Rules for Two-year Olds
Long ago and far away, I earned a nice chunk of income as a babysitter. I will never forget twin two-year olds, Jack and Jill (NO JOKE!) and their amazingly put-together mother. I always loved going to their house where there was cable galore, high-speed internet and fancy snacks that were bought at Whole Foods before Whole Foods was a household name. Most times I would arrive just in time for the twins to give me a hug and then get into bed. It was a sweet deal and like I said, the money was insanely good. As a college student, I can’t think of a better way to earn some quick cash. I would always bring my books and school work but who was I kidding, they had fast internet!
It seems I did a stellar job of sitting on their couch and munching their rich-people food so Mom offered me a job as a full-time summer nanny. LONGEST SUMMER EVER. While I counted the days (and sometimes the seconds) until school started back, I picked up some portable skills that have served me well while rearing my sweet and sour little two-year old!
Rules and Consequences
Jack and Jill’s Mom had to work twice as hard as I do to keep her little ones safe and secure and quickly adapted a set of rules for her twins. If you didn’t follow the rules then you had to deal with the consequences. No question. The twins had a poster stating the rules in their oversized playroom, which by the way resembled a very organized toy store! I haven’t gone as far as posting rules in our house but I do find myself repeating some basic phrases over and over and over again (walking feet, inside voice, be nice, etc). What’s that they say about toddlers learning through repetition? I sure hope it’s true because there are days when I get awfully sick of hearing my own voice!
It was really very simple, follow directions or else. Mrs. Mom once told me you should never threaten something you weren’t willing to go through with, otherwise the lesson wouldn’t be learned. She couldn’t have been more right. I can attest to the miraculous power that using consequences can have on changing undesirable behavior. After a recent evening of sheer naughtiness, I had to take away all of Micah’s toys and he has been a beautiful listener ever since. Stay tuned for details of our “consequence experiment.”
I was introduced to a new concept during my summer with Jack and Jill. Instead of using the method of “time out,” Mrs. Mom gave her children a “time in.” Instead of sitting quietly by themselves after making a poor choice, the children would have to spend a few minutes with a grown-up showing them the proper way to act. It’s fair to say that most negative behaviors occur when children are left to their own devices. Instead of being punished for simply acting their age, Mrs. Mom would have me sit with the children and work with them patiently to correct the behavior. For example, if Jack were to throw a block at his sister’s head, I would sit with him and show him how to stack the blocks to build a tower. Two-year olds lack focus and sometimes they just need the guidance of an adult to help reign them in again.
Two-year olds don’t have the ability to reflect while they sit in a corner by themselves. They certainly don’t “think about what they have done” or know the answer to the question, “Why did you do that?” At a birthday party recently, I was chatting with another mom while her son colored on the table with a stray crayon. When she saw what he did, he was immediately placed in the corner for a few minutes and then released to play. There was no conversation about what he had done or demonstration of appropriate behavior. I have to wonder what he took away from that experience other than a feeling of “I was bad.”
In my own experiences, I have found that combining the use of consequences with a period of “time-in” can be a powerhouse technique. Just like Jack (and most two-year olds), Micah has been known to throw his toys around the house. After a “time-in” where we work together using the toy properly, he may then play with his toy by himself. If he decides to throw it once again, we remind him of the consequences and the toy is taken away while we find something productive to do together. Lesson learned. Okay, so that last sentence should read, “lesson learned?,” Only time will tell, he is still just two, you know!
Mrs. Mom and I have reconnected through social media . I feel awfully old when she posts pictures of Jack and Jill doing very teenage things like driving a car or taking college-prep exams. Later this year they will be visiting our city during a college tour and we have made plans to get together. I’ve already scoured the stored for upscale snacks and in an effort to impress, asked Hubby to upgrade our internet & cable package (sadly, he declined.) I’m a bit nervous about having a truly inspirational Super Mom catch a glimpse inside my child-rearing ways. If all else fails, I can distract her with some gluten-free grub!