Mrs. Narbonne posted an interesting counterpoint in the comments to my earlier post on “The Power of Timeouts“.
I thought it was worth sharing in its entirety!
I hate to be a contrarian, but to me Charlie’s behavior post-timeout was motivated by the desire of avoiding a timeout (external control), rather than a development of internal control (“I do not spit on the floor because I am concerned about the health of others”).
I do believe a timeout can be effective in changing behavior quickly in the short-term, but it is not effective in developing long-term internal behavioral controls. We aren’t giving them any new ideas or skills for how to get along with others when you put them in a time out.
I also think that parents often confuse discipline with punishment. Discipline means to teach, punishment means to hurt. I don’t think you need to hurt a child (the hurt doesn’t have to be physical, it can take the form of blame, shame, judgement, or guilt) in order to teach them.
Mr. Bee, you wrote about feeling like you were making Charlie cry – I would think about ways of teaching Charlie appropriate behavior where the process feels good/positive to you.
While his behavior is normal toddler behavior, it doesn’t excuse it so I would suggest thinking of ways to redirecting his behavior. A first step would be to ask, why is he misbehaving? Does he want more attention, or wants to express power/wants to feel useful? Is there an appropriate space for him to express his physical need? Then, find a way for him to exercise his needs in an appropriate way.
Perhaps in the case of spitting, check and see if there are tissues readily accessible to him, as well as wastebaskets. Or maybe he just needs to hear what you do want him to do instead of what you don’t want him to do. You could say, “we do not spit on the floor. we spit in a tissue and then throw it away,” and then when he spits on the floor, have him help you clean it up.
Or, if that isn’t the issue, maybe it’s a case of wanting attention (negative attention is better than no attention). If it’s attention he’s seeking, when he does the negative attention behavior, don’t make eye contact, don’t say anything, but do something physical to make your child feel loved (such as rubbing his back).
In the case of when he hits you, you could say, “Charlie, you seem really frustrated that XXX. But hitting hurts Daddy. When you’re ready to play nicely, Daddy will play with you again.” Then leave the area so that he cannot hit you. Or if he’s acting out at the playground, simply say, “if you continue acting like that, we will have to leave the playground.” If he continues his misbehavior, you would then follow through with your limit, leaving the playground while saying gently, “It seems like today you can’t play nicely in the playground so we’re going home. You can try again tomorrow.” (And be prepared for tears and a fit, but the tears come from disappointment, not because they feel that they’re “bad”.)
Here are some writings from some of my favorite parenting teachers:
Here’s another great article that I just found that sums it all up:
“Some people ask, “After the hug, then what? What about the misbehavior?” Hugs can create an atmosphere where children are willing and able to learn. This may be the time to take time for training, ask what, why and how questions, give a limited choice, use distraction, engage in joint problem-solving — or to do nothing and see what happens next. Most of the time adults can help children stop misbehaving when they stop dealing with the “misbehavior” and deal with the underlying cause. Children DO better when they FEEL better. Encouragement is the key.” -Jane Nelson
- Mrs. Narbonne
Thanks, Mrs. Narbonne! That’s really fascinating. You bring up some great points on the power of parenting versus discipline.
Charlie is almost two, and so we have focused almost exclusively on parenting techniques to adjust problem behaviors. A few techniques have been especially helpful:
* As you mentioned, we’ve focused on teaching him appropriate behavior, and teaching him coping skills for dealing with difficult issues.
* One big success has been telling Charlie to “use your words” when he starts acting up. That’s been really helpful when he starts hitting or acting up; rather than shout or act out physically, he’s learned to communicate what is bothering him. That’s been really helpful in understanding where he is coming from, and being able to help him learn to cope.
* When Charlie starts to show signs of fussiness, the first thing we do is mentally check his schedule to see if he’s hungry or tired. Or think through his recent health symptoms to see if he might be sick or teething. A lot of times what seems like behavioral issues can just be a cranky toddler!
* If Charlie is throwing a true tantrum, then we will often completely remove him from the situation. For example, if he really wants to eat an olive at the grocery store and starts to throw a tantrum… if he doesn’t react to a warning, we might pick him up and bring him immediately outside of the store (true story actually!). The change in venue almost always stops the tantrum and lets him collect his thoughts.
We start with these techniques first, always.
As Charlie has gotten older, his ability to communicate and cope with problems has grown to the point where I think he does understand when he is doing something wrong. If the above techniques don’t work and Charlie is repeatedly doing something that we’ve discussed is wrong, then we will consider using a timeout. So far, we’ve only used two. :-)
I’ve seen books about parenting where the emphasis is much more on discipline over parenting, and I don’t think that’s always fair to the child. At the same time, I’ve seen kids where the emphasis is 100% on positive parenting; a good example is Charlie up until last week. I realized that I was finding myself uncomfortable with the type of child we were raising. But I understand that others may get better results from exclusively using positive parenting.
For us, it’s been all about a healthy balance. So far, that balance has been 99% parenting and 1% discipline (solely in the form of timeouts). I can’t recommend that 1% highly enough though! It’s been a real gamechanger for us.
What do you guys feel is the appropriate balance between parenting and discipline?
Toddler Tantrums part 3 of 91. How to prevent tantrums: A guide to the 5 triggers and 2 stressors that cause tantrums by Mr. Bee
2. The Power of Timeouts by Mr. Bee
3. The Case Against Timeouts by Mr. Bee
4. Three Ways to say "no" to your kids by Mr. Bee
5. From Devil to Angel: "Tina's No" by mrs. wagon
6. Cracking the code on toddler tantrums by Mrs. Jacks
7. What would Ellie do? Managing tantrums. by Mrs. Jacks
8. What Shamu Taught Me About Happy Toddlers by Mr. Bee
9. The Trenches of Toddler-Dom by Mrs. High Heels