Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teaching Toddlers Boundaries

A couple weeks ago my 1 1/2 yr. old son broke all my Willow Tree figurines. Two were salvageable, one was not. Before this happened I had tried for weeks to keep him away from the figurines. I had moved them, taken him away from them whenever he tried to play with them, tried distracting him with something else, and numerous other things. Since then, I've noticed that teaching boundaries to toddler is extremely difficult and requires constant attention and reminding. I think I need a little help in this area to make teaching times more affective. So:

What are ways that you have found helped teach your toddler boundaries?
What are ways that didn't work for you?
In essence, how did you teach your toddler to not do something you didn't want them to?


Jared and Delia said...

THis is REALLY hard. I think that toddlers want to do the right thing/please us but they just can't help themselves most of the time. So with that said...temporary adjustments have to be made. At least for me I move the breakables up. I know that in a year or so he will be able to manage himself better and understand better enough to brave putting breakables back down on a level reachable to them.

The late Tracey Hogg, aka the Baby Whisperer, advises against putting all breakables up. She suggests putting ones you may not care as much about in reach of our little one and then trying to establish the boundary. If and when you toddler is learning the boundary and breaks the object, you won't feel so upset by it. That way you are teaching your children boundaries and about what is for playing and what is not for playing (or whatever you are trying to teach them), but you don't lose your sentimental and invaluable objects in the process.

As for boundaries in general I try to put in place a consequence. At this point time out may or may not be appropriate depending on the age and/or personality of your child. BUT. You can close the bathroom door if your child can't help but play in the toliet. You can take away food and end meal time if they are throwing food instead of eating it. You can simply remove a toy that is causing sharing problems or is being misused (throwing/breaking something). Kids understand actions more than words I think.

Chris and Laura said...

I've had this same question myself lately. Jane is 18 months and certainly wants to do whatever she wants right now, regardless of what Mom and Dad may say.

I agree that you often just have to move things out of reach or make them inaccessible. I have a large movie collection in my living room where Jane always plays. My husband crammed bags of microwave popcorn between the movies and the end of the shelf so the movies are packed in way too tight for Jane to pull out. That has helped a lot. As for my bookcases, we just keep the gate up so she can't get into that room and mess with anything.

We have found a small version of timeout that seems to help often. If Jane is doing something that we really don't want her to (climbing on the table or throwing toys, for example), we will sit her on our lap and she just has to sit for a while. It starts out rather negative because we've interrupted the fun she was having, but in the end, she has calmed down, forgotten the misbehavior entirely, and had some one-on-one time with mom or dad, so it ends on a much more positive note. As she gets bigger, this probably won't be as successful, but it works quite well at this point.

One thing I haven't figured out is the consequences...I can remove the problem or remove Jane from the situation, but I don't know how to make it stick in her head that what she was doing wasn't ok. I guess this is the point of the post, huh?! My husband has tried spanking or a firmer vocal reprimand, but then she usually just thinks that Dad is being mean and doesn't associate it at all with her own behavior. I know repetition is important for learning, so maybe she just needs to keep misbehaving enough times? I don't know!

Britta said...

I enjoyed watching SuperNanny for a while last year. She always dealt primarily with discipline problems first. At about 18 months children are capable of understanding TimeOuts. Laura had a good idea- making time outs be sitting with Mom or Dad rather than negative. The important part that SuperNanny stressed was that you have to explain specifically why you are sending your child to the corner (you are going to the corner because you got into the fish tank when Mommy said 'no) then leave them there for only as long as they are old (one minute for one year olds). When you get them out of the corner again, explain why they were there again, insist on them telling you they are sorry then give hugs and kisses when time out is over.

My mom is a firm believer that dads are supposed to be the tough one in the home. When he is available and a child is misbehaving dad should use his firm voice to instill the appropriate behavior. But this is entirely dependent on how the child reacts and what sort of father a man is.

I'm a big supporter of reading several discipline books- not to follow one rule more than any other but to get a general idea of what sort of discipline techniques are available. Then tailor each circumstance to the child's needs and the severity of the misbehavior.

Sometime it helps for kids to see mom cry over bad behavior because that is the language they use and they understand that crying equals sadness.

Anyway, just a few ideas. Hope something helps!

Megan said...

Thanks for all the ideas!