Friday, April 12, 2013

Give Them A Chance

Ayden found some garden tools during our meeting at the Ag. Extension Office today.
Ayden has really started to connect the dots of life lately. He is learning that if we put on his shoes, it's time to go outside. If we get out his wagon, it's time to go work in the garden. When I bring the diaper bag upstairs with us he walks towards the door, saying bye to everyone. If everyone in the room laughs, he knows something is funny so he throws his head back and laughs too.

He is really picking up on environmental and social cues these days. For the most part, it is a good thing because he is one step ahead and it's cute to see him doing such big kid stuff. On the other hand, now we have to be careful not to put his shoes on him unless we are ready to either go outside immediately or have a pretty disappointed and crying baby. Ayden is a busy boy and is always eager to explore his environment. He is working hard at learning his boundaries and it is our job to let him know when he has found them. Toddlers have always fascinated me with their egocentric ways. It's like they are only reading the bold text of the article and when you try to help them see the fine print they can lose it pretty quickly.

So far, we are taking what I will call a "tiered approach" when it comes to guiding Ayden through this phase in his life.

Tier 1: Prevention - We try our best to analyze any situation or environment so we can do our best at preventing any "situations."

Tier 2: Distraction - If he finds something we missed and starts to go for it, we excitedly call him over to check out the closest "awesome," toddler friendly, item we can find.

Tier 3: Re-direction - If he ignores our efforts to derail his path of exploration, we attempt some sort of switcheroo or slyly engage him in a favorite book while someone else quietly takes whatever it is he has that he shouldn't.

Tier 4: Requesting - We simply say, "Ayden, may I have that please?" Or "Wow! Can mommy see it?" And he is typically excited to show us (but gets upset when we don't give it back).

Tier 5: Taking - If none of the above work, we just take it.

Now, I should say that every situation is unique. Sometimes we go through all 5 tiers, sometimes we skip some (going straight to 5 if he got ahold of a pair of scissors for instance). Now you may ask, "Why go through all the trouble when you can just take the thing and move on?" And the answer is simple. We do it so we can give him a chance. We first try to prevent things from happening to keep everyone happy. Once he has something or is doing something he's not supposed to, though, we like to give him a chance to follow directions and do things on his terms. This, in turn, gives our toddler something every toddler is dying to have in their little, egocentric lives. A sense of control.

Some folks may argue that children should never have control over their parents or any situation. That's a recipe for disaster, right? Wrong! It is very important that people learn how to make the right decisions when they are in control. Ayden does 't realize that I am still in control when I ask, "do you want a clementine or a banana?" I narrowed the endless choices to two and he got the final say. That is teamwork and gives a sense of ownership over his experiences. Win, win if you ask me!

Now, if none of these things work and we end up intervening and he loses it, we hold him, let him cry and help him identify what he is feeling while we validate it without giving in to whatever it is he wanted. (ie "I know you wanted that marble. You are mad.") In the end, throwing a fit will always mean no in our house. That is why we think it is worth it to prevent fits so we can keep things as positive and happy as possible. Lucky for us, we are now able to say, "Can you ask nicely?" to which he will so cutely respond, "Teeeeese?" He's even gotten to the point where he can stop in the middle of a fit, calm down and "use his words" to ask for something. Good stuff!

We aren't perfect parents and don't always manage to do the right thing but it is always a good idea to have a plan and tools when going into situations that require extra parenting. This is what is working for us, what tends to work for you?


1 comment:

  1. We typically do the same things, though I don't think I could have ever explained it as well. It has worked great and we plan to follow the same method with the new baby. What is most important to us is that our children learn to make the right choices on their own.