by Dr. Noel Swanson

In order for us to get restful sleep, we need to be relaxed. In order to relax, a number of things have to happen.

First of all, we need to feel safe and secure. Obviously, if there is tension in the house – abuse, parents rowing, problems with finances or neighbors, or else problems at school or with friends, it will be much harder to relax and fall asleep.

We also need to feel secure and safe in the bed. Some children with sensory integration difficulties, such as problems with touch sensitivity, body position sense (proprioception), or gravitational insecurity may find lying down on a high bed difficult. Such children may be helped by having heavy blankets that help them to feel more grounded.

To sleep, we then need to turn our minds off the business of the day, shut out the distractions of the environment and slow down our heart rate and metabolism. As we drift into sleep, not only does the body slow down, so too does the brain. Brain waves, which are often running along at 14 Hertz (cycles per second) or more during the day, will slow down first to an “alpha” rhythm (around 10 Hz) and then gradually right down to the deep sleep of a “delta” rhythm (4-7 Hz).

All of this can be helped by setting up the environment well, and also by developing a regular routine so that the body learns the signals that tell it that it is time to slow down for some sleep. Here are some suggestions:

A warm bath and hot milky drink.
The warm bath relaxes the body, and allows the metabolism to slow down as it does not need to be so busy generating heat. Warmth also relaxes muscles. Warm milk contains an amino acid called Tryptophan which is a naturally occurring sedative.

Obviously avoid drinks such as Coca Cola, tea or coffee, which all contain caffeine. Avoid also activities that are arousing or frustrating; just before bed is not the time for them to be getting upset about their homework or frustrated with their Gameboy.

A bedtime story.
This helps to push out the anxieties of the day, whilst also giving the child some special one-to-one attention. The child feels loved and valued, and therefore safe and secure. This can be followed by a recorded tape story, to which the child can listen with eyes closed and in a darkened room. But pick a story that is calming, not frightening!

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Relaxing music.
Unlike the eyes, we cannot close our ears. The sounds and noises of our environment are constantly entering into our system. Most of them tend to wake us up and increase stress. This is particularly true of sudden and unexpected noises, such as a dog barking, a fox howling, of a heavy lorry passing by.

While we cannot shut our ears, we can modify the sounds around us. First of all is to make the room as quiet as possible. Often there is not much that you can do about this, but certainly heavy curtains, double glazing, and closed doors can all help.

Secondly, we can introduce sounds that help to shut out the wrong noises, and that also help us to relax. White noise, such as that produced by a fan or a humidifier does help to drown out the trucks and the barking dogs. So does a radio playing quietly in the background. Unfortunately, these sounds in themselves tend to be arousing and stressful rather than relaxing.

This is to do with two factors: pitch and beat.

High frequencies sounds are energizing, whilst low frequencies are relaxing. White noise is fairly high frequency, as is most music played on the radio – especially if played through a cheaper system with a poor bass response. Also, most popular music has a fast beat.

Disco music is the most obvious example of this. No doubt at times you have found yourself tapping or nodding in time with the beat of some catchy music. This is called “entrainment”, and describe the fact that our bodies like to align themselves with the rhythms around us. Our heart rates do the same – in general, as you listen to fast music or a fast beat (such as with rap music), your heart rate will speed up; when you listen to slow music, it slows down.

To create a sound environment that promotes sleep, we therefore need sounds that are low in pitch, and have a slow rhythm. A beat of 50 to 60 Hertz, the rate of our hearts when fully relaxed, would be ideal. Where do we find such sounds? Some classical music meets these requirements, so to do some nature sounds such as waves gently rolling onto the beach. My recommendation is to use some of the recordings that are deliberately created for relaxation.

Amongst the best that I have come across are the those by Steven Halpern, and also the Sound Health Series CD’s called (appropriately enough), “Relax” and “De-Stress”. These should be played very quietly in the background, both to drown out the dogs, and to generate a peaceful sound environment in the bedroom. If your child has a tendency to wake easily and frequently in the night, it may be worth putting the CD on continuous play so that it carries on right through the night.

Color and Light.
Not only are our bodies and minds sensitive to the frequencies and rhythms or sounds, we are also profoundly affected by light and color. This is well know by supermarkets and football teams!

The supermarkets use green/blue tinged lights to make the vegetables look greener and fresher, but red tinged light on their meat counters. This is done very subtly, but very effectively. The colors on the product packaging are equally carefully chosen and designed to motivate you to buy. The stores are brightly lit, and may have “muzak” playing.

All of this is done to make you feel up-beat and comfortable. The longer you stay, the more you will spend. Contrast that with some dingy shops that you know. In the same way, some football clubs will paint their changing rooms in different colors – red for the home team, as it is activating and arousing; and blue for the away team, as it is relaxing and calming.

Blue is for serenity, green for harmony and peace, pink instills warmth and cosiness. All of these, especially if in muted tints, are ideal of bedrooms, although blue and green may produce too cold an atmosphere. On the other hand bright and vibrant colors such as yellows and reds will rev us up and keep us awake. The effects are subtle and certainly not conscious, but even so are very real.

The lighting is also important. Not surprisingly, bright lights keep us awake. So too, does light with a “cold” or bluish tinge – such as from fluorescent lights. This is, after all, the lighting of the early morning sun. On the other hand, the twilight sun is full of warm shades of orange and red. So the light from a dim bulb or, better still, from a candle, oil lamp, or natural fire, will be much more relaxing. Combine these with pink furnishings, soft slow music, the sound of waves on the beach ….

There is one other feature of natural flames that makes it so relaxing- it flickers. Typically, in fact, if flickers at a rate of about 6-7 Hz. The brain tends to entrain to this frequency, which produces the very relaxed state of “theta wave” activity.

Of course it may not be safe to have a candle, oil lamp or open fire in your child’s bedroom! So how can we get around this? One option is to use the electrical bulbs that simulate a flickering flame. The other is to use specialty lamps such as fiber optic lamps that produce a low level of light, that gradually changes from one color to another.

They may not flicker at 7 Hz, but the slow and gentle changes are themselves relaxing, as are the color changes, provided they are not too bright. Other children prefer to simply have a dark room with no lights on. Certainly it pays to have thick curtains that screen out the late night and early morning light of the summer sun.

Smell is, in fact, the most primitive and basic of our senses. How often have you had a brief whiff of some smell that has brought certain memories and emotions to come flooding back? Smells affect our emotional state, and the right smells can help us to sleep.

Recommended for sleep are the essential oils of mandarin, chamomile roman, lavender and palma rosa. For children over five, neroli, geranium and nutmeg can be added to the list. These oils can be combined, with a mixture of mandarin, chamomile and palma rosa, and also of chamomile, geranium and nutmeg being particularly effective. The oils can be put in bath water, rubbed on the skin with massage oil, or put in the water of the humidifier. Once again, moderation is the key. It is subtlety that we are looking for, not an overpowering smell.

Humidity and fresh air.

In the winters we tend to have the windows closed, and the heating on. The closed window cuts out the outside noises, but also cuts out the fresh air. Furthermore, the heating dries out the air, which in turn dries out our nasal passages. Stuffy air and uncomfortable noses are a common cause of poor sleep and wakening in the late parts of the night. Opening the window a crack may help.

The humidity can be improved in three ways. One is to simply turn the heating down, and compensate with more blankets ( which may help the child to “feel grounded”). The other is to add some moisture to the air. This can be down with a humidifier (which may also produce some background white noise), or simply by draping a wet flannel over the radiator. Put a couple of drops of essential oil in the water or on the flannel, and you will also provide a gentle aroma in the room.

Waking during the night.
It is normal to wake or almost wake several times during the night. The trick is to get back to sleep again. All of the above will increase the chances of this. Along with this it is important not to reinforce a behavior pattern of waking up during the night by giving it a lot of attention. Infants and young children especially will often cry or make other noises when they wake.

Do not immediately rush in to comfort them – this will only wake them up more, and reinforce the pattern of waking in the night. If you leave them alone, most will gradually settle and go back to sleep by themselves. Initially this may take some time, as they are used to getting your attention, but gradually, if you stay firm, this period of time will get shorter.

Of course these are a million other ways to help your child to sleep. Feel free to experiment to find what works for you.

May you have peaceful nights and pleasant dreams.

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    We all want our children to grow into dependable caring adults. Here are seven techniques to make this goal a reality.

    1. Begin when your child is young

    As soon as your child is old enough to understand, he can begin to help. It might be something as simple as bringing you a clean diaper or handing you the bottle when he is finished.

    Children have a strong desire to help. Even children younger than two years old want to do things to help their parents.

    You can encourage your child by creatively finding things for him or her to do and then giving lots of praise. This will help build your child’s confidence and self-esteem, and it will set up a pattern of helping out early in your child’s life.

    Get ADHD and ODD
    Teen Behavior Help

    for children 12 and older

    2. Do not buy your child’s help

    Do not give your child rewards in exchange for helping. You want to build an internal desire to assist you, not one based upon receiving payment.

    You want your child to learn the pleasure of giving to others. When he gets a reward for assisting, you teach him to focus on what he will get, instead of how he can give.

    This does not mean you never give your child anything for helping. It just can’t be perceived as a “payment”.

    This is how you should do it.

    After your child does something for you, say,

    “I really appreciate how you helped me and I want to do something nice for you, too. I am going to call your father and have him bring home the movie that you want to see.”

    When you reward your child this way, what you are really doing is showing your gratitude. You are not paying a reward for work.
    Defiant Child Disrespectful Child
    This is better than a reward for a number of reasons. You are showing your child your gratitude, which is the real reward. You are motivating your child to help without the expectation of receiving payment at the end. In the back of your child’s mind he realizes that on occasion he may receive something unexpected when he helps, which adds an extra motivation to help.

    3. Let the natural consequences of your child’s mistake occur

    We don’t want our children to suffer if we can help them avoid it. But, parents who protect their child from the consequences of their actions are making a big mistake.

    Our goal as parents is to teach our child to be good, responsible adults. In the adult world no one is going to shelter your child when he is careless or reckless.

    When your child makes a mistake, you do him no favors by bailing him out. Let your child learn to be dependable by taking responsibility for his actions and his mistakes.

    4. Acknowledge when your child is acting responsibly

    Everybody loves recognition. When you point out times that your child is behaving in a trustworthy fashion, you are encouraging him to continue this type of behavior in the future.

    5. Make responsibility a family value

    Discuss being responsible with your child. Let them know that it is something that you value.

    Let your children see you being dependable. Your child will learn much more from what you do than from what you say. Be a good role model.

    6. Give your child an allowance

    Let your children make their own money decisions from an early age. They will make mistakes, but don’t bail them out. It is better for them to learn what happens when they run out of money while the stakes are low, than it is to learn this when the lives of their children are involved.

    7. Believe in your child

    This is perhaps the most important way to make your child responsible. Children have no clear cut picture of themselves. They get their self-image from how those around them respond to them.

    If you view your child as being responsible, he will grow to fit your expectations. On the other hand, if through your words or actions you let your child know that you feel you need to look after him and that you do not feel he is reliable, he will fit that expectation.

    How you view your child will shape who he will become. If you truly believe that your child is capable of keeping commitments and behaves in a responsible fashion, your child will become responsible. Period.

    Bonus Technique: Give your child responsibility

    Children don’t become more dependable with age. They become more reliable by taking on responsibility. The only way your child will ever become reliable and dependable is by exercising these traits.

    Give your child a chance to show you what he can do. He will grow from the opportunity. He will grow even more from the mistakes that he makes. Either way, when you give your child the opportunity and you believe in him, he will move toward becoming a well functioning responsible adult.

    For an easy step-by-step plan to build your relationship with your child and end your child’s difficult behavior forever,

    For children 2-11 go to

    Child Behavior Help

    For teens 12 and older go to

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    For more information on how to handle your ODD child or teen:

    If your child is 2-11 go to:

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      These 4 quick tips have been proven time and again to work and can make your job as a parent easier. Do not view these ideas as an obligation.


Rather use them as you see fit to make your job of raising your child easier.

1- The Tantrum Technique: The next time your child throws a tantrum, remove all the breakable objects in the area or else escort your child to a place that you have made tantrum proof. Once your child is there, encourage him to continue his tantrum. After a few times doing this many children stop throwing tantrums.

      2- Dealing with Disrespect:
The next time your child speaks disrespectfully, give him a hug and a kiss and say that you love him very much. 

The reason these two techniques work is that many times 
children act out in order to irritate their parents. This gives them a feeling of control. By showing that this behavior doesn’t bother you, it takes away a lot of the incentive for your child to act this way.

      However, when you employ these techniques you have to do them in such a way that it comes across that their behavior really doesn’t bother you. Make sure that you execute them lightheartedly and with happiness. Your child should not detect any spitefulness from you. 

      3- The Power of the Unexpected: 
Do unexpected favors for you child every so often. Bring them home a small unexpected gift and say you were thinking of him. Surprise your child with a yes answer when he is expecting no. Children have great appreciation for a kindness that they did not anticipate. (This works great with your spouse, also.)


4- Since You are Doing it Anyway: 
If you are going shopping anyway, take one of your children along and use this as an opportunity to do something together. Since you are cooking or doing the dishes anyway use the opportunity to have a conversation with your child. There are many opportunities during the day where you have to do things. Transform these anyway times into an opportunity to be close with your child.

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        5 Steps to Raising Optimistic Children
        by Dr. Tony Fiore

        I had just completed a session with 17-year old Julie who suffered from severe depression. Julie believed she was a total failure and would never be able to change anything in her life. Julie also felt all her shortcomings were her own fault. Where, I ask myself, did such a young person acquire this negative and fatalistic thinking?

        The answer soon became apparent when I invited her parents into the session. They began discussing numerous life events and explaining them in ways that their children were learning. The car, for example, got dented because you can’t trust anybody these days; Mom yelled at brother because she was in a bad mood; you can’t get ahead in this world unless you know somebody, etc.

        As a parent, your own thinking style is always on display and your children are listening intently!

        The Importance of Optimism

        Why should you want your child to be an optimist?

        Because, as Dr. Martin Seligman explains:

        “Pessimism (the opposite of optimism) is an entrenched habit of mind that has sweeping and disastrous consequences: depressed mood, resignation, underachievement and even unexpectedly poor physical health.”

        Children with optimistic thinking skills are better able to interpret failure, have a stronger sense of personal mastery and are better able to bounce back when things go wrong in their lives.

        Because parents are a major contributors to the thinking styles of their children’s developing minds, it is important to adhere to the following five steps to ensure healthy mental habits in your children.

        How Parents Can Help

        Step 1: Learn to think optimistically yourself. What children see and hear indirectly from you as you lead your life and interact with others influences them much more than what you try to ‘teach’ them.

        You can model optimism for your child by incorporating optimistic mental skills into your own way of thinking. This is not easy and does not occur over night. But with practice, almost everyone can learn to think differently about life’s events – even parents!

        Step 2: Teach your child that there is a connection between how they think and how they feel. You can do this most easily by saying aloud how your own thoughts about adversity create negative feelings in you.

        For example, if you are driving your child to school and a driver cuts you off, verbalize the link between your thoughts and feelings by saying something like “I wonder why I’m feeling so angry; I guess I was saying to myself: ‘Now I’m going to be late because the guy in front of me is going so darn slow. If he is going to drive like that he shouldn’t drive during rush hour. How rude.’”

        Step 3: Create a game called ‘thought catching.’ This helps your child learn to identify the thoughts that flit across his or her mind at the times they feel worst. These thoughts, although barely noticeable, greatly affect mood and behavior.

        For instance, if your child received a poor grade, ask:
        “When you got your grade, what did you say to yourself?”

        Step 4: Teach your child how to evaluate automatic thoughts. This means acknowledging that they things you say to yourself are not necessarily accurate.

        For instance, after receiving the poor grade your child may be telling himself he is a failure, he is not as smart as other kids; he will never be able to succeed in school, etc. Many of these self-statements may not be accurate, but they are ‘automatic’ in that situation.

        Step 5: Instruct your child on how to generate more accurate explanations (to themselves) when bad things happen and use them to challenge your child’s automatic but inaccurate thoughts. Part of this process involves looking for evidence to the contrary (good grades in the past, success in other life areas, etc).

        Another skill to teach your child to help him or her think optimistically is to ‘decatastrophize’ the situation – that is – help your child see that the bad event may not be as bad or will not have the adverse consequences imagined. Few things in life are as devastating as we fear, yet we blow them up in our minds.

        Parents can influence the thinking styles of their children by modeling the principals of optimistic thinking.

        About the Author: Dr. Tony Fiore ( is a So. California licensed psychologist, and anger management trainer. His company, The Anger Coach, provides anger and stress management programs, training and products to individuals, couples, and the workplace. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter “Taming the Anger Bee” at

        For an easy step-by-step plan to build your relationship with your child and end your child’s difficult behavior forever,

        For children 2-11 go to

        Child Behavior Help

        For teens 12 and older go to

        Teen Behavior Help

        For more information on how to handle your ODD child or teen:

        If your child is 2-11 go to:

        The ODD Child Program

        If your child is 12 and older go to:

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        Ten Ways to Have More Responsible Children

        We’d all like our kids to develop into responsible people. How can we help to ensure that our kids learn the lessons of responsibility?

        Here are some ideas:

        1. Start them with tasks when they’re young.

        Young kids have a strong desire to help out, even as young as age 2.

        They can do a lot more than you think if you’re patient and creative. This helps build confidence and enthusiasm for later tasks in their life.

        2. Don’t use rewards with your kids

        If you want your kids to develop an intrinsic sense of responsibility, they need to learn the “big picture” value of the things they do. They won’t learn that if they’re focused on what they’re going to “get.”

        3. Use natural consequences when they make mistakes.

        If they keep losing their baseball glove somewhere, let them deal with the consequences. Maybe they have to ask to borrow one for the game. Maybe they have to buy a new one if it’s lost. If you rescue them every time they screw up, they’ll never learn responsibility. Defiant Child Disrespectful Child

        4. Let them know when you see them being responsible.

        Specifically point out what you like about their behavior. This will make it more likely to continue to happen.

        5. Talk often about responsibility with your kids.

        Make responsibility a family value, let them know it’s important.

        6. Model responsible behavior for your kids.

        This is where they’ll learn it from. Take care of your stuff. Try to be on time. They’re watching you very closely.

        7. Give them an allowance early in their life.

        Let them make their own money decisions from an early age. They’ll learn their lessons in a hurry. Don’t bail them out if they run out of money.

        8. Have a strong, unfailing belief that your kids are responsible.

        They’ll pick up on this belief and they’ll tend to rise to the level of expectation. And keep believing this even when they mess up!

        9. Train them to be responsible.

        Use role play and talk to them about exactly what kind of behavior you expect from them. It’s hard for kids to be responsible when they don’t know what it looks like.

        10. Get some help and support for your parenting.

        It’s hard to know sometimes whether you’re being too controlling or too permissive as a parent. Talk to other parents, read books, join parent support groups, whatever will help you feel like you’re not alone.

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