Some interesting research on child development and violence…

Could educated, deliberate parenting skills reduce suicidal, depressive, or violent behavior? Maybe. You decide.

“Skills in parenting are key to facilitating healthy development in children. Qualities of parenting that have been found to be related to healthy development vary by age of the child. They range from the sensitive, responsive caregiving especially needed by infants to the monitoring that is particularly needed by adolescents. Important aspects of effective parenting across development include providing age-appropriate levels of warmth and structure to help children feel safe and to help regulate their emotions (e.g., Cole, Martin, and Dennis, 2004).

Excerpt from

Comparing development from nature and nurture… An excerpt from the transcript of “Mind off a Rampage Killer”

“JOSH BUCKHOLTZ: When we compare people who commit violent acts against people who don’t commit violent acts, some brain differences begin to emerge: differences in brain circuitry that’s involved in emotional arousal and emotion regulation.

MILES O’BRIEN: One of these circuits connects the prefrontal cortex, responsible for higher level thinking, to the amygdala, an emotion center, which goes into overdrive whenever a threat is perceived. If the threat is not real, the prefrontal cortex will send a message to the amygdala to calm down, but if the wiring is faulty, that calming message may not get through.

JOSH BUCKHOLTZ: And in those folks, it seems like this circuit is broken in such a way that they’re more likely to respond with greater amygdala activity and greater emotional arousal, when they think that they’re being faced with some kind of threat.

MILES O’BRIEN: So what can break or damage this crucial circuit? At least part of the answer lies in the genes we inherit from our parents. Buckholtz and others have found that certain genes can compromise this wiring. But here’s the tricky part: even if people have those genes and their wiring appears weak, there’s no guarantee they will end up violent.

JOSH BUCKHOLTZ: There’s no one single gene, there’s not even 10 single genes that, on their own, predispose people to become violent. What we know about complex behaviors generally and violence specifically is that the genetic architecture is very complicated.

MILES O’BRIEN: When it comes to the brain and people’s behavior, evidence points to a complex dance between genes and the environment: nature and nurture.

PAUL FRICK: Everything we talk about in psychology is both nature and nurture. So the trick is to find out, how do they both operate? It’s never one or the other, never.

MILES O’BRIEN: Key clues to how nature and nurture might operate to shape the brain are emerging from studying families.

And some of the best evidence is coming from these families: rats. Remarkably, researchers discovered that baby rats who were licked frequently by their mothers grew up to be calmer and gentler adults. But if the mother was standoffish, when the babies grew up, their biology and behavior was different.

MICHAEL MEANEY (McGill University): What we were particularly interested in is the way in which these animals might respond to stressful events. And we found the offspring of low-licking mothers, during periods of stress, show greater increases in blood pressure and greater increases in stress hormone production.

MOSHE SZYF (McGill University): They will scream. They will try to bite you. Just walking into their cage, those rats will respond differently.

MILES O’BRIEN: Moshe Szyf and Michael Meaney, of McGill University, knew this violent behavior was not strictly inherited, because it happened even when the caretaker was unrelated and long after the rats were grown. Could it be that nurture was trumping nature, somehow changing the way the genes worked?

MOSHE SZYF: The behavior of the mother has an impact on the offspring, years after the mother is already gone. And we reasoned that there must be some mark in genes that marks that memory.

MILES O’BRIEN: Studying the brain cells of the calm and stressed out rats, they found that different genes were getting turned on or off in the babies, depending on how they were treated.

When a baby was licked and cuddled, cells in the rat’s hippocampus, a part of the brain that helps regulate emotion, turned on a gene that reduces stress hormones. But if the baby was neglected, a chemical chain reaction began that effectively shut down the gene, causing stress hormones to soar. And, amazingly, these changes would stick, long after the baby grew up.

KARLEN LYONS-RUTH: What we’ve learned from animal models, which was pretty astounding, is that the quality of maternal care in the first week of the rat baby’s life, sets up the stress response system in the baby.

MILES O’BRIEN: Harvard researcher Karlen Lyons-Ruth doesn’t study rats. She studies people.

Of course, there are differences between rats and humans, but she’s finding we might have a lot in common, particularly when it comes to the relationship between parent and child and how it can impact the way the child will respond to stress throughout his or her life.

It started with a simple, yet revealing experiment called “the strange situation.”

Here’s how it works: the baby is placed in a room with some toys; the parent leaves; the baby, predictably, gets upset. Next, a stranger comes in and tries to provide some comfort. No luck. The baby just wants his mom. So in comes the parent. What happens next is what Lyons-Ruth finds fascinating.

KARLEN LYONS-RUTH: We’re interested in how the baby responds to stress and then how the parent is able to help the baby regulate that stress.

MILES O’BRIEN: Most of the time, it is a happy ending, like this one, but things don’t always go so well.

The Lyons-Ruth research videos, now 30 years old, have never been shown outside a narrow circle of scientists. To protect the identities of the participants, we obscured them digitally.

KARLEN LYONS-RUTH: You see the mother come in, so, you hear the mom enter silently. It’s a threatening approach. We usually signal it that we’re friends: wear a smile, we talk.

MILES O’BRIEN: Arms open, whatever.

KARLEN LYONS-RUTH: To approach silently is threatening. The lab assistant leaves. So she then goes to mother, and then…see the mom step back? And the baby is now going to stop.

MILES O’BRIEN: She’s just comforting herself on the rug.

KARLEN LYONS-RUTH: She gets up, she looks to Mom, and she’s not quite comfortable just scooping her up, and she hesitates, and she does that and then she picks her up.

We call this the hot potato: pick up, put down. Quickly, the mom puts her down again in the middle of all the toys.

MILES O’BRIEN: Though this behavior would never qualify as abuse, some of the moms found it harder to comfort their distressed babies.

KARLEN LYONS-RUTH: As an observer, you see that there’s a bigger picture emerging. There’s the silent entry. There’s the not moving to the baby. There’s the hesitating when the baby moves to her. There’s the awkward pickup. There’s the quick put down. There’s the silent interaction from there on. So, as these accumulate, you begin to get much more pattern of the emptiness and what the baby is not getting in terms of regulating their own state.

MILES O’BRIEN: The research team has followed about 60 families over 30 years. Although there is not just one way to build attachment, certain patterns became clear. They found that the babies who had trouble calming down were more likely to grow up with behavioral problems once they go to school.


KARLEN LYONS–RUTH: They’re predicting that these were kids who are going to go on to have serious hostile and aggressive behaviors toward their classmates, even though they don’t look that way in infancy.

MILES O’BRIEN: And when they became adults, the same group was twice as likely to be anti-social or suicidal.

MOM WITH BOY: (Reading) And the pirate captain was…

MILES O’BRIEN: It’s not just the relationship with mothers that can count, but other caring relationships as well. And it’s not just the infant brain that can be altered by stress. Throughout childhood and adolescence, the growing brain is extremely sensitive to threatening situations.

MARTIN TEICHER (Harvard Medical School): When you’re exposed to stress, you program your body to have a more elaborate, greater stress response, and that can help you survive.

MILES O’BRIEN: Martin Teicher studies the effects of neglect, abuse and stressful environments on brain anatomy and function. He’s found that as a child grows up, different areas of the brain are more vulnerable, depending on age. And one of the most sensitive periods of all is the teenage years.

MARTIN TEICHER: It’s a period of very rapid transition. In that, that period between the onset of puberty and what we define, arbitrarily, as adulthood, say 18 or so, there’s a tremendous amount of brain change. There’s more brain change taking place in that period than will occur for the rest of your life.

MILES O’BRIEN: And a quickly changing brain is more likely to be altered and shaped by stress, potentially making it more prone to anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior and even violence. For example, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for higher-level thinking, can be stunted by stress and abuse during this period, making it even harder for teens to control their emotions.

So, could the pressures and strain prove too much to bear for those few teenagers who go on to become rampage killers?

To watch the video in its entirety, go to

A new adventure in parenting

Just to clarify, I’m definitely not here to say how to parent because there are no perfect parents and there is no right or one way to raise kids.

This is a place to discuss parenting.  Learn from each others knowledge and experience while creating thought and ideas toward better parenting decisions.

I hope to hear and discuss many great topics!

The beginning


No more free toys! Hard work, responsibility, and good habits get you what you want

Since the trip to the ER, I struggled to find a way to get my older daughter to drink enough water (dehydration plus a cold = crusty mucus in chest = potential ER trip – no thank you!) and my little one to have a nap at daycare (no nap = potential tantrums – again, no thank you!) So after asking and nagging about these habits, I finally tried to do a reward system.

I explained to them that this was the only way they were going to get a new toy or something they wanted from now on. That they could only get something on “prize” day when they get to the treasure chest or with their hard earned money.

To my surprise it actually worked! I bought a simple sticker system. A “coin sticker” to put on a path to the treasure chest every time the habit was accomplished for that day. As soon as I picked them up from school, I heard “Mommy, check my water bottle or Mommy, Mommy I had a good nap! I can get a sticker!” They loved getting the sticker and putting it on the map on the way to the treasure chest.

So this turned into another reward map to encourage participating in Taekwondo because they weren’t always exactly excited to do it. Of course, when they didn’t want to do Taekwondo that day, I reminded them they weren’t going to get a sticker if they didn’t participate. So they would, reluctantly, but it got them through.

Then I thought, okay, how can I encourage more behavior? I don’t want to have all these different maps though?

I decided it was time for a chore or responsibility chart.

They would get 25 cents for cleaning up after meals, 50 cents for getting ready on time and doing homework, $1 for laundry, cleaning the room, putting away dishes from the dishwasher, and cleaning the playroom – to start.

As soon as the list was announced, my 5 year old went straight to the playroom to clean up. Since then she cleans up after meals and has been on time! Of course, that’s followed by… “Mommy, can I have my money?” Yes you can honey, good job.

Let’s just say 1, all that change is getting put to good use and 2, I’m going to have to start writing “I owe you” tickets for lack of cash! I do have to make a conscious effort to keep change and dollars on hand now. But I’m ok with that!

I also used this as a way to discourage unwanted behavior. Like not listening. “Honey, I need you to listen or I’m going to start taking money out or take a sticker away.” They moved faster or listened better than you knew they were capable of. My daughter even told me a lie and I immediately said, if you lie again, I’m going to start taking $1 for every lie. I could see in her face that she knew I was serious and acknowledged understanding. So we’ll see.

My older one is thriving on this system, my 3 year old gets it but still takes a bit of reminding. But she absolutely knows how it works, that’s for sure. She’s already claimed one prize.

For the most part, I’m thinking…Hehe this is working out pretty good.

I feel like I’m getting several life lessons out of this system.

1-Earning money or rewards for hard work

2-Money management



To sum it all up, you can get anything you want if you work hard, are responsible, and have good habits! That sounds about right for adulthood.

Next blog… Now what to do with all that money!! I need to figure out how to teach them money management in way they can understand. Stay tuned!

A trip to the ER…was cough medicine to blame?

Let me start by saying the I am not in the medical field at all and what you read here is solely based off experience, research, and motherly instinct.

You read and hear all the warning signs not to use cough or cold medicines for children 6 and under. You wonder why and think but this one says natural or organic. May be you think, it can’t be that bad because this is exactly what I thought too.

Early one morning, I recognized the signs of sickness in my 5 year old. I could tell by the cough, congestion, and the warmth radiating from her that she was no doubtedly getting sick. So she had to stay home with Dad instead of Top Golf, as much as she protested staying home, she was getting pretty sick and she needed rest.

I really wanted to stay home with her. Unfortunately, I had already committed to some plans I couldn’t get out of. I thought it would only be for a couple hours. She should be ok it’s probably a cold from starting Kindergarten and being around all those new germs.

To my shock when I got home, she was laying in bed and my husband was trying to give her medicine. I asked what he gave her and stated the natural cough syrup and Tylenol or Motrin I believe. She was breathing rapid and laboured, wheezing, and her heart racing. I was terrified. I immediately called the nurse line to get some focus and she could hear my daughter’s strained breathing and said to call 911. Oh my goodness. I feel so bad, I should’ve just called 911 in the first place what was I thinking?! I immediately told my husband to call 911 with his phone while I stayed on the phone with the nurse. I was just overwhelmed with thoughts and concerns. I could barely think straight.

On the way to the ER the medics gave her some albuterol to help her breathe, this is usually for asthma. I think they said it helped to get her heart rate down. While we were in the hospital room waiting for results of flu or otherwise, they continued to try to get her breathing under control and her heart rate down. They tried another dose of albuterol but it wasn’t helping a whole lot. Finally after being there for a few hours, they gave her an IV and it was like magic. In about an hour she was her normal, happy, talkative self.

The x-rays revealed that her lungs were basically crusted with mucus restricting her airway. The fluid was hydrating her chest loosening up the mucus which opened her airway back up.

I don’t know exactly what caused the trip to the ER but dehydration was definitely a factor.

I had read previously that cough medicine sends kids to the ER but they’re not sure why. Research examined the effects of codeine, Dextromethorphan, and Diphenhydramine.

I’ve been trying to do the research to find an answer but my findings are conflicting. I use both the public internet sites and my college library for real medical articles and journals. Still nothing consistent or definitive. It’s very frustrating. Some resulted in some ingredients reducing cough and others stating that the medicine did nothing to reduce the cough and most warnings against cough medicine are because of the codeine. One thing is for sure, almost all the articles and journals recommended to use honey and or lemon for children over the age of 1. It’s safer and has proven to help even a little bit.

Breastfeeding…the Struggle is Real

For anyone who has tried this, know that the struggle is real. Although it has been a couple years since I stopped, the phase was so significant, it is forever etched in my mind and because of this I continue to support moms who can sometimes feel this loneliness.

BF moms, you are not alone. This page is dedicated to you for support.

Of all the moms I have met who tried to BF, I have only met one unicorn mom, who said she didn’t have any supply issues. What do I picture? A white waterfall free flowing, infinite, sparkling and glowing with the sound of angels singing AHHHHHH in the background. I was not blessed with this power. It was an emotional, painful, sleepless, and stressful struggle, I was a wreck but I was determined.


  1. Baby is here but where is my milk?? Don’t worry, keep trying to feed. The milk will come in 3-5 days. But what do I feed my baby until then?? Apparently, a baby’s tummy doesn’t need much during this time (I will have to find the source of this reference so stay tuned). It’s still pretty stressful.
  2. One word – engorged. This is just the beginning of level 1 pain. Put a warm compress to get the milk flowing then a cool compress for the inflammation or swelling. I liked Booby Tubes by Earth Mama, not trying to advertise but just passing on some friendly favorites.
  3. The first 2 weeks are painful, just skip level 2-8 pain, this is level 9. Like getting a tattoo on a bleeding wound, ripping your skin, painful. I would’ve like to put 10 but there has got to be something worse than this, right? Not sure what is worse, labor or this. Labor is probably worse but your brain likes to block out the actual memory of pain during labor. I mean I think if I really remembered, I would be crazy to do it again and I did, so that pain memory blocking must be real.
  4. If you can make it past this, you can make it to 4 months.
  5. You have to pump or feed every 3-4 hours. It’s the worst when all you want to do is sleep but you have to wake up to feed or pump. You were probably up anyway but just in case you thought you might get 3-4 hours, you’re probably just half asleep wondering if it’s time to wake up yet. You realize you missed a pump or feeding and want absolutely nothing to do with that awful pump machine at 3:30 am. BUT it has to be done!! Missing pump times decreases your supply. I should know. I’ve kicked myself many times thinking I could’ve just slept and pumped right?! UGH.
  6. If you really need to up the supply, make sure you are drinking lots of water, probably stay away from caffeine since it is dehydrating (I couldn’t do it!! I needed it like no other, if anything to keep my eyes open), use supplements like Fenugreek (not sure if it worked or I just needed to feel like it did), some moms liked the mother’s milk tea, and what really, truly does help (my opinion) is pumping (the dreaded pump machine) after feeding. It helped with my second baby tremendously until I got too confident and slowed down the pumping. I went from 8 oz in 20 mins to 4-5 oz in 20 mins. Ugh.
  7. It’s time to go back to work and if the separation doesn’t kill you or make you an emotional wreck like me, the pumping will. Put a timer on your computer and go!!! Make sure to pump, to keep your supply.

I made it a year but not without lots of tears. Find support, it really helps, if anything to cry or laugh about it together. The hormones are crazy. A radio commercial for fabric cleaner would probably trigger some tears. So glad that’s over!

A couple more friendly favorites: Kiinde Twist milk storage bags and reusable/washable breast pads.

I’ll update this as I remember more helpful insights that no one tells you about breastfeeding! So stay tuned 🙂

Influencing Societal Change…

I recently had the opportunity to hear a great influential, forward thinking speaker named Mr. Jeffrey Bucholtz, who strives to change societal thinking on gender roles which influences certain behaviors.

I don’t think I can relay his message effectively without wanting to express my opinion so I will post his videos. I would like to hear your thoughts and opinions!!!

From We End Violence and Youtube:

Challenging Culture

Male Responsibility


His site:

Bullying Starts Early

One day, I went to pick up my daughter from her Pre-Kindergarten class like usual. When I opened the door and saw her, she was not her normal, happy self. I could tell instantly that something was different and asked her right away what was wrong. She was unusually quiet and the teacher said she had a good day but it sure didn’t look like it. The teacher made some statement that she may be tired or hungry and I thought, that’s not normal for her, I’ll figure it out later.

As soon as we stepped out the door, she broke out into tears. Whoa! What just happened? I stopped, knelt down, and hugged her tight. I was overwhelming distraught by what could’ve happened and immediately asked her, what was wrong? What happened? She said “those girls” said my dress was ugly and they were being mean to me. OH WOW. WOW. I couldn’t believe it already started. I didn’t think I would be dealing with this at least until Kindergarten. I was so upset. I wanted to go back into that class, grab those girls, and spank them.

I was at a loss for what to do. I wanted to talk to the teacher but she just wanted to go home. So I held her for a few minutes and carried her. My head was spinning about what to do because I never really thought about it. I thought I had at least a year or so before I had to deal with that.

So now what do I do? Talk to the teacher? Talk to the parents? I definitely have to talk to the teacher. If I talk to the parents, that might get ugly, I decided to stay away from that especially considering how upset I was.

When we got home, I had a long talk with my then 4 year old. I realized that I could not protect her 24/7, which I knew but this was definitely a reality check. I had to teach her how to handle this on her own. I told her to stay away from those two girls. If they were around, walk away. If they tried to talk to her, just walk away. If they started to be mean, tell them to leave you alone or let them know they are being mean and you don’t like it and walk away. Ask to be moved if the get seated or lined up next to you. If they keep bothering you let the teacher know. I told her, find your friends and stay with them. Don’t let them bother you, you remember that mommy, daddy, sister, and grandma love you very much. People like that don’t deserve to be your friend and they don’t know what kind of friend they are missing. I told her to practice saying, stop, I don’t like it, you’re being mean or you’re not nice and I’m walking away.

I did tell the teacher that two girls were bothering my daughter if she could keep an eye out for any problems. Every day for several weeks, I checked in with Anna to see if anything had happened. She would tell me if she avoided the girls, if they tried to talk to her she communicated how mean they were and walked away, or if she just walked away. I was very proud of her, I can’t imagine how hard it was because she was very shy. She seemed to be okay but there were a couple instances when I would drop her off and she would let me know if one or both of the girls were around, I could see the anxiety on her face and in her voice. Talk about giving them the evil eye, I couldn’t help it. Ugh, it took everything not to pull those little girls aside and ask them what was wrong with them.

They eventually left her alone and stopped bothering her.

Ironically, awhile before this, I was told that my daughter was being mean to her cousin. Something about spitting in his food, I didn’t get the whole story, I don’t really know what happened but that’s what I was told by his mom who says she witnessed it. Oh man. This was hard to hear. I found it really hard to believe because she’s normally pretty well behaved, at least to my knowledge. I had to address it because it’s not okay. I had to ask why and remind her of the “golden rule”. Had this continued or become a consistent complaint, I would have to sit her down for a serious conversation. One that includes, encouraging her to communicate feelings, asking is there something she’s not telling me, that may be bothering her? What can I do to make things better? Luckily, I haven’t heard any other incidents since but that just could be that no one has said anything. I’m hoping that she understands that it is not okay to be mean or a bully.

As a parent, both situations are tough. It’s hard to imagine our kids being the bully and our kids getting bullied.

It’s hard to find that fine line between kids just being mean and actual bullying. So I think to myself that probably neither one of those behaviors should be tolerated and as an adult we have a responsibility to stop it. I don’t let my kids be mean and I talk to other kids being mean because they should be aware that it is not ok.

My husband also has zero tolerance for that behavior and will tell the child to take him to their parents.

The earlier we can catch bullying and mean behaviors, I hope kids learn and can teach each other along the way by vocalizing that it’s not ok. Guide with the Golden rule because it’s a really good guide to live by.

What is your experience and how did you handle mean or bully behavior? Please share!