I don't know what to do - need parenting help/guidance X post in Parenting - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 02:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am going to cross post this in parenting as I am unsure where to post.


Please bare with me, the following is long.

I am asking for help.

Our family has recently experienced a major shift in our universe and I am seeking advice from experienced parents.

I welcome any and all recommendations on resources, books, etc. Tell me if I am crazy, lazy, unreasonable, whatever, I can take it.

About Us

DH – 42, Me – 37, DS – nearly 3 years old.

DH and I work outside the home, DS in a great daycare (soon to be moving to pre-school) about seven hours a day. Evenings and weekends are total family time.

DH and I have essentially no kid experience aside from our own. No nieces, nephews, or relationships with the children of close friends, etc. Our own childhoods are not something we want for our son so we try very hard NOT to take after our parents.

DS is the best thing that we have done in our lives, the light of our life, we love him so much we can’t put it into word and this brings me to my concern.

I think we may be raising a spoiled brat. This might be dramatic but we have recently gotten a major life slap in the face.

DS from birth to 2.5 years

Infant time was a joy and it just seemed to get better as DS got older. This sounds sickeningly sweet as I type it but really, it was like a honeymoon after a terrible TTC period, three early term loss and a really awful pregnancy.

We have always been active and DS entered into the family and away we went as three instead of two.

His school reports have been good, no problems there. Seems to be at an appropriate place in life for his age – plays well with others, is polite, communicates well, etc.

Family and observers always complimented us on how well DS behaved. We beamed like the proud parents we are and didn’t seem the storm coming.

Present Day

All of a sudden, although I am sure it was gradual, our happy go lucky little boy who listened to his mommy and daddy, picked up his toys, tried whatever I put on his plate, etc. has morphed into a whiny, tamper tantrum throwing, blond whirling dervish and we are shell-shocked.

I know that kids go thru stages of development and recent behaviors are not the end of the world but we are at a loss what to do.

Problem is we don’t know how to deal with it.

We want to learn how to parent in a way that we don’t loss it (tempers, our sanity, etc.) our selves while trying to teach DS.

One example – Pre-whirling dervish DS would want to take 15 animals (or any toy) along to the store. I could say no, you must chose one turtle (or whatever) and everyone else stays home. After a moment of thought, he would chose one and away we would go.

Fast forward to present day and the mere thought of not being able to take all 15 animals (or whatever) plus another 5 to the store (or where ever) results in a full blown meltdown and a tantrum that can easily last 20 to 30 minutes.

In this example, DH throws up his hands in frustration and hauls all 20 animals to the store. I get totally spun up and frustrated, which doesn’t help the situation. This gets both DH and DS on edge and an unpleasant situation gets worse.

We both noticed that DS can tell when we get frustrated and works it, so to speak.

Example – DS trying to not sit in his car seat. He used to love his seat. No amount of “please get in your seat, you must get in your seat before we can go visit Nana, you need to sit in your seat to stay safe, on and on” matters. He sits there and smiles, knowing he is misbehaving, or so it seems. The moment either of us tries to lift him into his seat, the tantrum starts.

Not that resisting the car seat makes him a brat, it is just one of many examples of struggles we never had before. If I ask him to pick up his toys when we are done playing, he yells NO at me and runs away. I will walk him back to the area repeatedly and try to engage him in helping me but it doesn’t work. Frustrating because I hear about how he happily engages in this behavior at daycare.

Mealtime is another problem. Before he would sit with us and eat for a reasonable period of time.. Now he throws food on the floor, gets down from the table and runs around (30 seconds after his first bite), acts like the Cookie Monster by rubbing food in his face.

Problem is we don’t know where to begin in terms of shaping good behavior as DS grows and develops. We want to him grow up to be a happy (meaning in the sense of being emotionall mature, confident, and the like) functioning adult.

Maybe I am putting to much emphasis on the current situation but we can see parenting patterns developing in ourselves that we don’t necessarily like.

There is no looking to DH side of the family for help/examples/guidance. I have an aunt on my side that is a great role model in many ways but her child rearing life was so completely different than how I live, it is nearly impossible for me to follow her examples.

Our friends either have parenting styles that we definitely don’t want to emulate or their kids are much older and the parents themselves wished they would have done things differently.

So lay it on me – where do I start? I love to read so book suggestions are very welcome. We would certainly be willing to go to classes or parenting groups but I don’t think we are anywhere close to a crisis situation.

We are just clueless and looking for direction. Thanks for reading/listening.

Mom to DS, born fall 05 after ,,, wife/best friend to DH We have
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#2 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 02:36 PM
 
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Big big to you.

A lot of people talk of the 'terrible twos' but in reality, the challenging years can start at 3. With us, 2 was easy, but as he's soon hitting 3, I see things starting to develop and become a bit harder.

I like this article about tantrums.

I also like the books Playful Parenting and Hold Onto Your Kids.
Dr. Sears also has a book on Gentle Disapline thats pretty good too.

In our household we mostly use the frame of mind of 'pick your battles' and some tantrums (or meltdowns) are meant to happen. Some distraction can be tried but you'll quickly know if it won't work, so I just let him meltdown and try to support him through it.

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#3 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 02:37 PM
 
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I don't have any BTDT advice, and my only thought is that maybe he's lashing out at you and your DH because you are absent during the day?? I really don't know . Has anything else in your life changed recently? It kind of sounds like these antics are to get your attention...which is working. Hmmm....

Hopefully some BTDT mamas have good advice.
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#4 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 03:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mama2elisabeth View Post

I don't have any BTDT advice, and my only thought is that maybe he's lashing out at you and your DH because you are absent during the day?? I really don't know . Has anything else in your life changed recently? It kind of sounds like these antics are to get your attention...which is working. Hmmm....

Hopefully some BTDT mamas have good advice.
No life changes - same house, same jobs, same routines he has always known.

He is really attached to his daycare providers and likes his little friends so I don't think his days are lacking in a way that would make him lash out at us.

Mom to DS, born fall 05 after ,,, wife/best friend to DH We have
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#5 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 03:05 PM
 
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I am so sorry that you are going through this! I have no real advice for you. I really think that this is all completely normal. When your DS starts to throw a tantrum, it is best just to walk away-as long as there isn't anything for him to hurt himself on. Or send him to his room until he comes down. As far as eating, I only make one meal for us-unless it is something that K really does not like, too spicy, etc. K either eats or not, but that is all there is. I don't force him to eat. I usually offer some encouragement, but even then, nothing extreme. He no longer eats a lot of items he ate before turning two. Veggies are completely gone. Oh, well.

I am hoping that this is just a phase for your DS. :

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#6 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 03:08 PM
 
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First, I want to acknowledge that you are right: kids go through stages, and this kind of thing is not abnormal and not a reflection on your son's character (and likely not even on your parenting). Breathe a sigh of relief.

Second, I hear you when you say you don't know what to do. I originally thought I'd type a big post full of tips, but I am realizing that there are books that will tell you the same tips and more, and they are worth the investment of time. My all-time favorite is Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Janis Keyser and Laura Davis. No matter what, it is really a must have. The book is in two parts. The first part is mainly on values clarification for parents. The second part is the practical part, and it convers many topics very specifically and with great examples. As someone mentioned, Dr. Sears also has a book out that I haven't read in full but have skimmed. It's called The Discipline Book.

Though far more coercive (which many AP folks and even I bristle at), I do know a number of Mothering moms who have used adaptations or parts of 1-2-3 Magic and Love and Logic. The reason I mention them is I think they are particularly valuable for parents who are inexperienced with children and trying to make an escalated, out of control situation manageable. However, the standard recommendation for those seeking to parent without coercion is Unconditional Parenting.

This thread actually has an even better forum than either Toddlers or Parenting, and that is the Gentle Discipline forum. I bet you would really enjoy spending some time there, and I am sure you would not be the first to post about a tantruming three year old.

On a final note, I will share this. Sometimes as parents we need a reality check. I would tend to see what is happening for you in a very positive light, as hard as it may be. It is a chance to ask yourself what kind of parent you want to be, what kind of discipline framework and model you will choose, and where you want to set limits with your child (as well as where you would like to remain flexible). When my ds was just 17 months old, our six month old foster daughter arrived in our home. We had to set priorities with our children, and be more clear about values and limits than we ever had prior to that. Our expectations for ds actually increased...and you know what? He was able to meet much higher expectations than we'd previously dreamed. He proved to us, and more importantly to himself, that he was very capable. Though I do sometimes wish ds had a longer time as an only child (of course, however, I'd never in a million years give up dfd and the time we had with her so early in her life), ds and dfd have a strong relationship and have both benefited from being raised together. I think the clarification process we went through when all of the sudden, we couldn't devote every ounce of energy and pure joy and enthusiasm to ds and ds alone was actually a postive one in many ways. It gave us a focus, and also helped ds start to understand (to the extent it is developmentally possible) that others have needs too. Now he is (usually) the sweetest older brother ever!

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#7 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 03:10 PM
 
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I recommend Faber & Mazlish "How to talk so kids will listen, how to listen so kids will talk." Sounds like up until now he has been accomodating, so you haven't gotten into the practice of considering his needs and validating his experience. The book teaches you how to listen, empathize, but still not "give in" to tantrums. There are a whole series of books, all based on Haim Ginot's humanistic approach to psychology/parenting.
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#8 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 03:17 PM
 
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Oh yes, I had forgotten to mention the How to Talk book in my list. Good one.

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#9 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 04:22 PM
 
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BTDT as well. You and I are about the same age and my DD is about 2 3/4.
I like that essay. I'd read it befor but needed the reminder.
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#10 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 04:43 PM
 
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Read those books, they are worth it. And in my experience, 3 is a VERY trying age, it hit us the hardest out of any age/stage. It was like overnight someone kidnapped my sweet child and replaced it with this angry, alien being. :

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.
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#11 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 05:46 PM
 
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I really really like "becoming the parent you want to be" by Davis and Keyser.


How to talk is great, too.

I think something that can help you right now is to realise that it's OK and normal for him to find things difficult or fustrating or upsetting, and that meltdowns are going to happen no matter what. You can help him through his feelings, but you don't want to or need to avoid anything that's going to make him anything but gloriously happy.
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#12 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 06:26 PM
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DD will be 3.5 in a couple of weeks and this has been a hard stage for us too. ITA with what PPs have recommended.

My additional rec is to get a small backpack for the 20 animals. We take a purse with DD's toys everywhere and since we gave on the number of toys she can take, we got to lay down additional rules. Namely that toys stay in the purse while shopping (zipped) and that we don't take her purse in to stores where they sell the same toys she has. Since she gets to have her stuff with her and we lay down rules before we leave the house, she is good about compromising on those 2 points. I also use natural consequences and tell her it is OK if she brings her toys (mostly small cars) but she might lose them and I am not replacing lost toys.

Your DS sounds normal 3, not bratty. Just look up some of those books and look for ways for you and DH to deal. Also, you should be talking about specific circumstances after your DS goes to bed so you are on the same page and he doesn't overhear you.
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#13 of 20 Old 09-16-2008, 07:40 PM
 
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Here is my suggestion...

Make sure you and your DH are on the same page. Every couple I know has gone through the "she/he let the child do something after I said no" stage. You must discuss how you plan to deal with these situations in the future and agree that if mommy says no the answer is also no from daddy (and vice versa).

As for the car seat fight, I hate to say this is a stage but it is. Once your child realizes the car seat is not negotiable, he will stop pushing the limits (or get that you are serious when you put your serious voice on and just get into the seat). If it is just a terrible situation and you can't do it while keeping your cool, I suggest stay home and try again another day.

If you are out, that won't work. But the key here is be firm and in control. You can not lose your cool or it will add fuel to his fire. It is very important for you to stay calm and in control. But firm and matter of fact. You can not negotiate safety issues. You will have to have some endurance at first because he is going to push harder than ever. So be prepared and plan ahead. Also, if your DH is there, try tag teaming. But be on the same page.

With the eating issues, tell him as he tries to get up that when his behind leaves the seat his food goes in the garbage. Then ask him if he is done. If he says no, then tell him to come back and sit down. If he refuses, walk his plate to the trash. With my DD, by the time I get halfway to the trash she is in her seat asking me to come back. Be calm but firm and serious.


Also, keep in mind there are some battles not worth fighting. You decide which ones those are and communicate with your husband. Tell him what is completely unacceptable and what is part of the gray area.

We always have to have gray area as parents.

Please update when you can. I hope this helps.

Dawn

ps.
I never read any books beyond the infant stage so I am flying by the seat of my pants her. Sorry I don't have any recommendations for you on that front.
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#14 of 20 Old 09-17-2008, 12:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Many, many thanks all around. You all talked me down from the ledge. I read most of the replies last night but didn’t have time to respond.

The linked article? It was like it was written for me. This morning I printed off a copy of it for me, DH, and Nana.

Seirra’s comment about using this as an opportunity is exactly how I am viewing it in light of this morning’s event. It is hard for me to post this but here is goes:

We had a major meltdown this morning over me not letting him take the Oral B toothbrush charger to school. (There are a number of reasons why he is not allowed to take it to school, both home and school restrictions.)

He was in the middle of a full blown fit and I was trying to buckle him in his seat. I was running late and frustrated.

He cries “Mommy stop” over and over again then “Mommy please listen to my words, I don’t want to be buckled in the seat.” It was like all the air rushed out of the car. He was genuinely upset about me forcing my control. (I had my hand on his chest so prevent him from climbing out.)

It made me nearly sick to my stomach with regret. I got out, moved to the front seat and we both sat and cried for a while.

Then I hear this little voice “Mommy, we go to school now? I am not crying. You can buckle me now.”

I was thinking about it after I dropped him off and had I just let the fit play itself out in the first place, it would have taken less time and fewer tears.

I added all the books to my reading list. I am really looking forward to reading them.

I am starting the backpack suggestion today. He already has one that he loves, his “pack-pack” and I think tying in to pack-pack as a means of animal transport will work. Animals in a pack-pack I can handle, animals in a repurposed greasy shipping box?… not so much

DH and I can recognize where our present attitudes/actions are coming from. We say we are on the same page but when it comes to the heat of the moment, our actions don’t show it. We do know that we need to present a united parenting front and we can get do it, backing each other up and following the same program, that is.

Again, thanks so so much. This is the first period I have gone thru as a parent where I felt alone and your suggestions and responses really make a difference.

Mom to DS, born fall 05 after ,,, wife/best friend to DH We have
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#15 of 20 Old 09-17-2008, 12:54 PM
 
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I haven't read all the responses, so sorry if I repeat.

Part of this is that he is becoming aware of himself as an individual apart from his parents. He is testing his power in the relationship. And it mean a lot of re-thinking and reevaluating how you do things.
He is getting to the age where How to talk so Kids will Listen will work, and they give you lots of good strategies for handling difficult situations.

nothing more to say I guess :
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#16 of 20 Old 09-17-2008, 12:59 PM
 
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I don't know if this is a "MDC approved" book but we got all kinds of help from Harvey Karp's Happiest Toddler on the Block. I think everything you are going through is totally normal. We had arguments about the car seat, about getting dressed, about going in the front door (!!) every day for awhile. Ridiculous stuff where frankly, I think DS was fighting with us for the sake of fighting.

With a newly-three year old, Karp's "Toddlerese" way of talking helped us a lot. Good luck!
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#17 of 20 Old 09-17-2008, 01:07 PM
 
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A 3-yr old is not much of a toddler anymore... he's probably starting to be able to (and want to) do more things by himself, to have more control over certain things. I am working on this myself, with my 3.75yo. He climbs into the carseat and does half the buckle himself. He has the chance to choose his clothes and has some choice in what's for breakfast, etc. Sometimes I have the time to set up his milk and cereal in little containers so he can pour them into the bowl. Maybe if he has some control of more things, he will be more open to the things that are nonnegotiable. DH and I also need to work on getting our expectations and approaches on the same page - that is probably very key.
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#18 of 20 Old 09-17-2008, 01:39 PM
 
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I also forgot to mention the DVD The Power to Parent by Gordon Neufeld (Hold Onto Your Kids)
Its a great at home dvd course that your and your dh can watch and discuss. So its often a bit easier than reading a book since you can actually do it together.

There are some clips on YTube too, if you want to get an idea what its like. The dvd is sort of expensive but you use it for years, coming back to it when new development and milestones hit.

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#19 of 20 Old 09-17-2008, 04:02 PM
 
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I LOVE How to Talk - there are workshops on this book that you can join up with too, also the book that came before that one Liberated Parents Liberated Children this is the one that did it for me, I recommend starting with the session that deals with the way that you yourself were parented - goodness that was an eyeopener!! I also love the Continuum Concept by Jean lied??? sorry can't spell!! Also Gael Lindenfield has some great books about kids confidence. I was just wondering do you give your kid a count down, like at the pool today I gave the kids 10 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 2 and then 1 then out of the pool so that it's not so difficult to leave - I find that it really helps with 'changes'.

ewe + dh = our little lambs + we and have many just : and : life .
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#20 of 20 Old 09-21-2008, 03:06 AM
 
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I have a three-year-old too. :
Three-year-olds are working to exert power over their world.
IMHO, they need to have power and also have boundaries.

People of all ages need to know where things are at - it helps us feel safe in our world. When the rules are constantly changing, this doesn't make us feel safe.

What I do (sometimes calmly, sometimes very grumpily!)
I try to find opportunities for my dd to develop new skills and do new things, particularly "parent things" like doing the laundry, cracking the eggs....

If she wants to do something I am not comfortable with, I try to find a way she can do it...or part of it. I try to question WHY I am not comfortable with it.

If I really can't budge (ie: we have to go in the carseat), it is ok for your three-year-old to be angry. I am someone who is pretty ok with anger, but not everyone is comfortable with it. I try to go to my zen place during a tantrum and remember that is usually lasts under 10 minutes - easier for me because I don't have a newborn too! And I try to remember to check in to see if she needs cuddling now to reconnect.

I try to think of ways we can structure our days to avoid some of the conflict points. For example, I now bring a stroller if I know she will want to be carried, because carrying her hurts my back.

Sometimes I feel that by relenting a little on my mental position on something I am spoiling her. However, I feel that if it were anyone else, I would think about my position and negotiate a solution that works for both of us - so I strive to do this with my child.

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