connection

How To Raise Helpful Kids!

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How To Raise Helpful Kids!

We all want our kids to be helpful and kind. Children and even babies can naturally be that way. Studies with babies under 12 months show that they notice when others are frustrated and can respond with help. Check out this video!

So, if our little ones do this naturally, what happens when we try and encourage kids to be helpful with some kind of coercion or reward?

Many studies starting from toddlers into school age children show that giving rewards or some kind of manipulation in behavior are rarely successful at producing children that are 'more helpful'. Instead it tends to produce the opposite effect.  They tend to lose interest and motivation.

So, what can we do to support our kids natural intrinsic motivation to be helpful and kind?

  • model, model, model: the behaviors we would like to see in our children. Kids don’t learn things by what we tell them, instead they learn by watching us, how we interact with others, and how we engage in the world.
  • secure emotional attachment: supporting responsive, consistent care giving with warmth, trust and connection.
  • emotional coaching: helps kids learn what is appropriate, how to care for others, and how to regulate their own more challenging emotions. This naturally translates to an intrinsic capacity to be helpful with others.
     

Good values in our children have to be grown from the inside out. When we model those values in our home in combination with safety, warmth and connection, we support them to become helpful, empathetic, caring children that springs from inside their naturally kind hearts.

The Myth of Self Soothing

The Myth of Self Soothing

I'm sure you have heard these words, "you need to teach your baby how to self soothe, you can't go to them every time they cry, they need to learn this skill early..."
Lets start with what we mean by self soothing. I define it as ‘the ability to calm one's self when faced with a stressful situation, or when in a state of high arousal”.
The capacity to calm ourselves down when we get upset is a pretty sophisticated autonomic nervous system response that requires us to be developmentally ready for. We are designed to regulate through others (co-regulation), this is something we learn from the adults around us. Babies are literally incapable of calming themselves, and to expect them to is unfair and developmentally inappropriate. Can they suck on their hand or thumb and hold off on crying while we do our best to get to them? YES! This is rudimentary self soothing, but once they have started crying and have reached a place of distress, can we expect them to calm themselves down? NO.
Well okay, but can we teach them to self soothe? NO. Why not? because their brains are not ready, they are incapable of this in the early years. They need their neocortex (which develops very slowly over a period of many years), to be able to rationalize, think about something logically and calm ourselves down. Babies and toddlers are operating largely from the subcortical centers of their brain, the brainstem and the limbic system. When in a stressful situation, these lower centers of the baby's/toddlers brain go into a primal survival response commonly known as fight/flight/freeze. For a baby, this looks like crying, screaming, getting mad, then getting hysterical. In nervous system terms, they are in a sympathetic response of high arousal, and once they have gone there, they cannot calm themselves down. It is critical that we step in and support them in this place. Why? because if we don't, they will eventually go into parasympathetic freeze state, otherwise known as withdrawal sleep. For many parents who hire sleep trainers, that involve CIO methods, this is what happens to the babies and by all intents and purposes, the parent may feel the sleep training is a success! "My baby stopped crying on her own! I've taught her how to self soothe". This could not be further from the truth. Your baby's nervous system has gone into a shut down mode, which is a dissociative state for their very survival.
Can this be harmful to them? YES. Why? because the stress hormones that are released from distressed crying, destroy nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain and if repeated, can alter their brain structure and responses to stress into adulthood.
What have you taught your baby if you leave them to cry?
That when they really need you, you will not be there for them. Given that building trust (reliability) and establishing communication, which are intertwined, are the hallmarks of healthy infant mental development, it seems unwise to use a method that compromises both.
Self soothing is a behavior that develops once the child’s brain is ready for this. It can’t be rushed.
What can you do to help? Nurture your baby, respond to their needs, let them know you are there. The irony is that when you do this, you are supporting them to be able to eventually develop this skill later in life.

If this article interested you, and you'd like to learn more, come to my sleep seminar and learn how to cultivate healthy sleep habits without damaging your child.

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