My preschooler has nightmares and night time tantrums

Parent Question:Our son has just turned four and has, over the last six weeks, stopped using his dummy and moved into his own bed, instead of the cot. However, in the last two weeks he was sick with flu and was having nightmares and so we have been letting him into the bed with us. … Continue reading My preschooler has nightmares and night time tantrums

My 5 year old is soiling his pants.

Parent Question: My (almost) five-year-old is very capable and bright. But for 18 months now he frequently finishes the day with a smear of poo in his pants or having wee’d himself. He doesn’t say anything to anyone. And even when he gets that “faraway” look in his eyes that means he is soiling himself. … Continue reading My 5 year old is soiling his pants.

My 3 year old is always hitting his brother

Parent Question:My 3½-year-old son is constantly using force or hitting his 1½-year-old brother. Sometimes, I manage to catch before he does it and I am able to stop him. Other times, I turn around and he has just hit him and his brother is screaming. I give out to him and that does not work, … Continue reading My 3 year old is always hitting his brother

My five-year-old daughter is too bossy with her friends

Parent Question:My five-year-old daughter can be really bossy with her friends. When they come over on a play date, she tries to organise everything, choose all the games and tell them what to do all the time. I sometimes see the other children bristling in response to her and I am worried that she will … Continue reading My five-year-old daughter is too bossy with her friends

My five-year-old is so negative about everything

Parent Question:My five-year-old boy is so negative about everything and I don’t know how to deal with it. He starts every day with “I hate school”, this continues to hating whatever breakfast is, and then hating walking to school (including the route). He defaults to hating everything. I have banned the word hate in the … Continue reading My five-year-old is so negative about everything

How to handle my three-year-old’s tantrums?

Parent Question:I have a three-year-old and he can throw some wild tantrums when he gets overtired or is frustrated. While I know tantrums are normal for three-year-olds (he is my first), the intensity of his feelings worries me a bit. While he’s at the height of his tantrum, he keeps saying, “I want to stop”. … Continue reading How to handle my three-year-old’s tantrums?

What can I do while I wait for an autism assessment for my 4 year old?

Parent Question:My son is just four and I am worried he may have autism. He speaks a lot less than when his brother was the same age and spends hours just rolling on the floor with his cars, and his sleeping can be horrendous. When we are out with friends, he clings to us all … Continue reading What can I do while I wait for an autism assessment for my 4 year old?

My six-year-old says he hates himself

Question: My little boy, who is six, is an only child. He is very lovable, kind, intelligent, strong-willed, but he tends to lack self-esteem. He tends to self-loathe and often says he hates himself. He doesn’t accept praise without putting his negativity on it. He gets so easily defeated too and says he feels sad … Continue reading My six-year-old says he hates himself

Maintaining family wellbeing during the Covid-19 lockdown

With colleges, schools and childcare centres closed in most areas, the Covid-19 crises has instantly changed the lives of most families worldwide. Pushed tightly back into our family units without much outside contact, relationships have been put under pressure.  Stressed parents struggle to balance working and caring for children all day and bored children have … Continue reading Maintaining family wellbeing during the Covid-19 lockdown

My three-year-old is hitting his brother

QUESTION: In the last couple of months, my three-year-old has begun pushing/shoving/hitting/hurting his one-year-old brother and this behaviour is becoming a habit and appears to be happening more often. I can see the intensity on his face as his lower jaw juts out and he really means to hurt him – it’s not accidental play. … Continue reading My three-year-old is hitting his brother

Has my shouting damaged my children?

QUESTION I have always been a bit short-tempered and this has transferred over to my parenting. I can easily get wound up by my children, who are aged five and six, and I end up shouting at them. Last year was particularly stressful due to work and family issues and I was probably caught in … Continue reading Has my shouting damaged my children?

Healthy Families Series Part 5: Getting Enough Sleep and Rest

Family stress and poor sleeping patterns are associated with many problems: obesity, physical illness, poor performance in school and increased behavioural problems. While the exact reasons for this are not clear, it makes sense that a child or parent who is chronically tired or stressed is less likely to have the energy to exercise and … Continue reading Healthy Families Series Part 5: Getting Enough Sleep and Rest

Healthy Families Series Part 6: Nurturing Family Relationships

Over the last five weeks of this series we have looked at the habits of healthy and happy families, and now we conclude with the most important habit of all: taking time to nurture our family relationships. The closer we are to the people we love, the more happy we feel and the greater our … Continue reading Healthy Families Series Part 6: Nurturing Family Relationships

Healthy Families Series Part 4: Managing Screens and Technology at Home

In the past 20 years the use of technology has invaded family life. Whereas previously there was only the TV to contend with, now we have the internet, video games and smart phones all interrupting family life. When I first started clinical work with families, the number one battle for parents was to get their … Continue reading Healthy Families Series Part 4: Managing Screens and Technology at Home

Healthy Families Series Part 2: Replacing Bad Habits with Good Ones

Essentially, an unhealthy lifestyle is down to a set of poor habits. We become accustomed to repeated daily patterns of behaviour and lose sight of the quality of the lifestyle we are living. Whether this is the habit of putting sugar in our coffee or always eating a chocolate bar after lunch or driving rather … Continue reading Healthy Families Series Part 2: Replacing Bad Habits with Good Ones

Healthy Families Series Part 3: Enjoying Mealtimes Together

People are spending less time preparing food and less time eating together with loved ones in their family. Frequently, parents are eating at different times to their children, or mealtimes are rushed or eaten in front of a screen. It is not uncommon now to see whole families eating in silence together in restaurants as … Continue reading Healthy Families Series Part 3: Enjoying Mealtimes Together

Healthy Families Series Part 1: Bringing Up Happy, Healthy Children

Despite more widespread access to health information than ever before, our nation’s health is much poorer than a generation ago. Children and adults live increasingly sedentary lifestyles, dominated by screens and disconnected from the outdoors and the natural world. Our collective diet has deteriorated drastically. We are home-cooking less, eating fewer vegetables and consuming much … Continue reading Healthy Families Series Part 1: Bringing Up Happy, Healthy Children

Building Self-Esteem in Children

Read John Sharry’s six-part series, originally published in The Irish Times on how you can help promote positive self-esteem, confidence and emotional wellbeing in children and teenagers. Click on the links below to read each article: Part 1: Building your child’s self-esteem Part 2: Love your children uniquely, not just equally Part 3: Helping your … Continue reading Building Self-Esteem in Children

How can we manage tantrums?

QUESTION Our issues are with our three-year-old son who has been waking one to two times most nights. It started about a year and a half ago and it has now progressed to full-blown screaming with demands that we go into him. We would wait to see if it stopped but he is so determined … Continue reading How can we manage tantrums?

My son will not eat food unless mashed

QUESTION I have a three-year-old son who refuses to eat any meal put in front of him unless it’s a snack or has been fully mashed. If we do manage to get a morsel into him, he can hold it in his mouth for more than an hour rather than swallowing it. He attends a … Continue reading My son will not eat food unless mashed

Our five-year-old has started acting babyish

QUESTION My five-year-old daughter has become really babyish and is pretending to be much younger than she is. She has always been quite an advanced child who learned things quickly, such as dressing herself. But recently she has been refusing to do this and wants me to help her. She pretends she can’t put on … Continue reading Our five-year-old has started acting babyish

How can I manage my little boy’s aggression and meltdowns?

QUESTION I am losing faith in my ability to parent our son constructively; he is almost four. He has become increasingly aggressive with me and has begun to lash out physically when reprimanded or told “No”. I am trying to follow the positive parenting paradigm and trying to use positive language, even in adversity. I … Continue reading How can I manage my little boy’s aggression and meltdowns?

My 3 year old’s tantrums are embarrassing

QUESTION My three-year-old son can have these big meltdowns and the slightest thing can spark him off. I can just about manage them at home, but they are really difficult when we are out. He has now had a few when I collect him from preschool. One time he lay on the ground and would … Continue reading My 3 year old’s tantrums are embarrassing

How best to help my granddaughter with Selective Mutism?

QUESTION Arising from your recent article, I would like your advice on how to manage our granddaughter. She was very vocal with us until the age of four, albeit she was shy with other adults. She is now six and talks to her parents and her young friends but she has been muting with us … Continue reading How best to help my granddaughter with Selective Mutism?

My five-year-old has selective mutism

QUESTION My daughter is almost five years old and has gone through a year of playschool without speaking a word to the teacher or children there. She speaks freely at home but does not speak to extended family or anyone else. But she will speak to me, my husband and her brothers anywhere. She is … Continue reading My five-year-old has selective mutism

Toilet training our two-year-old is a bit of a strain

QUESTION I was wondering if you have any advice or can point me in the direction of help as I am struggling with toilet training my little girl, who is two years and 10 months old. We had a failed attempt in August and decided we wouldn’t try again until she was ready. Last week … Continue reading Toilet training our two-year-old is a bit of a strain

Is my son’s imaginary friend a problem?

QUESTION My five-year-old son is an only child. Since he was about 3½ years old, he has had imaginary friends. He goes through different phases and different friends. Sometimes he would have animal friends similar to his soft toys and recently he has had an imaginary friend called “Jack” who he imagines to be a … Continue reading Is my son’s imaginary friend a problem?

My five-year-old son ‘holds on’ to his wee and poo

QUESTION My son, who is just five, has been having major problems going to the toilet and in particular “holding on” to his number ones and number twos so much so that I feel it is having a major impact on his life and wellbeing. There is nothing medically wrong with him, in that once … Continue reading My five-year-old son ‘holds on’ to his wee and poo

Encopresis/Soiling: My grandson soils his underpants several times a day

QUESTION I am writing to you about my five- year-old grandson. For the past year he has been defecating in his underpants several times a day. He is the eldest of two children and my daughter is expecting another baby in April. My daughter is a psychotherapist and took him to see a psychologist last … Continue reading Encopresis/Soiling: My grandson soils his underpants several times a day

How can I bond with my son? We are always fighting.

QUESTION I seem to be fighting constantly with my four-year-old son. He is demanding and whingy, and I end up shouting all the time. I know a lot of it is my fault, because I don’t think I really bonded with him. I was depressed when he was born and then again two years later … Continue reading How can I bond with my son? We are always fighting.

How can I help my younger daughter move out of her big sister’s shadow?

QUESTION My three-year-old daughter lives in the shadow of her six-year-old sister. In some ways it is very cute – she follows her around all the time and looks up to her – but sometimes I think it is too much. She can be very passive and just lets her sister get her own way … Continue reading How can I help my younger daughter move out of her big sister’s shadow?

How to talk to children about terrorism and murder?

QUESTION We have three children aged four, six and eight, and we are worried about the impact of all the bad news on TV on them, particularly the eldest. With the recent terrorist attacks and gangland killings, there has been a lot of bad news recently. We try to protect the children from it by … Continue reading How to talk to children about terrorism and murder?

‘Would a dog help my daughter’s selective mutism?’

QUESTION My little girl is seven with selective mutism. She is doing great in school and is starting to talk more often, but outside school she is not doing too good. She goes to lots of different activities, such as GAA, swimming, playing the tin whistle, and girl guides. However, she communicates very little when … Continue reading ‘Would a dog help my daughter’s selective mutism?’

Building your Child’s Self-Esteem

“Try not to become a person of success but rather a person of value.” Albert Einstein Parents frequently worry that their children have low confidence or feel self-critical or negative about themselves. Sometimes their concerns are localised to a particular area, such as a child being shy or having trouble making friends or feeling disconnected … Continue reading Building your Child’s Self-Esteem

Fear of Mr. Tayto and Santa

QUESTION: My three-year-old son becomes very frightened of big-headed characters such as Mickey Mouse or even Santa, who he would not approach last year. This can lead to him throwing big meltdowns, and we are not sure how to respond. A few weeks ago we were at Tayto Park and he went ballistic at the sight … Continue reading Fear of Mr. Tayto and Santa

I feel guilty about shouting at my children

Q. If you have shouted or behaved badly with your children in the past, does this cause any long-term damage or is it possible to undo this negative experience with increased positive experiences? In the past I was very stressed as a parent, and though I never hit them, I used to get into constant rows with my children, especially my older son (now 16). In recent times, I have tried to be a bit more positive, which I do find works a lot better. However, I now find myself feeling really guilty about the way I behaved.

Our toddler wakes three times a night

QUESTION: Our son, who turns three next week, has never been a great night-time sleeper. He has always been prone to waking at least once or even twice throughout the night. He sleeps in his own room and is in his own bed, close to our bedroom. The problem now is that he is waking up … Continue reading Our toddler wakes three times a night

Bedtime is chaos, should I stagger bedtime for my three children?

QUESTION: Bedtime can be chaos in my home with my three children who are four, six and seven. They all become giddy and spark off each other, going into each other’s beds and rooms and it can be exhausting getting them all settled. Should I try to stagger their bedtimes? When I tried to do … Continue reading Bedtime is chaos, should I stagger bedtime for my three children?

With a family history of anxiety and depression, I worry about my 4 year old

Q: I am writing to you in connection with my 4½ year old daughter. She is a lovely, caring, intelligent girl who is also great fun. However, I am worried about her. She has recently become very sensitive and can seem down in herself. For example, she often makes genuinely funny jokes and clever observations. If … Continue reading With a family history of anxiety and depression, I worry about my 4 year old

My 3 year old is cheeky and won’t take correction

QUESTION: I have a beautiful, lively and very articulate three-year-old girl. She can be very whingey and now this is escalating into cheeky behaviour. A typical scenario is that we are playing a game or completing a task together and, for no evident reason, she takes great exception to something. She whinges, “Maammyy . . … Continue reading My 3 year old is cheeky and won’t take correction

Going potty with toilet-training stress

Q: I have a problem with potty training that has left me completely stressed out. I have tried many other channels for help but, sadly, there does not seem to be anyone who can give me guidance on this. My daughter is 31 months old and we have been potty training her for three months. She … Continue reading Going potty with toilet-training stress

I want to toilet train my 3 year old ahead of preschool

Q: Our daughter, who turns three in October, is starting Montessori this autumn and needs to be toilet trained before she goes. She is a bright girl and we thought that we could manage the toilet training, as we did with her older brother. When we tried in early June, however, we found that she totally … Continue reading I want to toilet train my 3 year old ahead of preschool

How to deal with night terrors?

Q: We found our four-year-old son sitting up the other night screaming and shouting. He looked really upset and agitated, yet seemed to be still asleep. It was very upsetting to see and we didn’t know what to do. In a few minutes he settled down and went back to sleep soundly. My sister says it … Continue reading How to deal with night terrors?

How to get our 3 year old back into his own bed?

Q: We have a little boy who was three last January who is sleeping in his own bed but now wakes up every night and comes into the bed with us. We are persistent and bring him back to his own bed. But he gets upset unless one of us stay with him as he … Continue reading How to get our 3 year old back into his own bed?

My 14 month old is slapping and hitting

Q: I have a 14-month-old baby boy who has recently started slapping and hitting. This happens to everyone who gets at all close to him or within reach. He doesn’t seem to slap aggressively. It’s more in a playful way but, having said that, he can slap quite hard. We tell him ‘Don’t slap’, and say he … Continue reading My 14 month old is slapping and hitting

My five year old is controlling us

Q: My daughter is five and a half. She’s smart, deep and popular with her friends and teachers. She can be loads of fun and still knows how to be a child as she should at her tender age. Her biggest problems stem from control and anger. It’s a bit complicated and, of course, both … Continue reading My five year old is controlling us

My son is obese. How can we help him?

Q: I took my child to the GP due to a chest infection and as part of the examination he weighed my son and indicated that he thought he was overweight and that I should take steps to address this. I was a bit annoyed because I had not taken my son to see him for … Continue reading My son is obese. How can we help him?

Stranger Danger: How can I teach safety without scaring my child?

Q. In our area there was a concern that a strange man was approaching and talking to children at a local playground. The report was that he was trying to lure them away from the playground. The police were called and, though there was no one arrested they issued a general warning that we should all be careful in the local area and make sure to warn our children of the dangers from strangers and so on. My question is: how much you should talk to children about “stranger danger”.

Tantrums in the middle of the night

Q. My 21-month-old baby has never been the best sleeper but recently it has been getting worse. He always used to wake up at night but we could generally placate him quickly and get him back to sleep in his cot, or occasionally by taking him into our bed. However, recently, he has been waking up in a much more distressed state and won’t settle easily. Frequently, he demands to get up and out of the bedroom and if we stop him he can throw an almighty tantrum.

I worry about spiralling back into depression

Q. I am a mother to two children aged three and seven months. They are lovely children but I am finding it hard to cope. The long days get to me and I find myself at 9am, having been up for three hours already, wondering how I am going to get through the rest of the day. My husband is supportive, though he is under great pressure in his work and can only do so much. I did suffer from depression on the birth of my first child, but this time I thought things were going better.

Toddler is waking several times a night wanting a bottle

Q. My 22-month-old daughter has started to become unsettled at night. She has never been a good sleeper but we thought we were getting out of the woods until a few months ago when she developed a chest infection. As expected, she would wake a lot during those nights and the only thing that would comfort her was to give her a bottle and take her into our bed. Now she is fully recovered but she continues to wake several times a night and demands a bottle.

My toddler won’t eat for me. What can i do?

Q. I have an 18-month-old child who refuses to eat any dinners for me. In the beginning I put it down to teething and several ear infections, but after five months of this I am getting very frustrated. I am trying every approach and nothing is working. I have tried to leave the food in front of her and not take any notice of whether she eats it or not.

My child hates the bath

Q. A few weeks ago, we put our little girl of 18 months in a bath that was probably a bit hot for her. Ever since she seems to be afraid of getting in the bath and cries uncontrollably. Do you have any suggestions on how to get around this?

Competitive Parenting

“It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.” Henri Matisse

I’m jealous of my daughter’s relationship with her minder

Q. I have a 17-month-old daughter who is looked after by a childminder Monday to Friday as I work full- time. I would have preferred not to have to work full-time, but have no choice really due to a big mortgage and trying to pay the bills. The minder has two children of her own who are in primary school, so my daughter has the minder to herself in the mornings. My daughter is well cared for and seems to be very happy when she is there.

Keeping a Happy Relationship After Children

AS WELL as bringing lots of joy, the arrival of children actually increases the stress on the parents’ relationship.

Our baby wakes every night

Q. I have a query in relation to the dreaded sleep problem for our one-year-old son. He keeps waking up around 2am and finds it impossible to go back to sleep. He is not wide awake but seems to be unable to settle himself back to sleep. We have tried to stay in the room and pat his back or even bring him into our bed. Although he might stop crying after a while, he still finds it very difficult to settle and keeps tossing and turning.

Tips for healthy eating in young children

Have you ever worried as to whether your preschooler is eating enough vegetables? Or have you ever battled with your toddler to eat his dinner? If so, you are definitely not alone as worries about children’s eating habits are one of the most frequently reported problems in the early years.

We argue over the best way to parent

‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.’
Henry Ford

Parent Mental Health: Looking after yourself for the kids sake

Though becoming a parent brings many joys and satisfactions, it is inherently stressful and demanding and can take its toll on parents mental health. Parents can easily put all their energies into caring for and attending to their children, and sacrifice their own personal needs and self-care. Juggling the many demands placed on them, it is easy for parents to cut off from their natural supports or sources of rest or recreation, and over time become depleted stressed and burnt out.

My daughter is mean to her little brother

Q. Our five-year-old daughter has recently started trying to get our two-year-old son in trouble, or even injured. The most recent incident involved her telling him to jump off the top bunk in her room. When I asked her what she thought would happen if he had jumped, she said that she thought he would break an arm or a leg. Telling him to run around the garden in his socks is one thing, but consciously trying to get him to injure himself is very worrying.

Building children’s self esteem and confidence

‘Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.’  -Sigmund Freud                                           

Dealing with whining toddlers

Q: I have a beautiful, lively and very articulate three-year-old girl. She can be very whingey and now this is escalating into cheeky behaviour. A typical scenario is that we are playing a game or completing a task together and, for no evident reason, she takes great exception to something. She whinges, “Maammyy . . .

Secondary Infertility: Trying to conceive a second baby is causing strain

Q: I am a mother of a beautiful two-year-old daughter, who will be three in a month, and though I would dearly love another baby, I am having trouble conceiving. My husband and I always imagined having a family of three or more children and I particularly wanted to have my children close together. I am … Continue reading Secondary Infertility: Trying to conceive a second baby is causing strain

Post Natal Depression: Tips for new fathers dealing with depression

TWO LARGE studies published in the US and Australia have shown that up to 10 per cent of fathers experience depression on the arrival of a new baby. This is twice the normal rate of depression for men at other times and similar to the rates of depression for mothers, suggesting men also experience some form of postnatal depression.

The study authors argue for this to be more widely recognised and for specific supports to be offered to new fathers as well as to mothers.

My 4 year old girl has no awareness of danger

Q. My four-year-old daughter has no sense of danger. I can deal with it myself, but I don’t feel comfortable leaving her with other adults in case something happens to her. I am going back to work in September, which is around the time that my daughter starts school. I don’t know how I will bring myself to have someone else collecting her each day. She recently tried to get into a pink car we saw waiting at traffic lights. My husband and I are used to it and have learned to deal with it, but I am not sure how I can warn another adult.

Helping my child build a relationship with her absent father

Q. Could you provide guidance as to how to help my daughter, who is three and a half years old, deal with her dad re-entering her life after an absence of one year or so? We split up shortly after she was born and he had some contact limited to odd visits after that, before he moved away for a year or so for work.

How can I encourage healthy eating?

Q. I know what my children should be eating, but my question is how do you actually get them to eat healthy foods? I have two boys aged two and five and though they are not the worst in what they eat, there is still a lot to be desired. For example, my five year old almost never eats the dinners we have as adults and his diet is restricted to mainly eating pasta and bread.

My husband gets angry with the kids

Q. My husband can get so angry with the children sometimes, especially when he is stressed and frustrated. He is otherwise a caring, involved dad and I don’t doubt that he loves our children. However, when they misbehave he can have a short fuse and ends up shouting and threatening them.

My children are fighting all the time

Q. I have two boys. One is 26 months old and the other was four last week, and they seem to be squabbling and fighting all the time. In particular, the older boy seems to resent the younger one and won’t share any of his toys with him. They can’t seem to play together and any time I leave them alone they start to fight.

Does our active little boy have ADHD?

Q. My youngest child is three years 10 months old and has always been very active, on the go and into everything. We have to constantly watch him and be on his case and it is exhausting. My wife and I always put it down to him being a boy – he has three older sisters who are generally calmer and organised. However, when he started preschool last September he could not settle and we had to take him out.

How can we help our four year old do things for himself?

Q. My four-year-old son is very lazy about doing basic tasks such as dressing himself and is happy for me to do everything for him. When I try to get him to put his clothes on, he will moan and say he is tired or “can’t do it” and then it can end in a row between us. Even getting him to put on his shoes and coat when leaving the home involves more nagging.

Does my lively 2 year old have ADHD?

Q. My son, who is 2½ years old, has no sense of danger and can be a nightmare when we are out as a family. He runs away at the slightest chance. When we go anywhere new, the first thing he will do is climb on things and I fear he will fall. If I tell him not to do something, he doesn’t listen and will immediately go and do it. He is very hard to manage on the road, etc. He is very different to his two older sisters (six and four) who were always well behaved and contained.

My son is not ready for school

Q. My four-year-old son is due to start school in September and is attending preschool five mornings a week as part of the free preschool year. I thought he was doing fine there, though he rarely talks about it when he gets home. However, when I spoke to his teacher recently she said she had a lot of concerns regarding his progress. She said he finds it hard to stay seated for the structured exercises and often hits out at children who come into his space.

How to talk to my daughter about her stillborn sister?

Q. Our first daughter was stillborn at full-term and just over a year later our second daughter was born alive and well. She is now two and a half years old. Our first daughter is very much an important part of our lives and we regularly talk about her within the family. We have photos of her around our home and say goodnight to her at bedtime as we try to keep her memory alive. Up until this point we have told our daughter that her big sister is up in the sky playing with the little birdies and this answer has satisfied her thus far.

My 2 year old has temper tantrums. How should I best deal with him?’

Q. We have two babies, a 22 month old and a five month old, so it’s busy to say the least, and both parents are also very tired. Our son is a super kid, loving, fun and gorgeous, but he definitely is developing a temper. It starts with something simple such as not wanting a nappy changed or wanting what is in a press for example, but if he does not get his way, he throws a tantrum. I understand this goes with the age, but sometimes he grabs my face or neck and really squeezes. What is my best way to deal with this?

My 2 yr old keeps slapping and squeezing other children

Q: My two-year-old son keeps squeezing other children’s faces or slapping their heads. I don’t think he is doing it out of boldness but it is getting him into trouble. He started play school this year and the teachers report him doing it to other children; when they get upset about it, he just laughs which makes things worse. I can see it when I take him to play centres: the other children are nervous of him when he starts “playing chasing” with them. At home we also get this behaviour when he is with other children.

How can we stop the tantrums?

Q: Our four-year-old son has always been a bit difficult – certainly more so than his siblings – but things seem to be taking a real turn for the worse of late. When things do not go his way, he can have a complete meltdown and throw a serious tantrum. Even if it is not an absolute refusal to grant him his wish – for example, “We can’t go to the park now but we will go later” – he will have a noisy and aggressive tantrum that frequently involves firing things, especially if he is sent to his room to calm down.

My son is being very difficult since we had the new baby

Q. My wife has just had our third child. She is everything you could ask for and has rocked our world in the best way possible. However, her big brother, who is four years old, is being a little git and is causing a lot of tension and heartache around the house. I appreciate he is acting up as he’s not the baby any more, but he is genuinely breaking my heart. He is the apple of my eye and always will be. I can’t even begin to describe what a smashing little fella he is, but at the moment neither myself nor my wife can handle him.

Our son is jealous of the baby and we can’t handle his behaviour

Q. My wife has just had our third child. She is everything you could ask for and has rocked our world in the best way possible. However, her big brother, who is four years old, is being a little git and is causing a lot of tension and heartache around the house. I appreciate he is acting up as he’s not the baby any more, but he is genuinely breaking my heart. He is the apple of my eye and always will be. I can’t even begin to describe what a smashing little fella he is, but at the moment neither myself nor my wife can handle him.

Single Parenting my 3 year old

Q. I’m a single mum to a three-year-old boy. I’m also a mature student in college and lately I have noticed my son’s behaviour has changed and I’m wondering what the problem may be and what I can do to try to alleviate it. He is very outgoing and socially able but lately he is acting like a teenager and gets very cross and upset if he doesn’t get his own way. While I’m sure this is normal to some degree and he is only asserting himself, I feel his behaviour goes beyond this and I’m wondering is this something he is learning from me.

My 3 year old won’t go to bed

Q. My son, who is just three years old, is terrible at bedtime. We are trying to get a new routine going, for example, at 8.15pm we get him dressed for bed, read three stories, chat about our day, kiss night night, etc. Then the trouble starts, first with him calling from his bed for “another kiss”, “one more story”, “a juice” . . . whatever takes his fancy. We try to ignore him like we have seen on television programmes and when he comes downstairs we just bring him back to his bed, saying nothing.

My 2 year old wakes us early every morning

Q. I am a 35-year-old mother of two. My daughter is four and half and my son is two and a half. My son is a very early riser, waking most days at 5.50am. I have tried ignoring his calls for me, but he just keeps calling out, so I go into him, tell him it’s too early to get up and try and settle him back. Sometimes this works for a short while, but for the most part he will settle for five minutes only to resume his calling for me. I go into him again after ignoring him for as long as I can, but nothing will settle him back to sleep.

My daughter’s habit at bedtime has become a worry for us

Q. We have a four-and-a-half year old daughter who is lively, intelligent and friendly and she gets on great with her little sister. Sometimes she can be a little nervous at times or want things done a particular way, though this is nothing unusual. The concern I have is around masturbation. She plays with herself down there constantly. I know a certain amount of this is normal for a little girl, but that hand is in there a lot. She does it, not always, but frequently, to help her go to sleep.

My 3 year old is afraid of using the toilet

Q. My three-and-a-half year old son is absolutely petrified at the thought of toilet training. We have tried several times with him. He becomes anxious, aggressive and even gets to the point of becoming sick (he got a bad viral infection the last time we tried). We have taken nappies off him, bribed him, done reward charts, promised him a much sought after toy – all to no avail. I have physically put him on the toilet and he has weed twice – both accidentally.

My 4 year old is jealous of the baby

Q. I have a four-year-old daughter and I find we are in constant battle with each other. Everything from getting dressed in the morning to meal times is met with constant whining and arguments. She spends a lot of time with her grandmother and, being the only grandchild until recently, she was used to getting undivided attention at home and at her gran’s. However, since my three-month-old son has been born, I have not been able to give her the same level of time, and our relationship has become very difficult and strained.

Toilet training: My 3 year old won’t poo in the toilet

Q. I am writing for advice in relation to my three-year-old daughter who is the youngest of three girls as we have been having enormous difficulty in toilet training her. We first attempted to train her when she was two and a half and was showing signs of being ready, but had to stop after several weeks as there was no success. We started again six months later when she turned three and she has mastered staying dry relatively easily and now goes to the toilet by herself to do her wees.

Should I stop my son’s naps?

Q: We are having trouble getting our three-year-old son settled going to bed at night. We try to have a regular bedtime of 7.30pm but often he is not tired and he can keep getting up and not get to sleep until 9:30pm. Even if he goes to bed this late he does not sleep any longer in the morning and always gets up at 6am or even earlier, though he can be cranky during the day. He tends to have a nap in the afternoon and we were advised previously to try to stop this.

My two year old is acting like a bully

Q. My son whom I cherish and adore seems to be a bully. He attacks other children for no reason whatsoever. He pushes, shoves, pulls clothes, scraps, slaps them, and so on. Today, we were at music class and he carried out four attacks, one of which was quite nasty. The other little boy got a few scrapes on his face. I have tried the “Do not do that, it’s not nice and it hurts” and when I ask him to say sorry he goes over and kisses them and gives them a hug. He is a very affectionate boy, but he would turn around and do it again in a few minutes.

How can i get my daughter to play nicely?

Q. My four-year-old twin girl gets very grumpy and upset when with other children of the same age when they visit her at home. Sometimes she can even become aggressive and storm off to her room and then after an hour or so she comes back to herself and plays nicely. This also happens when we go out socially. If visiting friends she gets very excited and disruptive, and becomes almost naughty showing off. As a consequence we do not visit people. We are not sure how to help her cope.

Our sons are always fighting when they meet up

Q. My son is 21 months old and is generally a happy little man. He has a few friends from creche and plays quite well with each of them. A good friend of mine also has a 21-month-old boy, but whenever we meet up the two boys end up waging war over one toy or another.

Our daughter is fighting and biting in creche

Q. We have a 2½-year-old daughter whose behaviour is causing a lot of worry and concern. She has a 4½-year-old sister and I am expecting my third child in three months. The main problem is her behaviour in creche. For about a year now she has intermittently gone through a biting phase, which at times has been relatively mild with only one or two incidents a week to many attempts in any one day.

My four year old is bossy and demanding with other kids (Social Skills)

Q. I have a four and half year old son and he is an only child. He was born after many years of trying so we feel lucky to have him. We would have liked for him to have a brother or sister but it seems now that I can’t have any more children. My husband and I have lots of time for him and he is the centre of our life. However, I do worry about how he gets on with other children. He can be very bossy and demanding. While my husband and I put up with this, this is not the case with other children.

My toddler bit me

Q. We have just had a new baby son and all is going well. We have an older girl (21 months) who loves her baby brother and gives him lots of hugs and kisses and shows him so much affection. However, there is just one thing that she started yesterday and that was biting. She was being a bit rough with baby and I asked her to be gentle and she tried to bite me. I did the whole calming talk and told her biting was bold and we just moved on with what we were doing.

How can I get rid of my 3yr old’s soother?

Q. I have a three-year-old girl who is very attached to her soother. It used to be kept in the cot but came out of there and was used more when her baby brother came along 10 months ago. We have succeeded in keeping the soother confined to the house but trying to get her to keep it in the cot leads to a lot of tears. Her brother has one but only in the cot. I would like to see the soother put back in the cot or gone altogether. Should we try to take it off her altogether or try to get her to leave it in the cot.

My shrieking twins are driving me mad

Q. My two-year-old twin daughters are in general lovely, happy children but they tend to shriek a lot at high volume at the slightest thing. If one of them takes a tumble for example, even though it’s obvious they are not hurt, the high-pitched squawking starts. Several people who are around children a lot say they have never heard anything like the sound they make. What makes it worse is that the girl nothing has happened to will, most of the time, start shrieking as well, as though in sympathy or in a bid to get attention.

I yearn for a baby girl in a house full of boys

Q: I have four beautiful children, all boys, aged eight, six, four and 14 months, who are all doing well. I know I should be happy with my lot, but I am constantly obsessing about not having a daughter, which I always hoped for. I became very depressed after the birth of my third boy and I put this down to being disappointed at not having a girl. We went on to have a fourth child and this was down to me pressurising my husband to try again. He was initially dead set against having a fourth, but gave in when he saw how much it meant to me.

Is there a difference in bringing up boys and girls?

Q. I have one daughter and two younger sons under six. I come from a family of all girls and, in turn, my sisters have all girls. I am conscious that my sons have a lot of female influences (although their dad, who is very hands-on, was once a young boy!). I wonder whether there are any special tips you could give me about bringing up boys. They are both very happy little fellas, but I suppose I am a bit paranoid that between us all the girls will turn them into sissies.

Raising an only child

Q. I have one six-year-old son. My question relates to his being an only child. Most of my friends and family have more children and I worry about him feeling different. What are the pros and cons for only children? Are they at a disadvantage? Do they lose out by being an only child? How can we ensure he doesn’t feel different and that he grows up happy?

Why has bilingual approach stalled?

Q. My three-year-old son has grown up with German and English as his first languages. As his mother, I have been speaking German to him since he was born, and my Irish husband has spoken to him in English. So far, he has managed really well. His speech has been very clear in both languages from about two-and-a-half years of age. We live in Ireland and clearly he is surrounded by an English-speaking world. However, when we go to Germany, after a few days he always manages to tune into German without problem.

Is my daughter ready for primary school?

Q. My daughter, who will be four in August this year, is enrolled to start primary school in September 2011 when she will be just gone five. She has been in creche from a young age and has been following the Montessori programme since September last. She is a bright child who shows a keenness to learn as well as an ability to understand things. I have recently heard that a few of her classmates, of similar age, are enrolled for starting in primary school this September. This has made me revaluate our decision.

My child doesn’t want to go to preschool

Q: I am worried about my four year old starting a new Montessori in September. Last May and June, I started him four mornings a week in a playschool and there were problems going in each morning as he used to get very upset at the door when I left him. His worry about going would start the moment he got up in the morning, when he would immediately say he “didn’t want to go” and he would resist getting dressed and into the buggy and so on. His anxiety would build and he could start crying even before we arrived at the playschool.

My daughter is very fussy about getting dressed

Q. I am a mother of five-year-old twin girls and have been having ongoing problems with one of them in relation to dressing. When she was younger she was always a bit fussy/temperamental when it came to what she wanted to wear which I just put down to her personality. However, it is now a real problem. She creates a fuss most mornings saying she doesn’t like her vest/ T-shirt/pants/whatever and that it’s annoying her. Sometimes I think there must be some kind of sensory thing going on but then other times I think she’s just playing up.

Our son has a ‘girly’ side

Q. Our five-year-old son, the youngest of three boys, has always been drawn to what he calls “girly things”. He loves dolls, buggies, magazines aimed at young girls, etc. Apart from his brothers, most of his friends are girls. We have always accommodated his preferences as much as possible, although I’ve drawn the line at allowing him to leave the house in a princess dress as I don’t want people to laugh at him or bully him.

Big sister is mean to the younger one

Q. I have two daughters, the eldest is nearly five and the younger nearly three. My eldest is very aggressive towards her younger sister. She screams in her face constantly, despite being told it’s not acceptable. She will pinch, push, grab toys, etc. The younger girl is a very easy-going happy child, but I am very worried about the constant bullying she endures. She will try to kick, hit or, on occasion, spit at me or my husband, particularly when we intervene in any incident. We have tried talking to her and explaining that it’s rude.

My child has a needle phobia

Q: My four-year-old daughter has to go for an annual check-up at a children’s hospital in September. Getting her bloods checked is always a part of this, which of course involves them using a needle. She has become very aware in the past year about needles, from playing doctor with friends and knowing that her baby sister has been getting vaccinations, and she has often talked about “needles” and whether she will ever have to get one.

How will 2 year old cope with my overseas job?

Q. I have been offered a role abroad which I am considering taking, but to reduce any upheaval my wife and two-year-old son will remain in Ireland. However, I am concerned as to the effect my removal from my son’s daily life may have and would be grateful if you could let me know what the possible impact of such a move would be on him. I know I will see him every month or so, but I am concerned it may affect him at this early stage of his life.

My mother-in-law is very opinionated about my parenting

Q. Would you have any advice in dealing with in-laws? I have a three-year-old and a 13-month-old. The problem is my mother-in-law constantly comes over unannounced and she spends lots of time here. It wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t always giving her tuppenceworth in how I rear my kids, particularly on how I manage my three-year-old’s tantrums and whinging. Frequently, she makes really critical comments, such as the other morning when she came over and said, “Are they not dressed yet?” to suggest somehow I was disorganised.

My toddler wants only to be with one of his parents at a time

Q. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old boy. He is an only child. Both myself and his father are in our early 40s. Sometimes when we are both in the room with him, say the kitchen/ living room, he will ask one of us to leave the room, as in “Go away Mammy/Daddy”, and will slam the door in our face. He will then remain in the room with one of us, if the other person tries to come back into the room he will say, “Get out”. Is this normal?

My toddler hates getting his hair washed

Q. My son was three last month and he refuses to have his hair washed. He will happily have a bath and loves playing in the water, but once I try to wash his hair he will stand up and scramble to get out of the bath. Usually, I give up trying but his hair becomes so matted that occasionally I force the issue and this ends up in a mess, with his hair half-done and him very upset. I don’t like doing this at all. Is there any way that I can help him to accept or even like having his hair washed?

My child is scared of the bath

Q. My daughter, who is just 11 months old, slipped in the bath the other day and got a scare. I was right there with her at the time so she was fine, just a bit upset. However, now she does not want to get in the bath anymore. I don’t want to force the issue with her, but what can I do to reintroduce the bath to her?

My preschool daughter’s friend is mean

Q: We have a daughter full-time in a creche since she was 14 months old. She will soon be four and she has always been happy there up to the past couple of months. Her “Best Friend” moved up to the Montessori room with her last summer. Coming up to Christmas, there was a period of physical carry-on where my daughter was on the receiving end of occasional slaps and kicks, being hit with toys, etc from Best Friend. At all times the creche stepped in immediately and dealt with it and it phased out fairly quickly.

My two year old wants me all the time

Q. I have just finished a parenting course and, because of it, I have been giving my children more of my time and attention, and we are having more fun. I have three kids – six years , four years and two and a half years. My problem is with my youngest. He has gone from an independent little boy to one seeking my attention all the time. He follows me everywhere and won’t even stay with his dad. I’ve tried being calm and I try to ignore him when he is hysterical but all he wants is to cling to me. It’s starting to wear me out mentally and physically.

How can I get my 3 year old to be gentle with the new baby?

Q: My three-year-old son can be really aggressive with his little brother (eight months). He seems to get great fun out of upsetting him. It starts out with him being boisterous with his little brother or saying he wants to “play” with him, but then it gets out of hand and I have to intervene. No matter how many times I tell him to stop or to be gentle he still keeps coming back to tease his brother. Lately, I have been worried about leaving the two of them alone in the room together, because when I come back a moment later the baby might be crying.

My 3 year old won’t stay in his bed at night

Q. We have a three year old who is now sleeping in his own bed but wakes up every night and looks to go to bed with us. We are persistent and bring him to his own bed, but one of us has to sleep next to him until he drifts off – most times we end up sleeping in his bed. How can we resolve this? Because he is not in a cot and sleeps in his own bed he can easily jump out and run into our room. Putting a gate to his bed room door could be an option, but will this go down well?

How can i get my children to stay in their own beds at night?

Q: Please can you provide me with some tips for keeping my children in their own beds all night? I have two beautiful girls, a four year old and a two year old, perfect in every way, but the constant sleepless nights and bed hopping is beginning to wear us down. How can we ensure that they sleep all night every night? My two year old has a nap during the day, but even if she didn’t nap she would still wake up during the night. We are dead on our legs during the day, our patience is wearing thin and we desperately seek a full night’s sleep.

Are long creche hours harming my child?

Q. I am a working mother in a business that expects me to put in long hours. As a result, my 18-month-old son spends long hours in his creche – 7.30am-6pm some days. My husband also works long hours and we try to share the drop-off and collection. I am not totally happy with the situation but my work won’t let me reduce my hours or have flexible working. Like most people we are caught into paying mortgages and bills.