29 June 2015

To spank or not to spank that is the question

As much as I try to be present for my son during the weekends, I prefer to have at least a couple of hours for 'me' time. A cup of coffee, strolling in the mall, or an hour of mani-pedi... I feel it's not too much to ask after working for five days.

Riley is usually clingy whenever I am at home. I understand that since we only get to be around each other mostly during the night on weekdays. So on weekends, I take care of him even if our nanny is around. I can say that I am used to the chaos that comes when taking care of an active toddler.

Well, I am so wrong. I let my emotions rule my thinking that day.
It was a busy weekend filled with appointments, parties, and household chores (excuses, I know).
It was the first time I spanked Riley's hand.

I had just prepared his bath with the right temperature so he would not protest that it was too cold or too hot. He brought a dirty soccer ball to the tub and despite telling him not to do it, he placed it in the clean water. After two days of being tired (plus the summer heat is not helping at all), my temper rose and without thinking it over, I spanked his hand once and told him to listen to me.

He was surprised. He became quiet while I prepare his bath again.
I shrugged off my guilt as I was thinking that maybe he learned his lesson.

Later that evening, when we were having our nightly routine of him playing a monster truck game on my phone, I gave him a couple of warnings that it was time to sleep. After giving him a few more minutes, I took away the mobile device even when he was protesting. Then he slapped my hand.

My two year old son slapped my hand.

I was understandably shocked and felt guilty immediately. I know he did this because he imitated what I did to him earlier that night. I asked him why he slapped my hand and he said because I was not listening to him. Worse nightmare confirmed.

I told him that I was sorry for slapping his hand earlier and I promised not to do it again.
He told me the same thing. But I still feel guilty. I just hope that this will not be the start of him hitting other people when he does not get his way.

I found a useful article (from positiveparenting.com) that really helped me see things in perspective and hopefully remember the next time I am in the same situation as last weekend.

To summarize, here are 9 things can do instead of spanking your child:

  • Get calm (I should have done this! So obvious but hard to do!)
  • Take time for yourself
  • Be kind but firm
  • Give choices
  • Use logical consequences
  • Do make-ups
  • Withdraw from conflict (and this too!)
  • Use kind but firm action
  • Inform children ahead of time

From this day forward, I will strive to not spank my child. Ever. Forever ever.

24 June 2015

A progressive learning approach for my toddler's first school year

They said learning starts at home. But what if your home does not provide enough engaging stimulation for your child to learn?

Send them to a learning center.

I did not want to be the parent who pushes their offspring to do a task when the child is clearly not ready. In Riley's case, he had a previous exposure to school playgroups. Last year, he regularly went to 'school' every Saturday and was exposed to the teacher-student setting. When the summer class ended, his mind was still set on going back to the school. Maybe it stuck since the school was inside the mall.

Since we have decided to send him to school despite him being less than three years old, we are faced with another crucial decision. Which school do we send him to? Choosing the right preschool for him was a challenge. We wanted the school to be near our house, affordable tuition fees, have a low teacher-student ratio, and with a good learning environment.

There were a lot of good Montessori schools near our village but the tuition was astronomical for Nursery level and travel time was around 30 minutes. I was disheartened because I wanted Riley to experience learning that way. I have read about Maria Montessori and her philosophy of giving the child independence to learn what he/she wants (within limits). "The Montessori method of teaching aims for the fullest possible development of the whole child, ultimately preparing him for life's many rich experiences." (source)

I have heard of stories where the toddler was forced (strapped down by the arms of a grown-up) to sit down on their chair for an hour everyday until they obeyed on their own. This is not acceptable for me. These type of experience will traumatize the child. Hearing about it traumatized me!

Luckily, we found a progressive school inside our village (5 minutes away from our house). I have not heard about progressive learning prior to discovering this school. Upon reading about their approach to learning, I am full on-board the progressive train. I found this local website that gives you detailed information on progressive learning. In a nutshell, they encourage "learning by doing" and claims that children learn best when they pursue their own interest. They let the children play while injecting knowledge in an experiential way. For example, they are doing arts & crafts where the kids are making a face using different shapes. Here they introduce the basic shapes (circles, triangles, squares) while having fun making a goofy looking face.

“The actual interests of the child must be discovered if the significance and worth of his life is to be taken into account and full development achieved. Each subject must fulfill present needs of growing children . . . The business of education is not, for the presumable usefulness of his future, to rob the child of the intrinsic joy of childhood involved in living each single day,” ~ John Dewey

After being briefed by the teacher, I have learned that they do not give assignments, they give student assessments (or progress reports) instead of the typical grading system, and the thing I like the most is that they adjust what they teach your child depending on his/her skill set. Riley has a well-developed language and motor skills but his social skills need more work. Although he can converse with you, recite the ABCs and count 1 to 20, he needs coaxing to share and mingle with new people.

It has been a week since school started so it is still too early to say if it was a good decision to send him to school this early. He is only in school two hours a day, Monday to Friday.

And yes, we are currently dealing with separation anxiety. More on that in the coming weeks.