Wednesday, August 26

Mommy, Daddy! Look at Me! (No, really look.)

Sad to say, but if you just sit back and observe how parents interact with their kids, you'll find that most of them totally ignore the kids unless they're fussing or screaming. It's rather enlightening. Sad, but enlightening. And think about it. How many times a day do you actually look your kid in the eye and talk to them? Or at least talk with them if your eyes are trained on dinner or the road in front of you?

Here's a good article on how speaking to your child speeds up the language learning process.

It makes perfect sense. You can't stick a kid in front of a screen and expect them to pick up language as quickly as those who interact with an actual human. There are subtle cues in language - we use our tone, eyes, face, and body to communicate a heck of a lot - that kids miss when watching it on a screen. It's like with preemie babies. Have you ever heard how parents are encouraged to "kangaroo" preemies? Those little angels arrive on Earth a little too early, but tend to grow and thrive better with actual human, skin-to-skin contact. Why? Why isn't it good enough to have them "grow" in an incubator, away from germs and stimulus? Well, because it just isn't! Humans have a light energy about them that cannot be replicated from a machine. It's living. It's love. Communication is meant to happen with two actual, living people. We are just very accustomed to it being electronic and get lured into thinking that the tech we stick in front of our kids is "educational." Get yourself away from that line of thinking!

Babies and toddlers need you to look at them. Talk and interact with them. Guide them. Teach them about the world. Don't let a gadget do that for you. Please.

Cheers and Zen to you! (Do those even go together? Hunh.)

Tuesday, February 24

Oops! The 9 Ways We Screw Up Our Toddlers

You know how sometimes you shoot up in bed in the middle of the night (okay, maybe you don't, but I do; so indulge me a bit here and go along) and think, "OH my gosh! I forgot to brush my kid's teeth AGAIN!" Or, "OH crap! I forgot to give my daughter her antibiotics tonight!"

Oops is my new book, and kind of hits on the ultimate "OH crap" of Am-I-Messing-Up-My-Kid? I normally give a lot of how-to advice, but wanted to veer off the track and write a what-not-to-do book. Do-this, Do-that is good and all, but can get a little boring and dance around the elephant in the room. We've got an entirely new generation of kids growing up, and they are as sweet as can be, but wow - are they spoiled! I don't discount myself as one of the spoilers, so don't think of this book as a lecture. It's more like a bootcamp for bad parenting habits. ALL of us can do it just a little bit better, and it takes being honest about it before we can drop our defenses and say, "Okay, I should cut that out."

Oops goes through the top parenting mistakes and how it will affect our toddlers as they age. Right now it's all about getting through the day. But there is a bigger picture to keep in mind. Our kids will grow up one day (soon!) and instilling habits to promote indepence and problem solving is a day to day process that needs to start NOW. It's one of those things that whops you on the butt if you wait too long.

So download it for free on iTunes/iBooks. It's a quick, fun read, meant to poke fun at our parenting, but not to judge. I'm sailing the same boat as you are, and we all have our sight on raising beautiful, healthy kiddos!

Thursday, June 19

Fat Cat Beginning Reader Books

Fat Cat is a sweet little (well, okay, not little) ten-year-old kitty who finds herself alone and scared at an animal shelter. Will anyone adopt her? Will she ever find someone to love her? Read Fat Cat Finds a Home and journey with this furry friend as she discovers the heartwarming love of three special little girls.

Fat Cat Finds a Home is the first in our new series of kids books and oh my goodness! So darn cute! Very colorful and unique pictures to stimulate your little sweetie, and a great way to teach sympathy and treating animals with kindness.
Fat Cat Finds a Home is available on Kindle. We hope you enjoy! And stayed tuned - there are more Fat Cat adventures on the way!

Monday, March 24

Teach kids to calm themselves

I ran across an interesting article on how to teach kids to calm themselves [Teaching Children to Calm Themselves - "When Luke gets angry, he tries to remember to look at his bracelet..."]. Although I work with children like the ones in this article, I generally don't write about child discipline with cases this severe in mind...meaning, my advice is geared more toward the general population of kids with a loving, supportive family, but the behavior indicates that mom and dad can go about things differently to get better results.

But if you think about it, ALL kids can use the techniques in this article. I think that from a very young age, we don't teach our children how to comfort themselves since we do EVERYTHING for them. We don't want to see them hurt, so we intervene in an effort to help. In the process, we rob them of some very important self-soothing lessons.

So if your child's behavior is to the point of angry outbursts that you really don't know how to address, check out this article and do some more research. It takes some training to deal with children who are hurting to the degree stated in this article, but even for the average kiddo, cooling down strategies are always good!

Monday, March 17

Helicopter Parenting

Ever hear of the term "Helicopter Parenting"? It's what we do ALL the time. Our kids are over-protected, over-indulged, and over-scheduled. I do it. Everyone I know does it. And if any of us sees a parent that doesn't do it, we automatically think neglect and abuse. We don't voice it, of course, but we glance at each other with head shakes, a tsk-tsk, and very defined frowns, wrinkling our very judgmental faces. When I see a 4th grader consistently walking home from school alone, or up to the local gas station for candy, I automatically think, "Where are the parents??!!" And heaven help us all if I see a couple of youngsters walking along a busy street on their way to or from who knows where. "They're too young!" I cry. "They're all alone!" I wail. It takes a heck of a lot for it to cross my mind that they might actually make it home without being hit by a car or kidnapped.

On the reverse side, last week I saw both parents walking all four (count 'em) kids along a very busy intersection, and nearly had a heart attack as two of the kids - neither could have been more than six years old - walk ahead of the parents and stop twelve inches from the cars pulling up to a stoplight. The parents (distracted, nonchalant, loser parents), lagged behind with the stroller and got caught up looking at something on their phone. Never once did they glance up and see where their kids were heading. My husband and I held our breath as we waited for the parents to look up, catch up, and protect those babies.

Again, it never occurred to me that the kids would be okay. And therein lies the problem.

We are SO convinced that our kids will not survive, thrive, or succeed without our help that we hover over them to the point of smothering to death. With love, of course. Misguided, but "love" is indeed what we call it. We love them sooooo much that we get over-involved in their every waking moment. We never let the babies leave our sight. We run ourselves absolutely ragged trying to keep up with our toddlers, chasing them from room to room, saving them from every fall, bump, or tiny little mishap.

Maybe we should stop. (You don't know how hard it was to write those words. Holy cow.)

I'm not saying we should stop being caring parents, and we definitely shouldn't let our kids walk towards moving cars, but maybe we could cut back on showing our toddlers how to play with every single toy we put in front of them. Maybe we don't need to be in their faces every moment of the day, hovering over their every move. Surely it will be okay if they figure out how to stack those blocks without our help. Maybe we don't need to have them in a different class every day of the week, or chase them around trying to shove that last bit of sandwich in their mouth. They might live without it. Maybe we could let them play, let them discover, and let them develop a desire for knowledge and independence.

One of these days our babies will grow up. They will need self-comforting skills, problem solving skills, and a sense of achievement and motivation. If we keep hovering, how will they figure it out? If you want to discuss anxiety about our kids making it without us, just think to that day when you must let them loose into the world. A world that doesn't think they are the greatest things to walk the planet. A world that could care less.

(Gulp.) Yes, maybe we should stop.

Thursday, January 9

Toddlers and Tablets

Get 'em OFF the screen, people!

We are way too reliant on technology and tablets and pads. We work with it, entertain with it, read from it, and expect it to spell check and think for us. It's getting scary. We recently had a fence put up in our backyard and when I answered the door to let the guy in, he very hesitantly asked if he had the right house. Yes, I said, you have the right house! He blew a deep sigh of relief and explained that his GPS couldn't pinpoint the exact location of my address, and boy, he just wasn't sure if it was this house or the one next door. I gave him a pause and stare. Eyebrows lifted. Really, dude? Do you not have my street number on a work order and do you not have eyes to actually look at the numbers on my mailbox and match the two up? Do you have beans rattling around up there? Are we so devoted to our technology and GPS that we can't think through an itty-bitty-baby-wee problem? Technology is squeezing out and killing the part of our brain reserved for this critical thinking. And that is freaking frightening!!

Babies and toddlers are the last little cuties that should be on this stuff. I know phones are a life-saver when it comes to entertainment in the car or to keep the kid quiet so you can have a conversation with your gynecologist, but oh my gosh. If it works this time, it will work again. And again, and again. Pretty soon they are learning to talk by watching Youtube and we have a kid who cannot do without his phone or tablet. Tantrums. Screams. GIVE ME BACK THE SCREEN!!

Not only is this unhealthy for social and cognitive development, there is talk of long-term damage to their poor hand muscles because they are spending way too much time touching and tapping and not actually manipulating actual objects like blocks, toys, and crayons.

Excerpt from the story
"A warning for parents of tech-savvy children. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children under two should avoid all screen time.

Jessica Kartalija reports doctors and therapists fear too much time on touchscreens could cause long-term damage.

Playtime for babies is far different in the 21st century. But parents could be making a big mistake putting touchscreens in the hands of toddlers and young children. Parents think they’re educating and stimulating their kids, but doctors and therapists are raising a red flag — too much screen time can hurt their developing bodies. “If they are always on the iPad and not actually doing those paper pencil activities that they should still be doing, those muscles are going to remain weaker,” said occupational therapist Lindsay Marzoli, Learning and Therapy Corner."

When a child's eyes are glued to a screen, they are not on you. This may sound terrific in terms of getting a break, but those "little breaks" add up to a crap-load of time spent away from learning from the most important person - you. Our daily interactions with kids teach them how to behave, solve problems, and learn how the world works. A screen is not a person, and while it can certainly entertain, and possibly give you false hopes with cute age-appropriate apps, it cannot E-VER replace a child's need for attention and guidance. They need those two things constantly, and if you are relying on some electronic "thing" to do the job for might be time for a little long-term vision and soul searching.

Here's to blocks, bears, puzzles, books, play-doh, and all non-electronic childhood playthings. (If it lights up, squeaks, talks, or does anything but stay silent and invoke the imagination, I prefer to make its' new home the trash can).

Cheers, my friends.

Monday, October 21

Toddler Behavior and Sugar

Alright my friends. How many times do I have to say it? Sugar = bad behavior.

First a quick excerpt from a recent study [Click here for the full study article]:
'...The study, which will be presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference next month, also made another discovery: Rats, like humans, like to eat Oreo’s creamy center first. To test how the animals responded to Oreos vs. drugs, the team trained rats to navigate a maze. On one side, Oreo cookies were provided, and on the other side plain rice cakes were offered.

As you’d guess, the rats were significantly more likely to spend time on the Oreo side of the maze. The team also compared these results to rats who were trained with morphine or cocaine rather than Oreos. They found that regardless of what "substance" the rats were offered (Oreos, cocaine, or morphine) they spent about the same amount of time on the "drug" side of the maze. These behavioral data aren’t so surprising, but the researchers also reported some interesting neurological results. When rats were given Oreos, a protein called c-Fos was expressed strongly in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which is well known to be active in pleasure and addiction. "It basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos," said Connecticut College professor Joseph Schroeder, who led the research. Oreos actually activated cells in this brain area more than did either cocaine or morphine, which suggests that that magical combination of sugar and fat may be even more delectable to our brains than drugs. "Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Schroeder said. "It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."'


This study shows evidence that our brain treats sugar the same way as drugs, and sugar may be even more addicting than drugs. OH MY GOSH. And look, I love Oreos. As soon as I'm stressed, I want some double stuffed, pronto. So I'm not knockin' those delish little babies. I'm just saying, we cannot fuel our kids with sugar and expect them to behave like angels.

If your child is having behavior problems, first and foremost, look at diet!! I say it all the time. Yes, there are things we can do differently as parents so we do not reinforce negative behavior, but that little step alone will do nothing for the child who gets Sugar Crunchies and chocolate milk for breakfast, white bread peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cookies for lunch, and fast food and ice cream for dinner. Cut that crap out! I know it's cheap and fast, but so is celery, carrots, and apples.

If you read this study, it's like we're giving our kids drugs. You wouldn't load up some cocaine and hand it over to your baby, now, would you? So if it doesn't work for me to bonk you over the head with "sugar = bad behavior", then maybe this will scare the bejeebers out of you more effectively. We MUST STOP giving our kids so much sugar. Not only is it bad for behavior, sugar can be linked to countless physical ailments; diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer just to name a few biggies.

If you research people who stop taking in sugar and processed foods, you will be amazed at the change in their physical makeup and how so many of their ailments just magically disappear; skin problems, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, wrinkles, poor immunity, insomnia, depression, anxiety . . . sugar is the consistent bad boy in the gang of ugly we put into our bodies. I know personally that sugar affects my mood, energy, and guts. I drank a flavored coffee last week without having breakfast, and my blood sugar plummeted, leaving me shaky, irritable, and feeling rotten for the rest of the day. And if I have too much sugar, I can actually feel my body respond to the overgrowth of yeast.

If you don't believe this article that sugar is addicting, just try cutting it out of your own diet. It's freaking hard! And when you get stressed, sugar is the go-to fix. Donuts are my nemesis. (I swear I can't stay away from those things; I'm a donut addict.) So after you try to cut sugar out of your own diet (good luck), and you realize the insane pull that sugar has on our chemically altered brains, be aware of the addicting factor on your kids. If you give sugar the heave-ho in their diet, expect some horror flick behavior. Until they get through the withdrawal (research online for best ways to overcome the cravings), you might see lots of screaming and possibly throwing sharp, GI Joe-like objects. So you'll need to duck.

And if THAT doesn't convince you that sugar turns our bodies into a blob of disease infested, addict-prone yuck, then you're on your own. I've got to step back and throw my hands in the air. But if you resolve to do better, just try this first step in changing your child's behavior. I'm pretty darn sure you will see positive results.