I’m going to get really honest about something. It’s embarrassing in a way. Not the “I peed on myself while pregnant” way, but nevertheless…..
I don’t know how to discipline my toddler. I don’t think I’m a total pushover. I’ve read books and websites. I’m still reading books and websites. They’re all very helpful to lots of people, I’m sure, and many of the techniques they espouse are fine and make perfect logical sense. But when it comes to Stella, I feel as if I have a different breed of kid.
For the record, she’s a great kid. She’s smart, funny, gorgeous, and incredibly energetic. I guess I’ll use that term “spirited.” She’s also a 2.5 year old in the body and with the strength of a 4-5 year old. That makes the tantrums and the rages not only frustrating but also physically demanding. Sure, she shakes most of them off pretty quickly, but they can be severe and traumatic enough (for the grown ups) for us to avoid many places or activities that we’d otherwise love to indulge in. I always hoped that once she got more verbal that we could speak and reason with her. To be fair, that does work an awful lot of the time. But when the angst takes over her little body, she loses her ability to listen or speak. It’s just pure emotion and muscle.
For instance, my dad and stepmother just came in town to visit. They hadn’t seen her in a year and a half. For a year, they had been putting quite a bit of pressure on me to come see them: way the hell up in Virginia. I was told more than once “people travel with children every day” and “we used to drive with you and your brother from North Carolina to Mississippi.” Once upon a time, travel wasn’t a big deal, even a trip that’s 19 hours by car according to Google. Once upon a time, I didn’t have 1 energetic kid, much less 2. Now it’s a laughable or nightmarish concept. For better or worse, during some of our outings with my folks, Stella had 2 of those full-body meltdowns. In both cases, multiple adults had to intervene and the activity we were attempting had to be halted abruptly. I think there is now a firm understanding of why it’s not a good idea for us to travel right now. Stella is NOT like other kids. If she doesn’t want to do something, there will be hell to pay. I was told “I understand better now why you didn’t want to try to force her on a plane.”
The experts say to ignore tantrums. That’s well and good and does work sometimes. Until the flailing threatens her little brother. There’s also the “time out” school of thought. That’s awesome if you have a kid that will stay where you put them. Mine will absolutely not. (Note: this is also largely why Stella is sleeping in our bed every night) If you try to hold her down “gently yet firmly,” it becomes a game and she laughs. On a few rare occasions we’ve even popped her on the leg if she was doing something particularly dangerous to her or Felix. She either ignores it, laughs, or looks at you – wounded – for a moment before continuing on her way. And frankly, I don’t know how I feel about the whole spanking thing, anyway.
Finally today, I had enough. I was trying to get the kids down for a nap. Felix was asleep on me, semi-nursing. Stella kept trying to climb over me and Felix to get into his co-sleeper. That’s not allowed, as that is Felix’s safe place to be. If she feels it’s also hers, A) I have a turf war at naptime or bedtime, and B) she could very well decide she wants to be in there while he’s trying to sleep and I have a flattened 6 week old in the middle of the night. It’s simply a line in the sand that we’ve drawn and feel strongly about. Anyway, she kept trying to get into it. I kept rolling her back to her place on the bed. It became a game. I got irritated and desperate. Finally, I put Felix down (woke him and made him scream) and dragged her to her room. She laughed the whole way. I put her in the room and closed the door. I then stood outside and held it shut tight. Once she realized she couldn’t get out, she started to scream. I think she was scared and her feelings were hurt. I left her in there about 45 seconds, feeling awful. She came out, sobbing and wouldn’t let go of my hand. She finally fell asleep that way. I still feel badly about it. I don’t want her to be afraid of her bedroom, but as I said, she won’t stay in a time out place and now with Felix, I can’t always be available to hold her down somewhere which doesn’t work anyway.
So what to do? I’ve read that so-called spirited kids are just tougher to discipline. While that makes me feel good in that “you are not alone” way, it doesn’t really offer anything in the way of sound advice or coping mechanisms. All the “I’m OK, You’re OK” gobblety-gook fluff is useless. I’ll save the “mutual love and respect” for Stella when she’s not trying to kick me or her brother. Other parents out there, I’m all ears if you have some tricks.