I've found this whole parenting thing is easier sometimes if I pick a theme for a week or so and focus on it. When Sam was born, it was nursing. Later, it was getting him on a regular nap schedule. Other projects have included regular reading time, eating something besides bread and cheese, sitting still at a restaurant (well, we sort of worked on that), sleeping through the night, and entertaining himself long enough for Mommy to check e-mail.
This week, I tackled a biggie that I've feared for a while and haven't dealt with properly for too long - what the heck to do about discipline. We've tried a few things, but nothing consistent. So, this week, I watched an episode of Super Nanny and was inspired with a few ideas about naughtly spots and timers and such.
A few days ago, I was typing at the computer when I heard a tell-tale splash. I turned around, and there was Sam looking intently at the puddle that he just made from the open water glass that I stupidly trusted him with. He's done this on several occasions, and knows it's wrong.
"Sam, we don't spill water on purpose. You have until the count of three to clean it up with this towel or we have a time-out. One, two..."
"No! No, no, no!"
"Three. OK, time for a time-out."
Howl! "No, mommy! Don't put me in time-out!"
"Sorry, kiddo, you had a chance to clean it up. Now you can try again after the time-out."
I plunk his bottom down and set the timer for two minutes. He cries, lays down, stamps his feet, but stays in the corner.
Clock beeps, out he comes.
"Ok, let's clean it up."
"I'll count to three and you need to clean it up, or back in time out. One, two, three."
And back to time-out he goes. You get the idea. This took about 3 cycles before he took the towel and made a few feeble swipes at the mess, fulfilling his obligation. Afterwards, he wanted to hug and snuggle, and we had a little chat about what happened. All of this was done in a calm voice and demeanor.
So, here's the interesting secret that I discovered this week. They say that toddlers need boundaries - that it makes them feel safe and secure. Well, guess what? Same works for parents. Instead of wasting energy being angry, reprimanding, chasing him around or ignoring it, which was my previous MO, I calmly know what do to and do it because I have a PLAN. The PLAN keeps me safe and secure, too.
The corrilary to this is that I have to be careful what I say "no" to, because I need to be willing to go through this rigamarole every time I say it. There are ways I can say no without uttering the actual word - distraction, etc. I also have to ask myself if I'm just momentarily annoyed and the behavior is really something I can live with, like him emptying out a drawer of all the pots and pans.
Not that I have the secret answer to all of this now, but life has been so much easier since I started thinking of discipline this way. It's not a burden, it doesn't have to be painful or punative. It just is a consequence for an action that I help facilitate. And it ends with hugs.
6 months ago