Monthly Archives: September 2014

Let Your Toddler Hear You Gossiping (About Him!)

Dr. Harvey Karp has many great ideas to inspire toddlers and their parents. One of my favorite strategies is Gossiping. Toddlers love to hear about their effects on others. Tell his stuffed animals or his “lovey” what a great listener he was, or how he ate a new food, and you will have an audience that can’t wait to show you what to talk about next.

It goes something like this: notice some progress your toddler made toward a goal ( toilet training, sharing, etc.) and find a moment to use a louder voice and some over-the-top acting to tell the teddy bear what you saw and how amazing/terrific/grown-up that was. Lay it on pretty thickly, and never acknowledge that you know your child heard every word. You can even mention to teddy that you hope it happens again soon, or that you plan to tell other family members later.

Children at this age are not always tolerant of criticism, and they sometimes even feel pressured when they receive direct praise. A young child can think that if they don’t perform the same way next time, they might have “failed’. But hearing gossiped praise is often a double bonus. Toddlers hear you say something positive about them, and know someone else has heard it too!

Gossiping Variation: Gossip to another person about another sibling or even a toy, mentioning an action or skill that you want to encourage in your toddler. You might tell your mother that you saw your older child cleaning up, and how grown-up you think they are. Or how happy you were when they shared a toy or a snack. If your toddler was present when it occurred, all the better. Again, do not directly acknowledge that your child is listening to this gossip.

Think you child is too young to absorb it all? Even the younger toddlers will get the general idea that you are saying something positive about them. Your tone and your gestures or facial expression will convey more than you might think. It is never too early to feel good about yourself!

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For Rosh Hashanah, Some Zitzfleish?

Pamela Druckerman, the author of “Bringing Up Bebe”, has written a NYT piece, “Learning How to Exert Self-Control” on 9/12/14. She reviews a new book by Dr. Walter Mischel, the primary researcher of the famous test of self-control in young children that you know as “the marshmallow test”.

Dr. Mischel has a new book out, and Ms. Druckerman’s article reviews the concepts and also provides some insights into how children and adults can build the ability to leave the Doritos alone, stick with a savings plan, or just not eat that marshmallow.

I will try to remember his suggestions when I create my own New Year’s resolutions.

Breastfeeding Supports Speech Development and Self-Calming

U.S. News and World Report published a great article on the research surrounding the connection between breastfeeding and jaw control on August 29th. Melinda Johnson wrote “Breastfeeding Builds a Better Jaw, and Other Benefits for Babies”. This article explains some of the dental and motor benefits for infants, but only hints at the additional contributions that better jaw control have for your child. The article discusses recent research that indicates there are benefits for dental development and possibly a lower incidence of asthma.

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I treat children who have struggled with nursing when very young, and continue to have challenges related to good oral control and a smooth suck/swallow/breathe synchrony. This is the pattern of sequencing sucking and breathing to prevent food from entering the airway while eating. It is something that most babies master in the first few days of life, but not all babies excel at this essential skill.

The ability to coordinate the suck/swallow/breathe synchrony is essential during those first few days and weeks. A baby that can manage to smoothly coordinate that pattern is also more likely to be able to self-calm and to learn more controlled chewing and speaking as he grows. Without a synchronous pattern, a child is more likely to have issues of reflux, gagging, and irritability. This can develop into a more generalized sensory aversion or difficulty maintaining a calm state of alertness. If a child has weaker jaw and mouth musculature, he may refuse some food textures or have more difficulty with speech development.

I encourage parents to read this article and think about the wider-ranging benefits of breastfeeding for their baby.

Want the Happiest Toddler? Tell Home-Made Fairy Tales

does this look familiar? read on!

The Happiest Toddler on the Block techniques can transform a whining toddler into a cooperative little person.  But it can do so much more.   Teaching children how to manage their behavior and learn about their feelings is essential.  The cornerstone of HTOTB is the Fast Food Rule, but many of the other techniques are very helpful.  I wanted to share one of my favorite strategies for teaching toddlers: telling Fairy Tales.

These are not your standard stories, they are stories about characters that are dealing with the same issues that have been stressing your toddler.  Telling the story of the princess that didn’t like to share, or the teddy bear that did not want to sit in his car seat can be instruction in a “one-off” way.  A child can feel  less pressured than being told what to do, or even hearing that their sibling or friend handles things differently.  Talking about the way the princess realized that she was happiest when sharing toys with her friends is less intense than telling your child to share her favorite dolls.  Finding out that the teddy bear’s mother sympathized with his desire to be free (but had to follow the rules that all bears are clicked in) makes your rules sound more reasonable.  

Children really want to know how to succeed in life and please their parents and caregivers.  But toddlers with strong temperaments, or those feeling stressed cannot use direct conversation quite as well as we would like.  When used with Gossiping (about their successes) and Patience Stretching, this can really transform your child’s behavior.

Some children really want to hear more and more, so you may be “writing” a chapter book about the puppy that didn’t like to get dressed for preschool. Time to get creative!

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Happiest Baby on the Block: Misconceptions and Misunderstandings

AS a certified HBOTB educator, I have received comments and questions that help me clarify my message and improve my instruction. I imagine that many parents are thinking about these questions but may never ask me in person or on the phone. Time for some refinement.

Q: How can I use side or stomach-lying? The pediatrician said never to put my baby to sleep that way?
A: You are right; babies under 12 months should never sleep on their stomachs, in order to reduce the risk of SIDS. The HBOTB 5 S’s are used to CALM your baby, and then they sleep swaddled on their backs.

Q: Doesn’t pacifier use ruin their teeth?
A:  HBOTH is used with babies 0-12 weeks old.  Babies under 6 months of age generally do not have teeth. Sucking is a natural way babies soothe themselves at this stage of development.   Pacifier use after 6 months is more likely to affect dental development AND become an emotional attachment, not a biological need.

Q: I have heard that pacifier use will disrupt breastfeeding!!
A: If you are breastfeeding, HBOTB recommends that you wait until your baby has mastered nursing before you introduce a pacifier. That could take a few weeks. But most babies get very good at nursing very fast. Watch your baby’s swallowing; if she is at the breast but not swallowing, she is just soothing herself by sucking, which is normal and perfectly acceptable.

Q: My baby sleeps so well swaddled, won’t he sleep through a feeding?
A: If your baby is hungry, he will awaken unless he is experiencing other issues that create lethargy. True hunger cannot be eradicated by the 5 S’s: your baby will momentarily calm, then realize he is still really hungry!