I've talked before about how hard parenting is, and how there's no cheat sheet or guide to raising good people.
I stand by that; there is no cheat sheet, and you know your kids better than anyone. That being said, you can learn from other peoples' experiences and try out what worked for them to see if it will work for you.
In that spirit, I've made a very short list of the things that we've done that have helped turn Connor, and will hopefully help Kylar become, helpful, sweet, well-behaved kids who can follow direction, but who have the confidence to try new things and solve their own problems.
The terrible twos. Every parent's worst nightmare, right? The second your sweet little toddler flips a magic switch and becomes an emotional, screaming terror. You just pray it doesn't happen in public or in front of your judgmental family, am I right?
Connor is no different than any other toddler. He has a whole myriad of emotions and he doesn't always know how to handle them. He screams and throws fits just like the next kid, it's how we handle it, as his parents, that sets the tone and let's him know that his feelings are valid, but need to be addressed in a more tame manor.
This, honestly, is a great move for both of you. Teaching your child to calm down by taking a few deep breaths, and taking those breaths with them, gives you both a few seconds to relax and process.
What we do: Every time Connor is on the verge of a meltdown, I pause everything (TV included, and give Kylar a pacifier) take both his hands in mine, get down to his level and say "Hang on, let's take a few deep breaths. Deep breath in *inhale loudly* deep breath out *exhale loudly* Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Deep breath in. Deep breath out" It works 90% of the time, on the first try. Sometimes, we do 2 sets of three, but we always do them in sets of 3.
Give quantifiable notice
Yes, he's two and can't tell time yet, but if I say "You have 3 minutes left, and then we're going inside/getting out of the tub/going to bed/etc" it cuts out a lot of the fighting that used to happen when I'd just say "Ok, it's time to go."
What we do: I set a timer on my phone (Ok Google, set timer for 2 minutes) and he knows when that goes off, it's time. Or, when we're in the living room, we'll point out the digital clock on the cable box "see those numbers? Do you see the 1? When the 1 becomes a 5, it's time for *insert activity*" Recently, we forgot to give him notice and he got very upset. He ended up running over and pointing at the cable box clock. We told him once the 4 became a 5 (or whatever the numbers were, it was one minute or less) it was time for bed. Then he was fine. When the allotted time had passed, we told him to see if the number had changed, he saw that it had and went easily up to bed. So much better than a fit. He felt like he had control and no one had to yell or get upset.
This seems to be the biggest problem for parents, that I've seen. They get mad when their kid does something, but 5 minutes ago (when s/he did the exact same thing) mom/dad thought it was cute/funny/clever/etc. You have to make up your mind, what do you find to be acceptable behavior, and then stick with it. Blowing raspberries on your leg can't be funny one minute and unbearable the next. There's no way for your child to know that you don't want them to do that if it was ok a second ago.
Along that same train of thought, don't make empty threats. "If you do that again I'm going to put you in time out/take that toy away/spank you/etc." If you say you're going to do it, you'd better be committed to it.
What we do: I don't enjoy putting Connor in timeout, but he knows now that if I say "if you *action* again, you're going to sit in your room for 2 minutes" that I mean it and it usually curbs the behavior. Follow through is everything when it comes to taming bad behavior.
Personally, I don't agree with spanking toddlers, simply because I don't believe that they can comprehend the action the way it is intended. I think they see it like this: "mommy/daddy hit me when I did something they didn't like or when I made them mad. I should do that too." I think it breeds the wrong kind of mentality and teaches your child to hit when s/he doesn't like something because that's what they perceive you do. If you choose to spank your children, I'd recommend waiting until they can understand the difference between discipline and hitting someone when you're mad at them. And never spank when you're angry.
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Writer and Contributor for the Motherhood Community