Friday, January 15, 2010

Alternative Parenting

Chocolate or Vanilla? If only all of life's decisions where that easy. Upside only! I'll take a lifetime of that please. :) Here, I'm talking about how to teach Miss M to make decisions though. If ice cream was our only decision, we'd have one happy girl.

Lately, Miss M has become the dream child (I'm cursing myself, I know). She's always been affectionate and sweet, but recently she's become totally compliant and agreeable with very few tantrums. For a three year old, that's a rarity.

Now, she wasn't bad prior to the last few months, but there were more tantrums and stand offs (see my post Fun or Discipline from just last month). I hadn't really thought about what brought this about I read a post by Danielle on Mid Life Mommy yesterday called Could I Have Created This Monster? (Hope you don't mind me linking you here Danielle). What in Miss M changed over the last few months to make her so much more easy to deal with? Surprisingly, besides ever improving language skills, nothing. What changed was my approach.

We had been getting into tests of wills for a while and I was getting frustrated. One day out of the blue, I realized that maybe she felt that I was being inflexible in how I approached things (not that I've EVER been accused of that before :) As single parents, we have the dilemma of how to allow our little ones to enjoy themselves while still taking care of things around the house (feeding, cleaning, shopping, etc.). The more behind I felt I was getting in accomplishing the needed tasks, the more frustrated I got and it showed. I have my way of doing things and while it works for me, I suddenly realized that maybe it didn't work for her.

When she was less than a year old, I bought and read the book Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child : Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries by Robert J. MacKenzie Ed.D. At the time, I wasn't having any problems with Miss M, but given her headstrong parents, I figured it was just a matter of time. I honestly don't remember much about the book except for one thing: strong willed children often get into conflict with their parents because they don't feel they are given a choice in deciding their fate. Hmmm...there's a concept. Miraculously, after a conflict with Miss M over something (I forget what), this idea popped into my head: What if I give her a choice of two things she can do, eat, wear, etc that are acceptable to me and accomplish what I need done so that she feels empowered and not backed into a corner? I'm sure a lot of you are thinking "Duh you bonehead! Who doesn't like to be empowered?" Well, in the heat of the moment, it never occured to me.

I started doing this and miraculously, Miss M and I have had very few stand offs since. I limit her choices to two so as not to make it too complicated but the results have been incredible! For example, the other morning we were getting ready for school. That's a tough one, right? I have to get to work on time, she needs to get there on time, we both need to get dressed, eat, straighten up from the morning's play, the clock is ticking and I need coffee BAD. A lot to do in an hour with a three year old, yes? She wasn't too motivated to eat which is only a recipe for disaster later because wow does she get grumpy if she's hungry. Instead of trying to coax her to eat (to no avail) like I had a few months prior, I gave her a choice: "M, right now Daddy needs you to either eat breakfast or to come over here and clean up your toys. Which one would you like to do?" Quick answer and a no brainer: "I eat!" So, while she ate, I was able to clean up the toys, eat my own breakfast and down a couple espressos. And like magic, we were 10 minutes early to school.

Greated, it doesn't work every time, but luckily for me, it does most times and I now feel like I have a little house partner. It really has done a lot for our relationship. So, tonight we'll watch one of two movies (her choice) and tomorrow we'll decide which of our friends we want to play with. We...what a cute concept. :)

Have a great weekend everyone.

17 comments:

This Daddy said...

Isn't it great that we can all learn from one another. I need all the help I can get

jenn said...

I read that choices are important also. But I have to admit that sometimes I get rushed and forget. I need to work on this because I know it makes a big difference.

mommasunshine said...

I learned early on that giving my girls choices can really help with keeping situations calm. Good news - it still works with my six (almost 7)year old much of the time. Such a great parenting tool. :)

Senorita said...

It is simple, my choice is chocolate !

You say she's a dream now, but I have a feeling you will be pulling your hair out when she blossoms into a teen and all the boys lurk around your house like sharks.

Big City Dad said...

No boys allowed Senorita!!! :)

Trust me, I know at that point all bets are off. Ugh.

ShellSpann said...

This is crucial in my household. I have strong willed kids for sure....and they are incredibly independent. If I don't offer choices, we have meltdowns that make me want to get back in bed and call it a day.

BigLittleWolf said...

This is really impressive. Wish I had thought of this years ago. (In another year it can be "eat, clean up toys, or bring me an espresso, please...")

Amanda said...

Oh you make it sound so easy!

I too, forget to give my extremely strong willed girls choices but it makes life so much better doesn't it?

Must remember, must remember...

Nicki said...

You're building great habits now that will always work. Somehow, that's the kind of lifestyle we've managed to maintain in our house. It's amazing how much sweeter life is with everyone happy and comfortable together.

Enjoy!

Travis said...

works all through the rest of our lives. The choices change and grow, but when we have to analyze a half-billion choices, we tend to melt down.

Unless you've practiced the art of juggling many options, it's best to always provide two choices. While teaching them to study the options and see if there is maybe a third choice that they could offer up. This is when it can be a great growing moment. You then realize that they are learning to make more complex choices.

I still do this, and recently I noted one of my kids saying.... "Or... we could do this!" and I felt so proud.

Danielle said...

Thanks! By the way, I do giver her a choices, which may be my problem on one thing. She wants to run around naked and with her not being potty trained I get nervous. So I say, big girl panties ot diapers. Guess which one she always picks. :) Maybe I should rethink that one. :)

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

LOL... I actually studied Marriage Child and Human Development. It's one of the first things they tell you about children.

So I was lucky.

But you are right. Works like a charm doesn't it?

Or I got really lucky with my kids' personalities.

But like you said. Sometimes we come to a bump in the road but most...

the choices thing works :)

Martinis or Diaper Genies? said...

I need to know this stuff. Thank you for preparing me like I feel supernany also does.

MindyMom said...

Nice going! It IS great when the parenting logic actually works, isn't it? Unfortunately it's not fool-proof and girls are REALLY smart too; they learn quickly so enjoy the options method while it lasts! ;)

T + 2 said...

I love this post! My 7 year old reminds me on a pretty regular basis that "kids should get to make up their own minds"...something I tend to forget.

T said...

Beautiful. They teach us so much about relationships, don't they?

happygal said...

I just stumbled across your blog, but had to comment. This is a great post. So well said!

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