Hello, I am new to these forums, and found them because I am searching for a place to troubleshoot positive discipline situations. Background info: My oldest is 2.5 and I have a 4 month old. I have recently read Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, which has introduced me to positive discipline. I am at my rope's end here.
Before reading the book, my husband and I had been doing, what we thought, was the right thing with our toddler who is extremely strong willed. Discipline included taking things away (i.e. if you don't let me wash you then I will not read books to you tonight before bed) and time outs. I have stopped all of that and have been trying out the things outlined in the book. However, several times today I ran into situations where I didn't see a clear way to use positive discipline. One was when I was putting her down for nap. She was squirming and fighting me putting her diaper on, and was screaming/squealing. Her 4 month old sister was asleep in the next room. I calmly asked her to stop screaming, explained that she was going to wake up her sister. She didn't care. What should I have done in this situation? What "natural consequence" could there have been here? I ended up taking away her videos for a week (the first time I have enforced a consequence that wasn't natural since reading the book 2 weeks ago) and that is the only reason she stopped screaming. Then tonight it was the same thing, I was trying to put little sister down to bed and she wouldn't let me (climbed on the bed, talked, wouldn't be quiet). I took everything away; books, dancing (we dance to two songs before bed), library time for the week. She didn't care. So taking away things doesn't work either.
I guess I am asking for constructive criticism here. I know she is having a very hard time adjusting to new sister. Typically at other times I could stop and talk to her about her feelings, but I couldn't without the baby waking up. I just so confused and exhausted. Every single thing is a battle with her all day long. :(
She's still really little. I don't know the book you are referencing, but I don't think that your small child has the capacity to make choices about things that aren't happening in the moment. Yes, they are smart at that age. They still don't get delayed gratification.
So with the diaper thing, it would be: "do you want to help me pick it out/put in on, or shall I do it for you?" And then just do it, if they waffle and drag things out. No child will relate baths to a later book time, so just don't go there.
I get the baby thing, dear God we all wish they stay asleep! And the toddlers get that. Toddlers are pretty good at reading body language (a bit like dogs) and yet are not capable of self-control in all aspects.
The good thing is that most of the time, babies can sleep through getting another kid to bed. And if they don't--and wake up, that's an actual natural consequence to throwing a fit. Not "you'll wake you're sister up"...and then it never happens, but "sorry honey you yelled and woke the baby, guess this will have to wait".
At that age, the only thing I would take away would be things they could ruin or hurt themselves with. With little kids, my rule is to be gentle and have habits (which are maybe "rules" like bath times, diaper changes, teeth brushing, etc) that are just givens. And have the attitude that this is not something we fight about..it just happens. They will figure it out
I am not a fan of threats and punishments, and I agree with Sarafi that your dd is too young to really understand them. Your best bet at this (and any!) age is to be consistent, set age-appropriate expectations, be consistent, use positive statements instead of negative, and be consistent.
Examples of positive statements instead of negative: "Sit on the chair" instead of "Don't climb on the chair"; "Pet the dog gently" instead of "don't pull the dog's tail". Even when toddlers understand the word "Don't", they are much, much better at following positive commands than negative. Tell a kid "Don't jump on the bed", and what they hear is "... jump on the bed". Tell a kid "Feet on the floor!", and she has an alternative behavior. This will work with your little one too - "Clap your hands!" is more effective than "Don't touch!". It takes some getting used to, but once you learn to use Do statements instead of Don't statements, I think you'll find your OD (and soon your LO) responding the way you want.
Remember that "discipline" means "to teach". Our goal is to help our children learn, and develop appropriate behavior. A lot of things that might seem like defiance or "bad" behavior are actually a child's way of learning about the world. When a baby drops stuff off the high chair (3 dozen times), they are learning about gravity. When a toddler splashes water all over during a bath, she is learning about the properties of water, and how her body can affect her surroundings. She is also developing fine motor control (picking crumbs out of the carpet), and gross motor strength (jumping off the couch). While a lot of toddler behavior would be inappropriate for an adult - or even a 10-year-old - it might be perfectly normal and appropriate for a toddler.
Lots of people talk about "the Terrible Twos", but I didn't look at it that way. I saw 2 as "The Age of Frustration", especially since my twins weren't very verbal at that age. They want to do everything they see us do, but they don't have the fine motor control or gross motor strength to do them. They have a LOT to say, but we can't always understand them. I was a lot more patient with my kids when I realized how much frustration they dealt with every day.
Sarafi also mentioned impulse control. Toddlers don't have it. They want things to happen NOW! And they don't get the concept of time, so to tell them "We can do that in 10 minutes" means nothing.
I'm proud of you, OP, for looking for more positive ways to raise your daughter. A relationship with your child that is based on respect and trust will last a lifetime.
If the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.
I would make a consequence more immediate and much shorter. No videos for a week is a very long time (and kind of a punishment for you given the necessity of taking a shower occasionally, no?).
For screaming, that's using an outside voice. Can you take her outside for a minute or two just to focus her attention on the difference between inside/outside voices? We had a few fun restaurant trips where I had to take DS outside about 6 times before he figured out you can't scream in a restaurant.
Playful Parenting is a good book that might help you with a few more ideas.
Hi! I teach Positive Discipline workshops for parents. One tool that might have helped is to validate your child's feelings. I found that often, my kids simply wanted to feel understood.
So the easy formula for validating feelings is, "You feel ______ about ______." Example: You're sad about having to take a nap right now." Another way to word this one would be, "You're sad that it's time for a nap and you wish you could play longer." Of course I'm not sure what your child was upset about. I'm just giving an example offering one possibility.
The curriculum I teach is called Positive Discipline and classes I teach have lots of relationship building ideas and focus on teaching children social & emotional skills so they can gain self-discipline (as opposed to threats and such which rely on "other" discipline.)
One idea is to get a set of Positive Discipline Tool Cards. If you have a smart phone, you can get the tool card app for $3.99. There are lots of great tools there.
You've had some really great advice here already but lending my 2 cents because I SO know what you are talking about! You are where I was almost a year ago... new baby in the house with a 2.5 yr old and going crazy! That was the stage where I too started looking for better ways to deal and found Dr. Laura Markham's articles (book wasn't out yet, love that too!).
As was mentioned above, I really tried to dial up the playfulness so at bedtime I would start getting her upstairs with an exaggerated "Ok! Now we are going to tippy-toe and whisper our way to your room so we don't wake baby!" and we repeated "tippy toe and whisper!" in a hushed voice and walked on our toes up the stairs. I would whisper to her the whole time we got ready for bed too so she just knew that was the appropriate volume level for that time of day.
I know how you are feeling at that moment - you will do almost anything to shush her ASAP since having the baby wake up feels like going backwards in the bedtime process. I finally resolved that I was going to instead focus on the playful constructive ways of getting her to bed and just being ok if the baby woke up... because it was the panicked rush to 'shut her up NOW' that would derail me into knee-jerk punishments again. The baby almost never woke up either! And if he did, that was the consequence to her... I had to leave her faster in order to get him back to bed.
Thoughts on bed time... you mentioned dancing to two songs before bed? Is she getting too riled up and energetic when what you really need is her to wind down? I finally had to eliminate all music and tv 2 hours before bed to get her where I needed her to be energy wise. Just a thought!
The playfulness has also helped us get through other difficult times with her - specifically getting ready to leave the house for the day. We 'race' Daddy to see who can get ready faster and we end up running around her room and acting silly as I pop her into her clothes and race to put her hair in piggy tails.
I found at 2.5 yrs, there was lots of frustration still as she wasn't seeing the cause and effect clearly yet... but if you start now, it is amazing how quickly they start to put it together! And the above suggestion of re-iterating her feelings was quite effective for us in stopping the tantrum in its tracks... "You are feeling sad because you want to have more cookies, is that right?" and she would stop crying and nod yes so I would respond further with "I understand, those cookies are delicious! We can have another one for dessert after supper tonight!" There's something to look forward to then, it isn't "NO COOKIES!" which is what I would have said before... lol
Good luck! Rooting for you!
Oh - on the nap time thing specifically... that is definitely the trickiest time of all. Still is. I ended up using the baby's nap time as her only time to have the iPad or TV since that was the ONLY thing that would keep her still and quiet long enough to put the baby down. I know some people don't want ANY tv at all for their young ones but I figured in this instance, the 20-40 mins a day was worth it to me in order to keep us all sane and happy. I would set a timer before giving it to her and when the timer goes off, the ipad/tv goes away, no exceptions. Then it is the timer that is dictating the removal of the iPad, not mom. ;)
Just wanted to add, as far as the consequence thing - my DD responded well at that age to VERY immediate natural consequences, such as: If you don't let me put your shirt on you, you will not have a shirt. I know how stupid that sounds, but it was just...where she was at in terms of cause and effect. My DD at that age was also very concerned about things being done the "regular" way, so the idea of not having a shirt on when she SHOULD have a shirt on was, like, total disaster for her. I'm not sure if that's how most kids would react. I guess the larger message, then, is that if you work at it and experiment, you will find the thing that works for your child, be it playfulness, logic, routine, putting everything to music (another one that works well for us!). Try to focus on what's really important to her, and what she really understands, and hopefully something will click. And if it doesn't - there's a fair chance she'll just snap into a more compliant phase in a few months anyway. Good luck!
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