Can’t handle one more toddler temper tantrum? “Supernanny” Jo Frost can handle them all, and in her new book Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior, she shares her child caring superpowers with you. Parents caught up with the (wo)man of steel for an expert take on toddler discipline.
Parents: At what point did you realize that you had a knack for connecting with children and that you could help other families?
Jo Frost: I got into this industry because I’m passionate about looking after children and helping families. As a professional nanny, dealing with different dynamics and circumstances and problems—whether they be eating or sleeping, or life experiences like families moving from different countries or divorced parents—certainly gave me a vast amount of real, practical experience in the field. It wasn’t a light box switching on and me saying, “I’m good at this.” It was very instinctual for me to do the job that I was doing every day and enjoying. And, of course, I had the opportunity in 2004 when “Supernanny” came about to take my knowledge and experience to a much wider platform.
P: What will your audience get from reading your books that they can’t get from watching your show?
JF: I can talk the hind legs off a donkey. Being able to write books is a wonderful way for me to put not just the techniques that we use, but also to help parents understand why situations happen, to understand how your toddler ticks, to really understand the practicalities of living your life to the best of your ability. And to be able to do so, you have to know what parents want. People share their issues and challenges with me, and I’ve found that many a parent are in disarray when it comes to temper tantrums and knowing how to handle and understand them. How can they do best by their children? How can they give them a helping start? There’s a general feeling of parents really wanting to do the best that they can and needing a frank, honest, practical solution in being able to do so.
P: What do you think about the state of discipline in America today?
JF: You turn on the television and see airlines that are turning around the airplane because children are having temper tantrums. You’re seeing restaurants kicking out families because their child is having a melt down because they don’t want to eat their dinner. This isn’t okay. We need to be realistic in understanding what is appropriate behavior and how disciplined we need to be as parents. In America, we need to take away that stigma associated with being a disciplinarian. When you mention the word “discipline” in America, people think that you are harsh and unreasonable. Let’s break that word so that we understand the importance of what’s necessary to give our kids the best.
P: What was your goal in writing Toddler Rules?
JF: I wanted to very clearly, through my 25 years of observation in watching children interact with other children, whether in a classroom or at playgroup, identify: What are the types of temper tantrums that children have? How can we identify them? And how can we respond? The immediate response when a child has a temper tantrum is how to control it, rather than how to understand that every time your child has a temper tantrum, it’s an opportunity to learn exactly what’s going on in the child’s life at that particular moment and connect and respond to the situation at hand.
P: The book emphasizes your S.O.S. method—Step back, Observe, Step in—which is applied to sleep, food, and play. Can you give us an overview of how this method works?
JF: S.O.S. is what I use all the time, and I think that if parents could stand to adopt the S.O.S., we can healthily identify what is going on so that we can step in with a resolution. The resolution may be listening to both sides and making a decision, recognizing that we have to jump in and do something that protects our children, or empowering them so that they feel they’ve got some choice. We can’t do that if we continue to be sidetracked by emotion and not proactive in helping. You have to do; you can’t just ignore. You have to be active in actually making decisions and knowing what’s going on. You have to be able to make things better.
P: What would you say to parents who claim to have tried everything, yet still can’t get their kids to behave?
JF: Stop trying, and do. “Try” has become this great word in the land of nowhere. You’re either going to do it, or you’re not.
P: Any final words of wisdom?
JF: I love helping families and answering questions that come up. Sometimes they’re questions about challenges, and sometimes they might be practical questions that they’re just not too sure about. I would love for people to reach out to me on Twitter @Jo_Frost and on my website at www.jofrost.com. It’s more resources for them that may be very helpful.
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Looks like Dad is going to get a little more appreciation than just on Father’s Day! A recent study from Brigham Young University shows that dads play a huge role in helping their young children develop persistence. According to researchers, fathers who practiced “authoritative parenting” raised persistent kids who had better grades in school and lower rates of recklessness later in life.
The key to being an “authoritative” parent and not an “authoritarian” is granting kids personal freedom, while still holding them accountable for their actions. Dishing out appropriate levels of discipline will help children build persistence, so try to refrain from making empty threats that they will inevitably tune out.
Of course, it’s tempting to get your kids to break out the toothpaste by telling them dirty teeth will fall out, but it won’t benefit them in the long run, as one of our readers quickly found out. The funny dad’s best threat? “Either you get dressed right now, or you’re never going to get dressed again.” (For more seriously silly warnings, click here!) Rather than pretend to revoke clothing privileges, though, why not give your discipline tactics a makeover that will encourage perseverance instead? Your kids will thank you for it later.
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