Thursday, October 11, 2012

Discipline with a Toddler

Well..... the time has come... Discipline time. (train of thought...I wonder if all of my posts will start with these short little phrases, because they have been lately, no? I think I should change my blog title to..."Momma's Train of Thought)

No means No.

Let me back track a bit by saying that I introduced "no" to G at around 6-7 months. My mother warned me not to make it a popular word, or she would learn to say it back. So I typically resorted to shaking my head when things were a no-no, but not a "NO." My Parents as Teachers parent educator explained that to make NO mean something, I had to physically remove G from whatever she was doing. Then she would learn to equate hearing NO with "stop doing that right now." I have to say, it worked wonderfully. I think because I was very consistent--and encouraged my husband to be so too--and because we started it so "young;" G fully understood NO to mean... I better stop this right away because mom says so.
The first time I used NO with G was when we lived at our old apartment and had carpet. There were seams in the carpet that she would army crawl over to, and start to pick at. Some pieces would find their way into her mouth. I began to say NO, pick her up, and move her to a different location. Several days of doing this, and she understood...if mom says no, I'm going to get removed from my preferred location, so I should stop what I'm doing if I want to stay here. Worked like a charm. She would approach the carpet, look at it, but not mess with it.
When we moved to our new house, we never had to worry about the fireplace hearth, because we said NO once when she tried to climb on it...and it was a non-issue after that.

I know some kids' temperaments are better than others, so we got lucky in that way, but G definitely respects NO and even though she doesn't like it, she stops doing whatever she was doing. She also understood "be careful" early on, and knows that means you'll get hurt if you don't heed my warning. I think that helped make her appropriately cautious of unknown circumstances. That's not to say she's a scared little girl--she is rather exploratory, it's just she listens to me, and knows I have her best interest at heart.

Ok....so why the time out?

Because sometimes the whining gets to be too much. Sometimes the "NO" isn't appropriate, and would be over used if I said it every time she was doing something she needed to stop. Oh....and because she's gaining independence and pushing buttons now, because she knows she is cute enough to nearly get away with murder, so 'stop doing that' isn't nearly as effective.

For example, she was rocking back and forth in her booster seat the other night, which isn't safe and also could scratch the chair (not to mention makes an annoying sound). We both told her to stop, and she gave us this little devil grin, masked by a quivering lip, and kept doing it. I did the 1-2-3 thing, and she still hadn't stopped. I threatened time out, she didn't stop. Boom. Time out.You've gotta be consistent mommas.

I had been mistakenly putting her in her crib (since she can't get out), leaving the lights on, and pulling the door half closed. She would scream for about a minute or so (1 minute per years old seemed appropriate), then I'd go get her and ask if she was ready to be a good girl (or do whatever she had been refusing to do). She would wipe her eyes and say the most pitiful yeah you've ever heard. I'd give her a hug, and explain what she had done wrong, tell her I love her and know she can be a good girl. And for the next 5-10 minutes, she was on her absolute best behavior and did whatever she had been refusing to do.

I think that using her crib as time out is okay (and safest), because she definitely could tell the difference in 'night-night' time and 'time-out' time....but I still think it was a bad choice. It just creates negative feelings for a space that should be happy. Thus, I'm on a new time-out spot quest. (not to mention, I'm not taking her upstairs every time she needs a time out in our new 2 story house)

I know that TIME OUT is more of a place for children to calm down, and be removed from the situation that was causing them such distress. It's less of a "you're in trouble," and more of a way to help kids calm down and better behave the next time. I suppose it's still looked at as a punishment, because discipline carries that connotation--google says the definition of discipline is: The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. Hopefully it becomes meaningful enough to her that when I ask if she needs a time out, she'll say yes or no depending on if she thinks she can appropriately handle the situation on her own, or if she literally needs to be removed from the tempting behavior or location (re: self discipline at a young age).

--So far she has had 3 time outs in her entire life and they have all produced the expected result. Hopefully this post doesn't jinx it!


  1. I can't count the number of time outs that happen on a daily bases in my house! They are more of a calm your body then go play. They work and they don't work, they are young and still learning, and I want them to enjoy life not be afraid of making a mistake, breaking something or getting hurt (within limits of course).

    On a side note: my 1.5 yr old helps with the 1-2-3, I say 1 she says 2. LOL. I don't think she quite gets it yet, but she is learning to count!


    1. Oh I definetly agree about feeling free to safely explore and make mistakes... I referenced playing on the fireplace, because that's clearly not safe! But we definitely explore and make messes and don't lead a perfect life--hope I didn't come off like that!
      That's too cute about your daughters counting :)

  2. I love your explanation of why and how to say "No". David and I just discussed it as we read this and we are going to be working on removing her from the "problem" when we say "no".

  3. Great post about discipline. Lots of good tips on using the word no and time outs. Alethea definitely understands no, but she tests it big time! A friend of ours has found a lot of benefit in having a time out pint sized rocking chair. Her daughter knows that she has to sit there until she has calmed down and is ready to listen to her mom. So maybe a chair could work for you... Good luck with finding a new spot!


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