Toddler fighting for independence

Babe at West Town Farms Spring Event and Easter Egg Hunt

Babe (now  two years and four months) goes through moments where she really wants the independence to do things herself. Sadly her capabilities often don’t match her independence expectations, which after some time (while I’m usually giggling away not so silently to myself or gouging my eyes out with frustration because she won’t let me help), a tantrum breaks out.

During these moments I (largely) feel genuine sympathy. Even now in my thirties I can remember feeling this very same way when I was a child. If I confess maybe there are times in my adult life I’ve felt the same and sometimes thrown things across the room and yelled at myself.

So I try to be sympathetic and help in the arms reach way she wants. But buckling herself into the car seat is not one of those times any parent is going to stand back.

You tried buckling a child into a car seat that doesn’t want to go in or wants to do it themselves?
They are stronger and more fierce than they look. I’m just glad I haven’t got a strong boy to contend with. My little girl can put up a fine fight when she wants too though!

Saturday was a fine example
Getting back into the car to leave the local chinese takeaway. I was allowed to open the car door for her to climb in, in the opposite side to where the seat is located I should add (oo the contrary miss), then ordered to shut the door. Yes ordered, if you can tell me that you aren’t ordered around by your toddler sometimes (just occasionally perhaps?) I think you must either be called Helga or Mrs Iron Heart. Or your toddler is really a robot trained to say please and thankyou, not speak unless they are spoken to and always looks pristine. But I know you’re not like that and your toddler has ‘I’m a terror’ written under his or hers scalp like everyone else’s 🙂

Back to me standing outside the car with chinese going cold in hand, looking somewhat impatient and hungry. Babe had got into the seat and I knew the straps where going to be an issue, if I waited five mins she might have solved that before a tantrum, but the buckle was bound to throw her over the edge anyway. So I cut my losses and waded in, wrestling mama to the battle lines. After the slaps and pinches that she threw my way, we drove part way home in silence while she had a ‘naughty moment’. I had no naughty step or naughty corner available, so a naughty moment had to do. She duly apologised after her two minutes and we got on with singing and dancing along to the radio while talking of yummy chicken balls and noodles….and spotting motor bikes. Babe loves motorbikes for some reason. My sister will be proud.

I’m hoping she learns sooner rather than later to cut herself some slack and get some much-needed patience too!

Like water off a ducks back – overused warnings of parental caution

I’m going to touch on this briefly, maybe it will spark off some debate – and then again maybe not.

Personally I’m not a big fan of over cautious parenting, I believe in the importance of letting your child learn (within reason) from their own mistakes and experiences. I’m not a big fan of repeated statements like “be careful” and “slow down” unless they are really needed.

If my child is as bloody minded as me, these statements quickly wear thin and become meaningless. Yes, I do exercise caution, but when I do vocalise warnings I want them to be listened to and taken seriously.

The other day babe was running along quite fast, and I let her. Yes I knew there was a risk of her stumbling and falling, but she knows that too. And she knew it even better a minute later when she did fall over. I was not hoping for that outcome, but yet at the same time, I know its part of growing up and learning consequences. Someone I know told me that they would have told her to slow down…I don’t agree. If she was running down a hill full pelt and the risk of injury from a fall could have been serious, I would have got vocal. Instead she got a graze on the head, a bitten tongue, grubby clothes and a handful of tears.

Well I’m only on the start of my parenting journey, and I’d like to think I’m not one to make judgements (but I do, we all do). And I do wonder, sometimes why some kids don’t listen to their parents – is this something contributing to that?

Toddler Sweetheart to Toddler Terror

Once there was a girl with a curl right in the middle of her forehead, when she was good she was very very good and when she was bad she was horrid.   

Well babe has curls, but not right in the middle of her forehead. And that’s because she is only just starting to grow out of the mullet look – yeah, no longer can my mum call her Ian Hislop. But she is fairly true to form according to the poem above.

Yesterday morning we caught the train into town. The plan was to go to Topsham, a delightful little riverside area with ducks and swans etc – but we missed that train by about 10 seconds. Grrr, I was not happy.

I was going to call it quits, but babe loves going on the train and I was all out of inspiration, so I decided we’d catch the next train that comes by the station 10 minutes later. Ah ha, the train to town. And town largely equals one thing, shopping.

We enjoyed a nice hour poddling around a few shops, with the obligatory multiple toilet stops that comes with a newly toilet trained child. I even picked up a valentines pressie for hubby. We don’t usually celebrate valentines, but it had 75% off and I liked the item. The tradegy was, I got it because the Jo Downs handmade glass shop is closing down. I love Joe Downs stuff…but hold on, phew there is an online store.

Anyway, I’m digressing again…

On the way back to the train, after eating our pack of 10 mini cocktail sausages (a bit of an indulgence I know but what the heck), we passed a mini ride on roundabout thing. Which babe magnetized towards. I seriously think they have some high pitched flute player banging out a tune that only young children can hear, like those cat deterring things you can put in your garden to stop them crapping on your patch.

She was not going to give this one up without a fight…a wrestle in fact. I tried the calm explaining thing, and give the ride credit, it was partly on my side. MINUMUM AGE 3. There was my justified reason, sorry babe you’re too young to go on that.

Poor lil one, she don’t understand this stuff yet. So my only choice was to pick her up kicking and screaming and carry her to a point where I could distract her with something else. This took longer than I thought, grrr no longer my one year old relative push over she used to be!

What’s acceptable when shopping with a toddler?

Softdrinks in supermarket

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know about you, but when I go out shopping with my toddler, I’m focused on pacing ourselves through the experience rather than being super strict and facing the potential tantrum consequences. I try giving babe the freedom, and when the opportunity arises I attempt to make trawling round the isles and racks as much of a game as possible.

The thing is, I’m not sure what is deemed as acceptable, how much freedom should a child have to run around (obviously without causing a hazard)?

The weekly supermarket trip is one such occasion when I wonder if I’ve struck the right balance or simply bounded straight over it. These days, I usually go to the supermarket early one weekday evening and take babe along for the ride. She actually likes it, as long as I don’t confine her to the seat in the trolley for the full duration (she will tolerate for short bursts of time). But I am quite liberal about letting her toddle around after me and sometimes, admittedly she does go wandering off and I’m left thinking, oh crap where is she now?!

This displeases some shoppers who are zooming around at break neck speeds (sometimes me when I’m on my own I admit), who don’t want a little one stopping dead all of a sudden in front of their trolley. That happened to me last week, a woman shouted over to me “er excuse me” while indicating that my daughter was in her way. I was very tempted to say “er, why not move round the child woman”.  But another part of me felt guilty and questioned that perhaps I shouldn’t be letting babe walk along stopping and starting, peering and sniffing, scratching and scraping…

In all honesty,  there is no way I could get babe to sit in the trolley for over an hour while I consider all my weekly food purchases – working out the cheapest way to buy that bag of pasta for example. Could you get your little on to stay in the trolley without kicking up a fuss for this duration?  Or am I being too soft and not cracking down hard enough?

Admittedly, letting babe walk part of the time while in the shop does take extra time. But I’d rather that, than have her ball her head off – I’m sure people would be scorning upon me more for this.

And sometimes it does mean that I get to the counter with some rather random items in the trolley that need to be deposited next to the conveyor belt in a hope that some shop keeper will re-home it later (why do people do that, I always wondered to myself? I know now that it’s not necessarily because they are a totally indecisive dim wit, but because they have little fingered kiddies in tow).

I also break the rule of letting babe eat while we are in a shop. When she is a bit older and better able to plan ahead to overcome hunger issues, then I’ll crack down on it. But sometimes letting her munch on a mushroom – yes she loves raw mushrooms – is worth the random glances. I should add that I do always pay for what she has eaten en route.

Going to the supermarket is also a great opportunity for her to have some  fun. If the isles are quiet you might find us racing up and down them skidding on the floors, playing tag. Perhaps I should be setting a better example? I must stress, this is when no one is in them, so surely no harm is done? Children are children after all. I do appreciate the concept of ‘a time and a place’ but when its quiet surely there is no harm in making this an enjoyable rather than harassed experience?

So what’s your view/experience of shopping with a toddler?

Have you had snotty remarks from other shoppers? Do you have the same challenges, or do you have it all under control? If you do, then I’d love to hear how you do it.

How much freedom do you give your children? When is it too much or too little?

This is something I ponder over now and again with babe (my toddler of 22 months), generally I’m all for giving her freedom to learn from her own mistakes.  But then sometimes I am afraid that I’m almost airing  on the side of irresponsible and then reign her back in.

Babe measuring sultanas

The truth is, I feel like I know my daughter well  and understand her capabilities and her knowledge of the world, and am therefore able to access pretty accurately the line between giving her freedom and being a totally irresponsible mother. I know some onlookers who don’t have this insight are judging me poorly, but I feel that its important for her learning to provide that freedom.

Babe kinda washing the dishes

I do feel bad sometimes when she has slipped over and banged her chin on one of those occasions of freedom time, but then that’s all part of the learning curve isn’t it? Learning consequences. I reference consequences  in a very managed way, we all learned not to put our hands into a flame by touching the hot pan on top of it by accident, not by thrusting our hands into the flame.

My own mother was great at giving my sister and I the freedom to learn from our own mistakes and I am very grateful for that – we were also able to have some amazing experiences that not every kid got to enjoy.

I am pleased to say, that I can already see the benefits. She’s the go-getting, no messing, always try new things, kinda of girl that I have been aspiring her to be. And I really don’t think she’d be like this if I molly coddled her all the time.

Babe making Danish Pastries

Sometimes the topic does come under debate with others. So I’m really keen to hear what your experiences and views are on this topic?

Telling off other people’s unruly children

I’ve just come back from a long weekend camping in Somerset, which for the large part was brilliant, except for some of the kids being the proverbial pain-in-the-ass. Don’t you just hate people who don’t keep their kids in line, leaving you to do their dirty work for them? 

I know we all have different standards, but come on – a modicum of respect should be instilled into everyone surely? 

Spotting the cause
But then you look at the parents, or more accurately, you listen to the parents. Drawing conclusions from just their looks, I will admit can be a bit shallow, and can be a bit off the mark. 

Listen, that’s the best way, listen to the way they speak to their kids, and each other for that matter. I’m not talking about the parents who talk in three letter words, and think the word ‘lavatory’ is big and fancy (although it often includes them). It’s the uncontrolled shouting and swearing AT their kids (not just within earshot like me) – and then the bad behavior and lack of respect that they themselves generally set the standard for. There is little wonder their offspring are tearing around like hyenas on acid. 

Water pistol brat child
The bad behavior on our weekend camping holiday started pretty much straight away, as two little brats came loitering around the front of our tent squirting each other (and us) with water pistols.  This is where it started, my transition into ‘Helga’. 

“Could you go and play somewhere else please?”  

In one mind I was thinking – if you don’t stop that you ferial vermin, I’m going to throw it down the chemical toilet waste disposal point. Ha, that would have taught them!  

Eventually, I must admit, after me shouting at them various times over the next 24 hours the father stepped in and re-affirmed to his kids that their behavior was out of order. A bit late, but better late than never.

Parents setting a bad example

Once we’d solved one unruly sprog problem, another one arrived on Saturday as a big family turned up and pitched up opposite us. If I was going to judge them on looks, I would have been able to tell straight away. But it was the behavior that set them apart – not really the kids, the parents. 

 They continued to play ball games in our space, and nearly hit babe with a cricket ball at one point – and that was one of the parents! Not the kids. And despite my protests and requests for them to move, I was ignored. It was a shame; because that was the last thing we were left thinking about. We came away feeling somewhat intimidated, but angrier than anything.

The ‘alpha’ male in hubby was fighting to be unleashed to put them in their place. But the more mature and restrained side kept a grip on things and calmly packed up and got out. My sister, who is known for standing her ground explained that should would have told them to “get the f*** off my pitch!” I love to hear what she has to say about these situations, it always makes me smile and feel a touch of remorse that I didn’t just tell them where to go. 

My well behaved babe setting the right example

Struggling with the right balance of child disapline

Before I had babe, I had quite a strict view on how children should behave, but I didn’t have any understanding of young children and the more challenging communication issues with them. I had NO idea about their inability to rationalize, the impact of their limited understanding of the world, and how important it is for them to have the freedom to learn from their own mistakes and not been told-off for being naughty ALL the time.  I had no idea of the true concept of consistency and how this would be challenged all the time.

Babe being a minky spalinky!

How strict or soft should I be? I’d always thought that I would go down the route of being super strict. But with little ones, that would often mean telling them off 90% of the time, and that’s no way to encourage and help a little person grow. So I admit, I’ve softened up a bit…I dunno maybe a lot. Sometimes you have to put your foot down and say no – even if it means a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket. Particularly after the recent biting incident, see post here

I’m now getting a bit more comfortable with my definition of the right balance of discipline, and I would definitely say its a very personal thing. But that doesn’t stop us judging others approaches does it? I still do ponder if I’m getting it right though…but I guess by the time I know, it will be too late to change things.