Understanding your Child’s Temperament

Understanding your Child’s Temperament

The first article in the Positive Parenting series I am writing for SuperMama.  Click for the English and Arabic versions of the article.

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the joys of being a parent are priceless. Still, parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there. Understanding your child’s behavior can help make everyday situations and disciplining easier for you. The first step to that is understanding your child’s temperament.

Temperament isn’t something your child chooses or that you created. Each child is born with his own natural style of interacting with the people and environment around him. This uniqueness is evident from birth; some babies are quiet while others loudly demand attention. Children in the same family can have different temperaments as well. These temperamental differences mean that each child has different needs and parenting can’t be a “one size fits all” scenario. Temperamental traits usually stay with the child into adulthood and differs from personality.
Recognizing your child’s behavioral patterns that are influenced by temperament can help you anticipate  your child’s reactions to certain situations. Additionally, it can help you decide on the best way to deal with your child’s needs.

Temperament Types & What you can do:

There are generally three different temperament types. Most children can easily fall into one of these categories while others show a combination of these patterns.

  • Easy or flexible children are usually happy, calm, adaptable, have regular sleeping and eating habits, a generally positive mood and are interested in new experiences.

What you can do: You may need to make special time to talk about your child’s feelings since your child might not naturally demand that due to her easy style. Make sure you spend enough play time and talk to your baby who may be naturally quiet. She will still need all the early experiences of social interaction and communication to help her develop.

  • Active or “difficult” children are often active, fussy, more likely to be irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, are more fearful of new people and situations and are easily upset by noise and commotion.

What you can do: Give your active child opportunity to work off his energy. Give choices (usually limit them to two options) to reduce conflict. For example, give a choice of wearing the blue or red sweater while getting dressed. Make sure to prepare your child if the situation  will change to make transitions easier. Such as, letting him know it’s almost bedtime and giving him time to prepare for that instead of expecting him to immediately put away his toys and go to bed. Try giving your child tasks to help move from one activity for the other. Such as, brushing his teeth before going to bed. Remember to explain to your child what’s happening, this can make activities like diaper changing and getting dressed much easier once your child knows what to expect and understands his role.

  • Slow to warm up or cautious children are usually inactive, they tend to withdraw or respond negatively to new experiences. However, they slowly become more positive and adjust with continuous, positive and supportive exposure.

What you can do: Your child may need more time to adjust to new situations and people. Make sure to give her enough support and time to feel comfortable enough to venture out. Change can also be difficult to handle, try to give your child enough notice that a situation will be changing. For example, let your child know when it’s almost time for dinner and she has to put her toys away soon, that way she has enough time to prepare herself to move on to the next activity. Routines are also important and a source of comfort, they help children feel in control of their surroundings. Remember not to force your child if she’s not ready. Comfort  and support are much more effective ways to helping her feel secure enough to explore her surroundings.

Parenting with Temperament in Mind

  • Avoid comparing him to other children. Remember that your responses can help adapt his temperament. A timid child can become more comfortable with a supporting parent.
  • Communicate limits and decisions clearly. Involving your child in setting rules will help make routines and transitions easier as well as help your child develop self control.
  • Be aware of your own temperament and try to adjust yourself to your child. This doesn’t mean changing who you are, but realizing that your child enjoys experiencing the world in a different way.
  • Finding activities to bond and understanding your child’s actions which are very different from your own can be a struggle. Those feelings are OK and it’s important to communicate them with your partner.

Remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” temperament. Even though some temperaments might be easier to deal with than others, it’s still one of your child’s unique qualities. It’s important that your child feels  loved the way she is. Remember, the goal isn’t to change your child, but to help nurture her unique strengths and to deal with difficult situations.

Peaceful Diaper Changing

Peaceful Diaper Changing

Is diaper changing a nightmare? Does your baby kick and scream? These are a few suggestions that I’ve found very helpful with diaper changing.

  • Tell your child that you are going to change his diaper now instead of swooping him up 🙂 This gives your child a chance to figure out what’s happening. Especially around 18 months when children start feeling a need for more independence, this can add to your child’s willingness to come along since he was given some independence.
  • Try to have everything set up before hand so you don’t leave your baby waiting too long. Check list: clean diaper, wipes, cream.
  • Let your child bring a small toy or part of the activity he was engaged in to the changing table. If he’s holding a little book talk to him about it, ask him to point to the flower, bee, cow on the cover. This will keep him busy and happy while you change his diaper
  • If your baby starts getting fidgety sing some calming songs or blow raspberries on his feet. Taking a moment to address his anxiety and calming him down will probably get him relaxed and laughing again.
  • Let your baby know what you are doing. Now you are wiping, putting cream and putting on a new diaper. With repetition your baby will learn to expect when the process is almost over and will become more patient. It’s also an opportunity for communication and language development.
  • For toddlers and those approaching potty-training age, the lying down part of the changing may feel uncomfortable to them. Once the diaper is off, try putting the clean diaper on while you child is standing. After a couple of times your child will learn that the uncomfortable lying down part only has to be tolerated for a little bit.

What else have you found helpful to make diaper changing more peaceful? 🙂

Photo from Rachel Hutton 
Your Baby and Crying

Your Baby and Crying

I’m currently reading Dr. Penelope Leach‘s book on child raising called Your Baby and Child which covers ages birth to 5 years. So far it’s an amazing read and I recommend it to parents, especially first time parents. The book gives detailed and practical advice on handling your newborn, toddler and preschooler. What I like most is that Penelope Leach has based this book on scientific research which I find adds credibility. As well as having the experience of raising her own two children which makes her more attuned to the practicalities of motherhood and parenting.

A common debate among parents is letting your baby cry, also known as “controlled crying” or “ferberization“. A lot of parents face this problem specifically at bedtime and resort (in despair mostly) to letting the baby cry herself to sleep.

Here’s what Dr. Leach has to say about this topic and how your baby interprets your behavior.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbYk5RiIwZI]

You can read more about the first year in Leach’s book The Essential First Year”  

Photo by phaendin


Raising a Secure Child

Raising a Secure Child

Bonding with your baby can help you form a secure attachment that will last a life time. Attachment is a deep bond that is formed between the baby and his caregiver in the early years. This attachment can greatly affect your child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. Babies who form a secure bond with their parent have a better chance of being trusting and supportive adults themselves later in life.

An attachment bond is formed based on your (or other primary caregiver’s) patterns of interaction with your infant. Your baby learns that she can depend on you when she experiences a pattern of consistently responsive and attentive behavior from you that fulfills her need for food, security, warmth or comfort. Your baby is then able to form a secure bond with you (or other primary caregivers that show the same behavior) and uses you as a secure base from which to confidently explore the world. A common example is taking your child to a new setting: initially your child may seem shy to explore. However, given time and positive support by the parent he eventually begins to wander and explore his surroundings, all the while returning to his parent and venturing out again. Repeating this cycle and increasing his zone of exploration every time as he remains confident that his parent will still be there and respond if any trouble occurs.

Some parents are worried about spoiling their child if they are responsive to their every demand. However, there’s a big difference between being responsive to your child’s needs and your child’s material wants. Giving your child love, warmth and responding to her cries helps establish  a secure relationship by letting her know you will be there when she needs support. This is completely different from answering your child’s needs by giving toys, presents or other material objects. Children with secure attachment tend to be more independent, not less.

Secure children have been found to have better peer relations, handle conflict better, develop faster than insecure children, show less behavior problems and have more positive romantic relationships as adults. A child’s attachment bond is related to different factors but most importantly is how sensitive his parents (and other main caregivers) are to his needs. It’s important to know that children form different attachment bonds with different people depending on the adult’s behavior.

What You Can Do

  • Try to learn your baby’s cues and expressions. Be responsive to your infants cries for warmth, food, comfort or reassurance.
  • Pay attention and encourage positive signals from your baby as well. Like smiling, laughing and other happy baby noises. Notice the touches, sounds and expressions that your baby enjoys.
  • Support your toddler positively. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while being there to support if things get too tough.
  • Don’t be over intrusive with your child’s initiatives. Avoid taking over your child’s activity and being over involved. This will just push your child away.
  • Try to find a balance between giving your child independence and support. Your child needs to know you will be there when she needs help.
  • Communicate with your child and explain things. Why you will leave him at daycare? Where will you go? When will you return?. Make sure to stick to what you say!
  • Be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence and positive self esteem.

Taking Care of You

  • Make sure to get enough rest to have the energy to be responsive to your child. Ask friends or family to help you out from time to time.
  • If you’re dealing with feelings of postpartum depression, make sure to get professional help or talk to your partner about your feelings. Depression can lead to frustration and other behaviors that can affect your bond with your baby. By taking care of yourself you’re putting your family’s health first as well.
  • You don’t have to give up your job and stay home for your baby to have a secure attachment to you. What’s important is the quality and responsiveness you shown when you are with your baby. Make sure other caregivers in your baby’s life are on the same page with your parenting ideas to give your child a consistent experience.
  • Remember to have fun! Laugh, talk and play with your baby every chance you get!
  • Work on your marital relationship. Studies have found that parents who have a supportive spouse are more able to be responsive to their child’s needs and provide higher quality of care resulting in more security.

Daddies

  • Everything in this post is directed to fathers just as it is to mothers. Research has shown that fathers play a crucial role in their children’s development and that the father-child bond is an important factor in your child’s life.
  • Working fathers may feel they aren’t spending enough time with their children. Try to engage your baby in any opportunity that presents itself. Bottle-feeding, changing diapers,  and putting your baby to bed can all be great times to bond.
  • Read, talk and sing to your baby and let her hear your voice. Take time to play and participate in your older child’s interests as well.
  • Remember to be positive when correcting or redirecting your child. Research has shown that positive parenting is very effective in correcting unwanted behavior while maintaining your child’s positive self esteem and secure bond.

Read More On..

Great Resources

  • Tips for Bonding with your Baby, by the U.S Department for Health and Human Services.
  • More information on attachment and what more you can do to promote the bond here.
  • More great practical tips on what you can do today to bond with your baby here.

Photo from salwa4ct

Choosing Books: From newborns to preschoolers

Choosing Books: From newborns to preschoolers

The joy of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. Letting your imagination go as you read through the words is an amazing feeling. Get your child into reading early on. You can start introducing books at a very early age, as young as 3 month. Here are some tips on how to choose appropriate books for your infant, toddler and preschooler. With a list of some of my favorites for every age. Enjoy!

Reading with Baby

Birth to 6 months

At this age try to choose books that are either cloth or board books. Avoid paper pages, they’re difficult for babies to turn and will tear immediately. Look for books with high contrast colors with simple, clear and big pictures with a character or two in each page. While reading through the book remember to point your finger at the object you’re describing. This way your baby understands what you’re talking about. Books at this age don’t need to have any text, you can improvise each time you read the story making it a new experience every time! Make sure to give your baby the opportunity to look through the book on his own as well and practice turning the pages.

  Fuzzy Bee and Friends (Cloth Book) by Roger Priddy

 Is a soft and colorful cloth book. Your baby can enjoy touching and squeezing the different insects in the book.

Baby Animals Black and While (Board Book) by Phyllis Limbacher

These high contrast black and white images will grab your baby’s attention while you talk to her  about the animals.

 

6 – 18 Months

Babies at this age start enjoying more color in books as well as feeling different textures. Again stick to cloth or board books and include books with colorful and simple images. Add  more books with textures, tactile experiences add pleasure to your baby’s reading experience and foster sensory exploration. Introduce books that encourage object labeling and everyday life.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? (Board Book) by Bill Jr Martin and Eric Carle Your baby will enjoy reading this book into her preschool years.

Touch and Feel Baby Animals by Dorling Kindersley
This book has beautiful and clear photographs of different animals. As well as different textures for each of them that your baby can enjoy touching.


Reading with your Toddler

18 Months to 2.5 Years

At around 2 years children start experiencing a language boom when words just start flowing and your toddler starts expressing himself easier. Toddlers can understand everything way before they can express themselves. Books that have more detail, a story line and encourage participation are perfect for  toddlers. Lift-the-Flap books are great fun for kids and help develop fine motor skills. Encourage your child to lift the flaps and guess what’s under. You’ll soon find your child joining in with load exclamations of “YES” “NOoo” “It’s a LION” as you read along. Look for books that label familiar people and emotions, as well as books full of rhyme and rhythm. Point out objects that you see in your life. Try rhyming funny and made up words. Remember to often point to the text and images as you read.

For a great list of books for toddlers Click Here!

 Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss
This classic is full of fun characters and Dr Seuss signature rhymes. New  editions are available as Lift-the-Flap books as well.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Watch how this caterpillar make it’s way through all sorts of yummy items and transforms into a butterfly.

Reading with Your Preschooler

2 .5 to 5 Years

Your child is developing very fast now. Language both expressive and receptive is increasing, your child is picking up more and more words and mimicking your sentences. At this age children also start enjoying dramatic and imaginative play. They are also developing skills like sharing and empathy. Books with imaginative and make belief characters are great for this age. Try to include books that foster creativity and imagination as well as those that represent real life situations your child can relate to. Books with a story-line and carry a message like sharing, kindness, etc can be engaging for children. Include your child in the storytelling experience by asking him what will happen next or to make up his own story.

For a great list of books for your preschooler Click Here!

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak  
A beautiful and imaginative classic.

Things That Go! by Richard Scarry
Your child will spend hours enjoying Richard Scarry’s illustrations and discovering new details every time!

I hope this gives you some tips on choosing books for your child at different stages. These are just guidelines for choosing books that children will generally be interested in. Remember to consider your child’s interests and developmental abilities when choosing books.

What do you think ? What are your child’s favorite books?

Happy Reading! :)

Picture from Toddler Lesson Plans
Speech and Language in your Baby’s First Year

Speech and Language in your Baby’s First Year

This article was featured in Mother and Child magazine in English and Arabic

It’s an amazing discovery that babies’ language development starts in utero ! Although your baby isn’t saying much (in terms we can understand!) during her first year, her speech and language development has already started!

Researchers have discovered that babies as young as 2 days old pay more attention to words spoken in their native language and are able to distinguish language specific sound differences. During pregnancy your baby hears your voices and other sounds that become familiar to her and will be of comfort to her when she is born. Language development consists of two aspects ; receptive language which is understanding and listening skills and expressive language which is expressing thoughts, words and feelings. Try to provide your child with a word rich environment that fosters both aspects.

Photo By Mariam El Mofty

Your Baby 0-3 Months

As soon as your baby is born the one way she can communicate with you is by crying. Yes, crying is a form of communication, she’s telling you when she’s upset, tired or needs a diaper change. By 6 weeks she’s cooing and laughing as well. She’s also learning about voices by listening to you. By the end of this stage your baby will recognize familiar voices and smile when mom or dad speaks, startle upon hearing loud sounds, and cry differently for different needs.

What you can do: Sing and talk to your baby often. Your voice is a source of comfort for her as babies of this age prefer low vowel sounds. Your baby may start repeating your cooing sounds.

Your Baby 3-6 Months

Your child begins noticing people’s conversations. She starts moving her eyes in the direction of sound, starts responding to “no” and changes in tone of voice, notices toys that make sounds and starts responding to music.

At this point she’s also started to babble and making gurgling sounds. By the end of 6 months her babbling should include many different sounds, including p, b and m. She also starts to enjoy repeating syllables, such as “ba, ba, ba” and uses her voice to express when she’s happy or upset instead of crying.

Baby can also be using sounds or gestures trying to tell you that she wants something or wants you to do something

What you can do: Sing songs that add to her vocabulary. For instance, sing about body parts while holding her foot,hand,fingers,etc.. in turn. Start reading books that include big pictures of people’s faces, talk about their eyes,ears,etc.. with enthusiasm. Read rhymes, this helps develop the listening discrimination skills necessary for pre-reading. Sing silly songs about your day (during diaper changing) to familiar tunes.  Engage your baby in “conversation”, talk to her with enthusiasm and pause for her to respond, this can be really fun!

Your Baby 6-12 Months

Your baby’s language development is progressing fast now! She starts listening when spoken to, turns and looks when called by name and recognizes words for common items like “cup”, “book”, or “juice”. Babbling has also become more speech like, includes more consonants and she’s linking words together “bababab tata bibibi” . She’s also relying more on non crying sounds to get your attention and is using gestures to communicate (holding her arms up to be picked up)

By 9 months she knows what you’re talking about even if she can’t repeat the words herself, she recognizes familiar objects like “cup,eyes,spoon”.She should be responding to requests like “Come here” and “Want more?” and may run ahead to the table when you mention it’s time to eat.

By 1 year she should have one or two words like “mama, dada, hi, look, bye-bye” although the sounds may still not be clear. She should be capable of these consonant sounds “b,d,g,n,m,h,t,k,w”. She may also understand simple instructions, such as “Please drink your milk”.

What you can do: Start finger painting with your baby, this will give her a great time full of new new experiences where you can talk to her about colors, her body parts and narrate what she’s doing. Read Lift-the-Flap and Touch-and-Feel books, this will help engage your child during story time and allow her to participate and express herself by touching and pointing. Start talking about animal sounds “A cow says ‘moooooo!'”. Teach your baby social interactions like waving bye-bye. Practice counting fingers and toes and label objects and body parts while doing so.

Important to Remember

  • Children develop at different rates. Don’t feel alarmed if your child is not following these milestones precisely. For more information on language and speech milestones you can check out the Mayo Clinic’s site as well as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
  • If you have concerns, check your child’s ability to hear, and pay attention to ear problems and infections, especially if they are repetitive.
  • Provide your child with a supportive environment to develop these skills. A baby who spends a lot of time indoors in a car seat or in a position where she can not turn to see where sounds are coming from, may lose interest in new sounds and stop noticing them or turning her head,
  • Give your child a word-rich environment but remember that her expression is just as important as yours! Give her a chance to “talk” and answer back. Provide different forms of word-rich activities that include singing, talking, listening, reading and conversing!

A Quick Note on Bilingualism

I won’t go into detail in this post. However, I want to assure parents that learning more than one language at a time does not cause language delay. In fact, researchers are investigating bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia. Other benefits may exist such as better cognitive abilities since bilingual children have to deal with two languages which puts more computational demands on the brain therefore exercising it more. It’s important to note that second (or more) languages should be spoken by a native speaker so that children acquire the proper vowel,consonant and language sounds.  Usually, one parent is a native speaker of one language while the other is a native speaker of the other so each parent speaks a different language to the child. However, in some cases the parents are also bilingual. Bilingual parents should  keep in mind not to mix two languages in the same sentence! It’s OK to speak two languages, just make sure you complete the sentence or conversation in one language.

Reading with your Baby

I always like to include a reading list which parents can use with their children.

That’s not my Puppy! (Board Book) other series also available 

“Wonderfully entertaining with textures. This is a great, sturdy board book that very little readers will enjoy multiple times.
And, when you’ve explored all you want about the dogs, you can always discuss that cute little mouse who seems to appear on every single page!
Cute, educational, and very, very entertaining.” (Parent Review from Amazon)

Where is Baby’s Belly Button?

“This is a nice sturdy book with colorful drawings of babies with some part of their body hidden. Each page asks, “Where is baby’s …?” Toddlers delight in lifting the flaps to find the hidden pictures. The pictures are bright and cute with eye-catching fabric and wallpaper patterns. A very attractive book, and perfect for that stage when toddlers become fascinated with their belly buttons! My 17 month old has really enjoyed this book. It can be very helpful in getting kids to name body parts, and it’s fun for both the baby and the parents to read. Highly recommended.” (Parent Review from Amazon)