Our Imperfect Lives

The Toddler Years

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Whoever coined the phrase “terrible twos” had a greater predilection for alliteration than for reality. We had heard it before, “three is worse than two,” but now we really know what people mean… Don’t get us wrong, Sport is an awesome little guy and actually very well behaved, but, oh, does he know how to push buttons!

The difference between two and three is understanding. Two year olds don’t always understand what you’re asking, nor do they understand the consequences. Three year olds may still not fully grasp the consequences but they sure know what you’re saying when you ask them to stop doing something. They also understand what’s going to drive a parent up the wall and give them a whole lot of attention – even if that means getting in trouble.

Couple being a three year old with having a little sister who’s turning into a toddler herself and throw that on top of all the baggage that comes with being in foster care for two thirds of your life and you get a whole lot of tantrums, button pushing and toddler terrorism. Thankfully most of it manifests itself out of the public eye. To the rest of the world Sport is a perfect angel – and for that we are grateful.

We’re pretty sure a lot of the acting up is purely about getting attention. He’s fighting to regain the attention that is garnered by learning to talk, run, and climb (along with every other new thing his 16 month old sister does). Our new approach to a lot of his antics is to simply ignore them. We don’t want to encourage his “bugger-ness” as we like to call it by giving him any attention for it.

We ignore things like “toddler swear words” (thank God he hasn’t picked up any real swear words yet) and when he is pretending to do things that he knows are against the rules. We also try to be as consistent as possible and still follow the same warning/consequence model we’ve been using for months, which is referred to as “1-2-3 magic.”

If Sport is doing something he shouldn’t be doing, something not too serious or dangerous, we ask him to stop and if he doesn’t he gets a one.  The next time he’ll get a two and if he makes another “bad choice” as we like to say, he’ll get a three. Once he gets a three he has to “practice listening,” which is essentially a timeout. The time served is dependent on his age, so when we started this system he was two years old and had to practice listening for two minutes. Now that he’s three years old he practices listening for three minutes. Another part of the system is that it lacks lectures. We try to keep our words to a minimum and just let the consequence do the work. In the same vein, he gets a fresh start after the three minutes are up.

Originally he’d serve his time in his room, but we decided that perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to continue using his room. Lately he would be upset for maybe the first 20 or 30 seconds or so and then he’d just play in his room, read his books and not care that he was in his room for three minutes. His new location for practicing listening when at home is to sit on the bottom stair or, if we’re upstairs, to sit in the hallway outside of his room. If we’re away from home we just try and find a quiet, private spot. If he gets very upset, we will help him do some deep breathing to calm down before he returns to his activity.

We know we’re not dealing with any behavior that millions of other parents haven’t dealt with before, but we do get the added bonus of wanting to bang our heads against the wall due to court dates, piles of paperwork, and appointments with social workers. The trial continues to drag on, we have yet another social worker (the kids’ adoption worker) who is less than attentive to emails, and their visitation schedule is continuously changing. We continue to try and stay positive through it all. This month is National Adoption Month – a month long celebration that brings with it the sharing of many stories of triumph and happy families, which help us to remember that in the end it should all be worth it.

Of course none of our blogs are complete without some adorable photos of our kids:

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