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Don't Force Kids to Apologize

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Updated: Sunday, May 15, 2016

As a parent educator, I advise parents not to ask their child to apologize when they’ve done something wrong. This surprises many people! Parents, eager to teach their children good social skills, assume this is the way you do that. When a child grabs a toy from his sibling, hits her sister, or kicks your car seat, parents want their child to feel sorry about what they did. Asking for an apology seems natural. The problem is that it isn’t very effective, and most likely will not result in the child having true regret. Try the method I suggest in this video clip. View it as an experiment and see what happens. Use this technique frequently and observe whether it has impact. It could take a while, but you may end up pleased with the results.

Janada Clark teaches Love and Logic classes, and has taught at Stanford, schools, and churches. She also teaches at Blossom Birth and Day One Baby. 

Tags:  child behavior 

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Best of the Forum: What to Do About Hitting?

Posted By Communications Manager, Friday, March 25, 2016

I would love advice from those who have been there: my 2.25 year old nephew has recently (last 2 weeks) begun hitting (hard) his mother and occasionally babysitter at unexpected times (during a hug, getting him out of his crib, as well as while playing). My brother and sister-in-law have responded with consequences in the moment (taking away his toy) and by stating consistently “hands are not for hitting.” They have also read the book “Hands are not for Hitting” to him. They feel they are reacting unemotionally and consistently.

My nephew does not seem particularly emotional or upset when hitting. He hit his baby sister (9 months) on one occasion. Any advice on what to do? Have others experienced this, and how long did it last?

Other factors are: new baby (but 9 months old), and about 6 months ago began to say only wanted to be with daddy or show preference for daddy. His parents are also upset by this and taking it a bit personally.

Thanks in advance for advice that I can pass along to them!

Hi, this is very common behavior for a two year old. Even if the parents are not currently reacting emotionally to the behavior, I’m guessing at least initially they did which is possibly why it’s continuing. He’s doing it because he’s getting some interesting reaction. (Hey that’s cool! I hit and then they get upset!) Consequences don’t tend to work with very young children, such as taking toys away. They can’t logically understand it because they aren’t developmentally able to. I would suggest moving him away from the person he has hit without saying anything and redirecting his attention to something else. When he’s a little older, if it happens again, you can talk to him about it. We experience this with both our kids and the less you react the better. Ignoring and redirecting works best because they aren’t angry, they are just experimenting. Hope this helps!

Agreed kids go through phases and hitting (or biting) is a pretty common one. And it is so frustrating that there isn’t much that can be done. I like the idea of just moving away. Kids want to interact with you and in a calm way making space between the caregiver and the kid sends a clear message. On preferring one parent over the other – also a very typical phase! It can flip flop at any time. My kids are often all about me and I know that was really hard for my husband. Now when they go into daddy phases I try to enjoy the “break.” But it’s a moving target!

Hand in Hand, a parents resource based in Palo Alto; with easy, clear and practical information in short articles, they provide well founded advise and suggestions for parents facing this and more other issues with their kids.

I agree with the other folks who posted. It’s partly a phase and also can be due to other factors like new baby and parents reacting in ways that don’t work. When a child hits you should stay calm, but I wouldn’t say to react without emotion. On the contrary. Help the child understand that hitting hurts. When my kids hit me at that age I might make a sad face and gently say to them. Ouch! That hurts. Please be gentle with mommy. You want to avoid saying things like no hitting, because the brain just hears the word hitting which reinforces the hitting. I probably said please be gentle for 6mos before the phase wore off. You can also do things like hold his hand as he starts to hit you and then gently use it to stroke your arm and say gentle please. Always reinforce gentle, always stay calm and then redirect. Don’t spend more than 10 seconds on the behavior max and stay positive. This approach works for everything actually. Things I’ve said to my children today (instead of) …..Please close the door gently (Don’t slam the door)Please close the door (Don’t leave the door open)Please keep your feet on the ground (don’t jump in the house)Please pick up your toys (Don’t leave your toys out)Can you wash your feet before you go into the living room? (Don’t walk with dirty feet onto the carpet)
Keep the ball quiet please

Hold the ball please

Gentle with your sister please

Use your words please

And on and on and on forever…

We had that phase and I always tried to follow the “2 yeses for every no” doctrine. Kids have the NEED to hit and to bite and to push and to climb. They are exploring their body’s capabilities and the world around them. So you need to give them something that’s ok to hit or to bite or to push or to climb. So you say, “We don’t hit people, but we can hit this pillow, or we can hit the couch cushion” (2 yeses for 1 no.) We had a designated hitting pillow that she would eventually ask for when she felt the need to hit. If she bit me, I would say “Do you need something to bite? And I would get a teether out of the freezer, or offer her a bagel. “We don’t bite people but we can bite teethers or food. For pushing we said “We don’t push people but here’s a stroller to push, or a truck to push.” I even know people who had an indoor climbing structure so they could provide an alternative to climbing on the couch or up the bookcases. These activities are not necessarily aggression but are often a natural behavior at this age.

Tags:  child behavior 

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All About Separation Anxiety

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It’s a common scene at any daycare, playground or birthday party: a crying child clinging to a parent who is desperately trying to convince the child to let go and join the fun. Almost all children have some aspect of separation anxiety during the first six years of life. Separation anxiety should not be feared or even wished away, as it is an obvious and identifiable sign of your child’s love and trust in you.

It is the grand indicator that your child believes you represent the ultimate in safety and security, above anyone else in this world.

What causes Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a perfectly normal and important developmental adaptation of a child’s emotional and mental growth. It does not have a particular “cause.” Nothing you have done has “made” your child develop separation anxiety.

Even though separation anxiety has not been caused by any particular action or event, there are caregiver actions that can either heighten or reduce a child’s anxiety. There are many things that can help build a child’s trust and confidence in his relationship with you so that he can transfer these feelings to other trusted adults who will help him feel safe away from his home base.

How common is it?
It makes perfect sense that children experience separation anxiety when pulled apart from their main caregiver. Nearly all children experience some aspect of separation anxiety. For some children the stage begins earlier, even at a few months of age. For some, the effects begin later, and some children have anxiety that lasts for longer spells than others. Some children have very visible, obvious indicators of their feelings, but there are also children who have less apparent reactions. There is no exact pattern or set of symptoms, but almost all children have it to some degree.

Does my child have separation anxiety?Separation anxiety has many different symptoms, but it is often easy for parents to spot in their own child. It helps if you know exactly what to look for. The following are behaviors are most typically used to define normal separation anxiety:

  • Clinginess
  • Crying when a parent is out of sight
  • Strong preference for only one parent over all other human beings
  • Fear of strangers, or of family and friends who are not frequently seen
  • Resistance to separation at bedtime or naptime
  • Waking at night crying for a parent
  • Regression to an earlier stage of development, such as thumbsucking or babytalk
  • Anxiety that is easily eliminated upon a parent’s appearance

How you can help your baby with separation anxiety

  • Give your baby lessons in object permanence. As your baby learns that things continue to exist even when she can’t see them, she’ll feel better about letting you out of her sight. Games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek will help her understand this phenomenon.
  • Practice with quick, safe separations. Throughout the day, create situations of brief separation. When you go into another room, whistle, sing, or talk to your baby so he knows you’re still there, even though he can’t see you.
  • Don’t sneak away when you have to leave her. It may seem easier than dealing with a tearful goodbye, but it will just cause her constant worry that you’re going to disappear without warning at any given moment. The result? Even more clinginess, and diminished trust in your relationship.
  • Tell your baby what to expect. If you are going to the store and leaving him at home with Grandma, explain where you are going and tell him when you’ll be back. Eventually, he’ll come to understand your explanations.
  • Don’t rush the parting, but don’t prolong it, either. Give your baby ample time to process your leave-taking, but don’t drag it out and make it more painful for both of you.
  • Invite distractions. If you’re leaving your baby with a caregiver or relative, encourage that person to get your baby involved with playtime as you leave. Say a quick good-bye and let your baby be distracted by an interesting activity.
  • Allow your baby the separation that she initiates. If she crawls off to another room, don’t rush after her. Listen and peek, of course, to make sure that she’s safe, but let her know it’s fine for her to go off exploring on her own.

This too shall pass
Separation anxiety doesn’t have a specific beginning nor does it have an exact end. It shows itself in peaks and valleys – good days and bad, good weeks and bad, and even good years followed by bad weeks. It can be bewildering to parents when their child shifts from confidence to anxiety and back again many times during the first six to eight years of life, but this unpredictable behavior is normal. Gaining the maturity and skills to handle separation with confidence is a process, not a single event.

This stage, like so many others in childhood, will pass. In time, your child will learn that she canseparate from you, that you will return, and that everything will be okay between those two points in time. Much of this learning is based on trust and experience, which, just as for every human being young or old, takes time to build.


Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

Tags:  child behavior  child development  family 

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