Childcare guru Jo ‘Supernanny’ Frost who offers invaluable advice on dealing with the problems facing today’s parents talks to TV Times magazine

Jo dispenses her words of wisdom about combatting common parenting problems…

Fussy eating

“Start young so the children don’t know any different: give them a healthy, balanced diet full of fruit and vegetables. If your kids are already in bad habits, make subtle changes slowly: swap white food (rice, bread) for brown. If your teenager drinks too much coke, swap it for sparkling water. Don’t give up when you meet resistance; try again the next day. If they refuse to eat something, don’t give them processed pantry food like crisps or chocolate instead. Stand firm.”

Addicted to computers and TV

“Depending on their age, set a time limit to the amount they’re allowed on the computer or to watch TV. Don’t forget some kids need to do their homework on computers. Meanwhile, encourage your child to take up a hobby or sport, something to keep them away from the screen, and spend time together as a family: cook, play board games, go for a walk or bike ride together. Keep busy.”

Sleeping problems

“Again, depending on their age, establish healthy times for bed and stick with them. Make sure your child has your devoted attention before lights off, with no interruptions or distractions, like TV. I recommend different sleeping techniques for different ages: such as the controlled crying methods for babies. Check out my website www.jofrost.com or my new book, Jo Frost’s Confident Toddler Care, for detailed tips and advice.”

Tantrums

“All young children have temper tantrums – they’re a fact of life. It’s how you deal with them that matters, so make rules, set expectations and impose boundaries. As a parent, make clear to your child what is and isn’t acceptable. The classic example I always hear from parents is tantrums in the supermarket. So set their expectations: tell them you’re going to the supermarket, you’ll be quick and you expect them to behave. If they start kicking off, give a warning and if that doesn’t work follow through with a consequence: use the naughty step for a toddler, or take a privilege away (such as TV or a weekend trip out) from an older child.”

Aggressive behaviour

“With older children it’s particularly important to listen to them, let them freely express where the anger’s coming from. You still need to establish expectations and set boundaries, explaining how they should behave. If your teenager wants to go to a disco until 11pm and you want them home at 9pm and she gets really angry, keep calm and say, ‘I understand why you’re angry, but you’re talking disrespectfully to me.’ By saying you understand, you’re validating their anger, which they’ll appreciate. Work together to resolve their anger, perhaps reach a compromise?”

Sibling rivalry

“In an argument, listen carefully to both sides, one at a time, so each feels they’ve had a fair say. Encourage them to own up if they’re in the wrong and take responsibility for their behaviour. Ultimately, get siblings to talk – what could you have done, so you didn’t end up fighting? Remember, you can’t act as referee all the time; work with them so they can resolve issues between themselves eventually.”

Body image

“Magazines and peer pressure affect kids hugely these days – I tackle the teenage obsession of wanting plastic surgery in the series. At home lead by example: never use disparaging language to describe your body or exhibit any self-loathing. And have conversations with your kids about what TV and magazines show people being healthy and happy – get them to think critically about airbrushing and unrealistic images.”

Childhood obesity

“Portion control is a massive factor in childhood obesity. It’s not better if it says ‘25 per cent more’ or ‘bigger’ on the label. Keep portions sensible. Make sure you feed your kids a healthy, balanced diet, which includes fruit, vegetables, proteins, grains, dairy, and fibre – you don’t need to cut out the carbohydrates, kids need them. Just make sure they get the other food groups too. And get them moving for at least an hour a day – be it a walk, bike ride, play in the garden. Activity goes hand in hand with a healthy diet to prevent obesity. It’ll benefit your child’s entire life. The livelier you are as a child, the more likely you are to be fit and healthy as an adult. So get them active now.”

Jo Frost’s Confident Toddler Care (Orion, £16.99) is out now