Thursday, 13 January 2011
Hannah (22 months) has suddenly become a very strong-willed child. (Imagine that.) The other morning she must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed or perhaps she didn't sleep well. All I know is that she was a terror all day long. I was pulling my hair out when it suddenly occurred to me that I have no established discipline plan for her yet because I just didn't think she was old enough.
Now I think perhaps I waited too long.
Our biggest challenge right now is throwing things. More like CHUCKING things, especially entire bowls of food, sippy cups, crayons, or small toys like blocks. And she chucks them HARD, usually at people. I had been immediately taking the item away from her, but she immediately throws something else, and then taunts me, "Don't throw! Don't throw! DON'T THROW!" What's confusing about punishing her for this behavior is that I don't have a problem with throwing, per se. I have a problem with *what* she is throwing. So I've changed my tactic to be very specific about what we don't throw: "Hannah, we don't throw food" while immediately taking the item away from her.
But she doesn't listen. How shocking.
Enter the timeout. Now, I firmly believe that every child needs their own form of discipline. For some kids, just giving them "the look" will stop them in their tracks, but Hannah isn't like that. So this is what I've been experimenting with.
I've read that I'm supposed to explain what a timeout is to Hannah before enforcing one, but I personally didn't see the point. She wouldn't get it until I just had to do it. So after throwing a crayon, I said, "Hannah, we don't throw crayons or timeout." Very short and direct. She threw another crayon. "We don't throw crayons. Timeout, Hannah." I quickly scooped away her crayons, then took her to the bottom stair and sat down next to her, setting the timer for 60 seconds. "We don't throw crayons. This is a timeout, because we don't throw crayons."
I admit that I had to hold the bottom of her pants to keep her butt on the stair. And boy, she was furious with me! I did not talk to her for the remainder of the time, but just sat next to her and held her pants to the stair.
Now some people might object here, especially because I was physically restraining her on that stair. Some websites that I've read said that a timeout should be a learning experience, not a punishment. They suggest separating a child Hannah's age from the activity and distracting them with another.
My question is, how is that not rewarding unacceptable behavior? I agree that a timeout should be a learning experience, but I also think it *should* be a punishment. They are not meant to be enjoyable. I want Hannah to learn that unacceptable behavior has unpleasant consequences.
At the end of 60 seconds, I said one more time, "We don't throw crayons. Say you're sorry." She pitifully whimpered, "Sorry, Mama." Then I gave her a big hug and a kiss and told her how much I loved her, and we went right back to playing happily as if nothing happened. Perhaps an hour later, she started throwing something else. She got one warning, "Hannah, we don't throw ____ or timeout." She threw it again, so we had another timeout (and once again, she was furious about it).
(Sidenote: I don't plan to sit on the stair with her forever, but at this point, she would immediately get up and run away, which would lead to a game of tag, which she thinks is just hilarious, so she would immediately forget what she was in trouble for. She's just not ready to sit on the stair alone. I also want her to learn to specifically say *what* she's sorry for, but these are things I hope to build up to. She's not even two years old yet, for Pete's sake.)
Now perhaps I'm jumping the gun, but I am very pleased with the results so far. After just two timeouts, the next time she threw something, I gave her the warning about a timeout. Her eyes got big and she asked, "Timeout?" and immediately stopped throwing whatever it was she was throwing. It's been a few days now and I've had to give plenty of warnings, but no more timeouts because she's stopped throwing every single time.
How about you, Mamas? What has worked (or hasn't worked) for disciplining your kids, especially before the age of two?