My 27 month old son, Ben, has made a past-time of throwing his food off his tray. Sometimes he picks it up when asked, but other times he won’t. I wasn’t sure how to approach the issue. One day, he threw nearly a full plate of Mac n Cheese on the floor. He refused to clean it up. He crouched down over the noodles but instead of picking them up, he shook his head with a smile and said, “Nooooo.” “Oh,” I thought, “Game on!” So, I put him in Time-Out for 2 minutes. Each time I brought him back and he didn’t clean it up, I put him back in Time-Out. This went on for a solid 45 minutes – all the while I have my coat on ready to go grocery shopping as my husband sits merrily at the table enjoying his lunch. “Just go,” he chimed in, “I’ll clean it up, he obviously isn’t going to.”
But, I refused to let this ‘parenting moment’ pass me by. “He needs to learn that this is NOT okay!” I said. Finally, I got on the floor with Ben and put my hand over his and picked up every last noodle. Little did I know, that’s what I should have done from the get go! Putting him in time-out wasn’t working because that was time he was spending not picking up the Mac n Cheese (which is exactly what he wanted!)
So how do we handle our little angels when bad behavior is on the brink and time-outs aren’t the ticket? First, make sure you are keeping your cool. ( I always thought that if my blood was an element on the periodic table, it would have the lowest boiling point! *Nerd Alert!* I used to teach Middle School Science) ;)
The time-out strategy won't work in a situation where your toddler doesn’t want to do something - like my Mac N Cheese incident, or when Ben didn’t want to put his coat back on after shopping at Target. It was like a match on WWE, and I’m just waiting for it to be posted on YouTube from someone’s Smart Phone!
In cases like the latter, every second he isn’t complying, he’s winning. So, give your kid a chance to do it himself. “I’ll give you ten seconds to _________ or I’ll put my hands on yours and we’ll do it together.” If those ten seconds tick by and he still hasn’t complied, I think the Wonder Pets said it best: “What’s going to work? Teamwork!” and dive into the land of hand-over-hand. Once the task is completed, then you can put him in time-out for disobeying.
Toddler Quick Tip: Buy Yogurt Whips instead of regular yogurt – it doesn’t fall off the spoon as easily so your kiddo can feel independent feeding herself while you have less mess to clean up!
(Inspiration provided by: “The Biology of Bad Behavior.” Parenting Early Years February 2011: 66-69.)