Positive Parenting: Brattiness or Brain Development? Important Facts About Your Little One, by Kathy Harsch

Challenging behavior  – why does it seem to be right in front of us, perhaps more often than we would like?!   I would like to empower those who have daily interaction with young children. With the power of knowledge, you will be better prepared to respond to and deal with conflict.   Knowledge of child development will help keep your young relationship in good standing.

Did you know that before the age of six, information is processed twelve times slower than in adults?   Children six to twelve process information six times slower than adults!   What does that mean?   When we walk into a room and quickly announce we need to leave; Mommy has a meeting and I need you to turn off the TV, get your shoes and backpack, and a jacket just in case it cools down;  we need to leave in just a few minutes, so be quick!”   Rarely does this common scenario take place without Mom or Dad getting flustered.  Try this – while turning off the TV, give the command, “get your shoes and backpack.”   Truly adults need to s. l. o. w. the pace down!

How many times a day have you said the word “don’t”?   Young children cannot conjugate the word “don’t” and therefore when you say “don’t throw the sand”, they hear “throw the sand” and you march over to the sandbox with the “challenging me again” thought!   We need to tell children what to do!   “Use the bulldozer to move the sand!”   It takes work to tell children what we want them to do. “Don’t” really doesn’t give them any information and “no” certainly doesn’t provide more information either.  Instead, tell children what to do.   Teach them what YOU want them TO DO!

Children under seven lack mature “inner speech.”    In adults, inner speech is like a rehearsal for what we may want to say when arriving at a new acquaintance’s place or how we might want to prepare a meal.   We can even quickly think “oh, what I would like to say” but use our filter and think before we act!   Young children see in pictures.   Adults need to paint a picture with their words. Remember, don’t” and “no” provide no information. For example, “You seem anxious, you pushed your friend when you walked into the room.  You may not push, you may come to me and stand by me if you feel anxious.” Using descriptive language helps defuse those unwanted verbal power struggles and is also a stepping stone for language and literacy, so utilize it as often and fully as possible.

If you’re in the teaching field or just simply read to children, it’s helpful to know that binocular vision, the ability of both eyes to focus on the same subject, doesn’t fully mature until around age six.   Until then, it is like covering one eye, spinning around and trying to walk down steps!   Reading a story to children and moving the book in front of their eyes is continuous motion.   In a group you’ll get the child in front saying, “I didn’t see the picture!”   They follow the book and the children in back begin to say, “I didn’t see the picture!”   Suddenly everyone is scooting, on their knees, and saying, “I didn’t see the picture!”   Instead, hold the book still, move it, then hold it still again.   We should pay attention to children’s behavior. Though it appears to us that they’ve seen the picture, they haven’t and they are not making it up!

There is so much we can do to help children plug into the rational part of the brain.   We can do the same!   Be a S.T.A.R. – Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax!   I know you can do it! Teach your child or children the same.

Kathy Harsch has followed Dr. Becky Bailey’s teachings since attending her 2000 Marquette Early Childhood Conference presentation. She’s since attended many of Dr. Bailey’s conferences and continues to teach and learn from Conscious Discipline, School Family, and Brain Smart ways, incorporating them in her day care.

*Conscious Discipline™, School Family T, and Brain Smart™, are trademarks of Loving Guidance, Inc.  1-800-842-2846   www.ConsciousDiscipline.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved

Healing the Fractured Child, by Fran S. Waters, DCSW, LMSW, LMFT

In the mid-1980s, I had been treating for over a year, Eliza, an 8-year-old adopted girl who had been severely abused by her biological parents. In spite of her caring adoptive parents, Eliza was not making progress. One day, she walked into my familiar office at the local mental health center (now called Pathways), looked around at the bookshelves full of toys and books, and inquired what they were. I was stunned!

Serendipitously, a few months earlier, the clinic’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lu Kuhnhoff, who had just returned from a conference sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Dissociative Disorders, provided an in-service to a group of us interested clinicians. Dr. Kuhnhoff described signs of dissociation, including memory and identity disturbances, auditory and visual hallucinations, and a loss of consciousness (awareness). At this time, I had been specializing in treatment of sexually-abused children. I naively thought to myself that perhaps I would see one case with dissociation in my lifetime. Little did I understand that dissociation is a primitive, biological, automatic defense mechanism derived from reptiles and continued up the evolutionary chain to us mammals. Dissociation is activated when a child is faced with overwhelming fear when being abused or encountering other forms of trauma (e.g. painful medical procedures and illness), and when fighting and fleeing is simply impossible. In order to survive the frightening experience, the child segments off the horrifying event(s) from his or her consciousness as a way of escaping mentally when there is no actual way to escape.

Like other forms of mental conditions, there are different degrees of dissociation, such as: spacing out; amnesia to past traumatic events; distortion in environment in which things seem unreal or viewed through a tunnel; when the body feels numb or disconnected from self; or the child experiences a separation within the self with different identities, feelings, memories, behaviors and relationship preferences that influence the child or may take control of the body and present differently to others, as seen in Dissociative Identity Disorder-DID (formerly termed Multiple Personality Disorder). It is important to understand that those with DID are still one person with different states of consciousness or awareness. In my book Healing the Fractured Child: Diagnosing and Treating Youth with \Dissociation, I explain more thoroughly the ways dissociative symptoms can be expressed in numerous clinical cases.

Generally, traumatized children with dissociation can present with a myriad of symptoms due to shifting parts of themselves that become triggered by reminders of past traumas, e.g., smells, sights, sounds, touch. They can rapidly shift from being happy to sad to raging, and display aberrant behavior in which amnesia may be present. They can exhibit dramatic shifts in their abilities with activities such as schoolwork and sports, and in their preferences in food, dress, activities, and more. They can demonstrate severe attachment or relationship impairment due to a lack of trust and separate parts of the self not having a connection to their caregivers. These children can one moment seek out the parent and the next moment attack the parent. They often have severe attention problems marked by poor concentration and focus due to intrusive traumatic memories, or voices and images experienced in their mind that disrupt their ability to focus. They can exhibit aggressive behavior for which they have no memory, and therefore deny such behavior. Consequently, they are frequently viewed as liars. These changing moods and behaviors can confound caretakers and teachers.

I received a call from a grade school principal who told me Ryan, a 9-year-old boy (Waters, 2015) who’d been sexually abused, had turned around and suddenly hit a girl in line. When the principal witnessed this and confronted Ryan, he adamantly denied it, collapsing to the floor wailing. However, in this case, the astute principal related to me that Ryan really did not know he had done it. I knew Ryan depersonalized from his lower body since he was completely unaware of his chronic soiling problem. However, I did not know he had a more severe form of dissociation until this phone call. Upon further exploration, he, like Eliza, revealed hearing voices and seeing in his mind a separate identity that was a protector who hit the little girl who had unexpectedly knocked into him.

These traumatized, dissociative children can often receive more commonly recognized diagnoses, such as psychosis due to hallucinations, bipolar disorder due to extreme mood swings, attention deficit disorder due to poor focus, oppositional or conduct disorders due to their disruptive behavior. Unfortunately, while they have an abuse history, post-traumatic stress and dissociative disorders are often overlooked as the source of their symptoms.

Effectively parenting these children can be a daunting task. Porges (2011), who has studied how we respond to threat, discovered the crucial role of voice and eyes in fostering communication and bonding between parents and children. Porges noted that the mylenated vagal nerve, which regulates social engagement and goes from the heart to the ears and from the heart to the eyes, makes us very sensitive to loud, low sounds and angry eyes. We become threatened and our survival response system activates, causing us to disengage from the person by fighting, fleeing or freezing (a dissociative response). Therefore, Porges stresses that keeping your voice modulated and eyes warm can keep others engaged-a crucial strategy for parents to maintain a connection with their distraught child.

While it is challenging to raise a dissociative child, parents or caretakers can have a profound impact on helping their child heal. Their understanding, love, patience, and acceptance of all parts of their child provide the foundation for the child to progress in specialized treatment of his or her traumatic past and dissociation to become an integrated child. Having had the privilege of working in partnership with such parents to see their children transform into healthy, happy individuals, I can tell you the rewards of their helping their child heal are worth it!

Fran Waters is the author of Healing the fractured child: Diagnosis and treatment of youth with dissociation. She is the past president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD). She maintains a private practice in Marquette, MI.

Porges, S. (2011). The polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication and self-regulation. New York: W.W. Norton.
Waters, F. S. (2nd, 2015). Ryan (8 to 10 years old) –Connecting with the body: Treatment of somatoform dissociation (encopresis and multiple physical complaints). In Wieland, S. (Ed.), Dissociation in traumatized children and adolescents: Theory and clinical interventions (2nd ed.; pp.135-190). New York: Routledge.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2016-2017 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine.

Positive Parenting: Before The Big Day Arrives

by Cassandra Vore

As a mother, I know the excitement and the nervousness of welcoming a new life into your body, home, and heart. We often prepare for our baby’s arrival by painting the nursery and going on a shopping spree. However, when we focus our energy on the material and physical preparations, we miss the first opportunity to be proactive parents. Indeed, parenting does not begin at birth, but long before.

Consciously attending to the complete journey, from conception through birthing, is an immense and sacred parenting task that can be embraced in many ways, and may be overwhelming at times. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Strengthen your intimate and social relationships

Foster communication with your partner. Discuss the fears, hopes, dreams, and plans each of you has for your growing family and learn to support one another, even when your ideas diverge.

Do you have friends who make you laugh or calm your spirit? Nurture those relationships and the positive ways they make you feel. At the same time, discontinue or avoid stressful relationships with friends or extended family. Stress hormones directly impact your growing child. Take this opportunity to put your child’s needs first.

Don’t forget to ask for or accept offers to help, both now and after the baby comes. Accepting help does not mean that you are incapable. Instead, your loved ones experience the joy of giving and you receive the extra nurturing you need and deserve.

If you’re the grandparent, nurture your children on their paths to parenthood and don’t be offended if they don’t follow yours. We all seek our own footing on this universal journey and your unconditional love and acceptance is the greatest gift you can offer.

2. Nourish your mind, body, and spirit

Spend time outdoors connecting with nature as you marvel at the miracle of nature growing within you.

Walking, yoga, swimming, and other low impact exercises are great throughout pregnancy. Chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and many other alternative therapies can also help you stay healthy and fit.

Attending to your spirit can easily be done through meditation, hypnosis, affirmations, and prayer.

The food you eat also nourishes your baby. Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy, whole foods diet with lots of variety. Avoid processed foods and toxic substances.

3. Prepare for your birthing time and infant care

Search out information on the Internet, in books, and in magazines. Is the amount of information overwhelming? Look for categorized lists of helpful resources at http://www.superiorbirthingresources.com.

Read or watch inspirational stories of childbirth and avoid fear-inducing labor stories. Start with Journey Into Motherhood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth by Sheri Menelli.

Invest in a complete childbirth education class that fits your philosophy, has a complete curriculum, and can help you become an informed health care consumer. This process will allow you to welcome your baby into the world in the way that is right for you and your family.

Explore your feelings and the research about issues such as breastfeeding, vaccinations, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing. Be prepared ahead of time so you feel confident with your choices.

Pregnancy is a sacred time when new life is being created and nurtured. This time period offers parents an opportunity to release fears, heal emotional wounds, and bring balance to daily life in preparation to meet their child. The preparation can be a lot of work, but then again, so is the work of parenting. Fortunately, it is truly a labor of love. Enjoy your journey!

Cassandra Vore lives in Skandia, Michigan, with her husband and son, surrounded by extended family and a vibrant community. A Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis instructor and creator of Superior Birthing Resources, she offers holistic, natural-focused resources to expectant and new parents. She can be reached at (906) 942-7010, or superiorbirthingresources@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2012.

What’s Your Baby Got To Say?

By Darrin & Sara Moir
Ever wonder what’s really going on in your baby’s mind? With signing, once solely the domain of the deaf community, now you can begin to find out!
Baby signing all began with two separate research projects developed in the United States in the 1980s.
 Joseph Garcia, a student at the University of Alaska, took an interest in baby sign language when he noticed his deaf friends’ babies were very advanced in sign language by as young as nine months old. This became even more apparent when he compared the communication skills of the signing babies to those that had hearing parents and were hardly communicating at all. Thus, his own son became a test subject for his two programs he developed, “Sign With Your Baby” and “Sign 2 Me.”
 Around this same time Dr. Linda Acredolo and her research partner, Dr. Susan Goodwyn, began a different research project after Acredelo noticed her own daughter using signals to communicate. Through their research, they found that signing subjects out-performed non-signing subjects in many areas of cognition and language development. These results led to the development of their signing program, “Baby Talk.”
Since then, fascination with the possibilities of baby signing has increased greatly. If you go onto any websites promoting products related to baby sign language, you might find their list of benefits a bit longer than the ones found here. I mean, who doesn’t want their child to have a high IQ, think creatively, and be able to lead a conversation at the age of two!? Then again, what two- year-old doesn’t enjoy dominating the conversation, sign language or not? Still, baby sign is one parenting fad that has definite benefits.
One of the major perks to teaching your baby sign language is the lowering of what one might call the “daily whine level.” Once your baby begins signing back, you’ll notice the whine level drops from an alarming “red” level to a more harmless “blue” or “green.” It’s simple; when your child is less frustrated, you are less frustrated. Plus, it’s much easier to understand a little flick of the wrists letting you know he or she is done being in the high chair than to pick that meal up off the floor one more time! (Consider this the fine print: It doesn’t work that way every time. It just reduces the likelihood.) For the most part, I think a lot of us would start chucking food onto the floor if we were strapped into a chair and nobody paid attention to the fact that we were done eating thirty seconds ago!
 Another benefit to using sign language is that your baby’s increased ability to communicate helps boost his or her self-esteem. Anytime people have a stronger sense of having a voice, they’re going to become more confident. This is why it’s so important that parents not correct a child’s sign if it’s a little different than how it’s “supposed to be.” Instead, think of it as a cute accent. After all, no one speaks exactly alike in any other language, so why should it be any different for sign language? When we first started teaching our son the sign for apple, twisting the pointer finger knuckle against one’s cheek, his initial response was to stuff his pointer finger in his ear canal and start twisting away. Even though it was sad to see the ear canal version go, he eventually started signing it on his cheek like Mommy and Daddy, without our ever having to correct him. If you can tell what your child’s trying to sign, acknowledge it right away and encourage him or her to keep using this new sign.
 That leads me to our final reason for teaching our children sign language – expressiveness. There is no doubt that teaching your children language helps them become more expressive. It isn’t so much that sign language makes them more expressive people. It simply gives them more tools with which to work, using hands, facial expressions, sometimes the whole body to express a thought, idea or word.
 For example, take the time our son, Ilya, age 22 months, was on a walk with my husband Darrin. Ilya was jabbering away and Darrin was pretending to understand what he was saying. Then Ilya started repeating himself excitedly, “Appy. Appy. Appy.” And the guessing games began. First, my husband went down the list of needs. Was he hungry? “Do you want an ‘apple’?” Negative. Ilya continued to repeat himself excitedly, while Darrin stared at him in confusion. Then Darrin looked at his hands.
 Ilya had his thumb, pointer finger, and pinkie extended and soaring through the sky… like an airplane. Darrin exclaimed, “Oh, AIRPLANE!” It was exciting for both of them! Ilya loved being understood and Darrin loved being “in” on what was going on in his son’s mind. They communicated! Without that visual cue, who knows if Darrin would have ever been able to join in on Ilya’s excitement about the airplane flying above them.
What’s even more exciting is when children get so accustomed to signing that they start making up their own charade-like signs to clear up any confusion about what they are trying to say. That is truly expressive.
 Well, using baby sign language may sound interesting, not to mention fun, but where do you start?
First, you can start signing to your baby when he or she is about six months old, but don’t be surprised if all you get at first is cooing and spitting up at you! For a while, you may wonder if they even notice you are signing to them. Then one day they’ll sign back to you without warning. Ilya gave us that little shock when he was about ten months old to let us know that he did, in fact, want “more” bananas.
 Secondly, even though we all want our children to be the best and brightest kids known to man, don’t bombard them with a bunch of signs all at once. Start out slowly, with simple, useful signs. The one we started with was “more.” It’s simple and universal. You can use it in many different contexts, but it works especially well at mealtime. Many times it can be confusing to figure out whether your baby is done sitting in the high chair or wants more of something. Once your baby catches onto signing “more,” mealtime hysteria drops noticeably.
Does this mean you should go buy one of those expensive sign language video sets? Not really. Just go to your local library and check out a book of simple signs. Start with signs you think your children will find useful and fun. Shortly after teaching our son the sign for “more,” we also taught him its opposite, “all done.” Once a solid foundation of a few signs is established, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your children pick up new signs from you and any baby sign language videos that you may find at the local library.
In the end, though, the greatest benefit you’ll get from the experience is spending quality time connecting and communicating with your baby, something you’ll reap the benefits of for years to come.
  Things to remember when teaching your child to sign:
~Always verbalize the word when showing the sign.
~Repeat, repeat and repeat!
~You can gently put your hands over your child’s to help him or her sign the word.
~ Praise your children when they sign and don’t correct their sign.

~ Grandparents love to sign too!

~Signing comes in very handy when you’re in a quiet place like church to ask children to “sit” or if they need the “bathroom” when potty training.

~ Have fun!

Darrin and Sara Moir live in Marquette with their two beautiful sons, Ilya and Mikka. They began teaching sign to their sons around six months of age. Both boys love to sign and have been since they were ten to twelve months old.
Reprinted from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2010. Copyright Darrin & Sara Moir, 2010.