Challenging Children

I was having a conversation on twitter last night with the wonderful @mummylimited about the terrible twos, or the not so terrible but certainly challenging twos.

Why are they called terrible? I myself am guilty of using that label when it comes to Alison but that is because people understand what I mean. Alison is not terrible she is a very loving and very pleasant child 95% of the time. I have to say I believed the “terrible twos” were a myth and whenever Elizabeth had a tantrum at that age it was just that, a tantrum. Then again Elizabeth always knew how to have a good old tantrum so turning two didnt have an impact.

A tantrum is a tantrum but it is also the frustration and inability to communicate their desires in a better way.

My daughters are two very different people with two very different personalities.

Elizabeth (3) is a little version of me, confident, bossy, independent, controlling, demanding and always wanting her own way and most of the time getting it too. She has always been this way ever since birth and she more than likely always will. Not that I see this as a problem it will make her very strong as she grows older, able to withstand peer pressure and acheive her goals. She knows there are rules and most of the time she will go all the way up to the line and sometimes poke a toe across it but usually just to get a reaction. She is never openly disobedient, she knows right from wrong and well she generally knows everything (see just like her mum).

Alison (2) is like her dad, pleasant, calm, obedient, happy, personable and generally very pleasant until she loses her temper. She has always had a temper but it was always hard for her to lose it. Turning two has changed that, the ability to lose her temper is easier for her now but I believe that is because her understanding of her surroundings is a lot better.

As children get older they go through periods of change, it is well known that towards the end of the second year children begin to understand consequences. They know if they cry someone will want to know whats wrong, they know if they throw some food on the floor someone will react and clean it up, they also know that by hitting, biting or kicking that they will get a reaction. Do you see what I am getting at?

They act in the way they do because we react to them and give them attention and they love it. They don’t care that it is negative attention, they have your undivided attention for that very short period of time when they are in full blown meltdown.

So how do we stop it?

We could try not to react? have you ever tried ignoring? it is one of the most powerful things that we can do as a parent. Our children hate it! We generally ignore all sorts of behaviour  that is not destructive, most of the time they are just playing, children think of playing in a different way to us. If I think that their behaviour is going a certain way I might join in with their play and maybe distract them with something else. Play and praise is an important part of everyday in our house, think of it as looking at things through rose tinted glasses. Praise the good things you see and ignore the things you can ignore.

Generally in our house we place our children in timeout or onto the thinking chair only when they are physically aggressive and even then they are placed on and told why they are there and that they can come off when they feel able to apologise.

They are not sat there for one minute for each year of their lives, they are not sat on the “naughty” step, they are there to reflect and understand and the quicker they do that the easier it becomes. Elizabeth spends all of about 30 seconds on there now, that is on the rare occassion that she is physically violent. She gets over the shock of why she is there, gets up says sorry and gives her sister a cuddle and all is forgiven. Why should she sit there for another 2 and a half minutes, she knows that what she did is wrong and unless you have some sort of timer to remind you, and them, it is difficult to explain the concept of time to a three year old.

Anyway I am off subject now, my lovely pleasant obedient little girl is becoming very good at throwing tantrums, particularly at bedtime. She used to climb into her bed have a bottle and go to sleep with her cd on, easy. Now she cries and screams and never wants you to leave the room , we are dealing with this by sitting in her room until she is calm without looking at her and without talking to her. In fact it was whilst sat in her doorway that I was having the conversation that prompted this post. We believe that she is suffering from separation anxiety mixed with the fact she doesnt want to miss out on anything and she knows that we stay downstairs when she goes to bed. She knows this because when she woke up with bad teething pain nearly a month ago we brought her downstairs to calm down, hang on, come to think about it, it was about this time that we started having problems with her bedtimes. Mmmm did we cause this?

I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as a naughty child, just a child that needs more help, guidance and understanding.

What have you done as a parent that you have regretted weeks later? And extra bottle in the middle of the night to make them go to sleep (done this and every night afterwards until I was strong enough to say no)? Letting them watch an extra tv programme before bed? Allowing them to have biscuits for breakfast? Whatever you have done you cant blame the kids when they want you to do the same the next day or the one after that or the one after that. So next time when you are tired or just cant be bothered remember your every action can have an ongoing consequence, I know i do.

So the Terrible Twos, are they so terrible? or are they just misunderstood.