May 26, 2017


What's the best way to discipline a toddler?
Think of discipline as a form of teaching, not a form of punishment. Your child needs to learn how to get along with others and stay safe. He's an eager student, but the most important lessons — sharing, patience, cooperation, caution — will take a few years to sink in. As his main teacher, it's your job to reinforce the lessons with consistency, patience, and compassion.

May 19, 2017


Why it happens:

Until he's 3 or 4, your child isn't really able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. What that means is that it's impossible for your 1- or 2-year-old to grasp the concepts of lying and telling the truth. His fibs may stem from:

-An active imagination: 

His creativity is developing so much that sometimes he may think that what he believes is the truth. Doesn't everyone have fish that swim in the bathtub with them? Or a princess under their bed?


How can an active 2-year-old remember who really had the Teletubby doll first? He just knows he wants it back now. And when you scold your child for the crayon marks on the wall and he says he didn't do it, he's not lying, he's simply forgotten he did it — or wishes so fervently he hadn't, he convinces himself he didn't.

    -The angel syndrome

A child who recognizes that his parents think he can do no wrong starts to believe it himself: "Mommy and Daddy love me because I'm so good. A good boy wouldn't spill his milk like that. What milk? I don't see any spilled milk!"

What to do:

It may seem counterintuitive — after all, you don't want to encourage lies — but the best way to handle this stage is to relax and enjoy your child's tall tales. Highly embroidered fantasies are generally harmless and part of a 2-year-old's normal development. After all, you read fairy tales to your child. Why shouldn't he offer some of his own?

The same goes for imaginary friends, says a famed pediatrician. Pretend pals are normal and signal a child's well-developed imagination. Even when your toddler blames a misdeed on his "friend," there's nothing to worry about. From an emotional standpoint, imaginary friends serve an important purpose: "They give a child a safe way to find out who he wants to be."

Though it's not worth punishing your 2-year-old when he embellishes the truth, you can gently nurture his instinct to be truthful in ways that make sense at this age. Here are some strategies:

Encourage truth-telling

Instead of getting mad at your child's misdeed, thank him for telling you about it. If you yell, he's unlikely to feel that honesty pays off.

Don't accuse

Couch your comments so they invite confession, not denial: "I wonder how those crayons got all over the living room carpet? I wish someone would help me pick them up."

Don't overburden your child. 

Don't weigh your child down with too many expectations or rules. He won't understand them or be able to follow them, and he may feel compelled to lie to avoid your disappointment.

Build trust

Let your child know that you trust him and that you can be trusted. Nothing is more important than making honesty your best policy. It's a parent's job to be a role model of trust. With this in mind, try — when you can — to avoid telling half-truths yourself. For example, if your child's due for a shot at his checkup, don't tell him it won't hurt. (He'll know in a second that it does.) Try to keep your word, and when you can't, apologize for breaking a promise. And best of all, praise your child whenever he tells the truth. (If he acknowledges that he ate the cookie, avoid the temptation to scold him and instead thank him for 'fessing up.) Positive reinforcement works wonders in making him feel that it's worth it to be on the up and up.

May 18, 2017


Why it happens:

Your 2-year-old thinks that the world and everything in it (including her parents) exists for her benefit. Not only that, but her short-term memory isn't well developed, which means your child's impulse to say things right now before she forgets actually has a physiological basis. Therefore, the very concept of interrupting makes no sense to your toddler. She can't grasp that there are other people and activities that sometimes require your attention or capture your interest. This perspective also means that whatever directs your attention away from her (a phone call, for example) is by nature threatening.

Having your child obliviously break in every time you're chatting with a friend or scheduling an appointment is exasperating, but if you keep her worldview in mind, you'll realize that she's not purposefully trying to drive you insane. And don't worry, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. By the time your child is 3 or 4, she'll begin to understand what an interruption is and what the request "Please don't interrupt" means, and her short-term memory will develop enough that she'll be able to hold on to a thought (for a couple of minutes, anyway).

What to do:

At this age, your best strategies are to reduce the number of situations in which your child's likely to bust up your conversations, and to divert her attention whenever she does interrupt. Here's how:

Pick the right locale

You can minimize your frustration by asking friends to meet you in a place where your child can play while the adults chat. A park with a sandbox is ideal — though your backyard might work fine.

Tag team

If you and your partner are getting together with another couple with a child, the perfect solution is for two of the adults to watch the kids while the other two socialize for half an hour or so and then switch roles. Also, while it might sound like an extravagance, getting a babysitter to watch your toddler while you take a coffee break with a friend can do wonders for your sanity.

Read & teach

A fun way to introduce the concept of polite behavior is to read your child such books as The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners, by Stan and Jan Berenstain, Babette Cole's The Bad Good Manners Book, Aliki's Manners, and the classic (and still charming) What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin, with delightful illustrations by Maurice Sendak.

Schedule phone calls:

Rather than battling it out every time the phone rings, the easiest solution is simply to make and return calls while your child is napping or after she's in bed for the night. Another tried-and-true solution: letting her watch TV or a favorite video, giving you a few uninterrupted moments. If you prefer not to use the TV, try redirecting your child's attention. You might want to keep a box or drawer of special toys or art supplies that get used only during phone calls. Or fill a sink with water and plastic cups for her to play with (as long as you can watch her), offer her a toy phone so she can talk with an imaginary pal, or invite her to participate by saying "hello." (Use this last suggestion judiciously if she's the gregarious type!) If your child tends to wander — or her attention does — putting a playpen stocked with interesting toys near the phone may be your best option. Getting a cordless phone can also help, as it'll let you move to a quieter room yet continue to watch her through an open doorway. On a sunny day you might try taking both the phone and your child into the backyard, where she'll find enough to do to grant you a few moments of peace. If your child isn't generally squirmy or if she's in a placid mood, holding and cuddling her while you talk might work; it will reassure her that she's important to you even when your attention is focused elsewhere.

 Model the behavior. 

Toddlers copy enthusiastically, so take advantage of this by setting a fine example for your child. If you and your partner tend to cut each other off, work on ending that habit. Also, try not to interrupt your child when she's talking to you. Any time you forget and break in on her (or anyone else), stop yourself and say, "Sorry. I interrupted you. Go on." With a little luck, your child will not only absorb your good manners but your ease in graciously admitting to a mistake. You'll also make your job easier down the road if she frequently hears you use "pardon me," "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," and "excuse me." While she can't yet put the principle behind these civilities into words, she'll sense it — because she'll find that it's pleasant to be around people who use them.

If at first you don't succeed, persevere: 

At times you may feel discouraged — your toddler butts in for the fourth time while you're having a heart-to-heart with a good friend, or she waves a toy truck in your face while you're trying to wind up an important phone call. But don't give up; it's important for both you and your child that she learn the basic social graces, and it won't happen overnight. Participating in polite, respectful conversation is an important step toward becoming a social human being. What's more, if you don't curb her habit of interrupting, your powers of concentration will eventually become so fragmented that you'll no longer be able to finish a thought whether she interrupts or not.

May 16, 2017


Aggression, hitting, and biting (ages 12 to 36 months):

Why are toddlers aggressive?

Shocking as it may be to you (and onlookers), aggressive behavior is a normal part of your toddler's development. Emerging language skills, a fierce desire to become independent, and undeveloped impulse control all make children this age prime candidates for getting physical.

"Some degree of hitting and biting is completely normal for a toddler," 

That doesn't mean you should ignore it, of course. Make sure your toddler knows that aggressive behavior is unacceptable, and show him other ways to express his feelings.

What can I do about aggression in my toddler?

Keep your cool. Yelling, hitting, or telling your child he's bad won't get him to make positive changes to his behavior – you'll just get him more riled up and give him examples of new things to try. But showing him you can control your temper helps him learn to control his.

Set clear limits:
Respond immediately whenever your toddler is aggressive. Remove her from the situation for a brief time-out (just a minute or two is enough). This gives her time to cool down, and after a while she'll connect her behavior with the consequence and figure out that if she hits or bites, she ends up out of the action.

Reinforce good behavior:
Rather than giving your child attention only when he's misbehaving, try to catch him being good. When he asks to have a turn on the swing instead of pushing another child out of the way, for example, praise him for verbalizing his desires. Reinforce good behavior with an offer to push his swing or play together. In time, he'll realize how powerful his words are.

Give logical consequences:
If your child gets into the ball pit at the indoor play center and starts throwing the balls at other kids, take her out immediately. As you sit down with her and watch the other kids play, explain that she can go back in when she's ready to join the fun without hurting other children.

Avoid lecturing or trying to reason with your toddler: 
It's likely she isn't capable yet of imagining herself in another child's place or changing her behavior based on verbal reasoning. But she can understand consequences.

Discipline consistently:
As much as possible, respond to each episode the same way each time. Your predictable response sets up a pattern that your child eventually learns to recognize and expect. Eventually it'll sink in that if he misbehaves, there will be consequences.

Teach alternatives:
Wait until your toddler has settled down, then calmly and gently review what happened. Ask her if she can explain what triggered her outburst.

Emphasize (briefly!) that it's natural to have angry feelings but it's not okay to show them by hitting, kicking, or biting. Encourage her to find a more effective way of responding, like using words to express herself or asking for help from an adult.

Encourage her to apologize after she lashes out at someone. Her apology may be insincere at first, but the lesson will sink in eventually.

Be mindful of screen time:
Cartoons, digital games, and other media designed for young children can be filled with shouting, threats, even shoving and hitting. Several studies suggest excessive screen time could contribute to children's behavior problems as they grow. Some experts are concerned that screen use interferes with children's social and emotional development as well.

If your child is at least 18 months old, limit his screen time to no more than an hour a day, and choose high-quality, age-appropriate media, especially if he seems prone to aggressive behavior. Watch shows with him, and check in on him when he's playing a game (or play it with him).

Discuss how characters work out conflicts and brainstorm better ways to resolve them. Don't keep the TV on in the background, and be sure not to expose him to more mature content for older viewers.

Keep your toddler active
You might find that when your toddler doesn't get a chance to burn off her abundant energy, she's a terror at home. If your child is high-spirited, give her plenty of unstructured time, preferably outdoors, to let off steam.

Get help if you need one:
Sometimes a child's aggression is more than a parent can handle. Talk to your child's doctor if:
       -Your child is unusually aggressive for more than a few weeks.

    -He seems to frighten or upset other children.

    -He attacks adults.

    -Your efforts to curb his behavior have little effect.

Together you can determine the source of the behavior problem and help your child overcome it. She can also recommend a counselor or child psychologist if necessary.