Two Years Old: Terrible or Terrific

by Kate on June 2, 2021

When it comes time to discipline your child, how do you handle things? I’m asking because it’s something that we all have to do. Are you a screamer (let’s face it, most of us are at some point!), do you give time outs, ignore the bad behavior? Or is it a combination of things and using whatever works?

Well, I’ve got some food for thought for you regarding discipline that I picked up in one of my favorite parenting books, The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, PhD. It involves forethought and strategy - something that even the best of parents can forget when tempers flare.

First, back up a bit and consider that bad behavior may be attributed to your child’s (any child’s) inner imp. Mogel calls it the “yetzer hara” from Judaism which is best explained by someone who understand Judaism far better than me. I’ll give you my best interpretation.

Think of it as not exactly evil, but devilish, if you will. As a parent, you can choose to look at the trigger behind the behavior as either bad or good. Good, you ask? Well, yes. As an opportunity to learn - both for your child AND for you. Take, for instance, hitting. A big no no.

Hitting can be a reaction to feeling insecure, wanting attention, or needing to feel better about one’s self. Knowing that softens me and my reaction to hitting.

Let’s face it, all kids hit at some point and all kids get hit (which, in turn, usually prompts them to hit more). My knee-jerk reaction is to say, “no hit.” And in some cases that is enough. However, if my little one won’t listen to me then instead of yelling louder, or saying it over and over again, I’m learning there might be a better way. This is the forethought part.

And now, for the strategy: privacy and tender sternness. A little privacy goes a long way to save face and most kids don’t like to be humiliated, especially not in front of peers. In fact, humiliating or shaming your kid when they do something bad is the exact wrong thing to do because it teaches your child that he is bad instead of that the behavior is bad. Sadly, it’s easy for parents (I’m speaking from experience here) to fall into this habit.

When you’ve got your kid’s attention in private, tell her what her offense is (hitting). As in, “we don’t hit.” Keep it simple and try (try!) to say it without anger or frustration. If you’re too angry - maybe you need to cool off for a sec - take a minute to collect yourself.

This is your chance to teach your child how highly you regard her and that the bad behavior she exhibits doesn’t “mesh” with the girl you know her to be. “You are good friends with Jack and you enjoy playing with him. Hitting him isn’t like you.” (Even if it IS like her, you’re trying to inspire her to behave better here) The point is that you want a little bell to ding inside her head that says, “I don’t want to hit him.”

Give her consequences (“if you hit again, we’ll leave” or insert appropriate action here) and then stop talking. Really - no lecturing, no bringing up past hitting incidents - just keep it simple and stick to your guns. Then, be sure to give her a hug or touch her in some way that lets her know that you love her. You want her to know that her behavior has disappointed you but that you aren’t rejecting her. Then ask her to make amends. A well placed “I’m sorry” and even a hug and kiss will do wonders. It’ll help guide her towards being better the next time.

However, if she hits again, leave or give her a time-out or whatever you have stated will happen. You can choose to give her a second chance if you’d like (sometimes this works wonders) or not. But whatever you do, don’t threaten then fail to follow through. If you have to leave, then no arguments, no negotiations. If she throws a fit and asks why you are leaving, ask her to tell you.

I sound like an old pro at this and I’m not. But that’s the point of writing this all out - practicing forethought and developing a strategy. I’m not saying that I’ll be able to adhere to these steps each and every time we find ourselves in need of discipline, though I imagine that the more I practice it the better I’ll get at it.

I’m simply offering a better way - a way I’ve found in my research that resonates with me. It’s the type of parenting I aspire to practice. Because, let’s face it, our own past experience with childhood and our instincts don’t always lead us down the right road, do they?

photo credit: Clairspics

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