You often hear the phrase, ‘Terrible Twos’ once your child enters toddlerhood. Friends joke about their kid’s latest tantrum, and family assures you it is ‘just a phase.’ But what do you do if your child’s ‘Terrible Twos’ never go away? Sure, kids like to test a parent’s boundaries, but it can be extremely frustrating for those families who have a child who is defiant most of the time and cannot seem to find a discipline method that really works.
Constantly telling your child to stop screaming or putting them in timeout can get old, very fast. No one wants to spend the majority of their day yelling at their kids. Sometimes, though, kids really do have something more going on. Sometimes the ‘Terrible Twos’ are something your child cannot control. Parenting is hard. Parenting a child who constantly defies what you say can bring down even the most positive person.
If this is you, hang in there! Tomorrow is a new day, and these five tips will help you get through another day:
1. Have realistic expectations of yourself and your child. If you know your child is hard to parent and finishing even the most mundane task can seem impossible, break it down. Give yourself one thing to get done all day besides being your child’s parent. It’s easy to get bogged down in one of their tantrums, but you need time for you. Set them up with something busy (think coloring books, puzzles, or Legos, depending on their age) and go take a shower. This should be one of the first things you do for yourself in the morning. It can set the whole tone for the rest of the day if you are feeling refreshed and ready to go.
2. Take a breath and maybe even a timeout. It is natural to want to react when your child talks back to you in a disrespectful way. If you are prone to saying things that are on the negative side when you do go to correct them, give yourself a timeout and tell them you need a minute and will come back to them when you have collected your thoughts.
Sometimes that initial pause between reacting and responding can save a heartache of bad feelings later. Immediately yelling back at them or saying something just as disrespectful will only fuel a child who is naturally defiant. They like a challenge, so don’t give them one.
3. Set yourself up for success. If you know your child likes to play outside but you don’t, find a way to make it enjoyable for both of you. Getting fresh air is good for anyone, but it is especially good for a child whose temperament thrives off of pushing your buttons. For example, when warmer outside, set up a folding lawn chair in your garage and do a crossword puzzle while your child kicks a ball around. If your child insists that you play with them and starts screaming, tell them you will kick the ball back and forth for 10 minutes, and then you are going back inside to sit down for five minutes to drink your coffee. This way, you are both doing something you want to do, and you are setting boundaries with your defiant child.
4. Find the positive and magnify it. If your child has a love for animals, focus on that. Children with behavioral issues tend to have low self-esteem. There is nothing better than having a furry friend cuddle up in your lap and give you endless amounts of affection. Take your child to your local animal shelter and let them volunteer with the animals. Or if you have a dog, let them hold the leash when you go for a walk. Capitalizing on your child’s strengths will help them see what they are good at.
Sometimes a child’s identity gets so wrapped up in what they are doing wrong rather than what they are doing right. Nurture your child and help them see what is good about who they are. This will create trust between the two of you, which is huge when you are parenting a child who constantly seeks negative attention.
5. Find a support system. This can be hard if you live in an area that is behind the times on mental health issues, but that’s okay. Be the catalyst for change that you want to see. If there isn’t a support group for parents with children who have behavioral issues, start one.
If you find a group but it’s farther than you want to drive, maybe commit to going once a month. It is so important to surround yourself with other parents who get what you are going through. People mean well when they tell you it is ‘just a phase’ or you need to ‘discipline better’ because they just don’t know any better. Educate yourself so that you can educate others. If you are not ready to be so public about your family’s struggles, that’s okay, too. Join an online group where there is more anonymity, but still an environment where you can get support.
Creating a lifeline is vital to making it through the younger years with a defiant child. Give yourself a head start (and a lifeline) and use these five tips to help you get yourself up and out of bed tomorrow.
Meagan is a parenting journalist who enjoys encouraging other parents right where they are in their parenting journey. She has a child with behavioral challenges, and knows what it’s like not to want to do it all over again the next day. To read more of her work, visit meaganruffing.com and follow her on social media.
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