Preschool has been wonderful for my 4-year-old. She's made a bunch of sweet little friends, is always learning, and I get just over two hours every morning to get things done while she's not home. But it's also taught her a whole slew of new and less-than-desirable behaviours which have her constantly trying my patience. I'm embarrassed to say that I usually give her the exact reaction she's looking for, but admitting you have a problem is a good first step.
I'm just as tired of barking orders, spewing empty threats, and saying "no" as she is of hearing it. Because let's be honest — am I really going to throw all of her toys in the trash if she doesn't clean them up? No. Because of this, I've spent a good chunk of my spare time scouring the internet for new ways to practice patience with my daughter for both her sake and mine. The past week has been a lot of trial and error as I tried out some of the most common tips, but I think we've made some good progress. Here's what I learned.
1. Ignoring Bad Behaviour and Praising Good Behaviour
My best friend's kids taught my daughter that potty talk is an acceptable topic of conversation among kids her age. I mean, I guess it's funny at times, but when she decides to belt out "Rudolph the red nosed reindeer made a very shiny poop" in the grocery store, it sends me over the edge. One of the tips I found online was ignoring poor behaviour and praising good behaviour. But while I spent the week ignoring my daughter's newfound bathroom humour, I learned that she's more stubborn than I am. Instead of giving up after realising that I wasn't going to acknowledge her potty talk, she doubled down. It's been a battle of the wills, and neither of us has given in . . . yet.
2. Changing My Tone
While I can ignore potty talk, I can't ignore behaviours that are dangerous or downright disrespectful. We've always spent a lot of time talking about feelings and how to express them. We would talk about why she felt a certain way and come up with a solution that worked for everyone. But that peaceful way of expressing her feelings has gone out the window. Now, when she's angry that her baby sisters are ruining her block tower or frustrated because we don't allow her to use our couch as a trampoline, she resorts to screaming, stomping, spitting, or pushing her sisters out of the way. This is the behaviour for which I have no patience, and usually causes me to yell, threaten, or send her straight to her room (or in some instances, all of the above).
A few articles I read suggested smiling instead of lashing out, or singing instead of yelling. Well, I tried both of these things exactly three times only to discover that both only escalate the chaos. When my daughter is angry, smiling at her only makes her more upset as she thinks I'm laughing at her. When she's frustrated, my breaking into song sent her into fits of rage. I'm pretty well aware that my voice isn't great, but who knew it was that bad?
3. Seeing Things From Her Perspective
Almost all of the tips I found online suggested looking at things threw the child's eyes. And honestly, I couldn't do it. No matter how many different angles I tried, I simply can't understand why cutting her sandwich into triangles instead of squares is so traumatic. However, this tip is often accompanied by the suggestion that you take a different approach once you see things from their point of view. So while I couldn't exactly see things from her perspective, I found that changing my approach worked like a charm almost 100 percent of the time.
My daughter simply doesn't respond well to negativity. Threats and time-outs don't phase her. But acknowledging and praising her good behaviour works wonders. Telling her how proud I am whenever she uses her manners gives me something to refer back to when tempers flare, and reminding her how happy we all are when we use our words or show kindness has the ability to calm everyone down almost immediately. It seems like such a simple thing, but it's easy to forget when things get really crazy really quickly.
This past week has been a lesson in patience for both of us, and I'm sure that we both have a road ahead of us as she continues picking up and trying out new behaviours. But as long as we're both willing to work on it, I think we'll be OK.