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Where There's A Will, There's A Two-Year-Old Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 February 2010

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 minutes.

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 out.”

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

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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