Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sweet bully

Dear Laura Sybil,

What do I do with my pushing, hitting, grabbing, strong 15 month old who will look at me and deliberately do something that she KNOWS she shouldn't do? Can I put a 15-month old in time out?

Sincerely,
I've Had Too Many People Tell Me My Sweet Girl is a Bully


Dear I've Had Too Many People Tell Me My Sweet Girl is a Bully,

So, you say your child's normal, huh? Because she's really right on track for trying to assert her independence. If you ever had any doubt about whether humans are inherently good or inherently bad, I bet you're figuring it out now, aren't you?

Well, if the first step is always to admit you have a problem, you're well on your way to success.

So, what can you actually do? You are right to nip it in the bud now. She is in that transition stage from completely dependent to trying out independence. While it's never too late, you definitely want to show her now that you mean what you say and that there are boundaries. Total independence is, of course, that absolute that we want for our children. And a companion goal for our children is for them to respect others and to represent Christ. Believe it or not, getting to those absolutes starts now and if parented well, you're more likely to enjoy the results in about, oh, 18 years.

But I still haven't answered your question. My official, highly research-based answer is, it really depends. Some children, you can look at them and they will know that you are disappointed and will cry. You don't have to punish at all, or rarely. I'm told this is the kind of child I was. I still am prone to crying if you look at me funny. I'm guessing your child's not like that or we wouldn't be having this conversation. Other children will respond to time out. And others, you just need to get really creative. Find what works for your child, at her stage, at her age.

If you want to start with time out, you can absolutely do that with a 15 month old. Start by putting her in a chair, on a mat, on a step (don't pick something so specific that you're out of luck at Grandmas because she doesn't have the right time out chair). We used a step because, well, every floor of the house had one and so did most places we went.

You'll probably need to literally hold her the first few times. I'd hold her arms, facing her. Use the same words or phrases each time so she gets the idea. As in, "I asked you not to do fill-in-the-blank but you didn't listen to me so you need to go to time out." Then you take her there and hold her just until she sits a second or two without squirming or fighting you. Then spend another few seconds saying something like, "Remember, I asked you not to fill-in-the-blank. If you do that again, you will need to sit in time out again." Be prepared to have her turn around and do it again just to test you. And maybe a few times in a row. And looking you straight in the eye, with a big ole smile on her face. Just be consistent. No need to try to reason with her or explain to her the detrimental aspects of her behavior as opposed to the benefits of obedience. She is only fifteen months, after all.

Be ready for the fight of your life but it's worth it in the end. I truly believe that our children can't be a light for Christ if they don't "grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God AND MEN". They need to know boundaries, obedience, and respect.

Or you can ignore the behaviors and just will them away, or let her continue as she wishes so that you don't break her spirit by (Heaven forbid) telling her no. You could always try to sweetly reason with her, deliberating the merits of internal vs. external motivation and Piaget's psycho-social stages of development, while suggesting (but not enforcing) the value of kindness to others. Be prepared for a nightmare on your hands in a few years.

If you're looking for something to do in your free time, there's a great book (I think, anyway) called Parenting By the Book by John Rosemond. I actually just found it in the past few months but I totally agree with everything this guy is saying. People have often asked us how we parent or why we parent the way we do and I never quite knew how to answer because I didn't know if my parenting has any credibility other than the fruit. But according to this guy, it does. The premise is that we parent like God parents us. So simple, right? He sets boundaries, demands love and respect toward Him and others, allows us to suffer the consequences of bad choices, yet loves us unconditionally through it all. I like it.

Be creative, consistent, and have fun. And don't take it personally. If Adam and Eve were the first kids, and God was the first parent, even He couldn't raise perfect kids so why should we think we can? Our children have the same stinkin' free will that His had. And so do we.

Sincerely,
Not An Expert But You Did Ask So I Answered (aka Laura Sybil)

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