Louise Barrett Childcare

Q what should I do when my two-and-a-half-year-old won’t share her toys with our eight-month-old?

Sibling rivalry usually first happens when the younger child starts to crawl and puts their eye on the older child’s toys! As difficult as this situation may be to handle, having siblings teaches children important lessons about sharing and conflict resolution. It might be a good idea for your two-year-old to have some toys that she doesn’t need to share, particularly if there are some with small pieces or parts. These could be played with up high at the kitchen table or indeed, when the baby is sleeping. Always explain to your little girl that you understand how difficult it can be to share as this can be hard to accept when the baby has knocked over blocks she’s been very busy building with. At the same time, empathise with the baby who only wants to play and be closer to the much-loved older sister. Explain to your child that the baby just wants to be involved and doesn’t yet understand how ‘bigger girls’ play. Finally, and particularly when they’ve had time playing apart, find something they can do together, which will provide lots of fun and will take them one step closer to a friendship that will last forever.

Q When my two-year-old gets really angry and has a tantrum, she will bump her head against the wall. This is really upsetting to us and we usually end up just giving in and letting her have her way because we don’t want her to hurt herself. I’m worried we’re setting a bad precedent.

When children become frustrated and their minds outrace their ability to concentrate they can often engage in ‘head-banging’ as the sensory input they get from the banging feels better than the sensory overload they are experiencing. While it is important to stay close and ensure your child doesn’t hurt herself, try not to give the banging too much attention as your shocked or disapproving reaction might only make matters worse. At the same time, ensure you are giving your daughter lots of positive attention when the banging has stopped. Try saying that you love when she uses her words to talk with Mummy and Daddy and explain how she feels. Try not to worry too much as ‘head-banging’ is usually a self-regulating behaviour, in other words, a toddler will more often than not pull back before they seriously hurt themselves. Children who engage in ‘head-banging’ often have a deeper appreciation of music and rhythm. Develop your child’s interest in music by engaging her in marching, drumming and clapping and always ensure she gets lots of physical exercise throughout the day, which will help her control her energy levels.

Q My six-year-old son is very kind-hearted and generous, but unfortunately it is becoming a problem. He’s seen to be a bit of a pushover amongst his peers and I’m noticing them taking advantage of his kind nature. How do I teach my kid to stand up for himself without changing his considerate disposition?

When you’re six, making friends is a really important process as it leads us to broaden our horizons with the larger social circle that preschool and school brings. Your son will take huge pleasure in telling you, “he’s my friend, I like him.” He’ll also most likely believe any information his friends tell him, whether it’s the truth or not! The average six-year-old learns a lot from the feedback they get from their friends and these reactions play a significant role as their self-image develops. Therefore, if he is accepted by his peers, his self-confidence will grow and accordingly, if he’s ridiculed, it might plummet. In junior school, the desire to be accepted by our peers by any means can lead to unacceptable behaviour and this is why it’s really important to teach values and the difference between right and wrong at an early age. Children who are really keen to make friends can often be very soft-hearted, so it’s important to set some boundaries at an early age. Make it a house rule where your son can’t give away or lend any of his toys without Mum or Dad agreeing to it first. Also when you’ve a free afternoon or there’s a special occasion coming up, maybe make some treats for your son to bring to school to give to his friends as presents. As his confidence grows, so will his ability to make decisions that are good for everyone involved, which in turn will strengthen his friendships even more.

Q I started giving my two-year-old a biscuit once in a while when he would help me put away his toys. Now he expects a treat every time. How do I teach him that treats are not an everyday occurrence and that tidying up and chores are a part of life?

When our children are allowed to eat constantly throughout the day, it robs them of the chance to ever develop a proper appetite, which can create picky eating habits throughout the teen years.If children don’t come to the table at least a little hungry, they won’t be terribly keen to try new foods. Also vitally important is the fact that the more treats your little one eats, the less space or respect he’ll have for nutritious foods, which are essential for growth. Strive to create an environment where chores and tidying up are fun, do it to music or create a little song while you put things away. Create a star chart where Fridays are treat days, and only award the treat if all the jobs are completed every day. Sure your two-year-old will complain initially, but it’s important to stand firm on these matters. Habit forming in two-year-olds takes no more than two weeks, so take comfort in the fact that their objections shouldn’t last much longer than that!

Q My child has a severe nut allergy and is starting crèche in a few weeks. I will be providing the crèche with the necessary medication in case of an emergency, but I’m terrified that they’re not taking the condition seriously. He will be the only child in the crèche with such an allergy so I’m scared that the other children’s parents may not understand the danger. What can I do to ensure my child will be ok?

In a food allergy, the immune system reacts to a harmless food as if it was a threat and creates histamines and antibodies to fight it. The result of eating a food type that you are allergic to can be extremely serious so you are right to be dealing with this as thoroughly as you are. As parents, managing a child with allergies can be daunting, however, the thought of handing your child over to someone else to be cared for with this condition can be terrifying.
Most crèches will have some level of experience working with food allergic children. However you will need to ensure that the service is willing to work with you and learn what needs to be done to keep your child safe.
I would advise you to set up a meeting with the Crèche Manager in advance of your child starting and discuss the whole situation. Ask lots of questions including, is the entire crèche going to be NUT FREE or will it just be your child’s room? Does the crèche provide all foods for the children? Is the chef fully aware of this new child starting? Ask to see the policy, a standard policy would include factors such as making sure there is no food sharing, making sure all children wash their hands when arriving or after food, making sure the child is easily observable by a teacher during meal and snack times.
In my experience, the main area where accidents happen is during birthday parties where cakes and party food is brought in by parents. Even with the best intentions in the world, busy working parents can forget about the child with allergies. It is imperative to ensure the crèche has a stringent policy in place to manage this.
A conversation also needs to be had around what will happen if your child does ingest the food they are allergic to. Does the team have training on dealing with emergency situations, including the medication you will be providing such as EpiPens? You will need to outline exactly what your expectations are in an emergency situation.
Lastly, remember that your main goal is to teach your child to understand his condition himself. Within a few years; he will be in primary school and exposed to situations that will not be as highly monitored, so empowering him with his own tools to cope is the best gift you can give him. Remember, you are doing a great job and parenting is never easy.

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

There is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.