Reader Lea is kept busy by three little ones. Her strong-willed middle child, age 5, can be a handful whether it’s out on a shopping trip with mummy or bedtime for him and his siblings. Lea writes:
I have come across your blog at the perfect time, and I think it’s amazing at what you are doing. I have a couple of concerns about my children. I am a mother of 3. A 6 year old, a 5 year old and a 9 month old.
Well, one of my issues is that my 5 year old boy refuses to sleep alone in his own bed, so he always sleeps with his big sister. No matter what I try or do, it’s a tantrum and he goes right back. He used to sleep in his own bed, but when I had to move back home with my mom, he was sharing a room with his sis and my mom. (Limited space.) I have tried putting him in his own room and the baby with the big sister, but he just got right back up and into her bed. In theory I don’t mind them being together (even if him being alone would be the best), but every night they are up till 10 to 11. I have tried looking up on this issue and read through your blogs to try and find some answers or advice, but I seem to have hit a wall and am going nowhere fast.
Another issue I am having with him is tantrums in stores, and I don’t mean little ones – I mean the big outrageous, get on the floor, start hitting and screaming at the top of his lungs ones. I tried to ignore him, telling him no, I don’t want this attitude and it’s going to get you nowhere if you continue, asked him to calm down and we will talk about it, but none of those is working as well as I’d wish it would. It’s to the point where I try to find a baby sitter while I go shopping just to avoid those situations, or not go shopping until my mom gets home so she can keep an eye on them while I’m gone.
Any advice or strategies that could help out both situations would be greatly appreciated and well applied.
Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog. I’m glad you found it!
As I understand from your email, your 5 year old son actually gets straight into bed with his big sister at bedtime, is this correct? If this is the case, I would just continue putting him back in his own bed. Ignore the crying and just keep putting him back if he gets up in the middle of the night whilst everybody is asleep. There is not too much else you can do apart from returning him to his own bed every opportunity you get.
I think it is a good idea for the two of them not to be sleeping in the same room. That way, at least he doesn’t disturb her.
As for the shopping, I would not avoid taking your little boy shopping just because he has a tantrum; there are no lessons to be learnt by this. Find an excuse to go to the shop, even if just to pick up some apples, but take this opportunity (as you know you are not going to be gone long) to take him with you, either on his own or with the others. If he starts to have a tantrum, continue to finish your little shop. Give him one warning; then after that, if he continues, just walk away and leave him screaming. I am sure he is waiting for a response from you. Once he sees he is not getting one, the tantrums might not stop immediately, but I think they will probably start to be less of an issue. Don’t worry about the other people in the shop; pretend it’s just you and your kids. You could try preparing him before you go into the shop, explaining that there will be consequences for his bad behaviour. Do not, however, promise a reward for good behaviour. If he is good, though, you should make a big deal of it and tell him how proud you are of him for being such a big boy. Maybe you can give your two older ones some separate little jobs to do in the supermarket, to keep them busy.
Even though by the time you get home you are probably all friends again, make sure that if you have had to warn him with a punishment you follow it through. If you say “time out when you get home”, then that is exactly what you do; if you say “no special treats for the rest of the day”, then that is what you do.
From what I can see, Lea, you have all had some big changes in your lives and it sometimes it takes kids a little longer to adapt – but they do. However, this is a reason, not an excuse, for naughty behaviour. You will have to be strong and just take control – you are Mummy and you are the boss!
The Nanny Godmother loves to hear from colleagues in the childcare profession who are readers of the blog. Patty has recently written in with a dilemma that’s particularly challenging because of the professional setting in which it’s occurring:
I am a daycare provider for a set of 21 month old twin boys in addition to 4 other children. Within the past month they both started using foul language. I simply ignored it the first week, although some of the older children were quick to point it out to me each time they heard it. During the second week when it occurred, I got down at their level and firmly said “No. We don’t use that word. That is not ok.” The third week, I repeated the steps from week 2, but then put them in time out. They don’t seem to be fazed by it at all and they seem to be swearing more each day. Mom is really no help and simply blames it on Dad.
Any suggestions that I can use as a licensed provider? (When this occurred with my own children, step three included a swat on the rear end which put a pretty quick end to foul language, but as a licensed provider I am not able to use corporal punishment.) Thank you!
Unfortunately, as you know, we childcare professionals are limited in what we can do if we don’t have the support of the parents.
However, I do think you should talk to the mum again and explain what a big problem it is, and that you don’t want other parents to start complaining.
As long as you’re not receiving parental support, your options are going to be somewhat limited, and the best thing I can think of for you to do is to concentrate on teaching the twins that such language is not accepted by you. Try not to make too much of it when they say the words, as although I doubt they understand the meaning, they do understand that it upsets you. Don’t even make eye contact, as they are probably just waiting for you to react. Just take them by the hand and say “You know that Patty doesn’t accept those words” in a very low, calm voice. Don’t interact with them any more than that, and put them in time out (away from each other, if they’re both in time out). When time out is finished, make them look you in the eye and say “sorry” for using bad words, then carry on as normal.
This method may take some time to yield results, but due to their age I think it is about all you can do.
I hope this was of some help to you; if there are any readers who can give Patty more advice on this matter, please feel free to leave a comment or drop us a line.
Reader Tracy’s grandson is having trouble interacting with other children without resorting to aggressive behaviours, to the dismay of mum and grandmum alike. She writes:
My 22-month-old grandson is gorgeous and loving; he was born big (11 lbs) and is still well built. The problem is that wherever my daughter takes him, he makes the other children cry by pushing, shoving and sometimes pinching. My daughter has tried telling him off, tried the naughty step … and is now at the end of her tether. She doesn’t want to take him to any groups because of his behaviour, and I can see her spirits getting lower … HELP!
First of all, I don’t recommend that your daughter stop taking your grandson to kids’ groups. At this age, your grandson is experiencing frustration, lack of verbal skills, and impulsiveness, which is totally normal. With the right guidance and maturity, he will learn how to express himself and get what he wants in a different manner.
When they are at playgroup, tell your daughter to keep a close eye on him whilst he is going through this phase and if she sees him about to pounce, grab him quickly. If it is too late, remove him immediately from the situation and give him time out for 5 minutes. Then have him say “sorry” and maybe give a kiss or hug to the other child.
If your daughter is worried about what other mothers think, then I am sure if she explains the situation they will all understand, and they will have more sympathy when they see her taking steps to address it. Maybe some will even have some tips of their own to share with her, as everybody who has had or taken care of small children will know what she is going through.
If the situation is dealt with correctly, although it could take some time, it will definitely pass eventually. For additional help and support on this subject, I invite you also to consult my posts here and here. Good luck to you, your daughter and your grandson!
I believe it is our job as adults and caregivers to set limits and boundaries for children with a little love, kindness and discipline. I think it is totally up to the individual when you start, but I’ve learnt from experience that it is never too early to try to set ground rules.
With children under the age of 16 months it is very hard to set the boundaries, but you can try to guide them in the right direction by saying things like “If you throw that again I am taking it away,” and follow it through. They will soon learn. But as soon as they start walking and getting up to mischief you can use phrases like “Why don’t you colour on the paper instead of the door” or “Sweetie, please don’t put your farm animals in the DVD player” – then distract them with something more interesting and more suitable.
Try to change your tone of voice so your child can recognise and understand the meaning of your words. Also try to make eye contact with your child, as this can sometimes distract them. You should not start to negotiate, as this will turn into an argument and then you’ll end up having to explain yourself. All you have to say is “because I said so.” When children are under 18 months their short-term memory is very limited, so the process of correction can become quite repetitive; try to focus a lot on positive reinforcement so your child doesn’t think that everything he or she does upsets the grown-ups.
By about age 2½, children start to understand right from wrong, and you can start using “time outs” by putting them in their room, on the sofa or any place where they are restricted and removed from the situation. Then encourage them to apologise. As they get older, children may develop the habit of saying a token “sorry” just to avoid punishment, and there will be no meaning behind the words. I have found that it is useful to have them draw a picture – or, depending on their age, have them write a letter – to say they are sorry. In this way, they come to understand better the consequences of their actions and words.
As children get older, you will find it easier to discipline them; you can start to confiscate things and take away privileges (e.g., going to the park, video games, TV). However, you will have more arguments and battles over authority – just remember “because I said so.” When taking away privileges, be careful to choose something that is not going to affect you too much, and be sure you can follow it through. If you start throwing around empty threats, you are fighting a losing battle.