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I'm trying to teach my nephew some basic manners and boundaries, but I don't want to involve swatting or raised voices in the process. He understands me well enough for 20 months, but we have to make some serious progress here and now. Any suggestions out there for this first-time startup family?
By Daniel M.
Let's see. The child is your nephew, and you write he needs to make 'serious progress here and now'. Uh oh.
Sounds like his primary home life permits him to get away with enough to be causing you to see a need for some better manners.
You're right that swatting the child or other harsh (and in some places illegal) behavior modification devices would be the wrong message to send this little wanna-be tyrant (which is the impression you give in your post,that he's fast on the road to becoming a brat).
There is only one thing you can do and that is what most family members who are NOT the parents end up doing when this happens: you make it clear, gently-patiently-repeatedly, that the inappropriate behavior isn't something YOU are willing to accept as normal when you are around the child.
Several ways to do that and a lot of those are listed in the previous responses to your request for advice:) Add to that great advice: if the child acts up and is unwilling to behave with age-appropriate demonstrations of common courtesy (see the link below), simply hand him back over to his mum and leave.
If you are consistent the child will quickly come to associate tantrum behavior on his part with the departure of his beloved uncle. When you hand him back, you say something loving like "I love you little guy, I just don't love the tantrums". Say it with a smile and a hug, then get outta Dodge.
Consistency is the key, you must be consistent in all of your actions and attitudes with the little guy. Otherwise all he'll learn is that he can control you the same way he does everyone.
Never-ever-ever lose your cool around this or any child, it is always better to hand him off to Mum and leave rather than lose your temper. But never hand him off to Mum, Dad, or any other carer that you have concerns about losing their cool with the child either. If you have any concerns it's better to try and find a safer situation for the child than to take a chance on his physical and emotional safety.
Good luck, it's a very loving thing to care about a child enough to want to help him/her improve their behavior so that they go through life with the good manners to become a person people want to have around:)
Try this link as a starting place in figuring out what is age-appropriate behavior for a toddler the age of your nephew:
I used the search phrase "how well behaved can I expect a toddler to be".
The best book I've ever read on child rearing is called "Parenting with Love and Logic". You won't be sorry you read it. Hope it helps!
If you are not going to use punishment, then use rewards. Give him an m&m for each good manner copied.
He is almost two. This is a very self-centered age. The best way to teach good manners is to use them yourself and he will absorb everything he sees and hears.