I realized recently that what is happening today with our little lady will be forgotten in time. I wanted to write about some of the decisions we have made about our Sweetpea. This post is for me to reflect on where I feel we are in the realm of parenting. We are not perfect but we’re trying to thoughtfully make decisions.
So discipline. I struggle with the concept of discipline for our independent, curious, smart, strong willed little lady. I tend to think of discipline and parenting like a riverbed. This riverbed in my mind’s eye has definite banks that prevent water from going over them. It is possible for the water to go outside of the banks, but in general the water follows the path set in front of it. The manner in which the water gets from point a to point b is not something that truly concerns me as long as water does not slosh over the predetermined banks. So the parallel to discipline is I try to set rules that are the banks. Thou shalt not cross over them. But the consequence is….? I truly have not been able to answer that yet. I believe there is a major move either to spank and also another major move not to. I tend towards the: not to. So in an effort to help our little lady stay within her bounds we have a couple rules and phrases to reinforce concepts.
1. No Means No.
This means when I say no, I have to really think through the “no” and then defend it. I’m not always great at this so it is a challenge to me to maintain consistency and have reasoning behind why I am saying no. For example, recently we were at a red light and Sweetpea had dropped something in the car while buckled into her carseat. She asked me to pick it up. I absentmindedly stated that I could not pick it up. Her response was, “We at red light. We can pick things up at red lights.” — echoing words I had said in the past. Touche little lady. I try to subscribe to the idea that just because it’s difficult or more work for me to think through my thoughts, decisions, actions, that should not matter. A thoughtful decision should stand.
2. Yes Means Yes!
I truly hate whining. I think it is annoying and just awful. So when Sweetpea asks for X and I say yes. And then asks for X again within two seconds. I stop and explain to her that Mommy said yes but sometimes we have to wait for X. So please be patient and then you will have X.
3. Stop Means Stop. <<<Pretty Pretty Pretty Please!!!!>>>
We are working on this one. I REALLY want her to stop when I say stop. She gets this about 50% of the time. I try to use Stop in the realm of you’re about to get hit by a car kind of concept. Sometimes we get it…sometimes we don’t. So as my mother used to say, it’s water on the stone. I’m hoping this one sticks sooner rather than later.
Phrases To Reinforce Concepts:
1. Listening Ears:
Daycare taught me this one. The child turns on their ears by physically putting their fingers near their ears to simulate turning on their ears (or turning a dial or flipping a light switch). I feel it’s another way of saying you need to listen to me, are you listening? This has been an invaluable tool. Situations often go like this: “Sweetpea we are going to go to the park. When we get to the park, will you have your listening ears on?” She decides. Usually yes seeing as she wants to go to the park. We get to the park and her favorite trick is to runaway. So she runs away. I run after her. She thinks it’s hilarious. I catch up with her (out of breath) and sit down with her and we have a serious conversation about listening ears. Something on the order of, “When we came to the park we agreed you would have listening ears. I see that running away looks like great fun but I asked you to listen and I see that you have not listened. You have two options: keep your listening ears on or we leave. And by keeping your listening ears on, that means I need you to stop when Mommy asks you to stop. What would you like to do.” She then states she does want to have listening ears on and so it continues. Note: this example I do feel that I might need to leave the park because I did ask her to have them on and she did not. So maybe this example is not good but the point is having her listen to me. I do think this is an area I need to improve on for myself. If I said something I need to stick with it.
2. Focusing Feet:
I feel as though my mornings have alot of intensity to them as do my evenings. Focusing feet is my way of saying pay attention to where you are walking because we need to stay focused to stay on track.
3. Respectful Voices:
I really like this one. I got this one from my very good friend and mother of four. There are times when I get screamed at by our lovely Sweetpea. Usually around something she wants intensely, like a cracker or a toy or some other item of imperative importance. So what usually happens is we are driving home, and she wants something. Rather than saying, “May I please have X” sometimes it comes out as “MOMMY, I WANT X.” To which I reply “Oh my, those are not respectful voices, when you have respectful voices and can ask nicely I can listen to you, but when you yell at Mommy I cannot respond to you.” She continues to yell for a couple minutes about “X!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” To which I say, “I will not respond to you until you have respectful voices.” So she continues to yell and usually realizes she is getting no where. The minute she says “Mommy, may I have X please.” I respond and usually give her what she wants.
4. You Can Do Hard Work:
(Also from my good friend mentioned above) Maybe I am wrong but I don’t think there is a switch that happens in life where someone goes from being a child/teen to an adult. There is no ceremony really that says okay you now have confidence, independence, decision making skills and an ability to think for yourself. So I try really hard to reinforce to her that she CAN do difficult tasks. There are times she will be working on something and will be struggling on it (but I know that I have seen her do it or I believe the task is within her abilities). When I see this, I try to say her I believe in you Sweetpea, I know you can do hard work. Sometimes she will respond with but I am frustrated. So I tell her okay then try wiggling it or turning it you can do hard things. I find that she will watch something I do and then imitate. I really don’t want to foster a “I give up the minute I confront perceived difficulty.” I truly want to foster concentration skills, thoughtful consideration, and problem solving skills. I do let her know if she needs help, that I am here to help. So when she gets frustrated, I tell her, “If you need help you need to ask me for help.” I don’t mean to say I just let her struggle, but I try to build her confidence in herself that she can do difficult tasks.
5. Hug It Out:
This is about 2 days old for us. Recently I forget what our issue was but both Sweetpea and I were frustrated over something. I forget what the something was. So I told her we should hug it out so we could just get over our respective frustrations for each other and move on with a clean slate.
6. You Can Do ________:
I am trying to erase “DON’T DO THAT” from my vocabulary. Instead, I try to say “You CAN hold my hand when we cross the street” or “You CAN put a little salt on your vegetables” and such. I think having a positive boundary instead of a negative one is so strong.
7. I am so glad you made a decision that makes you happy:
I think decision making skills are extremely important. We do subscribe to the concept of options. So when presented with a behavior that is frustrating etc., we often say something like “You can either have listening ears or we are going to leave.” She often chooses what is more advantageous to her which is also usually what I want her to do. We are trying to avoid praising her alignment with what we said to do and celebrate her ability to make a decision. I just don’t want her to be 15 and choosing what someone said to do instead of choosing what she thinks was the better decision.
8. I have a Compromise/Deal for you:
This one comes from my mother. Life happens where we both want to do something or go somewhere and something is going to have to give. Of late this usually revolves around treats. I do not want her to eat chocolate, candies and treats all day every day. So she might ask for just that. I look at her and tell her “Ok, I have a compromise. I see you want to have chocolate/candies/treats, if that is something you would like to have I need you to eat your dinner (or this portion of your dinner) first and then you may have one piece of chocolate.” I must use this enough because she recently told me “Mommy I have compromise you.” I looked at her and said, “Ok and what is your compromise?”….”I wear flip-flops.” I looked at her and thought well there’s no harm in flip-flops right now so this does not need to be world war 3 so we decided this was fine as long as she had listening ears….
9. Opening Doors
This is more of a concept. Our little lady seems to want to read. She oftentimes picks up books and gets frustrated and states “I can’t do it.” So we purchased some first time reading books (she loves them). I feel that instead of waiting for the child to verbalize “May I have some reading books.” It is important for me to pay attention and look for clues and try to solve/anticipate next steps instead of waiting for the door to be knocked on. I might miss the knock. I also don’t want to negatively pressure her into going through doors when she isn’t ready or interested. So I think this one is a delicate balance.
10. Pausing to Teach
I feel giving her the tools to do what she can is important but so is recognizing when she could use some coaching. I’m not amazing at this but it’s something I working on doing. I never wanted to be told what to do and so I tend to expect her to be the same. I have to train myself that she is clearly not me (nor do I want her to be) so therefore I need to be sensitive to her needs.
Things I’m thinking about:
1. Telephone Calls – How to ensure when I am on the phone Sweetpea does not feel left out or ignored
2. Conversations – Learning how to respect when others are talking
3. What does it mean to have a special day – If it’s someone else’s birthday should Sweetpea get a trinket too (so as not to feel left out or upset)?….I’m tending towards no but I am thinking on this one.
4. Space – Is it a good thing to allow someone space when they ask for space (even if they are 2.5 years old).
5. What do I do when Sweetpea actually pushes over those banks. Life does, in fact, have rules and if you break them you can go to jail/receive fines etc etc.
6. What to do when Sweetpea completely acts out in front of other people and is completely rude and difficult.
Apparently I had a few things to say.