Saturday, September 15, 2012
Ella & Everyone Else
Monday night Ella walked in the door from daycare and I immediately heard Joe bark, "To your room - now!" There's nothing better than spending your day with a fussy baby boy, to then follow it up with a night full of naughty little girl.
When she left the house that morning she was told for the one millionth time that she needed to be a good girl; listen to her teachers, not pee her pants, be nice to her friends and take a nap. You can guess that the day didn't go that way, however to her credit - she did nap!
We spent the entire night with no television, videos or pictures (she likes to looking at photos on Facebook) and instead talked about the bad choices she had made that day and how she needed to correct her actions the next day. If she chose to not listen again on Tuesday she would have to pick one toy to get rid of and after dinner go directly to bed.
After all that talking she had to be better the next day, right? After all - we had beat the proverbial dead horse. Nope - she strolled in the house after daycare and this time no words from Joe were required. She walked directly to her room and returned with the toy she had to forfeit and after dinner went to her room with minimal fighting. That day she not only disregarded the rules mentioned above, but she also bit two of her friends. She was bathed, fed and in bed before 7 p.m. (our typical bedtime starts at 8).
As you can imagine, Joe and I were at a loss on what to do with this child. We have tried every parenting tactic - calm talking, reward methods, punishments, etc. - with little to no success. She is definitely smart enough to know what she is doing because when asked she will tell me the entire list of things she needs to do in order to be a good girl. I've said all along - she hears, but doesn't listen.
One of the things we hadn't thought about and seems obvious now was changing her diet. One of my good friends vows to feed her family real food vs. processed things loaded with chemicals and sugar. After doing some research and examining our pantry it was obvious that our snacks are most likely contributing to the behavior issues.
We came across an article that said kids Ella's age should consume 12.5g of sugar per day. In our morning routine Ella has consumed 3 times that amount and we're not even out the door! The ingredients list on her fruit snacks was very long and full of things I had no idea what they were.
So I cleaned out the closet and we went shopping. I replaced her fruit snacks and granola bars with things like dried fruit, pretzels, organic yogurt and products from Plum Organics, Clif Bar and Larabar. Am I all of a sudden a "Granola Mom?" No, but I do think it's important to be aware of what goes into our bodies and to make an effort for those things to be as natural as possible. And if it helps - then I'm all in!
It's only been a few days but it seems to have made a difference. Sure there is still sugar in the things we bought but much less and the important part is to keep track and be aware. If she eats a Larabar with 9g of sugar and is still hungry then we opt for some fresh grapes instead.
Another change we have made that has made a difference is to let her chew gum more often. Ella seems to have an oral fixation and even at the age of almost 4, puts everything in her mouth-to the point that it's dangerous and quite frankly, gross! We first introduced gum when she was younger and going through her biting phase to keep her mouth pre-occupied. Not only has the gum helped to keep her from chewing on other things, but her daycare reports that it seems to help her focus and sit still more often. We use Trident so it's sugar-free and contains Xylitol, which helps fight cavities. All in all another win for us and Ella.
The last thing we've changed is picking our battles. Ella is very rambunctious, therefore there are a lot of opportunities to scold her for various things; stop running, not so loud, get off the coffee table, don't climb on the chair, eat your dinner, etc. The list could and did go on and on and on. She heard us telling her to do something so often that it just became noise. So together, Joe and I decided the things that are most important and will only focus on those for now.
I think a common misconception today is that parents with the naughty child aren't trying hard enough or aren't parenting their kids. Sometimes that is the case but in our household it's quite the opposite. Ella makes us better parents. She makes us exercise creative parenting and to think outside the box for solutions that aren't the norm. On the bright side, when we find something that works for her it makes parenting more rewarding!
Ella has always been our one of a kind, "spirited child" and there will always be something we need to tackle with her. Wether it's peeing her pants, slamming doors or sneaking out of the house - it's a guarantee that we'll be battling with her until the day we die. Lets just hope the saying, "This too shall pass" applies and it happens sooner than later.