Archive for April, 2012

Reacting in a Rush

Parenting is often easiest when we are relaxed and calm; and able to pre-meditate on our approach to various learning opportunities. The moments that can easily get the best of us are the rushed, distracted ones, (whether real or perceived.)  Being cognizant of our own reactive state is key to ensuring we don’t fall into a parenting cycle of reaction and rationalization.

The other night, in the midst of my attempt to prepare dinner in a timely manner with my baby on one hip, I realized halfway through cook time I had forgot to put in the separate (plain) chicken wings in the oven. Desperate to evade the inevitable outrage of my nearly-4-year-old daughter having to eat Louisiana hot-sauce spiked “adult” wings, I raced around to try and get it the plain ones thawed and prepped for the oven. In the corner of my eye I saw that she had our last roll of tape out and was tearing MASSIVE pieces out to stick to the floor. That familiar SCREAAAAACH as the endlessly long strand of cherished adhesive is being yanked with abandon.

I admit, my instinct was to bellow “Noooooooooooooo! Stopppp!” leap over, toss it back in the drawer and rush dramatically back to my oh-so-minor kitchen nightmare, while imploring the importance of preserving such a relic of modern convenience. (Must.Use.Sparingly! As though we are in some king of tape famine.) Luckily this was a more introspective day, and I got no further than the slow-motioned “Noooooooooooooo! Stopppp!” before I paused mid-leap to modify my extremely reactive approach. Internal dialogue was as follows;

Of course she wants to use the tape! My own overblown outburst was testament to the awe-worthy qualities of tape. It’s sticky! It’s useful! On the other hand, it’s still only tape, so who even cares, right?

So, rather than smuggling it away, (parenting Aha! moment FTW, sorry raw chicken,) I regained my composer and sat down. I tore off little pieces and showed her how to control the size while avoiding her fingers being pricked by the tape dispenser’s feisty metal teeth.  She was finished after happily sticking half a dozen small strips to some pieces of paper, and then we returned it to the drawer. She displayed her finished ‘art’ on the fridge.

5 minutes later, the plain wings made it to the oven, nobody harmed but, perhaps, the birds.

Encouraging bravery in telling the truth


Yesterday, I called my mom up to confess to her of an incident I recalled from my youth. As a young teenager, I had stolen some money from her drawer, and lied about it.  At the time, I had rationalized my actions, and then put it out of my mind.

Worse than the guilt I now felt, was the prospect of now having to call my mother to tell her. Not because I was afraid of her reaction, but because the very act of admitting it made me feel a twinge of fear. The mere suggestion of confronting the truth, out loud, was painful.

Why can the truth be so intimidating? It’s because it is powerful, It is inescapable, and ‘resistance is futile’. No matter what stories we construct in order to shield ourselves from it, or deny it, we cannot alter it. When we have been lying, the truth always threatens to expose us. And yet, it is the only thing that can set us free. The truth empowers us; it is the life force. It is undeniable.

I swallowed my fear and called her. My mother was surprised, but thanked me for the call. In a later message, she assured me that the past is in the past, and that any kids will do that at some time or another, and in know way does it discolor how she felt of me. “But,” she wrote, “Thank-you for being brave.

Brave enough to admit the truth: If a child suspects his parent may punish him for telling the truth, he will learn to lie in order to shield himself from consequence. It’s a protective instinct. One of the greatest services we can do for our children is to create room for them to speak the truth, to be relieved of burdens, by greeting their confessions with patience and gratitude as opposed to punishment and hostility. This can be hard to do in the moment, when your preschooler is showing you her lipstick portrait on the white walls,  but when you fast-forward 20 years, the incident will seem trivial; what remains will be the lesson and the attitude towards truth.

eHow has some suggestions for fun activities to encourage truth-telling in children: http://www.ehow.com/list_6454312_fun-activities-kids-telling-truth.html

Stress reactivity linked to early puberty

The New York Times had an interesting story the other day, chronicling the increasingly early age at which kids are entering puberty. There are the usual contributors cited for the lower age, including higher BMIs and exposure to environmental chemicals (xeno-estrogens such as BPA,) but the child’s stress reactivity is also listed as a factor.

In a study published in 2011, Bruce Ellis, a professor of Family Studies and Human Development at the University of Arizona, and his colleagues showed that children who are most reactive to stress — kids whose pulse, respiratory rate and cortisol levels fluctuate most in response to environmental challenges — entered puberty earliest.

“Evolutionary psychology offers a theory: A stressful childhood inclines a body toward early reproduction; if life is hard, best to mature young.”

Last week we posted a story about how the infant experience of repeat cortisol-inducing tools parents use, such as “cry it out” and spanking, can lay the foundations for a stress-reactive child.

This new evidence of the role stress reactivity plays in future health lends further reason to refuse these arbitrary cortisol-inducing parenting practices, in favor of gentle parenting.

Source: New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/magazine/puberty-before-age-10-a-new-normal.html?pagewanted=4&_r=1&ref=science)