Delibrate Disobedience vs Unintentional Disobedience
I have a little grandson who is the grand age of almost 21 months and already he is starting to deliberately ignore certain suggestions as in “let’s tidy up your toys now” or else he will just say “NO” with a vigorous shaking of his head. Luckily, I am the grandma of this little individual who is already trying to assert his will at his tender age! So as a grandma, I smile benignly and just ignore this “deliberate defiance” from the cutest little boy alive! If your toddler really hasn’t heard what you were saying then that would be unintentional disobedience and it is up to you as a parent to be able to distinguish between your little one deliberately ignoring you or if he genuinely hasn’t heard you. If you deem the disobedience to be deliberate (easy to tell if your toddler shouts “No!”) what should YOU be doing in order to get your defiant toddler to co-operate?
Discipline is not Punishment
The first thing to do is to get your head around the thought that discipline is not meant to be a punishment but rather a way of teaching your child something. It is so easy to just send your child to time out when he or she is refusing to bend to your will. But if we realise that discipline actually is meant to teach your child how to behave as well as help them to understand and express their emotions, then there should be fewer power struggles between a parent and their toddler. If one focuses on discipline as a way of teaching, then before launching into a power struggle one should stop and think about what it might be that your toddler needs to learn instead. Perhaps he or she needs to be taught new habits, values or consequences that will result from his or her behaviour. To help you change your mindset from discipline to teaching here are a few useful techniques:
What are the Intentions
It is important to try to find out what your toddler’s intentions are when he or she is deliberately disobeying you. Take a deep breath and ask yourself WHY. Why is he or she not doing what you have asked? For instance, if your toddler is annoying a sibling by sticking so close to him that the said sibling cannot get on with whatever he or she is doing and you authoritatively say “Move away so that your brother/sister can play” but your toddler ignores this….think about WHY. Maybe he/she wants to play with his brother/sister but hasn’t got the words to tell either you or his sibling. If you verbalise it for him and then show him how to play near to his sibling without crowding him, you will have taught your toddler something useful. Basically, you have to start thinking like your toddler thinks – or at least try to! He or she will be more likely to co-operate if he/she feels understood and not shouted at all the time.
Importance of eye contact
Seeing things from your toddler’s point of view, literally, can make a big difference to your reaction. Get down low and make eye contact with him/her before trying to communicate something to him/her. Your little one is more likely to take you seriously if you are down at his/her level when you calmly, but firmly tell him/her what it is that you want done. This can help to avoid the inevitable power struggle which may ensue when you are standing there way above your toddler as it is natural for a smaller person to feel defensive when someone is towering over them! So kneel down to your little one’s level and they will probably take you seriously and oblige instead of feeling threatened and reacting by being bolshie!
The value of consequences
If you threaten your toddler with a certain consequence, it is of utmost importance to follow through with your threat. The appropriate consequence for your toddler’s behaviour will be a learning experience as long as you follow through and deliver whatever you have promised! It also teaches your little one that you mean what you say and this in turn leads your toddler to trust in you.
Pick your battles with your toddler carefully. Only insist on something if it really is of importance either to you or to the safety of your little one. Get down to his or her level when a power struggle is imminent and always try to fathom out WHY your toddler is disobeying you. A lot of power struggles can be avoided if you manage to do this simple thing. Once you have determined the WHY you can then react in an appropriately empathetic manner. Of course there are circumstances when your toddler simply must obey your instruction and there is no time for you to ponder the WHY! An example would be if you tell him NOT to touch the hot plate of your stove while you are cooking and he still reaches out to touch- in this case you would automatically yank him away from the stove and because you have also received a fright, you would probably remonstrate with him or her in a very cross tone. But once you are over your fright, take the time to explain to your toddler that the hotplate was very hot and he would have got very sore if you had allowed him to touch it. Also tell him that you are sorry for being so cross but it was because you were so frightened of him getting hurt. This way he or she learns that it will hurt to touch the hotplate and also that you care about their safety and do not want them to get hurt.
Lastly, remember if you threaten a consequence and your toddler still ignores you, follow through on your threat. In other words, mean what you say and say what you mean – consistently!!!
I’d love to hear your stories about any power struggles you may have had with your toddler and any methods you have used which have reduced wilful disobedience on your toddler’s behalf. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or just leave your story in the comment box below this post.
Until next week I remain
Yours in lifestyle newborn photography