Wednesday, September 9, 2015


A father called to ask what he and his wife can do to help their new baby adapt to home-life.  Baby Brodie had just arrived home—in an ambulance—from having lived in the hospital in the intensive care unit for the last 327 days, 8 hours and 16 minutes.  Brodie and his twin sister, Audrey, were three and half months premature.  Audrey died just 28 hours later.  Brodie who weighted only one pound and three ounces at birth has only known the four walls of the hospital, an army of nurses and doctors who along with the parents fought to keep him alive.   

Brodie, now eleven months old and seventeen pounds has feeding tubes, breathes aided by a respirator connected via a trache and several other life support accouterments attached to his fragile body, tethering him to life.  Brodie will have to be on most of these life support devices for the next year of his life.   His parents and Brodie’s older sister are having to learn how to help him explore and cope with this new world around him while they care for him around-the-clock.

These parents are loving, caring adults who want to do everything they can to enhance their at-risk and health-challenged child’s development.  These are my suggested tips:

  •   Your attitudes of love and support and willingness to devote time and attention to Brodie are paramount in setting the stage for helping him grow and development.

  • Repeat these activities consistently and at every opportunity.

1.      EYE CONTACT – Look into his eyes as often as you are in his presence—and be sure to smile.
2.      VOICE – Your voice is powerful.  A father’s voice and a mother’s voice are very different.  This gives your baby two ways to be stimulated and to get to know you.  Talk and sing and chatter to him.  Speak in a regular tone as you would to each other.  But, don’t be afraid to talk “baby talk” because this is a mode of affection.  It will soon give way to normal speech when the baby gets a little older. You will notice that mother’s voice often rises about an octave when talking to Brodie.  Dad’s voice will remain about the same as his everyday tone.
3.      TOUCH – One of the most powerful ways to stimulate your baby’s brain while making a very personal connection is gentle touch.  When you are attending to him, stroke his forehead, his head and his cheeks.  When you stroke his cheek, notice if he smiles.  In the beginning, the smile is a natural reflex, but it soon becomes a genuine human connection.  Touch his fingers, gently massaging each one—and then his feet and toes.  Stroking the bottom of his feet with your finger will be stimulating, and watch for foot movements.  When he is able to be held, cuddle and snuggle him as often as you want.  He will let you know when he’s had enough.

When you combine these three types of interactions with your baby, you will be establishing a life-long relationship through bonding and attachment while stimulating his brain and body to respond as soon as he is developmentally ready. Of course, you will need to be patient as Brodie may require a longer time to respond than you would hope.  Even though he may not be able to express himself—even with coos or babbling—he will assimilate, or take into his brain, your powerful messages. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Biting at Daycare

Q.           Sometimes when I pick-up my two-and-half-year-old from the day care center, he has black-and-blue teeth marks on him. It’s obvious he’s been bitten by another child.  I’ve complained about this to the teacher, but she insist that biting is normal for children this age.  Is she correct?

                 Your complaint is understandable.  Most parents are not happy to see bite marks on their child, and they are even more horrified if they learn their child has been biting others.
                Biting is, however, normal behavior.  Children bite for several reason—to explore, to gain control, to express anger or frustration, even to “kiss” with their teeth.  Most children go through one or two biting phases, the first of which occurs during late infancy—from 10 to 20 months, and the second during their second year.
                I have developed five steps which are usually successful in handling children who bite.  If your child continues to exhibit bite marks, you might want to pass these steps along to his day care teacher.  They include:
  1.  Always go to the victim first.  Give the bitten child plenty of TLC.  If there is a wound cleanse it with soap and water, apply an ice pack, and be on the lookout for infection.
  2. Then, approach the child who did the biting.  Avoid using the child’s name, so the child will not equate biting with receiving attention. Give the child simple directions, such as saying, “I will help you learn to be kind and gentle, like this.  Stroke the child’s and in a gentle manner, and then help the child stroke the victim in a similar way.
  3. Separate the child from others for a few minutes.  Tell the child he can rejoin his friends when he has calmed down.  In a few minutes, help the child rejoin the play group.
  4. Be aware of circumstance that may have caused biting, such as boredom, higher, frustration or fighting for the same toy.
  5.  Find ways to redirect the child’s behavior, showing him appropriate ways to express affection or angry feelings.  It may be necessary to the child a plastic ring or other harmless objects to bite on.
               Biting is preventable, at least to a degree.  Responding in gentle yet firm manner, communicating openly and showing the child how to express feelings without hurting others will go a long way toward preventing biting behaviors.

Puppy Time?

Q.           My four-year-old had been pestering me to get him a puppy. I think it’s a good idea, but my wife says he is too young.  Who’s right?

         I think you’re on the right track.  A child who has reached the age of four is able to perform simple tasks and develop a sense of responsibility, both of which come with having a pet.  There are clues to tell if your child is ready for a pet:

  • Can he get himself dressed and groomed? 
  •  Has he completed toilet training?
  •  Can he manage eating without help?

Ability to perform these tasks indicates the child can handle some simple responsibilities of owning a pet.
                  A dog also provides daily opportunities for your child to learn respect and consideration.  Talk with your child about caring for the pet, such as:          

        “Be gentle when you pet your puppy—like this.”  And show the child what to do.  

                   Taking care of any pet, especially dogs who are known for their loyalty to the “master,” will help your son build a sense of self-esteem.  He will feel important in the “eyes” of the dog, and will feel that “My doggy likes me; I must be OK.

                  Patience and the benefits of delayed gratification also can be learned with a pet.  For example, your child will learn that he must wait until the dog finishes eating before they can play.  Children also seem able to exercise patience with a pet more easily than with an adult or another child.  

                  Finally, another important benefit of having a dog is exercise.  Many children today do not voluntarily go outdoors and run or walk unless a parent or another child is along.  Having a dog to walk and run with provides both fun and an opportunity for exercise.  The dog also can be a terrific companion, helping to expand your child’s imagination, and provide a “playmate” for the times you and your wife must be busy.