Blog : preschool

Parenting and stepping back

Parenting and stepping back

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There are so many factors that go into parenting. It seems that every friend, website, magazine, and blog is telling you how to get more organized and structured in your parenting.

But what if I told you that you were too organized and rigid? Would that be freeing?

Of course there are times that you need to focus on structure and consistency. I teach parents those skills all the time. But I was thinking about this the other day. I was feeding my 13 month daughter. Everytime she would take a bit of banana, she would spit it out, smear it all over, and often then throw it on the floor. At first, I was saying, “No, we don’t eat that way,” or “Let’s not smear the banana.”

Then I stopped.

She has the rest of her life to eat in a polite way. So I just enjoyed the moment with my daughter. My stress dropped and almost immediately I was laughing with her.

Here are some things that most kids need more of:

1. Unstructured time to explore and play. This helps the brain learn to create, rather than be told how to create. For example, kids that watch a TV show and then have the action figure of that show are more likely to engage in play that has been defined by the TV show or by what the action figure is “supposed” to do. Over time, kids may say to one another G.I. Joe is a person, you can’t pretend that it’s a rocket ship.

2. More toys that don’t have a “meaning”. Why do you think kids love sticks, boxes, and tape? They are totally free.

3. Messy time to get dirty, covered in paint, and feel free. As well as the fact that it is just plain fun, it also helps them develop sensory skills.

4. Time to make their own choices. If their time is scheduled by adults, they will not learn the important skills of working hard and resting hard, or even saying, “I don’t feel like doing that.”

By giving kids the abilities to have choice, create, and get messy, it will help them learn and adapt in ways to help them become more agile in how they live life. Also, it will cause much less stress as a parent to let go.


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Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He enjoys playing outside with his daughter.

Four Things Every Preschooler Should Do Every Day







Dear Joe,
My five year old daughter talks to everyone, she is a lovely person with a big personality. I am worried that she will talk to strangers and it could lead to something bad. What are your thoughts on “stranger danger.”
-A Mom in Traverse City, MI

Dear A Mom in TC,
First of all, it is great that your daughter has such great social skills. It is wonderful to see kids develop abilities to socialize at such a young age. I have often found it interesting that in my generation we were taught “Don’t talk to strangers” and then later in life we were suppose to switch to start “networking” with strangers once we were in a career. When the fear of strangers is put into a child, it often stays through life. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has called “stranger danger” a myth. As well, the National Criminal Justice Reference Surveys( discusses how most abductions occur from family members or people that are in the child’s life.
This is not to say that you should do nothing. In general, talk to your kids about what makes a person “safe”. Talk about good touch/bad touch. Talk about not keeping secrets. Believe your child when they are worried or scared, and keep communication lines open. Also, watch for people that are in your family or friends that may spend too much attention on your child. They might be nice or they might be a creeper, unfortunately, as parents we have to keep our radar up.

Give those strategies a whirl and let me know how it goes.
I hope that helps.


Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
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Every parent wants their child to be healthy, happy, smart, and a functioning member of society. So what are some habits that are essential to building your child’s success? Here are four things that you should do your best to incorporate into your child’s life:

A regular bedtime for kids that has a well established routine is essential. A lot of parents underestimate how much sleep their child needs, and that some parents don’t know what their “well-rested child” would really act like. Behavior problems can often be a perpetual lack of sleep. This can also be true of keeps and sugar. Parents may not know what their well-rested and unsugared child would look like. Further,
many parents drop rest/nap time too quickly. Or they will choose “rest time” is in front of a TV watching a video, where it seems like quiet time on their bed with some books would be a better choice. According to Dr. Weissbluth, MD and sleep researcher from Northwestern University School of Medicine: Four year olds on average get 13 hours of sleep per day. With 11-12 hours of nighttime sleep and at least one hour of daytime sleep.

Outside Time 
It is hard to be outside and not active…the two seemed to go hand in hand. The fresh air is good for kids and helps them sleep better too. As well, time outside in non-defined play (play that the story is not handed to the child) produces more creative thoughts and opportunities to explore their world. As well, with the discussions about obesity, fitness, and healthy eating, outside time can be a part of an overall healthy life.

Creative Time
Ever wonder why we loved a giant box over any other toy? There were no limits as to what it could be: a spaceship, car, castle, ice cream stand, tunnel into the center of the earth where there are golden fairies and monsters. Boxes are amazing! When kids can explore through their play, it helps them build neurological pathways differently than kids that have very defined play. For example, when a child has watched a specific TV show and then has action figures from that show, research shows that they tend to retell the story, rather than create completely new stories. Give kids the opportunities to create their own story lines and pictures.

Physical Touch
Kids need hugs, comfort, and to know that they are accepted, especially from the men in their lives. Physical touch helps them develop their senses. The Harvard University Gazette stated, “Hugs are as vital to the health and development of infants as food and water, according to decades of research by a Harvard scientist.” ( Although this focused on infants, it clearly continues throughout childhood (and maybe even adulthood, could an extra hug reduce your stress?).

With these four daily routines you will see your child’s behavior continue to improve and grow, further academic success later in life has been tied to all of these habits. Today is the best day to start!

Do you agree?

That’s it for now!


Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.