Archive for the 'Behavior Issues' Category

Unexpectedly an Expert

Woman: What’s your secret?

Me: Secret?

Woman: Your son. Is he always that well behaved?

Me: Well he has his moments, but yeah, usually.

Woman: How do you do it?

Every evening after dinner my husband and I take three-feet-of-fun, our three-year-old son, to the park and last night I unexpectedly became a child behavior expert. Apparently it had shocked the woman when I told three-feet-of-fun not to throw sand, he said sorry and immediately dropped his other handful without protest. He then sat down and started “making me a cake.”

Her son, only two months younger than mine, she told me, wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t mind, talked back to her, and was aggressive. She was feeling discouraged and wanted to know if I had any secrets for success or was my child just naturally easygoing. I laughed — it had been a long and painful road to get my strong willed child under control. Since she asked, I told her.

My top tactics for molding a good listening, well behaved, child:

Pick your battles. So what if your kid wants to eat ketchup with a spoon. Sure it’s gross but really you have bigger battles to win. You’ll have an easier time enforcing the important rules if you don’t sweat when your child wants to wear the same clothes he wore yesterday, dip his cheeseburger in applesauce, or lick the nontoxic chalk dust off his hands.

1, 2, 3. I’m a firm believer in counting. However, counting only works if, when you hit three, you deal out the consequences. I tell three-feet-of-fun to stop whatever it is he is doing and if he doesn’t respond right away, I start counting. 1….. 2…… He always stops by two. The trick is in the tone — I use a stern, no nonsense tone that he can’t ignore. It didn’t always work, though, and every time he didn’t listen, he’d get a timeout, even when he’d wait until I said three and then stop. I’d tell him he was too late, he had to stop before I said three, and then I’d stick him in timeout — he spent a lot of time in timeouts at the beginning.

Timeouts. They say for every year the child is old that’s how many minutes to give them in timeout. When I first started to do timeouts, three-feet-of-fun wouldn’t stay in the chair so I would calmly put him back in the chair and add more time. I explained to him that for every time he got up I’d add on more time until he stayed seated and the timer went off. I had to do it several times but he finally got it. Now, if I threaten a timeout to stop misbehavior, it’s a rare occurrence that he pushes me to enforce it.

Spankings. I know that spankings are a controversial punishment and are mostly frowned upon in today’s society. But I confess that I have used them on a rare occasion. If what three-feet-of-fun is doing is especially dangerous, I don’t feel like I have time to calmly reason with him and count to three. If he doesn’t listen and it’s going to hurt him I will spank his bottom, once, with an open hand. I don’t spank that hard, I know it doesn’t hurt him because it doesn’t hurt my hand, but it gets his attention immediately.

I don’t agree with spanking a child for crying. I’ve read books that say if a child cries for longer than five minutes, he needs to be given something to cry about. If three-feet-of-fun is particularly whiny or crying for no reason, I simply tell him I’m sorry he feels that way but there’s nothing I can do for him. Then I direct him to his room where he can carry on until he feels better and can come back out and use his words.

Consistency. I can’t stress this enough. If you say continue x behavior and y will happen. Y must happen. Once you establish the rules, you have to consistently enforce them. If you don’t, children will know they can sometimes win, and it will always be a battle. Kids are smart and they’re going to consistently test your resolve. Don’t get discouraged, it always gets worse before it gets better — but it does get better.

Redirection. When three-feet-of-fun was younger he had a nasty biting habit. He’d either be mad and bite, or he’d be playing and get so wound up he’d bite. I couldn’t break him of it so I tried a different approach. When he’d go in for a bite I’d tell him don’t slime Mommy, and made it a game. Granted, I get licked now, but I’d rather be slobbered on than bit. Children need to find outlets to express themselves, find them non painful ones.

Rewards. I have a hard time doling out stiff punishments for silly things like brushing teeth and taking baths. I’ve found for daily chores that need to be done that a reward system works best. We’ve instituted a responsibility chart that has things on it like brushing teeth, picking up toys, no whining, helping out, taking a bath, getting ready for bed — you know stuff of that nature, he is only three after all. At the end of the day if he’s done them all he gets to mark them off with magnets and when he fills up the weekly chart, he gets to pick out an inexpensive toy while we’re out shopping. So when he fusses about having to do something I remind him if he doesn’t, he won’t get a magnet. That usually ends the argument and gets the job done.

I think the most important thing is that for every punishment I have to dole out, I deal out at least three times as many praises. Anytime he listens without my having to count or anytime he does something without having to be asked I make sure he knows I noticed it and I lavish attention on him.

These tactics worked for me. Since no two kids are the same, they might need some modification to work for you. I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination so I was taken by surprised when this woman hung on my every word and said she was going to incorporate them into her approach. I was just a mom hoping that something I’d done would prove helpful to her.

Posted in Uncategorized, Behavior Issues | 2 Comments »

Thwarting Babysitter Drama–Forewarned is Forearmed

Every now and then, my husband and I try to get out without our darling boy. In fact, last summer, we started having a standing date every Friday night. Once the colder months hit, our “standing Friday night date” went by the wayside because we didn’t feel like braving the cold, we were having a hard time coming up with things to do, and it turned out that we preferred to just relax and snuggle and maybe catch an “on demand” movie or two after the little guy was in bed. Yeah, we’re lame. We do still go out at least once a month–it probably doesn’t sound like much, but getting out was also hard because of watching the hysterical and teary-eyed boy standing at the door as we left after wrestling ourselves from his clutches. It was heartbreaking and the temptation to call and see how he was doing after we’d left was too great.

He always seems to know too, that my husband and I are getting ready to go out without him. When else does Mama put on make-up and carry a bag that’s smaller than the diaper bag? He is a very observant boy and seems to know and understand our routines and rituals. It’s uncanny.

Two Mama-and-Papa outings ago, I had a “eureka” moment, inspired not so much by the impending arrival of the babysitter, but by the activity that we were in the middle of. My son and I were playing in his room, and having a grand time when I realized that it would soon be time for me to start getting ready. While we were playing I initiated this conversation with my 25-month-old, whom we affectionately call Bean:

Mama (excitedly): “Guess what, Beany?”
Bean: “Wha?”
Mama (still excitedly): “Guess who’s coming over to see you?
Bean: “Me?”
Mama: (still excitedly): “Yes, you! Kristen’s coming over to have dinner with you and for a play date just with you! Isn’t that great?”
Bean: “Yah, yah, yah, yah, yahhhhhh!” (jumping up and down).
Mama: “And Mama and Papa are going to go out–so it’ll be just you and Kristen for your play date!”
Bean: “Kay” (for okay.)

We continued playing some more and I announced that when Papa went into the shower, I’d make Bean’s dinner.

He was completely nonplussed. I made his dinner and when my husband came back downstairs, I went to get myself ready. On cue and on time (as always) Kristen arrived. Five minutes later, my husband and I were out the door, leaving the two of them coloring while Bean finished his dinner.

There were no tears, no tantrum, no drama. He blew us kisses and waved bye-bye as we left.

It turns out that this wasn’t an strange occurrence. I tried the same kind of forewarning the next time that my husband and I had a child-free outing, and it yielded the same results.

Am I deceiving him, by calling it a “play date” instead of telling him outright that Mama and Papa are going out without him? I don’t think so. To him the babysitter’s arrival means the impending doom of Mama’s and Papa’s disappearance. To the little ego-centric mind of the toddler it means that he’s missing out on something, that we just may be having fun without him. But by letting him know that the babysitter’s arrival is not about Mama and Papa, but is all about him and sharing an activity that he loves–playing–it removes the frustration. And, since he does know our routines and habits, preparing him ahead of time shows that we respect him enough as a person to inform him of changes to his world, and gives him ample time to process the sitter’s arrival and look forward to his special play date. The sitter isn’t spurng upon him, deflating any expectations that he’d be having Mama and Papa to himself all night.

So if you’re being confronted by babysitter drama when you try to leave, try the gentle forewarning approach. It just may work for you, too.

Posted in Parenting, Babies, Behavior Issues, Guest Blogger | No Comments »

Everything is Coming Up Mutha F#!@*! Roses

I swear this will be my last blog entry regarding the fact that my daughter remains smugly settled into her terrible two-ness.  But, I have to rant just one more time about it.  I mentioned yesterday that my son had fall break.  It was hard.  I started to speak louder and louder to them toward the end of our last day.  I had that wierd Steven Colbert look on my face - you know the wide-eyed one where he looks like he could go psycho-homicidal at any moment?  Yeah.  That one. 

I was laying it on my son pretty thick.  “You’re older!  Set an example!” - I was mad at him, not her.  I was reaming him for everything she did - I was blaming him for the lack of balance in our home yesterday..  How is that fair?  She was the one that was going around flipping over the dog’s water bowl and pulling her brother’s hair.  He was just trying to read a book.  He was just trying to build legos.  He screamed at her because she very premeditatively ripped the drawing he had been working on for an hour.  Yet, he’s the one that got sent to his room. 

God.  Can you smell the guilt on me this morning.  I have tried to wash it off, but it is sticking to me like a bad night of drinking brown liquor - I’ll be tasting it ALL damn day.  Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.  The most useless, yet somehow one of the most prevailing traits of motherhood.

I can remember my older brother getting laid into by my parents for every little thing that went wrong in our house.  Even if I did it - he got in trouble for not preventing me from doing it.  Somehow the eldest gets the baggage of “setting an example” - how lame is that?  They are kids too.  How did I fall into the trap of making him as responsible as an adult in our home?  Shame on me.

Nothing left to do now but change.  And sooth my guilt by feeding my son lots of cake and ice cream tonight.  Yes.  Ice cream makes everything better. 

And, as far as the adorable little hell raiser that my daughter has become - she’s in for a serious change.  I have made - god, I almost can’t say it - a time out corner.  It’s a bleak wooden chair sitting in the corner of the living room.  Two minute time ous for her.  She won’t like it but, it’s time.  And, there’s always ice cream to ease my guilt if she takes it too hard.

Posted in Parenting, Behavior Issues | 1 Comment »

“Mean Mommy…. Hate Mommy! Hate HER!”

Where my daughter learned the word “hate” I still can’t fathom.. I’m sure it came from me screaming about hating the ridiculous driver in front of me at some point in our day, but I don’t know if I am ready to admit that to myself.

Weren’t these supposed to be the tender years? Wasn’t my daughter supposed to love me unconditionally at least until she was thirteen? I mean, I know she loves me but I never thought my two year old would be screaming “hate” and “mean” at me.. Maybe my unruly teenager ten years from now - but never my sweet two year old.

Me: “Hey Mags, wanna have a snack?”

Mags: (happily and bubbly)”snack.. yes!”

Me: “How about some peanut butter crackers? That sounds kinda yummy, doesn’t it?”

Mags: (with the rage of Joe Pesci’s character in Goodfellas)
“NO!!!!! HATE peb-butter!! HATE MEAN crr-ckers!!!!!!!!!! HATE MOMMY!!!! HATE HER!!!!! HATE HER!!!!!”

And then she rallies around the house building up an army against me.

Mags: (to our dog Jackson) “jack-thon, YOU hate mommy TOOO!”

Mags: (to her My Little Pony doll) “Peeny, YOU hate mommy TOO!”

Mags: (to her brother) “Jo-thep, YOU hate mommy TOO!”

And it goes on and on and on.

For about the last two weeks this has been a typical scene peppered throughout our day. Yeah sure, we have good moments too but they are becoming fewer and far between than the “strong willed” moments. The girl has some serious rage issues……..

I know it will pass and I know it is just a phase and that she is testing boundries and blah blah blah.. It’s good for a little girl to be strong willed, right? It is good that she is displaying independence and strength, right? And if I am good mom I can cultivate this into a balanced human being who, in the future will be able to fend for herself. Knowing all that sure as hell doesn’t make it any easier to swallow at the moment.

Posted in Behavior Issues, Mental Environment | No Comments »

There are Some Things That a Girl Will Never Understand..

….. like why it is entertaining and fun for a boy to see what it’s like to pee in an air conditioning vent. 

Yesterday I awoke to a smell that reminded me of the day I went to the state fair and had to use the port-a-potty and the blue juice down below me in the pot was noxious enough for me to get dizzy… I wandered into the bathroom, nose hard at work, scooped up the throw rugs and started spraying my little heart out.  Not even the clorox could get the smell to subside.  I mopped.  I wiped.  I maniacally stuck my nose far closer to the toilet than I should have.  But then, I realized the smell was leading me toward the air vent.  But why?  That would be silly.  There is no way there could be urine in the air vent.  I mean, come on!  That would be just wrong.

So, I left my husband a note and told him that since it was more than likely because of the aimless boys in the house that it was up to him and the other fella in the house to find it and take care of it while I was at work.  Indeed.  I came home to my husband’s long and confused face.  “So, apparently, the boy peed straight into the air vent.”  Before I could get “what the hell???” out of my mouth he was quasi-defending the boy as if this were some sort of rite of passage for all six year olds.  Huh?  “But, husband of mine, why would he want to pee in the air vent?” - silence.  More silence.  “I guess he was just wondering if he could - I once peed in a potted plant in our kitchen.  I think I was seven though.”  Ummmm.  Ok.  What?  Is the “though” in that statement some sort of recognition that our son is advanced for doing this at a mere six years old???  Having a son has thrown me for a loop on several occasions but this takes the cake.

Now I am on a hunt for some home remedy to dilute the urine that apparently is lurking in my bathroom air vent - no amount of air freshener is going to suffice.  Anybody? Anybody? 

Posted in Behavior Issues, Daily Living | 4 Comments »

Terrible Terrible Twoooooooooo

Oh. My. God.

My daughter woke up this morning apparently possessed with satan himself. I don’t know what happened. She has been sick - and I thought that her nasty attitude was a symptom of that. But she is more than well now and the attitude has only gotten worse and way too big for her little, cute, cherubic body. I didn’t experience the terrible twos with my son. Actually, quite the opposite. Two to four was the best of times with him. It was such a foreign concept to me that when she started acting up, I had to wrack my brain to think of what could possibly be going on. Then it hit me: holy shit, I’m going to have to deal with that thing! That terrible two thing!

It all started with a cute little, puckered lipped “no….” then moved to a fully screamed “NO!” about a week or so after that first cutely pouted one. Then she never wanted to get dressed. I tried the give her the “options” route that all the pediatricians swear work. Liars. All of them. Liars. I mean, do these people even have kids!? “Baby, do you want to wear your striped pants or your skirt today?” I say with a casual smile. As she’s grabbing both the striped pants and her skirt out of my hand with a look reminicent of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and throwing them with brute force that I could hardly imagine from a wrestler, much less a little blond baby, she screams “No MOMMY, NO! MEAN! NO!” then calmly sits down, pats her round, little belly and smiles “belly!” and then giggles as if nothing just happened. Wha?!? HUH!!? Who stole my baby and replaced her with a schizophrenic mad woman? Everything makes her angry and she refuses, absolutely refuses, any help from anyone. She has had tantrums that involve throwing any small furniture that she can get her hands on at her opposition and then throwing herself on the floor and staring up at the ceiling looking very much like she is contemplating her next thrashing.

Even though I think that most of these “tips” were written by people watching people who have kids and don’t actually have any themselves, it is still a sanity saver. Having options makes you feel, at the very least, like you aren’t insane.

I’m not sure what her next thrashing will be, but you can bet your bottom dollar that we are afraid. We are all very, very afraid.

Tune in next time for part two of Lisa and the Terrible Twos: The Visit to the Lawyer’s Office with Beligerent Toddler in Hand. It’s bound to be a good time.

Posted in Behavior Issues, Child Development, Mental Health | No Comments »

Yes is the New No

My husband and I are trying a little experiment.  First, let me tell you how we came about this decision:

We have become pretty crochety and cranky, my husband and I… Not so much with each other - mainly with the kids.  I think what started as us feeling like we had to set some ground rules with our son (which was, at the time, very important) kind of grew into this monster of us being nay-sayers to any fun that might be had.  I found myself walking around with a sneer most of the day and, when I would catch glimpses of myself in the mirror I felt as if I was looking at Bette Davis in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Pale, crazy, hair all mussed - I just didn’t wear grouchy well.  It was putting us all in quite a nasty little funk.  The kids weren’t having any fun and we certainly weren’t having any fun.  So, this past weekend and yesterday we just made a very pointed decision to freakin’ relax.  We had gotten so caught up in being disciplinarians that we forgot that we loved having fun with each other.  It took saying yes at times when we would habitually say “no” - you know, those unimportant things like “can I play in the hose outback?” or “can I stay up a little longer?”…  I don’t mean instigating a free-for-all.. We are just picking our battles and chilling out a significant amount and everyone, from the kids to the pets to the parents, are much happier for it.

Posted in Behavior Issues, Communication, Healthy Living | No Comments »

Beauty Queens, Princesses & Ponies

Little girls, little girls, little girls.  I think I was less shocked when my son began proving the whole nature over nurture theory to me when he started being uber-boy than, now, seeing my daughter lassoing her absolute girlish nature at barely two years old.  Prissy, prissy, prissy.  She already wants a pony and is in love with those moronic Disney princesses who have had modern day “makeovers” that maintain the facade of being strong, independent women but, realistically, are just looking to hook a man’s attention and get laid.  Yuck.  Why is it in our nature to be lured by this?  She has already mastered fluttering her eyes at any man she sees and has perfected playing coy when they notice how pretty she is.  Yuck again.  Trust me, she is not learning it from me.  Sure, next to my boyish, lesbian friends I am pretty girly - but that is about how far it goes.  I like to think that there is a difference between feminine a being girly.  Being feminine implies strength of character and poise.  Being girly involves flirting and playing dumb to get your way.  A flirt I am not..  But wait a minute, my friends say I flirt with everyone - I think I am just being friendly - but they swear it is flirting.  Hold on - am I inadvertently teaching my daughter to get her way by being cute and flirty just because I like to be nice to people??  Can’t be.  I don’t care what my friends say, I don’t think I’m that girl.  I have seen that girl and have heartily rolled my eyes at her as man after man falls over himself to buy her a drink just because she is hanging out of her top and blinking a lot.  I have scoffed loudly when I have heard that girl say “Oh, I am just so dizzy - can you help me carry those??”.. I am not that girl, why is my daughter gleaming with the potential of becoming that girl?  Is this that whole mother vs. daughter thing taking root?  Or is this just a phase?  I mean, she’s not yet two.. Maybe I’m overreacting, no? 

Posted in Behavior Issues, Character Development, Child Development | No Comments »

Communicating with your child..

I have a friend, her name is Joy, who is always a wonderful person to bounce parenting problems and solutions off of. She is very concientious about her methodology and her tactics when it comes to disciplining her two daughters (one of which my son has been madly in love with for the last two years). She has been reading a book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” - it is a kit to engage parents in a relationship that their children will understand and in a relationship that they can be themselves in.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk is an excellent communication tool kit based on a series of workshops developed by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Faber and Mazlish (coauthors of Siblings Without Rivalry) provide a step-by-step approach to improving relationships in your house. The “Reminder” pages, helpful cartoon illustrations, and excellent exercises will improve your ability as a parent to talk and problem-solve with your children. The book can be used alone or in parenting groups, and the solid tools provided are appropriate for kids of all ages. –This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Los Angeles Times
“Designed to bring adults to the level of children, and children to the level of adults, so that this happy meeting ground can truly make for harmony in the home.”

If your children are anything like mine and Joy’s and they thrive on decision making and being the leader of the house then it sounds like this book will help bring a sense of balance.

Posted in Parenting, Behavior Issues, Communication, Parent Education | No Comments »

Lovely Six…….

Little boys go through quite a tumult of emotional and physical growth spurts between the ages of three and six. I can remember my angelic three year old son, practically overnight, becoming this very conflicted being. He was full of energy and testosterone that was, I think, responsible for a great amount of his aggression and belligerence.

Before the age of three he was gentle and kind and soft spoken. He would sit with adults for whole evenings talking about his toys and drawing pictures in a relaxed and calm manner. I would have never imagined that the ages of three, four and five would be so full of confusion and constant disciplinary action from myself and my husband. I have friends with sons that are a couple of years younger than my son and they would look at him and say “Oh, my son will never go through anything like that”. In the back of my mind I was thinking “oooh you just wait” — but I always thought that maybe it was just something my son was going through. Not to sound too smug but, thankfully, it wasn’t just my son. They too are now experiencing the three-to-five year old crazies. I am not happy that they are, just relieved to see a pattern.

The light at the end of this tunnel is that upon my son’s sixth birthday, something miraculous happened. He is in control of the things his body should and shouldn’t be doing. He can, again, sit with friends and talk instead of just using physical means to communicate. He will sit and draw and read and listen and tell stories. When I talk to him he genuinely listens and responds. So for all you out there who might be going through that crazy age with your son, just be patient. Six is heaven!!

Posted in Behavior Issues, Daily Living | 1 Comment »

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