A Natural Pain Reliever for Hemorrhoids

My father used to suffer from hemorrhoids. I did not really understand what they were then as it was not something that we talked about over the dinner table, or at any other time either. We just knew that he had them, and we also knew that we did not want them. I thought I got lucky until I was in my 50s and developed them myself. I did not want to suffer like my father did, so I decided to visit this site that had a lot of information about a product that is designed to fight against hemorrhoids.

I had never heard of Venapro, but I sure did like everything that I read about it. Continue reading


How to Prepare Twins for Preschool

The idea of your young twins spending a couple of hours in a classroom setting away from their parents, siblings, and possibly each other can be quite a change for everyone involved. If your twins have spent time in a child care setting, the transition may not be as dramatic as for those who have been cared for at home or in a smaller group setting. Our generation may or may not have attended preschool back when we were young. Today, however, education experts agree that the experience of a preschool program can help kids learn more effectively when kindergarten comes along. We’re talking about a fun, relaxed preschool atmosphere, and not any sort of rigorous academic curriculum! Three-year-olds usually participate 2 or 3 half days a week, while 4-year-olds can participate 3 or 4 half days a week.

Preschool registration happens at different times depending on where you live. In general for most areas, looking at preschool options a year before you plan on enrolling your twins is a good idea. Busy urban settings can be more competitive, and infants on preschool waiting lists are not uncommon in big cities.

In the months leading up to preschool, you’ll want to provide your twins with some practice for the experience. Look around your community for options. Public libraries usually offer a story hour or craft sessions for each young age group. These story hours are a great way for your twins to practice sitting quietly in a group while listening to a story. The fact that these programs are usually free is a bonus. Your twins will learn some social etiquette by being in a room of 3-year-olds. Twins may be accustomed to close physical contact with one another—but they’ll need to learn that they can’t be quite so cozy with others around them.

Another way to get your twins ready for preschool is to visit your area’s public and school playgrounds after school hours. Get to know a variety of parks around your home to keep the trips interesting. Your twins will have fun on different types of equipment and feel quite comfortable at their preschool playground when the time comes. Your twins will also gain a little experience meeting and playing with other kids at the playground.

Look into your local park district youth offerings and recreational youth sports. Always ask if they offer a twin discount! Soccer is a great gender-neutral choice that boy-girl twins would enjoy. Park districts often offer a 3-year-old “class” specifically for a parent to drop the child off so that the child gets used to the idea of being on his own for a bit. To ease the transition, if your twins are in the same class, they can provide some comfort for each other when their parent leaves. At these types of classes, my twin boys were so excited to see new toys to play with that they didn’t mind at all that Mom was leaving for a while. I had tears myself, though, the first couple of times, and didn’t know if I felt better or worse that the boys weren’t crying at these goodbyes. With a little practice getting out there with your twins, you’ll all be ready to make the leap to 2 mornings a week of preschool quite smoothly.

Many parents of twins wonder if they should keep their twins in the same classroom for preschool, or separate them into 2 different classes. If your preschool is a small program, you may have no choice because all the 3-year-olds may be together in a single class. If there are 2 separate classrooms, you’ll have to decide for your family on the best strategy.

For our family’s situation, our decision for class placement was pretty straightforward. We felt that our identical twin sons looked so similar that the teachers and other students would be confused all year as to who each twin was. We didn’t want our sons to hear the question, “Which one are you?” all year long. I wanted to de-emphasize the boys’ “twinness” and give the boys a chance to show others who they are as a person, as an individual. I also felt that 2 mornings a week of being in 2 separate classrooms wouldn’t be that big of a deal, considering the boys are together the other 5 days a week, 24 hours a day. In addition, I felt that after some practice with separate preschool classrooms, the transition into separate classrooms in the higher grades should be a little easier. The issue of twin placement in classrooms is currently a very hot issue as many families feel that their kids would do better in school if their twins were in the same class. These families argue that the family, not the school, should make the final decision of class placement. New legislation has been popping up in various states giving families the final say in whether twins are placed together or separately. Each family must assess its own situation and decide what will work best for it. Some families find that keeping twins together in the early years helps smooth the way for eventual separation in the higher grades.


Hand and Finger Skills of Your Preschooler

Your Three-Year-Old Child

At age three, your child is developing both the muscular control and the concentration she needs to master many precision finger and hand movements. You’ll notice that now she can move each of her fingers independently or together, which means that instead of grasping her crayon in her fist she can hold it like an adult, with thumb on one side and fingers on the other. Now she will be able to trace a square, copy a circle, or scribble freely.

Because her spatial awareness has developed quite a bit, she’s more sensitive to the relationships among objects, so she’ll position her toys with great care during play and control the way she holds utensils and tools to perform specific tasks.

This increased sensitivity and control will allow her to build a tower of nine or more cubes, pour water from a pitcher into a cup (using two hands), unbutton clothes, possibly put large buttons into buttonholes, and use a fork and feed herself independently, spilling between the plate and her mouth only occasionally.

She’s also extremely interested in discovering what she can do with tools such as scissors and paper and with materials such as clay, paint, and crayons. She now has the skill to manipulate these objects and is beginning to experiment with using them to make other things. At first she’ll play randomly with craft materials, perhaps identifying the end product only after it’s completed.

Looking at her scribbles, for example, she might decide they look like a dog. But soon this will change, and she’ll decide what she wants to make before starting to work on it. This change in approach will motivate her to develop even more precision in moving and using her hands.

Quiet-time activities that can help improve your child’s hand abilities include:

  • Building with blocks
  • Solving simple jigsaw puzzles (four or five large pieces)
  • Playing with pegboards
  • Stringing large wooden beads
  • Coloring with crayons or chalk
  • Building sand castles
  • Pouring water into containers of various sizes
  • Dressing and undressing dolls in clothing with large zippers, snaps, and laces

You can encourage your child to use her hands by teaching her to use certain adult tools. She’ll be thrilled to progress to a real screwdriver, a lightweight hammer, an eggbeater, or gardening tools. You’ll need to supervise closely, of course, but if you let her help as you work, you may be surprised by how much of the job she can do herself.

Hand and Finger Skills of Your Four to Five-Year-Old

Your four-year-old’s coordination and ability to use his hands are almost fully developed. As a result, he’s becoming able to take care of himself. He now can brush his teeth and get dressed with little assistance, and he may even be able to lace up his shoes.

Notice how he uses his hands with far more care and attention when he draws. He’ll decide in advance what he wants to create and then go ahead with it. His figures may or may not have a body, and the legs may be sticking out of the head. But now they’ll have eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and, most important to your child, they are people.

Because of this growing control over his hands, arts and crafts in general are becoming more exciting for him now. His favorite activities may include:

  • Writing and drawing, holding the paper with one hand and the pencil or crayon with the other
  • Tracing and copying geometric patterns, such as a star or diamond
  • Card and board games
  • Painting with a brush and finger painting
  • Clay modeling
  • Cutting and pasting (using safe, nonpointed child’s scissors)
  • Building complex structures with many blocks

These kinds of activities will not only permit him to use and improve many of his emerging skills, but he’ll also discover the fun of creating. In addition, because of the success he’ll feel with these activities, his self-esteem will grow. You may even notice certain “talents” emerging through his work, but at this age it’s not advisable to push him in one direction over another. Just be sure to provide a broad range of opportunities so he can exercise all his abilities. He’ll take the direction he enjoys most.


How to Ease Your Child’s Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety varies WIDELY between children. Some babies become hysterical when mom is out of sight for a very short time, while other children seem to demonstrate ongoing anxiety at separations during infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool.

To All You Working Moms & Dads

The trick for surviving separation anxiety demands preparation, brisk transitions, and the evolution of time. I would suggest we parents suffer as much as our children do when we leave. Even though we are often reminded that our children stop crying within minutes of our leave-taking, how many of you have felt like you’re “doing it all wrong” when your child clings to your legs, sobs for you to stay, and mourns the parting?

As a working mom, separation anxiety creates questions for me. Although it is an entirely normal behavior and a beautiful sign of a meaningful attachment, separation anxiety can be exquisitely unsettling for us all.

Here are facts about separation anxiety and tips to improve the transitions I’ve learned the hard way (I’ve made about every mistake):

Facts about Separation Anxiety

  • Infants: Separation anxiety develops after a child gains an understanding of object permanence. Once your infant realizes you’re really gone (when you are), it may leave him unsettled. Although some babies display object permanence and separation anxiety as early as 4 to 5 months of age, most develop more robust separation anxiety at around 9 months. The leave- taking can be worse if your infant is hungry, tired, or not feeling well. Keep transitions short and routine if it’s a tough day.
  • Toddlers: Many toddlers skip separation anxiety in infancy and start demonstrating challenges at 15 or 18 months of age. Separations are more difficult when children are hungry, tired, or sick—which is most of toddlerhood! As children develop independence during toddlerhood, they may become even more aware of separations. Their behaviors at separations will be loud, tearful, and difficult to stop.
  • Preschoolers: By the time children are 3 years of age, most clearly understand the effect their anxiety or pleas at separation have on us. It doesn’t mean they aren’t stressed, but they certainly are vying for a change. Be consistent; don’t return to the room based on a child’s plea, and certainly don’t cancel plans based on separation anxiety. Your ongoing consistency, explanations, and diligence to return when you say you will are tantamount.

How to Survive Separation Anxiety

  • Create quick good-bye rituals. Even if you have to do major-league- baseball–style hand movements, give triple kisses at the cubby, or provide a special blanket or toy as you leave, keep the good-bye short and sweet. If you linger, the transition time does too. So will the anxiety.
  • Be consistent. Try to do the same drop-off with the same ritual at the same time each day you separate to avoid unexpected factors whenever you can. A routine can diminish the heartache and will allow your child to simultaneously build trust in her independence and in you.
  • Attention: When separating, give your child full attention, be loving, and provide affection. Then say good-bye quickly despite her antics or cries for you to stay.
  • Keep your promise. You’ll build trust and independence as your child becomes confident in her ability to be without you when you stick to your promise of return. The biggest mistake I ever made in this regard was returning to class to “visit” my son about an hour after a terrible transition. I was missing him, and although the return was well intended, I not only extended the separation anxiety, we started all over again in the process. When I left the second time (and subsequent days) it was near nuclear.
  • Be specific, child style. When you discuss your return, provide specifics that your child understands. If you know you’ll be back by 3:00 pm, tell it to your child on his terms; for example, say, “I’ll be back after nap time and before afternoon snack.” Define time he can understand. Talk about your return from a business trip in terms of “sleeps.” Instead of saying, “I’ll be home in 3 days,” say, “I’ll be home after 3 sleeps.”
  • Practice being apart. Ship the children off to grandma’s home, schedule playdates, allow friends and family to provide child care for you (even for an hour) on the weekend. Before starting child care or preschool, practice going to school and your good-bye ritual before you even have to part ways. Give your child a chance to prepare, experience, and thrive in your absence!

It’s rare that separation anxiety persists on a daily basis after the preschool years. If you’re concerned that your child isn’t adapting to being without you, chat with the pediatrician. Your pediatrician has certainly helped support families in the same situation and can help calm your unease and determine a plan to support both of you!


Aggressive Behavior

My child is sometimes very aggressive. What is the best way to prevent this type of behavior?

The best way to prevent aggressive behavior is to give your child a stable, secure home life with firm, loving discipline and full-time supervision during the toddler and preschool years. Everyone who cares for your child should be a good role model and agree on the rules he’s expected to observe as well as the response to use if he disobeys. Whenever he breaks an important rule, he should be reprimanded immediately so that he understands exactly what he’s done wrong.

Children don’t know the rules of the house until they’re taught them, so that is one of your important parenting responsibilities. Toddlers are normally interested in touching and exploring, so if there are valuables you don’t want them to handle, hide or remove them. Consider setting up a separate portion of your home where he can play with books and toys.

For discipline to be most effective, it should take place on an ongoing basis, not just when your child misbehaves. In fact, it begins with parents smiling at their smiling baby, and it continues with praise and genuine affection for all positive and appropriate behaviors. Over time, if your child feels encouraged and respected, rather than demeaned and embarrassed, he is more likely to listen, learn, and change when necessary. It is always more effective to positively reinforce desired behaviors and to teach children alternative behaviors rather than just say, “Stop it or else.”

While teaching him other ways to respond, there’s also nothing wrong with distracting him at times, or trying another approach. As long as you’re not “bribing” him to behave differently by offering him sweet snacks, for example, there’s nothing wrong with intentionally changing his focus.

Remember, your child has little natural self-control. He needs you to teach him not to kick, hit, or bite when he is angry, but instead to express his feelings through words. It’s important for him to learn the difference between real and imagined insults and between appropriately standing up for his rights and attacking out of anger. The best way to teach these lessons is to supervise your child carefully when he’s involved in disputes with his playmates. As long as a disagreement is minor, you can keep your distance and let the children solve it on their own. However, you must intervene when children get into a physical fight that continues even after they’re told to stop, or when one child seems to be in an uncontrollable rage and is assaulting or biting the other. Pull the children apart and keep them separate until they have calmed down. If the fight is extremely violent, you may have to end the play session. Make it clear that it doesn’t matter who “started it.” There is no excuse for trying to hurt each other.

To avoid or minimize “high-risk” situations, teach your child ways to deal with his anger without resorting to aggressive behavior. Teach him to say “no” in a firm tone of voice, to turn his back, or to find compromises instead of fighting with his body. Through example, teach him that settling differences with words is more effective—and more civilized—than with physical violence. Praise him on his appropriate behavior and help explain to him how “grown-up” he is acting whenever he uses these tactics instead of hitting, kicking, or biting. And always reinforce and praise his behavior when he is demonstrating kindness and gentleness.

There’s also nothing wrong with using a time-out when his behavior is inappropriate, and it can be used in children as young as one year old. These time-outs should be a last resort, however. Have him sit in a chair or go to a “boring” place where there are no distractions; in essence, you’re separating him from his misbehavior, and giving him time to cool off. Briefly explain to your child what you’re doing and why—but no long lectures. Initially, when children are young, time-out is over as soon as they have calmed down and are “quiet and still.” Ending time-out once they are quiet and still reinforces this behavior, so your child learns that time out means “quiet and still.” Once they have learned to calm themselves (to be quiet and still), a good rule of thumb is one minute of a timeout for each year in your child’s age—thus, a three-year-old should have a three-minute time-out. When the time-out is over, there needs to be a time-in, while giving him plenty of positive attention when doing the right thing.

Always watch your own behavior around your child. One of the best ways to teach him appropriate behavior is to control your own temper. If you express your anger in quiet, peaceful ways, he probably will follow your example. If you must discipline him, do not feel guilty about it and certainly don’t apologize. If he senses your mixed feelings, he may convince himself that he was in the right all along and you are the “bad” one. Although disciplining your child is never pleasant, it is a necessary part of parenthood, and there is no reason to feel guilty about it. Your child needs to understand when he is in the wrong so that he will take responsibility for his actions and be willing to accept the consequences.

When to Call the Pediatrician

If your child seems to be unusually aggressive for longer than a few weeks, and you cannot cope with his behavior on your own, consult your pediatrician. Other warning signs include:

  • Physical injury to himself or others (teeth marks, bruises, head injuries)
  • Attacks on you or other adults
  • Being sent home or barred from play by neighbors or school
  • Your own fear for the safety of those around him

The most important warning sign is the frequency of outbursts. Sometimes children with conduct disorders will go for several days or a week or two without incident, and may even act quite charming during this time, but few can go an entire month without getting into trouble at least once.

Your pediatrician can suggest ways to discipline your child and will help you determine if he has a true conduct disorder. If this is the problem, you probably will not be able to resolve it on your own, and your pediatrician will advise appropriate mental health intervention.

The pediatrician or other mental health specialist will interview both you and your child and may observe your child in different situations (home, preschool, with adults and other children). A behavior-management program will be outlined. Not all methods work on all children, so there will be a certain amount of trial and reassessment.

Once several effective ways are found to reward good behavior and discourage bad, they can be used in establishing an approach that works both at home and away. The progress may be slow, but such programs usually are successful if started when the disorder is just beginning to develop.


Top Tips for Surviving Tantrums

Tantrums are a normal part of development. They happen most between ages 1 and 3 years, but as so many of us know, some kids are huge tantrum throwers, and some are not. Many children have more tantrums prior to and around the time of language development. Before kids are fully verbal, they’re frustrated, and in that sense of frustration or hunger or dissatisfaction, tantrums can be an easy way for kids to try to get what they need.

When You Can’t Ignore Your Child’s Tantrum

Sometimes it’s really hard for us to stop tantrums. There are a couple of times when you can’t ignore your child in a tantrum.

  • If your child is physically at risk of running into the street or in danger, grab him tightly and hold him or make it very clear to him.
  • If your child is hitting or biting, stop it immediately and make sure that you let him know that it’s absolutely not acceptable by moving his body out of a situation or taking away a privilege.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Know this: Tantrums do tend to get better after the age of 3. Although they don’t go away entirely. Your child will do tantrums to get things that she needs normally and naturally between the ages of 1 and 3 years. Talk with your pediatrician if you’re concerned about some of those behaviors. Do your best to remain calm. Use your friends and family around you to help understand how to stand back and wait for tantrums to dissolve on their own so you can come back to your child with great comfort.

Eight Tips to Surviving a Tantrum

You can’t avoid every tantrum, but here are some ideas to help you survive them more gracefully.

  1. Give your child enough attention and “catch her being good.” Provide specific praise in successful moments. However, don’t feel that if one child tantrums more than another that you aren’t providing enough attention. Personality is infused in behaviors, including tantrums.
  2. During a tantrum, give your child control over little things (offer small, directed choices with options rather than yes/no questions).
  3. Distraction. Move to a new room. Offer a safer toy. However silly, sing a song.
  4. Choose your battles and accommodate when you can. Sometimes you have to give in a little to settle yourself; that’s OK. However, your consistency from day to day is key in reducing the level and frequency of tantrums. So is time. Although most tantrums happen in 1- to 3-year-old children, many children continue to throw tantrums into the school years.
  5. Know your child’s limits. Obviously, some days are harder than others. Sometimes we don’t get to finish the to-do list.
  6. Do not ignore behaviors like hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing. Have a zero-tolerance policy.
  7. Set your child up for success. If tantrums peak when your child is hungry, have a healthy snack with you when you’re out of the house. If they peak when your child is fatigued, prioritize sleep/nap time even if you miss things. Sometimes it’s far better on all of us.
  8. Give yourself a break when you need it. Take turns with another parent or friend when your frustration escalates.

Helping Your Child Learn to Read

How can I help my child learn to read?

Reading books aloud is one of the best ways you can help your child learn to read. This can be fun for you, too. The more excitement you show when you read a book, the more your child will enjoy it. The most important thing to remember is to let your child set her own pace and have fun at whatever she is doing. Do the following when reading to your child:

  • Run your finger under the words as you read to show your child that the print carries the story.
  • Use funny voices and animal noises. Do not be afraid to ham it up! This will help your child get excited about the story.
  • Stop to look at the pictures; ask your child to name things she sees in the pictures. Talk about how the pictures relate to the story.
  • Invite your child to join in whenever there is a repeated phrase in the text.
  • Show your child how events in the book are similar to events in your child’s life.
  • If your child asks a question, stop and answer it. The book may help your child express her thoughts and solve her own problems.
  • Keep reading to your child even after she learns to read. A child can listen and understand more difficult stories than she can read on her own.

Listening to your child read aloud

Once your child begins to read, have him read out loud. This can help build your child’s confidence in his ability to read and help him enjoy learning new skills. Take turns reading with your child to model more advanced reading skills.

If your child asks for help with a word, give it right away so that he does not lose the meaning of the story. Do not force your child to sound out the word. On the other hand, if your child wants to sound out a word, do not stop him.

If your child substitutes one word for another while reading, see if it makes sense. If your child uses the word “dog” instead of “pup,” for example, the meaning is the same. Do not stop the reading to correct him. If your child uses a word that makes no sense (such as “road” for “read”), ask him to read the sentence again because you are not sure you understand what has just been read. Recognize your child’s energy limits. Stop each session at or before the earliest signs of fatigue or frustration.

Most of all, make sure you give your child lots of praise! You are your child’s first, and most important, teacher. The praise and support you give your child as he learns to read will help him enjoy reading and learning even more.

Learning to read in school

Most children learn to read by 6 or 7 years of age. Some children learn at 4 or 5 years of age. Even if a child has a head start, she may not stay ahead once school starts. The other students most likely will catch up during the second or third grade. Pushing your child to read before she is ready can get in the way of your child’s interest in learning. Children who really enjoy learning are more likely to do well in school. This love of learning cannot be forced.

As your child begins elementary school, she will begin her formal reading education. There are many ways to teach children to read. One way emphasizes word recognition and teaches children to understand a whole word’s meaning by how it is used. Learning which sounds the letters represent—phonics—is another way children learn to read. Phonics is used to help “decode” or sound out words. Focusing on the connections between the spoken and written word is another technique. Most teachers use a combination of methods to teach children how to read.

Reading is an important skill for children to learn. Most children learn to read without any major problems. Pushing a child to learn before she is ready can make learning to read frustrating. But reading together and playing games with books make reading fun. Parents need to be involved in their child’s learning. Encouraging a child’s love of learning will go a long way to ensuring success in school.

Reading tips

The following are a few tips to keep in mind as your child learns to read:

  • Set aside time every day to read together. Many children like to have stories read to them at bedtime. This is a great way to wind down after a busy day and get ready for sleep.
  • Leave books in your child’s room for her to enjoy on her own. Make sure her room is reading-friendly with a comfortable bed or chair, bookshelf, and reading lamp.
  • Read books that your child enjoys. After a while, your child may learn the words to her favorite book. When this happens, let your child complete the sentences or take turns reciting the words.
  • Do not drill your child on letters, numbers, colors, shapes, or words. Instead, make a game out of it and find ways to encourage your child’s curiosity and interests.

Emotional Development in Preschoolers

Your three-year-old’s vivid fantasy life will help her explore and come to terms with a wide range of emotions, from love and dependency to anger, protest, and fear. She’ll not only take on various identities herself, but also she’ll often assign living qualities and emotions to inanimate objects, such as a tree, a clock, a truck, or the moon. Ask her why the moon comes out at night, for example, and she might reply, “To say hello to me.”

From time to time, expect your preschooler to introduce you to one of her imaginary friends. Some children have a single make-believe companion for as long as six months; some change pretend playmates every day, while still others never have one at all or prefer imaginary animals instead. Don’t be concerned that these phantom friends may signal loneliness or emotional upset; they’re actually a very creative way for your child to sample different activities, lines of conversation, behavior, and emotions.

You’ll also notice that, throughout the day, your preschooler will move back and forth freely between fantasy and reality. At times she may become so involved in her make-believe world that she can’t tell where it ends and reality begins. Her play experience may even spill over into real life. One night she’ll come to the dinner table convinced she’s Cinderella; another day she may come to you sobbing after hearing a ghost story that she believes is true.

While it’s important to reassure your child when she’s frightened or upset by an imaginary incident, be careful not to belittle or make fun of her. This stage in emotional development is normal and necessary and should not be discouraged. Above all, never joke with her about “locking her up if she doesn’t eat her dinner” or “leaving her behind if she doesn’t hurry up.” She’s liable to believe you and feel terrified the rest of the day—or longer.

From time to time, try to join your child in her fantasy play. By doing so, you can help her find new ways to express her emotions and even work through some problems. For example, you might suggest “sending her doll to school” to see how she feels about going to preschool. Don’t insist on participating in these fantasies, however. Part of the joy of fantasy for her is being able to control these imaginary dramas, so if you plant an idea for make- believe, stand back and let her make of it what she will. If she then asks you to play a part, keep your performance low- key. Let the world of pretend be the one place where she runs the show.

Back in real life; let your preschooler know that you’re proud of her new independence and creativity. Talk with her, listen to what she says, and show her that her opinions matter. Give her choices whenever possible—in the foods she eats, the clothes she wears, and the games you play together. Doing this will give her a sense of importance and help her learn to make decisions. Keep her options simple, however. When you go to a restaurant, for example, narrow her choices down to two or three items. Otherwise she may be overwhelmed and unable to decide. (A trip to an ice- cream store or frozen yogurt shop that sells several flavors can be agonizing if you don’t limit her choices.)

What’s the best approach? Despite what we’ve already said, one of the best ways to nurture her independence is to maintain fairly firm control over all parts of her life, while at the same time giving her some freedom. Let her know that you’re still in charge and that you don’t expect her to make the big decisions. When her friend is daring her to climb a tree, and she’s afraid, it will be comforting to have you say no, so that she doesn’t have to admit her fears. As she conquers many of her early anxieties and becomes more responsible in making her own decisions, you’ll naturally give her more control. In the meantime, it’s important that she feels safe and secure.

Just as it was when he was three, your four-year-old’s fantasy life will remain very active. However, he’s now learning to distinguish between reality and make-believe, and he’ll be able to move back and forth between the two without confusing them as much.

As games of pretend become more advanced, don’t be surprised if children experiment with make-believe games involving some form of violence. War games, dragon-slaying, and even games like tag all fall into this category. Some parents forbid their children to play with store-bought toy guns, only to find them cutting, pasting, and creating cardboard guns or simply pointing a finger and shouting “bang, bang.” Parents shouldn’t panic over these activities. This is no evidence that these children are “violent.” A child has no idea what it is to kill or die. For him, toy guns are an innocent and entertaining way to be competitive and boost his self-esteem.

If you want a gauge of your child’s developing self-confidence, listen to the way he talks to adults. Instead of hanging back, as he may have done at two or three, he now probably is friendly, talkative, and curious. He also is likely to be especially sensitive to the feelings of others—adults and children alike—and to enjoy making people happy. When he sees they’re hurt or sad, he’ll show sympathy and concern. This probably will come out as a desire to hug or “kiss the hurt,” because this is what he most wants when he’s in pain or unhappy.

At about the age of four and five, your preschooler also may begin to show an avid interest in basic sexuality, both his own and that of the opposite sex. He may ask where babies come from and about the organs involved in reproduction and elimination. He may want to know how boys’ and girls’ bodies are different. When confronted with these kinds of questions, answer in simple but correct terminology. A four-year-old, for example, doesn’t need to know the details about intercourse, but he should feel free to ask questions, knowing he’ll receive direct and accurate answers.

Along with this increased interest in sexuality, he’ll probably also play with his own genitals and may even demonstrate an interest in the genitals of other children. These are not adult sexual activities but signs of normal curiosity and don’t warrant scolding or punishment.

At what point should parents set limits on such exploration? This really is a family matter. It’s probably best not to overreact to it at this age, since its normal if done in moderation. However, children need to learn what’s socially appropriate and what’s not. So, for example, you may decide to tell your child:

  • Interest in genital organs is healthy and natural.
  • Nudity and sexual play in public are not acceptable.
  • No other person, including even close friends and relatives, may touch his “private parts.” The exceptions to this rule are doctors and nurses during physical examinations and his own parents when they are trying to find the cause of any pain or discomfort he’s feeling in the genital area.

At about this same time, your child also may become fascinated with the parent of the opposite sex. A four-year-old girl can be expected to compete with her mother for her father’s attention, just as a boy may be vying for his mother’s attention. This so-called oedipal behavior is a normal part of personality development at this age and will disappear in time by itself if the parents take it in stride. There’s no need to feel either threatened or jealous because of it.


How to Shape & Manage Your Young Child’s Behavior

Helping shape your children’s behavior is a key part of being a parent. It can be difficult as well as rewarding. While at times it can be challenging, a few key principles can help.

Modeling Behavior

Children learn by watching everyone around them, especially their parents. When you use manners and good coping strategies, you teach your children to do the same.

  • Point out sharing among adults. Children often feel that they are the only ones who have to “use your manners,” “share,” and “take turns.” So when adults share, point it out to your children. For example:
    • “Daddy is sharing his drink with Mommy. Good job sharing, Daddy!”
  • Model good ways to calm down. Teach your children how to calm down when they are upset or frustrated. For example, if you are frustrated about sitting in traffic, you might say:
    • “Mommy is really frustrated right now. Please help me calm down by taking 10 deep breaths with me.”
  • Teach children to say how they feel. If you are really frustrated, you might want to say, “You are driving me crazy right now.” Instead, try to express your actual feelings: “Mommy is really frustrated right now.” This teaches children to say what they feel instead of making critical or hurtful statements. Then help your children do this when they are upset. For example:
    • “It looks like you are feeling sad.”

If your guess about how they are feeling is not accurate, allow your children to correct you.

Behavior + Attention = More Behavior

If you are like most people, you’ll leave your children alone if they are behaving well, but when your children are misbehaving, you’ll direct your attention to them. This tends to backfire. The attention around the misbehavior actually increases the misbehavior as a way to get more attention from us!

The best way to improve behavior is to give children a lot of attention when they are doing something you like and remove your attention when they are doing something you do not like.

An easy way to increase good behaviors is by describing their behaviors and praising them when they make a real effort. For example:

  • “Good job listening the first time!”
  • “Good job using your inside voice.”

It can be hard to get in the habit of doing this, but it gets easier and easier as you do it.

The Attention Meter

When children get enough positive attention from you, they don’t need to act out to get attention. Remember to fill your children up with plenty of love and affection throughout the day, every day. A very easy way to do this is to spend quality time with them. Playing with your children for just 5 minutes will go a long way, especially right after getting home from work or after an errand. When playing with your children, let them pick the toy and lead the play. It’s tempting to tell your children what to do or ask a lot of questions, but it is best not to do that. Try instead to just describe what your children are doing (“You are working so hard to build a tall tower” or “You are stacking those blocks”) and give praise: “Great job sitting so still while we are playing.”

Another way is to give attention to children for good behavior, yet not distract them while they are behaving, is to gently touch them in a loving way; for example, simply touch their shoulder or back. It is recommended you give children 50 to 100 brief loving touches every day.

You can decrease bad behaviors by ignoring them, but this only works if you are giving your children lots of attention for their good behaviors. The simplest way to do this is through planned ignoring. Ignoring means not talking to, looking at, or touching your children when they are behaving badly. The key to ignoring is making sure to give your children positive attention as soon as the bad behavior stops, like saying:

  • “You are quiet now; it looks like you are ready to play.”

Growing Independence: Tips for Parents of Young Children

Children Love to Learn

  • Open and honest communication will create a lifelong closeness with your child.
  • Routines and responsibilities will let your child know what to expect. When a rule is broken, a natural consequence needs to follow.
  • As you teach your child how to be independent, you also need to teach how to be safe.
  • Learning how to be a good friend is an important skill you can teach your child.
  • Your little one is starting to explore the world outside your home. This is exciting, but can be scary!

Children from 4 to 6 years old are:

  • Beginning to develop their independence and form real friendships.
  • Learning rules to more difficult games.
  • Developing important life skills.

Set Limits

When children do something against the rules, explain simply and in a few words:

  • That what they did was wrong
  • What will happen if the behavior continues Consequences need to be logical, meaningful, and simple. For example:
    • If your child rides a bike without a helmet, the bike is off limits for a day or two.
    • When your child won’t share a toy, that toy can’t be used for the rest of the day.

Create and Keep Routines

Teach about rules by setting up daily routines.

Children do best when they know what to expect.

In the morning:

  • Use the bathroom
  • Get dressed
  • Have breakfast

At bedtime:

  • Take a bath
  • Brush teeth
  • Read a story

Schedule specific times for TV, video games, and use of the computer. When you know what your child is watching, you can avoid violence and other unacceptable content. Limit “total screen time” to no more than 2 hours a day.

Read at bedtime. This helps your child:

  • Settle down after a busy day
  • Learn how to read

Have meals together as much as possible.

This is a great way to spend time together and share family traditions, while also teaching good eating habits and table manners.

Take Time to Talk and Listen

Children feel important when adults take the time to talk with them. Talking often, and about many things, helps them gain self-confidence. Ask about friendships and the activities that your child enjoys. Talk about your own best and worst experiences.

Ask your child:

  • “What was the best part of today?”
  • “What was the hardest part of today?”

Let your child know that it’s OK to have and talk about negative feelings. Share the best and hard parts of your day. This teaches your child that we all have ups and downs.

Assign Responsibility

When young children copy everyday household tasks, they are really learning how to contribute. With your support, tasks will soon be done with few reminders. As children grow older, they can begin to take on real responsibilities, such as:

  • Setting the table
  • Putting away their toys
  • Feeding the pets
  • Placing dirty clothes in a basket

Watch your child’s self-esteem grow when given the chance to help out.

Encourage Independence in Bathing and Dressing

At first, this may take a little more time than helping your child get dressed or take a bath, but

it is time well spent. Independence comes with practice, and with your guidance.

If you get the clothes ready the night before, the morning routine will involve only getting dressed. This way, your child can focus on just one thing. Your child may need to be reminded of all the steps.

  1. “In the morning, when you get up,
  2. First, use the bathroom,
  3. Then, take off your PJs,
  4. And then, put on your clothes.”

Praise your child’s efforts and successes:

“You did a great job getting yourself ready for school today!”

Teach Simple Rules About Safety with Adults

Keeping children safe is an important job for parents. You want your child to respect and trust others, but you also need to teach your child to be careful. Following are some simple rules and ways that you can start a conversation with your child about different safety issues.

  • “If you’re not sure, ask me.”
  • “If an adult asks you to do something that you’re not sure is OK, always ask me first. I won’t get mad at you for asking.”
  • “No secrets.”
  • “No one should ever tell you to keep a secret from me—one that might make me mad if I found out. Adults should never expect you to do this.”
  • “Certain body parts are private.”
  • “No adults (except parents, doctors, and nurses) should touch you where you normally wear a bathing suit.”
  • “If we get separated, find a security guard or police officer.”
  • “This is a very busy place. If you can’t find me, find a security guard or police officer, or ask someone to help you find one. That person will help you find me.”
  • When you take your child to a crowded place, look around and point out the person who is there to help if you do become separated.

Help Your Child Become a Good Friend

Four- to six-year-olds are learning what it means to be a friend. They will have fun times as well as arguments and hurt feelings. It can be tempting for parents to try to solve these problems themselves or by talking with the other child’s parent.  Instead, guide your child to solve problems. With your help, your child can learn how to solve social problems.

  1. Help your child understand the other child’s point of view. “I guess Suzie wants a turn too.”
  2. Teach your child the following:
    • Stay calm
    • Do not hit, grab, or shove
  3. Use words:
    • “I get upset when you talk to me like that.”
    • “I’m sad you don’t want to play with me.”
    • “I’m angry you took the ball from me.”
  4. Stand close by and watch as the children solve their problem. Being close by puts the children on their best  behavior. This is how they begin to develop the confidence and skills to communicate honestly, calmly, and politely with others.