You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

The pitter patter of feet and other bedtime challenges

Must have been a good night…all smiles to start the day!

Ahh there is nothing sweeter than the pitter patter of little toddler feet, unless it is two minutes after putting them in bed or you wake to that sound at 2:00 am!  Once toddlers figure out that they can get out of a bed, why not pay Mom and Dad a visit?  Going to bed is such a disruption in their life!  They would much rather be with you cuddling back to sleep or seeing what fun things you are doing while they are in bed!

It seems harmless enough to bring them back to bed and lie down with them until they sleep or to throw your covers back and let them crawl into bed with you….that is until you wake up with a toddler’s feet in the small of your back or lying on your head!  Toddlers need to learn to separate and sleep on their own!  It is a life skill for them and makes your evenings and nights so much more restful.  So, what is a parent to do when they hear the pitter patter of little feet?

Toddler’s who get up during the middle of the night:

  • The key is consistency…the same response EVERY time
  • Take your child by the hand and walk quietly back to his or her bedroom.
  • Tuck your child back into bed, give a kiss, and say ,“It is night-time, you sleep in your bed.  Love you.”
  • Walk out, no further discussion.  You want your response to be very boring! Your little one has to realize that there is no benefit at all in getting up, not even a long explanation of why she should stay in bed!
  • It is likely that your child will return in a few minutes…follow the same routine with no other discussion.
  • This may happen many times the first night, and your response should be exactly the same.  No yelling, no punishment, no rocking, no cuddling, no crawling in bed with them.
  • The second night you may hear the pitter patter of little feet again, follow the same routine.  Most likely it will be fewer times.
  • Usually by the third or fourth night your child will stay in bed when he or she wakes and self comfort back to sleep, if you are consistent and do not give in!  If you give in and rock, cuddle, or allow your child to sleep with you; then you have sent a very confusing message to your child.  Your child will think, “If I get up enough, then mommy or daddy will let me sleep with them!”
  • There are times when your child is ill or when your child is very scared that you might give in to letting your child sleep with you, but the quicker you go back to this technique, the easier it is for you and your child!
  • An alternate response could be to keep a sleeping bag in your room.  You can tell your child that if he or she is scared and wants to sleep in your room, they can pull out the sleeping bag and sleep next to your bed.  This will give them the opportunity to be close but not in your bed. Some parents have liked this option.  Once again, consistency is the key.

Toddlers who get up as soon as you put them in bed:

  • Option one is the one above.  Continue to walk your child back to bed without much interaction, no cuddling, no rocking, no yelling.  Place the child back in bed and leave.  This may happen 10 times and with a lot of crying, but if the response is exactly the same each time.  Your child will eventually fall asleep on his or her own.  This usually takes about 3 nights if you are consistent!
  • Option two works well when you have just transitioned from the crib.  Sit next to your child’s bed.  Do not look at your child or speak to your child.  If your child is chattering with you, respond with “It is bed time go to sleep.”  No other words or explanations.  Place your hand on your child and make no eye contact.  Every time your child tries to get up, gently lie them back down.  Sit with your hand on your child the first couple of nights.  After the first few nights, move your chair to the foot of the bed.  Same position, same words if your child is talking, if your child starts to get up, respond with “It is bed time lie down.”  Speak very calmly with no other words.  The next night move your chair to outside of the door and look into the room.  Respond exactly the same way every time your child speaks or tries to get up.  This will eventually teach your child to stay in bed and settle to sleep if you are consistent!
  • Option three can be used too, there is nothing wrong with putting a gate at your child’s door.  If your child tries to climb the gate it is not a safe option.  Do not lock your child in their room, this can be a safety issue.  The first two options are better learning techniques for your child.
  • Option four is better for older toddlers, at least age two or older.  Depending on your child’s temperament, a reward system may be all you need.  You can devise a sticker chart and let your child place a sticker on the chart for every night or nap he or she stays in bed.  Sometimes toddlers prefer to wear their sticker!  A single sticker may work, or you might have an incentive of two or three stickers and then your child is rewarded with a small treat or something fun to do with you.  Then move the number of stickers required to get their prize up until you no longer need the incentive.
  • Option five is good for three and older.  You can give your older toddler or preschooler a “free pass”.  Make two “passes” using 3×5 index cards.  Let your child help you decorate them.  Tell your child that they have two “free passes” to call you and you will come in and see what they need.  Once those passes are gone, you will not come into their room and they will not be allowed up without a consequence the next day.  Most children will start out using the passes and then quickly start saving at least one “pass” just in case.  Eventually you can give your child just one “free pass” to use.  Most of the time this breaks them from calling you or getting out of bed.  This gives them some control of the situation.

All these techniques will help your toddler learn to fall asleep on his or her own, make the bedtime process much more enjoyable for you and your child, and give you time to have an evening to recharge and get a good night’s sleep without a toddler spread eagle in the middle of your bed!  Remember, teaching your child to sleep on his or her own is a necessity!  Happy sleeping!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Toddler bedtime blues

Time for that nap!  Don’t miss the window for naps….toddlers need naps to sleep well at night!  Establish good sleep routines for naps and night-time!

It was 8:30,  I was tired, and my 2-year-old seemed to be gearing up for the evening.  My patience was short and soon everyone ended up melting down.  Not a very pleasant way to end the day!  I hated when an evening in our home ended in a melt down!  I always felt like such a terrible Mom, but evenings like that made me re-group and remember that naps, early bedtimes and calming routines were the cornerstone to good sleep for everyone.  Besides, when the kids were in bed early, I always had time to take a breather, visit with Brad and reward myself with a bowl of ice cream for making it through another day!

Often children are sleeping pretty well as they enter the toddler years, and then it seems that overnight, bedtime becomes a battle.  So many parents will tell me that their toddler “must not require much sleep” because they can’t get them to sleep in the evening.  Soon the pattern becomes a toddler who is up until late, a parent that has no down time, and a household that is stressful every evening.  The fact is, toddlers need about 13 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  Without that sleep, tantrums increase, whining becomes the norm, and a toddler’s day is not filled with discovery and play but frustration and tears.   These are some reasons families with toddlers often develop “bedtime blues”.

  • If a toddler is  not sleeping enough—they are harder to get to sleep consistently.  How hectic are your days?  If he is over scheduled or over stimulated you might want to slow it down for sleep’s sake.  When a child is constantly on the go, it is hard to settle down for sleep.  We need positive associations with sleep, not negative ones brought on by tantrums, yelling and harshness prior to bedtime.
  • Separation anxiety is a true toddler fear, often this separation anxiety is the start of sleep problems during the toddler years.
  • Toddlers are exploring control and testing.  Your child will test to see if bed time is negotiable!  Sometimes a tired parent will give in pretty easily setting the precedent for the following nights.
  • Toddlers don’t want to miss anything!  They realize that life goes on when they are napping or sleeping.
  • Most parents underestimate their child’s need for sleep.  Toddlers need between 13 and 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  An increase in tantrums, whining, crying, even misdiagnosis of hyperactivity can come from a child who is chronically sleep deprived. Toddlers are wired “early to bed, early to rise” !
  • Sleep is a health issue.  Parents need to control this health issue just like you do routine health care.  You wouldn’t let a child eat whatever they want for dinner, and you shouldn’t let a child decide his or her own bedtime.  Sleep is a basic need like food or clothing, and you are the parent!
  • There is no research that shows that letting a toddler fuss it out to sleep causes any psychological damage.  A child who is consistently loved and cared for during the day will thrive, even if there are several nights of “crying it out” to go to sleep.

So what is a parent to do?

1.  Watch your toddler’s behavior and do not let them become overly tired.  Remember that an overly tired toddler has a difficult time going to sleep and staying to sleep.  Usually, a toddler should not be up longer than a 5 hour stretch.  If your toddler rises at 7:30 in the morning, he or she will be ready for a nap about 12:30.  There should be about 5 hours between the nap wake time and bedtime.  So a toddler that sleeps from 12:30 to 2:00 or 2:30 is ready for bed by about 7:30 in the evening.

2.  Create a reasonable bedtime routine.  The routine should be calming and repeatable each evening.  Don’t let this routine take on a life of its own!  Thirty minutes of bedtime preparation is all that is needed.  A routine that is predictable will help your toddler calm down and know that bedtime is near.  This routine should include calming the house about an hour before bed by dimming the lights and turning off the TV.  Establish a routine that both you and your child enjoys.  This routine might include taking a bath, brushing teeth, cuddling and reading a story, singing a song, saying prayers, talking about the day and planning tomorrow, providing a “lovey”, and giving another snuggle before leaving the room.

3.  After the routine, your child may call or cry for you.  Be strong and consistent.  You can peek in and tell your child that it is night-time and time to sleep, but do not go back and rock and comfort to sleep.  Your child will learn to fall asleep on his or her own.  This is a learned skill, and an important one!  Give your child suggestions.  “You don’t have to sleep, just read your books or snuggle with your bear.”  Leave a night-light on if necessary.

4.  Establishing a sleep routine usually takes about three to four  nights of consistency.  Parents need to be on the same page and tackle this as a team!  Do not confuse your child with two different approaches to sleep.  Make a plan, and stick to it.  Remember that sleep is a health issue, you are being a good parent!

If you establish good sleep habits with your toddler, your daytime hours will be much more fun!  It is amazing how the “terrible twos” may just become terrific if you have a child that is not overly tired.

More to come….how to handle specific night-time challenges!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Early to bed and very early to rise…that is a toddler!

Kelsey up and at ’em bed hair and all…always smiling and more chipper than me at her early wake time!

Oh I remember those mornings…waking to the sweet cry or call from my toddler’s room at hmmmm 5:00 am?  Neither of us was really ready to start the day, and both of us were crabby by 9:00 am!  Early morning waking and toddlers seem to go together.  A very common question that many parents have is, “How can I get my toddler to sleep later in the morning?”  ” What is a “normal” wake time for a toddler?”

The first answer is…there is no “normal”.  Every child is certainly different.  There always is that parent that has a 2-year-old that sleeps until 8:30 every morning.  That was never me, and most of us will not have a toddler that lounges in bed in the morning!  In general, toddlers are wired early to bed and early to rise.  Many children will wake up by 6:00 am, so if you are not a morning person, you will become one! (Maybe with the help of coffee!)  Toddlers will sleep about 11 to 12 hours at night, so with a bedtime of 7:00-7:30 pm that gives them a wake time of 6:00 to 7:00 am.   Pushing back the bedtime until later will usually backfire for most children.  A late bedtime usually results in an earlier wake time because the toddler will become overly tired.  I know that does not make logical sense, but that is a toddler!   Here are a few tips that might help that extra-early waker:

  • Adjust your expectations.  A wake time of about 6:00 to 6:30 is within the range of normal for a toddler.  Make sure you are in bed earlier too!
  • Adjust your child’s bedtime.  Early to bed is a great habit for children.  A child that is up too late and becomes overly tired will wake earlier.  Sleep begets sleep in toddlers.  A bedtime by 7:30 to 8:00 pm is an important sleep habit, and it gives you a bit of an evening too.
  • Purchase black out shades.  Most children are light sensitive…early light will wake them and light in the evening (daylight savings time) will keep them awake.
  • White noise may help too.  If you have a noisy street in the morning, try white noise to keep your child from being disturbed.
  • If your child wakes before 6:00 am, tell him it is still nighttime and let them him fuss it out a bit.  (Turn down the monitor if you are still using it, he will be fine!)  Do not bring the toddler to your bed.  Neither of you will sleep and this will become a habit!  Keep a few books or lovey in bed with your toddler so that he can entertain himself quietly and hopefully go back to sleep.  Soon, he will wake and then learn to fall back to sleep.  Most of the time, the very early-wakers are arousing during their last sleep cycle and need to go back to sleep.  After a few days of fussing, most children will no longer cry for you at the early waking, they will simply roll over and go back to sleep.
  • For a toddler age 3 or older, try a nightlight with a timer.  Tell your child when the nightlight switches off, it is morning and he can call you.
  • You can also try “wake up” clocks that turn green when it is time to get up!

Be patient, most toddlers have periods of sleep issues.  Stick to your routine, be consistent, and follow the “early to bed, early to rise” guideline…for yourself too!  A cup of coffee and the sunrise can be a beautiful thing…just go with it!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Sleep…we all want it and need it!

Sleep…when you don’t have it that is when you realize how much you miss it, at least for adults!  I can remember those days when all 4 kids were small, and sleep was a precious commodity.   There were some mornings that I looked at the clock when I woke up and counted how many hours until I could sleep again!  There were always those nights that were either too short or at least too interrupted to feel rested.  If I wasn’t rested, at least one child wasn’t either.  That is not a good combination, a tired Mom and a tired child usually makes a long day.  It is so frustrating to know that your child is tired, but just can’t settle to sleep, there is no “on/off” switch for kids!  If there was, I would have flipped it “off” on many occasions!

Sleep is so important for children; it is a true health issue.  Families are so busy that often sleep is not a priority, and it needs to be!  Not “depositing” valuable sleep into your child’s “sleep bank” can result in sleep deprivation, and that can cause real problems for you and your child’s development.

Dr. Marc Weissbluth MD is one of my favorite sleep experts.  His book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is one of my “go to” books for sleep questions.  He tells us that:

“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.”

So healthy sleep includes the correct amount, sleep time that is uninterrupted or good quality, and age appropriate naps.  Children who are not getting the proper amount or quality of sleep can be over stimulated, whiny, aggressive, hyperactive, and chronic sleep deprivation may even affect the neurological development of a child.

So, how long should your child sleep? 

Newborn to 2 months           16-18 hours in a 24 hour period               3-5 naps a day

2 to 4 months                           14-16 hours in a 24 hour period                3 naps a day

4 to 6 months                           14-15 hours in a 24 hour period                3 naps a day

6 to 9 months                           14 hours in a 24 hour period                       2 naps a day

9 to 12 months                         14 hours in a 24 hour period                       2 naps a day

12 to 18 months                       13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period              1-2 naps a day

18 months to 2 years             13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period             1 nap a day

2 – 3 years                                  13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period             1 nap a day

3 – 5 years                                  11 – 13 hours in a 24 hour period              maybe 1 nap a day

Remember…this is a guideline but most children will fall within these guidelines.  Most parents under estimate the number of hours of sleep their child needs.

Your child’s quality of sleep is important.  Your little one must be able to cycle through the stages of sleep to get the optimal benefit from sleep.  The quality of sleep is what is so important in your child’s neurological development.

Now I hear parents saying…”How can I make my child sleep?”  The truth is, you can’t.  You can make it easier for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep but you can’t force sleep.  All children have a rhythm to their sleep pattern.  In the first few months that rhythm is almost non existent.  As your baby approaches the end of the 3rd month, you will begin to see a bit of predictability and rhythm.  When you help your child find his or her rhythm with a calm routine and by watching for sleep cues, then your child’s sleep becomes deeper and more effective.  A rested child sleeps better….a child who sleeps better is more rested…it is a cycle.

So, as parents we must protect our child’s sleep.  We help our children establish good sleep habits…it is so much easier to form good habits than break bad ones!  So, give sleep the importance that it is due and your life will be easier and your child will be healthier, happier, less demanding, and more fun to be around.  The bonus will be that you might get a little more sleep too!

Stay tuned all week for tips on forming good sleep habits, breaking bad sleep habits, and tools to tackle sleep strategies for your child.  Maybe a little bedtime reading for you!  🙂

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


What is in your discipline “bag of tricks”?

discipline tricks

What is in your discipline bag of tricks?

It was 7:30 am and my day was in full swing. I was chasing a two year old trying to get him dressed again. It is barely an hour into the day and I felt like I was on the verge of yelling and a time out before breakfast just didn’t seem right. Sound familiar? I am a big believer that spanking and yelling are not the best choices for discipline. I have taught 1,2,3 Magic for years….but sometimes you just need something else. Discipline is a parenting must. Children need guidelines, boundaries, expectations, consistency and consequences. I think parents really need a “bag of discipline tricks” to parent effectively. These “tricks” can help prevent physical punishment, increase cooperation, take away some of the No’s in your child’s life and quite honestly maybe bring a smile to you both. Here are a few “tricks” to keep in your repertoire….share a few of your own too!

  1. 1,2,3 Magic

This is my favorite discipline technique which is very effective when used consistently and according to the rules. Do not use it for everything….save it for behaviors you want to eliminate quickly.

  1. Remove your child from the conflict and give attention.

I know I always say that we should never give attention to a negative behavior, but if a child is acting inappropriately sometimes simply removing him from the conflict gently and bringing him to another activity of cooperation is effective. Example…You see your child grabbing toys from others and becoming aggressive, you walk up and take him by the hand and say “Come with me I need help getting snack ready.” You have just removed him from the behavior that is inappropriate, not used the word NO, and given positive attention for the cooperative activity. Usually works!

  1. Change your requests from “go” to “come”.

If you are trying to get your child to do something, approach from a cooperative view-point. Instead of “Go put your coat on.” Try “Come with me to put your coat on.” The tone totally changes and cooperation increases!

  1. Turn your no to a yes.

Telling a child “no” to a request will often result in a meltdown. When possible, change that “no” to “yes”. Example   “I know you want to go outside, we can’t now but yes, we will after lunch.” “Let’s play with the water here in the sink, not the water in the dog’s bowl.” “Leave your shoes on now, we will take them off at home!”

  1. Try using the “not for” phrase.

“Hands are not for hitting they are for patting and loving.” “Trucks are not for throwing, they are for pushing.” “Food is not for throwing it is for eating.” Soon you may hear your child repeating those phrases to keep himself from the activity!

  1. Get Goofy.

Nothing like a little humor to diffuse a situation! Try putting that jacket on your child’s leg, or hopping to bed, or singing a silly song. Once you both are smiling cooperation increases.

  1. Think Like A Toddler.

Why did your child just dump the dog food out again….or throw the ball in the house again…or dump a box of cereal out and stomp on them…??? Yelling “STOP WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” just doesn’t work. A young child doesn’t think about why he is dumping dog food or stomping on cereal, he is thinking this is so fun! When you think like a child you will have more patience and will react a little calmer. Tell your child that the activity looks like so much fun…redirect to something appropriate and have them help you clean up! (as much as a 2 or 3 year old can!)

  1. Behavior charts and rewards.

Time In is as important as Time Out. What does that mean? Reward your child throughout the day with positive words, stickers, hugs, stories or other positive reinforcements for behavior you like. That positive attention increases that behavior and then allows your child to really FEEL the removal of that positive attention if you give a Time Out for unacceptable behavior. Sticker charts work well at age 2 and older. Younger toddlers…and even older children will often just love a sticker to wear or a stamp on their hand for positive behaviors. If you have ever been to a Gymboree class you know how important that stamp on the hand is! Get creative! I heard of a Mom sending her child to bed with a brown bag every night. If he did not get up, there was something in it in the morning! Ignore unacceptable or annoying behavior when you can and reinforce the positive. Rewards should not always be bought…rewards of time make the most impact.

  1. Use consistent words to help your child.

“No touch”, “Kind words”, “Good choices”, “Gentle touch”, “Walking feet”….think of a few of your own. The more often your child hears the same consistent phrase, the more likely he will comply with the behavior. A reminder that results in cooperation is better than a punishment after the fact.

  1. Substitute appropriate behavior.

“Let’s climb on the couch cushions not on the table.” “Let’s throw the ball, not the truck.” “Let’s sing a loud song instead of scream.” Simply saying “no” without an alternative will often result in a meltdown or defiance. Give an alternative to the behavior you don’t want, and make it a similar activity to gain cooperation. Often your child is working on a skill like climbing or throwing!

  1. Try playing a game to get your child to cooperate.

“Let’s play a pretend game when you get dressed. It is all pretend, but if you do what I say you will get to wear a sticker! Are you ready? OK, Connor let’s pretend….Put your shirt on please.” If he does it you respond, “Wow I can’t believe you could put your shirt on! Are you sure you haven’t played this game before?” Give a big hug and a sticker. Because it is a “game” your little one will be excited about trying it out. Soon it will become merely cooperation.

  1. Intervene early.

You know your child and their behavior. If you see the unacceptable behavior beginning….redirect early. Don’t let the hit, bite, or shove actually happen. As your child becomes aggressive step in and redirect.

  1. Be assertive but also a cheer leader.

Don’t be wishy-washy and ask “Would you want to pick up the toys?” or “I am thinking it might be time to pick up and leave.” Be assertive and tell your child what is going to happen so there is no question on who is in charge, then be cheerful and firm on what will happen next. Cheer your child on as they begin to cooperate. Giving the impression that there is a choice or a chance to negotiate when there isn’t always results in conflict.

  1. Redirect physically.

A child may need to be physically moved from an area to redirect. Sometimes your words will not work. A child who is becoming aggressive should be carried or walked to another activity quickly.

  1. Praise ten times more than you correct.

Yep, you heard me correctly. Praise effort and not outcome and praise a lot. That is what a Time In is. Time Out removes your attention….the rest of the day should be a Time IN. Time Outs will not work if your child doesn’t feel the difference of the removal of your attention.

  1. Calm Down Bottles.

Another tool to help your child learn to “flip the switch” to calm down on his own. That is the skill we want all of our children to develop!

  1. Have an older child determine his or her punishment.

An older preschooler, school age children and teens are very good at deciding what the consequence for their unacceptable behavior should be. Often they are tougher on themselves than you would be. The consequences they decide usually make sense and are remembered.

  1. Start over….over and over again.

Rewind. This was one of my favorite tools. If your child is just starting off on the wrong foot, or you see a behavior that is inappropriate and can be fixed immediately; simply turn your child in a circle and make a “rewind” sound and let your child try again. I love the second chance to make things right. Sometimes my husband will actually do this to me in the morning if I am grumpy before that morning coffee kicks in!

So, those are a few tricks to put in that discipline bag. Be sure you are taking care of yourself, because we all know that we aren’t able to tap into our patience or discipline approach if we are on empty ourselves. You and your child deserve parents who “fill themselves up” so they are at their best. As time goes on, you will find the discipline approaches that work the best for each of your children. No child’s day should be filled with more “no” than “yes”, more boundary setting than free play, or more tears than smiles. We all will have bad days, but the good moments should outnumber the difficult. Remember, the purpose of boundary setting and discipline is to teach….not to upset your child.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Add a little silliness to your discipline…it works!

A little “clowning around” with discipline will work!  Infuse a little silliness in your day!  🙂

All the discipline discussion over the last few days and I feel like a very serious parent!  Discipline is serious business, and a very real necessity for your child, but there certainly are moments that a little bit of silliness or humor will diffuse a situation and result in your child not needing that time out!  Potential conflict can be diffused with a little bit of fun.  Humor can catch your child off guard and prevent a power struggle from even beginning.

1.  Use a funny voice.

Asking your child to pick up toys or do a chore that he has refused to do in a silly voice may just be enough to get him laughing and cooperate!

2.  Use physical humor.

Distraction with something that looks funny may just lighten the mood enough to encourage cooperation.  Your child doesn’t want to get dressed?  What would happen if you pretended to put on your child’s shirt?  What if you tried to put the arms of your child’s shirt on your child’s feet?  This little bit of silliness may be enough to get your child to forget about the battle and cooperate.  Sometimes using physical humor that is totally unexpected will diffuse a situation.  If you have a child who is melting down, put something silly on your head, make a funny face, do something goofy….you might see a little laugh through the tears and the situation is diffused.

3.  Use games.

Play games for cooperation.  Racing the clock to complete a request is a great game to encourage cooperation, but you can even be more creative.  Having trouble with your child holding your hand in a parking lot?  Try asking your child to “lead” you to the car because you “forgot” what your car looks like…walk up to the wrong car and pretend to get in and see the giggles start.  Each time you need to hold hands, start the game.  Think of a game to try in those situations that you know your child has difficulty cooperating.  Try it before the conflict begins, it may even become your own special game that just the two of you share!

4.  Rewind

Give your child a 2nd chance every once in a while.  If your child says “no” to a request, “rewind”.  Be silly and back up physically and rewind your voice…try the request again.  My husband was always very good at this….he would take our kids’ shoulders, turn them in a circle….and start over.  This usually brought a smile and a better choice to cooperate from our kids.

5.  Use a silly question.

If you get a defiant “No” from your child…try a silly question.  “Hmmm you don’t want to wear your coat?  What about wearing your bathing suit today?”  Sometimes a ridiculous suggestion or question results in cooperation!

Remember to use humor at the right moment.  There are times to be serious and follow through with your discipline plan, a firm “No” and a time out.  At no time should you use humor to belittle your child….but there certainly are times that a little fun and games can diffuse a stressful situation, increase your child’s cooperation, and let’s face it…make the day a bit more fun for both you and your child!  Increase your silliness today and see what happens.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


“Hurry up or I will leave without you!” and other discipline techniques that don’t work!

There are some discipline techniques that just don’t work as well as others!

I can remember sometimes simply reacting to a behavior of one of my kids, but not really using a discipline approach.  The result was never very effective.  Some typical reactions just don’t work, or result in other issues later.  Here are some of the most common “discipline reactions” that are usually not very effective:


  • “If you don’t hurry we’ll leave you here.”

Threats teach children not to take their parents seriously.  Give a child a consequence that you know you will follow through with and makes sense.  Your child knows that you will not leave them at home alone.  It is an empty threat, one that you will not follow through with.  Think twice, do what you will say!  A better choice if you have a child that is dawdling would be:

“If you don’t hurry we will not have time to play at the park on the way home from the store.”

Logical consequence and something you can follow through with.  So, those times I grounded a child for life….hmmmm

  • “No dessert unless you clean your plate.”

Do not use food as a punishment.  “No dessert unless you eat your broccoli” can result in two things.  Number one, you have told your child that dessert is better than broccoli…now in your opinion that may be true, 🙂 but you want your child to think that nutritious food is on the same level as desserts!  Number two, children learn very quickly to negotiate and then parents usually back down.

“If I take one bit can I have dessert?”

 “No take two.”  

“How about one and a half?”  

“Take one.”

Child cries and whines.  Parent responds by giving in.  Soon a child figures out that negotiation works and  everything becomes a negotiation and is exhausting!

  • “What a good boy you are!”

Complimenting your child is wonderful.  We want to encourage behavior we like, but be specific as to why your child is good.

“You have been so good in the grocery store, I like how you sat in the grocery cart without trying to stand up!”

This type of statement  lets your child know what kind of behavior you expect and like, blanket praise does not work as well.

  • “If you loved me, you wouldn’t do that.”

Never connect behavior to love.  Your child loves you and you love your child unconditionally.  Do not try to control behavior by using guilt.  Give your child a reason to behave the way you would like.

 “It would be such a big help if  you picked up your toys out of the kitchen so I can make us dinner.”

“Help me put your shoes on so we can get to the store and buy food for lunch, what is your favorite for lunch?”

  • “If you don’t behave I’m going to call your father or mother or grandparent or Santa….”

This undermines your authority.  It is risky to show that you have no recourse other than to tell dad or another person.  You are the parent, don’t give your authority to someone else!  Besides, what can Santa do??

  • “Why did you do that?”  or   “What is wrong with you?”

Children don’t know why they behave wrong or can’t articulate a reason.  Asking won’t help them find a reason.  You can walk your child through the problem and help them find a reason for their behavior, describe the emotion your child is feeling, but asking why doesn’t work.  A child really doesn’t know why he or she just squirted all the lotion from the bottle  out on the floor!  Asking only frustrates you!

  • “Why can’t you be more like your sister or friend?”

Comparison is damaging.  Children should never feel like they need to compete for parental love.  Comparing siblings results in an increase in sibling rivalry and can damage the relationship between sisters and brothers.  Your child is unique!  I believe that rules in a home should be the same for all your children, but your discipline approach to each child may be slightly different depending on the temperament of the child.  Remember each child has special gifts and special challenges…your role as a parent is to embrace both.

  • “You are naughty!!”

You want to send the message that the behavior is bad—not the child.  Parents need to make it clear that they believe their kids are good at heart.

“Why did a kind kid like you say something so mean to your friend?”  “This is not like you behaving this way…”

Your child is not bad, the behavior is.

  • “If you behave, I’ll buy you a toy.”

Bribes won’t win you anything and makes it just plain expensive to get out of the grocery store every week if you are buying something in the check out lane!   If a parent uses bribes you may end up having to buy good behavior on an ongoing basis.  Reward charts do work, but reward charts are a temporary incentive and the best rewards are your time or a special activity not an item that is bought.  The toy you buy brings temporary excitement, your time tends to be a more lasting reward.  Continual bribing molds a child into an externally motivated child, as parents we would rather have a child develop internal motivation for good behavior.

  • Spanking 
Spanking is not an effective discipline tool.  Spanking or hand slapping may stop the behavior at the moment, but it does not teach.  Remember the root of discipline is teaching.  We have also learned that children that have a more aggressive temperament will increase their aggression if spanking is used as the discipline approach at home.  This type of discipline also sends a very confusing message.  There are other approaches that work better and are a better example for your child.  Parents also don’t want to spank when they are very angry or frustrated, this can result in taking your anger or frustration out on your child a little more aggressively than you had planned.

There were certainly times when I did not discipline in the most effective way!  We all react out of anger and frustration at times.  I can remember thinking, “Did I just say that?”  The key is using effective discipline MOST of the time, and not beating yourself up when you are not effective.  Remember too, there is a great lesson to your child when you apologize for not handling a situation well.

“I did not like the way you treated your sister a few minutes ago, but Mommy should not have said what she did.  I am sorry.”

We are parents, we are not perfect, but having an effective discipline plan and not simply reacting with emotion to an inappropriate behavior by your child is important!  Tomorrow….the plan!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Why has this happened again? What will YOU do?

Where do we go from here? It seems that we have to ask this way too often.  We continue to see the images of beautiful children who have been tragically lost scroll across our TV and computer screens.  The tears seem endless.  What do we do with our emotions, our anger, our sadness?  We must use these feelings to move our families and our country in a positive direction.  The time is now when our emotions are so raw and our hearts are so full of pain.  Now is the time to look at what we need to do as parents to help prevent this type of tragedy from ever happening again. We are powerful. I will not get into the political rhetoric about gun control, whether you agree or disagree with gun control….there is so much more that we can do right now beginning today.

  1.  Love your children deeply, be involved in their lives.  Teach the values of life and love to your children from moment one.  Provide security to your children and shelter them from adult problems and evil in the world.  Their little minds cannot process the scary truths that exist in our world.
  2. Help your children develop empathy.  Children who have highly developed social and emotional intelligence are less likely to hurt each other.  Empathy and social/emotional intelligence does not just appear in a child. We must provide the environment for it to flourish. Talk to your child about feelings, role play what to do when they see someone hurting, point out actions that result in positive feelings, volunteer together as a family and provide several adult mentors who share your family values for your child. Surround your child with real relationships. Social media provides disconnected relationship, control your child’s social media exposure. Make it a priority to monitor your child’s social media interaction.  When was the last time you looked at your child’s phone? YouTube channel? Snapchat? Instagram? We must take responsibility to know what our children are doing and seeing on social media.
  3. Mentor. Need an outlet for action after this tragedy? Look what your community has to mentor children at risk. Coach, lead a scout troop, be a Big Brother or Big Sister, join youth advocacy/assistance programs…become the stable adult for children who are struggling because of unstable family lives or lack of stable adult role models. We can’t just talk we must act.
  4.  Protect your children from being exposed to violence in video games and TV.  I feel that is one of our biggest mistakes as a society.  I feel that the realistic violent video games that so many of our children are exposed to can numb a young mind to violence and its horror.  Some will argue that children have played “cops and robbers” or “army” for generations, but never have children been exposed through that imaginary play to the reality of violence that is so palpable in these video games.  Our children are “killing” with graphic detail….these graphic and detailed images are not healthy for young immature minds.
  5.  Support our young boys.  All of these mass shootings have been carried out by young males.  Our boys need to learn how to express their anger, frustration, and emotion in ways that are non-violent.  Our boys need fathers and male role models who teach how to be strong men, but men who use their strength to love and care for others.  Our young men MUST have loving role models.  We must support intact families and mentors for those young men who are searching for adult role models.
  6.   Support our children and adults who have mental illnesses.  Parents of troubled children must be their advocate to help them receive the help that is so desperately needed.  Teachers must be alert to those students who need services and address those needs with parents.  We all must support mental health programs and advocate for more programs.  We must be providing care, support and services for those parents who are caring for children who have mental illness. Simply calling and reporting or removing a child from a school does not address the problem.  Our voices need to be loud and clear, mental health cannot be ignored.
  7.  Talk about gun safety and gun control.  If you have guns in your home, they must be locked up and inaccessible, period.  As a country, we must discuss in a nonpolitical arena the laws surrounding the purchase of guns, but we must find the core values that are missing in our society too. Controlling guns without strengthening our families, instilling values of life, love, discipline, and I believe religion in our children, supporting the emotional needs of our young boys, and providing services for the mentally ill will not stop the violence. We can’t be one dimensional with this issue.
  8.  Have open discussions with our schools to be sure that there are safety policies in place.  We must be sure that our children are protected by common sense safety policies in the schools.  Talk to your children and reassure them that they are safe at school and answer their questions about their safety gently.  Fear does not prevent violence; it only increases the damage.
  9.  Get active. Use your emotions.  Reach out and help those that are hurting, write letters, form groups to pressure companies to stop marketing violent games, join school safety committees, become a mentor to troubled youth…action heals hurt.  Be a part of the solution.
  10.  Take care of your own emotions.  Take a break from the news reports.  Talk to other parents, your family, members of your church, friends, anyone who can support you in moments of sadness and anxiety.  Redirect your thoughts to reasons you are grateful.  Hug your children and revel in the moment.

Now is the time to act.  Our emotions and feelings are raw with pain, but time will numb that pain again and we will soon be carrying on our lives in the same manner.  We cannot let this tragedy go unanswered again….we are parents, we love our children, we all can do better.  Let’s work together to stop the violence.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby

Our daughter Kelsey loving her solid foods!  She was needing a dunk in the tub after this meal!

I can remember the excitement of introducing the kids to their first tastes of “real food”.  The camera was ready, they were sitting up and eager, and that first bite often resulted in the funniest look as they had that first taste.

I know that starting solid foods often comes along with many questions.  What food is first?  What about allergies?  How much?  When?  And the list goes on and on.  To be honest, there are not many hard and fast “rules” that come with starting your little one on solids.  As with many issue of parenting, you may see many different suggestions and contradictory information which can increase your anxiety.    Like many of my parenting tips, I start by saying “Relax!”  There really is not a “wrong” way to do this!  So get your cameras ready….the introduction to solid food is a milestone for every parent and baby, and is darn cute too!

When is my baby ready?

The American Academy of Pediatrics tells parents that solid foods should be introduced between 4 and 6 months of age.  At any point between 4 and 6 months, it is just fine!  More important than age, we like to see that the baby is developmentally ready for solids.

Why should I wait until my baby is 4 to 6 months old?

Ideally, breast milk or formula should be the main nutrition for a baby’s first 4 to 6 months.  The foods that you introduce after that are really just supplemental to the nutrients in the breast milk and formula.  Solids are really an education in taste and texture for the first year of life.  Breast milk or formula is the core of your baby’s diet for the first full year providing at least 75% of your baby’s calories.  After a year, your baby will start to meet more and more of their nutritional needs through solid foods.  By age 3, a child should only be getting about 10-20% of their calories from milk, and the rest from solid foods.

Isn’t this different from when I grew up?

Maybe.  The school of thought regarding solids has changed over the years.   In the 1920’s, solid foods were seldom offered to babies before a year.  During the 1960’s and 1970’s solid foods often were fed to infants in the first three months.  There are pictures of me being fed rice cereal at just a few weeks of age.  (I AM pretty old!)  Moms were often told then that the cereal would help a young infant sleep through the night.  I promise it doesn’t!   Slowly, we have come almost full circle with the recommendation now to wait until your baby is at least 4 months old.

Why do we wait now?

We have learned that babies are just not developmentally ready for solids.  More important than actual age is your baby’s development.

  • Before 4 months of age, a baby’s digestive system is too immature for solids.
  • Before 4 months of age, a baby’s throat muscles are not developed for swallowing solids and there is a tongue thrust…food that is placed in the mouth is pushed back out with his tongue.  Most babies no longer have this tongue thrust by 6 months.
  • Before 4 months of age, your baby has no ability to tell you that he is full.  Until around 4 to 5 months, babies will not turn their head to refuse food.
  • Before 4 months of age, solid foods will result in your baby taking less breast milk or formula that has the correct amount of nutrients and fat for growth.
  • Solids should be introduced no later than 6 months.  Waiting too long for the introduction of solids can result in a delay in your baby’s eating and chewing skills, and recent studies now show that waiting longer than 6 months of age may actually increase food allergies.

What are some signs that might show my baby is developmentally ready for solids?

  • Your baby is between 4 and 6 months in age.
  • Your baby has at least doubled his birth weight.
  • Your baby can sit with support.
  • Your baby has good head and neck control and is able to turn his head to refuse food.
  • Your baby’s tongue thrust reflex is diminishing.
  • Your baby is breast-feeding more than 8 to 10 times a day and still wants more or your baby is taking 32 to 36 ounces of formula and wants more.
  • Your baby is reaching for your food, or shows an interest when you are eating.

What food should be first?

Traditionally babies have been started on an iron fortified, easily digested cereal, like rice.  This is because at 6 months of age, a baby’s natural iron stores from Mom are beginning to diminish.  So, most parents start with some type of cereal, often rice.  Other than the iron, there is not much nutrition in the rice cereal. I feel that a white rice cereal is not the best choice for a first food….there really is no hard and fast rule regarding what food you should start first.  There are many good options such as:

  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potato
  • Pears
  • Applesauce
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Strained meats
  • Whole milk yogurt if a baby is 6 months of age or older

First foods should be single ingredients.  Foods should be introduced one at a time with a couple of days in between each new food so if there is any type of reaction you will know which food is likely the culprit!

Some will suggest that a parent introduce vegetables before fruits so the baby does not taste the sweet food first.  I don’t feel this is necessary.  Babies who are breast-fed have tasted sweet…breast milk is sweet!  No matter if a parent introduces fruits or vegetables first, babies will always prefer the sweeter taste.  So, it really doesn’t matter!  Introduce a vegetable, then a fruit, then a meat….whatever works for you and your child!

How do I start?

  1. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons of a single ingredient pureed food.  It should be a liquid consistency in the beginning.  Your goal is not to fill up your child’s tummy, but to expose him to the new taste and texture.  Be careful not to substitute food for breast milk or formula.  During the first year babies should still have 4-6 breast feedings or 24-36 ounces of formula in 24 hours.  If milk consumption drops, you may be feeding too many solids.
  2. Use your finger as the first spoon and have your baby suck the food off your finger.  You then can move to a rubber coated spoon.
  3. Offer the first meal when you are not in a hurry and your baby is not overly tired or too hungry.  I suggest you nurse or bottle feed first, and then an hour later try the solids.
  4. Always offer the new food in the morning so if your baby would have any kind of reaction or upset tummy, it doesn’t happen at night!
  5. Watch your facial expressions.  Babies learn what foods you like and don’t like!  Everything should be yummy!
  6. If your baby makes a face or gags with the new taste or texture, it does not mean that he doesn’t like the food.  It takes at least 10 to 15 introductions of a food before a baby can develop a like or dislike!  We want our babies to have a wide taste pallet!  Don’t limit your baby to only the foods you like, especially if you are picky!
  7. Watch carefully to see when your baby has had enough.  A baby may turn his head, close his mouth, bat the spoon away, or become fussy.  Do not force food.  Remember, the majority of your baby’s calories should be coming from breast milk or formula.
  8. It makes no difference to a baby if he gets green beans for breakfast!  There is no right or wrong food for each meal.
  9. Start with one meal a day and then move to twice a day.  By 9 months of age, most babies are enjoying solid foods and are eating 3 meals a day.
  10. There should be “dinner and a show!”  Babies like smiles, airplane spoons, songs, and fun with the meal.  Enjoy it!

Tips for making mealtime easier?

  1. Show your baby how you take a bite and enjoy your food.  This may encourage a reluctant eater.
  2. Use the upper lip to sweep food off the spoon.
  3. Dress yourself and your baby in clothes that won’t be hurt by a messy eater!  Many times I stripped my little ones down and sometimes a bath was necessary after the meal!  Babies are messy eaters….no way to get around that!
  4. Use suction cup bottomed bowels.  Keep your baby’s hands busy, give him a spoon to hold too!
  5. No pressure.  It is O.K. if your baby misses a meal.  If your baby is fighting the solid foods, skip a meal or two and then try again.  Remember, solids are mainly an education to taste and texture.  Your baby should be receiving most of his nutrition from breast milk or formula.

What about water and  juice?

Babies do not need any other liquid besides breast milk or formula for the first 4 to 6 months.  This means no juice or water.  Once solid foods are introduced, a baby should be introduced to a cup.  Water may be given in a cup with a meal.  Your baby will probably just take a few sips.  Juice is not recommended for the first year.  Juice provides very little nutritional value and has a lot of empty calories.

What about allergies?

Some health care providers may suggest waiting to start foods like eggs, fish, or peanut butter until your baby is older because of the risk of food allergies.  Studies have shown that avoidance of foods does not prevent the allergy and may actually increase the incidence of food allergies.  In January of 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines recommending that foods should not be avoided unless there was a significant family history of food allergies.  Check with your health care provider regarding his or her suggestions about these foods.

One food that should be avoided until after the first birthday is honey.  Honey carries the risk of your baby developing botulism.  This does not include honey that is in foods like crackers or cereal, only pure honey.

How will I know if my baby is allergic to a food?

If your baby has vomiting, diarrhea, a new diaper rash or skin rash including hives, or develops wheezing, then this could be a food allergy.  If your baby has gas, or a tummy ache it may just be a food intolerance.  If you think your baby has had an allergic response or an intolerance, you should stop giving the food to your baby.  You might try the food again in a couple of months if the reaction was mild and your baby may do just fine.  If there was a more severe reaction like vomiting, hives, or wheezing talk to your health care provider before giving the food again.

What about homemade baby food?

Some parents choose to make baby food.  To be honest, if you are waiting to start solids until your baby is 6 months old, your little one will not eat true puree food for very long.  Most babies will start finger foods at about 8 months and are eating mostly table food by  11 months of age.    It is not terribly difficult or time-consuming to make baby food.  You may choose to make all of your own, or use some store-bought and some homemade.  Your baby will also do just fine if you choose to use all store-bought.  Here are some tips for making your own.

  • You will need something to grind or puree food.  You might use a blender, food processor or simply a fork as your little one gets used to texture.
  • You will need storage containers like ice-cube trays or something similar.  There are trays made just for baby food, but ice-cube trays will work just the same.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and fresh, or frozen for the best nutritional value.
  • Wash your hands well.
  • Wash the fruit and vegetables well!
  • Bake, boil, or steam the vegetables or fruit.  You then can mash or puree using water or breast milk/formula.  If you boil the vegetables/fruit, use the leftover liquid to mash the food to prevent loss of nutrients in the water.
  • Peel and pit fruits and vegetables and strain if necessary.
  • You can use seasoning!  Babies like flavor!  Try to stay away from salt.
  • Remove skin and trim fat from meat.  You can puree cooked meat, or grind it, or simply cut it up into very small pieces for an older baby.
  • Freeze the food  in ice-cube trays.  Remove the cubes of food and store in labeled freezer bags.  One cube is about 1 ounce of food.
  • When ready, thaw the amount you will use.  If your baby does not eat all the food prepared in the dish, it must be thrown out, it cannot be saved.
  • Use caution heating with a microwave.  Microwaves can cause hot spots..be sure to stir and test the food.

There are many books with tips and recipes for making baby food.  Some of my favorites include:

Super Baby Food   By:  RuthYaron

Baby Bites   By:   Bridget Swinney

Top 100 Baby Purees:  100 Quick and Easy Meals for a Healthy and Happy Baby   By:   Annabel Karmel

So, the introduction of solids really should not make you anxious, it should be exciting and fun!  Enjoy this milestone for you and your baby!  Your baby’s first taste of solid food only happens once!  Don’t over think the process.  Get ready for dinner and a show!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



American Academy of Pediatrics






Picky Toddler Eating

Our daughter, Kaitlyn, the picture of  toddler pickiness!

Why is it that we parents worry so much about how much our child is eating?  I can remember thinking that how well Kaitlyn ate that day, determined how well I had parented.  Not true!  Children under the age of one usually nurse or formula feed well, and are eager for the introduction of solid foods.  But seemingly over night, our toddlers start to have an opinion about what we feed them!  I can remember being very frustrated because I was providing her with this wonderfully healthy meal, and often all she wanted was bananas!  To make it more confusing, the next day she may have thrown all those bananas off her tray!  My darling daughter was a typical toddler, and with toddlers, meals are often a challenge.  Why?

1.Toddlers have slowed down in growth.

The first year of life a child grows very quickly, between birth and a year most children triple their birth weight!  A toddler grows much more slowly and seems less hungry.

2.  Eating interrupts a toddler’s activity.

Toddlers are busy…any parent can tell you that.  Sitting for any length of time just isn’t on the toddler’s agenda!

3.  You can’t force a toddler to eat.

A parent’s job is to present a toddler with a wide taste pallet of healthy foods every day.  It is up to the child to eat them!  The more you force, the more most toddlers turn up their noses.  A healthy child offered healthy food will NOT starve themself!  A parent’s job is to provide a toddler’s job is to decide!

4.  Toddlers usually eat one good meal a day.

Often toddlers will eat a good breakfast, an OK lunch and pick at dinner. Toddlers only need about 40 calories an inch. (Now don’t get that calculator out for your child!)  Most will only need about 1000 to 1200 calories a day.  By dinner, many toddlers have eaten their required calories for the day!

5.  Toddlers like to binge on one food.

Food jags are common in toddlers.  One day you can’t fill them up on green beans, and then two days later it is bananas.    Some days a toddler may eat only fruit, the next day they may fill up on protein.  What a toddler eats over a week is a better picture of their diet intake.

So what is a parent to do….

  • Relax!
  •  Offer food frequently!  Toddlers need 3 meals and at least 2 snacks offered each day.  Toddlers behave better when they are eating frequently.  Their tummies are small and temper tantrums increase when blood sugars are low.  Try planning snacks from at least 2 food groups 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Dip it!  Toddlers like to dip everything.  It is fun, and it is messy…two essentials for toddler eating!  Humus, yogurt, cottage cheese, guacamole, melted cheese, salsa, peanut butter and even ranch dressing are some essential dips for toddlers.
  • Hide it!  Hide the broccoli under cheese sauce, shred the veggies and mix them in humus or cream cheese and spread on a tortilla and cut into pin wheels, puree veggies and add them to pasta sauce, lasagna, meatloaf.  Make “orange ” pancakes with sweet potato puree or carrot puree and a dash of cinnamon.  Get sneaky!   When you hide vegetables, make sure you include some on your child’s plate so they learn what a balanced diet looks like.
  • Be creative!  Kids like fun.  Make faces on sandwiches, use cookie cutters and cut shapes in pancakes and bread, make shish-ka-bobs with fruit and pretzel sticks, make party bananas with sprinkles, serve fruit and yogurt in an ice cream cone, try smoothies….
  • Remember the toddler serving size!  A serving size is a tablespoon per year.  One serving of vegetables for a 2-year-old is two tablespoons!  Many times we are trying to serve our toddlers adult size portions!  The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great “sample” daily meal plan.  Take a look!
  •  Don’t let your toddler “drink” his calories.  A toddler should only have  16 to a maximum of 20 ounces of milk a day.  That is much less than the 28 to 32 ounces most were drinking before becoming toddlers!  If your child drinks too much cow’s milk, he will not eat solid food calories!  Too much milk provides too little iron and other needed nutrients!  Juice should be limited to only 4 to 6 ounces a day, better to have the whole fruit than just the juice!
  • Let your child “shop” for food.  Give your child a few dollars and let them “shop” in the produce section.  Your child will be more likely to eat the food he or she “buys”!  You might learn to cook and eat a new fruit or vegetable too….you never know what your child may pick out!  (this is how I learned to fix spaghetti squash!)
  • Let your child “help” prepare food.  A child who watches a parent make dinner and “helps” will often be more likely to eat!  Let your child have a few choices, control is important for toddlers.
  • Let your child be messy.  Toddlers explore food with their mouths, taste buds, and hands.  They smash food, throw food, spread food, “paint” with food and generally need a bath after most meals.  You must allow your toddler to feed himself.  You must introduce spoons and forks, and be patient with the fact that it takes time and messes to learn how to use them!
  • Don’t battle…try a “No thank you bite”.  Toddlers have opinions, and sometimes they are very strong!  The more battle there is in a meal, the more likely you will lose!  Offer healthy foods and a variety of foods.  If your toddler refuses to try something, introduce a “no thank you bite”.  One bite and then he can refuse more.  You might even ask your child to “kiss” the food, not even take a bite.  This may provide just a small enough taste to convince your child to take a bite!  Remember, it takes 15 to 20 introductions to a food before your child will develop a definite like or dislike!

Remember, a parent’s job is to PROVIDE healthy meals and snacks….a toddler’s job is to DECIDE what he or she will eat that day. If left alone, toddlers will usually balance their own diet if we just provide good choices.  Relax….

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


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