I’m writing this post as I sit by the pool in beautiful Bali! It’s one I’ve been meaning to write for a few weeks but haven’t had the chance to. It’s by no means a self bashing post or a husband bashing post, more a post on my current struggles with parenting. Struggles that are only going to get harder!
As much as I definitely prefer toddlerhood to babyhood, boy am I facing some real challenges! It’s also safe to say that parenting is definitely a test of your marriage at times! Haha.
I’m definitely bad cop and Preetam is good cop. We sometimes struggle to meet in the middle as one of us excuses Arjun’s behaviour down to frustration and let’s him be more free spirited whereas the other’s school of thought is “as his parents we need to guide him and channel his frustration correctly”. I worry that a difference in approach may be causing Arjun confusion where it comes to testing boundaries and what is and isn’t okay.
Preetam’s approach is to dismiss the behaviour and not give it any attention at all and at the very most distract him with something positive instead. My approach is a lot more direct and involves addressing the behaviour and try to correct it.
Preetam is a lot more relaxed than I am. I think he’s only ever used the words “no” once. I’m probably a little too harsh and he’s probably a little too relaxed – I guess together it works?!
At 16 months (going on 16 years!), Arjun seems to have an opinion and a decision on absolutely everything and once he’s made his mind up its pretty difficult to distract him. Tantrums have ranged from wanting to throw something in the bin (something which doesn’t need to be thrown like a brand new pack of wipes), to insisting on taking my spoon during dinner even though he’s accumulated a few of his own, wanting something in a store and throwing a wobble if he doesn’t get his own way.
I always feared the thought of how I’d deal with one of “those kids”. I’m definitely on the way to having one of “those kids” – a pretty normal kid I guess. I mean it’s normal for them to test boundaries, to have an opinion and to vent their frustrations. My child having a tantrum at a supermarket definitely wouldn’t be the first kid to do so and most definitely won’t be the last!
In fact it’s a good thing that he has his own personality and is head strong, it means he’ll grow up his own person. The issue is ensuring we channel it in the right way. When is the right age to do that? What is the right method? What is acceptable? And how do you reach a happy medium? It’s especially difficult as he isn’t really talking much. He uses actions to explain what he wants (whilst screaming mama or dada).
Having a sister as a nursery nurse is definitely a bonus and having several mummy friends is also helpful and I’m so grateful for them but sometimes I struggle to put in to play the advice I’ve been given. Sometimes because it’s easier to just let him have his way (defo not in the running for mother of year award then!), sometimes because I know Preetam and I approach things different and I worry about sending mixed messages and sometimes because I’m just too tired.
Here are some of the methods people have suggested and I’ve tried:
1) The naughty step. Have you tried this? We haven’t. Some people are really anti the naughty step especially at Arjun’s age as he isn’t able to understand the concept. I’m not sure what my thoughts are on the naughty step but I definitely do think he knows what he’s doing as he behaves like an angel at nursery!
My issue would be having the patience to keep him on the naughty step. It wouldn’t be easy and it’d probably end up backfiring as he’d soon learn enough screaming would mean he’d get his way (perseverance isn’t my strong point!). I don’t think this is a method Preetam would agree with as its overtly addressing the behaviour which his more my approach than his.
2) The positive words method. I’m not going to lie, sometimes the words “naughty” and “bad” do slip out. I’m often corrected by my sister who reminds me that negative word enforcement isn’t helpful and that the use of positive words is a lot more effective. It’s so bloody hard to not use negative words when a toddler has pushed you to your limit!
I try and use the words “Arjun please play with gentle hands and please don’t throw that”. So for example if he throws something in frustration, I ask him to play with gentle hands, I then hand him back the item and half the time he plays nice, the other half it turns in to a full fledge tantrum because somehow it’s my fault he threw the thing in the first place!
I do believe the use of a soft tone and positive language has an impact on how a child reacts. Being consistent and maintaining my cool is the key to mastering this but that can sometimes be difficult.
3) Ignore the behaviour. I know we all want to shine our kids in the best light, and my son is an angel most of the time (sort of), and I absolutely adore him – he keeps me entertained positively most of the time but my readers will know I’m pretty open and don’t like to sugar coat the real deal. My not so gentle handed little monster has started hitting – especially Preetam and I in the last month. It’s been super frustrating and he does it when he’s really upset.
I do believe he’s manifesting his anger and frustration but how to snap this habit is a difficult one. Have you had to deal with similar or is it just my baby?! If Arjun slaps me, I tell him “mummy’s very sad Arjun, please play with kind hands” and put him down on the floor. He usually has a full on tantrum for a minute or two but calms down after a while.
Preetam’s approach is different – he doesn’t really tell Arjun what he’s done isn’t nice. This is probably my biggest source of frustration at the moment as our approach is very different so I’m not sure if we’re sending him mixed signals. The last thing I want is him hitting anyone let alone another child! I know several of my friends have dealt with biting, but would love some advice around hitting.
4) The three strike rule. I’ve especially started to apply this rule when it comes to throwing food. He stares me right in the face and throws pieces of food one by one on the floor when he’s in a mood. This really frustrates me as he clearly doesn’t know where the boundary exists here. If he throws more than three times, I take his plate away until he calms down.
I’m definitely not saying I’m an expert in parenting – far from it and this post highlights that. Sharing such personal struggles is always difficult but it also helps me get advice from all the mummies and daddies that read my blog and is a comfort for those mummies in the same (currently sinking) boat! We will all get there!
I’m not one of those mums that keeps my child on a tight leash, but at the same time I do want him to grow up with good manners and be prepared for the real world (a world where you won’t always get your own way!). Knowing when to start instilling that behaviour and how to instil it is challenging.
If you have any advice or can relate, I’d love to hear. x