Apparently there is nothing like 3 days of action-packed fun to cause a major wave of moodiness and bad tempers in the toddler/preschooler set. Like WOAH.
I really, really, REALLY want to enjoy my evenings with A&C. I don’t see them for very long on weekday mornings these days (often just 30-45 minutes, since they have been waking later) and therefore this is really our weekday time together. I am the primary parent at home in the evenings, arriving every day between 5:45 and 6 pm. Josh does join us many times at 7 or so, but it’s unpredictable – some weeks are fantastic and he’s here almost every night, other weeks he will miss the kids for days at a time.
ANYWAY, so I view the nights as My Kid Time. In my dream world, during Kid Time we talk, play, snuggle, laugh, read. There is soft lighting and singing. There are smiles and kisses. Also in my dream world, there aren’t 28732 Zika-containing mosquitos outside at dusk and the temperature actually drops below 80 sometimes, so maybe we would go outside and take a lovely walk around the neighborhood.
My dream world sounds fantastic.
But last night (and often, sadly) in the real world there is hitting (between siblings and ALSO sometimes them going after me, which UGH), toy-stealing, screaming, and the like. The weather is almost always stormy and invariably muggy (and mosquito filled), so there is little choice but to spend these hours in the house.
Last night was — well, to continue the dream metaphor, somewhat of a nightmare. I have been sort of anti-time out since reading No Drama Discipline. I do think that often connection and logical consequences work better than arbitrary punishment tactics. But man oh man. Last night nothing seemed to work.
And I hate it. I don’t want to dread coming home in the evenings. Yesterday was an incredibly busy office day, and to come home to that?! Honestly, just misery. Maybe it’s coming down from the LEGOLAND high. Maybe it’s because we’re all sick again (yes, my blogrecords confirm that this is the second time in less than a month). Maybe it’s just a phase and things will be better in a week or so.
Hoping for all of the above.
If you have young kids and have any words of advice to offer, I am game. Tonight has to be better.
Time outs are a logical consequence from being unpleasant in an overexcited way. Being removed from the situation allows cool down so the apology and making it better step can occur.
(Also: no research base either way.)
Except I never feel like it calms them down. Even when I act like it’s super benign and nice to calm down in your room, they flip out.
More logical to me is — fighting over a toy? OKAY, we remove that toy. No one gets it. Although you are right -if they are fighting then forced separation (in time out form, basically) is pretty logical.
Maybe I need to frame it better . . .
Oh, I feel your pain, Sarah. I used to go through this with my kids too when they were a bit smaller (they are now 4 and 7- girl and boy).
I am no expert at this, but since you asked, I will tell you what worked for me :).
1. When I am calm, my kids are more likely to be calm. I used to get mad and lose my tamper quickly, but now I think that when they are throwing a tantrum, are whining, etc. they actually need my help to teach them how to handle their own emotions. And the best help I can give them is to stay calm and not take the whole episode personally (which I used to do).
2. I go to the bathroom for a few seconds to count out loud to 10 and calm myself down :).
3. I give them one warning that if they don’t settle, I send them both (not only one) to their individual rooms. If they are fighting, they both get sent to their rooms (I set a timer for a few minutes), no matter who started or continued the fight. I noticed that this not only diffuses the episode, but also teaches them to cooperate more with each other so they don’t get sent upstairs.
These tips helped build a brother-sister team instead of making one of them feel bad while the other one felt good.
But again, I am no expert and these are my 2 cents.
Wine? Kidding (sort of). I feel you, I’ve been there. For us, these phases come and go. "Discipline" techniques like time outs don’t help and actually make things worse. What helps: I agree with Alina’s #1 though its easier said than done. Turning on music, going outside (if even for a few minutes, maybe to play in the hose when its hot?), announcing an unexpected activity ("Let’s make pancakes for dinner!" "Lets build a tower bigger than our heads!"). Getting them in the bath (which is always a struggle) often calms them down and gets them into the "bedtime stories" mood—I used to sometimes do this early and then read stories for longer—it made the screaming/running around/fighting period I had to deal with shorter, since they tend to get calm/snuggly while reading stories. Also you need a break if you are potentially doing this every night on your own. Can you re-instate the once weekly sitter? that way you can make it through the 2-3 days in a row knowing a break is coming up. Then you can jump back in the next day refreshed.
I am not sure I have any good advice for you since I’m dealing with the same challenge of being the primary parent in the evenings. I empathize with your struggle – it’s tough! I have a 2 year old and a 7 week old, so am on maternity leave (until mid October). My older son is in preschool most of the day while I take care of his younger brother, so that makes things easier, but, like you, I want to try and maximize our time together in the mornings and evenings, but it’s just tough when you need to do everything at once (i.e. nurse the baby, get dinner for the toddler, supervise dinner for the toddler, etc.) I agree with other commenters that if I am able to stay calm, things seem to be better. I’m also trying to lower my expectations a bit because kids are crazy at this age, even though I think toddlers are my favorite age, despite the craziness 🙂
I’m curious to hear what others do in lieu of timeouts. We use timeouts for my 2 year old and I’m not sure they’re always very effective. It does give him a break and gives him time to cool off, but am not sure he fully understands the concept yet.
I have nothing constructive to add, but just wanted to express my solidarity. I have 3-year-old twin boys and things are ROUGH right now. I feel exactly like you do: frustrated by the fact that the very limited time I get to spend with them is devoted to breaking up fights, dealing with an insane amount of attitude and backtalk, and largely fruitless attempts at discipline. I’ll be checking back on the comments on this post to see if anyone has a magical solution. 🙂
Thank you Lauren! I do really like some of the suggestions above!
3 yo twin boys. The good news is that they will soon be 4 yo twin boys which (at least to my ears) sounds so much more manageable!!
I think it’s unrealistic to expect an idyll. When you come home they are tired and you are tired. They have spent the whole together with one another and are sick of each other; they want to be alone or possibly alone with you. My middle and youngest boys love each other but also get at each other’s throats. I think we (parents) overestimate how much kids can enjoy or even tolerate each other (not much). My kids will also fight, there is toy stealing, and I have to play the cop. But that’s just life. There are other times when they play nicely, and it’s great! But I honestly take it as a blessing rather than an expectation that gets violated when they disagree.
So cut yourself some slack. You are three people who come together in the evening and have all had enough of the day. But you come home reliably and spend time with them, and that’s what matters. Not all time together has to be magical and we do ourselves a disservice to make it an expectation. Expect chaos and mayhem; be happy when it’s not! 🙂
First of all, No Drama Discipline is on sale for $1.99 (Kindle) right now. I just got myself a copy (I originally borrowed it from the library) and am planning on re-reading it, at least some parts. We deal with a lot of this in the afternoons/evenings. I finally gave up and let them watch 45 mins (two 22min shows) while I get dinner ready because otherwise I would be refereeing them the entire time. They simply can’t be with each other right now and not seriously hurt each other. And I don’t believe that just letting them "figure it out" is the right step; I think they need me to be there helping them figure out how to handle each other right now. My six year old probably should be able to do a better job but she just can’t. It’s not who she is. So if I can’t be there to help them treat each other properly, I let them watch TV. As far as after dinner I try to do something physically active with them (if I have the energy myself) like a tickle game or hide and go seek.
As for time outs, I try to do "time-ins" where I hang out with one of the kids and give them some TLC. Then, after they have calmed down, we talk about what they need to change about their behavior. When I say "I try to do" these things what I mean is I have the intention of doing them, and I succeed on occasion. But I learned quickly that time outs did not work at all for my kids, they just made them more angry, and time ins do work well when I manage them. No-Drama Discipline talks a lot about fostering connection when kids aren’t meeting expectations, and I think it makes a lot of sense.
Evenings are really hard. The kids have a hard time for the same reasons we have less patience–everyone is tired and done. It’s my least favorite time of the day, and my only quality time with my kids. Totally sucks. Thank goodness for the weekends.
One thing that has worked for calming my kids down recently is sorting activities. My kids are 5 and 3 and I also work full time. When they are getting crazy or not listening or fighting, I will pull out a bag of dried beans and ask them to sort them into plastic containers by color. The bag currently has white, black and red kidney beans. I also done this with a box of tri-colored pasta. I tell them I need there help getting these beans, etc. into separate containers by color and they settle down because they become focused.
Evenings with little kids are just tough. We’re tired, they’re tired. Doing it solo all the time is tougher still. I would definitely go with getting one night a week off again!
I’m with Laura. Evenings and little kids tend to bring out the worst in everyone. Everyone is tired from their day. Maintaining good positive behavior is hard for both the kids and the adult. At least, this is how it has always been in our house.
I do solo evenings every weekday and have since my eldest was born. We go through phases of better and worse but it has always been a time where I struggle. I’m tired and have had no down time (right from work to daycare/school pick up) and I know I have dinner and bedtime routines ahead of me. The witching hour doesn’t go away with infancy!
I do time out for pretty much everything. Not because I think it is superior but because when things are going badly I need to be able to do discipline without trying to think on the fly. (When I am frustrated/angry thinking on the fly doesn’t work for me. I am much more likely to lose my cool if I don’t have a go to). Other parents are much better at the natural consequences than I am. And creative discipline solutions.
Good luck. Hopefully this more challenging time will pass soon.