How To Tame Your Dragon... Er.. ToddlerYesterday, I got a question on the First Time Mom And Dad Facebook Page from a friend and reader that read: I need some mommy help. My little one is getting to a mean stage. He is taking toys and pushing kids and generally just being a douchebag. What can I do to correct this behavior. If it gets to be too much I intervene and explain to him that he's being mean and needs to be nice or he gets a timeout. It doesn't seem to be helping. Is this just a phase? Please help me.
First of all, I promise I did not write that... It only sounds like I did because that is pretty much a summary of my posts over the last couple of months. I told her that I completely felt her pain, since I was dealing with the same issues. The only difference being that her son will be two next month, so I have a four month head start on dealing with the terrible twos. Wanting to help, I reflected on the past four months and came up with five tips that were helping me (and Ollie) survive his full court press for Independence and control.
1. Consistency is KEY. If you are going to say No, say it the first time. Toddlers thrive on routine and constancy. Flipping the script midway through on a toddler is the worst thing you can do. Letting bad behavior slide the first couple of times makes it near impossible to correct down the road. For example. Taking my son out of the shopping cart at the grocery store and either holding him or letting him walk, will forever be one of my biggest regrets. If you learn anything from me, do not let your kid out of that cart! It's almost impossible to put them back in! Another of my regrets is letting Ollie help me in the kitchen. Every morning he tries to slide a chair over to help. This sucks since I have hot coffee and knives out making sandwiches. He is too young to help, I wish I would have waited until he was at least three. If only I said no to the grocery cart escape and helping make meals the first time, I would not have the daily battles.
If you don't want your child to throw toys, correct them EVERY time! If you don't want them screaming, hitting or biting, reprimand every time. If things belong in a certain place, put them back every time. This gets old, but eventually it sticks... and becomes second nature for you too.
2. "NO" is not enough, explain why, and ALWAYS have a redirect ready. Being that my son is CONSTANLY testing boundaries and getting into things he should not, it quickly became apparent that a simple, 'NO', would not be enough. I learned very early that my son responded best when I said, NO... and this is why, then showed him an activity that was appropriate for him to be doing. This way, I could teach him why what he was doing was wrong, and then show him something else he could be doing that was even more fun. Like instead of banging things on the floor, he could be driving cars on his toy table or playing with his blocks. That is much more effective than shouting NO, removing him from the activity, and then leaving him there with nothing to do but find more trouble.
3. Consequences are KEY! Since two-year-olds are not cognitively developed enough to understand spankings, or long time-outs, consequences are the best bet. FYI: empty promises of consequences are lazy parenting at it's finest hour. I know, this lazy parenting was me. "Oliver, if you do that, NO Park." He did it, we eventually went to the park. FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! Now, it's, "If you smash your car into the wall one more time, I am going to take it way!" Thanks to my prior lazy ways, he would smash the car into the wall. Now, I get up off my lazy butt and take the car, and explain again why I am taking the car so he is clear about the consequence. Of course he throws a fit, flopping like a fish on the floor, but eventually he stopped smashing the car into the wall.
It's a process, everyday he is on to something new... but the consequence are reinforced now.
4. Ignore the temper tantrum. a.k.a the flopping fish out of water routine. I know most all parents who have made it though the terrible twos, threes, and yes apparently the fours too, will agree with me on this one, you cannot play into the tantrums, or they will just keep happening. I tell Ollie that he is hurting mommy's ears, and when he wants to use his words we can talk about what is upsetting him, then I walk out of the room. It's not always immediate, but eventually, he will calm down and move on.
5. It's not your fault. You are awesome. Going back to the mom that sparked this, during our back and forth she said this: "I think I'm a good mom and I'm hoping it's not something I'm doing or not doing." I struggle with this, but I know in my heart I am a good mom too. I know I am doing everything I can, even on my lazy to-tired-to-get-off-the-couch days, I still do my best. This IS a phase. ALL children go through the terrible toddler phase to some degree. This is a time for testing and learning for both the toddler and parent. Somedays we both get it right, others... Not. So. Much.
As a whole, I know I am awesome and doing my best to navigate the toddler phase with my toddler. I am certain that staying patient, consistent and compassionate, is the key to surviving the toddler phase with my sanity, and a well-mannered and grounded child to show for it.
Do you have any tips to add?