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Your Toddler

Seven Tips For Toddler Discipline

2.15 to read

Toddler-hood is a particularly vexing time for parents because this is the age at which children start to become more independent and discover themselves as individuals. Yet they still have a limited ability to communicate and reason. "They understand that their actions matter -- they can make things happen," says Claire Lerner, LCSW-C, child development specialist and director of parenting resources for the organization Zero to Three. "This leads them to want to make their imprint on the world and assert themselves in a way they didn't when they were a baby. The problem is they have very little self-control and they're not rational thinkers. It's a very challenging combination." So how do you deal with a child who screams every time you try to give him or her a bath, and whose vocabulary seems to consist of just one word -- "no"? Here are a few simple toddler discipline strategies to help make life easier for both you and your child. Toddler Discipline Secret No. 1: Be Consistent Order and routine give young children a safe haven from what they view as an overwhelming and unpredictable world, says Lerner. "When there's some predictability and routine, it makes children feel much more safe and secure, and they tend to be much more behaved and calm because they know what to expect." Try to keep to the same schedule every day. That means having consistent nap times, mealtimes, and bedtimes, as well as times when your toddler is free to just run around and have fun. When you do have to make a change, it helps to warn your child in advance. Telling your child, "Aunt Jean is going to watch you tonight while Mommy and Daddy go out for a little bit" will prepare her for a slightly different routine, and will hopefully prevent a scene at bedtime. Consistency is also important when it comes to discipline. When you say "no hitting" the first time your child smacks another child on the playground, you also need to say "no hitting" the second, third, and fourth times your child does it. Toddler Discipline Secret No. 2: Avoid Stressful Situations By the time children reach the toddler stage, you've spent enough time with them to know their triggers. The most common ones are hunger, sleepiness, and quick changes of venue. With a little advance planning, you can avoid these potential meltdown scenarios and keep things relatively calm. "You have to anticipate, which means you don't go to the grocery store when your child needs a nap," says Lisa Asta, MD, a pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif., and associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. Try to make sure your child is home at naptimes, bedtimes, and mealtimes. If you are out, always keep food on hand in case of a sudden hunger attack. Keep excursions short (that means finding another restaurant if the one you've chosen has an hour-long wait, or doing your grocery shopping at times when the lines are shortest). Finally, plan ahead so you don't have to rush (particularly when you need to get your child to preschool and yourself to work in the mornings). You can ease transitions by involving your child in the process. That can be as simple as setting an egg timer for five minutes, and saying that when it rings it's time to take a bath or get dressed, or giving your child a choice of whether to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt to school. Toddler Discipline Secret No. 3: Think Like a Toddler Toddlers aren't mini-adults. They have trouble understanding many of the things we take for granted, like how to follow directions and behave appropriately. Seeing the scenario from a toddler's perspective can help prevent a tantrum. "You might say, 'I know, Derek, you don't like getting into the car seat ... but it's what we have to do,'" Lerner explains. "So you're not coddling, but you're validating their feelings. You have to set the limit, but you do it in a way that respects the child and you use it as an opportunity to help them learn to cope with life's frustrations and rules and regulations." Giving choices also shows that you respect your toddler and recognize the child's feelings. Asking your child if he or she wants to bring a favorite book in the car, or take along a snack, can make the child feel as though he or she has some control over the situation while you remain in charge, Lerner says. Toddler Discipline Secret No. 4: Practice the Art of Distraction Make your toddler's short attention span work for you. When your child throws the ball against the dining room wall for the 10th time after you've said to stop, it's pretty easy to redirect your child to a more productive activity, like trading the ball for a favorite book or moving the game outside. "Parents need to create an environment that is most conducive to good toddler behavior," advises Rex Forehand, PhD, the Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher Professor of Psychology at the University of Vermont and author of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child. "If they're into something they're not supposed to do, the idea is not to punish them but to get another activity going or pick them up and put them in another room." Toddler Discipline Secret No. 5: Give Your Child a Break Time-outs are one of the foundations of child discipline, but they may not be the best approach for the toddler stage. The negative implication of being sent away can teach kids that they're bad, rather than promote good behavior. If you do give your child a time-out, limit it to just a minute or two at this age. Instead of calling it a time-out, which can be confusing to children under 3, refer to it as something more positive. Lerner suggests creating a "cozy corner," a safe place, free from distractions and stimulation, where your child can just chill out for a few minutes until he or she can get back in control. That time away can help you regroup, as well. Correct bad behaviors, but also take the time to praise good behaviors. "If you don't tell your child when they're doing the right thing, sometimes they'll do the wrong thing just to get attention," Asta says. When you tell your toddler he or she has done something good, there's a good chance your child will want to do it again. Toddler Discipline Secret No. 6: Stay Calm When you're standing in the middle of the mall, looking down at your child who's screaming on the floor, and trying to ignore the stares of the shoppers around you, it's easy for your blood pressure to reach the boiling point. It's hard to stay calm, but losing control will quickly escalate an already stressful situation. Give yourself some time to cool off, advises Forehand. "Otherwise, you're venting your own anger. In the end that's going to make you as a parent feel worse and guilty, and it's not going to do your child any good." "I call it the "Stepford Wife" approach," Lerner says. As your child screams, say, 'I know, I know,' but stay completely calm as you pick him up. Don't show any emotion. Sometimes the best tactic is to ignore the behavior entirely. "You just literally act like they're not doing what they're doing. You ignore the behavior you want to stop," Lerner says. When your child realizes that his screaming fit is not going to get him a second lollipop or your attention, eventually he'll get tired of yelling. Your child may drive you so close to the breaking point that you're tempted to spank him, but most experts warn against the practice. "When we spank, kids learn that physical punishment is acceptable. And so we are modeling exactly what we don't want our kids to do," says Forehand. At the toddler stage, redirection and brief breaks are far more effective discipline tactics, Forehand says. Toddler Discipline Secret No. 7: Know When to Give In Certain things in a toddler's life are nonnegotiable. She has to eat, brush her teeth, and ride in a car seat. She also has to take baths once in a while. Hitting and biting are never OK. But many other issues aren't worth the headache of an argument. Pick your battles. "You have to decide whether it's worth fighting about, and about half the time it's not worth fighting about," Asta says. That means it's OK to let your son wear his superhero costume to the grocery store, or read The Giving Tree 10 times in a row. Once he gets what he wants, you can gradually get him to shift in another direction -- like wearing another outfit or picking out a different book to read. Finally, know that it's OK to feel stressed out by your toddler sometimes. "Realize that none of us as parents is perfect -- we do the best we can. There are going to be days that we're better at this than other days," Forehand says. "But if we parent consistently and have consistent rules, then we're going to see more good days than bad days."

Daily Dose

TV Show "The Slap"

1:30 to watch

I was intrigued by one of the new “winter replacement shows” on TV, entitled “The Slap”. After watching numerous ads promoting the show, my interest was piqued and I did a bit of research on the background of the show.  Seems that this was a book that was the made into a series in Australia, and now is a new TV drama for the states. (It does have a lot of good actors).

 

If you have not heard/seen anything about the show it is based on the premise that a child is misbehaving (really awfully I might add) while at a party with several families and their children. When this child gets totally out of line and his parents seem to either be unaware of his behavior or ignore the behavior, another parent (also a Dad) slaps the child.  And so it goes....the real question, “is it ever appropriate to physically discipline someone else’s child?”.

So, resounding answer is NO!  But at the same time this has illicit a great deal of discussion about parenting.  While there is no “right way” to parent, most of the parents I asked agreed that they have been in the position when they felt that a friend’s child was behaving inappropriately, and the parents of said child did not seem to react or discipline their child.  What do you do then?

Some say that while the child “deserved a good spanking” by their own parent, they would never physically touch another person’s child. But, sometimes you do find your self either telling the child’s parent to do something, or at least reprimanding the ill behaved child. It is always a slippery slope.

While it seems more and more parents are taking the “I choose to ignore the behavior” approach, or tell me, “I don’t want to use the word NO with my child”, children do need to be disciplined.  Everyone who has been a parent for at least a year should understand this. Children are like “cavemen”, they do not come out of the womb and understand social mores and behavior. We are all innately ego centric, self centered and want our own way....but parents are there to teach children that the world does not revolve around them. We are all in this society together.  That is what parenting is about...while there is not one way to get there, discipline is a must.  

Limits, boundaries, redirection and a clear cut “NO” teaches children how to behave....whether from a parent, a teacher or a family friend. A “slap”....never in my book.

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

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Discipline

Discipline Kids That Are Not Yours?

Daily Dose

Toddlers & Tantrums

1.15 to read

I see toddlers for check ups nearly every day and for both the 15 month and 18 month visit, there are many challenges for parents and the pediatrician (and of course the child). Toddlers are not at what I would call an EASY age.

As you know if you have a toddler, they are quite moody (just wait for teenagers) and they can “stop, drop and roll” into a tantrum in the blink of an eye.  So while I was examining an 18 month old this week ( she is one of three adorable girls), she suddenly became infuriated (her mother and I were really clueless as to what triggered this) and she jumped off of her mother’s lap and fell to the floor kicking and screaming. 

Now, for a first time parent this might be alarming behavior, but for a seasoned mother of three it was really no big deal. Appropriately, we all just ignored her as she laid on the floor and screamed (no, the mother was not worried about germs on the floor either) and we continued our conversation about her child’s less than stellar sleep habits.

After a few minutes her daughter calmed down, the older sisters got her a sticker and she left without a fuss. Her mother had already learned, like we all do, that the best way to stop tantrums is by ignoring them and letting your toddler have some time to “express her emotions” with age appropriate (although inappropriate for older children) behavior.  

Several days later, her mother sent me an email with another picture attached of the same child having yet another tantrum after she found her in her diaper with a sharpie pen happily marking all over herself (the photo above). Of course, the minute she took the marker away her daughter fell to the floor again to express her outrage! So funny that her mom thought to document it and send me another picture.

By the way, she also told me that she had taken practical advice and was working on having her daughter cry herself to sleep and it was working well!  Both the tantrums and sleep were improving by just ignoring her behavior. Back to those laws of natural consequences.  

Daily Dose

Timeout!

1.30 to read

When I am seeing toddlers for their check ups, the topic of behavior is usually at the top of both the parent’s and my list for discussion.  Once a child is walking and beginning to talk, all sorts of new behaviors seem to occur! 

Parents ask, “how do I stop my child from hitting or biting?”  “What about misbehaving and not listening?”  The toddler years are challenging for behavior as a child is gaining independence, and testing as well.  Toddler and teens have some of the same attributes and it is important to begin behavior modification during the toddler years. 

Time out is the most commonly used behavior modification and not only will parents use this method at home, but preschool and day care teachers begin using this technique as well. This is the age that children begin to understand rules and consequences. 

So how do you “do” time out and when?  I usually start using time out when a child is between 15 -18 months of age. While I try to ignore and distract tantrums, I use time out for biting, hitting and those age appropriate yet inappropriate behaviors. 

I pick a chair in the house (we had a small set of table and chairs which seemed perfect) and every parent needs a kitchen timer to use for time out.   It is important to get at your child’s level when disciplining them as well. Tell them why they are going to time out and then have them sit in the chair for 1 minute per year of age.  (Trust me a minute sometimes feels like forever!)  

Here is the trick, if your child will not just sit in the chair (and many won’t), go behind them and hold them in the chair as if you were a human rope.  In most cases the child will be crying and trying to get up out of the chair, but you calmly hold them in the chair from behind. No eye contact!  Once the timer goes off, you let go of them, go back around so that you make eye contact again, get down to their level, and explain once again that they had to sit in the chair because they (fill in the blank).  

Time out takes time and patience.  If you are consistent about using time out for misbehaving, your child will learn to sit in the chair.  For some it may only take 1 time and others are more head-strong and it may take months of “human rope” before they decide to sit alone. 

Don’t give up!!!  This is a very important lesson for children to learn and you will use time out many times, not only in that little chair, but in other venues as your child gets older.    

Daily Dose

Tackling the Toddler Tantrum

Toddlers and tantrums go together like salt and pepper, you typically can't have one without the other.Toddlers are so cute and sweet. They are learning new things every minute. Most of a toddler's new tricks are endearing, lots of video camera moments. But just as quickly as you get the video camera ready to capture a treasured toddler moment, the dark side of toddlerhood appears as a tantrum.

Temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood development. I like to say that they "age appropriate, inappropriate behaviors." The peak age for tantrums is between 15 months and 3 years. A tantrum can look like a scene from The Exorcist so be prepared. Tantrums are usually caused by a toddler's frustration as they seek independence, and are trying to have their physical and emotional needs met, often without a lot of verbal ability (now fast forward to teens!) Meltdowns and tantrums may occur for the littlest thing, and as a parent you may sometimes not even know what triggered the tantrum. Children often have a tantrum when they are tired or hungry. If your child has a tantrum and you are somewhere that you can ignore their behavior, calmly tell them that you will listen when they stop screaming and walk away. Once the tantrum has stopped you may try to distract them by offering an alternative to the demand that started the tantrum in the first place. Don't give into their demands or tantrums, as this will reinforce their behavior. Once the tantrum has ended praise them for regaining control and offer encouragement for handling future outbursts. Tantrums usually do go away, but we can all think of some adults who never learned how to deal with frustration in an appropriate manner. As a parent, remember that while you are guiding your toddler through the temper tantrums it is teaching them lessons for a lifetime.

Daily Dose

Toddlers & Tantrums

1.15 to read

I see toddlers for check ups nearly every day and for both the 15 month and 18 month visit, there are many challenges for parents and the pediatrician (and of course the child). Toddlers are not at what I would call an EASY age.

As you know if you have a toddler, they are quite moody (just wait for teenagers) and they can “stop, drop and roll” into a tantrum in the blink of an eye.  So while I was examining an 18 month old this week ( she is one of three adorable girls), she suddenly became infuriated (her mother and I were really clueless as to what triggered this) and she jumped off of her mother’s lap and fell to the floor kicking and screaming. 

Now, for a first time parent this might be alarming behavior, but for a seasoned mother of three it was really no big deal. Appropriately, we all just ignored her as she laid on the floor and screamed (no, the mother was not worried about germs on the floor either) and we continued our conversation about her child’s less than stellar sleep habits.

After a few minutes her daughter calmed down, the older sisters got her a sticker and she left without a fuss. Her mother had already learned, like we all do, that the best way to stop tantrums is by ignoring them and letting your toddler have some time to “express her emotions” with age appropriate (although inappropriate for older children) behavior.  

Several days later, her mother sent me an email with another picture attached of the same child having yet another tantrum after she found her in her diaper with a sharpie pen happily marking all over herself (the photo above). Of course, the minute she took the marker away her daughter fell to the floor again to express her outrage! So funny that her mom thought to document it and send me another picture.

By the way, she also told me that she had taken practical advice and was working on having her daughter cry herself to sleep and it was working well!  Both the tantrums and sleep were improving by just ignoring her behavior. Back to those laws of natural consequences.  

Your Teen

Stop Yelling at Your Teenager!

2.30 to read

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that anyone who has a child has yelled at him or her at one time or another. As parents, we’ve all lost our patience when we believe our child is misbehaving. If ever there is a time when parents and kids are standing at the crossroad of “Listen to me” and “I don’t need to”, it’s during the teenage years.

Tempers often ignite with harsh words being said.  

While you may be trying to make an important point, aggressive yelling and screaming only pushes your child away and may be doing much more harm than good according to a new study.

An analysis involving nearly 1,000 two-parent families and their adolescent children suggests that such harsh verbal lashings not only don't cut back on misbehavior, they actually promote it.

The end result: an uptick in the kind of adolescent rage, stubbornness and irritation that escalates rather than stops or prevents disobedience and conflict.

"Most parents who yell at their adolescent children wouldn't dream of physically punishing their teens," noted study author Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor with the department of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. "Yet, their use of harsh verbal discipline -- defined as shouting, cursing or using insults -- is just as detrimental to the long-term well-being of adolescents," he said.

"Our findings offer insight into why some parents feel that no matter how loud they shout, their teenagers do not listen," Wang added. "Indeed, not only does harsh verbal discipline appear to be ineffective at addressing behavior problems in youth, it actually appears to increase such behaviors."

Wang and his co-author, Sarah Kenny of the University of Michigan, report their findings in the current issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers were particularly interested in kids between 13 and 14 years old so they focused on 976 primarily middle-class families in Pennsylvania with young adolescent offspring, all of whom were already participating in a long-term study exploring family interaction and adolescent development. A little more than half the families were white, while 40 percent were black.

The teen participants were asked to disclose recent behavioral issues such as in-school disturbances, stealing, fighting, damaging property or lying to their parents.

Their parents were asked how often they used harsh verbal discipline such as yelling, screaming, swearing or cursing at their child. Most importantly, if they called their child names like “dumb” or “lazy.”

The teens were also asked to what degree they felt “warmth” in their relationship with their parents. Researchers inquired about the amount of parental love, emotional support, affection and care the kids felt like they received from their parents. Both teens and parental depression were tracked.

The study points out that the children who were on the receiving end of the harsh verbal attacks experienced an increase in anger and a drop in inhibitions. Those two reactions prompted an intensification of the very things that parents were hoping to stop – such as lying, cheating, stealing or fighting.

"Parents who wish to modify their teenage children's behavior would do better by communicating with them on an equal level," Wang said, "and explaining their rationale and worries to them. Parenting programs are in a good position to offer parents insight into how behaviors they may feel the need to resort to, such as shouting or yelling, are ineffective and or harmful, and to offer alternatives to such behaviors."

Parents get frustrated with their children and vice versa. None of us behave perfectly all the time. Raising your voice because you are frustrated is one thing, name calling and screaming is quite another.

Imagine if you were at work and your boss screamed at you, called you names and cursed at you because he or she didn’t like how you did something. That may have actually happened to you – remember how you felt, or think about how you would feel. Humiliated, angry and sad are the most common reactions people have.  

Children are trying to find their way in life; parents are their guides. The next time you feel you’re on the verge of screaming or saying hurtful things to your child - walk away. Give yourself time to cool down and find a better way to communicate.

People say kids are resilient and get over things quickly. Many are able to bounce back when bad things happen, but that saying is too often used to excuse bad behavior on a parent’s part. If you’ve crossed the line with your child, say you’re sorry and come up with better ways to handle your frustration and anger.

Words and tone matter and the best teaching method is by example. You can help your child learn what love, patience, tolerance, compassion and respect are by being an example of those very qualities.

Source: Alan Moses, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/misc-kid-s-health-news-435/yelling-at-insulting-teens-can-backfire-on-parents-study-679863.html

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