Saturday, April 13, 2013

Toddler Training, can it be done?

A new friend asked,
"How do you discipline toddlers?" 

For those of you who read my blog on a regular bases you know I am more of a story teller than an advice blog.  Not that I don't give advice and share my opinion freely.  If you know me, I am happy to share what I think I have learned in life.  So, after some thought, I will try and  answer this question. 

I was blessed to be raised in a home with consistent discipline.  My parents did NOT spare the Rod.  We learned quickly what was acceptable behavior and what was not.  I never felt abused or beaten.  My parents were not perfect, but they were usually fair and just.  Verbal warnings and admonishment were used and physical discipline was used as needed.  I would say that my parents began as early as six to nine months of age to discipline us.  Jeremy and I have used similar techniques, as my parents to guide and direct our children's actions.
You may be saying, "what in the world do you discipline a six month old for?"  A six month old has a will of their own just like everyone else.  A nursing six month old may bite.  A six month old may through a temper tantrum if he/she isn't happy.  A six month old may be crawling into areas they shouldn't be.  So, how do you discipline these actions? 
I will admit over the years, I have enjoyed reading other peoples advice on parenting.  I read "Baby Wise" when my first two were little, and I love the teachings of "Growing Kids God's Way."  I have also read books on how to discipline the abused/neglected child after adoption.  Like all good self help materials, there are positives and negatives to each one.  But, I have found reading others materials and asking advice from older experienced women has been very encouraging. 

My first child was like the perfect kid, in some ways she still is.  She can be sassy at times, but what sixteen year old isn't?  As a baby/toddler she required very little guidance.  But then God blessed me with an extremely strong willed child.  Rachel was very demanding and independent from day one.  She still is.  She is extremely smart and likes to keep busy.  She doesn't like to sit around and watch tv, or even read a lot.  Unless the reading has a purpose.  Pleasure reading is not her thing.  As a toddler she wanted to go go go.  She didn't have time for napping, and she never required a lot of sleep, even at night.  So very early, she needed to be taught how to stay in bed, entertain herself, and have boundaries.  I will admit, I did not learn to handle her well at first.  But, I am grateful for what we did learn through her baby/toddler/preschool years, because a few of my others are like her.  (NOTE:  She is her mother's daughter, and sometimes I wonder if my mom might have prayed her on me.) 

Things we learned about discipline of a strong willed baby/toddler.
1.)  They need boundaries.  Put up gates, make some areas off limits.
2.)  They need routine.  Meal times need to be consistent, and at the table, nap time (even if they don't sleep) need to be at the same time, outside time, mom time, etc.  Use a schedule!!
3.)  They need to hear a "yes" or a "no."  Don't use maybe, we'll see, or I'll think about it.

 4.)  They need to have alone time.  This may look different for different kids.  Maybe it is nap time on their bed, or room time with a gate on their door, or play room time, table play time, etc.  The point is to have them play alone without you or anyone else for 30-60 minutes a day.

5.)  They need correction to be swift, clear, and complete.  When they disobey, throw a fit, or do something dangerous respond immediately, making it clear why they are being disciplined and then let it go.  Do NOT keep bringing it up. 
6.)  Never kid yourself that they are too young, and don't understand.  They are completely able to understand and obey consistent direction.  They will try and play you if you let them. 
7.)  They need one on one parent time.  This can be bedtime, or a different time of the day, but they need to have your undivided attention for just a little while.  Bedtime works best, especially if daddy works all day and he does it.  Strong willed, independent children often have a lot on their little minds.  They need an opportunity to share these crazy, silly, and sometimes really serious thoughts with mom and/or dad.  We have found that our kids have less waking in the night, nightmares, and bed wetting if they have this quiet moment at night and a prayer time with dad. 

So, I can honestly say every kid is different and needs different things.  But the biggest thing with all children is consistency.  If you don't believe in spanking, then use time out, or thinking time, or whatever, but use it consistently.  If you do use physical discipline than do it consistently and without ANGER.  If you can not discipline your child without anger, than you need to walk away and get yourself under control first.  I have found in my life that the most hurtful punishments I have received and given have been verbal.  Do NOT yell and yell.  Sometimes a raised voice is necessary, but NOT in ANGER.  Do not say things you will regret.  Do not make empty threats.  If you DO  any of these things than you absolutely need to learn to say sorry to your child.  Humility is necessary in good parenting. 

I have a four year old right now, that is a handful and even with consistency he still pushes the limits.  So, is there a perfect method of parenting. No.  But if we lay ourselves and our children in God's hands, we can trust him with the results.  Pray daily for your children, and yourself.  God is faithful to answer.

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