A post about discipline (part 2)

Its a good thing I split this up into two posts because once I got going this ended up being very long.

Earlier today, though, I wrote that I blame myself when I discipline Zeke because I know it could have been avoided had I set him up better to succeed. Josh finds fault with that statement and to a point he is right. I'll agree that I do tend, as a person, to blame myself for just about everything. And it's important to remember that you cant control your child's behavior. They are not always going to behave, and in fact misbehavior and dealing with the consequences are an important part of development.

Its also bee pointed out to me by a few readers that discipline and punishment are two different things, though I was using them interchangeably. Point well taken.

Here are the tips I was speaking of, however, on setting your kids up to have good behavior. I suppose you can consider them a form of discipline themselves.

I know I harp on this an awful lot but keep in mind your child's rhythm when you plan your day. Is he always cranky in the late afternoon? Then maybe go grocery shopping in the morning when he is more likely to behave. Is your child going to get hungry or tired while you are out? None of us are our best when our blood sugar is low or we are exhausted, don't let it happen! Working around a child's schedule isn't always fun or easy but it WILL make your day a whole lot easier.

Don't underestimate the powers of a well-packed bag, either. Bring that emergency snack. Or that emergency change of clothes if your child might get wet at the park and then cranky at all the errands he has to run in damp clothing afterward. Bring quiet activities for them to do if you want them to be quiet in a waiting room.

If you think your child isn't going to be able to share that certain favorite toy, then put it away before friends come over. If its going to take a half hour to get ready to go, then reserve a half hour. If there is a gorgeous vase at your mom's house that you just know your baby wont be able to resist then ask if it can be moved higher while you are there. If there is going to be a lot of walking, bring a stroller. So soo many situations can be avoided by proper planning.

Make sure your expectations are appropriate for the child's maturity level. Most two year olds are not going to be able to sit quietly in church, no matter how many quiet activities you bring, so don't expect them to. Put them in the nursery or put up with a small amount of babbling. They aren't going to resist that vase of grandmas. They aren't going to be able to remember from one day to the next not to jump off the coffee table. They aren't going to be able to hold your hand and walk with you all over the mall. Their little arms get numb after all!

That doesn't mean you cant be teaching all of those things. Of course you don't just LET them jump off the coffee table! You should be teaching your child correct behavior after all, its your job. You just have to be prepared to remind them over and over again, and you might have to accept that many lessons are best avoided for now and taught later when they are ready for them.

The 4 toddler lifesavers: Redirection, distraction, substitution, and childproofing. Ain't nothing wrong with them! We don't childproof much around here. I don't own anything that I'd cry to have broken, don't keep toxic products outside the basement, and don't mind (usually) my Tupperware spread all over the house. You might, though, so I include it. And redirection, distraction, and substitution? Don't know how I would get along without them! Josh call is bribery but I just consider it positive thinking!!

Redirection/Substitution: It is just so much easier to say "no, you cant do/have that" when you can follow it right up with "but you can do/have this". If your child is getting into breakable or dangerous kitchen-ware, provide a drawer that they CAN get into. If ripping up books, give them a newspaper to rip.

You will probably have to get up, physically move the child away from the “bad” activity, and physically introduce the “good” activity. Successful parenting can rarely be done from a couch cushion, unfortunately.

Distraction: Anything from plain old, “look at this over here!” to the practice of couching bad news with good as in, “We have to clean up, then its time for nap!” (if you child is like mine and loves napping, of course) or “We have to leave the park now, but you have a snack in the car!”

Its all about consistency. If the rule is no jumping off the coffee table, then the rule always has to be no jumping off the coffee table. And if you say you are going to leave McDonalds if they push their brother one more time, you are unfortunately going to have to leave McDonalds when they do it.

Children are busy learning about the world and they need boundaries that they can trust to be the same, everyday, every time. And they also need to be able to trust your word. So be careful to not make rules or punishments that you aren't willing to enforce.

The easiest way to teach a behavior? Do it yourself. If you start cleaning up toys a child can hardly help but join along. If you take your shoes off and put them carefully by the front door, you will soon find your toddler doing the same. If you want your child to use gentler words, watch the way that you are speaking, they picked it up somewhere after all!

While none of us have the patience to make everything into a game, it can be a lifesaver when you DO have the patience. I read the blog of one mom, for example, that has a song for every transition. She has a breakfast time song and a clean-up song, a put your shoes on song, and a bed time song. Her kids love it, and I'm sure mine would too if I could only get over the fact that I am not, nor do I want to be, Mary Poppins.

But when walking that last tired bit to the car and I cant pick Zeke up sometimes we take giant steps and then hopping bunny steps and then tiny teeny steps. When picking up all those legos we are racing to see who can pick up the most or throwing them in the bucket from across the room.

I am regularly finding amazing and breath-of-fresh-air parenting advice on TheParentingPassageway.com. I highly recommend this website. She has a wonderful Gently Discipline Tab at the top of her main page, and a great series on what to expect at each age that you can search for. Id also love your thoughts on this post, do you have tricks up your parenting sleeve as well?


Rachel said...

Toddlers learn about their world by performing experiments to learn about things like the laws of physics, psychological response, and boundaries. Just like a little scientist, they perform these experiments again and again to see if and when results change.

This means you are going to have to tell your toddler the same thing over and over. This means your toddler may ask one question and you say no, and then they will ask you nearly the same question again and again. Of course, the answer is always no, but they just wanted to make sure if x2 and x3 were going to get the same response as x1. And, not only that, they have to see if the answer is still the same tomorrow too.

Toddlers are also learning about new psychological concepts, like that there is a difference between "mine" and "not mine," as well as the fact that they have the ability to refuse (of course, this does not always mean their "no" will be heeded, but it is more about the fact that they CAN say no than that they expect you to listen to it).

Learning about childhood development is definitely a huge thing with parenting. If you learn why so many "annoying toddler behaviors" are more like experiments helping the child to learn concepts you take for granted, it not only helps you plan, it also helps give you understanding and patience.

Our children are rarely trying to manipulate us. On the contrary, they usually want to please! But, often we adults just interpret their little experiments as trying to be manipulative, and rather than just reminding our child where the boundaries are and that the results will always be consistent, we become offended or annoyed and begin to fight with them (which of course wreaks havoc with their also-developing emotions).

Rachel said...

A supplement, not a critique of course. :-D

By the way, congrats to Josh!

coco-ono said...

Really good points Rachel. Especially the bit about the fact that toddlers are not manipulating you. I've heard people say children as young as a few week are being manipulative when they cry "just for attention". They are just being little scientists like you said, crying to see if you will always respond.

Melissa aka Equidae said...

i completely agree with you and yes sometimes its difficult to say no over and over but i concurr unless done no lesson is learnt apart that parents succumb!

Melissa aka Equidae said...

oh and thanks for the website mentioned its good to know of new places where i can get more tips

Elise @A Path Made Straight said...

You are a brilliant and blessed mama. That's all I have to say.

Oh, and Josh is brilliant and blessed, too. Thanks for sharing. :)