Wednesday, May 20, 2009

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Three Steps To A Well-Behaved Toddler

I remember when I was about 6 months pregnant; I was out shopping for Nursery Décor. While I was standing in line at the checkout counter, this little girl dressed in a Ballerina Outfit, complete with sparkles in her hair; threw herself next to my feet. While she pounded the ground with her fists she screamed " I want that dolly NOOOOW!"

I have to admit, I backed away from her. I wanted to make sure that no one in that store confused that little diva as my daughter! I looked around for her parents and my eyes landed on the man and woman whose faces were as red as a tomato. All eyes were on these poor parents, everyone wondering what their next move would be. The mom quickly handed the doll back to her still sobbing daughter and the dad quickly apologized stating; "I don't know what has gotten into her, she never behaves this way."

I remember looking down at my protruding belly and telepathically telling my baby that she would never pull a stunt like that. My little girl was going to be the picture of perfection, always well behaved. Luckily she heard me, well sort of. I have to admit, my husband and I look at each other every day and remind ourselves how lucky we are. Ki'Nani is pretty much a go-with-the-flow kind of child, who loves to cuddle with mommy and daddy.

So you can imagine our confusion when one day, she decided it would be a good idea to slap mommy in the face. Then later that day, she got the bright idea to jump on couches, even after being told "No" many times. As parents, we understand that she is testing her limits. But how can we lead our children in the right direction, while still allowing them to make decisions on their own?

A child needs to spread his wings and experience autonomy, accomplishment, control and joy so long as his actions are safe, appropriate and responsible.

Building Character Skills in the Out-of-Control Child by CR Partridge, Ph.D

First, David and I need to find out why Ki'Nani is continually doing things that she knows are wrong. Christine Shuck, mother of two and owner of Creative Solutions states;
As inscrutable as they may seem, every child has a reason behind their behavior, and it is rarely with the specific intent to drive us insane. Toddlers instinctively seek to fulfill the following needs: Contact (attention from their parents/siblings/etc), Power (the ability to control some part of their lives – this is where fights over what clothes to wear begin), Protection (the instinct to survive – to eat, sleep, be safe), Privacy/Withdrawal (time away from others to be alone with their thoughts) and Stimulation (understanding gravity by dropping peas onto the floor, watching tv, etc) If we try to understand the reason for the behavior, if we attempt to understand what our children’s specific agenda is at the moment, then we can effectively and lovingly deal with the behavior in a more positive manner.

In our case, Ki'Nani is our only child and she receives quality one on one interaction with both David and I. We also make a point to spend time as a family throughout the week, such as; walking, gardening, playing with Ki'Nani's building blocks, singing and get the point. But maybe she needs more or on the other hand, maybe she wants less. Step One on our journey will be to understand what it is that Ki'Nani is trying to communicate with us.

So what do you do when you've covered Step One? Hypothetically speaking, we have come to the conclusion that Ki'Nani jumps on the couch because she thinks it's fun. I can't blame her, it is fun! But also dangerous, which is why it isn't allowed. It may sound tedious but; "Consistency is key, immediacy is critical," says Andrew Adesman, MD who is Chief of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics at Schneider Children's Hospital in New York and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York. Dr. Adesman is also the author of Baby Facts. I spoke with Dr. Adesman over the phone and we used Ki'Nani's situation as an example. David and I continually put Ki'Nani in time out, at first time outs were the worst thing that could happen to her, as time has gone on, she has found ways to entertain herself while she is in time out. Dr. Adesman recommends "quality over quantity". While Ki'Nani is in time out, Dr. Adesman suggested that we make it as boring as possible. Whether she sits or stands, we must not allow Ki'Nani to sing or dance, which is what she now does. Dr. Adesman also stated that after we have tried this, we can also try upping her Time-Out time from 90 seconds to 120 seconds. Step Two: Be Consistent

After Ki'Nani is in time out, we pull her aside, get down on our knees. So that we are at eye level with her, and explain why we put her in time out. For example, "Ki'Nani, jumping on the couch is dangerous and it is unacceptable, that is why you were put in time out." Obviously, she doesn't understand what I'm saying to her, so I then say, "No jumping on couch, it's dangerous." I may sound like I'm some sort of caveman, butI learned this language from Harvey Karp. Positive reinforcement is key; check out these awesome products that your children will love, Excited 2 Learn.

The third and final step, one that I came across time and time again is; schedule. I am known for my hatred towards clocks. If I had my way, we wouldn't have clocks and we would live our lives on our own schedule. If I had my way, the world wouldn't last a day. We as human beings thrive on schedules. I've never made Ki'Nani have a 'bed-time' or 'nap-time'. She takes a nap when she pleases and goes to bed when she pleases, which is why I am known to answer emails at 4am. This will be our most trying task, but David and I are ready to take on the challenge and get Ki'Nani on a schedule that works for our family. A few products I am excited to try are the Good Nite Lite and the Hippo's Bedtime and Morning Routine.

So let us recap:

Step One: Understanding
Step Two: Consistency
Step Three: Schedule

Parents, you will enjoy these quizzes found on Dr. Adesman's website:
The Basic Childcare Quiz
The Child Development Quiz
The Common Illnesses Quiz
The Skin and Senses Quiz
The Safety and First Aid Quiz
The Feeding and Nutrition Quiz

A few books that I recommend:
Baby Facts by Andrew Adesmand, MD
Building Character Skills in the Out-of-Control Child by CR Partridge, Ph.D

Products to help you along your way:
Good Nite Lite
Excited 2 Learn

Additional Resources:
Business & Life Coaching and Professional Organizing


Erica said...

Really great post very informative. Thanks for posting.

Wildflower Studio (Michelle Dransart) said...

Cales, I totally know what you are going through. 3s are really tough. Kids really like to test. We do all of those things, but it really is part of their development to test. Just stay consistent and keep up the good work! I have 2 very strong willed and opinionated little boys on my hands! Thanks for posting and also for the great tips!
Good luck and stay strong!

Mama of 3 Munchkins! said...

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