Meghan Leahy, a parenting coach with Positively Parenting, recently had a lively online discussion with our readers, offering up some good advice for parents struggling with moody 8-year-olds, bossy 3-year-olds and tired mommas. Here are a few gems that we all could probably use.
Q. Toddler playtime
I have a three year old daughter (only child) who loves to play with her friends. But if the friend doesn’t want to do exactly what my daughter wants to do, i.e. watch a particular show, play with a particular toy, my daughter screams and whines that her friend doesn’t want to do x, y, or z with her. I’m not sure how to respond and discourage these emotional outbursts when she doesn’t get her way. This is something I’d like to get a handle on long term because she tends to do this with me as well.
A. Meghan Leahy: Hello! Welp, she sounds normal! (Sorry.) 3 year olds have one world view (theirs) and when someone else (friend, you, ANYONE) gets in the way of the world view, this leads to frustration.
She WILL keep growing and learn to share, etc., but this [takes time]. I think adjusting your expectations will help here.
Firstly, the 3-year-olds may need more supervision and input from you.
Secondly, I would try to keep them to a park or open space with more choices and less “turf wars.”
Thirdly, I would keep the play dates shorter. Be like Seinfeld and go out on top, rather than waiting for the problems to crop up.
Q. Preteen or just annoying?
I was sitting in my dentist’s chair listening about her moody 8-year-old son and was shocked to realize that my moody 8-year-old son might actually be normal. If I call him on his tone of voice, he just has a tantrum. If I sent him to his room every time he was rude, I would never see him. Sometimes I ignore the behavior, sometimes I’m less mature about it, depending on how long I’ve been putting up with it. Should I chalk it up to pre-pubescent behavior, or has he just reverted back to being a 3 year old? More importantly, in case I’m in it for the long haul, how do I respond, and what on earth is he angry about all the time, and why am I (mom!) the target?
A. Meghan Leahy: Yea….urg. The moodiness. Not easy.
This is a back and forth and you will never get it perfectly “right,” so this is something we endure.
While hormonal moodiness is absolutely normal and to be expected from all humans (some more than others), I would look into how your son is connecting with you. You either ignore it or are “less mature” about it, so there are some different messages here.
I think you need to try to get to know this new young man. He is changing, and clearly interacting with you. How can you flip it so that you connect to him BEFORE the rudeness begins?
Q. Bedtime battles
Bedtime with my 4 and 1/2 year-old son is increasingly filled with procrastination (on his part). I have talked with him about having a set amount of time (30-45) minutes set aside for everything. If he can bathe/brush/floss in 15 (I help with all of these), I will read for 30 minutes. If he can’t get ready in the 30-45 minute allotment, no books. I am tired of nagging, and I think if there is the timer involved, I can say “you have this much time” and let him make the choice of how he uses the time. I have tried this on a few occasions, not consistently, and I don’t necessarily see a big difference in him moving quickly to get ready for bed (I notice that I focus on not nagging and zenning-out, so I feel somewhat better). Do you think this is something I should pursue consistently to see if it will eventually help, or is this a mistake?
A. Meghan Leahy: Great questions here. This is a long bedtime process! And you are clearly working your buns off. Well done on how much you care and are trying.
4 year old’s are known for their bedtime shenanigans (it has to do with some totally normal developmental stuff), and so I would totally flip this. I would relax it and decide, in my head, “let’s see what happens when I let the time go.”
This means that you stop watching the clock and you focus on him.
You chat with him in the bath, make eye contact and smile and tickle him when he gets dressed, and really snuggle in with him in bed with the books.
Don’t look at the clock or say a word to him about timing.
I am betting he will relax because he won’t feel you pushing him away. And when we relax, we rest.
Q. Parenting 6-year-old
Ok, I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a push over and can let the guilt of being a divorced mom of an only child who works full time and is currently spending 50% of my time with my ailing father out of state get the best of me. It’s taken a while to see that giving in is not helping but I’m ready and trying to regain control. I know that’s my first mistake: There is no control. But how can I be a better parent and show my son that it’s important to work hard for things and then actually make decisions, not him. He’s a great kid and 80 percent awesome, but when he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s a totally different kid. I would love to smooth over some of the rough times so when we are together, no matter what is going on, we can enjoy each other.
A. Meghan Leahy: Oh, momma. You see problems, I see that you are have been working your buns off and doing a darn good job. Divorced? Ailing father out of state? Works FT? Kid is 80 percent awesome?
You don’t need parenting advice, you need a vacation.
Seriously, though, you and your son are not going to enjoy each other all of the time. We are humans and we fight and get sick of each and we are stressed.
Make a list of the two places where you feel that he needs more boundaries. Look at those two places and really think. Do you really need it? Is this the guilt talking? Either way, use the KISS factor (keep it simple, sweetie.)
And when he melts down, if you can have the maturity to love him through it while holding boundaries…well, then…that is good enough.
Click here to read a full transcript, and stay tuned: The Local Living cover story on Aug. 7 will feature three things Leahy is constantly asked by parents, and what advice she has for them.
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