Keeping my cool with a spastic tot
Toddlers. So cute. So lethal.
Cue the long exhale. When I was first a mom of a toddler I died a thousand deaths, each and every day. I agonized over what to do when he protested naps. I texted my husband a billion times If he doesn’t stop screaming I’m going to die//can i die from listening to his whining//breakfast for dinner again–we fought all day and I’m too exhausted to cook//will he ever grow up or will he whine at college??
It was so hard to accept that my toddler couldn’t accept the word “no” nicely. It was so hard to hear the streaming of whining emanating forth from his frothy mouth. My brain face palmed a dozen times a day.
You see, I was still freshly off the working woman wagon, and I wasn’t fully immersed in kid world. I really thought I could control his behavior. I really really was wrong.
I wrote a lot about my struggles. Two Year Old Terror. Tantrums Rule My Life. Emotional Voice Finding. Power Parenting Doesn’t Work. I read a lot. I talked in my mom groups about it. I cried to my mom. I whined to my husband. I vented to my sisters.
And now that it’s my second go ’round with a two year old? It’s so much less frustrating! I do get irritated of course, but I rarely feel hot white rage of powerless agony. She’s different than he is, too. SweetPea is her own breed of spastic and has less staying power than SuperBoy did but is insanely more sensitive, too.
My go to mental check list for keeping my cool when she’s lost her brain:
1) remember she’s a toddler. I’m the adult. And if I yell, it makes it so much worse because she will be reacting to my anger instead of her own primary reason for the meltdown.
2) remember her brain is really limited in its self-regulatory functions. Like, really, truly, limited. She’s not doing this to ruin my day. She’s doing it because she’s a growing person.
3) insist on certain behaviors and let others go. No hitting me or others. No shrieking. When she does those, I either go to numbers 5, 6, or 7. She knows she can’t dump out an entire puzzle all over and not pick it up, but I’m probably going to remind her as she’s dumping and then help her pick it up instead of insisting she do it all herself.
4) reinforce action//consequence all day long and the same every time. it’s like training horses. We talk about what “we” do and don’t do. It’s in the air. The lines of desirable & undesirable. Why we don’t do this or don’t do that. And I try to follow through. So no idle threats because it is HARD for me to be consistent with two other kids besides her! And because, unlike you all lovelies, I’m inherently a softie and lazy and don’t want to have to be the bad mean mama.
5) nip the whining in the bud with incentives & choices. Oh, you’re upset you can’t color on the couch? Well, you can color on the activity book or the paper. And for little girls who listen and obey, they get a special something after naps! My bribes always come after naps. Just to have that extra incentive to go the Samuel L. Jackson to sleep.
6) hug it out. Crabby kids need tickles and hugs to knock them back into their normal happy selves. Sometimes works.
7) time in it up. I’m reading a really great book about behavioral psych and the affect of time outs. We’re doing time-ins which is way worse for every one but as of now, shorter in duration. She has to sit with me on the stair or the couch in the kitchen. She gets to see what everyone else is doing but not do it.
In her room? Too dang far away and that’s where she would prefer to be, thank you very mucho. Being stuck in the action but not partaking seems to be working as the ultimate incentive to behave more quickly. And regulate her own inner barometer. It’s her choice, to the extent her brain lets her 🙂
8) hold my breath and know this phase passes and if I do my job of setting firm boundaries she can rail against, quite literally some days, she’ll be better off and have a better sense of internalized discipline later. Gosh, I can only hope.
How’s your life with tots? Hope it’s not too insanivizing!