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How to Win Parenting Battles: Ages 0 to 5

Being the parent of a baby, toddler, or preschooler has so many rewards - and those rewards are well earned by the numerous trials parents must contend with at every stage. Let the following tips guide you through some of the challenges you’re likely to face.

Sleep, baby, sleep. As a new parent, it’s a learning process to figure out how to get your baby to sleep, especially after nighttime feedings. One of the best techniques is swaddling your baby because that’s what your baby experienced in the womb. Start with laying the blanket out flat in a diamond, then flap the top corner over about four or five inches. Next, lay your baby on the blanket with the base of their head at the edge of the flap. Now flap the right side over your baby. Then fold up the bottom corner over your baby. Finally, flap the left side over and wrap it around, so your baby is comfortably snug.

Binky battle. Are you beginning to question whether your toddler or preschooler will be heading to school with a pacifier in their mouth? Fortunately, this battle is far less challenging than parents anticipate. If your child seems really dependent on it, the best approach might be to wean your child gradually. Make a new rule that your toddler can only have it at naptime and bedtime. The bonus is your toddler may be much more cooperative about naps and bedtime in order to have the pacifier. Once your child has had time to adjust to being without the binky during the daytime, move forward with the final step, and eliminate the pacifier altogether.

The hellacious temper tantrum. It isn’t a pretty picture, I know. As a result, parents resort to a variety of tactics to bring tantrums to a halt. But as long as you aren’t in public and your child isn’t behaving aggressively, the best choice is often to ignore it. Calmly tell your child you’re leaving the room and will return when they calm down. Then just walk away. This lets your child know the tantrum isn’t going to help your child get their way. It also helps you to keep your cool and prevents you from caving in to your child by removing yourself from the situation.

Eek! Germs. It may seem counterintuitive, but don’t be a germaphobe around your young child. Kids need exposure to germs to build up their immune systems. This doesn’t mean you should intentionally expose your child to the flu or allow your toddler to crawl around on the dirty bathroom floor. But to a reasonable degree, allow your baby or child exposure to dirt and bacteria. Don’t panic if your toddler happens to eat a cracker that fell on the living room floor. Also, get your baby or young child out of the house for exposure to other people regularly. Studies have found children exposed to infections earlier on build immunity and are less likely to be affected by exposure as they grow.

Potty-training challenge. Rewards work wonders with potty-training. Fill a bowl or basket with small prizes your toddler can choose from each time your child uses the toilet or potty chair. Keep it interesting by using a variety of prizes. Some ideas for inexpensive rewards include Happy Meal toys, stickers, gumball machine prizes, bite-size candy bars, mini Playdough containers, markers, or anything your toddler finds intriguing.

Hair-washing horrors. Most youngsters love bath-time play. But when it comes to getting their hair washed, you’d swear you’re sending them through a torture chamber. The issue is, young children hate water running down their face. The solution is to fill the tub only three inches deep with water. Then roll up a rubber bathtub mat. Have your child lie on their back with the rolled-up mat underneath their neck. This keeps your child’s face above water level while their head is tilted back, so the water runs away from your child’s face when you rinse. Once their hair is washed, fill the tub a little more, and reward your child with playtime.

You win some; you lose some. When playing games with preschoolers, it’s tempting always to let them win. No parent likes to see their child disappointed, or worse, storm away. But teaching your child to accept losing is essential to your child becoming a good sport. The next time you play a board game, allow your preschooler to lose, and teach your child to shake the winner’s hand. Tell your child “good game,” and praise your child for handling the loss well.

Can I have my bed back, please? There’s much debate over the issue of co-sleeping. But most experts agree, it’s really up to the preference of parents. There are benefits and drawbacks for children and parents alike. Often, though, co-sleeping becomes a ritual that parents never really intended. Once it begins, it’s a challenge to get a child back to sleeping in their own bed.

To recover ownership of your bed, tell your child, “You’re a big kid now, so it’s time to sleep in your own bed.” Then, as Meri Wallace, LCSW, suggests in her article, "6 Steps for Getting Your Child to Sleep Alone," sit in a chair right next your child’s bed to keep your child company. Over the course of a few days, gradually move your chair farther and farther away from your child’s bed. Then, as your child grows more comfortable, say you’re going to the bathroom or kitchen but that you’ll be right back. Do just as you promised. Eventually, your child will adjust to your absence and be able to go to bed alone.

Just one spoonful, please. Getting young children to take a spoonful of nasty, bitter tasting medicine is a nightmare most parents have experienced, so hide the taste by mixing it with yummy strawberry or chocolate syrup.

Kimberly is the author of a children’s STEM book, Horoscopes: Reality or Trickery? containing fun experiments to help kids understand the scientific method and develop critical- thinking skills.

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