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 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.
- 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
Let your child know in advance that he’ll no longer be sleeping in your bed. 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.
Wean your toddler off his dummy
We all need comfort, and for a baby this means breast, bottle, blanky, thumb or a dummy.
Weaning your child off the dummy should be a negotiation, with the ultimate decision being made by the child. 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.
Wean your toddler off transitional objects like his blankie
Learning to soothe themselves without the help of mom and dad is a key skill for children to learn. A blankie 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.
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 blankie, or another form of relaxation, such as listening to music.
Get your child away from the TV
“It’s simple, really – turn the TV off!” says registered educational psychologis Ken Resnick. “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.”
Get your child to play outside more
Children will always take the lead from their parents, so it’s important to encourage a healthy outdoor lifestyle through example.
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.
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.
Handle a trip to the dentist
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.
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