Bill Corbett's Parenting Blog
For a moment, imagine not taking your trash out for days and weeks on end. Other than the smell, flies and other insects that might begin to collect, what other problems might you encounter? Well, let’s say you have a dog. There is a very good chance that one new problem might be that your dog begins to eat from the trash. So you decide to respond to this new problem by punishing your dog. This approach might very well fix the problem of your dog eating from the trash but I think most reasonable people might ask you why you aren’t responding to the root of the problem by taking out the trash instead of treating the poor dog unfairly. The dog is only responding naturally to the conditions of his environment.
That’s how I compare family psychologist John Rosemond’s recent column offering advice to a parent of a 2-year-old. A parent asked him for advice on what to do when her toddler screams no at her and hits her in response to asking him to do something. His advice for parents of “psychotic children” is to cut the door of the child’s room in half, hang it as a “dutch” door, and locking the child inside until he calmed down. Comparing this advice to my example above, Rosemond says the solution is to punish the child.
Reasonable people may be more likely to avoid punishment and instead, seek solutions to the root cause. This requires asking some questions such as; why would the child not comply and hit the parent, what was it the parent wanted the child to do and could she have found another way of getting her needs met instead of demanding, what was the parent contributing to the situation, and finally, what was the child feeling or doing at the moment the parent made the request.
When you need your toddler to comply with a request, find ways of making that request fun and with plenty of advance notice. They live only in the moment and transitioning them to other activities or locations can be a normal challenge. They also don’t see the world as you do and can easily reject a request because they don’t understand why it has to be done. Just because Mommy said so is not always a valid reason for them. And if your child hits you in response, let her know that hitting is not OK in a firm voice and at her eye-level. Separate yourself from her if you can and refrain from saying anything more. For more help with managing the behavior of toddlers, watch this video.