put these actions into action in the real world. Teaching to serve is nice, but being a family that serves others teaches the value of service far more than talking about it does. If you are teaching morals to your child because you think that moral is important, you want to help your child to learn to live that moral--not just all of the right answers as to why it is a good idea to live that moral.

These are very simple, but effective. As you teach to the child's level and just bit by bit, teach to the individual child, take the time to think and discern while teaching, and put emphasis on living the teachings rather than knowing the teachings, you will help your child grow in his understanding of morals and the values you are trying to teach. Your child will learn to live by the principles, and that, after all, is the point in teaching them.

Ideas for this post taken from "Teaching after the Manner of the Spirit"

Fine Balance of Protecting Children

As parents, we really, really want to protect our children. Fiercely. We don't want them hurt physically, emotionally, nor mentally. Because of this, we often worry about letting our children out into the world, whether for playing with neighborhood kids, attending dance class, or going to school.

This was a discussion I recently had with fellow Babywise moms. At what point do you start to let go? How long do you protect? Do you let go? Can you control the environment--and if so, for how long?

The point was made that we protect seedlings in the garden and often in a greenhouse. This led me to think about my gardening experience. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Parenting is Like Gardening. There are so many analogies you can make. This one, for me, is very powerful. It is probably because of I have a lot of experience with it. 

I live in a colder climate. In order to grow tender plants like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, cantaloupe, watermelon, and zucchini, I need to protect them. Take a look at the picture above. You can see several blue and green plastic things in my garden. These are called "wall-of-water." They act as a mini greenhouse. They protect the plants from frost. 

These wall-of-waters work very well at protecting plants. I liken them to the protection we put over our children. They keep the heat in and cold out. The air inside of the wall-of-water is very warm and humid. The plants (likened to children) grow quickly and safely.

Over the years, I have experimented with my wall-of-water. You can't leave the wall-of-water on all season if you want the plant to get strong and produce fruit. One of my first seasons, I left them on too long. I wanted to make sure all danger of frost was past. When I removed the wall-of-waters, the plants were too big and broke as soon as the wall-of-water was gone. They had not strengthened to support themselves because they relied on the wall-of-water too long. They then had a lot of time to make up once they were out of the wall-of-water.

Another problem with leaving the wall-of-water on too long is that the bees cannot get in to pollinate. The plant is unable to produce fruit with the blossoms it has because there is no pollination happening.

The next year, I knew I needed to get the wall-of-water off before the plant got too big and early enough for pollination. I removed them at the size I figured was best. Sizing-wise, I was correct. The problem is, it was still often cold, and the plant went into some major shock at suddenly losing all protection at a young and tender size. I had done some experimentation and not protected some peppers while protecting others. It turned out the peppers I did not protect became stronger plants that produced more at harvest time because the protected plants went into so much shock after losing the protection. 

After several years, last year I finally perfected my wall-of-water use. 

Instead of just removing the wall-of-water when the time seemed right, I opened them up for a period of time before removing them all together. I removed some of my protection over the plant, but still kept some protection. This helped the plant get used to air that was not as warm and humid without removing all warmth and protection. It also allowed bees to pollinate. You can see this in the picture above.

Another thing you might notice in the picture above is that one of the plants does not have a a wall-of-water that used to. This was the pumpkin plant. This plant was ready to have the wall of water removed before the others.

After some time, I removed the wall-of-water completely. Some plants were then ready to continue on without support. Others, like tomatoes, still needed some support in the form of tomato cages. You can see the plants all without wall-of-water in the picture above.

So how does this all relate to parenting?

First, we do need to protect our young and tender children. We need to control their environment. 

As they age, we need to allow them to be exposed to the world a little more. I am not talking exposure to bad things, but given freedoms that are age appropriate. If we leave the protective barrier over them too long, we slow down and lesson their ability to produce fruits as well as weaken them overall--we weaken their ability to stand against the elements that life will bring them at some point. 

When the child is ready, we remove that protection all together. Not all children are ready at the same age for this. Some are ready earlier than others. For some, even though they are ready for the protection to be removed, they still need some support. 

Here is the trick to parenting: figuring out when to remove protection. What age? What exposure is okay? How often do you remove protection at first? And so on.

There is no one right answer--not from family to family nor from child to child within a family. 

Before this sounds like an impossible and terrifying task, let me assure you, children, like plants, are resilient. I once left a young pumpkin plant exposed on a night with a hard freeze. That plant turned as black as night and appeared to be dead. Hoping it had some life, I continued to water it. That pumpkin plant came back and produced very well. You never would have known it was once considered dead. So long as we continue nurturing and caring for our young children, then will make it just like that pumpkin plant did. Stay mindful. Stay observant. Stay invested. Stay prayerful. Your children will turn out great! 

Controlling Environment for Toddlers

As we discussed last Monday,   On Becoming Toddlerwise  talks about HEP--Heredity, Environment, and Personality. These three things work together to help shape and mold your child into herself. Last week, we talked about Heredity. This week is Environment.

I am going to keep the topic of this post on Toddlers. Each age group has such different needs for environment that this post will focus on toddlers. These things can be applied to younger children as well. For a more general discussion on controlling environments in children, be sure to come read the post tomorrow.

These young years are the years that you really protect your child and control what influences reach your child. The child is not old enough to play with another child who says a bad word and think, "Hmmm...that isn't a word I should say. I will not say it even though this friend says it." No, the child instead says, in effect, "What an interesting word! I love to learn new words. I will use this word now." 

Moral comprehension does not tend to be present until about age three (some earlier, some younger). So before age three, I think it is wise to be with your child as much as possible when outside of your controlled environment of home. So if your 2 year old is playing with the neighbor children, it is a good idea to keep an ear and eye on the playing to be sure your child is making right choices. 

I also like to limit the amount of time a child this age spends with friends in a chunk. Sure, some days we exceed the general rule, but most days we limit it. Doing so just seems to help keep control over the learning that is happening. 

Toddlerwise says, "The not realizing how education shapes the habits of the heart..." (page 17). So in other words, parents need to realize that you can teach your child the right way to behave and set correct habits now. This is the time to instill those habits. We teach our toddlers to share and how to share. The toddler doesn't have any idea as to why she is sharing, but she is learning how to share. This is a habit we are establishing for her. 

This is why we stay close to our toddlers as they play with others--so we can reinforce those habits and correct the child when she chooses not to follow the habit she has been taught. It happens. Your little sweetie will snatch a toy from her friend and proclaim "Mine!" It is okay! She isn't doomed for greed. She is just being a toddler doing what toddlers do. This is a prime teaching moment. This is when you step in and remind her, "We don't take toys from other people. You need to give it back to your friend." It is one thing to learn these lessons in the home--playtime with friends is when that learning is put into practice. Yes, practice. Not put into "performance" or "recital" but "practice." Practice means perfection is not yet achieved--and not even perfection, but the ability is not to the point to be able to awe and impress. This is practice time.

So for toddlers, you are pretty protective over the environment. You do your best to control the exposure your toddler has and you stay close by to correct things when the child is not following your goals and beliefs. 

Are you doomed to forever stand by your child? No! Please don't! But this age is practice time. You are practicing now so that as your child ages, you can step back and let that child play with friends without you right there to correct her. While correction will still happen sometimes for sure, your goal is to get your child to the point that she can leave your side and choose to do right things without you there coaching her. You want her to learn to stand alone and stand up for what is right if she needs to. You want her to hear a friend (or anyone) say a word that is off-limits in your home and refrain from adding it to her vocabulary. This is the path you are working on. The toddler years are the time to make sure correct choices are practiced and that exposure to negative influences are minimal. As your child matures, the world will open up and she will be stronger and better able to face the world with her own convictions. 

Protect the environment of your toddler. Teach your toddler how she should behave. Now. While she is a toddler. This is the time to establish correct habits. Then when the time is right, you will be comfortable letting her venture on her own and know she is strong enough to make correct choices. She will have been taught well and trained correctly. After that, it is up to her to make the right choice (scary I know!).

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Fresh Baby Giveaway!

This post is sponsored by Fresh Baby. All opinions are my own.

I love the Fresh Baby products! They have so many various things to help the process of making your own baby food easier. When Brayden was a baby, any talk of making babyfood made it sound nigh unto impossible. By the time McKenna came along, I felt brave enough to try it. I hope that times have changed enough that anyone who wants to make their own babyfood feels confident that they can do it. You can!

Here are some new products from Fresh Baby:

The new Portion Storage Bags. These biodegradable bags are perfect for storing everything from breast milk to baby food cubes to spaghetti sauce!  They are an ideal freezer storage solution for the entire family.  The bags stand upright. They have ounce and cup marks and include a zipper seal and write-on area.

The So Easy Storage Trays are not a new product to the Fresh Baby line, but they are now biodegradable. I love that these trays can stack in the freezer since they have lids. The trays are a perfect solution for every stage of your family. Once you are past nursing and purees, these trays graduate to making ice pops, perfectly portioned cookie dough and sauces, fun ice cubes, and more. They can never be outgrown. They have even created a Pinterest board specifically for all the fun, waste-reducing ways they can be used. 

These items are perfectly paired with the downloadable Freezer Tip Sheet created to help you effectively use your freezer to store your family’s food.    

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Reading to Children: What and When

"If we read a minimum of three stories a day [to each child] we could probably wipe out illiteracy in one generation" ( Reading Magic , page 12).

Mem Fox feels strongly about the power of reading. She even believes many (if not all) children can learn to read simply by being read to--no training necessary. Her own daughter learned to read without being taught, and Fox attributes that to reading aloud to her (see chapter one).

Something great about Fox is she gives parents many specific guidelines for reading to children.

What to Read
As you saw in the beginning quote, Fox advocates reading three books a day to a child. She says ideally, you will read one favorite story, one familiar story, and one new story--although the same story three times in a row is okay, too (page 17). You of course don't need to limit yourself nor your child to three stories a day--three is your minimum. 

When to Read
She also encourages parents to read anytime and all the time (page 34), but she also highly advocates having reading happen before bedtime. She goes so far as to say reading MUST happen at bedtime (page 36). The things learned just before bedtime are processed over and over again in the night, so any new vocabulary words or lessons learned from the stories read will solidify in your child's brain best if read just before bedtime.

I have commented before, but Reading Magic is a great, fast read for parents who want to get more information on why reading is important and is full of ideas on how to read to children (that post coming). Mem Fox is great at giving specific ideas to work with.

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    Kaitlyn Summary: 5 Years Old

    Kaitlyn is a major animal lover

    I have this difficulty in my head. For some reason, I realize and accept that Brayden will get older. Sure thing. But my girls? No! I have another five year old? Another child in the "child" age range? Seriously crazy. On her birthday last week, I just kept thinking all day that this was probably her last birthday just at home all day with me. Next year she will be in school for part of the day. I guess we will have weekends sometimes, but it seemed like the end of an era. We spent the day doing lots of fun little things like painting our fingernails and toenails. I just soaked up that moment with her.

    Kaitlyn is by far my pickiest eater. She is particular. She has the issues with reflux reactions to certain foods. Even with that, she is becoming more adventurous in her food choices. This isn't always the case, but she has her moments of trying a new food. During this period, she decided she likes strawberries. She has never liked strawberries in her lifetime, and she was excited to like them. She has tried and tried them year after year because she watches everyone else in the family eating and loving them. She finally likes them.

    I read through Brayden's five year old summary and noticed that I mentioned he was getting more adventurous at that age. It makes me wonder if there is either something changing with the taste buds at that age or if  it is something changing in the brain that makes children more adventurous around age five? 

    Kaitlyn's nights are the same. 

    Rest time I have moved to about 30 minutes most days. If she is super emotional, I do 60 minutes. Otherwise, we do 30. She still naps every so often, but when she does, she has a really hard time falling asleep at night. I need to figure out how long of a nap is okay for her to take and still be able to fall asleep at night. I would guess somewhere from 20-60 minutes. 

    Kaitlyn still loves school. She is very excited to go to kindergarten next year. She has had her school evaluation and now she is just looking forward to next Fall when she gets to go! 

    Kaitlyn has been fabulous with her urge to draw on non-drawing surfaces--she hasn't done it at all! 

    Kaitlyn tries really hard to always do what is right, and if she messes up at all and I correct her, she apologizes about 30 times and gets upset with herself. I assure her it is okay, that everyone makes mistakes, and remind her it is my job to make sure she knows what she can and cannot do. It makes Kaitlyn very happy when I make mistakes. One day, I drove the wrong way to get somewhere, and it seemed to make her very relieved. "Moms make mistakes sometimes, too, huh Mom!" 

    I have read that it is important to let your children see you fail--especially those perfectionistic children. Kaitlyn is a functional oldest child in our family since she is the oldest girl, and she definitely has some first-born tenancies. I try hard to let her know of mistakes I make, and also really try to let her know it is normal to make mistakes and that it is okay if she makes mistakes. 

    Kaitlyn really has the sweet spot in the family. She can play more advanced games with Brayden, and she can play the girly, imaginative games with McKenna. She gets along really well with her siblings.

    Recent activities Kaitlyn has participated in are ice skating lessons, swimming lessons, dance lessons, and now soccer. This is her first year with soccer. She has only had two games so far, so too soon to tell how she likes it overall, but so far she is enjoying it. My husband is coaching her team, which thrills her. She gets in there and goes after the ball. It is very interesting to watch children play sports according to their birth order. The oldest child often is confused and doesn't quite know what to do and if he wants to do it. Younger children, however, jump right in and are anxious to play. They have spent years watching older siblings play and are ready to get in there and play themselves. 

    Kaitlyn seems to be having some separation anxiety with me lately. She is always worried I will disappear and leave her alone. She wants me to be with her as much as possible. She has historically been a very independent player, but now prefers to sit by me and draw if she is not playing with a sibling. It is such a strange thing to me.

    I mentioned this to a few friends with older children who I greatly respect as mothers on separate occasions. The first thing all of them have said is that she is feeling anxious over the new baby coming. I guess that makes sense. She is thrilled and excited for the baby to come, but I am sure it makes her worry on some level about what that will mean for her. How much time will I have for her? Where does that leave her in the family? How will things change? I need to figure out how to assure her of things I am not even sure that she is cognitively aware that she is worrying about. 

    I remember Brayden getting stressed after McKenna was born in similar ways. Kaitlyn is older than he was (5 instead of almost 4) and also just more aware of the coming baby than he was (and probably currently more aware than he is). 


    7:15--wake up. Get ready for school. Eat breakfast. Play with Brayden.
    9:15--leave for school (she has school 3 days a week. One day, she has dance instead)
    12-:10--home from school
    12:15--lunch. Then play with McKenna
    2:30--rest time
    3:00--up from rest time. Independent play.
    4:00--free time. Some days video games.
    4:30--play with Brayden and sibling play until dinner.
    5:30--dinner. Chores. Family time
    7:00--start getting ready for bed 
    8:00--in bed