Category Archives: Age Group

What Is Praise, Anyway?

In our country we have developed a culture where rewards come too easily. I have seen children’s sport  leagues where everyone gets a trophy. I have heard of  birthday parties where siblings got “birthday” presents so  their feelings weren’t hurt even though it wasn’t their  birthday! So how can children get real praise and  recognition for their true skills in this culture of  ubiquitous rewards? If rewards come so easily, how can  children get a true sense of themselves and what they are  good at? We live in the “age of don’t disappoint”. As a  result we are raising children of excess. Whether they  earn it or not they receive it. Whether it is their turn  for recognition or not they get it. So in this world of  ubiquitous reward and recognition, what is true praise?  When is it deserved? What should we be trying to achieve  for our children with praise, recognition and rewards? In  other words, what is praise anyway?

Praise is something said to another in recognition for  a true skill, or achievement that comes from that  individual’s ability. It is important for children to hear  praise because it supports them in building an identity  around their true skills. When praise works well in young  childhood we see the development of confident individuals  who have a good sense of their skills. They feel good  about themselves and know what parts of their inner being  they should value. So how can parents work towards giving  their children truly deserved praise?

Parents need to be keen observers of their children.  All children are different and have different skills. It  is important for parents to have openness towards their  children to hear and see their individual skills. It is  amazing what kids show us when they know there is an open  acceptance of their ability.

Open observation needs to be combined with acute  perception of what they really enjoy doing. We tend to  pigeon hole boys (and now girls) into certain sports and  girls into cheering or dance. But, especially in younger  years we need to look for what brings a flicker to their  eyes or a joy to their hearts. Young kids need to be  exposed to different areas that include singing, music,  dance and arts. It is sad but true that school programs  won’t be enough to bring out these interests in children.

We need to recognize our children’s accomplishments –  even relatively small ones. Showing courage and overcoming  a fear, showing poise, or even controlling negative  reactions all need acknowledgement from parents.

We must allow for periods of disappointment. We  shouldn’t falsely bolster a talent or interest where there  isn’t any. This can set up a harmful dynamic where  children keep participating in an activity just to please  the parent. If a child has the drive for that area of  interest, they will naturally overcome disappointment. In  either case, children need to sort out their feelings over  effort, interest, achievement and failure.

Once we see their true interest, we need to help  provide opportunities to foster that interest. We can’t  necessarily assume that opportunities to use their skills  will present themselves. Some skills will be developed in  school and play. Others need to have specific activities  in order to develop their talent. Lessons, teams and even  hobbies serve the purpose of skill development outside of  school.

Through all of this, children need praise for both  general achievements and specific skills. Getting off to  school on time, helping around the house or even taking  care of a pet needs praise. Everyone is capable of these.  But acknowledgement of your child’s contribution is  important. Specific praise is needed in areas of  particular skill. “Boy you are great at building with  legos” or “You are great at organizing things with your  friends.” These kind of comments let children know that  you are noticing them for their skills and for who they are.

Parents need to think positive. We tend to emphasize  the negative and correct our kids too often. Kids need  praise from us. It is important to their growth in  character. With a little effort we can learn to be keen  observers and give our kids genuine praise. With that our  kids may still live in a world of excess but at least they  will learn what is of value to them as individuals.

What Is a “Time-Out” Anyway

You’re in a supermarket and your kids get into  trouble. You warn them, “If you don’t stop you’re going  to get a “time-out” when we get home.” They don’t get  better so when you get home you enforce a “time-out”. You  direct them to respective chairs where they sit. They  say they are hungry. You tell them, “You’ll have to wait  until “time-out” is over.” You ask them what they want  for lunch. After you finish making their lunch you say  their “time-out” is over and they may come to eat. Was the  “time-out” effective? Did they learn anything? Did they  feel anything? What is a “time-out” and how do you give  one to your child?

A “time-out” is a period of isolation you purposely  give to your child where they do not get any attention from  you and they don’t control you. It doesn’t matter where  they are, or whether they have a “time-out” place. The  action is louder then words. The key points are personal  isolation and lack of control. Nobody is willing to  continue behavior that yields isolation and control of  nothing.

Let’s think about this a moment. What should a child  get for a positive behavior? If a child helps at the store  or cleans their room he or she receives praise and a  positive response from their parent. They receive  attention and control their parent’s response for that  moment. So what should children receive for a negative  behavior? Certainly not the same attention from the parent  and controlling their parent’s response! We should  consistently give negative behaviors a rapid response but  that response should involve little attention and a  controlled reaction from you. This is the reason “time-outs” are introduced as a tool for parents.

So when your child misbehaves, give them a quick  correction. Then isolate them with coldness. Don’t  respond to them at all. If you can’t ignore them where  they are (if they are screaming, crying or tantruming) then  put them someplace else or go somewhere else where you can  ignore them. During this entire time stay firm but in  control. Don’t let them control your response. You  control it. Through being isolated while you are in  control your children get just punishment for negative  behavior. Over time they will have no motivation for  continuing that behavior.

In the scenario I started with, the parent warned  about a “time-out” while in the store. But negative  behaviors need more immediate consequences. Then when  arriving at home, the “time-out” was really a peaceful  interactive time together while waiting for lunch. When  being punished kids need quick, stern correction followed  by a feeling of isolation from their parent while the  parent stays in control. A “time-out” is then properly  done. A “time-out” is not a thing to be warned about and  given to a child later. It is an action done rapidly  without warning after negative behaviors. As parents we  have a right to respond to behaviors that we do not want to  see. If ”time-outs” are done right, kids learn over time  that positive behaviors get a better response and naturally  gravitate towards them.

What Is A Good Playdate?

Ah, remember those days when we, as kids, ran out and played in the neighborhood with other kids. I remember  running inside to tell my mother I was hungry so I could  gobble down a sandwich just to get back outside for our  game. Dirty sneakers, muddy pants, smudged faces, and  sweaty heads were the norm after school and on weekends.  Bats, balls, gloves, ice skates and sleds are in every  picture from my childhood. Play was arranged by stepping  out the front door. Arranging a playdate? My mother rarely  had to face this parenting challenge. Today, parents need  to decide about playdates regularly.

I recognize that some neighborhoods may still have the  community environment that allows spontaneous play, but  most families today face the problem of separation between  friends which then require parents to arrange playdates.  What is a good playdate? How can we arrange a playdate so  that we are comfortable about safety, diet, and  constructive play?

Playdates are very important for children. From the  time children are three years old and recognize that there  are people their age on this planet, they want to interact  with playmates. Children develop their brain power through  interaction with people. So playdates are a necessity in  this increasingly isolating society of ours. A good  playdate is one where children play actively with each  other sometimes causing conflict and solving it together.  Battles over legos, homemade forts, or who plays what role  leads to problem solving skills, compromise, creativity,  and use of the imagination. We know that creativity is all  but erased in computer games. Imagination is stifled by TV  and movies. Kids can get enough of those without wasting  time with a friend with screens in front of them.

Good playdates take more than the type of play.  Supervision is necessary even for the closest of friends.  Someone needs to be there to be sure conflicts don’t get  out of hand or to help support the friends’ activities. An  adult can also be sure that kids don’t snack  inappropriately between play. Good snacks are increasingly  important and can be easily accepted when provided with a  little creativity.

Obviously, good playdates take some work. Parents  need to talk to one another – not just about scheduling the  playdate. Good playdates really depend on communication  between parents. Meet the parents of playmates. Stop in  at drop-off and observe a little of the play environment.  Parents need to make sure the other parents know your  expectations. Be explicit about your expectations over TV  and computer time. Ask about outdoor time during playdates  if the weather permits. If you are the host parent, be  available for some supervision. Be true to the other parent  and enforce agreed upon rules for the playdate. Many  parents want to hear that parents have the similar opinions  about play. It is wonderful to find good playmates and  families that carry out similar values in playdates. This  is important even as your children enter middle and high  school.

If a playdate doesn’t work out to your liking take  control of the playdate. You can require that your child  and that friend play together at your house. If you don’t  approve of play between your child and their friend, veto  the playdates or minimize their time together. You do not  have to debate your decisions with your child. You have a  right to agree or disagree with playdates!

A discussion of playdates cannot ignore the ever growing sleepover nightmare. More and more I am hearing  about sleepovers that include very late nights, children  awake later than parents, unsupervised TV and internet use,  and the post-sleepover “hangover” where parents deal with  over tired children on a day reserved for homework or  family time. It is amazing that parents are pushed to give  into these sleepovers without restriction. Parents have a  right to put restrictions on sleepovers – especially in  later years. Even teens can have a lights out time. Time  restrictions on computer and internet use are important.  There are good reasons to limit their use after certain  hours.

If sleepovers and their aftermath get out of hand  (moodiness, decrease in school work) a parent needs to  say ‘no’ to them. Your child will not suffer because  “everyone else is going to be there”. Your child can be  picked up at 11 and sleep at home. They won’t miss much  and they’ll sleep better.

Parents need to be aware of what happens in playdates  and sleepovers and exert some influence over them. Bad  playdates and sleepovers are not helpful to your child or  to your family’s functions. Keeping your child’s  interactions with friends as healthy as possible is a  worthwhile concern for all parents. Parents need to feel  empowered to exert their influence even into teen years.  Your child will be better off for it.

What The Newborn Nursery Won’t Tell You About Your Baby

Newborn nurseries are magical places. Wonderful people care for new babies and their nervous mothers. Before the pair go home to experience new life together, nursery nurses are able to teach a number of essential tasks to make the first few months go well. They teach mothers how to feed, and bathe their infant. Mothers learn how to monitor for signs of illness in a baby. With these important functions to teach it is no wonder that nurses don’t cover less important worries that new mothers have. Fortunately, that is where I come in. As a pediatrician I get to teach new mothers about their babies too. And in the first visit with me, mothers are often perplexed about many simple things that we as practitioners in medicine take for granted. Over the years I have made a list of worries other than feeding that mothers have at their first check up at two weeks of age. Here they are.

1. How do I stop his hiccups?

Many mothers experience hiccups in their babies even before birth. But it is more disturbing to us to see a baby’s little body shake with hiccups. Fortunately, we don’t have to do anything about them. Hiccups occur as a natural reflex. This reflex tends to subside as babies grow. It may be hard to watch. But remember, babies aren’t bothered by hiccups. We are, but they are not. Just leave them be. They’ll be fine.

2. My baby sneezes and coughs. Is she sick?

Oh, those immature reflexes! They haunt babies for months. Sneezes and coughs are also reflexes that are a bit hyper in babies. These, too, will decrease in frequency over the first several months.

3. My child sounds congested.

Congestion is not a reflex. Congestion is a blockage in the nose that makes it hard for babies to breathe. But babies often sound congested without even having any blockage. Why is this? Babies have narrow nasal passages with loose mucus membranes. Air moving through a narrow space makes a noise. In musical instruments air makes a pretty sound. In babies’ noses, air makes a congested noise as it moves along those vibrating mucus membranes. So a parent only needs to be concerned about congestion they see – not a congested noise they hear. With congestion you see, a few drops of saline solution usually helps clear their little noses.

4. My baby is fussy and hard to console sometimes.

All babies have fussy periods. These occur with more frequency and for longer periods of time at six weeks of age. Babies usually settle down and are less fussy at three months of age. Even though it goes away, that doesn’t make it easy to deal with while it is happening. Keep your baby close, support his belly and have extra people around to help out. That’s how to get through the fussy baby times.

5. My baby has so much gas! Is that normal?

Whether your baby is fussy with gas or not, it is normal for babies to be gassy. It is a natural process for our bowels to develop a flora of bacteria that creates gas in their bowel. Only a small percent of babies have fussiness caused by this gas.

6. What about this green poop he has?

Stool color changes with time even when the baby’s diet does not. Nursing babies progress from brown muconium stools to yellow watery stools to yellow seedy stools to green stools. Bottle fed babies change more rapidly through these color stools and end up with the typical brown stool faster than nursing babies. It might be hard for a pregnant woman to imagine being concerned about the color of poop. But…you will see. It is amazing how much talk there is about poop once you have the baby.

7. Besides pooping the only other things my baby does is eat, sleep and pee! And he sleeps a lot! When will he wake up and interact a little?

For the first few weeks after birth most babies just eat, sleep, pee, and poop. This can be surprising to parents who expect an expressive baby. Many parents start longing for more interaction. It becomes difficult to be at the service of an infant and get little of the warm and fuzzy things in return. The interactive time will come. By two months of age babies are usually focusing on parent’s faces and smiling back at them.

8. Well, before two months what is my baby seeing?

It is hard for babies to tell us what they are seeing. However, physicians have studied the visual preferences babies have in the first few months of life. At first babies prefer sharp contrasts between light and dark objects. This is likely due to the fact that the color interpreting cone cells of the eye develop over the first month or so. After the first month babies prefer to look at oval objects similar to the general shapes of faces. This leads to the focusing on particular faces by two months of age. By four months babies will be able to see across a room. And by six months any stray object that you didn’t see such as a small toy or a bit of fuzz will be picked up and thrust into their mouths.

9. When do they stop burping, gagging and spitting up?

Babies are messy little creatures. They drink and gulp their meals. Belch frequently. They gag on almost anything at the beginning. And often spit up or throw up what seems like half their meals. It sounds awful but is quite natural. Since most of their food is liquid and taken in by sucking, burping is a natural consequence of this form of feeding. If babies didn’t burp they could become more bloated and more gassy. Burps will come if they need to. Not all babies burp after all feedings. Spitting up happens with burping. It is of no consequence so long as the baby gains weight on the amount of food they keep down. And gagging is helpful for babies to protect themselves from aspirating their liquid food. Due to a baby’s gag reflex, it is rare for any baby to actually aspirate food into their lungs. So even though these issues are messy, they help our babies stay healthy. They do become less frequent after nine months of age.

10. My baby breathes in a funny way. Sometimes she even stops breathing for a second. Is that okay?

Babies do breathe in a funny way. They can breathe ten times rapidly, then take a deep breath and not breathe for five seconds. If we traced newborn breathing patterns on paper we would have nothing but squiggly lines. Their breathing patterns smooth out and become more regular at three to four months of age. Until then, their irregular respirations can startle parents until they recognize how normal their baby’s abnormal breathing is.

These are the most common normal body habits of babies that disturb new parents. Some of these cause real fear and concern for first time moms and dads. Having some knowledge about these nuances of newborns can help parents relax. And that is good for parents, good for baby and good for the new family. It would be nice to hear about all these issues in the newborn nursery but it would just be too much to handle at that special time. Having some reference for these issues after you go home is more appropriate. So it is with that in mind that this was written for expectant parents.

I hope you can relax and enjoy your new baby.

Tough Times for Teens and Their Parents

When I do workshops for parents of teenagers I see many shaking heads when I say, “it is a tough time to be a teenager!” Everyone in the audience recognizes this  statement as fact. Few adults can picture growing up as a teen now. School demands  are higher. It is harder to get into college. College costs add a burden. A high school  diploma doesn’t help your career very much. And now, with the economic crisis, the  future looks tougher still. There is only one thing tougher than being a teenager, and that  is being a parent of one!

Teens are exposed to so much so early that they seem to be growing up too fast.  Media-We know the risks that they may encounter but it seems that they do not. We  worry for them. And the freedoms that they demand from us so early make it difficult for  us to stay in control. How are we to parent our teens today? Where else can we turn?

Toilet Training Made Easy

At times I feel like I can hear all the phrases used in different households by different people. I can hear mothers saying “Do you need to use the potty now? Do you  want to try?” When changing diapers at the changing table children hear, “When are you  going to use the potty? Mommy doesn’t want to change these diapers forever, you  know?” Another phrase that echoes around is, “Oh won’t it be great when you are using  the potty?” Grandparents get into the fray with the admonishing phrase, “You don’t have  her out of diapers yet? I had all of you out of diapers before you were walking.” Oh  friends and neighbors aren’t innocent. “You should put her in pull-ups” or “Just buy  him Sponge Bob underpants” or “Put him on the toilet every hour”, or “Have you tried M  & M’s as a reward?” It is as if it takes a village to toilet train a child!!!

Yet it is wonderful when a child is finally toilet trained. It marks an end to a  stage. Parents deal with less mess. No more buying diapers. And the most appreciated  factor is that the never ending unsolicited suggestions from relatives and strangers will  stop. Getting there will be great. But getting your child “toilet trained” requires little  “training” from you.

The amazing thing about this process is that most children train themselves when  they are ready. After all, they do have ultimate control over this issue, don’t they? They  decide. They have control. The biggest battle of “toilet training” is fighting all the  pressure to “train your child”.

Think of it from the child’s point of view. When all the young child is hearing is  “potty, potty, potty….,” they recognize only that a fuss is being made over them. When a  fuss is made over them for doing nothing, there is no motivation for a child to change  from doing nothing. They are smart enough to realize that if they change and go in the  potty, then they risk all the fuss about them over the potty will end. From the child’s  point of view isn’t it better to continue having people make a fuss over you for not going  in the toilet?

There is an easier way to toilet train. First, despite what you are told, most  children do not go on the toilet before two and a half at the early end. Most children  toilet train themselves at three years old. By the time your child enters that age, he has  probably seen people go to the bathroom and perhaps has tried copying the action  himself. But as your child approaches three, it is time to stop talking and reminding  about the toilet. You should pay no attention to toilet issues. It should appear to them  that it doesn’t matter to you where he goes to the bathroom. In fact, it shouldn’t matter to  you since they have control of this issue, right? Make diaper changes boring – even  emotionally cold. Don’t let diaper changes lead to play, reading, or other fun. Make it  all business. Make sure grandparents and others don’t pester your child about the toilet either. Tell them he will train when he is ready. Your child may try to go to the  bathroom in other places like a corner of a room. A quick correction and coldness will  suffice for any “accident”. Don’t over-react to it. Only respond with praise to your  child’s toileting actions to valid attempts at the toilet. This way the only attention your  child is getting over this issue is with positive attempts at the toilet. Eventually he or she  will move towards this positive experience. Be patient. After all your child will not go  to college in diapers.

Tips On Parenting Your Adolescent

As parents, we grow with our children. But that growth hits a stumbling block when we reach the teen years. Then our usually compliant son or daughter changes and  the challenges begin. All of a sudden there are challenges to your commands. They  want to be the boss. They want more independence and you’re not ready to give it. They  want to be with friends more than family. They are very self centered and private and  they seem to thrive on arguments. Does this description fit your teen? Then maybe some  information and tips would be helpful to you and your family.

It is important to remember the stages that teens go through in early adolescence  (usually somewhere between 11 and 15 years) teens start thinking more critically. This is  the time of questioning and challenging. It is as if the teen is saying “so these were the  values I was brought up with, but are they valid?” The next stage is middle adolescence  where teens want to try some values out for themselves. Now they are saying – “ok  those are your values but I’m going to try some for myself.” Obviously, this is the  experimental time. It is usually between 14 and 16. It is a very scary time for parents.  But take heart through this time. It is important to keep your standards and restrictions in  place and weather through this time. Because sooner or later comes Late Adolescence.  This is where parents can breathe easier. In Late Adolescence, teens usually “come back  home” to the values they were brought up with. It is this time where they start being  more responsible and thinking more about their future.

So how do we, as parents, deal with our teens as they go through these stages?  Well here are some key do’s and don’t for raising an adolescent.

1. Respect.

It is important for their ego development that you respect them. It is natural for  them to disrespect you at times – nevertheless it is important that you continue to  respect them! You will command their respect more if you recognize that they are as  human as you and I. They are going through the rougher part of this transition. They  need you to respect their opinion, their space, and their privacy.

2. Continue to set limits.

Respecting them is not the same as relinquishing all control. They need (and  sometimes want) limits. It is ok for these limits to be negotiated at appropriate times.

3. Praise is important.

Never in their lives do they need to know what you approve of more than now.  Make a point to notice the positives and voice them. But in voicing them don’t let  it become negative comment, (i.e. now that’s what I like not like when you . . . .).  Just be simple – “I like it when you . . . .”

4. Don’t be critical.

Make corrections simply and clearly. Don’t overcorrect, lecture, embarrass,  belittle, shame or blame your teen. They understand simple corrections.

5. Be a good example.

Do as I say not as I do does not wash with teens. It might just be the time for a  parent to stop smoking and/or drinking. It is amazing how much respect this can  earn from teenagers.

6. Listen when they want to talk and make time to listen.

Be active in listening. Repeat statements. Nod your head. Ask clarifying  questions. Don’t give solutions. Just listen. Let them figure it out in your  presence.

7. Don’t over-advise your teen.

It is time for them to figure things out. They need to learn some things by  experience. I know – this can be scary!!

8. Get out of arguments quickly.

Say your peace and stop. The argument is the temper tantrum of the teenager.  They’ll keep you arguing forever and it never stays on the same topic. If you turn  away and stop, they fizzle out.

9. No matter what – stay involved.

Kids with involved parents grow up to be better  adults. Witness your teen’s interests. You don’t have to love it. You don’t have  to learn to skateboard too! But it’s not a bad idea to see what he or she has to  show you!

Take heart. They are all children. Show them you care. Show them some love and they  usually do well.

Some reading for parents:

Get out of my life but first can you drive me and Cheryl to the mall.   By Anthony Wolf

You and Your Adolescent  A Parents Guide for ages 10-20. By Steinberg & Levine

Good Luck,

Brian G. Orr, M.D.

The Parent’s Journey

Being a parent is such an incredible experience that it is hard to remember not being a parent even after only a  few weeks of being one. The responsibility is great. To  have a newborn so dependent on you is on the one hand very  gratifying and fulfilling and on the other hand very scary.

I came across a quote by Richard Carlson, the author  of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Mr. Carlson says, “We are  given the opportunity to be responsible for children for a  relatively short period in their lives, to guide them until  they are ready to find themselves”.

This quote speaks of the dilemma parents face in  loving, caring, and protecting their child, at the same  time giving up control, letting them grow, and allowing  them to become themselves. How we do this over time is a  very personal part of parenting that cannot be taught. It  must be lived and experienced. Facing this conflict is one  all parents must do whether we get blind sided by it or  face it openly.

When we become parents we get lulled into the idea  that we control so much. We are satisfied by feeding our  child and hearing satisfied burps coming from him or her.  He falls asleep on our chest and we feel the awe of having  our child sense the security of our arms. It takes some  time, many months, for us to see a personality in our  child. Then we see our child’s desire to call some shots.  At some point we turn against our child’s will by saying  “No, I can’t let you do that”. We see the resistance the  child puts up when their will is crossed. We watch further  as we see their will develop into interests, and their  interests eventually into who they are. We help by  promoting their interests while continuing to say “No” to  some of their desires. We strive to balance discipline and  permissiveness. We recognize their skills, sometimes  before they do. Sometimes we don’t see it until long after  they have been using it. We worry. We have fears for them  that they don’t see and don’t want to hear about. We give  them attention; they take some control. We try to stay out  of some parenting traps and dig our way out when we fall  into them. We lift them up when they have fallen. We  recognize their emotional outbursts and help them through  them. We listen to their dreams, realistic and far-fetched. We acknowledge their successes (hopefully as  theirs and not ours) and we feel their pain in their  failures.

It doesn’t end. Parenting continues for life and  beyond. (Even if our child happens to die before we do, we  continue to think of them as our child). Without a doubt,  parenting is the hardest job we will ever have. Few of us  succeed at it without the support of others. It takes  faith in ourselves as parents. It takes faith in them as  individuals. We need to have courage to allow them the  space to become themselves. As Jack Kornberg says in his  book, The Art of Forgiveness, Loving, Kindness and Peace,  “Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.  We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our  children, lovers, family or friends. We can assist them,  pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their  happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and  actions, not on our wishes.” And so it becomes very  important for parents to learn what we have control over  and what our children have responsibility for. That quest  defines the short term and long term aspects of each  parent’s journey.

The Overly Negative Parent

Stop it! Why are you always fidgeting? Don’t climb on that! Can’t you be still for a moment? Leave your nose  alone! Can’t you occupy yourself for a minute? Must you  look into everything? Don’t you know that’s not safe? Sit  here! Keep your hands to yourself!

We all have used these phrases at one time or another.

It’s easy to fall into negative parenting patterns.  The fact is that children don’t mind negative parenting in  the short run. Sometimes they are thriving in the  attention they get from you even if it is in correcting  their behavior. Many times children enjoy controlling you  and “pushing your buttons”. However, in the long run  negative patterns of interaction have detrimental effects  on children’s egos. They start to embody the thought that  they are a “bad” child that always needs correction.  Meanwhile parents often sense the negativity in the  relations with their children and don’t like it.  Intellectually we know it isn’t good for our children.  Most parents plan on giving their children the best. So it  is usually upsetting for us to fall into negativity in  parenting. There is great value in being able to recognize  when you or your spouse are in one of these patterns.  Recognition is the first step in changing this pattern.

Once you recognize a negative mode of parenting there  are steps you can take to get out of it. Start by turning  off the word faucet. Ignore your child instead of  constantly correcting them. If you need to correct them,  use action instead of words. A touch on the shoulder or  turning them to the right direction often works better than  words. Take moments to compliment your child. Thank them  for following your correction or instruction. Praise and  compliments can help turn the tide on negativism. Employ  praise daily. Look up short phrases and words that kids  like to hear like “wow”, “way to go”, “I like it when you…”

Try to understand your child’s developmental level.  Many kids need to explore, jump and run. Give them a space  and time to play with their developing skills. Stop asking  silly questions like “Why do you have to…?” or “Can’t you  just be still for a moment?” Children are made to move and  be curious. It is up to parents to be creative to let them  use their curiosity and energy.

Don’t get frustrated with your child’s need for  constant vigilance. For certain ages, keeping one eye on  your child is a requirement in parenting. Parents must  accept this role. It takes a long time for children to  become self sufficient and trustworthy.

Children want to call attention to themselves and to  push our buttons. These desires often pull us into a  negative swirl. We can get out of these by taking  appropriate steps. Through these steps we can help our  kids feel positive about themselves and we can feel  positive about our relationships with our children.

The Emergence Of Permanence

Your nine month old wants an electric cord but you distract him with a stuffed animal and he takes the bait.  Even at one year of age distraction to another object  replaces a desired one. At fifteen months, your methods of  distraction to an object you favor over one your child  favors may take longer but still works. But by eighteen  months your child persists after the TV remote even though  you try to distract him with two or even three different  fun items. What has happened? Why was it easier to  distract your child to a new object at nine months to a  year of age but at fifteen to eighteen months your method  isn’t working?

The problem is not with your method. The problem is  with your child’s development. By eighteen months of age  your child has developed the idea of permanence.  Permanence is when your child knows the object you are  hiding behind your back is still in existence and is the  object they want. Before this age your child might  “forget” that the remote or the electric wire ever existed  once you hid it from them and introduced a new item. This  is an important piece of information for parents to  understand. Without knowledge of this many parents fall  into a trap.

The trap goes like this. We as parents are used to  using distraction for over a year to give a child something  else rather than something they want. But as a child  develops permanence and persists after the hidden remote,  parents often continue to try distracting them by offering  them bigger and better choices. The offers continue until  something that pleases the child is offered. If this  pattern continues then a child learns to persist and act  out and something good will come their way. Does this trap  sound familiar?

If parents of fifteen to eighteen month olds recognize  this risk of using distraction, they can avoid this trap  and avoid feeling like your child is ruling you by their  behavior. If your child starts persisting for an object  you don’t want him to have, get that object way out of  reach and out of sight. Your child will start acting out  in frustration and disappointment. You may try one or two  simple attempts at distraction but if they don’t work, stop  trying. Allow your child to experience disappointment  without a response from you. The child will learn to move  past this emotion in a very short time. They will learn  that you are in control and they can’t persist in behavior  to win something. This age is when children want what they  want but can’t have everything they want. Since they have  learned about permanence, it is time for them to learn  about disappointment.