Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sorry for all the Emails!

If you've subscribed to my Sensational Children blog….I'm sorry for all the email updates you've been getting! I'm reorganizing my "blogging world". Everything will settle down soon….

Using your Child's Sensory Needs as a Parenting Tool

Marc Landry (occupational Therapist) presented "Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder, Promoting Self-Regulation, Supporting Stress Management" at Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School on Friday January 24, 2014. I spent years trying to understand and help my son (John) with SPD…and I wondered if I could (maybe) miss the talk, save on the babysitter, and just stay home. I'm glad I didn't. Marc Landry is a great speaker….and he brought to light many things I've forgotten!

John has been attending Occupational Therapy for 6 years; it's helped him keep his sensory needs within a "normal" range…making our life at home much easier….that's my excuse for forgetting….
I've been using discipline to redirect misbehaviour. And what's wrong with that? Sounds good…except, is the behaviour really misbehaviour? I've been defining it as such….but I've forgotten that behaviour is a form of adapting and what I may call "misbehaviour" is just my child's way of adapting to his/her environment.

Interesting how things seem to fall together. I'm taking the the 52 Parenting Tools in 52 Weeks Challenge with Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelson. January 19's parenting tool was "Listen". And I've realized that I've been reacting, correcting and trying to fix the behaviour without "listening" at all levels. I'm also reading (finally) the Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. Reminding me that I must "connect before directing"….but I'm "surviving instead of thriving"….

I'm grateful for those reminders. But before I lose you….I'll try to explain what I've forgotten and what Marc Landry helped me remember with an example.

One of the reoccurring "misbehaviours" and cause of "disharmony" in our household is 7 year old Kate's demeanour during mealtimes. Limbs and hair everywhere…..she can't sit still…she keeps getting up to give me a hug…, it's not cute….we're trying to teach her manners. Kindly reminding her about the importance of good posture will sometimes lead to a power struggle….Richard says she's improving….but I've been feeling like we're missing something….like we don't have the whole picture…how quickly I forget!

Kate has always benefitted from my knowledge in sensory processing and I've always felt like I've deflected what could have been possible problems by meeting her sensory needs…and that's the missing piece! I wish it was as simple as asking Kate what she needs and how we can help her stop fidgeting … but she won't answer with, "I need prioprioceptive input to stay engaged during dinner." Knowledge of sensory processes is a positive parenting tool for everyone! Since we've moved (house), many sensory toys have not been unpacked and Kate was the biggest user….She has always needed regular proprioceptive feedback, but monkey bars are gone, trampoline is gone…where's the bean bag? So Kate's misbehaviour is just Kate's way of adapting to her environment.

So where does Kate sit in the Sensory Modulation Continuum? She's Hypo-responsive…she needs to fidget to bring herself to a learning state. She has signs of low tone as she lethargically leans on the dinning table with her head falling into her plate….then she'll jump up and give me a hug to satisfy her proprioceptive need…..(To learn more about SPD, go to

So what do we do? We need to get the trampoline back, the monkey bars…..get Kate to monkey around before supper. Maybe, she needs to sit on an exercise ball or wrap heavy elastics around the legs of her chair, so she can fidget with her feet. Maybe, a bowl of fidget items on the dining table.

Sensory Processing (Disorder?) to the rescue again….

As your SPD Parent Host, I am always available to answer questions about your child's sensory needs. Please feel free to comment or fill out my comment form (on the right bar).

Dealing with Technology

Children are now faced with increasingly more options for screened entertainment, leaving families disconnected and disengaged.

Would it surprise you to know that 2-5-year-olds watch more than 32 hours of TV a week? (Nielsen) Many children learn to operate sophisticated remote controls before their third birthday and sit mesmerized in front of the screen. In fact, many parents include television as part of a child’s bedtime routine, unaware that television viewing before bed may disturb children’s sleep patterns.

Children ages 8-18 spend more than 53 hours a week online and almost 8 hours of media use each day. (Keiser Family Foundation) In today’s digital world, families are exposed to more screen time than ever before. Smartphones, tablets, YouTube and the ever-popular game, Minecraft are just a few of the many sources of electronic connection that vie for time and attention from both parents and children.

Research demonstrates that screen time can negatively influence brain development. But you don’t need research to know that your children are on their screens too much each day; you know this from your own wisdom and intuition. But not many of us want to pull the plug on television. We want our kids to keep up with technology and learn new skills that will help them in their lives, but we know that too much media use prevents them from becoming proficient in person-to-person communication skills.

The key lies in finding a balance. What you can do to help your kids find that balance of screen time with “real life” is to work together to set limits around daily media use…including your own.

The Positive Discipline Association suggests the following tools to help manage your family’s screen time so it doesn’t manage you:
1.              Have a family meeting. Get the whole family involved in a plan for reducing screen time. Part of the solutions should include things to do in place of screen time. It is more difficult to give something up when you don’t have plans for what else to do.
2.              Create a “parking lot” for electronics—have a basket or charging station in a central location in the house at which family members “park” their electronics during certain times of day.
3.              Establish new routines. Start with one time of day to be screen free (such as dinner) and periodically add on other times of day.
4.              Stay close with your child with special time. Children will listen to your limits about screen time when they feel understood and that you “get” them. Spend regular one-on-one time together to keep your relationship strong.

5.              Hold limits with kindness and firmness. Changing a screen time habit is hard; be ready for disappointment, anger, and sad feelings. Hold your limits by empathizing with a child’s feelings and sticking with the limit you’ve set.

Connection Before Correction

Momma's helper
Extensive research shows that we cannot influence children in a positive way until we create a connection with them. It's a brain (and heart) thing. In my parenting workshops this week, we spoke about communicating with our children and the subtle ways we can change our language to allow our children to feel connected. We also talked about curiosity questions beginning with "what" or "how" (instead of "why") to help our children accept personal responsibility for their own actions and begin effective problem solving. 

I encourage you to be mindful every time you “tell” your children what to do. Try “asking” instead. Lead your children by asking them what they think needs to be done.  Asking creates respect and cooperation by “drawing forth” from children instead of trying to “stuff in”.

Have an awesome long weekend!

A Misbehaving Child

 Any child who is misbehaving is subconsciously saying, “I am a child, and I just want to belong, and I have some mistaken ideas about how to accomplish belonging.” Misbehaving children are discouraged children. Dreikurs said many times, “Children need encouragement, just as plants need water. They cannot survive without it.” The best way to help a misbehaving child is through encouragement. (adapted from Jane Nelsen, Positive Discipline)

But what does this mean? It is not easy to act encouraging toward a child who is misbehaving. What does encouragement look like? Remember that encouragement is the focus of positive discipline and every method discussed in the positive discipline approach is designed to help children (and adults) feel encouraged.

Last week, we looked at encouragement and other positive ways of communicating with our children. Just by changing our communication style, we can see positive results in our children’s behaviour. But what happens if the misbehaviour continues? What now? What have we overlooked? In our last class of this 4-week workshop, we will look at Driekurs concept of mistaken goals and learn how our own feeling are clues into our children’s mistaken beliefs. We’ll learn what to do about our children’s misbehavior, how to help them make amends, and truly turn difficult situations into wonderful learning opportunities.

Find Your Happy: Finding Happiness at Home

Is it really possible?

Thoughts of happiness (and the lack of) seem to be engulfing my mind lately. Not only am I trying to recall happy moments from our family summer trip (visit, but I’m exploring the happiness in my everyday life.

So, I’ve noticed my mood hasn’t been what I would like it to be. And honestly, I’ve always been a “glass half empty” girl. I work really (really) hard at appreciating what I have, but, honestly, it’s hard not to notice that things could be better. Why settle for half empty when you could have the whole thing?

But I’ve always bought into the idea of empowerment. We talk about empowering our children in Positive Discipline. We’ve all heard the phrases, “don’t be a victim”, “take control of your life”. But .... and here’s the big BUT....happiness and unhappiness are catching.

You know the daily drill....child wakes up crying, older kids don’t want to get out of bed, they’re SO TIRED! Kate can’t find her paper....that paper that was on the table last week! Someone must have taken it! There’s nothing to eat....there’s nothing to put in the kids least that’s what the kids say....they’re all TIRED and oh, John doesn’t want to go to school....he’s sick....really, he’s sick and Jane is still louder because no one is paying attention to her....Kate stomps off shouting, “I hate you!” and that’s just the morning.

How did I create that tornado? Really, I don’t want to take ownership for that. I keep wondering how my days can possibly be happier if I have to put up with THEM?  But all of that (apparently) is normal. Data collected by John and Julie Gottmann of the Gottman Institute in Seattle reveals that having children (statistically) causes depression....I’m just a statistic. I’m doomed.

Research also says that family members affect each other’s happiness. I’m doomed….how can I find happiness when everyone is pouring their negativity on me? Happiness and unhappiness are catching. You can tell yourself you’re not going to get sick, but if someone with a horrible cold sneezes in your face....aren’t you going to get sick?
If you’re immersed in a clan of unhappy people, you will catch it....unhappiness. But I can’t give up…..I can’t be doomed(yes, I realize my article is full of contradictions!)

How do we find happiness at home? The two major thoughts my mind struggles with:

·      Happiness and Unhappiness are catching.
·      Fake it until you make it. That also applies to happiness.

Happiness and Unhappiness are Catching
Fake it (Happiness) until you make it (Happiness)

Haven’t I already covered that? My children, walking around (moping around) with issues and complaints (and most of them aren’t even teenagers yet), (my children) download their negatively on me everyday. How do I fight that? Statistically, I’m doomed! But Happiness is also catching (I won’t mention that as Gretchen Rubin writes in Happier at Home, “negative emotions are more catching than positive emotions, and persist longer, and one grouch can drag down an entire group very quickly.” I did not write that, I did not say that…you did not read it).

My biggest truth about parenting is that if children engage in an activity or mood that you dislike, look at yourself…. How are you portraying that behaviour? (Katie Byron does a great job of explaining this in her book, Loving What Is). Children learn through example…. What kind of example have I demonstrated? Ugh…the truth hurts.

But it’s so hard to rise above that…..
Parenting is hard!

And here comes that second thought: Fake it until you make it.

Take responsibility for the energy you bring into a room because children can’t. They’re too young to assume that responsibility….until you model this concept for them. I’m still struggling with this one….and my guess is, I’ll keep struggling…..  And I am hoping that the more I fake it, the more I’ll make it.

Yes, we alone are responsible for shaping our own lives, we create our worlds, we need to take ownership of our lives , stop blaming others….

But I know that’s not enough….. There is more to this whole faking it…..especially, when you’re raising children. Children know when you’re not sincere, so how is this faking it going to work? Time to throw in the towel? Or time to remind myself that YES, parenting is hard! And difficulties create great learning opportunities.

So I don’t know how you will find happiness in your own home. I like to think of happiness as a state of mind….and I can always change my mind….so when unhappiness enters, well, its time for a change.

Maybe happiness just lies in the pursuit of happiness. And the more you look for it, the more you’ll find it. I was in Zing Paperie and Design, at The Village in Park Royal yesterday and picked up a book entitled, Live Happy: Find the Joy That’s all Around you. Seriously? I thought. But I looked all around me, at all the pretty things, and it was hard not to feel just a little bit happy. A paragraph in the beginning of the book caught my eye: “Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you can find your happy simply by deciding to look for it, because there are always good things within reach. Cultivate a habit of noticing them.” I like that; “find your happy”. I guess I won’t find happiness if I don’t look for it. I get so busy; I forget to look. Can I find happiness at home? Can you find happiness at home? Time to start looking.

Why Take A Parenting Class?

I’ve heard it before, “I don’t need a parenting class. My child and I have a great relationship.” Great! But children grow and change. Will you be able to meet your child with the respect, dignity and understanding he deserves through his changes? Parenting classes are not just for parents that are having trouble with their kids, it’s for all parents.

Okay, so we take golf lessons when we want to learn to play golf, we’ll sign up for art classes, or photography classes, or scuba diving. We’ll get a personal trainer to help us with our career, our health. We’ll join the running club. Any thing worth doing is worth the time to gain more knowledge and do better. Why not parenting?

“Parenting is the most challenging job we will ever have and the one for which we are the least prepared.” writes Mimi Hudson, M.A., R.C.C. ( And did you know that “there has never before been a generation so stressed and so starved of nurturing adult relationship”? Writes Dr. Daniel Seigel (in Parenting from The Inside Out) about our children. “Having been a kid and having parents is not enough training. We tend to parent the way we were parented or as a reaction against it. Parenting is a process with no quick fixes”. (Mimi Hudson, M.A., R.C.C.)

Even if you try to keep up on child rearing in books, magazines, television and online, the information is confusing and contradictory. If you’re still using time-out, gold stickers, behaviour charts, and “consequences”, have you considered the “real consequences” of these quick parent fixes?

Today’s children know their rights and are entitled to be treated as equals; at least in terms of human worth and dignity. Treating our children as equals means we will treat them with dignity, respect and cooperation not rewards and punishment. This doesn’t mean we must be permissive! Adults need to be the leaders, they have the experience, skills and maturity and it’s our responsibility to guide our children.

My workshop will teach you how to lead your children.
It’s not about making a child do what we want him to do. It’s about raising capable, compassionate, hard-working individuals who feel good about who they are, enjoy meaningful relationships, and live a life full of meaning and purpose. It’s about the long haul.

Sign up for my workshop here at!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March SPD - Parents' Connections

Explore raising children with special needs. Each month, we will cover sections of the book, Positive Discipline: For Children With Special Needs by Jane Nelsen, Steven Foster, and Arlene Raphael.

Positive Discipline is an approach to child rearing and teaching that emphasizes helping children learn valuable social and life skills that will help them make responsible decisions that lead to a more productive and satisfying life.

Parents of children with special needs must contend with the judgments of strangers, teachers, and even members of their own families. Much of the information and suggestions they receive are about managing their children. Positive Discipline will help you raise your children.

In March, we will discuss psychiatrists Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs' belief that the primary motivation of all human beings is to belong and feel significant. Thus, a primary purpose of behaviour is to act on that motivation to achieve a sense of belonging and significance. Sometimes children make "mistakes" about how to find belonging and significance and "misbehave". We will analyze the possible mistaken beliefs that underlie children's challenging behaviours.

Register by emailing:

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects at least one in twenty children. Children with SPD don't process or experience sensory information the way other typical children do; therfore, they don't behave the way other children do. They struggle to perform tasks that come easier for other children. Consequently they suffer a loss of quality in their social, personal, emotional and academic life.

The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation is dedicated to continue their research into the knowledge and treatment of SPD, so that, as Lucy Jane Miller writes in her book "Sensations Kids", "the millions of sensational children currently "muddling through" daily life will enjoy the same hope and help that research and recognition already have bestowed on coutless other conditions that once baffled science and disrupted lives."