Talking with Toddlers #5: Timing is Everything

Waiting is difficult. Waiting for other people is the hardest kind of waiting.

Toddlers can be some of the slowest people around.

Sometimes they are slow simply because they are easily distracted. The distraction is a built in brain design for learning, get use to it.  Other times they are slow because they don't want to do want ever is being asked of them. But mostly, they are slow because the toddler brain processes at a slower rate. 

The neurological system of the infant is extremely immature. The toddler has come a long way, but is still working to create the more complex pathways of knowing. This makes the speed of the neurological connections slow. Especially when your toddler is processing language.

When someones talks to you, your brain goes through a lot of steps to make meaning. First, you hear the words, then your brain interprets them as words. Then you code the words for meaning. Once you understand what was said you decide...

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Talking with Toddlers #4: The Power of Pantomime

One of the best parts about having a toddler is the joy of seeing the mundane world through the eyes of your child. Everything is so new and exciting to them. A dirty rock or a dead leaf can create hours of joy and exploration. While this fresh way of seeing the world is fun to watch and can be very entertaining, it can also be very frustrating. 

Young children's understanding of the world is limited to the senses; what can be seen, touched, smelled and heard. It can be a bit tricky as an adult to remember what the world looked like from that limited point of view. What appears to make sense to us, can be far out of reach for your toddler to grasp. One of the best ways to bring ideas and concepts to a toddler's level of understanding is pantomime.

Body Language

If our young child is having a hard time following directions, or shows frustration, parents have a tendency to increase their facial expressions and tone of voice. If we say...

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Talking with Toddlers #3: Bye Bye Baby Talk

Baby talk or parentese, as we call it in psychology, is the universal way adults talk to babies. It is know for its higher pitch and rise at the end of the statements. For infants, this kind of talk lights up the brain. Baby talk encourages social interactions and helps with language acquisition. These benefits of parentese are only true for young infants. Once infants have better comprehension, the benefits go away.

As children become verbal they will change their own voices when they talk to infants too. From early on, young children have an understanding that the tone and rhythm of language for babies should be different. Parents who continue to use baby talk with their toddlers will find that their children begin to disengage or even ignore them. Toddlers feel disrespected when you use a type of language meant for babies. It is important to talk with your older infants, and toddlers in a normal tone of voice. The same tone you would use...

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Talking with Toddlers #2: The Purpose of Whining

As toddler become more verbal they start to use a new tone of voice. The Whine. It is that sing-song tone that makes your skin crawl. Most parents hate this voice and don't respond to it. So why does it even happen? Why are toddlers so whinny? The answer may surprise you. The whinny voice is actually a transitional stage.

A Step Up From Crying

From birth infants have two modes of communication, body language and crying. The main vocalization is crying. As a child learns to talk they add a new way to communicate. But the other ways don't just go away. There is still a good amount of body language. They point, hold their hands up, turn away, and shake their heads, and use many other nonverbal gestures to communicate. They also cry when they are tired, frustrated and hurt. With the addition of words and language, children combined the cry with the words. The result is whining.  

Just like crying, whining drives us crazy, and moves us into action....

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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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