Monday, September 23, 2013

What (very few) things are working

In the same 24-hour period, I got
a pouty "Why?"
an "I want Daddy!"
and an insistent, "But I got to do that yesterday..."

Seems like a great time to take note of the few things that are working for us in toddlerville these days.

One of the most popular posts on this blog has been "Little things that help behavior (1.5 to 2 years)" where I open by saying, "I had to put that little qualifier in the title --1.5 to 2 years old-- because I have a feeling some of these behavior helpers may need some tweaking (or an overhaul) now that Gavin is two." I hate to say, "I told myself so, but..." No, really. I am hating that I was right about that.

We still use all the techniques from that original post (except I totally dropped the ball on "fold your hands," and I'm not sure how hard I'm willing to work to get it back). It's not that those techniques are unsuccessful now, it's just that they're not the charms they once were.

It seems like I now live in a world where defiant, whiny or stubborn behaviors are not just means to an end, they are ends in themselves. Disobedience is not for a particular purpose. It's for fun.

You've heard me say there are good things about every age, and that is true of this impossibly independent stage, too. In addition to saying "no" and "I never get anything..." he also sometimes hugs me and says, "You're my best friend." And yesterday he asked to lay on the couch and watch football with Daddy, which included lying on his chest, asking about the teams and sighing contentedly. Yes, there are many ways life is good right now. And adorable. And hilarious. Still, snarky happens. Here are a few of the things that are

Catchy phrases
Somehow ending a request with "Know what I mean jellybean?" or "That's the plan man!" just makes it easier to swallow. Anything I can do to add a little humor or cleverness to our daily routines is a usually a plus. Unless he's feeling particularly oppositional. Then nothing is funny.

Letting the animals say it
A little background on this. Lately, he loves playing make believe with his stuffed animals. Who knew? My little guy who would not be entertained with anything plush for the first 2.5 years of his life asks for Kitty to watch him play trains, and he cuddles Pooh Bear and gives him "medicine" when Pooh bonks his head (after being thrown by Gavin, of course). Anyway, he LOVES when I talk for the animals when we play. ("Oh Gavin, I like your castle!" in a high-pitched voice while moving Monkey's arms to clap.) Well, to my amazement, he also transitions from one activity to another much better if Kitty suggests it! Putting on his shoes is delightful if it's Pooh's idea. Cleaning up his toys is never more fun than when Monkey asks him to.

Three notes on this: 1) I have to start with the animals suggesting. If I tell him it's time for shoes, and he refuses, bringing the animals in as back up...well, it won't work, and it would make me look pretty desperate. I'm not a fan of looking desperate in front of my toddler. 2) If when he hears Pooh say, "Time for shoes!" his face doesn't immediately light up, it's probably time to try something else. This technique works because it's funny, spontaneous and catches him off guard. Something gets lost when Pooh has to start insisting. 3) As with most things, overuse is likely to decrease effectiveness.

Keeping it fun with physical antics
Lately, I've been reminding myself to infuse lots of wrestling, tickling, tossing around and general physical silliness into our day. This is meant to be a preemptive. In fact, all of these tricks are meant to prevent an episode rather than fix one, but this one in particular is less of a tool to use in a time of need and more of a way to constantly fill my child's love bank. Many times, kids misbehave because they just plain feel bad -- physically or emotionally. It's important to figure out those things that help them feel loved and then practice them often. For all kids, eye contact, focused attention and (appropriate) physical touch are ways they can receive the love we feel for them. (Some kids are resistant to these things, but they still need them.) This and more are touched on in How to Really Love Your Child by D. Ross Campbell. I have to warn you that the writing is somewhat repetitive, but there is some good content. I was glad I pushed through to the end.

For Gavin, tickling and physical silliness are like a healing balms. I can see his demeanor and his outlook on the day changing for the good as we wrestle and play. Anything that can do that for him is like gold to me. 

I don't do it nearly enough, but when I do, I ask God to help Gavin feel his love, to help him act in ways that are impossible without God, to give me wisdom and energy and to help me communicate God's love and ways clearly and compellingly. Sometimes I see a difference right away, and that is such a blessing. But when I don't, I am blessed when I remember that prayer is not just about God changing my situation, but also about God changing me. I am so grateful that God cares about the biggest and smallest parts of my day and that He's not content to leave me the way I am. He cares for us, friend. He hasn't left us alone in toddlerville.