Stories and thoughts from day to day life in the Bullard Family

Book Review: Discipline the Brazelton Way August 15, 2011

Book Review: Discipline the Brazelton Way by T. Berry Brazelton and Joshus D. Sparrow

Written by veteran pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist, Joshua D. Sparrow, this book provides a quick run-down of basic discipline techniques and approaches. It is easy to read and gives the reader tangible solutions to discipline “hot spots” as well as a little background on the importance of discipline and how it works.

The book opens with the “touchpoints of discipline,” which are “times when a child regresses in anticipation of a developmental leap ahead.” These are the typical growth milestones: the first 6 months, 7-8 months, 9-12 months, 12-14 months, the second year, and what comes after: emotional development, self-esteem, and moral development. From a theoretical orientation stand point, this section sounds a bit Freudian, or more psychodynamic. It explores how defenses are built in early childhood. The information here seems pretty grounded and was an interesting view on child development.

The second chapter discusses approaches to discipline, such as the parent’s own memories of discipline, influence of temperament, leading by example, interpreting behaviors, and consequences, to name a few. It provides enough information for the reader to get the gist of approaches, though is not an exhaustive in-depth look at discipline approaches.

The third chapter holds all the keys: ways to discipline. Methods are presented in three categories: 1. Usually worth a try, 2. Sometimes useful, and 3. Not helpful. This is where the reader will find things like time-out, taking away toys, spanking, or ignoring behavior. Each way of disciplining is explained and then weighted with pro’s and con’s. I thought this was a great lay-out for presenting different discipline options.

Finally, the fourth chapter explains some of the typical problems of discipline. These include attention seeking, biting, defiance, lying, power struggles, running away, etc. Each issue is briefly discussed and then goes on to suggest what the parent might do to deal with the issue.

My take on the book:

If you are in need of a quick and easy introduction to discipline, this is a great book. It won’t help you develop a personal philosophy on discipline or really change deeply ingrained discipline habits if you have been using any for a while. I am new to discipline (a fairly blank slate), so I could quickly incorporate some of the ideas here and get results.

The book also offers some nice verbal examples of what to say to children. Sometimes, parents just need a script for certain instances and the authors do a good job of demonstrating dialogue around discipline.

While things for me are still fairly uncomplicated (my oldest is 2.5 right now), I am still looking for something with more substance to help me develop a stronger discipline philosophy / approach.

The most helpful technique or bit of information that I have taken from this book is the concept that children at this age (2-3 years) do not have the ability to keep impulses in check and they need our help. BUT, at this age, they also want to do things for themselves and are testing out their independence. This is scary to a child in a way because they realize how much “power” they have. To help my daughter, I have been telling her that she can do it herself (comply with my request) or I will have to help her do it (physical intervention). After two or three times of me “helping” her, she always chooses to do it herself. This applies to things like putting on shoes, getting in the car, giving a toy back to her brother, climbing down from the table, etc. While this is a little over-simplistic, it works for now.

On the whole, the book is practical and to the point. It is a great introduction to discipline and a nice fix if you don’t have a lot of time to put into really learning and understanding discipline in the big picture.


Book Review: Montessori From The Start July 29, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 11:24 pm
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Montessori From The Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three, by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen

The authors of this book are a mother-daughter team who, along with Jane Linari, co-founded the Forest Bluff Montessori School and have written several other books on the subject. The book opens with an introduction to Maria Montessori’s philosophy and teaching approach concerning education for different stages of development. It provides enough background information to ease the reader into the Montessori approach. I have only just started learning about Montessori education and felt that this gave a good over-view.

The book is PACKED with information and gives you all the basics for establishing a Montessori home for children aged 0-3. I took 20 pages of handwritten (small) notes because I simply could not process all the information without doing so! I’ll just provide some key points from each chapter here.

Chapter One: The Completion of the Human Being introduces the overall development of children through age 24. This includes growing independence, coordinated movement, language, and developing will. The key is that adults must prepare the environment to give the child freedom and responsibility.

Chapter Two: Welcoming the Newborn describes how the environment should be set up, what objects to provide and what types of “activities” to do with the newborn. What stood out to me in this chapter was the development of attention in the first three months. Here, it is made very clear that adults should be careful not to interrupt the infant while he is taking in his environment. This means refraining from shaking different toys in his face and overstimulating the poor thing with plastic toys. The authors encourage the adult to notice when sustained attention is taking place and to allow for this to happen by not distracting him.

Chapter Three: Discovering the World provides guidelines for choosing toys for your baby and toddler. It gets quite specific, going into the types of mobiles that should be used and when they should be used. It sounds a bit rigid, but there are valid reasons behind these recommendations and it all serves to support maximum development. Montessori play things are based in reality, which means the objects must make sense (no baby aliens with glowing, singing heads), ordered, functional, and beautiful.

Chapter Four: The Hand and the Brain delves into detail about the development of the manipulation of objects with the hands. I found this to be incredibly interesting as I have worked with children who have difficulty manipulating things with their hands. Movement is learned and guided by thinking rather than mechanical actions. The chapter brings much needed focus to fine motor development, as gross motor seems to get all the encouragement these days.

Chapter Five: Crawling to Coordination goes through gross motor development and emphasizes not placing restriction on this development. Restriction in this instance refers to placing babies in exersaucer-type devices, walkers, strollers, slings or even helping the baby to sit when he cannot hold himself up. Tummy time is an understatement, as the authors suggest that babies should be on their tummies the majority of their waking time to encourage physical development. Baby-proofing the house is also covered thoroughly.

Chapter Six: Practical Life focuses on what types of activities the 15-month-old should begin doing and carries on through to age three. It takes considerable amount of planning and preparation to carry out the recommended activities. As a non-Montessori parent, I would really struggle to be this organized to teach my toddler how to cut and prepare her own vegetables. But if you are interested in teaching very practical activities to your children, this book breaks down the tasks to teach you how to teach your child. Enough examples are given that they can be adapted and expanded to other tasks.

Chapter Seven: Personal Care shows the reader how to encourage independence in self-care from the young child. Steps for independence are provided in the area of sleep, food, dressing, toilet training, and grooming. The authors explain the “sensitive periods” for learning these tasks to minimize resistance from the toddler for things like brushing teeth and toilet training.

Chapter Eight: Language and Intelligence presents information on the development of spoken (oral) language, written language, music and art, and toys and imaginative play. In alignment with the rest of the book, the authors provide detailed descriptions of the types of activities, books, projects, and play things that one should use for optimal development. Basically, things should be reality-based. No stories of talking animals or flying children for toddlers. Limit-setting is also discussed.

Chapter Nine: The Developing Will discusses how discipline, obedience, and self-control all begin in childhood. The authors go on to talk about how it is developed. Through the prepared environment (one that demonstrates order and structure), the adult must make clear to the child what to expect, when to expect it, and where  to expect it. Routine is of utmost importance, as the child’s frontal lobe is not yet fully developed and therefore rely on external structure to define what is going on.

The book closes with a conclusion chapter which illustrates Montessori principles in practice. When I read about these families, I realized that I could not implement many of these things, simply because I am not a super-organized person. It is a pretty incredible thing for the people who can pull this off! I commend them.

My take on the book:

This is probably one the most influential books I have read on parenting to date. I like this particular book so much because it is based on common sense learning. It encourages children to take as much responsibility as early as possible and to build creativity based on the child’s own imagination, rather than the adult’s imagination that is imposed on the child. It may seem as though too much responsibility is placed on the child if you are not used to hearing things such as toilet training starting at 6 months.

One thing that has really changed how I deal with my 2-year-old is understanding that their brains process things so much slower than ours do. They have not yet learned how to filter out things in their environment, so everything receives equal attention. This is why it is so hard to keep them focused! So when it is time to do something else, redirect, or move on from whatever seemingly random thing she has decided to focus on, I repeat my instruction to her calmly 3-5 times. I used to get impatient, but if I stay calm, she listens. It just takes time. I am excited to implement other practices as I see fit for my children’s personalities.

If you are interested in how to give more responsibility to your child or how to develop a Montessori home, this book is a great place to start!


Parenting Without a Voice (Literally) May 28, 2011

Filed under: Parenting,Self-care — parentsong @ 10:26 pm
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As much as singers rely on their voice to accomplish what they set out to do everyday, so do parents. This is the second time since Gabriel was born (so that was three months ago) that I have lost my voice. Right now I am on day five. It makes things a bit more challenging.

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Here are some features of parenting without a voice:

No singing. This is very difficult because I use songs to cue so many things during the day (getting ready to eat, blessing the food, washing hands, tummy time, and basically entertaining my children). I can still whistle, though! It’s amazing that just whistling works for some of these transitional times.

Minimal story time. By the end of even the shortest stories, my voice is so labored, I can barely get the words out. And forget making different voices for characters, they all sound like Patty and Selma Bouvier, the chain-smoking sisters of Marge Simpson.

No gentle directions. I sound like I am barking commands because when I try to tell my 2-year-old what to do, she can’t hear me (or she has engaged in selective hearing, which my raspy voice is powerless against).

No cooing cute baby sounds. I hope I have not traumatized our son by growling and roaring at him instead of speaking to him sweetly in my upper register. He seems to have a good sense of humor about it, though.

What’s a Mom to do?

And self care? I just read a post by a fellow music therapist who was recovering from laryngitis and blogged about how she accommodated her sessions to use less vocal-based activity. Believe me, I have relied on recorded material more this week than usual (we even allowed Briony to watch an entire Disney movie!) Of course, resting the voice is the best thing one can do. I try. But is there anything else?

I have given story time and bedtime over to my husband several times this week because he can still talk and sing. Thankfully he is happy to step in whenever I need it.

Of course, trying to stay hydrated helps, which I should be doing anyway, but the day can really get away from you! And in these days when sleep is but a blink of the eyes, it is difficult to make full recovery quickly.

So, for now we all must deal with Patty keeping us company until Erin returns.


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Book Review: The Happiest Baby on the Block May 12, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 11:14 pm
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The Happiest Baby on the Block By Harvey Karp

This book is written by a pediatrician and father of one child. His approach is playful and comical, but compassionate and gentle at the same time. He clearly has spent a significant amount of time working with young children and parents.

The book is pretty thick at 267 pages, but a quick read. There are two basic sections: 1) Why babies cry and 2) How to soothe them. This is not a parenting philosophy, so no matter what parenting approach you take, the information in this book will not likely go against what you are doing.

The first section about why babies cry proposes that infants are in their “fourth trimester” during the first three months of life. He gives some anecdotes of new parents dealing with their sweet, adorable, crying baby. This is to illustrate how his approach to calming babies works. He goes into further depth about theories of colic, what it is, what it is not, and myths that cause colic. He writes about putting different parts of the picture together, which include brain immaturity, temperament, big tummy troubles (allergies and acid reflux), tiny tummy troubles (constipation and gas), and maternal anxiety. I like this view because it is often so difficult to tell what exactly is troubling an infant.

The second section goes into detail about the technique for calming the colicky baby. These are the five S’s. These are as follows:

  1. Swaddling: Wrapping your baby tightly in a blanket or sheet to keep him or her from flailing about. There is a certain way to do this so that the baby cannot get loose. The book details the method for swaddling the baby The idea behind swaddling is to allow the baby to actually take notice of what the parent / caregiver is doing to calm him or her. It also puts the baby closer to the womb environment, which is comforting.
  2. Side / Stomach: Positioning the baby in your arms so that he or she is on his or her side or stomach does two things: 1) It triggers the calming reflex by putting the baby in a position most similar to the one he or she was in in the womb and 2) it keeps the baby from setting off the moro reflex, or the startle reflex.
  3. Shhhhing: Literally, saying shhhhhhhhh. This one actually takes some practice and you may need to work up your mouth muscles to maintain the shhh long enough to calm the baby at first. Karp suggests holding your mouth two to four inches from the baby’s ear and starting out as loud as the baby is crying. This can seem alarmingly loud at first, but the baby has to hear it over his crying. Then, back off as the baby’s cry diminishes. Follow the baby.
  4. Swinging: Karp reminds the reader of the five senses and goes on to mention the sixth: movement in space. Swinging here refers to any rhythmic motion: rocking, swinging, bouncing, jiggling, vibrating seats, walking, etc. The baby must never be shaken and the head should always be supported, though not necessarily held still. There is a part in the book that breaks down all the steps to “successful motion.”
  5. Sucking: This refers to eating to satisfy hunger and sucking for comfort (non-nutritive sucking). If the baby is not really hungry, the use of a pacifier can come in handy here. Karp suggests trying a pacifier once the baby is calm (to keep her calm) and to try different brands to find the shape of nipple that best suits the baby.

These five steps are revisited several times throughout the book. This is clearly the most important message to take home. Beyond this, Karp discusses other issues that may be affecting the infant, such as reflux. He also gives a plan for weaning the baby off of these “props” so that eventually, the baby will be able to go to sleep (an stay asleep) on his own.

Much of this information can be found on the Happiest Baby website. The book is nice for making the frazzled parent feel better and does provide some  support for parenting the colicky baby. It made me feel better, which can only be a good thing. The baby won’t be colicky forever, so I know I am not avoiding something that will creep up on me later in life… or am I?

My take on the book:

Personally, I have found these techniques to be gentle and effective. We use all five of these tools, though we keep the baby on our shoulder because he is not happy on his side or stomach when upset. And that is just the thing: you have to play with these things until you figure out what your baby responds best to.

While I do not plan on using Karp’s plan for getting the child to sleep (such as use of a white noise machine, which does not keep our little Tasmanian devil asleep any longer than without the noise), I do use these techniques to keep the baby calm and he does eventually go to sleep and I can put him down. Sleeping through the night* has yet to happen.

I’ll be getting ready for sleep training soon, unless he magically starts sleeping on his own. I just believe in sleep training. I think it is a good habit to have and one I wish I had. Of course, we won’t start until we think the baby is ready. We don’t want to make his life too hard, now.

*Sleeping through the night is considered to happen when the baby sleeps 5 consecutive hours according to Dr. Sears.