Calming a Crying Baby

There's nothing like an inconsolable, crying baby to put a parent on edge. What would it be worth to know a routine that would reliably calm down an infant?

Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, proposes a combination of behaviors that will quickly soothe most babies. There are five activities used to calm the baby he refers to as the "5 S's":
  • swaddle
  • side/stomach position
  • shushing
  • swinging
  • sucking
My daughter did a lot of crying the first few months. I wished I would have known about these ideas for calming her down.

This video shows a dad quickly calming his crying baby using this method:

Your Real Influence on Your Kids

What do economists have to tell us about parenting? A recent Freakonomics Radio podcast interviewed a number of economists trying to answer the question “how much do parents really matter, and in what dimensions?”

They discussed that research shows parents have little influence on the amount of education their children ultimately received or the amount of money their adult children eventually make. Parents have a far greater influence on their children’s relationship skills.

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids had this to say:
There’s a great Swedish twins study, where the twins were in their fifties and sixties and seventies, and even when you’re in your seventies, whether or not your parents were kind to you stays with you, and you know, identical twins, fraternal twins have similar and quite high levels of agreement on these questions, which is the smoking gun for nurture really mattering. So the way that your kids feels about and remembers you. The quality of the relationship. This is where you really have an effect and where it is very long lasting, it really does last a lifetime.

Your children learn to how to love from you loving them. They learn how to treat others with empathy by experiencing you treating them with empathy. It is your relationship with them that has the biggest influence on them.

Questions Imply Choice

Be careful to only use questions when you want to consider your child’s opinion in a matter. When you ask your children a question, it implies that you would like a response from them and that their response may have an effect on the matter at hand. If this is not the case, use a statement instead of a question.

These are some questions which probably should be statements:
  • Are you getting ready for school?
  • Isn’t it time to turn that off?
  • We’re going to leave in five minutes, ok?
  • Do you think it’s time to get ready for bed?
  • Don’t you think you’ve had enough?
This week pay attention to how you make requests to your children. Are you using questions when you really do not want to be giving your children a choice? If so, switch to statements!

Being Treated with Respect

Do your kids treat you with respect? If not, you are the only one who can change this. Your children will treat you with respect when you insist on being treated with respect.

For example, how do you respond if your young child says “I want a glass of water.”? Since this is a command and not a respectful request, you could reply “I’ll be happy to get you a glass of water just as soon as you ask politely.”

Likewise, if your child is speaking to you disrespectfully, you can always respond “I’ll be happy to talk to you just as soon as you are treating me with respect.” By consistently pushing back whenever your children cross the line into being disrespectful, they will learn to treat you with the respect you deserve.

When is Struggling the Best Way Out?

One of the hardest parts about being a parent is watching your children struggle. Whether your child is struggling to master a new skill in a sport or a homework assignment, it can be hard to take a step back and let your child handle it.

There's a Native American legend of a man watching a butterfly as it fought to emerge from a small hole in its cocoon. He watched for several hours as the butterfly struggled to force its body through this little hole. After awhile it stopped pushing and seemed to have given up. The man decided to help the butterfly by carefully enlarging the hole. The butterfly quickly emerged but its body was swollen and its wings were shriveled. It crawled around dragging its wings.

What the man didn't realize was that the butterfly needed to struggle through the small opening in order to force the fluids from its body into its wings which would strengthen its wings to fly. Having missed that opportunity to push through the small opening, the butterfly was weak and was never able to fly.

The man's desire to help that butterfly sadly had the opposite effect. Children are a lot like butterflies. They need to struggle in order to learn how to fly.

Doing Your Own Work

Children learn by doing. When your children do a task, they build their brain connections. When you do a task for them, you reinforce your own brain connections without adding to theirs.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Learning to Solve Problems

When kids play together, disagreements will arise. By guiding them to solving their own problems instead of figuring it out for them, they learn how to resolve their differences.

One mom told the story of her 4-year-old son Alex and his friend Jake playing in a sandbox together. Alex was using a shovel to fill a bucket with sand. He put the shovel down to dump the bucket of sand on a large pile he was creating.

Jake had been digging a hole with a small rake and took the shovel to continue digging after Alex set it down. When Alex came back, he grabbed the shovel out of Jake’s hands. Jake then tried taking the shovel back and soon both boys were crying.

While this mom could have jumped in and solved the problem for the boys, instead she began by explaining what she saw happen. “Alex set the shovel down and Jake thought he was done using it. However, Alex set it down because he needed to empty the bucket and he still wanted to use it. How do you think you can solve this problem?”

She encouraged the boys to come up with a solution. Some of the ideas they discussed were:
  • Develop a new rule that if somebody sets a toy down, it means that someone else is free to use it.
  • Each boy can use the shovel for two minutes and then it’s the next person’s turn.
  • Find another shovel.
  • Put away the shovel so neither one can use it.
Alex and Jake decided to take two-minute turns. They had an egg timer which they set to know when it was time to switch. They are on their way to independently solving their own problems!

Why take a parenting class?

One mom wrote asking why taking a parenting class is better than just learning from family, friends and neighbors. This is a fair question.

What makes a parenting class potentially more valuable than these other sources?
  • The information in parenting classes ideally comes from what researchers and experts have learned works best with kids.
  • Classes pull together the best information from a variety of sources and provide lots of ideas so you can choose what works best with your children.
  • The instructors have often looked at outcomes from different parenting practices and know what really are “best practices" in parenting.
  • You can learn about the normal developmental stages children go through along with common problems parents face at different stages in their children’s lives.
  • You can gain ideas for doing things differently than your parents did.
  • You can discuss what’s going on with your children with someone who is impartial.
Parenting is like continually taking on a new job! The initial training from the childbirth center typically involves taking care of the baby’s needs – baths, diapering, feeding, burping, calming techniques. However, as children grow their needs change. Parenting classes are a great way of getting the information you need when you need it.

Trusting Your Feelings

Your children’s bodies won’t lie to them. If they are feeling tense and uneasy in a situation, this is important information. Caroline Goodell founder of the Institute for Body Awareness explains “There is a relationship between muscle tension and emotional tension. Muscles relax when a person feels comfortable and safe.”

Your children’s bodies are their guides for answering questions like these:
  • Am I safe?
  • Can I trust this?
  • Is this right for me?
You can help them learn to trust their bodies by asking questions about how their bodies are feeling.
  • Are your shoulders relaxed or tense?
  • Is your breathing shallow or deep?
  • Are your eyebrows tightened up or relaxed?
If they find their body is feeling stressed, the next step is for them to figure out why and what might need to change to make them feel better.

Listening Without Trying to Fix It

It can be extremely difficult to listen to your children when they are distressed. It’s so tempting to jump in and try to fix it! The following story demonstrates this well.

A mom described picking her daughter, Olivia, up from school. Olivia was clearly upset when she got into the car and started complaining about how hard the math test was. Her mom immediately tried to help her think about solutions – maybe others didn’t do well either, perhaps she can get extra credit or go in early to school for extra help.

Olivia responded to her mom’s suggestions with increased ranting and raving saying she didn’t understand how hard it was! Olivia would have been more likely to feel heard if her mom had listened patiently and repeated back her feelings with care and interest. This approach also would empower Olivia to own the problem and the solution.

If you hear your children turning up the volume on their complaints, you know they probably don’t feel understood. Try taking a step back to listen and reflect their feelings. Once they feel heard, they’ll be in a better position to decide what they want to do about it.

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