Getting Ready to Go…and Sibling Rivalry

Posted March 20, 2009

Hi Kitty,

I have two questions:

1) I need tips on how to dial down 'competitiveness.' My son, age 6yrs, speaks and asks questions often about 'the best', the 'fastest' and now has engaged his 3yr old brother in the same speak. My husband, with fun in mind, has at times spoken about going to play and 'racing' (ie. bikes, snowsledding etc) which he has now stopped, realizing that our son responds too well to the challenge.

Both my husband and I have repeatedly said 'this is not a competition' when the boys race to 'be first' whether it be brushing teeth, washing hands etc. Your suggestions are eagerly awaited!

2) Tips on how to engage a 6 yr old who seems to have difficulty listening/responding. We are trying to be patient, trying to let him 'finish' his task at hand, trying to give 'heads up' notices when wanting his attention to leave for school, appointments, lessons etc. however he seems to tune out our requests until we get to the point of exasperation and (to our discontent) raise our voices and lose our calm. Thanks in advance for your ideas/suggestions.

This type of competitiveness at this age and especially between siblings is usually very hard to tame.  It almost seems to be built in to the personality in some children.  Certainly you can be sure you do not participate or instigate it and you can make statements like you are already making, but those steps will probably not override the 'thrill' of a race to the toothbrush, the car door, the front door, etc.  I'm thinking that you may need to let go of thinking you should control this.  They will sort it out over time, and whoever loses most often will probably start declining to engage.
Regarding your son's slow pace in getting ready and lack of responsiveness, maybe a kitchen timer would do the trick. Establish a reward (sticker on a chart) when he "hears" the bell and responds appropriately and a consequence of some sort when he does not respond to the bell.  Maybe you could design a plan using poker chips that go into a jar (and out of the jar...) and accumulate (or not) toward the purchase of something at the end of the week.

Adding the timer takes the emotional part (and the power struggle) out of the equation.

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Filed under: Interesting Parenting Matters

Brushing Teeth

Posted March 1, 2009

Dear Kitty,

My son just turned one on Saturday, he has sixteen teeth already. We have a routine for brushing his teeth but he doesn't like it when I brush his teeth. He likes brushing his own teeth but as you can imagine, at one he doesn't do a proper job. I've tried several ways to make it a fun time, I've modeled brushing, given him a toothbrush to use, used children's toothpaste and tried singing songs but he still doesn't like it. When I try to put the toothbrush in his mouth he closes it tightly, cries and pushes my hand away. Should I get my husband to help restrain him while I get the toothbrush in his mouth or not worry about it since these are only his baby teeth? Since he got his teeth so early he doesn't understand reasoning (ie. If you don't brush your teeth, they will fall out and you won't be able to eat any food) but really should be getting his teeth clean. What do you suggest?

My feeling is that it's not worth it at this age to work too hard for the tooth brushing. Some magazine articles and some dental professionals may be quite concerned about early brushing, but in my opinion that approach is too obsessive. He is not yet old enough for us to be concerned with setting up good habits for the future.

I suggest that if he wants to brush his own teeth, let him do that and smile and respond positively and when he hands the brush back to you-- "done," you put it away. We need to allow him to playfully copy you when you brush, but then leave it at that.

Pieces of cheese to chew will clear the teeth nearly as well as brushing, so that's a good hint for when he has had anything sticky to eat like raisons.

Without any more power struggles now, you can plan to include brushing your teeth (modeling) as part of his bedtime routine. Make it look like fun and let him watch and eventually, with no pressure from you, he’ll probably want to pretend to be doing it too! Then you are on the way.

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Filed under: Discipline

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