Reader Elizabeth is going through a time-honoured ritual of child rearing: dealing with a toddler who is a very fussy eater. She writes:
My son is almost 2 years old. I think my method of feeding is wrong. He gives me a lot of trouble. I cook all the foods I know he should eat, but he isn’t eating well; he just eats a little bit and runs off. I am worried and it’s frustrating the life out of me.
This is an issue that I know many of my readers will be able to relate to.
First of all, don’t worry (unless you notice he’s not gaining any weight, seems lethargic or exceptionally cranky, in which case bring it to your paediatrician’s attention). Your son will eat when he is hungry. Try not to negotiate, beg or plead. If he starts making a fuss, just take the plate away without shouting or stressing. Don’t waste the food; give it to him at the next meal.
If you are really worried, you can offer him a healthy dessert, but nothing fun – maybe a compote or a piece of fruit, but that’s it. Don’t give him two compotes just because he’s now decided he is hungry. If he tries this little trick, you can keep the plate on the side and re-present it saying “If you’re still hungry, you can eat this.” If the reply is “no”, then remove him from the table promptly. Try not to compensate for the lack of eating at the table with snacks throughout the day, or else it is just going to end up being a vicious circle.
Try chopping up small pieces of vegetables (cooked or raw), put them just in front of him and let him pick at them with his hands. Kids love this because it is fun and messy.
Also, try to make sure your son is not consuming too much fluid before mealtimes, as this will affect his appetite.
Elizabeth, at the age of 2 they are starting to become little people, and to me this sounds like the beginning of many power struggles you have ahead of you. Be strong and assertive!
If there are any other mums/caregivers out there who would like to share their tips with Elizabeth, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for writing!
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- “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!
A recent family holiday set off a change in the bedtime behaviour of reader Helen’s 9 month old son – formerly a good sleeper – and getting him back on track is proving to be a challenge. Helen writes:
I have a 9 month old boy who was good at going to bed and sleeping through (most of the time) until we went on holiday and he slept in a travel cot, which he hated and cried for hours each night the entire week we were away.
Now at home we are experiencing the same behaviour each evening and it is getting really difficult, as he is now waking our 22 month old daughter.
We are currently trying controlled crying, but he is crying for up to 2 hours and gets in such a state he’s made himself sick. We go in and try to settle him, but the only way to calm him down is to pick him up and cuddle him, then when we put him back down and leave the room he’s screaming.
Please can you suggest any ideas? Before controlled crying we tried holding him until he went to sleep, also tried to put him down awake but nothing works.
Thanks, any advice would be appreciated.
I can imagine this is very tiring for everyone.
I’m not sure how long you’ve been leaving your baby to cry uninterrupted, but bear in mind that the point of controlled crying isn’t really to leave them to cry for long periods of time – it’s to help your baby learn to self-soothe. It doesn’t sound as though your little boy has a problem self-soothing, as you mentioned he used to go to bed quite well. It’s also quite typical for children’s sleep patterns to change at this age, as they are more alert and mobile. Also, around this age they can start to develop separation anxieties.
Leaving the baby to cry, as I’m sure you have experienced, just makes them become hot, anxious and overtired – and sometimes even results, as you mentioned, in vomiting. Once this has happened, there is no hope of them settling. Even if they do eventually fall asleep, it is usually broken naps. Also, they may start to get distressed about bedtime approaching.
At night, Helen, when you put your baby to bed, try to make sure that he is really calm. Perhaps give him a bath, or just sit in a low-lit bedroom talking very gently to him. Then, when it is finally bedtime, just give him a kiss, tell him you love him, put him into his cot and walk out of the room. Even if he is crying, just wait five minutes and then go back into the bedroom. Keeping interaction to a minimum, soothe him for a moment by using a gentle but firm voice, say “It’s bedtime now, see you in the morning, love you” and walk out of the room again. Repeat this two or three times, then increase it to 10 minutes and then to 15 minutes, each time using the same procedure. As the intervals get longer, try reducing the amount of interaction each time.
If you notice that there is a pause between his cries, wait a little longer, as he might be starting to fall asleep and by going in you could disturb him again.
This could take a couple of days or several weeks, but it should start getting easier. In the meantime, it is going to take all your resources to stick to it – but if you do, I expect you will all get a better night’s sleep. Feel free to check back in and let me know how you’re both coming along!
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.
Reader Clare is readying her granddaughter to tackle potty training against the backdrop of some trying family circumstances that may call for a modified approach and an extra dose of patience. Clare writes:
My granddaughter is 3 and has absolutely no interest in using the toilet. I believe there are a number of factors that may be influencing here. Her mother died unexpectedly when she was 19 months old; her father works from 7 – 4; her grandfather gets her ready for daycare every morning after her father leaves for work; I pick her up from daycare 3 times a week, play with her, feed her dinner, and then take her home about 7:30. Help!
I am very sorry for your family’s loss. And it sounds as though you all have a very hectic schedule. This could cause the process to take time, but I think with a little bit of positive encouragement, love and a lot of patience we can get through this.
Lots of children are reluctant to use the potty; it is a big change for them, especially if they are getting off to a late start. This is really something you are all going to have to work on together and help your granddaughter with. At this age you really do need her to want to do it, or it will be quite traumatic for all concerned.
Before starting, have a chat with your granddaughter about what is about to happen. Have her help you make a star chart and take her shopping to pick the stickers she wants. Also, whilst you are out shopping, take her to pick out her own knickers whilst explaining each stage of the process. But make sure she understands clearly that the process is not optional.
- “We are going to buy some stickers to put on your star chart so every time you do a wee on the potty you will get a sticker, and if at the end of the week you have 5 stars you will get a special treat.” Set the number low initially, and as the weeks go on increase it.
- “Would you like to help me pick out some knickers because you are a big girl now?” When you get home let her put them on straight away so she can see how it feels.
If she has an accident, just tell her it’s okay; don’t worry, it happens – but make her sit on the potty anyway. If you see her getting stressed about it, try to keep her calm and reassure her at all times that it’s all good and she is doing great. Try to give her lots of praise and reassurance. If she wants to hold your hand whilst she is sitting on the potty, let her; she may have a little anxiety.
When explaining your new routine to dad and granddad, have your granddaughter with you so you can tell them how well she is doing. This will encourage all concerned to continue the good work.
I wish you and your family all the best, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any more questions.
Two recent letters from readers on the subject of “Number Ones” show the importance of looking into underlying reasons for wetting behaviour in children.
My grandson is 5 years old and still wetting himself. We had him at doctors a while back and there was no problem. He comes out of school most days with wet trousers. We have tried everything from giving out to him, not letting him play with his favourite toy, or just changing him and not saying anything, but nothing works. Can you please help? My daughter is at her wits’ end and I don’t know how to advise her.
Has your daughter had a chat with the teacher? Maybe your grandson is frightened to use the toilets at school. Find out what the toilet rules are. Some schools only allow the children to use the toilet at break time. If this is the case, he might forget to go when he is having a good time, and then when he gets to class it is too late. Sometimes the school makes them go by themselves and that can be quite terrifying, especially if it is far from the classroom or outside. Also, in class they sometimes make the children put their hands up and ask to use the loo; perhaps he doesn’t like doing this.
I’m sure your daughter has tried talking to your grandson, but maybe she could discuss the fear factor and see what he has to say. You or your daughter could ask the teacher if one of you can take him to the toilet, or whilst you are at school send him to the toilet and see what happens.
If the problem is not anxiety over using the school toilets, it could just be a matter of habitual inattention or carelessness – for example, perhaps while he is having fun playing with his friends he can’t be bothered to think about whether he ought to use the toilet before returning to class. If that is the case, some disciplinary measure such as taking away a privilege – although I understand your daughter has tried this to some extent – could still show results if your daughter sticks to it until he has understood.
I wish you and your daughter good luck, Joan. Thanks for writing!
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Next, Katie writes:
Help! I have a 2 year 4 month little girl who has been using the toilet since she turned 2 but she just about always does a little wee in her knickers first, it’s clearly only a few drops and she then goes and does a big wee in the toilet but I have to change her clothes each time. I’m fed up and can’t seem to move her onto knowing before these drops come out. We have recently moved country and there is a third child on the way but the wet knickers have always been with us. What can I do?
Katie, thanks for your letter. Given that you’ve said that this has been happening for a while, I don’t think it has anything to do with the changes in your daughter’s life you mention. It sounds to me as though your little girl is just holding it in until the very last minute.
Try asking her every so often if she needs to go, and maybe even just take her to the toilet if you think she hasn’t been for a while – this should help. If the problem persists, consider consulting her doctor just to rule out any medical issues. Best of luck!
Nighttime potty training poses its own challenges, as some of my readers have discovered. As with many things involving children, success can be a matter of trial and error. In this post, I offer some tips to two readers to help their little ones get past this stage.
I found your blog – and it is great. Thank you for all the work!
I have a question about potty training.
My older son was potty trained before the age of 2, and everything still goes great during the daytime. So I decided to try to potty train him during the night as well. He is 2 years and 10 months old. He loves to sleep without a diaper, but we have a problem – he doesn’t mind to get wet. I let him sleep until he wakes up, and then we go to the bathroom and I put a new pyjama on. I am not comfortable with him sleeping in a wet bed for hours, but I don’t want to disturb his sleep either after he wets his bed. Any suggestions?? Thank you!!
Hi Ilze, I’m glad you found the blog and are enjoying it!
I would recommend waking your son up so he recognises that he is wet and understands what it feels like, because I am assuming that by the time he wakes up he is dry and a bit smelly. When you wake him up, even though he is already wet, put him on the potty/toilet anyway to sit while you change the bed. He will get it eventually. You are doing a great job, don’t give up!
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Janel sends the following note:
Hi! My daughter is 4 years old and still in night-time nappies. She has no health/other issues, and was potty/toilet trained at 2 and a half with no problems. I don’t know how to get her free of nappies at night-time. We’ve talked about it a lot, and for a time I did try waking her and putting her on her potty – with some success at first, but then she just became upset. She still will do a poo in her nappy – about once a week or so – and this is now something I feel I should be addressing. She eats a varied diet, and has no bowel/stomach problems, and I restrict all fluid after 5.30pm. She goes to bed around 7-7.15. Any suggestions for what to do to address this issue please? I really don’t want her starting school in the summer still needing nappies at night-time.
Thanks very much.
Janel, I would advise preparing your little girl by telling her that when there are no more nappies left, you are not going to buy more – and instead, if she goes one week without having an accident, she can choose a new pair of pyjamas.
It would surprise me if she has a poo accident in her bed as you don’t have an issue with this during the day.
I would make sure that you put her on the toilet at least twice a night the first couple of days, maybe around 10 o’clock and then again around midnight. If you notice that during this time she is staying dry, reduce the nighttime toilet visits to just once before you go to bed. Carry her, talk in a low voice, but unless you have to I would avoid too much interaction and keep the lights down low (even off if she is okay with that) so it doesn’t disturb her sleep too much.
You could also try putting her to bed with no pyjama bottoms on so she can feel the difference, just as you do when daytime potty training.
The longer you leave it to start, the harder it will be for everybody. So good luck, and feel free to let me know how you are getting on!
Reader Alma writes:
I have an 11-12 year old daughter and I am wondering if you can give me tips on how to manage her behavior. She tells a lot of lies. She won’t listen to me or my partner; she thinks she can do as she pleases. Just recently she walked to the shop down the road without telling us. She has stolen money from us. She constantly argues about everything she is asked to do. Almost every morning she bickers with her sister who is 9; she thinks she can boss her around. Also her school work was bad; the teacher has had to call us in more than once. I really need some advice if you can.
I can appreciate that this is a difficult situation which can consume the whole family if it gets out of control.
It probably has already occurred to you that, given your daughter’s age, some of the changes in her behaviour may be linked to the onset of puberty. She could be struggling with the beginning of adolescence (although even if this helps explain some of her recent bad behaviour, it is no excuse for it). As women, we understand what is happening to us when we are moody and emotional, but for your daughter maybe it is hard for her to understand why she feels this way, and she probably doesn’t even think she is doing anything wrong. If you haven’t already, try to talk to her about hormones and periods and the changes that are going to start happening with her body. If you find she is uncomfortable talking to you, maybe you could ask a female family member or family doctor to talk to her.
I think you and your daughter would both benefit from some quality one-on-one time like taking her shopping, having your hair done together or just going out for lunch. This will at least give you both time away from the arguing and help rebuild your relationship. You should make sure, however, that she understands that it is not a reward for her bad behaviour at home and at school.
Ask her if she would like to earn some pocket money; although I don’t believe that children should only do chores for money, perhaps you could give her some extra jobs to do around the house to earn it. If she wants to go to the shops on her own, send her to get some groceries for you, but explain that you are trusting her and make her understand the dangers of your not knowing where she is.
Your daughter also needs to learn that behaviour such as stealing is not acceptable and it brings tough consequences. You can ground her or confiscate her most treasured possessions. When you confiscate something, don’t tell her when you are going to give it back, just tell her you will return it when you see a change in her behaviour at home and at school. Another one of my particular favourites is making them copy out sections from the dictionary, for example all the A’s or A’s and B’s, words and meanings! Your daughter might shout “I don’t care” at any form of punishment you decide on – but believe me, she does.
Try not to get cross with your daughter, because it will only lead to a fight. Instead, try to defuse the situation, although I know that sometimes this is hard when she is being so badly behaved.
When she starts to bicker with her younger sister, just take your youngest away from the situation without making a big deal of it.
I really hope you start to turn the corner with your older daughter very soon. Good luck!
Reader Michelle is dealing with a very frustrating situation: a toddler who won’t pay attention to her warnings and instructions. She sends the following letter:
I came across your blog a few weeks ago and passed it on to my friends. I absolutely love your blog. Very insightful and down to earth.
I have a question though. My son is now almost 2 and it seems he has no ears. He will do something and I’ll ask him nicely to stop: “Don’t do that please, Mommy doesn’t want you to get hurt” or similar. He will look me in the eyes and continue doing what he is doing. It’s driving me mad and time out does not work with him.
I’m at wit’s end and have no idea how to get him to stop and listen to me. What am I doing wrong?
Thank you very much for your lovely letter.
I know that this behaviour is frustrating, but when children start approaching the age of 2 they are becoming little people, and in an attempt to be more independent they feel the need to test their boundaries. It’s certainly not caused by your doing anything “wrong”; sometimes it just takes a while to arrive at the approach that works best with a particular child.
I recommend that you remain calm and composed when one of these exasperating episodes arises, but try changing your tone of voice so you are firm and you are clearly conveying your authority to your son. If he responds to you when you ask him not to do something, give him great praise.
If even when using the firm voice he is reluctant to listen to you, tell him “I am going to count to 3″, give him the chance to respond; if on “3” he backs down, just give a very simple “good boy”. If he is defiant and refuses to obey, take his hand and in a firm voice explain that what he is doing is dangerous or is something that you just don’t want him to do. This might lead to a little tantrum; if so, just ignore it for a couple of minutes and carry on. Then go back and distract him with something else. He is not sad or hurt, just frustrated.
Good luck! Once you’ve had a chance to see whether this approach produces some results for you, please feel free to let me and my other readers know how you’re getting on by leaving a comment.
I have had a few letters from readers who are concerned about the biting phase; I would just like to let you all know you are not alone! Unfortunately, there is usually no quick fix for this behaviour; you will just have to ride it out – but I can try to give you some help on how to cope.
Biting is usually a phase that occurs between 2 and 3½ years of age. Children often start biting in order to deal with certain situations where they are unable to express themselves with words. It could be that another child has taken their favourite toy, or is just standing too close and invading their personal space. Moreover, it isn’t necessarily an expression of something negative; the little biter could just be saying “please play with me”.
I have found that the key to dealing with this behaviour isn’t figuring out what punishments work best; rather, it’s a matter of teaching the child the necessary skills to communicate properly so they don’t resort to biting. However, if the biting becomes out of control, you could try to remove your child from the play area and have them sit with you for a few minutes just explaining that it is not acceptable behaviour and that they need a calm-down time for five minutes. This also shows other concerned parents that you are dealing with the situation.
When your child bites somebody, express to your child that it is not good and you really hurt your friend and if you do that they won’t want to play with you. Also try to have them say sorry with a big cuddle. You could pay a little extra attention to the child that was bitten, so that your child can see that one does not get attention by inflicting pain on others. If it happened at nursery and you were not around to witness it, you could have your child draw a picture to say sorry and take it to nursery the next day.
If you watch your child closely and manage to spot the signs of when they are about to pounce, quickly distract them. Don’t shout; just remove them immediately from the situation. Give them a big hug and kiss and send them back on their way. Whilst your little one is going through this phase, I would try to observe all play times carefully.
Biting is not a simple subject to cover because the motivations and triggers for the behaviour can vary from one toddler to another. I’ve tried to present here some general recommendations based on past experience.
If you have tips on dealing with biting that worked successfully with your child, please share them with me and other readers by leaving a comment below!