Wakes Up Too Frequently

Like adults, children can wake up in the night.  They may do so for any number of reasons, depending on their age, health and unique characteristics. However, when a child awakens in the night, other members of the household may be disturbed (i.e. siblings sleeping nearby or parents in their own room). If nighttime awakenings happen only on rare occasions, it’s not a big problem. But what if a child routinely wakens in the night and does so more than one time?

If your child wakes up too frequently, consider the following tips:

Babies Naturally Wake Up Often
Newborns and infants wake to feed every 90 minutes or so. There’s not much that can be done for this age group; they’re SUPPOSED to wake up in the night every couple of hours. The best solution for tired parents is to try to catch a few naps in the daytime. Sleep when the baby sleeps in those early weeks and for as long as you can manage it. Some people are able to afford night nurses so that they can sleep through those night wakings, but many cannot. Some couples trade off in the night, so that each one only loses half the sleep. Some people take the newborn into bed with them, finding this less exhausting than having to get out of bed and walk down the hall to another room, or even to get out of bed and go to the baby’s cradle in the same room. Some folks can afford daytime help that allows them to take a generous snooze in daylight hours. Those who have only the one baby or other kids in school, can and should try to nap when the baby naps. The good news is that this stage of life eventually passes and babies will sleep for longer stretches. Some babies will actually sleep right through the night from 8 or 9 months of age. Some will accomplish this later – say at 14 or 16 months. And some, will not sleep right through the night until they are 6 years old!

Toddlers Still Seek Parental Comfort at Night
While some toddlers sleep through the night without interruption, there are many who don’t. In this latter group, some children awaken just once and then settle back to sleep for the night. Some want a little parental presence, while some want a lot (i.e. they want to climb into the parents’ bed). If parents provide that presence (either by letting him in their bed or by patting him back to sleep), some of these little ones will just go back to sleep for the rest of the night. If you are fine with that, go ahead and let it happen. All kids eventually outgrow the need and desire to sleep in their parents’ bed. However, if you prefer to train your child to stay in his own room for the duration of the night, you will have to do a bit of nighttime sleep training.

To begin with, you need to understand that parental touch and presence is comforting and pleasant for small children. When little kids enter a light sleep cycle, they often call out for this touch or presence. If parents are willing to pat the child back to sleep, or talk to him or hold him and rock him, then the little night-waker may expect this service each time he wakes up in the night. In order not to have to provide it, you will want to create a scenario in which the child must soothe HIMSELF back to sleep. Once you accomplish that, the little one will put himself back to sleep after waking in the night.

Parental Consistency is Key
Put your little one to bed in the usual way. Provide a night light, soft toy and other comforts and then leave the room. If the child wakes up and calls for you, you can come to the room – but do not pick up the child or touch him. Simply tell him that it’s late and he should go back to sleep. Then leave. If he calls again, wait a bit and then come back and tell him the same thing. Don’t stand too close – it’s best to stand in the doorway. Each time he calls for you, wait a little longer before coming. The idea is to provide reassuring presence without providing reinforcing contact. When the child figures out that he’s not going to get much out of this and it’s getting to be hard work for little payoff, he usually stops calling for parents and just stays asleep. Keep in mind that if you decide to do this with your child, you cannot interrupt the process by taking the child into your bed. Some parents make exceptions and let the child come into their bed when he is sick or when he has been crying for a long time or even when THEY are just too tired to deal with it. Providing these exceptions causes the child to learn that it’s worth staying up and screaming for as long as possible because it might just yield some positive results! If you take the child into your room even once in awhile, it can become impossible to get him to stop waking up in the night.

School-Aged Children Wake for Different Reasons
When bigger children are waking up frequently in the night, there is something wrong. Some kids are fearful of sleeping in their own room or being separated from their parents. Whereas such feelings are common for two and three year-olds, their existence in kids over six might indicate the presence of some anxiety. A mental health professional should be consulted. Some kids wake up because of various health problems. Always have a pediatrician do a full workup to determine if a physical condition is causing the frequent waking. For instance, it is possible that the child suffers from a breathing difficulty known as “sleep apnea.” If doctors have agreed that there is no emotional or physical cause for frequent nighttime awakenings, then you can safely use behavioral interventions to help the child. As for younger children, make it clear that you expect the child to stay in his or her own room. Let the child know that YOU need your sleep and you will NOT be tending to his or her needs once it’s night. Provide the child with books, crayons or puzzles to entertain him or herself with, should awakening occur. Make it clear that no one can be disturbed, including other children in the house. When the child sees that everyone is sleeping and no one is coming to look after him or her, the child usually decides to stay asleep. However, if your child insists on coming into your room and disturbing you, feel free to inform him or her that causing you to wake up will result in a (significant) negative consequence the next day. If necessary, be sure to apply the consequence (show the child you mean business!). Be consistent. Apply the consequence each day that follows night time disturbance. Hopefully, the child will soon get your point. If he or she fails to learn, see a professional counselor for further suggestions.

Premature Babies

The birth of a premature baby can bring mixed emotions: the joy of the newborn’s arrival and the worry over health issues. Sometimes, when the premature birth is completely unexpected, there is also a feeling of shock and panic. Will the baby survive? Will she be alright? Indeed, some premature babies literally have to fight for their life in a neonatal intensive care unit. Some parents feel responsible: did we do something wrong while pregnant? Even when the early birth is clearly accepted as out of the parent’s control, parents may begin to feel the pressure that accompanies caring for any “special needs” child. They know their child is more fragile than an average infant and may face more developmental challenges. Their radar goes up – they are more vigilant. Since caring for a full term baby is already an intensive, exhausting process, it is easy to imagine how caring for a premature baby can sometimes challenge parents to their max.

If you are the parent of a premature infant who has health issues, take heart: both the survival rate and the prognosis for healthy development among preemies is now excellent. With the right medical intervention and adequate postnatal care, preemies tend to do very well indeed. Although your task might feel overwhelming at first, it will get easier (if you can call parenting a baby “easy” at any stage!). Let’s take a closer look at the phenomenon of premature births:

What is a Premature Baby?
A baby is considered premature when he or she is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is estimated that around 500,000 babies (or about 9%) of live births in America each year are premature. Because preemies are born ahead of schedule, it is possible that they will suffer from temporary health concerns brought about by inadequate pre-natal development. The bigger the gap between actual and anticipated birth date, the more serious the health problems tend to be. However, because of the sophistication of modern medical interventions, almost all such health issues can be adequately addressed. Indeed, almost all preemies survive their initial struggle and grow up to be indistinguishable from the rest of the population.

Common Health Issues of Premature Babies
A common health condition of preemies is hyperbilirubinemia affecting 80% of prematurely born infants. Babies with hyperbilirubinemia have a high amount of bilirubin (a compound resulting from the natural breakdown of blood). Babies with hyperbilirubinemia are placed under special lights that help the body get rid of bilirubin. Other common health problems of premature infants include: sleep apnea, respiratory distress syndrome, infection, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, anemia, low blood pressure, retinopathy of prematurity and patent ductus arteriosus. These conditions all respond well to medical treatment.

What to Expect
Premature Babies are placed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until the infant can go home. After leaving the NICU most babies will still require special care. Frequent examinations will be made to make sure that the baby is developing in a completely healthy way.

Premature babies generally come home from the hospital at the time of their original due date. Premature babies will need to feed 8-10 times a day at first. It’s important not to wait longer than 4 hours in between the feeding times in order to prevent dehydration. Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to protect an infant from germs and sickness, during the first months after birth. Making sure to keep on track with feeding times is crucial – even if it is necessary to wake a sleeping baby. The baby may not give clear signs that she is hungry so frequent feeding is necessary even in the absence of signs of hunger. Premature babies should not begin eating solids until 4-6 months after their due date (not birthday), in order to be able to swallow.

Premature babies will sleep more often than normal babies, but they will wake up after shorter intervals of time. They may sleep up to 22 hours a day during their first weeks at home. The baby should be put to sleep on her back. Remember that when a preemie reaches an adjusted age of 6 to 8 months, she should be able to sleep through the night.

In premature infants, the baby’s ability to control bodily movements often lags behind the development of senses (hearing, touching, seeing). Parents needn’t worry if their baby has trouble holding his head up or making smooth, coordinated movements with his limbs – this will all develop in time. In fact, the premature baby may develop slower than a full-term baby in many ways. It may take up to two years to catch up with children who were born on their expected birth date.

What Causes a Premature Birth?
There are many possible reasons why a baby may have been born early. However, most cases of prematurity are caused by unknown factors and factors outside the parents’ control. Indeed, in the majority of cases of premature birth, doctors have no warning sign that a premature birth is likely. And most parents are similarly taken by surprise by their early labor. Nonetheless, we do know some conditions that can lead to higher chances of premature births – some of which can be avoided in future pregnancies and some of which are outside of the parents’ control. Undiagnosed problems in the uterus or the cervix can cause early labor. Twins are often born prematurely. Maternal obesity, diabetes and hypertension can also increase the risk of giving birth ahead of schedule. Poor diet, lack of folic acid, smoking, drinking alcohol or taking illegal and regulated drugs are other  risk factors. Mothers with a history of taking medication designed to induce abortions may also be at risk for giving birth to a premature child.

How can parents help themselves and their new baby?

There are many things parents of premature babies can do to help their child and one another. Consider the following:

Deal with Your Emotions
As mentioned, parents go through many conflicting feelings when a preemie is born. It helps to be able to express fear, upset or grief over the situation. Often, hospital social services are available to ease the shock and pain and provide practical support. But parents can do each other a big favor by just letting each other talk it out – without offering reassurance, correction or any other comment. Listening to each other non-judgmentally is the greatest gift of all. Providing practical support to each other – helping each other find ways to relax, rest and refresh – will also do wonders for both parents.

Be Involved
Stay close and get informed about your preemie’s condition. Because they were born before term, premature babies may be suffering from various health issues – some easily managed by the medical team and on rare occasion, some that cause conditions that can be critical. It helps for parents to learn what they can about their baby’s status; knowledge reduces the sense of overwhelm and helplessness. Often, parents can help their premature baby by spending time in the neonatal intensive care unit. Touching the infant may be a simple but effective way of providing valuable stimulation.

Make Arrangements for a Healthy Home
Even when the preemie has been released from the hospital, he or she is still vulnerable to infections and opportunistic diseases. It’s important then that parents invest in making their home suitable for their premature baby. Pollutants in the household that wouldn’t otherwise harm a baby born to term may be intolerable for your infant. Consult your doctor on how to best prepare your home for your little one.

Know What to Expect
It’s not unusual for premature babies to experience some developmental delay. For instance, milestones typical of a child 6-7 months of age may be achieved by a premature baby later. Premature babies also tend to behave differently than babies born to term; for example some may have difficulty expressing their needs through crying, especially in the early weeks. Some preemies will need interventions as they develop. For instance, many will benefit from speech therapy or occupational therapy for gross and fine motor coordination. Sometimes a preemie will go on to have learning disabilities that will require attention as well. However parents need to be aware that many children who are born at full term also need various interventions as they grow up and not all developmental quirks are caused by prematurity. Like the rest of the full term population, preemies can have the full range of human challenges simply because they’re human! It is important for parents to help their child outgrow the “preemie” designation over the course of the first few years of life. Continuing to treat the child as particularly fragile or vulnerable long past the challenges of the early days does more harm than good.

Sometimes intervention services such as physical, occupational, speech therapy, or developmental therapy may be helpful during the first couple of years after birth, enhancing progress and preventing delays or developmental deficits.

 

Biting

Everyone is challenged by frustration, viagra buy no matter what his or her age may be. Frustrated kids physically attack their siblings; frustrated teenagers talk back to their parents; and frustrated adults say and do all kinds of things they later regret. However, recipe no one except for toddlers has any excuse for engaging in hurtful behaviors! Toddlers lash out because they’re too little and too verbally challenged to handle their upset in more mature ways. Still, it is the job of parents to teach their small children both how to refrain from aggressive behaviors and also how to express anger in acceptable ways.

Frustrated Toddlers
The first lessons in frustration management begin when a child is just out of babyhood. Babies get frustrated due to fatigue, hunger, tummy upset, physical discomfort, wanting to be held and so forth. The only thing they can do about it is cry. Once a child learns a few words, he has a few more options. Instead of just crying, he can say things like “no want” or “want Mommy.” By communicating his or her needs, the child will be less frustrated and will be able to release a bit of the frustration that he or she encounters. As the toddler acquires a more elaborate vocabulary, it becomes more and more possible for him or her to reduce and relieve frustration.

However, the baby ways will still persist for a while as well. For example, frustrated toddlers will still sometimes be at a loss for words and just cry in frustration instead. Sometimes they will thrash about like earlier versions of themselves, flailing and stamping their feet. Often they’ll throw an item (a toy, some food or other object). Although these early expressions of frustration are normal in toddlers, parents still must intervene with “frustration education.” Even little kids can begin to learn to express their frustration in words.

Discovering that Biting “Works”
Many toddlers learn quite accidentally, that biting or otherwise hurting someone, is a particularly satisfying way to release feelings of helpless anger and frustration. At first, such a behavior is the product of desperation, adrenalin and infantile problem-solving skills. However, learning occurs rapidly when the toddler discovers the “power” of his or her violent action. The victim screams in sudden pain! The toddler realizes that he or she can actually use violence on purpose in order to communicate strong emotion.

Although many toddlers limit the use of their power to other people their size, they can and do also try it out on their caregivers. While they will sometimes attack teachers and babysitters, their favorite targets are often their parents. How should parents handle a biting/kicking/scratching/hurting toddler?

Helping Toddlers Stop Biting
Toddlers are too young for “real” discipline. Although some two-year-olds seem to understand the concept of negative consequences (i.e. “if you hit Mommy you’ll have to sit in a thinking chair”), most very small children do not really benefit from formal discipline. Discipline becomes more effective after around the age of 3. Even then, parents are just introducing the structure of discipline in tiny steps to these youngest candidates. Although many parents put a child in a crib for a few moments for biting, this strategy usually acts only to stop the present moment aggression. It is a “time-out” that  does virtually nothing to prevent the biting behavior in the future. Discipline that doesn’t “cure” the behavior is not discipline at all and should not be used (the word “discipline” means “to teach” – if the strategy is not teaching the child not to bite, there is no point in using it). However, there are always exceptions: if you’re child is biting less often because you have given him or her a time-out or another punishment, then your intervention IS working and you can continue to use it.

Most parents of toddlers will have to refrain from using discipline for biting and instead, address the misbehavior by managing attention. This means that a parent gives strong, positive attention to desirable behaviors and little or very mild attention to undesirable behaviors (like biting). (Distraction can also be used in these early years to simply steer a child away from undesirable or unacceptable activities that are not aggressive or hurtful.) There is a natural tendency, however, for parents to give LOTS of attention to undesirable behaviors. For instance, they may actually yell at a child who is biting. That yelling is an overdose of attention, sure to encourage lots more biting! Parents have to overcome their natural tendencies in order to restrain themselves when their youngster bites them, other adults or other children.

When Toddlers Bite Caregivers
It is essential that a child be stopped immediately from being aggressive toward his or her caregivers for several reasons. Parents must be seen as benevolent authority figures. This allows them to lovingly guide the development of their youngsters, teaching them right from wrong. A child must therefore learn early that he or she is not to attack the parent either physically or verbally. It is just as out-of-line to do so as it would be for an adult to attack a police officer physically or verbally! In addition, children need their parents’ affection in order to develop optimally. However, parents don’t tend to like their aggressive, violent youngsters as much as they like their cooperative, respectful ones. Teaching the child to be respectful is therefore in the child’s best interest – for this reason as well as myriad other reasons. The lesson begins right at the beginning; even small children are not permitted to behave obnoxiously. Of course, toddlers and pre-schoolers will all behave quite badly at times, but parents must step in and begin the process of gentle, but firm, loving guidance. It’s just not O.K. to bite parents, babysitters, teachers or other caregivers.

Toddlers can be discouraged from biting adults by experiencing the withdrawal of positive attention. Parents can display a strong differentiation between their normal, pleasant, kind, loving selves and their very displeased, uninterested self that comes forth when the child bites or hits. Thus, they may be playing happily with the child when something happens that causes the child to become violent. Now the parent looks seriously displeased, uses a very brief stern reprimanding “NO!” and quickly moves away  from the youngster. The parent should not engage in any sort of lecture or education (this actually provides too much attention for the misbehavior which can accidentally reinforce or encourage more of that behavior.) The parent should also not use a sing-song, soft voice, gently breathing out “no-o-o-o-o, don’t bite Mommy.” The voice must be short and firm (not angry). The facial expression should not be  friendly or gentle, but rather very business-like. This sort of “rejection” (really, more a temporary withdrawal of otherwise flowing positive affection) should not be used for other types of misbehavior, but only reserved for a child’s physically hurtful, aggressive actions (like biting). The trick here is to reserve the icy cold rejecting voice for this one behavior only. The child must immediately see that this is a behavior that the parent doesn’t like. It is essential that the contrast between this harsh face of the parent and the parent’s normal, regular, routine and consistent pleasant face be strong and clear. If the parent is routinely displeased, regularly irritated, often angry, etc., then there will be insufficient contrast to be able to effectively use this technique. Most toddlers who are used to a parent’s gentle, loving ways, will quickly learn to refrain from biting and hurting when this differentiation strategy is employed.

When Toddlers Bite Other Children
A similar use of withdrawal of attention can be used when a child bites another child. If the biting occurs in the school setting, parents should ask the teacher NOT to speak to the child about the biting behavior. Remember: one-on-one time with the teacher, intense direct eye-contact and a few minutes of speaking to the child all constitutes a highly reinforcing form of attention. With all that “quality time” with the teacher, the youngster is much more likely to bite again. Instead, the teacher should say only two words – “No biting” – and have the child sit in a time-out chair facing away from the classroom activity (i.e. facing a wall) for a couple of minutes. The other, non-biting children will be getting the teacher’s attention and the little biter will have lost a few minutes of attention.

The same sort of intervention can be used at home: everyone else remains “part of the scene” but the biting toddler is given the cold shoulder. As discussed above, the “thinking chair” can be used with children 3 years old and up.

If the toddler bites another child, the VICTIM should be given all the attention. The victim’s parent or caregiver should be given lots of apologies in the form of “I’m so sorry – we’ll be doing something about this after the play-date – we’re working on preventing this behavior.” If it is O.K. with the parent or caregiver, the victim can be offered a treat as compensation. Meanwhile the little biter gets virtually NO attention and certainly no treats! Minimizing words, eye contact and physical contact to a biting toddler is one way to strongly discourage the behavior in the future.

Frequent Biters
Consider Bach Flower Therapy for a child who frequently bites others. The remedies Impatiens, Cherry Plum, Chestnut Bud, Holly and Vine can be used. However, it is best to consult a Bach Flower Practitioner to create an appropriate, individually tailored remedy bottle that can help reduce the biting tendency in your toddler. You can find more information about Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

If your child is not responding to your interventions and is so aggressive that he or she is being “expelled” from nursery schools, then consult a mental health professional for further guidance.

Toilet Training

Learning to use the potty is a huge developmental milestone for a baby. Putting the little guy in underwear even changes his look from “baby” to “kid.” It makes him or her “one of us.” The baby is usually as proud of this accomplishment as the parents.

There are many ways for parents to help their babies learn how to use a potty or toilet. However, there are some important parenting principles that will apply no matter what method of toilet training is used. Every child will eventually get out of diapers and start to wear underpants. What most parents don’t realize is that the way they train the child teaches him much more than how to use the toilet!

When is My Child Ready for Potty Training?
Parents are teaching toddlers how to be people, how to handle life, how to show love and approval. They do this teaching through feeding, holding, diapering and—yes—toilet training! It’s the way  parents do all this that conveys a wealth of information about life to the tiny tot. Is the parent a gentle teacher? Or rough? Rushed or patient? Calm or stressed out? Does the parent respect the child’s feelings or trod over them with a steam roller?

Potty training is a powerful venue for all of these lessons. To begin with, the very timing of potty training shows whether or not parents are in tune with their youngsters’ rhythms and emotions. Parents who start before the child is ready may have their own agenda that they are trying to impose on the baby. It’s more about what the parent needs or wants than what is actually right for the child. In some cultures, this is simply a practical need of parents—in places where there is no easy way to wash diapers, for example. In our culture, it can be about desiring a “natural” way of parenting or it can be a desire to show off one’s baby’s “talent.” Whatever the case, attempting to train a child before the child is physically ready (which typically occurs somewhere between 18 months & 24 months) is not acting in concert with the child’s development. This can also be the case when parents wait too long to start toilet training a youngster. Some parents are not eager to train their babies because they know that the process itself can be time-consuming and messy and that it will rob them of some sense of control of their own schedule. Having to run to the bathroom all day with a toddler-in-training is indeed inconvenient. Parents can change diapers more or less according to their own schedule and convenience. Parents who feel overwhelmed with the demands of their other tasks may therefore decide to wait awhile in the hopes that the child will train himself eventually. Unfortunately, many parents miss the toilet-sensitive period this way. They are out of touch with their child’s stage of development.

Tuning into the child’s readiness level is an important parenting skill. It applies to everything that a parent wants to teach a youngster. The optimum time for teaching is when the child shows the prerequisite skill set. Waiting too long can mean that the child will have more trouble learning the skill or may never quite get it. This is as true for teaching children how to clean their rooms as it is for toilet training!

When is a Child Ready to be Trained? There are Several Signs:

  • The child is dry for longer periods of time during the day
  • The child has a couple of well-formed bowel movements during the day instead of frequent loose movements
  • The child stops having bowel movements in her night diaper
  • The child has the dexterity to run to the bathroom and to pull off clothing
  • The child already knows how to follow simple instructions and is cooperative (i.e. is not thick into the defiant “no” stage that is typical of early toddlerhood).

Most of these developmental tasks occur naturally around 2 years of age. Although there are individual differences, the order of control usually goes like this:

  • The child stops having night-time bowel movements
  • The child attains daytime bowel control
  • The child attains daytime bladder control
  • The child attains night-time bladder control

Parents can help a child get ready for training by teaching some potty words. For instance, when the diaper is wet, a parent can say, “Oh you made a pee.” When it is dirty, the parent can say “Oh you made a poo (or word of your choice).” When the child is obviously having a bowel movement, the parent can say “You’re making a poo? O.K. when you’re done we’ll change your diaper.” During this stage, the parent can begin to bring picture books home from the store or library that show babies going through the potty-training process. This “bibliotherapy” (use of books to help reduce anxiety and create readiness) can be very helpful. Toddlers love to look at picture books and read them over and over and over again. The frequent exposure helps them become familiar with the steps they will soon be going through. Once you start formally training your baby, the books will provide added educational support.

Introduce the Function of the Potty or Toilet Chair
When you feel that your child is ready to be toilet trained, you can but a potty chair or a smaller version of the toilet chair designed specifically for toddlers and young children. (Some parents skip the potty chair and goe straight to the toilet; this is fine too.) Start the lesson by encouraging your child to sit on the potty chair, even with his clothes on, so that he can feel comfortable with it.

Then you can begin introducing to your toddler what the potty seat is for. For example, you can get the contents of a soiled diaper and dump it into the potty. If you notice from your child’s movements and/or expression that he or she is about to pee or move bowels, then you can take him or her to the seat or toilet to perform the task there.

One method for encouraging use of the toilet or potty is to allow the child to run about the house naked for a few days. When the child begins to urinate or defecate, scoop him or her up and let him or her finish the job on the toilet or potty. Although this method is a bit messy (the floor or carpet may get soiled), it is also very quick and effective. The child quickly learns the right place to deposit his or her goods.

Another trick that some parents use is to show a child how to control the flow of urine in a bathtub. This is particularly suitable for little boy toddlers. When the child wakes up dry from a nap (or, does not have a soaking diaper after a night’s sleep), take the child to the bathtub right away. Turn the tap on to let a little water run. Have the child standing in the middle of the tub, with legs slightly spread. He is most likely to start to urinate. Show pleasure! Tell him that he is making pee-pee (or use whatever words you like). This can serve as the little guy’s introduction to the functions of his body and the control he can exercise over it. After doing this once or a few times, simply take the child straight to the toilet or potty when he wakes up in a fairly dry state.

Consistency is the Key
As in other aspects of parenting, consistency is the key. Once potty-training starts, it needs to be seen through to the end. You can’t put a diaper on the child one day, underpants the next, a diaper when going out, nothing when running around the house. The best way to avoid even wanting to do this is to start potty training when you really feel the child is fully ready. Then, the diaper goes off and it stays off (at least, during the daytime). Some parents put the baby in cloth diapers for a couple of months just so that the child can feel the wetness that he won’t feel in a disposable diaper. This encourages kids to want to stay dry and fresh. Once potty training begins, thick training pants can be used to help avoid large messes while continuing to let the child feel wet.

At first, the parent must guess when the child needs to go to the bathroom. This guess can become fairly accurate by observing the child before training commences and once it begins. How long after eating or drinking does the child typically wet a diaper or the floor? Just before that time, take the child to the potty to try to use it. Don’t make her sit there for more than a few minutes. This just teaches sitting behavior! If nothing happens, take her off and bring her back every 20 minutes until she has been able to produce something. Acknowledge the accomplishment with happy praise. This will be sufficient. Children are very pleased with themselves for managing to use the toilet. There is no need to offer treats for good performance.

Bring the child to the potty as often as you feel you need to in order to avoid having wet clothes or furniture. After a few days, he or she will get the picture. However, it can be months before the child reliably tells YOU that a bathroom break is in order. Praise the child for interrupting himself to go the bathroom. Praise him for having dry underpants throughout the day. Keep the pressure off but keep the expectations up. This means, avoid any show of anger or displeasure but ignore all requests for diapers with a firm “no more diapers.”

Toilet Training Accidents
There is no one smooth accident-free path to toilet training. Along the road to independence from diapers are plenty of accidents—wetting and soiling clothes, floors and furnishings. For parents, this can mean lots of frustration. It is essential that parents remember that they are always teaching their kids more than how to sit on a potty: they are also teaching them everything about how to be a human being, including how to handle setbacks, frustration and upset.. If parents get irritated and impatient and show their frustration in unkind ways (yelling, looking mad, threatening), then little people learn that “it’s my way or the highway; things must go the way I want them to or I become nasty.”On the other hand, if parents just shrug and say “Oops. You’ve had an accident. Let’s clean up.” the child learns that mistakes are not the end of the world, solving a problem is more important than having a problem, people can stay calm in the face of things going wrong and, most important, learning is a gradual process, all about trial and error.

The younger a child is when he starts the training process, the longer it may take him to become accident-free. This just means that parents must be patient longer. Sometimes children develop anxiety around toilet-training. Sometimes it happens because the child is being trained at a late stage where his bowel habits have become entrenched. Most often it occurs in toddlers who have a bit of an anxious streak in their genetic make-up. This group may be fearful, phobic or anxious about other things besides toilet training. The anxiety is almost always about letting go of a bowel movement. Somehow, the diaper provides a safe, familiar experience whereas the potty or toilet seems threatening. Anxious kids often benefit from taking Bach Flower Therapy for a few weeks (you can find more information about Bach Flower Therapy online and throughout this site). This eases the anxiety and then a carefully structured toilet-training process can be undertaken.

Even when a child has been fully trained, accidents will still occur. Even after a child is mostly toilet-trained he or she will often continue to have accidents for a year or two. Just as commonly, a child will be predictably clean and dry for a year and then start to have accidents. This confuses parents who thought that the child was way past the stage of having accidents. However, it often occurs as the child becomes more involved in the world around him and just doesn’t want to interrupt play or activities in order to go to the bathroom. Kids of 5 or even 6 still behave this way on occasion. Don’t use shaming or anger to help cure this behavior. Instead, remind the child to go the bathroom a little more often. Also, when the trained child has an accident, take him or her to the bathroom afterward and make him or her sit on the toilet for a few minutes. This teaches the child that no time will be saved by not going to the bathroom, since he or she will end up having to go in any case.

Nighttime toilet training tends to occur spontaneously. Most kids just start waking up dry. However, many children will not be trained at night till a year or longer after they are daytime trained. And some kids will continue to wet the bed for a very long time, even into adolescence. For concerns about nighttime wetting, talk to your pediatrician. There are various treatments that can help.

No matter how many accidents your child has, keep in mind that your child WILL be completely toilet-trained sooner or later. But most importantly, your child will be emotionally trained as well. Your style of doing potty training gives your child the tools he or she will need for every learning experience.

Won`t Speak to Adults or Strangers

When parents talk about improving their children’s social skills, they’re usually referring to skills in interacting with same-aged children. But truly socially-adjusted kids are those who are not only comfortable dealing with peers, but are also comfortable dealing with older children and adults too.

But what if your child refuses to speak to adults or strangers? Consider the following tips:

Who is a Stranger?
It is appropriate for children to be wary of strangers and there is certainly no need for them to interact with complete strangers when they are alone. However, kids have to know how to approach even a total stranger for help when help is needed – i.e. someone has been injured or lost or is otherwise in trouble. It’s not practical to tell a child to find a police officer since police officers aren’t always handy; sometimes the child will have to ask a regular adult for assistance. Advising children to search out a sales clerk in a store or a mother with children may be a good opening strategy. If neither is available, however, children should be advised to look for other outer signs of respectability in a strange adult – type of clothing, companions and other “safety features.” Don’t assume that your child knows all these  things – take time to give examples and spell out details. When out and about, point out the kind of people that seem most trustworthy for emergency-only interactions, as well as the kind of people you feel it would be best to avoid if possible. While providing this education, make sure to point out that almost all people are kind to children and most strangers are very normal, respectful people. Moreover, let your children know that just because someone wears a nice suit doesn’t mean that he is a good person and just because someone has an unusual hair style doesn’t mean that he is dangerous. Looking for conservative appearance is only one small step a child can take toward ensuring his or her safety.

Apart from life-and-death issues and other safety concerns, kids should be encouraged to talk to adults when they are with you or other caregivers. Naturally shy children will need your help in developing social skills. Explain exactly what you want them to do – i.e. smile, say “hello” and possibly shake hands. Offer generous positive feedback when your child makes efforts to behave appropriately and avoid criticism. Speaking to adults on the phone can be part of the training process. Take time to teach the skills: use a pleasant tone of voice, say “hello,” and “one moment please” or ask the person “could you please hold on?” and so on. Be patient with your youngster, allowing him or her to build up confidence and skill through practice over time.

Is Your Child Feeling Intimidated by Adults?
A child whose teachers and parents are low-key, warm, friendly people tends to have less fear of adults than one whose teachers and parents tend to be strict disciplinarians. If your child is overly intimidated by adults, it could be that he or she is just very timid by nature but it might also be that you have accidentally (or purposely!) instilled a little too much fear. Keep in mind that kids turn out healthiest when they are raised by warm, loving parents who impose a comfortable amount of structure and rules. Following the 80-20 Rule as described in the book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice will achieve the desired effect.

Does Your Child Need Time to Warm Up?
You can’t just introduce your child to a stranger and then expect him or her to immediately jump into conversation. Kids usually like to feel their way into a conversation, making tentative remarks and openings that can eventually lead down a fruitful path. Moreover, it’s important not to push a child to speak when he or she clearly feels uncomfortable. If a child holds onto your skirts, let him for the time being but make a note to practice social skills (see above) later. Do not mock or criticize your child for the way he or she acts around people. If your child tends to be shy during the first hello, be patient. Establishing rapport takes time; allow your child to go at his own pace. Say nothing at the time – and be particularly careful not to comment on his or her quiet behavior IN FRONT of another person – and then provide help later.

Child Refuses to Talk to Adults at All
There are some children who simply won’t talk to adults outside their immediate family members. This can include their teachers, doctors, neighbors and others. They might be suffering from Selective Mutism, a psychological disorder in which a child is capable of speaking but absolutely refuses to do so.

Children with selective mutism may speak to other children but refuse to speak to adults or, in some cases, refuse to speak to certain kinds of adults (like men or people in positions of authority). Sometimes kids refuse to speak in public (i.e. school or other areas outside the home) to both children and adults. For instance a child with Selective Mutism in the classroom may not speak at all to her friend, but if that same friend is invited to her house for a play-date, she will speak to her completely normally.

Selective Mutism is diagnosed and treated by speech and language pathologists and mental health professionals. If you believe your child may have Selective Mutism, do consult a speech and language pathologist or child psychologist with experience in assessing and treating Selective Mutism (you can ask your pediatrician for a referral).

Insomnia and Sleep Issues

You may have thought that you would be finished putting your kids to sleep once they emerged from the pre-school years. Think again! The reality is that even school-age children often need to be settled to sleep. This age group suffers from various sleep challenges like excess energy and difficulty winding down or over-excitement, or anxiety or other troubled emotions. Many kids cannot fall asleep, others sleep fitfully and others wake several times a night. And given that the responsibilities of being a student require that kids are not just physically awake but are also mentally alert during the day, parents will want to help their kids sleep well at night. A good night’s rest is important to academic success. Parents can do much to help their youngsters achieve this goal.

In this article, we will discuss some tips and strategies parents can use to help school-age children fall asleep. We will start off by discussing what might be preventing your child from getting a good night’s sleep.

Possible deterrents to sleep include:

Physical Discomfort
Being too hot or too cold can interfere with sleep. An environment that is too noisy may also cause sleep problems for some adults and children. Babies can’t tell you about their comfort levels, unfortunately. When they cry, however, you might try adjusting their blankets or clothing to see if it makes a difference. Opening or closing a window, adjusting lights, shutting or opening the door – any of these environmental changes might make a positive difference.

Deflated and Elated Emotions
Depressing and troubling situations like death in the family, or very good news like winning the lottery (or another exciting development), makes the body produce chemistry that may linger beyond the time we need at which we normally go to sleep. We only need to settle this chemistry back to normal in order to put both the mind and the body to rest and eventually enter the state of sleep. Babies who’ve had an unusually active day may be more alert at night even though parents may think that they should be more exhausted than usual. Similarly, children may have trouble settling down after a particularly exciting day at the amusement part. Teenagers who are prone to experience strong emotions relating to their social lives may also have trouble settling down; too much chemistry is running through their bodies. Parents going through stress or trauma inevitably have sleeping challenges, as do those who experience tremendously positive events. Most of these kinds of sleep issues are temporary.

If a noisy mind, emotional stress, or agitated emotions are what’s keeping your child (or yourself) up at night, you may wish to consider Bach Flower Remedies. Try “Rescue Sleep” – a mixture of Bach Remedies available at health food stores and online, consult a Bach practitioner for an individually tailored remedy, or learn more about Bach Flowers on this site. Another  fast and effective intervention for emotional stress is EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. You can learn this technique  yourself from Internet resources and books or you can consult a therapist who uses this technique in the clinical setting.  You can treat your child with it before bedtime, spending only a couple of minutes to release anxiety and stress or, you can teach an older child how to use the technique independently. Stress that doesn’t respond to self-help can be addressed effectively by a mental health professional.

Change in Sleeping Pattern
Our sleeping pattern is determined by our daily routine. As we normally sleep at a certain time everyday, our body gets used to this pattern and eventually remind us to sleep at that particular time, the same way we get hungry during lunch or dinner time. It does this by producing sleep hormones. When we suddenly try to change our time of sleep, we find it hard because our body is not used to producing sleep hormones at that time. When you change your child’s sleep time (as in the seasonal changing of the clock) be prepared for a week or so of poor sleep. Similarly, when you remove your toddler’s nap time, or go on vacation – expect disrupted sleep patterns. When the new pattern is established, sleep will be restored.

Change in Environment
Just as the body is affected by sleeping routine, it gets used to certain sleep settings. When we switch beds or when we put the lights on when we’re used to sleeping with the lights out, our body takes time to adapt to this new setting. We’ll go through sleepless nights and days before our body gets used to the new environment. When you change sleep locations due to vacations and visits, expect sleep disruption. When you move to a new house or even change your room within your old one, expect some sleep disturbance for a couple of weeks. Children and adults are similarly affected. Be patient and wait for the body to adjust.

Chemicals
Substances like caffeine and nicotine, as well as certain medications with stimulating effects enhance the activity of the brain. Take chemicals into consideration when serving kids food in the evening (cut down on sugar, caffeine, food colorings and highly processed snacks).

Over-stimulation
In the hour before bedtime, wild behavior, intense exercise, scary or intense media and other sources of stimulation can make it hard for kids and teens to settle down. It’s best to use that pre-sleep hour for calming the body and mind, rather than rousing it up!

Strategies for promoting sleep include:

Change the Bedtime
“Bedtime” is the time at which a person is tired enough to go to sleep. If you’ve set a 7:30p.m. bedtime for your child who isn’t sleepy until 9, then consider the possibility that you’ve set the wrong bedtime. Not all kids need the same amount of sleep. Some children, like some adults, can get by well on fewer hours than you might think is normal. Maybe you thought that every kid needs 9 hours sleep, but it turns out that YOUR child only needs 7! If your child can get up in the morning fairly easily and function well at school all day and maintain a decent mood until the evening, then he or she is getting enough sleep. But what if your child ISN’T doing well on just 7 hours, but has to get up for school on time anyways and still isn’t tired at the time that would allow him or her to get those important extra hours of sleep? In other words, what if your child does need  8 or 9 hours sleep but is only getting 7?   If this is the case, you haven’t set the bedtime too early. You need to find a way to help the child feel more tired at the right time.

You can Increase the Child’s Sleepiness
Some parents find that they can “tire their child out” by making sure the youngster has had plenty of fresh air and exercise in the daytime. Although this doesn’t work for every kid, it might work for yours – so give it a try. Encourage your older child to do sports, dance or other forms of exercise after school each day. Take your younger child to the park if possible, or for swimming lessons, skating lessons, karate or other active sports or physical activities. Try to arrange outdoor time – walking to and from school or friends or lessons. Try not to drive the child everywhere – let him or her walk or bike instead.

Teach Your Child to Relax and Wind Down for Sleep
To help ready a child for sleep, reduce stimulation in the half hour or hour before bedtime. Help the child turn his or her attention away from the activities of the day toward a quieting down, readying for sleep focus. You can teach the child (or have someone else teach the child – like a yoga teacher or a psychological practitioner) how to use the breath to induce deep relaxation and restfulness. Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response is one excellent breathing tool that is so simple even very young children can use it and so effective that it helps people of all ages learn to deeply relax and fall asleep. The technique involves breathing normally, but on the “out” breath, think the number “one.” That’s all there is to it. Yet breathing this way for a few minutes, alters all the rhythms of the body and mind and settles them into patterns conducive to profound relaxation or sleep.

Try Natural Sleep Aids
There is a reason why parents give their kids milk before going to bed. Milk has a very calming effect on a drinker, and taking it before going to sleep can help facilitate some zzz’s. You may also consider natural herbs that are known for helping people get a good night’s rest. There are many herbal preparations (teas, lollipops, syrups) that are safe and healthy for kids. A special blend with sedative properties can be prepared by a professional herbalist or you might be able to find a pre-mixed blend in your local health-food store or on-line. The more days the herb is used, the stronger its effects become. Sometimes the herb is to be taken in the evening to help the child to unwind, and sometimes the herb is taken during the day, to help the entire nervous system become more calm and settled, which will facilitate normal bedtime sleepiness in the evening. Consult a herbalist to learn about which herbs are appropriate for children or teens and which ones should be avoided. Learn about dosage and safety issues.

Nutritional supplements can have similar effects. Some feeds are sedative and calming in nature and can even induce fatigue. Arrange a consultation with a holistic nutritionist or dietician who may be able to guide you. Naturopaths may also be able to advise you on the selection of foods and nutritional supplements that can help calm and settle the child or teen for sleep. Similarly, homeopaths, acupuncturists, Bach Flower practitioners and other types of alternative healers may be able to offer interventions that can improve your child’s circadian rhythms (sleep cycle), or help relax an overactive body or mind.

Consult a Doctor
Sometimes a doctor will prescribe melatonin to help the child experience fatigue at the right time. If the child’s wakefulness is caused by ADHD, medications can be altered or added to induce sleepiness. Other physical and mental health conditions that cause the child to be hyperalert can also be addressed with medication.

Create a “Parking Bay” for Nightly Concerns
There are occasions when kids have trouble sleeping because they have so many worries about the next day. If this is the case, parents can help their child by starting a ritual of listing down all these worries before going to bed. Create a pact: once a concern is listed on paper or on a white board, it means that it is to be temporarily set aside until the next day. This way your child gets to unload from their mind all the things that are bothering them before going to bed. However, after writing down worries, be sure to write down some positive thoughts, memories of the day and things to look forward to. You want to help the brain go to sleep peacefully and happily.

Set a Schedule
You know how kids are with their assignments; if you leave your child to accomplish their homework when they want to, they will play all afternoon and evening, and then try to finish their assignments way into the night! If you want your school-age child to sleep on time, set a regular time for homework and a regular time — with justified limitations — for their play. If kids are conditioned from an early age that the day ends at bed time, then they are less likely to stay up well into the night. Make the transition to bedtime with a period of quiet time – bathing, stretching, reading in bed. Teach your child a few yoga postures and breathing patterns to dispell stress and physical tension.

Be Strict about Lights Out Policy
Lastly, one effective way parents can get their children to sleep on time is to implement a daily lights out policy at a reasonable bed time. Lights outs should include no computer or TV time after bedtime. In a house of parents and teens,  everyone may go to bed at the same time – or not!. However, when there are younger kids in the family, there will always be several different bedtimes going on. As each person hits their bedtime zone, everything must quiet down around them. The quiet and stillness itself is a cue to the brain to settle down and get ready for sleep.

Consult a Mental Health Professional
If you have done all you can to help your child establish good sleep habits but your child is still having trouble falling asleep, then make an appointment with a mental health professional who can guide you further.

How to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) refers to “people smarts.” A person with high emotional intelligence understands both himself and others. Not only does the person understand people, but he also knows how to make them feel comfortable – he knows how to bring out the best in others. As a result, the person with high E.Q. experiences more success in relationships and at work. Kids with high E.Q. have better relationships at home and at school, with kids and with adults. Moreover, high E.Q.in children and teens is associated with better academic performance, better physical health, better emotional health and better behavior. In adults, high E.Q. is associated with better performance in every area of life.

What can you do to help foster your child’s emotional intelligence? In this article we will discuss ways one can boost their child’s emotional intelligence.

Adapt an Authoritative, Not an Autocratic Parenting Style
Parenting style has a huge influence on children’s emotional intelligence. When parents can guide their children while still being sensitive to their feelings, children have higher E.Q. Authorative parents are warm, but consistent in setting appropriate limits and boundaries. They will use discipline, but not at the expense of respectful communication and care. Their children will learn how to be sensitive to others and they will also learn how to “talk to themselves” compassionately, modelling after their parents. This gentle self-talk becomes a major aspect of their emotional intelligence, a tool they can use to reduce their stress in a healthy way.

Autocratic parents, on the other hand, don’t care that much about the child’s feelings. Instead, they focus on the rules of the household, what is allowed and what is prohibited, what the child may and may not do. Sensitivity to the child’s inner world is missing. In this case, children fail to experience parental empathy and as a result, fail to learn how to soothe their own upset emotions. They may attempt to relieve their discomfort by becoming aggressive, acting out their feelings. Eventually they may turn to comforts outside of themselves such as addictions (to food, alcohol, drugs, etc.). Acting out and addictive behavior reflects lower E.Q.

The more feeling words used by parents and educators, the more sensitive a child becomes to his inner reality. Most of us tend to use few emotion words in our dealings with children, and when we do, we often use the same few tired ones over and over.  It is important that we move beyond “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.”  Shades of feeling are most helpful and can be used when describing our own feelings or the child’s feelings. Words like irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, worried, terrified, alarmed, disappointed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, unsure, curious, interested, hopeful, concerned, shocked, elated, excited, enthusiastic, let down, abandoned, deserted, mellow, calm, peaceful, relaxed, bored, withdrawn, furious, enraged, frightened, panicked, and proud can be used DAILY to help provide an emotional education in the home or classroom. These are the regular feelings that children have in facing life, stimulated by everyday experiences, dreams, movies and even novels. Identifying a youngster’s emotional reaction and feeding it back to him, helps him to become aware of his inner processing. This information then forms the core of his emotional intelligence, providing an accurate barometer of his response to his world. From this place of inner certainty, a child is well-equipped to navigate life, knowing what he feels, what he is searching for and when he has attained it. His familiarity with the world of feelings allows him to connect accurately and sensitively with others. This prevents him from hurting other people’s feelings with words and further, permits him to achieve great kindness and sensitivity in his interpersonal transactions.

Here are some practical steps you can take to bring feelings into focus:

  1. Respond to your child. From the time your child is a crying infant to the time she is a young adult, be sure to be responsive. This means that you take her communications seriously. If she cries, try to come (instead of making her cry it out.). If she asks for something, try to answer her promptly. If she talks, you listen and respond appropriately. All of this responsiveness builds emotional intelligence because you are giving your youngster valuable relationship feedback. In the opposite scenario, in which a parent either fails to respond or responds only after a long waiting period, the child learns that people tune each other out. This causes the child to shut down. She assumes that her feelings aren’t that important based on lack of parental responsiveness and from this concludes that people’s feelings aren’t that important – the very OPPOSITE of the conclusions made by emotionally intelligent people. Quick responsiveness gives the message that people’s feelings matter. This is a prerequisite concept for emotional intelligence.
  2. Use a FEELING vocabulary. Pepper your daily conversation with “feeling” words. You can name your own feelings. Let your child know that you feel excited or dismayed or discouraged or resentful or whatever. This gives your child the vital information that everyone – including parents – has feelings and an inner life. Some people do this naturally, of course, but many do not. For instance, when a child is making too much noise, a parent may just say something like, “Can you please quiet down?” However, the Emotional Coach would say something like, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all this noise going on. Can you please quiet down?” Similarly, a regular parent might give positive feedback to a child in this way, “I like the way you waited patiently in line with me at the bank today.” An Emotional Coach, on the other hand, might say something like, “I felt very relaxed with you in the bank today because you were waiting so patiently.” In other words, the Emotional Coach looks for opportunities to describe his or her inner experience. It is this description that helps the child begin to build an emotional vocabularly that will open the doors to Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Name your child’s feelings. Children feel feelings all day long but not all parents comment on them. In fact, many parents are more practical, focusing on solutions to problems. For instance, if a child is upset because there are no more of his favorite cookies left in the jar, the typical parent might say, “I’ll pick up some more for you when I go shopping this week.” While that solves the problem, it doesn’t build emotional intelligence. An Emotional Coach might say, “Oh, that’s so disappointing! You really love those cookies! I’ll pick some up for you when I go shopping this week.” The extra few words acknowledging the child’s inner world (“Oh that’s so disappointing”) make all the difference when it comes to building Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, parents often try to get kids to STOP their feelings or at least SHRINK their feelings by saying things like, “Just calm down – it’s not such a big deal” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The Emotional Coach, on the other hand, accepts all the child’s feelings, giving the child the name for what is going on inside. “I can see how upset you are,” or “You’re really scared about this,” or “It so important to you,” and so on. By accepting all feelings as they are, the Emotional Coach teaches kids not to be afraid of or overwhelmed by feelings. This is a very important part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  4. Teach your child how to express emotions appropriately. While all feelings are acceptable, all BEHAVIORS are not. It is not O.K. to hit and scream just because you feel angry. It is not O.K. to cry for an hour at the top of your lungs just because you are disappointed. Parents must teach children – by their example and by their interventions – the appropriate behavioral expression of emotions. For instance, parents can teach children to express their anger in a respectful way by saying things like, “When you are mad at your brother for touching your puzzle, just tell him ‘I don’t want you to touch my puzzle. I’m working hard on it and it bothers me when you move the piece around.’ Don’t slap his hand!” Parents will have to use the normal techniques of positive attention, encouragement and discipline to get the lessons across. It is, of course, essential, that parents are respectful themselves in the way they express their upset, fear and disappointment. See “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on how to teach the proper way to express negative emotions.
  5. Let them experience failure and disappointment. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children from disappointment. But know that rescuing children from pain, to the point that they never get to experience life, will backfire in the long run. Children need to know how to bounce back from adversity — resilience muscles need training too! And children won’t know how it is to rebound from disappointment if they aren’t allowed to experience it to begin with. When your child gets a poor mark on a project, don’t rush to the teacher to get the mark raised; instead, use emotional coaching with your child (that is, NAME her feelings). “This mark is so disappointing! You tried really hard and the teacher didn’t appreciate it. That is frustrating!” By naming feelings, you actually help shrink them down to size. Feeling words act as “containers” for feelings. It’s O.K. for the child to be upset, or even to cry. After awhile, she’ll calm down. And this is the important part – learning that calm follows a storm. Everything in life doesn’t need to be perfect. There is such a thing as recovery. “There will be more projects, more chances to get a good grade.” You want to show the child that you yourself aren’t afraid of negative experiences or emotions. This model that life is “survivable” can really help a child cope when the going gets rough.
  6. Expand their social network. Few parents think of other people as possible teaching instruments in promoting emotional intelligence. But kids can learn more from interesting personalities and other people’s life experiences than they can from a classroom lecture. Having to adapt well to different types of people — quiet, assertive, annoying, fun-loving — can teach a child how to regulate their behavior based on the demands of an interaction. The challenges other people go through can also provide insight on how to manage one’s own trials in life. Learning vicariously through the success and failure of other people is a good way to raise a child’s E.Q. So if you can, go ahead and enroll your child in various clubs or organizations. When they’re a bit older, encourage them to volunteer in community service. Send them on mission trips. Let them talk with grandpa or grandma. Every person has a lesson to impart to a child.

Boosting Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Parents know that high self-esteem is a good thing, but they may not know exactly what this trait is or how to help their kids acquire it.

What is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem refers to a person’s assessment of him or herself. High self-esteem indicates that a person has made an overall positive assessment of him or herself, whereas low self-esteem means that the person has an overall low opinion of him or herself. Unlike “confidence,” self-esteem is a global measurement – an assessment that sums the person up. It is the conclusion a person makes after examining all of his or her positive and negative traits and skills. “Confidence” on the other hand, varies according to the specific trait or skill being measured. For instance, a person may be a confident driver but an insecure public speaker. However, if public speaking is very important to that person, then doing poorly in this area may lower that person’s overall assessment of him or herself, resulting in low self-esteem.

Why is High Positive Self-Esteem Important?
Positive self-esteem correlates highly with happiness and life satisfaction. It enables people to bounce back more quickly after rejection, failure and other challenging experiences. It reduces their overall stress level by helping them to feel whole and good under a wide range of circumstances. High self-esteem makes people feel stronger, more confident and more optimistic, allowing them to take more risks and thereby achieve greater levels of success. Those with high self-esteem are less dependent on outside approval; they are able to live their lives with less fear and more freedom.

Low self-esteem is linked with many mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. People with low self-esteem are also more likely to be victimized than those with a healthy self-esteem. This is because those with negative self-esteem are prone to both accepting abuse as their due, and believing that they are helpless in fighting bullies and victimizers.

How Does a Child Acquire High Self-Esteem?
A person’s self-esteem is a product of many things. Just as low self-esteem is linked to disorders of mood and anxiety, disorders of mood and anxiety are linked to low self-esteem. This means that the biology underlying certain mental health disorders also generates feelings and attitudes about the self. For instance, depressed people tend to view life negatively and they also tend to view themselves negatively. This has nothing to do with their life experience. It is caused by the chemistry of depression itself. The negative view on life and on oneself is, in this case, inherited genetically.

However, self-esteem is not only a product of biology. Life experiences can also lower or raise self-esteem.

For instance, parenting style influences self-esteem because young kids look up to their parents for clues regarding their worth and value. Positive feedback helps build positive self-assessments. Kids who feel loved by their parents tend to develop more positive self-esteem because they internalize the message that they are worthy of love, and therefore must be inherently good. Kids who experience neglect or abuse tend to develop low self-esteem since their parents’ behavior reflects back to them the message that they are flawed or inherently bad. Calling children names (like “bad,” “stupid,” “lazy,” etc.) lowers their self-esteem since children tend to believe the parent’s judgment and internalize it as their own. Not only parents, but all other people, have the ability to impact on one’s self-esteem. Peers, for example, also affect self-esteem. Being rejected or bullied for a significant period of time can leave a child very down on himself (as well as traumatized). Teachers are also in a position to positively or negatively influence a child’s self-esteem. Other life experiences like academic performance, experiences on sports teams or in extra-curricular activities and experiences with first jobs, all impact on self-esteem. Children who do poorly in school, for instance, often suffer low self-esteem since twenty years of academic mediocrity or worse gives them a low opinion of their capabilities.

Because personal performance strongly affects self-esteem, it is most helpful if parents can provide opportunities for their children to experience success. Exposing them to a wide range of activities (like lessons or practice in sports, dance, art, cooking, crafts, hobbies, paid employment, household responsibilities and so on) gives them the chance to explore their talents and aptitudes. The less a child does, the less he or she can succeed. This inhibits the growth of self-esteem. Thus “over-protection” and excessive “helping” can actually interfere with the growth of a child’s self-esteem. On the other hand, offering the child many opportunities to overcome challenges, learn new skills, engage in independent functioning and express personal talents helps the child develop high self-esteem. A child who can do many things in many different areas of life acquires the kind of positive self-image and confidence that contributes to high self-esteem. Remember, you can’t build a child’s self-esteem by telling him or her that he or she is just “great” or smart, or beautiful. Rather, you can help the child discover his or her own strengths by providing opportunities for the child to EXPERIENCE those strengths through personal accomplishment.

How to Help Your Child Acquire High Self-Esteem
From the above, we can see that parents can do many things to help their child acquire high self-esteem. For instance, parents can:

  • Be generous with positive feedback and praise
  • Show acceptance, understanding, warmth and affection
  • Avoid anger, criticism, insult and abuse
  • Give the child the oppurtunity to learn skills in as many areas as possible, such as; self-care, money management, cooking, independent travel, sports, crafts, music/dance/other creative and/or performing arts, martial arts/gymnastics/yoga, sewing, computer literacy and more
  • Help your child develop social skills, fashion know-how, leadership skills, assertiveness skills and other skills that will help him or her to maintain positive social relationships and reduce the chances of being bullied, victimized, marginalized or ostracized – all of which can lower self-esteem

Build Security Through Acceptance of Inner Feelings
Another way to increase security and self-esteem is to help the child make friends with himself. Using Emotional Coaching (the naming of the child’s feelings) shows acceptance of the child’s inner world. This helps the child become more accepting of himself (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for further information about Emotional Coaching). When a parent calmly names a child’s feelings (i.e. “You don’t like the way you look? That must make you feel sad.” as opposed to “What do you mean you don’t like the way you look? You look beautiful!”), the child actually learns to be more accepting of all of his own emotions. Extensive research has shown that accepting even our most negative feelings has the result of building our confidence and inner security! It’s as if the parent is saying to the child: “I can handle whatever emotions you have without becoming overwhelmed or frightened.” This unspoken message gives the child the confidence to be fully himself.

The opposite approach – making a child feel that he’s got the wrong emotions – has the effect of of making him feel more secure. It’s as if the parents are saying (and some parents actually say this) “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Of course, parents say it in more subtle ways like, “You needn’t be afraid; there’s nothing to be afraid of; there’s no need to be upset; you shouldn’t be mad; there’s no cause for sadness; it’s not true that kids don’t like you; it’s not true that you’re fat,” and so on and so forth. All of these well-intentioned statements are actually DISCOUNTS of the child’s own experience. The child IS afraid or upset or mad or sad or he DOES feel that no one likes him or he’s fat and so forth. When a parent effectively tells a child that he’s feeling the wrong way, the child loses touch with his inner experience, his own truth. This makes him more insecure and less self-confident.

Address Biological Factors
When low self-esteem is caused by biological factors, parents can consider helping their child with Bach Flower Therapy (see articles on this site for detailed explanations of Bach Flower Therapy). You can meet with a Bach Flower Practitioner for an individualized assessment and treatment bottle, or consider the following remedies:

  • Cerato – for the child who doesn’t trust his/her own judgment
  • Larch – for the child who feels inadequate compared to others
  • Pine – for the child who is hard on him/herself, feels guilty or worthless
  • Centaury – for the child who has trouble standing up for him/herself
  • Holly – for the child who is insecure and easily insulted

Bach Remedies are available at health food stores and on-line. Put two drops of the remedy in any hot or cold liquid, four times a day until there is so much improvement in the child’s self-esteem that you forget to give the remedy! Remedies can also be mixed together in a Bach Mixing Bottle filled with water. In this case, give four drops in liquid, four times a day. Ideally, the child takes his drops in the morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

If a child’s self-esteem is negatively affecting his or her functioning at home, with friends or at school, or it is causing the child real distress, the child may benefit from medical assessment and treatment. Medical intervention can increase self-esteem when self-esteem is lowered by chemical factors.

Seek Professional Help
Suffering from insecurity and low self-esteem is painful. If, despite your parenting efforts, your child is burdened with these kinds of feelings, consider accessing professional help. A good child psychologist can use specialized strategies to help a child move into greater self-acceptance and confidence. The positive effects can last a lifetime.

Autism

One of the greatest joys of parenting is being able to communicate with one’s child. This is why knowing that a child has Autism or Autistic Disorder can be so painful and difficult to accept. The condition significantly impairs a person’s social and communication skills, so that it can feel like the autistic child is living in his own little world. Autism does occur on a spectrum, causing severe impairment in some and only mild impairment in others. However, once a child has been diagnosed with this condition – whether it is mild or severe – parents find themselves raising a “special needs child.” This brings new challenges to the already challenging job of parenting.

What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication, as well as tendency towards repetitive behavior. The exact cause of the disorder is not known, but it is believed to be a result of neurons misfiring and creating mixed communication in the brain. Symptoms of Autism appear early in a child’s life, sometimes as early as the first year. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Autism yet, although parental support, behavioral therapy and special education can bring improvement in functioning and quality of life among children with Autism.

How Can I Tell if My Child Has Autism?
Like most developmental disorders, Autism is diagnosed using the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria found in the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A diagnosis of Autistic Disorder is given to a child when he or she meets certain criteria. Below: is a list of symptoms characteristic of Autism.  A mental health professional can assess whether your child’s symptoms meet criteria for a diagnosis of autism or another disorder on the autistic spectrum or another diagnosis altogether. It is also possible that, despite having some symptoms, your child does not meet criteria for any diagnosis at all. This why proper diagnosis and assessment by a qualified mental health professional is so essential; teachers, friends and others cannot make an accurate diagnosis!

A. Impairment in social interaction

This category of symptoms include impairments in the use of non-verbal communication (e.g. eye contact and gestures), failure to develop appropriate peer relationships, absence of spontaneous attempts to seek enjoyment with other people (e.g. not showing interest in other children playing), and the lack of social and emotional reciprocity.

B. Impairment in communication

This category includes symptoms like significant delay in language development, impairment in the ability to initiate conversation, stereotyped and repetitive use of language, and the lack of spontaneous make-believe play that is typical of children within a certain developmental level. It’s important to note the communication issues that are symptoms of Autism are not due to learning disabilities or physical disabilities.

C. Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior

Children with Autism tend to get preoccupied with a small range of activities, and are prone to engaging in repetitive actions. For example, they might enjoy hitting just one key in the piano for hours. They also get easily obsessed with things that children without the condition will merely pass; for instance they can get preoccupied with random parts of an object. They might engage in ritualistic behavior, hand flapping, and sometimes in self-injury (like head-banging) as well. These obsessions, preoccupations and rituals are inflexible for the child with Autism.

Are There Different Kinds of Autism?
Symptoms of Autism exist in a range, from mild to severe. Some children are more open to social interaction and communication than others. Some persons with mild Autism for example can still be mainstreamed in traditional schools.

Other disorders are listed under the category Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These conditions are Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (you can find more information on these specific disorders on this site and online).

What Can Parents Do?
If you are concerned about your child’s social behavior, emotional reactions, habits or personality, get a referral to a child psychologist or psychiatrist who can offer assessment and guidance. As for most developmental disorders, early detection and early intervention makes an important difference.

If a diagnosis of autism is confirmed, it’s time to learn as much as possible about the condition. There are many groups today that focus on Autism and  Autism Spectrum Disorders. The condition is more understood that it used to be, and parental support systems are well established. Benefit from the experience of others by accessing on-line support groups and/or joining groups offered by your local community mental health services. You will learn techniques for stimulating your child’s development at home. You will learn how to interact with him in order to bring out his best and reduce episodes of anger or anxiety. Becoming active in your child’s healing process is good for you as well as for the child, as it gives you more control and counteracts feelings of overwhelming helplessness. Your intervention can make a tremendous positive difference to your child’s development.

This being said, it is important to deal with your feelings about a diagnosis of Autism. Learning that your child has Autism can be a shock, and you might go through a grieving cycle as you readjust your hopes and dreams for this youngster. This is normal; there is a real loss when you know that your child has a developmental disorder. With time and/or professional help, you will eventually bounce back and open your self to the blessing of having a child with special needs. Interacting with a child with Autism requires a lot more patience and care than interacting with a child who doesn’t have the condition, but it has its rewards. The key is providing consistent stimulation in order to interest your child in social events. Training in communication skills, e.g. basic sign language can also help.

Baby Wakes Up at Night

You can’t blame exhausted parents for trying – they want their 8 hours of sleep back! So they read every book on the market and scour the online resources. “Rock your baby, don’t nurse her,” “Walk your baby till she falls asleep and then gently lay her in her crib,” “Sing to your baby while patting his back until he drifts off,” “Don’t pick her up again, just talk to her,” “let her cry 10 minutes before you come to her and then don’t pick her up,” and so on and so on. Many people offer advice about how to get a baby to sleep through the night because somewhere, for some baby, this advice actually worked at least once. However many, if not most, babies will defy your get-him-to-sleep strategies and continue waking up several times a night for—brace yourself—several years.

Why aren’t people aware of this fact? Because the popular culture suggests that if parents just do it right, their babies will be sleeping through the night by 4 – 6 months of age. Feeling embarrassed and inadequate, most parents with wakeful 8 month-olds or 2 year-olds simply don’t tell the truth to anyone. “Is your baby sleeping through the night?” the mom at the Moms & Babes group asks.  “Oh, yes. He sleeps quite nicely,” lies the other mom for fear of admitting what a failure she is at this tender stage of the game. Her lie only goes into the large pile in the sky that makes other normal parents feel guilty and ashamed. She should have answered, “Gosh no! Babies aren’t supposed to sleep through the night! Yours doesn’t, does he?”

Why Do Babies Wake Up?
Infants need things in the night. Their little bellies empty every couple of hours and for the first year or so, they actually get hungry in the night. In addition, when babies cycle into light sleep, they “realize” that they are alone; they crave warm body contact and cry out for it. In the second year of life, nursing babies suckle for the same reason—no longer just out of hunger (because their tummies have grown and can hold more food), but now out of longing for physical contact. Some babies are sensitive to the sensations of their own bodies and will wake with discomfort from a wet or dirty diaper.

All of this waking has been programmed into babies for their survival. If you were a paraplegic without a wheelchair or other equipment, unable to speak the local language and unable to get yourself from point A to point B,would you want to be left alone for 8 hours at a time? Probably not. You would want to know there was someone near by who could meet your needs. Have you ever been stuck in a dentist’s chair or other restraining medical device for 15 minutes without someone in the room? Did you feel a twinge of the panic of helplessness in that situation? What if you needed something? What if you wanted to tell someone something?

Babies are in that position until they become toddlers. They are helpless. To top it all off, they are like foreigners—unable to speak the local language. They open their mouths but they cannot put their needs and wishes into words; they can just make noise.  For all these reasons, babies are programmed to be distressed about finding themselves alone. It just isn’t safe for them to be alone. There are serious survival issues going on. They wake up for contact to in order to assure that they will be looked after. This is not something that we want to program babies out of any more than we would want to program adults out of their scream response when faced with life-threatening danger.

Training Babies to Sleep Through the Night
Nonetheless, removing survival instincts can be accomplished, if we only persevere long enough. By ignoring a baby’s cries consistently, the baby will learn that no one will come and there is no point in crying anymore. If this experience only occurs at night, the baby learns that there is no point waking up at night. For parents, this translates into a baby who sleeps through the night. If it happens both day AND night, the baby goes into a hopeless depression (as seen in “failure to thrive” syndromes), since he “realizes” that he has been abandoned and there is no further hope of getting his needs met (and therefore no further reason to keep trying to bring help through crying). Fortunately, for most babies, the “abandonment” experience is happening only at night. However, the newly subdued baby has still learned that there is no point in crying. This will not lead to hopeless depression. In fact, in babies who are now enjoying a better night’s sleep, we may even see improved daytime mood.

Here is the problem however: if a baby quickly catches on to the idea that crying at night is a waste of time, there is minimal suffering on the baby’s part. However, if the baby has the “not-so-good sleep genes” that cause him to put up a royal battle, screaming for weeks or months  before he finally submits to the new regime, then it could be that the child is truly suffering. What this does to his long term development is simply not known. Some say it does nothing. Others say that it causes trauma. More research is required before we will know the truth.

Tired Parents
Even if parents do not want their babies to feel abandoned, it is not clear that responding to their every cry at night is the action of choice. After all, tired parents also pose a risk for babies. Tired parents have less patience with their children and are therefore more likely to engage in poor parenting techniques like snapping at the kids (including the baby), yelling or speaking in a harmful way. Fatigue causes more daytime errors including driving more dangerously, forgetting to turn off electric elements and putting the baby down in unsafe locations “just for a moment.” Exhausted parents can even dose off during the day when they need to be alert. Therefore, it is essential that parents find a way to balance their own needs for sleep with their babies’ needs for night-time wakings. This is especially important because night-time waking happens, as stated earlier, in the majority of homes—not the minority. And, it continues for the early years of childhood in many homes. Therefore a coping strategy is badly needed!

Here are some strategies that parents have found to be helpful. Not all will be practical for your own situation, therefore simply choose any that might fit into your own lifestyle:

  • Keep the baby in bed with you and DON’T get out of bed the entire night (see Dr. Sears’ books on attachment parenting for details of co-sleeping techniques and strategies). Although you’ll still be waking in the night to tend to the baby’s needs, you’ll need to expend less energy doing so.
  • Keep toddlers on a small crib-size mattress on the floor near your bed. At first, they can start in your bed and when they fall asleep, you can gently place them on the floor mattress beside you.
  • Have the baby or toddler sleep on a large mattress on the floor in her own room. When you wake up, go to the child’s bed and sleep there the rest of the night.
  • Tend to the baby in his crib when he cries at night. In the daytime, hire a daily baby-sitter and take a nap for a couple of hours. If the baby is in play group or daycare and you are at home, take your nap during those hours.
  • Alternate “baby duty” with your spouse. Whoever tends to the baby at night, gets a one or two hour evening nap the next day while the sleeping spouse takes responsibility for house & childcare.
  • Alternate night-time shifts with your spouse so that neither of you gets completely exhausted. For example, one answers cries until 2 a.m. and one answers cries after 2 a.m.
  • Use weekends to catch up on sleep. One spouse sleeps in late on Saturday; the other sleeps in late on Sunday.

As you can see, all of these strategies address the problem of night-time waking by assuming it is going to happen, parents are going to be tired and they will need to make up the sleep somehow. This approach is more in line with reality than trying to get babies and young children to stay asleep all night long. But here’s the good news: once kids are around 4 years old, there are effective strategies that can be used to really keep them in their beds throughout the night. By the time a child is this age, he can speak and walk; he is no longer totally helpless. He is familiar with his world and is achieving a level of competence. No harm will be done now by insisting that he stay in his own bed. So just hang in there. Sleep is coming. That is, until your child turns 15. Then you’ll be up at night again—waiting for him to come home. Sigh.