Friday, November 02, 2012

Terrifying Toddler

Update: I just found Ben perched on the dining room table - making quick work of a stick of butter. Yum. 


We are in the crazy world of living with an almost two-year old.

Here is the latest:

While we were on vacation, Ben tried to pee into the toilet. Unfortunately the critical bits were about two inches below the rim of the seat, so he did a nice little puddle at the base. We praised him lavishly and then realized “Hey, we just told our kid good job for peeing on the floor”.  Live and learn, my dears. He is the proud owner of a little potty and seems to enjoy reading books, brushing his teeth, and playing with his cars whilst seated upon his throne. Everything except the processes for which it was intended. Fortunately, we’re not in a rush. He’s young anyway.  [And we’re especially not in a hurry after reading this article.]

I really enjoyed this article on toddler discipline. Ben dumped an entire glass of milk on me today (all over my new coat!) and I wish I’d reacted differently. I’m not my best when cold milk is running down the inside of my sleeves. Fortunately Chris was on hand to divest us of soaked clothing and clean everything up.

Here were a few of the points from the article that especially resonated with me:

Don’t be afraid, or take misbehavior personally. When toddlers act out in my classes, the parents often worry that their child might be a brat, a bully, an aggressive kid.  When parents project those fears, it can cause the child to internalize the negative personas, or at least pick up on the parent’s tension, which often exacerbates the misbehavior. Instead of labeling a child’s action, learn to nip the behavior in the bud by disallowing it nonchalantly. If your child throws a ball at your face, try not to get annoyed. He doesn’t do it because he dislikes you, and he’s not a bad child. He is asking you (toddler-style) for the limits that he needs and may not be getting.

Respond in the moment, calmly, like a CEO.  Finding the right tone for setting limits can take a bit of practice. Lately, I’ve been encouraging parents that struggle with this to imagine they are a successful CEO and that their toddler is a respected underling. The CEO corrects the errors of others with confident, commanding efficiency. She doesn’t use an unsure, questioning tone, get angry or emotional. Our child needs to feel that we are not nervous about his behavior, or ambivalent about establishing rules. He finds comfort when we are effortlessly in charge.
Lectures, emotional reactions, scolding and punishments do not give our toddler the clarity he needs, and can create guilt and shame.  A simple, matter-of-fact “I won’t let you do that. If you throw that again I will take it away” while blocking the behavior with our hands is the best response. But react immediately. Once the moment has passed, it is too late. Wait for the next one!

Speak in first person. [I catch myself doing this all the time - it sounds so silly] Parents often get in the habit of calling themselves “mommy” or “daddy”. Toddlerhood is the time to change over into first person for the most honest, direct communication possible. Toddlers test boundaries to clarify the rules. When I say “Mommy doesn’t want Emma to hit the dog”, I’m not giving my child the direct (‘you’ and ‘me’) interaction she needs. 

In other news, Ben and I trundled down to the tiny pocket park in Lake Forest Park today. It’s called Lyon Creek Waterfront Park and we were the only human visitors. We saw some squirrels, ducks, and a giant dead salmon that was being feasted upon by crows. The pictures (with the exception of the one at right) are from our outing. As far as the baby is concerned, it has both a stream and a dock on the lake so that rates pretty highly in his book.

The wee bambino is currently loving our once-a-week co-op, stomping in puddles, and trying out his new vocabulary.  It is such a thrill to hear coherent sounds emerge from the child - I’m sure it’ll wear off eventually and we’ll be like:  “Ok, ENOUGH TALKING!’ But for now it is exciting to have a speaking child. His latest include ‘pumpkin’, ‘Bailey’, and ‘Megan’. The latter sounds like “MeMe’ but we’ll take it.