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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Co-sleeping (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

       Co-sleeping is another controversial parenting issue in the United States.  Many have used the term co-sleeping interchangeably with bed-sharing, which further confuses the issue. Here, co-sleeping with bed-sharing is being addressed. Solitary infant sleeping is a fairly new Western concept. Many cultures around the world still practice co-sleeping with bed-sharing as a natural extension of the mother-child relationship. Not to do so is considered aberrant and frowned upon.   I have witnessed and experienced this in my own Nepali culture.
       Those who support co-sleeping with bed-sharing state many reasons including that it builds a strong bond between the parent and child, fosters longer breastfeeding, facilitates good sleep for baby and parent, and provides comfort when the child needs it for various reasons.  Those who argue against it, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, do so primarily for safety and health concerns such as suffocation, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), unhealthy dependence on parents, and separation problems that can lead to anxiety for the child.  Additionally, opponents say that bed-sharing negatively impacts the parents' own relationship such as communication and intimacy issues.
      I am confident this is an issue that every parent encounters since infant and toddler's sleep pattern changes often. However, every parent deals with it differently and can be quite an emotional stage for both parents and the child. My own kids wake up frequently during the night for one reason or another.  My husband and I fall in the middle of the co-sleeping argument. When our kids were infants, we practiced co-sleeping in the same room but not in the same bed. We moved them into their own room when we all were ready to do so.  For our son, we felt he was ready when he was six months old. For our daughter, she transferred when she was 1 year old.  Today, they sleep alone in their own rooms, but there are nights when they may join us in our bed or we go to their bed if they need comforting because of teething pain, nightmares, or whatever it may be.  So, how have you handled co-sleeping with infants and/or toddlers?   

Friday, April 22, 2011

Helicopter Parenting (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)


    Helicopter parent is a term used to describe parents who are extremely involved in their child’s experiences and problems, especially in academic institutions.  Like a helicopter, the parent hovers over the child and is not far from reach when they are called for so-called parental duties. This expression gained notoriety in the media when the Millenium Generation started reaching college age and their professors started complaining about The Baby Boomer parents complaining about their kids’ grades and in some cases, negotiating their child's grades.  Additionally, parents have entered their children’s workforce by negotiating their salary and benefits.  You say, this is ridiculous, I’m not one of those parents!

    Now, consider this.  Your school aged child repeatedly forgets to take their lunch to school. Like a loving parent, you repeatedly take the lunch to school so they will not go hungry. Or how about this, the weather has been chilly for the past few weeks and your child insists on not wearing the jacket to school every day for the past few weeks. So, do you let them go without a jacket or insists they wear one every chilly morning and potentially have a power struggle with your child?  Or this, your school aged child has a cell phone and you instruct them to call you multiple times during the day to report how their day is going.  It's been said by some that a cell phone is the longest umbilical cord in the history of mankind!  So, is this effective parenting or helicopter parenting?

    It is hard to know where you draw the line between being an appropriately involved parent and a helicopter parent.  However, many have argued that the implications of helicopter parenting are pretty serious and the side effects do not show up until these children enter college. At college age, they are expected to become independent and self-reliant.  Some of these expectations may include cooking for themselves, managing their finances, choosing their career path, etc.  This of course, begs the question:  Is it fair to expect your child to be autonomous when they have been so used to being rescued for the past eighteen or so years?

    Find out if you are heading in the path of becoming a helicopter parent by taking this quiz at: http://www.babyzone.com/mom_dad/quiz/helicopter-parent.  Please note that this is just a fun exercise to give you an idea about the matter.

Interesting articles on helicopter parenting:
http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/07/unhappy-helicopter-parents/
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37493795/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1940395,00.html

Friday, April 15, 2011

Disciplining Kids Under Two (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)


            Disciplining children under two years old can be very challenging because they do not have adequate speech and language skills, inability to sit still, and have short attention span.  However, it is possible to do so.  It just requires different tactics rather than strategies like time out.  Here are some of the principles and strategies to use when disciplining a child under two years old.

1.      Lay a strong foundation.  It is best to have an action plan before a problem occurs.  If you are in a two-parent household, then team up with your partner and continually discuss how you will discipline your child and execute it accordingly. Your rewards will be much sweeter if you take this route.  Keep in mind that it will take some time to get to this sweet place and sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.  Nonetheless, with patience and consistency you will get there.  

2.      Investigate. When a negative behavior occurs, try to figure out what the function of that behavior is. Is it for hunger, sleep, attention, pain, avoidance, independence, etc?  After you have identified the trigger of the behavior then take appropriate action.  

3.      Redirecting.  One of the most effective strategies is redirecting the very young ones to something else that is appropriate to do.   The parent will often have to model the appropriate behavior.  For example, let’s say that your one year old insists that spaghetti goes on top of her head, instead of the bowl.  You then simply tell her that spaghetti is for eating and it belongs in the bowl.  You can help her put it back in the bowl. This has to be done repeatedly until the child understands.   

4.      Distraction. I use this strategy a lot with my two year old daughter, who has speech and language delays. For instance, she likes to resist when I try to put on her hearing aids. I put her in front of the computer and let her play with the keyboard while I quickly insert her hearing aids.  Keep in mind that you will have to change your distraction ever so often. You will know when the child gets bored with the distraction because they resort back to the negative behavior.  With my daughter, before the computer keyboard, a Chapstick would be enough to keep her busy. She would take the top off, put it back on until I got the aids in. She got bored of the Chapstick in about two weeks.   

5.      Ignoring. I would like to spend some time explaining this strategy because people do not take it seriously. This is because they do not understand how this actually works to stop negative behaviors.  I will refer back to Psychology 101, in particular, behaviorism which states that a behavior that is reinforced is a behavior that continues. Positive attention is a great reinforcer. If a child feels they are not getting the attention they desire, then they will settle for negative attention. In turn, the negative behavior is reinforced and continues. Therefore, ignoring is an effective strategy to stop a negative behavior.  By ignoring, you are not reinforcing a negative behavior and therefore ending it.

            To exemplify how this works let’s say your 1.5 year old throws a temper tantrum. If there’s no danger of harm, you ignore the tantrum. Yes, even if it happens in public places like the supermarket or the mall! I actually believe if you practice ignoring in a public place during an dramatic temper tantrum then your success in eliminating this behavior will be quicker. Why is this? Well, children are very smart and they like to test your limits, especially when you are most vulnerable. How much more vulnerable can you be than in a mall full of people watching your every move as you handle your out of control toddler?  This has happened to me personally. I just let my son go through his tantrum in middle of the food court. I calmly picked him up and let him continue the tantrum outside the mall. The tantrum stopped, and we went home. I can honestly recall this sort of tantrum happening one more time since then and I have to take ownership of that. I didn’t prepare my son before going to ToysRUS to buy his friend’s birthday gift. I should have explained beforehand that we were going to buy only the gift and that I would be the one making the decision on what we buy.  Well, I’m sure you can imagine how that scene unfolded.
        

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Teaching Kids Money Management (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)



            April is National Financial Literacy Month so it seemed fitting to write about teaching kids money management.  Money is one of those touchy subjects.  I am not a financial expert (my husband is), but I do understand the impact money has on people from a psychological perspective.  Money sparks a lot of different emotions in people.
            It’s amazing to me how such an abstract concept as money has so much power in our society. Relationships are broken because of money issues. Crimes are committed because of money. Why is it that some people hoard money while others spend like there’s no tomorrow? I believe it has lots to do with how people were taught money management as a child.  I’ll be the first one to say that money is not everything and cannot buy true happiness. However, money is a huge part of our lives whether we like it or not.  Ignoring this reality does not help us. Therefore, we need to teach our children the value of money and how to manage it so they can obtain a better quality of life as adults. The goal is not to worry our kids about money or for them to become scrooges, but to teach them a valuable life skill that requires constant refining.  
            We have been teaching our son about money since he was four years old. We are very conscious of how we teach him so as not to worry him about money or for him, but to do it in a fun and educational way.  There are three core principles we follow.  First, consistency is very important.  We make sure both my husband and I are on the same wavelength when communicating (verbal and nonverbal) with our son about money.  Second, we believe the sooner you start the conversation about money, the better because children have more opportunities to learn with more time. Lastly, we try our best to be good role models when managing our own money.  We have a four pronged approach when managing money: money for basic needs, money for wants, money to save, and money for gifts/donations.
            Here are some activities we do to help our son understand the value of money and learn how to manage it.  I hope this is helpful to you!
Some Activities to Consider:
1.      The Piggy Bank.  All the money our son gets as gifts goes in the piggy bank.  Sometimes, our son finds coins in the house and asks if he can put in his piggy bank.  Love it when he does that!
2.      Periodically we take a trip to the bank with the piggy bank money.  We take the coins into the coin chamber and have him count the sum. Then deposit the money in his account.
3.       When shopping, we check the price tags and compare prices.  Once, I took him shopping for a gift in a very little shop and he looked at a price tag and yelled “this costs $45 Mom”.  People around gave us a funny smile.  I wasn’t quite sure to be proud or embarrassed.  At the end, I decided to be proud and praised him for figuring out the price. 
4.      Give choices.  Periodically, we give him choices on how he can use his money.  For example, when my son lost his first tooth, the tooth fairy left him $20 under his pillow (tooth fairy was very generous that day because that’s all she had in her wallet!).  Anyways, he was given the choice of using $5 and putting $15 in the piggy bank. Our son decided to put the $20 in the piggy bank and save it for when he’s older.  I was very happy with his decision and praised him for being so responsible with his money.  Few days later, he lost another tooth, and this time the tooth fairy left $5 and my son looked at the bill and said “oh man, that’s all.”  I could only laugh!
5.      We take periodic trips to the Dollar Store or Five Below (love that store!) and he gets $5 to spend his money any way he wants to.  This becomes a fun adventure when he contemplates whether to spend all of the $5 on one thing, or buy 5 things that’s $1 each, etc.  It’s lot of fun watching him run around the store and calculating to maximize his benefits.  This shopping experience can go on the whole day, so I have to impose a time limit.       

Great Resources on Money Management:
1.      Financial Expert Suze Ormon (we love her)! She used to say we should try to live within our means, but given our current economic crises, she now says that we should live below our means.           
2.      The Canadian show: Til Debt Do Us Part (Financial Wizard: Gail Vaz-Oxlade)
3.      Kiplinger’s Magazine
4.      Money Magazine
Happy money management with your kids!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What It Means to Have a Child with Special Needs


            I wanted to share this beautiful piece written by Emily Perl Kingsley on what it means to have and raise a child with special needs. After this writing was shared at my daughter’s School for the Deaf, I periodically refer back to it for inspiration. I hope this inspires you as well!

Welcome to Holland (by Emily Perl Kingsley)
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this…

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!" you say. "What do you mean, Holland?" I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy.

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

Raising Teenagers

Here are some great websites that address issues that come up when parenting teenagers. Happy reading to those with teenagers! I would love to know if you find these helpful.


http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/parenting/11-rules-for-raising-teenagers-2362400

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unraveling Timeout (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)


Timeout
            Over the years, timeout has become quite controversial in discipline discussions.  Probably second to spanking. The controversy is basically centered around its effectiveness as a disciplinary tool and concerns around the effects on the child being isolated.  Some critics say that it is abandoning your child during time of need and not loving the child unconditionally.  I say hogwash! In my opinion, it is a very effective disciplinary tool if done properly.  I would recommend it for children from two years of age to twelve, depending on the individual child's maturity level. Furthermore, it is most effective when other strategies are available as alternatives (e.g. taking privileges away).  This tool alone will not cut it.
           However, parents need to consider two questions before using timeout. One is, why the negative behavior is occurring (e.g. hunger, attention, sleep deprivation, etc.). Second, what function do you want timeout to have? Using timeouts “to think about their behavior” or “to get it out of their system” is very different than principles based on operant conditioning where you remove the child from a situation that can be rewarding or reinforcing.  Therefore, reinforcement continues the behavior whereas punishment stops or reduces the behavior.
            In my home, we use it as a safe place to calm down and/or removing the child from a reinforcing situation. We want our child to understand that behaviors have consequences. Like in real life, positive behaviors usually have positive consequences and negative behaviors have negative consequences.  For example, if my son is whining due to hunger then we give him food.  If he’s whining to be difficult, get into power struggle, seek attention , etc. then we give him timeout.
            We follow the general principle of using 1 minute per year of age as a guideline. However, sometimes we may change it a bit depending on his and/or our emotional state. If our son continues the negative behavior and acquires new ones while in timeout, then we either add few more minutes or start taking privileges away (e.g. reduce tv time). I've heard stories where parents have forgotten to take kids out of timeout.  This is where the abandonment issues will arise.  Likewise, if he goes to timeout without a fuss and sits quietly, then we may end timeout sooner. It’s a judgment call.
            The mechanics of how we implement timeout is pretty simple. When our son engages in a negative behavior such as whining, we count “1”.  If he stops whining, he gets praise (e.g. “good listening”) and no timeout. Life goes on as usual. If he doesn’t stop whining, then we count “2.” No praise since we had to come to “2”, and no timeout since he did listen, albeit reluctantly. Life goes on. If he still doesn’t stop whining, then we count to “3” and say “go to timeout for whining, 6 minutes” (specify the negative behavior and time).  After 6 minutes, he is told “timeout is over” and we move on. We do not talk about it afterward.
            I do not believe in rehashing the past and talking about why they did the behavior or saying something about if they thought about what they did unless it was a very serious offense like hitting or talking back. Rehashing the past will only put you in another power struggle with your child and this circular motion will not resolve or teach anything.  I should also add that for very serious negative behaviors like talking back, we do not count. That constitutes an immediate timeout and say “go to timeout for talking back.”  This does not happen often, but when it does, our son is usually very remorseful and apologizes afterward. We briefly talk about why it’s inappropriate to talk back (i.e.disrespectful) and we move on.  If he’s feeling very bad about his behavior, he may even get a kiss or hug to communicate that we love him unconditionally despite his negative behavior.  This happens very infrequently so as not to reinforce the negative behavior. If timeout is a novel practice for you, just skip this altogether so there's no confusion. 
              I would also like to add that timeout needs to be implemented very calmly and consistently.  If you get emotional, then forget it. You are better off taking a timeout for yourself and then addressing your child soon after.  Lastly, you should not put your child in timeout because you need a break and they have not misbehaved. This is tempting, I know, but it will backfire on you. I know every parent can take charge of challenging situations gracefully if only they believe they can.  So next time your child misbehaves, silently say to yourself “Bring- it-on!”
           
             

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Faking Confidence (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)


This Week's Topic: Faking Confidence
            Why fake confidence?  Why am I writing about it here?  Well, we know that confident people are more successful in life than those who are not confident.  We also know that parents’ confidence level impacts their child's self-confidence.  Social learning theorists would say that if a child observes their parent with low self-esteem, not being sure of themselves on a regular basis, have negative thinking, not being assertive, etc. then this will be learned by the child.  And when this child becomes an adult and enters the world where high self-confidence is highly valued then they will have difficulties in social, academic, and work situations.  Likewise, if a child observes high self-confident behaviors in a parent then they are likely to model these behaviors in their own social interactions.
            The good news is that a parent can “fake” confidence to mitigate the effect their low self-esteem has on their child. Faking confidence can make you feel more confident. The bad news is that this is a temporary solution. If someone suffers from very low self-esteem then they should seek professional help.  Therefore, true self-confidence can come only from true self-esteem.  Furthermore, true confidence is not based on factors such as looks, money, intelligence, status, designer clothes, etc.  True confidence is fostered in childhood into adolescence by our role models such as parents and teachers (See previous blog post).

10 Ways to Feel More Self-confident:
1.      Smile!  When you smile, you appear more self-confident. People are attracted to those who smile.  Besides, it’s the cheapest way to improve anyone’s looks!
2.      Good posture. It includes standing up straight with your head and chin held high.
3.      Accept and give compliments.When someone pays you a compliment, thank them. This communicates that you agree with the compliment but also acknowledges their kind words. When you say something nice to a person, you feel good, they feel good.  It’s a win-win situation!
4.      Accept “thank you” like you know you deserve it!  Let’s say someone thanks you for something you have done. Would you respond by saying “it was nothing” or a simple “you’re welcome?” Go with the latter! 
5.   Be Assertive. Stand up for your beliefs without hurting others.
6.      Positive thinking. Make it a daily habit to remember the positive things in your life.  As a challenge, for every negative thought you have, turn it into something positive! For example, “I can’t do this” into “I will try my best.” You will feel the difference instantly!
7.      Project your voice. Self-confident people have good voice control.  They do not use soft or mumbled voice. Nor do they use obnoxiously loud voice.
8.      Good eye contact. When someone is speaking with you, maintain good eye contact. This communicates that you are actively listening and that you are ready to meet any challenge they may present.  Caution: Maintaining eye contact may be against social norms in some cultures.
9.      Good appearance. Good hygiene, clean attire, etc. are important in feeling confident. When you look good, you feel good!
10.  Good nutrition and exercise. There’s nothing like eating junk food to bring you down. Likewise, there’s nothing like endorphins released when exercising to give you a natural high!