The boys and I were invited to our first playdate yesterday since we moved to town in November. I was keen to make a good impression so typically my normally cheery Master J was in a funk from about 10 minutes after we got there.  He tried climbing over the furniture to get to my lap, demanded to be inside when it was outdoor play, was being rude to his brother and after he threw a toy at me I smacked him; not hard, just a three finger tap on his leg to let him know I wasn’t joking and to stop his behaviour this instant.  Instead of having a rude toddler after that, I had a sooky one who cuddled in on my lap and demanded to go home right NOW!! So, you can see it was going severely downhill and I wasn’t making the impression I had hoped for. The other Mums now prolly think I am a capital punishment enthusiast who smacks her kids black and blue at any opportunity. For the record, we rarely smack; in our house it is always the kids choice, as we do the 1,2,3 Magic.  Nine times out of ten Master J will take me to two but not three where a smack bum is the consequence. G Man went to three once when we first instigated it, and once only – he has never been smacked since which was about three years ago, and will prolly never be again. But yesterday I smacked Master J out of sheer exasperation, not a conscious decision, which I did not feel proud of.  Toddlers push all out buttons and know how to turn us into the Mothers we don’t like to be. Grrrrrrr.

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This is Master J last year telling me that we had to leave NOW to go to the shops when I was trying to get ready myself and get a few things done before we left.

Typical toddler ‘tude!

So, whilst exhibit A above clearly demonstrates I am far from the perfect parent, I thought I would share three of the biggest parenting tips I have learned about staving off a toddler meltdown,which until yesterday I had been rather proud of. Sigh. Kids turn us into the biggest fibbers don’t they?

All these have to do with giving your child a little bit of control…cos we all love doing that right?? 😉

1.Choice

Whilst I firmly believe routine and setting boundaries are the core of raising small children, toddlers in particular like to flex their muscles when it comes to making decisions for themselves. So let them, within reason. When they are getting dressed for the day, if you are staying at home, let them choose their wardrobe. If you are going out and would prefer them dressed in something vaguely sensible, then you select three tops and let them choose the one they would like to wear. Controlled choices are amazing. You determine the outcome whilst letting your child decide how it is achieved. You will get clean today but you may have a bath or a shower, you choose. We are in the fruit section at the shops: I tell the boys we will be buying fruit to have at home and knowing what they will and wont eat I say, Do you want apples or kiwifruit, bananas or oranges, grapes or rockmelon? The kids feel they have some control and power when in fact I still control the outcome. I painted my toenails this morning, a bright red. The boys now want bright red toes too which is just not going to happen.  I tell them I will paint your nails; silver sparkle or gold sparkle (you can hardly notice it). They are delighted at having a choice and both choose silver sparkle.

Give kids a choice and they will be putty in your hands, trust me :) I also find that when I am adamant about something important with no choices available, they are more receptive and will do as I say.

2. When/Then

This is a tip I picked up from a Practical Parenting course and it works a treat! The premise is instead of you being the mean parent and handing out a punishment you hand control of the consequence to your child.   Imagine you have served dinner and your child wants icecream even though they have not finished their dinner. Typically a parent would say If you don’t eat your dinner, you can’t have icecream. Using the word don’t gives kids an option to not eat their dinner, do or don’t, which we don’t want. Using the word can’t infers that we are big mean parents who are not letting them have icecream, we are punishing them.  Instead, try using the words when and then. When you have finished your dinner, then you can have icecream. See the difference?? When gives them the power to be able to do it; its their decision to finish their dinner. Then becomes a reward for finishing; it assumes they will finish and they get a reward, not a punishment from you for not doing it. It takes YOU out of the equation. Say it in your head. How much better and more inviting does the when/then scenario sound???

If you don’t eat your dinner, you can’t have icecream.  When you have finished your dinner, then you can have icecream. 

When you have cleaned your room, then we will go to the park.

When you have unpacked the dishwasher, then you can play on the XBox.

See??

3.Five minute warning

This one I use when we are going to leave somewhere I know the kids wont want to, like a mates house or somewhere else fun. I also use it for bedtime. It is the best method I have learned so far and has saved soooo much angst, especially if I am solo parenting and just cannot deal with a meltdown. Its pretty simple and gives them the heads up to prepare to leave/go to bed. Nobody likes to be told we are doing something we don’t want to do, and we are doing it NOW. So five minutes before the event I tell them, Boys you have five minutes until……..Make sure your child acknowledges you. Then give them a two minute warning with acknowledgement and then Right, kids, its time to…….now. It shows them respect and gives them a little bit of assumed control of the situation.

I had to do this one in reverse yesterday at our playdate as I didn’t want to leave but Master J did – so it was like OK buddy, chin-up, I know you want to go but just give Mummy 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes etc :(

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Hope these help – I know I’m not the best Mum in the world and this Motherhood gig hands me my arse on a platter at times, but I like to think I have the basics right :)

There is no one way to be a perfect Mother, but a million ways to be a good one.

What are your top tips?

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