I overheard (or listened intently and purposefully) to a conversation at a play centre which took place between four mothers with children with varying ages. It was interesting to hear the problems that they encounter on a daily basis with their children and how they “survive” and deal with them. It was also interesting to hear the advice handed down from one mother to another throughout the course of this conversation.
It got me thinking that we each expect and accept different things from our children. I had always thought that I had never had any particular problems with Lenny in these first 3 years. Yes he was a little monkey who could find trouble in an empty room with bare walls, but as long as I am aware of it and prepare properly for it, which does involve checking on him every 5 minutes if he happens to go to a different room than me (a lot can happen in that time in my house), we come through pretty unscathed.
I think however if Lenny had been in situ in many other people’s houses then maybe it would be a different story.
So I thought I would share with you my 10 tips for surviving this minefield of an age in the hopes that it will inspire or, which is most probably the case, give you a 5 minutes chuckle.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – I have always been a firm believer that it is important to work out which of your children’s misdemeanours are standard and which are serious. In my opinion if something is dangerous to your own child, or someone elses, then a serious conversation needs to be had about it. My method of dealing with some of Lenny’s standard behaviours would trouble some mothers I am sure. Basically I made the decision that Lenny is naughty and will always push boundaries therefore if he is going to pull all my cushions off the settee and jump all over them then why not. It keeps him quiet for half an hour and this isn’t something, in my opinion, that is serious enough to have to argue with him over. So tip 1 is decide what behaviour is unacceptable and serious enough to require a talking to and let the rest go – believe me it will save your sanity.
- Remember their age – Don’t overestimate their emotional maturity. I heard a mother saying “we had this conversation last week, so I think he does it purposefully to punish me”. Really….your three year old has spent the entire morning sitting cooking up a plan for ways to annoy you, the centre of his world. Don’t you think he would have better things to do. I tend to think Lenny is 3 and his actions probably don’t have an awful lot of thought go into them.
- Allow the independence – This is the one that has probably took the most getting used to for me. Its always the one time I am in a rush and struggling to get out the door on time that Lenny wants to put his own shoes on, fetch his own coat, zip it up, unlock the door, climb into the car himself and put his own seat belt on. This has all took a valuable 20 minutes from my day when I could have done the whole lot in about 5 minutes. However, I have found that my getting irate about it does not speed him up, it inevitably just creates a situation where he has a sulk, makes my life hell with a 20 minutes paddy and then still insists on doing everything himself anyway.
- Don’t rush or over-prepare – This ties in with the above. I have often believed that toddlers have an invisible power which seems to detect the exact moment you are late for something. This then puts them in slow mode which is the exact opposite of what you require from them. Also, I have found that if I over-prepare for something and get high expectations I always come away feeling cheated. Best just to fly by the seat of your pants and don’t ever show a toddler your weaknesses.
- Always follow through with consequences – I hate having to impose consequences on Lenny. It makes life seem so dull. I really really enjoy buying him new things, taking him places and generally making him happy, as we all do I am sure. One of the mothers at the playcentre was saying that she had confiscated her little ones tablet for the weekend following bad behaviour. I listened in awe when she confirmed that no amount of paddys or temper tantrums had budged her from her position. She is rock solid!!!! I would have folded should Lenny say sorry and give me a hug and a kiss. This is a tip that I wish I had followed more closely. He is aware of exactly how far he can push every single adult involved with his daily life and he does take advantage where he sees that he can.
- Have fun – Lenny is my wingman – the Goose to my Maverick, the Jay Z to my Beyoncé, the Kanye to my Kim. We go everywhere together when we can and we have so much fun. I love that the time I spend with him allows me to be a child again. So when I stop in the street to sing “Shake it Off” at the top of my voice with all the appropriate dance moves (well of course) I am not embarrassed in the slightest – I am entertaining my boy. Some mothers are too stiff and need to lighten up – I heard one mother saying that she would never bring socks to a play centre because she had no intention of going in to play.
- Work together – Divided we fall has never been more true. There has been occasions, and I hazard to say will be occasion where myself and Scott are divided on the subject of Lenny. However, should we ever show him that he knows and he has got us. We have learnt the hard way that no matter if you don’t agree, save it until they are in bed or regret it later.
- Learn the art of bribery – This links with the ability to tell little white lies. Some mothers swear that they are only ever honest with their child – well more fool you. The only way I can get Lenny to brush his teeth most mornings is to tell him that he cant be a superheroe unless he has super shiny white teeth. Also the only way he will ever get ready any quicker is if he gets a chocolate bar when he gets in the car. My only way of survival is bribing him and I am not ashamed to admit it. The older he gets the better I get at this particular skill.
- Don’t underestimate – Lenny is very clever and I find that if I take the time to explain things to him properly then the day does tend to run smoothly. This can however backfire when he says to your friend “anyway we are going now because we are off to [fill in the name blank]!”.
- Always repeat yourself – I don’t think any child of this age can hear often enough that you love them and that you are proud of them. This does now mean that every single occasion when Lenny does a wee he expects a cheering squad but there are worse things in the world.