hits counter
PhD in Parenting Google+ Facebook Pinterest Twitter StumbleUpon Slideshare YouTube subscribe by email or RSS
Recommended Reading



Search
GALLERIES
Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.
Navigation
Thursday
Dec152011

If there is a silver bullet, your toddler probably hid it

I've been trying to find a logical and straightforward way to write this post. But it's complicated, so I'm just going to ramble.

I've heard a lot of you talk about how difficult the toddler years are. I heard you in my post asking what you find hard about the toddler years, I heard you in my video, I  heard you in e-mails, on twitter, and in comments on other blog posts. But I've also heard you say how much fun the toddler years are, to learn to let them lead, to enjoy them and to connect with them. I heard you, on both fronts, and I nodded. You see, I don't think it is one or the other. I think it is both.

There are hard days and there are amazing days. There are days when your toddler is fun, and loving, and cute. But there are also days when your toddler is frustrating, and stubborn and difficult. There are days when you are an amazing parent. But there are also days where you feel like the worst parent in the world (I know because you've told me and because people Google "I'm a bad mother" every day and end up on my blog).

When everything is great, no one reaches out for advice. They wait until they just can't take it anymore and then, in desperation, they reach out to blogs, to books, to online advice forums, to their mom groups, and more. And nothing works.

But why not?

On those hard days, those really hard days, I think we are all looking for that silver bullet.



Crisp. Shiny. Simple.

The problem, however, is that our relationship with our toddlers is complicated. Just as our relationship with any human being that we are in a loving and interdependent relationship with, is complicated.



We sit there and we ask ourselves, "if we are going to try things, what would we try?" ... and there are so many different answers, so many different paths, none of them guaranteed to make an iota of difference in that moment on that difficult day.

And when they don't make any difference at all, or when things seem to get even worse, you are left feeling defeated. I know, because I've been there too. Many times. But I've realized, as I wrote in Ready to Snap, that when I am there, I don't need advice.

In the moments where I feel like I’m going to snap, as much as I feel like I need help, I don’t really need advice.  I do not need someone telling me how great time outs are. I do not need someone telling me that I was disrespectful to my child and that if I just focused better on connecting with her that these problems would not arise. I do not need someone saying that I expect too much of myself or that I expect too much of my children.  I do not need someone telling me that we need strict consequences for misbehaviour. I need a hug. I need empathy. I need help. I need a break. I need space. I need time to think. Once I’ve had that, I need one-on-one time with the kids to reconnect with them and I need a few days of calm for us to get back to normal and leave our stresses behind.


In the comments on that post, Amber from Strocel.com wrote:

I have gone to my room and sobbed. I have yelled, and known it wouldn’t help. And I have playfully de-escalated situations. Sometimes, I really pull through. Sometimes I don’t. Always, I try to do better.


That, for me, is what it is all about. It is about doing better. So on the good days, I try to do better, hoping it will serve me well on the bad days and hoping that the bad days will be fewer and further apart.

In general, "doing better" means working on my connection with my children. I don't need books to remind me to do that, but there are some books that I have found helpful along the way. I tend to read these books and then re-read them every once in a while, not looking for a solution for that day, but to remind myself of some of the things I can do to solidify our relationship. Two of the books I come back to over and over again are Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen and Connected Parenting by Jennifer Kolari. I find it interesting that both books, on the covers, focus on solving behaviour problems (a marketing tactic, for sure), whereas inside they are very much about creating a strong bond and developing your child's self esteem.

The bad days, when they do come up, are about survival. I try to remain calm and patient and channel those strategies that I've practiced during the good times. But I also try to forgive myself if things don't work out the way that I would like and I end up resorting to making it through the moment instead of always doing better in the moment. Things like rewards and punishments are desperate survival mechanisms for me. Things like locking myself in a room and crying are survival mechanisms for me. Sometimes going to the grocery store alone even if I don't really need anything is a survival mechanism for me. They are survival mechanisms because they help me get through a situation from which I see no other escape without hurting anyone. But they are not, in my mind, good long-term child rearing strategies.

As much as we may like them to be, good strategies for parenting toddlers aren't silver bullets. They probably won't fix the problem that you are facing today. But they will help you to connect in new ways and relate to each other in new ways on the days when things are going well and that will fix a lot for the long-term. If there is a silver bullet, I think our toddlers were probably smart enough to hide it from us, realizing that it wouldn't serve them well developmentally or in terms of their relationship with us. Sometimes toddlers are smarter than we give them credit for.

Image credits: Silver Bullet by eschipul on flickr and Stream of Consciousness by jurvetson on flickr. Post contains affiliate links.


Toddler Carnival Sponsor
« Toddler Survival 101 | Main | Toddler World »

Reader Comments (24)

This is my favorite post from you, ever. Right on the nose.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Wow...something guided me to hop on your blog and read this before bed! Perfect. Thank-you

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

That is an amazing piece of writing and gets me think more. I'm annoyed when I'm advised repeatedly during my bad days with my kid. I think that books, blogs and people may be helpful to you in parenting your child but it is your decision at the end of the day. No one can understand your situation with your children better than you. So be confident about your abilities as a mother and enjoy motherhood.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFarrukh

[...] tantrums and good days. good link to read “And when they don’t make any difference at all, or when things seem to get even worse, you are left feeling defeated. I know, because I’ve been there too. Many times. But I’ve realized, as I wrote in Ready to Snap, that when I am there, I don’t need advice. In the moments where I feel like I’m going to snap, as much as I feel like I need help, I don’t really need advice. I do not need someone telling me how great time outs are. I do not need someone telling me that I was disrespectful to my child and that if I just focused better on connecting with her that these problems would not arise. I do not need someone saying that I expect too much of myself or that I expect too much of my children. I do not need someone telling me that we need strict consequences for misbehaviour. I need a hug. I need empathy. I need help. I need a break. I need space. I need time to think. Once I’ve had that, I need one-on-one time with the kids to reconnect with them and I need a few days of calm for us to get back to normal and leave our stresses behind. In the comments on that post, Amber from Strocel.com wrote: I have gone to my room and sobbed. I have yelled, and known it wouldn’t help. And I have playfully de-escalated situations. Sometimes, I really pull through. Sometimes I don’t. Always, I try to do better. That, for me, is what it is all about. It is about doing better. So on the good days, I try to do better, hoping it will serve me well on the bad days and hoping that the bad days will be fewer and further apart.” GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); GA_googleAddAttr("LangId", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "parenting"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "simply-not-so-simple"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "bad-days"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "connecting"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "good-days"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "parenting"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "silver-bullet"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "temper-tantrums"); GA_googleFillSlot("wpcom_sharethrough"); Share this:ShareFacebookPrintTwitterEmailDiggRedditStumbleUponLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in parenting, Simply Not So simple and tagged bad days, connecting, good days, parenting, Silver bullet, temper tantrums by simplynotso. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

Thank you for this post. It's so true, there are no silver bullets. No magic tricks. No instant fixes. Because children are people, not automatons, and because motivating people is a complex art, not a mechanical process. How I wish it was easier!

On 'doing better': if there's one thing I'm having to learn from my 3.5 year old, it's that I am his role model whether I like it or not. So the way I talk to him, including the way I treat him when he is being aggravating, is the way he will treat me, and his father, and his grandparents, and his friends, and his teachers, and probably his own children if he has any. It is a huge wake-up call to hear him talking to his friends the way I talk to him when I'm angry ("I asked you a question! Answer me!" - and worse.) I am slowly realising that it's much more important to model respectful and assertive communication than to 'get results'. Better to focus on the process than the end result.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFran

Fran - I have a 3.5yo, too, and am experiencing the exact same phenomenon! It's eerie sometimes! Especially when I hear: "Don't talk to me like that!" coming out of his mouth. On the other hand, I do also get the occasional, gentle "Hey, I need to talk to you about something.." from him, as well. But it is sooo hard not to fall into the 'barking orders' trap - especially in the face of the constant, constant dawdling.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMedley

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. My 3 year old has had a lot of challenging days since her brother arrived 6 months ago. There have been some really bad days where I lost it, where screaming was happening daily, but things are getting better. Lately we've had a lot of good days and I have been trying really hard to recognize those days, appreciate them, reflect on what went right, and make a mental note of what worked and what didn't. And on the bad days I try to do the same once the dust has settled. It helps. The last few tantrums / near tantrums were much easier to manage. Indeed no silver bullets but I've seen improvement in my parenting, my daughter is happier, and I enjoy our time together again. And that's all we are shooting for right now.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Add me to the list. This week I was instructed, with a finger pointed at me, to 'Sit! Sit! Sit!. This was after my son and I discussed his liking for mashed potatoes. I guess table manners were next on his mind. Last night I was also told that 'no shoving and no pushing' were allowed. And: 'no mama, it's not a disk, it's a cd' (what I had said was 'this is a garbage truck, not a fire truck').
'Don't talk to me like that' is brilliant.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter'Away from your crazy mom'

Thank you so much Annie for this post.
I wouldn't say it was my favourite (so many good posts!). But it certainly reminded of why I've kept reading you over time, and coming back for more.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter'Away from your crazy mom'

I needed this today. Really, really needed it. We're having one of those Bad Days where the 2 year old is in nearly constant meltdown and this 7-months-pregnant mama is at her wits end. I'm doing my best, but today is a day dedicated to simply surviving until tomorrow when, hopefully, things will be better. And back to normal.

*deep breath*

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJo

Thanks, Annie, I really enjoyed this post. I agree that in the moment is not usually helpful to hear what I should do differently or better. Guilt is also a terrible trap to fall into. I've been working on ways to get through those rough moments (or days, or strings of days!), developing "survival mechanisms." And those are the things I really like to hear about from other parents. What do you do when you just want to scream awful things? What tools or skills do you use? What works and what doesn't? What do you need or want to make it more tolerable? Often times, it really is just about getting through the moment safely. For me, learning new tools and coping strategies is really helpful (outside "the moment" of course). I just want to get better at it, too!

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia@MaMammalia

Thank you for writing this. Nothing that I have encountered in my life has pulled my protective layers off like parenting. I have to constantly confront all those places inside that scare me accept, love, and move beyond those spaces in the blink of an eye when we're having a challenging day. I rarely succeed.

But I need to keep trying with every breath. I love my children more than I need to run from those scary spaces. They deserve seeing me sometimes fail and sometimes succeed at this process, but still accepting and loving anyway. Perhaps I can pass on to them that their own scary spaces, whatever they end up creating them as, don't mean they can't love themselves. It means they are strong enough to do it anyway.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZoie @ TouchstoneZ

This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I find myself in the same situation frequently and it's nice to be reminded that 1) there aren't easy answers and 2) as long as we're trying our best and working to build connections with our children then those days that don't go so well really are just days that don't go so well.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Cartwright

Well they really DO love to hide things these toddlers!

Everyday is a a little different with a toddler. You never know who they're going to feel one day to the next so it's best not to presume anything.

But I agree, the best thing anyone can do for another mom is show the love. A ((hugs)) or ((that sucks!)) or a ((hang in there mama)) does WAY more than pointing to a blog post or book or strategy on how to get your toddler to eat green vegetables. So much is a "this too shall pass" scenario anyway.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHarriet

Hi. This is some good writing. Thanks for sharing your innermost feelings. As a mom of 3 boys, 9, 6 and 3, I can relate. I find often there has been a temptation to try and rely on my own devices, and not ask for help when I am feeling overwhelmed with my kids/parenting. So - I look forward to reading more... thanks, Janine

December 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanine

[...] at PhD in Parenting posits on the elusive silver bullet for parenting, and how to survive it all without [...]

[...] PhD in Parenting talks about how we don’t necessarily talk about parenting young children when things are going well. We wait until we can’t take it anymore and then we look for the magic silver bullet to fix it all for us. She shares the truth about those days when we’re challenged. We don’t need advice or criticism. We need to be heard. We need space and time to heal…well, I’m going on about when you can just go read and resonate for yourself. [...]

December 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThis Week’s Warm Link Hu

[...] PhD in Parenting talks about how we don’t necessarily talk about parenting young children when things are going well. We wait until we can’t take it anymore and then we look for the magic silver bullet to fix it all for us. She shares the truth about those days when we’re challenged. We don’t need advice or criticism. We need to be heard. We need space and time to heal…well, I’m going on about it when you can just go read and resonate for yourself. [...]

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThis Week’s Warm Link Hu

Thank you. I feel exactly the same. Sometimes I am amazed and charmed and so in love with my little toddlers. And sometimes I am just terrified and frustrated and overwhelmed. Great post.

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbea.

Love this...especially the title! (my middle son once hid the cable card and we found it in the dollhouse garage only after we paid for a new cable box)

So many people seem to expect that we respond to a behavior and then *poof*...it never happens again.

Really it is two steps forward, one back (sometimes more). And, ultimately, the key is to feel comfortable with how I am parenting. I can't rush a child through a stage or control everything he does. As long as I can feel comfortable with my own choices at the end of a week...that's a win.

My biggest struggle is my own temper. I have a terrible one. I try to let my children see how I control my own responses to situations and hope that is good modeling, over time.

December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

[...] Annie @phdinparenting of PhD in Parenting: If there is a silver bullet, your toddler probably hid it [...]

annie, i appreciate this so very much. i need "me too" and "been there" and "do you need a break?" a MILLION times more than all the unsolicited advice.

i do wish i had people to talk with in person, though, who shared the same foundational beliefs. i don't want to re-invent the wheel, just someone to walk this road with me.

(i could cry that so many are googling I'm a bad mom. so glad they find there way here to your grace and wisdom:)

"I need a hug. I need empathy. I need help. I need a break. I need space. I need time to think. Once I’ve had that, I need one-on-one time with the kids to reconnect with them..."

I think it's worth remembering that if an adult needs the above then so do children.

Love your blog.

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Absolutely. :)

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...