How to Help a Bullied Toddler

Q: My guy just turned two and has been in daycare since he was 12 weeks old. My husband and I both work full time and right now, it’s the only option. We love his school. It’s very enriching and he’s learned a ton, except… in the past few months I am getting a call weekly that my child has been bit. He has to bruises on his back right now from bites. He had one on his arm, another on his hand.

The directors and teachers keep saying “It’s developmentally appropriate at this age” [for kids to bite each other] blah blah blah. One or two bites, I get, but weekly? Not okay. They won’t tell us who is doing the biting, and they won’t tell us if it is a repeat offender (but at this point, it has to be or every kid in the class has been taking a shot at my kid).

Instead they are trying to say my 2-year-old needs to start saying, “Stop, I don’t like that.” They say part of the problem is that he is one of the only vocal kids, meaning the others don’t speak and take out their frustration by biting.

What the heck do we do? I do not want my guy getting aggressive and biting back because it’s happening to him. How can we continue to make school a fun place for him and keep him safe?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: My advice would be to look for a new daycare situation. Yes, children bite at this age, regardless of whether or not they are verbal, but to subject your son to biting with enough force to leave bruises on a regular basis, well, that’s another matter.

Your son saying, “Stop that” or something similar isn’t going to stop the biting—not for toddlers, who haven’t developed empathy and often are totally unaware that biting hurts. They also want to do what they want to do, so “telling” them to stop shouldn’t be the solution to this biting problem.

Frankly, I’m more concerned by the directors/teachers brushing this off as your son’s problem and looking to a two-year-old to solve it. Because children this age bite (and hit and push and throw things), a daycare center should train its teachers on how to stop this behavior. It boils down to more supervision, separation of the biter from other children, and perhaps short-term removal of chronic biters from the classroom until the biting phrase stops.

It sounds like they are doing neither of those things, and instead are saying the solution is to rely on the victim to stop the abuse. In my book, that’s not an acceptable adult response to this kind of problem. I realize that finding a new daycare situation won’t be easy, but it’s a necessary step to take for your son.

You might find a willing college student or older homeschooler eager to be an in-home nanny for a few weeks or longer to buy you some time to find a new daycare, one that will not expect a toddler to be part of a biting/hitting/pushing solution.

 

 

Coming to Grips With A Child’s Suicide

By Jean Ann Williams

When I was 50 years old, my youngest child, Joshua, died by suicide. After his loss, I’ve often examined my growing up years, because my mother also died by suicide as well.

Mom seemed well-adjusted when I was very young. But all this changed after she delivered her seventh child and almost died from blood loss. I was 10 years old and the eldest sibling, therefore Mom’s responsibilities were handed over to me. We thought her situation temporary, but Mom was never the same mentally.

I have an old photograph of Mom with my three younger sisters. It was taken after Mom’s near death and her facial expression still sends chills along my spine. She had a wild glint to her eyes; her smile was crooked and forced. She was only 25 years old, the same age as Joshua when he shot himself.

There is more than one way a parent can leave home. Emotionally, my mother packed her bags and left the family a long time before her body stopped living. She was a mere shell of our mom. All the while, over the next six years, I tended to my siblings. I fed them, disciplined them and kept them in clean clothes.

Dad was little help, as he spent most of his time working, and, in the evenings, at the bar with his buddies. However, if I had an especially difficult problem with running our home, I went to my dad to resolve it. Sometimes he did. Sometimes not.

I grew up frustrated. There wasn’t always enough food to eat, nor were there adequate blankets to keep us warm. So often our shoes were too tight on our feet, until my dad bought us more. When I became a teenager, I had little to no social life. I was in constant awe by the freedom my friends experienced.

I must say, though, my dad admired a certain family who had a daughter my age. He allowed me to visit them on the occasional weekend. I watched them conduct themselves and, even though their father was strict, there was security and love in their family. By example, my friend’s mother showed me what it looked like to be an attentive mom and a supportive wife.

Years later, my confidence as a better mother than my own mom shattered when Joshua killed himself. It took several years of deep soul searching, before I concluded I wasn’t a failure as a mother after all. I truly worked at my mommy training with each of my children and enjoyed being their mama.

Yes, my childhood was harsh, but it made me a stronger person. It prepared me for the trials of loss and sorrow which lay in my future. When my son died by suicide, I stubbornly clung to the Lord. He carries me through even today, and I’m grateful.

About Jean Ann Williams
Jean Ann Williams is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She writes regularly for Putting on the New blog, Book Fun Magazine, and her own Love Truth blog. Jean Ann and her husband have thirteen grandchildren from their two remaining children. They reside in Southern Oregon.

When a Child Reacts Badly to Discipline

For a video answer of this question, visit https://www.facebook.com/parentcoachnova/.

Q: I’ve been using the ticket method* for my fourth grader to tackle some ongoing behavior problems. When she loses all her tickets due to the target misbehaviors, the consequence is to be in her room the rest of the day. Instead of going to her room, she instead throws a major fit and refuses to go. What is the best course of action then?

A: Sometimes, we get hung up on the letter of the law—in this case, that your child isn’t complying with the directive to go to her room. Does that mean the punishment is ineffective? No. Does it mean you should levy different consequences? No. Does it mean you should just ignore the infraction? No.

In this particular case, your child is having a temper tantrum because her behavior choices have resulted in losing her freedom. For the tantrum itself, I’d ignore it. Walk away. When the child has calmed down, reiterate that she should go to her room. Don’t threaten. Don’t plead. Just state and give her The Look (you have one, right?) and stare her down until she complies. This might take a few tantrums before the child realizes that you’re not going to back down.

Even if the child outright refuses to go physically to her room, you can still act like the child is in her room. All other activities stop for the child—no electronics, no friends, etc. So she might be on the floor of the living room, but she’s still “in his room” in all the ways that count.

Remember, what you don’t want to happen is that you get into a battle of the wills with your child—making her go to his room physically, yelling at him to comply, etc. Stay calm, stay cool—you’ve got this!

 

Back to School for Parents

School all over the country is either in session or about to start, which means parents are gearing up for another academic calendar year much like their children. Here are some back-to-school tips for parents.

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  1. Don’t project. Whether you loved school or hated it or fell somewhere in between, parents should try to keep their own thoughts about school to themselves, especially the first few weeks. We can’t predict how the school year will go, so encouraging a child to have an open mind is the best thing we can give them.
  2. Don’t worry. All too often, if something goes wrong the first few weeks of school, we’re off worrying about the entire year. Kids pick up on our anxiety, so stay calm and remember that the school year is long and things can turn around for your child.
  3. Remember who is going to school. Hint: It’s not you. Your child is the one who needs to learn to navigate the school, teachers, classes and homework, and your child should shoulder that responsibility.
  4. Offer guidance at a distance. Don’t get overly involved in homework, etc. Provide structure when necessary but avoid becoming essential to the task or solution to academic problems.
  5. Emphasize your expectations. I’m not talking about grades, but about the kind of student you want your child to be. We’ve always told our kids that they should not be the reason a teacher can’t teach—that they should behave in the classroom. We’ve also told them that we expect them to do their best in school, but that we realize that will look different on a report card from child to child and subject to subject.
  6. Provide support at home. Through interest in their schooling to a good place to do homework to helping them develop an inquiring mind, let them know you’re invested in their academic success.
  7. Be true to their school. Help their school succeed too by volunteering where you can, being responsive with paperwork and teacher requests, and supporting the school in the community.
  8. Encourage reading. Whether it’s a magazine or the local team’s stats in the newspaper or a book, promoting reading will help your child grow and prosper.

What else would you add to this list? How do you prepare for back to school?

Can Parents Help Adult Son?

Q: Our 29-year-old son was essentially a model child growing up—a good student with very few behavior issues. He graduated college seven years ago. In 2010, he was charged twice for possession of marijuana, and also prescribed anti-depressant medication. Upon graduation, he took a construction job, which he then lost because of a DUI and driving illegally on a restricted license. 

After graduation, we had noticed behavioral changes, such as an aggressive, sometimes hostile demeanor. He agreed to see a psychiatrist, but stopped after a short time. As his behavior became increasingly hostile and erratic, we suggested that he return to see the psychiatrist, which he adamantly refused to do. Finally, after one particularly disturbing episode, during which he came to our home acting very strangely and ultimately became verbally and physically abusive, we, upon the advice of a psychiatrist friend, called the crisis mental health hotline and had him involuntarily committed to the hospital. We repeated that awful experience twice in the following month due to his continued bizarre behavior and his refusal to follow up with the mental health support team to which he had previously agreed.

He is currently living alone in a house we own, and refuses to get a full-time job, preferring to get by doing odd jobs for people. Due to privacy issues, we never got a definitive diagnosis from the hospital, but nurses we spoke with mentioned schizo-affective and bipolar disorders. The psychiatrist he had seen prior to his hospitalization had advised us to stay in contact with him and to make sure he had food and shelter. His behavior continues to be unpredictable and we are torn between cutting him off financially and telling him he is totally on his own, or continuing to be supportive, not knowing for certain just what his mental status is. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: First of all, I want to say how sorry I am that you’re going through this. I know it must be extremely painful and difficult to see your son not seek the professional help he clearly needs. However, as you’ve seen, there are limits to what you can do to help him, and unfortunately, you can’t make him get better—he has to want that for himself. And right now, it doesn’t look like he’s in a place to do that.

So what to do? You don’t mention that he’s doing drugs or other substances (alcohol, for example), so it appears that he does need medical intervention, which he is refusing. You already had him committed twice and that hasn’t worked out. If you can—and he’s not destroying your property or clearly endangering himself or others—then continue following the advice of his former psychiatrist.

However, I would caution you against throwing around diagnoses—you can’t know for sure what’s ailing your son, and talking nurses, who can’t tell you because of privacy laws, into speculating will only either give you a false impression or send you down the wrong path. For now, you will have to live with the fact that you might not know what’s exactly wrong with your son.

What you can do is to meet him on his terms (as long as he’s not being abusive to himself or others) and don’t try to change him—just love him and let him know that you do through word and deed. Continue to encourage him to seek medical help, either on his own or with you by his side.

I realize hearing that there’s nothing you can do beyond what your son allows is difficult, but you raised him to be his own person—and by all accounts, you did a great job too. I hope and pray you can find a way to stay in his life even as he spirals into a place that’s not good for him.

All Meals Aren’t Masterpieces (But We Are!)

By Julie Arduini

Our almost 14-year-old daughter falls into the category of special needs because of her health. Her life had a rocky start with a late congenital hypothyroid diagnosis and office error. She had another doctor error that nearly cost her life. There were asthma issues.

As she grew, her health stabilized. We knew she was physically behind her peers, and because of her thyroid, speech delay was also in play. What we didn’t realize was how the mistake from her late diagnosis would affect her. We noticed short-term memory issues. Sequencing problems. The inability to understand instructions.

Added to all of this was a new diagnosis: Albrights Hereditary Osteodystrophy (AHO). We had to watch her Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus levels. Her bones fused together and she ceased growing at 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

I reconciled that this is our normal. She’s had to work harder than others. When we work on things at home, I write everything out. To memorize, we repeat phrases, verses, and numbers to help her recall the information.

This summer we decided we would work together weekly on making dinner. I show her each task and write things out. However, one week I didn’t because we were back from traveling and I thought she would be tired. She came into the kitchen and asked if she could help.

I agreed. I was preparing a separate meal for myself, so I wasn’t focused. I gave verbal directions but wasn’t right there to show her. It was a casserole that required a bowl of spices, a pasta preparation, and a meat dish. As I called out over my shoulder to add this to the spices and to pour the raw pasta into the pot of water, I don’t notice her hesitance. I then ask her to add another ingredient to the spices and to stir the pasta.

She points to the spices. “Do you mean stir this bowl?”

“No, the pasta pot boiling on the stove. Stir the noodles.”

After a minute, I ask if the noodles appeared hard or soft. Her face showed confusion, and she replied both. I knew she didn’t understand, so I walked over to see the state of the pasta.

She’d misunderstood and poured the raw pasta into the spice bowl that now was also combined with the meat. She was stirring a pot of water.

My heart sank and we tried to resurrect the meal, but to no avail. I didn’t want her to think this was her fault, because it was all mine. She asked if dinner was ruined, and if it was because she put the pasta in the wrong bowl.

I gazed at this child of my heart. “You know, not every dinner is going to be a masterpiece. I’ve burned a lot of meals or did something that meant I had to fix something new or buy dinner. But it means the meal failed—we aren’t failures. This isn’t a masterpiece, but in God’s eyes, we are. And nothing changes that.”

She smiled. Dinner might have been ruined, but I managed not to ruin the moment with my daughter. Recovering from dinner is easy—that night, we made plans to grab some food on the way to our event—but reconnecting with my daughter if I’d snapped or blamed her for the kitchen mistakes would have been a much longer process.

About Julie Arduini
Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and—maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future is coming soon. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, and also is a blogger for Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

Ticket Method for Toddlers?

Q: For misbehavior, we’re keen on the ‘tickets’ strategy for major offenses. However my twins are under 3 (almost 31 months). Is it possible to use Tickets for children under the age of 3? I think they’re smarter than we adults think, and I believe they understand consequence, but again, not sure if tickets would work. For example, sometimes they will not do as I ask, and may flat out say ‘no’ or will do it in an exaggeratedly slow manner, all the while grinning impishly at me…like going up the step to wash their hands one inch at a time. I don’t intend to repeat myself, and a stern look from me will often do the trick. But I get stuck there sometimes. I don’t know how to win the power struggle when they’re in this toddler phase and don’t have language based memory or foresight of consequences (maybe?) at this age. Thanks for your thoughts.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: What you’re describing—obeying one moment, asserting their independence the next—is typical toddler behavior. They will obey, but on their terms (slow walking to wash their hands or get their shoes on). That’s just part of the package that is a toddler. And as you’ve discovered, a stern look will usually get your twins moving. But not always, because, well, they are human beings, and not an animal.

So you don’t get into the power struggle with them. How? By figuring out what makes sense to be strict on and what doesn’t. Here’s an example: I had two rules when it came to getting dressed—the clothes must be clean (no digging in the dirty clothes basket!) and the child must dress himself. Other than that, I gave them a lot of leeway, and it showed with what adults would deem mismatched clothing, etc. It wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight because I had other priorities.

Think about what bothers you the most, and use that as your benchmark for strictness. If it’s matching clothes, then you can insist on that. If it’s a particular way to put away laundry, then focus on that. It’s up to you but only pick your top ones, and let the kids do the rest their own way.

Translate that into tasks that need to be done before something else can happen, such as washing hands before dinnertime. If you know your twins like to dawdle at this task, then call them to do the task extra early before it’s time to eat. That way, they can inch up the stool and you’re not waiting on them.

For tasks that need to be done quicker, set a timer. Toddlers love to race a clock, and this can help them. Turn things into a game when possible too (not a competition, with a winner/loser, but a together game).

If one child is consistently slower, see if something else is going on—Is she tired, growing, fighting a cold? Sometimes physical ailments can translate into misbehavior, and while it’s not an excuse, if a parent treats the ailment (putting the child to bed earlier, for example, to help with tiredness), then the misbehavior will likely lessen or go away.

If there’s nothing obvious (don’t spend a lot of time trying to find out—just a quick run-through in your mind about what might be going on will suffice), then you calmly step in to get the child moving when necessary.

As for your question about tickets and toddlers: The answer is that they are not ready for tickets, especially given that they are displaying age-appropriate misbehaviors that are better tackled by following some of the methods outlined in my answer. Don’t worry—you’ll have plenty of time to implement tickets into your household as your children grow up some more.

For how Tickets and other discipline methods work, visit the Discipline Methods section of this website.

Too Little Structure, Too Much Disrespect

Q: It is the first day of summer vacation. I have 9-year-old and 11-year-old boys, and I work part time from home. My plan for the summer was to brainstorm a summer bucket list with them, then schedule some fun activities to do together. We would do the fun activities after daily chores and learning. I sat them down after breakfast to discuss, and they became rude and disrespectful when they realized that summer was not going to be a free for all.

It began with refusing to set down the nerf guns they were holding while we talked. Then it was interrupting with an argument every time I spoke. When it became clear they were not going to listen, I ended the discussion and walked away. These are some of the comments I heard, mostly directed at me, and some at each other: “Stupid, idiot, blind, she’s a bat, summer is supposed to be fun, unfair, annoying, I’d rather be in school, etc.” Also, one son proceeded to kick a ball repeatedly against the wall, while the other son started crying and having a meltdown.

This is not uncommon behavior, unfortunately. They frequently refuse to do what they are asked and act disrespectful to myself and my husband with nasty words, yelling or aggression. After about 20 minutes, they both apologized on their own, so we tried to discuss again. The same thing happened. I’m not sure what to do next.  

Image courtesy of chrisroll/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: You have a couple of things going on here, so let’s tackle them one at a time. First, your boys are disrespectful because you allow them to talk back to you that way. This has become a bad habit with them, so you will need to do some rehabilitation in order to turn these brats into mannered young men. Since this appears to be a pattern with them, you can address it one of two ways: Kick them out of the garden for at least 30 days until they clean up their act or use Tickets or Chart/Strikes. Just really depends on what suits you best. Both discipline methods are described in detail in Discipline Methods on this website.

As for the summer, I’d simply list things they must do each day before they play video games, read books, surf the Internet, or however they spend their time. Examples include a half hour of outdoor exercise, chores (they should be doing LOTS of chores around the house and yard, such as vacuuming, dishes, cleaning bathrooms, mowing grass, weeding, mulching, etc.–I have a chore book with examples on this site), and an edifying activity approved by you but their choice (such as building a model, working on a scout badge, tinkering, hobbies—no electronics). Then restrict their electronics time (such as only online/playing video games between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. each day) and let them have free time.

I hope this helps, and remember—your sons didn’t get this way overnight, so it will take some time to yank them back into the land of respect.

That Annoying, Bothersome Child

Starting when I was 12, my parents took in foster kids of all ages from a variety of backgrounds. When I was a young teen, 9-year-old Trudy (not her real name) arrived on our doorstep with a bag of clothes and head lice hidden by a bowl haircut. Freckles danced across her nose giving her an impish look that belied her rather rough personality. In short, Trudy was a brat, an extremely annoying child who did everything—and I do mean everything!—wrong. She hit, she had a whiny voice, she had no social graces, no ability to make friends. It was almost as if she was bound and determined to push everyone away so that no one could get close to her.

Like most foster kids, she came from a background that would break your heart—abused physically, sexually, mentally. Ignored, unloved. And so she forged her own abhorrent personality to cope with the truly horrible hand she had been dealt by life.

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But just because she was hard to love didn’t mean she was unloveable, as my parents demonstrated with patience and kindness and discipline and love. Lots and lots of unconditional love. It didn’t matter what Trudy did or didn’t do—my parents loved her. She drove me crazy with her antics, but because of my parents’ example, I loved her too.

I thought about Trudy recently when reading a post on Facebook about a young teenage girl with ADHD (“Milly”) who can be really annoying. The mom posting has a daughter (“Suzy”) who has had some run-ins/incidents with Milly. The mom wasn’t being snarky, and I know she’s probably genuinely concerned about her daughter. I know both parties and do understand both sides of the story.

But still, I wondered…Where is the compassion for Milly? Where is the understanding in the middle of the annoyance? Where is the tolerance for another, even one who does cross the line a time or two in tone or words? Do we just write off these kids and wash our hands because it’s hard? Do we allow our kids to do the same because it’s hard (when there’s no real abuse going on beyond annoyance)?

Loving those love us back, who make it easy by their personalities, isn’t difficult. Most of the time, we don’t even think about it. But loving and accepting those who make it hard, whose personalities repel us at times, that’s when the rubber meets the road.

We have to start by not labeling every annoying kid whose behavior pushes the limits or rubs another kid the wrong way. There’s true bullying and there’s “that kid is hard to be around because of her ineptness with social situations.”

We also need to teach our kids a compassionate response in the face of annoying behavior, and also kind responses. Our kids shouldn’t have to “take” an annoying personality but they should try to handle it in a kind way. Sometimes, that means telling a trusted adult. Sometimes, that means walking away. Sometimes, that means overlooking the other girl’s faults.

Because we never know when our influence or the influence of our kids can be the catalyst to change a child’s life. Remember Trudy? The world was stacked against her, but today, she’s the mother of three boys and by all accounts, a success story. Her upbringing and annoying personality didn’t dictate her future, and I know the positive influence of my parents (and perhaps, to a lesser degree, myself) had a lot to do with putting her on the right path.