Remember, the advice you receive is about worth what you paid for it.
Lainey-Paney at Life Is Just So Daily asks...
Q.Dear Denver Dad,
Our son is 18 months old, and is now starting this AMAZING fit throwing. A single fit may involve one or all of the following: kicking, screaming, crying, pinching of Mommy, pulling on Mommy's clothes, throwing himself to the ground, rearing his head back to the point of almost falling out of Mommy's arms.
It's TONS OF FUN for me.
I understand that he's frustrated due to his limited vocabulary & speech skills...but I also know that the fits often occur not when he can't communicate his wants, but rather when he does not get what he wants.
So...the question is---WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT??? My pediatrician says to ignore it. Guess how well that works!!?? Not well at all. And really, how easy is it to ignore anyway when he's dangling from my pants & screaming at the top of his lungs? My husband says to spank him.
That seems to break my heart, and I'm afraid that it is teaching my child to hit (a nasty little habit that he picked up shortly after the introduction of the "spanking").
Is there a boarding school anywhere for toddlers????
A. Sadly, there isn't a boarding school for toddlers, but if you have some extra money laying around, boy do I have a franchise idea for you!
We have been blessed with a child that would rather just ignore you than throw fits, but he has had more than a few moments of drama, so I'll offer whatever wisdom I can. Your pediatrician is right. You're supposed to ignore it, but no one sane can ignore that kind of behavior. So, here's what you need to do:
1. Stay calm. Your toddler is screaming and clinging to get your attention. At some point, it worked, so now you only have yourself to blame. Don't take it so hard, because if you didn't react at some point, you'd be a robot and probably plotting to take over the world. That's bad. So, reacting to your child's needs is a good thing. It's just that it got weird somehow and isn't working the way it's supposed to work.
2. Stay calm. This is like those repeating Fight Club rules. Toddlers, like animals, can smell fear. So, they'll know when they have you. You've got to keep your wits about you and stay rational, because someone has to be the rational person and it's not going to be your toddler.
3. Negotiate! In a calm voice, explain that your child can either get a hold of themselves or go to their rooms and throw their fit. I know, I know, it sounds silly, but it works with Chunk. The first few times you give him the choice, he's going to ignore you, so you take him to time out. Eventually, he'll understand that if he wants attention, he's going to have to get it with rational behavior, as opposed to psychotic behavior. Or, he won't, but at least he'll be in his room screaming, instead of hanging off your leg.
4. Explain. I know you're supposed to let stuff go, but I like to talk to my little guy after the big blow-ups and have a debriefing. I say stuff like, "I know you're frustrated because I can't understand you, but that just means we both have to try harder next time." Or, "If you do that at the grocery store again, no one will ever find your body." You know, reassuring stuff like that. Your child will probably tune you out when you have this conversation, but it makes me feel better, so maybe it'll work for you too.
5. Be consistent. If you're going to do this, you've got to keep doing it. The second you break any of these rules, they (our demon spawn) know they have us wrapped around their fingers, and its that much harder to lay down the law later. That's actually true for any wonky "system" you find. If you're consistent, no matter what your system of behavior management may be, it should eventually work.
The thing is, our kids are whip smart. I mean that. Chunk terrifies me with how much he already knows and understands. So, I try to treat him like the independent person he's fighting so hard to become. It's not an easy process, but it's slowly getting better. Hopefully, it'll get better for you too.
Maria at Just Eat Your Cupcake asks...
Q.Dear Denver Dad,
My daughter is seven. She often pretends to be a dog (a golden retriever named Zippy to be exact). My question is: should I just go ahead and buy her a leash or give her free run of the yard? And when I take her for walks, what should I say to rude people who stop and laugh?
I work hard to accept her for herself and hey, if she is having a Zippy day, I'm supportive. My problem is that other people simply don't get it. Why won't they allow my child to explore her dog identity and how can I help her?
A. If I had a nickel every time I heard the "my daughter wants to be a golden retriever" story, I'd have a whole nickel!
Look, kids are creative and nicknames eventually fade, especially when you're old enough to move away. I say, get her the leash she wants, maybe even a fancy dish, and let her indulge. Assuming her psychological scars heal, and there will be scars, she'll grow up to be a fine, upstanding citizen who can fetch a tennis ball like you wouldn't believe.
The Real Mother Hen at How the Real Mother Hen sees the World asks...
Q.Dear Denver Dad,
My husband refuses to grow up - any advice?
A. Maturity is like kryptonite for most men. It saps their strength and makes them mere shadows of the vibrant, fun, beer-guzzling men they were before. I've seen it happen to many of my friends, and although they're still good guys, they've lost their spark and have become kind of dull.
Unfortunately, maturity is also kind of important. Maturity is what gets a guy to buy diapers instead of a box of frozen White Castle cheeseburgers when he hits the local warehouse store. Maturity is what gets a guy to stop playing his Level 60 World of Warcraft character and actually get a job that requires shaving and khakis. The real trick is not to force maturity, but teach your spouse how to be mature at appropriate times, letting them resort to childish fart jokes and goofing off when you have them safely locked in their "nerd cave."
I'm being serious here. You wouldn't want your husband to grow up. You wouldn't like him, because when he grows up, he becomes dull. The guy you fell in love with? The one that makes you laugh? He'll leave, for good, if your husband actually grows up. So, instead of forcing him to become mature, you just need to teach him when he can be a dumb-ass and when he's supposed to pretend to be responsible.
So, how do you do that? Remind him of stuff. "Honey, we're having brunch with my parents on Sunday." Or, "Dearest, khaki does go with everything, but that shirt is still ugly." Or, "Sweet Cakes, I know you need the Complete Wizards rulebook to play your illusionist character in your Tuesday night D&D game, but I'm tired of eating Top Ramen and day old bread, so we're spending our money on food and utilities, rather than dice and books with bimbos and swords on them." Don't nag. Nagging instantly turns whatever you say into white noise and he won't hear a bit of it, so you have to say it like you're having a conversation.
You know when your husband explains the two point conversions rules to you? Or, how a facemask can be either a 5 yard or 15 yard penalty? Remember that? No, of course you don't. If you nag, it'll be like that. Just remind him, gently, and after a while he'll start thinking it's his idea.
mo-wo at Mother-Woman asks...
Q.Dear Denver Dad,
I need Dad advice... At what age should I Ferberize my spouse?
A. When I first read your question, mo-wo, I thought you were asking when you should Frebreeze your spouse. Normally, I would recommend you Frebreeze your spouse as soon after marriage as possible, with periodic updates as needed. You should bring it up gently, though, because men are so sensitive and take offense easily. I would recommend saying something like, "Honey, now that you're married, you have to stink less. Lift up your arms and breath through your nose," then spray like you're trying to kill a wasp's nest.
But Ferberizing your spouse? That's a little trickier than spraying them with deodorizer. My wife and I practice "co-sleeping" with each other. We have since we were married ten years ago, and even before that, when we were just godless heathens cohabitating in sinfulness. It works for us. If sleeping with your spouse doesn't work, tell him, "Honey, it's not you... it's me, but get the hell out if you want to live through the night!" It's subtle, but will save his feelings.
Want something more subtle? My wife gets cold in 90 degree weather, so we got a heated mattress pad, at her request. We splurged and got the fancy one that has two controls, one for each side of the bed. When we go to sleep my wife sets her side to "broil." If I dare cross the barrier into her side of the bed, my flesh literally catches on fire and I run around the room screaming and trying to put out the flames. Like I said, it's a little more subtle, but if your husband has the jimmy legs, nothing fixes that quite as quickly as the threat of melting flesh.
Suburban Kamikaze at, shockingly enough, Suburban Kamikaze didn't really have a question, but seemed to suggest I needed to see a dominatrix for some issues that might be troubling me. It was either a dominatrix or Super Nanny. I'm not sure, but it was someone with boots. I know that much.