>>… more about jumping on the couch as an example. When you take the toddler off the couch, don’t they just get right back on? How many times do you do that? What do you do next, if they won’t stop? Or if they then switch toward some other destructive behavior?<<
I do it as many times as necessary; when I decide they need to do what I said, that means being 100% ready to outlast my child. As I said, I won’t make a request that is likely to be ignored if I know I am not able right then to enforce it.
Okay, about the couch. I take him off. He climbs back on. As soon as he starts to climb on, I matter of factly whisk him off. The ideal is to watch for him to climb back on and stop him as soon as he begins, not after he’s already in the middle of it. If you can’t get to him until he’s already jumping up and down, that’s okay, but not as effective. It’s very important to stay calm and unemotional about this – what helps me is remembering it’s not about me and my ego, it’s about helping my child learn, it’s for his benefit.
Do this as many times as necessary. Are you imagining this will be fifty times? It won’t, unless you give him a good emotional reaction. But you won’t be, since you’re staying detached and matter of fact. You’re too boring in your response for him to enjoy getting a rise out of you, and you’re too consistent in your response for him to think he’s going to get away with it if he holds out long enough. Feeling confident that you know how to handle a situation and that your response is going to be effective makes it pretty easy to stay cheerful and not turn this into a hugely emotional power struggle. It’s when we feel powerless that we get overwhelmed and frustrated.
As far as how to stop them, you’re asking about stopping a very young child, right? A three year old is very small and you’re very big. You don’t have to smack kids around or scare them to get them to understand you mean what you say and they need to listen. A twelve year old who is the same size as you is a lot more challenging, but strong parental authority works just as well with twelve year olds.
Switching to another destructive habit: Why would a child switch from one negative behavior to another? That’s the question I would ask myself, and then deal with the root cause (usually boredom, wanting attention, or testing boundaries). Generally kids want our positive attention. I’m not suggesting turning yourself into the police and making your child feel you have your eagle eye on him every minute – not at all! You should be spending lots of time interacting with him, which makes keeping an eye on things pretty natural. And kids really love this.
Remember, it’s not about punishing them, but about building your relationship and creating a pleasant environment to spend time in together. Spending lots of relaxed and focused time with young children, together with setting clearly defined and reinforced limits is really all it takes for them to stop the behavior. Their needs are already being met without them needing to misbehave for it.