February 27, 2007

Re-training Toddlers Is Not For The Faint Of Heart

I really made an effort to train my first two children from the minute they could move around. And I did a really good job of teaching them obedience and capturing their hearts. But by the time my 3rd came around, I got sloppy. Then when #4 arrived, I was sloppy AND too busy. The fruits of my lack of labor have finally arrived and I find myself in the unpleasant place of having to re-train my 3 year old. I’m am not only emotionally exhausted but feeling like a big fat failure. So I decided to give myself a refresher course on how to train my toddler/pre-schooler and thought I’d post my thoughts just in case someone out there finds themselves in the same boat.

Let your No mean NO! Pick your battles because you need to stand firm when you’re making a point. When you tell your child no, you need to be able to follow through with it and not give in after 5 minutes of whining.

Be consistent. Kids learn fast. If you show them that No means “Keep whining and begging until Mom gives up” they will learn that lesson well. If you show them “When mom chooses to say No she means it” then that’s what they will learn and the whining and begging will stop because they know it won’t work.

When giving direction, get down on their level and look them in the eye. I was constantly saying, “Look at mama in the eyes” before telling them what I wanted them to do. For some reason, the eye contact is harder to ignore than when I give them direction while I’m across the room and they are playing with a toy.

Practice with them. When I have the spare time, we do drills. I’ll give direction like, “Come to mommy, please” and we’ll work on answering, “yes, mommy” and obeying the first time. Practicing at home really helps for when we are in a public place and I need them to respond quickly.

Things won’t change over night. You might see some changes right away but chances are you’re going to have to be consistent for a while before the changes start occurring. It takes adults an average of 21 days to change a habit so you really can’t expect an immediate response from your little one.

Don’t raise your voice when you get frustrated. When they see you lose your cool, they don’t respect your request. I can be a yeller, when I lose it so I’ve tried to make a habit of responding the opposite of what I really want to do. When I feel the urge to raise my voice out of frustration, I whisper instead. Having screamed at my child and then using the whisper approach, it’s amazing the different responses I get. When I holler I get more resistance and crying, when I lower my voice they have to get quiet so they can hear what I have to say. Plus, can anyone resist listening in to see what all the whispering is about?

Just reading that makes me feel like I’ve got a game plan on getting things back in control. So if I go missing in the next few days, know that I’m probably hiding behind locked doors, soothing myself with some form of chocolate and reflecting on the good stuff…..like today when his Daddy carried him off to the potty and I overheard him saying, “Dad, mom’s my girlfriend.” So cute!

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