Toddlers and Trouble

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A little girl smiling at the camera. Isn’t she cute?!

That’s my FishChickie. She’ll be two next month. She is just adorable with her angel halo hair and big brown eyes. She loves to cuddle with me and play with my hair. It’s her little comfort mechanism and instantly puts her to sleep.

She’s my girl, and I love her fiercely.

But, like many toddlers, she can morph into a demon of destruction in a matter of seconds.

In the past week she has

— bathed Playmobil action figures in her yogurt
— had sword fights with FishBoy4, armed with a couple of table knives
— destroyed a brand new roll of aluminum foil
— taken all the clean plastic dishes to the backyard (numerous times)
— emptied the wipes containers
— infiltrated my new L’Oreal facial cleansing cloths

— come very close to driving me bonkers

There are several possible ways that we MOMS can respond to situations like this. My default response is to raise my voice and “freak out,” hollering NO multiple times, sighing in exasperation, and basically making everyone nearby feel bad for their very existence. Hmmm… good times.

Bad choice, Mama, bad choice.

Sunday after I had picked up dishes that she had scattered all over the floor — for the fifth time that day, I paused and reflected on the situation. She is a healthy little girl doing what toddlers do. She is inquisitive and exploring her world. In many cases, like using the facial cleansing cloths, she is following another’s example. She wants to be a big girl and she’s learning how by observing the rest of us. She has the capabilities to do great things, just not yet the wisdom to know what great things she should be doing.

I am thankful that she is healthy enough to cause trouble. And she is healthy enough to eventually grow out of this. This will not last forever. In another year she will have the discernment to make better choices.

In that moment Sunday I made a choice not to blame her for her current season of development. Instead, I wanted to be thankful that she is capable of all she can do. And I had to think through some ways to roll with who she is today. Here are some of my conclusions:

1. Stick to her like glue. I realized that my first child didn’t get into so much stuff when he was a toddler. Well, he was the only one and my attention was not divided as it is now. Keeping her close helps me to keep an eye on her activity. By including her in what I’m doing, I can cut her off at the pass and avert possible disasters in other rooms. When my brother babysat the other night, he clued me in. He shut all the bedroom doors so that she couldn’t disappear and get into mischief. Smart boy!

2. Limit her access. Since we moved into this house fairly recently, we didn’t have baby locks on the kitchen cupboards. We do today! FishPapa installed them the other night when we realized I was going to go crazy without them. Yes, she can be taught to listen and obey, but that is a process. It won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, I’d like to wash my dishes once a day, not five times.

3. Talk softly. God says, “A gentle word turns away wrath.” I know from experience that we humans listen better when someone speaks kindly to us instead of crabbing. Furthermore, she’s learning from my example. Remember her L’Oreal facial? I need to model to her the behavior she should adopt as her own.

4. Plan activities for her benefit. Much of her playing in the kitchen is a desire for mimicry and role-playing. This is very normal for a toddler. Unfortunately, due to our move, we no longer own a play kitchen or plastic dishes and food. However, I’m keeping my eyes open for them on Craigslist and clearance sales. I think that will be a fun activity for her as well as her four-year old brother. Maybe they’ll quit the sword fighting.

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  1. oh, girls! i had 2 boys first and they NEVER touched my scrapbooking, which I left laying out all the time. they never wrote on the walls. there are lots of things that girls are more inquisitive about. my default is also to yell. one thing i did was make sure she has lots of cheap purses and stock them with some cheap makeup so she can play with those (with some rules, of course) things. she’s going to be 4 in february, and i see no signs of her temperament changing. guess i have to keep her busy and CLOSE!

  2. I loved this post…and your “Bad choice, Mama” behavior mirrored mine this week. It’s nice to know I am not the only one, but also great to be inspired to do better and to try new things.

    I find with my boys that mischief usually equals a need to exercise. Our weather in Illinois has turned much colder lately and I can tell because the roughhousing, whining, fighting and noise level have all increased. I have to push myself to help the boys wear themselves out so that everything is calmer and more peacful around here.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh thank you for this post!!!! I love all your ideas and thoughts. Adelee has been screaming a lot lately and climbing on the table and dancing which was cute at first but not when the boys are doing school. She is also into everything. We have been baby locking each new cabinet she discovers. I specifically loved your talk softly.

    In the past few days I have been feeling convicted by God to cherish my little girl. She is a miracle and a blessing after miscarriages and almost losing her. I don’t want to get frustrated when she acts up. I want to respond to her like God responds to me when I mess up. She is on loan from God. She is my gift and my blessing. Yes she is a stinker and a little pistol sometimes but your words about a soft answer turning away wrath are soooooo true.

    I have been trying to make an effort to set aside special time with her in the afternoon. With schooling in the am with the boys I can often get distracted in the afternoon with house work. But loving my daughter is more important than sweeping the floor after every meal. Taking special one on one out with her makes a difference in the long run.

    I got this advice from a friend last night she said to try to include her in things I do. Such as sweeping get her a little broom. I am gonna try that one.

    So thanks for all your advice. I needed to hear it to know I am not alone and to be reminded to not let myself respond in a bad way.

  4. I so needed this “pep talk” if you will! My two year old terror is trying me every day…he is so destructive! How can a clean, organized house go to shambles in a matter of literally five minutes!! So frustrating. I, too, have a tendency to raise my voice, and I feel so guilty afterwards. I also notice when I yell, he yells, which effects all of us. You have a great way of looking at it… God had a reason for me to log on tonight when I was planning on cleaning and going to bed. (I usually read your blog first thing in the am) He didn’t want me to go to sleep without allowing me to have insight into what was troubling me with my “wolf in sheeps clothing” as I call him (my 2yo son!!) I tell you one thing, though, boys are so different than girls…I never went through all this with my oldest! Supernanny…where are you??!!

  5. I really needed this post! Thanks! My little one is driving me nuts. But, like you said, it’s just a season. I am thankful for a healthy wild little boy.

    I do keep the doors shut so he can’t go too far. His brother is pretty good at keeping him busy, unless he wants to play alone.

  6. My little man will be 2 next month as well. I didn’t realize we have kids so close in age!

    We have a tiny house, but I still keep all the doors closed except the one to his bedroom. That helps contain the bulk of his disastors!! Other than that, I just try to keep an eye on his hunger and snack needs. He’s waaay harder to handle if he’s sleepy or hungry.

  7. Well, keeping my 2 1/2 year old fireball out of mischief is very challenging. Jessica, your idea to include your daughter in your daily activities reminded me that I need to do that more often. I get so distracted! 🙂
    One thing my husband recently implemented was a chore chart for our kids. One of the chores my seven year old will get on his chart is to play with his sister for x amount of time. (he is a responsible 7 year old, my next two children might have to be a bit older to be able to do this job without losing their sister) I never would have thought of doing that, and to my surprise it works great! Where he normally wouldn’t include her in his play, he now will include her during his time with her. For example, putting on a puppet show for her.

  8. Brings back momories-I still don’t know how I survived two boys 15 months apart! By God’s grace, we and our children do!
    BTW-if any of your readers are looking to buy a SCOBY for Kombucha tea making, I have some, all they need to do is visit my site for more info.

  9. I let her play with her big brothers! 🙂 She adores them and fits right in with the trucks and legos…lol. They love and dote on her and keep a great watch over her. But I have a small enough house that I can hear her wherever she is at home 🙂

  10. Thanks, I need all the help I can get with twin 17 mo. boys. One thing I do is rotate toys from their bedroom in and out of the living room (where they play) so some of the toys are “fresh” to them.