Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Do you have to parent children differently?

My children could not be more different in personality if they tried. Noah is ever patient, abnormally reasonable for his age and he is eager to please. It sounds like a dream but he comes with his own challenges in parenting, largely that he is so eager to please that if Layla is acting up he will start to get clingy and insist on being held or show me how good he is being (at the exact moment Layla is having a meltdown). Layla is a fireball of emotion: she is kind hearted and loving with a temper that would stop you in your tracks.

Raising Noah, we never had to discipline him (I am talking authoritative parenting). If you did happen to tell him to go to the corner, he would obey (he is eager to please, remember) and wouldn't leave until you told him to. This would NEVER work for Layla. You would put her in the corner, she would leave, you would put her back, she would leave. Over and over and over until ultimately, you would give up because she is very strong willed. She will win this argument. I have only tried once and I won't again. Besides, this authoritative parenting is not in line with our preferred Adlerian principles of parenting.

When we made the conscious decision to parent Noah via Adlerian parenting, we thought Alyson Schafer's book was heaven-sent and preached it to everyone who would listen. I honestly couldn't understand why parents were punishing their children! It isn't necessary....

....then Layla came into our lives. Her temper and sheer determination to succeed in everything she does has been evident from the moment she came out of the womb and refused to breast feed on my clock. She has her own agenda and she will be damned if she is going to do what others want of her. As she is approaching two, she is a very challenging person to raise. Do not get me wrong, she is not a mean child. She rarely hits people - but when she does swing her fist, it is at a wall out of sheer frustration. It has become a challenge and we have resorted to trying it all - even discipline (hence why I tried putting her in the corner).

I suggested to Keith a few weeks ago that perhaps we need to parent her differently. I was very upset because I have looked through a lot of parenting books and inevitably they come down to the principle of discipline ("you do what I say because I am the parent"). Which to me, is completely ridiculous! A child needs to know why they can/can't do something and they need set rules, (i.e. bedtime is always 7pm....therefore we never fight over going to bed).

When you break it down, Layla needs Adlerian parenting, as she is independent and wants to do everything Noah can do. She is 22 months and fully dresses herself, she is partially potty trained, and she gets in and out of her carseat on her own (easier in mommy's car, than daddy's). So for her to do something, she needs to know why we are doing it and she needs consistency. I have noticed, however, that choice overwhelms her - so for now, she doesn't get much choice in matters (ex. which shirt do you want to wear?)

A few days ago I was frustrated because she wants to do things on her own and has a nasty tantrum if she can't do them on her own. For example, she wants to get into her car seat in daddy's car but she is just too small to do so. But Keith couldn't get her into her car seat without using some force, as she would have a tantrum. She also wants to climb into the bathtub on her own, and lets face it - it just isn't safe. But if you do it for her, she cries and freaks out and won't cheer up for a lonnnngggg time.

In desperation I sent a tweet to Alyson Schafer this issue and she tweet back (I was beyond excited)! She suggested we act as a spotter, letting her do what she needs to do (the idea is that if a child is fighting a task, they are ready to take more responsibility with that task and it is our job as parents to facilitate that learning). however, she did suggest we let her fail (in a controlled scenario) as well so she learns the natural consequence of her actions.

This has saved a lot of fights. Keith got a little stool for his car to assist her and I spot her as she climbs into the tub. We also changed her crib into a toddler bed and we have had a great deal of success.

Some other things that have worked for us:

-"When/Then" statements: these are key with Layla. They provide structure in activities. For example, "When you have cleaned up your toy, then I will know you are ready to watch tv". She responds SO well to this. She doesn't freak out, she actually acts as though she finds this a totally acceptable statement and will carry on. This has been my personal lifesaver for diaper battles ("when you have your diaper on, then I will know you are ready to put your own pajamas on").

-Not demanding action: "Who wants to get in the car?!?!" rather than "We are going in the car now". This was Keith's suggestion and really helps get us out of the house in the morning.

-Offering help but not doing the job for her until she is ready: She likes to dress herself but lets face it, socks are a challenge! So I let her try and offer help (she will refuse) and wait till she comes to me for help. I don't have time for this one in the mornings, as we have only 20 min's to get out the door, so in that case, I dress her when she is just waking up and too tired to complain!

So Layla is tough at times, but I really believe this personality of hers will serve her well in all her endeavours in life, so I want to foster it, not squash it!