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Time to learn some new parenting skills.

Bun Bun becomes more interactive and clever with each passing day. I’ve always found her fascinating and charming, and been royally entertained by watching her mind develop, but the more I see of it, the more I’m in love with the way it works.

Her latest trick is to bring me books so I can read them to her, which comes at a convenient time, since I’m not a fan of getting up these days. And even though I’m also not a fan of reading Tickle Tickle a hundred times in a row, I just use my Death Metal Voice to make it more bearable.

This morning, however, I discovered that the book-bringing habit interacts poorly with her habit of hanging out next to the bathtub while I shower. A Dr. Seuss book narrowly avoided a watery death. I snatched it out of her hands. I not-quite-shouted NO! NO BOOKS IN THE BATHTUB! My face was angry. I think she might have been scared, but she was certainly upset. She cried. Whatever, sometimes she has to cry while other things are happening. Life’s like that. But then she cried MORE. She became hysterical, sobbing and holding out her arms to me. I scooped her up and cuddled her, and cuddled her for about 15 (rather damp) minutes before she’d allow herself to be put down. She did that hiccupy sobbing thing, the one that says ever so clearly, you have totally fucked up here, Mama. LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO ME.

Okay, so I wasn’t expecting the book thing–it took me by surprise. And Mr. Bunny kept me up all night with his tossing and turning and snoring, so I was running on fumes and it was only 8 am. Not at my best, parenting-wise. But the main issue is that I haven’t figured out what to do about teaching her limits and boundaries and whatever the fuck. Discipline doesn’t seem like the right word when she understands so little.

I had the impression that I could just tell her things were a no go. Firmly, perhaps with a certain tone of voice and a certain severe expression, and she’d learn what it meant. My father had a Terrible Countenance that he’d pull out which was veeeeery effective. I’ve been trying this with other tedious habits of hers, like taking off her diaper. It seems to have zero effect. Redirection is the only thing that works. Because what I did this morning…that did not work.

I know there are oceans of ink spilt on this subject, but YOU know that I’m not going to read them. They will only confuse and upset me. But I feel a bit adrift. I’ve been a real short-fused bitch these days, and Bun Bun is not getting the sweet, patient mama she so deserves. I feel like I need a PLAN. Like the one we have for meals–it does the trick. Though I am still disappointed when she won’t touch something delicious I set before her, I’m learning to take it less personally as time passes, because there’s some logic to our behavior. I need some overarching scheme that will help me deal with all the questions that are suddenly coming hard and fast, like:

How do you transition between meeting a child’s every need and, you know, NOT?

How do I let her get frustrated and upset and figure it out for herself? How the hell do you teach patience?

What the fuck is the timeline for all this shit? What can I expect her to understand at 13 months, when will she be ready for more, what do I do now to set things up for the future?

How do I adjust to the fact that my sweet child is now WHINY and a PAIN IN THE ASS? (You know, sometimes.) How do I come to terms with the reality that my baby is not going to be that one baby in the world that needs no attention at all in this area? I must admit, that last one is a bit of a shock.

So…what do you remember from your parents’ approach? Was it good, was it bad? What have you seen that you will emulate? If you’re in the thick of it, what have you learned?

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Marie #

    My suggestion is to read the book 123 Magic. It is very short! Really! Our oldest is nearly four, and he has recently discovered how enjoyable it is – and how much power he holds – to be able to make his parents very upset. As you say, I never thought that my beautiful baby would ever get to this point.

    The 123Magic approach basically says stop trying to treat the youngun like a little adult. Don’t really even try to explain anything to them about the behavior – just make it clear it is not acceptable and move on. The 123Magic book also says that when parents get angry, they themselves are having their own version of a temper tantrum, something that was difficult for me to accept as well.

    Our second one is 17 months, BTW, and I’m trying these tactics in my mind already with him. He doesn’t understand much besides he can do something and so he will – just make it clear it is not acceptable and move on.

    June 25, 2012
    • Jenny F. Scientist, PhD #

      This is the only parenting book that didn’t make my eyes bleed. Except for the part about not apologizing; I grew up in the south. Insincere apologies are a staple.

      June 27, 2012
  2. Ugh, I am not looking forward to this stage. Without having been there yet, I’m hoping to employ “the pause” that is talked about so much in “Bringing Up Bebe.” We shall see though. Easier said than done to say a firm “wait” and have a 13 month old understand. Eek! Good luck!

    June 25, 2012
  3. I am so sorry you have reached this stage now. But just so that you know, there is never a good time to reach this whingy, tantrumy, unreasonable stage. George has only just recently started to understand things and observe the limits we impose. Like no digging in the flower beds. I am amazed every time I see him walking past them, shovel in hand, and he does not even attempt to see what I say anymore. Magic…
    The only thing I can say about this is to be persistent. It will take some good months out of your life (and hair colour) to keep on saying stuff that is basically ignored with a grin or a wail. You will lose control and it won’t necessarily be your fault, because you are human after all. But just know that there IS an end to this, and BunBun WILL learn the limits and she will start cooperating and she will be a delight again. It might even take less than you think.
    Keep on repeating what she can and cannot do, if you can on an even tone (it helps. Yelling never helps.) if you see screaming/wailing/tantrum coming up, try to ignore it and launch yourself in very elaborate explanations, as if you were talking with an adult, about the merits of having a baby gate on top of the stairs, for example. (I am always better at talking normally than baby-talking, and this is what I do with George, and it seems to be working). It will take loads of times and you will wake up saying stuff without being aware you are NOT talking to BunBun, but you will see results in the end.
    The thing is that children start understanding things way earlier than I personally expected. This does not mean they will listen to you, but they will eventually. This is why they say repetitio mater studiorum.
    Good luck!

    June 25, 2012
  4. Ana #

    Yes, this period of time—-from sweet & happy infant 24/7 to this pre-toddler amalgamation of 50% sweetness & light, 50% terror demon—-was so hard for me. This just reminded me that my snuggly smile-y littlest one is also going to transform. Honestly, redirection & distraction distraction distraction are the only things that reliably work in our house. You can also try “consequences” at this age (i.e. tell her several times that books don’t belong in the bath. then the next time she does it, book gets put up on a high shelf for the rest of the day. there will be tears, and you’ll probably have to do if 50 times until she gets it, though. Wait til you get to toy-throwing. Ugh. We had 20 toys precariously confiscated on top of the fridge each day!

    June 25, 2012
  5. I found 13-15 months to be extremely challenging. the whining!! dear god the WHINING! It was very frustrating because suddenly they have opinions and know what they want but cannot express themselves. I’ve found that around 15 months they got much better, started shaking their heads and giving other cues that help me understand what they want. I think sometimes you have to just listen to them whine…eventually they will find something else to amuse them or just move on. It just may involve you leaving the room for a minute or ear plugs 🙂

    June 25, 2012
  6. I got nothin’. Except that, much as it goes against my grain to do so, pointedly ignoring a behavior often gets it to stop around here a whole lot faster than my saying no does.

    Where I get into trouble is with the unignorable ones — the things the Bean isn’t allowed to do because they are dangerous. I’ve done as much as I can in this tiny space to minimize the necessary noes, but he learns to climb a new dangerous thing every day, it seems. Perhaps I should just sell all our furniture and buy some nice rugs….

    Perhaps more useful: at around bunbun’s age (I think?), we had our first big set of power struggles over dangerous climbing, in this case going from the bed or sofa (both of which he learned to get up on alone at around that age) to the windowsill. Rather than only saying no, we say “two feet down,” which serves the joint purpose of giving him something to do with his body (rather than just something not to do, which is a more complicated idea) and making me feel like my syntax board has been fried. Anyway, it did work. For a few days, he would start to climb, I would tell him not to, move his feet, etc., and he would laugh and do it anyway. Then I would take him away and close the door to the room in question and be uncaring while he SCREAMED in anger. Rinse, repeat. But after a couple of days, it worked.

    Now we are going through the same thing about standing on the dining room chairs. We are stuck in the laughter stage. I am shopping for rugs.

    June 25, 2012
  7. Jen #

    I got nothing. My patience is so non-existent these days I can’t see straight. And apparently, as you learned, nearly-yelling no, no, no don’t _____ is ineffective. And I was accused by my husband this morning of having a bad attitude in addition to no patience, because running on no sleep (thanks, pregnancy insomnia) and then getting up with a whiny toddler at 5am is supposed to produce joy and festivity (?). So, to recap: I got nothing. I hope others can help us all.

    June 25, 2012
  8. I dunno but we are pretty much not getting it done over here with our almost 17 month old. Who, while I am in the shower, likes to reach in and turn the water to skin-scalding hot despite being told about 100 times not to touch the handle. You might also ask, “Where is his father while you are in the shower?” and that would be a very, very good question.

    June 25, 2012
  9. Can I just say that I am always so impressed that other people manage to get showers while their children are awake? Seriously… I still haven’t got that one worked out.

    Regarding Bun Bun… firstly, you’re looking at long term (as in weeks to months) rather than short term solutions. Be patient.

    Around thirteen months, for both my children, was the age where they began to surprise me with this sudden ability to follow simple directions, and I do think there is a leap in comprehension here–which comes with an enthusiasm for doing things, because they’re so pleased they understand what you want them to do.

    So it’s also a good time to start on what I think of as stock phrases. Like “good place” as in “This is *not* a good place for a book.” And before you do read to her: “This is a good place for a book.” Similarly, “time”: “It is not time for reading; it is time for washing.”

    Basically, you’re using multi-purpose phrases, so you can say the same, familiar words in different situations throughout the day. ‘Control’ (your body, your temper, your fork) and ‘fix’ (anything that has fallen over or got scrunched up) are also good ones.

    As I said, this isn’t a miracle short-term solution: think of it as laying the foundation for her toddlerhood. I’ve been saying my own set of phrases for over two years now, to the point that they’re automatic now (and I’m pretty sure they’ll haunt my children’s dreams when they’re teenagers…), but I do find it helps!

    The other thing I recommend is a zero tolerance approach. I know it sounds weird and counter-intuitive (I still struggle on doing it with my daughter), but it’s actually about being consistent. If Bun Bun does something she shouldn’t, the consequence should happen promptly, and it should be the same each time she does it. It’s teaching cause and effect, and also the order of her world. Delay and hesitation will only confuse her or teach her that sometimes she can get away with it, so it’s worth a try! Even with zero tolerance, she’ll probably repeat the misdemeanour to confirm that the same thing happens each time, but that’s just science for you…

    Please note consequence rather than punishment. Stay calm and don’t make it personal. I do a lot of removing. Remove the toddler from the room, saying: “Come back when you are ready to listen…” (I rarely do time limits). Remove the object that’s being misused “That’s not how you use the book.” Follow up with demonstration of how to use it. Remove myself when I’m getting far too snappy for anybody’s good… OK, that’s not a standard consequence, but it does happen sometimes!

    And of course, as a few people said above: distraction and redirection can work wonders!

    June 25, 2012
  10. PS Forgot to say that there will always be situations where you can’t think of ways to stop her doing what she’s doing wrong. That’s just life.

    June 25, 2012
  11. I know what you do. You come up with a catchy, clever somewhat insulting name – like Toddlerina – to remind yourself that Her Royal Highness will run the show no matter what you do.

    Hurry. Read it.

    June 25, 2012
    • I’ve read it before. I like it a lot. It’s so true, and some of those early kairos moments are still with me…

      June 28, 2012
  12. Dude I don’t know shit… me too!!!! LOL all I know is we are all learning by fire on this front….hilarious that we are posting about similar mental states though.

    June 25, 2012
  13. It’s been a while since I’ve had a kid that age…but as I recall, they have NO logic skills, no impulse control, no awareness of consequences. Therefore, redirect is all you can do.

    June 25, 2012
  14. Rhianna #

    I sometimes think that putting a terrorist in a room with my whining toddler would be more effective at making him spill secrets than any other kind of legit interogation technique out there. It’s that fucking INSANE.

    I hate to say this, because it doesn’t feel very productive or helpful, but it’s all purely developmental. A time of really big emotions and very little communication skills. You just have to weather this, man. All you can do, like Mina said, is be gently persistent. And sometimes a little creative. “No” is a really limiting/not informative thing for a toddler to hear. There’s nowhere to go from “no,” if that makes sense. Redirect, redirect, redirect. Tell her what she CAN do. Take her over and engage her in what she CAN do.

    June 26, 2012
  15. Rhianna #

    Ooops, wasn’t done. I know you’re not necessarily interested in books, but one book I have found insightful (and age appropriate and really simple in its messages) is 1-2-3…The Toddler Years by the Santa Cruz Toddler Care Center and Irene Van Der Zande. It’s a fast read and won’t make you feel like shit.

    P.S. BunBun is clearly brilliant and advanced, but I think she may be a biiiit too young for 123Magic. I had friends with an 18mo who tried to take a class with a 123Magic instructor, and they were turned away because, developmentally, an 18mo is not cognitively ready for that technique.

    P.P.S. We all have less-than moments in parenting of which we’re not very proud. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are a good mama, no question. You’re doing your level best, woman.

    June 26, 2012
    • Marie #

      Oooh – I didn’t know there was a toddler version for 123Magic – I was modifying for toddlers in my own mind. Thanks, Rhianna!

      June 26, 2012
  16. No advice to give. But I have been taking notes:)

    And, oh, the hiccupy sob:( There’s something evolutionary in that. Nothing makes me move more quickly.

    June 26, 2012
  17. SRB #

    I can offer is solidarity, man. The best I can do right now is say “No, don’t do X. Do Y!” or “HGB, Mummy is doing X for you now – you have to wait.” These have varying degrees of success.

    Girl power?

    June 27, 2012
  18. Jenny F. Scientist, PhD #

    We tried very short explanations at that age: “Not safe.” “That hurts.” “Gentle.” (Accompanied by about 300 rounds of holding the child’s hand while he *gently* petted the dog. But he’s very good with animals now.)

    My opinion is that they don’t need to understand the reasoning, but they do need to know where the limit is. “Not safe” means “never in a million years am I going to let you do that”.

    (My friend once saw a mother with a fit-throwing-toddler stop in the MIDDLE of a busy street to explain patiently why it was not a good plan. Sorry, people: that’s the time to grab the kid by the arm and drag her across the rest of the street, and THEN explain, no matter your philosophy on respect and communication. Not. Safe.)

    Also, as my mother says, small children have never met a limit they don’t want to push on.

    June 27, 2012
    • I like that general program a lot. But what about “really annoying”, as in “when you try to paddle about in the toilet while I’m trying to rinse your shitty diaper, it’s really annoying”? SIGH.

      June 27, 2012
      • Jenny F. Scientist, PhD #

        “Stop OR ELSE”? “Here, play in the tub.” Heh.

        June 29, 2012

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