brain development

5 reasons not to walk your baby!

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5 Reasons not to walk your baby
Well lets just start by saying babies enjoy it right? They smile and coo when we help them get somewhere.
And plus, we should teach them and they need our help right?

  1. The truth is when it comes to motor development, babies are self learners. They are hard wired to go from lifting their head, to rolling, to creeping, to hands and knees crawling and finally upright walking. That is, if they get enough floor time to build strength, coordination and organization in their body.
  2. When we walk babies we make them less aware and give them a false sense of balance that they have not discovered on their own. They need to test those limits themselves when their bodies are ready.
  3. Balance is not attained if we help them, they learn by falling and getting back up again. This builds strength, body awareness and the coordination necessary for them to walk on their own, in their own time and in their own way.
  4. it creates an unnecessary dependence on you. Babies are learning to have their own agency with their bodies and learn independence.
  5. Saves your back! try doing this 20 times a day, leaning over....ouch. Your back will thank you!

When should I teach my baby to sit?

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Most babies learn to sit up independently between 6-8 months. There is a lot that needs to happen before this however. Your baby needs to be coming into good extension with their upper back in tummy time. Rolling should be well under way, back to front and front to back before you try sitting them. They need to develop upper body strength  coordination and overall body organization,  before sitting is attempted.


Ideally your baby learns how to sit on their own, without you "showing" them, this can happen after they learn to hands and knees crawl in some instances. What is important in babies learning to sit, is that we want them to know how they got into the sitting position, and we want them to know how to get out of it. Otherwise they are "stuck" there.

This is fun for them to be in an upright posture, interacting with us, however, if baby can't get out of the position, they are not learning about their own autonomy. What we are mapping in their body is actually stiffness! Yes, prolonged sitting can cause unnecessary stiffness in their shoulders and hips. Not only that, but when you take that baby who is used to sitting back down to tummy time it will be harder, they will protest!.
If you want them to learn about sitting, I like to practice with babies in what I call a "supported" sit. This is having them between your legs or on your legs if they are younger, and leaning against your body for support. See the picture above. That way they lean their back against you and don't have to stiffen in their joints (primarily their hips and shoulders) to keep themselves upright.

Come learn more about motor development, and have fun in my
Developmental Play With Babies class,

My kids being a rascal....or is he?

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Phew... It's normal!
I had a phone consult with a mom the other day. She was concerned about her son and his behaviors. We talked about each one of them in detail only to discover that what he was doing was not "naughty", in any way, but developmentally appropriate and normal at his age.
Yes, your 3 year old is…testing boundaries, saying no..a lot, throwing tantrums, saying a lot of “I do it” in one moment and “carry me” the next. This is normal!
Hearing this was very reassuring to this mom, and then we were able to speak about how she could support her son’s need for independence while still having clear boundaries for him.
This got me thinking... how many other parents are struggling with the same challenges, thinking their child’s behaviour needs to be “stopped, or changed” but not realizing that it may be developmentally appropriate?
According to the research I read, about half of parents believe that children are capable of self-control and other developmental milestones much earlier than they actually are.

Here are 3 behaviours that are just your kid being a kid…

  1. Kids don’t have a lot of control over impulses, especially in toddler hood. The part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) that where we learn to control our impulses doesn't fully mature until we reach the age of 25.
  2. They can't curb their big feelings. We as adults have learned to do that, we can suppress big feelings, hide them, pretend we are okay when we are actually hurt on the inside. We have developed all kinds of compensation patterns and ways of defending our tender hearts. Kids just let it out, we can learn from their unfettered emotions!
  3. Kids are hard wired to play...and move their bodies. This could look to you like they are misbehaving by constantly moving when you are trying to put their shoes on, or smearing their breakfast all over their face. Truth is, they are just being kids....They have a developmental need for unstructured play (which is how our brains learn), and its how they make sense of the world and integrate their experiences.

So, the next time your kid throws themselves on the floor with a meltdown over something seemingly insignificant in your eyes, or runs away from you wanting a game of chase when you are trying to brush their teeth, just remember.."they are not being naughty, or bratty", they are fulfilling nature's plan, and that is to be a kid and make everything a game.
Try joining them in their play, you may just connect with them, and it will probably make those tasks that need to get done happen a little easier!
 

3 Ways to support true independence in your child

3 Ways to support true independence in your child

 

1.     Encourage their dependence early on. While this may seem counter intuitive, it is the paradox of parenting. We are born extremely dependent on our caregivers to take care of us and fill our needs. The fact is that caregivers who habitually respond to the needs of the baby before the baby gets distressed, preventing crying, are more likely to have children who are independent than the opposite (e.g., Stein & Newcomb, 1994).

Once we have allowed them to depend on us in every way, and filled their cup over and over and over, they will very naturally start to want to do things on their own. “Me do it myself!” is inevitable and it is nature’s way. It’s built into our biology. But first they must be able to rest in our love, rest in being taken fully taken care of.

2.     Trust them: We need to trust our children in their entirety. Trust that they will find their way given the right conditions. When we grow lettuce in our garden from seed, we trust that if we give it the proper soil conditions, the right placement of sun, enough water and love, it will grow into its fullness. We need to learn to trust their failures and successes, their weaknesses and their strengths, their “ugly” emotions and their beautiful ones. We trust they will find their way through it all with support and guidance from us. We can’t “teach” independence, only provide the proper conditions for it to unfold at the right time developmentally.

3.     Know when to back off: It is our job to keep our children safe and protected, but as your child gets older we can invite healthy risk taking. Maybe you refrain from swooping in every time they hurt themselves. Hang back a bit and wait. They might get up on their own and brush themselves off. When we rescue too quickly we deny them the opportunity to see if they can navigate a situation that has some challenge. Let them take risks, how else do they learn what they are capable of, and what the edges are for them? When they do something risky like climb a tree for the first time without us hovering; "I just did that all by myself!",  it builds a sense of confidence and healthy esteem.

When we can do our best to meet their needs, we create an environment of dependence. This creates a feeling of safety, trust and security. This is the secure base from which dependence is outgrown. We need to trust our children and nature's plan. They are developmentally hardwired to naturally move into independence in their own time, in their own way.

 

 

 

 

 

Redefining Discipline

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We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in parenting, to switch from power over to power with.

Much of how we were parented and certainly how our parents were raised to be "seen and not heard" is now starting to change. The traditional approach to discipline has been trying to control our child's 'bad' behaviour and simply make it stop at whatever cost. This is where time-outs, rewards, punishments, and consequences come in. Unfortunately these outdated methods often cause more upset and disconnection. There are 2 reasons why children act out: one is normal child development, and the other is disconnect. Knowing this can be helpful in times of distress. For example, your 2 year old may not be deliberately disobeying you, he may just be doing what a 2 year old is wired to do, explore his environment even though you have told him specifically not to touch something.
Time-outs and punishments may temporarily stop the 'bad behaviour', but have we done anything to help them learn, regulate or do better next time? The answer is no.

What we have done is used fear, emotional and social isolation, and created more disconnection with our children. This will undoubtedly ramp up the undesirable behaviour.

So, if discipline isn't about stopping the behaviour, what is it about? It is about connecting with your child in their time of need.  It's about supporting them by helping them regulate and calm, and then perhaps later seeking a 'teachable moment'  where we can talk about suitable behaviour when their brain is actually able to hear us and take it in.

What we now know through the latest in developmental science is that children aren't capable of much self control (especially in the early years up to 5) because their prefrontal cortex is very immature. They may intend to do better, but the reality is that they are still impulsive and can't self regulate.

Discipline with Connection
As you know, your baby, toddler, child is completely dependent on you for their health and well being. They are also dependent on you for their emotional well being. As their brain grows from the bottom up, their emotional safety is paramount to their development. Your child's greatest fear is loss of connectedness with you.

All challenging behaviors arise from a state of stress, so helping them to cycle into a calm when they are acting out, emotionally upset or physically hurt is key. This helps their brain and nervous system mature, and their stress response centers in their brains become increasingly capable of "self regulation". Over time, with lots of repetition and modelling, these behaviors will lessen as they develop.

3 ways you can support your child when they are presenting a challenging behaviour:
1
. Acknowledge the feelings: "I see you are having a really hard time with this, you seem angry with mommy because I took your toy away".
2. Be present with them: and stay connected to yourself, your breath, feel your own feet on the ground
3. Be kind but firm: state the limit, but stay connected. " I can't let you hit the cat sweetheart", and inside yourself you are saying and I'm still here with you.

If you are looking for extra parenting support, don't hesitate to email me for a private consult
Email: bonnie@familycontinuum.com




 

To Sit or Not to Sit

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To sit or not to sit, that is the question.

Babies spines are C-curved when they are born. As they start to develop muscle control, strength and organization in their bodies (and spend lots of time on the floor), they develop a cervical curve and eventually when they creep and crawl a lumbar curve.

How can we support this? Floor time Floor time Floor time!

By giving babies lots of time on the floor to explore their bodies particularly on their bellies, they start to gain muscle control, learn how to right themselves, learn balance and coordination. and this is what facilitates normal motor development in the first year of life.

Why not sit your babies?

When we sit babies before they are ready, we put unnecessary strain on the spine, we cause stiffness in babies joints, and put babies in a position they can't get out of unless they fall over. It renders them helpless, and unable to actively engage in their environment, and does not support them to have physical confidence or a sense of security. We put them at risk also of delaying or skipping major developmental milestones such as crawling.

What can I do instead?

  • Give baby lots of floor time
  • Wear your baby
  • Practice supported sitting with your baby in your lap leaning up against your belly, so they don't have to hold themselves upright.
  • Do nothing! trust their innate desire to move.
I believe in giving your baby a safe space in which to play and letting her move freely and develop on her own without assisting her. Refrain from propping her up to sit or helping her roll over. She has an innate desire to move through these developmental sequences and has inborn knowledge of how to do it in a way that is ‘right’ for her. She does this at her own pace and she gets pleasure from doing it.
— Magda Gerber

Here is a video showing a baby's wonderful movement discoveries if left to figure it out on their own!

How Can I Be Aware of Overstimulating My Baby?

Humans babies are born premature compared to all other mammalian species. If we gestated for the same amount that most other primates do, we would be in the womb for 18 months, ouch!

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What is important about this, is that babies are born with primitive nervous systems. They are born essentially still needing womb time. Which is why it's so important to have your baby skin to skin, and being held as much as possible for the first few months.

What does this have to do with babies being overstimulated? babies nervous systems are extremely primitive when they first come to the outside, and they need us to slow down to their pace, which is much slower than our adult pace. When things go too fast for a baby, and they can't integrate what is coming into their field, they get overwhelmed and often this follows with them falling asleep. Its one of their defenses to overstimulation.

How can we tell our baby is over stimulated? 

Generally baby will respond behaviourally in the ways, I call it the 3 S's. Spacing out, switching off and shutting down. A baby who is overstimulated might look away from you (spacing out). If you continue to engage they might turn away again and again and also turn their body away( switching off), and then eventually if the overstimulation persists they will start to yawn, look sleepy and often fall asleep (shutting down).

Signs of overstimulation in your baby:

  • averting their gaze (looking away)
  • general tired, cranky, fussiness
  • spreading fingers and toes, or making fists
  • bringing her hands in front of her face
  • crying
  • skin colour changes from normal to pale or blotchy or red
  • changes in body movement from smooth movements to jerks and tremors
  • breathing quickens
  • yawning, sneezing
  • start sucking their fingers or thumb
  • fall asleep (late stage of overstimulation)

What to do about it?

  • reduce the stimulation
  • take them to a quiet dimly lit room
  • stop talking
  • put them in a carrier if you are out
  • go outside
  • swaddle, rock your baby
  • encourage sucking of some kind as this is comforting to your baby (breastfeed, use your finger, pacifier)

Only you know your baby, as you watch the signs you will get to know the signatures of how your baby lets you know they have had enough.