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

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

Terrible Two’s and Whinning

Dear Dr. Corwin,

Francesca turned two in January. She is a very energetic child and she is very sweet. We came to Toddler Talks last year and your suggestions were really helpful.

I just purchased the DVD as many behavior challenges have been occurring. It is overwhelming sometimes. Last night, she did not want to go in her car seat and it was exhausting. She was frustrated and so was I.
I asked her to help Mommy by getting into her seat. She refused. We had been at the mall and she was probably getting tired. I was also getting tired.

I am searching for answers. I love her dearly and am concerned because so many of the techniques that have worked before are not working now. It feels like she is becoming more defiant. We do not want to spank either.

I understand this is a time for her to be her own person and try out new things. I want to embrace her spontaneity and most of the times I can laugh. When I feel the most anxiety is when we are tired at the end of the day. Also, she will lie down at the mall and I do not want her to get stepped on.

What I do not know is if there is something that we are doing as parents which would be a better suggestion. We have tried time outs, redirecting and counting to 3 (when requesting her to do something like getting in the car seat).

In the past month or so, it feels like she challenges us more than previously. What I do not know is if this is typical two year old behavior and it will pass? Or, if the behavior is due to having Mommy around less so confusion in rules have led to these patterns?

My in-laws watch Francesca while John and I work. When she whines, they have handed her what it is she is asking for. Now, she is whining more often and crying when we tell her no. My husband and I do not give her the item while she whines. My husband is also discussing with his parents how having two different responses is not helpful. They are trying so I hope it gets better.
I was taking a class towards my degree so between work and school there was less time together. It was for four months and just finished a couple of weeks ago. I am hoping that we can get back on track this summer. I am analyzing which work committees to back off of so I have more time with Francesca and my husband.

I would appreciate hearing any suggestions that you have. Thanks for listening. I woke up with insomnia.

Cara B

Thanks for your thoughtful questions. In a nutshell, whenever a child’s behavior starts to escalate, it means you are giving them too many chances and choices. So just put her in her car seat by pressing the heal of your hand on her breast bone, her back will automatically round and then you can put the straps on quickly.

Don’t ask her to help you, don’t look at her or give her any opportunity to object, ‘just do it’ because car seats are not an option…it’s all about safety, as you know.

You are probably right, your absence has been tough on her, but now that you will be spending more time with her some of that will go away.

Your husband is right, you need to get grandma on the same page about ‘whining. Whining is a form of communication that kids experiment with, if they get a response from a parent/grandparent when they do this, then the child inadvertently believes that sometimes they should continue to use this form of communication.

So whenever she whines, stop looking at her, do not talk to her or give her what she wants. That will stop the behavior. But, in order to change the behavior, you need to talk to her ALL the time when she speaks without the whine.

Tell her that you love her voice, label what the voice is, like say “I love your Buenaventura voice, talk some more”. So she knows she gets time and attention from you when she talks in that voice instead of a whine, where she gets nothing.

Hope this helps? The next Toddler Talk is Sept 8th, 15th and 22nd. You can call and register any time you want. Take care, Dr. Ann

P.S. And yes a lot of this behavior is typical two.

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

Spanking… Why it Doesn’t Work!

Spanking is so misunderstood.

For decades spanking has been defined as a discipline technique. Spanking has nothing to do with discipline; it is a punishment technique. Discipline teaches a child how to behave so they can change and punishment only stops behavior, but never changes it.

A decade ago the word on the street and among professionals was that it was not kosher to spank your children. Some experts say that hitting a child who misbehaves only teaches the child to hit back and resent the parent who hits them.

The reality is plain and simple spanking doesn’t work. When a child feels the pain of the swat their stress hormones release automatically. These hormones bathe the child’s brain so it’s like being under water at a pool, you can hear people talking on the pool deck, but you cannot understand what they are saying.

So if parents are trying to teach their child a lesson with the spank, it is literally impossible because the child cannot hear it.

For the past thirty years, my work has focused on helping families be successful. So, if you want permanent change in your family, do not spank.

You will find the results you want by remembering to connect with your kids with gentle touch when they behave the way you want. Not connecting physically when they misbehave. And most importantly, when the incident is over, be sure to connect with your kids again laying gentle hands on them.

If you want help with alternatives to spanking stay in touch, Dr. Ann

Divorce Makes Kids Mad!

I am a Pediatrician going through divorce. I have a 4 and 7-year-old boy who hit, kick, push and call me names. They are great at school and with other parents, but when I am with them, I become their punching bag!

I put them up in their rooms, take things away; it does not seem to make a difference. My extended family is appalled by their behavior and their utter disrespect for me. I wake up to them fighting and creating havoc and I go to sleep, usually next to them, after a huge struggle with them at night about getting to sleep. And I am exhausted.

My 4 year old is showing a lot of anger and fear (wanting to know where I am all the time), some of which was apparent prior to the divorce proceedings starting, but now more intense.

I have read some books and tried. But nothing seems to work. My family thinks I should be spanking them. But how do you teach a child not to hit when you are hitting them? And it just doesn’t feel right to me.

Samantha Your children’s behavior is actually an attachment pattern that is not uncommon for children of divorce and the “fear” of abandonment which comes full force under these circumstances. Anger is the #1 defense mechanism for fear, so it is no wonder your kids are showing that emotion on a regular basis as you are the safest person to be angry at (it is called unconditional love). The good news is that your kids feel safe enough with you to show their fear by acting angry. Your instincts are totally correct, hitting never changes a behavior, and so spanking won’t get you anywhere, except feeling guilty afterwards. REMEMBER: Touch, make eye contact and talk to your kids when they are NOT acting out. Tell them their feeling is anger, because they think you will leave them like Dad did. Each day tell them you are NEVER going anyway, you will always be their mom. Teach them what ‘to do’ with anger…kick a bean-bag, put their hands in their pockets, running, going outside in the sunshine or listening to music. All this changes their moods so they can cope with this overwhelming fear.Dr. Ann