All posts by Regina

Discouraging Inappropriate Language

Parents frequently express concern about how best to handle it when their sweet faced child suddenly bursts out with language that is blush-worthy. Do you ignore it? Do you punish for it? The answer isn’t simple and can depend on the situation.

First off, take a look at the term “inappropriate.” Different homes and different cultures may not agree on what that means. You have to determine what is and is not acceptable for your child based on your own thoughts as a parent. Is it “bathroom language?” Is it racially demeaning, discriminating or otherwise hurtful? Is it obscene?

When you have clear ideas about what you consider unacceptable from your child, next look at why the language is happening. Oftentimes children will test boundaries and set up power struggles around language because they see a significant reaction when they use the words. Sometimes inappropriate language comes as a result of frustration or anger. In some cases, children will try out extreme language to gain attention from peers. Zero in on what is happening in your child’s life at that time that may be behind the language issue. Listen to them and offer your help problem solving.

The age of the child will also help determine how best to respond. If the child is a preschooler or elementary age child, start out by simply stating that you do not use that language in your family. Stay calm and repeat that message if necessary. Sometimes removing yourself from the room is helpful. “I don’t like hearing those words. I’m going to read in my room for awhile. When you are ready to use polite words I will be happy to talk to you again.”  Older children who continue to use unacceptable language may need to lose privileges as a result.

Sometimes it may be helpful to give your child alternative words that are silly or fun to say as a more positive verbal outlet. (“Oh huckleberries!”) Encourage the use of words that describe their feelings and emotions as well. (“I’m super angry!” “I’m so frustrated!”) When your child learns to better identify their feelings, it opens the door to discussion and help.

Take some proactive steps in your household to prevent language you don’t support. Pay attention to your own language. Good or bad, children emulate what we do. In addition, monitor the television and music your child is exposed to. Standards of what can be said on television and in music can be eye-opening for parents who may remember a time when controls were tighter. Whatever you do, don’t laugh at the child or ask them to repeat the negative language. Doing so virtually guarantees they will do it again.

Many children go through a phase where they try out some pretty harsh language. Rest assured that it’s not uncommon and often lasts for a short time only. Be consistent and calm and odds are you will not have to deal with the problem for long.




The Interrupting Child

It never seems to fail. As soon as you start an adult conversation with someone, your child appears and begins demanding your immediate attention. While you no doubt find this behavior extremely annoying, the bottom line is that many adults are frequent “interrupters” too. If we want our children to grow up to be polite people with solid social skills, we can start to teach some basics early on.

Babies and young toddlers rely on adults for everything. When they have a need, they often try to make that known to us immediately and we generally respond right away. As children grow into two and three year olds, they can already start the process of seeing that sometimes there is a brief wait for the attention of adults. A great technique to begin teaching at this stage is the “hand on the arm.” How does it work? When the child approaches you and begins interrupting you, show them how to place their hand on your forearm (which you make easily available to them.) Teach them that this is their way to politely tell you they want your attention.  Next, you put your other hand on top of the one they have on your arm. Tell them that that’s YOUR signal that you will be with them in a minute. Practice, practice, practice. It won’t happen overnight, but they will begin to use the technique if you consistently reinforce it. At first, try to respond very quickly to them when you get their “signal” but as they get older and more adept at it, you can gradually increase the time before you respond to them.

One last thing? Be a good example yourself. Try to become more aware of your own actions and practice waiting patiently yourself when you approach others who are having a conversation.  : )



My Child Ignores Our New Baby

Families often worry that when a new baby comes into their family, their toddler or preschooler will be less than welcoming. Siblings can often exhibit a great deal of jealousy when a little bundle of joy takes over the spotlight that they previously enjoyed.

But what about the child who shows no interest in the new baby and basically ignores them? It happens more often than you think. It’s normal to envision your little one with a heart bursting full of love and affection for the baby but the reality is that many siblings don’t find the baby terribly interesting for the first few months at least. Toddlers and preschoolers are generally pretty active and babies just don’t have much to offer as playmates.

There are some things you CAN try to spark some connection between siblings. It’s sometimes helpful to give the older child a baby-related job. Depending on the age of the older child, they can be asked to count how many diapers you have stocked in the diaper bag for an outing, fold the baby’s washcloths when you do laundry, or pick out the outfit the baby will wear from a few you have pre-selected.

Some parents also find it works well to compliment the older child, such as “The baby LOVES you! Look how you can make them smile/laugh. “Children often take pride in being the chosen person the baby responds to.

It goes without saying that it’s important to find one on one time for the older child to remind them how important they still are. Children are less likely to resent a baby brother or sister if they still feel they are a key part of their family. It can be useful to show the older child baby pictures of themselves and talk about all of the things they can now do that the baby can’t yet.

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t push it. Be understanding that it’s a big adjustment and it may take time. All siblings have their ups and downs but chances are, you’ll see very strong bonds build over the years.


Gift Overload

Before you know it, the holiday shopping frenzy will be starting. This is a great time to plan ahead if you feel that gift-giving  for your children got a little out of hand last year. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season and spend far more than we should on gifts. Parents often find that when their children receive an abundance of gifts, it creates higher and higher expectations each year. The more gifts received, the less children seem to appreciate each individual one. In addition, when excessive spending occurs, a great deal of stress for adults can follow when reality hits and credit card bills arrive in January.

For some families, the issue may be other relatives or family friends who “over-gift.” For others, they themselves are the source of the avalanche of presents. Take a good look at your feelings on this topic and create an action plan now so you can be better prepared.

First up, communicate with those friends or family members who buy gifts for your child. Tell them very directly that while you appreciate their generosity, you are trying to scale things back a little to help your child be more appreciative.  Ask if they have something in mind already or if they would welcome  a suggestion of something your child might enjoy. If the person lives near you, an alternative to a gift could also be spending time together, like a movie date or meal out somewhere that the child enjoys.

For yourself, follow your own advice and keep purchasing reasonable. Make lists and write down every gift purchased so you have a running list of what you have already bought. Set a budget for each person you will be shopping for and stick to it. Start early and take advantage of sales to make your budget stretch as far as possible.

Teaching our children gratitude and appreciation for the gifts they receive is part of good parenting. We are setting children up for failure and adding to a culture of entitlement when we shower them with excessive material things.



Bath Time Blues

Some children LOVE bath time and would stay playing in the tub for hours. Others have the opposite relationship with bath time. Since basic hygiene is a necessity, what can you do if your child falls into the “reluctant bather” side of the equation?

  • Bring on the toys! Look for ways to make bath time more fun. Consider trying bath markers or paints, strainers, squirters, or new floating toys.
  • Change up the time of day. Some children fight bath time because they know it will be followed soon after by bedtime. Try a morning or afternoon bath when your family schedule allows it.
  • Add something special – place battery operated tea lights in the bathroom, turn on some music and turn it into a junior spa experience.
  • If your child is old enough it may be time to give them the option to shower instead.
  • Fill the tub with bubbles and read to your child. When the bubbles are gone, finish up the story and finish washing your child.

No matter what it takes to get your child in the tub, remember that safety is critical. There is no magic age at which a child is safe in the bath tub. Sadly, drownings occur in bathtubs every year. Young children should always be supervised carefully in the tub. One final note – for many reluctant bathers, it’s a short phase. Try a few of the tricks listed here and everyone will be happy. And clean.