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Friday, 23 December 2011

Why I Let My Kid Feel Anger, Seething & Rapid Breathing Included

Seething, rapid breathing, squinting eyes, red cheeks. All the signs of anger, which most parents are familiar with especially when it manifests in younger children.

Parenting techniques used during my time (oh, about 25 years ago) miseducated children about anger, in my humble opinion. I doubt it was intentional though; it was more a sign of those times.

How did this affect me? For the longest time I saw anger as something unacceptable, a sin even. It was something to be suppressed and not expressed.

As I found out later on, this was all untrue. There is nothing wrong with feeling the emotion itself which is why I allow my child to blow his top off whenever he needs to. Of course, I encourage anger and not aggression.

Hello! Meet ANGER

Anger is an internal alarm system that goes off when something is amiss. Usually it’s when people feel invalidated or wronged either by a person or a situation. Dr. Les Carter, who wrote The Anger Trap: Free Yourself from the Frustrations that Sabotage Your Life, says it is a self-preservation tool.

Although in children, anger may be slightly different since they have yet to develop the sophisticated level of understanding one’s self that adults have. Usually kids feel angry when they are unable to make sense of something or feel helpless to change a situation.

Now That You’ve Met Anger, Why Keep Him Around?

Anger is as natural as the clear ocean waters and cerulean skies; it is also inescapable. So, instead of banishing it as you would something you fear, embrace it. Here’s why:

1. It provides plenty of opportunities for learning and growing

Case in point. When my son was angry with his playmate for not lending him a toy, I pounced on the experience to teach my 4-year old about life’s cold hard facts.

I explained to him, “You see, you can’t control others and you can’t always get what you want.” The beauty is that he experienced this firsthand so the learning was no longer hypothetical, but one that was real.

2. It teaches that communication is effective when resolving issues

Every time my son is angry, I wait until the emotion subsides and then swoop in. We discuss the why, who or what, and possible solutions to the issue(s).

When we had just begun this exercise, it took him a while to open up. Now, he is able to communicate and explain why he is angry prior to cooling down. This is a major milestone for him in terms of learning how to deal with emotions. And he's learned it at such a young age.

3. It allows me to understand my child better

Through the previous item, I have gotten to know my child better.

Case in point. One afternoon, my son asked me to read a book to him he was fond of. I was working so I deferred the reading to a later time. I then noticed he became visibly angry. When the emotion subsided, I found out he was upset because he felt I was always working.

I reflected a bit, found the statement true and made necessary changes to accommodate his needs more.

Had I not asked what he was angry about, I would have allowed this "lack of quality time" problem to persist. Now I'm aware of how much he values the time I spend with him.

4. It increases my child's self-worth

Because I take time out to hear his concerns, no matter how trivial, it shows him that I want to understand him. That his voice is heard and appreciated. That he matters.

Don’t Dread Anger

Welcome it. Through anger, every parent is given the opportunity to impart life lessons to their children, and even learn a thing or two from them. Instead of focusing on the negativity, you can turn anger into a positive emotional tool to understand the world better. I have and it's worked wonders on my boy.

Anne is a mom who is passionate about raising happy, healthy and smart children. How? With a glass of information, a pitcher of love, a gallon of patience, and of course, a bucket of humor. She believes that though parenting is challenging, it doesn't have to be boring. Catch more of her at Green Eggs & Moms.

Photo: Creative Commons from _gee_

Sunday, 18 December 2011

When a Child is Deirdre McLaughlin from @Sign2Music

When a Child is Born……

When that little bundle of joy is placed into your arms your life will never be the same. You will experience a love that you have never felt before and such pride knowing you have created the beautiful creature you see before you. However, it isn’t long before you also experience a tiredness you never felt before and a whirlwind of emotions.

New parents juggle so many tasks and face so many decisions. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding? Cloth or disposable nappies? Babywearing? Co-sleeping? There are so many classes you can go to: Baby massage, yoga, swimming, signing and much more. It can be a joy making these decisions, trying new ideas and having new experiences with your baby. Sometimes it can be simply overwhelming!

When I had my youngest child after a gap of ten and half years I felt like I was starting over again. I love my children more than life itself and wanted to be the best mummy in the world. I read every book I could get my hands on and worried about every decision I made in case it had long term detrimental effects on my baby (blame the psychology and social work training!). I wish I had relaxed and spent more time reading my baby than books, many of which gave contradictory advice, immobilising me, rather than empowering me to be the expert on my own child. The book I am actually glad I read was ‘Sign with Your Baby’ by Dr Garcia. ‘Baby signing’ is the concept of using signs to support communication in preverbal children. At that stage it was relatively unheard of in conservative Northern Ireland! I had studied sign language before and decided to try it. This was no doubt one of the best decisions I have ever made.

We started signing with Cara at five months much to the chagrin of my very conservative parents. At five and a half months she did her first signs. When she was twelve months she could use 50-70 signs and could tell us how she felt, if she wanted her nappy changed, if she was hungry or thirsty. At the pre-verbal stage I didn’t have to go through the checklist I used with my older children when they cried: Is he or she hungry? Dirty nappy? Tired? Cara could actually ‘converse’ with us, although those first words came from her hands rather than her lips!

One of the most amazing experiences I had was when Cara was almost 9 months old. I was breast feeding as normal before bed. I had brought some milk in a cup, as I was weaning her off the breast knew she would need more. She was getting quite upset as I was feeding her. I signed 'milk' and she lifted her head and signed 'no milk'! When I lifted her cup she got excited and signed 'milk'. I couldn't believe it so I repeated this several times with the same result! That was the last time I breastfed Cara, as there was indeed 'no milk'. It was amazing that a baby at less than 9 months of age could tell me this so clearly herself. This was also the experience that convinced my sceptical husband that this wasn't just another of my 'fads' that I would lose interest in after a while!

It is well documented that signing supports communication and reduces frustration. The undersold benefit of signing is how it nurtures connectedness between children and their caregivers. It necessitates increased eye contact, enhances communication and reduces frustration. Signing gave us an insight into Cara’s mind and personality. She regularly shared her observations and thoughts, eg, if we were in the garden she signed BIRD TREE to tell me what she had observed. When she was around 9 months I was reading her a story about a giant, expecting her to be a passive observer. Every time I turned the page she signed HAT. I soon realised there was a little tiny mouse hiding behind various objects in each page wearing a HAT. Cara was ‘reading’ her version of the story to me before she could even speak!

A child’s first relationship will have a significant impact on subsequent relationships throughout their lives. Relationships shape brain development, most of which takes place in the first 3 years of life. We cannot underestimate the importance of parent – child connectedness for our children’s health and emotional well being.

My experiences are by far unique. I love watching how the babies we see in Sign2Music classes grow into bright, confident and loving children. I love the amazing stories I hear about how signing has helped communication, bonding and development. I can now say without doubt SIGNING WORKS. And so can many, many parents and carers throughout Northern Ireland, indeed throughout the world!

Deirdre McLaughlin lives in Co Down, Northern Ireland. She is a mum of 3 and the founder of Sign2Music, the only baby signing company to originate in Northern Ireland. Sign2Music facilitates classes for babies and toddlers, parties, workshops and training / sessions in nurseries, schools and preschools throughout Northern Ireland.

Deirdre is a psychology graduate with a Masters in Medical Science and Family Therapy qualifications. She is a qualified Social Worker and has worked in the Youth Justice field for 16 years, currently working job share as a Locality Manager in the Youth Justice Agency NI. She has undertaken BSL sign language training to Level 2.!/sign2music

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Stress Free Christmas - YES Please!

Here are my thoughts for a stress free Christmas.....

Christmas can be a stressful time for many reasons. Let's take a moment to consider how we can minimise this. Dramas can be minimised with little planning and a little effort. Preparing and organising in advance are key to your success. If you are responsible for the cooking or present wrapping communicate effectively supporting others allowing them to know you have your tasks under control.

Our little ones can get over-excited and over-tired at christmas. Being flexible and not too rigid about bed times can make children feel the excitement of christmas even more but don't go overboard boundaries are essential even at christmas.

If you forget to buy something don't be too hard on yourself. It may be easier to alter your plans rather than upset yourself and those around you. Think calmly about the alternatives and re-jig your plans to suit.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, let us remember it is a time for giving, sharing and spending time with loved ones and friends. Enjoy your time, your friends and your family. Take time to relax and 'be in the moment'. Make it as stress free as possible keeping positive will serve you and yours well.

May I wish you all well for 2012. Happy holidays!

Guest Post Bloggers

This week, and for an ongoing period I have decided to provide my blog space to parents, parenting experts, autistic spectrum experts, mummy and daddy bloggers, and baby signing experts to write blogs about something they feel passionate about. I am so looking forward to hearing from all those who have agreed so far to participate.

If you are reading this and you would like to join in just leave me a message on this blog or contact me via twitter to confirm your interest.

We may not have the same views and we almost certainly won't have the same life stories but I am interested in providing a space for people to talk about 'stuff' that they want to talk about.

@braininsights @StephenCitybeat @Sign2Music @BabySignVicki @babysigningmum @DrRosina @SueAtkins @savvywendy and @greeneggsnmoms who are lovely folk from the world of twitter have agreed to GUEST POST BLOG for me.

We have already had an amazing post from Deborah @braininsights begin this guest post blogging with an wonderful post about meeting our baby's needs (see HOPE FOR HAPPY HEALTHY CHILDREN).

So watch this space and get commenting on the blogs as they are posted!

Happy holidays to one and all and have the most amazing 2012!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

HOPE for happy, healthy children


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every child developed the ability to: deal with emotions in healthy ways, delay gratification, have empathy for others, and form positive relationships?

Sadly, there are many myths and misunderstandings that prevents this for many children. The critically important myth that needs to be completely dispelled is …… A baby is "spoiled" by responding to cries and meeting their expressed needs.

The wonderful news is, we have the knowledge of why this myth is not true. Research clearly provides this needed understanding.

THE TRUTH IS: Consistently meeting the needs of a baby is actually the opposite of spoiling.

Through repeatedly meeting a baby's physical and emotional needs, a baby is calmed and feels safe. Over time a baby begins to learn what to expect due to these repeated, predictable and positive experiences. So, having an attuned and loving caregiver who predictably meets a baby's emotional needs, leads to the overall healthy development all children deserve.

For real insights on this topic….Enjoy understanding this through a baby’s perspective!

Anna says………

“Good morning! I just woke up and see I am in my crib. I feel good after having all those hours of sleep. I can’t fully express that feeling yet, so I just coo a little to myself.
But wait… the feeling of contentment is beginning to fade. I am beginning to feel lonely in here all by myself. I am also beginning to feel wet and hungry. These sensations make me cry. I need someone to come and take care of this discomfort I am feeling.
When I cry, I have found that my mommy or daddy comes to me to see what they can do to meet my needs. This feels so good and comforting. I am completely helpless. I have to have someone take care of me!

See… I told you, here comes my daddy already. He looks like he is glad to see me. He smiles at me and says, “Good morning Little Sweetheart!”, as he walks into the room. (He calls me a lot of different names. It is fun to see which name he will call me each time). I stop crying right away, smile back and wave my arms and kick my legs in excitement. I am so glad he is here!

He picks me up and holds me. It feels so warm and secure in his arms. I feel so special when he looks at me and talks to me. He asks me if I slept good and if I want my diaper changed. I just continue to smile back at him.
Daddy lays me on the changing table and takes off the wet diaper. He continues to talk and then stops to make silly faces at me. It makes me laugh. We are having so much fun together. Because my daddy and I have times like this so frequently, it makes me know I am someone special.

The hungry feelings are getting stronger now. I start to cry a little again. Daddy says, “I know… You are hungry!” It is wonderful to have him so tuned into my needs. It sure makes me not cry and scream much.

Daddy carries me in to the other room. Oh…. I see Mommy! She is smiling and holding her arms out for me. I give her my biggest smile! I can hardly wait for her to hold me and give me a morning kiss. Because my brain is still very immature I do not have the ability to wait very long to get my needs met. But, due to Mommy and Daddy being so consistent in paying attention to what I need and then meeting them, I have already learned to calm myself a bit.

Mommy takes me, sits down, and positions herself. Because of the repetition of this process, I already know this is in preparation to feed me. I get so excited with the anticipation. It feels so warm and soothing to be fed and held at the same time. Mommy usually loves looking at me and caresses my hand while I eat. I feel so incredibly secure!
Not only does this feel wonderful, but I am excited to know that scientists have shown that what I am experiencing is having a positive impact on my developing brain. Research demonstrates that secure attachment can have an impact on my ability:
• to form healthy relationships with others
• to delay gratification
• to problem solve
• to have empathy for others
• to put up with the frustration of failure and have more patience
• to calm down from excitement
I may also:
• have a longer attention span
• be able to better manage physical reactions to emotions
• have an increased capacity for empathy
• feel less anxiety
• have greater skills in communicating emotions in healthy ways
• exhibit fewer behavioral problems
• have more confidence and a positive self-perception
• be less fearful
• have more willingness to explore and learn through challenges

I am such a fortunate baby to have all of this happening in my life. The thing that makes me very sad, is to know is this doesn’t happen for all babies. There are many babies that do not have their cries answered or have their needs met consistently. These babies become very fearful, distressed, frustrated, and hopeless. When this occurs repeatedly their emotional development remains “stuck” at this stage. When these babies grow up they will still have a focus on needing someone to care about them. Their stunted development will affect relationships and learning throughout their lives.

I really do not understand why all parents are not given this information at child birth classes. Do you? It could make such a difference if this were known by every parent. Is there anything you can do to help?
There is not much I can do from my crib, except to share my insights with you. But, I would love it if every baby could have the wonderful experiences I am having.... because every baby deserves it. I would really appreciate it if you would do what you can to take steps to ensure EVERY baby develops through having their needs met in a loving and consistent way.

Deborah McNelis, Owner, Brain Insights.
Deborah is an author, speaker, educator and parent. Her passion is to achieve the best possible outcome for all children and make brain development common knowledge.

As an Early Brain Development Specialist, Deborah is the award winning author of, The Brain Development Series. She has been seen in several publications, heard on numerous radio shows, and receives rave reviews for her enlightening and engaging presentations. Deborah is overjoyed with the response to all that her company provides due to her passion to create awareness of the critical importance of the early years.

In addition to the brain series she has also created a brain packet called Naturally Developing Young Brains. Deborah has additionally created the Love Your Baby App, a valuable newsletter, the Early Childhood Brain Insights blog, and the BRAIN Initiative. Her newest initiative helps entire communities, “Create Great Connections”. Her goal through this work is for everyone to gain an understanding of early brain development, it’s impact, and the ways we can all easily make a REAL difference.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Snowy Tuesday

Well here we go...we now have snow! Views from the house! Can you see my car anywhere? I think it's buried in the snow!