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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111

Parenting Q&A
12 Things Great Parents Do:

Avoid Disciplining Kids When They Are Hungry Or Tired

Loving our children comes naturally, but the art of parenting is a skill, and like any other skill it must be learned and practiced mindfully. Part of Habitot’s commitment to our community is to support parents in the crucial and precious task of raising young children.

For 2010-2011 we are expanding on parenting wisdom from local psychotherapist and parent coach Dr. Erica Reischer who has composed a list of “10 Things Great Parents Do.” We are adding two “great things” or our own and each month we’ll share research and our observations of tens of thousands of visiting families to illustrate how using the “great things” list will for work you and your child.

This month’s topic: Avoid Disciplining Kids When They Are Hungry Or Tired

While it seems obvious that it’s next to impossible for young children to focus on what you are trying to teach them when they are tired or hungry, countless parents, nevertheless, take that moment to try – after all, that’s when they’re driving you crazy! 

In these troublesome moments, do yourself a favor and take a deep breath, address the tiredness and the hunger and only when your children are rested / fed, bring up the behavior that needs improvement. Saying out loud, “we need to get you something to eat, or a rest, right now” can help clue your child into how his behavior may be connected to these other factors. This will help him learn to recognize his own needs and signals before meltdowns occur. It can be very comforting for a child to know that you understand.

Since toddlers don't have the inner resources to handle frustration, the more you’re able to prepare for inevitable changes like leave-takings, mealtimes and bedtimes, and anticipate your child’s needs for food and rest, the less often he'll throw tantrums.

    • Notice patterns in your child’s schedule and establish routines. If your child normally needs to eat around noon, start prepping her for lunch around 11:45. This way she will have time to transition from her current activity, and she will know that those hunger pangs she is starting to feel will soon be satiated.
    • Don’t rescue children from every struggle, settle their conflicts, or shelter them from challenges unless absolutely necessary for health and safety reasons. Doing so suggests a perfect result is more important than the attempt itself.
    • Analyze the situation when you see your child melting down. Does it happen an hour before his regular bedtime? It may be time to push his bedtime back. Remain flexible in this because your child’s routine will shift as he goes through stages in his growth and development.
    • Keep your child’s natural temperament in mind. Some children are naturally adaptable or more predictable while others are naturally more intense. By understanding temperament, you can work with your child rather than trying to change her inborn traits.
    • Pay attention to your own feelings and body signals. If you are hungry, tired or frustrated, it’s the wrong time to be disciplining your child.
    • Learn to just say no -- to yourself! Don't squeeze in that last errand. Don't drag a hungry or tired kid to the store. Make do or do it tomorrow.
    • Try not to feel embarrassed or judged when your toddler has a meltdown in public. Resist the urge to strongly discipline her in public because you feel pressured by the fact of people watching you. Remain calm and speak gently but firmly to your child. Becoming agitated yourself will only intensify your child’s negative behavior.

To see the complete list of “10 Things Great Parents Do” or to learn more about Dr. Erica Reischer, please visit her website at www.DrEricaR.com. You can also get a hard copy of the handout in the purple parenting cart in the museum.

Parenting Resources

Markham, Dr. Laura. Managing your Toddler: TANTRUMS! 2011. Aha! Parenting Web Site: http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/toddlers/toddler-tantrums

Creating an Image of your Child’s Temperament. 2007. Web Site: http://www.preventiveoz.org/index.html

Adahan, Dr. Miriam. How to Avoid Getting Angry At Your Children. March 2010. Miriam Adahan Web Site: http://www.adahan-online.com/index.aspx?id=2656

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