Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Sad Beautiful Tragic

When I was a kid and I pouted, which wasn't very often, my mom would tell me, "If you keep sticking out your lip like that a bird is going to poop on it."  This usually made me smile, or at least confused me, particularly when we were indoors.

Miss Molly is a pouter.  She inherits it from her dad's side.  As I've mentioned before my family trends towards the epic meltdowns, whereas Chris fancies himself a brooder (like Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Recently, and unfortunately on a daily basis, when presented with whatever disappoints her majesty we're faced with what I like to call the pouting cycle.  First comes the death glare where she tries to break you with her mind, next the lip pout and a bit of a cry, once that doesn't work, if she decides she wants to escalate the matter further she'll engage in an Arrested Development/Peanuts inspired sulk walk, to her room or a nearby couch until she gets over it or is distracted by something that means more to her then the argument at hand.

baby death stare
Even at six months Molly had her glare down pat.  

As this undesirable phase continues I've found myself wondering if we're doing the right thing.  We never give in, but are we teaching her the skills she needs to be a functioning and non-annoying adult?  Chris and I are both beginning to understand what people are talking about when parents talk about the 3teens (heck there's even a Twitter hashtag dedicated to #3teens)

I've researched some of the best ways to address pouting in pre-schoolers that I thought I'd share:

1) Ignore them.  If they don't get what they want and you don't engage in negative attention they'll be less likely to repeat the behaviour - unless they are incredibly stubborn (AKA Molly).

2) Send them for a time out.  Molly tends to send herself for these "timeouts" on her own and eventually comes back on her own.  This becomes challenging when you're trying to get out the door and she's convinced that she should be allowed gumdrops for breakfast.

3) Employ natural consequences parenting and let them know what they'll be missing out on by withdrawing into the sulk.  Sometimes when Molly gives me the "I'm sooooo tired." excuse for her pouting I tell her about what she's going to miss for withdrawing, whether it's a game, a snack, a favourite show or storybook.  Just the possibility of missing out on something usually snaps her out of most moods.

4) Practice reflective listening.  Show them that you are empathetic to what they're feeling by narrating what they might be feeling.  This helps give them the language and coping skills they can use when dealing with disappointment, allowing them to focus on expressing themselves in healthy ways.

5) Take pride in the fact that you have a strong willed child who knows what they want, even if that is wearing their housecoat instead of a winter jacket or eating a dinner of ketchup and goldfish crackers.

What worked to prevent pouting with your family?

To read about asserting positive discipline in two minutes or less click here.

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