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About Bill Bounds

Bill Bounds is the author of “Forty Weeks of Keeping Your Head Down.” This is the story of one fairly typical man trying to navigate down the road towards being a father for the first time. It’s a chronicle of what one normal guy experiences, thinks and worries about as he and his wife become parents for the first time. The goal is not to show other men what they will expect as they go down this road themselves, as much as to show just what one guy experienced so they might have some indication as to what’s in store for them, what’s typical and what isn’t, and what they’re thinking may just also be the same as every other guy going through it.

Here are my most recent posts

The other four-letter word

My wife and I have tried very hard to work with our daughter regarding sharing. Somehow, though, despite our best efforts and our going out of our way to never use this word, her new favorite word has lately become, “MINE!” We truly don’t know where she learned the concept of mine or even the word, but she has grabbed hold of it and is refusing to let go.

I have yet to determine the best way to handle this, but I’ve resorted to removing from her possession anything that she grabs with a strenuous “MINE!” and telling her it’s not hers and she can have it back when she asks nicely. Sometimes, it’s clear to me she’s only pulling the mine-card because she’s in a foul mood and is bent on arguing with me about anything that happens to be within finger’s reach. What’s frustrating to me, beyond the arguments that are bound to follow that first shout of the dreaded new word, is that some of the items she’s insistent are hers I don’t actually mind her having at that moment, but I feel I can’t reward this very negative behavior, so I take it from her and say it’s not hers and she can have it back when she stops yelling and says, “Please.”  

I don’t believe there’s much else to be done to address this very common problem at the age of two-and-change, as more complex concepts and reasons behind social cues are probably not within her repertoire at this moment, but I feel I’m at least laying a good foundation that it’s not acceptable to grab things without asking and that she can’t have everything she wants simply because she demands them.

Call their bluffs

Our daughter has several mostly self-appointed jobs around the house from feeding the dog and putting her toys away to turning on lights in the hall as we walk through. She has other smaller responsibilities like giving my wife and I kisses bye-bye or for “night-nights.” 

Lately, she occasionally finds herself in a particularly foul or independent mood and decides she simply doesn’t want to do these things, even though, if she were in any other mood, she would be furious with us if we tried to do them for her or didn’t stop for a kiss before we left or she went to bed. Trying to make her do these very normal things when she decides she doesn’t want to  – or, ironically, us doing them when she’s in these moods – will result in a full blown temper tantrum as surely as if we walked up and took ice cream out of her hands.

I’ve begun a new tact to dealing with these lapses in motivation. Knowing full well that she simply wants to be the decision maker in these stalemates, I call her bluff. Instead of trying to make her feed the dog or whatever the job in question, turning the moment into a screaming fit, I just casually say, “Okay then, I’m going to do it,” and then walk away.

 

Like clockwork, every time so far (and I do mean every time), she yells, “NO!” and runs after me insisting that she does the job. When she refuses to give me “bye byes”, I just say, “Okay,” and then turn on my heels and walk out. Without fail, she runs after me yelling that she wants her bye-bye kisses. And, for that eventual time where she doesn’t chase after me to do whatever it is, at least the item gets done without a screaming match.

So, my advice to anyone out there encountering these situations is to take the upper hand and regain control of the situation. Calling a bluff from time to time will not only keep the ambient noise level of your house under control, but it will also help you show your child where the boundaries are. And, after all, for a two-year-old, that’s what it’s all about.

Tag teaming

No matter what words of wisdom come from me or anyone else you receive advice from, two-year-olds will sometimes scream despite our best efforts to stop it. This is a fact. As parents, we simply have to figure out how to deal with it.

In our case, I’m finding my daughter’s most significant impossible-to-control melt-downs seem to be due not so much to her wanting something we won’t allow her to have or us forcing something on her she doesn’t want, but more to do with her not truly knowing what she wants or being torn between wanting one thing and needing another (For example, when she’s tired and needing to go to sleep but wanting to stay up or when she’s aware she needs her diaper changed but doesn’t want it done.) This clash of wants and needs or her just being in a mood where she doesn’t want or like absolutely anything, so everything annoys her, causes temper tantrums that can be measured on the Richter Scale. 

What’s worse; these tantrums escalate quickly when we try to fix whatever is wrong. It’s as though she recognizes we’re just trying to quiet her and that offends her, which infuriates her. 

Recently, I’ve discovered that simply switching the scenery a bit can be a big help. If I’m the one trying to get our girl ready for bed and it’s escalating out of control, sometimes just tagging out with my wife and having her take over (or the reverse if my wife is the one struggling initially) seems to be just enough of a change to cause our girl take a breath and start to calm. I’ll leave her in her room and then send the wife in after a moment. She’ll hold our girl for a bit to start the depressurization and then proceed to work through what was causing the escalation in the first place. 

It certainly doesn’t work all the time. Most definitely, there are some melt-downs that just can’t be quieted, but it does help on some of these. If nothing else, it splits the tantrums up so one of us doesn’t always have to take them on solo.

A little choice goes a long way

It should come as no surprise to anyone that a primary source for the overall terribleness of the Terrible Twos is that this is the time a child first starts to exercise his independence. He’s coming out of a time where he was totally immobile and depending on his parents for absolutely everything, then somewhat mobile but unsure on his feet. Now that he’s nearly fully mobile, but probably still clumsy, and a bit more independent, he is trying to make decisions for himself and also really starting to gain an appreciation for the world beyond him, his parents and his immediate surroundings. While he may not be specifically thinking it, he’s trying to create some space between him and his parents and figure out his boundaries with the things in his world. Combine this with a near total lack of being able to clearly express himself (except for when he’s furious), and this can be a very frustrating time for a two-year-old.

The irony, of course, is that there’s no way a two-year-old can actually be independent in just about anything. (but good luck telling him that.) He obviously continues to be completely reliant on his parents for anything and everything and without the ability to understand the ramifications of decisions or why his parents must say no from time to time. He is still very much beings driven almost entirely by wants and desires but have little understanding of needs or concept of the things he must do like take naps, baths or get a diaper changed.

Naturally, it’s the mix of being entirely want-driven in a world where needs or whims of those in charge (aka, parents) overrule those wants that causes children to express their terribleness.  In our house, we’ve come to call this a melt-down. Or, in the very worst examples, a nuclear meltdown.

Given our daughter entered the terrible phase well before her second birthday, I’ve been thinking for some time now about how we can help get through this phase in a way that preserves as much of our sanity as possible. In the past few months, I’ve started a simple process that’s proving, so far, to be a significant help: Offer choices, even if only small ones.   

I know this sounds pretty basic, but if you haven’t stopped to think about it yet, you may not have realized how few choices your child has in his day-to-day dealings and he may be crying out (or screaming out) for any choice, no matter how small, to make him more independent and more his own person.

For our daughter, Aleesia, offering choices has been pretty simple. It’s the little things like picking out three outfits for her to wear and letting her choose between them, asking if she wants juice or water for dinner, letting her pick out which sleeping clothes to wear or what we’ll use to put her up hair. We’ll also ask her in the mornings to choose between two things for breakfast and she’ll tell us which she wants. I call this “structured choice.”

Giving her these small choices helps her deal with the significantly higher number of things she doesn’t get a choice in, like what she can’t do to the dog, why she can’t wave a fork wildly around, what we’re having for dinner, or whether or not to take a nap or get her diaper changed.  By the way, speaking of getting her to be okay with having her diaper changed, here’s a little tip for you: When she’s putting up a fuss about having to get her diaper changed, I pick up two or three, each with different cartoon Sesame Street characters on it and ask her which one she wants. Amazing how that simple act gets her to understand it’s time for a diaper change and be okay with it.

So, I’m not for a moment going to tell you that giving your two-year-old the choice between water and juice is going to completely eliminate temper tantrums in your house, but it will eliminate some of them. And no, these choices don’t even always work in the same situations. The temper tantrums will still be there because, like Aleesia, your two-year-old will still want to do things to the dog you don’t want, or wave a fork wildly around or whatever they’re doing that, if let go, would end up in a visit to a hospital. More importantly and more to the point, however, is that I believe these early, simple choices give them an opportunity to start being their own person and they create a foundation for the two-year-old to start making choices on their own later, when those choices matter more.