I'm going to be honest here, trying to write a 90,000 word novel in nine weeks is pushing me to the brink (of something, not sure what). I stare at my laptop on a daily basis and know I should be blogging, but I am totally drained by pumping out 2000 words every night. But today I wanted to write a few words about discipline. Not mine, which seems to be holding up OK no matter how many tempting crappy programmes are on TV. But Daph's.
She's currently in the middle of Wonder Week 9 - I think I've mentioned the Wonder Weeks before, but if not then click on the link to find out more. I was quite sold on their theories when Daph was tiny, but as she's grown, a couple of the 'leaps' have been completely off for us - she's been grumpy when she's not meant to be, and vice versa. But this latest leap (thankfully the second to last) has definitely seen a marked change in her behaviour. She's pushing boundaries all the time (and not in some groundbreaking scientist way, but more in a pushing-her-luck-with-mummy way) and it's quite exhausting. She's whining a lot, is incredibly clingy with me in particular, is sleeping at random times during the day and not falling asleep easily at night, and is generally being quite 'challenging'.
The most difficult thing with Daphne is her patience. Or lack thereof. She's always been quite feisty, and I do like it - rather that than a wallflower - but if we go out to the shops or whatever now, within 10 minutes she's screaming her head off trying to get out of her pushchair, and generally kicking up a stink. If she doesn't get what she wants immediately, she has a meltdown. Yesterday I had grand visions of us enjoying a nice Sunday lunch together as a family, but this went out the window as soon as we plonked Daph in her high chair in the restaurant. She screamed, and bashed her little fists about, leant over the edge nearly toppling over - she was desperate to get out. People stared. I felt embarrassed and regretted taking her. Eventually I grabbed her and she sat on my lap for most of the meal (of which she ate very little, while screaming for no apparent reason as I tried to eat mine). Everything I've read lately has said that this is the prime time to 'lay the groundwork' to ensure that she doesn't turn into a terrible two year old. But I don't really know where to start.
I've downloaded a few toddler books and they mostly refer to using a 'naughty step' system or similar, but all also (un)helpfully explain that it doesn't work until kids are around 2 and have enough verbal understanding to know what on earth is going on. At present when Daph kicks off, we mostly try to distract her as a means of calming her down, but I do often give in for an easy life (eg picking her up and carrying her when she's moaning in the pushchair, taking her out of the playpen when she screams) and I think I'm probably making a rod for my own back. Anything for an easy life. Ironically, I wish I could lose my temper a bit more with her - I hardly ever do, I just get tired - but perhaps I need to raise my voice a bit to let her know 'I'm serious'. On the handful of occasions I have shouted at her in the past, she's just found it hilariously funny, which wasn't really what I was aiming for.
So yes, really this is a bit of a cry for help. If anyone has any tips on how to deal with temper tantrums in 15 month olds, I'd love to hear them! I am going to try being a bit firmer and ignore her whining. My mum has also suggested offering her choices, so for example, if she doesn't want to eat her dinner, rather than trying to force it into her (I have long since realised this never works) I take it away and offer her a mandarin or a yoghurt instead, and usually she's happy to eat one of those (or both). I do understand that everything that's going on in her little head at the moment is related to wanting to be in control and can imagine that a toddler's life is a very frustrating one, but so is a parent's! ;)
Here are some more of the tips we're going to try:
- Distraction - we've got this one down but it's beginning to lose its effectiveness and I am slightly worried I'm shortening her attention span (eg if she screams in the supermarket, I give her my keys to play with - this used to fascinate her for ages, now they are boring after five minutes...). I think I need to take more toys with us when we're out and about, and should probably get some more board books, as she loves them. Also, I'm thinking of saving some special toys for when we're out and about, so she's not bored of them
- Sitting with her on my lap facing outwards - if she's screeching or whining for no apparent reason, I'm going to sit with her facing away from me and give her no attention whatsoever. I'm hoping she'll soon figure out the cause-and-effect here. We ignored her when she went through her biting phase and I'm happy to say she's no longer doing that, so hopefully this will work again (although I know that screeching is a whole different ballgame!)
- Trying to sound strict - altering my tone of voice/facial expression when I say no (in the past I've probably been a bit too mild). And explaining to her why I am saying no, even if it does seem she's too young to understand me
- Giving her choices - as explained above with mealtimes and also things like what top to wear, which socks to put on etc
- If she throws something or drops it deliberately, she doesn't get it back, or get another one (eg a biscuit when we're out and about - she quite often drops them over the side of the pushchair and looks at me for my reaction, because she knows it's wrong)
- Giving her loads of praise when she does something good - we've started this already and it sits with me better than anything else. I've been going ridiculously OTT if she feeds herself nicely, or tries to use the fork herself etc
- Limiting snacks - so she's hungrier at meal times and eats better
- Screaming to get out of her playpen / cot - this is going to the hardest but once I've established she's OK and it's just attention, I'm going to ignore her... *gulp*
- Full-on tantrums - eventually if she has one (I can tell it's only a matter of time), we'll put her in her room on her own (or maybe her cot) and shut the door for a minute. This seems mean to me but I'm hoping will give her a chance to learn to calm herself down
So yes, that's my very rough plan for surviving this phase. As I said, I would love to know of any obvious tricks or tips that I'm missing - please do share with me here or on Facebook!