Lately here I've been thinking it's about time to put my toddler in a toddler bed. I've been dreading it because , as I told my husband, I just know he's going to get out and I'm going to have to spank him. A lot. And I don't really want to right now. But, I had no choice when he started hanging out on the front rail of the crib just because he could. So we took off the front of the crib and put on the toddler bed rail. Then we took a video of his first impression of his new bed. At first he didn't see it, then we could barely get him off of it.
Still, I had this picture in my mind of my hard headed, strong willed 22 month old getting out of bed repeatedly every night from now until kingdom come! Fortunately, God is merciful to me, a sinner. And even when I don't pray about the piddly stuff He comes to my aid.
I had the thought to sit at the top of the stairs just outsided his bedroom door with my trusty "spankin' hose" and the first time he climbed out I was in there as soon as his feet hit the floor. No warnings just a swat to his upper thigh. Not too hard, but enough to sting a bit and leave a mental impression. He got out once more. I met him with the same swift swat and that was it. Nap time was in the pack'n'play next day but I sat at the top of the stairs the next night too. Turns out I didn't have to. Not once has that child climbed out of that bed since. And not only that, he doesn't get out on his own in the morning either. He simply sits cheerfully in his bed talking to himself until I come to get him.
Not only was this good for Wyatt, but it was good for the middle two as well. They are both great at making up excuses to get out of bed. We are usually too lazy to go up there each time and typically warn them until we're angry. Then one of us will go up and yell (we don't spank if we're angry. When we spank we want it to be in love not anger) But being that I was already up there I just hopped up and swatted them too. Just a couple of nights of consistent discipline and bedtime in our house is a much more pleasant experience for everyone.
The thing is, this is something I already know. I just fail to practice it the way I should. Call it laziness. Call it distraction. It's probably some of both. Regardless, I forget how well it works! This is what Michael Pearl calls "training". The idea is that you set up a situation in which you know you child is bound to fail, then you sit back and wait for him to do it. Not that you get a chance to spank, but so you get a chance to teach them what is and is not acceptable behavior before they have to discover it for themselves and recieve discipline for it. The child learns the meaning of the word "no", he learns what is not tolerated, and above all he learns self control. Rather than catching your young child in the act and explaining that it is not ok only to catch him at it again, at which point you wonder if he understood; you set up a situation where you are ready and waiting. As soon as he acts you reprove him repeatedly until you are sure he understands, and he no longer attempts to engage in that behavior. Then if you catch him at it you know that he knows he is wrong whether or not he can verbalize it. In good conscience you can spank him, just hard enough, and be pretty sure he is not going to do that again. If you don't set up training sessions and catch him in the act, he may have already been enjoying himself for quite some time, thinking everything is fine. Imagine his surprise when you show up and take away his fun. He's only going to look for another opportunity. But if before he has a chance to enjoy said behavior, just as he is reaching for it he recieves a quick swat and a gentle "no", he will relate that activity or thing and the word "no" with the pain of that swat and exercise self control in the future.
I like to combine this principle with the Ezzo's principal of parenting inside the funnle in which you allow only the mobility and freedoms your child is able to developmentally handle. I make good use of my pack'n'play when I can't be attentive to the youngest, but even so he's getting bigger and I've been lax in my training. I've got my work cut out for me!