Babies for Dummies! Soothers & Pacifiers – To Do or Not To Do…

Dummy, Pacifier, Soother

My oldest boy had his first suck on a dummy at two days old.  Just arrived home from hospital, Daddy thought nothing of soothing our crying newborn by giving him a pacifier.  I have to admit, I wasn’t pleased when I saw, and would rather he woke me so I could feed our little one.  But Daddy thought he was doing the right thing by letting me sleep after I had endured a gruelling 42 hour labour.

Afterwards, I did have some difficulty getting baby to feed on the breast, and quickly decided to give the dummy a rest until he was used to breastfeeding.  I felt it was right at about 2 weeks.  Apart from the usual problems of soreness for me, baby then had little difficulty switching between the two.

To be honest though, it wasn’t until I stopped breastfeeding at nine months that my firstborns love affair with the dummy really gained momentum.  I have found the same thing with baby number two.  We introduced the dummy sparingly at two weeks. He too, could take it or leave it (except when going to sleep) until I stopped breastfeeding at 12 months.  Then it was a battle to keep it out of his mouth.  Babies do like to be soothed by a sucking action.  And if your breast is not providing it – then the dummy, or a thumb or fingers will be substituted.  It’s a rare baby that does not need to be soothed in this way.

To give baby a dummy or not is a decision we make usually before baby comes along.  The reasons against are valid and logical.  It is stated by health professionals that:

  1. If introduced too early, dummies can interfere with breastfeeding – as different sucking actions are required for each.  (From experience, I would agree with this point.)
  2. You may let your baby suck on the dummy when he or she really wants a feed.
  3. This can cause your breasts to be under stimulated and produce less milk.
  4. Sucking for long periods can result in middle-ear infections.  Something to do with bacteria getting from babies mouth into his/her ear tubes.
  5. Unclean or damaged dummies can cause problems such as tummy upsets, diarrhoea and chest infections.
  6. If used for older toddlers, can cause problems with the way teeth grow or the mouth develops.
  7. If used constantly soothers can interfere with the way speech develops.

Faced with this list it is understandable that many parents would be fierce anti-dummy proponents.  But I can tell you, it is very difficult to resist giving in when faced, again, with a screaming baby at 3 o’clock in the morning.  All you desperately want is for him or her (and you) to have some sleep.

I would prefer it if my babies didn’t use a dummy.  But I believe, as with most aspects of parenting, that common sense must prevail.  Babies need to suck on something, and if you don’t provide a dummy, then a thumb, fingers, cloth, toy or blanket will be substituted.  I agree that the arguments listed above can be equally applied to any of these items.  But the advantage at least of dummies is that they are easily cleaned and easily interchangeable.

A dummy calms and soothes a distressed baby.  In my experience, if you follow a few simple steps then using a pacifier need not be a terrible process.  (And it’s nearly always non-parents that look down their noses and infer lazy parenting!)

  1. Keep dummies as clean as possible.  Sterilise regularly.  Fluff and hair always gets trapped between the teat and the mouth guard!
  2. Inspect regularly, and discard at the first sign of cracks etc.
  3. It is recommended that you use a ‘flat’ dummy to help  baby use a sucking action that is closer to the feeding action.
  4. There is some evidence that using an orthopaedic dummy will better help babies developing mouth.
  5. Don’t coat the teat in sweet foods.  BAD for babies teeth and gums.
  6. And lastly, don’t let baby have the soother constantly.  Remember to take it out!  I try to only use one when my little one is falling to sleep, or when I know he might be unsettled, such as going to unfamiliar places or visiting unfamiliar people.  That way I hope it becomes less of a habit for him.
Lastly.  How to wean your baby/toddler off a dummy.  Here is my advice.
We went ‘cold turkey’ with my eldest when he was two.  I felt he was too old now to need a dummy.  His second birthday was ‘D’ for Dummy day!
  • Firstly we primed him for about a week before.  Letting him know that on his birthday he would be old enough not to need his ‘Dum Dum’ anymore.
  • His favourite thing in the whole world was the ritual of the bin men emptying our bins.  We decided to use this as the official dummy ridding ceremony.  And as luck would have it, his birthday fell on bin day!
  • The morning of, he helped us gather up all his dummies (every last one) and we put them into a container.
  • We waited outside next to our bin with the container which he held and watched the bin men approach.
  • As they came to collect our bin, I asked if our son could empty his ‘rubbish’ into our bin.  Which he then did.
  • Our son watched as the bin men whisked our bin, containing his dummies, to the bin truck.  He was wide eyed as he saw the contents emptied into the truck.
  • We waved goodbye to his dummies as the bin truck took them away.
Daddy was apprehensive and unbeknownst to me me, had secreted a dummy away in his sock draw.  We never needed it though.  Our son asked several times over the next few days if the bin men had his dummies.  He often explained to others that the bin men had taken his dummies.  But after a week or two he stopped mentioning it.  And he never asked for his dummy.  I have to admit, that I was surprised at how well it went.  But I think success lay in the preparation and the style in which the dummies went.
If you decide to stop using a dummy and your child is younger, I would probably recommend a gradual weaning process. Being younger, they may not comprehend a cold turkey approach.
Whether you decide ‘To Do or Not To Do, remember it is your child’s wellbeing that is the most important, not any grandiose principles that you may hold.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.


© 2012 Simone L Woods





Could Dads Actually Be Just as Hard-Wired to Parent as Moms Are?

The ‘could’ in the title of this post deserves a monument itself!  My belief is of course Dads are just as hardwired for parenting.  I only have to look at my own husband’s behaviour, emotions and sensitivity since becoming a father.

Dads parentingThe following post from Heather Turgoen explores some of the scientific studies that are proving that of course they are.

How men change when they have a new baby

I’m not someone who usually cries in movies, but since having my son, I’m a big baby. A touching family moment, a shot of a proud parent in the audience of So You Think You Can Dance – forget it. I’m more empathetic now that I’m a mom, and every parenting book tells me it’s because my brain is programmed to light up at my son’s distress, oxytocin, triggering my maternal caretaking behaviors, and so on. Thanks to nature’s plan to keep me dialed into my child’s needs, I’m wired differently now.

But my husband has changed too. On the one hand, he’s a bit more sensitive, tearing up like me at things that before would have prompted only a sarcastic comment. And in a strange parallel, he’s also more protective. He puts his hand on other people’s shoulders to make sure they get across the street safely. He daydreams about hypothetical escape routes from Los Angeles in case of a nuclear attack or zombie invasion (he watches a lot of sci-fi). He sneaks into our son’s room every night by the light of his cell phone and hovers his face in the crib watching him sleep. He’s a dad, and it has changed his brain.

The biology of fatherhood doesn’t get much play – dad manuals and parenting advice usually focus on how a man can support his partner and take care of her, so she can in turn take care of the baby. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that being a dad (and even preparing to be a dad) programs men differently, down to the level of brain cells and hormones.

It’s easier to test male brains in non-humans, so when scientists are studying the chemistry of fatherhood, they use animals that mirror our human tendency to form pair bonds and co-parent. The male marmoset monkey, for example, is predisposed to nurture, and his top priority is to clean, hold and carry the young on his back – picture a human dad washing the dishes while wearing a Bjorn.

When scientists look at the brains of these primates, they find that after mom gives birth, the dads actually grow more neuron connections in certain areas of the brain’s prefrontal cortex – regions involved in caretaking and bonding. After becoming fathers, they have more receptors for the chemical vasopressin, which is related to nurturing and attachment.

These dads also gain a significant amount of weight while mom is pregnant (the phenomenon translates to humans, say my dad friends). Not only that, male hormones change while mom is pregnant. Prolactin levels go up in the male marmoset and cotton-top monkeys during pregnancy. And after childbirth, human dads have a drop in cortisol and testosterone (which scientists think makes them less likely to fight and more likely to devote energy to caretaking).

And as Dad is changing, want to guess who else is being affected? Last month, a Scientific American article highlighted research that suggests babies change when dad is around. In a similarly domestic mammal with highly involved dads – the Deju rat – a baby’s brain needs the father around to grow normally. Without him, fewer connections are made between neurons in two crucial brain regions: the somatosensory cortex (which responds to touch) and the orbitofrontal cortex (a center of emotion and decision-making). It’s intriguing to think about the unique role of a dad, but we can’t be quick to translate this to humans and suggest that babies need dads to be healthy. Rats have smaller and more concrete brains that are programmed to attach immediately, whereas human babies are much more flexible and sophisticated – forming bonds with their caretakers (male or female) over the first years of life.

The research, however, is strong enough for us to assume that, in humans as in rats, dads and babies change each other. We tend to see characteristically maternal behaviors as the gold standard for attachment, but dads can have just as strong a drive to attach (for example, a recent study found that oxytocin levels rise equally in new moms and dads), even if the result looks different on the outside – moms’ soft cuddles and high-pitched “motherese” voices vs. dads’ physical play and a tendency to show objects to the baby.

But these are all attachment behaviors, and they all reveal a deeper biological drive to bond, teach, and care for our kids. My husband says that as a father he sees the world through a new lens – it’s part of his identity and he almost can’t remember what life was like before. Becoming a parent changes both mom and dad at the core.

This post By HEATHER TURGEON first appeared here.

What are your thoughts?


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Ditching The Rules In The School Playground – Would You Agree?

Would you agree to the a no-rules playground in your child’s school?  I wonder if your answer might be different after you have read this article.

School ditches rules and loses bullies

childrens feetRipping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t.”

Swanson School signed up to the study by AUT and Otago University just over two years ago, with the aim of encouraging active play.

However, the school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said.

When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results.

Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.

But this wasn’t a playtime revolution, it was just a return to the days before health and safety policies came to rule.

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.

“The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.”

Society’s obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.

Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. “You can’t teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn’t develop by watching TV, they have to get out there.”

The research project morphed into something bigger when plans to upgrade playgrounds were stopped due to over-zealous safety regulations and costly play equipment.

“There was so many ridiculous health and safety regulations and the kids thought the static structures of playgrounds were boring.”

When researchers – inspired by their own risk-taking childhoods – decided to give children the freedom to create their own play, principals shook their heads but eventually four Dunedin schools and four West Auckland schools agreed to take on the challenge, including Swanson Primary School.

It was expected the children would be more active, but researchers were amazed by all the behavioural pay-offs. The final results of the study will be collated this year.

Schofield urged other schools to embrace risk-taking. “It’s a no brainer. As far as implementation, it’s a zero-cost game in most cases. All you are doing is abandoning rules,” he said.

Ditching The Rules In The School Playground – Would You Agree?  – The original article appeared here.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Common Sense Parenting – What Children Need

What children need is commence sense parenting

6 things kids really needShould you let your child play unsupervised? Allow her to walk to school alone? In this age of information overload, parenting advice is everywhere. Go online and you’ll find a tidal wave of tips aimed at helping you raise your kids. But what is it that they really need?
Above all else, children need common sense from their parents. Childhood has become “a pressure-packed preadulthood,” says Edward M. Hallowell, PhD, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy. “Kids are trying to make partner in the first grade.” It’s not that their parents don’t love them; they’ve just confused raising children with turning out perfect products. Instead, he says, parents should focus on making their children feel connected to their family and their community, and success (and everything else) will follow.

1. “I Love You”s

Of course you love your kids. But do you remember to tell them? “I never knew a kid whose parents told him too many times that they loved him,” says Laurence Steinberg, MD, a psychology professor at Temple University and author of The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting. And it’s more than just the words: It’s consistently showing them interest, affection and concern. That’s why Odette D’Aniello of Tacoma, Washington, makes sure every morning to offer her young children “special love.”
“I sit down and I cradle each one, wrap him or her with a warm blanket and softly scratch their back while chatting about random stuff, and telling them how lucky I am to have them,” she says. But for many parents—especially as kids get older, busier and less communicative—telling them how you feel can be more easily expressed through actions.
Louise Morgenstern of Santa Monica, California, shows her three teens love by getting to know their friends. She even keeps a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer—for her son’s best friend. “It’s his favorite flavor, and he comes into the house, goes right to the freezer and scoops himself a bowl,” she says. “With teenagers, it’s not about telling them you love them but showing them you know what they care about. At that age, it’s their friends.”

2. Structure and Limits

Have you ever been in a restaurant where the child at the next table is simply out of control, throwing things or refusing to stay seated? You watch as the indifferent parents ignore her behavior and you wonder, What’s going on?
“American parents err on the side of leniency compared with parents from most other parts of the world,” says Dr. Steinberg. “In the last generation or two, there has been a blurring of boundaries between U.S. parents and their children, and it makes parents more reluctant to impose their authority.
“Parents too often fear that their children will be angry with them if they try to discipline them.” But the anger is only temporary, and besides, it’s the parents’ job to teach their child, not befriend him. “The rules you make when your child is young ultimately become the ones he or she will live by,” says Dr. Steinberg.
Boundaries actually make kids more confident, says Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry). “That’s what gives kids the reassurance to try things. Say you’re at the beach, and you tell your child she can only go so far into the water. If she knows going this far is OK, then she can frolic with abandon in that area without wondering, ‘Are there sharks here?’” Think of discipline as the strength of parenting: You can show your kids where the “sharks” are and where they’re not.

3. Conversation

On their way to registration for her daughter’s ninth year of piano lessons, Maureen Anderson of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, asked Katie, 14, a simple question: “What do you like about taking piano?”
“Being able to say I haven’t quit,” Katie said.
“What don’t you like about it?” her surprised mom then asked.
“Practicing. Lessons. And the recitals.” Basically everything. When they got to the music school, instead of registering for more lessons, Katie unregistered for piano. “I learned what Katie thought by asking a couple of questions and listening to the answers,” Maureen says.
Take the time to really “hear” your kids, because that will make them more likely to talk to you regularly. “A lot of parents rush to solve things for their children,” says Casey Decola, MSW, a counselor with the Rye Youth Council in Rye, New York. “Especially with teenagers, we tend to panic. We say, ‘You know what you should do?’ and then we tell them, instead of listening and allowing them to fully get out what they’re trying to say without judging it.”
Instead of offering advice, ask questions that can help them come to conclusions on their own. “Make eye contact. Sit with your kids and give them the respect of listening in a way they deserve,” Decola says.
But how do you get your child to talk? “It’s normal for adolescents to want more privacy than they did as children,” says Dr. Steinberg. “But if parents engage their teens in genuine, interested (and interesting) conversation, the kids will talk. The problem is, too many parents ask perfunctory questions like ‘How was school today?’ or equate talking with lecturing.”
And keep in mind that to get the dialogue going at all, you first need to be around. So schedule a regular walk or board game to give you uninterrupted time together.

4. Something Shared

Have you had a moment today where you really connected with your child? Did you share a joke, a hug or a game of catch? It’s easy to go through the day telling your child what to do and never fully engaging with each other. When kids feel connected to you, they learn that they’re connected to people outside the family, and that the way they act has an effect on others. “Feeling like you have a place in the world and people who support you leads to happiness in adulthood,” Dr. Hallowell says.
Connectedness should happen naturally in everyday life. “A family dinner, car trip or regular activity can be a shared joy that leaves you feeling close,” he says. “A lot of parents approach parenting as drudgery, a job that’s a lot of work. What parents and kids need to feel connected to one another is to have fun. Sometimes that can mean doing nothing, but doing it comfortably together.”
So plan family activities, shared challenges, even regular dinners to reclaim a sense of fun and joy. Research has shown that children brought up this way are more socially skilled, have a better self-image and think of home as their haven when things go wrong.

5. Playtime

“The loss of free, undirected play is the biggest loss in modern childhood,” declares Michael Thompson, PhD, author of The Pressured Child: Freeing Our Kids from Performance Overdrive and Helping Them Find Success in School and Life. “Kids need time away from their parents to just play.” And it’s not just because kids enjoy play—it actually helps their brains develop properly.
Play is the driving force of childhood, says Stuart Brown, MD, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. That’s because it helps kids discover their talents and their resourcefulness, and hones their abilities to problemsolve and get along with others. Play exercises their imagination and stretches their creativity, while allowing them to try and fail at things in private without judgment. All of this helps them do better in school, says Dr. Brown, because kids who play have nimble minds and can look at things from different sides.
The next time you’re thinking of signing up kids for an activity, first think about whether or not they’ve got enough time each week to just hang out and let their imagination guide them.

6. Independence

When New York City mom Lenore Skenazy wrote in The New York Sun about letting her 9-year-old son take a subway home by himself, she was vilified in the press and blogosphere as “America’s worst mom.” She has since become an advocate of giving kids more independence and writes about it in her book and blog,
“The way many people parent today does not prepare kids for adulthood,” Skenazy says. “We wait for them, cheer for their every move, take them to soccer, dance and every other lesson—and we take away their chance to do things on their own.” Her decision to let her son ride the subway came only after years of navigating the subway together and they both felt confident that he could find his way.
Doing things independently is very important for a child, says Dr. Steinberg, because children feel confident when they feel competent. So letting him go to the store by himself or walk to town tells him you believe in him. The same confidence emerges when a child completes his own science fair or other school project. Of course, help him collect the materials and ask him questions that will guide him to its completion, but let it be his. So what if it doesn’t look as put-togetherk as the other parentinfluenced designs? Your child will feel satisfied knowing that he has produced something on his own.

The One Thing Kids Don’t Need: More Stuff

“Today’s kids have too many toys,” says Dr. Thompson. This teaches kids to always look for “the next new thing” instead of enjoying what they have. “If they’re always looking to material things to entertain themselves, they’ll soon get bored,” he says.
It’s easy to substitute toys for affection and attention because “it takes only a little time to buy your child a toy, but much more time to spend an afternoon together doing something fun,” says Dr. Steinberg. “But ultimately, it’s time spent together that will lead to happier kids.”

By Andrea Atkins

This article first appeared in ‘Woman’s Day’ here.

Here’s to common sense parenting!


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.


This Story Will Make You Smile

A wonderful post about the kindness of strangers.


Dear ‘Daddy’ in Seat 16C

kindness of strangers
Dear “Daddy,”

I don’t know your name, but Kate called you “daddy” for the entire flight last week and you kindly never corrected her. In fact, you didn’t even flinch as you could probably tell that she was not confusing you with her own “daddy,” but instead making a judgment regarding your level of “safety” for her. If she calls you “daddy” then you better believe she thinks you are alright.

I sat Kate, my 3-year-old who has autism, in the middle seat knowing full well that there would be a stranger sitting next to her for the duration of this flight. I had to make a quick decision and based on her obsession with opening and closing the window shade, I figured she might be less of a distraction if she sat in the middle. I watched the entire Temple basketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that, she would have made some observations that I would have had to deal with, but she would have liked those players. I watched many Grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by. For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: “Hi, Daddy, that’s my mom.” Then she had you.

You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that “smile” that I despise because it means; “manage your child please.” You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored with you that she kept eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about. I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it.

Kate: (Upon noticing you had an iPad) Is dis Daddy’s puduter?

You: This is my iPad. Would you like to see it?

Kate: To me?????? (I know she thought you were offering it to her to keep)

Me: Look with your eyes, Kate. That is not yours.

Kate: Dat’s nice!

You: (Upon noticing that Kate had an iPad) I like your computer, too. It has a nice purple case.

Kate: Daddy wanna be a bad guy? (She offered shredder to you and that, my friend, is high praise)

You: Cool.

The interaction went on and on and you never once seemed annoyed. She gave you some moments of peace while she played with her Anna and Elsa dolls. Kind of her to save you from playing Barbies, but I bet you wouldn’t have minded a bit. I bet you have little girls, too.

Not long before we landed Kate had reached her limit. She screamed to have her seatbelt off, she screamed for me to open the plane door and she cried repeating, “Plane is cwosed (closed)” over and over. You tried to redirect her attention to her toys. She was already too far gone at this point, but the fact that you tried to help your new little friend made me emotional.

In case you are wondering, she was fine the moment we stepped off the plane. Thank you for letting us go ahead of you. She was feeling overwhelmed and escaping the plane and a big, long hug was all she needed.

So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl.

This post originally appeared on Go Team Kate.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Praising Kids: How Proper Praise Helps Children, Part 2

Praise your child constructivelyPraising Kids: “Good Job!” Doesn’t Cut It Anymore, Part 1 discusses the problems with over-the-top, glowing praise that focuses on stroking your child’s ego instead of constructive praise that teaches him what it means to do a good job. By focusing on a child’s efforts, not on the child himself, you help build a child’s self-esteem.

When Praise is Good

Before you throw out praise, let’s look at when it’s good:

PRAISE IS GOOD IF IT’S REALISTIC. When praise is consistently reality based, you give your child a fair yardstick with which to judge himself.

PRAISE IS GOOD IF IT’S EARNED. “The yard looks wonderful; you did an excellent job of collecting all the leaves!” Or: “Thank you for helping clean up the corner of the garage, it looks really organized and tidy thanks to you.” Earned praise reinforces your child’s effort and is encouraging.
PRAISE IS GOOD WHEN IT IS SPECIFIC: The more specific, the better. Specifics are more instructive than blanket praise; specifics teach your child that she is in control of what she can accomplish. It also helps keep a child from believing that he is infallible which in turn will prepare him future criticism, disappointments or losses.
PRAISE IS GOOD USED SPARINGLY. When you repeat a compliment too frequently, constant, arbitrary praise gets tuned out in the same way that yelling does.
So if the right thinking is to moderate praise, how do you make your child feel valued? How do you build his self-confidence?

6 Paths to Effective Praise

With sweeping praise “out,” here are praise approaches you can implement easily:

1. Encouragement. Encouragement is effective because it: a) allows you to select a characteristic or behavior you want to develop or foster in a positive and constructive way, and b) lets you call attention to the process; you support the process and make progress in building your child’s confidence. When she comes home with a poor grade on a test, you might say: “I like the effort you put into studying. Maybe a bit more next time, you think?”

You are praising the process, not the outcome. You are making her responsible.

2. Mirroring. If you are consistently responsive, your child is more likely to be confident. It can be a trick on a skateboard, a gymnastic feat, a piano piece mastered or almost mastered, a tennis match won or almost won. Let her know that you see her and recognize her accomplishments, large and small. Ask to see her collection of dolls, or rocks, or something similar. Observe and talk about how orderly it is; how well she’s protecting it. Or ask, “Where did you find all these things?”

Your undivided attention is worth more than platitudes shouted from another room. Showing an interest in what’s he’s interested packs more of a punch than simply saying, “What a fabulous collection.” It positions your child as an expert — what a confidence boost!

3. Listening. Most of us are overscheduled and distracted — often too distracted to give children what they need. They need you to acknowledge them and give them an honest assessment of what they’re doing. Take time to listen, and make sure your children know you’re listening. Listen to complaints and be empathetic. Don’t immediately take your child’s or the teacher’s side, for instance. Hear his point of view.

Allowing your child to explain tells him you value his point of view and observations. Being heard is a powerful motivator.

4. Rewarding. Focus on the direction your child is moving in. You might say: “You improved so much since your last report card. Aren’t you proud of yourself? You should be.” When your child is memorizing a poem or words for a spelling test, you might say: “You almost had it. You’ll get it.” And when your child succeeds (a grade improvement; a sports milestone, for example), you might say: “You got an A! You just proved to yourself that you should never give up.”

You are teaching your child to internalize her abilities and to eventually be able to evaluate herself accurately.

5. Reinforcement. You might say: “I like the song you sang for grandma and grandpa. Would you sing it for me now?” Or, you might ask your child to retell a joke or ask for instruction: “The dog seems to respond so well to your training. Show me how you get him to do that, please.”

Reliving bright moments reminds children of their “strong suits.” You are telling your child she has something worthwhile to offer and share with you. Showing a genuine interest allows a child to relive accomplishments—and this kind of response can cultivate diligenceand determination.

6. Questioning: You might say: “How did you choose the colors for that picture? What did you use to make those lines? It’s so unusual, interesting, real, pretty, cheerful…”

You’re asking about the process—making your child think about how he created his work or tackled a project and what he might do next time.

When you combine these techniques and use them regularly, you put your child on a direct, merited path toward self-confidence. Isn’t that what praise is for in the first place?

Related: Praising Kids: “Good Job!” Doesn’t Cut It Anymore, Part 1

This post was written by Susan Newman, Ph.D., she is a social psychologist and author. Her latest book is The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Praising Kids: How Proper Praise Helps Children

The Problem with Hollow Praise

Praise your child constructivelyWhen you say, “good job,” “beautiful painting,” or “great performance” to a child, the comments become “white noise,” or empty words with little meaning — eventually platitudes not even heard. While it may seem like the mark of a loving parent to do so, praising your child expansively not only devalues the praise, but also prevents her from actually knowing what doing a “good job” means.

Praising in glowing terms — especially if it comes after less-than-perfect behavior or performance — can actually send a message that he or she doesn’t need to try harder to improve. Children who don’t receive specific feedback may come to feel they’re entitled to praise no matter what they do. They start to believe that they can coast along, assuming credit will come anyway. When it doesn’t, they will be unprepared to cope.

In her study, “Mothers’ Daily Person and Process Praise: Implications for Children’s Theory of Intelligence and Motivation,” University of Illinois’ Eva M. Pomerantz used interviews to assess mothers’ praise in response to children’s success in school over a period of 10 days. The results: “the more mothers used person praise (i.e., ‘You are smart.’ and ‘You are a good kid.’), the more children held an entity theory of intelligence and avoided challenging work in school six months later, which prior findings suggest undermine achievement.”

Person Praise vs. Process Praise

Furthermore, when you praise a child who is not doing as well as she could, she ultimately learns to believe she doesn’t have to do better to be accepted. She can coast or she feels entitled, expecting that everything should be coming her way whether she strives for her best or not.

Another problem with too much praise is that you are not training your son or daughter to deal with criticism and failure. You run the risk of having your child dissolve when he fails his first test or gets a C; when he isn’t invited to a party or included in a get-together with friends; when he doesn’t get into the college of his choice. He will think, “I’m great — that’s what my parents told me my whole life, so what’s wrong with me?”

You cheat your child when compliments are hollow. Recent findings reinforce these points; Scientists at the University of Chicago and Stanford University discovered that the kind of praise a parent gives a child influences attitudes toward difficult tasks later on. The researchers describe two types of praise: “Person” praise (which includes those unspecific phrases like “You’re awesome!”) and “Process” praise, which revolves around more valuable specific feedback on a child’s actions and accomplishments. The authors found that having more “process” praise will better mold a child to have more perseverance in approaching and solving tough challenges.

Constructive praise with specifics and emphasis on performance encourages a child to strive and work harder. What does constructive praise sound like? Read Part 2

This post was written by Susan Newman, Ph.D., she is a social psychologist and author. Her latest book is The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Letting Your Child Be Sad

sad child


A timely article by Sarah Fernandez exploring the consequences of raising our children ‘wrapped in cotton wool’.  See her blog here.

Want Your Child to be Happy?  Let Them Feel the Opposite

In the July/August issue of The Atlantic psychologist Lori Gottlieb explores why she has so many patients in their 20s and 30s who have it all, but aren’t happy in her story “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy.” While the story is lengthy, it’s worth taking the time to read and to consider how you handle situations in which your child is faced with sadness and disappointment. It appears that a lot of parents are swooping in the moment their child so much as falls down on the grass, looking for learning disability diagnoses in order to explain why their child isn’t as good at math or reading as another child, and letting children quit an activity the moment they show any dislike for it. Gottlieb’s theory is that as a result these children are growing into adults who have “awesome” parents, “great” husbands, and “good” jobs, but they don’t feel happy. Not only that, but when they don’t get the job they want or something goes wrong, they have no idea how to handle it because their parents have always made sure that things are just peachy keen for them.

So many parents are so involved in making sure that their children always get what they “deserve” that some colleges are now creating a position for Dean of Parents to help control the influx of parent phone calls and are having to set up special events at orientation to separate the parents and children because the parents are lingering around and don’t want to leave the children. Oh, and did you hear the story about the Long Island, NY woman who stalked and threatened the baseball coach when her son didn’t make the team? Where do we draw the line?

“Suck It Up” Parenting

I like to say that I was raised in a house of “Suck It Up” parenting. Life isn’t perfect, and my parents made sure we knew that we can’t always get what we want. I remember not wanting to do any activities at one point when I was in grammar school, but my parents believed it was really important so they told me I could do whatever I wanted whether it was a sport or an art class, but I had to do something. They allowed me to have some control over what I wanted to do, but they weren’t going to let me sit by and let me do nothing despite my disappointment. Not only that, but once we committed to something, we were committed to it for the session. We were taught to finish what we started, and I think that is something important that I have carried with me into adulthood. There were no days off from school “just because” or even if we had a headache. We were expected to help around the house and with yard work whether we wanted to or not, and as a result I knew how to do things like put a dishwasher on and my laundry when I went off to college and eventually into my own house. And I’d say that my brother, sister, and I have all developed into successful, generally happy and well-rounded people despite our “imperfect” childhood.

Allowing Disappointment

However, recently I’ve struggled a bit with how to handle my son’s disappointment. Of course we never want to see our children hurt physically or emotionally. When his best friend from school didn’t show up to his birthday party, he was really upset. I thought about picking up the phone and calling his parents just to find out why they couldn’t make it (not to berate them for disappointing my son). But ultimately I knew that if they weren’t there, there was a good reason so there was no need for me to call them. Instead I just explained to my son that something must have come up, and we knew the boy’s dad had to work that day so maybe he had ended up working late. And I explained that rather than sulk around his party, he should enjoy playing with the friends that did come which he eventually did.

Later that week, my son wanted to buy a board game with a gift certificate that he received for his birthday. I dreaded this because he tends to get upset when he doesn’t win, and when we brought it home, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should let him win so that I could avoid the meltdown that follows, but even that I knew was really for my own benefit and not his. I just didn’t want to deal with it. Ultimately, I decided that I would be doing him a great disservice and that he needed to learn how to lose gracefully. He is only five and I don’t want him to lose all the time, but I’ve found that playing a few rounds of the game so that he wins some and loses some has taught him to take losing in stride much better than he would have only a few weeks ago, and I think it’s appropriate for his age.

Life Isn’t Perfect

The bottom line is that no matter how much we protect our children, at some point they are going to have to go out into the world without us. There will hearts broken, sports teams they don’t make, friends who let them down, and colleges they don’t get into. It may even rain on their wedding day. It is just as important that we teach them how to handle what they will encounter on their own as it is that we do our best to protect them and show them how much we love them.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Getting Kids To Co-operate

Shelly Phillips gives some great tips for getting our children to listen to us.  Find her blog here.

Six Communication Tricks That Will Get Your Kids to Co-operate

angry childAs the parent of a preschooler, I often notice myself feeling frustrated and asking myself, “Why won’t she cooperate?!” If you have a young child at home, I know you understand. There are times when I’m tired or hungry or in a rush and I just want my daughter to do exactly as I say instantly without questioning, avoiding, or delaying.

What I’ve noticed is that as soon as I get attached to things going a certain way, my daughter has different ideas. I can understand why. Nobody likes to be forced to do anything. Not even young kids. Or maybe especially not young kids. I mean, toddlers and preschoolers are just developing their will and learning to act independently of us. So, of course they’re going to push back when we thrust our will upon them.

As a preschool teacher and now as a mom, I’ve discovered that there are certain things I can do that greatly increase the chances that kids will cooperate with me. Here are six secrets to getting kids to cooperate that have worked like a charm for me:

Invite, Don’t Demand

We all want our children to “ask nicely,” but the truth is, that’s easier said than done. My question is, where do you think they learned to be demanding and inflexible? Oh yeah, from us! If we want our kids to cooperate, then we’ve got to be the bigger, more mature ones and lead by example. Contrary to popular belief, asking nicely, inviting, and working together to find a solution to a problem doesn’t teach children to be more defiant or disobedient, instead, by doing these things you’re laying a foundation of trust and teamwork that your kids will soon learn to rely on.

Use this quick test to figure out whether your request is actually a demand. Ask yourself, “Would it be OK if they answered ‘no’ to this request?” If not, then you’re not actually inviting or asking, you’re demanding or requiring a specific behavior. That’s OK some of the time, especially if safety is an issue, but remember, the more demands you make on your kids, the less true, internally motivated cooperation you’re likely to get.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have expectations of your children. It’s just that when those expectations aren’t met, it’s helpful to see that as an opportunity to problem solve together, rather than an excuse to punish them into submission.

Turn it Into a Game

Kids love to play. When you can make something fun, they’re far more likely to get on board. This does require some creativity and spontaneity on your part. When your child refuses to leave the park, can you find a way to make getting to the car more fun? Maybe you’ll pretend you’re firefighters and you have to jump into the firetruck to go put out the fire. Or perhaps you’ll race, or hop like a bunny, or offer a ride on your shoulders. Making things more fun isn’t just a great way to gain your child’s cooperation, it’s also a way to enjoy your time with them more. I mean, which would you prefer, a power struggle where you force your child kicking and screaming into his care seat or a fun game in which he climbs in willingly?

If you’re not sure what kind of a game will work best, tune in to your child’s interests. If she loves princesses, then you’ll be her knight in shining armor or her trusty steed. If he’s into trucks, you can ask if he wants to be fork-lifted into the car. Or maybe you’ve just read a story about a friendly fish, so try acting it out! If you just can’t seem to come up with an idea, ask your child what to play. Most kids are more than ready with a suggestion for a fun game or activity that you can alter slightly to fit your agenda.

Stop Repeating Yourself

This is a mistake we all make, especially when we’re not getting the results we want. Trust me that repeating yourself is the last thing you want to do if you’re trying to foster cooperation. Your child heard you the first time, and by repeating yourself, you’re simply training her to stop listening and wait for you to get frustrated before she acts.

Children are discovering all sorts of things about the world around them, including vast amounts of information about social/emotional dynamics. When they throw you off your game or induce you to get frustrated or upset, they’re gathering very interesting data about how to get what they want and what might cause you to reconsider your position. Don’t fall prey to their cunning.

When you can keep your cool and maintain clear boundaries, your kids will still test you, but after they’ve tested all their theories about how to get around your rule with no success, they will find other areas far more interesting and emotionally rich.

Be Forgetful

But what about when you’ve asked once and they’re not responding? Instead of asking again, take a different tack. Be forgetful and invite them to remind you what you said a moment ago. “Wait, I forget, didn’t I just ask you to do something? What was that? I think we were getting ready to go somewhere, but can you please remind me where?”

This allows the kids to be the smarter ones and if there’s one thing children love, it’s being smarter and more capable than adults.

Let Them Be In Charge

That’s why you’ll get a lot more cooperation when you allow them to be in charge. No need to constantly corral them, just put one child in charge of getting everyone ready and out the door and you’ll be surprised how quickly it will happen. This works especially well with my daughter when I underestimate her abilities and she gets to prove how smart and capable she is. “You don’t know how to do that all by yourself, do you?” And then when she has her shoes on and is climbing into her car seat, “Wow, you knew exactly what to do to get ready to go and you did know how to do it!”

Cooperate With Them

There are times when even the most cooperative child just needs some extra help. This could be because they’re tired, sick, hungry, or just feeling sad and disconnected. So if nothing else seems to work, offer to help. During times like this, we like to play a game in which my daughter pretends to be a baby and I have to do everything for her. After just a few moments of this game, she is far more willing to do what I’ve asked or help me with something. That’s because she knows that when she really needs some extra support, I’m there to willingly and happily provide her with the support she needs.



Don’t forget to enjoy you day.

Sunday Humour – Kids Behaviour

MotherhoodMe (exasperated):  “Why can’t you have good behaviour?  You know you would get what you want if you had good behaviour”!

6 year old:  “No I wouldn’t!  I had good behaviour last night and you wouldn’t let me have McDonalds for dinner.  And I had good behaviour this morning and you wouldn’t let me have my Thomas sweets for lunch!”

Mmmmm all of this is true.  I am going to have to rethink my persuasive arguments.

Of course it bleedin’ obvious why kids misbehave.  Because 8 times out of ten they can’t have what they want, even if they do behave!

So what is the answer for good behaviour?  Tell me your thoughts.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.