Thursday, May 31, 2012

Become a Dr. Momsie Sponsor!

Maybe you've noticed the tab above that says "Sponsor."  I am excited about the opportunity to support other bloggers and shops by displaying ads on my sidebar!  See, over there to the right where I've been cleaning off space?  That's where your ad will be prominently displayed!  I will have three advertising choices:  Featured Sponsor, Medium, and Itsy-Bitsy. 

A Featured Sponsor will not only be fairly large (200X300), but also will be at the top portion of the sidebar and will have an opportunity to guestpost on Darlingist Dr. Momsie!  I also will introduce my Featured Sponsors in a blog posting and promote you just as much as I can!

A Medium ad space will be slightly smaller (200X200) and will be located under the Featured Sponsors.  This will be the perfect size to get noticed.

An Itsy-Bitsy sponsor is a small ad space (100X100) and will be below the Medium ads.  Some of these spots will be available for a swap, if you're interested in free advertising!

Each ad will run thirty days from the date purchased.  Payment is made through Paypal from Passionfruit Ads.

See the "Sponsor" tab for more information!  And, keep checking out this site for upcoming ads for fabulous blogs from my sponsors!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Feature: Ask Dr. Momsie!

I'm starting a new feature, "Ask Dr. Momsie," where I will entertain questions from my readers and offer my best possible advice.  Ask me questions about child development, education, and your child's behavior problems.

Wondering if your child's quirkiness is "normal" behavior?  Ask Dr. Momsie.
Wondering what to do about a learning problem your child is experiencing?  Ask Dr. Momsie.
Wondering how to talk to your child after a death of a loved one?  Ask Dr. Momsie.
Wondering what in the world to do after a trauma impacts your child?  Ask Dr. Momsie.
Are you a teacher wondering how to manage the behaviors of a difficult student? Ask Dr. Momsie.

Just go to the above tab "Ask Dr. Momsie" and submit your question in the form.  I will contact you with a response, and I may even feature the advice on this blog.  So, please don't share anything you wouldn't want me to post (though I will work with you to insure your privacy).  

So, bring it on, readers!

*Please be aware that submitting a question for "Ask Dr. Momsie" does not qualify as a therapeutic relationship. If you are experiencing a crisis or thinking about suicide please call 9-1-1 or 1-800-273-TALK.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Believe in Post Abortion Syndrome

My job is so amazing.  I really do feel privileged to be able to hear and be a part of the stories of so many awesome kids.  There is no better place to do that then in the public schools. There are times, though, when it is very difficult to be a psychologist in the public schools and be a Christian.  It is my job to be unbiased, to not impose my belief system on the "client." Usually, this is no problem. 

When a young girl comes to me to discuss abortion, however, I really struggle to work with her in an unbiased way.  I do believe abortion is wrong. Even stronger than that belief, though, is my great compassion for women who have experienced an abortion.  Although much secular research has shown that there are few long-term psychological effects of having abortion, I have consistently seen differently.  Many young girls have come to me after having an abortion and expressed great shame, regret, and depression.  I sat with one young lady that cried for two days in the nurse's office after having an abortion.  Others, after having an abortion, quickly filled their regret with a new pregnancy.  Although many girls I see are relieved that the burden of an unwanted pregnancy is gone, they struggle with the idea that they have ended a life.  Having personally seen the effects of abortion on young women, my negative personal stance against it has grown.  My heart aches for the pain they feel.  Still, I am obligated professionally to provide an unbiased point of view. 

I fall back on the research. The research in this area is very politicized.  Most researchers also work from their own biased point of view, and this is evident in their writing.  Most research has indeed shown that usually there are few negative psychological effects following abortion, but large meta-analyses of the research pinpoint several factors that increase the risk of poor outcomes for women. 
  • Religious or moral beliefs against abortion. Women who go against their belief systems when choosing abortion are more likely to experience poor psychological outcomes.
  • Late term abortions. As a mother, after that first time you feel the baby kick, it would be very difficult to end the pregnancy. It gets harder and harder to claim that the moving baby inside is not "life."
  • Coercion. Having to end the life of a baby you'd like to keep can be devastating.
  • Multiple abortions. It becomes more and more difficult to cope emotionally with each abortion.
  • Little social support.
  • Previous history of mental health issues.
Even the most pro-choice researchers and organizations acknowledge these risk factors (including the American Psychological Association). I feel comfortable sharing this list with students to help them see if they are at risk of post-abortive psychological distress prior to choosing abortion.

For young ladies (and men) who are having difficulty following the choice to end their pregnancy, I recommend post-abortive counseling. I strongly believe in Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS), as I've seen it many times.  This is not a popular stance in the secular mental health field today.  But, it is not uncommon for a young lady to come to me feeling guilt, depression, numbness, or anger following an abortion. Many also become promiscuous or perfectionistic.  The experience of an abortion can be even be traumatizing, causing unwanted re-experiencing and avoidance. These hurting women need help.

If you are, or know of, a woman who is having difficulty dealing with a past abortion I highly recommend Rachel's Vineyard.  Rachel's Vineyard is an organization with locations across the world that are dedicated to helping woman and men heal following an abortion.  They hold support groups and weekend retreats designed to help post-abortive people find healing and peace.  I have attended one of the local retreats, and found it to be an amazing, healing, supportive, non-judgmental, loving experience.  There is healing for the grief of abortion!

Remember the merciful words of Jesus, "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

Love is Black, White, Tan

I love this song by Nicole C. Mullen. She is an African American Christian singer who is married to a Caucasian man. They have a couple of children, and her daughter, Jasmine, sings this song with her. It is the perfect message of color and acceptance for biracial children. This song made me a little teary even before Jr. was born. Now, because I often think about how Jr. will be accepted and how he will view himself as a biracial child, this song makes me a smidge more emotional.


Momma looks like coffee, Daddy looks like cream
Baby is a mocha drop American dream
All the colors of the rainbow are in her family tree
Woven all together in a paisley tapestry

She holds real tightly to her parents' hands
Baby loves that woman, baby loves that man
And her soul gives a smile 'cause she understands
That love is black, white, tan
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah black, white, tan

Everyone is precious in the Father's site
It don't matter red or yellow, black or white
He just loves ya 'cause He loves ya
I tell you this is true
You are not a color and a color is not you

Visit Nicole C. Mullen's website at for more awesome Christian music!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Haiku - "What a Mess"

Summer blackberry
juices squished all through the house
Life with a toddler

Friday, May 25, 2012

How Babies are Like Dogs

My husband has been telling me for months that babies and dogs are nearly the same.  I’m not a dog-in-the-bed, doggie-kisses-on-the-face type of dog owner, so I’ve rejected that idea with great repulsion.   Don’t get me wrong, I love our “Doughboy,” but I’ve never been one to humanize animals.  Secretly, though, I have to admit that his arguments make sense.   
Doughboy and Jr. both . . .

·          . . . cry to wake us up in the morning.  Some days it’s the baby whining that wakes us up at the crack of dawn; other days it’s the dog whining to go outside.

·          . . . love to go for walks.  Between the two of them, we could walk around the neighborhood all day long.

·          . . . walk on all fours.  Jr.’s been a bi-ped for a few months now, but before that he was on the same level as Doughboy.

·         . . . hide objects.  Doughboy’s been known to hide bones and Jr.’s been known to hide the remote, my favorite lip gloss, the keys . . .

·          . . . sleep a lot.  This was especially true when Jr. was a newborn.  Still, he’ll sleep a good 10 hours at night and take a couple good naps during the day.  Wish I could!

·          . . . pretend not to hear us.  We know that they both recognize their names, but sometimes they act like they don’t.

·         . . . love and hate taking a bath.  Doughboy will run to the bathtub when he hears the water run, but when you put him in, he trembles and whimpers.  TJ is the opposite – the minute you get his clothes off for bath time, he runs off.  Once he’s in, though, he’s as happy as can be.

·         . . . will do a lot for a treat.  Maybe you’ve read about how I’ve used treats and “incentives” to end daycare pickup tantrums.  Doughboy will also conform into a completely new being when he sees a “Beggin’ Strip.

·          . . .eats food off the floor.  It’s a race for that fruit snack that fell out of your hand.

·         . . . hold no grudges when we suck as parents.  Neither have any memory of us totally losing our cool the day before.  They are both completely forgiving and loving.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Male Underachievement: What A Shame!

Finding time to write this week has been pretty tough. We're winding down the school year, so I'm frantically meeting with all "my kids" to close for the year. Last week, I had a break from counseling to attend a senior award ceremony at the high school where I work. I love attending these rare occasions where we give the students reinforcement for positive behavior. I usually only know the students that are having problems or are a problem, so it is nice to see the students who are successful.  Even better is when one of “my kids” receives an award or diploma! Moments like those make my job worthwhile.

Aside from the fist-fight that broke out between two parents in the middle of the event, it was really a lovely ceremony, full of pomp and circumstance. (Really, though, who fights in the middle of an awards ceremony?  Get a grip, parents.)  As scholarship after scholarship was awarded to the poor, urban, minority (primarily African-American) seniors, I began to notice a disturbing trend.  Of the 35 scholarships awarded, only 8 where awarded to males.  Less than half (I would guess even less than a third) of the senior class was male.

Male graduation rates are declining worldwide.  The Schott Foundation’s 50 State Report on Black Males & Education found that less than half of African-American males graduate from high school. College graduation rates are even more dismal. This is an alarming trend and one that I am especially disturbed about, as I work primarily with this population and my son is bi-racial. 

After having Jr., I became interested in the research and literature on male achievement.  I have found overwhelming evidence that males of all ethnicities are achieving at lower rates than females.  Peg Tyre tells of the following trends in her book “The Trouble with Boys”:

·        Boys get expelled from preschool 5 times the rate of girls.

·        In elementary, boys are 4 times as likely to be diagnosed with attention or learning problems.

·        Boys are twice as likely to be held back in elementary school.

·        Boys are more likely the victims of violent crime.

·        Boys commit suicide in far greater numbers than females.

·        More girls graduate high school and attend college than males.

·        The gender gap at some universities has become such a problem that some universities are engaging in affirmative action type programs to increase their male population. 

Why this decline in male achievement?  Over the last forty years, we have worked hard to gain equality in education for females.  It is true, education in our country was very biased against females and many times schooling was not even an option for women.  With the rise of feminism in the 1960’s, great steps were made to ensure that females were encouraged to become educated and males were seen as a privileged group that needn’t any special encouragement or training.  This has worked magnificently for females, and I reap the benefits as a highly educated female.  However, in our focus on educating females, our boys may have been ignored and neglected.

Today’s classroom instruction plays to the strengths of females and leaves males frustrated and uninspired.  First, many schools have cut out recess and physical education.  Recess has been shown to actually help children pay attention.  Any parent or teacher that has found success in having their kids “get their wiggles out” knows this to be true.  Boys are naturally more active than girls.  Yet, our schools are set up to value compliance, non-movement (sit in your seat!), quiet concentration, and other behaviors that are much easier for females.  Elementary teachers are overwhelmingly female, and many do not have tolerance for the fidgety, active males in their classes.

Secondly, school curriculums often cater to the biological strengths of females.  Males mature physically and cognitively later than females.  A “Matthew Effect” (the rich get richer, the poor get poorer) in reading develops, where boys who are already behind in reading get farther and farther behind.  By fourth grade (“fourth grade slump”) when students are asked to move from learning to read to reading to learn, boys fall even farther behind.   And, falling behind in reading can have devastating effects on all areas of academic achievement.   A lack of literacy skills, especially writing skills, explains why many males are not going to college, or when they get there they don’t make it to graduation.

African-American males are especially at risk for academic failure.  I’ve seen the statistic that 72% of black children are raised in a single-parent home.  Without positive male role models in the home, behavioral and academic problems are accentuated.  Little boys need to see men around reading.  They also need a man that is close to them sending them the message that being educated is “cool” and honorable.  

Another probable factor lies within the Negro narrative of obfuscation, which teaches that outside circumstances are likely to undermine any positive steps one takes in life.  In a discussion of this topic by YvetteCarnell, she suggests that our culture perpetuates this belief and continually sends Black males the message that they are more likely to end up in prison than to graduate high school.  We teach our Black youth that “failure is not only possible, but probable.”  Carnell suggests we “nurture a grander dream” for our Black men.   Instead of teaching them that the world is out to get them and the cards are stacked against them, we should help foster a new perception, that they have power in making choices and determining their life course. 

All our young men need to hear a similar message.  A message from their community, family, and educators that we don’t just want to see them be successful on the football field, but also in the classroom.  That we aren’t hanging all our hopes for the future in our young women, but we need educated, strong, brave men to excel in this country.  We need our boys to become leaders of our homes, leaders of our institutions, and to stand beside our well-educated women as experts and scholars.  We need to let our young men know that we believe in them and that we’re willing to be patient and foster their academic needs. 

Let’s put our money behind our words.  Wouldn’t a fat check for college send a clear message about the confidence we have in our boys to succeed?  Let’s start by giving them a few scholarships here and there. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Put on the Psychologist Hat, Momsie! Sleep

In preparation for an upcoming post I'm planning about Jr.'s current sleep situation, I'd like to share a post from my previous blog. Here goes!

As a psychologist, I’ve often thought of myself as a behaviorist. Us behaviorists would assert that all behaviors are aquired through some type of conditioning. You know, rewards, punishments, Pavlov’s dog. Some behaviorists cling to this theory so strongly that they would agree with what the famous behaviorist John Watson attested,
“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select — doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.” —John Watson, Behaviorism, 1930
Now, I’ve never believed that we have that much control over a child’s behavior just through conditioning techniques, I do believe in free will, genetic factors, etc. But, I’ve always implemented behavioral modification techniques in my practice that strongly rely on the principles of classical and operant conditioning (again, in a nutshell, rewards and punishments).

Prior to becoming a parent, I thought conditioning practices would come naturally as a mom. Then, I had TJ. Our biggest challenge, from the moment he exited the womb, was sleep. He always has wanted to eat, eat, eat throughout the night. And, to fall asleep, daddy and I would have to bounce, sing, rock, cover his wide open eyes with a blankie, and try a dozen other goofy techniques before he finally would accidently doze off. I resorted to every parenting strategy I had always said I would never do, rocking the baby for hours, letting the baby sleep in our bed, and responding to the baby’s every whimper. This felt so natural, so loving!

At TJ’s four month check-up,TJ’s doctor let us know that TJ was old enough to sleep through the night without needing a feeding. He suggested a cry-it-out technique to get him to learn to fall asleep on his own, self-soothe, and not use mommy as a 24 hour fast-food establishment. Now, by this point, I had already read about five books on infant sleep and was convinved a cry-it-out technique was not for us. Crying-it-out techniques, by the way, require the parents to leave the baby in the crib and let the baby cry until he puts himself to sleep. With my mommy hat on, I couldn’t imagine letting my sweet cuddly baby boy cry while I listened from the other room. So, I discarded the doctor’s advice and continued to wake with TJ multiple times a night.

By 5 1/2 months, though, I was exhausted. And, TJ had been conditioned. I had successfully reinforced the pattern of baby wakes, baby cries, mommy holds, feeds, and soothes. Mommy might even put baby in the bed with her. I had positively reinforced this wakeful sleep pattern (my response to crying actually increased the crying!).

So, I picked up my behaviorist hat. I still knew that I could not let TJ cry and cry. This is called an extinction technique - remove the reinforcer completely and eventually the behavior (crying) ceases. It’s quick (one night might do the trick) but painful (hours of crying with no soothing from mommy or daddy). I was prepared for a more gradual extinction, a shaping technique perhaps. I decided the sleep technique that fit most with my personal parenting style was Kim West’s Sleep Lady Shuffle. Such as silly name, but a genius technique that mixes cry-it-out extinction with parental soothing and warmth.

Essentially, there are three stages to the sleep training. In the first, you stay by your baby’s bed until he falls asleep. This could take hours and there may be some crying. But, you’re allowed to soothe through (careful) touch and sounds. Each time the baby wakes, you take your bedside position. This lasts three nights. For the next two stages, you gradually move farther and farther from the bed until you are out of the room. For more information see Kim West’s website and read her book "The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight."

TJ’s sleep training was tough the first night. He did cry. But, my husband and I were there to talk and sing to him, and occasionally pat and rub his back. He was learning the skill with the support of his parents. After the first night, TJ had it. He fell asleep quicker and with less wakings each night. The fourth night, when we moved away from the crib (less touch) was a little rough, but again, we were there to sing and soothe verbally. After the first week, I couldn’t believe that our little sleep monster was actually falling asleep and staying asleep on his own!

I was finally able to wear both hats at once, mommy and psychologist. I learned that as a mommy it is important to find a sleep training technique that fits with your personal parenting style. As a psychologist, I learned that modified extinction techniques that add a touch of parental warmth will work! Just be sure to be consistent with whatever technique you choose. Inconsistency in reinforcement is really cruel (and I mean that - it is cruel) to your baby. It actually strengthens the wakeful crying conditioning when you are inconsistent - sometimes responding and sometimes not (variable ratios of reinforcement are the strongest reinforcers!).

Good luck tired mommies! There is hope :)

“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” Psalm 4:8

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Too Much Love for Daycare?

When we started looking for a daycare for Jr., it was not without much prayer.  It is such a hard thing to leave your baby all day with strangers; we really wanted to find somewhere where he would be happy and loved.  I felt more comfortable with a reputable daycare center over a small in-home daycare or even a nanny, because there is more accountability and oversight (in my point of view) at a center.  If one teacher is irritable and having a bad day, another teacher can keep her "in check" and pick up any slack.  We also wanted to find somewhere associated with a church, so that Christian values would guide the teachers work and interaction with the children. 

We have been extremely pleased with the awesome center we have found!  It really has been an answer to those heart wrenching prayers during our daycare search and Jr's beginning days at the center. The three teachers seem to really love Jr. and they have taught him some beautiful things - like raising his arms over his head when they say, "Praise the Lord!"  So stinkin' cute.

And, Jr. loves his teachers.  Although he had some pretty strong separation problems from six to nine months, he is clearly over that now.  He used to have some teary goodbyes on Monday mornings, but now, he runs in and starts playing with his friends.  This is exactly what I wanted - for my baby to be happy, loved, and well-adjusted to daycare!  But, can a toddler love daycare too much? 

Within the last couple weeks, Jr. has started throwing tantrums when I pick him up from daycare.  He is usually having so much fun riding the stroller buggy, playing with toys, or running around, that he has a hard time going home with me.  He usually seems pleased to see me, and may even run over to me for a second.  But, as soon as I try to remove him from the toys, stroller buggy, or snacks, he arches his backs, screams, and kicks his legs.

Sometimes, his beloved teachers rescue him. They just can't stand to witness such a tantrum.  They may pick him up or take him from me, tell him he can take a toy home or try to otherwise distract him.  I'm pretty sure this isn't helping the problem.  (See me rolling my eyes.  Get a grip, teachers.)

Yesterday, in a fit of distress over leaving the buggy, my precious boy head-butted me right on the cheekbone.  This was painful.  But, I didn't want his very concerned teacher to think that I couldn't handle it, so I just kept on smiling and said, "Oops!"  (Now, I'm rolling my eyes at myself.)

I've been keeping my husband abreast of this developing situation, and apparently he does not have the same problem when he is in charge of pick-up.  He asked me if I wanted to read his Cesar Milan book, "Be the Pack Leader."  He says approaching Jr. for pick-up is much like training a dog.  They can sense your anxiety, so you must be calm assertive.  (Another eye roll).

So, I'm feeling quite inadequate.  I'm a psychologist!  I should know how to handle this!  I'm the mommy!  My baby should be dying to see me and come home with me!  Sigh.

I've decided I must think like a psychologist.  I have two choices to modify his behavior - reinforcements or punishments. Just for clarification, reinforcements are those things that increase behavior and punishments are those that decrease behavior.  I will try reinforcements first, as it's really hard to punish a 13 month old.  The behavior to increase - leaving daycare with mommy without tantrums and/or bodily harm to mommy.  Today, I am going to daycare with an arsenal of Jr.'s most beloved items, sing-a-ma-jig, snacks, and his pacifier.  I'm sure these will be just the reinforcers (we don't say "bribes") needed to turn the tantrum monster into a compliant young boy.  Who needs the Dog Whisperer?  I'm Dr. Momsie!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Super Momsie

In honor of Mother's Day and all the wonderful and diverse mothers I know, I'd like to make one more comment to calm the flames of controversy over the silly Time Magazine cover that asked "Are You Mom Enough?"  Every mom I know is trying to be "mom enough" and do the best job they can for their children.  Articles like this fan the flames of the so called "mommy wars" - to breastfeed or not to breastfeed; to cosleep or not to cosleep; to cry it out or not to cry it out . . .   Whether we stay-at-home or work away from the home, put our child in daycare or hire a nanny, have a natural birth or have an epidural, we all just want to do this thing called motherhood the best we can.  With the pressure of Pinterest perfection and mommy bloggers sharing all their awesomeness, average momsies (like myself) can sometimes feel less than super.  The reality is that even if we want to portray ourselves as having it all together- the house, the job, the crafts, the elaborate dinner recipes, the nutrition, the parenting tricks - we all will have successes and failures.  So, what makes a super momsie?
  • Loving your children with all your heart. 
  • Balancing that love with limits and discipline.
  • Offering nutritional choices for meals (most of the time).
  • Providing supervision and safety.
  • Taking time to play once in awhile.
  • Loving our spouse the best we can.
  • Valuing education.
  • Praising our child's effort not his/her abilities.
  • Nurturing our child's own unique "bent."
  • Thanking God for medical advances like formula and C-sections for when situations are less than ideal.
  • Admitting and asking forgiveness when we make mistakes.
  • Forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May I Weigh In?

Anyone tired of hearing opinions on the Time Magazine cover? Hope not.

You've all seen it - a sexy thin mom breastfeeding a nearly-four year old. I won't comment on the story itself, as I haven't read it. (I have a pet peeve of people commenting on written material they haven't actually read). But I would like to share my thoughts on the topic of Attachment Parenting. (No, the article apparently isn't just about how old is too old to breastfeed). Attachment Parenting is a parenting style characterized by breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and sling wearing. The idea is that during infancy, a major task of development is attachment to a caregiver. Babies whose needs are consistently met with love and comfort develop healthy attachment and learn to trust. This ability to attach is extremely important in the rest of the child's life. I see too many children with poor attachment that have behavioral and emotional issues. These last until adulthood, impacting one's marriage and their own ability to parent.

Before having Jr., I must admit I wasn't much of a fan of Attachment Parenting (AP) - at least the co-sleeping part. But, after Jr. was born, the only way the little rascal would sleep at night was on my tummy, curled up like a pillbug. I realized that this loud, bright world was shocking and confusing for my little man, and he needed the comfort and security of his parents to adjust. I developed a new view of AP. I read the heck out of Dr. Sears and found a lot of AP comes very naturally. We co-slept for several months, still breastfeed, and loved to wear the baby in a carrier when he was smaller.

I now see AP as a spectrum or continuum. On either end of the continuum for or against, there may be parenting problems. Strict AP may lead to permissive parenting, coming from a fear of damaging the attachment. Strict anti-AP parents may be too authoritarian, missing out on a loving connection with their baby. A nice balance is probably one that engages in attachment-encouraging nurturance while setting limits and structure. Some of the parents I know couldn't breastfeed, but co-sleep. Others did neither, but consistently and lovingly respond to their child's needs. Even though we began co-sleeping, we eventually realized Jr. needed us to set some limits and he learned to sleep even better than ever in his own crib.

Some of this balance depends on your child's temperament. Some babies need more comfort and others need more boundaries. And, needs change throughout infancy - just like Jr.'s need to co-sleep.

So, might a three or four year old still need the comfort of breastfeeding? Maybe, but probably not. At some point, there has to be a boundary set and the child needs to learn self-soothing strategies. Whatever the case, we know that the most important years for building attachment are before the age of five. Parents should be mindful of this while taking seriously their responsibly to set loving limits.

Feed on breastfeeders! Or don't.
My little pillbug, about a year ago.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Catharsis Baloney

I heard yesterday about a place that is opening in Dallas that I just can't resist sharing my opinion about.  It is an establishment that allows you to "express" your anger by punching mannequins, breaking plates, popping balloons, or otherwise destroying whatever else you might request.  You'll pay $75 for 25 minutes of aggressive catharsis. They suggest on their webpage that this "lashing out" can save you a trip to a "head-doctor."  If you just get out all your anger by punching, destroying, and kicking, you will return to your day much happier. 

This "catharsis theory" is not a new idea.  I believe, in fact, that it is one of the most widely accepted loads of bull about emotions and psychology.  Many people really believe that if they act out their anger physically, they will no longer feel the emotion of anger.  Even in the field of psychology, it was once believed that fits of physical aggression could diminish anger.

"Punch a pillow or a punching bag.  And while you do it yell and curse and moan and hollar. . . . Punch with all the frenzy you can.  If you are mad at a particular person, picture his or her face on the pillow or punching bag and vent your rage physically and verbally.  You will be doing violence to a pillow or punching bag so that you can stop doing violence to yourself by holding in your poisonous anger.  You are not hitting a person.  You are hitting a ghost of a person - a ghost from the past, a ghost alive in you that must be exorcised in a concrete, physical way."  John Lee, Facing the Fire:  Expressing and Experiencing Anger Appropriately
 The truth is that research has consistently found that catharsis can actually increase anger!   Because activities that are "cathartic" are also aggressive, they can lead to the activation of other aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.  It is much more effective to talk to someone, write, engage in an expressive hobby (art, music), or exercise than to beat up a pillow.  Please, please, save your money on these establishments that encourage catharsis.  Call a friend instead.  Or, if you have a lot of anger and unresolved past issues, pay a couple extra dollars for the dreaded "head-doctor."  (In reality, you'll probably pay less!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Summer in DFW! (What will we do?!)

Could I be more excited for this summer?!  No way!  One of my students and I created a count-down to the end of the school year in my calendar and today it says 15.  Can you hear the harps and angels?  Glorious!

I was absolutely blessed last week with the news that our daycare is not going to charge us through the summer, and we can hold Jr's place until the fall.  Such amazing news!  They said it was a "rare opportunity."  I call it a blessing from above.  It means we will have a little extra cash to enjoy our summer and I will have no regret about playing the summer away while sending the daycare a fat check each month.

So, with my summer smiling at me in the horizon, I've been daydreaming about all the amazing outings my little man and I are going to have.  We live in the DFW area and I'm creating a list of adventures to keep us busy.  At 13 months, naps are still necessary and our outings won't be too long, but I'm sure we can have a lot more fun than the quick jaunts to the grocery store we were limited to last summer. 

Here's whats at the top of my list so far:

We're so lucky to have two great zoos so close!  I remember going to the zoo as one of the best parts of my summers growing up.  We'd always stay long enough to picnic and see every single animal.  I would get upset at my more carefree sister when she would try to look ahead at the animals we hadn't reached yet.  One animal at a time! (Ok, I was a little rigid). 

The Dallas Zoo has a program for toddlers called the Cub Club, that starts for kiddos aged 15 months, that looks like a fun experience.  Kids and parents can meet animals and engage in activities during a one hour morning class. Perfect!


We also have two aquariums in Dallas!  I'm thinking they might be perfect when we need a cool, air-conditioned escape from the summer heat.   Before we were married, we took my dad to the Dallas World Aquarium and we were really impressed!  I've also heard that the Children's Aquarium at Fair Park is worth visiting.  It is cheaper (free for children under 3) and there are more age-appropriate activities for a toddler.

When I was a kid, I remember going to the library during the summer for story time.  A librarian dressed up as a character from a book and then read it with great librarian inflection to a whole room full of kids.  I loved it!  I want Jr. to have the same type of love for books and reading that I did as a child. 

We are so blessed that our local library offers more than just story time for toddlers!  We've already experienced the crazy fun of Baby Bounce.  This summer I hope we can take part in some of the other activities, like Boogie Woogie Books or Wiggly Waggly Words!

Butterfly Gardens!
Some of the museums and activities at Fair Park may be a little advanced for Jr.  But, who doesn't enjoy butterflies?  Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park has a daily butterfly release and periodically has "Books and Bugs," where children can listen to story and enjoy a bug-themed snack. 

Jr. loves to swing and climb around at our local park.  This summer we are going to explore all the area parks, playgrounds, and spray parks! Here are a couple links to a list of Dallas parks Dallas parks and spray parks spray parks.

Swimming Lessons!
Auntie Dr. Momsie shared with me a Living Social voucher for 4 weeks of 30 minute swim classes at Swim U, a new swim school near Love Field airport.  They have classes for babies 6-18 months that allows parents and babies to play together in their indoor pool.  Apparently, Jr. will learn to submerge his face in the water, do an assisted front and back float, and begin kicking.  

Fun at Home!
I can't lie.  I really do hope to spend some lazy days at home.  I'm thinking bubbles, balls, picnics, the water table and a baby pool can keep us busy outside for at least part of the day!


I hear that Allen Premium Outlet Mall has a Stride Rite store and baby needs some new shoes!  Plus, overworked mommy could really enjoy some shopping.  What's a summer without shopping?

I know there are probably a thousand more fun things for Jr. and I to do this summer.  Dallas Child has an awesome all-inclusive calendar of events for the summer that I hope to keep up with.  But, the best suggestions often come from other momsies.  What suggestions do you have, DFW moms?  Please share your comments and suggestions below!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - The Fate of a Bully

As seen in an elementary school while test monitoring.  I know bullying is serious, but this is a little harsh :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Weekly Cleaning Schedule

I recently stumbled upon a genius blog where a woman created a weekly cleaning schedule. It reminded me of how stressed I was when I first went back to work as a new mom. I had no idea how to balance work, take care of a baby, be a wife, and keep the house clean.  One weekend, when I was in a mad rush of toilet scrubbing while the baby was napping, I created a list of all of the "weekend chores" we needed to complete each week.  I mostly created this so that my husband would know where he could best be helpful.  Soon, I realized a few chores could be done during the week after the baby went to bed.  I tried to spread those throughout the week and found that I was a lot less overwhelmed with cleaning on the weekends.  Here is my chore list that still remains on our refrigerator.

If you're a working mom struggling to figure out when to fit in housework, consider making a similar chorelist or schedule.  It provides some structure and routine, which diminishes anxiety.  And, it might give your husband a way of knowing how he can help.  For example, my awesome husband realized he could iron on Monday evenings (he's much better at ironing then I am) and he suggested that he'd like to take out the trash and recycling on Wednesday nights.  Figuring out how to keep the house clean was horribly important in making being a working mom manageable this past year!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

True Story = Big Anxiety

I love me some Parents magazine.  I probably have learned half of what I know about parenting trends from them.  I've also learned a ton about all the horrible dangers that could befall my innocent little baby from their insightful articles.  The best feature for ramping up my anxiety is the "True Story" articles.  Are you familiar?  The last one I read told about a baby girl severely burning herself after being sucked into a treadmill.  In another, a baby swallowed a doorstop.  Each month, a Parents magazine reader shares a cautionary tale of their child being injured, broken, burned, or maimed by an unforeseen danger.  After reading this short story, I always find myself an anxious, paranoid mess of a mom. 

Here's an example.  My baby often plays in the bathroom as I get ready for work in the morning.  How many dangers do you see?

Well, first there is the obvious danger of that heavy wooden drawer falling and crushing his bare footsie.  Also, those necklaces that he is pulling out pose a major choking hazard (thank goodness at times like these for the pacifier!).  Behind him beckon the toilet (drowning) and the trash can (limitless germs and hazards).  He could always fall backwards into the bathtub and break his neck.  See that old heater on the wall?  Let's not even talk about that death trap.

I can easily work myself into a bursting blob of anxiety.  Drawing on what I know as a psychologist, I practice the following mommy-anxiety-beating tips.
  • Normalization - I remind myself that it is normal to be anxious as a first time mom.  It is normal to be anxious about the unknown.  It is normal to read Parents magazine and flip out.
  • Avoid "What If" Thinking - This is a hallmark of anxiety reduction therapy.  "What if" thinking is almost always hiding behind anxiety and feeding it.  Thinking about the worse case scenario can only make you worry unnecessarily.  I combat this type of thinking with good old-fashioned logic.  How likely is this worst case scenario I am fretting over?  Usually I realize I'm wasting a lot of energy and time worrying about near impossibilities.
  • Avoid Triggers - I always suggest that anxious children avoid triggers that may make their worries surface.  The nightly news, for example, can stir up all kinds of anxiety.  Parents magazine may need to be avoided (or at least the True Story feature) if I'm feeling especially vulnerable.
  • Face Your Fear - This is the best way to fight anxiety.  I'm not suggesting you encourage harmful things to happen to your child, but it really helps to allow myself to enjoy being a parent and allow my baby to do some "risky" activities (eat peanut butter, practice climbing up and down stairs, run around outside without shoes, etc).  Caution is wise, but overprotection can cause your child to also be anxious!
  • Prayer - "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. "  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Favorite Grief Books for Kids

Last week I put on my psychologist hat and posted about grief tasks for children.  This week, I'd like to share my collection of favorite children's books on loss and death.  There are many grief books for children on the market, but I look for those with awesome colorful pictures, a message that doesn't sound pedantic or preachy, and appropriate content to address grief tasks.  These recommendations would be excellent for parents, teachers, grandparents, counselors, and psychologists.   I've placed them in categories that will help you find the perfect book for your situation.

Death of a Pet - This is often the first death a child faces, and can be a great learning experience.  If a parent handles this type of loss with compassion and honesty, a child is likely to learn grief coping skills that will last a lifetime.  Please don't tell your children that Fido went to live on a farm in the country or try to replace Fluffy the hamster with a similar looking one from the pet store.  Use this opportunity to teach your child about death and you'll be glad you did when a human loved one dies.

I'll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm.  Such a sweet book about loving a dog and watching him grow old and eventually die.

Jim's Dog, Muffins by Miriam Cohan.  This would be a great book for a teacher to share with a class.  It shows how kids can help a friend who has lost a loved one (pet or human).

Tough Boris by Mem Fox.  This is one of my favorite grief books of all time.  It's so simple - the tough pirate's parrot dies and the pirate cries.  This book teaches about appropriate grief feelings, so it would be especially great for kids working through the grief task of feeling the feelings associated with the loss.

Understanding Death - As I discussed in my previous post on this topic, death is a hard concept for young children to grasp.  Understanding that death is a permanent ending of body functioning is difficult for preschool children.  Explaining this in  a variety of ways may be necessary for a child to really understand what has happened to their loved one. Also, the rituals and cultural practices surrounding death can be confusing and scary.  Remember your first experience of viewing a dead body?  Who can forget seeing their loved one looking like a wax figure, stiff as a board?  Helping your child know what to expect at a wake, funeral, etc. and understand these rituals as an important way of saying goodbye is important in their lifelong journey of dealing with death. 

Lifetimes:  A Beautiful Way of Explaining Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen and Waterbugs and Dragonflies:  Explaining Death to Young Children by Doris Stickney.
Both of these books have a unique way of explaining death to children without talking about humans dying.  These type of books aren't my favorite, as I believe very young children respond best to straight forward facts rather than metaphor, but these are worth considering.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia.  This is one of my all-time favorites.  It is the beautiful story of the lifetime of a leaf named Freddie.  It has been adapted into a video that is often used in grief counseling.  It is a beautiful story that may leave you in tears.  I'm not sure how much small children can really connect with it, but it definitely belongs on your family bookshelf.

Feel the Feelings - This is the second grief task after accepting the loss as reality, and a really important task for children.  Don't neglect that children experience the same range of emotions that adults do, even if they are expressed differently.  Tough Boris (above) is an excellent and simple book to begin a discussion about feelings with very young children.
Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert.  This is an excellent piece of literature.  It tells the story of a woman who works through her grief by creating a soup.  The idea may be a little abstract for very young children, but teens and young adults will definitely benefit from this book.

Great for Teachers - As a school psychologist, I have found two books to be especially helpful to share with children following the death of a loved one.

I Miss You by Pat Thomas.  This is a great overview of death, feelings, and rituals.  I read this when children have experienced all types of death and it can generate conversation to encourage movement through each grief task.  There are a couple of pages that try to explain where souls go when they die that is a little odd.  I would suggest that parents use those pages to explain to children their own beliefs about heaven.

I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brisson.  The perfect book to share with a class whose teacher has died.  It provides for normalization of all the feelings that children experience when a teacher dies.

Living and Loving  - How do you stay connected to someone you love who has died?  The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is absolutely the cutest, best book to explain that we can stay connected to our loved ones even when they are in heaven.  I've read this with children in second grade that were able to grasp the concept, and it is very helpful to start a discussion.  (As a side note, I also highly recommend this book for children with separation anxiety).

With these books, friends, you will definitely be prepared to talk to your children about death.  It can be very uncomfortable and scary to discuss death with children, but sometimes a good book can help get you started!

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