Doctor Q&A

Rise and Shine Expo – Dr Peter Sears on Raising Smart, Well-Behaved Child – Parenting Balance

Parenting Rise and Shine Dr Sears
Raising well behaved and smart kids with Dr Peter Sears

This is a 2-part series on a workshop that I’ve attended at Singapore Rise and Shine Expo, by Dr Peter Sears, ‘Raising smart and ALSO well-behaved child – Is it true that we shouldn’t spare the rod and spoil the child?’ Last week was on parenting styles, and Dr. Peter Sears is board-certified by The American Academy of Family Practitioners.

Balance in Parenting

Dr Peter Sears shared that balance is a key aspect in parenting and a few areas which tend to be off-balance are:

Father/Child relationship – For some families, the father may not be as involved as the mother, particularly in the early years. Dr Sears encouraged dad’s early involvement, instead of waiting till the child is preschooler age. This is especially so as trust between parent and child is built from young.

Mom Helicopter Parenting – This refers to the mother monitoring the relationship and ‘hovering’ the interaction between the father and child. Doing so risk the child growing up thinking that dad is ‘secondary’ to mom and mom is the real authority figure in the family.

Mother Burnout – Many scenarios exist that increase the likelihood of mother burnout and the two common ones are dads’ inadequate involvement and moms controlling every situation (even when the dad wants to be involved!). If there is conflict in parenting styles between mom and dad, Dr Peter Sears cautioned that disagreement should not be in front of the child as that would confuse the child.

Couple disagreement should not be in front of the child as that would confuse the child

Emotional Balance – As a baby can pick up facial cues and mirror feelings, parents should adopt a calm and firm presence/face when disciplining. The baby’s brain has ‘mirror neurons’ and thus anxiety can be picked up.

Conveying Limits – Parents often say ‘No’ or ‘Stop’ to the child, but negative language does not help the child to focus on what should be done (instead, what should not be done). Dr Peter Sears shared a parenting moment from his dad (Dr Bill Sears) who instead of saying ‘No’ to his daughter for speaking rudely to his wife, told her that ‘I will not tolerate such behavior to the woman who I love’. This enables the child to connect the impact of her action. In general, instead of saying no, direct the child on what should be done.

I will not tolerate such behavior to the woman who I love

Dr Bill Sears

The Science of Attachment Parenting

Dr Sears believed in attachment parenting, where its 7Bs also include balance. The science behind attachment parenting is that being close and responsive to the baby benefits both mother and child.

(i)            Mother’s Brain

The mother’s brain changes to cater to nurturing babies, and attachment parenting and breastfeeding help boost hormones that facilitate caregiving – amygdala, cingulate, prolactin and oxytocin. Mothers who practice attachment parenting are better to trusting themselves on the needs of the child.

(ii)           Child’s Brain

Attachment parented infants have higher growth hormones and brain enzymes, and more likely for the neurons to make the right brain connections. The child grows up with an inner control mechanism, knowing what should be done and able to think through consequences. Conversely, for a baby who is left to cry it out, their cortisol is off balance (too high and too low) with prolonged high stress hormones that slow growth and depress immunity.

On the other hand, detached parenting set up ‘undiscipline’, leading to a fearful, fussy and clingy baby who may be shy or exhibit stranger anxiety. Other characteristics of a child with detached parents are not able to share or play with peers, blank unhappy stares and possibly become a bully due to lacking an inner control mechanism.

Dr Sears also shared briefly on the importance of nutrition, more from last year Dr Bill Sears’ talk here.

MarcieMom’s questions to Dr Sears

On Diet – What foods would you recommend for a baby with eczema, and would it be different for a toddler or a preteen?

Dr Peter Sears: Eczema often has an association with underlying food or environmental allergies. For children with moderate to severe eczema, we usually recommend having allergy testing done by a licensed allergist (if this is financially feasible). Identifying underlying allergies can help control eczema.

In addition, I often recommend that my patients with eczema take a daily Omega-3 DHA/EPA fish oil supplement as well as daily Probiotic supplement. Omega-3 fish oil has been shown to be beneficial for skin health and various types of eczema/ dermatitis due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Probiotics have been suggested to be beneficial as well.

On Colic – Is reflux something more commonly seen in children with eczema? If so, why? What formula would you recommend for eczema babies?

Dr Peter Sears: There has been an association between eczema and acid reflux. Theories on this suggest that this may be related to milk or dairy sensitivity or dairy allergy. Children with milk sensitivity/allergy may be more likely to exhibit symptoms of acid reflux and skin manifestations of eczema.

Parents should always consult with their doctor before switching formulas. Of course, we always recommend breastfeeding whenever possible. Hypoallergenic formulas may be beneficial for infants with dairy sensitivity and/or eczema.

On Parenting – Eczema families are more stressed, more chores to do (if there’s house dust mite allergy) and may even be more stretched financially as emollients, doctor consultations or having to have one parent stay home results in a loss of income. What do parents have to watch out for in their parenting to ensure that eczema doesn’t come in the way of them raising a happy and successful child?

Dr Peter Sears: This is a difficult question because every household and family dynamic will be different. To generalize, we would say that it is very important that there is a strong family support system and that both mother and father (as well as other capable family members) be as involved as possible in day to day care of this condition. This goes back to my talk about balance in the home with childcare.

Thank you to Dr Peter Sears for going through what he had shared in the Rise and Shine Expo workshop and also giving useful tips for eczema families. For those unsure about parenting styles, check out last week Dr Sears’ talk here.

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