Please join me at apple seeds, Saturday December 5th from 10:00AM-12:30PM. I will be answering all your developmental and parenting questions, for free! Pass along!
Question of the week: Sometimes I feel like I am just battling with my 3 year old son all the time. What can I do to connect with him and not feel like we are screaming all the time?
When my son was seven months old I placed him in a home-based daycare that took two busses to get to. I had two daycare centers across the street from my home but there was something about Joanie, the woman who ran the daycare center, that made me feel like this was the right place for both of us though it was far away. "Mud Pies" daycare, was housed in a two room, small NYC apartment and had children ages from two months to four years old.
Joanie was loving yet firm with the children and the parents. She had a few mantras that you needed to accept if you sent your child to the program: "discipline and love go hand in hand", there was "no baby talk" and "conversations are important and make a difference for children at all ages and stages." The last idea, I used to snicker at a bit. I mean really, how can you have a conversation with your seven month old and expect him to understand? But Joanie believed and she told us parents we needed to as well. When our children would misbehave, begin to throw a tantrum or hit she would look at them in the eye and have a talk with them. "We don't hit. That hurts others. If you want to hit something, hit a pillow." She would say to us parents at pick up "make sure you go home and have a talk with "E" about hitting." So I would. I felt stupid but I did it. The next day Joanie would say "your talk worked, the behavior is better today."
Joanie's approach if nothing else, opened up an opportunity for me to speak with my child rather than shout or do worse. And over time, I began to see that using my words and not just telling my children to, did make a difference. By talking with our children we send a message that we need to tell others (even our children) what we expect from them.
I use "I have to talk to you about something" or " we need to have a conversation" as a constant in my household. When I want to discuss something, such as a behavior that I do not approve of, I try to make time to have the conversation when it is not in the heat of the moment. I find when I do this my children are more responsive to my thoughts and tend to have perspective on their actions. For example, a conversation that might be held at dinner or before bedtime "I notice when we arrive at school that you hit your friends instead of greeting them with a 'hello' or a 'good morning.'" "I'd like for you to think about another way with which to greet your friends." After a discussion of why it happens, etc. and a solution is reached, I would probably say on the way to school the next morning, "remember what we talked about hitting our friends last night?" "What's your plan this morning?" Another example was my daughter throwing a tantrum when we had to leave the playground. Trying to have a conversation while she was kicking and screaming was worthless and almost got me kicked! Once we got home, (yes, I practically dragged her!) I let us both cool down. Later that evening and on the way to school the next day, we talked about if we wanted to go to the park after school we would have to understand when it was time to leave. We have had very few problems since that discussion.
I also find that when I anticipate a potential meltdown or stressful event (like before we go shopping and I want to make it clear we are not buying everything on the shelves) and make time for a conversation and even negotiation, I notice that my children really listen and have an easier time handling themselves when the discussed situation arises.
What is even nicer is that my children have begun to set aside time to talk to me too. When they want something or something is bothering them, they say "mom, we need to have a conversation." As parents, we want our children to feel comfortable talking with us and not shut down as we talk at them. It is a hard and there is no guarantee that the conversations will always work or that the conversations will always have the outcome we would like but as Joanie taught me, it is never to early to start.
So get talking!