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

Is It Bullying Or Not?

As a psychologist and Parent Coach, I’ve noticed that we’re constantly bombarded with negative messages about our children. It seems that every new headline gives us another reason to worry about our kids. But often, our kids are doing great – it’s we as parents who need a little attitude adjustment! That’s why I’m happy to be a part of the Positive Parenting Network’s Spring Fling – to help get out the message about positive parenting approaches. Because sometimes, our fears get the best of us. It reminds me of a recent situation when a parent stopped me, worried about a 6-year-old “bully”. The child in question — in my observation — wasn’t a bully, but rather a fairly typical little girl, testing out her advanced verbal (and not-so-advanced social) skills. Did she hurt her friends’ feelings? Probably. And did her friends reciprocate by saying something mean right back? They sure did. The parent was very upset about the impact of this “bully” in the classroom — and wanted to know what could be done to stop her. But was this truly “bullying?” No, it wasn’t. And I worry about the little girl being labeled “bully”, because the word has such negative connotations. So, what IS the definition of bullying?

Bullying is being intentionally, repeatedly cruel and belittling to smaller or otherwise less powerful kids. 6-year-old girls telling each other “you can’t come to my birthday party”, or “you don’t get to talk!” don’t qualify as bullying. And defining normal social “sparring” as “bullying” does everyone a disservice. Bullying has been getting some much-deserved attention in the media, and as a shrink I can attest to the terrible damage that TRUE bullying does to kids. But as an Early Childhood specialist, I know that little kids — especially girls — “practice” their social skills quite a lot with their classmates, and those skills get quite a bit of needed refining in 1st and 2nd grades. Teachers in those grades know that this is common behavior, and gives the kids the opportunity to do some social “practicing” in a fairly safe situation. Do they need limits, structure, and guidance in the process? You bet. But labeling them “bullies” is a major overreaction.

If you have a kid in these grades (as I do) — here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Kids need to “try out” their peer-to-peer social skills. Like lion cubs, they need to practice — but they don’t really mean any harm.
  • "Victims” at this age tend to shrug off the insults with no problem. Don’t jump in to protect your cub until you see she’s truly struggling.
  • Talk early — and often — about the little social struggles among your kids’ friends. Make it a point to ask about all the details, not to get anyone into trouble — but to help your cub think through the next incarnation of the battle. We’re building “social muscle” here.
  • Role-play regular situations that crop up. Cutting in line, saying “mean” things, and “who is best friends with whom” are typical arguments. Walk through these issues with your child frequently to try out new approaches and solutions. Ask, “What might you say instead next time?”
  • Be interested, open, and empathic — and try to hold back your parental protectiveness, unless there’s something more serious going on.

And of course, if your child is truly being bullied — or is, in fact, the bully — please step in immediately to involve the teachers and other parents. This is an age where this kind of behavior can — and should be — nipped in the bud. The Mom in question arranged a Parent Coaching session with me – via a conference call, so we could also include her husband – and we discussed strategies especially for their daughter. After a brief follow-up session, they’re now confident their daughter is gaining in confidence and blossoming in the classroom. It’s wonderful how one or two short sessions can relieve parents’ guilt, worry, and stress – and guide the whole family forward, in a positive way. With some practice (and a little luck), you’re setting the stage for your child to come to you with social problems in adolescence and beyond — for help and support in solving ever-more complex social dramas and situations.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Please check out the other experts at PositiveParentingNetwork.com to read some of the other great advice!

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

1st and 2nd Graders: Is It Bullying Or Not?

 

Recently, a parent stopped me, worried about a 6-year-old "bully". The child in question -- in my opinion -- wasn't a bully, but rather a fairly typical little girl, testing out her pretty advanced verbal skills in more complex ways. Did she hurt her friends' feelings? Probably. And did the friend reciprocate by saying something mean right back? She sure did. The parent was very upset about the impact of this "bully" in the classroom -- and wanted to know what could be done to stop her. But was this truly "bullying?"

No, it wasn't. And I worry about the little girl being labeled "bully", because the word has such negative connotations. So, what IS the definition of bullying? There are many definitions, but all involve the bully being intentionally, repeatedly cruel and belittling to smaller or otherwise less powerful kids. 6-year-old girls telling each other "you can't come to my birthday party", or saying "you don't get to talk!" don't qualify as bullying. And defining normal social "sparring" as "bullying" does everyone a disservice.

Bullying has been getting some much-deserved attention in the media, and as a shrink I can attest to the terrible damage that TRUE bullying does to kids. But as an Early Childhood specialist, I know that little kids -- especially girls -- "practice" their social skills quite a lot with their classmates, and those skills need quite a bit of refining -- in 1st and 2nd grades. Teachers in those grades know that this is pretty common behavior, and gives the kids the opportunity to do some social "sparring" in a fairly safe situation. Do they need limits, structure, and guidance in the process? You bet. But labeling them "bullies" is a major overreaction.

If you have a kid in these grades (as I do -- with 4 kids, it seems someone is always going through this) -- here's what to keep in mind:

  • Kids this age need to "try out" their peer-to-peer social skills. Like lion cubs, they need to practice -- but they don't really mean any harm.
  • "Victims" at this age tend to shrug off the insults with no problem. Don't jump in to protect your cub until you see she's truly struggling.
  • Talk early -- and often -- about the little social struggles among your kids' friends. Make it a point to ask about all the details, not to get anyone into trouble -- but to help your cub think through the next incarnation of the battle. We're building "social muscle" here.
  • Role-play regular situations that crop up. Cutting in line, saying "mean" things, and "who is best friends with whom" are typical arguments. Walk through these issues with your child frequently to try out new approaches and solutions. Ask, "What might you say instead next time?"
  • Be interested, open, and empathic -- and try to hold back your parental protectiveness, unless there's something more serious going on.
  • And of course, if your child is truly being bullied -- or is, in fact, the bully -- please step in immediately to involve the teachers and other parents. This is an age where this kind of behavior can -- and should be -- nipped in the bud.

With some practice (and a little luck), you're setting the stage for your child to come to you with social problems in adolescence and beyond -- for help and support in solving ever-more complex social dramas and situations.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, 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

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

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!

Toddler Behavior: How to Handle Aggression in Your Young Child

Recently, I've gotten lots of questions about how to handle aggression in young children. It's a common concern, and it's always startling when your previously sweet little baby starts to bite, hit, or generally wreak havoc. How did this happen? Did I do something to cause this? Surely, we rationalize, he's learning it from daycare...(or a sibling, or a neighbor)...ANYONE but us, right?How To Handle Aggression in Young Children Well, he MIGHT be learning it from daycare. But guess what? Aggression is an INBORN DRIVE. Aggression is NATURAL in young children (and older children...and adults!). We ALL have some aggression in us....thankfully. Aggression helps us protect ourselves and our offspring, and, when properly re-directed, gives us energy to pursue our goals in life.

But there's a lot of parenting "advice" out there that seeks to squash any hint of aggression in our kids, and indeed to pretend that it doesn't exist. Worse, to punish the expression of it in children.

Instead, we must understand that aggression is a normal drive; as inescapable as hunger, thirst, and the developmental urge to get up and walk. When I see a child in the clinic who expresses NO aggression -- THAT worries me.

Of course, the problem is not with aggression per se, but with HOW IT IS EXPRESSED. That's the key, isn't it? Aggression must be re-directed appropriately, so as not to be destructive.

So, how do we do that, as parents?

First, get comfortable with aggression, including your own Yes, your own. I will bet that the Dads reading this won't have as much difficulty with this part of the assignment. After all, boys and men are typically more direct in their expression of aggression. I'm all for women's rights, but there's no doubt that most boys (and men) are more directly aggressive than girls and women. My husband is a lot more comfortable with our kids' aggressiveness than I am. But I've had to learn from him that it's not good for me to automatically chastise the kids simply for being aggressive -- kids need healthy outlets for their aggression, as long as they're not hurting anyone (or anything).

Moms need to understand that we, too, have an aggressive drive within us. Think about it. How do you channel your aggression? One friend of mine goes on a pounding run. Another paints vivid pictures. My sister likes horror films. Personally, I'm a head-banger. I feel so much better after a good power walk, listening to Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins or Black Sabbath (am I dating myself here, or what?). Get comfortable with your own aggression, and think about how you channel it in a positive way. Then, think about how you can help your children with the same issue.

Next, convey this to your kids: I understand you want to break that toy. I know you're mad. That's OK. But I can't let you break things. Sometimes when I get mad I listen to loud music and jump up and down. Wanna try it with me? Or: You guys can't hit each other. I know you got mad at each other. Let me help you use your words to say how mad you are at each other. Then when we're done, we'll try to find out how we can be friends again.

More tips on handling aggression For babies and young toddlers (up to about 18 months), IGNORE it as much as possible. (And yes, even babies express aggression. What breastfeeding mother can't attest to that? One minute you're having a nice nursing session, and then all of a sudden --- OUCH! Your sweet baby has decided to act out his aggressive impulses -- on your nipple!) If baby is biting, physically stop her, in as unemotional manner as possible (you don't want her to be reinforced by a big reaction from you), and try to move on. Babies will misinterpret any chastisement, and internalize it as shame. Not good.

For older toddlers, you can express your understanding of the emotion, but firmly show him what you'd prefer. You also want to praise and reinforce his HEALTHY expression of frustration and aggression. I know that little girl made you mad. I could see you were upset. But I am so proud of you for being a big boy and walking away from her. You didn't hit. Great job! And try really, really hard to stay unemotional about it yourself. Easier said than done, I know, but if your child can trigger YOUR annoyance and aggression easily, it's reinforcement for his own aggression. If you act out your aggression, so will they.

For preschoolers, you can talk more about their conflicts and help them role play or plan out problem situations in advance, or even after the fact. I know Ashley sometimes makes you mad. What will you do in school today if Ashley upsets you again? Can we practice what you might say or do, instead of hitting? Or try a role-playing exercise. OK, I'll pretend I'm Ashley, and you try using your words instead of hitting. Let's practice.

I also want to say a bit about "scary stories". Preschoolers naturally gravitate towards "scary stories", because they fulfill an important psychological function. They offer a way to SAFELY MASTER FEARS -- as well as their own aggression. Because fears and aggression are related, psychologically. Fears crop up when children start to see what their OWN aggression can cause. They then start to generalize this fear of aggression to others. Some parents or "experts" suggest avoiding scary stories, but this is actually counterproductive. It's important to give your child an opportunity to process and deal with scary things in a safe and manageable way. Why do you think the classic fairy tales have been around so long? Because they offer children a chance to process their natural aggression and fears. Of course, follow your child's lead. Don't expose him to scary stuff he can't handle. But recognize that it's important psychologically to allow him to deal with aggression in stories, at school, and at home.

In general, you want to convey your empathy and support for all your child's feelings. When he feels understood, it will be easier to show him how to appropriately channel and redirect his aggression and other negative feelings. This is an important lesson for him to learn now, so that he can manage his aggressiveness throughout his life.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

All That Anxiety For Nothing!

Here's our new baby girl, 7 lbs, 13 ounces, 5 days old:

After feeling lousy all day, it finally occurred to me that -- duh -- it might be labor. It was then that I decided to head down to our local Safeway, which inexplicably has the only supply of H1N1 vaccines on the island, to get my shot. After that, the contractions started. The whole thing from that point on was very fast, and we were only at the hospital for 3 hours when she was born -- gratefully, without complications, and VERY easily. (And YES I had a form of an epidural, called an intrathecal, which worked wonders for me.)

The hospital was jammed with laboring mothers and newborn babies, so we got out of there early to recover at home. I am so fortunate to have a lot of helping grandparents at home, and so far the kids are adjusting nicely. But as with her older sibs, this baby is NOT much of a sleeper, so expect a meltdown from me in a couple of weeks when the sleep deprivation really starts to add up!

Thanks all for your good wishes and support. More soon!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Potty Training: Poop-Withholding After a Trauma

Trauma such as illness or injury can cause regression in the developmental achievements of young children. In other words, your child may develop any nature of difficulties that may not be "diagnosable" per se, but rather a short-lived reaction to something traumatic. Reader Alison's son broke his leg, and since then has become a poop-withholder. Here's her dilemma: Dear Dr. Heather,

My son broke his leg when he was about 18 months old and had to wear a cast for a month. Prior to this event, his poops were regular. After a week of having the cast on, he didn't poop and when he did, it was uncomfortable for him. This started an irregular pooping schedule for him and he has remained constipated since then.

He will now be two next week. The pediatrician suggested a suppository and Miralax. We did a suppository thinking it would get things moving since he seemed soo uncomfortable. We have tried laxative drops that he likes, but seem to give him cramping and diahrrea. When we don't give him anything, the consistency of his poop always seems soft, not hard. But he will do the poopy dance, and then have to push really hard and cries when he has to poop. The process of waiting for him to poop can eat up an entire day! He will go on his own after 2-3 days, if he has not gone by the 4th day, we have done a glycerin suppository since he seems soo uncomfortable and they help right away, but he hates it and I feel awful doing it. We push high fiber, etc..nothing dietary seems to help. I feel like it's all emotional. He will run around and around, and we will try to stop him and hold him and encourage him until he will push and go. We tried poopy prizes, nothing seems to encourage him. It is not about potty training, although we have offered for him to go on his potty. He went twice on the potty but it seemed to freak him out.

He is a sweet boy and I don't want him to be emotionally bruised from this experience. Should we take the same advice you gave to the 3 year old and ignore him when he does the poopy dance? Do we not offer poopy prizes? How many days do we wait before doing a suppository? Please help! We feel awful and don't know what to do!!

Thank you,

Alison in Berkeley

Hi Alison,

Poor guy! I assume his doctor says there is nothing wrong, medically. Have you tried the Miralax? If not, it's worth a shot. If you use, it, I wouldn't point it out to him. I think anything that smacks of parental control over his poops is bound to backfire (so to speak!). So if you use it, sneak it in. Or just tell him it's "vitamins" that you put in his drink.

On the behavioral side, you're right, it's not about "potty training" per se, but it IS about his sense of control and mastery of his own body. And that comes before potty training. He is still quite young for potty training anyway. Many preschoolers don't "get it" until 3 1/2 or even older, and that's OK.

The event of breaking his leg very possibly set him back, emotionally. It's common for physical illness or injuries to cause temporary regressions. Perhaps the experience of being so incapacitated by the cast really scared him, or he got some kind of wacky idea in his head that somehow his poops CAUSED his injury. You really can't know. Toddlers get all kinds of weird ideas in their minds, things that don't make sense to us, rationally. But they can be very powerful ideas to the little ones.

This is what I would suggest: Within the bounds of what is medically acceptable, completely BACK OFF the poopy talk and encouragement. First of all, tell him that it's HIS body, HIS tushie (or butt, or whatever your family calls it), HIS poop, and NOT MOMS OR DADS (or his doctors, for that matter). When HE is ready to make his poop, that's fine. Be matter-of-fact and reassuring. You might also reckon back to his injury to reassure him that his body works perfectly well again. "Remember when you got your owie on your leg? That's all better now. Your leg works fine again. And your poops can come out now anytime you are ready. But Mommy and Daddy will not make them come out anymore." Then, DROP IT. Really try hard to focus on anything BUT the pooping situation. Don't offer poopy-prizes or focus on his poop schedule at all. LET HIM HANDLE IT. If he asks for help, by all means, help him in whatever way he seems to want. But remember that this is a developmental hurdle that ultimately, only he can surpass.

This may all really be about a struggle to regain independence over his body. The leg injury was likely such a blow to his toddler's very important sense of mastery over his body. Now, he needs to struggle to get it back. Leaving it up to him is an important part of that process, since it is all about self-control, body mastery and independence.

I know you worry about his frequency of pooping, but believe me, helping him to regain this sense of self-control will be hugely important in the long-run. Again, check with the pediatrician to make sure what I'm suggesting is OK, and allow your son to hold it or struggle with it as long as you can. It will require some deep breathing on your part, in order to NOT interfere, but this is an important developmental process for you, too: learning to let go, as your son is now old enough to start to take over this function for himself. (And I hope you can enjoy a little sense of relief as you can let this worry lift from your shoulders as you begin to focus on other, more fun things with your son.)

It may be days, weeks, or even months as he takes steps forwards (AND backwards) toward progress. Don't let that get you down; it's normal. Big developmental gains don't happen all at once. Just keep your ultimate goal in mind and likely the power of his own normal developmental process will ultimately win out.

Not a fancy solution, I know. But one that respects his internal struggle, and the ultimate goal that he needs to achieve in order to surpass this internal dilemma of his. It's also good practice for Mom and Dad to see that he can ultimately be in charge of his developing body (and mind).

You can also read about another toddler's poop-withholding in this BabyShrink post.

Thanks for your question and let us know how it goes!

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

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

Pregnancy Help: More Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety Support

Julie Malone of CoolMomGuide launched a support forum for moms with postpartum depression and anxiety. She's also hooked it up to play my podcast on PPD/PPA. If you haven't listened to it yet, hit my podcast button to the right, or listen to it over at Julie's place! A new mom has about a 10% chance of having postpartum depression or anxiety. This is the most common complication of childbirth. Postpartum illness impacts the entire family. Not only does it affect mom's mood, it impacts the development of the baby -- and the functioning of the entire family. Most of us are too ashamed to ask for help -- yet it is very treatable! If you or someone you care about might have PPD or PPA, please listen to the podcast and take the steps to get help.

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: Lessons Learned From A Baby's Surgery

Thanks to all of you who wrote your comments and emails of support over the past couple of weeks while I anxiously awaited our 2-year-old's hernia surgery. He's fine today; a little tender, walking around like an old man who put his back out. He's covered in the dirty, gummy remnants of surgical tape, and has two (yes, TWO) inch-long diagonal scars in his groin. But he is fine. So while the memories are still fresh, here are some important things I learned yesterday: Be Ready for Changes in the Surgery Schedule Not easy for a control freak like me, but important to know. The schedule can be changed for any number of reasons, so plan accordingly. For us, T was found to need more extensive surgery, requiring more time (2 hours, as opposed to the 30 minutes we had expected). That meant the doctor had to shuffle his schedule, which affected our arrangements. Stay light on your feet, and keep your options open on the day of surgery. If at all possible, arrange to have both parents present AND a support person (like a grandma -- Thanks Mom!) so you can juggle communication with the staff, care for your child, and other basics like parking, travel arrangements, and food.

Don't Be a Hero I'm a health-care professional, right? I grew up in a medical household; my Dad was a physician. The sight of blood doesn't bother me, I have more than a passing familiarity with medical practices, and I've been roaming around hospitals since I was 3.

But yesterday, I was just "Mommy". A shaky, scared Mom who was an idiot and asked to help carry her baby to the Operating Room, and assist with the baby until he was asleep. I thought that helping out as much as possible would be best for the baby. Big mistake! The sight of my baby struggling and screaming while he was being held down (by me) while the nitrous was administered -- that's an image I'll never forget. And it certainly didn't help T. Take my advice and don't be a hero. Treat yourself with some TLC as much as you can. And let the professionals do their job. I don't care if you're in the profession yourself; on Surgery Day, we're all Just Mom, or Just Dad.

Don't Be an Idiot -- EAT Something! I assumed my stomach would be too upset with worry to eat anything, so by the time 11 am rolled around, I was shaky, dehydrated, and bitchy. Not too helpful (nor very appreciated by Mr. Dr. BabyShrink). If you're used to caffeine in the morning, make sure you get some. And at least bring a banana and some trail mix to the hospital; I picked at it, and once T woke up, he devoured it (and the outpatient surgi-center usually doesn't provide food afterward to the kids; you need to bring something for them, since they may very well get hungry afterwards). And since the surgery took so long, I actually did go to the cafeteria for 20 minutes. I forced myself to read the paper, have a snack, and NOT picture my baby being strapped down to the operating table. Even though part of me didn't want to be farther away from the operating room, walking away from the surgi-center for a short break gave me some perspective and allowed me to decompress for a bit.

Thank You To The Doctors and Nurses We are all incredibly indebted to the doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals who take care of our kids; those like Dr. Sid Johnson and post-op nurses Jessica and Mike who were among those who took care of TT yesterday at Kapiolani Women's and Children's Hospital. These people have the stamina, dedication, courage and expertise to take care of difficult, challenging, and often very sad cases every day. But mostly they love kids, and it shows in the work that they do.

A Hernia Is Just a Hernia; Nothing More. When TT was resting in the "wake-up room", Jessica shared stories with us about some of the very sick children who come in and out of Kapiolani every day. It gave me some healthy perspective: To them, TT is a healthy, strong child who just needs a little patch-up work. The child on one side of T was a 9-year-old who has had leukemia for 3 1/2 years. On the other side was an 18-month-old who has had multiple surgeries from birth defects, and had reconstructive work done on her pelvis. She was put into a full-body cast. And although our little guy will be sore for awhile, in comparison, this was small potatoes. So while the day was grueling, and we hit some tricky spots, we're home, and everyone is on the road to recovery. We're extremely grateful for the health of our family; even more so, after our experience yesterday.

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