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July 10, 2010
Today's playdate is with Jen from Heligirl. I found Jen's blog a couple months ago through a blog party and was very interested in her Parenting Articles. She is a believer in Positive Discipline and I have already learned so much from her. I love reading her blog to get parenting tips, but also because she's pretty freaking funny and she is a great writer. She has two adorable kids that are 20 months apart, and are just a few months older than Rylie and Bryce. She is a helicopter pilot, a journalist and now an awesome mom. Check out her blog sometime and say hi. I have a feeling you will think she is pretty awesome too. I'm so excited to have her over to play today!
I just want to add a little "disclaimer" of sorts. The issue in the post you're about to read was discussed before the events that have happened at daycare in the past couple of weeks. It has nothing to do with the daycare center itself, just with how Rylie acts in a certain situation.
Howdy everyone. I’m so excited that LeeAnn invited me over for a Saturday playdate. Now all I have to do is remember not to act like my toddler. No hitting, biting, screaming, crying, stealing away toys, pushing or throwing myself on the floor and flailing about like some beached flounder on crack. As long as I remember the rules, I’ll be just fine.
Let me introduce myself. I’m Jen, a.k.a. Heligirl, a helicopter pilot turned domestic diva (totally tongue in cheek there). I’m the mom to an almost 3 year old girl (Sweetness) and a 1 year old boy (Mr. Man). On Heligirl I chatter away about the daily mom stuff, but take time to write weekly articles about something that is near and dear to my heart – positive discipline. I came across this parenting technique when my daughter was 1 and I enrolled her in a mommy and me co-op preschool. Positive discipline, also referred to as compassionate parenting, positive parenting, connecting parenting (among other things), focuses on treating kids with respect and dignity, taking the time to understand and respond to the underlying causes of misbehavior rather than using punishment. In the end, kids grow up capable, empowered, honest, caring and with a strong sense of self esteem (mighty handy when they’ll be bombarded with sex, drugs, drinking and the like as they get older). This is quite the opposite of how many of us were raised – punishment, guilt, disrespect and a lot of “because I said so.”
So when LeeAnn invited me over, she asked that I offer her some positive discipline insight on an issue she was having:
“When I go pick the kids up from daycare every day, I go through Rylie's room first and she is so happy to see me! That all changes the second we get into Bryce's room. She gets whiny and cranky. She wants me to hold her and when I tell her I can't because I have to hold her brother she gets nuts. She will sometimes throw herself down on the floor and throw a tantrum. It is so embarrassing. I feel bad for her too because then she is upset for the rest of the evening and it brings the rest of us down. Is there any way I can fix this, other than going through the back door and getting Bryce first?”
I so relate to this in a slightly different way. When I go to pick up Sweetness from daycare the two days a week she attends, I hear nothing but “she is such a good girl, she never cries, she is so good with everyone.” Sometimes I wonder if they’re accidentally telling me about someone else’s daughter. I say this because without fail, those two evenings are by far the worst in the whole week. There are no less than four massive melt downs (refer to aforementioned flounder on crack) each night and lots of power struggles.
One night I was desperately reading one of my positive discipline parenting books when suddenly I realized what was happening. Sweetness was holding in all of her hurts and letdowns throughout the day. I don’t mean anyone actually hurt her during the day. They’re her own perceived hurts. Perhaps she didn’t get a turn on the swing she wanted, or she didn’t get more grapes at lunch, or one of the kids took away the car she was playing with, whatever it may be. These things build up, like drops of water filling a cup. She doesn’t feel safe and comfortable letting out her anger and disappointment at daycare so she waits. And when mommy shows up, she’s now feeling such relief and can let it all out. Her cup of hurts overflows. It sounds like that may be what Rylie is going through in addition to her just wanting to connect with you after a day away.
To offset this cup of hurts, if you will, I recommend taking a little time to connect with Rylie when you arrive. She needs that connection to make the transition. Get down on to her level (sitting down or kneeling down) and give her hugs, look her in the eye and ask about her day. If she has an art project or something to show you, look at it there with her and let her explain it. Just a few minutes will go a long way. Then explain you’ll go together to get Bryce (you might even suggest you need her help getting him). If she starts to sniffle, ask her what she wants to do just with you when she gets home. After a few days of this new routine, she’ll learn that even though she has to start sharing you with Bryce soon after you arrive, as soon as you get home, you’re hers again for a bit.
When you get home, take time with her again. Get down at her level. I usually sit on the floor with her. Ask her about her day. What was her favorite part? What was her least favorite? Get her to possibly share what might have let her down. Show empathy and help give her words for her feelings “it sounds like you were excited about the slide,” “wow, it really made you mad when Johnny took the car,” etc. Whatever her language level, she’ll get the hang of sharing with you on this level in time. The most important thing is you’re doing something together. You’re giving her your undivided attention, and it must be undivided (no Bryce). If you’re short on time and need to get dinner started, pull up a chair or step stool and invite her to “help” you make dinner. I pull out a metal bowl, put a little water in it and give Sweetness a whisk. She has a blast telling me about what she’s making. She’ll even pretend to dump in a few spices (I’ll give her a few after making sure the tops are screwed on really tight.)
As Bryce gets older, you’ll need to make social time with him right away too, but for now, focus on Rylie. As she gets older she’ll come to get a better handle on her emotions and be more patient about the fact that you need to have time with her brother too. But make no mistake. To help our kids behave and avoid bad behavior aimed at getting our attention, we must take time out each day for each of them. Just as their little cups can fill with hurts until they overflow, you can also fill them with positive attention that helps them feel secure the whole day through.
I’m able to spend time with Sweetness right away after we get home by putting Mr. Man in his high chair with some Cheerios, which entertains him very well as long as he can see us. Then I get down on the floor and talk and play with Sweetness. We’ll talk about or play whatever she wants. In about 10-15 minutes, she’s usually ready to do her own thing happily, then I can attend to Mr. Man and getting dinner together without tantrums. When Hubby is home, all the better. He also makes a point of greeting her and doing something with her right away to reconnect.
At the root of this is children need to feel secure and connected. When their needs are not being met, they’re trying to tell us through what we perceive as bad behavior. A child acting out actually needs more of your positive attention. Find ways to slow down and provide that positive attention and you’ll soon see a change in behavior. They simply miss you and want to reconnect. Getting home, dinner and errands can wait a few minutes while you reconnect. The time you take pays off in spades when you can enjoy the rest of your evening together without tantrums.
To learn more about Jen or positive discipline, hop on over to Heligirl.
I have to tell you all that she was right on. I have started to implement Jen's suggestions and I am already seeing a difference in Rylie's behavior. Thank you so much Jen! You have helped make our evenings so much better around here.