Discipline: We Gots It

Disturbing reports kept coming home from daycare about the Bean:

“She didn’t want to nap so she turned her cot over, hitting another child. She yelled and woke everyone up.”

“She threw her shoes at the teacher, then pushed her and pinched her.”

“She pulled all the books off the bookshelf and threw them at the other kids and the teacher.”

We were baffled. Stern discussions with the Bean herself always had the same result: she said she was sorry, and promised to be better. Her manners at home were good, and tantrums were very rare. We had a hard time reconciling this pleasant, helpful child with the violent demon that seemed to emerge at daycare every day. What was causing these tantrums and outbursts? Daycare was unclear – Bean “didn’t want to nap” or “didn’t want to wait in line” or “didn’t like it when Child X sat next to her.” I suspect it was more a result of bad influences – she certainly didn’t learn pinching at home, where nobody has ever pinched anybody else.

In any case, I solved this problem in three ways: two relatively cheap, and one very expensive.

First, we instituted a new “reward chart.” I had purchased this book of charts from Amazon some time ago, and we’d already used one to help with toilet training with good results. So I pulled out the “good behavior” chart and hung it on the wall where we can see it as soon as we get home from daycare. Then I got special Barbie stickers. Every day that Bean is good at school, meaning there are no reports of tantrums or acting out, we put a sticker in the box. When all the boxes are full, I have promised her we will start planning a trip to Disney World. (We were planning to go anyway, shhhh, don’t tell her!)

Second, I bought this book, “1-2-3 Magic,” based on the recommendation of other parents I consulted with in an online forum. So far, I like it. I’ve read the first half and hubby and I have started putting the “counting” method into practice. I really think it’s helping! It definitely helps cut off tantrums before they escalate at home. Most important to me, it’s keeping to a minimum the amount of yelling that goes on, on both the part of the child and the parents. I have to admit, it’s kind of darkly funny when my husband literally screams at our daughter to “be quiet!” but I also know it’s not effective at all. The techniques described in this book are MUCH more helpful.

Third, we decided that part of Bean’s problem is she’s bored. Take the napping issue: according to state regulations, apparently, all little kids up to Kindergarten have to have a “quiet period of rest” every day. At our daycare, that means everyone, even including the four- and five-year-olds, has to pull out a cot for “nap time” every afternoon. And nap time lasts for over an hour! Bean is so far past napping. She almost never takes a nap at home, unless she is REALLY tired out from some activity. We don’t try to force her to nap, because at this point she can play quietly on her own and she doesn’t need a nap (she goes to sleep every night at 8pm with no problems). In addition, I don’t think she’s being challenged anymore by the activities offered at daycare. Our daycare teachers are nice, but they’re not really teachers, and I think the Bean has out-smarted them at this point.

So we found a new solution that will not only challenge Bean intellectually and physically, but they also don’t force the children to take naps (just 1/2 hour of “quiet time” on mats on the floor). It’s a more structured environment, yet also more self-directed, and I think it will really help prepare her for Kindergarten. Our solution is Montessori pre-school. She’ll be starting in the Fall, and is already excited.

Of course this solution is the crazy expensive one. (I bet you thought the trip to Disney World was the expensive solution!) The tuition for our local Montessori is slightly more than twice what we currently pay for daycare. Think about that for a minute. That’s a whole lot of disposable income suddenly…disposed of! In addition, we have to buy her uniform pieces, and have to give her breakfast each morning and pack her a lunch every day (all currently provided by our daycare center). I’ll be honest – at first I thought it sounded like a big, expensive hassle. But gosh…when we toured that school, I fell in love. Rooms full of calm, happy children, actively engaged in self-directed learning activities. Beautiful, spacious classrooms. A gigantic, well-tended outdoor play area with new-looking equipment and a garden the children help with. Optional ballet, karate, and soccer classes. And unlike many of the other daycare centers near us, it’s not faith-based in any way, which is fairly important to us.

So yeah, we got discipline. We are now the MASTERS of toddler discipline. And starting this fall (well, this month really, when we have a gigantic deposit including a month’s tuition due to enroll her), we’ll hopefully have careful budgeting and cheaping out wherever possible mastered as well! But we justify it to ourselves by saying, “Well it’s only for a year, then she’ll go to public Kindergarten.” And that’s true. Only a year – possibly a slightly challenging year, but just a year. And I think she is SO worth the investment. It may sound corny, but when I filled out that application form, I really felt like I was making a decision that would completely change the Bean’s life, and give her a better start towards better opportunities.

I think I’m right. I think WE’RE right. I just wish being right wasn’t so expensive!