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

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#1 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 02:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am going to cross post this in toddlers 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 17 Old 09-16-2008, 03:11 PM
 
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I'm not a super experienced mama, I've only got one kid, DD, about your DS's age. So I'm struggling and new at this too. Hopefully some more experienced mamas will jump in but I don't want to read and not post so I'll just throw out any ideas I have and maybe some of them will be of use.

What you are describing doesn't sound outside of normal to me. We've had similar struggles with DD and I'm sure we'll continue to face new ones everyday. So I'd say first off your kid is not an out of control monster. Just a toddler.

Books: Playful Parenting, Unconditional Parenting, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. I've found all of these very helpful.

Read around on the gentle discipline forum and post some questions there. there are lot's of mamas who post regularly there with lot's of great ideas.

Get on the same page with your DH. I'm thinking about the stuffed toy example. It sounds like you didn't totally agree with your DH taking all the stuffed animals to the store, and maybe felt there was another way to handle it? Maybe you guys just need to talk about how you want to handle stuff like that in the future.

Also your child is going to feel however they feel about limits that you set. It's not your job to change or control your child's feelings. But you can empathize, sometimes if the limit is not super important you can be flexible, you can help them find less destructive ways to express themselves. And you certainly don't need to be punitive to set a limit and stick with it. You can just say "I see you're upset, or angry or frustrated or whatever but we simply can't do xy or z." And then try to be as comfortable as you can with accepting that that may make your child mad.

Which is hard sometimes I know, when DD is crying or upset sometimes I just want to say "STOP IT!" and have her calm down immediately and feel different and magically be happy and quiet. Unfortunately it just doesn't work that way. So I can say "Stop" if she's about to hit her baby cousin, and I can try to help her find a way to express her feelings without hurting baby cousin (she's taken to foot stamping which is a great way to express her anger without hitting or pushing), but I can't stop her from having the feelings that made her want to hit in the first place. And I can listen to those feelings and sympathize with them and talk about alternate ways of handling them. Or better yet ask her for her ideas on alternate ways to handle them.

God, I hope something in there made some kind of sense. Good luck!
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#3 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 03:20 PM
 
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I'm afraid to some extent that's just how kids that age are. It's an important developmental stage - they're learning they have some control over their environment and want to have as much control as possible ("I do by MYSELF!) but it causes temper tantrums. In the stickies is a wonderful article about temper tantrums that I'd suggest. But I'm afraid you're in for a year or so of control issues.

For my niece, my brother and SIL ended up getting her a backpack and telling her she could bring as many stuffed animals wherever they went as fit in the backpack. That gave her some control and made it manageable. (I bring her up because she had that exact particular issue.) To use that as an example, you can often find ways for your son to get what he wants (bring his stuffed animals) AND for you to get what you want (make it manageable.) It takes practice and thinking outside the box -that there are more than two possible answers to a problem.

And kids that age DO have a hard time sitting still. I just let my daughter graze at that age because I didn't think it was worth battles, and sure enough she sits with us now and loves meal time. It doesn't last forever. That's an example of an area where you might be able to let go a bit.

Some things, like the car seat, have to be non-negotiable for safety reasons, but even then you can often find ways to make things a bit better, like having a few special toys that live in the car and are only available for little boys sitting in car seats. But another important skill IMO is for kids to learn that some things are futile. That's a new concept - that no matter what happens, some things have to be and there's no way around it. Some things are even more futile, like when my daughter wanted it to stay light outside longer once upon a time. It just gets dark early in the fall. There are tantrums as a child learns about futility, but eventually they do learn. I wouldn't treat tantrums as a behavior problem (again, see the stickied article) because they're age appropriate and will go away. Just let him know you're there for him when he's finished, and give him love when he's done because that's when he needs it the most.

Anyway, he isn't turning into a monster or a spoiled brat IMO. He's just no longer a baby and is turning into a little boy with a mind of his own and a desire for autonomy. It's a healthy thing, although I understand it's hard to live with.
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#4 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 03:23 PM
 
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The stickied article was in GD so I'll post a link here:

http://www.mothering.com/articles/gr.../tantrums.html
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#5 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 05:14 PM
 
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I agree with PPs that it's a relatively normal stage kids go through. That said, I think there are some things you can do to minimize the meltdowns. You'll have to experiment, but here's what helped for us:

1) Sleep -- lots of it. Maintaining early and regular bedtimes is the number one way to keep my DD on more of an even keel.

2) Food -- DD tends to be way harder to deal with when she's hungry. Protein at every meal helps keep her sated. Too much sugar and/or food coloring can create major problems. Some kids have it even worse and food sensitivities can cause additional behavior issues.

3) Letting her know what to expect -- routines help a lot. And whether we are following routine or deviating, I try to give her advance warning of what to expect anyway -- "We're going to the library, and then back home for lunch." And then I remind her later about our plans. That helps prevent the meltdown where she suddenly thinks going to Grandma's a way better idea than pulling into the driveway.

Basically, planning ahead just really helps. Leave yourself lots of time to get places, think ahead about possible contingencies. I look at it as setting your child up to succeed. It's hard being a preschooler, you know?
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#6 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 05:50 PM
 
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I'm sorry, it's normal.

I know that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. Oooooh, how I know it! But assuming there haven't been any major changes in your life or in your DS's life at daycare, I'm guessing this is just normal behavior. Keep trying new things until you find one that works: for the carseat, I started saying, "Please sit down in your seat. You can do it yourself or I can help you, you get to choose." Heaven forbid you offer to help a toddler!! It doesn't work every time, but it does work frequently.

When DD doesn't want to sit and eat, I tell her she can go play. She gets the option of eating nicely with us or playing and waiting patiently for us to finish our food. Of course, she usually chooses to hang on our chairs and beg for attention once we demonstrate that we're going to eat our dinner, so usually she joins us back at the table.

We also use a lot of humor. "15 animals in the car? How can we fit them all in your seat? You'll have an elephant in your ear and a teddy on your tummy! The ducks will sit on your head, and maybe, just maybe, the monkey will have to go in your diaper! On no! Monkeys in your diaper!?! *laugh like it's the funniest thing in the world* I need your help at the store, to hold the list and help me put apples in the bag..." (distract, distract, strapped in and GOGOGO!!!)

And yes, tantrums are frustrating, but they're healthy. And I usually get good hugs afterwards.

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#7 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 07:35 PM
 
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Sounds normal to me. 3 is a rough age, and 4 is rougher. They are testing out their power and it takes a lot of patience from their caregivers to keep from resorting to drastic measures in order to gain compliance.
I really found that being playful and trying to convince DS that whatever it was that I needed was also in his best interest. Even if it was something to take care of me, for instance, I could explain to him that mom isn't going to be very much fun to be around if I can't get a,b and c (like I NEED to eat and he wants me to play a game with him...)
It is much easier now that he is 5

Good Luck!!!
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#8 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 08:06 PM
 
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I posted on your toddlers thread.

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#9 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 08:45 PM
 
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Book:
Quote:
Positive Discipline for Preschoolers
by Nelsen

Car seat: While I've been told by dh that I'm bossy, I've always thought that saying please indicated that other options were available. With getting my kids in the car seat I say something along the lines of "You can get in your car seat or I can put you in it but we have to go."

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds   10yo dd  8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds  
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#10 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 08:58 PM
 
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Sounds about right for the age. Sorry.

Remember to speak to him at his eye level. I also offer alternatives, one not so pleasant. For instance: you can help pick up your toys or I will do it all. If I do it all, that means they get put up for a while and you can't play with them tomorrow.

You can cooperate with me and we can put your pj's on, or I can put you right into bed without a book. (This is a necessity b/c I am about to fall over by the time ds is ready for bed).

Etc.

Trying to make a game of things doesn't work so well for me, but does work well for dh. Ds tends to just meltdown with me if I try making something a game.
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#11 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 09:37 PM
 
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You've gotten good advice so far. I just want to recommend a book that I loved for those years- Becoming the Parent You Want To Be. I would have been lost without that book!! It really added and shaped my discipline strategies.
Another one is Secret of Parenting. It's aimed at kids 4 and older, I believe. But I thought of it in response to the car seat issue. While I wouldn't recommend using the book word for word for a younger child (well, any child for that matter) I think there are some really good ideas in it, and some of the author's thoughts really changed some of my views on children and discipline for the better.

Becky, partner to Teague, SAHM to Keagan (7yo), Jonah (2yo)
 

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#12 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 09:54 PM
 
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Totally normal. Hang in there, and have some faith in yourselves!

One book I didn't see mentioned in my quick skim is a little dated but it's wonderful for development (and you can keep getting them for the years). It's called: Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy? by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg . It's a quick read.

In it, by the way, she says the 'cure' for the three year old blues is as much preschool/babysitting as the parents can afford. Just so you know it really isn't you.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#13 of 17 Old 09-16-2008, 10:14 PM
 
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What wonderful parents you are to notice right away when you feel uneasy/uncomfortable about your abilities and status. I think most loving people are really good at the infant-2 age. You can love those kids through about anything. Then, as they get into the 3's, they really start realizing they are not YOU, they have their own thoughts and feelings an desires and it is their total mission to figure out how to get it.

They don't have the ability to put themselves in your shoes..they are out for no.1 and that's themselves. Like everyone else said, it's normal. Here's some thoughts that keep things running smoother at our house. (I have a 6 year old and a 2.5 year old)

1...be like Buddha...I don't care WHAT they throw at you, tantrum/meltdown/screaming/whining...be oblivious to it, be firm, gentle, kind, and did I mention FIRM? If ds wants 15 toys at the store and you're ok with it, then fine, but if you told him to pick one, then mean it and abide by it...don't fight about it..if necessary just continue getting ready for the store (shoes,socks, find keys etc.) maybe repeat "pick one, we're leaving in about 30 seconds", haul him up and go.

There are times to really get into what he's feeling and if he's mad or angry about not taking ALL his toys and there are times where he's just testing you and it's your job to be like Buddha--remain calm and don't get sucked in...this is HIS tantrum, not yours. You will find this advice helpful minimally through age 5. If you enter into his chaos and anger (yell back, fight, try to convince) it'll bite you in the rear because it'll escalate really fast.

I think as parents, we become good at telling the difference between real emotional distress and basic toddler "it's my way" mood.

distraction is still a good tool at this age (actually, when is it not a good tool?) for example, set the stage...if you know your going to the store, give him jobs to prepare..."ds, we are going to the store, please find your shoes, a jacket and one toy to bring." if he says "I want this one and this one and this one" say again "please pick one...when we get to the store will you help me find the cereal?"
in this scenerio you reminded him of your rule, but distracted him joyfully with what's to come. It might also help you get him in the carseat if he has something to look forward to.

With my son, before we even get to the car (I can sense he's heading off in a different direction, I'll say "ds, do you want to get in yourself or should I help you." he will ALWAYS say "I do it myself" and come running for the door.

2. Make things fun. Use fun as much as possible in discipline. I remember when my dd was 3 and we lived ona road where people drove 55-70 miles an hour and she would run down to the road and I'd start freaking and yell "Get back here NOW!" and she would look at me and keep on going. I came to MDC and someone told me to make it fun (I was like WTH? Danger is involved--she needs to listen to me dag nabbit!) but I did, the next time she ran for the road I yelled "dd, Come see this cool bug on the tree!" and she came running (what tree doesn't have a bug, we found one by the time she got there) and it gave me the chance to get her hand and lead her to the back yard again.

Like I said, right now, it's all about your kid and not about what you or dh want (if no one said it yet, he's not a spoiled brat) make meal time fun, laugh, play, have music that goes on at meal time that you can sing together (my kids love that), have a reason other than broccoli to sit at the table.

AAAAANnnnnnddd...my dd is calling me over to read a book (actually she has been while I've written this entire post) so I'll go now...good luck! ENjoy this time...also, if he's been away from you all day, I think you can expect that he'll be a little ornry when he gets home. When dd gets home from school she gets a snack and a break and we go outside and see how many times she can run around the house without stopping (she's up to 7 straight times)...this gets all that extra figit out of her and she's more inclined to listen to what I have to say...ok..gotta go,.

Sarah

Mama to girl (11), boy (7) and girl (4).  "Can't we all just get along?" joy.gif
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#14 of 17 Old 09-17-2008, 12:59 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.

I just responded over in my x-posted area and want to do the same here.

I will definitely start visiting the GD forum and I put all the book suggestions on my reading list. I am excited to get started.

Someone made the comment on the toddler forum about using this as an opportunity to chose a parenting style and I agree. DH and I both realize we can turn the negative into a positive in this situation.

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 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.

DH is much more patient than me. If DH and DS are going to the store to pick up the Sunday papers and DS wants to take a menagerie, his attitude is on of “sure why not? Bring everyone.” And they all happily trot down the street AND take a detour for ice cream on the way home.

Me? I will arrange my schedule so I don’t need to take DS along. I rather run in and out, get home and have fun time together outside of the grocery store. DH, on the other hand, finds fun in any activity, even something like going to the store.

For info, I love that DH does this, there is no “you get to be the fun parent” thing going on between us. However, I do think he needs to see that sometimes the backpack alternative may be better for the overall sanity of the family.

We do know that we need to present a united parenting front and we can do it, backing each other up and following the same program, that is.

I am glad to hear the “difficult” threes are normal.

I wish I had time to address all the replies personally, please know that you all made a difference!

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 17 Old 09-17-2008, 01:17 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caneel View Post
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.

DH is much more patient than me. If DH and DS are going to the store to pick up the Sunday papers and DS wants to take a menagerie, his attitude is on of “sure why not? Bring everyone.” And they all happily trot down the street AND take a detour for ice cream on the way home.

Me? I will arrange my schedule so I don’t need to take DS along. I rather run in and out, get home and have fun time together outside of the grocery store. DH, on the other hand, finds fun in any activity, even something like going to the store.

For info, I love that DH does this, there is no “you get to be the fun parent” thing going on between us. However, I do think he needs to see that sometimes the backpack alternative may be better for the overall sanity of the family.

We do know that we need to present a united parenting front and we can do it, backing each other up and following the same program, that is.
My dp and I are the same way. He would likely be fine with 15 animals going to the store. I would likely do what you do (actually, I do) plan trips when ds won't come with me, hurry up and get home. DP responds to whining by ignoring the whining, and responding to the words (I, otoh, get really irritated in response to whining). Dp is an amazing dad, with an amazing amount of patience.

I want to say this gently- I don't think it's necessary to present a united front. If there are rules that you are not willing to have bent (I'm thinking of safety things like helmets when riding bikes, etc) then for THAT I would definitely say to have dh to "enforce" that. My dp enforces the rules that I feel are really important, whether he feels they are that important or not.
But your ds will certainly figure out that you have different boundaries than his dad. My ds *definitely* knows each of our personalities, and works with them. He knows that while dp will tolerate play hitting, that I absolutely will not tolerate any type of hitting at all, for any reason. It didn't take long for him to figure THAT one out. lol. And dp will enforce MY boundary when it comes to me- ie, if ds is play hitting me, dp will reinforce to ds that he has to stop. But it's not confusing to ds that he is allowed to play hit dp and not me, if that makes sense.

I'm glad that ds has two more or less different parenting styles/parent personalities to learn from. (mind you, we are definitely more similar than we are different- we both show ds a lot of respect, and work with him, etc). I'm glad that dp is so willing to find a solution where ds can have what he wants almost all the time. I'm also glad that ds is getting experience with me being just fine with being "in charge" every once in a while. Ds doesn't show any amount of confusion from it- he just knows that that's how we are, kwim?

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#16 of 17 Old 09-17-2008, 01:40 PM
 
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Our dd is a month shy of three and are having similar issues. EVERYTHING is a battle. From putting on shoes, peeing before we leave, sitting in the car seat, not wanting to hold hands in the parking lot, you name it. A trip to the store 1/2 mile away for milk and bread takes over an hour due to her antics. If I were able to go alone I would be there, back, and stuff put away in 15 minutes. It drives me nuts.

At this age, they are learning they are their own person and like to have control. It is normal for them to flip out when they cant control everything. I try to see myself in their position. I hated being a kid. WHY could I not wear one brown shoe and one red shoe? WHY do I have to hold moms hand... I want to pick up those pebbles over there, oh, look! A frog! While I am being drug away...

He probaby behaves well at dc b/c he does not fully trust the staff like he trusts you. He knows you wont hurt him. I have been doing some consequences and it has been helping. If she does not pick up her toys even when I try to make a game of it, she has her choice. She put them away, or *I* will put them away and they will then not be accessable to her until the next day and so on. She has a choice that way. Get ready for some tantrums when you follow through, but then it gets better.

We had it fairly easy with the "terrible two's" but now the 3's are kicking my butt..... She is willfully defiant and likes to get a rise out of me. Its entertainment to her. :
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#17 of 17 Old 09-17-2008, 01:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by DevaMajka View Post
I'm glad that ds has two more or less different parenting styles/parent personalities to learn from. (mind you, we are definitely more similar than we are different- we both show ds a lot of respect, and work with him, etc). I'm glad that dp is so willing to find a solution where ds can have what he wants almost all the time. I'm also glad that ds is getting experience with me being just fine with being "in charge" every once in a while. Ds doesn't show any amount of confusion from it- he just knows that that's how we are, kwim?

I know exactly what you mean. I don't mean united front in the absolutely sense that both of us do exactly the same thing every single time and we are not allowed to have different ideas, etc.

I mean it in more of a broad sense the we will try to do the best we can when following the same goals. We might get there by different paths but end up in the same place.

Mom to DS, born fall 05 after ,,, wife/best friend to DH We have
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