Category Archives: glenn doman

Learning to swim, learning to love

Last month, B swam a few proper strokes with his face down and holding his breath in the water. No big deal, right?  Yet something this trivial was a breakthrough after years of stops and starts.

B loved water since young, and I was so inspired by this book, I tried to follow it but failed miserably. Our swim time together was constantly interrupted with my string of early miscarriages, full time work, frequent travel, and lack of “substitutes” – aka the grandparents who also faced several health setbacks.  That led to a 1.5 year hiatus where B lost water confidence and regressed to saying “I can’t swim,” “don’t want to wet my face” and “too scared.” At parties, B’s friends would dive in pools and take big water slides, and he’d feel left out… So this year, we decided to try again. I intentionally planned more water play, bath tub or pool time together, and hubby signed them both up for Saturday morning class, which proved great 1-on-1 time to bond too.  There were happy tears when he passed his latest Duckie level last month, and is transitioning to learn freestyle and breaststroke – swimming on his own!

B’s journey to learn to swim made me think about my journey to learn to love in our marriage. As we celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary today, I’m reminded how tough marriage is when you bring two imperfect people together in an imperfect world. We start highly motivated with great intentions and textbook ambitions but life’s ups and downs get in the way. We tend to compare with others, only to feel shortchanged or discouraged. We lose faith and confidence, think and eventually say negative things. We’re tempted to quit after all the pit stops and detours as the effort seems too time consuming, emotionally draining, isolating – and too often, not worth it.

But the breakthrough comes when we presevere. Be it a challenging milestone or moments in marriage, don’t give up for it’s never too late to turn things around.

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What’s past is prologue

Since B is now a toddler, I borrowed some parenting books to help prepare me for toddlerhood :). After all, “a mind once stretched to a new idea never returns to its original size.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

In “Happiest Toddler On The Block,” Harvey Karp’s approach seems directly opposite to Doman’s “all babies are geniuses” POV.  Karp’s prehistoric parenting premise basically matches the four toddler development stages against 5 million years of evolution, i.e. ORP = ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny:

  1. Charming chimp child (12-18 mos) – Wobbles around on two legs, grabs everything in reach, nonstop monkey say monkey do. Walking, pointing, pinching and grabbing, manipulating tools to explore (banging, mouthing, stacking), twisting and swiveling wrists. Gestures, uses own words, mimics words/actions/ expressions learned from parents. Signing helps.  
  2. Knee high Neanderthal (18-24 mos) – Strong willed, fun loving messy. Should be able to understand and communicate 20-30 words, esp. “No” and “Mine.” Fascinated by small animals. Aping. Faster, jumping, throwing, hitting, gripping, scribbling and stringing words.  On the flip side, they are emotional yo-yos, no off switch, hard to change gears, prone to ADHD, but can learn orderliness, sorting and stacking (an area Montessori experts emphasise) 
  3. Clever cave kid (2-3 years) – Just beginning to learn how to share, make friends, take turns, use the potty
  4. Versatile villager (3-4 years) – Loves to read/tell stories, sing songs, dance … while trying to behave 😀

In tots, the right brain is stronger – this is where most experts agree (Doman, Karp). Hence, emotion and aggressive impulses dominate (Note: The right controls the left side which is responsible for details, organization, and in turn controls the right side). Prehistoric parenting involves being an ambassador to the Stone Age and engaging their right brain.  How do we do that?   How do we speak “toddlerese”?

  • Don’t talk to/at them!  Fast Food Rule = Repeat, then get your message across
  • Balance big and small praise. Compliment action not child. Never spoil praise. 
    • A child is fed on praise and milk (Poetry for Children. Charles and Mary Lamb. 1809)
    • Up to 2 years: Enthusiastic, applause, big grins. Some check if you’re watching (like B!) 
    • 2-4 years. Understated, change of tone, whispered praises
    • It takes 5 words of praise to cancel a single word of criticism
    • Side door message: Gossip aloud (stuffed animals, imaginary friends), 3rd party story (Santa, fairies, magic), reverse psychology (Opposites, “don’t brush your teeth” – haha)
  • Respect and rewards to encourage good behaviour
    • Nothing can be done without hope and confidence (Helen Keller)
    • Ask for your tot’s help, offer consistent speedy responses, let him decide in small things  (give 2 options, let him choose)
    • Play the boob. Once in while, be incompetent, clumsy, blind, weak, easily hurt, a baby like him, wrong, easily outwitted, arrogantly incorrect, a pushover, absurd, forgetful…. everyone loves bloopers!  
    • Encourage patience, delayed gratification 

Daily routine and play are proof of your love and make him want to cooperate:

  • Actively employ time-ins, a pleasurable time that you spend each day with him. Soothing routines include:
    •  Loveys or blankies (portable routines), affirmation, outdoor and creative play, reading  
    • Massage is love which is one unique breath, breathing in two (Frederick Leboyer)
    • Breathing exercises works best around 30 mos. Do them in the same time, same place, several times a week (if not every day). Begin before a nap or early evening when he’s relaxed. 
    • Special time involves setting aside DEDICATED bonus time 2-3x/day with your tot doing any activity he wants. Announce it, set a timer, do it approx the same time every day
  • Laughter stimulates the immune system and erases the effects of stress  
  • Sucking is a comforting ritual and totally normal

Spare the (rod) discipline, spoil the child 

  • Your tot’s job is to push the limits. Yours is to respectfully enforce them
    • This is how tots explore and discover the world around them
    • They are inherently impulsive, self centered and short sighted
    • Our rules can be confusing, sometimes unrealistic ==> set appropriate expectations and limits we can actually enforce 
    • We sometimes accidentally encourage bad behaviour (i.e. when they cry, we respond!)
    • Keep statements brief and positive.  Too many words work against you. 
    • Be consistent and creative.  E.g. sandwiching (“let’s read, then we can have a race to see who picks up the most toys, then we have a snack!”)
    • No mixed messages. Don’t smile when you’re serious 
  • Good tots can sometimes act “bad”
  • Use distraction and battering to get cooperation.
  • Punishments if necessary:  Ignore, remove privileges, time out (make sure you’re calm and somewhat removed — don’t say much, done the same way, don’t wait too long) 
Boulders that trip up tots:
  • Tantrums: First appear 12-15 months when emotions run high and self control is low
  • Public meltdowns: Outbursts where there’s an audience have to be tamed.  
    • Use toddlerese and then offer a detour (compromise or distraction)
    • Else, count to 3, remove him from the scene and have a time out
  • Sleep problems: Overtired and overstimulated. Sleep training needed! 18 month regression   
  • Biting: Nip it.  Respond to hunger and teething, ensure there’s sufficient outdoor play, use side-door messages to explain the rule, minimise conflict opportunities around other kids 

Are all babies water babies?

“How to teach your baby to swim” was the most informative Doman book I’ve read so far. It actually encouraged me to swim more with B. Some tips below – do read the book for more insight of course!
How To Teach Your Baby To Swim
Swimming helps to stimulate brain growth and development at a critical time in early childhood, especially when babies’ physical mobility is still limited.  Virtually all muscles are used when swimming, providing for an excellent aerobic workout!  Children who are competent and confident swimmers are also more likely to be participants, not just spectators in life.  As your baby swims more, his heart and lungs will develop, breath will be held longer, muscles and chest will grow, overall mobility, immune system, language and manual competence will improve. Swim as often as possible, ideally 3-5x a week, using some of these activities and goals as a guide.

For newborns (birth to 6 months):
Babies have been “swimming” in utero since birth. Once born, swimming provides an opportunity to move in an environment where he will be buoyant and baby fat advantageous. In these early months, the goal is to help baby to love being in water and learn to hold their breath in . Be consistent week to week, “swimming” daily in the warm bath tub. Activities include: Balancing and floating with baby’s chin on parent’s shoulder, floating on baby’s back, blowing bubbles, passing under a gentle shower (try till you can do this 10x nonstop, and then go underwater), gentle jumping into the bath with support of the side of the tub or parent’s thumbs/hands.  Before swimming: Ensure newborn is fed and rested, with hugs and kisses, cuddling throughout and at the end!

For 6-12 months:
Gradually transition to a pool or open water, preferably heated.  Note: Children can tolerate the cooler temps of an outdoor pool only at around 18-24 months. Extend the length of time baby goes underwater, holds his breath and keep up the newborn activities while adding new ones: Swimming from one parent to another, climbing out with assistance, bobbing up and down to breathe and submerge (at a “1-2-3-under” cue). Goal: For the child to be able to sit by the side of the pool, jump in, swim a few feet and resurface to breathe with limited assistance.

For 1-2 years:
Focus now on independent activities, e.g. climbing out of the pool, swimming the width of a pool (underwater-resurface to breathe-underwater), safely diving into the pool. Exposure your child to the beach (lake/seafront) and encourage him to eventually walk into the water and swim with you.  Activities: Bobbing up and down holding the side of the pool, swimming to and from the edge/steps to parent, floating on the back and flipping over to continue swimming, jumping and diving from a sitting, kneeling, then standing position to a parent, pushing off (from a ladder) and swimming to a parent, climbing out of the pool using steps and a ladder with a little boost as needed from parent.  Goal: Child to happily and easily jump into the pool, swim across ~6 yards/meters, and climb out independently. If in a natural body of water, the child to swim out a short distance, turn around, swim back and walk out onto the beach.

For 2-4 years:
Children in this age group are extremely active physically, in constant motion, and MUST be well fed before swimming.  Time to introduce goggles as they will start to pick up proper strokes. Activities: Flutter kicking as the child holds one side of the pool or as you hold the child on the side of your body, diving and streamlining to you from the side of the pool, diving from a standing position and streamlining, diving in the water to the bottom to retrieve an object. Goal: Streamlining, breathing and pulling with arms, swimming the length of the pool with a crawl stroke taught via:

  • A: Breathing and head turning while holding side of pool, rotate chin towards the shoulder and inhale, straighten the head as it enters the water and exhale
  • B: Same as A but with parent holding child in the middle of pool
  • C: Using arms for the crawl.  Hold child on parent’s side and progress to independent swimming

For 4-6 years:
Focus on helping the child swim easier, safer and faster, improving the quality of streamlining, endurance, the crawl stroke (outside the pool) and diving.  Goals: 4 years – 100 meters crawl, 5 years – 200 meters crawl, 6 years – 400 meters crawl. Once your child loves to swim and is doing well with the crawl, move on to other strokes/flip turns and continue to teach in a loving way!  Activities: Streamlining with independent breathing, further nonstop crawl strokes (inhale left and then right), diving in the sitting, kneeling and standing position. Introduce face down bench activities: Rotate chin to shoulder and inhale, straighten head and exhale, flutter kicking (knees over the end of the bench and movement from hips, not knees), rotate and pull with both arms (moving over and below the sides of the bench), combine pulling with arms, flutter kicking and breathing

Besides the frequent reassurance, include water play i.e. ways to make it fun for toddlers and up: Retrieve toys such as rings/brightly coloured objects, swim between parents’ legs, ride on your back like a dolphin, race/chase/”tag”, throw kid into “deep” water while standing, push off the bottom and rocket to the surface, see how far you can swim underwater, swim in deep water, play soccer/water polo/basketball with a floating net, go underwater and somersault forwards/backwards, stand on your hands on the bottom of the pool, try a “Marco Polo” (kid holds themselves in a tuck position – knees held tightly against chess, parent throws them into the air, they splash in water and swim back)

Remember: Overall success in physical excellence requires an ideal environment and maximum opportunity. So keep the structure of each swim session the same, with frequent and brief activities, and plenty of love, reassurance and laughter.

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Month 11 Week 2: How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. – Mark Twain

There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other wings. – Hodding Carter

It took 3+ hours to curl my hair (after 5 years!) so I managed to finish Doman’s book on “How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” as I’d been curious about their approach since that Gymnademics trial class when B was 11 months.

Why start now vs wait for formal school (primary at 6 or nursery/kindergarten at 3)

  • Learning begins from birth
  • The brain grows the most at the early stages
  • The first six years are the genesis of genius, limited only by how much material babies get to learn and how it’s presented
  • All significant brain growth is finished by six years with growth in ability dropping sharply each year
  • See this recent article on how frequent, positive stimulation can make a big difference in the early years 
  • What we do not use, we lose – the human brain has the memory capacity to hold ~3 million hours of TV shows 🙂.  What are we filling ours with? 
    • Input: see, hear, touch, smell, taste
    • Output: mobility, language, manual competence
  • When “teaching,” have fun. Tell your kid how great he is, how much you love him … often!  

How to teach your baby to read:

  • Only humans can read
  • Words must be large, clear, repeated enough, presented enthusiastically
  • The more speed, the more new material, the more joy, the better
  • Suggested sequence: Commonly used words, self/body, home objects, baby’s possessions, foods, animals, actions, colours, modifiers (pairs, opposites), x is a/an/the y z (e.g. “Mango is a sweet yellow fruit”) 
  • Suggested approach: Start with 25 words – 5 new ones 3x/day, mix order. Remove one word/day after 1 week. 5 steps: Single words => couplets => phrases => sentences => books
  • Note: I’m already reading books and flashing words with B but like the sequencing and approach which makes more sense than following the alphabet.  After all, what does “A” or “Z” really mean?!

How to teach your baby encyclopedic knowledge;

  • Suggested approach: Show 10 cards, 10 sec, 3 consecutive days. Intro related facts and sub-categories, list 1 to 12 magnitude of knowledge, expande on sub-categories
  • Suggested categories: biology, history, geography, music, art, math, human physiology, general science, language, literature
  • Note:  Instead of following Doman’s (excessively) detailed “bits of knowledge” specs, I may start a digital catalog instead (on iPad/Windows 8 tablets?). This is environmentally friendly, cost efficient with unlimited capacity given the ample real-life beautiful pictures and facts available online

How to teach your baby math

  • Intro with the facts vs intro “laws” i.e. numerals and symbols
  • Science = branch of knowledge dealing with a body of facts systematically arranged to show the operation of laws
  • Suggested 5 step approach:
  1. Quantity recognition: Use dots and patterns to intro 1 to 20
  2. Equations: Demonstrate additions, subtractions, multiplication, division
    1. Using the same dots, illustrate +, –  and x first
    2. Intro 0 – shift similar quantity dots around (e.g. 5 dots + 0 = 5 dots)
    3. Intro up to 100 (does not have to include all numbers from 20 on)
    4. Illustrate / division
  3. Problem solving: Offer choices, sequencing (e.g. 1, 3, 5, 7), greater less than scenarios
    1. Doman’s overall approach is that teaching/learning should be fun and testing should be limited to games or real-life evidences
    2. Even if they get it wrong, your response should be along the lines of “Good try, that’s actually X, this is Y”
  4. Equalities: Intro (in)equalities, fractions, simple algebra 
  5. Numeral recognition: FINALLY, digits (numbers) as we know them!
    1. Use equalities to show 0-20, mix up the order of dots and numerals 
    2. Intro 1-100 and go beyond 100s
    3. Proceed to equations with numerals

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Month 11 Week 1: Reading intentionally

These are 2 general approaches to boost speech and vocabulary: whole words and phonics. What I’m doing is combining the two when reading to B, supplementing with flash cards and picture books, using some of the tips for tots below (go here for more great reading material and tips!):

1. Your attitude and approach
– joyous and enthusiastic, approach it like a game or adventure
– teach at a time of day when both you and your baby are happy
– best duration for reading sessions is 30 seconds or less
– introduce new material when your child is ready for it – follow his lead
– be consistent with doing your program
– start as early as possible – the younger the child, the easier it is for him to learn
go here for fun ideas on reading out loud to your kid

2. Size and orderliness of reading matter
– the younger the baby, the bigger print should be used!
– size of the print is crucial to your success – very young children have immature visual pathways
– if the print is too small they get frustrated because they have to work so hard to see the type
– make a gradual transition from large to small print and from words to couplets to short sentences to longer sentences one change at a time

3. Read with mom (or primary caregivers like dad or grandparents)
– Doman believes that parents are the best teachers
– their love and confidence in their children provide the best inspiration, regardless if they are with the child the whole day or working and able to spend just a few hours a day

4. Always stop before your baby wants to stop
– one of the most important rules: the child should be begging for more
– if your child gets tired after 5 slides, show just 4, but leave him hungry for more
– don’t bore your child!

5. Keep it fun, fresh yet consistent
– introduce new material often, show it quickly
– if no interest, show it even faster, update even more often (or use sound effects!)
– show less words more often and consistently than more words occasionally
– kids learn by repetition as long as you update your material often enough
– Doman believes testing is a sign of distrust, the opposite of fun. Though … there are games/tricks that can keep your spirits up by showing that your child is actually learning, and can be even more fun for him!

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Month 9 Week 2: No right brain left behind?

A fellow mom friend invited me to a trial Glenn Doman class last weekend. Curious, I took B along for a 1:15 hour fun, fast and furious “right brain” lesson at Gymnademics. Affiliated with Doman’s Institutes For the Achievement of Human Potential, the bambino class (5 mos – 1 year) mainly covered bilingual language (English with a little Mandarin, conversational and thematic words), psycho-physical (visual tracking, lifting, twirling, balancing, pull-ups, backflips, group interaction) and music and movement activities.  Flash cards were a key tool as they believe the right brain functions at a high speed, registering input as images and processing them all at once, so the faster the stimulation, the more the brain is activated.

This was a new experience for us and I was somewhat skeptical that the babies remembered, let alone understood what they saw at the pace the cards were flashed – surprisingly though, most did pay attention. I was also informed that the class basically introduces a set of prepared activities which parents are then equipped to replicate daily at home. Overall, B managed to stay focused, even enjoying some of the stimuli.  More importantly, it got me thinking about the merits of engaging a child’s “full brain” esp. in the early years, plus ideas to incorporate at home, e.g. building up his vocab with real, beautiful pictures and big clear words, using slides or my iPad to make homemade flashcards.

There seem to be three main right brain schools:  Glenn Doman, Shichida and Heguru.  In Asia, success – be it academic or work – has typically been associated with left brain abilities such as analytical and critical thinking, and right brain abilities such as conceptual and creative thinking have largely been the domain of a niche group (artists, designers, consultants, etc.).  No surprise that these rational, competitive based skills are dominant in local formal education from 6 years on.

However, even kiasu Singapore acknowledges that this system could be outdated in the future, possibly marginalising or failing to develop the potential of our children today.  The bigger the change, the bigger the resistance — and it’ll take years for the local education system to truly evolve away from a focus on academics and grades. Meanwhile as parents, we could also reflect a more wholistic brain approach at home with our kids under 6 years (or enrol them in preschools that support this).  I’m not yet sure about joining further Gymnademics classes as I need to better understand Glenn Doman’s approach and results. It would be good though to supplement the open ended Reggio inspired play that B’s been exposed to at the Blue House, esp. after he turns 1 in a few months.
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Month 9 Week 1: Going going going

B is 9 months old!  At 39 weeks, he’s officially “outside” mommy longer than he was inside (he arrived early).  We just had a regular check up where B got his final pneumoccocal jab, which leaves one more jab for the year i.e. MMRV sometime in November, after his 1st birthday. Reminder to self: feed him eggs (yolk, then white) beforehand to test for allergies

What’s new:

1) Weighs 9.7 kg, 73.5 cm long, 47 cm head circumference, tracking at 90+ percentile among his peers. Still our big headed tall boy 🙂
2) Crawls faster, pulls up to stand, cruises and climbs.  Unfortunately, all this newfound mobility doesn’t quite make him sleep more soundly but rather he’s up practicing day AND night!  We’ve caught him standing up in his bed and calling for us many times =0 Meanwhile, we continue to find new areas to babyproof as he’s on the go
3) Celebrated our first national day as a fully Singaporean family.  B got his first passport and mugshot, and I officially renounced my Malaysian citizenship for Singapore
4) Eating finger foods and mashed (not finely pureed) meals

In addition to tagging along with mommy for errands and weekly home playdates, we’ve also started going to Blue House parent-and-baby discovery programs. Their Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood approach and infant and toddler atelier is quite remarkable, quite a contrast to the dime-a-dozen care centers / indoor playgrounds in Singapore.  We may also check out baby signing, Kindermusik or right brain classes like Gymnademics – Glenn Doman, Shichida, Heguru, et al.

Lastly, we kinda had to register B for the June 2013 toddler group intake at a nearby childcare center as he’d already been waitlisted since I left work full-time (unintended!) and this was the latest we could defer till.  The other preschools on my shortlist had a 2-3 year waitlist, so for now, if you can’t beat em ….

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