How many times have any of these phrases (on the left) ever come out of your mouth? How does it make you feel? How does your little react?
Once the girls were completely mobile and our days started to fill up with more ACTIVE play, I knew that things were going to change around here, but MAN was I in for a surprise. I remember saying things like "Since I take the time to explain things NOW (12 mo), I hope I won't have to worry about "The Terrible Two's." Uhhh, ya ok! This is the first of many posts that are going discuss/evaluate communication with toddlers. Today I am going to get a little more personal with you, and share with you how I came into the gentle parenting life.
As I started learning what it REALLY means to have patience, while feeling my way around as a "Toddler Mom," I was faced with yet another one of those popular/typical "Mommy Dilemmas." HOW DO I DEAL WITH THIS NEW 'PHASE'? What's going to be the most effective way for me to get my message/point across that will be the MOST BENEFICIAL for them?"
When entering the toddler world, I did my best to "go with the flow" and keep in mind what I have already learned from past experiences AND research. Naturally, I start getting the earful about "spankings" and "timeouts," and that being the norm back in the days I grew up in, of course that was naturally one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind (NOT MY ACTIONS!). But as I began to encounter more and more situations like, "The girls keep doing X, and it's about to make me scream," I KNEW I would be better off with a game plan of some sort, because redirecting wasn't cutting it.
What to do, what to do? Well, for the life of me I have NEVER been able to come to terms with knowing that I CAUSED MY KIDS TO CRY. (One main reason we did NOT sleep train the girls. And go figure they started sleeping through the night at 13 mo on their OWN!) Being a first generation child myself, I know what it's like to be told something is "because it's the way it is" or "Because I said so." Nothing too wrong with that from the surface. Except for when we take into account what is going on with our toddlers when it comes to their stages of developmental milestones and how our lack of "accountability" (ie: "we don't do this because...") can impact them later in life.
Just watching the girls everyday over the past 19 months has opened my eyes up to how much babies/infants/toddlers are just MINI HUMAN BEINGS trying to learn the ropes! With what little knowledge (and common sense) I had going in to the parenting world, I was able to realize WITHOUT doing any research that my toddlers are really just trying to learn how to master all of the new emotions and freedoms they have acquired over the past year and a half. From being COMPLETELY dependant on me, and the whole "Fourth Trimester" concept, to being able to feed themselves, walk, and "tell me" what they need in less than TWO years?? I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be for THEM.
NOW, let's take into account the fact that they have NO IDEA how to regulate any of these emotions. They haven't yet developed the verbal skills to FULLY express themselves and they are often times forced to conforming to the adult world more times than we conform to theirs.
Since my responsibilities as a parent includes being the voice for my children that they don't yet have, of course one the main question at hand is always "How would I expect someone else to treat me in these given situations?" So to paint a picture for you, let's use a very common EXAMPLE that we all come across daily with children, whether we are dealing with 1 or 4 of them, and hopefully I can show you WHY I got to where we are today!
EX: GIRLS WON'T STOP OPENING THE CABINETS in the kitchen! I CAN: A- put them in TIME OUT for not listening B-SPANK them for not listening C-YELL at them for not listening D- SHOW THEM the behaviors that result from listening, and EXPLAIN to them why am asking them to act in a certain way (Now, please realize as I say this, I am NOT PERFECT, and there are times when I slip up and openly express my frustrations, but those moments only push me to keep on going BACK DOWN the road that I initially chose for us. They are lessons that allow me to learn about myself and how I deal with my own anger. I always own up to my human flaws by apologizing to my girls and explaining to them what happened and how we can handle it better in the future. They may not "get it" right away, but that doesn't mean that they are not listening!)
When the cabinets started becoming a "chronic" problem, I considered ALL of those options, (A-D), but I always ended up finding myself explaining "Ok, we don't open the cabinets bc mommy doesn't need that stuff right now." I thought "If I was doing something that someone told me NOT to do, I would probably be more inclined to 'follow directions' if I UNDERSTOOD why I needed to do something, instead of just being PUNISHED for not following 'the directions'." So, I tried to redirect the girls by putting ABC magnets on the fridge, and giving them a few kitchen toys to play with. After taking the few extra seconds to pay attention to what the girls were doing (instead of immediately jumping on them every time they did something "wrong,") I came to realize that all the girls wanted to do was help me cook, like I had taught them from 6 months when we started BLW! So instead of yelling, spanking, or punishing the girls, I took the few extra seconds to explain to them why I do not want them to open the doors (ie: "The cabinets should stay closed so that nothing gets in or out of them."). THEN I even took it a step further and was able implement some UNSCHOOLING! As a result of this approach, I was able to teach the girls "OPEN/CLOSE" and "IN/OUT" when they do touch the cabinets, because let's face it, touching the cabinets is inevitable. And aside from the "under the sink"doors, I'm not trying to install those pain in the butt locks on EVERY door! IJS...
Now that we have put a mini play kitchen in our (rather limited on space) kitchen... BOOM: everyone is too busy cooking and cleaning the kitchen to notice the doors. And the only times the DO open the doors, they are waiting for a game to start!
You see, it's all about taking into account matters of perspective! It's not so much about HOW you send your message, its about WHAT message you send. Next time your little "tests" you, take a moment to step back and evaluate the situation. Figure out WHAT is going on and try to UNDERSTAND WHY your little is reacting the way they are! It's often much easier than we think it is to deal with the "emotions" that our toddlers express through "tantrums" and "fits" if we try to for one second put OURSELVES in THEIR shoes.
DID YOU KNOW that a toddler hears the "N word" (NO) an average of 400+ times a day? (Even when I ACTIVELY try to not say it, it often slips out.) Try starting from there and seeing where the wind blows you all..... and just keep this in mind: