Refuses to Use Alarm Clock

Alarm clocks are a necessity in modern living. We all have responsibilities we need to attend to, most of which begin early in the morning (shift workers excepted!). Even young children are not excused. Typically, children must be ready to leave their homes for school between 8 and 8:30a.m. – and therefore must be crawling out of bed by around 7 o’clock (give or take a little) in order to leave adequate time for dressing, eating and organizing.

But what if your child simply refuses to use an alarm clock? Consider the following tips:

Find Out Why
Before you get rid of this amazing invention, ask your child first why he or she refuses to use an alarm clock. Reasons vary, and adjustments can be suggested based on the reason your child has.

Sometimes a child doesn’t like an alarm clock simply because he or she hates the sound it makes. If this is the case, invite them to shop with you for a new one – one with a sound more pleasing to the ears. Really young children often are not aware that there are many kinds and types of alarm clocks available, so you may have to introduce the concept. Go online and show them the array of funny, cute, child-friendly alarms that are available. But don’t buy one until you hear the sound it makes; you want to make sure your child likes it! If the website doesn’t offer sound samplings, go to your local store and try them out there.

If their issues relate to being suddenly jolted awake, then propose alternatives. Many new alarm clocks offer ringing that slowly rises in volume, which is believed to be gentler on the ears. Some alarms have gentle music that gets louder and louder, the longer it plays. Setting an alarm system to mere “vibrate” may also do the trick, as the vibration is less joting than noises might be. Warning: don’t use the snooze function as a graduated wake-up aid. It simply trains the brain to ignore the alarm! Those who make use of a snooze-button often find themselves slapping it off over and over again (for as long as an hour!)) instead of using the sound as a cue to get out of bed.

Be Their Alarm Clock
You can also take your child’s refusal to use an alarm clock as an opportunity to bond with them every morning! If you have no problems with using an alarm clock in your own room, then an alternative is for you to set the alarm for yourself, and then be the one to wake your child. Perhaps your child can use a warm kiss or hug as a wake up tool, instead of the incessant ringing of an alarm. This is particularly suitable for tiny children. It is an option for older children, with the condition that the “relationship moment” must be pleasant for all parties. In other words, absolutely REFUSE to wake up a child who fights with you about getting up, is rude to you or ignores your request (which will cause you too much aggravation). Volunteer to be an alarm clock only for those children who are grateful enough for your help to be pleasant and cooperative when you get there.

An added thought: If you can bring the family pet into the picture (i.e. have the dog lick them awake ), then you’ve got yourself a morning ritual like no other!

Give Them a Chance to Wake Up on their Own
We’re all working on the assumption that your child actually needs an alarm clock in order to be on time. But what if your child refuses to use an alarm clock, simply because he or she doesn’t need one? Our body has a natural clock called the Circadian Rhythm that regulates our sleeping and waking hours. When we have consistent sleeping patterns, our bodies tend to know exactly when to sleep and when to wake up. Light and sound cues provide the signal for the actual time. Kids who are trained to sleep and awaken at consistent times usually don’t need an alarm clock. The trick here is to ensure that the child is in bed early enough each evening to wake up naturally each morning. Kids who go to bed too late (like adults) will need an alarm.

Use Discipline
If your child is too tired to wake up on his or her own, simply refuses to use an alarm and fights with you when you try to get him or her out of bed, then use negative consequences to inspire them to wake up on time. For instance, don’t interfere with HOW the child wakes up. Simply warn him or her that there will be a specific negative consequence if he or she is late.

Afraid to Sleep in Own Room

Kids of every age can be afraid to sleep in their own room. This can cause stress for the whole family. Parents get frustrated – especially if the child is no longer a toddler or pre-schooler. Siblings may be disturbed by the distress of the fearful child. Bedtime can be a nightly struggle and difficult experience for the child who is afraid.

If you have a child who is afraid to sleep in his or her room, consider the following tips:

Separation Anxiety is Normal in Very Small Children
Toddlers and pre-schoolers like to be near their parents at night. This doesn’t mean that they are suffering from clinical anxiety. In this age group, anxiety about being in one’s own room apart from parents, is perfectly normal. Of course, it’s annoying and inconvenient for parents! Parents would like their kids to just go to sleep quickly and easily and stay that way until the appropriate hour for waking in the morning. For very small children, this is not the most common scenario. Most young children need help settling down to sleep in their own beds and many need some sort of nighttime parental comfort as well. However, most of them outgrow these needs over time and do go to sleep happily in their own rooms.

Daytime Anxiety and Nighttime Anxiety are Related
While there are some children who are ONLY fearful at night, they are in the minority. Most kids with nighttime fears have experienced or are experiencing other fears as well. The tendency to be fearful or anxious is a genetically inherited trait. The child is not at fault for feeling afraid. He or she can’t help it! And he or she is suffering from it. The child needs YOUR help to learn to manage anxious feelings.

Saving the child from those things that he fears actually increase fear over time and causes it to spread. For instance, if a child is afraid of dogs and the parents are careful to prevent the child from ever having to deal with a dog, then the child’s fear of dogs will remain, and even intensify over time. Moreover, it is very likely that other fears will also develop. The reason for this phenomenon is that the child’s brain can never survive the fearful stimulus, since it is always avoiding that stimulus. You can’t master the fear of dogs when you are never allowed to be in the presence of dogs. What has to happen is that the child is helped to experience “survival” in the presence of a dog and this helps build confidence that dogs can be tolerated. The learning that something fearful can be tolerated allows the child to tolerate other anxiety-provoking things as well.

The trick is to HELP the child feel comfortable enough to be with the dog so that he can stay there long enough to feel he has “survived” the experience. Helping the child is a step-by-step process. For instance, the first step might be staying with the child while the child sees a dog that’s safely secured in a cage (at the pet store for instance).  A next step might be holding the dog tightly on a leash, a distance from the child who is being held by an adult. A next step, might be to bring the dog a bit closer while being held on the leash. And so on.

These same ideas can be applied to helping a child overcome fear of sleeping in his or her own bed. A gradual process is easiest on the fearful child, allowing him or her to build confidence step by step. For instance, when putting the fearful child to bed, sit on the bed or lie down with the child for a few minutes until the child is able to fall asleep. A next step might be to sit beside the child until the youngster falls asleep. A next step might be to sit by the door of the child’s room, then just outside the door of the room, then in the hallway and then somewhere else on the same floor as where the child is sleeping and, if the house has more than one storey,  then being on a different level of the house than the child.

Making it Easier for the Fearful Child
Not only does the child have to face and survive whatever he or she fears, but the child needs to feel comfortable during the process. If the child ISN’T comfortable, it is very unlikely that facing the fear will actually happen. Some children have only a minor fear of sleeping alone in their rooms. But others are intensely fearful. Those with relatively minor levels of fear, may be able to just “build up their emotional muscles” by experiencing the step-by-step parental withdrawal program described above.

However, children with intense fear may just panic as soon as the parent attempts to leave the room. Panic is an overwhelming sense of anxiety accompanied by all sorts of very uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms. Children who throw a big tantrum may actually be experiencing feelings of panic. They need help in managing such strong reactions. But what help do children receive? Keep in mind that adults have access to powerful medications to take the edge off their own anxiety. Children, on the other hand, are left for the most part to tolerate their feelings without relief.  Fortunately, there are some forms of alternative medicine that can be safe for children and that can help gently lift intense fear out of their system.

For instance, Bach Flower Remedies can gently melt away the tendency to be fearful. The remedy Aspen is suitable for fear of the dark. The remedy Mimulus is suitable for fear of separation from parents (fear of being alone). The remedy Rock Rose is good for relieving symptoms of panic. A Bach Flower Practitioner can make a remedy bottle containing the most appropriate flower remedies for your child or you can read about the remedies and choose those that you think may be helpful, or you can try any one or all of the three mentioned here. The pre-mixed remedy called “Rescue Remedy” can also help with nighttime panic. If using only one remedy, drop 2 drops of it into a bit of liquid (any kind), 4 times a day until the anxiety has lifted. If using more than one remedy, put 2 drops of each in a Bach Mixing Bottle (one ounce glass bottle sold where Bach Flower Remedies are sold in health food stores) that has been filled with water. Add a teaspoon of brandy to preserve the bottle. Give four drops four times a day until the anxiety has lifted.

Essential oils can also soothe nighttime anxiety. Consult a professional aromatherapist for a suitable preparation and dose whenever using essential oils since they are slightly medicinal. Essential oils like lavendar or chamomille might be useful.

Herbal remedies can also soothe fear. However, always consult a professional herbalist for correct herbs and dosage since these are medicinal. Teas that you can purchase ready-made in health food stores and supermarkets are likely safe for children, but of course, they are far less potent. Nonetheless, giving the child a bit of chamomille tea or “sleepy-time” teas may help calm his or her nervous system.

Homeopaths, accupuncturists and naturopaths may also be able to help.

Get Help if Necessary
Parents cannot always solve the problem themselves. If you’ve tried to help your child in various ways but nothing is making a positive difference, consult a child psychologist or other mental health professional. This person can teach your child more skills for coping with and reducing fearful feelings. With the proper help, your child WILL soon be sleeping alone in his or her own room without fear.

Rules and Rituals in Blended Families

Living in a blended family can be tricky. After all, stepparents are not just juggling their own children’s affairs (which in itself is challenging), they’re also juggling their spouse’s children’s affairs, and those of the family unit as a whole. Throw in the ex’s and you’ve got a mountain of complex responsibilities and issues to be dealt  with. Without clear order and structure in the new household, a blended family can feel chaotic.

Fortunately  there are two things that can help: rules and rituals.

Rules refer to standards of behavior – guidelines that outline that which is  allowed and that which is prohibited in a household. A family with rules is a more stable family, because there are clear boundaries and expectations. A curfew is an example of a rule. “No sweets before dinner,” is another example. The trick with rules is to limit them so that the household can maintain appropriate levels of flexibility and comfort. However, a few good rules can reduce conflict and enhance the harmonious functioning of a home.

Rituals are repetitive routines or ceremonies. Rituals need not be grand; eating together as a family every Sunday evening is an example of a ritual, as is having a small birthday party for each family member’s birthday. Rituals can provide stability to a blended family because they usually communicate a deeper value, such as togetherness, respect and acceptance. Rituals have been shown to have a positive effect on a person’s life, whether that person is a child or an adult. The soothing, uplifting and stabilizing effects of rituals are especially important in blended families. The new rituals of the family can actually help make the family a reality.

The following are some rules and rituals that are helpful when raising a blended family:

Do A “Welcome Everyone” Ritual
This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many parents neglect to have some form of welcoming ceremony when kids from different households first come together as one family. If you’re a part of a couple about to begin a blended family, you can make up a “Welcome All” ritual for your family. This can be something as simple as going out to lunch and dinner together before you transfer to a new home. A round of formal introductions — even if you all know each other by then — can be helpful, especially when each person is encouraged to tell the group something about themselves. For instance, “I’m Daryl. My favorite hobby is building train sets. I have a huge collection in my basement – and no one better ever touch it!” “Hi, I’m Carol. I was married to Doug for 12 years before he died last year. I love homemade cookies and you can often find me up late at night baking up a batch. Don’t worry – I share!” Perhaps each set of children can create a welcome gift or present for their new siblings and step-parents.

Create An “Express Differences Respectfully” Rule
Sooner or later, one of the children is going to notice something different in his or her step family and will say “hey, that’s not how we do things in our home.” This situation can’t be helped; after all, a blended family is the merging of two different families with their own history, way of doing things, values and traditions. What parents can do is to encourage discussion of these differences, instead of pushing them aside. One rule that can help is the agreement that all feedback must be stated respectfully, with no attempt to belittle the other family’s opinions, or force them to comply with what you believe is correct.

New parents can create a structure where kids can air the differences that concern them. A weekly meeting can be a venue to raise issues and address them. Sometimes, the result will be “let’s agree to differ”, sometimes one family will agree to adopt the other family’s way, and sometimes the the two families can create a new way of doing things.

Treat Everyone the Same — But Don’t Force People to Respond to You in the Way You Prefer
Jealousy and coalitions can easily thrive in a blended family. A dad who buys his biological kids an expensive toy, but fails to get his step-children the same, can lead kids to adapt an “us vs. them” mentality in the household. Similarly, hugging blood siblings, but not being affectionate with a step-brother or a step-sister can cause resentment to build up.

Keeping your eye on “equality” can help reduce the pain and jealousy of inequality. Parents are never exactly the same with each of their kids, so they’re certainly not going to be the same with each of their kids and each of their step-kids. Still, just be aware of how many treats, privileges, reprimands and punishments you are handing out to whom. It should not be obvious that a particular youngster or side of the family is favored or rejected.

Reducing Chaos
Routines are important to every child. However, they are even more important in helping to stabilize blended families. Parents need to be organized, responsible and consistent. Children get picked up and dropped off at regular times. They go to bed at the same time during the week and the pre-arranged time on weekends. In other words, there is no “free for all” just because a child is not always home. If the child has homework to be done, he is assigned a time in which he needs to do it. Dinnertime should be at a set time – not 4p.m. one night, 8p.m. the next night and 6p.m. the night after that. Eating at home is important and home-cooked food should be a big part of the menu. In other words, parents are doing everything to maintain the flavor of a stable, normal home environment as opposed to a vacation spot where everything goes. If you are finding it hard to establish consistent routines within your blended family, meet once or twice with a mental health professional or family counsellor who can help you put things in place. The enduring benefits of establishing healthy routines will be worth whatever investment you make.

In order for a child  to feel that he is in a home – his home – and he is not just a visitor to a hotel, he needs to have some regular responsibilities and accountability. A curfew, a task (take out garbage, clean the yard or whatever) and other normal family routines will help him feel that he is actually IN a family when he is staying with each parent.

Establish a Family Dinner Hour
If there is any day or days in which all the children from both previous marriages are in the house at the same time, try to establish a family dinner hour. For instance, let’s say that all the kids are together in your home every Monday night and Tuesday night. In that case, try to limit after-school activities for at least one of those nights (or both nights, if possible) and make a standard routine of having dinner together as a family. Mother and Father will try to arrange their schedules to be present and as many of the kids as possible should be present.  In our culture where everyone is busy with work-related, school-related and personal development activities, it is not easy to arrange a weekly family dinner. However, if you can find a way to do it, your family will definitely feel more like a family. Moreover, family dinners have been found to be valuable to the development of kids (even from non-blended families!) for many reasons. Emotional stability, family cohesion, a chance to get to know each other and strengthen bonds – these are only some of the benefits derived from the ritual of family dinners.

Keeping Your Child Healthy

Parents are responsible for their children’s well-being. This means that they must take steps to prevent, assess and treat health conditions. This can sometimes be frightening for parents, especially when a child is dealing with real health issues.

If you are a parent responsible for keeping your child healthy, consider the following tips:

Do What is Normal and Reasonable
Taking care of a child’s health does not mean putting him in a protective bubble where no germs, illness or accidents can occur. Life happens and parents don’t have complete control over circumstances that can affect their child. In fact, it is not a parent’s job to ensure that the child never experiences illness or pain, because this task is just not possible. What IS possible, however, is feeding the child a decent diet that provides necessary elements of nutrition, seeing that the child gets fresh air and exercise, dressing the child appropriately for various weather conditions and taking the child to his doctor for routine wellness checkups. Other than that, parents can and should allow their child to do what other kids in the neighborhood do: go swimming, have occasional junk food, skip bath night once in awhile, or even go outdoors for a short time despite having a very minor fever. In other words, there is no need to be hypervigilant. Kids are not that fragile. A germ or two might, according to some opinions, actually help build the immune system. People in this school of thought believe that over-protection actually makes the child more vulnerable to disease and accidents. Use common sense. This isn’t an invitation to send the child out into the cold night in nothing but his pajamas! However, it IS an invitation not to get hysterical if the child refuses to wear a scarf on a cool day. Do your best but be normal. Excessive fear on your part may cause the child to become fearful as well. Interestingly, fear does NOT prevent illness and if anything, may actually weaken the immune system.

Develop Healthy Routines
Although there is no need to be “germ phobic,” you can certainly help minimize contagious conditions like colds, flus and viruses in your home. Teach your kids basic hygiene. For instance, show them how to sneeze onto their sleeve rather than into their hand. When someone is sick, make sure that person has his or her own towel and cup. Even if you don’t normally use antibacterial products, this may be the time to do so. Consider spraying the living area with a mixture of essential oils that prevent germs from spreading (speak to an aromatherapist to learn how to do this). Teach your kids to wash their hands before eating, especially if they’ve been playing outside. Teach kids to brush their teeth twice daily. Help children get the right amount of sleep each night.

Do Not Give Special Attention to Sick Children
Make sure you give special attention to your healthy child! Being sick should not earn extra quality time or special privileges. You don’t want your child to learn that there is a payoff for being ill because this can lead to an increase in psychosomatic illness as well as “pretend” illness. A child who must stay home from school due to illness should NOT receive a free play day filled with treats and fun activities. Rather, he or she should be encouraged to rest and recover. Let school be more interesting than a day at home. Instead of encouraging children to get sick in order to get a day off of school every once in awhile, just offer them “mental health” days a couple of times a year – days when they are perfectly healthy and are taken out of school for quality time. Doing this one one or two days a year teaches children that it is possible to manage stress levels WITHOUT getting sick to do so.

Attend to Your Own Fears and Anxieties
If you find that you get very worried every time you or a family member has a bump, cough, pain or other physical distress, seek professional help. The right kind of help can reduce or even eliminate this kind of fear and help you enjoy life much more. Children get all sorts of symptoms, ranging from inconsequential to serious. You and your child will both cope better if you are able to maintain a calm state of mind. Many people have serious fears about illness, fearing that every minor symptom (in themselves or in someone close to them) indicates a deathly illness. This condition is called hypochondriosis. It can be treated by a mental health professional.

Effective Family Meetings

Utilizing meetings for planning, negotiating and problem-solving is a well-established corporate practice. These days, however, the practice is also being touted as a critical tool for family life. And because family members are busy people — occupied with work, school, personal, social and communal activities — deliberately setting a time and date to discuss important family matters can be a practical way to ensure that regular communication does take place.

Here are some simple tips on how to run effective family meetings:

Include Everyone
Although everyone doesn’t have to attend the entire family meeting, everyone should have the opportunity to be present at different points. For instance, if dinner meals are being discussed, the whole family should be invited in order to give their input on a matter that will affect each of them. However, when that matter is resolved, some of the younger kids might be excused from the meeting while parents discuss curfew with a couple teenagers. Then, the teenagers may be excused, while husband and wife discuss some issues concerning the family budget. The concept of the meeting is to offer a regular forum in which any issue can be discussed and dealt with. Not all family members have to be present at the entire meeting, but anyone who is directly affected by an issue is invited to be part of that particular discussion.

Discuss Problems, but Share the Good Stuff Too!
Family meetings are excellent venues to discuss issues (“Let’s plan our outing for the long weekend”), air grievances (“I can never find a clean glass in the cupboard”), and resolve difficulties (“He always wakes me up in the night with his crying”). They can also be a forum for progress reports and celebrations (“I just want to bring to everyone’s attention that Jason has been doing a wonderful job of organizing the recycle materials every week”) as well a venue for encouragement and emotional support (“It’s frustrating when you have to spend so much time on homework and there seems to be so little time for relaxation.”) Maintaining a balance of pleasant and difficult topics can help family members look forward to meetings. On the other hand, using the time to discuss only problems and difficult issues usually leads to a reluctance to show up after awhile.

Give Everyone a Chance to Speak
It’s a family meeting, not a state-of-the-nation address, so don’t let one person hog the spotlight. Give each child time to share what he or she feels like sharing by asking each one individually “is there anything that you’d like to talk about today?” Remember: no matter how simple a disclosure may be, the opportunity to communicate openly with loved ones is a priceless thing. Once your child is talking, try to sit back and listen. A helpful rule at family meetings is that a person is allowed to present an issue in a certain time period (i.e. 5 minutes maximum) and during that time period, no one is allowed to talk, interrupt, ask questions or do anything other than sit back and listen. After the person is finished presenting their issue, they can take questions for a few more minutes and then the discussion begins.

Follow Rules of Communication
Follow some simple rules to help keep the meeting productive and emotionally safe. For instance, you might stipulate: no swearing, no bad language, no raised voices, no name-calling (in other words, no hurting people’s feelings); be brief, say the problem only one time; give practical ideas (not ideas that can’t be implemented).

Follow a Process for Problem Resolution
After an issue is raised, ask each member of the family, one at a time, to make a comment or suggestion. The person with the problem can also be invited to make suggestions about how it can be solved. After all suggestions have been brought forward, the person with the problem can ask for time to think about the ideas or can pick the idea that is most pleasing right now. If no one can think of solutions to a problem, you can have a list of helpful resources (family doctor, grandparent, trusted family friend or relative, therapist, spiritual advisor) to whom the problem can be described in order to get further input and ideas as to how it might be solved.

Never Let a Meeting End without Some Form of Resolution
This is the family meeting equivalent of “never let the sun set on an argument.” The last thing that you want is to create tension in the family because a meeting was used for bashing, but not healing. If an issue has been raised but it can’t be completely resolved within the time period of the meeting, then at least outline the next steps that the family will take. You may even set another family meeting to discuss the issue, to give it the proper attention and focus.

Lastly, Don’t Have Too Many Meetings!
Have you ever heard of the term “meeting paralysis”? In companies, this is the situation when nothing gets done because people would rather discuss things than fix them! Family meetings are invaluable, but don’t get stuck with just talking and rehashing issues. Solve problems and support each other. It’s living the closeness that comes after the discussion that makes family meetings so worthwhile.

How to Discipline as a Single Parent

Raising a child is an enormous job, adiposity and parents need all the help they can get. Which is why single parents are modern day heroes. To accomplish alone a task that’s often too much for even two people, pill is an achievement that should make it into the record books!

Many single parents make it through the day because they’re able to navigate through the tricky issues of traditional parenting, particularly discipline. The following are just some of the discipline issues typically found in a single-parent home, and some tips on how to address them:

Being Both Good Cop and Bad Cop
In traditional two-parent tandems, a parent who disciplines a child is temporarily a “bad guy” while the other parent might be temporarily cast as the “good guy.” Roles switch, of course, according to who is disciplinarian at the moment. However, a single parent who disciplines cannot offer the child a “good guy” in the background. This often intensifies the negativity of single-parenting disciplinary actions. The one parent in the home is now perceived as “mean” or “hateful” when handing out negative consequences or even giving negative feedback.  The most powerful way to avoid the destructive effects of this perception is to become very skilled in the art of guiding and disciplining children. Aim for a ratio of 80-20 (or 90-10 with teens) of pleasant feeling interactions to unpleasant feeling interactions with each child. Think of the morning hour as needing to be 80% pleasant, the homework hour as being 80% pleasant and the bedtime hour as being 80% pleasant. “Pleasant” refers to what is coming out of YOUR mouth. Jokes, compliments, positive feedback and interesting sports scores are considered to be pleasant. Instructions, criticism, correction, threats and negative consequences are considered to be unpleasant . Applying this ratio throughout every day allows children to see their single parent as primarily loving. It helps to buffer the bad feelings that arise out of inevitable moments of discipline. It stops the child of a single parent from hating that parent. (See Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe, for a complete program of healthy, relationship-preserving discipline techniques).

In addition, single parents who are skilled disciplinarians will avoid the most potentially toxic aspect of discipline: anger. When there is only one parent around and that parent is angry, it can be quite overwhelming for a child. Fortunately, a parent need not discipline with anger –  merely with firmness. Firmness goes hand in hand with gentleness and kindness. If kids can be trained at an early age to see discipline as something objective instead of personal, then a child is less likely to attack a single parent.

Burn-Out
Can burn-out be a discipline issue? You bet it can! Single parents have a lot on their plate, which is why they can be more prone to temper tantrums than the typical mom and dad. They may also suffer from lack of patience and energy to deal with a child’s misbehavior. If you’re a single parent, it’s important that you are aware of how the demands of everyday living can affect how you discipline your child.

Self-care is the natural response to burn-out; single parents must know when to rest and take things easy. Get some extra help; you may be parenting alone but it doesn’t mean you can’t call friends and relatives to assist from time to time. Hiring a nanny to get some time off wouldn’t be amiss either. While it’s easy to feel guilty when you take some “me time,” remember that you don’t serve your children well when you are always harassed and stressed.

Kids are Resentful of the Time You’re Away
It’s hard to establish your authority in a household when you’re barely around. But much as a single parent would like to be there for their child 24/7, reality is: time for a single parent can be scarce. A single parent usually functions as sole breadwinner, and coming up with ways of keeping food on the table and sending kids to school can be challenge.

But studies have shown that kids from single parent households are more likely to take on responsibilities willingly, if they understand that their parent cannot realistically do it all him or herself. Understanding the unique situation single parents are in can make a child more open to self-discipline. As along as parents can establish rules and guidelines early on, along with routines for independent functioning, children from single parent households are less likely to rebel from lack of attention.

Child Won’t Brush Teeth

Sometimes children don’t want to brush their teeth. Whether they don’t want to brush because they’re too impatient or they find it annoying, stomach or they don’t like the taste of the toothpaste – or for any other reason – getting them to attend to this important task can present a daily parental challenge. As good oral and dental hygiene is important for children’s health, see parents naturally want to help their kids develop proper habits of routine brushing.

If your child doesn’t want to brush his or her teeth for whatever reason, nurse consider the following tips:

Try using Emotional Coaching
When your child doesn’t want to brush his teeth, you can try using emotional coaching. Emotional coaching is the naming of feelings. If your child finds brushing his teeth to be an annoyance you can say “I know you don’t enjoy brushing your teeth.” If he would rather play instead of brushing his teeth, you can say things like “I know you’d rather be doing something more exciting than brushing your teeth.” Articulate whatever negative feeling he has about brushing his teeth and let him know that you understand his feelings. After all, from a kid’s point of view, how much fun is it to brush one’s teeth? Emotional coaching actually reduces resistance. When a parent shows simple understanding and can even relate to the truth of what the child is saying, then the child is more likely to cooperate. He is not so inclined to battle it out when he can see that his parent is truly sympathetic. Of course, this only works when the parent is truly sympathetic; always try to really understand your child’s feelings from a child’s point of view. Saying empty words has the opposite effect. Children can see when you are patronizing them and this INCREASES resistance rather than decreases it.

Use the CLeaR method
In the CLeaR method, appropriate behavior is reinforced by providing your child 3 kinds of positive attention: a comment about the appropriate behavior, a label that describes the behavior and, in some cases, a reward for the behavior. To encourage more tooth-brushing, a parent might use the CLeaR Method whenever he or she notices that the child has brushed or flossed. It might sound something like this: “I see you brushed you teeth today” (a positive comment), followed by “You’ve got great hygiene!” (‘great hygiene’ being a label that describes someone who brushes his teeth). “And because you remembered to do that, I think tonight would be a good night to have that ice cream we were talking about. I know that you’ll do a good job of brushing them again tonight.” (Offering a reward for desirable behavior).

Use the 2X Rule
If your child refuses to brush his teeth on a routine basis, use the 2X rule. In the 2X rule, you warn your child about the possibility of a negative consequence if there is disobedience. For instance, you can say to a brush-resistant youngster, “You need to brush your teeth before going to sleep.” If the child ‘forgets’ and doesn’t brush before bed, you then say, “From now on, when you don’t remember to brush your teeth before bed, you will have go and brush them when I come to say goodnight and you will miss having your bedtime story.”  You can learn more about The 2X-Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.

Encourage Independence
If your child simply doesn’t want to brush his teeth by himself but will brush them with your assistance, then try to encourage independence. One way to do this is to create a reward chart. When your child brushes his teeth by himself, have him place a sticker on the chart. When the chart has X amount of stickers, the child can get a reward. In this way your child can become more comfortable brushing his teeth alone.

Make it Fun and Enjoyable
If your child doesn’t want to brush his teeth because he finds it boring, try implementing these ideas:

  • Have races to see how quickly your child can brush his teeth. Show him that it doesn’t actually take that long.
  • Get interesting or colorful toothbrushes. If your child likes a particular movie franchise, comic book hero, or other entertainment icon, chances are there will be toothbrushes decorated like one of them available for purchase.
  • Get interesting or flavored toothpaste. Just like the entertainment industry has toothbrushes available, toothpaste containers also may be decorated the same way. Additionally, toothpastes of all kinds of flavors and colors exist today. Check your local shopping mart to see what they have available.
  • Talk to your child while he’s brushing (quality time).

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can help improve a child’s behavior. The flower remedy Vine can help strong-willed and defiant children who refuse to brush their teeth. For negative kids who complain about everything you can use the remedy Beech. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until behavior shows improvement. Start treatment again, if the behavior worsens. Eventually, the behavior changes should become permanent.

Bath-Time Battles with School-Age Children

Babies and toddlers aren’t the only ones who may have trouble with bath-time. Even school age kids can give you a hard time when you try to get them to have a bath. Though some children may not like getting wet, purchase or worry about getting soap in their eyes, decease often the biggest issue with school age kids and bath-time is the fact that it’s just feels like a waste of time to them: they’d rather be playing.

If your child is “bath-time challenged” consider the following tips:

Use Emotional Coaching
Let your child know that you hear and understand his feelings about bath-time. Whether he considers it a waste of time or he has some other reason for this aversion to baths, capsule show that you care. Say things like “I know you find baths boring.” or “I know you’d rather be on your computer instead of having a bath.” Your child will still have to have a bath, but he’ll be able to release some of his feelings towards bath-time when you use emotional coaching. Emotional Coaching tends to increase a child’s willingness to cooperate and decrease his tendency to fight and argue, because he experiences the friendly, compassionate attitude of the parent.

Use the CLeaR method
The CLeaR method’s system of commenting, labeling and rewarding appropriate behavior can be helpful in getting your child to take baths routinely. (Learn the details about The Clear Method in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice).When your child has a bath without giving you trouble, say something like, “You got ready for your bath right away.” (Comment), “That’s very cooperative of you!” (Label), “I think there’s an extra piece of cake in the fridge, why don’t you go and have it for your snack tonight? (Reward). This system helps to reinforce your child’s positive behavior and can make the behavior continue in the future.

Make it Interesting
If your child finds baths boring, try making them more enjoyable or interesting. Get colored or fragranced soaps and bubbles for your child’s baths. Or maybe get a special bathrobe or something similar that can be special for bathtime. (Bathrobes may be designed like comic book heroes or movie characters.  You may be able to find one that your child can’t wait to wear!).

Make Sure it’s Routine
If you tell your child to have a bath at different times or days of the week, it can be disruptive to whatever he or she is doing. Instead, consider developing a regular bath schedule (i.e. baths on Mondays and Thursdays) so that your child is psychologically prepared for his or her bath. This can help the child plan for baths and get ready more easily.

Use “Grandma’s Rule.” Avoid bribes like, “If you have a bath you can have a cookie.” Instead, use Grandma’s Rule which is constructed with “When” and “Then”  or “As soon as,” and “Then.” For instance you might say something like “As soon as you’ve finished your bath, then can have your cookie.” Grandma’s Rule puts the parent in charge of the situation rather than the child. It also prevents the child from “black-mailing” the parent with sentences like “what will you give me if I listen to you?”

Use the 2X Rule
If your child refuses to have a bath, warn him or her that continued refusal will result in a negative consequence like losing computer time or some other privilege.

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can improve behavior in addition to other things. For children who are defiant or strong willed, tending not to cooperate with anything, including their baths, the flower remedy Vine can help. For children who complain about everything (i.e. “Why do I have to take a bath now, I don’t like baths!”) the remedy Beech can help. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the behavior improves and bath-time becomes easier. Start treatment again, if the behavior degrades. Eventually, the behavior will improve permanently.

Consider Professional Help
If hating the bath is part of a larger picture of negativity or defiance, and your interventions have not helped sufficiently, consider seeking out the help or assessment of a mental health practitioner.

Bath-Time Battles with Toddlers

Sometimes toddlers don’t want to take baths. There can be multiple reasons for this. They may not like getting wet, they may worry about getting soap in their eyes, or they may simply dislike the whole routine– considering it boring when they would much rather be playing with their toys.

If your child is “bath-time challenged” consider the following tips:

Use Emotional Coaching
If your child is distressed or clearly unhappy about taking a bath, try using emotional coaching. Emotional Coaching is the naming of feelings. In this case, it involves acknowledging and accepting the child’s dislike of baths. You can say, “I know you don’t like baths.” or “I know you’d rather be playing right now.” Outline and articulate whatever dislike your child has of baths. “You don’t like the water.” “You don’t like feeling cold.” Your acknowledgment and acceptance of the child’s true feelings actually helps your child to release those feelings a little – just like when you tell a friend a problem and your friend’s sympathetic listening helps you feel a little better even though you still have the problem! On the same note, you like your friend more because he or she listened without judgment. In the same way, your child likes you more when you accept the way he or she feels – without trying to change it. The bond between you is strengthened and this tends to increase the child’s overall tendency to cooperate.

Employ the CLeaR Method
You can reinforce each step of the bath time routine with the CLeaR Method. The CLeaR method uses a comment, label and reward system. For instance, when the child comes when called – the parent says, “You came right away when Mommy called. You’re a good listener!  When the child cooperates with getting undressed, the parent says, “You’re getting undressed so nicely. That’s very cooperative of you.”  When the child gets into the bath, the parent says, “You got into the bathtub. You’re a clean bunny!” You can reward cooperation with an extra bedtime story or special snack.

Make it Fun and Enjoyable
Baths can be made into an enjoyable activity. If your child finds baths boring you can enhance the experience in many ways. Below are some examples:

  • Put some bath toys in the water with your child. Rubber ducks, toy boats, or any other water appropriate toy can make baths entertaining.
  • You can have a countdown to see how quickly your child can get into the bath. Put on a timer or count to a certain number of seconds. If your child beats the time, reward him with a treat or prize.
  • Make the water colored, add bubbles and watch your child go wild.
  • Have fun! Get into the bath with the child and splash around together! Or, put more than one child in the bath at a time to play together.
  • Talk to your child as you bathe him or her.

Avoid the Things that Your Child Dislikes
If your child is worried about getting soap in his or eyes, exercise extra caution to make sure that never happens or get soap or shampoo that doesn’t irritate the eyes. If he is worried about drowning, keep your hands on him so he feels safe. Whatever fear or dislike your child has, show that you are taking it seriously and doing your best to address it (without going to ridiculous extremes!).

Follow Routine
Make sure to set a time of day for bath time. If you decide to bathe your child at random times, he can be frustrated and upset at having whatever activity he may have been engaged in interrupted. Make it known to your child that the bath will happen at a specific time (and perhaps specific days of the week), so he knows what to expect.

Make it Short
If your child still hates baths, you can simply speed up the process. Baths don’t have to be long and drawn out. Give him or her a quick bath and then move on to story-time!

Use “Grandma’s Rule.”
When parents use the word “if” in sentences, they imply that whatever they are discussing is an option. However, as this is generally not the case, it is advisable to remove the word “if” (and other similar words) from such dialogue. For example, instead of saying, “If you have a bath, I’ll read you a story right after,” a parent might say, “As soon as you’ve had your bath, I’ll read you a story.” This technique (Grandma’s Rule) allows the parent to provide the child a reward for good behavior, without making the good behavior optional (as is the case with bribes). Grandma’s Rule enhances cooperation, whereas as bribes tend to create little tyrants who try to bargain with you for everything you ask them to do.

Use the 2X-Rule
If a child tends to run away when you announce bath time, warn him or her that running away will lead to a negative consequence such as losing a story at bedtime or not having snack along with milk after the bath (or whatever other enjoyable activity the child might normally experience).

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
If hating the bath is part of a larger picture of negativity or defiance, consider Bach Remedies like Vine (for strong-willed defiant children) or Beech (for negative kids who have complaints about everything). Two drops in liquid 4 times a day until the issue disappears. You can find more information about Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

Professional Help
When hating the bath is part of a larger picture of negativity or defiance and the techniques listed here haven’t helped sufficiently, do consider enlisting the help of a mental health practitioner.

Should Babies Have Their Own Room?

New parents have to decide where their baby will sleep. For some people, there is no question: a baby belongs in his or her own room in his or her own bed. Other parents explore other possible sleeping arrangements: cradles, the parents’ bed, a sibling’s room and so on. Is there a right or wrong sleeping place for a baby? Not really. Personal preference is the determining factor.

Many different sleeping arrangements for babies are practiced all over the world. Westerners, in general, prefer to give their children their own room, or at least their own crib. Parents from Eastern countries, on the other hand, prefer to have kids sleeping in the same bed or mat where they sleep. Culture definitely plays a role in deciding where newborns rest.

Each sleeping arrangement has its own advantages and disadvantages; parents should consider their own personalities and what would work best for their unique family situation as they consider the pro’s and cons of various possibilities. They can think about the safety issues, comfort and convenience of each sleeping option.

Sleeping Together
The main advantage of babies sleeping in the same bed as their parents is accessibility. As soon as a baby murmurs, a parent can tend to its needs. The baby doesn’t have to work up to a pitch of hysteria to be heard from another room or intercom system. Moreover, the mother doesn’t have to leave her bed in order to nurse a baby and either parent can easily change the infant’s diaper without having to get up, walk down a hallway and so forth. All in all, less energy need be expended by tired parents in tending to the night-time needs of their child.

Moreover, the physical closeness achieved by “the family bed” is thought to enhance parent-child bonding. In fact, one reason why Easterners are more comfortable with kids sleeping with them is because Eastern cultures are collectivist cultures – they value togetherness before individuality. Sleeping together, even after baby grows older, is a sign of closeness and not immaturity.

However, co-sleeping also has its dangers. It is possible for an adult to accidentally smother a baby by blocking its airways with his or her body or with blankets. It is not clear whether more babies die of SIDS in their own cribs or in their parents’ bed. Parents must do their own research on this subject and draw their own conclusions.

Giving Babies Their Own Room
Most Western cultures are individualistic cultures; they value independence. Nurturing independence is actually one of the reasons why many Western parents prefer to give babies their own room, some even as soon as they are born. Parents want to teach kids to be autonomous, and not overly-reliant on their parents help. Babies who sleep alone are better able to sleep on their own; many times they just need to be settled on their backs with the light off, and they doze to sleep.

Giving babies their own room can help bring more order to bedtime routines; parents have their own space and the baby has his or hers. Parents appreciate the simplicity and privacy of this arrangement when it works well for them. (Many times, however, babies with their own rooms end up calling for parents in the night and may end up in the parental bed at least part of the time – in which case the benefits of the separate spaces are obviously reduced.)

When babies are in their own room, parents cannot so easily see what is happening in the night. To increase safety and reduce risk, be sure to buy a quality crib with no protruding pieces or oversized pillows. Make sure that a bassinet is securely settled on the floor, with no risk of toppling over. Set an audio or video baby monitor near the baby so that you can be alerted if your presence is needed.

A Little of Both
Some parents start the baby in their own bed and, after a few weeks or a few months, move the baby to a crib in the parental bedroom or to a crib in a nursery. Although this often works very well, providing the most important advantages of each location at the right times, it can sometimes be a challenge. A baby who has gotten used to the body warmth, smell and texture of a sleeping parent may be very reluctant to give it up in exchange for a room of his own. Most kids aren’t interested in having their own room until they are at least in grade school and some can wait quite well until adolescence! In fact, some people say that doing the “switch” as early as possible is important in achieving a successful transition. Again, each family must find its own way with this idea. Each couple and each baby is unique and what works well for one doesn’t necessarily work well for another. Do what makes most sense in your own situation.