S is one month away from turning two… and she’s reached the “Terrible Twos” already.
Her behaviour of late has certainly been challenging, and I’ve found myself having to go into another room and take a few deep breaths more than once.
I know a lot of people use the “naughty step” – I get how that might produce the desired behaviour… but I still don’t think it’s right for us.
We all know by now that I’m a simpering hippie of a mother. I’ve all but given up on the idea of S sleeping in her cot, since she’s gone back to sleeping in my bed most nights again. I don’t care if people think I’m making a rod for my own back or that I should be tougher on her and make her sleep in her cot.
The reason I don’t want to use the naughty step is that I don’t believe S is being wilfully naughty. I don’t believe her tiny mind is capable of weighing up the difference between right and wrong. I believe that at the tender age of 23 months, all her brain is capable of is “oh, I’d like to do this/go over there/pick this up/jump up and down on this.” And yes, it’s infuriating, but it’s not something to be punished.
I believe my daughter is learning about the world, and that by punishing her for that, I teach her the wrong thing.
It is endlessly irritating that she wants to keep jumping up and down on my lap, or that she climbs on things I’d rather she didn’t climb on, or any number of other things she does that I’d rather she didn’t do. But that’s the very point: they’re things I’d rather she didn’t do. She’s not going around punching other kids or kicking puppies; she’s just testing her boundaries.
If I tell her, “we don’t stand on chairs” and then she climbs back up onto the chair, she’s not deliberately being disobedient or naughty; she’s testing. She’s putting together a set of rules in her head. It wasn’t ok to stand on the chair just then, but how about now? Is it ok to stand on the chair 2 days later? Perhaps it’s ok to stand on the chair if we’ve just come home from nursery, or if a certain show is on TV. Perhaps it’s just this chair it’s not ok to stand on, but I can stand on that one over there. She’s learning these things, and it’s my job to consistently say “we don’t stand on chairs” and showing her how to behave.
I’ve seen first hand what happens to children who don’t have this consistency in their lives, who are encouraged to do something one day, then punished for it the next day, met with indifference the day after. It’s important to me that I teach S the difference between right and wrong in a consistent manner so that she feels secure in her boundaries.
The most important tool I’ve found so far in helping her to control herself, and in helping her to learn about what is appropriate behaviour, is very simple. I’m several feet taller than S. When I speak to her, I’m often speaking to the top of her head. If I kneel down or lift her up so that we can make eye contact, I find I get a much better response from her.
And also, I choose my battles. Some of the things she’s doing aren’t so bad; they’re not dangerous for her, or likely to land her in trouble socially. She just gets a little over excited at times. Sometimes it’s me who’s the problem. Sometimes I’m just frazzled and stressed and I want her to just bloody sit down and stop poking at me for a second. That’s my issue, not hers. It’s important for me to remember that.
A post script for anyone who feels that I am judging them and their parenting in any way in this post: I’m not. I don’t care how you parent your children. This post is more of a brain dump for me, to remind me how I want to parent my child. Feel free to disagree.
Similarly, if you have any other tools for gentle parenting that don’t involve punishment, please do comment below.