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The Reason Every Kid Should Talk Back to Their Parents

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The parent in me wants to squash every little insurrection as quickly as possible. But the psychologist in me is glad when my children say “No.” This is why…

Sunlight is dawning across the living room floor, and the dollhouse is full of Lego Star Wars action figures. They’re sleeping in beds, sitting on toilets, cooking breakfast, and one rogue Jedi is standing on the roof. On an early autumn morning, my daughter and I play dollhouse as the rest of the household slumbers.


Her older brother wakes up, walks into the room rubbing his eyes clear, and sees his new birthday presents defiled by a dollhouse. A look of horror takes over his face—like his dog is lying dead in the road—and he pushes past us to snatch up his action figures.


I hold out my hand and try to be patient. “Give them to me.”

He looks at me, and his horror becomes an oppositional “No!”

The parent in me feels like a failure because I’m not being respected. The parent in me gets angry because I feel out of control and I’m supposed to be “in charge.” And the human in me feels just plain sad, because the morning just got a whole lot harder.

But the psychologist in me is secretly thrilled he said “No.”

Because the inability to say “No”—the inability to set personal boundaries—is one of the most common, insidious causes of human suffering.

When we can’t say “No:”
we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die,

- we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die,

- we begin to live our lives according to the forceful should of others, rather than the whispered, passionate want of our own hearts,

- we let everyone else tell us what story to live and we cease to be the author of our own lives,

- we lose our voice—we lose the desire planted in our souls and the very unique way in which we might live out that desire in the world,

- we get used by the world instead of being useful in the world,

- we give in to the pressure of a friend and we drink and drive and we endanger lives,

- we cave in to a persuasive boyfriend and we end up pregnant,

- we get taken in by a sales pitch and we bury ourselves in oppressive debt,

- we get abused by a boss and end up with long hours at work and a short fuse at home,

- we cater to our kids’ every need and we begin to resent their demands and we fantasize about a deserted island in the Caribbean,

- we submit to unhealthy partners and they keep drinking or working or gambling or flirting and we end up in the backseat of our own lives.


There is no end to the ways our lives are diminished by our inability to say “No.” And when a client of mine is being wrecked by porous boundaries, I will often ask this question: “How did your parents respond when you said ‘No’ as a child?” And I will almost always hear this answer: “Oh, you wouldn’t dare say ‘No’ to my parents.”


So, on an early autumn morning, I’m faced with a decision. Do I squash this little rebellion? Raise my voice? Demand that he share? Threaten something? Threaten anything? Or do I take a deep breath and remember the reason it is sometimes good to say “yes” to the word “no:”


Our families are where we first learn how to say “No” in a safe, supportive environment. If we don’t learn to do so there, we won’t learn to do so anywhere. If our children can’t say “No” to us, they won’t say it to anyone.


When my son is offered a bunch of pills or my daughter is offered the backseat of a car, I want my kids to have had a lot of practice at saying “No.” Someday, there will be more at stake than a bunch of Lego action figures and, by then, I want them to know their worth isn’t jeopardized one iota when they don’t give themselves away to everyone around them.


I want them to know their voice matters.


I want them to know they are the author of their own story.


Do children need to learn to set boundaries assertively rather than aggressively? Yes. Do they need to learn the art of compromise? Definitely. Do they need to learn to wisely choose moments of submission? Absolutely.


But all of that learning begins with a “No.”


Because the truth is, you can’t truly say “Yes” until you can say “No.” We need to know we have a choice in life. The freedom to say “No” is the very beginning of our ability to say “Yes.” To ourselves. To life. And to love.


So, on an early autumn morning, I can come down on him, or I can bend down to him. Some days the “parent” in me wins. And I think that’s alright. Sometimes our kids need a parent who won’t bend. But on this particular day I bend, because I figure anyone who looks like his dog just died may have a little more to say.


And what does my “obstinate” son have to say?


“Dad, they’re mine and I get to decide if she can play with them.” As he picks out several of his new action figures to return to his sister.


A kid in charge of his own sharing and giving. A “No” that reminds me it’s good to ask before you take. A “No” that teaches me his heart is young and restless and messy, but also full of charity. A “No” that lays the foundation for an authentic “Yes.”


Because, in the end, we can’t truly say “Yes” to our own voice and the language of love it is speaking, until we’ve been allowed to say “No” to the voices all around us.


Which is why, more and more, I’m happy to say “Yes” to the word “No.”

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a clinical psychologist and a writer. He is married with three children, and enjoys reading and learning from his children how to be a kid again.


Tags:  child development  parenting 

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Five Ways to Keep Cool During Holiday Tantrums

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holidays are a mixed blessing. On one hand, we have generosity, friendly faces, gifts, great food, community engagement and more family time. On the other hand, holiday times are packed full of distractions, stimulating music, money demands, sugary food, expectations to be cheerful and lots of social events.


Along with the excitement  may come a spinning head, frustration and tiredness. This can be even more difficult with small children and sensitive kiddos. The extra hype needs some redirection, containment and plain ole’ patience. Below are some tips for how to prepare, deal in the moment of overwhelm and how to recover.

1. Anticipate it.

Listen, we would all love to get through the holidays without any extra drama. The holidays do offer a lot of special times -- and I don’t mean to detract from any of the warmth, love or generosity of the holiday season. However, sometimes an overly cheerful outlook makes the upsets feel that much more disappointing. Measure your experience against the imagined expectation can lead to making the upsets worse than they are.

If your child has a hard time with late nights, a loose schedule or meeting a lot of people, it can be helpful to acknowledge this prior to going to a party. It may be helpful to make a plan, but don’t expect the plan to work 100%. Speak to your child about the potential that they might get tired, overwhelmed, scared or frustrated and consider some ways to take a break before the melt down happens. Maybe you can have a tag-team agreement with other caregivers, and take turns in “reboot time” with your child. This holiday give your child/children and yourself some space for unexpected meltdowns by anticipating they will happen.

2. Wait. This too Shall Pass.  

When your child starts throwing the sugar cookies on the floor, shrieking and pulling at your dress, you may be tempted to end that tantrum, then and there. The challenge is that when we try to get it under control, it often makes it worse. Perhaps take a deep breath and remind yourself this child is acting how most kids would in an overwhelming situation. Don’t add fuel to the fire by yelling back.


Take a deep breath and give some firm and supportive physical contact sending the message that you hear the tantrum loud and clear. Perhaps redirect the child into a different room after a minute has passed, and let the child know you are going to help them contain these feelings rather then try to force the feelings away.

3. Validate it.  

Let your child know you feel their pain. Perhaps put yourself in their shoes and say something like, “I understand you are angry or sad.” It is helpful to remind your child that you are there to help. Maybe that means you hold your child, maybe that means you walk to a different area or simply redirect them to a toy or something funny.

4. Have a recovery method.

All kids need methods to soothe and recover from too much stimulation. These tools can be identified and utilized preventatively as well as once your child has become overwhelmed. Maybe you can set reminders on your phone to take your child into a quiet room for a break away from the crowd and noise. Perhaps your child will spend most of the time in a room alone and take breaks by meeting people and having snacks for a limited amount of time. Bring some soothing music, a book, stuffed animals, a beverage and any other calming tools. Often taking space away from the crowd, with a caregiver, can provide relief for a child that is easily overwhelmed by too much going on around them.

5. Parents set the rhythm.

Remember that as the parent, you know your child best. Be reasonable when making holiday plans. Assess what is best for you and your family and what you are willing to put up with.

There is a lot of pressure to be ONLY cheerful during the holiday season. It is possible that forcing too much cheerfulness may backfire. Allow yourself to turn down some of the holiday busy-ness if it doesn’t work for you. Listen for cues from your kids, but ultimately remember you are the one setting the pace and enforcing the break times and schedule. So allow for the holiday spirit to be alive -- full of love laughter and tears.

Find out more about Esther Krohner here.


Tags:  child development 

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8 Steps for Dealing with Challenging Behaviors

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Updated: Sunday, November 27, 2016

Parenthood is an exciting journey and constantly offers caregivers an opportunity to grow and learn. On the other hand, as parents we all face complex situations such as managing children’s challenging behaviors. The underlying simple truth is that children go through various developmental stages and, depending on character and temperament, react differently when facing change or upset. One of the major reasons for children’s challenging behaviors is their inability to express their true feelings, which often results in tantrums. Depending on the nature of the change, a child might interpret the information around him or her as dangerous or stressful. For example, a 10-month-old can be engaged in and enjoy the game of peek-a-boo because she understands the concept of object permanence. However, a 3-month-old interprets the absence of an object as “out of sight, out of reach” and might cry if a favorite toy is hidden. Based on Jean Piaget’s theory of object permanence, infants only start to develop the understanding of looking for a “hidden” object  at about 8  months of age (Berger, 1998), which explains the reactions of a 10-month-old versus those of a 3-month-old.

As parents we can help children to cope with change by providing age-appropriate support, teaching proper ways to communicate needs, and redirecting behaviors. We always need resources and quick and easy tips, which can be applied during challenging circumstances. Some of the key concepts for managing challenging behaviors are listed below. If used properly, these ideas can eventually turn a tearful child to cheerful one!

1. Stay calm.
The first step in dealing with a challenging behavior is to look calm. A parent who expresses anger and frustration, even unintentionally, can generate fear and anxiety in the child and possibly escalate an already-chaotic situation. Keep in mind that your child’s emotional reaction is rooted in some type of an unmet need; the calmer you are, the easier it will be for you to recognize the need and find the best way to respond to it. Modeling composure while facing a disordered situation can help strip away a child’s anxiety and nurture a sense of safety and reassurance.

2. Give clear and positive instructions.
Keep in mind that children need to know exactly what your expectations are and that they respond more effectively to positive statements even when they are upset. For example, if you are concerned that your 3-year-old might be too upset to be left alone in his room with the door shut, you can calmly and clearly communicate your positive request: “Please keep the door open” versus “Don’t close the door.”

3. Be consistent.
Consistency is the key element to shaping a new behavior in children; because of the level of commitment it requires, it is often one of the most difficult tasks for parents to adhere to. Keep in mind that children learn more from your modeling than from your telling. For example, if you would like to replace TV time with reading right before your son goes to bed, you need to demonstrate your commitment to consistency by avoiding distractions (even your work-related conference calls) right before his bed time. Keep in mind that your commitment is only the first step. Children react to change, and your son might not be pleased with a demand that results in a change of routine. He may respond with anger, resistance or frustration. However, your consistent behavior—reading a book at the same time every night—will gradually start to wear away his frustration and introduce him to a new routine that he can become attached to. Consistency makes a task predictable for children and gives them a sense of control. Once your child is in this state of mind, tantrum-free learning is more likely to happen!

4. Be aware of emotions.
Young children often do not have a full understanding of how they feel or the appropriate words to label their emotions when they are upset. It is the parent’s responsibility to offer them appropriate tools to enable them to deal with their emotions. The following suggestions can be helpful while modeling appropriate emotional response:

  • Acknowledge emotions. We need to send the message to children that we see and hear them. Acknowledging their emotions helps with this process and makes the child feel safe and less anxious. It may even put an end to a noisy tantrum!

  • Label emotions. Children may or may not be at the developmental level to understand emotional complexities. However, labeling an emotion such as anger or sadness can help the child to find the right word for certain feelings or facial expressions. Simply stating, “I can see you are sad,” when the child is crying will enable the child to make a connection between sadness, the intensity of her emotions and (most importantly) the appropriate vocabulary for expressing sadness. You can use books such as Today I’m Feeling Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis or When Sophie Gets Angry by Molly Bang to label emotions through pictures. If developmentally appropriate, you can ask your son to draw a picture of his face when he is sad or happy.


5. Set boundaries and be creative about it.
Boundaries are not designed to limit children. On the contrary, setting age-appropriate limits and providing structures helps children to feel less overwhelmed and more secure. Keep in mind that creativity can smooth the rough edges of rules and makes limit setting more effective. The following examples might be helpful when setting boundaries on waiting and turn-taking:

  • Sing a short song while helping a distressed child put his shoes on.

  • Count to 10 to offer some time to a child who is not ready to go down the slide (and does not care that his friends are waiting).

  • Clap your hands 5 times to offer a concrete waiting time to a child who wants a toy that his sibling is playing with.

6. Replace words with actions.
Regardless of how consistent we are or how boldly we set boundaries for children, a child might be too overwhelmed to be comforted or accept directions. In such cases we need a stronger tool. In his book 1, 2, 3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12,  Thomas Phelan advises caregivers to use his simple steps to replace words with actions, give options and take action. To illustrate his point of view, let’s review the following example and the dynamics between Cindy and her 3-year-old daughter Meagan:

Meagan was excited about Story Time at the library, but right before the librarian started reading her favorite book, she noticed that she had forgotten Mr. Teddy Bear at home. Meagan started to lose control. Cindy managed the situation according Phelan’s steps:

Step 1- Acknowledging emotions: “Meagan, I can see you are upset and you want Mr. Teddy Bear.”

Step 2- Providing some possible choices: “Do you want to go back home and be with Mr. Teddy Bear, or do you want to stay here and listen to the story?” This question can be asked twice to make sure that the child understands.

Step 3- Set boundaries: “I am asking you this question one more time, and if you don’t make a choice I will make it for you: Do you want to stay here or go home and be with Mr. Teddy Bear?”

Step 4- Take action: Either value your child’s choice, which should be within the boundaries you set, or make the choice for her: “I can see that you are too upset to make a choice, so I’ll make it for you and we will go back home.” And stick to it!

The underlying foundation of 1, 2, 3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 is to provide three chances for your child to make a decision. If she is too overwhelmed to make a choice among some possible options, then you take an action and make the choice for her. Keep in mind that although your child might not be ready to immediately adapt to your decision, she will eventually learn to build trust in what you have to say, take control of a frustrating situation and make her own decisions. This concept will teach your child problem-solving skills and to take responsibility for her actions!

7. No words, no action.
As parents, we need to know that picking a battle with our children can help establish a healthy relationship. In his book ScreamFree Parenting, Edward Runkel advises us to “let the consequences do the screaming.” Sometimes, it is necessary to teach our children to make their own choices and learn to deal with the consequences later on. For example, if your child resists taking a toy to a play date to share with his friends, consciously choose to let go of trying to convince him. Instead, invest your energy in helping him see the consequence of his action during the play date when he realizes that he has no toy to share. The upside of such a practice is an inevitable fact: since your child has been exposed to the consequences of a self-directed decision, he is now more receptive to avoid the discomfort that resulted from his choice. As a result, he is more ready to listen to your suggestion before the next play date!  

8. Create a reward system.
All children demonstrate positive behavior that needs to be acknowledged throughout the day. It is our job as parents to catch our child in the right moment, reward positive behavior and build the foundation of behavior modification. Depending on the child’s individual needs or the dynamic of a group, rewards can be used in different formats:

  • Simple reward system:

Using words to acknowledge a child for his behavior when he is upset can keep his attention on the new behavior. A simple verbal reward such as “good listening when mommy is speaking with you” can go a long way while facing a conflict.

  • Complex reward system:

Using visuals such as sticker charts can convey a positive message to children. Depending on a child’s developmental level, the parent can have the child postpone immediate gratification, earn 5-10 stickers first, and then get a toy from a treasure box.

These practical and effective tips are easy-to-remember tools that not only minimize tantrums resulting from challenging behaviors but also encourage problem-solving skills in young children. Simply break these tips down and choose one or two at a time while dealing with a challenging behavior to avoid being overwhelmed. Gradually, add more techniques to your day-to-day routine, and before you know it both you and your child will have more enjoyable days and fewer challenging ones.

Pouneh Azadi is an Early Childhood Educator.

Tags:  child development 

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Why Kids Learn More When They Don’t “Share”

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2016

As soon as children are old enough to walk, we expect them to share. I prefer putting “share” in quotes, since this type of sharing is usually forced by the adult. Our goals are noble: kindness, generosity, awareness of others. Unfortunately, our approach backfires.

Of course, sharing squabbles happen all the time between kids. Here’s a typical scene: One child is busily engaged with a toy when a new child comes up and wants it. A nearby adult says: “Be nice and share your toys,” or “Give Ella the pony. You’ve had it a long time.” What happens? The child is forced to give something up and her play gets interrupted. She learns that sharing feels bad. It’s the parent who’s sharing here, not the child.

Traditional sharing expects kids to give up something the instant someone else demands. Yet we don’t do this ourselves. Imagine being on your cell phone when somebody suddenly comes up and asks for your phone or takes it from you. “I need to make a phone call,” he says. Would you get mad? As adults, we expect people to wait their turn. We might gladly lend our phone to a friend or even a stranger, but we want them to wait until we’re done. The same should apply to kids: let the child keep a toy until she’s “all done.” It’s turn-taking. It’s sharing. But the key is it’s child-directed turn-taking.

Positive Assertiveness
Here’s what it looks like in real life. Instead of YOU saying “Five more minutes, then it’s Ella’s turn” or “I’m going to set the timer,” teach your child to say “You can have it when I’m done.” This teaches positive assertiveness. It helps kids stand up for themselves and learn to set boundaries on other kids. What a terrific life skill. How many of us as adults have trouble saying “no?”

True Generosity and Awareness of Others
When the first child drops the toy and moves on, remind her that Ella’s waiting for a turn (a great lesson in courtesy and awareness of others). The best part of all is when the first child willingly hands over the toy—it’s a joyous moment for both kids. That’s the moment when your child experiences the rush of good feelings that comes from being kind to others. It’s true generosity. It’s a warm feeling. One she’ll want to repeat over and over – whether a parent is watching or not.

Emotional Impulse Control
What about the waiting child? Waiting is hard, especially for impulsive 2-6 year olds, but just like assertiveness, waiting is an excellent life skill. It’s OK for the waiting child to feel frustrated, sad or angry for a time. Don’t be afraid of a few foot stompings or tears. Learning to control behavior and express intense feelings appropriately is really the main job of early childhood. Impulse control (waiting for a toy and not grabbing) is a vital part of brain development and gets stronger through practice. The more practice kids get, the better. Sharing through turn-taking provides excellent practice.

Life is much more relaxing when you stop playing referee. Throw away your timer. Kids pick up the new method quickly, because it’s fair and simple. Let kids keep a toy until they are “all done.”

Words You Can Say

Positive Assertiveness
– You can play with it until you’re all done.
– Are you finished with your turn? Max says he’s not done yet.
– Did you like it when he grabbed your truck? Tell him to stop!
– Say: “I’m not done. You can have it when I’m done.”
– She can have a turn. When she’s all done, you can have a turn.
– I see Bella still has the pony. She’s still using it.
– You’ll have to wait. I can’t let you take it out of her hands.

Waiting and Awareness of Others
– Oh, it’s so hard to wait!
– You’re so mad. You really want to play with the pony right now!
– You can be mad, but I can’t let you take the toy.
– Will you tell Max when you’re all done?
– I see you’re not using the truck any more. Go find Ben. Remember, he’s waiting for a turn.

Reprinted with permission.

Heather Shumaker is a national speaker on early childhood topics who’s been writing professionally since 1996. She started writing for radio and her publications include New York Post, Organic Gardening, Parenting, Pregnancy, Huffington Post and others.

Tags:  child development  parenting 

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Oral Language and Early Literacy: A Good Beginning

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Even though it might feel strange at first to be talking and asking questions of a baby and toddler, oral language is the foundation for literacy development. Children who develop strong oral language skills during the preschool years create an important foundation for later achievement in reading, especially in reading comprehension (Storch and Whitehurst, 2002).

Babies and toddlers listen intently. Their brains are like sponges — ninety percent of brain development happens between zero to five years of age. It’s a remarkable transformation from baby to toddler in language development. First babies babble and by around six months old they master the sounds of their family’s language. Then they use first words and start stringing together several words. When they are between two and four years old, oral language grows dramatically. Older toddlers begin to put together sentences and use standard grammatical features. Of course, different children develop these skills at different rates, but talking and conversation with your baby or toddler creates the impetus for expanded language.

Here are some tips on early literacy and oral language:

1. Read to your child from birth and make reading part of your child’s bedtime routine.
2. Sing or say nursery rhymes, chants and other rhyming poems.
3. Explicitly describe what your child experiences and observes: colors, objects, etc.
4. Take your toddler with you (when possible) as you go about your daily activities and explain what you are doing and seeing: supermarket, other chores, etc.
5. When possible take your baby or toddler to language rich environments: library, zoo, nature walks, children’s museums, etc.
6. Ask your child open ended questions. Even from a young age, pose questions to your child that elicits his/her opinions. Try to draw out more than one word answers.
7. Model different language structures and use more complex sentences.
8. Act out stories and use dramatic play.
9. For three to five year old children, play matching and concentration games to foster memory and vocabulary.
10. Orally tell classic stories such as The Three Little Pigs and have your child participate whenever possible. Your child will also delight and be engaged in made up stories. As your child gets older, they can make up the end to your story.
11. When your child is ready, introduce book handling skills and directionality skills — such as point out the front and back of the book; the words go left to right; letters; etc

Be playful when you engage in literacy activities. Remember to emphasize sharing, mutual discovery and fun. Your enthusiasm will be contagious!

Dorothy Glusker is a Reading Specialist and Private Reading Tutor.

Tags:  child development  education 

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5 Activities for Fostering Creativity and Critical Thinking in Your Early Learner

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 13, 2016
As a parent, you are the single biggest influence and teacher in your young child’s life. So it’s no wonder parents often ask themselves, “Am I setting my child up for success?” However, the key to laying the foundation for academic success for your pre-kindergartener may be easier than you think.

Young, active minds are soaking up the world around them and it’s important to expose their natural curiosity to as many different activities and experiences as possible. We want our kids to possess a joyful love of learning, and discover different ways to harness their creativity and enhance their capacity to think critically. But those inspiring and challenging moments don’t always have to be outside the comforts of your own home.

Here are five fun activities you can do at home to foster creativity and critical thinking in your early learner:

When checking the weather becomes a regular routine with your child, you begin establishing any number of critical thinking skills: categorization, cause and effect, variable conditions – the list goes on. Keep a colorful chart to track and recognize days when the temperature gets colder and warmer and discuss why that might be happening. Is there a connection between clouds and weather? Are there clouds on sunny days? What about when it is raining? Take these observations and ask your child how they apply to specific actions. What clothes do we need today if it is really cold outside? What activities can we safely play outside in this weather?

Let’s be honest – 4-year-olds like getting messy. Put out a plate sprinkled with sugar and encourage them to practice writing numbers and letters, then have them try the same with shaving cream or rice. This helps students develop fine motor skills and is, of course, a ton of fun. How does your finger feel when you move it through the sugar rather than the shaving cream or rice? What do you notice about the texture of the different materials (smooth and cool shaving cream vs bumpy rice vs grainy sugar)? Why does the shaving cream keep its shape? Remember your compare and contrast essays in college? Same thing, but much gooier.

At bath time, talk about which toys sink or float. How many objects can you put onto a floating toy before it sinks? Bonus points to the parents who use terms like buoyancy and gravity! And I know some of us remember the old Letterman skit “Will It Float?” so more adventurous parents may want to extend the game to other household items. Old veggies sitting in your crisper? Dad’s sandals? Fair warning, if you play this game frequently, keep track of your iPhone at all times.

There are so many learning experiences to be had through cooking: measuring accurately with utensils of different sizes, working on numeracy and literacy, taste testing different foods for salty and sweet flavors, and hypothesizing what happens when cookies are left in the oven too long (and why!). Not only can you foster healthy food choices, but you plant images into your child’s memory that will help them quickly grasp states of matter, energy conversions, and algebra later on. If the recipe says we need three eggs, and we only have one, how many do we need to buy at the store?

You’d be surprised at how many different physics properties can be demonstrated with a yard stick and a few different balls. Show your preschooler how tilting the yardstick creates different slopes and affects how far balls will roll. What happens when you roll a marble versus a Ping-Pong ball? What happens when you roll the ball on a rug versus a smooth surface? Speed, acceleration, friction, inertia – these concepts aren’t scary the way they might seem in most high schools, and your preschooler can prove it to you!

Kate Briscoe is Director of Early Learning for BASIS Independent Schools. This fall BASIS Independent Fremont will open to kindergarten – 5th grade featuring a highly acclaimed liberal arts, STEM-focused curriculum.

Tags:  child development  education 

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Is Your Smartphone Putting Your Toddler at Risk?

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Updated: Friday, April 8, 2016

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about distracted drivers and the impact cell phones are having on our road skills. Unfortunately, our love of technology and handheld devices also affect our family’s health in ways we can’t have imagined. As parents, it is important to understand the ways mobile phone exposure can affect a child's wellness.

Listed below are ten ways our Smartphone use might be putting our children at risk:

Distracted parenting can hinder a child’s vocabulary, which affects their future education. Researchers have conducted several studies on young children and what factors impact their I.Q. levels and performance in school. The largest determining factor that caught the eye of the experts was the amount of words young children heard. As early as the age of three, researchers found a strong correlation between higher I.Q. scores and the number of words young children heard. The study concluded that the more words parents spoke to their children, the faster the child’s vocabularies grew which impacted intelligence later in life.

Young children need interaction and contact to bond. Researchers are adamant about the importance of forming a solid parental attachment. Children with secure attachments are able to regulate their emotions, self-esteem, and self-control better. They also perform better in school and have a better ability to get along better with others. Infants and toddlers may miss out on this bonding if we are focused on our Smartphones.

There is a strong correlation between our love of social media, Facebook envy, and growing narcissism in children. Our children witness perfectly groomed social media pages and our need to project a perfect image into the digital world. We are sending the message that it is alright to be self-absorbed. This can lead to feelings of entitlement and an increased sense of importance. Our behaviors are setting up our children to feel inadequate with reality, which can lead them to experience depression or self-harm behaviors.

Smartphones can cause feelings of jealousy in our children. A study conducted by Catherine Steiner-Adair, author and psychologist at Harvard, noticed that all children had feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and anger when they have technology to compete with for their parent’s attention. This study likened these feelings to the jealousness of sibling rivalry.

Analyzed data shows that technology affects the way our brain processes information. The fast paced world of digital technology has the potential to rewire the brain to affect memory skills and attention spans. A lot of research has shown this to be true in adults, but because children’s brains are still forming it is assumed the changes could impact the brain’s development in ways not seen before.

Reliance on our Smartphones can expose our youth to a sedentary lifestyle. If a child’s parents are not active the chances are high that the child will also be sedentary. A less active lifestyle increases the chances a child will become obese or develop diabetes. Parents need to make a conscious effort to keep our children moving and healthy.

Data reveals that small children and fetuses absorb radiation from wireless devices two times the rate of adults. There is a long held debate about whether there is a link between cancer and cell phones. Whether or not that is the case, consider the fact that almost all manufacturers have guidelines that recommend distances devices should be kept away from a body. It is always better to be safe than suffer from regret later- look for handsfree options and be aware of where you store your cell phone while pregnant.

Smartphones can limit quality family time. Whether we are distracted by work emails or cute YouTube videos, Smartphones can steal precious moments away from the family. Set aside certain hours each day to power down and connect with your family.

Children learn through play and interacting with their environment. If we are preoccupied with our Smartphones or our children just want to play a few rounds of Flappy Bird, they could be missing out on important play time. Many educators believe that powerful learning takes place during play and parents need to make sure our devices aren’t getting in the way of this development.

Smartphones might lead to our children being addicted to the Internet. Think of a Smartphone as a gateway device to the world of fast paced social media and games. In 2013, “Internet Use Disorder” was registered in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. To be included as a true addiction, there had to be evidence that digital activity can change the chemistry of the brain and produce dopamine similar to what occurs in the brain of alcoholics and drug addicts.

Smartphones have many positive attributes, but they can also impair our family life. Parents need monitor their use in our homes and be aware of how our love of technology is impacting our children. After all, we ultimately want the best for our children and moderation can help us find the right balance of Smartphone use while parenting.

Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.

Tags:  child development  technology 

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PAMP Playdates – Mixed Ages Offer Something for Everyone

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 5, 2016
In a split second, peaceful play at the McKenzie Park sandbox turned into tug-of-war. Of course, my son Jax, is in the middle of the brawl – what two and half year old boy is going to ignore the temptation to seize someone else’s brand new shiny bulldozer toy?

When it seemed a toddler pileup was inevitable, I jumped into conflict resolution: “Jax, let’s try to find something to offer in exchange – maybe a dump truck to trade for some time with the bulldozer?”

After a few minutes of tense back and forth deal-making, we made an agreement. Everyone returned back to playing peacefully. With a sigh of relief, I gave the kids some space hoping that someday soon, my children will have the ability to share with others without needing my intervention. Well, as the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”

That’s one of the wonderful benefits of our mixed age playgroup – regular opportunities for the children to sharpen their social acumen while interacting with kids of varying ages and stages of development. In particular, it is a special opportunity for parents like me who have multiple children of different ages to find a social environment for all of their children at the same time with just the right amount of interest and surprise.

Andrea, a Los Altos mother to two boys, describes the charm of the mixed age environment precisely. “With ages always varying, each play date is unique and that keeps it fun and interesting,” she says.

In addition, there is always the refreshing opportunity for the grown-ups to have an exchange of ideas, neighborhood news and stimulating adult conversation. Nina finds the grown up exchanges useful. “It is great to get advice from those with older kids, as well as help out those with younger kids than my own,” she says.

Nina, a local mother of three energetic boys, started the PAMP North Los Altos Playgroup in 2011 so that her oldest (and then only) son would have regular organized playdates to attend within walking distance of their Los Altos home. When Nina reached out for someone to take over the group coordinator role, I wasn’t immediately compelled. I was pregnant with my second child at the time and my first had just started walking – I knew that life for me was about to get busy, but I decided to go for it! I know now that I made the right decision. My children and I have met and made so many wonderful friends through the group.

The PAMP North Los Altos Playgroup membership consists of over a hundred moms and dads in the Bay Area. The group, formerly on Yahoo, now stays connected about playdates, local events and child rearing advice using Facebook’s group platform. Helen, a newcomer to the Bay Area describes the group platform. “I really like the new Facebook platform. I check Facebook on a daily basis and I find the UI very user friendly when it comes to organizing and accepting events and engaging with other members of the group,” she says.

There is also the occasional Mom’s Night Out, typically every other month, where the grown-ups can gather at a local restaurant after the kids are put to bed to have lighthearted discussions over a glass of wine. Lisa, a mother of two in Palo Alto, describes the advantage of having an occasional grown-up’s night out. “I like how there are opportunities to come together with our kids and without them. It’s refreshing to go out on a weeknight without a diaper bag,” she says.

These days, Jax will prepare a stash of toys prior to every playdate. The bag of toys grows larger week after week. I asked Jax the other day, “This is a large bag of toys – why do you choose to bring all of these toys?” Without skipping a beat, Jax responded, “I want to share them… with my friends!”

Maybe the day of sharing will come sooner than I had hoped!

Ginny Badros is the group coordinator for the PAMP North Los Altos Playgroup. She left her occupation as an insurance geek to be the full time Chief Operating Officer of the Badros household. Her primary responsibilities include managing the expectations of some hard-to-please customers – 3 year old Jax and 1 ½ year old AJ. You can often spot Ginny, Jax, and AJ enjoying a stroll to the Los Altos Library or watching Little League baseball at the Hillview Community Center.

For more information about the PAMP North Los Altos Playgroup and play dates, contact Ginny.

Tags:  child development  spotlight 

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How Can Toddlers Use iPhones Appropriately?

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016
One of the most hotly-debated topics amongst parents and pediatricians is screen time, or how much time children should be allowed to spend in front of a TV, phone or tablet. Study after study has shown that toddlers, especially those under the age of two, learn best through play, hands-on exploration and one-on-one interactions with parents, caregivers and peers. These experiences engage both the body and mind by promoting experimentation, problem solving and creative thinking. Yet in a world dominated by TVs, smartphones and tablets, screens are everywhere and trying to completely withhold them is impossible — especially when parents and teachers use them routinely.

While exposing your toddler to a television will not turn their developing minds into mush, we do advise following a few simple recommendations to maximize the benefits these technological wonders offer.

Participate with your toddler
Learning from TVs and screen time can be greatly enhanced when parents participate with their toddlers and create a social, interactive experience. We encourage parents to ask questions about the content and provide detailed descriptions of what they are seeing, similar to how one might read a book or play with a toy. The more parents, rather than the television, can drive the story, the more impactful the experience will be for the toddler. Furthermore, try to connect what children are learning in the television program with real world applications. For example, if the TV show or screen time is teaching them about counting or letters, have them practice these skills in everyday play and routines.

Make screen time deliberate and age-appropriate
Research has shown that background television interferes with children’s play and development. Exposure to content that is not age-appropriate, in particular, is associated with negative effects on toddler’s language and cognitive function. Toddlers end up spending too much energy trying to understand what is going on and overtaxing their brain. Try to limit adult-related programming to when the kids are asleep.

Avoid screen time before bedtime
Studies have shown that children with televisions in their room have increased difficulty sleeping. Furthermore, screen time should be limited, if possible, in the hour or two before bedtime. That time should be used to help toddlers unwind, whereas television tends to excite them.

Set a time limit
The amount of screen time allowed is a very personal decision. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two should not be exposed at all, while children over the age of two should be allowed only one to two hours per day. The decision must be made in the context of the child’s other activities; for example, children who are very active otherwise are at less risk of being too sedentary if given a certain amount of screen time per day whereas less active children would benefit from more physical activity and less passive time in front of a screen.

Choose content carefully
Many TV shows are extremely fast-paced and may impair a child’s ability to think and make decisions, as described above. The content of the shows our children watch should reflect their experiences in the world and should provide a context to which your toddler can relate and understand. Furthermore, on phones and tablets, select apps that require interaction and participation that increase learning.

Technology will increasingly become an integral part of our daily lives and can have a huge impact on your toddler, both positive and negative, depending how it is incorporated. By selecting appropriate content that is interactive and participatory, parents can create a highly educational environment in which their toddlers can thrive.

Dr David Kagan is a pediatrician and internal medicine specialist at Healthier, a text message-based service that sends you timely information about your child’s health and development. Ask any question and the clinical team responds within 24 hours, completely free. Enroll now for free by texting 650-458-4744 with signup code PAMP or visit Healthier.

Tags:  child development  technology 

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All About Separation Anxiety

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It’s a common scene at any daycare, playground or birthday party: a crying child clinging to a parent who is desperately trying to convince the child to let go and join the fun. Almost all children have some aspect of separation anxiety during the first six years of life. Separation anxiety should not be feared or even wished away, as it is an obvious and identifiable sign of your child’s love and trust in you.

It is the grand indicator that your child believes you represent the ultimate in safety and security, above anyone else in this world.

What causes Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a perfectly normal and important developmental adaptation of a child’s emotional and mental growth. It does not have a particular “cause.” Nothing you have done has “made” your child develop separation anxiety.

Even though separation anxiety has not been caused by any particular action or event, there are caregiver actions that can either heighten or reduce a child’s anxiety. There are many things that can help build a child’s trust and confidence in his relationship with you so that he can transfer these feelings to other trusted adults who will help him feel safe away from his home base.

How common is it?
It makes perfect sense that children experience separation anxiety when pulled apart from their main caregiver. Nearly all children experience some aspect of separation anxiety. For some children the stage begins earlier, even at a few months of age. For some, the effects begin later, and some children have anxiety that lasts for longer spells than others. Some children have very visible, obvious indicators of their feelings, but there are also children who have less apparent reactions. There is no exact pattern or set of symptoms, but almost all children have it to some degree.

Does my child have separation anxiety?Separation anxiety has many different symptoms, but it is often easy for parents to spot in their own child. It helps if you know exactly what to look for. The following are behaviors are most typically used to define normal separation anxiety:

  • Clinginess
  • Crying when a parent is out of sight
  • Strong preference for only one parent over all other human beings
  • Fear of strangers, or of family and friends who are not frequently seen
  • Resistance to separation at bedtime or naptime
  • Waking at night crying for a parent
  • Regression to an earlier stage of development, such as thumbsucking or babytalk
  • Anxiety that is easily eliminated upon a parent’s appearance

How you can help your baby with separation anxiety

  • Give your baby lessons in object permanence. As your baby learns that things continue to exist even when she can’t see them, she’ll feel better about letting you out of her sight. Games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek will help her understand this phenomenon.
  • Practice with quick, safe separations. Throughout the day, create situations of brief separation. When you go into another room, whistle, sing, or talk to your baby so he knows you’re still there, even though he can’t see you.
  • Don’t sneak away when you have to leave her. It may seem easier than dealing with a tearful goodbye, but it will just cause her constant worry that you’re going to disappear without warning at any given moment. The result? Even more clinginess, and diminished trust in your relationship.
  • Tell your baby what to expect. If you are going to the store and leaving him at home with Grandma, explain where you are going and tell him when you’ll be back. Eventually, he’ll come to understand your explanations.
  • Don’t rush the parting, but don’t prolong it, either. Give your baby ample time to process your leave-taking, but don’t drag it out and make it more painful for both of you.
  • Invite distractions. If you’re leaving your baby with a caregiver or relative, encourage that person to get your baby involved with playtime as you leave. Say a quick good-bye and let your baby be distracted by an interesting activity.
  • Allow your baby the separation that she initiates. If she crawls off to another room, don’t rush after her. Listen and peek, of course, to make sure that she’s safe, but let her know it’s fine for her to go off exploring on her own.

This too shall pass
Separation anxiety doesn’t have a specific beginning nor does it have an exact end. It shows itself in peaks and valleys – good days and bad, good weeks and bad, and even good years followed by bad weeks. It can be bewildering to parents when their child shifts from confidence to anxiety and back again many times during the first six to eight years of life, but this unpredictable behavior is normal. Gaining the maturity and skills to handle separation with confidence is a process, not a single event.

This stage, like so many others in childhood, will pass. In time, your child will learn that she canseparate from you, that you will return, and that everything will be okay between those two points in time. Much of this learning is based on trust and experience, which, just as for every human being young or old, takes time to build.


Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

Tags:  child behavior  child development  family 

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