A disciplinary matter
Around the time Little Man turned 18 months, we started to think about discipline. Up to that point, if he did something that he wasn’t allowed to do, we just removed him from the situation, and that seemed to be enough. But as he got older, that just didn’t cut it anymore. Removing him from the situation or distracting him didn’t actually teach him that there was a problem with whatever he had done wrong. He thought it was just part of a new game.
So having seen our fair share of SuperNanny shows, we decided to try the naughty step or time out step approach. It was a complete disaster when we tried it first. At the time, Little Man hadn’t really started talking yet, other than the occasional Mama or Dada, and he just didn’t have the level of understanding required to figure out what was going on. So we gave it up as a lost cause, and went back to removing him from whatever mischief he found himself in.
At around 20 months though, the words starting coming thick and fast, and his understanding came along in leaps and bounds. He also decided that the bottom step of the stairs was his favourite place in the house to sit. He’d take James, and go and sit there and have chats. His own personal time out from it all I guess. Whenever he sat there, we’d comment to him “Oh are you sitting on your step?” or “Are you and James taking a break on your step?”
Then when he was acting out, we warned him “if you do that once more, you’ll have to go out and sit on your step”. And to our surprise, he started to do it. I don’t think he saw it as a punishment – more like a place where he felt safe and secure if Mammy and Daddy were giving out to him! We’d give him a few seconds to sit on his step, and then follow him out and sit down beside him and explain why we didn’t like whatever he had done, and how it made us feel, or why we stopped him doing it – like if we were worried he’d hurt himself or someone else. Then we’d ask him to say “Sorry” and give us a hug and we’d go back in to play together.
I couldn’t believe how easily it worked, and I thought we had this discipline thing sorted! (I should know better than to think things that like – did I learn nothing from our sleep issues?!) A few weeks later, Little Man’s cousin was visiting, when he threw something heavy at her. (A piece of a wooden Ninky Nonk actually). Luckily he didn’t hurt her, but to my surprise, when he went out to his step, he refused to say sorry. In fact, he just got more and more upset. We couldn’t figure it out, until my sister-in-law suggested that he was embarrassed to be asked to say sorry in front of other people. Still though, I felt that this was one of those situations where if we gave in after spending five or ten minutes trying to make him apologise, all that Little Man would learn is that throwing a tantrum allows you to get your own way. So we sat with him, and explained to him why he needed to apologise. After 15 long minutes, he finally apologised – and then immediately went back to playing as though nothing had happened.
Since then, the step has been working well. I still don’t think he thinks of it as a punishment. It seems to be a place where he can go and Mammy and Daddy will come and have a chat with him and then he gets a hug for saying this word “Sorry”. But the end result is still a quick end to tantrums or bad behaviour before it spirals out of control, so for now, we’re happy with this approach. Fingers crossed it’s an approach that continues to work as we head for the terrible twos!