Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Too Hot...

Too Hot… 
I had the idea to write on this topic at the beginning of the summer, to prepare for the hot days that were sure to come. Sadly, since the beginning of the summer it seems like a week has not passed where the news has not reported on the death, or near death, of a child due to heatstroke caused from being left unattended in a car. In 2013, there were 44 hyperthermia related deaths of children in hot cars, and so far this year, 18 have occurred since mid-April. You can read the stories about 17 of them in this weather.com article

KidsAndCars.org reports that currently 19 states have laws that make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle. The legal ramifications, though, are the least of concerns for a parent who experiences such a tragic loss. Whether the mishap occurs though a lapse in memory or through not realizing the potential danger, most parents would be devastated for life in the event of this occurrence.

Many parents today likely grew up like myself in a world where seatbelts were optional and riding on the back dash of a car was like getting to ride in the Millennium Falcon with hyperdrive; so, sometimes we may need to be reminded of the dangers that could occur to our children—our most precious cargo. A few days ago, the temperature was about 90 degrees here in Dallas, Texas, and my phone did not appreciate me leaving it in the car. You can see the message it gave me when I returned to my car in the picture posted above. When I had realized about an hour later that I did not have my phone in my pocket, I went to get it and saw the temperature on my car thermometer spiked to 109 degrees! It really did not take long to heat up inside my car. As easy as it was for me to assume my phone was in my pocket or backpack, it often happens that parents assume that they’ve already dropped their kid off at daycare, or they may think their children will be fine if they are only gone for “just a minute.”  (It’s rarely never “just a minute.”)

What are some things we can do to help reduce the likelihood of this tragedy occurring?

Some very innovative people have come up with some interesting solutions.
  1. SafeKids.org recommends putting something in the backseat with our children that we will obviously need upon parking the car. While their list included phone and briefcase, as evidenced by my experience the other day, I think leaving a shoe is a much better recommendation. 
  2. KidsAndCars.org adds to that list by suggesting leaving a stuffed animal in the carseat and placing it in a visual place in the front seat when a child is occupying the vehicle
  3. Last year an 11-year old named Andrew Pelham from Nashville won a contest for his invention called the E-Z Baby Saver. Check out his website to learn how to make your own.
  4. There are some other high tech ways under development that provide reminders including this range of devices from a special car seat accessory to a phone app. 


The one thing that I hope all the readers of this article do is to talk about this issue with other parents. Just bring it up casually in conversation with your friends. Spreading awareness of the danger is perhaps one of the most needed aspects in helping prevent these tragedies. I know many young parents who haven’t even thought about this issue yet or considered the danger. Just like we try to warn our children before they find themselves in a bad situation, we can help one another by spreading awareness of the potential harm.

Some great information about how to protect children from these and other dangers can be found on the following websites:


And, for those nerdy parents that like to know why a car interior heats up so quickly, here’s an article explaining the Greenhouse effect that is occurring.

Who can you help by sharing information about this topic?





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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How Do I Teach My Kids Not to Lie?


Every now and then I get clients who are very concerned about their child telling them lies. Many parents want to teach kids honesty and think if their child is starting to tell lies, that they are on the road toward a criminal lifestyle. However, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (2009) discuss the research on why kids tell lies, and what parents can do to better teach honesty in their book, NurtureShock. Bronson and Merryman (2009) detail their interviews and interaction with Victoria Talwar, PhD who specializes in the lying behavior of children. Dr. Talwar informs the reader and Bronson and Merryman that lying in children is considered a mark of intelligence. According to the research cited by Bronson and Merryman (2009) around 96% of children will lie. In home studies seem to point out that 4 years olds lie once every two hours and 6 year olds lie once every hour. That's quite a bit of lying. So why do kids lie? For the most part children lie due to one of the following reasons:

  • A coping mechanism to deal with frustration or to get attention from peers. 
  • A way to cover up real or perceived failures. 
  • To please a parent or caregiver.
  • Avoid a punishment.
  • They learn it from parents.
According to Talwar, Bronson, and Merryman, children younger than 5 are more likely to label a broken promise as a lie, even though there might be justifiable reasons for breaking the promise. Even telling your children, "Just kidding" could be interpreted as a lie. When children start to lie and develop higher moral reasoning skills, they are better able to account for extenuating circumstances. 

One classical way children learn that lying is okay is the parent asking the child to lie for them. For example and unwanted phone call occurs and the parent tells the child, "Tell them I'm (not home, in the shower, busy, etc.)." This behavior, and any form of it, teaches the child, "Lying is okay when I don't want to do something unpleasant." 

However, the biggest factor for lying was trying to please a parent. Children know that if they do something that upsets their parent, it will make their parent unhappy with them. In order to salvage their parent's feelings of happiness toward the child and possibly avoid getting punished, children lie. 

An interesting finding highlighted in this chapter was what helped increase honesty. Researchers read two different stories to two different groups of children; The Boy Who Cried Wolf and George Washington and the Cherry Tree. After reading these books to the children, they tested the children for their lying behaviors. The first group (Wolf) were found to lie just a little more than previously, whereas the second group (Washington) actually reduced their lying by between 50-75%. The authors believe that the difference between the stories created the change. In the Wolf story, the boy is punished and humiliated for his lie, in the Washington story, the boy (George Washington) is rewarded for his honesty, and receives immunity from punishment for the lie.

To test this assumption they had parents and researchers interact with children according to the George Washington story, granting immunity for telling the truth. However, this didn't decrease the lying behavior in children. What did reduce lying was immunity for honesty AND expressions of praise and authentic happiness from the parent toward the child for honesty. 

The take home message from this chapter in the great book NurtureShock, is if you want kids to tell the truth we need to value the truth: 
  • Be more honest as parents.
  • Don't put kids into situations where they are tempted to lie.
  • Praise honesty and grant immunity when kids do tell the truth.
  • Realize that on average most parents can only tell a child lies about 40% of the time, sometimes you will never know!

What have you found to be helpful to teach honesty? 
What will you use from this article to help with your child? 




Bronson, P. and Merryman, A. (2009). NurtureShock: new thinking about children. New York: Twelve.




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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fidgety Kids: It’s About the Brain, Not Just the Body




If you have a youngster at home, you probably notice they like to move…A LOT! I have two young boys and in recent months I have especially begun to notice how much they like to fidget and move. My older son is almost five years old and I was beginning to worry about his ability to sit in a kindergarten classroom next year. Then I came across this great article that has been floating all over the internet entitled, Why Children Fidget: And What We Can Do About It. Given that it was written by a pediatric occupational therapist, I felt pretty good about the validity of its content. The author makes the point that many children today have a very difficult time sitting still in classrooms. They are constantly fidgeting. Some teachers or parents start to think many of these children may have ADHD due to their inability to sit still. According to this article, there may be something much more basic and simple going on in these situations—the children need to move much more to adequately develop balance and strength. This movement, as the author describes, helps “turn on their brains” so they can focus on academic topics. Here’s how the author describes it,
 Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”  

Wow, what an eye-opener. I had a sense of this issue before but I never thought of it in these terms before. Have you ever noticed how much better your child sits still or focuses on school work (or similar task) after they have played really hard? I certainly have noticed this with my son and this makes think this issue is really at work for many children.

We have known for years that there is a “movement crisis” in the United States. Rising child obesity rates is some evidence of this (although multiple factors may be at work), but now it seems that rising rates of ADHD diagnosis may be related to a lack of movement and open-ended play time. Of course, there are children who have clearly-defined and diagnosed ADHD, but this article makes me wonder if some kids may just need much more exercise and movement in their lives to help them focus better.


This recognized need for more movement for our children is not new. At least one recent pediatric study showed the benefit of recess time (even 20 minutes) for improved classroom behavior. Hopefully, as more research of this type comes to the forefront, more schools will maintain or perhaps expand recess or break times to allow children more time to move.



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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Unwrapping the Present Called "Patience"


“Please give me patience, and give it to me now!”

We all know intuitively that children benefit greatly from patience shown by those caring for them. Yet, patience remains an elusive quality, extremely hard to incorporate and manifest. But if you knew that patience holds a treasure for you, wouldn't you be willing to put in a small effort to find it?


Patience Defined

In the dictionary, patience is defined as: the ability to wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset. Just think of a long line at the grocery store check-out or an endless wait at the doctor’s office and you get the picture.


Patience Benefits You

Now let’s dig one layer deeper. You may have heard the statement: “In your patience possess ye your souls,” (Luke 21:19). It is attributed to Jesus admonishing his friends to be steadfast in times of uncertainty and crisis. Jesus links patience to the soul through the word ‘possess’. The dictionary defines ‘possess’ as: to have or own. In other words:  to know intimately. From this perspective the quoted statement would mean that patience allows you to get to know your soul. And that - getting to know your soul - is exactly the treasure hidden inside patience!


Opening the Gift Of Patience

Identifying and receiving the gift patience holds, requires being fully present in the moment. In whatever situation you find yourself, the  instant you feel that your patience is being tested in the regular sense, you interrupt the stream of thoughts that is taking possession of your mind, and instead you tune in completely to what’s going on right then and there.

     There is a reason why you are at this place at this moment. And that reason has to do with what you can offer this situation. Look deep inside yourself and identify a spiritual quality that you resonate with, such as hope, peace, harmony, gentleness, joy, beauty, or love. The call for patience is a signal to match the situation you find yourself in with an inner spiritual quality that fits it perfectly. An example will clarify how this works.

     Suppose you’ve identified ‘beauty’ as a spiritual quality that you resonate with especially. How can you manifest beauty in the daily time-consuming ritual of children’s bath time? This is how you could go about it: focus on the beauty that is a child, and on the beauty of play. Surround yourself with beauty in the bathroom, such as pretty towels, fancy soap. Engage your child and together create a beautiful soap-sud-scape on the bathroom wall. Put on some lovely music. There are myriad possibilities allowing you to express beauty during bath time.

     Working this way the call for patience is the trigger that opens an inner doorway which allows you to express a genuinely felt spiritual quality, rather than let patience be the trigger to tap your foot and absent-mindedly sit it out, or start checking messages.

     Allow your attitude and action to well up from the level of the soul and infuse the three-dimensional world with spiritual light. When your hands express the stirrings of your heart, you’ll start to understand what this getting-to-know-your-soul-business is all about. You’re no longer just a parent who’s willing to put their own agenda on hold for the sake of their child’s bath time, you’ve become a truly patient parent, meaning: by purposefully calling forth a spiritual quality you hold inside of you, you have allowed your soul to shine through in what you do. You have become an inspiration, both to yourself and your child.

     And that is the gift patience holds. It is there for all of us, if we know where and how to look for it! You will no longer have to roll your eyes, dig deep trying to find the willingness to wait gracefully when your agenda is put on hold by circumstances. Turn it around, for this is your chance to let an inner spiritual quality come forward and confirm that spiritual quality as part of who you are.

     If you have found a way to mine the gold that true patience holds, we'd love to hear from you; please share by using the comment box below. Are you wondering how to choose a spiritual quality in a recurring situation that is trying your patience? Let us know and leave a comment.

Recommended Reading

To learn more about being fully present with your kids, you might want to read the following posts presented previously on ParentsAreImportant.com:




Images courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

                                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                              
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

7 Ways to Prevent and Stop Bullying

By: Dyan Eybergen BA,RN,ACPI
Everyone has a responsibility in making their communities, homes and schools a safe and happy place for kids to be. Every year, thousands of kids are victimized by bullies and suffer the effects of fear and humiliation without support. Children do not always speak up when they’re being harassed because they are often embarrassed or afraid the bully will seek revenge on them. Bullying is not so-called “normal teasing behavior” that all kids “go through”. It is a deliberate, repeated hostile activity marked by an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. It is a recurring act with the intent to harm. It is not a normal part of growing up; it is hurtful, and the lasting effects on those bullied can be devastating.

Bullying happens once every seven minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom.(Pepler et al., 1997)
If you are aware that a child is being bullied, here are 7 ways in which you can prevent and stop the bulling behavior:
  1. Support the child. Let the child know you are there to support them and that you will do all you can to help them feel safe
  2. Work with the School. Schools and parents need to work together to prevent and stop bullying. Parents need to make the school aware when there is a bullying incident and the school needs to develop a plan for supervision and intervention out on the playground and during lunch time and foster a climate where all students are safe, cared for and can access help if they need it.
  3. Make a safety plan. If the bullying happens on route to and from school, parents can arrange for their child to go with older, supportive children, or be available to transport the child back and forth. Talk to the child about safety in numbers and encourage them to stick with a group when walking.
  4. Help build the child’s confidence. Help children develop confidence in their social skills by encouraging them to get involved in extracurricular activities and school clubs that share similar interests.
  5. Practice appropriate responses to the bully. Help children rehearse what to say to someone who is bullying them: “Stop it, I don’t like it” with assertiveness and walk away.
  6. Increase self-esteem. Set the child up for success by providing opportunities where they can exercise their strengths and talents. When children do well it provides them with positive feelings about themselves and their capabilities.
  7. Communicate. Create a milieu of unconditional regard where the child is encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Some Perspective


Last night I returned from choir practice and was annoyed one of my children had pulled out the wrapping paper box from under my bed and left it there.  I asked my husband about it and he didn't know who did it.

This morning my daughter told me, "Mom, I made a necklace for you."  A little girl had given her this gem at my students' piano recital.  Rather than keep it for herself, she decided to get some ribbon from the wrapping paper box and string it through the gem to make the necklace.  She lovingly put it over my head.

It was sweet, but I felt bad. I'm quick to get annoyed, especially when I have worked hard to organize and clean our house.  Really, does it matter that much?  She wasn't trying to annoy me.  She loves me and was doing something nice.  The other day she was just bursting with joy because I wrote her name on a plastic cup at a family gathering and added a heart to it. 

Do you ever have moments like that as a parent?



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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Infant Sleep and Parents' Expectations


A new study just released in the journal Child Development addresses an interesting issue--do moms' thoughts and expectations (i.e., cognitions) about infant sleep actually influence how well (or not so well) their babies sleep? It's an interesting idea when you think about it. The concept is that parents have certain expectations or preconceived ideas of how their child will behave, whether it be in regards to sleeping or eating, playing, etc. These expectations may actually influence how parents respond to their children and thus influence the child's actual behavior. This same theory could apply to any number of child behaviors. This is one of the few studies I've seen, however, that consider it in regards to sleep.

The main premise of the study was this: take 85 first-time pregnant women and ask them about their thoughts regarding infant sleep and the amount of help parents should give to help infants fall asleep or go back to sleep after waking. These thoughts regarding sleep basically fell along a continuum between (1) parents should provide a lot of direct help to soothe infants back to sleep, to (2) parents should limit how much intervention they offer to infants so that the infant can learn self-soothing techniques. Once the moms gave birth, the infants actual sleep patterns were monitored along with the amount of soothing techniques moms actually used (this was done at 1, 6, and 12 months of age).

The results were pretty interesting. Moms whose expectations during pregnancy emphasized infants needing a lot of assistance to sleep were more likely to have infants who had a greater number of nighttime wakings at 6 months. The opposite was also true--moms whose expectations during pregnancy emphasized limited parental intervention to help infants sleep were more likely to have infants with fewer nighttime wakings at 6 months.

The study went on to show that moms whose expectations during pregnancy emphasized a lot parental intervention to help infants sleep did actually provide more assistance to their infants to soothe them to sleep. This pattern was, in turn, related to poorer sleep patterns at age 6 and 12 months. The interesting part about this to me is that this shows that parents' expectations regarding their child's behavior may be just as important as the child's actual behavior in how they react. The authors put it this way,

"These findings support the hypothesis that parental soothing methods are not solely dependent on infant's characteristics. It appears that mothers bring their own perceptions into the interaction and those cognitions seem to shape their behavior toward the infant around bedtime."

Of course, these findings do not necessarily imply there is a "right" or "wrong" way to deal with helping an infant sleep. The authors emphasize (and rightly so) that early in life infants need parents to provide comfort and soothing. Gradually over time, however, the infant develops more ability to self-soothe.

Any thoughts? Did you have expectations about how you'd deal with nighttime wakings? Did your expectations and reality match up?


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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to build Resiliency in Children and Youth


by: Dyan Eybergen BA,RN,ACPI
 
While adulthood is often challenging and filled with responsibility, childhood has its fair share of ups and downs. Children and youth are often faced with having to navigate through difficult change: learn new information and endure new experiences; change schools, move neighborhoods, encounter bullies, make new friends and have their hearts broken once or twice. So what enables some young people to do well in school, form meaningful relationships and be optimistic about the future, in spite of these challenges, while others become depressed or self-destructive? Teaching children and youth skills to recover from difficulties or change help to develop resilience. Resilient kids are problem solvers. They face unfamiliar or tough situations and strive to find good solutions.
 
 

Here are some valuable suggestions for raising resilient children and youth:

       Respond to each child  based on his/her unique needs, abilities, skills and temperament

       Teach emotional intelligence through developing a “feelings vocabulary”

       Teach coping and problem solving skills that will offset more difficult temperaments in children

       Model and teach social skills and interpersonal etiquette in order to get along with others

       Give those with difficult temperaments time to process intense feelings and limit overwhelming experiences

       Provide those with a disorganized temperament a predictable, consistent environment

       Listen with interest...even when you disagree

       Model respectful communication

       Ask open-ended questions to facilitate communication and encourage disclosure

       Discuss moral questions that arise in the media

       Teach anger management skills that keep your words and body language neutral (practice emotional intelligence)

We are not automatically born resilient; our lives influence how resilient we will become. Individual, family and community risk and protective factors play a major role in just how resilient an individual turns out to be.  Some risks factors to consider are genetic vulnerabilities to mental health disorders, violence in the family and poverty. Protective factors, to name a few, are adequate individual emotional support, effective parenting and exposure to positive life experiences. The more skills taught to children and youth and the more protective factors in place the more resilient an individual becomes.

 

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