“C! If you kick the cat I’m putting you in timeout. I’m warning you!“
C looks at the cat, looks at me, looks at the cat and throws a well aimed kick in his direction.
In a second I’ve flown across the room, picked her up and put her in the corner of the room.
“That’s it young lady. Timeout! We DO NOT kick the cat. You sit there for one minute!“
C whimpers a bit and hangs her head. She won’t move until I tell her to get up.
A minute later I tell her to get up and go be nice to the cat. She clambers up and runs into the livings room. The cat is sitting on the carpet, watching her warily. She sits next to him and pats him “gently”. Peace has been restored until next time.
In general C is a very good listener. She usually does what she is told. But she’s 18 months old ans sometimes the lure of whatever she’s intent in getting into is stronger than the sound of my voice. So far timeout has been the best punishment tool. We didn’t have to “teach” her about it, her daycare provider did that, all we had to do was enforce it at home.
“C, help me clean up the toys and then we can get some stickers, Ok?“
C starts to pick up toys and put them in their basket. She sings “Clean up, clean up” as she moves. In minutes we are all done.
“Yay, C, what a great job! Thank you for helping me clean up all the toys. Should we go get some stickers?“
“O—KAY!! Stikos, stikos, stikos!“
C loves to clean things up, and the lure of a sticker reward makes things even more attractive. Stickers make everything better, even shots at the doctor’s office. They are a handy, cheap reward. When C gets older I hope to introduce sticker charts if they are ever necessary, right now she just likes to stick all the stickers to her chest as soon as I can peel them off the page. For the time being we use small stickers for small rewards and larger ones if she’s been really good.
My baby is just a toddler, but she’s starting to stand up for what she wants. She’s starting to really make her opinions heard. I know that we are just at the very beginning of the punishment/reward battle that will be waged over many, many years. This battle scene will change often as she grows. Soon her transgressions will be worse than just kicking the cat, and her successes more exciting than helping me clean up toys. One day timeouts won’t be enough to make it clear that she’s in trouble, and I’m pretty sure that one day she won’t be satisfied with stickers as rewards. I just hope that day that we have the smarts and the strength to find the next things that will work.