Friday Funnies – Managing Increased Independence in Toddlers

Welcome to MyChildPsychologist.com’s Friday Funnies!  We wanted to have an outlet on MyChildPsychologist.com to share some funny stories about children we know, some personal stories and experiences about our own children, and sharing some funny (or not so funny) stories about our own parenting experiences.  While most of our blog is devoted to research findings and articles about parenting and childhood issues, we thought it would be enlightening for our readers to see how some of the parenting tips and discussions from our videos and articles actually take place in our own families!  We are human, too, just like all of you, so even though we know quite a bit about parenting, we do not always use our own techniques until we find ourselves in difficult situations.  If only we had done earlier what we know works, maybe we could have saved ourselves some time and trouble.  The Friday Funnies section includes stories about our children and others’ children where they did some entertaining things that gave us a good chuckle.  It also includes stories where the joke, quite frankly, is on us, as parents, for not following our own advice.  We hope you find these entertaining.  When the joke is on us, we hope you can learn from our mistakes!  So please enjoy our first Friday Funny!

As my daughter begins to approach the tender young age of 2 years old, I am reminded that more stubborn moments are just around the corner.  I am sitting here doing some quick computer work while she is watching a couple of episodes of Mickey Mouse.  Oh, and yes, I am one of those mothers who allow her child who is less than 2 years old to watch a little tv.  Despite the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children under the age of 2 should not watch tv, I sometimes just need a little entertainment for my daughter while I fold the laundry or make a call for work.

So, as I was working on the computer, Anna says, “Mommy!”  I look up only to see her sitting on the tv console with her back to the tv, swinging her legs so proudly.  My initial thoughts are, “Gosh, she’s so cute!”  She was clearly proud of herself.  I also was quite impressed with her gross motor skills—she had limited space to work with to get there.  I’m sure I had a fairly pleasant look on my face as these thoughts are running through my head.  She just looked so cute up there.  Then, I quickly got out of that mindset, almost as if I did a quick shake of the head, like you see people do on tv when they are daydreaming.  I put on my “parenting” hat and said, “Anna, please get down from the tv.”  She proudly declares an emphatic “NO!” as she smiles and continues to look at me.  She clearly wants my attention.  She’s getting it because I initially think it’s kind of cute.  Then, I said “Anna you know you’re not supposed to be up there.”  Remember, I’m still in “work mode” trying to buy myself some more working time and thinking to myself, “she’s not really hurting anyone or herself.”  “Plus, the tv console is not that tall, so she’s not that far off the ground!”  Yikes, as I write this, I’m appalled that I even thought that last thought.  Children can fall off small pieces of furniture and still get hurt!!  Nevertheless, I ignored her and went back to work.  She eventually got down.  I thought the moment had passed, but next thing I knew–“Mommy!”  She was back up there.  This time, I did get a little more stern (just in my tone though) and say, “Anna, it’s really time to come down.”  Again, she shouts, “No!”  So, this time, I threaten her with a time out.  She quickly climbs down.  Admittedly, she did it a few more times.  Each time I responded the same way, never following through on the time out.

I was not prepared for her taking it to the next level.  Unfortunately, climbing up and sitting on the console must have become boring for her.  The next thing I knew she was STANDING(!) on the console tapping a toy onto our flat screen TV!!  Yikes!  Ok, now it was serious (though I should have been serious before with her).  This time, the problem would be mine if she broke my tv.  Plus, she was now higher off the ground and she could really get hurt.  So, I grabbed her and said “No. No climbing!”  She was not at all happy with me.  When I sat her on the floor, she immediately tried again.  I then gave a warning that she would go to time out if she did it again.  Not surprisingly, she tried again.  So, I put her in time out and she was very upset—almost over the top upset.  After it was all said and done (time out and the tears), I realized I did many things wrong!

Thoughts after the event (I should have handled things differently!):

• She clearly wanted my attention!  Even though I knew she was seeking attention, simply giving her a verbal acknowledgment was really insufficient.  She was trying to engage me to interact with her much more, hence the subsequent climbs.  I need to remember that there are always things I need to do, but she needs and deserves my attention.  Today was a good reminder that I should challenge myself to try and listen to her cues when she needs some “mommy-time!”

• As children approach the age of 2, they are starting to become much more independent and speak their mind.  Their language is exploding and they want to be heard!  So, in addition to testing limits about what is “allowable” indoor activity, she also wanted to make sure she told me about it.  This is partly why I thought she was initially so cute, because she was experimenting with new things and wanted my attention for it.  So, this would have been a great teaching moment for me to get on her level and say, “You really need to get down or else you will fall down and get hurt.”  Then if she refused to listen, I could have given her a time-out.

• Do I need to even highlight to our intelligent readers how horribly inconsistent I was and how I gave her too many chances to do the right thing?  Although I’m fairly confident she knew she was not supposed to be up there, it was my job as her parent to calmly reinforce that.  I’m almost positive she began to think, “This can’t be that bad of a thing, if she’s not actually coming to get me.”  It was not really fair to her that I did not stop her earlier.  It also was unfair for me to be so quick and dramatic in my reaction after allowing her to climb at least 5 previous times.  Is it any wonder that she was so mad at me and wanted to tell me about it after I, from her perception, mistreated her.  Multiple warnings after misbehavior only leads to increased temper tantrums and backlash from children.  Giving too many warnings over time also teaches kids that they have chances to “get away” with the offense before actually getting a consequence.  It can definitely lead to or worsen oppositional and strong-willed behavior.  The rule-of-thumb is to ask children to do something once, give a warning for a consequence (such as a time out), then follow through if the child does not comply with your request.  I really broke this rule.

Today was kind of a wake-up call for me as a parent.  Although I have an older child and have been through this phase already, today’s incident is a reminder that the more I am consistent in my parenting and the fewer number of warnings I give, my child will understand boundaries and be less confused.  Also, the earlier that I reinforce my requests, the less she will try to take advantage of situations.

So, this time the joke is on me as a parent.  It’s definitely a slippery slope when it comes to parenting!  Things can get out of control very quickly.