Toddler Thursday: How Not to Potty Train

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Categories Parenting, Potty Training, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers3 Comments

What I did wrong when potty training my twin daughters.I did potty training all wrong.

I tried to potty train my twin daughters for 19 months to abject failure. I remember thinking, “People keep saying, ‘No kid goes to college in diapers’ but maybe college kids are just really good at hiding it.”

My husband, home for 2 weeks during an Army tour in South Korea, ended up accomplishing it with a few words: “You’re going to the 3-year-old class. That’s for big kids and big kids wear panties!”

“I want to wear panties,” said M. And she did. She went to bed in panties that night and never wore a diaper again. I only remember a couple of accidents, and they happened weeks later. When her sister J saw what a fuss we were making over M, she too demanded panties. I was left with 3 boxes of size 4 diapers I ended up giving away a few months later.

What I Did Wrong

I skipped the research

I remembered potty training my (much) younger sister. Although I carefully researched almost every other area of parenting and child development, I decided to rely on my experience for potty training. I remember my sister being on the potty at under a year old, so I starting trying to potty train my daughters as soon as they expressed an interest in my own bathroom habits.

I thought very early potty training was possible. I was only when I was months into the effort with my daughters that I realized that the adults were the ones who had been trained in my sister’s case. She was far too young to be able to use the potty, but between the nannies and maids we had in Bangladesh, there was always someone there to read her signs and rush her to the potty when she was about to go. That just wasn’t reasonable as a functionally single working parent with twins in a daycare program.

I didn’t understand potty training readiness

I completely misunderstood my kids’ readiness. I thought their interest in the potty, paired with an ability to communicate verbally, was enough. Physical developmental readiness to give up diapers actually has four parts, which may well develop at different times:

  • Awareness of the need to go.
  • Ability to hold the urge to go.
  • Ability to release on demand.
  • Ability to hold the urge to go during sleep.

My daughters’ interest in my use of the bathroom was all well and good, but until they developed their own awareness and muscle control, it was all theoretical to them. I took their waking with dry diapers every morning as a sign that they were able to control their bladders, but they just happened to develop that control out of typical order. They were clean and dry through the night for months before they were could identify potty time during the day.

I took it personally

I got into something of a battle with the children’s daycare teacher. (We only lasted at that center for the 2-year-old class and then went running home to the one my daughters had attended in infancy.) She insisted on treating my daughters as a set. The teacher and I agreed that M was ready to potty train and J was not. She wasn’t willing to work with them until they were both ready. I insisted that M was her own person and should be potty trained, regardless of her twin’s readiness. The girls were getting inconsistent messages about potty training at home and at school.

I took ownership

I didn’t put onus of owning potty training on the children. Sure, I got them all excited about Disney-themed panties, but I saw potty training as my personal accomplishment rather than theirs. Their father did it right. Instead of making potty training a favour they were doing him, he put all ownership of their success on them. And the toddlers rose to the challenge!

What potty training mistakes would you encourage other parents to avoid?

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Toddler Thursday: Letter Recognition Activities

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Categories Education, Products, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers, ToysLeave a comment

We all want to give our children the skills to make the most of their educations. One basic concept that we can encourage our toddlers to develop is letter recognition. Children who know their ABCs early are at an advantage, and may quickly move onto becoming fluent and critical readers.

My girls are well beyond learning their letters now that they’re 9 and reading at a middle school level. When they were younger, I had a repertoire of alphabet toys and “ABC games”, as a I called them, at my disposal. I think that these, in combination with constant access to age appropriate books, regularly being read to, and observing me read, helped my daughters become the strong and willing readers that they are today.

Alphabet Toys

I don’t believe that toys, in isolation, can teach our children to read, but educational toys have their place alongside literacy experiences shared by parent and child. In my experience, Leapfrog is the leading brand when it comes to toys that help to teach literacy and numeracy skills.

The LeapPad2™ Power is one of several literacy-related toys produced by Leapfrog.

I personally prefer their hands on toys, such as their Fridge Phonics set, to their tablets for getting toddlers excited about the alphabet.

Fridge Phonics' music may get stuck in your head in the worst possible way, but it does help your toddler learn the letters of the alphabet!

We had a much older version of this toy nearly a decade ago. Its repetitive song of “‘B’ says /b/, ‘B’ says /b/, every letter makes a sound, ‘B’ says /b/” may have driven me a little batty, but my daughters did learn their letters! The letter magnets are interchangeable on the base. Press on the magnet, and it sings to your child the name of the letter. The musical note button sings the Alphabet Song.

I apologize for the vacuum cleaner in the background. Loved that Roomba!

Flashcards

I picked up a cheap set of letter flashcards at our local dollar store and kept them in the car. When we were stuck in traffic, I could hold a card up over my head and show my toddlers a letter. At first, I’d just tell them what the letter was. After a few weeks, they were able to tell me the name of the letters I showed them. Next, I started listing all the words I could think of that started with that letter. As my twins got older, they began to offer up their own words.

Scavenger Hunts

As I mentioned in my college campus post, one simple activity involved writing each letter of the alphabet, in both upper and lower case, on a sheet of paper on a clipboard. We went outside or looked through books and magazines, crossing out each letter on the list as we found it.

Alphabet scavenger hunts are great fun for a toddler, who doesn't even realize she's learning!Label Reading

One way to keep my kids occupied when we were running errands was to assign them each a letter of the alphabet to find. They could last an entire grocery shopping trip, hunting for the first letter of their names or looking for every “E” in sight.

Keep your toddler occupied at the store by having him scour the labels for a particular letter or number.

What games do you play with your toddlers to teach them the alphabet?

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Toddler Thursday: Toddler Fears

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Categories Parenting, Toddler Thursday42 Comments

Overcoming Fears

We toddler parents know what it feels like to see fear in our little, precious kiddos! It’s that awkward age where two-way, toddler-to-adult conversation is sparse. Without the use of words and conversation; it’s hard to know what they are afraid of!

In my “bucket o’ toddler tricks”, I have a solution! Children can develop fears from visual and physical experience(s). If they get startled by a loud noise coming from a red lawnmower, they may fear red lawnmowers — or they may fear any red, moving object. If they are left in the dark or trip over the stairs, they may fear the dark or fear the stairs. Some children have a higher tolerance for fear and overcome it rather quickly; some take more time. It’s how we help them deal with the experience (visual or physical) that can limit the length of time that a fear “festers”.

We’ve instituted a method in our child-rearing process: Immediate Facing of Fears.

ACK! Well, it’s not as harsh as it sounds. All it means is that when a fearful experience occurs, we immediately repeat the experience (to a safe level of course).

Gwen & Owen - Park 2015

For example, today Gwen fell off the steps at the playground. She was on her way up to the slide; she had a goal to conquer that slide, and boy were we going to get her on it! As soon as she fell off, we put her right back on. Tears and all. We made sure she wasn’t injured, comforted her and offered her a little extra assistance. Then we let her own the completion of that goal. She didn’t have the opportunity to build up any fear of those steps!

The smile on her face while she slid down that slide was precious and she forgot all about that bloody lip!

A word of caution: make sure they are safe and make sure they understand WHY they got hurt or scared. Just communicating with her about the situation helped her to be more careful.

You might think that this is dangerous and that it instills reckless behavior in children. I can assure you, the exact opposite is true. My kids understand situations better and rarely get injured or scared. They are tough and they’ve been taught to be that way!

An article on Kidshealth.org sums it up nicely: “The key to resolving fears and anxieties is to overcome them.” — D’Arcy Lyness, PhD

Kids are resilient. They are learning every day. If we give them the opportunity and time to experience life, they’ll carry that resiliency into adulthood.

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Toddler Thursday: Toddlers and a Clean House? Choose Your Battles

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We are about 2 or 3 years out since the toddler years, but I remember those days very clearly. I’ve got twin boys and their older brother, who is two years older. In the early days, when the twins were babies and not walking, it was a bit easier to keep our household clean. My biggest worry was whether or not the main floor washroom and front hall were presentable for guests who came often. The rest of the house stayed pretty orderly and clean.

As my two year old became more independent and turned three and the babies turned into one year olds, crawling and cruising around, playing with more toys and progressing to solid foods, my priorities began to change. Feed three kids and wait to clean up the disastrous mess on the floor and the dishes and play with them to keep them entertained, or feed them, clean the mess, wash the dishes for 20 minutes and let the kids entertain themselves with their toys or a TV show? I often chose to hang out with the kids and let the mess wait. I’d get to the mess…eventually!

Messes build up fast, however, so I also tried to pick the spots I wanted to keep “mess free” or as mess free as possible, because my boys seem to leave a trail of stuff here and there, no matter how hard I try! I didn’t have the energy to be constantly cleaning every room of the house. There are three of them and only one of me!

So I chose my battles. I chose the rooms I was willing to see get a bit chaotic and messy, such as the TV room, which quickly became the toy room, because I could see it from our kitchen and know the little ones were safe, while I did take care of other business…like nursing my cold cup of coffee at a distance.

Aside from that mess under the highchairs and the piles of bottles and sipToddler twins in high chairspy cups in the sink waiting to be washed, the kitchen was a “mess free” zone. I kept it kid free and mess free if we were not having a meal. I was not the mother who allowed my kids into the cupboards and bottom of the stove to pull out pots and pans to clang on for hours on end. They had other noisy toys in the toy room just for that reason! I kept a baby gate up so there would be no toddling or crawling throughout that mess free zone. Pots and pans strewn across my kitchen floor would have been yet another mess to have to take care of and for any mother of twins or more, you know the minutes in the day seem to whiz by and before you know it it’s time for you to go to bed. I did not have time to be picking up these random messes in every room of my house.

Other ways I tried to contain the mess included:

interlocking mats
As found on www.walmart.com

Using foam interlocking mats beneath the twins’ high chairs, which worked as a catchall and were easy to either sweep or pick up and shake off outside or in the sink and wash down. Sometimes I’d throw them in the tub and soap them up for a really good wash, then air dry. They were really helpful with avoiding constant mopping of the kitchen floor.

I chose to keep the pile of toys contained in decorativstorage boxe closet boxes, such as sweater boxes, which looked like they were just a decorative part of the room. I stacked them at the end of the couch, which was farthest from the toy room (aka TV room) entry and the least visible spot.

I am sure there are many other ways to keep a house orderly when you have little toddlers going two or three different directions all day long, but these were a few of my proven and favourite ways to go about it.

Moving forward in life, when toddlers grow to school-agers, I can’t say that containing the mess gets any easier and the messes will begin to move into other rooms, but you can always strategize, strategize, strategize new ways to fight the mess!

Yet there will always be the kind of day where you’re getting ready for work and come out of your closet area doing the “I just stepped on a Lego Storm Trooper head” painful dance that will remind you that you can’t always win the battle of the mess.

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Toddler Thursday: 5 Things Moms of Boys Must Do

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Even though I’ve never had a little girl, and things like tea parties, flower necklaces and pretty pink dresses are not part of my day to day life, I’m sure there are things that a mommy of girls simply must do, get used to, or prepare for.

Being a mommy of only boys however, means that my list differs a little. Gone are the pretty dresses and cute little teacups and in its place we have mud-stained jeans and monster trucks. Here’s a list of the things that moms of boys must love, prepare for and simply accept if you have the privilege of only having boys in your life.

1. You must love bath time.

By “bath time” I don’t mean you sitting in a luxurious, warm, lavender-scented tub with candles and a glass of rose’. I mean you must love giving baths, because boys require a lot of them. You must love sitting on a soaked towel, receiving drenching splashes every few minutes whilst laughing yourself silly at the funny sounds your kids can make by blowing air into their toys or pouring water all over each other. You must love the smell of bubble-gum scented bubble bath on the floor, the curtains, your clothing, and the new set of clean towels and outfits you just took out for them.

Twins Bath

2. You must think farts are funny.

Why you may ask? Boys think farts are funny: period. The way you handle that will determine your stress levels. If you try to get them to stop laughing about it, it will only make things worse. They might actually end up laughing in spite of you. If you laugh with them, you’ll all benefit. Right now I have no control over my little one’s inappropriate timing when it comes to letting out a fart, but I’m sure once they are older, I could stress the fact that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to letting one “rip”.

3. You must prepare for chaos at all times

Whether it’s their entire toy collection lying on your 1.25 x 2.2 lounge carpet, the kitchen sink filled with plates, spoons, sippy-cups and bowls in all the colours of the rainbow or the aftermath of a nuclear bomb that hit their bedroom, boys are messy. It doesn’t matter how many times you pick up all the toys, sort them accordingly and place them in their respective bags/boxes, as soon as you turn your back they WILL take that box and turn it upside down. Resigning yourself to the fact that they are having fun and that the chaos is not life threatening could save you a lot of time and even help you enjoy their craziness a bit.

Boys Chaos

4. You must rethink your “safety” standards

You know those mommies who religiously sterilize their baby’s bottles and pacifiers, run behind their toddler with hand wipes and gasps loudly every time her little angel takes a fall. Well I used to be one of those mommies or at least that was the plan. With boys, you can’t be one of those mommies. Boys are rough and will always be rough. They jump off things, drive into things, run over things and climb up things. They taste dirt, grass, old food, papers and basically anything they find goes straight to their mouths just out of curiosity. They try to run or drive their scooters faster than the other and with multiple boys; you’ll even have to break up a full blown fist to fist fight every so often. The best thing to do for your own sanity is to stock up on some Band-Aids and look the other way every now and then.

Twins Sea

5. You must be prepared for a constant battle of wills.

Just like girls, boys are strong-willed, yet unlike girls they will easily start a war just to have things their way. Whether you have multiples or boy siblings, be prepared for constant fighting. It could be over the same toy, who gets to sit on mommy or daddy’s lap, or even just getting in each other’s way that could start a battle between the two. My “go to” thing in a situation like this is DISTRACTION. It doesn’t matter what you do; make a funny sound, point out something, or pull a funny face, just distract them as quick as possible.

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Toddler Thursday: Tips for Waiting Patiently in Line

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Categories Going out, Parenting, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers1 Comment

No one likes to wait, right?  And having to wait with twin toddlers in tow can be considered a rare form of torture.

waiting

My twin girls are now 6 1/2, and I still employ some of the “entertainment” techniques I used when they were toddlers when we find ourselves waiting somewhere.  For us, this made standing in line at the grocery checkout [mostly] bearable, and waiting in the pediatrician’s office not [quite] so torturous.

Here are my top five tips for waiting patiently with the littles.

Put your hands…  The girls could be “entertained”, at least long enough for me to unload the grocery cart, with a game of “put your hands”.  “Put your hands on your head.”  “Now put your fingers in your belly button.”  “Put one finger in your ear and one on your nose.”  “Do you have pockets?  Put your hands in your pockets.”  This makes me laugh now to remember, but I tried to dress the girls in something with pockets if we were going grocery shopping.  They LOVED to put their hands in their pockets, and it kept their hands from touching everything in the checkout line!

Pick a square.  This gem still serves me well in public restrooms (ICK!!!).  I’ll tell the girls to look around and pick their very favorite square of tile to stand on.  Or, “Put one foot on one square, and your other foot in a different square.”  “Can you reach your feet across four squares?”  “Can you both stand on the same square?”  My kiddos are six and they still love to tell me how many squares they can stretch across.  (Knock yourselves out, girls…as long as you don’t fall down in the public restroom…ICK!!!)

I spy.  Our girls loved to play “I Spy” with a magazine or book while we waited in a doctor’s office.  We’d look for certain colors, animals, shapes, letters.  As our girls grew, this game evolved.  “How much does this cost?” asked in the checkout line, was a great way for them to practice numbers.

Sign language.  We did Baby Sign Language with our girls, and they loved to show off their stuff.  It would buy me some time to run through the list of words they knew.  “How do you sign ‘cow’?”  “How do you sign ‘book’?”  “Now, ‘book’, ‘ball’, ‘book’?”  Cue laughter.  (And a couple of times this led to me meeting someone who spoke ASL…that was super cool for the girls to experience!)

Fill in the blanks.  We’ve all read the same books 1,459,297 times, right?  Especially with rhyming books, I found I could recite them quite easily, and the girls LOVED to fill in the blanks.  “‘A’ is for apple that I like to (bite), ‘B’ is for (bear) whom I cuddle at (night).”  Songs are also fair game here.  “Mary had a little (lamb), it’s fleece was white as (snow)”.  And throwing in something silly, mistaking that Mary had a little “horse”, for example, would keep our girls in good spirits.

Waiting with twin toddlers (or twin six-year olds) is not something I relish most of the time, but we usually find a way to occupy ourselves…have some fun…and maybe even learn a little something.

Do you have any tips and tricks to share for when you’re found waiting somewhere with your littles?  We’d love to hear!

MandyE is mom to 6 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Quintessential Twin Pictures

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When my girls were born 6 1/2 years ago, I wasn’t on Facebook. I hadn’t started blogging. And — to my knowledge — Pinterest didn’t yet exist. I barely had any mommy friends, let alone friends with twins. (That’s funny to think now, since almost all my mommy friends have multiples!)

I say that to say, I didn’t have a ton of inspiration for pictures. I took a blue million. Now, though, I look around at all the adorableness on social media, and I wish I could rewind the clock, if for no other reason than to take some adorable smooshy baby pictures.

One picture I’m thankful I captured is what I think of as a truly quintessential “twin” picture. I’m not sure where I got the idea back in the day (how old am I???), but it’s one that just makes me smile.

What is cuter than a baby in a bucket swing? Twins in a bucket swing!

Two kiddos, back to back in a bucket swing at the park. How I love those matching hats, baby-soft skin, chunky little legs, and uber-clean tennis shoes…all TIMES TWO.

If you have infant or toddler twins and haven’t taken such a picture: GET THEE TO A PLAYGROUND. FIND THYSELF A BUCKET SWING. Aaaaand GO!!!

These days I’m almost always at the ready with my trusty camera. And a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had an opportunity to sorta-kinda recreate this quintessential twin shot.

No, I didn’t cram my kiddos into a bucket seat at the park. (They’re slight, but I think that would be pushing it.) My dad has a disc swing [there’s probably a real name for this?] at his house. The girls were delighted to play on it last month when we went down for a visit. They were taking turns well enough, but then I suggested they try to swing together. (Oh, and please do so while I find the perfect camera angle… HA!)

Too big for a bucket swing, perhaps, but these twin sisters are never too big for an outdoor adventure.

Voilà!

I still love that baby-soft skin, now with matching ponytails and scruffed up tennis shoes.

I can’t foresee what my next recreation might be, but know I’ll be on the lookout, ever ready to capture the moment.

What’s your favorite twin/triplet/more pose? Share it on our Facebook page. We’d love to see!!!

MandyE is mom to 6 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Toddler Thursday: What’s Your Religious Holiday? We Call Ours “Eid”

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Categories Diversity, Holidays, Parenting, Religion, Toddler ThursdayTags , , , 4 Comments

How to get toddlers involved and excited about a holiday when you are strung out from months of lack of sleep, the twins can’t stay up past 7:30 p.m., and are too little to really understand anyway?

First, some background on this holiday I’m talking about. Last week, millions of people across North America celebrated Eid-Ul-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of daily fasting. There are two Eid holidays that occur within a few months of each other. The second one, Eid-Ul-Adha, marks the pilgrimmage to Mecca which millions of faithful followers perform each year.

These days, many Muslim families with young children are looking for ways to adapt the customs and rituals of Eid celebrations from “back home” and adding a North American twist.

Eid is usually celebrated by dressing in new clothes, going to early morning community prayers, visiting friends and neighbours, and noshing on delicious spreads of sweet, salty, and fried foods that you normally wouldn’t eat all in the same day! Growing up, the excitement of Eid was always in dressing up in cultural clothes, going to “Open Houses” where the aforementioned food would be laid out, and getting small amounts of cash in envelopes from older relatives and family friends, called an “Eidee”.

The first couple of Eids we dressed our little ones up in cute outfits, skipped the community prayer due to it being a logistical nightmare, and instead visited close family for lunch and dinner. When they became toddlers, I searched online for trendy, printable decorations to hang up on our fireplace to make things festive. They were only 2.5 years old that summer, but old enough to get excited about parties and Christmas. I found some adorable, free printables for Ramadan and Eid banners at Sakina Design.

Our first EId banner
“Eid Mubarak” (Happy Eid)

For the stairs, I wrapped thick, multi-coloured ribbon from Michaels around as you would tinsel. And of course, there were the gold star decorations which I bought from Christmas clearances past. (Anyone else buy shiny Christmas decorations and use them for other holidays?) When Mister and Missy came home, their reaction was “Wow, niiice” and “Star!” By the next day they didn’t take notice.

For Eid Year 3, I invested in some Eid-inspired cookie cutters from an online Ramadan and Eid decoration store called Eidway. They come in the shape of a five- and eight-point stars, moon crescent, lantern, and mosque, which are all recognizable symbols of the faith.

Eid and Ramadan cookie cutters by Eidway
Unique cookie cutters shapes by Eidway

Since Mister and Missy were experienced play dough shapers, they loved making shapes with the cookie cutters.

Twin Bakers hard at work
Twin Bakers hard at work
Mastering the cookie at three years old
Mastering the cookie at three years old

This year now that the twins are four and a half years old, Mister and Missy were very excited about making Eid cookies. The only problem was, lack of time! Although they are off school since it’s summer, we are still working full-time, and it’s been hard to find enough time (and energy!) to start the four step process of making the dough, rolling and doing the shapes, baking the cookies, then decorating. It took us a few days, but we managed to hold a few sessions of cookie cutting and decorating. All for four cookies which they get to eat all by themselves. (the rest I set aside and decorated for friends and family)

Other things I had planned which I didn’t get to do was make sheer korma (traditional sweet vermicelli in sweet milk dessert), make cookies for more neighbours, put up more Eid decorations including lights, and doing some craft activities. Oh well there’s always next Eid!

How have you incorporated a unique holiday or celebration into your family lives? What new traditions have you started (or are thinking about starting) as your children get older?

Ambereen is a proud Canadian-Muslim MoM of 4 year old BG twins. She is already making plans for fun activities to do with the kids for the next religious holiday. You can find her blogging at 2CuteBlog.

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How the 1-2-3 Magic Approach Supports Parental Consistency

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Categories Books, Discipline, Parenting, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers44 Comments

I’m a huge believer in parental consistency. When the parent is consistent, it gives each child a feeling of security. In a world in which they have little power and even less context, they can trust that their parents will always follow through on what they say and can be relied on implicitly. By demonstrating self control, we teach them lessons that will last their whole lives. Yes, I know. It doesn’t much seem like they’re learning any self control at all at ages 2 and 3, but they are.

The challenge is that consistency is hard. Being sleep-deprived and pulled in eleven directions at once as a new parent makes it even harder. 1-2-3 Magic is a book by Thomas W. Phelan that provides parents with a practical approach to achieving consistency.

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

MandyE wrote a review of 1-2-3 Magic that is a good counterpoint to the summary I provide below.

I have to confess that I came to the book late, when my kids were at the tail end of the Terrible Awful Horrible Threes.  What I discovered was that I’d been practicing its tenets already. I had a leg up, though. My baby sister is 10.5 years my junior so got some parental practice as a pre-teen and teen. I also spent a lot of time in therapy before getting pregnant talking through exactly how I wanted to parent, in my attempt to break harmful family patterns. As my former husband put it, 1-2-3 Magic is just a matter of common sense, but it’s common sense spelled out with practical steps for application.

Premise

The basic premise of 1-2-3 Magic is that structure can help parents achieve consistency.

Phelan’s approach also assumes something that child psychologists know well: the ultimate reward any child seeks is attention. If a kiddo gets attention from her parent for bad behaviour, then she’ll continue it. If you withdraw attention for bad and give attention for good, you’ll quickly retrain his expectations.

That’s where time out comes in. Time out is simply the withdrawal of parental attention. It doesn’t have to have special chair, unless that’s what works for you. It certainly doesn’t involve talking or eye contact.

Goal

So, what is consistency? It boils down to two things:

  1. Parents do what we say.
  2. Parents are predictable.

Technique

The 1-2-3 Magic approach is a combination of counting and time out.

First, you set expectations. Tell your children that you are going to count 1, 2, 3 if they’re naughty. At 3, they’ll go to time out. Don’t worry if they don’t understand. They’ll pick it up.

When they do something against the rules, say 1. The next time they do something inappropriate, or if they don’t stop the original behaviour, say 2. At the next infraction, you say 3 and put them in time out.

If they come out of time out, don’t make eye contact. Don’t try to reason with them. Just gently pick them up and place them back in time out. The total time for time out should be one minute per year of age for neurotypical children.

When the time out is over, don’t try to reason with them or tell them what they did wrong. You can go over basic rules at a point when they’re not already upset. Don’t go back over examples of early indiscretions. They’ve already paid for the rule they broke, and listening to a lecture is a second punishment that accomplishes very little.

I’d recommend waiting a few hours, maybe until the next day.

My personal approach — I can’t remember if this is in the book — is to talk about rules when we’re happy and having a good time together. I don’t even bother trying to reason with the kids when they’re upset. I just say to my 9-year-olds, “I love you, but we can’t have a discussion like this. When you feel calm, we can talk if you want to.” What cracks me up is that my girls now use that on each other!

If you stick with the 1-2-3 Magic approach, your kids will know that you’re serious. Don’t let them get away with someone one day and punish them the next (except the day you start implementing 1-2-3 Magic). It gives them a feeling of safety to know what the rules are, and this is far more effective than talking it through. Yes, there’ll be a lot of screaming at first, but they’ll figure out you’re serious.

Personal Example

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

I haven’t had to count past 1 with my girls in at least 3 years. Seriously. I don’t think they have any idea what would happen if I got to 3. I don’t even know what would happen. My daughters are 9 and are generally reasonable human beings. But when they hear me say, “One,” in an I-am-not-messing-around tone, they straighten right up.

An even better example of effective use of the 1-2-3 Magic philosophy occurred with my nephew. By the time he was two years old, he hadn’t had consistent nutrition, much less consistent discipline. I had to go to London to take care of him for a week while his custody was being determined.

It took 6 hours for him to figure out the system. Six hours.

Sure, I had to pick him up and place him on the chair I designated for timeout 26 times the first time, but he got it. I just picked him up and placed him in a chair, saying the word “time out”. I avoided eye contact. Every time he slipped out of the chair, I gently picked him up and placed back on it. When the fifth time out came around, he didn’t try to escape. He sat there, crying, for 120 seconds. When the time was up, I picked up him up, hugged him, and told him that I loved him. We returned to playing with cars.

At the end of the week, when he saw his mom, he begged to stay with me (which broke my heart, because I couldn’t bring him to the US to live with me because of immigration laws). He didn’t see me as Mean Auntie. He knew that I was predictable, and that predictability made him feel safe.

If you want a much more well written explanation of the whole thing, buy the book. It’s a very quick read.

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Everything I Need to Know About Toddlers I Learned From Story Time

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Categories Activities, Parenting, Toddler Thursday4 Comments

I first went to story time at the library when my oldest were almost 2. I thought it would be a one time activity, but Ms Jen was so compelling we ended up there every week. That was 5 years ago. My little girls are 2.5 and although other activities tend to get in the way, we still make it a priority to go see Ms Jen on Thursdays at 10:30. They always start the half hour session with “Bubblegum” and end it with “Alligator”.  The favorite activity was always petting the stuffed alligator puppet. I ended up buying the song and searching the internet for 2 stuffed alligators just like it. Recently my kids wanted to give away those beloved puppets but I wouldn’t let them.

Ms Jen always started her story times with some guidelines that I found were pretty helpful for the rest of the toddler day too.  I’m going to share them with you, but you might want to sit on a rug with alphabet letters on it to fully absorb this information!

PARTICIPATE

I don’t mean the toddlers. We all know they participate plenty. We all know our kids grow up too quickly. They don’t need to be reminded.

Maybe need to be more connected. When your little one puts on a funny hat and says, “Look at me!”, don’t just look. Put one on too! It takes 2 seconds and you’ve managed to catch their eyes light up just a little bit more.

Now, I understand that you can’t participate in everything everytime. Even the toddlers sit and watch sometimes. But make sure your sit and watch time is active too. I remember waking up for 3am feedings and timing it so I could watch a 45 minute Ellen episode. It was just enough time for me to feed, change, and swaddle 2 babies back to sleep. They got what they needed and so did I. That feeding was for me. The rest of them were saved for the babies.

MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS

This is a tough one cause I know we’re all on our phones a lot. Multi tasking always!

Wouldn’t it help us get through a tantrum if we also didn’t have to get the cookies out of the oven. I know, we don’t have time to make cookies. I mean make a doctor’s appointment.

When you’re on “mother time,” be on mother time. Save the phone call for when you’ve locked yourself in the bathroom. I like what one mom said to me. She mentioned that she doesn’t ask her toddlers to do something until she is physically able to help them. If you say, “Go get your shoes,” don’t be surprised if they need help. Be ready yourself so you can provide that help. Tantrum avoided!

If we were texting during a job interview I doubt we would get that job. Let’s give our children the same respect.

BE PREPARED FOR BAD DAYS

And we all have them.  We have bad minutes and hours too. Guess what? It’s okay!

If you’re prepared, then not much can faze you. If you know your toddlers hate to get in their carseats, just know you’re going to have to add 45 minutes to your errand. Get a cooler for your car so your milk doesn’t spoil while you pry them in.

If you know they are going to climb out of cribs every bedtime, grab yourself a snack, pull up a rug with your device of choice and get caught up on Netflix. You can’t be prepared for every situation, but you can be prepared for enough of them to avoid problems.

Today I brought 3 towels to the pool instead of 4. I now know that was the biggest mistake ever and I will never do that again.

RELAX

You don’t have to take yoga in order to relax. (It helps, though.) It’s true that kids follow your mood and your flow. So if you’re relaxed, they will be too.

I could tell my toddler was about to get frustrated, so I got there first and stamped my foot and screamed, “I can’t do it!” She was so surprised I knew what she was going to do that we had a big giggle fest instead and the moment was diffused.

Ihave hardly had to yell lately because of this principle. I just calmly give them choices that they can live with. “We are going to change your diaper. Do you want to do it the sad way or the happy way?” This principle doesn’t mean you have to be floating on a cloud all of the time. It just means that the cliche is true: “This too shall pass.”

ASK FOR HELP

Yes! All the time, for anything.

It doesn’t always mean we will get the help we need, but if we don’t ask, we don’t get. It seems natural to ask for help when we have newborns, but they don’t go away once they start sleeping through the night. They become toddlers and then teenagers!

  • Get help from the internet: Your hubby needs razors? Amazon Prime.
  • Get help from neighbors: Have a sleeping baby and need to do a school pickup? Bring the baby monitor next door.
  • Get help from friends: Have a lunch date at a playplace. You get adult conversation and kids burn energy.
  • Get help from family. Yes, we may have in-law problems, but if they do your dishes while you nap then you don’t have to talk to them.
  • Get help from your spouse: Let them load the dishwasher their own way; I promise it’s ok.
  • Get help from anyone: Hire a cleaning service!!
  • Most importantly, get help from God/church. True story: I prayed for 10 more minutes of sleep and sure enough my babies went back to sleep and then on the dot of 10 minutes started fussing. Didn’t need an alarm clock that day!

How will you implement your own “Story Time Rules” in order to deal with your sweet* toddlers!

 

*I highly recommend a book called Toddlers are A**holes! It helps with the relaxing part!

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