Thursday, July 29, 2010

Helping children sleep through the night

Question:  How do I get my 9 months old to sleep through the night? I'm tired of waking up with him in the middle of the night 2-3 times. He eats a ton of solid food before bed, goes to sleep and wakes up every single night at 3 am or so. Why? He eats a bottle when he wakes up but IDK why he's hungry bc he eats so much before bed.

Answer:  There are a lot of reasons why a child of this age might wake up.  Based on the information given here are the things that come to mind.
1. He is wet and he feels uncomfortable when he is wet so no matter how hard he tries he can't adjust.  Is he wet and needs to be changed?  Monitor the intake of fluids and food to see if the timing could be adjusted.  Infants have very few ways they can communicate and crying is their only choice.  He is trying to tell you something.
2.  Constipation - are things flowing smoothly through his system?  This can be a reason children are waking at this age because as foods travel through their system the last part can cause discomfort.
3.  People permanance - think of object permanance - but with the focus on people, namely you.  If he has reached the cognitive level that he knows you are out there somewhere and has learned that you come if called then it is reinforcing.  The best way to find out if this is part of the issues is if he immediately calms down when you enter the room (meaning his problems are solved because you are there).  This means that he has gotten used to you helping him to sooth himself.  That is a good thing but it also can be causing the problem.

If he is not good at self soothing then the place to start is during the day time.  When he cries during the day provide a stuffed animal or toy, but don't pick him up.  Distract him, but don't take away his ability to be in control of his own situation.  See how he does.  Children who have parents who are "rescusing" them a lot in situations they can or should be able to manage expect and want to always be rescued.  This is a tough balancing act because what builds attachment and the development of trust is the meeting of physical and emotional needs.

Follow up questions I would ask:
1.  Is he fully awake when you go into the room?
2.  Is he wet or need changing?
3.  How quickly does he settle down?
4.  Is rubbing him back enough or does it take holding him?
5.  How relaxing is the room environment (is there soft music playing in the background, gentle soft lighting, etc.)
6.  What is his temperament like?  Easy going, slow to warm up, rejecting, etc.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The impact of development on behavior

"Children's behavior can evoke feelings of delight, aggravation, humor, confusion, satisfaction, and/or anxiety from adults."  Often the words, "Where does he get it from?", "Why won't she listen?", or "When will they learn?" are heard by parents who can't seem to understand the behavior choices of a young child.  Right there in that last part of the sentence is the key to the answer, the behavior choices of the child.

To adults this implies intent and purposeful actions.  Let me show you by example a few things that are similar.  Have you ever gotten lost because you drove down the wrong street and made it worse by the next turn you made.  Did you mean to end up where you were or did you just make the best choice based on the limited information you had?  Have you ever followed a recipe, and at the end said, "well, that is one I will never make again." 

What happened?  You are an adult and have far more information to go from and yet you didn't end up with a good result.  Now consider that when dealing with young children they have extremely limited experience, are not good observers, and need to experience things multiple times to develop the cognitive connections and the skills to be successful.

Three key principles that impact a child's abilities and thinking are:  Ego Centrism, Centration, and Irreversibility.

Ego centrism is the most critical factor as it relates to social interactions and behaviors.  Young children can not consider their own view of an issue and someone else's simultaneously.  Additionally for very young child they can not suspend their own at all to consider another child's view.

Suggestions for parents:
1.  Talk with children about their feelings.  Help them to label feelings that they might not fully understand or have words to describe.
2.  Point out similar or contrasting feelings of other children.  Direct them to see faces and match the emotion with the facial expressions.
3.  Tell children how their behavior has affected you or another person.
4.  Help children tell each other how they feel.
5.  Remind children of their feelings in prior situations.
6.  Tell children how their behavior has affected you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bedtimes in summer

I was asked if 10:00 pm is to late for a child to go to bed in the summer.  The child is 6 years old.  The parent said that he doesn't have anything going on the next day and can sleep in as long as he wants so she doesn't see any need to send him to bed, especially because it is still light until about 9:00 and she doesn't like the hassle of getting home herself until she is ready.  On special occasions or if he is not tired then it is common for him to stay up until 11:00 or later.

Children learn the habits of self regulation and time management from their parents.  This child should have a bed time of 8:00 in the school year and 8:30 in the summer except for special occasions.  The child should also be up and moving by 8:00 am regardless of if he has anything to do.  Life is passing this poor boy by, and the outlook is not rosy.  There are adventures to be had and books to be read.  Right now he is heading toward starting school behind where he was at the end of the prior year.

Taking infants for a ride

Scary! On my way to work today a car was headed in the other direction and the mom was in the passenger see holding her infant (maybe 2 months old based on the size) in the air in  front of her while they interacted with each other.  Meanwhile the car is traveling over 60 MPH.  I know this because they had just passed a car and swerved back into their lane from the one that I was traveling in.  The speed limit is 55mph.  Car seats and laws about them are there for a reason.  Unfortunately laws and seats can't protect children from the stupidity of their parents. 

Enough ranting, I feel better now.

Now a plug - be sure parents read the directions for use on car seats because most are installed incorrectly by parents.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taking teens for a ride

One of the best opportunities parents have for talking with their teen is in the car.  Usually the lines of communication are more open when parents can talk without maintaining eye contact with their teen.  Also facial expressions are less intense when talking about highly contenscious issues.  After the drive stop for something to drink or get some ice cream and sit in a place where the communication can continue.

Another good location is on the golf course where conversations can flow from hole to hole and the activity you are involved with allows for both direct discussion of issues and a prolonged dialogue.

The main thing is you can not wait to have discussions on major topics until they become a concern. 

In my class this week I gave them a real situation where a 14 year-old girl has been dating a 18 year old boy and they have been intimate for two years.  The questions revolved around how parents should react when they find out. 

It is always surprising that some students react to this by stating something such as the following, "This could probably be labeled as abuse, but if they have been in a relationship that long it must be they really care for each other so the main thing is to make sure the girl knows she has options."  They think the parents must already know because parents should know.  As you can imagine there are some in the class that have themselves lived through similar situations and what I find is that they refuse to condem behavior in others that they engaged in themselves.  What they do acknowledge is that they wish someone would have stepped in and stopped things even if they would not have liked it.

In an interesting study this past week it was reported that over 75% of parents did not think their children were having sex.  When they talked with the teens it turned out that only 9% were not.  Conversations need to start early.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Prepare & Enrich

This is a short version of the Prepare/Enrich Survey and what they have found is that it highlights areas of concern as well as opens up opportunities for discussion.  Couples that discuss these and find resolution become stronger.  The actual survey has over 100 questions and it is copyrighted but these samples are made available by the authors and publishers.

20 questions from the Prepare/Enrich Relationship survey

Instructions: Answer the questions yes or no.

1. I expect some of our romantic love will fade after marriage.    

2. I believe most disagreements we currently have will decrease after marriage.

3. I really like the personality and habits of my partner.

4. I am concerned about my partners drinking and/or smoking.

5. I can easily share my positive and negative feelings with my partner.

6. My partner is less interested in talking about our relationship that I am.

7. We openly discuss problems and usually find good solutions.

8. We have some important disagreements that never seem to get resolved.

9. We have decided how to handle our finances.

10. I wish my partner was more careful in spending money.

11. I enjoy spending some time alone without my partner.

12. At times I feel pressure to participate in activities my partner enjoys.

13. I am very satisfied with the amount of affection I receive from my partner.

14. My partner and I sometimes disagree regarding our interest in sex.

15. I think parenting will dramatically change our relationship and the way we live.

16. I have some concerns about how my partner will be as a parent.

17. My partner and I agree on how much we will share the household chores.

18. We disagree on whether the husband’s occupation should be a top priority in where we live.

19. We share the same spiritual and religious values.

20. We sometimes disagree on how to practice our religious beliefs.

Scoring for Couples

1. On the odd numbers (1, 3, 5, etc.) count the number of items where you both answered YES.

2. On the even numbers (2, 4, 6, etc.) count the number of items where you both answered NO.

3. Add the two categories together.

Interpreting your Score

16-20 Very little risk of divorce

11- 15 Less risk of divorce

6-10 High risk of divorce

0-5 Very high risk of divorce

Monday, July 19, 2010

What men want in women, what women want in men.

Everyone thinks they know the answer to the question, What do men want in a woman? and what do women want in a man?  I can tell who has read their textbook based on what the answers are to this question. 

In reality the top five for men are:  Love, Dependability, Stability and maturity, Good disposition, Looks.  The top five for women are: Love, Dependability, Maturity & Stability, Good disposition, Desire for children and home.

Interesting that these are not the characteristics that you find portrayed within the media (movies and TV) as the preferred characteristics.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Real chance of Divorce

I am teaching a course on Marriage and Family and a student said, "Why get married if there is a 50% chance I will get divorced?"

What is lost in the figure often cited is the real story.
Did you know that if you graduate from high school you have a lower chance of divorce than if you don't. 
If you go to college then it goes down.  If you graduate it goes down.  If you get a graduate degree it goes down. 
If you are religious it goes down. 
Other factors that lower your chance of divorce are:
Being the same religion, being middle class or above, getting married after age 21, getting married by choice (rather than due to pregnancy), going to premarital counseling or taking a course on marriage, not smoking and drinking. 

If you remove those that are at the low end of the socioeconomic range then the actual change of getting a divorce is more in the 20% - 25% range.  Then with the other factors it can be reduced to less than 15%. And that is for the whole population that fit those criteria. 

Some people think their chances of staying married are about as good as winning the lottery.  That is definitely not the case

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Home Sick at camp

Every year boys and girls go to Boy Scout camp, Day camps, Girl's Camp, church camps, sports camps, etc. and every year there are kids of a variety of ages that get home sick and want to go home. What they are having trouble with is the change in routine and predictability. What is a parent to do? Do you go get them or make them tough it out?
1. Parents know which children have more of a difficulty in dealing with unfamiliar situations and people. For some it is a matter of concern and for others it secretly is a matter of assurance that they are still wanted and needed by their child. Keep your eye on the ball here. The goal is to develop confident, self directed individuals. You don't want your child to be unable to go to school, to work, to college, or to leave home to get married.
2. Think of it as a journey. Don't wait for the "big event." Build up to it. Sleep overs with friends. Going to movies or the mall without parents. Taking swimming lessons. Baby sitting for other people. All of these help children to gain confidence and independence.
3. If you are already in the situation with a child (the event is here) then provide a lifeline. The child can call home once each day to report on what they are doing and the call lasts only 5 minutes.
4. If the child is new then assign them a buddy from the start so they have someone to do things with.
5. If you are a leader it may seem harsh, but let them know they can sit and put (cry or whatever) or they can have fun with the others. Be aware of safety issues as there are cases where children have made the decision to walk home.
6. When talking with the child (as the parent or as the leader) don't focus on the homesickness, wanting the parent or things like that. Watch the words you use. (I have had many parents of preschool age children that have conversations like this with their child. "I am leaving now, are you going to be all right. I will be gone for a long time and you won't see me. You will be here with only your teacher. Are you sure you are all right." Then when the child gets upset, the parent says, "see he has a hard time and maybe I should stick around or maybe he is too young."
7. This is not a maturity issues and giving the child another year (whether he or she is 3 or 13 will not make a difference. It is a learned and reinforced behavior built on child temperament and tendencies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sharing experiences with children

Our family likes old movies, The Marx Brothers, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Burns and Allen, and great classics like The Great Race, Paint Your Wagon and Fiddler on the Roof. Throughout our children's lives it has not been kids movies that were different from our movies. We love Disney movies. In fact we just finished the Jungle Book. Our children have grown up with the same tastes in music and movies as we have. We share things together and make it fun and interesting. From talking with parents I find that many send their kids to other rooms to watch things on their own. Parents have different standards for their entertainment.

Many years ago I had a parent who was having a problem with her 5 year old and swearing. She remarked that she was going to come see me earlier in the day but her son was having a birthday party and the movie had not ended yet. The movie she had gotten for him and all of his friends to see was rated "R." Surprise that her son believed that adults swear when kids are not around. It was interesting to find that the 5 year old had seem more R-rated movies than I had.

Be interested in your children's interests and share your interests with them.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

2 & 3 year olds and sharing

When talking about sharing with 2 and 3 year olds it is important to decide if you are talking about sharing or taking turns. Turn taking is easy to teach and in most cases that is what parents mean when they say sharing. The question asked this time had to do with parents trying to get their children to share with another child.

1. Be sure you mean sharing and not taking turns.
2. if it is sharing then both end up with something at the same time so it often needs a little adult involvement initially.
3. If it is taking turns then involve the other parent by saying we will take turns taking turns. It doesn't matter who goes first.

Set the children up for experiences.

Word of caution: Do not force a child to share. It will not teach them sharing skills, but it will teach that their will can be overriden by someone bigger and they will apply that with others who are smaller than they are. If a child has a favoite toy then they should not be expected to give it up.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Talking with Teens

A father has some jobs for his daughter to do around the house. She has slept in some after a late night out with her friends. He has choices on how to approach the situation. Should he:
a. Knock on her door and tell her to get up because it is 9:00 and there are jobs to be done.
b. Knock on her door and ask her if she would be willing to help out around the house.
c. Tell her it is time to get up and that you have jobs for her to do.
d. Knock on her door, enter, sit on her bed and ask about her eveing the night before, how things went, what her plans were for the day and then online those things he needs her help with.

With teenagers it is still the same old principle you should have learned when your children were little. Meeting their needs makes them more willing to meet yours. Take interest in their activities and outline what you need and they will usually be willing to do what is needed. Demand obedience and they will likely pull away and be defiant. They are nearing adulthood and just as you would like to be asked, they too would like to be treated with respect as well as direction.