Friday, March 02, 2012

"Don't Make Me Count to 3," Part 5

Once again, my regular life has provided me with material to share with you regarding discipline. Good news, bad news, right?

Well, last time, in Part 4, I shared with you my first experiences and awareness of the need for learning how to discipline my toddler. She was a feisty one. (Well, maybe they all are.) So for the next couple years, we danced the "Who's really in charge here?" dance. Sometimes I was, sometimes, clearly, she was. {Sigh.} Parenting a toddler can be really exhausting. But I can tell you this, if you're in that stage. Just by doing SOMETHING in the discipline category, you are taking baby steps in the direction of progress. Your toddler may make the same mistake every day for a month straight, but if you remain consistent and patient in teaching him or her the boundaries, one day, it will click.

For me, things started to change when my daughter was about 3 and a half. Notice I didn't say things got easier. They just got...different. A baby brother was in the picture, potty training was in the past, she was in a big girl bed, and my now preschooler could verbally communicate fairly well. But I was still using tactics to manage her as if she were a toddler. She needed a bit more independence and listening, and not so much physical wrangling and scolding. I didn't know I needed some new approaches until one day when I attended my weekly MOPS meeting.

{Here is my aside to STRONGLY encourage you to join MOPS or some other mom support group. It is so, so, so important. I wrote more on how much it changed my life as a mom here.}

The speaker was sharing tips from a parenting book called How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk. It was just what I needed. I remember reading this book when my daughter was four, and thinking, "Wow, so I've basically ruined her for the last four years!" Of course, that wasn't the truth. But this book had so many practical ideas that I really needed. And by the way, it is not a Christian book. It is a classic secular parenting book several decades old, and I still reference it to this day. When I'm out of ideas, it always gives me a new one. It is excellent. In fact, when my daughter went into first grade, at Back to School Night, her teacher recommended it to all the parents. That night, I felt so thankful that God had dropped this resource into my lap two years earlier. That is exactly what happened, by the way. I was in need of some new tools and a little encouragement, and He provided what I needed to do my job as a mother better.

My favorite chapter is on ways to encourage cooperation. Instead of continuing to rely simply on threats and consequences, I began to use different approaches. For instance, let's say my daughter didn't want to take a nap. One of the strategies is to "offer a choice" so that your child feels some sense of control in a circumstance they do not like, but cannot be changed. She had to go to naptime, that was non-negotiable. But instead of battling her with reasons and arguments, I would just jump right to something like, "So, sweetie, it's naptime. Do you want milk or water in your cup?" or "Do you want to sleep with one guy or two?" or "Do you want to wear your clothes or your PJ's to bed?" If she said, "I don't want to take a nap," I would firmly say, "That's not a choice. The choice is, do you want to wear your clothes or your PJs?" It totally works. It's genius, people. I still use the phrase, "That's not a choice," a lot with my kids. They know now that I'm not just bossing them around; some things are a choice, and some things just plain aren't.

My daughter, as you probably know is almost ten now (!). Just yesterday, I used another strategy on her. She is getting sorta pre-teeny on me. Drama and blubbering over ridiculousness like her shoe choice. Yesterday, her whining and high emotions got so bad that I found myself shouting at her while she was shouting at me because I could not handle her tone with me anymore. Sheesh. It was so very dumb, and I knew it. So I took her to get some frozen yogurt, and pulled out some better skills. If you are regularly hitting a wall with a child who is old enough to roll with this idea, one strategy is to brainstorm solutions. I said, "Hey, I really don't like shouting at each other. Wasn't that so dumb!? Neither of us was listening to the other person. However, it is not okay for you to talk to me like you were when you were freaking out about your shoes. I get really upset when you speak to me like that, so I need a way to remind you to take it down and communicate more like a big girl. I very much want to listen to you, but you need to learn to communicate in a better way. What would remind you to take a time out to calm down, or get some fresh air before telling me what you need to say?"

I made a couple suggestions, and she didn't like them (not surprising - feisty, I tell you). Then she suggested that I just hold out my hand, like making a sign for "stop." A non-verbal sign. Huh. I would not have ever thought of that, but it was a totally suitable idea! I said, "Great! So when I see you start to melt down, and being to use a voice that is not okay, I will hold up my hand, and you will know what that means. It means I want to listen to you, but you need to find your self control first." She was perfectly happy with that new plan. Genius, right? I would have NEVER come up with the idea to brainstorm solutions with my child for a recurring problem had I not read that book.

Don't forget how I said in Part 4 that you can't ever rely solely on a book, unless it's God's Word, in parenting. But this one really helped me a lot, and still does.

Next time, I want to talk about the one bad choice in our house that everyone knows gets double consequences, the thing I take very, very seriously.  You'll just have to wait and see what that is... :)

Happy Weekend, friends.



  1. oh, my! i have 2 daughters in pre-teen mode and i think we're going to try to implement some of this.
    thanks, Leslie.
    i think we yell a little too much sometimes.
    {like yesterday when elly got all sliver eyed snobby on me}
    ooooh! it ended in grounding, which at this point, doesn't seem very appropriate.
    there is a deeper issue at heart.
    have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Love it, Leslie. Wish my ribs didn't hurt so bad so I could take a quick road trip and talk to you in person!!

  3. Great tips. My oldest son and I had a code word for a while, but I can't remember what it was now. Guess it's good we didn't need to use it for too long. :)

  4. oh i love this and have loved your parenting "series"! :) I already do the choices thing with Abigail (she just turned 2) and shes starting to understand what that means, so Im hoping it will stick as a parenting tool when fits happen. we attended a "Love and Logic" class which sounds a lot like the book you mentioned. It taught us about offering choices and then coming up with solutions together when they get older. I already want to go back to a class! :) And like you said, no class or book is a substitute for parenting with the LORD's leading, but Im so glad He has pointed us towards resources like these. Thanks for sharing...I really look to you as an awesome example!! love you friend.