The Incredible Years – An Overview

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I CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE JUST HAD MY FINAL SESSION!!….

What can I say, it’s been amazing. I’ve made some lovely friends and learnt some essential life skills.

This thing that annoys me is that this course, in my opinion, has been mis-advertised. The articles I have seen seem to focus on ‘problem children’ or ‘problem behaviour’, I believe this could isolate people from attending this group, for fear of stigma. Little Man is a happy healthy little boy who, like any child, gets frustrated when he is not understood or when he can’t understand why he can’t get what he wants. His language skills are also a little bit immature, which hasn’t helped matters. Incredible Years has been amazing in the respect that they have taught me effective ways of encouraging his language and communication. It still has some way to go but it has given me such patience and peace of mind  to now have these tools at my disposal.

I have also noticed that his tantrums and indeed my attitude towards them, have also changed. Before, when he was having a tantrum, I would panic, worry about every else and what they were thinking and just generally flap! Now I’m much more able to take a deep breath and assess the situation. OK so if I’m somewhere like a restaurant I still have a little freakout but I feel much more confident and better equipped.

If you living in the UK and are interested in this course, please do ask at your local Sure Start Centre.

Apologies. This was meant to be posted in December. Unfortunately my PC decided to go bust…. and ooooh yes it’s taken this long to get fixed!

The Incredible Years – Week Eleven

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CALMING DOWN

I cannot believe this is our last week! To be perfectly honest I am feeling pretty emotional about the whole thing so will try not to dwell too much!

This week we discussed the importance of teaching our children how to ‘self soothe’. It is important for children to learn how to regulate their own emotions. This, in time, will increase confidence and emotional maturity and put them in good stead for social situations such as school and playgroup.

We were all given a little picture of a strawberry with a candle on the reverse. The idea of this is to help children with their breathing by encouraging them to smell the strawberry and then to blow out the candle. Breathing is very important when it comes to stress management as one tends to hold ones breath when stressed or breath shallowly. By taking deep breaths and exhaling quickly one is oxygenating the brain, calming down and the breathing itself can act as a distraction. This exercise is just a beneficial for adults as it is for children.

It is very important that we, as adults, demonstrate good stress management. If we are constantly losing control then it is more likely that the child will follow this behaviour. I guess you can say this was a good session for everyone!

HOMEWORK

Were were asked to identify a ‘calm down’ area and equip it. This was a lot easier said than done as we are fighting for space in our place! Before this session I admit that I would probably plonk Little Man on the sofa and put the TV on. This works as it provides a distraction and gives him some ‘time out’ but it was pointed out that TV in itself is stimulating so probably not the best method. Thinking about it, the sofa does work so I decided of a good way of making this an efficient ‘calm down’ area but also keeping it tidy when necessary. Hubby and I are so entrenched in our habits that the homework for this week was very challenging, but we’re getting there!

The Incredible Years – Week Ten

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HANDLING MISBEHAVIOUR: IGNORING

Most of us are well aware of the best way of dealing with negative behaviour. Ignoring the bad, praising the good, right? Trouble is this is often easier said than done. The art of effective ignoring is not just pretending the child isn’t there whilst they’re exhibiting negative behaviour but also giving the child attention the second they behave. I have found the latter part is easy to forget as I’m just so blooming relieved that I’m finally getting some peace and quiet!!!!

We learnt that the best advice when it comes to ignoring negative behaviour is to get up and walking away. Having a child crying and pulling at you is going to provoke a response at some point. By removing yourself you are showing the child that this behaviour is not acceptable and also giving yourself some physical and mental space.

Of course, like anything, there are exceptions to ignoring: dangerous behaviour and aggression, such as hitting, should be dealt with ASAP.

HOMEWORK

For our homework this week we were asked to use a distraction or diversion when negative behaviour rears its head. If a tantrum etc is unavoidable then we need to put our new ignoring skills into practice.

My opinion is that the majority of tantrums are avoidable, they certain are for me. I find that Little Man usually tantrums because he is hungry or tired. As long as I’m on the ball things are very easily nipped in the bud. But, either through circumstances or tiredness on my behalf these cues are missed and I have a mini monster on my hands!

Sure enough, I had one of those days this week. We went to go and see a friend of mine and, as a result, a nap was missed. When we got home hubby put Little Man to bed but due to the lateness of this nap he woke up in a ferocious mood! I knew he was hungry, but he was refusing to eat and basically spent, what felt like hours, crying on the floor refusing to eat. Nothing seemed to work but then, just as I felt like I was losing the plot, I pulled myself together and sat him in front of the TV. This is not something I’d normally do at dinner time but I knew us hovering over him wasn’t doing him any good. After a minute he’d calmed down and I gave him dinner, he soon started eating and all was well.

I notice I get so stressed when Little Man is having a tantrum, this is especially the case when we’re out (you know, when you can feel everyone else watching and judging).  My main issue is my feeling of lack of control. By keeping food, drink, change of top and a couple of little toys on me I can nip behaviour in the bud and, hopefully, as I feel more relaxed any behavior that does ensue can be managed more easily.

The Incredible Years – Week Nine

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EFFECTIVE LIMIT SETTING CONT

This weeks session was a continuation of last weeks. We moved on to talk about the rules we have around the house, including the unspoken ones. You know something? There are rather a lot!! I like things to be done my way and as a result I have millions of little rules and regulations as to how things are done!!  However, the bottom line is that being pedantic about every single little thing is just downright stressful and doesn’t help anyone in the end. This can be especially confusing for children as, frankly, there is just too much to concentrate on. We talked about the rules that really mattered to us and how we can make these rules clear to our children. I guess the point is with children, and with life in general, is that you have to pick your battles.

Limit setting is also important. We were reminded that children need security but they also need freedom (confusing, right!). A good example is letting them play but making them aware of the perimeter to which they can play in. It is very easy to want to baby our precious ones (I myself have the habit of hovering over Little Man whilst he’s trying to play), but by giving them freedom we are also teaching them some essential life skills. It was pointed out that whilst it is important to keep our children safe it is equally important to expose them to ‘controlled dangers’. I guess a good example of this would be discussing road safety with them when out and about.

HOMEWORK

We were asked to focus on setting up a short list of house rules and ways of implementing them in a child friendly way. The list should contain no more than five rules to be decided between us and our partner (if applicable). By doing this we essentially focus on what is truly important to us. What I liked about this is that it gave hubby and I a chance to check we are on the same page. The thing that surprised me was that we have a different set of priorities. I was very focused on the house being tidy and he was more concerned with the table manners. It was nice to hear each other out and come up with a game plan.

  1. We tidy up after ourselves
  2. Food stays on our plate
  3. We play nicely with our toys
  4. Shoes and coats off in the hallway
  5. We say please and thank you

The plan is for this to be written up for Little Man to see…. complete with pictures!

The main problem I found with this list is that, to be a good role model, I need to adhere to the rules myself! Number 1 and 4 are an issue for me as I’m really messy and lazy by nature, ironic as these are the rules that are non negotiable to me. Looking at it from this perspective has made me feel like I’m a bit of a hypocrite. However, I’m well aware that a tidy house ultimately leads to an easier life so I’m sure that this is something I can get used to! After all, I can’t expect others to tidy if I’m not doing it myself.

The Incredible Years – Week Eight

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EFFECTIVE LIMIT SETTING

Words…. good old words. This week at Incredible Years was infuriating as it has made me completely paranoid when it comes to the way I talk to Little Man! At the beginning of the session we were asked to think about the commands we use with our children during the day and also the amount of times we used the word ‘no’. Quite a lot so it seems!!

I always make a conscious effort to say no as little as possible and I still use it to much, agh! For the most part I allow Little Man as much time respond as possible but admit that this does fall by the way side when I’m in a rush. As you can imagine, this is always completely counter productive as things end up taking even longer!

One thing I was really upset to learn was that I can be sarcastic with Little Man (something that is honestly not done intentionally). I also tend to use an encyclopedia of explanations when giving him commands, something I’m well aware that I do! As a child I used to get really annoyed when I had orders fired at me and I always felt better when I knew why something was being asked of me. As a result I felt Little Man was owed an explanation for everything I asked him to do. Now, when looking at it from the outside, the lengthy explanations are a little over the top and confusing for one so young.

HOMEWORK

For our homework we were asked to limit the amount we use the word no in favour of more positive commands. Also, when giving commands, to be more informative and concise and to allow the child at least 10 seconds to respond.

This has taken A LOT of getting used to but, despite my reservations and worries, it actually does work! An example of this: BEFORE: ‘We’re going to creche today so you’ll need to get your shoes on, (2 seconds later), you need to get your shoes on , (2 seconds later), we’re gonna be late!!’. NOW: ‘Shoes on please (waits 10 seconds)’. OK so Little Man doesn’t always do what I say but with these new commands in place he now reacts 70% of the time as opposed to 30%. As you can imagine, this has reduced a lot of stress on my behalf and he also feels happier and less harassed!

Another example (Little Man not getting his coat on): BEFORE: ‘If you don’t get your coat on then it’s tough, you can’t go outside’ (sniff, an example of my sarcasm). AFTER: ‘When you get your coat on, then you can go outside’. The ‘after’ example looks back to time telling with children. By letting them know the after effect of their decision, it gives them a chance to react. I wasn’t very keen on using this, as I didn’t feel it would work, but with no other ideas I decided to give it a go! I was pleasantly surprised, Little Man looked at me (I could see those little cogs turning), and would then put his coat on. The whole point is that one is turning a negative into a positive, which is much more likely to elicit a response.

These methods are gonna take some work for me. This whole series has left me feeling like a computer being reprogrammed, which I guess is the whole idea! The way I talk is such a part of me I feel like I’m going against nature a bit. However, seeing the positive change in the household is enough to keep me persevering.

The Incredible Years – Week Seven

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HANDLING SEPARATIONS AND REUNIONS

I guess separation anxiety becomes an issue for all children at some point. To be honest it’s only recently reared it’s head for me. Little Man is normally a placid little thing and quite happy to go with anyone, but I think he’s finally got wise to the fact that there are times I will leave him (when he goes to his grandparents etc).

Incredible Years is great as there is a lovely, well equipped creche for the children as the adults relax and learn. Being a stay at home Mum means that Little Man and I don’t spend much time apart so I feel this ‘time away from Mummy’ is really important for him. The first few weeks were fine but now he does have a little cry when I go (most heartbreaking for me is when he calls out ‘mama!’ as I leave). Luckily, from my past experience as a Nursery Nurse, I have learnt that this upset doesn’t normally last long and that the worst thing you can do as a parent is look upset. Because of this  I always try and look as happy and positive as possible.

Incredible Years has also taught me the importance of giving the child time for their mind to process these events (i.e. ‘we’re going to creche today’). Something I didn’t give much thought to is the fact that, as children can’t tell the time,  a consistent routine is very important so that they are aware of upcoming events and feel secure.

HOMEWORK

Our homework for this week was to focus on establishing a good bye routine by having a consistent bedtime routine.

I feel that Little Man and I have a lovely bedtime routine. From 5 o’clock it’s dinner, bottle, ‘bedtime TV’ for a little while, brush teeth, story and then bed. He’s never been too bothered by books but within the last couple of months he’s discovered a passion for them, which is lovely to see. Because we have such a lovely bedtime routine it makes me realise how disorganised I am in other areas! Our morning routine is pretty consistant (ish) but I feel it’s not very efficient (not helped by the fact I am normally completely useless in the mornings).

This week I have taken the time to write down weekly schedule incorporating housework and Little Man’s activities etc. I have found that by listing these things out I can get a better idea of what is realistic. It has been an interesting activity, mainly because I have found that I am completely unrealistic with my time. This in tern makes me feel pressured and means that even less gets done. By writing out a schedule I have spread things out throughout the week and have lessened the stress I put on myself, which is a great feeling. This means a schedule is much more easily achievable and leads consistency for everyone. It’s still a work in progress but has left me feeling a lot more positive.

The Incredible Years – Week Six

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SPONTANEOUS INCENTIVES

This week we talked about spontaneous incentives. Now the thing I really liked about this session was that we talked about not just rewarding our children but also ourselves and our partners (something that is often easy to forget)! We were reminded that toddlers are still small and don’t have the memory for reward charts and such like yet, so the more we catch them in the moment the more we can reinforce this good behaviour.

My thinking was completely turned on its head. I am so very negative towards myself. I never realised the extent of this and it has made me question my attitude to myself. A lot of food for thought here!

I think the difficulty is that a lot of people feel that over congratulating oneself can be a sign of arrogance and as a result we tend to put ourselves down.  Obviously it’s not a case of wondering around with an air of smugness constantly telling yourself how brilliant you are but on the other hand a ‘Mummy has done a great job cleaning the house, she’s very pleased’, doesn’t go amiss! Now I am happy with the knowledge that congratulating myself for a job well done is not only good for myself but fantastic for Little Man to see also. It’s a great ego booster. After all, I can’t tell him to be proud of himself but not follow through for me!

HOMEWORK

We were told to increase the number of time we praised our child, give a sticker for good behaviour, praise another member of the family, give ourselves a treat for good work done. As previously stated the praise has been working fantastically for Little Man and he is getting very good at blowing his own trumpet. He loves cars and animals  and, as luck would have it, I have kept hold of various ones from children’s parties that we have been to.

OK, so the sticker giving did not go down at all well. I caught him being good and praised him, this was fine but the second I gave him a sticker a tantrum ensued!! Not what I was planning at all!! He tore the sticker off him and looked at it with disgust. Lesson for Mummy? Might be quite a good idea to discuss these things with him first so he knows what’s going on!! Seems a bit obvious now!

Praising hubby went much better. I think we have both got stuck in a rut of taking each other for granted. Hubby helped me around the house and I thanked him. He looked a bit taken aback, smiled and pointed out all the lovely things that I had done to help. It was nice. Definitely something I will continue.