No two children are alike and this means a "one-size fits all" approach to discipline is sometimes less effective than one might think. Big A has always been an individual who thrives on routine, embraces the predictable, and has a need to understand the process or steps before taking a risk. Quite the opposite, Little A is less cautious when it comes to risk taking, is more precocious in many cases, and will challenge an adult to solicit a response. Recently it has become more and more obvious that we need to differentiate our responses to poor behavior in order to maintain the most important component, learning from the mistake/poor choice and building independence from the experience.
For Big A time out has been an effective tool to support the need to step away from a situation and discuss where choices/behaviors can be improved. His learning style benefits from the opportunity to talk through the event/decision and deconstruct the pieces of the puzzle. It was our instinct to utilize the same approach as Little A moved into the toddler years and began to test boundaries and engage in all the normal aspects of toddlerhood. The outcomes with Little A were not the same from the beginning. Sitting still, talking through the event, and regrouping were a challenge and did not promote the learning opportunity we felt central to the consequence.
How have we adjusted to account for the different personalities and learning styles? For starters, the larger rules of the house remain the same for everyone. Regardless of how the boys learn, each is expected to follow house rules and make good choices throughout the day. Also, the consequence (e.g. loss of a toy or need for a quite moment away from others) are consistent across children and circumstance. The difference can be found in what step(s) are taken when behavior turns inappropriate, as they may vary slightly depending on the child and situation.
More often than not, Big A continues to benefit from a "time-out" of sorts; the chance to recenter and discuss a better solution helps him move forward more productively. With Little A the time out has proven to be completely ineffective and we have primarily shifted to an approach of redirection. When Little A makes a poor choice or is struggling in a social situation we take a walk together, and at some point during the "break" discuss the behavior (e.g. "We need to be safe. You cannot jump off a pile of pillows on the couch."). To some the variation may seem unfair, but each child is supported by an adult and the necessary time away from the environment is provided.
There are a few strategies both boys benefit from:
Our process is certainly a work in progress and likely to evolve as the boys overall social-emotional and cognitive development grows. For now one thing is certain, we are learning at an early age how important it is to find the right approach to support each child and in doing so we can still maintain a focus on the larger learning opportunity at hand.
What are your thoughts on differentiating consequences between each child? Have you found another alternative to "time out" or discovered the need to vary your approach when addressing poor behavior?
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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