This is my handsome, smart, funny, and very strong willed child, Shawn. He will be 2 in May and he has already started displaying some “terrible twos” behavior that make my husband and I have to back track and game plan just to stay on top of it.
Let’s be honest, he’s always a step ahead of us! Shawn, much like myself, wants to do everything himself, wants to show everyone how good he is at something and wants everyone to agree with him. I totally get where he is coming from since, like I said, he is just like me in these ways. However, it is very difficult to watch a toddler struggle to take his coat off and hang it on the coat rack when you have had a hard day, still need to get dinner on the table, and know that he can’t reach or can’t completely do this task alone yet. I can see the wheels turning in his head and I know that if he just had longer arms, he’d get it done. He’s a “Git ‘er done” kind of guy! I’ve learned that I have to pick my battles with Shawn. Ethan was a little easier in the sense that he has never had a hard time accepting help. In fact, he’s the opposite in many areas. He still wants me to get his clothes out in the morning for him and tighten his boots up before we head into the freezing Michigan weather. Who could blame him for accepting help in some areas? Everyone needs help sometimes, right? Apparently, my youngest has not learned this one yet. He tries to climb up to sit on his high chair, he tries to get his own toothpaste and tooth brush. He has attempted to undo his own diaper before and would probably potty train himself if he could reach the toilet seat with out me picking him up. He would probably want to dress himself if not for the fact that he prefers nakedness over any type of clothing out there.
Lately, that strong willed attitude has snuck it’s way to our dinner table. Shawn has not been a picky eater in the past. However, he has had a battle with allergies ever since I stopped breastfeeding. He was recently diagnosed with the following allergies: wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, codfish, pet dander – oh and we now suspect melon as well! His most frequent reaction to an allergen is puking, sometimes itchy skin, sometimes a full body of hives if it’s severe. With each new reaction and each new discovery that yet another food that he has always loved has something in it that we didn’t notice, he starts to hate trying new things. Poor guy, who could really blame him when so many things make him gag, puke, or break out. The problem with this is that he sometimes reacts by throwing entire bowls of food on the floor, kicking the table or his chair, or screaming at the top of his lungs. These are not the foods that he has reactions to, these are foods that are allergen free, that we know he likes, and that many times were homemade by my husband, Sam, or I, which is new for us!
I would love to say that I have always known exactly how to handle these fits, but that is definitely not the truth. Sam and I frequently take turns. One turns around and laughs while the other one handles the fit or the punishment or the mess, whichever is more urgent at the time. For awhile, I was able to threaten sending Shawn to bed early if he didn’t stop and he understood and stopped. On occasion, I have placed him in his crib while he kicks and screams and set the microwave timer for a minute or two just to give myself a break from him while he has his “time out”. There is no verbal reasoning with a toddler – especially a stubborn one! Therefore, we have been brainstorming and just taking it a day at a time. Some days the time out or early bed time works, other times, they don’t.
Another thing about Shawn that will be helpful for you to know is that he is very shy and laid back in public, but at home, he is a social butterfly. He wants to be in the middle of the group, involved in the conversation, and usually the topic of conversation. My wonderful husband, who is king of the social butterflies, had a genius idea one night when Shawn was screaming at dinner. He turned Shawn’s high chair around completely – facing the corner of the room – and told Shawn that he has a time out until he stops screaming and starts eating. We also set a timer just to keep track. Shawn was sobbing by the end of the 1-2 minutes that he was in time out. After we turned him back around he did not scream, just kept eating. Sam and I looked at each other with giddy faces just praying that this was really the success that it appeared to be! It worked great for that night, thank God, but it may not work tomorrow if it were to happen again. That’s just how kids are. They adapt, they play parents off of each other. They figure us out before we even figure ourselves or our parenting styles out sometimes.
I think the lesson we’ve learned here is that we can’t always just default to some parenting manual or some list of do’s and don’ts in every parenting experience. The Time Out Tango is not always the Answer. Sometimes I have to take away toys or games, tell them that they can’t go on a special outing, etc. We have to be on our toes. We have to set a good example, be involved in our kids’ lives, show love first and foremost, pray a lot, and then be ready to change it all the next day if we need to! My mother is the queen of distraction with toddlers. Somehow, when a kid is being a brat, she can get them to sing a song, while actively engaged in a craft and learning their ABC’s at the same time. I guess that if the child is entertained, has stopped the bad behavior, and can’t remember what they were upset about, that is a win – win. We can’t all be the queen of distraction or the king of social butterflies, but I take notes and pray a lot, so I am on my way!
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.