I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to write about what has been working for us in the realm of parenting. These are fairly recent developments, but I was so excited to finally feel like I was doing something that was actually working, that I had to share.
Of course, I am coming pretty late to the game in a lot of this, and I’m not giving anything new, so you may read this and go, “Yeah…duh…”, but keep two things in mind: One, I write this partially for me, to remember that at one point I felt like I knew what I was doing, when, you know, E. is a rebellious 16 year old with a nose ring. Two, I also write this for commiseration. There are other parents who are sometimes floundering in a sea of parenting information, yet feel completely immobilized when it comes to handling their child’s less than savory behavior.
Also, in E.’s defense, she’s a really great, easy going kid, but as any kid does, she’s developing some…interesting…behaviors that I’d rather nip in the bud now, rather than let them stew and become worse.
Laugh it off.
I can be very uptight sometimes, especially when I’m getting tired and E. is reaching that phase of little kid exhaustion where it’s like being with an especially intoxicated person. There’s only so many times you can ask a kid to put her underwear on and be told to, “put it on your face, Mama!” *cackle, cackle*. It’s times like these where I have to give myself the mental reminder of: She thinks she’s being REALLY funny. Just go with it.
Silly behavior in little kids is not coming from a place of rudeness or from a desire to mess things up for you – they’re just trying to have fun. And while I may not always feel like getting in on the laughs, I’ve at least started to relax and realize the undies are still going to get where they’re supposed to go (not on my face).
Is it worth it?
This section could also be called pick your battles, because that’s basically what I’m doing. When I’m finding that I’m getting annoyed with E. over something and am getting ready to go into pissy mommy mode, I ask myself, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth getting upset, getting E. upset, and potentially throwing off a good day over whatever it is I’m having a problem with? Naturally, sometimes E. is behaving in a really not okay way and something has to be said or done, even if it’s going to get those involved upset. But other times I have to wonder if it’s really the behavior or if it’s me. Once I give myself some perspective, it’s easier to decide whether or not I want to get into it with E., and I find we’re battling less, enjoying each other more, and some of those behaviors I wasn’t so keen on before, they recede or go away completely.
Eliminate the negative by accentuating the positive.
We’re trying this new “thing” amongst all the other approaches we’re taking with E. Above is a picture of two rather unassuming jars both with some of those glass stones you see filling vases with flower arrangements. Those are E.’s “stones” and she is currently trying to fill the smaller of the two jars in order to earn a reward (in this case, she wants to bake a treat with me).
E. earns stones by showing good behavior and being helpful without being prompted. For example, E. really struggles with transitions. When she does successfully transition from one thing to the next, I reward her with a stone. Or, today, E. volunteered to pick up her toys off the stairs without my asking, so I gave her a stone to put in the small jar. I don’t give her a stone every single time she does something good or that she’s supposed to do (though we do use a lot of positive language); we mainly focus on the areas that she struggles with the most (so, transitioning well, staying calm when she’s frustrated or mad, picking up her toys without being asked or prompted a lot).
Time and choices work wonders.
I don’t know what it is about counting that gets little tushes to move, but when I start saying, “One…two…” she’s moving! On the occasion when I get to three and E. hasn’t stopped doing what I’ve asked her to stop or hasn’t come to me when I’ve asked, then I will get up and move her. Sometimes to a time out spot, sometimes to where I asked her to go, but most of the time, one, two, three gets her going.
I think giving her a few moments to think and decide for herself if she’s going to do what I asked helps. It gives her some sense of control over her actions, which is something I think all parents of 3-year-olds can agree is important to them. And, in this vein, I do try to give her control over what’s happening as much as possible. A choice means she is more likely to at least do one thing that I need her to do and she will feel good about doing it, rather than put upon. I’ve also had to realize that I can’t expect what I ask her to do to be done immediately or exactly the way I want it. Giving a little extra time is just fine.
Mommy time outs are more effective than kiddo time outs.
At our house, time outs for E. can frequently end with a red faced and tear stained little girl pouting on a flight of stairs (this is where we send E. for time outs). Sometimes they are effective and give her a chance to cool off (I don’t usually set a time for E. to sit on the stairs, but instead say that she can come back and talk to me after she is calm and has taken some deep breaths), but most of the time it makes little difference in her behavior. In reality, when I send E. for a time out, I’m the one who really needs it.
Sometimes you’ve just had enough. Their behavior is bad and yours isn’t so hot either and sometimes it’s better to just step away. If the hubs is home, I might go out for a walk. If not, I make sure E. is in a safe place and I step into my bedroom or even the bathroom, and just chill for a little bit. If I can, I’ll try to read a few pages from a book, or, at the very least, take a few deep breaths. It helps a lot to be able to go back into a troubled situation with a clear mind, making me more receptive to E.’s needs.
Okay, so I’ve written this all out, and I’m feeling pretty good, because this is, on a whole, what I do with E. and it’s been working well for us. But, please know, that there are also times when you can find me nose to nose with my little girl, hashing it out, choices, mommy time outs, and stones be damned. But, on the whole, what we should look for as parents is progress, not perfection, because we’ll never be perfect parents (or, at least, I never will be). And being able to utilize what I’ve written about above? That, my friends, is progress.