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Parenting Tips

There is no one way to parent your child; and sadly, there is no one definitive book that can give you all of the answers. Each and every child is wonderfully different, and you will know what your child needs more than anyone else in this world. However, that doesn't mean we don't get a little lost or confused as to what we should do in some difficult situations. Here are some helpful tips and suggestions for helping to make some of these more stressful situations go a little smoother. 

Bedtime 

We try to stick to a bedtime ritual by remembering the "4 B's":

  • Kids under 2 years: Bath, Breast, Book, then Bed
  • Kids 2 to 6 years: Bath, Brush (Teeth and Hair), Book, then Bed
Brushing Teeth 

Your self-determined toddler can sometimes present a challenge when it comes to brushing her teeth. Try this: Sit on the floor cross-legged, placing your child on her back, resting herself on your leg. You are now looking down at her, while she is looking up at you. Let your child brush your teeth while you brush hers. You'll get loads of cooperation, as well as a good look at those molars!

Another technique...Have your child stand on a step stool in front of the mirror so she can see herself. Give her your toothbrush, while you hold hers. Tell her she gets to brush your teeth while you brush hers. Stand over her, bending forward with your mouth open, and instruct her to start brushing your teeth. Because she is so busy brushing your teeth, she is pretty much unaware of the thorough job you can do on her teeth. You also get a good view of the backsides of her lower central teeth, where plaque build-up is usually the greatest.

Contact Information 

Make sure your child care provider or baby sitter has immediate access to critical information in case of an emergency: Make a copy of your child's insurance card, and on the back attach a typed list of emergency phone numbers where you can be reached, as well as the number for your local poison control center. You may also want to note any allergies or medical conditions your child may have. Have this two-sided emergency card laminated at your local copy center, place it in a pocket of your child's diaper bag or backpack, and remember to tell the sitter where it can be found.

Dinner Conversation 

At dinnertime, try stimulating conversation with your children by asking, "What one good thing happened to you today?" Let everyone - including Mom and Dad - take turns answering. This question is better than "How was school?" or other similar questions that children tend to answer with a simple word, like "okay," which quickly ends the conversation.

Encouragement 

Our hectic, busy lives often leave us with little time to appreciate the magic of encouragement in our children's development of self-esteem. Positive strokes and expressions of love often are forgotten and replaced with negative reprimands. Here's a sure way to remember the importance of praise: take your wrist watch (or other piece of jewelry) and place it on the opposite hand from which you are accustomed to wearing it. Throughout the day, when you look at your watch (or jewelry) on the "wrong" hand, you will be reminded to say something supportive and positive to your child.

Establishing chores and routines 

Children learn more easily to do personal chores (e.g., making a bed) when there is spare time. Put some time aside for melding the chores into the routine. The time will come when the chores will have to be performed quickly, efficiently, and without assistance, but it will go more smoothly if they are second nature and already part of the established routine.

Listening the first time 

When children do not seem to pay attention or listen to what you are saying, you may find yourself repeating everything you ask, often raising your voice with each repetition. Instead, the first time you calmly make your request, make sure your child has direct eye contact with you. Then, ask him/her to repeat what you said so that you know he understood. Sometimes, this will prevent the familiar cycle of repeating yourself!

Responsibilities at dinnertime 

Once children are preschool age and older, have each child take one night a week, or one night a month, as dinner night. Let him decide what he wants to serve, shop with him, and let him direct you in helping with the preparations. Children love doing it, and it gives you fewer dinners to plan yourself!

Eyedrops 

Administering eye drops can be uncomfortable to a toddler. Have your child lie on his back and shut his eyes as tight as he can. Place one to two drops in the inner corner of each eye. Tell him to relax his eyes. The liquid will seep into the eye without tears or fuss! Wipe off the excess with a clean cloth or tissue.

Positive Suggestion 

Whenever you open your mouth to say the words "don't," "no," "not," "stop," or any other similar negative word, pause. Then, replace the negative word with a positive alternative. This way, your words convey a positive suggestion, rather than a negative reprimand. For example, if you are about to say, "Stop teasing your sister!", pause, and instead say, "You can either come help me in the kitchen, or you may go upstairs and play on the computer until dinner is ready." If he is not convinced, then add, "Do you want to decide which you will do by yourself, or should I decide for you?" This usually works if you stick with it!

Handling Stress 

On some days, disciplining your children seems to go smoothly; on other days, it seems to be a complete disaster. If you are at your wit's end, tired, and literally ready to scream, think of a person that you respect, and then pretend that he/she is watching you. It is amazing how this can help you to handle the situation more calmly and effectively, rather than being angry and losing your cool.

Children Helping themselves 

When your child spills something, drops something, or creates a mess, pause before getting upset. Then, calmly ask your child what she was trying to do. You might be surprised at her answers, and you might learn things about your child and her thinking that you would never have known if you had gotten upset. Sometimes your child really is just trying to help! Once you know what she was trying to accomplish, you can talk calmly about ways that it might work better next time.

Teaching children about rules 

Establishing rules with children is an opportunity to teach the meaning behind them. For example, rather than telling your child "no running" at the swimming pool, point out the sign. Explain that this rule is necessary because the lifeguards are in charge of everyone's safety, and that water makes the surface next to the pool slippery. Some children may want to discuss possible injuries; other children may want to discuss why water makes cement slippery; and still other children may agree to follow the rule just so they can go swimming.

Humor even for vomiting illnesses 

Children can be miserable with many common illnesses, but viral stomach flu can be particularly miserable for both the child (who feels so poorly) and the parent (who must clean up another episode of vomiting or diarrhea). Since vomiting is a given of childhood, try to add humor to it. Pick out a bucket or other similar container. Then, give it a name (e.g., the purple puke bucket) that children will find funny and will brighten their spirits. Use the bucket solely for this essential and honorable task, and you will know what it means when your child yells for it!

Listening to kid logic for a compromise 

Most children rarely get the chance to change an adult's mind using their own logic. However, developing logical thoughts is important to their decision-making and communication abilities. For example, dinner is taking longer than expected to prepare. A half-hour before it, your child asks for a snack. Usually, he hears, "Not so close to dinner." However, appetizers or sampling the dinner fare is not uncommon as an adult's hunger builds. Similarly, your child is hungry. You do have a legitimate concern that sweet snacks will ruin his appetite. Try stating it in a way that will elicit a logical response: "My only worry is that fruit snacks will keep you from eating your dinner." Listen to your child's response. Then, come to a compromise that allows a small nutritional snack, and keeps you both in good spirits when dinner is served.

Making the morning more enjoyable 

Sometimes, waking children up in the morning to get ready for school or daycare can be frustrating and stressful, especially if they are grumpy and resistant. Try this: Have the children take turns being the first one awakened, and let that child go and wake up the other child or children. Sometimes, this simple strategy makes a child more excited about waking up, and it makes mornings more enjoyable. It is amazing how nice the children can be to each other in the process. Since they are taking turns, they realize what kind of wake-up call they would like to experience when it is the other child's turn!

Medications 

Getting preschoolers and school-age children to take medicine can be very challenging for parents. Try this: pour the medicine into a small medicine cup, measuring out the exact amount prescribed by your doctor. Then, "top it off" with several teaspoons of either strawberry or chocolate syrup. You also can try this for medicine in tablet form. First, using two spoons, crush the pill into a fine powder. Then, put the powder into the medicine cup, and fill it with flavored syrup. Stir until the powder is dissolved, and let your child drink it up!

Not rewarding crying 

Most rules can, and should, be discussed within a family. In many homes, a rule not up for discussion is that there are no rewards for crying. For example, your child really wants something, and it is refused. Then, your child starts to cry, often very dramatically. As soon as the tears start, the child gives up any negotiating power. Calmly saying, "I'm sorry, we can't even discuss this now," will quickly take the steam out of the crying tactic.

Normal weight and height guidlines 

Parents often wonder about the normal growth of their children. While general guidelines can be followed, always remember variations are the norm with kids! Typically, height doubles between 3 and 4 years old; then, it triples by 13 years old (based on height at birth). Weight usually doubles by about 5 months of age, triples by 12 months of age, and quadruples from 2 to 2.5 years of age (based on weight at birth).

Not giving in 

Sometimes, as a parent, yielding to your child's desires (e.g., getting in bed with you at 2 a.m., or crying for candy in the grocery store) by saying "yes" is much easier than saying "no." However, holding firm to your standards of discipline, while maintaining consistency by not changing your mind, will prove far easier for both you and your child in the long run.

Pacifiers 

Weaning from the pacifier can be a dreaded chore of parenting. The longer a child is attached to the pacifier, the harder it becomes to get rid of it. Between six to nine months of age, limit the pacifier to the car and the crib. Between 12 to 15 months of age, take your child to a toy store and let him pick out a new, cuddly, security item. Tell him it is time to say "bye" to his pacifier, while frequently reminding him of his new security object. Then, throw away all of the pacifiers. The child will object, and a few nights may be difficult, but the pacifier is usually quickly forgotten.

Picky eaters 

As concerned parents, it's hard for us to not plead with our picky eater to "please eat one more bite". Yet, this approach often leads to frustration and resistance. Change your focus. Instead of putting food on his plate in the quantity that you think he will eat, put one bite of each item on his plate. When he asks for more, give him more from your own plate or a family platter. It's a wonderful opportunity to encourage rather than discourage! 

Positive reinforcement 

Rewarding children for doing the right thing, for good behavior, or for doing something positive can be a powerful strategy for parents. Sometimes, though, we may feel as though we are bribing our children—that is true if you choose to look at it that way. If you remind yourself to always call it positive reinforcement, rather than bribery, it works, and you feel good about it!

Potty training 

For girls

Try using an anatomically correct doll to learn how to go potty. The Emma Doll comes with a book that gives you some tips on how to interact with your child while they are training.

For Boys

Put a few drops of liquid hand soap or dish soap into the toilet. Let your son make bubbles by aiming for the colored soap.

Predicting your child's height 

Parents often are very curious about predicting their child's adult height. You can try to estimate it using one of the following methods: (1) Review your child's height growth curve with your pediatrician once your child is older than 2 years, and extrapolate it out to 18 years of age on the growth curve. (2) Try this: Girls are half of their adult height at 18 months of age, while boys are half of their adult height at 24 months of age. (3) If you like mathematical formulas, calculate this: For girls, take the father's height in inches and subtract 2.5 inches; then, add it to the mother's height in inches, and divide this sum by 2 to get a predicted height in inches. For boys, take the mother's height in inches and add 2.5 inches; then, add it to the father's height in inches, and divide this sum by 2 to get a predicted height in inches.

Reading to infants 

Reading with children is one of the most influential activities that parents can do; it has a permanent impact on their cognitive development and their learning potential. Daily reading time can, and should, be started around six months of age. This is why at Pirate Pediatrics, we give an age appropriate book at every well visit from ages six months to five years old. Infants do best with simple board books where you point out something on each page. Don't worry if they would rather just chew on the books - they are curiously exploring, and that is learning too! Books with simple flaps that open on each page also are enticing to children of this age.

Reading to toddlers 

When reading to toddlers, have them name the items on each page of familiar books, rather than you naming the items. If your child has a favorite book, try to pick a different theme each time you read the book. For example, go through and point out all the animals; the next time, point out the colors; the next time, talk about the shapes; and so on. This keeps the child endlessly learning, and you stay interested too!

Sibling rivalry 

Sibling squabbles are almost a right of passage of childhood. The next time your children are fighting over a toy, a game, or a food, pause before getting angry. Then calmly take away the prized item and positively tell the children that they can have it back once they have solved their differences. Seeing the children look at each other--trying to decide if they should actually figure it out together or if they should just part their ways and go do something else-- is actually rewarding as a parent. Your children may even surprise you by deciding among themselves to share or take turns!

Tantrums 

Many times children will have tantrums at the checkout counter because of the enticing treats at arm's length. Prepare your child by telling him/her in the car as you approach the store: "Mommy is going to buy some good food and a treat when we go to the store. If there is no crying at the checkout, we'll eat that treat when we get home."

Teething 

Avoid using medications with numbing agents.  Try using soft chewable toys, a cool cloth, or frozen sliced bananas placed in a mesh bag.  Many times rubbing a clean finger over your infants gums is very comforting.

Traveling 

The website storynory.com has some brief audio books/stories with a message. Download them and let your child listen to them on a long trip.

Trying new foods 

Getting children to taste or try new foods is often a trying experience. It is okay to keep offering it, and you may eventually succeed. Surveys have shown that children may need to see something on their plate 10 to 20 times before they will actually try it!

When children won't eat veggies 

Parents often get worried when their child won't eat vegetables. Keep offering different vegetable choices (presented in interesting ways) to your child, but be reassured that many of the necessary vitamins and minerals in vegetables are also in the fruits that your child may eat more willingly. If you are still concerned, give your child a children's chewable multivitamin. Don't forget that you can always count the tomatoes on your child's favorite pizza as their daily vegetable.

When to learn about rules 

The most difficult time for a child to learn a rule is when it has been broken. Instead, try to establish a rule before there is an opportunity to break it. For example, telling a child to stop running by a swimming pool immediately sets up a conflict. An explanation of the rule upon arrival at the pool allows communication of it before the conflict arises. This is not to say that there won't be a discussion of adhering to the rules later!