Thursday, May 18, 2017

Controversial Parenting Techniques - Take Some From Each

I like this thorough article of controversial parenting techniques. My take on this would be to gain some understanding of each technique and take what works for you from each. If you stick to “rigidly” to just one style then you’re discounting your particular needs, your babies needs and your family dynamics. As with anything, flexibility is key. Read on..

by Elena Donovan Mauer

Swaddling

The controversy: You know the age-old art of wrapping baby in a receiving blanket like a burrito? Well, some think it could be hazardous for baby. Critics say swaddling could cause problems including hip dysplasia, overheating and inability to wake when necessary.
What’s not so bad: Some new parents say swaddling helps baby sleep longer — she may be less likely to startle herself awake when her arms can’t flail. And the International Hip Dysplasia Institute says the practice is okay as long as you’re doing it correctly — don't wrap your little burrito’s legs too tightly.
“With my first daughter, swaddling made a huge difference,” says Kim E.* “She’d sleep for three hours at a time while swaddled and no more than 30 minutes at a time without the swaddle."

Ferber Method

The controversy: Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems author Richard Ferber, MD, is probably best known for advising parents to let baby “ cry it out” to help him sleep through the night. Critics say leaving baby alone to cry without comforting him is cruel and could be emotionally scarring.
What’s not so bad: Ferber actually endorses “controlled crying” — allowing the child to cry for short periods of time, but not until he falls asleep or all night long. The idea is that babies naturally wake periodically at night. If you want yours to “sleep through the night,” Ferber says he’ll need to learn to fall back asleep without being rocked, fed or sang to, and he can’t learn to do that without practice. While the method isn’t for everyone, many swear it works.
“I feel so rested after 11 months of exhaustion thanks to Ferber,” says Leah R.

Free-Range Parenting

The controversy: Free Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy came under fire after writing that she let her nine-year-old ride the subway by himself. How could she put him in harm’s way like that? Some publications even dubbed her “America’s Worst Mom.”
What’s not so bad: Skenazy breaks down the facts: Child abduction is devastating but extremely rare. Worrywart parents might want to look to her book’s stats to help them realize that hovering over their kids doesn’t prevent bad things from happening, and most of the things they worry about aren’t worth stressing over. Giving kids choices and independence helps them learn to be responsible, says Skenazy.
“I read the book last summer and loved it. So did my husband. I definitely identify with the concept of free-range," says Jen F.

RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers)

The controversy: Made famous by some A-list parents who follow its teachings (Tobey Maguire, Penelope Cruz and Felicity Huffman supposedly), RIE’s more challenged teachings include no tummy time, no fancy toys and not pushing your child in a stroller before he can sit up on his own. Sounds stuffy and cold!
What’s not so bad: The basic principle is to let your child learn and discover things at his own pace, so not forcing him into tummy time or into sitting upright before he’s ready makes sense to plenty of parents. Also, letting baby play with pots and pans and a spoon instead of an overpriced, noisy toy with flashing lights isn’t just easy on your wallet, it’s creative too.
“The point of  RIE seems to be respecting your infant as a person,” says Marcie P. “Another major point is allowing your child free exploration while you have ‘you’ time, and then focusing your love and nurturing during feeding and changing.”

Babywise

The controversy: In their book On Becoming Babywise, Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckham, MD, offer advice to get baby sleeping through the night starting around seven to nine weeks old. That sounds great to all the sleep-deprived moms and dads out there, but there’s one big problem. They recommend scheduling baby’s feedings for about three hours apart, and that can be harmful to a small baby. AAP News, a publication of The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), says the method “has been associated with failure to thrive, poor milk supply failure, and involuntary early weaning… the program is inadequately supported by conventional medical practice.”
What’s not so bad: Sorry parents, but there’s not much to say here. While the book does get one thing right — getting baby into a daily routine or pattern is good for everyone’s sanity — we can’t get behind a rigid schedule dictated by the clock. Baby needs to eat, and restricting his intake just isn’t right.
“Using Babywise was successful for us in getting my daughter on a schedule,” says Georgia L. “However, I think you have to take some of what it says with the grain of salt and let your own instincts take over. If your child is hungry even though it's only been 45 minutes, don't let the baby cry!”

Co-sleeping

The controversy:  Sleeping with baby in your bed increases her risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), so AAP and US Consumer Product Safety Commission strongly advise against doing it for the first year of her life.
What’s not so bad: One 2013 study found that  co-sleeping increased breastfeeding rates, which is definitely a good thing, but not worth the SIDS risk. Luckily, there are other ways to “co-sleep” that don’t involve bed sharing. For example, having baby in a bedside bassinet or crib in your room is considered safe, could make breastfeeding more convenient and saves you the stress of running back and forth to the nursery all night long.
“We put baby in the bassinet in our room until he was sleeping for most of the night,” says Jane Y. “That was more for our sanity and not having to travel to his room. This worked out very well for us.”

Elimination Communication

The controversy: Elimination Communication (lovingly called EC by adapters of the practice) is a method used by parents who choose to go completely diaper-free — yes, from birth. Sometimes, family and friends aren’t supportive of skipping diapers. Who wants to invite you for a play date if your little cutie could have a messy accident at any moment? Some doctors say that the practice could mean pushing your child to use the potty too early, and that can cause health problems such as  UTIs and constipation.
What’s not so bad: Supporters of EC swear it makes  potty training go faster and more easily. And not throwing disposable diapers in the trash, or having to wash cloth diapers, is undeniably easy on the environment.
“I started EC when my son was able to sit up on his own around six months,” says Lana G. “I would hold him on the toilet seat. He caught on right away. At two, he is totally potty trained."

“Extended” breastfeeding

The controversy: Did you see that cover of Time magazine, with the mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son? Well, lots of people saw it, and some thought the boy was way too old to be breastfed. Some believe breastfeeding past babyhood could be detrimental to a child’s sense of independence and say there’s no reason to keep doing it.
What’s not so bad: The AAP recommends  breastfeeding until at least age one, and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding to age two or beyond. Neither recommends a firm age at which you need to stop. Toddlers still receive nutritional benefits from mom’s milk, and no study has proven the practice to be psychologically harmful. Every mom should feel free to choose her and her child’s own right time to stop nursing.
“I breastfed past age two, and I really think it’s the best thing I ever did!” says Renee S. “I think my son has a great immune system and we have a fantastic relationship. I never thought I would go that long, but I did and it didn’t feel strange or unnatural. In fact, it was quite the opposite.”

AttachmentParenting

The controversy:  Attachment Parenting is all about being close to your child. Controversial practices such as co-sleeping and long-term breastfeeding are considered part of this parenting style, but some people have more problems with it than that. Critics say that the practice forces parents to revolve their lives around their children — and all that hovering could result in selfish kids.
What’s not so bad: Supporters of AP say it helps children emotionally bond and develop a sense of trust. It also teaches kindness and compassion — definitely not bad things for a kid to learn. Plus, who doesn’t love cuddling with their kids?
“Some articles portray attachment parenting in such an extremist light, like we're all nursing our 8-year-olds in public and can't leave our kid with a babysitter,” says Gina U. “If you read into it more, you’ll find out it promotes certain ideals like breastfeeding, baby wearing and bed sharing, but that doesn't mean you can't pick and choose what works for your lifestyle.”
"French-Style" parenting
The controversy: Pamela Druckerman’s book Bringing Up Bébé has raised plenty of eyebrows. The author outlines what she learned about parenting while living in France. Parents there practically ignore their kids at the playground (dangerous!) and punish bad behavior without rewarding the good (negative!).
What’s not so bad: Sure, we all want to stop our toddler from climbing too high on the jungle gym before he’s ready and to give him a sticker or two when he uses the potty. But maybe every once in a while, we should let him explore things on his own (within reason, of course) and entertain himself instead of you always getting involved. After all, how else is he going to develop independence and talents? And how else are we supposed to get anything done?
“The part of the book that hit home for me was the one that said you can have a life having kids,” says Maggie G. “It seems that so many women become martyrs for their kids and give up everything, and this book was really good about showing you how to still go to dinner and enjoy hobbies at home with calm, well-mannered kids.”




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How Music Can Change Your Brain




How Music Changes Your Brain - by  Melissa Locker

There's little doubt that learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains.
Science has shown that when children learn to play music, their brains begin to hear and process sounds that they couldn't otherwise hear. This helps them develop "neurophysiological distinction" between certain sounds that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.
Many parents probably read the above sentence and started mentally Google-ing child music classes in their local area. But if your kid doesn't like learning an instrument or doesn't actively engage in the class--opting to stare at the wall or doodle in a notebook instead of participating--he or she may not be getting all the benefits of those classes anyway.
A new study from Northwestern University revealed that in order to fully reap the cognitive benefits of a music class, kids can't just sit there and let the sound of music wash over them. They have to be actively engaged in the music and participate in the class. "Even in a group of highly motivated students, small variations in music engagement — attendance and class participation — predicted the strength of neural processing after music training," said Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, in an email to TIME. She co-authored the study with Jane Hornickel, Dana L. Strait, Jessica Slater and Elaine Thompson of Northwestern University.
Additionally, the study showed that students who played instruments in class had more improved neural processing than the children who attended the music appreciation group. "We like to say that 'making music matters,'" said Kraus. "Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain."
Kraus, whose research appeared today in Frontiers in Psychology, continued: "Our results support the importance of active experience and meaningful engagement with sound to stimulate changes in the brain." Active participation and meaningful engagement translate into children being highly involved in their musical training--these are the kids who had good attendance, who paid close attention in class, "and were the most on-task during their lesson," said Kraus.
To find these results, Kraus's team went straight to the source, hooking up strategically placed electrode wires on the students' heads to capture the brain's responses.
Kraus's team at Northwestern has teamed up with The Harmony Project, a community music program serving low-income children in Los Angeles, after Harmony's founder approached Kraus to provide scientific evidence behind the program's success with students.
According to The Harmony Project's website, since 2008, 93 percent of Harmony Project seniors have gone on to college, despite a dropout rate of 50 percent or more in their neighborhoods. It's a pretty impressive achievement and the Northwestern team designed a study to explore those striking numbers. That research, published in September in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed direct evidence that music training has a biological effect on children's developing nervous systems.
As a follow up, the team decided to test whether the level of engagement in that music training actually matters. Turns out, it really does. Researchers found that after two years, children who not only regularly attended music classes, but also actively participated in the class, showed larger improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers.
"It turns out that playing a musical instrument is important," Kraus said, differentiating her group's findings from the now- debunked myth that just listening to certain types of music improves intelligence, the so-called "Mozart effect." "We don't see these kinds of biological changes in people who are just listening to music, who are not playing an instrument," said Kraus. "I like to give the analogy that you're not going to become physically fit just by watching sports." It's important to engage with the sound in order to reap the benefits and see changes in the central nervous system.
As to how to keep children interested in playing instruments, that's up to the parents. "I think parents should follow their intuitions with respect to keeping their children engaged," said Kraus. "Find the kind of music they love, good teachers, an instrument they'll like. Making music should be something that children enjoy and will want to keep doing for many years!"
With that in mind, it's not too late to trade in those Minecraft LegosFrozen paraphernalia, XBox games, and GoldieBlox presents that you may have purchased, and swap them out for music lessons for the kids in your life.
Original Article Here

Friday, May 12, 2017

This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On Music!



Musical training doesn't just improve your ear for music — it helps your ear for speech. That's the takeaway from an unusual new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers found that kids who took music lessons for two years didn't just get better at playing the trombone or violin; they found that playing music also helped kids' brains process language.
Something else unusual about the study: where it took place. It wasn't a laboratory, but in the offices of Harmony Project in Los Angeles. It's a nonprofit after-school program that teaches music to children in low-income communities.
Two nights a week, neuroscience and musical learning meet at Harmony's Hollywood headquarters, where some two-dozen children gather to learn how to play flutes, oboes, trombones and trumpets. The program also includes on-site instruction at many public schools across Los Angeles County.
Harmony Project is the brainchild of Margaret Martin, whose life path includes parenting two kids while homeless before earning a doctorate in public health. A few years ago, she noticed something remarkable about the kids who had gone through her program.
"Since 2008, 93 percent of our high school seniors have graduated in four years and have gone on to colleges like Dartmouth, Tulane, NYU," Martin says, "despite dropout rates of 50 percent or more in the neighborhoods where they live and where we intentionally site our programs."

There are plenty of possible explanations for that success. Some of the kids and parents the program attracts are clearly driven. Then there's access to instruments the kids couldn't otherwise afford, and the lessons, of course. Perhaps more importantly, Harmony Project gives kids a place to go after the bell rings, and access to adults who will challenge and nurture them. Keep in mind, many of these students come from families or neighborhoods that have been ravaged by substance abuse or violence — or both.
Still, Martin suspected there was something else, too — something about actually playing music — that was helping these kids.
Enter neurobiologist Nina Kraus, who runs the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. When a mutual acquaintance at the National Institutes of Health introduced her to Martin, Kraus jumped at the chance to explore Martin's hunch and to study the Harmony Project kids and their brains.

Breaking Down Brainwaves
Before we get to what, exactly, Kraus' team did or how they did it, here's a quick primer on how the brain works:

The brain depends on neurons. Whenever we take in new information — through our ears, eyes or skin — those neurons talk to each other by firing off electrical pulses. We call these brainwaves. With scalp electrodes, Kraus and her team can both see and hear these brainwaves.
Using some relatively new, expensive and complicated technology, Kraus can also break these brainwaves down into their component parts — to better understand how kids process not only music but speech, too. That's because the two aren't that different. They have three common denominators — pitch, timing and timbre — and the brain uses the same circuitry to make sense of them all.
In other research, Kraus had noticed something about the brains of kids who come from poverty, like many in the Harmony Project. These children often hear fewer words by age 5 than other kids do.
And that's a problem, Kraus says, because "in the absence of stimulation, the nervous system ... hungry for stimulation ... will make things up. So, in the absence of sound, what we saw is that there was just more random background activity, which you might think of as static."
In addition to that "neural noise," as Kraus calls it, ability to process sound — like telling the difference between someone saying "ba" and "ga" — requires microsecond precision in the brain. And many kids raised in poverty, Kraus says, simply have a harder time doing it; individual sounds can seem "blurry" to the brain. (To hear an analogy of this, using an iconic Mister Rogers monologue — giving you some sense of what the brain of a child raised in poverty might hear — be sure to listen to the audio version of this story.)

Working with Harmony Project, Kraus randomly assigned several dozen kids from the program's waitlist into two groups: those who would be studied after one year of music lessons and those who would be studied after two years.
And what she found was that in the two-year kids, the static didn't go away. But their brains got better — more precise — at processing sound. In short: less blur.

Why The Improvement?
It goes back to pitch, timing and timbre. Kraus argues that learning music improves the brain's ability to process all three, which helps kids pick up language, too. Consonants and vowels become clearer, and the brain can make sense of them more quickly.
That's also likely to make life easier at school, not just in music class but in math class, too — and everywhere else.
To be clear, the study has its limits. It was small — roughly 50 kids, ranging in age from 6 to 9. It wasn't conducted in a lab. And it's hard to know if kids doing some other activity could have experienced similar benefits.
But 10th-grader Monica Miranda doesn't need proof that playing violin has helped her. She's one of the first students in the door at a recent Harmony Project re-enrollment event in the auditorium of a nearby elementary school.
"I feel like music really connects with education," she says. "It helps you concentrate more."
Miranda is in her third year with Harmony Project.
"When I do my homework or I'm studying for something and I feel overwhelmed, I usually go to my violin, to start playing it," Miranda says. "I feel like it relaxes my mind. And coming here to play with an orchestra, it's just amazing. I love it."
And, the science says, her brain loves it, too.

Original Article at NPR

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Are You a Guilty Parent?

Original Article by: Ann Smith Healthy Connections
 I rarely meet a parent who denies having guilt about how they have raised their children. For most of us a moderate amount of guilt is actually a sign of love, our strong attachment and commitment to do the best we can to raise healthy children. Of course it is a matter of degrees. As in all things, too much or too little can create a serious problem for both parent and child. The trick is to know we have it and why and more importantly, how it drives our choices and actions in our role as parent. Guilt is an emotion, not a reality or a life sentence. Guilt arises when we become aware of failing to be the best we could have been for our children. It comes and goes and can be mild or debilitating. Guilt tries to tell us something is wrong and needs to be corrected. If it isn't faced it will turn into shame, a feeling of worthlessness and a negative sense of self. Guilt can heal and be resolved with compassion and time. It lessens when shared out in the open and with understanding. Shame is more difficult to resolve. It is not about making mistakes. It is about being a mistake. In time and with help it too can be lessened. What do we feel guilty about? Scroll down...  
These are the Top 20 comments I hear from parents about their guilt:
  • I wasn't there enough.

• I didn't listen.
• I was too focused on the house and work.
• I wasn't affectionate enough.
• I was critical.
• I yelled, hit, and blamed.
• I was a bad role model.
• I didn't take the time to understand my children..
• I wasn't consistent
• I pushed too hard.
• I didn't push enough.
• I spanked.
• I drank.
• I was depressed.
• I fought with my children's dad or mom.
• I got divorced.
• I said hurtful things.
• I was selfish.
• I ignored my child.
• I didn't protect my children.

 When Guilt Becomes Destructive:
Guilt is a normal emotion that can be a warning sign or nudge in the right direction when it arises as a result of inappropriate behavior or stepping outside our own values. For some, guilt becomes a chronic, even obsessive thought process that is no longer connected to a specific mistake or regrettable action. When guilty parents become stuck in their pain they may be unwittingly creating more serious problems for themselves and even their children. If a child becomes depressed, exhibits problem behavior, has ADHD, uses drugs or alcohol, gets poor grades, is lazy, is defiant of authority, overweight, anorexic etc. guilty parents react in a variety of ways to cope with their pain. They may not be aware of the guilt, shame or any of their emotions but will instead act out what is going on internally. Self-blame can appear in many forms including enabling, dramatic pleas for change, threatening, blaming the child for your distress "How could you do this to me," withdrawing, raging, anxiety, hovering or even quitting as a parent. Guilt can linger and follow us long after children are out of the nest. Many parents do not realize that when they are visibly and dramatically upset about how their child is developing or performing, a normal child will internalize that as "I am not enough" or "I'm hurting my Dad and Mom." Since children's well-being depends on their attachment to us, they may work harder to be what they believe we want them to be even it is isn't best for them. Some may run away emotionally, rejecting our help in order to cope. When a guilty parent pushes a child toward perfection, children may feel the need to appear okay while denying their struggles and feelings.

The Good News about Guilt There is a silver lining here. If you're stuck in this cycle of parenting - you can find a healthier way to manager your guilt and/or shame. Remember that parenting does not need to be perfect. Our children learn from every experience in their lives, even our mistakes. If you had a very painful childhood you may be falling into the trap of viewing your children through the lens of your pain. You may be driven by your need to make it all better by giving your children a pain free childhood. Do have compassion for yourself and your painful experiences. But try to separate your past experience from the new and improved approach you are providing for your children. The goal is "good enough" -- not perfection. Children need some challenges and frustrations to become healthy functioning adults. Remember to stand back and look at ourselves and our children as complex human beings. It is obvious that we are all imperfect, unpredictable, inconsistent, driven by heredity and environment, as well as resilient, and capable of change. I remember myself as a young woman of 24, already divorced with a two-year-old son. I had no idea how young I was and how immature.

I made many mistakes and I still have a twinge of guilt, mostly about being selfish and impulsive. However, I now have compassion for myself at that stage of my life. I know in my heart that I did the best I could with what I knew at the time and I had a lot of growing up to do. The guilt I carried about being divorced was a heavy burden for me and my burden could have become a burden to my son. With help I discovered that my child did not have to be okay to convince me that I was a good mother. A wise therapist once told me that children have a right to and a need for their own story in life. That includes making and learning from mistakes which my guilt could not allow. I learned that guilt could no longer play a part in my role as parent. I went on to have a daughter and as my children grew I also had to learn that guilt did not need to be the spoiler in my memories of the joys and challenges of raising them. The key is to focus on the process of parenting, which is basically loving, guiding and reassuring children instead of focusing on the outcome or how they turn out. Learning how to do this will ease the pressure of guilt and will help all of us to accept children as they are and to gradually let go of our role of parenting once they reach adulthood. Ann Smith is the Executive Director of Breakthrough at Caron. For more information, visit Breakthrough online or like Healthy Connections on Facebook.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Shame and Parenting




by Gary Benson

Throughout this article are links to click for books and DVDs on healing shame and emotional hurt.

If we heal ourselves as adults then we won't pass on our unhealed shame to our children. That is the best form of parenting  imaginable. 

Shame and growing up: As adults most of us carry shame. As baby's none of us have built in shame or unresolved hurt. It's learned and assimilated into our psyche.

Life should never be shamed or put down. From the time we are baby's we are told not to cry, what's right and wrong, we are spanked or hit with verbal or physical abuse. As baby's we have no way to process that. Babies are needy and that's okay. As babies we only want to be acknowledged and held. This doesn't mean parents need to give in to every whim of the crying baby. It's not about giving in. It's about the  ability to acknowledge your child's feelings and be there to hold them even though they may not be getting the candy they want. This neediness isn't about getting the object they want, it's about being respected and loved emotionally. Unconditionally.  But if, as a parent, you've never had that kind of love then it's impossible to provide that for your child.  Your shame stems from our parents inability to heal themselves and the pain they carry.  They don't do it maliciously but this is who they are and without healing there is no way to stop it. Each person has their own set of blocked up pain or/and shame so we have to find our own journey to healing. There's always clues because our body/mind ultimately knows what we're hiding.

When a flower sprouts do we look at it and shame it if it's not growing perfectly? Everything is an expression of  life and has a right to thrive. Contrary to some popular religious beliefs you are not born flawed or dirty. There is no judgment in your birth. There is no hierarchy with which to label good or bad, flawed or sinful. You are just an expression of life.

Just because we seem to have more control and power over our reality doesn't mean we are flawed. The sin comes in after our birth and it comes in the way of being afraid of fear and hurt and never healing. Somewhere along the line the pain was so great that we twisted it, hid it and denied it. We carry that on from father/mother to son and daughter. That may be where the Christian idea of original sin comes in. What other life on earth has the ability to twist itself up so much that it's constantly hurting and making an effort not to live?

If we don't ignore that ability of humans to inflict pain on themselves and ultimately lash out at others then we're left with the question of, "how do we really live?"

We can live fully engaged if we heal and accept ourselves, love ourselves and respect ourselves then the  same will be done for others. Any hurt we inflict on someone else is only an expression of our inability to deal with ourselves.

How to do this? How do we heal when we don't even know what it is to heal? Some people are so bound up in their shame that they will not ever be able to separate it from who they are and it will spin that web forever and ever. That actually may be the way things work in a balanced world. Maybe some will never heal and some will and that's the beauty.

If you're reading this you're on the road to healing. You have some awareness of the need. To keep things in balance it is your journey to heal your shame and move with love in the world. If we all do that there would be no war but if that happened then there would be no reason to be here. We would all be in metaphorical heaven and be dead. If we don't have any duality, good, bad, living/dying then we are dead and there is no pain.

While I'm here I'll choose to take the opportunity to engage in this life the way I was born into it, pure, living not shamed, in love. In this way I can help others onto this path and feel I lived a full life in the world. We all have choices. I'll choose to live while I'm here!

I have come to healing my shame through getting in touch with my emotions and my body. Originally I dealt with my shame by cutting off my heart from my head. Integrating the two and  facing my pain instead of running from it has become my vehicle  for healing. As I traverse this winding road I'll post more about my experiences. Now go out and find your journey to yourself! It's painful and exciting and as real as it gets!

by Gary Benson