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Tales From Fatherhood: Year Three
Things Are Changing
Somewhere around the middle of Sam's third year we noticed some changes in his behaviour that seemed a bit different. Where he would be able to take a fall and keep on trying, he know would fall and immediately start crying.
Actually it seemed like just about anything, depending on his mood, would send him into an emotional rollercoaster ride. The smiling baby I remembered seemed to be replaced by a very emotional doppleganger.
He started to use the word "no" way more often and in a fashion that was far from positive. Then the temper tantrums started and we knew that we had entered into a different stage of childhood.
He was continually irritable and upset and this was enough to make a difference in the way we looked at our parenting. We started to read as much as we could on the behaviour of toddlers and found some interesting things.
The reason why children at this age behave different than the early toddler you were used to is that emotions have now taken the forefront of the childs behaviour.
Emotions have not played a major role in your childs developement until now, the years between two and five.
Our minds use emotions for many different things, including learning, and these are the years where your child is testing these new feelings and coming to terms with his or her emotional selves.
The problem is that, for some reason, the brain overloads the system with emotion and then slowly regulates them, so by the age of five you see a dramatic change from the temper tantrum filled toddler to a young child.
One of the hardest things for me is keeping my patience. Our kids know all the buttons to push to make us lose it. The problem is if their behaviour makes us behave in a less than ideal way their behaviour may worsen.
How does one keep calm when the kids are bombarding you with whins, tempers, and bad behaviour of all types?
Do some research into relaxation techniques that fit you the best. I like to step back for a few seconds and breath a few deep breaths and then try to rethink the situation that I am confronted with.
Children copy our behaviour and if they see a level headed calm individual, even when dealing with the crazy stuff, they will begin to behave that way themselves.
The Time Out
On top of this time of heightened emotions your three or four year old is starting to express their need for independence. Like emotions this process is necessary for them to grow and become their own human beings.
But what about us parents. We get the double whammy. I feel that during this time in your childs life it is important to put extra attention into parenting. It is important to not only give positive reinforcement for behaviours we support but also to display discipline.
Discipline is probably the hardest thing for me to accomplish. I am a softy and I always want to find a diplomatic solution to problems. One of the most important lessons to teach your child is that certain behaviours have consequences.
Two time tested ways of displaying consequence for bad behaviour is time outs and taking things away.
Let us talk about time outs. The first thing we need to know as parents is that however tired, stressed out, or at our wits end, we must learn to remove emotions from our discipline. Before you begin to dole out the sentence take a second to calm yourself down and center yourself.
Always remember that we are trying to remove a bad behaviour not display aggression. After you have centered yourself, bend down and look at your child in their eyes and explain in a firm voice the behaviour that is not acceptable, and send them to a quit corner, without toys, for five minutes.
Time outs fulfill a dual role, it show the child consequence, and it gives the parent time to calm down and regroup.
After the five minutes is up call your child to you and look them in the eyes and explain again why they were in the time out, this time with a calm voice. Don't forget to tell them you still love them and give them a hug.
It is good to reinforce that the consequence is for the behaviour and not directed at them.
If your child is behaving badly take away some toys and then send them to time out. Taking away is a viable consequence for bad behaviour but keep in mind that all situations are different and should be evaluated to determine the proper course of action.
If you child is frustrated and just needs help, try to figure this out before you dole out a consequence.
Choose your battles. Some days it may seem that your child wants to spend the whole day in time out. On these days let some things slide but make sure that you are consistent with the important behaviours that you want to change.
For instance if you do not allow hurting others do not let one instance of hurting behaviour pass. But if they are supposed to not go near the couch and they do not listen, maybe there is something on the couch that they cannot resist.
Think about all of the behaviours that you want to change and cannot tolerate in your household and stand your ground. One flip flop and they may decide that they can take advantage. Our children do try to get away with things and we should pay close attention to what it is they think they are getting away with.
One way to help with any behaviour that stems from their new found need of independence is to give them choices. Make it seem that everything they do they have a choice, even though we know we are in control. With Hannah I will grab two pants options in the morning and ask "Do you want the pink or the jeans?"
She still has to wear pants but feels she is in control.
Sometimes their bad behaviour may be that they are frustrated with something that they need help with and simply paying attention and helping will stop the behaviour.
This may all seem like a lot of work and difficult. It is, but once you can get a grip on bad behaviour you can start to regain some control in your own life.
Have you found different ways to control tantrums? Leave me a comment if "yes"
The Supermarket Tantrum
Here is a nightmare situation, you have a cart half full of food that you desperately need in a supermarket full of shoppers when your three year old stops walking and sits on the floor and begins to wail at the top of his lungs and flail his arms around like a crazy person.
The supermarket tantrum is the worst of all worlds and can make parents feel that they can never leave the house again. Here are a few hints to help to avoid and to calm down these situations.
Prepare for your trip, have a toy, some snacks, a favorite blankie available before you leave. Make sure that the family routine hasn't been too hectic that day, if your child feels that the world is not routine, or they are tired they may act up. Has your child had food when needed, or a nap, or are you going into a war zone without any ammunition?
If your child acts up in the store make eye contact and ask if your child needs anything. Sometimes they are just frustrated and all they want is one of their toys or blanket. If this does not work do not be afraid to leave. Just drop your cart and go to the car, at the car you can try a time out, or just go home.
Most of the time the tantrum will work itself out in a short while, let it work itself out in an area free of observers.
One of the biggest things to remember is to find your patience and not yell at your children or loss your temper. This will make things worse. Take deep breaths, control the situation, and decide whether it is time to retreat or calm.
Keeping Up Relations
Last but not least, remember your partner. Take time whenever you can to sit with your partner and share the events of your day. Don't hold all of the tantrums and bad behaviour inside, use your partner as a release so you can start out fresh the next day.
Also, ask your partner about what they have been experiencing. Maybe a tantrum can be resolved by something that your partner has figured out.
Don't let these stressful times pull the team apart, use the challenges of the age to strengthen the bonds between you.
Take a deep breath and plunge into the joy of fatherhood.