StorkNet interview with
Elizabeth Pantley
Author of
Kid Cooperation, Perfect Parenting, and Hidden Messages

Elizabeth Pantley is the author of: Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate, Perfect Parenting: The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips, and Hidden Messages: What Our Words and Actions Are Really Telling Our Children. Click on the links above to read our reviews of her helpful and inspiring books! We also recommend reading Elizabeth's articles on StorkNet.

Parenting educator, Elizabeth Pantley, is the president of Better Beginnings, Inc., a family resource and education company. Ms. Pantley frequently speaks to parents in schools, hospitals and parent groups, and her presentations are received with enthusiasm and praise. She is a regular radio show guest and often quoted as a parenting expert in magazines such as Parents, Parenting, Working Mother, Woman's Day, McCalls, Good Housekeeping and Redbook and on over fifty parent-directed web sites. She publishes a newsletter, Parent Tips, that is distributed in schools nationwide.

Elizabeth and her husband of eighteen years, Robert, live in Washington State with their four children; Angela, Vanessa, David and Coleton. "Grama" (Elizabeth's Mom) and their Bichon, Pebbles complete their family. She is active in her children's school and sports activities. Elizabeth has served as her school's PTA President, and currently co-chairs the Box-Tops for Education committee and as newsletter editor. She has enjoyed coaching her daughter's softball team and cheering all of her children's sports and music activities from the bleachers.

Perfect Parenting: The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips



Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate


Hidden Messages: What Our Words and Actions Are Really Telling Our Children.

StorkNet interview with author and parent educator:
Elizabeth Pantley

Jennifer: Hi Elizabeth. I don't actually have a question. I had the good fortune to be the one to review your books, and I was so impressed with all three of them. They were a joy to read - realistic solutions and inspiring, too. Thank you for writing them! I hope that your books are helping parents become the best they can be. Thank you from all of us for being our StorkNet guest.

Elizabeth: Hi Jennifer, and thank you for your compliments. As a mom of four, I know that it can be a real challenge to raise children, and that none of us are born knowing how to be a parent. My books are intended to be friendly, realistic and helpful. I’m happy to say that according to the mail I receive, my books are indeed helpful to many families around the world. They are translated into many languages – including Slovenian! I find that children and parents are the same the world over. My goal is to provide real families with practical answers to parenting questions. I'm so glad to be here.

Jennifer: Slovenian! Your books are on a world tour! How wonderful that they are reaching so many people and spreading such inspiring and helpful hints and tips for parenthood. Okay, let's start our interview. The first question is from Taramarie.

Taramarie: I teach preschool in a below poverty level school. My last preschool was on a military post with middle to upper-class children. I definitely see a difference in their behavior and attitude towards learning. I have a hard time with my present class and getting them to focus and listen without me raising my voice. My principal has told me that is all that will work with "these" kids because that is what they get at home. I feel they should respond to my asking please and my calm voice but everyone at the school says "good luck!" What is your advice on getting in touch with "these" kids (as he would call them)? I don't want to yell, and nag, and scream, and go home with migraines everyday because of a four-year-old! HELP ME!

Elizabeth: Wow, Taramarie! Your school obviously needs you. I’m sad to hear that your principal thinks that these children can only respond to yelling. It’s not true, and it’s a very defeating attitude. You have these young children under your care for a big portion of every day. They will learn what your classroom rules are, regardless of what the rules are in their homes. Most of them will thrive in a structured, supportive classroom. I would suggest that you create very specific rules for behavior. Have the children help you to make posters of all the rules – one on each. They can color and decorate the posters. Each morning talk about one of the rules and let everyone share in the discussion. For example, one rule might be: We walk in class. You can ask questions and encourage a discussion. Why is this a rule? (So that no one gets hurt and nothing gets broken.) What happens when people don’t follow the rule? Do you think this is a rule in grown up classes, like in college? How can we remind others if we see them breaking the rule? This structure will help them learn what behavior is expected of them, and they will more likely follow your rules. (This technique is helpful for families to use in their homes, as well!)

Faith: Sometimes I wonder if my daughter is happy with things the way they are with baby in house and life being a little different, not as free to jump up and go... I have always tried to not let her feel excluded from baby, I have never asked her to do anything that she hesitates to do like getting diapers or toys. I asked her if she liked having baby brother and she replied, "I don't just like it, I love it!" But all this said, I worry about her feeling like I don't have time to do one on one things with her. Do you have any suggestions on activities that we can do together that are short, so I don't loose her attention, yet nurturing and will send a message that I really care about spending time with her?

Elizabeth: What a lucky mother you are, Faith! It sounds like your children really love each other and you’re a dedicated mother. I’ve heard it said that every child is born into a different family – the first child has just mom and dad, the second adds a sibling to the pot, not to mention the parents are different because they are older and (hopefully!) wiser. Imagine my fourth child – being born into a family with three older siblings, a dog, and grandma in the house too! A far cry from my first baby’s life experience. I remember when my fourth child, Coleton was a few months old and I asked his 10-year-old sister, Vanessa what she thought of having a baby in the house. She said, “I never knew he would make everybody so happy.”

Please don’t assume that your children will suffer from sibling rivalry. Although many books and articles may scare you into thinking that siblings always hate each other, it is a far cry from the truth. Many siblings have very good friendships throughout the growing years. Go about your life in the ways that work for you. If you can find snippets of individual time for your older child, then do it. But as your family expands this gets harder to do. I personally think it’s better to encourage siblings to see time spent with each other as beautiful, fun, exciting adventures. Teach them that they always have a playmate and a friend. You can do much to encourage their friendship, just keep thinking positive!

Wenzday: I have a 15 month old who is heavy duty into temper tantrums! I love your rules, but I wonder what is the "right" thing to do about his tantrums. I don't give in and give him what he wants because it's usually dangerous. I find that I cant pick him up because he hurts me. I mostly try to not let him get hurt while finding something else to capture his interest, and in public or outdoors I get him somewhere safe and somewhat ignore the tantrum---is this terrible?

Elizabeth: Hey Wenzday, welcome to parenting! Tantrums are a normal behavior from toddlerhood to teenagerhood (and some adults seem to keep on having them!) Here are a few hints on handling tantrums:

Debbie: My son, Connor will be two in June. Lately he has been acting up when I take him out. He will not sit in his stroller, or grocery cart, and he screams and throws a fit if I try to put him back in. My question is, how should I handle this, especially since I am in public? Thank you.

Elizabeth: That’s a great question, Debbie, since Connor’s behavior is exactly age appropriate! Two-year-olds are no longer content to sit in the stroller and observe life – they want to live it! You can help him to become involved and stay well-behaved too. I suggest that you involve him in ways that are productive, and that keep him focused. As an example, in the grocery store when you get within site of the apples ask him “Can you find the apples for mommy?” When he finds them, you can hold open the bag and say, “Can you pick 3 apples?” and have him put the apples into the bag as you hold it open. As you shop keep him focused by giving him things to find, things to put into the cart, things to carry. He’ll be so busy that he’ll be a joy to shop with! Yes, of course your shopping trip will take a little longer. But he’ll be happy and you’ll be happy. He’ll be learning new things. You’ll be enjoying this time with him. This stage in his life passes so quickly. Grab every moment. My oldest daughter is 13, and I swear she was just a newborn! Time flies much too quickly to spend it rushing though your little one’s childhood.

Sarah: My husband and I have been so focused on our 4-month-old daughter, that we have neglected paying much attention to each other. We both work outside of the home and relish every moment at home with her. Do you have any tips on how to satisfy wanting to spend as much time as possible with our daughter without letting our marriage fall by the wayside?

Elizabeth: I like your question, Sarah! My husband Robert and I have been together for 18 years and 4 children. We have both come to learn that the first year of each of our children’s lives is rather child-focused. But, as you say, we are both so enamored with our new baby that we enjoy each other through our enjoyment of our baby. It is important that you squeeze in time for each other—talking, hugging, and yes, even having sex!

I find it interesting when parents of newborns ask me when things will get back to “normal.” The best response to this is that you have to find a new “normal.” This means that your dinner conversation may, indeed, revolve around your baby. But, you know what? That’s no sin! She’s the center of your lives right now and something precious and wonderful that you share.

Your marriage is the cornerstone of your family and you both should acknowledge this and stay connected. You can do this is simple ways. How about sharing breakfast together? Talking quietly after the baby falls asleep? Maybe even sneaking out for dinner once a week or so while Grandma gets her turn with the baby? Brief snippets of time together can keep you close as you wander though this first year together as a family.

Michelle: We moved into a neighborhood with a lot of kids. Many of them I suspect used to play here with the previous owner's kids. The problem is that we constantly have kids we don't know (or even recognize) playing on our playset and worse, on our woodpile. Besides the garbage and toys they leave behind (which has created havoc with our lawn mower), I am afraid that someone will get hurt and sue us. We have repeatedly told the kids nicely to play elsewhere but to no avail. Plus, we feel like we have no privacy. It is so annoying that we are considering moving. We can't put up a high fence because of our homeowner's association rules. What can we do?

Elizabeth: I hear you, Michelle! There’s a fine line between being neighborly and being the neighborhood daycare center! (Adding to that the liability aspect that you mentioned.) Children are creatures of habit, and as you say, if they always played on the playset in the past they will continue to do so until new habits are formed. I suggest that you and your husband sit down and discuss your goals. Set up what you feel are good “rules.” For example, neighbor kids are welcome to play as long as your kids are outside and as long as they play nicely.

Now put your rules into action. When you spy a neighbor child on the playset go outside and get yourself eyeball to eyeball. Be very polite and kind. Acknowledge the change in rules. Say something like this, “I know that you have played here a lot before. But we have new rules. They are…. be brief and specific. You may have to repeat this scene three or four times with the same child until it sticks. But always do it with a smile on your face, and eventually the kids will understand. When the kids are playing with your children be really nice. Maybe even bring out some cookies, so you’re seen as a really nice lady, even despite your new rules!

Robing: I have a three-year-old who constantly whines. We have tried giving him examples of appropriate tone and how to ask questions the correct way, all to no avail. What can we do?

Elizabeth: Now here’s a new one! LOL! Robing, every single child on the face of the earth goes through a period of whining (if you’re out there saying, "Oh, not my child," just wait! Some kids wait until they hit the teen years, but they all try it eventually!) Since it’s such a normal concern I’ve written an article for StorkNet packed with answers, and here it is: Whining.

Kim: How do you keep kids under control when they don't get what they want and/or when they are in public. I had an experience with my nephew the other night who wanted an appetizer at dinner, and screamed and cried in the restaurant because he didn't get it. Is there a way to prevent this or do all kids act this way? Thanks, Kim.

Elizabeth: I remember back to a time before my sister and I had children. We’d see a kid like this and smugly say, “MY child will never do THAT!” Well, six kids between us, and many years later, and we now are more likely to pat the poor mother on the arm and reassure her that “This Too Shall Pass.” There really is not a parent who is immune to having her child melt down in public, and so I have addressed this topic at length in the second part of the article I mentioned earlier on tantrums. Here it is: Tantrums

Kia: I often hear that discipline begins in infancy. That if I fail to "lay down the law" with my 9 month old son that he will come to think that he owns the house and will not listen to me as he gets older. On the other side, I hear that you cannot spoil a baby and that by catering to him I am giving him comfort and love.

So when faced with such simple problems as my son's touching things he shouldn't and laughing uproariously when he hears me sternly say "No!," I am left wondering which path is best. Is it better to be forceful with him now and teach him the meaning of "No," or should I let him explore everything and be a baby? If the latter, when you should you start implementing a more determined form of discipline?

Also, I do not believe in spanking. I may eventually tap a hand if he is persistent with an action that may cause him harm (grabbing knives, trying to touch the electrical sockets, etc.). Time out does not seem to work with a child of 9 months. What alternatives are there for disciplining a child so young? Thank you for your time and expertise.

Elizabeth: Oh, Kia, how people misunderstand children and discipline! I do understand why you are confused. Let me try to clear this up for you.

Parents who get off to the right start with their babies have an easier time with discipline as the years go by, because the parent-child relationship is strong and stable. These connected kids and their parents learn how to read each other. And these parents can often correct a child's behavior by simply a stern look. (And believe me, I have perfected that look!)

During the early years you want to develop a mutual trust and sensitivity that in the long run ends with a child who wants to behave appropriately.

Young children don’t think like adults. The world looks different to them and they respond differently. Babies and toddlers want to learn, they want to explore. They are not out to disobey. It is helpful to know what to expect at each stage of development so that you can guide your children appropriately though teaching, modeling and coaching. I’d suggest a wonderful series of books by Louise Bates Ames and the Gesell Institute called Your One Year Old; Your Two Year Old and so on. These books teach what behavior is typical at each age, and can help you understand your child.

Little ones need to learn about the world, and we can teach them what they need to know in a gentle way. A two-year-old who runs into the street isn’t intentionally defying his mother's authority, he just wants his ball back. Action follows impulse, with no thought in between. When your baby reaches for your coffee cup he is just simply curious. You can use a serious voice and say, “No touch! Hot! Not for baby!” We’ve done this enough with our 18-month-old son, Coleton, and one time he actually did touch a hot cup before we caught him, so he really understands what “hot!” means. Now when he sees a coffee cup he says, “No! Hot!” and he doesn’t even try to touch it. As a matter of fact, we’ve also called electrical outlets “Hot!” and he uses his knowledge of the coffee cup and won’t go anywhere near an outlet, either. That’s called learning.

When you understand that your job these early years is primarily teacher, you will respond much differently to your son’s actions. When your little son is reaching for an electrical socket it’s obviously because he has no knowledge of what it is. He wants to learn. So tell him. Teach him. And help him learn about his world. You’ll end up with a delightful, enjoyable child.

You do ask about spanking, and here’s an article that covers what I think about this topic: Spanking

Nancy G: I have a 2 and a half year old daughter who is constantly putting things in her mouth. I know that is somewhat normal for her age, but she has not only eaten some glass, but also will put stones or dirt in her mouth whenever we are outside.

I have tried time outs and leaving the park when she does it. I don't know how to impress upon her how dangerous it can be. It gets so bad that being outdoors with her is more worrisome than enjoyable and I don't want her to feel that way. Any suggestions? Thanks, Nancy.

Elizabeth: This is a great follow up question to the previous one, Nancy. As I said earlier, young children are in a constant state of wanting to learn about their world. Putting things in their mouth is one way that they learn. Your daughter isn’t being “naughty” when she does this – she’s just plain curious about the things she sees, and being a childish scientist she uses her mouth as one way to learn new things. She just needs to learn, and you need to teach her. Using words that she already understand, “Yuk! Dirty” No!” tell her what things don’t belong in her mouth. Now here’s the next step. Tell her what she CAN do to explore her world! “Here sweetie, you can mash the dirt with this spoon.” “You can touch the slug with this twig.” Help her learn how to explore in appropriate ways and soon the only things she’ll be putting in her mouth are those cookies that fell on the floor. (Oh, well. That’s a new lesson.)

Elsie: Hi Elizabeth! I have a two-year-old son who is very attached to me. When strangers speak to him in public, he clings to me and cries. While I think this is a perfectly normal phase, my husband worries. He thinks I have spoiled our son and cater to him too much. He is especially worried because my son often screams out for me even when his daddy is holding him! Any suggestions? Thanks!

Elizabeth: This is a good topic to talk about, Elsie, since every child will experience separation anxiety at some point. This is normal and necessary behavior. If your two-year-old were not so connected to you he would just take off in the opposite direction and who knows what trouble he would find? Separation anxiety is a biological protective device. It is natural for a baby to be most connected to the person he spends the most time with – his primary caregiver. If your husband works and therefore, spends less time with your son than you do, it’s perfectly normal for your little guy to be Mommy-centered right now. In our family, after going through four children, my husband understands that this is a short phase and soon enough the house will be ringing with constant calls for “Daddy!” This article about separation anxiety may be of help also.

Bridgett: I hate using the word "no" and try not to but our 19 month old daughter thinks it's so funny when we correct her. We've tried distraction, time-outs and the word "no." I've even tried telling her about what she's doing wrong. Any suggestions? Some of the problems we have with her is holding her new kitten easy, climbing on the coffee table and trying to run towards the street. Thanks a lot!

Elizabeth: Welcome to toddlerhood, Bridgett! Your little one is very busy learning about her world. Her insatiable curiosity is what propels her to explore everything around her. Toddlers are like absentminded professors who are focused on absorbing information about their surroundings but at the same time lacking the grace and skills to properly handle what they are exploring! A 19 month old can’t really be disobedient, because she doesn’t understand right from wrong. That is your most important job right now. I find that it’s important to tell a toddler “No” and then redirect her and tell her what she CAN do. I also avoid the word No when possible replacing it with instructive words, such as Dangerous! Hot! Or our current favorite: “Owie!” – See, my 18 month old knows what Owie means, since he’s had a few. So anytime he heads for a dangerous situation (holding the kitten roughly, going into the street, touching a knife) we use a strong, loud voice and say “Owie! Not for baby” It’s a great way to help him learn.

Susan: My daughter is 15 months old and lately has decided that she has to walk everywhere! She will struggle like mad to get out of the sling or stroller and I don't know what to do! I let her walk as much as possible, but sometimes it just isn't safe. However, she'll be turned upside down in the sling trying to slide out of it and I'm afraid I'll drop her. Any suggestions on convincing her that she doesn't have to do all the walking?

Elizabeth: LOL!!! As if!!! Okay, Susan, Imagine if you had surgery and were confined to a wheel chair to a year. Suddenly, you are well and can walk! How would you like it if your husband told you that he still wanted you to ride in the chair because it was convenient for him? I bet you’d be climbing out of that chair every chance you could get! You new walker loves the freedom and excitement of getting around on her own two feet. Not only does she love the feeling of walking, she loves that she can touch, feel, and explore! I’d suggest that you let her walk as often as possible. When you need to carry her or put her in the stroller just tell her “You have to ride now. You can walk later.” Sure, she’ll be unhappy with you, but eventually she’ll get with the program.

Susan: Another question about my 15 month old - she has been getting very violent with us (hitting, biting, etc.) Sometimes she does it because she's angry, but often she's doing it to express affection. Any suggestions on how to channel her violence into more appropriate behavior? Saying "No" just makes her laugh.

Elizabeth: Be sure to read the message from Bridgett above. Her toddlers laughs at “No” too. Hmm. Is there a pattern here? Actually, yes! It’s very common behavior. Again, I avoid "No" when possible. Instead, take your daughters hand and stroke carefully the place that she just hit and say, “Gentle. Gentle.” Smile and encourage her. She needs to learn that hitting hurts, she doesn’t get it. She needs to learn to touch softly. This is how you teach her.

Laurel: My son is only 4.5 months old. When can I start teaching him to be gentle, and have it make sense? I don't like to always trick him with something new to get him to put something down, because I'm sure he'll get too smart for that soon. But he really grabs onto my hair, plants, etc...and I'd like to set some boundaries.

Elizabeth: Laurel, did you say 4 and a half months!? Babies are smart, yes, but not wise. Babies want to touch and mouth everything. That’s how they learn. You can start teaching your baby using subtle ways to gently helping him to let go of things he shouldn’t grab. But it will be another 6 months or more before he can really understand what you are doing. Now’s the time to build the foundation of your relationship by loving him and nurturing him.

Catherine: My son Jonathan is 20 months old, and he is a true sweetheart. He has a very amiable personality, with lots of creativity and determination. Over the last few months, he has been exploring more, and wanting to help out more. We let him help out with chores and tasks whenever we can, even if it means that something takes longer. And, we do let him explore and experiment with most things in our house. Jonathan and I are both home during the day, and most days go very smoothly.

We try to use positive statements instead of "no" as much as possible, (like telling him to be gentle when he gets too rowdy, and it works usually!) but I still feel like there are some days when I am constantly saying the word "no." It is common on days when we really do need to get somewhere or I'm trying to accomplish something that he cannot help with. It's hard for me to believe that he understands "no." I think he might have a small grasp of it, but often I think he thinks we're playing around. He will either keep doing what he's doing and smile, or he will stop doing it, smile and then do it again. He is behind verbally (his only word so far is "dada"), but my husband and I think he is very intelligent and often he can follow simple verbal directions. He can shake his head yes and no, but sometimes he will shake his head no when he means yes (and vice versa).

I'm just at a loss when it comes to trying to get across to Jonathan that he can't play with the toilet (he figured out the child safety lock and he can open the door to the bathroom), and that the files in the filing cabinet really do need to stay there! Is this one of those growing phases where I need to keep telling myself "this too shall pass" or am I missing out on opportunities to teach him? I greatly appreciate any advice. Thanks in advance!

Elizabeth: Well, Catherine, sounds like your days aren’t boring at all! I bet Jonathan keeps you busy. Let’s clear up one point you made. Jonathan isn’t necessarily “behind” verbally. He’s on his own track and he’ll talk when he’s ready. Since he obviously understands you and is developing normally, you’ ll most likely see him spouting full sentences before too long. (That’s wisdom coming from a mom of four—one child who didn’t talk ‘til she was almost 2 ½, one who used full sentences on her first birthday, one who followed the “standard” pattern listed in all the baby books, and my 18-month-old who is chattering away as I type.) You can encourage Jonathan to talk, and enable him to get his point across to you, by taking a lot to him. Use short, clear sentences. Try to communicate face-to-face so he can watch your mouth as you talk. Ask lots of questions. Repeat back any of his new words in a clear voice. So if he says “bir,” say “Yes! That is a bird.”

As far as teaching right from wrong – this is the age when you can consider yourself in the “preschool” of the discipline academy. It’s a time when you will do an excessive amount of teaching, modeling, showing and repeating, repeating, repeating. About the sixty-fourth time you tell him not to play in the toilet he’ll suddenly understand and will leave the toilet alone! (Of course, he’ll just move on to something else!)

This is a time when you need to watch him like a hawk, redirect him when he gets into trouble, and do all that teaching along the way.

Yes, you’re right, “This Too Shall Pass” … and you’ll have to manage new issues at every stage of development, and then you’ll be were I am now with my 13-year-old – dealing with requests to change her hair color, clothing choices and the first request to go to the movies with a boy!

The most important advice I can give you now is: READ, LEARN, STUDY.

None of us are born knowing how to be a parent. We all need help. If you don ’t already own at least three parenting books – get busy! In addition to mine (which, of course I’d have to recommend: Kid Cooperation, Perfect Parenting and Hidden Messages) a few others I highly recommend:

The Discipline Book by William and Martha Sears
The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children by Steven Vannoy
Your One Year OldYour Two Year Old… and so forth (series) by Louise Bates Ames
The Field Guide to Parenting by Shelley Butler and Deb Kratz

Nicolette: We have three children (5 1/2, 4 1/2 & 13 months) and one on the way. My oldest has been quite disruptive in school and at home lately. She is doing what "she wants to do." We have talked to her on how important it is to follow directions and how all of us have to do it. We have taken privileges away, we tried to let her choose her chores and responsibilities, and try to point out rules that we (adults) have to follow and what the consequences would be if we didn't. I will admit that my patience are getting thinned over this mini-rebellion. I would love any suggestions that you may have to offer. Thanks!

Elizabeth: Gee, Nicolette, 5, 4, 1 and pregnant and you don’t have the patience of a saint? What’s the matter with you? LOL! In your situation it’s quite common that the oldest of your little group will be expected to act more mature than she really is. In my family, compared to my older three kids ages 13, 11, and 9 – your 5-year-old would be the baby! Be careful that you aren’t expecting too much of your 5 year old. I’d highly recommend that you read Your Five Year Old and Your Six Year Old by Dr. Louise Bates Ames. It can be very helpful to know what behavior is normal at her age. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the more parenting skills you have the better you will be able to manage your little bunch.

Gayesy: Hi Elizabeth. :) I am hoping you might have some suggestions for me on how to encourage my 4-year-old to do his BMs in the toilet rather than on his potty. I am getting a bit sick of cleaning out the potty! The mere thought of it makes me almost vomit.

He started using the potty for BMs at around 3 years and 5 months (thanks to suggestions from you!). He is now 4 years and 3 months. We have a footstool (at the right height for him to rest his feet comfortably while sitting on the toilet) and a seat (so he won't "fall in"). He has tried it once or twice but really is NOT keen! Any ideas please? Thanking you in advance!

Elizabeth: Well, Gayesy, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things. The footstool and the child size seat are important. Patience is important too, but it sounds like you’re running out! (Gee, you really don’t like cleaning up those poopies??!) Sounds like it’s time for my “secret weapon.”


Try this I-hate-to-even-suggest-it-because-I-don’ t-believe-in-bribery-but-it-always-works idea. (I usually don’t recommend bribery, but I know that there is a point that you’ll do anything to get this business over with, so go ahead!) Go to the toy store and buy about thirty little prizes. (Check the party favor aisle for a great selection of inexpensive trinkets.) Wrap each prize separately in wrapping paper. Put them in a clear glass bowl and place the bowl on the counter in the bathroom. Don’t say a word. When your son asks about it, respond in a matter of fact way, “Oh. Those are potty prizes. You’ll get one each time you do your business in the toilet. But no hurry. Whenever you’re ready.” Most kids are “ready” immediately, but don’t be surprised if your child drools over the bowl for a few days before deciding to be “ready.” Allow your child to choose one prize each time he goes. When the bowl’s empty, the habit will be firmly in place.


Gayesy: Elizabeth, you are AMAZING! Thank you so much for your suggestion of the toilet prizes. I am delighted to report that Thomas started using the toilet for his BMs straight away and has been doing so now for almost two weeks. No more cleaning out the potty!! YAY! He was obviously ready but just needed a little "motivation." You are the BEST - thanks so much for your help!

Maggie: How can I stop my 16-month-old from scratching me every time he wants my attention? There's no warning signs at all, he'll just suddenly reach out and scratch my arm (leg, face, etc.) even if I just turn for a second.

Elizabeth: Maggie, I like these kinds of questions: easy to solve. I’d just trim his nails very short. (Clip them and then use a nail file to round and smooth the edges.) Next time he grabs you take his hand and demonstrate how to hold and touch “gently.” This should do the trick.

Kathleen: I am the mom of three kids - ages 5, 3, and 4 months. My oldest child, Sophie, has always been extremely verbal, but has lagged in her fine motor skills. At my last conference with her preschool teacher, the teacher informed me that because Sophie is still unable to write her name, use scissors, or draw very well, that I should be working with her more. My fear, however, is that by doing so, it may send a message to Sophie that I am not proud of her, and that she doesn't "measure up." I know it bothers her that she is unable to do these things, and I don't want to make her feel worse by putting any pressure on her. Do you have any creative suggestions as to how I can help to build her confidence in a loving and supportive way, but not put any unneeded pressure on her? Thanks for your help!

Elizabeth: Guess what, Kathleen, I had a very similar situation with my son, David. He was very verbal and physical (walked at 10 months, threw a ball at 9 months!). He lagged very far behind in fine motor skills. His first grade printing looked like preschool. He couldn’t use scissors well and had no interest in coloring. We did find fun ways to help him to practice these skills. Sneaky, even. We’d buy a Pokemon workbook. Get him Batman puzzles. Model car kits. Have him cut out pictures from magazines. His older sisters even made him his very own workbooks. Here’s the kicker. David is now 9 years old. His IQ is off the charts. He attends school in a full time gifted program. He’s an awesome athlete: baseball pitcher, soccer, football. And, guess what? His teacher always sends home notes that say, “David needs to practice his penmanship.” Oh well, no one’s perfect!

Melissa: The back seat- I decided two months ago that it wasn't safe for my children to ride in the front seat of the car any longer. I set it straight that they will sit in the back together. They are 8 and 5. Every morning and evening it is a nightmare. They constantly fight. I tried to make a line between them but this doesn't seem to work. I have grounded them and still nothings changed. HELP!

Elizabeth: LOL! Would you believe that this is so common it’s covered in my book, Perfect Parenting? No sense in re-creating the wheel, here’s the excerpt:

Car, who gets to sit in front

Situation: Every time we get in the car, the kids fight over who gets to sit in the front seat. I’m really tired of it.

Think about it: After the third car trip of the day you finally screech, “NOBODY gets to sit in front!! Just get in the car!!” Why do we do it? Why do we get angry over the same issue over and over again without finding a solution? Do we honestly think that one day our kids will approach us and say, “Guess what, Mom? We’ve decided that since the fighting bothers you so much, we’ll never fight over the front seat again. Isn’t that goodhearted of us?”

Solution #1: If you have two children, assign one child the even days of the month, the other the odd days. Use this as a standing arrangement. All you have to know is what day of the month it is. Of course, some days you’ll not travel at all, and some days you’ll travel quite a bit, but over the long haul it evens out. Calmly explain this rule of averages each time a complaint arises. For three children, assign each two days of the week. On Sunday, either the front seat stays empty or they can alternate. (Keep a note pad in the glove box to keep track.)

Solution #2: Assign permanent seats. At first the kids will express outrage at the injustice of such a preposterous idea. But after a week or two of hearing you say, “Everyone get in your assigned seat,” they will accept it, maybe grudgingly, but who said your kids have to always be happy with your decisions? You can change assigned seats on the first of every month, if you desire.

Solution #3: Keep dice in the car and roll for seat choices (highest number picks first and so on). Or use a deck of cards to draw for first choice.

Solution #4: Enlist the cooperation of your children. Express your distress at the situation and ask them to come up with a solution. Often, if you ask kids for their help, and treat their ideas with respect, they will come up with the best solution for them.

Solution #5: Use accident statistics to solve this problem for you. Children are 30 percent more likely to survive a car crash when they’re sitting in the backseat rather than the front. The National Transportation Safety Board has asked states to consider legislation to make it illegal for children under twelve to ride in the front seat. Australia and some European countries already have front seat restrictions. Also, cars with air bags carry warnings recommending that children not sit in the front seat due to dangers caused by deployed air bags. In light of this information, you can post a rule in your car stating, “No children under twelve in the front seat.”

Melissa: Every morning I take my children to school and pick them up after work. My 8 year old daughter begins to cry and beg me to not send her to the after school program. She HATES it. She wants to be a "car-rider" and have me pick her up right after school. She says nobody is bullying her but she gets so depressed that her mom has to work every day. I’m beginning to feel so guilty! It's been 4 years at this after school program. Any suggestions?

Elizabeth: Yes, Melissa, I do have some suggestions. First: don’t go there! Sure, it would be lovely if you could quit work and stay home with your kids, but it’ s not that simple. This is a fact of her life. You do the best you can. Sounds like she’s enrolled in a good program. Check with her teachers and ask if she seems happy and involved when she’s there. Pick her up early a few times and peek in the window or door without her seeing. Once you know that she’s fine when she is there stop worrying and stop feeling guilty. Try to make it fun by sending along a favorite snack or see if she can bring a game to share. Then try to make some extra time with her over the weekend or in the evening. That’s probably what she wants: more time to hang loose with Mom. If you can manage to fit some of that in she’ll probably stop fussing.

Christie: Elizabeth, My 20 month old daughter has always been well behaved in the past. In the past two months, however, she no longer seems to listen when I tell her "no" or give her simple instructions. She'll stamp her foot, throw whatever she has in her hand (including food) and burst into tears when she does not want to mind. I am a soft-spoken parent who prefers to handle things as gently as possible. However, she has become so out of control on some occasions, I have started using the old fashioned spanking method. It's what my parents used with me and it seems to work. But, I would be interested in your ideas for alternative methods of handling an almost two year old, when she becomes defiant.

Elizabeth: Oh, Christie! Please don’t go down that spanking road! Read this: To Spank or Not to Spank

I know you’re frustrated, but let me give you a few ideas. First, read through the questions that other mothers have asked earlier in this interview. You’re not the only one! Your daughter is just being a normal, healthy toddler! Your most important job right now is to teach your daughter. I’m NOT a soft-spoken parent LOL but I AM gentle with my four wonderful children. I’ve never spanked my kids. They are now 13, 11, 9 and 18 months: and very humbly I must say they are four of the best kids I’ve ever met. Good students, respectful, honest, trustworthy -- they sound like boy scouts :)

The answer to your question is NOT one easy glib answer. It’s that you need to begin to learn and use good parenting skills. I’d recommend my book Kid Cooperation for a solid foundation to your parenting. Here’s two excerpts that you’ll find helpful: Get Your Toddler To Cooperate and The Power of Choice.

Sheryl: Hi Elizabeth, I have 2 year old triplet girls and although they are very loving with each other at times, they seem to fight an awful lot, sometimes I feel more like a referee than a mom. One of my girls is more of a bully, where she will bite, pull hair, hit etc. if she wants a toy that her sister has. What can I do as far as discipline at this early age. Also is it too early for them to learn how to share, once in a while they will share but it's not consistent.

Elizabeth: Congratulations, Sheryl! I know things are hectic now, but in the long run you’ll love having three the same age. My older three are close in age 9, 11, 13 – and I’ve always loved that they can play together because their interests are similar.

All siblings fight. When our children fight, it not only grates on our nerves, it tugs on our hearts. The most important advice I can give you is: calm down and relax. Keep a level head and view your kids’ arguments in a realistic way. The fight over the red Lego TM, as intense as it may seem, will be over and forgotten by the time one of them realizes she needs a blue one. The vast majority of sibling battles are not destructive to the relationship between the children. All this considered, there are ways to survive sibling fighting. And there are ways to reduce the number of fights, and the severity of them, as well.

Since you’re girls are only two, you are in the constant (and tiring, I know!) role of teacher. You need to stay nearby and jump in whenever you see a bad situation starting. Role play with them, tell them how to talk to each other, help them through the issues. If they both want the same toy, talk them through it. “OH! You both want the doggie. Let’s do this. You have it first and I’ll set the timer for 5 minutes. Then you get a turn.” Make a big production about setting the timer and help them make the transition when it rings. Before you know it they’ll come to YOU and ask you to set the timer for them!

Dawn: Hi, My husband is in the military and because he has been deployed and working so much the past few years the bulk of the "parenting" has fallen to me. He is trying to take over some of the duties but is unsure how. I am also finding it difficult to give up the power. How do we move to a more equal partnership in parenting? The military lifestyle makes it difficult for parenting routines to work.
Dawn, Mom to dd 11 years, ds 9 years and ds 5 years.

Elizabeth: Hi, Dawn. It sounds like you have a strong marriage, and that your husband is a good Dad who wants to be involved with your children. The best way to do this is to discuss your parenting ideas. Have rules for the children, so you can both be consistent. Decide in advance what you will do if the rules are not followed. If it’s possible, take a parenting class together or read a book or watch a parenting video. (I have several through my web site at ) The key is to communicate!

Jennifer: Last week my husband dropped off our 2 1/2 year old son at the baby-sitters house and my son did not want to go. He is usually pretty laid back and easy going. Well he threw a violent fit and grabbed at my baby-sitter's throat and started kicking her and screaming. This is NOT the norm for the way he behaves. There are no problems going on in our house between my husband and I and everything seems to be going pretty well. The only "different" thing going on right now is that my husband is off of work for 2 weeks. My husband suffers from depression and I have seen the same Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde episodes many a time with him. Does this sound more like a 2 year old throwing a fit, or should I really be concerned that heredity is kicking in here? My husband has to take antidepressants to control his mood swings, and he never got help until he was 28 years old. If my son is going to go through the same thing, I want to make sure we catch it early.

Elizabeth: Well, first of all, Jennifer, your son is at an age when separation anxiety is very strong. His reaction may simply be the fear of leaving you and spending time with a sitter. You also mention that the only "different" thing going on right now is that your husband is off of work for 2 weeks. That’s a BIG “different!” It could be that your little guy loves spending extra time with Daddy and is reluctant to let go. I would sure keep an eye on your little guy’s behavior, but from the one situation you describe he sounds normal.

Jeanne: Dear Elizabeth, I have four children under the age of 10. My oldest has developmental delay is nonverbal and has some motor impairment. She often "chooses" not to clean up either by laziness or true inability. We just don't know. My almost 5 year old "typical" child asks why he has to clean up while she can just sit there? We would need to physically pick her up and assist her in picking up a toy, etc. He of course is physically and mentally capable, but understandably asks this question. I also have two younger children... 2 1/2 years and 6 1/2 monthss. So it is a constant battle around here.

Elizabeth: My first thought is that this is something your 5 year old is going to have to learn to live with. I’d give him very simple answers: “Because you CAN and she CAN’T, that’s why.” Get started on the right foot here. Your kids cannot be treated equally, and the sooner your children understand this the better. This is not to say you shouldn’t be compassionate or kind, but I sure wouldn’t spend too much energy justifying your choices.

Your family’s state of “normal” will be different than another family without a special needs child, and this is something every child in the family will need to understand. Having a special needs child can increase the level of compassion and understanding in all the children in your family. Encourage these helpful emotions in your interactions with your children.

Angelchild2: Okay my question has to do with my older daughter who will be five in August. She does things to get negative responses. She will do things to get into trouble, as in not obeying me, talking back, teasing her brother, deliberately ignoring me. I discuss it with her and give her chances, time-outs, taking things away from her and then when all else fails spanking. I know that she's been through a lot of changes in the year, but I'm running out of patience. Please helps. Thanks, Lisa

Elizabeth: Lisa, if you’ll read through this interview you’ll see lots of other Moms in your boat. Actually, put together, we’d end up with a fleet of cruise ships! The key here is the way that you handle the parenting in your family. None of us are born knowing how to be parents. And no children are perfect angels. Learn new skills, have a good parenting plan. Your daughter sounds very normal. And you sound like a good, caring parent. But that’s not enough. It’s critical that you have good parenting skills. Here’s an excerpt from my book, Perfect Parenting that seems like a good way to end today’s interview program. (please read)

I wish that all of you have a fulfilling, joyful parenting journey!

Elizabeth Pantley

Thank you for participating in and reading our interview with Elizabeth Pantley. We also recommend reading Elizabeth's articles on StorkNet. - StorkNet Staff

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