Well, no, he's not three yet. Almost. But he's certainly gotten a jump start. Lots of parents have told me that "Terrible Twos" is a vicious lie; the threes are far worse. Now, when Ben turned two, he did take it up a notch in terms of testing limits and sometimes actively resisting us. But we figured out good ways to respond, and I was patting myself on the back for having survived the "Terrible Twos". Until a month or so ago. Oy, ve. Some days it feels like everything is a frickin' battle. His favorite word these days is "NO!", and if his mouth is full or he's too busy singing (which is often the case), he'll sign it just as vehemently. And while I am profoundly glad that he takes so much pleasure in music, it's also his defensive shield against anything he finds distasteful or anything that represents parental will. And you know, it's kinda hard to tell your deaf child whom you feared would never be able to enjoy music to stop singing for pete's sake and listen to you.
So what do the parenting experts say? Be consistent. Yeah, I get it -- don't make empty threats; if you say no, stick with it; don't give in to tantrums; etc. In other words, a long list of "don'ts". What I really need are some good "dos". Exactly what do you do when you've got to get out the door in ten minutes and your child refuses to let you brush his teeth or put his shoes on and throws a screaming fit when you even suggest that he needs to wear a jacket and also insists on singing the entire Peter Paul and Mary repertoire every time you try to explain the consequences of his poor decisions? Seriously, I'm asking. If any of you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Losing my temper and shouting doesn't work; trust me, I've tried that.
Well, it works for a short time. But it makes me feel pretty lousy (not to mention Ben), and it's not sustainable -- over time, we would need to get even more demonstrably angry with each new incident to have the same effect.
So far this is the best advice I've gotten, from several sources:
1. Give choices. A short list of concrete choices, enumerated on your fingers, including the final option of "Or do you want Mommy to choose for you?"
2. Explain the natural consequences of poor choices. "If you keep stalling, we won't have time to play before dinner. So you can choose to put your pants on now, or you can choose to wait a minute until you're ready, or you can choose to wait longer and not be able to play."
3. Don't be in such a rush. Either give up on getting out the door in ten minutes, or try to start the process a little earlier.
4. Take the drama out of it. Instead of responding with annoyance and anger, remain completely unimpressed by any demonstrations of violent three-ness. Register an expression of wan disinterest.
These are all great tips, and we've managed to implement all of them occasionally to good effect. But they're beastly hard to implement all the time. So I'd love to hear your advice. Please. Do I sound desperate?
The first Parent teacher conference
2 months ago