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Archive for the ‘Dr. Kyle Pruett’ Category

Five Ways to Discourage Children from Lying

Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers five ways to discourage children from lying.

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  1. Keep your cool when your child lies. Try to say ‘Oh,’ or ‘Okay,’ to give yourself some time to think about what to say next. Something like ‘I wonder what happened to the flowers’ works better than ‘Whoever did this had better tell the truth (‘or else!’ is implied).’ This strategy makes it easier for children to be truthful and improves your chances of hearing the truth later as they will feel less intimidated.
  2. Calmly, try to help your child understand why he lied and what he can do next time to avoid lying.
  3. Explain to your child that it’s okay to make a mistake and that she doesn’t have to lie about it. Also remember to praise your child for admitting that she made a mistake. Lying lessens when it’s safe to tell the truth.
  4. When you are on the fence about whether or not to believe your preschooler, err on the side of believing that your child is telling the truth. Or his version of it. After all, imagination is a powerful and creative force that might cause a child to tell a lie that he thinks is true. For example, a child might claim that there is a monster in the closet when that obviously isn’t true.
  5. Be aware that you are under constant scrutiny and that the ‘innocent’ white lie that you can’t make a donation to a charitable organization because you don’t have any cash, for instance, will be noticed by your child. Set a good example and remember that the truth starts at home.

Four Ways to Help Children Fall Asleep

Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers four ways to help children fall asleep.twenty20_633d5703-2356-457f-8730-d07b63f9a0d7

  1. Improve the odds of bedtime going smoothly by not starting the lessons until the child reaches four to six months of age. Starting too early will teach your child to cry, not to sleep.
  2. Be patient and give the process time to work. It takes adults an average of 20 minutes to fall asleep, even though we’ve done it thousands of times, and that’s when our sleep hygiene is working reasonably well. Many adults, especially parents, need a bit more time to fall asleep. Keep in mind that children may experience similar challenges.
  3. Some crying is nearly universal at bedtime. Putting your child to bed when already asleep to avoid the crying might cause him to be disoriented when he wakes up in the night, which he will surely do. You’ll be up yet again because he hasn’t learned how to put himself back to sleep, just to cry for you.
  4. Through your routine, children will learn what happens next, so put them down when they get drowsy, sit down near them, using occasional light touch and your voice to soothe when the pacifier pops out and they have to put out the effort to find it, which is just what you want to them to be able to do in the middle of the night. It’s the wise parent who then says goodnight softly and leaves the room. Some crying may ensue, so wait for a few moments beyond what you think you can stand, then go back in briefly to reassure the child (and yourself) in the softest voice and touch you can manage. In a matter of weeks, research reassures us that your small student will be on the path to being able to fall back to sleep on his or her own.

Four Ways to Encourage Gratitude

072O2495Teaching children how to be grateful is important. Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers four tips on how to encourage gratitude.

  1. Regularly express your own thankfulness verbally. Saying things such as “We are very lucky to have grandma nearby” or “I’m thankful to have a son like you in my life” or “Your dad made that so easy for all of us” can help demonstrate the appreciation you have for the people around you.
  2. Express gratitude behaviorally. Take a casserole to a neighbor who has been kind or needs some extra help for whatever reason—even better if the children help you make it. When the hand-me-down toys end their cycle, make a thrift store run with the children in tow.
  3. Make generosity part of your family’s routine. When seasons change, collect clothes from everyone’s closet to donate or take canned goods to the local soup kitchen.
  4. Take the children along on community fundraising activities, runs, walks, etc. Explain to them why this matters to you. Make sure your children meet the organizers and understand the purpose; if it’s personal, it’s remembered.

Making Parent-Teacher Conferences Work

The home-to-school connection is crucial for a successful educational and developmental experience. “When parents and schools trust and collaborate with each other, children do better academically, behaviorally and socially,” says Kyle Pruett, M.D., child psychiatrist and advisor to The Goddard School. That connection includes ongoing communication with your child’s teachers and regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences.  Use the following guidelines to get the most from the conferences and build a connection with the teachers.

Prepare for the meeting.
Write down your questions before the meeting to ensure you cover the most important information.

Share information with the teacher.
You know your child and family better than anyone else. Be willing to share what is happening at home, what your child’s interests are and what observations you have made.

Focus on your child.
Stay focused on what your child is learning and on developmental growth.  Don’t discuss other children, unless you want to mention that your child plays with another child outside of school.  Keep an open mind about any behavioral issues.  Work out solutions together, so your child has a consistent set of expectations at home and at school.

Ask about the program and what to expect.
Learn about the curriculum and what is coming up in the next few months. Find out how you can participate.  Ask the teacher about activities you can do at home to nurture and encourage learning. Share information about activities you do with your child at home.

Seek out opportunities to stay involved.
Before you leave the conference, ask the teacher how you can work together and what kind of opportunities the school has for parent involvement. Thank the teacher for her time.

Temperamental Fit Between Parent and Child

Dr. Kyle Pruett AIt is good to remind ourselves that our children are developing in very close proximity to us and to our own capacities to feel shame and invoke our consciences in useful, constructive ways.  It will help to take a brief look at our own styles and think about how they will affect our children at this age.

The temperamental “fit” between parent and child plays a big role in the limit-setting process.  If this process is to work well, the challenge is to keep drawing your child toward greater and greater self-control.

The fit or match between your style and that of your toddler will never be perfect, nor should it be.  However, thinking about how you affect each other can greatly increase the ease with which you set limits for her and help her stay in control when she is threatening to “lose it.”

When you are well tuned to your child, both of you are likely to feel more in control.  As a result, your child doesn’t have to resort to ever more dramatic tactics, like shutting down completely or running away.

By the same token, repeated misreading of what a child needs in the limit-setting realm, coupled with too little or too much discipline, leaves her feeling confused and that she has failed as a communicator.  These feelings, in turn, lead to a sense of uselessness and hopelessness.  So it’s a good idea to periodically reassess your style and that of your child to see where differences could be helpful or troublesome.

Ask the Expert: Parents and Their Daughter’s Self-Esteem

“What can my husband and I do at home to build and reinforce our eight-year-old daughter’s confidence so she is self-assured when she is with her friends?

Family - Mom Daughter AYou can do a lot, but exact amount depends on your daughter’s personality. Who she is determines what you can and can’t do at home, so be honest about her temperament. A lot also depends on who her ‘friends’ may be at any given moment. As you know, eight-year-old girls often have transient friendships. These are practice friendships; your daughter’s main influences are still mainly you and your husband, and not her friends, for the time being.

Thanks to a recent, thoughtful NYU study of the development of female self-esteem, we see confidence increase during kindergarten, plateau between eight and ten and then decrease, thanks to many factors, including hormones and confusing media messages. As thoughtful parents, planning ahead is necessary, because low-esteem can make her more susceptible to smoking, bullying, eating troubles, drug use, depression, premature sexual experimentation and more.

Tip the playing field in her direction. Both of you should tell her regularly that she is your treasure and praise her for her abilities, strengths, courage, overall smarts and attractiveness. Self-doubt is already bouncing around in her head, and in the heads of her friends.

Limit her screen time and monitor her media and phone use. Forget being hip and use parental controls. Media literacy is no longer an elective.

Practice listening carefully to her during your conversations, whether they are held at dinner or in the car, and let her know you have heard her. Her own voice is just now gaining strength and needs regular training.

Mothers are their daughters’ model for how to be a woman, so mothers should watch their own self-esteem during this period. Lots of moms begin to feel that they need to let go of their dreams while their children build theirs. A daughter notices this. If you support your daughter’s friendships but do not make time for your own, she may choose to imitate what you do, not what you say. Similarly, she develops her attitudes towards clothes, nutrition, weight issues and relationships based both on what you say and on what you do. Try to live by the values you want her to cherish.

A daughter’s relationship with her father is a model for her relationships with men. How you treat her affects how she will expect men to treat her. Most men significantly underestimate their influence on their daughter’s self-confidence and self-regard, and often focus too much on playing a supporting role to their partners, over-stressing discipline or teasing. Spending time alone with your daughter while participating in activities she likes helps build a firm foundation that can easily withstand puberty.

For more support, I recommend a website called New Moon. It was designed by parents and their daughters for eight- to twelve-year-old girls and offers them safe and authentic conversations about the issues that matter to families with daughters. Our family liked it a lot.

Moral Behavior and Empathy

Family - Father DaughterAs with other aspects of behavior, moral behavior must be taught.  One element of such behavior is the ability to empathize with others, to put oneself in someone else’s shoes.  Obviously, empathy can help inhibit anti-social behavior.

There is some evidence that empathy is part of a child’s in-born temperament, and that some children are naturally more empathic than others.  However, research also shows that empathic parents tend to have empathic children.  So this important attribute is clearly shaped by example and teaching as well as by genes.

The ability to show children what it is to care about another’s well-being – physical and emotional – is central to teaching morality.  It is also central to their self-control and their long-term ability to form lasting relationships.

Many childhood games are valuable for teaching connectedness, turn-taking and awareness of others.  Peekaboo is a great example.

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.

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