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Home Office & Your 2 Year Old

 
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PostPosted: Dec Sun 17, 2006 2:11 pm    Post subject: Home Office & Your 2 Year Old Reply with quote

Home Office & Your 2 Year Old

Help! My Two-year-old Is Destroying My Home Office
By Azriela Jaffe

Oh boy, could I relate to a woman who asks for help about a common work-at-home quandary - how to protect your office from the destructive curiosity of a toddler. With three toddlers at the moment, I can't even begin to tell you how many books have been whisked off my office bookshelves in under a minute, water spills that have turned my neat piles of paperwork on my office floor into a sopping mess, and then of course, the crayon scribbles all over the letter about to go out the door to a client.

Ah, you say, why don't you just make your office off-limits to a rambunctious toddler? Mine is. . . mostly. It's not a place for the kids to play regularly, and certainly, they are not allowed to enter unsupervised. But here's a familiar scene: I'm at my computer working while Daddy is watching the kids downstairs. A little one decides that she absolutely must see Mommy this moment, and comes bouncing up the stairs, barging into my office just to say, "Hi!," or, "Can I have a snack?" or, "Mommy, when are you going to be done? We're bored."

I don't want to be too rejecting, or be the kind of mother who shoves her kids aside for her work, so I pick up the baby on my lap, thinking that I'll try to work for a few moments with her in my office. Yeah right, that works for about a minute, until she delights in hitting my computer keyboard and making my file go away, or scrambles off my lap to go "exploring" in my office. Then, I try to watch her out of the corner of my eye while I'm writing, and it's often too late. In less than two minutes, a toddler's creative urges have wrecked havoc.

To my toddlers, my office is just another playroom. I can close the door behind me when I leave, but if they enter the office while I'm working, controlling their exploration isn't so simple. I am learning that when a toddler needs or wants attention, it's usually wise to leave my work for a few moments to give them what they need or to return them to their babysitter, rather than deluding myself into thinking that I can focus on my work with a tornado in my office.

The following request for help is from a mother who shares my dilemma: "I have had two very easy-going children who are now 12 and 8 years. old. Now I have this large, active two-year-old boy who doesn't seem to fit any of my previous experiences with children. He is loud, funny, doesn't listen or respond to any discipline, has a mind of his own, and he's hard to deal with! He won't take a nap, likes to mess up the entire house, laughs when we get mad at him, and he makes us laugh when we are trying to discipline (and we are fairly big disciplinarians)! "I'm particularly having a hard time working or keeping the house clean when he is around. He has found a way to get from his playroom over a fence I have put between the playroom into my computer/sewing room. Not only does he disturb my working, but I am concerned that when I am not in the room, he might hurt himself with scissors, sewing needles, etc. Do you have any advice?"

I do have some advice, but realize that no matter what you try, you aren't going to entirely eliminate this problem until your "wild boy" grows up and becomes old enough to reason with, or you relocate your business outside of the office. Don't get suckered into thinking that if you just find the one perfect thing to say or do, you'll magically be able to make this problem go away. Here are some ideas to consider:

1) The "fence" you have erected to corral your son isn't working, so stop relying on it as if it should. You need to find a more child-proof means to separate the playroom from your work area.

2) Look at your son's patterns - is he more destructive and "curious" at certain times of the day? Try to schedule your work around his emotional and physical cycles, rather than around your own, until he becomes easier to manage.

3) It sounds like you need some in-home babysitting for this child if you want to work uninterrupted for awhile - especially if he doesn't nap. It would be good for him too, as he appears to be the kind of child who will thrive with individualized, focused attention, something you can't always give him if you have an at-home business.

4) If you don't have a door on this work-area, you might need to get one, or switch your office with another room in the house with a door. Then, put a lock on your office door and make the office off-limits to your toddler when you aren't in it. At least lock up the dangerous tools. You need to keep your son safe from your office.

You have been setting up your home-office as it worked for your other children, and this child is catching you by surprise because the systems that worked before don't work now. Start from scratch and design a system that will work for your son.

And lastly, don't lose your sense of humor and your gratitude for this wild, impossible boy who will likely give you the biggest challenges, and also, the greatest joys of your life. God willing, he will grow up to be a brash, wealthy entrepreneur, and he'll take care of you in your old age when your fingers aren't nimble enough to work that sewing machine anymore!

About The Author . . . Azriela Jaffe is a syndicated columnist and author of the New book "Starting from No: Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business" and several other self-help books. She welcomes reader response and questions to PO Box 209, Bausman, PA 17504 or az@azriela.com.
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