Discipline is Tough
Ah that toddler of yours so sweet and innocent, just sitting there watching a video on your new iPhone 11. A mere split second of distraction… you glance at the tv… read an email on your computer and suddenly you think ah… It’s so quiet and then your realize… IT’S SO QUIET!!!! Panic!!!! Where did they go?! You search your house or tiny apartment which suddenly seems like a three mile hike through the Adirondacks. Is that the toilet you hear flushing? Wait junior isn't even potty trained!!! You arrive to the end of your destination only to hear Siri utter her last words and see it sink below the water line.
and then this exchange happens…
NOOOOO!!!!!! What do you think you’re doing?!?!?! You know better!!!! Phones don't go in the potty!! Only pee and poo in the potty (it’s a teachable moment right?). That’s not a nice thing to do to mommy’s/daddy’s phone. Now lets sit down and think about what we did and why it was wrong.
Junior hears: blah blah blah blah phone… blah blah blah blah potty…blah blah blah blah mommy daddy… blah blah blah sit…and then he/she thinks what else can I find to put in the potty?
This scenario plays out over and over, sometimes topping 20 times on an average day in the life of the parent/caregiver/teacher/child relationship. Some try different tones and inflections. There are yellers or Mary Poppins on a Halcyon drip versions but the verbiage remains the same.
At workshops, lectures and even from my student teachers I get asked the same question… How do you I get Junior to stop doing a myriad of things ‘we’ve’ deemed unacceptable. We in the field of education and psychology use the more trendy versions of the theme such as behavior modification, self-actualization, anger management or my least favorite dealing with the “unruly toddler”. The last one is my least favorite because toddlers are supposed to be unruly. They’re just doing their job. Now if I had the magic bullet for an answer to that question I’d have written a book and scored an appearance on Oprah, but the reality is there is no one magic answer. But don’t lose all hope. There is a general understanding and if you can come to it and own it, it will at least reduce the feelings of inadequacy, despair, and failure so many of us parents/caregivers feel.
So here we go…Your toddler is doing what toddlers do… learning about their environment, developing cause and effect relationships so necessary for basic math, basic communication and understanding in their later years. But at this moment their language and social emotional skills (let alone their moral compass) aren't developed enough to understand the complicated exchange above. So it really is the definition of wasting your breath. Frankly, we engage in all that mindless verbiage for our benefit not for theirs. It’s frustration talking and sometimes it says the stupidest things. It is best to keep it simple. Say “No’ like you mean it and remove them from the situation saving the conversation about the why to when you can say it simply, consistently and model the behavior. Use simple sentences and don't lecture! No one listens to a lecture.
And, if you haven't done so already… buy a toilet lock.