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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The tempestuous 2.5-year-old

Annika is going to be 2.5 soon, and it shows. I've heard from various parents that during the toddler years, the half years are when the kiddos show dramatic personality development. And by dramatic personality development, I mean, they start doing new shit when you are least expecting it.

Now, I try to be fair when writing about Annika and I don't want to be one of those mom bloggers who snarks about her kids. But Bejeezus! Annika has been turning the tables on me for the past few weeks. Her autonomy is rearing its head, for sure.

Normally, I try to take the playful approach when trying to get her to do something. But lately it hasn't been working.

And it's getting old, really fucking fast. And we're still early on in the game. I need a new approach. And fast.

A few days ago we were getting ready to head out for the day, but I had some trash to throw away so we walked down the sidewalk to the large trash bin sitting in the parking lot of our apartment complex.

Lately, every time we do this, she's been asking to stay on the grassy patch under a tree, just across from the trash receptacle. I can still see her, so I have been okaying it. So, I hurried over to throw the trash away and came back to where she was running in circles around the tree. I told her it was time to go.

No, she didn't want to go.

Okay, so I let her play for a little while longer.

Okay, it's time to go.

Here's where I screwed up.

Usually I can get her to follow me by saying, "Chase me, chase me!" She'll come running after me. We have a fun little game and then we can move forward. So I did this, and when I turned around, she wasn't there.

I went running back to the grass patch only to see her running in the opposite direction, across the parking lot to the tree on the opposite side of the parking lot.

I won't deny that it made me really angry. Maybe I over reacted, but she knows that it's not okay to walk in the parking lot by herself. She knows this.

I snatched her up and took her screaming back inside. Where we had a long tearful discussion about the rule of "Annika doesn't walk in parking lots or streets alone." And I made up a new rule. "When mommy says it's time to go, you come with me."

Even as I was saying it, I thought, "Don't be a jackass." But I couldn't help myself. I am just sick of the constant, "It's-time-to-go-It's-time-to-go-It's-time-to-go." 

The second rule seemed to take much longer to sink in. She kept agreeing to it, but when I'd ask her to repeat it, she just said, "Annika doesn't walk in parking lots or streets alone."

My little lawyer. 

"I a'int agreeing to shit Mommy. You can't make me say it. I'll defer to you on the first one, but that second one, uh uh. No way."

I think I am expecting too much from her. Now that she's verbal, it's hard to know exactly what she's capable of remembering. And even if she remembers it, can she always avoid the impulse? Probably not.

I went to the South Austin API meeting after this instance and the speaker was Bethany Prescott, a local parenting coach. During the Q&A portion of the meeting, I asked her what to do when the playful stuff stops working.

She said, (and I'm paraphrasing, because I wasn't taking notes), 'It's okay to give a simple, definitive no. In fact, at this age, toddlers are looking for you to set clear boundaries.'

I felt a bit of relief because I had been feeling kind of guilty for all the nos I had been doling out lately.

No, you can't keep playing when you're exhausted and it's 30 minutes past your nap time. It's time to go.

No, you can't push the grocery cart because it would take way too long to finish the shopping and you'll get bored and I'm not chasing you around the grocery store with a half full cart of groceries.

No, you can't just take stuff from other kids.

No, you can't boss strangers.

But, even so, I still think it's good to say yes as much as possible.

Yes, you can run around and around the tree once we get the groceries loaded into the car.

Yes, you can stay in the car and "drive" while I unload the groceries.

Yes, we can play kick ball after your nap.

So, I'll keep using the playful method, but when it doesn't work, I suppose saying no won't hurt her. As long as I'm consistent with my reasoning.

For those of you who have traversed the treacherous waters of the 2-year-old, I'd love to hear from you. What were some of the methods you used to keep the peace without losing your sanity?

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