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There can be many challenges with parenting young children. Get answers to your parenting questions and reliable early years parenting information.

Positive parenting

Positive caring relationships in the early years are the "building blocks" for children’s social and emotional development. They guide how children learn about the world and set the stage for all other relationships in a child’s life. Positive caring relationships support a child’s social and emotional development by teaching children how to:

  • Care about others and their feelings
  • Cooperate and share
  • Express opinions
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Form their own identify
  • Develop self-competence and self-worth

Parents build a positive relationship with their child when they:

  • Respond to their child’s needs (e.g., comfort them when they are tired, hungry, sick (external link), upset or just need to be close)
  • Provide a safe place for their child to explore and develop their skills
  • Follow their child’s lead, interact with them and guide their behaviour
  • Use positive discipline to deal with challenging behaviour
  • Work as a team and are on the same page
  • Take time to care for themselves

Involved dads and partners

Children can never have too many positive caring adults in their lives. Fathers and partners play a key role in raising healthy children and their involvement in the daily care of their infant/young child helps children cope better with stressful life events and can lead to improved school success.

Being an involved father and partner means you:

  • Love, feed, play with, and protect your child to promote their healthy brain development.
  • Learn to read your child’s cues. In the beginning, you may struggle with knowing what your baby needs but this will change over time and your child will learn you are always there for them.
  • Learn about parenting and healthy development so that you can guide and respond to your child’s needs.
  • Share in your child’s physical and emotional care. Get involved in your child’s everyday activities, such as bathing or bedtime. This not only builds your confidence as a parent but also builds your relationship with your child. (external link)

Adjusting to being a father/partner

Your relationship

Prepare for change. Having a baby is one of the most significant life events. You and your partner need time to physically and emotionally adjust to your new roles.

  • Keep the lines of communication flowing – acknowledge feelings, make time for each other, back each other up.
  • Have realistic expectations about yourself, your partner and your baby
  • Recognize and appreciate each other’s strengths and abilities. Celebrate your success as parents.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Connect with family and friends. Ask for help. Be specific about what you need.
  • Learn about your community and how it can support you and your family.
Exhaustion after the birth of a baby

It is normal for newborn babies to wake to feed every 1 to 3 hours. Keep perspective – this won’t last forever. In the meantime:

  • Learn to sleep when the baby sleeps
  • Take turns caring for the baby in-between feeds
  • Divide the chores – Set priorities. In the beginning do only what is necessary
Sex after childbirth

Fatigue, leaky breasts, episiotomies, not to mention changing roles; ‘lover’ to ‘mother’ or ‘father’ can all have an impact on a couple’s sexual relationship. Body image and need for intimacy can change for either partner. What couples can do:

  • Learn about the physical, emotional and social changes that can occur during pregnancy and after childbirth.
  • Talk about the changes with your partner.
  • Provide reassurance and support for each other.
  • Be patient. As hormone levels shift, sleep improves and everyone becomes more familiar and confident in their new role, you and your partner may be more open to having sex.
  • Intimacy might look different. It could involve cuddling or perhaps preparing a meal or cleaning up the kitchen.
  • Make time for activities you used to enjoy as a couple when possible.
  • Speak with your healthcare provider if you are worried or concerned about your partner’s adjustment following childbirth.
  • When you are both ready to have sex don’t forget to consider your birth control options.

How fathers/partners can help with breastfeeding

Breastfeeding protects and contributes to your baby’s optimal health and well-being. A father’s/partner’s support is very important for successful breastfeeding. Father’s/partner’s support breastfeeding when they:

  • Learn about breastfeeding and breastfeeding supports in the community.
  • Bring the baby to your partner when it is time to feed.
  • Help position the baby at breast.
  • Check that the baby has a good latch and that you are hearing and seeing your baby swallow breast milk.
  • Help with burping the baby.
  • Change the baby when needed.
  • Hold baby after feedings and help settle them to sleep.
  • Help with shopping, cooking and cleaning. This may include getting take-out from your partner's favourite restaurant.
  • Help your partner relax and get sleep.
  • Manage the guests – be prepared to ask them to come back another time.
  • Provide reassurance; tell your partner they are doing a great job. Confidence is contagious.
  • Seek supports early if breastfeeding is not going well.

Parenting and stress

Parenting is rewarding and challenging all at the same time. Financial stress, balancing work and family life, along with dealing with children’s challenging behaviour can impact your mental health and your parenting.

When you are stressed you are more likely to:

  • Spend less time enjoying your child.
  • Not be calm and consistent.
  • Provide less supervision.
  • Have decreased energy and concentration.
  • Be irritable and impatient.
  • Criticize your child.
  • Lose control when managing challenging behaviours.

Ways to manage stress

Taking time to care for yourself, such as doing something you love, may help you feel more energized and positive. It also has the added benefit of teaching your child about the importance of self-care.

Support your own self-care by:

  • Being active
  • Eating healthy
  • Getting enough rest and sleep
  • Exploring different ways to relax
  • Having realistic expectations of you, your child and partner
  • Knowing your limits and being prepared to say “No” sometimes
  • Accepting that it is okay not to be a perfect parent (external link) - there is perfection in imperfection
  • Spending time with supportive friends, family and community groups
  • Taking a break from the kids - reading a book by yourself, having a bath, or going for a walk can make a difference
  • Learning positive ways of preventing and dealing with your child’s challenging behaviours so you feel more confident and in control
  • Finding quality childcare - knowing that your child is well cared for when you are away can help you focus and deal more effectively with the other tasks on your ‘to do list’

Sometimes the pressure and stress of raising a family can get to be too much. Talk to your partner, your healthcare provider or contact HaltonParents. Let them know how you are feeling. You are not alone in this. There are resources in your community (external link) that can help.

Positive discipline

Temper tantrums, aggressive behaviours and sleep challenges are common and a normal part of healthy development for toddlers and preschoolers. However, these behaviours are challenging for parents to manage.

What can parents do?

Parents can set themselves and their child up for success by paying attention to the three areas of positive discipline; promoting positive behaviour, preventing challenging behaviour and using positive, non-hurtful strategies to deal with challenging behaviour when it happens.

Promoting positive behaviour

  • Build a positive caring relationship with your child by spending quality time with them and showing them love and affection.
  • Have regular and consistent routines. This helps children know what to expect and how to behave.
  • Set clear limits and have a few simple rules (e.g., “Use your walking feet in the house.”).
  • Provide choices where possible (e.g., “Would you like an apple or a banana?”).
  • Notice when your child is behaving well and give specific praise (e.g., “You did a great job using your words.”).
  • Teach your child acceptable ways to express their feelings. Help them label their emotions, “I can see you are really mad but I can’t let you hit. Hitting hurts”.
  • Help your child to problem solve, “We have a problem…we have one truck and both of you want to play with the truck. What do you think we can do?”
  • Model good behaviour. Your child is always watching you.
  • Build in time to care for yourself and ensure that your own needs are met.

Preventing challenging behaviour

  • Provide a safe place for your child to play and explore. Having interesting things to do not only helps your child develop their skills and keeps them busy, but it also reduces the likelihood that they will misbehave.
  • Make sure that your child’s physical and emotional needs are met (e.g., they are not hungry, scared, tired, hurt or sick).
  • Tools such as visual schedules can help children know what to do and to stay on task. 
  • Get to know what triggers their challenging behaviour so you can try to reduce or remove these whenever possible (e.g., transition from one activity to the next).
  • Get to know what triggers you and makes it hard to deal with your child’s behaviour (e.g., conflicting advice from relatives or friends, embarrassment, the belief that your child is doing this on purpose).
  • Supervise, and be prepared to step in, to prevent unacceptable behaviour before it happens.
  • Redirect a young child when you notice that they are getting frustrated.

Positive approaches to challenging behaviour

When challenging behaviour happens, it is important to be consistent and to deal with the challenging behaviour right away. Choose a strategy that:

  • Reflects your values
  • Is age appropriate
  • Is not hurtful to your child’s physical or mental health
  • Shows your child the behaviour you expect
Strategies can include:
  • Redirecting or distracting very young children.
  • Natural consequences can be used when it is safe and appropriate (e.g., if your child breaks a toy, they cannot play with it or get a new one).
  • Logical consequences (e.g., if your child refuses to share toys with a friend, the toy goes away for 1 – 30 min depending on the age of your child).
  • Time in. This involves staying with your child until they are calm then choosing an age appropriate strategy to respond to their earlier behaviour.
  • Quiet time (external link). Your child sits quietly on the edge of the activity for a short period of time, 1 – 5 min depending on the age of your child. The caregiver is present but gives their child no attention while in quiet time.
  • Time out (external link). Involves removing your child from the activity and your attention (1 – 5 min depending on the child’s age) and putting them in an uninteresting but safe and well lit space. Time out creates a short break which can help everyone calm down.
When challenging behaviour happens:
  • Remain calm. Stay close. Get down to your child’s eye level. Use their name.
  • Acknowledge their feelings: “I can see you are angry because your brother took your truck”
  • Remind them of the rules such as, “Keep your hands and feet to yourself. Use your words.”
  • If your child doesn’t correct their behaviour and do as you ask, then choose a strategy from above that best fits the situation and is age appropriate.

Sleep challenges of toddlers and preschoolers

Sleep (external link) is important to a child’s health, well-being and ability to learn. However, for some parents, getting toddlers to close their eyes, fall sleep and stay in their own bed for the night can seem like an impossible task.

Promoting healthy sleep habits
  • Create a healthy sleep routine that is simple (e.g., bath, book, breastfeed, bed).
  • Put your child to bed in a wakeful state.
  • Provide your child with a ‘comfort object’ such as a thin, small blanket or teddy bear.
  • Let your child know what to expect. Talk about the rules ahead of time (e.g., “Mommy will kiss you goodnight. You stay in your bed, close your eyes and go to sleep. If you wake up cuddle your teddy and go back to sleep. Mommy will see you in the morning.”).
Preventing sleep challenges
  • Limit screen time (external link) before bed.
  • Wind down your child’s activities an hour before the time you would like them to be asleep. This let’s their brain ‘settle’ and relax.
  • Avoid letting your child get overtired. This can make it harder for them to fall asleep.
  • Remind your child about the rules, “After we read the book together you stay in bed, close your eyes, cuddle your teddy and go to sleep. Mommy will see you in the morning.”
  • Be consistent with your child’s sleep routine. It will help your child to feel safe and know what to expect.
Dealing with sleep challenges
  • If your child is used to being fed, rocked or held until they fall asleep, they may depend on that same routine to help them to fall back to sleep when they wake in the night. Getting your child to lie down and fall asleep from a wakeful state will help them fall asleep on their own throughout the night. However, changing a child’s bedtime routine can be difficult and it will take some time for them to adjust.
  • If your child wakes and calls out, keep your interaction with your child brief and positive e.g. “You are okay. Mommy is down the hall. Now close your eyes and go back to sleep.”
  • If your child gets out of bed take them by the hand and walk them back to their bed. Tuck them in, reassure them and remind them of your rule. “You are okay. Daddy is down the hall. Now close your eyes and go back to sleep.”
  • Praise them the next day for their successes.
  • Be prepared. You may have to repeat these steps a number of times, over several days, before you see a positive change in your child’s behaviour.
  • Always respond to your child if they are waking because they are scared, ill, have a wet or dirty diaper or are too cold or too hot.

Sleep and behaviour challenges may happen regardless of how hard you work to prevent it. At times it can feel overwhelming. Connect with HaltonParents. We offer a variety of free parenting programs and services which can help build your confidence in dealing with your child in positive ways.

Teaching children how to problem solve

Problem solving and reasoning skills, also known as “executive function skills (external link),” begin to develop in children at about age 3 and continue to develop through to adulthood.

Being able to problem solve helps children:
  • Be more independent
  • Get along with others
  • Develop empathy (care for others)
  • Manage emotions
  • Stay on task and learn!
  • Be resilient! (external link)
Here are some tips to help your child become a good problem solver:
  • Use everyday moments to teach problem solving skills.
  • Let your child choose a solution to a problem where it is safe and reasonable.
  • Play thinking games such as, “What would happen if?” This helps children to think of positive strategies for handling difficult situations before they arise.
  • Family friendly board games like Snakes and Ladders are another way to teach social skills (e.g., taking turns) reading and math skills as well as problem solving skills… all while having fun together.
  • Read stories that promote problem solving, overcoming difficulties and dealing with disappointment.

Follow the steps below to help guide your child in problem solving!

Keep in mind:

  • Great problem solvers don’t develop overnight. It takes time, practice and a lot of patience.
  • Solutions that do not work the first time are opportunities for learning.

Problem solving steps:

  • What is the problem?
  • How big is the problem?
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • What is the best idea?
  • Put the idea into action.
  • Evaluate... is the idea working? Still a problem? Try again!
  • Problem solved!