Keep Your Child Away From Those Screens!

Recently I went to a friend’s house for a board game session and I was horrified to see that he left his 22 month son with a mobile device, playing cartoon nursery rhymes, while he hosted the gathering. That being said, I did not immediately berate him, neither did I send periodic dirty, disapproving looks at him. It got me thinking, though.

Last year Fisherprice introduced a baby bouncer with a slot to insert an iPad into. This caused a large uproar, mostly among parents who feel that babies should not be introduced to devices with digital screens too early in life. At the same time, there are millions of parents doing the exact opposite – using digital media to distract their children (during mealtimes, for example), as a way to take attention away from dangerous objects, or simply as a reward for good behaviour.

The current recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is avoid all forms of electronic media for children under the age of 2. But is it really possible, and if so, is it practical?

There is an explosion of digital screens are everwhere – at shopping centres, the doctor’s waiting room, etc. Some men’s toilets even have screens at the urinals!

Assuming I deprive Samantha of all digital media at home, and also manage to screen Samantha from the external exposures, there will still be this kid at the park (or playgroup) playing with his/her iPad. Samantha will inevitably gravitate towards this child, because she will find the iPad a very interesting toy.

Nevertheless, the effects of digital screens on toddlers have been well publicised (see this Huffington Post article, with a hot debate in the comment section), and we should all do our utmost best to stick to the AAP guidelines (I know that we don’t always listen to our doctors advice all the time anyway).

Just remember the last line of the AAP recommendations – ‘A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.’ The next time you think of passing the iPad to your toddler, why not substitute it with some real face time instead?

How to Deal With Your Child’s Challenging Behaviour

One method of dealing with challenging behaviour in children is to use the Antecendent-Behaviour-Consequence (ABC) Model.

abc

Here’s what the model is all about:

Antecendent: The trigger for the event, what happens before the challenging behaviour takes place.

Behaviour:
The action. In the case of challenging behaviour, this is the problem that we are trying to address.
Consequence: What happens after the the behaviour, be it a positive or negative consequence.Here’s an example:
Sally is eating ice cream. She drops the ice-cream on the floor, cries, and Daddy gets her another ice cream. In this case the Antecendent is dropping the ice cream on the floor, the Behaviour is crying in response, and the Consequence is getting another ice cream. If this carries on for a few times, Sally will learn that crying will get her the positive consequence that she wants.

How do we use the ABC model then? We need to change the A, B or C in the flowchart.Changing the Antecendent:

  • Give short and specific instructions, for example ‘turn off the TV and come to the bathroom for a bath’.
  • Make sure that you have gained your child’s attention before giving the instruction, use confident body language/voice while delivering the instruction and wait for a response from your child.

Changing the Behaviour:

  • Provide alternate behaviours.
  • Instead of just shouting ‘Stop doing that!’, first specify what behaviour you would like to change, then specify what behaviour you would like to see instead.
  • Communicate this alternate behaviour clearly to the child.
  • An example: ‘Don’t run and come walk slowly next to Mummy’.

Changing the Consequence:

  • We are most familiar with this. Instead of giving in to the child all the time, we can institute positive or negative consequences.
  • Positive consequences include:
    – Specific praise (to be done as soon as good behaviour takes place, not an hour, a day or a week later!),
    – Rewards,
    – Access to favourite activity (eg. playground),
    – Removal of unpleasant tasks (eg. cleaning the room)
  • Negative consequences include:
    – Planned ignoring (warn first, then use whole body language, persevere in ignoring, and expect escalation of emotions in your child!!),
    – Removal of desired objects and activities,
    – Time out,
    – Natural consequences (eg. minor scrapes and scratches due to doing things dangerously – use your discretion for this!)

Of course, challenging behaviour is not something that can be corrected overnight, so persevere!

Remember,

  • Behaviour is but just a way that your child is using to communicate with you.
  • Challenging behaviour usually has a trigger.
  • The pattern of behaviour over a period of time is always more important than single or isolated events.

6 Tips for Positive Parenting

I attended the Early Childhood Parenting Conference in late 2013 and was lucky to attend a talk on how to deal with challenging behavior in children.

During the talk, the speaker highlighted that the most important thing to remember is to have positive parenting. This will reduce the incidents where the child will behave poorly.

Here are 6 tips on Positive Parenting:

  1. Be a good role model! Children have ‘mirror neurons‘  which allows them to rapidly pick up and imitate what the adults around them do.
  2. Spend quality time with your child – It’s not the quantity, but the quality of time that is important. A parent spending quality 15-30 minutes with her child, on a daily basis, is more effective than a distracted one who spends the whole Sunday every week with her child. By quality time, I mean that you should devote all your attention to your child (keep those phones locked away please!), listen, and respond to your child.
  3. Give generous doses of physical affection. It will no only help to comfort your child, physical affection can help your child to modulate his/her emotions in time to come. Reference
  4. Teach problem solving skills. When the child comes across a problem (for example, a difficult puzzle, a bully at school, etc), help to identify what is the problem, brainstorm for solutions together, and try out the best solution.
  5. Keep routines and structure. Have a daily routine and stick to it. If necessary, you may impose some ‘house rules’, and stick them up somewhere prominent. Of course, the parent also has to abide by these rules! Reference
  6. Avoid physical punishment! Physical punishment is defined as physical contact that causes pain (for example, caning). Punishment without physical pain, such as the withdrawal of privileges can still be imposed. Reference

Happy positive parenting!

Toy Related Injuries in Children

Last weekend we brought Samantha to a toy shop, and she was so fascinated by a fish wind-up toy that we ended up buying it for her. The toy was clearly not suitable for her – it has small parts that potentially could break off, and the box that the toy came in clearly stated that the toy was not for children below the age of three.

Have you ever bought a toy that is not suitable for your child?

fish toy
This mechanical fish toy has small parts that can drop off and become a choking hazard

In a recent study by KK Hospital published in November 2013, the authors surveyed 93 parents regarding their knowledge on toy safety.

The results were quite amazing – 92.5% of respondents admitted to having previously purchased an age-inappropriate toy for the child, and 87.1% had experienced toy-related child injuries. These accidents were caused by pieces of the toy breaking off (80.4%) and/or the child placing a toy part into their ear, nose or throat (51.1%). 37% of respondents also reported that there had been at least one incident in which  their children had been physically injured while playing with a toy.

Why? The top reasons cited for these accidents were wrong use of toys by the child (44.1%) and a lack of supervision by caregivers (37.6%). Interestingly, the survey found out that parents were generally ok with choosing toys for children under the age of 1 and over the age of 3, but fared poorly in selecting toys for children between the age of 1-3.

Here are some tips for better safety-

What to look out for before buying toys:

  • Make sure toys are suitable for the child’s age group
  • Look for warnings or other safety messages on toy packaging
  • Make sure small parts of toys cannot break off, including the eyes and noes on stuffed toys
  • Avoid toys with sharp points or edges
  • Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air

duck toy
Some soft toy animals have beads for eyes – these may also become a choking hazard if detached

What to look out for after buying toys:
  • Read all instructions included with the toy
  • Throw away all toy packaging such as plastic, cellophane and styrofoam
  • Check toys regularly for broken parts and other hazards
  • Sand the edges of wooden toys that have become sharp or splintered
  • Throw away toys that cannot be fixed
That night, while Samantha slept, the wind-up fish toy was transferred to a secret storage unit..

Why Do Babies Smell So Good?

Why do babies always smell so good?

When Samantha was still a very small baby I thought she had a nice smell (especially on the top of her head). Samantha uses a fragrance free body wash, so the nice smell was really quite unexplainable. Of course, I may have been biased since she was my daughter, but when I brought her along to a friends place for gathering, another friend commented that she likes the smell of babies too!

Recently I was pleasantly surprised to come across this article published in Frontiers in Psychology (September 2013) explaining the science behind it!

In their study, they discovered that when women smell clothes of newborns, the pleasure centers in their brains are activated. What’s interesting is that it doesn’t matter if the woman is a mother or not – even women who have never given birth before feel good after smelling the scent/body odour of newborns.

It’s a shame that men were not included in the study as well, as it will be interesting to see if men react in the same way as women. .For now, natural baby morphine anyone?