I am not sure if I mentioned in my last post or not, but I want to clarify that I am not an expert on discipline. I do have some experience (maybe a little more than most mothers of one two-year old). My experiences in working with children started when I was in junior high and I started teaching the two-year old Bible class at my church. I have also baby-sat and worked at day-cares for about eight years. I have spent summers with kids of all ages. And finally, I taught high school for two years. Of course, I think I have learned the most in the past year and half of parenting my two and a half year old son.
This post is about a method parents can use to get kids to stop behavior that is destructive, annoying, or harmful. About half of my disciplining issues with my son are getting him to stop doing something he should not be doing. I have tried several approaches to this type of disciplining and have read about several different tactics of discipline from different books and different authors. But one method, that seems to work for me and my son is from 1-2-3 Magic by Dr. Thomas W. Phelan.
In his book, Phelan suggests that parents sometimes treat their children as little adults. Parents try to reason with their children and explain things to them, but in reality children are not wired as little adults and cannot understand our views the way we want them to understand. When I read this, I realized that a lot of the times I try to explain to my two-year old (who is driven by his impulses and has not developed the regions of his brain that allow him to reason through decisions), and when he keeps doing the things that I don’t want him to do, I get upset and I feel that he is purposely going against me. Phelan says that this type of thinking leads to parents arguing and yelling with their children because the kids keep doing the same things over and over again. If you have found yourself in this type of situation with your kids, there is something you can do to get your kids to stop the tantrums, the sibling fighting, the arguing, or whatever else is going on that you want to stop. You count them.
I counted with my son before and sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. But the counting that Phelan suggests is a little different. First off, you do not talk except for the counting. No explanations, no arguing, no emotions. Here is an example of what I did when my two-year old wanted M&Ms and I had already told him no.
Camden: (After I had already told him no.) Can I have some M&Ms?
Me: No. I already said no.
Camden: Can I have some M&Ms?
Me: That’s one.
Camden: Can I have some M&Ms? (his voice is a little more quiet)
Me: That’s two.
Camden: Can I have some M&Ms? (I can barely here him this time, but he is saying it)
Me: (with no emotion or talking) That’s three, take a time-out.
Camden: (starts crying about the timeout and does not go, but I pick him up and take him over to the chair we use as a time-out spot and then set the timer for two minutes.
When his time-out is over, I kiss him and I tell him I love him and he goes back to playing. I don’t bring the discipline issue up again. A lot of the times I do not even have to use a time out because he stops after I use the first count. When I use this approach to disciplining my son for behaviors I want him to stop, it keeps me from becoming frustrated and angry at my son. If this approach sounds interesting to you, here are some things you need to know before you start:
Talk to your kids before you spring the counting on them. Let them know what you will do and you can even have them roll play how it works.
Have a designated time out place (chair, stairs, their rooms, whatever will work for you, but it should be in a different room from you.)
A timer is a great tool for timing your child’s time out. (You do not have to watch the clock the whole time and the child knows exactly when they can come out of their time-out.) The time-out length should be one minute for each year of their life.
This approach is a calm, collected warning system. You are giving your child two chances to stop what they are doing. And you are doing it without arguing, yelling or pleading. Some situations may need to be stopped the first time, I.e. hitting. You do not want to give your child two more chances to hit someone, so you would automatically go straight to the time-out.
If you are interested in this method of discipline, check out 1-2-3 Magic by Dr. Thomas W. Phelan.