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Supporting the Shy Child

Supporting the Shy Child

Children have individual and unique temperaments which are apparent from birth. Some children are fussy while others are calm. Some hate new situations while others don’t mind being the center of attention. Each child is different and no matter how difficult you may think your child is sometimes he is special and has qualities that work best for his personality.

We may often think about the introvert child as lacking in social skills; he doesn’t want to play with other children, he prefers to observe rather than join in and he’s wary of new situations. These situations may all be true, however, keep in mind that your introvert child has developed an ability to be independent and self-reliant. He isn’t impulsive but takes time to observe a situation before deciding what to do. These are all useful traits that could be lacking in other children. There isn’t a right or wrong temperament. Each child is unique and needs a different form of support from the adults around him.

In our life social skills are important. More importantly is that your child feels comfortable and confident about himself. If your child is an introvert there are some ways you can support him to make difficult situations easier for him.

  • Give your child enough notice about a new situation. If you’re going out or having a visitor over let your child know in advance what will be happening, what he can expect and what you expect of him.
  • Join small gatherings and playgroups. Large groups may overwhelm your child so try smaller groups with familiar friends to engage your child.
  • Reading and modeling are great ways to show your child how to interact with other people. Your child may not know how to approach other children in a new game or an unfamiliar setting. Books and observing real life experiences can help your child in figuring out what to do.
  • Find friends who have the same interests. You don’t have to force your child to play with active children or limit him to introverts like himself. A good balance gives him comfort in the type of activities he enjoys and also challenges him to develop new skills.
  • Respect your child’s interests and desires. Don’t brush away your child’s quiet interests. If he wants to read a book or do a puzzle on his own instead of run around that is OK.  Acknowledge his feelings and give your child the time he needs to feel comfortable in a new situation.

When to Seek Help

While it’s normal that some children are introverts or slow-to-warm-up-to, it is important that your child reaches some developmental milestones at certain stages in his development.

The Zero-to-Three Journal recommends seeking professional help if:

  • By 4 months your baby isn’t smiling back
  • By 9 months your baby isn’t participating in back and forth sounds, smiles or facial expressions
  • By 12 months hasn’t started babbling or waving/pointing/reaching
  • By 18 months doesn’t recognize (by pointing or looking at) familiar names of people of common body parts.
  • Has limited eye-contact or shows little pleasure in playful experiences.

References:
Zero to Three Journal

Image Credit to © Carlan |Dreamstime Stock Photos Stock Free Images

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

Why Spanking Doesn’t Work

Why Spanking Doesn’t Work

This article was featured in Arabic on Supermama

                 You may be very familiar with this situation; your child is doing something you explicitly told him not to yet again! It seems that communication and negotiation just don’t seem to work with your child. The solution? you resort to spanking. Spanking might seem to stop your child’s misbehavior, for now, but it isn’t helping in the long run! Spanking may have short term effects in stopping your child’s misbehavior but it certainly doesn’t have any positive long term effects. In fact, research has shown that the use of physical punishment such as spanking can have negative long term effects on your child.

           Studies have found that children who experience physical punishment may experience low self-esteem and lower self-worth. There is a risk they may perform worse academically and socially than children who never experience physical punishment. They tend to be more aggressive with other children and may have more behavioral and conduct problems.

             The use of physical punishment with your child sends a message that it’s OK to use physical aggression when interacting with other people instead of giving him tools for effective communication. Research has shown that children who experience physical punishment are more likely to be aggressive themselves. Which may mean the use of aggression with friends at school, later spousal relationships and with their own children.

            So far science has shown that no good can come from using physical punishment with young chidren. On the other hand, positive methods that include parental warmth and sensitivity seem to be more effective in reducing conduct problems than harsh parenting. Children who tend to misbehave seem to be less sensitive to punishment but more sensitive to reward in terms of parental warmth.

So, what should you do to deal with your child’s misbehavior instead of spanking?

 First, find out why your child is misbehaving:

  • Does he get attention from you when he does positive things or is it only when he misbehaves? Is he trying to get attention from a younger sibling? Is there a reoccuring pattern where your child’s misbehavior seems to escalate?
  • Understanding the reason behind your child’s misbehavior is a crucial first step. Remember that your child isn’t out to get you, the reasons most likely have to do with getting your attention.
  • Children at this age might easily get frustrated if they don’t get to do things for themselves. A need for independence is for young children and is a healthy feeling to encourage.
  • Know that impulse control is extremely difficult for young children. That’s because the part in their brain (prefrontal cortex) in charge of controlling their impulses has not yet developed, this makes it hard for young children to think about what they’re doing in advance or making decision.

Second, there are alternatives to physical punishment when dealing with your child’s misbehavior:

  • Start with yourself: Always give yourself a few seconds before reacting to your child. If he is not harming himself or others you can afford a few seconds to assess the situation and decide how to react calmly. A calm reaction can have a more effective impact than an angry response.
  • Restate rules: Try to have few clear rules that are mostly related to safety. That way your child will have clear boundaries that he knows shouldn’t be crossed.
  • Use positive sentences: Avoid using “No” too much so it doesn’t lose its effectiveness. Instead start sentences positively like “Let’s go play in the sandbox instead of in the mud”.
  • Persistence: When disciplining your child it’s important to be patient and remember that children learn with repetition. So even if your child doesn’t seem to get it this time, he eventually will.
  • Consistence: It’s also important to stick to what you say. If you decide that you have to go home because your child is not using his bicycle in the bicycle area then stick to your decision and follow through. Don’t use threats to get your child to do what you want. If your child decides to test your limits, that can turn into a power struggle and your child will eventually learn that if he pushes hard enough he will get his way.
  • Compromise: Remember that your child has a natural need to feel independent at this young age so try to compromise when possible. This can mean giving choices in what to wear, eat or when to have a bath. Make sure you limit the choices to two options so it’s easy for your child to make a decision and that the choices are acceptable to you so you can follow through.
  • Patience: The most important tool of all is to be patient. Remember that everything is new for your child. So many new experiences and so much information that he has to remember it can sometimes be overwhelming and frustrating, especially that his mental, physical, emotional, language and social abilities are still developing.

I hope this new understanding on spanking will give you a new perspective on discipline and that our positive discipline tools can help you in dealing with your young child’s difficult behavior.

 

Photo Credit: Ethic Soup

Using “Time-out” Positively

Using “Time-out” Positively

Using time-out has become a regular disciplinary method that most parents use, but is it really effective? How many times have you put your child in time-out for misbehaving only to have him do the same thing you told him not to after he’s done with time-out? Who hasn’t struggled with making a toddler stay in time-out? You keep on putting him back but he keeps leaving the time-out space and pretty soon it’s turned into a game for him and frustration for you.

Why time-out doesn’t work

There’s actually a very good reason why time-out doesn’t work. Young children under 5 find it extremely difficult to control and regulate their feeling. So when they are asked to go to time-out and clam down they simply can’t do it. Whatever feeling your child is going through at that moment just seems too much to handle for him. He needs you to help him, he simply can’t do it alone. Another reason is that children need immediate consequences to help them learn. Prolonging punishment isn’t really going to help you emphasize your point. When a child is asked to go in his room and “think about what he’s done”  that doesn’t give him any idea as to what he did wrong or what he could have done instead. Young children are still learning and exploring, everything is new to them. What might come naturally to you may be a skill your child needs to be introduced to. This doesn’t mean you should be permissive with your child and just let him do whatever he wants. Time-out can also be an effective tool when used positively.

What you can do

  • Remove your child from the situation to a calm spot if he is misbehaving or is having a meltdown
  • Remind your child of house rules like “no-hitting” depending on the situation
  • Use time-out as a calming space and not punishment. Don’t leave your child alone in time-out and don’t associate it with something negative. Instead provide your child with support and comfort to help him recognize his feelings, listen to why he misbehaved, discuss with him why his behavior was inappropriate and explain the kind of behavior you expect from him.
  • With repetition time-out can become a place for your child to regulate his feelings. Instead of threatening to send him to time-out you can enable him to use time-out to calm himself. If you start seeing signs that your child is feeling frustrated and agitated you can ask him if he needs some time-out. As your child grows older and learns to regulate his emotions on his own he can use time-out by himself.
  • Don’t overuse it. Like anything else don’t resort to time-out every time your child misbehaves. Find out why your child is misbehaving or feeling frustrated and choose an appropriate solution for that specific situation.
  • Distinguish between your child’s behavior and your child. Avoid using words like “stop being naughty”. Labeling your child tells him what to think of himself not his behavior. Instead explain what behavior was wrong “stop jumping on the sofa”. You want to send a message about your child’s behavior not himself to help him find an alternative and maintain his self confidence.

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Photo from Sheknows.com

5 Reasons Children Misbehave and What You Can Do

5 Reasons Children Misbehave and What You Can Do

Every parent reaches their wits end when dealing with children’s misbehavior. Just remember that your child isn’t “out to get you”, there are often very explainable and preventable reasons for misbehavior.
The most common reasons for misbehavior are:

1. Your child’s basic needs aren’t being met, he is tired, cranky or hungry which makes all his emotions magnified and little problems difficult to handle.

  • What you can do: make sure your child is fed and rested before venturing out. Make sure you don’t skip a meal or your child’s nap time. It can take some compromise on your part as a parent to make sure you’re child finds a place to take his nap while you’re out but it will make both of you happy in the long term.

2. Seeking attention, your child may be trying to get your attention and learned that getting attention through misbehavior is easier and more effective.

  • What you can do:  Try to ignore unwanted attention seeking behavior as long as your child isn’t harming himself or others. Make sure you praise positive behavior so your child realizes there is an alternative way to get your attention. With repetition your child will learn he can do positive things instead of misbehaving to get your attention.

3. Displaying inadequacy,children who feel inadequate will refuse to try new things and give up easily.

  • What you can do: Offer your child encouragement when approaching a task. Use encouraging words and phrases like “you can do it!”. Try to offer your child toys or activities that are within your child’s developmental abilities with a bit of challenge to help in learn but not cause frustration. Remember to  give him the space and  independence to do it on his own but be close by in case he asks for help.

4. Controlling, children who want to be in control refuse to follow direct requests, lash out when reprimanded and refuse to do what their parents request.

  • What you can do: Don’t get yourself into a power struggle, simply state expectations and consequences in advance. If your child does not follow through (cleaning up) then follow with the consequence (can’t go out to play). With repetition and time your child will learn to avoid consequences with minimal conflict. As a parent make sure you do not insist on everything as well. It’s best to keep firm rules down to a few that mainly have to do with safety like crossing the street or not touching the oven. This gives you room to compromise and revisit other rules as your child grows and has different developmental needs and capabilities.

5. Revenge seeking behavior is when your child shows mean behavior like saying “i don’t love you” or breaking another child’s toy. This behavior reflects that your child feels he has no value or little worth.

  • What you can do: There is usually an underlying reason why children lash out with hurtful words and phrases. Sometimes a simple incident like leaving a birthday before seeing the clown can seem like the end of the world for your child with such intense emotions. The best way to handle this is to avoid consequences that might be viewed as retaliation, instead help him make amends like fixing the friend’s toy or make sure to explain why you had to leave the birthday at that time and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Most importantly remind your child that you LOVE him even when he is misbehaving. This can be hard but will help him stop acting out for revenge.

Photo from Mariam El Mofty

Understanding your Child: Impulse Control

Understanding your Child: Impulse Control

My second article in the Positive Parenting series I am writing for SuperMama. You can find it on their website in English and Arabic

As part of taking a positive approach towards parenting we previously discussed understanding your toddlers’ temperament. In this article, we follow the same approach and why try to understand our toddler’s impulse control; in other words, why toddlers can’t seem to stop themselves.

What is impulse control?

Even though it may seem at times that your child doesn’t listen to a word you say, remember that your child isn’t out to get you. If you sometimes feel that your child just can’t seem to control his actions, you’re probably right but it’s for a good reason! That’s because at this young age your child is still beginning to develop impulse control, which is a person’s ability to suppress or restrain himself from doing something, like concentrating on your work while shutting out distractions. It also includes the concept of delayed gratification which is the ability to wait in order to get something you want.

Why do toddlers seem to lose control and “not listen”? 

As a parent you may be thinking that your toddler has difficulty restraining himself or waiting for things and you have a point! That’s because these abilities depend on a part of the brain called the frontal lobes, which develop slower than other parts of the brain. By age two development is underway but won’t be well developed till age 7, some reports even state that it continues to it’s mature form by the age of 21.

As a toddler, your child is struggling to control his emotions and actions.  Lack of impulse control is what causes your child to reach for the remote yet again even though you already said “No” several times. It’s when your child persists to want the cookie NOW! And when emotions become too hard to handle and result in tantrums. Understanding what your child is and isn’t capable of can help you have appropriate expectations and result in fewer situations of conflict between you and your child.

So why is impulse control important?

Won’t most children outgrown this phase? Yes, most children will, however the quality and their ability to regulate their emotions and actions depends largely on their experiences as young children. It’s the difference in early experiences that will result in developmental differences later in life. A classic study called the Marshmallow Test was conducted where 4-year olds were asked to stay in a room for a few minutes with a marshmallow and not eat it. They were told if they didn’t eat it by the time the observer came back, they would get the marshmallow in addition to another one. Of course, some children ended up eating the whole thing as soon as the observer left and never looked back. However, there were those who waited and got them both. The interesting part is that years later researchers caught up with the same group of children, who were now in their teens.  Surprisingly, those who had controlled themselves and waited as children were more self-confident, popular among peers, able to cope better with frustration and more successful in school than those who ate the marshmallow straight away.

What You Can Do:

  • Set few clear rules: The more things are off-limits the more likely your child will end up misbehaving. Constantly saying “No” decreases it’s effectiveness when you really need to use it. Try to select few clear rules that cover safety and will allow your child to play and explore at the same time.
  • Provide an appropriate environment:Now that you know why your child sometimes has difficulty controlling his impulses make sure your setting is child friendly. Put objects you don’t want him to touch out of reach and bring along a story or box of crayons when going out to give your child age appropriate alternatives.
  • Remind him of the rules: Don’t anticipate misbehavior but remind your child positively about what is expected of him in certain situations. For example, explaining that she can help you find the items in the supermarket but no running down the aisle. This way you positively redirect your child and give her an alternative.
  • Practice turn taking: Whether it’s with you or a sibling, encourage your child to wait for his turn. This will help foster impulse control as your child eventually learns to trust the situation and that he will get his turn. Remember to always follow through or give an honest explanation if you can’t.
  • Play games that take time: Doing puzzles or using building blocks can help your child learn patience as she works to reach her desired goal.

I hope this article helps you understand your child’s developmental abilities to control his impulse. Remember that when your child feels overwhelmed, sometimes comfort is more effective than correction.

Additional Reading

Bright from the Start by Jill Stamm