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Every parent has her or his own parenting style, but they all run into similar problems — power struggles, tantrums and manners

6 parenting questions answered

Swedish Covenant Hospital psychologist addresses local parents’ dilemmas at community event
Kate Silver
Contributing writer
Every parent has her or his own parenting style, but they all run into similar problems — power struggles, tantrums and manners

Every parent has her or his own parenting style, but they all run into similar problems — power struggles, tantrums, manners and more.

Dr. Katie Hanson, a health psychologist at Swedish Covenant Hospital, addressed some common parenting issues Tuesday, April 19 during a “Positive Parenting” workshop, organized by KickSprout at Zapatista restaurant in Lincoln Park. Over delicious guacamole and tacos, a dozen area parents with children ranging in age from infant to 4 brought their kid questions to the table.

Hanson began by outlining some of the most important parenting tips.

“The most important thing is setting limits,” she said.

Every parent’s limits are different. Some don’t want their kids jumping on beds, others don’t want them taking food out of the kitchen. Regardless of what your limits are, Hanson said it’s important to make them clear and predictable to your children.

“The world is chaotic and sometimes they feel chaotic and out of control,” she said. “Sometimes, when there is a limit, it helps them feel safe.”

She emphasized that once you set your limits, it’s important to be consistent.

“The more consistency you have, the better off you’ll be in the long run,” said Hanson.

Hanson suggested setting up a safe environment in your home — one that that doesn’t involve a lot of “no’s.” She said that good baby proofing is a big part of that environment, adding that your life is a lot easier if you don’t have breakables within reach of your child. Hanson suggested dedicating a cabinet or two to Tupperware and other plastic items that are safe for play.

“You can allow for exploration and it can be safe, but you don’t have to have a series of ‘No’s,’” she said.

Hanson encouraged attendees to share their own questions. Parental concerns ranged from questions about time out, hitting, emotional outbursts and more. The following Q & A highlights some of those concerns and Hanson’s suggestions to resolve the issues.

Time out no longer works on my 4-year-old son. I put him in time out, count to 20 and it doesn’t faze him. I ask him if he needs another time out and count to 20 again. He just doesn’t respond to it like he used to.

One thing we tend to do as educated people is talk too much in situations like this. There’s no need to ask your child if he needs another time out when there is no choice — he’s going to get one. This is a situation where you simply tell him that he’s going to have another time out.

The generally accepted “time out” time is one minute per age. So you might want to try four minutes at a time. Rather than counting, set a timer and let him know that he can get up when the timer rings. The key is to be firm without being rigid or mean. If he needs another time out, then simply tell him he needs another time out and be consistent. Eventually, time out will get old and he will respond to it.

My 14-month-old daughter is constantly touching the stove and then saying, “Hot, hot, hot!” I don’t want her touching the stove, even though it’s not that hot. Is it okay to do a 10-second time out?

Fourteen months is a little young for a time out. Still, you’re right to want to change the behavior. My concern is not so much that she’s touching a warm stove, but that you could have something cooking above her that could put her in danger. If she were getting no reaction from you, it could create a comfort level that you don’t want. Rather than trying time out, this is a good chance to distract and divert her. Have one, two or three other options in the area that might be of interest to her.

My 15-month-old son throws tantrums about three times a day when I tell him “no.” My husband thinks I should just walk away, but I don’t want him to feel abandoned. What should I do?

You probably don’t have to worry about your child feeling abandoned. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of, “What does my child need?” It’s a matter of, “What do I need?” In this situation, he’s reacting dramatically to being told no. The more dispassionate you can be, the better off you are. Tell him firmly, “That’s a no,” and then distract and divert. If that doesn’t work, put him in his crib and let him work it out. Leave the room if you need a breather, and then return and pat his back until he calms down. It can be a scary place to be, when you’re that young and your emotions are out of control.

I come home from work every day at about 4:30, and inevitably my 14-month-old daughter goes into meltdown mode soon after the sitter leaves. I already feel guilty about working and want to have quality time with my daughter when I can. What should I do?

When you come home from work, you’re often already juggling a variety of tasks — changing clothes, checking messages, getting dinner ready and trying to pay attention to your daughter, who wants 100 percent of your focus. Try asking your babysitter if she can just stay five or 10 minutes longer after you get home. That will give you a chance to transition. Do everything you need to do before the babysitter leaves and then once she is gone you can focus more fully on your daughter.

When my 14-month-old daughter gets excited she likes to hit. It’s not out of anger, but she’s gotten into a habit of slapping the cat, or me or other kids. What should I do?

In essence, she’s clapping right on your face. When she does this, take your own hands clap, and say, “We’re excited! We’re clapping!” and demonstrate the appropriate way to express excitement. This is probably something she’s going to outgrow, but it brings up an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson, and that lesson is we don’t hit. Instead, let’s clap.

My 22-month-old just learned to say, “Sorry.” Now, he pops my husband and I just so he can say, “I’m sorry.” I try not to encourage it, but sometimes I just can’t help laughing.

Your child has learned the golden ticket — he can do what he’s not supposed to and then say, “Sorry!” and make it all okay. It’s a good time to teach him that it’s not okay to hit people. Next time he hits you, catch his hand before he has a chance to say, “Sorry.” Then say to him, “No hitting.” Do this consistently and his game has lost its impact. 


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