socialising your child

Though it does not take a village to raise a child these days, most parents will attest to having wondered if that is not still the case.

Parents of toddlers soon learn that they are as much reared by society in their parental skills as their own parents were.

You might find it amusing that your child starts to question why she has to thank you for ice-cream that was bought specifically for her.

But then a child might decide to scream and throw a tantrum when she asks for one. Usually this would be kept to a minimum until there are visitors.

"Most visitors look on in total dismay as a mother tries to create a balance between her child's behaviour and their comfort," says a child psychologist, Johanna Mthembu-Maswanganyi. "Often, parents try not to look abusive towards the child, yet feel they need to show their disapproval of the child's behaviour by being too harsh. But that creates a very frustrated parent and appalled visitors."

She also adds that inconsistency in disciplining a toddler creates a parent preference syndrome. If one parent is passive towards discipline, he or she is considered as loving by the child.

But visitors might also feel that the parent only raises the discipline scale with their presence. "People have to realise that a misbehaving toddler is only trying to make his or her presence felt. Toddlers are often so overwhelmed by the commotion fueled by strangers that they also want to be part of the conversation and the activities," she says. The easiest solution is to get them accustomed to "strangers" by helping them to socialise as early as possible.

"In so doing, you introduce them to etiquette. Unlike a nursery or creche environment, they soon learn that there is behaviour that is reactional, and learn the difference between manners and unacceptable behaviour.

l Learn to say "no" in a firm, peaceful way that carries authority but not anger. Be consistent with the "no"

l Never ignore the child. He needs to know that he is still your number one visitor.

l Get him involved in the chores you perform in preparation for visitors. And tell your visitors he played a good role.

l Prepare him for the number of visitors coming and how impressed you will be if he behaves well

l Always reward a child for good behaviour.

l If he won't budge, remind him who the boss of the house is and don't be ashamed of this.

l Discipline your child in your loving, caring environment.

l Give him choices - ask if he would rather visit friends or stay with you for the visit.