I read a book about dealing with toddlers recently called Shit No One Tells You
It is a good read but what stuck with me the most is a line in the very beginning. I tried looking up the exact wording but it was basically something like: “I realize I suck at parenting and I’m not used to sucking at things.” *brain explodes*
It was a moment of realization: I have, literally, no idea what I’m doing, at any time when dealing with my daughter. Whatever issue we are facing at the present moment, it is the first time we have faced it with her at that exact age and me in whatever state I’m in. Each day is different and new, which in some ways is exciting and others it’s freaking exhausting.
We have had some issues with my angel’s behavior and it has taken quite the toll on our little family. As much as I blog about parenting and educating your kids at home, I don’t want it to seem that I don’t understand there are things other than reading everyday. When my daughter is throwing things at us and screaming “go away”, trying to get her to read Wocket in My Pocket seems a little unimportant at that moment.
After reading dozens of articles and books, and doing trial and error, I would like to share the few things that work at my house. I say it this way because it does bother me that “parenting” articles (a lot of the time) seem to be “here, this is the way to do and that’s that,” when obviously every kid is different. Some of the tactics just do not work with our little one but hey, the things that I swear by might not work for you either. Remember, we all suck at this.
Stupidest. Advice. Ever. At least I thought that when I read it for the thousandth time. Talking? Really? She just spit on her father and is now kicking a hole in the wall and you want me to talk to that right now? Well yes and no.
I started thinking about it and she is a little person. A two and a half year old with real people feelings and emotions and no where near the experience of expressing them as we have. It’s actually incredible she functions at all. If I couldn’t cuss people under my breath I don’t know how I would make it through the day.
Talking is actually the best thing I have found to do. You have to have patience (which I am working on with her) and you have to be able to read timing. While the fits are happening (some people seem to think you shouldn’t label them fits so if that offends please call them something else like not-so-happy-times) is not the time to talk. That is when your child needs to express their anger, rage, frustrations, and just plain disdain for their little world. They need to cry and scream. So put them by themselves (where you can still hear them, not out in the shed) and tell them you will wait until they are done. My daughter has actually gotten to where she will put herself in time out basically when she needs to cry. It’s amazing. Yes, she’s still crying and upset but only for a short period and she’s recognizing that she needs to deal with those feelings.
When she is done and gets distracted by (insert anything shiny or moving here) then I bring her out and we TALK. We talk, just like normal people but with funny wording. “So, do you know why you were crying?” “Cause, cause I was sad.” “Why were you sad?” “Cause you were mean to me.” “Why?” “Cause you told me no.” “I did, you’re right. You know why? Reese’s Pieces aren’t good to eat for dinner. We need to eat something else first and then you can a piece okay?”
Yes this is a verbatim example.
One of the hardest things to have to do when dealing with a child who is having behavior issues is accepting that your child is having behavior issues. It’s hard to hear from a daycare teacher, or from their school, that your kid is beating up other kids or kicking their teacher or burning down the play area (hopefully it’s not the later). It’s probably even harder to witness these problems first hand. Having to yell the words “No, you do not put the kitty in the washing machine” isn’t really the part of parenting you were looking forward to I’m sure. But once you come to terms with the fact that you need to help, you are much better off.
<— Don’t be this
We aren’t doing our child or ourselves any favors by acting like everything is hunky dory when it isn’t. But when do you cross that line between “oh he/she is just a kid” to “okay maybe that is worrisome”? That was something I struggled with for a long time.
After a tough infancy and being used to a very independent (aka stubborn) toddler, I didn’t think behavior/emotional issues were too big of a problem. Until, I started getting the talk from daycare. Once or twice is one thing, but when your child is acting up daily there may be a concern. It started to spill over into bedtime routine as well and I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. I missed my girl. I didn’t know who this screaming little banshee was but she needed to let me daughter come out and play once in awhile.
I looked at our life situation, there are a lot of changes going on for a little one to process. New room, new bed, new daycare, mommy working full time, mommy pregnant, ect ect. It’s just a lot all around. I analyzed her daycare. It’s a very loud and small indoor area (which for her is not good). She needs quiet in order to focus or nap so needless to say she doesn’t nap during the day now. In their defense, the outdoor area is amazing and I know she loves that part of it. I analyzed myself and her father. We both have some work to do in the emotional department! No wonder this poor kid needs help. Accepting is not the easiest part, it may in fact be the hardest. But once I came to that point, it has changed everything.
She is still in the same daycare but the way I’ve approach bedtime has changed. We have started to do everything early, acknowledging she isn’t napping during the day. I also make sure we talk about any feelings she had during to find out some triggers. I have looked at other daycare options as well but for now that isn’t a possibility for me. If you are struggle with your child at daycare then sometimes it’s as simple as they aren’t gelling with their current place. This isn’t to say anything is even wrong with the daycare necessarily, it’s just not a match for whatever reason.
Again, some people and professionals are against this now. Behavior charts were all the rage, and some parents still swear by them. In schools, most classrooms in elementary still do something along these lines whether it be an actual chart or some sort of points system for good behavior. One class I know had each child create a flower. Whenever they went above and beyond they got to color in a petal. It’s basically rewarding the good and not necessarily punishing the bad.
Okay, I dig it I guess, until it gets to “Okay so we only had two spits, one punch, and one black eye I guess that’s a good day! Here’s a Twinkie.” No. Stop doing that please.
This is something new that I am trying and I will say it’s not always the best or most feasible approach. I don’t think just giving to the fits is the way to go. Yes, the screaming will stop for the time being but your child isn’t learning to cope with the words “no”, “not right now”, or “stop” when you just cave. However, if you can get them calm and talk and show them that good behavior and having patience leads to good things I think that is something that sticks with them. On the flip side, I have read that some parents think this is installing in your child to expect things just for behaving the way are supposed to and it isn’t actually teaching them to make good choices. Just one area I guess I disagree.
Something I am trying for the holiday season is a good behavior tree. A friend of mine bought a little cardboard Christmas tree. My daughter is obsessed with stickers and making a mess so I know she’s going to be all over this thing. My plan of attack is, for the days she comes home from daycare and has been behaving she gets to put some decorations on it. The days she gets in trouble, she can’t. We have done similar things the past few weeks regarding movie time, snacks, ect and it’s really hit and miss. With their not be a consistent prize for good behavior I feel like maybe I need to limit what the reward actually is. This is a work in progress for me so we’ll see how it goes.
(For older kids- tweens and teens check out this post)
4. Quality Time
This is also one that seems like a no brainer. You see your kids every day of life for the most part how much more time do you need to give?
The biggest difference I have seen in my daughter’s behavior came after I took the time to take her on some “dates” as we call them. Again, going from working part time and being with her the rest of the time to working full time has been hard on both of us. Now our dates can be as simple as going to the store and actually playing with things or looking at decorations to getting food together to going to the park. The important thing is that I don’t have an agenda when we do something. We just go with the flow. This is not “I’m running errands and want you to behave so I’m calling it a date” it’s spending time with your toddler.
Feel free to post below anything you have tried and succeeded with your children (or failed miserably there’s no judging here). We all suck at this.