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 (2 page)

BOOK: Life With Toddlers
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Big however:  As a Mommy with absolutely no time, and understanding that everyone learns differently, this book is organized in such a way that you can read straight through and really study the program, or flip around to the parts you need during the one free minute you have each day (which would be…on the toilet?).  The Toddler ABC Guide (TAG)© is used throughout, so at the very least, soak that in before heading off to page 80.  The point of this book is to lay out the technical in a practical way, so at minimum, absorb the ‘technical’ TAG© into your noggin, and you should be good to start flipping to the practical stuff.  Here’s the breakdown on what’s where:

Part I:  Prevention:
  This section outlines our plan for preventing problem behavior, why terminology is so important, and basic foundations to skirt disaster before it pops up.  Knowing the lingo (or some semblance thereof) is important, but sometimes intimidating.  But this is me you’re talking to, and I’ve made that dreaded technical stuff not-so-dreaded.  Once you understand it, you’ll realize how straight forward toddler discipline really is (although exhausting - I’m not a liar, here) and why it’s been so easy to miss the forest for all the trees.

Part II:  Application:
 This section outlines specific strategies to implement on a daily basis to increase cooperation and create an environment of trust, security, and control.  We’ll talk about how to change
your
actions in order to get the desired changes in your little love bug.  Knowing how to manage behavior is like taking a happy pill.  This section also details the importance of praise and patience, rewarding good behavior, sharing (ooooh, that
word!
), and how to deal with other children (and their Mommies, thank you very much) who are consistently aggressive, making you nuts.   
 

Part III: Implementation:
 This section goes over specific toddler-related problems such as tantrums, biting, and bedtime struggles.  To help with this, we provide a list of specific developmental stages of motor, language, and self-care skills as they relate to one, two, and three-year-olds.  Remember, a child can’t do what you ask if he isn’t physically or cognitively able.  This list gives you a heads up on what children can and can’t do at specific ages. 

The last chapter deals with how to be your best and give the best to your children.  Thinking of yourself (what a novel concept!) and putting your own needs on a front burner is key to staying sane and putting your best discipline foot forward. 

As a Mommy who understands the daily stresses and difficulties dealing with these little people, I know how hard it is to pick battles and do what the experts say.  You love this child with every ounce of your being, but you’re working…stressed…tired.  I’m there.  Right now, in fact!  I’ve been going through toddlerhood for five straight years, and as I type this very sentence, my youngest just turned one, so there’s another three ahead (dear God).  The worry, guilt, and exhaustion never go away, but it does get better.  But no matter what your toddler’s age, you
can
learn to enjoy and cherish what little time they’ll spend in this fabulous stage.  (And okay, so it’s not fabulous
now
, but maybe in five years you’ll think so!) 

Introduction Review:  What Did We Learn?

Who should read this book and knowledge you’ll gain.

TAG = Toddler ABC Guide and definitions of:

A = Antecedent
: event before the behavior (the trigger), preventive support, and external factors such as hunger, etc.

B = Behavior
: specifically defined.  Give clear, positive instructions on what you WANT, not what you don’t.

C = Consequence
:  your reaction will (
R
) reinforce or (
P
) punish.  Figure out why the child is acting out.  Customize your response.  Do NOT reinforce the behavior by giving in to the demand or giving him the attention he is shooting for.

How to turn negatives into positives: tell our kids what we WANT instead of what we
don’t
.

Stop reinforcing negative behavior.

Start reinforcing what you WANT to see.

Punish negative behavior – remember, (
P
) is not harsh!

Tell and Show your child exactly what you want to see and how you want them to act – otherwise, they won’t know!

Avoid fuzzy words (stop that, no, cut it out, be nice, be good, that’s bad).  Spell out what you want, keep it positive, and be specific!

 Break down of part I (Prevention), II (Application), and III (Implementation).

* * *
Part I: Prevention
Chapter One
Why Do They Act Like That?

Being a frank and simple gal, I’m going to give it to you straight: As the Mommy of three, I have no time to pee.  If I offend, get over it, because there’s also no time to eat, think, or breathe, so there’s no time left to soften the blow.  Sure, given the fact that I’m writing a book on toddler discipline, you would think I could control my kids long enough to carve out fifteen whole seconds and make a dash to the “little room” to relieve my bursting bladder.  Not so. 

The awful truth is that there really are days when there’s no time.  Please, you know what I mean.  Our own bodily demands get pushed right off the priority list.  We’re too busy meeting all the catastrophic needs of the tiny people dashing through the house.  Toddler needs being an endless abyss, it means a zenith eventually slams us in the bladder, forcing a decision.  And what do we Mommies do?  Leave our three-year-old at the dinner table to finger-paint with the peas she’s mashed?  Let our one-year-old bawl her eyes out (over who knows what) in the middle of the living room floor?  Or just leave it all to fate and wet ourselves because we can’t seem to tear away from our demanding little brood?

The Five Basics Are Essential!

Go ahead and be adult.  Tee-tee in that big girl potty.  While you’re butt is planted (and okay, you’re rushed and it’s only 4 seconds), think about the foundation to establish so these wrenching decisions on whether to pee or not to pee are minimized.  Here it is, plain and simple:  All children need
The Five Basics
: Structure, Communication, Limits, Consistency, and Guidance. 

1.  Structure
is a schedule or predictable routine.  Most kids thrive on knowing what will come next and what to expect.  Structure gives toddlers security.  When you do the same things every day, at the same time, they feel a sense of order and control.  Think about the routine at preschool: same activities, same time, every day.  The kids know what to expect, and they cooperate.  You cannot give them a nap at 1 p.m. one day, then 3 p.m. the next, then no nap at all the day after that.  You must have structure.  I know life gets in the way sometimes, but you have to try your best.

If you don’t give your child a consistent routine, don’t expect them to act well behaved.  Some kids are more agreeable than others, but for the love of Pete, don’t drag them all over creation, then get confused and angry when they act like a tyrant.  RESPECT a routine.

2.  Communication
:  Mind blowing important!  You have to communicate effectively to your toddler using words they understand, and your toddler must be able to communicate needs to you (and you must listen!)  Without communication, you’re hosed.  Just do something –anything–to get a mode of communication going.  Toddlers MUST be able to communicate or they’ll go into overload and throw a holy fit.

3.  Limits
are restricted choices and boundaries (to spoil or not to spoil…that is the question, Shakespeare).  By giving toddlers limited choices, you’re still giving them the freedom to make decisions, but sparing the overload of having too much to choose from.  All children need limits to feel secure, in control, and safe. 

4.  Consistency
builds trust and shapes behavior by continually letting toddlers know what’s acceptable and not.  When children trust you, they do what’s asked, because they know consequences are consistent.  When you’re not consistent, you just confuse the poor baby.  They don’t know what you want or how to act. 

5.  Guidance
provides alternatives to undesirable behavior.  Listen to me here!!  Rather than say, “No!” all the time, tell kids what they CAN do.  Giving proper guidance teaches kids how to approach getting what they want in a positive way, which eliminates the cycle of negative attention.  Oooooh, we Mommies give too much negative attention!

A Sign of Peace for Honest Mommies:
  I used to be one of those people who’d see a screaming toddler in a department store and snottily hiss, “
My
children will never act like
that!
”  Ten years and two kids later, guess who’s vigorously juggling baby bottles, boxed juice, and tearing open packages of peanut butter crackers, all in the attempt to console her two irrationally hungry, cranky, and LOUD children?  Oh, the pain of it all.  Someone give me an aspirin!  Boxed fruit drinks do nothing but shoot liquid sugar out of the straw and caramelize our kids, thus cranking up the crying.  Dish me up a cup of stupid for passing the damn things out.  Like I don’t have enough ear-splitting racket to contend with. 

The maddening commotion made me stop short, sucking in a breath of horror-struck realization.  And so came the epiphany, right there on aisle five of the local grocery store.  I had been thrust into the group of harried Mommies and bratty kids that other people either glare at or sympathize with.  Bewildering!

So when I share these moments of madness (and historically pathetic parenting skills), it’s only as a sign of peace; a gesture of sympathy to all caregivers of toddlers.  We put on a good front, but deep down we just want to know if there are others out there, sharing our frustration and simultaneous love and commitment to our babies.  As caregivers of toddlers, we’re all the same.  Our hearts have been stolen and we’re helplessly devoted.  (And tired.  Yes, very tired!)

We Mommies are in this together, and if you think you’ve got it bad because you don’t have time to shower, take my admission of no time to eat, pee, or breathe, and run with it.  You are not alone in this toddler race, so exhale a deep sigh of relief, baby.  The rest of us are out there huffing and puffing just like you.  As Mommies, we’re united and share the most difficult of jobs.  We must not break down when our babies suffer from colic.  We must not faint when our toddler throws up all over Santa Claus (
Great balls of fire!
).  We must band together to keep our sanity!  Just because I’ve written a book on toddler discipline doesn’t mean I’m perfect and my children don’t have a meltdown every time they drop their beloved cookies.  If they acted ideal, what kind of inspiration would that be? 

Conceding to having strong opinions on discipline is easy.  But I’m also not arrogant enough to believe it’s all so cut and dried.  I have great plans for “what to do if”, but in reality, I don’t always have the answers.  Nobody does.  As a matter of fact, as I write this very sentence, my daughter is trying to tear her crib apart in a raging, violent, screaming fit after being banished to her room.  The offense?  God, I’ve already forgotten.  I’m too caught up in the shrieks – can’t even think straight and remember.  And as a thoroughly confused Mommy, I can only sit here and debate whether to laugh, cry, leave her alone, hug her, or call up a girlfriend and have my own hysterical fit.  So, ha!  How’s that for being an expert?!

The Recipe

When it comes to discipline, you will get out what you put in

Your toddler is a direct reflection of what you give him or her.  The problem is,
how
and
what
you give is as important as
how much
you give.  It’s like a good recipe.  Giving all you’ve got is not the key.  You can put everything in your pantry into a boiling pot and it’ll come out a stinky mess. 
What
you put in and
how
you do it makes all the difference.  For a good stew, you need vegetables, not fruit.  And the vegetables need to be cut up.  You can’t put whole carrots and celery into the pot and expect it to fit, much less soak up the good juices. 

It’s the same with your toddler.  You have to figure out his recipe.  He’s individual and unique, having his own set of rules for what will work.  To figure out what ingredients make him tick, you need to look at what he’s telling you.  If you don’t look at the behavior and what it conveys, you’re continuing to put fruit in your stew.  It just won’t work and will never come out as you expect.                   

Whenever you feel like pulling out every strand of your expensively colored hair, stop and reset.  Your child is trying to tell you something.  Stop and listen.  Example: Little Collin howls in protest when refused ten more Teddy Trooper accessories.  Instead of getting a headache just thinking about the battle ahead (which, by the way, ends in your darling getting what he wants), step back and look at what the behavior conveys.  Take the time to assess the reason behind the tantrum.  What does he want?  Why does he use that method?  Are you reinforcing the behavior?  Do you always give in?  Put the effort into changing
your
approach so you get the desired change in
him

You will only get out what you put in.  Girly, if you don’t change your attitude and approach, there is no way on Earth your child will change what’s working so favorably.  Put simply, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the same results.                  

Discipline Must Be Delicate and Consistent

Talk may be tough at times, but my belief is resolute:
when it comes to discipline, you must be delicate and consistent
.  In my work as a speech therapist and Mommy, the observation is always the same - being delicate and consistent works.  Even if the kid is acting so horrible that you feel like selling her to the highest bidder, there’s no benefit to being anything other than calm and kind.  Yes, you need to be firm, but that doesn’t equal being mean or using any form of verbal abuse or physical retribution such as swatting, slapping, or spanking.  Once in a
great
while a small pop on the hiney might snap a kid out of hysteria, but truly, it’s not often.  It really depends on personality and circumstance.  Personally, I’d avoid it.  There are better ways.     

Firm kindness is easy as long as you’re consistent with your follow through and throw the guilt monster out the window.  And I do mean
throw it out!
  Realistically, no, we won’t always be unswerving, delicate, and calm every minute of the day.  We’ve all got hot buttons.  The witching hours between dinner and bedtime are just crap.  Good gravy, the fatigue!  (The only thing I generally care about is a bed, and not in a sexy way, little girlfriend!)  But even when tired, stressed, sick, or we just need a break, effective discipline depends on our attitude and interpretation of the problem.  We need to be objective, stay firm, and keep our emotions in check if at all possible.  Maintaining your cool is no walk in the park.  When your toddler is about thirty seconds from choking the life out of a younger sibling, we’re spitting flames.  But tempering that fury is important. 

Meeting Needs to Make Kids Happy

Discipline, in a true sense, is about giving kids what they need to make them happy.  You might have a hotheaded old uncle who suggests the kid “needs” a good whack on the fanny, but Uncle Crankpot is probably way off base.  To meet the needs of children, it’s essential to look at the “why” behind undesired behaviors.  Reading and meeting needs is proactive, and gets your child’s recipe right.  It works.  Yelling, threatening, arguing, or otherwise reinforcing the behavior does not.  When needs are met, your child is secure and happy and will have no reason to drop to the ground acting like a screaming banshee twelve times a day. 

Here’s another example of TAG in action:

Set up: You’re getting ready to step into the shower and your toddler brings you a book to read to her.

A
= You say, “I can’t read to you now; I have to take a shower.”

B
= Child falls to the floor and starts crying

C
= You can:

P
= Ignore the behavior and get into the shower or
R
= say, “Oh, okay, I’ll read just one book.”

What’s the ‘need’ here?  Easy.  It’s guidance.  She needs guidance on how to act appropriately to get what she wants.  By choosing
P
(= punish) you eliminate the behavior because it won’t work for the child.  In contrast,
R
(= reinforce) only reinforces the idea that falling to the floor and crying achieves her goal.  She’ll do it again because it works.  So not only do you delay your shower by sitting down naked and smelly to read to your child, you’ve just given her very clear instructions that it’s perfectly okay to cry and throw a fit to get what she wants.  This doesn’t meet her need, my dear!

Now for a reality check.  As the Mommy of a toddler, you’re doomed to suffer through an occasional poltergeist tantrum – not matter what you do.  Toddlers will be toddlers and go ballistic sometimes.  They’re untamed, completely void of emotional restraint, and often lack the simple language to express frustration and anger.  It takes time for them to learn how to communicate effectively
and
realize they aren’t the center of the universe.  That’s okay.  One or two monthly episodes of foaming at the mouth and rolling on the floor in a raging fit wouldn’t even phase me, much less have me worried about neglecting needs.

However, daily kicking, screaming, hitting, beating up siblings, throwing food, and giving you migraines…THAT is not okay.  And it means
you
are the one that needs to change.  This doesn’t mean you blame yourself when your children act out, but you must accept a better way to discipline.

When children act out, it should tell you they’re not happy and lacking something that’s your responsibility to give.  Now, when referring to “acting out”, we’re talking
aggressive
behavior.  The nutso stuff.  You can’t expect your kids to neatly clean their plate, keep peanut butter out of their ears and hair, pick up all their toys, not eat books, stay out of the cat food, and act like perfect little angels.  If you don’t let them discover what happens when they dump grape juice on their head (and by the way,
why
are you giving them dark purple sure-to-stain juice?) or let them express a little anger, it can hold back their cognitive, physical, and emotional development.

BOOK: Life With Toddlers
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