Can I have a quick word?

I dread hearing those words when I go to pick BB up from nursery. Not that we hear them that often, but still. I got them tonight. He’s been pushing, and not for the first time. Why does The Talk always feel like a criticism, even when it’s not meant that way? Why do I get the impression staff are expecting me to provide a magic solution that I should know about, except I don’t? And why am I always left feeling like I’m the only parent who ever gets The Talk?

Staff said it started this time when they moved one of his buddies into the next group up for a couple of hours. After a couple of time-outs for pushing other kids, he started taking himself to the time-out cushion and apologising unprompted, but still going back and pushing again. He does it calmly and seemingly unprovoked, just for the hell of doing it. He escalated to pushing and smacking a staff member today. He can name what he’s done, (“I pushing”, “I smack” – and I found that odd, as I don’t think smacking is something that’s never been mentioned at home, or at nursery, let alone done to him.)

I really didn’t know what to say. He doesn’t really behave that way at home, and if he does, persistently, he’ll get a brief time-out after a warning, same as there. I suggested we all try talking to him more about the whys, rather that just telling him no, so we’re all going to try that, but honestly, I feel completely clueless and rather lame as a mummy. When he was a tiny baby, I read all the books and felt that I knew a lot about tiny babies and their behaviour. I felt I could manage. Now I just feel a bit out of my depth, like I’m blundering along, making it up, cos I haven’t managed to find the time to clue myself up.

Do you have any ideas on how we could tackle this, or any essential reads for managing toddlers? I just feel like I should be doing better.

vee xxx

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6 responses to this post.

  1. First, it is not your fault. This is normal behavior. Toddlers push, they whine, they scream, they bite, etc. They have no control over their emotions and little control over their actions. I don’t know a single toddler who hasn’t needed some sort of intervention or discipline over one of those behaviors (or all of them!). The best thing to do is to model good behavior and praise good behavior, and let them know they will not receive any attention, negative or otherwise, for bad behavior. All they get is a time-out or other appropriate removal. When he pushes other kids, he should be removed from them for a short period of time, and the kid he pushed should receive lots of loving attention instead (in view of him). He should be shown what to do, or more importantly, what to say/sign instead of shoving. It will take a while for him to move from “neanderthal” actions to more mature forms of communicating his feelings. Totally normal.

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  2. Hey, this is my whole career!
    One of the biggest things that we do at my school is to get the other child who has been hit/pushed/whatever to say something. E.G. I as the teacher might say “David, look at BB and say ‘pushing hurts!’ BB, please get ready to listen to David.” The idea being that I want the children to speak up for themselves and also to really listen to each to each other. I’ll also make use of their budding empathy and point out a sad face, or tears or ask, even if there’s no real injury, if the kid who was on the receiving end is ok. In most cases, doing this regularly really makes it so there is very little hitting/pushing/whatever. (I’ve now jinxed it and will have a class of very violent children just to prove me wrong.)
    If there is a continuing issue, I will remove a child from the scene – “you’re not ready to be with us until you can remember about not hurting anybody” with my most matter-of-fact tone. Then, when the child returns, I say something like “Oh! I’m so glad you’re going to remember about taking good care of all our friends!” in my friendliest voice.
    The other thing I’ve done with a couple kids is to figure out something they can do instead of pushing/hitting to go a long with words to say. A good example is a little girl from 5 years ago who got in the habit of pushing when she wanted to get past somebody and hitting when she saw somebody doing something against the rules. (One wonders why she didn’t hit herself…) I gave her some specific language that covered a handful of situations and showed her how to fold her hands carefully and put them on her belly when she spoke, so her hands would be doing something other than hitting or pushing. Once they get the idea, then the adult watches like a hawk to jump in *before* any hitting/pushing to remind the kid of the better option.
    Kids this age do try all this stuff out and it is agony to watch, but they really do figure it out.
    Also, thanks for this post – I will keep in in the front of my mind any time I have to have The Talk with parents so they know that we are all on the kid’s team and that nothing is their fault.

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  3. Jo can be a handful, as well, and I had a day like yours today. I have no advice, just much hugs and empathy and am glad to read the comments here!

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  4. Posted by jess (nee Chips of Plump) on August 11, 2011 at 4:08 am

    Oh Vee…I so empathise with you. Our childcare centre is very gracious about Squeak’s tendency toward violence of late but it’s so hard isn’t it? I really love what starhillgirl suggested and I look forward to trying that technique out at playgroup.

    It’s so totally normal and though it’s hard to remember when you’re stuck in it, it will pass.

    (By the way, hi! I’ve been completely distracted from the blogging world for a long time now but we’re TTC again so I’m being a complete fairweather and am lurking again. Congrats to you both on #2. xx)

    Reply

  5. Posted by gypsygrrl on August 11, 2011 at 4:11 am

    being Not-A-Mom, but being an auntie, i just wanted to say that my eldest nephew had some pretty strong ~issues~ like this, and while it was agonizing to watch and try to teach him thru, he will turn 10 on monday, and he is one of the kindest and most thoughtful kids i know. it really IS a phase and they have to work thru it themselves, but with the guidance of adults who help them frame those feelings they are learning about… [re: SHG’s “we take care of our friends”…”we do not hurt anyone” kind of verbal expectations…]

    love & hugs

    Reply

  6. It is WAY worse to the the mom of the kid that does the aggression than the kid that is aggressed upon. Toddlers do this – they act out to communicate things. Frustrating and dangerous as it may be. I always feel like I’m bumbling through parenthood and sometimes I intervene like a rock star just following my gut and sometimes we end up crying and kind of a mess.
    Just try to remember to breathe and he will outgrow it. He will learn new ways to communicate.
    Since the baby has been born Little J has been throwing things around the house, oh the fun.
    Sending as much patience as I can spare.

    Reply

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