Supernanny’s Avoidance Strategies

If you can head off bad/reckless behaviour before it happens you’ll save yourself unnecessary conflicts

I think as mothers, this is probably something we all do instinctively but as usual, Supernanny forces us to think hard about what we’re doing, and yes, you guessed it, lists are involved!

-Make a list of which times of day are most fractious and see if altering your routine makes a difference.

-Write down which activities are causing most upset and see if there’s a way to break them up.

-Make a note of any toys that tend to cause arguments and put them away for the time being.

I’m running out of room on my fridge and need to buy some more magnets to stick up all these lists, but after a lot of head scratching and cups of tea I’ve managed to make some bullet points about problem times and activities.

Harry always wakes up with a smile on his face (he doesn’t get that from me) but Ben is frankly a nightmare in the morning.

When I sat down with my pen and paper (I really felt like Supernanny had set me homework) I realised that maybe it comes down to a question of blood sugar. Ben normally wakes up around 6ish and is happy to play in his room or read his books before I come into him at 7 to fetch him for breakfast. Could being up for an hour without eating be affecting his behaviour?

Over the last few days I’ve been putting a little pre-breakfast snack of dried fruit in a bowl by his bed for him to eat when he wakes up and I have to say it seems to have made a difference. When I came into his room this morning he was sitting up in bed ‘reading’, Fantastic Mr Fox and chewing a piece of dried mango.

Morning, Mummy– he said smiling- that was a first.

Maybe there’s something to all these lists after all!

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Supernanny & Tantrums

Do you remember the TV ad where a mother has a meltdown in the middle of the supermarket after her kids start kicking off? They stop open mouthed, mid scream as the other shoppers turn to stare.

Sometimes I wish I could give vent to my feelings like that because let’s face it, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to coax a toddler out of a temper tantrum- and nothing more embarassing than when it’s in public.

But as Supernanny says:

The worst thing you can do is have a tantrum back

And unfortunately she’s right-

Anger will only inflame the situation

She also says forget about trying to reason, instead try these tips:

-Make sure the child can’t hurt himself
-Try holding him firmly; or
-Remove yourself from the room

In Practice

This week Harry set up camp in Strop City so it was a good time to put Supernanny’s tactics to the test.

Holding him tightly didn’t work (I just got very bruised legs) and when I tried removing myself he just followed me from room to room bellowing.

In the end I put him in his bedroom to cool off and every minute or so I went in to ask if he’d calmed down and wanted a cuddle. It took a while but in the end he snuggled on my lap sucking his thumb and my ponytail happily while I sang him the ‘Teapot Song’- though this nearly prompted another outburst when I apparently got the words wrong!

Hello Supernanny!

Sorry as I am to say ‘goodbye’ to Dr Spock (who’s become a trusted friend over the last month and a half) I’m looking forward to seeing how Supernanny compares and whether her no-nonsense approach is what my kids need.

She starts her book by telling us she’ll provide:

Common-sense ways of dealing with [everyday] challenges by taking the child’s age into account.

This sounds good, after all I shouldn’t expect to be able to reason with my 3 year old in the way I (supposedly) can with my 5 year old.

Her first chapter is, Ages and Strategies so-

Let’s Test a Strategy

Supernanny divides this chapter by age. She tells us what makes each group tick and offers coping strategies for difficult situations.

Harry (age 3)

Supernanny:

-Reasoning, bargaining and threats don’t work with 3 year olds
-Instead, be firm, set clear boundaries and stick to a routine

In practice:

As SN suggests, I set bedtime at 7 pm and give Harry a wind down with a story (that becomes another and another) – the clock’s ticking. I tell him it’s time to go to the loo and get into bed. He blows up, screaming that he wants me to read ‘Goodnight Moon’ for the fifth time. I tell him firmly that we’ll have another story tomorrow, and now it’s time for bed. More screaming- by now it’s 7.15.

In the end he agrees to go to the loo if he can ride on my back like a horse. He laughs all the way to the loo and back again, shouting ‘giddy up’ and tugging my hair, which he’s using as reins, then gets into bed with a smile.

I tried being firm and sticking to a routine but my tired toddler wasn’t playing ball- in the end gentle bargaining won through.

Ben (age 5)

This section doesn’t really provide much in the way of coping strategies but does talk a lot about what makes kids tick- in this case, they’re supposed to have increased self-control and act less on impulse.

In practice:

I can’t say this rang true as I chased Ben round the room this morning with a toothbrush while he insisted on flying to the moon in his rocket (an open suitcase filled with the toys he’d need for his journey)- by the end I think I’d lost most of my self-control too.

Goodbye Dr Spock!

I can hardly believe the first part of my ‘experiment’ has come to an end, and I have to admit it’s with a heavy heart that I put down my Dr Spock book.

Over the last month and a half, he’s taught me to trust myself and my instincts more. As parents we’re bombarded by expert advice which is often contradictory. Spock’s message that ‘you know more than you think you do’ helps cut through some of the uncertainty.

I’m surprised by some of his critics who say he doesn’t set clear standards. It’s true that he’s anti- authoritarian, but this isn’t the same as anti-discipline. He encourages us to be firm but fair and says we need to understand our children in order to get through to them. This resonates with me and in the main has worked well with my kids.

Of course some of his ideas are good in theory but don’t always work well in practice- however much I try, I’m not going to be able to stay calm when Harry paddles in the dog’s water bowl when we’re late for school or when Ben wakes me up in the middle of the night because he’s ‘bored’- but in the main what he says is sensible.

Stay with me as next week I follow Supernanny in the bid to discover which expert can tame my kids!

Punishments

‘Punishment’ is such a loaded term; we all have pre-conceived notions of what it means and should achieve.

For Spock, it’s a last resort which should teach a lesson:

The best test of a punishment is if it achieves your objectives without harmful effects- if it makes your child angry or upset it isn’t working.

In The Past

Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of things (like confiscating toys and time outs) but quite frankly my boys have always buckled at them.

Don’t take Sweep; take Blue Dog he’s my favourite– said Ben on one occasion to try and avoid losing his special toy.

Another time when I’d shut him out of the room, Harry banged the door so hard he gouged a chunk of wood out of it.

What’s The Answer?

Putting my Dr Spock hat on, the kids and I sat down to decide on a set of punishments that we could all buy into. I figured if I involved them, they might be more willing to go along with the punishment and learn something from it (which, as Spock says, is what it’s all about).

The first few ideas were quickly rejected:

You could call the police– suggested Harry.

Or you could send us to bed with no supper– said Ben who wasn’t keen on the macaroni I’d made for dinner.

In the end we decided that at the beginning of the week I’d fill two pots with sweets (one for Ben and one for Harry) and each time one of them was naughty, they would lose a sweet from their pot. On Sunday afternoon they would be given their pots and could eat the remaining sweets.

Although I’ll have to hide this post from our dentist, I thought the idea (Ben’s of course!) ticked the right boxes:

• Demonstrates actions have consequences
• Buy in from both boys
• No harmful effects

Of course I could be shooting myself in the foot if the resulting sugar rush leads to more bad behaviour!

Sweet Dreams!

Why do my kids always fight bedtime? This is a typical scene in our house:

I say ‘goodnight’ to Ben and close his door. A minute later I hear him over the monitor.
‘Mu-ummy…’
‘What is it?’
‘I need a drink’
I fetch him some water and go back downstairs for a minute before he calls me again.
‘Mu-ummy!’
‘What is it?’
‘I can’t find Sweep!’
I stumble around in the dark looking for his favourite toy only to find that it was in his hand all along.
Another minute goes by-
‘Mu-ummy!’
‘WHAT?’
Pause
‘I’ll tell you when you get here!’
Losing my patience I march into his room.
‘Well?’
‘Um, what day is it tomorrow?’
‘That’s it, if you call me again I’m turning the monitor off!’
A minute later.
‘Mu-ummy! Before you turn the monitor off could you come and say “goodnight” to me one last time!’

Can Spock help?

Be firm and consistent in your expectations, it’s amazing how quickly your children will sweeten up.

Here’s what I did:

While Ben was relaxing in his bath (i.e. before battle lines were drawn) I told him that I wanted to be able to put him to bed and say goodnight without him calling me back every two minutes and to sweeten the deal I told him if he managed to stay quiet after lights out, I’d take him to the playground ‘with the really big slide’ in the morning.

At first he tried to negotiate- But can I call you if I need a drink, or if Sweep falls out of bed?

No, you can’t. I’ll put water by your bed and tuck Sweep in with you before I go.

But what if….

I countered each hypothetical until he’d run out of possible mishaps and when I kissed him ‘goodnight’ I reminded him about our deal.

The playground with the really big slide, not the one up the road?-he said

The one with the really big slide– I said kissing his forehead

He did call me once on some spurious excuse but instead of going up to him I said over the monitor-

Are you sure you want me to come up or would you rather go to the playground tomorrow?

He was quiet for a moment. Would it work?

Playground-he said.

Thanks Dr Spock- here’s hoping this will become a habit before I’ve run out of incentives!

Acknowledging Feelings

Acknowledging a child’s feelings doesn’t mean excusing his behaviour– says Dr Spock.

The truth is when my kids act out-by which I mean throwing a wobbly in the middle of the supermarket because I won’t put the chocolate they’ve grabbed off the shelves into my trolley (Harry on Monday) or pouring a jug of water over the dog’s bed (Ben yesterday afternoon) – I tend to focus on getting them to behave rather than on why they’re misbehaving in the first place.

Time to try a different tack!

I committed the cardinal sin of putting Harry’s pyjamas on before Ben’s, cue blue murder:

Take them off him, NOW! You have to put mine on first, I need to be the winner! -Ben screamed.

Stop being ridiculous, I’m not getting him undressed again– I said in a trying to stay calm voice.

Yes, you are– said Ben pulling Harry’s trousers down.

Under normal circumstances, I might have tried telling Ben why his behaviour was wrong and if that didn’t work I’d probably have resorted to a Time Out to help him calm down. But according to Dr S I needed to acknowledge his feelings without giving in to him.

I understand you’re cross because you like to be the winner and today Harry was. I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m not going to undress him just so you can beat him. – I said pulling him onto my lap.
How about I brush your teeth first instead so you can both have a chance to win something?

And tomorrow you’ll put my pyjamas on first– said Ben, sensing an opportunity for further concessions.

Deal– I said giving him a kiss

And Ernie, tomorrow I’ll get you dressed before Blue Bunny– said Harry, not willing to be left out.

Conclusion:

Acknowledging Ben’s feelings helped me to diffuse a difficult situation whilst still maintaining clear boundaries.