Babies are manageable but when they become toddlers, that easy math equation of obedience minus tantrums = compliance does not compute. I am not good at playing ‘bad-cop’. It stems from my own childhood – I was brought up by typical South East Asian standards, you get whacked if you don’t comply. End of story, no bargaining.
Soft parenting was my go-to technique. A whimper and thick hot tears got me in a fix and I would rush to carry Ciaran and comfort him. When he turned 2, and as all toddlers do – he discovered that he could say No. A shake of the head, stomping of feet, running to a corner, curled up in a bowl and cries that could rival a banshee. Wooopfh. I dreaded that. Daryl is the firm one and he would not stand for any tantrums. I started deferring to Daryl whenever Ciaran got into his Oscar the grouch mood swings/tantrums. Deep down, I knew this was not sustainable. Parenting is a two-person (or a village) work.
Thankfully I caught on, and I started to seek out techniques to help me be a more responsible parent. Of these, a one great resources is a series of books my sister bought me under the ‘Ready to Go!’ set. Bless her heart, she got it in hopes of helping me deal with a headstrong toddler. The one I found most useful and have applied with great success is the on Manners. Written by a clinical psychologist, it fames out 4 key factors that influence the way children learn and choose their behaviours:
Key Influences on Children’s Behaviour
- Copying: parents need to model best behaviour for children to imitate
- Cues: signals, reminders, arrangements , rules and routines
- Consequences: reward and punishment
- Compassion: being understood and listened to = caring communication
The book goes in-depth into each point and provides practical tools to aid parents like me in our attempts to ensure we bring up children who respect and are considerate of others’ feelings.
This was the turning point for me as I flipped through the book (which has a separate book for your kid too) and as Ciaran turned 3 and I started to make a concerted effort to help my son chart out what it means to have manners.
This book recommends using Time-outs to navigate toddlers into understanding what is acceptable.Two other techniques we’re using now are also Option 1 or 2 and a good ‘ol analog Responsibility Chart . If there’s anything I’ve learnt on managing toddlers it’s these three things and I’m using them to the best of my ability. Here’s how:
- Children need firm discipline and the assurance that they are loved.
- When your child starts acting out – i.e. a tantrum or being rude, put them in a place (we use the stairs) where you can see them (don’t shut them in a room) and set a timer. 2 mins for a 2 year old, 3 mins for a 3 year old and so forth.
- After the timer beeps, take them out and hug them tight and spend some quiet time together.
- Once your child has calmed down, explain what they did ‘wrong’ – misbehaving, screaming, being unkind, kicking etc.
- Emphasise how they can be kinder, better behaved then move on. You don’t need to dwell too much on that incident.
2. Option 1 Or 2
- If your child is not listening to reason or just doesn’t want to do what he’s told, pause and give him 2 options.
- Both options need to be something you can deliver on. They should not be what your child is demanding from you.
- For example – your child wants to watch Youtube but he’s already had his 1 hour limit and is screaming your ears off.
- You can offer him Option 1: Playing with his robot toy (pick a fav toy of his) and then he can get say 30 mins of cartoons later in the evening OR Option 2: Continue crying and get NO screen time for the rest of the day.
- Put it to him that he needs to pick only 1 Option.
3. Responsibility Chart
- We love Melissa & Doug’s stuff, they’re well made and well-thought-out. Daryl bought this chart and hung it in our living room.
- We picked out priority tasks we wanted Ciaran to take responsibility of – clearing his toys, stop whining and saying please and thank you.
- We told Ciaran what’s expected of him should we want to get a ‘Bravo’ or ‘Good Job’ magnet. It works brilliantly; and he would come to us at the end of the day and we assess how well he had done for the day and award him accordingly.
- Affirmation helps children understand what they should do more of. I prefer this to yelling and being militant.
- The Manners book also comes with really cute posters and stickers you can get your child to paste when he is polite, respectful and well behaved.
These tools has worked well for us so far. But as with every chapter of the age-old Book of Parenting, every day is a new day. Ciaran is better behaved and knows his boundaries. He communicates better on why he’s frustrated (i.e. hungry, need to use the potty etc) instead of throwing a hissy fit. There are still days when he gets into a scream-fest, but those instances are much reduced.
As tough as parenting is, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Being parents have made us better people because we are relearning so many of the basics. The basics that make us human – and what is truly important; our family, our love for each other which fuels our efforts to make a brighter future.
Useful links to buy tools mentioned in my post: