Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Punishment and Reward

This is Ella, my beautiful, funny 16-month old daughter. Most of the time she is a source of pure joy with her laughter and curiosity. But her sense of wonderment can get the best of her, and me. For instance, she loves to put things in her mouth. You name it--week-old crackers, crayons (LOVES crayons), paper--if it's under something or hidden in a thick layer of dust, she'll find it.

So yesterday we decorated our Christmas tree, putting the fragile ornaments on the top, and a few plastic ones around the bottom (my son helped with the low-hanging ones). And while Ella was great at handing me things to put on the tree, she was even better at removing them as soon as I looked away, over and over again, all afternoon.

Now I know Ella doesn't get what a Christmas tree is, and that next year she won't take things off of the tree so freely. But I'm not sure how to discipline her--or at least get her to stop what she's doing. I think taking the ornaments, putting them in her mouth, and rolling them down the holiday brings her a little closer to understanding the holidays in some way. Of course, when Christmas comes, she's going to really enjoy the tree, the food, and opening presents with her brother and relatives.

So I throw this questions out to the Sunday Scribblings audience: What should I do here? Should I remove the low ornaments and be done with it, or is there some way I can teach Ella to look but not touch. And maybe this is part of a larger question: What do you do with a child when "no" doesn't work?


Michelle said...

I always choose my battles carefully. With this one, perhaps remove all but one or two that she can play with from the bottom of the tree?

When No doesn't work, try removing kiddo from the situation. All kids are so different that this is a difficult question to take on. My first son responded to a tone of voice, a look--while my second son threw awful tantrums and had to be held in order to keeping him from breaking things.

Best of luck!

Jemima said...

Being an expert at this (ahem) all you can do is keep on saying no. It takes time (an enormous amount of time) and patience, and vigilance, but once you've set up a boundary you have to keep reinforcing it. And then your kids turn out lovely like mine did. I hope.

And distraction, like Michelle said, is great too.

ren.kat said...

No and no and no until you're blue in the face. I don't believe in compromising with small kids. Don't touch has to mean don't touch because sometimes it can mean life or death. But we did go for plastic ornaments when the kids were small so that when the no didn't work it wasn't a bloody consequence. I don't like myself for dishing out advice, but I read Don't Shoot the Dog, a few summers ago and had wished I'd read it before our kids were born. Spanking isn't an option here- any form of corporal punishment is illegal- and our kids were "easy"- but it would have made it easier. (How weird that I just left a comment about clicker training with Rel!)

Rethabile said...

I agree with the previous voices. Especially about turning blue in the face.

One further piece of advice: film your kids a lot. Get them bringing the Christmas tree down, eating the heel of your shoe, etc.

You'll be happy to show it to them later and say, "See what I mean? Why I yelled at you so?" It'll be your reward. And they'll laugh themselves silly.

January said...

I knew I would get some great responses and advice from the Sunday Scribbling bloggers! Thanks so much.

Rethabile, we try to take as many photos as possible but we're a little slow when it comes to video. But you're absolutely right. We should be filming as much as we can.

pepektheassassin said...

We put a little fence around the tree--like the little fences they have for dogs. My son did the same around his tree to keep the baby out. see my blog for a picture! (if I can find it).

January said...

We have one of those fences. Maybe that's the answer this Christmas

Alex said...

Well on one hand Ella is merely being Ella. But I remember reading an article stating the main thing a child does is constantly test the limits of what they can get away with with their parents, and you as the parent constantly having to reinforce those limits. I agree with ren.kat in that you can't compromise with small children. You may have to remove her from Christmas tree activities.

Carolee said...

we gave up one year or two years and put up a fence/gate, too. it worked. it didn't teach them anything, but it took away our stress. you can't win either way!


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