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Connect with your Heart

Connect with your Child

Andrea Nair, M.A., CCC

The motivation for writing this eBook came after watching many normal families struggling to
connect and seeing the problems this disconnection can cause.
My training is in psychotherapy and parenting education, but I found myself having to put my
research to the test when my own children were born. Wow, parenting is not what I expected!
Early on, I had experienced great challenges as a new parent, finding it hard to feel good about
being a mom. I have learned through this time that parenting is instinctual; however, it can be
very hard to hear the wisdom of our natural instinct when there is so much background noise
around us and inside us.
My hope with this eBook is to help you connect with your own parenting instinct and thereby
connect more deeply with your child. I also hope to help you by suggesting some ways to care
for yourself and your young children to allow for the time to make this connection. There are
many wonderful parenting resources for the care of your baby. This one is to help take care of
you as a parent.
If you would like some resources for baby, I recommend these parenting authors: Alyson
Schafer, Ann Douglas, Dr. Dan Siegel, Elizabeth Pantley, Gordon Neufeld, Michael Ungar, and
John Gottman. I also like Stephen de Groot's site at www.gettingtobetter.ca.
To help clear the way for a stronger relationship with yourself and your child, I suggest ways to
be more prepared for the challenges of the first month as a parent. I find parents do so much
better when they get a sense for how difficult the beginning can be, and the make a plan to
address these difficulties.
Throughout the book I address topics that are confusing and a source of stress for parents.
Then I walk through how to follow a general set of parenting goals which are the foundation for
your own parenting style that suits your family. These parenting goals are supported by
something called, "attachment theory" which will be explained later in the book.
This eBook is broken into three sections. The first section covers information for brand new
parents about feeding and sleeping. I also give some recommendations for the appropriate
amount of TV time.
The second section attends to the understanding of common parenting goals which help set the
foundation for raising resilient and well-rounded children. These goals can then be fulfilled in
your own particular style which best suits you and your family. You will also find a list of selfcare recommendations.

The last section contains more hands-on specific tips to help you teach your child to speak and
also to help you manage tantrums and tears, all with the hope of reducing your stress as a
I hope this information helps you as much as it has helped me and those with which I work. I
wish you strength and courage in your parenting journey.

About Me
My professional career began with ten years in the classroom. Since then, eager to learn more
about the parent- child relationship, I quit my teaching career and began studying resiliency and
what helps us to be the parents we hope to be.
Now, I am a psychotherapist, educator, and speaker by trade. I suppose I could also say my
training was facilitated by my sons Kashi and Paxton, and my sister's daughters Sarah and Lizzy
who live in the same city as us.
My husband, a family doctor, and I are co-owners of a medical clinic called The Core Family
Health Centre located in London, ON. This Centre is a beautiful historic building which is home
to a full service family medical practice, physiotherapists, massage therapists, pedorthist, and
You can visit us at: www.corefamilyhealth.com. We started this clinic with the hopes of
supporting individuals and families as they experience the challenges and celebrations of life.
My psychotherapy practice is based out of our clinic.
Later in life I realized how much I love writing! I am fervently writing parenting articles, a
monthly parenting e-newsletter called "Thriving Parent," my blog about the awesome yet
challenging writing life, and fictional novels. My first novel is entitled stripped down running.
I use my publications, workshops, and psychotherapy together in the fulfillment of my mission
to help others, "connect with, commit to, and care for themselves and their family."
I'd love to hear from you!

A Note to the Reader

Legal, mumbo-jumbo stuff:
This eBook has been created to help families become closer. It is not intended to replace
medical or mental-health services. If you require support or are in need of immediate attention,
please visit your health care providers.
The content and design used in this eBook are protected by copyright. Reproduction or
redistribution of any part of this book is permitted only with prior written consent available via
email: info@andreanair.com.
Please note that much of this publication is based on research and personal experience.
Although the author has made every reasonable attempt to achieve complete accuracy of the
content of this eBook, she assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions. Also, you should
use this information as you see fit, and at your own risk.

Things to Get/ to Do Before Baby is Born ....................................................................................... 7
Thriving as a New Parent ................................................................................................................ 9
Infant Feeding ............................................................................................................................... 11
Sleep! ............................................................................................................................................ 12
The Truth About TV ....................................................................................................................... 14
Being the Parent We Hope to Be .................................................................................................. 15
Help for Tantrums 'n' Tears .......................................................................................................... 24
Toddler-talk ................................................................................................................................... 27
Helping your children learn to speak ............................................................................................ 27
Acknowledgements....................................................................................................................... 29

Section One:

Things to Get/ to Do Before Baby is Born

You do not need to buy as much as you think!
I created this list, which is not sponsored by any products, to help other parents save money
and time.
It is best to complete the following before your baby is born so you have less to do in the first
six months after their arrival. Reducing your to-do list when baby arrives and creating a calm
environment for yourself and your new little one helps everyone to feel less stressed.
Things to buy or borrow:
-Car seat. Install and have it checked before the due date.
-Baby's furniture: crib, change table, dresser, rocking chair.
-Bathtub, towels, face-cloths, lots of onesies, 100% breathable cotton sleeping attire. Things
like Bumbos, high chairs, exersaucers, and toys can wait because they won't be used until at
least 4 months of age and you might not want to use these things based on your baby's
personality. *I don't recommend using swings may work in the short run but can create poor
sleeping habits. (and do not buy ANY clothing that has polyester in it)
-Feeding supplies: BPA-free bottles, burp cloths, nursing pillow, nipple cream, pump (if desired).
-Lots of cotton receiving blankets.
-Stock up and charge all batteries for camera and video camera and make sure you have
enough memory in the card.
-Slings. See if you can borrow some to avoid spending lots of money on one that doesn't suit
-Stock-pile your dry goods. Think of what you need for 4-6 weeks.
-Know what kind of diapers & wipes you are going to use and have them in stock. Cloth diapers
are easier to use than ever. If you do buy cloth, they need to be washed before the first use.
*Use disposables for the first week until the sticky meconium poop comes out. I recommend
disposables that are easier on the environment and do not contain Chlorine bleach. Usually you
can skip size N and buy size 1 if you baby is over 7 pounds. Oh, and don't forget to slather on a

good diaper cream with the disposables as the skin will not be able to breathe. Use creams with
no additives, colourings or fragrance.
Things to do:
-Super clean your house. Dust, vacuum, organize and clean everything so it can be left for
-Vehicle maintenance: have the oil changed, the right tires on, a full tank of gas, and complete
any repairs you know are needed.
-Get a hair appointment as close to due date as possible. This is one of the hardest things to do
in the first six weeks.
-In the two months before baby is born, eat half then freeze half of your suppers: pasta, soups,
stews, roasted meat all freeze well. Also make muffins of loafs and throw those in the freezer
these are great as feeding snacks for you.
-Assemble furniture and complete the basic things you want to do for baby's room: paint,
curtains, flooring. *Painting, carpets or other flooring or any dry-walling should be completed at
least three months prior to baby's arrival so the room has enough time to "off-gas." Crack a
window in the room after the renos and before baby comes.
-Arrange or designate who is doing the yard or snow removal work you won't be.
-Stay caught up with your laundry.
-Get your teeth cleaned and checked at the dentist.
-Read up about baby's sleeping and the parenting books you like so you can start good sleephygiene and positive connections right away.

Thriving as a New Parent

Welcome to parenthood!
The first four weeks of a newborn's arrival are much more enjoyable if your sole focus is on
your baby and you.
The best way to do well during this time is to have others take care of you while you take care
of your baby.
Day 1-3:
For those who are breast-feeding until your milk comes in, your little one will be hungry and
might feed around the clock. DRINK lots of WATER.
For those breast and/or bottle feeding: wear comfy clothes, order out, and take care of yourself
and your baby. Sleep and eat when baby is sleeping. Your visitors can pick up a dish-cloth and
get to work. Create a comfortable place to feed your baby and make a feeding camp that
contains a water glass (which you fill every time you walk by it), snacks, books, tissue, a phone,
and your address book.
Weeks 1-4:
Your priority is yourself and your connection to your baby. Everything else is secondary
including the cleanliness of your home. You need this time to get to know your baby. Become
an expert on his or her sounds, smells, how they feel in your arms, and what they need.
Beware that you will probably receive more advice than you want or need. Know that you will
learn as you go. That's okay. Through trials and tears you will know your baby better than
They only need you not toys, books, music class, swimming lessons or Baby Einstein.
Begin good sleep-hygiene with your baby. From bedtime at 6-8pm, keep the lights off, minimize
talking to your baby during feeds, and keep baby where he/she is sleeping until wake time at 68am. Douse your baby's bum in (non-toxic) diaper cream and only change the diaper over-night
if they poop. Do not feed them in front of a TV or computer screen during this time.
We used disposable diapers over-night with our youngest son which worked so much better.
This way he wasn't waking up every couple of hours because he felt wet in a cloth diaper.
Perfection is neither possible nor good for you.

Some have said this was the most difficult four weeks of their lives. There is just no experience
like this where you may be sore, sleep-deprived, hungry, and forgetting to shower or brush
your teeth. You might cry a lot, and maybe yell a lot (not near baby). You are normal. But please
know that if you are prepared for the challenges, you will fare better in the end.
Make sure your questions are answered by someone with experience, and do not let yourself
struggle alone with emotions or the how-tos of a new baby. There is help everywhere: mommy
groups, parenting networks, friends, family members, and early years centres.
This time might also be challenging because you may grieve the loss of who you were before
your baby arrived. You might feel sad, guilty, angry, and maybe not even in love with your baby.
I remind you to take good care of yourself and your baby. These four weeks may only happen a
couple of times in your life and there are so many moments worth treasuring forever.
Weeks 4-13:
Again, your focus during this time is on your relationship with your baby. Now you might have
energy and courage to get out of the house with your baby. A good time to venture out is after
they have had a feed and a poop.
By the end of week thirteen, you may start to see the light. Your baby can likely hold their head
up and has the most beautiful smile you have ever seen. *Give yourself until six months old to
get your thank you cards out.

Infant Feeding
Breast, bottle or both???
They say, "breast is best." They are the medical and mental health profession and even infantformula companies. I guess I am one of them. Even so, I am going on record to say "breast is not
always best."
Here's why.
Best for what reasons is the first thing to consider. From a nutritional and immune system
perspective, hands down, breast is best. It is also fabulous for mother-infant bonding.
However, it is not best if mom is overwhelmed by intense sadness. This feeling might be
attributed to the experience of breastfeeding, sleep-deprivation, or both or any combination
of conditions that we may not be aware of. That is why I believe it is inappropriate to say that
breast feeding is best for a particular person when we do not understand all of the contributing
factors to their sadness.
What is best is any form of feeding breast, bottle, or both where mom feels well and is
able to put her focus into connecting with her baby. A baby who feels soothed, loved, listened
to and cared for by their mother will gain more positive effects from that than the actual
positive physical effects of breastfeeding.
If mom is breastfeeding and crying through it, wishing that she didn't feel pressured into doing
it, hating breastfeeding, or by association, the baby, then it is time to consider trying a bottle. A
calm environment for mom and baby is worth more than anything else.

There is a lot of debate about sleep-training, cry-it-out, co-sleeping, soothing to sleep. What
WORKS without totally screwing up the kids?
Whatever happens so that you are sleeping most of the night, and at the same time, your child
learns how to fall asleep on his/her own.
Here's why.
Falling asleep is something we have to learn on our own. Once your baby is four months old, if
you rock, swing, nurse or otherwise soothe your child to sleep, they may not develop the skills
to sleep on their own. Yes, you might experience a temporary improvement in your sleep if you
are continually soothing them down; however, you might come to regret that when, at 3:18am,
you have a three year-old screaming in your ear, "Mommy, sssslllllleeeeeeeeeeeeepppp with
For the first four months, all bets are off. You are going to be awake at night to feed and
soothe your infant. If you cannot nap during the day, you will need supports in place to help
you get through this time. The more support you can get; the better able you will be to respond
to our child. After four months of age, your baby might still need to feed during the night
they will let you know that. Both my boys had feedings at night until they were one.
If your baby is older than four months old and crying at bedtime or through the night, the
important question to ask yourself is: does my baby NEED something or are they MAD?
Rule out all the physical needs: not hungry, not too cold or hot, not entangled, not wet/ stewing
in poop. Also ask yourself if one of those needs might be more time with you. If you have busy
days and are not able to have regular, consistent time with your baby, they might be trying to
make up for that at night. Ensure you spend an ample amount of focused time (screens off)
with your baby in the waking hours and then you can be certain that is not one of their needs.
Okay, back to that important question: does my baby need something or are they mad? If they
are mad... that is okay. It is okay for our children to be mad at us. This is when you would give
them a gentle, yet firm reassuring statement like, You are safe in your bed at home. You are
never alonewe are always listening. I love you with all my heart, and I look forward to seeing
you when you wake up. Put them in their crib and walk away. Yup, its hard. Both my boys
were pretty mad at first but I was amazed at how quickly they realized they had to fall asleep
on their own and then just calmed down.
If your child is really mad for a long time, it is helpful to have a plan as to how long you are
going to wait before going in and giving them another reassuring statement. I found the best
series of books that explains this process, gives good information about routines and goes
through general sleep information is the No-cry sleep solution series by Elizabeth Pantley.

I am noticing that this being-okay-with-someone-getting-mad-at-us dynamic is often absent.

I have met many parents who do not feel they are the pack leaders of their family and when
we talk about why, it usually boils down to a fear of their child not liking them.
Here is the truth: your child will like you better when everyone is sleeping and when they
know who is in charge. But, more about that later in Section Two.
The other two major considerations about sleep are environment and routine schedules. Focus
on what is soothing and routine.
These may include:
-going to bed at roughly the same time each night (earlier is better)
-having a predictable order of things which signals to your baby that sleep-time is coming (ex:
bath, sleeping wear on, song, in bed)
-making sure they are tired, and
-asking yourself, would you sleep in their bed? Cute mobiles overhead and toys in the bed can
become scary shadows at night.
Have a neutral and soothing bedroom environment.
I really laugh at the difference in my own two children. We started soothing our first to sleep
(before I knew any better) and kept doing so for far too long. Our second son came along and I
just didnt have the time to soothe him to sleep. He got fired into his crib with a good luck,
and off I went chasing after the oldest.
Bedtime is now so painless for our youngest son he falls asleep in under 5 minutes. Mind
you, the good luck is also paired with knowing that he is ready to pass out, giving him lots of
focused and attentive time during the day, and ensuring he know that we are there for him.
Remember, does your baby need something or are they mad? If they need something, attend
to the need; if they are mad, put them in their bed, and support them as they learn to soothe

The Truth About TV

Recommendations for the amount of TV that is okay for little ones to watch are varied. The best
advice I have run across is that no TV is best under age 2 and shorter amounts like 15 or 20
minutes are okay after age 2 until age 4. After that, longer periods are okay as long as they are
This is a hotly debated topic among parents. Lets face it, when we are tired, the kids are quiet
in front of the TV. Again, this may give you short term respite but in the long run, you are doing
your child a disservice.
Of course the kids are quiet; the flashing and colours are stunning. There are repeated studies
which suggest that a childs chance of developing attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) increases with the more TV (and computer, gaming) with which they engage. Also, evildoer, superhero, scary images can cause nightmares.
I am smiling because my youngest was up at 4:16am this morning and after we established
there was no need, he sure let us know how mad he was to be put back in his crib. So, after we
all were wide awake, I took both the boys downstairs to the basement where our only TV is and
threw on Sid the Science Kid. They were quiet, I did some writing on this book, and I do not feel
So, my official recommendation is to watch shorter shows with your toddler or young child (not
under age 1) that are 15 or 20 minutes in length, do not have commercials, and are created for
young children (PBS is pretty good). Use this as snuggle time and feel free to nod off if you need
to. It is amazing how refreshing a 4-minute snooze is. Also, do not have the TV on in the
background throughout the day. Turn it on to watch their show, you all sit down, then it goes
off after the show is over.

Section Two:

Being the Parent We Hope to Be

Parenting is intuitive and instinctive. You know yourself and your child better than anyone else.
In terms of parenting strategies, it is helpful to have parenting goals in mind and some kind of
parenting style with which to achieve these goals.
I am suggesting that the best parenting style is the one that allows you to fulfill the goal of
feeling connected to your child while supporting, soothing, and nurturing them.
Life can be hard it might have been for us, it might be for them. We hope to give our kids a
set of tools to do well during challenges (called resilience), and to go into the world feeling safe,
loved, important, and worthy of success.
In order to examine a parenting style that is right for our families, it is important to understand
something that is called, broken instincts. This term was originally coined by Debra
Wesselmann in the book, The Whole Parent: How to Become a Terrific Parent Even if You Didnt
Have One.
All good parenting intentions aside, the reality is that we may have developed some broken
instincts or be experiencing difficulties that may be stopping us from being the parents we hope
to be.
Understanding broken instincts opens the doorway to being more attuned parents.
Where do broken instincts come from?
These broken instincts are the fault of no one, although it is helpful to understand the evolution
of parenting beliefs in the last half-century to make sense of them. Parents of children born in
wartime and the depression were not taught to model or respect feelings. This just wasnt a
priority as families were large and hungry; it was a time focused on survival.
These children then became parents in the 50s where the disrespect of feelings continued, and
they were told to bottle-feed their babies and that, children should be seen and not heard.
The research of John Bowlby around this time questioned the recommended hands-off
approach of parenting (newborn babies were often left in hospitals for most of the day by
themselves) and suggested that children needed continual physical and emotional closeness
with at least one primary caregiver. His work was the basis of attachment theory.
Parents of the time did listen and started breastfeeding and tuning in more, although emotional
detachment and disrespect of feelings still prevailed. Children who experienced this in

combination with additional fear or uninformed parenting practices had a particularly rough
time throughout their lives.
This additional fear could be in the form of: shaming, shouting, betrayal, neglect, parental
separation, or parents with addictions. Adults who live through this type of childhood are likely
to experience long-lasting effects in the form of their own addictions, weight problems,
lingering sadness and anger, inability to express or feel emotions, negative beliefs about
themselves or the world (including worry and anxiety), or a difficulty forming loving, and strong
Although these adults might be easy to spotparticularly ones with serious problemsthey
might also be you, me, or our friends. Many people dealing with these challenges may not
appear to have anything wrong. The dysfunction can stay hidden or unconscious unless we
become aware it is there. It can also seep into our head and tells us things like, you are not
important, dont bother trying because you cant do it anyway and cause us to lose connection
with our intuition to have broken instincts.
We can see societys wish to change this with the mass acceptance of teachers like Deepak
Chopra, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, and the Dalai Lama. Thankfully it is possible
to reduce the dysfunction which will help you to feel better and to raise your children in your
own more functional, parenting style.
It is likely that you would not choose to raise a disconnected child but if you are the product of
a society where disconnection and the avoidance of feelings is prevalent, it could be part of
your wiring. It is easy to see this disconnection all around us: addictions, almost a 50% divorce
rate, large amounts of time spent in front of screens, and excessive, isolating or dangerous
Thankfully, reduction of the dysfunction can occur through many different forms of help. Selfreflection, reading self-help books, journaling, workshops, support groups, and engaging in
some kind of psychotherapy process are all venues for positive change.
Another important modality which is very helpful is adopting a meditation and/or yoga
practice. The reduction of broken instincts means helping yourself change and thereby being
able to be more connected to your own intuition. This will increase your ability to be an
attentive and supportive parent.
The next section answers the question: Broken instincts notwithstanding,
how do parents raise well-rounded, resilient children? What is my style of parenting?
Much debate about parenting has erupted since the release of the Times Magazine cover-title,
"Are You Mom Enough," and the post made by Erica Jong challenging the popular style called
attachment parenting.

Dr. Sears coined this term in the 1980s, and it has tenets like baby-wearing and co-sleeping. He
may have defined this particular style but he was not the father of attachment theory, which as
mentioned earlier, is very different. Excellent articles by Alyson Schafer
(www.alysonschafer.com) and Heather Turgeon (www.babble.com: Attachment Parenting
Made Easier: You dont need to follow Dr. Sears to have healthy attachment and How Much
Attachment Parenting is Necessary?) on this topic can be found.
These articles do a beautiful job of expressing the challenges of having your child around 24/7
and balancing the importance of your own self-care.
What goals are most helpful for me and my children?
It is helpful to have a set of goals or promises as you raise a child to feel good about
themselves, others and the world. Use your own special way of achieving these goals to suit
your personality and the personalities of your children. By doing this, you will create your own
parenting style.
Research and our own good sense support the development of the following parenting benchmarks:
1) Be attentive: attuned, responsive, soothing and supportive
2) Teach children emotional self-regulation
3) Be a secure base and the pack leader
4) Practice good self-care
5) Foster the development of basic positive core beliefs:
-the world is safe,
-they and other people are loveable and trustworthy,
-they are important and what they do, say, and feel matters
-they have a strong ability to succeed
1. Be Attentive: Attuned, Responsive, Soothing and Supportive
These words summarize how to interact with a child in a way that tells them they are loved and
For example: Your baby is playing happily and suddenly stops and shoves his fist in his mouth
you see this and know right away that he is hungry. He feels happy you noticed, and you feel
confident that you were able to catch and meet his need.

Attentiveness requires being tuned into your childnoticing the subtle changes in their sounds,
expressions, mood and then responding to them. Attentiveness needs focus and the reduction
of background stimulation like the TV, computer, or cell-phone. Thankfully this is not a 24/7
kind of thing and can happen in shorter periods of time throughout the day. Quality not
quantity. The recommendation is for at least 30 minutes of focused on-the-floor playtime per
child per day.
Soothe and support your children. This is actually not always an easy thing to doparticularly if
you are tired, hungry or not feeling well, which ties in with self-care. The better you feel, the
more able you will be to soothe and support your child. It is also important to note that if you
are being triggered by your child (you feel they are out to get you or are an aggressor) then you
are potentially delving into old stuff from your past which would be best helped by a trusted
2. Teach them emotional self-regulation
Emotional self-regulation means being able to experience a feeling and then being able to help
yourself through the management of that feeling.
If we can regulate our emotions, we will have many moments of happiness, anger, fear and
sadness which all come together for an authentic and fulfilling life. It is not healthy to be happy
all the time and that is why wanting my child to be happy, is not mentioned as a helpful
parenting goal.
Teaching children emotional self-regulation can be difficult because, unfortunately, being able
to soothe one-self through feeling angry, sad or scared is a skill that most of us do not have. We
stuff it, shove it, suppress it, avoid it, and drown it in addiction. Then later we blow up and
realize that all the stuffing, shoving, suppressing, and drowning has a huge cost.
Anger, sadness and fear are important parts of our instincts and intuition. They keep us safe
and help us move through difficult times by alerting us to danger and drawing our attention to
what may not be going well. Our minds and bodies have a natural calming mechanism that
allows us to resolve intense feelings that are experienced in the moment.
Ever run into a rabbit with a grudge? Animals (humans excepted) know how to be angry and
scared to save their lives. They let their fight-flight-freeze- faint response take over. After the
threat is gone, animals usually rest and then look for food.
Many of us have been shut off from our ability to have feelings and respond naturally.
Unfortunately, we have lost touch with this natural process and have closed ourselves off from
important feelings.
Learning how to allow this process to occur is paramount for success as an individual and as a
parent. We cannot expect to teach or model something for our children that we ourselves do

not know. As your own ability to feel, and thereby model emotions is very individual and
dependent on our own experiences, I will refer you to your psychotherapy community to learn
how to have and release emotions.
3. Be a secure base and pack leader
Children learn independence by first having a strong connection with their primary caregiver(s).
This acts as a base from which they can venture out into the world. They do not learn
independence by being forced away from you.
A child becomes independent by learning and feeling that the world is a safe and trusted place.
Parents who are available and provide consistent, stable and soothing support are a secure
base to launch out from.
Children also gain confidence and independence by knowing the rules of the game. Consistency,
boundaries and an understanding of who is in charge provides security. A child might start to be
become worried and hypervigilent if they have to guess what to expect from you.
Kids need to be kids. They need to let loose and have fun. If they are unsure of your stability or
what your rules are, they can become serious and afraid.
4. Practice good self-care
The primary care-giver(s) ability to take care of themselves or get care from others is critical for
a deep connection with their child. This is particularly challenging for those with newborn
babies or those who do not live close to family members (which is about 50% of parents). It is
especially tough with babies or children who are experiencing challenges like prolonged intense
crying spells, hospitalizations, and developmental difficulties. Those who are in these types of
situations will require a great deal of support, as despair and isolation are quick to develop in
overwhelmed, undernourished parents.
As babies become toddlers and young children, continued self-care is so critical when faced
with times like tantruming, talking and toileting. It is easier to manage a screaming 3 year-old
when you have slept the night before, had some alone time, and are not succumbing to your
other life stressors.
Well parents also have time for self-correction and reflection when they realize they are doing
something that isnt working.
Here are my top 10 self-care recommendations:
1. Make a weekly schedule.

Have yourself and other primary caregivers on the schedule. Designate times when you have
the kids and when others have them. This lets you be more focused with the kids because you
know you have some time away later.
2. If you have a partner, have a weekly date-night.
Yes, weekly. You do not have to go out, it just needs to be focused time together without
distractions. Here are some date night suggestions:
you cannot talk about the kids, cancel date night, or watch TV
getting busy is up to you. If you cant muster up the strength for that, at least have
some intimate contact.
Strong partners make strong parents!
3. Make a weekly menu plan.
Once a week, sit down and plan meals and a grocery list to make those meals. This process
takes about half an hour but it saves time and brain cells during the week.
4. Have strong boundaries with your eating time.
Now that my youngest is 18 months old, my kids pretty much need to be on fire before I will
stop eating to help them. *And DO NOT pick up the little one yelling, Up UUUPPP!! I say,
No up. Mommy eating. If he continues to yell, I say, Its okay if you are mad. Mommy eating.
Go play. He then leaves me alone most of the time. Remember, do they need something or are
they mad? Wanting a story read to them is not a physical needit can wait until the meal is
5. Have a shower every day.
Find a way to make this happen: get up earlier, kid-proof the bathroom and plunk them down
with toys and snacks. Stand in the hot water even if you do not need to wash anything. Stretch,
do a couple of yoga poses, breathe. The money used for the peacefulness gained is worth it.
6. Stop telling yourself that you are in a hurry
If you feel swamped by your to-do list, change the list!
1. What does not really need doing?
2. What needs to get done some time in the week?
3. What really needs to get done today?
Delegate some items on your list if you have help. Use your time more efficiently by deciding
what can be done with and without the kids. For example, I do laundry and groceries with
them. The first stop is the croissant bin. Our cart usually has open cracker boxes and banana
peels in it and my boys are full of crumbs, but we are all smiling.

7. Spend time with other parents and their children.

The kids play together and the adults chatawesome. I try to coach my kids through needing
to be refereed constantly. I also allow them the natural consequences of their behaviour with
others. If my son rips a toy out of anothers hand and then that kid whacks my son, he knows
what happens when he does that. Alyson Schafer does a great job of explaining sibling rivalry
and how to not get stressed by it (www.alysonschafer.com).
I had to laugh the last time we had friends over. My son and his buddy raced around the house
and we tried to have a conversation. At the end of the day I said to my husband, My throat
actually hurts. I feel like Ive been hollering over music at a bar!
8. Do not let their anger stop you from doing things you enjoy.
This is a tricky one. If you know that you have been giving them good daily focus time and are
feeling pretty attuned, it is okay if they yell when you leave them with a babysitter. If you find
yourself not doing fun things because you are afraid they might cry you might start blaming
them for any sadness that develops in you.
9. It is okay to have some guilt and at the same time want alone time.
Your children need the goals mentioned earlier. They also need focused time with you. They do
not need 4 hours of time where you drop everything to do whatever they ask. Again, if you feel
the foundation is strong, it is okay if they are mad at you when you want to be away from them.
If you find yourself feeling guilty about doing things without them, grab a journal and a pen and
write down at the top, I am feeling guilty because... and just see what comes out.
10. Take good care of your body.
a. Monthly massages (if you have benefits, use them, if you do not, trade $80 you are spending
on wine, eating out, clothes, etc for a massage. You will thank yourself for that years down the
b. If your back is hurting too much, wean children who can walk off being carried. Give them all
the snuggles and hugs they want while you are sitting on the floor.
c. Do yoga and slow, deep breathing. This can be done with or without the kids. If you are with
them, the 2 best yoga poses for busy parents are feet up the wall and an inversion like
downward dog. Pick a pose and just linger there as long as you can. Also, take moments to sit
up nice and straight, and breathe fully into your lungs.
-------5. Foster the development of basic positive core beliefs

We each have a set of positive and negative core beliefs that are the basis for much of our
behaviour and emotions. These beliefs develop as we experience life, and fall somewhere in the
categories of:
1. our sense of safety and trust in ourselves and others,
2. our and others level of lovability,
3. our self-importance and belief that what we do, say & feel, matters,
4. our degree of a sense of worth.
The development of these positive core beliefs comes from attending and being keenly attuned
to your child and responding to their needs accordingly. This is also paramount for fostering
resiliency (the ability to bounce back after tough times).
For example, a baby left to cry all night without getting checked on might soon come to believe
that they shouldnt bother asking for help because they arent listened to anyway. A baby who
cries whose parent comes and sees if they need something and then is put back into bed with
reassuring words, will know that their needs are met and worth voicing. Even if the baby then
cries for awhile after getting checked on, it will learn 2 things: I am important to my parents,
and getting back to sleep is my job.
Babies do remember. They may not have a visual memory of events but they do have sensory
memory. They are aware of problems around them and will develop beliefs congruent with the
challenges going on in their environment.
How do parents do all this without driving themselves crazy, feeling guilty and still managing
to take care of themselves??
I believe the critical questions to always ask yourself are:
What is the message I am giving my child now?
What do they believe about themselves as a result of time with me?
*A very important point to remember is that core belief development sets in mostly between
birth and 4 years of age. One bad day or week of wild emotions is not going to have permanent
effects on you or your child. Your hope should be that most of the time, they feel loved, believe
you are on their side, and know that their feelings are respected.
How can I translate these goals into action... into a parenting style?
These 5 goals together form the foundation for attentive parenting which can be achieved in
your own special way. The style you choose will be dependent on the personalities in your
For example, some families might achieve the goal of attunement by wearing their baby in a
sling and some might have their baby on the floor next to them. I encourage you to not get
caught into the have-tos or shouldas of some of your friends or popular society. You do not

have to co-sleep because your friend thinks that is the best way to sleep at night, and you do
not need to stay home when you know an hour away from everyone will do you all some good.
Hey, I love my children I also love being away from them.

Section Three:

Help for Tantrums 'n' Tears

I found the need to put my own research and theories to the test when time with my own
beautiful, well-tempered three year-old became almost unbearable. Here I was; a
psychotherapist, business owner, and parenting educator, screaming and doing everything in
my power to not punch a hole in the wall.
I was shocked at my own behaviour, my wild thoughts and also shocked to find posts by other
caring Moms on the internet like, two-year old for sale: priced to sell. I realize now these
were desperate feelings that Im sure are shared by many other parents and caregivers of three
I did make it through those challenges and came out the other end with a closer connection to
my own son, a great bag of tricks, and greater confidence in my own good wisdom and ability
as a Mother. I invite you to try any or all of these suggestions and use those that are a good fit
for you and your children.
Everything can be made into a race!
Lets see if you can get into your car-seat before I count to 10! Wow Youre so fast! Great
Be creative and/or gross with everyday tasks.
Ex. brushing teeth: Okay, use that laser wand to zap all the worms out of your teeth
Pottying: Theres a fire in the potty! Who can put it out?!
*Sound effects and silly faces get you extra bonus points.
Pull eating off the battle-field.
Try not to make eating time a constant fight. Many families use food as a threat, you cant
have dessert until you finish eating your carrots.
The dinner table needs to be a safe zone so that means no fights or heated conversation.
Encourage them to eat what they can and try saying things like, dessert is for those that eat
their supper.
No surprises if you can help it.
Announcements like, Okay, its time to go, may result in an hour of yelling. Give 3 warnings:
Just so you know, well be leaving in 15 minutes Then at 10 and 5, and on the last warning,
introduce something like, because we are leaving in 5 minutes, which is soon, what special toy
do you want to play with before we go. Note: a minute in real time doesnt have to be a
minute in 3 year-old time!

Re-word commands so it doesnt seem like it is your idea.

Find a way to give directions in a way that doesnt feel coercive. Saying something like, Stop
touching your penis! will drive your son to grab it and hold on for dear life. Try this, do you
notice that Daddy doesnt hold his penis in public, hmmm actually, even Uncle Terry and your
cousin Dave dont do that either.
*Also, dont give directions when either your child or yourself is very angry.
In order for a child to follow instructions, they need to feel a connection with you so look
them in the eye and nod as you are talking. Invest time in them.
Your child needs your undivided attention more than anything else. Undistracted, on-the-floor
time (cell phone/ computer/ TV off) every day will help form a secure attachment. They dont
need hours each day just 30 minutes of all of you.
Also, yelling often reduces when parents make a strong effort to have a solid connection time in
the morning. It is unreasonable to expect your child to happily head out the door when they
had to wake up and hit the ground running.
Routine, routine, routine.
A predictable order of things at a consistent time reduces yelling. Ask them to help you create a
morning or bed-time routine list and then make a chart using simple drawings for the fridge.
Have low expectations of behaviour when your child is compromised.
For example, it is not reasonable to expect a 2 year-old to stop himself from pushing his little
brother when he is tired, hungry, hot, or has had to share his favourite toy all afternoon.
Learn to support your child through a tantrum.
I found the most helpful information about tantrums was a 4 hour DVD course by Dr. Gordon
Neufeld called, Making Sense of Counterwill. I highly recommend this video or any of the
workshops he or his colleagues conduct regarding tantrums.
NEVER, ever, say HURRY UP!
This will make your 3 year-old slam into slow motion. There is a deep instinct in all of us called
counterwill. If a child feels they have lost control, they will be compelled to do the opposite.
*Dont even think the words, come on get going Ive got a dinner reservation at 8. Just
these thoughts will send out a vibe that will make your 3 year-old hit pause.
Give yourself LOTS of time to get to places and let go when you are late. You will get there
faster if you learn to not care when you arrive.
Dont ask your child to stop yelling.
They are yelling because they are likely angry or scared. Give them a safe place to get it all out.
Yelling into pillows, sweaters, or their elbow allows them to resolve their feelings. If your child

might wake others up, have the yelling pillow ready; this might not always work... but it
Try not to take it personally.
Even if you feel more equipped to handle yelling fits, they still might be difficult to go through.
Try saying this to yourself during these times, This child is 1 and a half they are not trying to
hurt me. This too shall pass. I also found it helpful to do slow, long breathing during these
times. *Again, refer to Counterwill DVDs.
Create a neutral bedroom environment.
Would you sleep in their room? Monsters, super-heroes, wicked witches and clutter in the
room can foster bad sleep conditions. Any form of screen (TV, computer, video game) is not
recommended in childrens bedrooms.
Be the pack leader and set boundaries.
Children have a greater chance of feeling instability and inner conflict when they dont have a
sense of who is in charge. The best teachers of this are: Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisperer) and
Super Nanny. There are also many excellent books on the topic of Boundaries.

Helping your children learn to speak
You, your partner, and other primary child-givers are going to be teaching your children how to
talk. Here are some tips to promote clearer communication and to help you foster increased
self-esteem, confidence and understanding through this process.
Learn sign-language and start by 6 months of age.
Consistently use these 7 main signs with babies: eat, milk, water, sleep, more, help, and alldone. Each time you say any of these words, make the sign at the same time. Once these basic
signs are mastered by your baby, you can add in the signs for the food your child likes. Your
baby will likely modify the signthats okay! The point is that they make a motion because they
need something and you understand how to fulfill that need.
Pronounce words properly.
Speak words the way they sound regularly and use the proper emPHAsis on the right sylLAble. If
you talk like a baby to your baby, they will not learn the proper mouth shapes, sounds, and
intonation of words. Baby talk is very tempting but it is important to resist! You can get those
cute smiles and coos to come out if you simply stare deeply into their eyes and smile as you are
talking to them. Also, repeat back much of what they say and do it properly: They say, wa-wa,
you smile, nod, and say, water.
Do not say the word, no like a question or as instructions.
Use this word as a command, not a question. Say it assertively. Let your child know what it is
that you would like them to stop doing. Rather than yelling, NO!!! be specific about what the
no is for: add a verb behind it no touching, no hitting!
Give specific commands.
Fingers up! tells them how to be careful to not get their fingers caught in a drawer, whereas
Careful! does not actually give them any useful instructions.
Take, okay out of your vocabulary when talking to toddlers.
As mentioned above, children understand what to do when they are given clear (and caring)
instructions. If you do this but then throw an, okaaayyy with a high pitched tone at the end of
the sentence, you have just communicated to them that they are in charge and can veto your
Do not use their name in a punishing tone or as a command.
Rrruuussseellllllll!!! does not communicate to your child that they need to back up from the
hot oven. Say your childs name to get their attention, and follow that with what you want
them to do: Russell hot stop!

Also, it is important to use the appropriate intonation in your voice to match the situation. For
example, if they hear a panicked screech from you, it should make them FREEZE whereas a
stern command tells them they are doing something wrong but are not in danger.
Use one to three word sentences.
Children learn to speak by listening to everything you are saying, by watching your body
language and by seeing how you interact with others so talk normally when not talking directly
to them. However, if you are speaking directly to a toddler, use one to three word sentences.
For example, if you see your child struggling with a toy, look into their eyes and ask, Mommy
help? As you are speaking, also use the sign for help. Once they start repeating your
sentences, you can add another word in.
Look into their eyes when speaking directly to them.
They are learning to speak by lip-reading too. Remember to get down to floor level, smile, and
nod while talking to toddlers.
Read to your baby/ toddler every day.
Even if your child only sits for a minute, open a book and look at as many pages as they have
the attention for. Have books in a place that your child can reach, and be a model by regularly
reading something for yourself around them.
Do not have the TV on in the background.
The TV will compete with you for their attention (and vice versa) thereby interfering with focus
on what you are saying.
Use proper terms for things.
This reduces confusion. For example, in a moment of panic you dont want your 5 year-old
hollering this across the school-ground, He just kicked me in the wee-wee!! Remember: other
children can be very cruel and have long memories.

Andrea Nair, 2012


With heart-felt gratitude, I would like to thank: My husband, Vineet, for being a real partner in
so many ways, and editing this eBook with his family doctor eyes.
My sister, Vanessa, for helping me on too many levels to list, and for sharing all the laughs and
My deceased mom, Dianne, for so much love and teaching me how to be a parent.
My dad, Vic, for being there for usparticularly now while we are trying to thrive while raising
our young children without our own mom.
My mother-in-law, Radha, who has often stepped in and supported me on the most challenging
The many families who have shared their journey with me.
And my respected colleagues for editing and advice:
Sabina Manji, editor of The Mom & Caregiver Magazine
Louise Hull, MD
Vanessa Welch, ND
Paul Larmer, RMT
Charlice Hurst, PhD
Christine Walde, Author of Candy Darlings