- Children with no clear bedtime routine.
- Parents and children not sitting and eating as a family.
- Children not listening to what their parents are asking of them.
- Parents 'over parenting'.
- Parents nervous of 'eating out'.
Children, in general need to be awake for 12 hours a day and asleep for 12 hours at night.
By the time a child is 3 years old they may only need 11 hours sleep at night.
This means that children tend to wake at 07.00 and need to return to bed by 19.00.
A bedtime routine is essential and this is a good indicator to a child that it is the end of the day. Consistency is very important at this time of the day.17.00 / 17.30 Dinner Time 18.00 / 18.20 Bath Time 18.30 / 18.40 Milk feed (babies) / Stories for older children 18.50 / 19.00 Leaving the bedroom and closing the door saying goodnight.
Ideally it should take a child 20 minutes to settle themselves to sleep.
With the families I have been working with we have had to continue to return the children to their beds at 19.00 and through the night as they are still learning on how to sleep without being in their parents beds.
Family Meal Times
Many parents complain to me that their child will not remain at the table and eat their dinner.
It is often due to the simple fact that an adult is not sitting with them eating.
If a child sees a parent wandering around the kitchen they are likely to want to do the same.
Implementing structure around a mealtime is very important. Mealtimes are the one time when a family come together and discuss their days and future plans and ideas.
- Children visit the loo and wash hands before a meal.
- Children aged 2 and older can help lay the table.
- The meal is served in the centre of the table and everyone serves themselves.
- Everyone is to serve themselves a small amount of everything on offer.
- Portion size is important. Don't expect your child to eat as much as you!
- If a parent doesn't want to eat as early as the children I suggest they have a small portion (entrée) and their main course later when the children are in bed.
- Have everything you need at the table. Even spare cutlery and cloths and wipes in case of spillage.
- The aim is that you don't have to leave the table throughout the meal.
- Prepare the dessert in advance so that when you clear the table from dinner you can return immediately with dessert, bowls and spoons.
- At the end of the meal everyone helps clear the table and wipe it clean.
- Nobody leaves the table without asking.
A reward system can be put into place for manners and behaviour.
After being consistent for a week you should see dramatic improvement and you can reward the children when they have completed a week of the reward system.
Children not listening to what is asked of them.
This is very common with children once they become toddlers and it can continue as they get older.
Children like to take control of their own lives and they don't like to be told what to do - who does!?
It is important that when you want to tell your child to do something you follow some simple rules.
- Stop what you are doing and approach your child.
- Bend down and make eye contact.
- If your child is not looking at you the chances are they are not listening either!
- Ask them to do something with simple limited language.
- Eg: "Shoes on now. We are going out."
- Give them what they need or guide them by the shoulders to where you want them to go.
- Thank them when they do as they are asked.
If they refuse to do as you ask:
- Sit them on the bottom stair in the hallway where there is nothing to do.
- Calmly say "You sit there until you are ready to X."
- Stand and walk away saying "Do X when you are ready."
- If they leave the step and still do not do as they are asked return them (calmly) to the step.
- Continue this process until they grasp the message. This being 'Do as you are asked or simply do nothing on the step!'
Parents 'over parenting'
I find in many houses I go into that parents are making their job harder than it needs to be!
Many parents feel that they have to have very close supervision of their children or be entertaining them all of the time.
This then becomes exhausting as it isn't sustainable. All parents need to feel they are doing things for themselves and not just their children.
From the age of 18 months children start to show strong signs of wanting to be independent. They will battle you. You think you are helping but they do not see it this way.
As you try to 'help' your child they often see it as you interfering with what they want to do themselves.
I suggest you try and implement the following:
- Have an area where the children can play that you know they are safe. This could be at one end of the kitchen or in a room separate from the kitchen.
- Take periods of time where you are focusing on a task and the children have to entertain themselves.
- When your children ask for you always ask them to wait a moment. This guides them into understanding the importance of considering other people, not just themselves.
When you play together this can last for 20 minutes and then you can simply say "Now, you are happy playing X. I am going to put the washing away and send a quick email."
It is important that you teach your children 'give and take'. This gives both you time to do what needs doing and it gives them time to build on their independence.
I tend to follow a very simple rule -
When children are capable of doing something for themselves I never tend to do that task for them!
Eg: putting on their shoes, going to their bedroom to collect a toy to play with etc.
Parents nervous of Eating Out
This is something that many parents shy away from but it really doesn't have to be so challenging.
I have simple steps to follow:
- Ensure your children are not too tired to enter a restaurant.
- They need to be genuinely hungry if you want them to eat.
- As soon as you go in find a table in a corner or to the side of the room.
- Seat the children where they cannot get down so easily.
- Take the children to the bathroom to wash their hands.
- When in the bathroom bend down and make eye contact with them and say
- "We are going to have a lovely time and behave well, but if there is any shouting or silly behaviour I will be bringing you straight back here and we will stay here until you are ready to behave."
- Pause for a moment and say "Do you understand?. Now let's go and have a lovely time." This sets the tone and the children now know their boundary and the consequence for bad behaviour.
- Take a bag of activities with you to the restaurant for in between courses.
- Ideas: Play dough, magnetic shapes, fuzzy felt, connect 4, stickers, colouring book and pens, retractable cotton tape measure, wind up jumping toy.
- It is most important that you relax. If the children sense you are tense this will reflect in their behaviour.
- Trust them that they will behave and you are likely to have a wonderful time.
- Be realistic. Sitting at the table for 60 - 90 minutes is probably the maximum time for a child aged 2 upwards.
- You can always go for a little walk outside in between courses if you want to be brave and stay for dessert and coffee!
- Don't shy away from the challenge of eating out. The more you do it the more familiar it will become to you as a family.
The hardest thing about parenting is remaining consistent. Set your systems in place and stick with it.
It takes three consecutive days of consistency to see fundamental change in both yours and the children's behaviour!
Kathryn Mewes stars in The Three Day Nanny, Tuesdays at 8pm on Channel 4.