Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The good... the bad... the ugly...

Rachel here. I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again... this blog is for me and my children. It's for me to remember this precious time that I have with them. I try really hard not to complain on here, try really hard not to judge others, and try really hard to document "the good... the bad... and the ugly." My children ARE NOT perfect, my marriage is not perfect, I am not perfect. Emma Grace was a biter, and Reese throws a wicked temper tantrum. I yell too much and Bryan works too much. That's just our life. I say LIFE because that's what it is... we are one single family unit. We eat together, sleep together, breath together... fail together and thrive together. Right now we are working together to beat the, what I like to refer to as, the "shoot me in my face" 3's. This is how my sweet sweet child chose to spend the majority of sweet Aly's 2nd birthday party. She was ugly to guests, she was territorial of her bounce house, and she spent most of her time in the hallway acting like she had so sense. It was not only embarrassing, but it also makes you feel like a failure as a parent. It's very easy to judge parents whose children chose to act like complete morons, but take it from me... don't judge because you may just find yourself a parent of a child who chooses to act like a complete moron. :)

Reese was really great at throwing tantrums when she was 2, and she's even better now. She has a really hard time controlling her emotions and has the pipes of an opera singer when it comes to screaming, but she comes by it honestly. We're firm believers in timeout, and Reese goes through phases where her and timeout are like long lost cousins, but they've recently taken a turn for the worst. We used to be able to get Reese to sit in timeout for her allotted time with little to no tears. Now it's like caging a wild bull. It's even escalated to her hitting the walls and kicking the front door. Charming. Her behavior really forced Bryan and I to take a look at what was happening, why she was acting this way, and what WE were doing/not doing to help her.

I have a horrible temper. I get frustrated VERY easily if something is out of my control. When I get worked up I yell. Not very cute. Bryan is a softy. He doesn't like to argue. He avoids confrontation at all costs. And Reese has him wrapped around her little finger... and she knows it. Sorry honey. :) Bryan and I have agonized over our own behavior and what we needed to change to make Reese the best Reese she can be. It can be very difficult to be on the same page due to Bryan's current schedule. For the last month he's been in and out of town on business. We're talking 2 days home, 5 days gone, 2 days home, 5 days gone. Not really your dream situation for working on consistency. Unfortunately it's not the best scenario, but Bryan HAS a job... and one that allows me to stay home with my children, which is what I desperately wanted, so it's what we have to deal with right now. In hopes of helping Reese, we met with her Montessori teacher on Monday to seek some advice. We wanted to know what their daily routine/rules were in the classroom, so that the days Reese isn't in school will flow with the days that she is. The more things that are similar between school and home the better. Reese is very well behaved at school and LOVES it. She knows what is expected of her there, so our goal here at home is for her to realize there are rules/consequences here as well.

After a lot of reading, thinking, feeling, and crying Reese and I sat down and created this:We talked about the rules we wanted to have for our home. The big one "No Screaming". Now this is the one that both Reese and I need to work on the most. "No hitting/kicking" are for her outbursts while in timeout. We're still working on the consequence portion. Since these things are mainly done in timeout (already being the consequence for other poor behavior), we haven't figured out the next step yet. Our main goal right now it to bring her down from her screaming/hitting/kicking fits, so maybe there won't be a consequence. I've thought of placing paper and crayons for her in timeout to draw/write things out... but really we're in the beginning stages of this. Then we also developed her "good girl chart." Her main reason for ending up in timeout is for "being a poor listener." She lays on top of her sister, we tell her to get off, she doesn't listen, EG starts crying, we tell her again to get off, she again doesn't listen... resulting in timeout. If we can work on her listening with her, we hope to cut out the extra 2 minutes of mayhem that results in timeout... and screaming/hitting/kicking... OY VEY. So back to the GGC... basically EVERY SINGLE TIME I ask her to do something/get something/say something... and she listens the first time, she gets a sticker to put on her GGC. All of the pieces are foam except for the yellow post its... that way the chart can be used over and over, and we simply replace the post its. I really like this because I've made it double as Reese's own personal calendar. The frog tells her what day it is, and below the frog are the activities she has going on that day. It's nice because she can see what day Daddy comes home, or what day she's going to Grandma and Grandaddy's, a play date, Art class, and school. She seems to really love it. And although we've only been using it for a couple of days... I can already see an improvement in her behavior. She knows that if she stays on top of what I ask her to do, she'll be rewarded. So far the stickers are enough of an incentive... well that and some of the things I've been working on myself. Along with her stickers, I've been working on not getting worked up (which OBVIOUSLY helps out the situation). When I notice her getting upset/defiant, I'm sure to get down on her level so our eyes are locked and I repeat her feelings to her. Before I would just try to change the behavior... make her stop screaming... or let her scream until she eventually stopped... this technique allows her to know that I understand her feelings first. When she's upset, I try to diffuse the problem, when she doesn't quiet, I get loud, then she gets loud... then all craziness ensues. I've noticed though that by my repeating her feelings to her (not long and drawn out... very quick and to the point, mostly broken sentences), she sees that I understand and is then open to what I have to say. I take my turn, and then we work together to fix it. Screaming stops... no timeout. Thank you "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," I know... dorky... but so far... an awesome book. I'm also sure to constantly compliment her behavior... not her. "Reese I love that you're being so helpful!" NOT... "Reese you're the best helper ever!" I don't need her to be one of those children that thinks her shenanigans don't stink... for real.

Another issue we're having with Reese is her seeking attention in annoying ways. "Reese, can you please pick up the play-doh tools." "I don't know how." "Don't you clean up after yourself at school?" "Yes, but I don't know how to... I need your help." ANNOYING. She's did that to me twice yesterday, and I wanted to implode. Since Bryan and I are part of this problem, I knew I needed to remain calm, let her know she could do it, and let her know that she would do it... without my help... because after all... I didn't make the mess. She was beginning to get worked up, but I was the one that needed to show her how to remain calm and get the job done. "Reese, I know it's a big mess to clean up, but you made the mess, so you need to clean it up. What if you started by picking up just the pink tools." Wouldn't you know she started to pick up the pink ones and then realized it was going to be quicker to just pick them all up instead of taking the time to search out the correct color?! So now I've found myself trying to be more creative in getting to her do what I need her to do without me giving in.

She's been given many more responsibilities to keep her little hands busy. In Montessori school they are VERY independent. The idea is to "teach them to do it themselves." If I'm cleaning something or cooking something that is safe enough for Reese to do... I show her how to do it, and she does it. The last few nights, she's successfully helped me with dinner, setting the table, she even made her own pb and honey sandwich today for lunch. She's taking such pride in herself... learning she CAN DO IT. As long as we can stick to this, stand our ground, remain calm, and Bryan and I can be on the same page and be consistent... we'll blow through these naughty times... with more than a scowl on our faces. :)

On another note... in hopes of taking my living room back from my girls and their toys, Reese's Montessori tasks are now in cute baskets on top of the shelves in the playroom. I am slowly regaining my ability to breath. Life is too short to not enjoy every waking moment with your children.