The Vital Babymoon


What is a babymoon?

Babymoon is a term first used by social anthropologist, and mother/baby advocate, Sheila Kitzinger, in her 1994 book, The Year After Childbirth: Surviving and Enjoying the First Year of Motherhood. It refers to the postpartum bonding period between parents and their new baby, and is especially crucial for a mother and her new little one.

It is at this time, and especially during the first 40 days following birth, that a mom and her baby do best cocooning at home together in their own 'nest' as they establish breastfeeding, sleep and nap together, and fall deeply in love.

During her babymoon, mom learns to read her baby’s cues (preventing unnecessary tears and fears for baby - and for mom), and it is the time that secure attachment begins to develop between a baby and parents because of their tuned-in responsiveness. Infants learn that the world can be trusted, that they are loved, not ignored.

Oxytocin flows freely for a supported mother who is cared for herself, and this feel-good love hormone floods her baby as well when kept close within a newborn’s natural habitat: mom’s chest. 

During the vital babymoon, milk supply is built and regulated, and baby’s respiration, cardiovascular functioning, hormones, and temperature are stabilized by being close to mom. The babymoon is a sacred period, and one that each mother and her baby deserve to fully savor and be supported through. This is one time that we do not wish to disrupt the primal process of mothering.


Related Reading: 

Natural Family Today: The Importance of a Babymoon (article)

BlissTree Babymoon (article)

Her Family: Importance of a Babymoon (article)

Bella: The Importance of a Babymoon (article)

Why African Babies Don't Cry (article)

Why Love Matters (book)

The Continuum Concept (book)

Baby Matters (book)

The Biology of Love (book)

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering (book)






‘Babywise’ Linked to Babies' Dehydration, Failure to Thrive


By Matthew Aney, M.D.

THE OFFICIAL NEWS MAGAZINE OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS
Volume 14 Number 4


Expectant parents often fear the changes a new baby will bring, especially sleepless nights. What new parent wouldn’t want a how-to book that promises their baby will be sleeping through the night by three to eight weeks?

One such book, On Becoming Babywise, has raised concern among pediatricians because it outlines an infant feeding program that has been associated with failure to thrive (FTT), poor weight gain, dehydration, breast milk supply failure, and involuntary early weaning. A Forsyth Medical Hospital Review Committee, in Winston-Salem N.C., has listed 11 areas in which the program is inadequately supported by conventional medical practice. The Child Abuse Prevention Council Of Orange County, Calif., stated its concern after physicians called them with reports of dehydration, slow growth and development, and FTT associated with the program. And on Feb. 8, AAP District IV passed a resolution asking the Academy to investigate “Babywise,” determine the extent of its effects on infant health and alert its members, other organizations and parents of its findings.

I have reviewed numerous accounts of low weight gain and FTT associated with “Babywise” and discussed them with several pediatricians and lactation consultants involved.

The book’s feeding schedule, called Parent Directed Feeding (PDF), consists of feeding newborns at intervals of three to three and one-half hours (described as two and one-half to three hours from the end of the last 30- minute feeding) beginning at birth. Nighttime feedings are eliminated at eight weeks.

This advice is in direct opposition to the latest AAP recommendations on newborn feeding (AAP Policy Statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” Pediatrics, Dec. 1997): “Newborns should be nursed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, or rooting. Crying is a late indicator of hunger. Newborns should be nursed approximately eight to 12 times every 24 hours until satiety...”

Although demand feeding is endorsed by the Academy, WHO, and La Leche League among others, “Babywise” claims that demand feeding may he harmful and outlines a feeding schedule in contrast to it. The book makes numerous medical statements without references or research, despite that many are the antitheses of well-known medical research findings. In 190 pages, only two pediatric journals are referenced with citations dated 1982 and 1986.

Many parents are unaware of problems because the book is marketed as medically supported. It is co-authored by pediatrician Robert Bucknam, M.D., who not only states in the book that the “Babywise” principles are medically sound,” but also writes, “Babywise” has brought a needed reformation to pediatric counsel given to new parents.” Obstetrician Sharon Nelson, M.D., also warns: “Not following the principles of “Babywise” is a potential health concern.”

The book’s other author is Gary Ezzo, a pastor with no medical background. Ezzo’s company, Growing Families International (GFI), markets the book as “ideally written” for “obstetricians, pediatricians, or health-care providers to distribute to their patients.” (GFI promotes the same program under the title “Preparation for Parenting,” a virtual duplicate with added religious material).

Though “Babywise” does say, “With PDF a mother feeds her baby when the baby is hungry,” it also instructs parents to do otherwise. In a question-and-answer section, parents of a 2-week-old baby, who did not get a full feeding at the last scheduled time and wants to eat again, are instructed that babies learn quickly from the laws of natural consequences. “If your daughter doesn’t eat at one feeding, then make her wait until the next one.”

Unfortunately, the schedule in “Babywise” does not take into account differences among breastfeeding women and babies. According to one report, differences of up to 300 percent in the maximum milk storage capacity of women’s breasts mean that, although women have the capability of producing the same amount of milk over a 24-hour period for their infants, some will have to breastfeed far more frequently than others to maintain that supply. Babies must feed when they need to, with intervals and duration determined according to a variety of factors in temperament, environment, and physiological makeup. Averages may fit into a bell-shaped curve, but some babies will require shorter intervals. (Daly S., Hartmann P. “Infant demand and milk supply, Part 2. The short-term control of milk synthesis in lactating women.” Journal of Human Lactation; 11; (1):27-37).

Examples of the many other un- substantiated medical claims in “Babywise” include:

• “Lack of regularity [in feeding intervals] sends a negative signal to the baby’s body, creating metabolic confusion that negatively affects his or her hunger, digestive, and sleep/wake cycles.”

• “Demand-fed babies don’t sleep through the night.”

• “A mother who takes her baby to her breast 12, 15, or 20 times a day will not produce any more milk than the mom who takes her baby to breast six to seven times a day.”

• “Mothers following PDF have little or no problem with the let down reflex, compared to those who demand-feed.”

• “Colic, which basically is a spasm in the baby’s intestinal tract that causes pain, is very rare in PDF babies but is intensified in demand-fed babies.”

• “In our opinion, much more developmental damage is done to a child by holding him or her constantly than by putting the baby down. In terms of biomechanics alone, carrying a baby in a sling can increase neck and back problems, or even create them.”

• “Some researchers suggest that putting a baby on his or her back for sleep, rather than on the baby’s tummy, will reduce the chance of crib death. That research is not conclusive, and the method of gathering supportive data is questionable.”

My review of the low weight gain and FTT accounts associated with “Babywise” revealed several disturbing trends. Parents were often adamant about continuing with the feeding schedule, even when advised otherwise by health care professionals. They were hesitant to tell their physicians about the schedule, making it difficult to pinpoint the cause for the weight gain problems. Many elected to supplement or wean to formula rather than continue breastfeeding at the expense of the schedule. The parents’ commitment call be especially strong when they are using the program for religious reasons, even though numerous leaders within the same religious communities have publicly expressed concerns.

Pediatricians need to know about “Babywise” and recognize its potential dangers. History taking should include questions to determine if parents are using a feeding schedule, especially before advising formula supplement to breastfeeding mothers or when faced with a low-gaining or possible failure to thrive baby. Lactation consultants also should be instructed to probe this area.
Efforts should be made to inform parents of the AAP recommended policies for breastfeeding and the potentially harmful consequences of not following them.

Dr. Matthew Aney is an AAP candidate fellow based in Lancaster, California.


~~~~
For more on Babywise, the Ezzos and Growing Kids God's Way methods see:





The Case for Cue Feeding (rather than PDF - "parent directed feeding")



Parents Against Babywise (Facebook page)

Moms Against Babywise (Facebook group)








$5 = 50
$10 = 100
$20 = 200



Dangers of Leaving Baby to Cry It Out (CIO)

By Margaret Chuong-Kim
Read more from Chuong-Kim at Dr. Ben Kim's homepage.


Among parents of infants these days, there is constant debate about how to respond to a baby’s cries. On one hand, there are proponents of the “cry it out” method, where the baby is left alone to cry in the hopes that he or she will eventually stop. On the other hand, there are the “attachment parents” who respond immediately to their crying babies and attempt to soothe them using various methods including holding and cuddling. While the cry-it-out method (CIO) has been popular in previous years, attachment parenting (AP) is gaining a foothold among new parents today. Results of studies in psychology indicate the AP approach to crying is most likely to result in an emotionally and physically healthy child.

Attachment theory originated in the late 1960s when psychologist John Bowlby postulated that a warm, intimate relationship between caregiver and infant is necessary for optimal health as well as for basic survival. As such, each individual is born well-equipped with reflexes and instincts for interacting with their primary caregiver, which is often times the mother. For example, infants quickly learn to recognize and prefer both their mother’s voice and smell. As babies develop some locomotor control they display their desire to be close to their caregivers by reaching toward their mother or father to be picked up or by crawling toward them. From an evolutionary perspective, these behaviours have survival value. Babies who lack such attachment behaviours will stray from their caregivers and are more likely to get lost, attacked, and perish. An infant’s cry is also intended to increase the likelihood of its survival, as a mother’s instinct is usually to go to her child at the first sign of distress.

We live in an age where we can know that the baby is safe in another room, despite the loudness of his cries. Does this mean we should leave babies to cry on their own? CIO proponents often advise that babies left to cry will eventually stop, and the duration of future crying bouts will decrease. What are the emotional consequences of crying for the infant when she is left unattended? Bowlby and colleagues initiated a series of studies where children between the ages of one and two who had good relationships with their mothers were separated from them and left to cry it out. Results showed a predictable sequence of behaviours: The first phase, labeled “protest”, consists of loud crying and extreme restlessness. The second phase, labeled “despair”, consists of monotonous crying, inactivity, and steady withdrawal. The third phase, labeled “detachment”, consists of a renewed interest in surroundings, albeit a remote, distant kind of interest. Thus, it appears that while leaving babies to cry it out can lead to the eventual dissipation of those cries, it also appears that this occurs due to the gradual development of apathy in the child. The child stops crying because she learns that she can no longer hope for the caregiver to provide comfort, not because her distress has been alleviated.


Do babies cry more when they are attended to? A 1986 study concluded just the opposite: the more a mother holds and carries her baby, the less the baby will cry and fuss. Cross-cultural studies also show that parents in non-Western societies are quicker than parents in Western societies to respond to their crying babies, and babies in non-Western societies cry for shorter spans of time. Caregivers in 78% of the world’s cultures respond quickly to an infant’s cries. For instance, Efe caregivers in Africa respond to a baby’s cries within ten seconds at least 85% of the time when the baby is between three and seven weeks, and 75% of the time when the baby is seventeen weeks. !Kung caregivers respond within ten seconds over 90% of the time during the baby’s first three months, and over 80% of the time at one year. In contrast, American and Dutch caregivers have been found to be deliberately unresponsive to an infant’s cries almost 50% of the time during the baby’s first three months. Infants in non-Western societies have been found to fuss just as frequently as those in Western societies, but due to the prompt response of caregivers in non-Western societies, the overall cumulative duration of crying is less than what occurs in Western societies.

According to attachment theory, many babies are born without the ability to self-regulate emotions. That is, they find the world to be confusing and disorganized, but do not have the coping abilities required to soothe themselves. Thus, during times of distress, they seek out their caregivers because the physical closeness of the caregiver helps to soothe the infant and to re-establish equilibrium. When the caregiver is consistently responsive and sensitive, the child gradually learns and believes that she is worthy of love, and that other people can be trusted to provide it. She learns that the caregiver is a secure base from which she can explore the world, and if she encounters adversity she can return to her base for support and comfort. This trust in the caregiver results in what is known as a secure individual.

Children who do not have consistently responsive and sensitive caregivers often develop into insecure individuals, characterized by anxious, avoidant, and/or ambivalent interactions. Long-term studies have shown that secure individuals, compared to insecure individuals, are more likely to be outgoing, popular, well-adjusted, compassionate, and altruistic. As adults, secure individuals tend to be comfortable depending on others, readily develop close attachments, and trust their partners. Insecure individuals, on the other hand, tend to be unsettled in their relationships, displaying anxiety (manifesting as possessiveness, jealousy, and clinginess) or avoidance (manifesting as mistrust and a reluctance to depend on others). North American parenting practices, including CIO, are often influenced by fears that children will grow up too dependent. However, an abundance of research shows that regular physical contact, reassurance, and prompt responses to distress in infancy and childhood results in secure and confident adults who are better able to form functional relationships.


It has been suggested in the past that CIO is healthy for infants’ physical development, particularly the lungs. A recent study looking at the immediate and long-term physiologic consequences of infant crying suggests otherwise. The following changes due to infant crying have been documented: increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced oxygen level, elevated cerebral blood pressure, depleted energy reserves and oxygen, interrupted mother-infant interaction, brain injury, and cardiac dysfunction. The study’s researchers suggested that caregivers should answer infant cries swiftly, consistently, and comprehensively, recommendations which are in line with AP principles.

CIO supporters tend to view their infants’ cries as attempts to manipulate caregivers into providing more attention. Holding this view can be detrimental to the immediate and long-term health of the baby. In the field of cognitive psychology there exists the premise that our thoughts underlie our behaviour. Thus, if we think positively about an individual, our behaviours toward them tend to be positive as well. Conversely, if we think negatively about an individual, we will behave correspondingly. Consider people in your own life whom you consider manipulative – how does that perception influence your behaviour toward them? It is unlikely that the interpretation of a manipulative personality will result in the compassionate, empathetic, and loving care of that individual. Infants, quite helpless without the aid of their caregivers, may suffer both emotional and physical consequences of this type of attitude.


When faced with a crying baby, it may be prudent to ask yourself the following questions: Why am I choosing this response? Do I want my baby to stop crying because he feels comforted and safe, or do I want my baby to stop crying for the sake of stopping crying? What is my baby learning about me and the world when I respond in this manner? If I were a baby and was upset, how would I want my caregivers to respond?


For more on 'sleep training,' 'cry it out' (CIO) and 'controlled crying' see resources at:




References
Campos, J., et al. (1983). Socioemotional development. In P. Mussen (Ed.), Carmichael’s Manual of Child Psychology: Vol. 2. Infancy and Developmental Psychobiology. New York: Wiley.
Craig, G., Kermis, M., & Digdon, N. (1998). Children Today. Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall.
Dacey, J. & Travers, J. (1996). Human Development Across The Lifespan (4th Ed). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
DeCasper, A., & Fifer, W. (1980). Of human bonding: Newborns prefer their mothers’ voices. Science, 208: 1174-76.
Gleitman, H. (1996). Basic Psychology (4th Ed). New York: W.W. Norton.
Hunziker, U. & Barr, R. (1986). Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 77(5): 641-8.
Luddington, Hoe, S. Cong, X., & Hashemi, F. (2002). Infant crying: Nature, physiologic consequences, and select interventions. Neonatal Network, 21(2): 29-36.
Macfarlane, A. (1975). Olfaction in the development of social preferences in the human neonate. Parent-Infant Interaction. Amsterdam: CIBA Foundation Symposium.
Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. (2001). Attachment theory and intergroup bias: evidence that priming the secure base schema attenuates negative reactions to out-groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1): 97-115.
Miller, R. (2000). Dysfunctional relationships. In R. Kowalski & M. Leary (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Emotional and Behavioral Problems: Interfaces of Social and Clinical Psychology. Washington, DC: APA.
Waters, E., Wippman, J., & Sroufe, L. (1979). Attachment, positive affect, and competence in the peer group: Two studies in construct validation. Child Development, 50: 821-829.





An ‘On-Demand’ Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

By Mary Tarsha and Dr. Darcia Narvaez


On-demand services may have spoiled parenting! Yes, by their convenience. For example, we no longer have to plan our schedule around the airing of our favorite program or make efforts to record a particular show. With a few clicks we can escape into streaming thousands of movies (and other forms of entertainment) from our TV, computer, or mobile device. We can use Google to answer a question about almost anything. We can order ahead from a favorite restaurant and our order will be ready when we arrive. An Uber is just around the corner. We don’t have to wait, or slow down our pace. We can stay focused on our own needs and goals. Always thinking ahead.

How does this fast pace focused on getting the next thing done influence our relationships? If we are tilted forward towards checking off the next thing on our list, can we really be in the present moment? Why does it matter? A present-moment focus is linked to happiness (e.g., mindfulness). But it is also required for being a good friend and a good parent.

Being emotionally present is especially important with those who are still learning to be human—babies and young children. They operate at a slower pace and expect caregivers to be with them in the moment (notice how your young child will start to demand attention when you are on the phone—which is probably why we evolved to have a village of caregivers and playmates!)

When we get used to things on demand we start to think that everyone should act accordingly. We lose patience with people who move too slow and or take too long. We can start to think that babies should conform to our preferences on demand too. But they cannot. They follow an inner compass of growth and development. Practically speaking, tending to the needs of babies means meeting their needs in the here and now, not demanding that they conform to adult schedules. Their basic needs are many and include the components of what we call the evolved nest: on-request breastfeeding, extensive affectionate touch, self-directed play and quick responsiveness (see previous post here). When an infant receives care that satiates needs as they arise, with a present-moment focus from the parent or caregiver, the infant develops normally, along a healthy trajectory, into adulthood.

Why does early experience matter so much? Because as the infant’s needs are met, the neuronal architecture of the brain and neurobiological systems are supported as they are developing rapidly, enabling proper functioning. At a very basic level, babies are self-actualizing when their needs are met—they are getting support to follow the inner guidance system that Maslow found so important for self-actualization to occur. Maslow agreed with psychoanalytic theory that the thwarting of the self, of one’s normal path to self-actualization, occurs in early life from the betrayal in relationships. When we don’t provide the evolved nest, it is a betrayal to babies’ soul/spirit/being.

Meeting basic needs in the early years carries long-term benefits that protect the child throughout life, physiologically and psychologically. Adults who received nurturing and responsive care environments in their early years demonstrate greater resilience to stressful situations, better immune functioning, less anxiety and overall, fewer physical health problems (Shonkoff et al., 2012). There is a plethora of research from neuroscience, developmental psychology, molecular biology, chemistry, genomics and sociology validating the importance of early care experiences upon brain development, specifically the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus, critical parts of the brain that control learning, memory, and behavior (Suderman, 2012; Champagne & Meaney, 2007; Gunnar & Quevedo, 2007).

Recognizing the overwhelming, converging evidence from an array of disciplines, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a report in 2012 addressing the importance of early care experience for adult health. The report encourages all pediatricians to be the “front-line guardians of child development” because “many adult diseases should be viewed as developmental disorders that begin early in life” (Shonkoff, 2012, p.2). The AAP is calling for a greater awareness of the importance of early care experiences, proclaiming that many adult diseases begin in early life and more emphasis should be given to providing healthy environments to infants and children.


Unmet Needs = Toxic Stress

So, what happens when an infant’s needs are not met? The Answer: potential toxic stress is created. Toxic stress and traumatic attachments in early life influence brain development, specifically the right hemisphere, resulting in:


  • An inability to regulate emotional states under stress, including regulating fear-terror states 
  • dysregulation of the “fight or flight” system (part of the Autonomic Nervous System) dysregulated “flight” systems results in PTSD and dysregulated “fight” systems potentially leads to aggression disorders 
  • dysregulation of the vagus nerve which connects with major body systems and governs social capacities (Porges, 2017) 
  • personality disorders in early adulthood (Schore, 2003).


In short, the individual is stunted or thwarted in reaching their full potential. Long-lasting effects include both personality and emotion regulation disorders. Deprivation of basic needs in the early years of life leads to an internal divisiveness; children become divided within themselves and divided against the world (Narvaez, 2016). It pushes the child off the trajectory for self-actualization.

There is evidence that suggests that deprivation of basic needs (neglect or undercare) may be more detrimental than physical abuse. Neglected children demonstrate more severe cognitive and academic deficits, social withdrawal, limited peer interactions and internalizing problems compared to children who were physically abused (Hildyard & Wolfe, 2002).

Meeting Basic Needs Buffers Against Toxic Stress

Supportive and responsive care has a profound role in mitigating the effects of adverse (stressful) experiences (The National Scientific Council of the Developing Child, 2011). A nurturing and responsive environment is a buffer against toxic stress, helping the infant return to baseline (non-stressed condition) and consequently, continue along an adequate developmental trajectory (for species-typical normal development, the full evolved nest would need to be provided). However, if supportive and responsive care is not provided in the midst of stressful events, toxic stress ensues, and severe traumatic attachments can develop.

A Practical Suggestion for Young Child Care

What is one practical way to increase the quality of infants’ early care experiences? Build extra time into the family’s schedule. Create buffers of time around scheduled events in the caregiving routine. For example, if you need to leave the house by a certain time, factor in an extra 15-20 minutes as a buffer. In this way, if the infant or child requests to nurse, needs a diaper change, needs extra play time, or more affectionate touch, these needs can be met in a non-stressed manner. Extra pockets of time allow the caregiver to meet the infant’s needs, safeguarding against an “on-demand” mentality but also, may diminish the caregiver’s stress. A parent or caregiver that is less stressed and anxious is able to be more responsive to the infant’s need, picking up on subtle cues from their baby. Less mental and emotional energy is dedicated to navigating the schedule (trying to get the infant/child out the door on time), freeing the caregiver to be nurturing, warm and responsive in the here and now, safeguarding against an “on-demand” mentality toward infants. Thus, built in buffers of time have the two-fold benefit of ameliorating caregiving stress and facilitating the meeting of the infant’s needs.

Early Investment in Baby has Long-Term Benefits

When infants and children are not treated with warm, responsive care, bad things happen. However, when they are given a healthy start with responsive, stable and nurturing relationships around them, infants flourish into happy and healthy adolescents and adults. Many pitfalls are avoided and the long-lasting consequences of learning disabilities, emotional disorders and physical health conditions are averted. Investing in infants provides a return of better health and happiness!

What if you didn’t meet your child’s needs in the early years? Even if your child is older, you can begin providing responsive and nurturing care now. See this post about promoting thriving in school-aged children. Physical and emotional health is one of the greatest gifts to any child. All is takes is some time, warmth and responsiveness to their needs.



Related Reading

More on what scholars say about early nurturing here.

How raising babies is different from raising children.

More on what babies need here.

Also by Dr. Narvaez at Peaceful Parenting:

Where Are All the Happy Babies?

The Dangers of Crying It Out

Psychology Today series on infant circumcision


References

Champagne, F. A., & Meaney, M. J. (2007). Transgenerational effects of social environment on variations in maternal care and behavioral response to novelty. Behavioral neuroscience, 121(6), 1353.

Gunnar, M. R., & Quevedo, K. M. (2007). Early care experiences and HPA axis regulation in children: a mechanism for later trauma vulnerability. Progress in brain research, 167, 137-149.

Hildyard, K. L., & Wolfe, D. A. (2002). Child neglect: developmental issues and outcomes. Child abuse & neglect, 26(6), 679-695.

Narvaez, D. (2016). Embodied morality: Protectionism, engagement and imagination. Springer.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Brain: Working Paper #3. Available at: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/wp3/.

Schore, A. N. (2003). Early Relational Trauma, Disorganized Attachment, and the Development of a Predisposition to Violence. Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body and Brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology), 107.

Shonkoff, Jack P., Andrew S. Garner, Benjamin S. Siegel, Mary I. Dobbins, Marian F. Earls, Laura McGuinn, John Pascoe, David L. Wood, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, and Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care. "The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress." Pediatrics 129, no. 1 (2012): e232-e246.

Suderman, M., McGowan, P. O., Sasaki, A., Huang, T. C., Hallett, M. T., Meaney, M. J., ... & Szyf, M. (2012). Conserved epigenetic sensitivity to early life experience in the rat and human hippocampus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(Supplement 2), 17266-17272.


About the Authors

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Collaborative for Ethical Education. Her current research examines the effects of parenting on child and adult outcomes. Narvaez has developed several integrative theories: Adaptive Ethical Expertise, Integrative Ethical Education, Triune Ethics Theory. She spoke at the Whitehouse's conference on Character and Community, and is author/editor of three award winning books: Postconventional Moral Thinking; Moral Development, Self and Identity; and the Handbook of Moral and Character Education. Her text, Human Nature, Early Experience, and the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness was a fantastic addition to a growing body of literature on a healthy, happy, babyhood. Visit Dr. Narvaez' website for additional books, papers, classes, websites and contact information.

Mary Tarsha is a graduate student in Developmental ​Psychology and Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace at the University of Notre Dame

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Why You Should Stop Yelling at Your Kids

By Stephen Marche, New York Times
Leer en Español: https://www.nytimes.com/es/2018/09/10/gritar-hijos/
Shared at Peaceful Parenting with permission.
Read more from Marche: http://www.stephenmarche.com


Why you should stop yelling at your kids. It doesn’t make you look authoritative. It makes you look out of control to your kids. It makes you look weak.

The use of spanking to discipline children has been in decline for 50 years. But yelling? Almost everybody still yells at their kids sometimes, even the parents who know it doesn’t work. Yelling may be the most widespread parental stupidity around today. Households with regular shouting incidents tend to have children with lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression.

A 2014 study in The Journal of Child Development demonstrated that yelling produces results similar to physical punishment in children: increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression along with an increase in behavioral problems.

 How many times in your parenting life have you thought to yourself, after yelling at your kids, “Well, that was a good decision...”? It doesn’t make you look authoritative. It makes you look out of control to your kids. It makes you look weak. And you’re yelling, let’s be honest, because you are weak. Yelling, even more than spanking, is the response of a person who doesn’t know what else to do. But most parents — myself included — find it hard to imagine how to get through the day without yelling.

The new research on yelling presents parents with twin problems: What do I do instead? And how do I stop? Yelling to stop your kids from running into traffic is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about yelling as a form of correction. Yelling for correction is ineffective as a tool and merely imprints the habit of yelling onto the children. We yell at our kids over the same stuff every day, and we yell at them some more because the original yelling doesn’t work. Put your clothes away. Come down for dinner. Don’t ride the dog. Stop hitting your brother.

The mere knowledge that yelling is bad, in itself, won’t help, said Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale. Yelling is not a strategy, it’s a release. “If the goal of the parent is catharsis, I want to get this out of my system and show you how mad I am, well, yelling is probably perfect,” Dr. Kazdin said. “If the goal here is to change something in the child or develop a positive habit in the child, yelling is not the way to do that.” There are other strategies, and they don’t involve screaming like a maniac.

Many think of positivity as a form of laziness, as if parents who are positive aren’t disciplining their children. But not yelling requires advance planning and discipline for the parents, which yelling doesn’t. Dr. Kazdin promotes a program called the ABCs, which stands for antecedents, behaviors and consequences. The antecedent is the setup, telling a child, specifically, what you want them to do before you want them to do it. Behaviors are where the behavior is defined and shaped, modeled by the parent. And the consequence involves an expression of approval when that behavior is performed, an over-the top Broadway-style belt-it-to-the-back-row expression of praise with an accompanying physical gesture of approval. So instead of yelling at your kid every night for the shoes strewn across the floor, ask him in the morning if he can put his shoes away when he comes home. Make sure when you come home that you put your own shoes away. And if your child puts his shoes away, or even puts them closer to where they’re supposed to be, tell him that he did a great job and then hug him. 

The ABC method of praise is a highly specific technique. You have to be effusive, so you actually have to put a big dumb smile on your face and even wave your hands in the air. Next thing is you have to say, in a very high, cheerful voice, exactly what you’re praising. And then the third part is you have to touch the child and give him some kind of nonverbal praise. The silliness is a feature, not a bug. It makes the kid notice the praise that accompanies correct behavior. And that’s the point. “We want to build habits,” Dr. Kazdin said. “The practice actually changes the brain, and in the process of that, the behaviors that you want to get rid of, having all kinds of temper tantrums and all the fights, all that just disappears.” Furthermore, he noted, “as a side effect, when you do these things, the parents’ depression and stress in fact go down and family relations pick up.” If our kids behave better, then we won’t feel like yelling. And if we don’t yell, our kids will behave better.

The beauty of having a system is that instead of reacting after your kids do something bad, instead of waiting for them to mess up and then getting angry, you have a conscious plan. But planning requires discipline on the part of the parent, and it’s tough. “We know that humans have what’s called a negativity bias,” Dr. Kazdin says. “The technical term for that in psychology is ‘normal.’ This is something in the brain, in which through evolution we are very much sensitive to negative things in the environment.” We are hard-wired to yell. It’s an evolutionary survival instinct that has turned on those it was meant to protect. It’s hard to abandon yelling, because it gives us the impression that we’re parenting.

In the 1960s, 94 percent of parents used physical punishment. A poll in 2010 found the number had declined to 22 percent. There are probably many reasons, including the influence of a number of childhood development educators. But surely one reason has to be that the reason to spank your kids evaporates if there’s a more effective way to change their behavior that doesn’t involve violence. Why spank if it doesn’t work? The same applies to yelling: Why are you yelling? It isn’t for the kids’ sake. Ultimately, techniques of discipline have to be about effectiveness, about getting through the day while trying to get your kids to do what you want and not do what you don’t want. Praise works. Punishment doesn’t.

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