Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Fighting Fair When Our Kids are Around

I’m concerned our kids might be affected by our arguing - what can we do?

Research has shown that children growing up amongst conflict such as violence/abuse but also including shouting/arguing are more likely to have mental health problems, learning difficulties, behavioural problems, abusive relationships, a tendency towards criminal activities, addiction to drugs and alcohol and suicidal thoughts. The reason for this is because their brain develops in a different way to a child who is not over-exposed to conflict. So it is certainly a serious issue, and it’s good to be aware of this and to take steps to protect our children. So how can we “fight fair” to prevent our children from suffering any ill effects?

The first step we can take is to avoid conflict escalating into arguing, shouting or worse. It’s helpful to remember our circumstances and how they affect our ability to communicate with our partner. For instance, sleep deprivation or changes in our family circumstance places extra stress and strain on us. It’s at times like this that we can have a tendency to “turn on each other” and become snappy simply because of being tired or stressed. It’s in those times that we should try to make more of an effort to control the urge to snap, and instead find times and ways that you might be able to talk out issues together, communicate needs, and find solutions that would help improve the situation.

Tips for avoiding arguments:

  • Assign ‘baby care’ and household duties. When partners know what’s expected of them, things run more smoothly, so discuss these and be prepared to review them if it’s not working
  • Start a discussion at the right time - not in the “heat of the moment”. Wait till you’ve calmed down and you have the energy and space to discuss it properly
  • Listen to your partner’s concerns without cricising them
  • Be honest but sensitive with how you word things
  • Try and use “I” statements rather than “You” statements, eg. “I feel… because…” rather than “You always do this…”
  • Try to keep focused on the issue rather than bringing up old ground (historical issues)
  • Try to be clear about exactly what is upsetting you rather than being vague or trying to make your partner guess what is wrong because you’re too afraid to be honest
  • Steer clear of generalisations such as “you’re always..” or “you never”. Try and put the emphasis on the action that you don’t like rather than making it personal. Make “neutral comments” rather than attacking the other person’s character
  • Avoid swearing or name-calling

If you do happen to argue in front of your children, there are ways in which you can deal with it in a way that helps:

  • Try and keep the above “conflict rules”
  • Positive arguing can in fact teach children how to resolve conflict - remember that you are a role model to them - modelling childhood and adult relationships and what is “OK”
  • Make sure your child sees you apologize to each other after the fight
  • Be honest about your fighting. There is no use denying that there is a problem or pretending everything is OK. Children can become very anxious around conflict. Discussing/addressing it with your children helps relieve some of that anxiety. If your children have witnessed you arguing and not “fighting fair”, it is helpful to explain to your children what you did wrong and that you are sorry and what you intend to do to prevent it from happening again

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Crying Babies

Our baby cries and cries - we try everything but nothing helps for long. What can we do?

Listening to your baby crying breaks your heart and can cause you enormous anxiety and agitation - especially if you add to that your being sleep-deprived, particularly if it’s the early stages of your baby’s life.

The first thing to realise is that a baby cries because it’s the only way of communicating to you their needs. We feel frustrated when we feel that we don’t know what our baby is trying to tell us. It can often be desperate, exhausting attempts at trying one thing after another to see what works. But as we get to know our baby, we will begin to realise some of their cues and be able to respond to them, so be gentle on yourself and realise that it takes time.

The main reasons why babies cry:

  • Hunger - remember that some babies (especially newborns) need to be feed more frequently than others. Some babies get themselves so worked up when they are hungry, by the time they are fed they have gulped in a lot of air and then have problems with wind. The best thing to do is to respond early to signs of their being hungry, don’t wait. If your baby is in a routine, keep your feeding routine - don’t try and delay things if something else has cropped up. Feeding your baby is your priority and other things will simply need to wait! A baby doesn’t understand that you have other things to do in your day - and you may well pay for it if you delay your baby’s feed. And remember that babies do go through growth spurts, which may mean that they demand more at certain times than at others - so allow for this if you have your baby in a routine. Cues: If it’s been 3-4hrs since you last fed your baby, if he/she’s just woken up, or if you’ve just changed a very full nappy - chances are your baby is hungry. Remember that ‘rooting reflex’ your baby has early on - searching for mum’s breast, too as a sign that your baby wants to be fed.
  • Wind - having trapped wind in a baby’s belly can be uncomfortable and painful. Some babies are better at bringing up wind than others, and often newborns are particularly unpractised! It is also thought that breastfed babies have less wind than bottle-fed babies. To help your baby, always ‘wind’ him/her after a feed and between each side. Your baby may well wake up half an hour into their sleep, crying, because they still have trapped wind, so make sure that you spend the time doing this. Please see our previous articles on ‘Reflux’ and ‘Colic’ for more information on problems with feeding/wind. Cues: Your baby may bring his knees up to his chest or become restless - these are signs he might have some trapped wind.
  • Wet/soiled Nappy - some babies find having a wet/soiled nappy intolerable. If your baby is crying, regularly check and change your baby’s nappy to see whether he/she becomes more settled - and certainly let it be one of the things you consider if your baby is crying. Cues: Your baby might squirm or arch his/her back if uncomfortable.
  • Tired - there is nothing like an overtired baby. Once your baby has established a bit of a routine of how often they’d like to go to sleep, you do need to pick up on cues that your baby is getting tired. Your baby might yawn or just become fussy. Your baby may need a lot more sleep than you realise, particularly as newborn babies. Cues: Losing interest in toys, decreased activity, yawning, rubbing eyes, looking glazed.

If your baby is crying, have the above checklist in your mind and tick them off. If none of them seem to be what your baby is trying to tell you, then consider the following:

  • Overstimulation: If the room is noisy, there are lots of people around, there is music or banging or people trying to entertain your baby with rattles and other toys, it might all be becoming too much for your baby, particularly if baby is turning his/her head away from the noise. Try taking your baby out of the room and to somewhere peaceful where he/she can enjoy some gentle cuddles from you.
  • Frustration: Your baby may express his/her frustration at not being able to reach a toy or grasp/play with it in the way he/she wants to by crying. Your baby may just need a little help!
  • Loneliness: If your baby hasn’t seen you in a while because he/she has been lying on the floor playing happily while you’ve been hanging out the washing or cooking the dinner, he/she may start crying for you. A little time and some cuddles should resolve the problem! Remember, too, to try and put your baby down awake when it’s time for bed, rather than feeding off to sleep. The reason is that the last thing baby remembers is your face and when baby wakes up and you’re not there, he/she becomes distraught!
  • Boredom: Your baby has been stuck in a pushchair for a while with you shopping or catching up for a coffee with a friend. Baby’s crying might be loud and whiny, demanding your attention and simply wants a change of scene or to get out of the pushchair (or car seat or move to a different part of the house!)
  • Worry/Fear: Your baby may become uncomfortable in the arms of someone they don’t know, particularly if they’re not sure where you are. If his/her previous happy gurgles become unsettled cries, someone more familiar needs to take baby - especially you! Remember it takes time for babies to become accustomed to new people and new faces.
  • Too hot/too cold: Put a hand down your baby’s back and check his/her temperature. Your baby might be trying to say he/she’s too hot or too cold. The general rule is that baby has one more layer on than we do - we dress to the weather conditions and temperatures and so we need to adjust our baby’s clothes accordingly. Particularly if we have gone from a warm house to a cold hall (for playgroup or something) or outside in a cold wind.
  • Pain/Sickness: A painful cry might be shrill and followed by a pause (while your baby catches his/her breath) just like an adult cries when they are hurt. Check your baby from head to toe to see if you can find the source. Alternatively, your baby may not like the taste of your milk! If you are breastfeeding and have eaten something you don’t normally eat, and baby is fussy on the breast, consider what you have been eating that might have upset baby’s tummy. On the other extreme, your baby’s cry might be very weak - this may show signs of illness. Check your baby for a temperature and other signs that might indicate sickness.

And just a few more tips you could try if you’ve tried everything else:

  • Hold your baby (try arms, slings, front packs)
  • Provide motion (rhythmic swinging, rocking or jiggling)
  • Turn on some white noise: vacuum cleaner, fan heater or fan
  • Swaddle your baby nice firmly so baby feels secure
  • Baby massage - stroking your baby gently, or try patting on baby’s back or bottom
  • Let your baby have something to suck on: might be your breast, a pacifier, daddy’s finger or a teething toy
  • Distracting baby: just a change of scenery such as walking outside to look at the trees and the birds can calm a baby quickly

Take Care of Yourself

If you have tried everything you can think of to soothe your baby, don’t feel like a failure or incompetent as a parent. It is a common problem for babies - don’t add to your load by heaping guilt on yourself! Remember you are doing the best you can. Once you have taken care of baby the best that you can, take care of yourself:

  • When you feel yourself becoming agitated and worked up, put baby down in his/her bassinet or cot for ten minutes out of your hearing while you calm yourself. Baby will not be harmed by his/her own crying and sometimes you need that short breather in order to be able to manage. Take some deep breaths, put on some relaxing music.
  • Support one another as parents - give one another some time out (take turns if you need to) and some encouraging words. Don’t turn your frustration on each other - remember you are in this together and be kind to one another.
  • Get help: talk to Plunket or your Doctor if you are worried. You can call Healthline on 0800-611-116 to speak to a ‘Well Child Nurse’ for advice. Call a friend/relative for support - have someone take care of the baby while you get some rest or some time away.
  • When you are taking a break from your baby, remember to truly have some self-care: have a long warm bath, put on some relaxing music, go out for coffee with a friend, read a magazine, get some sleep. Take care of yourself - don’t use the time to do housework or run an errand!
  • Don’t demand too much of yourself. Lower some of your other expectations such as getting all the housework done or going out to playgroup activities for example. You need to be realistic about what you can cope with. Figure out what helps you and what makes things worse (you and the baby more tired). Ask for help with some of the things you need to do - such as housework, grocery shopping or errands you need to run.
  • Above all, remember that it will not harm your baby to cry. It is a source of communication, and usually a phase that will pass. It’s helpful to remember that it won’t last forever, and it may just be that you have more of a “crying baby” than other babies. Accepting this can help you to get through it. Find strategies that give you the strength to be able to cope with it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Enter our Parent's competition!

How would you like to be pampered? Well, just for being a special client of NZ Nannies International and a deserving parent, we are offering you the chance to win the opportunity to do just that:

  • A $50 gift voucher to go towards a luxurious facial or another treatment of your choice
  • A free cut and blow wave
  • A free one-hour makeover and one-hour photo shoot plus $150 towards portrait photos

All you have to do is to win the “Post of the Month.” Post a reply to any of the articles that we have posted on this blog. Then enter your details so that we know how to contact you if we select your post - enter your details on our website - just click here for the link:

We will choose the “Post of the Month” as our winner. This offer expires on October 9th 2009.

Happy posting and good luck!!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Spring School Holiday Family Events around Auckland

School holidays are coming up, and I know how tricky it can be to come up with fun activities to do with the kids every day while trying to avoid the “I’m bored” tantrums! The most important thing to remember is to plan. Sit down with the kids and talk about what they would like to do, and try to incorporate these ideas into the plan. Structure is important to children so having a list of what you are going to do over the holidays will be really helpful in this aspect.

The 2009 Spring school holidays are from September 26th – October 11th.

Here is a list of some ideas of activities you can do with the kids, whether you are a nanny, Au Pair, a parent or family member caring for children at home. There are plenty of opportunities and ideas available for being active and having fun with the kids over the school holidays!

Get Outdoors

There are heaps of outdoor activities you can do for very little or no cost. The Spring weather can be changeable, so take advantage of any sunny days to get out and about. You can go for a picnic, to play at the park, to the beach, and for older children there are plenty of trails and cycle trails all around New Zealand. In Auckland, find a list of local walking trails ranging from 30 minutes to several hours at the Auckland City Council website:

Plant Veges

This is a great option for the Spring school holidays – it’s the perfect time to plant easy to grow vegetables like lettuce and tomatoes. You can incorporate into this education about food and nutrition, and it will also save money on your grocery bill!


Dust off the old board games, have a waterfight on the warm days, unleash your creativity with drawing and painting, bake something yummy together, make homemade playdough, play make-believe (for example, kids love playing shopkeeper!) – the opportunities for play are endless. These options are great for those days where the weather is not ideal for getting out and about.

Get Out and About

There are plenty of no-cost places to go in your city. There are museums and art galleries in most of the main centres which are free (or ask a small donation) for entry. Most towns in New Zealand have a public library with great books for kids of all ages. There are also options which cost a bit, so if you feel like splashing out you can visit the zoo, and in Auckland there is of course Rainbow’s End and MOTAT. There are also public pools, some which are indoors, eliminating the need to wait for a sunny day – in Auckland, find a list of public swimming pools at the Auckland City Council website:

Here is a list of some upcoming events during the Spring school holidays in the Auckland region:

Wonderland: Mystery of the Orchid (runs until 12th October):

Auckland Museum, The Domain,
Parnell - Special Exhibitions Hall

Adults: $8, Children: Free. The Mystery of the Orchid is an experience best described by that popular adage of Lewis Carol's Alice: "Curiouser and curiouser!" Don't miss it. More info:

'90° South - Edmund Hillary at the Pole 1957-8' (runs until January 2011):

MOTAT, Great North Road, Western Springs - Logan Campbell Building

10am - 5pm. Our Sir Edmund exhibit tells the story of his extraordinary Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition and features one of MOTAT's most treasured artefacts - Sir Ed's modified Ferguson tractor. More info:

Starlight Express:

Vector Arena

Tickets from $45. Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Starlight Express' - one of the most successful musicals of all time, visits New Zealand for the first time since opening in London in 1984. The story follows a child's dream in which his toy train comes to life; the show is unique as all performers are on roller skates. More info:

Magic Show - Monday 28th September (runs until 10th October):

Centre Court, Westfield Manukau City Shopping Centre. Corner Wiri Station Road and Great South Road

11am and 1pm. Free. Great entertainment for all ages, heaps of prizes to be win. More info: Monya van Wyk - 978 5310 or

Auckland Heritage Festival (19 September to 4 October 2009):

Auckland Heritage Festival is a celebration of our city's heritage that involves a programme of 150 exciting, diverse and interactive events. To download a programme, click the following link:

Snake and Lizard:

The PumpHouse Theatre, Killarney Park,
off Manurere Ave, Takapuna

10.30am and 1pm daily. Earlybird special: 28th and 29th Sept: $16; Family Pass: $70; Single: $20. Tim Bray's adaptation of Snake and Lizard, by Joy Cowley, which was the winner of the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards. It's a funny tale of two very unlikely new best friends. More info: 489-8360 or

Howick Plunket Seminars - Exercise for Mums and Bubs (Friday 2nd October):

Configure Express, adjacent to the Foodcourt at Westfield Pakuranga

11am. Gold coin donation. Configure Express will take Mums and Bubs for a tour of the gym and then demonstrate some exercises Mums can do with their Bubs to benefit their bodies post-pregnancy. Children welcome, morning tea provided. More info: Rochelle - 533 7852 or

Jack & The Beanstalk (Saturday 3rd October):

Logan Campbell Centre, ASB Showgrounds, Greenlane Rd West

10am, 1pm and 4pm. Family Pass: $30. Live theatre exposes children to new levels of creativity and imagination. Exciting children's activities like face painting, freebies, photo session with the cast, etc… More info: 361 4500 or

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Behavioural Problems, Tantrums & Discipline

Question of the Week: Our daughter’s behaviour has been so difficult and we have tried everything we know to deal with it, but nothing has worked. Do you have any suggestions?

Discipline has been a ‘hot topic’ in our country of late with the Anti-Smacking Law remaining despite the results of the referendum, and the heated debates we have had between our politicians and between us as families with varying opinions, as it strikes at some of our core family values. But we’ll get to discipline a little later. First, let’s look at the reasons why our children might be throwing tantrums or being difficult in their behaviour.

There are so many reasons why our children start to behave in this way. It may be a combination of our child exercising their desire to be independent or expressing their personality (you might have heard of the “terrible twos” for instance - because the ages of 2-4yo is where developmentally children are wanting to find a bit of independence). It may be that we have not known how to discipline our child at all, or tried different ways and given them up quickly, believing they have not worked, or not had the strength to follow it all the way through. It may be that your child is simply wanting more attention from you, and the way they have discovered they get that is to throw a tantrum or behave in such a way that you will notice. Or it may be that there are problems in the family, in the home or at school, and without knowing how to communicate their feelings, your child has simply acted out their anger or fear with their behaviour - their way of saying “something is wrong!” While we can’t fully address all of these issues, we would like to give you some tips on each of them.

Step One: Boundaries

The first thing you must do as parents is to discuss what your boundaries are and how you are going to respond if they are crossed by your child (we will give you some ideas on how you can respond a little later). It’s so important that you agree as parents as to your approach and work consistently as a team. If one of you does not agree with the boundary or the response, then the exercise is futile - your child’s behaviour will not change and she/he will become confused when one parent is allowing behaviour while the other is not. It’s important to discuss what you both feel is unacceptable behaviour. Don’t assume that you both will reach the same conclusion about what is unacceptable - all of us come from different families with different parenting styles and one of us might just feel it’s best to “let it go” while the other may feel it is important to address the behaviour.

Once you have agreed what is unacceptable behaviour and how you will both respond to it, it’s important to be consistent. Make sure that the response you have chosen is something that you are both comfortable carrying out. If it’s not, then it will make the situation worse. Your child loses respect for your authority and stops paying attention to your words if they become idle threats that you don’t follow through on.

Step Two: Be Consistent

There is no point in carrying out discipline some of the time in response to behaviour, but not others (because you are too tired or the circumstances would not allow for it, eg. at someone else’s house or at the supermarket. Again, inconsistency undermines your authority as a parent and your child will continue to test the boundaries, knowing that sometimes she/he can get away with it.

Step Three: Don’t Give Up

There are times when, as a parent, you simply get exhausted with the process of addressing difficult behaviour with discipline. It takes an enormous amount of energy to persevere and remain consistent time after time - and it feels like an ongoing battle with your child. But don’t give up. Your child’s personality may have a very strong will, and if this behaviour has been allowed to continue for a long time, it will take some time for you to break it. There may be some other more positive tactics you might introduce alongside the discipline you have chosen that might help, but don’t chop and change the type of discipline you use - your child will only become confused. Just remember to balance your battles with times in the day where you simply enjoy your child. It is hard work for everyone concerned if the entire day is a battle between you.

Tips: Addressing the Cause of the Behaviour

  • Find ways to talk to your child about their behaviour in a calm manner, asking them questions to help them think about why they do it. Obviously, their ability to think and reflect and respond will depend on their age, so you may need to help them with some of their words. Teach your children about their emotions and how it is okay to express it but encourage them to express their emotions in an appropriate way. Invite them to talk to you about their feelings. Discuss what is unacceptable behaviour. As your children get older and grow into teenagers, these discussions are the most important part of discipline - without it, our children grow to resent us and we begin to lose the relationship through lack of communication.
  • If your child is at a stage where they are wanting to express some independence, find ways in which you can encourage and accommodate it. There are times where you can give way, such as allowing your child to choose what he/she will wear (or giving two choices if this ends up causing more problems!), helping you with the housework, or making small decisions such as what they will play with or where they might like to go on an outing.
  • If your child is seeking attention from you - give it to them! Try ignoring bad behaviour and praising them as much and as often as possible for good behaviour. Set up a reward chart, and make a big deal of it, be consistent with it and put on your list of things they achieve the key issues that you are battling with your child on a regular basis. Don’t reward your child with a sticker (or tick or stamp) if they have not shown good behaviour in that particular area - your child knows when they haven’t, and it will just end up being another way of being able to get away with their behaviour and still be rewarded. Make sure that you are spending quality time with your child, giving them that undivided attention and praise and encouragement that they long for.

Tips: Discipline

  • If difficult behaviour has become a pattern at certain times or during certain activities in the day, talk to your child about it in advance. For instance, you might say “we are going to have dinner now. I want to see you sitting nicely and using your manners.” (You might explain what using your manners means - addressing the behaviour you don’t like - such as using their knife and fork not their fingers, not talking with your mouthful, saying excuse me when other people are talking and you need to say something or waiting your turn etc.) Discussing activities and the behaviour you would like to see in advance helps children tremendously. Prevention is the key!
  • There is some behaviour that you might decide as parents you are simply going to ignore, and praise good behaviour instead - and you may find this works well, and those behavioural problems just fade away. The wise saying “choose your battles” applies here - otherwise you will be battling your child all day long and everyone will be miserable. So decide what behaviour you can let go, and what behaviour you can’t.
  • The tone of your voice and content of what you are saying is so important. When telling a child that you don’t like their behaviour and to stop it, there is a few things you need to do in order for your child to listen: 1) change the tone of your voice - if it’s the same tone that you use when you are talking normally or even praising your children, why would they stop and take notice? 2) don’t shout - apart from it creating a tense and aggressive atmosphere, children are emotionally affected by shouting and what’s more, they often don’t listen to it and instinctively know that you are wrong to do it - particularly as you don’t accept shouting from them, 3) change and lower your voice, remain calm but firm so your child knows that you mean it, 4) ask your child to come to you and get down on their level when addressing them about their behaviour - that way they realise that what you are saying is important and they will listen, 5) keep your instructions brief and use language your child understands - you might want to give a lecture on their behaviour (especially if it’s really made you mad!) but don’t complicate it, otherwise your child will become confused about what you are wanting
  • Have you found yourself telling your child off all day long and using the word “don’t” 50x a day? Sometimes we find ourselves saying “don’t” or telling our child off automatically before they have even done anything wrong - perhaps pre-empting bad behaviour, but this is not helpful. Not only does this make life with your child an unpleasant one, your child simply becomes confused about right and wrong and stops listening to “constant telling off” so that when she/he does do something wrong, your correction may fall on deaf ears. If this is you, try to get “don’t” out of your vocabulary and instead ask your child for the behaviour that you want to see. When you do have to address a behaviour, make sure you follow it up with behaviour you would like to see, eg. “We do not take toys off other children. I want you to go and give that toy back to that child and to go and find another toy to play with.”
  • When children cross the line and exhibit behaviour you have agreed is unacceptable, draw your child aside, speak with a low tone, say what you don’t like and what you would like instead briefly and clearly and give a warning about what will happen if they don’t stop that behaviour. It is important to give the warning every time in order to be consistent. If the behaviour continues, follow through so that your child knows they are not just idle words, and that when you speak to them about their behaviour, they need to listen and respect you.


  • Time-out is a great way to discipline children at a certain age. This can start as young as 2 years old, and might continue through to 7 years old - or as long as it seems to make a difference. You might use the child’s bedroom for time-out (particularly if the child simply needs time to calm down) or, you might find that environment is too “rewarding” and instead use a “naughty step”, a “naughty corner” or a “naughty chair.” Whatever works for you and your child. You may have to try a few locations before you have one that works for you. I have had a child go into time-out in their bedroom only to discover they had jumped out the window! Time out in the bathroom didn’t work either, they unravelled the toilet paper and made a mess! I had to settle on a “naughty corner” where I could watch her, yet made sure that I was not engaging with her during the time that she was there.
  • When putting a child into time-out, ensure you explain why you are putting them there. Put the timer on for the duration of how long they will be staying - the consensus is one minute for every year of their age, eg. 2 mins for a 2yo. Don’t speak to your child or engage with your child while they are in time-out, and make sure the rest of the family doesn’t either. If your child takes him/herself out of time-out before the timer has sounded or acts up in some other way, explain you are now restarting the timer because of this, and restart it. Do it over and over again (including putting your child back into the spot you have chosen them to go in for time-out) until they stay there. If they are calling out or trying to talk to you, ignore them. And if it carries on, explain that you are going to restart the timer and why. When time-out is up, go to your child and ask them why they were put there and ask them to apologise to you. Once they have said they are sorry for their behaviour, give them a reassuring cuddle to show them you still love them despite their behaviour!
  • Don’t go on to talk to them/lecture them about their behaviour afterwards. They have experienced the consequence of their behaviour, let them now change it and enjoy the rest of the day. Use the time your child spends in time out to calm down from the anger it might have created in you. Sometimes you need time out as a parent when you feel angry with your child for their behaviour. Don’t carry your anger on into the rest of the day - deal with it, and then rise above it to be the positive parent your kids deserve.
  • Time-out can be anywhere. Sometimes families are at a loss as to what to do when their child behaves badly in public, such as playgroup or at a playdate or at the supermarket/shopping mall. Choose a spot that is away from other people. It might be under a tree away from all the fun, or in another room of a person’s house. It might be abandoning your supermarket trolley, taking the child to “time out” in their carseat in the car, shutting the door for four minutes (or whatever the case might be) and waiting outside (with your back to them) until that time is up, then resuming your shopping.
  • Time-out is not locking a child in a room for an indefinite period of time. This creates fear in a child, and can cause emotional damage.

Taking Away Privileges

  • Before we discuss taking away privileges, it is important to determine what is a privilege and what is a need. Children have both physical and emotional needs. They have a need to be sheltered, fed and clothed, educated, nurtured, encouraged and loved. Withholding any of these, as we know, is abuse. So in terms of taking away privileges, this would not include, for instance that your child “goes without dinner.” It might include, however, “going without dessert.” One is a need, the other is a privilege. It’s important for us to recognise the difference. Often we see toys as being a need. On the one hand, it is a part of a child’s learning - so we would not take all toys away from a child as a punishment. On the other hand, it is a privilege that our child has a computer, a playstation, access to a television or dvd or any other toy that is special to them. When they are older, it is a privilege for our children to have a mobile phone or access to the internet or to go out with their friends in the evening/weekends, or to borrow the car and so on. Therefore, since it is a privilege, it is reasonable to expect our children to treat us and the things we have given them with respect.
  • When time-out no longer works for your child due to personality or age, taking away privileges is another way of disciplining our children. The same process applies: the warning, the explaining and then the following through as well as the discussion afterwards and expecting an apology. It’s often helpful to take away a privilege that has caused the behavioural problem, eg. children fighting over a particular toy or “grounding” a teenager when they have engaged in an activity outside of the home that is unacceptable. This helps a child/young person to recognise that you have given them a privilege, and you expect them to treat that privilege with respect. Sometimes, though, behaviour does not involve a privilege (a toy or freedom you’ve given them) and taking away a privilege is then simply used as a punishment - a consequence of their behaviour.


  • Tantrums are thrown by children to gain their parents’ attention and can start as young as 1yo! I have even had parents tell me that their baby less than 1yo had started to throw tantrums! It’s helpful to teach your children an appropriate way of seeking your attention and to prevent tantrums by giving your children quality time. But to stop your toddler having tantrums, the best thing that you can do is to ignore it. Ensure your child is safe (not near objects that could hurt or fall on your child), and then simply walk away and ignore it. You’d be surprised at how quickly the drama might stop when your child no longer has an audience! When you have a baby who throws him/herself back onto the floor (potentially hitting their head), clearly it would not be safe to simply leave them on their own and walk away - although once they‘re on the ground they may be safe to be left so long as they are not continuing to throw themselves back. You might choose instead to put them in their cot (on their soft cot mattress) and walk away, just standing outside the doorway waiting for it to stop - you don’t want your baby hitting his/her head on the cot rails and so on, so it’ s best to be within earshot, but enough of a distance that your baby realises they’re not getting the attention they’re looking for!
  • Keep in mind, it might take some time for your child to realise that this is just not worth the energy. Eventually it will stop, if you don’t give attention to it. If you sometimes give attention to it, the tantrums will carry on a lot longer than they have to.
  • Often children have extreme emotions that they don’t know what to do with. Over time, as parents, you will help them to learn other ways to express their emotions. In the meantime, we want the tantrums to stop.
  • It is definitely challenging for parents when they are in a supermarket, a shopping mall, at someone else’s place or out and about in public when their child throws a tantrum. A lot of parents don’t know what to do, and it doesn’t help to get the “looks” from disapproving people around them (although the ones in the know usually give sympathetic smiles!) Here’s a few things that you can do: 1) Prevent the tantrum from happening: explain what behaviour you would like from them, involve your children in the experience (eg. helping put groceries in the trolley) so they are not bored, deal with difficult behaviour early on (eg. one warning then time-out in the car) so that it doesn’t escalate into a tantrum, 2) If you are in the shopping mall or the supermarket where there are a lot of objects and a lot of people, remain a safe distance away, don’t talk/engage with your child, wait till the tantrum is over, ignore the stares and looks, remember this stage will pass!! 3) If you feel your child is not safe, move unsafe objects away from your child or move your child to a safe place - not much fun having a kicking, screaming, struggling child in your arms, so only do this if you have to, 4) If you are in a supermarket/shopping mall and your child has just had a tantrum and you were unable to deal with it by walking away, you might choose to put them in time-out for their behaviour (eg. in their carseat in the car while you stand outside it with your back to your child) so that this kind of behaviour doesn’t continue while you try to finish your shopping, 5) If you are in a situation where you can simply walk away (because your child will be safe) - such as at another person’s house - then do it! Ask your friend whether you could both go into another room until the tantrum is over.
  • Don’t stop your grocery shopping or your time with your friend because of your child’s behaviour - unless you know that your child is tired or hungry. If your child is bored, find ways to deal with that rather than simply returning home. You do need to listen to those needs, but otherwise their behaviour should not control your life. Your child needs to learn that you are the parent, and that their behaviour does not have the power to control you!

Parenting is not an easy job and behavioural problems and discipline is perhaps the hardest part about it - but we hope that you have found this advice helpful and we wish you the best with it!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Sibling Rivalry

Subject: Question of the Week: My firstborn is terribly jealous of the new baby. It’s started a whole lot of behavioural problems - what can we do?

Sibling Rivalry is something that can start even before a new second baby is born! It is particularly difficult, perhaps for a firstborn child who has had their parents’ undivided attention and have never had to share their parents’ attention prior to the new baby coming along. Newborn babies are particularly demanding of our attention - especially as a mother, and are completely dependent upon us. Furthermore, if you have a baby struggling with sickness or common problems such as reflux or colic, this will only demand more of your time - and time away from your other children. The result can be behaviour issues, and you feeling frustrated and exhausted being constantly pulled in different directions with demands for attention from your children.

We’d like to help you understand sibling rivalry, and give you some tips on what you can do to improve your family life in this area.

Understanding Sibling Rivalry & Factors that Influence It:

  • Your Child’s Age: Your children have ever-changing emotional and physical needs depending on their age and stage of development. So consider their developmental stage when placing expectations on children - such as sharing toys. Parallel play (where children will play alongside each other with their own individual toys), for instance, rather than interactive play is common amongst young toddlers. School-age children strongly believe in fairness and equality and don’t understand different/preferential treatment. Teenagers may resent being asked to contribute to household chores and would prefer their own independence and finding their individuality outside of the family. If children are born fairly close in age, there may be limited understanding of the change that has taken place, and increased competitiveness.
  • Your Child’s Temperament: How well your children get along can depend on their personalities. If both are strong-willed and want their own way, for instance, that is a recipe for some heated arguments! Whereas, if one is a strong leader, and the other more laid-back and willing to go along with others’ leadership, playtime may well be fairly peaceful.
  • Sickness/Stress: Sometimes children act out if there is stress in the family that causes them to be afraid or unsettled, for instance, if the new baby is struggling with sickness.
  • Role Models: If you and your partner deal with conflict in a respectful way, it serves as a role model to your children as to how to work out their differences. Not all conflict between you and your partner should be done behind closed doors, because it serves to teach your children this all-important lesson. However, if there is aggression/shouting when conflict occurs between you and your partner, of course this is behaviour your children will learn in how to deal with conflict. It’s the old saying of “do what I say, not what I do” - but children don’t work that way!

Welcoming a Second Baby

Your firstborn child (or previous children) may feel a range of emotions in response to a new baby’s arrival. From excitement to jealousy to resentment! Here are a few tips that you can use to help your child/children adjust. Try some of these tips according to what‘s suited to their age:

  • You might like to buy a special baby doll that your child can have as “her baby” to care for when you have had your new baby. Encourage her to attend to her baby’s needs while you are attending to your’s. Or you might buy a special toy that your child can play with only when you are feeding the baby as a special treat.
  • Involve your child in your baby’s care as much as possible, rather than exclude them. Find small ways in which they can help and feel included.
  • There will be times, however, that you need space and time on your own with the baby. For instance, with a crying, wriggling wet/soiled baby, you might find it too stressful also dealing with a toddler at the same time. Or there may be times you would like to feed the baby in peace. Communicate in advance with your child what you want from them during those times, “eg. When mummy changes baby’s nappy, she would like you to go and play with something else until she is finished.” Then follow up with reminders like “We wait until mummy has finished changing baby and then we can talk to mummy, can’t we? So go and play now.” Every mother needs time and space at certain times of the day rather than juggling two or more children at once in order to manage and enjoy their time with their children. It’s okay to set these kinds of boundaries and expectations of what you are wanting at different times of the day. Work out what you need, communicate it with your children, and then keep to the boundaries so your children don’t become confused.
  • Using role-play (often with a baby doll or soft toy like a teddy) or reading stories about a new baby’s arrival in the house are helpful.
  • Explaining in advance what is going to happen when the new baby arrives helps a child to adjust. Equally, explaining what is going to happen in the day with the new baby, helps a child tremendously, eg. “When baby wakes up, I’m going to feed the baby, and that is your time to find something you like to play with. After that we will have some lunch and when the baby sleeps again, you and I will play a game together. Why don’t you choose now one game that you’d like to play with on your own, and one game you’d like to play with mummy?”
  • Don’t introduce too many major changes, eg. toilet-training, or expect too much when an older child is still adjusting to the new baby’s arrival. It is a learning process for them.
  • Arrange special one-on-one time with your older child/children, and make sure that they realise that this time is special so that they feel special. Use the time to do something your child is interested in, rather than simply running errands or arranging a play date. This time needs to be a time where your undivided attention is on your child, doing something that she/he is interested in and enjoys. This kind of attention is so important, and really is a key to helping your child adjust - particularly if you are experiencing real behavioural problems from your older child in relation to the new baby. Having your partner take over the care of the new baby while you spend time with your older son or daughter will help. And building one-on-one attention into your everyday as much as you can, is equally important - such as reading a bedtime story, or setting aside some time while baby is asleep instead of attending to household chores or other activities. It is a juggle, and should not be at the expense of your own wellbeing, but it helps!

What You Can Do When Kids Get Older:

  • Model good, respectful ways of dealing with conflict between you and your partner as indicated above
  • If you think that their behaviour may be associated with fear about the other child’s illness, talk to them about it and discuss ways she/he might be able to express that fear in a different way
  • Encourage arguing children to resolve the matter themselves. It’s important for them to learn how to resolve conflict
  • When you do have to step in (particularly if it has become a physical fight), separate your children until they are calm. Don’t try to figure out who was to blame or who started it - it always takes two people to cause a fight. However, discuss what happened once the children are calm and talk about other ways they could have resolved the conflict. Ask children to find a compromise where both can win, or if they are too young to do this, suggest one for them.
  • If arguing/fighting is a common occurrence, communicate with your children before they start playing together what kind of behaviour you expect from them, and suggest how they might be able to resolve any potential conflict that arises (it may be that they may need some space from each other for a while if they‘re starting to get annoyed with each other). Communicate ground rules for play - what’s acceptable and what’s not.
  • Address personality issues. For instance, if one child’s push for leadership makes the other child feel resentful and “bossed around”, talk to the first child about why that might annoy the other child, and ways in which that might play together instead (eg. taking turns at “being the Queen” or discussing and agreeing together on something they both want to play).
  • Don’t get too caught up into the “fair” or “equal” trap. On the one hand, it is helpful to respect your children by listening to their objections if they don’t think that something is fair, and to consider what they are saying, and make adjustments if it is reasonable, However, children can drive their parents crazy trying to make everything equal and fair! Children do need to learn that there are times where a child might need extra help, attention or whatever the case may be.
  • Don’t force your children to play together or be a tag-along all the time. Allow your children time to be on their own playing with their own toys or with their own friends.
  • Spend one-on-one time with your kids doing things they are interested in. Communicate your love to them in their special love language (refer to our article on Love Languages of your Child). Have fun together as a family.
  • Hold weekly family meetings with school-age children if arguing and fighting between siblings is an ongoing problem. And if the fights are generally around the same issue, find ways of setting limits. Toys and so on are a privilege, not a right - and so it is okay to expect certain behaviour in order to enjoy that privilege.