Published as the Playroom column in the January 2019 of PDX Parent

Piñata Stuffers

➊ Rainbow-colored pencils let budding artists get creative. $1 each collagepdx.com.
➋ Rubber duckies: Fun. But rubber unicorns? Magical. Sixty cents each or 12 for $6. At The Lippman Company, 50 SE Yamhill St.
➌ Light-up jelly rings make a dance party a blast, for just $1.95 each at The Lippman Company.
➍ Introduce your guests to the joy of scratch-and-sniff stickers! $3 for 50 Peaceable Kingdom stickers at Collage.
➎ We loved the super cute monkey-face erasers at The Lippman Company. Twenty-five cents each or 12 for $2.50. — Denise Castañon

Good Deeds: Serving Together

Pay tribute to the enduring, intentional legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday this year by signing up for a family-friendly service project with your kids. Hands On Greater Portland has a terrific list of volunteer opportunities around town on the weekend of January 18 to 21; we love the chance to get out and support the Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project. The Portland-based nonprofit works for change on behalf of day laborers, who are often immigrants and who are targets for mistreatment. Your family can help by joining clean-up efforts around their Worker Center at 240 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., or help with outreach and canvassing efforts alongside Voz staff. To sign up for this, or another great service project, head to handsonportland.org. — Julia Silverman

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We Recommend: Drag Queen Storytime

Inclusion, diversity — and a rockin’ dance party. That’s what you can expect to find at one of the Multnomah County Library’s kid-friendly Drag Queen Storytimes, hosted by legendary Portland performers Poison Waters and Carla Rossi. Cheers to our awesome library system for helping the next generation value acceptance — and fabulous outfits. January 12, 1 pm at North Portland; January 19, 1 pm at Gregory Heights. Visit multcolib.org for even more drag queen storytimes through February. — D.C.

Bookshelf: Goodbye and Hello!

Drumroll, please! This month we say a heartfelt goodbye and thank you to longtime Bookshelf columnist Richard Corbett, who is retiring from Powell’s Books, and a hearty hello and welcome to his replacement, Madeline Shier. Shier will team with Kim Tano, the other children’s book buyer at Portland’s favorite independent bookstore, on the Bookshelf column. For January, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., they are sharing their favorite books for kids that celebrate diversity and multiculturalism.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Caldecott Honoree Yuyi Morales wrote and illustrated this very personal story about how she and her baby son arrived in the United States from Mexico. Not knowing English, they walk through San Francisco until they discover a library that opens up a new and wonderful world for them! Gorgeous, magical illustrations make this a great recommendation for ages 3 and up. $18.99.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

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One day, on a subway ride with his abuela, Julián notices three beautiful women dressed as mermaids. To Julián, their long flowing hair and glorious fishtails spark daydreams of being one himself. At home, he fashions a makeshift fishtail out of a curtain and a headdress out of a potted plant. A wonderful picture book that illustrates love, acceptance, and imagination, Julián Is a Mermaid is perfect for ages 4 and up. $16.99.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence and Elizabet Vukovic

Jasmine wants to roll mochi with her mother and sister, but her mother tells her that she’s too young. Will she figure out a way to pound the rice into mochi instead, along with the men in her family? The first in an ongoing series that features a different Japanese tradition in every volume, Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen is a great read for ages 6 and up! $5.99.

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont and David Catrow

“I like myself! I’m glad I’m me. There’s no one else I’d rather be.” This celebratory mantra — paired with joyous, bright illustrations — is a must-have for building self-esteem and confidence, and this board book version is perfect for little hands to hold. Ages 0 to 4. $7.99.

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison

This follow-up to last year’s best-selling Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History features illustrated biographies of creators, inventors and innovators from all over the world. Sure to inspire, this book makes an excellent bedtime read-aloud or solo read, introducing readers ages 6 and up to a bevy of amazing women from diverse cultures and ethnicities. $17.99.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Aru Shah must track down the five heroes of the Mahabharata, before the ancient Sleeper demon she’s unleashed awakens the God of Destruction. This fantastic introduction to Hindu myth and culture is the first book in the Rick Riordan Presents line, which is dedicated to creating stories rooted in world mythology for readers ages 9 and up. $16.99.

Playlist: Chanteys for the Chilly Season

Sometimes a kids’ music album is so good, you keep listening to it even after your children have exited the minivan. Winterland, the fourth album by The Okee Dokee Brothers, is that kind of album. If your kids like Portland’s own Red Yarn, they’ll be into The Okee Dokee Brothers’ similar style of folk/country/rock. Themes of togetherness, acceptance and keeping cozy echo through the songs. My 3-year-old adores the song Abominable Yeti, while my 6-year-old requests Howl. And I appreciate the nonbinary anthem, Snowpeople and the heartfelt tunes Keep Me Warm and New Year. Available on iTunes. — D.C.

Ask Dr. Doug

Q: I recently read online that the American Academy of Pediatrics now strongly recommends against spanking. My parents are always telling me my son needs a good smack on his bottom when he misbehaves or talks back to me. I don’t feel like I want to do it, but I’m often at a loss of what to do instead. Any advice? 

A: Great question, and one that brings up a lot of strong feelings. Right off the bat — trust your mama or papa instincts. Strong family ties are an important source of growth and happiness, but that often comes with a lot of unhelpful advice. You are your son’s parent, not your mom or dad.

What I’m hearing you say is that spanking doesn’t feel right to you as a strategy, and it doesn’t feel right to me either. What are we teaching our kids? You hit your sister so now you get hit? I would also say it’s very difficult to spank your child with a calm and loving heart. When we’re angry, the physicality of it shades towards a place we don’t want to be as parents. Remember, discipline means “to teach,” not “to punish.”

Here’s the second part of the recommendation that isn’t getting as much press but is just as important: In addition to not spanking, caregivers should not use harsh verbal discipline including shaming, humiliation, insulting or threatening harm. Of course our kids are going to make us angry, upset, and overwhelmed — they are kids. Can we resolve to not hit and not yell? It’s harder, I know!

Here’s the dirty secret about spanking — although it may stop a behavior for a few minutes, long term it just doesn’t work. It teaches our kids that the way to solve a problem is to be aggressive. Worse, repeated use of harsh physical punishment makes kids more aggressive and depressed when they are older. There is some evidence it makes us depressed as parents, too!

So what to do instead? We still need to support our kids in making healthy decisions. Bodies need to stay safe. Relationships need to stay respectful. But we can do that in a firm, loving way that helps our kids feel safe when they feel overwhelmed, by giving them strategies to problem solve for when they are calm. That in turn helps them build resilience across their lifetime. I would call this positive parenting, or attunement parenting. We are going to use different strategies and different scripts based on the age of our kids, but overall principles are the same.

First, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of small humans. Prioritize your sleep, healing and self-care. Second, kids do well if they can. Misbehavior is not them trying to make your life awful, it’s them showing you what skills they need to work on (usually loudly). Third, connect before you correct. Parenting is 80 percent connection and 20 percent discipline.

Last, don’t be afraid to get help. Child behavioral health concerns impacting families is much more common than people realize; I help with it every day in clinic. If you need support or strategies, reach out to your pediatrician so we can join efforts. There are plenty of bumps in the road of being a parent. Let’s make it a bit less bumpy by using positive discipline strategies with our kids.

Pay Attention

After years of trying, Oregon Democrats have achieved a long-held dream: a supermajority in the state legislature, in both the state House and the Senate, and they hold the governorship. That means they have the votes to pass legislation of their choice, including potential tax increases, without needing any Republican support. That’s if all members of the caucus stick together, though, which is a big if — a Democrat from the Oregon Coast, say, might have very different priorities than one from inner Portland. Nevertheless, when the legislature opens for their six-month session on January 22, expect to see proposals for some major pieces of legislation that could dramatically affect the lives of local families, including:

  • Activists have tried for years to pass a paid family leave plan in Oregon. Could the time finally have come?
  • An overhaul of Oregon’s tax system, but will that be coupled with conversation about what to do about the state’s public employees retirement system, which requires massive expenditures by local school districts and governments
  • Governor Kate Brown, who was decisively re-elected in November, has been talking up a plan to charge businesses for greenhouse gas emissions. — J.S.
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