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PARENTING : Child Counseling at Your Fingertips : Series of audiotapes makes it convenient for harried working parents to deal with developmental issues.

October 09, 1992|VALERIE J. NELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The cassette titles are deceptively simple--"Temper Tantrums," "Problem Eaters," "Sleep Disrup tion," "Head Banging." They could be the stories about your children that you never share with your friends.

The audiotapes are aimed at parents who are being driven mad, or at least a little loony, by any number of developmental issues that never crossed their minds before they had children. (Do you bite back a child who bites? Do you let the baby cry himself to sleep?)

For working parents, and especially the working mother who often shoulders more of the child-care chores, a 20-minute audiotape that can be digested while commuting is one way to seek parenting advice when there's no time to consult Dr. Spock.

The series of tapes called "Is My Baby OK? A Guide for Parents About the Puzzling Behavior of Infants and Toddlers" offers advice on child development topics in a question-and-answer format. The cassettes are an outgrowth of the Warm Line, a service of the Early Childhood Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which has been dispensing free telephone advice to parents since 1970.

Gayle Brohner, 45, a family therapist and child development specialist in private practice in Sherman Oaks who also works on the Warm Line, has recommended the tapes "hundreds of times" to struggling parents, she said.

"The thing I like about the tapes for the working parent is they are very concise. The working parent is dealing with a lot of issues of guilt. Part of them wants to be home with their child, or feels they should want to be with their child. Another part of them needs to work financially, or emotionally. That guilt often sabotages a working parent's ability to be firm and set limits. A child needs the parent's firmness in order to feel safe.

"Time is so precious for working parents. They don't have a lot of time, so making that commute a time when they can do something productive as a parent is going to help," Brohner said.

Brohner said she knew of no other audiotapes that educate parents about the developmental issues concerning young children.

"Very often parents feel their child is doing it to get at them, to bug them. It gives them something else to do so they don't feel so helpless," she said.

Serita Friedman, a working mother in Calabasas, sought out the tapes when she had questions regarding her daughter's frequent waking up, and her biting and aggression. "I think they are really valuable. I'm somebody who already knows a lot about development, and I learned a lot from them. The approach that is used there is unique. It's also very applicable. And it works," said Friedman, 38, a developmental counselor who is working on her doctorate in psychology.

A majority of calls to the Warm Line deal with issues of sleep, and the tape on sleeping is also one of the most requested, along with the one on temper tantrums. The tapes, first developed about 10 years ago, also cover such topics as separation, toilet training, problem eaters, head banging, biting, the security blanket, the new baby, choosing a pediatrician and preparing your child for the hospital.

The series is moderated by Helen Reid, a social worker who founded the Early Childhood Center and Warm Line, and Dr. Saul L. Brown, a child and family psychiatrist who is the former director of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai. On the tapes, the center's staff members pose as the frustrated parents who act out the scripts, which are based on calls to Warm Line. Reid and Brown dispense the advice in an uncomplicated manner.

On the "Sleep Disruption" tape, parents are advised against letting a child cry it out when he wakes during the night. They suggest comforting the child by making a bed next to the crib and letting the child know you will stay there. On "Biting," parents are advised against biting a child back because he will fear you. Instead, give him objects that are OK to bite.

Where to Go

Price: Tapes are $3.95 or $39.95 for the series, plus $1.50 shipping and 8.25% sales tax. Proceeds go toward the Warm Line and research.

Call: Warm Line, (310) 855-3500.

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