How many parents have found themselves in deep negotiation with their toddler over getting a diaper change, the tutu that she wants to wear for the 3rd day in a row to preschool, or the cell phone that he wants to carry face down as he crawls across the wood floors? How many parents find themselves walking with their head held low, sunglasses on, walking as fast as you can out of the grocery store after your kid just threw a temper tantrum over not being able to pull every candy bar off the rack of the checkout line? Well, Vanessa and I are just about there as our children officially reach the toddler phase and Lincoln and Caroline grow more and more into independent and defiant individuals. Caroline has recently learned the meaning of “no” and uses it quite often to mommy and daddy and Lincoln clearly knows what he wants and doesn’t want and makes it known to the entire neighborhood with what we have now identified as tantrums. We know we can’t ground our 18 month olds or take away their cell phones, but we also know that we have to start setting some boundaries in the discipline department. Toddlerhood is an incredibly “testing on your nerves” time for parents, because children are growing more independent and want to do things themselves, but they still have limited vocabulary to make their wants/needs known. So what does one do to discipline their child? Or do you even start disciplining at such an early age? Read Allison and Vanessa’s tactics and then read 7 efforts we found online that TOTALLY make sense when it comes to disciplining your toddler!
Lincoln is just starting to reach that age where anything and everything sets off a tantrum. You name it, taking my cell phone away from him, feeding him, taking the remotes from him, getting his hair washed, putting clothes on, taking clothes off, diaper changes, I could go on forever. For the most part, Lincoln is an easy going kiddo but he’s definitely starting to express himself with blood curdling screams when he doesn’t get his way, is frustrated, or when we take something that is off limits away from him. ECI has told me again and again to avoid the word “no”. Have you ever tried that? It’s just damn near impossible!!! I tried to say things like “that’s not for Lincoln” or “danger, Lincoln”, but occasionally the word being screamed at the top of my lungs “NO!!!!” just escapes from my mouth! I’ve tried doing the hand swatting thing and even once spanked his little diaper, but I was quickly reminded that he so doesn’t get it when he just looked up at me and smiled. I’m hoping within 3-6 months he understands more and realizes what’s off limits, but for now we are just going through that stage where we are the meanies and we can’t do much about the tantrums in the middle of the grocery store or when we are out for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. I just take it with a grain of salt and smile at all the people staring at us.
Caroline understand the word “No”. It’s cute and annoying but more annoying than cute. Mommy: Caroline, do you want to take a bath Caroline: No, no, no! Mommy: Caroline do you want to wear this amazing over the top bow and tutu outfit Caroline: No, no, no! Mommy: Caroline, do you want to eat? Caroline: No, no, no! You get the picture! She says no in threes to everything. Matt and I are working on our discipline style but it just seems like everything requires a different “grounding” method. Last week she was having a hissy fit and she started biting the couch and the carpet, so I swatted her little hand and I said “We don’t bite!” She also ate 144 crayon tips last week and after telling her no 136 times, I took the crayons away from her and prepared for the meltdown. Once the meltdown started, I put her in the “calm down corner” which is what we call time-out. Sometimes we shout “No!” We just haven’t found our style yet. We’re reading Love and Logic to see if that works for us but for now…we’re dysfunctional disciplinarians.
So after a little bit of research, here are the Secrets of Disciplining a Toddler. It was eye opening for us and hopefully in 6 months we can write about the magic it worked.
- Pick It and Stick To It: Pick a routine and stick to a routine. Schedules are one way that children feel safe and secure. Regardless of their communication level, they know that a bath follows dinner and bedtime follows a bath, etc. This also applies to discipline, pick a style and stick to it. If you’re going to be a hand-swatter, make sure you do it after every offense and not just when you’re close by. If you’re going to do time out or a calm down corner, make sure you do it every time and for the same amount of time.
- Avoid Stressful Situations: No brainer-don’t expect your child to be a peach when they’re hungry, tired or sick. If you know Little Johnny is nearing bedtime, it’s probably not the best idea to go for a family dinner. Yes, there are going to be exceptions to the rule, but don’t be surprised if your kid is a little pill.
- Put your Toddler Hat On: Children don’t understand why we do certain things, they just know that we do them. Be sure to explain while discipling. Example: A couple of days ago we were having a play date and we found Lincoln and Caroline playing a blender blade. (HOLY SH*T…I know!) We freaked out and said no and he had a tantrum but after reading this, what we should have done was calmly take it away, explain that it was dangerous and offer an alternative toy. He doesn’t know that it’s dangerous, he just thought it was a shiny toy.
- “Hey Kiddo, What’s That!”: Distract, distract, distract. This kind of goes with what we said above, if you’re going to take something away because it’s dangerous or not allowed (or just getting on your dang nerves,) be sure to offer something that will avoid a tantrum like a book or a quiet toy.
- The Calm Down Corner: If the time comes to take your kid to the calm down corner, keep a couple of things in mind. First, don’t make it a place that has another purpose (ex: crib, play room corner, etc.) because that is confusing for children. Make it a corner! Second, assign “time out time” based on their age–2 years-2 minutes. Third, explain why they are in the corner because 95% of the time they will be crying. Ex: Caroline, you need to calm down. We do not throw our food. Next time you throw your food we’re going to come right back here. You need to stay here for two minutes.
- Stay Calm: We know, easier said than done especially when your kid just dropped a jar of spaghetti sauce in the middle of HEB or when she’s having a fit because she saw an Elmo doll while mall-strolling but you know how happy people are infectious? So are annoyed people and if you’re angry because your kid is angry it’s just a vicious cycle. Do your best to be Pollyanna (as Allison would say!) and grin and bear it.
- Pick your battles: Sometimes a toddler is going to be a toddler and there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t get upset at your kid for going through the drawers that you’ve asked your husband to babyproof 187 times…that’s your husband’s fault not the kid’s. Some things aren’t worth getting worked up about and that’s part of growing and learning as a parent.
At the end of the day, nowhere in here does it mention spanking/hand patting your kiddo although we believe that is personal preference. Do what your child responds to. What works for you since we’re clearly green on the subject?