Parents often ask if babies need firm, high top shoes once they start to walk. This is especially true if they previously talked to a grandparent or a shoe salesman who recommended a “supportive shoe” so the baby learns to walk properly.
Shoes accomplish four things in babies.
- They keep feet warm on cold days.
- They provide protection from hard or sharp objects.
- They provide traction on slick surfaces.
- They go nice with certain outfits.
What shoes do not do is provide support or teach a baby to walk better. When babies first learn to walk, going barefoot is best. This allows them to feel the floor and makes it easier for them to stand on their toes, which babies love to do. So the best shoe for a baby is a soft, flexible shoe that has good traction on the bottom. The only advantage of a high top shoe is that it’s almost impossible for the baby to pull it off. This may come in handy at church or synagogue.
Parents frequently hear that they should never compare children to each other. As a pediatrician, I can unequivocally state that this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Not only do we compare our children to each other, but we also compare them to other people’s children. Why? Because it’s instinctive for humans to compare things. We compare which apples to pick at the grocery store. We compare which shampoo to buy. We compare which clothes to wear to work.
So where does this “wisdom” come from? I think it’s derived from the difference between comparing and judging. Things can be different without one being superior to the other. When it comes to children, there is never one thing you are comparing. People are more complicated than apples or shampoo so most parents find they appreciate each child for different things. The flip side of this is also true. Namely, each child can make us crazy in different ways.
When this topic comes up in my office, I start by telling parents what I just said. I then expand on the topic by reminding them that what you never want to do is to compare your kids unconsciously and not be aware of it. It’s also a bit perilous to censure one child by invoking the more desired attributes of his sibling.
I have two teenagers who are very different. I horse around with and go to movies with my son, but have intellectual conversations with my daughter. I am proud of both of them, but in different ways. Sometimes I wish my daughter and I could do things like I do with my son and visa versa. That is comparing them, but neither one is a better child than the other. The flip side is that they each annoy me in different ways as well.
Comparing your kids to your friend’s kids is a bit trickier because you don’t have all the facts regarding someone else’s children. You may still find that you like certain aspects of your friend’s children more than your own. Just remember that most kids behave better with people other than their parents.
It’s also very important to remember that children have big ears. They love to eavesdrop on their parents because it’s exciting to hear what grownups have to say when they are alone. If my son heard me saying something comparing him to his sister, I am setting myself up for trouble. I can think it, and I can discuss it with my wife. But this should only be done when all children are accounted for.
Many years ago, I took my 3-year-old son to the Montgomery County Fair. We were having a grand time until I lost sight of Ryan for a second. When I turned around to find him, he was lost in a sea of parents, babies and screaming children. As my heart raced, I vainly tried to find Ryan’s face the crowd. What I noticed instead is that when you’re panicking, all toddlers look alike. Luckily for me, he hadn’t wandered off, but just went to throw a pizza crust in a nearby trashcan.
When I bent down to pick Ryan up, I noticed that he was wearing blue shorts and a bright orange T-shirt. In my three seconds of panic, it would have been easier to look for an orange shirt and blue shorts than my son’s face. From that point on, whenever I was out with one of my kids, I always kept a mental image of what they were wearing in case we got separated.
This is a hard question to answer because there are so many places you could visit. That being said, pediatricians have a number of concerns about travelling abroad with young infants.
It’s important to make sure your baby has had all of his standard immunizations before travelling. However, some foreign destinations require special vaccines, many of which cannot be given to infants. Similarly, some countries require preventive medication during travel, e.g., malaria prevention, or insect repellent to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illness. Most preventive anti-malaria medications are not approved for infants. Further, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend using DEET-containing insect repellents in the first two months.
Although most babies are healthy, you need to consider the medical facilities that would be available if your baby became ill while you were away. Pediatricians are particularly concerned if a baby develops a fever in the first two to three months of life. Dealing with a sick infant is difficult enough when you’re at home. Having to contend with an illness while you are away is even harder.
Babies are creatures of habit and travelling can easily disturb their feeding and sleep schedules. This is particularly true if you have to take multiple planes to reach your destination or if you are moving from one time zone to another.
Altercations between young children are common. If parents are around to witness the squabble, they usually ask the aggressor to say he’s sorry. This is a reasonable thing to do because adults are supposed to teach children how to behave in social circumstances. However, most parents have been in the situation where one child does not want to say he’s sorry to the other. What should you do then, especially if your child was the one who wouldn’t say he was sorry?
Not only are you likely to be embarrassed if this happens, but you may also feel a strong sense to force your child to apologize. Encouraging kids to say they’re sorry is logical. Forcing them is not. In some cases, a parent will threaten to take away TV, dessert or other privileges if the child refuses to say he’s sorry.
Although I appreciate the motivation to encourage your child to apologize, if it’s not sincere, it’s not clear that anything will be gained by forcing the issue. My recommendation, in this situation, is to model the appropriate behavior for your child instead of turning it into a showdown. Make eye contact with the victim and say something like this: “I’m so sorry, Henry. We don’t allow hitting in our house, and I don’t know why Ryan did that to you.” You might also consider ignoring your child for a moment and hugging the child who was hurt.
Children learn by experiencing the consequences of their actions. In the above example, you ignored your son and gave positive attention to the child who was wronged. This is only half of the intervention. For the next five or ten minutes, you would watch your son like a hawk so you could give him positive attention for appropriate behavior. Psychologists call this process, “catching them being good.”
When a pet dies, parents often want to give the animal a funeral so their children can “memorialize” the pet as a member of the family. In many parts of the country, it is illegal to bury a pet because the body may attract scavengers such as rats. In these jurisdictions, the family’s veterinarian commonly disposes of the body.
Because I live in an area that prohibits animal burials, I encourage families to still have a memorial service; only in this case they bury a memento instead of the pet. Children can pick a favorite toy, a picture, or even write a poem or heartwarming anecdote about the animal. This approach follows community rules, but lets children have some closure regarding their pet’s death.
Sooner or later most children will miss a friend’s birthday party because they get sick or come down with a contagious illness. It can be very difficult to explain to a young child why she cannot go to someone’s party. Instead of worrying about making other kids sick, your child will focus on what she is missing (this self-centered behavior is completely normal in young children). One way to handle this situation is to call the birthday girl’s parents and ask them to save a little piece of the party for your child. They can keep a few decorations, a goody bag, and two pieces of cake and ice cream. Then, when your child has recovered, she can go to her friend’s house with her present and they can have a mini-party together.