We’re “officially” parenting.

Since the day the twins were born two years ago, there’s always been some hot topic for that age group stealing my sleep, patience and energy and sending me to the computer to see what I can do to remedy the situation. I mean there was everything from preemie projectile spit-up, to sleep issues in babies (the 4th month sleep regression = worst thing ever), to pickiness in eating…etc. And many more. And for all of those issues, the experienced parents out there gave great advice – try this, and if that doesn’t work, try this. Eventually, things worked. C got a little rice in her bottle and it helped the spit-up, and she frankly just had to grow into her little body. Sleep issues? Time, a handy sleep chart from Babycenter.com, and gentle sleep training that we’ve stuck with to this day fixed that problem. With the occasional weird night, the twins have slept through the night for 11 hours since they were 6 months old. For the most part, my husband and I haven’t had to make real parenting decisions. We just tried Option A, and if that didn’t work, Option B.

Our current hot toddler topic of the moment has required in-depth (and frankly reassuring) conversation between us, with the desire to come to a decision on HOW to parent a toddler…who hits. Pinches. Bites. Screams. We’ve been talking about this for a few weeks now, as B’s original once-a-day hit has morphed into multiple tantrums a day. And it’s hard because we don’t know WHAT to do, and the internet people out there can tell us what has worked for their children, but everyone parents just a little bit differently. We know that we need to be consistent. That’s probably the most important thing. But we haven’t been able to figure out how to handle B, let alone be consistent about it.

First, we tried a straight-up time-out. He had a spot at the end of the hallway where he would sit for a minute. Then I’d let him get up, have him apologize to C or whoever he hit, hugs and then kisses. And on with the day. Well that was great when he only hit occasionally. It worked for a few days but then, as it started to increase, it became ineffective. In our opinion, B’s too young to be apologizing for something he already forgot he did, especially when it’s happening multiple times a day. I didn’t like the way putting him in time-out felt, with a raised voice to try and scare him (doesn’t work – he was smiling)…the whole thing felt wrong. Besides, it wasn’t helping! These meltdowns could last a half hour, with multiple hits and pinches in there. A time out for each one just led to increased meltdowns, which led to more hitting!

Then, we tried a much more passive approach – continuing to tell him “We do NOT hit. You hurt _____” but then not doing anything else…but he couldn’t care less about it. Also ineffective.

Third, we tried time-out again, on a chair this time. Daddy even tried a stopwatch. No – now he couldn’t wait to GO to the chair to see the watch. I sat him on it (without a watch), firmly telling him, “We do not hit, and when you do, you sit on this chair until you calm down” and he grinned and said, “Mmm….cozy.” and snuggled into the chair. So..also not effective.

See, I’m not really counting in months anymore. B and C are 2. But “just turned two” is a LOT different from “two almost three”. When we sat down (over our anniversary dinner, ha) to decide how we want to parent B right now, my husband asked a great question that’s worth keeping in mind whenever I’m losing my sanity – What is the goal after B hits? What’s the desired outcome we’re looking for? B doesn’t walk up to C calmly and hit her – he hits when he’s melting down.

We believe the right answer for a “just turned” two-year old is to get B to calm down. That’s the goal. Not to feel badly. And sometimes, when we were yelling at B and quickly bringing him to a time-out chair, only for him to smile, hit again and meltdown more, we lost the fact that he’s still young. He hurts his sister and that upsets me, because I’m watching my other child get hurt. I want him to know that he hurt her. But why? So he can feel guilty? Because THAT’S not happening, clearly. So he can learn to apologize on his own as he knows he did something wrong? Sure! But not at “just” 2. The goal needs to be for him to calm down and be functional, and that’s it right now.

So with that in mind, tomorrow we’re trying a different approach, with a new desired outcome. We’re picking our battles, first of all. When I go into their room in the morning and Daddy has already gone to work, B sees me and yells “No Mommy!”. Today he followed that up with smacking his crib with his hands, flailing his legs on the mattress and getting the day off to a positive start. After that mini-meltdown, he became very upset when I picked C up from her crib first (when I asked him if he wanted to go first, he said no!), and when I brought a clip up for C’s hair but not for B. And when I changed his diaper. And when his sock fell off. And, and, and. ALL of that – I’m ignoring as much as possible.

What I’m not ignoring is hitting, biting, pinching, or pushing – me or Daddy, his sister, and the dogs. When he does those things, I’m still going to tell him (calmly – no yelling from me) “We do NOT hit. That hurts _____.” But after that, I’m going to redirect him. I’m going to remove him from the space he’s flailing on, but I’m not running him into a time out chair in another room. It makes no sense – he’s loving the extra attention. I’m going to try something like, “It’s time to calm down. Let’s grab a book.” Redirection right now feels right for his age. We have no idea if this will be helpful, but we came to the decision together and just like that, we’re “officially” parents. This new way starts tomorrow, and I’d love to finally be consistent about it. Off we go!

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How do you handle a toddler who hits?

We had a lovely birthday weekend for the twins. Their actual birthday was last week, and my husband and I kept it low key with some ice cream during the hot day and a cupcake and singing at night. While he was at work, we also decorated t-shirts and attempted to find library books about birthdays, but couldn’t locate a good one for their age group. Any recommendations?

And then this weekend we had a small party that was nice and relaxing. I did a rainbow theme and loved how it came out, and will write more about that in a future post. The twins did well with all the people and honestly – we haven’t even opened presents yet. We’re giving them a few a day and they are fine with that.

So besides that, age 2 for us is markedly different than 1. Both of them are so strong willed and opinionated, yet loving, silly and smart. I’m looking forward to sort of charting and updating on how very different they are from a year ago, or really, even three months ago. But for now, I’m at a new parenting challenge roadblock – discipline.

There are many things that seem to come natural to me with regard to parenting the twins. Discipline is not one of them. And we need something in this house, because B is now hitting. B used to hit a long time ago. He was still a baby. He was hitting and staring at his hands like he just figured out how they could slap something. That was not malicious, for the most part. He did get frustrated with his lack of language, and so this was another reason for the hitting. It was easy to handle – we would just tell him a firm “NO, we don’t hit” and then redirect with a new toy. The hitting passed after a month or so and that was that. And of course, once our Early Intervention services got going and B started talking more, he became an extremely loving, affectionate boy. And to be clear, in public – this is the shyest boy who won’t even speak a word. At home, he tries to take the leadership position.

But about three weeks ago or so, the old B started to emerge. It’s not his language, because that has taken off. (He said, “B fold orange diaper” this morning and “Mommy loves B” last night, for a few examples.) He happens to have very little patience, very little determination to do a task. If he’s playing with something and he gets frustrated, he throws the toy out of anger, until I remind him to ask me calmly for help, which he does right away. He melts down multiple times a day. Instead of him matter-of-factly saying, “No”, like he did a long time ago, now he’s screaming, “No!!!!” He screams for Mommy to help him wash his hands, when only Daddy is available. He screams when Mommy wakes him in the morning, when it’s Daddy he wants. He screams when C gets to do ______ first (going down the stairs, washing hands, getting picked up out of the crib, you name it), even though we switch back and forth every time, which of course he’s too young to recall.

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See, they do play nice together sometimes!

That last one – C’s doing the same thing. They fight to go first for EVERYTHING. And I make it “fair”, or fair enough, but they can’t tell the difference. C’s got a few of her own little nuances – demanding that B do everything she does, include take a drink of water or play with the same toy. And of course her desire to do EVERYTHING herself, so much that if you help at ALL to put on her shoe (you know, because you’re in a rush), she screams “self!!!” and takes her shoe off and starts over.

I suppose then, we’ve hit the “terrible two’s”. The demanding, absolutely exhausting two’s, about as tiring as it was with newborns. And I can muster the strength through it all, except for the hitting from B.

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Is a time-out the right, efficient, smart response for a two-year old who hits maliciously? Like, swing back his arm in a fit of rage and clock you in the face while you’re holding him? Because it was that incident where right then and there I realized, this is past the distraction age. This requires  – something. So I picked a time-out spot on the fly, put him down and explained what time out was and why he was there. He sat for a minute or two, I came back over, reminded him again why he was there and had him apologize and give hugs and we moved on. But – I’m not sure it was effective. I’ve never been crazy about making children apologize because it won’t be genuine, but it kind of just came to me in that moment. He’s been to time out about 6 or 7 times since and I’m just not sure….it works for him. All of a sudden he’s in tune to people/animals fighting. He’s saying “fight”, “hit”, “bite” all the time.

I guess it’s sort of a controversial topic, and of course there are mothers who don’t need time out because they have laid back, easy children. Which is C. She’s never tried to be mean purposely, ever. And that’s how I was as a kid, which is why I don’t really know what I’m doing. But B needs – something. I don’t want to come across too hard, because I don’t believe he will benefit from that, it’s just modeling the same behavior from him, and plus, it won’t be genuine coming from me. But I don’t want to be too soft either. I’m really just not sure what to do.

Finally, I spend time thinking about where B finds his success, as I’d rather guide him towards success then set him up in a situation he will fail. He thrives with tasks (putting away the groceries, carrying the stool into the bathroom, emptying the dishwasher). He loves new toys he’s never seen. He loves cars and trucks and things that spin. He enjoys sensory play, except when it’s slimy.He loves to be outside, and he loves to move and jump and bounce and run. He loves my attention. “Mommy, play cars please?” “Mommy, play food please?” But I have another child too, and I need to keep her needs in mind as well. I can’t please him all the time. Multiple children problems.