A hilarious contributed piece by Gareth Cartman
Here’s a problem, and feel free to contribute with your suggestions in the comments below, please. My two-year-old daughter thinks discipline is funny. Perhaps I’m not doing it right. Perhaps I’m cracking too easily and letting her off. Either way, when I tell her not to do something, she laughs.
Perhaps, then, it’s too early? She doesn’t understand everything, although if there’s cake or ice cream involved, you can bet your last dollar that she’ll understand every last word.
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I think I’m making progress, though. I’m sure it’s not the only way, nor is it the best way, but here’s my five-step plan to instilling a little positive discipline in a two-year-old.
1. Think serious things when you're doing it.
Laughter is infectious, so if your two-year-old starts to laugh at you when you’re disciplining her, it’s hard not to laugh too. In fact, my daughter has worked this out as a tactic for getting out of being disciplined. Laugh, and the world laughs with you.
So, I’ve had to figure out ways of not laughing and keeping my serious face on. It’s hard, but I’m getting there. I think of cricket stats. I think of politics. I think of that rather difficult book that I’ve been trying to read for the last year, without getting any further than page 36. You ain’t getting laughter out of me, little one!
2. Do it quickly if you're going to do it properly.
Here was my first mistake – my daughter decided to throw her food from the table, covering my nice floor in tomato sauce and pasta. Hang on, I said, I’ll be over in a second to discipline you. Hang on… just going to finish this mouthful… oh, the oven’s beeping – hang on – I won’t be a second… oh, is that the doorbell? Hang on… I’ll be back to discipline you in a second.
Right, where was I? You think the two year old can remember why she’s being disciplined? Not likely. You’ve got to be quick, on the ball, and discipline immediately and quickly.
3. Do it eye to eye and speak softly.
Oh, but she’s crafty. She knows this tactic now, and averts her eyes as much as possible. However, the truth is that kids hate it when you stand over them and wag your finger. It’s not effective – you have to get down to their level and look at them eye-to-eye. Lower your voice, too – raising your voice only winds them up, and results in them doing it too. So lower (and soften your voice) when speaking at their level, and remember – think serious thoughts. No laughing!
4. Be consistent - Because they actually DO have good memories.
Remember I said they’d forget why they’re being disciplined? They’ll remember other things, though. If you’ve got a naughty step, and you’ve just spent five minutes sitting on that step while talking on the phone – it’s no longer the naughty step. It’s the phone step.
Equally, if you discipline once, you can’t just “let it go” the second time because you’re tired (and you often are).
5. It's a battle; and they'll do anything to beat you.
So, last week, after a bout of food throwing and food refusal, I offered food or the bedroom. More throwing and more refusal ensued, so bedroom it was. She shook the gate so hard it almost came off its hinges, screaming like a banshee.
Who’s going to win? The one with the most willpower, that’s who. You want to show child who’s boss, and the child wants to show you who’s boss. Do you really want a boss who’s younger than you? Do you? I didn’t think so!
For more tips on discipline, check out 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12