Squeaky Wheel Doesn’t Get the Grease
“Hang on, Baby!” I pleaded anxiously. “I need to help your sister.” Why I was negotiating with a newborn was beyond reason, but as it turns out, I was completely and totally whipped. My big girl had conditioned me to give her what she wanted, when she wanted it, or suffer an epic tantrum. Was it critically necessary for her to have the big box of blocks right now? Of course not! The fickle whims of a toddler are not the same as the needs of a newborn. Diaper blowouts should always trump toy schlepping! What I needed to say at that moment in time – but didn’t know it – was “Please wait.”
I kicked myself, then started to think of how not to shortchange the newest member of our family. How could everyone (including me) get what they need and be happy? How would I manage two kids under two, when one is extremely spirited and vocal? While I’m still figuring out this thing called parenting, here are some simple tricks that are helping us:
Do not reward a child who screams or demands something. My day home provider would always give the children a minute, then say “We don’t talk like that. Could you please talk nicely?” Instantly, the screams of “Juice!! Juice! I want juice!!” became “May I have some juice, please?”
Encourage patience (delayed gratification)
It’s okay to tell your children to wait. I prefer to say “Please wait” over “Not right now”, as my spirited child gets argumentative when I present a negative answer. I think teaching delayed gratification is harder for the parents than the kids as we want to do our best by them, but ultimately, letting them figure things out on their own makes them more resourceful and independent.
Every day after school, we talk about favorite things or things that made us smile today. I feel that this has helped my kids be thankful for the important things in life, and not be sucked into wanting the latest games or toys. Two years in a row, they haven’t asked Santa for anything more than a candy cane!
This one is so hard for me, but when my kids act up and I get visibly upset, the situation rapidly escalates. I used to tell my husband, “Don’t negotiate with terrorists.” Let tantruming kids settle down in a safe place and give yourself a timeout if need be. Keep checking on them every couple of minutes until they can speak coherently, then take them to a neutral area (living room or kitchen), and have a chat about what happened without being angry.
Something about getting outside, preferably somewhere green, is soothing to children and adults alike. When we go for a walk, there are no things or boundaries (my room!) to fight over. Breathing becomes deep and calm, and causes of anger are soon forgotten. The bonus is that the kids sleep better, and wake up less cranky when they are physically active!
To sum it up, if you don’t grease the squeaky wheel, your spirited child will be better off in the long run, and the rest of your family will benefit too.
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This post was written by Karen Ung exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.