The Fun Mom's Guide to Discipline

Taking Turns & Exploring

Problem Behavior: Not Sharing

It's no wonder toddlers hate the phrase "take turns." The only time they hear it is when they have something of great value -- like, say, a yellow bus with a stop sign -- and someone is telling them to hand it over. Who can blame them for clutching the toy to their chest and yelling "Mine"? For all your child knows, he'll never see said bus again.

Fun Solution: When Charlie was having playgroup difficulties, we invented "taking turns." The whole family sat in a circle -- my husband and I, Charlie, and Kyla. I held up an item that was not special to Charlie -- a rolled-up sock -- and announced that we were going to take turns. We used the phrases, "May I have a turn when you're done?" and "Thank you," making sure that everyone held the sock more than once. The next time at playgroup, Charlie was still not thrilled to give up the squeaky clown, but he did it much more willingly, because he understood the language and knew that he would get another turn.

Problem Behavior: Exploring (aka Ransacking) Drawers and Cabinets

I locked up the bleach and did all the other childproofing things a mom is supposed to do. But then there were the things like frying pans, flour, and, yes, rainbow sprinkles. They weren't deadly, but I desired, for my own sanity, that Charlie leave them alone. If I had to lock up every drawer that contained potentially messy or noisy items, I'd lose my mind. Kids need to explore, but how do you encourage them to do so in a way that doesn't leave you with a headache, a huge mess, and a mom yelling at a kid who is just being, well, a kid?

Fun Solution: I walked around the kitchen with my toddler and when he went for a cabinet, I said either "For Charlie!" with a smile or "Not for Charlie!" with enormous gravity. After a few rounds, instead of lunging forward to open a door, he started looking up to see which phrase I'd say. It wasn't long before he would arrive at a cabinet and then stop dead in his tracks, emphatically shaking his head no (or, in rare cases, yes -- the Tupperware, for example, was all his). And this game travels as well. If we went to a friend's house, I would take a few minutes at the beginning of the visit to tour some of the hot spots of our new location, therefore saving me hours of pulling Charlie away from something "not for Charlie," like the freezer or the dog's water bowl.

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