Friday, November 14, 2008

But We Haven't Hit 16 Months Yet

My mother, formerly known as Pure Light and now affectionately referred to as Gumma in our house, once told me that while people often talk about the Terrible Twos, in her extensive experience, 16 months was harder. Well, I think I'm beginning to see what she's talking about. Thumper has entered into a period in his life when he has discovered the intoxicating joy of seeing one's parents completely lose their shit.

He hits and pinches Aerie's face and laughs out loud if she flinches. He knocks my glasses off. He stands on the furniture. He goes after the TV, the stereo, the books, the CD's, the computer, the files, and absolutely anything else he can reach, and as tall as he is, that's a lot. And what's worse, what really just makes my blood boil, is that he does it all with an evil little smirk on his face. If I can, I'll try to take a picture of it some time, but I'm usually too busy trying to keep my cool to think of the camera. His devious smile looks a lot like this kid's, though.

I start out calm. I tell him no. I remove him from whatever it is. I hold him still and make him look right into my face for several uncomfortable seconds while I tell him no and no and no and why no. But he keeps at it and at it until I'm yelling at him and removing him rather roughly. I don't hit him. I don't shake him. But sometimes I think I'm getting close to it. I don't want to yell, because he's demonstrated just how ineffective it is. I have to get louder and louder each time for it to have the same effect, and eventually, even at top volume, it doesn't phase him at all.

Aerie was the calm one, talking me down, but now she's kind of starting to lose it, too. I know intellectually that it's not that he's in a power struggle with me or that he's laughing at my frustration. It's not that he's sophisticated enough to think it through to the conclusion that he can do whatever he wants, and we're not going to hurt him. It's just that he is revelling in his ability to have an impact on his world. He's destructive not because he's demonic, but because his fine motor skills aren't developed enough for him to be constructive. He likes to watch us lose our shit because it's a pretty good bang for his buck.

So Aerie suggested that maybe it's time for time out. I don't think he'll get the concept yet, but at least it will be a negative consequence for him to begin to associate with his defiance of the No. I don't have any illusions that he'll just sit in one place until we tell him he's done serving his time. Aerie tried the high chair once, but we don't want him to associate it with punishment. Ditto the crib. So I think I'm going to keep an eye out on our Goodwill trips for a small, preferably tip-proof, chair. And maybe I can add a seat belt to it if it doesn't already have one.

Really, all of that was just to get to this: what do you experienced folks think? Is 15 months too early for time out? Do you have any other suggestions for us, short of locking him in his closet?


Anonymous said...

Not too young, but maybe an official "time out" isn't the right the avenue. If he is in your lap or you are holding him, tell him no strongly, put him down, and turn your back towards him or walk away. That way he's getting no actual response from you. With Sweet Pea at almost 3, she definitely gets taken to her room, but she is told that she can come out whenever she is ready to be nice; it puts the control back in their court. Good luck!

Jennie said...

Not experienced, but maybe some sort of separate crib or playpen? I don't really think it's too early for time out, but as I've said before, I know absolutely NOTHING about babies.

She Said said...

OK, so here goes my solicited advice. :)

The length of a time out should match the age of the child. For each year, they get one minute. This worked great for my son. He's five now, so it's enough time for me to have a little break too! Time outs don't work so well on my daughter. I either have to sit in front of her and get ready to pull her back when she tries to flee, or I have to threaten to take away her "DeeDee", her blanket. In her case, sometimes I just take away DeeDee instead of time out, because by doing so I get the tears from her that make me feel like she understands that what she did was wrong. LOL

So, my advice... Definitely try time outs, and be consistent with them (same place, setting the timer, not allowing toys near time out area, etc). If they work, you'll be happy for the effort!

Hope this was somewhat helpful! If not, there is always your closet method! ;)

The Other Lion said...

I agree. One minute. And it doesn't have to be a particular time out spot, he just has to lose access to prefered items and your attention.

I, Rodius said...

Thanks everybody, good stuff. I've watched Supernanny, so I know all about the minute per year thing. I'm not entirely sure I can live up to the hours of persistent patience she instructs parents to exhibit in order to get the time out thing well established. I prefer to strap him down. We'll see!

Aerie said...

What's interesting was the stage right before this...when he'd stand on the coffee table or the bench his Gumma and Gumpa gave him or some other piece of furniture and wait for me to say "sit down, please." He'd smile (not the evil smile, but just his usual cutie smile) and say "it, it..." and then sit. I'd tell him "thank you," and he'd say "Danku." And then, we'd do it all over again. It got to the point where I'd say "sit, please," and he'd sit and say "Danku," before I could. It was a game...a ritual. Yes, standing on the coffee table was still No. Everything in the universe was stable.

Now it's...let's experiment with anarchy! The smacking and pinching are the toughest ones to deal with because they make me angry and susceptible to losing my cool. Yeah, a good swat on the hand or to the bum would probably stop him in his tracks, but I know first hand how lack of control of one's anger can distort what is labeled as "punishment/teaching a lesson," and the long-term effects that has on a child. Highchair or crib are out, but maybe a gaited area until he gets the time out concept would work...

Anonymous said...

Dear Ones,

Here's what I think:
1. The Terrible Twos begin at about 16 mos. The good news is that something resembling reasonableness kicks in at around two-and-a-half.

2. Tantrums/unacceptable behavior require your participation or it's no fun, so you have to withdraw immediately. Express your profound displeasure by face and voice and pop your little angel in a safe isolation booth for his 1-minute sentence. For some kids expressing sadness or disappointment works better than anger, because when they're not momentarily drunk with power, kids do want to please you. And of course reinforcement of good behavior is basic.

3. Remember that someone loved YOU enough to see you through YOUR Terrible Twos (etc etc etc!) without doing irreparable harm. I think.


anne said...

Since you asked - our kids went to time out in their cribs. It was a safe, restrained place, away from the action. We never had issues with them confusing the sleeping place with the time out place - they went down for naps after lunch and to bed in the evenings with no problems.

You both are doing well as parents! My social worker / family counselor sister-in-law gave me the best advice when we were dealing with behavior / discipline isses in the pre-two age: be firm, consistent and appropriate. You are doing that, and you are doing it well!

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