Let’s face it, being a parent is not an easy task. Therefore, many would welcome help from an expert.
We spoke with Heather Grocott of The Children’s Workshop to get answers to modern parents’ questions.“My 4-year-old daughter is very attached to me (mom). How can I help her understand the concept of personal space without hurting her feelings?”
- It is totally normal for young children to become attached to adults in their lives, especially a parent. As much as we all want to snuggle and love our children, it is extremely important to teach them about personal space and physical boundaries. First, it is important to have the right approach – although you do not wish to hurt your child’s feelings, you must realize that teaching your child about personal space helps them foster healthy friendships. Also, chances are that if your child tends to be by your side all the time, they are probably doing this with peers and other adults too.
So, to teach your child about physical boundaries and personal space, try the following:
- Role playing: Help your child see how others view social situations differently through role playing. Act out common scenarios she may experience with her peers, such as behavior while playing with dolls or sharing toys. When role-playing, it’s important to listen to your child and help her figure out why she made the choices she did rather than telling her those choices are right or wrong. If you feel your child’s response might be off, you could try helping them to figure it out for themselves by asking questions like ‘How do you think your friend would react if you said or did that?’
- Lessons about the personal space zone. Children are very concrete thinkers, they have a difficult time thinking abstractly. In order for children to understand personal space, they must physically “see” what is appropriate and what is not. Set healthy boundaries for your child, and use props like a hoola hoop, or a piece of tape on the floor to help your child visually. Talk about when it is appropriate to hug or touch, and who it is appropriate to hug our touch. Talk about how close we should be to our friends or family when speaking to them, etc. Just remember to always reference the personal space zone, and keep your expectations consistent.
If you are concerned that you may hurt your child’s feelings, not to fret! While your child may not understand why you are teaching them these skills at first, over time, their emotions may subside once they have mastered the concept of personal space. Also, use “teachable moments” in your daily routine, and as your child plays with others to “practice” the concept of the personal space zone. Children love to be successful at new things, the personal space zone will become fun over time!“How do you best address a 1-year-old who hits?”
- In general, hitting is an undesirable, negative behavior. As adults, we do not want our children to hit. However, it is important to take this behavior in context. With infants, hitting is a typical behavior, just as biting is. Although it is typical, it is difficult for parents to react to this behavior. Also, just because this behavior is “typical” does not mean it should be permitted! Here are some tips:
- As your child hits you, gently and kindly hold his or her hand, and remind them that you will not allow him or her to hit you, “hands are for being gentle.” You may even practice “gentle hands” with your child, using a hand over hand method that is not forceful. With this action, your goal is to teach the child a new behavior, and refrain from disciplining them. Remember to be firm and consistent in your approach.
- Hitting could be a cry for help: Your child’s brain and nervous systems aren’t developed enough to manage feelings gracefully, thus they often resort to more primitive methods of expression. When they hit you, try to also redirect them – do they need something? Is there something wrong?
- Refrain from being angry, but do not be ambivalent in your approach. If you act with too much force and appear angry, you will encourage the behavior to keep occurring. On the other hand, if you ignore the behavior and seem not to care, you will also encourage more hitting. So, responding with firm kindness is the best approach, while always trying to teach a new skill or behavior.
- Acknowledge how your child may feel. If you think your child is hitting because he or she is mad or sad, or in need of something, try to “talk through” their emotions with them. However, it is still important to address, “we don’t hit.” With this approach, you are teaching your child that hitting is not permissible, while still seeking to see what they may be in need of. Over time, this approach will encourage your child to use their language skills and refrain from physical aggression.
“What advice do you have for getting babies to sleep and nap better?”
- When thinking about improving your child’s sleep habits, it is important to first consider whether or not your child is tired. Has your child had enough activity during the day to warrant a nap? Is your child actually tired at bedtime? Here are some tips for getting your baby to sleep and nap better:
- Keeping a consistent routine: By three months, most babies can sleep for about six hours a night and are more alert during the day. If your baby isn’t napping regularly, you should start working on a sleep schedule. Sleep experts and parents agree that the key to successful napping is to be consistent: Baby naps at the same time, in the same place, with the same routine each day. The trick to getting her to sleep when and where you want her to and not according to her own whims is to stick to a schedule.
- Set nap time according to the hour baby awakens each morning, remembering that your little one will need to go down for a nap roughly two hours later. Another is to choose a nap time by the clock (put your baby down at the same times, every day – A nap at the same time every day means that your baby needs to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, something younger babies may not do yet.
- Get your child to bed before they are overtired: If you’re looking for signs of tiredness, like eye rubbing, you risk losing your window of napping and may wind up with a cranky, overtired child who’s ready to explode.
- Location: Ideally, you want your child to always fall asleep and wake up in the same space.
Establish a daily ritual, similar but shorter than your bedtime ritual, that will help with nap times. Babies learn through repetition. Predictability gives babies a sense of comfort and security. Sitting with your baby in the same chair for a pre-nap story or singing a favorite song each day signals to her that it’s nap time.
Keep an open mind and a patient attitude: Remember that babies are sponges – they sense everything! If they sense your stress in regards to their lack of sleep, your attitude only worsens the situation. Remember to be positive and patient – stay consistent, and do not stress!