These short tips and stories from three different mums will show you that it is possible to raise your children without raising your blood pressure.
Feeding Time Is Not Tug-Of-War Time
For mums with problem feeders, here is a very useful tip: Remember that your toddler is too young to understand what good nutrition is.
Mum decides what he should eat. She has to ensure that food is served at proper meal times and that it has good nutritional value. In order for the child to benefit nutritionally, he needs to learn to finish his food.
This is where most power struggles start. The child does not want to finish his food, the mum gets all upset and screams, and the vicious cycle begins, which is not helpful to anyone.
This is how you turn the tables around: Serve your child’s food in a very small bowl or plate. Then, place an egg timer on the table and set it for 30 minutes. Tell the toddler that when the timer rings, Mum will clear away all food until the next meal. Sit and eat together with the toddler as far as possible, pointing to the egg timer with a knowing nod every once in a while.
When the timer finally rings in 30 minutes, stick to what you have resolved. Clear the table promptly and put all crockery in the sink, whether he has finished eating or not. Say: “That was a good meal!” and move on quickly to an interesting activity, like a game, or go out to the supermarket or playground. (Anything other than TV time!)
Your two-year-old may protest that he has not finished eating or that he wants some more. Well, you can give him some concession and put some food in the same small bowl. Then set the timer for 15 minutes and repeat the process.
Stick to this regime and over a period of time, your toddler will learn that meal times are to be taken seriously.
No Fear Of Tears
“Don’t cry! Stop crying now!” I often hear this from frustrated mums of toddlers when their little ones are bawling.
Toddlers cry for various reasons. Hunger is one, tiredness is another. A sick toddler can cry for no apparent reason too. Mums must understand that toddlers have very little self-control. Your loving attention (and not your irritation) will bring immediate comfort. Once their physical needs are met, your toddler will be the most adorable creature around!
Toddlers also have emotions and fear is one of them. Tears help the toddler express his fears – either of being disciplined, or of an unknown threat.
You do not want to stop those tears. They are his instinctive survival tools. Tears from discipline clarifies his guilt, clears his conscience, and instils in him a sense of justice. He will learn quickly that disobedience has a consequence.
After all, experts tell us that discipline is about training a child towards self-control. It is not about punishing to facilitate parental control. Discipline trains behaviour, develops character and teaches values.
The fear of the unknown, for example, the fear of the dark, is very real for children. When a child cries once all the lights are turned off, don’t insist he should stop being ‘such a baby’. That will make him cry more. Instead, take measures to comfort him, either with a happy bedtime story or with a little night light.
Mums, when you understand that crying is a healthy expression of a growing life, you will have no fear of tears.
A Good Four-Letter Word: WAIT
Mary has never been able to serve a decent meal to her family on time because Jack, her three-and-a-half-year-old son always hollers for her attention at the precise moment she steps into the kitchen to prepare dinner. It certainly doesn’t help when her husband Tom comes home, hungry from a long day at work, and there is no hot food on the table yet.
Jane, another mum of a toddler, shares her secret: “You say the four-letter word: ‘Wait’.”
The toddler needs to see Mum willing to wait at the supermarket cashier queue without fuming, or caught in a traffic jam without grinding her teeth. What the toddler sees, he will copy.
A toddler is in constant contact is his mother so he needs to see her taking charge of her circumstances in ways that speak patience to him. He needs to see that waiting time is not wailing time.
Here’s what happened when Mary learnt to say ‘WAIT’ to her son:
Dinner time was an hour away. “Mummy!” hollered Jack, right on cue. Mary placed the chicken in the microwave and set it to thaw for 20 minutes. She walked calmly into the living room where Jack was, and put out her hand, like a traffic policeman: “Wait.”
Jack blinked at her and started, “Mummy, I want orange juice now!” Without flinching, Mary said, “Wait, Jack, and Mummy will get it for you after I have taken the chicken from the microwave.” She promptly turned and walked back to the kitchen.
The tango went on for 20 minutes but Mary was determined to stay on course, and not relent. The child will eventually get the message.
Jack did get his orange juice, after 20 minutes of waiting and Mary had dinner ready for the family. “This is amazing,” commented Tom. “How did you do it this time?” Mary turned to him with a liberated smile and said, “Wait, Tom, I’ll tell you when dinner is over.”
Extracted from the book “Drink Your Coffee While It’s Hot” written by Joyce Ewing-Chow and published by Armour Publishing.