Tag Archives: Development

Parental Diplomacy

Our community has a lot of great resources for new families. There is a group that is hosted by some community nurses and a few volunteers that Jenn and I took the kids to when they were younger. They talk about the issues and concerns faced by new parents. It was also a great place to meet other new parents in our neighbourhood. When meeting other new parents I found that there were new things for me to consider in my interactions. Most notably, I had to learn how to allow my children to play with other children whose parents may have a different parenting style.

First Contact

The first time that I remember being made aware that I would have to pay quite a bit of attention to the parenting styles of others was at the parent group. I remember the mom of another baby was making quite a fuss over preventing her child from touching any other kids. Of course, within minutes, one of my kids was trying to grab the foot of that mother’s child. I felt like I had no choice in this case, and I prevented my child from playing with the neighbouring child.

I don’t really know why the other mom wasn’t letting her child touch other children. I can think of a lot of reasons that she may have had. From my perspective, as a parent of twins, I was quite used to my kids interacting with one another, and so I had no issue with other children touching my kids, and I felt it was quite natural for my kids to be allowed to touch other kids. In this case, because a rule had been established by the mom next to us, I felt obliged to make my kids follow that rule with her child. All told, this was a very gentle introduction for me into the world of parental diplomacy. The “no touching” rule that had been tabled was pretty insignificant, but it did make me aware of some of the issues and decisions that I would face in the future.

Parenting Styles and Bullying

bullySince then I have had quite a few exchanges with other parents. I have realized that, usually, when parents are managing their children’s social interactions, they are trying to be polite to other children and parents. Having said that, I am also becoming aware that as my kids get older, there will be more significant issues at stake. Bullying is an example that jumps to mind.

For a long time bullying has been a bit of a mystery to me. It seems unlikely that any parents would actually want their kids to be bullied or to be a bully. If a parent told me that my kids were bullying other kids, I would absolutely address it with my children, preferably with the other family present. Likewise, if my kids were being bullied, then I would want to talk to the parents of the child that was doing the bullying and would expect the parents to address the issue with their child. I think this is probably easier said than done. It seems quite likely to me that parents may not be open to hearing about their children’s bad behaviour from other parents.

I think there is a responsibility for parents to accept that their children are not perfect, and are capable of doing bad things to people. By no means am I suggesting that you always think that your child is bad, but if the assumption is that they might do bad things from time to time, then you will probably be more approachable if and when another parent has to discuss bullying concerns. Let there be no mistake, however, that telling a parent that their child has been bullying people would require expert parental diplomacy skills.

I invite any thoughts or stories about bullying. The more we share about this, the more we stand to learn.

The “Big Talks”

Adult content is for kids too!

There are a lot of “big talks” that my wife and I are going to have with our kids and one of those talks will be about sex. I have a rough idea of how I’d like to approach the topic of sex. Very generally, my preferred approach is to start dialogue with my kids very early. In fact, some of the ground work has already been laid with my kids, as we have already given them some of the basic vocabulary that they will need to develop some of their own questions.

The (Not So) Big Talk

I don’t actually plan on having a talk about sex with my kids. Instead I plan on having a series of small talks with them as new questions arise. At the moment, my kids are really just observers that make comments about the world. They don’t really ask many questions, but they do have some of the vocabulary that they will need when they do decide to start making sexual queries.

When the first sexual questions arrive, my general plan is to provide simple answers addressing the questions that are asked. If more questions follow, then bring them on, but there is no need to overwhelm them with extraneous information. Providing simple and accurate information will be easier to present in a way that is not awkward and it will establish Jenn and I as a reliable source of information. My hope is that this will encourage good communication about sex as our children’s questions become more complex.

Starting Young

I was talking to an acquaintance the other day about this topic and I found it interesting when he told me that his parents talked to him about sex when he was very young. He said that the result was that he started trying to have sex from a very early age. Unfortunately the setting was not the right one for me to probe this topic deeper, and the conversation drifted to other topics. Without more context to this comment it is hard to make any useful commentary about this statement. I find myself wondering what kind of “talk” this person was given. I also wonder if he fully understood my motivation for opening up the dialogue about sex with my kids at an early age.

There certainly seems to be some good reasons to try to discourage your kids from having sex at too early an age.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Early timing of sexual initiation is important for two reasons. First, the younger the age of first sexual intercourse, the more likely that the experience was coercive, and forced sexual intercourse is related to long lasting negative effects. —Source

This quote seems to support the idea that people will benefit from becoming sexually active at an older age. I wonder, however, if youngsters are  more likely to have a coercive sexual experience because they are young or because they had bad sex education? More to the point, I wonder if bad sex education leads to a situation where people choose to have sex at a younger age than they would if they had better sex education?

One way or the other, the graph below shows that kids do start having sex when they are quite young. With that in mind, the intention of my approach is to provide my kids with the best information that I can give them about sex and sexuality to help them make informed decisions.

Percent of teens who claim to have had sex, by age

Age Boys Girls
14 7.9% 5.7%
15 14.6% 13.0%
16 25.3% 26.8%
17 39.4% 43.1%
18 54.3% 58.0%
19 65.2% 70.1%

I want my children to have good, fun and meaningful sexual experiences when they are prepared to have such encounters. This will not be possible without a good understanding of their sexuality and all of the implications of their sexual interactions. The point of teaching my kids about sex and sexuality isn’t so that they don’t have sex, it is so that when they do, they are prepared.

Who’s Your Favourite

Very taboo, but yes I have favourites. I guess this is primarily an issue for parents of two or more children, but I think even parents of a single child can at the very least say that their child is not their favourite person at times. I wonder if favouring one child over your other(s) is something that most parents would admit to? I suspect that we all do it, but if so, then why does it seem so taboo?

Judge and Jury

As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, people love to make judgements about people. I’m not even being specific to parents here. Judging people is one of the activities that people seem to get off on most in life. Even those that profess to dislike “labeling” people because it is akin to passing judgements on people are, themselves, judging those that do label others. Labeling and passing judgements are things that we do as humans.

It isn’t always nice or friendly, but labeling helps us make sense of our world and it is also a skill that helps to keep us alive. If we didn’t judge or label things that were poisonous to us, then we might end up killing ourselves with the “bad” berries, for example. There are significant differences between judging hazards to our safety and a person’s character. Determining something to be dangerous is vastly different to deciding that someone is socially awkward or frustrating. For this reason it seems fairly uncontroversial to be harsh towards the things that might cause us harm. It is more controversial to judge people for their personal flaws.

What Favouritism Isn’t

When I talk about favouring one child over the other, the character of my children is certainly at issue, having said that, I love my kids equally. The love I have for my kids is never at issue when I talk about having a favourite. So preferring one over the other is never a question of my love for my kids, but is rather an issue of how I have bonded with them.

As my kids have been developing there have been times when I make a bond with one more than with the other. During those times, I’d have to say that I feel closer to one than the other. I’d also say that it seems like the “favourite” child also seems to prefer me more during those times too and so it seems like it is a two way street. Jenn and I have both noticed that when one of us does bond with one of our kids more than the other it is a temporary thing and we tend to swing back and forth between both of our kids.

Favouring one of my kids over the other, is a recognition of the increasingly deep bond that I am constantly forming with both of them. The depth of the bond doesn’t increase simultaneously with both of my kids, and so it is like a game of leap frog with one being my “favourite”, but only for a time. I feel like this is a very natural and normal situation, so why do people find it difficult to admit that this happens with their children? My guess is that parents feel like admitting that they favour one child over the other sounds cold and callous. The concern is likely that some people will not understand what is meant by such a statement and the parents would be unfairly judged. Are you afraid to talk about how you favour one child over another, and if so please explain why?

Do Your Kids Play Favourites?

I’ll bet your kids do have a favourite parent, but like me, I’ll bet they go back and forth over time. Check out this hilarious video!

Monuments Explained

In my previous post I put up a poem that I wrote when I was a younger punk than I am now. When I wrote the poem my intent was to point out that, generally, people have a tendency to avoid dealing with the larger problems of the world. Children have quite a few unique characteristics, two of which are a remarkable clarity of thought and the inability to edit their thoughts. While this sometimes leads to public declarations like “Papa has a penis” or “Papa toots” it can also lead to fairly profound observations about the world. The final line “Quite often the monuments to our ignorance stand no higher than the waist” was meant to point out how children often seem to be able to ask very penetrating questions which reveal our lack of understanding and resolve to address such problems.  Therefore, with the clarity of thought that their fresh perspective affords them, children are like pint sized monuments to our ignorance.

What Have I Done for the World Lately

In any fundamental way, am I any less ignorant than my parents, or theirs? Well, if I’m going to be honest, I’d like to say that I am, but the reality of the situation is that I’m not. On an individual level, I have done nothing substantial or significant to end poverty, war, pollution et cetera. My poem wasn’t really supposed to be an indictment of individuals for lacking the moral fortitude to “save the world”. It was really just an interesting observation that children can see through a lot of the crappy excuses that we use to ignore some major issues that exist in the world.

Since children do seem to have this ability to ask very revealing questions, my new role as a father leaves me wondering what approach I should take when these questions are asked of me. I have a plan for how I’d like to address the more often thought of “drugs” and “sex” related questions, but I’m realizing that I have no plan for how I’m going to respond when I am asked why person X from country Y has no food when we have plenty or why it’s okay for people from one country to kill people in another country when it is a “war”, but normally that is murder. I need a plan for this.

The Plan

vietnam-war
How would you explain this photo to your child?

What I would most like to avoid is becoming my own self-fulfilling prophecy by having my children become the monuments to my ignorance. The simple realization that there are no good answers to questions like those above is going to have to be my starting point. I think it is very important for me to not shy away from those questions, even when there are no good answers. Come to think of it, I think the way to go is to become a child again myself. Explore their enquiries with them and ask penetrating questions back. This way you wouldn’t be avoiding the issues, and you would avoid coming off as arrogant. Well, this is where my idea has taken me this time, what are your thoughts on the issue?

Sleep, The “Battle” Worth Winning

Early on during our pregnancy, my wife and I decided sleep was a “battle” that we really wanted to win. The fact that we were having twins made sleep quite important for us, and we knew there would be added challenges since we were having two kids at once. We joined a local twin group, and as a bonus there was a guest speaker giving a talk on children’s sleep. The speaker was Wendy Hall, PhD, RN who has done a great deal of research and work on sleep issues for infants and toddlers. We have seen her two times and have followed her suggestions and had a great deal of success in doing so.

I have found a YouTube video of Wendy giving a talk very similar to the ones that we sat in on and thought it was worth sharing. The problem is that the video is 1:10 minutes long and I know that finding that kind of time can be pretty tricky. In this post I have created a breakdown of the topics covered in the video with timestamped links to points in the video where she covers major topics, to try to make it easier to find information on the issues you are most concerned with. If you can find the time, I highly recommend watching the whole video. Let me know what you think of the points made by Wendy and if you have any ideas to contribute to the topic of sleep.

Entire Video

Why is Sleep Necessary?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 2:14 – 3:57)

  • Sleep is essential for developing brains and bodies
  • Increasing rates of children’s emotional and behavioural problems are linked to sleep problems
  • Children with ADHD have higher incidences of sleep problems and shorter sleep duration
  • Sleep loss is implicated in childhood accidents
  • Children have paradoxical reactions to inadequate sleep
  • Children who are over-tired will find it difficult to relax, struggle against going to sleep and have more disrupted sleep during the night

What is Sleep About?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 3:57 – 9:45)

  • Based on circadian and homeostatic (sleep pressure) processes
  • Circadian rhythm incorporates cues from the environment to regulate timing
  • Sleep pressure is relieved by daytime  naps and nighttime sleep
  • Sleep cycles (time 5:50 – 9:45) Important

What Does Sleep Look Like in Children?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 9:45 – 20:11)

What Are Sleep Promoting Strategies?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 20:11 – 24:36)

Sleep Problems and How They Can Be Managed?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 24:36 – 41:55)

What Are Some Effects of Sleep Problems?

Discussion

The Five Stages of Infancy

I certainly wouldn’t expect everyone to agree with my point of view on this post, but I have mentioned before that infants really aren’t my thing and I figured that statement could use a little fleshing out. I’ve done some research and broadly speaking it seems like you can get away with defining an infant as being anywhere between 0 and 24 months old and that is the age range that this post will address

Before I get myself into a world of hurt for saying horrible things about my kids, I’m going to preface all of this with the following. I love them both very much and have loved them very much since they were born, and before they were born, I loved the idea of them! In this post I am simply making some comparisons that I feel are apt, although possibly a little callous. For the overly sentimental, please look away at this point.

More Amazing Than…Everything

From birth until about six hours of age, your child(ren) are the bomb. They are nothing but absolutely amazing. There is not a single aspect of their existence that doesn’t take your breath away. The name of this phase is the “More Amazing Than…Everything” phase of infancy, but would more aptly be named the “Mommy and Papa Don’t Know Any Better Yet” phase. At this stage of infancy, my advice to you is to enjoy this feeling because it won’t last and it is a result of elevated hormone levels and your body playing some really malicious tricks on you for keeping it up for the last two to four days.

Better Than a Rock Garden

rocksThis is the rating I gave my kids from about six hours old until about two months of age. The primary benefits of this stage were that they were warm and smelled nice (sometimes). On the down side, they confused the hell out of me. I felt like I pretty much never knew what they wanted. My children had little to no empathy for me and my situation. I remember having a very rudimentary concept of personal dignity based on simple things like not letting people urinate, defecate or vomit on me. It was during this phase of infancy that I was robbed of this basic concept of personal dignity.

More Impressive Than a Pumpkin Patch

PumpkinThis is the designation that I awarded my twins from the time that they were two months old until about three months of age. One day our kids were having a nap which gave us a small break from our baby stand duties. We were startled by a horrible scream from our daughter. We went in to find her hand firmly latched on to her cheek with her nails digging into her soft newborn skin. She was not fully aware of how these appendages of hers worked, and one of them had attacked her. The pain and the resulting stress of her predicament was causing her hand to tense up even more. It was a vicious and self perpetuating attack carried out by herself, and she didn’t realize it. It was genuinely interesting for me to see and realize exactly how unaware my children were of their bodies and how utterly hopeless they were at controlling themselves.

What made my kids graduate to being more impressive than a pumpkin patch was their understanding that they were attached to their body. To be clear, at three months of age they still couldn’t control their bodies any better than (to steal from Hunter S. Thompson) “the village drunkard in some early Irish novel“, but they had clearly started to develop a concept of “self” and that is more than I can say for pumpkins.

Cooler Than a Cat, Although Just as Indifferent

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe transition to this stage began at about three months of age and was marked by intentional smiles. We had seen smiles prior to this stage, but they were usually associated with the children relieving their bodily functions. At three months of age we were able to finally relate to our kids on a different level. We could do things that caused them to smile. We were finally interacting with them on more of a social and human level and it was a truly wonderful feeling, but… there was fine print.

Any interactions designed to illicit laughter or smiles from the children were subject to the following stipulations:

  • You must voluntarily surrender your dignity
  • You must understand that all attempts at humour are to be evaluated by a being with underdeveloped lower frontal lobes
  • Any failure to induce smiling or laughter will be punished by the infant’s choice of crying, screaming, defecation, urination, vomiting or any combination of said punishments

In my experience, most cats seem blissfully unaware of the intricacies of human social interactions. The fact that our children were able to start understanding and acting as players in social interactions made them a lot cooler than cats. Still lacking any real sense of empathy for me or others, however, left my children just as indifferent as the common house cat.

Finally, Better Than a Dog

dogThe key traits of this stage of infancy are:

  1. Walking
  2. Talking
  3. Emotional development (empathy)

Now your child has the ability to recognize your mood, navigate over to you and (on a good day) say “Papa’s happy!” and give you a hug. Wow, you’ve made it, right? Yes and no.

At various points along my children’s developmental path, I have been tempted to think that things are going to get easier as various milestones are reached. It’s true that some things have become easier, but it’s also true that there are a constant stream of new challenges to overcome. Overall, although things may not be getting significantly easier, I have noticed that the level of enjoyment that I have gotten from being with my children has increased as they have grown and developed over the last two years. I think that this is why “infants aren’t really my thing”. I derive joy from the development of my kids, and obviously limited age yields limited development so for me, I am becoming increasingly enthralled with them as they grow. What is it about your children that gives you joy and piques your interest?