My first education class in college was child development. My professor was also the director/teacher of the university preschool. She was vibrant and intelligent. 11 years later, after teaching and now being a mom, I still am pulling our pieces of information that she taught me.
One such piece is how to evaluate a child's behavior. She said that when a child acts out, you should look at the following three things, in this order:
- The Child's Environment: Is she hot/cold? Is it a new place? Is there enough for her to do? Is there too much to do? Is she hungry or tired?
- My Behavior: Am I expecting too much? Am I challenging her enough? Am I too tired and not listening well to her? Did I give enough time to transition? Did I force her to do something she wasn't ready for?
- The Child's Behavior: Only after you have looked at the child's environment and your own behavior can you look at the child and start to deal with how to move forward to correct the behavior in the future.
It seems that so often parents (myself included) expect our little ones to do and be more than they are truly capable of. This article from Grounded Parents showed up on my Facebook News Feed tonight. It does a good job of explaining how to set realistic and appropriate expectations on our kids, especially with the approaching holiday celebrations.
Years ago, just after Adam and I were married, I remember talking to a girlfriend about her new role as a mom. She was starting to butt heads with her in-laws and extended family about her parenting practices. This mom wouldn't bring her kids to family events if they fell during nap time. She wouldn't let her kids eat just anything that Grandma offered (i.e. lots of rich, sugary foods all day). I remember listening to her and thinking that it must be hard to stand up for your kiddos. But good job, Mom!
Adam and I are lucky to have supportive family and friends, so thankfully we don't have to stand up for Nora's well being to others very often, be we do have to pay attention to it ourselves. Almost every time that Nora has had a tantrum or meltdown, Adam and I can look back and realize that it is usually our fault, not hers. One time Adam even said, "Yeah, we messed up today."
I don't think that we need to beat ourselves up about messing up, but I do think that it is important to acknowledge to ourselves and to Nora when we have messed up. When Nora went to bite another girl at a play date, I definitely stopped her and told her it was not okay but I also realized that the house was a pigsty after 2 hours and three toddlers. It was past lunchtime. I should have asked everyone to leave earlier instead of trying to let them stay longer. Nora only reacted because I was expecting her to behave in a situation that she wasn't yet capable of doing.
So why did I have to wash puke out of our clothes tonight? Here's all the facts:
- We moved this past weekend. Though Nora has handled it well, I know that her fuse is shorter.
- We moved this past weekend. I did not handle the packing process well and my fuse is shorter.
- Adam has been working late hours for weeks and any time at home has been spent working around the house. Nora misses her daddy and is a little more emotional.
- We went to Thanksgiving at a good friend's house, whom Nora loves, but there were a lot of new people there. Lots of food she didn't eat. I brought a few things, but pretzels and applesauce do not a dinner make, at least not for my chow hound.
Nora had a blast, she ran around with the other girls, got to jump on the beds, even started to warm up to all of the new people, surprising me with how outgoing she was becoming. I knew that she was going to get tired but she was just having so much fun. I didn't want to stop her. We don't have family here so she doesn't get these type of experiences very often. But I should have. We should have planned to leave early. Give her plenty of time to adjust to the transition. We could have left in all our own clothes.
But instead I pushed it and finally the ceiling fell. She bumped into another kiddo and started to cry. It was an exausted cry that didn't have a quick end in sight. So I decided to just go. No transition, no calm emotions. I was done and decided that we all were. And she lost it. She did not want to go because she was having fun. She screamed and sobbed and got so hysterical that she threw up three times. Nora and I ended up with her half naked in the backyard while she calmed down.
After calming down, we talked about why we were leaving. She willingly put on her shoes and jacket and gave hugs to her buddies. And I went home smelling and feeling like puke.
I also left with a good reminder of why we do the hard things of parenthood. Why we say no to good things. Why we place limits. Why it is important to know how much our children can handle. There will always be circumstances out of my control but when I pay attention to all of the facts I can do my best to help my daughter.