To follow up on yesterday's post, which was mostly negative, I wanted to at least write about a few positive behaviors and strategies that seem to work for us, at least a lot of the time. I guess nothing works 100% of the time, right?
The first strategy is: don't make a big deal of it!!!
Sorry, hubby, but as long as I am not already overly cranky, I tend to be much better at this than he is. He believes that if he tells the kids to do something, they should do it, and if they don't they need consequences because they are being rude/disrespectful/etc. On the other hand, I've found that forcing an issue tends to make it worse in the very short run, and even if you win the battle, you've quite possibly prolonged the war and made it a lot less enjoyable as well. Here are a few examples we've had recently:
Eating - I was so proud about how not-picky my kids were, but now they are hitting the picky age and succumbing just like most other toddlers. I suspect preschool is the source of some of it. The randomly declare that they don't like something or that something is disgusting, regardless of whether they've ever tried it or if they just ate it yesterday. Or if it used to be their favorite food. So I just ignore their protests and leave the food on their plates. I might occasionally try to offer them a bite, or say "no, it's actually really good!", but I don't force them to eat it. I know sometimes they don't really want to eat whatever it is, and if I have offered enough times and they really don't want it, it's fine. Usually if I just say "OK, you don't like it", or don't say anything at all, they'll often give it a try after watching me for a while. I think much of the time they're just looking for a dramatic response from me, and lacking that, they actually ARE curious about the food.
Brushing teeth - this is becoming such a big struggle, with Turtle not wanting to even come into the bathroom. So I tell him, "Fine, you can wait here outside the bathroom while we all go in together and brush our teeth" and usually about 15 seconds later he shows up and wants to get his teeth brushed. Admittedly, it doesn't work every time, and you have to be ok with the kid going to bed without brushing his teeth. If it got to the point that he was regularly skipping teeth-brushing, I'd probably have to change strategies, though. I've tried forcing him to brush (i.e. holding his head and forcing the toothbrush into his mouth) - does NOT work, and it's such a bad idea in the long run! I've only done it once or twice before realizing what a bad idea it was.
The second strategy is: make a big deal of it!!!!
To follow up on the teeth-brushing anecdote above, we also make a big deal about how the whole family is going to go brush teeth. We'll say "Mamma is going to brush HER teeth, and Tadpole will brush HER teeth, and Papi will brush HIS teeth, but it's ok, you can wait outside while we all go together and brush our teeth!" in a really animated voice. That helps a lot!
This helps in SO many ways. We pretend we're going to race them to the kitchen and drink their milk before they get there, and they get so excited to run and "save" their bottle/sippy cup. We build up a lot of excitement for just about anything - a trip to the store, going for a walk, new experiences, and it helps when they otherwise might resist.
And the last strategy is: use humor =)
A friend told me this, and it works. The biggest problem I have is that when I am already frustrated by bad behavior, I find it hard to pull out the humor and put a big smile on my face. Luckily, toddlers and preschoolers are very silly little creatures and react really well to humor, so it is a strategy that I find really works well. Doing a funny walk to get someplace or pretending to chase the kids helps to get them moving when they're dragging their feet. Funny sounds, funny chewing, and funny faces help to get them to eat when they're protesting. Just being silly when they're getting ready to throw a tantrum is sometimes all it takes.
Other ideas that I need to work on more? Turning chores into games, using things as learning experiences, experiencing the wonder in the everyday stuff. Using books to get values across, or prevent fears. Giving examples (i.e. setting a good example myself and pointing out others setting a good example around us). Trying to avoid bribes, "punishments" that don't fit the crime, and unrelated consequences. And the single thing that really helps and is hard to find on bad days? Especially when you're sleep-deprived? PATIENCE. It's the golden key, I think.
So things aren't always bad around here. Here's to a better day. And a preschool post coming up soon.