Friday, December 02, 2011

More Parenting Wisdom

Yesterday I gave you the Cliff's Notes of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen... but there's another parenting book I read recently that I wanted to record a few tips from as well. This one was an oldie, Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender, written in the 1970s. I heard about this one (and possibly How to Talk too) from EMU, fellow mommy blogger and Furman alum, and as she said, there are some very dated references in it—my favorites were "play records for your child and consider getting him his own phonograph" and "consider putting your child in the back seat so he doesn't interfere with your driving"—but there was also some very helpful information.

Most of the book was about the psychology of two-year-olds, explaining why they act the way they do. I don't remember a lot from those parts, beyond the perfectly understandable notion that two-year-olds are stuck between baby and child, trying to figure out their sense of self and assert their own identity. The stereotypical obsession with "mine!" is rooted in this need to define one's own personhood. Kids this age are obsessed with their shoes for this reason. Needing to hold onto certain objects, even while sleeping, is part of this as well (as well as part of learning object permanence, holding onto things to ensure they'll still be there in the morning). I remember an article about this in a parenting magazine, talking about a kid who liked to sleep with not just his blankie and favorite stuffed animals, but also a soccer ball and a calendar. That cracked me up. The Terrible or Tender book mentioned a kid who had to sleep with a green pepper and a very sharp pencil. So unsafe, and yet hilarious.

The one chapter that focused on actual techniques for parenting two-year-olds included the following tips that I thought were worth writing down:

Take advantage of the two-year-old's ritualistic tendencies.
They have a need for sameness, including the order in which things are done. A consistent routine for things like bedtime or getting ready in the morning can help it go smoothly because the child herself will insist on the routine. (If only Matt and I were better about implementing the routine we want her to have. Instead, what has become routine is the consistent procrastination of putting on jammies, "one more book," etc. If we want to change the ritual, we'll need to be proactive.) The authors' warning about this tendency is that the more you try to hurry a child this age, the longer it will take.

Use "face-saving techniques."
I'm sure there are techniques related to letting your child save face as well, but it's your own face you're saving here. Basically, the idea is to avoid making ultimatums you will regret. I mentioned yesterday how we recently cancelled fun plans because Kate was misbehaving. I shouldn't have pulled the whole "do this now or we won't go," because I then had to stick by my threat when she didn't cooperate, and I ended up bumming myself out because I really wanted to go have fun with my daughter!

So, rather than saying "eat all your veggies or you'll sit here all night" or "we're not going to the playground until you pick up all the toys," phrase things cooperatively, like "Let's clean up the blocks," or "Where do the blocks go?" or "We'll go to the playground after we clean up the blocks."

Related to this (and this is good advice for dealing with people of any age!) is the tip "Don't ask questions you don't want the answer to." (or as I like to say, "questions with only one right answer.") So, just as you wouldn't ask your husband, "Does this dress make me look fat?" you shouldn't ask your child "Would you like to take a bath?" if the bath is actually non-negotiable.

Give choices.
This one appeared a lot in the book I wrote about yesterday, but bears repeating. Little kids have so little control over their lives; they're told when to eat, when to sleep, etc., so offering control over whatever you can is helpful. The child has some say about things, but you control the options. "Do you want to wear the red dress or the orange one?" "Should we put on your pants first or your shirt?" "Do you want to stand up to put your jammie top on or fly into it like Superman?" (As you might have guessed, a lot of our struggles these days relate to getting dressed!)

What is the best parenting book you've read lately? What is the best parenting tip you've learned lately?

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