Talking with Toddlers #1: Modeling Social Skills

discipline toddlers Mar 13, 2018

The number one way you communicate with your children is through your own actions. Most of us know this, but we limit it's meaning. There is one area of modeling that often gets lost and that is the modeling of social skills. Most parents think a young child needs to be around other children to learn social skills. I often hear parents say they want to put their child into preschool, so they can learn how to interact with others. This seems logical.  If a child is home with adults, how can they learn to interact with children? The problem is, other children don't know how to behave correctly either. It is like the blind leading the blind. The common result is children coming home with a myriad of wrong, and often aggressive, behaviors. 

Social skills are actually learned from watching adults. As adults we model social behaviors in the way we interact with other adults, and how we treat our children. These interacts are the...

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How Much Sleep does an Infant and Toddler Need?

One question I get almost everyday is, How much sleep does my child need? 

The amount of sleep a person wants is biologically determined. It is one of the few things about sleep that is biological. As with all things biological, it can be very different from one person to the next. Yet there is a range of normal. Most of the information for infants and toddlers suggests a very high amount of sleep. These numbers are based more on social cultural ideologies and are the high ends of the spectrum. 

If your little is on the high spectrum of sleep need, you likely are pretty happy about how your baby is sleeping. If your baby falls on the middle to lower end of the normal spectrum, you may be frustrated with how your baby is sleeping. Even if your baby is actually sleeping fine. Expectation and worry about your baby is not getting enough will make even a good situation feel bad. 

My frustration with the numbers out on most sleep sites is the overwhelming amount of...

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The Culture of Sleep Myth #5: If you help a baby sleep, they will always need help.

infants sleep toddlers Mar 04, 2018

As Americans we're obsessed with independence. We believe in being self sufficient and doing it on our own. This spills over into our parenting values in many way. The first way our individualist values show up, is in the goal of getting baby to fall asleep without help. Then to stay asleep alone. The importance of teaching a baby to self sooth is advocated almost as soon as they are born.  Our babies must learn to be individuals, and the sooner the better. 

Not all cultures see a need to push babies toward independence. In collectivist cultures, the infant is seen as an individual who needs to be made into a member of the community. These cultures are driven to keep babies close at all times, including during sleep. In Bali, a baby is held continuously until they are 6 months old. They are not alone in the belief that small infants should be held all the time. 

Our cultural push towards falling asleep without help has...

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The Culture of Sleep Myth #4: Only Long Naps Count

infants sleep toddlers Mar 03, 2018

One concern parents often have is how long their infant's naps are. There seems to be a pervasive idea about short naps being non-restorative. I have heard everything from naps need to be an hour, to naps need to be two full sleep cycles. Yet, history and research don't back this up.

The organization of sleep for humans has changed over the millennia. When we were more indigenous, the rise and fall of the sun played a major roll in when we slept. So did the season. In winter months, when the nights were longer, and colder, we slept more at night. Saving the daylight hours for working. During the summer, the early hours and the later hours were the best ones for working. The mid-day was too hot, so we had long naps, and shorter nights.  There are some cultures where napping is still important, even into adulthood.

In America, the importance of night sleep for infants and children is over stressed. This...

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The Culture of Sleep Myth #3: Babies Should Sleep Alone

infants sleep toddlers Mar 02, 2018

There is a strong belief in the idea of getting infants to sleep in their own beds in their own rooms. The problem with this belief is that independent sleeping is unsafe for babies and impractical for parents. If we look at the over arching history and across cultures, infants and young children have almost always slept within close proximity to the adults who care for them. Despite all the campaigns and advice, the numbers show that about 50% of American families sleep with their infants in bed with them, some part of every night. Another 30% sleep with baby 1-6 nights a week. So where did the idea of infants sleeping alone originate?

Where is Started

As far as I have been able to find, the idea of separating infants during sleep was all about communicable disease.  The most common sleeping arrangement for families, especially families with less income, was a family bed. With everyone sleeping together illness was easily and quickly passed from...

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The Culture of Sleep Myth #2: Early Bedtimes

infants sleep toddlers Mar 01, 2018

One question I am asked often is “What time should my baby go to sleep?” There are many articles and books that talk about how sleep begets sleep, or a baby who isn’t sleeping well needs to go to bed earlier. For a baby who is truly overtired, getting them to bed early may help. For many infants, a bedtime that is too early can create more sleep issues.

From a biological perspective there is no ideal bedtime. How we organize sleep is determined by where we live and the flow of our day. Our desire to have our babies to go bed early is driven by our cultural attitudes of parenting and adult time. 

House work and Down time

 American parents, especially the educated parents, think we must interact and stimulate our young children every minute they are awake. We have been told the first three years are critical to development. The result is parents overstimulating their infant and exhausting themselves. Yes, we need to provide for our...

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The Culture of Sleep: Myth #1- 12 Hour Nights

infants sleep toddlers Feb 20, 2018

While sleep is a biological process, most of how and when we sleep is determined by the culture you live in. Culture determines how much you value sleep, who sleeps with who, when you go to bed and when your day starts. In America, there are many ideas around how infant and toddlers should sleep. Most parent think these ideas come from biology. When actually, the most pervasive beliefs about infant and toddler sleep, are only cultural constructs.

These cultural ideas often don't match up with biology or parental beliefs and leave parents feeling lost and helpless. Over the next 5 weeks I am going to debunk the top cultural beliefs about sleep that tend to cause problems when a parent is trying to create healthy sleep for their infants and toddlers.

Here goes- 

Myth #1- 12 Hour Nights

One of the most pervasive ideas we have about infants is the goal of getting a new baby to sleep through the night. "Is your baby sleeping through the night?" is a...

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