Monday, May 12, 2014

8 Tips for Disciplining a Toddler

So, I think every parent gets here.  You have a kid who simply won't obey.  Obedience might keep them from doing something socially unacceptable, dangerous, or just something that specifically gets you riled up.  Before you get to your wits end, here are 8 different methods of discipline that have worked with our toddlers.
  1. Hugs  -- as strange as this sounds, half the time when a kid is acting up, they're just looking for more attention.  If they can't get positive, they'll get negative by throwing things, causing fights, tearing up the room.  
  2. Sitting and holding them -- Kids are wild.  They want to run around.  Holding them down might give you some bruises, but it also gives you a chance to lecture until they are willing to do ANYTHING to run free again. 
  3. Lecturing -- Kids don't remember stuff very well, and the way you lecture has to be different with small kids.  They understand most of what you're saying before they're able to crawl, but they can't retain audio information for more than a few seconds.  Keep the lecture down to one or two sentences, repeat it about every 15 to 20 seconds two or three times.  Repeat it again about every five minutes and it's much more likely to stick.
  4. Withholding -- I try to keep this as a last-ditch effort.  My kids each grew attached to something new every year or so of their lives.  When they really act out, taking that one thing can be very effective to get them back in line very quickly.  This only works for an hour or two at most, use it sparingly.
  5. Spanking -- oh my how much we've heard about this as parents!  I'm sure we've all heard posts from one or more media outlet saying that spanking my kid is bad because psychologist X says I'm permanently scaring my kid by hitting them.  Here's the thing, kids don't process pain the same way adults do.  It doesn't register in their brain as "danger your body is being damaged,"  it more closely registers as "information, be alert! and pain"  I don't know why kids brains are wired like that, I just care about how to leverage this as a parent.  When would I want my kids to be more alert?  How about when they're placing themselves in physical danger?  If given the choice between my kid getting hit by a car and getting a spanked, then I'll spank them every time.  If you have to spank them, you have about 2 words worth of lesson to give before they drown you out.
  6. Treats -- An ounce of prevention is worth, well, who cares what it's worth if you get 20 minutes peace and quiet?  Using this as a disciplinary technique is tricky--it's basically like training a dog.  When there's a mix of good and bad behavior, having treats on hand to give the kid can help the good behaviors drown out the bad until it virtually disappears.  Kids have bigger brains than dogs, so they catch on pretty quick.
  7. Choice -- Giving more choices takes more of your time, and is hard.  Blue dress vs red dress, you have to wait for your kid to make up their mind.  If you don't have the strength to give your kids options, then they'll instinctively know something is wrong.  The best part of this technique is that kids, who I find are generally kind and loving, will want to help you be happy again, so even if you aren't consciously disciplining and are just frustrated by something, your kids will probably start jumping in to help fix the frustration.
  8. Incentive -- Money works with me, and it actually can work with toddlers too.  Well, not money precisely, but monetary-related rewards.  Earning something is sometimes a bigger win than being given something.  For N, it was a week's worth of good behavior, and 10 minutes in the toy aisle at Walmart where she decided on a fuzzy green ball by playing with that more than anything else.  Once she realized that the marks on the calendar meant she could chose a toy every so often, desirable behaviors skyrocketed.
*Disclaimer:  toddlers are generally unruly and wild and not considered controllable by any stretch of the imagination.  These are just "tips" or things that have worked for Dani and I in the past.  Good luck.

Why I'm (still) a Mormon

I don't expect much more to ever be posted on this blog, and I'm largely just posting this to share it with some particular friends....