We discuss the transition from birth to infant and toddlerhood, parenting while pregnant, perinatal depression, tantrums, discipline, and the seasons of parenthood.
- Prism Behavior podcast, Episodes 55 and 56: https://www.prismbehavior.com/podcast
- Dr. Traci Baxley at Social Justice Parenting: @socialjusticeparenting on Instagram (insert link)
- Podcast interview with Dr. Traci Baxley on the Melanated Conversations podcast: https://melanatedconversations.com/blogs/podcast-episodes/social-justice-parenting-feat-dr-traci-palmer-baxley
- The Center for Racial Justice and Education has compiled a list of resources for talking with kids about race, racism, and racialized violence (includes many resources designed for kids of color): https://centerracialjustice.org/resources/resources-for-talking-about-race-racism-and-racialized-violence-with-kids/
- PBS has a comprehensive list of resources for parents talking with young children about racism: https://www.pbs.org/parents/talking-about-racism
- NY Times list of books for children: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/parenting/kids-books-racism-protest.html
Rebecca Dekker: Hi, everyone. On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with Dr. Heather Maguire about moving on from birth to parenting infants and then toddlers.
Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth Podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker and I’m a nurse with my PhD and the founder of Evidence Based Birth. Join me each week as we work together to get evidence-based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder, this information is not medical advice. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details.
Hi, everyone. Today, I am so excited to welcome Dr. Heather Maguire to the Evidence Based Birth Podcast. Before we get started, I have a quick announcement to make and that is that the Evidence Based Birth professional membership is now available for a free trial. You can get a free 30-day trial. That is available through July 14, next Tuesday. So if you are a professional in the childbirth or maternal health field and you’d like to try out our continuing education resources and earn some contact hours and try out our community and see what it’s like, just go to evidencebasedbirth.com/membership and you will see there the coupon code to get a free 30-day trial. We have not offered this trial in several years, so we wanted to give people an opportunity who have been maybe thinking about the membership, but weren’t sure if they wanted to join a chance to try us out for 30 days. So, again, just go to evidencebasedbirth.com/membership. With that, let’s get to our interview with Dr. Heather Maguire.
Heather is a board-certified behavior analyst doctoral with a doctorate in educational psychology. Dr. Maguire has spent over a decade studying behavior and working with children, parents, and educators. She’s a proud mom of two kids, a professor teaching school psychology courses, and the founded of Prism Behavior, which helps parents manage challenging behaviors with confidence. Dr. Maguire connects with parents on the Prism Behavior Podcast and social media channels and she is here today to talk with us about parenting infants and toddlers. So, welcome, Dr. Maguire to the Evidence Based Birth Podcast.
Dr. Heather Maguire: Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be on your show today and I’m sure we’re going to have a great conversation because I love the idea of evidence-based, really, anything. Probably because I’m a professor and a nerd myself.
Rebecca Dekker: We have a lot of people who say they like to geek out on research who follow our podcast. All right. So, Dr. Maguire, before we get into talking about parenting toddlers… and that’s what I brought her on to talk about. Because, a lot of times, parents… They picture having a birth. They picture having a baby, but they don’t picture moving on from that. We’re going to talk about that in a minute, but first I wanted to hear about your own birth stories. Tell us a little bit about your pregnancy journey with your two children.
Dr. Heather Maguire: I have two kids and I’ve only had, to my knowledge, two pregnancies. In that sense, I would say, in general, my pregnancies were pretty standard, if you will. If there is a standard pregnancy. I was sick in the beginning and then, in the middle of the pregnancy, I was no longer sick, and then, I was able to deliver both of my kids vaginally. Didn’t end up having a C-section. In terms of some of things that some of your listeners might resonate with… Originally, like early on with my first, when I was pregnant with Landon, I considered giving birth in a birthing center. I did a bunch of research and I was like, oh, I know that too much intervention… a lot of times, that would cause potentially C-section, things like that. My husband and I were excited and we went to this birthing center and it seemed like a really good fit. I met the people there. There were midwives and things like that.
So I was all excited until I called my insurance company. My insurance company basically told me that, in terms of paying for all of this, that they would pay for 70% of whatever was fair and customary. They used some jargon like that. And I’m like, well, what if you guys think that only $200 is fair and customary. How do I even know to make an informed decision about if I can afford to give birth in this birthing center? I couldn’t get a straight-shot answer. For me, at that point, I just kind of… I think, when I had my son, I was mid 20s ish. At that point, honestly, I was just frustrated, but at the same time, I just was like, you know what? I think I’m just going to give birth in a hospital and just do the quote, unquote normal thing.
So, actually, for both of my… Giving birth to Landon and [Addie 00:05:01], I had a pretty smooth-sailing birth. In both instances, I was only in the hospital for a few hours and there was no major incident. A few things were surprising to me. For example, with my son, he was born 10 days early and I got to the hospital and I started going into labor and I got to the hospital. It was funny because the nurses looked at me. They were like, “Oh, first pregnancy, huh?” They were like, “Sure, you’re in labor.” They didn’t believe me early on. I was like, “Yeah, I think I’m in labor,” and they were like, “Okay, well, we’ll check you and we’ll see if you’re dilated or not and we’ll walk you around. If you don’t make progress, we’ll send you home.” I think they just assumed… Because I kind of waltzed in there like, “I think I’m having a baby.” Sure enough, I was in labor, and Landon was born only a few hours later. I decided to get the epidural and everything was okay. But here was one of the interesting things. After I had Landon, I was like, “And I didn’t even need Pitocin.” Because, honestly, he was born like four hours after we got to the hospital. With no complications. And they’re like, “No, we gave you Pitocin.” So they never even asked and I never even knew. That was surprising to me.
And then another surprising thing to me was actually with my daughter. With her, she was born on the East Coast. I live in southern California. My son was born in Newport Beach. The hospital was a little bit more with it in terms of like… They never took Landon from my room. It was a lot more parent-centered. They had a lactation consultant actually come and visit me in the hospital. It was a pretty positive thing. But with my daughter… We were living on the East Coast when my daughter was born and so she was born in Greenwich, Connecticut. Actually, I think I told you before we turned on our interview, I started reading some of your book, which I really like, by the way, and I really resonated with the part where you said that they took your firstborn for a few hours because I was literally shocked.
The same thing happened to me, although I did… After Addie was born, my daughter… and, again, her delivery was relatively quick and no major issues. But she was healthy and I was happy, got to hold her for a little while, and then as soon as they were moving me from the delivery room to the recovery room, they took her. And I’m like, “What are you doing?” She’s fine. I’m fine. And they’re like, “Oh…” I spent literally the next two to three hours asking them, “When do I get my baby back? Can I have my baby?” Finally, I just had to put my foot down. “Give me my baby!” That was surprising to me. I think if I would’ve known that in advance that that was a potential thing that could happen, I would’ve been more prepared to put my foot down. In terms of the parts of my story that might resonate with your listeners, those are some of the things that I experienced.
Rebecca Dekker: Did they ever give you a reason for why they took your daughter away? Was it just for routine procedures?
Dr. Heather Maguire: It did seem like it was for routine procedures and then they told me, “Oh, her temperature dropped a little bit and we just wanted…” And I was like, “Well, I think that it’s pretty normal for the baby’s temperature to drop a little after you give birth. Can’t I help keep her warm?” The only other thing was that… So, both with my son and with my daughter, I only stayed in the hospital one night. I had been kind of prepped by a friend like, “You can leave the hospital pretty quickly after giving birth, but you have to be pushy about it.”
So with my son, again in southern California, that was relatively easy. Especially since there was no issues. But then with my daughter on the East Coast, with her situation, I was like, “So I want to go home today.” She had been born the day prior. We spent one night in the hospital. Of course, you don’t sleep well when you’re in the hospital and people are checking you and all that. So the next day, I was like, “I want to go home.” And they gave me such a hard time for not wanting to stay the additional night in the hospital. You would’ve thought that there was something wrong. I’m like, “Why shouldn’t I go home?” And they were like, “Oh, we just don’t recommend it.” They acted like I was crazy, but I was like, “I just gave birth. Some people give birth in their home.” I said, “I think I can go home.” That was another thing that was a little bit surprising to me. Neither situation was traumatic and I’m very grateful for that.
Rebecca Dekker: Well, I think you raise a good point in the geographic variation of care, how it can differ from state to state, city to city, country to country, and even within the same city, you could have one hospital that’s very progressive and another hospital that has really strict, outdated rules and policies. I know that, near me, it’s really easy to go home early with your baby if you’re both doing well in some facilities, but in other facilities, the pediatricians are so against it that they say you’re quote not allowed to go home. People feel like… They’re literally like, “What do you mean I’m not allowed to go home?” And you’re right. When people give birth at home and never leave their homes, it’s funny to think that people are kept in the hospital when they don’t need to be. But then there’s also the opposite, where some people need to stay longer and they’re not allowed to stay, so there’s that same issue with not individualizing care, which sometimes happens in some places.
Dr. Heather Maguire: I did see the big difference and, actually, when we were living on the East Coast, my husband had a medical situation that happened as well, so I got to experience… Again, I don’t know if this was hospital-specific, East Coast-specific… Because on the surface, both hospitals seemed very similar. Hoag Hospital and then the one in Greenwich, Connecticut. Hoag is in Newport. They seemed like they would be similar. What I felt, at least, was a little bit more of an old school, East Coast approach. We do things because that is the way we do things. Although, I don’t know if that’s an accurate take on, again, the hospital facilities in the different ares.
Rebecca Dekker: How were your postpartum experiences with both children?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Everybody’s so different. I was very well-aware that postpartum depression or anxiety, things like that, can happen, but I didn’t experience that with either of my kids. However, what I did experience… and I don’t think people really talk to me about this and I didn’t even really come to terms or realize it until after the fact… was that I had a bout of mild depression while I was pregnant with both kids. Again, I thought I just, oh, I just don’t like being pregnant, or whatever, but as I look back… For me, at least, as soon as my kids were born, a light switch went off. I loved being a new mom. Both of my kids slept pretty quickly and so I think that that makes a big difference. If you don’t get enough sleep, I think that that’s very challenging. But yeah, for me, I just didn’t like being pregnant, but then on top of that, I definitely had a general sense of some anxiety, but more some depressive symptoms while I was pregnant. Because everybody talks a lot about depression that can follow pregnancy rather than depression that can occur during pregnancy, I didn’t really pick up on it until later on, looking back and reflecting.
Rebecca Dekker: That’s a really great point for our listeners to remember. That actual, technical term is perinatal depression, which includes the pregnancy and postpartum period. It’s almost just as common to have depression during pregnancy as it is to have it postpartum. And so it’s important to be screened for depression while you’re pregnant. Just as important as if you’re being screened postpartum. Most people don’t realize that.
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah, definitely.
Rebecca Dekker: Tell me, then, what led you to spend 10 years of your life or more studying behavior and working with children. Did you become interested in that before you had children of your own or was that spurred on by your own parenting experiences?
Dr. Heather Maguire: So I had my son during my doctoral program. It was during… My master’s is also in educational psychology, so I became a school psychologist, although I didn’t practice very long as a school psychologist. I quickly went in to do in-home behavioral therapy before I had kids. Honestly, I kind of fell into it a little bit because one of my former professors had a business doing in-home behavioral therapy and I was starting to realize that I wanted to work a little bit more actually with kids than school psychologists. Even though they do testing… So, for your listeners who might not know, school psychologists… Yeah, they do a little bit of counseling and whatnot, but their major function in the school system is to do assessment to determine if kids qualify for special education services. And so rather than working with kids on a continuous basis, it’s kind of like you’re doing testing and report writing and meetings a lot. I wanted to connect a little bit more with kids. Doing in-home behavioral therapy, I was working primarily with kids with autism and their families. That just became intriguing to me, so actually, even though my degree, both master’s and doctorate, is in educational psychology, I started taking classes on the side… I don’t know. I was crazy… to become a certified behavior analyst as well. Which was complementary, but they were separate classes.
So I just really started to enjoy understanding why behavior happens and what parents and teachers as well can do to create an environment where you’re going to see more behaviors that help the child and less of those behaviors that are harmful to others and the child. I started to enjoy that and then fast forward… I did that for a while… I started to realize that a lot of what I was doing for kids with autism… That was primarily paid for by insurance. There’s a big need there, for sure, but what I started to realize is that, for the average parent, there isn’t access to behavior analysts like myself. You have to have a diagnosis of autism usually to get those types of services.
A lot of what’s out there, whether it be the Internet, books, things like that, is just people’s opinion about how you should parent, but not a lot of it is actually based upon research. All I was doing with the kids with autism and their families, a lot of the same principles and practices can be used by the quote, unquote everyday parent, let’s say, who’s struggling with more mild to moderate behavior issues. That’s what I was realizing is what the need was. And so that’s why I started my Prism parenting podcast and whatnot because I wanted to start to try to meet that need for your, let’s say, parent of… maybe a child has ADHD or maybe they’re just having some issues. Mild behavior issues at home.
Rebecca Dekker: So your Prism Behavior podcast and blog and everything could apply to parents of children with autism or ADHD, but also maybe parents with spirited children, children with behavior issues where you’re not sure as the parent what to do?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah. Actually, that’s the focus, even. Because, again, if you have a child with, let’s say, a diagnosis like autism, you have a whole host of resources. But in terms of your everyday parent, again, there’s just a lot of false information out there about what you can do as a parent to positively influence the behavior of your kids. There’s just a lot of stuff out there that’s not true.
Rebecca Dekker: Can you give us some examples of bad parenting advice you see online?
Dr. Heather Maguire: One of the things that people like to talk about… So, positive parenting is a trend and I agree with a lot of it. It’s basically the idea that people are so much inclined to… Overuse of discipline and punishment is the case, which I agree with that part, but basically, the trend is don’t punish your kids at all. That’s not necessarily, I don’t think, helpful to everyday parenting. For example, I think that about 80% of your efforts should be putting things into place that are proactive. I talk a lot about… a little bit more later… about reward systems, for example. Catching your child doing the right things and rewarding them and motivating them with that. That should be about 80% of your effort, but at the same time, sometimes kids still act out despite our best intentions and so parents also need information how to discipline effectively without immediately going to, let’s say, spanking, for example. What are alternatives to spanking? Because if you only say the positives and you don’t give ideas to parents for discipline, then they’re just going to go with maybe the way that they were raised for whatnot and, a lot of times, they’re going to go to those harsh punishments. So if you don’t incorporate punishment at all into your parenting philosophy, it’s probably going to be hard for you. That’s an example of one of the things out there that I disagree with, if you will.
Rebecca Dekker: So you’re saying that there’s some research-based information about how using consequences, in terms of discipline, should be part of a parenting strategy?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah.
Rebecca Dekker: I don’t want to jump the gun here, but one of the reasons I wanted to bring you on is because I know this happened to me and I’m sure it happened to other parents, but when I was pregnant, I literally only imagined having a baby. I did not imagine having a toddler, preschooler, school-aged child, or teenager. All I pictured was caring for a baby, who I would hold and feed and cuddle with. Even though I had been around children my whole life, it just never occurred to me that, one day, this little being would start screaming at me or doing some kicking on the floor. I remember when my first child had her first temper tantrum. It was a little before the age of one. She just started screaming and then she laid down on the floor and was just kicking and punching the air and screaming. I thought she was sick. Because I had never seen her do that before. I was like, is she sick? Is she okay? What’s going on? But it was just a behavior… She was turning into a toddler. So I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that transition. A lot of people who are listening right now might be pregnant or they’ve had a baby and they’re starting to enter those toddler years. Can you talk about transitioning from parenting an infant to parenting a toddler?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Our kids are always keeping us on our toes. What works today might not work tomorrow, so don’t be discouraged and don’t be afraid to innovate. I think that, specifically talking about that transition from the infant baby to toddlers who are starting to tantrum, one thing to keep in mind is that our inclination when our child tantrums in front of us is to try to talk to them like an adult almost. Like, what’s wrong? We use a lot of words. But what happens when we do that is we inadvertently give a lot of attention to their behavior. When you give a kiddo who’s tantruming a lot of attention… and attention might even be like a reprimand. Like, don’t do that. You’re not allowed to do that. A lot of times, what you’ll start to see is that the child… You wouldn’t think so because you might think you’re disciplining your child, for example… but the child will start to tantrum more often in those situations.
So, a lot of times, what I would suggest for young kids is that you might actually… Instead of being like, why are you crying and what are you doing and you need to get up, whatever, one of the easiest things that you can do with a child who’s that age is what’s called ignore and redirect. Not ignore them, but provide a lot of attention for what they’re doing, but try to engage them in something else. Basically, find something else that they could potentially get interested in and start playing with it. A lot of times, in that situation, kids… Their attention span is pretty short. They’re going to drift their attention away and stop their tantrum. That’s, at least initially, one of the strategies that you can use with a child who, let’s say, is all of a sudden starting to tantrum.
Another thing to think about is this. If you child is starting to tantrum a lot, like on a frequent basis, you’re trying what I’m saying, and it’s not working, even with young kids, it is okay… Even though you might not start with this, it is okay to give young kids time outs. It’s just that it looks a little bit different. If your one year old is tantruming, you’re not going to be like, “Sit on the time out chair.” You’re not going to be able to explain what a time out is to a one year old. But the interesting thing about time out is that it’s effective, if you use it correctly, even if you don’t understand why it’s effective. Your child doesn’t have to understand that they’re even on time out.
So you can use a really simple technique where… Let’s say you have a portable crib or Pack and Play, whatnot, and if you have an issue that’s continuing to happen, whether it’s a tantrum or it’s pulling out cords from the walls… I think I used time out first with my kids when they wouldn’t stop touching the cords. First, I kept trying to take them away from the cords and engage them in something else, but they just kept touching the cords. So having like a Pack and Play and then if your child’s like one, setting a timer for a minute… The procedure might look like this. If they touch the cord, you might give them two or three words like, “No touch,” and then putting them in the Pack and Play, a safe environment, set a timer for a minute, and then move on. Just that procedure right there… The kiddo can be too young to understand language. They’re going to maybe understand your facial expressions a little bit. Just by removing them from the environment to a less preferred environment for a minute can be effective time out for, let’s say, a young child who is habitually engaging in some sort of problem behavior on a regular basis, if that makes sense.
Rebecca Dekker: Can you talk also a little bit about some other challenging behaviors you see in babies that are transitioning to the toddler stage?
Dr. Heather Maguire: One of the things I see with young kids that you’ll see a lot… Maybe their first problem behavior before tantrums start or whatnot is you might see a situation where kids are pulling their mom’s hair or pinching. Parents, a lot of times, they don’t know… Like, how do I respond to that? A lot of times, they’ll tell their little baby, “No. Don’t do that. No. No,” but what they’ll find is that it increases a lot. In those situations, what I would typically suggest is that somehow change that environment. Rather than constantly telling them no, no, no, if you find that your child is pulling your hair, doing simple things like putting your back so that they can’t touch it or facing your child out, let’s say when you’re holding them, if saying no isn’t working, because, again, kids are… They don’t know how to properly obtain your attention always at that young of an age. So doing simple things like that is effective for really young kids who are starting to experiment with some of those behaviors that they don’t fully understand, but maybe are starting to have some sort of negative or maladaptive behaviors.
Rebecca Dekker: Do you think sometimes they are doing these behaviors purposefully for a reaction? Like once they realize that it gets a reaction out of you?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah. The first time they do it, probably not. They’re just experimenting. But kids at this age, they learn primarily through cause and effect. And so the first time they pinch you, it might just be an accident, but then you’re like, “Oh!” Then, they’re like, wow, you’re just my new cause and effect toy. I do this and you do that. They’re just learning that cause and effect and so if you don’t give them the effect, then they’ll move to a different thing to get your attention. Hopefully, there’s things that they can do, the types of things you want them to do like making kissing faces and smiling at you and things like that, and hopefully that gets your attention in a much more positive way versus let’s say pinching you.
Rebecca Dekker: Do you have any advice for parents as they’re moving through the different stages and transitions of parenting? Transitioning from a newborn to a baby who’s crawling and getting into things to a baby who’s walking and climbing and getting into trouble and having challenges in the toddler period. Do you have any advice for how parents can thrive or at least survive during those transitions?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah, so I think anything that you can do in terms of the environment to set yourself up for success. A lot of times, we find ourselves as parents constantly in this reactive mode. It’s because we’re tired and life is busy and things like that, but… I always make a joke that 18 months is my least favorite age of parenting. There’s still lots of fun things about 18 month olds, but they’re just kind of hard. They’re not communicating very much yet. They’re dangerous. You have to make sure that they’re safe, but they walk and they’re all over the place. So I would say whatever you can do in terms of your home environment. I’m a big fan of baby proofing, for example, because I think that if there’s things that you can do to set your environment up so that you’re not constantly feeling that mode of frustration… Unfortunately, I think us parents, a lot of times, rather than doing the proactive things, we get caught in that reactive mode and, unfortunately, it ends up spending a lot more energy in that reactive mode and it’s not as positive as a situation, but if we can do… sometimes it’s just small things to set us up for success, it can be helpful.
As kids are getting older, let’s say the pre-school age, I think that… So, for example, I have a son, Landon. He’s a sweetheart. He’s nine now. He just turned nine. Landon has ADHD. He’s a sweet kid, but… He’s a spirited kid. We’ve always had some behavior challenges with him. And so pretty early on, I started to adopt a reward system with him. It’s changed over time. Initially, with young kids, you can have more of like, first do this, then you can have this. Just by placing events in certain orders… If you place a nonpreferred event like cleaning your room and then do something fun right after it, whether it’s go to the park or screen time or whatever, we’re going to see kids are much more likely to do those things that they don’t like doing if they have something fun that follows it. That creates a sense of motivation, if you will.
So that, and then once he was a little bit older, moving on to those charts where… Like a very simple star chart. There’s different ways you can use star charts. If you find that your kiddo is having a lot of tantrums during the day, then maybe what you would do is like, “Okay, if you don’t have a tantrum between now and snack time, then you earn a star.” It’s breaking the day into small chunks and then celebrating that success and then, ultimately, once they get a certain amount of stars, then… It doesn’t have to be something huge. I always tell parents to avoid the Disneyland type of prizes of like, do all these things and then you can go to Disneyland, for example. Because once you’ve offered this huge reward, then it’s hard to compete with that. Really, it could just be small things. Whether it’s small snacks that they prefer and they only get if they’ve earned them or maybe watching a show or… I’ve even had parents put a small box of toys that are highly preferred, but the kids only have access to them when they’ve earned it with their stars, for example. By keeping those items up high where the kids can’t get them, then the kids aren’t sick of those toys, so those are like their special toys.
That can be a good way to use a reward system with the kids who are in pre-school and then, as kids are getting older, you might even start to use a quarter system, where kids earn quarters for certain behaviors that they’re working on. Whether it’s doing their homework without complaining or getting ready for the day on time or whatnot. I mean, really, the research shows that using motivation reward systems is the number one way to get the positive outcome you want with your kids’ behaviors. That’s they key. It’s what we call positive reinforcement or using rewards and motivations with kids.
Rebecca Dekker: I remember speaking with a therapist one time who was telling me that… Well, she called that tactic motivating the unmotivated. She was like, “You have to figure out a way to motivate those who are not motivated.” Figuring out what rewards are so compelling to them that they’re willing to have positive behaviors and then, eventually, it just becomes a habit. The positive behaviors. Correct?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Correct. And as the parent, you’re always thinking to that next step. For example, I think about… It could just be your average day and maybe, for example, my kids are like, “Oh, Mom, can we go do X?” And I’m like, “Sure,” but then I’m going to think to myself, I know that they just literally told me that that’s what they want. So I also know that, as part of their routine today, they need to clean their room. That needs to get done. And we might have one or two other things we need to do. So I’m going to be strategic. I’m not going to be like, “Sure, let’s go do that fun thing you just asked first.” I’m going to be like, “Sure, let’s do that, but here’s what you need to do first.” And then what you’ll see is like, “Oh, okay,” and then suddenly, something that might take your child a long time to complete and they might complain about, all of a sudden, they’re like, oh, well I better get it done quickly because I want to… Us as parents, always being strategic about what types of things like that, like what order we should encourage our kids to do certain things in, and just taking advantage of the things that are naturally happening in your environment, if that makes sense.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah, I agree. I found that strategy to be really helpful in our house, too. Having things that the kids want to do… I mean, even when we were potty training. It’s like, “We’ll go to the park as soon as you go potty.” My kids have always loved taking a bath, so, “You can have a bath with bubbles as soon as you do this.” Doing the order like that definitely helps. I wanted to ask you about parenting while you’re pregnant. For my listeners who are pregnant, I know a lot of our pregnant listeners already have children at home. I’m just curious if you have any suggestions for how you can continue to parent toddlers and small children when you’re feeling exhausted or nauseous or having morning sickness or other health difficulties during pregnancy. For example, I know… I write about this in my book, Babies Are Not Pizzas, but I had terrible migraines with each of my pregnancies. The first one, it was awful, but I didn’t have any children to take care of. By the second and third time, it really threw me for a loop. Like, how do I continue to parent when I’m so sick?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Here’s the deal. A few things come to mind when I think about that. First of all, again, these things happen. They’re a season of time. I think a lot of times, we get into this funk of being like, oh, well, I need to be working on my child on their pre-academic skills and, oh, got to have only X amount of screen time. We get laser-focused. And, all those things, they’re good in and of themselves, but I’m sorry, if you’re pregnant and nauseous and vomiting, you’re probably not going to be able to accomplish all those things that maybe you would be able to do or what you would hope you would be able to do if you were feeling great. First, I think it’s just accepting that this is a season and your child’s wellbeing and how they’re being raised, it’s not going to be solely impacted by this one season. So if you do have to take a break from doing those… maybe there’s certain things that you want to be teaching your child and working with your child on. It’s just giving yourself permission to put some of that stuff on the back burner and go into survival mode a little bit. If your child does have to watch screens for a little bit more because you’re struggling, that’s okay.
I think, too, it’s finding that village of people who can support you. For your listeners who have family and friends that are available, it’s actually relying on them while you’re going through those hard times. It’s asking for help. A lot of times, people want to help, but we are afraid to ask them, but we just kind of trudge through being a parent, being a mom specifically, by ourselves and it’s not helpful, so I think it’s connecting with the people you have. If you don’t have your village right now, there’s so many different ways to get connected with different parents as well. It’s finding that group. For me, there’s something called MOPS, Moms of Pre Schoolers, that was connected with a local church in the area. I attended that and those moms were super helpful whenever I needed it. Whether it’s like, I wasn’t feeling well and so one of them would bring me a meal or one of them would offer to take care of one of my kids for a few hours or whatnot. I was able to find people like that. Whether you go to meet up groups of whatnot. But it’s just using the resources you have to ask for that help and then, again, just realizing that it’s just a season and giving yourself permission. You’re not going to spoil your kid forever if they watch a little bit too much screens in this exact moment. If that makes sense.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah, so basically you’re saying be gentle on yourself, give yourself some grace, don’t feel guilty… is that what you’re saying… if you can’t do that 100% parenting thing that you want to be doing.
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah. One of the things I would suggest… and this kind of fits in… when you’re pregnant kind of also fits in actually to when your kids are sick. Sometimes we aren’t as able to follow through when we tell our kids to do something. When kids are sick, we might ask them to do something and they’re sick and they can’t do it or if we’re, let’s say, pregnant, we might ask our kids to do something and we can’t follow through because we don’t have the energy. It’s recognizing that you should be mindful of what you’re asking of your kids. For example, if my kids were sick, I wouldn’t be like, okay, my son has Legos all over his floor. I wouldn’t be like, “Landon, you need to clean your room.” And then he would be like, “But I’m sick,” and might throw a tantrum and I might be like, “Okay, you don’t have to clean your room.” Trying to prevent things like that.
If I would have realized, okay, probably I should ask less of him because he’s sick… or in the instance of me, if I was pregnant, realizing, okay, I am not really able to follow through so I’m not going to ask as much of my kids. Maybe for a short period of time, I’m going to be like, it’s actually probably in this moment easier for me to clean up his toys than for me to ask him to do it. If I’m asking him to do something, I’d rather follow through with it. Just setting yourself up for success. That’s another strategy that you can use. We’re more likely to comply with, as people, things that are easier and so your kids are less likely to act out if you’re not putting too much on their plate.
Rebecca Dekker: So you want to have smaller requests for them for chores and that sort of thing that are easier for you to follow up on.
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah.
Rebecca Dekker: Do you have any other advice for parents who are facing these kinds of transitions? Any final words of wisdom?
Dr. Heather Maguire: If you go to prismbehavior.com/freeguide, your listeners can actually download this guide that talks about how you can use reward systems and motivation systems with kids of different ages. For the kids who are young, who are maybe more toddler-age, up through elementary years, I think that reward systems are the key to a more peaceful home. Your listeners can download that and I think that would be really… If was to give one piece of advice or whatnot in terms of what can make the biggest impact, I would say start there.
Rebecca Dekker: I really resonate with a lot of the strategies you’ve mentioned and it’s really reassuring because working with a therapist for one of our children who had anxiety issues, a lot of the behavior strategies you’ve suggested. Coming up with positive rewards, ordering events, and also having natural consequences were exactly what our therapist recommended, actually, for anxiety, which a lot of people that anxiety levels are really high among children today. We don’t know exactly why. But these behavior strategies actually, as the parent, made the biggest difference in our child’s anxiety, which was kind of a cool experience. To experience firsthand how effective the positive reward systems and the consequences and ignoring behaviors… All these things that you’re talking about were exactly what our therapist worked with us on. And so, yeah. Super excited to see your guide and I encourage everybody to download that and get some ideas.
So, believe it or not, Heather and I recorded this interview before the pandemic hit the United States. I reached back out to Dr. Maguire and asked if she had any tips for parenting during the pandemic as we are getting deeper into what may be a year-long or more process of getting through this global pandemic. And so Heather reached back with a recording with a few parenting tips for us.
Dr. Heather Maguire: I definitely think that we are parenting in a challenging time. I think that there is no one size fits all approach. There are so many different dynamics. In some homes, parents have lost jobs. In other homes, parents are essential workers. They’ve been working the whole time. There’s so many different things going on, but if I were to say some overarching points as to some helpful things that parents can be doing and thinking about during this time, I have a few. I think, first of all, asking a lot of open-ended questions about how all these changes are impacting our kids and how they’re making them feel. Like, how do you feel about this? How did you feel today? What are you thinking about? Those open-ended questions are very important.
I mean, coronavirus has been going on for a while now and so perhaps for some of us, we’ve stopped asking some of these questions, but I think that it’s important that these questions are ongoing. And then sometimes when we ask our kids questions, we try to talk our kids out of how they’re feeling. I think it’s really important for us to affirm however they’re feeling. It’s not to say that we might try to… It’s good to comfort them and give them some guidance as well, but I think affirming our kids’ feelings is really important. So, for example, if your son tells you that he’s sad, you can say things like, “It’s okay to feel sad.” “Can I give you a hug?” “What are you feeling sad about?” And then try to address those things, that’s fine, but definitely acknowledge and affirm how your kids are feeling and try to ask them on a consistent basis. I would definitely do that.
Another thing I think that can be helpful right now is something I told my kids from early on. All of us parents, we’re just trying to understand and figure out how to act right now. There’s no manual on parenting during COVID. Although, I suppose people have written them now in the last three months, but nobody’s going to have the exact same interpretation about the best way to parent. And so one of the things I told my kids from the get-go was whatever decisions our family makes, other people might make different decisions and that’s okay. It’s not that I’m right and they’re wrong or whatever. It’s more that we’re all doing the best that we can. They may have friends, for example, who at this point can spend time with other kids. Maybe they’re not letting their kids spend time with other kids unless they are family members or whatever. Different people are interpreting things in different ways and making decisions and that’s okay. Some parents, for example, may have their kids wear masks outside and other parents may only have their kids wear masks when they’re inside an establishment. There’s not an, I would say, agreed upon method for dealing with this and so allowing your kids to know that will help. Especially for those of us who have kids who are rule followers who may feel a little bit frustrated that other kids have different rules for them.
And then the last thing… In all of this, there is a lack of normalcy and a lack of structure that is bound to happen. Before, there was more likely a lot more structure in our homes and structured activities and things like that. That’s okay to some extent, but I think that whatever way we can bring back some of that structure… I think that can be a very positive thing. In our home what we’ve done is we’ve written down a schedule, established a routine, and I actually chose to write it down. I think I mentioned this earlier. Writing down schedules is something that I do usually, but especially now, where everything is chaotic. It has helped my kids understand what the day is going to look like.
On top of that, if I allow my kids… and I have… I allow them to help create the schedule, then they’re going to feel that sense of control. It gives them back some of that control. So I think that that can be helpful. Maybe for you it’s just a cadence of the day or some of the people who are listening. You might not need to, let’s say, write down a schedule, but perhaps just by establishing at the beginning of every day, “Here’s what we’re doing today. What are the things you want to do today?” That might be enough. Anyway, those are just some things I think that are particularly helpful as we navigate through parenting in this challenging time, but definitely not a comprehensive list.
Rebecca Dekker: I’m so thankful to Dr. Maguire for sending us that little recording with a few tips for talking with your children about the virus. Also, I wanted to mention that there are a lot of great resources out there for talking to kids about racism. Too often, White parents don’t talk enough about racism and inequities with their children. I’ve been having conversations with my children about unconscious bias as well as systemic racism and, as hard as it is, it is my responsibility to do that. I will link in the show notes to a few resources for talking with children about racism, both for White parents and for parents who are Black or persons of color. I also wanted to mention that Dr. Heather Maguire has two recent podcast episodes about talking with your children about race and racism. If you go to the Prism Parenting podcast on your podcast app, it’s episodes 55 and 56. I also want to highly recommend the social media page called Social Justice Parenting with Dr. Traci Baxley. You can find that on Instagram @socialjusticeparenting. Dr. Baxley has a new course for moms who want to be allies all about talking to your kids about racism. So I encourage you to follow the Social Justice Parenting on Instagram and click on the link in Dr. Traci Baxley’s bio to see the many resources that she has there including that upcoming course.
Heather, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Can you tell people again exactly how they can find you?
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah, so my podcast is Prism Parenting. You can get that on any podcast platform. My website is prismbehavior.com. So Prism Behavior is the website and Prism Parenting is the podcast. They can find me @prismbehavior on Instagram. Also, if they have any questions related to parenting, I always email people back. So if this has spurred any questions, they can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. P-R-I-S-M behavior dot com.
Rebecca Dekker: Thanks so much again, Dr. Maguire, for coming on the podcast.
Dr. Heather Maguire: Yeah! I had a lot of fun today. Thank you so much for having me. I really hope that this conversation is helpful and valuable to your listeners.
Rebecca Dekker: All right, everyone. Thanks so much for listening. Don’t forget that we have that free 30-day trial to the Evidence Based Birth professional membership for professionals in the childbirth or maternal health field. Just go to ebbirth.com/membership to sign up for your free trial today. Thanks and I’ll talk with you all next week. Bye!
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