Ask Nanny Jo
Jo Frost tackles a child’s obsession with social networking sites, toddler tantrums, sleepless nights and fussy eating habits…
Baby won’t settle
‘I cannot seem to get my 12-month-old baby to sleep at night unless she is lying on me and then, as soon as I put her down, she wakes up and it starts again. What shall I do?’
Katie Hill, 35, London
If your child gets used to falling asleep in your arms, then, when she wakes up, she’ll become fretful because you’re no longer there. At this age, your baby needs to learn to go to sleep alone.
It may take quite some time to break this cycle of her falling to sleep lying on you, but persevere. It’s important you place her in her cot awake, in her own room or separated by some kind of divider.
If she cries when you leave the room, try my controlled-crying technique; you’ll need a timer and a strong resolve! The first time she cries, go in and reassure her and then leave. If she’s still crying, wait five minutes, then go in and repeat the routine. Then wait 10 minutes and return if necessary; the next time wait 20 minutes and so on, doubling the amount of time you leave her each time. When you go in to say ‘shhh’, just rest your hand on her without eye contact and leave. Don’t pick her up or it will lead her to think she’s getting out of bed.
It’s the consistency of the technique that makes it work, along with ensuring she’s getting love and stimulation during waking hours. If she’s getting all she needs from you during the day, this technique teaches her, in a healthy way, to soothe herself to sleep.
‘I don’t know which games to play with my nine-month-old. I want to stimulate him, but I’m not sure where to start.’
Lisa Ryan, 29, Manchester
It’s just as important to meet your baby’s need for stimulation as it is to feed him when he’s hungry or change him when he’s wet. I don’t know any baby of this age who doesn’t love a game of footie. Hold your baby securely in front of you, position his legs on top of a ball and make it roll across the floor. This works on eye-foot coordination and gross motor skills.
Play peek-a-boo in the mirror and identify body parts: ‘Here is Mummy’s eye, here is Max’s eye’. Or, sing the old favourite Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes – babies love it. I’m a firm believer in activity boards, baby-gym rings and pop-up toys. These help develop his fine motor skills and discover cause and effect: push this and the duck goes quack. To help him learn the amount of pressure he needs to put on the button, put your hand over his and say ‘Press down’ or ‘Flip this’, according to which movement it is.
Toddler loves snacks
‘My toddler will only eat cheese and crisps and refuses to have anything else whatsoever. I’m at my wits’ end.’
Maggie Davis, 42, Bristol
Food refusal can be a feature of this age. A fussy eater is using food to make her parents jump through hoops. Don’t offer choices to toddlers as this is just asking for trouble. As far as possible, everyone in the family should be given the same meal, not invited to choose from a menu. Sometimes it’s not the taste of a certain food a child doesn’t like, it’s the texture, so try offering the same food in a different form to see if that makes a difference. Praise your child when she does eat.
A lot of difficulties over feeding can be avoided if you relax. If your child won’t eat what’s put in front of her, don’t make her sit there until she finishes what’s on her plate. Compromise. Ask her to eat three more spoonfuls then let her get down. Whatever you do, don’t then clear her plate away and offer her a treat or snack. She must get the idea that if she doesn’t eat what you’ve given her, nothing else is on offer. She won’t starve. Trust me.
Son lacks confidence
‘My young son finds it hard to make friends. He is shy and doesn’t speak out much. I’m worried because other boys don’t seem to want to play with him and it’s breaking my heart.’
Carol Chorley, 38, Bath
It’s OK if your boy is a little shy; some children are naturally more outgoing than others. Don’t make a fuss of shyness and give your child more attention than he would otherwise have got. Show and tell him how to behave with other people, and coax his confidence along in a light-hearted way.
Teach him it’s nice and polite to say hello to other people. Let him see you move confidently around other people and don’t let him draw you into his shy little corner. Expose your child to situations where he is surrounded by other people, especially other children, and explain new situations beforehand so he’ll know what to expect and won’t react by hanging back.
‘My 18-month-old is so wilful and gets so angry if he doesn’t get his own way, kicking and screaming and lying on the floor. Nothing I say will stop him. What can I do?’
Jo Fitzpatrick, 36, Milton Keynes
The root cause of a tantrum is always some form of frustration. You can minimise the frustration your child encounters at this stage but you can’t get rid of it completely; it’s built into the learning process. What you mustn’t do once the tantrum has started is give in. Giving in to a tantrum is the best way of ensuring there will be plenty more where that one came from – you’ve just proved it worked!
The first thing to do is make sure he can’t hurt himself, other people or damage things. Try to stay calm, as anger will only inflame the situation. Forget about trying to reason with him; he can’t hear you (and doesn’t want to). Some children come out of a tantrum quicker if they are held securely. With others, that makes it worse. Remove yourself from the room if you can, once you’re sure he’s not going to hurt himself. If the tantrum is semi-deliberate, removing attention completely can do the trick.
‘My 12-year-old girl says she hates the way she looks and is always demanding expensive make-up and clothes. How can I help her feel better about herself?’
Gemma Williams, 47, London
Girls of this age seek approval and reassurance and it’s natural for them to compare themselves to other kids, models in magazines and celebrities. She’ll be looking to you for reassurance that she’s fine as she is, so it’s key to make time to talk to your daughter, even if she approaches you when you’re in the middle of doing something else. Show her you recognise her qualities and love her just the way she is. Make sure she knows the glamour of celebrity isn’t the real world and most of their images are airbrushed.
Social network addict
‘My 14-year-old is becoming obsessed with social networking sites, the Wii and playing computer games. Jumping on his computer is the only thing he wants to do after school and at weekends. He’s always in his room with the door shut playing on his laptop. Should I be discouraging him?’
Vanessa Banks, 45, Newcastle
It’s fine for your child to have some downtime in front of a computer game if all his homework and other activities have been done, but you need to decide how long is appropriate for your child to spend on the computer and set him limits.
It’s good for him to learn how to use computers and feel confident with them as it will be a help with homework and school projects, but as your child learns how to use technology, you as a parent must keep up with it as well. Using the computer together will help with monitoring your child’s online activity as well as teach you new things,
and you can enjoy having a shared interest.
Kids need physical activity every day so keeping the balance of outdoor and indoor activity is important. Even though Wii has football, there’s a big difference between playing in front of a TV and playing on a field with a real ball, teammates, and the weather-related elements.
Make sure your child understands the rules of using a social media site and decide whether you feel it’s age appropriate for them. This is not a decision that should be made based on age or peer pressure, but your child’s level of maturity and responsibility. This also includes the level of their social skills. Younger kids need to develop real-life, face-to-face skills before dipping a toe into learning new forms of social interaction online.
Words: Georgina Maric, JoFrost.com and Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care (Orion, £12.99)
Images: Ian Derry, Getty