Monday, January 25, 2010

A Cry for Discipline Help!

See this precious face?

He is usually just that--precious, happy, etc. But over the course of the last 2 weeks or so, he's been giving me fits. I will humbly say I'm a first time parent, clueless of how to handle this! He was really having a biting issue about a month or so ago. We seem to have alleviated that for the most part. Now we're dealing with what I'm assuming is normal toddler activity: hitting, throwing, screaming AT me LOUDLY when he doesn't get his way, etc. Today's favorite activity of his has been slamming the cabinet doors. He's KNOWS it's a no-no, but when he does it, he turns at me with a mischievous grin. He's testing my limits, right?

Here's my question: what do you do to discipline a child who can't communicate well at all?

If I spat him, I'll spat him all day long. If I use time out, rolls around on the floor, licks the tiles, and tries to play peek-a-boo. He basically thinks it's funny, but understands he has to stay in that one spot.

Any suggestions? I'm trying to remain consistent with disciplining and not letting things slip, but it's getting tough! I feel like I discipline him all day long!



The Lively's said...

You WILL discipline all day long! Being consistent is my advice. We spank and yes, sometimes I feel like I spank all day long! He may not commmunicate, but he'll understand that a certain behavior will result in a spanking...and he'll catch on! I'm no expert - this is just what works for us. Just to clarify - I'm refering to what we use with our 3 year old. I do not spank my 5 month old!!

Audra Laney said...

Thanks, Ginger! I appreciate the reassurance!

Amy said...

Basic Behavioral Psychology 101. People do things for one of 4 reason: to get attention, to get out of something, to get some thing, or to get some kind of internal stimulation. My guess is that he is doing all of these things because he wants attention (odds are it isn't the other 3). Swats = attention. What he is doing in time-out = attention. On top of that he is not particularly verbal, and if he is anything like Jessica, he is hard-headed and hard-rearended (I made that one up) enough that swatting doesn't really phase him. (I would have to really beat Jessica to even phase her!) I would do exactly what we usually do with autistic kids (that's how I potty trained Jessica actually...using what works with an autistic kid).

First, Can you list 3 or less concrete things that you don't want him to do. Any more than that, and you won't be able to remember them...much less the 18 month old! Not to mention you won't be able to be consistent, and consistency truly is the key! Try to come up with a way to state them positively like "We sit in chairs." If you say "Don't stand up in the chair." I guarantee you he will come up with something else to do in the chair!! Personally I would start with just one rule. It is less confusing, and you will be able to see the progress. Don't worry about other things. Kids don't have to learn everything about behavior in a day. Take it one step at a time.

Second, (I am pretty sure you already do this) make sure you have a fairly consistent routine and that there is no major stressor that could be contributing to behavior problems (like I said probably not in your case). Also (again I am pretty sure you do this too) make sure you do give him lots of positive attention through out the day. Either playing with him or telling him he is doing a good job at something.

Third, when he does break whatever rule you start with, then you have to take away what he wants: attention. I told a friend the other day who had a similar problem with her child just walk away. She said "what if she follows me?" Then shut the door, which is fine as long as you know there is no way he could hurt himself. In your case, he would probably need to be confined to something. Whatever he does to get your attention, completely ignore it (that's why he has to be away from anything dangerous). In some ways this is like time-out, but not like what most people think of as time-out. When his hands, feet, and mouth are quiet, then he gets out of his confinement. If he does it again, he goes right back. You do not have to say anything the entire time. Works great for all nonverbal special needs kids....if they can catch it, Drew can most definitely catch it! He may express some frustration but just ignore it....once he gets the hang of how it works, he won't get as frustrated and will calm down quicker. By the way, my friend did end up trying it and said it eliminated their problems in one day!

By the way, I do NOT know everything there is to know about discipline, child behavior, etc. However, this does work with nonverbal special needs kids in school, with Jessica, and with some of my friends' kids that I have talked with. There are other methods that work, and I have tried some of them when I was raising my siblings. However, when I use this approach, I feel that I am a much better parent because there is no emotion involve. The more emotionally involved I get, the more likely I am to react out of frustration instead of truly dealing with the issue as an adult. Your kids learn more from watching you than they do from any discipline method.

Shannon said...

I echo Ginger! It is exhausting and All. DAY. LONG.

My 3 1/2 year old responds well to time out (or going to her room) and spankings. My 2 year old is a different story. She responds better to being taken out of the situation (not necessarily time out), being held instead of being allowed to walk places, and putting the toy/thing that was causing the disobedience in time out. I also firmly grab her wrists if she hits me or starts flailing. That usually allows us to make eye contact and she knows I mean business. Boys are different though!

I think Drew might understand more than you think! I've started telling Morgan what happens if she does so and so. If she does it, I'll ask her what happens next. She'll always tell me the discipline. She knows what will happen, but still chooses to do it!

Morgan does the exact same thing Drew does...smiles so sweetly at you right in the middle of doing what you just said NOT to do! She is a turkey!

I think it's definitely the age...but it doesn't get easier...sorry:) It also depends on the kids, this is what works for ours.

This is turning into a novel, sorry! Last thing...A good book I've read recently is "Love and Logic-Early Childhood" by Charlse Fay (I think).

Amy said...

PS If you are making efforts to discipline your child and you love him, then you are already doing a great job! I just meant the rest as something that might alleviate some of your frustration. It really helped me at any rate! It also made me feel better because I could actually "measure" our progress by looking at different rules we had been working on.

Audra Laney said...

Thank you, Amy! I appreciate you taking the time to write that out so well. We may have to put this to the test tomorrow.

Shannon--Well, even if it doesn't get easier, it's nice to know I'm not alone! Thanks for the book recommendation...I'll look into that. And Drew hates having his arms held still. We may try that for hitting as well.

Christy said...

As a mother to two children who have behaved EXACTLY like your litttle one. You are right in thinking that it is typical behavior for a two year old :) They are HARD WORK. He is learning that oh my goodness I can say no!!! I can do what I want even if mommy doesn't want me to! He is trying to figure out how you are going to respond when he has fun and does whatever he pleases.

My daughter was very challenging at this age because she was so bright and so hard headed!

What I have learned, and what worked for my children was this- I praised them like crazy for their positive actions. I also limited what I was telling them NOT to do. If you don't want him banging the kitchen cabinets, give him a cabinet full of fun toys to play with. Distract him with another activity. If all else fails, block off the kitchen. At his age those are your biggest tools-distraction and redirection. When he manages to disobey (and he will!) then you must discipline consistently each and every time.


I seriously would reconsider spatting him at this age because I made that mistake with my two year old daughter. She was my first and I just assumed that spankings would work. They didn't. I spanker her all day long and it became this heinous battle. I finally realized that it was NOT effective discipline for most two year olds. I would institute time outs-I used her pack and play for time out. When she was two and a half I started teaching her to sit in a chair for time out. Whenever she got out I would put her back in...and repeated this many times. She eventually learned that no matter what she was going to sit in that chair!

I do spank my children, don't get me wrong. I think it is an excellent discipline tool. However, I use it when they are older and for serious offenses. I talk to them before and afterwards. You do have limited communication with toddlers but I do think that Drew fully understands he is disobeying. just stay firm! This phase will pass! The more consistent you are now the easier it will be when he is older.

Hilary said...

Whew! That's some good advice. Of course I have none to give. I was anxious to read what others had to say. I'll be praying for you though!

Kacie said...

I'm with Hilary! :)

Someone said to put him in the pack and play for time out. That might help make it feel more like punishment rather than sitting next to you playing on the floor. But seriously, what do I know? My kid is 5 months old. Ha!

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