Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Warning Bells: Toddlers and Time

Toddlers are busy people - and multitaskers, too. The Babby, for example, will sometimes be driving her car while dancing and gnawing on a couple of sticks of celery. Or simultaneously cooking dinosaurs and feeding dinosaurs while in the bathtub. 

I am a busy person, too. And a multitasker. So I don't really have any excuse as to why it's taken me this long to really internalize the fact that someone who is busy completing multiple tasks might not like it when another person comes along and declares "Stop what you're doing, because we're doing this now." To add insult to injury, that person then bodily forces the transition between activities.

So in the interest in keeping the peace, I have now started giving the Babby ample warning whenever it's time for a diaper change or to get into the Tripp Trapp and eat or leave the house or get changed or read a pre-nap story. (Yes, naptime is back!) And the early warning system of transitioning between activities is working like a charm. Ever since I started letting the Babby know that something is going to happen, that something has almost always been less traumatic. 

Things like getting into the car have involved fewer screaming fits, for example. Diaper changes are less likely to turn into wrestling matches. The pre-nap routine is going smoother. And today, when I had to make a business call, the Babby was more polite than usual while I was talking because I let her know about 10 times leading up to the call that I wouldn't be able to play for a little while. It was also a good excuse to talk about telephone etiquette.

Sometimes all this mental prep can feel like a lot of work - especially when it comes to things that are happening a day later. And especially especially when it's something the Babby isn't keen on doing. But the returns have been amazing and the tantrums we've been dealing with here have definitely gone down in both frequency and intensity.


  1. You are so ahead of the curve on this. (Or I was way behind.) I had no idea about this until daycare providers explained it to me.) Learning how to give P transition time was so completely foreign to me - I still struggle with it. M and I have been married so long that we can practically read each other's mind, but P's a different story.

    And then there is the balance between helping her prepare for something unpleasant (and risking a multi-day crisis) vs. transition time. I still don't know the best path on going to the doctor. The last time, I took her out for sushi, coffee, then sprung the news on her in the car. It worked, but I don't know if it would again.

    I still can't get a business call conducted without interruption, though. If she was at my office, I would tell the other party that they might hear my daughter in the background and suck it up when she made noise.

  2. So true. I have never thought before how they are multi-taskers! Especially when it comes to food.

  3. @E.H. Well, I think maybe it kind of popped into my head because the BabbyDaddy likes a bit of warning. Whereas I'm more of OHMYGOSHLETSDOTHISRIGHTNOWWW! And the Babby (who interestingly enough at home is the P.) takes after her papa in that regard. It was more of a response to the post-binkycrackdown tantrums than anything else, though.

    @Kristy True! I actually think we've gotten the Babby to eat more and better since warning her that mealtimes are approaching.

  4. One of the few, but powerful, things I was able to take away from Dr. Sears without losing my sanity. ;-) Nora is so much more cooperative w/a warning, and now with the greater 'independence' streak asserting itself, if she still doesn't want to do something (say, changing a diaper), I can present her with two options. 1) You can come over her and undress yourself, or 2) we'll change your diaper, but I will undress you. She chooses 1) every time.

  5. @Stephenie I waffle between teaching the Babby to remove her clothing and enjoying the fact that she can't undress herself since I am pretty sure she'd be practically nude from then on.

  6. I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful piece of advice. I have noticed that everything is a battle with my toddler lately (maybe its since she became a toddler). I mean everything is a knockdown drag-out fight. With screaming, shoving and real tears (and that's just me). I am going to try the warning system. I wish I could flash it on a screen like they do with the Emergency Broadcast Alerts.

  7. So, do you actually ring bells? That would be...interesting, and irritating. This is good to know for future babbysitting! :) My problem is, I say "Why don't we go do this?" then realize I have to do 2 or 3 other things before we get to that. So now I lay out steps- "First we'll have snack, then clean up, then have nap" It helps me stay less scatter-brained, and her to prepare for what's next. I'm really working on getting back into a regular routine, though, cause that helps us best!

  8. @Teresha That's exactly where we were - I said definitely give this a try! It may or may not work for you, but it's helped us out a lot, and I think the Babby is happier for it.

    @Jess Ha ha, we don't ring bells. BUT I have used the oven timer! As in "When you hear the timer go off, it's time to get down from the table." I don't use it all the time, though.

  9. Signaling transitions is so helpful! We have Niko (23 months old) say bye bye to his trains and cars as a signal that it's time to eat/diaper/nap/leave. Now, when he's hungry or tired, he runs around saying bye bye to his trains and putting them someplace safe as part of how he signals us that he wants something specific. We also tell him that stuff's going to happen on the count of three... lights turning off, rinse water poured over his hair, etc. It helps him prepare.

  10. @Brigid Keely I should try that - but my one fear is that it would lead to a tearful "I waaaaaant it!"


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