Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Terrible Twos Dilemma

How many parents think the dreaded "terrible twos" are actually a myth until they find themselves unwittingly in the middle of a terrible two tantrum? I was in that unfortunate group, thinking, "Perhaps these terrible twos are just a myth. Perhaps my angel won't go through them. Perhaps he will be laid back and easy to handle." HAHAHAHA! Yeah, right. My child? My strong-willed, everything is "mine," active little bundle of energy? No such luck.

So, with this new and oh, so wonderful stage (sense the sarcasm?), I have been reading and researching. I've been trying to find helpful ways of handling tantrums and shriek attacks and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde mood swings. It all comes down to his temperament. First of all, I have a very active child. But, he's been sick for the last 2 weeks along with us with that nasty cold that seems to be infiltrating every one's immune system these days, so the poor thing has pretty much been all but quarantined inside the house. I think this is our first issue.

In order to keep our little guy happy and his temper moments at a minimum, we must make sure he has enough activity. This is tough. Because, let's face it - mommy and daddy don't have near the energy that our little guy has. It's a Catch 22 really. When I get home from work after being with 67 5th graders all day, I'm pretty worn out. I WANT to play with my son, but not always the way he wants. Daddy is with him all day trying to keep him happy, so by the time I get home, HE is exhausted. What's a 2 year old to do?

We're trying to work out a plan, a way to be consistent, so that our precious angel will know what to expect when he exhibits certain behaviors. Last night, when we sat down for dinner, we turned off the TV. This is a rule in our house now. When we eat dinner, the TV is off. This never used to bother him, until now. He flips out. We try to ignore it but it is seriously hard. He won't sit at the table when he's that upset, nor do we really want him there when he's screaming and flailing. Sometimes he will get the concept that if he sits down and eats, he will get to finish his show later, but sometimes (like last night), not so much. He ended up being placed in his room until he quit screaming. That was the best solution at the time and probably the best solution for his scream fests. I've not really wanted his room to be a place of time out but when he's acting out like that, I think it's the best option we have - mostly to save our own sanity. So, we've decided that scream fests will be an automatic trip to the bedroom. Do NOT pass go. Do NOT collect $200. Anyway, last night, it worked. Yes, he continued to scream for a few minutes and made our dinner time less than peaceful and relaxing. But, after a few minutes, he calmed down and daddy was able to go in there and talk to him. After that, he was fine.

Regular 2 minute time outs in our "special" chair in the dining room will now be reserved for those times when he is simply not listening. That's our 1-2-3-Timeout solution. When he's been told to do something and does not do it, we explain to him that he has until 3 to do it or it's an automatic timeout. Sometimes he'll do it, sometimes he chooses timeout. The good thing is that when timeout is over, I get him to say sorry and then he has to actually go and do the thing that he refused to do earlier (i.e. picking up his toys). In other cases, like when he's torturing the dog or cat and not listening to us tell him to stop, after his timeout he must apologize for not listening and then he usually goes and gives them love.

Parenting is tough. I mentioned to my hubby that this whole parenting a toddler thing is like a big merry go 'round of trial and error. We try stuff, see if it works, and if it doesn't, we try something else. It doesn't really matter how many books you read, people you seek advice from, or doctors you consult with, when it comes to your child, you do what works, no matter what anyone else says/thinks (within reason of course). If at first you don't succeed, you cry and cry try and try again.

So, while this stage is beyond exciting as he learns and grows and soaks up everything like a sponge, it is also quite challenging. Keeping your cool and your sanity is important so whatever helps you do that, do it.

I don't want to be the "reactive" parent that just reacts instinctively when my child does something he shouldn't. That usually results in me feeling guilty later on. Trust me, I've done that one too many times. I want to be the "proactive" parent, one that has a plan in place and knows exactly how she's going to handle certain situations. Sure, there will be times that arise for which I have no plan, and as they come about, I can add to the plan already in place. For instance, he's not really the type to throw a full on tantrum in public - at least, we haven't had the blessing of that yet. He did start to throw a mini one at a restaurant the other day when we tried to put him in his high chair. We simply asked if he wanted to leave. He said no so we told him he had to sit - and voila! It worked! Although it may be inconvenient and frustrating, if he ever does that in a public place, we will have to stick to our guns and simply leave. My mom did it with me as a single parent so surely, together, we can conquer, uhh, I mean succeed.

With all this said, I don't know how single parents do it. I don't know how my mom did it. It's hard enough with two parents who try desperately to be on the same page, but for a single parent - nothing but respect for you!

Along with consequences, I want to start rewards too. I've been wanting to start a sticker reward book for him that we can take with us everywhere for immediate reward. When he is behaving well and listening and doing what he's expected to do, we want to be able to give him stickers, and then turn those stickers into something tangible for him - a trip to the park, a toy from the store, etc. That's one of my projects over Spring Break. Any specific ideas on how to put one together would be appreciated, but I think I may just go with my instinct and then post the results on here later.

In the meantime, tonight I will be watching a free webinar hosted by Amy McCready, who has apparently appeared on the Today Show numerous times to bring positive parenting solutions. I found out about it here and will be tuning in at 9pm to see what sorts of wisdom, advice, and positive tips I can possibly glean from this woman. Hopefully I come away with a new arsenal of tricks to try whilst keeping my wits about me. There's still time to register if you're interested.

And for all you other parents of temperamental toddlers out there - hang in there! This, too, shall pass. Right?

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