Saturday, November 27, 2010

Behavior and Discipline

I yelled at Finn, I think for the first time, yesterday. I was loading dirty dishes into the dishwasher and he grabbed a handful of dirty silverware and flung it on the floor, and I responded with "Damnit, Finn!" And he cried. And I felt pretty crappy.

This is one of his favorite pastimes, grabbing what he can from the dishwasher as soon as the opportunity presents itself. I try to keep him out of the kitchen using a baby gate when I'm doing dishes, but sometimes I forget the gate, or I think I can load the dishwasher really quick while he's otherwise occupied, but there's no fooling him.

Some of his other favorite things to do are:

- lamp tipping
-repetitive toilet flushing
- swiping his sisters' shoes from their closet and tossing them over the baby gate into the kitchen for the dog to chew (I am convinced that the two of them are in cahoots)
- emptying drawers and cabinets
- emptying the recycling bin in the kitchen
-flinging books from book shelves

I am aware, from previous child rearing experience, that these are all normal behaviors for toddlers to engage in. What I am having trouble with is enforcing limits and boundaries with Finn - teaching him what is allowed and what is not.

The hard part is the fact that deep down inside, I really don't know how much he gets. I'm pretty certain that he understands "no" and when I say "no" to him in a firm voice, he will look at me and stop what he's doing. But he's usually back at it within a minute or two. And what I don't know is: does he not get it (or only get it momentarily)? or is he just being stubborn?

This is one area in which his lack of communication skills is a definite hindrance. He can't talk to me, and I don't know how much of what I say to him he actually understands. It seems pointless to sit and attempt to reason with him. I do redirect him when he's doing something he shouldn't be doing, but so far that doesn't seem to make a huge difference. I think he's too young - at least developmentally - to try time-outs on, or, really, any sort of consequence.

The fact is, he seems like a much younger baby to me than his actual age. On some level, I've begun to think that this is one way in which those evaluations might be somewhat helpful - if I know he's cognitively at a 12- or 15-month level, it would seem appropriate, then, to deal with his behavior issues as I would a typical 12- or 15-month old (and I'm only guessing; I don't know where he falls cognitively, as it's been a while since he was evaluated), and not his actual age, which is almost two and a half.

On the other hand, I can definitely see how easy it is, because he's clearly behaviorally and developmentally at a much younger level than his actual age, to coddle him and baby him, and in the long run, I'm not sure how helpful or harmful that might be.

I wanted to post about this, initially thinking I might get some advice from parents out there who have been there. But now that I think about it, I guess I know that there is no magic answer. I'm sure teaching Finn boundaries will be very much like teaching my other kids boundaries, it will just require a lot more patience.



Anonymous said...

The only insight I have is that he is like a child his age and he isn't- at least my experience. In many things my daughter is right on the money but she does appear to be younger and it is very hard to gauge on what level I intervene in what situation. She's younger in expressive speech than in comprehension (altho complex sentences can be difficult too). But she definitely understood no and responds to limits. It may not help but at least confirms our your confusion! Plus Finn is the youngest - they tend to get away with alot more!

Tara said...

I'm struggling with this, too, Lisa! Eon just seems like a baby to me in some ways and so typical in other ways. It's difficult to know how to proceed with discipline. Eon loves to "clean" things, ie, clear my bedside table by throwing everything on the bed, empty the laundry basket of all its folded clothes, etc. It's exhausting.

Kristin said...

Max is doing all of those naughty things, too. And I feel exactly the same way - what does he get? Even buying a Christmas present this years is confusing me. I bought something that is for 6m+ and he is 20 months. I felt like I was buying a baby toy. But he loves this type of toy during therapy, so? Today he was throwing up, and I just wanted him to be able to tell me how crappy he felt and if he wanted juice or maybe something more. Some days are hard :)
I yelled at Max the other day for not holding still while changing a poopy diaper - we're moms - we're not perfect.

Dina said...

Ozzie is into everything and he doesn't even flinch when I say No or Stop. I've tried quiet but firm and yelling (geez, I hate the way I sound when I yell) neither seems to make him stop. I am having a hard time figuring out how to make him stop for his own safety. I can pick up the toys for the bazillionth time, or refold the clothes (again) but when he goes to pull something off a table that he couldn't reach yesterday, I really need something to make him stop in his tracks! Tara summed it up for me, it's exhausting.

SunflowerStories said...

The naughty stage is so so rough for all the reasons you stated. I totally admit that I am/have been more lieniant with Sean than his siblingins, but when he really does something he ought not to and knows it, he takes discipline better than anyone one. He's immediately remourseful and willing sits in time out, apologizes for his actions. The other two would fight me every step of the way and need to be convinced of WHY what the did was wrong/dangerous.unkind. Sean just KNOWS. He may take longer to remember not to do it in the first place, but he definitely gets it eventually.