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Daily Dose

Off The Grid

1:30 to read

As the summer is coming to a close and school is starting in the next few weeks, I am doing a lot of check ups, especially the tweens and teens who are getting ready for school sports.  I have been asking all of them about their summers…camp, vacations, volunteer work, travel….and interestingly many of them commented about being without their electronics for one reason or another. (In several cases their parents were insistent that the family “go off the grid” for their vacation, while some went to camp where they were not allowed to have electronics, while a few others were in such remote places the internet was just not available.)

So, what did they have to say about putting up their cell phones and laptops….surprisingly, many of them ended up liking it!!  Now they did say that the whole “idea” of no electronics put them in a total tailspin… but, after a few days of not reaching for the ubiquitous cell phone every 30 seconds to check for texts, and not feeling as if they had to take a “selfie” of every moment to share with their friends, the whole experiment (whether forced or not) ending up being quite freeing!!

Lots of the teens began to talk to their friends or family, that is in language and conversation using spoken words…no typing, and how personal it seemed. The entire family at times was engaged in conversation about many topics where everyone was talking together and not isolated by the screen and individual texts.  Lots of my patients said that they enjoyed the scenery without feeling as if they had to document each minute with their camera phone…but rather just take in their surroundings through their own lens….making it seem even more memorable.

Many of the teens also worked on their summer reading with less stress, as they read throughout the summer and actually “enjoyed” reading…and did not find themselves trying to read 500-600 pages in the 2 nights before school started. Some even remarked that they had missed reading books and having the quiet time.

All in all they did say that as difficult as it is to “disconnect” it is probably a good thing once in awhile. They were not giving up their cell phones (CRAZY IDEA), but they did realize that they may spend and excessive amount of time trying to stay connected, when they are really not connected at all.

So….let’s all try to commit to cutting back on electronics for the school year and going back to some basics…conversation, family meals, reading at bedtime (not on electronics ) and no screens in the bedroom….agreed?

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Teaching Your Kids About Their Private Parts

Why do parents give their child's private parts nicknames instead of real names? If you have a child who is over the age of 15 months I know that you have played the game  "where’s your nose, where’s your eyes, where’s your ears?” It is a favorite for both parent and child as a toddler learns to point to various body parts. This game is also an important milestone in observing a child process language (receptive speech) and follow a command.  But, what happens after your child has learned the usual body parts?   In other words, what about the rest of their anatomy, specifically their “private parts”.

This topic came to mind the other day while I was seeing a little girl who was complaining of burning and itching with urination.  This is not an uncommon problem in the 3-6 year old little girl set, and part of the physical exam involves looking at the child’s “private parts”. As I begin talking to both the parent and child I always start off with the statement, “I am going to look at your vagina, and it will not hurt”. I also say “no one else should pull your underpants down and touch your vagina. The only people that can touch your vagina are you, your mother or father, and the doctor. These are your private parts, they are covered by your underwear and never let a stranger or even a friend pull down your underpants”. It is important that this age child understand who may or may not pull down their underpants. But, with that being said, it is always amazing to me how many parents say, “we don’t call it a vagina or penis”, and on this occasion the mother said, “Dr. Sue means your bunny hopper!!”  Okay, really? What in the world is a “bunny hopper?”  Why would a parent not name the body parts correctly and where do these names for vagina and penis find their derivation? Over the years I should have kept a list of “secret names” for vagina and penis as I have heard many. From the “princess patch” to “peanut” to “bo-hiney” you name it, there seem to be many parents who either are uncomfortable, or just cannot bring themselves to use the correct word for genitalia. Even Oprah has her word, “va-j-jay”. I submit that we go back to the correct anatomical name. It is so important to teach your children the appropriate words for penis and vagina. Just as they learn eyes, ear, nose, knee, foot, toe they need to know the names of their “private parts”. If you begin with the correct words it never seems awkward or uncomfortable and is no different than naming any other body part. You will be surprised at how easily your child accepts these words, but uses them appropriately too.  It is also important to name body parts correctly, especially if there is ever a question of inappropriate touching or abuse, in order that a child can correctly explain what happened. I still have to laugh when I hear all of the different names a child hears when a parent discusses genitalia, it must be confusing.  But regardless of what you name it, a penis and a vagina are private parts and need to be covered by our underpants, keep repeating that message to your child. What do you think? Would love to hear from you!

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Daily Dose

Toddler Behavior

1.30 to read

Do you have a toddler? If so you are in the throes of some difficult, albeit sometimes funny, yet inappropriate behavior. It happens to every parent...suddenly their precious child turns into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Somewhere around 15-18 months, you will most likely see this change in behavior. Although most books refer to the “terrible twos” I really think it is the “me no wanna” 18-30 month old. 

“Me no wanna” is the phrase we often used around our house, and it was coined when the boys were toddlers. It just seemed like the best line when our sweet toddler would rather have a tantrum than do the simple task that we wanted him to do. Example: please put your toy back in the box. “Me no wanna”, I would prefer to fall to the floor and scream.   

How is it that your typically sweet 20 month old child can be in middle of playing nicely and then suddenly seems possessed as they fling themselves to the floor kicking and screaming?  What is the matter?  Are they having a seizure? Or is it that “something” just didn’t seem right to them and they are angry and frustrated???  How can they change behavior so quickly.?   (hint, foreshadowing for those teen years). 

You never know with a toddler what kind of answer you will get when you say something as easy as “let’s get on your shoes to go outside”. Sometimes they happily run get the shoes, bring them to you, sit down and the shoes go on licitly split.  The next time they get the shoes, throw them across the room, lay on the floor and look at you like “me no wanna”. 

Trust me, you are not a “bad” parent, you are just living through some really challenging parenting. It is exhausting at times, but while this age is typically difficult it is some of your most important parenting. This is really the beginning of behavior modification.  Your brilliant toddler is testing you, this may be the first time you the parents understand why everyone talks about boundaries and consequences. 

Some children also express their “me no wanna” by acting out with hitting, biting and kicking. Again, very inappropriate behavior. Your job is to change that behavior by using time out, or taking away a toy or even putting the child to bed early.. There are so many ways to start letting your toddler know that there are consequences for misbehaving, and that tantrums don’t work. 

I am in throes of “me no wanna” again, only this time it is with a puppy! Seems very similar to me.

Daily Dose

Start Off the Year by Establishing Good Habits

This is the time of year we all start thinking about our New Year's resolution. Let's start the New Year off on the right foot and establish good habits.At this time of year, we are all starting to think about our New Year’s resolutions.  The biggest problem with a New Year’s resolution is keeping the resolution for more than a few days or weeks, at least that is my problem. I start off with a bang but after I get to February I am already trying to remember what I resolved.

The subject of resolutions came up today during one of my routine checkup.  I was seeing a 9 month old and her 2 year old sibling and discussing typical behaviors for these ages. I think checkups are one of most important times to talk to your child’s pediatrician about behavior.  So, the mother of these two adorable little girls said that she had gotten into the “bad habit” of picking up both of her children whenever they were crying, and that it seemed to her that they were only crying more often now to get her attention.  She now found herself holding two little girls while she also tried to do laundry or fix dinner or even while just trying to get dressed.  Obviously she was having a hard time getting anything done. As we talked, she (like many of us), thought that picking up her child, whenever they were crying for her attention, was the easiest way to stop the crying. But in reality, it had only served to reinforce the crying and now she had “created a monster” and was having a hard time deciding what to do. That is when we started talking about our New Year’s resolutions. We adults have all sorts of “habits” that might need to be changed, but fortunately small children really don’t.  Luckily for this mother, her children are young enough that their behaviors are easier to change than say an older child who is still getting their way by crying. The longer a habit has been going on the harder it will be to break or change. She vowed to start letting her children cry at times as she explained to them that she “couldn’t pick them up if her hands were full of laundry” and that they would have to wait, hoping that over time the crying would lessen and they would learn that crying was not always going to get them instant attention. I bet when I see her back the habit has been broken. Many times as parents we try to take the “easy way” and then realize that we have only started a bad habit.  We all do it, whether it is picking up a crying child, or relenting and letting your child watch TV during dinner, or giving into your teen who wants a later curfew. Many times, unfortunately after the fact, we realize that the “easy” way only turned out to be the “harder way. “ Human nature I think. So my New Year’s resolution is going to be to work on setting up good habits and then I don’t have to worry about breaking those bad habits! Let’s see how long this will last. Wish me luck. That's your daily dose.  We'll chat again tomorrow!

Daily Dose

Timeout!

1.30 to read

When I am seeing toddlers for their check ups, the topic of behavior is usually at the top of both the parent’s and my list for discussion.  Once a child is walking and beginning to talk, all sorts of new behaviors seem to occur! 

Parents ask, “how do I stop my child from hitting or biting?”  “What about misbehaving and not listening?”  The toddler years are challenging for behavior as a child is gaining independence, and testing as well.  Toddler and teens have some of the same attributes and it is important to begin behavior modification during the toddler years. 

Time out is the most commonly used behavior modification and not only will parents use this method at home, but preschool and day care teachers begin using this technique as well. This is the age that children begin to understand rules and consequences. 

So how do you “do” time out and when?  I usually start using time out when a child is between 15 -18 months of age. While I try to ignore and distract tantrums, I use time out for biting, hitting and those age appropriate yet inappropriate behaviors. 

I pick a chair in the house (we had a small set of table and chairs which seemed perfect) and every parent needs a kitchen timer to use for time out.   It is important to get at your child’s level when disciplining them as well. Tell them why they are going to time out and then have them sit in the chair for 1 minute per year of age.  (Trust me a minute sometimes feels like forever!)  

Here is the trick, if your child will not just sit in the chair (and many won’t), go behind them and hold them in the chair as if you were a human rope.  In most cases the child will be crying and trying to get up out of the chair, but you calmly hold them in the chair from behind. No eye contact!  Once the timer goes off, you let go of them, go back around so that you make eye contact again, get down to their level, and explain once again that they had to sit in the chair because they (fill in the blank).  

Time out takes time and patience.  If you are consistent about using time out for misbehaving, your child will learn to sit in the chair.  For some it may only take 1 time and others are more head-strong and it may take months of “human rope” before they decide to sit alone. 

Don’t give up!!!  This is a very important lesson for children to learn and you will use time out many times, not only in that little chair, but in other venues as your child gets older.    

Daily Dose

Parenting is Hard

1.30 to read

Did you read the online article about a mother selling her 4 tickets to the One Direction Concert on eBay? It seems that it may have been a hoax but the gist of the matter was this “fake” mother was selling tickets that she had purchased to take her daughter and friends to the concert. In the online post, the mother (using some very inappropriate language) said that she was selling her tickets to punish her daughter for her inappropriate behavior. 

I applaud parents who do set boundaries and limits which also means having consequences when children break the rules. In many circumstances taking away something often teaches children a lesson.  I disagree with posting it all over the internet. This is a discussion that can and should happen in the home, between parent and child (of any age), rather than sharing the issue and humiliating their child. 

I often relate a similar story with my own children when talking about consequences with parents. When my boys were about 7, 5 and 2 we had tickets to breakfast with Santa and a parade after that. The older boys had been before and really looked forward to this annual event.  They were at the age that they constantly bickered and fought (often) and it just wore me out. 

The day before the event I told them that if they did not stop fighting they would not go to breakfast with Santa.  Well, it must not have been an hour later that the older two were fighting and I said, “that’s it, you are not going to see Santa or the parade!”  I picked up the phone and called a friend who had two children and asked if she wanted to join us the following day to see Santa.  The following day the 2 year old and I left the house and the 7 and 5 year old starred out the window crying as I backed out of the driveway.  I will never forget those sad faces. I was equally sad as I too loved taking the kids to this annual, but they had just pushed and pushed. They still say they remember that punishment and my friend still has the picture of her kids on Santa’s lap! 

The moral of this is really two fold. A parent’s job is to be a parent and at times it is hard, really hard. But teaching children about consequences for their choices and behavior is one of the most important jobs a parent has. With that being said, humiliating your child is never appropriate, even when you are pushed to the limits.  Being a parent means you can’t resort to acting like your child.

Daily Dose

Breath-holding & Fainting

2.00 to read

Have you ever fainted?  I bet you may have not realized how common fainting is in the pediatric age group?  I know this from my own children (yes, I had 2 “fainters” and boys no less) as well as from many of my patients.

The medical term for fainting is syncope, and it really is common among children. It starts during the toddler years with breath-holding spells.  Many in this age group (up to 50%) will hold their breath when they are hurt or angry.

When a child holds their breath while crying (you can just see it happening in front of you) they will often turn a bit clue and “pass out”. This is a type of fainting. This can be very scary for parents who have never seen their precious child have such an attitude and then hold their breath over not getting the cookie? Yes, this is a normal part of being a toddler! They are very emotional and labile at this age (foreshadowing for teen years?) and most toddlers don’t have a lot of language yet, so when they get mad or frustrated they just SCREAM! But, while screaming, the child forgets to take a breath, and then the brain and autonomic nervous system takes over and the breath holding leads to fainting.

The breath holding spell, as scary as it is, is just a form of fainting. It will not hurt your child, but it may take your breath away!

My advice? Try not to pay attention to your child if they begin having breath-holding spells. It may be hard to “ignore” the first two or three, but these “spells” usually last for months (maybe years) and you do not need to rush to your child when they hold their breath. By calling attention to the event you may inadvertently reinforce the behavior. As a child gets older, the breath holding will stop (but not the tantrums?) and there will be new behaviors to conquer. Do you have a breath-holder? How do you cope? Let us know!

That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

The Dangers of 'Sexting'

If you are a parent of a teen, or even a 'tween, have you heard of "sexting"? If you haven't, you should know about this phenomenon that is happening coast to coast. "Sexting" is a form of text messaging, where racy or explicit sexual images are being sent from cell phone to cell phone. Teens say this is just a form of flirting. Most people would think otherwise.

When you view some of the suggestive and provocative pictures that are being "sexted", it is often embarrassing and some would argue these "sexts" are a form of pornography. A simple picture sent in a suggestive bikini may seem innocent enough until it is sent around an entire school. Unfortunately, many of the pictures are taken without the bikini, showing breasts and nudity. While a young teen may think this picture is only for one set of eyes, many of the pictures are then passed around to classmates, and even beyond that. A recent survey showed that one in five teens have sent or posted provocative photos of themselves. So many teens "sext" before they think and then must face the consequences. The consequences of "sexting" include legal issues about trafficking in child pornography, which most teens haven't even heard of. They are not aware that this is a criminal offense. At the same time, the emotional turmoil that a teen faces after her nude picture has now been passed around her school, may lead to humiliation, depression and even suicide in the case of one teen in Ohio. "Sexting" and cyberbullying are both discussions that every parent needs to have with their child. The dangers of technology can be very real when the technology is not used appropriately. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

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