The Terrible Twos: A Normal Child Development Stage

It happens to every parent: One day you notice your sweet, loving baby has morphed into a defiant, tantrum-prone child who’s moody for no reason and loves to say no. Don’t worry, it’s a normal part of child development, and your child is just pushing the envelope, testing his boundaries to see what you’ll allow him to get away with.

Here’s how to get through this tougher side of childhood.

The Terrible Twos are NormalWhy the twos can be terrible

Imagine that you’ve suddenly gone through a major developmental spurt that’s given you the ability to communicate, think, and even move like never before. It’s sort of like having superpowers – and naturally, you want to test them out to see how far they’ll get you. That’s sort of what life is like for your child during this stage. And when frustration occurs (perhaps brought on by the fact that you told him he cannot stay up past his bedtime), his mood may change, he may tell you no, or he may send a tantrum your way.

How to get through it

The most important thing to remember during this phase is to not take it personally. Just because your child tried to bite you in a fit of rage doesn’t actually mean he loves you less. He’s just frustrated. The best way to help him cope with his negative feelings is to boost his confidence, which will actually help him feel more independent (and, consequently, less frustrated). Here’s how.

Encourage exploration

Let your child feed his curiosity by allowing him to explore his world as much as possible in a safe way. If something’s not safe, tell him no – he’ll eventually come to learn what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

Offer praise

Boost your child’s self-esteem by letting him know when he’s done a good job. If he plays nicely with his friend or completes the task you asked him to (like changing into his pajamas), tell him how happy and proud you are.

Be consistent

Even though your child may be continuously reaching milestones, he might still have his bad days – don’t we all! Don’t let a tantrum or bad mood throw your resolve. Soon, he’ll grow out of it!



9 Ways to Help Your Perfectionist Kid Feel “Good Enough”

Perfectionist kidsOf course we want our children to reach their potential and to excel. Of course we want them to get those great grades and succeed. But often kids feels so much pressure that they become obsessed to doing everything so perfectly to an unhealthy degree. And that can leave them feeling anxious, frustrated and worried most of the time.

Another problem with perfectionists is that they often put those pressures on themselves. “Will it be enough?” “What will others think?” ”Why did I miss that one point?””I have to stay up later…I won’t get a perfect score!” ”But it isn’t GOOD enough I need to work harder!”

Because they’re never satisfied and always pushing themselves, they are often frustrated with their performance. Of course always wanting to be perfect to an extreme can take a toll on our children’s emotional health as well as disrupt their lives.If they keep up that push, push, push, never-good-enough pace, all that heightened stress can put them in jeopardy for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, migraines headaches, and even suicide. Perfectionists are also more at risk for emotional, physical as well as relational problems.

But let’s keep in mind that this isn’t just a “big kid issue.” Even preschoolers are beginning to exhibit this problem. We see this “I’m never good enough” concept especially in our gifted and talented kids. Here are signs to watch for:

Signs of Kid Perfectionists

  • Always comparing themselves to others; can’t stand coming in second place or doing worse than others; wants to be the best and anything less not good enough
  • Migraines or headaches, stomach aches, trouble sleeping, or other physical ailments before, after, or during a performance
  • Too cautious about trying something new that may be outside of his area of expertise and mean he may not excel
  • May put others down. All in an effort to be their best and make the other person feel less perfect – or inadequate
  • May put the same high standards on others
  • Worrying it won’t be good enough; or fears failure. Avoids difficult or stressful tasks; leaves work unfinished out of fear it won’t be perfect
  • Concentrates on the mistake instead of the overall job or how well he performed
  • Way too hard on himself; can’t laugh at himself or his own mistakes

Though some of our kids are just hard-wired with that inborn tendency to always push, push, push themselves to the max, max, max, there are things we can do. For instance, we can teach them coping skills so they can lower their stress and we can show them how to set more realistic expectations. And we can also take an honest appraisal by tuning into our own expectations and example to make sure some of that push they put on themselves really isn’t coming from us. Here are a few tidbits of proven parenting advice from my book to help you help your child survive, cope and thrive in this wonderful world.

Helping Perfectionists Survive, Cope, and Thrive

1. Lighten the child’s load

Start by honestly checking his schedule: Is there any time for just downtime or play? Is there any of those activities that can be eliminated or reduced? Teach your child he can always go back and finish up an activity, but give him permission to just plain enjoy life. (You may need to remind him and chart that time into his schedule so she does take time to glance at the clouds or just do plain nothing for a few seconds anyway.) While you’re at it, do take an honest assessment at the classes, programs, activities, clubs, etc.

Perfectionist lane

Ask three questions:

  1. Are they ones that stretch my child without snapping him?
  2. Are they tailored to my child strengths and capabilities?
  3. Does my child really need them all?

2. Teach her to be her own “time-keeper”

If she works hours on her writing but actually does a great job the first time through, set a time limit on how long she can work on a particular activity. Then help her log her own time.

3. Teach stress busters

Show your child a few simple relaxation strategies such as taking slow deep breaths, listening to soothing music, walking, or just taking ten and lying on the couch to help improve her frame of mind and reduce a bit of that intensity—at least for a few minutes.

4. Help your child handle disappointment

The inner dialogue of a perfectionist is self-defeating. “I’m never good enough.” “I knew I’d blow it.” So help your child reframe his self-talk by teaching him to say to a more positive phrase that’s less critical and judgmental and more reality-based such as: “Nobody is perfect.” “All I can do is try my best.” “I’ll try again next time.” “Believe in myself will help me relax.”

5. Start a family mantraLife Doesn't Have to be Perfect

One way to help your child realize that mistakes don’t have to be seen as failures, is to come up with a family mantra such as: “A mistake is a chance to start again.” Or: “Whether you think your can or that you can’t you’re right.” Then pick one phrase and say it again and again until your child “owns it.” You might even print out a computer-made sign and hang it on your fridge.

6. Teach “Take a reality check”

Perfectionists imagine something horrid will happen if they hit the wrong note, don’t hit the high beam, or don’t make the standard they’ve set for themselves. Your role is to challenge their views so they don’t think in such all or nothing; black or white thinking, and help them dispute the belief.

For instance: Kid: “I know the moment I pick up my pencil I’m going to forget everything I studied all year.” You: “That’s never happened in your entire life. Why now?”

Show your child the advantages and disadvantages of being a perfectionist. Explain what you can control verses what you can’t. Redefine success as not perfection, but excellence.

7. Watch your example!

Are you a perfectionist? Is nothing ever good enough? Do you berate yourself for every little thing? Beware, research shows that moms who are perfectionists or who base their self-esteem on their kids’ achievement are more likely to have perfectionist kids. Watch out! Your kids are watching!

Remember, the parenting goal is not to change your child, but to help her learn coping skills and expectations that will reduce her self-made pressure. Stress stimulates some kids, but it paralyzes others. So tune into your child.

8. Get real about abilities

Don’t try to turn your child into the “Superkid Perfect-in-Everything. Instead, be more practical about your child abilities and be honest with her. Start assessing and refining her natural strengths—her artistic flair, his creative nature, or her musical pitch. Then monitor, encourage and strengthen those traits and skills so she doesn’t try to push herself so hard in too many areas but instead narrows her focus and has a more realistic assessment of her talents.

9. Make sure there’s time for fun

Encourage laughter and just sitting outside every once in a while and watching the clouds drift by. Teach your child she can always go back and finish up an activity, but give her permission to just plain enjoy life.

Tailor your expectations to your child’s natural nature and development. Temper any tendency to “push her harder” (perfectionist kids are their own best pushers). Those are the true secrets that help our kids reach their potential and utilize their gifts.

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Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com.

 

We’re Teaching Kids to Fear Shots: a Pediatrician’s Perspective

“How do you respond when the place that you trust to keep you healthy hurts you…or ignores your plan…or ignores you?” …”We have had an erosion of empathy in medicine. Somehow we’ve decided to ignore the fact that shots…hurt.” …TEDx Talks 11/2013

Shots hurtAs flu season hits, there is a segment of our society that won’t be protected this year – those who fear needles. In a 2012 study, 23% of those who don’t get their shot avoid the protection because of a fear of needles. While needle-less options are improving, they better get here soon: 63% of our teenagers are now afraid of needles.

For most people, the fear of needles develops around age 4-6 years of age. That’s the age when kids born since 2000 are getting 4-5 shots on one day. Before 1983, people only got 6 shots total, and mostly before age two, so not as many adults remember…and consequently, not as many fear needles. Not the same for their kids…

“Last year a paper came out and now 2 out of 3 children have a severe fear of needles. What happens when they grow up? The fear of needles doesn’t usually go away by itself.  And adults who are afraid of needles are less likely to get health care, they are less likely to donate blood…and they’re even less likely to vaccinate their own kids. So when these children who were born in 2000 or later are old enough to drive themselves to the doctor…what if they don’t??” …TEDx Talks 11/2013

Given the group of kids growing up now, if we don’t start addressing this, the problems for public health are only going to grow.

“The number and the way we’re giving shots is causing needle fear …and needle fear causes people to avoid healthcare as adults. In order to keep our communities safe, doctors need to own the problem of needle pain…the solution is not to stop vaccinating…it’s to partner to start making the 4-6 year old shots better”  …TEDx Talks 11/2013

There are ways to advocate to decrease pain for kids getting shots, as seen here.  But to hear more about the rise and consequences of fear of needles and some of the solutions we can pursue, watch my full TEDx Talks presentation below:

What New Parents Need to Know About Car Safety

As a new parent, baby safety is your top priority – and keeping your newborn safe in the car is most likely on your mind. Here’s what you need to know about safety on the road.

Car safety for new parentsBe car-seat safe. You know that an infant car seat will help protect your child in the event of a crash. But make sure the seat has a sturdy harness system, is placed rear-facing, and has padding around the sides to support your baby. Also check that your car seat is installed safely. If you’re unsure, find a certified car seat inspector near you at SeatCheck.org.

Buckle up, always. Speaking of car seats, your baby should always be in one when you’re in a vehicle. It might be more fun to hold her and buckle up together, but an infant (or a child) should never ride in your arms.

Babies in the back. You might be tempted to put your baby’s car seat up front so you can keep a closer eye on him while you’re driving, but don’t. The backseat is the safest and best for babies and children, who could easily get hurt by a deployed air bag if you were to get into an accident.

Watch the windows. To keep your baby’s fingers from ever getting pinched, always look before closing automatic windows. Keep them closed by turning on the child window locks.

Never talk or text while driving. A whopping 78 percent of moms admit to talking on their phones while driving (and 26 percent say they text or check email). You’ve heard it a million times, but here it is again: Never use your phone to talk or text while you drive – it’s just not worth the risk.

Always bring your baby with you. Don’t leave your baby alone in the car while you pop into stores to run errands, or for any reason at all. Children’s bodies heat up faster than adults’, and the temperature inside your car can jump 20°F in just 10 minutes! That puts your baby at serious risk for overheating, and even having heatstroke, or worse.



Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 01-06-2014 to 01-12-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Winter is Here…And So Is the Flu: What You Should Know: http://t.co/SUCIXqZf9E

AMC Sensory Friendly Movies lineup for 2014

amc sensory firendlyFamily outings are a great way to spend time with your kids – you build memories and bond over fun activities and events. But for many kids with special needs, the typical family outing involves all sorts of challenges and obstacles that can make the experience overwhelming and frightening. AMC and the Autism Society of America have joined forces to offer first-run family friendly movies in theaters across the country, giving families impacted by autism, sensory integration issues or other conditions a chance to bring their children into a comfortable, accepting setting once a month.

During the special screenings the house lights are kept on, which is a huge relief to anyone who is afraid the dark or who likes to wander without tripping. Speaking of wandering, audience members don’t have to sit still – they are free to pace, roam, rock or dance. Many special needs individuals are sensitive to loud sounds, so the sound is turned down during these shows. This can help ease the anxiety about whether the movie is going to suddenly jump up in volume – it won’t. Guests are also permitted to bring in outside snacks and drinks that align with any special dietary needs.

In addition to allowing families to have a day out together, the movies also give the kids a common experience with their typical peers. Since the films are first-run, chances are good that classmates have also seen it in the past few weeks. This gives some children the opportunity for social connection (wasn’t it funny when…I liked it when…). Even the characters on lunchboxes and t-shirts will be familiar to the special needs child, easing anxiety and helping them feel like they are part of the group instead of an outsider.

Each monthly screening takes place at 10am local time and the admission price is reduced. Here is the 2014 lineup:

  • Saturday, January 25, 2014 – NUT JOB
  • Saturday, February 15, 2014 – THE LEGO MOVIE
  • Saturday, March 29, 2014 – MUPPETS MOST WANTED
  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 – RIO 2
  • Saturday, May 31, 2014 – MALEFICENT
  • Saturday, June 21, 2014 – HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
  • Saturday, July 26, 2014 – PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE
  • Saturday, September 27, 2014 – DOLPHIN TALE 2
  • Saturday, October 25, 2014 – BOOK OF LIFE
  • Saturday, November 29, 2014 – HOME 3-D
  • Saturday, December 13, 2014 –PADDINGTON

fun for all at sensory friendly films

Save me some popcorn!

Sensitive Screenings are gaining popularity across the country, and groups such as Music for Autism are now offering sensitive concerts. In England these are called “gentle” performances, which is a fitting name but I prefer “sensitive” since it better fits the audience.

What outings are available for special needs families in your area? Let me know!