Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, has a busy year ahead of her.
In her latest blog, Röhm admits that she’s having difficulty dealing with daughter Easton August‘s “terrible threes” — and that her fiancé Ron Anthony is a better disciplinarian.
Please share your best tips and tricks for dealing with tough toddlers in the comments!
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
Or pull your hair out.
Or simply curl into the fetal position.
But what’s a mom to do with the “terrible threes” that are full of more testing than your senior year in high school? What are we to do ladies? How do we make this time work for all involved and not feel terrible in the process?
I’m trying hard to deal with this phase but it’s about to turn our summer into the most frustrating one yet. I’m looking for the humor in all of this and thinking that laughing it off could work — but it ain’t so funny to be challenged by a smarty pants who now can run fast, talk back and pack a punch with little open-palmed smacks of defiance.
Okay, I’ll admit it — it sucks having to discipline these little munchkins. I’m sure you will agree. But I know some of us are better at it than others. There are many of you out there who find it easy. And for those of you like Easton’s dad Ron, who excel at being the disciplinarian, I say “bravo” even though I secretly am envious and slightly confused by your power of persuasion. It’s definitely added its share of conflict between us as we differ in our methods of parenting our wild thing.
I’ll say it here though: Ron is a lot more effective than I am. I don’t really want to admit it to him but I’ll tell you, PEOPLE.com readers. He’s tougher and gets a better result. I attribute it to his deep and masculine voice, but I’m sure it has much more to do with consistency.
Let’s face it: Girls just want to have fun. At least I do, and that promotes a lack of conviction when the naughty behavior surfaces. I am guilty of not enjoying conflict or feeling comfortable drawing boundaries or saying “No” and meaning it. “NO IFS, ANDS or BUTS” is not a sentiment I’m used to enforcing. I’m what you’d fondly call a people pleaser. I like to have a good time. Those are my excuses for indulging and ignoring some outbursts along the way.
On top of that, Easton is so darn cute and sweet most of the time that it’s just challenging to look at her and be cross. But I’ll be honest and say that Easton’s behavior deserves, needs and is crying out for some firm parenting.
It’s funny: my mom was very loving, a bit loosy-goosey and not at all tough with me — and I remember craving that from her. Life is cyclical, isn’t it? So I’m on alert that I have to make some changes to match these new “terrible threes” that are, how should I put it, a tad frustrating (I’ll now put the emphasis on wanting to pull my hair out).
As my mother always said to me, “You are my greatest teacher, Lis.” I can say that I now know what she meant by saying that. Easton has also been my greatest teacher. Dare I say that she’s even making me a better person through these hideous tantrums, shenanigans, acting up, theatrical crying sessions (look no tears, Ma!) and her tendency towards hitting when she doesn’t get her way.
Just in her defense, I’ll add that her highs are equal in loveliness to the stress of her outbursts. And so I thank you, Easton, for pushing me past my comfort zone and making me tougher, better and stronger than I’m used to being. Cause girl, you need a little discipline these days!
As an example of this new chapter in her girl-drama, I came home from work the other day just dying to be with her and take her to the park. I got to the apartment and she was happy, I was happy — we were all happy and ready to go.
“Yay,” she said to the idea of going to the park. So I said, “Let’s get your shorts on, yay!” “No,” she cries and runs away. I’m like, Huh? “C’mon Easton, Mommy and Daddy can’t take you to the park unless you put on your clothes,” I say sweetly. “No, I don’t want to!” she replies.
Ron and I are looking at each other quizzically like, “What is wrong with this little girl?” “But honey, if you don’t get dressed we are not going to go at all,” I say.
At this point Easton is still running away from us. And we are thinking, “WTF?!” She wants to go to the park, right? She wants to play, right? Why won’t she get dressed? Why won’t she listen and make this easy? It’s illogical to us.
“Okay, no park,” I say firmly, being the new me. Of course, I say that and the desired result comes. She runs to me. “I want to go to the park,” she says now with a hint of begging, pleading, whining … drama! “I know honey, so put your clothes on and let’s go have a good time,” we say.
Utter silliness, which continues as we then try to put her in the stroller because the park is far, we are in N.Y.C., it’s 4 p.m. and we want to get there quickly so as to have extra playtime. You get the picture.
So another fit happens. She’s crying, pulling away and resisting the stroller altogether. Ron and I just look at each other and in one second we turn the whole bus around and say, “No park. We’ve told you that if you do not listen or hit anyone or throw a fit that we will go home.”
So we picked her up and took her back upstairs for a timeout, which was so not fun for any of us. I got no satisfaction out of correcting her and we all just felt bad, not to mention an hour was ruined. And this is happening often enough that it’s worth a good ole’ discussion. Seriously moms, I need you!
Who is this 3 year old that’s smart, sassy, way too independent and testing us beyond my wildest expectations? I was so not anticipating a summer of discipline, timeouts, tears and remorse and many hours spent making it perfectly clear that we the parents are in charge and that it’s with her best interest in mind?
Okay, I get that spinach isn’t her favorite food (although we are making big food progress) but please hold my hand, listen to me, don’t run in the street, don’t hit, don’t whine, use your words, be nice, respectful and loving. Is that too much to ask?
So, I’m having to learn to be firm. Although I don’t enjoy it, I am getting better at it, which is good for her and oddly good for me. I’m learning that no means no and that no is powerful. No is not mean, it’s loving. Boundaries are loving. And helping a little person have some discipline and willpower is a gift, not a punishment.
Whew! Tough love as they say. Or maybe it’s just that love is tough. Either way, this month has been full of family drama.
Let’s talk tactics, PEOPLE.com readers. I’d love to hear about your methods for dealing with your sweet and defiant little darlings! Let’s make this week’s blog a manual for all parents in need to use and turn to so that no means NO … not maybe. Can’t wait to hear from you ladies.
– Elisabeth Röhm