Questions and Answers

Q:  What do you do when your 2 or 3 year old has a tantrum in public?  

A:  It can be quite embarrassing for some parents when a child has a tantrum in public.  One of the best strategies in the first instance, is not to worry about everyone else who may be looking, having an opinion or trying to help or judge.  The first step is to use a consistent approach to the behavior - one you would use in your own home. Often if a child is having a tantrum that is not hurting anyone else or themselves, the most effective strategy is to ignore it and let it pass.  This may take some time but it does always stop.  Trying to reason with an enraged child, trying to bribe or threaten them or yelling at them, is a complete waste of time.  Perhaps as they start to calm down, acknowledging they feel angry or upset because you didn't buy them what they wanted, may help them to learn that could use their words next time rather than having a tantrum.  

Q:  Can children be spoiled by too much praise and reward?  Should children not behave well as a matter of course?  

A:  To expect children to behave well without encouragement is unrealistic.  If parents pay attention to behavior, it is more likely that the child will repeat the behavior.  Good behavior should never be taken for granted, for it might then quickly disappear.  Positive attention to desired behaviors makes the child more motivated to learn.   

Q:  At what age is it realistic to expect a child to pitch in and help around the house?  

A:  Even from an early age, all kids can help out in some capacity.  Even a toddler can help pick up her toys and put them in a basket.  A two-to-three-year-old can make her bed (if she has an easy-to-use, lightweight comforter), put her clothes in the hamper and put her toys away.  A preschool-age child can help put away the groceries, sort the laundry and even with some of the cooking if he is closely supervised.  Six-to-eight-year-olds can fold and put away laundry and take out the trash.  

Q:  I've never felt comfortable with math.  How should I talk to my children about what they're are learning in math class?

A:  Try to show enthusiasm for what your youngsters are doing in math.  You might ask them each day at dinner or homework time what they studied in math that day.  Let them explain the concepts they're working on, and follow up with questions.  For instance, if they're learning about decimals, you could ask how decimal points are used in money (they separate the pars of a dollar from the whole dollar).  Then, when your children finish their homework, have them show you how they solved a few problems.  As they explain their methods to you, they'll be reinforcing their own skills.  And they'll be proud to be teaching you something.  

Q:  We recently moved to an area where people speak several different languages, and our son has a lot of questions.  How should we answer him?

A: It's great that your son is being exposed to a variety of cultures.  You can use his curiosity to help him learn about respecting differences.  Explain that in many parts of the United States, people speak different languages, eat different foods, and wear different clothing than your family does.  At the same time, they do many of the same things (play at the park, watch movies).  To help him understand, ask him to name one classmate who speaks English and one who speaks another language. Have him tell you something he has in common with each child (skateboarding, wearing sneakers) and one thing that don't share (number of siblings, language spoken at home).  He'll discover that language is just one of the many things that makes a person similar to or different from him.