Managing T.V. Time

Experts agree that too much TV is not healthy for kids. There are studies that associate high TV time with physical problems like obesity, heart disease and sleep disorders, as well as psychological symptoms like attention deficits and lack of focus. Violence on TV is believed to promote aggressive behavior in children and the values emphasized in TV shows are known to be internalized by the kids who watch them.

While most parents are in consensus that too much TV is not a good thing, not all are on the same page regarding how much TV is too much. Experts also disagree as to how much is enough – although some researchers peg 2 hours a day or less as a good number. But the issue is not really numbers, rather balance. Parents must ask themselves the question: does their child’s TV time keep him or her away from other important and valuable activities?

If you feel that your child is watching too much TV at the expense of time for other important activities, consider the following tips:

Children Need Parental Help in Structuring the Time Wisely
Studies have shown that engaging in social activities like playing, talking with peers or engaging in group activities, helps to promote neurological development. In other words, it would be a lot better for your child to relate with people than to stare at the television. There are other brain healthy activities as well such as doing puzzles, playing solitary challenge games, building with lego and other construction toys, playing with dolls and figurines, drawing, reading, do clay or creative crafts and so on and so forth. Hobbies like dance, gymnastics, music lessons, sports, collecting things, and so on all teach valuable skills and build competencies and confidence. The computer also offers some very valuable activities but take your time to explore the kinds of games and interactive learning opportunities that can really help your child grow and thrive. Even mindless computer games require more activity than watching T.V., but you will probably want to limit those to a small proportion of what your youngster is doing with his computer time.

Separate Eating from Watching
The reason why a lot of TV addicts are obese is because they can’t sense that they are already full. The human anatomy’s multitasking skill has limits. The brain is too busy processing what is being watched and listened to on the television, causing other functions to be compromised. If kids must eat while glued to the tube, give them just a few healthy (and low calorie) snacks to chew on.

Separate Sleeping from Watching
There are plenty of reasons for a child NOT to fall asleep watching T.V. For one thing, T.V. stimulates the brain, either interfering with the ability to fall asleep easily and naturally, or promoting an agitated sleep and disturbing dreams. In addition, having a T.V. in the bedroom encourages kids to isolate themselves from the rest of the family. While this may not be a major problem for older teens (who treasure their privacy in any case), it is not a healthy thing for children who still can benefit from plenty of family interaction. Finally, when a child is locked in his or her room with a black box, parents will easily lose track of the amount of time a child is in front of the T.V. and the situation can quickly get out of hand.

T.V. can be a Family Affair
If you want to control what your kids watch, be there with them! Transforming TV viewing as a family activity creates opportunities for discussions; parents can therefore protect their kids better from negative messages found in popular media.

Create TV Time Curfews and Consequences
Allot a specific amount of TV time per day and week. At the same time, put in any rules you desire about what kind of shows can be watched and not watched. For instance, do you want to allow young children to watch the news or sophisticated adult programming? Do you want them to have a certain amount of leisure T.V. like comedy shows, adventure, cartoons and so on, and a certain amount of educational shows on subjects like science, history, crafts, cooking and so forth? Or, do you want to let them watch whatever they want to watch within their time period? Think it through and then discuss it with them at a family meeting.

In addition, set up consequences for those who fail to abide by the house rules. You are the parent, trying your best to guide your child. This is not a debate between you and the child – remember, YOU’RE actually in charge in your home! Therefore, non-compliance with the rules should always result in a reasonable negative consequence (i.e. removal of the privilege of watching T.V. for a day or two – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for a detailed protocol on using negative consequences).

Homework Issues

While homework sometimes goes smoothly for some children and their parents – it often doesn’t! Homework issues abound, from kids who forget to do their homework, to kids who don’t want to do it, to kids who simply can’t do it. Let’s look at some common homework challenges and their solutions:

Inborn Homework Challenges
Some children are naturals when it comes to homework. They enjoy school work and tend to be independent and mature. They know what their homework is, they bring it home and do it and they take it back to school – all with no or minimal parental supervision. However, there are two other genetic homework profiles to consider: the “average” child and the “organizationally challenged” child. The average child would rather play than do homework. Like the average adult, this youngster tries to avoid unpleasant tasks as long as possible. Parents have to provide encouragement and structure for this kind of child, teaching him or her to settle down to the task and apply appropriate attention and effort. In the younger grades, parents may actually set the homework time and participate in the work itself with some of these youngsters, although some children in this group simply need to be pointed toward their desk. The average child may balk or dawdle, but eventually he or she cooperates and the task is completed. Smart parents try to make the time pass pleasantly with plenty of positive feedback, good humor and maybe even little niceties like milk and cookies. The average child might also benefit from and be receptive to some parental advice when it comes to homework: encouragement to take short breaks, for instance, or reminders to do the work carefully and neatly.

The organizationally challenged child often doesn’t bring his or her homework home. If it is brought home, it is wrinkled, crinkled and half-missing. If it is in one piece, it is too long or too hard or both. If it gets done, it doesn’t make it back to school. No matter how the parent tries to organize this child – providing special notebooks, folders and systems – the same organizational challenges present themselves year after year. This child’s brain is wired for creativity and many other positive attributes, but not for boring, detailed tasks like homework and not for the organizational abilities required to see it through. The wiring – being a built-in feature of this kind of brain – normally affects people throughout their life spans. Although they may eventually learn some tricks to help themselves work around organizational deficits, the best trick in adulthood is to get a good administrative assistant and/or spouse!

Teenagers & Homework
As these three homework “types” move into adolescence, the challenge for parents changes. The “organized and responsible” child never presented a real challenge and that likely remains the same throughout the teenage years. The “average” child who needed some coaxing in the grade school years, is now an adolescent and, like all adolescents, has much less tolerance for coaxing. At this age, a young person has a strong distaste for being told what to do and when and how to do it. If the parent was an unpleasant coaxer earlier on – that is, actually fought with the child over homework – the topic will be even more contentious now. However, even if the parent had been firm and patient in those earlier years, the teenage child now balks at explicit instructions.

What can parents of homework-allergic teens do? First of all, it is necessary to adopt strategies that are appropriate for the second decade. Compliments are welcome throughout the lifespan, so the occasional positive remark offered for responsible behavior can be employed. Too much praise for doing homework at this age is inappropriate, however. It would be the same if your spouse praised you regularly for getting up in the morning – more insulting than helpful! Once the children hit the teen years, the most important strategy is standing back. By that time, you will have expressed your philosophy of life and homework many, many times over. The child knows your views. Now is the time to let the child experience the consequences of not performing well. Here is where it becomes very hard for parents. In the teenage years, children need to deal with their own problems in order to develop the muscles for doing so later in life. Indeed, adversity breeds creativity, ingenuity and other coping skills. It is better to have learning opportunities in the teen years than in the years of adulthood that follow quickly after.

Most important, be aware of the possible consequences of your interventions. While the occasional reminder may be tolerated, many reminders might actually erode your parent-child relationship (and thereby, your overall power to positively influence your children). NEVER use anger. Even if the homework gets done, the personality of the child and your relationship with her may both be damaged as a result of anger. Moreover, academic success achieved this way is normally a temporary exception in the child’s life. Once the child is left to his or her own devices, he or she will regress to the default non-performance position. The most important strategy of all may be to reinforce your child’s natural talents and abilities and focus less on academic performance. Help him or her to find and maximize natural strengths. People normally succeed best in life by utilizing their God-given gifts. Strengthen these and by doing so, you will strengthen your youngster’s self-confidence, self-esteem, positive mood and desire to do his or her best. And that’s the best that you can do.

Parenting Style
Some parenting styles can contribute to homework issues in some children. For instance, when parents provide insufficient supervision for younger children, the kids sometimes figure out how to “work the system.” They learn that they can just show Mom and Dad a little effort and then, with no further reporting obligations, they can get back to their games or computer to have some real fun! Problems like this can be addressed by being more conscientious about checking to see if homework is complete and well done when children are still in grade school.  Close supervision of this kind is not generally appropriate for teens however. That age group must deal with the consequences of their poor study habits (such as low grades or teacher feedback) and make corrections on their own.

Sometimes, the learning style of the child affects the way homework is done. For instance, incomplete homework may be due to being too distracted to get the job done successfully. Perhaps your child’s study station is too noisy and busy for him to be able to concentrate for a long period of time. Some children do better with less hustle and bustle around them. If this is the case, try to make the homework location as protected as possible. This can sometimes be accomplished by putting a desk in a quiet part of the house or creating a homemade “study carol” by using cardboard boxes around the desk to block out the sights and sounds around. Of course, some children are distracted not so much by their external environment as by their internal environment – the chatter inside their heads. For instance, a child may start to do his arithmetic and then begin thinking about the numbers in a card trick he learned. This gets him thinking about what happened at recess and reminds him that he has to talk to his friend after school today. His mind flits on and on, from one topic to another and the arithmetic is no longer on the agenda. It’s just the way his brain works, moving from one thing to the next, making it quite challenging to focus on boring tasks like homework. The Bach Flower Remedy Chestnut Bud may help reduce the scattered tendencies when they are caused by an easily-distracted nature. or the Remedy Clematis might help if the child is prone to being “spacey” or engaging in daydreams. (You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.) If neither help, a professional assessment is in order. Sometimes the cuplrit is ADHD – attention deficit disorder; treatment may involve behavioral modification and/or medication. If your child does get distracted on a regular basis, a professional psycho-educational assessment can help determine the cause of the problem and the most appropriate forms of intervention.

Learning Disabilities or Challenges
Incomplete homework may also be an indication that your child is having problems with the lesson. After all, it’s not unusual for teachers to combine easy and hard questions in the same assignment to both interest and challenge a child. Perhaps your child breezed through the simple problems and then struggled with the more complicated ones. If failing to complete homework is a chronic and recurring issue, then consider the possibility that your child is having some difficulty with the task. If this is the case, an educational assessment may help locate the source of the difficulty. Ask your child’s teacher or pediatrician for a referral to someone who can diagnose a child’s learning problem. Sometimes tutorial services may help the child perform better and parents can arrange this help with or without having the child assessed. However, an assessment can point the way to the best interventions for the particular youngster.

Perfectionism and/or Anxiety
Failure to complete homework may also be a sign of anxiety regarding failure and/or evaluation. Maybe your child is motivated to start assignments, but dreads the idea of you or teachers checking his or her performance. For some kids, it is less threatening to think “I failed because I have incomplete work” than feeling “I failed because I wasn’t good enough.”

If this is the case, do what you can to take some of the pressure off of academics; help your child to relax and enjoy life by focusing on extracurricular activities, hobbies, exercise and relaxation. If these steps don’t help your anxious child to calm down around schoolwork, consider the possibility that the youngster is more anxious than he or she needs to be. Again, professional assessment can help determine whether professional intervention of some kind might be helpful. If home treatment is sufficient, you can offer Bach Flower Remedies (or, try the remedies first and if they seem to help within a few weeks, then further assessment and treatment may be unnecessary. However, if after a few weeks of treatment with Bach Flowers, your child’s anxiety is still interfering with schoolwork, it is likely time for a mental health assessment.) For a child whose self-imposed high standards are interfering with completion of schoolwork, you might try the Bach Larch (for fear of failure) and Rock Water (for perfectionism). Alternatively, an evaluation by a Bach Flower Practitioner can help determine if other remedies may be useful. You can also read up on descriptions of the 38 remedies in books and online and try up to 7 of those you think might be useful. Mix 2 drops of each one in a single 1oz. glass mixing bottle and put 4 drops into liquid (juice, water, milk, chocolate milk, tea, coffee, soda, etc.) 4 times a day until the child no longer seems to be experiencing tension and fear around homework issues.

Assessment and Intervention
As we have seen, many factors can impact on a child’s ability to do homework. If you have done everything you can and your child is still having homework problems, do try to arrange for a psychological assessment to help determine the source of his or her difficulty and to receive remedial recommendations and interventions.


One important parenting goal is to raise children who are independent. Hopefully, by the end of two decades of effort, parents have been able to teach their child to take care of him or herself in every way. When the young person leaves home, he or she should be able to cook, clean up, pay bills, manage money, do laundry, maintain healthy, hygienic personal standards and take care of him or herself in every other way. Training starts early in life: as soon as a little one can pull on his or her own socks, parents must stand back and give room for trial and error. While it seems easy in principle, in daily life teaching a child habits of self-care can be quite challenging.

In teaching your child to take care of him or herself, consider the following tips:

Baby Steps to Independence
At first, parents do EVERYTHING for a new human being – dressing the infant, grooming the infant, changing the infant’s diapers, washing the infant, carrying the infant, feeding the infant. As the child develops, we hope that he will be able to take over all of these functions. By toddlerhood we are hoping that the child can dress himself, brush his hair with a little parental assistance, toilet himself with minimal assistance, cooperate with the cleaning process (starting to learn to brush his teeth and use soap in the bathtub), walk about and feed himself using cutlery. By the time the child is in school, we expect that he can completely dress himself (perhaps with a little assistance for difficult snaps or buttons), brush his own hair, take care of his bathroom needs independently, brush his teeth, wash his face and bathe himself (with supervision), walk, run, cycle and perhaps skate and swim as well, and eat properly with a knife and fork.

Small Children Enjoy Being Helped by Their Parents
Very young children, and even kids up to 6 or 7 years old, enjoy parental attention and contact. Although they may be able to take their own clothing off or put new clothing on, they thrive on the feeling of being assisted. It reminds them of the “old days” when Mommy and Daddy nurtured them in every way possible, taking care of every tiny need. Now that they’re “big,” parents often abandon them to attend to the new baby in the family or just to do their own things. The young child misses the affectionate and gentle touch of the parent. An adult woman may be very skilled at putting her own coat on, but this doesn’t stop her from feeling oh so special if her special man holds it up for her to slip her sleeves into! In a similar vein, it is fine to assist young children in their dressing and grooming activities even though the child is capable of doing everything on his own. This sort of assistance is just one way of showing love and affection. Don’t do EVERYTHING for the child, however, as this may actually stunt his development. Rather, it’s fine to hand him his second sock as he is putting on his first one or help zipper up his pants after he pulled them on himself. Make sure that the child can, in fact, perform all the tasks adequately by giving him plenty of opportunity to demonstrate competence. Offer assistance in different ways rather than just the same way every time. This helps ensure that the child gets to practice his skills. Unless your child is severely disabled, you have every reason to expect that he’ll be able to perform all acts of self-care during the period of childhood; you needn’t worry that assisting him will somehow prevent his normal development.

Teach Your Child
Actually sit down and show small children how to get dressed, comb hair, brush teeth and so on. It’s fine to repeat aspects of the basic lessons with older kids as well. Some children need verbal instructions and demonstration – with everything broken down into small chunks. Don’t assume your child already knows what she is supposed to do. If the child needs practice, try to make it short and pleasant – even a form of “quality time.” Older kids can learn more indirectly. Bring home library books along with books on all sorts of other interesting subjects. Leave them in the bathroom and around the table. There are books on fashion, style, image and all aspects of personal appearance. If you feel your child needs a gentle hint, leaving such books around can be useful. An uninvolved party is delivering the important information. Similarly, local libraries may carry DVD’s on the subject. For teens who cannot get themselves together nicely, consider a consultation with a personal style consultant. Such a person can show your child how to pick out fashionable clothing, make-up and hair styles. A consultation such as this can give the child necessary confidence as well as skills.

Allow Time and Permit Failure
Whether you are encouraging your toddler to put on his own snow pants or encouraging your teen to get a driver’s licence, you need patience and a tolerance for the learning process. Everyone learns by trial and error. You can get your 5 year-old dressed faster so it’s very tempting to just grab those clothes and dress the child yourself when you’re in a rush to get to work. However, your child really needs the practice in order to become independent. Doing everything for your child not only delays skill-building, but may actually interfere with the child’s normal development.

The solution? Start the morning routine earlier to allow for time for the child to develop skills. Once your child knows how to dress herself, brush her teeth, do her hair, make her bed, get herself some breakfast and make her own lunch – you’ll have a much easier morning! It’s worth the investment of your time up front to help your child learn each skill.

Self-care for older children involves more complex tasks like thoroughly cleaning their own rooms, knowing how to cook healthy meals, knowing how to clean up afterward, knowing how to use the washing machine and dryer and wash clothing by hand, knowing how to get into bed at a decent hour and how to get up independently in the morning. It can also involve knowing how to apply for a job, take public transportation or learn to drive, go to work, purchase personal items, use a credit card and manage money. Of course, teens also need to be responsible for taking regular showers, brushing their teeth and arranging for regular medical and dental check-ups. Children grow into these skills over the second decade of life – but only if their parents encourage them to do so and give them opportunities to spread their wings.

Emphasize the Positive
Look for the “right” part of whatever the child is trying to do. If she is learning to wash her own hair, praise as much as possible before correcting her. For instance, tell her she is using the right amount of shampoo and you like the way she is scrubbing hard. Then, if correction is necessary, keep it short and emphasize what needs to be done, rather than what she is doing wrong. For instance, instead of saying, “you didn’t rinse all the shampoo out of your hair,” try saying, “you need to rinse a little longer to get all the shampoo out of your hair.” Obviously children need lots of guidance before they can become competent at any aspect of self-care. In order not to discourage them, ensure that your positive feedback far outweighs your negative feedback. If a small child has gotten dressed all by himself, it is more important to applaud his independence than to point out that his pants don’t match his shirt. All people go from strength to strength. Letting the child know that he is on the right track helps him to continuously improve.

Use Positive Reinforcement and/or the CleaR Method
Use simple praise to reinforce attention and competency in self-care routines. Trying telling a young child, “I like the way you got dressed all by yourself and so quickly!” To an older child you can offer, “You look really nice today. I really like the way you color-coordinated that outfit.” To a teen, you might quietly utter “Hmmm… someone smells nice!” When a child allows you to help him with a task the he needs help with (i.e. a 5 year-old who can’t tie up his shoe laces), you can praise his cooperative attitude: “Thanks for letting Mommy show you how to do this.” When a youngster struggles and struggles with some difficult article of clothing, finally succeeding at getting it on (or off), you can say, “I like the way you persevered with that! You worked hard and it paid off!”

The CLeaR Method takes praise a step further through commenting and labeling positive behavior and then providing a reward for such behavior. This can be especially important when a child has been having a very hard time learning some aspect of dressing or self-care and especially when the child’s attitude toward the task has been very negative. For instance, if your 5 year-old has been refusing to button his own clothing and finally relents, doing the whole job himself, you can Comment: “You did up all the buttons yourself today!” Then you can offer a Label such as “You’re a good dresser.” Finally, you can offer a reward for the effort he put forth, “You know, since you worked so hard at that today, I think I’ll make your favorite pancakes for breakfast this morning!.” You can say to a child brushing her hair properly, “You did a very nice job brushing your hair this morning (Comment). You’re getting to be very competent at that (Label). Do you need any new hair accessories? I’ll be in the store today (Reward).”

Some Kids Have Problems that Interfere with Self-Care
Ask your pediatrician about normal developmental milestones. If your child is not able to put his shirt on or use a fork properly or perform some other physical act as skillfully as you expect him to by his age, you might consider the possibility of some sort of perceptual deficit , muscle weakness or other problem. Alternatively, problems with following directions may make it difficult for the youngster to perform a complex task that has many steps. Short-attention span can lead to similar difficulties. Similarly, auditory processing difficulties, gross motor skills, immaturity, a mental health diagnosis and a host of other issues can impact on self-care performance. If your child is lagging behind his or her peer group in self-care activities, seek professional assessment. The sooner you intervene to give corrective treatment, the sooner your child can make progress. Young children can learn rapidly. However, if you don’t identify a lag in development, you are not giving your child the chance to receive the help he or she needs.

Child Ignores Alarm Clock

Whoever invented the snooze function in the alarm clock, is both a genius and a fool. The “genius” element stems from the fact that people don’t like to just suddenly jump out of bed in the morning – they crave a more gradual wake-up process, allowing body and mind to adjust to the new day in a series of small steps. When an alarm rings or buzzes, the sleeper wakes up, but by hitting the snooze function, he or she can drift back to sleep. The alarm sounds again and wakes the person again and the person hits it again, falling asleep again – but not very deeply. After a number of times of sleeping, hitting and waking, the person finally becomes alert and ready to start the day. The “fool” component of snooze alarms is that they actually train a person to IGNORE the alarm clock and continue to sleep in. Whereas the alarm is supposed to get the person out of bed, the snooze function allows them to stay in bed indefinitely!

If your child belongs to the “just one more minute” club, consider the following tips in weaning him or her off the habit:

Buy an Alarm with No Snooze Function
If your child knows that the first ring is the only chance of getting up on time, he or she might be more inclined to respond to that first ring.

Set a Limit for Snoozes
Buy an alarm clock that has limited snoozes allowed. Or perhaps an alarm clock that can be set for only one or two snooze hits. This way your child still gets to hit the snooze button— but not so many times that they end up sleeping in too late.

Be the Snooze Button
Snooze alarms are tempting to disobey because they are just machines – they don’t give you a disappointed look or a jarring physical shake. And if your child’s relationship wit the snooze button is really dysfunctional, perhaps you as a parent can help out. Once you hear the first alarm, just quietly enter the room and check if your child is already awake. If not, give them 2-5 minutes, and then wake them yourself by turning on the light, opening the blinds and talking to them or singing to them until they show signs of life or until 3 minutes have passed (whichever comes first). Leave the room and let your child get him or herself out of bed. The trick is to help but not to actually replace an alarm clock. Ultimately, your child has to learn how to get him or herself out of bed. Y

Place the Alarm Clock Far Away
Another technique is to just make it extremely difficult for your child to go back to sleep once the alarm has gone off. One way of doing this is to place the clock all across the room. This way, your child will have to stand up, walk to the clock, hit the snooze button, and travel all the way back to bed before he or she can resume sleeping. By the time your child’s head has hit the pillow again, he or she will be fairly awake already from the standing and the walking.  You might also consider the new “annoying” alarms that are available on the market – alarms that jump madly all over the room (and the child) until they are turned off, alarms that have a “boom” that will awaken the whole street, and alarms that get louder and louder, the longer they are left ringing.

Following the same principle, you may install many alarm clocks, and place them in different places. If your child has to attend to more than one ringer, he’ll be awake by the time he or she gets to the last!

Instill Healthy Sleeping Habits and Better Time Management Skills
At the end of the day, the best way to get children to rise on time is to ensure that they’ve had adequate sleep and that they know how to get themselves into bed at a reasonable time. Young children need to be regulated – it’s up to parents to establish bedtime routines and times. As the child gets older, however, he or she will have greater personal responsibility for getting into bed at the right time in order to get enough sleep. Parents can help by setting up negative consequences for failure to be in bed on time. For instance, a child who is supposed to be in bed at 9:15 but is wandering around the house or still playing on the computer at that time, may be subject to a rule that has been established such as, “failure to be in bed on time costs you X amount of your allowance dollars” or “failure to be on time means that I will not help you wake up in the morning” or whatever.

Use Consequences
Alternatively, make consequences for failing to be on school on time. Then leave it up to the child to figure out how to get out of bed by him or herself. Don’t tell the child what time to go to bed or how to get up. If the child really doesn’t like the consequence, the child will figure out how to use his or her alarm clock appropriately

Grumpy or Abusive Upon Awakening

Parent: “Good morning, sweetie. Breakfast is ready – come get it before it gets cold!”
Child: “Get out of my room! “

Mornings can be quite stressful when you’re dealing with a grumpy child. Morning grouches can range all the from snappy and irritable to rude, mean and/or aggressive. They may be also be contrary, uncooperative or outright defiant. In many cases, they can spoil the day before it’s even started.

Sometimes morning grouches are totally pleasant people at any other hour of the day; sometimes they are the logical manifestation of a routinely negative temperament. Whether they are full time grumps or just morning grumps, parents need to know how to get them up and running.

What can parents do with children who are grumpy or hostile upon awakening? Consider the following tips:

Your Child Simply isn’t a Morning Person
It’s the same for children as it is for adults: some are night owls; others are morning people. Whether it’s innate personality, or an inborn biological clock, it may be best to understand that the youngster is “morning-challenged.”  It’s O.K. to accept some morning moodiness, but do not accept bad behavior – including rudeness, violence or any other unacceptable behavior. It’s O.K. if the child cannot greet you with smiles and sunny cheer. It’s not O.K. if the child is unpleasant or mean.

Consider Sleep Factors
Some children and teens are miserable in the morning because they are sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation can occur as a result of too little sleep (going to bed too late), but it can also occur as a result of poor quality sleep (i.e. caused by sleep apnea or other sleeping disorders). If your child is going to sleep too late, take steps to make sure that he or she goes to bed earlier. However, if your child is going to sleep at the right time, consider speaking to your child’s doctor about the morning issues and ask for a sleep assessment. What you might have judged to be poor behavior might actually be a health disorder.

Make it Pleasant
In less drastic cases, the creation of morning rituals may be enough to ward off the morning grumps. Some children wake up stressed and/or anxious about the day ahead. Rituals are very soothing, especially for the very young. If you have a young child who has mood issues in the morning, perhaps charting a structured morning routine can help. Use your imagination and make it fun as well as easy to follow: songs, poems, and stories may help move the morning routine along. For school-age kids, read a couple of knock-knock jokes instead of offering the traditional “time to get up” notice.  Consider using a funny or fun alarm clock – this can work nicely for teens too. Or, use a graduated alarm clock that uses light and pleasant tones to gently awaken the slumbering child. Play the child’s favorite music on speakers. Keep the atmosphere light and positive. Spray the room with calming essential oils or – in the case of aggressive morning kids – Rescue Remedy spray. When your child does show any sign of improvement, make sure to offer acknowledgement, praise and even reward – you want to encourage him to continue to work in the right direction.

Use Discipline if Necessary
Some kids (and adults!) are rude in the morning simply because they can be. No one is stopping them. And yet, these same youngsters suddenly improve their ways when someone “lays down the law.” Showing a zero tolerance for morning abuse, backed up by appropriate consequences, can stop morning abuse in its tracks. Remember, you’re not asking your child to feel happy about having to get up in the morning; you are only demanding that the child act in a respectful manner no matter how tired, irritated or displeased he or she might be feeling. Use the 2X-Rule to structure a plan of discipline. The next time your child is verbally abusive or otherwise disrespectful in the morning, tell him or her the new rule: “It’s not O.K. to speak to me in an unpleasant tone of voice or to say unpleasant words because everyone deserves to be treated with respect at all times. If you are in a bad mood in the morning, that is fine, but you need to speak and act respectfully nonetheless.”  Then, when the child behaves inappropriately on another day, repeat the rule and add the warning of consequences to come. For instance, “If you are in a bad mood in the morning, that is fine, but you need to speak and act respectfully nonetheless. And from now on, when you behave this way, such & such consequence will occur.” Name a specific negative consequence (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for more details about the 2X-Rule and for ideas about selecting age-appropriate consequences). On the third occasion of rudeness or lack of cooperation, apply the consequence. Use the same consequence as long as you are seeing improvement in the morning rudeness but, if after 3 or 4 times of using the same consequence there is still no improvement, change the consequence and try again.

Consult a Professional
If you have tried all these interventions and your child is still grumpy upon awakening, do consider speaking to your child’s pediatrician about the issue.

Wakes Up Too Early

Many young children rise with the sun – which can be way too early for their exhausted parents. Indeed, it is not unusual for a parent to be waking up several times a night to tend to an infant and then to have to deal with a toddler or pre-schooler who is up at 5:45 a.m. These little people often toddle into the parental bedroom asking for help in going to the bathroom or wanting to climb into bed or asking for something to eat or drink. Loveable as they might be, they are NOT who parents want to see at that hour of the morning.

If your young child wakes up too early for your liking, consider the following tips:

Try to Change Your Child’s Sleep Cycle
If your child currently goes to bed at 7:00 p.m. and wakes up at 5:30 a.m., try changing his or her bedtime to an hour or more later. In other words, keep the child awake (by whatever means you can devise!) until 8 p.m. every night. Since the child still needs the same number of hours of sleep in order to feel refreshed, chances are good that he or she will sleep in to a more civilized hour.

Something that might also help is blacking out the child’s room. Use heavy light-blocking blinds to prevent light from pouring into the child’s room. This might help the youngster stay asleep longer.

Teach Independent Skills
If your child gets up too early for you, teach him what to do until you awaken later. Make a rule that the child is NOT allowed to wake you up EXCEPT for those conditions that you establish. For instance, you might give the child permission to wake you to help him or her in the bathroom. However, after helping the child, YOU go back to sleep and the child engages in independent activities (that you establish beforehand). However, many children who wake too early are quite capable of taking themselves to the bathroom. If so, make sure that everything the child might need is ready for him in the bathroom. For instance, make sure the light is on, any potty or toilet seat is already prepared and a stool is in place for handwashing. Similarly, make sure that toys, games and even snacks are available for the child in his room in the case that he wakes before you. If you have a computer or similar instrument the child can use, have it charged up and ready-to-go with a tap of some chubby fingers. Insist that the child amuse himself in his room – or in another designated room. Under no circumstances is the child welcome in your room to play or eat. However, if the child wants to lie down in your room after awakening early, he can do that – on a small mattress on the floor without talking to anyone.

Once you establish your morning “rule,” you may have to use negative consequences to reinforce it. This means that you will have to warn the child that waking you up will result in a punishment for the child. For instance, you can say something like, “from now on, if you wake Mommy or Daddy up in the morning, you will not have your chocolate milk treat for breakfast.”  Pick some consequence you think will motivate the child to wait for you to wake up. Do not attempt to use anger to get your child to stay in his room or his bed; not only will it not work, but it provides a poor model of frustration control and pro-relationship problem-solving strategies. Simple rules with simple consequences are most potent and least harmful.

Alternatively, you may use positive reinforcement instead of negative consequences. Every morning that the child manages to entertain himself until you wake up earns the youngster a point. Let the child earn a few points and then trade the points in for a small prize. Then tell the child he now has to earn more points, but when he does succeed, he gets a bigger prize. Then tell the child he gets a point for each successful morning, but now needs even more points and will get an even bigger prize. End the period of practice with even more points that lead to a grand prize (something the child has long-wanted.) During this period, do NOT punish unsuccessful mornings: the implied punishment is the loss of the point for that morning, thereby delaying the opportunity to receive his reward.

Reduce the Payoff
When your child tries to wake you up in the morning, be careful NOT to give high quality attention. Don’t speak loudly. In fact, try not to wake up completely even if you have to tend somewhat to your child’s needs. Through your behavior, show your child that it is not time to start the day. If possible, stay in your bed and don’t even talk. If you must talk, whisper and say few words. Give minimal attention only. When it is wake-up time, however, do the opposite: give high quality, happy morning attention. Let the child see the difference between your sleeping state and your awakened state. Be patient, firm and consistent. Your child will soon catch on that early morning is not a time that you will be available to tend to his needs.

Wakes Up Too Frequently

Like adults, children can wake up in the night.  They may do so for any number of reasons, depending on their age, health and unique characteristics. However, when a child awakens in the night, other members of the household may be disturbed (i.e. siblings sleeping nearby or parents in their own room). If nighttime awakenings happen only on rare occasions, it’s not a big problem. But what if a child routinely wakens in the night and does so more than one time?

If your child wakes up too frequently, consider the following tips:

Babies Naturally Wake Up Often
Newborns and infants wake to feed every 90 minutes or so. There’s not much that can be done for this age group; they’re SUPPOSED to wake up in the night every couple of hours. The best solution for tired parents is to try to catch a few naps in the daytime. Sleep when the baby sleeps in those early weeks and for as long as you can manage it. Some people are able to afford night nurses so that they can sleep through those night wakings, but many cannot. Some couples trade off in the night, so that each one only loses half the sleep. Some people take the newborn into bed with them, finding this less exhausting than having to get out of bed and walk down the hall to another room, or even to get out of bed and go to the baby’s cradle in the same room. Some folks can afford daytime help that allows them to take a generous snooze in daylight hours. Those who have only the one baby or other kids in school, can and should try to nap when the baby naps. The good news is that this stage of life eventually passes and babies will sleep for longer stretches. Some babies will actually sleep right through the night from 8 or 9 months of age. Some will accomplish this later – say at 14 or 16 months. And some, will not sleep right through the night until they are 6 years old!

Toddlers Still Seek Parental Comfort at Night
While some toddlers sleep through the night without interruption, there are many who don’t. In this latter group, some children awaken just once and then settle back to sleep for the night. Some want a little parental presence, while some want a lot (i.e. they want to climb into the parents’ bed). If parents provide that presence (either by letting him in their bed or by patting him back to sleep), some of these little ones will just go back to sleep for the rest of the night. If you are fine with that, go ahead and let it happen. All kids eventually outgrow the need and desire to sleep in their parents’ bed. However, if you prefer to train your child to stay in his own room for the duration of the night, you will have to do a bit of nighttime sleep training.

To begin with, you need to understand that parental touch and presence is comforting and pleasant for small children. When little kids enter a light sleep cycle, they often call out for this touch or presence. If parents are willing to pat the child back to sleep, or talk to him or hold him and rock him, then the little night-waker may expect this service each time he wakes up in the night. In order not to have to provide it, you will want to create a scenario in which the child must soothe HIMSELF back to sleep. Once you accomplish that, the little one will put himself back to sleep after waking in the night.

Parental Consistency is Key
Put your little one to bed in the usual way. Provide a night light, soft toy and other comforts and then leave the room. If the child wakes up and calls for you, you can come to the room – but do not pick up the child or touch him. Simply tell him that it’s late and he should go back to sleep. Then leave. If he calls again, wait a bit and then come back and tell him the same thing. Don’t stand too close – it’s best to stand in the doorway. Each time he calls for you, wait a little longer before coming. The idea is to provide reassuring presence without providing reinforcing contact. When the child figures out that he’s not going to get much out of this and it’s getting to be hard work for little payoff, he usually stops calling for parents and just stays asleep. Keep in mind that if you decide to do this with your child, you cannot interrupt the process by taking the child into your bed. Some parents make exceptions and let the child come into their bed when he is sick or when he has been crying for a long time or even when THEY are just too tired to deal with it. Providing these exceptions causes the child to learn that it’s worth staying up and screaming for as long as possible because it might just yield some positive results! If you take the child into your room even once in awhile, it can become impossible to get him to stop waking up in the night.

School-Aged Children Wake for Different Reasons
When bigger children are waking up frequently in the night, there is something wrong. Some kids are fearful of sleeping in their own room or being separated from their parents. Whereas such feelings are common for two and three year-olds, their existence in kids over six might indicate the presence of some anxiety. A mental health professional should be consulted. Some kids wake up because of various health problems. Always have a pediatrician do a full workup to determine if a physical condition is causing the frequent waking. For instance, it is possible that the child suffers from a breathing difficulty known as “sleep apnea.” If doctors have agreed that there is no emotional or physical cause for frequent nighttime awakenings, then you can safely use behavioral interventions to help the child. As for younger children, make it clear that you expect the child to stay in his or her own room. Let the child know that YOU need your sleep and you will NOT be tending to his or her needs once it’s night. Provide the child with books, crayons or puzzles to entertain him or herself with, should awakening occur. Make it clear that no one can be disturbed, including other children in the house. When the child sees that everyone is sleeping and no one is coming to look after him or her, the child usually decides to stay asleep. However, if your child insists on coming into your room and disturbing you, feel free to inform him or her that causing you to wake up will result in a (significant) negative consequence the next day. If necessary, be sure to apply the consequence (show the child you mean business!). Be consistent. Apply the consequence each day that follows night time disturbance. Hopefully, the child will soon get your point. If he or she fails to learn, see a professional counselor for further suggestions.

Sleeping Issues

There are many sleeping issues that babies, children and teens may have. Many of them are the “normal” sleeping issues that almost all parents deal with in the course of raising children: in one way or another, the child isn’t sleeping enough. Perhaps the child isn’t sleeping right through the night, or isn’t going to sleep early enough, or is waking too early. It’s true that some kids wake up too late, but those children usually went to bed too late also. (It’s also true that some kids go to bed on time and get up late, meaning they are getting too much sleep, but this is a relatively rare sleeping problem that is usually attended to by the child’s medical doctor.)

However, there are other fairly common sleeping issues that youngsters may have includiing some of the following:

  • suffering from night terrors (screaming with fear without dreaming, can’t be consoled, forgetting it happened)
  • suffering from nightmares (experiencing scary dreams, usually remembered upon waking)
  • experiencing insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep)
  • suffering from restless leg syndrome (painful or uncomfortable sensations in the limbs that disturb sleep)
  • breathing problems like sleep apnea (interrupted breathing that causes snoring and/or waking throughout the night)
  • sleep-walking
  • experiencing unrestful sleep
  • tooth grinding

There are also other, more rare, disturbances of sleep that can affect people of all ages. If your child has any sleeping problem whatsoever, consider the following tips:

Common Causes of Sleep Issues
The “normal” sleep issues are caused by childhood! Babies just want to be with their parents 24/7 and suck and snack throughout the night. Toddlers also want to be with their parents and tend to wake with the sun. School-aged and older don’t like to go to bed – they are too enthused by life and all its stimulating activities. Adults also often have that problem! In our modern society, light bulbs give us the opportunity to keep  active all hours of the day and night and with the exception of a small number of children, adolescents and adults, most people want to stay up too long.

In addition, dietary factors may affect sleep. Having too much caffeine in the evening (available in soda as well as chocolate, coffee and tea) can cause excessive wakefulness at bedtime. Sugar can do the same.

Many sleep problems can be caused by physical and emotional issues. For instance, depression, anxiety and ADD/ADHD are just a few of the many disorders that can affect a child’s ability to sleep well througout the night. Depression can cause wakenings between 1 and 3a.m. or early termination of sleep around 4:30 or 5a.m. Anxiety in the form of “separation anxiety” can prevent children from sleeping happily in their own rooms or their own beds. ADHD can cause problems in settling down to sleep, staying asleep, or feeling rested by sleep. Physical conditions such as chronic pain, itching, breathing problems, endocrine and metabloic diseases, neuromuscular disorders and many other conditions can interrupt sleep.  There are also substance-induced sleep disorders caused by alcohol, illegal drugs and medicines.

What can Parents Do?
The normal sleep issues are best addressed by healthy sleep routines (see the articles on “bedtime problems” on this site). Understand that babies and small children normally wake many times in the night and eventually outgrow this practice (with or without help from their parents). You can read all the sleep books you want, but if your child still has waking issues, keep in mind that this is normal in kids up to around 5 years old or so. Nonetheless, always describe your child’s sleeping difficulties to your pediatrician just to rule out medical causes.

Helping Them Fall Asleep
Some babies, kids and teens have trouble getting into sleep mode. They cannot settle down either emotionally or physically or both. It’s as if their “on button” is stuck in the “on” position! These children can benefit from a wide range of interventions that your pediatrician, naturopath and mental health professional can suggest. Be prepared to spend time and effort in experimentation – it takes professionals awhile to diagnose the cause of sleep-onset disturbances and it takes parents time to see which interventions will make a positive difference. Don’t blame your child for having this sort of trouble. He’s probably not very happy with the situation either. Older children and teens may be able to participate in their “cure” by learning relaxation techniques (meditation, visualization, breath work) or modifying their habits (to include more exercise, dietary changes, quieting activities in the evening). Even so, the “how-to” of good sleep hygiene may have to come from a professional rather than the parent. Somehow kids take outside “authorities” more seriously than Mom and Dad.

Getting Them Back to Sleep
It would be less of a problem if those children who woke up didn’t wake their parents up! If they would wake up and then just turn over and go to sleep, it would actually be a totally normal process – humans don’t actually tend to sleep 8 hours straight without interruption. Rather, they wake up frequently during the night but then go quickly back to sleep. Parents work hard to help their youngsters stay asleep all night, but their efforts would be better directed to helping children soothe themselves back to sleep. Again, a team of professionals may be helpful in this regard, offering self-help strategies ranging from relaxation strategies to sniffing essential oils that have been prepared for the occasion. Breathing problems can contribute to frequent waking, as can other physical health conditions, so it is important to talk to your child’s doctor about this symptom. In fact, be sure to tell your child’s doctor everything you can about your child’s sleeping problems. Even if everything checks out fine on the physical front, parents will want to do something up their child’s night time wakefulness. Naturopaths may be of assistance: professional herbalists, for instance, can sometimes create a special tea for the child that will strengthen the youngster’s ability to sleep deeply and steadily through the night. Homeopaths may be able to address the condition as well. Sometimes hypnotherapists or child therapists will have expertise in this area as well. Sometimes nothing will help the child stay asleep, but parents can still help the child to stay in his bed – mental health professionals can provide techniques ranging from positive reinforcement to negative consequences.

Consult a Professional
In any case of sleeping issues, do consider consulting your child’s pediatrician for further advice and guidance.

Sleep Routines While Travelling

A holiday or vacation with children is not always completely relaxing. One of the challenges in travelling with kids is their reaction to the disruption of their normal sleep patterns and routines. Children are often even more sensitive than adults to sleep cues – like their own room, their own bed and their regular times for lying down and getting up. All of this is gone once they leave the comfort of home and many kids find it very hard to settle down to sleep as a result. Add to this the normal challenges of travel such as change in diet, the stress of travel itself and adjusting to changes in time zones and you often find yourself with a crew of cranky, sleepless kids!

How can parents help their babies, toddlers and children adjust to sleep disturbances during holidays and vacations?

Minimize the Changes in Their Sleep Routine
In all situations, adjusting to change is easier when change is kept to a minimum. If they nap in the afternoon, then plan activities around their afternoon nap. If they sleep until 10 am, then don’t travel until ten. If they like to sleep with lots of pillows and toys around them, make sure you pack those extra pillows and toys. The less change, the better.

Prepare Them for the Change
Infants can be gradually desensitized to changes in routine, so that the vacation or holiday is not a shock for them. For example, if your destination has a warmer climate than where you live, then turn the temperature in their room a fraction of a degree higher in the days before your trip. If they will be sleeping in a large bed at a hotel instead of a crib, then transfer them to your bed the week before the holiday. If your children are old enough, show them pictures of the place you are travelling to including the city and the place where you will be staying. If you have a picture of the bedroom you’ll be using, all the better! Sometimes you will be able to provide actual photos (for example, when you pick a hotel on an Internet travel site or when you are staying with relatives and you have photo’s of their home and town), and sometimes you’ll be able to use pictures of the city garnered from computer or travel books.

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
The Bach Flower Remedy Walnut can be given to a child 4 times a day starting the week before traveling in order to help the child adjust more easily to changes in routines, foods, and environment. Walnut is the transition flower, increasing a person’s flexibility and making change easier on the body and mind. Bach Flower Remedies are available at health food stores and on-line. Two drops in a small glass of liquid, given 4 times a day, is the optimal dosage. You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online, in books, and throughout this site.

Expect Over-Excitement at First
Many adults have trouble sleeping in a new environment and travelling kids usually have more trouble. They are often overstimulated by the new experiences they are encountering and overexcited about the trip. This affects their brain chemistry, making it much harder for them to relax their little bodies and minds enough to settle into a quality sleep. If they’re too “wide awake” the first night or two of travel, don’t insist that they go to bed; they’re just going to lie awake for hours waiting for their adrenaline to settle! Let them stay up a little later, but wake them at the regular time in the morning. After a couple of nights, they should be good and tired and more able to sleep despite continued feelings of excitement.

Bring the Usual Gear
The place may not be familiar to your child, but the bedding, pillowcases, blanket and huggable toys can be the same. If you can bring stuff that kids associate with their sleep routine at home to your holiday or vacation, it won’t hurt and it just might help!

Be Flexible
If your very young children wish to sleep with you (in your room or in your bed) while on a short vacation, it’s fine to let them do it. They’ll be home soon and you can get them back into their normal routines in their own rooms. However, vacation stays can be so disorienting that small children really need the comfort and stability of their parents near by. This isn’t the time to insist on independence. Try to provide the kids with the security they need. You can (and should be) firm, once you get home.

Gradually Ease Them Out of the Holiday Routine Upon Getting Home
Kids don’t just need to adjust during your holiday proper; they may also need to adjust upon returning home! This is especially true if the vacation is bit long, like the entire summer. Upon getting home, be flexible. If your child is still attached to the vacation routine, just try to wean him or her out of it slowly. It helps to allow a week’s transition time between the vacation and daycamp or school, just so that the child can get used to going to sleep and waking up on a stricter, probably earlier, schedule.

Always Late

Some people are always late. Children, teens and adults can all be afflicted with the lateness syndrome. If you are always late, cure YOURSELF before trying to cure your child. However, if you’re a prompt parent dealing with an always-late child, consider the following tips:

There Are Many Reasons for Arriving Late
First, let’s differentiate between “excuses” and “reasons.” When a child says she was late for school because her alarm didn’t go off, she is giving an excuse. Blaming traffic, weather conditions, alarm clocks, losing things and so on does not actually explain late behavior – these are all excuses. A reason for lateness is a statement that actuallyexplains why the person is late. For instance, “I didn’t allow enough time for bad traffic conditions,” explains why traffic conditions caused the person to be late. There’s ALWAYS traffic conditions! Why does that make some people late while other people are still on time? Because some people allow enough time for things to go wrong and some people leave themselves no “wiggle room” for ordinary life events. Similarly, weather conditions happen all the time. Failing to allow for weather is what causes only some people to be late while others are still on time. In other words, people who arrive on time understand and utilize the principles of time management whether or not they are doing so consciously. They know that you have to allow for “unforeseen events” every time you make an appointment to be somewhere. If unforeseen events don’t happen, they’ll arrive a little early. They can prepare for that eventuality planning for it – bringing some reading material, handheld devices or whatever, to keep busy for a few minutes before the appointed time arrives. Chronically late people don’t want to wait. Therefore they leave at the last minute so that they’ll arrive “just on time.” This does not allow for the necessary “wiggle time” – they will be late a lot of the time.

There Are No Consequences for Arriving Late
If the school does not give detentions or other immediate punishments for being late, children may not feel that they need to be on time. Or, if the detention period isn’t unpleasant, then the child may not care that he or she received a punishment. Schools who are serious about having kids turn up on time, need to have serious consequences for failure to do so. Similarly, parents may need kids to be ready to leave the house at a certain time so that the parents can leave for work. Dawdlers and late risers can pose a threat to the parent’s job responsibilities. A child who causes the parent to be late because of his or her own slowpoke behavior, needs to suffer appropriate consequences. Use the 2X-Rule (explained in detail in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe). Tell the child that if he or she makes you late in the future then there will be a specific punishment (name what that will be). Be consistent in enforcing the negative consequence and be sure that the consequence you are choosing is a true deterrent for the child.

Consider Specific Disabilities That Make Time Management Hard
There are various neurological deficits that can make time management hard for a child. Some children just can’t accurately judge the passage of time. Twenty minutes may pass while the child experiences it as if only a few minutes went by. Or the child figures it will take her minutes to put on clothes and make-up whereas it never takes her less than 25 minutes for the task. Some kids can’t judge how long it will take to dress, eat breakfast, clean up and get ready for the bus, despite the fact that they must do it every day. Keep in mind that many adults have the same problem! If your child has conceptual difficulties around time, he or she will need extra help. SIt down with the youngster and ask him or her to make guesses of how long each task takes. The next day actually time each tastk. If the child is overor underestimated, discuss the differnces. Help the child make a more realistic schedule and have him or her check off the times that are actually required for each task. Close monitoring for a few days may reveal a few “leaks” in the system – just a couple of places where more time must be realistically allotted.

Accidental Reinforcement
Sometimes a child gets a lot of attention for being late. A parent might call him, scold him, encourage him, help him, and otherwise be all over him all morning long to make sure he is moving on time. This can be a lot of attention! Children sometimes enjoy all the “help” and attention they get from their parents around the issue of arriving on time. Even if this attention is unpleasant (scolding, reprimanding, threatening and punishing), the child might “enjoy” it, because negative attention is better than no attention at all. So be careful to check your own behavior to ensure that you are not talking to the child a lot in order to help him or her be ready on time. Stop the reminders, the assistance, the threatening and all the other attention. Go have your own breakfast and relax. The child will probably beg for attention in the beginning, so you must be firm in your resolve not to give it. After awhile, the child will realize that no more attention is coming and he or she will begin to act more normally.