Both Nathan and Lucie are preemies and had several health and developmental issues as infants -- reflux, low muscle tone, and motor skill delays. My baby books had a paragraph or two on reflux, and didn't mention the other problems. The preemie books I read after Nathan's birth only covered time in the NICU and more severe health problems, like cerebral palsy. The parenting magazines were even worse. Their advice seemed too general and overly simplified.
Eventually, I gave up on the books and magazines thinking they weren't right for our situation. Instead, I relied on our therapists and pediatricians, a wonderful reflux newsletter, and the occasional online message board for help.
I skated along advice-free until this summer when Nathan developed teenage-like behaviors -- defiance, rudeness, talking back, and not listening. I did not know how to deal with this very pissed off preschooler. And nothing I did seemed to work. The more severe my actions and reactions, the worse he got. I seriously considered FedExing him to his grandmother.
I wondered where to turn to, so I did what millions of people do each day. I Googled my problem. I typed in "discipline four-year-old behavior" and found all sorts of advice. Be consistent and understanding. Reinforce good behavior. Set limits and have consequences. Take away privileges when necessary. Use distractions and humor. Pick your battles.
I learned that even though Nathan has a great need for attention, he's learning to be independent. Defiance is how he asserts himself when he doesn't like the rules. Bottom line, he's exhibiting normal four-year-old behaviors.
No kidding. But how can we get our polite, sweet Nathan back?
One night my husband, Paul, devised a plan: a behavior chart, complete with stickers for good and bad days, goal setting, rewards, consequences for bad behavior, and a signed contract.
So it turned out that the parent who didn't read the books, magazines, and online advice came up with a practical solution. Considering that Paul has a degree in behavioral psychology, that actually makes sense.
The chart seems to be working. Nathan has had over two weeks of mostly good behavior. Score one for daddy.