I have a new discipline technique. And although this method seems to be working with my toddler, for now anyway, I guarantee nothing in terms of its effectiveness on other children. All I’m saying is that for the moment, the light in my 2yo has finally clicked on. When I reprimand her for a crime using this method, she at least appears to recognize and respect the fact that
1. her mommy is very serious and in no joking mood, and
2. it may be a good idea to pay attention while mommy is so serious, and
3. there is no point in trying to negotiate, whine or complain
The idea behind my technique comes from a passage I read in Vicki Iovine’s toddler book, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Toddlers. In it, at some point or another, she described a method she witnessed (or was told about later) about one of her Girlfriends that hit home with me. In essence, the mother’s issue with her toddler was similar to what I’m experiencing oh, say, every 10 minutes of the day, but which includes the very criminal “not listening” and “obeying a command” when danger is imminent.
We all know what it’s like when a child dashes into the street. We all apply instinctive protective measures to prevent an accident and keep the offspring safe. We all yell, scream and screech words like “STOP!” and “NO!” in an effort to alert the child and have him stop in his tracks.
We all know that these types of screams are more effective when not used every 10 minutes of the day, but only during those times when danger is imminent (hence, theoretically, increasing the chances of having the child actually LISTEN and STOP).
So here’s my story. On the days when Sonja accompanies Benjamin and I to his school, which is five blocks away, the three of us walk together in a somewhat normal fashion. Most days, the children are walking, either slightly ahead of me, or by holding on to the stroller or each others’ hands (cute!). Which is all fine and dandy.
There are days when for whatever reason, one, or both, are full of beans. Meaning they have to run to the school. And fool around while running.
Running is fine. I’m all for exercise and getting their pent-up energy out.
Remember the five blocks? Each block is marked by a street. A street that intersects the sidewalk, and at which a stop sign is located. More often than not, there is also a car either approaching, or stopped at the stop sign.
This means that the children must stop at each end of the sidewalk and wait for me to catch up with them. It means that each time we cross the street, they must endure, until I feel fully satisfied that they comprehend danger, a lesson in how to cross a street safely.
This could potentially last 27 years.
But I digress.
The toddler is my issue here. It is she who thinks it’s amusing to run into the path of oncoming vehicles. It is she who gets the giggles when mommy abandons the stroller and sprints in long strides right after the offending toddler. It’s funny when mommy grabs her by the hood of her coat and whisks her off to safety.
I do not sprint well on one cup of coffee.
I cannot, however, drink two cups of coffee prior to our walk since then I would have to pee about halfway there. Yes, my bladder is the size of a lentil.
(Aside note: the actual walk, without children, at a normal brisk pace, takes approximately 7 minutes. The walk with both children takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes depending on whether they walk or run, how often they stop to inspect stuff, fight over who gets to sit in the stroller, change their minds about sitting in the stroller 8 times in 3 minutes, climb in, climb out, etc.)
One day not long ago, on the last block before the school, Sonja once again dashed into the street. And Vicki Iovine’s Girlfriend, the one I mentioned above, entered into my head. Or more correctly, her method of dealing with her toddler’s offending crime popped into my head. What she did to her toddler was this: she got right down to her eye level, made eye contact, and reprimanded the child over her crime.
So that is what I did at that moment too. I pulled Sonja back onto the sidewalk, nearly caused a traffic jam amongst other walkers who were behind me with their brood, got down into a crouch position, and made eye contact. Face to face, no way to escape my glare.
If you think this worked with MY kid, you obviously haven’t read this blog for long and don’t realize what Sonja is like.
As far as she was concerned at that moment, eye contact with mommy was a lovely thing, and even a funny one at that, since mommy’s face was all contorted and her voice sounded funny.
Enter my newly invented technique: the squeeze-the-face grip.
Now before you decide to call the authorities on me for squeezing my baby’s cute cheeks between my fingers, allow me to explain.
My intent here is to get hre to pay attention to what I’m saying. I want her to comprehend that her actions are dangerous and must stop. The only way I got through to her was when I held her face in my hand, thus preventing her head from moving. My grip isn’t hard at all, but it does tighten slightly each time she tries to move her face away. (Think halty on a dog).
She has no choice but to look me in the eye. She has no choice but to listen to my words. And because she can’t escape, I have no reason to raise my voice. My voice, even though I feel exasperated, is quiet, low, and very serious.
That incident was the first time I tried this method with her, and it was purely accidental (as in not planned). But because of its effectiveness, I applied this method again, with success. I do however reserve it to serious crimes only, those that pose imminent danger.
She most certainly does not like it. She pays attention to my words, which are to the effect of “no Sonja, it’s not funny, it’s dangerous to run into the street. Cars are coming. Look at me, pay attention. It’s dangerous. No running into the street. Stay on the sidewalk. I am very serious. Nobody is laughing.”
She’s better. I still can’t trust her, obviously, but she’s better. It’s been over a week, and we’ve had less serious crimes of that nature committed.
Of course, after such an incident, once she sees her dad she’s all “daaaaaddddyyyyyy, mommy squeezed my face!”…but that’s another story.