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Why Your Child Loses It: Understanding Your Child's Temperament

6. Regularity: How predictable are your child's eating, sleeping, and elimination patterns?

wants to eat at very predictable times

needs to nap at specific times of day

wakes up at the same time every day

needs to eat now

      frequently skips meals or eats very little at one meal, then a great deal at the next

can easily delay his nap to fit your plans

if left to his own schedule would wake up at a different time each day

prefers to "graze" rather than eat at specific mealtimes

1 2 3 4 5
regular       irregular

Kids who have irregular body rhythms tend to be very flexible. The can easily wait for a meal or skip a nap if you're out and about. The challenge is that you never know when they're going to be hungry c tired. Kids with irregular body rhythms are triggered when they are pushed to eat when they are not hungry or to sleep when they are not tired. If you have an irregular child, create routines that are predictable but flexible. When your child wants a snack at four-thirty p.m., allow him to choose foods that meet his nutritional needs. What difference does it make if he has veggies and dip at four-thirty or veggies at six with his meal? Remember that you control what food is available. If you don't want him snacking on "junk," don't buy it. Acknowledging that your child is hungry affirms his most basic emotions. If he isn't allowed to read his own hunger, how can he be expected to monitor more subtle emotions like irritation or jealousy? If you're worried that your chili is eating due to boredom and not hunger, ask him, "Do you want to ea because you're bored, or is your stomach growling?" Teach him to clarify his emotions! Don't get into power struggles about food. Eating disorders are a major health concern for children today. Do teach him about good nutrition, do make sure healthy foods are available, and do plan regular family meals.

If naps are leading to power struggles at your house, create a "siesta' time when everyone slows down, reads, and rests. If your child is tired he'll fall asleep. If he's not tired, after thirty minutes siesta time is over and it's time to get up and go. By changing your expectations from sleep time to rest time, you'll reduce your frustration and find it easier to stay calm if your child doesn't fall asleep.

Kids with irregular body rhythms need words and phrases like:

  • It's difficult for you to fall asleep.
  • You can have a nutritious snack when you're ready.
  • This is rest time. You don't need to sleep, but you can rest.
Regular kids are very predictable. You know exactly when they') going to want lunch, fall asleep, or eliminate. The challenges occur when you want them to adapt their schedule. They cannot. If the need for a bowel movement hits every day at seven-thirty a.m., that it's it. They've got to go. If they are hungry at noon, they need to eat or they become irritable and may complain of a headache. These kid need predictable mealtimes and bedtimes. It helps if you understand that to delay eating or sleeping may actually make them physically ill.

Regular kids need words and phrases like:

  • Take a snack with you in case you have to wait for lunch.
  • Try taking a nap today because you'll be up later.
  • I understand you need to eat now!

Next: Page 8 >>

From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.

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