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Discover the secret of childhood from 0-3 year old:

2-3 years old

Toddler Discipline: How Do I Get My Child To Clean Up and Do What I Ask?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 1:24 am | By Stephanie Woo

One evening, B and M (3 years, 1 month) decided to take everything off their kitchen shelf and put it into their backpacks. Plates, bowls and utensils jangled around loudly in their backpack as they hauled it around the house. When I announced storytime, they dropped everything in the hallway. Daddy stopped them and said, “You guys need to put everything away!” Mackenzie does as she’s told, with some help from me. Brooke, ever the rebellious one, refused. 

Mark is an amazing dad, but – like all of us – sometimes he doesn’t know what to do when the children don’t do what he asks. He asked first in a firm and respectful tone. Then he gave Brooke choices, “Do you want to go by yourself or do you want me to carry you?” She avoids looking at him, so he chooses for her and carries her to the kitchen. They stand in front of the kitchen shelf for a good five minutes where she still refuses to put things away, so he decides to give her ‘time-out’ on the couch. She somehow falls off the couch and starts screaming. 

It was clear this classic power struggle was going nowhere, so Mark handed her off to me (teamwork, people). I first asked where she hurt herself. She pointed to her head, so I sat and held her quietly for a couple minutes till she stopped crying. Even if she fell trying to get out of time-out, she still needed empathy first. (See Connection Before Correction)

Then I looked her in the eyes and told her the facts, “I’m going to read stories now. You can join us after you put away your dishes and utensils.” I added, “You don’t have to put anything away if you don’t want to, but then you won’t be able to read books with us tonight.” I wanted to convey this was her choice. I put her down and went back to the bedroom. I sat down next to M and started reading. B got into bed with us and tried to pull the book toward her so she can see it. I held the book close to my chest and said in a friendly tone, “You can join us for this story after you put away your dishes and utensils.” She doesn’t move. She tried to pull the book toward her a couple more times, but each time, I tell her the same thing. My tone was friendly, but my stance was firm.

Finally, Mark came to ask her again. This time she got up, went to the kitchen and put everything away, with some of his help (see Collaborating With Your Child). When she was done, she ran back to the bedroom and joined us for story time. 

This kind of scenario happens in our house frequently and it illustrates a few key things around disciplining young children:

1. Understand your child’s developmental age

In this post, I talk about Montessori’s Three Stages of Obedience. Up to 3 years old, children are too young to be expected to obey. They have an inner directive that guides them, and their obedience is to that inner voice only. If they obeyed your request, it’s because it coincided with what they wanted to do. When it comes to cleaning up – if they are not readily willing – you can ask them to help, then hold their hand and model doing it with them by your side. 

Recently, my children have transitioned to the 2nd stage of obedience, where they want to obey, but can’t do it consistently. How do I know this? I’ve observed them doing what I ask more frequently, but still inconsistently. If you’ve notice your child being able to obey your requests more frequently, then you can make more requests, while continuing to offer collaboration. It is appropriate at this stage to provide logical consequences if they don’t do as you ask.

2. Provide logical consequences

Here are few things that are NOT logical consequences:

  • Taking away favorite toys that are unrelated to the situation
  • Withholding sweets, trips to the zoo or anything that will happen tomorrow or a later time
  • Time-outs and other arbitrary punishments. What does sitting in the corner have to do with cleaning up? Nothing. 

A logical consequence is something that is directly related to what is happening. For us, we clean up before storytime, so it is sequentially logical: if you don’t clean up, you can’t join story time. If you throw a fork on the floor or leave the table, it means you are done eating. If you don’t get dressed, it means you can’t go out to play. These are logical consequences that make sense in the context of what is happening. 

3. Don’t take it personally

If you understand the 3 Stages of Obedience, you will see that it is not personal. It is developmental. Your child is not being defiant on purpose, trying to make you angry, or being a bad kid. And you are not a bad parent! Their brain just hasn’t developed all the linkages it needs to follow your requests.

Last words of advice: Choose your battles. Don’t insist on everything. When they get to 5, they will obey your requests much more readily. If you don’t get embroiled in power struggles with your toddler, you’ll enjoy the magic of 2s and 3s so much more!

How I Introduce Music and Movies to My 3-Year-Olds

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 2:52 pm | By Stephanie Woo

M’s first movie

Three months ago, I bought The Sound of Music soundtrack.

How do you introduce new songs to children? The best way is to start by telling a little story about each song.

The first song I played for them from the soundtrack was Doe Re Mi. Here’s how I introduced it: “I’m going to play a song for you. This is a song about a teacher who teaches seven children how to sing. Do you want to hear the song?” That little introduction connected them to the song immediately. 

The next day, I told them a brief story about My Favorite Things. I said,” I want to play another song for you. This is a song about the same teacher and the seven children I told you about yesterday. One night, there was a big thunderstorm and the children were scared. So the teacher sang this song to comfort them. Do you want to hear the song?” 

On another day I told the story about So Long, Farewell: “This is a Good Night Song. One day, the children’s father threw a big party in his house. All the children came to say good night to the guests and they sang this song.”

Children love stories. Each of these little stories gave them an entree into a particular song. This CD quickly became B and M’s all-time favorite and they asked for it in the car by saying things like, “Mama, I want to hear the Good-Night song.” 

During Christmas break, Mark and I decided to watch the movie. At first, they were not interested, but as soon as Julie Andrews started singing, they came flocking over.

I cannot tell you how amazing it was to watch their eyes light up when they heard their favorite songs performed on screen. They weren’t glued to the screen like zombies or scared by what was happening (both are common reactions when they watch children’s shows or cartoons). First they heard the story. Then they heard the music. Now, they are seeing it on screen with real children singing, dancing and performing. This gradual unfolding brought the whole experience together.

Children need guidance when it comes to movies. You can’t just turn it on and think it will entertain them. They may get scared of what they see because it’s happening so fast. Young children – sensorial learners that they are – cannot distinguish whether the characters and storyline they see are real or not. Or they may just get glued like zombies. Neither are good reactions. If you can break it down for them into bite-sized pieces, and add new dimensions over time as they assimilate each piece, then you are helping them understand their experience. Those developing intellects and imaginations need this kind of guidance.  

Here are 3 reasons why the Sound of Music is a great choice for a first movie:

  • It has real people in it (cartoons and imaginary characters are more confusing for young children)
  • The first half has a great a storyline young children can relate to
  • The music is beautiful, as is the cinematography. Because young children are absorbing everything about their environment, feed their little souls with as much beautiful things as you can! 

Video: The Best Language Environment for Your Child

Thursday, November 14th, 2013 6:50 pm | By Stephanie Woo

Brooke reciting classical Chinese poetry

Here’s a fact about young children: they LOVE language. It’s an absolute joy for them to learn and recite anything. And they do it effortlessly. They can learn Jack and Jill went up the hill just as easily as a Shakespearean sonnet.

Here are some videos of B and M reciting the Three Word Classic, Confucius’ Great Learning and several Tang poems.  These classical Chinese poems and writings are critical to helping children understand and appreciate Chinese language, culture and history, especially as they get into elementary and middle school. Knowing this, I memorized a couple stanzas of the Great Learnings and brushed up on Tang poems I learned as a child, then recited them to B and M. We sang Itsy Bitsy Spider at the same time we recited Confucius – and they picked it all up. To a 12-year-old, memorization is tedious and painful. But to a 2-year-old, there’s almost no greater joy. 

Children will imitate the language they hear in their environment. Therefore when it comes to language in general, I recommend speaking the most beautiful, difficult and sophisticated version of your language to them. Use hard vocabulary words. Enunciate. Be very specific in your word choices – instead of ‘look at that butterfly,” say, “look at that yellow and black Monarch butterfly.” And if you’re an English speaker, incorporate Shakespeare. It’s not too early. You’re doing them a favor by exposing them to it now!