Your Child Acts Like a Baby
I get asked this question on a regular basis; like once a week: “Why does my child act like a baby sometimes?” The answer is multi-faceted and I usually try to talk about the full answer as quickly as I can. In many cases, the right hemisphere of the brain, which controls SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND BEHAVIORAL REGULATION is underdeveloped and underconnected. You can read about hemisphericity HERE.
But there is another major player in the answer to this question. Most simply put, babies have very little function coming from their brain. For the most part, in the first year of life, they are mostly driven by the brain stem, which is the most primitive part of the brain. By primitive, I mean, it is not highly complex in its electrical connectivity, like the vast regions found in the higher parts of the brain. Also, it is responsible for some very basic, primitive things like heart rate, digestion, breathing, and reflexes like the rooting reflex, which causes babies to begin to suck when those cranial nerves around the corners of the mouth are stimulated. That leads to nursing. But did you ever notice that by the age of 12 months or less, most babies, whether they are nursing or not, no longer root? They can choose to suck when presented with the opportunity, but it is a choice, not a reflex.
That is a common and great example of a primitive reflex. What happens, in simple terms, is that as the brain matures and develops through movement in the first year of life, the reflexes become “suppressed.” This allows the brain to learn to control those movements without having a strong electrical signal coming from the brain stem, which disrupts the child’s ability to truly control their movements and even their thoughts. The primary reflexes you will see in a child are:
These are obviously brief descriptions, but if a child displays one or more of the primitive reflexes upon clinical testing, the consequences can be serious. A child with “immature” or “childish” behavior traits very often is being caused to feel similar impulses to a baby because that part of their brain is overactive and not integrated correctly!
Again, primitive reflexes are just one part of the problem and are never the full answer, but it is incredibly important to understand that this is one of the most common and important components to deciphering your child’s symptoms; especially if they are displaying immaturity or “baby”-like behaviors.
In case you’re wondering how common it is for a child to retain their primitive reflexes, the answer is VERY OFTEN. Every child I have worked with over the last 8 years has shown persistence of their primitive reflexes.
According to a study published in 2016 by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “Over a half (65%) preschool children had survived the primitive reflexes on the residual level. Eleven percent of them had no retained primitive reflexes. According to the psychomotor ability, 9% of the children were in the category of “altered development”, 29% in “delayed development”, 59% in “normal” and 3% in “very good development”. (Source:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5778413/)
If you’re reading this, you probably can relate to at least one of those symptoms I described. If you want to know more about how to test your child, shoot us an email and we will help you however we can. It’s hard to watch your sweet baby struggle. I’ve been there myself. We’re with you. As I tell my kids every day: “NEVER GIVE UP!”
Will Revolutionize The Way You Handle a Temper Tantrum
For most parents, watching their young child have a temper tantrum is just part of a regular old Tuesday. Kids throw tantrums, it’s just life. If you have a child with a neurological imbalance such as ADHD or Oppositional Defiance Disorder, you have a completely different understanding of a tantrum than a parent of a neurotypical child. That’s not a fun thing to talk about, but it is absolute reality. The frequency and intensity and sheer volume of the tantrums can be just plain mind-numbing when brain imbalances interfere with a child’s ability to naturally manage their emotions, particularly anger and rage.
The most difficult part about watching a child throw a tantrum in anger or have a meltdown in sadness is that they become instantly impervious to all logic and rational thought. As adults, our natural response is to try to talk the child down from their emotional peak and help them regain composure. Mostly, this is an exercise in futility because you’re trying to rationalize with a child who has basically deactivated the parts of their brain that are responsible for thinking and planning. All the higher-level areas of brain function are turned off and the parts responsible for emotional release are active and in charge.
What this essentially means is that your child is no longer responding to whatever information or circumstance that led to their anger or sadness. That processing has been completed and now they are in a loop of feeling the feelings. Even if the thing that set them off has changed in their favor, they will still often times feel the feelings of anger or sadness. For example, if you tell your son that he needs to turn off Paw Patrol and he starts to get angry because this episode is not over, even if you relent and allow him to finish the episode, it may be too late. He may still head down Anger Avenue and you’ve got a tantrum on your hands.
Now, let me clarify something. I’m not advocating for reversing your decision on turning off Paw Patrol just to avoid a temper tantrum. In fact, just the opposite. If you decide it’s time to turn it off and you say it, you should, for the most part, stick to that. Children need consistency and stability from their parents. That’s not to say you can’t afford some lenience on occasion, but on balance, we should show our children that there is a distinct need for obedience and that they should also trust that what you’re telling them is good for them. You can read more about that HERE.
Back to the Paw Patrol moment. Our greatest adult instinct in that moment is to try to stop the tantrum. By greatest, I mean most prominent. For most of us, we just want to stop the tantrum, whether because it’s a time-sucking nuisance for us or because we genuinely don’t want our child to have to feel angry or sad. Neither of those motives is inherently bad, but stopping the tantrum may not be the right thing to do. If a child does not feel free to feel feelings as a child, they will likely carry that with them into adulthood. Sorry to say it, but that’s on you, Mom and Dad.
As with everything, there is a balance. Children need to have the freedom to feel and the freedom to fail emotionally. But they also need to learn to regulate their own emotions and their own behavior. There are several factors that we should discuss before we talk about actually calming a tantruming child.
1. You can not stop a child from overreacting by overreacting yourself.
I know this seems like the most obvious statement in the world, but it is somewhat difficult in practice. I know and have worked with lots of parents who have their own temper problem and just can’t seem to parent without yelling and frustration and screaming and maybe a little swearing, just for good measure. None of them have ever reported success in this approach. EVER. So let’s stop that. Let’s, right now, agree that you can’t expect your child to learn basic competence at emotional regulation if you are emotionally unregulated when things don’t go your way.
2. You need to learn to quickly differentiate between an angry tantrum and a sad meltdown.
Again, this may seem obvious, but I’ve seen this in my own kids as well as hundreds of families I’ve worked with. You will need to address each of these differently because the side of the brain that is engaged is totally different for each emotion. Anger is what’s called an “approach emotion” and comes from the left hemisphere of the brain. Sadness is a “withdrawal emotion” and originates in the right side of the brain. For some kids, it’s a bit difficult to recognize which they are feeling, even for them. For some kids, it is wildly apparent and you can figure it out quickly. A great way to begin to recognize which emotion you are seeing surface is by noticing whether the child is being aggressive or retreating into their own world. I’m using the word aggressive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean violent. It could be a simple as stomping their feet or throwing something versus collapsing on the floor and screaming.
3. Stopping a tantrum should not be about stopping the feelings.
This almost seems counter-intuitive, but it is important stuff. An emotionally healthy and balanced adult does not go through life with a lack of negative feelings or emotions. They feel most of the feelings that an unhealthy person feels, but they learn to regulate and redirect the feelings before they enter into the frenzied loop that leads to barfights and brawls and abusive relationships. When a child is already in that loop, you are not looking to simply shut off the feelings. If you teach your child to shut off feelings and to ignore the learning process associated with adapting and overcoming and being flexible, you are leaving them to a much harder learning curve later in life.
So, what to do about my sweet baby who is having a tantrum or meltdown? The answer is, simply put, be with him. I have found, even in some of the most extreme cases, that a child is most likely to overcome their meltdown when they experience the unique feeling of being accepted and loved even while they’re in the throes of unbridled anger or sadness. This is not to say that verbally telling the child you love them is the cure for the common conniption. More than likely, the ability to process your words has been suspended for a bit. That’s okay. Say it with your body, your eyes, your hands, your skin, your heart, your presence, your strength, your wisdom, your breath. Be it.
A while back, my now-4-year-old was having a meltdown. It was a major black hole of sadness and personal rejection that surpassed the greatest of historically documented cases of despair. At least, that’s what it sounded like. The travesty of all travesties had occurred. My wife had pulled the minivan into the garage and turned off the motor and opened the side doors, thus turning off the TV and disrupting his viewing of Moana. How dare she?! The volume coming from this little body was impressive. And also just a little worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. Tears streaming down his face, he collapsed onto the kitchen floor, wailing indiscernibly about this tyrannical infringement of his inalienable right to consume animated entertainment. “Give me Moana or give me death!”
Okay, I may have imagined some of that. I picked him up off the floor, his now limp body draped over my arm, tears dripping onto the cold, unforgiving kitchen ceramic tile. I set him on the counter and supported his full 40 pounds as he wept. I literally said, “Buddy, you can go back in the van and watch it if you want.” There was no reason he couldn’t. And I knew he wouldn’t last long before he got bored and wanted to come in the house with the rest of the crew. But he couldn’t hear me. Or he couldn’t understand me. I’m not sure which. I just knew that he was caught in this downward-spiraling tailspin, trapped in a glass cage of emotion (hahaha). I cupped his face in my hands and had him sit up and look in my eyes. I’m sure he couldn’t see me very well because of the tears. He was still wailing, so he still couldn’t hear me. I stopped talking. I took his right hand and placed it firmly over my heart. I put my right hand on his heart. I leaned in and put my mouth right next to his left ear and, in a low, calm voice whispered, “Can you feel my heartbeat?”
He didn’t respond the first couple times I asked. I kept asking. About the fourth time I asked, he looked at me and said he could feel it. I asked if he could feel my chest moving when I breathe in and out. He said he could. I asked him if he could breathe in and out with me at the same speed. He tried. I sped up a little to match his smaller lungs and he began to slow down his breathing. He was no longer crying. It had been less than 5 minutes. He was looking deep into my eyes, feeling my chest filling with air, listening to my voice as I softly encouraged him to breathe in through his nose, out through his mouth. We continued this for about a minute. I had my daughter come over to us. I had her put each of her hands on his and my heart. I put one hand on hers. He put one on hers too. We sat there for another couple minutes just breathing and feeling each other’s heartbeat. I was feeling the same thing he was feeling now-- calm. His meltdown had turned into a really magical moment that has actually become a thing in our family. When someone is having an emotional moment, we put our hands on each other’s hearts and go through it with them.
Who cares if you’re in public? Who cares if you’re at church? Who cares if people are staring at him or her while they’re screaming. Train your child that they matter to you, that their feelings matter. That you’re with them regardless of how they feel. That it’s okay to feel and to express it. Train them to dial into their own heartbeat and their own breathing and to connect to yours. You’ll be amazed at how you both feel after you do it. And if someone is giving you weird looks because you refuse to give in to your social requirement to keep your child quiet and under control, you just calmly invite them to put their hand on your heart and look in your eyes while you softly tell them, “It’s gonna be okay. You will get through this.” 😊
I know this sounds like an implausible solution in every situation, and it may not be right for your teenager. But maybe it will. Give it a shot. The power of being present with someone is liberating and transforming. When paired with consistency, mutual respect, trust, and obedience, you can bring a new sense of calm to your tantruming child and your own melting-down self.
I can’t wait to hear your stories of how you succeed and also maybe fail forward using this technique. comment with your success story so we can brag about you in our newsletter!
(behind-the-scenes photo because my kids are adorable)
(Gluten and Dairy Free too!)
Hey guys! If you have ever been faced with the task of eliminating some common inflammatory foods for either yourself or your child’s diet, you know how overwhelming it can be. I have quite the sweet tooth so I certainly had concerns that we would never be able to enjoy desserts again, but that’s definitely not the case! I honestly have really come to enjoy the trial-and-error process of creating recipes that my family loves while avoiding those inflammatory ingredients.
These three recipes I am going to share with you are easy to make and have had some amazing reviews from my husband and kids. It brings me a lot of joy to see their faces light up as they taste my creations, and a lot of satisfaction in knowing that although it is dessert, it is a healthier version of one! My hope is that these recipes will bring the same happiness to you and your family as you navigate through this nutrition journey. So let’s get started!
Click below to jump to the recipe you want!
#1 - Fruit Pizza
Fruit Pizza is such a fun dessert to make. You can get so creative with the design on top and it looks really pretty when it is finished. My 7-year-old girl mapped out a plan for her creation. She even drew a picture of how she wanted the fruit to be placed. I cut the fruit so it would be sliced as evenly as possible and then she took over with the decorating. You can also make smaller pizza crusts and let each of your children create their own masterpiece. Edible art is so much fun!
There are several steps to this fruit pizza, but feel free to make the cashew cream in advance. It can stay in your refrigerator for up to a week. This dessert was definitely kid approved!
Fruit Pizza Recipe:
Ready in 20 minutes
Serves 12 people
#2 Maple Creme Brulee (Dairy Free!)
This is a really easy and fast dessert, but so incredibly delicious! My four-year-old was so happy to eat this, he even had a second one. I had to put the rest of them away before he could devour another! I used my Instant Pot (if you don’t have one, get one!) However, you can also bake these in the oven as well. I love this dessert because it seems fancy, but really is very simple and quick to make.
Maple Creme Brulee Recipe:
Ready in 20 minutes
Serves 8 people
#3 Brownie Dip
Brownie Dip is my third dessert to share with you. This one earned me a sweet compliment from my little girl. She said, “Mom, you are an amazing cook, this is incredible.” YESSSS!! Parenting win! I wasn’t about to share how easy this was. She can think I’m amazing, anytime. This easy dessert has so many ways to enjoy it. You can use it as a dessert, a snack, a dip with fruit, or anything else you can come up with! We love to eat it with these delicious gluten-free pretzel crisps. It is also really great with apples and other fruits. I made this with almond flour and coconut flour but you could also use ground up hazelnuts and make your own Nutella spread. Pack this in your kids' lunches as a dip for apples and I am sure they will have no problem finishing it.
Brownie Dip Recipe:
Ready in 5 minutes
There you have it! Three yummy desserts that are gluten and dairy free as well as being made without refined sugar. I hope you are able to enjoy these as much as my family has. Comment below with pictures of your kiddos's fruit pizza creations or any recipe questions you have!
Imagine that you’ve gotten tickets to see a world-class orchestra. You put on your best tux or dress, shine your shoes, shave your legs, and curl your hair… all the nice stuff you do for an elegant evening out with your significant other. You arrive at the concert hall and make your way to your seat, a sense of diminutive excitement as everyone softly converses while the orchestra warms up their instruments.
The conductor takes his place in front on the rostrum, his baton in hand, ready to guide and lead the musicians through pages of illustrious and sweeping musical adventures. The orchestra is divided into two halves- strings one the left, woodwinds and brass on the right. Percussion is in the back, ready to keep the structure and rhythm upon which the orchestra will build the complex and beautiful music. The baton is raised above the conductor’s head and as he begins to move it, the orchestra begins to play, gently, softly, tenderly pulling your ears toward the harmonious wonder of such talented artists.
Within moments, you realize something is off. “What is that sound”, you furtively ask your husband. “Am I missing something?” He looks at you, eyebrows raised, and nods… “Something doesn’t sound right,” he whispers.
If you were a musical expert with perfect pitch, you would notice that, while every single instrument is present, polished, and tuned perfectly, and every musician is seated and ready to perform, there is a subtle, yet noticeable lack of coordination. The conductor is trying his best to keep his composure, but he is rapidly growing frustrated.
The strings section has a violinist who is a quarter note behind the other violins. There is a flutist who is playing in the wrong key. Half of the brass instruments are a full measure behind the orchestra. Overall, a strong majority of the instruments on the right side of the orchestra are just plain off. They aren’t playing at the same speed as the rest of the orchestra. Sure, there are a few random instruments that are making some mistakes, but the clear and obvious problem is that the right side of the orchestra is just not in rhythm with the rest of the group!
The conductor, losing his ability to remain calm, speeds up the entire orchestra, hoping that the dramatic increase will mask the growing disparity in the sounds being created. The people in the audience are growing impatient. Exchanging looks of irritation and frustration, people are shifting in their seats, expecting more from the obviously gifted musicians. It doesn’t seem to matter; the music still doesn’t sound right. And changing the tempo has thrown off a few of the instruments who weren’t prepared to play faster; they’re growing fatigued.
A few members of the audience leave. The orchestra and the conductor are embarrassed, but they can’t leave. They are forced to keep playing. The show must go on, but no one is happy.
Sounds awful, right? This is precisely what is happening in the brain of a person, child or adult, with any of a range of problems called neurodevelopmental delays, or what we call, a hemispheric imbalance. These problems can range from severe language delays to processing problems to sensory symptoms to attention and focus issues to severe autism-- and everything in between:
In simple terms, when one side of the brain has more individual regions that are not communicating with each other at the same speed as other regions, leading to an overall imbalance in the connection between the two sides of the brain, the “music” that the brain produces is out of synchronization and lacks harmony.
When this happens, the frustration is often as bad for the child (or adult) as it is for the people who are in the audience- usually the parents and teachers. Referring to the orchestra analogy, the speeding up of the conductor is often accomplished through using stimulant medications. In some cases, this works a little or even a lot, but it renders the music as still “off”, even if less obvious than before.
There is something else that happens as well. In the analogy, it's the percussion is in the back of the orchestra. In the brain, the back of the orchestra is the brain stem. This is where the most basic and primitive reflexes originate. Check out more on primitive reflexes HERE. When the function of the brain is imbalanced, the signal coming from the brain stem starts to really interfere with the function, so now, instead of just imbalanced function, you also have impulses that can cause even further disruption to the flow of the the person’s day. Difficulty sitting still, looking back and forth from a Smartboard to the paper, listening to the teacher while other noises are occurring in the classroom. And this list goes on and on. And the more fatigued the strong areas of the brain become while trying to compensate for the slow areas, the more discord is seen in the symptoms of the person with the imbalance.
We have worked with hundreds of kids and families who have had wonderful epiphanies through learning that this simple concept of hemispheric imbalance is the root cause of so many of the problems their child (or spouse) is dealing with. Knowing the cause of the problem is vitally important because it can give one major benefit to struggling moms and dads:
HOPE. If we know where the problem is, we can put a plan in place to start fixing it!
Do you know anyone whose orchestra seems to have some instruments that are lacking synchronization?
Are kids innately obedient or innately rebellious?
I think the answer is a bit of a paradox that deserves exploring. If you ask any parent of a 2 to 18-year-old child, they will tell you that their amazing, wonderful, brilliant, one-of-a-kind kiddo is absolutely occasionally kinda totally rebellious-ish. What. The. Deuce. Does that mean?
The short answer is this: Kids are innately rebellious and, simultaneously, hard-wired for obedience. They WANT a structure that helps them choose to obey and receive the rewards and positive consequences associated with their good behavior. But they are not born with the innate ability to create that structure. We, as parents, have to provide that for them.
Creating the structure that our kids need in order to push themselves gently, or sometimes forcefully, into obedience can be done a couple of different ways.
One way is through simple consistency and simplicity in parenting. By merely creating an environment of positive and negative feedback with each good and/or bad behavior that is reinforced each time by each parent as a lifestyle, you create a subconscious environment that the child will inevitably learn and to which they will gradually assimilate. This is the hardest way because it requires so much discipline on the part of the parents. It is probably the oldest way of creating obedient children.
There are many variations of the types of positive/negative feedback and just as many variations on the amount of obedience required by families. I don’t think there is one right standard of behavior. For example, you may not want your kids jumping on the bed or the couch. In our house, we encourage it. The standard that I believe is not relative to the family, but is the actual difference between behavior and obedience.
A child who defies the rules and policies of their home is engaging in disobedience, even if the behavior is not necessarily a negative or destructive behavior. If mom and dad say not to jump on the bed, but little boy does it anyway, that is disobedience and needs to be addressed appropriately.
Bringing obedience-based discipline into consciousness has been such a huge change for so many families I’ve worked with over the years. I will tell you, though, that the biggest mistake I see made is that there is not clarification made for the children.
“Tommy, if you jump on the bed, you’ll have to go to time out.”
This tells Tommy that there is a negative consequence to his doing a very fun thing that he REAAAALLLLLYYYYY wants to do. Tommy must now choose between not doing a very fun thing and doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. How can he do that at 4 years old? I know a lot of adults who can’t even pull that off!
Enter the concept of RTO.
If you ask my 7 and 4-year olds, they will tell you that:
“R is for Respect. When mommy and daddy ask us to do something, we show respect by saying, “Yes sir and yes ma’am!”
“T is for Trust. Trust means that we believe that what mommy and daddy are telling us is good for us.”
“O is for Obedience. Obedience means doing the thing that mommy and daddy asked you to do and OBEY RIGHT AWAY! And if we want to ask “why” or another question, we can ask after it’s done.”
I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago called “Lock it up.” Almost every time I had my kids lock it up for the first year, I would go through RTO with them and have them each say it back to me as best they could. While they are locked up is a great time, maybe the best time, to talk about RTO because they are already in a state of obedience and attention.
The real power of teaching this concept lies in the consciousness and the contrast.
Let me explain that. When you have the children learn that they are responsible for obeying, they will naturally look for a pattern to that.
The right brain will subconsciously absorb the unspoken pattern, but the left brain is looking for the very conscious, defined, literal pattern. Which is exactly what RTO gives: A conscious pattern that the child can follow in order to achieve obedience and positive consequences. The contrast can now be made between the conscious decision to engage in RTO or to disobey and have negative consequences.
If you want to know more about which side of the brain is stronger for your child, take this short assessment! Figuring out your child's cognitive style and hemispheric weakness is key to parenting and communicating with them effectively.
Here’s the fun part-- Rather than getting immediately frustrated and/or angry and snapping at a child who is being disobedient, you can put a buffer between that moment and the moment where you have to enforce consequences for your kiddo’s disobedience.
You can say, as loudly as you want to (although I recommend a moderate tone when you are frustrated), “LOCK IT UP!” Then, ask them to tell you what RTO means. They may sullenly repeat it back to you, tail between their legs. This is when you must revert to the true “lock it up” posture. It is so important that during this moment, they stand with confident, strong posture and look you in the eye.
This is the moment they get to own up to their behavior and make a quick change, a quick decision that will alter their outcome. In life, they will not always get to have a buffer between bad choices and consequences, but during the learning phase of life, this will prove invaluable. It will teach them how to plan their actions and make choices more quickly and effectively.
Soon, when your kids are pushing back on something you ask them to do, you will do what my wife and I do-- simply look at the kids and gently ask them, “RTO?”
They will think for a second and say back to you, usually somewhat quietly and with a bit of reluctance, “RTO…” and they will go do what you asked. And many times, they will do it with a quiet joy on their face because they are hard-wired to be obedient and you just gave them the tools to do it.
GUT or BRAIN
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
That question is both existential and highly debatable.
The question of whether the gut or the brain is in charge, although it seems the same, has a definite answer that's probably going to surprise you.
Simply put: Your gut contributes to the function of your brain and your brain contributes to the balance of your gut; but your brain is the one in charge. Without your brain, your digestion would not exist. That cannot be said the other way. Your brain would still grow and develop and function without your gut. Obviously, you need to be able to eat to survive, but we can work around a dysfunctional gut. A dysfunctional brain causes downstream problems in every other system.
We're actually functioning with imbalanced versions of BOTH. An imbalanced brain causes an imbalanced gut. And an imbalanced gut can heavily contribute to an imbalanced brain.
Due to the fact that someone can have a perfectly healthy brain and experience an event that creates serious disruption to the gut biome (bacterial balance) of the gut, which, in turn, affects the way a person feels and thinks, it's very easy for us to believe that the gut controls the brain. Just remember this: The belly influences the brain, but it is not the main computer.
It bears saying that your brain is not actually a computer, but it is an easy way to think about the difference between the brain and the gut. There is an incredibly strong relationship between the two, but one is clearly in charge. The absolute proof is that your brain also controls your heart and breathing. The brain is the control mechanism for EVERYTHING you do, including digestion.
Does that mean you can put whatever you want into your gut without consequence? Absolutely not. Actually, please please do not do that. Your gut is a sensitive environment of acids, bases, and bacteria that must be in balance in order for you to have optimum digestion and brain function. When you allow your gut to get out of balance, you can expect your brain to react because your brain RESPONDS to the influence of the digestive system, much the same way your brain responds to other stimuli, such as screen time, sedentary activities, and even chemicals like drugs and pharmaceuticals.
So what's the big takeaway here? If you are having digestive problems, don't just look at your stomach for answers. It is vitally important that you look at the overall picture of your life and determine if you have a potential brain imbalance that has lead, over time, to an imbalance in your digestion of complex proteins, such as gluten or casein, or a sensitivity to soy, or even high fructose corn syrup.
Conversely, if you are having cognitive symptoms, like brain fog, depression, anger, focus, or attention problems, don't overlook your gut just because the problem seems to be coming from your brain. The inseparable and complex relationship between your brain and your gut demands that you must always look at both when addressing many of the health problems and "psychological" symptoms that are now affecting millions of people in the U.S.
The great news is that once you determine if you are having a bad gut reaction to a stimulus e.g., a high dose of antibiotics, or if your brain is imbalanced and causing your gut to struggle with digesting certain foods correctly, there are some simple things you can do to rectify the SOURCE of the problem. If it is your brain, you can do exercises that help with hemispheric integration and brain stem function. Your brain stem is heavily involved in regulating the way you process and digest food. If it is your gut, you can take high-quality probiotics and follow protocols to help restore the balance to the bacteria levels.
One great thing that EVERYONE should start doing right away is eating fermented veggies, such as sauerkraut. This is an inexpensive way to give your gut some great bacteria that will help regulate the way your stomach handles food and drinks.
Remember, it’s not magic. It’s biology. Your gut and your brain are either working together or against each other, and either for you or against you. The way you treat them both is in direct proportion to the quality of life you will get from them.
Do you have any symptoms that you think might be caused by a gut or brain imbalance?
Click the link below for a free questionnaire to help you determine if your brain and your gut are working together (or against each other) to create symptoms for yourself or your loved one.
Why your imbalanced child hates to wear pants
“Honey, you have to wear pants. It’s cold outside.”
“But Mom, I’m not that cold!”
“Honey there’s snow on the ground.”
“I know, but I don’t get cold as long as I’m wearing a jacket!"
“Sweetheart do you know what they’re going to say about me if you go to school wearing shorts in the winter?”
“I know but please don’t make me wear pants!”
"*sigh* Fine, but you have to wear a coat.”
This is a real conversation that I’ve heard parents talk about hundreds of times by now. There are so many variations of this conversation, but the theme is the same. A kiddo just doesn’t want to wear a certain type of clothing, fabric, or even a certain size of clothes.
I’ve met a lot of these kids and they all have their own unique sense of the way things feel around them; and here’s what I know: Despite what the kids (and even some adults) might say, this child is not weird. This child is not dumb. This child has what is called tactile hyposensitivity. The word tactile means “of or connected with the sense of touch.” Hyposensitivity means “a lower than normal sensitivity to stimuli.”
Literally speaking, this child cannot appropriately or properly detect certain stimuli. When talking about temperature, hyposensitivity is often the issue.
Hypersensitivity is -you guessed it- the opposite. Hypersensitivity is defined as “a higher than normal sensitivity to stimuli.” When our kiddos struggle with the way tags feel in their shirt or pants, or obsess about how their socks line up on their toes, how tight their shoes and clothes are, and the fabrics that they’re made of, tactile hypersensitivity is the culprit.
It's absolutely common for kiddos to have some hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity at the same time. I hear all the time from our clients "He doesn't want to be hugged our touched, but he loves to rough-house! Or, "He can fall and get bruises and play rough, but as soon as he gets a cut or scrape, it's like the end of the world!" There can be, what looks like, a crazy disconnect between how kids respond to different stimuli, which makes people wonder if they're "just being dramatic" or "making it up for attention." You need to hear this: That is not at all the case. These poor kiddos are so uncomfortable in ways that we can barely even comprehend, and they deserve to be believed.
Imagine having an itch all day long that you just aren't allowed to scratch. You just have to sit there all day, suffering, unable to focus, pay attention, or engage with others because that feeling is driving you absolutely insane. It's distracting, uncomfortable, and makes you never ever want to be in that situation again. That's how these kids feel in their clothes that they complain about. So it's okay to let them off the hook.
Hyper- and hyposensitivity are both just a problem with the nervous system doing its job correctly; which means there’s good news for you. If you work at it, you can actually retrain the brain (and, therefore, the nervous system) so your child’s sensitivity problems can actually get better.
One great way to retrain the brain is to stimulate the skin using vibration. This helps coordinate and connect the networks in the brain that control the stimulation of the nerves in the skin. Many kids with hyper- or hypo- sensitivity will have a response to the vibration, depending on how powerful it is and where it is placed. I recommend starting with as low of vibration as you can get, as far away from the brain as possible. For example, you can take a TENS unit and put the pads on their left ankle on a low setting and see how they react immediately, and also after 60 seconds, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and 20 minutes.
If the child becomes overwhelmed at the 10-minute mark, then you might consider repeating this placement and level of vibration until they can tolerate it for 20 minutes before you move up in location and intensity.
Continue moving the TENS unit up the body & closer to the brain when you notice that your child can tolerate the vibration at each individual location for 20 minutes. Move from the ankle to the knee, to the hip, to the wrist, to the outside of the forearm under the elbow, to the shoulder, to the left (about an inch and a half) of the lower spine, to the left of the mid-spine, and finally to the left of the upper spine right underneath their head.
It's important to understand that you can overstimulate a child with this, so please be tender with them if they get cranky or irritable. Their brain is working hard to accommodate this much stimulation. Be patient, but be diligent. This can help them feel better in a big way!
Ready for more good news? We’re giving away a TENS unit to one of our lucky readers! Just fill out your information below and we’ll announce the winner on 3/21.
By making these little changes to your daily routine, you can start to retrain and rewire your child’s brain for an easier, happier, and more comfortable future.
We’d love to hear your own experiences with tactile sensitivity - how does it look in your kiddo? Drop a comment below to share. It’s so powerful to hear that there are other parents out there struggling with the same things you are. You never know - there might be a scared momma out there right now that just needs to hear that she’s not the only one dealing with a child that refuses to wear jeans.
So don’t be shy, we love hearing from you!
P.S. If your kiddo is struggling with tactile sensitivity, I know that they’re struggling with more than that too. Check out our webinar to learn more about how you can become your child’s very own Brain Integration Training Coach.
“OH MY GOSH, I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!”
Have you ever thought (or yelled) those words when your kids were out of control - screaming, yelling, tantruming, throwing a fit, or even just playing too rambunctiously? I know I have. When my three kids are too loud and I’m trying to have a phone conversation, I can feel my cortisol levels rising and all I can think to myself is “Please God, help me not fistfight these children” (kidding. kind of.) shortly followed by, “I’m a terrible parent. They are just being kids!”
There are so many situations when I need them to be quiet or to stop doing an activity or to simply listen closely to what I’m about to say. And up until I discovered this concept, those situations often lead to either them or I or all of us feeling pretty sad. Or as we say in my house, "sadballs." That’s when your eyeballs are sad. We're weird.
My initial inclination was to write this just for dads because we’re the only ones with a temper problem and a disdain for loud children…….... Bahahahahaha! Clearly, that’s not true, so this is definitely for you too Mama. And you’re gonna want to teach this to the grandparents and anyone else who keeps your kids for more than about 4 hours at a time. What I’m about to show you has completely changed our house and our environment, whether we’re at home or out in public or even in church.
“Lock it up!”
This phrase echoes through our house multiple times per day. I'm guessing somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 times per day. Sometimes it's playful. Sometimes it's imperative. Sometimes it's juuuuust before one of us gets frustrated or angry. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is just slightly AFTER one of us gets frustrated or angry. FULL DISCLOSURE: I get frustrated more than she does.
I can think of 3 families I know off the top of my head where the mom is the one who gets angry quickest; and I can think of 9 where it’s Dad. I don't know if that sample size is enough to make any type of judgment about whether moms or dads are the main offenders; but what I do know is that this “lock it up” tool is a great equalizer in our home, and I know it can work for you too.
Whatever the scenario, using this phrase creates the platform of calm, structured, clear thinking for all my children and for my wife and me. I will give you some scenarios in which we use it that make it invaluable, first. Then, I’ll show you how to use it.
WHAT IS IT?
I say, "lock it up" and they all come running and lock it up in front of me. They put their feet together and their hands clenched in a fist down at their sides of the thighs. They put their shoulders back and their chest out with their head held up and they confidently and loudly pronounce, “YES SIR!”
That's right. It's got a very military feel to it. In fact, that's where I learned it. My training instructors would say to us in a very loud, staccato tone, “ATTENTION!”. Except the way they said it, it sounded like, “TENCH-HUT!”
Anyone who has been in the military will recognize that sound immediately. There is no replacement for the satisfaction of coming to the position of military attention to receive commands and instructions or to pay respect to the flag or the national anthem. In a group setting such as basic training, this not only gives great respect to the authority in charge, but it brings calmness to the individual and the group.
Getting ready for church - Everyone is playing and snuggling and running a living-room-sectional-obstacle-course that brings all goers within an inch of death as they approach the bricks near the fireplace. We need to leave in 14 minutes. I yell moderately loudly, “Lock it up!” and they all come running to wherever I am and stand in front of me in that rigid position and shout “Yes sir!”. Yes, even my 1-year-old. He has a little more difficulty standing perfectly still, but he gives it his best and I respect that.
It’s okay if they aren’t perfect, but they do have to try. Now, I simply give them one instruction: “Go put on your clothes for church. Not your shoes though. Just your clothes. Raise your hand if you understand.” They raise their hands and I say, “Very good. As soon as you have your clothes on, come back and lock it up again. GO!” They scurry off and get their clothes on and 5-8 minutes later, they find me somewhere in the house, lock it up, and wait.
When they’re arguing - Hopefully this is not happening too much in your house. But with a 6 and 3 year old, both of whom are strong-willed, it’s inevitable. Like, several times a day. When you yell “lock it up” with this one, it’s important to note that they will probably be fighting tears, sniffling, wiping snot, making faces, crying, being generally angry, or even just flat-out sobbing and can’t lock it up. That last one deserves its own blog post and I’ll cover that later. As long as they’re capable of standing there, the details are fairly irrelevant.
I just stand there and look at them until they calm down. I will encourage them to breathe in deeply through their nose and slowly out through their mouth, and I’ll do it with them so they model me. Oxygen calms the nervous system, plain and simple. I won’t engage any questions or give any directions until I have them calm and steady and in their correct posture. It’s important that this be a chance for them (and you) to regain composure.
Before you leave the house - When I’m about to leave for work or even just the gym, I have them lock it up. I say it quietly and with a smile. They know this tone is different. I’m telling them it’s time for some affection. I will stand in front of them and assess their posture, maybe make a gentle, affirming correction. I look in their eyes, one at a time. I tell them I need to leave, but I need hugs and kisses and to talk to them for a second. We've done this for so long, they know what I’m going to say, for the most part, and they’re happy to beat me to it.
“Alright my babies… I gotta go do some work and help some people. Be sure to listen to Mommy. Do what she asks. Take care of each other. Look out for Remy (the 1-year-old). RTO?” They respond, “RTO!” (RTO is a soon-coming blog.) I get down on my knees, open my arms, and whoever gets in there first hugs me and kisses me. I look them in the eyes, touch their face or hold a hand, and say, “I love you. I’m proud of you. Do your best okay?” They look in my eyes and agree with me and tell me they love me. I do this with all 3 of them and then stand up and blow kisses as I walk out.
HOW TO TEACH IT
I don’t recommend starting this in a frustrated moment. Actually, I’ll just tell you that’s a recipe for disaster. It needs to start as a game. The way we did it was kinda like Simon Says. I said, “Hey, let’s play a game!” They, of course, enthusiastically agreed.
“Okay, I’m gonna give you a task like ‘jump up and down in place’. You start doing it and when I say “lock it up”, you have to stand just like this” and I demonstrated the position. After 7 or 8 different tasks and locking it up, they were trained to respond to the command. We played the game for several days before we even used it to get their attention. Once you’ve gotten them to associate it with having fun, it will not be negative when they hear it later. Even when you’re a year into it and you’re using it to break up a fight, they will respond to it well and consistently.
I know that they continue to respond to it because it has a great benefit to it when used consistently and confidently. Actually, it has two great benefits.
You can lock yourself up when you lock the kids up. And just stand there and remind yourself that you are in charge of them… and yourself. You get to choose how you want to model for them what it means to be gracious and patient and tender. Locking yourself up gives you that moment you need to get everything under control in your house and in your emotional storm that is swirling inside you.
Those chemicals do not get to control you. You get to control you. And you get to control your kids. But you can do it with the kind of emotional regulation and maturity that you so badly want them to have and that you want to be the one from whom they learn it.
There’s much more I can write about this concept, especially with older kids. It’s really never too late to implement this. I’ll bring in some more about this in a later post. For now, I recommend you start with the game. I actually wrote down our games we used over the first three days to share with you. You can download it here!
Oh, I almost forgot! You don’t have to use the phrase “Lock it up!” I recently talked to a mom who uses the word “Tuck”. She simply had her children tuck themselves into a ball on the floor to accomplish the same thing. You can use any phrase you want, as long as you can teach it as a game and then use it consistently with everyone in your family.
Let me know if you come up with something different and, either way, let me know how this idea works for you and your family! I can’t wait to hear your stories!
P.S. Do not try to use this on your spouse without making it a game. Trust me.
P.P.S. You're going to want to check out our webinar coming up soon! It's free and it's all about helping you understand why your child is struggling. We'll teach you the science of functional neurology, and talk about how you can start doing things yourself at home to start to remediate their symptoms of ADHD, ADD, ODD, Autism, and any other neurobehavioral disorder. Register here!
(AND STOP THE ARGUING TODAY!)
Parents, you know the struggle is real. Getting your child to eat foods other than chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, pizza, and hot dogs can be one of the most frustrating parts of your day. The cycle of feeding your family is tiring and never-ending, and when they don't want to eat what we prepare, it can be so discouraging.
I'll be honest, I'm often tempted to just prepare the things they will eat; but I force myself to continue to fight that battle every single day.
I think to myself, "Why Ang? Why do that to yourself? You have SO MANY other things to think about, care about, and an endless amount of work between homeschooling, house cleaning, and the obvious, engaging in life with your kids, and not to mention you're seven months pregnant!"
I know, I know...but hear me out!
One day, they will get it. I’ll wake up and they will have this appreciation for health and wellness! They will be faced with hard choices on what they put in their mouths when they are hungry or bored and when they are sad and wanting comfort.
Maybe, just maybe, I will be the voice in their head to help them become healthy adults who want to take care of themselves.
Our bodies are meant to be nourished by foods, not abused by food. Sure, we take a multivitamin each day but I know that my children are healthier when they get their nutrients straight from the source that God intended.
So as I continue this journey, I know I’m not alone. You are out there, struggling with the same daily battles, and I’m here to help you. Over the years, I have discovered five easy tips to help my kids and your kids eat healthy and love the foods they are eating!
So let's get started!
1. NO SNACKING 45 MINUTES BEFORE A MEAL
I found this awesome tip from Jordan Page (Check her out at FunCheapOrFree.com, she's amazing!) She tells her kids “the kitchen is closed until dinner time!” and my kids get such a kick out of this. Now anytime I tell them to get a snack now or wait until lunch, they ask, "is the kitchen closing?!?" Yes sir, it is! My 3-year-old gets a little worried. He used to think it’s the end of the world, but he’s come to terms with it now.
It takes time getting them into the habit of a snack at an earlier time so they aren't coming in the kitchen just before mealtime searching for food. Another benefit of doing this is to teach them that you aren’t always hanging out in the kitchen, ready to serve them. I don’t know about you, but I found myself constantly fixing them food! If it wasn’t a meal, it was snacks, and then five minutes later, a drink.
I was often being interrupted with food needs. Telling them the kitchen is closed has really helped a ton. Keep your eye out for a later post where I show you how to help them become more independent in getting their own snacks and food! It’s a game changer! For now, make sure they are not eating anything at LEAST 45 minutes before a meal.
Then when it's time to eat, they are nice and hungry and more likely to eat the food on their plate.
2. LET THEM COOK WITH YOU
Kids LOVE to cook! I started cooking with my kids since they were old enough to hold a spatula. Yes it gets messy and yes it takes longer but it creates so many opportunities to connect with them, make memories, and teach them to appreciate and understand the process.
I’m not saying it is always easy. Cooking with all of them can get a bit CRAY CRAY! When my husband is home and can entertain our youngest, it is WAY easier.
They are pretty eager to help (and sample, of course). My oldest gets more responsibility than my 3 and 1 year old. She’s a strong-willed child and a natural leader. So giving her responsibility is key to interacting with her. She NEEDS to feel like she is contributing to the process, not just following instructions. When we cook, I let her make decisions and create her own way (within boundaries, of course). She's only six, but she can use the stove top to cook things and knives to cut up veggies. She’s a bit over-confident, so I have to watch her at times and remind her of a few guidelines. She knows she isn’t allowed to use the stove unless an adult is awake and present.
Mikey (3), has been cracking eggs successfully (without pieces of shells falling in! (mom brag)) since he was two. He feels so proud to be able to do it. I usually have him crack the eggs into a separate bowl as a “just in case,” so I can pick out shells easier if I need to. My 21-month-old mainly just wants to eat whatever is being made; but he does love to stir and dump ingredients in. He is obsessed with eating though, so giving him something to snack on while we are cooking is key.
Get your kids involved with meal prepping! Let them chop up veggies for salads or cooking throughout the week. Try having them use a butter knife; it works great. Not only does this help me with all the food prep work for the week, but it keeps their little hands busy while I take on other tasks.
When it's almost time to eat, have your child set the table. A long time ago, I worked in a restaurant and we learned how to fold cloth napkins the fancy way.
It makes the table look so elegant and I love doing this at home. I taught my daughter how to do it and she picked it up really fast! Give them responsibilities. Having them fill their own plates with the food themselves allows them to interact with the food before actually eating it. Do your kids like their food separated? We buy these really fun plates that have dividers. I’ll link them here! They come in so many fun colors and my kids just love them.
Cooking together has a ton of benefits. It includes them in the process, and helps develop an understanding and appreciation for the food that is made for them.
3. MAKE IT A FUN EXPERIENCE
Who doesn’t love games?! This tip has been a game-changer for us. Make it fun!!! When they sense the stress in your voice it makes them feel more stressed and they just lock down even more. As much as I want to rush through the mealtime process and get to the next thing (because don’t we all have a million things to do), it will only cause you to take two steps back in progress. These games are not JUST for the kids, but for you as a parent to keep things light so that you don't lose your cool on a daily basis.
We don't do a lot of screen time but one thing that has been so helpful for us is to watch kids’ cooking shows with them. It has helped develop their excitement for cooking and creativity.
This isn't a kid one - but we watch "Beat Bobby Flay". Anyone else a fan?? Bobby Flay is this incredibly talented chef with the ability to build layers of flavor in his dishes that makes it difficult for others to beat him in a competition. In the show, when it is time for judging, they say, "Judges, please try your first plate." Then, the judges critique the dish and then they tell them to try the second plate, then vote. My kids think this is super fun to do at the dinner table.
The kids are the judges. I make both dishes but they get to vote on which one is their favorite! I usually make one dish be a new food, one that is going to be a stretch for them to try. The other dish is still new to them but maybe a little more desirable.
Maybe sometimes both dishes can be a stretch for them, or they can be just new dishes you found on Pinterest to try! Do it however you’d like, and by all means, switch it up so they can’t predict what you will do each time. Our daughter usually tells me it has nice texture but could use more salt. She told me just last night that the pickles added a nice crunch to the dish. 😊
Mikey just makes a gross face and complains while he eats it but I don’t dare talk because he will just keep eating if I don’t look at him or say anything. Hah!
You should try this game! It's so much fun!! Download and use THIS voting card, and THESE and THESE judge printouts for your next "Beat Bobby Flay Game"!
We have tons of FUN with it. If the dish is particularly difficult for them to test out, I will entice them with a dessert afterwards. Mikey has even asked to try a new dish just so he could get a dessert that night. I don’t always want to encourage with sweets though. Offering them an extra book you can read them at bedtime, a board game after dinner, or a sticker chart can do wonders!
Do your kids sit there and meltdown because they don’t want to put the food in their mouth? Try some of these ideas!
Sing songs and change the lyrics like "Pop Goes the Weasel", but instead say "crunch goes the carrot" or "snap goes the cucumber." I like to make their plates visually appealing as well. In their guacamole cups I will often create a face out of carrots, peppers, raisins for eyes. You can find so many creative ways to make food fun for kids. I know I have little kids but this doesn't get old for older kids either. Your older kid may not admit that they enjoy the games or visually appealing food plates but they do! If they don't take to the games, keep trying to find ways to make it fun for them.
My husband taught our kids to hold their nose while they eat something they don’t like. Honestly, I thought this would backfire on us when we first tried it. I was WRONG! There are times when I’ll see them holding their nose and finishing their veggies. It helps the taste be less strong. Who knew? They liked that one.
Are your kids competitive? Make it a competition. We used to race to see who could finish first but then I always worried about them choking. So instead, have them beat their own score. Make a chart and clock the amount they ate. Next time, they have to beat it. When they hit their goal you all can celebrate.
When they still refuse I give them a number goal. They have to eat ten more bites. Usually the negotiations begin. Again, your goal here is to WIN. Win by getting that new food in their mouth without letting your anger get the best of you. It will only make things worse. Win by giving in a little; let them talk you down to a couple less bites of food. Do a countdown while the finish their bites of food. "Four-three-two-one, woohoo!!!!!"
Make each night of the week a theme. There are some nights where we are home and others we come home right at dinner time or after. So plan your nights accordingly. For us, Tuesdays are Travel Food Tuesday. We try foods from other parts of the world. I'll make a dish that is from another country; Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Thai, etc. Wednesday's are What's New Wednesdays, so we try a new dish on Wednesdays.
4. EDUCATE THEM
This may be the homeschool mom in me, but I want my kids to understand the WHY! Why they should eat healthy and why a balanced diet matters. I don't want them to just force that food down just because they are told to. We are setting up their success for the future. So it's our job to educate them on the food groups and teach them how each food nourishes our bodies. We also talk about how each food is grown, by tree, on a bush, or in the ground.
Each meal should have the 5 food groups. Protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit, and dairy (or alternative). Talk about it, quiz them. We love divided plates for this reason. It helps them see the different groups.
Check out THIS ACTIVITY for kids I created. They can match the foods and descriptions to the correct category to which they belong. You can choose a select few to do at a time so you don’t overwhelm them, or do them all! Do this activity before mealtime or as a boredom buster until they can remember the info!
5. IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT!
If today didn’t go well, tomorrow just might. Keep your head up. Count even the small successes a win. Did you know it can take at least ten tries with a new food before your child will start liking it? So don't give up. Keep offering it. Give them two choices of veggies for that night. If I tell my kids, eat all of your broccoli right now, they would probably flip out - thinking it was the worst day in the world. However, if I say, “Broccoli or green beans tonight, which one do you choose?” they will gladly choose out of the two options.
My 3-year-old will often say, "I don't want to eat this, Mom." If I don't respond, sometimes he will start eating it. He says this even about his favorite foods and once his first bite goes down, he gobbles it up. What's with that? Is he just trying to be in control? Quite possibly. Usually once that food finally gets in his mouth, he eats more than the amount we negotiated.
Other times, when I know it will be a battle, I offer a sauce or start a game. You can hide those veggies in meals by chopping then up small. I often use my food processor to help hide those veggies in sauces. I think it's a great way to introduce the flavor but not the texture, and call it a win. My daughter will only eat large chunks of onion willingly one way: sweet pickled onions made lovingly by her Grandpa.
The important thing here to remember is to keep it light. Cheer when they eat something new; root for them. This is a marathon event for the rest of their childhood, so try and enjoy the ride.
Are there any tips that have helped your kids try new foods? Be sure to leave comments below and tell us what has worked for your family!
P.S. We've got an awesome webinar coming soon! Make sure you're registered for it HERE. You'll learn all about what's causing your child's ADHD, ODD, OCD, Sensory problems, Autism, or any other neurobehavioral disorder they have! We're excited to see you there!
That you didn't even realize!
There is SO much going on in the brains of kids with ADHD (and other neurobehavioral disorders) that no one takes the time to talk about. I remember when I learned about these. I was Mind. Blown. It all makes so much sense now that I know..but why had I never heard of this?! I went to school for Special Ed and for some reason no one thought to mention the actual brain.
It’s just crazy to me. I’ve explained these concepts to hundreds of parents and everyone has the exact same reactions you’re about to have. The first is: “Holy cow. Duh! This makes a ton of sense.” and the second is: “Why has my doctor never mentioned this before?!” And I think I know why.
ADHD, OCD, ODD, Autism, and all of the diagnoses in-between aren’t actually medical problems. *gasp.* I know. It kind of goes against everything you thought you knew. I felt the same way.
But consider this. If you take your child to the doctor and say “I think my child has strep throat. He’s coughing and complaining of a sore throat. It looks like strep to me. And the teachers think it’s strep throat too.” And your doctor responded with “Yes! Those symptoms do sound like strep throat. Here’s a medication for strep. Try this out and if things don’t get better, come back and let me know and we’ll try something different.” You’d be FURIOUS right?!
We all know there’s a test for strep throat. They swab your throat, find out the cause, and treat it accordingly.
There is no actual test for neurobehavioral disorders other than tests that focus completely on symptoms. Everyone is just taking a stab at what those symptoms sound like and slapping a label on kids. It’s CRAZINESS. But it’s because (whether they admit it or not,) there is no medical test for ADHD. Because it’s not a medical problem.
It’s a functional problem. Certain parts of the brain just aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do.
So we’re going to talk about functions first and symptoms second. It’s important to know what exactly is happening in the brain that’s causing the problems that you’re seeing.
Let’s get right into it. Here are three of the weakest functions in children with ADHD + some of the symptoms they’ll cause:
(Just FYI: The DSM-5 lists as having 3 distinct types. Type I is inattentive, Type II is hyperactive, and Type III is the combination.)
1. Postural Primitive Reflexes
We’re all born with primitive reflexes. Think about what happens when you put your finger in a baby’s palm. They squeeze it! That’s because of something called the palmar (or grasp) reflex. It’s a literal reflex that babies don’t have any control over. There are tons of primitive reflexes like that, and some of them control our posture. For example, the suppression of the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex is how we are (now) able to separate the up & down movement of our heads from the movement of the rest of our bodies. Babies can’t do that.
The same thing is true with the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex - we can separate the movement of our side-to-side head movement from the rest of the body and babies just can’t yet because of those reflexes. They’re good and important for babies to have, but they have to go away so we can sit up straight and walk and turn our head to talk to someone without needing to turn our entire bodies towards them.
But what if those reflexes are still there? What if your child can’t separate his up & down head movement from the rest of his body? What if..when he looks down to do his homework, his entire body starts to slouch down with him? And then, when he looks back up at the blackboard, his entire body has to adjust. And when someone walks into the classroom unexpectedly, he can’t just turn his head to see who it is, because when he turns his head his whole body has to face that same direction.
And now he’s in trouble for sitting sideways in his seat instead of looking at the board. And now he’s coming home exhausted every day because he has to try to fight off these reflexes all day every day or he’s going to get in trouble. And because he’s so tired and fed-up he snaps at you and just wants to play Fortnite all night instead of hanging out with the family.
Primitive Reflexes are a HUGE deal. And kids with ADHD and other neurobehavioral disorders all have at least some of them still hanging on.
2. Low Proprioception
Your brain is constantly demanding to know exactly where your body is in space. All. The. Time. And people like you and me can just naturally feel where our body is most of the time. Our nervous system is doing what it’s supposed to do. Even the nerves in the very tips of our toes are communicating with our brain quickly and efficiently and the brain never has to wonder where our toes are. That’s called proprioception. It’s your brain’s connection to where your body is in space. And your child very likely has low proprioception.
So what happens when the brain can’t figure out where the toes are (they’re the farthest from the brain) or it can’t even find where the legs are? The brain looks for other ways to get the sensory input it’s looking for and there are two ways it can do that.
The first is through pressure. Some kids (and adults!) with low proprioception NEED pressure. Things like weighted blankets and compression vests are made just for them! Kids will get alllllll up in your personal space, lean on you, hug you, put their feet up on you, and anything else they can think of to give their brain the input that it’s desperate for.
The other is through movement. If your brain can’t detect where a certain body part is, it can activate mechanoreceptors in that area that tell that specific body part to start moving. By getting that part to move around, the brain can get the stimulation it needs to know where our bodies are. This directly translates to your child needing to move around all the time.
Makes sense, right?
Now for the last one.
3. Low Visual Focus
How often do you hear things like “He’s so smart! If he could just focus a little better…” from teachers? What is it in his brain that’s working differently that the kids that don’t have focus problems? It’s simple. The brain can’t control the eyes the way it’s supposed to. To understand this, try to imagine trying to sit and talk to someone and listen to what they have to say while there’s a firework show and a carnival going on behind them.
We would all struggle with that, right? But imagine that same feeling every day. In every situation. All the time. You have no control over you eyes. Imagine that feeling as your sitting in the 4th row of the classroom, and another student to your right has to bend down to pick up his pencil and another kid to your right keeps moving around. And there are colorful posters everywhere. And the student teacher is in the corner helping another student. And everything around you is pulling your attention in 18 different directions. If this sounds like your kiddo, download this exercise I made just for you!
If the brain can’t control the eyes the way it’s supposed to, that’s exactly what’s happening for your child. And that inevitably leads to more frustration and exhaustion by the time the day is over.
There are dozens of other functions to learn about that can affect our kiddos in so many ways.
What are some of the other symptoms your kiddo is dealing with? Leave a comment below so I can write more about what you need!
Download this exercise for better focus! With just one minute/day, you'll start to see some amazing changes!
If this made sense to you, you're going to LOVE our webinar! It's free and it's about 30 minutes long. Register here! There's a bonus that you won't want to miss. (Hint: You'll get to talk directly with me!)