Parenting isn’t easy, and whether you have one kid or three, there are always going to be questions as they enter new stages of life.
When will my baby start sleeping through the night? Why are my kids so unappreciative? How can I be a more patient parent?
These questions (and others) are all normal for parents to ask at one point or another, so there’s no need to feel overwhelmed.
Global News talked to two parenting experts – Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Baby Books, and Julie Freedman-Smith of Parenting Power – who revealed the most common questions they get from worried parents of children of all ages, and offer solutions on how to fix those parenting dilemmas.
Q: When will my baby start sleeping through the night?
“When sleep experts talk about babies sleeping through the night, they’re not talking about a baby who sleeps for eight hours at a time,” she says. “They’re talking about a baby who manages to clock five-and-a-half consecutive hours of sleep at some point during a 24-hour period.”
As for when you can expect your baby’s sleep habits to more closely resemble that of adults – that usually doesn’t happen until nine months of age, Douglas says. Even then, about one-third of babies at this age will wake in the night on a regular basis.
However, there are a couple of things you can do to encourage your little one to develop healthy sleep habits sooner, according to Douglas.
First, help your baby learn the difference between night and day. Dim the lights and lower the noise level after dinner and then ease into your baby’s bedtime routine.
Second, help your baby develop self-soothing skills, but also know that it takes time for these skills to develop. So until those skills develop, offer your child reassurance when they need it as it will help to maximize the amount of sleep you both get.
Q: Why won’t my three-year-old listen to me?
“Typically, we teach our kids not to listen,” Freedman-Smith says. “When we ask things five times, they learn to ignore us for the first four and then only pay attention when we ‘really mean it.’”
In order to change this, Freeman-Smith says parents need to plan to “AID” (which stands for attention, instructions and direction) their kids to listen, which means asking only once.
First, get your child’s attention, second, instruct them one time and third, direct your child to do as you’ve asked.
“When we do this consistently, we retain our kids to listen the first time,” she says.
Q: What’s the best way to handle a toddler who bites?
“Try to figure out which types of situations tend to trigger these episodes of biting and then focus on meeting the underlying need,” Douglas suggests. “Biting tends to occur when a child is too upset to express her feelings in other ways or lacks the language skills to do so.”
So giving children words to express what they’re feeling can help them deal with the situation that doesn’t involve their teeth.
Also, learn to spot the warning signs that an episode is about to happen.
“If your toddler is prone to biting and you see that her frustration level is starting to build, be prepared to intervene immediately,” Douglas says.
Q: How do I get my kids to hang up their coats and put away their boots?
This is an especially popular one when winter rolls around. So if you want kids to do this without always asking, there are a few things you can do, Freedman-Smith says.
“Create a place where your kids can reach to hang up coats and put away their boots,” she says. “At a calm time, practice with them where things will go and have them do it.”
As you’re arriving home, ask your kids what they’ll be doing with their coat and boots when they walk in the door.
Do not let kids leave the area until it is done, Freedman-Smith instructs. Make sure words and actions match, and lead by example.
Q: Why don’t my kids appreciate what they have?
“Kids today have much more stuff than they used to,” Freedman-Smith points out. “The best way to teach is to model an appreciation for what you have.”
Encourage your kids to save up for things they want and cull what they have.
“Teach them words for gratitude so that they know how to express it,” Freedman-Smith says.
Q: How do I stop my one child from being mean to his/her sibling?
It’s normal when siblings fight, but if you have one sibling constantly picking on another, there are a few things parents can do.
If the fighting has happened before, it will most likely happen again – so don’t leave the kids unattended in the same situation. Instead, outline your expectations that they will work together and to come to you if there is a problem.
“Often our kids take on roles,” Freedman-Smith explains. “One child becomes the aggressor and one, the victim. When this happens regularly, we may end up reinforcing these roles.”
So instead of blaming and shaming when something is happening, parents can approach the situation and notice rather than judge.
For example, instead of saying, “Jane, what did you do to your brother?” think, “I hear two kids fighting, how can we solve this problem?”
Q: How can I become a more patient parent?
Becoming a more patient parent comes down to three simple and important things, Douglas says.
First, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, making time for fun and eating well. Taking care of yourself increases your capacity to manage the challenges of parenting, she says.
Second, learn to ask yourself, “What does my child need from me right now?” when you feel your patience is slipping away.
“If you can zero in on his needs and focus on meeting those needs, you are less likely to focus on the fact that you are feeling frustrated… and more likely to focus on finding a solution,” Douglas explains.
Lastly, remind yourself that your child is doing the best they can right now, and that they can build on these abilities over time.
“Knowing that things won’t always be this hard for him or for you makes parenting a whole lot less stressful,” she says.