Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm Bery Naughty

I'm the first to admit that I do not know the first thing about toddler discipline. When M was just learning to walk, I worried that I'd be too permissive as a parent, because it was my tendency to dismiss a lot as her "just being a baby." I also worried about being an effective discipliner without going overboard into the too-strict. The only thing that it never occurred to me to worry about is what would happen if M took discipline way too seriously. But wouldn't you know, that's where we are right now.

Generally, M's a pretty good kid, and it's very important to her to be independent. We can get her to do most things just by threatening to do them for her if she doesn't get a move on, and it's only recently that we've needed to use discipline to keep her from doing things, like hitting me or being destructive. Like every other parent in the last 20 years, we're using time outs as our chosen form of discipline.

Our time-out routine is simple. I tell her that what she's doing is naughty and that she needs a break. She has to sit in time out for two minutes, then I ask her if she understands why she's in time out (she always knows exactly what she was doing), then I hug her and tell her I love her and that's it. To date, M's been in time out three times, but from the impression it's made, you'd think she spends her days glued to a naughty spot.

"I'm naughty," she tells me half a dozen times a day. "I need a time out." She recounts, in detail, the circumstances of every single one of her time-outs. She reminds me of things she's done that haven't merited a time-out but that have earned her a stern "no." Yesterday, I found her sitting on the floor spanking (!!!!) her stuffed animal and telling it that it was "bery bery naughty." (this is where I swear I do not hit my kid. Except I did swat her on the behind once when she ran away from me and into the street. Figures she'd remember that).

I want M to grow up respecting our rules and our authority as parents, but the extent to which she internalizes discipline worries me. I don't want to her to feel like she's a bad kid or that she's naughty at heart when she's just had a few minor punishments. When she tells me she's naughty, I try to explain that she isn't; that sometimes she does things that are naughty, but that doesn't mean she's a bad girl. All that got me was a kid running around saying "I'm a bad girl." I'm just not sure what to do. I tell her I love her a million times a day, and that she's a good girl almost as often as I breathe. So why does she only remember being called naughty?


judy said...

Sounds a lot like my Sam. Don't worry, she knows that she is loved.
She is a smart cookie and notices your attention when she mimics her naughty behavior. Just keep doing what you are doing, but try to keep it low key.

meh said...

at the risk of stating the obvious and being called a turd, I'll say it anyway. and yeah you probably already do this - I always emphasized (and it's easier when they're older like mine) that what they DID is naughty. They are good. Sometimes even at 15 mine still mix up that message. Au particularly likes to throw at me that "he's bad." And I say, "No what you did was bad. you are an extremely wonderful and good boy." Plus he likes to push my buttons. And I think M is as smart as her mommy and may be testing you to push your buttons. No, she's not too young. Hang in there - you are a great mom!! And I agree with judy - low key is key.