Category Archives: Parenting

Preventing Child Abuse

Although I’ve traveled over much of the world and currently live an ocean away from where I grew up, I’m able to stay in touch with the news in my home town (Canton, Ohio) thanks to the Internet. I like to check out the home town newspaper (The Canton Repository) whenever I get a few spare moments.

I came across an extremely disturbing article there today about how some of the smallest children in Stark County (the county in which Canton sits) are being horribly abused and sometimes even killed by abuse. A one year old child who was placed on a dresser, then hit hard in the head and pushed off the dresser (he died). A two year old with a skull fracture so severe that surgeons had to remove skull fragments from her brain.

Why?

Click here to read the story about child abuse.

The Stark County Department of Children’s Services has placed over 1,000 pinwheels at a prominent location in Canton (the Market Avenue location is almost in the middle of the downtown area, if my memory serves me correctly). Each pinwheel represents a neglected or abused child. It’s a strong graphic image of the effect of child neglect and abuse and is hopefully serving as a reminder of something that needs to change.

Will you do me a favor RIGHT NOW while things are calm in your house? I’ll assume that you’re a parent (or thinking about becoming one) if you’re reading this blog. Take a moment to look in the government listings of your phone book for the listing for Family Advocacy, Children’s Services, or something similar. Write down the phone number and put that card on your refrigerator.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are so “whatever” that you think you might do something to hurt your child, CALL THAT NUMBER. Get help. Or if you’re in such a position and don’t have that card, call the police. Get help.

Speaking as the father of a precious toddler (22 months old as I write this), I can’t imagine hurting her. She’s bright, curious, and pure joy as far as I’m concerned. Putting an end to her childhood innocence by abuse or neglect is the last thing I’d want to do to that child. Nevertheless, I carry the number for the Family Advocacy program at our local military base (as well as the phone number for the Military Police detachment) in my wallet, just in case.

And if you know of a child who is being neglected, please make the call. Childhood is precious, and having a healthy environment while growing up is crucial to a child’s proper development. So make the call if abuse or neglect is evident. Please get involved.

Thanks for listening,
Tom

P.S. — I also have the phone number for our local Poison Control Center handy, just in case. And keep half a tank of gas in your car at all times in case you need to make that midnight run to the emergency room!

Three Syllable Words

(NOTE: This post was originally drafted back in mid-February 2008. I simply forgot to finish and publish it! — Tom)

Today Olivia said a three syllable word. She’s about 20.5 months old.

It kind of surprised me.

I’ve never claimed to be a child development expert or anything, and it may just be the proud parent in me at work, but I think that my little girl is exceptionally bright!

A lot of that is due to her big brother, Sammy (who is almost five years old now). He spends a lot of time with his little sister, and little sister wants to do everything that Sammy does. And yes, he does tend to talk a lot…

But that’s OK. We are the proud parents of a toddler who works really hard to communicate with us and who is content when she does get her point across. Life is much better that way.

Thanks for listening,
Tom

Five Years Old

Yesterday (April 12, 2008) was my son’s fifth birthday party. He officially turns five years old tomorrow, but it’s simply easier to let him think that his party day is his birthday!

Lots of things have happened during those five years. It simply amazes me how quickly children learn and grow during their childhood.

One of his gifts was a Brio builder set. It came with a bunch of wooden pieces, plastic connectors, and instructions on how to use the parts to build a fire truck and fire station. Other than a couple of times when he couldn’t quite get a piece lined up and pushed into place, he put it together himself by simply following the instructions.

This is the same child who was totally helpless just five short years ago?

Thankfully he’s also a very loving and very obedient boy. At the same time, he does have his own opinions about a lot of things, but he also knows that mom and dad are going to listen to him and give him the opportunity to have his say (this helps tremendously). He’s also an excellent big brother and really does have a sense of nurturing and protection.

So Happy Birthday to my big little boy. Or is it my little big boy (who just climbed up in my chair to give me a big kiss and a big hug…!).

–Tom

Am I Stuck In The Mud?

Sometimes I feel as if I have to have something of incredible value to share before I post to this blog. You know, some incredible parenting insight that I’ve gleaned from my 25+ years of parenting.

Oh, yuck. While I do have experience and like to blog, I don’t think that I’m an expert or anything.

So I’m going to just start writing about whatever comes to mind… Some good posts can come out of those random ramblings!


We’re getting closer and closer to Easter. My son’s local kindergarten is having an Easter celebration today, so my wife baked cupcakes and decorated them real nice. She also took some Easter candy to school so that my son could share it with his classmates.

Apparently it went over quite well (or so my wife reports). The teachers were extremely happy that Iveta went to the extra effort to make the day extra special for the children.

One of the teachers commented that it is quite difficult to get parents to do stuff like this any more. In a way, that doesn’t surprise me; after all, life is extremely busy nowadays. Finances are tight for most people, and between both spouses working and taking care of children, there simply isn’t much time left to do anything else.

We are fortunate that Iveta can be a full-time mother (as well as being a full-time wife, full-time cook, full-time house cleaner…). It gives her time to do things like this and to make life a bit more special for our children.

If I may, I’d like to encourage you to take a few moments out of your busy schedule to make these special occasions for your child just a bit more “special”. These are once in a lifetime opportunities to do something that will last a lifetime. While they may forget the cupcakes you made for their kindergarten class today, this consistent building of memories can help strengthen the bond between you and your child.

Think of it this way: Every thing you do for your young child — every moment spent with them, every memory built — will make your job all that much easier as they grow older and begin seeking their independence. While life with my older children was never 100% smooth during their teen years, I think that we went through them quite smoothly, and a large part of that was due to time spent with them in their childhood and the memories we built. And things do get better once the teen years are successfully navigated!

I left home for basic training (Army) when I was 18 years old. When I returned home on leave two months later, it seemed as if my father had taken some sort of pills to make himself smarter during those two months! Of course, getting out into the world on my own and being responsible for myself was the real reason, and those lessons made me appreciate my father all that much more. He had built a solid foundation through the years that turned into an excellent relationship once I was in a position to appreciate it.

Don’t ever give up.

–Tom

Three Syllable Words

Today Olivia said a three syllable word. She’s about 20.5 months old.

It kind of surprised me.

I’ve never claimed to be a child development expert or anything, and it may just be the proud parent in me at work, but I think that my little girl is exceptionally bright!

A lot of that is due to her big brother, Sammy (who is almost five years old now). He spends a lot of time with his little sister, and little sister wants to do everything that Sammy does. And yes, he does tend to talk a lot…

But that’s OK. We are the proud parents of a toddler who works really hard to communicate with us and who is content when she does get her point across. Life is much better that way.

Oh, I almost forgot to say the word. “Her-bat-ka”. It’s the Polish word for “tea”. The “-ka” part is a diminutive form of the word (like “Johnny” is to “John” in English) and it’s common to teach this form of words to small children when they are learning Polish.

Both of our children understand Polish. Olivia speaks a few words and Sammy speaks it fairly well — when he feels like it.

I’ve observed a few other couples from different countries where more than one language was spoken in the house. In most of those cases, as is ours, one parent is usually much better at one language than the other and tends to strongly favor that language when talking to the child. As a result, the child comes to expect each parent (as well as other adults) to speak a certain language. In our case, though, both of us speak both languages fairly well, and while English is probably favored, there is no “expectation” from our children.

Let us start speaking German, though…

I’ll talk more about language in my next post.

Thanks for listening,
Tom

Why (Not) Me?

The past couple of days have been less than optimal. Slow traffic, cantankerous computers, co-workers who want to talk about cars, movies, and other things that are of no interest to me, German bureaucracies that STILL can’t get me DSL (where’s your incredible world-leading technological supremacy, Germany? It sure hasn’t reached Bondork!), extra expenses…

Tonight, as I write this, I’m with my 20 month old daughter, Olivia, in my office. She’s sitting in her special chair and holding her stuffed dog (which looks remarkably like our Golden Retriever) while she watches “Baby Beethoven” (one of Disney’s “Baby Einstein” videos). It’s a special one; she only gets to watch it when she’s in Daddy’s office.

All I can think about is how none of this would be here were it not for how God brought Iveta and me together over 10 years ago. Why should I, of all people, be so blessed?

Then again, why not? My God is a God of infinte good. Why wouldn’t He want me, as someone He saved from infinite bad, to have infinite good?

I’m beginning to like working from my home office!

The other issues? They’ll go away eventually. Even the extra expenses; I came to the conclusion that these expenses are coming into my life only because I’m ready to take them on. Taking it farther, it means that if the cash isn’t on hand to meet these expenses, then I’m not providing enough in the way of value to manifest that cash. In other words, even those extra bills are my fault, so to speak.

So back to work — as soon as Olivia decides that she’s sleepy so I can start recording videos (besides, I like Beethoven, too!).

Thanks for listening,
Tom

Wait Until They Are Ready For Toilet Training

I wish that I could remember the source of a very wise quote I heard a long time ago. For that matter, I wish that I could remember the quote directly! But the gist of the quote is that most normal, healthy children do different things at different times, but by the time they are fix or six years old, most of the “basic stuff” — including toilet training — is taken care of. While different children reach certain early childhood milestones at different times, they all seem to catch up on the “basics” by the time they are ready to enter school (children in the U.S. usually enter school when they are five or six years old; this may vary from the standard in your country).

Take my children as an example. I thought that one of my children (who is now an adult) would never start talking (and as I learned from the movie “Schreck” many years later, the trick isn’t getting them to talk; it’s getting them to shut up…). My youngest — who just turned 19 months old — is already starting to string together sentences even though she still can’t pronounce the words very well (but mommy and daddy understand her “language”).

In much the same way, children will develop the skills and motivation for toilet training at different times. Don’t push it because this will only cause extra stress for you AND the child. One child I know had problems until she was halfway through elementary school because of undue pressure to get her to “perform” long before she was ready, and any major life event, such as moving or going to a new school, could cause a relapse. And as far as I’m concerned, it was the parents’ fault, not the child’s (but I learned…).

We took that into account with my son, who is now almost five years old. We talked to him about it and encouraged him (using the techniques I mentioned in the previous post). Eventually, with lots of loving support and encouragement, HE decided that he was ready. The result? Only a couple of minor accidents and a lot of confidence. Not to mention the new hobby of exploring every public bathroom he finds…

Another thing to keep in mind is that younger children may not know the difference between a diaper and underwear, or even if they do, it may not be important enough to them to remember — especially when they are totally engrossed in play and in “being” a small child. “Am I wearing a diaper or underwear? Oh, well, here goes nothing…”. If they aren’t yet ready to learn and remember the difference, while it may be profitable to do “awareness training”, you’re wasting your time if you’re striving for consistent performance.

Thanks for listening,
Tom

Toilet Training For Parents

Toilet training, potty training… we’ve all heard it called various things. It’s that wonderful time in life when we begin to teach our children not to use diapers.

The only problem is that they sometimes continue to act as if they are wearing diapers even after they stop wearing them!

I’ve more or less successfully moved three of my four children out of diapers and the fourth will begin “sometime”. Exactly when that “sometime” will come is not certain — and the reason for that uncertainty is the purpose of this first (in a series) of posts about potty training.

Parents, YOU are the first thing that needs to be trained. From my own experience, PLEASE wait until they are ready. It makes life much easier! Our baby’s “sometime” will come when she, not we, are ready.

The big first step, of course, is awareness — and that’s where “parent training” starts to take place. Your child will most likely give some sort of sign that they are relieving themselves. When you see this, just ask them if they are doing something in their diaper (use whatever terms you decide on; from my perspective, I think that so-called “baby talk” simply teaches your child to speak baby talk, so I’d use whatever words you would normally use for such functions). If they say “yes”, then gently remind them that they can use the toilet for that and ask if they want to.

In other words, you have to “catch them in the act” and take advantage of the opportunity to sell an alternative.

Another “first tactic” to use is to talk to them as you change their diaper. Tell them how much nicer it would be if they would use the toilet. Speak in terms that would benefit them, such as always having dry, clean pants. I think that most small children want to please their parents, so don’t hesitate to tell them how it would also benefit you and ask them to help.

Gentle, consistent encouragement from you is an important first step after they show an awareness of what is happening.

I’ll talk a bit more about why it’s important to wait in my next post.

Thanks for listening,
Tom

Baby See, Baby Do

Maybe it’s the odd-ball selection of merchandise. Perhaps it’s ever-changing selection of merchandise on the shelves. And of course it’s the low prices…

But I like to spend a few minutes in second-hand stores whenever I get the opportunity to do so. My wife loves it even more. Thankfully, I haven’t come across a decent-sized military base yet that doesn’t have one, so we can indulge almost any time we want.

With winter fast approaching here in southern Germany, my wife picked up some snow boots for our 16 month old girl the other day. She also got a pair of those shoes that convert into roller skates at the push of a button for our 4.5 year old son.

My son wanted to put on his shoes later that evening, so he pulled them off the shelf and started putting them on. Much to my pleasant surprise, his little sister toddled over to the shoe shelf, took her new boots, and insisted on wearing them, too!

I hadn’t realized how much our little daughter looks up to, and admires, her big brother. Since big brother had his new shoes on, she had to have her new shoes on, too. While she definitely loves mommy and daddy, she simply adores her big brother (and, of course, the child-proof Golden Retriever!).

Since then, I’ve been doing my best to point out to big brother just how much he means to her. Thankfully he realizes this and takes his “responsibility” as a big brother quite seriously. In any case, as parents, older siblings, or even a “dog”, we need to remember that small children are watching us every day, mimicking our moves, absorbing “us” — and act appropriately.

So please: set a good example for those small children!

Thanks for listening,
Tom