As Timothy is approaching the 2-year mark, I decided to review some of the strategies that seem to work really well in terms of setting boundaries and discipline.
1. Nothing needs to be done right NOW. I decided to respect my son’s wishes – hoping he’ll respect mine. If I tell him “let’s go to bed” in he says “no” – that’s okay. My response is: “ok, you want to read another book (do another puzzle, play ball a bit more, whatever)? Let’s read another book and then we’ll go to bed”. I have always been approaching it this way as per my sister’s advice – and it works great. We read another book and then I tell him: “okay, we read another book and as we’ve agreed – let’s go to bed now”. He always goes. Well, maybe there were a couple of times when I needed a bit more talking – but I never needed to force him.
Bottom line – ask him to do something, but don’t expect him to drop whatever he’s doing to do as you wish. He is a person, he has his own needs and wishes. Respect them – and he’ll cooperate!
2. Limit the “no”s
I try not to say “no” too often. I want them to be meaningful. If he’s doing something dangerous (like jumping on the bed and getting too close to the edge) – I tell him to be careful because he’s too close to the edge and might fall and hurt himself. But I don’t tell him to stop jumping. He needs to explore the world – my job is to warn him of the risks.
If he’s doing something really dangerous (like climbing on the kitchen counter), I tell him that I am too scared for him, this is too dangerous, and ask him not too climb because I am afraid he’s gonna fall. It seems to work. He gets it – I don’t just make him stop doing things, I have a reason.
3. “No, this is mommy’s”
This is a “no” that I came up with. Again, I am not a big fan of “no because I said so”. But it’s hard to explain why touching my phone is a “no”. So it became “no, this is mommy’s phone… book… tea… etc”
I can now even leave a mug of tea (not too hot, just in case) on the coffee table and if Timothy touches it – it would be to push it away. Saying “no! mommy’s!”
4. Taking turns.
I don’t truly understand why most parents ask their kids to share. I mean, you can share a sandbox or a carousel. But how do you “share” a toy? The most you can do is taking turns – and that’s what I’m teaching.
I can’t report much progress here yet, Timothy gets very upset when I remove him from a sleigh or a car or whatever to take turns with another kid – but I believe we are moving in the right direction.
I also noticed that Timothy tries to shoo other kids away from “his” toys mostly with words. He waves at them, says no, and babbles something. He might slap them – but very lightly, not to hurt – but to get his message across…
5. Crying and being upset is okay.
I am trying to be consistent about my rules. And as much as it breaks my heart sometimes, I do not budge.
I sit down with him, I acknowledge his feeling “yes, you are sad… you are upset… you really wanted for mommy to bring you upstairs…”
I sympathize: “I wish I could bring you upstairs, just take you in my arms and go up – but I can’t…”
If he lets me I’d hold him and tell him that I am here. I love him, and I know he’s sad. But most often he doesn’t want to be hugged when he cries like that. But I always make sure he knows I am there, right next to him. Listening. Caring.
Usually he’d cry a little bit and (in the case of going up the stairs) would stand up abruptly, ask for my hand and walk upstairs with tears drying up quickly.
it’s important for them to learn that thing don’t always go as they want – and it will upset them – and it is okay to be upset – and he can always seek my understanding and sympathy in such cases.
He’s almost two, and he rarely gets too upset now. We went through a phase when I thought “uh-oh, the terrible twos are coming” when he would refuse to put the coat on… to put the shoes on… to walk out the door… to climb the stairs… to leave daycare… to go to daycare… to eat… But you know what? These episodes have almost vanished. He’s very easy to talk to. He listens. He understands.
He is so, so cool :)
6. If he doesn’t want to eat – that’s okay, too
Yes, there were a few times when he went to bed without eating. And that’s okay. I know he ate enough during the day (from the daycare report) and he usually has a banana on the way home from daycare.
I do not play into “no I don’t want this, I want that” – if he asks for cereal and then once the cereal is in from of him, decides he wants cheerios with milk – I say no. You asked for cereal, here it is. And if he refuses to eat – well then, all done, off you go.
Again, about a month ago it was starting to become a problem – asking for various things and then refusing to eat them, asking for more and more other food. I decided to put a stop to it: if you’re hungry, you’ll eat. If you aren’t – well then off you go. And it seems to be working, too.