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Posts Tagged ‘order’

How to Avoid the Terrible Twos

Monday, April 22nd, 2013 6:47 pm | By Stephanie Woo

“She always trying to get her way. She’s just spoiled,” I hear so many parents say about their toddlers. Even my husband said it this morning about Brooke. 

We’re parked (illegally) on the side of the road because Mark forgot to buckle in Brooke. I’m kneeling on the front seat reaching back to buckle her in as quickly as I can. She starts whining, “Daddy.” She wants Mark to do it because he usually does. I say, “No, Mama is gonna do it.” She stops whining for a while. I buckle the bottom left buckle, she cries, “No, No!” I do it anyway because we need to get moving fast. She starts crying and struggling in her seat, trying to unbuckle the buckle. At the same time, I can see she’s trying to get her other arm under the right strap. With all that struggling and crying, Mark says impatiently, “She’s always trying to get her way.”

I know that isn’t why she’s crying. It was obvious that I wasn’t doing things in the order that she’s used to. First of all, Mark usually buckles her in and he buckles her in a certain way. I’m clearly not doing it that way. Order is critical to the young child, including the order in which you do something as well as the order of things within the environment. If the order is off or it isn’t what she’s used to, you can expect a tantrum. She’s not trying to annoy you, there simply is a need of hers that isn’t met. 

Just to give you an idea of what I mean. Every morning, I need to do these things to wake up: brush my teeth, wash my face, drink a cup of water, followed by a cup of light, sweet coffee. If I miss any of those things in that order, something feels wrong. And then my day is just a little bit off. Unless I’ve run out of sugar, half-and-half or coffee altogether. Then don’t even try to talk to me. Now, imagine you and I lived together, even if you don’t have those same needs, you’d most likely respect mine, right? To avoid my morning rage, you might even put my coffee on for me and gently coax me to drink it as quickly as possible! What about your toddler? They have an intense need for order, which you may or may not need. What do you do when they express their anger, frustration and disappointment because their need for order isn’t met? 

I decided to let Brooke show me what she needed. First, I unbuckled the bottom left buckle that I had forced on her. And then I waited to see what she would do. She slipped her right arm under the strap and buckled the cross buckle. Now that both arms are under the strap and the cross buckle done, she waited for me to buckle the bottom buckles, which I did. I got it right this time. She sat back, looked out the window and started singing ‘Itsy-Bitsy Spider.’ We drove off and heard nothing but singing from her the rest of the ride. She knew exactly what she wanted. If I hadn’t fulfilled that need, we would’ve heard crying the whole way home. Instead we had peace and quiet. 

A toddler needs order around her because she’s learning how the world works. Once she becomes a six-year old and internalized that order, she doesn’t need external order as much anymore. That’s why elementary school kids can be complete slobs and still be happy. People call the toddler years The Terrible Twos and Threes. That’s because toddlers are misunderstood. They have a need that you and I as adults no longer need and we can’t understand what’s the big deal. Well, it is for them. And if you’re looking to coexist peacefully with your little one, start watching carefully. Next time your toddler suddenly starts screaming, figure out what’s different from the way she’s used to. Is something not on the same shelf she’s used to? Is something not done is the sequence she’s used to? Is the day’s routine different than usual? If you can figure out the clue to this puzzle, your toddler – and you – will be much happier. And then you’ll see, the terrible twos doesn’t have to be so terrible. 


We Moved to Portland!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 6:34 pm | By Stephanie Woo
Our New Playroom

Our New Playroom

I haven’t written in a while. The reason is because we just did a cross-country move, from Baltimore to Portland, OR. I’ve dragged the family with me (again) to pursue my Montessori training – this time for 3-6 years old – at the Montessori mecca of Portland. We are completely enamored with this city so, hopefully, this will be our last move in a while.

When we first arrived in early March, instead of living in a hotel, we decided to do a short-term rental. We ended up in a beautiful, four-story loft with 15-ft ceilings. The rental featured designer furniture like an L-shaped white leather couch, teak coffee table and Herman Miller chair. It also had a complete, top-of-the-line kitchen with an island and bar stools. It came straight out of a home decor magazine.

And we were miserable there.

I’d forgotten how hard it is to live in a home designed for adults. Our furniture did not arrive with us, so we had to live with the design of the home as is. Everything was high-up, so B and M couldn’t reach anything. About five times a day, we had to hold them up to the sinks, press their 35-pound bodies into the cold marble and wash their hands for them as quickly as possible (with huge protests, of course). At every meal, we had to lift them up onto the bar stool and then help them get off. And they started crying at my feet while I cooked dinner – that was behavior I hadn’t seen since we bought the Learning Tower 15 months ago! Even the beds were too high up for them to reach, so we had to help them get on when they came running into our room in the middle of the night (this always happens when we are in new environments). I couldn’t wait to move out of that modern, luxurious hell.

Two weeks after we arrived, we moved into a more permanent home up in the Sylvan Heights area of Portland. Our home is nestled in the woods, but just 5 minutes away from downtown Portland! We were so happy when our POD arrived. The girls’ eyes lit up as we started to unload their furniture. They couldn’t wait to sit in their little slatted chairs, help put toys on their shelves and climb on the Learning Tower. When we finally set up their work/play space, we all breathed a sigh of relief. They could sit down and work again. They could find their things again. They could clean up and put things back again. They could wash their own hands again. They can finally eat, sleep, play, bathe and go to the bathroom by themselves again. We were all so happy! If you have children and you’re still living in a home designed for adults, it’s time to think again. From 18 months and up, children should be able to reach everything they need independently. If you’re like me, your sanity – and lower back – will experience a huge difference. 

Now that our home is set-up, we are ready to take on anything! So bring on the new adventures, Portland!

What It’s Really Like to Have Toddler Twins

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 2:55 pm | By Stephanie Woo

My husband is away on a week-long business trip. Our nanny is on her 6-week vacation. After three days of being alone with them, last night I had one of those I-hope-no-one-who-reads-my-blog-ever-sees-me-now kind of a moment. I’m in the middle of cleaning up after an elaborate, health-conscious, culturally-educational meal of braised sea bass, tofu with mushrooms and minced meat and a special rice dish with baby bok-choy, edamame and carrots. I’ve got dishes piled up to the ceiling in the sink, a table full of half-eaten food and wondering why I had gone through the trouble of cooking any of it. I’m trying to load the dishwasher as fast as possible, with B tugging at my pants saying, “Mama, don’t wash dishes.” It should have been a sign. Well, the girls decided to go into the rice cupboard, dump out 2 giant cups of uncooked rice on the floor, then throw it at each other. “What are you doing? Stop! STOP! I knew I shouldn’t have kept this here where you can get to it!” I go upstairs to get the vacuum. When I come back, they had gotten into the flour and was smearing it all over the cupboard door. I grab their hands and pull them into the living room. “Stand here. And don’t move!” I’m absolutely fuming.

Hours later, I realized two things:

  1. You cannot keep up a household the same way you did when you have a husband AND nanny.
  2. Of the three most important people in B and M’s life, two of them are gone. And they are desperately trying to get my attention.

I’m still recovering from my burst of anger and ensuing exhaustion from cleaning, but I decided to have a conversation with them anyway. At bedtime, I held them and said, “Mama yelled very loudly today, didn’t I?” Nods all around. “Mama is very tired today, so when you threw rice everywhere, I got very angry. I’m sorry I yelled at you.” They don’t say anything. “When Daddy and Ayi are not here, I need you to help me keep the house clean. Can you help me?” It’s a lot to ask of a 2-year-old, but they nod anyway.   

You really can’t stay mad at a toddler who tries so hard to keep her promise. The next morning, they both clean up breakfast without a fuss. But then on our way to school this morning, B confesses, “Brooke didn’t clean up.” I ask, “What didn’t you clean up?” She says, “Brooke didn’t clean up Play-doh.” I ask, “Do you want me to help you clean it up?” She says, “No. Brooke clean up Play-doh by herself.”

It took three days of exhaustion, misery and way too much yelling for me to learn this: No more elaborate meals or extensive clean-ups. It’s time to break out the disposable bowls, plates and take-out menus. They need time doing Play-doh, storytime and cuddles with me more than ever. The acting out is merely their way of getting my attention.  I’m putting aside the idea of keeping the perfect home and ready to get on with the real ‘work’ of raising twin toddlers — tickling, chasing, singing, laughing and oodles of hugging.