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OPINION: The Positive Parenting in Baby Led Weaning

OPINION: The Positive Parenting in Baby Led Weaning

This is a new series of Opinion entries which will be different from the research based articles I usually post.

When my son turned 6 months like all parent we began looking into how to introduce solid foods to him. Like most people I knew about starting with fruit and vegetable purees and had already bought a couple ( OK maybe more than a couple) baby cookbooks with all these puree combinations and meal plans. We were ready to start!

Then I came across Baby Lead Weaning (BLW). I had come across the (misleading) title before and ignored it because we had no plans to wean our baby any time soon. On further inspection it has nothing to do with weaning per say and everything to do with introducing solids in a very interesting way.

BLW  (a term attributed to Gill Rapley ) is basically about allowing your child to self feed and skipping purees altogether and going for appropriate finger food. You can read all the details and guidelines about BLW here on their official website.

Going through the process with my own son it made me realize how much BLW supports the philosophies we try to follow in Positive Parenting:

  • Choosing an age appropriate activity for your child:
    One of the first guidelines of BLW is waiting till your child shows signs of readiness. Is he sitting up independently? is he reaching for objects and interested in putting them in his mouth?
  • Supporting your child’s development:
    Children at that age naturally place things in their mouths. Self feeding is a natural extension to this instinct as well as exercise fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
  • Helping your child develop positive eating habits: 
    Feeding himself allows your child to regulate how much food he eats when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full on his own. He also gets to practice his independence by choosing what to eat and what not to eat. There is no “last spoon” to finish off, just his own self monitoring.
  • Avoiding feeding power struggles:
    Mealtimes can turn into real struggles as parents negotiate with their kids to finish their food, eat one more bite or threaten no dessert. Practicing BLW helps you learn to trust your child and his food intake. He may eat very little for breakfast but have a good dinner or he may have a lousy day eating but eat double his portions the next day. An article I read once on baby and toddler eating had very good advice; it said it’s always best to look at how much your child is eating within the week. That is a fairer estimate than judging day-to-day eating.
  • Avoiding raising a picky eater:
    Children are people like the rest of us, they like and dislike different things, and sometimes they change their minds! By placing diverse and healthy choices in front of your child you are teaching them how to value food and decide for themselves what they want to eat. Don’t be discouraged! Reintroduce rejected foods over and over again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your child starts eating them!
  • Eating together as a family and creating a positive habit:
    Often times I see families experience this scenario; parents eat separately then baby is fed alone either before or after parents. Sometimes it can last an hour feeding the child and it can feel like a chore! Other times parents let their children roam feed. But at a certain point and age you are going to start requesting that your child “grow up” and sit at the table and eat “properly”. So why wait to introduce this? Babies and toddlers learn instinctively through imitation. When you model eating and proper dinner behavior they’ll pick up on it and be encouraged. That’s not to say they won’t fling food or throw their spoons. These are all natural behaviors that children do as they explore the world and their limits.

Finally, I have to say starting off with BLW sometimes isn’t always easy. On our first day of feeding I found myself wanting my son to have more of the spoon instead of just a taste as he’s supposed to. Parents are told that suddenly children should be consuming several spoonfuls of food 1-3 times a day and that can put a lot of pressure. I believe the biggest issue to overcome is the parent’s own emotional one of letting go and trusting your child and the process. That being said, sometimes BLW doesn’t match your child or your family’s needs and may not be for you. Sometimes a blend of spoon feeding and BLW is what works. I spoon feed my child when he gets lazy or is tired as well. These are all natural. The important point at the essence of positive parenting is to keep a flexible mind about things; some days baby will eat well and others not, sometimes he’ll self feed and others need help, he may love carrots today but hate them tomorrow for no apparent reason. In all cases there is no need to feel pressured or stressed, ask yourself these questions:

  1. At the end of the week; did my child eat well?
  2. Did he have a diverse selection of healthy choices?
  3. Was mealtime a pleasant and stress-free experience for everyone?
  4. What can be changed for next time?

It’s an ongoing process. Here area a list of references I’ve found useful on young children and eating.

Limit Screen Time By Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline

Limit Screen Time By Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline

I recently gave a new workshop on using media with young children. Naturally I was very happy to get this post from Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen in my email this morning titled Limit Screen Time. The article has some great tips AND apparently a NEW book out on using screens responsibly with young children!  You can find the original article here

Limit Screen Time

For more on screen time and how to find a balance that works for your family, check out the new ebook, “Help! My Child is Addicted to Screens (Yikes! So Am I.)” by Jane Nelsen and Kelly Bartlett.

Children are now faced with increasingly more options for screened entertainment, leaving families disconnected and disengaged. Learn Positive Discipline tools that will help you and your children connect more with each other and find a balance in your family’s media use.

There was once a segment on Oprah in which families where challenged to give up electronics for a week, including TV. It was interesting to watch how difficult it was for parents, as well as their children, to give up all of their screens. One scene was particularly difficult to watch. A five-year-old boy could hardly stand it to give up playing video games. His temper tantrums were quite dramatic. His mother shared that she was embarrassed when she realized he had been playing video games for five hours a day. The good news was that after the whole family went through “media withdrawal,” they discovered how to replace screen time with family activities that increased their family closeness and enjoyment. Take a look at this video from the Today Show about one family who gave up all screens for six months.

Would it surprise you to know that 2-5-year-olds watch more than 32 hours of TV a week? (Nielsen) Children ages 8-18 spend more than 53 hours a week online and almost 8 hours of media use each day. (Keiser Family Foundation) In today’s digital world, families are exposed to more screen time than ever before. Smartphones, tablets, YouTube and the ever-popular game, Minecraft are just a few of the many sources of electronic connection that vie for time and attention from both parents and children.

But what does this mean? Is it good? After all, aren’t children who grow up using electronic media learning skills that will keep them connected and current in in a technologically driven world? Or is too much technology a bad thing? Does it prevent kids from learning important interpersonal skills like live conversations and social graces?

There is research that demonstrates how the brain develops differently with excessive screen time, so it is true that screen time does affect a child’s development. But my guess is that you don’t need research to know that your children are on their screens too much each day; you know this from your own wisdom and intuition. Maybe you’re not sure what to do about it, or you’ve avoided doing something about it because…

  1. You don’t like to admit that it is nice to have your children so easily entertained so you can have some time to yourself.
  2. It involves such a power struggle to get the kids to disconnect from their devices. It is easier to just let it go.
  3. You don’t realize that screen time is addictive.
  4. You justify it with the benefits technology brings: “Look at all the skills my child is learning.”

The key lies in finding a balance. Yes, kids are keeping up with technology and learning new skills that will help them if their lives. And yes, too much media use does prevent them from becoming proficient in person-to-person communication skills. What you can do to help your kids find that balance of screen time with “real life” is to work together to set limits around daily media use…including your own.

Try these Positive Discipline tools to help manage your family’s screen time so it doesn’t manage you:

  1. Have a family meeting. Get the whole family involved in a plan for reducing screen time. Part of the solutions should include things to do in place of screen time. It is more difficult to give something up when you don’t have plans for what else to do.
  2. Create a “parking lot” for electronics—have a basket or charging station in a central location in the house at which family members “park” their electronics during certain times of day.
  3. Establish new routines. Start with one time of day to be screen free (such as dinner) and periodically add on other times of day.
  4. Stay close with your child with special time. Children will listen to your limits about screen time when they feel understood and that you “get” them. Spend regular one-on-one time together to keep your relationship strong.
  5. Hold limits with kindness and firmness. Changing a screen time habit is hard; be ready for disappointment, anger, and sad feelings. Hold your limits by empathizing with a child’s feelings and sticking with the limit you’ve set.

– See more at: http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2012/04/limit-screen-time.html#sthash.RZhWfqjy.dpuf

 

This article is property of Positive Discipline.
Early Years Parenting does not claim ownership of  the above mentioned article.

Learning through Play with Preschoolers

Learning through Play with Preschoolers

Between 2-4 years your child is experiencing many developmental changes and his play is becoming more complex.  You’ll notice your two year old start engaging in pretend play. As your child approaches 3 he’ll enjoy more playing with other kids. Their play begins becoming more complex and they start making up stories and rules for their games. They’re also using their imagination much more. Your child may no longer play with the broom to sweep a pretend house but instead use it as a sword in battle or a horse to ride. Your three year old is starting to understand sharing but may still find it difficult to share all the time and be patient. Children under 5 have a fairly short concentration span so don’t be surprised if your child decides to end a game suddenly.

Children experience two kinds of play, structured and unstructured (free) play. Unstructured play is the best kind of play for young children. It’s where they get to initiate what to do, choose freely, make decisions and explore. When children make up their own rules during play they learn critical thinking skills when they have to evaluate the situation or rethink rules when the game doesn’t work. It’s also a great opportunity to develop their social and problem solving skills as kids play together and figure out ways on their own to solve their problems.  Examples include pretend play, exploring parts of the house like cupboards or gardens, painting or dancing.

Structured play is usually led by a grown-up and has limited time and space like dance class, music class, sports, etc. In today’s world everything is organized to the minute it’s important your child gets enough time for free play not just structured play experiences.

There are many skills that your child learns through play.

  • Puzzles, memory card games, age appropriate board games and games with building and construction like blocks or Legos are great for developing your child’s thinking skills. Try making a homemade memory card game by printing out pictures and cutting the paper yourself. Simple and effective and you can make new ones easily.

 

  • Playing dress-up is great to develop young children’s creativity and imaginative skills. Have old clothes, scarves, hats or props available for your child’s imaginative play. Messy play with paint, mud or play dough allows your child to create and explore different textures as well as learn how different materials work together. You can make homemade play dough with flour, water and some food coloring. Invest in old fashioned blocks with allow for open ended play and let your child create and his imagination to grow. Use everyday item like empty milk containers or boxes to set up a restaurant or throw a sheet over two chairs to create a fort. Playing house or restaurant can help your child’s counting skills as he adds up how much things costs or how many items he has. It’s also a chance for your child to relive social situations and reflect on incidents that may happen in a real restaurant.  

 

  • Give your child opportunity to play outside and let out his energy. Outdoor play is also important for your child’s gross motor skills which develop his larger muscles. Include opportunities for jumping, climbing, throwing and running. Include puppets in your child’s toy box. They are great for allowing children to express their emotions as they pretend to be another character. You can make a puppet easily by using a sock, some buttons for eyes and nose and knitting string for hair. Let your child make his own as well!

 

  • Of course books are essential and crucial for every child’s toy box. Reading with children helps their language and literacy skills.  Children learn new words and may even start recognizing short words like cat or dog. Let your child pick out books on his on and sit and read them or look through the pictures. You’d be surprised how young children can sit and look through a book, retelling the events or even making up their own version! Keep books within your child’s reach to give him plenty of opportunity. If you’re worried about ruining his books then just keep board books close by and make sure you read the paper books with your child.

A final word about television, you’ve seen how important and rich all the daily play activities we take for granted are for your child. While most play may sound loud and exhausting which can be tough to handle after a long day, there are many opportunities for quiet play as well like puzzles or blocks. Child development experts recommend no more than 1 hour of screen time a day for children 2-5 years old. This includes computers, tablets and television. In fact research has shown that excessive TV time with young children had delays in language and cognitive skills. Excessive TV time takes away from all the rich play opportunities your child should be having which in turn affects the development of all these skills.

I hope this article helped show you how important play can be for young children and how this is their natural way for learning about themselves and the world around them.

  

 

 

Photo By sixninepixels, from freedigitalphotos.net

Myths & Facts of Child Abuse

Myths & Facts of Child Abuse

I have many conversations with parents about the prevalence of child abuse. It can be one of the hardest things a parent has to think about or deal with. There are many misconceptions about the prevalence of child abuse. This is a very sensitive topic and as a parent you don’t want to think about your child being at risk. Ignoring the information can cause more harm than good. It’s important to empower yourself with knowledge about child abuse to help keep your family safe. I’ve done my best to tackle some of the myths and facts about child abuse and find infomation from credible resources. All references are at the bottom for more information.

Myth: Child abusers are more likely to be strangers or people you don’t know
Fact: Most abusers are members of the child’s family—if not a parent, then a close relative (such as an uncle or an older brother or sister), or a member of the household.

Myth: Child abuse is rare and my children are not at risk
Fact:  One in four young adults (25.3%) were severely maltreated during childhood

Some studies estimate that 1 in 5 children in the U.S. experience some form of child maltreatment:

  • Almost 1% were victims of sexual assault;
  • 4% were victims of child neglect;
  •  9% were victims of physical abuse;
  • 12% were victims of emotional abuse.

Myth: Girls are more likely to be abused I need to protect my daughter more than my son
Fact: Reports showed that girls and boys showed almost equal rates of being victims of abuse. Girls:  10.8 per 1,000 children and boys: 9.7 per 1,000 children.

Myth: Child abuse only happens with poor people who have no resources or have to share their sleeping space
Fact: Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

Myth: Children are young. They’ll forget about any abuse as they grow older. It won’t affect them as adults.
Fact:  About one third of abused and neglect children will later abuse their own children, continuing the cycle of abuse. Adults who end up in prison or substance abuse are more likely to have experiences so sort of abuse as children.

Myth: I only need to protect my child from men but not from women.
Fact: Of the incidents reported, 45.2% of the perpetrators were male and 53.6% were female.

Myth: Only older children are at risk for abuse not babies, toddlers or preschoolers.
Fact: The NSPCC reported that over a third of all serious case reviews are in relation to babies less than one year of age. Children under 4 years of age are at greatest risk for severe injury and death from abuse. Age of most children who become victims of abuse and neglect: 18 months or younger.

Myth: My child would never let this happen to him/her. They would come tell me immediately!
Fact: Children who are abused are never at fault! They are often intimidated not to tell. Between 22-80% of children do NOT report the abuse depending on the type of abuse.

What are the signs for abuse?

  • Unexplained injuries: as well as hearing unconvincing explanations of a child’s injuries.
  • Changes in behavior: such as appearing scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
  • Returning to earlier behavior: such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers.
  • Fear of going home or to the place of the abuser
  • Changes in eating or sleeping: such as experiencing nightmares
  • Changes in school performance and attendance: such as lack of concentration
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior

 

What to do when you suspect abuse or when your child reports abuse?

  • Keep calm. If you appear anxious or shocked your child may fear telling you more. Often times the abuser may tell the child that mommy and daddy won’t love them anymore if they report the abuse
  • Tell the child you believe them. It’s taken your child a lot of courage to speak up! Young children rarely lie about such issues. Believing your child will open the door to letting him tell you about the whole picture
  • Show interest and concern. Your child needs to feel he is being taken seriously  and know that you are someone he/she can come to for help
  • Reassure and support the child. Your child needs to know that he is protected. Letting your child know you will handle this and take care of him is reassuring.
  • Take action. If your child has reported abuse take action immediately depending on the resources in your area. Report abuse to prevent this perpetrator from victimizing other children. If the abuse has been by a family member, friend or person who frequents the house it is best to dismiss this person and cut all relations. Child abusers need serious psychological help. It is usually not a one-time incident or “accident” do not allow your child to be intimidated or living in fear that this person is still around.
  • Educate your child: on what touch is appropriate and what is not. Let them know their private parts are private and only mommy and daddy can touch you there for cleaning for example. Avoid telling your child “don’t let anyone touch/beat you” because sometimes children don’t have control over the situation and will feel guilty that they failed in the instruction you gave them. Empower them by teaching them to say No to such situations and to tell you immediately or to go to a trusted adult for help. These are things your child CAN do.

Remember that your child is the most important party in this situation. Trust your child and your instincts and take reports or suspicions seriously.


References:

Australian Institute of Family Studies
Child Help Organization
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
NSPCC
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Safe Horizon
Healthy Children Organization

This image is property of http://www.parentsprotect.co.uk

Staying in Touch with your Child while you’re Away

Staying in Touch with your Child while you’re Away

We usually think about a traditional family as mom and dad coming home to their kids at the end of the day. But what if one parent has to travel a lot for work and is away for days, weeks or even months at a time? How can you stay connected to your child during this time. I’ve put together a list of ideas that will hopefully keep you connected with your family till you’re back safely at home.

 

  • Make a Scrapbook: you and your child can each make a scrapbook while you are away. When you’re back you can swap scrapbooks and get to tell each other about every event that happened.

  • Record yourself: It can be great fun for young children to have a video recording of mommy or daddy reading a few stories. Your child can easily ask for the video recording and get to hear a story from you while you’re away/

  • Stay available: while you may be miles away, your child will still need the “live” version of you! Make sure you schedule time for a video call online so your child can tell you about his day. Video chats are now so stable and easy to use you can even share a meal or watch a movie together online! If you have an older child you can even be available for homework help.

  • Buy a book: Get your child a book about where you’ll be travelling. There are many children’s books that involve travel and new places. If you can’t find a book then you can use the internet to show your child where you’ll be going.

  • Send a gift: If you are a parent who travels for months away from your family it might be a nice idea to send your child a spontaneous gift with a little note telling him you’ve been thinking of him. Gifts don’t have to be expensive or frequent, just something small that tells your child you thought of him when you saw it.

  • Be predictable: let your child know in advance when you’ll be travelling. Mark the days on the calendar to countdown. This helps prepare your child for your travel date. Your child can also mark your return date on the calendar and mark the days till you arrive. For younger children having a visual option makes it easier for them to understand. Your child can mark each day on his own when he goes to bed.

  • Be honest with your child: If you can’t be available to video chat or call  then let your child know in advance and  explain the reasons.Children respond better to clarity  and honesty than vagueness.

  • Send a postcard: Yes! be old fashioned and send an old fashioned postcards from where you’re from. If you travel a lot your child will start collecting postcards from your travels. Some post-offices in Europe even offer the possibility of making a postcard out of a picture and sending it all via your phone!

  • Involve your spouse:  your spouse back home can be active too! He/she can help your child make their own video to send to you or maybe send a picture of his latest drawing.

  • Make the time: whether you choose email, postcards, video chat or a phone call the important thing is to make the time and be available for your child! With today’s technology there are so many ways to stay in touch. Taking a picture and sending it takes seconds! You can even video chat from your phone! So make sure you include time for your child in your travel plans as well.

    Have you tried these or other methods of staying in touch? Let me know your thoughts. 🙂

Developing Young Children’s Emotional Security

Developing Young Children’s Emotional Security

Developing young children’s emotional security is a process that starts at birth. Even before we think they can realize their surroundings or have an opinion, babies are already learning about what they can expect from the world from the experiences they have. Babies learn to feel either secure or insecure in the world based on the relationships they have with the people who care for them. Babies who know they have an adult they can rely on for comfort and care are more likely to be secure unlike those who experience inconsistent or unresponsive care.

Why is it important to care about a child’s emotional security? Children’s social emotional state is connected to other important aspects of their lives, such as their ability to explore and learn. It also involves their ability to make friends, play and face difficult situation later in life.

What you can do:

Children who experience a pattern of responsive and consistent care from their parents and caregivers are more likely to develop a positive sense of self, of others and the world around them. They are then more likely to have self-confidence, trust others and explore and learn new situations. On the other hand, children who experience unresponsive treatment from parents and caregivers are likely to have behavior problems, act out and have feelings of mistrust and low self-esteem.

Here are some ways to help your child develop a positive feeling of emotional security.

  • Be Responsive

Contrary to popular belief you can’t spoil a child by being responsive. It’s how you respond that makes a difference. Your baby is sending you signals and cues all the time. Take time to observe your baby and find out what she wants. Let your child know you see her cues for help and attention. Just by giving her attention that you know she needs something is a great first step. Next it’s important to respond appropriately to what she needs. Is she pointing to a toy to play with you? Is she hungry? Does she need to sleep? Does she need a hug?
Remember that no good comes from leaving a baby or young child “cry it out”. All young children have difficulty controlling their emotions your baby needs your help to calm down. Not responding to a cry sends a signal to your baby that she can’t count on the adults and caregivers around her. On the other hand when children feel understood and responded to they learn to develop trusting relationships and good self-esteem.

  • Support your child’s development

Almost everything young children experience is new for them. That’s important to keep in mind when your little one is struggling to put on his jacket or spills while pouring his juice. These and many more are skills your little one needs to learn and learning never happens without mistakes. What’s important is that these mistakes are met with encouragement, positivity and a solution. Not criticism and punishment.

  • 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. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while letting him know you are there to support if things get too tough.
  • Try not to 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 from exploring new things.
  •  Letting your child do things on his own and learn through trial an error can help him feel more independent, self-reliant and confident in approaching new or tough situations.
  • Communicate with your child

Communication is extremely important even with young children who can’t form full sentences of their own yet. While your child might not be able to fully express himself verbally, he can understand you very well. Let your child know what to expect to increase his feeling of security by communicating with your child and explaining things. Tell him why you will leave him at daycare? Mommy has to go to work. Where will you go? Mommy will go to work. When will you return? I’ll pick you up after snack time.  Make sure to put your words in terms your child can understand and to  stick to what you say! With repetition your child will develop a sense of trust and confidence.

  • Mistakes are opportunities to learn

Remember that your child is experiencing things for the first time and has not yet mastered basic skills. How you respond is important to how your child views himself and his abilities. Mastering a skill can only come by practice. Give your child opportunities to do things on his own and be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence, positive self-esteem and encourages him to try again.  The same applies when resolving conflict. Give your child a chance to explain, propose a solution and try it out. If it doesn’t work out then discuss why he thinks things went wrong and what he could do instead. It can be quite surprising the smart answers 3 and 4-year-old come up with once given a chance.

These are just a few ideas to help your child feel confident and emotionally secure. I hope they help you out in making your parenting experience as happy as can be.

Image from onemorephoto/flickr