About Deborah Carlisle Solomon

Deborah Carlisle Solomon is a child development specialist, expert in the development and care of infants and toddlers, and author of the book "Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child the RIE® Way." Deborah served as Executive Director of Resources for Infant Educarers® (RIE®) for eight years. She now has an international private practice teaching and consulting with parents and professional child care providers; and speaking at national and international infancy and early childhood conferences and workshops. Deborah resides in Los Angeles with her family.

Love and attention and cell phones

I'll never forget sitting at Fairway Cafe in New York early one Saturday morning. As I waited for my breakfast to arrive, I watched a sad scene play out at a table nearby. A Dad sat across from his about one-year-old son, cell phone in hand, intently focused on whatever compelling story or email or video he’d found there. I observed the boy look up at his Dad expectantly and each time he saw Dad still entranced by his device, the child put his head down. When their breakfast arrived, I was hopeful Dad would put down his phone, so he could connect with his son. Sadly, that didn't happen. Once he'd completed the task of setting out a placemat and carefully moving the dishes about so his son could feed himself, Dad dove back into his phone, only looking up to gather another forkful of food for himself. When Mom arrived and took a seat next to the child, ever-the-optimist, my hope was renewed. She greeted her son warmly and had a quick word with her partner, as the boy gazed up at her adoringly. I thought, "Finally, he'll get some attention." But, no. Mom picked up her phone [...]

2021-06-17T12:16:29-07:00By |

Teach Children How to Say, “No!” Before Puberty

It’s essential that children learn and trust they have absolute agency over their bodies – no matter who is seeking their affection.  Adults sometimes see one toddler hugging another and think, “Oh, isn’t that sweet!” but not all hugs are wanted, and no child should have to acquiesce to a hug, a kiss or a tickle they don’t want. We can’t expect an excited toddler to slow down long enough to observe that his friend doesn’t want a hug and we can’t expect his friend, who is just learning language, to be able to summon up, “No!” as they’re being exuberantly squeezed. There’s a tendency to diminish these kinds of experiences between young children to, “He’s just being cute” or “That’s how toddlers behave.” But when we don’t support the uncomfortable child in these situations, the unspoken message is, “Don’t make a big deal of it.” Adults rarely hesitate to set boundaries when a toddler hits or pushes, but boundaries around unwanted physical contact – touching, hugging or kissing – should be just as clearly and firmly set. While the hugger may mean no harm, the other child’s discomfort needs to be addressed.  Just as with any sort of conflict, narrating helps both [...]

2020-12-23T13:01:36-08:00By |

Are you expecting too much of your toddler?

A parent recently asked me, ”How do I know if I’m expecting too much of my toddler?” My answer was, “If your toddler consistently fails to meet your expectations, she’s demonstrating that she’s not developmentally ready to meet them. In other words, you’re expecting too much. So, instead of expecting her to do what she can’t do – and feeling frustrated or angry with her, adjust your expectations and celebrate what she can do.”  The same question kept reappearing, disguised in a variety of ways, as the mother asked: “But shouldn’t she be able to…” and “Why won’t she…?” I answered, “Because she can’t… yet.” We can’t expect a baby to sit up or stand before they’re developmentally ready and we can’t expect a toddler to be able to resist climbing when they have an impulse to climb or resist touching an object that's tempting but off-limits. No matter how much a parent may want their toddler to eat without wiggling in their chair or politely ask for a drink of water instead of demanding it like a tyrant, children can’t behave in “socially acceptable” ways until they’re developmentally ready, until they’ve had a lot of patient guidance from their parent [...]

2020-12-19T11:14:17-08:00By |

Children can learn to go to sleep independently

Q: My two-year-old wants me to sit in his room until he falls asleep, before his nap and at nighttime. What can I do to change this habit? A: When you’re feeling emotionally ready to endure the inevitable upset that happens when children practice new sleep time habits, have a little chat with your son earlier that day. Tell him that tonight's going to be different by saying something like, “After your bath tonight, I’m going to read you a story, help you into your crib, give you a kiss and go in the living room (or whatever room is nearby). I'll come check on you after you're asleep." Talking like this will not only let your son know that tonight will be different but will reinforce the plan for you and help to release any tension you may be feeling around changing this habit.  When a parent demonstrates confidence in a plan, that confidence sends an important “You can do this/It's going to be alright” message to the child.  That night, after you’ve finished the pre-bedtime routine, follow through with your plan: “You look sleepy. It's time to get in your crib so you can have a lovely rest. I’ll come check on [...]

2020-11-12T17:35:16-08:00By |

Digital Device Use in the Age of Coronavirus

Several years ago, I was enjoying a solo breakfast upstairs at Fairway Café in New York City, surreptitiously observing people at the other tables and conjuring up their life stories. It was a father and son of about 18 months who captured my attention from across the room. They were sitting opposite each other at a four-top next to a huge window overlooking bustling Broadway below. The father laid out a placemat in front of his son in preparation for their meal. Then he picked up his cell phone and fell down the digital rabbit hole, lifting his gaze only every few minutes. Whenever the father looked up, his son leaned toward him, trying to connect, and failed every time. The server arrived with their food and I became hopeful, thinking that finally, they’d connect over their yogurt, and bagel and lox. But the father’s fascination with his phone continued unabated and the two ate in silence; together, but very much apart. I’d been painfully observing for about 20 minutes when the mother arrived and sat down next to her son, who wiggled with delight to see her. My renewed sense of hope quickly dried up as I observed her [...]

2020-04-26T13:32:21-07:00By |

Staying at Home and Aggressive Behavior

I got a call recently from the mother of two sons, one three years old and the other seven months. The mother said that the usually gentle three-year-old had “turned into a bully,” and had taken to hitting the baby, with his hands and with toys. When she and her partner got there fast enough, they were able to prevent the behavior from happening, they’d set limits by saying, “I won’t let you hit him,” and tried to reason with the toddler by telling him that he was hurting his baby brother. But their responses were making no impact and things were not improving. We know that domestic violence has increased recently, as people have been forced to stay at home together during the pandemic. Likewise, it’s not surprising to see an increase in aggressive behavior among children. Research shows that when physical space is limited, aggression increases. Being stuck inside is like a pressure cooker that needs to let off steam. What to do about it? I suggested to the mother that getting outside can be an excellent way to help her toddler reset and recalibrate. Being outside is visually soothing because we can see a distance, as compared [...]

2020-12-16T15:59:48-08:00By |

Why Crying is a Good Thing

In the movie “Broadcast News,” Holly Hunter sat at her desk every afternoon to have a two-minute, shoulder-heaving cry. Then she was refreshed, renewed and ready to return to work as executive producer of an evening news show. Lucky for her, she could retreat to the privacy of her office where nobody interrupted her to incredulously ask why she was crying or to try to cheer her up. Crying made her feel better. It was a good thing. It’s a good thing for children to have a good cry when they need one. However, some people mistakenly believe that a crying child would feel better if they could just stop crying, and the quicker, the better. But children cry to alleviate some kind of stress. Maybe they feel frustrated or sad. Maybe the child is picking up on their parent’s tension, which these days, would be understandable. When a child is not allowed to cry fully, until they're all done, some of their stress will remain and may come out later in the form of irritability or aggression or defiant behavior. Crying can help a child to feel better. Research shows that when an adult accepts a child’s crying, the [...]

2021-02-22T17:17:03-08:00By |

Indoor Toddler Activities

I spoke with a mom last weekend who has two young daughters, three years and 14-months-old. She said her children seem bored playing with the same toys every day and believes that boredom is the cause of a lot of their irritability. I feel for this mom and for her daughters! These are new and challenging times we’re living in and I think many of us are suffering from the “same old, same old” each day. A play space that provided hours of pleasure a couple of months ago, may now benefit from a few adjustments. It’s a good idea to follow a “less is more” rule of thumb. Too many toys can make it more difficult for your child to engage deeply with any one toy. So, now may be a good time to put away some toys and rotate a few of them back in whenever your toddler needs a change. You can also give toys a sense of newness by setting them out differently. A big, empty yogurt container may have held links and chains yesterday but today, a small stuffed animal can peek out of the top. The metal canning or wooden rings that are usually [...]

2020-04-17T09:45:52-07:00By |

Working from Home with Your Toddler

I had a call with a mother last week, who was desperate for advice because she and her partner were struggling to work from home while caring for their 18-month old son. Here are a few ideas we spoke about: Routines Young children thrive on predictability and routine, both of which help them to feel safe and secure. With everybody together at home 24/7, it can be easy to let routines slide. This is understandable. But sticking to familiar routines will give your toddler something reliable to hold onto, when other aspects of life may be feeling strange and unfamiliar. Following your usual meal, bath and bedtime schedules will be helpful too, for your child and for you. Connect During Caregiving Bathing, diapering, dressing and mealtime are all opportunities for you to connect with your toddler and to refill his emotional fuel tank. Connect through touch, eye contact, a gentle, reassuring voice and warm cuddle. This can go a long way toward easing any emotional discomfort your child may be feeling and can help to reduce your stress level, too. Do your best to commit to giving full, 100% attention to your child during caregiving activities. Clear your calendar, close [...]

2020-04-17T09:15:26-07:00By |

Take Time to Refill Your Cup

A mother of two young children wrote to ask me for some ideas to help her through these challenging times. Here are a few thoughts I shared: Taking care of your own needs is a smart strategic parenting move because when you put everyone else’s needs before your own, at some point, you’re likely to become resentful or angry. But when you get into the habit of taking time for you each day, it will boost your physical and emotional reserves, increasing the likelihood that you can be more patient and available to your children. Taking care of your own needs is not just good for you; it's good for the whole family.   Solitude. Now that we’re home-bound, fi