Terrible Two’s Or Unrealistic Expectations?
Ahh Terrible Two’s what every parent dreads. Just kidding that is when they are teenagers right? I personally don’t believe in terrible two’s. I believe that adults have unrealistic expectations how they think a child should act and the adult’s response is what magnifies the child’s terrible behavior. I read a piece recently by Dr. Laura Markham recently on discipline vs. teaching and it was a real eye opener for me.
I am a soft one on disciplining Cooper and I may or may not let him get away with more than he should. He is two however and I am realistic in his understanding of how things should and shouldn’t be. He is still developing mentally and while his observation prowess to get away with things is strong, he still doesn’t understand right from wrong. We have tried time out and that is not effective for him. He was in trouble a week ago and I didn’t even have to say anything and he put himself in timeout. I didn’t like that behavior at all! You may say what I was doing is working but I don’t see it that way. I am teaching him to isolate himself vs. working through the problem and teaching him a solution. I am also not a hitter. I have popped his hinny a few times but he laughs or gets hysterical which is again not teaching him anything, so again not working for him. I am choosing the Teaching route to correct behaviors vs. Punishment.
As Dr. Laura pointed out in her post Could You Dare Not Discipline, learning shuts down when a human is under threat, and punishment is a threat to a child. When you feel defensive, are you open to learning and growing? Kids aren’t either. Limits are much more effective in developing your child’s self-discipline when they’re set with empathy, because the child doesn’t resist as much. If the child doesn’t experience the discipline as painful, then it’s just teaching. In that case, why confuse the issue by calling it discipline, which has such negative connotations? Why not just call it teaching, or loving guidance?
What would that change? Well, to start, it would change our understanding of our children. Instead of seeing kids as in need of punishment to convince them to stop willfully misbehaving, we’d use an entirely different lens. We’d see them as in need of guidance, teaching, and support. We’d realize that:
- All misbehavior is a cry for help or connection.
Respond to the need and the behavior will change. Much of what we consider “misbehavior” is normal childishness and can be “corrected” simply through loving guidance.
- Children learn what they live
…through repeated experience. Every interaction with your child models how to manage oneself and relate to others.
- If a child isn’t meeting our expectations, she needs more support to do so
…whether that’s teaching, connection, empathic limits, or help in working through the emotions that are getting in her way.
- All children need to learn to make repairs when they’ve hurt a person or property. They learn much more from that than from being punished. And they’re more open to making repairs if they don’t feel shamed by being punished.
- Once children can regulate their emotions, they can regulate their behavior.
If your child feels connected to you, he wants to follow your lead—but sometimes he can’t, because his big emotions overwhelm his still-developing frontal cortex. Help with the emotions, and he can manage his behavior.
She continues on to explain How To Get the Behavior You Want Without Discipline and I highly recommend you take a look. Another fantastic read is Teaching Emotional Intelligence When Emotions Run High.
Cooper’s fight or flight instinct is strong and it is my job as his parent to teach him how to cope and navigate his emotions. I allow him to learn and grow vs. isolating and punishing. This technique may not be for everyone but it is the direction we are going in as his parents.
As always thank you Dr. Laura for allowing me to use your content. You are a lifesaver and I appreciate your knowledge and advice immensely!
Online parenting course: http://www.ahaparenting.com/peaceful-parenting-course
NEW: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting (US edition)
Calm Parents, Happy Kids: The Secrets of Stress-free Parenting (UK edition)
Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life
 Could You Dare Not Discipline? By Dr. Laura Markham