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Webchat with David Coleman

David Coleman was online for a live webchat from 4-5pm on Wednesday 14 March to answer questions from viewers.

Yvonne: My three-year-old daughter throws an almighty tantrum over the smallest thing (socks, food, getting into bath and getting out of bath!). It's worrying. I'm terrified neighbours will think we're harming her. How do we keep ourselves and her calm while this is happening?
David: Hi everyone, thanks for joining me for this webchat. Yvonne, the trick to keeping calm is to take some time out for yourself. Breathe deeply and count to 10, and then focus on what you want to achieve rather than responding with your own anger. If you do stay calm, in response your daughter is more likely to calm down too.

Eliza: Fair play to Charlene on Monday's programme. How is she getting on?
David: Hi Eliza. As far as I know Charlene is still getting on great. Now that she and the children are sleeping more I think she's finding the whole job of being a parent easier. In fairness to her, she made some really significant changes and it's great to think she's keeping them up.

Diane: Myself and my colleagues really enjoy your programme, but we're wondering if you had any help with teenagers?!
David: Hi Diane. Yes, we've always been keen to include teenagers in the show but it's a much bigger step for a teenager to take part than a toddler. Perhaps wisely for them they're thinking about how their friends might be viewing it. But in real life I do a lot of work with teenagers and their families and I find it just as rewarding. The key to teenagers is to keep communication going. If you feel you're not getting through then see if you can get a friend, an uncle or a teacher that they trust to try and give the same message that you would yourself. Good luck with your own teenager.

Ann Marie: I have a beautiful three-year-old daughter who we are having problems toilet training. She stays dry all day for my minder but won't at home. I work two days per week. I have used treats, which work sometimes. Any advice?
David: Hi Ann Marie. Toilet training is never as easy as it seems. The first step for you is to probably ensure that you and your minder are approaching the issue in exactly the same way. Don't forget that your daughter could possibly look for attention from you by having accidents so make sure you respond to them in a really matter of fact way and try not to lose your temper. Star or sticker charts are a great way for three-year-olds to learn to use the toilet. Make sure that every attempt, not just the successes, gets rewarded so that she associates positive things with the toilet and looks forward to using it. Happy mopping up the accidents!

Teresa McGrath: My nine-year-old son keeps lying to me, I just can't trust him. When I catch him out he'll keep lying until the very end. I even begin to question myself he is so convincing - even though I know for a fact he is lying. I have spoken about the importance of telling the truth and have grounded him.
David: Hi Teresa. Lying is really common amongst nine and 10-year-olds, to the extent that it almost seems like a developmental stage. Don't lose heart but do stick with him and keep putting consequences in place for his lying. It's important that he knows that you value telling the truth and so put in rewards for when he does that. If you talk to your friends you might also get other ideas about how they're responding as you can be sure their children are probably doing the same. At least then you'll know you're not on your own.

Joanne: Hi David, is there any chance you would bring out a book to help us parents?
David: Hi Joanne. As if by magic, I have actually got a book coming out in June of this year. Penguin Ireland is publishing it and it's called 'Parenting is Child's Play'. So do keep an eye out for it.

Elaine Ryan: My 12-month-old son has just started to become very clingy and to throw tantrums. He wants to be in my arms all the time. What is the best way to deal with these situations and would putting him into a crèche two mornings a week cause this to worsen? Many thanks, Elaine
David: Hi Elaine. Don't be worried about clinginess. Separation anxiety starts early and is a really natural part of childhood. Difficult as it may seem, the more you respond to his requests to be close to you the more secure he will be and in the long run will be happier to be away from you. I'd be slow to put him into a crèche simply to address his clinginess as it is more likely to make it worse than better. By all means put him into a crèche if you have other good reasons as well. Always remember that a child who wants to be with you is a good thing. In 20 years time you'll be missing him being around!

Mary Clark: How do you build confidence and maturity in an eight-year-old only child? I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
David: Hi Mary. One of the dangers with only children is that they spend a lot of time in adult company and so don't cope so well with their peer group. Certainly finding an activity or sport that your child enjoys will help to build their confidence. Also, like all children, your child needs lots of encouragement, praise and reinforcement for trying things. Focus on the taking part rather than the outcome. It's also more likely that an only child comes to expect that they can have what they want because they don't have the same competition for your time, affection and attention. So do keep setting limits and make sure that your child knows the boundaries as well as the rewards.

Sam: What is the one piece of advice you would give for keeping a child on the right track from day one? We have a five-month-old baby.
David: Hi Sam. The key for me is to always keep communicating. You'll show your child more by your actions than you'll ever give them advice in words. So the old adage 'do as I say not what I do' really needs to change to 'do as I do and what I say'. You are the most important role model your child will ever have so if you show love, respect, caring and commitment in your relationships your child is much more likely to do the same. If I can give you a second piece of advice, it is to start early in helping your child to recognise and express their feelings - it'll save a lot of tantruming later on. Have fun with your five-month-old - it's a great age.

Liam: How do you go about getting my 18-month-old boy out of our bed after he has gotten used to sleeping between us for the past eight months? When should you stop giving him a bottle at night? He drinks about 2.5 bottles during the night at the moment. Help needed.
David: Hi Liam. Whatever you do, do it slowly. You need to wean your child off the security he feels sleeping between you but you don't want to create a lot of anxiety either. The first step might be to put him in a cot or a mattress on the floor in your room, particularly if you're still feeding him through the night. It's also a good idea to start dropping the feeds as he is probably in a habit of waking up to drink and like any habit it can be broken with a little bit of effort and a lot of consistency. Don't be in a rush to move him out of your room, but when you do be prepared to give him a little bit of your time at night to settle in the new environment. Time and patience are all that's needed. Good luck with it.

Helen Murray: How do you ask a seven-year-old girl do something up to 10 times without resorting to shouting (her twin and older sister can USUALLY do what they are asked by first or second time they are asked)?
David: Hi Helen. It's always a good idea to make sure you have your child's attention before asking them to do anything. If you find that it takes 10 times of asking at present it is probably because she has learned that you don't mean business until that 10th time when you've started shouting. If they are distracted with playing or watching TV it's likely that they don't actually hear you. So go up to them and look them in the eye as you tell them what you want. Then you might need to assist her to get started on whatever is the task. Make it clear in your tone of voice that you mean business and then make sure to praise and reinforce her when she does what you've asked. As an add on, avoid comparing her to her sisters because it will only make her feel frustrated and more resistant to helping.

Helen Halpin: How do you prepare a three-year-old for a new sibling? Also should we bring her into hospital while mom is there?
David: Hi Helen. I would start talking early about the impending arrival of her brother or sister. There are lots of good story books about pregnancy and birth that you can read to her that will give her the sense that things will be different but okay. You can also involve her in the preparations for the new baby as it will make her feel important and get her used to her new role as a big sister. When the baby arrives let it bring a present for your older daughter as that kind of thoughtfulness can go a long way to your daughter opening up her heart and her home to this intruder! Also, after the baby has arrived, lots of older siblings feel left out as the visitors spend all their time fussing over the new baby. So tell your friends and relatives to make sure to notice your three-year-old as well. As to your last question, I think it's always a good idea to involve children as much as possible in the reality of childbirth and the changes to a family. So yes, bring her to the hospital.

Simon Deane: David, just a quick note to congratulate you on an excellent programme and your use of very practical and level-headed approaches to problem solving. A lesson for us all! Well done, Simon (UCDBC).
David: Thanks Simon. It's always nice to know that people feel they get something useful from the programme. It's part of my own belief that the show should be just as much about education as entertainment.

Anne: Do you agree with the controlled crying technique to settle babies and if so from what age?
David: Hi Anne. No, I don't agree with controlled crying. A baby who is crying is expressing a need in the only way they can and it is up to us to respond to that need; not ignore it. Controlled crying, where you leave your baby to cry for increasing periods until they fall asleep, is emotionally abusive in my opinion. A child who falls asleep after being left to cry is sleeping because they're exhausted and their last memory must be that nobody cared enough to respond to them. I would never promote controlled crying as a method for getting any child to sleep.

Emily: Has there ever been a situation where you couldn't solve the problems for a family you were called to help?
David: Hi Emily. Yes, there have been occasions where all the problems weren't solved. Some of the reasons for that include the family struggling to make lots of changes and also some habits are so ingrained that the effort required to change is sometimes beyond a family's capability. Unfortunately the way things work it is always up to the family to make the changes as all I can do is offer suggestion, advice and support. Perhaps too some families haven't liked the suggestions I've made!

Siobhan: My son is almost three and he is not a great sharer, he worries that he will not get the toys back and screams that they are his. I try to deal with each situation as it arises. I tell him that he has to share and that no one will take his toys away. Is there anything else that I should be doing?
David: Hi Siobhan. Two and three-year-olds engage in what is called parallel play. This means that they like to play alongside other children but not necessarily with them. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is because they haven't learnt the skill of sharing. You're right to keep encouraging him to share and it's really important that you also make sure his things are returned so he can learn with confidence that sharing doesn't mean losing. That means that you might have to assist the other child to return the toy or act as a referee and co-player to get them working together rather than in opposition.

Paul: Hi David, any suggestions on how to keep a three-year-old in bed past 7am on the weekends? We have tried keeping him up late on Friday and Saturday night until around 9.30pm but that doesn't make any difference. Thanks, Paul.
David: Hi Paul. I haven't a clue. If I had an answer I'd use it with my own children first. We have to book a lie-on by taking turns at the weekend so that one of us gets up while the other one sleeps. So if anyone else has a great idea I'd be keen to hear it too.

Okidoki: Is 'Families in Trouble' repeated during the week, I missed it last night.
David: Hi Okidoki. Sorry you missed it. I don't think there are plans for an imminent repeat but it'll probably be on again later in the year. I need to head off now so enjoy the Bank Holiday this weekend and you can tune in to the show again on Monday 26 March for the next instalment. Thanks to everyone for your questions; I know there were lots more that I couldn't get around to answering so I wish you all luck with your parenting. All the best, David.

RTÉ.ie reserves the right to decide which questions submitted will be published and it also reserves the right to edit all questions before publication.
David Coleman