Dissuading your preschooler from lying

by Maxine
Posted December 20 2010 11:06am
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Preschoolers are notorious for "stretching the truth." They are not being defiant, they are not being bad - they are being preschoolers and they'll grow out of this stage once they understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

Parents often worry when their young children don't tell the truth, concerned that this behaviour somehow reflects on their child's character. Relax! Preschoolers are notorious for "stretching the truth." They are not being defiant, they are not being bad - but they are being preschoolers. And they will gradually grow out of this stage once they come to understand the difference between fantasy and reality, and begin to develop a sense of right and wrong. 

As a parent, it's important to see lies for what they are, and to treat them not as signs of trouble, but rather as opportunities to teach. Telling the truth is something that children gradually learn over the years, not something they know how to do from birth.

Here are some "teaching moments" that you can use to encourage your child to tell the truth.

Whenever possible, help your child understand the difference between truth and fantasy. For example, "I can see that you can make up great stories. We should write them down and make a book out of them."

Show your child that you understand that some lies are wishes. If your child says that he didn't break the window, when you know he did, gently acknowledge "I know that you wish it didn't happen, and I'm sure that you didn't mean to break the window, but you did break it."

Focus on finding a solution instead of simply laying blame. "Now that the window is broken, what are we going to do about it?"

Explain why telling the truth is important to you. "When people tell the truth, it helps us to trust them." Ask your child how she would feel if someone told her something that wasn't true. Stating family values and explaining the reasons for them helps children come to adopt these values over time.

Notice the times when your child does tell the truth, especially when you know it must have been difficult for her to do so, and let her know how pleased you are that she was honest. Children at this age desperately want to please their parents, and lies are often told to avoid upsetting their parents. If your child learns that truth pleases you more than the broken vase annoys you, the truth will win out.

Finally, try to set a good example. That 'little white lie' you told when the phone rang and you whispered "Tell him I'm not here," can seem awfully confusing to a young child who has just been told by you that lying is wrong.

Remember, helping children to be truthful is something that will happen over time, not all at once. So, be patient. Take it in stride when he lies, and treat each new situation as an opportunity to teach your child in a calm and constructive manner.

What do you do to dissuade your preschooler from lying? Have you tried any of our strategies? How did they work for you? Leave a comment below and share your story.


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Preschoolers and learning to empathize

by Maxine
Posted December 22 2010 06:37pm
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The ability for a preschool child to sympathize and empathize with others is influenced by a child's experiences - how she is treated by those around her, world events that she may hear about, and by the behaviour she observes toward others. A simple definition of empathy is the ability to recognize the emotions that another person is experiencing. Sympathy builds from empathy as a person will be moved to show concern or sadness in response to someone's emotional state. 

For example, following many world disasters we often hear about young children demonstrating in many touching ways their capacity to empathize and sympathize with others in need.

As this capacity develops in your child, you may find your child:

  1. Asks more questions about how certain events or experiences make others feel. 
  2. Asks you specifically how certain things make you feel. 
  3. Begins to make some conclusions about how others might feel in certain situations. 
  4. Begins to show both empathic and sympathetic behaviours during pretend play with a doll or playmate, e.g., says "Don't cry baby. Mommy will make it better." 
  5. Begins to comfort and express concern for another individual. 

Such behaviours are to be celebrated in children. This capacity is fundamental if we want our children to be caring, respectful and generous individuals. While recent world disasters have brought to our attention to warm-hearted examples of preschoolers who have created pictures to raise money for other children, parents need to be aware how this growing ability influences the different areas of a child's immediate world. The ability to empathize and sympathize affects:

  • A child's interactions and reactions to others 
  • A child's belief about his /her ability to make a change on someone's behalf 
  • A child's network of relationships 
  • A child's current and future personality 

Our ability as parents to support the development of this capacity is profound. Parents, who show sensitivity and responsiveness to their infants' and toddlers' needs, have preschoolers who are more secure and pro-social in their relationships with other children. Here are some other parenting behaviours that contribute to building a child's capacity for empathy and sympathy:

  • Talk to children about how their behaviour makes other children feel, e.g., if a child hurts another child. Offer suggestions how to rectify the emotional situation; 
  • Model caring behaviour toward others so that children can see how it makes other people feel; 
  • Take time to discuss emotions and feelings associated with problems or situations; and 
  • Take every opportunity to let children know they have the power to make another individual happy by showing them an act of kindness. 


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Coping With and Preventing Nightmares

by Maxine
Posted September 5 2011 03:05pm
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When your child is screaming and crying in fright it can break your heart. All you want to do is comfort and soothe her, but the best way to handle the situation will depend on whether she’s having a nightmare or night terror. So how do you cope and how do you keep this from happening in the first place?

It can seem like nightmares and night terrors come out of nowhere, but both are more likely to happen when your child is under emotional stress. This can include teething, starting daycare, having a new baby brother or sister, going on a sleepover or having a new babysitter. Sometimes scary TV shows or movies can set the stage for a night terror or nightmare. If your child has a tendency to have nightmares or night terrors, or is under some emotional stress, here are some steps you can take to prevent them:

  • Spend some extra quality time with your child during the day.
  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep and keeps a regular bedtime.
  • Don’t allow your child to become over-tired.
  • Make an effort to keep noise, activity and light levels low near bedtime.
  • Help your child draw pictures or write a story about their dream and develop a happy ending
  • Avoid making fun of or shaming your child about her fears, her fear is very real to her.

"When your child wakes up from a nightmare, it’s important to provide comfort," says Karon Foster, a Registered Nurse and Parenting Expert. "Reassure her that it was only a dream and not real. Stay with her until she goes back to sleep and flip on a nightlight if it makes her feel better. Don’t ignore your child’s fears, but don’t get upset about them either. This can make the child even more afraid."

The next day, take some time to talk to your child about problems or worries that she might have. This is a great time for hugs and reassurances that she’s safe and loved. Also, take a look at your bedtime routine and make sure it’s calming with no scary stories or TV. Look for a soothing story and enjoy that together before bed.

Our experts have created a list of ideas to help you prevent nightmares:

  • Make stories and quiet songs part of your bedtime routine, but make sure the topics are not scary.
  • If your child is afraid of monsters, try talking to him about how to solve that problem. Together with your child, jointly inspect under the bed and in the closet to make sure there are no monsters present.
  • Let your child sleep with a night light and the door open as wide as she wants.
  • Always tell your child you're right down the hall, and will make sure that he is safe all night long.
  • Be sure your child has his special blanket or stuffed toy with him to help him return to sleep.

If nightmares or night terrors happen regularly and are affecting your child’s sleep, be sure to talk to your health care provider about this.

Here is more on nightmares and night terrors

Have you dealt with nightmares? How did you cope? What helped? Share your stories with other parents in the comment section below.

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Managing Your Picky Eating Preschooler

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 10:10pm
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Some children are picky eaters. They don’t like broccoli just because its green or they don’t like mushrooms because they’re mushy. Here are some suggestions for improving your child's eating habits.

First of all, don't call your child a "picky eater," or he may become one forever. Children's eating habits can develop and change for a lot of reasons. Their tastes are naturally evolving.

Have a wide variety of healthy foods available, recognizing that children do have different tastes.

Set a good example by following healthy eating habits yourself, including having a good breakfast. If your child won't eat breakfast, make sure she has nutritious, high-energy snacks for getting to and from daycare or school.

Provide a variety of foods rich in calcium, not just milk. Include foods such as calcium-fortified orange juice, cheese, yogurt or calcium-fortified soy milk. Some children dislike milk.

Try to involve your child in planning, shopping for and preparing meals. Even two- and three-year olds can do this in a simple way.

Allow your child to help you make his favourite meals from time to time, even if it's not something you really enjoy.

Try not to make mealtime a battleground by nagging, threatening or arguing about your child's eating.

Try not to criticize your child's choices, or say that some foods are "bad." Instead, make sure that the foods offered are all healthy choices. Be creative.

Be patient. Your child's tastes in food will continue to change.

If, however, you feel that your child's eating habits are making her unhealthy, consult your child's physician.

Is your preschooler a picky eater? How do you get her to eat healthy? Leave a comment below and tell us about the experiences you’ve had.

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