Oh, Baby!

The arrival of a new baby into the home can bring so many emotions, including joy, anticipation, worry, and delight. These emotions may stem from realizing that as parents, keeping the newborn safe, alive, and well-cared for is essential. Parents will monitor a new baby’s growth; they will watch how much a new one eats or sleeps, or even coo’s and cries. Each of these actions can produce a reaction on the part of the caregiver. Infants rely on their caregivers to provide so much of their daily care. This is a time when the attachment bond is securely formed. A child who cries and their needs are met will learn to rely on someone to provide for their needs.

Infants are discovering movement through head control and noticing their hands and fingers. As they grow, they learn to roll over, sit up, and eventually crawl. Brain development is efficiently creating neural pathways that are critical windows of opportunity. As parents take the time to talk to their babies, this enhances the brain’s development. A child hearing more words in the first years of life benefits the child when they begin school.

A few great ways to engage with your infant in the early stages of development include:

  • Talking and reading to your baby.
  • Repeating your words and responding to the baby talk and sounds your infant makes will provide reassurance to your little one.
  • Give lots of attention and stimulation to your baby.
  • When they begin noticing their hands and fingers, be sure to provide toys and sound makers that will encourage their use of their newfound hands.
  • Keep the baby safe by taking a close look at the environment and removing any hazards that could be potential trouble.
  • Children are naturally curious and will put most items in their mouth. Be sure to check for small items that could cause a choking hazard and remove those toys.
  • Wash and clean mouthed toys often.
  • Most of all, show love and affection to your baby and enjoy this stage of development. 

For additional information on your child’s growth and development, please explore a free series of electronic newsletters delivered to your email inbox based on your child’s birthday. They are called the Just In Time Parenting newsletters. Delivered once a month, the newsletter is filled with information about what you can expect of your child’s development, tips for how you can support your babies growth and progress toward their next milestones, tips for handling those common challenging moments, and some great suggestions for you, as a parent, to practice self-care.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Choosing Positive Discipline

Guiding and directing children as they grow and develop is a serious endeavor for parents. We know family values are usually at the heart of all rules, boundaries, and limits that parents set for their children.

Research in family science has a lot to say about what works around discipline. According to two decades of research by Elizabeth Gershoff & colleagues, physical punishment like spanking has been shown not only to be harmful, but also ineffective.

Discipline and punishment are two very different things. Discipline is meant to help children learn to regulate their own behavior as they are gaining more and more independence. Parents who use positive discipline approaches are teaching their children what behaviors are desired and then using natural or logical consequences when necessary to guide and direct their children.

Blaming and shaming parents for the choices they make in guiding their children is also not helpful. When we look at the research around harsh parenting, we can choose to avoid harmful and ineffective techniques and utilize approaches that are less threatening and more positive! We can do this most effectively by encouraging behaviors we do like, communicating our messages openly and honestly, and by utilizing Stop. Breathe. Talk. for keeping our cool in the heat of the moment.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Protect and Prevent

Protecting our children and setting boundaries for safety is something that most parents would agree is essential in raising happy healthy families! The boundaries help support growth and development and children learn they can count on their family members to protect them.

In each life stage, prevention measures must be considered. For infants and toddlers, child-proofing the home, covering outlets, providing baby gates, and anchoring bookshelves are examples of how parents prepare the environment for health and safety.

When children are school-agers we encourage wearing a bike helmet when riding; we may teach children to ask permission before leaving to play at another friends home. 

As teens we may teach “peer pressure” refusal skills so these kids can have a few tools at their disposal for protection and safety. And providing a few explanations of “why” rules and boundaries are established can help children and teens know we value safety!  

Prevention is something everyone can practice! Communicate honestly and frequently with your family members about how and why safety and prevention are important and valued! The lessons learned through shared communication can be the first step in prevention education.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Supporting Children When There is Scary News

We wanted to share a great article written by our fellow Human Sciences Family Life Specialist, Malisa Rader. Thank you, Malisa for allowing us to share your words.

All children are born with a unique temperament. Some will be more sensitive to scary news stories or worrisome about their safety and the safety of their loved ones, says Malisa Rader, a family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“We need to be mindful of what we are watching and discussing when small ears are around,” Rader said, “while also making sure we take time to listen and pick up on cues our child might be sending us. A change in behavior like clinginess or crying might be a signal that your child is anxious over recent disturbing events in the news.”

Parents, teachers and caregivers can help children that are feeling distressed about safety cope with their fears, Rader said. She recommends the following actions:

Keep regular routines. Stick to your normal schedule and events. Children take comfort in predictable daily activities like dinner at the kitchen table and bedtime rituals. Knowing what will happen provides a feeling of security.

Watch your emotions. Parents everywhere are shocked and saddened when children are victims of a tragic event. Children that are sensitive to emotions can pick up on this and become concerned for their own safety or the safety of others. When adults maintain a calm and optimistic attitude, children will also.

Have conversations with your child. Find out what your child knows and what questions he or she would like answered. Young children might express themselves through drawing or in their play. Provide reassurance, clear up any misconceptions and point out to your child the many helpful people in emergency events like law enforcement and medical professionals. Talk with your child about what is happening to make him or her safe at home, school or in the neighborhood.

Limit your TV viewing.  Monitor what is on the television set and for how long. Young children may not understand that scenes repeating on news stations are all the same event. Choose a favorite video to maintain better control over what is viewed by your children.

Find healthy ways to deal with feelings. Taking a walk together, reading a favorite book, or playing a board game can be comforting to both you and your child.

Take action. If your child continues to show concern, he or she may be feeling a loss of control. Doing something such as sending a donation or writing a letter can help bring back a sense of power and help your child feel a part of the response.

Seek professional advice if needed. If your child shows symptoms of distress such as a change in appetite or sleep patterns, speak with your child’s physician or a mental health professional. You can also contact ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline at 1-800-447-1985.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Revisiting: Calm, Cool, and Collected

As the NEW YEAR looms, I am eager to welcome the start of a new season! Before that happens, enjoy this podcast featuring the temperament trait “intensity”. The Science of Parenting team has dedicated their podcast episodes to revealing temperament traits and helping parents learn strategies to support their family members. “Intensity”, a trait defined as the amount of energy exhibited in emotional expression is highlighted here.

We can think about intensity as our ability to express emotion. Like joy over something very happy, or sadness and regret when something unfortunate happens, is what keep us human! We don’t and won’t all experience the same set of feelings when similar things happen to us. Because of our lived experiences, we will approach our reaction to situations very personally.

The connections young children have with their parent will help the child to be able to manage the emotions they possess. A parent may have to regulate their own emotions first, before helping a young person try to manage theirs. In fact, we may even have to step away from each other for a time, when emotions run high, before we can come back together to address an intense situation.

In this podcast, Mackenzie and Lori offer several tools to help with the challenges an intense temperament might present to parents.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Revisiting ‘Missing Out on the Big Moments’

Earlier this spring, when the word “pandemic” was still relatively new to our vocabulary, our team released a bonus episode on Missing Out on the Big Moments. We were hearing about the emotional toll that missing out on events and rites of passage was having on our kids. Now, several months down the road, this concept of missing out because of COVID is a common experience for kids and adults alike.

In the midst of a pandemic and the holiday season, the research around “missing out” and family rituals from this episode is still incredibly relevant. In this episode, you hear our co-hosts define rituals as events that are symbolic, emotionally affective, and having meaning across generations. Many of the holiday traditions families practice meet this definition! We know that tough conversations and emotions can be apart of our family interactions during the holidays in this pandemic as we all try to adjust.

In this episode, you’ll hear about ideas to adjust family rituals. Even if you already heard it this spring, we hope you’ll consider listening with a new perspective. Now that we have been in this pandemic a little longer you may have new insights and questions. Also, you may want to focus more on your own emotions around adjusting these family rituals.

Please join us in revisiting the topic of Missing Out on the Big Moments by examining research around family rituals!

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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Revisiting ‘How to Find Balance’

Each year, the holidays bring a rich set of traditions for many families. This year however, while living with the Covid-19 pandemic, our family traditions may take on a new reality. Instead of large gatherings, we may have smaller intimate gatherings. Instead of spending time together in one home, we may gather around our computers and share stories via video chat. We can continue to celebrate the holidays, but we may need to be creative to keep all family members safe and healthy!

The many responsibilities parents encounter as they prepare for the holiday season can be stressful! One challenge is identifying household tasks and finding time to complete those tasks and still have enough time and energy to respond openly to your children and family. During this podcast, the discussion reveals research around how household division of labor is managed in many homes.

There is some evidence (Meier, McNaughton-Cassill, & Lynch, 2006) that mothers report managing more of the household and childcare tasks than their co-parents. Join the Science of Parenting team as they explore the research behind sharing the tasks that are so important to raising happy, healthy families.

Lori and Mackenzie share evidence that suggests parents who feel appreciated for the household tasks they perform are more likely to continue to complete the tasks. Most everyone will admit it feels good to be noticed or recognized for doing well or accomplishing a task. Families will find they have more time together if all members share the housekeeping load.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Revisiting ‘In the Heat of a Meltdown’

Regulating our emotions is not always an easy task. As adults, our early experiences shape the way we respond to adversity or challenges. We must be aware that the kids around us are watching how we respond, react, or behave when faced with challenges.

Especially now, during times of pandemic, as our routines and schedules have been interrupted, we may see behaviors from our children that may indicate they are struggling with the mounting pressure of having to socially distance, study from home, or put aside their desire to be out and about with friends.

These pressures may be revealed in a variety of ways. We may see tears; yelling; or even meltdowns because of the mounting frustration.

When emotions get high, our ability as the parent to self-regulate can assist other members of the family to find peaceful ways to self-regulate.

It doesn’t mean we won’t have times when we are upset or challenged, but it means that we will need to call upon appropriate techniques, and that can be hard to do.

Stop. Breathe. Talk. is a technique which gives the brain time to re-focus energy from the limbic portion of the brain, where our emotion sensor is, to the prefrontal cortex, where our rational, decision-making portion of the brain is and can engage.

Helping kids move from the meltdown into the calm down stage means they, too, must have time to re-regulate. The wiring of their brain must re-focus back to the pre-frontal cortex, where they can think about how they want to respond.

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought families together in more ways than one. Let us use this time together to build family resilience, reengage our communication with one another and support one another until we can say the pandemic is gone.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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The Big A-Ha

And that’s a wrap!

The Science of Parenting team has taken the last couple of months to introduce everyone to temperament, what it is, and what it is not. The research from Thomas and Chess reveal nine traits that are foundational to temperament. Our personality layers on top of our temperamental traits.

Each podcast, the team explored the assets and liabilities for children with traits at one end or the other of the spectrum. They also offered strategies to address each trait. One constant throughout the season, is that all individuals are gifted with temperament. Each person has their very own set of traits that make them unique. Understanding how the traits are expressed and impacted by other traits can assist a parent in responding to a child and their behavior.

We have discussed inhibited or shy children, and we have looked at children’s activity level and their persistence traits. We explored the traits of mood, regularity, adaptability, and distractability. Everyone has a different combination of these traits that make up their temperament and having this knowledge can help us practice more patience and understanding with others around us, including members of our own family.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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About Those “Easy” Kids

Researchers Thomas and Chess have provided so much information to help parents learn more about how a child’s temperament impacts their behaviors and how they experience the world. We understand that we cannot change temperament, that it will always be an integral piece of who we are, and what we can change is our approach to others.

As we have seen, the nine temperament traits fall into patterns, and we notice that a large majority of children’s temperament may fall into the ‘flexible’ pattern. This pattern may include temperament traits such as easy to soothe, less active, and intense as well as less demanding in general. While this pattern may not cause many parent/child power struggles, it is still important for us to teach this child to raise their voice.

As a flexible child, they may go with the flow and easily agree to others’ ideas. We need to help them be brave enough, use their voice, and say what they need to say! As adults, we need to watch for times when we see them go along with a suggestion even when they don’t want to. We need to protect their right to have their own voice be heard, and perhaps to help them sound their voice!

Giving the flexible child a voice to be heard is just one way to help children appreciate the gifts their temperament provides. What are some other gifts temperament gives our children?

Join us each week as we continue to talk about parenting with temperament in mind.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Baby Steps

Quiet and Shy – and I’m OK! 

Season three of The Science of Parenting podcast has explored the many facets of temperament! The information shared each week celebrates the unique and rich gift each trait expresses! Every day brings new opportunities to master challenges and milestones. As parents watch their children grow and develop, they consider the temperament that a child possesses and other factors like family structure, siblings, and so much more.  

The child who is slow to warm up – or seems inhibited when interacting in their environment may need assistance from others to explore their surroundings. Parents must consider that their own temperament and their own actions are cues to their children about how to behave. Keeping the lines of communication open and asking questions of our children can help them explore “new situations.” Asking our child to tell us: 

  • how they are feeling;  
  • what questions do they have about the new situation;  
  • what do you think might happen if you explore further;  
  • how can I help you manage this new challenge;  
  • could we set a goal – or simple steps to begin this new challenge?  

These few questions can be the start of helping your inhibited or shy child gain the self-confidence needed to interact and explore their environment.  

In the podcast, Lori and Mackenzie talk about these slow to approach kiddos and talk to expert Robert Coplan on helping those shy kids navigate the world.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Bring Out the Best

“Hey, you’re in a good mood today!” Has anyone said that to you lately? Our mood is a temperament trait! The Science of Parenting team has been exploring many temperament traits, and MOOD is just one that may resonate with many parents. Having children with a happy disposition or in a good mood is a joy. Finding ways to comfort our child when the mood is negative can be a challenge. Parents may find they need to adjust their own schedule or expectations if a child’s mood is one that is emotional or negative from time to time. Learning to soothe a child takes skill, patience, and time. It also takes the same to help children learn to self-soothe. 

Have you heard a child become whiney as they are learning to tie their shoes? Or do they have an “I Can” attitude when it comes to this new skill? Which mood will surface? 

Listen in on the Science of Parenting podcast, as our hosts discuss developmental milestones and how children’s mood may be expressed as they grow.   

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Rhythm of Life

Maintaining a manageable schedule when a newborn arrives is one of the first pieces of advice new parents receive. “Be sure to stay on schedule.” The schedule is something that may include feeding, sleeping, diapering, etc. The idea of a schedule seems important, yet it is something that may be out of your control if your child is not one to eat when you are ready; or sleep when they are tired! Although we cannot control our children, we can influence their environment, which can help them sleep and eat!  

Parents seek control because they feel confident when they can anticipate their baby’s needs. Children who can eat and sleep on our schedule help to keep things moving smoothly in our very fast-paced world. Many new moms and dads will have lengthy conversations about preparing for leaving the house with a newborn. Do we have formula or a safe place to breastfeed? Do we have diapers? Has the baby slept, been fed, or still sleepy? What do we need to anticipate to make our outing manageable? The schedule we keep can help us answer those important questions. So, it stands to reason that temperament may have to be considered when discussing these pivotal moments in the day. 

Helping our children get into a rhythm can be very helpful. Some children feel more secure when they know what to expect, and they are familiar with their body’s natural rhythm. How we help our children develop their own rhythms may look like the following: we adjust our own expectations for our children; we may put aside our plans or schedule to help our child manage their needs – like eating or sleeping or toileting. We may need to limit the competing distractions that children experience, anything from other siblings, television or screen time; and any loud noises that prevent them from eating on a schedule, or relaxing before sleep. We may provide the nutrition needed for healthy bathroom experiences and reminders about taking the time to go to the bathroom! Listen in as our hosts, Lori and Mackenzie, discuss this very important temperament trait.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Dealing with Difficult Behaviors

Sometimes we label things so that we can understand them better. In fact, the labels can be limiting if we are not careful to explore our own use of the labels. Have you ever heard someone say, “Wow, that child is difficult!”? Or, have you heard, “I’m so glad my child is not as difficult!”? Well, what does difficult mean? In terms of temperament – it may mean that a child has their own idea, of how they interact with their environment. They have an idea and want to put that idea into action! Often the “difficult” behaviors that may be observed, may also be accompanied by strong emotions as well. 

A child with strong ideas, and a willingness to act, may need boundaries and structure! When we acknowledge our child’s skills and temperament, as the adult, we can accommodate their needs by setting an environment and boundaries so that they can succeed.  

If our child gets dis-regulated, or frustrated because they experienced a challenge to their “action plan”, we may need to wait for them to calm down, and get – re-regulated before we can have a discussion about how to meet that same challenge in the future. Our child’s ability to make a good decision when they are experiencing big feelings is much more difficult, than when they are calm and ready to listen to reason.  

We can accommodate and put the “difficult” label aside! 

In this episode, Lori and Mackenzie discuss this and feature an interview with Dr. Sean McDevitt, Ph.D.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Finding Focus

What…did you say something? I was distracted.

Each week, we have been exploring temperament traits and discovering how those traits may or may not show up in children. Each of us is born with unique genetic features and within the same family, we can look alike but behave differently and have very different temperament traits. The differences between individuals can make parenting joyful AND challenging.

For children who find themselves easily distracted, we may celebrate their perceptiveness. In other words, they may be on high alert to everything going on around them. This attentiveness may make it more difficult for them to settle, quiet themselves, or find peace easily. They may be so alert that napping is difficult. Eating and other routines may be interrupted because so many competing distractions make it hard to focus on any task at hand.

Parents with children who are very perceptive may need to keep what I call “shiny objects” at a minimum. In other words, if we expect children to sleep, we may have to be intentional about minimizing the distractions in the bedroom, or limiting the noise, or reducing the stimulation that can interrupt a child’s natural desire to sleep or rest easy.

The constant stimulation that may occur in a household may be energizing for some family members, while being a total distraction for others. As you learn more and more about your child and their temperament, are there certain boundaries you can establish that will help your child feel comfortable and able to focus? Using praise and recognition when a child manages to stay focused or not get distracted is one approach.

Looking around your home environment may provide some solutions for reducing the stimulation that can be the cause of distractibility.  Another idea is to review daily routines and trying to honor the schedule and routine that assists your child’s ability to focus and become less distracted. I know that when I have many competing thoughts it is hard to prioritize and make good decisions. How many times are children faced with trying to make a good decision, when they are plain distracted? Join the Science of Parenting podcast hosts as they explore distractibility in children.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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