How to Discipline Your 2-Year-Old (#NaBloPoMo Day 18)

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,

Vee

 

Screen Time: Is My Kid Watching Too Much TV?

Alright, I’m going to be completely honest, because this blog is anonymous, and because the first step is admitting you have a problem.  On some days (on a lot of days — maybe even more often than not), my 2.5-year-old watches a full 2 hours of TV.  Ugh, gross.  This is the first time I’ve said that number out loud.  It sounds outrageous.  (But if your kid watches more TV than that, I totally don’t judge you!)

Now I’ve been on social media enough to know that everyone thinks screen time is basically the devil.  And parents who expose their children to TV are doing the devil’s work.  (Well at least now I know what I’m going to be for Halloween, right?)  So why am I admitting that my son watches an enormous amount of TV? I don’t know, I guess I have a sneaking suspicion that lots of parents rely on TV to parent, and maybe we can normalize it a little bit. Yes? No? I’m all alone, you say?

Well in my defense, I guess, things weren’t always this bad.  When K-Man was in daycare, he watched maybe 30 minutes of TV a day, tops.  I will admit that I started him early, out of what I felt was necessity.  When Hubby was in med school and I was still working, Hubby was usually out of the house by the time I needed to get ready for the day.  And K-Man woke up at an ungodly hour almost always.  How is a girl supposed to shower and blow dry her hair with a baby all up in her business?  So, I would situate K-Man in the bathroom with my iPad, and let him watch Elmo’s World while I preened.  And on the weekends, well, K-Man didn’t sleep in.  Which means I didn’t sleep in.  Which means I got in the habit of sitting him on my lap, turning on some trusty Elmo, and snoozing on the couch while his brain slowly melted away.

And then we pulled K-Man out of daycare in anticipation of our move to Upstate New York.  That move, man, it killed us.  Have you ever tried to pack up your life with a 2-year-old and a nursing baby in tow? It is fricking impossible. So I’ll just go ahead and admit it: my son watched Moana and Cars pretty much on loop for about two weeks straight while Hubby and I packed.  Moana is a great babysitter, even though she’s only 16.  So by the time we were all moved, K-Man was a legit addict.  Every other sentence was, “Watch Cars? Watch Moana?”

It took a few more weeks to rid him of that particular habit, but the upshot is that the kid still watches a lot of TV (though he’s moved on to a YouTube obsession). I mean, it all adds up so quickly.  There’s usually an hour when he first wakes up.  It’s just that I feel like absolute death in the morning, and when I have to roll out of bed to deal with two maniacal kids, I don’t have much fight in me.  So I let him watch while I peel my eyes open, read my social media, make us some breakfast, get dressed, brush my teeth, and put my contacts on.  And then every time I have to nurse Ell-Bell (aka, the fussiest, most picky, most distracted nurser ever), I have to take her to another room, which means K-Man gets to hang out with the TV (aka, his babysitter) yet again.  And then there’s the after-nap grumpies, when K-Man is not human and needs to sit on the couch and zone out with some shows for a bit.  And on the worst days, little dude even gets to watch a bit before bed.  Because sometimes by the end of the day, I just can’t even.  So yeah, you can see how we hit two hours some days. Yikes.

We are always working on it, but I’m also trying to give myself a bit of a break.  I’m still learning how to Mom.  And gosh darnit, sometimes TV is educational.  Yeah, yeah, there are probably better ways to learn, but let me have this one.

All that being said, I do try to stick to some guidelines when it comes to the boob tube:

  • No more than an hour at any given time.  Let’s give that poor melting brain some time to re-congeal before we melt it all over again
  • Educational. We try to stick to TV that has at least some redeeming value. K-Man loves to watch nursery rhyme compilations on YouTube, and I totally attribute the fact that he knows his ABCs, colors, shapes, and numbers to those shows. I mean, the kid isn’t even three yet and can identify all the letters—both upper and lower case—and can also count up to 30-10!
  • I don’t offer it.  If he wants to watch TV, he has to ask for it.  And don’t worry, he does.
  • We have to do something else.  If it’s a TV-heavy day, we absolutely must get out of the house, at least once but usually twice, to do something completely different.
  • Snuggles or no deal.  My kid is extra cuddly when he’s watching TV, so if I’m not taking advantage of it, what am I even doing with my life?

So them’s the rules!  In the event that you’re interested in coming over to the dark side and need some TV recommendations, might I suggest Little Baby Bum, Clifford, or Daniel Tiger? Ugga mugga!

Until next time,

Vee