Every parent does things that, before they had children, they said they’d never do. I’ve just added to my list of personal examples by implementing the naughty step. Well, sort of.
Over the past couple of weeks Sun has taken to sporadic violence. The odd thwack to me or Bird and sly shove to Shine, as well as, more embarrassingly, pushing other children when we’re out or snatching toys from their hands. I am hating being the mother of the child who hits. It’s horrible. I feel there’s so much judgement that I’m not doing a good enough job because he is acting in this way. I probably put most of this judgement on myself, but I find it really hard to deal with.
For most misdemeanors from a child his age – very-nearly-3 – I take the approach that if I ignore it, the behaviour will stop. Most of the time Sun misbehaves for attention and I don’t think this is uncommon for toddlers. My mantra is also, ‘pick your battles.’ If I was punishing Sun for his wrongoings every time he did something wrong then we’d probably be doing little else.
When it comes to hurting others though, I’ve decided enough is enough. I tried ignoring it but you can’t do this when you’re out or other parents will think you just don’t care. I thought about wearing a little sign explaining, or handing out cards when we arrive somewhere but this seems a bit of a faff. And just plain weird.
I also tried piling all the attention on the poor, innocent victim. This didn’t work either, Sun just joined in. You see, he doesn’t have a problem with remorse. No, he’s very good at that. He relishes the opportunity to give you a hug and say he’s very, very sorry after he’s just slapped you across the leg.
I tried leaving wherever we were if he hurt anyone, telling him if he behaved in that way then we’d have to go home. But this was starting to feel like I was punishing myself and Shine by having to leave the park or the cafe and return home. I also tried confiscating his toys but he didn’t care, he’d just go get another toy, and I can’t confiscate every toy he owns, we’d have nowhere to put them!
I’ve always been very sceptical of the naughty step. I am usually all over separating the behaviour from the child and not using the N word where possible. I also could foresee Sun spending the majority of the day on the step if he had to spend 2 minutes on it every time he did something wrong. Not to mention that we don’t have any stairs in our home so we’d have to move house to one that has a step.
Then, at my wits end, I read the book, ‘The Incredible Years’ by Carolyn Webster Stratton. Don’t be put off by the incredibly cheesy cover like I was. It’s brilliant. Carolyn has given me…wait for it…the thinking stool. Yes, laugh now. I would if I were you. It is not the naughty step, it is the thinking stool. I only use it for when Sun has hurt another person and there is this whole incredibly complicated strategy to get Sun to go and sit on the stool himself (no dragging him, kicking and screaming) and stay there (no stapling him to the stool) while he calms down.
What I love the most about the whole idea is that at the end of the 2 minutes you let them off the stool without having to say anything. You don’t have to extract an apology and go over the crime again, putting you back into that bad atmosphere. You just let them get off and then find something to praise them over as quick as you can once they are off and give them lots of cuddles and kisses.
I am all for praise, praise, praise and cuddles. That’s what I want to be doing with my toddler, not telling him off every 5 minutes and constantly berating him for what he’s doing wrong. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it might not work for everyone, but I am so happy it’s working for us.
I really never thought I’d use the naughty step. And I’m not. No, no, it’s the thinking stool.