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Little One is on the move!!! Uhhhh….where’s the dog???

Baby Boy Playing with toy as puppy watchesThis is such an exciting time… and an exhausting one. You “safely introduced your dog to your new baby’ and established some guidelines to keep everyone safe (see ‘Your New Baby Safely Met Your Dog … Now What???) and so far everything has been going really well. Your baby is growing by leaps and bounds… and learning something new every day. But just as you started to get the new routine down pat, Mother Nature throws a monkey wrench into this perfect dynamic .Your child’s rate of development seems to be at warp speed, and before you know it, they have learned to crawl. In the blink of an eye they’ve gone from a very slow lobster crawl, to moving faster on hands and knees then you can on two feet! You just can’t seem to catch them! But there is a potential danger here…. The dog can… with ease!

As I did in my last article, I feel it is important to give you some insight into the dog’s mind, and also ask some very thought provoking questions to you, and then offer some ‘canine behavior’ awareness in more detail afterwards.

  1. What is the difference, in a dog’s mind, between a baby that ‘runs’ on all fours, and a pup that does the same thing, other than one has no fur or tail?
  2. How does the dog know the difference between baby’s toys and theirs? Both of their toys seem to be either hard plastic, soft plastic, or plush (stuffed).
  3. What sets off the ‘chase instinct’ in a dog?

So the answer to the first question is pretty obvious…. There is no difference in the dog’s mind. This is why it is so important that YOU teach them that there is a difference. When a pup wanders off, the mother dog picks them up by the scruff (the extra skin) on the back of their necks to bring them back to where they want them. So for this reason, it is important to still monitor their interactions, and make sure they are never alone together.

One of the things I teach my customers with infants is to really accentuate the “DOWN” command whenever they are around the baby. Now I do realize that some people say “DOWN” when a dog jumps on them, but I am referring to them physically lying down. (I often recommend to my customers to use the words “OFF” when a dog jumps, and “DOWN” to lie down, so they do not get confused.) This is especially important for two reasons: To make sure baby doesn’t get knocked over and hurt, but also, it helps to focus your dog. Dogs cannot multi-task; they can’t focus on your command and on the baby at the same time.

To teach “DOWN” first get your dog into a “SIT” position to start. Then, hold a treat between your thumb and pointer fingers, hold your palm facing the floor, and slowly lower your hand towards the floor, keeping the treat right in front of their nose. If they lose interest and look away, bring the treat back up to eye-level to re-capture their attention, and do it again, all the while saying, “DOWN” until they are fully lying down, and then tell them, “YES! GOOD DOWN!” and give them the treat.

I recommend that you practice this often, so when you give him the DOWN command and he is around the baby, he knows the command is not a suggestion or a request, but a direct order from his superior that must be obeyed immediately. To explain the importance of practicing this regularly, I ask my customers, “Why do they run fire drills in schools for the kids?” Because they don’t want to wait until a true emergency actually breaks out and ‘hope’ that the kids will know what to do! Think of how relaxed you will be if you know without a doubt that if you tell your dog ‘DOWN” he will do it immediately.

The second question is a bit trickier, but is important because for most of us, the saying “Possession is 9/10ths of the law” holds true. But to both dogs AND babies, possession is ten-tenths of the law. It can be potentially very dangerous for a baby to see a toy, assume it is theirs, and go to grab it… especially if it is in the dog’s mouth! The simplest solution would seem to be to keep the dog’s toys in one room, and the babies’ toys in another, but in reality, I have never found that to work. The baby goes through house with toys in their hand, and deposits them everywhere and anywhere, and the dog does the same in their mouths. At times, I arrive at a customer’s house, look around at the hundreds of toys scattered everywhere, and wonder if I myself could distinguish which toys belong to which species!

One trick I have given a few families that seems to work very well is to dip the toys belonging to the dog in some bullion soup. (For stuffed animals, just dip a small corner of it. That is sufficient for a dog’s sensitive nose.) This gives it an added flavor that they love, and they tend to play mostly with those. Just remember to wash and re-dip them weekly…. You don’t want them to get stinky or to attract bugs.  Another option is to get a wire rimmed basket for the dog’s toys and a toy chest for your child’s toys. Make sure the right toys go in each basket every night before bed, and get into that routine. When your child is a bit older, and can understand a bit better, (and no longer puts everything in their mouths) you can use a black magic marker to mark your child’s toy.

The final issue… baby moving at warp speed; crawling on all fours, can easily set off the ‘chase instinct’ in your dog. I have two cats. One of my cats is never bothered by the dogs… they never chase him. However, the other one is always being chased. Why is this? Because my male cat does not get nervous or scared by the dogs, and if they look or bark at him, he ignores them… so they leave him alone. My female on the other hand, gets scared and goes to run away… and the same dogs that ignored my male cat, go chasing after her. So how do we combat this? By reinforcing earlier commands with the dog… “GO TO YOUR PLACE” and “DOWN/STAY” are important ones to really enforce, but you can also add a new one: “IGNORE.”

To teach IGNORE, get your dog on a leash, put him in a down/stay position, and have someone roll a ball in front of him. If he goes to give chase, give a quick and firm tug on the leash and say, “IGNORE”. Do this a few times until he is completely non-reactive, and then either treat and praise, or play and praise with one of HIS toys. (I want to point out that at this point your baby is copying everything you do… so please remember, you’re “rolling the ball” to the dog… not throwing it. The last thing you want are items going airborne at your dog!)

In the end, adding a few new commands to your dog’s routine (and a few new tricks for you to try) is a great way to both make sure he behaves appropriately around your little one, and also make sure he continues to get the attention and mental stimulation he needs.  Happy dog…happy baby…safe home.

So I will wrap this post up a bit differently from my last ones… and ask your input. Apparently, I stumped some of the best trainers in the world by asking for their input on how they go about distinguishing a kid’s toy from a dog’s. So I would love to hear from those of you who have raised your kids (and your dogs) already through this stage…how did you successfully keep the toys separate???

Shy Doesn’t Have to Mean Alone: Help Your Shy Kid Join the Fun

If your child is shy, chances are he was born with a more introverted, sensitive personality. So this is not about trying to turn him into an shy girlextrovert. After all, you can’t change your child’s personality and natural temperament. But you can help your child learn the skills he needs (and deserves) to feel more comfortable and confident with other kids. And that is doable because of this fact: shyness doesn’t have to be debilitating. So let’s focus on what you can do to enhance your kid’s abilities to find, make, and keep friends. Here are secrets from THE BIG BOOK OF PARENTING SOLUTIONS to help a shy child fit in and feel more comfortable in social situations.

  1. Model eye contact. One of the most common traits of well-liked kids use is that they use eye contact. In fact the average person spends 30 to 60 percent of the time looking at the other person’s face. As you’re talking with your child say: “Look at me.” or “Put your eyes on my eyes.” or “I want to see your eyes.” If your kid is uncomfortable about using eye contact, tell her: “Look at the bridge of my nose.”
  2. Praise prior success. It’s natural for a shy child to focus on past failures. So help her recall previous experiences when things went really well. “Remember last year’s swimming lessons? You begged not to go, but did and met a new friend.” “Before you went to Sara’s birthday party last month you wanted to stay home. But when you agreed to stay at least a half an hour and you ended up one of the last ones to leave.”
  3. Reinforce smiling! One of the most common characteristics of confident, well-liked kids is that they smile and smile. So whenever your child displays a smile, reinforce it: “What a great smile!” or “That smile of yours always wins people over.” Also, point out how your child’s smile affects others: “Do see how kids smile back when you smile?” “That little boy saw your smile and came over to play. Your smile let him know you were friendly.”
  4. Debrief a stressful event. If your kid has had a really embarrassing attack of shyness find a time to discuss what happened and she could handle it better next time. “It sounds like you really didn’t like being with so many kids. What if you only invite one friend at a time?” “So what really bugged you was asking Kevin face to face. Why not ask him on the phone next time?”
  5. Reinforce any social efforts. Any and every effort your child makes to be even a tad more social deserves a pat on the back: “I saw how you walked up to that new boy today. Good for you!” “I noticed that you really made an effort to say hello to Sheila’s mom. She looked so pleased!”
  6. Schedule warm up time. Some kids take longer to warm up in a social setting, so give your child time to settle in. Be patient and don’t push too quickly. Let her watch a bit, figure out what’s up, and set her own time frame to join in.
  7. Help him fit in. All kids need to feel as comfortable as possible when they’re with their friends. So make sure your son or daughter has a cool hair cut, the “in” pair of sneakers, backpack, jacket, or pair of jeans. It can make a big difference in boosting a kid’s comfort level.
  8. Rehearse social situations. Prepare your kid for an upcoming social event by describing the setting, expectations, and other kids who will be there. Then help him practice how to meet others, table manners, making small talk, and even how to say good-bye. Doing so will decrease some of the anxiety he’s bound to have from being in a new setting. Hint: A shyer child often feels less threatened practicing social skill with a younger, more immature kids than children his own age.
  9. Create One-To-One Time. Many kids can be overwhelmed in groups, so limit the number of friends to one at a time. Then gradually increase the number as she gains confidence.

Remember: your role is not to try and change your child’s basic temperament and personality but instead to help him warm up, open up, and join the fun having friends can bring. Simple, little changes can reap big results.

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Dr Borba’s new 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

Special Siblings: How a Child Sees Special Needs

The other day my three children and I got into a discussion about special needs kids. They all go to a charter school with a mission statement of inclusion, and many special needs students are enrolled there. There are “paras” in each class – paraprofessionals who assist these special students. Each class has space for three special needs children. My 6-year-old son commented that his kindergarten class only has two of these kids.

I was shocked. His class does have three special needs kids – the third one is his twin sister!  I told him this gently, not wanting to make a big deal about it. But he argued with me, saying that his sister didn’t need any help like that. The other two students in his class can have extreme behavior even though they have completely different conditions.

Since they are twins my son came along to every therapy session, doctor’s appointment, assessment and specialist. He was right there beside her for the entire journey – special equipment, toys, bottles, shoes and more. People came in and out of our house to work with her. We went to an inclusion mommy and me program and preschool. But he doesn’t remember most of it since he was a baby. As he got older, I guess he didn’t question it. I know he and his older brother get a little jealous because the rules are sometimes different for her, but for the most part she is just their sister.

For more on siblings of special needs kids:

  • Check out the book by Holly Robinson Peete and her daughter at Amazon.com
  • Here is a great article from the University of Michigan on Siblings of Special Need Kids
  • Article from New York Times 2006
  • Also, most Counseling centers and Regional Centers have support groups for siblings

If you have a special needs child have you dealt with situations like this?

Flossing Your Kid’s Teeth – Just 3 Simple Steps

I have talked a lot about the importance of good oral hygiene and starting healthy habits with your kids at a young age. Hopefully you now know the importance of kids starting their daily routines at a young age. This includes not only tooth brushing but also flossing.

Flossing is a step that a lot of parents neglect because they don’t understand the importance or it feel like too much work. However, you should start flossing your kids teeth between 2 and 3 years of age. They will need your help for a few years but don’t even be surprised if they are 8 years old when they can finally floss without any assistance.

Why floss you ask? Flossing is very important for several reasons. First of all it removes plaque that builds up between your child’s teeth and secondly it removes plaque from the gum line. Neither of which a tooth brush will typically be able to reach.

Flossing should be done at least one time per day and shouldn’t take much longer than a couple of minutes. If you have detailed questions about what to do, consult your child’s dentist.

A few little tips that may make flossing more exciting for young children is to find flavored or colored floss and let them pick out their favorite. This will help them be anxious to use their floss.

3 Simple Steps:

  1. Use approximately an 18 inch strand of floss
  2. Let them wrap their floss around their middle fingers on both hands
  3. Gently guide the floss in between each tooth moving it around the tooth and on under the gum line on each side

This is also a great time to make sure Mom and Dad get their daily flossing in! As always, we teach best by setting an example. Make a few minutes at the end of your day to floss with your children for happier, healthier smiles!

Ticks and Lyme Disease: a Pediatrician’s Perspective

Lyme disease has gotten a bad name. Originally described in Connecticut and New York, on the coast, near the town of Old Lyme, it was found to be carried by the deer tick (the vector), a far less common tick than the tree or dog tick. It now has also been found in most parts of the country and cannot be transmitted from person to person. The deer tick is very small, about the size of the head of a pin, and as opposed to a wood (dog) tick will not engorge with the blood of other mammals, so it is often times very difficult to see when scanning the skin. This tick must remain attached and feeding for 24 to 48 hours before it is capable of transmitting disease. Only about 5% of tick bites with the deer tick in an endemic area will result in Lyme disease in the human. Ticks and tick bites are far more common during the summer months so that is when your powers of observation need to be finely tuned. You should carefully examine your children at least twice a day for the presence of any tick attached to your child’s skin. Be sure to look in those places not easy to observe such as the scalp, between the fingers and toes, and in the pubic and the perineal areas (between the genital area and the anus).

When found, these ticks should be removed from the skin by applying a tweezer to the mouth parts firmly very close to the skin, and with firm steady traction (not sudden and jerky) pull the tick from the skin. You may leave some dark mouth parts in skin; don’t try to remove them but cleanse the area well with soap and water and treat as you would for any abrasion or cut. Those mouth parts may very well come out on their own or may remain and not cause a problem. Of course these areas can become secondarily infected ( as any cut or abrasion might) with bacteria and that would result in redness, swelling, warmth over the area and pain or tenderness Since ticks actually breathe very infrequently the idea of smothering them with petroleum jelly or other thick substance would not be practical. Do not try to burn them off with a heated pin or freshly lit match head as the only thing you will probably burn is your child’s skin.

If the disease is transmitted to your child (let me point this out again, this is rare) a mild illness with feverinitially might occur in some, this is more likely not the case however, and chronic long term vague illness is also not necessarily what you will see. The rash of Lyme’s disease also does not occur in all cases and is fairly characteristic: initially a reddened bump that subsequently clears in the middle leaving a red ring that slowly and inexorably enlarges. Sometimes there is more than one ring and other times that ring may enlarge significantly to cover entire body parts and extend to others. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to recognize this as a ring. There are blood tests that can detect the presence of Lyme disease but these might not be positive for several weeks. Treatment is easily accomplished through the use of an antibiotic for 21 – 28 days and there is time to begin treatment, up to a week to 10 days without fear of the disease progressing. The antibiotics used are common to everyone generally without side effects: Amoxicillin for young children and doxycycline (a form of tetracycline) for children 8-10 years and older.

This is a diagnoses made usually on clinical grounds; that is as a result of your child’s doctor’s experience in light of a certain constellation of signs and symptoms. Checking the tick for the presence of Lyme disease (if you have the tick) is not recommended and neither is preventive treatment if living in a high density tick area. There are reports of “chronic Lyme disease” and the treatment of such a suspected occurrence is not clear- probably the services of a specialist (infectious disease) should be sought.

Summary– Lyme disease is not very common even though you may hear of cases in your area. If you are concerned after a tick bite take your child to his/her doctor and he/she will make the diagnosis and suggest treatment if necessary. Check your child twice a day for the presence of any ticks and remove as described above. There is plenty of time to begin treatment and the antibiotics used are well tolerated; once treated it is not recommended to repeat lab work if done originally, and it can be assumed that the illness is gone and will not leave long lasting problems.

Kids Not Communicating: Are you speaking their language?

While I was kicking the soccer ball with a nine-year-old boy this week, it struck me that family conversations like The Family Meeting really need to be conducted outside in the fresh air. Who likes to be cooped up around the dinner table talking about what needs improving? I actually like the dinner table, ’cause it provides structure for conversations and easy opportunities for life lessons, not to mention the delicious food. But let’s just for a moment, consider that you might be willing to interact with your kids, teach them new skills and get close to their hearts with a bit of outdoor movement.

For many years, I have been working with families in their homes, teaching brain-based parenting skills. These families are kind, involved and caring. Often they have a child with a brain uniqueness such as ADHD. But increasingly, they are families just like yours where parents simply feel overwhelmed, children won’t do as they are told or home organization needs a bit of a touch up. Having earned my master’s degree in physical education longer ago than I care to admit, it has always struck me that when we play with our children they communicate better, feel more attached and even open up more.

So I’ve been thinking lately, “Are we speaking the child’s language or do we need to change things up?

What’s New? The past few years, I’ve been walking into homes with hoola-hoops, exercise balls and SPARKPE equipment, more than the traditional therapy fare. When we introduce families to the concept that we need to SEE IT, SAY IT, WRITE IT, PLAY IT and BUILD IT to LEARN IT, most families are game.

Where to start? Well you likely have sports equipment, lawn chairs, a chess set, a few games and other cool stuff in your home calling out to be used. You could make a portable family activities bag. I have a huge duffel bag I tote on wheels that has all sorts of goodies for engagement.

Inside are:

  • 3 marker boards
  • 10 expo markers
  • A set of base ten math blocks (kids love these for math, building or communicating)
  • 6 tennis balls
  • 6 polyspots
  • 3 cones
  • 1 dodge ball
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 1 deck of cards
  • White paper, graph paper, pens, stickers, glue, tape, scissors and more

What to do?

Got something on your mind? Want to know about your child’s day? Want to help your children practice taking turns and sharing? Family activities open the opportunity for exploration and learning.

A few fast ideas:

1. Kick the soccer ball back and forth, stand rather close together at first so that even beginners experience the feeling of accomplishment.

Now make a game out of it.

  • Parent: “Do you want to play the What’s the right thing to do game?”
  • Child: “No, I just want to play.”
  • Parent: “That’s right, we’ll play. I’ll name a situation when I kick the ball, then you can give me a good idea when you kick the ball. Let’s see.” “What’s the right thing to do when your classmate talks to you when you’re both supposed to be paying attention to the teacher?”
  • Child: “I just ignore him.”
  • Parent: “Right, good idea. What can you actually say?”
  • Child: “I can say, be quiet we’ll get in trouble.”

Change up the questions, give your child the opportunity to ask the questions when he or she gets familiar with the game.

You can have conversations about anything:

  • What family contributions (tasks) can the kids make in our home?
  • What can we do when Johnny takes our toys in the sandbox?
  • What do we do with our bodies when mom says, No!
  • What are three nice things we can do instead of rolling our eyes at our sister.
  • What are three things we can do as a family this weekend?

2. Bounce the tennis ball. There is nothing like rhythm to get the brain engaged. Alternate choosing a new rhythm to bounce the tennis ball to. I always have one ball for each person, bouncing the ball on your own is easier that bouncing it to another person.

3. Pass the talking ball. Are your kids all talking at one time? Identify one ball, stuffed animal or bean bag as the “talking ball.” When you sit or stand to talk as a family be it outside your car, at the kitchen table or in the store, if things get heated or muddled-up have one person hold the ball and only that person speaks everyone else listens.

4. Use many different modalities, if your kids generate a good idea while playing ball or chess, ask them to write it on the marker board to teach other family members later.

5. Play 15-30 minutes at a time. Honestly, a good solid exploration can take place in as little as three minutes.

If this is new to you you may be skeptical or thinks it’s silly. But when you see how the kids connect with you, talk with more ease and use their creativity in making new games, you’ll appreciate the magic of moving while talking. There is no one way to move and talk, but there is ample evidence that movement enhances brain function, improves concentration, decreases impulsivity and engages the brain. For the scientists among you, consider taking a peek at some of the following books:

So get moving before you start talking. Let us know what your family comes up with. We’re interested.

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This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method”.  Used in practice for a number of years, The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world.