Monthly Archives: June 2006

Caught a BM!

We caught our first BM in the toilet today! We made a big deal out of it — special treats of ice cream at 10AM, lots of praise.

We’ll see how he does…

Bringing the Mountain to Mohammed

I was listening to the most recent Focus On Your Child CD this weekend, and there was a segment about potty training that caught my interest. The pediatrician that was being interviewed was giving a lot of tips about potty training, and said that one of the most important things the parent can do to encourage their child to have a bowel movement on the toilet is to make sure their knees are higher than their waists. He suggests using a small potty chair instead of a ring on the adult toilet.

George seems to hide under the table whenever he wants to have a BM. So, I put his potty chair under the table along with a little box for his feet to elevate his knees. I took his diaper off after breakfast and told him to have a BM in the potty, let me know if he needed help, etc.

He sat on it off and on, and about an hour after he ate, he had his first BM on the potty! I was so proud, we made a huge deal, took pictures (I know — add that to my list of things I never thought I’d do!) and had an ice cream sandwich with candles in it! Special treats for such a good job.

I’m thrilled that he’s put one and two together (ha) and I’m going to keep encouraging him. He woke up wet from his nap, but I’m hoping that I can encourage him to use the potty more during the day.

Whenever he’s ready, he’ll learn to use the potty. I have heard about parents who decide to force their kids to potty train because the daycare won’t take them until they’re trained. I’m so thankful we aren’t in that situation, that he’s able to learn at his own pace and not be forced into something he’s not ready for.

My mom told me that my brother potty trained in about a week, because she read his cues and realized when he was ready. How much easier to for your child when you’re in tune with them — not to mention, less stressful for the parent.

Ethan’s Pulling Up

In other news, Ethan pulled himself up on the outside of the bathtub today. (Why is it that they like to congregate in the bathroom while I’m taking a bath? Tons of toys in the living room, but they want to ‘help’ me in the bathroom.)

I thought it was just an anomaly, but he did it a second time. He’s really trying hard to keep up with George; he’s combat crawling all over the place (has the rug burns on his knees to prove it. I wish I had little kneepads for him!) and rocks back and forth on his knees. He’s also going from a crawling position to a sitting position.

And he’s eating so well! I’m not as haphazard with solids as I was with George. Ethan gets organic oatmeal and fruit every mornng, nurses all day (sometimes literally, it seems) and then organic rice cereal and veggies at dinner. Even if he doesn’t like something at first (carrots and bananas were a big yuck) I keep trying it, and he’s been really good about eating everything I’ve given him. I wasn’t so disciplined with George, and he tends to be a little more finicky.

Live and learn!

Crying over a Toilet

The toilet and sink are installed and working! I was so excited to see the bathroom switches wired and the sink and toilet installed and working, I cried.

I admit it; I’m a sucker for finished plumbing.

Marshmallows and Public Policy

I finally located this excellent article that ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer last month. I’ve discussed it with several friends, and I wanted to post it here:

Marshmallows and Public Policy
by David Brooks
Sunday May 7, 2006 New York Times

Around 1970, Walter Mischel launched a classic experiment. He left a succession of 4-year-olds in a room with a bell and a marshmallow. If they rang the bell, he would come back and they could eat the marshmallow. If, however, they didn’t ring the bell and waited for him to come back on his own, they could then have two marshmallows.

In videos of the experiment, you can see the children squirming, kicking, hiding their eyes — desperately trying to exercise self-control so they can wait and get two marshmallows. Their performance varied widely. Some broke down and rang the bell within a minute. Others lasted 15 minutes.

The children who waited longer went on to get higher SAT scores. They got into better colleges and had, on average, better adult outcomes. The children who rang the bell quickest were more likely to become bullies. They received worse teacher and parental evaluations 10 years on and were more likely to have drug problems at age 32.

The Mischel experiments are worth noting because people in the policy world spend a lot of time thinking about how to improve education, how to reduce poverty, how to make the most of the nation’s human capital. But when policy makers address these problems, they come up with structural remedies: reduce class sizes, create more charter schools, increase teacher pay, mandate universal day care, try vouchers.

The results of these structural reforms are almost always disappointingly modest. And yet policy makers rarely ever probe deeper into problems and ask the core questions, such as how do we get people to master the sort of self-control that leads to success? To ask that question is to leave the policy makers’ comfort zone — which is the world of inputs and outputs, appropriations and bureaucratic reform — and to enter the murky world of psychology and human nature.

And yet the Mischel experiments, along with everyday experience, tell us that self-control is essential. Young people who can delay gratification can sit through sometimes boring classes to get a degree. They can perform rote tasks in order to, say, master a language. They can avoid drugs and alcohol.

For people without self-control skills, however, school is a series of failed ordeals. No wonder they drop out. Life is a parade of foolish decisions: teen pregnancy, drugs, gambling, truancy and crime.

If you’re a policy maker and you are not talking about core psychological traits like delayed gratification skills, then you’re just dancing around with proxy issues. You’re not getting to the crux of the problem.

The research we do have on delayed gratification tells us that differences in self-control skills are deeply rooted but also malleable. Differences in the ability to focus attention and exercise control emerge very early, perhaps as soon as nine months. The prefrontal cortex does the self-control work in the brain, but there is no consensus on how much of the ability to exercise self-control is hereditary and how much is environmental.

The ability to delay gratification, like most skills, correlates with socioeconomic status and parenting styles. Children from poorer homes do much worse on delayed gratification tests than children from middle-class homes. That’s probably because children from poorer homes are more likely to have their lives disrupted by marital breakdown, violence, moving, etc. They think in the short term because there is no predictable long term.

The good news is that while differences in the ability to delay gratification emerge early and persist, that ability can be improved with conscious effort. Moral lectures don’t work. Sheer willpower doesn’t seem to work either. The children who resisted eating the marshmallow didn’t stare directly at it and exercise iron discipline. On the contrary, they were able to resist their appetites because they were able to distract themselves, and think about other things.

What works, says Jonathan Haidt, the author of ”The Happiness Hypothesis,” is creating stable, predictable environments for children, in which good behavior pays off — and practice. Young people who are given a series of tests that demand self-control get better at it over time.

This pattern would be too obvious to mention if it weren’t so largely ignored by educators and policy makers. Somehow we’ve entered a world in which we obsess over structural reforms and standardized tests, but skirt around the moral and psychological traits that are at the heart of actual success. Walter Mischel tried to interest New York schools in programs based on his research. Needless to say, he found almost no takers.


Ethan’s sick with something viral; the pediatrician said they’ve been seeing an outbreak of roseola lately, and to keep an eye out for a rash.

He spiked yesterday from his normal 97.7 to 101.9 within an hour or so; I don’t think he even had a fever when he got tooth #1, so I knew it wasn’t related to teething. He’s also napping fitfully every few hours, which is absolutely not in character for him.

Rx for fluids, rest, lots of nursey and Tylenol to keep him comfortable.


When you smile at me, I cry
And to save your life I’d die
With a romance that is pure in heart
You are my dearest part
Whatever it requires
I live for your desires
Forget my own, your needs will come before
Who could ever love you more?
–Celine Dion, “Miracle”

Every once in a while I am overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenthood. When you marry, you promise to love, honor, obey, cherish etc. your husband. Many will put the needs of their spouse before their own. (The really mature among us put the best interests of the family unit above the desires of the individual.)

But children change that dynamic. I can’t survive on less than 8 hours of sleep a night; yet I willingly wake at three-hour intervals to care for Ethan. When either of the boys are sick, I walk the floors waiting for the comforts of Mommy and Tylenol to help them rest easier.

You worry about the kind of world in which they are growing up; you shelter them from foul language and bad behavior and instill in them the Golden Rule and good morals and values. And you pray that they will make the right decisions when they get older.

Having kids is tantamount to letting your heart walk around outside of your body.