Nov 18, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--days 17 and 18

I have been doing a lot of listening, thinking, and reading (this article and this article are particularly helpful) about toddler development and discipline, and I have drawn some conclusions about what might work best for Cara and for me.  However, I want to clarify this first: when my pediatrician suggested that we withhold affection, I do not think he meant neglecting or rejecting our child, which would be cruel and almost abusive.  My understanding of this method is that parents do not reward bad behavior with positive attention.  Based on what I have read lately, it seems that toddlers often act out in order to get their parents' attention, so the thinking here is that you don't reward them with hugs, kisses, conversation, or other types of positive interaction.  For example, if Cara was having a tantrum because we told her no/removed her from a potentially bad situation/took something from her, we would not pick her up and hug her to try to make it better.  A tantrum is not so effective without an audience to respond.  *side note:  I am very, very thankful that Cara's tantrums are few and short (day 17).

After reflecting on the fireplace incident and talking to lots of other moms, I think I was right and wrong.  I was right in that, honestly, we should have been watching her more closely.  I was right in that she probably knew better than to scoop ashes out of the fireplace.  BUT, I was wrong in my reaction.  I was never angry or out of control, but there was clearly no connection for Cara between playing in the fireplace and no bath toys or books.  I did not do what the doctor suggested.  I think I just made up my own plan on the fly because I had not thought through how I would handle a situation like that.

I don't think I can be a spanker right now, but not because I am judgmental of those who do spank.  I'm just not tough enough to do it yet, and I don't want to teach Cara that hitting is okay.  She won't be able to understand that hitting is bad if Mommy and Daddy hit her, even if the "hit" is spanking.  However, I suspect that as she gets older, there may be times when spanking or swatting a hand is necessary.  Or not?  I don't know.

I like time out, but I don't think Cara is there yet.  I can see this playing out in my head, and I would spend more time and energy keeping her in one spot than it is worth.  She has the attention span of a gnat right now (Are you calling me a g-nat??), and maybe I am lazy, but I don't want to fight that battle.  Yet. (What is the magic age when she could understand the connection between her behavior and time out?)

And now that I have thought it through, here's what I think we'll do.  Yesterday, Cara was trying to pull a candle holder off a table.  I took the candle holder out of her hands, got down to her eye level, held her hands in mine, and said "Mama said no.  Don't pull things off the table.  Mama said no."  Cara looked at me for a few seconds, nodded her head, and walked off to go terrorize the cat.  I think my main method is going to need to be prevention for the next few months until she's really ready for time out.  The eye-to-eye, hand-holding conversation seemed to work.  The challenge is going to be catching her before we have another fireplace incident. 

What do ya'll think?  I am still definitely open to suggestions and advice. 

And one more thing:  I am sooooo thankful for SEWING CLUB tonight!! (day 18)


  1. I am RIGHT THERE with you! We are in a major "we don't hit" struggle with Noah right now. Everytime he hits (us, the dog, anything he can) we give him a "hand time-out" where we hold his hands together for 15 seconds. No lie- he. hates. it. That's pretty much the only discipline with have for him now (which might not be a good thing)- the rest is us telling him no and distracting him with something else.
    Eh, we can talk more about this tonight... at sewing club. :)

  2. I wish I could offer suggestions. but... dogs. I totally smack them on the butt when they are naughty (like today when Jada hopped up onto the back of the sofa to sneak around me and grab my napkin). As a child that was spanked (though rarely and never with anything other than an open hand) I found it pretty ineffective. It made me angry and made me want to hit back- it never deterred me from the behavior I was meant to be punished for. That is all I've got. Hope it is semi-helpful!

  3. Getting on their level and having eye-to-eye contact is a GREAT way to start! Even now, when I talk to Clayton (3 years old), I can see him moving his eyes in all directions than looking at me. I will say, "I've asked you not to pull the dog's tail." Then I ask him what I said. If he hasn't been looking at me, he doesn't know and can't repeat. But if I make sure he is making eye contact, he can repeat back what I said. Then I don't feel so bad when I put him in time out or take a toy away. Good move, mom!!
    ps--thanks for all the article links! always interested in advice too!

  4. I like this idea! I'm filing it away until probably some time today :)

  5. I do not have a child so I will not offer any advice, but I will offer encouragement! I think you're a wonderful mom...and from what I hear (and I'm SURE you know), EACH child is different and it becomes a process of trial and error to see what is effective and what is ineffective. Whatever discipline method you use will depend on Cara's personality...she obviously isn't anything like her aunt Christie (in nature) because if my mom tried to get on my level and have a chat I probably would have laughed in her face, even at 18 months old...I was a bratty, strong-willed, defiant kid by nature (I know, hard to believe ;). Thank God Cara has a more cooperative and humble personality...and an amazing mother!

  6. look at aunt christie weighing in on the parenting...i love it! jess, the eye level conversations sound like a great idea. this is what they taught us in early childhood ed too :)

  7. Thank you all so much for the encouraging comments!

    @Melissa: maybe I should have taken a few early childhood classes. I'll bet they would have helped me as a high school teacher too! :-)

    @Christie: You turned out great! That all by itself lets me know that IT CAN BE DONE. Maybe I should chat up your mom.

    @Sarah: Not to sound bad here, but dogs and toddlers are very, very similar...

  8. haha! They really are. However, my pups have reached the apex of their intellectual achievement while your sweet little Cara has a long, long way to go.

  9. @Sarah: Let's hope so! (no offense to the pups, of course!)

  10. Sounds like you have a great plan in place! Honestly, if I've learned anything, it's that all kids are so different (like Christie said). What works for one child will probably not work for the next. I love to read lots of parenting books and pick and choose things to try out. Sometimes it sticks because it works, sometimes I toss it out. It sounds like you know just what will work for Cara right now, and that's awesome! We don't do well with time-out, either. It's one of those things we tried that didn't stick. We're definitely more of a redirection family right now, too.

    I think you're doing a great job!


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