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Erratic bedtimes linked to child behavioral problems

Children who go to to bed at irregular hours are more likely to have behavioral problems, according to a recent study.

The research, which appeared in the U.S. journal Pediatrics, found that lifelong problems could result from erratic childhood bedtimes, but that the effects could be reversed with implementation of a schedule.

“Not having fixed bedtimes, accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body and mind akin to jet lag,” said Yvonne Kelly of the University College London.

Inconsistent bedtimes can disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation, impairing brain development and the ability to regulate some behaviors, the research showed.

Parenting: How to Say “Yes” as Much as Possible

Dear Mama Drama:

I have noticed recently that anytime my husband or I say “No” to our three-year-old daughter, a huge meltdown ensues. Even if we are saying, “No, not right now, but later,” she still throws a tantrum. We find ourselves in power struggles or giving in and are at a loss for what to do.  (photo credit)

How can we help her handle not getting her way right away with a little more grace?

Tips for taking your tantruming fighting kids in public

Dear Mama Drama:

I have nearly decided I cannot take my kids out in public anymore. Every time I do, they have terrible meltdowns and we all end up miserable. 

They are two and four and will either fight, throw tantrums, or run around like crazy when we go to a store or restaurant. I am so embarrassed by their behavior and that people will think I’m a bad parent. I don’t want to embarrass them by disciplining them in public, so things tend to get really out of control. By the time we get home I am ready to explode.

~Home Bound Mama

Mama Drama: Staying Sane Parenting the Spitfire and the Saint

Dear Mama Drama:

I have two great kids. One is the model son who is sweet, obedient and tries to do what is right. His older sister is a fun spitfire who frequently gets in trouble for antagonizing her little brother or not listening.

The other day when I was reprimanding her, she accused me of not loving her as much because I always side with him. Though I try to be a loving mom, I can see how she’d feel that way because he rarely gets in trouble. How do I teach her certain behaviors aren’t acceptable but also show my love? I also don’t want her to resent her “perfect” little brother.

~Misunderstood  Mama

 (photo credit)

Dear Misunderstood:

It can be challenging to find balance in our interactions with our kids. Siblings often think we should treat them the same, but each child has different needs and personalities so we need to tailor our parenting to each child.

It sounds like you and your daughter may be in a bit of a rut with your reactions to each others’ behavior. Start by taking a step back to look at what is behind your daughter’s behavior (its intent or function).

  • What is she getting from the interaction when she antagonizes her brother?
  • Attention (from who?), avoidance of something undesirable, or a sensory need met?
  • Is she tired, hungry, or over-stimulated?
  • Are there particular activities or times of day when the behavior is more common?
  • Is she trying to rile him up so he will get in trouble, too?

Once you figure out what might be behind her behavior and other factors that might be impacting it, you can teach her an appropriate replacement behavior to meet her needs and adjust your schedule or expectations if needed. Talk about options and let her choose something she feels comfortable trying. Remember, she’ll need time and opportunity to practice the new behavior with lots of support from you.

Make a point to catch your daughter making good choices and notice and recognize all the little things she is doing well throughout the day. An easy way to do this is to say, “Thank you for…” We often focus on what isn’t happening and forget to recognize what is. Research shows that it takes five positive comments to outweigh one negative one. Challenge yourself to a ratio of five to one with your daughter (and anyone else in the family who may need it).

When your daughter misbehaves, act rather than react. Re-teach the expected behavior and set limits using reminders instead of reprimands as much as possible. Take a breath or two before you respond, check your tone of voice and body language, and think about the situation from her perspective. Also, make sure you have her attention before giving directions to minimize incidents of “not listening.”

You may also want to take a look at your little obedient one to see if he is doing anything that may be exacerbating situations with his sister. Even if he isn’t, he may need to work on more effective strategies to respond to his sister. Discussing actions both children can take to improve their behavior can help to balance out the perspective that she’s the only one who gets in trouble.

Rivalry and competition is a common issue between siblings. Encouraging cooperative activities where they work together toward a common goal can support them in developing a balanced and positive relationship.

Finally, you note that your daughter is a “fun spitfire.” Does she know you think those qualities are fun? Be sure to let her know how her personality contributes to the family fun and acknowledge the positive qualities of both of your children. A great book to read with them on this topic is I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joose.

How do you manage the different needs and personalities of your children?

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be our next column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.

Mama Drama: Responding to Rudeness from Other People’s Kids

Dear Mama Drama:

I’ve had a few experiences with rude children that have stumped me. I don’t really know how to deal with other people’s kids who are disrespectful. Where is the line?

(photo credit)

One was a teenager who had parked across three parking spaces in our church parking lot. I politely asked him to move his car but he gave me lip and refused. Imagine how mortified he was when he learned our religion classes were combining that day and he had to sit through my lesson.

Another was a student in my daughter’s second grade class who was being really mean to her about something she didn’t agree with. Fine. But then this girl started going off on ME! I couldn’t believe she’d dare to do it to an adult.

~Disbelieving Mama

5 ways to help kids pay attention in the classroom and at home

“Mom!” said 7 year-old Mason when his mother cursed at the driver who had just cut her off, “you’re in your amygdala. You’d better get back into your prefrontal cortex.”

Such utterances have been made by school children in Steamboat Springs ever since Kristen Race, PhD, began training that district’s teachers in her Mindful Life Schools program (other school districts in Colorado and around the country have received training, as well). In addition to trainings for educators, Dr. Race also offers workshops for parents  in how to create peaceful classrooms and homes through the simple act of cultivating mindfulness.

The children learn early on the brain science behind the program. When we are stressed, our response are more likely to come from

Mama Drama: Direction Following Folly

Dear Mama Drama:

My three-year-old son struggles with following directions and becomes stiff and unresponsive when he doesn’t want to do what is asked of him. We end up either letting him get away with not following directions or having to physically force him to follow them. Neither strategy is really working and he tends to fight back when we try to force him.

(photo credit)

The behavior usually happens when he is being asked to stop something more interesting or fun (like playing) and switch to a task that is less interesting to him (like cleaning up or washing his hands for dinner). I think it may be a learned behavior as his dad also shuts down and won’t talk when frustrated.

I am struggling to support him and have no idea what to do.

~Stumped Mama

Dear Stumped:

It is fairly common for

Mama Drama: Supporting Non-Violence in Toddlers

Dear Mama Drama:

My 22-month-old son has recently started using his toy trains in a way that looks and sounds like a gun to my husband and I. He points the trains at us and makes a “pshh, pshh” sound.

(photo credit)

We are vigilant about not exposing him to violence and are stunned by his behavior. It feels awful to have my child shooting at me.

We believe he has picked up the behavior from a boy

Mama Drama: Making the Holiday Season Managable for Kids

Dear Mama Drama:

Last year I noticed that my daughter had a really difficult time managing her emotions and behavior during the holidays. She would fall apart at the store, family gatherings, and even at school. She is four this year so I’m hoping things will be better, but am wondering if there is anything I can do to help her handle things more smoothly?

~Hoping for smooth Holidays

(photo credit)

Dear Mama Drama:

The holiday season can be lots of fun with family to see, presents to buy, and events to attend. However, it is important to remember that preschoolers can be overwhelmed by all of the activity resulting in meltdowns, tantrums, and much less fun for all. As the busy season begins remember to:

Keep a regular schedule as much as possible. Waking up, eating, and going to bed consistently can make a huge difference for preschoolers. In addition, let her know ahead of time when the schedule is going to be different.

Create opportunities for down time and/or naps. Preschoolers can have tons of energy, but may not recognize or be able to effectively communicate when they are overstimulated or exhausted. Quiet time and naps help them to settle their nervous systems and recharge to a place where they can manage their emotions and behavior more successfully.

Limit the length of outings or set up an alternative activity for the kids such as a playdate or time with family. Hours at the mall, waiting in long lines, and driving from place to place are recipes for disaster in the world of most preschoolers. If you have to take her with you, have a plan, do it in short bursts, and bring something to keep her entertained while you shop.

Make sure kids get enough sleep. Tired preschoolers are cranky preschoolers. Remember that they need 10-12 hours of sleep every day. When they are short changed on sleep they’ll be short tempered as well.

Keep eating healthy. When you’re busy with lists of cooking, cleaning, and shopping to complete, it is easy to swing through the drive through more often than usual. Find ways to make healthy eating easy such as casseroles, one-pot or crock-pot meals, and easy fixes such as spaghetti or burritos.

Limit sugary treats. Holiday baking can be a fun family tradition, but over indulging in sugary treats can lead to big sugar crashes. Use moderation in what treats and sweets are available and how you balance them with the other foods she is eating.

Keep an eye out for early signs that a meltdown is coming and provide support to prevent it. Does your child get chatty, silly, whiny, agitated, stop listening, etc., when she’s tired? Try to notice the early signs of slight changes in behavior so you can prevent the meltdowns by offering more rest, something to eat, a run in the park, or a quiet place to just be.

Remember that behavior is how kids communicate what they need.  Stay tuned in to her needs and your holidays should be a much smoother ride.

Share your tips for riding the holiday roller coaster?

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.

Mama Drama: Rampant Rudeness

Dear Mama Drama~

I am struggling with my daughter who is almost 4 saying mean things to her parents and her younger brother. When she is tired, hungry, irritated or just not in control, she says many mean things.

For example:

I don’t like you.

You are not a good brother.

You are not the boss; I am the boss.

I never like you.

I know this is not truly how she feels, but I don’t know what to say back to her to take the power out of her words. Her little brother gets sad when she is mean to him, so he’s crying and I’m in a fit hearing her use these words.

What do you say back to these mean words? Telling her that is not something we say is ineffective.

Trying to be nice,

Mommy in Erie

(photo credit)

Dear Mommy in Erie:

I can hear your heart breaking as you struggle with this situation. It can be so difficult when your children are acting mean.

It sounds like you’ve identified some of the triggers that are leading to your daughter’s rude and hurtful behavior such as tiredness, hunger, and irritability. Figuring out those triggers is a huge step.

Next I recommend looking at her schedule. Pinpoint the times when her behavior escalates and when she might become tired or hungry. Then see how you can adjust the schedule to head off the triggers with a snack, eating meals earlier, reading a book together, having quiet rest time, or other calming activities.

Become a great observer of your daughter. Begin to learn the early signs that she is becoming frustrated, tired, hungry, or out of sorts. We often feel like outbursts come out of nowhere, but with focused observation we can find the little signals that precede them. Look for subtle (or sometimes obvious) changes in behavior that indicate in increase in anxiety such as an increase in fidgeting, rapid breathing, heavy sighs, whining, or struggling to handle minor issues. Help her notice those signs and do something to alleviate them. As you both learn her body signals, you can intervene and help her stay more even.

The next step is teaching her how to handle herself when she’s tired or frustrated and how her mean words hurt you and her brother. It is important to do this when she is relaxed and rested so you can all talk about it calmly and make a plan for the next time she is feeling upset. Books are a great way to address these issues as they can feel less confrontational and you can reread them and refer to the ones she connects with when issues arise.

Some books that are appropriate for her age are Words Are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick, Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ann Miranda, When I’m Angry by Jane Aaron, When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Maude Spelman. Books that can help her understand how mean words hurt others are Andrew Angry Words by Dorothea Lachner and Snail Started It by Katja Reider.

When issues like these are happening, we can have a hard time stepping back and looking at them without being overwhelmed by emotions. Increasing our toolbox of strategies is helpful in managing it all. A great resource for parenting strategies and humor is Love and Logic Magic for the Early Childhood Years by Jim Fay and Dr. Charles Fay.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.