It was a lot harder when I was keeping my niece, because I think I was simply way outnumbered and Smug-Baby had to share me with everyone. It has been easier since I am down to just one child in addition to my own. I think that doing away with all the time-outs has really helped and I'm not really sure why. Also, trying to take some deep breath's and remember that I am the adult and she is the child and if she is having a meltdown, then there is something going on in her little world.
I haven't had a screaming meltdown of my own in a long time :)
I have been trying to read a chapter each evening just to help keep the principles and ideals fresh in my head. I have found that by asking Smug-Baby how she is feeling helps her to calm down. Sometimes, she can't put it into words and responds when I try to help her by telling her that she is feeling frustrated or sad or disappointed.
The whole basis of gentle discipline is kindness and firmness. Being firm in what I expect of her but done in a kind way. As an example, the other afternoon, she woke from her nap and told me she was hungry. I gave her a few options for lunch and she choose a scrambled egg. By the time I had the egg on the plate for her, she had decided that she wanted french toast instead. I explained that I had made her the egg like she had asked and she needed to eat that. She cried and threw the plate on the floor. Without getting angry (and I really wasn't mad, I didn't need to hide my anger) I told her that I was sorry that she had changed her mind, but she had to eat the eggs and I picked them up on and put them back on the plate for her. I would have made her pick them up, but she was hysterical and I didn't think it was the time for that lesson. Over the next several hours, she would come to me asking for food and I would give her the eggs.
At one point, she was crying but said she would eat the eggs, however, as she started to eat them, she started gagging and choking and spitting them all over the floor along with her water cup. I did give her the dish towel and had her clean up the water, while I picked up the spit out eggs and tossed them. I cuddled her until she finished crying and was calm, then I put her in front of the eggs again. She refused to eat them.
Finally, as I was prepping dinner, she climbed up to the table and ate most of the eggs. Without comment, without crying. While she was eating them, I heated up french toast (she had been asking for them all day) and as she finished the eggs, I laid the toast in front of her and she ate that too. I hugged her and kissed her and told her I was proud of her for eating the eggs and thanked her for not wasting food.
I never got mad, yelled, jerked her around or anything like that. And, I really wasn't mad, it wasn't like I needed to count to 10 or anything, I was totally calm and in control the whole time. It was like I knew that this was a pivotal lesson for her and my whole job was to make sure that she learned it the way I wanted her to. I didn't want to let her think that she was getting to me, or that she could get her way with enough crying, and that really helped in keeping myself calm. It was stressful and a long, unhappy afternoon and I wouldn't want to do it every day, but it was a success in the end.
My children need to trust me and know that I mean what I say. They need to trust me, and if they can't trust me to not lie to them about little things and that I will follow through when I say something, how will they trust me with the big things that they will face in their lives? That kind of trust starts now, when they are very small.
I try never to yell at Smug-Baby, because I want her to know that a yell from me is very serious, like don't run out into the road serious. I don't want her to learn to tune me out because I yell all the time. I want her to know that there are rules that must be followed, so I have to follow them myself. So, now, I only eat on the couch when she is sleeping :)
My children are not just children, they are future adults and they need to know how to behave, how to treat others and most importantly what is acceptable treatment for them to receive from others. That's my job!