Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bring it on Meltdowns!

 I'm going to start this post by painting a picture for you.... a slightly terrifying, embarrassing, hilarious story..... be ready to be highly amused.

We're at Target doing our weekly grocery shopping. Things are going good... we're coming to the last few isles and things have been great. I'm pushing the cart, Daniel's grabbing the things we need, and Dax is sitting in the seat doing really well. Well we walk by the cookies... and I tend to have a sweet tooth so I ask Daniel to grab a package for us for the week. Dax likes the idea too.... so much that he immediately starts saying, "cookie! cookie!"  (ps... he never gets cookies at home so I don't know where this obsession came from). I calmly explain that they're for home and we'll have one when we get there. He cries for a few minutes... "cooookie coooookie". But then gets over it. About 2 minutes after getting over that fit he starts squirming around in his seat saying, "out". Walking around isn't a choice for him when we're in the grocery section, because it just leads to more cookie incidents. So I calmly give him the choice of sitting in the basket or in the other seat (we use the cart that has the two seats on the front of it). He whines for a minute but then decided he wants to switch to the other seat. I help him get moved over and he is calm and happy. I'm thinking "alright... disaster diverted.... we're doing good... I'm a rockstar... "  ;)  well about 5 minutes later... it starts again.... but this time we skipped over the squirming stage and went straight to the cry of "waaaalk, waaaaalk"  complete with an arched back and kicking feet. I again calmly explain that that's not a choice right now but he can sit in the cart in the other seat. Not. Happening. Luckily we're grabbing our last few things and begin heading to check out shortly after this melt down begins. We get in line and I remember that I need to go grab one more thing for Dax's party. I volunteer to take Dax so Daniel isn't left with a screaming child by himself.... because we aren't going to the grocery section so surely Dax will calm down once he gets to walk with mommy. Once again... not happening. He is so mad at this point that he doesn't want to walk any more. I carry him over to the isle I needed to go to.... screaming and arching his back the entire way.  I set him on the ground (more like lay him on the ground in order to avoid the busted-head-on-the-ground-when-I through-myself-backwards move he likes to do). I find what I need while having a screaming child on the floor at my feet. I get it and tell him that it's time to go find daddy so we can go home. I once again give him the choice... do you want to walk to find daddy or do you want me to hold you?  And once again... not happening.  So I pick up my screaming child and hold him with my right arm... superman style (similar to when a child is happy and you hold them where it looks like they're flying... only this was on my side with arms and legs flailing in hysteria while I'm doing it) and in the left arm I have a big box. Needless to say my arms were pretty full. We're close to the check out line so Daniel can see us and we make eye contact and just laugh. I try setting my very upset toddler into the back of the cart so I can help Daniel finish checking out and this only makes the very upset toddler even more upset.... grabbing at me, legs flying over the side trying to get out.... meltdown just went up a notch. So I decided I'm going to take him outside and we'll wait for Daniel out there. So once again... superman style gone wrong.... I carry him outside. There are some benches outside of Target about 5 feet from the door so I go set Dax on the ground by those and I sit down. The hysterical child then begins crawling... screaming all the way "Dadddddy Dadddddy" and sits at the window looking into Target. Luckily a few minutes later Daniel comes out and we head to the car. All tears and screaming stop a couple minutes after being in the car.... and Daniel and I can both breath again. We celebrated our success of not screaming at him or spanking him or even loosing our patience with him..... but I can't help but wonder what I've done wrong with my kid.

And so begins where I'm going with this post. The past several weeks Dax has been in full toddler mode... aka... Terrible Twos (not a phrase I like to use but one that most people can relate to). Meltdown after meltdown, pushing boundaries.... you think of it... he's probably tried it in the past few weeks. During these last few weeks I've often caught myself wondering if our form of discipline is doing anything at all for him.... or if we're just contributing to having more of these meltdowns in the future. We don't spank, yell, or do timeout. We reason with him, give him choices, let his actions and choices guide our decision making, and use lots and lots of patience and listening. All of these things I also do in my classes.... and I encourage the parents of my students to do them too... and it's what I studied for 5 years in college.... you can basically say I have a Bachelor of Science in Problem Solving. But the past few weeks I've questioned... for the first time ever... if what I learned and now preach actually works.

But yesterday evening I got the best confirmation that what we're doing with Dax is perfect.... and that it is working... despite having meltdown after meltdown. While browsing pinterest I found this article, "No Bad Kids- Toddler Discipline without Shame". If you have a toddler in your life at all, your own kid, niece, nephew, grandchild, friends kid, or in your class you need to read this article right now... and save it to remind yourself... because trust me... you'll need reminding. In fact I think I'm going to print it and hang it on my fridge for a reminder. It has nine main points that I'll list here but you need to go read the article to get more info about each..

1. Begin with a predictable environment and realistic expectations.
2. Don't be afraid... or take misbehavior personally.
3. Respond in the moment, calmly like a CEO.
4. Speak in first person.
5. No time out
6. Consequences
7. Don't discipline a child for crying.
8. Unconditional love
9. Spanking- NEVER

This article was such a great reminder for me. Despite 20 minute meltdowns over the smallest things.... we're doing awesome. We want him to have those meltdowns. The last two years we've done everything we could to make sure Dax became strong, independent, confident. We wanted to make sure he could think for himself, express his emotions, needs, and wants, and stand firm in what he believes and feels. And these meltdowns let us know that he's doing just that. In fact... if he wasn't having these meltdowns I should be worried that we missed something. We're doing awesome. Do I wish he could express all of the positive personality qualities in another way.... yes... that would be great. But he's two.... and that's a completely unrealistic expectation for him (point #1).

I think our society as a whole is way too wrapped up in having immediate results (and this applies to everything). Yeah, spanking or timeout or raising your voice may solve the problem a little quicker, but in the long run what is it doing? Growing a competent, well rounded person isn't something you can expect to be immediate.  You're going to take the long... sometimes hard, very hard road. But the results are going to be SO worth it in the end.

All nine points in this article are things that Daniel and I have been doing with Dax. So when Dax has a 20 minute meltdown in the future... I need to look at my fridge and remind myself that we're doing everything just the way we should... and then celebrate the fact that he is one strong, independent little boy and that will make him so successful in the future.

 I think as a parent you constantly worry about what you're doing wrong.... so from now on... bring it on meltdowns.... I'm doing everything just the way I should and you won't make me question myself again!