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July 12, 2024

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How to Handle Tough Stuff with Kids

From separations to tantrums, you're going to need techniques to handle the challenges of raising your toddler.

You sooo love your lil' darlin', but there come those moments — and there will be plenty of 'em — when you'll be lost for what to do. Here's a collection of trickier parenting issue with tips on how to handle tough stuff with kids:

Separation Anxiety

“It broke my heart to see my baby’s eyes fill with tears as I began to leave,” says Julie Anderson of Nashville.

TIPS: • Have the person staying with your child create a distraction, such as playing with a new toy. Say a quick “goodbye” and go.

• Remember that your child’s tears will subside within minutes of your departure.

• Help your child learn to cope with separation with short practice sessions at home. Separation is easier when he initiates it — so when he crawls into another room and out of your sight, don’t follow right away; wait a minute or two.

• If you have to go into another room, tell him where you’re going and that you’ll return. If he fusses, call to him instead of running back. Gradually, he’ll learn that nothing terrible happens when you’re gone and that you’ll come back.

Source: The Complete and Authoritative Guide for Caring for Your Baby and Young Child Birth to Age 5 by The American Academy of Pediatrics (Bantam; 2009)

Potty Training

I don’t believe those moms who say they potty trained their 18-month-old. Give me a break,” says Annabelle Boehnlein of Brentwood.

TIPS: • Most tots show an interest in the potty sometime between the ages of 2 and 3. It’s time to give it a try if your child shows interest in watching you, if he has regular dry diapers in the morning, or he doesn’t like a dirty diaper and wants it changed.

• Things that can help your child find success include limiting liquids after 6 p.m., rewarding him when he’s had a dry night or eliminated in the potty, and knowing that there will be accidents and being gentle about them.

• Make it easier on yourself so you don’t get frustrated with your child: Buy a waterproof mattress cover for quick clean-ups once you’ve moved to cotton underwear.

Source: Potty Training for Dummies by Diane Stafford and Jennifer Shoquist, M.D. (For Dummies Press; 2002)

Bye, Bye, BINKY!

“We tried mailing away his paci to another baby who needed one,” says Charlotte Johnson of Smyrna.

TIPS: • This is hard, but if you have older siblings, they can help weaken your child’s pacifier dependency by limiting your toddler’s boredom. Engage your little one with toys or distractions, and try to keep him active without it.

• Many toddlers fall asleep with a pacifier, only for it to fall underneath the crib while he sleeps. In trying to remove a pacifier altogether, start with nap time — tell him once he gets a good nap he can have his pacifier back.

• Try “5 Days to End the Paci.” Day 1: Tell your child the paci has to go away and he gets to choose how (send it away, give it to someone, etc.). Day 2: Begin substituting it for a favorite or new toy. Day 3: Use the paci only for bedtime. Day 4: Give fair warning that tomorrow is bye-bye day. Day 5: Give paci away altogether.


Toddler Sleep

“My little guy wakes up every night and comes into our room,” says April Becker of Franklin.

TIPS: • Start the wind-down process early in the evening, and try to follow the same routine every night, if possible.

• Help your toddler set his “biological clock.” Toddlers do well with an early bedtime (between 6:30 and 8 p.m.). Dim the lights an hour before bedtime and start your routine (warm bath, pajamas, story time). See if you can catch him in “yawn” mode before he kicks into “overdrive” mode.

• Night wakings will diminish as your child learns to put himself to sleep. If he comes into your room, it’s fine to let your child crawl in with you, unless you don’t want him to, in which case, return him to his own bed each time he does it. Eventually … slowly … he will learn to fall asleep on his own and put himself back to sleep in his own bed when he wakes during the night.

Source: Sleep Solutions by Rachel Waddilove (Lion Hudson; 2013)

Picky Eaters 

“My biggest regret is that I allowed the bargaining to ever happen,” says Nicole Koenig of Nashville.

TIPS: • Don’t force meals, but don’t offer snacks a lot, either.

• Serve meals at the same time of day, consistently. Offer liquids after food is eaten.

• Be patient with new foods; repeat exposure is needed for kids to try something new.

• Prepare one meal and have the family eat the meal. Try not to get into a routine of offering what the child wants and everyone else is eating something different.

• Prepare balanced meals with protein, vegetables and starch, and eat with your child.

• Minimize distractions at meal time: No iPads or TV at dinner!

• Try to eat with your child or as a family as much as possible.

Source: Whining and Dining by Emma Waverman and Eshun Mott (Random House; 2007)

Taming Tantrums 

“I remember whisking my screaming boy down the stairs and out the door at the old Davis-Kidd Bookstore,” says Editor Susan Day of Nashville.

TIPS: • Ignore the outburst as best as you can. When your child has a tantrum, his emotions have completely taken over so there’s no reasoning with him.

• Have distractions with you when you’re away from home for when a tantrum happens. Try switching gears if you can see your child’s on the verge of a meltdown, but if he erupts into screaming and crying, calmly collect him and exit the building.

• Try a hug. This may not be what you want to do in a hard moment, but it may be exactly what’s needed to help your child settle down. He may not quiet down, but at least he may feel comforted.

• Speak calmly or you’ll get into a power struggle. Remember, YOU are the parent and have to demonstrate your maturity here.

Source: The Mother of All Toddler Books by Ann Douglas (John Wiley & Sons; 2013)

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