Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Toddler Tuesday - the plan

Happy New Year!! I took a break from the Toddler Tuesday Series over the holidays and I am so glad to be posting again!!  I am on the lookout for some more guest posters on the topic of raising toddlers - please email me if you are interested!!

Life on the Parsons Farm

As I have mentioned here before, our journey to parenthood was not what I expected it to be.  We have battled with Infertility for nearly 6 years and adopted our sweet baby girl in 2013.  I have had 4 miscarriages and its been difficult.  With all this being said Thomas and I had ample time to discuss our parenting strategies, discipline, and plan.  We had these conversations organically at first when we met up with friends who had small children as well as my work with nursery and elementary aged kiddos.  Then as we got into our adoption paperwork we were "forced" to come up with a plan to share with potential birthparents in our portfolio.  We also had these conversations with both of the birth-moms we interviewed with (the first one changed her mind after about a month).  The good thing is that both Thomas and I have a very similar view on raising children so that makes our parenting goals more easily achievable.  I really feel that parenting should be a partnership between husband and wife (or mother and father) where both parents take on the accountability for both fun and discipline.

I feel that it is so important to go into parenting and raising a child with a plan.  I have had the opportunity, as a former teacher, to fully grasp the idea of objectives, learning targets, and discipline.  I see a lot of similarities between parenting and teaching - parenting just takes MUCH longer than the one year we have with our students.  As a teacher I have had many many students grace my classroom, with lots of different personalities, behaviors, moral convictions, and character. I also had the chance to speak with many of my students parents and get clued in on what sorts of things they do at home.   I have had some stellar students who I hope that Ellie will act similar to one day, as well as some naughty students where I hope Ellie NEVER behaves that way.  So I run a pretty tight ship at home with the expectations I have of Ellie and her actions/behaviors. Because ultimately I believe that our children are a direct reflection of ourselves.

First of all like most parents I hope that I raise Ellie to have a "better life" than I had, but more importantly I hope that I raise Ellie to be a better person than me. I want her to be a good contribution to society, a good friend, a leader, to be respectful and respected, and to be gracious. I hope that I can raise her to have a good head on her shoulders and to be kind, to stand up for what is right, and to show compassion for others. I want her to know how loved she is, the importance of family and friendships and to know the LORD.

So how do I achieve these? I don't have all the answers but I know I need to be confident in my choices and decisions.

PROactive vs REactive
This is easier said than done, it takes a lot of attention and foresight. Being proactive in parenting is to try and acknowledge a situation or behavior before it becomes dangerous or out of hand.  Being reactive in parenting is not being aware or waiting for the disaster to happen and then deal with it.  I think being aware of your child and the surroundings are so important.  For example; if you have breakable items in your home, like a table lamp, and your child is swinging and throwing pillows around the room, the proactive parent would tell the child to stop and redirect their energy to an appropriate activity, where the reactive parent would wait until the lamp got knocked over and then get mad.  The proactive parent is addressing an unsafe activity and teaching about respecting things.  The reactive parent is getting mad about the broken lamp and not teaching about the destructive behavior.

Rules & Boundaries
Children thrive on these because it gives them a sense of responsibility and they can know what to expect.  Obviously rules and boundaries are different in every household depending on what is important to the parent. Respect for people and things is hugely important to me, so most of my rules focus on that aspect.  It is easier to set rules and boundaries in the beginning than to add them later on down the road. So Ellie has A LOT of rules and boundaries. At this point in Ellie's life she has a lot of rules, there are many things in our house that she cannot touch, she isn't allowed to climb or walk on the furniture, she cannot go in certain rooms unattended, and she cannot get too physical with us when playing. Some of these will diminish over time as she becomes more in control of herself and understands cause and affect. Please don't get me wrong, Ellie does have quite a bit of freedom and is a very happy girl.

Off Limits
Like I mentioned above there are many things in our home that are "off limits".  This serves two purposes.  First, many of the things in my home belonged to my mom and/or they are breakable.  To preserve these items Ellie is not allowed to touch them until she has learned to be gentle and cautious.  She gets to learn how to be gentle with the toys that she does get to play with. Second, since I take Ellie out shopping and over to other people's homes I want her to understand the concept of things being "off limits" so that she can be respectful of others belongings.  She can't learn this concept if we don't enforce it and are consistent at home about things that she can and cannot touch.  I probably say "look with your eyes, keep your hands off" over 100 times a day.  I know that as she gets older she will need less reminding, a heavy workload now will mean it will be easier as she gets older.

If there is one thing I learned being a teacher is that many kids are forgetting to use their please and thank yous (among other manners).  I want to raise Ellie to remember to always say please when asking for something and to also say thank you.  To help teach Ellie this behavior I make sure to model it for her all the time, whether I am asking her or someone else to do something "please".  She is doing great with remembering to say Thank You or "taka".  Table manners are also something that I feel are important.  We decided that we were going to take Ellie out with us to any restaurant we choose, but in order to make the visit pleasurable for all parties involved we have to make sure to have the same rules at home. So we are working on sitting still in your seat during the whole meal and waiting until everyone is done, not throwing our food (or utensils) and cleaning our hands/face/table when we are done.  So far her favorite part is the napkin.  I am lucky that the kiddos I get to Nanny for also have good table manners instilled in them so that Ellie can learn from them. I am happy to say that Ellie does well in restaurants and she gets lots of chances to practice this behavior since we try to go out to eat at least 4 times a month.

Ahh consistency is key and the most important part of parenting.  It can also be the most challenging.  Thomas and I are in constant communication about our parenting so that no matter who is watching Ellie we are both on the same page and enforcing the same behaviors.  We discussed early on that if we could help it we didn't want Ellie to be attached to her pacifier (save for sleeping) or suck her thumb/fingers.  So it took a lot of awareness, paying attention, and consistency on both our parts to keep Ellie's thumb out of her mouth when she was an infant (praise the lord that our nanny was on the same boat as us and was consistent about thumb sucking as well!!) our teamwork and consistency worked because Ellie doesn't suck her thumb and is not attached to her paci. Although she does like her paci a lot she is able to fall asleep at naps or bedtime without it.  She knows that it stays in the crib and very willingly puts it back if she finds one laying around...of course we have to prompt her to do it!!

One thing that I was curious about with raising/parenting children vs. being a teacher was how you can incorporate new rules or boundaries as issues arise.  I knew as a teacher I learned from each year and was able to put those new rules into effect at the beginning of each school year so as to head off any issues but as a parent you don't get a fresh start with a new child every September.  Of course you can add things whenever you need to and the only explanation you really need is "because I said so" but I have learned that birthdays are the best way to incorporate new routines.  For example, when Ellie gets to move into a big girl bed with sheets, blankets and pillows she will then become responsible for making her bed in the morning starting on her next birthday.  So if she transitions into a big girl bed during her 3 year old year then on her 4th birthday she will start making her bed.

These are just some things that I have had on my heart for a while.  I have always had the philosophy that life is as hard as you make it.  So if you want parenting and raising a child to be easy - plan for it to be easy and take the steps necessary to achieve that. Try to be PROactive, to have some foresight and ideas of expectations for what you want your child to be like and then enforce it consistently - with your teammate.  If you want it to be difficult then be REactive without a plan.  It's never to early to start and if you are getting a late start have no fear a lot of work now will make it easier in the long run. 

♥ Ashley

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  1. What a great, insightful post - you are a great mama!!!

  2. Couldn't agree more. Consistency is the key and oh so hard sometimes.

  3. I love this post. Manners and boundaries are so important. Kids thrive on this.

  4. Love this! I used to be a teacher, too, and I'm so glad I had the basics of teaching to carry on into motherhood. I totally agree with all of the above. One thing I've been struggling with though is discipline. Charlotte is on the verge of turning two and has been going through temper tantrums lately, and I just don't know what to do to "discipline" her to let her know that it's not okay. I know I need to be consistent with whatever we decide to do, but I just don't know. :/ So thanks the encouraging words on having a plan and sticking with it!

    I'll also be emailing you about guest posting! :)

  5. This is so very true!!! Consistency is definitely key. I feel, often times, adults underestimate the ability and cognitive awareness of a child. Especially a toddler. Lily is only 2 yet already knows how to try and play my husband and I against each other. Being on the same page is totally key and right from the start too. If you let your guard down some where and let something little slide "just this once" or for whatever reason, those stinkers remember that "one time" and will fight tooth and nail to achieve those desired results again!

  6. So true! Sorry to hear about your hard road to parenthood. Isn't adoption beautiful though!? (Adoption is part of our family's story) Parenting will be a journey as well. All of your points were right on. Keep up your great job! :) www.sarahefrazer.com

  7. Wow, I really love that you're consistent and have clear boundaries. I really like the part about being respectful of others. That ones a big one for me. Very inspiring.

  8. what a great post, mama!! Your points are great! :)

  9. Great post. Question for you. Do you have any tips on how to get a toddler to listen when you tell her not to do something? A few months ago, Mila discovered the power button for the TV. Ever since, she consistently turns it off and on. And we consistently tell her, "No, don't touch." She doesn't listen. With a lot of other things, if we redirect her, she's usually okay. But not when it comes to the the power button. It's not okay in our house and we don't want her to think it's okay when we visit friends and family. You have lots of great points above, so I figured I'd ask for your advice! :)


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♥ Ashley