Toddler Testing Days

Dominic is almost 17 months old. This absolutely blows my mind to think that this child of ours, who this time last year could barely even sit up, is not only walking but running and climbing! He’s babbling like crazy. He says ‘abu’ for dog. ‘Brr’ for bird. ‘Dada’ and even ‘momma’ on occasion. He says something that sounds like “Jesus” or “Cheezits” too.  And he understands so much more than he can say.

And he loves to shake his head ‘no’.

Which leads me to the reason for this post. Dominic has crossed the threshold of cuteness into the time in toddlerhood that I affectionately refer to as the Toddler Testing Days. He’s testing us. If we say ‘no’, he does it any way with a smile on his face. If we offer him something we know he loves, he’ll shake his head ‘no’ and refuse.

We’ve been scratching our heads for a bit now. We are not big on spankings but we didn’t want to turn into kid controlled parents either. {cue gloomy defeated music}

We are masters at redirecting but we’ve begun to realize that Dominic is at the age where redirecting only makes him want to do what he shouldn’t all the more. {and people say children are born inherently good…nope I sense a sin nature from the beginning}

I digress.

So we did pop his bottom a few times; didn’t seem to phase him, said ‘no’ a lot and then between some trial and error tactics and a book called Love and Logic we stumbled upon our mojo for discipline. {at least in this season}

Love and Logic in a nutshell introduces your child to choices and consequences for those choices. It’s a little deeper than that and covers much more than discipline but, in this stage of Dominic’s life, that’s where we’re livin’.

What does it look like? I am so glad you asked. For us, it looks like this:

Dominic does something we don’t want him to do, we say, “Dominic, I need you to stop {insert wrong behavior} If you don’t stop {insert wrong behavior}, I guess you don’t want to do {the activity} anymore.”

If he makes a good decision. We applaud him. If he doesn’t we sadly say, “I guess you don’t want to do {blank} anymore.” And promptly remove him from the activity.

So here are some examples of when we’ve tried it and how it’s going.

Scene 1:

It’s bathtime. Dominic L.O.V.E.S. bathtime. But he’s gotten in the habit of standing up in the tub. At first we would just correct him and sit him back down. Then thanks to L&L we introduced Dominic to consequences.

We started saying, “Dominic, it’s bath time. We need you to sit down. Are you done? If you still want bath time, you need to sit down.” After he would stand up a few times, we would say, “I guess you are done with bath time.” And would immediately take him out of the tub.

He was never too upset about it, but we felt like we were making a statement.

Then just last week, Dominic stood up in the bath tub. I said to him, “Dominic, are you done with bath time?”

And he immediately sat down!!!

This wasn’t a one off either. Dominic has learned to stay seated in the bath tub. Occasionally he still stands up but it only takes one reminder for him to sit down quickly. He even stands up now to let us know that he is done!

Scene 2:

It’s meal time and just like every other toddler on the planet, Dominic loves to throw his food on the ground. It was cute of course but after having to clean up after this child three meals a day the cuteness diminished and in a hurry. So we’ve started a modified L&L with mealtime as well.

We give him his food and if he throws anything on the ground we say, “Dominic, we don’t throw our food. Keep it on the tray if you don’t want it. If you throw it on the ground, you’ll have to help mommy clean it up.” If he throw his milk, we usually give him one extra chance and say to him, “Dominic. Do you want your milk? If you throw it, I guess you’re done.” If he throws it again, we pick it up and say, “I’m sorry Dominic. You threw your milk. I guess you’re done”, and we put it back in the refrigerator.

So back to the food on the ground. When he’s ‘all done’, I get out the dust pan and the little sweep brush. I pull him out of his high chair and then stand behind him putting the brush in one hand and the dust pan in another and I literally guide his hand to sweep up the mess he’s made. I say to him, “Dominic, you made this mess. That’s why you have to help mommy clean it up.”

At first he thought it was pretty neat but today at lunch time, he whimpered a little. I think he’s starting to connect that throwing his food means he has to clean it up. And when I put his milk in the refrigerator, he was not pleased {read: VERY UPSET}.

Our hope is that the consistency of the consequences of losing his beloved milk and having to ‘clean up’ will help him make the connection that throwing food is not acceptable.

Of course we don’t have this one mastered like bath time.

We’ve tried this L&L technique out and about too. Today, I was pushing Dominic in the stroller while doing some shopping. He had a toy that he was really enjoying but on occasion he found it entertaining to throw it. First time I handed it back to him and said, “We don’t throw.” Second time I said, “Dominic, we don’t throw. If you throw it again I guess you don’t want to play with it. Mommy will have to put it away.” When he threw it {Of course he threw it again…toddler testing days, I tell ya!} I said, “Dominic, I’m so sorry you threw your toy. Mommy has to put it away”.

And I did.

He was okay with it and he didn’t get the toy back until 30 minutes later when I was strapping him into the car seat.

Small victories but I am finding that when we follow this approach, I don’t get upset. And I know what to do! I’m not at a loss for how to ‘control’ my child. In essence, my child has the control in choosing to enjoy the activity or face established consequences.

Now Love and Logic is not just a book about discipline but also a book about instilling in your child the common sense to make decisions for himself. It’s a lot about choices.

That’s the part we need to work on. And we’ll get there.

So stay tuned to our adventures in Toddler Testing Days {cue echoing announcer voice}

Next episode: How we overcame Dominic’s insatiable urge to stand on the fireplace ledge. {we haven’t overcome it by the way}


So what are your thoughts on discipline?

Any tried and true tactics you’ve used that you’d like to share?

Feel free to share your struggles too. This parenting thing is hard!