I have three children, two boys ages 11 and 9, and a girl who is 6. The two boys fight regularly and it is a challenge to get them to do their chores. It is difficult to be patient with them. What can I do to establish a routine for them?
Parenting can be tough and often requires you to re-establish rules, guidelines and consequences. We all need reminders to keep us on track and within acceptable boundaries; that’s why we have speed limit signs posted at regular intervals along our roads and freeways. If there was only one sign, we would soon find ourselves traveling too fast or not adjusting our speed when driving through certain areas for safety. When speeding occurs, there are negative consequences such as fines and warnings.
It’s no different in your home. As a parent, you should have expectations for your children. You are responsible for setting the rules and stating your expectations clearly and specifically. Set routines and keep your kids on track with reminders such as charts or schedules. If they do not comply or meet your expectations, you must re-teach skills and issue negative consequences to discourage their negative behavior.
At a neutral time, record your home rules, behavioral expectations and privileges on a chart that can be posted on the refrigerator or somewhere your kids can see it. Tell your children that if they don’t meet your expectations, they will lose these privileges. Ask your children if they understand your expectations and the consequences, then have each child sign at the bottom of the chart. Begin enforcing the posted house rules immediately.
Now, before all of this is in place, develop a Staying Calm plan for yourself. Identify what your kids do that really upsets you and what you experience when you feel angry. Next, come up with some ways to calm down when you begin to feel yourself getting upset. These may include taking several deep breaths, lowering or softening your voice, or perhaps walking away for a few minutes to remind yourself that you are the adult and won’t allow your kids to control your emotions. Be consistent and stick with it; over time, you will see positive results!
My 1-year-old son is very emotional with me when I pick him up at the end of the day. At first he is happy, but the tears quickly come once we are in the car. I talk to him and tickle his feet, but it doesn’t help. I think he is upset because we don’t spend much time together during the week. Our evenings are too short due to bedtime. He is even more emotional when he is tired. How can I reassure him that I love him? When he is crying, how should I respond?
One-year-olds need a lot of nurturing, so slow down your pick-up routine at the end of the day. Instead of immediately putting him in the car, pick him up, hug him, hold him, rock him, kiss him, rub his back and talk to him about his day.
He goes all day without his mother’s nurturing, which he needs for good emotional development. Even though you are tired and probably need to get home to start making dinner, this will be time well-spent.
After that, put him in his car seat with a kiss. Promise a sing-a-long on the way home. Rather than listening to your music or the news, put in a child’s CD and sing with him. Make this a habit. The two of you are interacting; you are nurturing him without touching.
When you do get home, keep him with you while you change clothes, prepare dinner, do laundry, etc. He can play with toys on the floor in the kitchen while you cook dinner. Since there is little time between arriving home and bedtime, make it count. His bedtime routine should also provide you with bonding time. A bath, reading a story, rocking together and listening to music are all soothing possibilities.
Resist the urge to just put him in his crib and leave the room. Rub his back, sing a soft song and kiss him before leaving his room. Time flies by so quickly. Make each second count. You are establishing a foundation that will see you through his adolescent and teen years.
My ex-husband and I have been divorced for two years, and we maintain a healthy relationship with one another. We have a 4-year-old son who spends time with both of us.
My ex-husband has a fiancé, and I have a boyfriend. We have been living together for 10 months. My son will not warm up to my boyfriend. He cries constantly and follows me around whenever my boyfriend is home. My boyfriend has done everything he can to establish a relationship with my son. He has done nothing to warrant my son’s reaction. I have tried talking, bargaining and disciplining, but nothing seems to help the situation.
My son’s negative reaction began when my boyfriend moved in. He has three children of his own. My son does say that he loves my boyfriend “a little,” but that he wants it to just be the two of us living together.
Change in the home environment can be very difficult for small children. It is likely that your son is targeting his frustrations at your boyfriend because he associates him with the disruption in his home life. It has nothing to do with what your boyfriend has or hasn’t done.
Have you tried integrating your boyfriend in activities outside the home environment, such as a trip to the zoo or a picnic in the park? Removed from the stress of the house, your son might more easily come to see your boyfriend as someone who is fun and supportive.
It sounds like you have a good relationship with your ex-husband. Would he be willing to help out? Perhaps you could invite him and his fiancé over for dinner so your son can see that the new family structure is still loving and supportive. If this is not possible in your home, maybe you could get a babysitter for your boyfriend’s children and the three of you could go to your ex-husband’s house for dinner. It is important that you show your son that the new family dynamic is supportive and caring like the old one was.
Family counseling is another good option. Your son needs a safe place where he can share his feelings and receive guidance from a therapist about the changes he is experiencing. It will take patience and time, but he seems receptive. After all, he says that he loves your boyfriend “a little.” This is a strong step forward. Do everything you can to reinforce these statements.
I am a single father, and I have been raising my 10-year-old son for most of his life. He has learning disabilities and speech disorders. He also has ADHD as well as a gene deficiency. I feel, however, that we have addressed these issues pretty successfully. One thing that does bother me is the fact that he likes to sleep in my bed with me. He has his own bed and he sleeps there occasionally, but when he asks to sleep with me I allow it. Am I doing him a disservice as others have suggested?
You say that the current sleeping arrangement “bothers” you. Any behavior that your son does that “bothers” you needs to be addressed and substituted with an alternate, more socially acceptable behavior. After all, it is just a behavior. By using some of the same techniques that you have found effective with him, gradually teach him that there are benefits to him sleeping in his own bed.
First, identify why he comes to your bed. Is he scared or does he feel lonesome? Prepare a plan that will help him feel more comfortable and secure in his own bed. Follow that plan every single night. It may include reading a bedtime story or saying prayers, but it needs to be done in his bed – not yours. Make sure there is a night light in his room. Turn on relaxing music. Prepare a chart that records how many nights he goes to sleep in his own bed, and perhaps another that records the number of nights he remains in his bed all night.
Together, set a goal and reward him when he attains this goal. You are forming and shaping new behaviors and habits. Be patient. This takes time. It took 10 years to learn the old habit. New habits cannot be established in just a few days.
We parents do what we feel is best for our children. Others can be so judgmental. It is doubtful that there will be long-term effects of this behavior. But it is our goal as parents to develop independence in our children as they get older. Your new plan will do just that.
My husband and I are leaving in a week to celebrate our anniversary in Jamaica with another couple. I was voted three to one against bringing our children. I have a difficult time leaving our son. It seems as though we both have separation anxiety when we’re apart. When I think of the fact that I'm leaving for a week without him, I feel physically ill. How do I explain this to my son, and how do I actually enjoy myself while on our trip?
Thanks for writing about your concern. You are far from being the only mother who prefers to not leave her child. It seems with some of our children that the connection is both physically and emotionally inseparable. You did not share with us the age of your child, so it is difficult to understand how traumatic this may be for the two of you.
Many parents who have similar concerns have shared what they have done in situations like these. They include:
• Call home during the time your child is able to talk.
• Select a caretaker who is familiar with your child’s normal schedule and routine. When a certain time of day occurs, you can take comfort in knowing what your child is engaged in at that time.
• Leave notes or little "prizes" for your child to find in your absence.
• Leave a piece of clothing with your fragrance on it for the child to have at night since that is something he is used to sensing before he sleeps.
• Leave a card or piece of paper with a lipstick kiss and a note under it stating "I love you."
Remember that your ultimate goal as a parent is to help your child become independent and confident. Sometimes it truly is more difficult for the parent than it is for the child. Doing whatever you can to prepare for the separation will ease your anxiety. Good luck and have fun! Bring home pictures and tell your son all about it. Have fun shopping for an awesome souvenir for him.
My five year-old daughter is calm, generous, fun, caring and sensitive. We’ve always had a good bedtime routine and she has always slept in her own bed without any problems. After reading, I bring her to bed and spend 10-15 minutes with her, but over the last few months she is increasingly unhappy sleeping by herself and only wants to sleep in her younger sister’s bedroom. She says she’s afraid of tigers and fire. I think she’s very content and happy and secure in general but wonder if she has some underlying insecurities. Once she's asleep she sleeps all night but I don’t want the fears to escalate.
Many parents go through this exact situation. It’s so good that you are reading to your daughter and making it part of her bedtime routine. When kids are afraid of something it is important to explore what they're afraid of and why. If having the five year-old in the room sleeping with your two year-old messes up both of the children's routine then we suggest changing or decreasing the behavior.
From what you described, it sounds like reading time happens in a place other than the child's bedroom. Perhaps reading to her in her own bedroom would give her the extra 10 or 15 minutes to get comfortable with her surroundings. Another suggestion would be the increase the amount of time that you spend with her in her room after reading and before turning out the lights. This is something that can gradually decreased if her fears start to subside.
Your daughter is still exploring her world and it's boundaries. She is in a continuous state of learning, and research shows that our brains aren't fully developed until we're in our mid twenties. Her ability to conceptualize and rationalize is not at the same level as an adult. As parents the best thing we can do is teach our children and offer comfort as they try to make sense of everything. As with potty training and feeding, it can take multiple repetitions for a child to understand something. Be consistent and patient. Your daughter will outgrow this!
My two year-old daughter is normally very compliant and even-tempered but when it comes to bed time at my cousin’s house, my daughter freaks out. After an hour of screaming I start to get upset with her. I don’t want to act out of anger but I also don’t know how to help her sleep at my cousin’s house without a fight.
Having a two year-old in the home can be a challenge at times. It sounds like she is upset when you stay at your cousin’s because her routine has changed, and at two years-old, this is normal behavior. Now, let's tackle how to handle it!
One way to try to dissolve the situation is to establish a bedtime routine. This might include helping her brush her teeth, reading her a story, saying prayers and singing her a song before she goes to bed. Whatever the routine is, it should be consistent. If you make it fun, she will think it's fun. We cannot encourage a bedtime routine enough, especially reading time. When parents read to their children, the child is learning the magic of language. When introducing a new routine or a parenting technique, you may find the child resists and this is a normal and temporary part of the process. If you stick with it that will eventually go away.
Parenting can be difficult at times and we completely understand. It's important that you have coping skills to handle parental frustration. For some people this includes journaling, deep breathing, calling a friend or family member for support or listening to music.
If you establish a routine you can take certain parts of that routine to other places, such as your cousin's house. It may be a different geographical location but you can show her that she is safe by continuing as you normally would.
My 2-year-old daughter makes bedtime very difficult. She is stubborn, throws fits and will not calm down, no matter what we try. We have introduced a good-behavior calendar. If she goes to sleep without acting up, she gets a new book to read with us at bedtime. We try to make this as much fun as possible by reading books and telling stories. It never fails that once the fun time is over, she doesn’t want to go to sleep and gets upset. Our 4-year-old son never had a problem at bedtime; I just don’t know what to do.
It sounds like your toddler is really testing your limits at bedtime. Even though you didn’t go through this with your son, this bedtime dilemma is very common. Rest assured that bedtime is a learned routine, and it will get better.
You’re doing a lot of positive things already. By incorporating the calendar, you’re reinforcing the good behavior that you want to see more of (going to bed tantrum-free). The expectation of being good for an entire week might just be too long of a time frame for her. See if she responds to a more immediate reward.
Children respond well to structure and predictability, so try to follow the same bedtime routine each and every night. Start with a soothing bath, put on pajamas, read a story, then tuck her in and give lots of goodnight hugs and kisses. During the routine, tell your daughter what’s next, so she’s not surprised. For example during her bath, you might say: “In five minutes, bath time will be over, and then we’ll get our jammies on.” This lets her know each step before it happens. Also make sure that bedtime is the same every single night. This will condition your daughter to be sleepy the same time of day every day.
You may also want to consider eliminating your daughter’s daytime nap (if she’s taking one). A daytime nap may be affecting her ability to sleep at night because she’s not tired. Every child is different, but typically children outgrow naps around 3 years of age. If you’re unsure about whether or not your child still needs a nap, you can contact her pediatrician.
My girlfriend has been adamant that her five-year-old son have his own room in my house. The room is now up, but he never sleeps in it. Yet I don't believe he has spent one entire night in there since the room's inception. Though I have made the point very clear that he is old enough to sleep in his own room, she insists that he sleep in the bed with her until "he's ready to sleep by himself." My girlfriend won’t sleep without the TV on and constantly argues with her son about watching it instead of sleeping. How do I approach my girlfriend in a way that won't make her think I'm criticizing her skills or ignoring her wishes?
Thank you for writing to us. You addressed a very important issue concerning bedtime. You should talk directly with your girlfriend about what your involvement in rearing her child should be. It was considerate of you to make space for her son, and we’re sure that this all seems a little new and fresh. Routine and consistency go hand in hand when it comes to this issue. Establishing a bedtime routine can boost success.
Help get her son into the routine of brushing his teeth, getting into his bed for a story and then lights out. Watching TV before going to sleep can be counterproductive because it actually stimulates your brain. Other activities such as reading or listening to relaxing music have a more soothing effect.
Children respond more enthusiastically to a bedtime routine when parents participate. You and your girlfriend can offer encouragement during this routine which will make it more enjoyable for him. Offering these suggestions to your girlfriend might work, but be prepared for any resistance. You mentioned she said he'll sleep in his room when he's ready, but it sounds as if she's the one who isn't ready. You might want to address this with her. Approach her with sensitivity and let her know upfront that you aren't trying to attack her parenting skills.
My four-year-old sleeps with us every night. He starts out in his bed but comes into our room in the middle of the night. This has been going on for several years. We have tried rewards if he sleeps in his bed all night, but that doesn't seem to work. We have tried putting him back in his bed but later in the night, he will return to our room. What do you suggest?
It is difficult when our children do not sleep through the night in their own beds. When children learn sleep patterns, they learn not only how to go to bed (which your son seems to have no trouble doing) but also getting back to sleep when woken. It appears he does not have this ability. He has developed a pattern of only returning to sleep when he is in your bed. So, you need to retrain his brain.
Dr. Patrick Friman has written an excellent and somewhat funny book titled Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You: Now Get into Bed and Go to Sleep! You can find it at boystownpress.org. The book talks about continuing to be consistent and calm and offers techniques that you can try to help your son learn to sleep through the night in his own room.
One method that may work for you is the robotic return. Hold his hand and calmly walk him back to his own bed without making any eye contact. Be like a robot, you are not upset or cuddly, just returning him to bed. However you decide to approach this issue, remember to stay calm and focus on praising his positive change.