Celebrating 3 years of being this handsome guy’s wife and step mom to 2 wonderful boys ❤
I bet you’re reading this because of the title…. What kind of mom doesn’t tell her kids “Good Job”??
I was also a teacher who didn’t tell her preschool students “good job.” Now I am a trainer who encourages teachers to avoid saying “good job.” Why on Earth would I do such a thing?
Praise is widely seen as a way to boost self-esteem in children. But what if I told you it could also do the opposite? You will probably argue with me, and that’s fine. Let me at first explain why I choose to avoid praise.
I don’t want an approval-seeking-praise-junkie.
As children get used to hearing “Good Job” over and over again. They become used to it. Especially in the early years, they become dependent on hearing you tell them “Good job”. They begin to do things to make you happy. Their goal is to do a “good job”. For some of these children, if you happen to miss telling them “good job” when they show you what they’ve done, it can be devastating. Even though they’ve done nothing wrong- they feel as if they have because you didn’t tell them “good job”. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that they need to seek others’ approval in everything that they do.
“Good Job” doesn’t really mean anything anyways.
This is just empty praise. Good job doing what? When it is used for every child, every action, and every accomplishment, it loses any significant meaning. That same goes for phrases such as “It’s beautiful!” What is beautiful? Maybe their intention wasn’t to make something beautiful or pretty. Maybe it’s supposed to be a scary picture, but by saying “it’s beautiful” You could’ve cut their confidence down. Now they may think, “Well it was supposed to be scary, but I guess I didn’t to it right.” Avoid this by using specific encouraging statements relating to directly to the situation or action. If it is a picture, for example, you can instead say “Wow, I see you used a lot of black and blue.” This lets the child evaluate their own work and possibly reply “Yeah, it’s a scary ghost at night time!”
With our kids as involved in sports as they are, I particularly use this when congratulating them on those accomplishments too. Instead of just saying “Hey great game today!”, I always try to focus on what exactly they did. “You worked really hard at practice on that head lock I saw today.” instead of “You won that match- great job!” or for my youngest (who’s voice rang over everything else at her dance recital) “You were singing all those words really loud today!”
I want them to judge their own work and accomplishments.
Following along with the above statements, I want them to judge and evaluate their own work and actions. This also brings in the “I like” phrases. Say a child creates something with magnets and blocks then the caregiver responds with “Wow I love it!” You love what exactly? And what about the child behind you reading a book? You didn’t tell them that you love what they’re doing? Then there is the child who comes in with new shoes on. Most adults respond with “Oooh I like those. So cool!” But what about the child next to him? His shoes aren’t new but they’re cool too, yet you only said you liked the new shoes. Instead we can respond to the new shoes by saying “Ooh they have Spiderman on them!” That is a specific non-judgmental comment and it allows other children to join in about their shoes without feeling bad about not having “cool” shoes. This same thing goes for haircuts, clothing, artwork, etc.
I avoid rewards.
Giving rewards is another way children can become dependent. This can begin to create the “Well what do I get out of it?” attitude. In the classroom, we don’t use things like stickers. Children will all too easily begin to rush through things just to get the prestigious sticker. Same thing with at home. I learned this first hand while beginning to potty train my daughter. If she tried on the potty, then she got a little dum-dum sucker. Well..… We did this for a little while until I caught her running into the bathroom, hopping on the toilet for 2 seconds, then jumping off and asking for her sucker. She wasn’t actually trying. She was just doing what she thought I wanted her to do in order to get her sucker.
So I have to admit, my title is slightly misleading. I am not perfect at this approach. There are definitely times when something exciting happens and an empty praise phrase starts to form at my lips. It’s our nature. We want our kids to feel happy and proud of themselves. Not to mention, us as parents, teachers, or caregivers want to be the ones to help them feel those things. We can easily achieve that if we begin replacing all of that praise we throw around with some more encouragement instead.
No one is ever prepared to be a parent to a child who needs a little bit more help than other children. But when it happens, that’s what we parents do best- help our children however we can.
I knew by the time that my daughter K was a year and a half old, that she was missing some words from her vocabulary. Most words actually. I had graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, so milestones were something that we studied and talked about frequently. After all, one of my responsibilities as a preschool teacher was to identify then refer children & families for services that they may need. A milestone for a 2 year old is to say is to say simple 2 word sentences, such as “more milk” “up please”. As we approached her second birthday, I knew she wasn’t there. She had “mama” and “dada”. I wasn’t entirely worried because I knew she understood language that was spoken to her which was a great sign. I did however, still prepare myself to be on the other end of the “referral conversation” when I took her for her 2 year old check-up.
At that visit, the doctor tried to get her to copy her words. “Say please” “Say ball” “What is this?”….. “It’s milk. Can you say milk?” K just smiled at her. While I expected it, The worry built up inside as I watched her try to get her to talk. While I know there are far more severe delays for children to have, how could a child get through life not being able to communicate? She is asthmatic. How would she tell her future teachers that she needs her inhaler? How would she make friends? How would she let me know if she needs to go to the potty? If something bad happens to her, how will we even know? I left the office that day with a lot of anxiety and the phone number in my hand to get her into speech therapy.
Well that was 2 years ago and now I can’t get her to stop talking.
I’m joking. Kind of. She really does talk SO much, however she is still very hard to understand. While she has made immense progress, she still often needs to translate for her. My heart has broken for her as I watched her approach kids at the park and they dismiss her and walk away because they can’t understand her. Talk about a stab in the heart. I felt so bad for her, I wanted to cry and just hold her. She is my baby after all. But before I knew it, she had found other kids who wanted to play with her. It was instances like this that made me rethink feeling sorry for her. Feeling sorry for her isn’t going to help her talk any better. What will help is me talking to her. Some other things that I’ve learned through these 2 years will help her much more than any apology.
NO BABY TALK
Obviously, if she isn’t pronouncing words right we don’t want to continue that pattern. And just because she doesn’t talk like a typical 4 year old, doesn’t mean she talks like a 3 month old. Just talk. Have a real conversation with her, with real words.
Get on her level.
This is important for many reasons. Getting down on her level is just respectful. It is easier to have a conversation with anyone at any age if you aren’t looking up or looking down at them. Would you want to have a conversation looking up at someone who is 3 feet taller than you? Probably not. Also, it is really important for her to see your lips and tongue move. This is a strategy that helps her learn what to do with her own facial muscles in order to produce the correct sounds.
Ask her to repeat what she said, but do this sparingly.
Don’t be afraid to try and find out what she is saying. By this point, she is used to repeating herself. However, just because she is used to it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t get frustrated. She can only repeat herself so many times before she gets discouraged and changes her mind completely. I want her to know that anything she has to say is important. I don’t ever want her to feel like what she has to say, doesn’t need to be heard. Especially not in today’s society that she is growing up in.
Ask her to show you.
This is helpful if you can’t figure out her message. “Show me” is something she’s been able to do- since she could crawl or walk. If I didn’t know what she wanted I could say “show me” and she would go point to the fridge. As she got a little more mobile she could open to the fridge and point to milk or an apple. Now that she’s older, I may say “show me” and she might have to show me multiple things in order for me to piece her plan together. For example, we did this recently and she ended up bringing me a bowl, and spoon from her kitchen area. Once I had those clues, along with the words that I could understand, I was able to figure out that she was asking for something that she could pretend to be cake because she wanted to make a cake for her baby’s birthday. She didn’t want to use any of her pretend plastic food because, well, that’s not cake.
Give her the words.
If and when you do figure it out, say those words for her. Say them slowly so she can see your lips move. Now please don’t do it so slow that it becomes condescending. That’s just annoying. Make the statement “You want to make a cake” so that she can hear the words associated with the actions she is describing.
Don’t correct her. Just say it correctly.
Please don’t tell her she is wrong, or that “that’s’ not how you say that” because guess what? To her it is. Don’t make her feel bad for something that is beyond her control. Just model it correctly for her. For example if she asks to watch “Dery” she is asking for Finding Nemo. My response to her is “You want to watch Dory?”. She has many, many words, now it’s just about helping her pronounce them in a way people can understand.
She loves to sing. It all began with Let it Go. Before I even knew what happened she was pronouncing parts of the song and singling along. There is something about the way our words slide together when singing that must help her tongue and mouth move the correct way. We took advantage of this and used singing to our advantage. She could probably school you on some Disney songs.
Play with her!
By just playing with her, you can probably learn more in 5 minutes than trying to just sit down and talk. She loves to pretend play. Whether it is cooking, taking care of babies, going shopping, or playing barbies she becomes fully immersed in her pretend play. Being there with her and linking actions to her words helps me understand her better. I also have another opportunity to give her the right words as I am participating in her play.
Read with her.
She loves books. Often she asks me to read a story more than once. Usually if she asks for a third time I will ask her to read it to me. This is another opportunity for me to hear her words and model pronunciation for her.
Last but not least…
Whatever you do, do NOT just agree!
Trust me. You may regret it. If you can’t understand her you definitely do not want to just say “Yes” or “Okay.” She wasn’t born yesterday. This is another way she can get discouraged because she knows that “Okay” isn’t the answer to her question or that it doesn’t make sense in response to her statement. This tells her that you didn’t understand her and you’re not even trying to. On another note, she could very well be asking something that you don’t want her to do. So because you couldn’t understand her, you just gave her permission to go paint all over the walls of her bedroom….She’s 4 and paint is really fun.
SO over the last 2 years of her being in both a home based and school based speech program, I have learned a lot and have watched her learn so much more. It took longer than “normal” to be able to confirm if she knew her colors or shapes simply because we couldn’t understand what she was saying. Now we know that she knows her colors, shapes, she can count, identify some letters, and she can write the letter K and A. She may not be writing her whole name like many other 4 year olds, but I was much more concerned with making sure that she could communicate with other children and adults so she will be able to be successful in a social setting.
& so far it seems that we’ve succeeded. At her current day care she has a best friend, B (who is also 4). Her and B have been best friends since K started there. Sweet little B always helps K when she is trying to talk to other children and they don’t understand her. B also sits on the floor with her and helps her pronounce words when she is having a hard time. She’ll say the word slowly then say “now it’s your turn K!” I won’t be surprised if B becomes a speech therapist when she is an adult. The fact that K has been able to build this sweet friendship with little B gives me faith that she’ll be able to continue to do so as she begins school in the fall.
Hopefully this is helpful to some who may know a child with a speech delay. When K was in the home based speech program, my mom would be there while I was at work. After one of the first visits I remember her telling me “She [her speech teacher] doesn’t do anything that you can’t do.” And after everything I’ve learned, it really is that simple. I appreciate her speech teachers wholeheartedly, but her learning doesn’t just stop at speech.
If you ever have a child, or spend time with a child who you can’t understand, please remember these things. Words mean so much more than pity.
Why I don’t feel guilty for being excited about that.
If you are a fellow sports parent, especially with multiple children- I probably don’t have to explain any farther. You already know.
So our “sports year” goes from August-June. Yes. August-June. Let me give you a quick glimpse of that schedule.
- Starting in August is football season for our oldest, S. Practice is Monday-Friday 5:30-8 pm & Saturday 11-1ish usually. Come September, the games begin which is typically an all day Saturday event. This lasts until Halloween.
- Also starting in September is Dance classes for the youngest, K. This schedule isn’t quite as extensive because she only goes for an hour a week. Dance “season” however is a school year, so this lasts all the way until the end of June.
- Starting in November, (right as football ends) our middle one, G, begins wrestling season. This schedule is similar to football. It begins as Monday-Thursday-Friday, but then when tournaments begin in December, it picks up to every day. And those tournaments….All day Sundays. This seems to feel like the longest season of all- going all the way into March.
- Come March, we get about 2 weeks off and then baseball begins. Both boys are in baseball. This season gets complicated for a few reasons. First is that sometimes the boys will have a game at the same time yet different places. Second is that their schedule isn’t as set in stone as the other sports. Their games are every Saturday but also sometimes during the week. Sometimes there are practices throughout the week on the evenings that they don’t have a game. Third reason is that with the dance school gearing up for the big recital, the amount of time we have to be at the dance studio picks up as well. Baseball ends mid-June & dance ends after the recital at the end of the month.
- We get the lovely month of July to ourselves, before we start all over again for the next “sports year.” It’s no wonder that’s the month we chose to get married.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. And get this, we’ve never ever missed a single game or tournament.
So why do we do it to ourselves?
The most obvious reason is for the kids. They like to do these things and we like to make them happy. Easy enough right? All parents want to make their kids happy.
But it’s much deeper than that. For everyone.
We watch them learn.
Nothing is more exciting then watching them do something new out on the field. We love how happy they are when they come home and show us a new move that they mastered. This is stuff that I can’t teach them. I can teach them a lot of things, but when it comes to sports… I got nothing.
We watch them lose, a lot.
This is obviously the hardest part. No one likes to see their child or their child’s team lose. But, it happens. There are a lot of things in life that will be disappointing and there are healthy ways to handle that. Sometimes it gets emotional and that’s okay. Talking through those times helps them learn how to handle the disappointing feelings of losing.
We also watch them win!
That is so exhilarating! There is nothing like the look on their face when they or their team gets a win. Sometimes us as parents even get a bit emotional!
This helps them learn about hard work.
Even after losing, they’ve never given up. They have learned that you get back up and keep trying. Towards the end of the season, we’re all tired. But they keep on going and always stick it through. When they pull off that win, they know it’s because they kept pushing, working hard, and trying.
They are doing something.
Sports keep them busy, but not too busy. They aren’t at home getting bored and fighting with each other every day or playing an x-box for hours on end. Having them in these activities keeps them moving, active, and socializing with other children and adults.
They are learning to be there for each other.
While our schedule is intense- the kids aren’t always going. During football season G is not in anything, but he goes to the games to support his brother. During wrestling season S is not in anything, so vice versa, he goes to most wrestling tournaments to support his younger brother. Little miss K goes to everything, but we will all be in the auditorium to watch her recital. It’s sometimes hard for the kids to sit through all of these things because their attention span is shorter than ours, but they are building deep sibling relationships by supporting each other in everything. (Plus we usually bring a bag of goodies to try and keep the little ones busy.)
They are building so many other life skills.
- Punctuality- They learn about being on time. This is never perfect. Sometimes we fail to get them where they need to be exactly on time, but I’ll be darned if I don’t sure try. They are only 11, 6, and 4 so they can’t be responsible for that part on their own yet. That comes from all 3 of us parents showing them our determination to do whatever we need to do to get all 3 children where they need to be. (And let me tell you, some days none of this would be possible if we didn’t have a 3 parent “household.”)
- Teamwork- No matter what activity we are talking about they learn that it takes more than 1 person to get the job done.
- Responsibility- As the children get older, we give them more responsibility in making sure that they have what they need. I do take the mom role in making sure uniforms and clean and ready, but it is their responsibility to get dressed, make sure they have all the right bags, and equipment before it is time to leave. MOST of the time, they do pretty well.
- Time management- They’ve heard more than once, our conversations about where they need to be, which parent was going to be with which child, and who needs to be dropped off at what time. Their part in this is being dressed on time. Time management is another skill that us adults demonstrate and we hope that all 3 of them will develop as teens. The oldest, S, has also seen my planner. I would never keep track of any of this, if I didn’t have my planner color-coded (picture attached). Orange spots are S’s games. Green spots are G’s. Pinks are K’s. Yellows are my work responsibilities (I work in administration for a school district so my work schedule also picks up in May for the end of the year) and blues are Personal events. Everyone develops their own way to stay organized, but mine can at least be an example.
They make friendships and so have we!
While 99% of this is about the children, some of it can be about us too! The sports that the boys play are through the city, so they’ve played with the same groups of kids for years- during all sports. This has allowed them to get to know some of their team mates pretty well. They go through all of the ups and downs of team work with kids they know and trust. We’ve also built some relationships with those kids’ parents. We’ve attended birthday parties, watched little siblings grow up, talked about our crazy schedules, complained about coaches in the stands, and celebrated wins together. It makes it nice to have other adults to spend time with, while spending all of your time at various sports.
So. We do this all for our lovely children with the best intentions…. But us parents……surprise!
WE ARE STILL HUMAN.
We get tired.
We sometimes hope that a day or 2 gets cancelled because of rain or lightning.
We hope the game or tournament goes by really fast because we have a million other things to do.
We also sometimes just get a little bored. (Personally, baseball season is hard for me. It’s just not my sport. However, football season is different story. I love football and don’t mind at all sitting in the bleachers all day to watch multiple football games. Wrestling I’m completely clueless about so I just go with the flow and listen to my husband’s commentary.)
We just want a day where there is nothing to do & nowhere to be.
& I don’t feel guilty at all for feeling any of those things. Nobody should. Becoming parents doesn’t turn us into robotic creatures with no feelings or emotions. I can feel all these things at once. I can proudly parade around wearing all of my picture day buttons, wearing our team shirts and cheering in the stands. But at the same time, I can definitely enjoy the days that we get to stay home and just do whatever. And that’s okay.
So with that being said, I am going to go enjoy my no practice-no game-no tournament-no recital lovely month of July. Cheers! 🙂
(but I can’t wait for football season!)
I’ve always wanted to write.
English was my best subject in school, in fact I could wait until the last minute and bust out a 10 page paper in a few hours- no problem. In my free time (when I used to have it) I’ve experimented with starting some fiction novels. To my dismay, I’ve never actually gotten one to the point of even attempting to find a publisher. Immediately after high school I had full time day job and a part time evening job. The nights that I didn’t work, were filled in with my college courses. Every so often I think about the stories that I’ve started and attempt to pick up where I left off, but life always ends up taking all of my free time.
And by “life” I am referring to meeting the love of my life and his 2 boys at only 20 years old. Am I complaining that they waltzed right in out of nowhere and took over my “free” time? Nope. Because if it wasn’t for taking on all of that added responsibility at that age, We wouldn’t have the life that we have now: A life that includes a home, a daughter, a happy, real marriage, & a few pets- My family.
So going back to writing- It took 5 years for me to admit to my husband that I’d always wanted to write. I don’t think there really was a reason for not telling him, it just never came up. I might’ve been anxious about his reaction, even though he already knows I’m a nerd. When I did finally tell him, his reaction was “Well then… write.” So simple & supportive. Of course, what was the next thing that came out of my mouth? “I don’t even know what to write about.” I gave him that and all of the other excuses I could like “I have no time to write”, “I really need to get back to grad school”, “It costs a lot of money to publish” bla bla bla. That was really the end of our conversation about it that night, but I keep going back to it with myself. Wondering “So if I was to start writing, what would I even write about?”. The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got because I was just stuck. Then finally one night, just laying in bed at the most random of times, it hit me. Life.
I can’t find time to write because “Life” always gets in the way. So that’s exactly the answer. I need to stop giving myself excuses, and instead use those excuses to fuel what I am passionate about. After all, my life revolves around the kids, their sports, my husband, my career. Once I started thinking about those things that I care the most for, writing material starting flying through my head like a pinball machine.
I have grown up and learned a lot in the last 6 years. That goes for everything. I’ve grown up and matured from teenager to woman. I’ve gone from a 20 year old girlfriend to a 26 year old mom and wife. I’ve gone from a petty (yes I’ll admit it) “new girlfriend” to a successful co-parent. I’ve gone from a newbie preschool teacher to a Grantee Specialist/Trainer for 3 Head Start delegates in the city of Detroit.
I don’t say any of that to brag. I say it to simply state none of it came easy. It took a lot of hard work, and struggles to get to all those things. If I can share some of my experiences for others to relate to and know that they’re not alone, that’s what I hope to do.
So… welcome to nonstop mom life 🙂
P.S. I know that I am joining a million others who “blog” about similar subjects. I know that these posts aren’t going to be the best selling novel that I dream of one day publishing. But they are an outlet for my writing. They are a jump start at getting me to end the excuses as to why I can’t or haven’t written anything. They may not reach a million people or mean a whole lot to anyone else, but just finally doing it, means a lot to me.