Interview with parenting expert, Judy Arnall and Heather Boyd, business expert
Interview with parenting expert, Judy Arnall and Heather Boyd, business expert
What is the scientific purpose of attachment parenting? In short, attachment parenting provides the child stress relief. Every child experiences stress and it impacts the body by triggering a stress response. Emotions such as fear, loneliness, sadness, frustration and unhappiness are present in children as young as babyhood. Children’s response to those emotions is usually crying in babies and “acting out”, crying or screaming in toddlers. Young children do not have the executive functioning to “self-sooth” or regulate their own stress response because of the immaturity of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex. They need external “scaffolding” help from an adult. When a caring adult responds to the situation promptly and with warmth, the stress is soothed and the calmness of the child resumes. Eventually, children grow to an age, usually in the teen years, where their self-regulation skills are developed enough so they can help themselves to “self-sooth,” and the scaffolding may be removed although comfort and parenting is nice to have all through childhood.
There are three kinds of stress; positive, tolerable and toxic. Positive stress is good and everyone needs some of this kind.Positive life challenges in the form or people, events or places, create positive stress. When the child faces the stress and overcomes it, often with caregiver support, (and as they get older, with peer support in addition to adult support); the child builds resilience to adversity and it creates a feeling of accomplishment for them. It encourages the child to meet even greater challenges as they grow because it builds their self-esteem and confidence. When a school child makes a class presentation, or a baby is left with a new loving, supportive caregiver, or a toddler faces new playmates at a new daycare, their accomplishment of managing the positive stress builds their resiliency.
Tolerable stress is caused by negative events in a child’s life. A parent’s divorce, an unwanted move, or the loss of a childhood friend are examples of tolerable stress because they are temporary, and supported by a caring, loving, warm attachment adult who can help steer the child through the stressful time. The adult responds to the child with active listening, lots of hugs, immediate problem-solving and being available for continual help. Even when the child “acts out” their stress by exhibiting bad behaviour, a caring, warm response from an adult will help the child regulate his emotions, return to a calmer state and eventually resolve the problem.
Toxic stress is also caused by negative events although these events tend to be on-going and the one pervasive factor that moves tolerable stress into toxic stress is the lack of a supportive caregiver or attachment parent. On-going, unaddressed bullying at school, or a baby being left to cry it out most nights, or a toddler that is spanked every day for touching items, are examples of toxic stress. In the first example, the bullying is on-going and pervasive. In the last two examples, the adult caregiver no longer is the supportive, caring person, and instead, becomes the source of the toxic stress as in the spanking and leaving to “cry it out” example. When the child has no other adult support resources, they are left to manage the adverse experience on their own.
Of the 8 principles of attachment parenting, the principles of responding with sensitivity (and not anger), practicing respectful sleep habits (not leaving children to cry-it-out alone) and using positive discipline (non-punitive guidance) are the most important attachment parenting principles to ensure toxic stress does not occur.
Children do not need toxic stress. Ever. The full onslaught of toxic stress stimulates the production of cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn is good in short doses to motivate the body into flight, freeze or fight mode, but bad for the body when it is produced in large ongoing doses. The constant production of these hormones can damage developing brain architecture in children and may produce lifelong consequences later in life in the form of eventual physical and emotional health problems and propensity to addictions.
No one lives a stress-free life, but adults who practice attachment parenting principles can buffer the negative effects of toxic stress in order to turn the stress into tolerable stress and grow healthy, happy children. Loving, caring support is never spoiling a child. It is crucial for a child’s healthy emotional, physical and social development.
It is an election year, and Prime Minister Trudeau promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report recommendations. One of those recommendation’s is to remove the legality of children being assaulted. Ask the MP candidates what they are doing in this area to protect children who have very little self-control (normal young childhood executive function) and risk being hit because of adult’s poor understanding of normal brain development. “He should know better!” is a common statement from parents and caregivers that is created from years of myth, bias, and lack of brain capability knowledge that has been passed on from previous generations. As you can see from the above chart, by the time children are old enough to understand “consequences”, about age 6, they are old enough to problem-solve situations without being hit. They have enough self-control to not “do the deed” and really do begin to “know better.” No one would assault a child in a wheelchair for not being able to ascend a staircase, yet, we do it all the time for young children incapable of self-control.
For more help on the difference between punishment and discipline/gentle guidance, read “Discipline Without Distress.” It was written with 5 kids (3 spirited ones) in mind!
For more help, on handling parent anger, and child/teen anger read “Parenting With Patience.”
For more help on day-to-day non-punitive handling of all parenting challenges, consult “Attachment Parenting Tips Raising Toddlers To Teens.”
All the above books have up-to-date charts on child capabilities and brain development.
Check out the video help at http://professionalparenting.ca/press-media.php
Here is some information of Repeal 43, written by my friend and passionate advocate of non-spanking discipline, Kathy Lynn.
Why Repeal 43?
Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada
Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances. R.S.C., 1985, c .C-4
This is the wording in the criminal code but
The constitutionality of Section 43 was challenged in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice: then by way of appeal in the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. The Section appears verbatim as it did prior to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision. However, the Court narrowed the scope of defense to assault under section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada and to set out a series of judicial limitations to assist in the interpretation of the justifiable or so-called “reasonable” limits of corporal punishment. The judicial limitations (which again don’t appear in the Criminal Code of Canada) are as follows:
1) Only parents may use reasonable force solely for purposes of correction;
2) Teachers may use reasonable force only to “remove a child from a classroom or secure compliance with instructions, but not merely as corporal punishment”;
3) Corporal punishment cannot be administered to “children under two or teenagers”;
4) The use of force on children of any age “incapable of learning from [it] because of disability or some other contextual factor” is not protected;
5) “Discipline by the use of objects or blows or slaps to the head is unreasonable”;
6) “Degrading, inhuman or harmful conduct is not protected”, including conduct that “raises a reasonable prospect of harm”;
7) Only “minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature” may be used;
8) The physical punishment must be “corrective, which rules out conduct stemming from the caregiver’s frustration, loss of temper or abusive personality”;
9) “The gravity of the precipitating event is not relevant”; and
10) The question of what is “reasonable under the circumstances” requires an “objective” test and “must be considered in context and in light of all the circumstances of the case.”
Violence against children should be against the law, not defined by it.
Decades ago, it wasn’t a criminal assault to physically beat
In today’s Canada, only children are still on that list.
That’s just wrong. And it’s not who Canadians are.
This is not a child discipline issue. It’s a human rights issue. All Canadians, whatever their age, deserve the protection of law against violence in any form.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Government has promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action.
Call to action #6 calls for the Repeal of S43 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Of the many calls to action this is one that is simple to implement and will protect all of Canada’s children.
Research demonstrates that hitting children can lead to impaired parent-child relationships, poorer child mental health, child aggression and weaker internalization of moral standards and delinquency, often carrying on into adulthood.
United Nations on the Rights of the Child
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
The focus for this initiative has been on foreign policy.
But there is another issue that the Liberal Government could easily address.
On December 13, 1991, Canada formally ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention, which is a comprehensive statement on children’ rights, covers every aspect of a child’s life.
The presence of S43 in our Criminal Code is in direct conflict with the UN Convention. It seems to us, at Corinne’s Quest that our government should repeal S43 and come into compliance with the United Nations.
All that being said, it is 2019 and the culture in Canada is that of non-violence. Bullying is not acceptable in any cases and we say that domestic violence is also not accepted. However, children are not covered when we talk about domestic violence and they can, under certain circumstances, be legally assaulted.
To have a section (S43) of our criminal code which accepts, and in some cases, encourages physical punishment of children is appalling.
It is a question human (children’s) rights and when the simple act of Repeal can protect children from this violence and its unintended risks it should be done.
Excerpted from the book, Unschooling To University (and College too): Relationships matter most in a world crammed with content.
Children love their technology and parents know it. If you treat screen time like any other educational tool, it will not be elevated to “treat” status in the eyes of the children, and they will naturally find a balance between that and other activities. Leave lots of other play options lying around. Everything kids are curious about is educational and contributes in some way to their development.
Are video games educational? Of course, they are! Any kind of toy or game is educational in that it teaches children knowledge and competencies. Not every game has to be labeled “educational” to be educational. Other than volunteering, travel, and reading, video games have been the biggest “curriculum” in our home education and have been very valuable in keeping the children engaged in learning, over textbooks and worksheets.
As a parent of five gamers of both genders, I learned early that my children hated the “educational games” that have primitive graphics, poor logic, clumsy interface, are non-multiplayer, and are just plain lame. These educational games seem to be marketed to parents who aim for productive use of time rather than plain fun.
When my kids immersed themselves in games like World of Warcraft, Nox, Spore, Gizmos and Gadgets, Age of Empires, Graal, Lacuna Expanse, Civilization, Garry’s Mod, Crusader Kings, Runescape, and League of Legends, they learned not only reading, writing, and math skills, but also social studies, mythology, history, and science. They learned the valuable social skills of cooperation and conflict resolution with other in-game players, and with buddies in the same room playing the same game. In (World of Warcraft) WOW, League of Legends, and Overwatch, they learned the personal skills of resilience during adversity, perseverance and the commitment to continue and finish for the team, even when they were discouraged. They learned how to deal with challenges, problems, team members, and competitors under time pressure. They learned how to win gracefully, and how to face losing with dignity—and without throwing a keyboard across the room.
Indirectly, games and toys teach some academic concepts in ways that are compelling to children, aided by the focus that is essential for gaming success. Parents who don’t play video games may not even realize how their children have learned these competencies. Have a look at the following impressive list of competencies that video games can help to develop:
Executive function planning and working memory skills: Games teach critical thinking, analytical thinking, strategy, and problem-solving skills. Think about the scientific method. Most games give clues but not directions. So, a player has to hypothesize to find a strategy that might work. The game developers withhold critical information, so players must use trial and error to discover what they need to know. The games are giant puzzles that stretch executive function and working memory and develop skills. Further, gaming teaches problem solving under duress because many of the tasks they have to perform have time limits!
Multi-tasking: Players learn to manage many forms of information and options, usually under the stress of time limits and encroaching competitors. Just memorizing the number of items one can obtain in a game is an amazing feat. Some games make a player battle in order to stay alive, providing a great training ground for the workplace! When juggling competing interests, players also learn about time management and setting priorities.
Literacy: Games that require reading, writing, and spelling build literacy skills both on- screen and in game manuals that are often written at a high school level, telling gamers how to play and offering insights for getting over rough spots. Children who can’t read certainly try to learn! Our kids learned to read, write and use grammar from playing Graal, Animal Crossing, Sims, Sim City and many other games. Children who hate workbooks and seat-work can practice literacy skills in a format that really motivates them.
Math skills: Games develop pattern recognition and use math operations, reasoning, and logic to solve problems. The kids were motivated to learn how to tell time. They wanted to know exactly how long a half an hour was and how many more minutes until Neil gets off and they get their turn!
Computer programming skills: They learned coding, Perl, C++, CSS, HTML, scripts, and many other useful computer programming skills by playing user-modifiable games. My son learned how to use Java scripts by playing Lacuna Expanse.
Art, History and Science: Games initiate interest in many topic areas in history, art, culture, and science that spur research and reading. My kids also learned much of elementary school Greek history from playing Age of Mythology, and science from Gizmos and Gadgets and Magic School Bus. Civilization and Crusader Kings were great for learning history. Kerbal Space Program was excellent for learning orbital mechanics, space travel, physics, and engineering.
Knowledge: Gaming allows the elderly, poor, isolated or confined person access to in- formation and communication that might otherwise be inaccessible.
Creativity: During our children’s heavy video game-playing years, they continued with their self-motivated art representations: they played mostly the Mario series, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Pokemon, and Kirby. They painted hundreds of pictures of the characters. In fact, the characters were represented in every medium possible—play-dough, Lego, wood, watercolor, markers, homemade costumes, stuffed figures, and many others. The handwritten stories of the adventures of Kirby and Mario, done by all the children, were equally impressive. They even made homemade board games featuring the characters. When Burger King ran a promotion handing out Pokeballs with characters inside along with their kids’ meals, we ate at Burger King four nights a week and acquired an immense collection of figurines! Although they wouldn’t touch those kids’ meals today, the figurines still represent many cherished memories of their imaginary play in which they set up scenes, built habitats, and invented stories and games with each other and with their characters. I am still amazed at the creativity that those video and computer games inspired. As the kids got older, their creativity moved from physical objects to a screen. They generated art, music, writing, and videos onscreen. The creative process was still there; it just changed formats. Once children reach school-age, mainstream parents tend to get rid of traditional creative items such as arts and craft supplies, paints, dress-up clothes, and drama props because “the schools can deal with the mess.” However, the schools become more academic from Grade 4 on, so very few children have creative outlets at home or at school. Hence the appeal of being creative on the computer, with games like the Sims, Sim Theme Park, and Animal Crossing, where children can create their own worlds. It’s not the children’s need for creativity that has changed, but the medium.
Connection: Children can easily stay in touch with family and friends around the world by playing games, talking, and socializing in real time over communication channels such as Discord or FaceTime. Grandparents love to connect with their grandchildren, regardless of how far apart they might be. My kids often would game with their siblings who were away at university or had moved to another city to work.
Entertainment: The internet and gaming provide limitless sources of entertainment in video and audio format. Name your genre and it’s available.
De-stressing skills: Gaming helps players to zone out, de-stress, escape into fantasy worlds, and relax. My friend is 45 years old and works as a realtor. To de-stress, she comes home and plays computer games with her daughter.
Delayed gratification skills: Players have to work their way up by levels and cannot shortcut without others’ help. Studies show that children who learn to appreciate delayed gratification at an early age tend to do better in life.
Executive function focus skills: Especially difficult in a background of music, noise, chattering, and distractions, gaming demands total focused concentration. This is a useful practice for many children. Often, children are diagnosed with attention deficits in school, yet can focus for hours on gaming.
Self-esteem: Games build self-esteem and confidence in skills that are admired by peers. This is especially important for children who don’t excel in academics, sports, or the arts. Being accepted and respected for a special skill builds self-confidence in other areas of their lives.
Executive function inhibitory control: Games provide a method of teaching and practicing emotional intelligence. Games give children practice in handling anger, frustration, and setbacks—especially when they lose an acquired level because they forgot to save! It even teaches natural consequences and how to problem solve to fix a situation. Of course, children need an adult around to help them deal with those strong emotions, or else a controller will go flying against the wall!
Gender neutrality: The internet and gaming enable people to communicate without visual stereotypes. People are judged on their words and actions, not on age, gender, culture, or looks.
Commitment and work ethic: “My son doesn’t commit to extracurricular activities, but he is persistent in mastering a game, committing to a team of five in a game, or learning coding,” says Ellen, homeschooling mom of two.
Cooperation and collaboration: Multi-player games lend themselves to team building, cooperation, strategy formation, and group problem solving with other players both in the game and those watching the game. Players have to work together to develop a plan, achieve results, and cover each others’ backs. They learn to negotiate, compromise, and practice fair play.
Encouragement: As well, when one child plays and another watches, they both learn how to encourage each other to take risks, try another solution, and keep going. It’s wonderful to watch their “team approach,” even if only one child is at the controls. Often, my kids played as a team against other teams in League of Legends and it was lovely to watch how they bonded.
Independence: In a world of helicopter parenting, gaming and social media provide a playground for children that is not micro-managed by adults. Children make the rules or the game makes the rules, but not the parents. When children get together face to face, they speak a gaming language that is not understood by adults, but that bonds them together in a secret world.
Conversations: When my kids would meet up face to face with their friends, they spent non-gaming time engrossed in conversations, bragging about games they had and which ones to go for next, which characters they wanted to play, and what levels they had achieved—much like we used to discuss hockey stats, car enhancements, and movie stars. Teens especially like to differentiate themselves from adults in their form of dress, hairstyles, music, and activities. Gaming is one more avenue that helps them do that.
Family closeness: Many parents play video games with their children from a young age until the kids move out—then come back for Sunday dinner and a round of League of Legends! As a non-gamer, I personally found that taking an interest in my children’s gaming by sitting and watching them and listening to their descriptive adventures in the game brought us closer in communicating and sharing fun times.
Socialization: Minecraft Club! Computer Coding Club! Girls Who Game Club! As kids move into the teen years, they are not well practiced in initiating conversations because they are more self-conscious about what they say and do. They need an activity to focus on in order to relax. Gaming clubs provide that activity.
Social: Kids can easily connect to other like-minded kids who share their interests.
Writing: They can flex their debating and persuasive writing skills on hot topics in discussion websites, with other really good debaters.
Research: They can learn about people with different backgrounds, religions, and cultures as they make online friends around the world.
Create: They can create and share musical, technical, and artistic projects with others by writing blogs and making websites, videos, memes, podcasts, and webinars.
Collaboration: They can collaborate on projects without ever meeting each other in person. Several books have been published with such collaboration.
Citizenship: They can organize, volunteer, raise collective consciousness, and raise funds for charitable organizations and worthy causes.
Entrepreneurship: They can start and grow a business.
Health: They can access health information on any topic from sexuality to depression and get answers to questions that they would be embarrassed to ask an adult.
Because of the proliferation of smartphones and video games, which 80 percent of Canadian kids play, children as a school cohort are dating at older ages, having sex later, driving later, and moving out later, and have little taste for alcohol and smoking. (McKnight, 2015) These are excellent trends. The trade-off is that they spend more time alone in their rooms, connected to their mobile phones. Thus, inter-personal and socialization skills can take a hit. Family can counteract that by spending time together and scheduling outside family social time. Declare some screen-free zones and times, like meal time, to gather together, socialize, and enjoy each other’s company. Social media can also be brutal to children’s self-esteem, so open communication with supportive parents and siblings is critical in keeping peer stress tolerable and not toxic. Screens have value, but children also need face-to-face relationships in the three-dimensional, physical world. Like all technology, games and social media are tools and how we use them can be beneficial or detrimental. Balance is key.
Excerpted from Unschooling To University: Relationships matter most in a world crammed with content, By Judy Arnall
Available at Chapters, Barnes and Noble and a bookstore near you.
My comments in an article in Today’s Parent regarding positive reinforcement: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/positive-reinforcement-one-parenting-trick-everybody-needs/
Why is it so difficult to teach children that actions have consequences? The question might be, “Why do children not choose the best course of action?”
It is difficult because of caregiver/parent’s unrealistic expectations of children’s brain development. Honestly, I think every parent should take an online course about brain biology when they have a child! Brain growth occurs at different ages, and when parents understand the appropriate ages, they will learn when it is best to expect that children can base decisions on understanding consequences. Most parents give children “consequences” as a punishment much too young an age, when they can’t yet understand them.
The prefrontal cortex is the last section of the brain to fully develop and is responsible for behaviour control and critical thinking. Before age 6, children are pre-operational in their thinking, which means they do not have the ability to think out plans and imagine consequences of those decisions. They do not have all the information in order to make the right decision. When they reach school-aged, from ages 6–13, they get better at understanding consequences and can make decisions. However, they do not have abstract thinking skills yet. School-aged children are still operational in their thinking which means they understand what is tangible and what is in their immediate environment – things they can readily see, hear, touch, smell and taste. They can’t think conceptually until the teen years, so they don’t understand the “gray” areas of decisions, or theory or ideology. Consequences demand that the chooser understands all aspects of the decision in order to make an informed choice.
Children are able to begin understanding consequences around age 6 and are much better at it around age 13. Parents and caregivers need to adjust their expectations accordingly. And consequences should never be given to punish children for their decisions. They need an adult/caregivers help to problem solve a solution instead of “pay” for their behaviour with a “consequence.”
In groups, I get asked all the time if consequences are punitive. It depends. Consequences are natural outcomes that occur if a parent intervenes or not. Yes, consequences happen to kids all the time when they are out and about in the world. The rest of the world will issue consequences to your child, but only you, as the parent, will take the time and effort to problem-solve with them. Children will get consequences from teachers, coaches, police, and other adults. That’s okay. Those people are not building a life-long relationship with your child. You are. When you take the time and effort to problem-solve, you are giving your child valuable life and relationship skills – negotiation. Your communication lines will remain open and you will enjoy a wonderful relationship with your child. Here are the differences between consequences issued by a parent in the name of punishment, and problem-solving which is a form of non-punitive discipline.
Watch the video on how to problem-solve with children instead of using punishment.