Tonight we had some friends over for supper - something we've been doing a lot lately, since we have a big open space to do it now! We had a great time, and although our friends kids were considerably older than Clara, they all played really well together and we were really impressed. It's good to see examples of Clara being a well-behaved 'big kid' in certain contexts. Poor Audrey still had to stay near the adults while the older kids went downstairs - because the older kids are still too young to have a gate up blocking the stairs, but Audrey can't be downstairs without a gate up. Looking forward to next year, when she can do stairs, for her sake!
Last Week, I wrote about our behavior issues with Clara. She's 3. I have a friend who uses the term 'threenager' and I have to agree - the amount of attitude she has is shocking. Like I mentioned earlier, she does have her really good times - times when she's really well behaved, and plays well with other kids, and is polite and calm and even sometimes patient. Usually her nights are not so good, though, especially lately.
Wednesday of last week, we started using the methods outlined in 1-2-3 Magic, by Thomas W. Phelan. If you know me by now, I'm a big fan of using books and the internet as resources for anything, including raising kids. Some people say you should just do what feels 'right' or 'natural', but what feels 'natural' to me is not guaranteed to be right - because I'm not perfect. I also like learning about alternate methods of parenting, whether I agree or not, just so I can be sure I know why I would choose something different. In this particular case, I felt so completely lost and useless as a parent and - knowing that my own choices were not working - I was willing to try anything that was different from what we were already doing.
So far, I'm about 80 pages into the book 1-2-3 Magic, and the basic 'rules' of this method involve two simple principles that the author feels many parents need. The first is to separate emotions from parenting. Phelan discusses how reacting emotionally to a child's misbehavior can begin with negotiating, pleading, and arguing and then lead up to yelling and hitting (spanking). Typically, I'm not opposed to spanking although when spanking comes from an emotional parent response, I absolutely agree that this is very wrong. To refuse to get emotional is tricky, but Phelan argues that it is necessary because often your emotional response is exactly what the child is looking for, and to respond in that way only ultimately makes them feel powerful.
The second rule is 'no talking', in the context of when your child is looking for an argument or when you are tempted to give a grand explanation of their misbehaviour. Phelan says that because young children can't be reasoned with - and are inherently selfish - it only complicates things when we try to 'make them understand why' we want their behaviour to stop. I might have wanted to disagree with this one - I want to believe that my daughter has the potential to understand, if only I give her the chance - but I had to admit that my personal experience says otherwise. Whether or not she understands or not, as a toddler, she is too selfish to care. She wants what she wants and it doesn't matter how many 'good reasons' I have otherwise. Not to say it hasn't worked occasionally to get her to stop doing something, but as a general rule she doesn't react at all to 'good reasons' - in fact, they often aggravate her further. Also, I have seen parents spend hours discussing with their child the wrongs of their behaviour, outlining the problem from many different angles, only to have the child leave their presence and immediately repeat the bad behaviour. And, at this point, I appreciated an approach that was immediate and simple.
So, to stop bad behaviour, we say 'That's 1' and then give Clara 5 seconds. Then, if the behaviour hasn't stopped, we say 'That's 2' and give her an additional 5 seconds. At this point, she is out of chances and at '3' she is given an immediate time out. We will sit her in her room (during the day) or in the bathroom (at night) for 3 minutes, saying nothing the whole time, and then letting her out calmly with no discussion at the end of the time period.
I used to disagree with an in-room time out, because it made sense to me that you wouldn't want your child to view their bedroom as a 'punishment area', but as I said earlier, clearly our parenting tactics from before weren't working so I was willing to suspend that particular issue on the basis that maybe I was wrong about that - at least for Clara. I guess we'll see how that goes.
We had one really great night, and then a couple of nights where Clara received a few time-outs over the span of about an hour and then fell asleep. Then, we had another good night where she fell asleep quickly, and tonight again was pretty awful. She had 4 or 5 time-outs and during the last two she screamed bloody murder all the way through. We changed the location of her time outs after the first few, though, so there was a bit of inconsistency, so I'm not ready to give up yet. I want to give this at least a few weeks before making any decision about its effectiveness. Wish us luck.
Audrey gets a bit stressed when she hears Clara tantruming nearby, but there's not much we can do about that. Poor girl.
Another thing we have been doing, because the girls share a room, is separating the girls after 20-30 minutes of excitement. For most of the past week we have had to move Audrey into a playpen in our bedroom until Clara fell asleep, and then we moved Audrey back. We were worried about this, because Audrey is a light sleeper, but so far it's worked pretty well. Once or twice Audrey woke during the move back to her bed, but Clara slept through her jabbering until Audrey finally fell asleep also.
I'm still reading, because I know 1-2-3 Magic contains a chapter on bedtime, but this is where we're at so far.