Hahahahahahaha! The secret to disciplining a toddler is kept in the same place as the cure for the common cold and that sock you're missing. I hope you didn’t open today’s blog post hoping to find the oracle of knowledge on how to create the perfect toddler. If this post does anything for you, it will let you know that you are not alone in this crazy, toddler-run world. Trying to build a foundation of respect and obedience with a child between the ages of 2 and 22 is like trying to understand why people support Donald Trump running for president—it will drive you to drink and possibly move to Canada.
The toddler years are made especially hard by the crucial milestones that must be achieved, putting pressure on all parties involved. Potty training is one of the messiest and most arduous of these. How do you explain to a 2 year old that it makes more sense to go to the bathroom than it does to continue playing, uninterrupted, until someone else literally cleans up your sh*t? Not a convincing agenda. In short, this is the only advice I can attempt to dole out while I am in the midst of trying to stay afloat myself:
- Pick Your Battles: This is easier said than done, but I have found that repeatedly screaming "no" or "stop it" just lands you talking to yourself all day and desensitizes your kid to those words. For example, I allow my toddler to eat a stolen apple in the grocery store in exchange for her sitting quietly in the buggy while we shop. In my defense, Whole Foods does allow your kid an apple while you shop . . . or at least mine has let us get away with it thus far. My guess about the long term effects of this behavior is that she will always get hungry upon entering the grocery store, so worst case is that I'm simply creating a very polite over-shopper.
- Be Consistent: I feel like I am living in the movie “Ground Hog Day,” except my mistakes are not erased at the end of each day but the lessons I have tried to bestow on my offspring are completely forgotten. Your kid has an uncanny ability to completely delete any of the guiding principles that you so carefully laid out for them the day before. Explaining why we don’t throw food at the table or put peanut butter in the dog’s hair feels like a total waste of energy. After the 500th time asking my daughter not to put toys in the toilet, I had to ask myself, "are we teaching them or are they teaching us"? Did she really learn not to put peanut butter in the dog’s hair or did I simply learn to put the peanut butter on a higher shelf? Probably a bit of both. After 10,000 hours of this, one of us will be an expert at something.
- Don't Show Your Weakness: The moment your toddler sees you looking overwhelmed, they will rip your heart out with a spoon. Do your best to keep it together and save your break downs for your showers. The only thing worse than an irrational toddler meltdown is an adult joining them. Stock your wine cabinet and power through as best you can for the next 36-48 months. This too shall pass.
- Don't Get Divorced: Just as hard as it is trying to figure out whether the kid's behavior calls for a time out, a suspension of all activities, or a deep sigh with a look of disappointment, is making sure that you and the person currently assigned to co-parent (husband, wife, aunt, uncle, Whole Foods check-out lady, etc) are on the same page about which disciplinary action should be taken at any given time. This dance can get downright dirty and turn into a scene out of The Clockwork Orange. Before you decide that you would rather be a single parent, remember that your teammate is just trying to figure out how to survive as well.
In closing, I leave you with this quote: “Remember, the race is long and your toddler has more energy and a greater ability to act irrationally in almost every situation that will challenge and degrade your sanity at every turn.” In other words, we’re screwed.
Written by: Alice