parenting

My Parenting Book List

So this is a work in progress, but I thought I’d share my first draft of my Parenting Book List. Please let me know your thoughts. Are there categories or books that I’ve left off?  Thanks!

Overall

The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Siegel and Bryson (2012)

Between Parent and Child: The Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication by Ginott (updated 2003)

Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Bronson and Merryman (2011)

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Tough (2013)

Play

Playful Parenting by Cohen (2002)

The Power of Parent-Child Play by Sargent (2003)

Early Learning

The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally by Elkind (2007)

Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less by Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek and Eyer (2004)

Mind in the Making:The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Galinsky (2010)

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Third Edition: Encouraging Your Child’s Natural Development from Birth to Age Six by Dancy (updated 2012)

Positive Discipline

Positive Discipline by Nelsen (2006)

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish (updated 2012)

Parenting with Love and Logic by Cline and Fay (updated 2006)

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Bailey (2001)

The Discipline Book by Sears and Sears (1995) – best discipline book for parents with children under 3 years old

Calm Parenting

Screamfree Parenting: A Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Runkel (2008)

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, More Secure Kids by Payne and Ross (2010)

Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids: Practical Ways to Create a Calm and Happy Home by Drew (2000)

Parenting as a Couple

Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently by Pruett (2009)

Screamfree Marriage by Runkel (2011)

Friendships

Focusing on Peers: The importance of Relationships in the Early Years by Wittmer (2008)

The Friendship Factor: Helping Our Children Navigate Their Social World and Why It Matters for Their Success by Rubin (2003)

The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends by Elman and Kennedy-Moore (2003)

Social Skills

Raise Your Child’s Social IQ: Stepping Stones to People Skills for Kids by Cohen (2000)

Siblings

Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish (2012 updated)

The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are by Leman (2009)

Screentime and Technology

Screentime: How Electronic Media from Baby Videos to Educational Software Affects Your Young Child by Guernsey (2012)

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Steiner-Adair (2013)

Overindulgence

Too Much of  a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age by Kindlon (2003)

How to Unspoil Your Child Fast by Bromfield (2010)

Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World by Rigby (2013)

Self Esteem and Resiliency

The Optomistic Child by Seligman (2007)

Your Child’s Self Esteem by Briggs (1988) a classic

Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents by Carter (2011)

Boys and Girls

Boys and Girls Learn Differently: A Guide for Teachers and Parents by Gurian (updated 2010)

Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Sax (2006)

Mealtimes and Eating

Child of Mine by Satter (updated 2000)

Dr. Paula’s Guide to Good Nutrition for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers by Elbirt (2001)

The Picky Eating Solution by Kennedy (2013)

Sleep

Sleepless in America: Practical Strategies to Help Your Family Get the Sleep It Deserves by Kurcinka (2007)

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Weissbluth (1999) – a classic

Sleeping Thru the Night by Mindell (updated 2005)

Only Child

The Future of Your Only Child: How to Guide Your Child to a Happy and Successful Life by Pickhardt (2008)

The Seven Common Sins of Parenting an Only Child by White (2004)

Shyness

The Shyness Breakthrough by Carducci (2003)

The Shy Child: Helping Children Triumph over Shyness by Swallow (2000)

Strong Willed/Spirited

Raising Your Spirited Child by Kurcinka (2006)

Setting Limits with Your Strong Willed Child by MacKenzie (2013, 2nd edition)

Motivation

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dweck (2007)

Sensory Integration

The Out of Sync Child by Kranowitz (updated 2006) a classic

Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder by Miller (2007)

Too Many Toys?

I gave a lunch hour parenting workshop on Overindulgence at the OPM today. This included a discussion about having too many toys and the benefits of rotating them. Growing up (a child of the 70s) I had a book shelf, a table for coloring, a dollhouse, a bed and a dresser in my room. Admittedly, the dollhouse was stocked, but that was it for toys. I played for hours a day over years with that dollhouse. I did this in part because that’s all that was available.

The idea of less is more is truly the case with toys. Consider the child that has a collection of Groovy Girls, Polly Pockets, American Girls, Barbies, Littlest Pet Shop and Calico Critters. Likely, she doesn’t play with anything as long or as often as I played with that dollhouse. Part of the answer if you sense your child has too much, is to pack half of it up in storage, then once a month or so, rotate half of that back in. With fewer choices, your child will likely play more often and more creatively with what is available. It also allows you to bring a few toys back into rotation each month as “new” without having to buy anything. This increases the life and interest in any particular toy. A toy that has been out of sight a few months is new, a toy sitting unused on the shelf is boring.

You might also get renewed interest just by moving toys around the house. I thought my girls had lost interest in their dollhouse that was in the playroom. No one had touched it in months. While cleaning one day, I carried it to the dining room. My daughters saw it there, it sparked their interest and they played with it often over the next month.

If you have too many toys, it can also be a golden opportunity for teaching about giving to others. Help your older children to sort through and find the toys they really don’t play with anymore. Have them help clean and box the toys that are in great condition and go with you to donate them.

Your Own Sibling Relationships Can Impact Your Children’s Sibling Relationships

Two Families Sitting Outside House

First, your own sibling relationships help shape your expectations for how your children might get along. My brother and I got along great growing up. We played together when we were little and hung out fairly often through college. I expect my girls to get along. When they do play and hang out, I count that as it should be. My husband and his siblings didn’t get along so well. His older brother and he fought often and never felt close. His younger sister and he bickered often. When he sees the girls getting along, he is still surprised. He thinks it’s just short of miraculous they enjoy each others’ company.

Second, how you speak to and about your grown siblings models to your children how to speak to and about siblings. Read that again if you need to. When your children are within earshot, speak about your siblings in the nicest way possible. It’s great if it’s honest, and it’s okay if it’s a stretch, or just avoid saying negative things so openly. I speak very openly about growing up with my brother, how much fun we had on family vacations and how it was great to be at the same high school and college for a year. My husband speaks nicely about his sister and avoids speaking much about his brother as it’s still rocky.

Third, you may side more often with one or the other based on birth order or other related variables. I was the youngest in my family, and I find myself occasionally siding with my youngest Claire because her perspective makes sense to me. The goal is to recognize the tendency and be sure it doesn’t become a pattern.

Ways to Encourage Independent Play

Mädchen spielt mit Puzzle

It can be difficult when your child seems to need a playmate all day. If you aren’t playing with them, they complain they are bored or just wander and whine. It is a good skill in life to be able to occupy your own time. Here are several ways to encourage independent play:

  • First, pinpoint any particular needy times and plan accordingly – If your child is an early riser and always in need of company at that time, or if they need to reconnect when parents first return home, don’t expect those to be times for independent play.
  • Set aside specific times TO PLAY – Some children worry that they won’t get anytime with you if they don’t follow your every move and ask to play constantly. Giving them a time they can count on may aleviate this worry. It helps some if this play is the same time every day (think the needy times), but it can be different as long as it is your priority.
  • Explain why you need the time – Even very young children may appreciate an explanation of what you will be doing. This can be as simple as, “mommy has a few calls to make. I need quiet for 10 minutes.”
  • Set-up for play – Preschool classrooms are set-up for play. There is a reading corner with bookshelves, beanbags and puppets. There is a kitchen area with a stove, sink, fridge, table, place settings and babies in cribs. These set-up areas encourage children in to play. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just think to make the play space inviting.
  • Create a space that builds on their interests – If your child is very into picture books, make a cozy reading corner that invites them in. Big beanbags, a low faceout book shelf, maybe a tape player for books on tape and a few related things like puppets. If your child loves trains, maybe a train table with lots of storage and a carpet with additional track.
  • Store toys and basic art supplies in view and within reach – Toys that are out of sight tend to be out of mind. If you prefer plastic bins, pick clear ones so kids can see what’s inside without dumping them out. Basic art supplies include crayons, paper, Play-doh or clay and water paints with brushes. If you are brave, this includes markers.
  • Store one type of thing per container – If you have bins or baskets, try to put just dress-up clothes in one and just balls in another. If you have a big toy box, add cardboard dividers so you have separate sections. When all kinds of toys are stored together, toys on the bottom are not played with and pieces tend to go missing more often.
  • Have specific areas for stored away toys – This means have a puzzle cabinet or a board game closet. While they may be out of sight, they are organized and together. Over time, your child will know where they are stored.
  • Start things with your child they can easily continue on their own – If your child is good at puzzles, maybe start a puzzle together and then take short trips away to “check on dinner” or, “change over the laundry.” Gradually make longer trips away.  When you do come back, each time comment, “you played so nicely by yourself,” or, “look, you got four more pieces done.”
  • Give your child things to do that are like what you are doing – If you are cooking, give them pots and pans with spoons and a bit of water, or let them “wash dishes” in the sink. If you are on the computer, give them their leap pad. They feel like they are doing something with you.
  • Set aside an independent play time each day – In the beginning independent play may go better if children are expecting it and they know how long it’s expected to last.
  • Provide more open ended toys – Closed ended toys have a built in end point. Open ended toys include dolls, blocks, kitchen and cooking sets, dress-up clothes and art supplies. Children use these toys in endless ways so the independent play may last longer.
  • Ask them their plan for play – If they often have trouble getting started ask them their plan or what they are going to play first. It may be easier for them to start once they have made a decision and have a focus.
  • Store some of your toys and then rotate – Many children have too many toys. When there are too many and toys just sit on the shelf, over time they become less interesting to children. The answer is to put half of the toys away in storage. When there are fewer choices, children tend to play longer and in deeper ways with the ones that are available. This also allows you to rotate toys which introduces toys as new without having to buy any. Rotating toys may be swapping half of what’s stored with half of what’s out every month or so.
  • Avoid filling their independent play time with TV and other screens – There can be a time for screens, but when you want your children to practice independent play, avoid them. Children watching screens are being otherwise occupied and not learning to play on their own.
  • Boredom is a good thing – Many parent worry about their children being bored when left to play alone. This boredom is what sparks creativity, allows children to explore their interests and leads to better quality independent play. It is good for kids to have real downtime. At a minimum think an hour a day of unstructured, just go play time. Time when they are in charge of what to do next.
  • Arrange playdates (if this is helpful) – Not really independent play, but once children are a bit older, they may want a friend to help spend their time playing away from you. You may have to have several playdates to find a mix of children that can play together nicely for long stretches. For others, the playdates are never really helpful. Some need more supervision on playdates, and there is no way you’d leave them alone. For more ideas about playdates, please read https://parentingbydrrene.com/2014/09/07/all-about-playdates/.
  • Give them more time – When children are bad at independent play, they often just need more practice.

In Discipline: Whoever Starts It Gets to Finish

There is a golden rule in discipline when you are parenting as a couple. It is simple, whoever starts it gets to finish. This means if the first parent is into a discipline exchange, as long as it’s not abusive, the second parent avoids intervening, correcting the first, rescuing the child, taking over or undermining in any way. If the second parent must say something, they should err on the side of supporting the first or offer to help. If the offer to help is declined, it’s declined.

When I have seen a discipline exchange going south fast for my husband, I have offered to help. Sometimes he says, “no thanks, I got it.” Other times he says, “yes, take them. It’s your turn.” If the former, I say, “listen to your father.” I reserve the right to make a note of the situation and discuss it with him after and away from the children. If the latter, I move forward in discipline.

If you don’t offer and just move in, or if you offer and move in even though you were declined, you are making your partner’s job harder the next go around. It can be very hard, but there is a need to let them build an individual parent-child relationship. Both parents should be able to feel confident in their interactions and discipline exchanges.

If you disagree often over discipline, you may want to spend time working through it apart from the children. You might read Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage by Pruett and Pruett. You might also take my live or audio workshop on Parenting as a Couple.

 

 

Ways to Teach Children Emotion Language

Emotion language provides children a tool for managing social exchange. By the time they get to Kindergarten, I want children to be able to look at their friend and say, “I am mad at you. You took my block,” rather than clobber them. There are many ways to teach children emotion language, here are a few:

  • Use I messages – I messages are a productive way to label and share your emotions. They are also considered a foundation step of positive discipline. I messages label your emotions and explain why you feel that way by putting blame on the behavior or thing that happened rather than the child. Let’s say a child runs through the living room, and knocks over and breaks your lamp. An I message might be, “I am angry, my lamp is broken,” “I am upset, people are running in the house,” or “I am frustrated, no one is listening.” The blame is passive (my lamp is broken) or global (no one is listening, and people are running). This AVOIDS blaming the child, “I am mad at you, you broke my lamp. You never listen.”
  • Give empathy – Empathy is validating your child’s emotions and why they feel that way. Often this can happen in the moment, and it’s also fine to provide following an emotional exchange, once all is calm. Empathy sounds like, “wow, you are angry. You didn’t like that game,” or, “I know you are upset, it’s so hard to be left out.”
  • Talk about others’ emotions – Discuss the sad baby you hear crying in the grocery store or the angry child who was having a fit at the playground. Label emotions, talk about things that make them feel that way or what others could do to help.
  • Be sure to include causes and consequences of emotions – At least occasionally in these conversations, discuss what came before the emotion or what happened as a result.
  • Read about emotions – There are so many good children’s books on emotions.  There is a list on my blog at: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/childrensbooks/#emotions.
  • Tell your own stories with emotional content – If you are at all creative, tell your own stories with emotional content. When our girls were little, we told a lot of Amy and Catie stories. Amy was remarkably like our daughter Alicen, and Catie just like our daughter Claire. When Alicen and Claire had an upset at the swingset, that night Amy and catie would have a similar upset at the sandbox. Your stories should all provide examples of positive ways to manage and express emotions and ways to calm.
  • Ask hypotheticals – As children are four and five years old, you can ask hypotheticals related to their own experiences. If your child gets angry over sharing toys, you might ask, “what would you do if you really wanted to play with a particular car, and your friend was using it and kept saying ‘no’ to giving a turn?” If needed, help brainstorm good choices and discuss possible outcomes.
  • Role play emotions – Go back and reenact emotional situations. If it was an upset with another child, take turns being each child involved and think of ways it could have gone better.
  • Give puppet shows – Most kids love a puppet show. Again it’s good to make these about familiar exchanges.
  • Play emotion charades – Play charades, just be sure to include emotions as a category.
  • Make emotion faces in the mirror and to each other – Talk about how we know someone is angry, excited, sad or happy.
  • Make an emotions poster – Divide a poster board into six squares labeled happy, sad, excited, mad, surprised and scared. Provide assorted magazines, then help children cut out and paste emotion faces and things that make them feel each way.  You might write in each box additional things that make them feel that way or any other thoughts they have about that emotion.
  • Listen to and discuss emotional music – Listen together to sad, exciting or happy music. Talk about what each song makes them think of and how it makes them feel.
  • Paint emotion pictures – You might paint while you listen to the emotional music.
  • Sing emotion songs –  We sing “When You’re Happy and You Know It” and include movements like clapping for happy, stomping feet for mad and crying for sad.

For more ideas you can read Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Cultivate Inner Strength in Children by Lantieri or Parents’ Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children by Blaine. You can also attend or listen online to our workshop on emotional development and emotion coaching.

Helping Children Learn to Make Decisions

Hi Dr. Rene,
I have a third grader who, at times, seems to be paralyzed by indecision. Here is a typical situation: each week his teacher sends home a homework packet that requires two reading and writing activities. He is given ten activities to choose two from (e.g., write a letter to the librarian telling her why she should get this book). Although he reads for at least 30 minutes a night, he has difficulty choosing what book to base an activity on and then choosing an activity. He asks us for help, and we will suggest a book he has just read  and a potential activity or two, but that never seems to help. He will spend a half hour to an hour fretting about what to do and sometimes ends up in tears. What is the best way for us to support him in this situation? He is a good reader and grasps what he is reading, but this particular activity is very draining for him.
Thank you for your advice,
Cindy

Hi Cindy,
I would focus first on teaching him decision making separate from homework time. Start small, each day give him choices like apples or oranges for snack, or playing monopoly or clue with you. Continually offer very small choices. When you are in the car, a book on tape or music, tucking in this story or that. When he is able to make small choices, occasionally comment, “you decided that by yourself,” “I saw you think about it and decide on this story,” or ask, “how did you make that decision so easily? What helped you decide?” Talk with him through his decision making process.

When a choice is too difficult, focus on helping him weigh his options. Remind him of the high and low points of each choice, remind him how or what he chose last time or how it worked out. If he really can’t decide whether you choose for him or not, I would ask him to let you know one thing he liked about each of the options and why he might have chosen each one later. This is still teaching him to look at the details.

Gradually work your way up to bigger decisions such as who to invite over to play or which after school activity to sign-up for. Afterwards talk about how either decision would have it’s benefits. With homework specifically, maybe talk about what types of projects he’s enjoyed doing before or what types of projects tend to get the best grades. You might take a list of ten projects and whittle it down to the top three. If they truly are equal choices to him, or he wrestles with the decision among the top three for more than a few minutes, teach him how to make the arbitrary decisions like flipping a coin or assigning numbers and rolling a die, at this age even eeny-meeny-miney-mo works.

I would also try to find fun ways to practice like the Choose Your Own Adventures storybooks that were popular in the 80s and 90s. These are read aloud chapter books where every few pages children get to choose the direction of the plot. Encourage him to pick the ice cream flavor at the grocery store or the next family outing to take. Think of fun ways to practice choices often.

If it really is more narrowly related to academics and homework, it may be that he is perfectionistic or stressed about academic performance. If this seems to be the issue, I would learn more about perfectionistic tendencies and talk to his teacher about the academic worries. Ask if he struggles this way in the classroom as well.
Sincerely, Dr. Rene

Getting a Three-Year-Old Out the Door in the Morning

Hi Dr. Rene,

I have a three-year and two-month old son. In the last month or so, it has been extremely difficult to get him to cooperate, so we can leave the house. He runs away when I try to get him dressed, get shoes and coat on, etc., and it is making it challenging to be on time for important things like picking his sister up from school. I try to leave extra time, but nothing so far has helped. If we are going somewhere he wants to go, it is a little easier, but he often says he wants to stay home and play, so it is very difficult when he does not want to go where we are going. Sometimes, if we cannot be a minute later, I have to force his shoes on and carry him to the car. It is very frustrating, and I know that he knows he has control over the situation when he runs away laughing as I follow him around with socks and shoes and a coat! How do I avoid making it a power struggle?  Also, if he refuses to put a coat on, and it’s cold out, should I let him go out without a coat? If I give him choices, he will tell me “neither.”  Thanks for any advice!

Sincerely, Amy

Mom of two

Hi Amy,

This is such a common time of day to struggle with children. I think the only time that tops getting out of the house is getting them in bed. The first thing I would do is build a schedule. Start by deciding what time you need to leave, let’s say this is 8:00 a.m. in the morning. Then, make a list of all the things that need to happen before you can leave, and decide about how much time can go for each. Then add 10 minutes, work your way backwards from 8:00 a.m. to figure out what time you and the kids need to get up and moving. That extra 10 minutes is time for him to work towards and you set it aside for him to play with legos, look at books or play with his trains. This way you can remind him, if you are getting dressed quickly you will have time for trains. It also give you a bit of a buffer, if the morning isn’t going well you have 10 extra minutes built in.

Really think through the order and logistics of things. If you are forever chasing him to get shoes on at the last minute, have his shoes on as part of getting dressed or shoes before breakfast. If you rush around each morning to pack his school bag, make packing his school bag part of the evening routine instead.

Once you have your schedule, work with your child to make it visual. Take pictures of him going through the process, find pictures online of the activities or help him draw the pictures, and then make a poster of the steps. Give him choices, if you can, about the order of the morning or of activities for how to spend his 10 minutes.

Then think job and choices. Jobs are making him the shoe picker or the cereal pourer and the light switcher on the way out or the car key carrier to unlock the door and let everyone in. These are easy and fun ways to help him buy into the behavior. An individual job may only be interesting for a day or two while others may be interesting for a few weeks (like the car key carrier or radio tuner). Choices are asking does he want to get dressed on the bed or the floor, does he want cereal or oatmeal or does he want his red coat or blue. Choices work because they share power. When he says “neither” to choices, you can reply, “you can choose, or I will choose for you.” If he participates then, fine. If not, you can choose for him and move on.

When all else fails, consequences are fair game. It is fine to say, “if you don’t have your shoes on, your feet might be cold,” and then swoop him up and go, putting the shoes on later. Hopefully, if you can accept this as just a part of the plan, it will be less frustrating when you use them.

Sincerely, Dr. Rene

 

 

Teaching a Child to Greet Others

Dear Dr. Rene

My child is almost two years old, and she doesn’t always greet people she knows when she sees them. Sometimes she looks the other way as if they are not there, or she shows that she doesnt want to greet them. I dont want to stress on that, but I would like to somehow enforce positive social behavior nicely. I dont know why she does that.

Also, every time I pick her up from the nursery, she comes out, doesn’t greet me, doesn’t answer me and just goes out. Its as if she wants to tell me not to think that I am doing her a favor by sending her there on the contrary.

She is also very jealous when I give my attention to other people, or when I am working on my laptop. She often shuts it, tells me to put barney on or holds my head so that I look at her. I am scared that I might be doing something wrong. For example, I was at my mothers, and she has a french bulldog who was sleeping on my lap. When it woke up, I found her coming over trying to sleep in the exact same spot that it was sleeping in.

Thank you, Mitchell

Hi Mitchell,

The best way to teach her to greet people and encourage the behavior to happen more often is to model it yourself. When she is with you, greet people warmly, smile big and model language you would want her to use. This teaches her without pressure. Also, greet her directly often. Greet her with a smile and “hello” whenever you enter the room.  When you do suggest she greet someone else, give her choices about how to do this. You might offer that she smiles, waves, says “hello,” shakes hands or high-fives. When she does greet someone nicely, provide descriptive praise. This is along the lines of, “that was nice to say ‘hi’ to them!” or, “you waved, that made Grandma happy!”

As long as she’s not very unhappy at your nursery pick-up, try to let this one go. Often parents will get warm greetings the first few days or weeks of being at school. Once children have settled in to the habit of school, the need for big greetings can subside.  This means they have created positive relationships with teachers, and, while they are happy to see parents, it’s not the big relief that came before they were comfortable with such a separation. This is normal. If she is very unhappy at pick-up, write again with those details and I will answer.

That she seems jealous when you share your attention with others means she loves you and enjoys your attention herself. When she tells you to shut the laptop or holds your head, at least validate her wants with your words. You might say, “I know you want to spend time together,” and then either do spend time or follow with, “I love you too and I have to finish my work right now.”

I hope this helps.

Sincerely, Dr. Rene

 

 

Child Chewing on Clothes

chewing

Hi Dr. Rene,

My six-year-old son has a habit of chewing on his shirts. He frequently comes home from school with his collar and sleeves in tatters. I really think he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. When he does it at home, I can gently remind him to stop, and he does. But when he’s at school, I’m not there to remind him not to do it. Any thoughts on getting him past this?
Sincerely,

Hannah, mom of two

Dear Hannah,

There are a variety of reasons cited for children mindlessly chewing on clothes. Some suggest chewing may assist children with focus and attention. It is along the lines of giving kids a koosh-ball for focused fidgeting in the classroom. Others suggest some children just need more physical movement and sitting still causes built up tension.  These may be sensory-seeking children with a need for more oral stimulation or physical stimulation overall. For others it may be a self-soothing activity like thumb sucking or hair twirling. The chewing may help the child calm from negative emotions. However it started, for some children it just becomes a habit.

There are just as many suggestions on how to curb the unwanted behavior. Following the koosh-ball idea, there are chew bracelets, necklaces (such as phitens or chewelery), chewy tubes, grabbers, chewing pencil toppers, teething balls, coffee stirers and small nuk brushes. Several parents on Listserves suggest a wash cloth then strips of a wash cloth for children to chew as needed. Children may enjoy brushing their teeth often with a soft toothbrush. I tend to prefer the replacement activities such as counting the back of their teeth with their tongue or chewing healthy, crunchy snacks (think apple slices and carrots often) or sugar-free chewing gum.

It may be worthwhile to test if more physical movement opportunities and movement breaks during the day help. This might include taking your child to the playground in the morning, providing lots of gross motor activities indoors and out and being sure there are recess and P.E. breaks at school. Plan for your child to have challenges around carrying, pushing, pulling, climbing and swimming.

It may also be helpful to teach your child other ways to self soothe. This may be deep breathing, slow or backward counting, visualization, meditation or mantras. You might provide a lovey to sleep with and cuddle. If the chewing seems to be ramping up, it is worth checking for any stress your child may be feeling.

When you do see the behavior be sure you are gently saying, “take that out of your mouth,” or, “clothes stay out of your mouth,” rather than, “stop chewing on that,” or, “don’t chew.” Ask his teacher to do the same everytime. I would pair this with one of the other options like a chew bracelet or gum. Each time redirect him to what he can chew. Avoid nagging, yelling or disciplining the chewing. This increased negative attention often backfires. The long term idea is most children outgrow this behavior on their own but it can take a while.

If it doesn’t lessen soon and considerably with your consistent efforts, you might take a consultation with a pediatric occupational therapist who is familiar with chewing for ideas beyond mine.

A good related article:

http://www.kidzworld.co.za/development/does-your-child-chew-on-her-clothes-and-pencils.html

Sincerely, Dr. Rene

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