Excerpted from Joan Durrant’s Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting

Dr. Joan Durrant was the principal researcher and co-author of the Canadian Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth; a member of the Research Advisory Committee of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children and a co-editor of Eliminating Corporal Punishment: The Way Forward to Constructive Discipline (UNESCO). Her book  positive discipline

4. Babies: 2 to 3 years

During this stage, you may see changes in your child’s behaviour that worry you, but that are actually signs of her growing understanding of the world around her. Commonly, these changes take the form of fears.

scared baby

 

Suddenly, your child might be afraid of the dark. Or she might become afraid of animals, new sounds, or shadows. Or she might cry and cry when you leave her.

Often, parents worry about these changes. They think that their children are acting less mature, rather than more mature. Actually, these changes are signs that your child is maturing.

As your child understands more about danger, he learns to fear being hurt. As your child’s imagination grows and he can think about things he can’t see, he begins to fear monsters and ghosts.

This can be a very frightening time for your child. He doesn’t yet have enough experience to know the difference between make-believe and reality. He believes that what he sees truly exists.

He might suddenly become fearful of masks, drawings in books, cartoon characters, or scary-looking toys. This happens because he has learned about danger, but he doesn’t yet know that some things aren’t real.

In your child’s mind, everything is alive. If you put on a scary mask, he thinks that you have become that creature. If he imagines that there is a monster under his bed, he believes it is true.

Your child might also be frightened when you leave him. This is because he understands about danger, but he still doesn’t understand that you will always come back for him. He can be very frightened when he is left alone or with people he doesn’t know very well.

At this stage, your child needs a great deal of reassurance and support. He needs to know that you understand and respect his feelings – and that you will keep him safe.

Another sign of your child’s development is sudden shyness. Even children who were very outgoing as toddlers can act quite differently at this stage.

Suddenly, your child might act shy around strangers. This is a sign of her growing understanding of relationships.

This new behavior is not rudeness or rejection. It is an intelligent response to the situation. Your child understands danger and knows the difference between strangers and people she knows.

Your child’s caution around strangers shows that she is understanding more and more about her world.

Another development that often worries parents is children’s sudden refusal to be held by your friends or relatives.

When this happens, your child is not being rude. He is beginning to want control over his own body. He wants to decide for himself who can touch him.

This is a very important development. To teach children body safety and body privacy, we need to respect their rights to control their own bodies.

Remember that your child does not yet understand how other people feel.

When he cries for you, he does not understand that you have to leave. When he won’t talk to a stranger, he does not understand that she is trying to be friendly.

Your child is just beginning to understand her own feelings. It will be some time before he can understand the feelings of others.

The most important task for parents at this stage is to respect their children’s feelings.

We teach children to respect others’ feelings by respecting theirs. When children trust that their parents will respect their feelings, they become more confident because they feel safe.

Respecting your child’s feelings means:
helping him put his feelings into words
telling him that you feel that way sometimes too not shaming or embarrassing him
 not punishing him for being afraid

4. Problem Solving: 2 to 3 years

In this stage, children often develop fears. It can be stressful for parents when their children cry when they leave – or when their children become afraid of other people.

Imagine this...

crying baby2

 

Your child has begun to resist going to bed at night. She cries and cries when you leave her. You find yourself becoming angry with your child for refusing to go to bed.

Think about what you read in Chapter 3 about this developmental stage. List as many reasons as you can for why your child is refusing to go to bed.

Did you include reasons such as:
a powerful imagination that can make up scary monsters

not understanding the difference between imagination and reality

a belief that shadows are ghosts, strange sounds are intruders, the wind is a scary creature

a belief that a drawing in her room is alive
, a feeling of danger when she is alone in the darkness

inability to understand that when you leave, you will come back

inability to express her fears in words

increasing stress as she senses your anger rising?

If so, you have applied your knowledge of developmental level to figure out why your child refuses to go to bed at night.

Now imagine this...

Your child loves to play with balls. He loves to bounce them, roll them, sit on them and throw them. One day, you are in a store and he sees a big, bright red ball. He squeals with joy, grabs it off the shelf and runs away with it. You don’t have enough money to buy the ball. You run after him and tell him to put the ball back on the shelf. He cries and begins to have a tantrum.

Consider your knowledge of this developmental stage. List as many reasons as you can for why your child is having a tantrum.

Did you include reasons such as:
a lack of understanding of how stores and money work an inability to understand why the ball is not his
an inability to express his feelings in words
an inability to know how you are feeling
a strong wish for independence
a desire for control over his world?

If so, you have applied your knowledge of developmental level to figure out why your child is having a tantrum.

 

RESPONDING WITH POSITIVE DISCIPLINE

The aim of positive discipline is to respond to a child’s behavior in ways that will lead to those long-term goals. To be effective in using positive discipline, your long-term goals should always be uppermost in your mind.

4. Babies 2 to 3 years

The situation

Your child has begun to resist going to bed at night. She cries and cries when you leave her. Bedtime is becoming a time of conflict between you and your child. You find yourself becoming angry with your child for refusing to go to bed.

What should you do? Let’s think about each of the following responses and decide which one is best – and why.

  1. Put her in her room, close the door and walk away. 

  2. Tell her she is a bad girl and if she doesn’t go to sleep the monsters will get her. 

  3. Before bed, give her a warm bath to relax her. Tell her that it is bedtime and that she needs sleep to have energy for tomorrow’s activities. Tell her that you will stay with her until she falls asleep. Sit on her bed and read to her until she gets sleepy. Sing to her until she falls asleep. Leave a dim light on. 


Step 1 – Remember your long-term goals

What are some of your long-term goals that are relevant to this situation?

Check off each response that would lead you toward your long-term goal.

1. Leaving her alone in her room

2. Telling her she is bad and monsters will get her

3. Giving her a bath, explaining bedtime, reading and singing to her, leaving a light on

 

Step 2 – Focus on warmth and structure

Compare each response with what you know about providing warmth. For each response check off whether it would provide emotional security show unconditional love
show affection
respect her developmental level show sensitivity to her needs show empathy with her feelings

Now compare each response with what you know about providing structure. For each response check off whether it would

provide clear guidelines for behavior

give clear information about your expectations

provide a clear explanation support your child’s learning

encourage your child’s independent thinking

teach conflict resolution skills

Step 3 – Consider how your child thinks and feels

Why do many young children dislike going to bed?

  

Step 4 – Problem solving

Compare each response with what you know about the developmental level of young children. Check off each response that would respect your child’s developmental level.

1. Leaving her alone in her room

2. Telling her she is bad and monsters will get her

3. Giving her a bath, explaining bed time, reading and singing to her, leaving a light on

 

Step 5 – Responding with positive discipline

Now that you have thought about your long-term goal, ways of providing warmth and structure, and your child’s developmental level, which response would you choose?

If you chose #3, well done!

  

A note on children’s fears

It’s very difficult to convince young children that the things they fear are not real. They don’t understand the difference between reality and imagination yet. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to check under your child’s bed and in the closet to show her there is nothing there. Then provide reassurance and company so that she can relax and fall asleep knowing that she is safe.

Remember that most of us dislike being alone in the dark. Fear is a natural human response to feeling vulnerable. Sometimes adults’ imaginations can run wild when they are alone in the dark. If we are aware of our own fears, we can understand our children’s fears more easily.

In some cultures, children sleep with their parents. In these cultures, it is easier to help children feel safe and protected at night.

In other cultures, co-sleeping is unusual. In these cultures, parents must make an extra effort to ensure that their children feel safe and protected.

The situation

Your child loves to play with balls. He loves to bounce them, roll them, sit on them and throw them. One day, you are in a store and he sees a big, bright red ball. He squeals with joy, grabs it off the shelf and runs away with it. You don’t have enough money to buy the ball. You run after him and tell him to put the ball back on the shelf. He cries and begins to have a tantrum.

What should you do? Let’s think about each of the following responses and decide which one is best – and why.

  1. Slap him to teach him how to behave. 

  2. Tell him that if he acts this way no-one will like him. 

  3. Explain that you understand that he loves balls and this is a very nice one. Tell him that you don’t have money to buy it. Tell him that you understand that he is sad and frustrated. Explain that you both have to go outside until he feels better. Take him outside and stay near him until he settles down. Talk to him about feeling sad and frustrated. Explain that we can’t buy things if we don’t have enough money. Distract him and continue with your original plans. 


 

Step 1 – Remember your long-term goals

What are some of your long-term goals that are relevant to this situation?

 

Check off each response that would lead you toward your long-term goal.

  1. Slapping him 

  2. Telling him no one will like him 

  3. Understanding his feelings, explaining why he can’t have the ball, labeling his feelings, removing him from the situation, staying close, distracting him, continuing on 


 

Step 2 – Focus on warmth and structure

Compare each response with what you know about providing warmth. For each response check off whether it would

provide emotional security 

show unconditional love


show affection


respect his developmental level

show sensitivity to his needs

show empathy with his feelings

 

Now compare each response with what you know about providing structure. For each response check off whether it would provide clear guidelines for behavior

give clear information about your expectations

provide a clear explanation support your child’s learning

encourage your child’s independent thinking

teach conflict resolution skills

Step 3 – Consider how your child thinks and feels

Why do young children have tantrums?

 

Step 4 – Problem solving

Compare each response with what you know about the developmental level of young children. Check off each response that would respect your child’s developmental level.

  1. Slapping him 

  2. Telling him no one will like him 

  3. Understanding his feelings, explaining why he can’t have the ball, labeling his feelings, removing him from the situation, staying close, distracting him, continuing on 


 

Step 5 – Responding with positive discipline

Now that you have thought about your long-term goal, ways of providing warmth and structure, and your child’s developmental level, which response would you choose?

If you chose #3, well done!


A note on tantrums

Parents sometimes get angry when their children have tantrums, either because they are embarrassed or because they think they must control their children’s behavior.

Remember that your relationship with your child is much more important than what other people think. When your child has a tantrum in a public place, focus your thoughts on your long-term goals and on providing warmth and structure to your child. Try hard not to worry about what other people think.

Also, remember that trying to control a tantrum is like trying to control a storm. You can’t. Children have tantrums because they don’t understand why we are saying “no” and because they don’t know how to handle frustration. Tantrums are your child’s way of telling you that he is very, very frustrated. If you yell at him or hit him at such a time, he will only feel more frustrated. He will also feel frightened and misunderstood.

The best thing to do is to wait it out. Stay close so that your child feels safe while the storm overtakes him. Sometimes, holding your child gently can help to calm him.

When the tantrum is over, sit with your child and talk about what happened. Use the opportunity to teach him what feelings are, how strong they can be, and what their names are. You can also explain why you said “no” and that you understand why he was frustrated. Tell him what you do to calm yourself when you’re very frustrated. And be sure to tell him that you love him, whether he’s happy, sad or mad. Then move on. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Mission

The MISSION of the Action Team to End Hitting Children is to gather many people to do small jobs for the purpose of diminishing and finally ending the hitting of children. By "htiting" we mean to include beating, spanking, slapping, shaking, popping, and any other form of physical or emotional punishment that demeans the child and creates emotional, mental, and physical harm. Our strategy is to use many people to do small amounts of work that create momentum to make a difference. 

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