Thursday 4 August 2011

Toddlers and Verbs

***this one gets an official 'long, go and get yourself a cup of tea' warning***

I've read a lot of parenting books in the last few years. Maybe you haven't - I guess you don't need to, since your kids are always perfect and all - but I'm unable to take any kind of decision or come to any kind of opinion without donating a large chunk of change to Amazon.  (And now I have a kindle. I can order books on the bus. This might get messy).  So yeah, I've read a lot of parenting books. I considered photographing our parenting bookshelf to illustrate, but which one to choose? There are three. Anyway. Here's the thing about parenting books. After buying about fifty, I've finally realised - I hate them. 

I didn't always hate them, and I don't hate every one. I'm just in a very specific hating-the-books point in my life because the thing I'm perpetually looking up is Toddlers, specifically behaviour, the management of, specifically tantrums, how to deal with, specifically how to stop the neighbours calling social services. 

Turns out there is a lot of really unhelpful stuff out there. For books that espouse such different stuff, they all feel weirdly the same.  They all seem to merge into one - let's call it The WonderMethod - written by a man called Dr Wonderful. So here's what I hate about that. 

I  hate the self-congratulatory stories about other people's kids . These go like this: A woman, let's call her Mrs A, came to me and she said 'oh, Dr Wonderful, my child is totally out of control. I'm at my wits' end! Whatever can I do?'  I observed the A family for ten minutes in my office and dispensed sage advice. Later that day Mrs A called me back and said 'Dr Wonderful, our problems are solved and it's all because of you! You really ARE wonderful!'. That was eighteen years ago. Baby A is now at Harvard.  

I also hate the stories where they use stories about their own kids to prove what mad discipline skilz they have. These are the ones that go Mrs Wonderful, the Wonderkids and I were at the beach. Wonderboy wanted to take his baby sister, Wondergirl, swimming. Mrs Wonderful said no and Wonderboy got upset. Gently and calmly, I told him that he had two choices. He could play on the sand with his baby sister or he could go swimming with me. Immediately, he dried his tears and said "Gee, WonderDad! Those two choices are BOTH wonderful. I'll go swimming with you now, then play with Wondergirl later'.  That was eighteen years ago. Wonderboy is now at Harvard. 

But maybe the stories that annoy me most are the ones about other people, you know, the ones who don't use the WonderMethod. These stories generally imply that parenting in any other way is some kind of Faustian pact, a foolish sacrifice of your child's lifelong happiness and security (and, if it's a Christian book, their entire spiritual life too).  These stories go like this: Some friends of mine, let's call them Mr and Mrs B, had a baby. They claimed to love and care for their child, but their words were proved false when they chose not to use the WonderMethod. That was eighteen years ago. Baby B is now in jail. 

Of course, if you're a Christian and / or an adoptive parent, there are two extra layers of that the books throw at you - and the worst part is that these two layers of advice often seem perpendicular to each other. 

The adoption books: A family, let's call them Mr and Mrs C, adopted a child.  They didn't understand that their child never actually did anything wrong, she was just processing her grief. Once they began to validate her emotions and only ever do time-ins, she blossomed and her behaviour was never an issue, ever again. That was eighteen years ago. Little C is now so emotionally healthy that she leads the student counselling team. At Harvard. 

The Christian books: Once there was a family, the D family, who did time-ins with their child. That was eighteen years ago. Baby D is now an atheist. 

Very helpful*.  

Another bugbear: most of these people have clearly forgotten what it is like to actually have children in the house. Even better - many of them seem to be men who have the gall to write books about how to do day-to-day discipline when they clearly spent their children's entire childhoods out of the house and at the office. Even if the office was a child psychologist's office, how is this not like taking parenting advice from Don Draper? 
I think she should go on the naughty step
 Someone who was always off being Dr Wonderful and never at home might know all there is to know about the amygdala but is very unlikely to really get what it is like to scrape jam off the cat for the third time in one day. I suspect there might be some kind of equation linking how smug authors are about parenting to the number of hours they actually spent parenting per week and how many years ago it occurred. But that's just a theory. 

This is nearly the last, I promise - It also drives me crazy how these books assume that you only have one child to take care of. This is almost universal. Oh, yeah, and you certainly don't have to ever do the dishes or make dinner. The assumption is that you can always focus on whatever your child needs to help them be the emotionally healthy well behaved toddler that they really are on the inside. Sibling rivalry usually gets a short chapter towards the end and other than that it's assumed there is nothing - nothing - in your life that you might have to do other than plan and execute fun-filled activities to do with your munchkin. Which is fine, because that is totally my life. Yeah. 

Oh yeah! (This really is the last one, I promise) -  I also hate it when books give the impression that there is some magical way of disciplining children that they are actually going to enjoy. I'm particularly bitter about this one because I keep falling for it, even though I should know better. I keep kidding myself that if I just try hard enough, if I just read the right book, I will find a way to make my children like being disciplined. I want my story to go like this: A woman, let's call her Claudia, because it's me, parented her children with such love and grace that they never questioned her authority or threw pasta at her. If it ever happened that they were naughty made poor choices, they would come and ask that she guide them back onto the way of happiness. That was eighteen years ago. Pink and Blue are now at Harvard.  Whereas of course the child is not really supposed to like whatever the sanction is. Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that this is kind of the whole point. I don't think there's really any such thing as toddler parenting by mutual consent because toddlers have pretty much no idea from one minute to the next what they need or what is good for them. But sometimes I forget this and I want it to be easy. I want to find the magic button, even though I know full well there is no magic button. 

I know the mentally healthy thing to do is to ignore all of the advice. I shouldn't let it bother me. But I can't ignore the issue altogether either -  parenting is incredibly important, and it behooves us to take it seriously. We are our children's most important influences, we have no excuse for not doing our best. As my children get older and more wilful, this becomes increasingly clear to me. So my new philosophy is this: I am trying to focus on doing this well rather than find the one way of doing it right. Isn't that a great philosophy? You can borrow it if you like. You're welcome. But take it from me- it is of absolutely zero practical use. 

This conviction to do it well, don't worry about doing it right doesn't help me when I'm facing off two screaming toddlers and trying to decide what to actually do with them. Let's say one of them has just hit the other one. Okay, so I'm not going to spank (and I'm not philosophically anti-spanking, by the way - there's a huge difference between spanking calmly (!) and hitting in anger and if you've only ever seen hitting then of course I understand why you would be totally anti-spanking but you might find yourself surprised by some of the evidence in the chapter on spanking in the ever-thought-provoking-book Nurtureshock, which surely you've already read because of the awesome chapter about why white parents don't talk to their children about race? Yes? But anyway spanking is a moot point in our house because UK adoption regulations determine that all adoptive parents need to agree to a no-smacking policy so we never had to make a decision about this. Okay, where was I?) Right. One of them has hit the other. I'm not going to spank. Most of the adoption books rain down dire warnings about the evils of time-out.  So what am I supposed to actually do, I mean actually physically do with the hitter at this point? 

It's really hard getting straight answers from people on this one. Even the books - the ones that don't fall into the you must use the WonderMethod or your children are forever doooooomed - are short on actual, well, verbs. You know - 'doing words', like send to their room or carry them to time out or talk to them or sit with them. There are an awful lot of adverbs about how to discipline- words like gently and calmly and consistently and lovingly and don't get me wrong they are fan-spanking-tabulous adverbs, every one, but I never know what verb the author is imagining these lovely adverbs are modifying. I've been reading a lot about writing recently and one of the pieces of advice I keep on reading is to ditch the adverbs because your verbs should be specific enough to not need them. And these books (and bloggers, and people, when I talk to them) seem reluctant to commit to specific verbs. If we shave out our discipline adverbs when we talk about how we parent (especially in adoptive parenting) we seem to be left with very little. Really, the adverbs are philosophy, not practicalities. It's great that an author is counselling me to be gentle and consistent but gentle and consistent in doing WHAT? 

So okay then, I'll be specific. We have been doing a whole lot of emotional validation and 'time-ins'. I love the idea of a time-in. The child knows they are being sanctioned, but they also that Mummy loves them and isn't going anywhere. Awesome! It sounds like a great big circle of win-win-winningness. Okay. So, I love the idea of a time-in, but have you ever tried to actually do one? I can see how they might work for older kids - maybe - but it's just a disaster with my toddlers. I try to hold their hand and do all the talking about how I understand how frustrating it is that they can't do whatever it is that they want to - validating their emotions, etc etc, but honestly? I just turn into a wall of words. I lecture. I don't intend to do it but before I know it I'm talking, talking, talking, telling Pink or Blue or whoever just how important it is that they obey Mummy, that they don't hit don't whine don't pull hair don't bite don't stand on your brother's head I know how frustrated you are but mummy needs you to LISTEN  and I'm telling them a whole lot of stuff that is both true and important but I know all that they are hearing is BLAH BLAH BLAH and honestly? That's not doing either of us any good. They get bored and I get frustrated and it doesn't take long for the circle of win to turn vicious. Also, while I'm quietly showering child #1 with focused time-in goodness, let's be honest: child #2 is either gawping and making faces (if we've stayed in the same room) or taking the opportunity to attack the cat (if we haven't). See above about how the books assume you've only got one kid to take care of.  Maybe there are families for whom time-ins are constructive and helpful but for us they are ten different flavours of wrong. Time-ins do nothing to change their behaviour and they also do nothing to help our relationship. It makes me feel angry, much angrier than it should and then sometimes I yell. (Oh right, this is why nobody wants to talk specifics). So. I don't think this is  popular position for adopters, but I am officially done with time-ins. 

We tried doing the choices thing too, really we did. Here's how that story goes: Blue was thrashing and flailing on the floor. I offered him two fun, constructive re-direction choices. Blue continued to have a tantrum. That was two minutes ago. Blue is now in time out. 

So yes! Time outs are now The Thing in our house. We're sort of 1-2-3 magick-ing the twins now - the general idea is three counts and then once they reach three they are silently and unemotionally taken to a time-out space. (I was inspired to read this book by Marcia and she has lots more about this on her blog). The book does have a few of the features I mocked earlier in this post but the general method is a winner for me because it stops me spewing forth words upon words. We modify it because I'm big into them saying 'sorry' and me saying 'I forgive you' after being disciplined, whatever form the discipline takes. (Once it's over, I want it to be over. I don't want them wondering whether I'm still mad). We've only been doing this for about two weeks but so far it's been much, much better. Who would have thunk it? Me, a time-out parent. As a Christian, it seems too wooly and thoughtless and only focused on externals. As an adopter, it seems to harsh. Maybe ignoring both of my instincts that means everything is okay. Yeah, that's a good parenting philosophy. 

Every stage of parenting I hit seems to knock me much harder than I expected it to. I really thought that I knew what I wanted to do about sleep. And I didn't. And then about eating. And I didn't. (I haven't blogged about it much, but basically my children only eat grated cheese). Now discipline is joining the list. What's going to be next, I wonder? I can't even begin to imagine. 

*And of course, adoption and theology both have a huge impact on how I think about parenting my child. As adopted kids, I know my children have a whole lot of stuff to deal with that most kids can't even imagine. But sometimes they are also really, really naughty. Adoption is a layer in my children's behaviour, but it's not the only layer. Adopted kids are naughty too. Adopted children have grief and attachment considerations to take into account and this makes my job as a parent more complex but not totally different from if they had been born to me.  Sometimes when we theorise and categorise and psychologise about adoption in general and our children in particular I think it's easy to forget that children are not rational creatures. Sometimes they act out because of grief. But sometimes (often!) they act out because they are in a bad mood and determined to make everyone in the house suffer, just like every other kid on this planet.  And as for theology - hmmmm., actually, maybe that belongs in a different post. 


  1. I love that our children (well, my child... your children... don't want to be presumptuous, you know!)are around the same age- that way I can be all, ME TOO! ME TOO!

    So, Claud... ME TOO! ME TOO!!

    One of my new favorites has been when Leone has begun spitting while sitting on his (GASP!) naughty step. It takes a whole lot of tenderness on my part to not completely lose my shit when that happens.

    And yes, he sits on his naughty step. And we tell him what the deal is. And once the timer has gone off (he yells- "THE TIMER!" as though it were his saving grace), he gets to hear again why he was on the naughty step- he then has to apologize, and we tell him we forgive him and love him bunches as well.

    But this spitting thing? CRAP.

    xoxo, me

  2. Argh. I don't have kids, but as a teacher I can say that a whole lot of literature is out there for teachers that has either been written by someone who has never actually had to deal with a classroom of children all day, every day, or hasn't in a really long time. Super frustrating, because I always felt like it should just fall into place with a snap of the fingers. Wish I could be more helpful, though!

  3. Okay, so I have absolutely no advice as I, too, have found myself blathering endlessly to my son about how he really can't keep acting like this and that I love him, but I just need him to stop screaming, okay, only to have him scream on or stare blankly into space saying "what? what? what?".
    But I did find the Don Draper thing hilarious. And also, in your hypothetical about your family, I think it should have gone, "That was eighteen years ago. Pink and Blue are now at Harvard. ON FULL SCHOLARSHIP".
    Also, did you seriously have to pledge that you wouldn't spank your kids?? I'm not a spanker, (at least not yet), but I find that really annoying.

  4. I loathe parenting books, always have. But I think that's just my contrarian nature. I dislike being told what to do and how to do it. And besides, no matter how well you describe your situation to someone, parenting is so complex that no one can ever give you the answer.

    Now, adoption related books, that's another story altogether. I have found a couple of adoption related books that were extremely helpful to me. I put adoption and parenting in different categories altogether. I'm not at all interested in parenting books. I am very interested in adoption related books. I think there are larger more complex issues at stake with adoption and I needed some guidance.

    That's my official .02 cents.

    As to the rest of it, I agree with you 100%

  5. As always, Leigh said it. Me, I hate parenting books - been a teacher too darn long to think that they work.

    That said, 1-2-3 magic worked till little bit was old enough to tell me that she didn't like it when I lost my rag, as it were.

    And, sometimes, you adapt the method to fit the kid(s). And sometimes, when you have fake it and make it.

  6. Your post was very validating for me! I have never read one parenting book. And read approximately 4 adoption books about 100 years ago (ok, 2 years ago, but everything pre-Ariam feels like a millenia.) I just go with what feels right for both of us. Time-out? DEFINITELY. I don't want her little spitty mouth spitting at me from a time-in naughty step! ;) I give her one warning. After that she gets carried silently to her crib, placed inside it and told "1 minute time out." When I return (she's usually howling) I ask if she knows why she's in time out (I usually have to give a little one sentence summary.) I ask for an apology. Then I say I forgive her, we hug and kiss it out and we move on. Some days it is 10 times other days 1 time. Works well for me and I'm not reading any parenting books that say otherwise!! I think we all know our kids and what works/what doesn't. That is my .02 cents.

  7. OMG I have not read any books on toddler behavior modification, but I have not needed too. I am a nanny and a mother. At work I do time outs accompanied by a disaproving tone and phrases like "NO! NO THROWING YOUR FOOD! BAD GIRL!". At home I do hand slapping and/or time out if it is accompanied by a tantrum.

    Don't waste your breath trying to explain to your toddlers why they can't do certain things. They aren't capable of understanding your drawn out explanations. At this age, drawn out explanations are seen as more of a reward then a punishment, because they have your full undivided attention for several minutes.

    When toddler aged children misbehave they need immediate consequences that directly result in their unhappiness. If they don't look unhappy then the punishment isn't good enough. Don't worry about long term consequences to toddler discipline. Seriously, they aren't going to remember anything till they are about 5 years old and even then their memories will likely be about the time they went to get ice cream or to the park, etc. The important thing is that they learn to be obedient.

  8. Time ins on my lap facing away from me worked really well for my son from about 18 mos to 30 months. Lately, he's kicking so much the state of my shins means I'm not wearing shorts no matter how warm it gets. Removing his shoes for time ins only helps a little. But short of tying my son down, I don't see time outs working either. It's so frustrating. And yes, I have read more than one book that left me wanting to lock Dr. Wonderful in a room with my child for several hours and see how he fared.

  9. LOL, this post is HILARIOUS!!! If I still had a blog I would totally link this in a post. Those books make me insane and I want to set them on fire. My daughters therapist recommended one that managed to simultaneously violate every thing on your list. Including the part about the author having NO KIDS.

  10. When I read this post I planned a pithy, brief reply. Then Little Dude stole PJ's glasses and ran through the park with them. I had to chase him and give him a time-out. Or was it a "time-in"? I actually don't know the definition of a "time-in".
    Did you know there is a "1,2, 3 Magic For The Christian Parent"? My best friend who used to teach school has three wonderfully behaved kids and used and uses 1,2,3 Magic. Of course her kids came one at a time, all at least three years apart, none adopted or with any other special need. And she has always had a nanny to help. Still, her kids are well behaved.
    Before I had kids I thought I would go with the parenting philosophy of "just remove the No." When PJ was born we had four dogs and three cats plus our parrot... I would have had to find homes for ALL OF THEM. Also, I would have had to remove my biceps, because that is what she liked to bite. And now, with Little Dude, well, we would have to remove all furniture, including kitchen cupboards. Yep, "Removing the No" is great advice for hippies living in yurts (they only have to get rid of their bongs.)
    My real question and my original comment was simply - did the child who turned out to be an atheist go to Harvard?

  11. I'm pretty selfish here but can I say how glad I am that you are ahead of me with your two beautiful babies and that way you can figure all this stuff out brilliantly and then I can just copy you! Ha.
    Love your writing!

  12. There are so so so so so many things about this post that slay me! Right in the heart. What I also love- that you spelled skillz with a z. !! Love it.

    also- cause I have 4 shelves of books- so you should take my sage advice (sarcasm)-- hitting- our easy peasy solution was doting and loving on the victim while completely ignoring the offender (my son) Which- some people don't like because.. well, ... there are other possible consequences ... but none of them were my kid so I didn't care.

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  14. Once again, fabulous post. I read pretty much every parenting and adoption related book I can get my hands/Kindle on too and then I generally hate them all, just like you.

    I've talked about it on my blog and talked about in person about how no one ever thinks you have more than one child. It's INSANE. Our attachment therapist sucked at this too. I have THREE preschoolers, and they're not just individually bad, but they get into mob mentality. Parenting is dangerous at my house. ;)

    We do a combination of a time out and time in because like you I can't just sit with one kid for the length of time it would take to solve a problem.

    I get a lot of people asking me about day to day things in emails. Maybe I should post about them sometime and not make my comment a year long...

  15. Oh, the lack of verbs. Yep. After adopting at the end of May, I switched from mostly reading adoption books to mostly reading parenting books (because all of a sudden, having three new kids ages 1-3 raised a lot of parenting questions we had not considered). So now I have a growing stack of occasionally helpful reading material, which often leaves me hanging.

    Oh, and I think we started time-outs during pre-placement, while we were with the kids in their area, but not home yet. Thankfully there are fewer of the usual adoption traumas for our kids, but I realize that adoption in and of itself is a trauma. And I have read all the warnings against time-out in all the adoption books. However. When the tantrum is worse with me in the room (they love an audience, and an object to scream at), it makes more sense for one of us to leave the area briefly. Or when the screaming is disrupting everyone else (or the offense was directly related to completely inappropriate angry behaviour toward someone in the room), it only seems right for the screamer to exit until able to demonstrate more socially appropriate emotional expression (and participate actively in any required follow-up discussion). I will admit (a bit reluctantly) that I have recently started extremetly brief (e.g., I walk out of the room to the other end of the house, then back again) separations with our 16 month-old, who is a cherub most of the time, but has occasional raging, screaming tantrums that escalate dramatically with any attempts to soothe or distract, but which end almost immediately when I place her in a playpen, alone, in a separate room (transporting her there very matter-of-factly, without emotion & lecture). Just going by my recent observations, but it seems much kinder to do what reduces emotional dysregulation quickly (e.g., separation, in our case), rather than attempting to be present while things fall further apart. But I'm sure I haven't arrived at my final and forever perspective on the matter (because goodness knows, I will start re-reading those adoption books one day soon)...

  16. OK, I am totally with Shannon, on both commments. Comforting whoever was wounded and not giving any attention --even to discipline-- to the perpetrator does wonders sometimes.
    Sadly, though, sometimes both parties are guilty so I go with ignoring who hit the hardest and caused the final loudest screaming. It's not fair but hey, I am with you on dealing with more than one toddler. You gotta make a choice sometimes.

    I have found with one of my kids discipline of the formal variety only makes him unhappy and doesn't teach anything. I've had to get creative with him. I have found the time outs, the smack on the hand, the soap in the mouth all serve me to make me feel like I'm "doing something because this behavior warrants action" but they've never helped. Even thoughtful discussions on why, and how to do better following discipline fall on deaf ears.

    The only thing that helps with him is a ride in the ergo. He gets nasty to his siblings and me when he needs love and attention. I am not saying for one second all kids act out for this reason. But when I literally want to slap him (when I feel myself losing ability to cope) I realize everything I have in my arsenal that seemed to work with another kid is going to fail, because he is different.

    I can't throw him in time out during his cry for help and expect anything magic to happen. Now, I do, sometimes put him someplace while he is screaming because I don't trust myself to respond well while I am angry. The time out does nothing for him, doesn't teach obedience but it does give me time to collect myself until I am ready to deal with him.

    What am I saying? I don't know anything except I have to parent all my kids differently, and change it up all the time.

    And oh yeah, my hard-to-teach kid isn't the Ethiopian one...who is also hard, btw. it's all hard.

    you are awesome. harvard isn't everything.

    it's so hard.

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  18. It is so hard.
    All 4 of my children have presented some sort of unique parenting challenge. So far there is no one book that has been useful for all of them!
    Our newest is the first biter I have dealt with. Still working to find a discipline method that grateful for the adoption community that is chalk full of ideas : ).
    Thanks for the fantastic post. I always appreciate it and the thoughtful comments that come as well.

  19. I'm so glad you wrote this post. I feel like such a rotten mother sometimes when I just don't - or can't- make the advice in the books I've read actually work. I'm so glad I'm not the only one.
    And my daughter also eats nothing but grated cheese!
    Amy x

  20. I have never ever thought about how they don't have verbs but you're right :) LOL

    oh this stuff is going to do your head in.

    thanks for the link love. 123 magic works the best for us and I love what someone above me said about if they're not unhappy it's not working.

    Connor has taken to "escaping" the timeout and my new rule is "if you move I'll put you in your sister's cot". He's caged in so he HATES it and cries for the full 2 minutes. But after that? oh you won't find a sweeter boy for about an hour or two :)

    As you know (I think I mentioned it this week or last week) Kendra HATES the counting and tells me, "no mummy, stop counting". Sometimes she's not listening on 1, and I say, "Kendra, shall I carry on counting?" Before I can say, "2", she's scurried over to me and is back on track.

    The key really is (for me) in the unemotional, neutral tone and no nagging. I'm so glad I've stopped all the explaining. D does a bit more on the explaining and they also ignore him a bit more :)

  21. PS on the hitting thing, we lavish attention on the victim and ignore the perpetrator except for saying, "no"

  22. Oh, the parenting books. So irritating. I don't think any one thing works for all children, and in the end you need to do something that works for the whole family. I have found that sometimes I can really engage and do a time in properly, and other times I really need to be able to put her where she can't destroy anything or attempt to manipulate me (or anyone else) and have a little breather. If I am about to totally lose it, I figure it will be more harmful to stay there and end up shouting than to set her in her high chair and have her see me walk away until we can both behave better. Which is not to say that I never end up raising my voice or disciplining in a way that is not ideal (I'm not Dr. Wonderful), but at least it cuts that out some of the time, and I think that's better for me AND for her.

  23. I don't have nearly the time (or energy) to write everything that I want to write, in response to your post. But the long and the short of it is: I LOVED IT!! I laughed my way through it, could relate to almost everything in it, and laughed out loud about the grated cheese comment.

    I haven't done time-outs for over a year now with my 7-year-old (nor with the two new ones) and it's been a real challenge to know what to SAY (or do) in the moment of unwanted behaviour. And as an avid reader myself (and a reader of about a thousand parenting books - not much exaggeration), I just finished cleaning out my shelves of parenting books a few months ago and it felt GREAT. I have only about 10 left, and they're the ones I thought least worthy of tossing. My favourite, as I've posted about, is "Hold On to Your Kids" by Gordon Neufeld. In fact, his philosophies are the primary ones I'm working on now. But it's so blinking hard!

    Oh I wish I could meet you Claudia! I'd just want to give you a big hug and tell you how much I enjoy you. Who knows -maybe some day!!??

    BLessings, my online friend, and thank you for you ongoing and encouraging comments on my blog - I value every one of them and LOOK for them!


  24. oh how I love this post.

    I've never read a parenting book. There I said it.

    I have read adoption books, I think those are a different breed because they are just different.

    I also read books on transracial parenting, etc, because what the hell do I know about that.

    But at the end of the day I go with my gut, because none of those authors know my kids. And none of those authors know the me/my kids dynamic so when I realized that I remembered that it doesn't make any bit of sense why I'd rely so much on them.

    So we gave our kids time outs (they are past the age where they are necessary for the most part) and whatnot.

    And they seem to be okay. I thought maybe the world would end if I didn't follow the books but it hasn't, so that's been a nice surprise.

    All this to say, my kids are pretty great kids despite me mostly.

    So there's that.

    Love this post. Love you and your kidlets. Best of luck to you.

  25. New comment from Sherryl by email! She told me the comment form wasn't working for her - booooo! Stupid Blogger.

    This post really speaks to me. Since my son just turned 2 y.o. and has been throwing tantrums and acting out for a little while now, I've been struggling with finding a happy balance between discipline, teaching, assurance and love. I don't do parenting books. I would say my parenting style is a "work in progress," Because what works for one family might not be the best thing for mine. But what really struck me to the core with your post is the caveat. Sometimes a toddler is just acting like a toddler and it has nothing to do with the fact that they were either adopted or are in an interracial family or any of the other voluminous items in the special baggage that comes with adoption. Thank you for stating that, because it’s really nice to hear someone else reverberate my thoughts. On that note, I’ve found that time-ins do work for us so far. But our time-ins consist of me holding my thrashing son in a bear hug and discussing the matter at hand. When he stops thrashing, we apologize, forgive, hug and move on. Not sure if you tried that or could even attempt to try it since you have two little ones. That’s just working in our household… for now, anyway.

  26. You're hilarious. And just so you know, I took your advice and made a cup of tea before reading this post.

    My favorite parenting book is called The Happiest Toddler On The Block. It's a laugh riot. It instructs the parent to take on a neanderthal communication method with your toddler. Before you know it, you're grunting and screaming and making wild hand gestures to your kids. I've tried it- to be honest, there was a six month period or so that I actually used this technique in earnest. It kind of works- mainly in that it creates such a comedic atmosphere the kid is just shocked that you've suddenly gone from Stern and Upset Mommy to Neaderthal Mommy. It's a real attention getter. You might try it?! :)

    But for the toddler thing (and I'm reminding you so that I'm also reminding myself): it's all about change. One day something will work and then the next day it won't. One day your kids will be little monsters and the next day they're saints. It's some kind of balance that we can't see because we're so immersed in it.

  27. P.S. Not to be obnoxious and take up all your comment space, but I have to tell this little story: When my hubby was a kid there was a family who lived down the road. The mom wrote PARENTING BOOKS. The house-hold was a complete, filthy mess. The kids were out of control beyond words (for fun they used to take turns peeing on their pig). The kids hit each other all of the time. There was an OLD PONY WHO LIVED UNDER THE HOUSE for crying out loud. So just keep that in mind when it comes to parenting books. Any weirdo can write one. :)

  28. P.S.S. Those kids who I just mentioned who peed on their pig for fun? I bet they're at Harvard.

  29. PPS I forgot to talk about the grated cheese but that made me laugh so hard. What is it with toddlers and grated cheese? When mine don't want to eat they also want cheese. D didn't know that cut cheese is different from grated cheese and they will freak unless it's grated when they're in that mood. LOL

    please write more on the food.

    I love your posts so much@

  30. I find parenting and other self-help type books reassuring because if parenting, marriage, life, etc. were super easy nobody would be writing/buying these books. And for some reason this just makes me feel a little better.

    I really enjoyed Nutureshock and wondered if my (white, liberal) friends would find it helpful or annoying if I sent them a copy of the chapter on race.

    Finally, I can offer my kid a slice/cube/stick of cheese and he's not into it, but if it is grated and easily spilled all over the floor, he can't get enough.

  31. Marcia directed me to your post because I was also expressing some frustration about toddler discipline this week. I am ordering 1-2-3 Magic this week!

    I love that I'm not the only one who feels bad that my children aren't "enjoying" their discipline. I have to remind myself OFTEN that my job is not to make every minute of their lives happy and enjoyable, but to teach them and guide them--and hopefully have many more fun moments than angry moments.

    Also love your thoughts about the people behind these parenting much parenting do they actually DO every day?? I don't think the challenges of disciplining twins can be fully understood by anyone who hasn't done it (not that it necessarily complicates every situation, but often...and the books do seem to almost completely leave out the aspect of multiple children). I can not even imagine the further complications of parenting adoptive children.

    And WHAT is it with toddlers and grated cheese?? Mine wouldn't touch cheese at all until about six months ago, and now they can't get enough!

  32. I haven't adopted and none of my kids are special needs and all of them came one at a time (granted, six of them one at a time in the space of seven years and one month so we are a little different from the norm there) and I whole heartedly agree that the parenting books suck. I have read them all but about three years ago I stopped reading most of them. The kicker is my kids are all SO DIFFERENT. Oldest child will burst into tears if asked to do a chore, but the next child considers it a REWARD. A raised eyebrow will dissolve one child into tears of utter repentance yet will induce another to laugh and ask why my face looks funny.

    The whole "parenting philosophy" battle lost all meaning for me recently. I used to feel guilty about not being on the whole co-sleeping, no routines, earth mother, attachment boat. Then I realised the friend who is totally into the whole co-sleeping attachment thing (she regularly spouts off about how parents who don't have a family bed are missing out and their children will grow up distant etc. etc. and pushing books at me) actually spends far less time with her children WHEN THEY ARE AWAKE than I do and behaves as if she genuinely dislikes her kids most of the time in her interactions with them. The truth is, what we are doing works for us and if it stops working, we will do something else. If it isn't working, but we don't know what else to do, we will wing it until we work it out.

    There is a patch of time - between about 10 months and 18 months - where I always wing it and am yet to work out what to do. Maybe I will work it out with baby #6.....

  33. Claudia, I am starting to think you are watching surveillance tapes of my house... Also this made me laugh out loud at least 10 times. I think YOU should write a book!

  34. We're 1-2-3 Magicking at our house too, mostly because it makes ME behave myself and stop throwing tantrums. But I was laughing out loud and thinking of Phelan's book while reading your posts because he does a bunch of the things you describe. And clearly...he was not the main parent in his house because he has not considered a whole range of situations that occurred in our house during the first week:

    What if the bad behavior occurs in the bathtub? Do I plop her in her room sopping wet without a diaper on? How will I know which spots are excess water and which are urine when the time out ends?

    What if the bad behavior occurs in the high chair? If it takes more than three minutes to take the food away, extract her from her chair, and then carry her to her room, does the time out still have any meaning?

    What if the bad behavior occurs in the car? What does pulling the car over matter? She's a toddler...going and stopping mean nothing when she's still strapped in the car seat.

    What happens when three days into the discipline, my toddler figures out that if she doesn't like where she is (the bathtub, the highchair, the car), she can get taken out and placed somewhere else (with toys!) just by doing something naughty and waiting out the count?

    Of course, my toddler never really engages in "bad behavior." She only makes poor choices.

  35. P.S. Dear Haley, she IS writing a book -- DUH! haha :)

  36. boo. This is my life. With only one child, of course, but a one child who was marvelously taught by the nannies that violent behavior towards mamas (i.e. slapping so hard I get bruised) is rewarded with positive reinforcement. Joy.

  37. Now THAT is something to look forward to. You're funny.

    Your time-ins probably are helpful, but you wont get to hear about it until after they've graduated from Harvard.

    BTW, why are you not sending them to Oxford?


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