I have just returned from a weekend in beautiful Jersey with family and we were lucky to hit it at its best. Blue skies, clear sea and wonderful sunny beaches to spend lazy family days. Mummy B even tried her hand at surfing – something I haven’t done since I first became pregnant with Big D over 4 years ago!
Travel, even the quick hop over to Jersey, is a real test of how a family pulls together and how well the little ones behave. What struck me over the weekend, whether it was her volunteering to help push the wheelie bag or not straying out of sight on the beach, was that my darling threenager, Big D, has finally decided that she wants to be a little helper and do what she’s asked.
While Big D has never been naughty by nature, this sea change in behaviour has still taken me totally by surprise. I have no idea whether we’re through the worst of the emotional mogul-field that has been something of a way of life for the past 18 months – since my little cherub started flexing her wonderful personality, or whether the next stage will suddenly jump out of a box and give us a surprise? Please enlighten me so I can prepare myself?!
When Big D was just a twinkle in our eyes, Daddy B and I discussed how we saw ourselves as parents and how we would seek to bring up the girls. We were I guess lucky to find that we were on the same parenting page. We try our best to be firm but fair and to reward the smallest scintilla of good behaviour with a generous dollop of positive reinforcement – with lots of fun to top it off.
Big D’s a little wonder – polite, confident, inquisitive and just cool. Boy, is she cool – and we can’t claim credit as I was never that cool at her age! So as we journeyed back from the airport this morning I was trying to think through the little things we’ve done that worked well in crafting this little cutie, so that we can try and do the same with Little D.
Now there’s nothing new in this list – and I’m conscious that my own mummy used most of these tools on me when I was little girl. I also know that I don’t have all the answers (I’m just a bumbling mummy finding my way), but I thought I’d share my tips with you.
Mummy B’s top Taming Tips
1. Be a team – Decide what kind of parents you want to be and think about establishing some rules of engagement – there’s nothing easier for two/three year olds to do than manipulate their parents and play them off each other. This is a slippery slope.
2. Use Distraction – When these little people are so little and havn’t the emotional capability to understand right and wrong, don’t expect them to understand what you’re asking of them. Instead of getting angry or stressed, or attempting to explain in detail why what they’re doing is wrong, it’s often simpler and easier to divert their attention to something entirely different. More often than not it’s your attention they’re wanting in the first place!
3. Counting down – When Big D’s about to do something which is likely to end in trouble, I found that counting down (5 – 1) gives her the time to process what she’s doing and a prompt to ask whether indeed she really wants to. More often than not, by the time I get to 1 she’s changed her mind. Young children are impulsive, and the simple process of counting down buys time and takes the heat out of the situation, giving her the time to come to her own decision about whether to proceed.
4. Don’t use empty threats – I soon realised that threatening not to go on a playdate with her friend was a bad idea as I was never going to follow it through with it. So I had to find something that I was comfortable using. I chose to use the confiscation method. Big D knows that it’s serious when her Snow White dress is hung in my wardrobe and has to be earned back with good behaviour.
5. Prevention is better than cure – If we are going to put Big D in a situation where we are going to expect a certain level of behaviour (flights, meals in restaurants etc.) we chat to her beforehand and ask her to be on her best behaviour so that she’s prepared. Generally this works, and she’s beginning to understand that these wonderful experiences are even more fun (for everyone!) when she’s well behaved!
So these are my top 5 tips for taming the twos and threes. I am sure there are many, many more and do please post me your suggestions – they’d be gratefully received!
Love Mummy B