What bad parenting habits should I make sure I don't start?
April 5, 2015 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I now have a toddler, and I realize I don't know much about toddlers! I can already feel myself slipping into some bad habits. What do you wish you would've known about this age -- and what habits should I prevent?

We've had a pretty good run of it parenting-wise so far, but looking back, I realize that we got into some really bad habits that were harder to break than not starting in the first place.

Sleep is the best example of, whoops, wish I hadn't started that! Our kid slept for way too long in a little Rock N Play, and was exclusively nursed to sleep for months; transitioning to a crib nearly destroyed us, and sleep problems still persist big time. That's just one example. I have so many other "wish I'd knowns" about babyhood that I'm wondering what I'll be thinking about toddler-hood.

Any thoughts - what bad habits should I make sure I don't start now that kiddo is a toddler?
posted by caoimhe to Human Relations (43 answers total) 96 users marked this as a favorite
First off, don't be so quick to blame yourselves for things. Mine was nursed to sleep up until she was 22 months and I was totally dreading the sleep problems that would likely result. But I finally dropped the night feeding and the next day it was like it had never been a thing. Not even a whimper. It's very hard to know where to draw the line between "I'm a bad parent" and "that's just how she is", so be generous with yourselves.
posted by town of cats at 12:47 PM on April 5, 2015 [21 favorites]

Seconding town of cats. To a greater degree than you would think possible, babies do what they're gonna do, they have their own preferences and personalities, and you're just along for the ride.

That said: they do need to know you mean what you say, to feel safe and to take you seriously. Don't threaten anything you're not ready to follow through on, and don't promise things you won't give.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:53 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Do not hit your child ever. Also, don't yell at your child. A firm/stern voice is fine at the appropriate times, but no yelling unless it's something on the order of, "look out for that car!"
posted by Tanizaki at 12:54 PM on April 5, 2015 [40 favorites]

Pick your battles carefully. Because it's stupid to escalate into a full-blown power struggle over stuff that won't matter in 6 months, like whether the child is wearing a coat backwards or whatever other weird thing that toddlers can be so insistent about.
posted by fancyoats at 12:57 PM on April 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

It's not too late with the sleep habits. Just pick a philosophy which works for your life and situation and start working toward it. Our bad habit was letting her fall asleep with the bottle until age 2. It was a crutch for us as well as for her. We cut it out by slowly decreasing the amount of milk, talking to her about how the bottle was going to go away in 4 days, then 3, etc.. It was a little rough but we got through it.

I think good habits around food in general, offering more veggies as snacks. Eating healthfully yourselves, having good portion sizes for you and for kiddo are great habits to get into. I don't generally feed my daughter a different meal but I often feed her a deconstructed meal -- we will have pasta but I make her small piles of the ingredients as she likes to know what she's eating and doesn't seem to get flavor combos. Though she is starting to which is fun.

Another friend of mine with her second just takes whatever they are eating and puts it through a good mill for her baby. Yours might already be too old for that but I wish I had done that - stronger flavor combos means a less picky eater. We'll see how that turns out.

I think generally hanging back and letting your toddler take some knocks is good practice. Letting your child come to you when they need comfort from a fall or bump instead of rushing in will help them with resilience. We do more talking about ouchies and less freaking out about them. "Ooh, did that hurt. Yeah. Let's rub it a little, hey check out that bird that flew by...." Then you're back and running.
posted by amanda at 12:57 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

STORES. Don't let them carry stuff around, don't buy them something on every trip, and heaven forbid, there is NEVER any reason to subject other customers to your whiny child. Even if you have a basket-full, if your child starts fussing, take that basket up to the customer service desk for them to put away, say "I'm sorry, my child is acting up and I'll have to come back later," and LEAVE. Also, supervise. Keep seated-in-the-basket children sitting, and require children that are walking to hold on to the basket.

Guaran-damn-tee you, you'll have lots of compliments over the years on how well-behaved your children are in the store - and none of those constant dirty looks.

FOLLOW THROUGH. Whether it's because you told your child no, and then they don't listen, or because you threatened a particular punishment... you absolutely MUST follow through, starting at this age.

That leads to a couple related things - do not make threats that you are not totally willing to follow through on, and do not allow your wants or your convenience to distract you from parenting.


You tell toddler not to mess with TV buttons. Toddler, like most, immediately goes back to do it again... partly to see if you really mean it. Some parents will continue repeating no a dozen or two times, then give up and ignore it. Some parents get mad after a few repetitions and "discipline", even though they're really actually angry, not disciplining. And the correct response is that after the first time, if child doesn't listen, then at the second occurrence, you immediately get up and redirect.

Telling child that as a punishment, you won't go, say, swimming, when it's something YOU really want to do... you're much more likely to "forgive" and therefore let them get away with the behavior. Don't do that. Only make the threat if you're totally willing to follow through - and if you screw up and make the threat, do your job as a parent and follow through, even if it makes YOU unhappy. It'll make you more likely to think twice about what consequences to threaten next time.
posted by stormyteal at 12:58 PM on April 5, 2015 [23 favorites]

Consistency and follow through are the most important things. Kids learn really early that what you say is going to happen doesn't really happen, and then all is lost.
posted by Huck500 at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Now is a time to start thinking about what you want your relationship to look like in terms of discipline. I'm a huge fan of Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. She writes a lot about how to move your relationship away from an adversarial, yelling one, and gives lots of alternative strategies. I was very happy that I discovered her writing when my son was an early toddler, and I was just beginning to feel pressure to start showing him who was the boss by doing punishments, time-outs, etc. Dr. Markham argues convincingly that these lead to escalating power struggles, and she helped give me the confidence to not start down that path in the first place. My son is just three and a half, so it's early days yet, but we made it all through the "terrible twos" and the early "threenager" stage with zero punishments, and it's worked very well for us -- not that I'm biased or anything, but our son is a joy to be around! ;-)
posted by wyzewoman at 1:06 PM on April 5, 2015 [23 favorites]

FOLLOW THROUGH. Whether it's because you told your child no, and then they don't listen, or because you threatened a particular punishment... you absolutely MUST follow through, starting at this age.

Seconded, also seconding be careful what you threaten - it has to be something you are ok following through with.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:08 PM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

i.e. Don't pull the "do X or we're not going to the zoo today!" unless you're OK with cancelling the zoo trip!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:11 PM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Start habits you do want ASAP -- like, if you want to make it a normal gig that "Mum wanders around the art gallery for two hours plus and you are expected to be pretty quiet and busy looking during that time," or going swimming at the public pool, or...well, pretty much anything? Don't put it off until little caoimhe is older. By then it might be frightening or weird or boring, but the earlier you can normalize stuff, the easier and more accepted it will be.

(Especially with food! Don't feed bland "kid" foods. Unless you like eating them yourself and want to be serving them for years. If you like Indian food and you like broccoli on your pizza, that's how meals are in your house, full stop...)

+1 on the recommendation for Laura Markham -- her site has great discipline advice.

Don't abandon your what's-wrong-now mental checklist from infancy for a long time yet -- the answer to "Why the @#$* is there a big fuss?" will still be that the kid is hungry, or needs a cuddle, or is tired, for years (possibly forever, I suppose). Have no expectations of good behaviour whatsoever from a toddler in any sort of basic discomfort along those lines.

It is okay to bribe within reason; we all self-bribe at times. It is okay to give your kid the same freedom to access rewards for dumb stuff that you give yourself. Hard day for all concerned? Maybe dinnertime is chips and teevee, etc.
posted by kmennie at 1:20 PM on April 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

Be as consistent as possible, and be okay with them being upset. Meaning, don't purposefully make them upset, but if you don't want them to do [thing], or you take away [stuff they're not supposed to have] and they cry it is okay. You can empathize with them but don't feel the need to reverse yourself.

Getting upset (and learning that it's not the end of the world to get upset, and that they'll get over it eventually) is a completely normal and healthy part of their development.

On that note, it's really not too late to "sleep train". I sort of hate that phrase because every baby gets sleep trained, meaning they learn about sleep--some just get "trained" differently than others. You can't stop a human baby from learning, and one of the things they learn is what they need in order to sleep.

When they don't get what they "need" they get upset (and it is compounded by the fact that they're tired). But that's okay. They can learn that they don't actually need [mom/nursing/bottle/rocking], after all, and maybe they just need a comfortable, quiet place to lie down.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:33 PM on April 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

When I occasionally snap out a crazy threat to my 3- and 5-year-old that I am obviously not going to follow through on, "Stop that right now or we're not going to grandma's!" I generally immediately say, "No, mommy didn't mean that. I'm just very frustrated with your behavior and I said that because I was angry. We are still going to grandma's, but if you continue this behavior you are going to go to time-out and lose privileges -- you will not be allowed to have dessert at grandma's."

Every parent makes threats they have no intention of following through on, and when you're very frustrated or angry, you're mostly likely to hear yourself repeating something YOUR parents said when THEY were very angry (and probably didn't mean it either). I've found that immediately backing off and correcting my threat has made my kids take real threatened consequences more seriously.

If you don't want to deal with disciplining something, sometimes it's better to pretend you can't see it and let your kid think he's putting one over on you.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:35 PM on April 5, 2015 [28 favorites]

Follow through. Be it a threat of punishment or a promise. Do what you say you are going to do. Do not make promises you won't keep (or threats) or what you say will just become so much background noise.

Whatever you do decide is important rule wise, be consistent.
posted by wwax at 2:36 PM on April 5, 2015

I think making your expectations of behavior clear, even with little tiny guys, is really important. Even if it may not be explicitly stated. My closest friend and I spent lots of time together from our oldest children's earliest infancy until the teens years (they're all now in their late teens). One big difference I noticed was that her children were AWFUL in restaurants--any kind of restaurant from fast food to fine dining--but mine were pretty good. She and her husband ended up taking turns away from the table, distracting and dealing with noisy, rambunctious toddlers, while the other wolfed their meal and pressured us to also leave as soon as possible. My kids were normal, active kids, but I think the difference is that it never occurred to my friend and her husband that kids might act OK in a restaurant--and should--but that all kids are horrors and won't allow adults to eat peacefully. Of course, if my kid starts getting noisy or whiny or too active, I would immediately try to distract her or take her away from the table in respect of other diners. But most of the time my kids seemed much more capable of sitting at the table for a reasonable amount of time acting reasonably quiet and peaceful. I think it really stemmed from our differing expectations of our kids. And I think this was true in many areas of behavior.
posted by primate moon at 2:39 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also, don't yell at your child. A firm/stern voice is fine at the appropriate times, but no yelling unless it's something on the order of, "look out for that car!"

Seconding this, and it's something I still am battling - it's so, so easy to give in to under stress, and almost always counterproductive. Humor, play, and reverse psychology are FAR more effective for getting kids to do what you want. I say this as the parent of two strong-willed kids.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:52 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Label emotions so they have a vocabulary and apologise to them. "I'm grumpy because I can't find my glasses. I snapped at you and I'm sorry because I should have taken a deep breath and asked for help finding my glasses. Now you are upset and grumpy too. Can we hug so we both feel calmer and try again?" conversations like that help your kids develop a vocabulary about feelings and managing them. You have to be accurate and welcome their corrections (I'm not sad, I'm angry etc) and be able to acknowledge in child appropriate ways your own feelings.

Sesame street has great jingles about emotions as a starting point, and when reading picture books, you can discuss emotions - why does X look so pleased? Do you think it's because she is petting the cat? Would you be happy petting a cat like that? Etc.

And apologise genuinely for your mistakes. Model humility and forgiveness instead of trying to be some all powerful omniparent. It's better for kids to see you fail and then work to fix and repair the hurt than for them to struggle with unacknowledged hurts because all parents screw up.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:17 PM on April 5, 2015 [19 favorites]

Teach kids to apologize effectively. I like a four part version: I'm sorry that I [describe what happened]. It was wrong because [reason]. Next time I will [what you'll do different]. Will you forgive me?

The easiest way is to model it, by apologizing to your children using this script. That goes for other manners as well - my daughter's fourth word and second sign was "thank you" because we said it to her so often. I have never had to remind her to say it. Works for you're welcome, excuse me, and more - speak to them the way you want them to speak to others and it will be automatic.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:27 PM on April 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

Don't make food a battleground. Offer them whatever you're going to offer them at mealtime, let them eat as much or little of it as they want, and then have something that's nutritious but not a "treat" that they can have some of if they're actually hungry later. Don't make them eat a certain amount before they leave the table, or try some of everything on their plate, or replace a food they don't want to eat with something yummier.
posted by MsMolly at 3:42 PM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

If your child is a girl, you can do a few things to lay a foundation that will help her overcome societal sexism. Women and girls are often implicitly told that they are most valuable when they are pretty, quiet, nurturing, and obedient, which can sow seeds that make it harder for women to be individualistic as adults. You can help counter this socialization by limiting the praise for a little girl's looks, and upping the praise for attributes and deeds like being hardworking, brave, strong, funny, mischevious, a good leader, decisive, investigative, assertive, etc. As an experiment, you could even dress her as a boy for a couple days and see how strangers treat her differently, then think about how you'd like her to be treated.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:53 PM on April 5, 2015 [14 favorites]

Lots of great advice here, especially about picking your battles, being consistent, and following through.

But every kid is different, and what works for some kids or most kids does not work for all kids. A lot of parenting is learning how to be the parent your kid needs you to be.

I have some friends who thought they were great parents. They had two adorable, angelic little girls. They got compliments from friends and from strangers all the time. Then they had Timmy, and they learned that they had no idea what they were doing. Timmy wasn't smart and sweet and eager to please like his older sisters. He was a handful. My friends had to learn how to be a good parent to this child, and it took some time for them to figure out what would work.

I have always reminded myself that child development is an experimental science. You'll read books and watch your friends and get advice, both solicited and unsolicited, and you'll just have to try it out and see what works. And sometimes you'll realize that you should have done some things differently, as you have learned about sleeping. You'll make other mistakes, but you'll make corrections and move on.

I tend to recommend books, and here I go again. For children ages 2-4, one book I found extremely helpful was Positive Discipline for Preschoolers. It helped me understand how to have reasonable expectations for my kids, why my kids were doing the things they did, when and how I should intervene, and when I should just let things be. But, as ever, YMMV.
posted by islandeady at 3:59 PM on April 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Here's another tip:
Reward the behavior you want to see more of. Don't reward behavior that you don't want to see more of.

It sounds so obvious, but it's one of those things, like "buy low, sell high" that is easy to say but hard to do. If you watch other parents you will see them make this mistake again and again. Here's an example. I was with a friend whose child loved his pacifier, and their pediatrician had recommended breaking this habit. This child whined and whined for his pacifier, and my friend broke down after about 20 minutes and gave it to him. She had just taught him that if he whined long enough, he'd get what he wanted. I know that she was tired, but she had just made her job much harder in the long run. Don't be this parent.
posted by islandeady at 4:16 PM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Mother of a 7 and 5 year old here. The biggest revelation I've had as a parent? Give attention, relationship, and reward to the behaviors you want to see more of - not the other way around. [or on preview what islandeady just said!] See Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser.

Begin the process of potty learning today. It super sucks to have a 3.5+ year old who is still not toilet-trained -- you seriously don't want to let it get to that point (ask me how I know). See Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh, PhD and/or Diaper Free Before 3 by Jill M. Lekovic, MD.

Don't allow your verbal child to interrupt you while you are having a conversation with another human being. ProTip from my favorite daycare teacher: Instead, ask your child to put the palm of their hand on your back in order to signal to you that they would like your attention when you and/or the other person have completed your thoughts. Praise the heck out of them when they get this right. 99.99% of the time, whatever they are trying to tell you is NOT an emergency -- teach them to know the difference.

Model for your child how to greet people and acknowledge their existence: "Hello!" Then let them run off and play. Such a simple thing makes a huge social difference.

Don't hover. Children today are safer than ever. See Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy.
posted by hush at 4:20 PM on April 5, 2015 [21 favorites]

Nthing follow through and setting boundaries, but also give them a heads up about things: "two minutes until bedtime/leaving/cleanup". Then they're not blindsided.
posted by geekBird at 4:28 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Allow them to take risks and make mistakes. With your first child, especially, this is hard. With subsequent children you may be surprised at what you allow them to do, and how you respond to small injuries. In any case, try not to hover and protect too much.

Don't use crude language around the house if you don't want your little tyke to pick up these words. Also, learning words happens early so you may have to cut back on the "shit" sooner than you expected. Establish words for your breasts and nursing that you would not mind hearing in public.

Consider how you will protect your adult bed-time toys from being discovered by your child. It just makes things more pleasant for everyone if they remain undiscovered.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 5:25 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Be aware of unintended consequences. Children who learn that public tantrums mean they get to go home don't learn to behave in public, they learn to demand what they want via social/emotional violence. There is a difference between a tantrum because the child is overwhelmed/hungry/whatever and a tantrum in order to exert control. That said a child without any control in their life will always seek to exert it somehow.

We try and emphasise the place our child has within our family - she's not a burden or a prize, she's an integral part so she has a place in it. That's duties and responsibilities but also the emotional life.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:26 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Don't force your child to hug or kiss anyone they don't want to. Every child should learn that a person's body belongs to them, and nobody should be touched if they don't want to be. Even by you.
posted by Threeve at 8:13 PM on April 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

Also, don't yell at your child. A firm/stern voice is fine at the appropriate times, but no yelling unless it's something on the order of, "look out for that car!"

Agreed. That is solid advice. A firm voice and eye contact is going to do the disciplinary job that you sometimes feel like yelling will do. Yelling doesn't work. And then you hear yourself yelling all the time. And then suddenly you're a yelling family. Don't go down that path!

With our first child, this was the most easy and natural advice to adhere to. With our second "livelier" one... I have to admit it can be a challenge! Which leads me to a second piece of advice: Don't compare. Don't compare siblings, don't compare your child with others, don't compare your parenting with other parents. It's a negative process that only leads to discouragement and everyone feeling like crap. "Don't compare" applies not just to toddlerhood, but to the rest of your and their lives.
posted by Kabanos at 9:06 PM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I only have a 2 year old, but so far what I'm finding to work out well is to expect and plan for the behavior that I want. I've seen other parents go the route of "we just can't go out to eat anymore because of little X". This terrified me because our lifestyle involves eating out A LOT (sad to say). What I found was that we just started eating out soon after our first bunnyling was born, and we kept on doing it and kept on doing it. We expect her to entertain herself at the table and generally avoid giving her a screen to stare at. She's a pretty fantastic restaurant companion most of the time. I kind of wish we hadn't given her so many pouches when she was younger - they're such easy, mess-free meal options, but 1) I wish I was super mom and had always given her home cooked food, 2) she got a little addicted to pouches. She still tries to weasel them out of babysitters who aren't wise to the pouch addiction or even mommy if she thinks I'm not paying attention, i.e. "What would you like for breakfast? Oatmeal, or blueberries?" "No oatmeal," (casually) "...just a pouch, please." Definitely would encourage the route of always giving her some of whatever you're having to try. Every kid is different, of course, but I think unless your kid is losing weight or falling off their growth curve, not catering to their whims with special meals (i.e. making them something separate from what you're having) is probably the best and easiest thing.

I absolutely 2nd everything hush said. I started potty training her as an infant. She wasn't magically potty trained way early but she was going on the potty all the way along at least part of the time, and that was pretty cool! I get the feeling that she would have been super tough to train if we had not done it this way.

One thing I still struggle with is phrasing everything as a choice between two things I don't care about. "Do you want to wear the blue sweater, or the red sweater?" (NOT "Want to get dressed now?" or "How about getting dressed?") "Do you want to bring teddy bear up to bed, or bring Dora?" (NOT "Ready for bed?") I often forget not to ask things that she really doesn't have a choice about, but giving toddlers a choice they can make is good, so the "here are your options" approach is really helpful for them.

Final note: I would encourage you not to get to some point in the future at which you realize that you spent so much time focusing on doing parenting tasks that you neglected your relationship with your spouse. I think this can happen too easily during toddler years and can be hard or impossible to recover from if you don't take action to make sure it doesn't happen. Yes, you DO need that date night/that weekend away/etc. Be a team. Put your spouse first. Your child will move away someday, but your spouse is with you for life.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:59 PM on April 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Role modelling. Whatever you put out there you will get back, so whether that's yelling, or sarcasm, or calling your spouse an idiot, or whatever it is, if your child sees you do it, you will see your child do it. So you need to model good ways to deal with frustration and conflict, and treat people respectfully, and do chores even when you don't feel like doing them, and so on. Remember, there is never a time when your child is not learning *something* from you.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:22 PM on April 5, 2015

Give them the freedom of being bored. Build in solid no screen time hours every day where they're forced to entertain themselves. Books, drawing materials, a chalkboard, paints, action figures, cars, socks, Legos, puzzles, empty boxes, etc. all help a kid learn to live in those "there's nothing to do" moments. Don't play with them during these times. Kids who know how to occupy themselves generally are more creative, they're better at handling downtime, they're more inquisitive and they approach problem solving from many different angles. They're okay with the mundane in life and importantly, they know how to initiate.

I raised three kids (23, 21, 17 and they'll tell you how I never played with them) and I'm a high school teacher and I can tell within minutes which kids have never had to entertain themselves.

Now, even, there are loads of kids labeled with Executive Function Disorder which is an inability to plan, initiate and do work. I really think it's because fewer kids are raised to be responsible for their own entertainment.
posted by kinetic at 2:49 AM on April 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

No kids' menus in restaurants. I think that's how my kids got the idea that the ideal meal is fried chicken fingers wirth french fries. They certainly never had that meal at home. There's no law that says your toddler can't order a bowl of soup off the grownup menu.
posted by lakeroon at 10:04 AM on April 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

I never considered the idea of using negative emotions as a great teaching/learning opportunity until I read Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child.
posted by clawsoon at 10:38 AM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Our oldest just turned two and the thing that I regret is getting into the habit of talking about him, and his behavior, in front of him, as if he's not there. To give myself a break, it's understandable since until recently he has not seemed to pay much attention and we have very little time when he's NOT present. BUT, it's a habit that we have to now actively break for ourselves and relatives.
posted by pennypiper at 10:45 AM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

The kid eats what you eat, though you'll have to cut and mash certain things to help until the kid can handle things like an adult, and the kid won't be able to handle things as spicy as you might like them, so you will have to make mild portions of some stuff.

If you don't think the kid should be eating something, don't have it in the house. (Don't deny the kid potato chips and then eat them yourself.) Except for alcohol and other drugs, you should be passing pretty much everything around to everyone at the table.

And you all eat together with the television, computer, and phones off or silent and out of the way. (First one to answer a phone or check a message washes the dishes.) This is when you all listen to one another.
posted by pracowity at 11:13 AM on April 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

Honestly, the one thing I wish I had done differently that I can actually identify now is letting her know that any episode of any show can be watched at any time. The time I've wasted finding just that one episode of [insert show name] where [insert happening]. I'm not sure how I would have done it differently, but there you go.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:57 AM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Following up on dpx.mfx, using rewind on the dvr to replay a commercial that made him giggle. BIG (small) mistake!
posted by pennypiper at 12:22 PM on April 6, 2015

Remember that there will always be a to-do list. It's okay to make time for fun, and for alone time. There is value in leisure; prioritize it.
posted by aniola at 12:35 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

With regard to restaurant behavior: our kids' daycare initiated something they called "Restaurant Voices" during lunch times at the daycare center. The teacher would calmly remind loud kids to use their restaurant voice if it was getting a little too loud. This was awesome for us when we went to actual restaurants - we (or more likely their sister) could remind the loud kid to "Use your restaurant voice" and they would immediately know what was expected and how to behave.

In your own home, you can use mealtimes as "practice" for going to restaurants, model correct behavior, and come up with quick reminders that can be referred to later.
posted by CathyG at 2:33 PM on April 6, 2015

Switch the genders in kids stories. The vast majority of characters in children's books are boys. It's good for girls and boys to have the main characters be girls more of the time than currently represented. Girls need to see other girls in the role of leader, villian, buffoon, pranksters. Boys need to see that, too. Sometimes I go the other way, too. Why can't little Red Riding Hood's grandmother be a grandfather? Why can't the Big Bad Wolf be a she? And in Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site every other character can and should be a girl.
posted by amanda at 7:40 PM on April 6, 2015 [11 favorites]

There is no such thing as "just this once." In terms of avoiding bad habits, don't do anything once that you're not willing to do every. single. time. that particular scenario arises.

With love,
She Who Can No Longer Go To 7-11 Without Purchasing Gummi Bears
posted by sonika at 5:33 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

So much good stuff here already. As a corollary to the bit about not making them hug/kiss/be affectionate when they don't want to, I'd also say that STOP is a word of huge importance in our house, for both parents and kid. G knows that if I'm tickling her or hugging her or whatever, when she says stop, I stop instantly. I want her to know from an early age that (short of shots and urgent medical attention) she has control over her body at all times, even when it's something supposedly harmless like tickling. It's so important to us that we've told her teachers this, and tell anyone who visits us that stop is a vital word to G, and must be respected.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:39 PM on April 7, 2015

Don't make a permanent change for a temporary situation.

Never (NEVER) argue with a 3-year-old. It just isn't worth it. If they insist that x really is y, just say "okay" and move on. They are testing limits here, they aren't stupid enough to actually believe that x is y.

We spend a lot of time naming emotions, and also asking our kid what his perspective is (ie, "what do you see?" or "what happened?") and then reiterating (or narrating).

Never, ever lie to your child. Even when the truth is hard. Even when you don't know what to say - if you don't know what to say, say that. Or say "I'm not sure how to explain that to you, let me think about it". But don't lie. Because we all know from our own experiences that we knew when our parents and other adults were lying to us, and it affected our trust in them. Your kid will accept even hard or difficult things from you, including all manner of limits and restrictions, if they trust you implicitly.

Don't make promises of future things in order to end a tantrum now - "I'll get you an ice cream later" or "We're going to buy you your own scooter". Toddlers only understand their own immediate feelings, they do not understand things in the future. A better way to solve tantrums is to address their immediate feelings - "you're feeling disappointed because you want an ice cream right now and we don't have one". As long as they are feeling heard and understood, they will get over the tantrum, I promise you.
posted by vignettist at 1:27 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

« Older Grass is greener? Job edition.   |   Google Maps for FSX? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.