Tuesday, July 26

Toddler Gets Bad Influence from Weekend with Ex

So your child comes home from a weekend with the ex, spouting profanities and sporting an attitude.  Great balls of fire!!  I HATE getting sad emails from frustrated caregivers on this topic.  It makes me furious and so upset to think of those poor babies getting mistreated by "caregivers" who could care freaking less.  I got one of these frustrating emails today about a little boy getting less than love and proper guidance from weekend visits with a parent.  In this case, it was the father, but father, mother...it doesn't matter.  If the parent doesn't have the tools in their toolbox and isn't willing to change, we just have to deal with what we've got.   

Here's my response to the plea for suggestions:

If the father has the right to see the child, there is nothing to do about that unless he just doesn't want to and will forfeit the weekend and spare you the heartache.  The good news is that the child doesn't spend the majority of his time with this bad influence.  And unless dad is willing to change, you are stuck just trying to do the best with what you've got. 

That sweet little guy will need extra love and guidance to make up for the damage and emotional drain that daddy puts on him.  Make sure that when he is with you, he is given absolute consistency and structure, as this will give him security.  Model good communication and language for him and do not let him get away with inappropriate language when with you.  Even though it's not his fault and he's getting mixed messages, he will eventually learn what is okay at one house versus another.  He needs at least one caregiver modeling love and appropriate guidance. 

It will be difficult for everyone involved for a long time, as you will just have to keep undoing what he is learning on weekends, but he will eventually grow up and realize who it is that provides him with true love and what he needs.  I know that is not the answer you want to hear, but unless visitation can be halted, you are stuck.  Children will always crave attention and love from their parents, but if you give him the extra love and guidance that he needs, he WILL wake up one day and figure out who the bad influence is and how much it hurts him.  At that time, hopefully he will have enough confidence and love of himself that you can walk through it together and deal with it in the most healthy way possible.

Do your best and hang in there.  Remember not to spoil to try and make up for any guilt that he's going through a rough time on his weekends away.  Be a rock for him - a loving, consistent, and solid guidance.  Remember his tug of war with the mixed messages and be patient with your guidance.


Michelle Smith         

Friday, July 1

Toddler Tantrums at the Grocery Store

What a whip!  But believe me, you're not the first person on the planet to have your toddler embarrass the tar out of you in a public place.  People stare with disapproving frowns, leaving you mortified and feeling like bawling your eyes out.  The first time this happened to me, I had two other smaller kiddos with me and couldn't even just grab my screeching kid and get out.  The only thing to do was endure the twenty minute nightmare.

It all started out groovy.  My three-year-old asked to drive one of those carts that look like a car and I said, "Sure!"  Then I realized that I had nowhere to put the two 18-month-olds I had with me.  They had to go in the cart, and my daughter had to just toddler along behind.  I tried consoling her with her own tot-sized cart she could push around, but no can do on that one.  She wasn't buying it.  As time progressed, she got more and more upset - and finally got so mad that she wrenched her little cart over on its side and ended up screeching bloody murder, kicking and scratching the crap out of me with any attempts to grab her.

This was completely uncharacteristic of my child, but I was no stranger to whining, crying kids.  For sure, it was a ten on the scale of "help me," but I also knew that there was nothing to do except wait it out.

When you find yourself in a public place with a screaming, obstinate child, of course you want to die of shame, but you know what?  Those cranky people with unforgiving stares haven't walked a mile in your shoes, so they can stuff it.

You're a great Mommy, so take a deep breath and try to center yourself.  Those moments will happen, but they will also pass.  The only thing you can do is remember to set up your day to ensure your child is fed, rested, and not over-stimulated before you head out.  Have a very structured sleep schedule and don't skip naps or venture out when you know your child will be tired or hungry.  That's a tantrum waiting to happen.

The other important thing to remember is not to set expectations.  If I had a do-over, I would not have promised my child a ride in that car cart without thinking it through.  Her expectation was set, and when I changed plans, it devastated her.  Instead, when she asked, I should have just said, "Let me see first.  I'm not sure." 

Now, there's a difference in tantrums.  There are three kinds:  Need, Overload, and Demand.  We've talked about Need and Overload above (need for sleep/rest, and avoiding overstimulating the child).  When these happen, you simply have to get your child some food or rest, or get them in a calm, unstimulating environment, fast.  Demand tantrums are a different animal.  Those require that you don't reinforce undesirable behavior.  Stop giving in to demands, otherwise you teach your child that it's okay to throw a fit to get what she wants.  Not good!  When your child tantrums over a demand, make sure that she doesn't get what she wants.  Period.  Even though it was MY fault that my child threw a fit in the grocery store, I still didn't give in to her demand.  That would have reinforced the tantrum.  I just had to recognize what I did wrong and vow to do better next time.

You are a terrific Mommy - big hugs to you.  We are all in this together, so shake off the shame and guilt, and hold your head high.  Tomorrow is another day.  Make it a good one!

:)  Michelle