Monday, August 11, 2008

Me wuv big sister's baby


How can you not love toddlers?

Well actually very easily when they're whinging for the thing you've just said no to, or kicking you, or looking you straight in the eye and doing it again.

So how do you not strangle them? I've actually got some ideas from teaching, and others I've muddled out.

  • Take note every time they do something gorgeous - I've even been known to write a quick email to DH about comments like that, or write it in a journal, just to force myself to stop and appreciate how loving and wonderful she really is.
  • Take photos! I have them on the computer as my screen saver, it can really break the tension if I'm wanting to yell at her so badly and suddenly behind her flashes up a picture of her dressed in her fairy outfit and flying hat as she takes the baby monster home to the moon (don't ask).
  • Catch them being good, aka praise, praise, praise, praise. And I don't mean "good girl." I mean "I'm really glad you stopped when I asked," "That's such a help when you put those toys away," "Isn't it nice we have room to play now," "Thank-you for being gentle with Midget." Just about every one of those could be delivered with gritted teeth, you can imagine what she's just done previously. And don't ruin it by tacking somehing on the end, although I'm well known for adding "if you'd just done it the first time!"
  • Keep track of your positives and negatives. I used to do it at school with marbles in my pockets - for every positive I put one in my right pocket, for a negative I put one in my left. The goal was to finish the lesson with more rights! You can tally it on a piece of paper or chalkboard. You find what you're looking for, so after a while you do start to see all the good things, not the "accidents."
  • Reinforce all the good things. When I'm saying goodnight I go through all the things we did today, all the fun activities, and give her a compliment for each - You had so much fun painting!
  • Decide on your goal. You can't make someone be happy, so don't be angry with them for being upset. If I want the toys cleaned up or her to get dressed I don't care what sort of attitude she's pulling. Nothing makes the situation worse like saying do it with a happy face, you just have a brand new fight starting there.
  • Give them something nice to come back to. It's really common to flare up when they come back from a problem, they are still in negative mode or expecting punishment. So have something fun to do and ignore the button pushing. Giving them a hard time when you move on means you're doing exactly the same thing - you still feel angry, so let them off the hook if they do.
  • Get really quiet. When I feel like yelling I try to consciously relax my face and speak very quietly. This is a physiological trick, it makes you calmer, plus it means I'm not helping the situation spiral out of control.

Of course it doesn't always work, I probably yell once a day on average, some days are less and some I'd rather not talk about. And they're things to strive for, not things I always manage to do! So my final strategy is be willing to say you're wrong. When you're calm again go and give them a cuddle and say you're sorry for being grumpy, then ask them to choose something they want to do.

What other ideas do you use?

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