By Sarah Traylor
All moms hope for the best for their child, and desire to raise well-behaved children.
But obviously just hoping for the best isn’t enough. After all, we’ve all seen “that” kid. You know, the one that’s running around the restaurant during dinner, or throwing a tantrum in the grocery store? The one who has to be pacified with a portable electronic device so mom can shop, or bribed with candy to allow mom five minutes in the store without a meltdown?
So how do you avoid being that parent? Or, if you’re in that situation, how do you handle it?
Scenario #1: You push your loaded cart full of groceries toward the checkout line. Just as you begin to unpack your groceries at the checkout, your toddler sees the big assortment of candy strategically placed at his eye level. You calmly tell him that you will have a snack when you get home. Within seconds you see that the situation is about to explode. The checkout attendant can’t swipe your groceries quick enough!
It’s in these moments that you have a quick, and usually tough, decision to make. Do you reach for the nearest candy bar and give it to your child? Do you let your child scream, and try to block out the obvious stares from other shoppers in the store? Or, do you leave the line and take your child out of the store?
The answer is the latter. If you see your child reaching code red, don’t be afraid to abandon your cart of groceries and leave the store. Go to a restroom, or back to the car, and discipline your child. Next time you are ready to go grocery shopping, here are a few things to remember.
Set clear expectations. Say something like, “Mommy needs to go to the grocery store to buy a few things. We won’t be too long, but I expect you to sit in the cart and behave while mommy shops.” Don’t ramble on and offer an in depth explanation of what you want. Keep it simple. Say where you’re going and what you expect.
Keep a routine. Toddlers thrive on routine and knowing what to expect each day. Try not to schedule a trip to the grocery store during lunchtime or naptime; you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
Scenario # 2: You took your little girl to story time at the library, but it’s time to leave. You tell her that story time is over and it’s time to leave, and then it happens: stomping the feet, yelling “No!”, or running in the opposite direction. You’re not alone. (If you were, there wouldn’t be a whole section of books at Barnes and noble on parenting!) So what do you do?
Don’t count! “One, two, two and a half, two and three quarters…I’m serious, don’t make me come over there… one..” And so it goes as the child laughs and runs off. Counting is not a good idea when trying to get your toddler to recognize, understand, and respect your authority as a parent.
Enforce appropriate discipline without excessive warnings. It’s crucial in these early years that you teach your child that there are consequences, both negative and positive for their behavior. It’s during these times that you can help your child understand that different types of behavior produce different results—some pleasant, and some not so pleasant.
On the negative side, a time out may be appropriate, or a spanking applied with love and restraint. When it comes to some behavior, like stomping feet, you may want to try a more creative approach. When you get home, stand your child outside and tell them you want them to stomp their feet for two-minutes. Next time, stomping might not be so appealing.
Scenario #3: You put your toddler down for a nap, but she clearly doesn’t want to take a nap. She stands in the doorway throwing a tantrum and yelling. How can you make it stop?
Take control. If you’re home, sometimes the best way to handle this kind of tantrum is to simply ignore it. Yes, I said ignore a screaming toddler. Easier said than done, right? But when you consistently try to reason with your child to take a nap, you’re letting that child manipulate you. You’re sending the message that they’re in charge, and that they’re controlling the situation. Instead, make a conscious effort to be nonchalant. Try to busy yourself with some laundry or something else.
Be consistent. You’ll find that if you’re consistent with this approach, you’ll send the message to your toddler that no matter how long they stand there crying and screaming, you’re not coming. Effective discipline always involves consistency. If your child sees that if they yell long enough, you’ll cave and go to them, you’re not being consistent.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” This is so true. But it’s worth mentioning that you can tell your child what to do all day long, and see no results. You have to model what you teach.
If you want your child to quit yelling, then don’t raise your voice at your child. If you want them to be kind, then model kindness. If you expect your child to be patient, and wait in line at the store without fussing, then you need to model patience.
Be sure to recognize and celebrate their good behavior and right choices, too. I’m not saying you should offer your child a reward for every act of obedience; that’s just creating selfishness, and another set of problems down the line. Instead, reward good behavior by celebrating as a family. Go get ice cream after dinner at the end of the week because little Johnny and his sister Suzie have worked together to pick up their toys consistently throughout the week. This reinforces their good behavior, AND fosters family time. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how your kids react to well placed encouragement, along with structured routine and discipline.