Recently we’ve had some power struggles with our almost 4 year old. I was warned that 3 year olds can be one of the hardest ages, and I have to say I agree so far! 2 years old was bliss with her, then like a switch, 3 came in like a tornado and is still wrecking havoc almost a year later!
I was getting discouraged that behavior was so poor in our house and that the conversations in our house from both sides were incredibly negative, with a lot of “Mom, I don’t like you” coming from her, and a lot of “You need to be nicer!” coming from my husband and I. No one was winning!
But it seems like every few weeks I have a revelation come to me that I’m actually doing it wrong. I’ve written posts on this very blog about positive praise in the classroom and how far it can go in the eyes and minds of the students, but I don’t actually turn it around and apply it to my own children at home. So that’s what I was doing wrong, I was fighting fire with fire and only one thing was coming from it- more fire!
So slowly, and I’ll admit, somewhat awkwardly, I started finding the positive, good things my daughter was doing and praising those, while trying to ignore the bad behaviors, as long as they weren’t dangerous to anyone else. Sprinkling little bits of water on the fire here and there. It took a significant amount of effort on my part, I’m not going to lie! It was easy to slip into mindlessly getting after her for all of the little things she was doing wrong, so it took the mental effort on my part to pick out the little, small things she was doing right.
After some time, the words in our house turned from incredibly negative and unhappy, to positive and upbeat. It slowly became less fire and more water! I searched and searched for ways to praise her, and it paid off. She found that she was getting attention this way, so she continued these behaviors, even sometimes pointing them out for me! The best part was how she turned around and used the same language towards her dad and I. She would thank us for dinner or picking up her shoes for her. She was praising us for things that made her happy.
Now I don’t want to say it has been fool-proof. It’s a peak and valley process that comes and goes. We inevitably slip into our old habits of using negative language and calling out the bad things she’s doing. Then a few weeks in, we realize it’s not working, and switch our thinking back to a positive mindset. Things will get better behavior wise for a few weeks and we feel great about it! Until it becomes hard, yet again. It’s an ever-lasting cycle, but the important thing is that we keep trying. We continue to make an effort to bring back the positive talk in our house and praise the good, even when we forget.
The jury is still out if we are going to survive raising a three-year-old, but for now, I can always count on reverting back to positive praise to slowly ground us and bring the happiness back.
Cover photo: Lacey Ross Photo