Julie Lyles Carr: Just When You Think Part 3

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just When You Think Part 3

I'll be wrapping up some thoughts on an inexhaustible topic...parenting.
Well, not 'wrapping up', per se, given that this is an inexhaustible topic. More like hitting the pause button mid-movie.

You can check out earlier posts here and here.

Two year olds. Three year olds.

What to do?

Shelly wrote me an email that inspired this little post series about her two year old daughter who has taken Shelly's bag of parenting tricks and techniques and has poured out all the contents and scoffed.

And then put a pea up her nose.

Been there.

I call this kind of kid a Pillager. As in the ones who pillage the castle.

I have birthed Pillagers. I am quite familiar with their type.

So what to do with a little one who is still in the murky half-world of verbalization and reasoning? And has destructive tendencies?

Well, you gotta start with a "This Too Shall Pass" approach, if for nothing more than to protect your mental health. And then you gotta buckle down.

Because the thing I have noticed with my kids of this stripe is that they cheerfully wait for the moment I'm not looking and then peel/shred/climb/destroy/pillage to their heart's content.

So let's make a manageable little list, shall we?

1. For a season, tether them to you.
I covered this in the first post a bit, but I do think it is so important. And exhausting. And I resist it in my own world. But I know it works. With a repeat offender, I keep them by my side. I don't try to constantly entertain them or pour affection on them. I'm like a scientist in the lab, Jane Goodall in the jungle, observing behavior and looking for patterns.

2. Never underestimate boredom.
My pillager population episodes usually have this in common; when a kid of this type gets bored, they will make their own entertainment. Which usually involves things I don't want them doing. And to that end, it helps me to see that some of the behavior is NOT civil disobedience or rebellion. It's the expression of an extremely creative and active mind. It's been my most visual and physical kids who have given me the biggest run for my money in this area. My verbal kiddos were too busy following me around talking my ear off to get into too much trouble. It's those busy, silent types who are peeling the drywall when you turn your back.

3. Consider strong scheduling.
Because I often found that boredom was a contributing factor to pillaging, I then found that keeping pillagers on a schedule helped mitigate said pillaging.
I hate scheduling.
I mean, I love the concept.

But I hate being the one who is constantly living by the clock and having to shift activities and come up with new ones.

But I hate popcorn kernels up the nose more. So scheduling it is.

And interestingly, even though you would think that pillagers would HATE schedules, my more zealous pillagers have been the ones who have LOVED knowing what's coming up next. They love a little chart with spots for stickers showing that they had a great half-hour or fifteen minute run of on-target behavior.

Go figure.

But it works. And it is certainly more positive than me having to be constantly pulling them to the time-out chair or taking their favorite stuffed animal hostage. Which I have done. And sorta works. But the idea is for them to 'own' their own behavior, not me being the constant modulator. And a little schedule with achievement stickers gives us both an outside monitor that is positive.

And it takes work and diligence and seems a little anal. But it works. When I use it.

4. Make your pillagers your helpers.
I'm still exploring all the reasons. But this I do know. Give a pillager a job and he transforms. My pillagers all have thrived in being given helping, constructive jobs. They love to carry in groceries, bring me diapers for the new baby, stack books, nest drinking cups in the cabinets. It seems counter-intuitive, given that pillagers generally love creating chaos. But my pillagers do love to create order as well. And that's the key. Pillagers love to create, whether a mess or a masterpiece. Use it to your advantage.

5. Isolation is the pillager's playground.
I know. Sometimes a good ol' fashioned time out seems to be the ticket to dealing with a pillager and keeping your sanity. But know this~~a time out needs to be where you can see, needs to be a set amount of time with specific instructions ('stay in this chair for this long') and to repeat, needs to be where you can see the pillager. You totally play into their game of "I'm bored, what entertainment can I create for myself?' when you put a pillager in isolation. I've found that making a pillager's favorite item take a time out is sometimes more effective.

Parenting Pillagers is an exhausting and often entertaining venture. Let's face it~~we tend to tell more of our pillager tales at dinner parties and coffee dates than we do any other of our kid stories. They exasperate and fascinate us.

And it's why the good Lord created coffee, I think.

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