I'm hoping some of you can suggest some books or something for gentle discipline of my 2 year old. He is extremely spirited, and always has been. Lately I feel like my version of discipline is backfiring. He constantly says "No" or "I don't want to do X" when I try to get him to do something. I'm not exaggerating when I say constantly, either. He is extremely verbal and definitely has the words to explain when he is upset, tired, hungry, etc., which he does inconsistently. While those things are a trigger some of the time, he's obviously going through a stage where he wants to do everything himself. He has had a tantrum over someone else closing a door, drawer, moving a pillow, putting a blanket on him, changing his diaper, etc., because he wanted to do it himself. So I get that this is a stage. It doesn't really help me get through the hour that it sometimes takes to get him to agree to having his diaper changed or put his shoes on or whatever. Everything I have tried works maybe once or twice but then he just erupts into a chorus of NO!!!! and I end up giving myself a time out just to breathe.
So far, I have tried the following:
-Giving him a choice (Do you want to wear the red shirt or green shirt)
-Trying to give him the language to express his feelings (You're crying because you wanted to keep playing with that toy)
-Explaining why we can/can't do something
-Giving him first/then (First we put on your shoes, then we can go for a walk)
-Time outs in his room where I remain in his sight
-Allowing him to decide to do something (I'm going to wait over here until you're ready to change your diaper. You let me know.)
I am out of ideas. I also feel like I don't have a strategy other than to try all/any/a combination of the above. This isn't working for me, because I feel like I never know which trick to pull out of my hat. I feel like I need to be more consistent but I need a set way to respond for my own sanity. I also become very uncertain and insecure when he escalates his crying because then we are both upset over something like brushing his teeth.
So is there any kind of technique that is still gentle but less abstract? I guess I'm looking for something that gives examples of what to do when your child responds in different ways, sort of like a flow chart of discipline (just kidding, but I hope you get what I mean).
I am sure you will get lots of ideas here! First of all. NORMAL. Especially for a spirited 2 year old. Just breathe, for about 3 more years, and then, poof, your life will be easier!! ;) OK, I'm only kidding a little bit. It's easy to look back and see it as a phase, and I know you KNOW it's a phase, but it's very hard to live with minute to minute. My biggest advice is to try to do one big internal mental shift, to not take it personally, expect the "no"s as par for the course (yup, he's right on time, a healthy spirited kid!) and try not to get into a power struggle. If I had to boil down all the good things you are already doing into one "technique", it would be to let him know you hear him, and also to let go quicker of the struggle. Make your decision on your response to his "no" - maybe giving the choice of blue or red cup, or but then disengage and cheerily go about your business until he decides or until you need to repeat the choice or whatever.
Are there any things that he's saying "no" to that you can bend on, and actually say to him "No? Wow, you REALLY don't want to put on these shoes!! .. OK. I guess you don't need shoes right now. I'll pack them in the bag just in case" Or whatever. Let him hear "yes" more. Maybe he'll ease off on the tantrums for the ones you need to insist on. And, for all the times you need to insist on something, like changing his diaper, for instance, I would not try to get his agreement necessarily, but you can hear him out, tell you hear him and you know he's not in the mood to do it, but then, just get it done, hold him down if necessary (gently of course) but get it over with so hopefully you can move past it sooner.
There's a video (and book I assume) called "The Happiest Toddler on the Block". In it he recommends echoing back, with empathy, the complaint that your toddler is expressing, so he really feels heard, and also to catch his attention and hopefully turn the situation around a bit. It's a little silly sounding, but sometimes really works. I know there are other books, though I can't think of any of them. Oh - one comforting series is "Your Two Year Old" (there's one for every age). It can really help to be reminded over and over how normal the new independence and "no"s are. Ah, I thought of another book - "Playful Parenting".
I would recommend the book Positive Discipline for Preschoolers. Even though he's only two, some of the ideas in the book should be helpful.
I have to agree with the PP, I do the first few things you list: give choices, explain why/why not, make a first/then statement.... I might add a final choice, like "I know you want to stay outside, but we are going in now. You can either walk by yourself, or I can pick you up." And then we just do it. And as she cries, I empathize, or just listen to her sadness, or rub her back. When she can hear me again, I offer her a hug. And I think she knows by now that this is how things are going to happen, because she calms down pretty quickly.
My daughter is quite verbal, too, and I find it helps her if I phrase things in a specific way. Like, instead of saying "let's go in the house" I'll say "can you go put your cup down on the porch and wait for me to open then door?" When it's time to put on shoes, I'll say: "Come sit down on the ledge", and then just talk to her about something else while I put her shoes on. Totally different than if I'd said "Let's put on shoes." Diaper change: "Come lie down on your diaper" works so much better than "let's change your diaper". I'm not sure what the rule is for what language works and what doesn't, but in our house savvy phrasing is everything.
I recommend Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. Probably the most useful toddler parenting book I read (though there are many that I loved, this was the most practical).
In addition to the things you are doing, I'd suggest adding "honor the impulse" and redirect in a way that honors the impulse. (concepts from BtP)
So, something like...say he's hitting the window with a toy hammer (yes, my ds2 has done this. lol). Figure out the nearest impulse..is he wanting to bang on things? Then redirect to things he can bang on. Is he wanting to play at the window? Then give a cloth and a maybe a spray bottle to wipe the window. Is he just wanting your attention? Then something like "if you want me to play with you, then just say 'mom play with me.'" You know, that sort of thing.
My steps for ds1 when he was doing something I didn't like was basically:
-give information (you might break the window if you bang on it)
-tell him what to do/what not to do (ie: don't bang the window!) some people prefer to eliminate negatives and stick with only positive instructions. I don't mind the negatives as long as it's followed by "what to do instead."
-if it's relevant, tell him how his actions affect other people
- redirect in a way that honors the impulse.
Obviously, tied up in there are other gd tools like empathizing, active listening, cuddling, taking him away from the situation if it's just too much to handle...that sort of thing. But those were my basic steps.
For getting him to DO things...that's harder. For ds2 for some things, I just wait til he's ready. For other things, explaining and other when/then statements work. Sometimes, like when I'm trying to get him to clean up yet another food mess he's made, I tell him that either he has to clean it up, or I'm going to help him clean it up. He almost always opts to do it himself. But once or twice, I've actually picked him up and taken him with me and used his hand as a "tool" to help clean up the mess. I never did that one with ds1, ftr.
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