elevating child care

Baby Discipline, Person To Person

Hi Janet,
My question is about my almost 13 month old son. He is extremely curious and engaged in the world around him. We have always tried to empower him and make him feel safe and supported to try anything and everything (within safety, of course). Drawing from my experiences working as an educator in a school that was very much inspired by Reggio Emilia and Montessori, I try to speak to him in terms of what he can do instead of what he can’t do, and this involves very little – if any – use of the word “no.” I also try to speak in a neutral, even-keeled tone, acknowledge his emotions by making observations rather than quick assumptions (ex. “You seem frustrated. May I help you? etc.”), and utilize the power of gentle touch.
Lately, I’ve been hearing from friends about “discipline” and how at this age, our little ones are “testing” us and we shouldn’t be reinforcing any “bad habits” such as yelling/loud verbalizations, “whining” for things, and doing things we don’t want them to do. I understand that our responses to our children send powerful messages. Personally, I find that compared to my friends, I give my son very few limits and restrictions. As long as something seems physically and socially/emotionally safe, I allow him to try and examine whatever grabs his interest. I feel proud that he is curious and eager to engage and explore.)
What are your thoughts on disciplining an early toddler?
Thank you!
Sincerely,
Dena

Hi Dena,

It sounds like your instincts, experience and education have helped you develop an extremely positive relationship with your son. You not only have obvious adoration for him and are rightfully proud, you also view him as a capable individual and treat him that way.  This is evident by the way you 1) stay calm and neutral when he is frustrated; 2) tell him what he is allowed to do, rather than wearing out the word ‘no’; 3) acknowledge his feelings and point-of-view even when they are in “disagreement” with you or with a rule; and 4) keep him safe while being careful not to discourage his curiosity. You’re right on track for establishing a relationship of trust and respect that will make discipline an organic, intuitive, less baffling part of parenting your toddler.

I agree with your friends about young toddlers needing behavioral boundaries, but the way we establish those limits and respond to our child’s healthy impulse to test them is what makes all the difference. As you say, our responses send powerful messages – every interaction we have with our child is a learning experience. And that’s why I recommend the respectful “person to person” approach you are taking.

Here are my thoughts and suggestions about early toddler discipline. Since you brought up “yelling/loud verbalizations and whining”, I’ll try to use those behaviors as a running example.

Our needs matter, too

Parenting is about developing a relationship with another person. We make many worthwhile sacrifices when we are raising children, but it’s best to not subjugate all our needs to keep our child “happy”, because a) doing so makes us feel unhappy and resentful; and  b) it doesn’t give our children a healthy attitude towards discipline or a realistic expectation about life.

Beginning an honest, respectful approach to discipline means “owning our space” in a relationship with our babies. Just as we are learning about our children, they need to know us — our likes and dislikes, our pet peeves, our limits. We need to get comfortable disagreeing with each other, and infants and toddlers express disagreement by crying or having a tantrum. These are not the urgent cries of pain, distress, or hunger that we would drop everything to address, but they are no less difficult to hear. To develop an honest, balanced person-to-person relationship, our children need to learn early on that we will do our best to give them everything they need, but that they can’t always get what they want…and that’s okay.

For some of us, that might mean demanding a few personal minutes in the morning to have a cup of coffee, take a quick glance at the newspaper, go to the bathroom on our own, or spend a little time in the kitchen preparing their food or ours. Then, holding up our end of the bargain means allowing our child to express his feelings while we stay calm and acknowledge: “You’re upset about how long I’m taking in the kitchen.” “You don’t want me to go.” “I hear you calling me. I’ll be there in 5 more minutes.”  “I know you want to climb on me to practice standing, but that’s bothering me. I’m going to help you sit down again.”

In the case of a 13 month old whining or yelling, you could say, “That’s too loud. I can’t understand you when you yell (whine, etc.). Are you asking me to pick you up? I can’t do that right now, but I’ll sit with you for a few minutes when I’m done putting the groceries away.” With an older, more verbal child you might say, “Please speak in your regular voice so that I can understand.” Or “That yelling is hurting my ears. Please stop and talk to me. Tell me what you want.”

So, we are not ignoring the whining or yelling, but we’re not accommodating it either. We’re guiding our child to tell us what he needs as clearly and politely as he can, and then letting him know what we are willing and able to do in response.

Clear expectations

From the beginning our job is to make our expectations as clear and consistent as possible. The best way to do this is to give babies predictable, “routine” kinds of days. A daily rhythm helps them to eat, sleep, and play better, and to feel a little control over their world. Rested and fed, babies are much more amenable to our guidance, less likely to feel overwhelmed and misbehave. (Often whining or yelling = tired, hungry or over-stimulated.)

Direct, honest, first person communication.

A good way to remember to treat our baby like a person is to talk to him in the first person.  Using “I” and “you” instead of “mommy” and “Joey” works wonders to keep our communication direct and honest. And it’s much easier for our toddler to understand and respond to our guidance when we say calmly, “I don’t want you to hit me” rather than “mommy doesn’t want Joey hitting her” or “We don’t hit” or “We don’t yell” (while the child might be thinking, “Well, I do!”)

Don’t “just say no”.

Our babies sense our respect and learn far more about us and our expectations when we use “no” sparingly and replace it with simple guidance and a brief explanation. “Please don’t hit the dog. That hurts her. You can hit this stuffed animal.” “I can’t let you touch the electric cord. It’s not safe. I’m going to help you let go of it.” Or, “I don’t want you to yell. It hurts my ears, and I can’t understand you. Please show me what you want”   Children are also more inclined to listen to “no” when we don’t say it all the time.

Guidance not gimmicks.

Giving person-to-person guidance means saying “no” to gimmicks, tactics and punishments like “time out”. It means not giving distractions or the silent treatment to a child who is yelling, whining (or otherwise misbehaving) to discourage the behavior, but rather asking him directly what he wants to communicate and telling him how we’d like him to say it.

I don’t recommend toddler lingo like, “inside voice” and “use your words”. Why? Because we would never say those things to another adult. (And asking ourselves, “Would I treat an adult this way?” is a good gauge for ensuring respect for our child.) Neither would we bribe, distract or re-direct a peer to control their behavior.

Dealing with our toddler as a person means insisting he hold our hand when we are walking together rather than leashing or chasing him, and expecting him to sit and not throw his food when he eats. Toddlers are definitely capable of cooperating, but they need to be taught through respectful feedback, corrections and modeling, rather than being tricked, manipulated, coerced.

Curiosity rocks. Don’t discourage it.

Our instinct as parents is to say, “Oh no, don’t do that”, when our toddler surprises us by suddenly being able to reach or climb to something “out of bounds”. But our children’s abilities are developing daily and we don’t want to discourage them.  Remembering to say, “Wow, you can reach that now!” Or, “Look at the leaf you found,” before adding, “but this isn’t safe for you to touch (or put in your mouth). I’m going to move it”, encourages our baby to continue following his healthy instinct to explore.

Continuing the example of annoying vocalizations, that might mean saying to infants (who go through charming phases in which they experiment vocally), “You can make that loud crowing sound now! Wow, that’s ear-splitting!” And then you’ll probably just leave it at that, because if you say too much, or try to discourage a young infant’s enthusiastic noise-making, you might fuel the fire. Sometimes, we need the self-discipline to know when to hold our breath and bite our tongue.

I hope this helps.

Warmly,                                                                                                                                                                                              Janet

For much, much more about discipline please read my most popular post: No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame.

(Photo by Spigoo on Flickr)

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35 Responses to “Baby Discipline, Person To Person”

  1. avatar Dena says:

    Dear Janet,

    Thank you SO much for responding to my question with so many wonderful details and easy to apply examples. Hearing your suggested responses to such situations really, REALLY helps!
    Many times I feel like there are two extremes in the world of parenting: indulging our children or training them. It can be difficult – especially in the moment with a loud 13 month old – to hold space firmly in the balanced middle where guiding our children with respect and consistent modeling is the way.

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge and for giving us parents the strength, tools, and inspiration we need to raise the next generation.

    Sincerely, Dena

    • avatar janet says:

      Dena, you are so welcome! I gave a lot of examples to make up for not being able to explain in person, which is what I’m used to and so much easier for me.

      As I said, you have wonderful instincts and I know you will continue to make great choices for you son. Enjoy!

  2. avatar tlv mom says:

    Hi Janet,

    As usual great examples that both help me where I am stuck an reiterate the things that I am doing.

    I do have an additional question. You mention avoiding the use of ignoring the child, to which I wholly concur in principal. My question is, after I have reacted a few times in the ways you mention in the post (acknowledge his need, give him a time fram, etc.), I still need to get on with my stuff and my boy may still be crying or whining. What then?

    Thanks,
    Oshrat

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Oshrat! “Getting on with your stuff” while your boy whines and cries is exactly what I mean by taking care of yourself, and not trying to appease him just because he cries. Yes, at that point, you are ignoring (meaning not attending to) his reaction by staying calm and confident, and allowing him to express his displeasure. That is entirely different from the direction apparently recommended by some experts to turn your head away and not acknowledge unwanted behavior like whining and yelling, pretend it isn’t happening. The removal of love and attention to control behavior is not the message we want to send. It’s unnatural. And it teaches a child nothing about the desired behavior we want him to learn.

      • avatar Cameron Hitt says:

        Thank you. I did not realized when I was ignoring my 15 mo old boy climbing on my glass coffee table, that I was employing a tactic. It worked much better when daddy came home and said “tables are not for standing, here try standing on the floor.” I also notice myself blindsided when I refuse him a cracker or put a toy away so we can leave home and he yells and runs in the other direction, then runs back at me to try and hit. I take his hand and say “I won’t let you hit me” and I do acknowledge his feelings. Sometimes though, I notice myself just letting him carry on, not saying anything, ignoring it and turning around to do something else. My question is do you have more advice on how I can handle those situations, or more blog posts about these early days of toddler hood? I find him getting frustrated more as he understands what I am saying but can not yet communicate back….

        And thank you for this article. I realize too often I say “I won’t let you climb onto the kitchen table” and put him on the floor. I do need to acknowledge his accomplishment of climbing (or whatever it is) and then explain why I won’t let him….

  3. avatar Marilia says:

    This is my favorite post on discipline in my 3,5 years being a mother and in my last 6 months of blogging!

    Janet, I learned with an older post of yours to speak in first person. It takes a lot of focus to switch the habit. I still use a lot of third person talk, but I’m getting better and it’s easy to understand how this improves the communication, making it much simpler and direct.

    I´ve also been imagining what I would do or say to an adult before reacting with my daughter.

    Just yesterday, I was on the phone and she stood up over a chair looking down from the 11th floor where we were (with her head out of the window). I yelled with an angry voice: “GET DOWN NOW”. By the time I finished the order, she already had those trembling lips breaking my heart. I hung up with my friend and went over to her and said, “I´m sorry I talked to you that way ,it was rude of me, but I get really scared about you being alone by the window. Please, ask me to be next to you when you want to look down, ok?”

    We then had a proper dialogue, with her telling me that she wouldn´t fall down and me explaining that I believed her, but I still got nervous and would prefer her to have me next to her. She finally agreed and didn’t even mind the window anymore.

    Reading your blog, about Magda Gerber’s principles and Pikler’s has been really great for my relationship with my daughter. Thank you.

    I feel just like Dena when she says that “there are two extremes in the world of parenting: indulging our children or training them”. I guess I often jump from one extreme to the other, but I´m learning to give much better responses every day.

    • avatar janet says:

      Marilia, Thank you for these high compliments!

      It does take focus to change habits and impulses that are ingrained in us. But don’t be hard on yourself for your emotional reaction to your daughter’s safety. It’s wonderful that you apologized to her. Remember not to give up your power. We all have that reflexive tendency to give our children limits with that little question at the end: “Okay?” And it diminishes the guidance our children need from us, makes it seem as if we need their approval first.

      Don’t forget that you are the one deciding the rules, and usually, especially when it comes to safety, those rules are non-negotiable. That will help keep you from falling into the “indulgent” side you mention. Our children desperately need to know that someone besides them is in charge. The ‘respect’ Magda Gerber recommended has often been confused with letting our children run the show… which is not respectful to our children’s needs for guidance and security.

      I really appreciate your thoughtful comment!

    • avatar Dena says:

      Dear Marilia,

      Yes, I have been there too – re-act (since I wasn’t proactive, and realistically assessing the situation) and then apologize to my son for my harsh reaction. I, too, at times go from one side of the extreme see saw to another. But I can say that with time and patience and really taking things SLOWER – allowing myself to take in the situation before reacting – helps me to change every day.

      I think the very fact that we are striving to be conscious of these things – even if we do make mistakes – sends a beautiful message to our children. (The message being that there is beauty and growth in the process and that we really, really do love them). :)

      • avatar Marilia says:

        That’s right, Janet, another habit to be changed: ending the sentences with the “okay” question.

        Dena, I know we are on the right track too just by having a broader awareness of what’s going on. This is definitely the first step to change.

        • avatar janet says:

          Marilia, just want to mention that I still catch myself doing the “okay” thing, too. It’s a really tough habit to break. I remember Magda Gerber advising us not to give children false choices. It isn’t fair to them. If we can’t accept the answer “no”, we shouldn’t ask! Like, “do you want to go see Aunt Martha now?” (as we’re loading up the car). “NO!”

          As you have probably noticed, young children are very literal.

          • avatar Kscourageous says:

            I agree with you all that the “okay?” thing is one of the hardest to break. I think largely because it has such a double meaning…I ACTUALLY mean “did you hear me/understand me?” or “are we on the same page or do you need further clarification?” when I say “okay”…but, of course, to a very literal toddler, he hears “is that okay with you?”. I’m trying very hard to just drop it entirely or to at least replace it with “do you understand?”, but it slips out way more often than I’d like. We are constantly a work in progress, just as our children are, no? ;-)

  4. avatar Jordan says:

    What a wonderful post! I am so intrigued by the world of RIE parenting and I still have so much to learn. I found myself nodding in agreement to every word in this post, and yet still having so many questions. My daughter is already nine months old but I am trying to get started on this approach and continue to learn what I can. My question is if there is one book or maybe two that you would recommend reading to help me really begin to wrap my head around all of these concepts? I feel like I need to read even more than your wonderful articles to begin to really understand this parenting style. I’m hopeful that by reading more and continuing to follow your blog that the RIE way will begin to come second nature. Thanks so much!

    • avatar janet says:

      Jordan, thank you! It will become second nature because it already jives with your instincts. That is exactly the way I felt 18 (!!!!) years ago when I first discovered Magda Gerber’s child-rearing ideas.

      The two books I recommend are by Magda Gerber and geared towards parents: Dear Parent – Caring For Infants With Respect and Your Self-Confident Baby. There is also a more recent book by Ruth Anne Hammond: Respecting Babies.

      There are now 130-something posts here on my blog and 97% of them are about RIE & Educaring, so there are a few books here, too. (I’m in the process of getting a search function to make it easier to find the topics you’re looking for.) Thanks for reading, and please check out the community forum (http://janetlansbury.com/community/ ) and ask any questions. Cheers!

  5. avatar Nicole says:

    One of the things I love about your approach is that it is about respect for the adult in the relationship just as much as it is about respecting the infant or child. After all, that’s what we all want, to be treated respectfully and with loving kindness.

    • avatar janet says:

      Exactly! When we take care of ourselves in the relationship with our child, we are teaching her to respect others and also modeling self-respect. And we are much less inclined to lose our temper with a child when we are being mindful or our own needs and taking care of them.

  6. avatar Samantha says:

    Hi Janet,
    I really appreciated this post. Like Dena, my husband and I work hard to tell our daughter what she can do instead of what she can’t do, refrain from using “no”, etc, etc. And like Dena, others find this approach to simply be a lack of discipline. (Last week my mom informed us we had “no rules” at our house — we do have rules, but express them in the positive. “Food stays on the table.” etc)

    However, with a very active, curious, and communicative almost-2-year old, I find this approach can be challenging. Too often I tell my daughter what she can do, or ask her to remind me what she should be doing instead — and while she always knows the correct answer, she chooses to continue with the “misbehavior.” In fact, she recently stood on the coffee table for the bazillionth time (“what are tables for” “books, drinks”. “Are tables for standing” “No!), called me into the living room to show me, and then said mischievously, “timeout!” — a term we don’t use!!

    I do my best to show respect to my daughter — but sometimes it seems she doesn’t show the respect to me! What is realistic for a 2 year old? Sometimes she cleans up without me asking and other times I can ask her to put one little thing away and she ignores me over and over. This applies to everything from getting dressed to waiting. Is this just the age – sweet, helpful one minute; doing things she shouldn’t be the next? In this regard, I do feel like she is “testing me”. “If I don’t put this way / stop this behavior / etc etc, what are you really going to do, Mom?”

    On a separate note, she also has a horrible habit of biting other children when they enter her space or when they take or have something she wants. It doesn’t happen every day and weeks could go by between incident, but it’s awful when it happens. It’s her response to frustration though she does have the communication skills to express herself. (She’ll even bite herself at home when distraught.) We take the same approach with biting: after making sure the other child is okay, I take my daughter aside and explain, sternly and seriously, the things she already knows verbatim. “Biting hurts. Teeth are not for biting. Teeth are for eating.” But the behavior continues. Is there a different approach you recommend?

    Thanks in advance for your valued insight!

    • avatar janet says:

      Samantha, your daughter calling “timeout” is a classic! It sounds to me like she is telling you loud and clear that she needs a little more directness and follow-through from you. As you’ve suspected, she’s well aware of the rules, so rather than keep telling her things she already knows (which is slightly insulting to her intelligence, although I know you don’t mean it that way) calmly and gently, but firmly follow through. Take her down from the coffee table while reminding her briefly “I don’t want you standing on this table”. Be very businesslike about it. Don’t get wound up.

      (Keep in mind that “forbidden” activities in a space in which she’s expected to play aren’t really fair to her… If there’s any way you can give her a place to play freely, I highly recommend it.)

      Samantha, this is extremely insightful and right on: “Is this just the age – sweet, helpful one minute; doing things she shouldn’t be the next? In this regard, I do feel like she is “testing me”. “If I don’t put this way / stop this behavior / etc etc, what are you really going to do, Mom?”

      And what you are going to do is continue to give her the boundaries she needs without getting at all upset… If she refuses to get dressed in a timely manner, you may not have time to go to the park…. Give her logical consequences like these, but not punitive ones. Cleaning up is a little different, because it has to be done willingly…you can’t insist she cleans up. So, I would ask for her help, but not expect it at all. But I would give her the logical consequence that you won’t allow her to take more toys out to play with until she puts the ones she done with away.

      Biting is a sign that she’s feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and out of control and it commonly happens with preverbal children. This might improve when you follow through more with giving her the secure boundaries she needs. It could also stem from over-tiredness. I would definitely NOT go into “Biting hurts. Teeth are not for biting”, etc. She knows those things full well, but she is having trouble controlling the impulse. Once again, be calm and brief… “I won’t let you bite.” Don’t get stern with her. She needs your empathy. Remove her from the situation and help her reflect on the situation (non-judgmentally!). “You wanted that toy and Joey took it away. Were you angry? You can tell him ‘no, I’m using that’, but I won’t let you bite.” Whenever possible be close by when your daughter is in conflict with other children so that you can intervene non-judgmentally in the moment — briefly saying “I won’t let you bite” and stopping your daughter from doing so. Then, in that moment you can reflect your daughter’s experience. “You had that and now Joey has it. That’s frustrating. Next time you can say, ‘No, I’m using that”.

      Hope this helps! Let me know… :)

      • avatar Samantha says:

        Thanks Janet for your thoughtful response. We will definitely work on making some changes to the way we respond to our daughter. You pinpointed things I had been thinking a lot lately and appreciate having that concurrence and support.

      • Loving this post and the comments.

        Can I just add that age-appropriate expectations are really important. Expecting a nearly-2-year-old to willingly clean up all the time is probably a bit optimistic in terms of age and stage, so I’d avoid making this any sort of issue at all and just thank her enthusiastically when she does help- “Thank you so much for cleaning up your (whatever)- that helps me so much and gives us more time to play together.”

  7. avatar Jessica says:

    Janet. . .. As usual you were spot on with your response to Dena! Dena spoke of her voice which I applaud. I call it the voice of knowing which is very different from passive or aggressive talk. I had to practice this voice as a girl from the South tends to speak passively. I remember the first time that it worked for me.
    Thanks for the opportunity to speak about this.
    Wishing you well from the other side of our country! Jessica

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Jessica! Great to hear from you from the other side of the country! “The voice of knowing” is a lovely description. This is one of the hardest things for some of us to master… It definitely did not come naturally to me, but finding it was confidence-boosting…and not just as a parent, as a person.

  8. avatar Emily Montez says:

    Janet, this is great stuff! As a mom to 2 toddlers, one 18 months, and the other 2 1/2, I feel exactly like what Dena said: one end of the spectrum or the other. I feel like they either run me ragged or I am yelling “NO!” all day. Thanks to these principles I am finally feeling a better sense of control over our lives and we have a lot more fun because of it! I love that it is all based on a mutally happy relationship. I so often feel like I have to give everything to my girls, even when it leaves nothing for me, but it is so important that we respect ourselves as mothers as well and show our children how to respect outhers as well as themselves. Thanks for all the practical advice! I am passing this article along to my community over at MamaFusion!

    • avatar janet says:

      Emily, thank you! The “taking care of ourselves” piece is extremely important and, unfortunately, often overlooked. If we don’t model self-respect, it’s less likely that our children will learn to respect others. The relationship we have with our child is the model for all the other close relationships he or she will ever have… It’s important to get this right!

  9. avatar Rose says:

    Janet

    My son, 13 months old, has been throwing tantrums. I address them calmly but he’s slamming his face into the ground (his new little teeth and all!) as if to get my attention from it. He just learned to walk and has hit his face very hard on the ground a couple times when stumbling. I immediately run to him when this happens, but it seems like he does it on purpose now during tantrums knowing that I’ll react. I’ve been very even keeled about it, but it worries me. Any suggestions?

    Rose

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Rose! Hmmm… It seems like you might be on to something here: “he does it on purpose now during tantrums knowing that I’ll react.” Perhaps you project a little too much alarm when he’s hurt and you run to him. You can go to him taking brisk smooth steps (even if he’s crying) and project the sense of calm he needs. This isn’t a less caring response than running to him, in fact it is even more so, because you are being really sensitive to his sensitivity to your response. Does that make sense? I would also calmly place a pillow under his head when he’s tantruming, whenever you can. And don’t worry, children rarely hurt themselves this way.

  10. Lovely and helpful post, I know a lot of people who will find it useful.

    It reminded me of when I was a teacher of 2.5 to 6 yr olds… I would tell them on occasion: “The volume of your voice is hurting my ears. Please speak in a softer tone.” (and of course I would model the volume)

    Then one day I got an ear infection and was out of the classroom for three days. When I returned, one of my oldest students had written me a note that said: “I’m sorry the little children hurt your ears.” :)

  11. avatar Elanne Kresser says:

    Perhaps yelling is a 13 month old exploration?
    Shortly after my daughters first birthday she started to use yelling for all manner of communication. I want to be picked up, I want to see what you are doing, I want to go outside, I want a drink of water — all of these were insisted upon with ear splitting screams. I started to think I might have hearing loss by the end of the day!

    My husband wondered whether she was spoiled and I wondered if we’d gone terribly wrong somewhere and not met her needs. But it soon became evident to me that this was a developmental exploration of power and and outgrowth of some frustration around having clearer intentions and desires but not yet being able to articulate them.

    So I began saying to her, “Wow, I hear you screaming loudly. I think you are telling me you want to be picked up and maybe you are feeling frustrated? Is there another way you can tell me you want to be picked up?” She would then hold up her arms and grunt and I’d say, “Yes that’s another way that you can tell me.”

    I did this and it seemed non-stop for weeks, but in the past few days she is screaming much less — more so when she is tired, or genuinely angry or upset about something. The rest of the time she is finding lovely ways to let us know what she wants – grunting, hand gestures, saying “uh uh uh” while she points at things.

    I feel so touched by what I’ve learned from you and RIE about staying calm and clear while setting limits. With a very active, curious and exploratory little one who seems to really need to test the boundaries it can be such a demanding thing to do — it makes me understand why some parents opt out of setting clear limits. But I see the fruit of this approach and I feel so blessed to be a part of helping my little one learn about the world she lives in.

    How lucky are we that you are blogging while we’re parenting? I kind of can’t imagine not having this resource!

    • avatar janet says:

      Elanne, thank you! You made my day with this kind note and beautiful story about your little girl. Yes, screaming is often an exploratory phase that passes if we react calmly as you did.

      Who knew grunts could be so welcome?

  12. avatar Suni says:

    Hi Janet,
    I have a question about the gimmick part.

    Sometimes my son hits/pushes me when I don’t do what he wants straight away (for example, he’s finished eating but I’m not and he wants me to play with him or help him with something etc).
    I hold his hands and tell him I won’t let him hit/push/hurt me but after the 3rd time I tell him that if he keeps doing it, I’d go into another room and close the door, and follow through.

    I don’t do it to emotionally manipulate him but because I literally need the physical distance. Firstly because I am 6 months pregnant and sometimes he pushes his head to my belly and it really hurts; also sometimes holding his hands means being on my knees and I’ve lost my balance in the past; and lastly, being on my own for a bit helps me keep my cool and not loose it with him.
    I keep talking to him while I’m in the room and come out after 2 or 3 minutes max. By then we are both calmer and have a hug and can move on.

    Would you call that a gimmick or punishment???!!!
    THANK YOU!

  13. avatar Kimberly says:

    Hi Janet,

    Great article! I’m new to this method and have a few questions about discipline. My sone is 17 months old and is into everything. I’ve been letting him exolore but sometimes he will get into something that can be dangerous. For example: he will try to grab knives out of the dishwasher while I’m loading it. Or he’ll attempt to pull the cord on the vaccuum while I’m using it. I have told him it’s unsafe and that I won’t let him do it. However, I don’t know what to do after that. I’ve been putting him in his pack-n-play when I need to finish something like the dishes. What else can be done? What is the appropriate way to respond during a potentially dangerous or emergency situation? Thanks for any advice!

    • avatar janet says:

      Thanks, Kimberly! I recommend a gated off safe play area that is much larger than a pack-n-play. A small room or corner of a larger room would be ideal. Your son is doing exactly as he should: exploring and testing his environment. To encourage his curiosity and learning, he needs an safe “yes” place. If kitchen items, appliances and other unsafe things are available to him, both of you will become needlessly frustrated…and accidents may happen.

  14. avatar Cameron Hitt says:

    Thank you. I did not realized when I was ignoring my 15 mo old boy climbing on my glass coffee table, that I was employing a tactic. It worked much better when daddy came home and said “tables are not for standing, here try standing on the floor.” I also notice myself blindsided when I refuse him a cracker or put a toy away so we can leave home and he yells and runs in the other direction, then runs back at me to try and hit. I take his hand and say “I won’t let you hit me” and I do acknowledge his feelings. Sometimes though, I notice myself just letting him carry on, not saying anything, ignoring it and turning around to do something else. My question is do you have more advice on how I can handle those situations, or more blog posts about these early days of toddler hood? I find him getting frustrated more as he understands what I am saying but can not yet communicate back….

    And thank you for this article. I realize too often I say “I won’t let you climb onto the kitchen table” and put him on the floor. I do need to acknowledge his accomplishment of climbing (or whatever it is) and then explain why I won’t let him….

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