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Toddler Tips

Balancing Needs

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 5 September October 1999 pp. 181-182

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Toddler Tips" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents of toddlers. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


My mother thinks I am not disciplining my four-year-old son because I always talk to him about his behavior when we are alone rather than in public. Every time he does something she disapproves of, she makes a comment like, "You'd better nip that bad behavior in the bud or he'll end up in reform school!" I don't think it is healthy for my child to hear his grandmother make these remarks. I feel it hurts my son's self-esteem and undermines my authority. How can I discuss this with my mother and still preserve our relationship?


This is hard. You want to meet your child's needs, but you also want to preserve your relationship with your mother. Sometimes, something in writing can help. You could try sharing some book-marked pages from The Discipline Book by William Sears or another of your favorite books on the subject. A book or article on the psychology of self-esteem may also be a good resource to share. If your mother is mistrustful of LLL publications, mainstream parenting magazines often carry articles on the importance of bolstering a child's self-esteem. You can ask the Leaders of the LLL group you attend about taking Human Relations Enrichment classes. This will help you learn to express your feelings about the situation while preserving your mother's self-esteem and your relationship with her. You might come up with a statement such as, "Mom, when you say things like that, I worry that it will make David start to think of himself as someone who gets into trouble all the time and that he'll think that you don't like him. Could you please save concerns like these for a time when we can talk privately?" You might come up with a separate statement to address how you feel about her challenging your authority with your son. Good luck!

Celeste Suter
Montevideo MN USA


It is often difficult to speak to our mothers and mothers-in- law about how they may be affecting our children. There are many things that I choose to speak to my children about instead. You could explain to your son that Grandma wants the best for him and sometimes Mommy and Grandma have different ideas of what is best. Speaking to your mother directly may help. You can express your concerns about how her words may affect her grandson and how you don't want that to spoil their relationship. You may be able to explain that she is free to come to you privately if she is concerned about his behavior or your mothering style but that it isn't appropriate for your son to hear. You might wish to take a more indirect approach. Finding a book or an article to share that explains your parenting philosophy can help. When we have chosen different paths, our parents may see it as an affront to the way they chose to parent us. It can make them defensive, angry, or sad. Having our spouse and friends understand and be supportive can help us feel less ambivalent about our choices. I have found that both my mother and mother-in-law respond best to hearing other people (especially doctors or other professionals) state that I am doing the right thing. This can be in person, or through books. Good luck.

Beth Moscov
Santa Barbara CA USA


Perhaps, instead of talking to your mother about the situation (or perhaps after such a talk) you could change the way you deal with your son in public when your mother is around. I always try to discuss discipline/behavior matters with my children in private. However, if there's someone around who is of the "do something" school, I might say, "Mother, excuse us for a minute." Then my child and I would walk a few steps away, maybe to an empty aisle in a store, or to the bathroom if we were in a restaurant or to another room of the house if we were visiting somewhere.

Once we were alone (or at least out of earshot), I'd go ahead and handle the situation in the way that made me comfortable. That might be saying, "Johnny, we need to talk about this when we get home." Or it might be, "Johnny, because you refuse to stay in the shopping cart, you will have to stay home with Daddy the next time I come to the store." Then return to your mother, smile and say, "Shall we continue?"

LaJuana Oswalt
Sherwood AR USA


My son was three, and still nursing, when we visited my in-laws 1500 miles from home. While we were there, my mother-in-law told me that I was the most incompetent mother she had seen. I clearly remember her exact words as she decried the criminal acts my son would someday perform. This character attack was five years ago and, as you can imagine, I was devastated. Let me share with you what action I took. The things that I did may help you.

Know how you want to parent. I found a parenting workshop based on the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. An area La Leche League Leader taught the class. It was my type of approach, realistic, from the heart, non-authoritarian. I took all the classes she offered, including Siblings Without Rivalry, and persuaded her to teach more. Eventually some of us formed a parent support group. Our monthly meetings are well organized with specific topics and review. We rotate acting as facilitator.

If you choose to take a parenting class perhaps you could encourage your mother to attend with you. Perhaps she would then clearly understand your parenting approach and not be so critical (especially in your child's presence). I took my first class with my older sister and it helped her understand exactly which way I choose to parent.

Determine if there are any neurological or physical conditions that could be affecting your son's behavior. A parent at one meeting shared her discovery of sensory processing problems her son had. Her description of her son sounded like mine and I chose to have him evaluated. My outwardly normal appearing child does not process through his senses properly. He is oversensitive to things others can ignore or he misinterprets what is happening. As a result, he reacts strongly to the world around him. I imagine that it is easy for others to look at children who overreact to stimuli and say "bad parenting." Books like The Out-of-Sync Child and Sensory Integration and the Child help explain how these sensory issues can affect how these children grow and mature. Surround yourself with like-minded people. I cannot say enough about a supportive partner. Many couples take parenting classes together. Spend time with friends and family who are caring and understanding. If you can't come to a resolution with your mother you may find that it is best to spend less time with her until your child is older.

Alexa Ward-Finn
Sedro-Woolley WA USA

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