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SMART PARENT/SMART CHILD is the revolutionary philosophy that all children are incredibly intelligent from the moment they are born. When parents have learned understanding, respect, highly developed communication and relationship skills and development related expertise, it is amazing what a child can accomplish and, in fact, each child will achieve his maximum potential.

Our mission is to help you achieve that goal. The key to a child's education and success is a skilled, knowledgeable, informed and educated parent.

This blog addresses specific issues, to really be the best parent possible the book is a must!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Get Parents Back on Track

I was so excited and joyful that my son Paul would be coming to Los Angeles with his family the last week of May.  I had visited them in December when Gabriel was 19 months old and awarded Paul and his wife Maren an “A” in parenting.

They were doing so many things well: really respecting his intelligence and informing him what was happening in his day to day life.  They were successfully achieving early toilet training, creating a healthy food environment and overall, a great family dynamic.

I did work with them to help correct a “too early wake up time” and define the importance of spending half of his awake play time teaching him additional play skills while expecting him to entertain himself for the other half. 

In the months between that visit and their arrival, we did talk about the fact that they were experiencing some “food issues”.  He was stalling, refusing to swallow his chewed food and overall, creating a stressful meal environment.  His situation unfortunately had caused his mom and dad to begin obsessing over his food intake and caused them to attempt “to please him” i.e. allowing him to select or reject food, refuse to eat, whine for options, and overall create a meal environment to be dreaded.

I suggested they adopt my food schedule at the daycare (the children know the daily menu ahead of time): a predictable protein, vegetables that complement the protein, a pasta or rice, mixed fresh fruit and then bread.  These foods are served in order and have to be eaten before more food is requested. 

All remaining food following the menu is available to children that request them, given that they had eaten the full menu first.  When parents witness mealtime they are always amazed at the positive tone of the meal and the amount of food eaten. With a small family, Paul and Maren found this approach challenging and only adopted components of it that worked for them.     

I was not really expecting the kind of behavior Gabriel exhibited when they arrived.

First, Paul and Maren would negotiate the menu for a meal in front of Gabriel and then turn to him to make his choice, giving him the decision making power.  They hovered over him, commenting on each minute factor about the food- “was it too hot”, “don’t put that much food on your spoon” and even counted the number of spoons of cereal he would need to eat before he drank the milk in the bowl.  They even went so far as to eliminate any food that was on his plate that he now decided he did not like.  This was allowing him to change his mind about any selection he had made and contributed to the all-around stressful situation.

I began to include him in lunchtime at the daycare and not surprisingly, saw none of these behaviors.
They also transferred this hovering/determined to play and dependent approach to all of his playtime.  They even went so far as to hold his hand even while in a safe environment. They lacked defined values, behaviors and boundaries for him and only driven by a desire to please him.

His parents completely respected his intelligence, but they had to establish clear boundaries, behaviors and values.  They were allowing him to take on the parent role and be in complete control!
I presented a goal plan for them to implement that included what they need to stop doing.  Both parents had to be in agreement.


1.       Think before you speak-only say what you really mean and will follow up on.
2.       Make your request simple, direct and clear.
3.       Wait 15 seconds after that first request and let him decide if he wants to take action.
4.       Repeat it again if he has not acted (exactly the same. Do not defend or elaborate.)
5.       If he has not responded, tell him you will hold his hand and insist that he listen and follow your request.
6.       You must practice this 100% of the time. No exceptions!

Do Not:
1.       Comment on the situation if you are not the parent in charge at the moment.


1.       Do understand that Gabriel will eat when he is hungry and the food is tasty and varied.
2.       Allow him to make a choice between two options at two meals per day.  One meal should be served to him with no choice.
3.       Do work toward varying the protein (which should be the center of the meal). When possible, post a menu ahead of time for the week. (The children at the day care associate each day with that day’s protein and may mention it throughout the morning.  If I am adding a new protein I add a smaller serving to the existing protein)  
4.       Explain that Gabriel has to eat his two vegetables before he gets his protein and so forth for the rest of the meal.  If there are difficult days and he is giving you a hard time, make sure he understands that he cannot skip a component and has to finish one before he gets the next one.  If he refuses, the meal is over.  It is more than likely he could be overtired, not hungry, challenging you ect. Do not change this rule.  He will get the message and he probably won’t do that again.
5.       Do create a pleasant family atmosphere. Within his area of interest you can use meal time as an educational time.  Keep the subject light and not complicated.  If you try this and it is distracting drop it!
6.       Do establish table manner and be realistic.

Do not:
1.       Comment on every bite he is taking.  Focus on your own food.  Be aware when he finishes what is on his plate and have him request the next component.
2.       Do not overreact if he says he is full and has not completed his meal.  Remind him what the consequences of that statement are: the meal will be over and he will have to wait until the next meal.
3.       Do not expect him to eat three “big” meals per day.  If he has had a huge lunch, dinner may be less.
4.       Allow enough time between meals for him to be hungry.  If he has had a snack at 4:15 then dinner should be served after 6 pm.
5.       Do not let meals become a power struggle: relax! He will always win that battle.  He needs a positive attitude towards food.
6.       Do not feed him by hand and do not mix his food together in an effort to get more nutrition into him.  It is a losing strategy and insulting to him.

My overview of what may have happened:

Paul and Maren had figured out who he was and where he was at 19 months.  But by the time parents come to the right developmental conclusion, the child is already moving on to the next phase.

The five months leading to a child’s 2 year birthday are a huge growth period physically, emotionally, and cognitively.  They can become much more opinionated, verbal and dismissive. When family members are not all on the same page, it becomes frustrating for everyone.
Parenting is challenging.  Bright, strong willed children are the most challenging.  It also happen that they are the most rewarding and interesting.

So take a deep breath, watch for changes, come up with an understanding to handle them, relax and enjoy the incredible role and opportunity you have been given!       

For more easy to follow guidelines on how to ensure your child behaves well at dinnertime you should purchase Smart Parent Smart Child here!

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