It’s that time of year again. Parent Teacher Conferences. When I told my husband about them, he looked at me and said “What? For the boys? They’re only two!” And I went “Heck yeah and they are so crazy super helpful.” You may remember this post (Understanding Your Child’s Cues: How to Highlight Unique Strengths) from the last go-around that opened my eyes to some glaring personality traits in my kids that I had simply overlooked in the chaos. My children’s teachers are my lifeline to understanding their unique cues and developing the best approach to their care and upbringing. While I can’t be home with my kids all day, every day, this is absolutely the next best thing for them. Their home away from home is beloved by our entire family and the support we’ve all received has been invaluable.
So. What did I learn this time? That my boys are brilliant (as if I had any doubt!). Ha. Seriously, I was thrilled to hear that they were both right on track for their age and even a little advanced in some areas. As a preemie mama (Life in the NICU: 5 Tips to Surviving Life as a Preemie Mom), this is music to my ears!
I was also able to be frank with the teachers about some of the challenges we’ve been facing at home recently and ask for some help. And praise be to Jesus, they had suggestions for all of our problems and I can’t wait to test them out at home.
1. B is pretty much full potty-trained at school, but regresses at home. He even went so far as to tell me that he doesn’t have to use the potty at home because he has a pull up and only needs to use the potty at school. (I told you he was crazy smart. Little negotiating lawyer wannabee.) J is off and on and informs me the second he’s gone, but won’t actively go on the potty. If I ask, they both always say no and don’t want to go. Unless of course it’s bed time and they’re stalling and magically, the potty is their happy place.
ACTION PLAN: No more pull ups. It’s time to go all out and put them in underwear around the clock. They’re smart enough to be lazy when they are in pull ups and know it won’t cause them any major discomfort. Time to take away the safety net (I admit…this thought exhausts me). They know they are supposed to go on the potty and are capable of doing it, so they need to do it. And no more asking if they have to go. Build in potty breaks and tell them it’s time to go. If they resist, make it fun. “Time to hop to the potty!” or “Pretend to be a bear and roar your way to the potty!”
2. J is still struggling at times to verbalize his frustrations and has recently regressed to more and longer tantrums where he just cries and cries and cries. Breaks my heart to see him this way (and it’s also crazy frustrating and grating on the ears and nerves).
ACTION PLAN: Repeat a specific conversation they hear in school all the time when they get upset. “J, I don’t understand why you’re crying. I don’t understand tears. I understand words. And I know you have lots of big words you can use because you are such a big boy. Can you calm down and please tell me how I can help you with your words?” If he doesn’t respond and continues to cry, walk away for a moment with a “Let me know when you are calm enough to use your words so that I can come back and help you to feel better.” Also, ask them to look you in the eyes so that they break away from their thoughts and focus on your positive energy.
3. Weekends are long, hard, brutal warfare. By Sunday night, we’re totally zapped of energy and overwhelmed at the constant bickering, all out throw down fights, tears, not listening, you name it. I admit, there are weekends where I am counting down the seconds until I drop them at day care again. This can be super frustrating when all I hear at school is how awesome they are. We struggle to move from one thing to the next (even with my singy songs!) and the minutes seem to drag. Painfully.
ACTION PLAN: Develop a specific weekend routine with the boys. As in, literally sit down with a big piece of poster board and talk to them about how you will spend your weekends. Write it out with pictures so that they can come back to it throughout the day and see the visual cue of what the next part of their day looks like. When I mentioned that I was trying to be more lazy and laid back with our weekends, they said to schedule in lazy time and explain to the boys that it was time when we hang out and do nothing. Communicate what they can expect from the day and create as strict a routine as you can and they will follow it to the letter and the fighting will decrease. Use a timer to keep them moving from one activity to the next. When the timer goes off, it’s time to switch toys or get in our seats, etc. etc. This helps shift the “blame” from you as the parent (and them as the testing child) to the phone, which is a novelty.
I guess the moral of the story here is two-fold. One, surround yourself (and your family) with resourceful people that can contribute great support and love to your lives. Being surrounded with people who truly have your best interests at heart and love your kids to pieces can be pivotal in those dark parenting moments. Two, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t feel like you need to put on a shiny “my kids are perfect” front. Admit your rough spots and seek guidance. That’s not weakness, it’s strength. Honestly, I wish they held parent teacher conferences more often. Since they don’t, I ask questions constantly. “How are the boys doing? Anything new I should know?” And I continue to watch them at day care and listen to how they interact and then mimic it at home. Use your resources! That’s what they’re there for. 🙂
How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues
Duh, duh, duh….the dreaded meltdown. With one kid, this can bring the strongest mommy to her knees. With multiples, well…the word “epic” takes on a completely new meaning. In the worst possible way.
Moral of the story? A little organization and forethought can go a long way. Considering WHY my kids were throwing tantrums and then exploring what I could do to prevent them before they started has saved me a million tears. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. But every little bit helps.
How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child’s Cues
Every day I pick up my children from day care to hear “They are such great kids! They had a blast today and are some of the best listeners we’ve ever had. They’re so well-behaved!” Yay, Mama win! And then we go home and they act like total demon-infested, hell-raising psychos and won’t listen to a word I say. Weekends can be brutal and I sometimes find myself praising Jesus that I decided to keep working and not stay-at-home.
sweet kids from day care?
Best Thing I Ever Did: I went to pick the kids up one day and they were enjoying themselves, so I decided to just sit and watch for a bit and let them play. Funny thing happened. I started listening to how the day care teachers communicated with my children and how they responded. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know how to speak the language my kids understand.
I started listening harder. And then I came back the next day and did it again. Now, every time I drop off or pick up, I listen. How are they talking to my kids? What are they saying? How are the kids responding? And then I mimick it at home.
Major win!!! My kids are starting to see an extension of their daily routine back into the home and it’s making sense. I say certain words they’re used to hearing and like magic, they listen. Not every time (which I suspect also happens at day care), but the majority of time. Major improvement. We are starting to speak the same language.
Sometimes I forget (or refuse to admit) that I am not my children’s primary care provider. For those of us that work outside the home, most often our kids spend the majority of their time somewhere other than with us. Sometimes, being reminded of that hurts. A lot. But truth is, they develop routines, cues and references that we’re not familiar with. We need to learn the language they are used to hearing every day so that we can communicate our needs in a way they understand. I need to speak my children’s language.
Phrase Adjustments that Worked for Me:
- “Walk away please” instead of “No!” or “Don’t Touch!”
- “Are you using your listening ears?” instead of “Listen to me!”
- “I’m going to go to work for awhile, but Mommies always come back!” instead of “Say bye to Mommy. I have to go to work.”
11 Alternatives to Self Harm: Emily Speaks
If you’re just connecting with the Emily Speaks series, be sure to check out her first post, Cyber Bullying and Self-Harm, to catch up. Today, Emily will be sharing 11 alternatives to self harm to help those hurting to make healthier choices to cope with emotional struggles.
I know it can be hard not to self-harm if you’re being bullied, but you need to try to think of other ways to deal with the pain. Cutting leaves angry scars on your body. You should try to deal with your hurt in other ways. Here are 11 good examples that will hopefully help you out a little bit.
1. Try talking to somebody about what’s going on so that you can get it out of your system.
2. Go outside where nobody is around and just scream as loud as you can for as long as you want.
3. Take a rubber band and keep it on your wrist so whenever you feel like cutting you can just take that rubber band and snap it on your wrist (softly – not to where it harms you).
4. Get an old teddy bear or stuffed animal that you don’t want and take your anger out on that.
5. Go on a jog or go out and ride your bike or long board or whatever you have and just ride around to calm yourself down.
6. Go hang out with your friend(s) and get your mind off things that would make you want to cut or do anything else to harm yourself.
7. Sleep it out and take a long nap and see how you’re feeling when you wake up.
8. Go hang out with your family and just relax.
9. Listen to some music.
10. Read a book.
11. Get an art journal and draw out your feelings. You can paint, draw pictures, even just scribble hard.
These are some of the ways that I stop myself from cutting, because I do still think about it when things get rough. When that happens, I try to do these instead and it helps. It does! You need to do anything that would take your mind off of any bad thoughts you are having and make you want to hurt yourself. This might not be the best list of ideas, but if you take a chance and try them out, they might end up working for you. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping everyone else around you by making a better choice to not self-harm.