Jo Frost tackles a child’s refusal to sleep in his own bed, toddler tantrums, violent video games and more frustrating queries…
Q. What can I do to stop my six-year-old yelling and screaming when he doesn’t get his own way?
Eleanor Gait, 29, Barnet
A. You need to change the way you respond to your child’s screaming by not caving in and giving him what he wants. Ignore the mock tantrums and make it clear that you expect certain behaviour. Then he can meet that desire and you can praise him for achieving it. It’s worth talking through scenarios with him, and setting obvious boundaries so that you can give him the opportunity to respond differently. The more he emotionally matures, the more you will see a clear decline in tantrums.
Calm car travel
Q. Long car journeys are a nightmare for me. Have you any advice on getting a nine-month old baby to settle in her car seat?
Sarah Prebble, 32, Bucks
A. First and foremost, you need to plan at what time of day you’re going to travel, so that you can make sure your child is fed and changed. Take periods to stop, so that you can all have a breather and your child can spend time out of her car seat before you have to settle her back in. If possible, travel when your child is due for her morning or afternoon nap. At least that way she will have slept through at least an hour of the car journey. Toys and music will occupy her for an amount of time, too.
Q. How can I get my two-year-old child to sleep right through the night instead of waking up two or three times and crying for me?
Marie Howard, 44, London
A. A child of two needs to get used to a bedtime ritual. This will help to encourage healthy sleeping patterns and, when he wakes up, it’s very important not to respond to him with behaviour that will encourage him to wake up again and again. I’d recommend that you use the ‘Stay in Bed Technique’ which you can find in my book, Jo Frost’s Confident Toddler Care (£16.99, Orion).
He ignores me
Q. I have a four-year-old with selective hearing – he ignores what I am saying a lot of the time which is frustrating. There is definitely nothing wrong with his ears as they have been checked by the doctor! How can I get him to listen to me?
Rebecca Ireland, 34, Derby
A. Clearly, your four-year-old listens to what favours him. You are seeing defiance, and as his hearing is plainly ‘selective’, it is crucial for you to communicate well with him. That means no shouting or raising your voice. Have eye contact and follow through with a warning if he refuses to do as he is told. Remember, you want a dialogue with your son not a monologue. Most toddlers show healthy signs of oppositional defiancy but outgrow it. Acknowledge when he does what he is told with descriptive praise as this will encourage more of the desired behaviour.
Q. My four-year-old twins fight and take their tantrums out on one another, it’s driving me mad. How can I make them stop?
Lisa Doyle, 39, Birmingham
A. The main objective here is to stop the fights. These two need to learn how to get on better in each other’s space, share what they have, and enjoy time on their own separately. Encourage that through play and early-learning games where they have to share. A tantrum taken out on the other is a display of naughty behaviour and so the one who is being aggressive has to be reprimanded. Looks like someone is going to end up on the ‘naughty step’.
He prefers my bed
Q. What can I do to stop my seven-year-old son getting into my bed at night? He calls his room the ‘spare’ room and I just can’t get him to sleep in his own bed through the night.
Hanna McKnight, 28, Cumbria
A. Was it once the spare room? You need to spend time with him in the evening, getting him settled so he can go off to sleep smoothly. Then, when he comes into your room in the middle of the night, you have to make every effort to get him back to his own bed. Spending time in his room playing either with you or his friends will create good experiences. And, the more comfortable he feels settled in his own bed in his own room, the less he will need you to pacify him. Creating safety and security are the keys to allowing him to have a good night’s sleep.
Dressing’s a disaster
Q. Every time I try to change my son’s nappy or dress him he throws a tantrum and kicks his legs about. Any suggestions?
Claire Barlow, 40, Sussex
A. This is very common behaviour. You will need to instill your low-toned voice of disapproval. Allow him the opportunity to start dressing himself with your help so that he can begin to learn this life skill. He needs to know his tantrum will not stop you from getting him dressed and distract him when it comes to changing his nappy. Keep calm and carry on.
Q. I have two boys, aged nine and 15, who both love computer games. However, the nine year-old is bored with his games and wants to play the more violent games he sees his brother playing. He gets very upset when I tell him he can’t. How do I explain to him that he can’t play without him having a tantrum or feeling left out?
Sarah Quayle, 36, London
A. I’d encourage you to be alert to your sons playing violent video games. I’m sure you watched my TV programme, Extreme Parental Guidance and the outcome of my computer social experiment, where boys who’d been playing a first-person war game for 20 minutes still had lower heart rates when watching violent news footage. I don’t think your nine-year-old feels left out; I think he feels he should be allowed to play the violent games. I’d explain why he can’t and suggest he swaps games with other boys of his age.
Q. Should I wake my baby if he is sleeping during feeding time?
Sarah Readman, 38, Newcastle
A. It’s generally accepted that if your newborn baby is still sleeping at feeding time, you shouldn’t let them go too long past their feed as they may not gain weight. He will need to be fed every two to four hours if he’s very young. The main thing is to make sure that baby is getting all his feeds and the correct amount of milk for his age – that’s really important.
Too shy to socialise?
Q. My boy is very noisy and active at home but is really quiet outdoors. Does this mean he’ll be shy and find socialising difficult?
Lucy Tring, 43, East London
A. Not necessarily. He’s familiar with his own surroundings but some children will take a little longer to become confident in new locations and with what everyone else is doing. Encouraging him to become more active with others and to gently coax him into socialising will come from you creating that opportunity with his friends. Participate with him, teaching him to be better at certain activities will boost his confidence more so that going out doesn’t become hard.
Play group tears
Q. When I leave my son at his play group he doesn’t stop crying. What can I do about it?
Fiona Nash, 23, Brighton
A. Be patient. This is new for both of you. He’s becoming familiar for the first time with being somewhere different without you. Be confident when you drop him off, and don’t linger. It will make him think there’s a reason for you to stay around. Make sure that, as you leave, the carers can distract him with something exciting to play with. Trust me, it does get better. Through repetition he will realise that when you leave, you do come back.
Can I stop his night terrors?
Q. My toddler has frequent night terrors and he gets very upset. Is there something I can do to prevent these?
Sean Moloney, 35, Herts
A. Night terrors for toddlers is a disturbing sleep disorder. It is different from a bad dream as the child may sit up, walk around or talk rapidly. This can last as long as 30 minutes. The child often won’t remember it and it will usually happen within two hours of the child falling asleep. It’s important to make sure that the child is safe and won’t get hurt if they move around in the middle of the night. Create evening rituals, eliminating any stimulation that can disrupt your child’s sleeping patterns. The more serene your environment, the safer he will feel. Keep stimulating activities away from bedtime. Don’t read scary stories, limit his physical activity, be consistent with his bedtime and watch for agitation. If you see it, wake him up for a few minutes to head off a night terror. Finally, note the time he goes to bed and when he wakes up so you can see the pattern yourself.
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