Shaping our toddler’s attitude (tips that have worked for us)
Everyone warns you about the “terrible twos” when you become a parent. I swear I read at least 30 different articles talking about two year olds and their attitude/behavior issues by time Pickle was 2. What they don’t warn you about or prepare you for is when your child becomes a threenager. Yes, a three-nager.
I personally feel like my son’s 3rd year was the most attitudinal (up until now). He was trying to find the line of what he can and can’t get away with. He was developing some gross and frustrating habits. The problem was he was not understanding WHY he wasn’t allowed to do certain things. I have found that I always try to explain to him why he cannot, but sometimes he doesn’t think it’s justified.
Now that he is four, he has really started pushing buttons extra hard. When we tell him he cannot do something, that he really wants to do, he will mouth off something like, “Oh yeah, well if you don’t let me do this then I’m going to do this instead” (usually something naughty). Or, he will say things like, “oh yeah? Then I’m going to kick your butt” said with attitude behind it. Which, usually, I would respond with something like either A. You do that and you will go to your room and I will take away (insert fun thing). Or B. Go ahead and try and see what happens (he never takes me up on that).
He has been struggling expressing his feelings. Which is very common for young children. It use to be that when something upset him or any negative feeling he was having he would hit, spit, kick, or growl at whoever it was that was making him mad. Granted, this wasn’t something he did to me all that often because I have always been the disciplinary one in his life. It took us a long time to get him to change his behavior. I would get him to explain to me what happened. For instance, when my nephew, who is 3 months older than him, would come over they would constantly be fighting, about who knows what.
When it first began I would use the time out method. Letting him know that behavior was not accepted. At some point though, I realized, I am telling him what not to do, but I’m not telling him what TO do. So how can he fix what he’s doing if he doesn’t know how?
So now, when they are fighting I have him explain to me what happened. Sometimes it’s, “I kicked him because I don’t want to play with him right now.” So I tell him, that’s fine, you can play by yourself, but instead of kicking you need to tell him, “I’m sorry but I don’t want to play with you right now.” We really stuck to the method of helping him find the right way to do things and it does work, most of the time.
Other things that have worked for us are;
While tantruming or mouthing off I will tell him he cannot talk to me like that and he needs to go sit in his bed until he has calmed down enough to talk to me nicely. Sometimes he puts up a fight getting to his bed, but I make sure he gets there even if I have to help him by holding his hand or carrying him there.
When he is not using his manners such as saying, “I told you to get me chocolate milk!” I will tell him, that is not how we ask for something. Go back (to another room), find me, and try again. This method has worked really well for him. Its giving him the opportunity to correct himself. Added tip: make sure to tell them what you expect in the manners department. Such as, asking for something. I make sure my children always say please and do not make demands at me or others, as we are not their slaves. So he knows the proper way to ask is by saying, “can you get me chocolate milk please?”
One of the biggest and most obvious tips is, remain calm. Trust me, I know you get frustrated, in the moment, when they are pushing your buttons. In those moments though, how can they learn self control if we are not showing self control? They learn by what they see us doing. Be their example because they are watching.
Another thing that helps us sometimes, not always, is establishing rules for certain things. For instance, if we are going to the store we will tell him, no yelling, no running, stay with us, and no touching things. Sometimes we get more specific, for instance our Wal-Mart and Target stores have food places in them. If he knows we are going to either place, chances are he thinks he needs something from there. If we know in advance that we won’t be stopping at the food place, we will tell him. That way he already knows before going in that we are not going there, so when he sees it he doesn’t ask.
My final tip is, be consistent and stick to what you say. If you let them get away with something once they are going to think it’s ok and keep doing it. It confuses the heck out of them when it’s (behavior) okay one time, but not the next time. Yes, stick to what you say! If you tell them no to something and they keep asking, do not give in. I usually squash it by saying, “do not ask me again.” Then if he does ask again after that (rare, but it happens) I will tell him, “what did I already tell you?” He will say, “no.” I’ll say, “that’s right I said no and not to ask me again. If you ask me again I’m going to take (insert fun thing).” Giving in makes them feel like they have the power over you to get what they want. You are the parent, you have to be the one with the power over them.
If you haven’t already, you should read what happened during one of our Target trips that turned into madness. You can find that at this link, Our Target trip turned to madness.
His behavior, overall, has improved. Hopefully it only continues to improve. I try to imagine what it will be like in the years to come 🙈.
What things have worked for you and your kids? Let me know in the comments!