Read Life With Toddlers Online

Authors: Michelle Smith Ms Slp,Dr. Rita Chandler

Tags: #Parenting & Relationships, #Parenting, #Early Childhood, #Babies & Toddlers, #Child Rearing

Life With Toddlers

BOOK: Life With Toddlers
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Copyright ©2009 by Michelle Smith.  All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.  For information regarding permission, go to

ISBN-13: 978-1-449546-25-0  •  ISBN-10: 1-4495462-5-0

Cover design by Jerry Holguin and Chris Smith, cover photo courtesy of Gail Roberts.  Interior design, illustrations, and photos by Chris Smith. Printed and bound in the United States of America. Second Edition.

Put the essential 3 step “TAG” or Toddler ABC Guide© on your fridge, by going to
and clicking on the refrigerator icon to get a printable version.

* * *

For my sweet baby girls: Poppy, Mimi, and Wee.

For nearly a decade of toddler adventures…and for growing up so beautiful inside and out.

* * *

To Debbie Dodson, Miss Connie, and all the wonderful teachers at Crossing Point Christian School, thank you so much for letting me invade your space, take data, bombard you with questions, and enjoy your kids.  To Dr. Rita Chandler, for your endless patience with my eight million phone calls and emails, your terrific input on ABA, and your love for my girls – thank you.  Love ya sis!  To Jerry Holguin, for your awesome work on the cover, and Gail Roberts and family for letting me use the image of your fantastic, dirty, covered-in-cake grandkids – thank you so much.  To my Poker Mommies – especially Amy (for listening to me rant for the last 8 years) – for your fabulous stories, tons of laughter, and lack of sympathy.  You keep me grounded!  Most of all, for my husband.  Chris, words just can’t do it, honey.  Every single day, you show me and the kids what true love is.  I love you and will never be able to thank you enough for your love, support of this 8 year project, and help pushing it through.  It wouldn’t be out there without you.

* * *
Part III
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Yelling, Biting, Bickering, and Hoarding
Chapter Nine
Bedtime Blues
Chapter Ten
Developmental Skills List
Chapter Eleven
Be Your Best to Give Your Best
Author's Note
About the Authors
Toddler ABC Guide to Discipline
Taboo Secrets of Pregnancy: A Guide to Life with a Belly
* * *
“Experts” can BITE me!

Okay.  I’ve read them all.  The how-to’s, the why’s, the try-it-this-way’s.  You know what I’m talking about.  You pick up a book on toddlers or discipline, bound and determined to do as the experts say and end up with what they promise; a happy, loving, respectable little angel.

Well.  While there seems to be plenty of letters behind the authors’ names and a plethora of suggestions on what to do, let me tell you what’s missing in all these books; a bona fide, certified Mommy who’s actually going through toddlerhood and following the well-intentioned stranger around saying, “But…” and “What if…?” and “How come…?”

That’s where this book comes in.  As a Mommy on the brink of daily collapse and living through toddlerhood with each and every word typed (hold on a sec while I take a child off my leg), I’m not about to blow smoke your way and tell you that raising a toddler is easy and life should be full of cherry-scented farts.  So here’s the deal.  I’ve actually teamed up with a nationally certified expert on behavior, and we’ve come up with a new and exciting application of a scientifically supported method of behavior analysis.  You’ll get all the innovative, professional inside secrets
the skinny on the realities involved in implementing the strategies.  No more tossing how-to books across the room yelling, “Yeah, right!  Hello?  Real world?  What about the days when one kid is throwing up all over the house, the other is squeezing toothpaste all over the curtains, and the dog has been outside barking at the fence for five straight hours?  What the heck do I do then?”

Who Should Read This Book?

Parents, daycare workers, teachers, therapists, grandparents, aunts, uncles – anyone who deals with one, two, or three-year-olds can benefit from this book.  But no two ways about it, main caregivers are the ones who will profit the most.  The book is addressed to “Mommies”, so forgive me if you’re not a Mommy and feel a bit irked.  Not my intention.  Any “Mommy” role, as well as fathers, is enormously important! 

If you’ve ever been motivated by a book on toddlers, yet quickly disappointed in the effort it takes and the lack of freaking reality the author’s plan seems to possess, this book’s for you, honey.  Dr. Chandler is a highly sought after behavioral specialist (yeah, and
snagged her!) whose method for behavior analysis has been proven over and over again.  And as a speech therapist and mother of three, my own background in behavior management allows me to understand the technical part, yet empathize with the very real emotions associated with toddler discipline: guilt, anger, fear, love – not to mention the physical and mental state of exhaustion we caregivers perpetually carry with us.  Every bit affects our ability to raise happy children. 

Toddlers sock you with a fat punch of reality, and all the ‘specialists’ with their stupid examples of perfect parenting are too damn depressing for a Mommy in the thick of it.  The nonstop duties of feeding, diapering, playing, entertaining, refereeing, cleaning, and being nurse, lifeguard, and potty guidance counselor leave you too weary to muster up the energy to be a perfect Mommy.  Where’s the motivation to drag our sorry butts into the kitchen to fix our kids gourmet meals?  We just love those fancy toddler cookbooks, but I’ll be a flying monkey if they don’t end up tossed into the pantry next to the stash of Cheetos® as we run to save a terrified child stuck behind the fridge.

If you’re constantly being commanded by a very short person to do some oddball thing like help them remove the potty training seat from their neck or make a square block fit into a round hole, then you too are living the toddler-moment.  You too are chasing roadrunners, dodging bites, fending off headaches, and loving the slobbery kisses in between.  So when it comes to exhausting and feral behavior, feel certain I’m not about to let some ‘expert’ spout off confusing and unrealistic mumbo-jumbo.  My Mommy duty is to be straight up with you about the rather stupefying aspects of raising a toddler.  Are they supposed to flip out and act like fiends sometimes?  Yep.  Are we shirking our Mommy-duty if we occasionally (okay, frequently) feel like gulping down some Motrin and running straight to the nearest spa?  Please.  My friend, we’ve all been there – even if no one
is brave enough to admit it. 

What’s in it For Me?

What, specifically, will you gain by reading this book?  Well honestly, if you just
it, you’ll get
.  Sorry, dear.  You can’t make cookies without sticking them in the oven; they aren’t going to bake themselves just because you mix up the dough and stare at it.  However, if you change your thinking, implement the strategies, and stay committed to the process, you can change your life.  Literally.  You can turn around a world of tantrums, fighting, crying, whining, nagging, yelling, and misery. 

You will gain time.  You and your child will gain a mutual respect.  You will gain a happy child, replacing the one you think is unhappy more than you’d like, or out of control more than you can handle.  You will also gain relief, days of endless joy with your toddler (okay, maybe that’s a stretch), sleep (now there’s a miracle!), and an incredible knowledge base on what to do when things get rough.  You will know
your little angel seems to be sprouting horns and exactly what you can do about it. 

Most importantly, you will gain realistic options to eliminate problem behavior and make your child happy.  That is key.  Any old ape can dish out opinions, but if this person doesn’t currently
a toddler, isn’t (or has never been) the main caregiver of their kids, or isn’t surrounded by
their own
little sweeties day in and day out…well.  I’d caution you to be wary of any peachy advice, especially by someone lacking real-time emotional shock.  When’s the last time they dealt with
child fitfully rolling on the ground, screeching as if attacked by a swarm of invisible bees?  Too long?  Never?  Mmm hmm.  As I said, they can bite me. 

The Toddler ABC
Guide© or “TAG”

This book is based on our method for learning to understand your toddler and communicate effectively to increase desired behaviors.  It’s called “TAG” - the Toddler ABC Guide - and it will literally rock your world in a fabulous way.  Here’s the gist: First of all, think of a blank slate.  In fact, don’t think of your own child.  Think of a stranger’s child - someone in whom you have no expectations, no frustration, and no association of behavior nightmares.  This helps you be objective.  Now, here’s the breakdown (And hey, don’t get scared.  I’m with you and we’ll make it easy):    

“A” stands for “Antecedent” = the event
the desired or undesired behavior. 

“B” stands for “Behavior” = clearly defined in measurable and observable terms.

“C” stands for “Consequence” = what happens immediately after the behavior. 

Antecedent: “A” is the event that happens right before the behavior.  When you think of behavior, you’ve got two outcomes: desired or undesired.  Good or bad.  So you can look at the antecedent as the action or thing that ‘causes’ the good or bad behavior.  Most often it is requests, actions, or commands from us such as, “clean your room, turn that off, it’s time to go, you can’t have this”, etc.  However, for some highly sensitive children, the antecedent can also be uncontrolled factors such as a telephone ringing, a stoplight, a harsh sound, a funky smell, or a scary sight.  Dr. Chandler works with autistic children and the antecedents with these kids are often the uncontrolled factors.  But that doesn’t make the resulting undesired behavior okay.  Autistic kids, as well as your everyday toddlers, must learn how to deal with the antecedents in an appropriate way.  

For the purpose of our guide, antecedents are used to provide preventive support (one of Dr. Chandler’s mumbo-jumbo terms).  Put simply, this means it’s our job to make sure the child knows and understands every single word we say and give crystal clear directions, examples, and expectations in order to set up a successful outcome.  A child cannot do what you want or ask if he doesn’t understand what you want or ask.  Many times a toddler will react to your request or command in whatever way they do understand or think you want.  Let’s say you ask them to “be careful with the baby”.  What you really have in mind is, “stop pushing the baby”.  But what they interpret coming out of your mouth is, “don’t run around the baby.”  So they don’t run, but continue to push.  You mistake it for defiance.  The fact of the matter is, the request was not clear.  They really are trying to comply, but they just don’t get what you want.  Confusing defiance with lack of understanding is a huge issue with toddler behavior and a common mistake among caregivers.  The next time you feel like barking, “Why won’t you listen to me?!” think about it first.  Consider that it’s not a matter of listening, but comprehension.  Ask yourself, are you using clear, concise, and specific words and requests they understand?     

Under “A” you also examine external factors such as lack of sleep, distractions, hunger/thirst, etc.  Use this information to help set up success and avoid conflict or misunderstandings.  For example, Joe toddler is tired.  You ask him to put on his pajamas and he continues to play, ignoring your request.  Rather than get mad at him for (again) not listening, you know he’s just exhausted and needs physical help to get going with the request.  The expectation doesn’t change – he is still going to change clothes – but knowing that he’s tired, you offer hands-on help.  An outsider could immediately walk in and call this defiance, but you know why he’s ignoring the request and you factor that in.  Set up the situation for success by providing the physical and verbal cues to get the desired outcome with the least amount of resistance.  This avoids the immediate conflict of yelling (or other unconstructive reactions) because you understand the external factors and give him the needed help.     

Behavior: “B” clearly defines the behavior and is more action-oriented.  Look at this in terms that can be observed and measured.  (Oh, this jargon is killing me.  Truly.)  You can’t ‘observe and measure’ aggression.  But you can break it down into parts. 
is he being aggressive?  Throwing objects, screaming, hitting, biting?  How many times a day, for how long, and how intense is it?  Those are measurable.  When you look at it this way, you get a better sense of improvement, or indication of the behavior getting worse.  Being vague or abstract about the exact behavior and intensity leaves you open to miscommunication and failure.  If you can’t get your child to understand exactly what you want changed and how you want him to behave, then your approach won’t work and the behavior will continue or become worse.   

And here’s a biggie: make sure the child not only understands but can actually do what is asked.  Don’t use isolated abstract terms: ‘be good’, ‘stop that’, ‘bad behavior’, ‘be nice’.  They don’t understand these things at one and two years old, nor can some kids be expected to physically perform them.  Instead, pair the terms with specific actions.  For example, “be good” can mean ‘nice walking’, ‘soft touch’, ‘say please’, ‘say thank you’, ‘use your words’, ‘follow me’, ‘walk beside me’, ‘hands to yourself’.  “Be good” is too vague.  By using more specific words, you can teach your child exactly what behavior you want to see.  Just make sure the actual action is age appropriate.  A 15-month-old can’t (on any consistent basis) ‘touch softly’; it’s not physically doable given their gross and fine motor skills.  So asking her to ‘touch the cat softly’ will be a work in progress for a long while.  If there’s any chance the cat could scratch or bite if hurt, then it’s probably better to teach your child that the cat is a no-no – for a few months anyway.  They do know and can physically refrain from touching something at 15 months, but allowing them to touch something only if it’s done softly is just an agonizing battle.

Consequence: “C” is the consequence.  What happens after the behavior?  (Remember, keep your slate blank.)  The event should be clearly defined; exactly what did you do after the behavior?  Here’s an example:

A = Antecedent: You ask Junior to pick up his toys.

B = Behavior: Junior screams.

C = Consequence: You can:

1.  Ask what is wrong/talk to him/give in (give the behavior attention), or

2.  Ignore the screams and provide physical prompts to pick up the toys.

Consequences serve to either reinforce or punish the behavior.  In the above example, the consequence of #1 reinforces the screaming, which is an undesired behavior.  Bad!  When you reinforce, toddlers will continue the behavior
because it works
.  The screaming will be reinforced if you give it attention by asking the child what’s wrong, yell at him for the tantrum, or get all mushy because he’s crying and you can’t stand it.  If you give in at all and don’t make him clean up, you reinforce the screaming.  It works, and by golly, he’ll do it again.  So go the other route.  The consequence of #2 punishes the behavior (even though you didn’t react to it) and decreases the likelihood of recurrence because the child gets nothing out of it.  No attention for the undesired behavior means it doesn’t work for him.  He still has to clean up the toys.  This is a new way to look at what we parents think of ‘punishment’.  In this case, punishment is not aversive, harsh, demeaning, or disrespectful.  It is simply a term to define a calm and peaceful reaction that decreases undesired behavior.  Consider it written in stone:

Reinforcement (R) = Increases behavior

Punishment (P) = Decreases behavior

How to Read This Book

Obviously, Dr. Chandler and I advise reading this top to bottom because you’ll get the ‘why’ behind development, tantrums, unwanted behavior, and strategies to resolve it.  I can tell you all day long how to minimize bath time struggles, but if you don’t understand
your little ducky throws a fit just as soon as you pull the drain – every single time – and you don’t get
I tell you to do A, B, and C, then you can’t very well apply the same strategies when the poop hits the fan because Jr. doesn’t want to wear socks.  

BOOK: Life With Toddlers
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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