Babies are easy to forgive when they are fussy because they are innocent little ones who are justtrying to communicate their needs. One year olds are celebrated for their wobbly steps and their (usually) sweet first words. They are also easier to forgive because they eat almost everything, giggle at most things and may still take two naps. Two year olds are misunderstood. They are not so “terrible” at two. They are sometimes terrific. They eat the same 5 foods which makes grocery shopping and prepping easier. Language starts to blossom, but they don’t often yell embarassing things in public. They are learning and still helpless in some ways because communicating is a struggle. But let’s talk about the threenagers. Where do I begin? They are not exacty “terrible” and can be fabulous. Here’s my take on threenagers.
How do you know that you’re living with a threenager? What can you do to help them and yourselves navigate a wonderful yet trying year?
The not so fabulous part:
- They wake up at 6 am regardless of the time they go to bed. Seriously? They can go to bed at 2 am and they will still wake at 6am and act like they slept for 12 hours. Three year olds need about 11 hours of sleep (+1 nap) each day. A bedtime routine helps because routines create security for these little people. The stability of a bedtime plan, whatever it may be for your family, will benefit you in the end. Even if it takes time to get there. Try a picture chart with simple prompts. If you cannot keep your toddler in bed call us! I just walked mine back to bed 45 times last night. Forty. Five. Times. We can both visit our in office psychologist Dr. Dalton for some help! (Dr. Dalton can help with all kinds of toddler behavior like picky eating, tantrums, potty training, biting.)
- They need to have their sock seams lined up perfectly along their toes. They want to wear the same thing repeatedly. Choose your battles. As long as they are warm enough, appropriate and have an entire outfit on, let them wear what they want. This can instill confidence. It can make mornings much easier for everyone. Sure there are times when parents need to choose the outfit. That is not the case on most days. Give up on that struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I do like when all of my kids have clean faces, brushed hair and clean clothes. The truth is, it never lasts long. Try your best. Be realistic about what makes kids comfortable and happy.
- They complain about nearly everything. The wrong color cup, the sleeve is too long, the sleeve is too short. Their legs hurt. Their tummy hurts. Their hair hurts. They aren’t there yet. They aren’t tired. They aren’t hungry. The cheerio broke. The key is to acknowledge their emotions, don’t cater to their every whimper and pick your battles as they say. When kids are frustrated, sad, tired, hungry, confused, they just want to be validated. You can probably relate as all humans just want to be heard. So listening is not giving in. Listening may soften their mood just enough to calm them even more. When they are calmer, you can teach them about the situation, expectations and acceptable behavior. This is no easy task. If you get halfway there, you are succeeding. I often only get halfway there.
The fabulous part:
- They are curious. They ask a lot of questions. So much excites them especially if they see that it excites you! If you are stuck with a fussy toddler, bring them outside and explore new things. Better yet, act excited and bring new things to them like a new storybook, a new toy or a new song.
- They are brutally honest. My three year old walked through the supermarket today and as we passed every MIDDLE aged man, he said, “ Mom! He’s an old grandpa!” in his best, squeaky voice. Of course I replied in my best loud voice, “he doesn’t look old.” To which he replied, “Yes he does! He looks like an old grandpa!” And although I was embarassed, I recognize his innocence. They see the world from a different perspective. A really cool one. One that is not tainted by greed, jealousy, negative energy. Toddlers are curious and accepting of what they discover. It may mortify you, but respect the innocence.
- They are creative. They are so proud of their artwork, their towers and their forts. My three year old brought home a “watercolor” entitled, “My Favorite Colors” from preschool yesterday. It had not one colorful mark on it. Dark gray, light gray, black and a sort of muddy green color. He was proud of of it and so was his Mommy. It is not necessary to praise every piece of artwork, every high test score, every star they received for good behavior. Just praise the ones that will really build them up. After all, we build them up so that they can one day build themselves up when we are not there. Confidence is necessary for the many successes we imagine for our children.
Some say that threenagers are stubborn. I like to decribe them as insistent. If you give them two choices, they will insist on a third. If you firmly state that TV time is over, they will insist on watching “just one more”. While this can be irritating for us, lets view it was our toddlers being confident enough to insist. They are being active not passive, yes? This is not a green light to praise them for this, but rather a time for you to practice your positive discipline skills. The “kind and firm” approach where you reiterate that TV time is limited. Engage them in the next activity. Assure them that they can have another show on another day (no concept of time at three!) Usually this ends with a “tank you mom.”
They can say things with a certain expression, in a certain voice, with eyes looking up at you, that can make you feel like your heart is just melting. The best kind of melting. The one that is not describable. The one that makes all of the “line up my sock!” arguments worth it.
Love your threenagers.
Parenting is wonderful and challenging. I was having a conversation about parenting recently. The person suggested, that when you are in the middle of the chaos, ask yourself, “are you doing the best that you can right at this moment?” This is golden. We usually are. It’s just reminding ourselves is a hard thing to do. Especially when we are busy telling our toddlers, “don’t eat paper”, “don’t pick up your sister by the neck”, “stop picking your nose and wiping it on me”, “don’t pee on other people’s pumpkins”.
It’s a September “almost Fall” Saturday. I decide to take four kids to the apple orchard. Solo. With two toddlers who had not napped. One of whom hates everything: the carseat, mornings, nights, days, diaper changes, clothes, naps, black, white, colors, being held, being put down, sleeping alone, sleeping in my bed. But everyone had clothes on (and shoes) and no one was bickering so to the farm we go! “Fresh air will make them happy” I thought. And it did. Eventually.
So I drive to the farm singing “the itsy bitsy spider” in my 12 passenger van, freshly vacuumed with no goldfish on the floor. On the way, my 8 year old comments that she hopes it drizzles just enough for her to smell the rain. My little nature lover. Then she starts to argue with my 6 year old. The 8 yo yells from the back of the van, “Ma! Can you imagine what she will be like as a teenager?” and just as the nausea hit me, I was about to say something motherly like, “she’s a strong willed girl”, the 6 yo shouts out and starts crying, “Mom! I dropped my mascara!” There’s my answer. In that moment I realized how different they really are. How different all of our kids are. There are no two of them who have had the exact same experiences living in this world. Perspective is a beautiful thing. They each have their own. They each have their loves and their hates. So the first piece of advice is to recognize this. Individuality is a great thing.
I drive on and I hear, “he loves me. he loves me not.” from both of them although not in sync. There goes the clean floor. Yes, yellow flower petals all over the car before I can even say, “respect the car” in my best motherly voice. We all have one. It’s the voice you use when you are teaching them, attempting to stay calm and remembering the parenting book you read diligently when you were pregnant with the first kid. Stay calm. Be kind.
We arrive and I get everyone across the hopping parking lot alive. My oldest reminds me that I should have brought the double stroller so I don’t lose the littles. This is true.
We start out at the goats. We can’t feed them because I don’t have any quarters. Oh the drama. I tell them to just enjoy watching the goats be goatlike. whatever mom.
Next, we go play to the play area. The bigs run to this big plastic tube which they happily swing on. There’s a brave dad pushing it with about 10 giggling kids. The mom beside me holding her 2yo says to her toddler, ”no honey you are too little for that.” In my mind I’m thinking, “whatever. it’s only 2 feet off the ground. my fearless toddler will be fine.” I lift her up to sit in front of sissy. Not even 10 seconds later, I see them fall off the side in slow motion and the baby’s leg gets stuck under the tube. Really? The little starts screaming. The big starts panicking, “free my sister!” I run over with a few others and we lift the plastic tube. I sit down and calm them, anxiously waiting to see if the baby can walk on her leg. She’s more bothered because her shoe got dirty. She limps a few steps and then runs full force ahead to the hay stacks. Whew. No ER visit. I’m doing the best that I can. Next piece of advice, if it can happen, it probably will happen. Risky play can be valuable for our children. It teaches them confidence. Just be mindful of that light tap on your shoulder and why it is there.
Three potty breaks later, after our bellies are filled with donuts and cider slushies and a few more arguments transpire, I try to get the dreaded photo. The one where they are all looking in the same direction. Imagine one kid mad jumping off of the wheel barrel. Another crying in the wheel barrel. The littles in the wheel barrel looking away with the baby over the other’s shoulder. Dress over her head. Marker streaked legs with only a diaper view. A wet diaper with the green stripe. Really? It’s a no go.
Lastly, we are ready to ride the cow train pulled by a tractor. Woohoo! I squeeze myself into a metal cow named Bessie, place the baby on my lap and buckle us in seeing as we already had one injury today. As I’m waiting a mom in front of me asks how many kids I have. Then she screams to her husband in the 2nd cow, “See honey, she has four and she’s still smiling!” I’m smiling because I’m about to relax in fresh air for 9 full, glorious minutes while my kids are buckled into cows and can’t get out. Advice: pay for that cow ride. Find the relaxation wherever you can.
It’s my favorite time of day. 5 pm. Cool and comfortable in the mountains. I gently wrestle the baby into the carseat as she turns all shades of red. We head home singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and I realize that I have to feed them again. Already? Make a meal. Serve a meal. Clean up a meal. Repeat. Do I even have meat defrosted? Do I have a green veggie for a side? That well balanced meal will have to wait. Cereal it is. And that is OK, Because I’m doing the best that I can and you are too. If our children are mostly happy, loved and love others, and have meaningful, healthy experiences, we are doing OK.
I thought of beginning this blog with a story of a child or teen who had been bullied. As I researched online, I was overwhelmed by the faces of these beautiful children and teens, many of whom commited suicide. I realized I could have named this blog “cyberbullying” as much of bullying involves social media. As physicians, we are indirectly witnesses to bullying often. We are aware that much of the bullying is kept secret as it creates embarassment for those being bullied and those who bully. We see how traumatic it can be for these children and their families. We long to help these kids and yet we feel helpless at times. So we educate. We communicate that it is OK to talk about bullying. We remain sensitive to it and the pain it causes.
Approximately, 20 % of children are bullied. This does not include those who do not admit to being bullied. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. Cyberbullying invloves chat rooms, email, social media sites and texts. Regardless of the type, it can be just as damaging to a child’s self-esteem. It can be the source of depression which in turn can lead to suicidal thoughts/ behaviors and unfortunately death by suicide.
Kids and teens who are depressed may seem sad or have sleeping or eating issues. They can seem angry. Bullied kids can exhibit risky behaviors, start using drugs/ alcohol or start cutting. They can be withdrawn and lose interest in things that would normally find them joy. If they are suicidal, you may see an abnormal interest in death They may start giving possessions away. They may seem overwhelmed, commenting that things would be better without them. Anxiety can surface. School avoidance is common as well.
Who is at risk for being a bully?
-those who experience a tumultous home environment
-violence in the home
-kids with low self-esteem
Who is at risk for being bullied?
-those who have conflicts with peers
-those with low self-esteem
-those who are perceived as “different”
What can we do?
-First, recognize any changes in your children/teens and take them seriously. Talk to your school counselor, principal or pediatrician immediately.
-Next, make sure all weapons and medications are unavailable.
-Keep the lines of communication open with your children and get them into psychotherapy if needed.
-Raise your children to be kind and thoughtful. Teach them to intervene if they see someone being treated unfairly. This is one of the proven interventions which can decrease bullying.
-In extreme situations, law enforcement may be needed
Call us if you need guidance.
This is one of the most common questions pediatricians are asked each day in practice (along with “how can i get my kiddo to sleep through the night?”). School absences can be difficult for caregivers due to childcare issues and missed workdays, troubling for school officials and can cause children to fall behind in extreme cases. My advice to my patients sometimes includes, “use your mommy or daddy judgement” because you know your child better than anyone. Other times, it is streamlined alongside the recommendations of our infectious disease colleagues.
The Common Cold
-no fever for 24 hours provided your child is acting normally and is not having difficulty breathing
-it is OK to go to school with cold symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, sore throat unless you feel like your child needs to rest (or snuggle)
-tidbit: yellow and/or green and/or glowing yellow-green nasal drainage does not always mean an antibiotic is necessary, our decision to prescribe an antibiotic (to treat only bacterial infections) is based more on length of symptoms and/or worsening symptoms
-need to be on antibiotics for 24 hours (remember that not all eyes that are red = “pink eye” so always have your child examined by a physician), pink eye can be caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies or chemicals, it does not always require antibiotics (only the bacterial kind)
Strep Pharyngitis or Strep Tonsillitis
-free of fever AND on antibiotics for at least 24 hours (although there have been some recent articles suggesting less than 24 hours may be sufficient, no official change to the recommendation as of yet)
-despite the “no nit” policies at many schools, the recommendation is to stay out of school just until all live lice are gone (always recheck for at least 1 week for newly hatched lice, retreat if necessary)
-once treatment has started even if itching and lesions are still present
-once treatment has started, keep lesions covered with a bandaid
-return to school after all lesions have crusted over AND there are no new lesions for 48 hours
-always consider what the fever is from and how your child feels, but the general rule is fever free for 24 hours
\Vomiting and/or diarrhea
-if fever is present? no fever for 24 hours
-vomiting? no vomit for 24 hours
-diarrhea? no diarrhea for 24 hours
Hand Foot Mouth (Coxsackie Virus)
-no fever and when blisters are dried up
-feeling well enough and drinking enough to be at school for a given time
-tidbit: fever = 100.4, your temperature varies throughout the day and so 99 degrees in a child who is usually 98 degrees does not constitute a fever because it is likely a normal variation
-tidbit: fever is caused by infection. if you treat it with Ibuprofen (Motrin) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol), it will likely return if the infection itself is not treated / if the infection is still active in one’s body.
So the magic number is 24, however, the most important thing to remember is to listen to your child, decipher what is reality and what is drama and have a low threshold for bringing them in to see us. Similar to well check ups, while we examine your child we are looking for specific findings to rule out (or rule in) certain dieases, some of which can have lasting effects if not treated.
Please come in and get your kids vaccinated against the flu this September! Watch our website and our new facebook page “Hendersonville Pediatrics” for announcements.
Stay tuned for my next blogs on bullying and common rashes!
As long as it is an open conversation, it really doesn’t matter who begins it. Often times I am the one who delicately brings up “the talk” at tween/teen well checkups. I understand that it can be an uncomfortable topic for parents and kids, but I do think that the more we move away from it, the more our children will develop a shameful attitude towards their bodies. My 8 year old asked me how she got her blue eyes. I answered something along the lines of love and beauty. “Whew, dodged that one” or so I thought. She followed with, “but how did the genes actually get together?” Glaring up at me waiting for the answer, I could see her curiosity beaming. I had a decision to make… repeat myself using other words that mean the same thing or have “the talk” (or tell her to go ask daddy). Then I had to decide how much of the talk to have. What words do I use? How much do I tell her? Is she too young? What if her friends explain things to her before I do? These are common questions we all have as parents. In the very beginning we see our babies exploring their bodies, our toddlers running around naked, our preschool kids asking questions or playing doctor, our school age kids wondering about where babies come from. This blog is for you - the parent who may be uncomfortable, confused or just needs a little guidance to approach these topics in a healthy and helpful way.
Babies touch their genitals as early as in the womb. They explore their bodies as infants and toddlers. As if having a toddler is not challenging enough, we now have to talk about poop, pee and body parts in addition to poop, pee and why we don’t eat erasers. When they reach toddlerhood, they often prefer to be unclothed which is a healthy part of development. Allowing them to do this at home is ok. Just teach them about “privates” and not being naked in public or around anyone else except immediate family. When approaching the topic of nudity or other areas of sexuality, be casual. Take it seriously, but remain lighthearted. Never laugh at your child when they ask questions about their bodies. Never get angry with them. Use the proper words for body parts. The kids often change these up so don’t be surprised if they yell something about their “jyna” in a public place.
Here’s an scenario: your 3 year old just got out of the bath and is watching cartoons on the couch. He/she is naked and starts touching their private area. Do you bring attention to it or do you ignore it? At that age I would probably just casually redirect them. An older child? I would explain that it is ok to touch their body, but only in the privacy of their room or bathroom. This is a good time to explain how no one else is to touch their bodies unless parents are helping to clean them or a doctor is checking them (always with a parent present).
Another scenario: you walk into the playroom to find your young child and her male friend playing doctor. Should you yell? Should you send the friend home? Ignore it? I would recommend that you calmly explain that it is normal to be curious about the opposite sex. Then tell them it is not ok to touch or look at someone else’s privates. Don’t make it a big deal. Don’t act too surprised. If you are really brave, ask them if they have any questions. Then simply move on to the next uncomfortable moment.
Third scenario: your 10 yo asks you where babies come from (or in my case my 8 yo asks about her genes). Your 10 yo does not have period yet and has just recently started puberty. Do you …
- tell her to go ask the other parent :)
- tell her to google it
- explain sex in a calm, nurturing, simple way
- tell her she’s too young to know
When in doubt, pick C! It is OK to have this conversation anytime depending on your child’s emotional and physical maturity. I personally believe that if a female has a period then they should know that they can become pregnant and how. (i have encountered some teens who have no idea why they get a period other than “I’m becoming a woman”) Be honest. If they get too anxious you can always explain it over time. You know your child better than anyone. You will know when “the talk” needs to occur.
Scenario: Your 16 yo son has recently started a relationship with a friend in school. You find condoms in his closet while you are “cleaning”. Which of the following is a healthy way to approach this situation?
- punish him by taking away his car
- taking him to his favorite restaurant and casually discussing risky behaviors, respecting others and himself, safe sex
- call the girl’s parents
- research monasteries
It’s not always C…this time it is B. Keep it simple, positive and informative. Let him know that you are available for questions and support. Remember that your pediatrician can also help you navigate these conversations. We do it all. day. long. For me, it’s never presented in the same exact way twice. My drawings vary:) My approach is tailored towards the age of the patient, the maturity of the patient and the wishes of the parent(s). But we are helping you to raise strong adults and this is an important part of it.