Question:I am having problems with my two sons, ages 2 1/2 (almost 3). They are into everything! I have taken all I can think of out of their room and still they managed to tear down their border, tip over a book case, and tear apart their box springs. Last night they got out of their room and into some makeup. This morning I woke to find two bottles of shower gel and two bottles of lotion all over the boys, their floor, their bed, etc. Above and beyond the anger was the fear that they could have digested these items and I would not have known about it. How can I help teach them what to stay away from and how NOT to tear everything apart??
Thank you for contacting us. As I read your question one word came to mind; BOUNDARIES. The next thing that comes to mind is consequences. Kids need boundaries. Boundaries are necessary not only for their safety but also for their freedom. There is no doubt that toddlers have a tremendous amount of energy, and when there are two working together, it can seem impossible to bring in the reins. However, you must rein in this behavior before it becomes out of control. If you don't, their behavior will only worsen.
Here are some ideas to consider:
Your sons must have clear boundaries set for them with clear consequences for crossing them. Separate them if you must, and it sounds like that is necessary at this point, at least for awhile.
What are the consequences for this behavior? The boys must learn that this behavior is not acceptable, nor will it be tolerated. Age appropriate consequences must be employed EVERY time they disobey or act destructively, and they need to know that you will discipline them EVERY time they cross this line. For a while, it may feel like that is all you are doing. However, it sounds like their discipline has been inconsistent and ultimately they have control, at least for now.
Limit their time alone. Keep a watchful eye on them and as soon as they begin to be destructive, step in and administer appropriate discipline. It is likely that when you tighten the reins, their behavior will worsen. Hang in there, this is natural. The behavior is likely to worsen for a time and then will diminish. They will continue to follow this cycle until they are convinced that they are no longer in control. This will take time, patience, prayer, and a plan.
Develop a plan with your spouse and present a united parenting front. Nothing erodes authority as much as a divided front. Tell the boys in a way they understand what is going to happen the next time they misbehave (be specific), and then follow through because they will test you. Consistency is imperative if you want to regain control.
Don't forget to reward progress. If they make it through an afternoon without tearing up anything, allow them to have an item back that was taken away. Also, don't buy them anything new until this behavior gets better. They need to learn that misbehavior is never rewarded.
There are also some great resources that may help you develop long-term plans.
The New Dare to Discipline, by James Dobson
Bringing Up Boys, by James Dobson
Boundaries With Kids, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend
You may also want to find a group in your area called "Parenting with Love & Logic." Their material is very direct and specific for dealing with growing children into responsible adults.
Don't lose heart. With prayer and persistance you will make it!