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Child Behaviour

Thumb sucking – a perfect imperfection?

Sucking – whether on dummies, breasts, bottle teats, thumbs, or other fingers – is a deep seated physical and emotional survival strategy. Unfortunately, the media and childcare advisors portray sucking as a character weakness, a bad habit, and a danger to dental development. However, there are a number of factors which need to be considered before deciding that Baby has a problem. Thumb sucking is one of the most natural behaviours to a small baby – he’ll often begin in the womb already! The feeling of the thumb against the palate just behind the top front teeth is very comforting – in fact, an ancient de-stress trick encourages putting your tongue behind your top front teeth to relax your facial muscles and achieve a state of calm. Persuading Baby to suck a dummy instead of his thumb can be tricky; especially if there’s a family history of thumb sucking. It can be argued that many adults still use comfort sucking; although they often replace thumbs and dummies with gum, food and cigarettes!

Comfort sucking only really becomes a problem when it becomes a habit or is used as a substitute because you aren’t meeting your little one’s need for comfort, human contact, and a sense of well-being. Over time, sucking may become less about providing comfort and turn into a habit instead. A good way to determine whether or not this is the case is to watch your child carefully and take note of what situations he tends to resort to thumb sucking in. If the sucking is a habit, he’ll probably turn to it when he’s bored or his hands are idle, instead of in times of stress or anxiety. Once you’ve identified the triggers, watch out for situations where thumb sucking usually occurs and quickly offer up a distraction which requires him to use both hands – without letting your tot know that you’re distracting him.

To deal with habitual thumb sucking right into toddlerhood effectively, use my five top tips:

1.       Spend time building your child’s self-esteem and teaching him other ways to achieve satisfaction or comfort

2.       Respect that sucking offers more than just food and that your little one has the right to want and get comfort

3.       Keep little hands busy to avoid boredom

4.       Don’t draw attention to the habit, this will cause stress which will make your tot want to suck even more

5.       Consult a dentist if thumb sucking persists – not because it can cause protruding teeth, but because your dentist can give your child a plate which will remove his desire to massage the top of his mouth with his thumb

Here’s how to stress less about children’s behaviour

A tot runs around the movie theatre screaming and people mutter, ‘What terrible parents he has!’ Fair or not, our parenting skills are often judged on how our tots behave. No wonder behaviour is the third of parents’ Big Three stresses, after sleep and feeding!

Parents do play a big role in their tots’ behaviour; all babies and children need calm, confident parents and an endless supply of unconditional love. You won’t always like what your little one does, but it’s important for you to love and accept them for who they are. Remember: you can’t spoil a child with love! If their emotional needs are not met, little ones may act out to get attention.

Discipline is a controversial subject

Everyone has something to say about how you raise your child, don’t they? When trying to set Behaviour boundaries, it’s important for you not to be afraid of your child – this just makes them uncertain and more likely to act out. That does not mean you must be aggressive or impulsive, but , if necessary, give your tyke an EARFUL – of Sister Lilian’s kind!

·         E- is for Example is vital, from both parents

·         A– is for Attention, especially significant interaction

·         R- is for Rules to regulate home life should be few, wise, and consistent

·         F– is for Feedback for positive behaviour is vital

·         U– is for Use distraction when you see bad behaviour starting

·         L– is for Leave if bad behaviour persists; if you walk away and avoid eye contact and conversation your little one doesn’t have an audience and will stop performing!

At the end of the day, you need to be confident as a parent and about the choices that you make. There isn’t only one correct way to raise a child – all children are different and need different approaches. If you are doing what’s best for Baby, you, and your family, then strangers in movie theatres can say what they like!

Remember, children are very resilient; they don’t need a perfect childhood, they just need you to try your best and love them like they love you – unconditionally.

Why do children bully?

Moms and dads often despair when their beautiful child starts showing aggressive behaviour and bullying other children. To be honest, this behaviour might even be apparent from early on, although it often seems to develop as part of toddlerhood. Many parents first notice bullying or aggressive behaviour when their big baby or toddler starts interacting with other children at day care or in social gatherings, though younger siblings may well also be in the firing line.

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5 Parenting resolutions that will make your home happier

Resolutions are often just a recipe for heartache and negative self-esteem. But, there are a few easy changes you can make that will radically improve your experience of parenthood. And who doesn’t want a happy home?

Here are five suggestions for resolutions that will help you have a great parenting experience this year:

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How to stop your child’s whining

Whining, whimpering, moaning, snivelling – there’s no pretty word for when children go on and on in a high pitched voice, repeating the same complaint over and over. Whining may not be as dramatic as tantrums or as harmful as bullying and biting, but most parents find it much harder to deal with – probably because it wears you down...and really gets on your nerves...

Whiney children aren’t pleasant to be around – and whining adults are even worse! – so parents definitely want to try and nip it in the bud. The problem is that it’s usually difficult to pinpoint what is upsetting your child – and to find a solution that works long term, without getting into a whining-scolding-more whining cycle.

Nature or nurture?

Firstly, it’s important to realise that some children are simply disgruntled by nature, just like some adults have a sunnier disposition than others. If grumbling is in your little one’s genes, you know it’s nothing personal. You may also want to ask where your little one gets it from; perhaps you need to look at the way you handle negative situations and work on setting a good example.

Secondly, you need to recognise that there is always a reason behind whining and you need to address this cause, not just the whining. The parenting mindset that says that forcing children to deal with the harsh realities of life from an early age makes them stronger often does just the opposite; ignoring a child in a time of need can be very harmful, whereas responding calmly and positively can have amazing long-term positive effects on a child’s coping mechanisms. A toddler’s basic emotional needs include:

•          Security from calm, confident parents

•          Unconditional love

•          Respect for pre-programmed needs

•          Unconditional support from parents – especially when nobody else seems to understand them

•          Kind, loving touch

•          A gentle introduction to life

Troubleshooting techniques

Sister Lilian’s techniques can help you to ensure that you are meeting your whiner’s needs, and hopefully do away with the whining:

·         Spend pockets of meaningful time with your whiner at regular intervals throughout the day; if your little one gets enough positive attention, there’s less need to go looking for negative attention

·         Reward non-whining behaviour – when your little one plays happily, laughs in delight, or enjoys interaction with the world, join in enthusiastically

·         Skilfully use the art of distraction when you see whining behaviour building up; distractions involving animals, water, mud, or bubbles are usually very effective and should soon make whining the furthest thing from your little one’s mind

If these techniques don’t solve the problem (no short cuts, Mom and Dad), and your tot still whines, the best approach is to ignore any whining behaviour. If you walk away every time the whining starts, your little one will soon realise that the whining isn’t getting the results it’s supposed to and will soon give up or try a different tack. 

Sister Lilian’s top 9 discipline guidelines

Discipline is one of those ‘sensitive’ parenting issues, and yet, it really doesn’t need to be. After all, the purpose of discipline is to raise confident, caring, compassionate, socially well-adjusted children through to young adulthood.
By nature, young children are self-centred (it takes time to see the importance of others), irrational (they don't yet understand that certain types of behaviour are unacceptable), curious (often, they want to explore things their parents would prefer them not to) and messy (for them, grubbiness is seldom a problem).

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The ABCs of mending bad behaviour

School has started again and it’s a relief to get back into routine – or is it? Suddenly your little one is acting up, sucking her thumb, and insisting that her princess tutu is appropriate attire for school.

The first step is not to take it personally or see it as a reflection of your parenting skills. Little ones don’t understand changing routines, and all of the upheaval can leave them feeling unsettled. Don’t punish your child; making a fuss or using guilt trips increases anxiety and makes the problem worse.

Instead of ‘breaking’ bad behaviour or habits, I recommend that you ‘mend’ them. Bad behaviour and habits indicate a problem of sorts; so if you approach your child sensitively and mend the problem, behaviour should change for the good or the habit should disappear. Here’s an ABC of common reasons for bad behaviour and habits: 

Attention seeking– remember, wanting attention isn’t wrong. Tots quickly learn which buttons to push to get parents’ undivided attention; even if it’s in the form of anger. Make sure that you spend enough quality time with your little one.

Boredom– idle hands tend to find their way to mouths, noses, and genitalia; so keep little hands busy. Watch your tot’s body language and quickly offer up a distraction like a hands-on game – just don’t tell your tot it’s a distraction!

Comfort– bad habits can be comforting because they provide a sense of the familiar, and bad behaviour can be a reaction to your stress, especially in unsettled times. Maybe all your tot needs a bit of extra nurturing from you.

Determining boundaries– swearing, shrieking, and prolonged silliness can be a means of testing limits. Rules should ensure realistically acceptable behaviour and control, but still be flexible and based on kindness. Remember to follow through!

Example– do you swear like a sailor, or badmouth colleagues and neighbours? Don’t be surprised if your tot does too! Little ones are excellent copy cats, so make sure you’re giving them a positive example to mimic.

Family traits – some habits are genetic and difficult to mend. If they persist, you may need to try homeopathic remedies or consult a therapist. If a habit gets worse and becomes compulsive, rather seek professional advice; although there is seldom reason to worry. 

We tend to stress more when school and work starts, and little ones pick up on our anxiety. Try getting up earlier or making more preparations the night before to avoid the morning rush and ensure that you still have some nurturing time with your tot. Pick your battles: is a princess tutu really worth a full-blown fight?

Ultimately, you have to accept that your tot is an individual who does things differently from you. Your aim shouldn’t be to see whose will is stronger, but rather to find ways of living amicably together.

A broken home should not mean a broken child

South Africa is unfortunate enough to have one of the highest separation and divorce rates in the Western world. This inevitably sees many children hailing from ‘broken’ homes. I put ‘broken’ in inverted commas, because although almost anything is better than divorce once there are children in the family, often separation offers some semblance of stability. After all, a destructive relationship is not a positive environment in which to raise children. 

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How to stop bullying behaviour

If your child is a bully, it’s important to examine the issue honestly. Bullying is seldom just an isolated incident. It is also rarely ‘just the child’s fault’, and you may need to analyse your parenting styles and society’s norms and values. This may be tough at first, but making those key changes are very liberating, and well worth it! 

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