Thursday, June 3, 2010


We're about to hit the terrible twos. In fact, they may have arrived in a screaming fit this weekend. Will my discipline strategy hold up?

Every once and awhile hubby calls me permissive in that "I'm 80% kidding" way. I maintain that she does not get whatever she wants. Today she had a mini meltdown because I wouldn't take my pants off. Now, if I'd spent the day in my underwear I'd accept the permissive label. What I am is deliberate. I call it gentle guidance. If it's likely not a big deal - I don't make it one. But I'm not afraid to pull out the "Don't You Dare" face when I need too, it looks like this (it even scares me a little bit):

I deliberately use the word 'no' sparingly, but that doesn't mean I forgo behaviour training all together. It's alot more work to enforce boundaries while not saying no. It's the "how about we do this" instead manner of correction. Instead of "no" or "don't" I try to remain positive:
  • How about dig in this dirt rather then in my herb garden, Mommy's herbs need to stay in their ground.

  • Here, take one one square of toilet paper (rather then the whole roll.)

  • When holding an object she shouldn't have I quickly offer her another rather then grabbing it from her while saying no.

  • Grabbing anything from her makes her furious. So even if I have nothing else to offer I bend down and tell her that she needs to give it to me. If she doesn't, then I take it -- the fall out is always less intense when I've given her the choice first.

  • Will she fall or break my couch if she jumps on it? Not likely, jump away. (and yes, I think she can figure out the difference between our couch and someone else's).

  • If she's doing something she doesn't know she shouldn't be doing, I intervene gently. I may even explain why she can't do that. She might not understand the reason, but she certainly understands the, your-not-in-trouble-but, tone I'm using.

With a little effort there's a way to promote boundaries by creatively redirecting, saving 'no' for more serious discipline issues. Redirecting requires a conscious effort and it doesn't guarantee a happy child anyway, so why bother? Because I want her to feel empowered by choice, not restricted by rules.

The other day she reached into my junk drawer, pulled out 2 packs of cards then proceeded to scatter them around the kitchen. I didn't love that. I stopped and considered my response; I calculated the time it would take to gather, separate and count 2 decks of cards and the chances of them coming back complete. Plus, I didn't want her to feel like she has an all access pass to that drawer, where she'd also find scissors and gift certificates. But disseminating my $1.50 playing cards? Not really that big a deal. So I let her do it, knowing that permitting it may bite me later when I have to set a boundary around that drawer. But I decide "to let tomorrow worry about itself" - and that day, I told her to go nuts, throw my cards around the kitchen to your hearts content.

She never did it again anyways. Unless safety is a consideration I don't react strongly (or at all) to a first offense. I learned as a manager that if somethings is really a problem, there will be lot's of opportunities to address it. Half the time, it's not a problem at all.

When I do have to correct a behavior in a more serious "oh no you don't!" manner, I pick one or two at a time. Currently it's: don't you dare hit and, don't you dare draw on anything but paper. Her "I sorry" sobs are heart breaking and defiant all at once but she's never surprised by my response.

I'm willing to accept the tears to avoid anymore of this:

on my kitchen cabinets.

She was born cautious, so I hope this encourages her to think "I'll try it" more often then "I'd better not."


  1. First of all, I hope I never have to see that facial expression again-- it is a bit frightening and I bet it works! :)

    Secondly, I can't believe she drew on your cabinets. I SO respect the way you parent and would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that scenario. How did you not freak out!?!

  2. i'm with bonnie - i hope i don't have nightmares of the 'don't you dare' look.
    i may have to try your parenting technique - it sounds so calm and...responsible. hehe :)

  3. I know. Tim has gotten the look a few times and he's still shaken by it.


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