November 13, 2006

Sibling Rivalry, Potty Training, and other Challenges with Very Young Children

(Another in Series of Letters from Concerned Parents (If you would like to submit a question for Mac to answer, please feel free to post your question at the bottom of the page!)

A "Rebellious" Two-Year-Old

Dear Mac,

My wife and I are extremely interested in purchasing your parenting course on video, but first, I have a couple of questions. We have a 2 1/2 year old son and a 8 week old daughter. Our 2 1/2 year old is very rebellious at this point of his life. He is normally a very well-behaved, mild-mannered boy, but he is going through a lot right now, including the birth of his sister, starting school and potty training. Does your curriculum include working with children this young or is it geared for more for older children.

Dad in New York

There IS Hope for Young Parents!

Dear Dad,

The answer to your question is definitely a resounding, “Yes, the course absolutely applies to younger kids as well!”

You ask some great questions! The central core concept that our Parenting with Dignity course is built upon is that "your kids will make ALL of the big decisions in their lives." So it is our belief that the best time to begin giving them decisions to make is at the youngest age possible. The earlier that you start, the more skilled your child will be at making GOOD decisions!

Parenting with Dignity for the Early Years

In fact, the issue of starting when your children are young is so important to me, that I have written a whole book applying the teaching principles of Parenting with Dignity just to those critical early years of life! The book is titled Parenting with Dignity the Early Years.

The Book Will Help You to Develop a Plan

Doesn’t it seem silly to wait to establish your plan for raising your children until they are older and have developed some bad habits? This book will help you to start now. I firmly believe that you should still order a set of the DVD curriculum and watch the lessons in the video form too, but while watching the classes, read the “Early Years” book concurrently. The book applies the techniques taught in the video course to the specific situations and circumstances most often encountered when raising children under the age of six or seven.

The Ideas in Your Head Will Rule Your World

Now, for a specific comment on your observations about your son; one key concept that we teach in Parenting with Dignity is that “the ideas in kid’s heads will rule their world!” You will understand this concept as soon as you get going with the videos! You will also realize that the same fact is true for parents… “the ideas in your head will rule your world!” Let me demonstrate this to you by changing one word in one sentence that you wrote to me:

“…our 2 1/2 year old is very rebellious at this point of his life.”

Now, please allow me to now change the one word in your sentence and I believe that you will see that changing the idea in your head changes your whole approach and thought process:

“…our 2 ½ year old is very inquisitive at this point of his life.”

Notice how changing just that one word changes your observations about your son’s behavior at this most exciting period of his development. What you might have seen as annoying about your son's behavior when viewed as rebellious, really looks different when you view his behavior as that of an inquisitive young man trying to see how the world works and how he fits into that world. By changing that one word, he is now seen by you as using his behavior to “inquire” of you about how he should act and to see how you will react to his actions.

Sibling Rivalry

Now, please let me offer a couple of thoughts on one of the behaviors you have mentioned; the beginning of sibling rivalry. Begin by asking yourself, “What is the desired behavior that I would like my son to use with ‘Little Sister’?” Make a list of 4 or 5 specifically and behaviorally described actions that you would like for your son to use with his sister. Then, very simply, begin practicing those actions with him.
Practice Desired Behaviors!
Practice the specific actions with him, before he is in the situation. Practice, so that he can work with you on those behaviors away from his “Little Sister”. That way your son will receive undivided attention from you that is not shared with her. That way she is a reason for him to get extra attention! Make the actions that you decide to teach him be things that let him feel like he is in some control of his time with his little sister.

It might be good to get a life-sized doll with which for this practice. Let him sit in a chair and teach him how to hold her. Then once he demonstrates that he can hold her safely, let him hold her when grandparents, family and friends come to visit the new baby.
By doing this you will have not only taught him to safely hold his sister, but you will also have created a very wonderful experience for your son. When he is holding her, others will naturally comment about him as well as cute little sister! You may have prevented his natural jealousy of his sister.
Let Older Children Receive Your Attention Too!
Next, have him gather the necessary diaper, handy-wipes, warm wash cloth, ointment, etc. when you change "little Sister's" diaper. Have him with you when you change the diaper and let him feel important in this necessary moment when you must pay attention to his sister. That way he will be less likely to resent her. And you will receive much needed help!

Figure out a couple more behaviors (best for you to select a couple that fit your family) for him to learn and work on those actions with him. He will learn how to help with the new addition to the family while at the same time getting attention because she is here!

With regards to school, I would suggest that you use a very similar tactic; practice 4 to 5 desired school behaviors at home by "playing school" with him. Define a few behaviors that will allow him to practice the appropriate behaviors away from the stress of being in a room full of other kids being with a strange teacher in control. He will become comfortable with the behaviors so that school will be a more familiar and comfortable experience for him. At the same time, he will be getting some undivided attention from you because he is going to school!
"Potty Training"

As to the potty training, it is natural for kids to regress at times of stress so I would not worry about this, it will most likely take care of itself as he becomes comfortable with school and little sister. Your practice of behaviors with his sister and behaviors to be used in school will greatly reduce his stress and I woujld predict that the "potty training issues" will disappear with the reduced stress!

Good luck with the Parenting with Dignity course. Please see: to learn how to maximize your learning while using the videos and books. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to start a class. You will learn more from that process than you will from the tapes alone!
Mac Bledsoe

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was very frustrated as well with potty training. When I was researching potty training a common theme seemed to be praise and positive reinforcement. I came across a website called We hung it in the kitchen and named the little boy on the front of the package, “Bobby”. My son could not wait to go to the potty so he could push the button, hear the praising message, and get his chocolate reward from, “Bobby”. It really got my son excited about using the potty himself and it was fun for him. Because he became so involved, potty training was easy. So give it a try.