Commentary by Deborah Hirschland
This question "How can I help you be successful today?" Is one I ask my toddlers often. I see behaviors that are disruptive, out of control, outwardly physical, inwardly reflective, shy and concerned, fearful or just cautious. Toddler behaviors run the gamut. We also don't always know the reason for them. I tell parents that toddler brains are constantly learning and growing. Even during sleep and rest. Until we see a new skill, new language, new teeth, etc, we don't know what their bodies and brains have been working on....maybe for weeks. So, for ~today~ what do you need from me to be successful? I know they can't always answer with words, but their actions speak volumes.
I find myself getting into toddler negotiations all day long. Maybe I should, have been a diplomat. I always offer choices. Choices that result in the desired outcome, but choices that give a toddler some illusion of control. (I firmly believe toddlers only truly control two things. What goes in and what comes out of their bodies. If we get into a power struggle with either of them, we lose.)
My classroom dialogues usually sound something like this. "Are you going to walk to the door or march to the door.", either way, we are getting to the door! "Can you give that toy back to your friend or do you need my help to give it back?" Again, either way, the toy is going back. My husband has been been trained with this language..."are you going to load the dishwasher or hand wash those plates?"
I don't use time outs, since I think requiring a toddler to sit and think about what they did is unreasonable. Once it's done, it's done for a toddler brain. I do have a rule, "if we hit, we sit". They are not removed, it happens tight there, on the spot and for a few seconds. They sit and their body is actively engaged doing something else, and then I tell them to stand up and try again. "Can you show a gentle touch or a hug? Hits hurt". Then we move on.
I do find myself telling my older toddlers "if/then" scenarios often and maybe I need to listen to myself and how often and when I use it. It is typically for children I have running around the classroom as we try to get ready to head outside. I know they need to expend physical energy, but it is not appropriate or safe to do so in the classroom. I will say "I need your walking feet and listening ears now, so we can run outside. If you run inside when we get outside you will be running and won't get to play with the trucks". I understand that they need to run and move, but I don't think they are too young to understand the consequences for their choices. I do understand that telling a toddler to sit is not DAP and virtually impossible. There are times however when I do need them to sit, for their safety or the safety of others. I will have them sit by me, with me and engaged with a toy or a book, but in a classroom of fourteen....there are days.
I like the commentary and that we just need to remember that there are no hard and fast rules. Every child is different and comes from different circumstances and we need to be able to adapt and change the plan to help every child be successful every day!