Thursday, October 20, 2005

Reasoning With A Two-Year-Old?

Yesterday morning I won a battle with my two-year-old boy. (I make it sound like sometimes he wins and sometimes I win, but actually I always win :-). Shhhhhh. It's one of the secrets to good parenting...ALWAYS WIN!)

Josh has a job to do every night. He moves the stools away from the island so that David (7yob) can wipe and sweep the countertop without distraction. Generally he is a wonderful example of diligence with his work. However, I was having him move the chairs in the morning; a routine he was not accustomed to. So, I guess it was natural that he chose this opportunity to assert himself.

He continued to throw himself on the floor and cry, saying "I don't want to!" I continued to give negative reinforcement with a small switch and encourage him to obey with calm, firm resolve (I always switch my hand first to make sure I am only using enough force to give a SMALL sting). After quite a few cycles of this the heels of my boy were not dislodging and I knew I didn't want to stay there all morning. However, I told Joshua that I was content to do so.

And then, though I don't normally do this and I assumed it would be fruitless, I began to lecture him. "Now Joshua, do you realize that Mommy does NOT want to do this? It would be so much easier for me to just move the chairs myself and get on with the sweeping. The reason I am doing this is for YOU. Because learning to obey Mommy is the best thing for YOU. Not because I want to." I am not a perfect parent, and even as I spoke, I was kicking myself and saying in my mind.... "being cheerful and consistent is the only are wasting your words on this two-year-old".

So, imagine my surprise when, without further protesting, Joshua rose up and began to do his job. I watched him in amazement, wondering if he really had a breakthrough in his understanding. I guess it's not so surprising (he's a bright little fellow). And certainly my own walk with God always becomes effortless when I have a fresh, deep understanding of His great love for me. Certainly a child is not motivated by one who is perceived to be mean or when the child doesn't understand that their benefit is your primary motivation. Maybe my little guy is growing up, huh? ;-)


  1. yes--he is growing, but it still breaks aunt patty's heart to think about him getting a little switching, however nessesary it may be. Mama and daddy used to tell us the same thing.Now this hurts me more than it is hurting you, but they explained also why they had to correct us. It will all turn out good, butI kinda know how a grandparent must feel to see a grandchild disiplined. ouch. Love Patty

  2. I like how you test the switch on your hand first. I think I'll do that too, when the next time arises with my little ones. :-)

  3. We have a two-year old as well, Joshua and he are friends. :) I have found that some of the best ways to calm him when he gets into his "assertion mode" are to calmly explain things to him in the same way that I would explain it to an adult.

    Firstly, my soft words require him to quiet down so he can hear them.

    Secondly, it is a distraction from the fit that is going on--usually enough to reduce his thrashing and tears to occasional sobs.

    Thirdly, I typically do it while I hold him close to me, so there is the bonding, physical touch. If he continues to thrash or scream, however, I am swift to administer the "attention getter".

    Sometimes I ask him if he needs me to "get his attention" again. He'll shake his head no and choke back some tears. I'll tell him to calm down and he'll wipe the tears away.

    Then we discuss the situation. I tell him that I expect his immediate obedience. I explain that this is for his good. I tell him that I don't like it when he fusses and throws a fit. I ask him questions, getting him to nod, or shake his head. I want this interaction in the conversation.

    Last night I gave him a simple instruction, which he disobeyed--the response was swift and he began to wail. I sent him to my bedroom (the closest) to lay on the bed. He refused. This brought more swift response. He ran into the bedroom, but did not lay on the bed. I called him back for further swift response. Then he obeyed.

    I waited for a few minutes, listening to him wail. Finally, I called to him and said, "If you stop crying, you may get up." He immediately stopped crying and came to snuggle with me. (This is something I have embedded in our children's training, after discipline comes a time of loving instruction.) We talked--exchanged information, not just a lecture--about the situation. Mind you, he's two, so his exchanged information was limited to answers to questions.

    After it was finished, I said, "Show Dadda that you can obey. Go and lay down on my bed and come back when I call you." He jumped up, ran to the bed and waited till I called him, running back into the room beaming with a grin, successful at obedience, a restored relationship with his Dadda and overjoyed at his own success. :)

    You are such a good mother (not sure if I can say your name on here), my friend. Bex misses you and our children ask about yours all the time. :) I hope you and your family are well.