June 28, 2017

Infant Sleep Issues

There are several popular methods used to help babies learn to put themselves to sleep.  The goal for any parent should be to learn about the various methods and then choose for oneself, what fits for them.  However, what usually happens is that we default to the way we were raised, looking to our parents for advice on what to do with our babies.  Or, we hear from friends about how their baby is sleeping through the night and wonder what we’re doing wrong.  The key is to know what method they are trying and make an educated decision about whether or not that method is right for you.  Whichever method you choose, it’s important to research it’s origins and it’s immediate AND long term effects on children and parents.

The topic of attachment and bonding vs. Babywise or “Ferberizing”, is HUGELY controversial.  I don’t think that I’ve ever seen mothers become so heated about any other topic.  It can be very divisive and hurtful to relationships.  I have friends who disagree with my views, as I with theirs, but we can choose to respect each other as people.  I realize that there are people who choose alternative parenting styles.  And that what may fit for me and my family is not necessary a good fit for another.  I firmly believe that in matters of such importance, one should be willing to look at the information available and make an educated decision.  So, I’ve tried to list varied sides of issues, where applicable.

For a thorough review of infant sleep research see:

Parenting Science

Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory

Zero to Three

www.infantsleep.org


Sleep Methods

Dr. Sears is a world renowned pediatrition.  He has a tremendous website that will walk you through how to find a sleeping routine that works for you and your child.  I highly recommend his site if you and your child are having sleep difficulties.

Gary Ezzo created Babywise and Growing Families International.  Although Babywise has become a popular method used for training your baby to sleep through the night, there is extreme controversy surrounding Ezzo and the methods he proposes.  If you are considering using Babywise or Growing Kids God’s Way, PLEASE READ this website, before making your decision.

Click Here to read about the controversy surrounding Ezzo.

Dr. Richard Ferber – Dr. Ferber has been known as the sleeping expert.  Although he once promoted letting your baby “cry it out”, his new book suggests other alternative methods.  And he has also changed his view on co-sleeping.  He was once firmly opposed to it and now has written that it can be a good option for families.  If you plan to read his book, please find a revised one.

 

Is it time for a time out for time out?

My goal in writing this is not to say one more thing that we can’t do. Rather, it’s to show that we often take a good tool and generalize it in ways that may not be it’s best use. In taking the time to learn about child development, we can offer discipline to our children that will benefit them at their specific age.

Why do we adults take time outs? We do this to regain our composure. We sometimes need to take a break so that we don’t say or do anything we’ll regret later. When we use this as a punishment, it’s not teaching a child how to take time out on their own for this purpose.  As we teach them to take a time out to calm, and we help them learn how to do this, they will be better able as adults to know when they really need to take a time out.

Time out has become a main form of discipline. As a society who has embraced the value of putting an end to corporal punishment, we see time out as a better option than spanking. That being said, I realize not all feel this way about spanking. But the powers that be, the American Academy of Pediatrics, has long stated that spanking is not effective in changing a child’s behavior and recommends other forms of discipline, such as time outs. And recently a study by Tulane University presented evidence that children who were spanked were more likely to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, get frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against others. So, most American’s are choosing not to spank.

Instead we have opted to send our children to their rooms to “think about their behavior”, or simply as punishment for negative behavior. We demand that they be calm before they can again interact with the family. There can be benefit to this.  As our kids get older and learn how to take time to calm when needed, this can be a great tool for them.  However, if you have a child under 5, this often turns into a huge power struggle. Why?  Because developmentally a time out in the bedroom, or away from parent, is very difficult for a child of that young age.

Their ability to regulate their emotions is learned mostly during their first years of life. From ages 1-3 a child’s brain will grow to 90% of it’s adult size! In the first year a child’s brain grows from 25% to 75%! During this year the main thing we do is to meet their needs. During the second year, the main goal still includes meeting needs, and setting limits for wants. When the child cries because of a want, our job is to maintain the limit, while helping them to calm. We can do this with empathy and with the same type of calming we did when they were an infant….holding, rocking, soothing, etc.  This is often called a time-in instead of a time-out.  Research shows that children before the age of 3-5 are not able to regulate their emotions on their own. So they often act out simply because they do not know how to regulate their emotions and don’t yet have tools to express themselves. It is our job to teach them (and their bodies) how to do this, not send them away to do it alone, when they don’t know how.

Once again, this is not one more thing that we cannot do.  But it’s important to be aware that there may be many different ways to handle each situation rather than taking one idea and applying it to everything.

 

Repairing Relationship Ruptures

rupture

What is a “relationship rupture”?  Having miscommunication, conflict, and even misunderstandings…. anything that causes a disruption or disconnect in a relationship is a “rupture”.

So, why is this important?  Well, studies show it’s not as important as the repair that can occur afterwards.

In a 2010 study, where they looked at differences in high-risk vs. low-risk families for child maltreatment, they found no differences in the rates of relationship ruptures…….NO DIFFERENCE!   Research shows that ruptures are common in healthy families too, with well-functioning families only showing positive interactions less than 50% of the time.  Tronick stated that brief periods of parent-child rupture which are then repaired are necessary for healthy relationship skill development.  And in the above mentioned study, the differences they did find were in the repair.  In the high-risk families, the parent did not initiate repair, as opposed to the low-risk parent who did.

This is extremely exciting news for me.  It says that I don’t have to be perfect!  I don’t have to get it right all the time.  I, like most of you, want to parent well.  However, I often don’t.  I spend time on my electronics when I should be paying attention to my kids.  I get grumpy, especially after 8:00pm.  And I just, often, blow it.  But when I do, these studies remind me that I can come back and repair the rupture.  I can model making a mistake, apologizing and taking responsibility for my actions.  So if you find yourself in a “rupture”, don’t end it there.  Go back and make it right!  You can do it!  And it will make a HUGE difference for your child.

2008_1114_shutterstock_holding_hands_child

 

Gianino A, Tronick E. The mutual regulation model: The infant’s self and interactive regulation coping and defense. In: Field T, McCabe P, Schneiderman N, editors. Stress and coping. Hillsdale, N J: Erlbaum; 1988. pp. 47–68.

Harrist AW, Waugh RM. Dyadic synchrony: Its structure and function in children’s development. Developmental Review. 2002;22:555–592.

 Tronick EZ, Review Emotions and emotional communication in infants.  Am Psychol. 1989 Feb; 44(2):112-9.

 

 

 

 

 

Nurturing vs. Spoiling

Research is clear that it is imperative that infants receive nurture, warm touch, comfort, calm words, face time/eye contact and the constant meeting of all of their physical and emotional needs.  And we know that the second year of the attachment phase brings on the need to set limits.  The complete attachment process includes both, nurture and limits.  And, these are the same needs they continue to have as they get older……

I often hear people confuse nurture for “spoiling”.  As a quick side note, I want to say I hate the word “spoiling”, however, this is the word our society is accustomed to, so I will use it here.  We feel like if we nurture too much, then we will are in danger of “spoiling” our child.  It is important to distinguish between nurturing and “spoiling”, as they are two very different things.  We can nurture  without “spoiling”.  And unfortunately I have seen many kids, you might consider “spoiled” who have had very little nurture.

So, what is the difference?

Nurturing activities include:

  • Meeting needs
  • Time spent together doing something you both enjoy
  • Introducing them to something you enjoy
  • Doing something that is of special interest to them
  • Engaging in nurturing touch, massage, hugs, and just holding hands (often for dads, this includes playful, physical wrestling)
  • Verbal affirmations, noticing who they are, highlighting their strengths and protecting their weaknesses
  • Laughing together
  • Playing games that include touch, eye  contact, showing your protective strength
  • Setting limits and helping them calm and learn to accept the word “no”
  • Becoming attuned to them, learning how they feel loved and then engaging in those activities

Spoiling:

  • Giving in to their demands when they are whining or having a “fit”
  • Giving them gifts rather than time and attention
  • Not setting appropriate limits and allowing them to hear “no”

You see, our children need all of their needs met.  They need to be loved and heard and taught and delighted in….  And they need us to have firm limits.  They need to learn delayed gratification, etc.  They need to be able to hear and accept a “no”.  We can nurture, nurture, nurture and at the same time comfort and walk with them through the limits, consequences and hard things that come.  Nurturing them and setting limits greatly ups the odds that they will not become that “spoiled” child that you don’t want them to be.

 

Kids and Horses Both Need to Feel Safe

Parenting is a lot like caring for horses. As I was out amongst the horses today, I had a few thoughts…… I am in awe of all of the experiences I have with horses. They are remarkable creatures that connect on another level, another dimension even. I have never left an encounter with them not being deeply effected. They respond to our bodies, thoughts and emotions more than they do our words. They know when we are sincere or when we are lying to them. And they know when we are congruent, meaning when our outward behavior matches our inward feelings. Because they are prey animals they have heightened senses to keep them safe from predators who may want to eat them. I am not sure how their brains are wired differently than predators. But clearly their awareness of their surroundings is beyond what we can even imagine.

Fear is universal, an amazing integral system keeping creatures from harm.  Our brain uses several parts to assess danger and create a response. Our thalamus decides where to send incoming information. Next, our amygdala decodes emotions and determines possible threat. If there’s no threat, our sensory cortex interprets the information. And then our hippocampus stores and retrieves conscious memories and processes the stimuli (event) to establish context. However, if it is a threat, or even feels like a threat due to prior trauma, the amygdala will set off an alarm. This then alerts the hypothalamus, which activates the “freeze” response and then decides quickly to “fight” or “flight” (run away). The traumatic event and/or this new event is then stored in the amygdala instead of making all of the other connections. Kids and adults with complex trauma develop a heightened fear response due to how these memories are processed and stored.

Ok, so what does this have to do with parenting? When I first developed my parenting curriculum, it was geared towards those parents who were caring for children with complex trauma. They needed to understand what had happened in their child’s brain. And that what a non-traumatized child can handle, theirs probably cannot.   This curriculum was based off of the plethora of neurodevelopmental research that has been made available over the last several decades and then refined to fit the vocabulary of parents. As I began to teach this class on a regular basis I was practicing most of it on my own children who were mostly untouched by trauma, and it was working well for them too. It created deep connection between us and helped them especially during times of fear to become calm enough to process whatever behavior or heart issue we might be dealing with.

Even if not traumatized, we all experience fear. And when we are in a state of fear, the brain switches to the amygdala and shuts off our other systems. Therefore, when we parent out of fear, either in ourselves or parenting in a way that creates fear in our child, we are dealing with a more primitive part of their brain and the parts we want to engage are not available at that moment. With this in mind, I created a protocol for handling discipline issues using the big C’s. This stands for Calm, Connect and then Correction and/or Consequence. Kids must feel safe to get out of their fear brain enough to hear us or learn anything. So the first thing we do is help them calm. We can hold them, rock them, ask them to find a safe place to do calming things, breathe, meditate, etc. This is NOT a time out as most use it, rather, it is a calming time. Then we connect. We remind them that we are on their side. We let them know that we make mistakes too. We can share a similar experience we had as a child. We can talk about their feelings, or our own feelings. Then, and only then, with their brain at a functional level, we can discuss any correction they need to make or a consequence that will occur as a result of their behavior.

As prey, it’s likely horses are always working mostly from the fear brain or the amygdala. We can then understand that we need to interact with them in a way that helps them to feel safe. So, we approach them calmly….. if they are agitated, we help them calm or give them space to calm on their own. Then we connect. And through our actions and our heart, we let them know that we are safe and loving people. When I trained in Theraplay, which is specifically geared towards kids with attachment trauma, I loved this mantra. They would say, “Always be Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind.” I find this to fit in my parenting and in my interaction with horses. Being a safe person is being gentle, and being firm when necessary…..being fair. Both kids and horses are comforted when we are safe people. We communicate to them, “You are safe with me”…. “I won’t let you be harmed and I won’t let you harm others”…… “I will do all in my power to not let bad things happen on my watch”. We must always be Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind. Keep in mind that this is from work with younger children. But even with older children, although we may allow more freedoms, they must still know we are “Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind.”

My kids feel safe with me because they have had millions of interactions since birth that have created pathways in their brain that say so. This cushions them for those moments I make mistakes or react out of fear. They know that mom always comes back and apologizes and will help make repair for the hurt I’ve caused. And that my desire is to make decisions that are in their best interest. On the other hand, kids who have been wounded by their parents or others will be very guarded because they have wiring that was developed through fear experiences. They are then wired that way. So, when we receive a child who has this background, we understand that it will take a long time of interactions with us before their brain creates a strong pathway of safety. If their trauma pathways are like superhighways, our early interaction will be just a little dirt path. It takes a long time to create another superhighway that says safety, and to close the other road down…. A long time….. Therapy and especially therapies like EMDR can greatly help speed and grow this process. I wonder if this is similar to the process we need to have with a traumatized horse.

Another thing that comes to mind is that part of raising our kids and being with a horse is that we become attuned. This is part of the attachment process. As kids and horses have safe experiences with us, we also begin to attune to who they are, and what they need. Through bonding and attachment with our children, we parents become attuned. We then can parent each unique child based on who they were created to be, because we begin to understand their distinct needs. We also then begin to see what areas they might need growth in and how best to go about that training for them. We see their heart and connect on a deeper level. Can you see how this applies to horses too? They also need to know we are “Big, Strong, Wise and Kind”. We need to bond with them too, and through that attachment process we will attune to them and they will learn to trust us. Attachment can be healthy or unhealthy. It’s not a matter of attached or not attached, it’s what kind of attachments we create. With my kids, my horses and even with others, my hope is to have healthy attachments where I am seen as a safe human who chooses connection with them, seeks to learn about and know them and chooses to love them well.

 

 

 

Parenting with Integrity Handouts

attachment

Parenting without Fear

Connecting Discipline

Parent Self-Care

Tool-Box

DeAnna Web Cast Page

Dysregulation

The Still Face Experiment

This is called the “still face” video.  It is very interesting and although this is a young child, this video shows the importance of parents being connected and attuned and a great example of a child who becomes “dysregulated”.  Often times we parents assume our child is just fussy or “having a fit”, when what they need is our connection and they just don’t know how to tell us.

Scripture-Based Class Handouts

Attachment

Parenting without Fear

Connecting Discipline

Parent Self-Care

Tool-Box

 

Give your kids chewing gum, especially when they are doing homework!

This study is one many that has shown the helpful effects of chewing gum. Of course, I think this should be sugar-free gum. And other research shows the benefit of gum that contains xylitol to strengthen our teeth.

Gum Chewing Study
Xylitol Study

But just the act of chewing gum helps us and our kids to organize our thoughts better.  In this study by Andrew Scholey, in 2008, revealed that “chewing gum was associated with higher alertness, reduced anxiety and stress, and improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.”

So, add gum to your and your child’s tool box!