The Stages of Play and Friendship

How to teach emotional intelligence

How does socialization work in homeschooling? Children play differently according to their brain development. They move from single play (babies play with toys by themselves) to parallel play (toddlers play side by side but don’t interact other than to grab a toy) to associative play (preschoolers begin to “play together”) to cooperative play (young children that really play together in free play or organized play) which is elementary school years. Children ages 4-12 have friends based on who is around them and shares the same interests. I remember my child telling me about his friend at age 6 but couldn’t remember his name or where he lived. As children move into the teen years, their friends are deliberately chosen based on shared interests but also shared values, beliefs and attitudes.

All children need is one good friend and siblings count, although they can have scads of them if they want. Most homeschooled children are still very much close to family and siblings because family comes first, but also see many outside the family friends because homeschoolers do not stay at home! They “community school.” Friends come from lessons, outings, group projects, co-ops, musical and art community groups, Girl Guides, church, neighborhood, etc. Friends are not just the same cohort as classmates. So homeschooling socialization is more diverse than an age-sorted classroom. Friends are from all cultures, races, genders, family shapes, and ages.

Friends also change depending on life cycles. My daughters friends in early childhood are not the friends she had in high school and not the same friends she had in university. There are new friends for every new life stage. We were looking at photo albums the other day and she doesn’t remember any of her childhood friends before age 12. Same with my other 4 kids.

Socialization doesn’t have to be a worry in homeschooling. Friends are everywhere!

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Celebrate Your Toddler’s “NO!”

Empower your child to say NO!

 

I walked into the kitchen and discovered my two-year-old blonde haired daughter, dressed in her little pink fleece sleeper with the padded feet, standing on top of the chair next to the counter.  She was preoccupied with dipping her fingers into the butter bowl and then into the sugar bowl before they headed into her waiting mouth. When she saw me enter the kitchen, a potential threat to her wonderful activity, she formed a very concise pointed finger at me, and firmly delivered “NO!” at my astonished expression.

 

“NO!”  It’s probably the most commonly used word in toddlerhood!  It flies out of our children’s mouths before they even have time to really think about what they are saying “no” to.

 

When my five children were young, they were allowed to say “no” as much as they wanted to. I would always try to respect their “no” as much as I could within the parameters of the particular situation, and especially in circumstances such as when they didn’t want to be tickled by me, or didn’t want to hear me sing, or didn’t want to be kissed by Grandma or didn’t want to share their prized possessions. I think “no” is an important word for asserting their feelings and desires and unless it is a matter of safety, they have the right to have their opinion listened to and respected. Here is why children should be allowed to say “no”:

 

I want my daughter to say “no” when she is three and her daddy might want to put her in the front seat and not the car seat because it is less hassle.

 

I want my daughter to say “no” when she is five and her little five-year-old friend might want her to cross a busy street without an adult.

 

I want my daughter to say “no” when she is nine and her Uncle might want to touch her in her private places.

 

I want my daughter to say “no” when she is twelve and her friends might want her to steal a candy bar from the grocery store.

 

I want my daughter to say “no” when she is fourteen and her friends might bully a fellow student.

 

I want my daughter to say “no” when she is fifteen and a friend’s drunk parent might want to drive her home from a sleepover party.

 

I want my daughter to say “no” when she is sixteen and her boyfriend might want to show her how much he loves her.

 

I want my daughter to say “no” when she is eighteen and her buddies might want her to try some “crystal meth.”

 

So, when she is two-years-old, my daughter can practice saying “no” as much as she needs to.  And I won’t take it personally.

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new book, Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps. http://www.professionalparenting.ca,        jarnall@shaw.ca,

 

 

Alternatives To Saying “No!” and Avoiding the Meltdown

One day it happens. Your cute, adorable, cuddly baby has turned into a toddler. And she’s discovered the word, “NO”! Emphatic, heart stopping, and powerful. The word no is a favorite among children because they hear it so often from parents when they mean business.

Children are corrected many times in a day. That’s a lot of negatively thrown at them. Eventually, the word “No” loses its impact and children get so tired of hearing it, they learn to tune parents out.

How can we avoid overuse of the word “No” when relating to our child, but still get the message across that some limits have to be respected? Try using some positive alternatives:

 

  • “Yes, later.” Works well when you want to delay something such as a cookie before dinner.
  • “Not for _______________.” The child’s name can go here.
  • “Not today.” Tells the child that the possibility is open, but timing is wrong.
  • “When……,then……” This technique is especially good for transition times. “When we get in the car, then we can watch the hot air balloons on the way home.” “When we get to Grandmas, then we can have the ice-cream we brought.” This works great to establish a routine and help toddlers discover the order of events in their world. One event often follows another.
  • “Let me think about it.” Instead of an automatic no, you always have the right for time to think about your decision. We often make better parenting decisions, ones we don’t regret later, but feel we have to follow through for consistency sake, when we’ve allowed ourselves time to think about what we are really being asked, and what response we want to give.
  • “Yes, did you bring your allowance with you?” You are getting across the point that child can purchase the treat/toy/treasure but you are not paying for it.
  • “Yes, (with qualifier inserted here).” For example, “Yes, you may eat your Easter chocolate after breakfast.” “Yes, you may ride your bike after your homework is done.” “Sure, lets play after the dishes are done.”
  • Perhaps give a reason instead of a “No”, such as “Ouch, hitting hurts people!” instead of “No hitting”!
  • Be sure to tell what to do, instead of what not to do. Instead of “No running!” try “Please walk.” Instead of “No jumping on the sofa.” Try “Sofas get broken when jumped on. Please jump on the floor cushions.” Or “Let’s use our church voices, instead of our outside voices.”

 

There is always a more positive way to state a rule. Personally, when I hit a barrage of “No this, no that.” I start to feel negative and uncooperative. No matter what their age, all people respond better when rules are communicated positively. For example, “ I’m worried about dirt on the carpet. Let’s take our shoes off in the house.” will elicit much more cooperation than “No shoes in the house”. For just one day, try to avoid the No word and rephrase all your correctives in positive language. Save your No’s for absolute safety reasons. See what a difference it makes in the cooperation of your children!

Excerpted from “Attachment Parenting Tips Raising Toddlers To Teens”

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” She specializes in “Parenting the Digital Generationwww.professionalparenting.ca        jarnall@shaw.ca

 

 

Breastfeeding Benefits

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the optimum food for infants first year and the only food they need for the first six months of life.

Although 95% of women breastfed their babies in 1910, that figure is a lot lower today. About 90% of North American women attempt breastfeeding in the first month, but by the time the baby is three months old, that figure has dropped to about 50% and by the time the baby is 6 months old, the percentage is around 30%.

Clearly, women need much more help, support, and knowledge about breastfeeding if they are going to continue with it as their baby grows.

 

Personally, I breastfed all five of my children and the only time I encountered problems was with the fifth child. You would think that I had breastfeeding mastered, but each child is different and can present different unexpected difficulties. I was lucky that I knew how to access help and I persevered, secure in the knowledge I had about breastfeeding benefits and past experience. New moms don’t have that kind of experience and often give up. The key is knowing when to access help and where to go for it. There is a La Leche League meeting in every major city across North America and they have wonderful help and support at any time of day and night. Many healthcare providers offer various kinds of help, information and support for parents. Ask your health nurse for referrals.

 

There is no need for supplementing, switching to bottles, or formula for the first year of life. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least the first two years of life and beyond, and the world wide average age of breastfeeding is four years of age. In many parts of the world, breastfeeding six year old children is still common. Age of weaning is very much determined by cultural standards, rather than by mom and child wishes, which is very wrong. The good news is that in North American culture, acceptance of breastfeeding older babies and toddlers is gaining every year. Many mothers nurse their toddlers and preschoolers without ever resorting to bottles and continue tandem nursing through the next pregnancy too with no adverse affects to mom, toddler or developing baby’s health.

 

Although breastfeeding is the optimum method for feeding babies, parents that give up breastfeeding are no less excellent parents if they follow an “ infant cue led” feeding philosophy and hold and cuddle their baby while feeding. The bonding, eye contact, and touching are the most attachment, nurturing, connection producing behaviours, rather than the ingredients in the milk.

 

Benefits of Breastfeeding

 

For Baby:

 

  • less illness, less digestive problems, and respiratory problems.
  • Fewer ear infections and allergies
  • Breastfeeding is linked to babies’ intellectual development
  • Increased bonding between mom and child
  • Increased healthy jaw, teeth alignment and speech development
  • Pleasure of sucking instinct satisfied
  • Provides comfort for baby
  • Is automatically sterilized and the perfect temperature.

 

For Mom:

 

  • For every year of breastfeeding, Mom’s risk of breast cancer decreases over her lifetime.
  • For some moms, it’s an effective form of contraception and helps with child spacing.
  • It is convenient, saves time making bottles, and saves cost of formula.
  • Is easier to provide nighttime nutrition, rather than getting up out of bed, heating bottles and feeding baby.
  • Is a pleasurable, sensual feeling once baby is latched properly and breastfeeding is well established (usually after six weeks).
  • Helps to contract the uterus after childbirth.
  • Induces sleep from hormone release.
  • Helps in emotional bonding with baby.

 

Risks

There are no risks involved in breastfeeding.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • My baby is 3 months old and my breasts don’t feel as full as they used to.

 

This is a common concern from new moms. Their breasts have lost the fullness and leakiness of milk that was common in the first few weeks. Don’t worry. The breasts will feel softer and not as full, but they are producing much more milk than those first weeks.

By the time a baby is 6 months old, the breasts are producing about 35 ounces of milk a day, even though they feel smaller and softer. They are much more efficient. If baby is producing 6-8 wet diapers a day and gaining weight according to their individual growth curve, they are getting enough milk!

 

  • My baby has extremely fussy days and seems extra hungry. What is wrong with supplementing with a bottle or two?

 

Fussy babies are common and are not always linked to feeding patterns. Babies fuss because:

  • they are going through growth spurts
  • have been over stimulated,
  • have gas,
  • have had a few bad nights sleep
  • because of their temperament,
  • they are on the verge of a new developmental skill.
  • Or, they simply are having a bad day, just like we adults do!

 

If babies seem extra hungry and want to feed “all the time” it’s because they are probably going through a growth spurt. Babies go through these at approximately 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. They may want to cluster feed and it may seem that all you are doing is sitting down and nursing for a few days. That’s normal and necessary. Breastfeeding works on supply and demand. Baby is nursing to build up your milk supply to keep up with his growth spurt. In a few days, your breasts will be making more milk and he won’t be nursing as often. But, if you introduce a bottle to supplement, then the breasts won’t get the stimulation provided by sucking, that is necessary to build up the milk supply and baby will be hungry. You may be tempted to add more supplementation through formula and then milk production will decrease even more. The best solution to growth spurts is to try and go to bed with baby for a day, rest, and drink a lot of fluids. Avoid supplementation and your milk supply will increase.

 

  • Are my breasts ever empty?

No. Never. Even while baby is feeding, the breast is continually making milk. They may feel empty, but the production is still occurring.

 

  • I want to get out for a few hours. I can’t do it while exclusively breastfeeding.

Freeze breast milk for when you wish to get out. Dad can serve it in a bottle or sippy cup if the baby is older then five months. It may help for him to wrap a receiving blanket with your smell around the bottle, so baby doesn’t feel that its so strange. Or breastfeed baby a huge feeding, then go out for an hour or two and come back to feed again.

 

  • I don’t have enough milk. My breast pump only produces about 2 ounces.

 

Breast pumps have a notorious reputation for not getting enough milk out of breasts. Mothers feel insecure when they see how much effort they put into pumping and how little milk they have produced from the pump and think that baby is getting the same quantity. Any mother who has used a hospital grade electric breast pump would be amazed at the huge quantity those machines extract compared to what the small home pumps do. Babies are also much more efficient in extracting milk from the breast. Their such extracts every drop and as they are suckling, the breasts are making more.

 

  • My doctor told me that today’s formulas are just as good as breast milk.

As much as formula companies are trying to copy breast milk exactly, they can n’t artificially reproduce some components of breast milk, even with today’s technological advancements. Breast milk has hormones, antibodies, and living cells that formula doesn’t have yet. The fat, water, and protein components of breast milk change automatically in response to weather (in hot weather, breast milk is more watery) baby’s age and growth pattern. Formula is the next best feeding product, but so far, will never be superior, or as beneficial to baby’s health as breast milk.

Formulas that advertise ingredients that promote infant intelligence has been shown to be helpful on premature babies but have no effects or benefits for full term babies.

 

  • Am I a good mother if I don’t breastfeed?

Many mothers don’t breastfeed and are excellent mothers. A warm, nurturing response is necessary for attachment and bonding. Mothers who bottle feed according to babies cues are attending to her babies needs in an attachment parenting way.

 

  • Doesn’t breastfeeding cause my breasts to sag?

Pregnancy hormones determine how the breasts age and their shape, size and elasticity after childbirth. Breastfeeding does not change the shape of breasts when breastfeeding stops.

 

  • My 5 month old baby wants to pull away and look around the room. Is it time to wean?

Your baby is going through a developmental stage where he is amused and interested in the world around him. He often wants to “observe” and eat at the same time, and may pull off you constantly, or even worse, try to take the nipple with him as he turns. This is very common and many moms go through a period where they have to nurse in a quiet, dark, low stimulus room to get through a feeding. This stage will pass.

Baby will go through teething and biting around six months and may not wish to nurse from the teething pain, or want to alleviate the pain by biting. Give Tylenol for pain and take him off the breast when he bites. Again, this stage will pass and nursing can continue.

 

  • I feel aroused when I nurse my toddler. Is this normal?

Yes. The tissue around the nipple and areola is sensitive and linked to a women’s sexual response. When breastfeeding moms have an orgasm during sex with their partner, a surprise response is often a let down and gush of breast milk! A sexual arousal during breastfeeding is very normal and nothing to be ashamed of.

 

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” She specializes in “Parenting the Digital Generationwww.professionalparenting.ca    jarnall@shaw.ca

 

Toddlers and Picky Eating Issues

 

 

Babies eat more food relative to weight in the first year, compared to any other year of their life. By age one, food consumption drastically reduces. Babies triple their birth weight in the first year, and toddlers only gain five pounds in the second year. If you can get one good meal into a toddler in a day, you are doing very well! (And it probably will be breakfast or lunch; they are falling apart by dinner.)

 

It helps to think about the division of responsibilities between parent and child. The feeding relationship helps to lesson the need to bargain, bribe, and punish a child to get them to eat. It teaches the child healthier eating habits by getting them attuned to how much their stomach feels hungry, rather than eating according to a clock. It allows for healthier social eating relationships where attendance in a group eating situation is encouraged and not grazing.

 

According to an informal poll of my parenting groups, about 25 to 30 percent of parents feel their toddlers are picky eaters. Toddlers are definitely more interested in exploring than eating, so more food may be on them, the tray and the floor than in their tummies! That’s okay. It’s just a stage.

 

The Feeding Relationship

The parent’s job

 

What: The parent controls what food is bought, stored, cooked, and served. Parents control the money and shopping at this age and make most decisions of what to buy.

 

When: The parent decides when snack and meal times will be. Toddler’s tummies are about the size of a ping pong ball, and they need food and drink every two hours. Three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and three snacks: mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and bedtime per day is recommended. The parent keeps the food on the table for 20 minutes and then puts the food away until the next scheduled meal or snack. The parent doesn’t punish the child for not eating by serving the same food over and over until it gets eaten.

 

Where: The parent decides where eating and drinking will take place. Eating at the table should be encouraged to minimize the risk of choking while running, walking, or climbing. It’s also a good habit to get into, as non-aware eating can lead to weight issues. When children eat while watching movies, playing video games, or computers, they are not consciously enjoying the food or even paying attention to what they are eating. Although, I have noticed you can easily slip a plate of raw vegetables and dip under their noses while they are playing video games and the whole plate is gone in minutes. I don’t even think they notice what they just ate!

Lunch

The child’s job

 

If: The child decides if he will eat, according to his internal hunger cues rather than the clock or schedule. A meal is only a small part of the day’s food intake – only 1/6. If your child chooses not to eat, don’t worry. He will make up for it at some time later in the day, next day, or in a few days.

 

How much: The child decides what quantity will satisfy his hunger. This also

helps him decide his internal cues.

 

More Eating Tips

 

  • Food jags are normal, where the child eats nothing but peanut butter and jam sandwiches for three weeks or a longer period of time. That’s okay. As long as it’s a healthy food, don’t worry about their nutritional intake. Most parents who worried about nutrition, found that their toddlers did eat a variety of foods when they kept a log of their food intake over a week or two week period.
  • It takes 15 tries to accept a new food. Have a one bite routine – try one bite (the no-thank-you bite) and see if your child likes it. If they don’t, let them spit it out onto the “no-thank you” plate. Don’t turn the one bite routine into a power struggle. Young children have very sensitive taste buds and they definitely will change overtime. Toddlers like to feel like they are getting something special. Presentation is everything. Vegetables and fruits arranged in a face will appeal to them when a regular tossed salad is ignored.
  • Toddlers usually don’t eat much at dinner. They are tired and cranky at the end of the day. Track their lunch and breakfast intake.
  • Toddlers usually prefer finger type foods.
  • To save time, don’t use dishes. Put the food right on the tray. Then the plate won’t be thrown.
  • Give baby a spoon for each hand and then you can feed him with a separate spoon. It keeps his hands busy.
  • Give a butter spreader to help preschoolers cut food.
  • Let a toddler practice drinking from a sippy cup in the bathtub.
  • Fill toddler glasses only one third full, and make sure all dishes are plastic.
  • Cool hot food by dumping in an ice cube.
  • Be aware of micro-waving mugs with the attached plastic straws on the outside.
  • The liquid in the straw heats first and can cause burns because the toddler drinks it first.
  • For fun, serve food on doll or play dishes.
  • Think variety: fill an ice cream cone with egg salad, tuna salad, pudding, or yogurt for easy eating.
  • Use the football hold to help get the toddler to the sink and use your other hand to splash water on his chin and guide his arms under the sink to wash. Store clean shirts in the kitchen to save running to the bedroom after meal times. Wash food encrusted shirts within a day or two or the food will become moldy.
  • Clean highchairs and strollers in the shower. Run water and let the encrusted food soften. Works as well outside in the summer with the hose.
  • Dumping, mushing, and throwing food are exploratory behaviors. A little food exploration is part of development. When the food deliberately hits the walls, or the food exploration is testing your patience on a stressful day, it’s a signal that mealtime is over. Remove your child from the eating place.
  • If the toddler doesn’t sit still at mealtime, schedule a burn up activity right before mealtime, and they will have used up some energy. Before a restaurant visit, go to a playground. In fact, this works well for any event that requires a certain amount of sit still time: weddings, church, movies, concerts. Be thankful for 5 – 15 minutes, as this is all you might get!
  • Let them feed themselves with non-messy foods like peas and bread pieces while you can still feed the messy stuff with the spoon.
  • Try serving finger foods with dip or sauce. All children love sauces to swirl.
  • Serve mini portions of old favorites: pancakes, muffins, meatballs.
  • Let them pour their own juice using the dishwasher door as a counter surface.
  • Then you can just close the door after they spill and the mess goes into the dishwasher.
  • Serve a tray of carrot sticks, broccoli florets, red pepper, and salad dressing as you are getting dinner ready. Guaranteed it will be gone!
  • You can pretend to sprinkle sugar over the cereal and nobody will notice the difference. Just wave your spoon over and your toddler will think you put sugar and salt on their food.
  • Young children tend to like their food separated. Avoid casseroles if possible.
  • Serve dessert along with the meal. Don’t elevate the status of dessert as more desirable by declaring it the prize for eating the lesser-valued dinner items.
  • Purée vegetables to hide in soups and sauces.
  • Make sure dessert is healthy. Fruit, yogurt, ice-cream and oatmeal cookies are all very healthy choices and part of a balanced diet.
  • Avoid classifying food into “good” and “bad” categories. Use “more nutritious” and “less nutritious” so you get your child into the habit of making better food choice decisions.
  • Avoid punishing or rewarding a child with food items.
  • Treats are occasional foods. They wouldn’t be called treats if they were served every day. Designate a treat day.
  • Avoid bargaining using food. Parents who say, “Eat four more bites of your hamburger and then you can have your toy,” are setting themselves up for power struggles. Children learn very quickly that parents want them to eat, and by refusing, they can get attention and control. Give children attention for positive behavior and control in the form of choices. Don’t make eating a power struggle.
  • Preserve the social function of food. A comforting, social, happy atmosphere at meal and snack time and a wide variety of healthy foods is all that’s needed for childhood nutrition.

 

Managing Toddler Sleep Problems

Judy Arnall discusses sleep guidelines

If you have a child between the ages of one and five years who won’t go to bed, won’t stay in bed and won’t stay asleep, or wakes up too early, you are in good company.  According to a National Survey in the US, 70% of parents with children under five years have the same problems.  When children are older than one year, there is very little risk of suffocation, so sleeping with parents are easier. Here is some possible sleep arrangements:

  • Toddler sleeps in his own bed – parent soothes and gradually leaves in baby steps.
  • Toddler sleeps with parents in their bed.
  • Toddler sleeps with siblings in their bed.
  • Toddler sleeps on living room sofa, while the parents are still up, and then the parents move him when they go to bed.
  • Toddler sleeps on the floor on a mattress or airbed next to the parent’s bed.
  • Toddler starts the night in his own bed and may climb into parent’s bed when he needs to, probably in the middle of the night.
  • Toddler starts in parent’s bed and gets moved to her own bed when asleep and when parents want to go to bed.
  • Parents take turns sleeping with the toddler in her own bed every third night so one parent gets a solid night of REM sleep.

Sleep is important. Seventy percent of growth hormone is secreted during sleep.

It’s still one of those things that is totally under the control of the child. Parents can facilitate sleep, but can’t force it.

Some toddlers still sleep with and nurse with Mom during the night. By about age three and a half years, most toddlers are okay with sleeping in their own bed, and their night nursing has become negotiable. They are able to talk with Mom about when and where to nurse. Many Moms want to night wean their toddlers by two years or sooner. Often, holding, cuddles, and a sippy cup of water is enough to help toddlers stop night nursing and go back to sleep. Other Moms have said, “Num-nums have gone to sleep and will wake in the morning to feed you!” Some Moms found it helpful to leave their toddler with Daddy at night to sleep and cuddle with and not feed for a few nights.

If parents understand the reasons why toddlers and preschoolers don’t want to go to bed, they can address those needs. Separation anxiety is a huge issue. A recent Today’s Parent Survey of 3000 parents revealed that at least 10 percent of families co-sleep. Sleeping with a child for a few years doesn’t mean they will never sleep in their own beds any more than using diapers for a few years will prevent a child forever from using the toilet.

There are no studies that show any negative effects from co-sleeping for children aged one and up. Most children sleep alone, in their own beds, in their own rooms, by age 12. By then, they will insist on it!

Wherever a toddler sleeps, be sure to have a bedtime routine: a snack, bath, then pajamas, teeth brushing, and finally a story. Have a brief talk, prayer or snuggle time and kiss them good-night. Children tend to open up and want to talk just before bed. That’s why it’s great for Dad and Mom to alternate putting children to bed. It’s a time for intimate conversations that really builds relationships. It may help to stay with your child while they “let go” and drift off.

Leave them in their own room with a white noise machine, fan, book, or quiet toys in bed. If they get up, attend to their needs. Usually, it’s not a drink of water or scary monsters under the bed. It’s their need for more parent cuddle time and attention. If they don’t settle, bring them downstairs to cuddle and lay on the couch while you watch your adult show or carry on with your adult activities. Keep the focus off them and on to what you want to do. It’s your time. They will fall asleep but secure in the fact that their parents are there.

Although there are recommendations for babies under one, there is no co-sleeping safety concerns for children over one.  Where your child sleeps is a matter of your family preference, culture, and values and the decision is up to you.  No professional should tell you how or where your family sleeps.

Whatever works so no one is crying and everyone is sleeping safely is the right option for your family.

The Last Day of Parenting (After 29 Busy Years)

Today, is the last day that I’m on active parenting duty.  It began on a sunny, hot, cloudless day on June 29, 1991 when my first son came into our lives. The other book-end, my baby, my youngest of 5 children, turns 18 tomorrow, the first day of his adulthood.  We often count the firsts in parenting – first smile, first step, first time they sleep through the night, but we often don’t celebrate the lasts – the last time we co-slept, the last time we cuddled up to read a bedtime story – the last time he held my hand while out walking – because we don’t know when they are. We have to cherish those moments as they come because they are so sweet and fleeting. Today, I celebrate a job, a passion, a career and a calling – parenthood – as well done. It was hands down the best experience of my life, and so worth the gray hair, empty bank account and wrecked furniture! I have 5 beautiful, caring adult children who I am so proud of and are my best friends. My heart is bursting with pride and happiness at the wonderful people you have become and your individual gifts and qualities. You will go forward and make this world a better place than it was before you came. Happy Birthday my dearest youngest child and welcome to adulthood! And happy Last Day of Parenting to me and my loving partner in this most wonderful adventure!

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Why Do Toddlers Hit? Is it Genes or Environment?

Why do Toddlers Hit?
Is it genes or environment?
by Judy Arnall, BA, CCFE, DTM
It’s natural for toddlers to hit, but where does this aggression come from?
Actually, it is in our genes. We evolved from humans who could fight and
defend their lives, territory and loved ones, and they passed on the ability to
survive through aggression, to the next generation. Even newborns feel anger
when they need something. In addition, in the later half of the first year, they
demonstrate what is called exploratory aggression – curiosity pushes them to
see what reaction hitting or pushing another animal or child will bring. By
toddlerhood, ages one to four years, aggression is at its peak, where one out of
every four interactions between a child and someone else is physical. This is
almost every hour!
Does nurture or nature affect the amount of aggression a child has? Let’s
pretend that a human is like a car. Aggression is like the acceleration a car can
do. We all feel aggression. Self-control is like the brakes. We all have braking
ability too, but in varying amounts. Some people have more acceleration and
some people have more braking power.
Aggression is a function of the brain. The limbic system is the emotional part of
the brain and if we have low serotonin in the limbic system, we have more
aggressive behaviors. The frontal lobes are shaped by inborn temperament, but
the environment (a parent that says, “No! We don’t hit people!”) coupled with
brain development is responsible for suppression of the physical urge of hitting,
pushing and biting.
By age five, children learn about indirect aggression, as the result of their
higher order thinking skills. They can be sneakily aggressive in order to ensure
they don’t get caught, or immediately hit back impulsively. This is a sign of
brain development as it takes higher order thinking skills to weigh out the
consequences in each act. By age five, children do choose how to express
anger.
Hitting relieves tension and may be the reason why parents spank when they
are angry. In a small way, it feels satisfying for a second. However, we also
realize that we are social groups and we can’t be aggressive toward each other
and still get along enough to live together. If we hit, we are group sanctioned;
by isolation, in the form of time-out when we are young, to social ostracism
during the school-age years, and finally, jail, as adults. Isolation is a big
punishment for social mammals whether humans or animals. Societal
disapproval helps children to suppress their acceleration. Young children are
ego-centric and don’t care what others think about them yet. Their impulses
rule their bodies and their brains. By school-age, children are being exposed to
the wider world and care about what people think, so social isolation has a
broader impact on their self-control. Pride, shame, and embarrassment are
effective social tools to keep mammals aggression in check.
As the brain grows, children learn to cope with emotions and develop more self
control. By school age, most children have stopped hitting their friends and
playmates, although the odd lapse against siblings is common until the teen
years. It’s healthy to feel feelings, and express them in better ways such as
words that don’t hurt anyone. The key is to keep repeating what you want them
to do until they begin to take it on themselves. The more children practice calm
down tools, the more they are stored in their memory and come to mind as
they internalize social and group rules. When children are exposed to all ages of
social groups, in extended families and all-age schools, they learn the rules of
controlling aggressive behaviour.
Play fighting does not encourage aggression. In fact, it is useful for
development. Children discover their own limits, and what other people consider
acceptable, and it helps teach self-control. It’s hard to watch as a parent,
because you know one child is going to come to you crying, but it definitely
teaches both children about limits for later.
What is the role of adults: Adults just need to do two things.
Do hold their hands and say “Stop. No. Can you see this hurts your sister?”
“Let’s do this (stomp our feet on the floor) to express our anger.” Children get
to see their effect on others and can choose a non-violent way to express their
feelings. Keep repeating this message after every aggressive event.
Don’t role model hitting, slapping, spanking or any other aggressive
behaviours. Children learn by modeling. Children who are hit, are more likely to
hit others by thinking that those who have power use physical aggression to
wield it.

 

Screen Time Research – Who to Believe?

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Many parents worry about screen time, especially after reading the latest study that involves children their children’s ages. However, how does one sort through the myths from the facts? It is becoming increasingly difficult.

Screen time addiction was not listed in the DSM-V (the main diagnosis manual for the medical community) because the health community can’t determine what amount of screen time or type of screen time constitutes addiction or harm. The evidence is not yet conclusive and until we have long term good meta-analysis evidence, no one can state how much is harmful. Opinions are all over the place because they are based on random studies, many of which are poorly done. What is a parent to do?  Until we have good evidence, moderation is the best practice.

What we do know, is that children in stable families, with low ACE scores (Adverse Childhood Experiences) are less likely to be susceptible to any the 10 addictions, including screen time, no matter how much screen time they have.  Families should aim for a balance of screen and real-time interaction with the priority on face-to-face relationships. For more information, this website is based on the research of 49 neuroscientists across North America.

The Brain Core Story Training

Here is a graphic I presented in one of my parenting groups recently. Addiction is at greater propensity when children experience toxic stress during childhood.  Toxic stress stems from the 10 ACES listed in orange. Research can’t provide good evidence yet which genes are activated by toxic stress, especially those children with addictions that run in the family. Screen time is deemed to be closest to the characteristics in a gambling addiction, but it still has unique qualities.

Best practices for parents?  Build close relationships with your children. Avoid toxic stress in the family.  Enjoy screen time in moderation.

tech science

How To Get Kids To Do Chores and At What Age?

Parenting expert, Judy Arnall, discusses the democratic, non-punitive way to get kids (and partners!) to help around the house!

What Chores When?

2-3 years old (done with adult)

Empty small wastebaskets

Put on pj’s

Pick up trash in yard

Wash face

Brush teeth

Comb hair

Help set table

Clear table

Help load dishwasher

Help put laundry in dryer or on drying rack

Pick up toys

Put dirty clothes in hamper

 

4-5 years old (done with adult)

Get dressed

Make Bed with Duvet

Pick up room

Dust their room

Hang wet laundry on clothes rack

Clean TV screen

Help in the yard

Get ready for bed (brush teeth, put on pj’s, etc)

Lay out clothes for next day

 

6-7 year olds (done with adult)

Brush teeth (with adult)

Set breakfast table

Help with dishes

Change sheets (help from mom)

Feed dog or cat

Vacuum room

Take out trash

Dust room

Sweep porch

Clean inside of car

Help with dinner

Sweep porches and walks

Help with dinner clean up

Dust baseboards

Fold laundry

Carry in groceries

Empty backpack lunch containers by the sink

Make sure backpack and school papers are by the door and ready to go

 

8-9 years old

Start ironing easy items

Clean sliding door glass

Clean fingerprints from doors

Dust other rooms

Wash car

 

10 years old and up

They can do all that the other ages do plus:

Change their sheets by themselves

Clean the bathroom

Clean up kitchen

Help with cooking meals and baking

Scrub floors

Water plants

Straighten bookcases

Wipe down washer and dryer

Sew and mend

Put away groceries

 

12 years old and up

Clean entire bathroom

Clean kitchen alone

Vacuum entire house

Do grocery shopping

Sew and mend

Repair jobs

Clean range

Help with heavy spring cleaning

Paint

Straighten closets and drawers

Get groceries

13 Years and Up

Everything an adult can do, a teenager can do!

Let them at it!