Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Toddler Psychology

What I heard when I picked up Madeleine from daycare today: "Madeleine had a very rough day". Oh, dear. I waited for J to elaborate and wondered what Madeleine had been up to. Apparently she made it her sport of the day to push and hit all the other kids she played with, scoff at timeouts, and even try to hit J when she was given a consequence. J was at a bit of a loss, and as we talked about it, I was too. I'm pretty sure Madeleine is doing this for the attention, even the negative attention she gets from consequences. It's tough because it's not something Brad or I can work with her on, because we're rarely with her when she's with other kids, and we give her quite a bit of attention by default at home. We don't focus on her all evening, but after being away from her all day, we play and talk with her quite a bit and there's not a lot of competition for our attention. So maybe at daycare (with a whole 2 kids and 1 adult!) she's seeking more attention. Or bored? Or testing boundaries? Or just plain spoiled?

Trying to figure out what's going on in a toddler's head is not an easy task, I'm finding. And it's equally as hard not to project my own thoughts/logic/weaknesses on her, and try to analyze things as if Madeleine were a mini-me. Example: as a kid I was devastated by any adult criticism, and so far Madeleine doesn't seem too fazed with our (or J's) disapproval. (That could be the age, though, too- she's still very concrete in her thinking, and I don't remember that far back in my own life. I was sensitive to criticism as an older kid, but maybe as a 2 year old I didn't care either.) And because Madeleine is so verbal, it's easy to think that I can reason all this out with her, but I'm finding that toddlers and reasoning don't always mesh. :-) But the cycle of disobedience-consequence-lather-rinse-repeat gets old fast and makes me wonder, what's the magic formula I'm missing? What do I say to turn my daughter into the little angel I know she could be?

Then I remember- that's not possible. She's human, and a small one at that. A little sinner to complement my bigger version. So I'll just keep trying to figure out the best ways to reinforce that we do what's right, and don't do what's wrong, over and over. And maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

If anyone has some good tips on the subject of disciple for toddlers, I'd love for you to share!


David said...

Hey Meg, I just started reading a very challenging book called "Unconditional Parenting" that I think I would highly recommend. It isn't what it sounded like to me; ie, let the kid do whatever they want. But it does challenge just about every method of discipline I've seen or that was used on me. I haven't reached the second half of the book yet where the author promises to provide alternatives, but from what I've already read combined with my own experience, this guy is on to something! Check it out. Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.

Margaret said...

thanks, Dave! I'll put it on my list of books to read. :-)