Before I had a kid, being a parent was something I definitely wanted and always imagined would be a part of my life, but the details of parenting were not something I thought about much. Occasionally, I would see whining, naughty children at stores and I would say, “My kids will not act like that.” I worked at daycares during high school and college and decided then that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, because I wanted to be with my child for the better part of the day. But, the details of parenting were still pretty fuzzy.
In January of 2008, I found out I was pregnant. I was not really surprised, as my husband and I planned on having kids and we were “ready”. This was when I really started to think about the details of parenting. We decided to use a more attachment parenting approach in caring for our son. He slept in our bed from the beginning of infancy until, well, he stills sleeps with us most nights. (We usually take him to his room after he falls asleep and he gets up early in the morning to come fall back asleep with us.) I nursed my son until he pretty much weaned himself (about 16 months). And I carried him a lot in the first year, either in a front carrier or a back-pack carrier (when he was older). I will definitely do this again with our second child. I believe that this style of parenting produces a strong bond of trust and confidence between the parents and the child, which is key for discipline.
Towards the end of our son’s first year, I started thinking more about how I wanted to discipline him. Most people know that discipline is more than just consequences for bad behavior, but for those of us who need a reminder, discipline is the training that corrects, models and instructs one to develop moral character, responsibility and respect. Punishment for unwanted behavior or attitude is only a portion of discipline, but I want to focus on that aspect for this first post.
My least favorite part of parenting, so far, is punishing my toddler for poor or dangerous behavior. Here are my reasons:
A. He doesn’t always get it. Toddlers are driven by their impulses. My son wants to chase the ball he is playing with out into the street, because he wants his ball. I want him to be safe so I make sure he does not do it again by yelling, time- outs and lectures.
B. The punishment has to be immediate for the toddler. Otherwise, they do not realize that you are punishiment for bad or dangerous behavior. This has not always been convenient for me, because sometimes I am angry. I try my best not to react in anger when correcting my child, but I am human. Also, sometimes, we are in the store and he is acting like those kids that I said my kid would not act like.
I am actually looking forward to the stage when I can delay punishment or correction and use real life consequences to discipline my son. I think we are getting close. For example, if my two year old does not help pick up toys when I ask him to, I can put the toys that are still lying out away for the rest of the day and he will not get to play with them. That is a real life consequence for not picking up after himself that will help him learn to be more responsible with his things.
I feel that we (my husband and I) will do our very best to discipline our son and use boundaries, connections and consequences as our means of accomplishing that discipline. This detail of parenting is the scariest and most challenging part of the parenting experience, but it can produce the most rewarding aspect of parenting.