Friday, 1 May 2009

Only good girls get ice cream

Rosemary is on a bit of a boundary-testing run at the moment. Of course, she never completely stops testing our boundaries, probably because she knows full well that we can both be inconsistent. At the moment, though, it is very difficult to keep in my head the knowledge that this is all part of growing up and a necessary phase to go though. Because, mostly I just want to scream and shout and send her to boarding school.

Example 1: Yesterday, her cousin came to visit for about an hour, while my aunt went to a physiotherapy appointment. Usually, they play very nicely together and she's enjoying that he's able to run around now and is gradually developing some language so she can understand him a little. Usually, she loves sharing her toys with him and with her young visitors. Yesterday, everything he tried to play with she tried to grab back off him, shouting 'No! That's mine! You can't have it!' At one point, she was even trying to hit/push him away so that he couldn't take her toy saxophone back, when she'd managed to grab it off him. She spent a lot of the time he was visiting in her room having time outs followed by an explanation of why what she was doing was not nice. Didn't make any difference. They did sit happily together while eating lunch, and were fine for the ten minutes he was still there afterwards.

Another example: My aunt brought round a lovely table and chair for Rosemary, yesterday. Rosemary loved it and thanked her profusely. She played with it, sat at the table, watched Charlie and Lola at the table (on my netbook), jumped off it and generally really enjoyed it. But she also decided that it was far too nice, and needed to make her mark on it - with crayons and pink highlighter. The first time she did it, the crayon was taken away from her and the table wiped (it did come off, thankfully) and she cried for a while but was then fine. The second time, the highlighter was taken away from her and she cried for even longer.

Last night, she ate most of her dinner and so was expecting ice cream. It's not a rule that she gets ice cream if she eats all her dinner; it's a rule that she definitely doesn't get ice cream if she hardly touches her dinner. She wasn't allowed ice cream, because she hadn't been very good during the day. 'But I want it! I need it! I want it... NOW!' She got yoghurt as a compromise and a reminder to think about the lack of ice cream today, and try to be as good as possible.

So, this morning, she told me 'When Rupert comes to visit, I will let him play with my saxophone and then I can have ice cream. Right?' She got some kind of message from the lack of ice cream, but I don't think she's quite got the concept of being good all day. She still refused to get dressed, something she hadn't done for a while, but has started up with this week. She still drew on her new table (highlighter incident above). She still screamed when I brought her bread and butter and peanut butter, because 'I didn't say that! I don't like that!' (and gobbled it down five minutes later, saying 'I love it now').

I know I need to be patient and not scream and shout. I know we need to make sure we work consistent punishments and rewards, so she can know and understand what to expect. I know that this is part of the next stage of learning rules and understanding how to follow them. But couldn't she have done this at some other time, when I'm not feeling almost constant nausea, exhaustion and a fair bit of pain in leg from the pelvic girdle pain. Like six months ago, or in two years? Two and a half years would be good, because then we could combine it with Baby Number 2's jumping into the terrible twos.

If anyone has any tips or tricks on dealing with this stage, and somehow keeping from screaming (remembering that I cannot turn to alcohol at the moment), I will be all ears.


  1. A snooker ball in a sock works wonders in our house

  2. I feel your pain Tasha I really do.
    The only thing that works for my little girl is distraction. Rewards or taking things away or time out just don't work for her and it's really really frustating - and I don't have the added pressure of being pregnant as well.
    I have found that the more I tell her off the worse she gets. it's like she wants to be told off because then she's getting some kind of attention. So I try to ignore it as much as I can now and if she does something naughty I calmly say 'that's not acceptable in this house etc etc' then leave her be. She HATES that!

  3. Snooker ball in a sock?! (Snort!) I have the same issue with my 3.5 yr old. He is testing each and every boundary on a 24/7 basis - and each test has to be repeated a billion times apparently before he will draw his conclusions somewhere around his 5th birthday probably. I really struggle with him. We battle constantly. I try SO hard to be patient and consistent etc but some times dealing with it all in a constructive manner deserts me. I guess, with him being the 2nd child, I know this is a normal phase and we just all have to grit our teeth and get through it as best we can. Some days i get through it better than others. But in a strange way, as exhausting as it is dealing with this behaviour, it is reassuring that he is acting in an age appropriate manner and that I don't have to worry about any form of dysfunction in that area!!

    It must be hard dealing with it when you are pregnant. Just do the best you can and know it is not a reflection on your parenting in any way.

  4. Dan: *cough* *splutter* I shall keep that one in reserve.

    Tara: I must try the ignoring thing, actually. I think you're right about the attention (in fact, as I think about, she's most likely to do something naughty when I'm talking on the phone or cooking or typing on the computer). There are so many things that are not worth the fight, really. Like smearing yoghurt all over herself and the table. Even a bit of crayon here and there isn't going to hurt anyone.

    Nicola: They're still doing it at 3 and a half?! Or is there a nice gap and it starts up again? Have to say it never occurred to me to be reassured about acting in an age-appropriate way, though I do feel relieved when I hear about her peers having similar issues.

  5. Snooker ball and sock - love it.

    Tara is right. Distraction is good (but exhausting).

    Lots of people find that star charts or sticker charts work, but I never found them very successful, and I hated the way they ended up dominating everything. Every bit of behaviour has to be either rewarded (or deemed not quite good enough for a reward because otherwise you get to the prize too quickly). I found it tedious for me, and I wondered if the child found it rather oppressive. But lots of people swear by them.

    It's interesting to see in your comment that you say R is most likely to do something naughty when you're talking on the phone or typing on the computer. That suggests to me that the root of it is attention-seeking. A very wise midwife told me that the way round this is to give MORE attention. That is rather counter-intuitive, as it feels like bad behaviour shouldn't be rewarded with extra attention. All I know is that when I've had really bad phases, a little extra time, focus, attention really seems to help. I think the trick is not to link it to the behaviour, but just to increase the real quality child-time at other points in the day.

    I know this is REALLY hard when you're pregnant and exhausted, but the good news is (if my experience is anything to go by) that a little goes a long way. Just a few extra activities together in a day, or a few occasions when you say very deliberately "I'm sorry I had to make that phone call, but now I'm going to really enjoy playing this game with you, which is much more fun - I've been looking forward to it". And you can cheat. You can snuggle up on the sofa together and watch something. For you, it's putting your feet up, but for her, it's special Mummy time (especially if you say "what a treat, snuggling up together for telly, how lovely, we'll do this again tomorrow shall we?"

    As I write that, it sounds like romance! But then who can resist being won round with a little romance? - perhaps that starts at a younger age than we realise.

  6. Iota: Thank you for taking the time to give such a helpful reply - you always seem to have such good advice!

    We did very well with star charts for sleeping and potty training, but she's lost interest them now. We have also tried the occasional chocolate reward lately (something I swore I would never do!), which can work quite well, but there's a bit of a knack to getting the right balance, otherwise she just expects constant chocolate!

    I've been thinking about the attention thing a lot since reading Tara's comment this morning, and am inclined to think that it does play a big part in it, though there are also other elements (like experimenting - when I dropped my teaset the jug broke, if I drop it again, will something else break - and the boundary testing, of course).

    I think I've grown somewhat complacent in being able to leave her to her own devices, since she became adept at playing on her own. In the past, when it was time to cook dinner or do housework, the other parent would come downstairs to play with Rosemary; these days, we just get on with it, because she can amuse herself so well. Which means we're doing a lot less one-on-one activities together. Chris is much better at coming up with activities than I am, and he's more likely to make a concerted effort to get out specific toys or games, rather than let her lead the way.

    The other morning, as soon as she woke up, she asked, 'Can we bake cakes, this morning?' and we did. I managed to drink my morning tea and wake up, while baking with her. The next morning, she asked 'Can we bake cakes again?' and got quite upset when I said we couldn't, because we had plenty left from the day before. But I think it probably wasn't the baking, necessarily that she was wanting, but doing something with me, and she knows I'm usually quite happy to bake cakes.

    Next week, she starts playgroup, which means she's going to be at nursery school, my mum's or playgroup every day, with only three afternoons free - and weekends, of course. So, I have decided... instead of being annoyed and grumpy when she wakes up at 6am instead of 7am, I'm going to relish the early get-ups and spend at least an hour doing something with her - baking, painting, playing in the garden, building towers.... The dishwasher can wait. I don't have to be left alone to drink my tea. And I certainly don't have to turn the computer on to check blogs, facebook, email...

    So, thank you Iota and Tara. I may well report back in a couple of weeks on the success or failure of this experiment. But I have a feeling it will be the former.

  7. That's a hard one. I try to be consistent too, but can't always and it only takes once to crack the glass.

  8. Oh Tasha - I'm there with you. Edie is so ridiculously naughty that I just have to laugh sometimes. She bites, she pulls hair, she draws all over the place, she throws food, etc, etc. Reading this post and all the subsequent comments have been really helpful because most of the time I'm at a loss to know how to handle it too. So I can give you tons of empathy if that's any consolation! Other than that I do agree with Tara and Iota though - distraction and more attention (if possible). I know that Edie loves being told off and even asks to be sent to the naughty step sometimes because she knows that she's centre of attention. But if I include her in the things I do then she's not half as demanding. Even if I'm at the computer sometimes I might suggest that we check e-mails together...although not easy when she starts trying to yank the mouse out of my hand...

    But good luck - I'm also sure it's just a phase - (or at least I sincerely hope it is or else I'm doomed) - they don't call it 'terrible twos' for nothing!!

  9. You sound like you're doing all the right's soooo hard being tested like this, especailly when you're pregnant and knackered 24/7. I think, when they are so little, the consequence of what they are doing just doesn't occur. My 4 year is always generally shocked when he has "defied" the rules and doesn't get pudding/ story etc etc but I think he genuinely, sometimes, doesn't realise that, well rules are there for a reason. I think you have hit the nail on the head with the consistency thing; it kinda does have to happen now BUT, having said that, it's everyone on board; parents, grandparents, aunties, uncle etc. I tend to tell my two what will happen if I allow a certain action eg not holding my hand when crossing the road and what the possible consequences will be. I think it has an impact...occasionally! My daughter went through a similar, "creative" phase; she grew out of it but I still see her fighting the urge to draw on some object or other...she has always been into "prettying" things up!
    Oh! I also find that when my son has eaten most of his food (he is a tad fussy), me and sig. other go WAY over the top with praise; it's taken a while but is starting to work; he'll now try stuff because he is a big boy etc, if he doesn't like then he knows that's fine but he's often surprised to discover he likes his food. Sorry to ramble; hope some of this makes sense!

  10. I sympathise! This was me eighteen months ago and it is no fun.

    What (sometimes) worked for me were star charts that had specific behaviours on them - so every so often there would be a chart with two or three things that I wanted changed - 'I brushed my teeth nicely' or 'I played nicely with my friends today'. Prize at the end of the week then no chart again for a while.

    I also rewarded goood behaviour right away - 'let's do painting because you've done a puzzle and tidied it away nicely'.

    As far as coping while feeling crappy, I had surprise activity boxes - fun things stashed away for when behaviour started getting bad. And small cheap new toys to hand out to distract them. I also did lots of horizontal parenting activities when I needed to rest and they were tearing round the house - I used to send them off in search of an item beginning with 's' or whatever.

    But the best way I found to cope with this age is to pretend there is someone else watching me parent - I pretend it's a film crew (a mumsnet suggestion I think). Makes me a calmer parent, at least on the outside!

  11. Wow, good for you, being prepared to do all those activities at 6 o'clock in the morning!

    With the extra playgroup, let's hope she gets more tired, and sleeps in a bit longer. Of course that's another thing - tired children are more likely to be naughty/demanding. Is she getting enough sleep, or just rest?

    I like Ella's suggestion of the film crew. I used to pretend I was a Nanny. I'd look at my watch and think "only another x hours to go, and then I can go home", and I'd pretend I was going to be paid at the end of the week! It also seemed to help that I could pretend they were someone else's children and not mine - a bit of emotional distance helps. (I didn't do it often, or for long - I hasten to add. Just in those really bad moments.)

  12. Susanna: Yes, it's amazing how quickly it can all fall apart!

    MT: I think the loving to be told off thing seems to be all part of attention-seeking, too. I think we'd got to a point where we were telling her off too often, for little things that really aren't important at this stage (sometimes we forget she's not even three yet!), so that telling off was becoming the predominant attention she was getting. This is all stuff I know in my head, but it really is difficult to put it into practice sometimes!

    Katherine: The everyone on board thing is difficult. Sometimes I think we have to write a rule book and distribute it to all adults who interact with her on regular basis. And, of course, she's also discovering the ability to not tell the truth, so if you ask 'Why are you doing that?' she'll say 'Because Daddy said so,' or 'Granny wants me to,'. Most of the time you know she's telling a whopper, but ocassionally you think 'Hmmm. Is my mum letting her do that? Do I need to have a word?'

    Ella: What a brilliant idea to act as though someone's watching, because we do all act better in public. We did really well reward charts for a while, but she got fed up with them. Might have a go again, though, as it's been a while. Horizontal activities sound great, though Rosemary does tend to try to climb and/or jump on me whenever I lie down. I think I'll be needing them more and more as the days go on.

    Iota: We played on my DS this morning (her choice, I was ready to bake and colour and so on, but she saw it and asked). We did just over half an hour and she watched some TV (awful, I know) while I had my shower. Then we compromised on when to get dressed (i.e. she got to wait 10 minutes, instead of doing it exactly when I wanted her to) and she did so without any fuss. Lovely morning.

    And I think you may be right about the tiredness. After playgroup she had lunch and then went into town with Chris to get her passport photo taken and get some shopping. When she came back we baked apple muffins and were going to colour in pictures after she licked the bowl. When I'd cleared up, I went in to find out if she was ready to colour in and she'd fallen asleep with her head in the bowl! She slept for two hours. We got to our colouring later and did some imaginative play together as well, so we got lots of one-on-one time (both with me and with Chris).

    Unfortunately, she then didn't go to sleep until ten past nine (though she was just happily chattering away and singing to herself in bed for an hour or so after her stories). Which is what tends to happen if she does have an afternoon nap (has been having one every few days lately, which is very unusual).

    So... I wonder, do we try to get her to bed earlier (as it stands we're eating at 5pm, which is really early, and I don't want to give up eating together as a family every day) or somehow find a way to keep her in bed an hour or so longer in the morning? Hmm.

  13. I am also pregnant with pelvic girdle pain, and finding it hard to entertain my 18 month old as I'm house bound, and cannot sit on the floor to play. I feel so guilty, but I know I need rest. Rainy days are the worst, as the garden is our savior. My little man isn't really old enough for real tantrums yet (he will try it on a bit though!) so I can't imagine how hard it is for you to cope with tiredness & pain as well difficult behavior. I just keep reminding myself that I won't always feel like this, and my boy won't remember the few months in his babyhood when Mummy couldn't play as much. But obviously, I feel as if these are his last few months as an only child, and I want to make Mummy time as special as I can....hard when you're shattered and in pain. Chin up, pip pip! We'll have lovely new babies in a few months :-)

  14. Sounds like your pelvic girdle pain is much worse than mine. Hope you're getting good physiotherapy? Mine's getting a bit worse since Number 2 had a growth spurt, but is being managed quite well, compared to last time. I have Chris giving me daily (sometimes twice-daily) massages, and exercises to do myself, as well, all of which is helping immensely. Am hopeful that I might be able to avoid the crutches this time, but I know there's still a way to go yet! At the moment, I'm still able to get out and about at the moment, and can do most things.

    Rosemary's behaviour has improved a lot since I've been making an effort to have one or two bits of dedicated one-on-one time a day. There are still occasional outbursts, but they're not so awful. Are there things you can do sat at the kitchen/dining table? Must be difficult not being able to sit on the floor, as that's where they spend so much time. Rosemary's always asking me to bounce on the bed and play ring-a-ring-a-roses with her and, of course, pick her up.

    As you say, the result in a few months time will be worth it all! I'm sure I'd go through much worse if that was what it took.

  15. I try to be better when I was little girl .. :)