I like you just the way you are; a reminder from Mr. Rogers

It’s you I like,
The way you are right now,
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
It’s you yourself
It’s you I like.

The above lines are taken from the song, It’s You I like written by Fred Rogers in 1971. Here is the link to the full lyrics.

More to come on the incredible value of having a feelings chart available

In an effort to use my feelings chart to accurately name how I am feeling, just like I ask my kids to do, I’ve been feeling frustrated, disappointed, and mad. I don’t like the way I feel in these types of moments. I also don’t like my energy, tone, or attitude. When Keener is jumping off of furniture, pinning his sister to the ground, or running off with dirty silverware he swiped from the dishwasher while I was loading it, my blood starts to boil.

In these moments, I am quickly forgetting Mr. Rogers message of “It’s you I like,” and am giving the exact opposite message — I don’t like you. In fact, I don’t even want to be around you right now. I don’t want to chase you, or yell at you, or threaten to take away Peppa Pig. I just want you to be my calm son who listens and has self control. Is that too much to ask?

Being human, I understand why, when his impulsivity hits, my default isn’t to remind him how much I like him. “You aren’t listening to me and are hurting your sister? It’s you I like buddy.” Of course, there is nothing he can do to make me stop loving him, but those moments are not my go to times to wrap him in hugs and kisses and tell him how much I love him. But should they be?

My behaviorist brain says no. Definitely not. The last thing I want to do is “reinforce” this behavior, therefore condoning it and encouraging him to act this way in the future. But the Mr. Rogers in me thinks maybe this is the exact moment that he needs the reminder, it’s you I like. Even when you are not being safe, I still love you. I can’t have you running around the house with knives because my job is to keep you safe and keep Grace safe, but I still love you. Go get the knife that you hid behind the couch and put it back in the dishwasher. I know you are capable of doing that and will when you’re ready.

On paper, I can totally do that. In the moment, I’m not so convinced. My autopilot angry button gets pushed pretty quickly, not leaving much time to remind myself to try a different approach. The good news? There will be countless opportunities for me to try out this strategy in the future 🙂 I’m confident about that.

I also know that as much as, in theory, I want my kids to be perfect robots who listen 100% of the time and always have self control, I also know this is not realistic. And this is definitely not what is being modeled by me! Despite knowing that 1 serving of Swedish Fish has 23 grams of sugar, I still find myself eating 2, 3, or even 4 servings at a time. Self control? Definitely easier to talk about than exhibit.

In an effort to assuage my guilt, I started this morning by telling Keener: Do you know that I love you, even when you aren’t listening? (I’ve been really getting on his case recently so he started to name times where he knows he’s been exceptionally silly). Yes bud, even when you are out of control, I still love you, do you know that? He shook his head yes. Even when mommy is really frustrated, she still loves you a lot. “Mom, can we read this book?” OK. So he wasn’t exactly digging this heart to heart. Which is just fine. It was what I needed to start my day on the right foot. Or at least not on the wrong foot.

I’m not guaranteeing that ‘leading with love’ when feelings of frustration arise is going to help. But I am going to try. I also know that the idea of someone telling me when I am the equivalent of his ‘out of control,’ It’s you I like. I love you just the way you are, may in fact be just what I need to hear. Feelings are complex and almost always more than what meets the eye. While it may not change his behavior, I know I will feel better if I can default to love rather than anger. Next time he takes off running with that yogurt covered spoon toward our white couch (clearly purchased pre kids), I’m going to *attempt* to take a deep breath, and remind him I love him. Wish me luck.

Keeping new toys organized; hide them

Keener received these awesome alphabet locks for Christmas from his great grandmother. A mom at Keener’s preschool recommended them and so far both kids are loving them. The only problem is, in total, there are 52 pieces… There are 26 letter locks and 26 keys with which to unlock them. And there is no master key! Therefore, the only way for this toy to be fun is to not lose any of the parts.

In this house, that is a problem. While I do my best to help my kids keep their toys organized, it is a daily struggle. One thing that has helped for toys like this is putting away part of the toy. There are four different colored locks and after scattering all 52 pieces across our family room, we are starting with just the 7 blue ones.

Having been a teacher for the past 12 years, my mind is always thinking about modifications. How can I make this (toy, lesson, skill, etc.) accessible to all of my students/kids? Putting away part of the toy is one way in which I am doing that for my own kids. My 2 and 3 year old simply can’t handle keeping track of 52 pieces. Therefore, I am modifying it by not allowing them access to all of it right away. They are starting with 14 parts, 7 locks and 7 keys.

Another reason for this modification is that Keener does not know all of his letters. The teacher in me really checks myself when it comes to “teaching” my kids academic skills. Keener loves locks, opening things, gadgets/etc. and as an added bonus, he can match the letter on the key/lock. I do not make letter recognition the focus of our play. Instead, we talk about the shapes of the letters (straight lines and curved lines) and see if the letter on the key matches the letter on the lock. There are also pictures on the back to work on phonemic awareness skills such as letter sounds.

I love these containers from Target to store toys. Since they are clear, the kids can see in them and know which toys go in which container. Right now, they are on sale for $0.80 if you have Target Circle. They are shoebox size and easy for little fingers to open and close. (FYI all of Target’s storage and organization is an additional 10% off until January 4 if you are part of Target Circle.)

Before it occurred to me to hide part of this toy, I used these circle stickers (which I also love – more posts to come on other uses) to label the blue keys. It was too overwhelming for Keener to look through 26 keys to find the one he was looking for so I eliminated that obstacle by color coding the keys. Then, he only had to look through 7 blue keys to find the one that matched the blue lock.

I was feeling overwhelmed with all of the new toys and keeping track of all the parts. I also was anticipating the disappointment when the keys would have gone missing and the locks would no longer open. While in a way it seems silly, a little organization can go a long way to feeling less stressed.

Think about which toys may be able to be partially put away, or fully put away. Sometimes, putting toys away for a month or so can make them seem “brand new” when they resurface — an added bonus! Now’s a good time to go through the toys and consider placing a few in the closet until the spring to allow room for new toys and declutter your toy space.

The new year is also a good time to weed through toys and decide with your kids which can be put away for good. Perhaps they have outgrown some of their toys which are ready to be stored for another baby or given away to someone else who would appreciate them. Brainstorm with your child potential neighbors, friends, church nurseries, or organizations that serve kids who don’t have much. It starts the new year providing your kids with a chance to think about others and build their empathy muscle.

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