I, by NO means, consider myself an expert disciplinarian. If some parents fall either a little too far on the too harsh or the too soft spectrum, I definitely fall in the latter camp. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not a complete pushover and I use the word "No" a LOT. We do time outs, I take things away, I've even given a couple of mild spankings if the deed demanded such...all that said, I think I could set better boundaries sometimes, I think there are moments when I should have put Ava in timeout for hitting her sister and I've merely asked her to apologize, and sadly I have to admit to bribing my daughter with lollipops or food more often then I should (there, it's out, is there a support group for that?!)
All that said, I do have a couple of tactics up my sleeve that have worked quite well for us, tactics that I can actually say I'm proud of myself for implementing so well. The most successful for us, and for my VERY spirited little 2 1/2 year old has been offering options.
Basically, in a given situation, especially when things are starting to escalate and full-out resistance from my toddler is emerging, I always try to offer options. The options always include what I want her to do and one other choice, which is usually much less appealing. Here are a couple of examples just from today.
Here is a cute, smiley faced picture of my toddler. We had opened something in the mail just prior to this and it came with a ton of bubble wrap. Ava LOVES bubble wrap, but it was nearing nap time and we needed to head up to her bed and start winding down. So after I let her play for a couple of minutes this is how things went.
Me: Ava, we need to put the bubble wrap down and head upstairs for your nap.
Ava: Two more minutes mommy... (her favorite response!)
Me: Ava, we need to head upstairs now. YOu can play with that after your nap.
Ava: Errrrrr...Arrrrr....TWO more minutes! (she starts to get into temper tantrum mode here)
Me (still very calmly): Ava, here are your choices; we can either put that in your chair and leave it here for after your nap or we can throw it in the garbage right now, which would you like to do?
At which point she simply gets up, puts in in her chair and says "Save it for after my nap."
We were in the car, on our way home from playschool this afternoon and I had decided we were going to go to this little, very casual pizza place right around the corner for lunch. I mentioned the word pizza and she immediately decided she wanted to go to Pizza Hut, where her uncle Aaron works. I did not want to go to Pizza Hut, but I did quickly call Aaron to see if he was even working, which he wasn't.
Me: Ava, we can't go to Pizza Hut today honey, Uncle Aaron isn't there, we'll go another day.
Ava: NOOO ( in a very shrieky voice), I WANT TO GO TO PIZZA HUT!
Me: Ava, these are your options; we can go to the new pizza place or we can go home for lunch, which one.
Ava: The new pizza place.
End of story.
One last example, and these are ALL just from today...
We're in a bookstore and I have 2 books in my cart for Ava and it is time to go home. She, however wants some silly Shrek book that isn't even really a book (the books I have in my cart are about God, and OBVIOUSLY much better choices!). This is how it goes.
A: Mommy, I want this book.
M: Ava, I have two books for you. We need to leave that one here.
A: MOMMY, I WANT this book....ARRRRRR. (shrieky tantrum at the very beginning).
M: Ava, here are your options, we can either buy the books that mommy already has for you and put this down, or not buy any books at all.
A: O.k. mommy, let's get those books.
M: Say bye, bye to Shrek.
A: "Bye, bye Shrek," she says to the book.
She puts the book down, happily follows me to the cash register, and no tantrum ensues.
This tactic has worked WONDERS for us, and as you can see I use it on many occasions throughout the day. I've realized that it is not always necessary for me to simply say no. I know she is just a toddler, but everyone likes a little bit of choice in their life and so I try to give it. I cannot tell you how many full on tantrums this has dispelled! Give it a try and let me know if it works.
Here is an article I found that supports this method-- the article talks about dealing with toddler tantrums.
By the way, if you're reading this and have a really great discipline tool that you use, please share!! As I said, I still have a LONG way to go.