The best-laid schemes o' mice an men

Easy step by step guide to disciplining your toddler

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I bet that heading got your attention, if only there were such a thing. Maybe I haven’t watched enough super nanny. Not being a parent makes parenting look so easy, now that I have a little 18 month old I’ve discovered that awkward between stage where she can’t talk yet but mostly understands my instructions, and yet her impulsive nature often wins over listening to mummy. I have discovered the importance of a plan, so that come the tears, tantrums and frustration (that’s just mum) there is a rational non-emotion fuelled way of responding to the tiny human who just left deep claw marks all over your neck.

We often expect, or want instant results when we test out a new approach with our children. When Curly was a baby I had to learn the art of patience and trust. When we were getting rid of her dummy, and teaching her that night time was sleep time it didn’t happen after one attempt, or one day. It took at least a week, and then a consistent routine after that. Looking back now I can see the amazing benefit and results, but there were times when I questioned everything I was doing. I now need to use those lessons with toddler training.

I don’t have a very clear approach yet, sometimes I find myself asking “what psychology do I use in this situation!?” But there’s a couple of tactics I think have been important.

  • “No” must mean something.
    A google search of saying ‘no’ to a toddler gives the following results, “10 ways to say ‘no’ without saying No”, “18 ways to say No positively”, “How to say no (without saying no)”. Clearly people take issue with this two letter word. I love how Dr Michael Carr-Gregg puts it, “The problem is a vitamin ‘N’ deficiency in Australian parenting…Learn to say no.” This in a chapter titled ‘The unfortunate Rise of Crap Parenting’, someone telling it like it really is.

    I have no problem telling my toddler, ‘No, that is mum’s phone you may not play with it’ but if the ensuing tears and tantrum (especially in a public place) cause me to say ‘well okay, just this once to keep you quiet’… Curly will fast learn that ‘No’ is an irrelevant word, it has no special meaning. So in our house, ‘No’ means something…it means No, regardless of how loud you can cry. Sometimes she doesn’t listen and will go back to stick her hands in the dirty bin, and so I pick her up and move her elsewhere until she gets the point. And I can honestly say for the large part…Curly will listen to a ‘no’ now and change what she’s doing.

  • Model the behaviour your want
    This motto applies to so many things when raising children, how you want them to eat, their attitude to exercise or getting outdoors, especially fundamental values and beliefs. We apply this theory to her behaviour too, when Curly grabs at me in frustration because I’ve stopped her mid-fun we show her how to use ‘gentle hands’. I’ll admit, this has only worked in part, if she’s in a good mood and practicing her pinching I can quickly turn it around to an open hand pat. But when I take control of a situation (like picking her up when she really wants to play with something) she will still lash out at me with teeth or hands. I don’t take this personally, toddlers have very little control over their world and not being able to voice this frustration yet means hands and teeth are sometimes the only communication they have left to vent their anger. I might grab her hands and hold her close saying “don’t hit mummy”, but I’m still not sure if there is a hard and fast rule here…wait till they can talk and hope it goes away?

Discipline or toddler training is not a clinical practice. It requires empathy and love at every stage, it’s a human to human interaction whereby you have to live by the standards you set and recognise your own role in your toddler’s behaviour. If Curly is having a particularly emotional day, I have to question if I’ve shown her enough attention and love, or given her opportunity to let some energy out. Most importantly, H. and I talk these things out so we’re both on the same page, a united and consistent front.

Not an easy step by step guide, but that’s our plan so far…and I’m sure as her second birthday comes around there’ll be a whole lot more to learn!

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One thought on “Easy step by step guide to disciplining your toddler

  1. Pingback: The best-laid schemes o' mice an men

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