Sexuality in Children and Teens

Acceptance, understanding, mutual respect and commitment are the foundation of healthy sexuality. Sexuality is more about personal openness and love and less about pleasure and the binary politics of gender and sex. It is about conscious giving and receiving and not about social and societal expectations and dogma. It is about the support of relationships rather than what is right or wrong. The teaching of love, connection and communication allows children and teens to develop the resilience to expect and accept joy and disappointment while searching for one’s own sexuality and happiness.

Although the content and context of sexuality portrayed in the media are a strong influence on your child, the sexuality modeled in your feelings, thoughts, words and actions are the most important influence in what your child learns, believes and practices. Parents who teach a child fear, anger, shame and guilt are not supporting a life filled with happiness and conscious giving and receiving. The setting of reasonable exploration limits encourages young children to learn the limits of healthy sexuality in terms of nudity, sexual play and self-exploration. Healthy limits teach young children what is a healthy “touch” and who is allowed to safely touch the body of another.

Sexuality topics and interests differ by age. Allow your child’s age and developmental level to guide you in your teaching of sexuality. Look for teachable moments where your child is ready to learn about sexuality. Listen to your child’s questions and find out what he or she knows before answering a question. Allow your child’s questions to guide the discussion and be ready for “testing” questions your child will ask attempting to cause friction and stretch boundaries.

An interest in touching and exploring genitals and other “private” body parts on one self and another is normal in toddlers and young preschoolers. This provides you the opportunity to teach the proper names of body parts and to discuss personal and physical boundaries and the importance of exploration limits.  In this way limit setting becomes a family matter that is addressed early in life with non-judgmental understanding.

In older preschoolers, learning about sexuality progresses from exploration to questioning. Common questions include: “How did I get in your tummy?” “Where was I before I was in your tummy?” “How did I get out of your tummy?” “Where do babies come from?” and “Why do girls not have a penis?” Being prepared to respond to physical exploration and these common questions are the first steps in the teaching sexuality to your child.

As children enter school age sexuality questions progress to bodily changes and the function of body parts. During early school age children make the connection between making babies and the relationship between two people. Common questions include: “What is an erection?” “What is a period?” “When can a girl have a baby?” “How do two people have sexual intercourse?” and “What does it mean to be homosexual?” These questions must be answered with language and information that matches the developmental level and maturity of the child asking the question.

In middle school questions about love, romance and gender are common. By late school age the body and emotional changes that accompany puberty become the primary driving force for questions. The risks of risk-taking sexual behaviors, STDs and pregnancy become the focus of questions during these bridging developmental years.

During teen years the portrayal and content of sexuality in society and the media are the driving forces for questions and concerns. Teens spend more than seven hours a day on electronic devices and social media and much of this time is unsupervised and unregulated. Parents must provide media counseling to address media and peer influences on sexual behavior. Specific support and discussions must be provided concerning gender issues, respect, equality, safety and security. Talk with your teen about the pervasive sexual content in advertising, the entertainment industry and in social media. Issues such as contraception, pregnancy, STDs and sexual responsibility must be addressed in an open, non-confrontational and non-judgmental fashion. Events in the daily life of every family and teen provide the windows of opportunity to discuss these and other issues.

Knowledge, love, patience and understanding will enable you to teach your child conscious giving and receiving and the attainment of a healthy relationship with self and others. In this way healthy sexuality can become the greatest gift you can give your child.

Difficult Discipline Situations

Every parent must deal with many of the same problem behaviors. Developing a reasonable, rational and targeted strategy ahead of time will prepare you to respond in the right way and at the right time.

Stalling behaviors are common for children and teens of all ages. By setting clear and concise expectations your child will be aware of both responsibilities and boundaries. Family meetings and posted chore lists and family rules provide the social venue for both discussion and the sharing of reasonable and rational expectations. Teens and children of all ages flourish with structure. Structure prepares your child for both positive and negative consequences and allows opportunity for genuine praise and ongoing feedback. If your child stalls, be prepared to provide an immediate natural or logical consequence and look for underlying emotional issues which may help you understand why your child has chosen to stall and not comply. Recognizing and understanding your child’s behavior allows you to respond in the best way possible to your child’s stalling behavior.

Toddlers are often unhappy. Situations and events make it difficult for toddlers to communicate their feelings. This makes them difficult to understand, and they respond with unhappiness, outbursts and minor temper tantrums. Parents who listen to their toddler and preschooler rather than simply try to solve their problem are better able to avert the progression to major outbursts and more overt signs and indications of unhappiness. Toddlers love schedules, routines and rituals. Planning helps decrease the risk for unhappiness. Consider using sign language or providing acceptable behavior alternative to replace unhappiness. Never be fearful of stating the obvious. Children are rational and are better able to accept change when warnings are given and preparations are made. By allowing your child to have some control the power of choice often becomes the best way to eliminate unhappiness.

Aggression is a common problem. Boys are seven times more likely to express aggressive behavior than girls and young school-aged children who are under stress are the most likely to choose aggressive acting out behaviors. Aggressive behaviors usually have a cause. Is your child angry, frustrated or fearful? Does he feel threatened? Is he experiencing rage? Aggression is common in children who have issues with self-worth and self-esteem. Many of these children have negative or hostile feelings about themselves and express these feelings by projecting these thoughts on others through acts of aggression. Teaching these children how to recognize and respond to their emotions provides the means to manage the aggression and at the same time learn the coping and social skills that are necessary to happily live and interact with others.

Lying and cheating are two other common issues. In children these behaviors are often a defense mechanism and a response to excessive parental expectations. Children between the ages of three and five years must learn the power of acceptance, how to give and share and how to be non-judgmental and to tell the truth. Lying and cheating are often behaviors learned by watching parents or may be a sign of peer or social issues. Telling the truth is a learned behavior that must be supported from the earliest age if a child is to learn the importance of high moral values for oneself and for others.

The Discipline You Choose

Have you ever wondered about your discipline choices? You are not alone. This common parental concern is dark, deep, hidden and scary for most parents. It does not have to be. By following certain guideposts and budgeting the time to review your choices you can become the parent you want to be.

Remember you never need to be alone. Find a partner. Ask a spouse, relative, counselor or friend for the support and guidance you need. Read books about parenting styles and discipline techniques. Ask questions, listen, learn and connect with others. Watch the discipline choices others make and ask: “What kind of parent do I want to be? Am I a positive role model for my child?  Have I banned violence from our home? Am I ready and aware of the choices my child will make? Are my parenting expectations reasonable? Do I respond to my child’s behavior with rational and targeted responses? Do I think before I speak and set clear, concise, consistent, confident and competent boundaries?” Answering these questions will help you decide what discipline changes you need to make.

The hallmarks of good discipline are communication and connection. These two cornerstones support the management choices each parent must make to ensure healthy physical, emotional and cognitive development for a child.

Management techniques include distraction, redirection and behavior substitution. These strategies in conjunction with active ignoring are essential for children and teens of all ages and especially important for toddlers and preschoolers. Young children often become confused when parents use verbal explanations and insight directed interactions for redirection. Young children learn best from schedules, routines and rituals. They rely on stability and concrete redirection. By focusing on praise, general encouragement and positive reinforcement negative behaviors fade and are replaced by supported positive behaviors. Parents who anticipate behaviors and provide gentle guidance become the parents who are listened to and learned from.

Avoid discipline choices that rely on guilt or punishment strategies that communicate failure to your child. Never scold, nag or embarrass your child in private or public and remember these choices lead to humiliation, diminished self-worth and anger.

Discipline choices outside your home are especially difficult. Always discuss behavior expectations with your child before leaving home and determine reasonable natural or logical consequences that may be needed. Be aware of the impact of fatigue, hunger and stress on your child. At all times rely on genuine praise and immediate rewards to support and encourage positive behaviors in your child and during times of stress pursue a time out for both you and your child before choosing a penalty. Although safety and security of your child are always the highest concerns the discipline choices you make will always be long remembered.

Hitting Hurts Everyone

Choosing physical punishment as your discipline strategy hurts both you and your child. It does not stop hurting even when the pain, anger and confusion subside. Parents choose physical punishment as a discipline style due to personal, cultural and generational influences.  Often an aggressive verbal or physical response is chosen by a parent due to underlying fear, a lack of knowledge about alternative behavioral responses or because of immediate safety and security concerns.

Every child must learn how to manage emotions, develop relationships and recognize, understand and respond to frustration and disappointment. Unfortunately, corporal punishment teaches the opposite and does not provide a secure stepping stone for the development of confidence, positive self-worth and effective self-regulation.

The fundamental harm of physical punishment is the cycle and culture of violence and bullying that it supports.  Although numerous age specific alternative discipline strategies such as emotion coaching, positive modeling,  reasoned discussions, time out, ignoring strategies and loss of privileges have been shown to be more effective than corporal punishment,  spanking, paddling and hitting persist and are practiced and condoned by up to 75% of American adults. About 200,000 children continue to be paddled each year in US schools. Although corporal punishment has been banned by the United Nations since 1989 it remains unratified by the United States and is still legal in schools in many parts of the US.

Corporal punishment has both short and long term negative emotional consequences. It is a primitive learned behavior that is both biological and passed on across generations.  It neglects the emotional and social skills that are fundamental for the social and emotional development of a child.  Physical punishment relies on the physical responses of surprise, fear, anger, shame and distress to teach a child. It neglects the power of a secure and positive parental attachment to provide a safe, secure and accepting environment to foster healthy exploration while establishing reasonable and acceptable boundaries.

Physical punishment is not necessary for children to learn about limits and routines.  Although spanking and other forms of corporal punishment foster short term regulation these techniques rely on primitive brain pathways based on fear, hostility and discomfort to learn new skills. Physical punishment has been shown to increase aggressive behavior in children and is less effective in teaching positive behaviors.  Corporal punishment increases the risk of hostile, disrespectful and spiteful behavior and fosters the belief that stronger and bigger always wins.

Discipline strategies that are age and developmentally appropriate focus on the part of a child’s brain that supports patience rather than fear and the ability to control emotions. Positive discipline strategies are essential and must be practiced consistently over many years. Although this part of the brain takes years to develop there are alternative strategies that have been proven effective.  Infants from birth though age 18 months respond best to distraction and environmental and antecedent management. Toddlers respond to modeling, praise and simple requests. Preschoolers respond best to clear and consistent simple rules and the offering of choices to achieve a sought after behavior.  The older preschool child responds well to time outs to provide a calming down period to allow heightened emotions to settle.

Discipline roadblocks are common. Parents must avoid expectations that are too high or too low. Temper tantrums must be expected and the cause of the temper tantrum must be sought and responded to. Temper tantrums are a sign of overwhelming emotion and indicate your child is asserting independence, disagreeing with rules and is unable to communicate underlying needs. Relying on physical punishment in this situation amplifies your child’s discomfort and further delays your child learning how to regulate emotion and develop reciprocal respectful relationships.

What should a busy parent do?  See behaviors through the eyes of your child. Avoid blame and pursue immediate, specific, age appropriate and consistent consequences. Do not forget temper tantrums are a normal part of your child’s development.  They start small and escalate. Always intervene early. For a negative behavior in an older child look for environmental, parental or temperament causes. Respond to the cause rather than the behavior and choose a strategy where you are able to stay calm and set limits that are not be too permissive or too strict.

Rely on praise, modeling, offering of alternatives, distraction and time out to teach your child.  Never lose control of your emotions and step back if you become emotionally upset. Never hit or embarrass your child out of love or anger and avoid both positive and negative punishments.

If you plan for misbehaviors and choose your battles carefully you will become the best role model for your child.

Rules are Important

Rules are the visible foundation upon which parenting is built. They represent your parenting style and encourage communication between you and your child.

The purpose of rules is to allow you and your child to identify acceptable behaviors and teach the limits of behaviors. The focus of rules is educational and based on consequences rather than punishment. They teach your child how to behave in different environments and serve as a reminder that you are the most important model for your child. The final purpose of rules is to encourage children to teach other children by their own words and actions.

The benefits of rules include parent-child communication, self-discipline and the support of the ability to choose. Clear, concise and consistent rules allow safety and security issues to be addressed while at the same time showing your child that you care. By following rules children learn the importance of safety, security and acceptance.

Parents are best able to establish successful rules when children are involved and engaged in the rule setting process. By involving your child in choosing rules and consequences you support and encourage two way communications. Cooperation improves and supports compliance as well as provides opportunities for genuine praise to be given to your child. In addition, remember to build incentives and rewards into the rules you establish.

Always make sure rules are clear, concise and written down. They must be posted in a visible location that is easily seen by you and your child. Set a positive tone for rules. Include “To Do” statements rather than “Not to Do” statements and decide at the time the rule is established what the logical and natural consequences will be if a rule is not followed.  Natural consequences are consequences that are the direct result of your child’s behavior and logical consequences are consequences that are directly linked to your child’s behavior.

Common tips for parents concerning rules include making sure you remain attentive and responsive to your child while at the same time being attuned and sensitive to your child’s needs and feelings. Praise is important. It increases your child’s compliance and must be genuine. Never be surprised when your child breaks a rule. Expect rule breaking since it is often a way children seek attention. Recognize when a rule is broken but avoid “nit picking.” By being consistent, firm, pleasant and leaving anger and discouragement behind you will model acceptable behavior for your child and increase your child’s compliance.

Lastly, remember to be a parent and not a friend when setting rules. Don’t be afraid of being a “bad guy.” Permissive parents are not successful in the long term and do not prepare a child for future decision-making and problem-solving. They do not teach children that authority must be honored and respected. By accepting your parental responsibility as an authoritative parent you teach your child the value of cooperation and respect and help prepare your child to find good solutions to present and future problems.

Parenting Styles

Responding to misbehavior is one of the greatest challenges every parent faces. Your child does or doesn’t do something, and you must know how to respond. Parents who understand basic parenting styles are better prepared to choose the right response for their child. There are four parenting styles every parent must recognize and understand.

The first style is authoritarian parenting.  In this approach the parent’s feelings, thoughts, words and actions dominate the parent-child encounter.  The feelings of the child are not listened to, dismissed or disavowed. The authoritarian parent says: “I am right, and you are wrong. Do what I say because I said so.” This attitude does not support reciprocity or shared communication.  In this parent-centered approach the feelings, thoughts, words and actions of the child are neglected, unobserved or lost and forgotten.  This approach hinders sincere and honest parent-child communication and neglects problem solving.  It diminishes a child’s self-esteem and self-worth and often leads to hidden anger or hostile and aggressive behavior by the child.

The second style is authoritative parenting. Parents who utilize this approach demonstrate unconditional love for their child while at the same time setting clear and consistent boundaries. These parents rely on empathy and emotional awareness to see what their child sees and understand their child’s emotions and behavior. By seeing the situation through the eyes of their child they are able to recognize and understand the reason behind their child’s behavior. This allows parental responses to be guided by the child’s emotions. Authoritative parenting supports the development of strong, healthy and trusting relationships and teaches children how emotions work as well as how to manage their own emotions.

The third parenting style is permissive parenting. Permissive parents view the parent to child relationship primarily as a friendship. They avoid rule-making out of fear that their relationship with the child will be damaged and their child will be less attached to them. With permissive parenting parental authority is not supported, and this approach teaches children not to respect or honor their parents. These parents accept their child’s emotions no matter how the child behaves. Boundaries are not identified and often children become confused while their behavior continues to deteriorate. Permissive parenting often leads to extended temper tantrums, acting out behaviors and an inability to handle emotions, recognize social cues and develop reciprocal shared relationships.

The final parenting style is that of the uninvolved parent. Uninvolved parents lack attachment to their child. They act as if they did not know or care about their child’s emotions or actions and often avoid direct touching contact with their child. Uninvolved parents verbally and visually neglect their child or like authoritarian parents use dismissive or disavowing response techniques to distance themselves from their child. This parenting style leads to disengagement, separation, low self-esteem and underachievement. These children have difficulty connecting and listening to others. In rare situations children raised under this style become highly resilient overachievers with over developed coping skills and immature relationship skills. These children tend to hide their own emotions and have difficulty resolving emotional conflicts while at the same time neglecting the emotions of others.

By being aware and understanding these parenting styles you are able to teach your child respect, cooperation and the ability to recognize, understand and respond to personal emotions and the emotions of others. Listening and emotional coaching are the greatest parenting gifts you can give your child.

Self Esteem

A strong and healthy sense of self is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child. Building strong self-esteem is the first step.  Self-esteem is the name given to the way we perceive ourselves.  Our perception is based on our own thoughts and feelings as well as how we perceive others think and feel about us. Our own perception of our ability to achieve also affects our self-esteem.  When our perception matches our ideal self, we have a higher sense of self-esteem.

Developing self-esteem takes time and effort.  An infant or child must experience secure attachment and a strong sense of security. At the same time the infant and young child must feel she is loved and accepted by others. This starts within your family and extends to friends and acquaintances. Involvement in and acceptance by groups such as school, church, a sport team and community organizations are also important. Without such involvement children feel lonely and isolated.

Children must have a sense of purpose.  Identifying and pursuing goals based on interest and ability is also essential. This allows every child to engage with others and channel energy towards achievement and self-expression. This prevents children from becoming resentful and bored or being excessively influenced by the desires of another.  These activities allow a child to develop not only competence but also a sense of pride that prepares a child to meet the challenges ahead.  This ability to have the personal power and interest to solve problems and set appropriate personal expectations is essential for life long success.

Trust in oneself and in those you love is essential if opportunities for success are to be realized and achieved. One of the components of trust is an understanding of both making and keeping promises. Children must be given the opportunity to keep promises and tell the truth even when the truth is difficult. This builds honesty, responsibility and a respect for the feelings and rights of others. Trust leads to a sense of faith in others and the ability to “let go” and rely on those you trust.

As your child’s ability to pursue a goal matures a sense of commitment develops. A child needs to feel they are able to contribute and participate in meaningful activities. This type of involvement must be authentic and lead to real choices and real decisions. These decisions are age and ability dependent and must be reasonable from a developmental perspective.

Throughout this process children and teens require honest and meaningful encouragement, support and rewards for a job well done even when mistakes or failure occur. Every child will make mistakes.  Perseverance and resiliency uncover within your child the ability not to feel defeated or embarrassed. Such feedback is essential if shame, guilt and anger are to be avoided.  Positively-directed feedback encourages lifelong improvement and motivation as well as the realization of healthy self-esteem.

The Fussy Baby

Every infant will have strengths and weaknesses but each one is perfect. Some infants easily self soothe while other so called “difficult infants” are slow to settle. In addition, some infants experience colic. You know your infant better than anyone, and you are in the best position to understand and respond to your child. Infants who have difficulty settling require more time and attention. If you invest the extra time and attention and limit the sensory distractions that bombard new infants and lead to unsettled behavior, you will reap major benefits.

Colic is the name given when an infant has fussy or extreme cranky periods usually in the evening. During these periods all attempts to soothe and settle the infant fail. These episodes can occur anytime during the day and for some infants they occur throughout the day. Most often the peak period is between 6pm and midnight. These fussy periods begin at two to four weeks of age and peak at about six weeks of age. They can last for up to 3 hours and gradually taper to one to two hours by three to four months. About 20% of all infants develop colic. It is normal and does not mean there is anything wrong with your infant. During these prolonged crying episodes infants may cry or scream inconsolably, bicycle their legs and pass gas. They often swallow air and their stomach becomes painfully distended.

Although there is no known cause of colic recent findings support colic being an indicator of a child being at risk for the future development of migraine headaches. Colic is felt to be due to a delay in the ability of the nervous system to self-regulate. Infants with colic appear to be oversensitive to environmental stimuli and have difficulty being consoled. The inability to self-soothe leads to constant crying and associated behaviors.

If you feel your child has colic talk to your doctor. There are several medical reasons for behavior that appears to be colic. These include food sensitivities and gastro-esophageal reflux.  These problems are treatable.

After delivery babies need to learn how to live in a new environment. Sounds, smells and visual sensations abound. Your infant is no longer living in the tight, warm and quiet environment of the womb. Your heart rate is no longer the primary sound your infant hears. This change in environment disrupts many babies. Allow your infant time to deal with the frustrations associated with this change. By providing ongoing unconditional love and support your infant will adjust to the new surroundings.

If you have a fussy baby it is important you remain calm and relaxed. Your infants can sense your emotions and negative emotions can heighten and exacerbate your infant’s behaviors. If you are tense or anxious consider asking someone to give you a break. A brief break allows you to find a positive balance.

Make sure a fussy infant is not cold, wet or hungry. Checking on all “comfort needs” is always the first step in the response to a crying baby. Some infants cry when they need to be burped. If you have concerns that your infant is sick check for a temperature and call the doctor.

If all comfort needs have been met and there is no sign of illness it is time to pursue common interventions for so called high needs babies. Walking with your infant provides a calming swaying movement. Make sure you do not over-feed your infant and consider skin to skin contact. Breastfeeding is always best. Stomach distension can make your infant uncomfortable so make sure to burp your infant. The use of a pacifier can also be very helpful. Sucking lowers your infant’s heart rate, evens out breathing patterns, encourages relaxation, decreases stress and promotes the onset of sleep. Sucking also decreases the risk of SIDS. Distractions such as making shushing sounds, playing soft music or softly stroking your infant’s head from the forehead to the back of the head are other ways to settle your baby. Always try to limit distractions and make sure the room is not too warm or too cold. Infants should always sleep on their backs. It is alright to try some tummy time if this position helps soothe your infant but you must remain in the room and watch your infant. Never leave a sleeping infant on his or her tummy to sleep. This increases the risk for SIDS.

Cry it out (CIO) approaches are not appropriate for infants. It is always best to respond right away to a crying infant and if you notice pre-crying behaviors such as anxious facial expressions, breathing pattern changes or jerky arm and leg movements it is best to pick up and try to soothe your infant.

Role of the Father

A Father must take an active role prior to the delivery of their new child. The paternal-maternal relationship must be supported and flourish prior to the delivery. The most visible roles of the father have included economic and physical protection. Yet roles of equal importance include the fostering of social-emotional, cognitive, language and motor development.

Fathers must be competent and caring role models. They must be attentive and responsive to the needs of their child. The quality of interaction is just as important as the quantity of interaction and it is important paternal involvement be supported and encouraged prior to and at the time of delivery to prevent fathers from disengaging from the care of their child.

Mothers and fathers can both experience post-partum depression. The added responsibilities, obligations and stress that come with a newborn can lead to depression. Intervention must be sought for post-partum mood changes. Two-way communication between parents and the sharing of feelings are the first steps in the identification and management of post-partum depression.

Although generalizations oversimplify gender patterns of support there are two types of support infants and children must receive. This support may come from traditional gender relationships or from non-traditional gender relationships. Gentleness and security are typical maternal support patterns while independence and confidence building are typical paternal support patterns. Fathers often provide a “rough and tumble” approach to life experience. They teach children how to manage aggressive impulses and how to learn how to control emotions. In this way fathers teach their children how to make their way through the rigors of the outside and often unforgiving world. These skills enable a child to develop the discipline to control emotions and frustrations. This leads to personality traits that support empathy, respect of others and the importance of genuineness.

Fathers must provide a secure, safe and supportive environment for their child. This must begin early in the child’s life and must be linked to the building of emotional competence. Emotional competence allows a child to recognize, respond to and understand emotions and leads to increased self-esteem and self-worth. The life skills that result from this training and modeling foster the development of social confidence and competence. Fathers who teach these skills to their child improve their child’s ability to initiate and maintain friendships throughout their lives.

When fathers engage in vigorous play intellectual development is supported. Children learn how to use their bodies to solve problems and learn the importance of exploration and risk-taking. Fathers support the use of more challenging language and focus on the importance of social communication and teamwork. Vigorous play improves motor skills for both large and small muscle groups, improves hand-eye coordination skills and encourages both one on one and team directed activities. Such activities encourage and support independent thought and behavior for a child.

Fathers are the model of so many important behaviors for children.  The goal of every father is to share what they love with who they love.

Grandparent Boundaries

Grandparent wisdom and advice can benefit your child.  By the year 2030 30% of the US population will be over age 65.  Although many things have changed since grandparents raised children many things have not.  Grandparents can be the best models, mentors and memory keepers for a family. They can also be intrusive, rash and judgmental. Every parent must recognize the perils of this generation gap while at the same time understanding the wisdom and experience grandparents provide.

Whether you are a parent or a grandparent your goal is to keep your child safe.  It is important for parents and grandparents to avoid confrontations that can lead to resentment. Advice from grandparents often feels judgmental. Grandparents must be cautious not to intrude or interfere in the decisions their children make about raising their own child. Many times useful information is presented in ways that cause friction and wounds that are difficult to heal.

Parents must take the time to explain to their parents why they want things done differently in the past. Choose your battles carefully and focus on what is important rather than engaging in a battle for control. By explaining why you want something done differently you will be better able to engage your parents in a dialog concerning the care of their grandchild. This dialog will allow you to address the concerns of the grandparent rather than just telling them what you want done. Always seek middle ground and compromise on minor issues. On important issues always focus on the health and safety of your child and stand firm about the boundaries you set and the decisions you make.

Parents and grandparents must both learn how to suppress their egos. Many Grandparents view parents as children rather than as adults worthy of respect and parents view parenting advice from grandparents as intrusive and interfering. A parental “it is now my turn” mentality leads to discord and inevitable differences in opinion and prevents the development of reciprocal respect.

Parents must be flexible and at the same time set clear boundaries concerning the care of their child.  Grandparents must find the balance between sharing their experience and wisdom while not interfering and avoiding rash judgment and hostility. When parents and grandparents recognize each has a unique perspective to share the value of personal opinions increases.

Some things that need to be discussed include safety issues, discipline and technology. Smoke avoidance is very important. Infants and children of all ages should not be exposed to tobacco smoke. When placed in a crib a “back to sleep” position should always be used. Infants must not be overdressed since overheating increases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The crib should be free of all toys and bumper pads are not needed. The mattress should be firm and there should be no loose cords that could lead to entanglement and strangulation. Baby powder and fragrances should be avoided and breastfeeding is best.  Supplemental food should not be introduced until 6 months of age. A rear facing car seat is best until age 2 years and a bedtime bottle should be avoided. Infants under 6 months of age cannot be spoiled. If an infant under this age is crying a cry it out (CIO) approach is not appropriate.

Eating patterns have also changed. Portions should be small and never encourage children to clean their plate if they are no longer hungry. A better response is to decrease future portions.  For discipline positive redirection and antecedent management have replaced negative punishment. Finally technology is moving forward rapidly. Technology is now imbedded within the lives of children. The focus should be on setting healthy boundaries concerning the use of technology rather than on avoidance and negative comments about the hazards and dangers of technology.