I had a brief moment this summer when I wondered if there were an age limit on the kids they’d take at the fire station.
Fox had adopted some out-of-the-blue behaviors that were making me crazy. One of which was “Stop, Mama, stop” which was alternated with “No, Mama, no” both of which were punctuated by his chubby arm giving me the Heisman.
The worst though was when he pressed his little hand to his forehead and said, “Boom, boom, boom.” It was the worst because I eventually realized he was ‘shooting’ me.
Between the birth of my second son, a carousel of parent work scenarios (maternity/paternity leave, part time, full time, summer) and a two week trip to Mexico, Fox was a hot mess.
As a teacher, I started thinking long term and I started freaking out. What if he’d need medication later? What if he was the kid teachers dreaded? What if he struggled all through school? As a first time mom of a toddler, I wasn’t sure what was developmental and what was personality.
As I melted into a panic puddle, my family chimed in. My dad said, just be consistent. My sister sent me a gif.
The gif was from Jurassic World-the scene where Chris Pratt fends off the three velociraptors he’s training. With it, my sister shared the following wisdom:
I was thinking more about what you’ve been talking about with Fox. I’m not sure if it applies with two year olds, but I often would think of my students (yes, she’s a teacher too) as velociraptors at Jurassic Park. They will keep testing the fence for weaknesses. With Fox, he may know that there are times of weakness (like when you don’t want to have to fight the battle) and so he knows sometimes he can get what he wants. It may just be a matter of fine tuning your consistency and making things more predictable. If he knows he is going to get the same results every time he won’t ‘test the fence’ as much. At least, it may help with some areas. I’m sure there is also some developmental stuff going on too with him growing and learning limits.
It made perfect sense to me, as do all life to Jurassic Park analogies (and pieces of advice from my sister). So, I decided to strengthen the fence. Every time Fox misbehaved, he got the same punishment: I carried him to his room, closed the door, talked to him through the door about the behavior that earned him the time out, opened the door and ended his consequence with a hug.
I won’t go so far as to say he’s the perfect child now, but I will say I like him again. It was amazing how quickly his behavior transformed when he knew he would earn the same consequence every time.
As an eighth grade teacher, I can tell you that this kind of consistency works at all ages. The tricky part is following through even when you don’t feel like it.
I also strengthened my fence, so to speak, in the nap zone. I looked at what his schedule was most days and made that the schedule. I decided, he’d wake between 6:30-7, he’d nap at noon and he’d sleep at 8. Bedtime is still a work in progress, but by dropping everything to hit that same nap time, my life was more predictable and so was his. The take away for parents of all ages is to look at the natural pattern of your life and build a more solid structure around what’s consistently happening naturally.
Two Additional Tricks:
I realized my little guy was using his angry little phrases because that’s all he had. Now, instead of “No, Mama, no” when he doesn’t want something, he’s learned “No thank you, Mama.” I usually say, “Next time you could say…” or “A polite way to say that is…”
Other useful phrases:
I need space.
Not right now.
Can I have a turn?
Here you go.
It’s really sweet to hear him put these substitutes to work on his own. Except when he’s saying “No thank you” to my kisses. What?! “Next time say, ‘Thank you, beautiful mama.”
I’ve taught Fox to calm down by breathing. I even encourage him to do this through the door during time outs. “Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth; let it out in a silly way.” Coaching him also helps me calm down, truth be told.
I’m sure this is only the first small step on the long road of giving my sons the tools for managing their emotions and interacting positively with others. It takes a lot of time and patience (neither of which I have in abundance), but when you see your little person take ownership of the tools you’ve supplied, you’ll believe the time and patience were well worth it.
What tips do you have for gettingthrough the toddler years?