Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Understanding two's (Book six)

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received when faced with a difficult phase was this:  Go to the library, gather up several child development books on this particular age, and compare them.  (This advice came from my current pastor's wife; a very wise woman! ) 

(sidenote: it freaks me out when people only look to the Bible as a parenting manual.  They take a select few verses out of context, and cram them into a formula that can be very damaging, even dangerous . . . If To Train Up a Child is on your bookshelf, please read the link . . . and this one.)  

Anyway, my two year old was in an exhausting phase . . . the Terrible Two's, they're called.  So I checked-out Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg  from the library (again.  I read it when Sami was two as well).   

Two year-olds are the most misunderstood group of people on the planet!  It helped me so much, reading (and re-reading) this, to understand their needs for routine and sequence; to realize that it is because they are feeling so unsure about the world at this point that they often act out in ways that are tense or explosive.  They offer some great tools for dealing with two-year olds (two and-a-half, in particular).

Both of my kids, around the age of 27 or so months, went through extremely difficult phases.  Not only were there tempers and violent behavior to deal with, but they DID NOT SLEEP!  When I finally read this book when Sami was two (I think she was close to three; too late as she was almost out of the phase by then), I felt so guilty for all of the things I hadn't understood about her and the many mistakes I'd made in trying to correct her.   It was comforting to read that two- year-olds' energy spikes around this age, and that not sleeping was a part of her development.  I wasn't simply losing my mind.

The most reassuring sentence in the book is that this phase is followed by a period of "exhaustion."

The good news is that Annie has hurdled through the trying stage of two's and, practically overnight, suddenly entered a sweet, compliant, and utterly exhausted phase!   She's sleeping through the night again, she goes down easily and LOVES her naps.  She is napping right now!

I believe, with each stage of opposition and negative behavior, that I am responsible to:
 (1) examine myself and be sure that I am not expecting too much from my kids; to question whether the behavior is actually an act of rebellion or just my own preference (perhaps the person who needs to change is me, to die to myself)
(2) research their development and seek to understand them as much as I possibly can
(3) (lastly) follow through with consistent instruction and discipline.  

Since becoming a parent I feel like I have far more often failed in understanding, and therefore come down harder on them in discipline than I needed.  I have a lot of regrets about the times that I disciplined more out of fear of someone's opinion, or my own selfishness.  

I wonder if we parents (especially hyper Christian parents!) tend to be so determined to pounce on the first sign of misbehavior in our children, that we don't even realize that it is the parent in need of correction.

We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters’ side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. (C.S. Lewis)


Anonymous said...

I am sickened by this sad, sad story. My heart breaks for those kids...I am PISSED by the "claim of christianity and godliness" of the Pearl's method. Women need to stay faar away from some of their other teachings too...And now I am officially in HOT WATER! :(

amanda said...

girl, i find i connect with your thinking in so many areas, and now i have a child of my own to love and cherish and guide, and i find myself inwardly agreeing with you as i read about your adventures with your girls, even though i haven't been through the ages of your girls yet. there are a lot of ways that i want my parenting to look like yours.

Betty said...

Jess, I've been so removed from the blogworld and I'm catching up on yours..I've missed so much. All I'm going to say is I wish I'd gotten the advice you received. Unfortunately, I think the advice I was given was a little more Pearl-esque, which left me feeling I was doing everything wrong. By the time #2 reached the age of 3, I realized understanding my own child led me to KNOW what discipline was appropriate. Sometimes I feel like I'm still paying for the mistake of not following my instincts and tendencies. There is a place for "softness" in parenting. I literally want to cry at the recollection of the unused mercy. The boys are now 10, 8 and 7 and growing to fast...I wish I had been as brave as you when I began this parenting journey and not so fearful of the many watching eyes. Thank you.