I want to start by saying that I have incredibly high standards for my children. Higher than most people who use punishments. At the same time, not everyone sets their standards where I do – and different things bother different people, or are goals with different people. Also, all children are different. I have one who is special needs, one who is high needs, and my easy going guy who some days causes the most mess. With all that in mind:
At what age do you expect your children to have mastered eating using proper table manners?
My children do this from the beginning of their lives. I insist on nursing manners, and I insist on table manners. Playing with food signals that you are done and you get down. My table manners are one area where I’m much more relaxed, but when we all sit down for dinner, it’s polite and enjoyable, and even my toddlers do great at restaurants.
At what age do you expect your children to stop hitting or biting others?
Biting while teething is a common thing, and I have biters, but they very rarely bite out of aggression. Hitting is another thing that is common as an expression of frustration in a pre-verbal toddler, and using baby signs can decrease it, but some kids are just physical in everything. By 2 1/2 years old, these behaviors are hardly an issues. By 5 years old, it’s almost unheard of. If my oldest hits someone, it’s because he feels trapped – but he’s also my child with special needs and it’s an act of desperation. At 6 1/2 years old it rarely happens.
When do you expect your children to be able to share?
We teach taking turns and don’t have any problems over things. If my children can’t work out a way to take turns, the toy goes away, because people are more important than toys. Since my children don’t feel like they have to protect their things, they have shared very early.
When can children control of own feelings, or stop having tantrums?
These are two very different things. I believe that emotions often are so big that, for adults and children, they overflow into emotional outbursts. Not always appropriate, but often age appropriate and sometimes very understandable. With pre-verbal children, it’s very common because they don’t know how else to express themselves. I comfort the child and bring her back to acceptable behavior. I work to teach all of my children the way to express themselves appropriately, and I meet their needs so that they don’t feel desperate, or like they have to look out for themselves.
During the toddler years, children go through a stage where they don’t get their way and the emotions burst out. By responding with love, gentleness, and validation of their feelings without giving in to their requests, this is a very short-lived stage. I describe actual tantrums as the result of children having been rewarded for emotional outbursts. This is often the case with a parent who will do anything to make her child happy and when the parent starts trying to set limits, the child takes the outbursts to the next level.
I do not believe that happy is the only acceptable emotion, and therefore I don’t have this problem. My high-needs, 3 1/2-year-old daughter had a very hard time controlling her emotions; I wouldn’t call them tantrums because there was no intent to manipulate and get me to change my mind. She was taught better ways to express herself and didn’t get rewarded for the behavior, and it subsided. Now she gets sad, even very sad sometimes, but she behaves appropriately.
How old were your children before they were following instructions?
I use the 5 Steps and my children always follow instructions, whether they can do it themselves or need my help. As they mature, they need my help less and less. Very rarely will my 6-year-old need my help, and when I start to give it, he jumps and does it himself. Very rarely will my 4-year-old need my help; when she does it’s because she’s exhausted or hungry. And, very rarely does my 2-year-old need my help – he’s very independent!Q
When do you expect age-appropriate social skills of your children?
Do you mean being polite? My toddlers are able to be polite because, as babies. I teach them what to say. My two-year-old greets people on Saturday with “Shabbat Shalom,” and knows “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Please.” All of mine have had this skill from very young. My daughter is very introverted and a good judge of character – as well as amazingly boundaried – and I never force my young children to do these things, so she often didn’t.
Just the other day, though, we were at her friend’s birthday party and she went to her and said, “Thank you for inviting me to your lovely birthday party.” All three of my children thanked Tonya for inviting us to her Passover meal.Q
When will my child accept “No” for an answer appropriately?
By appropriately, I assume you mean without arguing or throwing a fit? I am open to reasonable negotiation, with no promises of a changed mind. I tend to have “No” be a first reaction, and so I’ve learned to pause and think about things. If I’m not sure, I tell them I’ll think about it. I remember telling my 4-year-old, “No,” and she said, “Can you just think about it instead?”
When they have a very emotional reaction, I see that as an indicator of how important the thing is to them. If it’s really not a big deal to me, then I try to find a way to make it happen – but not as a response to the emotional outburst. That must end, and they must be appropriately behaving before we will even talk about it. Aidan will sometimes drop down and cry silently at a “No,” and Fiona will sometimes cry still, but she accepts it; Liam usually responds with a “Yes, Mama.” When he doesn’t, it’s because he believes he’s been misunderstood and often that is the case.
Part of it is that I don’t see myself as dictator in the home. I’m the coach (along with my husband) and we want everyone to win, so “No” isn’t the same here as it is in some homes. I’m willing to admit when I’ve made a mistake or reacted rashly. My children also know that I’m not a pushover, nor do I do everything to make them happy, so it’s not a power struggle or a lay down. We work on resolution.
How old were your children when they put away their own toys?
My children are capable of doing this as toddlers. I have a lot of health issues and am not always the most organized or scheduled person, so it’s hard to expect this from them. As I’ve gotten better about keeping up on things, they’ve gotten better. Right now, we’re dealing with the complications of one play room for everyone. At the same time, all I have to do is call a “pick up,” and everyone will gather the toys from throughout the house and get them back in the playroom.
I also have a rule that, before large manipulative toys may come out, the toyroom has to be cleaned up; my children choose to clean or find something else to play with. Liam is capable of cleaning by himself, but he’s an extrovert and prefers company; Fiona still needs some help; Aidan can clean up, but is a little young to know all that goes into it to do a great job.