Archive for the ‘Toddlers’ Category

Playing’s the Thing

March 2, 2011

When kids first start to play, say around one to two years old, if they are playing “with” another child they are really not playing together so much as playing next to each other.  They may watch what each other does, and they may imitate, but they don’t mingle their play.  Psychologists call this “parallel play.”

When kids get a little older, provided they are secure and wired up for it, they start to play with each other.  Your kid’s doll or truck starts to interact with the other kid’s toy.  Voila:  the birth of cooperative play.

In this three to five time of life, kids start to build cooperative play in their imaginations.  The toys may be props, but the play’s the thing.  Group play emerges.  Kids playing house, or dinosaurs, or doctor are creating a fragile world that hovers between them—just like grown-ups on a stage or doing improvisational comedy: it is a world of “yes and.”

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Attachment in the lab, implications on the couch (and in the brain)

December 15, 2010

In bare bones and admittedly simplified terms, I wish to share some emerging understandings from the cutting edge of attachment research and interpersonal neurobiology.

I am quite fortunate to have UCLA in my hood, and have just returned from a weekend conference there where the world’s foremost experts in attachment research, Mary Hain and Erik Hesse, were down from Berkley and having a highly illuminating love-fest with their former student/spiritual son, and true brainiac, Dan Siegel.

While my inner nerd was thrilled to soak up the technical details of nuances in attachment and to refine my understanding of the hippocampus, insula and dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, I thought a cool challenge to myself might be to put it all in plain speak and see what it looks like—in the hopes that it might spread the word on what helps and what hurts, what heals and what direction a parent (and our wider culture) might head, with regard to security, insecurity and attachment.

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Sweet still at sixteen

June 3, 2010

Andy and I were talking and she suggested that it might be nice to post something on how kids, even at they continue to grow (and despite being intermittently mouthy, rude, entitled and impossible) actually remain cute and sweet to us parents.

When our little crawlers were still in car-seats, the big boys and girls kicking up sand at the park and racing up and down the slide represented a stark contrast between our kids (cute and adorable) and those other kids (brutal and rather advanced, maybe even talking in sentences, not always kind sentences).

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Is parenting an unpaid internship?

April 7, 2010

A NY Times article on the potentially illegal growth of unpaid internships caught my parenting eye.

The criteria for an acceptable unpaid internship include, “that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.”

Let’s look at this again, substituting “parent” for intern and “child” for employer (after all, we do essentially work for our kids, don’t we?); thus we parents should get compensated for our work unless… the parenting work experience is similar to the learning we parents have experienced in school, that the parent does not displace regular paid workers and that the child “derives no immediate advantage” from the parent’s activities—in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution from the kid to the parent.”

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Bricoleurs on Garbo Day

March 12, 2010

When you think of Garbo you probably think about a mysterious actress from the black & white era, a beauty in a big hat who, “Vants to be ahlone.”  And if you don’t think of Greta when you think of Garbo, then you probably think of nothing much at all.

I, however, think of Garbo as my older son’s first obsession—not with Mata Hari, but with trash:  “garbo” was his pronunciation of “garbage.”  While we have our share of obsessiveness in the family, I remember how this one first got started…

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Out in the cold—balancing attachment and a good time

February 3, 2010

A reader inquires:

“I must say, I am enjoying parenting more and more…but I am feeling ‘out of balance’ personally and in my relationship with my husband, as I stay at home with my daughter (and the four or five times we have had a babysitter in the past 2 years to go have dinner alone, it has not gone well at all, with my daughter being unable to separate).  My husband, who works such long hours and travels so much, just wants time for ‘us,’ and so do I.  It doesn’t feel right to leave my daughter with a babysitter when she cries and is miserable most of the time and then continues to get upset about it for weeks, but it also doesn’t feel right not to make alone time for myself and my husband.  Parenting is certainly not easy, and sustaining and nurturing a marriage relationship alongside is something I am finding to be getting more difficult instead of easier.  How do we ‘get it right’ with our children and our spouses during these early parenting years?”


This is a rather classic challenge and I’d start by acknowledging that, my wife assures me, I was quite frustrated with things at this point in parenting.  While I might like to think of myself as having been a paragon of patience, alas I’m told that I would angrily say things back then like, “We never have any fun.”  Over a decade later (even if it seems to have flown by) it’s much easier to talk about that time without anyone getting too defensive.

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aggression within overprotection

January 19, 2010

I have an image of myself as a three-year-old: it’s summer and we’re at “Sleepy Hollow,” a vaguely depressing summer vacation place of cottages and “the dome”—where more socially adjusted kids happily participated in activities; I’m ready for my morning swim, wearing a life-preserver, water-wings and non-slip shoes of some dimly remembered rubber; I’m being placed in the kiddie pool where the water is barely past my knees; I don’t think I’m wearing a diving mask, but I feel like I see my mom’s over-concerned face, radiating the message, “This is very, very dangerous and you might drown at any second.”

I’m not sure what my first word was, but I feel like it might have been, “Careful!” since that’s the word I remember my parents blurting out most frequently toward me.  And still I was accident prone and despite many swimming lessons, still nearly drowned at summer camp when I was nine.

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Boys who nibble on goats—what to do when kids bite

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year.  Now that it’s 2010 I thought I would get right into a nuts and bolts parenting question.  While not every post can possibly apply to every reader, my hope is that general principles, combined with the ethic of caring about each others’ children as well as each other, may at least be a small part of the sort of decade we would hope to co-create moving forward, in contrast with the 9/11-themed decade of fear-mongering, materialism and general collapse out of which we stagger.  While the Chinese say that you should be blessed not to live in interesting times, we’ll have to make the best of the interesting times in which we dwell.

A reader inquires:

“Our son, who is now 2 years and 4 months old, is a fun, happy kid full of curiosity and energy. He has been attending nursery school in the mornings since September. His speech is somewhat behind the median, maybe because his nanny speaks to him in Spanish, or because we just took the pacifier away, or it’s genetic, as his half-siblings did not speak until late. He has many words (hundreds), but forms very few sentences (open door, have this, papa move…).

Two Fridays ago we took the pacifier away during the daytime, and the following Monday he started biting other children at school. Continue Reading


December 2, 2009

Gregory Uba works with a non-profit agency in LA, Connections for Children, serving parents across a wide range of needs from parenting classes to referrals and financial assistance for child care services. 

While my particular brand of parenting support trends toward the mindful, spiritual and even esoteric, the approach I favor still boils down to thinking deeply in the service of working practically and pragmatically.  Folks like Greg keep me honest and grounded in challenging me to think about how the most at-risk parents could make use of ideas such as floated in this blog—as these parent often may be tasked with the care of some of the most at-risk of our collective children.  On the other hand, all kids struggle, and all parents struggle too, so whatever really helps any of us is likely to be of some value to all of us parents.

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Orchid Children

November 23, 2009

A recent Atlantic article by David Dobbs on the “Science of Success,” offers a wealth of insights on parenting kids with highly sensitive genes—or at least genes that put them at risk for depression, ADHD and the like.  While rough and tumble kids might be likened to dandelions, which can grow in any old crack in the sidewalk, kids with potentially problematic genetic proclivities are compared to orchids—delicate beings that need the special care of a greenhouse in order to thrive.  The bad news is that if we mess up, or fail to engage and attune with these “orchid children,” they can have serious problems with school, life and mental health, however if we get it right, these kids can be truly exceptional—even more gifted than kids with what we would have thought were “better” genes.  For the article see:

As sometimes happens with science, men come running out of the lab shouting “Eureka!” about things practically every experienced mom could have already told you—only she’s been too busy taking care of the kids to spend thirty years watching monkey moms raise (and sometimes fail) their children.  Just as the world was actually round even before it was a science newsflash, folk wisdom has long known that orchid kids are potential superstars if they get the right parenting.

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