Responding to Toddlers’ Irrational Behavior

Amelia, told that she can’t have a fifth book before bedtime, shouts: “You are the meanest mommy! You are not invited to my birthday party!” Derek, when offered a choice between carrots and cheese, not ice cream, before dinner announces: “I don’t like the choices you are choicing me!” Alex hurls a bowl of his favorite cereal off the table and screams, “I said the red bowl, not the blue bowl!” If any of these exclamations sounds familiar, you are not alone. Welcome to what can feel like the Wild West of toddlerhood.

But seen through the eyes of the child, and through the lens of development, these behaviors, while maddening, are utterly normal, and signal important milestones are being achieved. Further, these incidents don’t have to be dreaded, as they are opportunities to teach children to manage their emotions, learn to cope with frustration and disappointment, and find ways to feel in control of their ever-expanding worlds in prosocial, acceptable ways.

Getting clear on expectations is critical because the meaning we assign to a child’s behavior influences how we manage our own emotions and reactions to the behavior at hand. If we see the behavior as manipulative or purposely designed to drive us crazy, then we are much more likely to react in angry or harsh ways that escalate instead of calm our child. If, instead, we see these behaviors in the context of normal development, then we can approach our children with empathy and be more effective in teaching good coping skills.

Here are some important factors that influence young children’s behavior that are helpful to keep in mind when dealing with challenging behaviors:

1) Young children are driven by emotions, not logic, so irrational behavior is normal and to be expected. Toddlers don’t have a real understanding of time—they live and react in the moment. They have very little self-control. They want what they want when they want it.

2) Toddlers are becoming increasingly aware that they are separate beings—that they can have different thoughts and feelings from others. This means that while they want to sleep in your bed, they know this is not what you have in mind. This new cognitive milestone, coupled with toddlers’ innate drive to exert some control over their world, leads to an all-out effort to bring you around to their way of thinking. They are extremely clever and will try any and all tactics at their disposal (calling you names, threatening to never go to sleep, or throwing a knock-down-drag-out tantrum, to name a few). This is often what many parents call “manipulation,” but which I like to think of as strategic, as beautifully illustrated by this shrewd three-year-old. When she cried out for food every night after she was put to bed (not more than 15 minutes after having passed up the snack offered at book-reading time), her parents appeared at her bedside, snacks in hand. The next morning she told her dad, “I just want to let you know that tonight after you put me to bed I am going to be very hungry!”

3) Toddlers have strong feelings but few tools for managing them at this young age. Think about it—many adults are still working on being aware of their feelings and choosing to act on them in healthy ways.

So, what’s a parent to do?

  1. Stay in control when your child is spiraling out of control. Managing your emotions and reactions is one of most important parenting tools at your disposal. When parents get reactive and emotional, it tends to escalate the child’s upset and intensify power struggles. When your child is losing it, she needs you to be her rock and stay sane and rational.
  2. Keep in mind that you can’t actually make your child do anything–eat, sleep, pee, poop, talk, or stop having a tantrum. What you do have control over is how you respond to your child’s actions, as this is what guides and shapes their behavior. If throwing a tantrum results in extra iPad time, a later bedtime, or simply getting more of your attention, your toddler is putting two and two together, making an important assessment: “Excellent strategy! Put that one in the win column.”
  3. This is not manipulation, it is a smart calculation, and means you are raising a really competent kid. He is figuring out successful ways to get what he wants, which is awesome. It is our job is to teach our kids which strategies are effective and which aren’t. So any behaviors you don’t want him to rely on can’t be successful, or what would be the motivation to give them up?
  4. Show empathy and validate the feeling. “I know the blue shirt is your favorite and you are really disappointed that you can’t wear it today, but it’s in the wash.” It isn’t feelings that are the problem, it’s how they get acted on that can be problematic. The more you validate feelings, the less likely children are to have to act on them.
  5. Set the limit and provide acceptable choices. “Your choice today is the red or yellow shirt.” If your child refuses the “choices you are choicing” him, then you let him know that you will make the choice. He may throw a fit. As calmly as you can, put a shirt on him and move along so he experiences the consequence of his actions. That is how children ultimately learn to make good decisions—by experiencing the outcomes of their choices and assessing which get them what they want and which don’t. If a tantrum leads to you taking that blue shirt out of the laundry, you: 1) give him the false expectation that he will get everything he wants, making it harder for him to learn to be flexible and accept alternatives—a critical life skill for getting along in the world; 2) send him the message that tantrums or refusal to cooperate are successful strategies, which he will naturally continue to rely on; and 3) communicate that you don’t think he can handle this disappointment, a missed opportunity for him to experience that he can indeed survive wearing a different shirt—building flexibility and important coping skills.

When my son was three and my daughter one, after over 600 consecutive nights of his getting to choose the books we read at bedtime, my daughter spoke up and said, “I want Clifford!” Since it seemed utterly fair for her to finally get a chance to choose, I promptly started to read about the big red dog, when my son shouted: “I NEVER GET TO CHOOSE THE BOOK!” What planet do you live on? (said the voice in my head). Talk about irrational! I completely mishandled it (despite being a child development specialist even back then), shaming him for being so selfish and engaging in all sorts of inappropriate and ineffective responses, like freezing him out and refusing a hug at bedtime. I still cringe when I think about it 20 years later. But I ultimately learned from my mistakes and made some course corrections. It’s never too late.

Don’t Push It When You Encourage Them

By Claire Lerner, L.C.S.W.-C

Some children need encouragement to do their best and aim high; There are students who settles on average when they are capable of much more.

But some parents take it too far. The pressure is on their children, who are pushed to pursue an ideal. These parents believe that it is necessary to push their sons and daughters toward a vision of success. Students must be driven to be the best if they are to compete in today’s world … or so the logic goes.

I read a book two years ago, fix this line of thinking, called No more push parenting. An excerpt, “to introduce the seven Hypes,” can be read here (and an excerpt from the excerpt follows):

  • Unfortunately, many of today’s parents, many of us go on this whole parenting thing full tilt. Of reasons, some good and some misunderstood that we will examine, we feel that our child’s ultimate success is entirely up to us, and that the goal is to win, or to get our kids to win. This is not news to you. You’ve read articles about test prepping for the best colleges that rivals astronaut training; bar mitzvahs that require financial and emotional fortitude of a Broadway producer; and athletic competition so tough that it actually has been fatal for at least one of the parents.
  • Why are we so competitive when it comes to our children? Why are we convinced, that it is so important for them to have a dazzling CV? To have a “passion“? To stand out in some way from the crowd? What is it that makes intelligent, sensible parents prep your child for an IQ test, or rent a sixty dollar an hour trainer for their beginning in a Little League, or run a half hour after a busy working day to bring a small child to an art class, when everyone can be happier at home enjoying dinner or bath time?
  • What I have learned from countless parents is that almost nobody wants to push, but most feel they must. They have come to believe in a timid and anxious way that they as parents or more crucially their children will fall short in the relentless competition in everyday life, if they do not keep pushing.

For some families, however, pressure, acceleration, push is not without consequences.

Much more recently, I took a used book with an intriguing title, The 7 worst things good parents do, by psychologists John c. Friel and Linda d. Friel (parents of three adult children). They warn of the consequences of pushing the kids in too much.

One of the things on their list of the worst things good parents do is to “push your child into too many activities” (Chapter 5).

A very bright psychologist raised her hand during the question-and-answer period of a professional seminar to ask:

‘ But what about all the advice, schools and colleges gives us, that our children do not want to get into the best universities, unless they have umpteen zillion extracurricular activities on their Résumés?” (Friel and Friel 50).

Friels’ Answer?

It consists of two parts, they said.

Part 1: A Duke University senior told them, “universities looking for depth. Two outside results done with depth will go as far, if not longer, than the umpteen million scattered activities, there was obviously done to beef up one’s application” (Friel and Friel 50).

Part 2: Their (the Friels ‘) workload is filled with young professionals whose parents pressured them to Excel and achieve during high school and college to go to the best and be the best. These parents were motivated by the fear that their children would be miserable if they were anything but best on best. Unfortunately, their fears became reality — their children is really lousy, but not from not to be best; rather, their children are miserable because of trying to be the best to the exclusion of everything else that is more important in life (Friel and Friel 50, 51).

To illustrate, the cited studies found in emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ (Daniel Goleman) were conducted at Harvard in the 1940s.

Harvard study showed that men with the highest grades less happy, less aligned, less productive and had lower salaries and status in middle age than College peers that had lower grades in college (Friel and Friel 51).

The authors tell parents who wonder whether the children’s activities and college admissions, “you can push your kids until they fall, and then push them much more, but the only thing you will produce is miserable adults, there may be a moderate success in their careers, if they are lucky” (Friel and Friel 51).

Parents who drive their children in this way, these authors argue, will produce:

  1. children who are driven to fill the void left by neglected emotionally; or,
  2. children who are indifferent to subsequent much at all, because they are so lonely, hurt and angry about being neglected (Friel and Friel 51).

They propose to evaluate your child’s current state. He or she may be fine, but if your child gets sick on a regular basis (this may include emotional disorders such as depression, addiction and getting stuck in destructive relationships), has no social life and social skills, have no time at all to be with family, is rounded emotionally, then it’s time for a change (Friel and Friel 52).

Some ideas to reduce pressure and push included lowering academic standards for a child who is stressed out by grades. A child who feels pressured to go to a top University may want to know that a State University, community college or Vocational school can be an equally good option-or even a better fit overall for their personality, interests, abilities, goals and health (Friel and Friel 52).

They recommend reading the book emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman (I haven’t read it yet), and “you will discover that there is much more success, life and happiness than getting straight as in school or go to an Ivy League University” (Friel and Friel 52-53).

We must be convinced that stand firm and resist the relentless competition of everyday life … to slow down and embrace a different concept of success, who refuse to compromise the faith, friends and family.

Let us be slow enough to maintain our deepest values.

And Let’s help each other stay strong when the voices are loudest.

The Nautical Baby Shower

Ahoy, Celebrate your little one’s upcoming arrival with these nautical baby shower party ideas. You will have a fun time running with this theme for your next baby shower, using a white and blue color scheme for the decor. From navy tissue paper for the pom-poms and cute little anchors.

Babies are expensive, but your nautical baby shower doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of ways for you to find your baby shower invitation. In fact Evite features more than 100 free invitations to choose from including several nautical invitations for boys, but they also have a girl version as well which features pink and turquoise inspired nautical invitation features.

Now when you say “Ahoy!” to a little boy with a sailor-themed invitation you can also extend the celebration to include baby girls as well. All you need to do is pick on with a cute and girly shower theme and this is easy when you choose the right color.

There are plenty of ways for you to honor the parents-to-be adorable sailor-themed couples shower invitation as well. Because as you know they work wonders for the moral of a couples baby shower.

Everybody has a reason to like attending these parties. The men will explain it is for the great food, and there are a lot of things to like about a baby shower with great food. But what they really want to say is that it was a theme that didn’t make them feel uncomfortable. In fact men prefer to attend a shower that doesn’t go over the top with the girly theme that they associate it with. And while that isn’t necessarily true, they don’t need to know that. Still it is hard to deny that some of the cutest invitations are from the adorable nautical baby shower, and they are truly ideal for the little man, who is about to make his debut and they come in a number of different colors for a lovely day celebrating with close family and friends. How perfect is that? The nautical theme is a refreshing alternative to mustache themed baby showers. Which is most certainly only for little boys.

Once you’re done celebrating you will agree that your baby shower could not have turned out any better. A nautical shower is a little more relaxed and fulfilling than other types of showers since the entire theme is more about fun than about fancy which is something is always known to guide you in the direction of the perfect day.

This type of baby shower is not only special because of everyone gathering together to shower you with their love and support. When you are surrounded by our wonderful friends and family who showered you with gifts for the child you are carrying you cannot help but thank everyone that made the day possible. A nautical baby shower isn’t the easiest type to host, and it will take time and a lot of preparation to make it deserving of its name. And when you have people in your life who put so much time and effort into making sure your shower turned out exactly how you imagined, you truly lucky to have them in your life!

When in Sweden

Now that I have a child who is nearly four, next month, four year old!, I care about these kinds of things far less, but I’m not at all clear where I fit on the landscape of motherhood styles in Sweden. I have heard they are more relaxed about parenting here, but I’m not really sure what is meant by that. I will observe and report back. I know a bit about how they handle very young age, though: my sister-in-law and literally every other mom I’ve met here have a baby under age one (Sweden is having a baby boom) and they certainly do some things differently.

Even after American standards I guess I was a little odd for using cloth diapers, but they seem to be even less common here. For apartment-dwellers, which uses a common laundry room and sign up in advance to seize it just half a day a week, I can totally see why they would be too much trouble. But people in houses, in the typical Swedish way, loves to hang their laundry out to dry outside (thus targeted add steps to the laundry process) seem as if they might be up for it. With all the recycling and environmental impact weight here surprised me, cloth diapers are not more common. A Swedish woman, (using disposables) said they were in fashion for a while, but it’s gone for now.

While I’m on the subject, let me tell you about a neat difference here with disposable diapers: they have a built-in tape Strip-type thing to encourage your diaper to stay nicely rolled up after use, I guess sanitary reasons and to reduce the space in the trash (when it is in high demand here). I know this, when we left our cloth diapers in the United States with my mother, but the little girl still sleeping in one. (Any advice on encouraging her not to urinate in your sleep? It seems a little tricky. Advice that doesn’t involve my waking at night to take her to the potty.) Oh, and another thing: a lot of people keep their changing table in the bathroom.

The largest systematic different and rather surprising things about parents babies here in Sweden (in Europe in General, not just in Sweden, this is unique) is the wild popularity of a compound called välling. This is basically the baby cereal (I suppose vitamin-enriched), there are super-thin and fed babies (and kids way older) in bottles (and sometimes of the spoon) instead of the formula. Typically, I’ve gotten to know people suck (or four) for about six months and then switch to välling and baby food; for women who are not breastfeeding babies under those ages, they have a cow’s milk-based formula available (it comes in very annoying packaging and I think rarely used), which we bought for the little girl, when we came, when she was 10 months old and I had weaned from exclusive pump (anecdotally, it bothered her stomach). Mothers here have told me they believe that babies in the course of six (or four) months should be getting most of their nutrients from baby food (as they add butter or olive oil) and välling, even though both of my sisters-in-law have breastfed longer than six months (one to three years, and one still doing a little nursing her 11-month-old).

I’m not going to lie: I know I have an anthropological training and all that stuff, but I think this is bizarre. Especially coming from a place with a push for breast milk or formula is the primary food for infants under age one. And maybe I’m being obtuse, but prefer the idea of a cow’s milk-based artificial baby drink to a grain-based. Maybe they have manipulated it so much, there is not much difference (except thickness). But if I ever have a baby to feed, and I am not exclusively breastfeeding it (and probably not with my history) I can not see myself using välling as a substitute for milk. For me, grains are cereal and milk is milk, and plus it seems odd to give cereal in a bottle. Not that I would ever tell a Swedish mother, of course.

Anyway, on to the modes of locomotion. Strollers here is very different. For one thing, many Swedes believe, it is not at all appropriate for a child to be facing away from you. (I have read some articles about how it damages their brain development is not being able to see their mother’s face and instead treat past the sights on the streets all alone.) Also, due to snow and rain, strollers (prams, really) have gigantic tires and all kinds of rain and cold protection accessories. The stroller I brought from the United States (not that we need it, I just got freaked out when my sister-in-law paid 900 dollars for his used Swedish stroller) is hard surpassed in these departments, but I’m still not sure I want to get one because these things are so huge. I have never been much for the stroller, anyway; unless we went to exercise, when the little girl was tiny I usually wore her in some way. They have lots of strollers, similar to American ones, but as jogging strollers, double strollers, etc., just with better tires and sleeping bag-type stuff for the winter.

Sweden also encourage you (by law or not, I am not entirely sure) to have your child rear-facing in the car until the age of four. What’s funny to me is that we actually have had little girl rear facing all this time, which was a little odd that we in the United States where people often beat their first birthdays their babies, but here we have turned her around earlier than we should (in my car because it was the safest way to ensure my American-bought car seat and in the man’s car, we actually got her a fancy German booster seat because the back seat was too small for anything else). They also often put the car seat in the front passenger seat, as I have heard, is exceptionally safe, but which weirds me out.

So it’s things I’ve noticed so far. I know personally a great enough to generalize from some of my other observations – people sample size and practices vary, of course. And none of these things I mention is really such a big deal. Just weird, is all. Wanted to share. The main conclusion I have drawn from my time with babies in Sweden is that I likes babies again! I would kind of a! So awesome and cute and they can not run away from you, when you have to cuddle them!

The Villains Of Roald Dahl’s Worlds

In an interview with Donald Sturrock, Roald Dahl once said, “I go down to my little hut, where it’s tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight in.”

And that is exactly why we love Dahl — for his ability to get childhood exactly right. It’s a scary world out there, and tall people with bad facial hair and even worse attitudes tend to run the show, which makes life especially frightening to those of us who are less colossal or hirsute. In honor of the English novelist’s recent birthday, we present a group of memorable villains from his children’s stories.

10) The Enormous Crocodile in…”The Enormous Crocodile”

Okay, this one is simple. It’s an ENORMOUS CROCODILE. Do you really think this thing isn’t going to try and devour you? He even advertises that his aim is to eat children while tramping through the forest one day. (No, we don’t know why he’s in a forest. Just go with it?) His skin is scaly, his nails are long, and his appetite is insatiable. For payback, check out Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes in order to discover how to eat such a vile animal.

9) Veruca Salt from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

Oh, Veruca. You’re the worst! Your shrill, incessant demands are always taken seriously by the adults around you, which has made you a very spoiled little girl. “I want it now” cannot be made into a song, darling, trust us. It’s just bad manners. Charlie is the last child standing in the end, which means he, the meek product of a ramshackle two-room home, will inherit Wonka’s wonderful chocolate factory and not Veruca. How do you like them apples, Ms. Salt?

8) Mr. Victor Hazell from “Danny, the Champion of the World”

Mr. Victor Hazell is a terrible landlord and a complete snob who owns a vast English estate and picks on Danny, a child, for no good reason. Mr. Hazell is also really into hosting pheasant-shooting parties, which is just weird. Our last complaint against the man is that he’s way too into guarding his forest against looters — maybe he should charge less rent and people wouldn’t be trying to poach pheasants off his land in order to survive. Just a thought.

7) Boggis, Bunce, and Bean from “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

This dastardly trio monopolize the market on ducks, chickens, and turkeys in this cautionary tale of greed and revenge. After the farmers try to “smoke ’em out” of his home, Mr. Fox digs a tunnel with his family and hides deep underground. At this point, Mr. Fox, a cunning thief, tunnels into each of their coops, storerooms, and cellars in order to raid the place and feed his hungry family and friends while the ignorant, vengeful trio keeps watch above ground in the pouring rain. It’s not for nothing that the song goes, “Boggis and Bunce and Bean, One fat, one short, one lean, These horrible crooks, So different in looks, Were nonetheless equally mean.”

6) Mr. Wormwood from “Matilda”

Matilda’s father is described in the book as a “small ratty looking man” who wears garish checkered suits that are likely made of polyester. He often boasts to Matilda about the fact that he is so good at swindling his customers at his used car lot, where the markup is astronomically high, and he absolutely hates all forms of reading. The man is a bully and a total rube.

5) Fleshlumpeater from “The BFG

The Fleshlumpeater is one of nine giants in the book, and he’s the baddest of the bad by far. He’s twice as large as the BFG and a thousand times meaner, but in the end he’ll get his comeuppance. Enjoy your snozzcumbers, sucker!

4) Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge from “James and the Giant Peach”

James’ aunts, Spiker and Sponge, are a comically-paired duo, though they would not find their differences something to laugh about at all. In fact, they both believe they are breathtakingly gorgeous, even though the larger of the two wears horrible baby doll dresses and the other is some sort of rail-thin gothic horror. At one point, a very plump Aunt Sponge even says, “Just feast your eyes upon my face, observe my shapely nose. Behold my heavenly silky locks, and if I take off both my socks, you’ll see my dainty toes.” James, we pity you.

3) Mr. and Mrs. Twit from “The Twits”

“What a lot of hairy-faced men one sees nowadays.” The Twits are a hirsute, smelly, filthy, and brutish couple who are perfect for each other. They enjoy devising calculated acts of cruelty toward animals, and absolutely hate small children. What is wrong with these people?

2) The Grand High Witch from “The Witches”

The Grand High Witch is the scariest, most powerful witch in all the world, and her mission is to get rid of human children — either by trapping them in paintings, turning them into rodents, or other equally frightening methods. She’s aided by a legion of bald-headed baddies who are often seen wearing gloves and pearls. Dahl’s 1983 children’s book sparked a controversy among some sensitive souls over the fact that all of the evildoers were female. In an interview Dahl said, “I do not wish to speak badly about women. Most women are lovely. But the fact remains that all witches are women.”

1) Miss Agatha Trunchbull from “Matilda

The headmistress at Crunchem Hall Primary School is a holy terror; the tall, sweatshirt-wearing, “big-boned” administrator doesn’t hesitate to swing girls by their braids or lock someone in a small, glass-filled cupboard affectionately named “the Chokey.” With one look, she can strike fear into the hearts of all the children at Matilda’s school. Only a heartless, megalomaniac villain would utter the command, “In this classroom, in this school, I am God!”

Books For Children With A New Sibling On The Way

Many parents want good books to read to their child or children before the new baby arrives. Now here is a list of some family favorites.

Best-Ever Big Sister and Best-Ever Big Brother by Karen Katz are fun books for very small big siblings. Delightfully illustrated, lift-the-flap books. They are perfect for big sisters or brothers, ages 1 – 3. Grosset & Dunlap. $5.99

I’m a Big Sister and I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole are good small books for small big siblings that provides some information about babies and reassurance that busy new parents still will have time for the big sibling. Each book ends with a note to parents about how to help their older child adjust to his or her new role. Ages 2 – 5. HarperCollins. $6.99.

I Used to be the Baby by Robin Ballard is a good book for a young child who is or will soon become a big brother or sister (perhaps more appropriate for a big brother since the narrator of the book is a boy). The big brother talks about sharing with his baby, but he also notes that sometimes he still likes to be the baby too. And in a loving family, that’s not a problem! Ages 1 to 3. Greenwillow Books. $17.99

There’s Going to be a Baby by John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury. This is a wonderful book for big siblings to be who have questions about the new baby. John Burningham’s story, beautifully illustrated by his wife Helen Oxenbury, follows the questions likely to be in the mind of a young child anticipating a baby sibling with excitement and perhaps a bit of trepidation. A good book for ages 2 to 5. Candlewick Press. $16.99

What Sisters Do Best/What Brothers Do Best by Laura Numeroff. This is a wonderful flip book by a renowned author-illustrator team that celebrates all the wonderful things that brothers and sisters can do together. After reading what sisters do best, you can flip the book over and enjoy the story from the brother’s perspective! This is a fun follow-up to the best selling What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best and What Grandmas Do Best/What Grandpas Do Best. Ages 2 to 5. Chronicle Books. $15.99

I’m Going to be a Big Sister by Brenda Bercun. This book has stories designed to help prepare older siblings for the arrival of a new baby. By providing discussion prompts, the books help give parents the language needed to speak to their older children about the new arrival. These colorful tales are designed to help prepare older siblings for the arrival of a new baby brother or sister.The books (there is also a second book, I’m Going to be a Big Brother) provide descriptions of what it means to be a big sister or brother. The books also have tip sheets that summarize hints for supporting the older child, and an accompanying musical CD that has catch tunes that emphasize the special bond between brothers and sisters. Ages 3 to 5. Nurturing Your Child Press. $15.95

How to be a Baby by Me, the Big Sister and Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap. This book, written by the big sister, is one of my favorite big sibling books. Big sister knows a lot about babies, like (1) babies don’t read books, they eat them, (2) babies don’t carry backpacks, they go in them; and (3) babies don’t have any teeth at all! But when her baby grows up, she’ll be taller and smarter and big sister will be baby’s best friend! The book has wonderful illustrations and is fun (and funny) to read. Ages 2-5. Schwartz & Wade Books. $16.99

Big Sister Now: A Story About Me and Our New Baby (Also Big Brother Now…)by Annette Sheldon. I like these two books written by preschool specialist and librarian Sheldon. They are particularly good for older siblings who may have some jealousy issues with their younger brother or sister. A note at the end of the book by psychologist and author Jane Annunziata provides guidance on preparing the whole family for the arrival of a new baby, both before and after birth. Ages 2 – 6. Magination Press. $9.95

Once Upon a Baby Brother by Sarah Sullivan is a good book for slightly older siblings (ages 5 – 8). Lizzie loves to make up stories and tell them to everyone, but now that her baby brother, Marvin, has arrived, the only person in the family that has time to listen to her is George, the dog. She’s so full of ideas that it seems like nothing can stop her, but then something does. Lizzie finds inspiration where she least expects it in this delightfully funny book. Ages 5 – 8. Farrar Straus Giroux. $16.99

The Big Sibling Book is a journal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal to help your firstborn get psyched about becoming a big sibling! Organized chronologically, this journal is designed to help prepare your child for the new arrival with interviews, sticker activities, and pages for recording Baby’s first. The end result is a precious two-in-one keepsake that captures Baby’s first year and the unique perspective of the new big kid in the family. A great activity book for big siblings, ages 2 – 6 (with a little help from their parents). Random House. $16.99

A Baby Sister for Frances is a really sweet book about a new baby written by the author of Bread and Jam for Frances. When the new baby arrives, no one pays much attention to Frances anymore—at least that’s what Frances thinks. So Frances decides to run away—just far enough so she can hear how much she’ll be missed. This is another wonderful story about this well-loved family of badgers. Ages 4 – 8. HarperTrophy. $6.99

Michael and his New Baby Brother is part of the Helping Hand Books by Sarah, Duchess of York. In this book Michael is not excited when his parents tell him they are expecting a new baby. But, as his parents help him understand what it means to be a big brother, Michael begins to look forward to baby Daniel’s arrival. This is a good book for a boy, ages 4 to 8, who will soon have a baby brother. Sterling. $7.95

Big Sister and Little Sister by Charlotte Zolotow is a lovely story about a little sister who wanders off to be alone and gets lost. Luckily, her big sister comes searching for her, but she can’t find her anywhere. When she finally finds her, she wipes her tears away and they both realize they share a special bond. A good book for siblings, ages 4 – 8. HarperTrophy. $6.99.

Big Sister, Little Sister by Leuyen Pham is another wonderful picture book celebrating the special relationship between two sisters. This is a good book for siblings, ages 4 – 8. Hyperion Books. $15.99

10 Disney Movies To Watch With Your Kids

I love animated films. I love lists. I can even go so far as to say that I love Disney, but I have enough other problems with this company, I will just stick with “admirer” them, but like most kids growing up in the 90 ‘s, virtually all of the animated film I’ve seen was a product of the giant Corporate mouse, so my list would have been 95% Disney based anyway. I also have chosen not to include Disney/Pixar film, otherwise this list will be transformed into a memento about how much better than Disney’s Pixar. (Which now that I think about it, can be a topic for another day.)

So without further ADO, I shall present my top ten favorite Disney animated movie.

10. Frozen (2013)

I know this film has produced a lot of hype (both before and after its release.) I saw it in theaters, shortly after it came out, and I liked it. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and effort that was put into both the story and the musical score. I was expecting another Disney Princess movies, to the same lesson that every other Disney Princess films did, and I was wrong. The fact that the film centered around both female empowerment, (i.e. None of them up ended up married in the end), and directly addressed absurdity marry someone you just met. I was even ready to hate snowman Olaf from seeing the promotional commercials, and he surprised me by being only mildly annoying and even a bit humorous.

That said, I put this low on my list, because while it was great, it was not great. Some people refer to it as “the next Lion King”. It is the best movie Disney has produced (by itself) in years, but I don’t think it can hold up to the standards of the hand-drawn animation of the previous decades. (Example: what was the point of the mossy trolls? I felt both their presence and their singing was obnoxious as hell.) Also, if I hear “let it go” once again, I can rip my own ears. But if you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing it, I would recommend to re-evaluate.

9) Mulan (1998)

I have never met a person who hated this movie, which only seems to be various degrees of likes. First and foremost, Mulan is not a Princess (Yes!), and secondly, she has a fucking dragon as a friend. This setup is only slightly marred by the fact that Mushu is voiced mulanby Eddie Murphy, which is just a little odd, in my opinion. Instead of being a damsel in distress, she saves the whole of China from an entire army jaundice-ridden females, how cool is that.)

Also the song “be a man” has to be the most catchy Disney song ever, it seems to be so contagious that people want to Join after hearing it; Oh, and George Takei voices the leader of Mulans ancestors. Yes. I honestly could see this movie a hundred times and never get bored of it.

8) The Sword and the Stone (1963)

This film is on the list primarily for the sake of nostalgia. My grandmother had a VHS copy of it at his house, and I have seen more times than I can count. I hadn’t actually seen it for several years until I have seen it again last week. As an adult I can see reasons why I loved it so much as a child. First of all, I love the older Disney animation, it has a beautiful, irreplaceable quality to it.

The story line is cute, and plays in the wishes of a child: meeting a guide, to transform into various animals, you see a magical duel, and become an heir to an entire country. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s well worth your time (especially if you have children.)

7) Atlantis: the Lost Empire (2001)

I remember seeing this movie a couple of years after it came out at my friend’s House. I love the artwork, I love the premise, I love the characters, and I love adventure. Back then it was revolutionary: this film had made more use of the (CGI) than any of Disney’s previous animated features; and it is still one of the few that have been shot in anamorphic format.

Atlantis also lacked songs, which is a usual, Disney-brand, and I think that’s what I liked most about it, is far more serious than other Disney films and is one of a few of their movies to actually show blood. I admire what able to perform it: a unique animated adventure, who tried to stay away from the original, Disney formula. Unfortunately, it is not so well at the box office as Disney had hoped, and was casually swept under the rug, never to be mentioned again. This film deserves recognition, and to be introduced to the younger generations of children.

6) Fantasia (1940)

Funnily enough, I hated sitting through this movie as a child until I again watched it again at fifteen. I honestly believe you have to be a certain age to understand both music and Visual representations, as this film provides.

Both forms of media fit perfectly together, giving a beautiful rendition of the stories created through music. By by far, my favorite had to be the “Night on bald mountain”. The sequel, (if you can call it that) Fantasia 2000. Attempts to achieve the same quality as the first, and it fell flat several times; It does not add up to the same amount of strong emotions like Fantasia does. It is certainly not for everyone, but it is great for classical music lovers.

5) Tarzan (1999)

What an amazing rendition of Tarzan, the ape man. After seeing this movie, I can remember remember being fascinated with both the gorillas and the concept of climbing trees, and spend the next several summers swing out of tree branches. I’m really happy that Disney focused his time with this film to develop the relationship between Tarzan and Jane (over a period of what I suppose is several weeks).

His struggle between being a man and and ape are emotionally strong, as he learns language, science and a world outside the jungle. Full of personal problems, and lots of death, I always get teary-eyed when I see this film.

4) Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

As an adult, it will become more difficult for Disney to make a big impression on me with the new material, it is not the case with this movie. I absolutely love the concept of the wreck-It Ralph. The idea of a whole world that exists between an arcade game is very creative. The best part is that they know and understand they are video game characters.

The fact that the film is narrated from the point of a ‘bad guy’, is also an approach that Disney has not done before. Ralph always hates to be the loser in his game and questions its existence to be a bad guy who pushes him to become a hero and earn a medal. His growth as a character as well as his interactions with Vanellope makes it an excellent balance between humor and emotions. This movie also has a habit of making me cry.

3) The Lion King (1994)

Where do I begin with this one? The music is incredible, the characters, all have different personalities (although most of them are one-dimensional or stagnate) characters and the story line is the animal version of Hamlet. The casting of James Earl Jones as Mufasa and Jeremy Irons as ar made this film epic. The contrast between their voices add to the differences between the signs. “Circle of Life” and “be prepared” will always remain two of my favorite Disney songs. There is not much else to say about it, most of all don’t already know.

2)The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

The musical score alone in this film captures my attention, I get chills every time I hear “The bells of Notre Dame”, “God help the outcasts” and “Hellfire.”

This movie is not only unique in its location (i.e. inside a church), or in some of its contents (lustful intentions), but it is also unique in its end: guy doesn’t get the girl. It is both sad and refreshing. You will see Quasimodo reach the love he wants, but life is not always a way and it pulls away from the “traditional” result. He does, however, get a happy ending, and is accepted in society. (Which I know is quite different than the original story, but what do you expect from a kids film?)

1) Beauty and the Beast

This is the only movie that I like to follow the traditional “Disney princess” model, and the only Disney movies where I enjoy every single song. Unlike other “Disney princess” movie, this one actually shows an extension of the time for a romance to develop.

Belle also happens to be my favorite cartoon character, in contrast to most other animated girls-she actually read, and I can relate to that. The fact that the animal is intended for her hobby by giving her a huge library is awesome. I personally would have married the animal then and there if he had given me a library. Plus, living beauty in an enchanted castle would be awesome! My only problem with it is the last, I felt that the fact that the animal is changed back into a human kind of defeated the purpose of the theme: loving someone for who they are, rather than what they look like, but I’m just nitpicking.