Recently I was feeling like a failure of a mother. My almost four-year old daughter Lili stopped listing to me. And I stopped enjoying her company. I was blaming her age for it, but deep inside I knew it was my fault. I knew, that I’m doing something wrong, that kids just don’t turn bad for no reason. And since I’m her mom, and the person she spends most of her time with, that it must be me.
So I didn’t even feel like writing parenting related posts, because last two months were really tough for me as a mom. It seemed like nothing was working with her, and I was just getting more irritated and upset. And then we left for vacation, and I saw that she was behaving really good around her grandparents and aunts and uncles. And that confirmed, that it was me, and my presence that was triggering her wining and defiance.
And then it hit me. I have let go my 10 ways to be a better parent. I mean, I didn’t mean to, but she never got to spend one-on-one time with me anymore. So all of the reading and playing that I did with her and her sister, for her didn’t really count. Because she’s not a toddler any more. She’s a preschooler who needs the one-on-one time. And I didn’t realize that.
She was missing me and she was upset.
And I wasn’t consequent with her. When she was taking away her sisters toys 5 times in a row, when she didn’t want to dress up, or help me clean her room, I would be coming up with illogical consequences: if you don’t stop, there will be no desert ! But there always was dessert.
So she stopped believing that there will be a consequence to her action.
And I was seeing her misbehaviour as my personal failure. I would get really irritated as soon as she would do something that she’s not supposed to. And I would be getting tensed and thinking: again! She’s doing it again! She’s not listing! She never listens! ( really not a nice way to think about a child !)
And so she was picking up my mood, and she too would be getting tensed and upset. It was a vicious circle.
It’s been 3 weeks now, since I have changed. And three-week since I started to enjoy my daughters company again. And here is what I have discovered, the 3 secrets to parent a preschooler:
1. Fuel the positive attention tank!
Kids need attention. If they don’t get the positive attention, they’ll try getting the negative attention, because it’s still attention! Bigger kids not only need the positive attention but also the one-on-one time. That’s what really fuels their self-confidence and their sense of security. That’s how we let them know that we love them, and that we value them. And kids who feel loved and cared for will more likely follow the rules and listen to their parents (something I had to learn the hard way).
So if you have a baby or a toddler : acknowledge what they do, play with them, cuddle them, read to them and talk to them. With a preschooler and an older kid : do all that and spend regularly time only with them, by giving your full attention!
2. Be consequent and set clear rules.
My daughter knew the rules that we have in our house, but she didn’t believe in consequences. So I have set up a comportment calendar, that works great. If she’s crossing the rule, she gets a black dot. 3 black dots mean no children’s show that day. But if she does something really nice, she gets a sticker. 3 stickers means a surprise ( a cookie, or an egg surprise, or an extra time spent together reading in my bed). And on the day when she doesn’t have any black dots, she gets a sticker too.
So it’s a mix of positive reinforcements with clear consequences. And it works great.
3. See kids and their misbehaviour as a normal part of life with kids, and keep positive attitude .
First, because not following the rules and misbehaving is a part of learning. Kids still learn how to manage their emotions and how to be a part of a society. And our attitude affect theirs. If you’re tensed and stressed, your kid will pick up your emotions and start feeling and acting the same. So instead of getting irritated that she doesn’t want to get dressed, I pretend I’m a monster who’ll catch her if she doesn’t.
It’s really a humbling experience, this parenting thing. First you learn that you know nothing. Then you find answers only to see, that as kids grow older, what used to work doesn’t anymore. And then you need to find new solutions again. And as frustrating as it sometimes is, it’s still the best thing that ever happened to me.
And how did you adjust your parenting when your toddler grew in to a preschooler?