Monday, March 21, 2011

Have I ever told you about.....?

Two of our sweeties can be rather challenging.*

One precious child struggles, at the heart level, to fully trust us to meet needs, to be safe and trustworthy, to love no matter what.  There is a deep need to control the surrounding environment.  It is hard.

Another is strong-willed.  Desiring to keep us on our toes.  Arguing with pretty much everything we say.  Delightful, I know.  We choose to believe it's a stage. :)

When our kiddos were a little younger, there were days that I called my mom, in tears, fearing deeply that I may not be able to help my child's heart heal.  I was anxious about the depth of the battle.  I longed to love without conflict, yet unsure of how to do that. 

Cue the hallelujah chorus.

My mom, experienced Mama that she is (four kids in six years!), gave us one of the best parenting tips ever.  It takes the distraction tactic to a new level.  It helps avoid those silly little battles that don't need to happen.  It has saved many a morning around here when one child seemed determined to sabotage the day for everyone.  And here is how it works.  (Yes, I am sharing this little gem for free! ;)

Mama:  "Hey sweetie, it's time to go to the bathroom.  We're leaving soon."
Child:  "I don't need to go!"
Mama:  "That's okay.  You don't have to go -- you just need to try."
Child:  "I don't want to!  I already went a while ago."
(You can see where this is going, right?  Ugh.  Been there, done that.  Not getting anywhere that way.)

Let's try this again....

Mama: "Hey sweetie, it's time to go to the bathroom. We're leaving soon."
Child: "I don't need to go!"
Mama:  "Hey, have I ever told you about ANTEATERS?  Can you believe there is a type of animal that actually eats bugs?  Crazy, huh.  Are you hungry for ants?  I bet I could catch some for our morning snack.  Ha, ha, ha...."

Meanwhile, Mom takes the child by the hand and nonchalantly walks toward the bathroom while filling the child in on the amazing anteater.  Getting there, she helps the child onto the potty, and keeps on talking.  Child cooperates.  Child does not seem to notice that s/he has been had.  Or child does not care, and chooses to bask in the positive (rather than negative!) attention. 

AMAZING.  Life-changing for us.  I dare you to try it! 

This also works with getting shoes on, cleaning up toys (hand the child toys to toss into the tub while you chat), getting in the bathtub, etc.  The main trick is to be calm, keep it interesting, and keep on talking, engaging them as you go along.  And don't talk about the battle they just tried to start.  Just keep on going.  (Deal with those heart issues when your child is in a better mood.  I promise, your conversation will be much more effective that way!)

My problem was Mommy Brain.  You know....that tiny little issue where formerly intelligent women struggle to string two coherant thoughts together.  I loved this idea, but wondered how in the world I'd put it into practice on the days when I really needed it.  Those days when I'm wiped out, tired of the battles, and just trying to keep it together. 

Again, my Mom came through for me.  The alphabet.  Come on -- tell me you didn't wonder why in the world I started with Anteaters.  When I use this tactic, I start with the letter A and quickly scan through.  The first semi-intriguing topic that pops into my head is the one I go with.  Alligators?  The beach?  Falling stars?  You betcha. 

Okay, now it's your turn.  Try this out, and tell me how it goes.  If you love it, I'll pass along the thank-yous to my Mom. :)

And please feel free to share your sanity saver parenting tips, too!  Goodness knows we can all use new ideas from time to time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

*Did you know that a terribly stressful and conflicted pregnancy can change the way a child's brain develops? Our bodies are so intricately designed! Although healing truly is possible, it does not happen overnight, and it takes some pretty intentional parenting. More on that another day.


Pauline said...

Wow, so simple, yet so awesome. Thank you for sharing!!

Kim said...

LOVE this post! Distraction is a true art that can minimize and avoid meltdowns. Sometimes when Evie is in tears because she isn't getting her way, I change subjects and ask her if she wants to do something totally different. Her reply (through tears) is a dramatic "Yessss!" I love the ABC trick. It's about being a step ahead of them... out in front of them. I hate the moments when I am reacting and can't believe I'm saying what I am. In those moments I am trying to catch up to them but I'm so far behind. Quick deep breath and a prayer. Fortunately, we get do-overs too. I love your writing. It's hilarious and fun to read!

Beth said...

I am totally going to have to give this a try. It could not have come at a better time. V has been soooo challenging lately. There is a lot of anger and attitude when things don't go her way or if they can't happen right at that second when she thinks they should. Hoping it's just a phase that ends quickly because everything I have read and tried is not working. I don't like the disrespect she shows but can't figure out how to help correct it. If you have any tips I would gladly listen. Sorry we were not able to make it on Saturday to the picnic. Maybe we can get together, let the kids play and just chat a bit. Let me know if you're up for something one of these days.

Beth W.

Annie said...

I sometimes hear mom doing that with my kids --- and usually their ear's perk up, and they'll listen. Other times, its hard to hear her oh-so-interesting conversation over the screaming. But at least it keeps ME smiling and distracted!

Hm, maybe I'll make a few sticky notes of random topics of interest and post them places where they might be needed. I can't count on my brain to remember which letter I left off at last!

The Kinkel Family said...

Ha! Great idea, Granny! Love that mama of yours :)
Please, please, please pass along any more bright ideas that will help us all!

Jamie said...

I love this idea!!! I'm going to give it a go tomorrow :)

buford said...

I have used this with children before, but I have forgotten this because of our own little challenging 2 year old. I have been trying this technique this week and it has worked really well with my defiant, confrontational 2 yr. old. He is definitely calmer, probably because I am calmer!!!!

Heather@Cultivated Lives said...

What a great idea. I'm totally going to give it a try. Sometimes, I'll challenge them to a race to _____ (the potty, car, upstairs, etc...) How effective this is, depends how intrenched they are in fighting me, so I have to proactive and recognize a battle before it starts. :)

rachel said...

I wanted to comment on your last paragraph...that is largely what we have been dealing with. I feel like my child was literally born with PTSD. I would be extremely interested in anything you have to say about this! Just thought I would drop a little hint, so you don't forget! :)

Sonya said...

Brilliant! In the middle of a confrontation trying to get ready for worship, I remembered, "Aardvark!" (maybe that's what I'll call the technique). It worked! She went from screaming/tantruming to quietly listening to my story about how the aardvark eats. And the best thing . . . in a few minutes she came to me with calmness & told me why she was upset. I lost count of how many bonuses took place in the span of 5 minutes. From screaming/crying to silent/eye contact & listening. Peace restored. Able to articulate her problem in a mature calm way. She even calmly accepted the fact that the outcome had not changed.
Thank you for sharing your mom's helpful advice.

Deb Wilson said...

We have been trying this with Evan, he's not particularly strong willed, but he has his moments. The funniest thing happened yesterday when Adam went to take him to the bathroom...Evan started crying and Adam said "Can I tell you something I know about bears?" through his tears Evan said, "No, I want to tell you about bears daddy!" so off they went with Evan telling Adam what "little" he knew about bears. Thank you for sharing Kiara!!

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