Parenting: newborns to toddlers

Rookie mum: battle of wills with one-year-old

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015, 1:03pm

I have a problem. It's a small, pink, female cartoon animal called Peppa Pig. For those of you who haven't met her, she's actually very sweet. Peppa lives with Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig and her little brother George. Her escapades are humorous and often educational.

My one-year-old son, Tom, is obsessed with her.

He has three words now: "oof oof" (for dog); "car" and "Peppa". Not "mummy", not "daddy". Worse still, "Peppa" gets by far the most use.

I am ashamed to say it, but he only wants to eat his food in front of Peppa Pig. And if we want him to stay still while we change his nappy, you guessed it - we have to whack on Peppa to distract him.

I never imagined myself as the kind of parent who would let her son watch television while eating. I am an eat-at-the-table kind of gal. However, he was sick for a long time, so getting food into him became a much higher priority than trying to wrestle him into his high chair. Peppa happened to be on, and therein started the addiction.

A few weeks later he is all better and eating well. But will he go back in his high chair? We have screams and the endless repetition of the word "Peppa".

I do not want to engage in a battle of wills with a one-year-old. He needs to learn that he is not the boss. Sweet and funny as she is, Peppa has to go at mealtimes. But how am I to accomplish this?

The best thing to do is to ask a professional nanny with years of experience of dealing with small children.

Step forward Sue Beer, a nanny, paediatric nurse, maternity nurse and managing director of In Safe Hands, a maternity and childcare agency in Hong Kong.

"Every nanny and childcare professional will have a different outlook on discipline," says Beer. "Personally, I believe it's never too young to start."

Tom is now showing definite signs of defiance. Bring on the discipline.

Beer emphasises the need for consistency: "When you start introducing boundaries, it is important for everyone involved to be on the same page. You need to sit down and discuss this with helpers."

My husband, my helper and I can provide a united front. But what about Peppa?

Tom refuses point blank to go in his high chair. He deploys the straight-legs-while-crying move - bound to get any parent's knickers in a twist. So we stick on Peppa and get him into the high chair in front of it. This is what I'd call a compromise. Hang on a second, I don't want to be compromised.

Beer suggests lots of repetition, as a one-year-old's memory is pretty short, plus lots of praise when they do something right.

"Children seek praise just like adults," she says. "If they don't get it, they often look for attention even if it is negative. Children respond better to positive reinforcement, which means when you have to say the word 'no' the word will matter."

As he sits in his high chair, I tell him what a good boy he is. He shows no interest in me whatsoever; his eyes are glued to the screen.

I decide we're going to go cold turkey. I wait until I know he's hungry and then I fight dirty. I put him in the high chair in front of the television but don't switch it on.

As he stares at the blank screen, he opens his mouth. Bingo! Food in. No Peppa.

When my husband comes home I tell him about my victory. It's not without some irony that we crack open some wine and settle down for a TV dinner.



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