Super Nanny, not just for television
I like reading parenting books. They center me and help me focus on being the best parent I can be. After reading them, even if I don’t use some of the advice, or tweak it to our lifestyle and my parenting style, it makes me feel like I have a plan when it comes to planning our days, and with discipline. One of my favorite toddler books so far is Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules. It outlines the six (even though the book says five, it really discusses six) most important things to do in order to promote good behavior from your toddler. It’s probably the closest philosophy to my own, and the one I fall back on the most.
I also really liked Super Nanny when I was in my 20s. Even though I wasn’t a parent myself, it was a sort of non-toxic reality TV show and I liked seeing the happy endings (even if they were probably pretty exaggerated for TV). All of Jo’s advice, exercises, and methods seemed to make a ton of sense to me, especially the Time Out method, which I started doing with M and works as well for us as it did for the families on TV.
The six areas are: Eating, Sleeping, Socialization, Physical Activity, Early Learning, and Behavior. Underlying the all six is a focus on routine and consistency (which I don’t do the way most people do).
Whenever I veer off of my “eating plan” for M, we get into trouble. The plan is just to make sure she eats at the table (not on the couch, for example), and stick to it so that she knows that once she is done and gets up, she’s done eating until the next meal or snack. This of course applies to when we’re at home, but it will also apply to sitting at the table when visiting people, or picnic tables at the park. She also has to wait for the next meal or snack instead of “grazing” (which is where we get off track) because then she is not hungry at the right times. She’ll end up skipping a meal and being hungry when we aren’t eating, which can mean she will throw her food or make messes out of boredom. Jo Frost’s main points here are: scheduled meals and snacks, right portions of the food groups, getting your toddler to be open to a variety of foods, and table manners (including staying at the table).
The book focuses a lot on getting a toddler to go to bed at night in their own bed, but I’m a bed-sharer so I skipped a lot of that. The biggest point is to always have a bedtime ritual that puts the toddler in the right frame of mind and also signals to them that they need to prepare for sleeping. Our bedtime ritual is pretty much bath, reading with her milk bottle, then sleep. I do this ritual even with traveling, and luckily it works just fine for M anywhere we are. I’m not sure she’s really getting the 12 hours of sleep they say a 2-year-old needs… it may be more like 11 including her nap.
Socialization and Physical Activity
I like the stress Jo Frost puts on the importance of getting kids out of the house, into public spaces or visiting other people’s homes. It teaches them social norms and rules, and combined with physical activity (minimum 1 hour a day according to Frost), decreases rambunctious activity, defiance, and destructive behavior at home. This is totally true for M… she can’t stay in the house (or even yard) all day long because her behavior will completely deteriorate. Even visiting the neighbors or my grandma counts as a trip to somewhere and interaction with someone other than me or my mom. Plus, I think it’s important for her to have confidence in a multitude of settings, from public spaces like stores or libraries, to more kid-friendly spaces like play-dates and parks. Frost has some exercises that help kids learn not to run off, and I’m working on that right now with M, taking “practice” walks where I reinforce rules like: like off the road, hold my hand when we cross streets and in crowds, don’t get too far ahead of me, stay where I can see her, stay on the sidewalk, etc.
Another daily requirement for toddlers is early learning, which means activities that lead to focus, creativity, and mental stimulation. Play doh, art, puzzles, reading, bubbles, blocks, etc should all have a space and time in the day of a toddler.
This is where the time out technique comes in, and it’s been truly working with M. But more importantly, the way you give warnings, consistency, and setting up expectations are all the most helpful in preventing naughty behavior. Doing all of the above so that she’s not hungry, over-tired, bored, or under-stimulated comes first, but I’ve also been trying to be more respectful of her in general. Instead of snapping, “stop it!” when she does something annoying, I am trying to be more thoughtful about correcting her. If it’s truly a “no no” (like hitting) then she gets the traditional warning and time out.
Frost always stresses routine, routine, routine for toddlers, but I find that I try to get M used to different routines and schedules so that she’ll be a better traveler. I allow a more flexible bedtime (maybe we’re visiting family an hour away and stay late and she falls asleep in the car and I have to wake her up to put her bed at home) and flexible “meal times” as well, but that being said I always pack a snack or prepare a packed lunch if I know we’ll be out most of the day to try and stay on track. But if she doesn’t get a nap, or gets one later than normal, I don’t stress it. She’s gonna learn to adjust. She’s gotta learn to adjust if we’re going to travel the world together! So all 6 of these areas have to be able to be packed in a suitcase!
*I have no affiliation with Jo Frost nor am I getting paid or anything like that for promoting her book