Wednesday, April 2, 2008

1... 2... ... Do I have to get to 3?

You know you’re a TV junkie when you admit to watching Supernanny. I’m not a regular viewer, honest, but I’ve seen enough episodes and previews to be haunted by the spectacularly wild children and meek parents that are the Supernanny’s fodder for scorn, pity, and instruction. I alternate between being appalled at parents that let their children get out of control and horrified by the realization that simply relaxing the rules on a holiday or a birthday can cause some serious discipline problems.

Maya received her first time-out about a year ago (when she was 1.5 years old), a childhood landmark that left her parents full of fear. Mostly, fear of being too hard on our baby. We used time-outs sparingly for a long time.

Today time-outs are a daily occurrence, usually for Maya, but often putting an abused toy or utensil away for a bit is just as effective. We have a system of warnings and 1-3 minute long punishments depending on the offense. It nearly always does the trick, both calming her down and curbing unacceptable behavior.

You may have read my post last week extolling the virtues of the Home Court Advantage and vowing to teach Maya real-world rules. I spent last week playing The Freeze Game (I shout freeze randomly throughout the day and if she freezes she gets a marshmallow) in an effort to teach her to stop in public situations (as opposed to running faster like she does now).

I am more convinced than ever that Maya’s reached another disciplinary milestone. Last year we transitioned from a baby to a toddler that only needed to hear no when she was about to touch the stove, run in the street, or hit the cat. This year we’re transitioning again to a preschooler who wants as much power and control over her own life as we can give her. She needs to hear no about a thousand times a day; and I need her to respond.

I tend to avoid conflict. Especially with Maya, since I would much rather hear her say, “mama I love you more than chocolate” a hundred times in a day than “mama don’t be mad and sad anymore.” I routinely just take things away from her (like the bottle of ranch she wanted to squeeze out all over her plate at lunch) and simply move it out of her reach.

Instead I should have told her no, warned her of the consequence, then put her in time out when she broke the rule. If I stick to that method (advocated by Supernanny and a book called Love and Logic that I have yet to read but hear is great), supposedly my sweet but spectacularly willful child can learn that all of her choices have consequences and that her parents are serious when we say no.

More importantly, I won’t be following the rules for her. She’s already the size of a four year old; she’ll be able to reach everything in another year!

I’m off to learn the art of offering choices with consequences to a preschooler without turning into “mad and sad mama.”

Wish me luck!
Maya sporting her new rain gear (before Monday's snowstorm).

Elliot can't stand to sleep for more than 25 minutes now that she can crawl after anything she wants!

Maya will only let me fix her hair if I put 5 ponytails in it!

Maya and I made birthday flowers out of her hand prints and Popsicle sticks yesterday.

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