You may have read that Monkey had the mother of all meltdowns the other week. I have been semi-joking that he is having terrible threes rather than twos because he is contrary, argumentative and testing his boundaries constantly. Driving hubs and I to distraction, and honestly it isn’t like him, yes he has his moments but on the whole he is a very sweet natured boy. We have been re-reading a couple of parenting books and thinking about rules and discipline while also wondering if we are just in another inevitable phase that will pass in its own time.
Then a couple of really interesting articles popped up in my feed (spooky timing really) and made me stop and think.
Is it a natural phase? Is it really terrible threes? Or are we at fault? Not in an I am going to beat myself up about it way, but are we making the problem worse by unmindful parenting? Could we make some simple positive changes to our behaviour that will affect his behaviour?
The first post was Obedience: Why do you have to tell them five times on Aha! Parenting. Something a lot of us ask ourselves in despair and actually it was a really great read. A reminder that our kids are human, they don’t share are priorities and don’t always want to do something just because we have said they should. The bit that really spoke to me though was the section about kids feeling disconnected from us or worse they have given up on us.
“Children naturally look to their parents for nurturing and guidance. If they’re convinced that we’re on their side, they want to please us. So if your child is defiant, or you keep finding yourself in power struggles, that’s a red flag that your relationship needs strengthening.”
It’s been a really rough month with all of us being ill, especially hubs, meaning I have had to do everything else. The result of this is that I haven’t had as much time or energy for Monkey lately. He has been left to get on with it a lot more than normal so is it any wonder then that he is not wanting to do what I say?
Throughout the article there are some great tips, not just about reconnecting, but with ways to help kids transition from what they want to do to what we want them to do and it is definitely worth a read.
The other post was How to react when your kids are disrespectful on Parenting Chaos. A little less relevant but a HUGE reminder not to engage in arguments with Monke (which I am definitely guilty of doing when I am on a short fuse and he is arguing against every single thing I say). To remember that his feelings are valid and that I need to stay calm and be the parent rather than get dragged into a daft argument. Plus, linking back to the previous post, if he is being defiant, there is a reason for it.
For example, the meltdown over going to the birthday party. I had not given him any warning about going to the party and just announced we were going. He hadn’t had any snacks (as there would be food at the party) and I know my toddler. He likes to know in advance what is going on and he is always on a much more even keel when he is not hungry. So in hindsight I can see why it all kicked off. He didn’t have time to prepare himself for going to the party and he was hungry and grumpy.
Add to this the fact that I had been tired and grumpy for a good few days by this point and he was feeling a bit unsettled anyway and it all just went bonkers. A reminder to me to let him know in advance what is happening, to take the time to explain things to him, oh and make sure he isn’t hungry! That actually if I am feeling stressed and harassed that it is even more important to spend a bit of one on one time with Monkey and make sure he knows what is going on. Otherwise I will just end up feeling more stressed and harassed with a massively unhappy toddler on my hands!
We’ve also been watching the Channel 4 series of “Born Naughty” which I have found fascinating. The premise of the programme is looking at seemingly naughty children and asking whether they are born naughty, whether the parents are to blame, or whether there is something more to it. It really is interesting and an eye opener into the scope of Autism Spectrum Disorders and I guess a reminder not to judge parents with naughty kids as sometimes there is more to it, and even if not, sometimes they just don’t know how to solve their child’s particular problems.
One of the more interesting diagnoses on the programme is about pathological Demand Avoidance, or PDA, on the Autism spectrum, where children are so anxious that they are hardwired to refuse any demand made of them. Where their instincts literally tell them to run from the seemingly innocuous request. This can build up and when they feel trapped they often become violent and the stories from the parents were quite harrowing. For example a mother having to call the Police because she is terrified of her 6 year old who is coming at her with a kitchen knife. Her story literally brought tears to my eyes.
Obviously these are extreme cases but on the programme, whether they found children did have special needs, or if they just had what they described as behavioural problems, a lot of the advice they gave to parents (in addition with making sure they had the relevant support from health visitors and appropriate schools) was about techniques to use with their kids. For example with one of the PDA children, Mum started to use sand timers to let him know when it was dinner time etc. So when the sand ran out he would come downstairs. He had warning and time to transition from what he was doing to what needed to happen next and it worked, there were less violent eruptions.
The point being that the experts in the programme helped all of the parents think about their child and techniques that would work for them specifically. There are so many techniques out there but of course the same thing won’t work for all children as all children are different. I don’t think Monkey is on the autism spectrum or think he has PDA but I think he does have some traits which respond to the same techniques they used with children with PDA. Warning him what is going to happen. Phrasing demands in a different way that makes them fun or exciting, rather than making it sound like a demand.
I have found that these things work for him by trial and error over the last few years. But when I am tired and stressed or I don’t feel like I have the energy, it is easy to forget about this. Forget how it all is going to effect him and just expect him to do what I ask him to do. Which leads to meltdowns and aggravation.
So we have been a lot more mindful of Monkey and the way we are parenting him recently. We can’t expect him to just go along with what we are saying all the time. He just isn’t that child, and actually I’m not sure I want him to be. I want him to be confident and know his own mind as an adult and for that to happen he needs to be confident and know how own mind now. That may not always make life that easy but we just have to think a bit more about our behaviour and adapt the things we say or the way we do things.
Things have definitely improved. He is 3 so of course he is contrary sometimes but he isn’t quite as defiant. I have made sure I have been spending more time with him one on one while LM is asleep. The TV has been on a lot less as we were using that far too much while things were tough, in order to get things done.
There are still a few issues as we have been in a really bad phase of fussy eating with him lately, but last night he ate all his dinner, which is huge for us, so we will see if we are moving out of that bad phase… I will talk more about that in a whole other post as there is too much to go into here!
Do you ever have times like this? Where you realise that your child’s behaviour is actually linked to your behaviour? I’d love to hear your thoughts!