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Words I Parent By

Don’t start a habit you’ll need to break later.
Start the way you mean to go.

The principle came from BabyWise which I found totally made sense. If I want my kids to sit through a meal at age 6, then I expect them to sit through a meal at age 3 and likewise at age 1…at restaurants and at home. If pulling things off someone else’s bookshelf or coffee table isn’t okay, then it’s not okay at home either. If taking my keys or phone without permission isn’t okay at age 16, then it’s not okay at age 2. It’s unfair to a child to not set rules or expectations at home but then impose them when they’re in a different environment or age. It boils down to being consistent.

Credit Card Parenting: Either you pay your dues now, or you pay it later, but plus interest.
Win the early battles.

Raising little humans is hard. That’s an understatement. There were so many things I wanted to just let go because dealing with tantrums is just not my idea of a good time. But I kept telling myself, if I don’t deal with this now, and correct or modify the attitude/behavior, then it’s just MUCH harder later when they’re a few more years set in their ways. And lippy. And heavier.

Mean what you say, say what you mean.

I saw this quote on a poster in church once. Words mean a lot to me so this stuck with me since as a mantra to live by. It’s particularly impactful when talking to little kids because their brains are making incredible connections that sounds can make words and words mean something and now they can communicate. The few words they have is so important to them. They also take what I say at face value. Do I want to teach them that my words are not to be taken seriously? No. So if I say, “Finish your fruit or we’re not going to the library” then I must mean what I say. This requires really thinking about what threats I can follow through on. Little kids also don’t have concept of “later” so the consequences must be fairly immediate. I’m also trying to be careful about saying exactly what I mean. “Touching public toilets and then touching your face is really gross” as opposed to “You’re so gross.” See the difference? I still say the wrong things but am trying to live by this because I want my kids to believe my words, to take what I say seriously, and to not have to guess at the meaning. I also don’t want my words to wound them. One day, soon, I hope they will be people whose words are true and meaningful as well.

Make parenting decisions centered around your End Goal.

This is a harder one to do. Without an End Goal in mind, it’s easy to just react to whatever situation/crisis/episode my kids unleash on me. My reaction could just be to get them quiet and make it through grocery shopping/church/car ride. But what does that teach them? I can get what I want by making a scene. Mere behavior modification isn’t enough either. Kids are smart and can put on a convincing performance to get their way too. In reading Sacred Parenting (not done yet), I’m challenged to raise kids with good , Christ-like character. Character and behavior are two different things. Character includes attributes like patient, kind, honest, brave, integrity, endures, faithful, etc. This is much harder for me. But that’s my End Goal, so it gives a frame of mind for me to check if my response to my kids will be helpful in moving them towards the End Goal. It helps me make decisions about what to do or not do. This has been a three steps forward, two steps back kind of progress.

What are some words you parent by?

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Terrible Twos

31 months, Ness Ness

It’s real: Terrible Twos

They have big BIG emotions and not-yet-developed emo-muscles to deal. And have a short fuse. And become OCD over weird things. They try to exert their sovereignty over everything…pushing and testing parental boundaries/resolve.

My goal though this phase is to not lose ground from what good habits we’ve built in the first two years of her life. This includes:

  • Healthy meals and eating whatever is served. She’s pickier now but she MUST at least try something a couple times before saying she doesn’t want anymore. She can’t get any seconds of what she does like until she finishes her vegetables.
  • No snacking except at snack time or rare treat
  • Cleaning up after herself. If she can pull it off a shelf or throw something on the ground, she can pick it up and put it back. We’re working on her cleaning up without needing me to stand there watching her slowly do it.
  • Daily nap time. There was a period where she wasn’t napping so I made her stay on her bed to “rest”. We just call nap time “rest time” now but thankfully she’s returned to napping. Phew! Without that nap she gets whiny and dramatic at dinner.
  • Reasonable bed time. It’s supposed to be 8:30pm….but lately with the napping, she might not fall asleep until 9, 9:30pm. At least she stays in bed and is relatively quiet.
  • Obedience to Mommy and Daddy….75% of the time? I’m expecting more obedience as she gets older and understands more. I asked her if sometimes she just doesn’t want to obey and she said “yeah”. I told her I understand but some things require obedience for her safety. She said “okay”…though I don’t know how much she understood.

Needless to say, it’s hard to just hang onto what we’ve established. There’s a lot of “Do this or else…” in the house. I’m mindful that whatever I threaten I must be able to carry through. So if it’s “or else we’re not going out“, then we really aren’t going to go out. If it’s “or else I’m going to throw/give the toy that you won’t clean up away“, then I really do it. Sometimes I’ll put the toy away for a couple weeks before quietly slipping it back into her toy box. Always trying to find the motivator. Sometimes it’s a toy or activity. Sometimes is me. “Finish your dinner or Mommy isn’t going to sit with you anymore, it’s dish washing time.”

With all the testing however, she’s also becoming more independent. “Nessness can do it!!” and shoves Mommy/Daddy out of the way. And she’s surprising us with what she can do! Flossing for example. She actually enjoys it! Hopefully that means no cavities in the future. She also likes to help Mommy/Daddy bring things up or downstairs. Particularly if it’s not her things. The extra pair of hands developing for help around the house is nice!! I need to cultivate this further while she thinks it’s fun. 😉

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I Defy You Mommy 2

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!

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I defy you Mommy!

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?