Listening, Consequences, & Follow Through

How well does your 2.5 year old listen?  If they’re anything like mine, I’m guessing it’s hit and miss. Sometimes they’re amazing – sometimes they are the worst.  And if they’re really similar to mine, they’re actively ignoring instructions and requests. Our 2.5 year old is a strong-willed, super smart, highly independent, firecracker who chooses to ignore us simply to get a reaction. It’s incredibly frustrating and mind boggling all at the same time (since we’re used to a 4.5 year old who follows most directions given to her).  Over the past 6 months, it’s become more difficult to deal with. There have been days where I’ve had yelling matches with her. There have been afternoons where I can’t stand being in the same room as her. And worst of all, there have been times we’ve given into one of her demands/acts of defiance simply because we want peace and quiet. (no wonder it’s been getting worse!)

Enter some parenting books. I’ve read through them before, but just like most things in this Mommy brain, the info has either been erased or misfiled in the “never to be remembered again” section (which unfortunately seems to be where names and phone numbers have been stored as well).  Anyway, after flipping through some pages of these books, I kept seeing the same messaging…

  1. “come up with clear consequences”
  2. “never threaten something you can’t follow through with”
  3. “follow through”

Oh…and my favorite…“Don’t let your 4 year old turn you into a 4 year old.”  Whoops!

Let’s just say Travis and I have some parenting improvements to make. And don’t get me wrong, our kids are great and for the most part, they listen…but it’s the times we really NEED them to listen that they all of a sudden forget what listening is (some examples :: “hurry and go pee before we leave – we don’t want any accidents during our hour long drive!”, “it’s BEDTIME.”, and “please walk upstairs by yourself…I need to carry Caroline plus your 15 blankets and lovies”).

I can’t even count the number of times we’ve said, “get up the stairs or you’re going to be in trouble!”  Problems there?  No clear consequences, and absolutely ZERO follow through because we’re not being specific (even for ourselves). It’s an empty threat. It’s just as bad as saying, “Don’t do that again or we won’t go to the playground and meet up with our friends!”  Because guess what?  There are two other kids who are set on going, we’ve made a commitment, and MOMMY WANTS TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!  I would never be able to follow through on that.

Parenting is HARD. And figuring out ways to help our kids learn “simple” life lessons (like how to listen) can be shockingly difficult. I’m still so glad I read that one sentence about not turning into a 4 year old as well…or in my case, a 2.5 year old. Ever since reading that, I started taking more deep breaths when my buttons were being pushed or when someone wasn’t listening. I began talking in a calmer tone and acting like, get this, an ADULT. It was awesome. Such a breakthrough.

And once I made that step, I came up with a consequence I could follow through on. It impacted their daily routine in a way they wouldn’t like, but it didn’t impact the entire family’s livelihood.  Best of all, we’ve been implementing it for almost a week now, and we’re already seeing dramatic improvements in listening and following directions.  They’re still kids, so there are certainly times they don’t have their “listening ears” on…or times where they question authority (which, in moderation, we welcome)…but for the most part, things have been so much more manageable (like the “simple” task of getting 3 kids in a minivan in less than 3 minutes – it’s finally “easy” since they’re listening).

So, what has worked for us?  Each time they refuse to listen (and it’s after a warning or two, it’s not immediate – they are tiny people, after all!), they lose 5 minutes of a cartoon.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we let the girls watch 2 cartoons a day.  As you can probably imagine, that’s a very special time for them that they value highly (as do I since I can finally get things done at that point). So when one is left out, they have time to think about what they did AND they have time to think about what they’re missing out on. The behavioral improvements have been amazing.

They finally realize that there are consequences for their actions because Mommy and Daddy are FINALLY following through with something real.  They know that if they don’t listen, they’ll miss out on something special.

This particular “method” may not work for everyone (maybe your kids don’t watch cartoons, etc), but it has certainly worked for us. It’s all about finding something that is considered “special” or a “privilege” and taking it away for a little while. We tried standard time-outs with our kids, but it didn’t work…especially for our 2.5 year old. She didn’t even care. NOW she does. She cares when she’s not with her sister and when she’s missing the show.

Fingers crossed this little experiment continues to be successful…but let’s be honest…if I’m being realistic, everything will probably change again in a week and we’ll have a whole new challenge to overcome!

Wish us luck and good luck to everyone else – 2 can be a tough age (for everyone involved)!

Ali

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