Could you be spoiling your kids by saying your proud of them?

Do you ever wonder if you are spoiling your kids by saying you are proud of them…if you want the right answer to this question I recommend you read my colleague Kenneth Barish’s article Understanding Children’s Emotions: The Importance of Pride and Shame.

I highly recommend reading this informative article by Kenneth Barish Ph.D., clinical associate professor of psychology, Cornell University. Check out more of his work on his website www.kennethbarish.com.

I hope you enjoy reading Understanding Children’s Emotions: the Importance of Pride and Shame!

Have a fun and safe Labor day weekend! For more information about teaching your children about their emotions and how to deal with the way then feel visit my Pocket Full of Feelings project.

~Dr. Ann

Want To Know Why You’re In a Bad Mood? Watch T.V.

Ever get up “on the wrong side of the bed” and don’t know why?
At one time or another just about everybody experiences not knowing why they feel the way they do. Kids get even more confused than parents do about their feelings. All kids behaviors are in response to some sort of feeling and most of time kids don’t know what that feeling is or what to do about it. That is why when you ask your kids “why did you do that” they usually say, “I don’t know”. So, how can you help your kids learn about feelings?

Watch Dr. Ann Corwin on A Place of Own KCET- TV – Channel 6 in Los Angeles, CA tomorrow, June 29th at 1:30 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. the Emotional Literacy show (or check local PBS listings in your area) for answers to any questions you might have about how to teach your kids to handle their moods.

Looking forward to your feedback about the show and any questions or comments you might have, Dr. Ann

In Praise of Fathers

Fathers should be appreciated all year… not just on one day! While Father’s Day is a tremendous idea, we all need to affirm Dads for their significance every day of the year.

I come from a long line of fantastic fathering men. My grandfathers were both grand fathering me from birth to their deaths. My Dad, in his 80’s, is still fathering me long distance and with just as much love, sincerity and respect as always. My husband has been an awesome father for 28 years. One of the problems with us mothers is that we sometimes spend too much time trying to get the fathers in our lives to mother, instead of just appreciating what fathering does for our children.

Fathers teach two very crucial concepts to children: how to trust themselves and how to take risks! Since men don’t have the same hormonal response as women when their kids move away from them, a familiar scenario often happens. Mom might go out to the park and ask her husband to watch the kids while she goes to the bathroom. When she returns, the kids are playing on the playground equipment, at the furthest point from where her husband is standing. He is in deep conversation with another Dad. Mom’s first response is usually, “why are you not watching the kids, they are way too far away and you weren’t even looking at them when I came out of the bathroom?”

The truth of the matter is, kids can move six times further away from a Dad, as opposed to a Mom, before he has any physical response like that alarm that goes off in Mom’s head saying, “where are the kids?” That does not mean that men love or protect their children any less than a woman. What it does mean is that fathers teach their kids that it is okay to trust your self and take risks.

So Moms, celebrate Father’s Day by valuing what Dad’s give kids!

In deep appreciation of fathers 365 days per year, Dr. Ann Corwin

Why Do Kids Behave Differently When Mom is Around?

Dear Dr. Corwin:

I am the father of a two-year-old boy. When I am with him alone, he is a good toddler. He gives me no problems and doesn’t whine or throw tantrums. But when he is with my wife alone, or my wife and I are together with him, he is whiney and has tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. I tell my wife to be more stern with him and discipline him more, but she says that she does and it doesn’t help. Why is he whiney and has tantrums when my wife is around? As long as she is there, he just seems to change.

Dear Dad:
Thanks for your thoughtful question. This is VERY normal for a two-year-old. I assume his verbal skills are not terrific yet, so he is using his body to express how he feels. Whining and tantrums are forms of communication, even if they are not very appropriate ones.

Mothers symbolize NEEDS for children, and biologically kids are wired to associate the NEED for food and survival with their Mom. That is why kids will escalate their behavior to get attention (a connection) from their Mom anyway they can. Dads, on the other hand, symbolize trust, taking risks
and play for kids. So kids don’t get so desperate for that critical attention from their fathers, as it is not an innate survival attachment.

Kids are naturally behaving differently to get the attention they crave. If your wife gives your child attention by talking, looking at him or touching him when he communicates with whining and tantrums, that is why the behavior continues. So here are some solutions:

First and foremost, work on verbal skills everyday by labeling EVERYTHING for your two-year-old. For example, say a word for everything you give him and when he tries to say a word or sound, look him in the eye and say the word again. With improving language skills, you will see these behaviors fade.
When your son has a tantrum with both you and your wife present, let him just have it, provided he is not hurting himself or either of you. In other words, just turn your backs and walk away. When he is done, pick him up and tell him he did a good job of stopping because his arms and legs aren’t moving anymore and his tears are gone.
When he whines, just do the same thing: no talking, looking or touching. You can either distract him, or just remove him from behind when he whines. But the key to changing this behavior is that both of you are paying attention to him when he uses any words and begins repeating his own words to him.
It sounds like you are a very loving and hardworking Dad. Keep teaching your son verbal skills, help your wife to only react to him when he is not
whining or having a tantrum and you should see changes very soon.

Keep in touch,

Dr. Ann

You Know I Love You Anyway

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a special poem with you that was given to me by a mom that I had been working with earlier this year. She was a new mommy having trouble adjusting to being a stay-at-home-mom after the birth of her second child. She came seeking guidelines in managing her impatience with her children… the same impatience that many of us experience in trying to juggle life’s many demands. In the course of working with her, she found this poem and shared it with me, and today I share it with you as a subtle reminder to slow down and enjoy your precious children.

I bumped into a stranger as he passed by.

“Oh, excuse me, please,” was my reply.

He said, “Please excuse me too.

I wasn’t even watching for you.”

Oh, we were polite – this stranger and I.

We went on our way and we said our goodbye.

But at home a different story is told

how we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,

my daughter stood beside me very still.

When I turned, I nearly knocked her down.

“Move out of the way!” I said with a frown.

She walked away, her little heart broken.

I didn’t realize how harshly I’d spoken.

Later that night, wide awake in my bed,

a still, small voice came to me and said,

“While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use,

but the children you love, you seem to abuse!

Look upon the kitchen floor,

you’ll find some flowers there by the door.

Those are the flowers she brought for you,

she picked them herself – pink, yellow and blue.

She stood quietly, not to spoil the surprise,

and you never saw the tears in her eyes.”

By this time, I felt very small,

and now my tears began to fall.

I quietly went and knelt by her bed,

“Wake up, sweetheart,” I whispered and said.

“Are these the flowers you picked for me?”

She smiled, “I found ‘em, out by the tree.

I picked ‘em because they’re pretty like you.

I knew that you’d like them – especially the blue.”

I said, “Daughter, I’m sorry how I acted to you today,

I shouldn’t have yelled at you that way.”

She hugged me and said, “Mommy, that’s okay.

You know I love you anyway.”

I said, “Daughter, I love you too!

And I do like the flowers – especially the blue.”

Dr. Ann

Guilty Parents: You Are So Not Alone!

Guilty Parents: You Are So Not Alone!
In a brilliant attempt to advertise the new ABC TV comedy show “In the Motherhood” this week, Oprah had moms from all over the country share their fears, faux pas and just plain funny stories about struggling to be a good mom.

Oprah’s interview with moms revealed that basically every mom has questions and doubts about whether they are a good parent. Moms keep secrets about how they really feel so they can compete with other mom’s bragging about all they do for and with their kids.

The problem with these secrets is that they keep moms from realizing that every mom has the same insecurities about parenting. And the bigger problem is that these secrets keep moms feeling very alone.

Every day, for the past 25 years, someone calls my office and says, “my child is doing something I have never seen any other child do”. My first response is, “I know it must seem like that, but if you followed me around for the day, the names have changed, but the problems and feelings of moms are universal. YOU ARE SO NOT ALONE!”

No single parent is right. Nobody parents perfectly. And EVERYONE feels guilty about something they think they did to their child(ren). Your parenting purpose is to teach your kids how to love unconditionally: in other words, stop being so hard on yourself! Here are a few ideas to help you do just that:

Surround yourself with moms who support you when you make a mistake;
Try not to compare and compete, because you’ll never measure up;
Remember that all kids ‘shine’ at different times and for different reasons, your child will too;
Make friends with moms who genuinely want to know about your kids;
Ask other moms about their kids, so you don’t feel so alone in this journey;
Remind yourself, every time you feel like a failure, to learn from your mistakes;
If you continue to be hard on yourself as a mom, remember this one piece of advice. Get a 3×5 card and a big black magic marker. Write the word GUILTY on the card and put it in your dresser drawer. For two minutes each day, or once a week, whatever you choose, get the card out and feel your guilt for that amount of time. Then put the card back in the drawer and allow yourself to be done with feeling guilty. Get on with your life as the best mom you can be without beating yourself up with guilt! You are so not the only member of the GUILT CLUB: I’ve been a member in good standing for 28 years. Believe me, you’ll never be lonely because the membership never stops growing. Dr. Ann

Premature Babies ‘Need Cuddles’

Story from BBC NEWS 2008/05/24

Even very premature babies benefit from skin to skin contact with their parents, research suggests.
A Canadian study found that cuddling babies born as early as 28 weeks reduced the stress of painful medical procedures which many must undergo. Writing in the journal BMC Pediatrics, the McGill University team said it might aid the recovery process.

UK neonatal units do not always encourage skin to skin contact, said a London-based expert studying the issue. There is already some evidence that regular cuddling can help babies, even those dependent on incubators, not only by promoting their health, but by encouraging a parental bond which could be important to their progress in months to come.

Neonatal units can be very intimidating places, and parents often do not know the
best way to get involved.
Professor Linda Franck, Institute of Child Health

This study is the first to look at extremely premature babies, born between 28 and 31 weeks.
It was previously thought by some experts that such young babies were not developed enough to benefit from human touch.
A common test used in neonatal units is the “heel prick” blood test, which produces a sample which can be used to check blood sugar levels. This is inevitably painful for the baby, and in some cases, it can take minutes for this distress to recede – which could be a problem for a baby whose health is in the balance.

The McGill researchers carried out the test on some babies who were being actively cuddled, skin to skin, measuring facial expressions, heart rate and blood oxygen levels to assess the amount of pain suffered.
Pain scores after 90 seconds for the cuddled babies were much lower than for those who were not cuddled.

Half the cuddled babies did not show any facial expression of pain when undergoing a heel prick test. Lead researcher Celeste Johnston said that the shorter recovery time could help maintain the baby’s health.
“The pain response in very preterm neonates appears to be reduced by skin-to-skin maternal contact,” she said.

Parent Pressure

Professor Linda Franck, from the Institute of Child Health in London, said that parents were often not encouraged to have skin to skin contact with their premature babies in UK neonatal units, despite growing evidence that it could help.
She said: “Neonatal units can be very intimidating places, and parents often do not know the best way to get involved. “Parents want to do the right thing, but the message is difficult to get out there.
“This study suggests that, even for the very youngest premature babies, skin to skin contact can reduce the stress response.”
She is currently carrying out a pilot study in four London units which is using a variety of methods, including skin to skin contact, to encourage parents to become more involved with the care of their newborn children.

This article from BBC News, once again, reminds us as parents why touching your children from their very beginning minimizes their pain.

I remember not being able to keep my hands off my kids when they were born. It was like this magnetic force in the palms of my hands that could not be stopped even if I wanted to.

As my kids got older, sometimes they seemed as if they didn’t even want to touch me or the time wasn’t right, especially in public, for them to accept my touch. But, I kept on doing it anyway.

Now that they are in their 20’s and not living at home, I long for that touch connection everyday they are away. When we see each other the first thing we do is touch, big hugs and kisses.

That is how we started connecting all those years ago and how we keep our connection now.

Remember the importance of touch everyday with your kids, they need it even if it seems as they grow they don’t want it all the time.

Lots of the pains of parenting go away if you remember to touch, Dr. Ann

What All Kids Need…Oprah Tells Us

Oprah’s show this week about the “Little Girl Found Living Like an Animal” reminded us all what devastating effects neglect has on children.

Even if kids are not severely neglected they suffer if their parents don’t have a relationship with them.

Dr. Bruce Perry www.childtrauma.org is not only the leading authority on child abuse and neglect, but is one of the most down-to-earth psychiatrists I have ever met. His book, “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog” is not for the faint of heart, but gives profound insight into how the human brain changes if kids don’t connect with their parents.

There is more neglect in our country than abuse. Caretakers are responsible for helping children learn how to form and maintain relationships. Oprah pointed out that if kids spend too much time with ‘things’ like T.V. and computer/video games and not people that is a form of neglect.

There is optimism about change after neglect. These adoptive parents are awesome. Both mother and father gave this child the gift of unconditional love and affection to help this child travel through her trauma to learning about love. Watching her moving in the family pool to help herself process her emotions and environment was a beautiful sight. All kids need movement to change their moods and deal with their pains.

Dr. Perry emphasized what I have been sharing with you on my website when he said, “Simple things like eye contact, touch and rocking and humming can make all the difference to a baby. It makes neurons (the telephone system in the brain) grow, to make connections in the brain. Those connections make the brain functional.

So the moral of this story is keep touching, talking and making eye contact with your kids for healthy connections to keep their brains thriving.

The gift of your presence in your child’s life means more than any other ‘thing’ you can ever give them, Dr. Ann (Check out show at oprah.com)

The Bachelor…Setting A Terrible Example

Last night’s ABC “The Bachelor” show was just as entertaining as promised, with every twist in the book thrown at the audience. But at what cost to a child?

Jason, the single dad of Ty, a three year old, came off initially as a really genuine guy, who professed to put his child first at all costs. He emphasized that who ever he picked to be his wife would have to be a ‘good’ mom. But, in the process he turned out to be a not so good dad!

Children learn best through model, so matter what we tell kids to do as their parent; they will always pick what they see us do over what we tell them. So what Jason just demonstrated for his son is that he should follow his feelings, not learn what to do with his feelings.

What you do about the way you feel is what we should all be teaching our children. In this case, when Jason was feeling confused about his relationship with Melissa he should have immediately stopped having her ‘hang’ with his son. Yet, Jason shared openly that he spent all the holidays with Melissa and his whole family. That kind of experiment with children’s feelings is very damaging.

Another sick and ugly lesson Jason chooses to teach his young son is that you can commit to someone and then flip-flop your decision very quickly. Not to mention immediately commit to someone else that you rejected publicly and seemingly it does not matter that you caused tons of humiliation and embarrassment to other human beings.

Hooray, for Melissa’s parents, who from the beginning were smart enough to not participate in such a potentially publicly, painful experience for their daughter.

Now that is good parenting!

Lastly, Molly needs to be reminded that leopards don’t ever change their spots. Jason will surely flip-flop again. And he is not acting like a father who really cares about his child. All of the woman out there should be asking the question, do you want the father of your children teaching these kinds of messages to your kids?

Never, ever introduce your children to someone you don’t intend on making a permanent part of your children’s lives! Because kids don’t have a say about their relationship ending with someone they have become attached to. So when parents end a relationship for a child that means something special to them, that’s just plain cruel!

Think children first, Dr. Ann

Asking for Help Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Parent

Parents that ask the most questions about raising their children are the most courageous.

Offering advice to friends and family about what worked for you as a parent is excellent. Just remember to give the advice ONLY when asked and don’t take offense if other parents don’t take it!

If you get unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family and it drives you nuts and makes you feel like you are a BAD parent, feel free to use this ‘come back’ that I have told parents for years.

Just say to the person, “Could you do me a favor?” Usually when you ask this people will say, “Sure what is it?” Then say, “I value your opinion, but I would really like to learn from my own mistakes as a parent!”

Feel free to contact me with any question you have this holiday season,

Dr. Ann