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All about Parenting Toddlers , Issue #021 - Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
January 07, 2004
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Shaping the life of your precious ones

All about Parenting Toddlers
Issue #021
7th January 2004

Welcome to the first issue of All about Parenting Toddlers for the year 2004.

We will start off the year with a wonderful article to help us understand our children better.



In This Issue:

1. Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
2. Tips for Eating Out with Small Children
3. Latest updates on Parenting Toddlers





TEN WAYS WE MISUNDERSTAND CHILDREN
By Jan Hunt, M.Sc.


1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 4-year-old to clean his room. In all of these situations, we are being unrealistic. We are setting ourselves up for disappointment and setting up the child for repeated failures to please us. Yet many parents ask their young children to do things that even an older child would find difficult. In short, we ask children to stop acting their age.

2. We become angry when a child fails to meet our needs.
A child can only do what he can do. If a child cannot do something we ask, it is unfair and unrealistic to expect or demand more, and anger only makes things worse. A 2-year-old can only act like a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old cannot act like a 10-year-old, and a 10-year-old cannot act like an adult. To expect more is unrealistic and unhelpful. There are limits to what a child can manage, and if we donít accept those limits, it can only result in frustration on both sides.

3. We mistrust the childís motives.
If a child cannot meet our needs, we assume that he is being defiant, instead of looking closely at the situation from the childís point of view, so we can determine the truth of the matter. In reality, a "defiant" child may be ill, tired, hungry, in pain, responding to an emotional or physical hurt, or struggling with a hidden cause such as food allergy. Yet we seem to overlook these possibilities in favor of thinking the worst about the childís "personality".

4. We donít allow children to be children.
We somehow forget what it was like to be a child ourselves, and expect the child to act like an adult instead of acting his age. A healthy child will be rambunctious, noisy, emotionally expressive, and will have a short attention span. All of these "problems" are not problems at all, but are in fact normal qualities of a normal child. Rather, it is our society and our societyís expectations of perfect behavior that are abnormal.

5. We get it backwards.
We expect, and demand, that the child meet our needs - for quiet, for uninterrupted sleep, for obedience to our wishes, and so on. Instead of accepting our parental role to meet the childís needs, we expect the child to care for ours. We can become so focussed on our own unmet needs and frustrations that we forget this is a child, who has needs of his own.

6. We blame and criticize when a child makes a mistake.
Yet children have had very little experience in life, and they will inevitably make mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of learning at any age. Instead of understanding and helping the child, we blame him, as though he should be able to learn everything perfectly the first time. To err is human; to err in childhood is human and unavoidable. Yet we react to each mistake, infraction of a rule, or misbehavior with surprise and disappointment. It makes no sense to understand that a child will make mistakes, and then to react as though we think the child should behave perfectly at all times.

7. We forget how deeply blame and criticism can hurt a child.
Many parents are coming to understand that physically hurting a child is wrong and harmful, yet many of us forget how painful angry words, insults, and blame can be to a child who can only believe that he is at fault.

8. We forget how healing loving actions can be.
We fall into vicious cycles of blame and misbehavior, instead of stopping to give the child love, reassurance, self-esteem, and security with hugs and kind words.

9. We forget that our behavior provides the most potent lessons to the child.
It is truly "not what we say but what we do" that the child takes to heart. A parent who hits a child for hitting, telling him that hitting is wrong, is in fact teaching that hitting is right, at least for those in power. It is the parent who responds to problems with peaceful solutions who is teaching his child how to be a peaceful adult. So-called problems present our best opportunity for teaching values, because children learn best when they are learning about real things in real life.

10. We see only the outward behavior, not the love and good intentions inside the child.
When a childís behavior disappoints us, we should, more than anything else we do, "assume the best". We should assume that the child means well and is only behaving as well as possible considering all the circumstances (both obvious and hidden from us), together with his level of experience in life. If we always assume the best about our child, the child will be free to do his best. If we give only love, love is all we will receive.



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TIPS FOR EATING OUT WITH SMALL CHILDREN


It's never too early to develop healthy eating habits and proper dining out manners. Taking children to a restaurant, trying different cuisines and learning the art of eating out is a great idea. The trick is to be sure you don't put your child in an unreasonable situation where your expectations for eating and behavior are beyond his ability to cope. You want eating out to be fun. That means making strategic restaurant choices, going out at an optimal time for your child and by packing the right equipment.

First of all, choose a restaurant that is 'kid friendly.'
Call ahead to find out. Do they have high chairs? Are well behaved kids welcome? A restaurant with a high noise level and lots of activity is a good choice. Your kids voices won't reverberate off the walls and the activity may help keep them entertained. Skip the hushed, dimly lit restaurants catering to romantic couples or business executives.

Go early before the rush hour starts.
You are more apt to be seated immediately and served quickly. If it's not automatic, ask for some bread or crackers when seated. This should occupy the kids and help them be patient until the entree arrives.

Don't ever take your child to a restaurant hungry.
This sounds counterintuitive, but a hungry child is just too cranky and irritable to enjoy the experience. A small snack before hand will leave them with an appetite, but not overwhelming hunger pains. Kids rarely eat their whole entree, so bringing them hungry won't make much of a difference from that standpoint.

Don't let your kids wander around.
It can be dangerous. Servers can be tripped and someone could be hurt by hot, flying food. Ask for a booth if they have them. Kids can squirm around more, or be cornered if necessary. Make sure your child is well rested. Don't bring kids just before nap time or bed time. For younger children, bring some of their favorite foods from home. Most restaurants won't mind. Bring food that can occupy them and keep your hands free for eating your own meal. Cheerios, small bits of orange or other favorite finger food are some suggestions.

Take along a bag of quiet toys.
Paper, crayons, books, and manipulatives will help to keep their hands from using the food as a toy. Treat going out as a special occasion and often kids will rise to the occasion.

If worst comes to worst, and your kids just aren't behaving, ask for the check and leave quickly.
By staying and trying to scold your kids into behaving you may only sour the experience for future restaurant visits. The older your children get, the longer their attention spans will be, and the more you can relax when you go out. By the time they are older they may be such seasoned restaurant goers that dining out will be easy, fun and a way to explore your town and other cultures.


The above article was written by Sue Gilbert, a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and product development. She has written numerous articles on children's health and nutrition for parenting publications.






Latest updates on Parenting Toddlers

The Parenting Toddlers website is constantly being updated with more information.

Below are the latest additions :

Art and crafts activities :
Ideas for crafts using leaves
Homemade playdough recipes and tips for preserving the playdough


Help for your child party :
Popular child party games with full description on how to play
Child Party Supplies Checklist


For those into reading :
Entertaining and inspiring child short stories

Resources for parents who wants to spend more time with their children :
Working from home on computers


Remember to check back often for more information on parenting toddlers.



If you find any of the above articles useful, feel free to forward it to your friends.

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If you have any comments about this newsletter, please email us at: newsletter@parentingtoddlers.com

See you in the next issue. :-)

All the best,
Charis-Jo
http://www.parentingtoddlers.com

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