Mutual Respect

What is respect?

Being respected means being valued as a worthwhile human being. It is being treated with dignity regardless of human differences such as age, gender, race and even knowledge and skill.

There are two parts to mutual respect:

  1. Mutuality is a two-way street (I respect you and you respect me.). For that to happened we must each also respect ourselves.
  2. Equality is the basis for mutual respect. Equality here does not mean sameness but in the fact that we are human beings, belonging to the human family. We all need to be treated with dignity and respect. It means we have value or personal worth simply because we are human beings.

How mutual respect works in an adult/child relationship:

Many of us were raised with the idea that children must respect adults, while children were often treated with disrespect. We were taught to obey and this was enforced with reward and punishment. Children were controlled by the adults in their lives. Under this system, children learned to have others think for them, to avoid mistakes and to be submissive to an external authority.

Mutual respect between adults and children requires us to shift out beliefs and techniques of parenting. While the roles of parent and child are different, the individuals involved are of equal value as human beings. When parents are providing for, nurturing and teaching children in a non-punitive way, children come to believe that they are worthwhile, that they have abilities and that others believe in them and trust them. Parents can most effectively help children to learn to become independent, contributing individuals with strong internal motivation by doing the following:

  • Encouraging and valuing children’s contributions, ideas and efforts.
    • Saying “Thank you for helping/sharing. I appreciate it.”
  • Accepting and acknowledging children’s feelings as valid, legitimate and real.
    • Saying “You’re really sad that you can’t play longer at your friend’s house.”
  • Accepting mistakes as opportunities to learn.
    • Saying “What did you learn from this?” – Also see last point.
  • Finding opportunities for children to makes choices and decisions.
    • Give opportunities to make age appropriate choices early.
  • Giving assistance in, and opportunity for, critical thinking and problem solving.
    • Working trough problems with your child initially to teach the skills and then letting your child do it on his/her own once s/he has the skills
  • Sharing affection and fun with children.
    • Lots of hugs and playing with your children.
  • Remember that example is the most powerful teacher.
    • No comment needed here!

Mutual respect begins early!

Adapted from an article by E. Quiring and B. Johnson.

Play, More Than Just Fun

Parents often ask me what is the most effective thing that they can do for their children, the thing that will benefit them the most. As a play therapist, family counsellor and parent, my answer is unequivocally, PLAY! Play is a child’s language and toys are his/her words. “Play stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego” (Landreth, 2002). Through play, children practice skills that they will need throughout their lives. They explore different roles in play thereby learning about those roles. Have you ever listened to your child’s play and heard the exact words that you said to him/her come out of his/her mouth? Your child is integrating what you have taught him/her. Apart from being fun, play provides relaxation and an outlet for reducing tension. Play encourages creativity, abstract thinking and problem solving. Through play, children learn how to master new concepts and play increases a child’s self-confidence. Socially, play is very important as it helps develop cooperation, sharing, turn-taking and conflict resolution. Play aids in physical development as well as in development of attention and language.

Free unstructured play is essential for children and their development. Playing alone or with a friend or sibling provides many opportunities to learn and each of these types of play provide opportunities to develop different skills. As a parent, playing with your child is great way to strengthen the relationship with your child, especially if you let your child take the lead in the play and you follow your child’s lead. They love it if they can tell you what to do and this is a perfectly appropriate place for them to do it: in their own world. Enter and be humbled by what their play can teach you!


Attachment and Games

Mother Goose sure knew what she was doing when it came to nursery rhymes.  These often short ditties are loved by kids because they are rhythmic and fun!  Think about when you recite nursery rhymes to your child; you are sitting right next to or facing him/her, both of you are actively engaged and focused on each other.  What a great bonding moment that strengthens attachment. Children respond to rhythm because they spent nine months in their mother’s womb listening to the beat of her heart, the rhythm of her breathing and the rhythm of her body.  It is very familiar to them. “Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake” is great for building attachment because it is also a clapping game which involves very active involvement between child and parent.  You both need to be looking at each other and very aware of each others actions.  Then there are those moments when you miss each other’s hands and this usually evokes lots of giggles – more positive interaction.  “This Little Piggy Went to Market” and “Round and Round the Garden” are other games that, apart from being enjoyable for the child, help with attachment.  Let’s not forget “Peek-a-Boo”. “I Spy” is a favourite with children.  Change it a bit so that what you “spy” is something on each other and then you have a game where there is a great awareness of and focus the other.  Yes, you’re building attachment.

“I spy with my little eye something that is (a colour) / something that starts with the letter ___.”

Here are more games.

“Air” Hockey with Smarties:  Place a Smartie on the table and using bendable straws, move the smart around until one person scores a goal.  The person who scores the goal is fed the Smartie by the other. Licorice Race:  You and your child each put an end of the same liquorice string in your mouths and chew, chew, chew to see who can eat the most of the licorice string before it “runs out”. ”

Stacked Hands”:  Place your hand flat, your child’s hand on top, yours over top of your child’s and then your child’s on top of all that.  Remove your hand from the bottom and place it on top of the stack.  Then it’s your child’s turn and just keep stacking the hands.  For an extra challenge try this with more people.

Hide and Seek:  Especially if you are making comments like “I wonder where my wonderful Billy is?”  “When I find Sally, I’m going to give her a big hug!” ” I hope I find Joey soon, I love to see his big, bright smile!”

Do not Drop the Donut:  Place your finger through the hole in a donut and have your child see how much of the donut s/he can eat before the donut falls.

There are many other games that have the added bonus of building attachment and I’ve listed just a few.  I’m sure that you can even make up some of your own.

Do you have any games that you would like to share with the rest of this parent community?  Feel free to post them!

Mealtime Fun!

Has your dinner time become predictable… routine… boring?  Once in a while it may be fun to change things up a bit and have a weekend dinner that is out of the ordinary.  Here are a few suggestions for some creative mealtime experiences that involve more than pizza.

1. Backward Night:  This is the night when you eat dessert first.  Maybe you also come to the table wearing your clothes backwards.

2. Power Outage Night:  After preparing dinner, go and flip the breaker so that the power goes out.  Light candles and pretend that there is a power failure.

3. Neanderthal Night:  This is a messy meal.  No one uses utensils!

The family can all be involved in planning and preparing this meal.  It can be a lot of fun deciding what Neanderthal people might have eaten and prepare this i.e. drumsticks, chicken wings etc.

4. Indoor Picnic:  Spread out a blanket on the floor of the living room or family room and have your indoor picnic.

Please feel free to share any of your creative ideas.  More to follow……

Bon appétit!

T’is the Season!

The holiday season is a time when families, relatives and friends gather to celebrate together, some from different parts of the world.  It can be an exhausting time as you try to fit it all into your already hectic schedule.

Ten tips for keeping your sanity during the holiday season:

  1. P, P and P.  Prepare, plan ahead and pace yourself.
  2. Keep plans simple: one or two activities per week.  It’s about QUALITY NOT QUANTITY. Make a family “downtime” part of the plans.  This might be the time to watch a holiday movie at home.
  3. Include everyone in the preparations and planning of activities.  Use family meetings as a way of enlisting everyone’s help, yes, even your pre-schooler’s.
  4. Stick to the regular routine as much as possible i.e. nap times, meal times, etc.
  5. Keep the little ones nourished to avoid meltdowns.  We often get so caught up in what we’re doing that we overlook meals and snacks.  Keep snacks healthy as the season provides lots of other opportunities for treats.
  6. Having out-of-town guests?  Have kids decide who will have to give up their room to the guest (if you don’t have a guest room) and have the kids get the guest room ready (tidy, put out towels, strip the bed, etc.).
  7. Get out of the house.  Go for walking tours together to see decorated houses or store fronts or take in some free events in the neighbourhood or the city.
  8. Gift giving:  Keep it simple (tip #2, QUALITY NOT QUANTITY).  Model the gift of giving to those less fortunate than us: Look online or in the local newspaper to find a charitable organization that the family decides to contribute to (Xmas hamper, food bank, toy drives etc.).
  9. Accept a less than perfect contribution from your pre-schooler – remember you are creating memories not competing for a spot in the Martha Stewart magazine!
  10. Take care of yourself!  Hire a babysitter, for some downtime, even if it’s just to go to the local coffee shop, alone or with your partner.
  11. One last one: ENJOY and Happy Holidays!