“I hear parents on the playground all the time saying “You’re OK!” after their child falls over. Often it does make the child stop crying…but doesn’t it invalidate the child’s feelings?”
It turns out that this question is related to a skill that psychologists call emotional regulation, and learning how to regulate emotions is one of the most important tasks of childhood.
This to-the-point episode is a trial of a shorter form of episode after listeners told me this show is “very dense.” It’s hard to back off the density, but I can back off the length. Let me know (via email or the Contact Me, page – not the comments on this episode because I get inundated with spam) what you think…
“HOW DO I GET MY CHILD TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT?!” is the thinly-veiled message under the surface of many of the emails that I get about sleep. And I don’t blame you. I don’t claim to be a magician in this regard, although I did get incredibly, amazingly lucky – my daughter put in her first eight-hour night at six weeks old, and has regularly slept through the night for longer than I can remember. I’m really genuinely not sure I could parent if things weren’t like this.
But today’s episode is about the data, not about anecdata.
Zoe in Sydney wrote to me:
A hotly debated topic with my friends has been “sleeping through the night.” My daughter never was great at napping and still wakes up once a night, coming into our bed. We have never been able to do controlled crying etc – I would love to know what science says about sleeping through the night! And what is best for your child (vs the parent). My close friend is a breastfeeding counselor and said they are taught that lots of children don’t sleep through until 4 years old! Other mothers I knew were horrified if their child wasn’t sleeping through by 6 months – and the French talk about their children ‘having their nights’ much earlier…
As I started researching this topic it became clear that sleep is driven to an incredible extent by cultural preferences. Some (Western) psychologists advocate for letting children Cry It Out, while people in many cultures around the world see putting a child to sleep in their own room (never mind allowing them to cry) as tantamount to child abuse.
So: can we get our children to sleep more? Is bed-sharing inherently bad? Does Cry It Out harm the child in some way? Let’s find out!
In Professor Angela Duckworth’s TED talk, she says of her research: “One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”
The effusive blurbs on the book cover go even beyond Professor Duckworth’s own dramatic pronouncements: Daniel Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness, says: “Psychologists have spent decades searching for the secret of success, but Duckworth is the one who has found it…She not only tells us what it is, but how to get it.”
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking (which we’ve looked at previously in an episode on supporting your introverted child) says: “Impressively fresh and original…Grit scrubs away preconceptions about how far our potential can take us…Buy this, send copies to your friends, and tell the world that there is, in fact, hope. We can all dazzle.”
Don’t we all want to dazzle? Don’t we all want our children to dazzle? Is grit the thing that will help them do it?
It turns out that Professor Duckworth’s own research says: perhaps not. Listen in to learn how much grit is a good thing, how to help your child be grittier, and why it might not be the factor that assures their success.
Other episodes mentioned in this show
“I don’t want to play with you.”
“You’re not my friend.”
“We’re playing families. If you want to play, you have to be the dog.”
Seems like everyone can remember a time when something like this happened to them as a child, and how much it hurt. Children still say these things to each other – and we see how much it hurts them, too. When researchers ask them, every child can remember a time when they were excluded – yet no child ever reports being the excluder!
One of my listeners recommended that I read the book You Can’t Say You Can’t Play, in which the author (who is a teacher) proposes and then introduces a rule that you can’t say “you can’t play.” A few researchers (including Professor Jamie Ostrov, with whom we’ll talk today) have since tested the approach: does it work? If not, what should we do instead?
Since most of these situations occur in preschool and school, teacher Caren co-interviews Professor Ostrov with me: we have some great insights for teachers as well as lots of information for parents on how to support both children and teachers in navigating these difficult situations.
“Be a man.” “Boys don’t cry.” “Don’t be a sissy.”
Boys hear these things all the time – from parents, from teachers, from friends and peers. What does it do to their emotional lives when they crave close relationships but society tells them to keep emotional distance from others?
Join my guest Alan Turkus and me as we quiz Dr. Judy Chu, who lectures on this topic at Stanford and was featured in the (awesome!) documentary The Mask You Live In.
This episode is a must-listen if you’re the parent of a boy, and may even help those of you with girls to understand more about why boys and men treat girls and women the way they do.
Don’t have a boy? Check out How To Raise A Girl With A Healthy Body Image.