I'm better at being a student than I am at being a mother.
When it comes to succeeding at motherhood, eh... not so much. Seriously. I've only been doing this motherhood thing for about 3 years so I consider myself a total rookie. A novice mommy.
But I'm learning the ropes. I'm learning how not to make my life and my relationship with Aiden one big power struggle after another. This may sound strange, but I want to be able to enjoy my son. And enjoy our time together because he's growing up so fast!So I've dug deep into my bag of tricks and pulled out several tricks that have helped me along the way. 2 years, 11 months, 18 days, and counting... here it is:
Temper tantrums = cry it out, calm down, THEN let's talk it over. That applies whether we're at home, at swimming, in a store, or outside where everyone is staring... and judging. I cannot try to calm him down because it proves to be pointless. He cries and yells more, I get more frustrated, and as a result, he cries EVEN more. No more of that. If people want to stare, let 'em stare. If people want to judge, let 'em judge. When I remain calm, Aiden calms down and then we discuss the issue at hand. No, I cannot buy you ANOTHER truck set at Target, but you CAN help me pick out some apple juice.
Sometimes my expectations are just too high. I guess I somehow thought that since he's [slightly] older now, it would be easier. So not true. With each age and stage, there are different challenges. And, as he turns 3-years-old, I'm reminding myself that sometimes my expectations of him are too high. So I have to adjust them to his capabilities and needs. Like when he's engaged in an activity and I tell him that it's time to go take a bath. What soon-to-be 3-year-old would want to stop working on a fun floor puzzle to take a bath and put pajamas on?! Umm... yea.
So I ask again in another way. Aiden, why don't you clean up your puzzle so you can pick out which toy you'd like to bring in the bath tub with you? Ta-dah! A cooperating toddler!
The appearance of choices = toddler empowerment. Really. Instead of saying, "Here are the sneakers you have to wear today," which only leads to a power struggle, gets me aggravated, AND makes me late for work, I give him the appearance of choices. I pick out two sneakers that are appropriate for him to wear that day, hold 'em up, and ask, "Aiden, which sneakers would you like to wear?" He feels empowered and I feel happy that I won't be late for work.
Besides, that authoritarian, my-way-or-the-highway thinking almost NEVER works. Who thought of that anyway? Hitler?!
Positive reinforcement is my new best friend. Really, we're cool like peanut butter and jelly. Aiden, you did such a good job cleaning up your toys. Yay! He smiles as a happy baby and I smile as a happy mommy. Love it!
But on the contrary, there are clear expectations for actions. Case in point: When we're walking down the street, if Aiden is feeling independent and doesn't want to sit in his stroller or hold my hand, then he must walk next to me. If he runs away, it's back in the stroller or back to holding my hand. No exceptions. The streets of NYC are too narrow for him to run far away. Now, when we're at the playground, it's a different story...Pick my battles. All of a sudden, the kid wants to take his scooter out every time we go outside. Every time. If we're heading to preschool, I object to his demand. But if we're just heading to the bank or to run some other type of errand, why the heck not? I pick my battles, and we just spend a few minutes with him riding his scooter at the playground before finishing our errands. He has his fun and I cross something else off of my to-do list.
Distractions works wonders. If Aiden is doing something that I told him 1000 times before not to do it, like jumping on the couch, instead of scolding him, I distract him. Aiden, why don't you come over here to help me pick out which book you'd like to read? Whew! Crisis averted. [Psss... just so you know, this also works wonders for calming down temper tantrums.]
Talk TO him, not AT him. It can be really scary for a toddler to have someone hovering over them in an aggressive way. I find that Aiden is much more receptive when I get down to his level, look him in the eye, and tell him my request. Aiden, it's time to go; I need you to put on your jacket really quickly. Okay? Viola!
So there you have it. That's just some of the things that has helped me enjoy my time with my toddler thus far. For more examples of effective discipline strategies, check out 6 Things I Wished I'd Known Before The Terrible-Twos.