We are always in need of folks from our New Life community, who are willing to serve the children in any number of ways, through:
Ricker notes that following through isn’t easy. “It’s hard to take away something you may have promised that you know your child enjoys. But kids learn fast. After two or three incidents where your child sees you really mean it, the back talk should end.”
“Shut up, butthead!” The first time such unsavory words come out of your angelic (or so you thought!) child’s mouth, you were probably caught by surprise. You may even have giggled. But as every parent knows, rude behavior and back talk loses its charm fast. How does a child go from being so anxious to please to responding to reasonable requests with an attitude?
“Media is a big influence,” says Audrey Ricker, PhD, coauthor of Backtalk: Four Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids (Touchstone Books). “Kids imitate what they see on sitcoms and cartoons,” she says. “Plus, our culture actually encourages back talk. When it comes from a young child we say he’s being assertive, is standing up for himself, is a real individual.” That may be true, but no one wants to feel like her child’s doormat. And that behavior will not play well in the larger world either. Fortunately, you can get your child to stop talking back, according to Ricker.
All parents dream of a wonderful relationship between their children, but disagreements are unavoidable between siblings. Children are likely to fight over toys and tease one another. Despite a parent’s best efforts, sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up. Here’s a guide of what to expect and when:
Sibling rivalry can be at its worst when both children are under 4 years of age — especially when they are less than three years apart. Children under the age of 4 depend on their parents a great deal and have a very hard time sharing them with siblings.
Competition between brothers and sisters can heat up as they grow older — usually at its worst between ages 8 and 12. Siblings who are close in age or who have many of the same interests tend to compete more.
As the younger child grows older and develops more skills and talents, the older child may feel threatened, embarrassed, or “shown up” by the younger one. This can lead to unnecessary competition or aggression from the older child.
Meanwhile, the younger child tends to become jealous about the privileges his big brother or sister gets as he or she gets older. An older sibling’s competitiveness and aggression that arises as the younger one grows and develops can come as a surprise to the younger child and lead to returned hostility.
It’s important not to get too upset when your children are jealous of each other, especially if the older child is a preschooler. It takes time for a youngster to learn that his parents do not love him any less because they have another child to love.
When my son A.J. was 2 1/2, he became obsessed with his Superman Halloween costume. He wanted to wear it everywhere — dinner, bed, play dates, and grocery shopping. But marching down the frozen-foods aisle with a kid in a cape was where I drew the line.
“Why not let him?” said my husband, Tony. “It’s not hurting anyone.”
“I can’t let him out in public dressed as Superman,” I said. “It’s ridiculous. I’ll look like one of those moms who just gave up all control.”
So for a while, I fought with A.J. He kicked and screamed as I peeled the Man of Steel suit off and wrestled him into his sweatpants and T-shirts. This was, of course, in addition to all our other battles — getting buckled into the car seat, eating vegetables before ice cream, holding my hand every time we crossed the street.
One day I realized how tiresome all this fighting was. I gave up. “Leave the Superman suit on,” I said. “It’s really not a big deal.” And suddenly it wasn’t. A.J. was ecstatic, and the first time he went out wearing it, I noticed a toddler girl decked out in a pink tutu walking down the other side of the street, her mother looking weary but resigned. And guess what? Within about two weeks, A.J. had forgotten about being Superman and lost interest in the costume. His regular clothes, he decided, were just dandy. It dawned on me that I had learned something important: When you’re raising a toddler, you have to learn to pick your battles.
Every parent who’s ever had a sweet, compliant baby turn into a stubborn, tantrum-throwing toddler wonders the same thing: What did I do wrong? Actually, nothing. “Toddlers are highly impulsive and self-centered,” notes Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Toddler Books (John Wiley & Sons, 2003). “They have a strong need to demonstrate their independence, and endless curiosity about their environment.” Unfortunately, these positive qualities translate into behaviors that adults consider dangerous, weird, or just plain annoying — ripping up books, emptying drawers, pulling the cat’s tail.
Parents often wear themselves out trying to correct every misbehavior. Michelle Weinstein of Pittsburgh knew she was saying no too often when her daughter, 18-month-old Aubrey, started following the dog around, shaking her finger and chanting, “No bark, no bark.” “She hears me say no all day long,” says Weinstein. “I think it was her first word.”
Eventually, hearing no over and over will make a child tune out, says Michele Borba, author of No More Misbehavin’: 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them (Jossey-Bass, 2003). “Toddlers get overwhelmed by being constantly corrected,” she says. “They are trying to make sense of their world, and a constant barrage of instructions makes them interpret it as a negative, overwhelming place.”
Carrie Templin, mother of Ben, 5, and Will, 2, in Edgeworth, Pennsylvania, found a tactic that works well. “Instead of saying no 30 times a day, I’ll say, ‘That’s a good idea, maybe we’ll try it another time.’ Redirecting them works much better than just saying no over and over.”
Other strategies: Use different words — stop, dirty, or hot instead of no, suggests Douglas. Also, offer alternatives to the nerve-racking behavior, she adds. If your son wants to color on the fridge, tape a big piece of paper to it and let him loose; if he wants to jump on your heirloom sofa, give him a pile of soft floor pillows to bounce on instead. And as a general rule, don’t schedule major expeditions or events when you know your child is likely to be tired or hungry.
Of course, there are situations where offering other options or saying no with a different word isn’t going to work. It comes down to giving in or duking it out. To save your sanity and allow your toddler some sense of autonomy, you need to figure out which battles are fight-worthy and which aren’t. For most parents, health and safety issues come first. There’s no negotiating about using a car seat or running in the street. But what about all the other stuff? Is it worth making an issue about crumbs on the living room sofa? Or should you save your energy for insisting on Sunday school every weekend? What about candy? Thumb sucking? Many of these decisions will depend on your own values and tolerance levels. For instance, Laura Hughes of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, was never going to let her 3-year-old daughter, Cate, play with Barbies. “I had all the usual PC reasons — body image and so on,” she says. “But when she got a Barbie for Christmas, and I saw how much joy she got out of it — she calls it Jason for some unknown reason and drags it everywhere — I realized that it was time to give in on the Barbies.”
Each family must decide on its own hot-button issues, says Borba: “The battles worth fighting are the ones you care most about — behaviors that help form your kids’ character as human beings.” To figure out your top 10, try this mental trick. “Fast-forward 25 years from now, and picture your toddler grown up. What traits do you want to see in him — empathy, honesty, perseverance, responsibility? Once you identify what matters most, it’s easier to figure out what battles to choose and which to let go of. You’ll begin to see that crackers on the floor might not matter so much.”
Still, you can’t have total bedlam right now; you need to set some day-to-day rules or life will be chaotic. For Lori Ann Pina of San Diego, mother of 4-year-old Velika and 2-year-old Kveta, that means adhering to a strict 8 p.m. bedtime. “It’s absolutely nonnegotiable because we need to get going early in the morning,” she says. “The kids need their sleep. It’s just easier for us to stick to a routine.”
At our house I have always been fanatical about our “no crayons upstairs” rule; we have hardwood floors on the first floor and carpet on the second, so I see no need to be digging ground-up Crayolas out of the rug. Because I’ve stuck to this from day one, my kids wouldn’t dream of taking a crayon anywhere near the carpet. For me, this has been a battle — albeit a minor one — worth going to the mat for.
Once you’ve laid down your rules, do your best to stick to them. “One of the most common blunders in parenting is inconsistency,” says Borba. “It sends a mixed message to the child: Sometimes she means it, sometimes she doesn’t.” And if you let a child get away with breaking a rule once, it’s extremely difficult to go back. Denise Mussman of St. Louis learned that lesson the hard way with her 2-year-old, Camille. “She tends to get her way by screaming,” Mussman says. “Yesterday, I let her have a cupcake for breakfast, so she wanted one this morning, too.”
Of course, being consistent is easier said than done — especially when it comes to the smaller, non-life-or-death issues. Templin admits there are times when it’s easier to bend and let her boys watch extra TV. “If I’m trying to do something — make dinner or talk on the phone — and they’re watching a show, I tend to overlook it. I know I shouldn’t, but sometimes I’m just too tired.” She always regrets the aftermath of being inconsistent, however. “Once I’ve let something slip, it’s five times harder to get them to do what I ask the next time.” But even if you’ve been inconsistent in the past, there’s always room for improvement. When Mussman finally decided to institute a no screaming rule, she got results. “Now, if Camille is upset and won’t stop, she gets a time-out in my home office. She recently started giving herself time-outs — she gets furious, goes up and shuts the door, and comes out calm and chatty.”
Even though following through can be draining, the ground rules you lay now will continue to affect your kids for years to come. “Parents don’t always think about the long-range goals,” says Alan Greene, MD, a pediatrician and faculty member at Stanford University School of Medicine. “You really want to teach them to make wise decisions, rather than just to obey the rules by rote. What they learn now will carry through to the teen years and beyond.”
This Resource is spliced from articles on the Focus on the Family Website: http://www.family.org
Our son was using our home computer to do some research for a report he’s writing. While doing a search, he accidentally stumbled onto a porn site. He frantically clicked the back arrow but couldn’t get out, then panicked. I wish I would have given him permission ahead of time to simply turn off the computer if something like that happened. That was three days ago. He’s still upset.
I am concerned about the way the media portrays men. My husband and son can’t watch a sports event on television without being barraged with inane commercials that sexually exploit and yet glamorize women, then make men look like idiots. Hitting the mute button doesn’t help. The ridiculous images still flash across the screen.
My son had the saddest look on his face when he came home from school today. I asked him what happened. He says his teacher doesn’t like any of the boys in his class. She has repeatedly reprimanded my son for being too rambunctious. Now, he’s deathly afraid he is going to fail second grade.
Reasons boys are in trouble today:
It’s important to be aware of these negative cultural influences and to counteract them.
If you study how the media portray men, you’ll quickly see that positive male role models are almost non-existent.
Instead, says Dr. James Dobson, the media show an anti-masculine bias:
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
If your son carried a camcorder with him all day while at school, you might be in for a rude awakening. According to Dr. James Dobson, evidences of anti-masculine bias abound.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Whatever you do, parent your child. Don’t close your eyes during his most impressionable years.
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