Despite our best intentions, it’s not always easy to set the best example to our tots. So if you slip up – not eating your own veg or saying the odd naughty word – here’s how to deal with it.
Mistake 1: Mixing messages
Do you tell your kids to eat their vegetables, but refuse them yourself?
Annette, 28, mum to Hannah, 2, admits, “I’d preach no sweets before dinner, and then Hannah would catch me eating them myself!”
“This confuses children because they don’t know where they stand,” says Dr Nadja Reissland, developmental psychologist at the University of Durham.
“As humans, we do slip up,” says Elizabeth Pantley, parenting expert and author of The No-Cry Discipline Solution. “Don’t be afraid to say you made a mistake – your child can learn from this. But there are also times when it’s acceptable for adults to do things that children can’t, such as taking a drink into a room with a new carpet.”
Mistake 2: Dinnertable disasters
Toddler mealtimes can be a battleground – but, as parents, we can make things worse by making a mountain out of a molehill.
“Kids can seem fussy when really they’re just full,” says Elizabeth Pantley. “Their tummies are about the size of their fist, so they can’t take much in all at once. If a child is hungry, she’ll eat. When she has finished with her plate, calmly take it away. If food is rejected, have a fall-back of something basic like toast – and don’t worry, she probably won’t want it every night as it gets boring.”
Mistake 3: Bad sleep habits
If your toddler is waking up at night, it can become a vicious circle – the more tired you get, the less likely you are to implement any changes that will make a difference.
To tackle broken nights, Elizabeth Pantley suggests sticking to a calm bedtime routine. Then, if she does wake up, respond by tucking her back in, giving her her favourite toy and saying goodnight.
Mistake 4: Choosing their friends
You want to see your friend, but your children and hers seem to rub each other up the wrong way. Lucinda, 34, mum to Reece, 4, and Bonnie, 3, says, “When I arrange a play date for Bonnie, I take Reece along, too. But when the children all play football together, he’s stronger and faster and the other kids get upset.”
So what should you do? “If they don’t get on, they don’t get on,” says Dr Reissland. “But if the mum is a great friend, don’t let the children dictate who you see – just find ways for them to play together more nicely.
“Have them do their own thing in a group – such as constructing something with bricks or train tracks.
“On the plus side, children do learn a life lesson in these situations – that sometimes you have to get on with different people.”
Mistake 5: Saying ‘naughty’ words
All it takes is a slip of the tongue and your little angel is cursing like a sailor.
Yvonne, 33, mum to Barney, 5, and Matilda, 4, says, “My husband swore in front of the kids, and Barney, who was then 3, repeated it. Luckily, we weren’t anywhere embarrassing at the time but we’ve been careful not to let it happen again!”
“As parents, we’re on show all the time,” warns parent coach Judy Reith of Parenting People.
“Swearing demonstrates you were unable to control your anger,” adds Dr Reissland. “You want to show you can deal with an unpleasant situation without getting angry.” If you do let something slip out and your child picks up on it, apologise and use it as an opportunity to discuss how words can upset others.
Judy Reith adds, “Kids quickly cotton on that certain words get attention, so concentrate on the feeling behind the words – say, ‘It’s not nice to say that word because it hurts people’s feelings, but I said it because I am feeling very cross.’”