Four Moms Q and A

It’s our Four Moms Q and A Thursday again! Here are the questions I chose to answer this week:

What do do about a two year old who has watched too much television when Mom was sick and now wants it all the time: I have tried everything to get him to stop asking for television, but that is all he ever wants to do. Almost all of the time I say no, and then he follows me around whining. Getting rid of the tv is not possible (wish it was) because my husband uses it in his work. What can I do to break this horrible habit of his?

I am wondering if part of the problem might not be in the qualifier- almost.  Almost all the time….

These are just suggestions, not commands, and you should take them as they are useful to you:

Make ‘almost all the time’ all the time.  If you make it ‘all’ the time, he will get used to no meaning no a lot sooner.  Tell him the TV is for daddy’s work or when Mommy is sick, and then stick to it.

Give him other things to do.  Perhaps make a list of things so you don’t have to think them up each day.  Or take a picture of him doing those things and have him pull a picture out of a basket and that is what he must do for five minutes.

Whining is not acceptable, and will be responded to with…. your choice. I like a small spoonful of vinegar, or a small chore- wipe a chair clean, fold a couple of towels, use the dustpan and sweep under a chair or in a corner of the kitchen.  Tell him Mommy never gives in for whining and then make sure you keep your word.

It might help to read up on the effects of television on small children’s brains. and why they so desperately need playtime away from a screen.  That helped strengthen my resolve when my children were younger.

Further suggested reading on television:

4 Arguments for the Elimination of Television” by Jerry Mander
The Plug In Drug” and Unplugging the Plug in Drug by Marie Winn
Amusing OUrselves to Death, by Neil Postman
Endangered Minds, by Dr. Jane Healy

tired housewife sweeping floor vintageHow do you keep from getting overwhelmed? I have 5 and feel like I’m constantly being pulled in 5 different directions… someone needs help with a toy, someone needs a snack, someone is smearing poop on the wall, etc all while I’m trying to load the dishwasher. My stress quickly elevates and I end up yelling. I have 2 bigs that are very helpful but I feel really guilty when I’m constantly asking them to assist me. How do you manage the chaos and keep your sanity?”

I did not, I promise with all my heart, always keep from getting overwhelmed.   I frequently felt like the Calgon take me away commercials were taunting me.

One thing that helps is to prioritize- a child who needs help with a toy or a snack can wait until you unload the dishwasher, and if they continued to call for me, then they forfeited the help or the snack.  Poop is kind of urgent.

Another thing that helps is not to give them opportunities to play the needy distraction card.  They can help you unload the dishwasher.  Or you can give them each a damp sponge and direct them to wipe down the cupboards, or wipe the floor, or clean the walls in the kitchen while you unload the dishwasher.  Whatever task you are doing, keep them nearby, productively busy if you can, and chat and sing together while you work.

Sometimes you might have to resort to make-work tasks, like holding down the vacuum cleaner while you vacuum, but keep pressing on, cheerfully expect the children to pitch in (if they are old enough to help with siblings they are old enough to unload at least part of the dishwasher, and I have had 2 and 3 year olds who can put away silverware), and it will get easier.

It is true that often you can get it done faster yourself, but it’s helpful to think about this differently. It’s not about getting that task done faster. IT’s about raising your children to be productive, happy, adults. It’s about building relationships and special bonds here and now- with your children, and helping them build bonds with each other.   The dishes are not the goal.  They are a tool you can use to teach your children (same for other mundane household chores).

Reduce the guilt- older siblings are responsible, contributing members of the family in many cultures, and have been for millenia.  It’s only been a blip on the timeline radar that we have imagined they should be merely consumers of time and resources who deserve to be entertained constantly.  Work is satisfying, making valuable contributions to the family’s welfare is a huge self esteem booster.


Tantrums from non-verbal under-twos?  Especially when left to herself, she cries so hard she vomits.

Typical child-rearing advice from professionals, as was noted by the original questioner, is that they have tantrums for attention and you should put them alone in a safe place and let them have at it.  I think the idea that they have tantrums because they need attention is silly.

I do not think they have tantrums for attention, I think they have tantrums because they want what they want when they want it and they either believe they can scream you into submission, or they are merely small people who lack self control and once the floodgates open they can’t stop themselves.  The same child can have a tantrum for each of these reasons and probably others as well- maybe all in the same tantrum episode.

Some points- the non-verbal issue isn’t that significant to me.  Children have receptive language skills way in advance of expressive.  They can understand far more than they can say (one way we know this is because children of deaf parents who sign are signing their first words between 4-6 months.  Another way is that they start to scream when we say no, even if they cannot verbalize ‘no’ yet themselves.  And yet another way to know this is because when they are feeling happy and compliant, they clearly understand ‘do you want ice-cream? and ‘put this in the toybox’ or ‘time for a bath’ even if they can say none of these things).

A child who lacks the ability and/or self control to self soothe and calm down before she vomits is a child I would hold through the tantrum.  I would not give him what he was screaming for, but I would hold him.  Sometimes blowing in the child’s face will stop a screaming fit long enough for you to get his attention.  Sometimes a cold wash cloth is a good distraction- not a punishment, but gently wipe down a screaming child’s face, back of the neck, arms and hands.  Do not try to speak over them but during gaps when they take a breath or react to you blowing in their face or the washcloth, quietly say, “Shhhh, calm down.”

Children who do not scream themselves into vomiting may be told, “The screaming hurts our ears. It’s okay to be mad and sad, but it’s not okay to make the rest of us mad, sad, and hurting from sore ears.  If you can’t stop screaming, go do that in another room with the door shut. When you are ready to stop screaming, come back to join the rest of us.”

Take the toddler’s picture.  The meltdown pictured above (because the milk was all gone) ended in 30 seconds because my grandson caught me taking his picture.

What is AmblesideOnline about?

Start here.=)

What do you do about a 3 year old who asks why all the time?

Ignore it?  Answer until you’re hoarse.  Answer a question with a question, ‘why do you want to know?’  After a few sensible answers, as the question gets more and more ridiculously obvious the child is just talking to get you to talk, stop thinking about the answers. Be silly.  My mother always said, “Cat fur to make kitten britches.”   Sing a silly song in response.  Say, “That’s for me to know and you to find out,” and stick out your tongue for good measure.

You said you have questions you ask potential suitors for your girls.  Could you share? 

I can.=)

However, a couple of caveats.  We have never yet asked every single young man every single one of these questions.  They are suggestions.  Sometimes we didn’t ask because we knew the answers, but be sure you don’t do this on important questions- because sometimes you only think you know the answers.   Some of these are questions I merely gave to the girls and suggested they use them for discussion starters.  There are many, many, many happy married couples who never bothered to figure these things out.  Figuring them out before you are married does not mean you won’t ever have to revisit them after you are married, either.  Reality can be a harsh adjustment, and your careful ideas about how things would be one way before marriage will buckle under the weight of reality after marriage.

Neither courtship nor this list of questions is a recipe for success.  Asking all the questions on the list will not save your daughter from a broken heart.  The young man may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He may merely be a human being who is going to hurt your daughter’s feelings at some time, and vice versa because that’s just life. He may be a human being who changes ten years from now.  Or your daughter might change her mind on some of these.  It happens.  In fact, if it does not happen, I’d worry.  You’re supposed to continue to think about things and grow and learn, so if you don’t change, something’s wrong.  I’d say the most valuable function of a list like this is giving yourselves practice in having discussions about topics that matter to you, or giving you reminders about topics you want to discuss. In this case, it’s not the answers that matter, it’s the process.

There is no fail-safe, no formula for perfect results because we live in a fallen world and we are all flawed human beings.

Courtship, homeschooling, eating organic, attachment parenting, some other form of parenting, whatever- none of these things are recipes for success.  They are tools.  How you wield them just might be more important than the tools themselves.    We are members of a technological society that wants standardization and homogenized results, but that goal is self defeating.

That said- here is our list of questions.

We will probably be making a new list soon.  More about that in a few weeks.  Or not.

It’s just a springboard, a bit of brainstorming.  It’s not a command, it’s not a recipe, it’s not the only way, it’s not even the best list of questions to ask. IT’s just a tool.  Use it however it works best for you- cross things out, add things, or use it for a dart-board or bird cage liner.  Your family, your call.

Unless your son wants to court one of our daughters, then it’s our call- but you know, they’re going fast.  He just might need to pick a number, get in line, and wait his turn.;-D


Be sure to see which questions the other moms answered:

Kim, at Life in a Shoe

Connie, at Smockity Frocks

And Kimberly, at Raising Olives just might be back!

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