There she goes again. Your toddler somehow got ahold of the tape dispenser and is yanking out big sticky pieces. You sigh, put down the dish you were washing, walk over, and say, "No, give me that. That's not yours," and take it back. While you're fumbling with the excess and then throw it away, your toddler is crying and trying to grab onto it.

What went wrong?

Well, a lot. I think one of the most overlooked things in toddler discipline is remembering to still respect the kiddo, and that they aren't trying to make you upset.

So what could a parent do in this situation to make it better?

Well, of course we can't have a kiddo wasting all the tape -- that stuff can be expensive! And it's not a toy. But that doesn't mean we have to yank it out of their grasp and be a big meanie!

Take a second to think about why your toddler might be playing with the tape in the first place: How COOL would tape feel if you'd never felt it before? How the idea that yanking your hand gave you more and more, seemingly out of nowhere? The weird sticky feeling?

Now, that is NOT to say that because it's a neat sensory experience that you should let your child do it. I know a lot of people go to extremes either way on this, some letting their child paint the whole kitchen with food because it's "sensory learning" and others who can't stand any mess for even two seconds. Neither is beneficial to you or your child.

Anyway, back to the tape. Little Susie is yanking out all your scotch tape, so what now?

First, don't yell no. Don't growl no. In fact, the word 'no' isn't even necessary, nor is it helpful. It's not even descriptive enough for them to know what you're talking about! Don't bark, "Give me the tape!" either. There's no reason you need to assert excess authority or be rude to a tiny person who happened to find neat stuff in her environment she wanted to explore -- and remember, that's ALL it is to her. SHE isn't trying to waste the tape, waste money, or make a mess. In her little world, something unusual showed up and she's trying to figure out what it is.

What you say doesn't need to even include the word 'no' at all, and probably shouldn't. Something like, "Oh, you found Mommy's tape! I know it feels neat. Not for Susie. Say bye-bye tape!" Tear off what she's already pulled out ... and give it to her. You're just going to throw it in the trash anyway, right? But as long as you keep an eye on her so she doesn't eat it or try to wrap it around her head or get it stuck in her hair, there's no reason whatsoever why she shouldn't be allowed to play with the part she already pulled out. Then you put away the rest of the tape, somewhere she can't get to it this time, and let her continue to explore. When she's done with it, then you can take it and toss it.

Yes, for those of you who are familiar with it, Dr. Sears briefly discusses this exact scenario in his 18 Ways to Say "No" Positively article, which I think is fantastic and has helped me a lot.

It can be really hard when kids this age seem to get into EV-ER-Y-THING the second you look away (and lord, trust me, I KNOW), but the more they're allowed to explore without hearing no at every turn, the better. That isn't to say they should have free reign of their entire house -- to the contrary, I believe they do need things within their reach that they are not allowed to mess with, and a simple, "Not for Susie, no hands," when they start trying to push buttons on the VCR, and redirection to a new activity or a toy given as an alternative is beneficial. Though people have all sorts of opinions on this, it's of my belief that you need to have off-limits things in your child's environment (though nothing irreplaceable or incredibly expensive) so that they learn that there are boundaries and not everything they find is theirs.

But no matter what it is they come across, remember that they don't mean anything bad by it, they're not trying to make extra work for you, and you, in turn, don't have to make them cry or be a jerk when you remedy the situation.

Do you struggle with remaining calm when your toddler causes mischief?

 

Image via Floyd Brown/Flickr