This column is based on my observations of a 20-month-old little boy who lives in California. Joshua is an adorable, happy, bright, talkative, curious, friendly little guy. Both his parents are loving, devoted and dedicated to being the best parents they can be. Mom works during the day so Dad is the primary caregiver and they both get high marks for parenting skills and style.
You figured it out: Joshua is my grandson and we had a wonderful visit. I was amazed at what a good kid he is. (As a grandmother I am being as objective as possible, but you all know how grandparents are!) I noticed or was asked about four parenting issues.
First , Joshua is just about off the chart in height. He’s not overweight but he is big and people can assume he is older than he is. He could easily pass for 2 1/2 as he is both tall and very verbal. But there is a huge maturity gap between 20 months and 30 months.
Josh is not yet 2, so of course he still does babyish things. When I arrived I got a big smile but he then ran to his mommy before he felt comfortable enough to hug me and sit on my lap while we opened the little book I brought. We read for a bit and then he swatted me. It was not a slap, more an exploratory gesture, a “What happens if I do this”? What happened was I said, “No, Joshua, no hitting.” And eased him off my lap. Both parents also said “Joshua, no hitting.” I did not observe another swat either at home directed toward grownups or at the park directed towards other children.
With big-for-age kids, parents have to be especially careful when the child is in a same-age play group. Stay close enough to protect the smaller kids. Also when a big-for-age child is playing with older children, the older kids might shove him aside because he is such a baby. When the child starts child care or preschool, talk with the teacher about how to best deal with such a child.
Second, Joshua refuses to sit in a high chair. He can use both a spoon and a fork (to spear pasta) but he prefers to eat finger food from the table while walking around. “Grazing” is probably the best way for the human animal to eat but the world is scheduled around mealtimes. I suggested easing Josh into the habit of sitting down at mealtimes to eat. Tell him if he sits down he will get a trip to the park after lunch (bribing works!). Have a family meal as often as possible or at least a couple of times a week. Try special “party” meals with festive food where everybody dresses up. Take him to restaurants as a special treat so he will learn the rule is to stay in his seat and not fuss. Pick the restaurant carefully, ask for crackers or bread while waiting for the food, and bring little things to entertain him. Like crayons and paper.
Third, Joshua does not like a sippy cup, so he still carries around a bottle. His parents correctly limit his milk and give him water, not juice. My suggestion: Tell him the Bottle Fairy is coming. In a few days she will pick up all the bottles and take them to little babies who still need them. She will leave Josh a treat! (Hide one bottle in case the child gets sick and needs fluids.) Use both sippy cups and small plastic glasses or cups. Straws may help .
Finally, the best way to get a screaming or misbehaving child to listen to you is counterintuitive. Most parents raise their voice to get the kid’s attention. If you raise your voice it’s likely the child will tune you out. When you are close enough to get the child’s attention, whisper or talk very quietly but firmly. “Joshua, no throwing toys!”
From my email to Joshua’s parents that has a moral for all parents of young children: “You have a happy, smart and kind son and you two are incredibly good parents! Many parents I see or hear from today are overly wrapped up in their work and some are frankly self-centered and don’t realize how quickly these early years of child-rearing go by. You guys pay attention to Joshua and kids thrive on parental attention.”
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