Monday, March 25, 2013

Simple Changes, Big Results

I've written recently about the tribulations of age 3. I didn't content myself with complaining though, seeing as that helps no one! So I hit up some of my favorite parenting websites, revisited some of my old favorites in terms of books and articles, and came up with a few small adjustments that we've been working on in the Meegs household. We've seen some pretty big results.

The first step for me what identifying what times/issues were giving us the most stress, and breaking it down from there.

The first for us is transitions. Honestly, I didn't even identify this one until I was reading about developmentally appropriate behaviors for this age, but as soon as I saw this one it clicked. Developmentally they are learning about control; control of their bodies, control of their actions, control of their life. Big or small, they want control... so when you say we're done doing x to do y instead, well, it can be very frustrating for all. This however, turned out to be one of the simplest changes to implement, with some of the best and fastest results. We've started giving advanced notice of "mandatory" transitions, letting her know from the start if she only has a few minutes and letting her know what is coming next, warning her at the 1 minute mark, then counting down the last ten seconds. This gives her ample opportunity to adjustment to the idea of moving on, and lets her feel informed instead of forced. And if the transition isn't mandatory (ie. I'm going to do something upstairs, but she's welcome to keep playing downstairs) then I leave the choice up to her.

Such a simple change, its no hardship for me to give her warning, but our end of activity screaming tantrums have all but ended.

The second thing for us, which has been a little bit harder to implement, is addressing the mornings and our expectations for each other. Gwen's sleep has always been varied in the morning, but especially since the DST adjustment she might wake up anywhere between 5:50 and 7am. Obviously this changes whether we have time for some Sesame Street in the morning, or even whether she eats breakfast at home or in the car. Most of the time its her wake up is around 6:30, but even when she wakes up exactly then she'll change her mind daily about who she wants to get her ready, or even whether she wants to get ready or not. Then when she finally is ready, she doesn't understand why she doesn't have time to play before leaving.

The adjustments here have been multifaceted: talks with Gwen about our expectations of her and her level of cooperation, but also adjusting our reactions when she doesn't cooperate as we had hoped. First, we starting having simple, short discussions with Gwen during non-charged moments, about how mornings are easier if everyone helps and cooperates. We told her that when she cooperates and lets Daddy get her dressed, that we have time to watch some Elmo or play before leaving. Then we adjusted our reactions... getting rid of the raised voices (which we all hate), and instead talking calmly about the natural consequences of her choices and actions. ie. Gwen you may chose whether you want Daddy to help you get ready or wait for Mommy to get out of the shower, but if you wait then there will be no time for playing after you are ready, it will be time to leave right away. This one has taken some more time and effort for all of us, but we are seeing results here as well.

With this second item, for me the results are two-fold: not only are we having more pleasant interactions, but we are recommitting to this AP lifestyle we've chosen, recommitting to how we want to parent our daughter, not just as a helpless baby, but as a preschooler and beyond. We are seeing how things like natural consequences, and age appropriate expectations and conversations, can work towards a more harmonious household where we all feel respected.

Do we still have our unhappy, irritated and angry moments? Of course! I'm no expert on parenting; maybe there is no such thing. But this has worked to make our house a lot more peaceful, and I wanted to share.

Now if anyone has a suggestion for "the witching hour" at the end of the day (right around dinner time), when she's tired and cranky, and everything is a big deal... I'm happy for you to share what's worked for you too!


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