James officially entered the terrible twos at 18 months, probably more like 15 months if I’m going to be totally honest. He’s such a sweet, curious, smart and spirited boy, but he’s also stubborn, strong willed and short tempered with boundless energy and a penchant for finding whatever will kill him and trying to play with it/climb it/touch it/whatever. I’m told this is true of most toddlers, but I often feel ours is particularly active and mischievous, though maybe that’s how most moms feel or we just happen to know people with unusually chill toddlers. Recently, the tantrums have become more frequent, and they often happen with me, not our nanny, which makes them all the more frustrating and in many ways, hurtful. I know they’re for my attention, I get him at his crankiest (before bed) and I probably don’t witness half the shit she has to deal with, but as you know, I am still working through working mom guilt and feeling like our wonderful nanny is much better with him than me. I’ve been reading a ton of parenting books to help me figure out this trying (to say the least) stage, and my first is The Happiest Toddler on the Block.
I’m going to test out his whole method because honestly it sounds a little ridiculous and too good to be true, although there are underlying assumptions to it (showing your child respect etc) and I take offense at the fact that it’s very gender normative (everything is pretty much directed at mom, when I’d like to think we’re st a point now where we expect both parents to be involved in raising the child and acknowledge many families look different but I digress…).
One thing that really struck me so far (I’m only 3/4 through) is the idea of putting in the time. Your child is much more likely to behave if you give them plenty of attention, let them have regular victories to build their confidence (like getting to choose between two lunch options or win a game), notice and praise their good behavior (like when they play by themselves for a total of two minutes). I realized that I don’t do this nearly enough.
When I get home, I’m often still on my phone fielding additional emails because like many working moms I l she the office a bit earlier to get home to relieve our nanny but my job is 24/7 and then getting the daily download from the nanny, focusing on cleaning and starting James’ bedtime routine or dinner, or running out to walk the dog before our nanny leaves. What James really wants though is for his mom to play with him and give him her undivided attention and make him feel like the most special boy in the world even just for a few minutes. So I’ve been making a concerted effort to put my phone away before I walk in the door and get down on the floor and play with James (after I smother him in hugs and kisses of course). After we play for 10-15 minutes, I’ll involve him in whatever needs to happen next — dinner prep, dog walking, bathtime, cleanup, whatever. Sure it takes longer and I’m exhausted and waning on patience, not to mention ready usually hungry and not in the mood to clean up the mess, but I find a few minutes into it, I’m smiling and having fun enjoying my son and the mess or extra time is so much better than the screaming and tantrums.
The authors of the book says that putting in this time is the foundation of a good relationship with your kids in the future and I hope that to be true. Maybe we (I) make it all so complicated when a big part of it is just spending quality time with your kids and giving them the attention they crave from you.
I’m no parenting expert (I mean, I’m jealous of my nanny… clearly I have issues), but this advice has really helped me so far and at the least, made me think differently about parenting.