Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Please share advice!

As those of you who know me know, I have a wonderfully loving, adventurous, intelligent, and RASCALLY toddler. I'm not even sure if I can properly call him a toddler anymore b/c now he's more of a sprinter, esp. at the library. As soon as I turn away off he goes, head tucked, arms pumping, weaving his way around the library. Last night when Ben and I went for a run he insisted on running with us instead of riding in his stroller. He got to the sidewalk, and then gave up and crawled into his stroller huffing and puffing.

All that to say, I need some advice from those who have gone before, or those who are fighting this delightful and still trying battle beside me.

My son is at the stage where he is constantly testing me to see who the authority is, to find out the boundaries. But, I don't think I have yet convinced him that I'm the authority, not he.
He reminds me of my parents black lab when he was a puppy. You had to watch him constantly b/c he was always roaming looking for the next thing to steal and chew and jump up on.
For example, yesterday I was sweeping the kitchen and he came looked at me defiantly and started dancing in the pile, no matter how sternly I spoke telling him to move. Once, I had finally finished and moved him away he ran over and climbed on the table (a no-no) and started dumping the salt out. When I removed that from him and put him back on the ground, he snagged a candle stick and began running around the room and banging things with it, and on and on until I wanted to lay down and throw a temper tantrum.

I have tried all the things I can think of with him as consistently as possible and not met with success.
We have tried time out in his crib - it makes him see it as a place of punishment and refuse to nap in it afterwards.
We have tried time out in his room - he throws lamps on the ground and breaks them, and then refuses to let us back in the door to get him. I guess punishing us for punishing him!
We have tried turning him around at the table when he throws food - but he turns around and throws it again immediately.
We have tried spanking his hand - but its not enough of a deterrent to the delightful mischief he wants to engage in. When we were in Norway the only source of heat in our old farmhouse were a few space heaters with BIG, EXCITING, RED, on and off buttons. He would go over to them, we would say no. We try to give him the opportunity in non dangerous situations to make the right choice. He would look down at his hand and stroke it, and go ohhh ohhh with a concerned look on his face thinking through the consequences of what he wanted to do. He would look at us, look at the button, look at us, look at the button. And then, push the button. Over and over. Sometimes he even spanks himself, and then proceeds to his misdeed.
We have tried ignoring him so as to not give negative attention - this just gives him free reign!

Dobson recommends basic deterrence tactics - baby proof your house to the point that there is no longer anything to say no to. But this is only possible to a point. There will always be cords on lamps to yank, things to climb.
Honestly, for those who know my husband and I, we are pretty laid back people. We only say no to things that will seriously injure him or others or break things(ie we let him dance on the chest in the living room even though he occasionally falls off, but we don't let him use our CutCo set like swords, he can drum on the walls with spoons but he can't drum on our faces.)

Is it possible to mold an obedient spirit in a toddler, or is the highest goal at this point merely to deter him from harm and redirect him?

Please send advice. I welcome ideas and stories to help me raise my fun, crazy little son to be a good man.
I don't want to force him into being a quiet child who sits in the corner and twiddles his thumbs. I LOVE his adventurous curious spirit and want to foster his zest for life. But, I also want to see in him a willingness to obey me, in order that he will learn to submit to God.

Ok thanks in advance! I look forward to reading your advice.


Rachel said...

Do you have a travel playpen thingy? You can use that as an alternative to a crib for time out, though Rowan seems like he might be rascally enough to escape even the most fortified time out space. I've been told that a good way to discipline (and this is probably what you were doing with the crib) is to say "no, don't touch" (or a similar VERY SIMPLE phrase of instruction )firmly on the first offense and then if it is repeated, pick the child up, plop them in the playpen, repeat the simple instruction and leave the room for at least 1 minute to demonstrate that the bad behavior a) does not draw attention and b) alienates him from others. I've seen this work but of course that doesn't mean that it will for you. Ultimately, as you know, every child is different so you sort of have to find out what their motivation might be for wanting to do what they're doing and try and use that knowledge as your strategy. For example, Baby Tyler (the 18-month old I was working with in Spain) would scream every time when got in the car (for attention, we concluded) and we tried EVERYTHING from giving him toys and talking to him to scolding him. The ONLY thing that worked (and of course this was the most difficult) was to completely ignore the screaming and make a point to excessively praise all acceptable, quiet behavior. Obviously if Rowan is in danger of hurting himself, you can't ignore his behavior... raising a spirited boy is a tricky thing! You'll have to be giving me advice when Gabriel gets a bit older...

troubling stars said...

Rachel, thanks for the advice and the interaction with this new experirement of a blog. Sadly, Rowan learned how to escape from Pack N Plays this Sunday! We had been waiting for this day for months shocked that he hadn't figured it our. When the dreaded event occurred we were at my moms, dogsitting, and napping while Rowan napped. Eventually I heard what sounded like a knock on our door, but as I knew (or thought I knew) that Rowan was asleep in his bed and Buddy was locked in his cage, I discounted it as my imagination. Then we heard the sweet little song of - "shoes, shoes, two shoes, shoes..." coming from what sounded like the stairs. Ben leaped out of bed and raced to the stairs in time to see our little toddler turn the corner holding his shoes in his hands. Aparently he was in search of someone to put his beloved shoes back on. He had (I surmise)politely knocked at our door and when we didn't respond decided to go downstairs to see if perhaps Buddy could help out. HA! We are so lucky he didn't get into any more mischief while we were asleep! So, yes, the playpen idea is now sadly out. I had been thinking of that option too.I would love to continue sharing ideas and stories as Rowan and Gabriel grow older!