11:12 (GMT+2), Fri, 30 September 2011
The terrible twos, the tyrannic threes… life with a toddler can be… interesting. We speak to the experts to help you deal with the niggles and dodge the curveballs.
… get your child to eat his veggies?
“The most important thing,” says nutritionist Adel van den Berg, “is that parents need to set an example. If you’re fussy, your child will be fussy. Don’t force your child to eat the food you want him to eat.”
“Rather let him try out new vegetables at his own pace. Pair a vegetable that he enjoys with a new vegetable. Do this daily until he starts tasting the food.” You can also try making stews or mixing veggies with mince. Another trick is to liquidise the food and “hide” it in foods that he likes.
Adel shares a final tip: “Remember that vegetables include tomatoes and raw vegetables, which are sometimes preferable to the cooked variety. It’s unlikely that a fussy child will start enjoying all vegetables, but aim for a variety of at least three types of vegetables daily.”
… move your child from your bed to his own?
Sandton-based psychologist, Robynne Thomson, has some helpful ideas on how to move your child into their own bed. “Let your child know in advance that he’ll no longer be sleeping in your bed,” she says. “Frame it as something positive, and address any fears your child might have about sleeping alone. Once you’ve made the decision and informed him about it, don’t go back on your word. He’ll feel confused and won’t adjust to the change if you allow him to sleep with you on some nights, but not others.”
… get rid of the bottle?
According to William Wertheim Aymès, the managing director of NUK, using a bottle as a soother when your baby is going to sleep, even up to the age of three or four years, is absolutely fine. What’s important though, is what’s in the bottle.
If a child falls asleep with a bottle in his mouth, and the bottle contains juice or cool drink, even milk, it means that this fluid is in contact with his teeth for hours. The sugar acid in these drinks damages the tooth enamel and can cause serious tooth decay. But toddlers love juice, so here’s the trick – never give your child any juice in a bottle. If you follow this simple rule, he’ll give up the bottle when he’s ready, as he’ll prefer their juice in a cup, from which he can drink faster and more easily.
… get rid of his dummy?
“We all need comfort, and for a baby this means breast, bottle, blanky, thumb or a dummy,” says William. But the breast is impractical, the bottle may have something sweet in it that can cause tooth decay, the blanky may get lost or forgotten, and the thumb can cause long-term physical and psychological damage. That leaves the dummy. Yet too many parents try to rid their child of his dummy too early.
“Weaning your child off the dummy must be a negotiation, with the ultimate decision being made by the child,” William explains. “This may take place anytime between three and five years of age. There are times when it’s not appropriate to use a dummy, like when going to nursery school. You should also not allow your child to speak to you with the dummy in his mouth – pretend you don’t understand him if he does this.”
… let go of Blanky?
“Learning to soothe themselves without the help of Mom and Dad is a key skill for children to learn,” says Robynne. A blanky is often a great way for children to use an external object to help them regulate their emotions. “It’s therefore not a bad thing that needs to be removed too early,” she says.
“However, if it becomes a source of embarrassment to you or your child, you could negotiate that your child only uses it at certain times, such as when falling asleep. If you feel strongly that your child should get rid of it, replace it with something else, like a small piece of the blanky, or another form of relaxation, such as listening to music.”
… introduce solids?
Solids need to be introduced between the ages of four–six months, depending on the development of the baby, says Adel. “Start with hypoallergenic foods – foods with a low chance of causing an allergic reaction – to avoid the onset of food allergies.”
During the first two–three weeks of introducing solids, starch needs to be Baby’s main food. Try mashed potato and sweet potato, maize meal and infant cereals. “Start with one to two teaspoons per day, then gradually increase to about a quarter cup five times per day,” says Adel. You can then move onto vegetables, and later, fruit.
At seven to eight months, your baby needs to eat soft protein foods such as mince and soft chicken. Foods need to be bland, with no sugar or spices added, and you should also avoid food that can cause choking, such as un-mashed peas and large pieces of anything. To avoid allergies, stay away from fish, soya, nuts, egg white, and cow's milk products such as yoghurt or milk in the first year.
… get your child away from the TV?
“It’s simple, really – turn the TV off!” says Ken Resnick, an educational psychologist from Johannesburg. “You might have rules, like no TV during the day or only an hour of TV per day. But you have to have a proper rule structure that the child knows and understands. He must know that there are times when he has to keep himself busy doing other things. If your child knows that you’re not going to enforce the rules, he’ll take a chance and turn the TV on. Kids must understand the rules, as well as the consequences of not following the rules.”
… play outside more?
“It’s important to encourage your kids to play outside from a young age,” says Ken. “Your child should know that outside play is part of what’s expected of them. While the child must be able to choose, he must also understand the benefits of playing outside, and how much you appreciate it.”
Children will always take the lead from their parents, so it’s important to encourage a healthy outdoor lifestyle through example. “Start playing with them; make it a family habit to be outdoors,” suggests Sister Lilian.
… teach your child to share?
“If a child doesn’t want to share, it might be because he thinks that he’s not being treated fairly,” says Ken. Forcing him to share only reinforces this perception, so it’s important that he knows and understands that his needs will be taken care of and that he’ll be treated fairly.
“Before his friend comes over, ask him which toys he doesn’t want the friend to play with, and then pack them away. Agree that the toys left out are available to them both, and if he then refuses to share them, they’ll be taken away as punishment. The most important thing is to pre-empt these situations, so that they don’t become a big issue while the friend is there,” says Ken.
“If you see tension building, distract your child,” suggests Sister Lilian. It’s also helpful to create plenty of social opportunities, to encourage and help your child to develop his social skills.
… get your child to play nicely and not quarrel?
“A child that bullies other kids, or quarrels with his friends, often indicates frustration,” says Ken. This might be because of tension at home, like a new baby in the house, or perceived unfairness. While you might be horrified and not understand where this is coming from, it’s important to talk to your child to find out why he’s acting this way. Try to see his world through his eyes, but at the same time, remember that you’re the parent and the one in control; bad behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated.
Sister Lilian shares some tips for dealing with quarrelsome kids:
• Practice the art of distraction. This teaches the child to attain self-discipline by doing something more fun or constructive than fighting.
• Walk away. An audience adds drama to a fight.
• Encourage physical activities. They effectively use up excess energy, which can otherwise be channeled into fighting.
• Separate the fighters. This might make you the common enemy, and separation also allows time for tempers to calm.
• Don’t take it too seriously, otherwise you’ll take far longer than they will to get over each fight!
… handle a trip to the dentist?
Dr Paul Roos, a dentist from Johannesburg with a special interest in paediatric dentistry, says that a child’s first trip to the dentist should ideally be when the first teeth erupt. This way, proper care can be taken of the teeth, which means fewer cavities and dental visits – which in turn means less reason to be afraid of the dentist.
“I find that parents are often more anxious than their child. It’s only when the child realises that Mom or Dad are worried or stressed that they begin to feel anxious too. And be honest with your child about the appointment – tell him that treatment may be necessary and that it might hurt a little bit, but that it will be over soon and prevent more pain in future. This way you don’t lie and end up losing your child’s trust.”
… handle that first day at school?
This is a big day in a child’s life, but it can be an even bigger day for moms and dads!
“Your child is likely to follow your lead, so have confidence and a positive attitude. He’ll be much less anxious if you send the message that he’ll be okay, instead of acting stressed and uncertain,” says Robynne.
When the big day arrives, tell him in advance what he can expect. A visit to the school beforehand is the norm, and is a good way of showing your child how everything works. “At the moment of parting, try to do it reasonably quickly and practically – long emotional goodbyes will only prolong the inevitable. Teachers are well trained for first day blues and usually distract and engage the children in fun activities once you’ve left.”
… teach your child not to nag for sweets at the shops?
The trick is to set very clear boundaries for your child before you even enter the supermarket. “This needs to be coupled with a well-defined consequence for what will occur should the child fail to follow the instruction,” says Robynne.
For example, you might say something like “Mommy is telling you not to ask for sweets and chocolates when we go into the supermarket. If you don’t listen, then I won’t put a treat in your lunchbox tomorrow”. The consequence will depend on the age of the child and on whatever you believe is fair. But you must mean what you say, and apply it consistently.
Sister Lillian also has some tips to prevent your child from nagging. “Don’t take him along if he’s hungry, take along some fruit for him to snack on, and avoid going on lengthy shopping trips. A good idea is also to start shopping clubs and share babysitting with other moms.”