And we’re on to NaBloPoMo Day 18! I know it’s the weekend, but I hope you’re all behaving. Today’s theme is Discipline, and things are about to get pretty stern up in here.
Let’s talk about my son K-Man. I love him to the end of the Earth. But the terrible twos have struck hard, and my once sweet little boy is now a bona fide ass face. Guys, it’s so bad, so bad that I have to wonder if everything is ok. Is this normal two-year-old stuff? Or is he going to have major behavioral issues as he ages?
The biggest problem is violence. His body is a weapon and he knows how to use it. He knows how to use it on the cats, his little sister, and even his poor unsuspecting parents. It’s not so much that he’s outright hitting us — he mostly knows that’s wrong, though he’s not above it when he’s delirious with exhaustion. Instead, he’s all about crazy, uncontrolled hyper movements that he knows are going to land on an innocent bystander. And casually bumping his little sister out of the way when she’s already teetering on her unsteady feet. Or hugging her and then slowly pushing her to the ground. (Rage.) Or jumping on my knee caps when I’m sitting on the ground with my legs extended. (More rage.) Or choking Hubby out from behind.
And then you have the epic tantrums and the never ever listening when you ask him to stop doing something destructive. All of this without an ounce of apology or empathy behind those beautiful big blue toddler eyes. Ugh, it’s so exhausting. And it’s constant. And it’s been going on since well before he turned two. And he’s almost three now. Relief, are you out there somewhere? Are you lost? Did you get my change of address?
So what do you do when you have an extra sociopathic toddler? How do you discipline a two-year-old?
My knee-jerk response is to say that you don’t. Because they’re still so dumb, you guys. They really don’t understand anything. I mean, I’m 32 and I still haven’t fully learned how to follow rules or do the right thing, so why should I expect my toddler to?
But deep down in my heart I know that as hard as disciplining is at this age, we have to try, right? Because if we don’t, sociopathic toddlers (normal) could turn into sociopathic adults (not normal). Yikes.
So if your kid is about to enter this charming stage of his or her life, and you’re looking for help (because I know I still am), let me give you the low down on some of the things we’ve tried with our little butthead. Spoiler alert: most of it doesn’t work.
- Yelling: Nobody likes to be yelled at, so this one should discourage your kid from doing most undesirables, right? Wrong. Toddlers are immune to yelling. They don’t care if you scream at them until you’re red in the face. In fact, they enjoy watching you change colors. There is, however, one exception. If you’re yelling at your kid in terror out of fear for his or her life — as in, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP YOU’RE ABOUT TO RUN IN FRONT OF A MOVING VEHICLE — they listen right up. And thank god for that. (Hmm, maybe I need to learn how to emulate that terror in my voice even when I’m just asking K-Man to get his mother effing butt off the mother effing dining table, for the last time. Gawd!)
- Time-in: Time-out is getting a bit of a bad rap these days, so the new hip thing to do is sit down with your child for some “time-in” — you can discuss the transgression with your kid while also keeping them company and reinforcing how much you love them. Aww! For a while, time-in was our jam. If K-Man smushed his little sister one too many times, we would buckle him in to his booster seat at the table and sit next to him to talk through it. And once K-Man had a good idea of what time-in was, we were able to use the threat of it as a deterrent. As in, “if you smush your sister again you’re going to have to do time-in!” Unfortunately, in recent weeks, K-Man has learned a little self-determination, and he no longer willingly goes in to his booster seat for time-in. And since I’m not cool with physically forcing his body in half to get him to sit down, we’ve had to retire time-in to the discipline graveyard. Boo.
- Bribes: K-Man loves him some choc-luht, and we’re not above luring it over his fat head to get him to do something that we need him to do. They’re just baby teeth, right? This tactic works well for encouraging certain immediate affirmative behaviors (e.g., “if you let me brush your teeth you can have some chocolate after”), but it is less effective for discouraging prospective actions (e.g., “if you don’t do the naughty thing that I don’t know you’re about to do, you can have some chocolate”).
- Taking Things Away: I can’t believe how long it took me to figure this one out. Toys? A privilege. TV? A privilege. If my turd of a child is acting out, I don’t have to let him keep playing with toys or watching tv! Whaaaat? This is my current discipline of choice, because it is the most effective deterrent. “If you don’t lay down for a diaper change, I’m going to turn Moana off!” or, “If you hit your sister with that truck again, I’m going to take it away!” Genius! Should I write a book?
- Telling Him He’s In Trouble: K-Man hates being in trouble, even if it comes with no real consequence. He just cringes at the word. So sometimes, all I have to do is tell him that if he carries on with certain behavior, he’ll be in big trouble. Or if he’s already done the offending act, I just let him know he’s in trouble and he immediately gets majorly uncomfortable. “No, I not in trouble, you happy mommy.” “No, I give you a hug and then I not in trouble.” “No, I not in big trouble, I in small trouble!” What a dork.
So there you have it, my busted up list of tips and tricks for toddler discipline. (Side note: should they really let people be parents without first passing a course in child psychology?)
The only other piece of advice I have for those maneuvering toddler discipline — and this bit is actually genuine — is to sit down and talk through strategies with your significant other. Make sure you have a game plan, and make sure you’re on the same page. Ideally, you would do this before your child gets to the age where they need actual disciplining. Because the last thing you want when you’re navigating your child’s first god awful temper tantrum is to learn that your hubby doesn’t even know what time-in is. Yikes!
Until next time,