Gracie Girl is 22 months old this week. In some ways, I can’t believe she is almost two-years-old, but in other ways it is hard to believe she’s ONLY two-years-old. Gracie Girl is a happy, passionate, dramatic, funny, determined, independent little girl. I love her spirit. If Gracie wants something, that girl is going to GET it. And chances are she’s going to get it all by herself, for herself. At times, that can be incredibly challenging as a parent. Gracie wants to to everything by herself, from brushing her teeth (and/or smearing toothpaste around her mouth and the surrounding areas with her toothbrush) to eating yogurt with a spoon (which could be the messiest activity in our household) to getting dressed (she looks like she was a blind person who got dressed in a costume shop when she tries to do it herself). I am still learning the fine balance of how to give Gracie the space she needs and still parent her effectively.
I blogged a few weeks ago asking for help with Gracie. Chris and I were at the end of our rope as to how to handle her, but you all gave us some really great advice. Here are the things we are using now, thanks to you all:
1) Gracie is only 22 months old. We are really reminding ourselves of that on a daily basis. In some ways, Gracie seems much older. I think that’s mostly due to her hanging out with Bean. She has preferences a lot earlier than Bean ever had them. And she plays better with other kids than Bean did at this age. But in a lot of ways, Gracie is still pretty little. She still needs that cuddle time and someone to soothe her when she’s upset, and I think that’s the stuff I wasn’t giving her. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly love on that munchkin enough, but I was also taking a “suck it up” attitude with her that was really just too much for her age. She can’t “suck it up” yet because she doesn’t have the skills. Now, I am TEACHING her how to suck it up. We do a lot of “walking it off” when she gets upset, but sometimes the girl just needs a hug, darn it! She’s still pint-sized, for crying out loud.
2) Staying firm with consequences and rewards. You all encouraged us to stay firm when consequences and rewards are set in place. We had been doing that with her, but I was worried I was being too harsh, but most of you said that this was just a learning process for Gracie, and we have really seen that. One thing we are doing a little different now is that we are setting consequences and rewards well before we get into a situation. We give her a lot of time to know what’s coming. For example, before we even sit down to dinner, we remind both kids that the reward for finishing their meals is an ice cream (really just frozen tubes of GoGurt) and the consequence for not using their manners at the table will be that they have to leave the table. I remember that Bean really liked (and still does) having a heads up as to what’s coming, and I think we are using that more with Gracie now, too.
3) Find a difference consequence other than time out. Gracie thought time out was a hoot. She LOVED being in time out. She’d go sit in time out even if she wasn’t in trouble, and then when she got in trouble, she’d go laughing to time out and have a great time while she sat there. Some of you recommended finding a consequence that was personal to her. Though time outs worked for Bean, clearly we needed something else for Gracie. Now, when Gracie pitches a temper tantrum or deliberately and knowingly disobeys, she is sent to her room. Which is like the end of the world for Gracie. She hates being away from all the action. She has to stay in her room until she can come out and say she’s sorry (which takes a pretty long time for that little thing…). So far, that consequence has been much more effective, and we are having to use it less and less these days.
Another thing we have noticed about Gracie in the past month or so is that she is a creature of habit. She really has set routines that she likes to follow, and when someone interrupts those routines is when she really gets upset. That’s probably why travel is really hard with Gracie. She just doesn’t adjust well to new routines yet. Some of that is her age, but I bet some of that is just her personality, too. She’s actually a lot like Bean in that regard.
Potty training with Gracie is still in our family’s Phase One. We are letting her play with and wear her new panties whenever she wants (over her diaper, of course). She also sits on the potty any time she shows interest. It’s not that she’ll actually USE the potty yet, but she’s getting used to sitting on the potty and that’s the whole point of Phase One. Sometimes she is all about the potty – flushing it, sitting on it, standing next to it… – but other days, she doesn’t want to go anywhere near it, and on those days we don’t force her at all. I think we’ll start Phase Two in the next month or so as soon as she has warmed up to the potty process. Once that doesn’t scare her anymore, we’ll start sitting her on there for longer periods of time and see if we can “catch” her going potty by chance. Once that happens a few times and she begins to understand what actions are supposed to take place on the potty, we’ll move into the real potty training, which will hopefully only take a couple days of real, consistent potty training. For now, though, she’s content to just check things out and we are happy to let her get used to it all on her own.
Gracie’s favorite things to do right now involve anything from real life. She loves to pretend to clean. She carries around tissues and cleans everything she finds. She also loves her pretend kitchen she got for Christmas. She carries food around and she “feeds” all of us all day long. Her absolute favorite thing is to sit on my bathroom counter while I’m getting dressed and pretend to use all my toiletries. My favorite is when she puts on deodorant. Super cute! Aside from pretending about real life things, she is still a book lover. She carries bags and purses and boxes full of books all over our house. She carries them, reads them, trades them, cleans them, shares them, hides them, and basically just covets them with all her being. Ahhh… Book worms make teacher mommies very happy.
It is no secret around our house that Gracie is a mommy’s girl. She’s attached to my hip and never far from my sight. She just likes being around me, and I happen to LOVE being around her. Two year olds are challenging, but they are also such delights! Nothing makes you more frustrated than a toddler, but nothing will melt your heart or make your day like a toddler either. Does that make them tiny, little Jekyll and Hyde’s? Possibly. But let’s just call them “emotional” and move right past that…