Friday, February 22, 2013

Timid Toddlers

Last weekend, Jr. was invited to one of his little buddy's 2nd birthday party.  The party was at an indoor children's gym facility, where youngsters can climb, crawl, jump, and otherwise go nuts.  When we arrived at the party, we could see other toddlers through the window already deep into some fast-moving playtime.  My husband and I led Jr. into the building, each holding a hand, while he cautiously sucked his pacifier.  We knew that this was just the type of situation that can be very uncomfortable for Jr. 

Just as we walked in, a very large man slapped his hands on his knees (which were about at Jr.'s head level) and greeted Jr. with a big hearty welcome.  I cringed as Jr. scurried to hide behind my legs.  I picked him up and soothed him, gently taking him to the most quiet corner I could find.  I was able to convince him to take off his shoes and spit out his pacifier, but when I walked him to the door of the gym, he turned around and ran.  His daddy picked him up, said some encouraging words, and carried him into the toddler's play paradise.  As the other toddlers ran about screaming, rolling, climbing, and sliding, Jr. stayed on my husband or my lap and watched intently.  Even with gentle prodding, Jr. didn't feel comfortable exploring until it was almost time to leave.  He was able to enjoy a couple of parachute games, go down a couple slides, and throw a couple of basketballs before we were ushered out. 

Does this story sound familiar to you?  Could it be that you also have a timid toddler who is cautious or uneasy in new situations or with new people?  It can be a little bothersome for parents to see their toddler resist novel situations, especially when they look so doggone fun.  And, when your child is the only one sitting out on fun activities, a parent can start to wonder about their child's well-being. 

Be encouraged, parent, you are not alone.  In fact, there are many children who are shy or "slow to warm up."  This term, "slow to warm up," is used to describe one of three temperament styles that is first evident in infancy.  Some children are "easy" children. They are cheerful and adaptive babies, who respond well to new people and situations.  Other children have temperaments considered "difficult."  These babies are difficult to soothe, irritable, have difficulty adapting to a schedule, and respond very poorly to new situations.  The third temperament style is the "slow to warm up" kiddos.  These infants are shy and need time when exposed to new situations and people to feel comfortable.  They act just like Jr. did when placed in a new and unexpected situation.

No temperament style is better or worse than another.  All children can be successful and well-adjusted.  And, there is nothing a parent did or can do to change a temperament style. They are innate and stable.  As I once read, "each temperament style has it's own delights and challenges."

So, what can you do to help your timid child?  It is likely that your child may always be a little shy, but many children who are "slow to warm up" outgrow much of their shyness.  You can support and encourage your child to best handle new situations with just a few Dr. Momsie tips:
  • First, and most importantly, accept your child for who she is.  Let her know you love and respect her. Don't belittle, yell at, punish, or insult your child for her timid temperament.  You won't change her temperament this way, but you will make your child even more fearful and anxious.
  • Slowly introduce new people and situations to your child.  Don't force him into activities he isn't ready for and gently let people know that "Jr. needs a little time to get to know strangers before he is comfortable." 
  • Prepare and reassure your child.  Let her know ahead of time when you plan on experiencing something new.  Read about it, play about it, and reassure your child that you know it will be difficult for her but you will be there to help.
  • Give your child time to warm up to new caregivers.  Allow some time for your child to get to know and adjust to babysitters before you run out the door.
  • Role model social behavior.  When you are out and about with your child, greet and chat with people you see so that your child can be exposed to appropriate social interactions.
  • Value the strengths in your child.  Slow to warm up children are often sweet children who are careful observers. Notice what your child is good at and is interested in, and praise them for it.  Praise your child's successes and efforts to bravely join social situations. 
As I was thinking about this topic and doing a little research, I came across a suggestion that really hit home:
"Host friends and family at your home.  Getting together with family and friends gives children an opportunity to practice social skills in a familiar, safe setting."  found here

I'm starting to make plans for Jr.'s 2nd birthday party in April, and really was leaning toward having the party at a location away from home - the aquarium, a children's gym, etc.  They do much of the work for you, and there is no clean-up.  That is a beautiful idea for this pregnant and exhausted momsie.  But, now I'm thinking that just might not be an ideal situation for Jr.  It may be better to host a few friends at home instead (even as I type this, I begin to dread the clean-up).

What do you think?  Join my poll below!  Also, leave comments if you have suggestions for how this tired mommy can best create a birthday party that the birthday boy can enjoy!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Pregnancy Stealing Your Beauty? Must be a Girl.

It's a girl!  Isn't she beautiful?  See that smile?  What a lady!

As you can tell, I'm pretty pumped to be having a little girl.  Since I will be 35 when Peanut is born, we had to go to a high-risk perinatologist (I jokingly call her the "old lady doctor") for our 18 week sonogram.  That high-tech sonogram was well worth the extra bucks the old lady doctor charges!  We could see every finger, toe, and heartbeat.  Lady Peanut was high-kicking and waving and moving around at a pace that challenged her very active brother's prenatal movement.   Finally, she crossed her ankles like a proper young lady and allowed the doctor to get a good look at her. 

Now, some of you more feminist-type readers might be cringing already.  You may wonder why I am already using stereotypical feminine descriptions of my little bundle of estrogen. Well, you see, I am quite comfortable with all things feminine and "girly."  I'm all in favor of traditional feminine gender roles and stereotypes, as I think they (often) fit with how God innately created "female."  And, I think celebrating what is uniquely female is the best type of "feminism"!  So, bring on the lace, frills, and dolls!  Anyone who knows me, knows that my little girl may be wearing pink and playing house, but also will grow up to be self-confident, independent, and determined (like her mommy, of course!).

But, there is one slightly negative thing about little girls that I'm already noticing.  Girls steal their mommy's beauty.   Right from the start, little girls begin draining their mother through morning sickness. Some recent research is showing that in the most severe cases of morning sickness, slightly more women (53%-56%) deliver female babies.  It is theorized that maybe this is caused by slightly higher levels of human chorionic gonadotropin in female babies.  Or, maybe it's estrogen.  But, for whatever reason, female babies seem to be a little more prone to making mommy sick.  And, my little Peanut, sure did give mommy a nice case of morning sickness.

And, you all know the less scientific but accurate belief that if a woman's face breaks out or they otherwise seem less beautiful, then the baby they are carrying must be female.  I know that whenever I see a woman that looks beat down by pregnancy, I assume they are carrying a baby girl.  If you look energetic, spunky, and glowing, I assume you are carrying a boy.  Experts argue that this is merely a myth and a chauvinistic notion.  I hate to be a proponent of any silly old wives tale, but this one sure seems valid to me.  I look a mess this pregnancy.  With Jr. I was at my best - all my weight was gained right in front, my hair was shiny, and my energy high.  With Peanut, my hips are wider, my hair is growing crazy and unruly, and I am exhausted from the moment I wake in the morning.  My brain and body seem lethargic at all times, and my maternity wardrobe from my first pregnancy is already getting tight in the booty.

Even though pregnancy isn't quite as fun as it was the first time around, every time I feel Peanut's gentle ballerina kicks I know all the sickness and fatigue is worth it.  I'm loving looking at pretty frilly dresses and big hair bows.  I'm excited that Jr. will get to be a big brother to a little sister.  And, I couldn't be happier that we will have a boy and a girl and could possibly be done having babies.  Could we be more blessed? 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Psychological Principles in the Bible - Overcorrection

I always get so excited when I see a psychological principle demonstrated in the Bible. Especially when it is God himself demonstrating the principle. I feel so validated. I'm in the uncomfortable position of working in a field often viewed by my religion as too secular while practicing a religion often viewed by my professional field as unscientific. So, when these two spheres of my life are in agreement, I couldn't be happier.

Last Sunday, my pastor was teaching from the book of Numbers, where the Israelite people had just crossed through the Red Sea as they escaped slavery in Egypt and moved toward the land God promised to them. After the amazing and miraculous Red Sea crossing, the Israelites entered the wilderness, a barren place with little food. God was good, though, and sent manna, a bread-like substance, from heaven to sustain their hunger. Those poor Israelites grew tired of manna and soon started to grumble. A group of "rabble" began to complain to Moses and God that manna just wasn't cutting it. What they really wanted was meat. So, they whined and complained. And they completely disregarded the miracles God had performed just to keep them alive through their exodus.

God wasn't pleased with this behavior. His response was to say to the Israelites,
"The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” (Numbers 11: 18-20).

Wow, God! That sounds a bit harsh! Well, many psychologists might applaud God's implementation of the Satiation Principle, or Overcorrection -Negative Practice. The Satiation Principle is often utilized when a teacher or a parent wants to decrease an inappropriate behavior. In essence, they allow (or even insist the child continue) an inappropriate behavior until the child is just plain sick of doing it. The most classic example of this technique is the practice of having a rebellious teen who is caught smoking cigarettes smoke an entire pack of cigarettes, which often leaves them so sick they never want to consider even looking at a cigarette again. Satiation techniques can be a way of delivering logical consequences for a child's misbehavior and, therefore, makes the punishment more effective.

Just as a side note, I think satiation techniques should always be practiced under the guidance of a professional. They run the risk of being humiliating or even dangerous if done incorrectly or in inappropriate circumstances. An alternative technique that I think is much less risky is called Overcorrection - Positive Practice. In this variation, a child must repeatedly practice an alternate appropriate behavior. I've seen an excellent example of this in a classroom where the children had difficulty in the hallways. They were loud, disruptive, and didn't walk appropriately in line. There was often fighting, pushing, and screaming. The teacher finally agreed to a positive practice strategy, and dedicated an hour of her day to let the class practice walking appropriately in the hall. I promise that after that day, her class was always the best behaved in the hallways!

Now, of course, God's harsh punishment for the Israelites was appropriate. Not only because he is omniscient and doesn't make mistakes, but because their misbehavior was so severe. I mean, seriously, to complain to the God of heaven about his miraculous provision that is saving your life? That's pretty bold. 

And, what a great lesson for us all in the psychological principle of Overcorrection!  If used correctly, it sure could make your punishments more effective. So, the next time your teenage kiddo complains about their deliciously healthy home-cooked meal, and whines that they'd sure like some pizza for a change, give them pizza.  Give them some yummy microwave pizza for three meals a day until it's coming out of their nostrils and they loathe it. 

Can teenagers ever loathe pizza?  Maybe not.
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