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What Can I Do About My Picky Eater?
“You Won’t Get Dessert Unless You Eat This!”

Robin Goldstein is a Parenting Consultant and Author of, “The Parenting Bible.”
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: My 4-year-old daughter is a picky eater. She eats the same foods almost everyday. I want her to learn to eat a variety of foods, but it’s really hard to get her to taste foods she’s not interested in. I’ve tried limits, “Sit there until you finish eating,” threats, “If you don’t eat what’s on your plate, you won’t get anything for the rest of the night,” and using dessert as an incentive, “If you take 3 more bites, you can have 2 scoops of ice cream.” Sometimes these things work. Most of the time they don’t. I’m really frustrated and would like your help.
Insight: Nearly every child is a picky eater at one time or another. However, most children, on their own, eat enough for adequate growth and nutrition. Kids often decide that they like or don’t like certain foods based on looks, texture, color and consistency. Sometimes kids refuse to taste foods because they're afraid that once they try a bite, they'll have to keep on trying more and more new foods. Picky eating habits can easily develop out of stress and arguments around the quantity and variety of food kids feel pressured to eat.
Strategies: Despite all the negative effects and emotions involved in trying to get kids to eat different foods, parents get into mealtime struggles for a positive reason: they want their children to willingly eat nutritious foods. Here are some tips that will help you understand and deal with your picky eater. These suggestions require patience and understanding.
Do model for your daughter the kind of healthy eating habits you want her to (gradually) adopt. Offer an assortment of foods (don’t overdo it) she can choose from. Keep your refrigerator stocked with great snacks. Snacks can be as important as regular meals in obtaining needed nutrients.
Don’t neglect to understand that when you pressure your child to eat or to finish what’s on her plate, it can create picky eating habits. And, don’t push her to take "just one more bite" in order to please you. Children naturally learn to respect their own feelings of hunger, unless you confuse them.
Do understand that when you try to coerce your child into eating, the results will usually be negative. Meals will become unpleasant times of arguments and power struggles. And, your daughter may resort to sneakiness, either taking foods she wants (usually sweets) or secretly disposing of foods she won’t eat.
Don’t make mealtime a battleground. If your daughter feels she can accept or reject foods she doesn’t want to eat, she may be more willing to taste what you offer.
Do expect that she might react to your pressure by picking at what’s on her plate and taking tiny bites. She’s not consciously trying to manipulate you, but rather acting out her sense of helplessness.
Don’t urge your daughter to eat more, and more often, than she wants. She may have a small appetite.
Do try starting your daughter’s day with a nutritious milk shake. Put milk, fresh fruit, nonfat ice cream and protein powder in a blender. Whip the ingredients into a frothy shake.
Don’t focus so much on what your child eats at a particular meal or snack. Instead, look at foods she’s eaten over several days. Research shows that if a child eats less at one meal, she will balance her intake by eating more later on in the day. Kid’s appetites can vary from meal to meal, and day to day. Prior to growth spurts, appetite increases; prior to the onset of an illness, appetite may decrease.
Do make a strong effort to remove all mealtime stress. Present foods your daughter rejects separately from other dishes. If she doesn't like carrots, don't put them on her plate or in the main dish. Put them in a separate bowl on the table, and allow her the choice of whether or not to have them.
Don’t prepare foods you know your daughter won’t eat. Let her (always) determine how much she wants to eat. If you have weight or nutrition concerns consult with your pediatrician.
Do realize that kids who willingly try a variety of foods usually have been fed with a low-stress approach. From an early age, they've been allowed to pick and choose from an assortment of foods. If you create such an atmosphere in your home now, your child’s eating habits are likely to improve.
Don’t humiliate, tease or make a big deal about your daughter being a picky eater. And, don’t bribe, threaten or beg her to eat. Offer dessert whether she eats the way you want her to or not.
Do help ease tension around eating when you’re at someone else’s house. Let the host know that your child has a small appetite or eats only certain foods. Most people are sensitive to children’s needs-and understand that many kids are picky eaters.
Bottom Line: When you were a kid, didn’t you hate when you were forced to eat foods you didn’t want to eat? And, even now, as an adult, don’t you dislike when people ask you to taste foods you know you don’t like or when you feel pressured to finish the food on your plate? Sometimes I wonder why we treat kids in ways we don’t want to be treated!


My Kids Get Anxious Before the Holidays

Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., Parenting consultant and author of, The Parenting Bible.
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: As the holidays approach, my kids, ages 5, 7 and 10, become anxious, silly, whiny and pretty much out- of -control. During this time, I have a hard time calming them down and going about our daily ways and routines. Why such anxiousness? How can I get them to be less rambunctious and more easygoing during the holiday season?
Insight: Holidays are full of outings, gifts, sweets, and no school. Kids don’t have the pressures adults have around holiday preparation, spending and gift giving. The excitement kids experience is mostly in the spirit of, “I can’t wait for Christmas!” “How many more days ‘til Hanukah?” “Are grandma and grandpa going to sleep over?” “I like getting presents.” Waiting for special occasions and holidays is not easy for kids.
Strategies: While the holiday season is a special time for celebrating family traditions, it can also be a time when kids experience a fair amount of stress. With the buildup and long periods of planning, kids get anxious and excited. And, although temporary, behavior changes are common. These tips and reminders should help the holidays be happier and calmer for you and your children.
Do try to be patient and understanding about the excitement and anticipation your kids feel about the upcoming holidays- and expect your kids to want the celebrations to begin “Now!” Their sense of time is very different from yours.
Don’t tell your kids to “be good” or “Santa won’t bring you gifts.” This threat makes kids jumpy and upset, causing them to act out in negative ways. It’s hard under any circumstances for kids to be consistently good, and when they’re anxiously anticipating a holiday, behaving well is that much harder.
Do know that generally kids these ages don’t talk about their feelings. They act them out. So, as the holidays get closer, expect crankiness, irritability and a change in appetite or sleep habits. Also, expect them to have a little trouble concentrating on schoolwork. They’ll need a little more of your attention, guidance and reassurance.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Consider your kids ages and do what works best for your family. Be flexible and consistently give your kids a positive sense of their self worth. However, continue with your rules, with the understanding that you may need to give more frequent reminders of your limits.
Do consider making a calendar to mark off the days they’re waiting for. Or, make a special paper chain and each day tear off one link; the day all the links are gone is the day they’ve been waiting for. Get excited with them.
Don’t neglect to remember that with advertisements, mall decorations and lots of talk about presents, it’s easy for kids to think more about getting than giving. That’s okay. Giving should be part of what your children see you do throughout the year. Kids learn by copying their parents.
Do know that when you’re uptight, it gets passed on to your children, and they start to experience stress. Remember to laugh-it can change everyone’s mood from bad to good.
Don’t underestimate how important traditions are to your children. Family traditions offer great comfort and security. Perhaps you and your kids would enjoy making cards to send to relatives, making kid-designed decorations, baking cookies-keeping some- and delivering some to a local nursing home or soup kitchen.
Do spend some quiet time with your kids when you see things getting out of control and when you need
to take a break from holiday related stuff. Have ice cream, watch a movie, play games, make art projects, tell jokes, read together.
Don’t ridicule or put your kids down when they show selfish tendencies and disappointment during the holiday season. At these ages, this is to be expected. Instead, be a positive role model, acting in ways you want them to act. Also, listen to their concerns and show understanding, “That must have made you feel let down.” Model optimism and a joyful attitude.
Do ease up on the holiday pressure by giving a surprise treat (“Just because I love you”) to slow the buildup.
Additionally, some kids will ask, “Why isn’t Hanukah like Christmas?” Young Jewish children may feel they’re missing something. It’s important for children to see their parents’ enthusiasm for Hanukah. Parents should be understanding and focus on making decorations and recreating fun Hanukah activities they remember from childhood. Also, talk about the meaning of different holidays in our diverse culture.
And, holidays can be a little troubling for children in single-parent and stepfamily homes. Holiday traditions can cause children to remember times when mom and dad were together. Family arrangements that require children to celebrate at several homes can be upsetting and stressful. Talk, show understanding and be mindful of everyone's feelings. Consider what works for the kids.
Bottom Line: With so many high expectations, it's no wonder so many families have a hard time with the holiday season. It doesn't have to be that way. It just takes conscious parenting, focusing on what’s right for your family and making certain that you’re setting the tone for a joyful holiday spirit. And, whatever traditions you’re creating with your kids, make sure that years from now, you and your kids memories will be full of laughter, meaning and fun. ENJOY the holidays and ENJOY them with your children.


“I Hate You, Mommy!”

Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., Parenting Coach and Author of, The Parenting Bible.
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: When my 5-year-old daughter gets mad at me, she says, “I hate you, Mommy!” It shocks me when she says this and it hurts my feelings. I also get angry at this kind of outburst, which mostly happens when she doesn’t get her way. I’d like to know if other kids say these hurtful words to their parents and how I should deal with her when she says this to me.
Insight: Think for a moment how often you use the word “hate” in your life - “I hate my hair.” “I hate when it rains.” “I hate when people do that.” “I hate this shirt.” “I hate the way he speaks to me.” While you may not realize it, your child has probably heard the word, “hate” used -by you- quite often. And, since all children are exposed to the word “hate,” they learn; when you don’t like something, or when something doesn’t go your way, you describe your feelings by saying, “I hate....” Should we be so alarmed and surprised by this, since children are natural mimics?
Strategies: If you’re bothered (and understandably so) by hearing the word “hate” used by your daughter, I would first suggest that you take it out of your vocabulary. The less she’s exposed to the word at home, the less she’ll use it. Also, remember that a 5-year-old still has a hard time putting her exact feelings into words. While you may feel betrayed when she turns on you over a disappointment and expresses her anger by saying, “I hate you,” consider the following points:
Do understand that when a young child gets angry with her parents, it’s common for her to shout, “I hate you!” The outburst may come after you say she can’t go outdoors or have a friend over or do something else she wants to do.
Don’t take her words so literally. This kind of expression is short-lived.
Do believe that she doesn’t know how to say, “Mom I think you should allow me to stay up later tonight because...” or, “I’m angry with you because you said...” A 5- year-old is too young for this kind of articulation and even too young to show consistent respect.
Don’t hesitate to offer her other ways to tell you how she feels. Suggest she say, “I’m mad at you,” “I’m angry,” or “I don’t like what you did.” Acknowledge her feelings, but say, “I want you to tell me in different words.”
Do assume that using the word, “hate,” is the beginning of her expression of negative feelings. She needs to learn that feeling upset and angry is okay - so choose your response carefully.
Don’t be quick to respond by saying, “That’s not nice!” or “Don’t let me hear those words again.” Instead, acknowledge her angry feelings, and understand that eventually, with your help and maturity, she’ll learn to state her feelings more appropriately. I promise.
Do expect to feel frustrated when your adult reasoning, logic, and caring fail to keep your child from yelling, “You mean mom!” “I hate you!” Your child’s words can feel threatening, especially if you don’t like your child to be angry with you.
Don’t forget the important role you have in teaching (although it takes time) your daughter to express her anger in acceptable ways.
Do consider this approach: When your daughter says, “I hate you, Mom!” rather than make an issue of it, simply restate her words. Say back to her, “You’re really angry at me aren’t you? You don’t like it when I say it’s time to come in.” If she hears you express her anger in this way, she gradually will begin to use similar statements herself.
Bottom Line: You should take note of your daughter’s keen ability to copy your words and behavior and think about how you speak to her and others (your husband, family members, store clerks, other drivers). What’s your general tone? Do you yell? Are you short-tempered? How do you express disappointment? Do you correct her negative words, and not yours? After careful thought, you might consider changing your ways so that your daughter will have the role model she needs to help her grow into a nice, sensitive and caring person.


Am I Spoiling My Kids?

Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., is a Parenting Coach and Author of, “The Parenting Bible.”
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: I have a baby, a toddler and a 5- year-old. All I seem to hear lately are warnings from others, “Don’t keep picking her up, you’ll spoil her.” “If you buy her that, you’ll spoil her.” “He’s acting selfish.” Of course I don’t want to spoil my kids, so how can I avoid the whole spoiling issue as I raise my children?
Insight: Treating kids in “spoiled” ways essentially means indulging, pampering, catering to, pleasing them-exactly how babies need to be treated. So, don’t consider any other way of parenting your baby - just “spoil” away. And, know that your toddler can’t think outside himself (yet) so when he acts in demanding and self-centered ways, he’s not acting “spoiled,” he’s acting NORMAL for a toddler. The balance of setting limits, giving in (or accommodating) and distracting works best for toddlers. Five-year- olds need more limits, more explanations, and good role models.
Strategies: All kids occasionally act in selfish, “spoiled” ways-even at ages 5, 8, 10- and above-making demands without consideration for other people or circumstances. However, “spoiled” kids are the ones who remain almost totally self-centered and focused on their own desires, possessions, and activities. To avoid this, consider these Do’s and Don’ts:
Don’t listen to others who say you can spoil a baby. The truth is you can’t. And, picking up your baby - whether she’s crying or not- won’t spoil her. Rather, it will help her develop a sense of security that will make her less likely to cry in the long run, because babies whose cries bring a helpful response gain a secure feeling that teaches them to trust.
Do know that if you constantly overindulge your children (beyond the baby and toddler years), they will get used to getting their way and learn to feel entitled to do as they wish. This can also happen if you fail to set limits on negative behaviors or fail to follow through when your kids act inappropriately.
Don’t conclude that owning many toys and things will make your children spoiled; kids with lots of possessions can be loving and considerate.
Do understand that if you give without reinforcing good values, you’ll be contributing to your children learning to behave in socially unacceptable ways, expecting more and treating what they have with little meaning.
Don’t make a habit (although sometimes it’s okay) of buying stuff for your kids out of guilt- when you’re not giving the attention your kids need. And don’t rationalize continuous giving: “They’re only kids for a short time.” “Why not? We can afford it.”
Do realize that the danger in continually overindulging your kids is that they may grow up with difficulty handling and tolerating situations that don’t go their way.
Don’t get lax in setting limits on your kids’ negative ways. Limits will help them gradually learn that they can’t always get their way, and to think about others.
Do show by example, how to graciously accept and offer kindness, and how to deal well with disappointment. Your kids will copy your actions-even more than your words.
Don’t neglect to teach your kids (even though this takes time) to appreciate what they have, to respect friends and each other, to act nice, and to consider those more needy than them.
Do know that if your kids grow up with basic and consistent values, they won’t act spoiled no matter how many possessions they have.
Don’t hesitate to look for deeper reasons for your 5-year-old acting in self-centered ways. Are you spending as much time as you should together? Are you available to hear about her needs, ideas, and worries?
Do gradually cut back on buying things if you believe you’re buying too much.
Don’t label your kids “spoiled.” They may act more selfish than you’d like, but they must certainly have good traits that may be overshadowed if you concentrate on one negative characteristic.
Bottom Line: How you treat your kids now, how you show what you value, how you respond to their wants and needs will have an impact on them for life. You’ve heard my Do’s and Don’ts on spoiling, but most importantly, you truly can’t spoil your kids by indulging them in a lot of this stuff - reading together, learning together, sharing activities, taking walks, sitting on the floor playing, laughing, and simply enjoying each other. Even as your kids grow-indulging them with your love, listening to them and doing things together won’t - ever - spoil them.
P.S. Grandparents are supposed to spoil kids, so don’t be hard on them if this is the case. What kids gain from being treated this way are positive, loving memories.


Arguing in Front of the Kids - Is it Harmful?

Robin Goldstein is a Parenting Coach and author of, “The Parenting Bible.”
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: My husband and I often argue in front of our kids. When an issue comes up we bicker with each other without giving thought to whether our kids are listening or not. I’m not sure if we’re harming them or if we’re helping them by exposing them to the fact that sometimes couples disagree with each other. The problem is, our kids really don’t like when we argue in front of them and they always tell us, “Stop yelling at each other.”
What’s your advice?
Insight: You’re getting a strong message from your kids that need to be examined. While at times, all children are going to be exposed to parental arguments, it’s important to consider how children take this in. Most (if not all) children don’t like to hear their parents’ arguments. Arguing in front of kids, frightens them; “Are you getting a divorce?” It causes them to take sides; “Stop telling Dad what to do all the time.” And, they may blame themselves for your quarrels; “If only I would listen more, they wouldn’t fight as much.”
Strategies: While you cannot expect arguments and disagreements not to happen, consider these points next time you feel the urge to expose your kids to you and your husband’s differences and conflicts.
Do remember that being a kid is not as easy as it may seem. There are pressures (“Will I pass this test?”), struggles (“Do I fit in?”), frustrations (“I wish I had an easier time in math.”), and worries (“Will I make the team?”). Exposing your kids to your arguments puts additional stress on them.
Don’t expect your children to fully concentrate on their schoolwork and other activities when they’re worried about whether you and your husband will stay together.
Do be aware of signs of stress your kids may be experiencing as a result of this exposure; i.e., eating and sleep changes, anxiety, stomach aches, behavior problems.
Don’t feel that you can’t disagree in front of your children. Disagreements and conflicts are a natural part of any close relationship. Just be mindful of your tone and choice of words.
Do know that it is okay for your kids to hear you express and then resolve your
struggles - occasionally.
Don’t think that by exposing your kids to your arguments, they’ll learn conflict resolution skills. It doesn’t work that way. Their fears of you separating or getting a divorce hinder positive conflict management learning skills.
Do offer (honest) reassurance if your kids hear you fight: “Even though Dad and I argue, we still love each other very much.” “I know it’s hard for you to hear Dad and me fight. We’re trying not to disagree so much.”
Don’t overlook the fact that you and your husband are role models for your children. Every day, you show your kids how adults and couples behave. When you and your husband get along in harmoniously ways, your entire family will benefit.
Do know that if you and your husband don’t treat each other with respect, if you yell, offend each other, and argue constantly, your children may eventually have trouble with their own intimate relationships.
Don’t forget your children will never benefit by being within earshot of your arguments. They also don’t get used to hearing it.
Do put effort into helping your children learn how to resolve differences and manage their anger. Offer productive conflict resolution techniques (talk it out, use humor, compromise, role play, listen well) when they’re in conflict with each other, their friends, and with you and your husband.
Don’t make comments that trigger you and your husband’s anger and argumentative behavior. Talk with each other about making the effort to avoid squabbles. Control your accusations and unkind words. Don’t insult each other. Get professional counseling if arguments continue.
Bottom Line: Just wondering. Are your kids imitating you and your husband’s argumentative behavior now? Do they treat each other and their friends with frequent blaming and discord? Do you demand, “Don’t treat your brother that way. That’s not nice!” “Don’t talk to your sister like that.” While I would suggest that you continue to guide your children to treat each other with respect and kindness, I would also suggest that you do the same with your spouse. You'll feel better- and your kids deserve this.


To Bribe or Not to Bribe?

Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., Parenting coach and author of, The Parenting Bible.
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: I definitely bribe my 5 year old with a treat or privilege when I want her to do something she doesn’t want to do. I do this because I get tired of arguing and repeating myself when she won’t listen. Bribing makes my life easier, my daughter happier and in general, we struggle less. Your thoughts on bribing? Is it okay?
Insight: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just say to your daughter, “It’s time to go home now,” or “Please pick up your toys before we leave....,” without resistance? And, wouldn’t it be great if reasoning with your 5 year old consistently worked, “We have to get to school on time, so you must get dressed now.” While you may have periodic success with these approaches, it can also be terribly frustrating when you can’t get your daughter to do what you’ve asked of her. Here’s where bribes enter into parenting.
To offer you some comfort, it may help to understand that 5 year olds are still too egocentric (thinking about their own needs and wants) to consistently respond to others’ (including their parents) requests. And, since 5 year olds don’t reason logically, your explanations of, “You need to....because....” won’t get your daughter moving as you would like - unless of course, it’s about her pleasure, “You need to...so you can get to the pool, candy, that toy you want.”
Strategies: Most parents are opposed to bribing because they worry their child won’t learn to do necessary tasks or generally comply, without some sort of prize, treat or perk. Since there are always family struggles about the routines and necessities of life: bedtime, bath time, shopping, leaving a friends house, getting ready for school or day care; when logic fails (as it will) and your daughter refuses to do what you wish, think about the issue of bribing in the following ways:
Do understand that until your daughter is mature enough to motivate herself to do things she doesn’t want to do, bribery is a strong motivator.
Don’t forget that it takes years for children to learn self-control and to understand that certain things have to be done, even when people don’t want to do them. Eventually, your daughter will learn to cooperate and tolerate not getting her way, without being rewarded.
Do consider bribes that have a benefit you’re comfortable with; “Let’s go in and I’ll play a game with you,” “If you come home now, you can paint with watercolors after dinner.” “Let’s see what new things we can find to add to the bath water.” There’s no harm in offering any one of these bribes.
Don’t neglect, at times, to change your expectations. Help more, and be sympathetic to the fact that developmentally, your daughter thinks completely differently from the way you do. She will internalize rewards you give as a sign of your love and care - and that good feeling will help her learn to behave well.
Don’t worry that once you offer a bribe in a situation, your daughter will expect one whenever a similar situation comes up. While this is a common concern, it’s actually rarely a problem. Your daughter, at age 5, can accept compromise and a degree of inconsistency.
Do at times, let her know ahead of time, “Last time I bought you gum, but today I’m not buying a treat.” When you get to the store, offer a reminder and then a distraction, “I like to bring you to the store so you can help pick out food for dinner.”
Don’t hesitate to use bribes to avoid embarrassment. And, when you go shopping, or on errands with your daughter, a cookie or ice cream can make the trip go smoothly.
Do think about how hard it is for your daughter to stop what she’s doing for your needs, especially when she’s engrossed in something of interest to her. It’s like someone stopping you while you’re in the middle of making a cake.
Don’t forget that cooperation often happens when there are occasional rewards and compromises. Most parents don’t over use bribes.
Do consider your daughter’s overall behavior. Is she generally well behaved (in a 5 year old way)? Are you spending enough playful, engaging time with her? Does she have enough time to play and create and finish what she started? Is she on a tight schedule? Do you demand too much from her? These factors impact a child’s cooperative spirit.
Bottom Line: Don’t take this issue too seriously. Bribing is simply a developmental necessity during a child’s younger -pre-reasoning and pre-logical - years. Even as adults we’re often more motivated, and do what we need to do, when there’s a reward to look forward to, i.e., a paycheck, kudos, a bonus, or simply a show of appreciation. To view bribing your daughter in a positive way, simply think of “bribes” as “incentives.” Then, go forward and-cheerfully, playfully and lovingly- offer her, incentives! I hope that helps you feel better.


Handle Temper Tantrums

Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., is a Parenting Coach and author of, The Parenting Bible.
This article can be found in the new book, “The Experts’ Guide to the Baby Years,” created by Samantha Ettus.
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Temper tantrums are part of normal development. Typically temper tantrums happen between 18 months and 2 1/2 years, with screaming, crying, thrashing and kicking or by shouting, “I want this!” Temper tantrums happen when toddlers become frustrated and don’t have the verbal ability to express themselves or the cognitive maturity to understand why they can’t get what they want at the moment. The good news is that in the scheme of development, this is a short-lived phase, one you can certainly get through, especially with some understanding and a few pointers.

Strategies: If you work at figuring out how to prevent a temper tantrum and how to deal with tantrums when they happen, your preparation will pay off. Try to have reasonable expectations for these ages and keep things simple.

Do try figuring out what causes your child to have a temper tantrum and then fix what you believe to be the source of the tantrum. Ask yourself, Is my child tired? hungry? Getting enough time with me? making enough choices? Having to share too often? Being stopped too often from touching and exploring?

Don’t reason with a toddler. Your child can’t understand adult logic and reasoning, even though your explanations make perfect sense to you. Developmentally, your child is too egocentric to think about your needs and desires and to understand that temper tantrums are embarrassing and disturbing to you.

Do distract often. Always carry stuff in your purse, pockets, the glove compartment, and diaper bag, that you can pull out at any moment to entertain or move your child away from a potential tantrum. As soon as you feel a temper tantrum coming (at home or while out), react quickly by taking out your keys, cell phone, crackers, cookies, juice, a toy, even candy. Point out something of interest, “Look at that silly hat.” “See that bus going by.” Sing a familiar song. Say, “You push the stroller.” “Help me turn the TV on.”

Don’t spank or yell at your toddler during a temper tantrum. Your child may imitate you and hit you or others. Spanking will make the tantrum escalate. Yelling will do the same. Take a deep, slow breath and tell yourself, “I can get through this.” Then calmly, either distract or, if appropriate, make attempts to give in, “You can have a few M&M’s.” “One cookie.” Neither are unreasonable adjustments or responses – even before dinner.

Do understand that “giving in” at times will never damage or spoil your young child. Instead your child will feel a sense of love and care from you. That’s how “giving in” is interpreted by a young child.

Don’t worry about whether your child will take advantage or remember that you gave in; your child reacts differently to each new moment and experience.

Do pay attention to your child’s interests. Allow your child to touch, look at, and explore things of interest, even if only for a few minutes. Under your supervision, allow your child to use the computer, take some food out of the refrigerator, pour the dog food into the bowl, water the plants, turn the light switch on, look around the hardware store, touch hanging belts in a store. Your child will feel a sense of satisfaction and have less tantrums.

Don’t get discouraged. At times, you may have to leave a store or restaurant with your upset child. Take a brief walk and see if a change of scenery is calming. Otherwise, simply go home, and prepare for a fresh start. Keep reminding yourself that occasional temper tantrums are a normal part of the toddler and early preschool years.

Bottom Line: The way you handle temper tantrums will impact your child’s ability to deal with frustration. Learning to deal with tantrums in a patient, reasonable manner that is respectful to your child’s development, interests, and temperament, is good practice and can pave the way to smoother parenting and a happier, calmer child.


“I Want To Do It Myself!”

Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., Parenting Coach and Author of The Parenting Bible.
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: I have a 2 1/2 year old that is so intent on doing things without help that she will tell me in that strong willed voice, “I do it!” I am finding myself getting in too many power struggles with her, especially when I’m in a hurry to get out of the house. Any suggestions for how to make things go smoother during this stage?

Remember when you worried that your dependent infant would never become independent? Well, here it is, the stage in which independence shows itself in a powerful way - and it’s one of the most challenging stages for parent and child. What you describe is what every parent of a 2 or 3 year old experiences. As you have witnessed, the drive for this age group to do for themselves is very strong. Reasoning with your young child, “We’re in a hurry...” or “We’ll be late...” usually doesn’t help a young child give a task she wants to complete over to her mommy or daddy.

Strategies: If you understand your child’s need and desire to do things herself, and go forward encouraging her to do what she‘s interested in, it will help her develop confidence. Being patient with your child at this stage can be hard, especially because at times patience, distraction and preparation won’t help calm a child who is intent on putting the key in the keyhole or fastening her own seat belt (even when it’s raining or when you are in hurry). Still, the more your child is allowed to try things on her own, the less she will argue when you have to take over a task. And as you see how pleased your child is with her accomplishments and how good she feels about her abilities, you will understand why it’s important to let her do many things for herself, therefore allowing her independence to flourish.

Do understand that by allowing her to do tasks on her own, you show her that you believe in her capabilities. This outburst of, “I Want To Do It Myself,” is a developmental stage. The more you let your child do, the less frustrated she will be. Let her take the wrapper off her candy, turn the light switch on, change the channel, using the remote, be creative as she tackles jobs on her own. However, always be aware of safety issues.

Don’t jump in too soon to help just because you find it difficult to watch your child struggle with a task. If you find it too hard to stay uninvolved, occupy yourself with something else while your child works. When you take over tasks she wants to do on her own, she learns that she is not as capable as you. She also learns to mistrust her interests and skills.

Do remember that your young child doesn’t understand your feelings and needs and will often focus only on her own needs unless she is distracted. Despite your best intentions, you may find yourself in an embarrassing situation, carrying away a screaming, angry child who wants to stay put until she has finished a task.

Don’t make it a habit to do for your child, that which she is capable (and wanting to) of doing on her own. If you do this often, you will foster feelings of self-doubt in your child. This can evolve into a child who says, “you do it” which is a sign of the child feeling as if she’s not competent.

Do warn your child ahead of time if there will not be time for her to dress herself or do some other task: “We’re in a hurry today, so I’m going to help you.” And distract her: “Why don’t you look at this book while I put your shoes on?” “Let me tell you a story while I get your breakfast ready.”

Do break tasks into steps and let your child try a small part of the job if a task she wants to try is too difficult or messy. If she can’t yet brush her teeth, let her hold the toothbrush while you put the toothpaste on, and let her hold your hand as you brush and then let her try it on her own. Cheer for her, “You did it by yourself!”

Bottom Line: The drive to become independent should not be taken lightly. Your child’s self-esteem and confidence is at stake. Consistently encouraging your child to tackle tasks she’s interested in will benefit her throughout her life. If you honor this stage, your young child will learn to believe in herself and feel secure about her capabilities.


“Give Aunt Jodi a Kiss and Say, ‘Thank You’ to Grandma”

Robin Goldstein is a Parenting Coach and author of, “The Parenting Bible.”
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: As the holidays approach, I’m anticipating my 4 year old son not cooperating when it comes to kissing his relatives hello and showing appreciation by saying “thank you” after receiving gifts. I worry that I’ll be judged in negative ways if he doesn’t show polite manners to his relatives, (including my mother!). This concern can put a damper on the holidays. I’d like some suggestions on how to deal with this issue so we can enjoy the holidays even when things don’t go smoothly.

Insight: You’re not alone in both your concern and in your child resisting to either kiss relatives or say, “thank you.” Certainly all parents want their child to be liked by relatives, and feel judged unfavorably if their child doesn’t give a kiss or show polite manners - especially after receiving a gift. There are several reasons why a child might be uncomfortable giving a kiss or saying “thank you.” He might feel shy and self-conscious, and not like being focused on. And, many children are uncomfortable with the physical contact of a kiss. Most important to understand is that young children have a hard time thinking about and considering other people’s wishes, including doing what his parents want him to do especially when he’s excited, preoccupied or uncomfortable.

Strategies: What you describe at this age, is not an indication of impoliteness or poor parenting. Yet, in spite of this reassurance, you may still be anticipating the holidays with weighted anxiety and dread. To help you appreciate the holidays with your son, here’s what to keep in mind:

Don’t be surprised if your son says exactly what he’s thinking about: “I don’t want to kiss her.” ”I don’t want that toy.” These are typical (and normal) responses kids these ages give-even to people they love. Since young children are developmentally egocentric, they say things without considering others feelings. Gradually, this kind of behavior will change.
Do try letting the kiss go and instead of insisting, suggest other options for your son. With your help, he could tell his relatives about something that has recently happened, demonstrate a new skill or show them a favorite possession. He can also “give five,” shake hands, blow a kiss, or give a hug.

Don’t say Grandma will take her present back if you don’t say, “thank you.” This will put too much pressure on your son and put him on the spot, leading to an unnecessary power struggle.

Do consider that sometimes a relative is one your son may rarely see and he may resist kissing because he needs time to get used to a strange face.

Don’t forget to watch for times he uses polite words and reinforce that behavior, “I really like the way you asked for that.”

Do know that kids have their own special ways of thinking about (the consequences of) kissing. One 5 year old told her mother he would “turn old” if he kissed his aunt and another 6 year old didn’t want to kiss her relatives because “people give you germs on your lips.”

Don’t neglect to consider that your son won’t give a kiss good-bye because he doesn’t want a visit to end, although he may not be able to explain this. (You might want to explain this to your mother!)

Do remember to be a good role model for your son and consistently show polite behavior; thank a hostess, write thank you notes, say thank you often in public. Also, say “thank you” often to your son, especially when he’s done what you’ve requested. When your son hears you speaking politely to him and to other children and adults, he’ll begin to do as you do and increasing show appreciation and say, “thank you” on his own.

Don’t overlook the fact that you know your child well. If your child has the type of personality and temperament where he’ll repeat what you ask of him, then you can give him the words to say to relatives, “Say, ‘thank you’ to Uncle Marty.” If this is not the case, don’t hesitate to cheerfully step in: “Thank you. I know he’ll enjoy this.” Your son is listening, watching and ultimately learning from your example.

Bottom Line: We can all remember being small and having a relative pinch our cheeks or demand a kiss. If we recall how we felt then, we can understand our own children’s reluctance to give kisses, and help them find other ways to show appreciation and begin and end enjoyable visits with relatives. All children, including your son, look forward to the holidays; opening gifts, eating candy, having others around. Your son is only 4. Don’t take his enjoyment away by pressuring, coercing and demanding he act a certain way. Instead, change your holiday focus with your son and enjoy, laugh, hug, make a mess with boxes and wrapping paper, eat and ---Be Merry.


“It’s Mine!”

Robin Goldstein is a Parenting Coach and author of, “The Parenting Bible.”
She is a contributor to the new book, “The Experts’ Guide to the Baby Years,” created by Samantha Ettus.
Robin can be reached at her website: www.drrobingoldstein.com

Problem: My kids are 2 and 3 and the last thing they care about is sharing with each other or with their friends. My husband and I emphasize the importance of sharing and repeatedly say to them: “It’s nice to share. Everybody shares.” However, getting them to share continues to be a struggle. Should we be handling this differently?
Insight: This is absolutely one of the most common complaints parents of young children have - sharing. It may help to understand that children, between the ages of 2 and 3, don’t share well for developmental reasons - not because of bad or weak parenting. Young children are much too egocentric to care about how others feel and they are too young to understand the benefits of sharing.
Strategies: Since there are no magical or quick fixes to this problem, consider these important points before becoming too frustrated and discouraged.
Do consider that to young children sharing feels, as if, their toys no longer belong to them. Using logic to explain that this is not the case, won’t work because young children don’t understand adult reasoning.
Don’t (even though tempting) say, “How would you feel if your friends didn’t share with you?” The question doesn’t make sense to young children and it won’t change their behavior. Young children can’t put themselves in the position of someone else - yet.
Do understand that a lack of concern for another’s feelings, wants and needs may be difficult for you to accept because your adult way of thinking is so different from your child’s.
Don’t use negative approaches to teach sharing. If you grab from your children, they will learn to grab from each other. If you use a harsh tone, they will do the same with others.
Do know that sharing is easier if children play outside, if they play at a friend’s house rather than at their own house, or if they’re involved in something together, such as coloring, using play dough or painting.
Don’t neglect to set clear and simple limits. “You may not take the toy from your sister.” “No hitting.” “He’s using that now. You may use it when he’s finished.” Then add a distraction, “Let’s read this book.”
Do model the behavior you want your children to adopt. If you’re giving, show kindness and share courteously, your children will eventually copy you. Children learn more from parents’ examples than from their admonitions.
Don’t blame yourself or have negative feelings about your children, considering them to be bad or selfish when they resist sharing. And, don’t feel you have to force sharing, especially around others. That approach usually causes a frustrating (and embarrassing) outburst.
Do try preparing (although this may not work) your children when a friend is coming to visit, “Abby is going to want to play with your blocks, your puzzles, and the sliding board when she comes to visit.” Sharing struggles may be diminished by supervising closely.
Don’t always put time limits on taking turns. Young children need many experiences finishing what they start. Being asked to stop playing with something when they’re involved is very frustrating, similar to an adult being asked to stop while in the middle of an activity their involved in; i.e., baking a cake.
Do show a constant willingness to be involved with your children. The more you’re engaged with them, playing with them and nurturing their interests, the less conflicts they’ll have over sharing. This is also the case when your adult friends visit with their children.
Don’t fret. By the time your children are 4 and 5, you’ll notice a general change is their attitude toward sharing. You’ll here them say, “Here, you use this.” “Let’s both play with these.” And by ages 5 and 6, they will begin to place more value on friendship, showing even more of a willingness and interest in sharing.
Bottom Line: All parents want their children to grow into kind, sharing, well-mannered people. However, learning to give of oneself takes time - actually years. How you respond to sharing struggles will ultimately impact how your children will learn to treat others. Handling these moments with sensitivity and reasonable expectations will help them learn to behave in thoughtful and considerate ways. So, don’t yell, don’t demean them, and please don’t expect your children to act in ways that are beyond their developmental years.

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