Consider Giving Kids Less Stuff, More Time during Holidays

A father and his two sons happily wrestle a football from one another while they play in the yard.

Although the holidays can be a season of giving, sometimes the focus shifts to a season of getting, or so it may seem from a child’s perspective. It’s OK to give gifts to our children. We all want to see our children happy, and as parents we give from the goodness of our hearts. However, it’s easy to overdo it, especially around the holidays. This can become a pattern, and before we know it, we’re overindulging our children – giving them too much, too soon and for too long.

Research shows that overindulging children puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including a need for immediate gratification, an overblown sense of entitlement and a materialistic mindset and goals. Children who are overindulged may have poor self-control, as well as a more difficult time developing adult life skills.  Giving children too much stuff is just one form of overindulgence. Other forms include soft structure, meaning a lack of rules and responsibilities, and over-nurturing – doing things for children that they should be doing themselves.

So how can parents know whether they are crossing the line into overindulging their children?

Researchers Jean Illsley Clarke, David J. Bredehoft and Connie Dawson started the Overindulgence Project – Overindulgence.info – in 1996, studying the relationship between childhood overindulgence and subsequent adult problems and parenting practices. To date, they have completed 10 studies investigating overindulgence involving more than 3,500 participants.

The researchers suggest parents ask themselves four questions:

  • Do these gifts use a disproportionate amount of family resources?
  • Does what I am doing harm others, society or the planet?
  • Does this meet my needs (as the adult) more than the needs of my child?
  • Does it hinder my child from learning developmental tasks?

If parents answer yes to one or more of these questions, they probably are overindulging their children. However, there are some simple ways to get back on the right track.

  • First of all, if you have been overindulgent, take responsibility. Being in denial about it means that you can’t change anything.
  • Second, forgive yourself. If you’ve gone overboard in the past, don’t beat yourself up about it. Look at how you can move forward, do things differently and learn from your previous experience.
  • Next, work on one problem area at a time. Don’t try to suddenly change everything about your parenting style at once, as that will likely be too overwhelming. Maybe you start by deciding not to give your children so much stuff – toys, electronics, etc. – this holiday season, but consider giving them the gift of your time. For example, parents could create a “gift certificate” for a parent and child lunch date, or plan for an afternoon playing board games or having a baking day together. Or start even smaller and decide you won’t give in to your child’s next temper tantrum at the grocery store.

Just because you’ve overindulged your children in the past, doesn’t mean your children have been damaged forever. You can get back on track and raise your children to become responsible adults who show respect for others.
Share with us how you have takes steps to work on overindulging your children. Your ideas may help others!


This blog was originally posted on 12/21/16: Consider Giving Kids Less Stuff, More Time during Holidays

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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It Can Be Hard, but We Are Thankful

Happy African American girl holding 'I'm thankful' sign and looking at camera during Thanksgiving meal with her parents.

Around Thanksgiving time, we are surrounded with messages about thankfulness. As parents, people often remind us to fully enjoy the moments with our kids because time is fleeting. While there is truth to this, at Science of Parenting we want to look at research and REALITY. We recognize that raising children can be so rewarding, but we know there are times when it’s just plain hard.

We recently added another child to our family, and let me tell you, I am basking in sweet smiles, coos, and little milestones these days. But I’m also navigating some tough stuff like a nighttime waking, spending quality time with all my kids, and finding a new routine.  On the average day my feelings can flip from exhausted to ecstatic to emotional pretty quickly.

Even if you didn’t recently add another child to your family, most of us can relate to a mixed bag of feelings that parenting can bring. At Science of Parenting, we recognize the REALITY that sometimes parenting can be so hard. It can challenge us in ways we didn’t know were even possible. And then there are the moments that we are just lit up with joy from our children. For instance, my daughter recently mastered galloping, and watching her practice her new skill makes me smile daily. It’s such a simple thing, but it brings me so much joy!

So this Thanksgiving, Science of Parenting encourages you to find those parenting moments you feel grateful for, but it’s okay if that’s not every moment of every day. And when you are having those tough moments and questions, remember that Science of Parenting is full of resources you can explore. If you have a specific question, we have a hotline for home and family questions called Answerline (1-800-262-3804 in Iowa).

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Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Words Have Power – Even on the Second Try

We’ve been talking an awful lot about WORDS lately on the blog. We looked at a post from a mom who wished she had used her words differently. We’ve agreed to stop using the words “good” and “bad” to define our parenting. Over the last little while, we’ve been taking a look at four words we can use to describe our parenting that research shows helps lead us toward positive outcomes – Effective, Consistent, Active, and Attentive.

With all of the focus on the words we use, it only feels right to bring it all back together by talking about communication. We saw across these different posts how the way we communicate with our children and ourselves impacts our relationships and well-being. That’s the research part of it, right? Research shows us over and over how important our words and communication are in parenting.

A mother crouches to her young daughter and smiles while her daughter holds a teddy bear.

Now it’s time for us to take a look at our reality. I’ll share a little of my reality recently. I had a sick toddler at home with me, AND I had some serious deadlines I needed to meet. I laid my toddler down for nap and was feeling hopeful for all that I could accomplish in those next two hours… except she woke up and was not going back to sleep. (Mom face palm). I was tired, stressed, and I was feeling like I had used up all of my patience and multi-tasking abilities in the morning. So as my sweet kiddo came down the stairs, my words were exasperated and short. We immediately started to spiral downward – with my daughter teary-eyed from being sick and overtired, and I was stressed and out of energy.

ENTER Stop. Breathe. Talk. … I didn’t get my words right on the first try. I spoke from a place of frustration first. After a few minutes of our downward spiral, I realized I was the one tanking the interaction. So I pulled my girl up in my lap, and after I stopped to catch a breath I talked… I told her I was tired too. I talked about how sleeping is important to starting to feel better when you are sick. And I told her I was sorry for not speaking kindly to her.

Research and reality tell us that our words do have power. My words and actions helped transform my interaction with my toddler from one of frustration to one of bonding. But I want to be transparent that it took me awhile to get there. I didn’t get it right on the first try.

I think that’s a really important message for us parents to share with each other as we think about the power of words – it’s about practice, not perfection. There is room for a little grace. There will still be days when you call yourself a “bad parent” without remembering you have other words that can be more helpful, and there will be moments where you don’t get the words right on the first try during a challenging moment with your child.

Challenging Moments are inevitable in parenting. Luckily we can use our words to help navigate them – even if we don’t always get it right on the first try.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Being an Active Parent Can Look Differently for Each Family

We’ve been looking at different ways to reflect on our parenting over our last few posts, and today it continues with a look at active parenting, which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as “participating in your child’s life.”

Boy wearing a chef's hat measures flour while baking with his father in the kitchen.

This one is pretty broad, right? Just participating… that seems simple. And yet, how each of us might define participation looks so different! Some parents may say you are an active parent if you see your child every day. Others might say it’s being available for big moments like ball games and concerts. Some might say it’s more about being present for the little moments like dinner time and bed time.

Some of these definitions may leave out certain parents – like parents who work a night shift, so they may not be there for evening meal and bedtime, or parents who live separately and may not see their child every day. Does this mean those parents cannot be active in their child’s life? The answer – NO.

Every family is different. We each have kids with unique temperaments, our family structures may vary, and our schedules may look different. I think that’s part of the beauty of this broad definition of active parenting: participation can look differently for each parent and each family!

It ultimately comes down to the experience of your specific child. Does your child feel like you are available to them? Do they know that you want to be a part of their life? Do you have a plan for maintaining ongoing contact with them?

For some parents, this aspect of being an active parent may feel very obvious, while others have to give more thought and creativity to ensuring their participation in their children’s lives. Whichever spot you may fall into, know that your efforts to be active and available to your child are worthwhile and are an important aspect of developing your relationship! Keep up the good work!

Come back in our next post to explore the concept of being an attentive parent!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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“Do as I say, not as I do”… and Other Challenges in Consistency

In our last few posts we’ve been talking about tossing out the ideas of “good parents” and “bad parents” and replacing them with some new words — Effective, Consistent, Active, Attentive.

A father, mother, and son are sitting on a couch having a conversation.

It comes from a place of good intention, right? We want our kids to develop healthy eating habits, even if we maybe don’t always have great habits ourselves. Or maybe we are trying to teach our child not to interrupt, but then catch ourselves interrupting them when they talk to us. Ultimately, if we feel the urge to tell our child “Do as I say, not as I do,” it might be a sign that we are struggling to be consistent in our words and actions.

This week, let’s take a closer look at consistent parenting – which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as when “You follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.” …Anyone else looking around the room all guilty when they read that definition, or is that just me?

Even if our inconsistencies are unintentional, we can see how our actions speak louder than our words when it comes to our kids. For example, we have been working on teaching our almost three-year-old to speak kindly to others (without the sass). It’s something we offer reminders and redo’s on everyday to practice. The other night at supper my daughter turned to my husband and said, “You are bothering me. Go away.” I went to help her rephrase it to something more like, “Dad, I need some space,” and noticed my husband giving me a look. Then he said, “you know she learned that from you, right?”.

GUILTY!

I often playfully tell my husband he is bothering me when he teases me or says something that’s realistic that I don’t want to hear. The fact that I was telling my toddler not to speak to others that way wasn’t getting very far when I was modeling that behavior myself! I had to take the moment to “fess up” that I do say that sometimes, and that it’s not a nice way to talk to Dad. I had to acknowledge to my child (and myself) that maybe I wasn’t being the most consistent in my words and actions on this particular front.

So I’m still working on being consistent in my words and actions across different fronts with my parenting. It is requiring some honesty and humility on my part, but I know consistency also helps me work toward being a more effective parent! It’s alright if we don’t get it perfect every time. We can all work together to strive to be more consistent in our words and actions with our children! Join us at Science of Parenting for the journey!

Come back next time to learn more about being an active parent, regardless of your family situation!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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“How Can I Get my Kid to Listen?” and other aspects of Effective Parenting

In our last few posts we’ve been talking about how we talk about ourselves and parents. We’ve agreed that using the terms “good” and “bad” isn’t very helpful, and in our last post we looked at four words we can use instead that are based on aspects of parenting that research has shown are important.

The first of those four words is EFFECTIVE parenting – which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as when “your words and actions influence your child the way you want them to”. This sounds pretty straightforward, right? The things I try to get my child to do is what they actually do. Wait…. maybe that only sounds easy to someone who has never raised a toddler or had a tough conversation with a hormonal teenager!

For most of us parents, we have had some great moments where we are really pleased with how effectively we got our child to listen and other times where we feel like throwing our hands in the air. At our house, my recent challenge was getting our toddler to stay in bed at night. We tried talking about why sleep is important, setting some expectations and consequences, and even planning a small reward system. NONE of it was working!

Mom is helping daughter with math homework, and they are high-fiving for a successful answer.

I found myself totally slipping into labeling myself as a “bad mom” because we could not get it figured out. However, calling myself a bad mom was not helping me find a solution – in fact all it really did was make me feel worse about an already challenging situation! So I had to change my frame of mind. Instead of saying “I’m bad at this,” I had to find a way to look at the problem that gave me a way to seek a solution. I realized this was really a challenge in being EFFECTIVE, because I was struggling to find a way to influence my child the way I was hoping to.

Sometimes the journey toward being an effective parent, or influencing your child the way you hope to, takes some thought and trial and error. Whether it’s trying to get a toddler to stay in bed, getting your teen to do their chores, making sure your child is kind to others, or whatever else,  considering if we are being effective (rather than good or bad) gives us a concrete way to find some solutions!

After a few more ideas, we did find a solution that works for our family and our child’s temperament. An important step in getting there for me was realizing that I wasn’t being a bad parent, but that I was working toward being more effective, and that in order to do so, I had to keep looking for an idea that worked for us.

Come back next time to explore the idea of consistent parenting!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Let’s Stop Calling Ourselves “Good” or “Bad” Parents, Instead Let’s Say…

In our last post, “Am I a Good Parent?” we talked about how calling ourselves a “good parent” or a “bad parent” isn’t very helpful. For one thing, it doesn’t give us anything concrete to decide if we are “good” or “bad”. Plus, this way of thinking can create unnecessary guilt or shame related to our parenting. So today, we want to look at a trustworthy parenting model that gives us a different way to reflect on our parenting!

This model is pretty simple. With just four words, we can describe our parenting WITHOUT using “good” or “bad,” and have concrete ideas about what aspects of parenting are important! The four words are:

– Effective – Consistent – Active – Attentive –

Each of these introduce aspects of parenting that research has shown helps raise great kids! But what do they mean??

  • EFFECTIVE PARENTING: Your words and actions influence your child the way you want them to.
  • CONSISTENT PARENTING: You follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.
  • ACTIVE PARENTING: You participate in your child’s life.
  • ATTENTIVE PARENTING: You pay attention to your child’s life and observe what goes on.
A mother and daughter laying on a bed on their stomachs looking at one another.

Next time you are tempted to label yourself as a “bad mom” or sarcastically call yourself “dad-of-the-year,” consider which of these aspects of parenting you are wishing you had done differently. Maybe you’ll discover that you actually ARE doing pretty well across these important aspects of parenting, and you can give yourself a pat on the back instead of a face palm.

Come back for our next series of posts where we will dive into each of these aspects of parenting a big deeper!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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“Am I a good parent?” – and other ways we reflect on our parenting

Two Children, a boy and a girl, fighting In Front Of their frustrated mother at home.

“Am I good parent?”…“I feel like a bad mom today.”… “Feeling like Dad-of-the-year over here (sarcastically).”

From morning to evening, parents make countless choices throughout the day.

  • The thought process about how to get your child to clean up their room without it becoming an ordeal.
  • The decision whether to “choose this battle” about your child’s clothing choice.
  • The debate about whether to let your child stay up a little later tonight for something fun or stick to the usual curfew or bedtime.
  • The split second reaction either trying to remain calm during a frustrating moment or losing your cool.

Everyday we are faced with an ongoing slew of split-second decisions about how we guide and even just talk to our children. Sometimes at the end of the day as we reflect back on our interactions with our child, we may be have feelings of guilt or defeat. We may look back at the day and think, “I was a bad parent today”.

Today, I want us to really reflect on the way we talk to ourselves about our parenting choices. We often use this idea of a “good” or “bad” parent as the standard, but I want to suggest that these terms really aren’t very helpful for us as parents. Here’s a few reasons:

  • Who or what defines what is a good or bad parent? This is often based on other’s opinions, our feelings, or the way we were raised – but all three of those things are not a helpful or reliable standard.
  • This feeling of good/bad can fluctuate greatly throughout even one day, or even within one moment. For example, maybe you feel like a good parent for making a healthy supper for your family while simultaneously feeling bad because you raised your voice at your child to get out of the kitchen.
  • Finally, using the terms “good” and “bad” really doesn’t give us a chance to reflect on our parenting in a helpful way. If I just say “I was a bad mom today,” it can just build feelings of shame and guilt instead of encouraging me to reflect on what in particular I wish I had done differently.

I want to encourage all of us to stop using the terms “good” and “bad” to describe our parenting. Fortunately, there are several research-based parenting models that give us alternative ways to reflect on our parenting (which we will dive into over the next few weeks). But for now, I encourage you to use this week to give thought to how you reflect on and how you talk to yourself about your parenting. Try to avoid using the terms good and bad. If you are wishing something had gone differently about a particular interaction, choose to reflect more on what you may want to try different next time instead of focusing on the guilt.

Come back for our next post where we will discuss a research-based parenting model that will give you new terms to replace “good” and “bad”.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Juice Recommendations

Apple juice, orange juice, fruit punch, 100% juice, fruit drinks, and on and on. There are countless options for juice, and also countless points of view about how much juice to offer our kids. At Science of Parenting, we strive to share trustworthy and research-based information with you, so we are going straight to the source of trustworthy information on kids’ health – the American Academy of Pediatrics. Last year, they published recommendations which gives parents helpful answers to common questions about juice!

 

What kind of juice should I give my kids?

100% fresh or reconstituted juice are the healthiest juice choices. (If it is called “beverage”, “cocktail”, or “drink” instead of juice, then it is not 100% juice!) Check out the differences in the nutrition facts between these different types beverages. (Also note that the APA says that children should not be given unpasteurized juice).

Comparison of Orange Juice, Orange Drink, and Orange Soda. Orange juice is shown to have less sugar, carbohydrates, and sodium, as well as more calcium and vitamin C.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says juice is not the ideal choice for children. They explain that milk and water are sufficient drinks for children, and that it is better to offer whole fruits instead of fruit juice, as fruit juice has more unnecessary calories and lacks dietary fiber compared to whole fruit.

How much?

The recommendations for the amount of juice vary by the child’s age. (Note: These are recommendations for the maximum a child could have in a day, not a recommendation of how much they should have).

Under 1 year No juice
1-3 years old Max of 4 oz per day (1/2 cup)
4-6 years old Max of 6 oz per day (3/4 cup)
7-18 years old Max of 8 oz per day (1 cup)

These recommendations are important because drinking too much juice can cause tooth decay and excessive weight gain.

What other guidelines are there for juice?

Juice should not be given as a treatment for diarrhea or dehydration.

Children should not be allowed to carry juice with them and drink it throughout the day. This ongoing exposure causes damage to children’s teeth by giving them a repeated “juice baths” throughout the day which creates tooth decay. Also avoid giving juice at bedtime.

 

As a parent myself, I’m grateful to have organizations of experts who can give me trustworthy information on topics like this. After reading about all of these recommendations, I think my daughter and I might have to try out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe for Fruit Slush – which has the benefits of whole fruit but still feels like a sweet summer treat!

Want to learn more about raising healthy kids? Check out our Nutrition and Wellness resources on the Everyday Parenting page. 

 

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics – https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Recommends-No-Fruit-Juice-For-Children-Under-1-Year.aspx

Nutrition Label examples borrowed from the USDA’s Nutrition Newsletter, Nibbles for Health – https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/Nibbles_Newsletter_19.pdf 

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Responding to Everyday Emotional Reactions in School Age Children

boy refusing to eat food

You know those moments when your kids have mild negative emotional reactions – like when your school age child whines about doing homework, gets in your face to MAKE you look at something, or has a little attitude about cleaning up a mess? These little emotionally charged moments aren’t a huge dispute, and they don’t mean that your child doesn’t respect you. It’s just a brief second where your child’s negative emotions just got a little ahead of them.

But how should we handle these little moments of anger or sadness or attitude? A recent study in the journal Family Relations explored this question!

Sometimes parents might gravitate toward a negative verbal response to these little moments – we might be critical of our child’s behavior (“you shouldn’t whine”), make negative statements about it (“grow up”), or verbally dismiss what our child said (“too bad”). But this study found that these parent negative verbal reactions actually increased the likelihood of children to do MORE negative behavior (whether it be whining, attitude, or whatever else).

On the flip side, some parents might try to offer some emotional support to their child. This is sometimes called emotion coaching – where you take the opportunity to validate your child, label the emotion, and help them problem solve (which is something we really work on with our younger children, right?) Previous research has suggested that supportive statements from parents can help decrease negative reactions from a child, but this study did not find a relationship between the supportive statements and these everyday type of negative interactions with school age children. The researchers suggest that maybe these supportive statements are more helpful with bigger outbursts rather than the everyday mild negative reactions.

Wait – if we aren’t responding negatively AND if being emotionally supportive doesn’t seem to make a difference in changing our child’s response, what are we actually supposed to do? Well according to this study, ignoring these little emotional reactions in our school age kiddos may be our best bet!

So next time you’ve had a long day, and your elementary age child is pushing your last button with that mild little negative emotional response, remember to just ignore it (which, I mean, at the end of a hard day sometimes it’s easier to ignore it than to engage in a emotion coaching type of situation anyway – parent win!). Ignoring your child’s little negative response may just give them the chance to practice their own emotion regulation skills!

Source: Sperling, J., & Repetti, R. L. (2018). Understanding Emotion Socialization Through Naturalistic Observations of Parent–Child Interactions. Family Relations, 67(3), 325-338. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/fare.12314?campaign=woletoc

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Insights on Childhood Trauma with Dr. Carl Weems

With the large amount of information regarding childhood trauma in both print and digital media, we at Science of Parenting took a moment to tap into our experts as way to ensure parents had valid and reliable information when it comes to the impacts of trauma and toxic stress on the developing brains of children and youth. Dr. Carl Weems, Professor and Chair, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, shared some great insight with us!

Dr. Weems shared that “Experiencing traumatic stress is common and may lead to a number of outcomes including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder but also resilience and growth”. So if or your child have experienced traumatic stress, know that you are not alone and that it doesn’t make you “messed up”. Yes, this stress does have impact on the brain and is associated with some outcomes that are challenging, but it is also associated with RESILIENCE and GROWTH!

Dr. Weems also shared that when researchers look at how cognitive and psychological disorders “work” in the brain, they see that these disorders cannot be nailed down to one specific part of the brain but that several areas of the brain are a part of the disorder. Researchers have identified several key functional networks that may play a role in psychopathology, such as traumatic stress.  For example, he shared that the salience network is a network in the brain that is a collection of regions thought to be involved in detecting behaviorally relevant stimuli and coordinating neural resources in response.

This understanding of cognitive and psychological disorders makes sense with what Dr. Weems has studied relating to childhood trauma. He shared with us that differences in the brain’s structural connections and distributed functional networks (like the salience network) are associated with traumatic and severe early life stress.  Basically, when it comes to childhood trauma and toxic stress, we see that impacts many parts of the brain that are also the parts affected by psychological and cognitive disorders!

So you are now a parent “in-the-know” on some of the new highlights of current research around childhood trauma. If you want to explore more beyond the insights Dr. Weems shared with us, the following video clip from Resilience: The Biology of Stress may help you understand more about toxic stress and brain development.

The Science of Parenting Research page also currently highlights the impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences

 

References

Carrión, V. G., & Weems, C. F. (2017). Neuroscience of pediatric PTSD. New York: Oxford University Press.

Menon, V. (2011). Large-scale brain networks and psychopathology: a unifying triple network model. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15, 483–506.

Weems, C.F., Russell, J. D., Neill, E. L., & McCurdy, B. H. (Forthcoming in 2019). Pediatric Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from a Neurodevelopmental Network Perspective. Annual Research Reviews of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Weems, C. F. (2018, July 2). Personal communication.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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#GreatChildhoods Starting at Home

As we mentioned before, last month was Child Abuse Prevention month, and Science of Parenting is still thinking this important conversation. As you know, as Science of Parenting, we like to talk about research and reality. So that’s how we’ve decide to break this down.

RESEARCH

The research on abuse- whether physical, sexual, or emotional- is pretty clear that there are long-term outcomes for people who experience abuse as a child. As you can see on the Parenting Research tab of our website, research on the thoroughly-studied Adverse Childhood Experiences shows that child abuse is related to outcomes like depression, poor health outcomes, poor academic achievement, alcoholism, increased likelihood of future violence, and more.

Just looking at the research, it’s easy to think about abuse as something that other people need to worry about. It can be easy to see this information, and think about how we are glad it isn’t happening to our kids and move right along.

REALITY

According to a 2016 Iowa ACEs Study, “56 percent of Iowa adults have experienced at least one of eight types of child abuse and household dysfunction”. The reality is that child abuse has happened and is happening in Iowa. It’s happening in big cities, small towns, and on country roads… It’s not just those people over there who need to think about preventing child abuse. As parents and caregivers of young children, we need to think about it too. And a good place to start is right at home!

Starting at Home

RESEARCH says child abuse leads to negative outcomes. REALITY says some parents are do lose their temper and cross the line… (But let’s remember one of the potential outcomes of being abused as a child is the increased likelihood of being violent as an adult. Not every person had the luxury of an easy childhood or having great role models for parents.)

RESEARCH says staying calm in a frustrating moment with your child makes you better able to be intentional in your parenting. REALITY sometimes says “holy cow, how does this child that I love so much make me this angry?!”

Fortunately, Science of Parenting has a technique to help us all be more successful parents – Stop. Breathe. Talk. Whether you are prone to losing your temper or just need a technique to be intentional about your parenting, Stop. Breathe. Talk. can help you take that moment to check yourself before you act and potentially cross a line.

Here at Science of Parenting, we want to help all parents and caregivers help give their kids #GreatChildhoods! Stop. Breathe. Talk. can help us all along the way!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Busy Families can create #GreatChildhoods

Analogue, classic, clock

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, which means Science of Parenting is thinking about what makes #GreatChildhoods. For me, I fondly remember singing in the car with my mom, standing on the end of the grocery cart, weekends by the lake, and doing lots of puzzles.

As much as we love our kids, sometimes it feels hard in the chaos of life to carve out good quality time with them. I find myself saying things like, “well it will be better after next week” or “we will have more time after we get through [fill in the blank]”. At times I feel like I’m just floating from one day to the next trying to get by. Whether it’s work commitments, transporting kids, trying to squeeze in some exercise, community service commitments, or finding time with your significant other, being a parent in this generation can feel like we are constantly trying to beat the clock. How do we have special moments with our kids when we come home from work exhausted and still have to get supper on the table before bath and bedtime? Does it always have to be big family vacations and long weekend trips to the lake? The answer….

No, you don’t have to have big chunks of time to have special moments with your kids. Though carving out large amounts of time for things like family vacations can be beneficial (check out a #throwback on this topic – Family Vacations Radio Show), great childhoods can be built in the midst of life’s other commitments and responsibilities. We can look for “little moments” or pockets of time throughout the day to just spend a few minutes talking with your child. In fact, a lot of the memories I have of my childhood came in between big commitments. The singing in the car often happened on short trips to and from a traveling sports team game in a neighboring town. The goofing around on the grocery cart happened while my mom picked up our food for the week. Those “weekends at the lake” sometimes were actually only two hours on a Saturday morning before a commitment that night. The puzzles often happened at the table while supper was being made.

As I think about my own parenting, learning about the benefits of little moments is great news! Focusing on creating #GreatChildhoods in the little moments is a saving grace, because at times I’ve felt like I’m being the best parent I could be because of other constraints on my time. So join me as I try to move beyond saying “it will get better after [blank]”, and let’s look for ways to create special moments now! Yes, things are crazy right now at my house, but I can sing songs with my daughter in the car on the ride home. Yes, we still have to make supper tonight, but maybe our school age kiddo can help stir the pot on the stove or we can ask our toddler about the magnet letters on the fridge while we cut up some veggies.

Take a moment right now, and think about a little moment with your child you can have today. Be intentional about making a plan that’s realistic for you, and then decide how to carry it out (get creative if you need to – e.g. video calls or writing notes). All of these moments can add up to #GreatChildhoods!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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SANE consequences

We’ve been talking a lot about challenging behavior lately. And yeah, even us Science of Parenting folks have children who challenge us!

Today we want to look at how we can respond to challenging behavior. Maybe your preschooler has been testing out new lies, or your school age child has been skipping homework, or your preteen is throwing attitude around like it’s confetti, or your teen is not touching base when they are out and about. Whichever one resonates with you, finding a way to respond to problematic behavior can be a challenge. How do we strike a balance between too harsh and too lax?

Luckily, the National Institute on Drug Abuse looks at research on how parents can help their kids stay on the right path, and they have a handy little acronym for helping parents identify appropriate consequences – SANE (and I mean that acronym has all kinds of double meaning, am I right?).

  • S – Small consequences are better 
    • When we are especially angry or frustrated with our child, chances are we are more likely to fly off the handle a bit with our consequences (Stop. Breathe. Talk. to save the day again!). Instead, try to find small consequences that relate directly to the child’s behavior. Like if your child is being difficult at bedtime because they want to watch more TV, you might consider taking away TV privileges for a few days.
  • AAvoid consequences that punish you
    • When we give consequences to our child, it needs to be something we can and will follow through on. But when we choose consequences that make our lives as parents more difficult, we might be less likelihood to carry out the consequences like we originally planned. So if your teenager is abusing their school permit, you may decide that they need to lose that privilege for a few days. You can avoid this from punishing you (by you having to drive them) by having your teenager have to find their own ride to school or maybe ride the bus.
  • N Nonabusive responses
    • Yup, we sometimes are very angry with our kids when they don’t meet our expectations, but we don’t want that anger to have so much power that we respond to our children in unhealthy ways. As we say at Science of Parenting, “Hitting Harms. Yelling Hurts.” (Another place where Stop. Breathe. Talk. can be our saving grace!)
  • EEffective consequences
    • Effective consequences are consequences that are under your control and that actually help deter your child from wanting to do that behavior again (non-rewarding). Of course, this is the whole point of consequences right!

So when we are thinking about consequences, try to stay SANE (you see what I did there?).

 

Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/family-checkup/question-4-setting-limits

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Teenagers

Teenagers… Wait, what was your reaction when you read that word? Maybe an eye roll, a sigh, or perhaps a smile? Each of us have a different experience with raising teenagers – some parents think it is the most fun age during their parenting journey while others dread it. Some of us may even fall into the tendency to paint a mental picture of the teenage years filled with back talk, conversations about curfews, and loud music behind closed doors. But there is a flip side to that coin – seeing your teenager live out their values, getting the opportunity to watch them achieve and excel in their passions, and having meaningful and heartfelt conversations.

Regardless of which way you tend to view the teenage years, most of us who have raised teenagers know that these are the years when friends become a really BIG DEAL, right? Teens care what their classmates think about their looks and what they say and do. And as parents, you watch them grow closer and closer to friends, and it might feel like they are slipping away from you. But great news – they’re not. Sure, your teen is probably growing stronger relationships with their friends, but adolescents (a.k.a. teenagers) still care a lot about their parents and what they think! So don’t lose heart – your teen does hear what you say, and your opinion matters to them!

So continue to communicate your values to your teenager, even if you think you already have or if they give you the “I know this already” look. Sometimes the teen years bring their own challenges, but so does every age (I gotta say, I bet your teenager doesn’t cry while you cook supper like my toddler does, so that’s a plus J). Remember that while you are going to have some challenging moments here and there, you are also going to have some pretty amazing ones too.

Do you have more questions about navigating challenging parenting moments with your teenager? Check out the Parenting in Challenging Moments page on our Science of Parenting website. You can find resources for parenting a child of any age under the Guidance by Age section.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Follow Me:
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