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Where There's A Will, There's A Two-Year-Old

The discipline system we use at our house
is based on choices and consequences – bad choices lead to
unpopular consequences. And rather than do time outs, with a set
amount of time to be endured, we do breaks – the child goes
on a break that ends when they’ve had a change of heart and
are able to calm down. So a break can last sixty seconds, or sixty

Like it did yesterday with Cora.

Cora was in a crabby mood in the morning,
and she halfheartedly hit her sister over some perceived slight. I
told Cora she had to take a break and took her to the living room
couch to sit until she’d calmed down. Cora refused to stay
there, and I warned her that if she wasn’t able to stay in
her break by herself I’d have to put her in her room until
she was calm. One minute later I was carrying a screaming toddler
up the stairs and depositing her in her room. “Cora, you need
to sit down in your chair and calm down, and then you can come back

“No! I won’t sit in my chair! I don’t WANT

She was insistent on testing her boundaries, and I had to put a
childproof lock on her door and shut her in – which I hate to
do, because she takes Mommy leaving very personally. I try to let
her take breaks in a quiet spot where she can see me, or at least
hear me moving around the house. But this was a bad day, and the
door had to be shut until she was obedient.

Every few minutes I’d check in, and she flatly refused to get
in her chair: she’d lean on it, or put one leg up – or
once, even just a toe. Cora was clearly seeing what she could get
away with, and I had to hold fast to the line. Eventually I was
able to leave her door open, but she still wouldn’t sit in
her chair.

For over an hour, my child played Battle of Wills with Mommy. I got
more done in that hour than I have in a long time – laundry
folded and put away, bedroom tidied up, bathroom scrubbed down.
Every once in a while I’d peek in, and Cora was playing
contentedly in her room by herself. “Cora,” I’d
say, “as soon as you sit in your chair calmly you can be
finished with your break and come on out and join the
family!” “No!” she’d say defiantly.
“I’m never sitting in my chair!”

A few times I had to shut the door as the screaming and thrashing
began again, but for the most part she was calmly holding the line.
Right around an hour, I finally heard “Oh, all right,”
on her monitor, and when I went in to investigate she was sitting
in her chair reading books. She looked at me as if to say,
“What?? What’s the big deal?” and I swooped in to
make a big deal out of her final compliance.

Obviously, I don’t have to have her sit in a chair every time
to calm down and take a break. But obedience is crucial at this
age, and once I’d told her sitting in the chair was part of
the deal, I couldn’t renege. I know we haven’t seen the
last of this, but I’m hoping this will happen much more
quickly next time.

Under half an hour would be great.


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