8 mistakes parents make with their toddlers

Like I always say, children don’t come with owner’s manuals. We become parents with little or no idea how to be parents so most times, we learn on the job! Being aware of common mistakes parents make with their children can help new parents know what to avoid in their parenting duties.

Here below are some mistakes parents should avoid making with their toddlers.

1. Saying no but not sticking with it:  You know how it is: a parent says no and a tantrum ensues. It’s all a bit stressful and people are staring in the middle of the supermarket/ church/ street, so they give in to keep them quiet.

Solution: Parenting writer and author of Raising Children, Liat Hughes Joshi, advises: “If you say no it needs to mean no, every time! If you cave in for an easier life after a tantrum or if they do that cute face and pleading thing some toddlers seem to have mastered, you’ll pay for it next time and the time after and on when they want something. This is because you’re giving them a message that no doesn’t mean no, it actually means maybe if you nag, cry, or pester enough.” So say “no” only if you mean it, and don’t change your mind.

2. Making a threat you won’t follow through with:  It’s very easy to pluck a threat out of nowhere in an attempt to get your toddler to behave, but all too often a mum or dad will declare they’ll do something quite drastic that they just won’t have the guts to follow through with, or which is disproportionate and wouldn’t be fair on their child. Then they undermine their whole message as the toddler learns not to take their parents’ threats seriously. Nigerian parents do this a lot! When a Nigerian parent is really upset with the child. You hear things like “I will show you pepper” or “I will tie you up” but then of course, we don’t do any of these things

Solution: “Take even a split second to think through a threat before you say it,” says Liat. “There’s no point declaring that they won’t get any Christmas presents or you’ll take away their bedtime cuddly toy or if you would never do it – both would be really unfair. Only voice reasonable threats that you will actually follow through with if that child doesn’t behave well”. It’s better to have a set system of punishments and rewards in advance, advises Liat, not in the heat of the moment, so that you aren’t clutching for straws and ending up making threats that end up being hollow.

3. Offering too much help:  Some parents jump in to help a toddler who is having trouble doing something. Before you do, consider the possibility that by helping your child complete a puzzle or put on a shirt, you may be sending the message that he/she can’t do it alone – in other words, that the child is incompetent. You may also be setting that child up for laziness in future. Always having mummy or daddy coming through for them everytime will set the wrong foundation

Solution: Children need to learn to tolerate struggle. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with offering praise and encouragement.

4. Telling toddlers off long after they misbehaved:  “Don’t assume that toddler can make connections across spans of time,” says Linda Blair, author of The Happy Child. “They can’t. So if you scold a child for something he did 20 minutes ago they will assume that they’re bad as people. They don’t see anything they’ve done [recently], so they don’t understand.”

Solution:  If you’re going to scold your child or give them time-out for misbehaviour, then do it immediately upon the misbehaviour.

5. Using food as a reward:  “If you say, ‘Eat up your food and you can have a biscuit/sweet’, what you do is you raise the value of the biscuit/sweet in the toddlers mind and lower the value of the food, which is not a healthy eating message you want to give to a toddler,” says Judy More, a freelance paediatric dietitian.  “And by using food for rewards and treats, you set them up for comfort eating later on.”

Solution: If you want to give your toddler a reward, make the reward your time or playing a game with them, rather than a food reward, otherwise you may be setting them up for obesity later on.

6. Serving only toddler food:  Some parents forget that their toddler is growing and keep on giving him/her cereals and baby food. These parents forget or delay to introduce other kinds of foods, grown up foods, to the child. By the time they realize, it is late. The child doesn’t want to eat anything else apart from cereals and baby food!

Solution: Encourage your child to try ‘grown-up’ food.  “Toddlers learn by copying, so it is up to parents to model the behaviours they would like their toddlers to adopt,” says Judy. “Eat with your toddler as often as possible and eat the foods you would like them to learn to like. Be patient though as toddlers prefer familiar food and may not be prepared to try foods parents are eating until they have seen their parents eating them at several different meals.”

7. Letting a toddler drink from a bottle for too long:  The vast majority of toddlers still use a bottle well past the age of one. This can lead to tooth decay, tooth misalignment, iron deficiency and even obesity.

Solution: “In order to encourage your child to stop drinking from a bottle by age one (the recommended cut-off point) you should introduce a cup from six months of age,” advises Angela. “The best cups are free flow ones as they are better for baby’s teeth. If your toddler refuses to drink from a cup, make sure you only offer what is needed -two bottles of milk a day (approximately 500ml) or water and limit the number of times that he or she has access to the bottle in order to prevent frequent sipping.”

8. Starting potty training too late:  The optimum age to potty train is around the age of two and training later or earlier can significantly extend the time it takes to get it right. As a child gets older, they can become dependent on nappies because they find it more convenient to let a parent clear up the mess than have their play disrupted to go to the toilet.

Solution: ” Potty training isn’t something children will do by themselves; it has to be taught, like brushing teeth and preparing for potty training is an important first stage,” says Judith Hough, co-author of How to Potty Train.  “There are a number of ways to do this, including starting to change the nappy in the bathroom as this is where grown-ups go, and saying when a nappy is wet and when it is dry to help them learn.”

Culled from www.webmd.boots.com

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