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Getting Kids to Eat What the Family Eats…without Battles and Tantrums

Getting kids to eat what the family eats – without battles and tantrums is a popular issue with parents. Positive Parenting Solutions offers these 3 strategies to avoid mealtime battles:

image of 2 boys eating lunch

Your kids probably believe you hold the power in your family…you call all the shots and make all the decisions. However, the three areas where parents have absolutely no control and children have the all the power are eating, sleeping and peeing/pooping! Try as we might, we can’t MAKE them eat, sleep or potty.

Kids hold the control in these areas and as a result they represent prime opportunities for toddler power struggles. Battles over eating, sleeping or pottying are a child’s way of saying, “Hey, you’re not the boss of me! You can’t MAKE me eat/sleep/potty!”

And he’s right! A parent can’t MAKE a child eat but the parent continues to try! And…the power struggle ensues. After repeated coaxing, reminding, and begging – the child understands that this is a very effective way to exert power over his parents.

The 3 best strategies to end the power struggles over eating are…

1. Get your toddler involved!

      Allow your child to have input in planning the family menu for the week – encourage him to select the vegetable or fruit. For each meal, give your child a meaningful role in meal preparation. For young toddlers, it can be as simple as removing grapes from the stem or washing veggies. Older toddlers can contribute to more complex aspects of meal preparation – measuring, stirring, etc. The more your child is involved in the planning and preparation, the more invested he will be in the meal.

2. Make “eating” the CHILD’s problem not YOURS! When toddlers refuse to eat the family meal or have a tantrum about what is served, it usually invokes a response from the parent – either “coaxing” to get the child to “just try it” or a display of frustration or anger. This attention gives the child a huge “power payoff.” Instead, put the child on notice that “you are no longer going to badger him about what he eats.” Let him know that “he is ‘growing up’ and can choose to eat what is served or not – either way, you are fine with it. But – you won’t be serving any other food until the next normally scheduled snack or meal.” This becomes the logical consequence – the child will eat at dinner/lunch – or he will be hungry.

3. STOP any discussion about what he eats, or how much he eats. What he eats – is his problem, not yours. Plan a healthy meal and include at least one healthy item you know he will eat. Don’t ask him to try one bite, don’t encourage him to eat more. If he eats – that’s great. If not – he’ll be hungry. That’s fine too. (Children will not starve by missing one meal – I promise!) Let him know that dinner ends at 6:30 (or whatever time) and remove the plates from the table. (Otherwise, he will try to outlast you hoping that you will provide food that is more to his liking). If he played with his food and didn’t eat – he’ll have an opportunity to try again at the next meal.

If he has a tantrum because “he’s staaaarving” – be totally unconcerned and go about your business. Remember that he gets a “payoff” when you REACT to his tantrum. Remove the payoff by ignoring the tantrum. Remind him that humans can survive for days without food but be sure to drink water because he does need to hydrate! Don’t reward the tantrum with a snack or the behavior will continue the next day and beyond!

Comment below with what has worked well – or not so well – in your family.

Toddler Behavior

What Your Toddler Wishes You Knew About His Toddler Behavior

toddler behavior

As difficult as the Terrible Twos are for you, they’re even more frustrating for your toddler. Your little one can’t explain her toddler behavior, but if she could, she would say:

“Mom, Dad, I know you guys are really stressed right now. You’re frustrated and feel that nothing you try is working to change my toddler behavior. I know you’re overwhelmed and you really don’t want to yell at me all the time. You probably even wonder who stole your ‘little bundle of joy’. But, I’m trying let you know what I really need – but you’re not ‘getting it’! I’m trying to tell you that this toddler behavior that is frustrating you is in part because I need some power of my own. I’m starting to grow up and I need to do some things for myself. You do everything for me and make every decision for me. I’m not a baby anymore and my lack of behavior is leading to the toddler behavior that is frustrating for both of us.

Since I’m only a toddler and can’t quite put all of this into words, all I can do is whine, refuse to cooperate, act helpless and have tantrums and meltdowns. I’ve figured out that I can really get your attention when we’re in public. But the only toddler behavior I know is not working. You just think I’m going through the ‘Terrible Twos’. I get extremely frustrated so I do my “terrible twos” antics louder and more often just hoping you’ll get the picture. If you want me to change my toddler behavior, I need my own power. I need to feel independent and I need to make some of my own decisions.

I wish you would figure this out so I can stop this toddler behavior!”

Children don’t misbehave just to misbehave. They act out because they want something. They are probably receiving tons of attention from you but they also need power. Yes, believe it or not, they need power. It’s hard to understand that a toddler needs power…but they do. It’s part of the maturation process.

Positive Parenting Solutions will teach you why children misbehave, how you may be unknowingly making the misbehaviors worse and what you can do to bring the terrible twos to an end. You don’t have to “wait it out”.

The 2 Most Un-helpful Words at the Playground

Thanks to Renee Ramey, Positive Parenting Solutions Online course member and busy mom of 3 kids (shown below), who wrote to me with this parenting “pearl”…

“I have been spending time at playgrounds again, and it seems to me that the least helpful statement parents make to their kids is “Be careful!”

I seriously doubt the kid hears anything other than “I don’t think you can do it!” Or “Remember how clumsy you are!”

I like to say things like, “Wow! You are really high up!” or if they stop and seem uncertain what to do next, “Are you a little nervous up there? Would you like me to stand closer to give you a hand? I think you can do it.”

Personally, I never hear “be careful” and then change my behavior. I don’t think it works at all. Sometimes, it makes me more reckless, just to do the opposite of what I’m being told to do.”

smiling boys

Renee is so right! “Be careful” is for our benefit – not our kids.

Instead of the gratuitous “be careful”, foster their sense of independence and self-sufficiency by providing training and practice in advance so kids can learn to negotiate the playground equipment. Then, express faith that they can do it.

Make sure your words and your body language are consistent! Your encouraging words say, “I have faith in you.” but your wringing hands and audible gasps will send the opposite message.

When your kids take a fall, offer empathy and tend to the boo-boo as needed – but don’t go overboard! Encourage their willingness to try something new and ask them what they learned… “What do you think you should do differently next time?” Then, encourage them to get back on that horse!

Feeling protective is perfectly normal, but we have to be careful that our cautious tendencies don’t become crippling to our kids’ sense of capability, autonomy and willingness to try new things.

Pragmatic Parenting – How Can Moms Make Smart and Safe Choices?

Alison Rhodes

Every day, moms across America agonize over how best to keep their children safe and healthy. They listen to the “experts” who provide nutrional advice, parameters for developmental stages and practical safety tips. But when the information is not absolute, and there is room for debate, what’s a mom to do?

In the past two year, parents were inundated with stories of toy recalls and the warnings of excessive lead paint. Moms began tossing toys and scrutinizing every item that came into the house. Millions of cribs were recalled due to broken and missing parts and faulty production. Last winter, over-the-counter cold medications for infants were pulled off the shelves followed by recommendations to refrain from dispensing cold medication to children up to age six. Moms are confused, anxious and frustrated. And many moms are beginning to revolt against these alarmist reports.

These debates are not new however. Moms still question the merits of the chicken pox vaccine and other recommended vaccinations. They hear dire warnings from friends, family and the media of autism and even death that supposedly occurred from inoculation.

How do moms make sense of the information and warnings that are out there? How can we discern truth from hype, convenience from crisis? Here are some tips for moms to help them become pragmatic parents and make safe and healthy decisions for their own child:

1. Get the Facts – It’s important for moms to be aware of issues affecting their children. Don’t listen to second and third-hand reports from well meaning relatives and friends. As a mom, you need to stay up-to-date on news reports for yourself. Send in manufacturer’s warranty cards so that you are informed when a product is recalled.

2. Know the Source – The internet is a wonderful tool for getting solutions and advice but be sure the information is coming from a credible source. Many sites are funded by public interest groups or corporations with an agenda. Be sure the sources you are checking are unbiased and credible.

safety mom logo

3. Ask Questions – Media reports can be inconclusive and inaccurate. If you have questions ask your pediatrician and possibly a few pediatricians in your group as they might have different opinions.

4. Know Your Child – Issues and concerns relevant to your baby might not be a danger for your older child. Once you understand the hazard and have researched the facts, you can objectively determine how this relates to your particular child.

5. When In Doubt – Err on the side of caution. If your gut tells you that something might be harmful to your child, don’t take a chance. In the end, you are your child’s greatest safety advocate.

Alison Rhodes, The Safety Mom www.safetymom.com, is a nationally acclaimed family safety and wellness expert and TV personality. She can frequently be seen on The Today Show, Fox & Friends, Good Morning America and Better TV discussing all issues effecting newborns to teens. Her weekly radio show, blog, newsletter and articles reach millions of parents per month. Her passion was born out of the tragic loss of her first son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She is also the mom of three other beautiful children.

5 Ways to Show Respect for Your Child….and develop their sense of capability…and avoid power struggles.

teen boy and teen girl

The list below is adapted from one of my all-time favorite books: How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.

I began compiling the list to give parents a quick refresher on ways to demonstrate respect for kids. (Remember, we can’t expect kids to respect us unless we also show respect to them.)

Not only will these strategies demonstrate respect for kids, but each suggestion goes a long way in fostering their autonomy and capability. Instead of jumping in to do things for our kids or answer for them – let them answer, struggle, and think for themselves. You’ll be amazed at how their sense of personal significance will grow.

And, by the way…they’re also great strategies for avoiding power struggles. Each example provides a way to empower your child rather than igniting power struggles between you.

Try these 5 ways to show respect, develop their capability and avoid power struggles:

1. Don’t ask too many questions.
Instead of “How was school today?” “Was the science test hard?” “What did you have for lunch?” Try: “Welcome home. I’m SO glad to see you!”

happy girl

2. Don’t rush to answer questions.
Try: “That’s an interesting question. What do you think?”

3. Let your child own his/her own body.
Refrain from brushing her hair out of her eyes, tucking in his shirt, etc. Kids view this as fussing over them and an invasion of their physical privacy.

4. Let your child answer for herself/himself!
Try: “Jack can tell you. He’s the one who knows.” Or, for an older child, just be silent and don’t answer. The awkward silence will encourage your child to speak up.

5. Show respect for your child’s eventual “readiness.”
Try: “I’m not concerned. When you’re ready, you’ll use the potty.” (This also removes the power struggle. There’s no need to fight you because you are giving the him the power to decide.) Or try: “When you decide to, you’ll get into the water.”

Kids are accustomed to parents communicating with a lot of ordering, correcting and directing. These 5 strategies will show your kids that you respect them, and will lead to greater capability and autonomy with fewer power struggles.

How to Talk to Your Child About Cyberbullying Now

Rachel Simmons

The following is a guest post from The New York Times Best Selling author, Rachel Simmons.

The recent suicide of 15 year old Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, MA has communities around the country reeling. Phoebe didn’t just suffer taunts, mean looks and harassment at school. She was cyberbullied: tortured online and by phone.

Phoebe’s death – and an explosion in cyberbullying worldwide – are telegraphing an emergency message to schools and families: we must take action now. Yet the vast majority of schools decline to intervene with real consequences when cyberbullying incidents occur.

Why? Because, school officials say, it’s happening off school grounds. I understand the legal issues involved, but I get really angry when I hear this argument. Schools are terrific at using technology to connect classrooms to the moon via NASA and to students in other countries. Classrooms without borders are swell when they teach – but when students start dehumanizing each other using the very same technology, and it threatens their education and safety at school, well, we can’t go there.

Cyberbullying has intensified the experience of getting bullied by literally shattering the walls between school and home. There is no escape. As Parry Aftab, a leading expert in cyberlaw and privacy issues, has said, “cyberbullying follows you everywhere: home, summer camp, to Grandma’s house.”

Which means that kids are being suffocated and overwhelmed by an onslaught of abuse. They are unable to find refuge from the torment. Suicide, for some, may feel like the only way out.

Fact is, it’s not enough to say to a kid, “So don’t go online. Don’t pick up the phone.” Could you follow that advice? I sure couldn’t. Young people are passionate about their reputations. They’re also developmentally unable to understand that anything beyond their personal hell exists.

With a recent study showing that youth spend nearly every waking moment with a device in their hands, I want to share some of my advice to parents on how to talk with your child about cyberbullying and digital citizenship. If you haven’t had this conversation, or one like it, do not pass go. The time is now.

1. Begin with a discussion. Raise the issue by talking about what you’ve heard or read. “It seems like cyberbullying is becoming a big deal lately.” Mention Phoebe’s suicide. Ask your child what she’s seen.
2. Let her know you’re there if she’s in trouble, no matter what – even if she’s partly responsible for a situation. Assure her that you’ll keep a problem between you when you can, and that you’ll be open to discussing it if she doesn’t want you to intervene (never promise that you won’t intervene). Your bottom line: this is a serious issue, and if she’s in trouble, you don’t want her to be alone, no matter what.
3. Ensure her cell phone and computer have screen locks that are password protected. Find other preventative steps you can take to keep your child safe here.
4. Let her know your policy on cyberbullying. For example: “I want to make sure we’re both clear on some rules around your use of technology. I expect you to conduct yourself online the same way you do in real life. That means making sure you treat people with kindness and respect at all times.”
5. Talk about some examples of what breaking the rules might look like. Use some of what you heard in the opening discussion you had to get specific about what’s not okay. Make sure she understands she is expected to steer clear of the following behaviors: She is expected not to use another person’s cell phone or computer without his/her permission; to circulate embarrassing photographs or video about another person; to forward hurtful or embarrassing messages or media; to use anonymous or unrecognizable screen names to communicate; to use foul or abusive language that could embarrass or hurt others. You may want to create an ethical Internet use contract together. See a sample here.
6. Explain your stance. Don’t just say “no;” explain why. Use the conversation as an opportunity to talk about the values that are important to you and your family: respect, kindness, integrity, and compassion.
7. Let her know technology is a privilege. “Being able to have a phone or computer is no different from being able to drive a car. When you get your license, it’s because you’ve proven you’re mature enough to follow rules and take others into consideration. The same will be true for tech use. If you aren’t mature enough to act with respect, you will lose your access.”
8. Emphasize the positive: “I see you as a person with enormous kindness, integrity and respect for others. I expect you to be that same person when you’re using an electronic device.
It’s never too early to have this conversation. Talk to your kids about cyberbullying, and start talking to school officials about getting involved. South Hadley High School began every day last week with a moment of silence to remember Phoebe. Silence is the last thing we need on this issue. Let’s not let Phoebe die in vain.
9. Encourage empathy. Talk with your kids about what Phoebe may have been feeling when she was being bullied. Many are now identifying with Phoebe in death. By considering her experience before she died, kids can identify with her in life — and reflect on behaviors and situations they have real power to change.

Rachel Simmons is an educator and bestselling author of The Curse of the Good Girl and Odd Girl Out. She was the host of the 2009 PBS special “A Girl’s Life.” This post originally appeared at her website, www.rachelsimmons.com

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