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Monday, October 26, 2009

An Experiment with Explaining

So, I'm embarking on an experiment in discipline with Noelle. I've been reading some books and websites. I've been trying the time-out thing, the incentive thing, the spanking thing. But recently, I've stumbled over the glimmer of another possibility: reasoning with my barely two-year old daughter.

Now, I never would have believed, and I still partly don't, that you can reason with a two year old, but let me tell you my stories and you tell me if you don't think I should keep pursuing this road of explaining "why" to my daughter in order to keep her from bad behavior.

Yesterday: Noelle sprinkled water out of her sippy cup all over her high chair. This is a regular problem. She loves to pour things and that has meant even milk and juice on the carpet. I give her time outs and even spankings over this, because we've talked about it so much.

Immediately, I took her out of the high chair and put her in time out. After time out, I talked to her about what she had done, and what mommy had asked her to do and said "no more" pouring her sippy cup.

Less than a minute later I found her sitting in the high chair happily watering the furniture and floor around her.

I snapped and grabbed the sippy cup away from her. I pulled her out of the high chair ready for more drastic action, but in an instant of inspiration, decided to see what would happen if I explained to her why I didn't want her to pour out her water.

"When you pour your water out it makes you wet, and it makes a mess for mommy and I don't want to clean it up, okay? Do you understand mommy?"

A quiet nod.

She didn't do it again the rest of the dinner.

These sorts of cycles have been getting more and more regular over the last month: bad behavior, mommy disciplines, return to bad behavior, mommy gets aggravated, mommy disciplines again. Although a couple times I've just sort of accidentally stumbled across explaining to Noelle why I do or don't want her to do something and then magically it works.

Part of the reason why I have a very hard time believing that simply explaining to Noelle will work is because it seems too easy. I mean, I've always believed that kids want to do what they want to do and that reasoning can not alter this primal want, only negative consequences.

For that reason, I've been digging in for a good fight with Noelle when it comes to obedience.

She's precocious and energetic and extremely persistent, so I thought that would mean lots of visits to the time-out corner and some sprinkling of spankings. What a surprise to find out she actually listens to me!

I still half believe that perhaps the reason talking works for her is simply because she's still little. I'm bracing myself for the true onslaught of terrible twos. I'm sure my little experiment in explaining will go flying out the window in about six months, but until then I figure I might as well keep trying it.

I decided to put it to work today.

We visited some friends this morning and she had a very hard time sharing and taking turns. Multiple tantrums and fits on the floor, and even a time out. I tried to talk to her in the middle of it, but there was too much emotion, and too many kids and toys.

On the way home, I decided to try and talk to Noelle about it over lunch. I mean, even as I thought it, there was another voice in the back of my head saying, "No way, she's forgotten it all by now, her two year old mind won't remember what you're talking about." But I decided to give it a try.

I waited until we were sitting quietly across from each other munching on our quesadillas and then I brought it up.

"Noelle, we need to have a talk, sweetie." She lifted her little face toward me and kept munching. "We need to talk about sharing and taking turns with our friends."

I'm not kidding, her little eye scrunched up, her mouth curled like she had just tasted something sour, and she dropped her head quietly.

I went on to tell her that it's fun to play with friends and playing with friends means sharing and taking turns. yaddayaddayadda. "What should you do if Baby E~ wants to play with the teapot? (pause) We say 'Okay Baby E~ you can play with it..." The conversation went on like this, not too long, just enough to talk about better responses than crying and whining.

"So what do you say? Next time we'll play and take turns with our friends. Do you understand what mommy is saying?"

Holding a quesadilla in one hand, munching away quietly, Noelle studied my face for a moment and then nodded her head.

So that's my experiment. We'll revisit the conversation face to face before we go play next time and I'm interested to see if it makes a difference. If things go any better. I'll let you know.


Blogger Amanda said...

Please keep the advice coming! John and I are just starting to enter this territory with Sam. We are currently living by the practices of "Parenting with Love and Logic" and living by the principles of "Raising Children Compassionately:Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way." We take both with a grain of salt. :)

3:05 PM  
Blogger Christin said...

Mandy, I've heard so much about NVC and it's just a matter of time I read it for myself. I hear so many good things and now I'm even more interested about "Raising Children Compassionately!" Thanks for the heads up. I'll go look that book up too.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, I don't know why this concept was so revolutionary when I read this post, but it was! I never thought to attempt reasoning with a two-year-old, but I'll have to give it a try! :-)

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Samantha said...

I loved how you wrote this. It is a great suggestion to put in my tool box of disciplines :)

8:03 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Yes! I feel like this is what I do too and I love it! It seems so effective. I have talks with Evee a lot when we are on our way to something...just so she is prepared and knows what is going to happen (or how I'd like it to happen).

I, too, need to read NVC since I've heard about it a lot. And, I'm a huge fan of "Parenting with Love and Logic", even if I'm the only one :). It just makes so much sense to me. I know we all find what works for us, though!

10:43 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Kate Chinlund was the first person I heard parent with reasoning, and I was floored because Caleb actually listened to her. I don't have kids yet, but I am definitely interested in this for when I do!

11:16 PM  
Blogger Erika Hettinger said...

If I may suggest...

The true power of these conversations is having them BEFORE the behavior occurs. So, having the same exact same conversation that you had about Baby E~, but on the WAY to Baby E~'s house...

8:21 PM  

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