Monday, January 5, 2015

Want to Try Out a New Parenting App?

I hope some of you are still out there reading this blog. It's a constant work in progress so thank you for sticking with me. 

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time on your smart phone. If it's not apps, I'm using it to look up activities for my boys or play music. More and more companies are realizing how useful smart phones are for parents and are making some very innovative apps for us. I have recently been doing some part-time work for just such a company. They are building an innovative new app for parents that will be released soon. Right now they are in the testing phase and are looking for some parents to test this new app. Here is what they are looking for:

-- Parents with children between the ages of 7-14 months.
-- *MUST* use an iPhone and be able to use apps
-- Willing to provide weekly feedback (either via email and one "focus" group type meeting          via Skype phone or video)

Approximately 25 qualified parents will be selected to participate.The testing will begin around January 12th and continue till the end of January. 

Parents who complete the email and focus group feedback will receive a $25 gift card as compensation.

**If you think you might be interested in participating please contact: jessica(dot)eckford(at)

This is a great chance to really help inform the development of this new app. The company really wants some honest feedback from real parents.
Feel free to share this opportunity with parents you know!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Little Boys Need Help with Big Emotions

If you are a parent of a young boy you know that, despite the cultural stereotypes, boys feel strong emotions just as much as girls. Unfortunately, in our society we often (perhaps unwittingly) encourage boys to hide their emotions or “be a man.” I think more awareness to this issue has emerged in recent years, but it is still an important topic to consider.

New research is shedding light on the importance of helping young children, especially boys, learn how to cope with their powerful emotions. Researchers at the University of Illinois investigated how parents reacted to their toddlers’ negative emotions (e.g., anger and social fearfulness). Two possible parental reactions that were examined included:

-         minimizing the child’s emotions (e.g., saying, “stop acting like a baby”)
-         punishing the child for their emotional outburst (e.g., sent to room or having a toy taken away)

The results indicated a clear association between parents punishing their child for their emotions and a greater chance of the child being withdrawn or anxious at a later time point. Perhaps most importantly, this finding was stronger for little boys, especially those who experience more frequent negative emotions. Researchers point out that when parents punish children for negative feelings, they soon learn to hide their emotions and can become withdrawn or anxious.

As parents of young children, we deal with the negative emotions of our children every day. As an adult, this is mentally and emotional taxing. Sometimes it may seem easier to punish or scold your child for his or her outburst rather than helping them cope with the emotions. This research clearly shows, however, than remaining calm and talking with your child to help them understand their strong emotions will aid them more in the long term. Toddlers are sometimes overwhelmed by the strength of their emotions and they need our help. We have the opportunity (as challenges as it is) to model for them how to cope with difficult emotions.

ResearchBlogging.orgEngle, J., & McElwain, N. (2011). Parental Reactions to Toddlers' Negative Emotions and Child Negative Emotionality as Correlates of Problem Behavior at the Age of Three Social Development, 20 (2), 251-271 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2010.00583.x

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Diaper Need" is About More than Just Diapers

Well, I am actually back to writing (at least periodically) here at The Thoughtful Parent. I hope there are still some readers out there. After adding baby #2 to our family in April 2013, time for blogging pretty much disappeared for awhile. I hope to start posting regularly once again. Now on to the research...

Once again, one of my favorite authors and bloggers, Dr. Claudia Gold, has turned my attention to a unique line of research that is both socially significant and practical. Several recent studies in major journals have shown the impact of "diaper need" on mothers' mental health. As you might expect, "diaper need" is defined as a mother not having reliable access to clean diapers for their baby. These studies have indicated that "diaper need" is one of the most important impacts on mothers' mental state. This is disturbing when you find out that as many as one-third of mothers in poverty report being uncertain of their diaper supply. Additionally, government assistance programs like Food Stamps do not cover diapers (I didn't know that!).

Now this may seem like an unlikely line of research, but when you think about it, you wonder why researchers haven't considered this issue earlier. We mothers all know how it feels to be at home with a baby who is fussy or colicky and we aren't sure how to soothe him or her. This alone is stressful. Now add to the picture the fact that your child may be crying because of a soiled diaper that you cannot replace. How distressing is that?

This issue really goes to the core of the mother-child relationship. What research as told us time and again is that when a mother feels she cannot adequately soothe or comfort her child, this becomes very distressing and can complicate or diminish her own mental health. The mothers' depression or anxiety may then further inhibit her from adequately responding to the baby's needs in a positive way. You can see how this could be a vicious cycle.

There are some excellent programs out there to help mothers in need. Explore the National Diaper Bank Network to find a local diaper bank and other resources. Providing diapers to mothers who may not have adequate access to them is just one simple step in a long-term process of helping establish close, affectionate relationships between mothers and their babies.


  • Diaper need impacts the physical, mental & economic well-being  of children & parents.
  • Most child care centers require parents to provide  a day’s supply of disposable diapers.
  • 31% of infants & toddlers with at least one parent who works full-time  live in low-income families.
  • Medicaid covers over 1/3 of all births in the U.S. each year,  yet government programs do not provide diapers as a basic need for babies.
  • Diaper Banks Help Meet Diaper Need  by Providing Diapers to 1.2 Million Infants & Toddlers Each Year.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Temperamentally Sensitive Babies Can Teach Us

Did you hear this great NPR story about babies sensitivity level and their later resilience? Scientists are learning to understand the difference between babies with varying degrees of nervous system sensitivity. Knowing this can help them understand how some kids are able to be more resilient in the face of challenges, such as poverty, while others are less so. It turns out that babies with sensitive temperaments are more vulnerable to outside influences (particularly parental responsiveness) in both good and bad ways. In the best of situations, with responsive, attentive caregivers, these sensitive children tend to thrive and often have fewer later behavior problems than even their less-sensitive peers. In less-than-ideal settings in which caregivers are not responsive to their needs, these sensitive children often exhibit problematic behavior later in life.

I've written about this topic here several times, but I continue to be amazed by this research. It has the potential to be so hopeful. Babies with sensitive temperaments are often fussy and irritable as infants and yet, with the proper care, they can grow to thrive. Although we often think of temperament as an innate, unchangeable characteristic, this research clearly shows that how temperament plays out over a lifetime is largely up to one's environment, especially parents and caregivers.

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