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What are Your Birth Preferences?

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Updated: Sunday, July 3, 2016

Having a baby is often an exciting time for new moms, yet it can also raise questions and concerns. Not all pregnancies are the same, even when you have had previous children. Some questions you may ask are: What choices do we have for our birthing experience? Do birth plans really work? Will my medical caregiver have the time and interest in honoring my preferences for my childbirth experience? There is a great deal of information available through childbirth classes, new mom groups and parents clubs, the internet and word of mouth. But where do you start?

Choosing a practitioner best suited to your personal and medical needs is usually the first step. Defining your wishes for your pregnancy, and developing a birth plan, is also an important part of the process. Birth plans can help create a more positive experience, but those plans can also be dismissed if your delivery has an unexpected twist. Sharing your preferences ahead of time with your care provider is critical to gaining a commitment to honoring them.

In addition to choosing a doctor or midwife to help you through this exciting time, another important choice to make is where you want to deliver your baby. We are very fortunate in the Bay Area to have great tertiary centers for high-risk mothers and babies. These hospitals offer the advanced medical care needed when more medical interventions are necessary. For non-high-risk pregnancies, there are hospitals and birth centers that provide a low intervention, patient-driven, family centered labor and delivery experience. Choose a facility where the nursing team is your partner. Consider cesarean section rates, breastfeeding rates and safety measures. Look up reviews online and talk to others about their experiences.

Choice of activities during labor are another thing to consider for your birthing experience. Some families prefer to walk the hallways while others prefer to rest in the shower or jacuzzi. Others may prefer rocking in a chair or even bouncing on a birth ball. These are just a few of the activities encouraged by trained labor and delivery personnel promoting natural childbirth.

Another consideration is breastfeeding. More and more hospitals across the nation are achieving Baby Friendly designation. This certification is given by the World Health Organization to hospitals that agree to policies and offer training to doctors, midwives, nurses and lactation consultants to promote breastfeeding.

Take the time to ask yourself and your partner these important questions. Do the research and ask your friends and loved ones. Find the right doctor or midwife and birth center for your optimal birth experience. It’s a life changing event -- and it’s your event.

Maria Greulich, RN, CNM has worked closely with OB/GYNs, perinatologists and pediatricians throughout her career and currently practices at El Camino Hospital Los Gatos. Coming from a large family and birthing her own five kids, she values working with family’s needs and wants during the birth experience.

Tags:  parenting 

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Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Updated: Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hang out at a playground, visit a school, or show up at a child’s birthday party, and there’s one phrase you can count on hearing repeatedly: “Good job!” Even tiny infants are praised for smacking their hands together (“Good clapping!”). Many of us blurt out these judgments of our children to the point that it has become almost a verbal tic.

Plenty of books and articles advise us against relying on punishment, from spanking to forcible isolation (“time out”). Occasionally someone will even ask us to rethink the practice of bribing children with stickers or food. But you’ll have to look awfully hard to find a discouraging word about what is euphemistically called positive reinforcement.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, the point here is not to call into question the importance of supporting and encouraging children, the need to love them and hug them and help them feel good about themselves. Praise, however, is a different story entirely. Here’s why.

1. Manipulating children. Suppose you offer a verbal reward to reinforce the behavior of a two-year-old who eats without spilling, or a five-year-old who cleans up her art supplies. Who benefits from this? Is it possible that telling kids they’ve done a good job may have less to do with their emotional needs than with our convenience?

Rheta DeVries, a professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, refers to this as “sugar-coated control.” Very much like tangible rewards – or, for that matter, punishments – it’s a way of doing something to children to get them to comply with our wishes. It may be effective at producing this result (at least for a while), but it’s very different from working with kids – for example, by engaging them in conversation about what makes a classroom (or family) function smoothly, or how other people are affected by what we have done — or failed to do. The latter approach is not only more respectful but more likely to help kids become thoughtful people.

The reason praise can work in the short run is that young children are hungry for our approval. But we have a responsibility not to exploit that dependence for our own convenience. A “Good job!” to reinforce something that makes our lives a little easier can be an example of taking advantage of children’s dependence. Kids may also come to feel manipulated by this, even if they can’t quite explain why.

2. Creating praise junkies.  To be sure, not every use of praise is a calculated tactic to control children’s behavior. Sometimes we compliment kids just because we’re genuinely pleased by what they’ve done. Even then, however, it’s worth looking more closely. Rather than bolstering a child’s self-esteem, praise may increase kids’ dependence on us. The more we say, “I like the way you….” or “Good ______ing,” the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what’s good and bad, rather than learning to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval.

Mary Budd Rowe, a researcher at the University of Florida, discovered that students who were praised lavishly by their teachers were more tentative in their responses, more apt to answer in a questioning tone of voice (“Um, seven?”). They tended to back off from an idea they had proposed as soon as an adult disagreed with them. And they were less likely to persist with difficult tasks or share their ideas with other students.

In short, “Good job!” doesn’t reassure children; ultimately, it makes them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious circle such that the more we slather on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. Sadly, some of these kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the head and tell them whether what they did was OK. Surely this is not what we want for our daughters and sons.

3. Stealing a child’s pleasure. Apart from the issue of dependence, a child deserves to take delight in her accomplishments, to feel pride in what she’s learned how to do. She also deserves to decide when to feel that way. Every time we say, “Good job!”, though, we’re telling a child how to feel.

To be sure, there are times when our evaluations are appropriate and our guidance is necessary — especially with toddlers and preschoolers. But a constant stream of value judgments is neither necessary nor useful for children’s development. Unfortunately, we may not have realized that “Good job!” is just as much an evaluation as “Bad job!” The most notable feature of a positive judgment isn’t that it’s positive, but that it’s a judgment. And people, including kids, don’t like being judged.

I cherish the occasions when my daughter manages to do something for the first time, or does something better than she’s ever done it before. But I try to resist the knee-jerk tendency to say, “Good job!” because I don’t want to dilute her joy. I want her to share her pleasure with me, not look to me for a verdict. I want her to exclaim, “I did it!” (which she often does) instead of asking me uncertainly, “Was that good?”

4. Losing interest.  “Good painting!” may get children to keep painting for as long as we keep watching and praising. But, warns Lilian Katz, one of the country’s leading authorities on early childhood education, “once attention is withdrawn, many kids won’t touch the activity again.” Indeed, an impressive body of scientific research has shown that the more we reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Now the point isn’t to draw, to read, to think, to create – the point is to get the goody, whether it’s an ice cream, a sticker, or a “Good job!”

In a troubling study conducted by Joan Grusec at the University of Toronto, young children who were frequently praised for displays of generosity tended to be slightly less generous on an everyday basis than other children were. Every time they had heard “Good sharing!” or “I’m so proud of you for helping,” they became a little less interested in sharing or helping. Those actions came to be seen not as something valuable in their own right but as something they had to do to get that reaction again from an adult. Generosity became a means to an end.

Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that’s often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.

5. Reducing achievement. As if it weren’t bad enough that “Good job!” can undermine independence, pleasure, and interest, it can also interfere with how good a job children actually do. Researchers keep finding that kids who are praised for doing well at a creative task tend to stumble at the next task – and they don’t do as well as children who weren’t praised to begin with.

Why does this happen? Partly because the praise creates pressure to “keep up the good work” that gets in the way of doing so. Partly because their interest in what they’re doing may have declined. Partly because they become less likely to take risks – a prerequisite for creativity – once they start thinking about how to keep those positive comments coming.

More generally, “Good job!” is a remnant of an approach to psychology that reduces all of human life to behaviors that can be seen and measured. Unfortunately, this ignores the thoughts, feelings, and values that lie behind behaviors. For example, a child may share a snack with a friend as a way of attracting praise, or as a way of making sure the other child has enough to eat. Praise for sharing ignores these different motives. Worse, it actually promotes the less desirable motive by making children more likely to fish for praise in the future.

*Once you start to see praise for what it is – and what it does – these constant little evaluative eruptions from adults start to produce the same effect as fingernails being dragged down a blackboard. You begin to root for a child to give his teachers or parents a taste of their own treacle by turning around to them and saying (in the same saccharine tone of voice), “Good praising!”

Still, it’s not an easy habit to break. It can seem strange, at least at first, to stop praising; it can feel as though you’re being chilly or withholding something. But that, it soon becomes clear, suggests that we praise more because we need to say it than because children need to hear it. Whenever that’s true, it’s time to rethink what we’re doing.

What kids do need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached. That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. “Good job!” is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops, for doing things that please us.

This point, you’ll notice, is very different from a criticism that some people offer to the effect that we give kids too much approval, or give it too easily. They recommend that we become more miserly with our praise and demand that kids “earn” it. But the real problem isn’t that children expect to be praised for everything they do these days. It’s that we’re tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values.

So what’s the alternative? That depends on the situation, but whatever we decide to say instead has to be offered in the context of genuine affection and love for who kids are rather than for what they’ve done. When unconditional support is present, “Good job!” isn’t necessary; when it’s absent, “Good job!” won’t help.

If we’re praising positive actions as a way of discouraging misbehavior, this is unlikely to be effective for long. Even when it works, we can’t really say the child is now “behaving himself”; it would be more accurate to say the praise is behaving him. The alternative is to work with the child, to figure out the reasons he’s acting that way. We may have to reconsider our own requests rather than just looking for a way to get kids to obey. (Instead of using “Good job!” to get a four-year-old to sit quietly through a long class meeting or family dinner, perhaps we should ask whether it’s reasonable to expect a child to do so.)

We also need to bring kids in on the process of making decisions. If a child is doing something that disturbs others, then sitting down with her later and asking, “What do you think we can do to solve this problem?” will likely be more effective than bribes or threats. It also helps a child learn how to solve problems and teaches that her ideas and feelings are important. Of course, this process takes time and talent, care and courage. Tossing off a “Good job!” when the child acts in the way we deem appropriate takes none of those things, which helps to explain why “doing to” strategies are a lot more popular than “working with” strategies.

And what can we say when kids just do something impressive? Consider three possible responses:

* Say nothing. Some people insist a helpful act must be “reinforced” because, secretly or unconsciously, they believe it was a fluke. If children are basically evil, then they have to be given an artificial reason for being nice (namely, to get a verbal reward). But if that cynicism is unfounded – and a lot of research suggests that it is – then praise may not be necessary.

* Say what you saw. A simple, evaluation-free statement (“You put your shoes on by yourself” or even just “You did it”) tells your child that you noticed. It also lets her take pride in what she did. In other cases, a more elaborate description may make sense. If your child draws a picture, you might provide feedback – not judgment – about what you noticed: “This mountain is huge!” “Boy, you sure used a lot of purple today!”

If a child does something caring or generous, you might gently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: “Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack.” This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing

* Talk less, ask more. Even better than descriptions are questions. Why tell him what part of his drawing impressed you when you can ask him what he likes best about it? Asking “What was the hardest part to draw?” or “How did you figure out how to make the feet the right size?” is likely to nourish his interest in drawing. Saying “Good job!”, as we’ve seen, may have exactly the opposite effect.

This doesn’t mean that all compliments, all thank-you’s, all expressions of delight are harmful. We need to consider our motives for what we say (a genuine expression of enthusiasm is better than a desire to manipulate the child’s future behavior) as well as the actual effects of doing so. Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life — or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head

It’s not a matter of memorizing a new script, but of keeping in mind our long-term goals for our children and watching for the effects of what we say. The bad news is that the use of positive reinforcement really isn’t so positive. The good news is that you don’t have to evaluate in order to encourage.

Reprinted from

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. 

Tags:  parenting 

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What They Won't Tell You About Parenting

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Updated: Sunday, April 17, 2016

Book Excerpt: Chapter 7 from What They Won't Tell You About Parenting by Tom Limbert 

Have you noticed? People can become very much addicted to drama. I almost wrote “children” instead of “people,” but I think we all know it’s people. I hope I’ve convinced you that empathy is truly your best friend when it comes to parenting. Now I’d like to assure you that drama is indeed your enemy. We’re all stressed out. I get that. I lose my cool plenty. But if you look at the whole thing logically, it only makes sense to make a conscious effort to not add drama to our children’s drama. What happens when we do? Let’s look at how our brains respond to a thrilling movie. According to a study done by a team of researchers from the City College of New York and Columbia University, visual and auditory stimuli that elicit high levels of engagement and emotional response can be linked to reliable patterns of brain activity. In layman’s terms, we get a buzz. That’s why we keep going back.

Your child, as a mini-scientist learning about the world, is going to “misbehave” and test limits. What you want to do as a parent is curb that behavior. What I implore you to do is teach alternatives. In behavior modification terms, when you react dramatically by yelling—a natural and instinctive response to something annoying—you do so because you think that will stop the behavior; your yelling is positive punishment. How’s that workin’ for ya? Legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant once noted, “If you whoop and holler all the time, the players just get used to it.” I say your kids learn to crave it. When you feed your child’s drama with your own, you are reinforcing the very behaviors you wish to stop. A reinforcer is a stimulus that follows some behavior and increases the probability that the behavior will occur. That’s you yelling, and the title of your movie is The Reinforcer. It’s your child’s favorite.

The movie analogy is perfect. Your child will not only enjoy watching you, he will delight in the idea that he is able to make you act that way. Cynthia Tobias, author of You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded), explains, “As a small child, if I figure out how to push your buttons, it’s irresistible to me not to do it. It kind of worries me that I have that much power over you, but, gosh, it’s fun to use it. You don’t want to give your kids that kind of control over you by giving in to the anger and the screaming” (Ray 2012).

I was at a restaurant recently and saw a mom grab her daughter by the arm and frantically drag her toward the door for a stern lecture in the face. I don’t know what the child did or what the mom said, but I know this: the child didn’t learn anything and will do whatever she did again. I’d lay good money on it. The scene was just too intense. That girl will seek that rush again. Anger is the enemy of instruction.

If you were your child and you were bored, and you hadn’t been taught to recognize that emotion and what to do with it, would you (a) meditate, (b) do some light reading, (c) clean the house, or (d) play the crazy puppet game with the wacko parent who’s home with you? It’s a no-brainer. So much fun. Who cares that I’ll have to sit in my room for a bit afterward? I need a fix. By now it’s grown to be a cycle—a vicious one at that. Child gets bored, pokes sibling, sibling freaks, parent snaps, everyone gets amped up on cortisol and adrenaline, yell and scream, go to rooms. Rinse and repeat. Addicted. Time to stage an intervention of sorts. Let’s end this spiral of distress.

Got that phrase (spiral of distress) from an article titled “Emotions Are Contagious” by Lori Desautels (2014) on You just know that title caught my eye. The article is about the role that “staff counteraggression” plays in violence in schools today. Desautels quotes psychologist Nicholas J. Long in her article. I’m going to do the same, as it all applies to you and your home: “When a student is in stress, his emotions will echo in the adult. If the adult is not trained to own and accept his or her counteraggressive feelings, the adult will act on them and mirror the student’s behavior” (2014). This equates to more violence in schools. Hopefully not the case in your home, but I hope you’re seeing how these cycles of drama can get snowballing out of control before we know it.

Thankfully, Desautels offers teachers some practical methods to stop these contagions of negativity in their tracks. It’s all about emotional intelligence and consciously striving to create more positive interactions. That’s what leaders do. Desautels’ tips begin with raising your awareness (we’ve already done that in a way) and learning to “Recognize the Signs.” The idea is to be on alert for the first signs of emergent negative emotions (changing tones, facial expressions, gestures) and to nip it in the bud with confident, positive guidance.

How might this look in your home? Say your three- year-old boy has learned to push your buttons by bouncing a ball inside the house, though you’ve told him a thousand times not to. You’d immediately go to him and say something to the effect of, “Hey, buddy, remember we can’t do that in here because we’ll break things. Let’s play catch when I’m done working here. What will you do until then?” Keep it light and self-assured. Why not add on a threat? For one, it’s a disrespectful display of distrust he will dislike (you’re essentially dissing him). Heard of self- fulfilling prophecies? Two, you’re basically daring your child and planting a seed—he may not have even wanted to do it again, but now it’s so enticing since you mentioned it and doubted him. You want to convey that you believe in him (even if it’s a Jedi mind trick). You don’t want to tempt or dare him.

Very likely, as you damn well know, your little, trite chat didn’t quite get through. So your boy bounces the ball again. He’s blatantly testing you in hopes you’ll play his favorite movie again. This time you reiterate the rule and the reason for the rule, briefly and confidently. Then you ask him to identify his emotions. “How are you feeling?” you might ask. “Because I asked you not to bounce the ball and you aren’t listening, so I’m wondering what’s wrong.” In this way, you force him to self-examine a bit and you help him realize that his emotions influence his behavior. You are clearly implying that the expectation in your relationship is to listen to one another as you are modeling the same for him. Finally, you give him a couple more acceptable choices to help him pass the time. In this way, you help him realize not only that his emotions influence his behavior, but that he has choices in how to respond.

In “Emotions Are Contagious,” Desautels also suggests that teachers learn to understand the patterns of aggression and model self-awareness. “Experiential learning at its best is being honest and informative, rather than being reactive,” she writes. I couldn’t agree more. Remember, you are teacher. Next time your son is pushing your buttons, cut the BS and calmly go to him and draw his attention to what he’s doing and how it’s making you feel.

That, my friends, is modeling self-awareness and being honest and informative—not to mention respectful. Your kid will be baffled. How come you’re not doing that freak-out thing you always do? Finally, the coup d’etat of all parenting and interpersonal communication skills, ask your son to express how he is feeling and to consider why he is acting this way. It’s key to validating his feelings but also to helping him curb the behavior. Support him in learning to manage his emotions instead of acting out. As Desautels explains, “When we begin to notice an upset, a growing aggressive and angry reaction, it can be very powerful to acknowledge the student’s experience.” Bingo. Drama averted. Lesson learned.

To be clear, I’m not saying you should never furrow your brow or raise your voice a bit. There’s a time and a place to mean business and keep it real. You want to be confident and assertive but not cocky, disrespectful, or aggressive. Hell, bust out a middle name here and there for kicks and added emphasis. But once you get dramatic—and you know the difference—you’ll be diluting your message and reinforcing the very behaviors you wish to curb. This is about what works and what doesn’t. It’s far more effective to describe your emotions and talk about your mutual goals than to throw hissy fits. Say good-bye to Hollywood. Say good-bye, my baby.

The only way drama can be your pal is if you learn to see it as your cue to teach and lead. Start to see your children’s acting out as their attempts to cry for help. Parenting is overwhelming at times, but if it feels like that all the time, you’re not leading enough (that straight from the What They Won’t Tell You about Parenting file). Anytime you sense that things are getting out of control or you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop the train and lead. Take control of the emotional tone of the situation with an honest assessment of what’s happening and how it’s making you feel. Then ask your child to describe how he or she is feeling. Once you’ve acknowledged your child’s feelings, empower him or her to problem solve simply by asking, “What do you need?” or “How can I help?” or best of all, “What can we do to solve this problem?”

If your child is still interested in a battle of wills, stay calm. NBD (that’s how the kids text “no big deal”). Recall the reason for any limit you’re setting, stick to your guns, but hit him or her with your best shot of empathy and matter-of-fact antidrama: “I told you we couldn’t x because of y. I understand you’re feeling (sad, mad, frustrated, or all of the above). When you’re ready, let me know if I can help you feel better about all that.” Provide time and space. Voilà! You’ve just transformed yourselves from the fiercest rivals to the most trusted teammates. Reunited and it feels so good.

Most everything you know now you learned by making mistakes, too. Before you ask your parents if you were annoying (you were), the takeaway here is that our reaction to our children’s drama is key. Begin by accepting that drama is inevitable in your child’s development. That’s life. That’s what all the people say. Decipher the lessons and articulate them to the best of your ability. If we begin with a spirit of acceptance and compassion, we’re going to be much more effective leaders.

Remember, we are being watched and mimicked 24/7. It only follows that if you want your children to be gracious and respectful and listen to you, you have to treat them in that manner. If you want them to learn from their challenges and mistakes and apply the lessons next time, you might want to model that and let those lessons be the focus of your attention. Attention energizes. It’s totally your call, though, and a free country. Tomorrow, if it rains, it would be well within your rights to freak out. You could go outside and yell at the clouds or attempt to punish the sky somehow. Wouldn’t that seem illogical, though (not to mention ineffective)?

- from What They Won’t Tell You about Parenting by Tom Limbert, a published parenting author and Parent Educator at Parents Place. Tom has been working with young children and their families since 1992, including ten years at Stanford's Bing Nursery School. He has a Master's degree in Education with an emphasis in early childhood development, is the co-founder of Studio Grow, and the Director of Woodside Preschool. 

Tags:  parenting 

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Connect with Your Kids – Don’t Control Them

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What parent doesn’t know how it feels to lose control with our kids? When a child flings him/herself down on the floor in the middle of the grocery store, hits or bites a sibling or school mate, makes poor choices about their friends, schoolwork or health, talks back or rolls their eyes at anything we say, it can feel almost impossible to control our reactions.

Who ever told us we had control over our kids in the first place?

Think about it. When we’re coming from our egos, we have a personal stake in our kids’ behavior and how it reflects ON US. But the reality is that they are their own people — with their own ideas, their own independent needs — and the only people who can control them is themselves.

When we look at basic brain science of the limbic system where emotions are centered and the prefrontal cortex where reasoning and logic are centered, we start to understand why our kids’ behaviors can get so big. And how little they have to do with us.

What neuroscience teaches us is that a much more effective and relationship-building way to respond to our kids in their most challenging moments of big behaviors is to CONNECT with them rather than to try to control them or their behavior.

So instead of thinking during a huge tantrum, “How can I get this to stop? What can I say? How I can dole out consequences to get him to stop?”, we can turn it around. Connection helps us change direction by encouraging us to ask, “How can I connect with her right now?  How will her emotional needs be met if I get down, make eye contact, use a soft tone of voice and physical touch to let her know I’m here?”

Only then can we start to shift the way it feels in our bodies to connect rather than control. We can breathe, feel less tightness and less anger in ourselves as we connect compassionately and without expectation with our child.

Why is this hard to do for most of us? Simply, we weren’t parented this way. Many of us were parented in ways that often included yelling, punishing and shaming. Those old experiences from our past get triggered during a heated moment with our kids. The first step is to be aware of that happening. The second step is to have someone to talk to about it and to release those old hurts. The third step is to learn and practice new skills to connect. And voila! We’ve used connection to change direction! It benefits us as well as our kids.

This basic principle of relationship building with our kids actually applies to all relationships. Whenever someone is “acting up,” big feelings are at the root. Our spouse, a child in our classroom, a friend or a family member. Try connecting rather than controlling in response and see what happens. Asking someone how they feel or what they need can go a long way to understanding what’s actually happening, and can help us respond effectively to behaviors that challenge us to let go of control.

Adapted from The Connected Family.

Kiran Gaind owns The Connected Family, a boutique coaching practice for modern parents based in Palo Alto. She works with parents who are overwhelmed by their responsibilities and exhausted by the demands of parenting to feel overjoyed by their lives and being parents again.

Tags:  health  parenting 

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Mommy, Can We Send Baby Back Now?

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 18, 2016

I thought I had dodged a bullet when my second son was born and my first seemed to fall in love with him right ‘out of the box’, so to speak. The baby was doted on, squeezed, admired, snuggled and generally adored by my older son. I was relieved…I had done something right, clearly! Maybe following all the advice to pay lots of attention to my oldest child, to include him in caring for the baby, to try to be extra empathetic and loving had paid off?

Well, it did to a certain extent. He was prepared to be indulgently kind to this interloper for at least…oh…6 months or so. And then it was time for this fun toy to be returned. Time’s up, guarantee is about to expire — mom, can we return him now and get some Legos instead?

I don’t know if the little one went from ‘baby’ (another species) to ‘actual child’ (direct competition) at around the time the tide turned. My older child would run past where the little one was sitting and attempt a swift kick as he passed by. He got angry a lot, was defiant and generally out of sorts. He was certainly not happy about the baby anymore, and he didn’t seem too happy about anything else, either. I could see that something had changed, and that something different had to be done now.

Here are six steps I took that were the most effective: 

REALLY recognize what your older child is experiencing when you bring a new baby into their lives.
I know this is talked about a lot, but it’s not until we slow down and really let ourselves imagine it from our own adult perspective that we can help our children through this. Could we easily reconcile ourselves to the idea of our partners loving another partner as much they love us, with nothing being taken away from us? Would we welcome a new husband or wife for our partner, invite them to share our home and be impressed by their cuteness? Would we feel overjoyed by every new moment of delight they bring to our partner, relishing their joy and not feeling secretly abandoned and vengeful? When we truly recognize what we’re asking our children to handle, it is pretty sobering. Being able to get through the day with a smile on their faces starts to seem impressive. 

Understand that the hardest part for your child is that they think you don’t KNOW how they feel about the interloper.
They know you want them to love the baby, but their feelings are mixed. They have some that aren’t so rosy towards the baby, quite frankly, but because you seem to really love this strange new being they think you can’t possibly KNOW about those feelings. The sensation of keeping the darkness all hidden inside is agony for them. Allowing them to release those feelings, to show you and tell you, is a HUGE relief for them.

The best way I found to do that was to take some time while the baby was sleeping and play a game with my oldest son that encouraged him to express it. I used an old teddy bear, but you could use any doll or creature that has ‘human’ qualities. The game was ‘If I had a little brother, I would like to do THIS to him’. My son was not comfortable with ‘If this was YOUR ACTUAL little brother’ (although some kids would be) so I shifted it to be more neutral. Sometimes I would pretend the bear was my real little brother — Uncle Charlie — which also worked. And then you steel yourself for WHATEVER gets done to the bear, and go for it. That bear got drop kicked around the room, pummeled, jumped on, strangled, thrown, yelled at, squashed — and that was just by me. Uncle Charlie was clearly still a thorn in my side. But the idea is that you make it OK that these difficult feelings exist. You laugh, encourage them to show more and more things they might want to do to the bear, enjoy the game…and your child starts to feel the release of the pressure of keeping it all hidden. They will understand instinctively that you are not saying that it’s fine to do this to the baby, but rather that you’re saying ‘I see how upset you feel inside, and I love you and accept you completely’.

I found at first that my child wanted to play this game several times a day, then fewer and fewer times as the feelings all got released. He became happier and calmer pretty quickly, and his need to express his anguish on the actual baby diminished rapidly. The key was not so much the DOING of the violent actions, but the SHOWING them to me and having me love him anyway. His heart was relieved, and so was mine. A relieved heart is a much happier one, and a happier heart is a lot nicer to a baby interloper than a burdened and guilty one.

To that end, if at other times your older child expresses negative feelings towards the baby, try your hardest not to contradict them, or persuade them against it. Saying ‘oh, but you LOVE the baby don’t you?’ is just another moment where they might feel like you can’t possibly know how they really feel. Try to remain neutral and mild in your response…’yeah, it can be hard to share your stuff’, or ‘yeah, I didn’t much like it when my younger brother cried either’, or ‘yeah, it’s funny how we can really like someone sometimes, and then other times not so much’.

Minimize opportunities for problems.
Of course, if your older child still wants to express their feelings physically on the baby once in a while, you keep the baby safe before anything else. Don’t leave them alone together, don’t give your older child any opportunity to experience themselves in that painful way. Watch their interactions carefully, and be ready to step in at a moment’s notice to diffuse a situation. If you miss the moment and something happens, step in unequivocally and remove the baby from harm — but yelling at your older child, lecturing them or admonishing them is counter-productive. It is YOUR job to keep the baby safe, not theirs. Make it clear the action was unacceptable, but be calm and clear, not emotional and angry. Give them many, many opportunities to experience themselves as successful around the baby and cherished by you.

Let them know the things you enjoy about them at the age they are right now.
My son really loved to hear about the ways in which being a big kid was cool. I made a point of saying ‘I’m so glad that you’re old enough to come and do (whatever it was) with me now,’ or ‘I’m really happy you’re not a baby anymore and we can chat about things and understand each other!’ All little reminders that he had value to me just as he was, and in ways the baby couldn’t even begin to compete with.

Do not require your older child to share their stuff or their space.
Obviously everybody has a different living environment, but even in a tiny one-bedroom house I was able to make sure my older son had an area that was just HIS. He didn’t ask to have this other person in his life, so I never required him to act like he did. If he had toys he didn’t want the baby to touch, we put them in his special zone. In fact, we had one of those baby containment gate things, and we used it to make a play area for my older son. He would sit inside with his things, and the baby was free to roam around outside! Because we were kind with him about this, he became much kinder to the baby, and much more willing to share because he didn’t feel powerless over his things. 

My younger son turned out to be very respectful and thoughtful of other people’s possessions as a result, and wouldn’t dream of using something that belonged to someone else without their permission. He wasn’t intimidated into it, he just saw every day that we cared to make sure that everyone got to be in charge of what was theirs, including him. He’s happy to share most of the time because sharing was modeled to him as something that you get to choose when you feel good about it, not because you’re forced to.

Showing and telling your child how much you love them WHEN THEY’RE NOT DOING ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR goes an amazingly far way with them. Letting them know that they’re lovable to you just because they exist is a healing balm. They understand from that that they don’t have to do or be anything other than they are in order to be loved by you, and that, conversely, your love is there no matter what they do. So, take a moment when you’re just hanging out and nothing much is happening to say ‘I am SO glad that I have you in my life!’ or something that feels authentic and true to you. They’ll feel the resonance and it will make both of your hearts sing.

So there we have it. I discovered that by allowing all of my son’s negative feelings towards the baby (in a safe way), he was freed up to have more positive ones. And not forcing him to share made him more willing to. And being unconditionally loving did more than any praise of how ‘nice’ he could be to the baby. 

I am happy to report that my sons are now some of the closest siblings I know. People comment on their connection and the fun they have together, and although they occasionally drive each other crazy, they are bonded and happy.

Like any human being, children do best when their hearts are happy – their natural instincts are GOOD, and they desperately want to succeed at this thing called life. Given trust, love and support, we all do a whole lot better.


Terri Landey is co-founder of Bun and Bundle, offering prenatal and postpartum support for the whole family, including baby planning and postpartum doula services.

Tags:  expecting  parenting 

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Taking on the Myth of the Spoiled Child

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 18, 2016

It seems as if everyone has something negative to say about the younger generation. Critics call today’s kids narcissistic and spoiled, blaming parents for being too permissive and overprotective.They say children don’t have enough grit and determination to get through life, leaving them unprepared for the real world.

But author Alfie Kohn debunks this kind of thinking in his new book, The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting. Kohn has made a name for himself by questioning the origins and scientific accuracy of our cultural assumptions—for example, in his book The Homework Myth, he wrote about the lack of evidence supporting the benefits of assigning homework. Now, he’s taken a similar tack with today’s “youth entitlement” and “permissive parenting” critiques, combing through the social science research and finding virtually nothing to support these claims.

Although Americans seem bent on believing that the current generation is fundamentally “spoiled,” this view is not very different than that of every previous generation, according to Kohn. Writings by prominent authors over the last 150 years and even earlier demonstrate how every generation has had similar perceptions about the youth of their times. In addition, survey results used to suggest kids are more “narcissistic” these days are flawed, writes Kohn, reflecting a bias among researchers and a failure to even distinguish between healthy and unhealthy forms of narcissism.

“The generalizations one chooses to apply to the younger generation seem to depend mostly on the worldview of the person doing the generalizing,” writes Kohn. “Older people have always insisted that children are unusually spoiled, or that young adults are usually egocentric or entitled…one can make the opposite case—that today’s youth are more tolerant than their parents were and admirably committed to making the world a better place.”

The problem, he suggests, does not lie with kids, but with the backlash coming from “traditionalist” quarters that want children to be compliant and under parental control. The traditionalist view is that positive regard toward children should be conditional rather than based on unconditional love, that not everyone deserves to succeed, and that life should include deprivation in order to instill self-discipline. This view currently pervades discussions of education and parenting, as well as politics, argues Kohn, but it is not based on science.

For example, he questions the prevailing wisdom that kids need to learn the benefits of failure. Research shows that kids who fail are less likely to try harder in the future and often just give up, he insists, and that what’s important for progress in kids is having caring mentors and long-term goals they find intrinsically worthy. Not all failure is good; in fact, exposing kids to highly competitive situations, like spelling bees or classes graded on a curve, where failure is inevitable for many, may encourage some kids to work harder at winning; but it often kills intrinsic motivation and leaves a trail of dispirited “losers” in its wake.

“What’s most reliably associated with success are prior experiences of success, not with failure,” he writes. “Although there are exceptions, the most likely consequence of having failed at something is that a child will come to see himself as lacking competence.”

Kohn also takes exception to interpretations of the famous “marshmallow” experiment by Walter Mischel and colleagues, in which children were told that they could eat one marshmallow now or, if they could wait some period of time, they would be given two marshmallows to eat.

The original experiment was meant to study the strategies kids used to stop themselves from eating the one marshmallow immediately. But, according to Kohn, that got lost in the rhetoric, and instead the focus changed to the benefits of “delayed gratification.” In follow up studies, kids who were able to wait were found to have higher SAT scores, among other positive outcomes, making people assume a causal connection between self-control and academic performance.

But Kohn argues that the children’s cognitive ability to come up with strategies for distracting themselves—i.e,. closing their eyes or singing—was what allowed them to wait for a second marshmallow, and would explain why they might score higher on an SAT test.

In fact, in another set of experiments replicating Mischel’s study but with a twist, kids who were first primed to distrust the reliability of the researcher to fulfill promises ate the one marshmallow right away much more often than those who were given reasons to trust the researcher. This suggests that kids having trustworthy adults in their lives may be more important than self-control in delaying gratification.

Kohn goes through several more studies, debunking similar conclusions about the benefits of strict parenting, corporal punishment, having “grit,” and other social theories proposed by education or parenting experts. He makes a compelling case that many of these hypotheses get bandied about freely without careful scrutiny because of the public’s desire to see their own preconceptions justified. And the danger here, he argues, is that parents may end up discounting the robust research showing that unconditional love, positive role-modeling, and working with rather than controlling children is what benefits them most and prepares them for success.

But, despite Kohn’s extensive research and cogent analyses, some of his arguments feel forced and repetitive. Perhaps his relentless critique is necessary to counter the prevailing narrative, though I found if off-putting at times.

Still, we need voices like his—even if they are occasionally strident—to remind us why we can’t blindly trust our instincts. The kids are actually all right, writes Kohn, and parents don’t need to be harsher. Unless we want to raise a generation of unhappy, unmotivated kids, who don’t know how to think for themselves, we should probably try less name-calling and more kindness toward our youth.

And perhaps we all need to question the authority of those who suggest otherwise.


This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. To view the original article, click here.

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good‘s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine

Tags:  parenting 

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Breastfeeding & Pumping

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 16, 2016

If you’re breastfeeding a new baby, chances are at some point you’ll need to have someone else feed your baby. If you’re like millions of other moms, you may be wondering about how to pump and store milk, whether you’re going back to work or would like to be able to be away from the baby for a few hours without them starving.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms breastfeed or provide their pumped breast milk to their babies exclusively for at least six to twelve months. Each mom’s situation is unique and one size definitely does not fit all. I like this to be a guilt free zone because everyone is doing the best they can for their little ones.

Some moms offer one feeding of pumped milk or formula each day while breastfeeding at all other times. Others are only able to breastfeed or use pumped breast milk once each day and use formula the rest of the time. No matter what your situation is, there’s information here to help you navigate the world of pumping and breastfeeding.

There are a few babies who are models of flexibility and will take a bottle anytime you offer it, no matter when or how often. If you have one of these babies, you may be able to offer a bottle of pumped milk once a week and not worry that your baby will eat. If this is your situation, you’re lucky. However, if you’re like many moms with a baby who prefers to stick with their routine, you may find it difficult to switch from breast to bottle unless you also develop a consistent pattern.

Most babies develop the flexibility to nurse at the breast and drink pumped breast milk or formula from a bottle if the bottle is introduced at the right time and provided at least once each day. Some babies tend to be just like Goldilocks in the story of the three bears. You can’t introduce the bottle too early. And you can’t introduce the bottle too late. The timing has to be just right!

  • Too early
    If you introduce a bottle of pumped milk before your baby is three weeks old, it may lead to nipple confusion, with the baby seeming to wonder what this new thing is and refusing to drink from the bottle.
  • Too late
    If you introduce a bottle of pumped milk after six weeks, your baby may be set in her routine and be unwilling to try something new. This often leads to the baby refusing to drink and lots of tears from both mom and baby.

If you know that you have to return to work and will be offering bottles while you’re away from your little one, it’s best to introduce the bottle prior to the six-week birthday. If you’re reading this and your baby is older than six weeks, don’t give up; try anyway and offer pumped milk or formula in a bottle every day. Sometimes babies take the pumped milk or formula better from someone other than mom, so do get help from your partner or family.

Getting Ready to Pump: Tips and Techniques
• Pump in the morning. You’re likely to have more milk in the morning as a result of your rest throughout the night. Even if you were up multiple times, any rest will help you make more milk.

• To build up your supply and help your body get used to producing more milk, try to pump thirty minutes to one hour after the first morning feeding and at about the same time each day. This may not produce much milk for the first few days, so don’t worry. What this does is stimulate more supply in the next three to four days.

• Regular pumping each day at the same times stimulates more supply. Remember that producing breast milk is all about demand first, and then supply.

• The percentage of fat is usually higher with early morning milk. Even a little sleep helps moms make richer milk with more fat. If you’ve noticed that your baby takes a longer morning nap and goes longer between feedings in the morning, it’s a result of the added fat content in your morning milk.

• By the end of day, many babies nurse frequently and may be a little fussy. They may want to eat every hour. If you’re able to provide a bottle of the pumped milk, with lots of nutritious fat from the morning, around dinnertime you may be able to alleviate some of your baby’s hunger and need to eat frequently. This also gives you a little break, especially if someone else provides the bottle.

• Try to offer one bottle each day. Babies are more likely to stick with their routine and are less likely to refuse the bottle if they have a consistent experience. Some babies get out of practice if they go more than three days without a bottle.

• Encourage your partner or other family members to feed the baby with your pumped milk. Feeding a baby is a wonderful opportunity to connect and gives mom a much needed break from round-the-clock feedings.

• Many babies insist on mom, and they won’t take a bottle of pumped milk if they can smell or sense that she’s nearby. If this is the case, then it’s a good time for you to take a shower, or take time to rest, eat, recharge, care for any other children or get out of the house for a break.

• As you become more comfortable with pumping, you may be able to pump just before or just after breastfeeding and not need to wait thirty or more minutes. Some moms are able to pump, breastfeed and then pump again in the morning to build up their supply.

Storing Milk
• Pumped milk may or may not separate into two layers: a thin bluish or white layer on the bottom and a thicker, yellow creamy layer on top.

• Pumped breast milk is like liquid gold. To avoid frustration from having to throw out unused milk, only store two to four ounces in each container.

• Label and date the container.

• It’s safe to store pumped milk in glass or hard plastic containers, milk storage bags or plastic bottle liners. Look for ones that do not contain BPA.

• Only keep a few days supply of milk in the fridge so that it doesn’t go bad.

• Have most of your pumped milk available in the freezer to thaw if needed.

Your breast milk is safe:
• At room temp for six to ten hours.

• In the fridge for five days.

• In the freezer compartment of a refrigerator for two weeks.

• In the freezer for three months.

• In a deep freezer for six months.

When thawing milk:

• Place the container of milk in a pan of hot water that has been removed from the heat, or hold the container under cool water, gradually increasing the temperature of the water to warm.

• Shake well before feeding baby.

• Frozen milk that has been thawed can be stored safely in the fridge for up to twenty-four hours.

• Remember, babies can drink milk or formula that’s at room temperature — it doesn’t have to be warmed up.

Not recommended:
• Do not thaw breast milk and then refreeze it.

• Do not thaw or heat breast milk in the microwave.

• Do not place breast milk over a heat source.

• Do not place the container of breast milk in a pan that’s over a direct heat source.

• Never put nipples in the microwave as this can degrade them.


Barbara Dehn RN, MS, NP, is a women’s health nurse practitioner practicing at El Camino Hospital. She is also a television health expert known as Nurse Barb on ABC TV. For more information see

Tags:  health  parenting 

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