Ask the Experts: Bedtime Battles, Healthy Food Choices & Different Parenting Philosophies - MetroFamily Magazine
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Ask the Experts: Bedtime Battles, Healthy Food Choices & Different Parenting Philosophies

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Different Parenting Philosophies

My spouse and I can’t agree about how to parent our children. I’m strict, he’s laid back. I expect them to meet high standards, he wants to let “kids be kids.” How can we find a way that will keep us both happy? Help!

Kids need parents to be on the same page when it comes to parenting and discipline, or there will be confusion about expectations and that can lead to kids manipulating parents to play one against the other. It can also lead to arguments and frustration between you and your spouse. Sit down with your husband and discuss what is important to each of you when it comes to parenting your kids. Keep in mind, it’s your job to help your kids learn to become independent, responsible members of society. How do you see that being accomplished? How does your spouse see it? Come up with a list of big issues and how you can both agree to handle them. If you feel strongly about how to handle particular situations, explain why you feel the way you do and listen openly to your husband’s opinions too. You each may learn the other has valid reasons for handling some of those issues in a different manner than you do. With the smaller issues, choose your battles wisely and determine what is truly important and what is negotiable.

Tamara Walker is a registered nurse, talk show host and speaker in Edmond.

  • Kevin Tutty: It seems a family meeting needs to come to order! Likely the answer is somewhere in between. If I lean one way, it is on the consistent, structured side, but that is just me. Whatever you decide, the main thing is that you are both showing a united front towards you child. Kids, (especially adolescents) have a great knack for finding "chinks in the armor" and will exploit differences in parenting styles, turning one parent against the other when differences in parental views of parenting exist.
  • Devonne Carter: Kids can figure out different parenting styles and they can obey different parenting styles.  They are very adaptable.  When they are at school they go from teacher to teacher with different styles and can adapt.  Let Dad parent his way and you parent your way.  Children will learn diversity.  It isn't healthy to try to control our spouses.
  • Lanet Clark: This dilemma is among the top problems I hear from parents. One parent feels that they are the “bad cop” because there is disagreement about how to handle discipline issues at home. I am glad that you are trying to remedy this issue because it can cause a lot of discord and resentment between parents. I recommend that you find some common ground with your spouse. Let him know how you are feeling, and that you really want to agree on how to handle issues together. This will require some compromise on your part as well. Not all childhood behaviors require parental redirection. Decide what behaviors you want to target, what response you will use together if you see those behaviors, and what consequences you both feel are reasonable. Generally, if a child hears the same response from both parents, the behavior changes more quickly. That’s a win-win for everyone.
  • Donnie Van Curen: Recognize that you are both right and you each need the other to create balanced and capable child.  Learn the art of compromise.  At times we need structure and high standards, but at other times it can be good for all parties to enjoy a little less structure and embrace the day.  You will both be happy when you learn to consider the other as you do yourself.  A successful marriage and family is not about changing someone else, it’s about changing yourself.

Reader feedback:

  • Begin with the end in mind. What type of adults do you want your children to be? What do you hope your children learn from you and by watching you? I really got a lot from reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • Taking a parenting workshop together in something like “Love and Logic” may help you talk it out and find the common ground.
  • Remember your goal as parents and go from there.

Thanks to Mikel I., Sarah T. and Annie G. for your feedback!

Healthy Food Choices

I’m trying to encourage my child to make healthy choices with food. How can I encourage a 9 year old who only wants a fast food kids meal that it might not be the best food choice?

First and foremost, don’t take him to fast food restaurants if you don’t want him ordering a kids meal. Make sure your choices help his choices.

Secondly, make it fun. Develop creative and fun ways of serving what he might see as boring, healthy choices—celery is always better with peanut butter!

Donnie Van Curen, M. A., LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist with Counseling 1820, LLC. 405-823-4302,

Parents should be in charge of a nine year old and what he eats when he is with you. So if you don’t want him to eat kids meals, don’t take him to fast food restaurants, except for a treat. It’s fine to communicate with your child that fast food isn’t the best choice, but if you want him to eat in a healthy manner, you need to feed him healthy foods. And remember, the best way to teach your children how to eat healthy is for you to eat healthy and serve healthy foods.

Devonne Carter is a clinical social worker in private practice in Edmond. 405-326-3923,

  • Tamara Walker: It can be hard to convince a child who is used to fast food kids meals to make healthier choices but it can be done. First and foremost, kids need to see parents making healthy food choices. Secondly, discuss what foods do for the body – giving energy, helping the body grow, helping the body stay healthy, etc. Talk about specific healthy foods and how they help the body and then talk about some of the not so healthy foods and how they can actually be bad for the body. Fun ways to teach nutrition and encourage healthy eating include games and apps such as, My Food Fight ( ) app, and Eat to Win ( board game. Let your child know that your whole family is going to eat more of the healthier foods and less of the non-healthy foods so you can all be strong and healthy. Occasional fast food kids meals and junk food treats are okay but shouldn’t be a regular part of a child’s diet.
  • Kevin Tutty: Most 9-year olds will not understand the concept of healthy eating, and the fast food chains are well aware of this. You may be aware that McDonald's has had to get away from using Ronald McDonald in their commercials due to the marketing of unhealthy foods to children. Since then, McDonald's has been utilizing more healthier foods in the foods marketed for children. You may have to take away your child's choices of unhealthy foods so he or she can make a healthy choice!

Our Readers Respond:

  • Let them help cook. My kids found they could make some foods better than what they find in fast food restaurants. Also, try something outside your own comfort zone. A kid who really likes Chicken McNuggets may find he likes sushi even better. The more foods they try, the more options they have.
  • Children learn by example. If you are eating healthy your child will, too.
  • We had a weekly “pick out something you’ve never had before from the produce section” game going for years. It got them to learn about food, be open to new ones and make better choices.

Thanks to Dorothy H., Jennifer W. and Blair F. for your feedback!

Bedtime Battles

My children are great! Except at bedtime. Then it’s nothing but attitude and fighting and arguments and frustration. Is there a foolproof way to get my child to go to bed?

I wish there was a foolproof way to deal with any childhood behavior; but with kids, you have to be ready with a plan B, C, D and sometimes E. I do have a few ideas to help make bedtime more peaceful at your house. Start off with a family meeting, which is a good idea to do anytime you change house rules, to let your children know what’s going to happen. Make a chart for each child that shows bath time, tooth brushing time and bedtime. Do your best to stick with the times, but also let them know that you may have to adjust it occasionally due to activities. Give your child some options for the first 15–30 minutes they are in bed (for instance, read or listen to soft music), but have a definite lights out time. Let your children know that a calm bedtime is an expectation in your house. Set up consequences for undesirable behavior if you need to. You can also help them transition to the new plan by winding down the activity in the whole house around bedtime. Good luck and sweet dreams!

Lanet Clark is an elementary school counselor in a metro-area school district.

  • Tamara Walker: Bedtime is often a challenge because everyone is tired and kids often don’t want to stop playing or watching television in order to go to bed, especially if they are in the middle of playing or watching and abruptly told it is time to go to bed. Creating a bedtime routine can help take away some of the frustration and fighting. Write down the tasks that need to be done while getting ready for bed. For younger children, use pictures along with the words to show each task, such as taking a bath, putting on pjs, brushing teeth, reading a bedtime story, etc. Start the bedtime routine at the same time each night, approximately 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, depending on how many steps are included and how long they take. When kids know exactly what to expect every night and at what time, they will adjust to the new routine and become more cooperative making bedtime less of a challenge.
  • Kevin Tutty: The only way I know to get children to go to bed, (or change any ingrained behavior) is to "ride the storm out." The amount of time the behavior has been going on is related to the amount of time it will take to reverse that behavior. When you try to get your kids to go to bed, they will test your resolve in changing their behavior. When you "pass the test," the behavior will change for the better. The "testing time" will require consistency, structure and patience. If you yell and become angry, this can actually reinforce the negative behavior, so remaining calm and collected is important in getting them to bed without the hassle. Kids will mirror your actions, so if you don't show a lot of emotion in your responses, your kids will follow you.
  • Devonne Carter: There are whole books written on this subject and my favorite is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. There are a few things that kids can control if we let them, some are food, and keeping their rooms clean, and where they pee and poop. Another time during the day they can make us miserable is throwing a fit at bedtime. They are tired and their parents are tired. Parents need to take the reins and be in charge and give consequences for disobedience. Other than writing a whole book on the subject here, I would suggest reading up on this issue, as it is AGE OLD!
  • Donnie Van Curen: “Foolproof” maybe a stretch, but here are a few options; First, start early preparing your children for bed. Make sure they know it is coming (15-30min prior) and encourage them to handle it in the appropriate way. Second, have consequences for both the right and wrong behaviors at bedtime.  This may include an earlier bedtime the next night for the wrong action, or possibly a later bedtime at some point as a reward for the correct choice.  The most important thing to remember is that your children will respond to your attitude (good or bad).  Stay calm and they will respond. 

Reader feedback:

  • My kids act that way when they’re already really sleepy. Maybe you could try moving bedtime forward 30 minutes or so.
  • Maybe a warning about 15 minutes before you begin your routine, such as “15 more minutes until it is time to start getting ready for bed” and then five minutes, etc.
  • Each night, my kids would each get one “free” time to get up, call mom or dad into their room, etc. Then the next time would result in negative consequences. It was VERY hard for us to stick with this the first month or so, but it SO paid off! They are awesome about going to bed now.

Thanks to Audrey O., Kami M. and Rachel K. for your feedback!

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