Parents Everywhere Often Concerned About Taming Three Year Olds

Parents Everywhere Often Concerned About Taming Three Year Olds

A young mother, who happens to live in Saudi Arabia, recently contacted me to ask for advice concerning her three-year-old son.

“This is my only child and he has me very worried,” this mother wrote in her email. “He hits his one-year-old cousin, uses bad words, and screams and kicks me if he is not allowed to do what he wants.”

She went on to say that she uses a time-out chair for punishment, and occasionally spanks him. However, no matter what discipline she uses, her son continues to misbehave.

“He is a smart boy,” she said, “and knows his numbers and can read some words. He likes taking baths, brushes his teeth every morning and evening, and helps me clean his room. But he is very active and will only play by himself or color for a just a few minutes at a time.”

She concluded by saying that it is a disaster to take him shopping because he won’t stay near her and touches things in shops he shouldn’t. She said she just wants to know how to get him to behave and listen to her.

This plaintive email could have come from an American or British mother, but the fact that it came from the Middle East only demonstrates that parents around the world share similar concerns about their children.

It also strongly suggests that no matter what country or culture you live in, it can be very difficult to be the parent of a three-year-old child. Furthermore, it is a challenge to be the parent of an active, impulsive, and aggressive boy with a fairly short attention span.

If you are the parent of a child like the one she described, you should keep in mind that children around three years of age are just learning how to control themselves and they are not very skilled at stopping and thinking before they act. However, it seems to be a world-wide approach to such difficult children to try to teach by utilizing punishment. Yet, teaching by punishment is an ineffective method to teach a child.

It is more efficient and effective to teach a child appropriate behavior by anticipating their behavior, stopping them, and telling them what you want them to do. For example, instead of punishing your child, you could say: “I want you to be kind and loving to your cousin. Show him you love him by touching him gently and giving him one of your toys to play with.”

Not only is it important to tell your three-year-old what you want, but most of the time you need to be on the floor or down at his level, being very close to him and his face, and making sure that he does some of the things you want him to do. For instance, if you want him to be kind to another child, you must be on the floor with him so he can’t hit the other child. You are there to hold his hands and prevent him from being aggressive.

If he tries to hit, you can hold his hands firmly, look him in the eyes, and say: “No! No hitting! Hitting hurts!”

Furthermore, the best teaching is done by offering praise and attention for good, appropriate behavior: “You shared your toy with your cousin! I like that! I’m really proud of you! You are my kind boy!”

You can also let him know what you want ahead of time: “When we go into the shopping mall, I expect you to hold my hand and be right by my side the whole time we are shopping.” And then make sure you hold his hand tightly so he can’t run away or touch things he shouldn’t.

When he is compliant, you should use rewards and praise for appropriate behavior: “You are so helpful by holding my hand. When we are finished shopping, we are going to a special shop and you get a treat for being so helpful!”

Helping a three-year-old grow out of his aggression and learn to be compliant is mostly about being very attentive to him, being close to him, giving him many specific directions, and using praise to reinforce the behaviors you want.

Unfortunately, you won’t see immediate results, but if you consistently follow these suggestions, you will begin to see positive results.

Advertisements

You are Teaching Your Child Language Skills Even When You are Not Aware of it

You are Teaching Your Child Language Skills Even When You are Not Aware of it

There are many amazing things about young children. For instance, they go from being a totally helpless infant at birth to a much more independent toddler. They progress from needing an adult to turn them over to becoming an active crawler in just a few short months. And, even more amazing, they start life with no language at all and by age two are talking.

How does that happen? How do children learn language and develop the ability to communicate verbally with others?

As it turns out, parents have a lot to do with this amazing and extraordinary accomplishment. Most of the time you are making significant contributions to your young child’s language development without even being aware what exactly you are doing that is helping him or her become a talker.

I was watching a baby at a nearby table in a restaurant recently. When this cute baby who was about six months of age started babbling, several adults who were close enough to hear her started talking to her by making babbling sounds in imitation of her. Her mother leaned closer to her and started telling her what a good talker she was and talked to her as if she could understand the little girl. None of the adults in this situation were responding to the girl in order to “teach” her to talk; they were simply compelled to respond. But they all did the right thing.

All babies – no matter what country or culture they are in – start babbling at about six months of age. And they all use the same cooing sounds and repeat the same consonant-vowel combinations. Most will babble such sounds as “bababa” or “mamama.” But for babbling to develop further, infants must hear human speech.

In other words, they have to be exposed to people who are talking. As babies hear others talk, they babble even more. Soon, some words or sounds that could be words begin to be uttered. And by 10 or 12 months, there are sounds appearing that can be distinguished as words. But in order to become a communicator, infants have to engage in other activities aside from hearing their parents or other people talk.

For one thing, early in that first year, usually by three or four months of age, babies are able to gaze in the same direction as adults are looking. By the end of the first year, they are more skilled at this. That’s when something called joint attention begins between parents and child.

Joint attention means that child and parent are paying attention to the same object or event. When mom or dad labels that event and talks about it, good things are happening for language development. For example, if the child is in a highchair at the table and a colorful cake is placed on the table (out of the child’s reach, it is hoped), both the child and parent will look at it. Dad might say, “That cake looks delicious!” Then turning to the child, dad says, “Pretty cake!” Without taking her eyes off the cake, the child might say “’ake.” To which dad might reply: “Pretty cake,” emphasizing the pronunciation of “cake.”

When young children take part in this joint attention experience, they are comprehending more language (in this example, the child hears the words “pretty” and “delicious”), they are learning and may be producing gestures (both Dad and child may point at the cake), and they will develop their vocabulary quicker.

By being aware of the importance of a simple concept like joint attention, you can help your child develop her language skills much quicker and more powerfully. It’s one thing to talk to your child, but it’s quite another to make sure there is joint attention and that what you are saying refers to what you are both watching.

Joint attention and the language that goes along with it can take place many times a day. What this does besides what I’ve just mentioned is to also establish a common ground between you and your child. You are sharing an experience. By looking at an object or event together and then by you talking about it, your child will be able to figure out the meaning of many of your words – even if you don’t stop to explain each one. This leads to a richer vocabulary and something else very important in your child’s development — an increased attention span.

Toilet Training Your Child is a Big Deal – For Both of You!

Toilet Training Your Child is a Big Deal – For Both of You!

Toilet training your young child is a major event in the life of your child – not to mention in your own life as well. After two or more years of changing diapers and waiting for the big day to arrive when your youngster begins to notify you that she has to go – and she actually does use the potty successfully – is like a day of liberation. It’s one less concern in the daily care of your child.

However, getting to that day can be a real challenge – both for you and your child.

For instance, here is what one parent said recently:

“My son has been somewhat slow in parts of his development, such as his speech. However, physically he has always seemed to be on schedule, but one thing that hasn’t happened yet is his use of the potty. I’ve been encouraging him to use the potty for a year, but even though he just turned three he seems to have no interest in using it. He just prefers to wet his pants. Am I doing something wrong?”

Another parent said: “My daughter seems to be afraid of the potty chair. She cries if I put her on it. I’ve tried praise and rewards, but nothing seems to make any difference. She is two-and-a-half years old, and I thought she would be using the potty at this stage of her life.”

Most children are ready to begin toilet training by somewhere between the ages of two and three. The average age is about two years and eight months. Many parents, however, think that they can have their child trained by age two, but many children are just not physically mature enough prior to age two to control their urination or bowel movements.

You may think that it is just a matter of will or of compliance, but children first have to be aware of the sensation of a full bladder. That usually doesn’t come about until later in the year between ages one and two. However, in addition to recognizing the signs of a full bladder, then they have to have a certain amount of control over the muscles controlling urination so that they can postpone urination until they get to a toilet or potty. Again, that control may not appear before age two.

The same process is true of bowel movements. First the youngster has to recognize the fullness of the lower bowel and then has to be able to indicate that need. And that, too, doesn’t come about until between ages two and three. Not only do they have to recognize their readiness to go to the toilet, but they have to be able to get to the potty in time to eliminate there. As it turns out, both nighttime bladder and bowel control comes before daytime bladder and bowel control.

That’s the physical part, what about the temperamental part?

You usually need to take your cues from your child in order to decide the right time to begin toilet training. Starting too early can create problems as some children become oppositional about using the potty when they feel pressured and this may delay the overall accomplishment of successful toilet training. However, most children, if you are fairly relaxed about the start of toileting training will give you the major signs as to when they are ready.

Those signs include their staying dry all night and waking up dry after a nap, having bowel movements on a fairly predictable schedule, showing that they don’t like being wet or having a soiled diaper, and having an understanding of the words that you will use in toilet training – such as “wet,”  “dry,” and “potty.”

What is the best way to teach toileting behaviors?

There are a wide variety of approaches and both your family background and your cultural expectations will play a part in how you think you should teach your child to use the potty. But, the use of a potty chair often works well because it is easier for a child to use and might not be as intimidating as the regular toilet.

If you have come to recognize your child’s patterns of urination and defecation, you can call attention to what is happening (for instance, where your child is grunting at a regular time after a meal) and then associate this with using the potty (“When you feel like you have to poop, then I can help you use the potty”).

Bedtime Routines and Rituals Make for Good Sleep Habits in Children

Bedtime Routines and Rituals Make for Good Sleep Habits in Children

When children have bedtime and sleep problems at ages three, four, and five, those problems can often be traced back to the development of poor sleep habits at younger ages.

For instance, Tracey, age 4, whined and complained about going to bed at night. She found excuses to try to stay up later, and when she ran out of excuses she would cry and leave her bedroom.

And Reid, age 3, had temper tantrums at bedtime and insisted one of his parents stay in his room and sleep beside him. If his mother or father tried to leave the room before Reid was sound asleep, he would cry and fuss until they lay back down beside him.

Many such sleep and bedtime problems can be avoided by establishing bedtime routines between six and 12 months of age. Children do much better at bedtime if they know what to expect at the end of each day. In other words, if you create a predictable sequence of events that you follow consistently every evening, your child will feel secure and will be ready to go to sleep by the end of the routine.

Once established during the second six months of life, the basics of your child’s bedtime routine will be established and although some aspects of it might change somewhat, the basics routine will stay the same.

A predictable sequence of events prior to your child going to sleep may involve some or all of the following:

  • Washing or taking a bath
  • Putting on pajamas
  • Brushing teeth
  • Having a story read
  • A final goodnight kiss and hug

This routine should not be lengthy, but it should be consistently followed. However, no matter how you tweak this kind of bedtime ritual, it works best if it is preceded by about an hour of quiet time or winding down activity. Engaging in roughhousing with your child — wrestling, watching stimulating videos, or running around — are not conducive to what is needed for good sleep; and that is a peaceful and quiet transition period.

There are other helpful elements that can ease bedtime, but some that work well for many parents include:

  • Specific bedtime. Children function best when there is a predictable routine. A good place to start is by setting a bedtime and not deviating from this time.
  • Advance warnings. Your child may be far too young to tell time or know how long 15 minutes is. But by announcing that it is almost time for a bath or for putting on pajamas helps her to begin to associate certain events with the approaching bedtime. For example, saying “It’s almost seven o’clock and time for bed,” won’t be much help, but saying, “I’m going to start your bath” and then turning on the water in the bathtub will be a signal that she will learn to associate with getting ready to go to sleep.
  • Snack. A light snack of foods that include protein and carbohydrates will tend to help induce sleep. Protein will keep his blood sugar level on an even keel until breakfast the next morning, while carbohydrates will make him sleepy.
  • Warm bath. A warm bath will be relaxing and by raising your child’s body temperature slightly, she will be more likely to fall asleep easily.
  • Story. Reading a story is also relaxing and comforting. Not only are you teaching your child about reading and language, but you are providing a comfortable experience that will, in time, be associated with sleep. As your child develops favorite stories and loved books, she will ask to be read the same ones over and over. By reading her favorite books, she will feel secure and be more relaxed and ready to go to sleep.

Finally, always make a final kiss and hug fairly brief. Prolonged goodbyes may signal your anxiety and may lead to your child crying or being anxious when you try to leave. Anxiety often results in crying – rather than a final goodnight and gentle sleep.

Know Your Toddler’s Limits – and Plan Accordingly

Know Your Toddler’s Limits – and Plan Accordingly

I was watching a young parent in a mall recently. This father had stopped to talk to a friend. However, he had his two-year-old child with him. And it was very clear that his toddler was very quickly bored and wanted to move away from his dad to do some exploring on his own.

This father wanted his child to stand by him and be patient. But as his son kept trying to get away, the father became progressively more upset and angry as his young son did not want to stand quietly near him.

This dad hadn’t planned very well. He should have had some toys or objects to distract his son just in case he stopped to talk to a friend or decided to go to lunch.

Despite what some parents might think, toddlers aren’t evil little creatures constantly looking for chances to frustrate their parents. They’re just trying to grow and learn about the environment and how best to operate within their world. And a lot of times, they are not going such a good job – mostly because they have a short attention span. Neither yelling nor stern commands from parents will change that. They will still have a short attention span.

In living with a toddler, there will be many situations – say when you’re talking to a friend, traveling in the car, or having lunch in a restaurant – which require the use of distractions.

Distraction can be a fine art when thoughtfully used with a toddler. By simply drawing your child’s attention from an unwanted action or behavior to something more interesting, you can solve some immediate behavior problem or prevent a temper tantrum.

It is always best to know the abilities of your toddler – and to bring along some supplies which will suit his abilities.

The 12- to 18-Month-Old Toddler

At this age, distraction is most likely to be used in a very deliberate way. But it’s important to know the attention span of the normal child from 12 to 18 months. Their attention span ranges from a few seconds to about three minutes.

Children of this age can look at pictures in a book for a few seconds and may spend a few concentrated minutes exploring an unfamiliar object or toy. But they have a hard time dealing with confinement, so they will get restless and squirmy fairly quickly, which may mean one possible distraction is to get them moving.

Your best bet for distraction at this age is to bring along a new toy or one your child hasn’t seen for a while. More complex toys – with texture, sounds, and colors – will keep a toddler busy longer. You can also use snacks that are eaten one little piece at a time as a distraction.

The 18- to 24-Month-Old Toddler

At this age, the child’s attention span will range from about one minute to seven minutes. Since this slightly older toddler has a better ability to concentrate, she may sit quietly for several minutes with a book, toy, or video.

The best bet for distraction at this age is to use toys that inspire her to use her imagination. Dressing and undressing a doll, coloring on a sheet of paper, putting different shapes in a form board, or playing with simple puzzles can work well.

The 24- to 30-Month-Old Toddler

The older toddler’s attention span has increased from about five minutes to 15 minutes. Two-year-olds are continually gaining in concentration abilities, but remain highly distractible and move quickly from one activity to another.

The best ways to provide distraction now are to fill up a bag with surprises for your child to discover one at a time. Or let him choose several toys to bring along. But you should have that bag handy with several toys and other distractions. Other good distractions for children of this age include beads to be strung, stickers to be placed in a book, coloring books, and audiotapes with headphones which include a book that goes with the audiotape.

Have distractions available and you’ll never have to try to enforce patience or compliance with a stern voice.