I change my parenting a lot. Really, I’m sure most parents do. We read new things that make us rethink past choices. Our children grow and change day to day, so what worked yesterday might not work today. Situations change when siblings are added or mama goes back to work or parents get divorced or many other things both big and small. I oft worry that I look like I’m always jumping on a new bandwagon on this blog, but I’m sure you all understand these reasons why my parenting changes. I’m sure you experience all these changes yourself.
Back when Peanut was younger, I was firmly against time out. Time in worked wonderfully for us about 90 percent of the time until she was around 18 months. At that point I started to send her to her room, which worked for a while, but we changed again when she started to cry and have a fit over going in her room.
Then after Twig was born, we needed a new solution. Talking through it just didn’t work when she was hitting me or hurting Twig. She needed to be physically removed. This also worked for a while until she started to refuse to go. Then I’d feel angry and try to push the issue, which would make it all worse. It didn’t help that I was in a dark place at the moment. So we had another solution that stopped working.
Now though, I’m revisiting the idea of going to her room. We’re doing things a bit differently and she’s a bit older. Now I just tell her to go to her room, no fuss or anger (okay, there’s occasional anger, but I’m working on it), when she does something way out of line. This is only really when she either hits or does this screaming in my face thing that she’s been doing lately (I correct her, so she turns to me and screams as loud as she can with a mean look on her face). There’s no option or pleading, she just has to go. It’s not a punishment. It’s not a threat.
Second, it seems to help her when she leaves the situation. That physical separation is really what she needs. When her preschool ended for the semester and we were at home all together again every day, we’ve also implemented a “quiet/alone time” every day. I set the timer for 20-30 minutes (sometimes extending it when she’s playing happily, but mostly trying to keep it where it was as to not violate her trust). I let her know as soon as the timer goes off instead of letting her stay playing, which has shown her over time that I will tell her rather than her thinking I’m just going to leave her in her room forever.
Giving her that time by herself, no mommy nagging or sister getting in her business, really helped her attitude. She’s much less likely to have a meltdown after we’ve done quiet time and I’m less likely to freak out once I’ve had some time with only one child (or no children, if I can time quiet time to coincided with naptime) One of the keys is to get her that time before meltdowns start happening, or there will meltdowns about having to go into quiet time. Also, when she comes out before the time is up, I just matter-of-factly tell her that time isn’t up. We have an apple timer that I got at Target that ticks the whole time it’s counting down, which is kind of annoying, but helpful for the 3 year old to see (and hear!) that time is indeed not up. Since she’s in preschool again (which happens at the same time that we were doing quiet time), we haven’t been doing it every day, but we still do it on days that she doesn’t have school and some other days when we’re having a rough morning.
Overall, both of these things are working really well for us. Sure, it may not be the best possible parenting response to send my three year old to her room. The fact of the matter is that my other reaction is to scream at her, which I feel is the worse of the options. If she just goes in her room and we both get calm, we stay much happier. And getting that little break now that she doesn’t nap anymore is really helpful for me, which makes things better for her even if she didn’t have a mood change.
Who knows if it’ll work months from now (or even a week), but for now it’s working well. If you’re having similar issues, I’d suggest you give it a try. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work and you try something different. I’ll try to keep you all updated on what new things are working for us.
What works for you to get your preschooler to settle down? How do you keep your cool at the end of the day with small children? I’d love suggestions!