Thursday, April 5, 2012

Less Punishment, More....? On Parenting a two-year old

I have a lot of baggage around parenting that seems to be about control. I think a lot of people raised or exposed to Southern Baptist theology find themselves seeped in Calvinist theology about children- that children need to have their will subdued (I'm not actually sure if this is Calvinist, I tried fact-checking and came across some really weird stuff on predestination).

Examples of parenting I was most familiar with had a strong undertone of needing to transform your child from a sinner into something else.  Obedience was held up as the Ultimate Good. I remember hearing parents at my old church describe how they had to spank their children because their child's will was too strong, or that their children were manipulative, and so on. I remember words to children along the lines of "I really don't want to spank you, but...".

I think this fear of being manipulated comes in early on in parenting. We do things like leave our tiny babies to cry, or other things that run counter to our instinct, because we're fearful of the consequences. If we don't, will our children become drug addicts and do crazy stuff? Or in the short term, will they become spoiled brats?

I've found walking this line challenging- I think Noah needs boundaries and guidance and so on. But I don't want to "break" him, and I'm pretty sure I'm more manipulative than he (much to my shame). When I'm upset at his "disobedience", I have to check myself- am I upset because he's not conforming to my will immediately, because he doesn't understand, or because I feel like I've lost control of a situation? Doing this check helps me to understand my anger.

Noah gets 1 minute time-outs, which are needed for Eug and I to try to maintain our composure and not totally lose it. They're not super effective for Noah, but I usually feel better afterwards. Explaining stuff is sometimes effective, sometimes not. If he's worked up, then it's sometimes better just to breathe deeply and try not to cry.

Trying not to get angry at Noah is hilarious. Two year olds are infuriating sometimes- they don't make any sense. We see the world differently. But at least theoretically, I like to spend as much time enjoying his company as possible, and helping him to gradually learn new things.

I'd love to hear how others navigate discipline!


Darren said...

Once when our oldest was having a tantrum I found myself getting very angry. I realized then that my anger wasn’t so much about my daughter doing something wrong and me wanting to correct it, but instead it was about me wanting to get respect and having my emotional needs met by my daughter. In an odd turn, I discovered that I had made it about me. It was one of those “aha” moments.

Early on I think I was more concerned about being manipulated. It's sometimes really hard when they turn on their cuteness and you find your heart melting. Sometimes I let myself get manipulated. Yeah, they should really have gone to sleep 30 minutes ago, but there are worse things in the world than singing another song for my little girl and worse things in the world than giving yet another hug and a kiss while tucking them in.

In the end, parenthood is hard and it's a place where we need to experience a lot of grace, both for our kids and ourselves.

leah said...

I separate discipline from punishment. We try to discipline with logical consequences. If you throw your noodles on the ground I take them away, for example. Sometimes the best consequence is a time out, which usually means I just move away from Harvey where he can't follow me. This is when he hits the baby or something like that. If Zion can't be safe around you, I'm taking him away. That sort of thing. I don't think one can live in a house with children without holding out the ability to curtail their destructive behavior. I don't think so much of molding a non-sinner, but molding a person I might not hate living with.

Concrete Gardener said...

Yes- Noah's really benefitted from logical consequences around things like foods and brushing teeth.

He still doesn't seem to completely understand time outs, where he's removed from a situation, and sometimes he'll have a tantrum we completely don't understand, in which case the time out is less a matter of logic and more of we're not really sure why you're this upset, but we can't be around you right now.

I think the book you lent me, Leah, had something really helpful for tantrums at stores- we just left a few times, and we've never had that problem again.

Bobsie Hunter said...

From granny/mommy from the past where 'things' were a lot different. My piece.... try not to have regrets. Parenting is the most difficult 'vocation'? No 2nd chance. I have many regrets! Sorry my children! Almost certainly too harsh. I do love you all so much as you try to forgive all the bad mistakes I made!

Concrete Gardener said...

I don't remember you being harsh, so I think there's plenty of grace- I only remember all the love!