Hi Meghan, I wrote to you a while back regarding my two year old son and the problems we had with brushing his teeth. We followed your advice and I am happy to say brushing teeth is no longer an issue so thank you! I have noticed a reoccurring behavior in him lately. Any time he asks for something, say my husband’s phone, a banana or something else to eat before dinner, to go outside, etc, and we say no for whatever reason, he puts his head down, his shoulder’s slump, and he cries in the most dejected way. Often he’ll walk this way to his room and lay down until he’s ready to come out which I love that he can do on his own but I hate seeing him act that way. It’s heartbreaking! I know it’s good for kids to have boundaries and not always get their way. I try to tell him why he can’t have whatever it is he wants or say no without actually saying no/distracting, but it’s happening a lot lately. I wonder how we should respond when he does it? Sometimes he’ll out right throw a tantrum right in front of us which we ignore and it ends rather quickly but when he does the shoulder slump it makes me feel so bad for him or like I hurt his feelings. I would appreciate any advice on the matter.
Good to hear the toothbrushing is working! Clean teeth, hooray!
First thing that popped into my head is that the tears are GOOD.
If he goes immediately to crying (and not whiny-crying, but true crying), that means he is accepting the boundary. Just because he doesn’t accept it smiling doesn’t mean there is anything “wrong.” The years are a sign of adaption!
Is there a way we can give a yes-no? YES, we can go outside! Help me fold this laundry and then we will go! YES! Have a banana (because why can’t a preschooler have a banana…seriously, who cares?) YES! You can go on the phone after we run our errands/tomorrow/etc.
Your son isn’t stupid, he will still feel the boundary…it’s just that an instantaneous no is SO triggering for little ones. A “no” out of the gate is just demoralizing (for anyone, really), so work at finding your yes’s.
Last tidbit is TRUMPING his need. This means if you KNOW he wants the phone, you give it to him before he asks! “Hey Bart, I know you want to play on Daddy’s phone. Here you go. You have 15 minutes, have fun!” “Hey Homer, I know you are hungry and dinner is in 20 minutes, so here is some carrots and dip, eat up!” “Hey Sid, I know you want to go outside, so let’ go now and stomp in puddles!”
You are essentially side-stepping the ask…get it?
My son was just like that. We did try to give choices, but sometimes you have to say no, like when he’s starting to mess with the covers over electric outlets! Anyway, you just have a sensitive kid, and this is a good thing. He showed some real empathetic behaviors in preschool, and now at 16, is terrific kid who, while he no longer cries at “no” :), is a teen who is sensitive to the feelings of others. And in a teen, that is a good thing. Just hang in there.
I was reading your column today about tips on good parenting – one was about self care. I’m a single mom of a 6 month old and I’m having a hard time figuring out the self care. I’m feeling totally overwhelmed and like I’m drowning and I can’t figure out what I need to get past that feeling. I have resources – local family, willing friends – and I just can’t figure out what I need from them. They keep offering to help and I just can’t seem to say yes. I really just want to take a week off of work – send the baby to daycare and curl up at home but that’s not an option with my job.
I love that you wrote in. Okay, mama, let’s look at this.
1) Stop worrying about your self-care image. SAY YES YES YES YES YES to friends and family and from your letter, you want to lie down. So, begin by lying down. Nap. Watch crap TV. Put a cheap mask on your face and rest. Let go any ideas of what you should be doing or not doing. Lie down in a dark room and just be there. It sounds dumb, but how often are you allowed to be with yourself, by yourself?
2) Say yesyesyesyes to friends and go to local coffee shop with a notepad. A book. A magazine. Journal about the fact you don’t know what you should be doing. Journal about your worry.
3) Say yesyesyesyesyesyesyes to friends and family and WALK. OUTSIDE. Get with some trees and breathe. Walk by a dog park and watch the dogs. Pet some. Sit on a log and watch a stream. You don’t have to power walk or kill it…just amble around and let nature heal you. I know it is woo woo sounding, but nature heals.
4) Don’t let anyone tell you what self-care looks like. Even me. If it is cleaning and organizing for you, do it. If it reading silly books, do it. If it is watching live comedy, do it. If it is church, do it. If it is crying for a while in the woods, do it. Just say YES to your friends. My only mandate here is that YOU LET PEOPLE HELP YOU. STAT. That’s an order. Release yourself from expectations and see where it goes.
I have 2 children (4 and 7) and am tired of feeling annoyed with them. I’m angry with myself for not finding the joy in being with them, but getting them ready for daycare/summer care in the mornings and getting them ready for bed at night is sapping me of my will to care. The only enjoyable time I have with them is when we’re reading stories right before bed, and I can see that my “me time” is within reach. I know they can probably do a lot more to get themselves ready, but then we’d all be so late in the morning and I don’t want to be late to my stressful job. Do you have any tips — other than “get up earlier in the morning” and “spend more time connecting with your children”? I really just want a day (or a week) to spend by myself but that’s not going to happen.
Oh, man. You are going to pissed at my response, but I gotta give it you.
You need a break.
You NEED A BREAK.
But, let’s free up what breaks look like, shall we?
1) Stop pushing the idea that you are going to make them self-reliant in the AM and do everything the night before. Lunches, set the table for breakfast, clothes laid out, etc. You do this. It sounds like more for you, but it actually isn’t.
2) What else can you let go? Nagging them? Reminding them? Begging them? Threatening them? Asking them…? I can hear the song as I type this, but LET IT GO. Stop the requests and demands, turn on some crappy TV and lie down with them. We have been watching American Ninja Warrior. It’s hardcore awesomeness.
3) While you are lovingly ignoring your children, get out a piece of paper (it’s better than the laptop) and write down what YOU NEED. Don’t think about it. JUST WRITE. Let it come out, no matter how stupid it sounds.
4) Circle the words that stick out to you. Sleep? Exercise? See friends? Travel?
5) Make a plan. The reason you cannot find a day to yourself is that you are too darn tired and beat down when you think about it. Your brain is in panic mode, and NO SOLUTIONS are found in panic mode. OF COURSE you can find time, it is a lie that you cannot. So, make a plan. If your brain says NO, check for depression. Call a therapist, even a coach. They will steer you well.
And no, your house will not go to pot if you let things go. The only thing you will really get rid of is your simmering anger and frustration. Trust me on this.
I have a child with heavy duty ADHD. It makes me not like them more of the time than I care to admit. How do I get past having a child I wouldn’t be friends with if they weren’t related to me? It makes life so difficult.
First of all, NORMAL NORMAL NORMAL. You are normal.
And listen, a kid does not have to have ADHD for a parent to feel this way.
I have parents say this to me, ALL OF THE TIME.
1) Get or find or START a group for parents of ADHD kids. This could save your life. There are things that only these parents get, and you need to be with your peeps. STAT. You may feel vulnerable and creepy and worrisome, but do it.
2) If your feelings are running deep after years of strife, you need therapy. You need to outlet your feelings on a safe third party who can shoulder your grief and frustration.
3) Find a parent coach who specializes in ADHD. These coaches have a special way for you to tap into the good in your child and help you to find it and grow it, while also making room for the fact that yes, life is hard.
Take it easy on yourself, okay?
Should parents abstain from drinking any alcohol in the presence of their young children, or do you believe that it is important to model responsible drinking behaviors in front of children when appropriate?
Sheesh, I dunno.
I go for the latter, but if the parents don’t like to drink, then who cares? Don’t drink.
I think that if the parents are responsible, don’t get loaded, don’t binge, don’t drink out of anger, frustration, or sadness, and talk to their children frankly about alcohol use, that’s pretty good.
Hello! Our three-and-a-half year old son can usually play well and creatively by himself. However, he has moments (seemingly more frequent) when he gives up and whines that he can’t do something, like draw a bird, make a Lego bridge, etc., and insists that we do it. We always tell him the important thing is try and that we’ll like whatever he does, but it doesn’t seem to matter. How can we better encourage him to try (and to fail)?
He’s wonderful and normal.
When something isn’t working for him, go ahead and say the words: “You are frustrated! Drawing this bird is hard work!”
Get down on his level and see what happens. Go ahead and work with him. Smile. Work together. Let it be easy.
When you cannot help him, go ahead and say, “Aw man, that is so frustrating when the Lego castle breaks! Let’s stomp our feet!” What you are doing is GUIDING him to a safe outlet of feelings.
This is all normal. Keep riding the wave, but you don’t need him to get friendly with failure right now. Failure is in almost everything he attempts. Your job is to be along side him…helping him when you can, and helping his tears come when things don’t work.
Hi Meghan, I have a question about hitting and how to react in the moment. My kids (5 and 3 year old girls), tend to be physical with each other and sometimes with me. I am working on connecting more with each of them to try and reduce the need they may feel to hit for attention. When I do see them hitting each other, I try to put myself between them and redirect them away from each other. The problem is, I find myself so upset by their behavior that I often yell “No hitting” or something else, which I feel just makes the situation worse. They both know of course that hitting is wrong, and I understand that their brains are not developed enough to calm their impulses when they are angry or upset. But is there a reaction I can have that may help reduce the hitting?
What a great parent you are…seriously.
It’s okay to feel PO’d and tired and reactionary here and there. This parenting stuff is SO. TIRING.
Be easy on yourself, okay?
If you really holler, say sorry later. Say,”Wow, I lost my cool. Sorry. Everyone loses it here and there, huh?”
You are DOING THE WORK though, so the only other thing I would recommend is that you try to listen for the escalation and get there BEFORE THE HITTING BEGINS.
This can be hard, but if you attune yourself to it, you can catch so much before it goes south. “It sounds like this game is not working anymore. Time for a break! Lisa, you come here, Janet, you go here…let’s walk the dog/pick up clothes/make the brownies/look for turtles…etc.” You will note that you are not labeling the children, nor are you punishing. You are stopping the play and moving things along.
Over and over and over.
Yes, it is repetitive and annoying, but this WILL PASS.
If you stay strong and loving in your leadership, this will pass. They will mature and start to sort out their squabbles. Mostly. 🙂
I am expecting and have started sharing the news with colleagues. Most conversations are short and sweet and then we move onto other topics, but I have been pulled short by a few (!) co-workers who have asked questions like, “Were you trying and for how long?” or “Was this baby planned?” When I stare at them, mouth agape, they will rephrase the question, as if I didn’t understand it! I don’t think these are appropriate questions to ask anyone, let alone a co-worker. Do you have suggestions for phrases to shut down these lines of questions in a cordial way? So far, I have been saying, “I’d prefer not to get into that” and change the topic, but I am not sure that is sending a strong enough signal that I feel like a boundary has been crossed. I want to figure this out now as we continue to tell more people – and also I know I will receive many more intrusive questions/belly-patting as the months go on, not to mention once the baby arrives! So much of what I have seen recommended online consists of “zingers” and I want to maintain good relationships with these people. Thank you!
Hmmm. Don’t ya love people?
I find that when people ask these questions, it is something about THEM they are wondering about. THEY have been trying. THEY are worried about it. It is about them. It’s not really about you.
And when I think of it this way, I have more empathy for them. Seriously. It doesn’t make it appropriate, but I do get it.
You are handling it beautifully. Keep doing this. Stay boundaried and kind. Keep saying the same thing over and over again. DECIDE to not take it personally (you can do this), and move along with your life.
People will always ask ridiculous questions; you can decide to kindly deflect and move on.