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Friday, June 29, 2012

How Do I Discipline to teach DISCIPLINE?

As parent to an increasingly willful toddler and five year old who's testing boundaries, my arsenal of behavior management techniques is dwindling quickly. The thing is, I don't really enjoy being the disciplinarian, but I'll be damned if my children grow up as wildlings. It seems that nowadays I spend a nice chunk of our quality time barking warnings, counting down and reminding my kids of my expectations. Frankly it's exhausting and unlike many folks my patience seems to be waning, not growing, with age. 
My son spent 4 years as an only child. Compared to some other mischievous boys his age Nigel is well behaved. He's a good listener and really sweet kid who doesn't rock the boat much. Since he turned one I've drilled in our "3 Rules": Be a Good Listener, Be Respectful and Be Safe. All of the infractions that disappoint and anger me fall somewhere under the umbrella of the "3 Rules". He knows the rules inside out and grasps the concept pretty well for a little guy. Spankings are few and far between. Timeouts in the naughty chair are the bread and butter of my behavior management strategy with him. Couple that with a stern 3 or 5 count and he used to be scared straight. I've got a mean Mommy face! But, lately I've been noticing some defiance and I don't like it. It's so funny that until you become a parent you think "controlling" a child is easy. Ha! You cannot make a kid do anything. The more you try the more angry you get and antagonistic they become. They will make you spaz out and guess who's angry, exhausted and teary afterward? The parents - not the kids! What does work is assessing your personality and that of your child. Lay out your expectations and tell your kid why right is right and wrong is wrong. They are smarter than we give them credit for. Speak to them at their language level and they'll get it. Parents sometimes skip the explanation of expectations. I make a point to always give a why to my what. Still I wonder if he focuses more on the reward or punishment in place, instead of the lesson I need him to learn. I discipline to establish my son's self-discipline. That's my end game. I want him to recognize what is appropriate behavior for himself when I'm not around to check him. With any amount of luck this habit of self regulation will start now and follow him into adulthood.
I'm maturing beyond the naughty chair. I swear by it's effectiveness, but Nigel needs something more now. (I pray that baby girl adheres to the timeout rules, so far keeping her in any one spot for longer than a minute is a trial.) We use our responsibility chart religiously. I switch out the tasks and chores every other week to keep it fresh. Nigel, like most kids, thrives on positive feedback over negative consequences. Good behavior is expected so we don't reward it with "stuff" daily, but he can earn weekly treats. We're trying to stay away from buying toys because he has too many and has gotten a little spoiled in that department. Instead allowing him to pick our dinner or dessert, a surprise visit to an event or exhibit, even a simple DVD rental works well for him. I'm relying more on an "if,then" approach and natural consequences punishments. For example "Yes, you may play with the Kindle Fire (substitute for any electronic device). But, IF you don't properly care for it THEN I will take it away for two days." "Yes, you may eat lunch on the back porch today, but IF you make excessive spills THEN you must clean it up yourself and come back to the kitchen table." "Yes, your friend may come over to play in the yard, but IF you guys can't share nicely THEN you have to come inside." There are still mini meltdowns and crying spells, but I've noticed I'm less frazzled and frustrated because we both know the consequences. After a few moments we're moving forward with our day. 
It recently occurred to me that my goal is not to have my children function as little well mannered robots. I hope that my rules and regulations, system of punishments and rewards, will help them learn self-discipline. Part of being a kid is getting dirty, being loud and making mistakes. Part of being a parent is knowing what to let slide and when to tighten up. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Great Debate: Should We Vaccinate?

For the past few years parents and the medical community have begun to question traditional vaccination practices. Concern stems from a growing public belief that vaccines contain harmful elements that may lead to developmental delays in infants and toddlers. Celebrity Moms have shared their fears about the link between mercury and Autism. Actress Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson-Peete are the public faces of the vaccine-autism campaign, and have argued that their son's autism was triggered by immunizations.  

I applaud parents who take it upon themselves to get all the details and make informed decisions about their children's health. Some fellow Moms and I recently exchanged ideas on the subject. I admit to being sort of a lemming when it comes to medical norms. I've always simply followed Dr.'s order. With my second born Nikke, I was a little more pro-vaccination because I knew she'd be around her older brother a lot. Since he's in school all week he's more exposed to germy kids, and hence she'd be exposed by him.

Most physicians, backed by high brow research and the CDC, maintain that there is no connection between immunizations and autism. They insist that maintaining the typical vaccination schedule ensures the health of all children. So why does the debate live on? For a portion of parents, the notion of their little ones receiving potent and frequent exposure to serious illnesses just doesn't make sense.  Science journalist Seth Mnookin, shared his perspective with Forbes magazine at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, attended by more than 1,600 participants from 58 countries,“The debate isn’t really about vaccines and vaccine safety at all, but about a series of other issues,” said Mnookin, who teaches science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the author of The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy. “When we talk about vaccine safety and effectiveness, most of the time we’re talking about anxieties parents have about caring for their children. We haven’t found ways to adequately address some of these issues.” 

Adding to parental trepidation is ABC's recent report of an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General which found that many providers of immunizations meant for low-income children don't store the vaccines at proper temperatures, potentially rendering them ineffective and placing children at risk for contracting serious diseases. According to ABC News, "Inspectors visited the offices of 45 providers in five states who offered free immunizations as part of the government's Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program. Nationwide, about 44,000 offices and clinics participate in the program. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services pay for the vaccines, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distribute them. The investigation found that 76 percent of the providers stored the vaccines at temperatures that were either too hot or too cold. They also found that 13 providers stored expired vaccines along with nonexpired vaccines. In addition, they said they found that none of the providers properly managed the vaccines according to VFC program requirements." 

Parental paranoia peaks in those first few days after childbirth. There is lots to fear, both real and imagined, when you're a new parent to a tiny, vulnerable baby. It's only natural for fresh Moms and Dads, especially first timers, to obsess over their child's health and well being. Even after your pediatrician assuages your fears it's easy to be shaken by a debate that has not slowed down in the media. If you have questions about the safety of vaccinations go straight to the source. Once you've found a pediatrician that you can trust set up an appointment to discuss your concerns. If possible schedule a sit down that is separate from your baby's wellness dates. In fact, while interviewing pediatric physicians you should discuss the topic; comparing differing philosophies can help you find a doctor who's beliefs are aligned with yours. For more information on immunizing your child, and to review current, past and alternative vaccine schedules visit