Eastern families have always stood by their methods of raising a child but fail to see it from their perspective but are they learning anything? If the process is not practical or has any guaranteed results, then why do it? Isn’t it just a short term solution? In most families, when a child is misbehaving, it’s the same standard protocol, hit, yell or severe punishment. In the long run, what part of the procedure teaches the child that a parent is a safe person to approach when a problem arises. All a child can do at that point is tally up your hit or yell marks and arrive at the conclusion that it’s better off to face the problem alone. Thankfully modern and educated families are changing the mentality, but it’s not enough.
My last blog was about how hitting your child is detrimental to their growth and while it is easier to state the problem, its harder to provide the solutions. It is not the only way we can deal with our kids, and we don’t need to take such extreme measures to make a child behave. When the proper foundations have been laid then whatever we build on top, just needs to be maintained or tweaked. Parents need to know that there is a reason why such methods cripple our child’s mentally. So even though these are vague solutions, I will revisit them with more explanation in future blogs. If you follow them, there will be a lot less need for yelling and especially hitting.
An important note. First, start as early as you can. It takes less time to teach a child when they are young. For people with older children, it will take longer but patience, repetition and consistency is imperative. Second, we are aiming to develop predictability. When a child can predict your reaction, and the response is not extreme, your child will feel safe enough to come to you first. Lastly, I have grouped the solutions by age. Keep building on top of the basics as the child grows. Here it goes.
For children 0-2 years.
Day one is scary for every new mother, but its terrifying for a baby. It lived in a comfy womb for nine months, without worrying about when food will come, how to sleep, how to poop or pee, but now it’s out in a new, unfamiliar and very unpredictable environment. As mothers, we need to make it predictable for them. Enforce a routine from day one. When a child knows, what happens next, they won’t be taken by surprise, and they will be much easier to deal with. Babies don’t look at clocks, and can’t tell whether broad daylight means sleep time or naptime, but when a good routine is down, they will be able to predict their schedule such as-:
- “I woke up; now mommy is going to give me a bottle. No need to cry, it’s coming, it always does.”
- “After dinner, daddy will take me for a bath. No need to tell them I am tired, they always know how to calm me down.”
- “Mommy just changed me, now its sleepy time.” I am pretty sure every kid in the planet hates going to sleep, so we all know what a baby says then! but eventually, they do fall asleep.
The routine is their clock until they can tell time. So stick to it and make it predictable. It doesn’t need to be at a specific time; it just needs to go in a flow and follow the same order. As they grow older, you can put other things in the mix and be flexible with your time.
It is the key to everything. Their mental and physical growth depends on a good night’s rest. Here’s what you do-:
- The room needs to be uncluttered. No sight, smell and sound should be stimulating the baby.
- On a scale from 1-10 (lightest to dark), the room needs to be around 8. This activates the brain to produce melatonin which is essential for our growth and replenishment of our whole body.
- It should be a room or place where a child associates to only sleeping. Remember, they don’t know the clock and they don’t care about the time. They don’t understand why they are on a sofa for nap time and bedroom for bed time. Pick a place and stick to it every time a child needs to sleep. However, if from day one, you have been putting them in a crib or a bed every single day after lunch or bathtime, they will know, what needs to happen if they are taken to it. Stick to the flow and keep it predictable.
Please note that when a child is unable to sleep, they become stressed which (if people have been reading my previous posts) increases cortisol in a child. The child starts to develop poor sleep skills and they develop into an adult with poor sleep skills. Poor sleep has been linked to-:
- Attention problems in school
- Poor eyesight
- Behaviour problems
- Affects appetite
- Negative perceptions about their environment and many more.
All of the things above exacerbates every aspect of a child’s life. Children need to get their rest appropriate to their age. A lot of time in eastern families, they let babies stay up late. The grandparents want to spend more time with them, or someone comes over and wants to see the baby, and it would be rude to tell them that the baby is sleeping. So we keep a cranky child up just to fulfill their wishes. To those parents, please stick up for your baby, the poor child would tell them off, if it could. Until they don’t get a voice of their own, please gather the courage and tell people to back off respectfully. If your child gives you a hard time going to sleep, do not throw in the towel. You are the parent and enforcing good habits is your responsibility, it’s vital for their upbringing so put them to sleep and get some sleep yourself!
3. Hug them all the time. For no reason and for every reason.
These are brain scans showing a three year old child who was raised normally and another child who was neglected. Compared to the normal brain, the child who was neglected has a smaller under developed brain. There are more darker and shrunken areas. These children are more likely to end up disturbed, have mental health problems, lack empathy and be more violent (along with other problems). And this is just neglect, what do you think happens with physical abuse ? What would that brain scan show ? What problems will that child grow up with?
Love them by action. A physical touch from a parent is crucial to their growth. It is proven by doctors and psychologists that lack of physical love from parents impairs brain development in children and makes them more prone to sickness. With extreme neglect we can expect extreme results. Love them, hug them every chance you get. Let them know, they mean everything to you and no matter what happens they can come to you and you will still love them. When a baby or tot is throwing a tantrum, there is nothing you can say to calm them because they don’t understand words. They can only interpret situations through sight, sound and touch. Loud sounds mean something bad and soft sounds are good. Keep hugging them and say “Mommy’s here, not to worry. I see you got an ouchie, it will be ok, mommy will fix it, no worries. lets not be upset, calm down , shhhhh.” They dont know what youre saying, but they do feel safe, understood and heard when they hear your soothing voice and feel your gentle touch. They might still be upset, but at least they know, my parents are here and they are trying to pacify me, they care about me and they love me. It will take time to develop that trust so you have to put in the work.
4. Acknowledge their feelings.
We all need to be heard. It doesn’t matter who or what hurts us, as long as someone understands and says “I hear you, I know what you’re going through, you’re going to be ok, I’m here for you.” That will calm us down. Advice can be an annoyance at times. We just want someone to comfort us. How is a child any different? Instead, in our culture, we say “I told you, you will fall !” ,” I knew you were going to break the glass!”, “Why did you climb the ladder when I told you not to!”…Uhhhh hello … a child is injured here, your ability to predict the future may come in handy somewhere else but not when your child is hurt.
- Attend to the child first.
- When you find your child in a dangerous situation, such as jumping on the sofa or trying to climb up a slide. Instead of yelling from across the room or the park. Please get up and physically remove them from the situation.
- Try to make them talk about it. “Ok, so you decided to climb the ladder, then what happened?”, “Oh, so you missed the step, and then..?”
- Talk about the wound. “Oh wow, that’s quite a scar, look at it. It’s a little red here but is there a lot of blood?”, “Oh I do see some but not a lot, I wonder if it hurts?.” When they start answering, you’ll know they’re okay otherwise make a judgment call and take them to the E.R.
- Ask them how they feel and repeat what they said. “I see, it’s hurting.” or “I know it must be painful.” or “How badly does it hurt? does it hurt like an ant is biting you or like a big shark is biting you?” Start getting a little playful with them.
- Match the emotions then bring in the practical advice. “I know it hurts, and I am glad you’re ok, but that was dangerous, let’s try to stay safe and out of trouble. Getting hurt is no fun for anybody”
5. Get down to the child’s eye level and then talk to them
Please don’t stand over them and yell while they are trying hard to crank their necks up to watch an angry parent looking down at them. Hold their hands, look them in the eye and talk to them. Treat them like an equal and don’t disrespect them because they are a child. This method gets their attention, they know we mean business and there is no running away. Make them acknowledge your request by repeating it.
We all have those impossible moments, where nothing works, nothing comforts them, and we are going out of our minds with their tantrums. For those moments there is a trick.
- Running water. The sound is soothing to them. Put them over a sink, and let them get messy with the water (You only have to wipe it later). Start with drizzling a little on their toes, then a few drops on their hands. Create small sensations to distract them.
- Bubble machines. It’s easy to clean and an excellent distractor for the kids. Invest in one or have one handy for emergency situations.
- A warm bath with chamomile bubble bath to soothe them.
If you are somewhere outside then -:
- A favorite book
- A favorite toy, preferably something that shakes or rattles. The noise should distract them but know when to stop. Shake it gently and away from their sight. They usually stop crying and will try to figure where the sounds are coming from.
- Take them to another place. If you’re inside, take them outside, or in another room.
- Candy in Handy. I don’t care what research says; I just want the baby to calm down and my ears to stop bleeding! Try to find organic sugarless lollipops or have bite-sized chocolates with you.
- Pacifiers. Personally, I would not use it. I used it with my first born and it has ruined his teeth. I understand why people use it and how soothing it is for a child and a parents ears, but in the long run, do you really want to spend thousands of dollars fixing their teeth? or do you want to suck it up and find other ways to calm them? Its a judgement call.
- Bring out the phone. (We are all guilty, admit it!)
At every age, a child has a distractor but only use them for dire situations and resist the urge to use them regularly. Keep up with their choice of distractors and have them at arm’s reach. The aim is to shape a habit of remaining calm and teach children to calm down when they are stressed.
7. Plan one productive and one physical activity every day.
This promotes mental stimulation and physical stimulation. Pick a time of day when you can give attention to your child. Sit down in a quiet place and read a book or two with them. The baby understands they are getting exclusive attention from the parents, but as they grow old, they become used to being productive at some point in their day. For my kids, it’s between 11 am to 2 pm. (I miss their window after 2 pm). Your child will tell you what time is best. Usually, after their productive time, kids become calm and manageable.
Physical activity is essential for a growing body. (It also means the children will get tired soon). For a baby, you will have tummy time, a little bit of massage or light stretching. (Let’s not pull those limbs out!). For a toddler, a trip to the park or chasing daddy in the house. Aim to get at least 30 minutes to one hour of physical activity. During winters, I take my children to indoor playgrounds and I am sure there is one in every city in North America now.
So, folks, this is your list for the tiny adorable babies. There are so many things that could have been added to the list, but I have only mentioned those that are absolutely essential and keeps the list simple and easy to remember. Nevertheless, I will not ignore the topics that I have excluded and will be writing about those at some point. I would also like to add that this is not set in stone. Every child is different and your approach needs to be customized according to your child. We are all human and we all yell in the moment, but we should try not make it a habit to yell in every situation. Reserve your energy for more serious issues (trust me, they’re coming). In the next post we will elaborate on the list and discuss kids between the ages of 2- 5.
Stay posted and let us know how the the techniques have worked for you.