Disciplining and teaching your toddlers consequences is a tough gig. You can find yourself repeating the same directive a million times a day. “No, don’t climb up on top of the couch.” Two minutes later they climb up again. And we repeat the same thing, over and over. It is an endless source of frustration and can lead us to want to give up. So what do you do when you feel like this is happening every minute of every day? Do you simply let it go, put your feet up with a cup of tea and ignore it? Or do you continue to enforce the rules, over and over again?
Most of us tend to put it in the too hard basket and tell ourselves that we will set boundaries and rules later. We, wrongly or rightly, believe that putting it off until our children are older is easier. We consider that they are more likely to understand the consequences of their actions once they reach the age of 4 or so, and therefore we can start to set boundaries and enforce rules after then.
This, however, sets us up for a very rough time later. If your child gets to age 4, an age where we think they now understand consequences, and try to start setting boundaries then they will rebel. If they have lived the first 4 years of their life with no limitations or consequences, then how do we expect them to all of a sudden flip a switch and understand why we are telling them no. Or even understand what no means.
Cone of Consequence
It came to me when I was having a chat to a fellow mum and nurse at work one day. She talked about how in this day and age we have very broad disciplinary boundaries when our children are younger, and then when they get older we tighten those boundaries and wonder why they rebel. Instead, we should flip it. So have stricter limitations when they are younger, and as they age and learn we can loosen the reigns.
If you flip the cone and give them tighter boundaries when they are toddlers it will pay off when they are older. Despite the frustration and exhaustion that comes from telling a toddler “NO” about a million times a day, and usually for the same thing, it does eventually get through. You might feel like you are explaining the same thing over and over (and you probably are), however, it is important. You are instilling a valuable lesson in them at an age where their little minds and personalities are like sponges. They will learn consequences. They will learn boundaries. They will learn respect. They will learn the rules. It just takes a lot of perseverance and encouragement from us as parents. And believe me, I know how much persistence it takes!
As they grow and age, this valuable lesson of consequences for their actions will follow them. You can loosen up those boundaries and allow them room to think for themselves. To make decisions and act, without you having to enforce the rules the whole time. But remember, they have learned consequences from as young as they can remember! They will be thinking and be considering their actions, although that may not always be evident in their actions. However, that little niggling voice will be there in the back of their mind. What happens if I do this? What happens if I say that? Is this the right choice I can make?
So, no matter how sick you are of saying no, the constant tantrums, and the repetitive nature of setting boundaries think of the “Cone of Consequence”. Maybe it will help you get through those long and tough days. And if that doesn’t work….wine and chocolate are a big help!