Category Archives: Advice For Parents

More Ideas On Dealing With That Anger: Wear It Out, Hug It Out

Video-thumb-activity-184I'm picking up on a theme here from the many awesome comments received in response to Bella's last post. A few people mentioned that the empathising-with-the-angry-child strategy didn't seem to work as well, especially for some younger kids. Many of you pointed out that the anger seemed to need to run it's course and that trying to reason or empathize, in the moment, just seemed to make things escalate. Someone expressed concern about the message we send when we immediately act to divert attention away from the anger. Are we teaching our kids that expressing bad feelings should be avoided at all costs? Let me pass on a couple of thoughts.

To "Mom2boys" and others with little ones that start to strike out when they are angry, you might want to get your
hands on "
No Biting" or "No Hitting" by Karen Katz. Fun, light, lift-the-flap books that are great for redirecting toddler misbehaviour. E.g. One page on the left in "No Biting" says "No
hitting mommy" with appropriate picture. On the right page it says, "What can you hit?". Lift the flap and it says "A drum!". There is a great picture of a mini drummer letting rip!.  My son LOVED the whole series
by Karen Katz (the art work is beautiful) but particularly this book and it seemed to work. After a couple
of readings he would run and find his toy drum when he was mad and just have at it.

This brings me to my first suggestion: Wear it Out! 

Perhaps with younger and/or more intense children who are not yet able to self-regulate very well, you can help them wear that anger out and therefore get to a more reasonable place. My son was not actually very big on "tantrums" (I'd know way before that the anger was brewing, which was a bonus because I could move to cut it off at the pass) but he sure is intense and when he did really lose it, it wasn't subtle. He couldn't even hear me, even if I was empathising, so I would try to help him work the anger out. I'd say, "It's fine to be mad/angry, let's go in your room and punch your pillow until you feel better."  Sometimes I would bring the pillow to him and he'd actually lay into it. After a few minutes of me actually ALLOWING the anger, he (or is it we?) wore it out. My take on it is that it is a more action-oriented way (as opposed to psychologically-oriented) way to empathise or acknowledge that anger and then help your child get to the point where other techniques like distraction can take effect. I remember this to be especially helpful at around the 18 months to 3 years age, when kids really are more action-oriented anyway, generally speaking. 

My second suggestion?
Hug it Out! 

Your anger is pretty scary to children -
justified or not, non-maligning or not and we need to acknowledge this. Even if
you are totally justified in your anger (and in parenting, there are MANY times when we are), it's important to repair. 

It's not that different from any other relationship. Lord knows I've had very justified outbursts towards spouse, but even then I think it's good to "make amends" when you've had your say. It puts things on a more even footing rather than having the memory of the interaction being more like that of a powerful-figure-scolding-the-helpless. The repair can help re-establish a sense of partnership and hopefully lead to more co-operation on the issue in the future. It also says, it's okay to be angry and to express it. We'll come out the other side and it'll be okay.

Maybe not right away, but even
when X seems fine after the outburst has subsided and we've moved on, I try to revisit the issue briefly, say at bed time. I usually say that "I don't like
yelling, don't want to make you feel bad…I just get frustrated and then I
don't know what to do anymore. So I yell. Can we please try to avoid that
next time? Can you please try to listen to me when I ask you to….?" Then I usually say, "I think maybe we should hug it out." And we do, and we feel like comrades again.

And on that sweet note…I leave you to a lovely weekend.

–by Tracy

(with apologies for the varying font, I cannot for the life of me, fix it!)

Parenting challenge? Pick up a new parenting tool and tell us how it worked

I've been thinking about how we can all learn more from each other: How we can share what we've read and what we've tried with our kids that's worked. And I've also been very aware of how helpful reviewing all those discipline books (and many others I didn't include in that last post) has been to my OWN parenting challenges this week. Having to go back to some of those books and review my dog-eared pages was fabulous for getting me thinking about new ways to approach recurring discipline episodes with my boys (it's also made me realize that I didn't tell you the stuff I DIDN'T like about those listed books… I'm rather critical when it comes to parenting books, so you can imagine that providing you with those balanced reviews would have taken me another 5 pages). I've actually had one of the best weeks in months with my boys, largely because I've been more conscientiously applying various approaches that I've forgotten about or simply not tuned into.

I think one of the best things we can do as parents is to try to remain FLEXIBLE. I've written a couple of dry-as-sand academic articles about the social and emotional benefits to children of flexible parenting. By flexible, I mean the ability to use a whole lot of different solutions to the same discipline problem, the ability to express a range of emotions (both good and bad), without becoming stuck in one emotional state for too long, and the ability to repair interactions when things get ugly. I want to write a whole lot more about this issue of repair, and how important I think it is for parent-child relationships (and healthy development in general). I've been studying the benefits of "repair" in family interactions for almost a decade and I think it's so critical.

But back to the more general idea of flexible parenting: One way to try to become more flexible as parents is to simply add parenting tools (with some evidence of efficacy) to our toolbox. This flexibility will manifest differently for different parents, depending on what you already do, the extent to which you're happy with what's working and you're unhappy with what's not, the age of your child (of course!), and so on.  

So here's  my question/challenge: Would you all be interested in reading blog posts about, and TRYING, some different parenting techniques or discipline strategies (from the books I've already reviewed) and then reporting back on your results? The way this could work is that I could post a description of some little method or a more general approach or mindset that's advocated in one of the 10 books I listed in my last post. Then we can all try to implement the approach in the following few days and report back in the comments about how great or how completely hopeless that particular technique proved to be. This would almost be like our own little study (biased to high-hell, but still…), especially if you all were willing to give a little information about your child's age and explain the reasons for your success or lack thereof. Of course, certain approaches are going to work better than others for certain issues, different ages, different parents with various parenting philosophies, etc. But I think we could all learn something new and maybe even have some fun with this, if there's lots of participation. I would be FULLY into participating myself, of course.

Extra bonus: You won't feel like you have to go out and buy a bunch of books — I'll make sure to give you a smattering of approaches from a bunch of authors.

What do you think? Thoughts on how to make this work? Is this just a lame idea?

The best ten books on discipline

I keep promising you all a list of some of my favourite books on discipline. It's been hard for me to get down to a definitive list because there are bits and pieces that I think are great in so many books out there. So the challenge in making this list is to not overwhelm you with 40 books that you have to sift through reviews for while still being comprehensive in terms of hitting the biggies. But I AM skipping some great ones, and I hope we can think of this list as a starting point and get some feedback from readers about what's been mBooksost helpful to them as well.

Another few caveats: (1) I tend to prefer books that describe a general approach, rather than one specific technique. I like to pick and choose different techniques from various sources, but what I most value in a parenting book is a different perspective, a new lens through which I can reframe my challenges. Every time I read or re-read any of the books on this list, I am usually inspired to think differently about discipline challenges IN GENERAL. And I find that it is this fresh perspective that helps me parent more flexibly and tune into my child more consistently. (2) You'll see that the books on my list also don't generally use the term "discipline" in their titles (except for one) and that's because the authors are concerned with giving us the tools for raising happy, kind, empathic, non-aggressive children… and that's not ONLY about displine, but the whole big whack of parent-child relationships. (3) The the books on this list are ones that I continue to return to, rather than read once through, get what I need, and then give them away. So that's the last criteria I used for the final top 10 and that's why some of the more obvious ones did not make it. (4) Finally, I'm generally old-school when it comes to my favourites. I'm oddly skewed towards books that were written a few decades ago. I think they've stood the test of time for a reason (but beware: some of the language in these more dated books are off-putting, what with all the assumptions of mothers being at home all the time, fathers being secondary figures in the house, and general language that's downright sexist in our current thinking). 

My Top Ten Books on Discipline (NOT in any particular order…):

1. Playful Parenting: I can't tell you how many times I still pick up this book. It's on my night table and I often find myself rifling through my dog-eared copy to remind myself to Chill-the-f$#@-out! The book reminds us to HAVE FUN with this whole parenting gig. Easier said than done, but I find that the general approach of the book continues to inspire me to come up with new ways to approach old problems. Instead of the power struggles, the book shows us how to make conflicts into games. Instead of focusing on "discipline" and the "rules" of the house, the author shifts our focus to laughing, rough-housing, joking and bonding with our children. It doesn't solve EVERY discipline problem, but for me it gives me the gentle reminder that my toughest conflicts with my kids can often be solved better through flexible strategies that engage my children's compliance through play and imagination rather than through power and force of will. 

2. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk:  This is another on my bedside table. From the same group that brings you #3 and #7 on the list, this is chock-full of great insights about how to approach conversations with children of all ages so that they're more receptive to your wishes and so that you understand your children better. As the title suggests, the authors provide you with ways to create a context that encourages really effective communication skills — I think their approach helps us reframe communication with not only kids, but with spouses, coworkers, etc. It's compassionate, effective, concrete and can result in some seriously fabulous results, from my experience.

3. Between Parent and Child: Yes, it's dated, but I love, love, love Haim Ginott. Here's a famous quote of his, that I continue to use: “If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” It's a classic, more suited for older kids (over 3 or so) than younger ones. Here's one of a bajillion review/summaries out there: "Perhaps Haim’s genius was helping parents capture the meaning behind children’s words and deeds. There is nothing quite as soothing
for children as being understood. There is nothing quite as helpful for
solving parenting problems as the feeling of parents and children
working together. Ginott’s approach was unique because he joined great compassion with solid limits" (from the website).

4. Parenting with Love and Logic: I like this book because of its straightforward, practical approach. I like its emphasis on parental modeling of "responsible" behaviour and problem-solving. I also appreciate some of the techniques that are offered up as very concrete ways of teaching children how to make responsible choices on their own (and helping parents deal with commonly occurring conflicts like back-seat battles in the car,
homework, and keeping bedrooms clean). I have some beefs about it too, but I think it's worth the read. 

5. The Mother of All Toddler Books: Ann Douglas is awesome for so many reasons, but one of the most straightforward is that she is amazing at pulling together a whole bunch of resources, methods, techniques, and so on into one definitive compendium. This book gives you a bunch of approaches to try out with your child, depending on age, temperament, and you parenting style. It's a really great resource not only for discipline (how to deal with whining, tantrums, and so on) but also deals with other typical toddler challenges like potty training and eating.

6. Raising Your Spirited Child:  I've recommended this book before. Here's the review, which says it all… "Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's first
contribution is to redefine the "difficult child" as the "spirited"
child, a child that is, as she says, MORE. Many people are leery about
books that are too quick to "type" kids, but Kurcinka, a parent of a
spirited child herself and a parent educator for 20 years, doesn't fall
into that trap. Instead, she provides tools to understanding your own
temperament as well as your child's. When you understand your
temperamental matches–and your mismatches–you can better understand,
work, live, socialize, and enjoy spirit in your child. By reframing
challenging temperamental qualities in a positive way, and by giving
readers specific tools to work with these qualities, Kurcinka has
provided a book that will help all parents, especially the parents of
spirited children, understand and better parent their children." (From

7. Siblings Without Rivalry: From the same lineage (Haim Ginott) that brought us "Between Parent and Child," these followers of Dr. Ginott tackle siblings specifically. Lots of you mentioned sibling jealousy issues that may be underpinning the most difficult discipline episodes. This is a great book to re-think how to raise children as team members in a larger family. It provides a thoughtful, compassionate perspective on the sibling relationship in general and then gives practical approaches for addressing episodes of sibling conflict (with lots of examples).

8. The No-Cry Discipline Solution: In the spirit of her other "No-Cry" books, Pantley offers some concrete strategies that pull parents out of power struggles and into a place of confident guides for children's appropriate behaviour. I like the fact that there ARE some concrete methods that you can pick and choose from and that she's very much into taking the child's perspective in these discipline struggles. She encourages parents to remember that they know their child best and to choose the methods that will best suit their child's temperament and needs, as well as their own goals. 

9. All the Louise Bates-Ames books: If you're looking for actual techniques or methods, these aren't the books for you. But her series of books (e.g., Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender; Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy, etc) is fabulous for giving you a real sense of the developmental challenges and the cognitive and emotional milestones that are being hit at each age. She's also very compassionate and often funny when empathizing with parental challenges at each age.

10. Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense: Because so many of you mentioned that mealtimes were big battle grounds with your children, or that feeding was a real source of anxiety for you as the parent, I wanted to include this one. This is one of the better books I've seen out there on helping parents relax and enjoy mealtimes with their kids. There's good, solid advice about nutrition and stage-specific issues that will come up around feeding. Many parents report feeling a whole lot better after reading this book and implementing strategies to avoid power struggles.

OK, that's my top 10 list… for now. What have I missed? What book have you found indispensable when it comes to discipline or general parenting approaches?

Reader’s Question: Sleep training during the (8 – 11 month) developmental transition

Let's start this week off with a reader's question about something we haven't talked about for a while… sleep!  Yes, we can still address this thorny, ever-morphing issue even though the blog is no longer fully focused on the topic. The question comes from a mother of a 9-month old, but I think we can consider it more broadly to cover any developmental transition period:

My son was sleeping in his crib with very few interruptions until
he came down with a bad cold a few weeks back.  I'd trained him using
the sleep doula method when he was seven months old.  This involved
sleeping on a matress on his bedroom floor for a week and shhh-patting
him whenever he awoke during the night.  Anyhow, once he got sick I
began to take him out of his crib in the night and take him into my
husband's and my bed to sleep.  Now he won't sleep in his crib
anymore.  I'd like to try the sleep doula training method again but
I've now entered the 9-11 month blackout period.  I'd still be in the
room so he'd know I hadn't abandoned him, but I'm worried that it might
be damaging to him to see me right there, standing in his room but not
responding to his requests to be picked up.

Do you think it would be okay to try this method at this time or should I wait?

So, first off, although the reader is asking about her 9-month old in particular, I think the question can be considered more broadly to cover ANY of the developmental transitions we've talked about on this site. I could have picked from another 4 emails that asked almost the same question (although the particular sleep training methods differed), but were about their 18-month old or 2.5 year old child. So I wanted to mention and review some GENERAL points about transition periods and their impact on sleep training and then get into the specifics of this question.

There are a few, very predictable, developmental transition periods that I've mentioned can be quite problematic for sleep training children. Each of these periods have their own specific character, but what they have in common is that they are developmental transitions during which there are massive reorganizations/changes occurring in multiple domains (cognitive, emotional, social and oftentimes physical). Our approach has been to discourage parents from sleep training during these periods because, no matter what sleep training technique you use, they are less likely to work if the child is adjusting to these huge changes. So, no matter if the child is acquiring object permanence and getting his first real taste of separation anxiety at 8 – 11 months, or is experiencing a burst of language development and understanding social roles at 18 – 21 months, or feeling her first stabs of jealousy at 2.5 years old, or really groc-ing how different people's perceptions can be and feeling the resultant first stings of shame at around 3.5 years old… each of these new stages brings with it a whole lot of upheaval, much of which is related to the social connectedness we have with the ones we love most. Sleep training can be a hard enough battle to win, without stacking the deck against you with all of these new psychological acquisitions added to the mix. So, if there's a way to avoid sleep training during these stages, I've always recommended doing so.

HOWEVER, as we all know, we can have the best-laid plans and then things just don't go our way. Sometimes, like this reader's question typifies, sh*& happens and we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of one of these transitions with little recourse but to forge ahead and try to teach or re-teach our children better sleeping habits. In these cases, my best advice would be: Go for it, try whatever technique you feel will work best for your family, and keep an open mind. The worst that can happen is the child will NOT learn better sleep habits. That sucks, but at LEAST you can feel rest assured that it is NOT your fault. It's not that you didn't learn the most magical, bestest, coolest technique out there to help your kid sleep; it's not that you let her CIO or DIDN'T let her CIO or nursed too much or not enough or that you used the wrong blinds, the wrong music, the wrong pacifier. It's just a sucky developmental period to make these kinds of lessons stick. So I would caution this reader and anyone else trying to forge ahead and sleep train during a sensitive period: it will be hard, possibly harder than if you would have done it earlier or later. And it may not work. BUT! BUT!  Are you all paying attention here? BUT! You are NOT screwing up your child for life if you give it a try. If you feel you must sleep train during a sensitive period, for your sanity, your child's health, whatever, do it and feel no guilt. If it works (after perhaps more work and more time at it) yippee for everyone. If it doesn't work, you have a likely causal explanation and your next plan of action is to wait until this phase runs its course and you can implement the sleep-training method of your choice at that time.

Getting back to the reader's specific concerns about the 9 – 11 month stage, I don't think you will "damage" your child with this sleep training method. Is it ok to try, sure, at least for a couple of days. But because this new stage is all about the child acquiring a more sophisticated understanding of your presence in the world, the same technique that worked at 7 months (before your child really GOT your "permanence" in the world) may simply not work at this stage. The sight of you near, but unattainable, may be too frustrating at this sensitive stage. Sleep training with this "doula" method may just flood your child with too much anxiety, making it difficult to learn any new sleeping skills. But again, I firmly believe you won't damage your child for life if you attempt this method for a few days, even if a few tears are indeed shed (perhaps on both your parts). 

Anyone out there have some supportive words for the original poster of the question? Anyone have great success stories to share from this age? Or how about some words of commiseration… this is a tough age to muddle through (for the whole family).

I’m leaving on a jet plane, my kids will never be the same again…

 I'm out of the country this week so I've got a few posts that will go up automatically for the next few days. As you'll see, it seems like I couldn't get my head around only one theme this week — probably has a lot to do with how completely out of control my life feels right now. It's all good: I'm LOVING being with my kids these days (they'll be 4 in March and there's just something about this age that seems to groove with my parenting style), I'm crazy-busy at work with some great projects, and I'm traveling overseas to work with fabulous people. Each one of these things seems great on its own, it's the combination / balance that I'm having a problem with. Yes, I know this isn't a personal blog, apparently I just need to get those excuses out. And it sets up the premise for today's post and tomorrow's follow-up…

I thought I'd post some thoughts about longer separations from our children. I don't mean leaving your child for a few hours or for the evening. I'm talking for a couple of days or longer. We've had two readers send questions about this issue, the gist of which boiled down to two main concerns: (1)  Are there better and worst ages to leave your child for a few days/weeks? and (2) What can I do to make the separation more bearable for my child?

Since my kids turned one and I returned to work full time, I've thought (and freaked the freak out) about these questions a lot. I've had to leave my kids for 2-6 days at one time about twice per year for business trips. Leading up to these trips, I invariably get very anxious about how my boys will cope. I try to remind myself that they're with their father, that he is an equal partner in this parenting gig, that they love him equally and need him equally. But who am I kidding? There's no doubt about the equal love, but the attachment is different and when they get tired, hungry, hurt, frustrated, or challenged in other ways, they want mommy (and I fully recognize this isn't the case for all family situations). But we do what we have to do — some of us have little choice but to leave our kids for a few days and many of us actually think it's healthy to go away for a weekend or so without the kids (count me in both groups). 

So… are there better and worst ages to leave your kids for a while? For those of you who have been following this blog for longer than a couple of weeks, you'll probably have a good guess at my answer. Yes, I DO think there are certain stages that will be harder than others for your children to deal with separations. Those stages happen to correspond to the sensitive windows in development that I spent 6 months talking about in terms of sleep training children. The same stages that are particularly difficult for sleep training are also generally difficult for ANY transition, especially those that have to do with separations. Before the age of about 8 months or so, I actually think these separations are not too bad for babies (I suspect they're much harder on moms). They haven't yet reached the big 8 – 11 month transition that will usher in a sudden burst in working memory and allow the child to understand that "out of sight is NOT out of mind." Even when mom is not in the room, she's "out there" somewhere… As I've written at length, this ability to keep mom in mind even when she's not present results in the onset of full-blown separation anxiety — NOT a time when you first want to take off on your child for days on end. Another stage you may want to avoid leaving for extended trips is the 18-21 month period. This is a DOOZY (and, of course, it happens to be one of the ages when I DID have to leave my boys… I remember the weeping phone calls to this day). I won't get into all the MANY, MANY reasons why this stage is considered the most dramatic transition period in early childhood… you can read about all the gory details here.  Suffice it to say that children are really GETTING social interactions in a way that they weren't able to before — "real" language takes off, they understand simple rules and family members' roles and they get the idea that they are expected to follow rules and respect those family roles. Most parents report this stage as the most intense emotional period in their child's life, fraught with buckets of neediness, moodiness, tantrums, meltdowns, and general crazed vulnerability (there's lots of research to back this up, reviewed in our book). Leaving your children for extended periods during this phase may heighten their sense of vulnerability and neediness and it may take a while before you child "forgives" you for leaving, once you are back. 

The other stages to watch out for are the 2.5 to 3 year old period and the 3.5 to 4 year old stage. Different developmental issues are at play at each of these various sensitive periods, but the general rationale for avoiding long-term separations during these phases are the same: these are developmental transitions during which children are more emotionally vulnerable, more attuned to separations and their meaning, and they're in need of more reassurance and support than at other more stable periods.

Ruby's jetplaneA couple of extra considerations: (1) Kids will likely be more vulnerable at the beginning of these sensitive periods, when new cognitive acquisitions are just emerging and they're coping with this novelty; the more into the stage they are, the more likely it is that they've started to learn to cope with their new sense of the world (and the accompanying new skills). Or at least that's what I'm telling myself, as my kids round the corner of a sensitive stage (3.5 – 4 years old) and I'm gallivanting in Europe. (2) If you gotta go, you gotta go. Sometimes we have no choice but to take off during one of these sensitive periods. In those cases, the mere recognition that it might be tough on our kids might be important. We can try to put in place some plans that might help ease children's distress like scheduling more phone calls (or less, depending on how your child responds to these brief connections from afar) and/or taking some extra time off when we return.

But that's the topic for the next post: What CAN we do to make separations from our children less stressful? (Hint: See this pic of one of my boys? That's just one of WAY too many guilt presents he got after I returned from my last overseas trip <sigh>)

Tell us: Have you left your child during one of these sensitive periods or during more stable ages? How did it go? Do you think it's easier to leave younger or older children? How have your children coped with your times away? How have you coped? Do you think it's generally a good or bad idea to leave your children (with a partner or grandparents or other trusted caregivers)
for a few days?

(I haven't said this in a while, so I wanted to remind readers: ALL opinions are very welcome, whether they conflict or are consistent with mine. We want to know what YOU think. What YOUR experiences have been. And I'd like to hear from those of you who DON'T think it's wise to leave kids just as much as I'd like to hear from those who do. Really. Let's talk…)

Step Away from the Chocolate Cake: Strategies to Help Delay Gratification


 I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a sweet tooth.
When confronted with oh say, a 
slice of good quality chocolate cake, I’d have a hard time waiting to
eat it, such as after eating all of my green vegetables. So all this talk about
waiting to eat marshmallows got me thinking about how I would have fared with
the marshmallow task as a child. Probably terribly (but can I just point out
here that I’ve done okay…I’m just saying…). And naturally, I’m wondering what
my son would do (read: what are his future prospects in life and other enormous
parenting questions that I should know better than to worry about). So how do
young children cope when they have to delay gratification?  What are those future Bill Gates doing
to help themselves keep their little fingies off of those marshmallows? And
yes, can parents influence this emerging development of self-control?

If you watched the video at the end of Isabel’s post on
Monday (if not then try here), you were probably amused, as I was, at some of
the strategies children attempted to keep from eating that sweet, seductive
cloud of confection. They covered the gamut from the girl who just stuffed it
into her mouth, unapologetically (even remembering to clear her plate from the
table after wards – nice!), to the boy who pushed it up against his nose, to
those who just studied it carefully. But it was the boy who turned his head to
the side and just did not look at it, that really got me. Hmm… that seemed like
it might help.

Turns out that in Mischel’s early work he gave children
choices about what they could and could not look at while they were waiting
such as the real reward vs. a colour photograph of it. He also asked them what
they preferred to look at. Get this, preschool children actually looked at, and
preferred, the actual reward over the picture! In other words, they seemed
unable to anticipate that this would only drive them into a frenzy of
frustration and effectively sabotage their efforts to wait for the bigger
reward. Oh, the agony.

Children start to see the light around their 6th
birthday. So e.g. they start to prefer to cover the reward rather than to leave
it out in the open. By grade 3, their prefer to think more about the waiting
than on the eating of the marshmallows. And by grade 6, they’ve moved on to
prefer thinking of marshmallow properties e.g. that they are puffy like clouds.
So don’t worry, it’s not a write off if your preschooler is having trouble
waiting now.

The good news is: you can probably help your little one
along the way. For one thing,  out
of sight is out of mind baby!  So
whatever you do, take the tempting item away. Put it on a high shelf, in the
other room or cover it up. When you have dessert planned for after dinner,
leave the pie in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. You’ll have a
better shot at getting your little one to focus on the task at hand – dinner. You
can also help by distracting your child. Get them to focus on things other than EATING that ice cream.

Here’s one last thing to chew on…As you become more aware
that it is actually quite hard for young children to control their natural
impulses, wait, delay gratification etc., you may become tempted to be more
lenient. “It’s so hard for them, this insistence on getting that Halloween
candy now is part of normal development etc., it will come in time", so you reason. But perhaps when
parents insist that children wait for that treat for after dinner, they are
effectively training them to get used to waiting and to find ways to make it
work. Maybe those kids who managed to “step away from” the marshmallow in
Mischel’s studies came from homes where this was more the case (too bad they
didn’t interview or give questionnaires to the parents). Since, according to the
research, they would go on to fare better on a host of measures including
academic achievement, you could be doing your child a huge favour by saving the
chocolate cake for after they’ve eaten their brussels sprouts (well okay, maybe
not brussels sprouts). Just a thought.

–by Tracy