Feed the Brain

Through my experiences as a therapist, a teacher, and a newborn care specialist, I’ve learned that a child’s environment plays a major role in a their brain development and behavior. Parents find themselves in a vicious cycle trying to correct their child’s behavior to no avail and they’re clueless about what’s actually causing the behavioral changes. Proactive parenting is far superior to reactive parenting. 

Consider the following…

Toys

The types of toys a child plays with have a major impact on their brain development and behavior. Technology and TV for example entertain the brain, meaning the brain is not having to work. There’s no problem solving, imagination, creativity, or thinking involved with technology or tv. Even “educational games” on an ipad have a negative effect on the brain because they limit possibilities to the software design. The brain; however, is limitless in its possibilities. Use of technology in children has been linked to aggression, sleep deprivation, violence, lack of empathy, detachment, and poor social skills. Ever notice agitation and tantrums more when you take away a tech device from your child? It’s not only because they lost the priviledge, they could be experiencing menal withdrawals.

Opt for open ended toys that inspire creativity, thinking, and imagination. Fat brain toys such as blocks, cars, dolls, play-doh, art supplies, magnetiles, role play items, and sensory play such as sand, water, or beads.

Food

Nutrition plays a major role in your child’s behavior. I always have to bite my tongue around my friends who complain about the terrible twos, having a “threenager,” or the frantic fours when often these are the same friends who fuel their children with sodas, gluten laden goodies, and sugary cereals. Sure, my kids will inevitably act up from time to time and I know I’ll have some disciplinary issues, but these things are far less in frequency as well as intensity when diet is considered. Major culprits to poor behavior include gluten, sugar, caffeine, low water intake, and dyes.

Opt for organic fruits, veggies, dairy, meats to avoid exposure to hormones and pesticides. Try not to allow your child to snack all day, but don’t allow them to go hungry. Schedule three solid meals of high protein, healthy fats, and high nutriton, but allow two smaller meals/snacks in betweek to keep sugar levels regulated. Avoid processed foods with artificial ingredients when you can and just say no to sugar and caffeine at all costs, especially if you’ve noticed a sensitivity.

Sleep

Adults need to take some responsibility for their child’s behavior when sleep deprivation could be the catalyst. If you allowed them to skip their nap, then it’s unfair to them for you to get angry when they throw a tantrum in the middle of Target. Were they up late because you wanted to finish your concersation on the phone before you started bedtime? Then, don’t get mad at them when they wake up cranky and start throwing food or spilling their juice. Children have crazy fast metabolisms, their mind is on constant overload and their body’s are growing rapidly. They need 10-12 hours of sleep a night depending on age and toddlers need naps (or at least downtime) in order to function optimally.

Envornmental Toxins

Numerous studies have shown a correlation between environmenal toxins and behavior. I recently saw that I can be found on google when you search “crunchy mom” or “granola mom” which totally cracks me up, because I’m far from crunchy, but I am green. I do not use toxic cleaners, detergents, soap or perfumes in my home. I refuse to eat nonorganic veggies, dairy, or meats. I wouldn’t accept a million dollars to vaccinate my children and I hold my breath, or sit in the car, when I’m pumping gas. Our environment is filled with carcinogens and neurotoxins that nnegatively affect our behavior. Top culprits include insecticides, pesticides, lead, paints, cleaners, mercury, formaldehyde and aluminum (found in vaccines), BPAs found in plastics, and parabens in lotions and soaps. These have been blamed for “silently eroding intelligence”

“Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” Grandjean and Landrigan write. “The presumption that new chemicals and technologies are safe until proven otherwise is a fundamental problem.” As in their 2006 review, the authors reiterate their concern “that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognised toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviours, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries.” (LINK HERE)

Organic clothes by Finn & Emma

So, before you even attempt at correcting your child’s behavior, search for the source first! It would be unfair to punish the child for behavior beyond their control when their mind is greatly affected by the environment we’ve created for them.

Good luck and stay gold,

Chelsea Vail

Potty Training 101

I’ve been asked about potty taining in my parenting classes, my counseling center, and on my facebook fan page. Potty training is a developmental task that moms either approach with confidence and gusto, or total fear. The fear is of causing trauma or shame regarding normal bodily functions, or perhaps fearing the many messy (disgusting) accidents. I’ll do my best to address the fears, offer some real word tips, and give you a plan for tackling potty training head on.

First, remember these rules of thumb.

  1. Do NOT use pull ups

This only confuses kids because it’s similar to a diaper which allows them to have accidents without wetting their pants. “But…I don’t want them to wet their pants?” Well, you do when you’re potty training because how else will they know what it feels like. It’s wet, cold, and uncomfortable.

2. Keep several changes of clothes for the child (and for you) on hand

You never know if you might be holding your child when they “forget” to tell you they need to go and it’s not all over you. Be it wet or solid, you’ll wish you had a stash of clothes because it won’t happen at the house. It’ll happen on your way to a birthday party or business lunch, lol.

3. Remember, they will fail

When they were learning to talk you couldn’t hear anything but gaga-goo-goo. When they were learning to sleep, they fell asleep in their soup, but rarely in their crib. When they were learning to walk, they bumped into walls, and fell over backwards. You never shamed them for these actions because you knew there was a learning process taking place. You were there with empathy, love, and patience. Utilize those same skills for potty training.

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When do we start?

This is a matter of parental preference. Some camps believe the earlier you start, the easier it is, but other camps say to wait until they show signs of readiness. Signs of readiness may be:

  • Following you into the bathroom and watching curiously
  • Walking to a corner and crouching/hiding while they poop
  • Saying words like pee, potty, poo
  • Can sit quietly 1-2 minutes
  • Has regular bowel movements and urinating habits

Around 15-18 months I suggest the following methods to introduce the idea:

Potty training stories

You can make your own books about the potty using photos of your house restrooms, Target bathrooms, little gym, etc. inluding all the potties they are familar with. There’s great potty stories online or at the bookstore too if you’re not feeling creative.

Baby Signing Time

Youtube offers videos by babySigningTime on potty specific language. Watch these videos with your child, practice the signs and use the signs. When you need to go, use the signs. Same goes for your spouse. Use the signs for wet, potty, poopoo, etc when changing baby’s diaper.

Let your child In

Allow your child in the bathroom with you from time to time. “I feel tight right here (point to your bladder area). I need to go potty. I don’t want wet pants. Follow me”. While you’re using the restroom, talk things through. “I sit on the potty and relax my body. It feels good to potty in the toilet….” When they see you enjoying this, being clean, feeling relaxed, they’ll soon learn to follow suit.

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18-24m It’s Go Time!

Once you feel your child is ready, choose a weekend or a few days when you’re able to commit full time and energy to potty training. No, you don’t have to be hermits, but don’t choose a time when you’re traveling or have several back to back obligations.

Take your child to the store, prior to beginning training, to choose underwear they like and tell them it’s time to start using the potty!

Day 1:

When your child wakes up in the morning, they’ll be wet. This is zero hour. Change them and put them in underwear. Make a big deal about the underwear.

Go about your daily routine, but have an alarm set for yourself (real, or hypothetical) and place your child over the potty every 20-30 minutes.

If they tinkle or poop in the potty, they get a happy dance or mini celebration and an M&M or small candy they enjoy.

If your child typically poops right after a meal, keep that in mind and don’t take them off the potty until they pooped. Be prepared to be in there awhile with favorite storybooks, playdoh, or other quiet activities they can do while they’re waiting. Pooping in the potty means a BIG time celebration. In fact, call mommy or daddy at work, facetime grandma, and any other person that’s special to them when this happens.

Keep a log of their patterns.

Day 2:

Repeat the same routine as day 1, but try to stretch potty times to every 30 minutes.

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Day 3:

Similar to day 1 and 2, but try to stretch to stretch potty time further. Most kids that are eating and drinking throughout the day can’t go much longer than 45 minutes to an hour (or 1.5 hour at the very most) before needing a potty break.

Naps might require a diaper or a wet mat until your child is fully trained, but have them go potty right before a nap and right after.

Remember to stay positive, stay excited, and demonstrate patience and understanding. Also, once you’ve decided to start, there’s no going back! That’s just too damn confusing for kids. “Am I ready or not, mom, make up your mind!”

Good luck!

That Girl