Monday, April 30, 2007

More on toddlers and TV

Also, correlation and causation are being muddled. Autism is triggered by TV? Or a child later diagnosed as autistic watches a lot of TV because they get a lot out of it? So Sigman is maybe suggested rationing or removing the one thing which a particular child finds valuable.

Further, of course, ADHD and similar "disorders" likemild autism spectrum are not at all clearlyscientifically or physiologically defined. Since it isnot clear what they _are_ how can Sigman's research have identified triggers for them?

Maybe the reason some children want to watch so muchis because they are getting a great deal out of it.

He's very worried about people not learning certain skills before three in the "window of the brain's maximum plasticity". But many many very gifted people have hardly spoken at all before the age of 4 (Einstein is the most famous). So much for the blink-and-you-miss-it developmental window.

Less nursery demand in UK

I hope this trend continues... sounds like good news to me

Sunday, April 29, 2007

TV is bad for toddlers?

Psychologist Aric Sigman claims that 90 minutes of television watching per day for children under three might increase their risk of attention-deficit disorder, autism and obesity. He suggests that young children who watch a lot of television may not be able to sustain attention, and may fail to acquire language and social skills within the ‘window’ of the brain’s maximum plasticity. He suggests that television watching causes irregular sleep patterns and alters metabolic rate. He believes the government should issue rationing guidelines, advising that children under three should watch no television at all, and three to seven year olds should watch 30 minutes to an hour each day (a Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said the government has no plans to issue such guidelines).

But his ideas haven’t been greeted with universal admiration. As Thomas Sutcliffe writes in the Independent, it’s not so much a question of how much children watch, but what they watch, and the best of children’s television is catered to children’s interests and needs.

There are some wonderful television shows and DVDs which demand action by children and probably parents too – who could watch the Wiggles without dancing and singing along? What better way to learn the alphabet than with Elmo’s gentle guidance? How many parents have tried trickle painting or made crazy icecream sundaes with their children after watching Teletubbies?

As for Sigman’s language anxiety – there must be thousands of families who have seen their children’s language expand exponentially as they learn words and phrases from their favourite shows. Or seen them gradually learning social conventions from examples on screen and then apply them with growing confidence in every day life. It seems strange to me that Aric Sigman is worried about children not having any attention span… because they are paying too much attention to the television! Me, I say embrace the learning and entertainment possibilities that televisual entertainment – particularly DVDs – offers to children.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Child lives on the naughty step...

...and mother is reduced to tears

You could see this as a big inevitable clash of power and personality, which is leading to a lot of struggles for the upper hand (which is pretty depressing as a weather forecast). He'll spend a hell of a lot of time on the naughty step until he is old enough to tell you where to put your naughty step and go to the pub with his mates.

Or you could break it down into individual problems to be solved as a team. Not "my 4 year old is always defying me and making me cry" but "my four year old wants to do X. Can I find a way to make it possible? Or can I find a way of offering something he'll like even more?"

Potential conflict can often be avoided by play - child says "get me that toy" you can say "no ,get it yourself" and watch the argument escalate, or you can say "oh, ok then" and get the toy, or you can fall down on the ground and say "I can't because I just turned into a JELLYFISH" and see if child wants to play jellyfish games. See what I mean?

How to help a clumsy child?

A parent asked for ideas with a child who, for whatever reason, is considerably less agile than much smaller children, and is frustrated by their failure to manage physical tasks they would like to manage.

I suggested

1. Find a way to help child to be less clumsy. Not sure what that would requre, and it would depend on the interests of the child, but I am thinking of swimming, rock climbing, ball games, drawing, riding a bike or a scooter, climbing at the playground or soft play centre... So many things require physical coordination - it must be possible to find one in which the child shows interest and potential. Also in this category maybe needs to come a sight test (I'm pretty damn clumsy without my glasses, and even with them, because my peripheral vision is so compromised). Probably too expensive, but there are things to think about with relation to faulty kinaesthesia (which most people have - we don't really know where our limbs are or our spines; we think our fingers are straight but when we look down they are usually curved) which might be worth exploring with an Alexander technique teacher. Perhaps dance or gymnastics would aid physical coordination in a non-competitive environment.

2. In tandem with this, help child explore, reinforce, revel in the things they already ARE good at and value.

3. In tandem with THAT, perhaps explore how some people are good at some things rather than other things. While cooking (say) comes dead easily to the hypothetical child, running doesn't, but while Jilly can run like anything, she can't even make a cup of coffee and she's already 9. And then explore how people get good at things. There must be age-appropriate books and films out there about how people gradually get good at things (although if it's a movie, they'll put it in a montage, a la Team America, which is perhaps less useful)

I've reposted this from a discussion board, but on rereading I am now wondering: can you have three things in tandem, or is it two, by definition?...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

consentual grocery shopping

A friend at the Frog Pond was asking about how parent can have preferences considered by family members, rather than ALWAYS doing what the other family members want even if it's not what they want, and I suggested non-verbal communication of preferences being useful.

Here is the third of a set of hypothetical examples I gave to illustrate:

let's stick with the groceries.

1) think of alternatives. Why are you not having groceries delivered? I haven't been serious grocery shopping since 1998. Love the internet.

2) But you still ran out of milk (for me, it's always milk). And Dh is away for 13 days, so you can't get him to pick some up on his way home.

3) so... this is how I'd do it non-verbally.

I'd get myself totally ready to go to the store plus whatever other things we wanted to do.

I'd get everything ready for child(ren) to pick up/ put on and leave.

I'd open the front door.

Child(ren) is/are very likely to want to go out of it. Anything they don't put on/pick up on way out of door, you throw on going down the street or as you get in the car or whatever.

I wouldn't offer verbal options. If walking, I'd walk where I want to go unless child wants to go another way in which case I'd rejig my plan of what happens when this morning. and go their way, eg think "oh, ok, we can go to the 9-11 down here instead". Not sure how you'd do that in a car because I don't drive one, but there must be a way. Maybe have child giving directions "turn right" "turn left" "straight on"

If you do end up at the grocery store, for heaven's sake make it fun to be there, with buying milk as a subsidiary optional extra. depends on age. Some people might like to count fruits, some might like to play in the toy aisle, some might like to ride the trolley, some might like to go on one of those rides where a car goes beep beep when you put a $ in. I don't know - depends on the child and their age. Some people might like to choose something to buy themselves with some money.

fetching and tidying consentually

A friend at the Frog Pond was asking about how parent can have preferences considered by family members, rather than ALWAYS doing what the other family members want even if it's not what they want, and I suggested non-verbal communication of preferences being useful.

Here is the second of a set of hypothetical examples I gave to illustrate:

When playing with child, make the tidying just part of the activity. Lead non verbally. Putting jigsaws away when finished (I'm thinking of counting the pieces into the box or some more age-appropriate challenge which is genuinely fun). If child doesn't want to play, fine. But make it fun for you yourself.

When child is playing and leaving a trail behind, just LEAVE IT. If you want a tidy home, it's much easier to zoom around at the end of the day putting everything back in place than to drip feed as you go, IMO. And 10 minutes of tidying just once is much easier than constantly reorganising. THere've been good threads before about making tidying a CP (maybe on the TCS Ezboard). Also, you then give child the opportunity to clear space when they need it.

And why on earth are you running hither and yon for child when they want something? "Mum where's my...?" "On the shelf I think ,you go look for it" Taking your child seriously doesn't mean becoming their butler.

You may need to change this pattern through play. I hate that "you're a big boy Charlie, you can do it" thing, but maybe you could try flopping onto the floor and "oh no, I've lost the use of my arms and legs, can you get the book for us?" which mixes things up a bit and might turn into a jellyfish game, so it's a way of expressing your initial preference not to get the book, presenting an alternative (jellyfish game together), and giving child chance to get the book themselves while you er jellyfish. Why is it that hypothetical play examples are always goofier than goofy?

And if child still would prefer you to get the book, then get it and your own and sit down together with your books - that could be a Common Preference too

Structural Discpline

A friend at the Frog Pond was asking about how parent can have preferences considered by family members, rather than ALWAYS doing what the other family members want even if it's not what they want, and I suggested non-verbal communication of preferences being useful.

Here is the first of a set of hypothetical examples I gave to illustrate:

You know what I think you might really need is structural discipline, but which I dont mean disciplining your child, I mean disciplining your surroundings.

Let me give you a hypothetical. Child likes painting very much this month (I'm not defining this hypothetical child by their preference for painting. It's just what they enjoy this month mkay?). And I mean painting everything. So

1) Parent spreads great big bed spreads on the floor EVERYWHERE to protect the landlord's carpet

2) parent buys in a huge stock of washable paint.

3) parent buys a whole ream of assorted paper and card, putting out little heaps in parentally preferred places (child much more likely to just paint there rather than move the heap)That's a pretty good first pass at structural discipline.

4) Now child starts making handprints on the wall, and painting pictures there. Parent could go crazy about this, except that the walls are just egg shell white. After painting a test area and establishing that standard paint will cover the hand prints, parent leaves child be, but looks out for an opportunity to paint the walls to re set this grand canvas.

5) but now child starts painting EVERYTHING - books, jigsaw boxes, teabag containers, TV screens, pans, plates, you name it. Some of these, parent is ok with, some not (5 minutes of painting a book and then if you don't wipe before it dries, that's the end of the book because the pages are stuck together). Parent could go crazy here. Instead, parent finds better things to paint - magazines, colouring books, those little mini-boxes of cereal. Parent enlists the help of work colleagues to pass on any small interesting cardboard packaging which arrives at the workplace. Parent puts books on a high shelf. Child doesn't mind at all, just says when they want to read stuff, and instead, the cardboard mountain is what comes to hand when painting.

6) But child sometimes still paints stuff parent wants to wipe off straight away, and walking all the way to the sink for a cloth every time is not much fun, so parent manages to turn it into a delivery game where child brings painted objects to parent ready for wiping. "delivery for you" "thank you" "you're welcome" "good bye" *cue noise of wiping with wet cloth*

I extended this hypothetical as far as I could to show that there are several points where parent could easily self-sacrifice, or flip into authoritarian fright show, but instead they find a way for child to still do what they want to do, in spirit if not in exact kind (painting cereal boxes instead of jigsaw boxes, for example). And parent manages to turn their desired outcome of not running around the house into a game. I guess the first few times the parent would have to play the delivery game on their own, and then child would want to join in, not becuase it is manipulative-pretend-fun, but because parent is finding a way to turn that activity into something genuinely fun for a child that age.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Child does not want to go to bed

...but stays up until very late, and parents are dropping with tiredness.

Here's the suggestions I sent to the TCS list

1. It might work to have a bed/mattress in the room where all the fun stuff happens and then when child is sleepy they can just go and lie down without having to leave toys/DVDs etc

2. Having a bed in the activity room also makes it possible for a parent to doze on the bed while child plays.

3. Have low-key activities for 2-year old for late evening where parent can read and book or otherwise relax. For that age, maybe some of those Brainy Baby or Baby Einstein type DVDs with images and music but not narrative (or is it just me who goes into a zoned out trance watching them...? ;-) )

4. Does child still nap during the day? If so, perhaps try parent sleeping at the same time, or else changing activities so child doesn't think of having a nap every so often, then they'll be ready to sleep earlier at night.

5. Make sure child isn't hungry or thirsty. They might also need to defecate, and having a snack will help that happen, and then they won't have a gripy tummy and it'll be easier to sleep.

6. Some children like to be carried in a sling till they fall asleep. For a 2-year old I'd recommend a mei-tei type sling rather than a ring sling. Parent can gently move around the house sorting laundry and loading dishwasher and child is rocked but seeing interesting things - some people sometimes like to fall asleep like that, with activity going on around them.

7. Definitely send one parent to bed in another room so they'll be ready to do the early shift and the other parent can have more sleep in the morning