Thursday, August 20

Science of Parenting: The Trying times

Children will be children and because of that there will be trying times. This chapter focuses mainly on the under-fives and provides tips on how to manage them. What is of importance is that the brain's dopamine and noradrenaline systems - which are vital for concentration and sustained attention - are slow to mature in children. Hence, the child is often easily distracted, impulsive, unable to focus, unable to filter out distractions and is prone to lots of manic behaviours. It is a tall order to expect the child to comply with adult behaviour.

When they just say won't or no!
There is a delicate balance between giving clear boundaries, rules and consequences for unacceptable behaviours and damaging the will of the child, which is of great life resource. Saying "won't" or "no" at 2-3 years old is precursor for the capacity to stand up for oneself, the passion to know what one wants and the drive to follow through. Children who move into total compliance at toddler age often suffer later in life from not having developed a separate self. They may be skilled at adapting to the needs and feelings of others but have little or no notion of what they want and feel. Thus, parents need to think carefully about how to respond to the child appropriately.

Trying times when they bounce about

  • Bouncing and running about is not being naughty.
  • You've guessed it, the higher brain has not yet formed the key pathways which connect to the lower brain.
  • The answer for this is to find a channel for their energy for example go to the playground or park, get them to jump on trampoline etc...

Trying times in public places

  • Find a space where they are free to run around and look for places where they are fewer people.
  • At cafes and restaurants, offer toy or colouring book to meet their stimulation hungers.
  • Turn shopping trip from hell into exciting treasure hunt. Engage and get them to assist with task-focused games.

Trying times on train/car journeys

  • If a child has to be on a train or in a car for a while, his motoric impulses become very strong, leading to fidgeting and restlessness.
  • It is extremely stressful for children to sit still in long rides.
  • Give something interesting to the child to engage the frontal lobes and activates the SEEKING system.
  • Play guessing game, story-telling, riddles, paper, crayon, puzzle etc..
  • Take a break from the ride and head to open spaces where they can expend their energy.

Trying times with meals

  • Children prefer to play games at the table rather sitting nicely to eat because when they are excited, the appetite will be suppressed.
  • If a child has become anxious about food or meal time, undo any negative associations between eating and place.
  • Try to activate your child's lower brain play system at meal times so she starts to associate food with fun instead of fear.
  • Give her patterned plates and allow her to play with food to explore new textures and colours.

Trying times with making a mess

  • It is important to avoid squashing your child's creativity and imagination. Imaginative, cooperative play is a real developmental achievement for young children.
  • That said, it is also crucial not to give the message that she can create whatever havoc she likes and expect you to clear up.
  • Make tidying up into a game. Use the “let's” game or the "choices and consequences" technique.

Trying times and toy wars

  • Children get heated up about possession of toys. Why is that?
  • Firstly, the emotional attachment she has with the toy provides her with a sense of well-being.
  • The toy is her territory hence she is likely to respond with rage to an invasion. Concept of sharing is foreign to her.
  • Use distraction and help squabbling kids find a solution. For older kids, teach them about trading and taking turns.
  • If possible, choose cooperative games instead of competitive ones till the child is older. The pain of losing can be too painful and young children are not good at putting things in perspective.

Trying times with wanting something eg. At a toyshop

  • Toyshop activates the SEEKING system which is to do with curiosity, exploration, will, drive, expectancy, and desire and this makes your child extremely aroused and focused.
  • If her desire is frustrated, her rage and separation distress can be triggered.
  • A good strategy is to pay no attention whatsoever to any pleading. Be firm and clear with “no” accompanied by an empathic response.
  • Don't try to reason with your child as it is futile because you're dealing with her higher brain when the lower brain is in the driving seat.
  • For children over 5, offer a choice. Once her higher brain is engaged in decision-making, it naturally calms the lower brain.

Trying times with not wanting to listen

  • Reason: they have difficulty to switch attention from one thing to another as easily as adult can.
  • One strategy is to build in a clear disengagement strategy, for example “I will count now from five to one..”
  • Make it clear what the rules are when you are out and about with your child.
  • Praise you child when she did as requested, “Well done. You did so well at coming back when I called.”

Trying times with telling tales and name-calling

  • Help your child to express anger and resentment in healthier ways.
  • Set house rules to prevent such behaviours.

Trying times with children at war

  • Fighting among siblings is common.
  • Parent power is influential and if you treat them wrongly, it can strengthen the primitive response in the brain.
  • Fights often happen because one or more of your child's psychological hungers is not being met. She could be bored, under stimulated, hungry etc..
  • She may be upset, angry and because she doesn't have words, she uses her fists.
  • Ensure there are do's and don'ts in responding to fighting

    1. Don't meet violence with violence.
    2. Don't scream, shout or smack. This method may be effective in the short term but this response is modelling using rage in difficult situation.
    3. Use firm but calm voice.
    4. Don't take sides or reward tale-telling.
    5. Help your child with “too big” feeling and don't leave her to deal with it on her own.
    6. Make sure there are some clear family rules about quarreling and fighting and read through them with the kids.

No comments: