Monday, July 2, 2012

Adolescent thinking

For those of you that wonder about adolescent thinking I will share two things with you that might help when things don't make sense.

The first is a video on YouTube - What you will learn is that even for the brightest, mature teen, when emotions come in to play their brains are not significantly wired to overcome those emotions. This means that when discussing things with teens that the conversations need to take place prior to the situation and be done calmly.

The second comes from the book, NurtureShock, and it deals with issues of conflict. "In the dictionary, the antonym of honesty is lying, and the opposite of arguing is agreement. But in the minds of teenagers, that's not how it works. Really, to an adolescent, arguing is the opposite of lying."

From research on teens they asked the youth when and why they told the truth to their parents about things they knew their parents disapproved of. Occasionally teens told the truth because they knew a lie wouldn't fly - they would just be caught. Sometimes they told the truth because they felt obliged, saying, "They are my parents, I'm supposed to tell them."

BUT they found that the primary motivation that emerged was they told the truth in hopes that their parents might give in and say it was okay. They also found that in families where there was less deception, there was more arguing and complaining. Arguing was seen by the teens as good. They equated arguing with honesty. Parents saw arguing as being disrespectful and stressful. Teens saw arguing as an honest sharing of thinking and emotion. They saw it as a powerful means of communicating with their parents and being able to tell their parents what they thought.
The part of the brain that deals with judgment, decision making, delay of graddification, etc. is the prefrontal cortex. This is the part the is over-ridden with strong emotions, agitation and excitement. SURPRISE.

Having read this and looked at the research I shared the information with some teens that I know. They completely agreed with the research. Interesting! SO taking the two issues together it is important for parents to have few rules and more discussions with their teens on a variety of issues and to recognize that teens are still coming to grips with their thinking and emotions. My recommendation is that the next time your teen and you have an argument, when it is over give him or her a hug and thank them for sharing with you. Then go out for ice cream and have another discussion.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Transitioning beginning toddlers in child care

I was asked about what is the best way to transition a one-year-old from a daycare class they have been attending to a new classroom with new adult caregivers.  In this case the mother works as a teacher so she is home during the summer but has to pay for the child care spot even if it is not used in order to reserve it for the fall.

What works best is if the program has a plan in place to work through this transition.  Many programs do.  It would mean one of the child care staff that has a good relationship with your child would accompany him or her to the other classroom periodically in the weeks leading up to the transition.  Visits would last about 15 minutes to 1 hour.  Generally this would be done about 4 - 6 times.  The child would be free to interact and play with the other children and get accustom to the new adults.  Other one of the new adults will even come visit in the younger classroom a few times so that the children are comfortable. 

If the program does not have staffing or a transition plan then parents can fill this role as well by taking the child in for periods.  This needs to be in consultation with the staff of the new classroom.  Sometimes parents think that visiting during nap time is best, but this is often a time when the staff is trying to help get children settled down and they would prefer visits during a more active time where the child would be attracted to the activity.  Generally it works best if the parent that the child has the easiest time separating from is the one that pringes the child in for the visit.  If the child clings to mom, then it will only get worse if mom is the one that brings him or her in for the visit.

I would get a phone number from the parents after they started dropping of the child for short periods (about 2 hours) so that I could call the parent and reassure them about how their child is doing.  Otherwise the parent usually assumes that the child is upset the whole time.  Generally children settle down within about 10 - 12 minutes.

In the case of the parent that is mentioned above my recommendation was to have short times (about 2 hours each time about 3 times a week) where she takes her son in over the summer so that he gets use to the routine and the faces as well as the new surroundings. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I encourage everyone to watch the video at the link posted below.  It is a TED talk on Slowing down in a world built for speed.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Boys, and where they go

Over the years I have been asked by many parents (okay, really just the Moms) about their boys and toilet issues, or more accurately the absence of proximity to the toilet.  Chief among these are the number of boys that will need to go #2 and rather than go into the bathroom they will find a corner out of the way and go in their pants.  Then they may try to change clothes ignore it or tell a parent.  This is most common for boys 3 - 4 years old and seems to impact about 10% of boys. 

Then there is the issue of going #1.  It might start at about 3 years old, but often this does not hit until they are 4 or even 5 years old when they go where the urge hits them.  Things to remember:

1.  Children of this age do no see the world as we do.  They think: "Water in, water out."  "Therefore it is okay for me to go water that plant."  They see a hole in the floor for the heating system and think, "Why go into the bathroom if I can just aim it down there.  It will disappear."  They will think:  "It will just evaporate."
2.  Children do not understand the consequences of their actions.  In much of their life if there was a problem cased by something they did, then their parent has taken care of it and so "if I have not been told not to do something then it must be okay or if not then Mom will fix it."

Look at your child's initial reaction when caught or confronted.  You are most likely to see one of two responses.  Confusion about what the problem is or embarrassment about being caught.  Confusion means they didn't know.  Embarrassment meant that they kind-of knew but didn't think it through.

Can you put an end to it or do you just have to live through it?  Yes you can change the behavior by providing the information that children lack and making sure that they know the reasons as well as the consequences.  Children are concrete learners so they need to do something physically to make things right.  Just telling them not to do something is not enough.  They need to make restitution in some way.  Of course they can't do everything but they can do a significant amount so that they think twice about it.

How to handle this:  This comes best from both parents.  "Billy, you went to the bathroom in the flower vase.  I am concerned because your pee is not the same as water and it will kill the flower (plant).  When you need to go to the bathroom where do you need to go?  Why do you need to go there to go to the bathroom?  How can I help you to remember the right place to go to the bathroom?  Where else is not a place that you should go to the bathroom?  Why? 

What you are doing is laying the groundwork for future discussions and looking for situations where the child might lack information or have wrong information.  When you find those then you know what you need to do.

Sometimes parents think that children act out in this way because they want attention, are seeking to show power or they are angry.  While this is possible it is least likely.  In the vast majority of cases it is because that is the way young boys sometimes process information.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What is the figure used regarding positive vs. negative interactions between parents and children?

I was asked about the issue of positive versus negative interactions between parents and children.  The statistic most commonly used is 8/10 interactions are negative and involve a cost to the child.  The result of a high number of negative interactions is children's selective listening.  If the child thinks that what he/she will hear is negative then they select to not pay attention.  The fix for this is to increase positive interactions so that they child will think that the massage being directed their way is more likely to be positive and so they will want to pay attention.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Children who don't listen

Situation:  I am a nanny for two boys ages 2 and 7 years old.  The two year old I am having no problems with so far but its the older boy I have been having problems with.  The problems I have with him I have also noticed that he is the same for his parents.  One he doesn't listen at all, I am constantly repeating myself over and over to get him to do what I ask. Another is he is constantly wiggling around the only time I have seen him sit still is when he is watching the tv.  Also he is constantly bothering his little brother to the point where his brother screams or ends up hitting him.  The mom and his step dad have set rules.
Answer:  You give a lot to respond to.  First, Listening is a learned skill and for a child who has developed "selective listening" it means retraining them.  The number one reason for selective listening at any age is that they are sure that they don't want to hear what is being directed their way.  Do a mini communication audit by making a simple chart.  Mark down how many interactions between the child and the parent or the child and yourself are positive and how many are negative.  an appropriate balance would be about 7 positive interactions for every 3 negative interactions.  Just because you are recording it you are more likely to make some more positive.  Also keep in mind that interactions that are neither positive or negative are usually interpreted by the child as being negative.  (What constitutes a negative interaction? - Any time that the child is being corrected, directed or managed.  What constitutes a positive interaction? - these are times where you reach out, ask questions, show support, smile, ask for help)
Parents and caregivers also need to know that it takes time to make changes and  you will be both impacting the way you normally interact as well as trying to overcome years of the child thinking they know what will happen.  These are the unwritten rules of communication.  It often happens that the child misbehaves intentionally because they would rather have the parenting style they are familiar with over the one that they don't know where it is going.
Another issue is if a child can function under two or more sets of rules.  The answer to that is yes, it helps if there are common expectations.  In families where children spend time in a care setting they very easily adapt.  I have had many parents that have visited my classroom who said, "How did you get her to behave so well?  We never see that child at home."  Children will live up to or down to the expectations.  They want attention more than any toy you could ever give them.
On the issue of fidgeting, wiggling, and picking on brother here are my thoughts.  Do you think he is doing it for attention? to show he has power/control over the brother? or because he is bored? or because he likes the contact?  Each of these would lead to a different answer and solution.  Another interesting this we see in today's children is that TV is programming children's brains on how much stimulation they feel they want and need.  They teach what is acceptable and not acceptable to an age of child who can not distinguish appropriateness themselves.  If the only time the child is calm is in front of the TV then the child is spending too much time in front of the TV.  he is not learning self restraint and self control.  Everything in his world is outside of himself and he needs help with getting away from the thing he likes the most and that parents often allow because it heps to calm them down.  In the end it is a steady spiral down and the long term impact is that the child will have increasingly greater difficulty.
Make a plan and work the plan.  It will take weeks and not days to see the change.

How to get over the misperception that if you are taking a parenting class you must be a bad parent.

I have the opportunity to teach parenting classes at church.  Often there is a perception that only those who are identified as bad parents would attend.  It is seen much like going to driving school.  You must be doing something wrong.  This analogy is the wrong one because in order to get a licence to drive in the first place you had to take a class and / or test to prove you could handle it.  Where is the test you take for how to be a parent.  There isn't even an owners manual. 

Parents mostly just make it up through thinking about how they were raised or reacting based on their mood at the time.  in the era where we have more knowledge than ever before about every imaginable topic we also resist stepping into the unknown or parenting with a little useful information.

Starting each session there is no introduction of oneself and a listing of parenting failings.  Ninety percent is helping to develop an attitude about parenting that will result in positive interactions and parent/child relationships growing so that the result are happy parents and well-behaved, self directed children.  Ten percent of the time is solving problems. 

Some parents would like the magic ticket to successful parenting.  They want the short-cut.  They want the easy fix or quick answer.  Just like they did not get into the situation overnight, they will not get out of it overnight.  Parenting takes time.  It means being invested in both your own and your child's future.  It means patience.  It means delaying gratification.  It is not easy.