Parenting: Q & A

Q: My daughter can’t sleep without her dummy, how can I break this habit?

My LG (little girl) is 6 months old and when she was 4 months I introduced the dummy. Now at night she wakes up every time it falls out of her mouth. I get up about 6 times to put it back.  Please help with advice to stop this habit. I have tried letting her cry, but she just cries and cries and wakes up my 3-year-old.

A: She is too small to take the dummy away now.  You should not have introduced it to her two months ago. You can either pin the dummy to her clothing with a short chain so that it's always close by, and every time she wakes, take her hand and let her feel where it is.  When my girl was little I used to have an extra dummy in the cot next to her face and also one next to my bed.

Q: How do I tell my 2-year-old that her father is not part of her life?

My LG is aged two and she doesn't know her biological father. Lately she always says "daddy this and daddy that".  If I ask her who bought her clothes she'll say it's her dad.  At first she used to say it's mommy, but now everything is daddy. How do I tell her that daddy is not part our lives. I am very confused and sometimes I get so mad because he doesn't even come to see her, I also feel sorry for her.

A: If she goes to crèche she probably hears her friends saying DADDY, and sees them being collected by their Daddies. Don't get angry because she is acknowledging him even though he doesn't contribute mentally, emotionally or financially to her life. She doesn't understand all that, and will probably ask some very difficult questions in the future. This must be very hard for you as you have conflicting emotions about this issue. Just forgive him as it will make you feel better - he is the one that is missing out big time you are the blessed one! He is going to realise that when it is way too late.

Q: How do I prepare my toddler for her sibling on the way?

I am 28 weeks pregnant with a boy. I want to prepare my 22-month-old daughter for her brother's arrival in a couple of weeks. I have all these questions: should I take her with to hospital when baby comes; should she go to school when mommy and baby come home, or should daddy bring her along to pick us up from the hospital?

How will I deal with breastfeeding? What will I say to her when she sees brother drinking from mommy, what if she also wants to?

I'm sure these are normal questions I'm just so scared that she will feel left out and not loved. I know most kids go through that, but I want her to feel that she is still important in our and her world, and that the baby is not replacing her.

A:  I was in exactly the same situation, my girl had her second birthday two weeks after her brother was born.
We put in a lot of effort to prepare her for the arrival of  her baby brother. And let her feel my stomach, etc. We took her with to all the gynae visits so that she could see her baby brother. And her father brought her with when they came to fetch us from the hospital. For me it was important that she understood exactly what is going on. Explain to her that you are going to breastfeed; you did the same for her when she was a baby, but she is a big girl now. 

For me the most important thing is that everyone makes such a big fuss over the baby, it stays important to not let her feel left out. Especially when other people meet the baby or pay attention to the baby, ask them just to give her some attention as well.

And I also allowed her to hold his hand, and hug him, etc from early on, although it was stressful as she did not completely understand she must work softly, she liked showing attention.  I also involved her a lot. In the morning, she will pick out clothes for her brother, if I change her diaper, then I will ask her to fetch a clean one, or hand me wipes, etc. It is hard work to have them so close together, but it will be worth it in the end.

Q: My toddler joins us in our bed every morning, how do I break this habit?

My 18 month toddler has decided he wants to join us in our bed, which I didn't mind in the beginning, but now it's been two weeks and he wakes up on time (between 12 and 1am) and calls me so I can pick him up out of his cot (which is in my room). I seriously don't have the energy to lull him back to sleep so I simply pop him in my bed. I know it's a bad habit - does anyone have any advice on how I can break this habit I have created.

A:  This is a very common issue, and I believe quite normal behaviour for kiddies his age. Find out if he's okay first, and if everything is fine, then you need to give him some tough love if you don't want to continue with this habit. Good old fashioned crying-it-out, I'm afraid, and a little patience, and soon he'll be back to normal. The problem is kids are too clever, let it happen more than once and they will try their luck as much as they can. If you don't want him in your bed, don't be tempted to take him there, end of story. A few nights of effort, and he'll be back on track.

Q: My 12-year-old thinks he is ready to have a girlfriend, what should I do?

My 12-year-old son is at a point in his life that he thinks he is old enough to have a girlfriend or 2. His dad and I have spoken to him and told him that his time will come for him to have a girl friend. That it's normal to be attracted to girls but, at his age, he should focus on school so that he can make something out of himself when he is older. Please give some advice.

A: Have you asked him why he wants a girlfriend? He is quite young, but his idea of what a girlfriend is might be very different from yours so first understand what he means.

Forbidding a girlfriend him will only make him rebellious. Rather talk to him about relationships, having respect for yourself and others, appropriate ways of interacting with girls etc.

Encourage him to do things with friends in groups, rather than just him and a girlfriend. Model the behaviour you would like him to copy. My parents always told me exactly what you said; first concentrate on studies etc. I didn't rebel, but in conjunction with other factors this meant that I acquired my first boyfriend at the ripe old age of 33, married him too.

While relationships can cause a lot of heartache and distraction for teens, it can also be a positive and beautiful thing in their lives. Whatever you do, don't alienate your son. It's better that he feels happy to bring a girlfriend home to you than if he sneaks around behind your backs because you don't approve.

Q: My 4-year-old does not listen to me, how can I discipline him?

How can I get my 4 year old to listen to me when I say NO to whatever he is doing wrong/  He will burst into tears and I will end up giving him a hiding or pinch him, but I don't want to do any of those punishments to him.  Even if I try to punish him and tell him to go to sleep he will tell me no. What can I do?

A: The thing is that kids are  way more intelligent than we give them credit for.  He totally understands what's going on, he knows what's right and wrong in terms of misbehaving, he knows what he can get away with and what not, and he knows what your soft spots are, and how to push your buttons. You need to be consistent with whatever you do. End of story. You must decide on a plan of action, and what behaviour warrants what discipline, and then you must enforce it every single time. He will eventually get the point. My LG is still very small, but from what I gather from the other mommies, time out works well, and so does a star chart. But also, I believe his behaviour is pretty much on par for his age.  And no pinching, please.

Q: What do you do when your child needs to use a public toilet?

What do you do when your little ones, who are just potty-trained, need to go to the toilet in public places? Do you just put on a nappy for the time not at home?  I don't want my little girl to sit on public toilets at this stage. About 20 years ago, I bought disposable toilet seat-covers at clicks, but can't find something like that now in the shops.

A: I bought disposable toilet seat covers at Dischem and I use that hygienic spray as well.

Q: My daughter is 8 years old, should I let her bath herself?

I'm a father of an eight-year-old girl who is in grade 3. She has to get up very early to get ready for school, around 5:20am to be specific, as her pick comes around 6am. I always bath her and get her ready for school, and thereafter make her breakfast and lunch box. Now my question is that I've heard people saying all I`m doing is teaching her to be dependent on me. They argue that at eight she should be washing herself. In the evenings I let her wash herself, but if I were to do that we`d be forever late in the morning. What is the right way to go about it here?

A: You are doing a superb job. Don't let anyone tell you that you're doing anything wrong, because you're not. If she baths at night, she doesn't have to bath again in the morning - just washing her face and brushing her teeth should do the trick. Once she gets older, and is more aware of her body, she can then decide if she wants to bath again in the morning. All women are different like that.

Although I applaud you for bathing her, let her take control of this. Let her bath herself, not for any reason accept that this is a responsibility that women need to learn from a young age - personal hygiene. I personally think she should eat cereal at home before she goes to school in the mornings, that way you know she's getting a good start. If she wakes up at 5:30, washes her face and dresses herself in 15 minutes, she can be ready for breakfast by 5:45, and ready to go by 6. 

Also, why don't you make her sandwiches for lunch in the evenings already? And then let her pack her lunchbox herself in the mornings - that way you still making her food for her, but you're teaching her to ensure she takes it every day, and you're also saving yourself a few minutes in the morning that you could be sitting with her and both eating cereal together, just a suggestion. As parents we always want to do as much as possible for our kiddies, and by the sounds of things, you're doing great. Keep it up.

Q: My 13-year-old shaved her legs, she nicked them and is embarrassed to wear sort skirts. How can I help her?

My daughter, aged 13, wants to shave her legs. We went out bought razors for woman and all the creams and lotions.  She tried it and ended up with a lot of small nicks on her legs. Now she is all embarrassed to wear her shorts or skirts.  I'm a single father, is there any way I can teach how to shave her leg with cutting herself?

A:  Unfortunately there is no secret to a perfect shave (unless I haven't learnt it yet). Till this day I have "war scars" on my legs from shaving. How I do it is, always shave in one direction. My hair grows in different directions at different parts of my legs, but that's way too much trouble to shave in each direction.

Keep it simple - start from the ankle upwards long strokes - one stroke rinse, another stroke rinse. If I don't rinse in between each stroke, I find myself shaving faster than I need to - weird, I know. When you get to the knee you can either make the leg very straight so that the knee is in line with the leg, or then shave straight over it slowly. The skin over the knee wrinkles, which can cause the blade to catch the skin. Otherwise, bend the knee completely till the skin over the knee is smooth, then shave very slowly over the knee while it's bent. Also don't buy the cheapies; they just don't work as well as the slightly more expensive razors.

Q: My 13-year-old daughter got her period, what is best for her to use pads/tampons?

My daughter woke up this morning and she had started her periods. Lucky her friend was staying over for the weekend and has given her a few pads to see her through. I'm a single father, what is the best for her to use pads or tampons?

A: I have a teen and she uses Teen Maxi. Ask her if she wants to go and shop by herself, if you should come with, if she wants to go with an adult female friend maybe? Then you need to tell her that sometimes blood gets onto your clothes or bedding and this is nothing to worry about. Just wash it with some cold water and sunlight soap. If you feel uncomfortable about it, get a good (adult) friend to talk to your daughter. Don't leave this important part of her growing up to peers. You might also want to get a good book on the subject and educate yourself. There is so much wrong information out there. Good luck!

Q: How should I approach the sex talk with my son?

Any advice on how to tell my son of 8 about sex - this morning he was trying to get me to kiss my hand open mouthed, then put my hand on my breasts.  He appears to know far more than I anticipated he has seen more than he should have and I need to guide him and quickly before curiosity gets the better of him. He doesn't talk to us but I have noticed this before - last week he had a female friend over and I'm sure they had their underwear off and looking at each other. I was shocked to say the least - did not react just said that's not appropriate behaviour.

A: My daughter is 8 and I have recently started working through a book on the subject with her. Look in your local library or bookshop; there are many books that explain everything in age appropriate language and with pictures. The most important thing is to communicate your values around sex... respect for yourself and for other people.  And the exploring business at this age is normal - just teach him the boundaries.

Q: At what age can I have my daughter's ears pierced?

I need some advice - what age is the best to have my baby's ears pierced?

A: It's a personal preference. I prefer to let my LG wait until she is (much) older and tell me she wants it done. Each to their own.

(Health24, April 2011)


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