Older Kids: My Third Kid Hates Kindergarten Too!

Remember this guy? This sweet, cuddly, awesome 4-year-old? Well, now he's a big 5-year-old, and he's been in kindergarten for about 7 weeks. He started out with an enthusiastic bang, but now we're dealing with tears and major foot-dragging when it comes to going to school.

 

I know, I know -- I shouldn't be surprised. "Help! My Kindergartener Hates School All of a Sudden!" is one of my most popular posts -- and a very common parenting dilemma. Fact is, young children are totally different animals than "school aged" kids -- and by that, I mean 8-year-olds and up. Little kids are still developmentally more like preschoolers. And that means they're likely to change their minds about -- well, just about everything. So, starting off kindergarten all excited -- then losing steam after a few weeks -- isn't a surprise. Check out my post (and the growing comment section, with my additional suggestions) for coping ideas.

And hang in there, if you've got a balking kindergartener. Usually, if you can support your child through this tricky developmental stage, the protests wind down by Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

BabyGeek: Chronic Stress In Children

I recently wrote about amazing findings showing that stress in early life actually causes DNA damage. Researchers at Duke have taken the next step, finding the exact receptor that is disabled by chronic stress, resulting in genetic damage.

This adds strength to what I believe about making sure our kids are brought up in Good Enough environments: We already know that a LITTLE bit of stress is a good thing. It toughens us up and helps us learn new lessons. But too much stress, over a long period of time, is a bad thing.  That's why children brought up in chronically abusive or deprived environments fare so poorly. And these folks at Duke have found a glimpse into exactly how that works, on a molecular level. Cool stuff.

Their research is connected to how our cells are damaged in a variety of ways -- including by the aging process -- and I know I'm not the only 40-something parent out there hoping science will help us push the envelope of healthy life way out into the future, giving us more time with our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Do you think science will offer us a cure for stress and aging -- in our lifetimes? I hope so!

 

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

BabyGeek: Early Trauma Damages Babies' DNA

It took me over a year, but I finally started to understand the fabulousness that is Twitter. And no, it's not because I want you to know what I had for lunch (although I had some amazing Indian food today). It's because I meet a lot of interesting people on Twitter, and am directed to some fascinating info. The geek in me LOVES the immediate access I get via Twitter to all sorts of interesting infant research. But I do realize that most of you don't share my fascination with primary-source research -- you just want to get through your parenting day with your wits reasonably intact. And that's why I'm here -- to help sort through all the clutter, and show you what I think is TRULY interesting, relevant, and important to parents. So I'm starting a new category on BabyShrink -- BabyGeek. It will give me the opportunity to use more than 140 characters to help interpret the most current findings from the world of infant and child development, and the mind-boggling findings from brain and neuroscience. I hope I can make it all interesting for you, too.

And now, for my first moment of BabyGeek:

Early Trauma Damages Babies' DNA

This heartbreaking study confirms what shrinks like me have long suspected: The mind and body are closely linked, even from the first months of life. This study shows how deeply linked: Traumatic emotional experiences such as institutional care actually damage the child's DNA. Scientists have been investigating how the length of the telomere (the cap that protects the ends of the DNA strand) is related to health and longevity -- and the orphans in the study had significantly shorter telomeres. Here's the study report.

In college, we used to argue about "nature vs. nurture". Now, we know it's nature AND nurture -- down to our DNA.

I'm waiting for the research that shows longer telomeres in babies from "good enough" homes.  I wonder what other aspects of parental care will show impacts -- positive or negative -- on DNA?

What are your thoughts?

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

And I hope to see you on Twitter! Follow me here.

Toddler Behavior: How To Stop Children From Grinding Their Teeth

Another good question from the Parent Coaching files: Toddlers who grind their teeth. Why do they do it, and are we -- as parents -- doing anything to cause it? And more importantly, how can we get it to STOP?!

For some, this is a nighttime tendency that seems to be hereditary. For others, it's a passing phase -- and more likely to be heard in the daytime.

Teeth-grinding is usually just a really annoying -- but common and normal -- thing for toddlers. Aside from any medical causes you must rule out first -- dehydration, nutritional deficiencies and pinwoms (yech, I know) being among the rare but true culprits -- it's probably not a reason to worry.  It's likely related to all those new choppers growing in -- she's getting used to them. Grinding is a way to feel where they are, make weird new sounds with them, and "sand down" the sharp points that often accompany new teeth. It may also alleviate the pain of teething. PLUS, it's a way to irritate you, if you show it gets under your skin! So watch your reaction -- getting upset about it might be just the fuel she needs to start doing it all the time.

The majority of these cases aren't caused by -- or reflective of -- any parenting flaw. You can  think of other ways to occupy her energy, time, and mouth -- like singing, word games, and crunchy snacks. But don't pay too much attention to the grinding itself. My strong recommendation is to IGNORE IT. I know it can be like nails on a chalkboard, but really -- there is no other way. The more you point it out, the more likely she is to increase the grinding. If your toddler still does it frequently after a few weeks, then it's time to have it checked by a good pediatric dentist. But I bet you'll be on to the next parenting dilemma by then.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Psychological Development: Why Your 6-Year-Old Is So Awesome

I recently wrote about 4-year-olds, and why they're so awesome. No longer toddlers, but not yet "big kids", they still snuggle like the baby you miss, but have enough independence that they're fun to hang out with.

Not to dis on the 5-year-olds, but SIX is an amazing age. I learned this when our oldest child's first grade teacher turned me on to a classic, fabulous book about early childhood development -- with an educational focus. It's a little technical and geeky, but if you like this stuff you'll LOVE this book. The upshot is this: Something magical happens in first grade. At some point during the year, each kid will go through an amazing transformation. She'll start out like a kindergartener -- still a little clingy and whiny, and living in the magic world of imagination -- ponies, princesses, and fairies. But she'll end up the year like a KID -- an honest-to-goodness Grade School Kid -- who can be swayed by logic, her peers, and the rules of the world.

Schools in many European countries understand this developmental fact, and that's why they don't do serious academic work until age 7.  But their outcomes are much better than ours -- because they're working WITH development, not AGAINST it. You can use this to your advantage by not falling for the ubiquitous pressure to force younger and younger children to do "academics".  Having realistic expectations for the behavior and learning of your preschooler and kindergartener will potentially save you a lot of worry when you're told they're not performing up to "standards". The "standards" of most school systems weren't created with normal development in mind. But that's another big topic for another day.

Read this lovely description of the 6-year-old mind here, and promise me you'll come back to read another article I've written about first graders -- and why yours probably doesn't have ADD, too.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Psychological Milestones: Why Your 4-Year-Old Is So Awesome

I'm really enjoying our 4-year-old. He's sort of an "Entry-Level Kid" -- no longer a squirelly toddler, he can join in the group for some fun, manage his feelings pretty well, and tells silly stories that have us rolling.

Common parenting wisdom has remedies for the "Terrible Twos." But they leave out the "Terrible THREES," which can be mighty tough.

Three-year-olds are really just glorified toddlers who still need a lot of special attention, and are prone to frequent meltdowns, tantrums, and making wacky demands.  But the difference between three and four is huge -- and hugely fun.

 

Here are some of the major emotional developments that come along with being four. Your 4-year-old can:

  • smoothly enter into new play situations without much help from you
  • start to be responsible for small, regular chores like carrying his laundry to the laundry room
  • take turns and share (most of the time)
  • create elaborate, vivid play scenarios, and stick with them for longer
  • be goofy beyond belief, and play around with silly words and "jokes"
  • boast and brag with the best of them
  • "use his words" more often than resorting to violence
  • start to follow rules (and even insist others do so)
  • enjoy family outings and trips more than ever

But it's not always rosy. Some 4-year-old challenges include:

  • tattling, name-calling and complaining
  • resorting to whining and tantrums when tired, sick, or overwhelmed
  • trying to change the rules mid-way through games
  • "lies" -- still can't understand the difference between "truth" and "fiction" -- and won't, until age 6+

No matter the challenges, it's a special time -- and I'm making the most out of it. Soon, he'll be starting school, and sometime in 1st grade his focus will shift away from family -- and towards school and peers. It's really our last chance to enjoy the special, intense, close parent-child bond before he starts launching into the wider world. (Sniff! I'm going off to have a little cry now -- for my awesome boy who won't be little forever.)

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Child Devlopment: How To Play Your Young Toddler (12-18 Months)

Those of you long-time BabyShrink readers know that my Baby #4 is now officially a toddler. She's toddling, lurching, and careening around the house like she owns the joint. And now that she's officially past her "baby" days, her brain is going through a big burst that allows her to tackle more organized and complicated projects. It's why she now enjoys "working on" toys, as opposed to just chewing on them, or looking at them.

Your young toddler can remember more now, stay focused for longer, and is eager to try out her rapidly improving motor skills. She's also getting interested in trying to imitate you. She can't "play pretend" yet -- when she picks up the play phone and jabbers on it she's not pretending to talk to grandma (yet) -- but she's imitating YOU. It's an important step towards creative play -- which is the watershed development that leads to the ability to think and work creatively all her life.

You have the opportunity to make the most of this incredible time of development. Don't make yourself nuts by thinking you have to provide a ton of educational "stuff": simple things (and not too many of them) work best. Make yourself available to play with her, when she's receptive -- strike a balance between staying out of her play, and overwhelming her with your own play agenda. Follow her lead. When she picks up the dinosaur and looks to you questioningly, use it's name -- and offer a play option. "That's a dinosaur. Do you want to put him on top of your block tower?" Acknowledge her interest, and suggest a creative direction. It's called scaffolding -- letting her set the pace, but giving her a "boost" to build up to the next level of complexity in play. But don't push it -- you're there as a benevolent observer, and part-time participant.

Be ready to add these elements to your young toddler's playtime:

* Add another character, so that the play becomes about people and relationships.

* Add another object so that things can function in relation to each other. Think prepositions -- put something On Top Of, Underneath, or Inside.

* Modify the pace of play, based on her energy level. If she's getting too wound up, introduce some slower action. If she's not interested, try something new.

And most importantly, have fun!

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Child Psychological Development: BabyShrink's Thinking Points for Parents

Lately I've been getting a lot of requests for expert comments on baby stuff: parenting mags who want info for their stories. I've got a love-hate relationship with those magazines. They recycle the same old stuff,  and aren't in-depth enough to get down into the heart of the issue. So parents are left with a handy-dandy little checklist that MIGHT work with their child (but just as likely won't) -- and they're left doubting themselves and their parenting ability (or the development of their child.) "If National Parent Mag says this should work, why doesn't it work with my child?"

Most of the writers are simply learning right along with their readers. I recently spent 20 minutes explaining to one writer why sleep cycles (and parents' approaches to sleep) should change over time. Meaning that a 3-month-old is a totally different animal than an 18-month old, and therefore, responds way differently to sleep "training". There's no quick, "one size fits all" sleep-training answer. It hadn't occurred to this writer of a major parenting mag (a parent of a toddler herself) that since the psychological needs of a young child vary over time, so must our approaches to the various issues that come up.

This has me thinking of the simple but powerful ways that parents can consider the psychological development of their babies and young children (which really is the whole point of BabyShrink). I'm working on a book on the subject, which allows me more room to explore the issue, but for the time being I'm left with the same problem that parenting mag writers have: cramming a huge subject into a limited amount of space. So what I'll do is list some "thinking points" for you to consider in your parenting, and we can discuss further as you have questions:

BabyShrink's Thinking Points For Parents:

* Your baby's psychological needs change over time. 0-6 months is about getting oriented to the world and trying to feel safe in it. 9-12 months is a whole different ball game, and leads into toddlerhood, which is different yet again (check out "annoying toddler behaviors" under my Categories below and to the right). Vary your approach as your child goes through each stage.

* Psychological development doesn't follow a straight line. There will be "regression", and there will be progress. This is normal and expected.

* The fact that your young child CAN do something doesn't mean that she WILL do it. HAVING a skill doesn't mean your child is psychologically ready to USE it. Readiness to sleep through the night, potty training, talking, and most other issues have strong psychological components  -- handling that aspect artfully, helps your child navigate the issue more completely, and with less chance of later problems.

* Your child's temperament is a major Wild Card here. What works for an "easy" baby might be worthless for your "fussy" baby. An "intense" toddler needs a totally different approach than a "shy" one.  A "bold" preschooler needs a different approach than a more "sensitive" one.

Randomly trying new parenting "solutions" can be really frustrating. Understanding the psychology of your child, and making a parenting plan based on these "Thinking Points", is the key to finding your way with your child. If you want to to know more about how psychological development affects your parenting, and how it can best be handled given the unique temperament of your child, there are lots of ways to learn more. Click around my site, Twitter me your questions @BabyShrink, comment here, or email me at BabyShrink@gmail.com for Parent Coaching.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: When and How To Get Rid Of Your Toddler's "Comfort Thingie"

The "Comfort Thingie" -- your toddler's thumb, binkie, blanket or other "lovey" -- is a vexing problem to most parents. Usually yucky, stinky, shredded and gross, we'd love to chuck it, but Toddler would FREAK. HOW to get rid of it? WHEN is it OK to get rid of it? And WHY does she need it so much, anyway?

The Comfort Thingie is part you, that's why -- it helps your toddler transition from complete dependence to independence. It carries a bit of parental mojo along with it's stink and shreds. (And by the way, Comfort Thingies also include weird repetitive toddler behaviors -- cramming blanket corners up her nose, twiddling a lock of hair, walking around with her finger in her belly button, or even head-banging to get to sleep -- all qualify as Comfort Thingies.)

Tips for Getting Through The Thingie Phase

  • * Know that it’s completely normal, age appropriate, and promotes independence
  • * Show that you respect the Thingie, no matter how disgusting
  • * Try to understand the draw of the Thingie so that you can understand what comforts your child – these things tend to be idiosyncratic, and reflective of the child’s enduring temperament and personality and preferences
  • * Consider keeping the Thingie. If it's OK with you, a tattered blanket never hurt anyone. There's no psychological reason to force the issue. She'll eventually lose interest, and then you can keep it to give her her when she has her own babies. (Awwwww......)
  • * Pace Yourself – and your child. Don’t try to give up multiple Thingies at once (for instance, don’t eliminate the bottle, binkie, and crib simultaneously) and back off of the potty training until any Thingie Phase-Out has become routine.
  • * Talk to your toddler about how the Thingie helps, so that she can begin to understand (and internalize) it’s power
  • * Identify stress in your toddler’s life, and try to decrease it.
  • * Don’t even suggest giving up the Thingie until the age of 3. Don’t waste your parental capital on this one, as often, the Thingie will be given up naturally. After 3 it will be easier to negotiate with your child for a “Thingie Phase-Out Plan”.
  • * Rule out any medical explanation (especially in the case of head-banging) – just to be sure.

And finally… Look Away and Breathe Deeply – you might as well start practicing now! Your ability to pick and choose your parental battles will be key to getting through all the phases of your child’s development with your sanity (relatively) intact. The Comfort Thingie -- while certainly disgusting now -- resolves naturally in typically developing children.

Here's more on how to know when, if, and how to transition your toddler away from her Binkie. And if you still have questions, email me at BabyShrink@gmail.com, or hit the Parent Coaching button above. I'd love to talk with you about your toddler's stinky habit, and help you decide how to deal with the situation.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding: How To Handle A "Nursing Strike" By Your Baby

The flip side of the baby on a "Bottle Strike" is the very common "Nursing Strike". Baby NOT nursing

Babies can switch from one distressing habit to the other, often without warning, leaving sitters and parents in a bind. Moms worry -- Will the baby finally nurse today? Will I lose my milk? Will I be stuck to this breast pump forever? Here are some tips, which are similar to those you can use when Baby is on a "Bottle Strike":

Consider Age -- At certain ages -- 5 months and 9 months are common -- your baby is way more interested in the world than in burrowing in for a cozy nursing session. The draw of the outside world becomes too tempting, making bottle feeding a lot more interesting and fun. Try nursing in a quiet, darkened place. Other babies will simply refuse to nurse unless they're exhausted or sleeping, as they're more interested in playing than nursing. Use a bottle (and nurse at night, when babies are more likely to go for it) until this phase passes.

Consider Temperament -- A baby who is easily overstimulated by being held might feel more comfortable begin fed while turned outward, which is impossible with nursing. Other babies are highly visual and love to look at everything, which is limited when nursing. For these babies you might consider only nursing when baby is tired or at night, using the pump and/or formula for bottle feeding other times.

Practice and Prevention: It's fine to expect your baby to alternate between the breast and bottle -- you've just got to keep him in practice, even if you don't need him to alternate all the time. This means he should be given BOTH the breast and the bottle at least every 1-2 days. This is the most important piece of advice I can give for preventing nursing AND bottle strikes.

Don't Panic: I know you want to nurse your baby, he's refusing to do it, and everyone recommends it, blah blah. Just don't freak out -- your baby has preferences and opinions, and this is only the first of many he'll express over the years -- breastfeeding propaganda be damned. Most babies can be coaxed back into nursing after exploring the fun and easy option of bottle feeding. Taking it in stride will help everyone come to a good compromise. Pump as much as is reasonable to keep your milk coming in the meantime -- but don't make yourself nuts about it. Your baby will be a lot less likely to nurse if you're stressed out and upset.

Offer the breast when he's asleep -- just as with Bottle Strikes, your baby is more likely to accept what you offer when he's drowsy or asleep.

Check with the pediatrician -- thrush, tummy upsets, teething, ear infections and other illness can make nursing more difficult. Remedy any medical problems first.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: "Perfectionism" in A 2-Year Old?

Longtime reader Katie has asked me about her baby before. But now that her daughter is an honest-to-goodness toddler, there are new questions about perfectionism. Babies don't care about "the rules" -- toddlers do. And so a new struggle with "doing it right -- by myself" begins: "I DO IT MYSSEF!"

Dear Dr. Heather,

For the past few nights my daughter has insisted on putting her pajamas on herself. This would be great, except she can't quite get it by herself and ends up getting really frustrated. However, she gets even more angry and upset when I try to help her. I end up being torn between my desire to let her learn to do it herself and my desire to get her to bed at a decent hour. Usually she genuinely needs a few small helps to get the pajamas on, but I try to let her do as much as possible by herself.

This also is a symptom of a larger problem - what I perceive to be a growing perfectionism on her part. For example, if one cheerio from her bowl falls on the floor she will not eat another one until it is picked up. She also is very definite about using the right words for things - she just corrected me that the noise we heard was an "airplane" not a "plane." Having struggled with perfectionism myself, I worry a lot that I might pass it on to my daughter, or that she might spontaneously develop it on her own since she seems to have that kind of personality. Do you have any advice that might help?

Katie

Hi Katie,

Your daughter is just now learning that things can be done "just so". She didn't care before, and she's experimenting with it now. It's totally common and normal. It's also part of the control trip that goes along with toddlerhood. Just how far can she take this control thing? She's exploring those boundaries. It's also part of her growing sense of independence -- wanting to do it herself. A good thing, yes?

But it's not always possible for her do it herself. So, the advice is -- allow her to do it her way, WHEN IT IS REASONABLE. Give her options and choices ahead of time to try to limit the struggles that may come up. You are totally allowed to step in and be the boss when you need to -- don't feel bad about it, just matter-of-fact. But allow her the independence when you can. For rituals that take forever and get in the way of other activities: plan in advance -- give her a lot of extra time in the evening for putting on jammies, and give her a lot of praise for getting steps right herself. Try to leave her to her own devices to explore her skills. Tell her to ask you for help when she gets frustrated, but don't go overboard and do the whole thing for her. She may end up frustrated anyway, but that's OK. Rescue her when she's at her limit. I think you might also be nervous about some kind of impending red flag for perfectionism, because of your own history and tendencies. Rest assured that it's normal at this age. You have the opportunity to help her live with imperfection, as well as to explore her new skills. If she is suffering from it when she is starting school, then you can start to wonder if she might need some intervention. But for now -- it sounds fine.

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Child Development: Why Your 9-Month-Old Baby Is So Difficult All Of A Sudden

I had an amazing conversation with one of the world's foremost infant researchers last week, Dr. Joseph Campos. He's at Berkeley, where he's churned out tons of scientifically rigorous studies about the developmental changes in infancy. He's come up with some transformative ideas about babies, the upshot of one being that crawling causes your baby to become your little social partner, for the first time. No longer just a passive lump in the social world, now she's able to start to understand some of what's going on inside your mind. She understands how important you are to her, and seeks your emotional support, presence and encouragement as she starts to scoot out into the world under her own power. She now gets reassurance from your presence and your emotions -- your facial expressions and body language -- not just from physically holding her. Super Cute, and Super Challenging

The flip side of this is that it also causes clinginess, fussiness, and sleep problems -- some of the major complaints of parents at this stage. Turns out, crawling out into the wide world is fascinating -- and terrifying. Your little adventurer gets it now -- that as much as she wants to venture out on her own, she desperately needs you, and is panicked that she'll lose you somewhere along the way. As Dr. Campos said to me, the baby's drive for independence is equally matched by her fear of it.

So to you fellow parents of 9 to 12-month-old babies out there: I know it can be a challenging, difficult stage. Your little bug seems content to scramble around the house one minute, then wails in panic the next. What used to be stable sleep habits are now in a shambles. Feeding --and nursing -- has become an unpredictable struggle -- and separations are exceptionally difficult. And forget diaper changes! What a wrestling match! Immmobility is the enemy to her now -- being restrained in any way is bound to be a fight. High chairs, strollers and car seats are demon baby torture devices. They keep her from exploring her brave new world.

What to do? Re-think your daily tasks with this knowledge in mind. Everything will take a little longer, as your baby goes through this unpredictable (but temporary) stage. Some days she may need you constantly. But don't worry -- when you've finally reached the end of your rope with your little Clingon, she'll start to feel "refueled", and venture out again -- allowing you to catch up on that laundry and email. And make sure you get some help with nighttime wakenings -- you'll need extra rest too, since you're up again with a fussy baby -- but don't forget to reinforce the sleep routines that have worked well in the past. She'll eventually remember what her job is, at night -- and now that her memory is better, she can hold on to her internal image of you a bit longer, giving her some comfort, despite being away from you to sleep. Feel some reassurance knowing that the earlier -- and stronger -- your baby shows separation anxiety, the sooner it resolves. Lots of parental support and understanding help her get through this challenging -- but remarkable -- stage.

Dr. Campos was generous and encouraging in my BabyShrink book-writing project, and I had a blast geeking out with him, picking his brain about the amazing new developmental capacities in normal 9-month-old babies. What a great experience! Now, please excuse me -- I've got a 9-month-old baby clinging to my leg.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Toddler Behavior: What Do You Do When A Baby Prefers One Parent Over The Other?

Dear Dr. Heather, Our 25-month-old granddaughter has an unusually strong attachment to her mother.

Don't Take It Personally, Dad.

Her parents have been very responsive to her since her birth. Our toddler is easy with other people including her regular caregiver, grand-parents, other extended family and just about everyone else. The problem is that when her mother is around she has a strong preference for her, to the exclusion of most others. This happens about 60% of the time.

Her mother and father are gentle and kind and fun-loving. They respond to her emotions and explain the world to her. They are consistent with their house “rules” and explain the world to her so that things make as much sense as possible. She is a bright, articulate, inquisitive, active little girl and appears to be developing normally. Again, the problem is just that she clings to tenaciously to her mom. This is trying on her dad and also tiring for mom.

Any tips on how to reduce the clinging and increase her involvement with others when her mother is present?

Thanks very much.

Grandma ~~~~~~

Dear "Grandma",

What you're describing is the sign of a healthy attachment to her mother. Babies at this age have a hard time being in intense relationships with more than one person at a time. Strong parental preferences are COMMON. Unpleasant at times, inconvenient often, but COMMON and NORMAL, at this age. The first step is understanding it, the next step is rewarding her when she works well with her father, you, or other adults. She should be gently encouraged and praised for steps in the right direction, but never scolded if she prefers mom, since this will only work against you.

Your granddaughter is at a stage of venturing out into the world, and then coming back to her "base of comfort" as needed to "refuel", emotionally. As she gains confidence this will naturally abate. Also, as she grows closer to age 3, she will be more curious about the different activities her father and you can share with her, and this will help too.

I can certainly relate, as I am currently on both ends of the preference spectrum with various of my own children. I'm top of the list with my 9-month-old and 4-year-old, and bottom of the totem pole with my 7 and 9-year-olds -- Daddy is their current favorite. All of us need to be understanding about the temporary preferences that our children express -- please don't take it personally, nor should her father. Your time (and his) will come...I promise!

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Sleep & Nap Issues: How To Cope While Sleep Training Your Baby

We're doing our own version of Sleep Training around here, since baby #4 has proven to be immensely resistant -- and LOUD -- in our efforts to help her sleep through even a decent portion of the night. Adorable as she is, she's the most rotten sleeper I've yet produced. Tough Love is in order. Sure, she sleeps OK in the stroller.

But Tough Love is rough on me -- and on the family. A fussing (or screaming) baby feels like a constant reminder of some kind of parental inadequacy, and is really grating on the nerves. Not to mention the fact that it often happens at ridiculous hours of the night when most other babies are surely sleeping soundly. And forget sleep for poor mom. I'm a zombie.

But persist I must. I won't give in to an 18-pound 8-month old, no matter how cute she is (in the daytime, at least). It will be worth it in the end.

Here are my tips for getting through this rough time, if you're going through Sleep Training:

Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. There's nothing worse than arguing about sleep training techniques at 2 am, standing outside the door of a screaming baby. Agree ahead of time -- or don't attempt it.

Prepare the older kids for nighttime noise. I tell my lightest sleeper that he may hear the baby fussing at night. "But you're a big boy and can roll over and go to sleep. Soon we'll all get better sleep."

Use a little reverse psychology on yourself. (You're so sleep deprived it just might work!) Instead of preparing for a night of sleep, prepare for a night of watching "guilty pleasure" TV, listening to great music from your (childless) past, or even folding laundry. Fooling yourself into thinking you don't really need to sleep somehow makes it less painful to be up at weird hours.

Take a deep breath, have a zen moment, do some mindfulness meditation, yoga, or pray -- pick your version of expressing gratitude and relaxation. Having a non-sleeping, screaming baby at 2 am is really hard. But in the scope of things, not really that big of a deal. A few moments recalling the years when we feared we couldn't get pregnant, or thinking of friends who have a baby who's quite ill, and others who have God forbid lost a child, and I'm ready to get through another tough night of sleep training. Having a healthy, happy, non-sleeping baby is a high-class problem we're blessed to have, quite honestly.

I've written other posts about getting through the sleep deprivation aspect of this, but let me also mention our friend caffeine here. Don't overdo it. At my peak, I have a mug of java in the morning, some iced tea at lunch, and another cup of coffee around 2. That's 3 servings a day. Any more and I get frazzled and nutty -- and no more awake than if I had stayed with the 3 servings. Studies say that some coffee is fine for most of us, but too much will definitely make you feel worse.

Sleep Training eventually works -- I'm writing this now as the baby sleeps nicely in her crib. Get through the rough nights and I promise things will improve!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Toddler Behavior: When Children Are Stressed About A New House Or New Baby

Dear Dr. Heather, My 2-year-old granddaughter is stressed about her new house. Her parents moved a couple of weeks ago, and then her mother had a new baby. Emma seems to "love" her new brother, so I can't imagine that he is upsetting her. But I am concerned that her mother is not giving Emma new routines in the new house. Emma is overtired and cranky. She is a lovely, intelligent child and I am worried about her. Doesn't she need routines?

Sometimes it's all too much for a little kid!

Chris

Dear Chris,

It's tough being a grandma -- you can see that your kids (and grandkids) are suffering, but there's little you can do about it, since you're not the parent.

But yes, the changes that Emma has experienced are quite pronounced, and even a 2-year-old picks up on all the changes. The new baby is a big part of it, believe me. At times she is thrilled and entertained by the new baby, but deep down she suspects that the baby is the cause of all the problems in her life right now. That's why we always remind parents to NEVER leave a baby alone with a toddler -- no matter how much the toddler "loves" the new baby. Too many "accidents" happen to babies that way. But don't blame Emma -- she really can't help herself. It's her age.

And of course you are right that Emma needs routines, as close as possible to the old routines as possible. But right now, with the new baby, all bets are off. Her poor Mom is struggling with the new addition, PLUS a new house, AND being up all night, and so she gets special dispensation to be disorganized and "out of it". The name of the game now, with your family, is to GET THROUGH IT, in any reasonable way. Let the new routines emerge naturally and support Emma's parents as much as possible. The better they feel, and the more rest THEY get, the more their own natural instincts will kick in, and they'll naturally start to establish new routines.

But if there aren't many routines yet, and Emma is cranky and overtired for a few weeks -- it's OK. We assume that a few weeks' disruption will naturally return to normal after an adjustment period. If not, talk to Emma's parents about your concerns, but until then, I would suggest simply supporting the family and being understanding of a cranky toddler. (And after all, grandmas get special dispensation to spoil their granddaughters, especially when they're a little stressed out, right?)

If things don't improve in a few weeks, let me know.

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: The Fabulous Fraiberg #2 -- Fear and the Young Child

I'm plowing through essential classic parenting titles as I write my own book. Fraiberg is such a gem, and even 50 years after publication, this book is a giant among Fears can't be avoided

parenting titles. In this next section, she elaborates on the theme of the child's own innate ability to deal with fears. She give us a timely reminder that we need to trust in the inner ability of our children to cope with their own difficulties. Of course they need us to assist and support them in that process, but the "equipment" is there, naturally. These days too many of us get caught up in worrying that we need to teach our kids every single thing, and don't give them enough space to work on solving their own problems. I find it quite a relief to be reminded that my kids are far from a tabula rasa -- a blank slate -- but rather, they come pre-loaded with all sorts of fancy developmental abilities.

(Normally) the child overcomes his fears. And here is the most fascinating question of all: How does he do it? For the child is equipped with the means for overcoming his fears. Even in the second year he possesses a marvelously complex mental system which provides the means for anticipating danger, assessing danger, defending against danger, and overcoming danger. Whether this quipment can be successfully employed will depend, of course, on the parents who, in a sense, teach him to use his equipment. This means that if we understand the nature of the developing child and those parts of his personality that work for solution and resolution toward mental health, we are in the best position to assist him in developing his inner resources for dealing with fears.

From Selma Fraiberg's The Magic Years, page 6.

So as parents, the best we can do is to understand the developmental process, know the temperamental realities of our own kids, and hold their hands while they walk through the tricky spots. No parenting "technique" can take the place of a genuinely interested, centered, and supportive parent -- one who knows when to step in and help, and one who knows when to hang back and trust the magic of the developmental process.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Child Development: Update On The Whole Vaccine/Autism Thing

Just a quickie to point you to an update about the "doctor" who started all the craziness about the SUPPOSED link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The most lifesaving discovery EVER -- the vaccine

(My friend Esther runs the site -- a smart cookie and a doctor to boot -- look around her site a little bit, too):

mainstreamparenting.com

Remember, there are no guarantees when it comes to weighing the healthcare options for your family. But the more informed you are, the better prepared you will be to balance the pros and cons. For my money, vaccines are an easy bet.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Child Development: Is It Okay That My Baby Walks But Never Crawls?

Dear Dr. Heather, Our 8 month old son seems to be skipping the crawling phase altogether and learning to cruise and walk straightaway. Today someone told me that this means he’ll have learning disabilities later; is this true?Baby walking but never crawling, any learning disability worry?

Thanks!

A Concerned Dad

Dear "Concerned",

That's an old wives tale, but one that many people still believe. Here's the deal: if he's not working on locomotion -- in some form or another -- at this age, it could be reflective of some underlying issue. But ANY of the goofy forms of locomotion exhibited by babies at this age counts as "normal locomotion" -- the "Commando Crawl", the "Tushie-Scoot", the "One-Kneed Creep", and of course regular cruising and walking. Apparently the Back-To-Sleep campaign has resulted in an increase in babies who skip crawling, as they don't get as much practice on their tummies. But getting mobile is the important thing.

Look at it this way: crawling is a drag. Walking is a lot more fun --and a lot less gross -- for parents (Think: less opportunity to find and eat yucky stuff off the floor!). Plus you'll save tons on Spray 'n Wash since his knees won't be dragging through the dirt all the time. And for you parents of girls -- rejoice! You can finally bust out the pretty dresses! (There's nothing more frustrating to a crawling baby than having a dress get caught up underneath her over and over!)

We look for some form of mobility -- attempts to crawl, scoot or walk -- by about 10 months, but this isn't a hard and fast rule. Your pediatrician can do a quick review of your baby's developmental progress if you're worried.

Enjoy -- and double-check your baby-proofing. This phase begins the wild time of The Mobile Baby With No Self-Protection Mechanisms! You'll be running around after him very closely for the next year or so!

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Toddler Behavior: The Fabulous Fraiberg #1 - Child Development Problems

Selma Fraiberg wrote this classic on early childhood fifty years ago. My own thinking is based largely on her work, and I literally sleep with this on my bedside table for parenting comfort after a hard day with the kids. One of the problems with parenting advice today is that it's a "one size fits all" approach that doesn't take the child's specific developmental stage -- or temperament -- into account. Fraiberg explained this in the juicy little quote I've included below. Here's a sampler from the book's preface:

If we understand the process of child development, we see that each developmental stage brings with it characteristic problems. The parents' method of helping the child must take into account the child's own development and his mental equipment at any given stage. This means that there is very little point in speaking categorically about "childhood anxieties" or "discipline problems in childhood". The anxieties of the two year old are not the same as the anxieties of the five year old. Even if the same crocodile hides under the bed of one small boy between the ages of two and five, the crocodile of the two year old is not the same as the crocodile of the five year old -- from the psychological point of view. He's had a chance to grow with the boy and is a lot more complex after three years under the bed than he was the day he first moved in. Furthermore, what you do about the crocodile when the boy is two is not the same as what you do about him when the boy is five."

From the classic "The Magic Years", by Selma Fraiberg: page xvii.

Here at BabyShrink, I take Fraiberg a step farther. We look at problems with parenting babies, toddlers and preschoolers, and break the developmental stages down even more specifically. So the feeding problems of the 3-month-old are completely different than the feeding problems of the 9-month-old or of the two-year-old.

I don't do any affiliate links in any way from this site, so believe it when I say the 10 bucks you spend on this gem at amazon (or wherever) will be worth way more than that in parenting clarity. Enjoy!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Parenting Tips: How To Leave Your Baby For The First Time

I get a weird, quivery feeling in my stomach when I think back to the time, 8 years ago, when I first left our first child in the care of a sitter. That sitter, Keri, has gone on to become a part of the family -- a central figure in our lives and the reason I can function on a daily basis. But on that day, I had horrendous visions of the damage that would be done to my daughter. How could anyone care for her as well as I? I had to force myself away from them -- Keri holding my daughter's arm up to wave "bye bye" as I drove away. I cried on my way to the meeting I had to attend. It's harder on us than it is on them

Of course, all went very well that day, and for all these years since. But that day ranks up there with one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Here are some tips for those of you facing that fateful day:

Ease Into It Slowly

You and your baby will adjust more smoothly if you plan to be away for progressively longer periods of time. Start out slow: figure out the least amount of time that you'll be able to handle being away, even if it's just for a few minutes. Arrange to have the sitter come anyway, and explain to her that you'll be coming and going as you all adjust to the new arrangements. Or if you're leaving her at daycare, work out a "transition" time with the teacher so that you can come and hang out for awhile at drop-off and pick-up times, helping your baby (and you) to adjust. Eventually build up to the length of time you'll usually be away. For some, this may take days -- or weeks. That's OK.

It May Be Harder For You Than It Will Be For Your Baby

Regardless of baby's age, talk to her about your plans to leave in advance. Even if she doesn't understand your words, the tone of your message will sink in. It will also be therapeutic for you to talk about it. Up until about 5 or 6 months, your baby will be pretty cool with you being away for awhile. Older babies and toddlers will need more "practicing" in advance, but for most, their protests will only last a few minutes at most after you leave. A good sitter will have a plan to distract her quickly after you've gone. Have the sitter call you when the baby calms down -- you'll feel much better.

Know That You'll Feel Like A Part Of Your Body Is Being Removed

You're supposed to feel that way -- Mother Nature makes sure of that. Know it in advance and make plans to deal with the feelings: Call an understanding friend after you leave, and make plans for a fun thing you haven't been able to do because of the baby. But don't let the feelings keep you from getting the sitter in the first place.

Each Time It Will Get Easier

As long as your sitter is good, you'll feel better and better each time you leave. And then you'll start to feel a developing sense of relief and gratitude that you don't have to do it all yourself. You have help now! HOORAY!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink