Saturday, August 28, 2010

I love my rock, what does it mean for my kids?

This question comes from someone who loves listening to hard rock music.  He said that he likes to put on Black Sabbath, AC/DC and others and really crank it up so even my neighbors can hear.  His wive is concerned about the impact on their young daughter and their unborn child.  His rationale is that he has ended up okay so it can't be bad for you.

I can't believe I will use this analogy from my past but it applies here.  As my mother use to say, if all of your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you jump off also?  What I would say is if 10 people jumped off, what is the survival rate and what is the individual outcomes.  The rationale that because one person turned out normal is not an acceptable rationale.  What are the percentages?  Next is what do we know about the impacts of this music on the developing child and the unborn child.  I am sorry to say that both are not what he will want to hear.  Best to leave the music to occasional times when either the family is not around or as a special, lets be crazy and dance to daddy's old music.  Also turn it down a notch as you are impacting everyone's hearing.

Fact:  Hard rock music increases the release of cortisol which is a stress hormone in both mothers and in unborn infants.  Children who are exposed to high levels of cortisol have a greater level of behavior problems and managing emotions as young children and young adults.  In other words your children will pay for your choices and you will pay as more difficult parenting situations will arise.

Can you come live with us?

Over the years I have been asked, in jest, the question,"can you come live with us for a month?" 

Parents are both interested in doing the right thing for their children as well as often are doubting their own abilities.  There is no such thing as a quick fix and therefore I avoid answering the question of what do I do now when a child behaves in a manner other than what the parent wants.  Here are some of the basics.
1.  Parents are oversensitive about their children's behavior - parents are under sensitive about their children's behavior.  What I mean by this is that parents often want to stop behavior in public that might portray themselves in a negative light and yet they allow behaviors in public and private that are really worthy of attending to.  Also parents will let a bunch of behaviors go with a child that is two years old and even label it as cute that when it continues when the child is older they are frustrated by.
2.  Allow children to be children.  They perform for audiences.  These performances might be in terms of increased crying, aggressive behavior, shy behavior, hanging on, whining, running around, showing off, etc.  They are all related to the change in "normal."  They take their cues from you.  Adults also change their behaviors and act differently when "guests" are around and children are still figuring out what this means for them.  Sometimes it means testing limits that you think have been firmly set.  This is a time to understand but also reinforce the limits you have set.

Here is an example:  many years ago I was making a home visit to the home of a child in my class.  Both parents were highly educated, they had a nanny that was with their son during the day.  When I got there he was sitting on the couch waiting for me.  I had never met him or his parents before but he had been told that his "Teacher" was coming.  He was 3 1/2 and had no idea what the word meant.  Within a few minutes he was up and moving.  In the next three minutes he had run around the room, grabbed a ball and started throwing it at things on the mantel.  When his father moved to stop him his wife said, "Let him be, he is just excited because his teacher is here."  My reply was, No matter what the setting or the reason I don't want him to think that his behavior is acceptable just because something has changed.  Had I not done this then I would have been inviting similar behavior once he got to my classroom. 

Rather than allowing the parents to handle it I took it as an opportunity to model what I would do in the classroom for a child who was misbehaving.  Rather than saying, "Philip, stop throwing the ball."  I said, "Philip, you have a really nice ball, will you show it to me?"  He walked over with it to show me.  I held the ball in my hand as I talked with him about it. (I now had control of the object)  I told him how much I liked balls but that they were only to be used outside where it is safe.  He nodded his head.  I asked him if he had toys he liked to play with inside that he would like to show me.  From then on I helped him be in control of being the host rather than the adults knowing that he was the reason for the visit but not engaging him in the process.  As I was leaving his mom thanked me and said that what he was like in the first few minutes was typical for whenever they had guests.

3.  Meet them where they are rather than expecting them to meet you where you are.  This does not mean physically.  It means base your efforts by first seeking to understand how you child sees the world rather than expecting him to understand your view.  Children are still learning the ability called "Perspective taking."  This means being able to be empathetic, aware of others and to tailor their behaviors to accommodate the needs of others.  This means becoming self censoring and self directed rather than it coming from outside (you).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Siblings not getting along

The youngest of three children, a 4 year old girl is always getting in fights with her 6 year old brother, but she gets along with her 8 year old brother.  When she gets frustrated she resorts to yelling at her mother and basically stirring up trouble by trying to get her brother blamed for things.  The parent indicated that he tells her to stop behaving the way she is acting and has tried things like time out or punishing her.  I asked if he had asked her how she was feeling or what she was upset about.  He indicated that he had not done that.  He was mainly concerned with stopping the behavior that he didn't like. 

It really helps if you think of children as being inexperienced communicators who need help.  By saying something like, "You seem really upset, come sit with me and lets talk about it." you are opening the lines of communication.  If she hits you or your wife, rather than moving to punishment think of it as a child who is having such a hard time communicating that she is going to extreme to try to get your attention. 

Stop the behavior, seek understanding, give alternative behavior options to get what is wanted, put limit on unacceptable behaviors, interact in a positive way.

Getting a child to stop saying no

I was asked today by a grandmother how to get her granddaughter (5 or 6) to stop saying "no" every time she was asked to do something.  I asked if it was things like, "Would you like to help set the table?"  That was exactly the time of things that triggered it.  In fact no matter what the grandmother asked the child said no to.  In fact what the grandmother thought she was doing was inviting her granddaughter to help.  What she was really doing was phrase every request in a way that it turned it into a "yes" or "no" question.  At every turn the child said "No."

The solution:  Think in terms of options and not as a chance to help.  The table needs setting, which are you going to help with, the spoons or the forks.  Start simple and don't make the task too large.  If the child balks then make it a choice between a big thing, such as setting the whole table or a small thing, only putting on the spoons.  The child will choose the easy task.  Count this as a success and move on and wait for a few hours before offering the next task.  Too often parents who find some success with this immediately move on to a whole series of choices and children don't want to be manipulated and will figure out what is happening.  Making choices about three times a day is enough for a start with long periods in between.  Over time the child will see that they get to make choices and that the rest of the interactions are positive.  They will start taking more responsibility on their own without the need to be directed.

If given an chance children who feel powerless about their lives will take every opportunity to say "No" so don't take it personal.  Think of it as a journey where over time you are going to teach her that having control can be positive rather than resulting in a negative interaction.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

All day Tantrum

Question:  I am looking for a cure for the all-day temper tantrum. I've done time-outs on the time-out chair and her crib, and of course, the recommended "ignoring" the fit... But really...when all day of ignoring isn't working, what do you other moms recommend? 'Cause I'm really really tired of having toys thrown at me, and whining and crying."

Answer:  Ever have a bad day but can't communicate it.  Very young children may be experiencing distress in a variety of areas.  Most times it is trial and error in finding what the problem is or how to remedy it.  Generally unless I know the child and have some history of predicting the reason I would start with a variety of things and look for the response.  Is it based on anger, tired, unmet needs, frustration, etc.

1.  Hugs and a snuggle
2.  Walk around looking at things
3.  Lay down near her and do nothing for a while

These top three are too look for reactions and if they provide a break in the action.  If the tandrum continues then.
4.  Read a book, listen to music, etc. so that you are near by but you are showing her you are occupied.

Does she seek you out for attention to her tantrum.

5.  Change of scencery - take her for a walk, change her clothes, play with a toy.  (I have actually heard of a situtation where a child threw a tantrum every time one dress was put on because it felt scrtchy but the child was too young to tell anyone).

Last resorts - Time out (with you near by but not paying attention to the child)