calling in the professionals
Recently, I attended a workshop series called "Parenting the Preschooler," which is offered by Family Child Resources and Family First Health, two great organizations in my city. It's no secret that I'm having some challenges raising a spirited little girl, so I'll take all the help I can get.
While nothing in the class was particularly mind-blowing or new information, our instructor was very informative and knowledgeable and I found it extremely helpful and refreshing to be surrounded by parents and caregivers who were experiencing my same frustrations.
Our instructor led us like she was prepping us for battle. There was a lot of talk of not giving in, not letting them see you cry and not letting them break you. It's us vs. the toddler... and let's be real: a lot of times it feels that way.
The big takeaway for me was the importance of completely ignoring irrelevant behavior, as in ignoring your kid when they're acting like a brat.
Our instructor emphasized the point of not giving in to the whining and the tantrum. If you break after an hour, your kid knows that they just have to whine for an hour next time and then they've got you.
She warned us that the behavior will most likely get worse before it gets better. Again, don't give in. And then, when the behavior finally stops, immediately praise your kid for working through their tantrum. This will teach them that tantrums don't get your attention and encourage them to try a different approach to communicating.
I had an opportunity to test out this approach immediately on the car ride home with Holden. And... it worked. It took 25 minutes, but she stopped. I've probably used this technique at least once every other day since taking this class, and it really does get easier and the tantrums are shorter and less severe. Sometimes it's easier said than done to completely zone out and ignore your kid who's going full Exorcist in front of you, but I've really been happy with the result.
We also talked about effective Time Outs, which should be reserved for serious rule breaking like hitting, throwing things or breaking a family value you've deemed important.
Another mother in the class mentioned that she had trouble getting her daughter to stay in Time Out, a problem I have been experiencing with Holden. Her solution was, rather than make her daughter sit facing the wall, she let her daughter sit with her back against the wall during Time Outs. That way her curious, busy little girl could still see what was going on around her.
Immediately after the workshop, I also Amazoned (yes, I shop on Amazon so much I use it in verb form) a new Time Out timer: the Amco Digital Color Alert Kitchen Timer/Clock.
The clock slowly (soothingly) flashes yellow during Time Out, then flashes faster red during the last minute and beeps when time is up. If you set the timer for more than 10 minutes, it flashes green. At this point, the recommended Time Out length is one minute for every year of age, so three for Holden.
I think the flashing yellow light mesmerizes her, which helps to calm her down. The red light is an indicator that she's almost finished with her punishment. So far, this timer has been an amazing tool in my discipline arsenal. As a bonus, she's much more calm when she comes out of Time Out than in the past.
Ain't no shame in my game: I'm super glad that I went to this workshop and am already planning to attend next month's workshop: "The Power Struggle." Sound familiar?