Thursday, April 26, 2007

Staying ahead of the boo

Z. is definitely growing up: over the past week we've had fight after fight. What inspires them? Going to sleep for naps and at night; what she's going to wear; combing her hair; what we're going to do in the afternoon; and whether she's going to school on a given day. She stays home about twice a week, either for sniffles or mama deficits, which I'd be okay with if it were once a week. (We pay "school" for five days a week because the pricing works out to about same as four days a week, and we get more flexibility. But once it gets down to three days, we're losing.)

Most of these fights serve to keep her from doing something new. Any kind of transition at all is to be resisted to the last ounce of two-year-old endurance.

I've had to discard all the toddler tricks I used to use: offering two choices of shirt results in her saying no to both rather than embracing one; counting to three to let her get ready (which used to be magic!) inspires her to take evasive action; preparing her for a transition brings on new delays. So far the only new trick that seems reliable is limiting choices and threatening her with deprivation for non-compliance. I've taken to giving her toys so that I can threaten to take them away if she doesn't cooperate.

Oh moms and dads and aunts and uncles of older toddlers, what have you found that works with over-two's?

(Revised to add: but to be fair to her I should report that in a reversal of the trend of resistance, Z. started searching out the spinach in last night's spinach-and-cheese burritoes! Will wonders never cease!)


susan said...

Transitions are not easy for all concerned!

I have given up on a lot of choices, actually. These days, I will either pick out CG's clothes the night before, or ask her in the abstract whether she wants to wear a dress or pants, and then I'll pick out the specifics while she sleeps. One of my friends--whose kid has been in Waldorf schools for a while--says that the Waldorf philosophy is that young children don't need choices. I wouldn't go that far, but I have concluded that choices are overrated.

I think you might want to consider not only what works for over-twos, but what works for you. I often find that if I lose my calm, CG loses hers. Not to say you're causing the struggles--but think about what YOU need to stay calm once they start.

I never worried too much about happy compliance. I did a lot of advertised consequences at that age: "pick a shirt while I count to ten, and if you don't pick one, I will." "time to clean up. If you don't start by yourself, I"ll come put my hand over yours and help." That sort of thing. It worked for us, and mostly, it worked for me b/c I'm just not much of a threatener.

Advertising the transition in advance, and announcing, "CG, you have time for one more thing" worked well (we still do that, although I've found I need to get her to announce the one more thing to prevent tantrums over "but that wasn't my one more thing! I wanted to do X for my one more thing!")

Not to say this is the recipe for everyone--what is generalizeable here, I think, is the notion that the approaches have to work for everyone.

And to bring this ramble to a close: remember, this will pass!

liz said...

These things have often (but not always) worked for us:

Timers ("two minutes more (y) then it's time to (x)! I'm setting the timer!")

Don't count up to three, it gives her a chance to show off how well she knows four. Instead, count backward from 3 or 5.

Instead of asking what she wants to wear, ask what color she is. "Are you blue or red today?" and go with a shirt that is that color. This works because it gets around the whole getting dressed discussion and is silly. Kids love teh silly.

Make getting dressed a race: if she can get dressed before you she can have some otherwise rare thing like a few minutes of tv or computer time or something while you finish getting dressed. The added incentive for her is the faster she gets dressed, the more time she has to do whatever it is and not getting in gear fast has a natural consequence.

Stickers. Stickers. Stickers. And washable tattoos.

niobe said...

Take this with a grain of salt, since I'm not her mother and Mattea isn't quite two, but one strategy that seems effective with my niece is deciding which things are really important and being completely unyielding in a matter-of-fact way about those and letting her have her way on the unimportant stuff.

In other words, my brother and his wife don't care what Mattea wears to daycare, so there are no getting dressed fights. If she won't pick an outfit, she just goes in her pjs (with clothes packed in case she changes her mind).

If Z really hates having her hair combed, how about getting her a very short haircut where combing won't be an issue? The actual haircutting experience will probably be very unpleasant, but it will prevent daily battles.

On the issue of going to school, my brother simply doesn't give Mattea a choice. There's just no possibility of her staying home, no matter how much she screams (and she screams a lot). But my brother doesn't try to persuade her or reason with her and Mattea knows that this is an argument that she's just not going to win.

Hope you find something that works for you and Z.

Anonymous said...

As an aunt I have occassion to help get my nephew dressed for things when I visit. He is nearly three, B"H. He doesn't get choices on what he will wear but he often resists just getting dressed. Last time I was there, I made a game of it. (granted we had time). He loves jumping on his bed. So I let him jump on the bed three times between each layer of clothing. It worked like a charm. And while it might seem like it would add time - I got him dressed fasters and with less fighting than my sister did the day before. Also staying calm seemed to help - which of course I know is easier being an aunt than a parent.


Magpie said...

Pick your battles. I'd stop fighting about the clothes. Yeah, that means that today my kid went off to daycare in the none-too-clean overall dress she's been wearing all week (actually she's been wearing it for about four months), with a flowered shirt and differently flowered leggings underneath. But it's so much easier to let her pick what she wants. I do veto things like black patent leather party shoes for school.

What's a "mama deficit", and why does that keep her from school?

Good luck!

S. said...

Thanks for all the tricks everyone! And keep 'em coming, later readers! Every idea helps restock my newly-depleted arsenal.

I'm sort of with the Waldorfers on choices--I've stopped giving Z. any on clothes this week and mornings are much easier. It's not that she wants to wear something I don't want her to, it's that giving her a choice starts her on a whole campaign of "no"--everything will be rejected, even the adored peuple digger shirt!

Firmness, yes. I'm much too wishy-washy on going to school, because of the 4 days planned/5 days paid thing. Magpie, "mama deficit" is the term we came up with when Z. started day care at 6 months and came home and clung and nursed desperately. Talk about guilt-inducing. The mama deficits aren't as dramatic now, but if I have to work on a weekend day then Monday Z. is often better off at home. The other piece of my wishy-washy-ness is knowing that Z. sleeps a full hour more at home than at school. Sometimes it seems like an extra hour of sleep might be just what a cranky toddler needs, you know?