This week, I also read Mama-andmore’s blog post over at BritMums, on whether how much you work influence’s how much you discipline your kids. Perhaps I’m noticing blogs about discipline more because that’s where my focus lies, or perhaps it’s a sign. I don’t know. Either way, I decided to write a blog about it, partly to answer Mama-and more’s question and partly to figure it out for myself.
I work part-time and on the days I work Mushroom is usually well behaved – apart of a bit of a whinge on the way home from nursery (sometimes I think he prefers it there!) – but when I’m at home it’s a different story. He’s much more likely to play me up if we’re together all day. I would therefore say I’m dishing out more discipline on the days we’re at home, so I guess I would be a little more strict if I was a SAHM*. There are, however, certain rules, which apply regardless of whether I’ve been at work or not. The main ones are: Bedtime is between 6 and 8, with few exceptions (Christmas day at my sister-in-law’s house being the most recent exception), and we don’t do anything that hurts other people – regardless of who started it. Other rules we stick to include: We don’t draw on the walls or the floor, we don’t throw food and we don’t take things from other people without asking. However, the response to these are softer, e.g. If he draws on the floor or walls he cleans it up. The same applies to throwing food. If he takes something from someone then he has to give it back and we ask permission together (he points and says ‘eh?’ and I translate if it’s an adult. Children usually get the gist) then he says ‘ta’ or signs ‘thank you’ if he is given it back. Being a typical toddler, Mushroom of course challenges these rules on a regular basis.
As he got to about 14/15 months, I tried a few techniques, – a short time out in his cot or highchair (with me staying in the room) at first and more recently, ‘circle time’ (inspired by Woman Wife and Mum‘s answer to my babyhuddle question). This is just 90 seconds in his old playnest in the hallway – so it’s not in its usual context – after which he says ‘sorry’ (he strokes my arm of the arm of the adult/child he’s hurt) and we have a cuddle. This becomes ‘corridor time’ when we were at a someone else’s house (or if he’s actually been playing in the playnest at the time). I try not to overdo it and do let some things slide from time to time but there are certain things that are never ok in any context (such as hurting other people).
My dilemma is this: He is generally well behaved and although he has the odd tantrum, they are generally short-lived and he can be easily distracted. Repeated challenging behaviour, therefore, can often be a sign he’s getting sick. It took me a while to figure this out. He’s not quite talking yet so maybe it’s his way of trying to communicate. I try to give him the language by asking him if he’s poorly, or if any body part is hurting (signing and pointing at the same time). Sometimes he points to his teeth but other times, nothing. Then two days after I’m almost in tears with frustration at his behaviour he’ll wake up in the middle of the night and vomit all over the cot (for example). That’s when the guilt grabs me. Another dilemma is when Mr B disciplines him (or doesn’t) and I disagree. I never undermine him, especially as I think it’s important for Mushroom to know that Daddy isn’t just for fun and must be respected too, but I do worry that he’s getting mixed messages from us. I guess that’s something that will work itself out – we do discuss it afterwards so we avoid making the same mistake twice but what do you do in this case?
This weekend has been an especially challenging one, with Mushroom refusing to sit at the table for meals, repeatedly taking things that aren’t his (he knows this as he tries to hide them) and hitting me and Mr B. It doesn’t help when Mr B ‘pretends’ to hit back but it also might be my fault for letting him play with the Talking Tom app (for a few extra minutes in bed! Selfish Mummy) on my phone without disabling the violence – which I have now done!
I am trying to be consistent when it comes to discipline but if it turns out he’s sick, well….
What are your discipline dilemmas and how do you resolve (or learn to live with!) them?
*Stay-at-home-mum, just in case any non parents are reading!