Wednesday, November 4, 2009

War and Peace

(... so titled because this post is really long...)

I feel like I should rename this blog "Pretty Viruses" or "Infectious Babies" or something with all the H1N1 talk. But I had to share this article about research from Purdue University with you, which suggests that the H1N1 pandemic has already peaked.

I'm not going to tempt fate by saying "neener neener."

Meanwhile, Claire is sick. She's got a fever, a slightly runny nose, and a cough. The cough has made her hoarse, so she sounds like Kathleen Turner, which is really funny coming out of a 2 year old. Her fever topped out at about 102, so I don't think it's anything more serious than a cold. I've kept her home from "school" (which is actually the Mommy's time out program at the church where MG goes to school, but Claire thinks it's school) and all our activities have come to a screeching halt. I did get eight loads of laundry put away yesterday, though, so that was kind of awesome (once it was done).

A couple of you asked questions instead of just leaving one word in your comments on this post.

ChicagoGoebel wrote:
BTW - Any more toddler discipline nuggets of wisdom to share? We JUST started time-outs last weekend due to a rash of braining his cousins with wooden toys (sigh). I've been thinking a lot about a comment I heard "most people forget that the word discipline truly means to create a disciple," so I'm trying to approach discipline in a teaching/leading mindset, as opposed to punishment. Your thoughts??
...and I was all ready to write, "Dude, I gots nothin'..." because it has been neither peaceful nor easy around here lately, when I ran across something in the book NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children which I've been reading in between Mary Roach books. I'm going to paraphrase this, because I don't feel like typing it all out, but basically it said that if you tell a kid to stand still, they'll stand still for like a minute. But if you tell them that you're going to "play soldier" and that they need to stand still for as long as they can, they'll stay put for like ten minutes.

I tried it with MG, and she stood still for one minute, as predicted, when I just told her to stand still. She stood there for like 2 minutes and 30 seconds when I told her it was a game. I have a feeling that if I'd made her a princess or a ballerina instead of a soldier it would've worked better - she doesn't know or care about soldiers very much, because they don't wear much pink or tulle.

So I got to thinking about how we could use this as parents. The cleaning up game? The standing still in the parking lot so that you don't get hit by a Mack Truck game? I'm still working on it, but I think it's clear that making things a game, making them fun, is a powerful tool with children that we should exploit.

Plus, if you're constantly playing silly games, imagine how much more fun your house's atmosphere is going to be than if you're constantly barking orders, right? (Not that you are barking orders, CG, I'm using the universal "you.") I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that an atmosphere of play and fun is better for kids.

Also, get the book, 'cause it's good.

Along a similar vein, Anonymous writes:
Oh yea, btw, when are you going to post your comments on that article you put up about time outs meaning we don't love our children??
...which made me feel guilty because I promised you that over a month ago and I never followed up! If you'd made it a game I might've done better...

Basically, the article said, "Sure, time outs work, but if you use them your kid won't like you." My first reaction was, "Well, I didn't become a parent to be liked. I am trying to raise future adults, here, and if they don't like me sometimes, I think that means I'm doing something right! Pushovers aren't good parents! I don't want to be my kids' friend, I'm their mom!"

But then something really interesting happened. A couple weeks after I posted that article, Mary Grace started crying and saying, plaintively, "Mommy, do you still love me?" whenever I sent her to time out.

"Holy carp," I thought, "Did she read the article??"

It turns out that she thought we were going to sell her to Egypt... but it got me to thinking that I might be missing something. So, I went back and re-read the article I wrote back when I was smarter about Time Outs and how to do them right, and I realized something crucial.

I've been skipping a step.

I've been asking her, when it's over, "Why'd you get a time out?" but I've forgotten the part where you hug and say, "I love you, let's do something else."

I think maybe after four years of telling her, it's tempting to assume that she knows I love her. It's certainly faster to get back to whatever I'm doing if I yell, "Why'd you get a time out?" over my shoulder at her, but in order for Time Outs to be effective, you have to process the kid out correctly. In order to avoid the effects that article suggests are inevitable, I think we need to be mindful about how we're removing kids from time out, and to make sure that we're doing all the steps. Perhaps the most important one is where you hug the kid and say, "Hey, I love you, let's move forward now."

Now, CG, I'm not sure how you're going to make not hitting into a game ("Let's see if you guys can get along for 5 whole minutes... Ready? Go!"), but certainly make sure that you're doing time outs right. (I'll make all the mistakes so you don't have to!)

The hitting thing is usually frustration. Your kid is 18 months old or so, right? How's his language? Could it be that he's getting mad because he can't express himself? If so, know that it'll pass as he gets older and can speak English. Consider teaching him a few, basic signs for things that seem to annoy him (or you!) the most. Remember that his receptive language is better than his expressive language - he understands a lot more than he can say back to you. Explain to him why he's not allowed to hit. "No hitting, that hurts Cousin and Cousin won't want to play anymore!" might be effective things to say after the time out.

18 months is prime time for behavior problems, which is why I suggest starting time outs at the relatively-compliant age of 12 months! I remember feeling like my kids were possessed at that age. They're big enough to really hurt themselves (or others) but they have no common sense at all, and they want to be able to communicate but they don't quite have the motor skills, yet, to form the words. It's got to be hard on them, too! But I know it's hard on us. I remember clearly, thinking, "Oh my God, if it's this bad now, what are the 'terrible twos' going to be like??"

At least they know how to talk when they're two. Not that we always want to hear it, or that we always listen, but some of that frustration at being unable to communicate wanes as they get bigger and better at speaking.

18 months is kind of the border between baby and toddler, too. We start having greater expectations at that age. It's tough on everyone. And I had Claire when MG was 19 months old, so I don't remember much else about it, other than that it was really, really hard and I was really, really tired.

In other news, we finished all of our homework yesterday and made our turkey into a princess.

This is only half the finished product - BJ brought home glitter glue, and we made her sleeves purple glitter and her hat pink glitter and the towers' caps silver glitter and the flags blue glitter... Then, after the glitter dried overnight, MG colored in the sky and the towers and the turkey's head this morning. And of course I forgot to take a picture before she took it back to school this morning. I'll get one later once they post them at school.


RobMonroe said...

Good work on the homework! Go PrettyBabies!

Erin said...

laughed out loud at the "process the kid out" of a debrief! haha.

good point, though. i need to be better at giving a hug before debriefing timeout and starting something more constructive.

Mimi said...

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! the job's a game!!

Cate said...

The only way that I think Esther is going to grow up halfway adjusted is that every day and every night I tell her that I love her even when I'm mad or even when I yell or even when I don't care for her behavior. We have such drama, much more than I ever ever predicted, and I get more upset than I ever want to, and sometimes I feel like I'm ruining her chances for happiness. But then when I tell her those things, she says she understands and she says them back to me, sincerely, like she means them also, I feel like things are gong to be OK. I just can't stop saying them every day, several times a day.

Adelas said...

I remember clearly, thinking, "Oh my God, if it's this bad now, what are the 'terrible twos' going to be like??"

OMG so it's not just my kid? (20 mo, just had one in sept)... he's whining, having tantrums, screaming - things I swore no kid of mine would be allowed to do... My head!