Tackling Sibling Rivalries

Child behavioural problems, as we know, require a great deal of patience.  Yet resolving sibling rivalries often requires extra sensitivity on the part of the parent or caregiver in order to accommodate two children’s personalities and fairly balance the interests of both little competitors.  If not handled immediately and correctly, sibling rivalries can sometimes spiral out of control.

The cause of the rivalry can differ, of course, from family to family.  There are  many things that can trigger it.  Jealousy and competitiveness are a big factor. Your children are just trying to find their own individuality; each and every one of them has their own special qualities. Never assume that one child doesn’t need as much attention as the other because they are quiet or never complain.

A child’s maturity can also factor into problems between siblings.  For example, if your only child has always been your “baby”, then a new baby comes along and you expect your  6 year old to behave all of a sudden like a big boy, this can be confusing.  This can also be the case if you have a second child and a third one comes along.  In these situations, try to prepare your child during the pregnancy very gently by giving him more responsibility and independence.

Try not to compare your children to each other.  For example, maybe you have one child who performs better in school than the other; find something that the other one is good at and encourage him along.  If you have one child that excels in most things, then try not to give her the same activities as the one to whom things don’t come quite so easy.

Maybe one of your kids has certain traits that remind you of a relative your child can tell you’re not fond of; please try to refrain from saying so out loud, especially if another child draws frequent comparisons to a favoured relative.  This could not only cause conflict between the children but also have long-lasting effects on your own relationship with them.

Try to avoid having your children compete against each other; encourage them to work as a team.  Although I am not against children being competitive, if you’re having a rivalry problem, put it aside for a while and only have them work together.  Plan family outings or activities where the kids can have fun together.

When trying to resolve or avoid conflicts:

  • Try not to take sides.
  • If something has got out of hand, just put them both in a quiet time for 5 minutes to defuse the situation.
  • If they are fighting about a toy, take the toy away.
  • If one child is laughing or mocking another child because they are in time out, they also get put in time out.
  • There should be zero tolerance for physical violence; it doesn’t matter what they fight about or whose fault it is – if one child strikes another, that is time out immediately.
  • Try and teach them to negotiate and compromise with each other.
  • You can make a rota (roster)  if you find that they fight over little things like who gets the first bedtime story.
  • Don’t argue with your spouse in front of the children; not only is this very unsettling but can also send the wrong message to your little ones.

If you have older children that are just not seeing eye to eye, hold a family meeting once a week.  This way everybody gets their say and everybody has to listen.  “She borrows my shoes but doesn’t put them back,” or “He plays his music too loud when I am trying to study.” Pass no judgement; just talk it through.  That gives you the chance to take part without taking sides.  Also discuss positive things too, like interests, events of the past week, or school.

Mum and dad join in too; talk about current affairs or whatever you want.  Just try to make a place where there is no shouting or conflict.  If one person is talking, let them finish; nobody is allowed to interrupt.

You might want to keep a little journal or mental notes to see if there is a pattern in aggressive behaviour between siblings.  Is it just after school?  Just before meal times?  Just before naptime?  Has there been some change in their family life?   If you notice that the fighting has gone beyond bickering and has turned more into physical bullying, then I would seek some outside advice.  Maybe call the school and find out if there is anything going on at school and what their behaviour is like.  Ask the school also how the children act in certain situations.  This might help you figure out if the problem is a sibling thing or an aggression issue.  The school might give you some advice or help you find somebody who could.

If any readers out there have any reassuring stories to share about overcoming sibling rivalries, please feel free to leave a comment!

 


NannyLili

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Splish-Splash, Let’s Take a Bath!

November 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, Readers' Enquiries

Reader Humreet writes:

My niece is 15 months old and up until recently, bath-time was an enjoyable time where she would love to sit and splash about.  Recently, she now completely freaks out if you try and put her anywhere near a bath.  She’s ok if you hold her over the edge so she can dip her hand in but if you get anywhere close to putting her in, she goes into meltdown.  It’s gotten so bad that she almost stops breathing because she is crying so much.  This is obviously taking its toll on my sister who can’t understand where this fear has come from.

We’ve tried pretty much everything, from numerous bath toys to my sister getting in the bath with her to try to show her there’s nothing to be afraid of.  The fear doesn’t seem to be water-related, as she loves swimming and isn’t afraid to touch or splash water.  It just seems to be a fear of bath-time!  Any advice you can offer will be most helpful!!

Hi Humreet,

Let me start by reassuring you and your sister that this is actually quite a common issue.  There might be no reason for your niece’s fear of the bath; it could just be one of those unexplained and passing quirks of childhood.

I remember one of my charges was terrified of the plug hole, and used to think that if you took the plug out whilst he was still in the bath he was going to get sucked down with the water.  So I would just take him out of the bath before I took the plug out, and leave his toys so he could watch the water disappear but not the toys.  It didn’t take long before he understood that there was no danger.

I think, first of all, if your sister and niece are  finding  bath time stressful, don’t  try to force the issue.  For a week, don’t take her anywhere near the bath.  You can give your niece a body wash or maybe wash her in the sink.  You could even use a baby bath if your sister has one or can borrow one from a friend (you wouldn’t be using it long enough to justify purchasing one at this stage).

After a week, start to encourage your niece to take a bath - take her to the bathroom, explaining what you are going to do and how much fun she is going to have.  If she starts to get agitated, let it go.  Let her put her hands in the bath if she is comfortable doing that; it’s a very good idea.  Maybe when you take a bath, leave the door open and let her come in and play – but really don’t force it, because there is a risk that it may eventually become more a battle of wills than an actual fear of bath time.

Humreet, I hope some of this information has been helpful to you and your sister. Even if at first your niece doesn’t respond to any of the tips I have given, I am confident that with a little bit of time this phase will pass and you will all be onto the next one.

Good luck!


NannyLili

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New Parents, New Babies (Part 1)

October 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Development, Miscellaneous

Once first-time parents leave the hospital, the thought that they are on their own now can be quite nerve-racking.  Even if you’ve had other children, sometimes you’ll encounter something with your newest baby that you haven’t seen before.  Don’t panic!  Here are a few tips on anticipating and coping with some of the things that you will (or may) see in the first couple of months of your baby’s life.

Bowel movements

Let’s start with bottom activity.  If your baby is bottle-fed, don’t worry if they only have bowel movements once every couple of days; it’s quite normal for formula babies.   They will also have slightly harder stools than a breast-fed baby’s, although the stool should not be so hard that your baby is straining to pass it – that could be a sign of constipation.  Another sign of constipation is a swollen hard tummy.  If you suspect your baby is constipated, try giving her a nice warm bath; in my experience this generally gets things moving.  If it goes on for a week or more, ask your midwife or general practitioner (GP) and they will give you some other little tips to help get things moving.  With any infant, you should not resort to laxatives, enemas or suppositories except under medical guidance.

On the other hand, breast-fed babies poo almost as often as they eat. It can be quite runny and yellowish green in colour.  However, if your baby soils a nappy more than once in a feed and you notice it is runnier than usual, then it could mean they have diarrhoea.  If you notice these signs and it goes on for more than 24 hours, then contact your GP, as your child could become dehydrated.  But it could just be a change in your diet that does not agree with your baby.

Make sure you’re always prepared with plenty of nappies and a change of clothes.   To avoid nappy rash, try to change your baby as soon possible after they are soiled.

Umbilical cord care

Your baby’s cord will take 2-5 weeks to fall off.  Make sure you keep the area dry and exposed to air as often as possible.  Don’t pull the cord off, even if it’s hanging by a thread. Until it falls off, refrain from giving your baby a bath; you can just wash around with a warm flannel instead. If it starts to go red or oozing pus, it’s time to contact your midwife or GP.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap is a yellowish, patchy, scaly and crusty skin rash that can appear on newborn babies’ scalps. It is completely harmless and they will eventually grow out of it.  There are some natural remedies that you can use to try to get rid of it, or at least prevent it from becoming worse.  Try a tiny little bit of natural olive oil or baby oil on the top of the head and leave it on whilst you give your baby a bath.  Then remove it with a gentle circular massage or use a very soft baby brush on the baby’s head.  Wash their hair as usual with a gentle shampoo.  It could take a couple of goes, but the cradle cap will eventually disappear.  If you notice it getting worse, or a slight redness, contact your GP.

Eye care

Some babies are born with one or both tear ducts partially or totally blocked.  Blocked ducts can cause a yellow crust or discharge in the corner of the eye.  Just take some cotton wool and warm water (or ask your local chemist or GP for some sterile water) and gently wipe it away. This might reoccur several times over the first few months of the baby’s life.

If you notice any redness or puffiness, don’t hesitate to contact your GP.

Ear care

While it is normal for a baby’s ears to produce wax, which is an antiseptic protection for the ear canal, it is never normal for them to produce any other kind of discharge from the ear.  If you are not sure that the substance you see is ear wax, consult your GP.

Never poke around in your baby’s ear; you could damage the ear drum.  Stick to just cleaning around the outer ear – it’s much safer.

*

*            *

These are just a few of the many things you may encounter in caring for your new baby which can cause concern if you’re not prepared for them.  Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this post, where I’ll be examining more of these things in the near future.  Good luck and congratulations on your new baby!

 


NannyLili

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Say “Goodbye, Dummy”

You might call it a dummy, pacifier, soother or binky - but regardless of where you live, children the world over can get very attached to these little comfort objects.  When mummy and daddy decide it’s time for the dummy to go, they may find it’s easier said than done.  Several readers (including Alicia over at the Fan Page) have written asking for advice on getting rid of the dummy.

Here are a few methods and tips that I have found effective (depending on the particular child and age):

  1. Cold turkey (age 2-4 years).  This could result in a few days of tantrums and maybe a couple of sleepless nights, but if you can tough it out it shouldn’t take too long.
  2. Weaning (age 1-4 years).  Remove it during the day and just keep for bedtime.  If he still takes a nap, move on to removing it at naptime.  Then gradually phase it out of bedtime as he gets older.
  3. Cut the top off with a pair of scissors and give it back (age 1-4 years). I have found that many children don’t like the feel of it in their mouth and will just spit it out.
  4. “Send” it to the tooth fairy/Santa/Easter bunny or even to a new baby who needs it more (age 2½-4 years).  Then reward your child with a “big boy” toy for his generosity!

Once you’ve made the decision that it’s time to get rid of the dummy, one of the factors in deciding which approach to take is the age of your child.  For example, a child over 3 is old enough to understand that she is a big girl now and doesn’t need it anymore, and the cold turkey approach should be fine.  For a child under 3, a more gradual weaning approach is likely to work better – break down the time she uses it, trying it just at bedtime.  If she has a tantrum during the day demanding it, just distract her.

Be aware, though, that if you take the dummy away too early this may increase the risk that that they will develop a thumbsucking habit – and although it looks very cute, thumbsucking can be a real pain to stop, not to mention being unhygienic and bad for a child’s teeth.

The important thing to remember is that to a child, the dummy represents something comforting and consoling, not just an object that can spread germs and wreck teeth.  Whilst exercising any of these methods, bear in mind that goal is to teach your child to self-soothe without depending on the dummy.  If at any point you feel you are about to give up and go get a new one from the kitchen because you think it is easier, remember that in the long run it’s not.

Readers, know of any other tips or tricks that helped your child bid goodbye to the dummy?  Feel free to leave a comment below and share them!


NannyLili

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Building Bridges With an Angry Child After Divorce

Reader Nimo left a very troubled marriage and emigrated to the United States two years ago, but was prevented from taking her two young daughters with her.  They’ve been living with their father and his relatives for the past two years.  Although Nimo’s ex initially cut off the girls from all contact with their mother, he is now cooperating and Nimo has recently been able for the first time to return temporarily to her home country to attempt to re-establish her relationship with her daughters, whom she loves dearly.  Her littlest, now 5, is responding very positively.  However, Nimo’s older daughter, now 10, has become very alienated from her mother and is manifesting a lot of hurt, anger, frustration and resentment.   Nimo has written for the Nanny Godmother’s advice on reconnecting with her 10 year old girl under these very difficult circumstances.

Nimo, you should never think that your older daughter doesn’t love you; you are her mummy and nothing will ever change that.  Although I know that your decision to leave her father and your home was a very difficult choice for you to make, and you had to change things for your own safety, to your 10 year old girl it seems as though you abandoned her when she needed you.  You are just going to have to work to rebuild her trust in you.

Try not to take what she says personally – and even if you do, don’t let her see it.

Would your ex let you take your oldest daughter on her own out for lunch or to the park by herself without her father or younger sister?  I think this would be a good time to have one-on-one time with her and just talk about school, friends, activities, interests, etc.  She may be reluctant to open up to you at first, but I do believe if you persevere she will come around.  If she wants to talk about the divorce, let her.  If she wants to ask why you left, explain to her the situation whilst making clear that she and her sister are in no way responsible (but try not to point the finger at daddy, as this could make her shut down again).

You could write your daughter little notes each time you see her that say lovely things like “I love you because…”, or maybe recounting happy things you did together before you left.  And although I understand that your husband will have to read the notes, try to make this a special thing between you and her.  I believe that this could help rebuild the bond.

When you go back to the States, you should continue trying to make phone contact, even if your girls don’t want to talk to you.  Send them letters every week telling them how much you love them, even if they don’t reply.  You may also wish to consult a child psychologist or similar professional; they have a lot of experience with these matters and can help you understand how your 10 year old is feeling and why.

I wish you all the best, Nimo; I really hope everything works out for you.  Please let us know how you and your girls are getting on.

If any other readers can understand how Nimo is feeling right now and would like to share their experiences or maybe offer some advice, please feel free to comment below.


NannyLili

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The Nanny Godmother Wins “New Parents Guide Seal of Approval”

March 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

I’m pleased to announce that The New Parents Guide has just awarded The Nanny Godmother its “Seal of Approval”, given to “websites which excel in providing helpful information to new and expecting parents.”  The New Parents Guide, for those who don’t know, is a good resource for parenting information, shopping links and reviews for baby/child products, family travel deals and much more.

This is my blog’s first award, and I’m grateful to The New Parents Guide for considering The Nanny Godmother worthy – as well as to my readers for helping to make this blog a success.  It means a lot to me.  I’ll certainly continue to do my best to make The Nanny Godmother a helpful resource for parents and other caregivers!


NannyLili

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Boisterous Boys

February 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, Readers' Enquiries

Reader Marilyn is looking for a helping hand in dealing with two boisterous boys:

My boys, 5 and 2, roughhouse, run and yell in the house.  Then one gets hurt or mad and it turns into a fight.  We have tried everything and nothing seems to work.  This behaviour lasts all day.  Help!

Marilyn,

Wow, two lively boys!  You’ve definitely got your hands full.

Keep trying to get them to channel their energy in other ways.  With the 5 year old, you could organise some extracurricular activities after school, such as football (soccer) or tennis.  Martial arts courses (e.g. karate or judo) can be particularly good as they promote self-discipline, respect and concentration.  Or you could just try every day after school to take both boys to the park for an hour.  This is a good way to let them use up some of that energy and also let them blow off some steam.

Rowdiness can also be a sign of boredom, so find things for them to do in the house.  Buy them some colouring books and felt-tip pens for your 5 year old and crayons for the 2 year old, and have them colour together and work on other projects as a team.

Make your 5 year old feel like the big brother and encourage him to look after his little brother.  Tell him that he needs to set an example and mummy needs his help.  When you see him do something grown-up, give him lots and lots of praise.

I think that if you can get your older boy to calm down, your little one will follow his example.  Also, when they are drawing or playing, join in with them.  Draw with them, cook with them … it can be fun, although a bit messy!  But who cares, as long as everybody is happy?


NannyLili

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A Word of Thanks (Plus, How You Can Help the Nanny Godmother)

January 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

Hello everyone!

The Nanny Godmother blog has been “live” for just over a week, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s dropped by - more than 800 of you from over a dozen countries!  I thank you, as well, for the many thoughtful questions you’ve submitted.  I wish I could reply to every one of them, even though the sheer volume of enquiries unfortunately prevents me from doing so.

Since this site is something of a brand-new baby itself, I’d like to share with you some ways in which you can help it grow and flourish:

  1. Give feedback.  Let me know how I’m doing, what you like about the site, how it could be improved, etc.  You can use the comment feature on individual posts to let me know whether you thought that particular post was helpful, or to share with other readers a tip, experience or anecdote of your own on the same subject!  I’d especially love to see comments from those readers who have had their submitted questions answered here.
  2. Facebook.  If you’re a Facebook user, there are two excellent ways to use it to help improve the quality both of this blog and of your experience here, and to spread the word as well.  First, you can become a fan of the Nanny Godmother on Facebook by visiting the fan page through the link in my header (or here) and “liking” it to join.  Since the Facebook fan page wall is updated in tandem with the blog, you’ll always know when new material is posted here!  Second, if you’ve found a particular post or page on the Nanny Godmother blog to be worthwhile, you can “like” that individual post or page by clicking the “Like” button that appears at the bottom (or, depending on how the post or page is being viewed, sometimes at the top) of it.
  3. Share on other social media and bookmarking sites.  In addition to Facebook, you can also share, bookmark, and email posts using a variety of services linked here, including Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious and many others.  To do this, just use the handy sharing/bookmarking buttons that appear beneath each post.
  4. Link to the Nanny Godmother.  If you have your own blog or other web site, and think your readers might benefit from a resource such as the Nanny Godmother, you can mention this site to them or even (if you’re so inclined) grab the code for my button in the left sidebar of this page and insert it in your own blog to get a lovely pictorial link back to this site.
  5. Word of mouth.  In a nanny’s line of work, as in so many other professions, personal word of mouth is always the best credential!  If you’ve found my blog helpful, please let other parents and caregivers know that the Nanny Godmother is a resource for them too.

Once again, I’m grateful for all the early support I’ve received here and look forward to the weeks and months ahead with you!


NannyLili

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When a Toddler Favours One Parent

January 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, Readers' Enquiries

Young children often go through a period where they prefer one parent or caregiver over another, especially if one parent is working.  Rest assured that this does not mean that a child doesn’t love or care for both parents.  Nevertheless, it can be a particularly stressful behaviour for parents to deal with.

Michelle J.’s 3 year old daughter is going through such a phase:

the main concern I have is that she often refuses to speak to her daddy and says she is not talking and that she doesn’t like him.  This is very frustrating for him and he often takes it out on me!  I then feel like I have to overcompensate and try and get her to speak to him!  Any ideas, advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for writing, Michelle.  This is a very common problem.

I wouldn’t force her to kiss daddy; let her come to him – and she will, if you just carry on as normal.  Maybe you could try leaving daddy and your little girl together to have quality time; e.g. when daddy comes home, you go out for half an hour.  Don’t make a big deal of it, just tell her you are going out.  If she cries, although I know it’s hard, just go out!  Go sit in Starbucks and have a coffee.  Then when you come home, you should all spend a little family time together.

You could also try taking her bedtime in turns – one night with mummy, one night with daddy.  If at first she protests and cries for mummy, you could sit in the room with them for five minutes, then walk out.  This way your daughter knows she is getting both parents’ undivided attention.

Give daddy more of a role to play.  If she wants a drink, daddy’s doing it; if she needs to go to the toilet, daddy’s doing it.  Your little girl needs to see that mummy and daddy are working together.

As a nanny, I have found that many children around the same age go through this phase.  I have had children clinging to my leg, crying and begging me not to leave them with mummy.  It really feels awful, but of course it doesn’t mean that they are more attached to me; rather, they know it makes mummy feel bad for having left them.  This phase really doesn’t last long; just try not to make an issue of it in front of your daughter and it will soon pass.


NannyLili

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Welcome!

January 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

Hello and welcome to the Nanny Godmother blog!  I’m Nanny Lili, an English nanny with over 15 years’ professional experience.

Throughout my career I’ve been helping little ones to get a good night’s sleep, keep safe and healthy, practice their manners, respect others, learn about the world around them, and grow as individuals – all while making sure that the grown-ups around them stay sane.  After so long on the job, I’m used to fielding questions about caring for children.  That’s why I’ve decided to start this blog – to share the benefit of my experience and training with you.

Feel free to email me your questions on any aspect of childrearing.  I’ll do my best to respond to as many as possible in future posts.  In between answering enquiries from readers, I’ll also be writing informative posts on topics of general interest to parents and other childcarers.

So mums, dads, grandparents, nannies, childminders and caregivers of every description – this blog is dedicated to you.  Ours is the most important, and often the most perplexing, job in the world.  But it doesn’t have to be as hard as it might sometimes seem: the Nanny Godmother is here to help!  I look forward to hearing from you.


NannyLili

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