Why I Believe in Nighttime Parenting

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Right around his seventh birthday, my son Owen started developing a lot of fears. And over the following year, his fears persisted. Some even got worse.

Mirrors. Windows. Dolls. The sound of an Android ringtone.

Though he’s slowly starting to overcome those fears, for at least a year I found him, most mornings, wedged under his older brother’s bed or curled into a ball by his feet.

Other nights, he’d come into my room in the middle of the night and stand next to my bed, looking miserable, until I woke with a start. I started making him a little nest on the floor next to me so that he could just crawl in without waking me all the way.

I’m not exactly sure what spurred Owen’s fears, but he came by them honestly. From as early as I can remember until the time I was 9 or 10, I occasionally got scared and lonely at night. I remember creeping into my sister’s room from time to time, looking for comfort.

After my parents divorced, my mom would occasionally relent and let me sleep in her bed at night, something she’d never, not for one second, entertained with me or any of my older siblings before that.

But I remember how relieved and comforted and safe I felt when I got to crawl into the warmth of her bed.

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Brace yourself: The zero to ten scale

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The best advice Ryan and I got during our first days with Julian came from a source that I can no longer remember, perhaps the pediatrician who made rounds in the hospital.  It was this:

Babies need to go from 0 to 10 on a daily basis. A sleeping baby is at 0 and may spend most of his day that way. At 10, loud and incessant crying, your baby is also doing his job.  At 0, 1, and 2, you probably feel like a pretty good parent, while at 8, 9, and 10 you assume you are doing everything wrong, your baby is in terrible pain, and wish that someone, perhaps the real mother of this baby, would come show you what the problem is.

Remember this scale, rookie moms.  Your own baby’s crying is surprisingly difficult to endure.  And it’s not because you’ve been reinvented as the most empathetic person on the planet or because you are so completely bonded with your baby. It’s because the sound is blood-curdlingly horrific and you know that no one else is responsible. Whatever the problem is, it’s yours to solve.

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What Happens in a Child’s Brain When They Learn to Empathize?

A remarkable milestone occurs in children around their fourth birthdays: They learn that other people can have different thoughts than they do. A recent study is the first to examine the specific brain changes associated with this developmental breakthrough.

The new study specifically explored the brain changes that occur when a child is able to recognize that another person believes something that the child knows is false. Once children gain this ability, they can better predict other people’s behavior and modify their own—like denying a wrongdoing that Mom didn’t see or helping out a friend who doesn’t know the rules of kickball. 
“Theory of Mind constitutes a key role for complex interaction between human individuals, including behaviors such as cooperation, social communication, and morality,” write Charlotte Grosse Wiesmann, Jan Schreiber, Tania Singer, Nikolaus Steinbeis, and Angela D. Friederici of Leiden University and the Max Planck Institute in their Nature Communications paper about the study.Recognizing the false beliefs of others is a key step in developing what psychologists call a theory of mind, the understanding that other people may have different thoughts, beliefs, intentions, or perspectives.

To look for the brain changes that may underlie a child’s development of a theory of mind, Grosse Wiesmann and colleagues scanned the brains of 43 three- and four-year-old children using a technique called diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI), which can detect the structure and organization of white matter within the brain.

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Don’t let me forget their littleness

Here I sit, between them on my bed, the toddler on my left and the baby on my right. They’re fast asleep, peacefully dreaming of the things little ones dream about. If I listen closely, I can hear their steady, soft breaths and see their little chests rising and falling almost in unison.

In this still, quiet moment, I beg the universe:

Don’t let me forget.

Don’t let me forget the way her fine, silky baby hairs tickle the tip of my nose as I breathe in her perfection or the way she giggles as I bury my head into the cushiony folds of her chubby neck. She smells like milk, soap and baby powder, even though I didn’t put any baby powder on her. She smells like love and hope and some magical, mysterious ingredient that only babies possess.

Don’t let me forget the gentleness of those soft, spongy, warm little hands. The little hands that clutch me like I am everything she needs. The little hands that graze and bat at me when she wakes up too early and I put her in the bed next to me and try to steal a few more minutes of sleep. The little hands that reach up and trace the outline of my face while I nurse her. The little hands that linger and hold onto me for that tiny bit longer, reluctant to release their grasp, as I place her into her cot at night.

Don’t let me forget my superpowers. My power to kiss away an ouchie, hug away sadness, hum away a bad dream and soothe any and every fear or worry. My power to know exactly what she needs when even she doesn’t really know. My power to calm her by simply being close by.

Don’t let me forget the heaviness of a drowsy head dozing off in the crook of my arm while she nurses or the weight of a warm, tousled, freshly bathed head on my shoulder with little arms wrapped snugly around my neck.

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THE SENTENCE THAT CHANGED THE WAY I PARENT. FOREVER.

I really enjoy listening to different perspectives about parenting. Sometimes when I’m driving I will tune in to different podcasts about parenting. I usually don’t agree 100% with everything I hear, but I take away bits and pieces that resonate with me. Iv listened to podcasts that range from super strict parenting styles to very relaxed and liberal styles and everything in between. I like different aspects from both! If you have any podcasts that you love, tell me about them in the comments section please.

So one day, I’m in the car listening to an audiobook (The Conscious Parent, by Shefali Tsabury). She talks a lot about parenting with intention and seeing ourselves through our children, how they can be a mirror into our own soul. All the sudden a powerful thought came to me and my whole world changed in one second. “How would you feel if your spouse talked to you the way you talk to your child.” I paused the audiobook. I sat and let that thought sink in for a minute.
Ok this is big. This is mind blowing.

First of all, if Sean so much as raises his voice towards me-I cry. Almost immediately. I hate being yelled at, it crushes my spirit. And how often do I raise my voice towards my kids?

If Sean acts semi-irritated or annoyed with me, it hurts my feelings. I feel less important or like I’m bothersome and then I close off emotionally because it makes me feel misunderstood. And how often do I sound irritated when my kids are trying to get my attention? Yes, they can be very demanding of my attention at times, “mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy!” and I lose my cool but really, they just want me to acknowledge them.

 

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How to Teach Frustration Tolerance to Kids

How to Teach Frustration Tolerance to KidsA mother of a six-year-old boy called me in tears. After yet another meltdown in his classroom, the teacher requested a meeting with the parents. The mother assured me that her son is sweet, funny and very bright. He’s the life of the party at home and has tons of friends. The meltdowns, she thought, paled in comparison to the rest of his personality.

The problem, of course, is that the meltdowns affected his ability to learn. When her son encountered something frustrating, he “flipped a switch.” He went from happy and engaged to angry and screaming in an instant. This pulled the teacher away from the class, negatively affecting the entire kindergarten classroom.

It didn’t take long to determine that it wasn’t so much that he “flipped a switch” when he encountered something hard, but that the buildup of frustration over time resulted in huge meltdowns when he finally hit his tipping point. He was missing his anger cues throughout the day, and that caused a flood of emotions when he confronted something particularly frustrating.

Many young children struggle with frustration tolerance. Anger and frustration are powerful emotions, and children’s reactions can be intense in the moment. As adults, we know when our anger buttons are pushed. We know what we need to do to work through something frustrating in an appropriate manner. Kids, however, don’t enter this world with a pocket full of frustration management skills.

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