Trouble with Toddlers? Two Keys that Can Help
- Wednesday, October 11, 2000
One of my favorite things in life is when I come home from work and loudly announce, "Daddy's home!" The next few moments are usually filled with chaos and excitement as my children come running from all directions to welcome me back. There's hugging, kissing, and laughing, all good things to a tired daddy.
However, this is not always the case. In fact, just this week, I returned home to the same routine, "Daddy's home!" and to my surprise, no one actually responded. "Have they forgotten me? Am I not the center of the universe today?" My questions were quickly answered when my lovely wife rounded the corner of the hallway and said, in a frustrated voice, "I don't know what to do!"
I still had no idea what was going on. "I don't know what to do!" she said. What does that mean? She doesn't know what to do about ... If I was a paranoid person, this statement could cause a lot of concern, but I know we have two children under the age of 5. So it must have something to do with one of our kids. And I was right!
Amy reported, "Cole refuses to pick up the mess he made in the toy room, and I've kept him in his bedroom now for 45 minutes and can't get him to respond." Here is a dilemma many parents face with children of all ages: what to do when your child does not respond to your efforts to get them to obey. Amy had dealt with this for almost an hour and was clearly exhausted and frustrated, two emotions not well suited for discipline.
I'd like to suggest two things you can do when faced with this problem. First, gather yourself. This might sound simplistic or overstated, but it is so important when dealing with children. Oftentimes we get locked into battle with our children and don't take the time to step away from the war. We battle and battle and battle until finally either one side gives up or something happens that we might regret. Take your time when dealing with difficult disciplinary situations. There's no need to rush into judgment or solutions. Tell yourself, "I don't need to solve this right now!" And then allow yourself the necessary time to calm down and gather your thoughts again. Nothing good ever comes out of an escalated situation with your children.
Secondly, seek an outside opinion. When you're locked into battle with your child, the storm around you can easily block any signs of hope or resolution. It's like you're in the middle of a hurricane and can't see anything around you. The wind is blowing debris from one place to the other and the picture seems to be complete chaos. There's no structure to the conflict or any sign of the storm letting up. This is when it is most helpful to have a satellite picture of the conflict. Someone who is outside the conflict, who can give a total view of what is going on. When you're allowing yourself to calm down, take this time to call your spouse, friend, or even, in the most desperate of situations, your parents (of course then you are setting yourself up to be reminded of how you were as a child).
When I came home I was able to be Amy's satellite view of her present conflict with our oldest child, Cole. I wasn't emotionally exhausted or tied up in the situation. I was able to give some outside opinions of other disciplinary strategies that might get Cole to respond positively to Amy's request to clean up the toy room.
So remember, when you're frustrated and feel hopeless in a disciplinary situation with your child, take a moment to step back from the conflict, and during this time, seek the help of an outsider. This will make the life of parenting more enjoyable and successful.
Moms give and receive help on parenting situations and more in the MOMs Forum. Share your concerns!
For more relationship advice from Michael Smalley click here.
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