Q: I have a 7-month-old baby boy. I get many questions about how I am too strict on his routine. I have to keep that routine or he will not sleep and I need sleep. What are your thoughts on sticking to a schedule?
A: This is an awesome question. I have many thoughts on this subject. I have had experiences with friends and family on both ends of the spectrum too. With my own child I tried to keep a routine that was written in pencil, so to speak. Keep in mind that when I say routine that is not the same as a schedule. I think it is important to try to do your daily activities the same — feedings, naps, bath, etc. However, it does not have to be on a clipboard with time charts, thinking everything will go terribly wrong if you are off by 30 minutes or so. Infants are definitely creatures of habit. It is healthy for them. Routines are what make our households run well. I think one of the most important routines that you do is going to be getting your child ready for bed. My best friend swore by the 3B’s—Bath, Bottle & Bed. Her child was able to take comfort in this routine and this helped her, and them get a good night’s rest. But what I want you to focus on is she always did the 3B’s, but if she were off a little on the time it was ok and everything would still be fine. We can give our babies routine, but also prepare them for a world that is sometimes unpredictable at the same time. I do not think you are crazy for wanting your baby to have a routine because that is what keeps you sane and lets you sleep. Routine is good, but keep in mind that sometimes life happens and it is ok to adjust to that too.
Q: My kindergartner is still having a terrible time going to school and experiencing separation anxiety. I know that I am not helping her, but it is so hard to leave when she is screaming, crying and does not want me to leave. I feel terrible the rest of the day. What else can I do to make this go smoother because it is killing me?
A: I hate this for you. I have seen many parents go through the same trauma and it has to be emotionally exhausting. I think you are well on your way to improvement just by the fact that you recognize prolonging the goodbye is not helping her. I am not saying it is easy to leave. I know that sometimes children can have the biggest fits and when the parent leaves they will turn to their teacher and say, “What is for breakfast today?” Crazy right? But it happens. Leaving moms and dads is difficult for some children. I think that working with the school and teachers is a great idea. They will have suggestions to help you make that transition smoother. Leaving quickly will help. The school will always call you if they continue to be upset and distraught. You could get some reading materials on separation anxiety. It is a real thing and perhaps your child may need someone to talk with and help them to make this better. Try to develop a goodbye ritual and the child knows what to expect and it is the same every time. Not giving in is the hardest thing to do. When you give in and stay longer or do not make them go, you will be starting all over again on any progress you have made. At this point, the child will begin to think that they can talk you into staying because you did it this one time. I suggest research, working with the school and trying to be consistent. It will get better with time.
Q: I am getting really frustrated with repeating myself over and over. I have twin boys age 6. I do not think they listen to anything I say. The more I have to tell them, the more frustrated I get and the same bad behavior continues repeatedly. I hope you have something that can help me.
A: I think we have all been in your situation before and it is super frustrating. You feel like you are talking to a tree sometimes. One of the most helpful techniques I have ever taught when it comes to discipline is being very detailed with your instructions. Hear me out first. I think it is important to go over the rules of your house when no one is in trouble. Think about the first day of school. The teacher will go over the classroom rules and behavior expectations. We need to do the same thing as parents. Think of the behaviors that drive you crazy. Now picture yourself sitting on the couch or on the floor playing with your boys. You say, “Hey guys, I just want to make sure that you know it’s never ok to fight with your brother. If this ever happens, I will have to do something about it. I just wanted to make sure you knew that.” Now they will look at you like you have lost your mind but in the end it will save you a lot of time and talking when this event happens and it will. At that time, you can put them in a time out or whatever you do for discipline and the only thing you have to say is, “I know you know the rules of the house, now I will have to do something about this.” It will save you time. It will save your sanity. Do you ever think…why I am arguing with a 6-year-old? We all do. But this technique will frustrate your boys, not you, because they cannot get you to argue and get upset with them. It is always fun to do something your child does not expect, especially when it comes to discipline. I hope this helps even if just a little.