August 16, 2011

My Little Super Star

August 7, 2011

“Where IS Your Mother?” an Interview on Toddler Etiquette


As parents, it’s always difficult to teach our children social graces, especially when our kids are toddlers. I wanted to make certain I was on the right track and teaching my two toddlers, ages one and two, etiquette skills that would hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives. So who better steer us in the right direction than the author of “Where IS Your Mother?” Ava Carroll-Brown.  This book is available at Amazon, to view it please click here: Where IS Your Mother?: A Simple and Suggestive Guide to Basic Etiquette and Simple Grace

Q. So Ava, can you please tell the readers what inspired you to write this book?
A. We are living in a high tech world and many people, myself included, feel that it is time to get back to the basics… with basic etiquette and simple grace at the top of the list.

Q. How early should parents start teaching their children about etiquette?
A. When a child begins to understand the words yes and no, they are ready.

Q. What should a toddler’s first lesson in etiquette be?
A. Please and thank you, which goes hand in hand with patience.

Q. How should parents go about reinforcing these lessons in etiquette with their children?
A. Be consistent.


Q. What basics of etiquette should parents be teaching their toddlers at mealtimes?
A. When at the table, one sits and eats the food placed before him. The table is not playtime.

Q. Should toddlers be helping their parents to set the table?
A. Most definitely at EVERY meal. Teach the toddlers how and where to place the utensils, plates, napkins and glassware, reminding them the use of each piece.

Q. What is an effective way to teach toddlers to eat with their utensils properly?
A. Always place utensils (The spork is the first followed by the fork and spoon) in the toddlers meal space and encourage the proper way to hold the utensil, get the food on the utensil and then get the food into their mouths. An example is great and in the beginning assistance is needed. Start with easy foods – breakfast: scrambled eggs, pancakes, oatmeal. Lunch: Mac & Cheese, cut up hot dogs, etc. Dinner: carrots, chicken pieces, broccoli heads, green beans, etc. Food items that can be scooped up on the utensil and will make it into their mouths.

Q. At mealtimes, how do you reinforce to toddlers not to reach for anything on the table, but to ask to have it passed?
A. Teaching the lesson of ‘your space – my space’ which simply means that what is on my plate is mine – what is on a serving plates must be requested…nicely. Also the ‘my space – your space’ lesson says that it is never proper or polite to take something from anyone else’s plate. This lesson also carries into school.


Q. How should parents encourage their children to practice their manners in play date settings when their little playmates do not adhere to the same principles of etiquette?
A. Consistency in the lesson and continuing to remind the child that his good manners make mommy and daddy happy and proud will combat the “he didn’t play nice, why should I question”.

Q. Can you please share from your book, some simple ways to teach small kids to play nice and share with their friends?
A. Express the importance of sharing by reminding the kids that these toys will be returned to the child at the end of the play date. Tell the kids that sharing makes everyone happy and remind the child how happy he is when someone shares with him. Playing nice needs to be encouraged – pushing and fighting makes us sad so, again, consistency in the lessons and give reminders when a situation occurs, eventually these lessons will be learned.

The Art of Interacting

Q. What is the best way to ensure toddlers know the proper way of greeting people? How do parents manage greetings when their toddler is shy and not wanting to engage with others?
A. As a toddler, this lesson can begin when another child enters the space of your toddler. Parents need to make an introduction – ‘Jimmy, this is Suzie’ or ‘Do you remember Suzie?’… As the child gets older, continue the introductions and encourage them to use their words – say Hi to Suzie… this lesson may take longer to learn for some than others, but never stop the encouragement; eventually, the words will flow from the mouth of the toddler, short and sweet or a lengthy chatter.

Q. Should parents teach their toddlers the art of correspondence? And if so, what are some age appropriate ways of doing it when the children are too young to be able to write?
A. At most stationery stores, there are fill in the blank thank you notes for young children in which they can print their name or follow instruction to print letters of the alphabet. For those children that are just too young to print, having the child draw or color a pretty picture for a specific person is a great first step of correspondence – and when the piece of art is presented, encourage the child to use his words when giving the art to the person and perhaps a few words about the piece of art.

Q. Is it too early to teach toddlers the basics of polite telephone conversation?
A. To a toddler under the age of 2, a telephone may be perceived as just another toy, but parents should point out the difference between mommy/daddy’s phone and his phone. At age 3, many toddlers can be taught to press one button of the phone and one number that has been pre-set for emergency. Sounds unbelievable but there are reports of toddlers doing just that and saving the day. Picking up a toddler’s phone and pretending that a call is coming in and using the proper words to answer, over and over again, is the first step of polite telephone conversation. Also pretending that grandparents or a parent is calling and giving the phone to the toddler and encouraging the words of the conversation politely is step number. Be consistent…it works.

Being Polite

Q. How can parents and caregivers encourage toddlers to say please and thank you?
A. Consistency and repetition… when you hand a child anything, always ask ‘what do you say’ or repeat the word ‘please’ and the child will eventually say please. When the child takes an item from your hand or gives you an item, you repeat the words thank you and eventually, the child will do the same. REPEAT, REPEAT – CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY!

Q. What can parents do to dissuade their toddlers to not interrupt mom or dad when they are on the phone, unless it’s an emergency?
A. Simply address the situation remembering that an emergency to a child may not be an emergency to you – Excuse yourself from the conversation, look at the child and say quietly, ‘I am on the phone – please be patient’. If the child persists, again, excuse yourself from the conversation, ask what the emergency is (using the word emergency). Address the issue if it is an emergency – if not, instruct the child that you are on the phone and you will address the request when you are finished.
When you are finished, again, explain the word, EMERGENCY… eventually, the child will learn that the phone on mommy’s ear is not a growth and he must be patient… again, the important thing here is consistency!

Q. How do you get toddlers to not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them?
A. Unfortunately, it is difficult to completely control the innocent words from a child’s mouth but there are some quick save comments that can lighten the situation. First, kids are like parrots and they will repeat the words heard from their parents and others at any time. So, as a parent be very careful of what you say. Second, when out in public, if comments are made about anyone or anything; make those comments positive – never negative. Example: What a beautiful dress that lady is wearing. What a handsome little boy. Look how nicely that the girl is playing in the play area… Always positive and good comments so when the toddler uses his words, his mind will only be filled with positive thoughts.

Q. What are some practical ways to teach a toddler to have empathy for others?
A. First by example and most importantly by reminding the child at any given opportunity how good it makes one feel if they are kind and considerate of others.

Social Settings

Q. How do you get your toddler to sit quietly during concerts or church?
A. Start taking the child to these functions early in age and always sit on the end seats. Remember that they are toddlers and their attention span is not very long, especially if their little fingers are not busy. Quiet books and gold fish often work well. But if they do not want to sit quietly, get up and leave the space…then try it again. Practice makes perfect and eventually, toddlers attending adult functions will be a nice experience for all.

Q. How can caregivers and parents teach toddlers to be gracious in defeat when playing sports or games?
A. This is a hard one but it can be done. Remember, the child reacts from the energy of the parents and surrounding people. Positive or negative, the energy comes from the team parents, older siblings and coaches. When the toddler is interacting with others win or loose ALWAYS congratulate the sport or game. Great game – you played so well.

Encourage the child to approach the opposing team members and congratulate the game or sport. And when the comments come back to mom and dad that, ‘I wish we would have won’… parents, with a smile will say, “it was a great game – you did so well and we are so proud of you…”

Final Thoughts

Q. Can you give the readers any parting words of wisdom to encourage them as they attempt to teach their children the fine art of etiquette?
A. Always be consistent – repetition of a lesson is the key. Teach by example – busy or not, it only takes a few minutes to teach your child the basics of etiquette and simple grace. These lessons are not time consuming – like any good lesson they may take time to learn but throughout a day, there are many opportunities to teach the lessons…Busy world or not, the kids will always look up to their parents to learn!



Biography of Ava Carroll-Brown:

Ava Carroll-Brown and her design company, Brownstone Place, are one of the most sought after entities in the nation. Brown has over 30 years of experience skillfully and flawlessly planning elegant affairs throughout the nation as well as amongst Hollywood’s elite. Brown has worked with many A-list celebrities including Mel Gibson and his daughter, Hannah Mae, Kenny Wayne Sheppard; actor Mark Feuerstein, producer Dana Klein; MLB All-Star Mike Lieberthal, multi-NBA Championship winner and Sacramento Kings coach, Mario Elie, and news anchor Gina Gaston, to name a few. Brown meets any challenge with open arms: whether she is designing the bride’s million-dollar jewelery or coordinating wedding singer Hugh Jackman! She has a meticulous eye for detail and her passion has lead her down many paths including becoming a contributing writer for national publications and an annual columnist for Ceremony Magazine. Brown has been recognized in publications including In Style, Los Angeles Magazine, Grace Ormonde’s Wedding Style, Town and Country and Ceremony Magazine.

August 4, 2011

A Review of The Help

I just finished reading “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, and I’m telling you, I couldn’t put it down. This book tells the tale of what it was like to be a black maid before and during the civil rights movement of the 1960s in racially charged Mississippi. It focuses on two maids, Aibileen and Minny and a twenty three year old white woman named Eugenie a.k.a, Skeeter. I won’t give any spoilers from this novel. But I feel it’s important to note that this book prompts the reader to open their eyes and look at what’s going on around them, question inequality, and advocate against injustice. You cannot come away from this book without re-evaluating your own interactions: in your communities, with your friends and in your own families. In its reading, questions of how we see people and how we treat the people around us niggle at our conscience and rest uncomfortably under our skin. This book prompts you to try and remember the words that come out of our mouths, especially when our children are around? Are they words that build others up or words that break others down? As we read this book we have to query within our minds and hearts if we truly open ourselves up to seeing the similarities between us and others or do we set up barriers and pre-conceived notions that are intended to keep the differences clearly in our view. This book addresses the intersection of class, race, gender inequalities and so much more. I believe that this book along with other notable ones of its ilk can be used as a starting point for discussion, and hopefully those discussions will help lead to understanding, reconciliation and even more positive change. After all, it’s only when we come together with hearts filled with peace and love that we can finally combat ignorance and hate.

Here are two of my favourite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King:
1. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
2. “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

With these words, I send peace, love and blessings your way: to you, your family, your community, your nation; our world.

August 3, 2011

A new take on an old classic

I’m always looking for fresh new ways to jazz up old lullabies and nursery rhymes for my kids. When I found this one, I couldn’t help but share it with you. Check out this funkified version of “Hush little baby” by one of my favourite old school (1990s lol) artist’s, Lauryn Hill.

July 19, 2011

Carpe Diem – Seize The Day

I am always excited when I watch my kids master a new challenge. When they started to walk, my mind automatically fast-forwarded to the day they would run, then the day they would ride a bike or ski or skate. These are skills that come out of desire, opportunity and privilege. When I think back to my own childhood, I had great and wonderful desires: to be a ballet dancer, an astronaut; to own a pocket sized fire breathing dragon that would share my room. These dreams and desires of an elementary-aged Char ranged from the fantastical to the mundane. But without opportunity, many of these desires were not to be. As a child of a strict immigrant parent, I experienced a different childhood than most middle-class North American kids my age. When my girlfriends were going to dance classes, swimming lessons or were just out riding their bikes, I was picking up my little sister from daycare or school and going home to do chores, babysit, and work on my homework. The one exception to this was piano lessons, which my mom would have gotten an extra job to pay for, and would have carried me there on her back if it would have convinced me to return to those dreaded torture sessions. I have since wished that I had stuck with it.
There were not many opportunities to acquire the skills that my contemporaries took for granted. We could not afford a bike so I didn’t learn to ride, I was rarely allowed to go ‘hang out’ so I didn’t learn to swim down at the local pool or at the lake with my friends, and we could not afford a car when I was a teenager so I didn’t bother trying to get my license. Over the years, the list of things I couldn’t do started to add up and to me, {Char the over achiever, maker of lists, organizer extraordinaire, ‘let’s whip this into shape’ whiz kid and only ‘A’s’ are allowed alumni}, the unshakable feeling that I had failed myself absolutely sucked. So I jumped feet first into activities like going to camp, learning to canoe properly and pitching a tent. But I’ve been resting on my laurels with those achievements for a while now, and I’m at the point where I’m ready to tackle all the practical things on my list.
I cringe to share these things with you because I have overcompensated for them for so long. So here is my confession. Although, I have been very candid with my good friends about the missing gaps in my skill set, there are however, some extended friends and acquaintances who are convinced that I don’t swim because– (before kids) I needed to lounge on the pool deck for everyone to see just how cute I looked in my swim suit and – (after kids) that I didn’t want to get my hair wet [a total black girl excuse that I shamelessly threw out there]. I also told them that I don’t ride a bike because…well, why would you? …at which point I would give an adorably quizzical look and change the subject…“was that a bunny that just hopped past?” As for driving, “well transit’s way better for our environment…” The list goes on and on. So enough with excuses, this is my time to shine! I have chosen to discard the shame that I’m a thirty six year old woman who doesn’t have the skills that some ten year olds have mastered. So, drum roll please…here is my ‘Super Awesome, Totally Tubular Bucket List for the summer!-)

1. Learn to drive
2. Learn to ride a bike
3. Learn to swim
4. Learn to play the guitar

I have two months to master this new set of challenges and I’ve already started several of my classes. My motivator is my kids, who I cannot expect to stick with a new challenge long enough to become adept, if I don’t set that example. I want to be a positive role model for them. I want them to realize that we have the privilege and the opportunity, so if we desire to learn something new, we should never squander that chance. I don’t ever want my kids to say they’re too young or too old to learn something new. My favourite Latin phrase is ‘Carpe Diem’ and I hope my kids will choose to adopt it as their own. I refuse to let fear, anxiety and embarrassment stand in my way any longer. Instead, I will master these skills, cross them off my list and keep on adding more. There is a time and season for all things and this is my season to seize the day and learn something new!