Positive Discipline-Need Ideas

By Heather (A Mama’s Blog)

I thought having a second child would not be as hard as having one. After all, I had already been through it once, how much harder could a second child be?

I found out within hours of Cole’s birth (my second child) that having a second child does not mean he or she will be like your first child. In fact, in some ways it is harder. Instinctively, you seem to do what worked for your first child, with your second child. Sometimes you are lucky and it works- but in my case, it seems more often than not, what methods worked for my first child, Ryan, do not even come close to working for Cole.

So many times I have not felt like an experienced mother with Cole. I feel like I am a first-time mother again, figuring it all out. At times it does feel harder, because I try to use something on Cole that worked with Ryan, and it backfires- and then I am back at square one, and wondering why my techniques that worked so great with Ryan do not have the same outcomes with Cole.

Of course I know Cole is not Ryan and is a totally different person. It makes sense that the same techniques do not and should not work the same on two different children. But, that doesn’t make me wish they would at times.

A big issue we are facing right now with Cole is positive discipline. The methods we used with Ryan worked instantly and effectively. However, Cole laughs at us when we try to correct him and ends up hitting or biting us.

I think some of this is just his general frustrations in not being able to speak fully yet. Like most two-year olds, he has some vocabulary, but can’t fully communicate his feelings or thoughts yet. I know when he is mad, instead of communicating his feelings (because he can’t,) his first impulse is to hit, or bite, or yell.

We have tried almost everything we can think of from talking to him, holding him, diverting his attention elsewhere, to removing him from the situation, in hopes of trying to have him to stop biting and hitting, but he always ends up laughing, and at the very next episode, he does the undesirable behavior again. He really only does this when we tell him he can’t be doing something- like pinching his brother or running dangerously close to the street. Naturally, nothing that worked with Ryan in these situations is working on Cole.

So, I am hoping that some of you may have some suggestions for us to try. Ryan was never a hitter or a bitter, so we really are at square one with this. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas, so we can guide Cole and help him to understand that he can’t bite or hit, while still using gentle and respectful discipline with him.

Author: API Blog

APtly Said, Formerly API Speaks launched in April of 2008 as part of Attachment Parenting International's larger effort to offer interactive content through their newly-redesigned web site: http://www.attachmentparenting.org. All contributors to APtly Said, as with so many of API's staff, are volunteers who donate their time and energy to promote Attachment Parenting world wide.

4 thoughts on “Positive Discipline-Need Ideas”

  1. i feel your pain. i have a spirited 2 year old, too. what works best for us is to state the rule and then walk away. there is nothing more awful to our little 2 year old than being left out of the fun! so, for example, 2 year old hits 5 year old, five year old calmly says: “no hitting” and walks away to the other room. 2 year old screeches that he wants big brother to STAAAY, then follows him to the other room. i say, “no hitting. when you are ready to stop hitting, you may join us in here. are you ready?” 2 year old throws himself to the floor, etc.

    we repeat this many times! i believe the key to discipline is mostly consistency. over and over.

    sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your children. they are very lucky.

  2. Oh wow, we have a spirited 2 year old too, so I’m right there with you. The interesting thing is that Gabriel (now almost 4) went through the same exact thing at this age. I was convinced that it was because he was freaking out about having a new baby sister, but in fact, the hitting appears to be a fairly normal developmental stage.

    Lily sounds a lot like Maria’s 2-year-old, being left out of the action is the worst “punishment” she can get. So when she hits one of us, we say “Ow! That really hurt Mommy/Daddy/Brother” and move away from her.

    This happens a lot when the kids are on the couch…Lily will keep scooting over until she’s on top of Gabriel and then she’ll pinch or hit him to get his attention. Just scooting her back to the other side of the couch is enough to make an impression on her and I do think the hitting is improving (after about 3 months though–this is certainly no quick fix!).

    Hang in there. And know that you’re doing the right thing by looking for a gentle alternative. No matter how maddening these spirited children can be, I’ve learned that she’s testing limits and checking back each step of the way to make sure she’s still loved and accepted. I have to believe that she’ll grow out of the hitting, but I hope she never grows out of believing that we love her no matter what.

  3. It’s hard to tell specifics from your email, but with a child that age I think the most important things are:

    SHOW rather than tell

    POSITIVE rather than negative

    So, if/when you do use the negative, for example, “no hitting,” actually block your child’s arm. You are showing them what no hitting feels like.

    Rely on telling your child what TO DO rather what NOT to do. For example, I often redirect my youngest son (20 months) from hitting by encouraging him to do “high-fives” instead.

    Other ideas —

    fulfill the need in other ways and at other times… biting a stuffed animal or a cloth or whatever might be okay in your family. When my son started trying to drag his friends around by their shirts, I would stop it from happening but later on at home I would play “tug-o-war” with him so he could experience that tugging feeling w/o hurting his friends.

    empathize with the feeling behind the action… “oh, you really want the toy!” “it’s hard to wait!”. Your son can’t say these things yet but soon he will be able to.

    And a FABULOUS resource for me during the first three years of my older son’s life was the Positive Parenting yahoogroup at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PositiveParenting-Discipline/

    Good luck to you! I agree with the previous poster that your heart is in the right place, and that your son will grow into other, more gentle methods of expression.


  4. Cole sounds like my son at that age. He is almost nine now and thankfully no longers bites us. What worked for him? Nothing. Nothing worked and we tried everything and then eventually he just grew out of it. I have four kids and the one consistent thing i’ve noticed is that it’s great to try things and certainly kids need some discipline, but if NOTHING works, just know that no matter what you do right or wrong, they are going to grow up. Most everything passes and they turn out all right. We stressed about potty training, pacifiers, biting, swearing, etc. And all passed. We helped some pass quicker with savvy parenting but plenty passed despite us and our awkward efforts. The biggest thing I think is to make sure they know how you feel about it. If you do nothing else except say, “That’s not okay.” then at least they know it’s not acceptable even if they keep doing it. Good luck! (Wish me luck too – we both need it!)

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