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 (9 page)

BOOK: Life With Toddlers
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My sympathy strings get a good yank when I see a child throwing a fit at the end of a great party or when it’s time to leave the park or weekly playdate.  Totally the end of the world to a toddler having so much fun!  Some kids are more flexible than others, and your child’s personality greatly influences the ability to switch activities.  Children who’re spirited, active, detail-oriented, or obsessive about finishing projects/activities usually have more difficulty with transitions.  But given the correct guidance from caregivers, they can learn to transition well.

I swear to the park gods, not two weekends ago, my husband and I saw a mother and father tell their two young boys it was time to leave.  The first kid fired back, “No, losers!”  Then the second popped out, “Yeah, no way, loser boozer!”  I froze in morbid fascination.  My husband’s jaw dropped.  Just…holy…are my ears working?  Did those kids just freaking call their parents ‘losers’??!!  And did those parents just walk away and do nothing?!  Well, knock me over with a feather, I do believe those kids are right – loser parents letting their kids be so disrespectful!  Amen, brother.  Looks like we need a little work on transitions, my friends!

There are some superb catch phrases you can use to avoid dragging a kicking, screeching kid away from the park or out the door of your neighbor’s house.  Believe me, I’ve been there and done that.  The embarrassment justifies fainting.  Making every pathetic excuse in the book, I once made a complete ass of myself to very polite neighbors before giving up and surrendering to fate.  The screaming fit that was my child had to be peeled off the playhouse, slung over my shoulder, and oh-so-carefully navigated out the door.  Who the hell expects to be wielding a thirty pound octopus grabbing onto every available wall fixture, door frame, and lock of hair? 

Your ticket to terrific transitions lies in these straightforward words (which by the way, I failed to use in the above example): 
“bye-bye”, “all done” or “finished”, “sleepy”
and
“one more time”. 
Simple as they sound,
as long as children are not hungry or tired
, these powerful words can work miracles.  Start using these phrases as early as possible – seven or eight months old.  Regularly spout utterances like, “Time to go bye-bye” and “We’re all finished with the ice cream.”  

When you initially introduce these transition words, you may find that your child still gets upset.  But he might use the phrases to comfort himself as he works through the disappointment.  He may wail something along the lines of “ooooohhhh, all done!” while crying and jabbering on in unintelligible toddler lingo.  All this is well and good, as he’s learning how to deal with the difficult and upsetting emotions.   

“Sleepy” is actually a transition my older daughter thought up, pairing it with the ending of an activity.  During the summer of her second year, my husband would frequently take her to the park.  Walking together, they would pass a creek bed and talk about the stars, moon, and frogs.  She loved the sound of the frogs.  Over time, summer turned to winter and the frogs stopped croaking.  She wanted to know why.  Chris (my husband) told her it was wintertime and too cold for them, so they went away.  She paused a moment and said, “Oh, frogs asleep.”       

Since then, the park, the computer, dolls, her dear friend down the street, or anything else she wants to play with, “have to go sleepy” when it’s time to transition.  Even the sun goes sleepy when it’s nighttime.  Children love a simple reason why things have to stop or go away, and transitional phrases help them work through any disappointment.

Another great phrase is “one more time.”  When you need to leave the park, tell your child “one more time” on the slide or swing.  The key to this is that you MUST go through with what you say.  Do not utter the phrase “one more time” only to let your toddler go two or three more rounds on the equipment.  That’s not fair or honest (liar, liar, pants on fire!) and only reinforces that you do not mean what you say.  When you use the phrase “one more time” or “one more” and go through with your promise, there may still be a few tears, but you will eventually find that cooperation is easier to come by.  (And maybe, just maybe, your kid won’t call you a ‘loser’.  How nice!) 

Here are more examples of ways to use the transitional phrases: 

  • We’re all finished at the park.  Time to go home now.  Say “bye-bye” to the park!
  • We can’t go to the park now – it’s sleepy.
  • The crackers are all gone; say “bye-bye” to the crackers!
  • Katie can’t play right now – she’s sleepy.

When to Drop the Baby Talk:
  Toddlers really do understand much more than they let on.  Once in a while you’ll even run into one who can discuss the current presidential race or abstract enough to ask, “Do people live on Mars, Mommy?”  So herein lies the question of when to increase the complexity of your language and drop the very basic baby talk.  Obviously, kids acquire language at varying speeds.  Telling a language efficient three-year-old that the park has to go sleepy may be confounding, if not blatantly lunatic.  Your smarty-pants could easily pipe back, “Parks don’t sleep!  Parks aren’t even alive!  Look it up on the ‘puter, Momma.” 

At what point you decide to drop the short, concise phrases and address your toddler with the “let’s have a little discussion” approach is entirely up to you.  As a general guideline, one and two-year-olds benefit the most from the simple power phrases and transitional statements.  Three-year-olds understand a more complex speech like, “You’re having too many accidents in your pants.  We are now going to sit on the potty every hour, whether you think you need to go or not.  That’s the new rule, so get used to it.” 

As a speech therapist, I’m obligated to remind you that your three-year-old does not necessarily have to be communicating well enough to drive you crazy with incessant questions like “Do birds’ feathers help them fly?”  “What causes thunder?”  “How was the Earth made?”  If it works to keep your language simple, then by all means, do so.  Your Mommy instincts will tell you when your child understands more than he’s letting on.  Besides, even if your two-year-old
does
understand that you don’t tell crackers bye-bye, and parks don’t go to sleep, making your statements a little more complex doesn’t guarantee cooperation.  Activity transitions and life rules are abstract and difficult concepts.  Toddlers will have tantrums and angry fits, regardless of their language skills.  Your little scholar may have a command of English, but he doesn’t yet have a command of life.

Praise

Praise those little critters for positive behavior, and be specific.  When sipping juice instead of slinging it, praise them!  If they put their hat on straight (oh, heck…even if it’s crooked), praise them!  If they come the first time you call them for lunch, let you wipe snot off their nose, sit still while you put on their socks, or let you brush their hair, praise them!  “Oh, I like the way you’re sipping your juice so nicely; You did such a great job putting on your hat; Thank you for listening when I called you for lunch; Good job letting Mommy wipe your nose; Thank you so much for keeping your feet still while Mommy put your socks on; I just love the way you’re sitting quietly so Mommy can comb your beautiful hair.”  Specifically letting your child know what pleases you motivates him to keep up the great behavior.

Feel free to express your pleasure with rewards (although keep the tangibles in moderation) and
always
give verbal praise with lots of hugs and kisses.  There’s no replacement for verbal approval and acts of love.  Kids can’t get enough.  They could care less about the new book you brought home if it means they have to read it alone.  Toddlers are attention-craving creatures.  Time and attention is IT.  New ‘things’ aren’t needed to make them happy.  Simple activities like shelling pecans together or coloring in a ratty coloring book make them pleased as punch.    

Overdoing Praise:
  Having bopped you on the head with making sure you praise for everything, I’m going to back up a bit and give you a small warning.  Be mindful that it’s possible to
over
praise.  If you jump up and down dancing the Can-Can every time your child pushes down the Velcro on his shoe, he’ll wonder where your mind went.  It’s okay to praise, just don’t hound him with wild and ecstatic applause if he isn’t particularly interested, or the behavior or task isn’t exactly noteworthy.  If you go overboard with exaltation, the meaning fizzles. 
And
they’ll grow up expecting “atta boy!” for simply showing up for high school classes or the after school job.  Hello!  We don’t want that! 

Praise when you find yourself genuinely happy your toddler did a good job, and stay away from nonspecific, repetitive phrases like “good job”, “good boy”, and “that’s so nice!”  In and of themselves, these phrases are not pointless and insincere, but if you use them when your child is just sitting still and trying to figure out a puzzle, he’ll be confused – because he hasn’t
done
anything.  Be more detailed by saying “You’re doing a great job fitting those pieces into the puzzle” or “That was nice of you to kiss baby brother.”  And learn to expect a certain amount of good behavior.  There’s nothing wrong with letting your toddler know when you’re pleased with cooperation, but if you bombard him with praise all day long, it loses the reward quality and becomes an expectation instead of genuine guidance.        

Teaching Patience

Aside from the relentless nature of toddler needs, I’d say their tempers are the biggest exasperation for Mommies.  Bad humor and quick hot buttons occasionally grind us into microbes.  If a puzzle piece won’t fit, they throw it.  If they can’t squeeze themselves under the bed, by golly, heads are gonna roll.  If dress-up beads get stuck around our darling’s neck, she’ll practically choke herself with rage getting them off. 

Toddlers are a walking definition of aggravation, and from their vantage point, who could blame them?  The list is endless: They’re too short to catch all the action adults get to see.  Their bottom half is so uncoordinated that they constantly trip, yielding bonked heads and scraped knees.  Adults insist they eat disgusting green vegetables for dinner instead of ice cream.  Other pint-sized little monsters threaten their life and steal their toys.  The pet turtle refuses to cuddle.  Mommies go ape over a ludicrous article of clothing called “underwear” and badger the poor tot to sit on the toilet for no conceivably good reason.  Cell phones are off limits, and Mommy locks up all the knives.  More often than not, just when things get interesting, all hell breaks loose and they get tossed into a time-out.  If I were a toddler, I’d be on a permanent protest of life’s unfairness too. 

Asking an irritable toddler to be patient is like asking a cat to bark.  Patience is hard enough to practice as an adult.  Toddlers can’t even pull a shirt over their head without losing all sense of tolerance and howling, “Aarrrrrggghhh!  I stuck!  I stuck!”  How on earth are they supposed to wait for a tuna fish sandwich when plummeting blood sugar rules out all sense of control?  These sweet little buggers live in the here and now, and if it’s not now, it’s not ever. 

Keeping the limited knowledge of time in mind, teach your toddler to trust you by going through with your promises.  If you need your little one to be patient while you make her lunch, tell her.  Don’t get side tracked into a phone conversation or run outside to give the skunky dog a quick bath.  If you say you’re going to make lunch ‘in a minute’, make sure you’re slicing oranges once that sixty seconds is up.  Toddlers will also be more patient if they can help.  Set up a chair for your sweet pea and let her take the plastic off cheese slices or pour a can of soup into a pot.  

If frustration is the issue rather than time, do your best not to intervene until you see steam coming out of your little teapot.  Toddlers need to learn how to problem solve on their own.  If you always come to the rescue within two seconds of the first grunt of anger, they cannot learn how to deal with obstacles and aggravation.  Plus, kids need their parents to back off a bit and not be so overbearing.  Don’t hover over your children and play with them 24/7; they need an occasional break from you.  They deserve their own space and time to figure things out.  It increases independence and creates alone time for you as well.

When you see the tension and anger building up and explosion is imminent, provide some
prompts
.  Remember, the most effective prompt is physical, but it also requires the most hands-on work from you.  Keep your voice very calm - even overly calm - and walk them through the task, such as opening a bucket of Lego’s.  Provide encouragement by saying, “Let’s be patient.  Here, Mommy will help you.”  Put his hand on the box and help him open it.  You might even put the lid back on the box, setting it up for your child to try again.  Once the box is opened, congratulate your child and remind her that being patient helps solve problems.   

To minimize frustration, toddlers need tasks that are challenging but not too tricky.  With too difficult an undertaking, many toddlers will walk away, but others go for it with gusto, getting exceedingly discouraged and angry.  That’s when tinker toys turn into rockets and threaten to put your eye out.  Keep toys age appropriate to the best of your ability.  Listen, I believe your assertion that your little genius is the smartest guy in his preschool class, but he still doesn’t have the dexterity to master the game of Operation.  He’s more likely to buzz his way into a major tantrum and give you a major headache.

Being a Patient Mommy

I wish attaining fortitude and serenity were as simple as a pep talk, but alas, I live in the real world.  If the Mommies of toddlers had the magic potion in a bottle, we’d all be addicted.  Too many nights I fall into bed and berate myself for a shortage of tolerance throughout the day.  The triggering and offensive event seems so much more exasperating and dramatic in real time.  It sucks when you look back on losing your temper because your child hurled the ketchup covered chicken nuggets across the kitchen.  Retrospectively, the crime just doesn’t seem all that bad.  After all, nobody was hurt, ketchup is a removable stain (sometimes), and the dog ended up one happy camper. 

BOOK: Life With Toddlers
5.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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