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A Lesson in Parenting

2014 January 13


“As parents, we guide by our unspoken example. It is only when we’re talking to them that our kids aren’t listening.”—Robert Brault

Listening has been a hot topic around here lately. Well, more specifically…not listening.

Kai, in all his just-turned-three glory, has been giving us a serious run for our money. He is not a bad boy (though we admittedly tell him he is 100 or so times per day). He is not a bad person. He is not any more challenging than any other just-turned-three little boy on the planet, I am sure.

But he is stubborn. And a touch defiant. And definitely has a streak of mischief in him that is a mile long.

The problem is not really Kai, however. It’s us.

We have become those parents who are already annoyed before anything annoying happens. Who use time outs like crutches, handing them out from morning to night. We are letting power struggles with a toddler take away our power as parents. We are losing our cool, yelling too much, swearing more than we should, and in general, not leading by example.

Not only does it affect Kai, though not in the ways we hope it would (i.e. it doesn’t really faze him when we get mad, he kind of laughs at us, which is even more frustrating). But it’s affecting Little D and how she looks at us as parents and at her little brother, too. We always say we don’t remember the terrible two’s with her but the truth is, she obviously went through them and she also didn’t have another sibling in the house to compete with for attention at the time, so it’s a different approach. And most importantly, it’s affecting our family dynamic. Days that should be carefree and easy-going turn into hour after hour of punishments and threats. Moments that should be funny become annoying. Memories that should be happy are filled with frustration instead.

We know this is a phase. We know that Kai, as with any toddler, will start to understand rationale and emotion and the word yes…(we can only hope). But in the meantime, it’s up to us, as parents, to start to understand that how we choose to parent this strong-willed, passionate, incredible little man is how we can lead by example. How we can make him a better person. How we can give him a stronger foundation. How we can create a happier home.

“It is only when we’re talking to them that our kids aren’t listening.”

So does that mean no more rules? No more time outs? No more talking to our kids? Obviously not. We believe in discipline and boundaries and options and communication.

But I think we also need to believe in leading by example a little more. In working to communicate in other ways. In picking our battles. In giving ourselves more time outs.

In guiding by unspoken example.

And hoping that he will listen.

*image above via Susan Portnoy of The Insatiable Traveler.

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Nicole LaViolette permalink
    January 13, 2014

    I don’t have kids yet, and I won’t anytime soon… but I always read your blog and print out articles like these. One day, when I have a 3 year old that refuses to say yes I’ll look back on it and remember I’m not the only one!

    • WWGD permalink*
      January 13, 2014

      Aw, that is too sweet. Thanks, Nicole. xx

  2. Erica permalink
    January 13, 2014

    This is so true of our life right now. Thanks for a much-needed reminder that we are not alone. 🙂

    • WWGD permalink*
      January 13, 2014

      And thank you for reminding me that we aren’t, either 😉

  3. January 13, 2014

    You are absolutely not alone. I’ve been struggling with the snapping frustration, too. In my new year, I’m slowing down, focusing. With that, I’ve made a deal with my Beans for a “No Yelling Club.” I’ve found mysel saying, “I’m really frustrated, I need to take a deep breath,” and doing it. I hope it’s not only letting them know that I hold up my promises, but showing them how to deal with anger and frustration. They’re noticing. Yours are, too.

    Thank you for sharing your life.

    • WWGD permalink*
      January 14, 2014

      I love that, thanks Alison. So important for us to look at ourselves before we look at them with accusations. Not always easy, but worth it 😉

  4. stella permalink
    January 13, 2014

    I have never understood why people call the twos terrible…three has been WAY more challenging for us. My husband and I really had to work together to determine our boundaries and what consequences we would present when things go outside of that.
    The hardest part is when either of you are tired or stressed out – makes the behavior much harder to manage without blowing your top.
    For us, the key things are to:
    Choose our battles, be consistent, give our daughter choices and most of all, follow through with the consequences (no books in bed, no videos in the morning etc.) It really sucks sometimes though and I am exhausted after a day of my defiant girl. Learning a ton though.

    • WWGD permalink*
      January 14, 2014

      Agreed! And the worst part is that I know that from my daughter but still wasn’t prepared for the extent of it this time around. I definitely think the second child syndrome plays into it with him, too. Thanks for writing, Stella!

  5. Jennifer permalink
    January 14, 2014

    Trust me, I know exactly how you feel. My sweet baby boy (2 1/2 years old) was pushing my daughter (14 months old) constantly. They could not be left alone for a minute. Our life for a while was a never ending battle. We were constantly shouting at him, timeouts, the works. As a result, he because defiant angry, stubborn. It was an ugly cycle until my husband and I got together and found some articles that really seemed to make sense to us both. WE shifted gears. Instead of disciplining the behavior we started to treat the cause of the behavior. We figured out that obviously it was a need for attention that made him behave this way, but it was also a need for reassurance that we love him and more importantly that we like him. He was upset with who he become and was reminded of it every time he saw our scowling facing. So – whenever he went to push my daughter I’d warm him, do not push her, instead come here and give mommy a hug and then my husband or I would whisk him away to color or play for 10-15 minutes together. I’m telling you it worked! We hunkered down for an entire weekend and did this repeatedly and it changed our home life. Now, there’s still a push here and there. I won’t lie. But overall we’re a happier more loving family. He even holds her hand and walks her around the house and I can hear them giggling (from the other room). It’s the best!

    Hopefully, maybe, doing something along these lines could work for you! Good luck!

    • WWGD permalink*
      January 14, 2014

      I love this so much. I know there are other issues at play besides just being a frustrated three year old and we discussed those, too. I think just being aware and conscious of it is half the battle. Happy to report no time outs (though a few threats, for sure) since yesterday. Maybe we will set a record! Thanks for taking the time to share such thoughtful insight!

  6. January 15, 2014

    This is Lucas right now – 3 years old next month. He went from awesome listening ears & all kinds of sweetness to totally ignoring, smiling/laughing (at us) when we are clearly not happy & the worst… just when he sees I’m about to lose my shit he says, “Mom. Are you happy?” Then I feel guilty for being totally not happy with that face that’s staring back at me (all of a sudden looking as innocent as the day he was born). It’s a dance & sometimes we’re all along for the ride while they work out their {terrible} threes. I just try & remind myself that Tyler went through the same thing & that it gets so much better.

  7. jess permalink
    January 16, 2014

    Great post, thank you so much for sharing with us. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this stuff and how hard it is as a mom to remember that my kid isn’t a fully functioning adult and isn’t going to get my cues or my sarcasm just yet. Took me a long time to figure out that saying things like “why don’t you try some of those green beans” may mean “eat your green beans” to me, but kids take what you say SO literally…they know why they don’t try them, ’cause they don’t want to so there! My sister works with kids at a day care, and also has her own small tutoring business for kids that don’t learn the way schools expect them to learn and I’ve been learning SO much from her facebook posts it is scary- how can she know so much and I seem to know so little about this stuff :0 (not trying to get you to give her business here or anything- she lives in a small town in eastern canada!) but maybe you’ll find her insights helpful too . she certainly helps me feel like I am maybe doing a better job than I thought at all this.

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