When Your Child is THAT Child.

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We all know what I mean when I say every dance class, every school classroom, every playgroup and soccer team has “that” child. The child that doesn’t pay attention, disrupts the group, is maybe even mean. The behaviors vary but it all boils down to the one child that every parent talks about and labels “that” child. And we all want to say that our child never has been and never will be “that” child. So, what happens when they are?

My toddler’s dance class is wonderful. It is taught by an experienced coach who adores all of her students. I danced there as a teenager and I knew it was the best choice for us when considering where to introduce my daughter to dance. As part of her successful teaching the coach does not allow observation in class except for a few weeks out of the year. I appreciate this, knowing that my child is the type that will drop what she’s doing and strike up a conversation with you about dryer lint if she even thinks you are looking at her. This means, however, that we have to just drop her off and sit in the car worrying about if she’s actually dancing, if she’s having an epic melt down, and if she’s having fun. So when we got a note saying that parents could sit in on the Halloween party class I was excited. Unfortunately I am unable to attend dance due to my work schedule but this meant I could demand pictures, video, and detailed updates from my husband. I waited on pins and needles for updates, but when I got the first text my bubble was immediately burst.

Husband: She’s the one that’s misbehaving.

What! No, that’s impossible, not my sweet little angel puff who does literally nothing wrong. Okay, I’m kidding. After the initial sadness I really wasn’t surprised. My child is INTENSE, yo. She is bossy. She will talk your ear off. She is extremely emotional and dramatic. Part of me thought maybe she would see other kids acting like normal toddlers and would mimic them. Who am I kidding, though, that was never going to happen. So, she is “that” child. Now what? This is definitely not a blog post of the surefire way to get your child to behave in any situation (if that’s even possible, have you met toddlers?). The only thing I have successfully raised into adulthood is a chinchilla, so I have no freakin’ idea what I’m doing. All I can do is try. After many long zone-out sessions of brainstorming what to do about this situation I have a plan. Maybe I will update this blog with a glowing success post. Maybe I will update with a post about how it totally blew up in my face. It’s fun, right? What fun would parenting be if there were fool-proof instructions.

  1. Acknowledge that my child is indeed “that” child – I’ve done this. This is extremely important to me. Even before this situation arose I vowed to never be one of those parents who said “oh, my child would NEVER do that”. Why? Because she might! She just might do something mean or horrible in her future. I hope with all my heart that she doesn’t, I hope that I can teach her to be a good person, but that’s all I can do is try and hope. Refusing to acknowledge that your child is the problem child in a situation does not help at all and frankly everyone else hates it. They all saw your kid act that way, they know your child is “that” child, so denying it changes nothing and it also denies your child the chance to learn. Denying it also doesn’t make other parents judge you less (they actually judge you more, surprise!). Other moms can be brutal. Trust me, I know I’m being judged while my toddler is yelling over the teacher or poking other students (seriously, child?). Please don’t let fear of being judged prevent you from accepting and tackling the situation.
  2. Remember that she’s two – Toddlers are toddlers. Most of them don’t have the ability or the desire to participate in 45 minutes of any kind of class with a perfect attitude and undivided attention. Focus on the actual problem, which in my case is respect for the teacher and her peers. Expecting perfection from children never works out well, in my humble opinion.
  3. Use positive words – This is something that is very tricky to get the hang of, especially if you were not raised this way as my husband and I were not. It is very easy to say things like “you behaved horribly!” or “you are being so disrespectful”. While these things are totally true and I sure as hell am thinking them in my head, I have to try to change my approach because those phrases don’t help. I am in no way qualified to tell you why they don’t help, but in my experience all they do is make my daughter upset for a minute and give her no other options for her actions.  Instead of negative phrases I am going to try to give her positive options to choose from. Things like “in class I would like you to keep your hands to yourself.” or “in class please have a quiet voice”. I know I will have to repeat these phrases six million times, but I feel that she will respond better to options than to disappointment.
  4.  Remember that she’s her own person – It is so easy as parents to compare our children to every other child. We all do it. If you think you don’t do it, I don’t believe you. It’s easy and common to have fleeting thoughts about how nice it would be if your child sat still like that girl, or if your child was quiet sometimes like that boy. There is nothing wrong with these thoughts, they in no way mean you love your child any less. They mean you are a normal parent who struggles with your child’s personality sometimes, whatever that personality may be. However, it’s important to be realistic. If your child doesn’t talk much they probably aren’t going to become a social butterfly no matter what you tell them. My child is loud and hyperactive. I can’t change that. I have to solve the problem while keeping her personality in mind.
  5. Be patient – This is going to be a long road, especially with my child. I don’t know the reason my child acts out in dance. There are a million reasons why any child might misbehave in any situation. It could take ages to figure it out. But I will stick with it. It’ll probably include tears (mine), drinks, and lots of whining to my husband, but dang it I can do this. I hope.
  6. My Child is Amazing – No matter what, your child is amazing. There are always underlying issues that have nothing to do with your child. He or she is still the bomb and will continue to be even as you both journey through this scary world of social activities and expectations.

Here’s to all the parents who have “that” child. Stock up on wine or coffee or your drink of choice. You are awesome. Your child is awesome. We can do it.

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