Terrible Twos: What to Do When Positive Discipline Doesn’t Work
Just two weeks past Owen’s birthday and I fear the terrible twos have come for a visit and plan to stay awhile. Though I wished that his 2nd year would not be so terrible as Rookie Mom recently shared, I’ve been preparing a long time for this. He’s that boy, the one with the impish twinkle in his eye and a sheepish grin on his face after being “naughty.”
In preparation for the inevitable, I’ve been re-educating myself on how to guide toddler behavior with positive discipline. And let me tell you, I thought I had this in the bag. Make sure he has enough sleep – check. Establish a routine – check. Be consistent – check. Have clear and specific rules – check. And, most importantly, I have experience from my spirited 7-year-old daughter, who gave her newbie parents a run for the money during the toddler stage. I thought that a simple refresher on the specific strategies for managing toddler behavior would be enough. After the other morning, however, I’m not feeling so sure anymore.
Let’s set the scene. It was a “no” morning: “NO get dressed.” “NO breakfast.” “NO coat.” “NO car seat.” By the time we got to daycare, my patience was running thin and I was already 20 minutes late. I let him press the door code buttons, pick his apple from the snack basket, and then we hit the roadblock: an easel with photos from a recent live music activity at the center.
Owen stops to look at the photos. He so engaged and excited when he finds himself. I take a deep breath, remind myself that a few more minutes is okay, stoop down to look at the photos with him, and ask him to point out his friends, his teachers, etc. Then the following exchange:
- Mom: “Thanks for looking at the photos with me. Let’s go see Ms. Lauren.”
- Owen: “No” (surprised, right?)
- Mom (getting down to speak to him face-to-face): “I love these photos. Let’s go find a book to read in your classroom and look at some more photos.”
- Owen: “No” (obviously he didn’t read up on redirecting behavior)
- Mom: “We can go eat your apple or go read a book. What would you like to do?”
- Owen: “No” (not going for the “two choice” scam either)
- Mom: “We have 10 more seconds to look at photos and then we can go read a book.” Starts counting. We get to zero.
- Owen: “No”
We’re now at that point when No-No-No-No can’t become a Yes or I’ll lose. I truly can’t remember what I’m supposed to do at this point. So, I just scoop him up and carry hiz screaming, wiggling self to the classroom. And now all of a sudden this positive discipline thing doesn’t feel so positive. I think I handled it okay but I still feel terrible and frustrated and worried. Worried that I’m not going to have the patience or energy to keep this up for another 1-2 years.
It’s only been two weeks and there have been a dozen instances where I could easily have thrown in the positive discipline towel. Luckily those moments are followed by the sweetest toddler hugs and kisses. But I still question (or according to my husband “over-analyze”) if I am making the best parenting decisions? And if so, why does positive discipline feel this crappy?
Please tell me how you survive the terrible twos, aside from wine and chocolate.
Hear from early childhood experts Ellen Galinsky, the Chief Science Officer at the Bezos Family Foundation and Executive Director at Mind in the Making, and Rachel Robertson, the Education and Development Vice President at Bright Horizons, as they discuss common parenting challenges and the science behind parenting that can turn frustration into great skills for life.