The Seven Book Challenge- The Books that have Inspired, Challenged, and Encouraged Me

The Seven Book Challenge- The Books that have Inspired, Challenged, and Encouraged Me

I was asked by one of my good friends to do the Seven Book Challenge that has been going around Facebook lately. The challenge is to post seven book covers over seven days without an explanation or review and then pass the torch onto the next friend.  It fosters a community of readers and introduces your friends to a new set of books.  I’m not usually one for these kind of Facebook challenges, but I do love sharing about books so I thought I’d give this one a go!

It was hard to narrow down the books I wanted to share to just seven. I decided to share the few that have been having an impact on me lately and a few that I’ve gone back to multiple times for inspiration. And because I didn’t want to stop at just sharing the covers, I thought I’d write a quick post for the blog, sharing my thoughts and reviews on these books.  I hope that you find one (or more) that will inspire you too! These are in no particular order, so scroll to find the ones that speak to you 🙂

The Seven Book Challenge

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1) Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

I love the Martha and Mary story in the Bible. It’s the one story that calls me by name every time I hear it- it brings me a calmness that I don’t find many places. I read this book in college, and it helped bring everything into perspective for me. It was okay to be busy, to do all of the things, and to want perfection, even, but God had to always come first.  Weaver shares how having a “living room intimacy” with Jesus will logically lead to a “kitchen service.”  We’re called to a both/and, not an either/or.  We need to center our days around Jesus, and then allow that to change us. The book also emphasizes that while we often place our own value on how productive we are, our value is, instead, in being God’s child. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is such a good read for my heart, and I continue to find new nuggets of wisdom each time I read it. 

“Have you ever tried to do it all? I have, I do, and I probably always will. It’s not only in my nature; it’s also in my job description- and yours too. Being a woman requires more stamina, more creativity, and more wisdom than I ever dreamed as a young girl. And that’s not just true for today’s busy women. It has always been the case.” – Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

Read More: For All the Martha’s in the Back

2) No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

I just finished this parenting book recently, and I think it will be super helpful as I get more and more into the parenting trenches with our toddlers. The author’s focus is on parenting with a whole brain perspective. He shares that when a child is misbehaving, they are often reacting with their downstairs brain, defaulting to an irrational fight or flight response.  It is our job as parents to help them learn how to integrate their upstairs brain so that they may learn how to self regulate better in future situations.  My biggest takeaway from this book is the reframing of discipline as punishment to discipline as teaching. Discipline and boundaries are necessary. But, our goal is to connect, redirect, and then teach when the child is ready to learn, instead of pounding in a lesson in the midst of a chaotic moment.  If you’re at all interested in gentle parenting and the hows and why’s, this book is a great starting place!

“You’re probably not going to enjoy discipline, or look forward to future meltdowns. But when you realize that these “misbehavior moments” aren’t just miserable experiences to endure, but actually opportunities for knowledge and growth, you can reframe the whole experience and recognize it as a chance to build the brain and create something meaningful and significant in your child’s life.” -Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson, No-Drama Discipline

3) Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

This is the only book I read through again in my second pregnancy, and I will probably read through in any future ones as well. For anyone seeking a natural birth, this is the book to read. The first half is all birth stories, ranging from home birth to hospital birth.  The stories showcase the many ways that women react to labor and really puts a spotlight on some of the ways our current society medicalizes pregnancy and labor, rather than looking at it as a natural thing. The second half goes more into the details of the how’s and why’s of different labor choices and was super informative, especially as a first time mom.  What I love most about this book is that it empowers the woman in her pregnancy and labor to make the choices that are best for her and her body. Definitely a must read if you’re pregnant or at all interested in pregnancy and labor.

“What I mean by true capacities of the female body are those that are experienced by real women, whether or not these abilities are recognized by medical authorities. The way I see it, the most trustworthy knowledge about women’s bodies combines the best of what medical science has offered over the past century or two with what women have always been able to learn about themselves before birth moved into hospitals” – Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

4) Girl, Arise! by Claire Swinarski

Girl, Arise! is written by the creator of The Catholic Feminist Podcast (one of my favorites!). The tagline is “A Catholic Feminist’s Invitation to Live Boldly, Love Your Faith, and Change the World.” The phrase “Catholic Feminist” can sometimes seem like an oxymoron, and a lot of people wonder how these two things can come together what with the seeming disconnect between issues such as birth control, abortion, lack of women priests, and gay marriage. It all comes down to what your definition of a feminist is- Claire’s working definition is “to be a feminist is to believe that women are beautiful, unique, and equal in dignity to men.” The Catholic church is one that is focused on upholding the dignity of the person, so really, these phrases go hand in hand. I could probably talk all day about this issue, but I’ll save that for another time. This book is a great start to looking into what it means to be a Feminist and a Catholic, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone struggling with this dissonance.

“Pro-life should be more than a rallying cry; it should be more than a slogan on a bumper sticker or tank top. It should be more than abortion, capital punishment, and immigration. It isn’t a set of laws but a state of mind and heart- one that consistently puts people over profit and puts those people on equal footing. To be pro-life means to avoid wishing harm on others and to instead put them first.” – Claire Swinarski, Girl, Arise!

5) The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart

I raved about this book when I read it, and it had to make this list too. I had originally gotten this book from the library and ended up buying a copy so that I can read it again and/or share it with others.  In The Grace of Enough, Stewart shares how her family made the radical decision to leave their “normal” lives and move halfway across the country, away from extended family, to start a life doing an internship on a sustainable farm with no flushing toilets, all with three small kiddos. Through this journey, her family learned about slow living, sustainability, and hospitality, among other things, in a way they might not have otherwise. These are all ideas that I’d love to incorporate more into our lives, and so I am using this book as a reminder to not get caught up in the world. I want to instead focus on our family, those around us, and, most importantly, on Jesus. 

“But the heart of the matter is that our children will watch us. The most powerful antidote to the throwaway culture is when we model simplicity, hospitality, and generosity in “the domestic church.” In this school of love, the home, we aim to educate children in faith and charity so that they will not be taken in by the false promises of consumerism… My prayer is that someday my children will see something beautiful in our crazy experiment and the goodness of what we wanted to offer them.” – Haley Stewart, The Grace of Enough

6) Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery with the Saints

This book is set up as a daily devotional with each month focusing on a different virtue to grow in.  Each day has a quote from a saint and then a few stories of that saint or others living out the virtue that is being referenced. I have been using this book in my prayer time, allowing myself to skip to the day I’m on instead of trying to catch up.  Maybe some day, I’ll read them all!  The Lord has been using this book to really call me to growth in a lot of different areas. It makes me think deeper about what I’m doing and where I’m going and draws me closer to him in my prayer time.  If you’re looking for something to give more depth to your moral growth, this is the book for you! 

“When once we have placed ourselves totally in the hands of God, we have no cause to fear misfortune; for if any should come to us, He will know how to make it turn ot our good, by ways which we do not know now, but which, one day, we shall know- St. Vincent De Paul” – Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery with the Saints

7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

This book seems a little out of place among the others, but definitely belongs among my seven top books.  The Harry Potter series was such an important part of my adolescence and taught me so many life lessons that I hope to also pass onto my children through the books. The seventh, and final book, stood out to me as it was the end of an era. I had grown up with Harry and the gang, and it felt like the closing of a door when the last book was finally published. Even so, the books were something that I grew closer with friends and family through, and still do now (Tony and I literally quoted Harry Potter today).  The greatest thing about the books is that I can go back and reread them as if I am meeting again with old friends, even as an adult.

If you have not listened to the audio books of the Harry Potter series, I highly recommend them. The narrator does such a great job bringing the characters to life in the recordings. My family used them as road trip books, and the bond that we grew out of sharing Harry Potter together is really beautiful.  Check them out through Audible– you get a couple free audio books with a trial (and you get to keep them even if you quit)!

It was hard to pick one quote, so here are two 😉

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Dumbledore, JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” – Also Dumbledore, JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Seven Book Challenge

So there you have it, my seven book challenge! I’d love to hear what your seven books are. Maybe they’ve changed your life, they are inspiring you currently, or they are your go to old friends. Whatever they are, send them my way so that I can add them to my to-read list too!

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Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids Will Love

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It’s been a long, hot, and rainy summer in sunny Florida. We’ve been spending a lot more time inside in the air conditioning than I’d like to admit. Luckily, my kids don’t seem to mind too much.  As I wrote about in my last post, I sometimes have a hard time remaining present with my kiddos. I also really enjoy and try to prioritize having playtime with my children. Given this, I’ve had to find activities that both my kids and I enjoy so that I can remain present with them. It’s taken some time and experimentation to figure out what these are – and they definitely change from time to time. 

Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids Will LoveRead More: 7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

Right now, we’re keeping our playtime pretty basic.  We’ve tried a lot of different activities and have bought and been gifted many different toys.  The activities that I’ve listed are ones that we keep coming back to.  Plus, they’re ones that I don’t get bored of too easily- which makes a big deal! As the seasons change in our hometowns up north, I know many of you will be looking for good indoor activities in those cold winter months. Hopefully some of these will also be basic, but fun activities that both you and your kids will love.

1) Reading

Reading is one of our favorite pastimes in the Bird household. Both my husband and I are big readers, and it’s something that we want to pass onto our children. Luckily they seem to have caught the reading bug! Because reading is something both the kiddos and I enjoy, it’s an easy redirect from any activity that I keep looking at my phone during.  I like to let my toddler pick out which books she wants to read and then huddle up on the couch for awhile. My 11mo will beebop around the room while we read, or sometimes he’ll hunker down with us for a chunk of time.  He’s just getting to the point that he’ll also sit down to several good board books as well. Some of the ones that have been keeping his attention lately are:

Read More: Fostering a Love of Books from an Early On

2) Painting

My toddler never says no to painting. While this is an activity that requires a little more work on my part, I also find that I really enjoy crafting and, therefore, stay more present during this type of activity. I’m not really a Pinterest mom and haven’t pulled any special looking crafts off yet. Instead, I just set her up with a “palette” of paint, some paper, a cup of water, and a variety of paintbrushes, and she goes to town. I keep it easy on me and fun for her. I haven’t attempted any painting with my 11mo but I might try out this edible paints recipe soon! With my toddler, I’m a big fan of the washable paints linked below (they come out of her clothes when she inevitably gets some on them). We usually will just use pages out of coloring books or some printer paper we have laying around to keep it really easy. Some of her works of art we save and send to family and others go straight to the recycling bin when they dry!

3) Play-Doh

Play-Doh is another activity that my toddler enjoys that I also enjoy.  This is also a really good activity when I need to do some things around the house! I enjoy playing with it too, so I end up joining in at some point.  She received some Play-Doh tools and cutters as a gift last Christmas, and we’ve been putting them to good use recently.  At some point, a bunch of small dinosaurs from the Dollar Store also ended up with the Play-Doh, and now it’s a joint activity with them being her main characters.  We can spend a good chunk of time making different animals, creating a scene, or just rolling it creating “green beans.” Awhile back, I made this edible playdough recipe that I need to make some more of soon so that Charlie can start playing with us too! 

4) Kitchen Pretend Play

I enjoy doing pretend play when it’s more modeled after real life.  My husband is much better at creating crazy scenes and playing them out with the kids, but I’m just not there yet. Instead, I like to do real life pretend things like cooking in their play kitchen and having a picnic with their picnic things. For awhile, my toddler was doing cupcake parties for all of her stuffed animals and it was so sweet. I just had to sit back and “eat” cupcakes while she did all of the work- my favorite kind of play! My 11mo also is very into our toy kitchen, though it’s mostly to just pull things out of it and slam the doors. Either way, it’s been a really good addition to our play and an activity that both the kids and I enjoy. It looks like the set of food we got isn’t available anymore, but I really like the quality of the Learning Resources Brand listed below. I’ve also added a bunch of old utensils and dishes from our kitchen that we weren’t using anymore!

5) Musical Instruments

Some days I curse myself for getting musical instruments for the kids and some days I thank myself. Lately, it’s been more of the latter.  My youngest is really into music, so it’s been really fun to watch him experiment with making different sounds with the shakers or to try to hit the hammer on the xylophone.  He also is very into singing “Ah” into containers, so we’ve included some random ones in our musical instrument bin. My toddler also loves them and will hand one out to everyone in the family (plus some stuffed animal friends) to play a song together- usually the ABC’s of which she sings. Other times, we’ll turn on some music and play along with it. It’s a really fun activity to watch and be a part of with my kiddos.

6) Practicing New Motor Skills

This is one of my biggest go to’s right now, as my little guy is riiiiight on the edge of walking. We’ve been having a lot of fun coaxing him to walk toward us. I’m a big fan of the milestones, so if we’re on the edge of one, I’m way better at remaining present and wanting to catch every movement. It’s also a fun thing to get my toddler to be a part of.  She has been saying “Come Here, Charlie” whenever we want him to crawl back to us (especially when he’s running away during a diaper change). Now, she’s learned to say that when I’m trying to get him to walk off the couch to me. She’s very excited for him to start walking so that they can play more together! We’ve done this at every stage- including the toddler’s jumping and spinning which she’s a big fan of now!

7) Puzzles

My toddler had a span where she was very very into puzzles. I think we overdid the ones we had, so she’s been out of them for a little bit.  I’m thinking about rotating some back in this week though! Puzzles are definitely an activity that I can get behind, as I love to do them myself. Sometimes, it can be frustrating to not be able to hop right in and help her. Or she gets sick of it halfway through, and pieces get scattered everywhere. Even so, I love to watch her little brain work as she figures out how the pieces fit together.  We also have a Melissa and Doug knob puzzle that my little guy likes to pull all of the pieces out of, and, if I’m lucky, the toddler will put them back in!

8) Blocks

Blocks have been a great activity for both my little guy and my toddler lately. Both of them LOVE to knock over towers. My toddler will sometimes spend a good chunk of time building a tower and then knock it over either herself or with her Godzilla stuffed toy her daddy got her. My son will make a beeline for any tower he sees as he is all about destruction right now.  I enjoy making semi-elaborate towers- if I get a chance to get them high enough- so it’s a fun activity for both the kids and I.  We’ve been really into our wood blocks recently (the same ones I had as a kid!), but we’ve also had spans of time that my toddler has enjoyed playing with the Mega Blocks (or color blocks as she calls them).  I’m thinking about looking into either Duplos or Magnatiles for our toddler’s Christmas present this year to add to our building supplies!

These are just some of the activities that both the kids and I are enjoying right now.  There are obviously so many more that I could list!  As they change developmentally, the activities and toys that they are interested keep changing, but these are the basic ones that we keep coming back to again and again.  I’d love to hear about any activities that both you and your kids enjoy!  Comment below or chat with us on Facebook or Instagram

Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids Will Enjoy

Read More: Yes Spaces- Why are they important? 

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7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

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How many times do we hear “Mama, come play with me” or “Mama, look at this” and respond with “not right now, honey” or “after I do this”? I know I do it so many times every day.  I am always putting other activities in front of being present with my kiddos. Sometimes it’s things that have to be done, like changing a diaper or getting dinner on the table. But so often, it’s something that doesn’t need to be taking my attention.  Whether it’s scrolling through Facebook, doing the laundry, or whatever other thing is distracting me at the moment, it’s not nearly as important as being a more present mom to my kiddos. 

I’m blessed to be staying at home with my kids in this season of life, and so I spend a lot of time with them.  Even so, a lot of that time, I’m not being fully present with them. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s good to let children self entertain and learn how to play on their own. It’s good to take the time to clean up after a meal or send a text out to a friend. And it’s good to have time away, focusing on “mama” things. But our kids need us, they need our attention and our interest in the things they’re interested in. Even if it’s a quick moment of connection amidst a busy day, these moments of connection are what our children crave and thrive on.

7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

I fail in little (and big) ways every day in this journey to being more present.  My goal is that when my kids look back, they will remember me as a mom who loved them with all her heart and gave them the attention they needed. Not as the “wait until I’m done with ____” mom that I so often am right now. The following ideas are some of the things I’ve been trying on my journey to being a more present mom. Some I try to do every day, others every once in awhile.  See if there are any that will help you, too, on your journey to being more present with your children.

1) Put the phone down

Our phones are so addicting- between starting up this blog, keeping up with social media, and reading whatever funny article some acquaintance from high school posted, I feel like I’m always on it. I’ve started to put limits on myself- I can only have it when the kids are sleeping or eating, I keep it on the kitchen counter, or I can do this one task but then it goes away.  Find what works for you to put the phone down and be present with those in front of you. It’s okay to indulge every once in awhile, but we don’t want our kids thinking we love our phone more than we love them. 

2) Do activities you enjoy

I am way better at being a more present mom with my kids when we are doing something that I enjoy doing.  I love reading to my kids, so I try to incorporate that somewhere every day. Puzzles and painting are also go to’s for me as Nora has gotten older.  When I’m excited about something she’s doing, she gets even more excited to share it with me. Experiment with different games, toys, and activities to see what you enjoy doing. Do more of that!

Read More: Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids will Love

                 

3) Invest in yourself

I am such a better mom when my cup is full. That is, when I take time for myself away from the kids, when I have some bit of quiet in the day. By putting myself first sometimes and taking the time I need, I’m able to come back refreshed and ready to take on tantrums and messes with a little more patience and a lot more love.  Sometimes that’s as easy as taking a shower (with no kids in the bathroom!) and sometimes, I need my husband to watch the kids while I go to Starbucks or the library. Whether it’s taking time to pray or have quiet in the morning, getting a workout in during naptime, or just simply taking a nice shower, find that thing that fills your cup and take the time to invest in yourself.

Read More: Self Care for the Mom That Thinks She Doesn’t Need It 

4) Include kids in household chores

I get so distracted from my kids when the house is a mess. I’m either away cleaning it or thinking about all of the things I need to do when I’m trying to play with them. By incorporating them in tasks like cooking, laundry, or sweeping, I’m able to practice being a more present mom to my kids while also getting the things I need to get done done. Sometimes this means it takes a little bit longer to get a task done, but so often they enjoy being a part of the process. Invite your little ones to do your to do list with you- you might be surprised at what they’re able to do!   

5) Turn up the music

I’m learning that putting on some music and having a dance party (or as Nora is starting to call them- talent shows) is one of the best things to reset my brain and prompt my being more present.  There’s something about dancing with my kiddos that adds a little extra joy to my day. Nora is starting to sing along to different songs and Charlie is a dancing machine, so it’s been really fun to share these times together.  Whether it’s “mama” music, old classics, or Toddler Radio on Pandora (my go to), put on some music and see what happens.

6) Get out of the house

I am such a better mom when we leave the house. When we’re at home, I have the dishes and laundry beckoning me, my phone is in easy reach, and I get bored of playing the same old games. Enter outings! Whether it’s something simple like going to the grocery store, or a bigger outing like going to the zoo, I’m able to disconnect from all of the things waiting for me at home, and just be present with my kiddos. Find those places that bring you joy, and include them in your weekly routine. Or if you’re having a bad day, just take that spontaneous trip to the park! Sometimes all we need is a good reset and getting out of the house does just that, allowing you to be a more present mom.

7) Soak in the hugs and snuggles 

My kiddos are still little, so they still enjoy getting mama snuggles. Sometimes all that I need to do to make a little one happy is pull them into my lap and spend some time snuggling and talking or reading a book.  By having that loving physical contact, we’re able to say to our kids that they matter without having to say it at all. Plus snuggling is good for our children’s and our own well-being.  We release oxytocin when we cuddle, which leads to happy feelings and bonding. So take some time to snuggle with your little ones today, if only for a couple minutes.

7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom Today

The cliche is so true- kids grow big so fast. I want to make sure my children feel loved during the time that I’m blessed to have them. By being a more present mom, I hope to be their person when they need to talk, to be the one they turn to when they need a hug or some extra snuggles, and to be who they call whenever they’re in trouble. I’m starting on this journey now, and I hope that you’ll come along with me.  Let me know what you do to be more present with your kids by leaving a comment below or by chatting with us on Facebook or Instagram

Keep Reading: I’m Saying No Less to my Toddler- What I’m Saying Instead

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I’m Saying No Less to my Toddler- What I’m Saying Instead

I’m on a journey to start saying no less to my kiddos. I didn’t realize how often I was saying it until Nora started to repeat my “No, Charlie, no!” as he rushed anything that I didn’t want him to go toward.  (Isn’t it fun when your children start mirroring you?) I read recently that the average one year old hears “no” more than 400 times a day, and I thought that that couldn’t be true. But then I thought about the fact that it’s not usually one no that screeches out of my mouth when Charlie gets into the toilet or Nora tries knocking Charlie over, it’s usually a tirade of no no no no no no!  So that stat doesn’t really surprise me anymore. 

Hearing only negative words, like no, stop, or don’t, can impact a child’s brain and frame of mind.  While there is definitely a time and place for saying no or stop, I don’t want to overuse these words to the point that they become ineffective or hurt my children’s psyches.  I want to help my kids grow up into positive and creative adults, something that could be limited by only hearing no all the time.  As I’ve talked about before, I’ve started this journey by creating yes spaces that they can explore without me having to say stop constantly.  I’ve also been analyzing my own reasons for saying no- is it because I’m being lazy and not wanting to be present or is it actually something they shouldn’t be doing? Most importantly, I’ve been working on the language that I’ve been using with them on a daily basis.  This has required some changes on my part, but I’ve seen great results, especially in my 2.5 year old! Here are some of the tactics I’ve been employing to start saying no less.

Say No Less to Your Toddler | Create a positive environment for your children through positive parenting and saying no less.  #GentleParenting #PositiveDiscipline #yesmom #positiveparenting

 

Redirect, Redirect, Redirect

Redirection is the only tactic I’ve really found to work in the just becoming mobile stage of development that Charlie is in, and it also works with my toddler too. Instead of yelling “No, no, no” at Charlie as he gets into the recycling or grabs the cat, I can physically get up and remove him from the situation.  I can also quickly think of something more exciting to entice him to turn around and come back my way, though this is just in the beginning stages of working. In the infant stage, they aren’t able to be reasoned with and are getting into things by way of exploration, not to make somebody angry (thought it doesn’t feel like it sometimes!). Therefore, physical redirection is the best way to refocus an infant without having to yell no.

This tactic also works with toddlers – at least sometimes. When I see that Nora is going to do something that will probably not end well or that I don’t want her to do, I default to yelling at her to stop it or say my “no, no, no!”  This usually ends up egging her on (she often thinks it’s hilarious when I yell at her…).  Or, it ends up with her in tears or a tantrum. I’ve found that by providing her with a different idea of something to do or physically picking her up and redirecting, I’m able to forego these behaviors. I use this tactic a lot when she is asking me to do something that I don’t want her to do (or that I don’t want to participate in for the 50th time). Instead, I can come up with a different fun idea that will hopefully take her attention instead. 

Examples:

How about we do ______ instead?

Let’s go play in your room for awhile next.

What’s a different game that we can play?

Change the Language From No to Yes

I’m really working on watching my language and changing it from negative to positive forms. This means that instead of saying “Don’t Run!,” I say “Please Walk!”  When given orders, children often focus only on the last words in the sentence.  When you preface a sentence with no, stop, or don’t, they don’t usually process the negative portion, but hear the words at the end and continue that action. By stating what you do want them to do rather than what you don’t want them to do, there is a much higher chance of it actually happening. 

This requires extra brain power on my part, so it’s been taking a little time to get the hang of it. It’s way easier to say stop doing something than to think of what I want them to do instead! However, I have found that when I do remember to switch it around, I have a much easier time communicating with Nora what I need from her leading me to less saying no.  Then, she’ll often follow through- though definitely not every time. She is two after all!

Examples: 

Instead of “Don’t pour out the bubbles”,  I can say “Keep the bubbles in the bottle.”

Instead of “No screaming in the house,” I can say “Outdoor noises outside and indoor noises inside.”

Instead of “Stop dumping out all of the pieces,” I can say “Put the pieces back in the box.”

Give Options to Avoid the Power Struggle

Nora is at the age where she is wanting to be the ruler of her own life. She likes to make the decisions of what we’re doing and how she’s going to do it, and she does not like to hear the word no.  This can contribute to a power struggle over silly things like what she’s wearing if I’m not careful. It also makes situations tough when we’re needing to get somewhere on time, and she really isn’t wanting to go.  I will often default to yelling or negative language in these situations, and it always ends in tears and a struggle. I’ve found that by instead offering options between items or ideas in which both outcomes are okay with me, I give her some of the power that she needs to feel in control, while actually staying in control of the situation myself.  

This also leads to me saying no less because I’m happy with either option that she has available. As long as I am giving fair choices to choose between, she’ll generally go along.  She has been known to say, “I don’t like those options,” which can sometimes make things harder. Through a little intentional communication, we can usually figure out a suitable choice that will work for both of us. By breaking it down to her level, I’m able to say no less and usually avoid any tantrums or tears.

Examples:

It’s too hot out to wear that, would you like to wear a dress or shorts?

Do you want to go potty now or after we read another book?

Would you like to hold my hand in the parking lot or do you need me to carry you?

State the Why

As Nora has gotten easier to reason with, sharing with her the reason behind why she can’t do something has worked really well. This often works best when I take the time to pull her to the side, give her snuggles, and validate what she is doing or feeling fits.  I then can state the action that she was doing that was bad and why I don’t want her to do said action. Usually, I’ll then go on to redirect or ask her what other actions she could do instead. By taking the time to sit down with her and be intentional, I can avoid the negative circle and hopefully she won’t continue to do that action in the future.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how fast Nora has caught onto some of the “whys” we have shared with her, allowing us to say no less to her in a lot of situations.  Our biggest one has been the things that we can’t do right now because a place is closed, it’s not a good thing to do when Charlie is awake, or we don’t have enough time. She’ll often catch on quickly and offer a time that could make sense to do it instead- and surprisingly remembers it when we get to that time!  We need to give our two year olds more credit than we think!

Examples:

I see that you like doing that, but that’s dangerous and I don’t want you to get hurt.

I love that you are having fun with Charlie, but I don’t like when you push him because it hurts him.

The library is closed until 10:00, and we can’t go inside until the librarian unlocks the doors.

Say No Less to Your Toddler | Create a positive environment for your children through positive parenting and saying no less.  #GentleParenting #PositiveDiscipline #yesmom #positiveparenting

I’m sure there are many other tactics to employ on the journey to saying no less to our toddlers and using positive language, but these are some of the ones that are working for us right now.  I’d love to hear your ideas as this is all a work in progress for us! I’m pretty sure I said no to the kiddos that 400 times just throughout the process of writing this post. By being intentional in the language we use and the environment we create for our kiddos, I hope to raise confident, creative, and kind adults that go on to do good things. Here’s to each step of that journey!

Want to Learn More? Keep Reading:

Yes Spaces- Why are they important?

Yes Spaces- Why are they important?

We’re thinking about babyproofing in the Bird household this week. We’ve already done all the basics- nailed furniture to the walls, put in outlet covers, put bumpers on the sharp corners, etc. Even so, as Charlie is getting more and more mobile, he seems to continually be finding new places to get into that I really wish he wouldn’t. His favorite right now is playing with the phone chargers when we forget to put the cords up- and he just figured out that the garbage can opens and shuts this morning! I guess it’s time to get our apartment back into a state of being a yes space.

What is a yes space?

A yes space is a place where kiddos can explore and check everything out without having to be redirected a million times. It is a place where there is nothing dangerous or fragile that they can get into. How babyproofed a place needs to be to fit this standard may vary from person to person. For example, because I’m around the kids more, I have a higher comfort level with different objects than Tony, who automatically assumes they’re going to choke on everything and/or poke their eyes out. I’m working to find somewhere in the middle so that he can feel comfortable when he is watching the kids but they can still have some toys out 😉 .
In the Bird Household, our yes spaces don’t have any decorations or items we care about in places where the kids can grab them. Instead, they’re filled with toys, books, stuffed animals, and other play things that the kids can get to without having to ask for help. Our spaces are not very pretty or organized, but they get the job done! We keep things like paints, Play-Doh, and some of Nora’s smaller toys higher up so that Nora can still see them, but has to ask to play with them. It’s pretty Montessori in concept though the way that we put it into practice throughout our home doesn’t quite fit that style.

Why is having a yes space important?
1) It allows a mental break from saying no

Apparently, the average one-year old hears the word “no” about 400 times a day. That’s a lot of no’s! I definitely believe it though because even Nora is starting to copy my “No, Charlie, no!” as he’s running away during diaper changes, splashing in the cats’ water dish, or pulling books on top of himself. This starts to be a drain on a child, but it also is draining for me. When our yes spaces are not set up right, I have to constantly be on the watch, making sure they don’t get into things they’re not supposed to. I have to be the “mean” parent who stops them in their tracks while they’re having fun, saying no or stop at every turn. Instead, by creating a space where they can do pretty much everything, I don’t have to focus my mental energies on what they can’t do. I can pay attention to the cute things they’re doing, read to one of them while the other plays, or actually get something productive done without worrying!

2) I can get tasks done around the house

Sometimes I have to get something done around the house. And by sometimes, I mean there’s always something I could be doing. Every so often, I can get the kids to play by themselves in one of our yes spaces and get some of these somethings done. I can take 3 minutes to throw the load of laundry over while they play in Nora’s room. They can take apart the toy kitchen while I wash the dreaded high chair tray and put away breakfast. I can sweep the floors yet again while they play in the living room with their tunnel. While I, of course, am always within hearing distance so I know they’re not killing themselves or each other, I’m not super worried about rushing through the task to be back watching them.

3) I can get a quiet time break

When Nora was 15 months, she was still an awful sleeper. Around this point, we experimented and found that we could leave her in her room and after a couple minutes of being angry, she’d play or read books in her room until she fell asleep- for her nap and bedtime! It was one of the best things that ever happened to us. Now that she’s about 50/50 on whether or not she takes a nap, we’re doing the same thing. She can hang out and play in her room for a couple hours until she falls asleep or not, and I can get my much needed quiet time. Charlie is just at the point where I can leave him in his crib to play for a bit, but no putting himself to sleep quite yet. Hopefully, he can figure that trick out soon!

4) It gives the kids a chance to explore and play on their own without needing me to set their boundaries

I think this is actually the most important point. Kids need an opportunity to learn by themselves and test boundaries without someone swooping in and figuring it out for them. I know I can be guilty of doing just this when I’m sitting right down with them. By taking the time away (or just sitting on the couch scrolling on my phone…), they are able to have that independent playtime they need so desperately to learn and to create their own stories instead of having me right there to create them for them. By having a yes space, they’re able to beebop around at their leisure and check things out without me hounding over them making sure they’re not doing something they’re not supposed to. It’s also allowing them to start their own relationship as siblings when I’m not right there coaching them how to interact.

What we’re doing to create yes spaces

We attempt to make our whole house a yes space, but that’s not totally manageable all the time (I need to find a new home for Charlie’s beloved toilet bowl brushes- yuck!) Right now, we have our living room area and Nora’s bedroom set up so that they’re definitely safe for Nora and mostly safe for Charlie. (If only he didn’t pull all of the books off the shelf onto himself…) I also have been utilizing the crib with a couple books/toys as a place to put Charlie for a short period of time to clean a poopy cloth diaper, to put away laundry without it getting pulled right back out, or even to take a really quick shower. Yes spaces I’ve seen in others’ houses are playrooms (my dream!) or a big gated off portion of a room.
I’m realizing that we need to be better about keeping all of Nora’s little pieces of toys in either a separate space or away while Charlie is awake so that they don’t become choking hazards. It also seems we have to find new places for some of our cords or at least a way to keep them up and out of the way. My philosophy on babyproofing is to babyproof as we go (after the big things like strapping furniture to the wall), and I seem to have gotten a little behind! It’s time to put locks on all the cabinets and drawers I don’t want things pulled out of and maybe even the garbage can and toilets. Whatever I can do to make our home a safe space for the kids to roam, experiment, and not hear “no” all day long will contribute to making our house a somewhat peaceful place for me and a yes space for them.

I want to know what you all do to make your homes into yes spaces! I’d love to see pictures of what you guys are doing and tips of your babyproofing methods – comment below or on Facebook, or send me a message! I look forward to seeing what you’re doing 🙂
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