Lately, Kevin has been having some "whining" issues. The irritating, nagging, dragging kind where as a listener, you just stop and think - how can a precious little person, whom you love so much, could cause so much annoyance? Nina has had her share of the terrible 2s as well, and just tonight - discovered that when she's doesn't get what she wants, she could yell at the top of her lungs, lie on the floor on her belly, and flail her arms and legs like there's no tomorrow.
I just completed a Parenting Program sponsored by our local family center entitled "Nobody's Perfect" and I thought that title was so appropriate not only to describe parents, but children as well. I know that every parent has "difficulties" and "challenges" at home, and I'd like to share some of mine, hoping that I could unburden myself and give some of my parent-friends ideas on how I cope with them.
Our facilitator shared an article from the Center for Parenting Education entitled "Developmental Stages - The Roller Coaster of Equilibrium and Disequilibrium" and it really helped me understand what my children are going through. Backed up by the latest research in Child Behavior, I felt better knowing that the occasional tantrums and heightened emotions are caused by the development the child is going through at a certain period.
"The equilibrium periods can be looked at as a time when your child is consolidating learned skills; practicing what he has struggled to master; they are plateaus in development. The disequilibrium periods often occur as the child is entering a new, quick time of growth and development, when he is mastering new tasks and working on new abilities".
Oftentimes, I find solace in the fact that this phenomenon exists in children, and I am more and more compelled when I see kids who are misbehaving in the grocery store or at church - that they are going through a stage. Instead of looking at the parents and judging their lack of parenting abilities, I try to see parents who are struggling the same way I am and it moves me to be more helpful than passive.
There are different approaches to discipline, and I know that everyone has their own opinion about it. Each child is unique - as I can see with my two children - their personalities are so different, and the approaches to disciplining them are different as well.
HOW WE COPE
1. Laying out Expectations
When Kevin's language was more developed at around 2 1/2, we sat down and agreed on the following rules, consequences and rewards. We went through all of it, making sure he understood, and occasionally, we would review them when he forgets. I learned this method from when I was teaching in Centex, and it really helped me create limits for my students, and it was easier to manage a class when they knew my expectations. Didn't know it would help me with Kevin, but I think with Kevin's personality, this fit perfectly. Nina is more "chill", so we haven't really done this with her yet.
Do you think this child ever needs rules in his life?
2. Making sure their needs are met
I really try to plan ahead - whether we are at home or on a trip, I make sure they have enough food to eat, water to drink, little toys to preoccupy them when they are bored, sufficient sleep, right temperature, everything. Those things can really make a difference in the way they react to difficult situations. When they are hungry and we are in a long line at a grocery store, I expect that they will be cranky and asking for whatever food they see in the store. If they didn't get a good night's sleep, I would expect a call from their teacher asking why they were a little "inactive" in school. If we go out and it's -40C, and I didn't bring gloves, mittens or hats, I expect kids who would refuse to get out of the car, even if it only takes 10 steps to get from the parking lot to the playgroup.
3. Taking a Breath
Today, in a 3rd grade classroom, I read a sign that said "Take a 5 minute breather", and I saw a boy staring at it, outside the door of their class. I guess that was their version of the "time out" chair, but I thought, that is actually a good idea. Breathing in and breathing out has really helped Kevin control his emotions - whenever he would be crying and couldn't stop, Tim teaches him how to take a deep breath, and most of the time it helps him calm down. It helps me too sometimes, when I've had enough at home, I tell my kids, Mommy needs to take a breath. I turn around, take 5 deep breaths, and it makes a big difference in my day. The kids also feel that Mommy is human too, and needs a break sometimes.
4. Inventive stories
When Kevin is in the "whiny" part of the day, he tends to ask for things that I couldn't give him. For example, he asks for a specific cookie that I don't have - and he whines for 10 minutes about why I dont have the cookie, and why we can't go to the store to get it, and why I can't make it NOW. My solution : crazy stories. I don't know how many stories I've made up for my kids - including the story about the boy who didn't want to eat his vegetables, and he remained 3 for the rest of his life and didn't get to do what the big kids did, or the whiny fairy, who comes down from the clouds to take the "whine" out...it goes on and on. Perhaps parents can compile these stories and write a book?
5. Many warnings
In the parenting program I attended, we also talked about Temperament.
"Every baby is born with his/her own way of responding to the world. Temperament is the observable part of personality. It describes how we react to the world around us. - T. Bailey-Sauve"
One of the traits presented was Distractibility -
"how easily a person can be drawn away from an activity".
Kevin's distractibility is very low - since he was a baby - it is very hard for him to transition from one activity to another. He is getting better now, since I do a lot of "warnings" - and as he is maturing, we use the clock now to tell when the next activity will be. It has really helped tremendously.
6. Giving LOTS of praises
I think Tim is better than I am in giving verbal praises to the kids, and I am glad for that. I need to control myself from buying treats for them when I'm at the store! I want them to learn the value of non-material rewards.
7. Acknowledging their need to express
Giving the kids "space" and the "outlet" to express their feelings has helped us a lot cope as well. When Kevin is upset about something, like when his Ipad time is over, and he wants to play "Cut the Rope" more, he cries, and I let him. I explain to him that he knows that the rule is he only gets to play the ipad for 30 minutes, and he can play again for 30 minutes in the afternoon. He still cries, and complains, and I listen, until he realizes that the rule will not change, but he was able to express his disappointment.
One time, when I left them in the day care to attend the parent workshop, Kevin didn't want to go home when it was time to go home. He started crying and so I led him in a corner, asked him what the problem was, and what he needed to resolve it. He said, he just needed to cry, and I said, he was in a public place, so if he wants to cry, he can cry in the corner, and he needs to cry with a softer voice. He screamed some more, and I tried to be calm. I wiped his tears away, then he said - "why did you wipe my tears away?" I said, "Oh, sorry, did you want me to put them back"? I led him to the faucet and put some drops of water on the sides of his eyes, and he found that really funny. He laughed and laughed, put on his jacket and we were on our way out. Why was he crying again?!
Nina is learning a lot from her brother's behavior, and sometimes she imitates him. She sometimes would go to her room and cry there, close the door and say, I just need to cry a little bit, Momma. And I let her. In the middle of an argument, Nina would say, "I don't want anybody to talk to me anymore". And I quiet down.
I think acknowledging that they have their own opinion about things and they need to express it, in a way, makes them feel more secure, that we are willing to listen to what they have to say. They won't always get what they want, but they trust that their parents would still acknowledge them.
Discipline is hard and tricky. At the end of the day, I ask the question - what could I have done differently today - and try harder the next day. The gift of a new day is such a blessing, and taking one day at a time I think is the best thing I could do as a parent.
"Babies don't keep"
"I hope that my child, looking back on today
will remember a mother and a father who had time to play,
because children grow up while you're not looking,
there are years ahead for cleaning and cooking,
so, quiet now cobwebs, dust, go to sleep
I'm nurturing my baby, and babies don't keep."