How do you get toddlers to behave well?
In my working life I asked/told people what I wanted them to do. I expected that they would do it and they usually did. I wasn't a nasty boss, far from it. I wanted people to enjoy coming to work.
I have tried to apply this 'management style' to my parenting with varying degrees of success.
Andy and I use positive, encouraging language with the boys and give plenty of warning about what we would like to happen. We explain what we are doing that day and the sequence of events so there are no surprises. This works pretty well most of the time.
If we are playing in the garden or the park we tell the boys when there are five minutes to go, sometimes we count down the remaining minutes. When without a fuss.
There are other times where life doesn't run as smoothly. Some days I struggle to get the boys washed, dressed and out of the door by 9.15 to get to Toddler Group, even though they really enjoy going. Other days they give me the runaround so that it’s too late to go anywhere worthwhile so we end up nipping to the garage for bread and milk (and Jaffa Cakes). They dawdle, hide their shoes or just plain refuse to come near me. This is infuriating, but not really ‘naughty behaviour’.
Sometimes there is hitting, kicking or toy snatching or throwing. Sometimes they swing on the curtains when they know they are not allowed to touch them. Sometimes food is chewed up and spat out. Sometimes water is poured on the carpet.
All of these things are ‘naughty behaviour’. They are ‘unacceptable’. I am emphasising these words and phrases as they are ones used by television Supernanny Jo Frost. There’s no denying she gets results, but her methods seem so punitive and negative.
Following her lead we give a warning to the boys that what they are doing is naughty behaviour and if they do it again there will be consequences. We try to relate the consequences to the behaviour. We are consistent and we carry out our threats. If they spit out their food then that is the end of the meal. If they throw a toy it is taken away. These punishments are pretty effective.
If the boys hurt one another or touch my flippin’ curtains, however, they go in the playpen. This is our version of the 'naughty step'. We just call it the 'playpen'.
In true Supernanny style we place them in the pen, get down to their level, explain what they have done wrong and tell them that they will stay in the playpen until beep beep beep (beep beep beep is the sound of the alarm on our mobile phone countdown timers).
When we hear the beep beep beep, usually after two minutes, we get them out, remind them why they were put in there and ask for an apology. Then they get a ‘Mummy/Daddy loves you’ and a cuddle.
I feel as uncomfortable doing this as I am about typing it.
It works as in it distracts them from what they were doing, but it doesn’t stop them doing it again the next day. It feels wrong to manipulate them by withdrawing affection while they are in the pen.
I had an idea to create a sticker chart for them. My goodness, they love stickers. I’d like to reward good behaviour. Surely that’s a more positve way to parent. I’m stuck though (arf) as to how this would work.
What do you reward with a sticker and when? I can’t see much point in waiting until the end of the day to award a sticker for not hitting your brother over the head with ‘Hippos Go Beserk’. Should I remove a sticker each time they go near the bloomin’ curtains?
Why should they get a sticker for completing everyday actions such as teeth cleaning or letting me give them a wash? This doesn’t seem right either.
I have one sure-fire, never-fail carrot parenting technique up my sleeve that works on any behaviour, it got Presley through a haircut last week and a teary tantrum yesterday and it’s what I call the ‘Jelly Baby Technique’.
Yes, I know. That is unacceptable behaviour on my part, but it is 100% effective.
Please share your wisdom. What works for you? Do you use carrots, sticks or stickers?