Adventures in Toddler Behavior

I’ve heard plenty about the terrible 2s, and was fairly well prepared with my “Happiest Toddler On The Block” book in hand. But then the terrifying 3s hit, and the fearsome 4s, and I wondered if the toddler behavior would ever end! Now, parents of teens are telling me that adolescence is a regression back to toddlerhood, but with kids who are more clever. Since it seems we’re in it for the long haul (I’ve seen some grownups who aren’t over the toddler stage either), I’ll record our adventures so when my clever teens are someday embarrassed to be seen with me, I can show them that it’s merely payback!

Contents:

How To Get Your Toddler To Eat At A Feast

How To Leave A Fun Place Without A Tantrum

How To Temper That Tantrum

How To Get Your Toddler To Eat At A Feast

By: Abby Plambeck

I’ve learned that I can never predict what my toddlers will do at a holiday feast. They’ll either eye up the table with interest and try anything, or they’ll glare at the table with repulsion and eat only stale Ritz crackers from the bottom of the diaper bag. It’s embarrassing if you’re at someone else’s house, and your kid shouts, “Yuck!” at a scoop of Aunt Petunia’s famous pistachio-squash-lime jello salad.

Try to stay calm, if you can. Kids take their cues from their parents, and if the parents are freaking out, I’ve learned that toddlers either freak out too, or, more often, take on the battle with glee, which usually leaves the parents in tears, but not the kid. It might work to turn the feast into a game or an art project. You could ask your toddler to help make a rainbow on a plate by choosing one food from each color of the rainbow. The rule then is he or she has to try one bite of each, which is pretty easily accomplished because who doesn’t want to eat a rainbow? (You might have to plan ahead and bring eggplant or purple jello.) Or, you could have your toddler choose different shapes of food, and even create a face or a car on the plate. And remember that the time spent creating this culinary delight will last far longer than the time spent actually eating it. My toddlers’ tummies go from starving to stuffed in 2 minutes, so keep the portions and your expectations small. The real goal at a holiday feast is to have your kids happily playing so you can sit down with the grownups and enjoy Aunt Petunia’s salad. In a green-and-orange rainbow shape, if you have to.

How To Leave A Fun Place Without A Tantrum

By: Abby Plambeck

I realized this past week that my children may have a Pavlovian response. When it came time to leave a fun place, my half-hearted warn-ings andcajolings didn’t have any effect. Then, I said a phrase that I’ve been using since my oldest daughter was 6 months old: “Goodbye (name of fun place), thank you, we’ll come again another day.” My three kids set down their toys and walked directly to their coats, no questions asked and no arguments! I stood in shock for a moment, then hightailed myself after them before my good fortune walked out the door.

We sometimes have to pick our battles as parents, and leaving any place where my kids want to stay has always been one I don’t want to fight. I’ve seen so many parents warn endlessly, then threaten, then plead, then finally carry a screaming, kicking child out the door. When I had one kid, the goal was only to save my sanity and leave with dignity, but then I had three kids age 3 and under, and knew I couldn’t physically handle all three if they fought me. I got my upper hand in their psyches instead. I typically give a 10-minute warning and when it’s time to go, calmly say my phrase in a cheery, singsong voice. The expectation is clear that it’s time to leave and the kids have been remarkably willing and able to do so.

I’m sure the key to success is less in the words, and more in the consistency and expectation that our kids will do what we ask. If you have a babe, it’ll be pretty easy to establish this expectation. If you’re dealing in toddlers and older kids, it’ll take more time, but stay consistent when they resist and they’ll get the idea. Now, I just need to find a phrase to get my kids to bring their dirty dishes to the kitchen sink!

How To Temper That Tantrum

By: Abby Plambeck

Mr. Twin and I both have a little temper problem. He’s full-out caveman at age 2 1/2, and uses hitting, biting, and throwing things to express his frustration. I’m middle aged and usually pretty calm, but his outbursts tend to bring out the cavewoman in me too. I recently chastised him for throwing a toy and he gave me a look that clearly said, “Right, Mom. I’ll get to that when you do.” (See my blog post: Could Someone Please Put Mom In A Timeout?)

He seems to need a physical release for his anger, which I understand, because I do too. But what can we both do that won’t damage people or property? Long ago, I started clapping my hands one time, really loud, when I’m frustrated, need to get the kids’ attention, or to keep my hands in a safe place. The sting of it often helps knock me out of the emotion of the moment and gain a cooler head. After a couple months of chastising, reminding, and time-outing Mr. Twin for hitting, biting, and throwing, I finally realized the same thing might work for him. When he got frustrated and looked for a way to lash out, I showed him how to clap. It made him more mad the first few times, but a few days ago, we had breakthrough. He got mad and looked around for something to throw, then stopped and clapped his hands! I couldn’t believe it. Granted, it may only work this week and we’ll be on to other challenges next week, but it’s encouraging to see a glimmer of humanity peeking out of my little caveman. It’s one of the hardest parenting jobs, but so important for our kids see us get angry and handle it in an appropriate way!

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