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Your Toddler

Toddlers at High Risk for Chemical Eye Burns

1:45

You might think that most chemical eye burns occur at work places, but according to a new study, more toddlers than adults are treated at emergency rooms.

"Household cleaners are a huge culprit," said Dr. R. Sterling Haring, who led the study. Spray bottles frequently have been implicated in other research, he said.

"The rates among 1-year-olds are 1.5 times higher than the highest rate of [eye] injury for working-age adults," said Haring, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Researchers analyzed data from 900 hospitals and found more than 144,000 ER visits related to chemical eye burns across all age groups.

When the researchers broke the data down by year of life, 24-year-olds had the highest rate among adults. Among children, 1- and 2-year-olds were injured most often, with this age group 1.5 times more likely to get an eye burn than a 24-year-old, the findings showed.

"We see chemical eye injuries in the little kids all the time," said Dr. Roberto Warman, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, who wasn't involved in the study.

"It's always the same story. They got access to the cleaners in the house. These are some extremely serious injuries," Warman said.

The investigators discovered that when the chemical agent that caused the burn was known, alkaline injuries were more common than acid injuries. Alkaline agents are found in oven cleaners, drain cleaners, chlorine bleach and ammonia products, according to background notes in the study.

Alkaline chemicals can continue to burn into the eye even after contact with the compound, Haring explained. Damage can be blinding, he said.

Workplaces often have precautions set up to avoid eye accidents while home products are not always locked or secured in a place a child can’t reach. Warman and Haring agreed that parents and industry could do a better job protecting young children.

The toddlers' injuries occur at home most often and are more common among lower-income families. They also are more common in the South, according to the analysis of 2010-2013 data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample.

Haring's advice: Never keep household chemicals under the sink. "It's a terrible idea, even with a lock," he said.

Instead, store all cleaning supplies and other potentially harmful products "in a lockable cabinet out of reach," he said. Supervise their use if, for instance, older children are using them. Also, be sure to turn the spray bottle nozzles to the "off" position before storing them, Haring advised.

In addition, Warman said, "The industry can also help us more. They can make caps in a way that they are harder and harder to open."

Even with precautions, however, chemicals might sometimes get into the eye. If that happens, run tap water over the eye for a while, Haring said. Emergency room doctors usually rinse the child's eye with saline for 20 minutes or more, often after applying antiseptic eye drops to reduce the pain, according to information from Boston Children's Hospital.

The study was published online Aug. 4 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Story Source:  Kathleen Doheny, https://consumer.healthday.com/eye-care-information-13/eye-and-vision-problem-news-295/toddlers-at-high-risk-of-chemical-eye-burns-study-713568.html

 

Your Toddler

Noisy Homes May Influence Toddler’s Vocabulary

1:00

Have you ever had a hard time understanding someone speak in a noisy restaurant? Imagine if you were trying to learn a new language. That’s just what toddlers are trying to do, learn a language. According to a new study, toddlers learn new words quicker when their environment has less background noise.

"Modern homes are filled with noisy distractions such as TV, radio and people talking that could affect how children learn words at early ages," said study leader Brianna McMillan.

"Our study suggests that adults should be aware of the amount of background speech in the environment when they're interacting with young children," said McMillan, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Researchers from the university assessed the ability of 106 children, aged 22 to 30 months, to learn new words. They found they were more successful when their surroundings were quiet than when there was background noise.

However, researchers noted that providing the children with additional language cues helped them overcome the detrimental effects of a noisy location.

"Hearing new words in fluent speech without a lot of background noise before trying to learn what objects the new words corresponded to, may help very young children master new vocabulary," said study co-author Jenny Saffran, a professor of psychology.

Sometimes, you simply can’t avoid a noisy environment- especially if there are other children around. Saffron says there is a way to overcome that.

“… When the environment is noisy, drawing young children's attention to the sounds of the new word may help them compensate," she added.

Story source: Robert Preidt, https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/noisy-homes-slow-toddler-s-vocabulary-713013.html

 

 

Your Toddler

Thumb Sucking and Nail Biting Linked to Fewer Allergies

1:30

An interesting new study out of New Zealand suggests that young children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails may be at a lower risk for developing allergies.

The study included data from 1000 children born in New Zealand in 1972 or 1973, and spanned three decades.

While the results of the study suggests these habits may lower children’s risks of developing allergies, researchers noted that they are not recommending that kids take up these habits, only that the habits may play a role protecting them against allergies into adulthood.

 "Many parents discourage these habits, and we do not have enough evidence to [advise they] change this," said Dr. Robert Hancox, an associate professor of respiratory epidemiology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. "We certainly don't recommend encouraging nail-biting or thumb-sucking, but perhaps if a child has one of these habits and [it] is difficult [for them] to stop, there is some consolation in the knowledge that it might reduce their risk of allergies.”

The researchers asked the parents of the children participating in the study about their kids’ thumb-sucking habits and nail-biting habits four times: when the kids were 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old. Researchers also tested the children for allergies using a skin-prick test when they were 13, and then followed up with the kids again when they were 32.

It turned out that 38 percent of the children who had sucked their thumbs or bit their nails had at least one allergy, whereas among kids who did not have these habits, 49 percent had at least one allergy.

Moreover, the link between these childhood habits and a lower risk of allergies was still present among the study participants when they were 32 years old. The link persisted even when the researchers took into account potentially confounding factors that may also affect a person's risk of allergies, such as whether their parents had allergies, whether they owned pets, whether they were breast-fed as infants and whether their parents smoked.

By the time the children were 13 years old, researchers found that the ones who both sucked their thumbs and bit their nails were even less likely to have allergies compared with children who had just one of the two habits. However, by the time they were 32, this association was no longer found.

The study was published in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics.

The results of this study are inline with another study published in 2013, which found that children whose mothers sucked their kids’ pacifiers clean had a lower risk of developing allergies.

"Although the mechanism and age of exposure [to pathogens] are different, both studies suggest that the immune response and risk of allergies may be influenced by exposure to oral bacteria or other microbes," the researchers wrote in the new study.

The new findings also lend support the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which holds that environments that have too little dirt and germs may make children more susceptible to certain conditions, including allergies. It seems that "exposure to microbial organisms influences our immune system and makes us less likely to develop allergies," Hancox told Live Science.

Kids that suck their thumbs or bite their nails, receive mixed reactions from adults. Most adults will encourage kids to stop biting their nails, while it’s probably 50/50 on the thumb sucking. Either way, it appears that oral bacteria may play a role in lowering the risks of developing allergies in kids.

Story source: Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, http://www.livescience.com/55340-children-thumb-sucking-nail-biting-allergy-risk.html

 

Your Toddler

Tricycles Cause Almost 9500 Injuries a Year

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The brightly colored, tripled wheeled tyke-bikes may appear pretty harmless, but tricycles injuries send thousands of children to the hospital every year according to a new study.

Researchers found that lacerations were the most common type of injury kids suffered.  

But in an indication that some kids might need more or better quality protective gear, researchers also estimated that about 30 percent of injuries were to the head and another 8 percent involved the elbow, noted lead study author Sean Bandzar.

“Head injuries in particular are very common with any kind of moving toy and that’s why we recommend helmets, and based on our findings I would also encourage parents to have kids wear elbow pads,” said Bandzar, a researcher at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

Based on the 328 tricycle injuries reported by participating hospitals in 2012 and 2013, researchers estimated that there were about 9,340 injuries nationwide during the two-year study period.

The total included 2,767 injuries to the head and 767 at the elbow, as well as 1,880 accidents damaging the face, 954 hurting the mouth and 483 harming the lower arms, researchers estimated.

The study noted that on average, three year-olds were the typical age group injured and one to two-year olds, made-up slightly more than 50 percent of the cases.

Boys made up almost two-thirds of the cases.

With this age group, it came as no surprise that about 72 percent of the injures occurred at home.

There were a couple shortcomings of the study, the authors acknowledge in the journal Pediatrics, is that researchers lacked data on how accidents happened, whether kids wore helmets or other protective gear, what types of tricycles children rode and whether adults were present.

It’s also possible that the study didn’t have data on enough accidents to draw broad conclusions about tricycle injuries nationwide, said Dr. Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and a professor of Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

“Tricycles are safe, especially if a few simple steps are taken to prevent injuries,” Smith, who wasn’t involved in the study, he told Rueters by email.

Children should always wear helmets any time they are on wheels above a hard surface – including tricycles, skateboards, scooters, skates and bicycles, Smith said. Tricycle riders in particular should only ride in areas separated from cars, and when parents can keep a close eye on them.

“Tricycles are somewhat riskier than other toys children use but that doesn’t mean they are highly risky toys,” said David Schwebel, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

While Schwebel, who wasn’t involved in the study, echoed the need for parental supervision, he also stressed that tricycles can be good for kids.

“Tricycles are valuable tools to help children develop critical gross motor skills like balance, coordination and strength,” Schwebel said by email. “Any tricycle, when used carefully in a supervised situation, is likely to be a positive activity for children.”

Source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/14/us-health-children-tricycle-injuries-idUSKCN0RE1TQ20150914

 

Your Toddler

Anchor It!

1:45

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has launched “Anchor It”, a national public education campaign, to help make people aware of the dangers that free-standing furniture and TVs present, particularly to children.

The annual number of children injured or killed from furniture and TV tip-overs is astounding.

According to CPSC data, unstable and unsecured TVs and large pieces of furniture kill a child every two weeks, on average, in tip-over incidents that are easily preventable.  CPSC also reported that 38,000 Americans go to emergency rooms each year with injuries related to tip-overs of top-heavy furniture or televisions placed on furniture, instead of a TV stand.  Two-thirds of those injuries involved children younger than 5.  Additionally, between 2000 and 2013, 84 percent of the 430 deaths reported to CPSC involved children younger than 10.

A January 2015 CPSC report found that a television tipping over from an average size dresser falls with thousands of pounds of force. 

The impact of a falling TV is like being caught between two NFL linemen colliding at full-speed—10 times. 

“Every 24 minutes in the U.S. a child goes to the emergency room because of a tip-over incident involving furniture or a TV,” said CPSC Commissioners Marietta Robinson and Joseph Mohorovic. “We must take action now. CPSC’s new ‘Anchor It!’ campaign is a call to action for parents and caregivers to ‘get on top of it, before they do.’ If we can prevent one more death, it will be worth it.”

Cards and posters are being distributed parents and caregivers of toddlers at daycare centers and preschools. A list of safety steps parents and caregivers can take are printed on the handouts. They are:

·      Buy and install low-cost anchoring devices to prevent TVs, dressers, bookcases or other furniture from tipping.

·      Avoid leaving items, such as remote controls and toys, in places where kids might be tempted to climb up to reach for them.

·      Store heavier items on lower shelves or in lower drawers.

·      Place TVs on a sturdy, low base and push them as far back as possible, particularly if anchoring is not possible.

·      If purchasing a new TV, consider recycling older ones not currently used. If moving the older TV to another room, be sure it is anchored properly to the wall.

The “Anchor It” campaign’s website (www.Anchorit.gov) shows you how to anchor furniture and television sets properly, with easy to follow instructions. Keep your little one safe and Anchor It!

 

Your Toddler

Is Your Child a Biter?

2.00 to read

At some time or another your sweet child is going to bite or wallop someone, most likely another kid. And yes, it's embarrassing to have to pull your child off another or to apologize to grandma because her grandchild just took a chunk out of her arm. 

Know that you’re not alone - all kids bite and /or hit. The key to stopping aggression in children is teaching them that there are alternative ways to handle frustration and biting is not acceptable behavior.

Not all biting stems from anger. The younger the child, the less chance that biting is an aggressive behavior. It can also be a simple case of exploration. Young children bite for many reasons, from painful gums because they are teething to seeing what kind of reaction they get. Children between the ages of one and three typically go through a biting phase they eventually outgrow.

While biting may be a normal phase kids go through, it’s something you want to discourage.

Let’s look at some of the reasons kids bite.

  • They're in pain. When babies bite, typically it's because they're teething. They're just doing it to relieve the pain of their swollen, tender gums.
  • They're exploring their world. Very young children use their mouths to explore, just as they use their hands. Just about everything infants or toddlers pick up eventually winds up in their mouths. Kids this age aren't yet able to prevent themselves from biting the object of their interest.
  • They're looking for a reaction. Part of exploration is curiosity. Toddlers experiment to see what kind of reaction their actions will provoke. They'll bite down on a friend or sibling to hear the surprised exclamation, not realizing how painful the experience is for that person.
  • They're craving attention. In older kids, biting is just one of several bad behaviors used to get attention. When a child feels ignored, discipline is at least one way of getting noticed -- even if the attention is negative rather than positive.
  • They're frustrated. Biting, like hitting, is a way for some children to assert themselves when they're still too young to express feelings effectively through words. To your child, biting is a way to get back a favorite toy, tell you that he or she is unhappy, or let another child know that he or she wants to be left alone.

So, how do you prevent or teach your child that they can’t go through life biting others?

You start with consistent prevention and move on to discipline if they are older.

  • If your baby is teething, make sure to always have a cool teething ring or washcloth on hand so he or she will be less likely to sink teeth into someone's arm.
  • Avoid situations in which your child can get irritable enough to bite. Make sure that all of your child's needs -- including eating and naptime -- are taken care of before you go out to play. Bring along a snack to soothe your child if he or she gets cranky from being hungry.
  • As soon as your child is old enough, encourage your child to use words such as “I'm angry with you" or "That's my toy" instead of biting. Other ways to express frustration or anger include hugging (not hitting) a stuffed animal or punching a pillow. Sometimes redirection is helpful; shortening activities or giving your child a break can help prevent the rising frustration that can lead to biting and other bad behaviors.
  • Give your child enough of your time throughout the day (for example, by reading or playing together), so he or she doesn't bite just to get attention. Extra attention is especially important when your child is going through a major life change, such as a move or welcoming a baby sibling. If your child is prone to biting, keep an eye on any playmates and step in when an altercation appears to be brewing.

You’ve done all that is possible to prevent another biting situation, and low and behold your child is biting another. What do you do then?

When your child bites, firmly let your child know that this behavior is not acceptable by saying, "No. We don't bite!" Explain that biting hurts the other person. Then remove your child from the situation and give the child time to calm down. It’s important that you remain calm.

Seeing your child bite another is naturally going to create an unpleasant reaction in you. As soon as you witness a biting episode, your body tenses, your heart races, and even if you don't actually scream, you really want to. The angrier you are, the tenser the situation becomes. You are much more likely to strike your child when you let your anger get the best of you. Take a deep breath, assess the situation and intervene calmly. Remove your child, let him or her calm down and explain (yes, once again) that biting is not going to be tolerated. If your child is old enough to understand time-out, this is a good time to use it. If not, remove the child from the temptation. Playtime is over.

One way some parents handle biting is to bite their own child to show them how painful it can be. Doing what you are telling your child not to do sends a mixed message. It’s similar to hitting your child and then saying “don’t hit others.” Most likely your child will experience how painful it is because another child will bite them someday.

The point is not so much that biting is painful, the action itself is unkind, unproductive and wrong.

When biting becomes a habit or continues past the age 4 or 5, it may stem from a more serious emotional problem. This is the time to ask for help from your pediatrician, family doctor or a child psychologist.

If your child is bitten, wash the area with soap and water. If the bite is bleeding and the wound appears to be deep, call your child’s doctor. The bite may need medical treatment, which could include antibiotics or a tetanus shot or both.

Biting is a horrible habit to get into and a difficult one to stop. Start teaching your child early that momma and daddy are not putting up with it and that there are better ways to explore the world and handle frustration.

Source: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/stop-children-from-biting

Your Toddler

12 Tips to Make a Home Safer for the Grandkids

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Grandparents and grandkids are two-way blessings. Grandchildren benefit from having a close relationship with their grandparents. They have an extra pair of eyes to watch over them and a lot of hugging and spoiling.

Grandparents get the joy of being around their grandchildren, watching them grow and develop and yes- spoiling them.

Many younger families depend on grandparents to supplement with childcare. Some grandparents are the preferred choice for day care. And of course, sometimes it’s just a family visit.

Not all grandparents think about making their home safer for the grandkids because they aren’t always around them. They may not be aware of what to look for or what to do to make their home safer for little ones. It may have been a long time since a grandparent has had to think about having a child in the house. A lot more information is quickly available regarding child safety than in years past.

The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) recently published an article with tips for making a home safe for grandchildren. Reading it reminded me of when my child was little and the visits our family used to have with my husband’s parents and mine. I never thought about having a list of suggestions to help them safeguard their home for our child. Most of the time there wasn’t a problem, but occasionally there were big safety issues that they just hadn’t thought about.

If you’ve been thinking about how to talk with yours or your spouse’s parents about making their home more kid-proof – here’s some excellent tips from “ Grandparent Central”, AARP:

1. Keep meds out of reach. About 38 percent of child-poisoning cases involve grandparents' medications, so clear all drugs from countertops, tables and drawers. Put a childproof lock on the medicine cabinet. Make sure your purse is not within reach of your grandchild.

2. Get rid of crib-clutter. Not long ago, cribs were filled with such things as stuffed toys, little pillows, bumper pads and blankets. Nowadays, more people are aware that these items can present a suffocation hazard and are best left out of the crib

3. Baby should sleep on back. Make sure that baby is sleeping on his or her back and not face down or on their side in the crib.

4. Lock up detergent pods. These colorful packets of liquid laundry or dishwasher soap look like candy. They can pose "a serious poisoning risk to young children," says a study in the journal Pediatrics. If you use these products, make sure they are locked in a cabinet and cannot be accessed by curious little hands.

5. Make furniture tip-proof. Flat-screen TVs and modern furniture are particularly prone to tipping if little ones try to pull themselves up. Attach anti-tip brackets or straps to safely secure these items. And don't forget outlet covers, drawer locks, stairway gates, and edge and corner guards for furniture.

6. Walkers and wheelchairs. These items may look like toys to a young child. Make sure they are either out of sight or that someone keeps an eye on the child if they seem a little too intrigued by them.

7. Keep guns under lock and key. One of the most important tips! If you're among the 1 in 3 Americans with a gun, always keep it unloaded in a locked cabinet, with the ammunition stored separately.

8. Be present when your grandchild is with your pet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 77,000 children under age 10 are treated each year in emergency rooms for dog bites.

9. Guard pools and drains.  Always keep your cell phone with you when your grandchild is in the pool in case you need to call 911. If you've got a backyard pool or hot tub, you likely know to prevent access with a childproof gate. But you may not be aware of the danger of drains: Suction forces can be powerful enough to trap small children underwater.

10. Watch all water. Since toddlers' heads are heavy in proportion to bodies, they can easily be pulled down. That's why even an inch of standing water is dangerous. Put a childproof lock on the toilet and drain bathwater immediately.

11. Stove safety. When kids are around, use back burners and always keep handles of pots and pans turned in.

12. Beware of choking hazards. 5 of the most overlooked choking hazards for young children are mini-batteries, jewelry, refrigerator magnets, pen caps and loose change. Five items you may not typically think about.

These 12 tips are obviously good for every family household but may be particularly helpful when someone is not used to having children at their house for extended periods of time.

Grandparents and grandchildren often share a special bond that can grow even more secure and stronger when the home safe during their visit.

Story source: Bulletin staff, http://www.aarp.org/home-family/your-home/info-2016/home-safety-tips-grandkids.html

Your Toddler

Making Time Outs Work for You and Your Child

2:00

It’s not going out on a limb to say that at eventually, mom or dad will resort to the “time out” rule when their little one is behaving badly. And that’s a good thing. 

Time-outs can be very effective in helping children learn how to change their behavior as long as they are not overused and handled correctly.

What is a time-out? Basically, a time-out is when a child is separated from others for behavior that is unacceptable such as throwing a full-out tantrum, continuingly refusing to obey a command, or biting, hitting or kicking someone. 

When used correctly, a time out can teach a child how to modify his or her behavior in a more acceptable way. However, problems can arise when parents don’t know how or when to use time outs effectively.

Time outs should be used as positive and consistent discipline, not as a form of punishment. Time outs separate a child from positive feedback when they are intentionally acting up. It gives them the space and time to settle down and associate the behavior with the consequence.

A time out should consist of a designated place in the home where the child is safe and can be seen. The place should be quiet and away from the activity that caused or included the behavior. Many parents have a stool, chair or step on standby for time outs. The area needs to be boring and not have “reward” objects such as TVs, toys, or computers present.

How long should time outs last? Many follow conventional wisdom that when a child demonstrates unacceptable behavior, he or she should be separated from the activity for a number of minutes equal to his or her age.

Time outs should be used to help a child calm down and think about the behavior that got them there.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it's okay to give children as young as 1 a time-out – but it's best only as a last resort. Until he's a little older, your child may not have the self-control and reasoning skills to make a traditional time-out effective. Instead, think of a time-out as the "quiet time" your toddler needs to calm down and get his or her emotions under control. It’s also a time when parents can get their own emotions under control as well.

If you’re child is capable of understanding that certain behaviors are not going to be tolerated, and yet they are right in the middle of acting out one of those behaviors, that’s when a time out should be implemented.

You want your child to associate the behavior with the consequence. Calmly tell your child in no more than 10 words why they are in time out. As soon as he or she calms down, reward them with positive attention.

Children whine, cry and sulk – those are not reasons to put them in time out. Time outs are for intentional behavior such as biting or continuing to break rules.

What's helpful about a time-out is that it can defuse and redirect an escalating situation in an unemotional way. It lets you teach your child without setting a negative example, the way yelling or hitting does.

Parents tend to over explain a situation to a child, that’s why it’s important to keep the wording simple and direct. Over-talking the problem also tends to make the parent more agitated when the behavior doesn’t change. Being calm when putting your child in time out not only de-escalates the situation but also helps your child relax and think about their behavior. If you’re screaming and jerking your child to the time out area, they are more likely to be frightened and / or defiant than contemplative.

When the time-out is over, give your child a hug. A sign of affection demonstrates that he or she is still worthy of your love even though the behavior is unacceptable.

What if your child won’t stay in the time out zone? Toddlers are going to give you a challenge- that’s their nature. Power struggles can easily get out of hand. Until your toddler can appreciate the need to follow rules, limit the use of time-outs. Otherwise he or she won't understand why she's being corrected, and you may get frustrated and abandon the strategy prematurely.

You might actually consider “practicing” time outs with your child. Say your little one is revved up and on the edge of losing it- this might be a good time to grab a favorite book and sit down together. This is more like a “time-in” that associates positive attention to calming down before the behavior gets out of control.

When your child can follow simple directions and has a slightly longer attention span, they’re ready for a more traditional time-out. Between ages 2 and 3, you'll probably notice that he or she is better able to understand cause and effect.

But don't spring the tactic on them in a burst of frustration – a time-out works best if it's explained ahead of time. Use simple terms: "When you get too wild or act in a way that Mommy and Daddy don't think is a good idea, I will call, 'Time-out.' That means you will sit in this chair for a little while until you can calm yourself down."

Some parents find it useful to act this out or to use a doll or teddy bear to demonstrate taking a time-out.

Time outs are not miracle cures for unacceptable childhood behaviors. They are one tool parents can use to help educate their children about cause and effect. Parenting is a balancing act between positive reinforcement and consistent discipline.

When a child is very young, redirecting their attention to something more appropriate or fun may be the best approach. The key is to always keep your expectations realistic.

Sources: Paula Spencer, http://www.babycenter.com/0_time-outs-how-to-make-them-work-12-to-24-mo_12252.bc?page=1

http://www.news-medical.net/news/20150320/Time-outs-can-train-children-to-behave-better.aspx

Your Toddler

Babies, Toddlers and Discipline

2.00 to read

In a previous article we looked at the results of a study on whether spanking your child creates more disobedience instead of controlling bad behavior.  According to the research in this particular study, spanking is not an effective form of discipline; in fact, it’s not discipline at all. It only creates more problems down the road.

So, what are some better alternatives to getting your child to behave? 

The first step is to understand what discipline is and how it works. Discipline is not punishment.

Punishment, defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: suffering, pain or loss that serves as retribution or a severe, rough or disastrous treatment.

That’s not the goal of loving parents who are trying to stop a child’s unacceptable behavior.

Discipline, on the other hand, is about teaching. It helps a child learn what is expected and to gradually learn how to control their behavior.  Children learn best when they feel safe and secure and their “good behavior” is encouraged.  The key is to have a good relationship with your child as well as clear and realistic expectations.

There is no one discipline tool that fits all, but there are some guidelines for different age groups. As children mature, techniques need to change to fit your child’s mental and physical growth.

Ages 0-1 years of age (Infants):

Infants should never be disciplined. They are not capable of understanding the meaning of words or able to remember what you’ve asked of them. You’d think that this would be obvious, and to most parents or caregivers it is. But there are some people who don’t get it and not only try to discipline their baby, but get angry when the infant doesn’t do what they want.  Babies are not little adults who have an agenda. They are merely babies and depend entirely on their parents or caregivers for survival.

Loving touches and gentle words are just as important as food and clothing to these little ones.  They need to learn that their world is a safe and nurturing place and that they can trust those around them.  A baby never does anything to deliberately annoy someone. They simply aren’t capable of that kind of manipulation.

Ages 1-3 (Toddlers)

These are the ages when children first sample the world around them through mobility and touch. They are curious, excited and easily frustrated. They learn through touching and moving and oftentimes creating a mess. They get frustrated because they don’t have the skills to accomplish everything they want.  The word “no” can become a part of their limited vocabulary.

Discipline at this age is about setting a few simple boundaries and helping them learn new skills with patience and praise.

Avoid battles, particularly with eating and toilet training. It’s not a war between you and your toddler. Making a mess is normal. This age group demands a lot of attention and patience. Re-directing and praise works better than a constant stream of you saying “no, no, no.” The word no loses its power when repeated constantly.

Toddler-proof your home: The best way to help a toddler stay out of a dangerous situation, or not grab something you don’t want them to have, is to toddler-proof your home. Cover electrical outlets with plastic snap-ons. Move breakable objects to a higher place in the house. Make sure coffee tables don’t have sharp corners.  Secure your TV to the wall and make sure that bookcases are secured. Anything they climb on or pull over needs to be anchored. Make sure that drawers and cabinets cannot be accessed. Put in place kid-safe products designed to block access to these areas.

Toddlerhood is a challenging time, no doubt about it.  They have little self-control and are not rational thinkers. They want to be independent and discover things for themselves but don’t have the communication skills and forethought needed to do so safely so it’s up to you, the parent, to help keep them safe.

Routines, order and consistency: Routines, order and consistency are very important to helping this age feel that the world around them is a safe place. This means regular nap times, meal times and bed times as well as free time to play and explore.  

Since they are just beginning to experience a little independence, toddlers need to know what you expect of them. Terms have to be simple; consequences quick. If your child bites or hits or grabs the cat by the tail, you respond quickly with the appropriate words. “ Do not bite”, “Do not hit,”  “ Do not pull the kitty’s tail”.  Say it every time it happens, and redirect your child to an activity that you can praise. Be consistent in the idea that there are certain actions that are not acceptable and others that are not only acceptable, but also more interesting.

Avoid stressful situations. You’ve spent enough time with your child to know that there are situations that often trigger bad behavior. The most common ones are hunger, sleepiness, and quick changes of venue. Avoid these potential meltdown scenarios with a little advance planning. An example would be that you wouldn’t take your toddler to the grocery store when you know they haven’t had a nap or are hungry. You can pretty well predict how that is going to go.

If you’re taking your child out, keep excursions short unless it’s to the park or playground. Even those trips should have a time limit that you know works well.

Restaurants can be tricky with a toddler. There is a lot of stimulation and not a lot of room for exploring. Find “family friendly” locations and try not to go during the busiest times. If a meltdown occurs, take your child outside, explain the situation in a calm voice and redirect their attention again until he or she calms down. 

Validate their emotions: Let your child know you understand their frustration. Validate their emotions. “I know you don’t like the car-seat, but we have to use it when you ride in the car.” It’s not coddling, it’s validating their feelings but also setting boundaries. When we ride in the car- you’ll be in the car seat. I understand you don’t like it.

You can also bring something your child likes to hold – a stuffed animal, blanket or toy. You can offer a healthy snack or give them a choice between the two, so they feel like they have a measure of control in their life. It’s a learning experience every day for parents as well as toddlers.

Time-outs? A lot has been made of “time-outs.” Time-outs are helpful when used as a discipline tool, but typically they don’t work well for toddlers. They are too young to really understand what it is you’re asking of them and it can be too confusing.  Distraction and redirecting tend to work better for this age.

Praise good behavior: You can correct bad behavior, but don’t forget to praise good behavior.  When a little one only hears what they are doing wrong, they don’t get a sense of the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  Sometimes re-phrasing in a more positive tone helps. “The puppy likes to be petted, not have her tail pulled. Let’s pet the puppy like this. Look- see the puppy likes that – you’re such a good puppy petter!”

Stay calm: Toddlers can push your buttons.  It’s important to stay calm and to know when you’re getting too upset to parent well.  Losing control can quickly escalate into yelling, hitting and doing or saying something you regret. If your child is home and having a tantrum or repeating the same behavior over and over, give yourself some time to cool down.

When they are in a safe environment like the home, ignoring the tantrum may work best. Sometimes, you just have to let them exhaust themselves while screaming, lying on the floor and flailing about. It’s part of learning that they won’t always get what they want.

Once they settle down, hug them and let them know that you love them and then find something better to do. 

Toddlers will test your patience, your sanity and your self-control. They’ll also make you find creative ways to teach them. Each child is different and requires an approach tailored to their personality and maturity.

And yes, sometimes you reach a point where the battle is more damaging than giving in. Be flexible and give in, but redirect the behavior towards something that you want them to learn or do.

“Alright, mommy is going to give you this piece of candy, and then you’re going to help me put away your building blocks. That’s the way we’re going to make this moment work for both of us. Sound good?”

Toddlers and babies are precious little beings that can make your heart burst with joy and love. Yes, they can be demanding, but they are so worth the extra effort.

In later posts we’ll look at discipline techniques for older children.

Sources: Stephanie Watson, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/7-secrets-of-toddler-discipline

http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=114&np=122&id=2429

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