logo
Currently Browsing: Brain Development

Why Kids Sit in a W

logo

We can glean important information from the way our kids sit on the floor.

We may not think how our kids sit on the floor (especially if we’re grateful that they’re even sitting at all) could tell us something about their neurological profile or that such positioning could possibly harm them.

Yet, sitting in a W formation—when kids sit on their bums with their knees bent and their feet out to either side of their hips—is a neurological red flag, and it’s a position that should be discouraged.

So why do kids even adopt this odd way of sitting?

First, it provides trunk and hip stability (i.e. creates a wide base) which, in turn, makes it easier to balance when reaching out for a toy.  What can that tell us?  Well, kids who need this extra support may not be receiving good vestibular and proprioceptive feedback since these senses are directly related to automatic balance.

However, there’s a price to pay for this compensation. Since there’s no trunk rotation when sitting this way, such kids avoid crossing their midline when reaching for a toy. Yet midline crossing is a developmental milestone for more advanced motor skills, reading, and writing.

It’s also likely that these kids have a retained symmetrical tonic neck reflex (STNR).  This primitive reflex is supposed to be integrated by the time the child is 9-to 11-months-old.

Yet if the STNR isn’t inhibited during the first year of life, it causes problems later on,  such as poor posture, a tendency to slump when sitting at a table, clumsiness, attention difficulties, challenges with swimming, problems doing a somersault—and a preference to sit in a W formation.

Okay, suddenly what seemed like an innocuous sitting position now sounds ominous. Not really. Information is always good if we use it to move forward.

In this case, such awareness may now prompt us to encourage kids to sit in different positions—legs to the side, straight out in front, or crossed. If such sitting positions are too hard for the child, we can then advocate play time at a kiddy table (it’s almost impossible to sit in a W in a chair).

But more importantly, we can use this information to explore more fully whether there are additional indicators of underdeveloped lower centers of the brain.  There’s nothing like getting to the “root” of the problem rather than merely addressing a symptom.

So in that sense, sitting in a W can be a blessing.

Is Your Child in Trouble Again?

logo

If the child keeps doing the same behavior, should we consider another approach?

I’ve met a lot of kids whose body language changes the minute they think someone is going to talk to them about their behavior. They either look resigned and defeated or combative and hostile. Sometimes they’ll throw in, “I know. I’m a bad kid” or, “I’m always being called out.”

Couple that with a parent, teacher or coach who already views the child’s action as negative, and it’s no wonder that the exchange does not go well.

But what if we wipe out a perception that the child was “bad” or did something “wrong” when we approach her about a concerning behavior?

What if, instead, we first assure the child that we want to help, rather than punish, her?

What if we then communicate in a way that helps her understand why the behavior is worrisome—and therefore helps her conclude on her own that such behavior is not in her best interest?

So how do we do that?

We start by assuring kids that they are not in trouble . . . that we just want to talk to see if we might be able to help them. Upon hearing those words, it’s amazing how many resigned, slouching kids sit up straight or how many hostile kids automatically unfold their arms.

We then explain why the concerning behavior may not serve them well. To do that, I find it helpful to make a connection between what happens in the brain every time the child does the behavior and how that may then cause problems today, tomorrow, and far into the future.

Here are a few examples of how such a dialogue might start:

Behavior: Son hits his mother when he’s upset
Father’s starting dialogue: Every time you hit your mom, you’re reinforcing a brain map that says, “Hitting a female is okay if you’re angry.” The only problem is . . . there is nowhere on this entire planet where anyone thinks it’s okay to hit a female—at any time. So it worries me that your brain is learning something that it thinks is fine—when it’s definitely going to mess you up.

Behavior: Child doesn’t wait before being given the signal or permission to do something
Mother’s starting dialogue: Every time you don’t wait, you’re reinforcing a brain map that says, “If I’m feeling impatient, it’s okay to go ahead and do whatever.” The only problem is . . .there are lots of times when it’s in our best interest to wait—and how is your brain ever going to learn that?

For example, what if your ball rolls out into the street and you run to get it without waiting to see if any cars are coming? What if when you’re older and driving, you don’t feel like waiting at a red light—so you just punch it?

Note how the above dialogue is focused on helping the child reflect, not defend, his concerning behavior.

For those who are saying: What? The kid gets off scot-free with this approach?

Guess it depends on the parent’s goal. I’m thinking if the child has already been previously scolded and punished for the behavior—and she still continues to do it—the punitive approach probably isn’t working all that well.

Maybe that’s a sign to try something different.

How to End Screaming: Part 2

logo

Kids can learn that screaming
is an undesirable way to respond.

To clarify: We’re talking about learned screaming.  We’re not talking about a child who’s screaming because he’s hurt and in true physical pain.

To end screaming, we need to first acknowledge the following:

  • Our child screams because he’s learned that this response has been beneficial to him.
  • Each time we allow our child to scream, he creates an even bigger brain map that encourages and reinforces future screaming.
  • If our child is a screamer, we haven’t taught him different, more positive ways to respond.
  • We can end screaming if we change how we respond to it, and if we hold our child accountable for more appropriate reactions (that we’ve modeled and taught).

If our child already has a big brain map that says SCREAM, we may initially need to do some groundwork to get back on track. Here are some ideas for different situations.

Public Outbursts

Yes, it’s hard to ignore our child’s screaming when we’re in our local grocery store, since people do stare.  So that’s why we drive to a grocery store in another county—where we’ll never see those people again—and let our child wail away. Once in the car, we tell our child that screaming no longer gets our attention or prompts us to exit quickly.

Screaming at Home

We tell our child that he can scream for as long as he likes because we now enjoy screaming. So when he starts to scream, we encourage him to be even louder. We smile and clap our hands.  We dance around him.  We get the whole family to join in.

Why?  Well, the brain becomes totally confused by this completely unexpected response. In fact, some kids just stop screaming—cold—while they’re trying to process it all.  But the point is . . . if our child’s brain now perceives screaming as something fun for others (and he’s not part of that), then it no longer retains its old power.

Pre-emption

If we know our child is more vulnerable to screaming when he’s tired or over-stimulated, we leave (wherever) before he gets to that point during this “re-educating” stage.

Differentiated Touch

If our child is used to being embraced while screaming, we establish touching him in a way that differs from how we hold him while we’re (legitimately) comforting or being affectionate. For example, if we need to physically move our child while screaming, we now use a cold and impersonal touch.

Yuck and Yay

If we’re used to trying to calm our child down while screaming, we may need to adopt a simple one-word approach (especially if our child is very young).  At the very first scream, we merely put our thumb down and say with a lot of presence: Yuck.

But that‘s it. We only get one yuck. Multiple yucks while the child continues to scream only results in giving the same attention as engaging in a conversation—and we don’t want that.  Moreover, if our first yuck didn’t get the job done, it’s likely because we lacked a calm, but assertive, demeanor when saying it.  So changing our presence—not repeating yuck—moves things forward.  In contrast, we also need to reinforce when our child doesn’t scream by immediately saying: Yay!

New Responses

If we have a screamer, we probably know what sets him off.  So, we role play those situations, modeling different responses.  For example, we might pretend we’re out shopping and model saying, “Mom, I’m really tired, and there’s so much noise in this mall.  Do you think we could leave soon?”  (Note that saying, “Use your words!” is not effective in eliminating screaming.)

And just as some folks need to chew gum when they initially give up smoking, some kids may need to adopt a silent scream during this transition period.  To do so, they open their mouths as wide as possible and go through all the motions of a huge scream—but they just never use their vocal cords.

Short Goals

To help our child’s brain register that it is capable of being quiet, we may need to start with really short goals.  For example, if we want our child to be quiet while we’re talking to someone else, we may set it up so that our child knows he’s going to be quiet for just 20 seconds.  With that success, we build (at different times) to 30 seconds, 50 seconds, and so on.

The bottom line on screaming: Since no one in the world embraces this kind of response, there’s no time like the present to eliminate it.

Are Chinese Mothers Really Superior?

logo

Parenting presents different challenges when the brain is not organized as intended.

Amy Chua is a professor of law at Yale. Yet, her case that Chinese mothers are superior to Western parents is weak.

In her article, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, she claims that the solution to substandard performance is “always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”

Well, lucky for Ms. Chua that her kids must have developed their lower centers of the brain and inhibited their primitive reflexes.  Otherwise, I think she’d have a very different take on parenting.

That’s because it doesn’t matter how much a parent screams or threatens or takes away belongings (she gives several examples where she is proud to have done this) when such development is incomplete. The truth is, no parent—Chinese or Western— can “will” a brain to do something if it’s not wired to do so.

So I’d like to suggest different criteria for identifying superior parents. I think that title should go to moms and dads who know whether their child has completed their lower brain development—and who then learn how to help their child build those highways, if warranted.

That, Amy Chua, is the best way to guarantee our children become who they are supposed to be.

Why Kids Who Eat Healthy and Exercise May Be Overweight

logo
causes of childhood obesity

There may be a physiological reason that explains why some kids are afraid to exercise.

Whenever something is “wrong” with a child, we often look straight to the parents.  For example, if a child is overweight, we’re quick to conclude that those parents aren’t monitoring their child’s eating habits or ensuring that he gets enough daily exercise.

And that may be the case.  But there are other reasons that contribute to a child’s weight problem—and they have nothing to do with parenting.  Here are three other factors:

1. Some kids’ lower centers of the brain never finished developing when they were babies. In such case, they may not get the message that they are full after they’ve eaten since that feedback is an automatic function of a fully developed midbrain.  So imagine trying to control your weight when you’re always hungry.

2. Some kids have poor sensory processing, and that makes them feel as though they’re living life on a tight rope. When our senses work as intended, we feel secure when we move.  However, if not, we may dread even the slightest movement.  No surprise that such kids aren’t eager to play soccer or sign up for gymnastics or engage in any other kind of exercise.

3.  Some kids have a virus that has recently been linked to obesity. A new study by a researcher at the University of California suggests that childhood obesity may be linked to adenovirus36.  In the study, 78% of the children who tested positive for the virus were also obese.

And then, what if a child eats junk food, doesn’t exercise, and has one or more of the above going on?  Maybe all those factors, together, explain the rise in childhood obesity.

The bottom line: It may take more than just a change in eating habits and an increase in exercise for kids to be healthy and fit.

Page 8 of 9123456789
logo
Powered by Wordpress | Designed by Elegant Themes