And so it begins! No longer is Bryce a sweet chubby little lump who lies on his back and bats benignly at objects. He is On the Move and On a Mission to explore anything and everything! We have done a pretty thorough job of babyproofing the house, so there isn’t anything that would cause him harm, or any irreplaceable valuables within reach. However, there are definitely limits that need to be set for acceptable behavior!
I have the advantage (?) of having been hardened by 10 years of teaching elementary school, so I know all too well the children who were so cute that their parents didn’t deny them anything. I will admit that it is definitely difficult to remain steadfast when you see this:
However, I am determined that he will not be one of those kids that people think “He’s adorable, but he’s SUCH a brat!”
I started doing my homework while Bryce was still a baby. I read and re-read The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp and Simplicity Parenting by Kim Payne, both AMAZING resources! I browsed Pinterest for ideas. I brainstormed some basic rules and behaviors that I wanted to reinforce, and I talked with DJ to make sure that he was on board (Memorize this response: ‘Ask Your Mother.”) 😉 I wanted to make sure I had a bag of tricks and a plan in place, so that when the time came I was ready to jump right in. I am such a teacher it’s not even funny.
So far, things are going really well! I wouldn’t say that the Terrible Twos are in full swing, so I’m not relaxing and patting myself on the back just yet, but I feel like we are laying a solid foundation for managing behavior in the future.
Here are some things that are working really well for me:
1. Baby Signing Time. Number One recommendation for reducing fussiness! Bryce is just beginning to verbalize things, but with his signing vocabulary he can tell me what he wants for snack, if he wants his blanket or pacifier, when he wants music on, when he wants to go outside, if he needs help, if he has a dirty diaper. I feel like signing has made him a more sociable baby as well. Other kids at the playground are very self-involved, but I think because Bryce is used to looking at people for communication cues, he walks around and tries to interact with everyone. All I did was buy the Baby Signing Time DVDs and let him watch them. I had to relax my “No Screen Time Before Two” standards, but it was totally worth it.
2. Time Outs. This comes from my Happiest Toddler reading. If Bryce is tantrumming or doing something he shouldn’t, he gets a slow count of 3, or a redirection, depending on the situation. If he continues to fuss or misbehave, I take him up to his crib and leave him alone (with the light on and the door open) for 1-2 minutes. This is AMAZINGLY effective. Now, if he starts to throw a fit, 80% of the time if I count to three, he will calm himself down. When we put up the Christmas tree, he started playing with the tree skirt and wearing it like a cape. When he continued to mess with it even after I offered him another toy, I gave him a time out, and he hasn’t touched it since. The Happiest Toddler book offers lots of other suggestions for managing behavior as he gets older, but right now, time-outs are working well.
3. Setting a schedule up for success. Simplicity Parenting talks about the concept of “pressure valves,” and how people need to balance periods of stress and activity with periods of rest and recharging. I know I get cranky if I’m sleepy or hungry, or have been running myself ragged, so I try to make sure Bryce is in a state of homeostasis before I unleash him on the world! I usually plan errands around Bryce’s sleep/meal schedule, either after breakfast, or after his nap and lunch. I make a plan, I try not to take more than an hour and a half, and I always take a sippy cup and a finger-food snack just in case. If we have a busy afternoon with a playdate, errands, or a class, we’ll keep the morning low key, or vice versa. Simplicity Parenting offers other suggestions for reducing stress and overstimulation that can lead to tantrums and misbehavior. I feel like many of the suggestions given in the book can help adults to reduce stress in their lives as well, whether or not they have kids!
Giving Bryce a way to communicate his needs, gently but firmly establishing my parental authority, and setting him up for good behavior by working with his schedule have really helped to keep him (and Mommy!) happy and balanced. I hope that I can continue to build a strong relationship of respect and love on this basic foundation!