Today we have a great Q&A from family counsellor and author Karen Phillip. Karen has recently published a new book entitled Who Runs Your House – Your Kids or You? which covers everything from screaming children in the supermarket to constant arguments over bedtime. The following questions are from My Healthy Family readers which Karen has responded to – her advice is so solid and practical and very no-nonsense, we love it! Read on…
Q My 7 & 9 year old constantly bicker and they are very competitive. Mr 9 loves teasing Ms 7 and Ms 7 has become cold and closed down to Mr 9 as a result. I think she’s lost trust in him. When they are good, they are fantastic! Help!
A Usually children that fight are often after some sort of attention from the parent. Jealousy can often be a problem even though you may not understand why. Our children also often learn behaviours from either home, school or family they are close to. Is any family member a little overbearing or unkind to another person? Has Mr 9 learnt bullying behaviour from anyone? Look also at family members or extended family member males who maybe overbearing a female as this may be a learned or copied behaviour from them. If nothing applies then taking Mr 9 to a Counsellor may help so he can express the reason for his behaviour. You need to protect little Ms 7. I presume Ms 7 is not revving up Mr 9 to cause a reaction so he gets into trouble?
Q My two-year-old is generally very well-behaved, but sometimes prone to pushing other kids at the playground – kids she knows and kids she doesn’t know. I have tried everything but the behaviour still continues.
A Usually little ones copy this type of behaviour. Maybe from home, or friends or her school. If you are unable to find the source then see if you can determine the reason why she is pushing. Perhaps it is frustration and she can’t use her words yet to express how she feels or what she wants. If she is 2 ½ plus she can start to understand acceptable and non-acceptable behaviours. Explain to her the reason it is never right to push or hit and what the consequences will be if she continues. When the behaviour occurs, remove her from it, express your unhappiness, have her sit away from the child she has hurt so she understands it is not acceptable behaviour.
Assist her to find other ways to express her anger or frustration or even her excitement if she is pushing due to this. Our children need to know other ways to act if what they are currently doing is not acceptable so help her learn another way to act / behave eg waiting for a turn, or saying no to another child that is bothering her. Help her with her words so she can express herself and assist her to find another way to express herself. Often asking the child what else they could do instead of that behaviour is a fast way to have them change what they are doing, especially if it is something they themselves came up with.
Q I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 7 year old, both girls, both very strong willed, confident, fiesty and extroverts and currently I have to have two of everything, the same, or it is world war 3 and mummy headaches! I am talking even counting out the capsicum slivers in their lunchboxes! They love each to bits but also fight all…the..time and sometimes it is just exhausting.
Fact is the girls are not even, one is older and larger. You need to stop doing the same thing over and over and expect to have a different result. To get a different result you need to do something different. Stop trying to make it all even. I wrote about this in the book as it is a very common problem in many households.
I suggest to explain to the girls you are in fact now going to deliberately NOT have things even as you are fed up with their arguing. Explain that if they complain about things not being even (which they deliberately will not be) then they will get less again next time. Each time you serve out anything it will be up to you, the boss, to decide who gets what. You need to ensure that it works out fairly even in the long run however the older child should receive slightly more regarding food. When we are talking about nutritious foods and dinner then the older larger child simply needs more fuel.
In regards to treats, start with some small biscuits eg barbeque shapes, perhaps give the older one 7 biscuits and the younger one 5, tell them what you are doing. If the younger complains too much then advise this will happen again next time they have these biscuits. The younger child can decide to quietly eat what is provided or you can remove the treat and send her to her room, her choice, whatever she decides to do is up to her then, she owns her decision.
Then say you dish up some ice-cream, make the older one a little less, and the younger one a bit more, they must notice the difference. If the older one complains again tell them it will be the same again until she stops complaining, eat it quietly without complaint or leave it, her choice. If she complains remove it and place into the bin or eat it yourself. After a short time they will wait to see who is getting more of something and their complaining all but ceases. May take a few days but it will work. A few hard days for an easier & quieter life is so worth it.
Right now the girls have the power, you need to take it back and the above gives the power back to you as it should be.
Q I have a boy (first born) who cannot be alone, play alone or do anything. He constantly wants me to play, even if I play for an hour he wants more, if I play all day he still wants more, it’s never ending!
Age is a variable here. You need to rule out any fear he may have acquired to ensure it is not fear of being alone for some reason. If he is scared about being alone everywhere he may have seen or experienced something that significantly scared him. Is he happy with someone else being around or is it restricted to mum only. Does he sleep in his room and bed alone?
If he has younger siblings he may be feeling overlooked due to attention on them as he may have been your sole attention for his first few years. Is there a new partner that maybe taking your time or a new job that takes your time?
You can sit with him to explain how much you love spending time with him and seeing him do things however because you are so so busy you want to put aside a special time just for him. Allow him to decide the best time he wants with you. Give him the choice. He may suggest times you are unavailable so say Yes that is a great time however it may need to adjust slightly. Do not tell him No you can’t do that time or day because anything you say after no may not be heard. If you have 2 hours a week just for him ask him if he prefers 4 x 30 min of 2 x 1 hour, let him decide.
Q I need suggestions for activities three children can do that isn’t dumbed down for Master 5, not to advanced for Miss 20 months and keep Master 3 interested. We end up doing nothing as its easier than fighting, adapting or having three sets of ‘rules’.
It is very difficult to arrange any single activity for a baby, 3 year old and 5 year old as they are all at completely different developmental ages and stages. Why not have a few activities set up? Activities they can all enjoy include painting with a brush, hand or cloth; small pool to splash in; a variety of balls; a sandpit with items for digging, buckets; gluing and collage work; playdough is always popular with all ages. Often placing some items out and allowing the children to do what they want with them. Big boxes are always a big hit with children, they can sit in them, paint them, pretend they are anything they want them to be.
All children are their own creative little individuals who like and prefer different activities. The baby is only starting to learn sensory activities where the 5 year old is way past that. Ask what they do at their preschool / daycare to find out the activities and level they are at and use their advice.
Thanks Karen! To win one of three copies of Karen’s fab new book, Who runs your house? The kids or you, visit the My Healthy Family Facebook page.