Toddler Totes at Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

March 3, 2014 by  
Filed under

Through a variety of fun, age appropriate, educational hands-on activities, stories, live animal encounters, and adventures on Zoo grounds, Toddler Totes takes you and your child on an investigative exploration of the Zoo’s animal collection examining animal body parts and adaptations, such as noses on koalas or tails on tigers. Each class is approximately 45 minutes long.

Members: $14 per child/adult pair
Non-members: $18 per child/adult pair
Prices are subject to change.

Class times: 9:15am and 10:30am


Supreme Decision Making

July 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Meika Rouda

By Meika Rouda

While last month’s Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act received much due attention and celebrating, there was another Supreme Court decision that also deserves a toast.
The Supreme Court had an adoption case pending regarding the rules of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Veronica Capobianco nee Brown was adopted at birth. Her biological mother placed her with a family she had chosen in South Carolina. Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, who is part Cherokee Indian, relinquished his paternal rights through text message to Veronica’s biological mother before she was born. Dusten Brown served in the Iraq war, never paid any child support and didn’t request to see his daughter until she was 22 months old and he learned that his ex-girlfriend had placed her with an adoptive family. Once he learned of the adoption, he claimed he didn’t understand he was relinquishing his parental rights and tried to regain custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act whose intent is to preserve Native American families. While Veronica is 3/256th Cherokee, the court sided with the adoptive parents, saying that the biological father had given up his rights to the biological mother so the ICWA does not apply to this case.
Supporters of adoptive parents have a lot to celebrate. While Mr. Brown is now trying to adopt his daughter through the Oklahoma courts, it seems unlikely that he will succeed and she will be placed back with her adoptive parents.
The victory here is that so often with adoption, the biological parents have many rights and adoptive parents usually don’t. In this case, since the biological mother technically had sole custody and chose to place Veronica with the Capobianco’s, the adoptive parents have rights too. The Capobianco’s were at Veronica’s birth and raised her for the first 22 months of her life. They are her parents too. And while I am sorry that Dusten Brown has regrets about giving up his parental rights, and perhaps he should have had more information or counseling before making that choice, it does not excuse the fact that he never paid child support nor even asked about his daughter until she was almost two years old. The Capobianco’s are her parents and she deserves to be reunited with them. Cheers to the Supreme Court for making not one but two good decisions this summer.


Fun Raising

June 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent, Ted Peterson

The grueling end of the trike-a-thon

By: Ted Peterson

Mikey’s preschool had a bake sale and a trike-a-thon to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As part of the week leading up to that, during one circle time, Mikey’s teachers taught them about sickness and health, and asked the kids what they would do to help another child who was seriously ill.

The adorable suggestions were documented on the school white board under each child’s name. Many of the kids advocated “Kisses” and “Hugs,” together or separately. One tot came up with the fabulously surreal idea of “Giving them a monkey.”

Mikey evidently raised his hand and said, “Why don’t we give them … treatment?”

The teacher figured Mikey had picked up the word from some adult conversation, and asked what treatment meant.

“It means medicine,” he explained.

Have I mentioned that he’s a Virgo?

Of course, Mikey also has plenty of belief in the magical powers of kisses and putting bandaids on invisible wounds for ten seconds until they feel better. A friend of ours mentioned that she used a brand of anti-cold nasal suppositories called Nozin and Mikey tucked that info away until tonight, and used it as a delaying tactic before bed, saying he needed one of them because even though he wasn’t sick, he might get sick in the future. He said he would wait while we went to the store.

The events at the preschool were great successes and, thanks I think to the red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Spiderman and the Green Goblin topping each, more money was raised for St. Jude Children’s Hospital than any time in the six years the preschool had been involved. If you don’t know St. Jude, it was founded by “Make Room For Daddy” star Danny Thomas. Since 1962, it has become the preeminent pediatric cancer hospital in the country.

"Mickey, it's spelled M.I.K.E.Y."

This weekend, pediatric causes continued to be a major part of conversation as we were invited to participate in two children’s charities. Sunday morning, we went on a 5K Walk for a Cure for Neurofibromatosis, and in the afternoon, we went to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Picnic.

The latter has become an L.A. institution over the last twenty-two years, since Elizabeth Glaser used her celebrity status as the wife of actor Paul Michael Glaser, Starsky of “Starsky and Hutch,” to shine a light on how AIDS affects children here and in Africa. Ian and I first went to the picnic five years ago, before we had Mikey, and we commented at the time that we really needed to bring a kid to it next time. This year, guests on the grounds of the VA hospital included Sharon Stone, Carmen Electra, Gwen Stefani, and a bunch of young actors from the Disney channel I’m too old and Mikey’s too young to know. He certainly recognized Mickey Mouse when he turned up.

A little rainbow shaved ice is just the thing after a 5K walk.

The Walk to Cure Neurofibromatosis was notably less glamorous, but for us, more personal. My niece, Mikey’s beloved two-year-old cousin Natalie, suffers from the genetic condition which can cause tumors to erupt along any nerve ending in her body. Like AIDS, there is no cure for neurofibromatosis, also called NF, but the hope is that events like this can lead to education and research into a disease which can be devastating and is tragically all too common. Our team alone raised almost $50,000, so the walk around the CBS Studios lot in the San Fernando Valley felt like a victory lap of sorts, because we know that in itself will pay for a new trial and study in the hopes of finding a cure.

Of course, at both events, there was food and games and music, which like the bake sale and trike-a-thon keeps the sad reality of what these charities are fighting more bearable. From Mikey’s point of view, they are all parties, and we are so lucky that he is healthy enough to enjoy them as that for now.


Clueless Caucasian Parents Doing Their Son’s Afro

By: Ted Peterson


I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on most aspects of parenting Mikey. The care and feeding of our three-and-a-half-year old hasn’t exactly gotten boring, but the “Oh my God, what the hell are we doing?” moments seem rarer and shallower than once they did.

The exception to this is on the subject of hair. Completely falling into the cliché of the clueless Caucasian parents, the hair of our kinky-haired heir is, pun intended, quite a tangled web.

The cliché seems to be true even among the rich and famous. While browsing around a web board for advice for our son’s hair care, I came upon several discussions about how Madonna and Angelina Jolie were not doing an adequate job caring for the hair of their respective adopted daughters, Mercy and Zahara. Obviously, there was a general acknowledgement that it’s unlikely either lady was hands on with the washing, moisturizing, and braiding, but still, the comments were withering.

The best thing Ian and I have done is embrace our ignorance. A week after we got Mikey, we brought him to his first stylist, Althea, who has classes wherein she teaches white parents how to care for their adopted black or biracial kids’ hair. Only in Los Angeles.

Althea gave us our first advice on Mikey’s hair, sending us off with a shopping list of special shampoos, conditioners, and combs. She also put the fear of God in us, letting in on the whispered conversations particularly common among black women seeing kids with badly kept hair. Almost as bad, she said, were those parents who simply shaved their boys’ hair to a shade above bald, for easy care but no personality.

No fear of that. We are fascinated with learning all things about Mikey, and hair is no exception. At least, we had a boy: anyone who has ever seen Chris Rock’s hilarious and oddly moving documentary about the politics and enormous expense behind the world of black women’s hair “Good Hair” has an inkling of how many traps are along that path.

To squirm or not to squirm ...

Althea worked in a salon filled with the type of ladies “Good Hair” was about, spending many hours and lots of money on weaves, relaxers, blowouts, and other techniques completely alien to us, even as gay men who never frequent Fantastic Sam’s, and aren’t strangers at the local manicure / pedicure clip joint. Under her tender but firm hand, Mikey obediently let himself be shampooed and deep-conditioned, even sitting under the heat lamps really let his dry follicles drink deeply. Unfortunately, Althea spent most of the time chatting on her headset, and ended up clipping rather weirdly.

We held off getting Mikey’s haircut for a while, until Ian, on a whim, took Mikey into a children’s hair salon convenient to where he was shopping that day. They assured him that they could take care of African-American hair. With hindsight being 20/20, it should have been a sign when they said everyone got the same hair conditioner regardless of the texture and type of hair they were sporting. The salon was so cute with balloons and bright colors, he was seduced. I don’t blame him. It wasn’t until thirty minutes later, when he was putting Mikey into his car seat and noticed that the leave-in conditioner was turning the consistency of thick putty that he realized he’d made an error. Two shampoos and an hour later, Mikey’s hair was free of the sludge, and he was not the only one who was cranky.

The Mop Top

We decided to skip haircutting for a while. Ian and I decided that our ideal hair for Mikey was that of Will and Jada Smith’s son Jaden, who had grown an afro two feet in circumference which he later – when he played the new Karate Kid – turned into cornrow braids. All it would take is time. We diligently did our best, and in time, he had a hairstyle we thought was very cute, a vast mane full full of corkscrew curls like mini-dreds.

We go to and 'fro

This is where we faced an interesting cultural divide. Our white friends agreed with us that it was adorable. Our black friends thought that it was cute but a bit wild. No one ever said anything to us, but we started thinking about what Mikey would think, looking back on his childhood photos. Maybe it was time to brave another trim.

The next stylist we used was thanks to Groupon. A salon in Santa Monica, which had a children’s and an adult’s section, advertised a Mommy and/or Daddy & Me special, which sounded charming. Lots of dads out there imagine themselves coaching their son’s Little League games or helping them carve blocks of wood to make into pinewood derby cars. I imagined my son lying in the salon chair next to mine, both of us sighing as our stylists suds up our hair and kneaded our scalps.

Unfortunately, though the treatment was called Daddy & Me, in actuality they couldn’t do it simultaneously. It’s hard to enjoy your shampooing when you have one eye on your bored kid running around the salon. By the time Mikey could be worked on, he was ready to go and squirmy, and the stylist cut a little here and a little there. It was even less even than his last two cuts.

That was November of last year, and we haven’t taken him anywhere since then – almost six months. Mikey’s mane grew tall and wide. I came upon the name of a stylist who was praised all over Yelp, and we dragged Mikey in.

For being such a good boy during your haircut, Mikey, you get a big handful of cupcake frosting! Enjoy!

We like Mikey’s new haircut and so does he.

Here’s the advice we have received so far:

1. Don’t shampoo hair more than once a week.
2. When shampooing, use Just For Me brands.
3. When shampooing, use DevaCare No-Poo.
4. Comb hair through every bath with Kinky-Curly Knot Today.
5. Condition with Dermorganic masque once a week.
6. Moisturize and detangle daily.
7. Moisturize with Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme.
8. Moisturize with jojoba oil.
9. Moisturize with olive oil.
10. Style with Kinky-Curly Curling Custard.
11. Use Infusium to make the hair more manageable.
12. Don’t use Infusium or his hair will calcify.
13. Use a Miracle Brush to detangle.
14. Use a wide-toothed comb to detangle.
15. Use nothing but your fingers to detangle.
16. Have him sleep on satin pillows, because cotton will soak up all the moisture and product

What we do with all this advice is we follow it all. Randomly. I have to say, no one has come forward to us and said we’re making our son look bad. And some folks have said we’re doing a good job with it. Of course, those are the folk we tip generously.


Love Bites

March 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By Meika Rouda

I had something shocking happen yesterday. Asha and I were in music class, happily singing “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care”  in a circle with the other moms and toddlers. Asha usually meanders during class, dancing around in the center of the circle, walking over to sit on other moms’ laps, or to hug other children. During the middle of the song, just as we were getting into the crescendo chorus, Asha walks over to a little boy, younger than she, and gives him a big hug.  I felt a surge of joy in my heart watching her love this little boy. Her hug kept going and she started to squeeze tighter. The little boy was no longer enjoying the hug. Our song continued “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care…” and by now Asha had wrestled the boy to the ground and he is lying on top of her. She would not let go of him. He was crying now but her hug continued; she was unphased by his discomfort. His mom and I jumped up, attempting to release Asha’s iron grip and just as I was prying her arms off him, she turns her face to his cheek and bites him. Yes BITES HIM. The boy started to cry.  His cheek was bleeding. I was in shock. “Did she just bite him?” I ask the other mom, as the song continues in the background, “Yes” she says matter of factly.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Asha is crying, livid that I have released the boy from her grip. I take her out of the class and into the lobby. The other mom is in the bathroom cleaning the boy’s wound. I tell Asha, NO BITING. She stares at me blankly. She is 16 months old and expressing emotion in any way is a top priority, even if it means biting. I calm her down and check on the little boy. The mom is nice and reassuring “These things happen, I know she was just trying to love him.” I sort of felt better but I was also embarrassed and I had to go back into the class with my daughter, the biter, and finish singing. Yikes.

The other mom returned to the room before me, with kleenex attached to her son’s cheek to stop the bleeding. After a few more minutes I return with Asha. I sit down, away from the little boy, and resume my singing, trying to contain Asha and keep her on my lap. She will not sit still; she needs to wander. She headed right back to the little boy. The mom picks him up to protect him from the biter -aka my child. Asha walks over to another little girl and the mom delicately picks up her daughter. “Shit”, I think to myself. Her reputation is ruined, no one wants their kid near the biter. I continue to sing and act as normal as possible. Whenever Asha wanders off I follow her and pick her up. I spend the rest of class monitoring her every move. After class I apologize again to the mom and boy. She is understanding but I also know she will never let her kid be near mine again. My only comfort is that the class ends in two weeks and I don’t think I will be signing up again. I see the teacher and apologize for the interruption. She assures me biting is a normal process of development and happens all the time. She reminds me that toddlers just don’t know what to do with all the emotions they feel. She also says Asha is a very smart girl and very loving and I shouldn’t worry at all. The bite was not malicious, it was just an emotional surge. I feel slightly better.

Our biggest job as parents is to protect our kids so how do we do that when you feel like they are being maligned? What makes it worse is that Asha can’t talk, she can’t tell me what she is feeling, she can’t directly apologize or acknowledge that what she did was wrong. I hope her biting isn’t a habit, it is hard to watch your amazing child physically hurt someone.  But it wasn’t on purpose and I know in her heart she wants to express her love, she just needs more tools for that. I am not sure what music class will be like next week but I am not going to worry about what the other moms think. If they don’t want Asha near their kid that is fine, I can’t say I blame them but I also think as a group we can do a better job of helping one another teach our kids and act like a village instead of alienating a toddler for acting like a toddler.


Just A Little Brit

February 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent, Ted Peterson

By: Ted Peterson

Let's talk about socks, baby.

I’ve been an Anglophile for at least thirty years. The first Brit I fell for was James Bond, and I’ve remained true through his six incarnations. To this day, no one can beat me in Bond trivia, and I specialize in the worst of the movies, like “Diamonds Are Forever,” “The Man With The Golden Gun,” “A View To A Kill,” and … okay, whatever the second Timothy Dalton movie was. After him were a series of literary icons and Merchant-Ivory film actors, men with fabulous accents and lovely hair, and names like Rupert, Simon, Hugh, and Jeremy. My last British crush was Ian, who I married.

Our son, in addition to being biracial and parented by a same-sex couple, gets the additional gift/complication of having multiculturalism right in his home. Ian has embraced his adopted American culture in so many ways, not the least of which by becoming a citizen last November. But as Mike Myers, who grew up in Canada with a father from Liverpool, once observed, “No one is more British than a British man abroad.”

We have a pillow with a Union Jack on the sofa, and at least two cufflinks which also show off the British flag. We have a signed photo of Princess Diana on the shelf together with tea cups commemorating the crowning of her mother-in-law. And there’s Pimms #5 in our liquor cabinet, which we drink with either lemonade or ginger ale in the summer.

There’s the language. Mikey’s had to learn that when Papa asks for a torch, it’s the same thing as Daddy asking for a flashlight. He frequently answers a question in the affirmative not with a “yes” but a snappy, insouciant English “of course.” The first adverb that Mikey ever uttered was “properly.”

Not that he’s fluent. Last week, we’re driving in typical horrible Los Angeles traffic, and Ian growls that the people ahead of him are idiots.

“Don’t say ‘idiots’!” Mikey cries from the back. “That’s not very nice.”

We agree, but I decide to use British slang to get around it. When someone seemingly won’t let us merge, I mutter, “Come on, wanker, let us in.”

“He is a wanker?” Mikey calls from the back. “Where is the wanker?”

“That guy in the Escalade ignoring our turn signal, he’s the wanker,” I reply.

“He’s letting us in now,” Ian observed.

“Oh, that’s nice, let’s give him a thank you wave,” I say.

“Thank you, wanker!” Mikey cries.

Just so you know, a wanker is more or less synonymous with douchebag.

An Englishman and his tea.

There’s the food. Those of you who haven’t tuned into Hell’s Kitchen and the hundred other shows featuring Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver may be under the impression that British food is still synonymous with bad food. You may not know that thanks to the likes of Ramsay and Oliver, as well as Marco Pierre White, Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal, Raymond Blanc, Gary Rhodes, Marcus Wareing, and others, there are few more interesting cuisines in the world, particularly when you start combining it with the “colonies.” In my house, all things British belong on our table. Mikey knows that coffee is for grown-ups, but sometimes is allowed some tea, in a 20 to 1 milk to tea ratio.

On a recent Sunday, Mikey began the day by demanding Marmite on toast and then helping me to make sure I did it right.

If you don’t know what Marmite is, it is – seriously – a byproduct of beer brewing, thick and black, salty and bitter, and so questionable that the best the English ad agency that handles it could come up with for a logo is “Love it or hate it.” You smear it on toast and hope for the best.

Here’s Mikey slathering it on:


That same Sunday night, we had friends over, and served onion tarts, mashed turnip (called swede by the Brits) and carrots, and steak and kidney pie. After he devoured those kidneys, I’m at a loss about what we can serve Mikey and he’ll refuse.

What, you may be asking, is the American culture I’ve given him? I think that’s pretty obvious. Being excited about other cultures. Until fairly recently, that was understood by everyone to be the American way.


The Best Blog Ever

January 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent, Ted Peterson

By: Ted Peterson

It’s been understood in our house for some time that the way to motivate Mikey is to appeal to his sense of competitiveness. He’s not a morning person, and will remain under the sheets, eyes closed, resistant to gentle nudges and more forceful shakes, until you say, “Hey, I bet I can get to the bathroom faster than you.”

“Nooo,” comes the zombie-like groan.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m faster than you. I’m super fast.”

Eyes open. “But I’m fast like a cheetah!”

“I don’t think s-”

And he’s off, blankets and sheets flung aside, down the hall, jammie bottoms flying off in his wake. He has all sorts of things that he likes, movies, books, toys, music, but none of these will make him go from 0 to 60 mph like winning a competition. Mikey has no fussiness when it comes to his food, because the moment we say we don’t think he’ll like something we’re eating, he’ll plead for a bite and insist that he loves it. He likes to dance, but it became an obsession at a holiday party when some older kids were playing the video game “Just Dance,” and Mikey asked for a Wii remote so he could play along.

“I won! I won!” he yelled afterwards, fortunately oblivious to his actual score.

Now, I could point out that this behavior is totally in line with his age developmentally, but 90% of the stuff about developmental milestones is, I’m convinced, just an excuse for a different kind of competitiveness. That is, one of parents, which is clearly much less adorable. The fact remains that parents have long known that the best way to get a three-year-old to clean up after himself, better than chanting the horrible and ubiquitous “Clean it up, clean it up,everybody, everywhere” song from Barney, is to simply say, “Hey, who can get the most toys back into the box?” And then duck as the toys come flying.

It’s also probably worth pausing here to acknowledge the simple fact that competitiveness is historically considered a masculine trait, and therefore both desirable and encouraged. Not only by parents, but by the general public. I hope that should we have a daughter, we’ll be equally amused and indulgent when she wants to show off.

The best kind of competitiveness, of course, is the self-motivated kind. Sure, it’s effective when I declare some mundane activity to be a game which Mikey is inspired to win, but there’s twice the power when Mikey sees his friend doing something and becomes determined to master it as well. One evening, he came to us with a serious expression and said, “I don’t want to wear diapers to school anymore.”

And that was it. His friends were using the toilet, so he was too. Potty training more or less accomplished.

Today, we were pressing our code to open the door to preschool, and Mikey pressed the pound sign as usual as the final button to unlock it. One of his buddies came up behind us, and pushed in all the buttons himself. Once inside, we signed Mikey in on a computer using a passcode. Again, Mikey’s buddy, just behind us, punched the buttons on the keyboard, signing himself in. Two separate number and letter codes, and Jimmy knew them both.

Mikey whispered to us, urgently, “You have to show me how to do it too!”

And we will, and he will master it because in his mind, he has to.

That sorta touches on the negative side of this competitiveness. It can lead to an unhealthy peer pressure. And when something that’s not a good thing like getting up, eating healthy food, using the toilet, or learning numbers and letters becomes the object of the competition, it can be hard to turn it around. At Mikey’s school, there’s been some name-calling which they’re trying to nip in the bud. My friend Susan, who has a son Mikey’s age, says that at her school, a couple of the boys have been punching each other in fun – she calls it “preschool fight club” – and the habit shows signs of catching.

I don’t know where Mikey gets his own competitive spirit, but I hope that if it shows a dark side, we’ll be able to handle it. Actually, I know we will. Because we’re awesome. You know.


Q&A: My Toddler Won’t Share!

April 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Parenting, Q&A

Little girl not sharing

My 18-month-old-son “shares” by handing me something and then snatching it back. What kind of kid am I raising? Are there proven ways to teach a child to share?

Answer by Julie Gamberg and Holly Kretschmar (Parents & Educators)

The behavior you describe –let’s call it “playing backsies” –is absolutely normal, developmentally appropriate behavior for your toddler. It’s admirable that you’re concerned about him growing up to be a considerate kid, but don’t push the concept of sharing yet. There’s a danger of sabotaging your best intentions by pushing your child too early.  To avoid making him resentful and nervous about boundaries, let him experiment with the concept of giving and taking.  He’ll learn from your reactions and you’ll avoid pushing him into behavior he’s not ready for.

To help your son make strides towards the next level of sharing, narrate his behavior, to help him develop language for–and ultimately the concept of–his actions. For example, you might say, “Thanks for giving me your ducky! I know you love your ducky. OK, now you want your ducky just for you. Thanks for sharing!” You can also model the behavior you’d like to see, and as before, narrate it to him so that he develops an understanding of what sharing means. You could try saying “Daddy’s reading this book right now. I see you want to share it. I’d be happy to give you a turn. When you’re done looking at it, I’d like to read it again.  Thanks–it was fun to share my book with you.” Focusing on turn taking is a concrete way to illustrate the abstract concept of sharing. Over time, as your son learns from your reactions and sees you modeling sharing behavior, he’ll understand the good feeling and social rewards that come from giving.

Children change so quickly so if you can, do some speed reading every six months or so (we know parents only have minutes to spare for reading) about your son’s developmental level. This will help keep your expectations in check with what he’s capable of and, most importantly, so you know you’re doing nothing wrong in these scenarios. Although they’re somewhat dated and we don’t always agree with their parenting philosophy, we still find the series by Dr. Ames and Dr. Ilg, called “Your One-Year-Old”, “Your Two-Year-Old,” etc., useful for understanding a child’s development. It sounds like you have a healthy, well-adjusted child who enjoys interacting with you and seems to be on track developmentally. Congratulations!

Holly Kretschmar and Julie Gamberg are two parents, writers, and educators who live in Los Angeles and are writing a book about parenting tools.


Answer by Joe Newman (Behavior Consultant)

I think there are actually two questions here.  The first is how to best handle the giving and snatching away your son seems to enjoy right now, which I think has little to do with sharing and more to do with exploring his power.  The second is the broader question about how to raise children who are generous and can share with others.

1st – The giving and snatching away

I don’t think this is in any way a sign of your son’s inability to share properly.  He is playing with and learning about the things that are most fascinating him right now (power, control, connection, and independence.)  Think of this as an opportunity to begin to teach him about his own power and autonomy while gently developing his ability to respect the power and autonomy of others.

An 18-month-old is in the beginning of the stage called the rapprochement or omnipotence (this stage typically begins at around 14 months and last till 3 or 4 years).  He has realized that he has power and is separate from you so he’s trying to understand your power and who’s in control.

In the beginning of the rapprochement phase a child is moving from an unconditional relationship and an omnipotent identity (he’s the only one with power) into an understanding of transactional relationships and an interdependent identity (both you and he have power).  What better way to exercise his feelings of omnipotence and test the waters of transactional relations than by trying to control giving and taking things?

Here are some practical suggestions:

The next time your son “gives you something” you can ask him, “Is this the game where you take it away from me or is this real giving that I can keep?”  If he seems unsure or confused tell him, “It’s okay if you want to play the give and take away game.  I just need to know if we’re playing the game or if it’s real.”   Don’t accept what he’s giving you until he tells you “game” or “real”.

If your son chooses “real giving” and then tries to snatch the thing away you should not allow him to take it and instead say to him, “Since you really gave it to me you’ll need to ask my permission if you want it back.”  Insist that he asks you nicely without tantruming or screaming.  In the weeks that follow you can begin to add a delay in returning the item perhaps saying, “Well I’m not done playing with it.  I will give it back when I’m finished.

If your son chooses “the game” then you can accept the item and allow him to snatch it from your hands a moment later.  You can even feign being mad or upset.  He will likely find your reaction funny or fascinating.  He may then give the item back to you in order to see the change in your expression.  In this way your son has a chance to act out the drama of his feelings of omnipotence and explore the power of giving and taking as a “game” within his safe relationship with you.

Once you’ve established the pattern of him telling you “real” or “game” when he gives you things then you should start to have times when you tell him, “I don’t want to play the game right now.  You can really give it to me, but I don’t want to play the give and take away game.”  Gradually you can increase the moments when you’re willing to play the give and snatch away game until you’re only willing to have him really give you things (this can be over several weeks or several months, it’s up to you.)

All these exchanges are rehearsals for your son’s successful relationships with peers and other adults.  Slowly he’ll learn the transactional nature of relationships and how to effectively choose what he wants while understanding the needs of others.  He’ll gradually be developing his abilities for self-regulation, deferred gratification and respectful social interaction.

2nd – Teaching children to share

I think it’s important that we don’t force our children to share.

Having said that, I think there are several things we can do to raise compassionate, independent-thinking, generous children who will most likely share with others.

Model sharing – let your children see you share with them and others, not because you’re “being good” but because you enjoy it.

Respect the child’s autonomy and right to make their own decisionsdon’t tell your son that he should be wanting to share, that sharing is right and not sharing is wrong, or that you only approve of him when he shares.  When children are told what they should be feeling (love, empathy, compassion, a desire to share) and they don’t yet have those feelings, what is actually created is shame and guilt in the child because they don’t feel what they’re supposed to.  Acknowledge his power to choose not to share.  The less a child is forced, coerced or manipulated into sharing the more likely they are to develop an intrinsic, and joyful, motivation to share.

Don’t protect your children from the natural consequences of their decisions – Just because you support your child’s right to choose not to share doesn’t mean there won’t be times when refusing to share leads to an unwanted consequence.  For instance, you may have a rule that when a friend comes over he must take out one toy he’s willing to share for each toy he isn’t willing to share.  He may choose not to share at all but that also means he can’t bring out any toys when his friend is over.  Or you can have him help you create a box of “share toys” for his friends to use when they come over.  There can be places when he doesn’t have to share at all (home with sister), and other places where if he wants to stay he must be willing to share (public park.)

Discuss and reflect with them about their choices and the outcomes – When natural consequences occur because of his decision not to share (you have to talk him home from the park because he refused to allow others to use the swing, or his friend became upset because he wouldn’t share his toy) discuss and reflect with him about what happened and whether he’s happy with the outcome.  “Why was Alex mad at you?” “Do you like it when he’s mad at you?” “Are you happy about how things turned out?”  “What could you do instead to get a better outcome?”

Joe Newman is a behavior consultant who trains parents, behavior specialists, teachers and administrators in the methods he’s developed.  During the last twenty years he’s been a teacher for 2nd through 12th grade classes, designed curriculum, and founded a national mentoring program.  His book Raising Lions was published in September 2010 and is available at

You can email them with questions at



Potty Training

November 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Brandy Black, Family

By: Brandy Black


Does anyone ever look forward to potty training? I think I’ve been dreading it for months. I envied friends that had put it behind them quickly, that saw that golden window of opportunity and went for it. We put it off. Honestly, I don’t think there was a window that we missed but maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. My daughter is now 2.9 years old and we determined that it is time. We have waited so long that now that it is finally time, we have done no preparation. We have one potty, Elmo’s Potty Time Video, and Pull Ups for nap and nighttime. I’m pretty sure I dropped the ball on the whole research thing this time. Somewhere along the line I actually got comfortable with being a parent and I’m wondering if maybe that wasn’t a good idea. The parenting books have been collecting dust and I’ve actually been reading delicious romantic novels again. But, now I fear we might be in trouble. I remember about a year ago reading an article about potty training and I don’t think it was this simple; if I remember correctly, it involved multiple potties in every room, a well-thought-out plan and I don’t remember what else but the article was pretty long. Here goes a deluge of insecure parenting moments; this happens every so often when someone gives me unwarranted advice. After I curse them out in my mind and come down from my pedestal, I realize that they might be right. Then I get angry at myself for not being more on top of it. Why did I read 32 Candles last night and not Superbaby? Why am I not using the words “take turns” instead of “share”? What’s the difference anyway? They are just words! How would a kid understand one more than the other? I really have to look that up! “I really have to look that up” seems to be part of my vocabulary quite often these days. I digress. Let’s get back to potty training. So we begin tomorrow and I have decided to document each day.

Wish me luck…

Day One

I was in a good mood today, ready to start the potty training, excited for a change. When Sophia woke up, I took her straight to the potty as if we’d been doing it for weeks. She refused to sit on it.

“No No No!” she screamed.

This was going to be a bad day. Susan is working and I refuse to go backwards. We’ve decided to do this, it’s clearly time, Sophia doesn’t really like her diapers, shes wants to wear underwear, but how in the world am I going to get her used to the potty?!

We put on her underpants and she sat on the couch with her milk to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. I put a towel underneath her just in case and brought the potty out to the living room, reminding her to tell me when she needed to go. 10 minutes later…

“Change my dipes, Mama.”

Running out to her from the kitchen, “you don’t have diapers, baby remember? Here, let’s go potty.”

But when I get to her, she’s wet, the couch is wet, the towel was futile. Thus begin my notes on Day One:

Accident Notes

1- wash couch cover (first accident)
2- take rug to laundromat (too big for our washing machine)
3- take living room rug to drycleaner (too big for laundromat)
4- this one was in the tub
5- just peed on clothes (not bad)

Loads of Laundry: 2

Pee in Potty
10:31AM- pee in potty (not with me, with Susan)
*Note she took the white thing out of the potty and just squatted over it. huh?!

4:13PM- pee in potty (not with me, with Susan)
*Note – there were 2 hours out of the day that Susan was available to assist and Sophia chose those 2 hours to potty.

5:28PM- pee in potty (hooray, finally I witness a win)
*Another interesting note- Sophia never goes potty in front of us


The Other Mother

July 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Brandy Black, Family

*My wife dropped in with a guest post.

By: Susan Howard

I get the entire team out of the house.

Dog: check.  Two year-old with pink tutu on: check.  And myself with a crumpled 5 dollar bill (the gateway to my double-tall latte): check.

We are going for a walk and I am a good mom.  I let little Sophia walk on her own and when it’s time to cross the street I pick her up.   This time I decide to explain the rules of the road.  Let her start to learn about looking left and right for cars.

“Do you see any cars?”

“Yes. Yes I see them.”

“Those are parked cars.  We are looking for moving cars.  Moving cars are dangerous.”

I pick her up and we cross the street.  Just as I put here back down to walk, a car comes whizzing by and Sophia jumps.

“It’s okay, we are on the sidewalk, we are safe on the sidewalk.”  I realize I need to be very specific when explaining things to my daughter.

On we walk.  She wants to hold the leash.  Our dog Bailey complies by walking slowly and doesn’t seem to mind when she pulls him.

I get my coffee and we turn around.  Down the stairs she walks, saying “Oye” with each step.  I have stopped saying that when tired and picking her up.  She sounds like a two year-old grandma.

We walk home and being the super good mom that I am, I tell her we are going to the library to hear stories.  That’s what all the good moms (or at least their nannies) do.  Sophia is lagging 5 feet behind, continuously picking up sticks all the while.

“Sophia we aren’t going to make it to the library if you take forever.  Come on,” I chide.


“Soph, let’s go.”

She stands still with seven or more sticks in her hand.

I turn and just look at her standing there and it dawns on me that she is two, standing on the sidewalk in her pink tutu which she refuses to leave the house without, standing on her little legs with a wondrous look.

I could rush her on, we are going to miss the reading.  Instead I sit down on the sidewalk.  She walks up to the dog and me and says “I got sticks.”  She places them down. “One two three four five.”  (She in fact has seven).  She takes two and says “Are these scissors?”  and starts crossing them back and forth.  Moments later she turns them into chopsticks for “Shooshi”.  Lastly she decides to give me a manicure with her nail clippers.

Yes, stopping does take more time and we will miss the reading, but all the books in the libraries have already been written.


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