Sugar Free Kids


When Ezekiel was a baby I was adamant that he would not eat candy or processed sugar.  Most people thought I was nuts, extreme and unrealistic (and still do to some extent!).  I received so many comments and questions when I would talk about our (mostly my) decision to not introduce sugar into Ezekiel’s diet and those comments and questions were not always positive.  Regardless (and maybe in spite of those people) I maintained Ezekiel’s sugar free diet for a long time.  I would make him treats at home that were made with honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar.  At parties my friends always had healthier options and those are what I would offer to him to eat (before he could really understand what cake/candy was). Sometimes they would even have a whole section just for Ezekiel with dried fruit and nuts – yes I do have the best friends ever!

Over the last couple years sugar and treats slowly entered into our house and Ezekiel’s diet.  It started with my husband bringing home “treats” or buying Ezekiel treats when they went out together and those treats always involved sugar.  Then he would bring home bags of treats (gummy bears, marshmallows etc) and I began allowing a treat a day after quiet time.  These past 3-4 months it started to become an expectation in Ezekiel’s brain that he needed a treat and instead of correct that expectation we just gave into it.  When we were out he would start to demand a treat, when my husband would come home the first question Ezekiel had was if he had brought home a treat.  Then a few weeks ago Ezekiel started waking much earlier than he had ever woke, he started having trouble calming down for quiet time, his behaviour though not awful was out of character for him.

None of these things are inherently bad and can easily be explained away by Ezekiel getting older and hitting different stages of life but I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something else was happening.  Two weeks ago I just got fed up with the constant questioning for treats, with the inability to listen to my instructions, with the lack of awareness of his behaviour and really just his expectation that he deserved a treat.  He was beginning to act entitled and that was REALLY bothering me.  It probably bothered me the most because I was the person to blame for that behaviour.  In some ways I felt helpless to change it.  I wasn’t sure how I could correct that behaviour through my parenting in a way that Ezekiel would understand.  Then one day I had a lightbulb moment – maybe sugar was to blame for some of this behaviour!

It’s no secret that sugar is bad for us – and I’m not talking about fruit or naturally occurring sugars but those sugars that are added to all our foods, those manmade sugars that tell our brain we need MORE MORE MORE. I could sit and read and write about the impact of sugar on our bodies all day – the topic is complex and has so many variables to it but the bottom line is that too much sugar has negative effects on our bodies in many ways.  Of course our bodies do need sugar to function and as a form of energy but the sugar that is added to packaged food and that is made by “man” is probably not going to do anything good for your body.

So, arming myself with this knowledge and allowing my frustration with myself and our situation with Ezekiel to be known I sat down with my husband and just said no more sugar – don’t bring treats, and start saying no more often and let’s see how this helps our situation. Now let me be clear that if you were to spend a day with us and observe Ezekiel you probably would not have picked up on the subtle little behaviours.  Overall he was still a very well behaved child because that’s his demeanour.  His nature has always been calm, he has always had an inclination to be obedient, he has always been very rational and for that I am eternally grateful.  Regardless, I knew that something was off and I knew that I needed to try my hardest to correct it now rather than wait.  So we completely cut out sugar about two weeks ago and I’m telling you the change has been drastic for us!

I sat down with him and we talked about his behaviour and about how sugar in certain treats can be bad for us by making us act in a way that isn’t the best.  We talked about how we were going to stop eating treats but that we could bake something that he would like using something sweet that wasn’t as bad for us.  We talked about balance and food and growing big and strong by eating food that would give our bodies the things it needed.  These were all conversations we had been having with him for a couple years but I took it one step farther by saying we were getting rid of all treats (for now).  He grasped the main concepts and for about a week we continued the conversation as he processed it.  The way he processes is by thinking about it and then bringing up little things that he’s been thinking about several times over a period of time.

The first couple days he asked for treats, then he stopped asking for treats and began asking for a muffin, then he stopped asking for anything sugar related at all.  This in and of itself was a HUGE win but it wasn’t the only change we’ve seen.  He started to say please and thank you unprompted, he started to offer to help in every situation (did you spill mom? Let me clean that up for you).  Although he still has energy and loves to bounce around, play and sing, he’s not so out of control when he’s running around playing.  Quiet times are now just that, instead of jumping up and down and roughing housing with toys he’s sitting quietly reading books or building with his blocks and sometimes even falling asleep again.

Perhaps the most surprising for me because I didn’t attribute this behaviour to sugar is that he is far less anxious about being alone on any level of our house.  For quite a few months he’s been crazy about always needing someone on the same level as him.  He would refuse to go up and down the stairs unless there was someone with him. It was something that was incredibly frustrating for us because he would desperately want something from a different level we were on but refuse to go alone to get it and then if we were busy and couldn’t help him he would have an emotional meltdown.  Even if you started to go down the stairs before him he would burst into tears – no exaggeration – the moment you stepped on that first stair.  It was bizarre and I kept blaming my husband because he used to play hide and seek with Ezekiel and then jump out and scare him (something I actually enjoy doing to my husband lol).  When we stopped sugar he began going upstairs and playing by himself for BIG chunks of time – praise the LORD! When I go down the stairs he’ll stay upstairs and play.  When Eden needs to be fed or changed in the middle of our meal he is 100% OK to stay and finish eating while I take care of Eden.  It is truly incredible and has really solidified my belief that sugar and kids are a bad idea.

Now, is it totally sustainable? I know that’s a question people are going to ask and going to challenge because it’s one I’ve been confronted with before.

Here’s my answer.

When you can connect actions with behaviours in a way that is easy to understand your child can begin to grasp consequences.  We’ve been talking about food with Ezekiel for a long time, it’s something we deeply value and so it’s a constant conversation in our house.  I think because of this constant discussion Ezekiel finds it easier to grasp the concept that there are foods that are really good for us and there are foods that are not so good for us.  He understands that we try and eat the majority of good food and rarely eat the food that isn’t as good.  I also believe that this constant ongoing discussion will help Ezekiel to make good decisions for himself when we are not with him as he grows older.

We’ve already seen this in action.  The other day Ezekiel was looking in the freezer to get some frozen mango – his treat of choice lately – and found a stray gummy bear that fell from the top of the fridge before I threw them away.  He asked if he could eat it and in a moment of weakness (I really didn’t want to have an argument in that moment) I agreed.  The resulting behaviour over the next 2-3 hours was crazy.  In a period of 20 minutes he had burst into tears 4 times! I sat down with him and we talked about how sugar was making him feel and he was able to grasp the concept a little bit more than before.

So, will we be a strict 100% no sugar, no candy family?

No we won’t, but those instances will be few and far between and they will be reserved for very special occasions.  When Ezekiel asks for candy in a store we will stop and talk about how candy makes us feel and brainstorm something else we might like to eat instead that will nourish our bodies and minds.

It won’t be perfect – life never is, but I will strive to provide my kids with the best possible food so that their bodies can be as healthy as possible.

Transitioning to Quiet Time

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about our struggles with Ezekiel since I’ve been on modified rest.  The biggest challenge has been his nap times.  He’s historically and famously been the best napper, sometimes napping 3-4 hours at a time and really he needs these naps.  He also sleeps 12-13 hours at night which is a big sign to me that he still needs the naps.  When I was admitted to the hospital he began having trouble napping and also wasn’t sleeping as long at night waking up super early.  His behaviour suffered in his lack of sleep and my patience was wearing very thin.  I had no idea what to do.  I thought maybe I needed to start a quiet time routine but had no idea how to do that.  I learned early on in Ezekiel’s life that he was the leader in when he was going to be ready for certain transitions.  Any time I tried to get him to do something when he wasn’t ready I got frustrated and he got frustrated – things like rolling, sitting, walking, talking – you name the milestone and he was ready later than most kids but when he was ready he just started doing it and never stopped.

So a couple weeks ago I really had to evaluate if it was time to start a quiet time routine.  I was very resistant because I really really value nap time.  It’s a time that I get to recharge my batteries and when he wakes up we are both ready to take on the evening.  Part of the transition to quiet time (a big part really) was my own mindset – I had to accept that nap time is not always going to happen anymore and I had to become ok with that.  At the same time I had to come up with a compromise, something that was going to help me recharge and help Ezekiel because although he won’t always nap he is absolutely always tired in the afternoon.  Something else I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t do well at listening to the advice of books and blogs – I have to lean on my own understanding of my child and trust my momma’s instinct.  So our nap time routine is just something I came up with and has worked wonders for us.

The routine actually starts at lunch time.  We wind down and sit at the table having a quiet meal and quiet conversation.  I try to keep it as calm as possible.  At the end of lunch Ezekiel chooses which sippy cup he would like to have his quiet time milk in.  Then he heads upstairs, usually without cuing and I follow.  He goes potty and then we get him into comfy clothes (because who wants to relax in jeans and a button up??), and a diaper (he’s not night time/nap time trained because he’s still in a  crib and can’t get out to go to the bathroom on his own).  We close his curtains and then settle into the rocking chair with a blanket and his milk.  We rock until he’s done his milk and then we say our nap time quotes that we’ve been doing forever “I love you” “have a good sleep” “see you when you wake up” – we alternate words and Ezekiel LOVES this part.  Then he gets into his crib with the help of a stool (because I can’t lift him) and he cuddles up with his polar bear and ducky and his favourite blanket and I leave his room.

Typically he’s very quiet for about 20-30 minutes but if he can’t fall asleep in that time he’ll start talking and playing with his stuffed animals.  Typically he’s been falling asleep every 3rd or 4th day.  Between 45-60 minutes if he’s still awake he usually calls me because he needs to go potty so I go upstairs and help him get out and go potty.  At this point I know that it hasn’t been enough quiet time for him and so we’ve implemented another hour of independent quiet playtime in his room.  We open his curtains and I shut the door and go back downstairs.  He’s come to a good understanding of this time and he will read books, play with blocks and generally just use his imagination to no end.  He usually destroys his room and has everything off his shelves and out of his drawers.  He doesn’t have all his toys in his room just blocks, a car, and books so there’s not a tonne to destroy but somehow he seems to make a bigger mess each day – something that I’ve also had to become ok with!  To my amazement he actually stays and plays quietly for 45-60 minutes before he calls down saying he’s done.

The last rule to quiet time is that he has to clean up his room before he can come downstairs.  He definitely needs help but I encourage him to spend about 10 minutes by himself cleaning up his room.  Generally he’s pretty good about this but after about 10 minutes asks if I will help him and so I go up and help with the last things.

Something else that I’ve implemented is that if he’s very good during quiet time and doesn’t yell, scream or cry then he’s allowed a treat when he comes back downstairs.  Treats in our house are a bit different than some houses – right now he’s on a chocolate chip kick so he gets about 10 chocolate chips along with something else like a nut mix, or a little piece of baking that I’ve done.  The baking that I make as treats I try to make as healthy as possible so they always have nutritional value and very little sugar (no refined sugar).

The changes I’ve seen in him since implementing this new routine has been amazing.  I think a big part of our success has been the fact that I kept our original routine in the beginning and then accepted that I cannot force him to do something that he can’t do.  I know that he does try to nap but I think he’s in such a big transition in life that he’s finding it hard to shut off his brain – I totally get that!  In the beginning we had long talks daily about the importance of quiet time, the reasons we need quiet time and how being quiet is a big part of quiet time.  Ezekiel is incredibly rational for a 3 year old and processes well through words and conversation so this worked for us and after about 4 days we didn’t need to have the conversation he just picked it up and ran with it.  His outbursts and inability to process and calm his emotions has left and he’s back to his very sweet, calm rational self and I am feeling so grateful!  He’s still incredibly tired on the days he doesn’t nap and will space out frequently but he doesn’t become a little three year old monster and that is worth it! Something else that has been amazing about the new routine is that he’s learning how to play by himself and be a bit more independent with play.  He hasn’t been independent in the past, he always wants to be beside someone and play and would prefer if you joined in with his play.  He always wants help with whatever he’s doing  and usually only plays alone for short amounts of time.  If I’m preoccupied with something else and can’t play he’ll just try and join me in what I’m doing instead of playing.  Implementing the last hour of quiet play alone and has really helped him to be able to use his imagination alone and find ways to play independently.  He’s also learning how important it is to have some downtime in the afternoon, we have conversations about how his behaviour is so much better and he understands the change.  All in all this has been such a good transition for us, one that I’ve been dreading for months but that I’m pleasantly surprised with.

Do you have any quiet time transition stories?  I’m thinking of getting him some more quiet time activities in his room that would enhance his learning and independence – any suggestions??

The Toddler Challenge

In a lot of ways being on modified rest really isn’t that difficult.  In the beginning it was HARD because I was so symptomatic that I could barely do anything.  I felt incredibly unwell but being at home made me want to jump into everything I would normally be doing.  Now fast forward 5 weeks later and I’m feeling pretty good.  There are days that are bad, but more so they’ve turned into just a few hours at the end of the day.  I’m able to tolerate doing a bit more than I could in the beginning and I have my Dr’s blessing to listen to my body and do what I can but stop when it’s been enough.  So the biggest challenge hasn’t actually been me, but my 3 year old.

This week I felt like I was coming undone with him.  When I first came home he was a complete disaster.  Opposite from what he normally is.  His normal is a sweet, kind, relatively quiet, obedient and rational little one.  His behaviour normally is actually a bit abnormal for the average toddler and I’ve been so grateful for it.  Often I’ve said “I’m just waiting for it all to change” but after three years it didn’t seem like that was happening and he would continue on in his way.  Then enter me being admitted to the hospital for 7 days, him being pulled from dayhome, my mom here to live and help out and my husband on Christmas vacation.  The poor little guys life was completely turned upside down and thrown out the window.  His entire routine and what he knew to be his world was shaken up and not put back together.

He began to argue, cry over things he normally wouldn’t, wake up in the middle of the night, wake up extremely early, rarely take a nap and all around was completely different.  There were very slight breaks in the cloud but it seemed I was finally getting my threenager and it distressed me.  Where was the little boy so kind and so sweet? The biggest challenge is that his nap times are riddled with yelling and screaming for 2 hours straight, not out of sadness or anger but just “because I like to yell and scream” and although I would try and address it it would continue to happen.  He continued to become more and more sleep deprived and then on Tuesday we had our worst day yet and I felt like I was at the end of my rope.  Everyone keep saying, “maybe he’s growing out of his nap” but in my head and in my heart I know my boy and I know for certain he absolutely needs sleep.  At the very least he needs a time to just be quiet, to wind down but of course sometimes you just can’t force little ones to do what you know they need.   At the beginning of this week I committed to two weeks of solid routine and if at the end of that he didn’t nap at all I would begin to transition to “quiet time” – any and all suggestions on how to do that well are very welcomed!

Yesterday after a good nights sleep he seemed to be back to my sweet and kind little boy.  I had a long appointment in the morning and left him at home with my mom.  When I came home I prepared us lunch and just like we would before this fiasco – we immediately went upstairs for nap time.  He didn’t fight me or cry, we rocked and he drank his milk then I spent about 10 minutes talking through nap time and quiet time with him.  We discussed why it is important to sleep well, why we need rest, why we need to be quiet.  He of course had a rebuttal for every sentence but he was absorbing my words and I knew it.  On Tuesday he lost a lot of privileges because of his yelling and screaming at nap time (that he had been forewarned about) and he could recall them yesterday (thank you rationality!) so we discussed those privileges again yesterday.  I reiterated quite a few times and he acknowledged his understanding.  I put him in bed and he cuddled up with his polar bear and blanket about 2 minutes after I shut the door he made one tiny little squeal and then was silent.  HE FELL ASLEEP!  My momma heart was so relieved.

The real relief came when he woke up and I went in to his room.  He was back to the behaviour I knew to be his.  All evening he was so pleasant and didn’t fight anything all evening, even when he would start he was easily rationalized with and redirected. He could even verbalize and discuss the differences from the two days.  I could have cried after he went to bed I was so happy to have seen my little boy back to normal.

Of course that was just one day and it may all change today but more than ever I’m optimistic that I don’t in fact have a threenager on my hands.  Rather I have a little boy whose world was completely upset and has been struggling to get back to what he knows to be true and normal.  I’m going to try my best to get him back to that place before this baby shows up and throws us all for a loop.

Time IN vs Time OUT

A few days ago I browsed a blog post that talked about the difference between time-in’s and time-out’s (this isn’t the exact post but something similar I found because I couldn’t find the exact one).  I had of course heard of putting children in time-out’s and have used that strategy 4 times in the past year with great results.  However I had never heard of time-in’s and I was intrigued.  Essentially a time-out means separating your child completely and a time-in is like a time-out for you both together.  In a time-out you put your child alone in a designated spot, for time-in you sit with your child in that designated spot.

Ezekiel is 2, at that age where he is learning that he has the ability to say no and fight for what he wants.  He’s a fairly reasonable child – I can usually talk him out of a temper tantrum if I catch it right at the beginning.  He can be distracted by something equally as tempting as what he wants to do which is a strategy I use often (Ezekiel I’ve asked you to stop touching the things on the shelf, how about you come help me with supper instead).  He also understands and follows rules if I implement them consistently – the most recent one being no toys at the table.  In the beginning there were many meltdowns over that rule, but now he’s satisfied with placing his beloved toy at the foot of his highchair to play with when he’s done eating.

Side-note – meltdowns are absolutely allowed in our house, these are different from a temper tantrum.  Being upset because you really want something is different then thrashing, hitting etc. because you didn’t get what you want.  In the event of a melt down I simply allow him to cry for a while and then ask him to take some deep breaths, try and distract him by singing his favourite songs and continue to reinforce the rule he is upset about.  That strategy works 99% of the time.  1% of the time it turns into a full blown tantrum.

Of course he’s still a two year old and still gives in to so many temptations breaking rules here and there.  My general rule is that if he is breaking a rule and I’ve asked him to stop – he demonstrates he understands by stopping and then continues when I look away – if I have to ask him three times then he goes upstairs to his room for 2 minutes.  We are now working on “sorry mom I didn’t listen to you” so I go upstairs and ask him to say sorry – sometimes he outright refuses in which case I leave for another two minutes and repeat the process until he says sorry.  This specific instance has only happened once. Usually he listens and stops what I’ve asked him to do before the third time.

There have been times of complete uncontrollable temper tantrums – 3 that I recall.  All of them have happened after coming home from the dayhome before supper.  He’s exhausted and very hungry and controlling emotions is something that is just not going to happen.  I get it, I totally understand but I also get very frustrated in those moments.  Two of those times happened last summer and I put him in his room until he calmed down then went in and we snuggled for a good 15-20 minutes and from then on he was happy and I quickly fed him so he’d stay that way :).

Yesterday was the third instance.  I knew he had a rough night with my husband the night before while I was at work and I knew he would be tired.  When his emotions are extreme it indicates his level of tiredness – usually it’s overly happy, running and yelling and laughing and dancing.  He reminds me of those times as a teenager when you’ve pulled an all nighter with your friends which was usually spent laughing at nothing because when you’re overtired everything is funny.   When I picked him up yesterday his level of happiness was OVER THE TOP which is always nice when you’re child is extremely happy to see you but I also thought “we definitely need an early bedtime tonight.”  We got home and it was nice out so I let him play outside while I tidied before getting supper ready, somehow within 10 minutes he went from happy to frustrated with something (I still have no idea what) that he was not able to communicate with me.  The situation very quickly went in a downward spiral as I asked what he was upset about and he got more and more upset without trying to explain.  In that moment I decided playtime outside was done and he was MAD – over the top, more than I’ve ever seen him.  I took off his outside clothes while he thrashed and screamed bloody murder.  I knew this was not going to be controllable on the main level of our house so I marched him upstairs thinking I would put him in time-out but then I remembered the article on time-in’s and thought I’d give it a try.  I went to his room, closed his door, sat on the floor and made him sit down facing me.  I held his hands in mine and asked him to take some deep breaths, he instantly calmed down in less than 30 seconds – still upset but not thrashing around.  Then I grabbed our homemade lavender coconut oil lotion and rubbed some on his chest and feet, he helped by putting some on his feet.  By that point the pouty lip had stopped and the tears were done.  I asked if he would like to read a story, he promptly got up, grabbed a book and ran to me happily ready to read.  We read two books and he got up and I asked if he was ready to go make supper, he ran to the door laughing.

What an amazing tool! I couldn’t believe the response I got from that strategy.  It shows him that temper tantrums are not tolerated but that I’m willing to help him out when he can’t seem to help himself.  It shows him that crying and screaming doesn’t get you what you want but that there’s always other options to what you want to do.  It gives him a choice with his mom by his side helping him out with that choice.

I will still use time-outs for those instances of outright disobedience because I know very well that Ezekiel is capable of following direction and listening to rules but when it comes to uncontrollable emotional outbursts I will definitely use time-in’s.

What is your discipline strategies? Any tips for this momma? I know down the road the frequency of discipline is likely to increase exponentially!