Within the last Science Friday, in response to the criticisms that claim AP parents do not discipline their children, I promised to share as of the aspects of positive discipline that we are practicing with Q-ball. Q-ball is a little shy of 14 months, so we certainly have not handled every issue that we will face in toddlerhood. However, she has been walking since 10 months, meaning she is now very mobile and for about the past month she has been exhibiting early signs of frustration with her inability to explain her wants and needs, which has led to more than a few tears.
Before sharing tips, it is necessary to define discipline. While the word discipline tends to carry a negative connotation and is commonly confused as punishment. The word discipline, however, means to teach or train. Within our household, we always ensure that our actions are a way to teach Q-ball behaviors that are developmentally appropriate for her and respect her rights as a person.
About 8 weeks ago, I began to encourage Q-ball to "clean up, clean up, clean up" when she was done with any of her materials. She caught on to the phrase quickly, but certainly needed many verbal cues. Within the last few days, she has started cleaning up even without a verbal reminder and even when she does not know I'm watching! The tips below will show how we used positive discipline techniques to do this.
- Establish and maintain appropriate expectations for your child. I felt this was an appropriate time for her to take on this responsibility as she had the necessary motor skills and was able to comprehend my verbal cues. I also knew that this practice would not become habit overnight, so I maintained the expectation that I would face many strewn books and blocks along the road to a better maintained space. The later expectation prevents me from becoming (overly) frustrated with Q-ball's learning process, while honoring the skills my daughter possesses.
- Model the behavior. Of course, I cannot expect Q-ball to clean up her materials if I do not clean up with her or do not clean up after myself! As Q-ball currently thinks I'm the 2nd coolest person in the world (Daddy takes top spot), she wants to do what I do. And, our house could certainly use some more tidying!
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. When Q-ball does not clean up after herself, she is not punished or scolded. Instead, I just verbally remind her and work with her to clean up. If she has run off to a completely different activity or cannot be brought back to her previous workspace, I'll happily announce, "I'm cleaning this up!" Or, we come back later and clean up together.
- Avoid praises. When Q-ball does clean up, I do not say "good job!" or provide any other overly positive reinforcement. I simply say, "thank you!" Our goal is to foster an intrinsic desire for her to clean-up. Obviously, we are proud of her behavior, but given that this is a behavior that should be routine, we do not believe it needs to be celebrated.