Thank you for sending such a great question! It sounds like your son is displaying some typical toddler/two year old behaviors -- as frustrating as they may be! The key with any sort of discipline is to be consistent and to limit the amount of words. In addition, using natural consequences for the behaviors increases the learning curve. Here are some examples of age appropriate discipline techniques using the areas of concern you shared in your e-mail:
Throwing objects. When you little guy throws the object, say something like "How sad, you threw your car. Now we have to put it away" and then put the car somewhere out of reach immediately for the remainder of the day, e.g., on top of the frig, etc. Even young kids are able to learn cause and effect, i.e., when I throw my toy, it goes away. Using the empathetic statement keeps him focused on the consequence rather than your reaction to his behavior. It's hard to be mad at someone who is being empathetic!
Time out is the way to go with hitting behaviors. His laughing and
being silly during time out is his way to try to get attention and
maintain an interaction with you. I recently wrote two blog posts
containing tips for time out. These posts address the behaviors you
discussed in your e-mail.
Here are the links:
Dinnertime battles. This is always a challenge because while we don't want to tolerate this type of behavior, we also don't want them to go hungry! Having said that, however, I'm guessing that if your little guy did miss out on a meal that there would be more opportunity for nourishment within a reasonable amount of time? Here are some suggestions to deal with mealtime battles:
- If he throws his plate from the table, respond with your empathetic statement "How sad, I guess your all done" and remove him/his food from the table.
- If he is fussing, screaming, or being aggressive, do the same.
It sounds simple, but we both know that it is not. The goal is, again, to teach him cause and effect, i.e., when I do these things, I immediately get removed from the table which means no more food. Again, I know this can be hard for moms because we do worry about nutrition. Been there. Done that. If you can work through these behaviors with him at this very young age, however, you are going to make mealtimes a much happier place down the road for you and your family as he will have already learned that ugly behavior is not tolerated at the table and that when I do act ugly at the table, I am left to be hungry for a while.
It is up to you to decide if he gets a snack later in the evening. If you do give him a snack, make sure that 1) you wait a while after mealtime as you want him to experience some discomfort (hunger) for his bad choice at the table; and 2) keep the snack very basic, e.g., graham crackers, saltines, etc. If you give him something that he REALLY likes he may decide to forgo dinner on a more regular basis knowing that he is going to get a yummy snack later. Again, you have to decide what you think will work best for you and your son in this situation.
When I went through this with my son, I tried number two to no avail. He quickly figured out that if he skipped dinner, he would still have the opportunity for something to eat later on. So, we moved to option number one. It was really hard to do initially because I felt like a bad mom depriving him of nutrition. Despite this, I knew I had to do something or mealtimes would always be a miserable time for our family. I am happy to report that several years later, my son is healthy, happy and shows no emotional or physical effects of going to bed hunger on several occasions as a toddler. I should add that meals at the dinner table are one of the highlights of our day because we made dealing with mealtime battles a priority with both our kids at a very young age. Our meals are less about how to behave at the table, what you are or aren't going to eat, etc., and more about conversation and communication.
I hope that you find this information useful and helpful, Jennifer! Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or concerns. Thank you again for the question and giving permission to post it on my blog. Thank you as well for being a Mentor Mom reader!
Do you have any suggestions for Jennifer? Any tips or strategies that you have found helpful to curb these behaviors? Post your tips/suggestions!