Thursday, October 17, 2013

"No!"...Parenting a young toddler

13-months (Written in June, 2013)

Recently, our sweet one-year-old picked up the word "no." She says it with attitude, and she says it often, usually right before she runs away from us. We don't use that word for reprimands in our house- we say "Nay nay" instead and save "no" and "no, thank-you" as answers to questions. However, we can't control what other people say and how they react when she says "No" to us. We are not sure exactly how she caught on to the word, but she definitely figured it out. In fact, she was a pro overnight. For the first week, we tried ignoring it, figuring that she would lose interest if she didn't get a reaction from us. Instead, she pushed her attitude more and more. I stopped wording things as questions. Instead of saying, "Is it time to change your diaper?" "Do you need a new diaper?" or "Do you want some lunch?" I tried to word things as statements that didn't give her the option to say, "No." It still didn't work flawlessly, but it was a little better. Using statements, it was clear that she was being disobedient rather than answering a question, when it was really non-negotiable. Here is a classic example:

"It's been a few hours, Chickadee. It's time for a diaper change!"
"No! No! No!" (very distinctly spoken before turning on her heel and running for the kitchen)

It had to be addressed another way. We began to confront the behavior directly. When she said "No" to us, we would take her aside, get down on her level and say very calmly and clearly, "Please don't say "no" to Mumma (or Daddy). "No" is the answer to a question. When Mumma asks you to do something, you need to obey." If she said it again, we would repeat the process, tapping her mouth with my finger gently for emphasis. I would then "help" her obey me, either by carrying her or leading her by the hand. It took nearly a week to break the worst of the "no habit". She still says it inappropriately occasionally, but she knows she is being naughty and usually she uses it appropriately as the answer to a question or as a "no, thank-you."
UPDATE: At 17-months, she is using "no" more appropriately, but she is learning more words that she can use as responses now. Sometimes she is a goof- she tickles me and then says, very seriously, "Don't touch!" when I begin to tickle her back. I am also noticing that when I ask her a question, she sometimes answers with a positive response now.

She has moved on to tantrums recently. My friends that are mothers say that we may be entering the "terrible twos" stage a little early. My daughter will sometimes react to disappointment with screams and crying, especially when she is hungry or tired. She will stomp her feet and the tears run down her sad little cheeks like nothing I have seen before. However, she has complete control over the tantrum. If she gets what she wants, or thinks she is getting what she wants, she can turn the tears and sadness off like a faucet, though she may gasp for a few moments.

To handle the tantrums, we are finding that completely ignoring them works sometimes (especially at home). Distraction also works very well. For example, if I told her that she has had enough raisins, and she wants more and throws a tantrum, I won't give in with more raisins, but I might silently get out a puzzle on the rug across the room, and pique her interest. In public, I usually say, "Crying isn't going to work, Honey. This isn't how we behave." Then, I remove her from the situation, if possible. She loves to help me do things, so I often try to include her in the tasks I am doing.

What do you suggest for handling tantrums?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Our Decision to Downsize and Simplify

     It has been a few months since I have written a new post. There has been a lot going on in our lives, to say the least. I thought that I was done working and would be staying home with our daughter, but instead, I have taken on more work. We have moved into a tiny apartment and made some important decisions about our future.

For the last couple of years, my husband and I have been feeling convicted about having so much stuff that we don't really need. We have been pouring so much money into rent, debt reduction, and everyday life that we haven't been able to put much into our savings for a house someday. We weren't spending money frivolously. We have been budgeting vigilantly but expenses keep popping up and we just can't get ahead. It's a vicious cycle. We had been praying for a way to break the cycle and be free from debt. A smaller place is cheaper to rent, which would free up some of our money, but we currently have too much stuff to fit into most tiny apartments. Therefore, we have begun to downsize.

 Most of our stuff, we really don't need. It is a process to decide which stuff we do need and which stuff we are really attached to, and which stuff is just...stuff. We are finding that we have an embarrassing amount of stuff that we don't need, love, or even really care about. Why have we been keeping it? I am finding that since we need to downsize significantly to fit comfortable in a tiny place, it is easier to pick out the things that I need and the things that I am really attached to rather than picking out the things I want to get rid of. For example, when I am looking at my bookshelf, I don't want to get rid of any of them because they are all good books. However, when I look at my bookshelf and pick out the books I "need" and the books I am really attached to, I find that I do, in fact, have books that I am willing to pass on to other people. Another example might be towels. How many bathroom towels do we really need? Even if we have lots of guests, and we have bath towels, hand towels, and beach towels, how many do we really need?

Our culture has fed us a lot of lies:
     Having more stuff, or newer stuff, will make you happier. Stuff isn't what makes us happy. Have you seen "Pollyanna"? I want to be storing up my treasure in Heaven, not here. My daughter is just as happy playing with rocks and sticks as she is playing with her "special toys." As a parent, I want to provide safe and good-quality toys and clothes for my child(ren), but really, she doesn't need much. As a child, I really enjoyed a large cardboard box to play in. Downsizing will mean that we have to be very selective about our stuff, and our daughter's stuff. I would rather have a few nice things than a house full of junk anyway. How many 9x13 pans do I need? How many Christmas decorations do we want to keep?
     If you go to college and get good grades, you will never suffer from financial difficulties. Until my husband and I discovered a method for budgeting that really worked for us, we didn't know where our money was going, but it always disappeared too fast. Also, just because you get a certain degree from a college doesn't mean that you are going to get a job using that specific degree. I am still trying to pay off college debt, and by sticking to a budget, we are able to make sure we are putting money where it needs to go. I am a teacher, but I don't work full-time because our school district can't afford it.
    Get it now. Pay for it later. Put it on a credit card or take out a loan. Paying for things you already have is totally anti-climactic after two years of payments and interest, let alone 15. It is very easy to compile an overwhelming debt, thanks to credit cards and bank loans. I am not saying that all loans are bad, but I find satisfaction in paying for items up front with money we have earned. Think about it. As a kid, if you were going to rake leaves in exchange for an ice cream cone, which is more satisfying, to get the ice cream cone first and then go outside to rake leaves in payment, or to rake the leaves and then have the ice cream you have earned? I would rather be raking and thinking about that ice cream I am hoping to have, because otherwise I am not going to be thinking about how delicious that ice cream was, I am going to be thinking, "How much do I actually need to rake in order to pay for that ice cream?"

The process of downsizing isn't fun, but it is freeing. I am finding satisfaction with every item we sell or give away. I am going to learn to live more simply. Every item that we purchase from now on will be carefully planned or absolutely necessary. The impulse purchases have to stop if we are going to save money and downsize. It is definitely a process and requires will-power and perseverance, but we will get there!