Managing Behavior with a ToddlerI feel like I’m always the mom who rolls her eyes at advice or has her arms crossed when people attempt to say something philosophical. Maybe I’m more of a realist…or maybe I’m just hard to impress.

I attended my first MOPS meeting of the year last week and we had a guest speaker named Joe Schmo (name obviously changed for privacy purposes.)  Joe is an “expert” on all things behavioral. He has four older children (oldest in college) and was speaking to us (mothers of preschoolers) about how to manage discipline and behavior with our children.  My first eye roll came when he was attempting to compare his fatherhood journey with ours when his took place TWENTY years prior. Sorry PhD, things were a bit different in 1993…I mean AOL didn’t even have versions yet for god’s sake and now AOL is irrelevant. Let’s get real.

He divided his conversation into two pieces: intervention and prevention. I’m going to give you all a run down of his intervention suggestions and then give you a play-by-play of how some of these conversations go down in my house with my sassy three-year-old and how some of this advice has resonated with me and how I’m turning my nose up to some of it.  Dying for you all to weigh in.

Intervention #1: Use Distraction

The advice from the expert was to distract children in the midst of their tantrum. The thought process behind that is when your child is going a bit cray cray, your attempt at managing the cray cray may not be received because in your child’s head, all they’re hearing is craziness.  This was a suggested exchange.

Child: I don’t want to go to bed.

Mom: Yes, go to bed.

Child: Wahhhhhhh!!!! (Imagine toddler having a major fit here)

Mom: Your shoe is untied.

Child: Waahhhhhh….no it’s not.

So, you can see that in this instance, the root cause—child being a bit bratty—was avoided via distraction and the child allegedly moves on from their tantrum. Y’ALL….it worked like a charm. This weekend, while at HEB, Caroline was having a straight-up fit about something {seriously I can’t remember what about} and she was crying down the cookie aisle and as people were looking at my inability to manage my child I said, “Caroline, your shoe is untied,” and she continued to sniffle and then she said, “Mommy, these shoes don’t have strings, silly,” and she completely moved on. So, while this worked, it doesn’t particularly get to the root issue which is addressing the behavior, but for Pete’s sake it beats rolling through HEB with a whiny kiddo.

Intervention #2: Watch Timing of Interactions, Intervention #3: Stay out of  Power Struggles, Intervention #4: Build Healthy Interactions and Intervention #5: Focus on what is really important.

The overall takeaways from the remaining four interventions were to avoid power struggles with your kids.  When you’re trying to combat their tantrum with your raised voice or suggested punishment, you’re essentially the teacher from Charlie Brown. It’s best to avoid that type of interaction with your kiddos because it’s unproductive.  The other piece that was helpful (and thankfully didn’t make me feel like a loser because we’re halfway doing it) was building healthy interactions (rhythmic interactions) with your kids. This can look like routines or bedtime stories or dinner as a family or perhaps its a bedtime prayer. Either way, it’s something or a series of somethings that happen regardless of location. These staples in a child’s routine generally make them a bit less cray cray.

Mmmm k moving on to prevention.

Prevention #1: Model Appropriate Behavior

This one is kind of an OBV. Don’t kick, curse, burp, pass gas or do other obscenities that you do not want your child emulating. My daughter said the S word the other day, but I couldn’t blame her because I say it quite often. I have to remind myself that she is at the spongey age and I need to shut my mouth and watch my words around her.

Prevention #2: Limit Screen Time

Say what? I’m sorry…did you say screen time as in Television or do you mean all screens including my iPhone? Yup. Houston Austin, we have a problem. This is where I get annoyed with “experts.” Twenty years ago, Joe was not dealing with the fourteen hundred channels we have today, he was not dealing with the apps that we have at our fingertips nor was he dealing with a highly-digital world. I’m not so sure limiting screen time is going to equate to a better behaved child.  Sure, should there be some limitations around TV, absolutely, but does that directly correlate to their behavior? Not sure. Caroline is obsessed (I mean a straight-up junkie) with Sofia the First. It’s a cute show about a sweet little princess and, truth be told, it teachers some good lessons. My daughter has learned to not be shy, to accept people for who they are and to always be nice and respectful to others. Would I have taught her those same lessons by age three? Maybe. However, my approach would not have been via-jingle and she idolizes Sofia and is taking “her” advice to heart. Do I want my daughter watching Pulp Fiction–hell to the no–but I do think there are incredible benefits to allowing kiddos to watching some television. Also, have you tried to go anywhere with your child lately? Yea…me, too…and it’s a lot easier on EVERYONE when the answer to, “Mommy, can I play a game on your phone?” is “Yes.” Are these “games” really games? No…the apps on my phone are all educational apps. Doesn’t bug me a bit.

Prevention #3: Develop strong routines, Prevention #4: Focus on the Positive and Prevention #5: Just say no.

Between you and me, Prevention #5 is the most challenging for me. I just don’t like to say no to anyone. I don’t say no at work, I don’t say no at home, I’m just a yes person and I don’t think it’s the worst thing, but it is a bit challenging when it comes to parenting. We try to say no to Caroline, but the truth is, sometimes her logic outweighs ours and a little TV, or ice cream before dinner, or sleeping with me just isn’t the type of battle I want to fight.

All of this behavior talk reminds me of this tweet that I saw this weekend. Can I get an #amen?

Tweets by Parents



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