Coraline is a well-behaved kid. One could argue that because she’s an only child, she would have the propensity to be incredibly selfish, whiny, or mad when things don’t go her way. I’m not saying she’s not a normal toddler. What toddler doesn’t like to get their way? But there are a few strategies we use as parents that I believe have helped cultivate her positive disposition.
I give Coraline options for every single thing we do. This can come down to simple activities I want to do that she’s not particularly jazzed about. An example:
C: “I don’t want to go on a walk tonight, mom, and I don’t want you to go either.”
Instead of saying “tough” or “get over it” or “I’m the boss,” I give her options framed to let her know that either choice is one I can live with.
Me: “Well, kid, I am definitely going on a walk tonight, so we have two options. One, you stay here with dad while I walk, or two, you come with me, but I am leaving right now. It’s up to you.”
Literally, all I’m doing is laying out the only two choices available to her. But for some reason, she believes that she now has the power. She’s the one in control.
(She always comes on my nighttime stroll, FYI.)
I have suggested the options approach to friends with older kids and friends with teens. The parents have seen their kids’ behavior improve. Is it a cure-all? No way. Does it always work? Not always. But is it super helpful? Absolutely.
Are there times when there is only one option? Yes. That follows this rubric:
C: “I don’t want to eat dinner.”
Me: “I get that dude, but here’s the reality. Eating dinner makes your body strong and your brain smart. You need at least four more bites before you can be done. So, do you want to have a bite of the zucchini or a bite of the chicken first?”
She has to eat dinner. There’s no work around for that. However, I can give her some choices for how she wants to start.
For these options, just make sure that YOU are okay with the choices given. Just two legitimate choices. Punishment is not an option. “Do this or I’ll take away that,” is not providing options. “Do this and we can do something fun after, or don’t do this and we’ll just have a regular night at home,” is providing options.
If you need more examples, I have a thousand. Just ask.
When Coraline does something that I am super proud of or impressed by, I don’t tell her how proud I am. I check her face to see if she looks proud. And if she does, I ask her, “Are you proud of yourself?” Her chest gets bigger and her smile grows. I truly believe that having a sense of pride helps reduce her freak outs and gives her a strong sense of self-worth.
- Positive qualities.
I do this all the time. Multiple times a day. Every positive quality I see, I tell her about them. “That was so thoughtful of you.” “That was very helpful.” “You are just so funny!” I could go on and on. Talking about positive qualities in your kids helps them see their best traits and want to improve upon those. Talking about their negative qualities makes them focus on those. So I avoid them altogether.
If she does something that wasn’t right, we talk about better options for how she can behave in the future and why mom and dad are frustrated with her. We do not call her bad or dumb. We don’t say, “That wasn’t the best choice.” We say, “What would be a better choice for next time?” That makes her stop and think through how to avoid her misstep in the future.
There are so many other tactics we use that I think contribute to her demeanor, so I will follow up with more in my next blog. In the meantime, we will keep talking about those choices, reminding her to be proud, and cheerleading the heck out of her goodness.