Saturday, August 14, 2010

ControverSunday: The Return

Remember ControverSundays? Well, they're back. We might vary from the EVERY Sunday schedule, and the lovely Perpetua will be sharing her hosting duties, but despite those minor changes, we're back, baby!

I'm hosting this week, which means that you should check back here for links to the other ControverSunday posts and leave your own link in the comments section should you decide to join us. Which you totally should. We're quite awesome, if we do say so ourselves. Oh, and don't forget to grab the badge from Accidents while you're at it.

ControverSunday Entries:

The Disgruntled Academic

This week's topic is Toddler Discipline. What are reasonable behavioral expectations for a toddler (ages one to three, shall we say?)What do you consider age-appropriate consequences? Time-outs? Natural consequences?

I'm not personally going to discuss spanking because we've already covered that topic (see: here), and it's not the method I choose. I have serious problems and concerns with spanking, but I will certainly welcome a dialogue about it in this space.

This topic was suggested by Kathleen, but it is very timely for me, as it probably is for her seeing as our kids are only a day apart in age. This is an IMPOSSIBLE age for discipline as far as I'm concerned. Which, is not to say that I have given up, but man are there days when I wish I could.

Okay, here's the thing: I have no idea what I'm doing. Other than knowing that I won't be spanking, I got nothing. I could ask Chris his opinion on discipline, but he would just tell me to give her more ice cream.

I've read articles, talked to more experienced parents, and observed other parents, but mostly, Chris and I both just sort it. If she hits me, I sternly tell her no, and recently, as soon as she realizes I'm upset about being smacked or pinched or having my eyes gouged, she will say "Hug!" and pat me on the back. It's a little patronizing, but I'll take it. Especially since I never taught her to hug someone when she hurts them. It's her own instinct, which I think is cool. I believe in not forcing kids to apologize or teaching them to feign remorse. I just hope she learns by my example when it's my turn to apologize to her or others.

If she is touching something she shouldn't or doing something I've asked her not to do, I get down to her level, get really stern, and repeat myself. And nine times out of ten, this does absolutely nothing. In fact, she seems to rather like doing things she knows I won't like and goes out of her way to do so, while making sure I'm paying attention. Supposedly, she is just testing her boundaries, and eventually, with consistency, it will sink in and pay off.

I don't know. I sure hope so. All I know is that I am taking a much softer approach with her than I ever thought I would because it feels natural to do so. Hopefully this won't bite me in the ass later. I try to give her space when she's throwing a tantrum and not give in (though, admittedly, I have given in a few times), but I will also stay close and rub her back if she'll let me and make it clear that I will comfort her if she wants. Which, sometimes she does, and sometimes she pulls away from me, in which case I back off.

I never thought I'd hug a child who was screaming and stamping her feet because I wouldn't let her eat a magnet (true story). I always knew I'd be the mom who could calmly and casually walk away and go about my business. And, sometimes, I do. But sometimes she seems to need to be consoled (without giving her what she wants, but rather just acknowledging that she is sad for not getting it.)

I do things based on really compelling online literature (especially Janet Lansbury. She is wonderful, and I've learned so much from her) as well as my own instincts. There are many times I feel I'm at a loss. There are many times I feel I'm screwing it all up. And maybe I am. I guess the most important thing that I do is try to keep an open mind. Chris doesn't discipline nearly as much as I would like, but he is open to my suggestions when I tell him he shouldn't be letting Charlotte do something or that he could have handled a situation differently. And, I am open to his ideas, and he often convinces me that I'm overreacting and that I should let something slide.

So, I guess what this all boils down to is that you aren't going to get a lot of controversy from me this week because I can't tell you that you're doing it wrong when I don't know what the hell I'm doing to begin with. I just know that discipline is important and necessary, despite what some parenting theories might tell you. In fact, don't exclusively parent according to any theory. Just...don't. Have a philosophy, sure. But, know your child and what works for them, and be willing to adapt and flex to meet their unique needs. As long as you're parenting with love, knowledge, and with the utmost desire to do right by your child, you should be fine.

Then again, who am I to give advice? I'm the one screwing it all up.



  1. I find myself struggling with the idea of discipline. J isn't one yet, but he's already pushing some boundaries, and I struggle with what, if anything, to do right now. I've been going with the "redirect, redirect, redirect" route, but so far to no avail. I hope it's a "someday this will kick in" thing.

    J's already showing an iron will, so as he gets older I'm already dreading the tantrums and how to discipline him. I'm also dreading the differences between my style and N.C.'s style of discipline--I'm more of a softy on some things, and often think J's a little young for the lessons N.C. wants to impart. But then, I feel like this is my biggest area where I'm afraid we'll fail in one way or the other--either in being too harsh or too soft.

    So, I'll be there with you screwing it up and hoping for the best.

  2. Megan, thank you for your awesome compliment and for linking to me!

    I struggled with discipline, too. I am a people pleaser and the word NO seldom crossed my lips until I had my first toddler. Now, with 3 children, it's still not a fun word, but I've learned. OH, how I've learned.

    Megan, you're right about all children being different. But, I do believe there are some discipline guidelines that are the safest and most effective for just about ALL toddlers.

    What I call "The CEO, matter-of-fact approach" works best in my opinion -- not being too stern, not lecturing, definitely not ignoring the act, but projecting effortless control. If we act mad, lecture, or dwell on our child's misbehavior for more than a second, we risk her continuing to want to seek negative attention. If we do an "Oh, poor me," we can give her guilt.

    Toddlers are like new employees. They are trying to learn the job description. They need us, the CEOs, to teach them.

    Let's say our toddler hits. The ideal response is to anticipate it, block it with our hand and say calmly, but firmly, "I won't let you hit". The beauty of a very direct "I won't let you hit", is that it not only assures our child that we will stop him (which is ABSOLUTELY what he wants when he acts out), it also gives him the comfort of knowing that we are SO in command that we will not even LET him hurt us, or anyone else.

    Then he will want to know if this rule holds true on Friday afternoons, early mornings when we're tired, or when HE'S get the picture. It's about consistency, and not making a big deal out of a toddler doing what he's supposed to do...which is to simply find out what's expected.

  3. My blog is closed to the public, so I'll have to comment here. This is timely for me too. My daughter is 17 months old and really starting to push the limits to see where the boundaries are. She's picked up hitting and biting from daycare too, which is oh-so-charming. Firm talking to hasn't seemed to work very well so far. I have been trying to put words to her feelings (sad, mad, etc). I'm also reading "Playful Parenting" - I don't want to spank either so I'm looking for other ways to handle inappropriate behavior. We're trying to figure out what to do with her so I'm curious to see what people have to say!

  4. @Ginger- I'm glad I won't be alone! It sounds like we have pretty similar approaches. I think we'll be fine. :)

    @Janet- As usual, awesome advice. I love the idea of Charlotte being my employee! LOL

    @Joanne- I'm with you on the apparent ineptitude of the firm talking, but I think it ultimately will pay off. I'm doing the same thing as you as far as trying to help her put words to her emotions, but without assuming that I know what she's feeling, if that makes sense. So, more like, "You seem frustrated: instead of "Oh, you're maaaad." LOL

    I hope for both our sakes, more people weigh in. I could use all the advice I can get!

  5. I totally forgot I wrote about discipline too! This summer heat has clearly fried my brain. So here's my post from May:

    The Noodle is now 7.5 months old and crawling, so discipline is playing a slightly more prominent role in our house, but it's still in the form of "Noooo, you can't grab the cable box/end table/air conditioning cable/file cabinet." She does get angry if she can't have something, but she's still young enough that we can distract her with walking around the room or giving her another toy. But you raise an excellent point, Megan: that sometimes our kids just need their sadness/frustration acknowledged. I think it teaches kids not to judge their feelings. Sometimes we're sad, sometimes we're happy, and neither is a *better* feeling to have.

  6. Check it: I posted!

    I'm not terribly controversial on this one either. We're the same way in that we know what we won't do, like spanking, but we don't have theories or approaches or sticking points.

  7. You can link up my Fess Up Friday post!

    I believe that the main concern for any disciplinary action should at its core be teaching. If you can't answer the "What is this teaching her?" question then it likely isn't effective. (For example my brother put his 9 year old in his room for the night for getting angry and threatening the neighbor girl... but there was never any discussion about how to handle his anger appropriately the next time).

  8. Okay, I got you all linked up!

    Anyone else?