I don’t have perfectly behaved children and in all honesty I don’t wish for them. Life would be pretty boring if my children listened to every word I said, never answered back, never needed reminding and behaved exactly as they should on every occasion. Where’s the spontaneity and show of personality?
Although, sometimes I do wish they weren’t quite so ‘spirited’.I’ve heard lots of people say a three year old is much harder work than a two year old, and on Winston’s third birthday I couldn’t help but google: ‘signs of a threenager’. As I hit the search button I felt a bit worried inside, because both Jared and I feel like Winston has been quite an intense two year old. Out and about he’s brilliant company, easy to please and relaxed, but children certainly know how to save their best for their parents. As I read the list of ‘signs’ I felt relieved as we could already tick off every single one. Ridiculous I know, but we had already found his behaviour quite baffling for a number of months and I was hoping to be reassured…which I was. All totally normal.
I used to get so upset when Winston showed signs of ingratitude, was rude, unhappy or played up. I was worried it was me and I was doing something so obviously wrong. Jared would tell me over and over again that it wasn’t me, and that I needed to stop taking things so personally, but it’s something I had to realise it for myself, and it finally clicked a few months ago. No matter how hard I try, some days – my children just can’t be pleased, and they will continue to push the boundaries again and again, despite knowing them.
Winston has never been a hitter, he’s never been a biter, he’s never been a snatcher, a chaser, a thrower, a home wrecker, a climber or a grabber. Our main struggle with Winston is arguing and shouting, mixed with the way he tries to trick us. He remembers everything and we have to be very careful how we word things. This surprises people when we tell them, because he comes across as very laid back and mild…which he is, until one of his parents cross him.
Since he could speak a few words, he has an excuse for anything and everything. My Mum invited him for a sleepover when he was about 20 months old and I remember her saying to me on her return: “He is full of excuses isn’t he?”. When putting him to bed he’d asked for water, more cuddles, food, another story, a drink, toast, more water…the list when on and on. At 20 months old, what chance did we have?
His three year old excuses are usually one of the below:
- “I’m really busy at work today Mum, I can do it when I get back”. Let me tell you, he works A LOT.
- “I’ve got an exam Mum”.
- “I’ve got to fix the toy box and then dig in the garden”.
All very valid and honourable excuses – if you’re beyond 16 years of age, that is.
Whilst I’ve read books on (just about) every other aspect of parenthood covering the likes of sleep, feeding, safety, weaning, dummies, co sleeping, potty training, routines etc, I haven’t read one on discipline and I don’t plan to. Not because I know anything (at all), but because both Jared and I want to develop our own style, plus we enjoy asking friends and family for advice. We love the exchange of hilarious stories and experiences.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked my Mum: “What do you think the best thing to do is?”, “What would you do?”, “Is this normal?”, “How long does this last?”, “Will he grow out of it?”. My Mum often says that every single one of her eleven children had to be parented and disciplined differently. This provides comfort and also fills me with horror!
I feel like Jared and I have really grown as parents over the last few months, and I’ve also learnt lots about Winston:
- I’ve learnt that he does not like being told off by Jared and I at the same time – something that can easily happen before we’ve had chance to think. It causes him to completely shut down and we get no where. If Jared starts talking to Winston at the same time as me, I stop talking.
- I’ve learnt that Winston’s behaviour is significantly worse when he’s with his cousins. I have to be more lenient on these occasions, otherwise neither of us would have any fun at all!
- I’ve learnt that he needs to know the ins and outs of why he can’t do things. He’s a talker, and that means I have to be too.
- I’ve learnt to pick my battles. It’s easy to get trapped in a battle of wills and in the past I have found myself thinking: “How ridiculous is Winston?”, then I’ve had to quickly remind myself that I’m the ridiculous one for arguing with a (then) two year old. I’ve definitely been guilty of ‘wanting to be right’ and carrying the disagreement on far longer than necessary! Now I just get to point and he can take it, or leave it.
- I’ve learnt that there is definitely a skill to asking the right question in order to get the right answer. It doesn’t always work, but it’s definitely worth a try! I’ve learnt when to negotiate and when not to negotiate, but I’m still learning.
- I’ve learnt that communication is key. If I’m unhappy with how Jared dealt with something we always talk about it afterwards, and he does the same with me.
- I’ve learnt that you have to be on the same page as your partner, otherwise it is incredibly difficult. I have a friend who tells their children that they can’t have anything to eat until bedtime if they don’t eat their dinner. This is exactly what we do with Winston, except my friend recently found out that her husband was slipping their children treats behind her back, even if though they hadn’t eaten their dinner.
- I’ve learnt that a hug can go along way…something I’ve tried in the past and hasn’t gone down well. Now it’s something he really responds to when he’s upset.
- I’ve learnt that feelings build up in his body and sometimes he just needs to be left to release them all. Then we talk about it afterwards.
- I’ve learnt that parenting is a steep learning curve and that we are never going to get everything right, even if we’re trying our absolute best.
As I write this at almost 9pm, my little ‘threenager’ is sat right next to me and we’re watching the “The Truth About Calories” together; as the three of us had an accidental afternoon nap – something we haven’t done for months. One of those beautiful, perfect, ‘pinch me’ parenting moments when you can’t believe how lucky and privileged you are to have these tiny people in your life.