I've noticed a couple of common characteristics when my children's behavior become difficult. During these times, my youngest will cling fiercely to me and will quickly become upset to be separated. My oldest will experience meltdowns and throw tantrums at even minor infractions. The common factors in both behaviors are 1) inconsistency and 2) attention.
When our time together has lacked consistency for whatever reason, they may respond negatively. Consistency in the day provides a great deal of security for a child! The predictability allows them to anticipate what activity is to come next and then transition smoothly. They can also be assured of when they will receive proper attention. Even the youngest of children know that attention is attention, regardless of it being positive or negative. And so, there are occasions in which I see my toddler acting out and consider if he's received adequate attention to not be needing to gain my attention through negative means. Similarly, if my baby is clingy tightly to me and easily upset if separated, then I need to consider if she's received enough attention from me to feel secure to be a part from me.
For occasions in which I know there is a greater occurrence of inconsistency and/or attention, I try to simplify our daily schedule to focus on those things. For instance, we've spent this past month making a move from PA to TX. To say that life has been inconsistent is an understatement. As a result, both children have exhibited difficult behavior. (I don't blame them because a move like that is difficult on adults even!). Instead of jumping back into our full daily schedule now that we've moved into the rent house, we're spending quite a bit of time reestablishing consistency and attention. They need to be reassured that the security of predictability is still present and they will each receive adequate attention.
Our Simplified Daily Schedule:
*Tennyson-Mama Time, Annelise Play Alone Time*
*Annelise-Mama Time, Tennyson Play Alone Time*
*Mama Alone Time, Tennyson-Annelise Playtime*
*Tidy Home Time (all participate)*
I set a timer so that each activity block is approximately ten minutes. I also end each with a book so that there is a clear indicator of an activity time ending. We begin the day with us all together for breakfast (more than 10 minutes, of course). Then I make sure Tennyson receives the first block of my attention. If not, then he is likely to ask for it in negative ways while I am getting Annelise down for a morning nap. However, when I fill his attention tank up first he's able to play independently in an appropriate manner. After Tennyson-Mama time, we have Annelise-Mama time and this is when I put her down for a morning nap. When she's awake, we all play together again. Then, I reset the timer for the children to play together and for me to get ten minutes to myself. This is the time I might be on my phone, complete a To Do list task, complete a cleaning task etc. (It helps to keep my phone time limited to those occasions so that I'm not tempted to look at the phone excessively in the day! This is a temptation for me.) Afterwards, I spend a few minutes tidying the house. Typically, this is a tidy before lunch occasion. Then, we're together again and it's typically lunchtime. After lunch and nap, we simply repeat the schedule. (If you haven't noticed, then you will see that even though each activity block is designed to be only ten minutes long it might take us much, much longer. For our intentions right now, that's perfectly fine.)
This simplified schedule allows for a lot of flexibility depending on the circumstance. For instance, when we first moved and life was so chaotic, I had a together time between every activity block. (The sample posted shows us having progressed to a together time between every two). Later, we'll do a together time between every three blocks. So, for example, we'll be together, Tennyson-Mama time, Annelise-Mama time, Mama-time and then together again.
The goal is to work through the present difficulty and then resume our full daily schedule. I want to meet their need and help them return to a place of greater security and contentment without my direct intervention all the time. There ought to be a balance between togetherness and independence. I've found that when independence is not happening and behavior is difficult, then there may be a need that can be met through greater attention/togetherness. Afterwards, they can successfully resume moments of independence.
I believe this would also be a helpful approach to teaching siblings to independence and collaborative play. In other words, if you have multiple children but they each want Mama's undivided attention as though they were only-children. By alternating attention, they see that everyone and everything is due attention and will receive it.
A very simple daily schedule would also be a great starting place for anyone who beginning to schedule the day. If the children (or you!) are accustomed to being in free play at all times in the day, then a more detailed schedule may be met with resistence. (Do you have trouble following a schedule? Perhaps you need to ease your way into more structure). Start with a simplified schedule and then work up to a more detailed one. A schedule will make an impact on the productivity in a day, maintenance of positive attitudes, and overall pleasantness of the home and family. :)(for