Older Kids: My Third Kid Hates Kindergarten Too!

Remember this guy? This sweet, cuddly, awesome 4-year-old? Well, now he's a big 5-year-old, and he's been in kindergarten for about 7 weeks. He started out with an enthusiastic bang, but now we're dealing with tears and major foot-dragging when it comes to going to school.

 

I know, I know -- I shouldn't be surprised. "Help! My Kindergartener Hates School All of a Sudden!" is one of my most popular posts -- and a very common parenting dilemma. Fact is, young children are totally different animals than "school aged" kids -- and by that, I mean 8-year-olds and up. Little kids are still developmentally more like preschoolers. And that means they're likely to change their minds about -- well, just about everything. So, starting off kindergarten all excited -- then losing steam after a few weeks -- isn't a surprise. Check out my post (and the growing comment section, with my additional suggestions) for coping ideas.

And hang in there, if you've got a balking kindergartener. Usually, if you can support your child through this tricky developmental stage, the protests wind down by Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sudden Fears in 12 to 15-Month-Old Babies

Let me tell you about a cool conversation I had the other day with my Infant Research/Rock Star Guru, Professor Joseph Campos (at UC Berkeley).  He helped me understand more about a funky phenomenon I've written about here before: The Weird, Wacky, Sudden Fears of the 12 -- 15-month old. You know: Crazy fears of the bath, bizarre fears of mustached men, and other kooky things like Fear of Flowers (I kid you not -- I've heard 'em all -- many from my own kids). As I've said before, these sudden fears are NORMAL -- but now I understand a little more about WHY.

It's a combination of what I've already written about here -- adjusting to the exciting (and scary) new world of mobility, as well as an inborn fear of sudden, unexpected unfamiliarity. Babies this age tend to freak when they see something that looks out of place -- a man with facial hair (if they're used to clean-shaven guys), dogs that suddenly bark loudly, or things that move in unexpected, uncontrollable directions (like flowers in the breeze). Turns out that adult chimpanzees also have similar fears. Interestingly, our toddlers grow out of these fears -- chimps do not. Rapidly developing baby brains are starting to compare "familiar" to "unfamiliar". It's likely protective -- which is especially needed now that the baby is toddling around, away from parents.

Sudden baby fears are also related to a similar parent frustration at this age: Resistance to car seats, strollers, changing tables, high chairs, or any similar baby-jail. Why? Because they remove the element of control from your little one -- and CONTROL is what helps to decrease baby's fears.

So here's how to cope with those intense and sometimes inexplicable fears in your young toddler: Give her as much control as possible (given safety factors, and of course your need to do other stuff, too.) Fear of the unknown and unexpected is always best soothed with CONTROL. Let baby approach (or avoid) fascinating/scary things (or people) at her own pace. Explain to her when it's time to get into the car seat -- and let her try to negotiate herself into it, if possible. (She just might do it, if you give her a minute to think it through.) Take the pressure off if she's feeling shy or fearful. And most of all: DON'T WORRY. Weird toddler fears mean nothing about future psychological adjustment (and the more YOU freak out about her fears, the more SHE'LL freak out about them.)

But on the flip side: If baby needs to get into the car seat NOW, or if she MUST have a bath tonight -- that's OK, too. Explain it to her. "I know you don't want a bath, but you have enchiladas in your hair, honey. I promise to make this as fast as possible, then we'll be all done." Be supportive and understanding -- but shampoo away. You won't do any psychological harm. The trick is to give her the general message that, WHEN POSSIBLE, you'll give her as much control as you can. But sometimes the grown-ups have to be in charge (and that's a good lesson, too).

The good news is this: These fears almost always dissipate by 18 months of age. (Then you'll be on to bigger and better things -- like Full On Temper Tantrums.) Whee!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four and Parenting Expert

Parenting Tips: Talking To Preschoolers About Tragedies

The news was on, and our preschooler came into the room. Before we could turn off the TV, he saw a good stretch of footage he shouldn't have: Shootings. A deranged killer. Sobbing parents. A child murdered. "Why is that lady crying, mommy?"

Every ounce of our parenting instinct wants to wish this moment away -- to press "DELETE" on our little ones being exposed to such horrors. Erase! Rewind! Pretend like it didn't happen! They're so innocent. How to explain such a terrible, grown-up reality? Can't they stay in their little world of princesses and unicorns awhile longer?

Adding to the complexity of the situation was the presence of his 7-year-old brother and 9-year-old sister. What explanation to give them all? Our daughter jumped right in -- she had been discussing it at school. "A man who was sick in his head went to the store and shot a politician plus a whole bunch of other people!" 7-year old: "What's a politician? Like a donkey or an elephant?" 4-year-old: "Sick in his head? I was sick in my head last week! Remember mom? You took my temperature!" 9-year old: "He killed a girl my age!" 4-year-old: "Don't die, OK?"

Graduate school lists of "how to talk to kids" at various ages started swimming through my head. But how to answer the 9-year-old with her more realistic questions and fears, while not confusing the preschooler? How to explain to the 7-year-old that death for people was much more serious than finding the dead fish in his classroom aquarium that morning? How to reassure the 4-year-old that he was safe -- and so were we? And how NOT to infect them with my own fears and reactions?

I jumped into psychological triage mode. Job #1: Make sure to minimize the fear here. Explain and reassure. Job # 2: Respond to their questions -- at their level. Job #3: Fall back on our routine. Demonstrate that things haven't changed at home. Job # 4: Allow them to support each other, even as you try to correct the misinformation they may have. Siblings can be great resources for each other, giving reassurance in a way that we just can't.

If there's something big going on, and you need to stay tuned to the TV to follow anything for safety reasons, keep in mind who's watching. Mute the sound when you can, and turn it off when possible. Little kids confuse "replays" with reality, and may think things are happening over and over again.

Here are more preschooler-specific tips for talking about tragedies:

  • Don't assume -- anything. Your preschooler may completely tune out the situation. If that's the case, it's normal -- and OK.
  • Think in "fairies and pirates" language when answering questions. Your preschooler simply can't understand the world of objective reality. To him, magical thinking applies.
  • Keep it simple, and always follow up with reassurances. "Sometimes bad things happen, but Mommy and Daddy always protect you. We're all going to live for a long time, until we're very old."
  • Keep an eye out for questions coming up in different ways -- like play. We've had a lot more "shooting" games going on around here these days (despite the fact that we don't allow toy guns in the house). It gives me the chance to butt in and ask more about the games, and how they're handling things.

If your kids are having a tough time adjusting to a tragedy, make sure to ask for help sooner -- rather than later. It' far easier to help a child adjust when the trauma is new. After awhile it gets more and more difficult. Ask her doctor, teacher, or a clergyperson for a referral to someone who works with young children. Here is a nice summary by Dr. Joel Dvoskin, posted on the American Psychological Association's website:

Q. What should parents tell their children about this incident – especially since one of the dead was a 9-year-old child?

Dr. Dvoskin: Don't be afraid to talk to your kids about these events. The most important thing after any trauma is to maximize real and perceived safety for the child.... Letting kids know that they are safe is likely to help and not likely to make things worse.

Don't flood kids with too much information. The best way to decide how much information is appropriate is by the questions children ask you. Answer their questions honestly and directly, but remember that they are kids, so keep it simple (depending upon their age).

Parents should not lie to their children when talking about this tragedy. To the extent that children are unable to trust their caregivers, it is very difficult for them to feel safe.

Don't "pathologize" normal human responses to frightening events. If your children are frightened or upset, it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with them. However, if problems such as misbehavior, sleeplessness or other signs of depression or anxiety become especially severe or extreme, then seek professional help.

Limit kids' continued exposure to television coverage of the event. Depending upon their age and developmental status, they might not be able to tell if it's one event being repeated or many events. This is especially true of younger kids. Parents might even want to limit their own television watching.

Pay attention to your own fears and anger. It is unlikely that you will successfully hide your feelings from your children, who usually pay keen attention to what you say and do. Take care of yourself, and if your own feelings or behavior become extreme and problematic, don't be afraid to seek help for yourself as well.

If it is necessary to refer the child to a mental health professional, as always, step one is screening and assessment. Assess the child as a child, in totality, and in developmental context. Kids who have exaggerated reactions to what they see on TV may be kids who aren't strangers to trauma. The real question is why this event traumatized this child.... Community trauma can bring to the fore issues that were already there.

I've also included a couple of additional links below for more information. In the meantime -- stay safe.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Here is a nice guide from my colleagues at the American Psychological Association

And a helpful PDF that was written in response to 9/11 -- still very relevant to any tragedy -- that breaks down parents' responses by age range

Kindergarten Haters And Dumb Potty Training Rules in Preschool

Very Common Problems. We bloggers check our blog traffic to see how many "hits" we're getting. My software also tells me how you got to me -- what you entered into the search or URL line to get to BabyShrink -- and this is where it gets interesting. This time of year, I get a lot of searches that look like this:

SHOULD+I+SNEAK+MY+TODDLER+INTO+PRESCHOOL+IF+SHE+IS+NOT+FULLY+ POTTY+TRAINED?

AND

MY+KINDERGARTENER+HATES+SCHOOL+WHAT+SHOULD+I+DO? The demand is so strong for these topics that I'm re-running these 2 posts together. So without further ado, here's my post on potty training rules in daycare and preschool - you'll see that I have some pretty strong opinions.

And here's my post on what to do if your poor little kindergartener decides that they would rather NOT be a big boy or girl anymore and stay home after all.

I've been there more than once myself, so I can sympathize. Check out those posts and let me know what you think!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: The Fabulous Fraiberg #2 -- Fear and the Young Child

I'm plowing through essential classic parenting titles as I write my own book. Fraiberg is such a gem, and even 50 years after publication, this book is a giant among Fears can't be avoided

parenting titles. In this next section, she elaborates on the theme of the child's own innate ability to deal with fears. She give us a timely reminder that we need to trust in the inner ability of our children to cope with their own difficulties. Of course they need us to assist and support them in that process, but the "equipment" is there, naturally. These days too many of us get caught up in worrying that we need to teach our kids every single thing, and don't give them enough space to work on solving their own problems. I find it quite a relief to be reminded that my kids are far from a tabula rasa -- a blank slate -- but rather, they come pre-loaded with all sorts of fancy developmental abilities.

(Normally) the child overcomes his fears. And here is the most fascinating question of all: How does he do it? For the child is equipped with the means for overcoming his fears. Even in the second year he possesses a marvelously complex mental system which provides the means for anticipating danger, assessing danger, defending against danger, and overcoming danger. Whether this quipment can be successfully employed will depend, of course, on the parents who, in a sense, teach him to use his equipment. This means that if we understand the nature of the developing child and those parts of his personality that work for solution and resolution toward mental health, we are in the best position to assist him in developing his inner resources for dealing with fears.

From Selma Fraiberg's The Magic Years, page 6.

So as parents, the best we can do is to understand the developmental process, know the temperamental realities of our own kids, and hold their hands while they walk through the tricky spots. No parenting "technique" can take the place of a genuinely interested, centered, and supportive parent -- one who knows when to step in and help, and one who knows when to hang back and trust the magic of the developmental process.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Body Awareness & Sexuality: Advice On Dealing With Preschool Fears

Dear Dr. Heather,

I am worried about my 3-year-old daughter, who has made 2 comments about her "bottom" in the last 2 weeks. She didn't want me to look at her bottom when I was putting a pull-up on her. When I asked her why, she said "I don't know." And visiting her grandparents' house, she was getting dressed for the day and told her grandma that she didn't want grandpa to see her bottom. I know that her grandpa would NEVER EVER do anything inappropriate...as a matter of fact, he has never even changed her diaper when she was younger. There is nobody else who she is in contact with who would EVER do anything inappropriate either. But I am concerned. I have never used the word "bottom". I do not leave my girls alone with men or even just grandpas or other children (like playing in their room by themselves). They have to play where I can see them.

What I want to know is this: Do preschoolers develop a self-awareness of their body to a point where they don't want certain people seeing them in their undies, or in the bathtub....at what age and is this normal? What should I be doing at this point? My number one priority is protecting my young daughters.

Signed,

Anonymous -- and Fearful -- Mom

Dear Fearful Mom,

Sometimes it's hard to see our babies venture into territory like this. Body awareness, along with a sense of "private parts", is a first step in a child's developing sexuality. This can trigger strong feelings in us as parents, especially for those who have lingering issues over sexuality, or perhaps have experienced some sort of sexual abuse or inappropriateness in our own pasts. The natural response is to hypervigilant about any possible danger, and to protect your child at any cost. But this can get in the way of your child's growing -- and normal -- awareness of his or her own body.

So YES, children do start to develop a beginning sense of body awareness -- and privacy -- by age 3. It's not a fully-formed sense yet, but preschoolers do start to pick up on the fact that some areas of the body are "private". It's a complicated idea and so at first they can get confused. They might not totally understand whom you DO and DON'T show your private parts to....it would not be unusual for a 3-year-old to act shy about her "bottom", even with a parent. Then there may be other times where she will run around naked, with no inhibitions. They're trying to figure out the "rules" about who can view which body parts. It's a long process that takes at least a couple of years to really come to grips with what is a complicated -- and "loaded" -- concept.

You mention that you're worried about where she heard the word "bottom", since you don't use it in your family. You might think about where else she might have picked it up. Does she go to preschool? Or have friends that use the word "bottom"? Those are possibilities. She could have even overheard a mother talking to her child about it at the grocery store, for instance, "Sit on your bottom when you are in the shopping cart." Of course I can't know, but I'm just thinking of how often you hear parents talking to toddlers and preschoolers about stuff like that in public. Maybe that's where she heard it.

Now, it sounds as if you are afraid something inappropriate might have happened. Of course I cannot say one way or another if that is the case; I'm not evaluating your daughter, only giving you some parenting information. But I can tell you that, usually, children who have been sexually abused show MANY signs of disturbance and regression including sleep, appetite, behavioral, and other problems. Simply using an unfamiliar word -- by itself -- would not necessarily concern me. I would look at her OVERALL behavior over a period of time. Of course if you have reasonable suspicion, you should report those suspicions to her doctor and the authorities. But hopefully this is just part of the normal process of your daughter learning about "public" and "private" body parts -- a task that all preschoolers do work on at this age.

You might also want to check out another article of mine on the normal development of sexual sensations in preschoolers. Click here for it. I hope that helps. Let me know if you need more help.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Post updated 12/2/2010

Toddler Behavior: What To Do About Strange Toddler Fears

I've gotten a lot of traffic lately on Strange and Sudden Toddler Fears. I've written on this before (and included a link at the end of this post), but this is such a common question that I've decided to answer it's latest incarnation, hopefully with some additional insights. Here goes: Dear Dr. Heather,

Just in the past week, my 2.5 year old has developed a fear of "going byebye", getting in the car, sitting in the car while getting gas, going outside in the snow. She screams and does what sounds like hyperventilating, but she isn't. Her dad just went on a trip for a week and it seemed to worsen then. She used to love the snow and going for car rides. Now all of a sudden she's hysterical. I don't know if maybe she feels out of control with daddy being gone. She absolutely thrives on routine. Maybe she felt safer just staying home. She was a little "weirded-out" when my husband first came home and she wanted me to hold her, but she warmed up quickly. Any tips you have would be wonderful. Thank you.

Jacki

Hi Jacki,

Toddlers often develop these quirky preferences and fears, seemingly all of a sudden. Partly it has to do with their growing awareness that scary things CAN happen; parents go away, kids get hurt, things get broken or spill, etc. Yet they cannot yet totally compute how to PREVENT those things from happening. It also has to do with their OWN aggressiveness -- they see how they get mad and run away from a person or situation when they are mad, or lash out and hit etc, and worry that OTHERS will do the same thing (even if those others have never been aggressive at all). It's a completely different mindset than that of an adult (or even a bigger kid).

I would let her regress back a bit for awhile until she gets re-acclimated to her Dad's departure and return. Be extra reassuring, and stay home more when it's possible. Go out gingerly and on a limited basis, if you can, until she gets back into the swing of it. GIVE HER BACK SOME OF THE CONTROL. Allow her to make choices about going out, if you can. See if there IS anyplace she would like to go -- to the park? Grandma's? Out for ice cream? And then go there. Little by little, try to sneak in additional outings, and let her know in advance of your plans. You won't always be able to do it her way, and talk her through that. I know you don't want to go to the store today, but we need more groceries. Do you want to go to the store AND to McDonald's today, or just to the store? Giving her some choices will help her feel better. Then, as she grows more comfortable again, cut back on the rewards and incentives. You don't want her to be in the "driver's seat" forever, just until she gets comfortable again.

Try that and let us know how it goes!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

And here's another popular post on toddler fears (this one is about Bathtub Fears).

JACKI'S UPDATE:

Dear Dr. Heather,

Thank you so much for your help! I tried your suggestions. She got very upset at first, but I talked her thru it and gave her time to adjust. We stopped at McDonalds on the way. She did fine thru the drive-thru. She seemed better doing something familiar. She may be on her way back to herself. I won't press it too much. She seems much more settled when I reassure her that daddy is coming home at night. I think I panicked because this went on for a week, and a week can seem like forever! Now she at least talks about going outside w/o panicking. I am glad to know that someone like you is available for these times. I appreciate it.

Jacki ~~My pleasure, Jacki! Glad to Help!

How to Talk to Kids: A Great Book

Our 6-year-old is in the throes of a really anxious phase. He often needs to be reassured about where we are, even if we're all just in the house. He's afraid to go to sleep at night. And he's terrified of "ET", a classic we allowed the babysitter to show the kids one night. You'd think my shrink-training would help in these situations, but often it doesn't. You know how it goes: When it comes to your own kids, rational knowledge goes out the window. Intellectually, I remind myself that 6-year-olds aren't rational creatures yet. They can't hang on to the logical reassurances we give them. They haven't reached the stage where logic "sticks" in their minds. In many ways, they're still like preschoolers; apt to live in the "magical world" of fantasy, imagination, and fears.

But when he's scared out of his wits, part of me wants to scream, "Snap out of it! We're not leaving you, we never have, and we never will! Enough, already, and go to sleep!"

So I'm calling in reinforcements. I've pulled an awesome book off my shelf and am reminded why I think this is one of the world's best parenting guides. If you haven't seen it, go spend 10 bucks on Amazon for the paperback version, or check it out of your library. You'll refer to it again and again (and I promise, I get no "cut" from promoting anything here). It's called "Between Parent and Child", by Dr. Haim Ginott. It was first published a million years ago, but it couldn't be more appropriate today. His sensitivity and approach to dealing with children simply can't be matched. Reading Ginott again has lifted a weight from my shoulders and reminded me that all will be well with our son, soon enough. It's also given me lots of good ideas for how to approach this phase-specific anxiety he's going through.

I hope you enjoy it!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: Tips for a Toddler Tinkling (and Screaming) in the Bath

Hi Dr. Heather, My husband and I are hoping you can shed some light on a concern we have for our son who is 27 months old.

Over the last month during bath time, my son has peed in the bath 3 separate times, and without fail he would then 'hold himself' while crying/screaming hysterically! This has continued during every bath time where he is screaming like we have never seen. He doesn't necessarily pee every time, but since the first occasion... then a second, and a third... his screaming has continued.

Even when he doesn't pee in the tub, he still holds himself and is screaming almost like he doesn't like the water hitting his 'manhood'? We have tried new toys and bubbles; to all of which have not work or helped. We even tried to have him try to go potty before the bath but doesn't go.

I must say also, that he is not potty trained yet but we are working on it.

We are not sure why he's continually freaking out with or without the pee.

If you could please help and how we can overcome it we would be extremely grateful.

Regards,

Atlanta Mom

Hi Atlanta Mom,

Sudden fears of the bath at this age are quite common. One of my most-Googled posts has to do with sudden bath fears; I'll post the link below. In regards to his "manhood", perhaps he's upset that he couldn't control it; on some level he's starting to get the idea that "pee-pee does not belong in the tub", yet he was unable to control himself those few times. So he's really upset with himself and in conflict about the whole bath/potty training thing. (And of course I assume his penis doesn't bother him any other time -- like there's not a urinary tract infection or something -- also, some kinds of soap and bubble bath can be irritating. I assume that's not it, but check it out.) Talk to him about potty training, where pee-pee belongs, and how he accidentally peed in the tub; use a matter-of fact tone, with no scolding or worry in your voice. See if you can make it like a silly joke, so he doesn't feel so bad. "Does pee pee belong in the tub? NO, silly! But that's OK! We'll keep trying and one day for sure you'll get it!"

In the meantime, try some of the tips in my post linked below for bathtime fears, including letting him stand by the bath and playing with the water, until he feels comfortable getting back in the tub. Keep reassuring him, and go at his pace. Hang in there, I promise this will pass!

Here's my Bathtime Fears Post: http://babyshrink.com/2008/08/help-my-toddler-suddenly-hates-the-bath.html

Good luck and keep usposted!

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Child Development: Moving to a New Home with Young Kids

One of the things I love about BabyShrink is the ability get to know some of my readers over time. Tim had questions last year about his son's distaste for haircuts. But I recently heard from him again, with questions about an impending move. Tim is clearly very tuned-in to his kids' developmental needs and seems like a great Dad! I was thrilled to get a couple of updates from him on how things went: Hi Dr. Heather,

I sent you a question last year:

http://babyshrink.com/2008/04/haircutting-fea.html

Thanks to some of your suggestions (and, perhaps, the passage of time), he no longer fusses like he used to...although he doesn't necessarily look forward to haircuts.

A new issue that we are dealing with for both my son, now 4, and our 2-year old daughter is our impending move to a new town.

We currently live in a row home that is just around the corner from their daycare center and my place of employment. In three weeks, we are moving about fifteen miles away to a single-family home in a new town. From our perspective, this house offers the kids larger bedrooms (my son's room does not currently allow enough space for a twin bed), a play/family room, a park and playground right across the street, a bigger yard with room for a vegetable garden (something we did last year at our local park) and a short walk to their future elementary school.

Of course, we realize that none of this may matter initially as we turn their world upside down. We've been preparing the kids for months, our son especially, and he's only shown fleeting cues of this upsetting him. He has been acting out a bit more, but we can't tell if it's just part of his normal development or related to the move (or even picking up on our own stress over issues related to the move).

Luckily, they will continue to attend the same daycare, so a big portion of their days will offer a familiar routine. And, both do fairly well when we travel staying in unfamiliar environments or spending weekends with grandparents.

Any advice you can give on making this transition as smooth as possible would be great. Two specific questions I have:

1. The kids will spend a weekend with my mom while we do the bulk of packing and moving, but we plan on spending our final night together in the house. Any thoughts on something special we can do to give them some closure?

2. Should we immediately set up my son's new bed or allow him to keep his familiar toddler bed?

Thanks, Tim

Hi Tim!

Sounds like you have carefully thought through many of the issues. At the ages of your kids, moves can really be fairly simple. You may have a few days of adjustment, but overall, young children do pretty well with moves. They can't understand much in advance, but that's OK. They will base their reaction on YOUR reaction. They'll look to you as parents for how to handle this. If you are organized, confident and excited about the move (and understanding that they may have some reaction), they will likely pick up their cues from you.

In terms of "closure", stick with something simple. Waving "bye bye" to the new house, saying a few simple things like "thank you for being a wonderful house for us!" would be fine. Then really talk up the excitement of the new place.

In terms of the toddler bed, if you have the space, why not give him the choice and set up BOTH beds for awhile? Let him decide where to sleep each night. Some kids need transition time, but others are fine from night one. Experiment and see what works for him.

Did you catch this post from last year about moving? Check this out.

http://babyshrink.com/2008/06/moving-to-a-new.html

See if that helps, and let me know if you need some more suggestions.

Congrats on the new home!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Here's Tim's first update:

Dear Heather,

Thanks! And congratulations on the new baby!

I'm already feeling better about this. He took pictures of both our old and new house in to school today and seemed to enjoy showing his friends. After school he wanted to take more pictures of the old house "to make a scrapbook." We have some friends who live near the new house, but we don't get to see more than once or twice a year. I'm going to see if we can arrange a playdate so that the kids can see how close they will be. I'm thinking that will give them something else to look forward to.

And Tim's second update: Now that we've been in our new home for a week, I wanted to give you an update. Both my 4-year old son and 2-year old daughter have adjusted nicely, even after throwing in a vacation over Memorial Day weekend.

Before the move, we arranged a play date with some old friends who happen to be new neighbors. The kids had a great time, and Delton eagerly told everyone the next day when he was moving. We explained to Julia how we were packing things to move on a truck, and she kept saying "move" and "truck" over and over that week.

They were fine, other than a few tears the night before our move:

With lots of help from family and friends, we set up their rooms first. New linens and easy-to-reach bookshelves were a hit. And my son went with his new big bed right away.

One surprise awaited them at our new house...kids! We are on a corner lot, and both our neighbors have preschoolers who were very eager to meet and play. In fact, they seemed to get together in the adjoining backyards every night after work, and we were all to happy to help their new friendships along.

Now all we need to do is get those boxes unpacked!

Thanks again, Tim

Child Development: Help for a Jealous 3-Year-Old

There are still more people to thank, as I celebrate the first year of BabyShrink. But questions keep pouring in, so I thought I'd post this one today. It's from a mom struggling with the "Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde" attitude change in her 3-year-old, following her new baby's birth: Hi Dr. Heather!

I have a 3-year-old daughter and a 2-month-old son. I was working full-time and had my daughter in daycare (where she was the apple of everyone's eye) up until a few months ago. I stopped working and pulled her out of daycare to spend some "quality time" with her before the baby arrived.

Things were great for the first week or so, and then everything went downhill. I was trying to keep up with daycare by drawing with her, teaching her the alphabet, numbers, and how to write her name and other small words. She had fun in the beginning, but would start to become very upset and not want to have anything to do with it. She also started this "shy" thing. She hides behind me when we go anywhere and doesn't want to talk to family...she tells them she is shy. All of this has led to a lot of frustration between the two of us. I can't understand why she clammed up all of a sudden and have begun to lose my patience. She, obviously, doesn't understand why I am frustrated, which has made it an endless cycle of irritation between us.

After our son arrived, and she began to realize he needs attention as well (I include her with everything I possibly can), life became even more rough for her. She basically does anything for attention, positive or negative. I decided to enroll her in a Montessori school just to get her out of the house and interacting with others again (and I needed some sanity after sleepless nights). This has turned into a chore as well. Getting ready in the mornings is a nightmare. She is the happiest child alive when she first wakes up...then as soon as I try to get her into the morning routine...her world turns upside down. "I don't like this." "I don't want to do that." I mean...she can't even get herself dressed in the mornings! I am also concerned that she is doing everything backwards, upside down, and inside out. Letters, numbers, clothes, shoes...you name it. Is this an early sign of a learning disability? Could this be the root of our problems? The frustration just builds and builds.

I don't know what to do. I try to nurse my 2-month-old before she wakes up so I can spend some time with her in the mornings (just us)...but everything just blows up in my face.

I love my daughter to pieces and want life to be happy again for her. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you! G.

Hi G.,

I've been there myself. Your little angel becomes a terror when a new baby arrives on the scene. You try hard to arrange for some rare "special attention", but they throw it back in your face. And your daughter is old enough to know which buttons to push to get you upset.

But don't forget that kids REGRESS when a new baby comes on the scene. They also famously behave way worse for you, as opposed to a teacher. So your plans for "keeping up the schooling" after she came home were perhaps doomed to fail.

Getting ready in the morning (or NOT) is also a famous 3-year-old strategy for making parents nuts. So please don't worry that your daughter is unusual or abnormal -- she's not at all, from what you tell me. (Of course I can't evaluate her myself, so take what I say with a grain of salt, and check with her pediatrician to make sure).

All you can do is DIAL BACK YOUR EXPECTATIONS, try to EMPATHIZE WITH HER SITUATION, and try to TAKE THE EMOTION OUT OF YOUR REACTION TO HER. This doesn't mean you should allow her to monopolize every situation; she needs to remember how to wait her turn and share. But you have to go back several steps in the "lesson plan" for her behavior. She's been hit by a ton of bricks, in terms of a new baby on the scene, and she's old enough to understand how much it jeopardizes her previous place in the sun.

You, as well, are in a different place -- you're exhausted with a new baby, and upset with your daughter. HANG IN THERE. This is sort of a "do whatever works" time. I know you want -- and need -- some kind of routine and predictability, but right now, you just need to get through each day as reasonably as possible. If she wears her pajamas to Montessori once in awhile -- so what? If she's late sometimes -- so what? She's only 3.

Focus on what she IS doing right. Praise her mightily when she behaves "like a big girl who knows how to wait for her turn so nicely". Make her into your "helper" with her brother, and point out what she is able to do -- and what he's NOT yet able to do. When she regresses into a tantrumming 2-year-old, take a deep breath and try not to over-react. YES, she knows better, but she's just not capable of it that second. Don't take it personally, just deal with her as a 2-year-old in that moment. And when she's a little angel again, don't hold a grudge, even if she was a little devil only a minute ago (easier said than done, I know, but keep trying).

About her doing everything backwards and inside-out; it's tough to say, but usually we don't diagnose a formal learning problem until second grade. She's obviously upset with you, and she knows it makes you upset when she does things backwards. So again, dial back your expectations and let that stuff go for awhile. You will have plenty of formal schooling time and firm rules for school in her future, but relax while she's still in preschool. Try to get in some fun "big girl time" when she is open to it, but don't put the pressure on her that "the baby is asleep and so we have to make the most of our time together!" If it happens, it happens. If not, maybe next time.

HANG IN THERE, and let us know how it goes.

Click here for a related post; this on one a 5-year-old who started hitting her new baby brother.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Toddler Behavior: Baby's Sudden Fear of the Bath -- Another Hot Topic

One of the FAQs here at BabyShrink is about your toddler's sudden, inexplicable fear of the bath. Readers Noelle and Dana recently joined in the chorus of parents who are mystified about the radical change in their baby's bath-time routine. I've had plenty of first-hand experience with baby's bath fears, and I know it can be a hassle ("It interferes with our evening routine, and they NEED that bath!") and also worrisome ("She never got upset like this before -- is this a symptom of something much more concerning?") But when you understand the normal developmental process driving these fears, a little flexibility -- and empathy -- can go a long way to restoring your toddler's enjoyment of the bath. So thanks for your nice comments about this article, and for making it one of BabyShrink's most popular posts over the past year.

Click here to check it out!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

More Halloween Stuff

Daddy Dan continues his series, "Ask the Bloggers", with a question about scary Halloween stories. I've included a story about a silly thing my oldest did that scared the heck out of me. Check it out here. And I've been getting more questions about how to handle scary Halloween stuff with our youngest ones. It's easy to protect an oldest (or an only) child from things that might be scary; just keep them at home, and turn off the porch light. But what about when your older kids are ready for the spooky stuff, and the little ones want to be just like the "Big Kids"?

Take a look at some of the hints in my earlier post on Halloween. But I'd also like to hear your thoughts and suggestions about this dilemma. Do you let your babies, toddlers and preschoolers go trick-or-treating? What about to the "Haunted House" and other scary stuff available on Halloween? How do you manage the Fright Factor?

Halloween and Young Children: What's TOO scary?

Reader Fran in Massachusetts wrote recently, asking an interesting question about her 3-year-old son, who has an unusual request for a Halloween costume. He wants to be Cruella de Vil this year.

Fran's not worried about the gender thing; she knows that it's perfectly fine for a 3-year-old boy to dress up in a female costume. She lives in a progressive neighborhood, and so her neighbors aren't likely to make a thing out of a little boy in a Cruella outfit. And she knows that, developmentally, it's really common for 3-year-olds to have fun dressing up in opposite-sex costumes, and that it means nothing about the future development of sexual identity. (In fact, just about every 3-year-old boy I've known wants to have his nails painted, often much to the dismay of his Daddy.)

But Fran's question has to do with the downright scary nature of the Cruella character. After all, she kidnaps puppies for their fur. She offers to drown newborn animals. There are all sorts of hellish, devilish references in her story. But Fran's son insists on dressing up as Cruella. What's a Mom to do?

This isn't a simple issue. But you wouldn't know it by scanning the popular parenting media, where we're offered suggestions about trick-or-treating safety, or handy-dandy costume and recipe tips. What about the fact that Halloween is meant to scare the daylights out of our children? Aren't we supposed to be protecting them from frightening movies and TV news during the rest of the year? How come it's now OK to send them to a stranger's door to take candy from a guy wearing a Scream mask? And what about all the ghouls and goblins coming to our door? Isn't the home supposed to be a safe place?

As a reaction, some parents take the approach followed by our local Waldorf school, which does a "Night of Delights" kind of party, and doesn't allow traditionally scary costumes. Fairies and dragons are fine; Cruella is not invited. Yet many kids bristle at the restrictions placed on this kind of celebration. Kids like Fran's son WANT the scary stuff. They seem to CRAVE it. So what's the best way to handle it with YOUR kids? First, KNOW YOUR KIDS Each child is different. Fran's son loves the scary stuff; many do. There's nothing wrong with that; it's his way of learning to understand scary and mean things in life. Sometimes, acting out bad things is a way of gaining mastery over them. If I can act it out, I can control it, and then it won't hurt me. But other kids are truly frightened by scary characters and scenes. Those kids need a more gentle introduction to things that go bump in the night. Using child's language, explain how this night is different...and fun Tell your 2, 3, or 4-year-old how people have fun dressing up in costumes. And on this night...just this night...we get treats at other people's houses. And it's all for pretend, just like we do when we pretend at home. Practice with simple masks -- in front of a mirror, show him how it's still him underneath the mask. Practice what will happen when the kids ring the doorbell and yell "Trick Or Treat!". Enlist his help in handing out candy. And dress up yourself, in just a simple costume, to show that the adults are in on the fun, too...and will still protect him and make sure he's safe. Follow your child's lead Be prepared for the lead-up to Halloween to be at least as exciting -- if not more exciting -- than the actual night of the holiday. Many young children are thrilled with decorating and preparing costumes and treats in the days prior to October 31. But Halloween night can feel overwhelming; after all it IS nighttime, which in and of itself is a scary time for kids. And the disruption and weirdness of having costumed strangers come to the door and roaming around outside can be just too much. If your little Fairy wants to visit one or two houses for trick-or-treating, or even forget about it altogether, be prepared to change your plans as needed. Make alternative arrangements for older kids Your older children have more advanced coping mechanisms in place. They understand that the death themes of the holiday are pretend. They can use the frightening images to learn to master their own fears. And they can enjoy the unusual opportunity of breaking the rules, if just for one night. So arrange with friends to have the brave kids go out with one family, and the scaredy-cats stay home with another. Parents can split up for the night too; in our house, Dad takes the big kids out for trick-or-treating, while our 2-year-old and I stay home to dole out candy. Last year, he was frightened about the kids coming to the door in their costumes. I had them tell us their names and show under their masks before having TT give them their candy. Eventually, he got into the swing of it; then at 8 pm, I turned out the porch light and devoted the rest of the evening to giving him his usual bath/bedtime routine, for reassurance.

Will your young kids dress up for Halloween this year?

Parenting Tips: What Should We Do If My Kindergartener Hates School?

This year, one of our sons is starting kindergarten. Being a second-born, he was "raring to go" to school; he talked about it incessantly over the last few months. When asked if he likes school, he replies, "I don't LIKE school. I LOVE it!" But the J-Man already knew his teacher before school started; she was his older sister's teacher two years ago. J-Man also had been going along for school pickups and drop-offs for the past couple of years; he'd had the chance to slowly get used to the school environment. It helped a lot. But his older sister was more tentative, when she started school. She had to learn the routine from scratch, and didn't have an older sibling on campus to help make her feel more at home. It took her quite awhile to get into the swing of things. For awhile, we fretted that perhaps we had chosen the wrong school, or she wasn't in the right classroom, despite the fact that her teacher was a gem.

I've gotten several emails lately from parents in a similar situation. "My child just started kindergarten. She acted like she was excited to go, but now that school has started, it's a real battle. Although she attended preschool with few problems, she's now clingy, whiny and tearful every morning. Her teacher says she does well after I leave, and when I pick her up, she's fine. But the next morning, all I get is crying, whining, and begging to stay home. What should I do?"

Of course it tugs at our heartstrings when our little "Big Kid" wants to stay home with us just a while longer. Their tears are surprising. We doubt ourselves, and argue over whether we made the right choice. "Maybe she's just not ready yet," we wonder.

But by and large, the protests put up for parents at the beginning of kindergarten are temporary, normal, and not cause for undue concern. We can help our kids get through the transition more easily if we remember where they are developmentally, and have reasonable expectations.

It's important to understand the developmental issues of a kindergartener. A 5 or 6-year-old still has, in many ways, a preschool mind-set. We expect a kindergartener to be a "Big Kid" and go to the "Big Kids' School", yet emotionally, they're still more similar to the squirrely preschoolers they were last year. Kindergarteners don't care much about social norms, fitting in with other kids, or achieving well academically. But our current system of education in the US asks them to do just that: act like a "Big Kid". Yet we can't realistically expect them to behave that way until sometime in 1st or 2nd grade.

So, what to do? Luckily, most kindergarteners have a rough time for a few days (or few weeks) at most. Then, they're off and running with the pack, happily ensconced in their classroom, with their teacher and new friends. Here's what to keep in mind until then:

Talk with your little one about school. Listen to her fears, and clarify any confusion she has about the day. Understanding the flow of the school schedule will help her feel like she knows what'll be happening after you leave.

Be positive, and don't entertain a discussion about possibly staying at home. Say, "I know you feel scared. But your teacher will take care of you, and I will be there to pick you up right after school. I know you can do it. You might be scared sometimes, but you'll have so much fun, too! What a big kid you're getting to be."

Rely on the teacher for advice and guidance. She (it's usually a "she") is an expert at this, and goes through this every year with several of the kids in kindergarten. She'll have suggestions for how to best handle drop-offs. Usually, this involves a cheerful goodbye, a quick kiss -- and then a purposeful exit.

Hold your own concerns in check until you've given your child (and the teacher) a few weeks to settle in. If your child is still upset about going to school, then it's time to schedule a sit-down meeting with the teacher to explore what might be going on. You'll also want to observe the classroom in process -- unobserved by your child, if at all possible. Even a few minutes watching her will help you decide if her protests are just meant to test you -- or if she's really unhappy there.

Most of the time, kindergarten fears and tears evaporate within a few weeks. By then, we're left tearfully wondering, "When did my baby get so grown up?"

What are your experiences with kids starting kindergarten? Care to share?

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Toddler Behavior: Body Awareness & Sexual Fears In A Young Boy

Dear Dr. Heather, My 3-year-old son gets upset with his penis gets erect. He says "mommy my pee pee go big." It's like a question/concern/fear all rolled into one statement. He then pulls down his pull-up or underweare (whatever he is wearing) and shows me...no matter who is around. I tell him it is ok and it will go back down. Is this normal, and if so, when does this stop?

Mel

Hi Mel,

At 3 years of age, your son now has an awareness of his body. He also is sensitive to any changes in it, and worries whether the changes mean something is wrong. Children crave consistency, and when things are different -- they can get upset and worried.

Your son is not alone. Most toddlers and preschool-aged boys show an interest in the sensations and changes happening in their penis. (I guess it's an interest that starts in early childhood -- and never goes away!) It's a perfect opportunity to convey the overall message that:

Your body is a good thing; The sensations your body produces are healthy and normal; and It's OK to touch and explore your body -- in private, by yourself.

Talk to your son about his private parts. Use short, simple sentences, and don't try to convey too much at once. "Yes, sometimes your penis gets big like that. Sometimes it is small. But we don't take off our clothes in the living room. You can go look at it in your room, if you want."

Make sure nobody is giving him a negative message about his body; check with sitters, grandparents and others to see if this has "come up" with them, and how they've handled it. You want to make sure he's getting a consistent, positive message.

Of course girls show the same interest in their bodies; check out this post. It also describes the limits of "normal", and when to worry.

It's not too early to begin to send a healthy message to young children about their bodies. Aim for striking a balance; you don't want to instill a sense of shame or negativity about the body. Yet you want them to internalize the sense that their bodies are private and should be respected. It will help them to eventually feel a sense of physical integrity and safety, and to set appropriate boundaries later on.

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Parenting Tips: Help! My Toddler Suddenly Hates the Bath!

Today, my sister in North Carolina called. I could barely hear her, with her 12-month-old screaming in the background. "We're trying to give her a bath, like usual. But all of a sudden, she HATES it. What happened?" She remembered me telling her about one of our kids at that age. "It's as if there's an electrical current in the water," I had said. "Just putting his foot into it makes him shriek with terror and pain, and he pulls his foot up high, away from the water, until I take him out of the bathroom." Actually, we went through it will ALL of our kids. Each of them previously had loved their bath. Suddenly, it was Bathing Terror.

There must be a weird moon in the Baby Bath Constellation, because I've gotten this question quite a lot recently. BabyShrink reader Erik is a stay-at-home Dad to this little 16-month-old cutie, who previously enjoyed her bath. "All of a sudden," he writes,"she seems to panic when we get her in the tub. We have measuring cups, bubbles, and all sorts of distractions. We've even tried to join her in the tub, but this seems to panic her even more." Erik googled the problem, and found that, often, there is some traumatic experience before the panic starts (such as slipping and falling in the tub, or otherwise being frightened in the bath). But Erik assures me this has not occurred. So what can he do?

Sudden Bath Fears Are Common There are major cognitive changes that take place, along with the development of walking. All of a sudden, your toddler can purposely move -- away from you, and known safety, into strange and new situations. Discovery of a new thing leads to excitement -- and then fear. This stage is characterized by the back-and-forth of moving out into the environment -- just until it gets a little scary -- and moving back to be with Dad or Mom to get "refueled" for future discovery. As my Parenting Guru Dr. Brazelton says, there is an upsurge in fears at this point, starting at about 12-18 months. The bath is a common fear. Think about it: your baby is just getting used to walking, and in the process, her sense of equilibrium and body control get messed up for awhile. She's not quite sure what her body can -- and can't -- handle. Your Toddler's Perspective on Bath Time The bath is slippery. She thinks, "I can get soap in my eyes. I can bonk my little head on the side, or on the faucet. If I have a scrape or a cut, it hurts in the bath, and I can't always figure out why, or how to tell Dad about it. Then there's this weird wall between me and the outside, and I'm not allowed to just jump in and out if I get nervous. And when the water gets sucked down into the drain, I wonder, will I fit down that thing? Am I going to get sucked down there too?" She's still figuring out cause and effect, and she's not quite sure how that drain thing works. But it's powerful, it makes noise, and it sucks all the water into it. So Do I Have to Let Her Be Stinky Until the Next Developmental Phase Kicks In? No. Well, maybe just a little. Pediatricians say that we Americans bathe our babies way too much anyway; it's not necessarily good for young skin. So you can back off the nightly baths. Don't feel temped to FORCE the issue; I promise, it will only make things worse. But of course, smashed banana needs to be cleaned out of hair, and dirt needs to be dislodged from various nooks and crannies. And I wouldn't suggest giving in to the bathing fears, simply being a little more flexible about it than usual. Here are a few other suggestions: Know that this IS a phase. It's not permanent. This is a temporary blip in your bathing routine. Eventually, your toddler will regain confidence and enjoyment in the bath. For Now, Rely on the Kitchen Sink At this age, they need to be wiped down after every meal and snack anyway, right? So keep a bottle of her bath soap in the kitchen and strip her down at the sink after meals. Clear the sink area of unsafe stuff. Then let her splash away -- with you holding her firmly, of course -- and wipe her down as you play with her there. And most kids still love to play with the hose or the kiddie pool, despite bath fears. So sneak in a little cleaning while she's splashing around in the yard. Keep Trying, But Don't Force It, If You Can Avoid It Every few days, make a big deal out of preparing a really fun bath. Use bubbles, add new toys, and be silly. Allow your toddler to play in the water from the outside of the tub, but don't make her get in. Talk about what fun she will have, when she decides to get back in. You want her to have a good experience -- at her pace -- with the bath. Let her "help" you with bathing a sibling -- sitting with you, outside the tub. Let her get in -- and get out again -- if she's even slightly interested. Or let her walk away -- it's her choice, at this point. Make a big deal out of letting HER decide about the bath. What If I Forced It Already? Don't feel guilty. Listen, when TT was going through this phase, he woke up one night, puking. There was no way around it -- he had to have a bath. So I explained to my very miserable little guy that we had to have a bath, and I knew he was not going to like it, but that I would make it very, very fast. He screamed bloody murder the whole time. But he eventually got over his bathing fear in about the same amount of time as his older brother and sister did (about 3-4 months). The main thing is to convey your empathy about the situation. "I know you're afraid of the bath, and I'm willing to do whatever I can to help you through this time. I know that one day you'll like it again, but for now, we'll take it at your pace."

Erik: Let us know what happens. Readers: Got any other suggestions to add?

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Parenting Tips: Will Moving To A New House Be Too Stressful For My Child?

Dear Dr. Heather, I'm a full time single dad of a 5 1/2 year-old girl.  I have a great career, and she is happy and doing very well in school. I've decided to move again; the 3rd place in 3 years, all within the same neighborhood. Each time has been for "upgrades". So we will have a yard to play in and not have to deal with the apartment living we are most used to here in LA. My question is, will all this moving create any problems for her, emotionally, at her age?

Thanks, Rich

Hi Rich,

First of all, GO DAD! I love to hear about Dads like you who are considering psychological issues in the development of their kids. The fact that you are asking the question tells me you're on the right track!

Now, the issue of moving: I’ve been getting this kind of question a lot lately, as lots of families move during the summer. At this age, your daughter is basically still tied to YOU, as her anchor in the world. The house is secondary, at best. What's best for YOU is best for HER. If you are happy, she will be, too.

Your attitude about moving is also important. Approach it like an adventure, and involve her in the process as much as you can. Let her make choices about anything reasonable, like paint colors, or how to set up her room. Ask her about any down sides; what does she miss about the last house? Let her talk about it. Just listen. Maybe there's nothing; maybe there's something. Let her know that her feelings do matter to you, regardless. You may not change anything, based on her feelings, but she WILL know you took her seriously.

Your best guide is to observe her behavior. A little regression following a move is normal. Sleep habits might go out the window, temporarily. She may be more clingy or temperamental. Talk to her about the feelings you suspect might be underneath the behavior. But it sounds like she's a PRO at moving, and I doubt it will be too difficult. She likely will bounce back very quickly.

But soon, her school and friends are going to become important...VERY important. And then, you will want to think twice about moving her around, especially if it affects her school placement. I would start thinking about her elementary school situation, and where you want her to be. Consider the neighborhood in terms of kids her age and other kid-friendly features like parks. Start thinking about a longer-term living situation, where she can feel settled, and try to stay, if you can. Moving when your daughter is older is bound to cause more stress for her. Good luck!

And for more on Dads, check out these BabyShrink posts.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather

The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: My Child Has A Fear of Haircuts

Hi Dr. Heather, My three-year old absolutely hates haircuts. Between the ages of 1 and 2, my barber cut his hair for free. He was fine at first, but then I think the clippers pulled him once, and he has not forgotten. We tried a children's barber a couple of times, but, whether she used scissors or clippers, the toys and movies and lollipops did little to quell his fears. Now, my wife cuts his hair with clippers, and he seems to dread it. He screams even when nothing is touching his head. It takes the two of us to hold him down and it’s a draining experience for all involved (but at least we're not paying forit!). Any suggestions?

Love the site. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Tim

Hi Tim!

You have a great question. Your little guy feels he has no choice about the haircutting, following what sounds like a scare for him. Kids at this age let their imaginations get the best of them, and they DO fear what those clippers (or scissors) can do to them.

They are actually wrestling with their OWN feelings of aggression, so fears of monsters, clippers, dogs, and stuff like that are common at this age.

As they struggle with their fear of losing control and actually hurting someone (or breaking something), they become afraid someone or something will hurt THEM.

It's important to give some control back to your little man in a situation like this; otherwise, you're setting him up to fight you as his only response to trying new (and possibly scary) things.

Here are some things to try:

Talk to him about what happened. "I know you got scared that time. The clippers pulled your hair and you thought it would hurt. I know it makes a weird noise. Tell me what you remember about that time? Why did it scare you?" Find out the specifics of what it's like in his mind about the clippers. Listen carefully to all the details. Tell him you promise not to force him to have a haircut, ever again. "I know that time we had to hold you down, but you're a big boy now, big enough to sit still, at least for a super-short mini-haircut. I'm sorry we did that, we're going to try it a different way from now on."If you take all the control away from him, he's just going to try to hold on to some form of power by resisting even more.

Try to make some accommodations for him, based on what you found out. "The clippers scared you because they pulled on you by accident (or whatever he says happened). Do you want to see how it works on Daddy? Do you want to try to hold it for a second when it's on? I promise, today is NOT a haircut day for you. No haircut for you, we're just looking at the clippers today."

Ask him what would help him handle the clippers. "OK, we understand it's scary for you. We can have fewer haircuts, for awhile. Maybe next time, we try to clip your hair for just a few seconds. (turn on the clippers for like 10 seconds to let him see how long that is.) See? Can we cut your hair next time for just this long? Not the whole haircut, just the sides (or back, or whatever). Not today, just next Tuesday, when Daddy gets his haircut too. Mommy can cut my hair first, so you can see how it works."

Offering some choices and accommodations will help to assuage his fears, but it might take some time. Fears like this are common, but working with your kid is very likely to help come to some more positive outcome. He'll start to feel that he's part of the process, and that you are going to work together, WITH him, to come to a solution.

This will add to a great foundation of working together to solve fears and problems over the years! Instead of "Mom and Dad force me to do stuff that's really scary", It'll be, "Mom and Dad help me to figure out new ways to do scary things, and realize they're not so scary after all".

Good luck, and happy haircutting! Dr. Heather, the BabyShrink

 

Toddler Behavior: My Child Has A Fear Of Being Alone

Dear BabyShrink, My 4-year-old has a sincere fear of being alone. She’ll drop whatever she is doing to follow someone out of a room if she realizes she’s the last one in it. She is most definitely NOT SHY; she is extremely gregarious and lights up a room. When I ask her why she doesn’t want to be alone, she just says, “because no one’s there with me." She’s never mentioned monsters or bad dreams. Is this something she’ll grow out of? I’d like to eventually go to the bathroom by myself, if you catch my drift!

Signed,

Kristen

Dear Kristen,

Sounds like you've got an extremely social little girl on your hands!  I've got one of those, too.  I can certainly understand how she feels -- people are just more fun to be around! Especially when you can walk and talk and do all those other "big girl" things she can now do.  But it is important to encourage her to play by herself now and then, and this will stretch into longer periods of time of "self-directed activity", which will be really important once she starts school.

You can try starting really small -- while you're together, and she is feeling good and really engaged in some kind of play, say something like, "Oops!  I have to ....."(turn on the dishwasher, grab a glass of water, etc.).  Then leave the room, for like TWO SECONDS.  Then make a grand re-entrance..."See?  Here I am.  I just turned on the dishwasher, and now I'm back with you."  Then re-engage in play with her.  Slowly stretch out these mini-interludes so that she slowly but surely gets used to you being gone for bits at a time.  When she makes a leap (and you're finally able to go pee by yourself...what a concept!), make a big deal out of how GROWN UP she is for waiting nicely while Mommy pees, and how HELPFUL it is to Mommy that she can wait for a few minutes, and now....let's play TOGETHER some more! So you're using the time together as a reward for her being patient for a few minutes.

Try that, Kristen, and let us know how it works!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink