My SIL often praised Nessness for how well she ate. But she warned, “They can start out as good eaters but then they become toddlers and meals become battle grounds.” I wasn’t sure if it has to be that way, but she does have four kids proving her correct. “Guess we’ll see,” I said.
And well…to the day Nessness turned 23 months, she now does the following:
- refuse to say grace
- pick out veggies or spit it out
- refuse to feed herself even though she can
- sit, refusing to eat, refusing to open mouth if being fed
- throw utensils
- scoop a spoon of food and pour it on the ground
This kind of defiance and disorder not okay in my books. Yes I do expect better from a nearly two year old. So initially we try “punishment”. But her usual punishment of being made to sit by herself and face the wall is almost met with a look of happy satisfaction on her face instead of the tears and pleading she previously reacted with. Clearly it’s no longer a punishment. In talking to other moms, I was advised to not use so much punishment at dinner because you don’t want them to associate meals with unpleasant punishments. Maybe for throwing utensils, but not for refusing to eat. Instead, it was suggested we try setting a timer in front of her and telling her if she beats the timer, then she gets to play (or some other fun activity). If she doesn’t finish then all the food goes away because it’s clean up time and she doesn’t get to eat anymore. She can eat it again at the next meal. (Of course, no snacking in between. Or if it’s a scheduled snack, the leftover meal comes out instead.) The hardest part about this for parents is getting over the fact they’ll probably be hungry for a few days. And that’s true.
I remind myself why we’re doing this:
I don’t want to nag through meals…or be a nag in general
I want meals to be done reasonably quick so there’s more time for meaningful stuff together
I want her to be feeding herself by the time BB2 comes
I want her to learn that delayed obedience is still disobedience
So…I need to be more stubborn than her. Must win the early battles.
Any other food war advice out there? Please share!
19 months old
It was dinner time and she was sluggishly finishing what clearly wasn’t her favorite meal. But I knew she could finish it because it was her usual portion size and she didn’t get any snacks before dinner. After dodging the spoon for a bit, she looks at me and says “pee pee”. Now, we’ve been telling her to tell us when she needs to pee, that she’s a big girl and won’t need to wear diapers anymore if she can tell us regularly. So of course we want to honor her communication! As I’m unbuckling her from the highchair she’s got a sneaky grin on her face. I have a suspicion she might be playing me…but benefit of the doubt right? As soon as her bum lands on the toilet seat, she arches and says “all done!” I say, “No, you told Mommy you need to pee so you have to sit and pee.” But she screams and says “All done! all done!” I don’t want her to be traumatized by the toilet so I relent but WAS THAT NOT A LIE??
It was a fight to get her back into her highchair but I was determined…you don’t lie and then get what you want afterwards by not finishing your meal!! We employed the same tactic as when she’s defiant by turning her chair towards a blank wall. She finished her dinner.
This is problematic…if lying starts now, what is it going to be like in a few years? Or when she’s a teen? *shudder* Little lies now can grow into big ones like forgery or fraud. It’s severe and needs to be clamped down on in my mind. But what is an appropriate consequence of lying for this age?
Well the next time she lied about needing to pee or poo, I immediately stuck her in the bathtub, pants around the ankles and said, “You lied to Mommy about needing to pee and that is wrong. This is your punishment.” And then I turned my back on her. I let her cry for one minute, turned back to her and knelt at eye level. “When you say you need to pee, you have to tell the truth. Lying is wrong. Can you say ‘Sorry Mommy’?” She stops crying and dips her head towards mine; I touch my head to hers as I accept her apology. I tell her, “Next time only say you have to pee if you really have to pee. If you understand say ‘Yes Mommy’.” And she said “yes.” Okay then.
Well, next time she lied to Daddy. I prepped him ahead of time so he repeated the bathtub scenario and this time she tried to climb out. But she was quick to apologize and dry her tears and quickly go back to her chair to finish dinner. And we haven’t had to do that since…so hopefully lesson learned?
What have you done when your child lies to you?
18.75 months old
She can open doors!
Doesn’t help we have the bar handles so it’s really easy once within reach. How to door train so that she learns when it’s okay to open a door and when it’s not okay? Ms PR told me once that the only thing keeping a door closed should be the sound of your voice. Otherwise a door contraption or lock will only modify behavior but not their will to obey the parent. Good point. But how to do it? Suggestions anyone?
18 months old
I tried the consequence of having Nessness’ chair turned away from the table when she’s defiant as described here. This is what happened:
She was hitting her spoon against the table and in her dish and food was flying everywhere. I tell her spoons aren’t for hitting things with during dinner. She looks me in the eyes and throws her spoon to the ground. I hold her wrist, ask her to look at Mommy and say throwing the spoon to the ground is not a good response when Mommy’s telling her something, she’ll have to pick it up later, and she needs to say sorry Mommy. To which she screams in my face and starts flapping my with her other hand. I hold both wrists, ask her to look at Mommy, and tell her hitting Mommy and throwing things is wrong. She wrenches both hands free and start flailing flapping get arms at her plate, Mommy, everything, and throwing her head back crying. I take everything off her tray and tell her she’s behaving badly, Mommy loves her but tantrums are not welcome at the table so she can sit on her own until she’s ready to eat with everyone. I push her highchair out and turn it away from the table. Crying and screaming ensues. I tell everyone else (read: grandparents) this is her consequence and no one should interact with her right now. Set mental timer for one minute. We eat through the noise. A minute later Nessness is reaching her arms back toward us, crying still. I ask her if she’s ready to listen and eat with everyone at the table. She’s signing “all done”. I tell her if she’s ready then say “please”; she signs “please” right away. I pull her back around and dry off her face while saying Mommy loves her but she can’t have a tantrum at the table and ask if she’d like some chicken. She signs “please” so I feed her a few bites. I ask if she’d like a spoon and she signs “please” so I get her one. (She still has to pick up the one she threw on the floor.) We have a great rest of dinner together.
So, I’d say this works. =) Thanks for the tip Ms PR!
17.5 months old
Nessness is starting to show her temper. If she’s being corrected about something, she won’t like it and will grab the nearest thing to her and throw it. All while looking you straight in the eyes. What you gonna do about it?
Well, this Mommy’s not going to have any of that. I grab the wrist of the offending hand and hold it firmly while putting on scary mommy eyes and say, “Nessness, look at mommy.” She will avoid eye contact. And I will repeat until she looks at me. “Nessness, you do not throw things on the ground. You did something wrong and Mommy was correcting you. Throwing something on the ground isn’t right and isn’t nice. You will have to pick it up. Now say ‘Mommy I’m sorry and won’t do it again’.” I know she can’t say it but I look at her eyes and wait for her face to soften. If she does then I stroke her head and give her a kiss. If she doesn’t and tries to flip her plate or throw something else or smack my hand (which happens most of the time), then we go through the process again. Or she’ll scream in my face and then I have to address that as well in the same process.
Sometimes she be so displeased with my correction she’ll put on the saddest face and then proceed to mini tantrum in her high chair. Everything has to be removed from the reach of her angry arms. I ask her to look at me but sometimes I think she’s feeling like I disapprove of HER instead of her actions so then I tell her that Mommy is here and loves her but doesn’t like this or that action. Or doesn’t like her screaming back at Mommy. I might stroke her head and sometimes that calms her but usually she’ll throw her head back and kick and shake her arms and head and cry. I’ll distract her with a toy she likes and that usually calms her enough that I can feed her the rest of dinner. But I feel like the distraction gets in the way of what I’m trying to correct/communicate to her. She’s also now playing while I feed her which is a habit I do not want building. I want her to learn:
- This type of behavior (throwing, hitting, screaming) isn’t acceptable.
- Dinner is dinner time and not play time.
- Mommy/Daddy has authority and she must respect that.
- Tantrums don’t get rewarded.
So how to do all that in one go? I asked Ms PR what she’s done and she suggested that at this age, consequences must be an immediate thing since they don’t understand the loss of a privilege or toy “later”, so in a tantrum at the table, turn her highchair away from the table. Preferably facing a wall. Continue to communicate that Mommy and Daddy are here but she can’t be in a tantrum if we’re going to eat dinner together. Then just give her time to work the tantrum out. When calmed then turn her around, soothe while asking if she’s sorry and ready to have dinner with everyone.
I haven’t tried this yet and I have a feeling the first time won’t go over very well, but I know I have to be consistent and follow all the way through. Manage her or be managed by her. Will let you know how it goes!
How do you deal with defiance?
17.5 months old
My MIL said she’ll feed Nessness since Hubs wasn’t back yet and I needed to leave for BSF. She kept on saying Nessness was so “guai” (which roughly translates from Cantonese as “good” or “well behaved”) and “leck” (translates: clever) for eating each spoonful she was fed.
Me : Mom, please save those comments only for when she’s actually accomplishing something beyond what’s expected of her. Like feeding herself.
MIL : Children need encouragement.
Me : Praising them when they’re not actually achieving anything just makes them over proud of themselves for nothing.
MIL : She’s eating what I feed her so that’s guai.
Me : No, she’s not feeding herself so she’s lazy. Because she can do it. And she’s not going to get better at it if someone keeps doing it for her.
Sigh. And Nessness IS getting lazy. She now knows her body is hers and she can control it and she has a concept of self will. Where there’s a will, there’s a won’t. (Don’t remember where I saw that but I thought it was awesome. It’s actually not awesome but you know what I mean.) She’ll have difficulty with the spoon and then hand it to me after one second of trying. If I refuse to take it she might get mad and throw it to the ground. (More on this in another post.) But I know she can feed herself so I might help scoop food and then hand it back to her to put into her mouth. If she were in daycare she’d be feeding her self long ago because you aren’t going to get personalized 1-1 care. Which is has its own positive and negative aspects…another topic for another post.
Look Mah I feed myself
What age did your munchkins feed themselves without much help? Maybe I need to manage my expectations.
13 months old
There are a few different kinds of play time according to Babywise (here are also links to what a Babywise mom did for the various play times): structured play time, free play time, Independent play time
Structured play is where the family member/nanny leads in the play time, exploring something new together, giving demonstrations, or early “lessons” around a particular skill for a particular time. Free play is letting the child chose what to play with and for how long while the family member/nanny is present. Independent play is where the child must, well, play by themselves and use their own imagination. They have no outside input or interaction that might direct what their mind comes up with because the family member/nanny is not readily visible. (This is where a video monitor is handy.)
I like this post describing independent play from a Babywise mom. The highlighted benefits of developing independent play time are:
- Mental Focusing Skills
- Sustained Attention Span
- Self-Play Adeptness
I had read that what preschool teachers wished kids would learn by the time they start school, wasn’t their ABC’s or 123’s, but how to sit still and pay attention. So, I actively started this with Nessness at about 13 months. I would place her in the playpen with her toys and then set the timer for 10 minutes. Initially she’d stand there looking over the rail and just cry. But I wouldn’t pick her up until the timer went off so that she would understand it’s not her crying making me pick her up, it’s the timer indicating she’s done. By the third day she would just protest a little but quickly sit down and start to play. If she played really well for the entire period then we’d increase her time in the playpen by five minutes the next day. If she’s having a particularly cranky day (teething or didn’t sleep well) then I might reduce the time on the timer so that she still hears it go off before I come get her. Now she’s up to 45 min of happy, independent play time. Which, I must say, is EXCELLENT for running about getting domestic duties done. When the timer goes off, she jumps up and yells in excitement as you come get her. It’s pretty cute.
What I have to work on however, is getting her to clean up her toys at the end of independent play. There was a period where she started throwing toys out of the play pen so I made her pick each one up and put it back into the pen. She has since stopped throwing toys out. Next is to actually tidy her toys inside the pen by putting things back into their containers.
As for the type of toys I’ve got in there…nothing battery operated so that any entertainment is solely from her imagination. There’s a bag of mega blocks for her to eventually learn how to build things with, and so that all the pieces are contained in a small area. I’ve also got a soft photo album with pictures of family…she really likes looking through it and pointing at faces. A couple small stuffies and some rattles. There’s probably too much in there now that I’ve listed it out…ha ha. I’ll thin some out for use with Blanket Time…my next baby training exercise. Stay tuned!