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Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians, which we call Scribit Veritas.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

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Loving By Leading: The Nature of a Child

Babies are so cute, cuddly, and appear so innocent, especially as newborns. By 4 months they are smiling and cooing in response to every smiling face. Then, as they begin crawling and walking, they are even more fascinating to watch. But something seems to change when they enter that second year. Toddlers become more self-assertive and independent, protesting when their desires conflict with ours. Suddenly, they refuse to stop running when we say, “Stop!” They begin to resist and rebel (e.g., fight diaper changes, refuse to sit in the car seat, contest teeth brushing, and throw food from the high chair). “What happened to my innocent baby?” you may ask. The fact is, he was never totally innocent, just less able to express his self-centered desires. 

Understanding the nature of a child is fundamental to how you will approach the rearing of your child. Will you be directive (active) or just facilitative (passive)? Will you lead him or follow his lead? Here are two opposing views about the nature of a child:

  1. Children are born innocent and it is the environment and parents who corrupt this innocence.
  2. Children are naturally self-focused and in need of guidance.

Years of psychological research and the practical experience of parenting tell us that children are not born innocent or others-conscious, but rather are self-centered and focused on their own physical needs and satisfaction.

In his parenting book Loving By Leading, Dr. Trumbull notes, “The role of discipline is to lead your child from being a self-centered child to being a self-disciplined adult. Will your child live foolishly by impulsively pleasing himself, or live wisely by displaying self-control over his natural impulses and being considerate of others?” Think about it.

Reference

Trumbull, DA. Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children. 2018; pp 22-23. ISBN 9781732659810

 

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Loving By Leading: Why Some Parents Are Hesitant to Lead

If leadership in parenting is so important and rewarding, as mentioned in our last blog, why don’t all parents take this approach? In his book, Loving By Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children, Dr. Trumbull offers a few possibilities:

  1. Paralyzed by uncertainty. Many parents are so unsure about their parenting, they adopt a fol­low-the-child approach by default. In many ways, this seems to be more efficient in the moment.
  2. Desiring to avoid conflict. Every parent wants a happy, peaceful relationship with their child. However, this desire can cause parents to ignore their child’s need for discipline and, instead, resort to compromise and negotiation to get their child to behave. This approach of postponing correction inevitably leads to greater conflict and child exasperation. Conflict avoidance is a short-term solution that leads to a long-term problem.
  3. Seeking to be friends too early. It is natural for parents to desire a harmonious friendship with their child, but a respectful, authoritative parent-child rela­tionship must come first.
  4. Hoping someone else will train their child. In the hurriedness of life, many parents hope that the daycare or school teachers will do the grueling work of child discipline for them, when in fact only parents have the true authority and influence to correct and lead.
  5. Too busy to invest the time needed. Life, today more than ever, is filled with distractions and busyness. Parenting can often get the short end of the stick.

Most parents can identify to some degree with one or more of these reasons. No worry; there is always room for improvement. “Productive parenting requires the inten­tional investment of contemplation and time. Don’t let the demands of life distract you from this important task. Invest now, and enjoy the fruit of your efforts later.” (Trumbull, 2018)

 

Reference

Trumbull, DA. Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children. 2018; pp 10-11. ISBN 9781732659810

 

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Loving by Leading: Why Should Parents Lead?

As we continue this series based upon the book, Loving By Leading, you might ask the question, “Why do parents need to lead their children? Don’t they need the freedom to make decisions and grow?” Dr. Trumbull answers, “Most children do not know what is best for them and, when given the opportunity, will make unhealthy choices based on selfish intentions. The ideal goal of parenting is character-building and good health; these can only come when parents lead and children follow.” 

Yes, children need guidance (leadership) from their parents, especially at younger ages. They generally want it as well, even though it’s not always obvious and may occasionally lead to a battle of wills. For example:

  • 6-month-old Amy doesn’t know that waking at night for a bottle is unnecessary.
  • 9-month-old Sally doesn’t know she needs two naps a day for good health.
  • 12-month-old Ricky doesn’t know that biting hurts others.
  • 18-month-old Emily doesn’t know that watching video on Mom’s phone is unhealthy for the developing mind.
  • 2-year-old Henry doesn’t know that running wildly in a parking lot is dangerous.

Each of these situations are opportunities to lead your child. By leading your children to better life habits, you are not only improving their health but more importantly, you are equipping them to be self-controlled and to be more thoughtful in their actions and choices. These skills are foundational to success in life. 

Reference

Trumbull, DA. Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children. 2018; pp 9. ISBN 9781732659810

 

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Loving by Leading: 4 Commitments Needed with Parenting

As we continue with this blog series on Dr. Trumbull’s new book, Loving By Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children, we come to the topic of commitment with parenting. 

“Successful parenting requires a high level of commitment to your child and to the discipline process, especially in the early years. With the overwhelming demands of life, it is tempting to treat your parenting efforts as just one more thing you must do. However, for the best results, you must give it consistent attention and careful planning.” 

Dr. Trumbull presents four commitments made by mothers and fathers upon entering parenthood. Each is essential for the establishment of a healthy relationship and successful outcome with the child. 

Four Parental Commitments:

1. Be Ready to Invest

 “The teen years can be wonderful for you and your child. How? By investing more in the early years. Postponing this investment until your child is older will result in more work later, and possibly a poorer outcome” (Trumbull, 2018).

The first commitment is to invest time when it needs to be invested. In a society where spending quality time with family is often given minimal importance, it is essential to carve out intentional time to spend with your child. By investing time in your relationship when they are young, the reward will be much greater and outcome more likely positive. Kids notice everything, especially when parents spend little time with them. Don’t hesitate to invest now.

2. Be Willing to Sacrifice

“At times, [parenting] will disturb your personal peace and can result in temporary conflict. These inevitable sacrifices are necessary to accomplish responsible, loving parenting with your child” (Trumbull, 2018). 

The second commitment for parents is to be willing to sacrifice. Being a parent means sacrificing things. There is no way around it. Once there are children in your care, they become one of your greatest priorities. Loving your child means giving up some personal pleasures and entertainment that once were priorities, and redirecting your energies towards parenting. 

3. Be the Leadership

“Lead them to self-control.
Lead them to respect others. 
Lead them to proper behavior
Lead them to high character.” (Trumbull, 2018).

Children see what parents do and imitate it. This makes sense, especially when they’re met with the same faces every day in the home. The commitment of being someone’s role model may seem like a daunting position to be in, but it is a reality for all parents. Therefore, it is essential for parents to model respectable conduct and self-control. Simultaneously, parents must require this behavior from their child. You should not be surprised when you hear your four-year-old spewing disrespectful remarks if that is the vocabulary being modeled for them. Parents must lead by example and with discipline. 

4. Be Persistent and Patient 

“Beware of discouragement and of the temptation to relax your standards. Stay focused and be strong. In the moment of conflict, your child will not understand the long-term benefits of your discipline, but down the road, he will be thankful for your leadership” (Trumbull, 2018).

The fourth commitment is being persistent, even in the face of fatigue and discouragement. Results are often not immediate with parenting efforts. You must stand strong and be patient. When it comes to receiving backlash from your child who disagrees with a rule or a routine you have imposed, staying the course is more likely to result in success as the child understands the purpose and love behind the rule. Don’t give up. 

Resources

Trumbull, DA. Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children. 2018; pp 16. ISBN 9781732659810

 

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A Case for Authoritative Parenting

In his book titled Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children, Dr. Den Trumbull explores the research on parenting styles. He cites four specific styles as described by developmental psychologist, Dr. Dianna Baumrind. Trumbull explains, “The most successful parenting style, the authoritative style, used a balance of positive encouragement and high behavioral control” (Trumbull, 2018). Positive encouragement includes an approach that is warm, affirming, rational, and receptive. High behavioral control consists of firm discipline and supervision of the child by the parent. The authoritative path successfully uses both components. 

Specific ways in which authoritative parents interact with their children are: 

  • They direct the child in a rational, intentional manner 
  • They encourage verbal give-and-take from the child, they share the reason behind their directives, they value expressive attributes of the child, and yet they exert firm control over the child’s behavior
  • Their use of control is often combined with reasoning
  • They affirm the child’s qualities, yet set standards for future conduct
  • They make reasonable demands of their children and promote respect for authority
  • They are more consistent with the discipline

This is not to say something is inherently wrong with those parents who don’t follow or identify with this list. There is, however, always room for improvement. 

The overarching theme of parenting is to love your child and seek his or her best interests. So, investing time to learn more about parenting is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. If authoritative parenting is indeed one of the best methods, perhaps it would be worth learning more about how to implement it. If this has sparked your interest, take a look at the following articles which go deeper into the topic. 

Resources

Trumbull, DA. Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children. 2018; pp 16. ISBN 9781732659810

Further Reading 

Authoritative Parenting

https://goodparent.org/parents/parenting-style/

https://www.parentingscience.com/authoritative-parenting-style.html 

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-authoritative-parenting-2794956 

 

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Children and Screen Time

“Limit your children’s screen time.” It is easy when stressed and in a hurry to use the TV as a babysitter, and children may seem to want screen time more than anything else. It seems to make a great reward and a useful distraction. Responding to media use with a focus on your child’s well-being requires conscious effort and firmness. For those of us who would like some support to help guide our efforts, here are some guidelines on how to appropriately limit children’s screen time:

How Much is Too Much?

  • Children under the age of 2 should avoid screen entertainment use in general. Children under the 6-18 months should have no screen time except for video chats with family and friends. For children 18-24 months, media use should be limited, and you should always have a caregiver or parent participating with the child. 
  • Children ages 2-5 should have no more than an hour of screen time a day with care taken to provide only educational, high-quality programs. Preschoolers especially need parents to be available to explain the things they are watching that may not make sense. 
  • From ages 5-18, parents should set consistent limits on the amount of screen time. In general, it is recommended to not be more than 1-2 hours a day. Whenever media use takes away from health, family time, and sleep habits it should be lessened. 

Potential Risks for Too Much TV

  • Sleep. Researchers at Brown University, children are more likely to have issues obtaining regular amounts of sleep the more hours of TV they watch per day. 
  • Obesity and lack of active playtime. Research shows that the risk for obesity rises with the amount of time children spend watching TV. Children who spend large amounts of time in front of a screen have less time available to play outside. Additionally, they may find it more difficult to come up with creative games outdoors on their own; they depend on TV programs and games to entertain them. Additionally, TV commercials regularly display advertisements for unhealthy foods and fast-food restaurants. 
  • According to the Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter (2014), research shows that children who have a television in their own bedroom tend to score lower academically than children who do not.

Tips for Success

As stated before, the hard part is knowing how to limit screen time in a media-saturated society. Below is some advice on how to set healthy habits for your children. 

  • Teach by example. Children will learn the most from watching the adults in their lives. So, the first step to helping children have healthy technology use is to create healthy habits in ourselves. 
  • Set time limits and rules for media use, and make sure that they are consistently followed by babysitters and anyone who monitors your children. 
  • Try to encourage your children to participate in outdoor, physical activities. 
  • Avoid having the TV on as a “background noise” when no one is watching it. Turn off the TV during meal times.
  • As needed, take a day or even a week without using the TV or other forms of multimedia entertainment. 
  • Instead of using screen time as a reward or a punishment, set healthy time limits and keep them consistent. Help your children understand why media use is limited. 
  • Keep computers and TVs in family-shared areas rather than bedrooms. This will help to monitor the type of media that the children are viewing and allow for shared conversations about what is viewed. Use filtering programs for mobile devices, computers, and television to protect children from inappropriate media.  

Every effort to help children learn to keep an appropriate amount of screen entertainment time makes a difference in their health and well-being. Despite the difficulty, each of us can likely improve our media use habits in some way. We and our children will benefit. 

From: Screen Time: A Guide for Parents. (2014). Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 301-2. Retrieved from https://eds.a.ebscohost.com. 

Additional References:

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/tv-affects-child.html?WT.ac=p-ra

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/screentime-teens.html

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/12/26/505905246/screen-time-reality-check-for-kids-and-parents

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/screen-time

 

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Pregnancy and Infant Loss: The Silent Suffering

Pregnancy can mean different things to different people, but one thing’s for sure: it’s definitely life changing! From the moment a couple sees that positive on the pregnancy test, nothing is the same. What follows are months of doctor’s appointments, morning sickness, anticipation, anxiety, and more.

But for some parents, this life-changing experience takes an unexpected turn. While they’d been planning on welcoming a new child into their life, complications can lead to either death during pregnancy or shortly after birth. These losses during pregnancy or infancy are unfortunately both all too common and often overlooked. 

The purpose of this post is to raise awareness of the unspoken pain so many parents face, as well as give you some tools to help those who are struggling with grief.  

The Loss

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, about one million pregnancies each year end in some kind of loss (1), whether that be a miscarriage (loss before 20 weeks pregnant) or a stillbirth (loss after 20 weeks pregnant but before or during delivery). Anywhere from 10-25% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage alone (2). In addition to these losses during pregnancy, about 24,000 babies die after birth while still in infancy (3).

While these losses don’t affect everyone in the exact same way, losing a baby before, during, or after birth has a serious impact on the parents. Research shows that miscarriages can take a big emotional toll on both women and men, even if the baby was lost very early on in pregnancy (4). Research also shows an equally strong reaction to stillbirths as families struggle to cope “for years and sometimes decades” (5).

With all of the emotions and grief to sort through, parents need support now more than ever. Unfortunately, they often don’t receive the support they need to cope with their loss (6).

So what can we do to help our loved ones cope with the tragedy of pregnancy or infant loss?

Helping Loved Ones Cope

Helping loved ones deal with loss during pregnancy or infancy can be really tricky. Often times, these parents may need help from professional counselors as they work through their grief. (They also may benefit from support groups online or the free bereavement materials from March of Dimes.)  But there are a few things we can do as friends and family members to acknowledge their loss and support them in the process. 

The American Pregnancy Association suggests a few ways to help your loved one cope with a miscarriage (7). These also apply to stillbirths or the loss of an infant as well. 

  • Listen. As part of the grieving process, a parent may just need someone to tell their story to. Genuinely listening with love can go a long way as they try to heal. 
  • Validate their feelings. Let them know that their grief and emotions are normal, and that this is all a part of the healing process. Even if it’s been some time, don’t tell them it’s time to move on or get over it. 
  • Be ready to talk about the baby. They may not always be ready to talk about the baby, but when they are, be there. Talking about their baby is a healthy part of coping with grief.

Break the Silence

So many mothers and fathers struggle alone with the loss of their baby. But it doesn’t have to be that way! This pregnancy was still life-changing and still should be talked about. As friends and family, we can be there to support those who are experiencing the grief of losing their child so they don’t have to suffer in silence.

 

» Click to show references

Picture retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/affection-baby-birth-black-and-white-266055/

References

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. (2013). Child Health USA 2013. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from 

https://mchb.hrsa.gov/chusa13/perinatal-health-status-indicators/p/fetal-mortality.html

2. American Pregnancy Association. (2017, May 2). Miscarriage: Signs, symptoms, treatment and prevention. Retrieved from http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/miscarriage/

3. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (n.d.). How many infants die every year? Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infant-mortality/topicinfo/Pages/statistics.aspx

4. Leis-Newman, E. (2012, June). Miscarriage and loss. Monitor on Psychology, 43(6), 56. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/miscarriage.aspx

5. Cacciatore, J. (2013, April). Psychological effects of stillbirth. Seminars in Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 18(2), 76-82. Retrieved from

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1744165X12001023

6. Cacciatore, J. & Bushfield, S. (2007). Stillbirth: The mother’s experience and implications for improving care. Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life & Palliative Care, 3, 59-79. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J457v03n03_06

7. American Pregnancy Association. (2017, April 19). After a miscarriage: Supporting friends & family through loss. Retrieved from http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-loss/

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When Extracurricular Activities Stop Being Beneficial

I know of many parents, including some of my own aunts, uncles and friends, that spend the majority of their day helping their children participate in extracurricular activities. They meticulously organize each hour of the day to accommodate and fit in each child’s separate activities. I have an aunt, for example, who, with her three young children, is constantly running around to soccer, basketball, dance, theater, gymnastics, piano, swimming, and church activities. My grandparents are often pulled in to help take them places when the two of them can’t spread themselves thin enough to cover it all. 

The oldest of their daughters described her day as “busy” and “different every day depending on the activity”. When I was a young girl, I had maybe one or two extracurricular activities and spent most of my after-school time simply playing around the neighborhood or inside with my siblings. 

So the question arises: When do extracurricular activities stop being beneficial? Let’s look at the Pros and Cons.

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Teens & Depression

Depression–or feeling sad, frustrated, and hopeless about life, accompanied by loss of pleasure in most activities and disturbances in sleep, appetite, concentration, and energy–is one of the most common psychological problems among adolescents. According to previous research done at the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, 20 to 50 percent of U.S. teenagers experience mild to moderate feelings of depression, but bounce back after a short time. What’s even more worrisome is the 15 to 20 percent of teens who have had one or more major depressive episodes. That rate is comparable to that of adults! About 5 percent of teens are chronically depressed–gloomy and self-critical for many months and sometimes years.  

Many parents wonder what causes depression. I’ve heard many parents express some of the following questions about depression:  Is it real? What causes it? Is it genetics? Is it something happening at school? Puberty? Is it my fault?

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Avoiding Teratogens in Pregnancy

The word teratogen comes from the Greek word, teras, meaning “malformation” or “monstrosity” (Berk, L., Development Through the Lifespan, p. 81). During pregnancy, it’s extremely important to take care of yourself and your baby, and many mothers don’t know about teratogens, or certain aspects of their environment that could cause damage during the prenatal period. However, many effects of teratogens go beyond immediate physical damage. Some health effects are delayed and may not show up for decades. 

Here are three of the most common teratogens.  Recognizing them and understanding their effect on your body, and that of your unborn children, will help you know what to avoid. 

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