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Incessant Questions? Here’s the answer

Question and Answers on speech bubblesQuestion: What can I do when my child asks questions over and over (and over) again?

While parents don’t want to squelch curiosity and persistence, your frustration will no doubt slip through and that will lead to some angry feelings.

In my experience, kids ask as many questions as their parents will allow. In other words, if you open the door they will keep asking… even if they don’t need answers. There are many reasons for this. Certainly, some of it is because they’re curious about the world, but often, they’re simply seeking attention. They’re bored. It’s a habit they fall back on. Sometimes it’s worse around siblings or when you’re trying to talk to a spouse because they fear the loss of attention.

It’s helpful to explain to kids that children and adults are different. “Adult talking” is different from “kid talking.” Kids like to ask lots of questions and adults like breaks and quiet time. Tell them, “this is adult time… and we’re not going to ask questions right now…” It’s also good to explain that adults don’t always have answers. You can set up a rule that asking the same question more than once (if there’s no answer to offer) won’t be tolerated. Trust me, even if you’re tough on them about this it won’t squelch their curiosity one bit.

This may be a great time to work on interrupting, which all kids do. If they have a question, ask them to hold onto it for a few seconds and count to three or five or ten before asking.

Finally, if persistent questions are about trying to get what they want (and not about learning something new) that’s a different type issue. Be tough. Ignore those. Tell them that type of asking is inappropriate. They have to learn how to hold back their thoughts and desires sometimes in order to to fit into groups and get along with friends and peers.

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Advice for Potty Battles

Potty training One mom recently asked what to do when her five year old refuses to cooperate and tantrums when asked to simply sit for a few minutes each morning.
He actually said to her, “I will NOT poop – I will never poop again!” 

Potty training is hard. Boys tend to learn it a year or so after girls. Boys also get into more struggles over sitting programs. Having worked with many such cases over the years, I’ve learned that a common feature is this type of control. These boys catch on early that refusing to poop (or follow a basic sitting program) makes them the center of the family universe.

Here’s a simple set of behavior approaches that work. If problems persist, make sure you check in with your pediatric specialist.

- Tell him it’s his choice to sit or not. You will give him one (maybe two) nice, calm reminders when it’s time to sit. If he goes in and sits like a big boy (he doesn’t have to poop… just sit), then he earns a reward. The reward can be something relatively soon after (15/20 minutes on iPad or TV show he likes), or after. When school’s in session, some play time on playground before class is a great reward. The reward can be a sticker on a chart that earns him something later that day or before bed. Anything that is relatively small (not expensive) will work. One parent I know has a prize bag on top of fridge that she can take down filled with small thcotchkes.

- You have to let him fail at this. And be prepared he will throw a tantrum. But try to move on with the day as best as possible. In time it will turn around as he starts to give up control and seeks the reward(s). When (if) he refuses to sit, make sure you calmly remove something important that day or week that’s scheduled. Let the consequences do the work.

- You have to start setting clear house rules. Say “in our house, boys and girls do not poop in their pants. Big boys at school sit on the potty…” Make it declarative (use 3rd person plural). Say it with conviction and power – not with anger – and saying this statement throughout the day here and there is key. You are the leader of your home. you are like his teacher (who he tends to listens to). You don’t take anything personally, You just announce the rules – deliver consequences – and children choose or don’t choose to follow them. This is where he has control, over his decision to join in or not with the rules. Tell him you have faith in him that he will choose the right thing and get his reward.

- When he has an accident, make him participate in cleaning up. He has to put his soiled undies in a special place (perhaps a bucket with a mix of water and light bleach). He has to get into the tub/shower and help clean himself (find ways to help him fix the problem). Kids who pee the bed at night, for example, do it less when they are responsible for helping to make the bed the next morning and change sheets… we want all consequences available to help him shift the behavior.

- Keep a chart – leave open spaces if he doesn’t sit in the morning – and put a nice sticker if he does the sitting.

- Finally, know that peer pressure can sometimes be a good thing. Time with peers (who are brutally honest about these issues) will push him into a better developmental path come fall.

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Time Away is Important for Kids

Parents who work from home tell me their kids are often acting bored, complaining about small things, and don’t seem as happy as they appear outside the house… and not as happy as when they’re with others (e.g., at camp, at school, playing on sports teams, visiting grandparents, etc). Why’s this? The amount of 1-1 time kids have with their parents (or anyone for that matter) can surThinking student sitting at deskprisingly shift the gratitude factor in the wrong direction. It’s human nature, but the closer we are, the less likely we respect boundaries and appreciate one another.

We’ve all heard that old expression that “distance makes the heart grow fonder”. This is the opposite effect. Too much time together results in not realizing the value of others. Spend time away from your kids, even at home. Set up time for them to play quietly in their rooms. Go to an area you section off as “adult space”… make them knock on your bedroom door if they want to enter. Setting up boundaries and decreasing the amount of 1-1 attention will begin to shift things in a better direction. And most important, the more they pull away, don’t try harder to please or appease them. Walk off, shrug your shoulders. Make them act better before you give them rewards and your attention.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.


Should you allow your child to pick an easy path?

Question and Answers on speech bubblesQuestion: My son is on a competitive regional swim team. His current coach (who he loves) is leaving and is moving to a new team a few towns away. When we asked if he’d like to change teams, he  decided to stay. Not based on any friends staying, but based upon him potentially moving up to a higher group. Turns out many kids are following the coach to his new team. With a mass exodus of the “good swimmers”, he feels there’s a good chance he can rise up to number 1 rather than number 9. 

Should we keep him on the current team based upon his reasoning? 

Once kids get older, reaching middle school and beyond, it’s time to let them have more control and decision making power. It’s a very good sign that he wants to steer things himself and stay on the current team. If he was quitting, I’d say step in and revisit his decision. But what many of us forget is that it’s very appealing to be the big fish in a little pond for a change. Many child experts believe – and I agree – that bolstering confidence this way (i.e., not constantly feeling like you’re behind the curve compared to your peers) is very useful for building resilience. He’s going to need that down the road (for swimming as well as other upcoming challenges).

 

 

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How to Handle Talking Back and Arguing

iStock_000027533641SmallcroppedThe best thing to do for back-talk is to completely ignore it. By that I mean you deliver your request (e.g., please pick up toys, turn off the TV) calmly but firmly and then you say nothing else. Any negative behavior that follows (or precedes) is handled with a straight poker face. Make no eye contact. Turn your body away. Leave the room if needed. It sounds crazy, I know, but this works. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick to this, it will turn things around. The reason it works is that kids (and many adults I know) seek out negative attention. They love to argue because it gets a reaction. So don’t play into their game!

Generally, when you do make any request of your kids, make sure they are making eye contact. Ask them to repeat what you said or else there’s no accountability. And attaching a consequence to your request strengthens this. The consequence doesn’t need to be delivered right away. It can be something later on. They can earn or lose something like t-ball, swimming, a playdate… anything that motivates them to change their behavior in the future. The trick to better parenting is less emotion and letting the consequences (good and bad) do the work.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.