Hug and Kiss ‘em & Hold ‘em close to you!

From the moment I conceived, it was my fantasy to have a super tactile bond with my child after he/she would be born (for the longest possible time, I felt it would be a girl!). After my son was born, things became different and the first three months were extremely painful feeding him or holding him thanks to my C-section stitches. So all maternal feelings vanished into thin air and all I could think was sleep or having “me-time”. There was hardly a chance to cuddle up with him! Post partum depression had hit me big time and me not being able to calm down a screaming infant had dipped my morale too. Motherhood was nothing like I had imagined it would be! Besides I was terrified that my son would not accept me if I didn’t develop a bond early on. Of course, that did not happen. It was a mom’s fear that had spoken.

After he entered the infamous toddler phase, I became the quintessential “villain” for my son – the usual don’t do this and that. Yet again, my dreams of becoming my son’s best buddy were vanishing into thin air! I used to look at my calm and cool friends and envy their tactile bond with their children. I often wondered what it would take to bond like that with my baby.

The toddler phase, trust me, isn’t an easy one, especially when it becomes a power struggle between you and your child. I traversed this phase of feeling triumphant when I managed to make my son do exactly what I wanted, to him feeling triumphant after he threw a tantrum and got what he wanted. One day, I broke down in front of my best friends. After speaking to them, I recognized the vicious cycle that I had entered. They made me realize that using force isn’t going to help my cause. I simply failed to communicate to my son that harmony was what I wanted. He was getting more distanced from me.

Finally I changed my approach and touch was the first thing I started focusing on. I realized I needed to assure him that I will be with him no matter what! Another major change I brought in my outlook is to calm down and take three deep breaths the moment I knew I was going to lose my cool. The next was to go hug him tight and hold him close to me when he was screaming his lungs out.

Exactly at this time, I had purchased Carlos Gonzales’ book “Kiss Me”. This book completely transformed my approach with my son. I began to look at him like another adult who has feelings, emotions and thoughts of his own vis a vis a stubborn, angry and disobedient toddler. It was rather fascinating to see how hugging him, holding him close to me helped connect with him better. Of course, constantly talking to him became a cherry on the cake.

Very few understand the importance of touch.  According to the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, School of Medicine, positive touch stimulates pressure receptors under the skin, lowering the heart rate, slowing the breath, decreasing stress hormones and boosts the immune system.

I also started following the gentle parenting principles where I decided to put the “ball in his court” for everything; putting him in charge of everything important to him – his toys, books and rest of his paraphernalia. Slowly, I extended this approach to eating too — asking him what he wanted to eat or even where he wanted to go or what game he wanted to play. Today at 4.5 years, he feels a lot more responsible for the tasks assigned to him.  Our power struggles have reduced a lot too!

I also keep sharing my thoughts and feelings with my son daily. It is extremely important to let your child know that you are in perfect sync with his thoughts and feelings too. Over a period of time, he will also feel the onus to express himself in normal tones (sans yelling) to you. He will cease to look at you as an “authoritarian” figure in his life and make you his buddy too.

It is important to let go at some points of time, to ignore some things that he or she does. Most importantly, your child must know you are trying to correct his behaviour and not him; you are not going to judge him or label him for life for his behaviour. For this, the more you hug him, hold him close to you, the more he will be emotionally assured that you will be there with him!

So what are you waiting for? Go cuddle your angry baby now!!

Early Reader becomes a Bookworm

I have borrowed the above statement from a famous adage: “The early bird gets the worm”. We all learned this proverb in school. It applies to every walk of life. In case of children, this adage gains more significance as they cross various milestones in life. There are some habits or values which we want our kids to imbibe early. They are called modeled habits.

This is the main reason why we introduce certain habits early. For instance, right from brushing teeth twice a day to three meals a day (differs in every culture and community), we do this in front of our kids so that they imbibe it.

Similarly, book reading is also a modeled habit. If we read books or newspapers in front of our kids or set a routine of reading out newspapers or story books aloud (depending on the age), then it will ensure they will enjoy reading a lot more than we imagined.

Books are great to enhance imagination and also engage a child constructively. Most of the time kids these days would prefer the screen. But what a visual medium does, is to kill the imagination of a child. Whilst reading a book, the same child will be forced to imagine the scene, the plot, characters, seasons and sometimes even a piece of music mentioned by the author.

Reading helps in writing and developing other fine arts at a later stage. As you read each word, it gets embedded in the memory and helps in word-picture association at a later stage. The child will be able to do his projects effectively and without help. He will use these early associations (from his or her early reading sessions) during his learning sessions at home/or school. In effect, it helps in enriching vocabulary – pictorial, verbal and wriitten.

The earlier you take to reading, the more it will help during your early learning years as well as professional life. You cannot develop love for books overnight especially after you have become adults. If you notice some people around you say that they do not like books, one of the main reasons is that they were never encouraged to read when they were small or they were pushed into academics by parents saying reading books is a waste of time! I am sure most of you reading this will be able to relate to this.

So begin as early as possible – as early as when your child is curious to explore coloured flyers/newspapers/books or magazines. Do not kill that curiosity with your concern that they will tear the book to pieces. Slowly inculcate the habit by showing pictures, sitting with your children and eventually they will understand why books are lovely and they should not damage them.

Reading is a life-long gift that you can gift your child!

Toddler to Bookworm – a mom’s journey

I have been a bookworm and books were my best friends since childhood. I intended to do the same for my son.

I still remember being gifted many small board books when my son was born and, some when he turned 6 months. My first response when I got these books was: how will this tiny bundle understand what books are, let alone words or language or illustrations in it! It was a time when I was doing extensive research online and discovered that books can be introduced as early as 3 months.

Having said that, I still attempted to open and keep books in front of my six month old. The first time, he took them in his hand very professionally (holding it and keeping it in front of his face), and decided to utilize his gross motor skills and tore a book. The matronly instinct in me made me take away the book away from him and scold him. After that I made sure I hand books to him only if I am sitting with him.

Mommy instincts & “let-go” approach
The first time mommy instinct in me took over and made me constantly indulge in: don’t touch this, don’t tear that, don’t create a mess etc. After a while, it became clear to me that the “don’t do this or that” approach will not work with my energetic toddler as he often challenged me by deliberately doing things to catch my attention.

Another thought that occurred to me was I might make him averse to books by constantly saying negative. Slowly I adopted the “let-go” approach with him by letting him handle books as he pleased. I realized he was trying to explore books. Eventually he stopped biting books or tearing them too; in fact he loved turning pages and simply looking at pictures.

First books
His first books were “touch-and-feel” books. He learned texture as well as various objects/animals. Then slowly went on to board books. Both the above mentioned are picture rich. After he turned 2, it became a night time ritual to read out stories – he was in love with mythological and animal tales at one point! Slowly I got hard book covers and paperbacks. The stories graduated to small kids and adults in his language. The tone of my story telling changed from baby voices to adult tones. That I believe was the turning point for developing his vocabulary and language. Another vital lesson learnt was that speaking in normal adult language (voice and tone) helps kids learn languages faster, especially the mother tongue.

Never-too-late approach
I admit I introduced stories quite late to him but as a 3.8 year old now, he loves stories of any type. So I do not believe that if you have introduced books later too, it is perfectly fine.

It all began with familiarizing him with the book texture, doing picture talk, showing and reading stories on objects/birds/animals/humans, and gradually making him hear stories (sometimes with, and without books too).

Story Telling v/s visual media
I believe developing listening and comprehension skills are as important for developing imagination for a child. Hence the last medium is very important to be started at an early age. So my suggestion would be to start narrating stories without any visual mediums (books/TV/CDs).

The biggest advantages of storytelling are:

  1. You will have undivided attention of the toddler.
  2. Improved listening skills and concentration
  3. Wild and colourful imagination developed (vital to brain development)
  4. Thoughts and perceptions remain unbiased thanks to no visual mediums, which are mostly an overload for a small kid.

Lastly, the more you tell stories, the more the child will be interested to know what lies in those colourful pages.


Benefits of reading to babies

Reading to baby even before they can incorporate with the words and pictures is one important thing to have a special bonding with the baby and for a quality time.. It exposes the baby to your voice which is soothing thing to the baby..
Though the kid cannot understand what you are reading slowly your kid will begin to pick up with the tone, rhythm, words and cues of your voce and reading patterns..It can also help you with developing the kids vocabulary which gets developed with the number of words the baby hear everyday..Slowly your kid starts responding to your voice and tone with movements of hands and legs while reading and helps the kids exposed to different feelings.
At first baby will be listening only to the rhyming words and rhythms/sing along .. SO choose the books accordingly..Eg.. Goodnight moon by Margaret wise brown
From 3 months the kid will start focusing on the patterns on the pages.. While reading in that search start including lots and lots of picture books with different textures and patterns with variety of shapes and bright colours which the kid will start relating out in the later reads in future.. You can start choosing board books, books with textures(touch and feel books), fold out books, puppet books,cloth books and so on..
Making it part of their daily routine makes them feel that reading has to be enjoyed not a task to be done only in school for memorizing..
Read the books aloud for that age group of kids which increases communication and builds listening, vocabulary and memory skills
• Read with expression with different voice notes and pitches
• Cuddling while reading helps your baby safe, warm and close to you
• Make funny sounds to make the baby feel reading is enjoyable
• Read the same books over and over again .. Nothing wrong in reading the same book and added fact is that babies learn from repetition
• There is nothing like its necessary to complete the book you have started reading or you have to read only the phrases of the book text..Add some words of your own to make reading more interesting

World Books Day – A mom’s book chronicles

World Books Day – A mom’s book chronicles

Books are a man’s best friend. This adage has been proven time and again. Any one born in the pre-digital era will list out their collection of books and their favourite authors in a jiffy. During my growing years (1980s-90s), Panchatantra, Amar Chitra Katha, Hitopadesha, Champak and Readers Digest, were my best friends during train travel and vacations.

I don’t exactly recollect how and when I fell in love with the print for the first time, but I do remember when I did, it was meant to be a forever bond! Whether I was happy, sad or angry, I would just go to my corner and read my favourite book. I still remember the morning of my Xth board exams. I had an unfinished novel in my hand. Such was my love for books!

Other days, after school hours and play time, at least half an hour was reserved for reading aloud newspaper stories and headlines and sometimes, solving an occasional Crossword. Those were the Doordarshan days when the television channels would blank out automatically at 10! These days, it is unimaginable to even manually switch off the TV by the same time. Today being World Books Day, these memories got refreshed.

Now, I try to recreate the same magic for my toddler who “miraculously” (will explain that in a bit) loves listening to stories being read aloud to him before sleeping. The reason I said “miraculously” is because my toddler still has a soft corner for the idiot box that I am trying to replace with books. I am confident that slowly yet steadily, he will also make books his best friend just like I did!