It happened quite by accident; well, sorta by accident – my normally very-3-year-old kids were ANGELS this weekend. They’re not normally devils but they are 3 YOs. Yet somehow, my weekend was almost a throwback to a scene from Little House on the Prairie where kids were obedient, kind, and generally easy, and left me saying “I can do this” by the time it was over.
The bloggers of CTWorkingMoms know that I’ve had some recent behavioral challenges with my kids, as I have asked the ladies about what types of behavior tricks they’ve found successful. My twins are very much in the throes of their thrilling threes, and have recently found their independence and strong will. Add that to the fact that they feed off each other and my home can quickly become a free-for-all if I don’t temper their efforts at showing strong will before it gets too far out of control. And the whining…OMG, the whining…JUST SHOOT ME NOW.
There were two things that were notably different this weekend.
The first was that we had nothing big planned this weekend. Ballet class is over, there were no birthday parties or family events to shuffle them off to. Our Saturday morning started out LAZY, which set the tone for the rest of the weekend – Dad went running with his running buddies and so the three of us (Mom and the two kids) spent the morning in our jammies cutting pictures and shapes out of magazines. There was no “hurry up, we need to get ready for ballet” and no “only 5 more minutes.” They just cut pictures until they got tired of doing it (incidentally, I forgot to take the scissors away which resulted in one small “oops” later that day! Let’s just say that my daughter’s doll has a new hairstyle…).
The rest of the weekend was more of the same – a throwback to the Dog Days of Summer where we did wholesome summertime activities on no particular schedule: they played with the sand/water table on our back deck, we went swimming at our (awesome) YMCA, we went to a classmate’s house to play, and we strolled through a local street fair. All weekend, the kids were relaxed, they were content, AND best of all, they didn’t fight or object when we moved on to the next activity.
The other difference was that I stayed unplugged during the daytime – aside from when I took some pictures of my kids and their friends playing, my phone didn’t come out of my pocketbook virtually all weekend. This wasn’t a deliberate move, really – it was because I didn’t want to deal with the phone so it stayed at home or locked in the car. Instead of taking pictures of them nonstop or checking my email, I was actually in the kiddie pool with them and/or elbows deep in the sand, and believe me, my kids noticed.
My weekend was so successful that my children even ate and slept like champs. My normally picky eater found herself adventurously trying and liking fried OKRA (without gagging!) and a full bowl of green salad; of course, the promise of a popsicle for dessert definitely didn’t hurt, but she ate what I put on her plate without complaint or added sound effects. My kids, masters of bedtime stall tactics, crawled into bed on both nights a full half hour earlier than usual, and were snoring away by the time I’d normally be yelling at them to go brush their teeth.
All this served as a reminder that my children are still children and that simplicity is good for them – it forces them to use their minds creatively and allows them to relax and enjoy their time. It was also a good reminder that children understand when they feel valued – by turning off my phone, they felt like Mom was engaged; by letting them move on to the next activity when they were truly done with their activity, they felt like they were in control rather than Mom/Dad dictating their schedule and shuffling them from one activity to the next. And all of these feelings of empowerment meant that my children were angels all weekend.
So, perhaps my answer to their behavior is not about reward charts and timeouts – perhaps all it really takes is slowing it down and being there for them.