Mom-to-Mom: Real Answers to Parenting, Child Care Questions

I have been fielding questions from parents on everything from the best way to select a child care provider to dealing with picky eaters since I started my daycare in 2006.

I am not an “expert.” I am not perfect. I am not a person who judges or assigns labels, like tiger mom or helicopter mom. I am not a person who pushes the latest trend in putting your baby to sleep, teaching your baby to read or potty training in a day. I am just a mom with experience caring for children, as well as experience guiding other parents through milestones, tough hurdles, and the painstaking process of researching child care options.

Thousands of books have been written on parenting, but sometimes I want to scream when I read them because they are counter-intuitive, unrealistic, and always extreme (read my post on this topic). Whatever happened to some commonsense parenting where mistakes are allowed?

This is the first in a regular series offering my best real-life driven answers to your real questions – #MomtoMom.

You can also read more of my Mom-to-Mom Q&As in the Fall issue of I Am Modern Magazine (out any day), a Washington DC area lifestyle magazine that is published quarterly.

Please send me your questions and I will answer them to the best of my ability. Also, please feel free to comment and add your own advice. We can all benefit from helping each other. #MomtoMom

Q: My daycare provider serves canned fruit and vegetables, but I would prefer healthier options for my children. I love my provider, but is it appropriate to ask for her to change her menu? -Toni in Fairfax

You can always ask the question, “Do you use fresh over canned?”
But, ultimately, you cannot control what the provider serves. Remember, this is her business and she is the one purchasing and making all the food. You wouldn’t be able to walk into a child care center or school and demand that they change their menu.  You always have a choice for your child though. If you prefer a different menu with fresh fruits and vegetables, then you can bring food to be served instead of what is being offered in the child care setting. Most providers have no problem with this option. But, if you choose to do this it should be an all or nothing deal. You would have to bring the entire lunch not just fresh fruit and vegetables. But keep in mind that children usually eat better in a group setting and they will want what is being served. It may be hard for them to understand why they are the only one not eating what the others are eating. They also may not eat the food you bring for them as well as the food bring served. It’s important to weigh all the pros and cons before making your decision. You have to decide if not eating any vegetables is better than eating canned green beans. #MomtoMom

Q: I have a 4-year-old daughter and she can be, shall we say, quite a handful! Don’t get me wrong, she is very loving, but a lot of the time she is hard work and is very disobedient. I have tried timeouts and taking things away and also taking to her about her behaviour but it doesn’t seem to work. What works in your home? -Emma

A: First of all, I have to say four-year-old girls are tough. They are like mini-teenagers with their attitudes and their extremely strong desire to be independent. I wish I could say I mastered dealing with my own children, but there is no such thing. Working with other people’s kids is WAY easier. I have had some major battles/arguments with my children and I always have to take a step back to remind myself that I shouldn’t engage them in this way or acknowledge their tantrums/attitudes because this just feeds the fire. Ignoring their behavior is often times the best way to end those behaviors. I feel like our generation of parents “over-talk” with our kids. This can send the wrong message, because these “talks” could be what they are looking for in the first place.

If you are looking for a new approach to getting your child to do what you want, then here is what I would recommend trying. The first thing is figuring out what would make her feel more independent and in control, because often these struggles are about gaining control. I would ask her what makes her feel like a big girl. Does she want to pick out her own clothes? Does she want to stay up a little longer? Or maybe pick the TV show or movie? Then I would allow her to do that one thing with limitations. Make it the big girl reward. Explain that this reward is only given to children that can cooperate and follow household rules/expectations. Then I would actually make a chart of expectations – keep it simple (i.e. brush teeth, get dressed, sleep in your own bed). Use pictures if you have to and place it somewhere she can see. I don’t like sticker charts with prizes (although it does work for some kids). So, don’t look at it like an incentive chart. Instead, it is just a posting of household rules for big kids. Explain that not following the rules means she does not get to have the big girl reward. Also, explain that as she gets older the expectations will grow, but so will her big girl rewards. Build this with your daughter. Involve her in the whole thing, so again she feels like she is in control. Perhaps this will help her understand the relationship between expectations and consequences. Also, make sure you are consistent. If the agreed reward is a 15 minute later bedtime, then do not allow her this privilege if she does not meet the household expectations that day – even if she begs and pleads. Stick to what you say, or she will push this every time.

I hope this helps, but just remember you will get through this phase. Sometimes the only thing you can do is ride it out and breathe. Motherhood is so hard and not for the faint of heart! #MomtoMom

Send your questions to Join the discussion on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page.


Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. She started her career as a journalist and copy editor. She also managed public relations and corporate communications for a national franchise company, but in 2006 started a child care business. In 2012, she launched Tiny Steps Mommy, a lifestyle and parenting blog that quickly gained a following and connected her to an expansive group of women-owned businesses. In 2013, she started a digital marketing consulting business that focused on growing community in an authentic way. Through those connections she was inspired to open Play, Work or Dash, a coworking space that also offers onsite childcare up to three hours per day. It is where like-minded professionals pursue their business goals with the extra level of support parents desire; a place where you "bring your kids to work." She is an active member of the Washington, DC blogger community. She has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode and Pop Sugar.