Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Teaching Toddlers the "No, Nos" of Life

Growing up, I was a perfect angel. I was never spanked, because I never did anything wrong. Ever. Excuse me while I polish my halo.

Geof also claims he was a "good kid." Although, apparently, it took a few swift meetings with the paddle to get there. I can't imagine that anything he did was that bad, though. Seriously, he went to private Christian school for the greater part of his life. Those kids aren't typically known for blowing up urinals with fireworks or calling in fake bomb threats like the delinquents in public school. (I can say that with humor since I am a product of the public school system. And, my uncle did once try to blow the urinal off the wall at his public school back in the day. No joke.)

It seems Avery is going to take more after Geof in her attitude towards following the rules. This week, I've been told two days in a row that she was telling the daycare teacher on the playground "No! No!"

No such report for Lexie. It's clear she's following my shining example. Minus a few bad choices in college.

I certainly don't want Avery to think it's okay to disrepect her elders. But, how to you explain that to a precocious 2.5-year-old girl? I need the Toddler Whisperer.

After the first offense, I made her apologize on the playground in front of her friends to the teacher and give her a hug. Then, I explained that if it happened again, toys would disppear. She seemed to understand and told me again later that night she was sorry.

But, the next day, she became a repeat offender. When I walked onto the playground, she came running over, saying "Mommy, I being mean. I being mean."

"What are you talking about?" I asked. That's when the teacher walked over and explained that Avery had once again told her "No! No!" on the playground. The teacher stood there looking at me as if to say, "Okay, discipline her now." I couldn't do anything, because I was still processing the fact that Avery was told she was a mean girl, and now, she was repeating it.

I wasn't sure who I was irked at more - Avery for being defiant again or the teacher for programming my kid to think she was mean.

I'm no daycare teacher, and I don't pretend to know how they keep their cool while dealing with a dozen whiny, green-nosed children begging for attention and getting into trouble left and right. But, I do think there are better ways to explain to a child that her behavior is unacceptable without resorting to labeling and name-calling.

The challenge with disciplining Avery and Lexie (on the rare occasion that she does something wrong) is that whatever I threaten to take away, they decide they no longer want.

Here's an example:
Me: "Avery, you better sit down in your chair and eat dinner, or we're not going to Marbles tomorrow."
Avery: "No, Mommy. I no wanna go to Marbles. I want to stay home."

Great. I know that you are lying, because Marbles is your favorite place in Raleigh. But, nevertheless, you just eliminated my leverage with your comment. Now, how I am supposed to get you to sit still without forcibly restraining you to the chair?

Last night, I decided to teach Avery about consequences for her actions at school. I explained that when she chose to not do what teacher was asking, she chose to not get to play with any toys all night. She also opted herself out of after-dinner dessert. For good measure, I made her sit at the dinner table while Lexie ate her chocolate bunny cookies. I know. I'm the mean one now.

Avery cried off and on, but I'm not sure if the lesson really sunk in. I guess we'll find out in about three hours when I pick the twins up at school.

What I do know is when I was tucking Avery into bed last night, I told her she was beautiful and smart and very special. Her mouth spread into a wide, sleepy smile - a look I hadn't seen all day - and she rolled over, content and ready to put the day behind her.

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