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.

Wednesday, October 16

Toddler Patience...What?

Have you guys seen this? Overcoming Temptation (In Marshmallows and in Life)

It's a take on that cute Marshmallow test. This one is actually a commercial. (And by the way, I'm not affiliated, so if the company does something horrible and immoral in the next two weeks or two years, I don't know nuthin and I'm not pushing you to buy anything!) Anyway, it's terribly cute, and it begs the question, can you really teach a toddler patience?

Many of us roll over and concede defeat when it comes to tantrums, whining, or fussing, because they're just itty bitty people. How can you expect them to refrain from trying to destroy the high chair while you prepare a sandwich and fruit? I mean, they're starving. Poor babies! Okay, so maybe the screaming gives us a wee headache, but what are we supposed to do?

Here's the thing about patience and toddlers: it's possible, but always a work in progress. When it comes to hunger, or being tired or over-stimulated, forget it. You can't win those, so just take care of the need. Next time, however, don't set yourself up for that kind of meltdown. Do your best to anticipate that hunger and start meals earlier. Don't drag them all over creation wearing them out and forcing missed naps, and avoid situations in which there is a lot of stimulus. You may not recognize it as such, but ANY place with a lot of people, noise, or eye-catching stuff everywhere intended to grab your visual attention...that's stimulus. As adults, we live in it all the time and we're used to it, but being sensitive to it myself, I can completely understand why toddlers go bonkers and get upset when you haul their sorry butts to fairs, weddings, concerts, the zoo, and cousin Teddy's fifth birthday party. Yikes! Even schools have way too much stuff on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, over-stimulating my poor eyeballs. The intent is to stimulate learning, but for me, it just stimulates a headache, and I want out. Toddlers don't have a way to filter all that nonsense yet, so don't expect them to!

As for the rest, practice making them wait when they are fed, rested, and in a good mood. Maybe it's just waiting for you to get a toy off the shelf for them, and you can use that opportunity to help them learn. If they start to fuss, stop it early and use your "no"'-without-saying-no-voice. I always advise toddlers moms not to use "No!" so much because it becomes irrelevant to the child. Not only do they put no meaning to it coming out of your mouth, but it models what word for them to use every five minutes. Thus, the incessant "NO!" we get from toddlers. Instead use something like, "Aah" or "Enh." "Un Unh." Then pair it with what you want them to do, not with what you don't. For instance, you can say, "Enh! We do not whine. I am getting your toy and you need to wait." What will not work is, "Enh! Stop whining." The reason being is that it doesn't tell them what you want instead. When you say something like that, it tells them what you don't want. So they focus on "whining" and they don't know how to stop. You have to teach them! So tell them what to do instead. "If you want me to hurry, say, 'Mommy, please hurry.'"


1. Anticipate situations that can cause a meltdown and prepare well enough to keep the tantrums and overstimulation at bay.

2. Practice patience phrases ("I need you to wait quietly,") when they are fed and rested.

3. Teach them how to stop whining by giving them things to say or do. "Tell mommy, 'I want that please,'" or "Hold your blankie while you wait for me. It will make you feel better."

It will take constant practice, but one day you will wake up to a child who can wait patiently. (And you'll freak out just a little.)