Monday, February 27, 2012

How early do you set limits with your child?

Do you feel like you are saying “no” to your child more than you are saying “yes”? Do you feel like you get easily frustrated or lose your patience with your child, because you are not exactly sure how to respond to them when they do something that is not appropriate? Especially, when they misbehave in public!
So how early do you set limits with your child? It’s not like you can send your 9 month old to his/her room when they continue to knock over the dog’s water bowl or put so many puzzle pieces inside your speaker (my Livi), that now your speaker is making funny noises. You can’t dock their allowance or take their beloved toy away because they are not really attached to anything yet. You also don’t want to squash their enthusiasm to explore and learn about the environment around them.  So how do you create that balance…from setting limits, to allowing opportunities for your child to explore and learn the world around them?
According to many parenting books I have read and/or those that have permanent residence beside my bed that I tend to glance at in desperate times, saying “no” too often can actually discourage your toddler to be naturally curious. Uh-oh! I’m in trouble!
When children keep hearing the word “no” when they get too close to the water bowl or speaker, they will start to overgeneralize that playing is not okay. Now, I am not saying don’t ever say “no” especially if they are in danger like getting ready to reach their hand to a boiling pot on top of the stove.  Ouch!

What I am saying and what I have learned, is that when toddlers are “misbehaving” they are experimenting and testing their independence, which is so important in their development. For example, when knocking over the water bowl or continuously throwing a sippy cup on the floor, they are learning cause and effect.. When I throw my cup on the floor, Mommy will pick it up. A great game, isnt it? When pulling the toilet paper roll throughout the house or when they are trying to fit those matchbox cars in the speaker, they are learning problem solving skills.  Well, this size car fits in this space, but this car is too big to fit. Hmmm...
Now, can toddlers be naughty on purpose? Yes and no! Really, they are not sure right from wrong yet, according to Parent magazine advisor Ari Brown, MD, author of Toddler 411. So as parents that is where you come in! You have to teach your child what you expect of them, realistically,  and be consistent with setting your limits.
According to Parents magazine there are seven strategies to help keep your baby or toddler out of trouble without squelching his enthusiasm for exploration. So get your pen out and write these down! They are very helpful! Also, here is the link to where we found these very helpful strategies (
1.    Stop It Before It Starts, Avoid Temptation -When your baby starts crawling, you know it's time to put covers on your electrical outlets and store crystal vases in a high cupboard. That makes sense for safety reasons, but it'll also give him freedom to play. "A young child doesn't need to have the run of the whole house, but if you make sure that one or two rooms are completely babyproofed, you won't have to say no as often," says Sylvia Rimm, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in Cleveland. Over time, you'll have to put even more things out of reach -- even things you'd never expect. Amy Caruso, of Cincinnati, had to put her cat's food up on the counter when her daughter, Isabella, turned 13 months. "It had never occurred to me that cat food would be appealing, but she kept getting into it, and it was simpler to just move it than to keep telling her it was yucky," she says.
2.    Change Gears -Because young children usually have a short attention span, it's easy to distract them. If your child insists on ripping up the newspaper, get her psyched to play with a favorite toy instead -- or go to the mailbox together to mail a letter. "My boys love to bang on the television, so when I see one of them moving in that direction, I'll say something like, 'Where's your brother?' and it usually makes them forget what they were doing," says Kathryn Kaycoff Manos, mother of identical twin toddlers in Encino, California.
3.    Focus on Sleep -Overtired toddlers are much harder to handle. "In my experience, fatigue is the number-one cause of misbehavior," says Will Wilkoff, MD, author of How to Say No to Your Toddler. "It's normal for a toddler to throw a tantrum to test the limits now and then, but if he's consistently difficult, he's probably sleep-deprived." Kids this age need 10 1/2 to 12 1/2 hours at night plus one to three hours of daytime napping. If your child isn't getting enough, make his bedtime earlier.
4.    Look the Other Way -Most children crave their parents' attention so much that they're willing to do anything -- even something naughty -- to get it. "If you notice that your toddler starts screaming every time you get on the phone but there's nothing wrong when you check on him, your best bet is to just ignore him," says Dr. Brown. "Giving him attention -- or even getting angry -- will only reinforce his behavior." (Of course, you should always squelch behavior that could be dangerous.) When you're ignoring your child, don't even make eye contact. "You might be tempted to glare at him sternly, but don't," says Dr. Wilkoff. "Glaring is essentially the same thing as saying, 'Be quiet' and that's giving him a form of attention." If you're talking on the phone a lot, however, it's unreasonable to expect your toddler to play quietly. Try to save less urgent calls for naptime.
5.    Introduce Consequences -Dr. Wilkoff recommends a simple three-step approach that can work with even very young kids: 1. Establish a rule. 2. Threaten a consequence whenever your child is about to break the rule. 3. If he ignores your threat, immediately enforce the consequence. This worked for Manos when her sons discovered a new favorite game: standing on the dining-room chairs. She warned them several times that it wasn't safe, but they continued to do it every chance they got -- and she realized she needed to be firmer. "Now when one of them starts climbing onto a chair, I warn him, 'Remember, no standing.' If he stands up, I say, 'When you stand on the chair, you have to go down on the floor,' and I lift him off and put him on the floor." Although the boys still try to get away with standing on the chairs sometimes, they're doing it less and less. Keep in mind that it can take quite a while for a rule to sink in. "Expect to repeat yourself 20 times or more -- especially if you've been inconsistent in the past," says Dr. Brown. But if you stick with it, your child will learn that you've changed your ways -- and he'll eventually change his too.
6.    Try Modified Time-Outs -Most of us think of a time-out as a discipline strategy for older kids, but some experts say that you can use a version of it from about 9 months on, especially for more serious offenses. Let's say your child bites you on the shoulder when you're hugging her -- something that many older babies, unaware of the pain that can be inflicted with their new teeth, do at least once. Say, 'No biting!' and sit her on your lap facing away from you for one minute. "Losing your attention is a severe penalty for a baby or toddler," says Dr. Brown. "When a minute is over, repeat the phrase 'No biting,' and then give her a hug and move on. A young child might not connect the consequence with the behavior at first, but if you respond that way every time she bites, she'll catch on fairly quickly." By the time toddlers are 18 months or so, you can put them in a time-out in their bedroom for two minutes if you have a gate you can put up to block the doorway. "You don't want to close the door, because it can be frightening to young children to be left alone," says Dr. Rimm.
7.    Don't Just Say No -Save the straightforward "No!" for instances when someone could get hurt or your child's safety is at stake -- when she runs out into the street, for example, or reaches for a hot oven door. "In less extreme circumstances, your 'No' can be followed by a compromise or an alternate suggestion," says Rahil Briggs, PsyD, an infant/toddler psychologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City. For instance, you could say, "You can't throw your ball at the lamp because we don't throw things inside. But you can throw the ball outside." Try to find an alternative that captures the energy and idea that your child seemed to have in mind so that you can show him you empathize with what he's feeling, says Dr. Sossin. This approach not only solves the immediate problem but also teaches your child to look for more appropriate alternatives in the future.
So Moms and Dads, remember to set real expectations for your child and be consistent in setting those limits. The more consistent you are at this stage and the more clear you are in your expectations, the more your child will start to understand that you mean business! Also, they will learn to respect you and not walk all over you!
**Please stay tuned for more positive discipline/behavior management ideas for your older children. We will posting more articles and helpful hints to ease your stress and to help you not pull your hair out by the time 4:30 rolls around. J

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