{     Offering the Best Childhood Preparation for Social and Academic Success.     }

Archive for 2012

Sandy Hook Tragedy: A Few Thoughts from Kyle Pruett, M.D.

To assist while you and your family cope with tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dr. Kyle Pruett has provided you with some ideas that may be helpful:

  1. Limit screen time to non-news coverage programming for your young children – TV, smart phones and tablets all have ability to deliver startling images of running, screaming, terrified children that will bring the trauma very close to your child, no matter how far away you may live from Newtown. Some are even broadcasting interviews with frightened 1st and 2nd graders which will bring Newtown into your kitchen.  Also, the younger they are, the more likely children are to see each broadcast as a new attack – just as the children of America saw the broadcast September 20 11 plane crashes as ‘hundreds of planes crashing again and again.
  2. Children are quite sensitive to their parents’ emotions even in good times. In worrisome events like this one, they are especially sensitive. If they overhear a conversation and want to know what’s up, keep it simple, to the level of their developmental understanding, and less is more, so be guided by their questions. If they ask you if you are upset or worried, be honest, but brief, and then reassure them that you will be fine, and feelings are important to figure out, and that talking helps.
  3. So, when children hear about the shootings, which they inevitably will, they are likely to ask for details such as, Who did the shooting, who died, did it hurt, will that happen at my school, where were the police, where they bad people, where were the parents, is this a war, etc.? Before trying to answer the question, make sure you heard it correctly. Ask the child the question back, with a ‘what do you think?’ tacked on the end, and you’ll get a better idea of what they are worried about (usually some aspect of their/your personal safety), then you can offer more specific reassurance…’we are all fine as always…this happened a long way away (if true)…the police came when the grown-ups called to stop the shooting before more people got hurt…we’re not watching TV because we want you to hear the story from us and we can help you understand it better…Why would somebody do that?…we don’t know for sure yet, but it has never happened there before and probably never will again…(or some version).
  4. Gather your friends and family close over the weekend. You could use the support yourselves, and then you’ll have more resources to share with your children.
  5. Get rigorous about your favorite routines and rituals at this time of the year. The predictable is especially reassuring when the unpredictable is so scary…

Attachment Parenting: Dr. Pruett’s POV

Dr. Kyle Pruett A

The phrase ‘attachment parenting’ always makes me emit a slightly despondent sigh. Attachment parenting refers to several parental behaviors that are supposed to make children feel secure and happy, including co-sleeping with the infant or toddler, or at least annexing the bassinette to the parental (previously marital) bed; breast-feeding at least through toddlerhood; and ‘wearing’ the baby when transporting the child about the house and through the world. Why does this make me despondent?  First, despite the hype, there is no evidence that attachment parenting is superior to any other parenting method that promotes the child’s safety and security, and second, it touts itself as the ‘right’ way to parent if you truly love your children and want them to feel ‘attached. ’

Attachment parenting puts an emphasis on parental behavior that makes parenting seem like any other skill (like golf, cooking, accounting or writing code) that stresses what  ‘good parents’ must do and how they must do it rather than simply encouraging parents to treasure their children and keep them healthy and safe from physical and emotional harm. Proponents of attachment parenting sometimes imply that parents who do not practice attachment parenting fall short, and, consequently, their children suffer. This kind of ‘competitive parenting’ hurts our ability to do this incredibly important job well, and turns parenting into a contest with a panel of Simon Cowell-like judges who rate how we are doing compared with other contestants and Simon’s own personal ‘values.’

Instead, I advise new parents to know their own beliefs, fears, temperament, dreams, strengths and weaknesses, then get to know their partner’s, and then learn their child’s. Remember, this is about helping your children, not living up to another person’s expectations or their opinion about the ‘right’ course of action. Learn what makes your children tick, what they love, how they hurt, how they enjoy in relationships, what their dominant temperaments are, what they can’t stand and what they can’t live without. These are far more useful guidelines for how to raise your children than prescribed bullet points, as useful as the bullet points may seem.

To this end, I’d like to see the term ‘attachment parenting’ replaced with a term like  ‘reciprocal parenting,’ which suggests a continuous, nurturing collaboration that connects human beings for the good of all who are involved, not a controversial parenting fad. When you remove the labels and focus on the child, you remove the controversy.

O To Be Dry! On Bedwetting and Kids

Guest Post by Dr. Jack Maypole

Back when I was 4 or 5 years old, my mother was baffled by a spatter pattern of stains on my day-glo 1970s era orange plush rug. Day after day, more spots  appeared.  Until late one night, my mother came across me sitting up in bed, apparently still asleep, peeing gloriously across the floor like a lawn sprinkler.  I was not so much a bedwetter as “one who wet from the bed.”

For many children and families, however, bedwetting is no joke. Bedwetting can be a profound bummer, cause of untold stress in a household, source of frustration for parents, and a basis for anxiety or low self esteem in a child.

Bedwetting occurs when someone pees in the bed, presumably while asleep. Bedwetting is deemed ‘enuresis’ (from the Greek, ‘to make water’) when a child aged five years or older repeatedly, and unconsciously, empties their bladder during sleep.  Health care providers will make a distinction between ‘primary enuresis’, for a child who has never achieved regular overnight bladder control, versus ‘secondary enuresis,’ for kids who had nighttime dryness for 6 months or more, but who began wetting the bed for some reason. Both are challenging. I’ll focus on primary enuresis here.

A wee bit of physiology may be helpful before we go, so to speak. By the age of two, children begin to master control of their bladder muscles, allowing them to pee at will when awake.  By the age of four, greater than 98% of children will have achieved daytime dryness. Nighttime dryness develops eventually, and sometimes much later in some kids.  (see the nice table I lifted here:)

Age
%Kids Dry by Day % Kids Dry by Night
2 yrs 25

10

2.5 yrs

85

48

3 yrs

98

78

At age four, about a quarter of all children still wet the bed with some regularity. That is a lot of pullups! By 7 years, about 5-10% of kids still have accidents, and that number drops to about 4% by age 10. As a rule, those older, persistent bedwetters will achieve regular bed dryness (i.e. bladder control overnight) at a rate of about 15% per year. Depending on who you are, that can be reassuring…or not. More on that in a bit.

Enuresis happens when a child has a bladder whose capacity cannot keep up with the nighttime urine production.  Ideally, a child awakens from sleep and goes to the loo when they feel Nature’s call. In the majority of cases, kids with enuresis are profoundly deep sleepers. In addition, children with enuresis may  have smaller than usual bladders or slower-to-develop bladder muscles.  Simply, they fail  to rouse from sleep in spite of signals sent to the brain from nerves in the bladder reporting peepee overflow is imminent.

Genetics matter, too.  Lest we wrongly blame our offspring for willfully soaking their bedsheets (which, BTW is almost never the case. Quite the opposite!), note this well. Often, there is a strong inherited correlation between enuresis and other family members having had the problem. Enuresis exists in 44% of children when one of their parents has a history of same. When both parents have such a history, the rates of enuresis in their kids soars to 77% (Compare that to a rate of  15% in kids when neither parent had the problem. Wow!).  Fortunately, even for kids whose relatives did not gain control until later (e.g. middle or even high school) most will respond to treatments and interventions to overcome the problem.

Take home point #1: the vast majority of bedwetting kids are physically and psychologically normal.  Less than one percent of children with nighttime enuresis have some sort of anatomic, physical, or systemic disease or condition.  Better yet, many of these children and families can manage the challenge competently in tandem with their child’s primary care provider.

What to do?

Whenever I get a question or query about enuresis –be it from a weary parent, a bewildered first grader, or a frustrated tween–It is key to treat the topic with respect, and to provide a family with some perspective. Namely, that this is an embarrassing but surmountable problem, and that it is incredibly common (to the tune of some 5-7 million children in the U.S. Or, ask Sarah Silverman).  Even simple reassurance can provide some relief.

Further, research and my experience confirm that kids and families do better when the issue is addressed by engaging the child and assessing her goals and concerns (versus talking over her head while she sits in a room). A healthy four year old who wets the bed may not require extensive intervention (yet), but may do well with reassurance and a few behavioral approaches (see below). An eight year old, by contrast, may be desperate to stop bedwetting yesterday, and be unwilling or unable to sleep over at friends houses or to go to sleep away camp . For school age kids, for example, it’s best to have sibs step out of the room for a second, and then, have a conversation. Enuresis is a tender, private subject.  Teasing probably isn’t a good idea. Humor needs to be used delicately. I can’t say that enough.

As one author aptly writes, it can be helpful for kids to think of achieving nighttime bladder control as analogous to riding a bike. Coaching, persistence, positive reinforcement and a good attitude (by all!) will get you there…eventually, with reassurance and support along the way.

The Ins and outs

To evaluate a child with enuresis, it all starts with a thorough history. Each child needs to be considered individually on the basis of their age, development, medical and family history, and lifestyle.  A clinician and family will need to review a variety of questions about a bedwetting child’s behavior, possible medication use, daily routines, food and fluid intake as well as voiding and stooling patterns.  Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, seizures sleep apnea or known sleep disorders may exacerbate or trigger bedwetting and require additional evaluation and collaboration with a specialist.

Constipation bears special mention here, as backed up poop in the large intestine can be a trigger for poor bladder control. For many families, a constipation plan needs to be built in to an enuresis plan from the start. You gotta be regular to be dry.

Life of Pee

A diary of a child’s fluid intake and output done over a week or two can be quite illuminating. Some children tend to drink very little over a school day, and thus arrive home thirsty. Hydrating from late afternoon to bedtime can put quite a load on the system, and can be a setup for nighttime accidents.  Further, parents should record their observations about when kids have accidents at night (once? more than once? early or late?).  This input may assist in shaping which/when interventions work best.

A primary provider can perform a complete physical exam and recommend any testing accordingly. For most cases, a simple urinalysis will suffice while ruling out most concerns for badness (including diabetes, or urinary tract infections).  Imaging, such as obtaining ultrasounds or Xrays, is rarely needed.

Round One of interventions for all children with enuresis is a combination of examining daytime drinking patters, applying pre-bedtime fluid restriction and scheduled bladder emptying. Put simply: 1) children should be encouraged to drink consistently over a day; 2) last call for a child for a beverage should be 60 minutes or more before bedtime; 3) there should be two pre-night-night toilet trips, at 30 minutes before sleep and just before sleep. An emptier tank helps!

Along the way, remember two truths for all children with enuresis. Positive reinforcement works.  And, punishment and anger have no place as they can sabotage a child on many levels. Period.  Families find more success when they recognize adherence to the Dryness Plan with smaller, more frequent rewards. Only getting a prize for a dry night can take a while! Kids can be praised or receive simple treats if they do a good job with adjusting their fluid intake, or hitting the bathroom as requested. Certainly, dry nights should be recognized accordingly. Conversely, setbacks are commonplace and are to be expected. Despair not! Parents have to be on-board, engaged, and consistent. Kids can’t be expected to do this alone. Optimism, support, and a can-do attitude will go much farther. It’s not easy, and it requires teamwork.

Creativity and practicality help, too. Some parents find double sheeting the bed helps for middle of the night wetting events. Placement of absorbent padding on the top sheet allows for quick removal in case of an accident, and avoids the need to remake the bed in the dark.

For children ages 6-7 with enuresis, so-called ‘dry-bed’ training may be helpful.  By tracking when accidents occur, parents can try using alarms at night to do overnight trips to the bathroom.  Kiddos do not have to be fully awake to pee (but just enough to aim at the toilet, of course). Over time and in some instances, this technique trains children to rouse to the signal of their need to go.  The downside of this approach? Some kids (and their parents) feel underslept the next day.

For children 7 and older, additional means may be necessary. Enuresis alarms, such as the unfortunately named  Potty Pager, function by vibrating or beeping when a sensor is triggered by wetness in a child’s underwear.  Alarms that beep seem to rouse kids better than those that simply vibrate. The alarms can be expensive (a hundred bucks, or more), and only some are covered by some insurance. But, alarms do work and parents can review options with their child’s primary care doc.

Take home point #2: Over a couple of months, enuresis alarms can be effective in 2/3 of children 7 and up who use it, and about 1/2 stay dry when they stop using it.  Hence, alarms may need to be reapplied for kids who resume bedwetting for retraining (don’t throw them away!).

Medication may be an option for the Over 7s who do not respond to the above interventions, and/or who may use meds for special occasions.  Medications do not ‘cure’ enuresis, but enhance the ability of the bladder to retain urine while they are in use.  Consequently, kids may have bladder control on meds, and return to having accidents when they discontinue them.  And, parents need to review with their child’s provider the potential side effects and set up a plan to monitor their use if they opt to use them.  I recommend using combination of medications and bedwetting alarms when done with support with a consulting provider.  Some children use medications episodically, such as during sleepovers or time away at camp. This may allow kids who have grown self conscious or isolated to normalize their lifestyle and regain some confidence.

And so, here’s to pleasant dreams, dry nights, and persistence. Raise your glass and toast to hanging in there, but don’t drink your beverage within 60 minutes of bedtime, please.

E-Books: Is Technology Helping Children to Read?

When our fifth-grader recently announced he was going downstairs to curl up with his mother’s old Kindle, I was stopped in my tracks by a delicious memory from five years ago, when my family used to curl up together with print books for a reading hour each Sunday night before bed. Today, that may seem like nostalgia.  Half of American families own tablets, and many parents are wondering if co-reading e-books with children is a good thing.

Reading - Teacher & Girl BTen years ago, this was not a dilemma. Most parents thought that computers, laptops and DVD players were convenient for entertainment, but only a minority believed that technology was going to play a significant and positive role in their young children’s education at home or in school. However, with the increase in smartphone and tablet use during the last decade, most parents are now comfortable with digital learning. Still, many parents who are comfortable with the benefits of digital gaming and interactive problem-solving are less enthusiastic about using devices to help their children learn to read.

Parents highly cherish children’s ability to read, as they should. Our families and our communities suffer if children fail to master reading by the third grade. How can parents use digital tools to help their children develop literacy skills?

Parents value co-reading because it promotes interactive storytelling, enriches children’s vocabularies and stimulates parent-child conversations, but co-reading e-books may or may not provide the same benefits. Two recent Cooney Center QuickReports from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Comparing Parent-Child Co-reading on Print, Basic and Enhanced E-book Platforms (Chiong, Ree, Takeuchi & Erickson, 2012) and Co-reading with Children on iPads: Parents’ Perceptions and Practices (Vaala & Takeuchi, 2012) had three significant findings:

  1. Print and basic e-books both elicited similar levels of content-related actions like pointing, labeling and talking about the story’s content. Enhanced e-books, however, prompted more non-content-related actions like pushing the parent’s hand away or talking about the device, with measurably less vocabulary growth and less pre-reading skill building. While enhanced e-books appeal to children, they don’t enrich the essential parent-child conversation about content that strengthens literacy skills as much as print books or basic e-books do (Chiong et al., 2012).
  2. Overall, print books and basic e-books were found to be better for co-reading between a parent and a child than either e-book platform. Neither kind of e-book supports story-focused conversation and story comprehension as well as print books do (Chiong et al., 2012).
  3. The majority of parents who co-read e-books on iPads prefer co-reading print books, unless they are traveling or commuting with their child. They feel that e-book co-reading is too difficult and they do not want their young children to have too much screen time (Vaala & Takeuchi, 2012).

 

To summarize, designers of enhanced e-books need to create e-books with co-reading-related activities and include fewer games and videos (Chiong et al., 2012). Parents seem to prefer print books, but they will use e-books for strengthening literacy and pre-literacy skills when they travel (Vaala & Takeuchi, 2012). We have a lot more to learn about this subject, so don’t recycle your print library yet.

References

Chiong, C., Ree, J., Takeuchi, L. & Erickson, I. (Spring 2012). Print books vs. e-books: Comparing parent-child co-reading on print, basic and enhanced e-book platforms. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Retrieved from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/upload_kits/jgcc_ebooks_quickreport.pdf

Vaala, S. & Takeuchi, L. (Summer 2012). Parent co-reading survey: Co-reading with children on iPads: Parents’ perceptions and practices. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Retrieved from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/upload_kits/jgcc_parentsurvey_quickreport_final.pdf

 

Holiday Helpers

With the holidays fast approaching, consider asking your children to help decorate the table. They will put their imaginations to use and enjoy a boost to their self-esteem. Below are a few crafty ways your children can help decorate your family’s holiday dinner table.

  • Origami Napkins: Find a clever (but easy) way to fold napkins, demonstrate how to fold them first, and then let your little ones try. When they are done, they can put their napkin creations at each place setting.
  • Homemade Napkin Rings: Cut cardboard tubes (paper towel or toilet paper rolls work best) into 1 ½-inch wide sections. Younger children can decorate the rings with paint or crayons, while older children may enjoy gluing on beans or beads to make fun designs.
  • Personalized Place Cards: Help your little ones make place cards for each of your guests. Cut some cardstock down to size and let your tiny Picasso’s decorate each card with a personalized masterpiece. Provide a list of names so they don’t miss anyone and can easily see how to spell each person’s name.
  • Fun Fall Centerpiece: Gather a brown paper lunch bag, paint, leaves your children have collected, a sandwich bag filled with rice, twigs, tape and some twine. Ask your children to decorate the bag with paint and, while the bag is drying, tape the leaves to one end of the twigs (creating long “stems”). When the paint is dry, place the rice-filled sandwich bag in the bottom of the paper bag to help the bag stand on the table, arrange the stems in the bag with the leafy ends on top, gather the top of the bag around the twig “stems” and tie the bag with twine. Voilà!

Holiday Helpers at The Goddard School Choose This Year’s Top 10 Preschooler-Approved Toys

Children at Goddard Schools Nationwide Achieve Every Child’s Dream: Toy Tester

To help families choose fun and educational toys just in time for the holiday shopping season, The Goddard School, the leader in early childhood education, is recognizing this year’s best toys, as tested and chosen by the real experts—children.

Each year, Goddard Schools across the nation hold the Preschooler-Approved Toy Test to help families choose fun and educational toys just in time for the holiday shopping season. Toy manufacturers from throughout the country submitted more than a hundred toys, which were reviewed by a team of early childhood education experts at Goddard Systems, Inc. (GSI), franchisor of The Goddard School. The 20 toy finalists were then put to the test at Goddard Schools in 20 cities nationwide, by children ranging from infants to six year olds.

“Playful learning is at the core of our curriculum at The Goddard School. We chose finalists for the Toy Test that provide interactive, playful learning experiences. We enjoy providing our children the opportunity to experiment with these toys and select their favorites,” said Sue Adair, director of education for GSI.

As part of The Goddard School’s commitment to playful learning, the children tested toys that allowed them to use their creativity and imaginations while playing and learning—piquing their interest and encouraging them to explore. The children’s votes were tallied and the Preschooler-Approved Top 10 Toys for 2012 were selected. The Goddard School Preschooler-Approved Toy Test winners include (in no particular order):

“Toys that encourage learning through play can assist a child’s development by helping children solve problems, build self-confidence and collaborate. We hope our Preschooler-Approved Top 10 Toys will be a helpful resource for parents as they choose toys for their children this holiday season.”

Local families also are invited to participate by voting for their favorite Goddard School Preschooler-Approved Toy beginning on November 15, 2012 at http://www.goddardschools.com/toys.

The toy that receives the most votes by December 3, 2012 will be announced as the 2012 winner and GSI will donate 100 of the winning toy to Toys for Tots.

For more information, visit http://www.goddardschool.com/toys.

Helicopter Parenting: Parental Micromanaging

Guest Post By Brianna Meiers

There are often as many ways to approach child development as there are variations in how children grow and the rate at which they progress. Parental involvement is usually key, but it can go too far, as the post below describes. Parenting psychology writer Brianna Meiers takes a hard look at the trend of “helicopter parenting,” and discusses the ways in which micromanaging our children’s lives can actually do more harm than good. Interested in learning more? Click here to access more of Brianna’s writings, particularly as related to formal education programs in psychology.

Helicopter Parenting Complicates School, Sports and Leisure in a Very Detrimental Way

Parenting children through the trials of the modern world presents challenges largely unknown to prior generations. Today’s students are often defined more by the strength of their paper resumes than their characters or individual attributes. Everyone from college admissions officials to summer camp recruitment offices are interested in such abstract things as “well roundedness”; “character-building life experiences”; and “ability to bring a diverse perspective.” This has thrust many of the most well-intentioned parents into overdrive, frantically looking for ways to boost their children’s market profile. The phenomenon of parents micromanaging the lives and schedules of their offspring is known in the popular media as “helicopter parenting.” In most cases, this term is used disparagingly—while the intention is often good, the results, as more and more universities and employers are finding, can be incredibly detrimental. Helping children is one thing, but robbing them of their ability to fight their own battles and face failure and rejection with head held high is quite another.

The biggest problem with the “helicopter” method is that it prevents children from learning how to make their own decisions—and in so doing, perpetually shields them from the consequences of bad ones. The motivation is rarely so negative, though. Most parents who adopt these tactics really are just trying to help.

“Helicopter parenting appears to be inappropriately intrusive and managing, but done out of strong parental concern for the well-being and success of the child,” a team of researchers from Utah’s Brigham Young University said in a report recently summarized in USA Today.  “High involvement, low autonomy granting and presence of emotional support in the relationship reflects a uniquely distinguishable approach to parenting,” the researchers said.

Symptoms of Helicopter Parenting

In nearly all cases, helicopter parenting emerges from a fear or uncertainty about the future. This is certainly understandable, given the unpredictability of the world today. Children do need more guidance and help than ever before, and adults are in a better position to help advise and counsel them.

Advising and counseling is different from actual intervention and by-proxy doing, however. “These are parents who run themselves ragged with work and hyper-parenting,” New York Times columnist Judith Warner has written of the helicoptering mentality. “They’re parents who are physically hyper-present but somehow psychologically M.I.A.: so caught up in the script that runs through their heads about how to ‘do right’ by their children that they can’t see when the excesses of keeping up, bulking up, getting a leg up and generally running scared send the whole enterprise of ostensible care and nurturing right off the rails.”

Parents in this category are often responsible for things like “no score” soccer games with awards for every participant, so that everyone feels special; they may also be highly invested in proofreading homework and negotiating with teachers for the grades they think their child “deserved.”

This sort of behavior can extend well into young adult life. Parents of millennials have been known to butt in to their children’s goings-on in college, often calling and e-mailing professors on their child’s behalf. In extreme cases, the involvement can also extend to the job market. Some firms are now so used to parental involvement that they prepare “welcome packets” for new hires as well as their parents—though most draw the line at parental participation in things like interviews and salary negotiations.

Key Comparison: Attachment Parenting

It can be easy to confuse a helicopter parent with a parent who has attachment issues. Though the two sometimes overlap, they are in most cases considered distinct. While a helicopter parent is constantly hovering and pushing a child to succeed for the child’s own benefit, a parent with an attachment mentality is often using the same tactics to reach personal satisfaction or fulfillment. While helicoptering seeks to pave a way for the child’s success and health, attachment is a way for the parents to put their expertise about the world and commitment to selfless service to use.

The key difference, then, is in the motivation: a helicopter parent sees it as his or her job to help a child succeed for his own good, whilst an attachment parent uses a child’s success to validate his or her own self-worth.

Unintended Side Effects and Concerning Results

Both styles of parenting can be harmful, albeit for different parties. In helicopter situations, the children are usually the ones to suffer. As these kids mature, they often find themselves dependent on their parents’ praise or, in many cases, intervention in order to feel happy or complete.

Attached parents, particularly mothers, often find the endless cycle of caring, providing, and giving exhausting to the point of mental distress. “If intensive mothering is related to so many negative mental health outcomes, why do women do it?” the Christian Science Monitor asked in a recent article about the ill effects of attachment parenting. “They may think it makes them better mothers, so they are willing to sacrifice their own mental health to enhance their children’s cognitive and socio-economic outcomes.” This can have a range of negative consequences for parents and children both.

The biggest criticism of over-involved parenting is that is does not properly equip children to face life’s hurdles independently. If mom or dad has always been there the smooth the way of prevent disappointment before it happens, a child may grow up ill-equipped to respond the first time he receives a bad grade, or does not get the promotion he wanted. Universities and entry-level employers often refer to young adults in this category as “teacups”—having spent their whole life within the protective confines of a china shop home, they are liable to shatter at the first whiff of unfamiliar force.

“If a child is continually shielded from disappointment and inadequacy, he is being denied the chance to learn how to persevere, try again, and survive the challenges that life provides,” Robyn Silverman, a child psychologist, told the CBS Early Show in 2010. “When parents take the reins, they do not allow their children to learn how to take charge of their own lives.  The repercussions can be long lasting.”

Advice for Parents Looking to Change

Just as it is never too early to start giving a child an advantage, there is never a bad time to—gently—let him start exploring the world on his own. Backing down is often easiest for parents of young children, as patterns are more easily altered at this stage. Allowing a child to falter, then helping her pick up the pieces is often better than simply shielding her from the failure altogether. The parent is still involved, but is teaching rather than simply protecting.

Things are often harder once kids hit college and beyond, though there is still time for improvement. Parents can begin by limiting their calls to maybe just one or two a day, instead of four or five, Indiana University psychologist Chris Meno advises. She also recommended that parents “flip” conversations: when their son or daughter complains of a problem, rather than immediately offering to intervene ask the child to brainstorm possible solutions. In some cases, refusing intervention and allowing the child to face the consequences—late bills, for instance, or poor grades—may be the best medicine, provided the parents are there to provide support, comfort, and reassurance.

Parents need to remember to let up on themselves, too. “Helicopter parents may need to first give themselves a break — of course they want to protect their sons and daughters from the world’s perils. But they need to follow this with considering the vital role of developing independence in their child,” Meno said.

 

“Will I Spoil My Child?”

Most adults believe a spoiled child is one who behaves in a way that the adult finds objectionable.  But what’s “objectionable?”  The answer varies widely among cultures and individuals.

Dr. Kyle Pruett A

What’s important to one person can be irrelevant to the next, what’s cute to one can be bothersome to another.  In our multicultural society, the key is for you, others in your home, and those who care for your child to agree on the basics.

Once those basics are set, reason and consistency are your best tactics.  Giving in from time to time won’t ruin your rules or spoil your child.  If something is really important to the little guy, let him win on occasion (except where safety and minimal behavior requirements are concerned).  It shows him that his views have merit and teaches him that perseverance on things that really count for him can be rewarded.  Especially give in on those instances where your initial position was extreme or unnecessary – something all adults do from time to time, even with other adults.

If caving becomes a habit, however, you do no one a favor, least of all your child.  The boundaries she needs to feel secure get muddied, and she will spend untold effort to reestablish them – a big waste of resources for her and a big test of your patience.

Within the limits you set there is never a need for limits on your love.  Care and affection don’t spoil a child.  In fact, they provide the best teaching model a child could ask for.  You are demonstrating the very behavior you want to encourage.  There is no downside to this.

The Goddard School’s Internet Radio Show — Balancing Act: The Art of Parenting!

Need help navigating the world of parenting a preschooler? The Goddard School’s panel of early childhood development experts discusses and answers your questions on our Toginet Radio show — Balancing Act: The Art of Parenting. From education guidance to bullying-proofing advice to nutrition and fitness tips, our experts are here to help you.

Want to know how to choose the right childcare for your family? Need tips to help your child cope with divorce? Looking for help to balance your home and work life? Join host Ashley Betzendahl as she welcomes an incredible group of educators, researchers and experts in child development, early learning, technology integration, brain development, parent engagement and health and nutrition to share their tips and advice with you.

Dr. Kyle Pruett, internationally known child psychiatrist; Sue Adair, The Goddard School’s director of education; Susan Magsamen, award-winning author; Dr. Craig Bach, educational researcher; Dr. Jack Maypole, pediatric health and nutrition expert and popular pediatric blogger; Lillian Kellogg, educational technology proponent; and Lee Scott, Chair of The Goddard School’s Education Advisory Board and early education programming expert, are a few of the special guests who will be joining us each week.

Have a question for our experts? Listen and call in (877-864-4869) on Thursdays at 2 PM Central / 3 PM Eastern.

Taming the Tantrums

One of the truly gnarly limit-pushers is the temper tantrum.  These are the hallmark of the self-control wars in the early years.  They are distinct from the gut-wringing cries of the sick, wet, desperately hungry, or physically hurt infant or pre-toddler.  But they can look similar, and you can feel even more helpless.

Family - Teacher with Parent & ChildTantrums start to occur in that period of development when the “me do” surge for autonomy becomes increasingly frustrated by the parent who knows the toddler’s abilities are still so limited that trouble lurks behind most corners.  So when the child’s limited ability frustrates a particular goal, or a parent intervenes to rein her in, the internal frustrations can erupt into a screaming, kicking, crying rage.

Every time you help you child recover from such a debacle without humiliation or irrational punishment, she learns that her impulses cannot destroy her world and that you can help her learn how to manage this tiger, the way you did the other tigers of her early years – being left alone, being helplessly hungry, etc.

Finally, two pieces of advice about limit setting and self-control that are hard for many parents to remember.  When setting limits:

  • The fewer words the better.
  • Actions speak louder than words.