Time for that nap! Don’t miss the window for naps….toddlers need naps to sleep well at night! Establish good sleep routines for naps and night-time!
It was 8:30, I was tired, and my 2-year-old seemed to be gearing up for the evening. My patience was short and soon everyone ended up melting down. Not a very pleasant way to end the day! I hated when an evening in our home ended in a melt down! I always felt like such a terrible Mom, but evenings like that made me re-group and remember that naps, early bedtimes and calming routines were the cornerstone to good sleep for everyone. Besides, when the kids were in bed early, I always had time to take a breather, visit with Brad and reward myself with a bowl of ice cream for making it through another day!
Often children are sleeping pretty well as they enter the toddler years, and then it seems that overnight, bedtime becomes a battle. So many parents will tell me that their toddler “must not require much sleep” because they can’t get them to sleep in the evening. Soon the pattern becomes a toddler who is up until late, a parent that has no down time, and a household that is stressful every evening. The fact is, toddlers need about 13 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Without that sleep, tantrums increase, whining becomes the norm, and a toddler’s day is not filled with discovery and play but frustration and tears. These are some reasons families with toddlers often develop “bedtime blues”.
- If a toddler is not sleeping enough—they are harder to get to sleep consistently. How hectic are your days? If he is over scheduled or over stimulated you might want to slow it down for sleep’s sake. When a child is constantly on the go, it is hard to settle down for sleep. We need positive associations with sleep, not negative ones brought on by tantrums, yelling and harshness prior to bedtime.
- Separation anxiety is a true toddler fear, often this separation anxiety is the start of sleep problems during the toddler years.
- Toddlers are exploring control and testing. Your child will test to see if bed time is negotiable! Sometimes a tired parent will give in pretty easily setting the precedent for the following nights.
- Toddlers don’t want to miss anything! They realize that life goes on when they are napping or sleeping.
- Most parents underestimate their child’s need for sleep. Toddlers need between 13 and 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. An increase in tantrums, whining, crying, even misdiagnosis of hyperactivity can come from a child who is chronically sleep deprived. Toddlers are wired “early to bed, early to rise” !
- Sleep is a health issue. Parents need to control this health issue just like you do routine health care. You wouldn’t let a child eat whatever they want for dinner, and you shouldn’t let a child decide his or her own bedtime. Sleep is a basic need like food or clothing, and you are the parent!
- There is no research that shows that letting a toddler fuss it out to sleep causes any psychological damage. A child who is consistently loved and cared for during the day will thrive, even if there are several nights of “crying it out” to go to sleep.
So what is a parent to do?
1. Watch your toddler’s behavior and do not let them become overly tired. Remember that an overly tired toddler has a difficult time going to sleep and staying to sleep. Usually, a toddler should not be up longer than a 5 hour stretch. If your toddler rises at 7:30 in the morning, he or she will be ready for a nap about 12:30. There should be about 5 hours between the nap wake time and bedtime. So a toddler that sleeps from 12:30 to 2:00 or 2:30 is ready for bed by about 7:30 in the evening.
2. Create a reasonable bedtime routine. The routine should be calming and repeatable each evening. Don’t let this routine take on a life of its own! Thirty minutes of bedtime preparation is all that is needed. A routine that is predictable will help your toddler calm down and know that bedtime is near. This routine should include calming the house about an hour before bed by dimming the lights and turning off the TV. Establish a routine that both you and your child enjoys. This routine might include taking a bath, brushing teeth, cuddling and reading a story, singing a song, saying prayers, talking about the day and planning tomorrow, providing a “lovey”, and giving another snuggle before leaving the room.
3. After the routine, your child may call or cry for you. Be strong and consistent. You can peek in and tell your child that it is night-time and time to sleep, but do not go back and rock and comfort to sleep. Your child will learn to fall asleep on his or her own. This is a learned skill, and an important one! Give your child suggestions. “You don’t have to sleep, just read your books or snuggle with your bear.” Leave a night-light on if necessary.
4. Establishing a sleep routine usually takes about three to four nights of consistency. Parents need to be on the same page and tackle this as a team! Do not confuse your child with two different approaches to sleep. Make a plan, and stick to it. Remember that sleep is a health issue, you are being a good parent!
If you establish good sleep habits with your toddler, your daytime hours will be much more fun! It is amazing how the “terrible twos” may just become terrific if you have a child that is not overly tired.
More to come….how to handle specific night-time challenges!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
A spoiled child grows into an adult who feels entitled…how do you strike the balance between wants and needs as a parent?
It is so difficult to see your child upset, disappointed, or wanting something that you don’t feel is necessary or maybe can’t afford. There were many days when I questioned whether we should break down and buy an item that one of our kids “just HAD to have”, fold and give that cookie before dinner to keep the peace, or rescue a child from the consequence of a behavior because their tears broke my heart. There were days that I did…but I know that the lessons the kids learned when I did NOT were much more valuable.
When you bring home your precious baby, that first year there is very little difference between your child’s wants and needs. Everything your child wants IS a need. Your sweet baby communicates those needs loudly and clearly resulting in you feeding, holding, rocking, changing, and responding. As a parent, your quick response to those needs lets your child learn that he is loved and safe. Very important lessons!
Fast forward to a 3-year-old laying on the floor at the grocery store check-out line screaming for a package of M & Ms at 9:00 am. Does he need them? No, but he sure wants them! Is the behavior annoying, do you want to make it go away quickly? Yes, but purchasing the candy may not be the best lesson for your child!
What exactly is spoiling?
As parents we must teach our children how to navigate the world even when there is frustration or disappointment. Think no M&Ms at 9:00 am, not getting your attention when you are speaking with another adult, having to save money to buy those designer jeans, and dealing with sitting the bench during a basketball game. Our children must learn that when disappointment in life happens, when they must wait for something they want, or the world doesn’t revolve around their desires, that life doesn’t crash down around them and that they are still loved. Your child must learn that in life you must work hard, be patient, and “play nicely” to be happy and successful. Being loved does not mean there are no bumps in the road, being loved means you are taught how to navigate them.
Spoiling means your child will learn that they are entitled to things. This entitlement replaces the idea of hard work and patience to get or achieve things. Children who are spoiled often do not learn the difference between wants and needs. Spoiling is never due to giving your child the things he or she needs, the opposite is true. When your child has what they need, good behavior patterns can follow. Children need loving physical contact, soothing when upset, structure, routine, positive words, food, clothing, shelter, medical care, toys, …basics…these basics bring an emotionally solid foundation and feeling of security. How do you prevent the “spoiled brat” that none of us want to raise? How do you strike the balance as a parent? Of course there are times we will give our children things they simply want; there is nothing better than seeing the excitement of getting something that is special! Of course we are going to fold and stop the “madness” in the grocery store and give in to the M&Ms occasionally. Of course we will respond to the whining….but how do we strike the balance??
- Don’t buy things your child wants constantly. Gifts are important parts of childhood…the holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions are wonderful, exciting times for your child. Receiving a gift every time you walk through Target and see the latest toy is not the best parenting choice. This results in a child who no longer appreciates but expects.
- Delay gratification. Help your child develop patience. It is fine to tell your child “I will help in a minute when I finish this.” “That new Barbie is very nice, let’s write it down on your birthday wish list.” This will help your child learn that his world will not collapse when he does not get what he wants NOW. Delayed gratification teaches the difference between wants and needs and that others have needs too.
- Develop strong values and morals as a family, give together. Raising an unspoiled child is not just about saying “no” to things, it is about developing a value based home. A home that has kindness, generosity, gratitude, hard work, and feelings as its core. Teach what it feels like to make someone else happy. Point out when your child is kind. Start talking about gratitude. Share what you are thankful for each day. A great time is during family dinners or right before bed. Ask your child to share 3 things each day he is thankful for….you share too! Share as a family, donate used toys your child no longer needs, participate as a family in donations to charities…be sure your child is included! This is a great way to teach your child about the joy of giving and appreciation for what he has. There is happiness in appreciation; there is misery in concentrating on what you don’t have.
- Watch how much screen time your child has. Advertising knows how to send the message to your child on what he “needs”! Children who learn to self entertain and play outside are less needy!
- Spoiling is not just too many things, it is an attitude too. Don’t give into temper tantrums, this teaches that those actions result in “getting what I want”. Have consistent consequences for unacceptable behavior; try not to fold because it is easier. Parenting is hard work!
- Let natural consequences of life happen for your child…bumps in the road happen, learning to handle that is essential.
- Give your child praise, but praise for specific behaviors or accomplishments. Constant blanket praising results in a child who feels the world owes him this. Let your child learn that positive actions feel good INTERNALLY!
- Give your child chores and responsibilities. In the real world, we are all responsible for something. This fosters a good work ethic and self confidence too. Studies show that children who have routine chores at home are happier, more responsible, and learn the value of taking care of possessions!
- Remember, giving your child things does not replace your child’s need for your time. So many of us are busy! Many parents feel some guilt regarding the hours they spend away from their children! What your children crave is your time, not your gifts. Taking time to talk to your children, read stories, and play games is better than any purchased gift. The feeling of contentment from the latest video game is fleeting, the feeling of love from your time is not.
- Live the values you teach. Your child learns what he sees. Does your child see you buying the newest and the best? Do you show your child that you often sacrifice and delay gratification? Talk to your child about what you want, but demonstrate that you might not need it!
Fostering an environment that doesn’t result in a child who feels entitled is not always easy. There will be times when your child may be unhappy, angry, or even throw a fit, but it is only for a brief time. Giving in affects behavior for the long-term. I am not telling you to make your child’s life difficult. There are certainly times that we will and should indulge our child. But remember, a spoiled child learns that behavior, that spoiled behavior it is a result of parenting. You cannot love your child too much…but sometimes loving your child means your child will not get everything he wants. 🙂
There is nothing harder as a parent than seeing your child disappointed about something he or she wants but can’t have, but nothing makes you prouder as a parent than seeing your child handle the ups and downs of life with grace, respect and a “can do” attitude.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Talking to your child and using lots of animated facial expressions are important for your child’s language development!
Believe me, hearing the sweet voice of your child say “Ma Ma” or “Da Da” is one of those moments you always remember. Later, I can remember thinking….”Maybe I should change my name, I am tired of hearing “MO-OMMMM!” Suddenly it was a two syllable word that rocked the house! Now, I love hearing “Mom” when I get that phone call or one of the kids bursts through the door for a visit! The fact is, language development in your child is exciting and fun, and early development is important. Studies show us that the number of words your child hears is proportionate to the size of his or her vocabulary that is developed. This is through direct spoken words to your child, through conversation or reading, not words heard from the TV or radio, or conversations around your child. Some experts tell us that a parent should be saying 30,000 words per day to their child. Wow, that is a lot of talking! Now I tell you this as a fun fact, not to have you tally mark each word you say to your child! I don’t want to add another task to your day, or worry to your list! The 30,000 per day number does send the message home though that talk is important, and as parents we have to work at talking and reading to our children! In this age of TV, computers, I-Pods and I-Pads, and smart phones; sometimes the spoken word and art of conversation is lost. As a parent we need to bring that art of truly talking with our children back!
What can we do to foster language development in our children?
- Talk to your child! When your infant is looking at you or an object…talk to your child! When your child coos, coo back…this is the start of the art of conversing. Describe what your baby is seeing. Talk about what you are doing during the day. Read stories and talk about the pictures in board books. Studies show that children that hear 30,000 words a day from birth to age 3 have better language skills at 3 but also have an academic edge still in 3rd grade…no matter the socioeconomic level! TALK A LOT TO YOUR CHILD! It can be the great equalizer for academic success!
- Repeat. This helps a child link sound and the meaning of words. By the time a child is about 1, they have most of the sounds that put words together, they just don’t have the words! Repetition helps a child put those sounds into words.
- Always respond to any sound your child makes. When your baby coos, talk back. When your child squeals with a favorite toy, talk about how much your child likes that special toy. When your child babbles and reaches for an item, say what the item is before you give it to your child.
- Play taking turn games. This teaches conversation! Blow on your baby’s tummy and wait for his response. Repeat it again. Play peek-a-boo and other games that encourage taking turns in conversation…cause and effect.
- Eye contact. Your child needs to see your face when you are talking. This helps your child see how the words are formed by watching your mouth. Your smiles, facial expressions and encouragement gives your child positive reinforcement for their attempts in communicating.
- “Motherese” is good! The high-pitched sing-song voice most moms use to talk to their baby is good! Babies like the pitch of this type of talk and the slow pace helps them understand better. Teach Dad how to do it! It tends to come more naturally to Moms.
- Give your child the opportunity to talk. Don’t anticipate every need, allow your child to point and make attempts to ask for what he or she wants.
- Narrate your day. Talk to your baby as you change a diaper, give a bath, cook a meal. Describe what you are doing and what your child is doing.
- Expand your child’s communication. When your child says “dog”, you can say “Yes that is a dog! It is a brown dog!”
- Read. Reading is a great opportunity to engage with your child. Your child will learn more words and will develop a love of books. Hearing the same book over and over helps to make language connections in your child’s brain.
- Go on field trips! Take your child to the grocery, the post office, on hikes…talk about what you see! Watch your child, and see what he or she is interested in or excited about. Talk about that rock or stick he or she picks up!
- Use music. Music encourages your child to pronounce words and practice putting sentences together. Songs also help children remember things…I still can’t put things in alphabetical order without singing my A B C’s! 🙂
- Play language games. Point and name games like “Where is your nose?” “This is Mommy’s toes, where are your toes?” Helps your child become
- aware of himself and make language connections, plus it is fun!
- Don’t worry but refer early. There is a wide range of normal with speech development. Don’t obsess and worry over your child’s development of speech. Every day work on providing the opportunities to allow your child’s speech to develop. If you have questions or concerns, the earlier you refer for evaluation, the easier most speech delays can be handled.
Language Milestones from The American Speech – Language – Hearing Association
- Baby will startle to sound
- Quiets or smiles when you speak to him
- Recognizes your voice
- Smiles at you
- Babbles and uses sounds with p, b and m
- Makes excitement sounds and unhappy sounds
- Makes gurgling sounds
- Likes music
7 Months – 1 Year
- Likes “peek-a-boo”, “patty cake”, “soo big!”
- Uses “speech” not crying to sometimes get your attention.
- Uses gestures like pointing, putting arms up, waving.
- Recognizes words that you say like “cup” and other common words.
- Starts to follow 1 step directions.
- About the first birthday will have about 2 or 3 words like ball, ma ma, da da, dog.
1 Year – 2 Year
- Points to pictures in a book when named.
- Knows animal sounds.
- Points to a few body parts when asked.
- Can say a two word question or sentence by age 2.
- Vocabulary expanding every month.
2 Year – 3 Year
- Follows two step directions.
- Has a word for almost everything.
- Is understood most of the time by those with him often.
- Speaks in 2 to 3 word sentences.
- Starting to understand concepts like big and little, up and down, in and on.
When do you refer?
- A baby who doesn’t respond to sound or who doesn’t make vocal sound.
- A child who does not point, or wave “bye bye” at 12 months.
- A child at 18 months that uses gestures over words to communicate.
- A child at age 2 or older that only imitates speech and does not speak spontaneously.
- A child at age 2 who can’t follow simple 1 or 2 step directions.
- A child at age 2 who parents are unable to understand at least 1/2 of the child’s speech, or a 3 year old child that a parent cannot understand 3/4 of the child’s speech.
- A 4 year old child who is not understandable by others.
- Don’t sit and worry….refer early. Most speech referrals are made between 15 months and 2 years of age.
Remember, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are like little language sponges. Talk, talk, talk, and turn that TV off! Your child will soon be yelling “MO-OMMMMM!”….be careful what you wish for!! 🙂
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
This cute little smile cost us several thousand dollars later to straighten it out….but worth it!
There is nothing cuter than a toothless grin of a baby. Next the cute little pearly whites that erupt create a darling smile, then there is a toothless grin again as the tooth fairy starts to make visits to your home, and then soon your child will have two big front teeth that look way too big for their mouth. As your child grows, their dental needs change too. Why is dental health so important for children? Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood illness. There are at least 4 million preschoolers that have had at least one cavity. Forty to fifty percent of children will have cavities before the age of five. 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental health problems. The American diet is high in sugar, and we are using more and more non-fluoridated bottled water for drinking. This all adds up to an increase in dental cavities, and a decrease in dental health of our children. Children with cavities in their primary or “baby” teeth have more problems with poor weight gain, iron deficiency, speech problems and poor dental health as adults. Taking care of our children’s teeth is part of good health care!
I. When do baby teeth form and erupt?
- The primary teeth or baby teeth begin to form before your baby is born at about the 14th 19th week of pregnancy. The crown, or the white part of the tooth that is seen, continues to develop until several weeks to several months after your child is born.
- Total of 20 baby teeth, 10 on top and 10 on the bottom by about age 3.
- The first tooth to appear usually is the lower central incisors (the bottom two teeth) around 6 months of age. Don’t panic if your baby’s first tooth isn’t the lower two teeth…some babies teeth to the beat of their own drummer!
- Teething can be painful for infants. Babies explore their world with their mouths, and during teething this can be uncomfortable. There can be redness, swelling in the gums, drooling, increase in finger sucking, and the need to bite and chew on any object. Some babies will pull at ears or rub their jaw line, teething pain is often referred to the ear area.
- Sometimes parents will see a “blister” where the tooth is about to erupt, this is normal.
- Many babies like a clean teething ring, frozen wash cloth, frozen fruit in a mesh feeder, frozen bagel or mom’s fingers to rub the gums.
- You can give acetaminophen, or ibuprofen (after 6 months of age) to help with the pain. Ibuprofen is a bit more effective for inflammation of the gums, but wait until your baby is at least 6 months to use this!
- Do NOT place oral numbing ointments on your baby’s gums. This can cause a decrease in the gag reflex and could be dangerous.
- Teething pain usually occurs for 3 to 4 days prior to the tooth breaking through the gum. Pain should decrease once the tooth breaks through the gum line. There may still be some discomfort for a few days after. It is not a month-long process unless your baby is cutting multiple teeth one after the other.
- Teething does NOT cause a fever, vomiting, diarrhea or cold symptoms. If your baby has any of these symptoms with teething, he or she is probably ill too.
- Teething can cause an increase in drooling which can lead to a rash or irritation around the mouth and on a baby’s chest. Keep the area dry by changing shirts frequently, using absorbent bibs, and “water proofing” the skin with ointments.
II. When is the first dental visit?
- The first dental visit should be at about age one or 6 months after the first tooth. It is important to have your child’s first teeth examined. Dental problems can begin early. Children with healthy teeth can eat better, develop better speech, and dental cavities can cause a permanent state of infection in your child.
- Usually the first visit is just a visual exam—usually on mom of dad’s lap. Going to the dentist is just like a well child exam at your child’s doctor. We want to be sure we support healthy teeth, not just see the dentist when there is a problem!
III. How do you care for the first teeth?
- Wipe your baby’s first teeth using a wash cloth or gauze or a soft bristled baby toothbrush. Ideally, your baby’s teeth should be wiped or brushed twice a day. Once in the morning and once before bed. The earlier your child becomes accustomed to wiping or brushing their teeth, the easier it will be.
- You can use a small smear (about the size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste on your child’s tooth or teeth until age 3 and then a pea size amount after age 3. Fluoride is important! It helps strengthen your child’s teeth and prevent decay.
- You should help your child brush teeth until at least age 6. Children are not coordinated enough to brush teeth well before that. Sometimes this will be a battle, but it is worth the battle. We want to form good dental hygiene habits early! Do what you have to do to get teeth brushed.
- Have your child sit on your lap facing out, or you sit on the floor and lean your child back into your lap to brush.
- Let your child brush after you brush. Use circular motions on the teeth and brush along the gum line.
- Use stickers, games, songs, whatever it takes to get the tooth brushing done. If your child cries, brush quickly…but at least the mouth will be open!
- Never put your baby to bed with a bottle of formula or breast milk. This will result in decay in your baby’s first teeth!
- Never put juice or any other sugared drink in a bottle.
- Do not allow your child to walk around with a sippy cup of juice or milk all day long. This will leave a continual coating of sugars on your child’s teeth.
- You can begin to floss your child’s teeth when they start to touch. Again, this is a good habit to start young!
- As your child begins to eat table food, try to avoid high sugar snacks. Sticky snacks are the worst. Fruit snacks, dried fruit like raisins and any other sticky food must be brushed out of your child’s teeth.
IV. When do I worry about thumb sucking, finger sucking and pacifiers?
- It is perfectly normal for infants and young children to need to suck. Sucking decreases stress in young children and makes for a happier child!
- It should be discouraged starting at about age 18 months. Parents should limit pacifier use to bedtime and nap time.
- All thumb sucking and pacifier use should be discouraged after age 3.
- Most children stop on their own, but some need help. Most will then quit with encouragement from the dentist and parents. Do not use negative reinforcement like hot sauce on a thumb, taping fingers, or putting mittens on your child.
- Prolonged sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problem. The fingers, thumb and pacifier all affect the teeth the same way.
VI. My child grinds his teeth, is this bad?
- Teeth grinding happens in many toddlers. The toddler’s molars are very smooth, and children will often grind.
- Most children outgrow the habit by about age 6.
- If teeth grinding continues after permanent teeth arrive, then speak with your child’s dentist.
VII. What should I do if my child injures his mouth and teeth?
- Be sure and ask your dentist when he or she would like to be contacted for a tooth injury.
- If a child knocks out a permanent tooth, keep it moist or drop it into cup of milk and call the dentist immediately or head to the ER.
- If a child is hit in the mouth–always call the dentist for an exam even if there is no obvious damage.
- If a child chips a tooth–call the dentist even if there is no sensitivity.
- Your child should use a mouth guard for sporting activities!
Start good dental habits early…find your child a dental office home where both you and your child are comfortable. Dental care should not be scary but just a part of good health. Take care of your child’s smile, it is one of the most beautiful things a parent sees!
So, the potty training process has started! Remember the mantra, “Two steps forward one step back!” Potty training is a huge task for a toddler and a parent. Sometimes you have a great couple of days, when you both are concentrating on the process, and then there is a bit of a back slide when you both relax a bit. This is very common. There are a few other “pitfalls” that are often seen as children and parents tackle the potty training process:
- Use of a small potty chair helps with fears of the adult toilet. Begin with sitting on the potty fully clothed and progress to sitting without clothes. Let your child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal “potty” too!
- Fear of flushing the potty is common, do not force the child to flush or shut the lid when flushing. Automatic flushing public toilets can be scary too. Cover the sensor with a post it note to prevent it flushing while your child is sitting!
- If your child is a real “pleaser” or is afraid to disappoint be sure you don’t sound upset or exasperated with the process. When there is an accident say “Oops there it went, a little accident. Next time you will go in the potty. We’ll try again.” When he does go, congratulate but don’t be overly excited as this may increase the pressure to be successful again resulting in a child who is afraid to disappoint.
- Fear of pooping. Some children potty train easily with “peeing” but struggle with the “pooping”. It causes fear in some toddlers to actually sit and poop without a diaper. Do not force the issue in the beginning…start slow. Some toddlers may have to progress from “pooping” just standing in the bathroom for a few days, to “pooping” sitting on the potty chair in the diaper a few days, to “pooping” without the diaper on the potty chair.
2. Holding stool.
- This happens sometimes when a toddler is afraid to poop. This results in the stool becoming hard and painful which begins a cycle of holding and constipation.
- Try to soften stool with diet by increasing fluids, fruits and vegetables or occasionally with medications such as mineral oil (1 tsp for every 10 pounds). This can be put in juice, mixed in a smoothie, or even on sandwiches next to the bread.
- Miralax or Benefiber are other suggestions but your child’s doctor should be consulted before using these.
- Back off of potty training and go back to diapers until your toddler no longer is constipated or having painful stools. This cycle needs to be broken for at least 2 weeks before you begin again.
- You may have to let your child poop in their diaper standing in the bathroom, then poop sitting on the potty in the diaper and finally progress to even cutting a hole in the diaper and allowing the child to poop into the potty while wearing the diaper. This may help with the fear of pooping in the potty.
- Talking with your doctor is a good idea.
- A toddler’s favorite response is “NO”! This stage fades at about age 3. Battling with a toddler is not productive and you NEVER win! The attention you give during a battle reinforces the behavior. You cannot force a child to “poop” or ” pee”. Make it clear to your toddler that potty training is for your child not you. The fact is that children all want to progress and develop. Your child will eventually want to use the toilet.
- Do not ask a yes or no question unless you are OK with the answer NO. Tell your toddler “It is potty time!” Do not say “Do you have to go potty?” This gives a choice that may not be a true choice and will result in a battle or tantrum!
Accidents will happen!!!
- Stay calm. Toddlers do not have accidents to irritate you! Toddlers age 3 and younger will not try to have an accident to upset you!
- Remind your child to slow down, sit a bit longer and completely empty his bladder. This will prevent accidents later.
- Make sure you remind your child to potty. Children get involved in play and forget!
- The older child (after age 3) can help clean up the accident. Do this matter-of-factly–not like it is a punishment.
5. Night time Control
- Nighttime training will come later. 75% of 5 year olds are trained at night with minimal accidents. Children who do continue to wet the bed after 5 often have parents who had a history of bedwetting. There should be no punishment involved with bedwetting. Children can continue to wear “sleeping diapers or pants” until later. You can talk to your doctor about when further treatment might be needed.
Your child will be successful! You both will be proud. This is just one of the many challenges you and your child will meet together!
Starting solid foods can be stressful…so it seems. So many of my conversations with parents who are starting foods, thinking about starting foods, or in the middle of food introduction are full of anxiety and questions. It really should not be. There are very few guidelines that parents really need to follow. Many of the “rules” of starting solid foods are not based on a lot of science, but are based on culture and “what grandma did”. So what is all the worry about?? What are the “rules”?
Let’s keep it simple.
1. Children should start solid pureed foods when they are developmentally ready for food, usually near the 6 month mark. Usually at this age healthy children who are developing normally should be showing some interest in foods, sitting up fairly well, and their tongue thrust should be minimal.
2. First foods are really “practice foods”. Your baby is trying out new tastes and textures, but their main nutrition should be coming from breast milk or formula. Solid foods are complimentary the first year.
3. Pureed foods do not have to be the traditional baby foods…give your baby new and interesting tastes! There really is no scientific base to withholding any foods, even foods that are traditionally high allergen foods like eggs and peanut butter. The only food your child should NOT have is honey in the first year. Introduce new foods every few days and enjoy.
That is really it! So there really is no need for a schedule, a flow chart or an excel sheet to introduce your child to foods. Honest…
Even with these simple “rules” there are lots of questions. Here are some of the most common questions/worries that I hear:
1. Should I start with rice cereal first?
Traditionally rice cereal has been the first food for babies in this country…for years! Why? Well, it is convenient, it is easy to mix and feed, and it is iron fortified. Iron stores from Mom may begin to deplete after the first 6 months, so foods with iron are often started first. There is a lot of debate about white rice cereal, but rice cereal does not HAVE to be first. There is certainly other whole grain cereals with iron fortification and there is no reason why a baby can’t have pureed meats at 6 months too. I think we should look at other foods besides rice for a first food.
2. Should I start with green vegetables first, then yellow, and then fruit?
Don’t have to……there is no evidence that shows if you give your baby green vegetables first he will like vegetables any better or like sweet things less. No matter what order you introduce foods, all children (adults too) will like the taste of sweet better. Besides, if you breast feed, your baby has already tasted sweet…your breast milk. Don’t worry about what color vegetable or what fruit you should introduce when, just offer your baby a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. You can introduce carrots one day, applesauce a few days later, and then peas…the order doesn’t matter.
3. Is it healthier to make my baby’s food? Does it have to be organic?
Many parents worry about the fact that they don’t have time to add baby food making to their “to do” list, but it seems that everyone is telling them that “good parents” provide homemade organic baby food. Like parenting issues in general, there is always different options for different families. There certainly are many ways a parent can provide healthy food for their child. Some parents buy only organic, local food and have special recipes for homemade baby food, some parents shop aisle 2 and pick up whatever food is in stage 1, and other parents go half and half; making some food and buying some. The truth is, your child will not be on pureed foods very long. I think the sooner your child begins to eat what you are fixing the rest of the family, the better. Children like foods that have normal seasonings and a wide variety of tastes. Try to make at least some baby food…that means add a little water, breast milk or formula and take a fork and mash or use a blender to puree food for your baby, it is that simple. Soon your baby will be eating what you do with just a little mashing.
Organic foods have not been proven to provide better nutrition, but the foods do decrease exposure to pesticides. If your budget doesn’t allow the purchase of organic foods, it is more important to provide a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you want to spend a few dollars on organics….stick with the “dirty dozen”. Remember organic processed foods like crackers or macaroni and cheese really don’t have a health benefit at all….
4. You want my baby to eat what I do?
If you are having green beans for dinner…then mash or puree some for your baby. If you are eating fast food…then no! If you think your child can’t have what you normally eat, then think about what you normally eat. I find a lot of parents begin to eat much more healthy when they have a child beginning to eat solid foods. Remember, the best way to teach healthy eating is being a good role model.
5. Can’t I start food a little earlier….I need some sleep at night and wouldn’t that help my baby sleep better?
Food does not help a baby sleep at night better….nothing in research has ever shown us this. Starting solids too early may result in an increase risk of obesity or maybe even a tummy ache because your baby is not able to digest the food well yet. Starting solid foods is a developmental milestone not a way to “tank up” your baby for sleep. Early food introduction will not increase your sleep…
6. Babies can’t eat eggs or peanut butter can they?
The only thing a healthy baby who is not in a family with many food allergies or intolerances can’t have is honey. That is it! Babies under a year are at risk for botulism when eating honey, but nothing else that is healthy is off-limits. There is no waiting for yogurt, eggs, meats, cheeses, fish….nothing….if it is not a choking hazard, then let your baby try it.
Let go of the anxiety….starting foods should be fun and exciting for you and your baby. Offer new tastes, new textures, and healthy food. Soon you will see that your child just might LIKE brussel sprouts….even though you never did! Let your child try it all….and maybe your diet will improve too.
So, your little one is growing up! You are starting to see signs that potty training just might be in your child’s immediate future. You are ready to help this process along….so what next?
When you think the time is right…
- When you are ready and have no major stresses in your life.
- When your child is showing increased interest in the potty.
1. Go buy “big girl” or “big boy” pants together. Talk about not getting those special pants wet and dirty!
2. Start by using the potty several times a day on a routine. Put your child on the toilet 20 to 30 minutes after every meal, before naps, right after naps, before bath…develop a routine.
3. Feed your child fruits and fibers to keep stool soft. Give your child plenty to drink so there are many opportunities to potty.
4. You might try letting your child play in lukewarm water with toys as he or her sits on the potty…..it may encourage “peeing”.
5. When you are ready to potty train full go—-ditch the diapers!! Diapers or pull ups make it difficult for a child to feel when they start to wet and give a sense of security. Even the feel and learn type pull ups are not like the good ole’ fashioned cotton underwear! You can put rubber pants or a disposable pull up over the underwear to help contain accidents. Do not switch back and forth from diapers to underwear, this becomes very confusing for a child.
6. Start setting the timer for every hour announcing “it’s potty time!” Try staying home for a few days and close to the potty to get the process started. A weekend is a great time to start!
7. Try letting your child run naked with a long t-shirt outside or inside on non carpeted floors for periods of time. When you see your child begin to pee or poop, bring them to the potty. This allows your toddler to feel and learn very easily.
8. Handle accidents with patience. Very little reaction…just “oops next time we will use the potty!” Remember this is a process! When there is an accident, place your child immediately on the potty to “finish”. This will help them equate the potty with the action.
9. Be sure your child is really ready. If you start too soon the road will be more difficult. If you meet resistance, take a break for a couple of weeks and then try again.
10. Adjust your attitude. It is important that children are never forced, shamed or manipulated into using the toilet.
11. Celebrate success. Success is just sitting on the potty at first! Decide what reward system you will use and what works for your child. Some parents find sticker charts, songs, high fives, M & Ms or other special treats will do the trick. M & Ms were perfect for us….one for my child and two for me! Do not over celebrate as this can cause stress for some children, especially children who are real “pleasers”.
12. Do not teach any other difficult tasks during this time.
13. Remember the mantra “two steps forward one-step back”. Often children start well and then lose some interest or start having accidents. Remember, it takes a lot of work for a toddler to figure this out! Sometimes concentration is lost!
14. Be sure to teach good hygiene. Teach toddlers how to wipe bottoms, wash hands, and flush toilets with the lid closed. Toddlers will not be able to completely wipe themselves, especially after a bowel movement, without help for some time, often until about age 5.
15. Potty train for daytime only…leave night time training for later. This is a different process! Use diapers or disposable training pants for night time use, you can call them “sleeping pants” to keep from confusing your child.
So, give it a try if the timing is right! Both you and your child will feel so accomplished. Practice that celebratory “potty dance” and pick up some M & Ms to reward your child and yourself. Tomorrow…a few “potty pitfalls” that can make potty training a little more challenging.