April Moments

Maybe, just maybe, telling the story is just as important as the story itself

Gotta get away

As a mom who also works full time, I tend to be stingy with every hour I spend with Elliot.

I dread the rare evening meeting for work, and I often feel guilty when I leave Elliot in the church nursery on Sunday mornings. I already work eight hours a day – eight hours he gets to spend with the staff at day care. I hate missing any more time with him.

Recently, however, Elliot’s behavior has actually made me want to be away from him. He is 2 years, 5 months old, and the first time this feeling happened was a couple weeks ago on a day when I had a complete meltdown – adult style, not a toddler tantrum, I might add.

Here’s an example of the kind of conversation that makes me nearly lose my mind:

Elliot (upon seeing a banana on the counter): “I want a banana!”

Me: “Say, ‘Please.’”

Elliot: “Nooooo! I want a banana!”

Me: “You may have it if you say, ‘Please.’”

Elliot (throwing himself on the floor, crying): “I want a banana!” He screams it this time.

I ignore him. A few seconds pass.

Elliot (speaking softly, wiping away tears and sniffling): “I want a banana, pwease.”

I peel it and hand it to him.

Elliot: “No, I don’t want that banana!” He throws it on the floor.

Me: “Go sit in the corner. Throwing things is bad!”

Elliot: “No, I don’t want to sit in the corner!”

Me (raising my voice, which I do too often, by the way): “Too bad. Go sit in the corner.”

He doesn’t move. I pick him up, carry him to the time-out corner and sit his butt down.

Me: “Two minutes. Don’t move.” I walk away and look at the clock, but I can still see him with my peripheral vision.

After about 30 seconds, he starts kicking his feet against the floor, an action I ignore because his butt is still in the corner. But, then, he starts scooting away from the corner. I put him back and remind him he’s not allowed to move. We do this dance probably four more times before the time-out session is over, at which point Elliot just thinks the whole situation is funny, making my attempts at discipline completely ineffective.

I should add that this type of scenario usually occurs several times per day. I could handle one of these episodes, even two or three, but the constant banter is too much.

I’m sure every parent of a 2-year-old has dealt with similar struggles. Many parents have offered encouraging words. One insightfully said of toddlers, “They have the perfect way of making you feel stupid, guilty and frustrated all at the same time.” So true!

Pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown, co-author of “Toddler 411,” compares disciplining a toddler to equine training. “It’s our job as parents to TEACH our children social skills and self-discipline, while preserving self-esteem. Yes, it is akin to breaking a wild horse. But you won’t break your child’s spirit if you do it correctly.

“This phase in your child’s life can be very challenging,” Brown adds. “His job is to try to be independent. Your job is to set limits on his behaviors. As you might guess, those two occupations are in direct conflict.”

No wonder it’s so hard!

One of my friends uses a positive reinforcement sticker chart as her discipline method, but Brown suggests using the sticker chart for no longer than four weeks because it loses its effectiveness. This same friend also has an uncanny ability to use humor to deter her daughter’s unwanted behaviors. I seem to be lacking in this area.

OK, so I definitely need to lighten up and laugh more. I think I also need a new discipline strategy, as I am striking out with the time-out method.

And, whenever I feel as if I can’t handle any more toddler tantrums, I try to remind myself that before I know it, Elliot will be a teenager, and I will long for the days when he was 2. Besides, by the time he is in the teen years, the “Terrible Twos” will seem like a day at the beach (or, maybe a day at the zoo would be more fitting).

Originally published on ovparent.com.

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