In case you’ve all forgotten, this IS a blog on parenting, and I’ve
been wanting to share some things I’ve learned about discipline and the
energetic three year old. It’s a good thing I DIDN’T, because
I’ve learned even more since I wanted to blog about spanking, and even
more since I decided to share some firsthand experiences. In
fact, I discovered a 4 part formula that worked – with a lot of effort
and patience – like a charm.
Amelia of late has become EXTREMELY difficult to discipline.
I’ve been losing my mind. My mother in law was here almost
nonstop for several months since Labor Day, but three weeks ago I
needed her to leave and I don’t want her back yet. (I think the
feeling’s mutual. She is a great help, and I think being here is
good for her soul, and surely mine, but she is a terrible houseguest in
terms of things like messiness and I like having my house back.)
Since then, I’ve been alone parenting for several hours a day and it
has NOT been easy. I thank God that Zoe cannot walk yet, well,
sort of. Actually, the discipline issues started our weekend in
New York. Two girls couped up in a hotel room is VERY difficult
and I had to find a time out corner. Before I did, though, I
caved and did the thing I am TOTALLY against: I spanked her.
OK, don’t go all nuts on me. I’ve read the research but I have
all these church friends who swear by spanking. (Ew.) Nice,
gentle, kindly people and I wonder what on EARTH they are
thinking. Then I was stuck in that hotel room, with baby death
traps all around me, a youngster destroying the 5 star hotel quilts,
and no where to run. So I pulled down her pants and smacked her
bottom HARD. It felt ICKY.
And it backfired. She registered momentary shock, and then let
out a slap fight the likes of which I’d never seen before, and let me
tell you folks, my precious angel can SLAP. I learned my lesson,
but still had no idea where to time out her in a hotel room! Then
I discovered a space between one of the beds and the corner…too small
for me but loads of room for Amelia. Of course, she instantly ran
out, so I put her back in with 3 pillows behind her. She did her
time there. Cruel? Oh, please. The pillows only came
up to her butt, she was fine and could have crawled over them, but she
got the point.
Back home, things got WORSE. Zoe is crawling around like a
nut, there are a million things I have to pull from her hands, from
toys Amelia has brought out to the cat, to stuff I didn’t see dropped
on the floor, to stuff I forgot about because I am so hectic. I’m
ashamed to say I was a screaming mess and by the end of the week, I
(sadly and stupidly) resorted to the spanking thing again, which again
1. Step Back and Observe
I was losing it. My husband, saint that he is, started seeing
the light of how troubled I was and was so kind to me when he came
home. I went deep, deep into prayer about the issue. I
started to observe Amelia more intensely. I noticed pretty
quickly that her animosity towards her sister was growing and when I
was available she was BEGGING me to do stuff. I thought I’d been
playing with her but now I saw the crux of the issue:
2. Give Attention When Needed
I know she needed it, but Zoe is still at the pick me up age and
has been sick lately, so she gets more coddling, and Amelia is fed
up. So I honed in on spending more quality time with Mels, and
explaining why I needed to do whatever for Zoe when she needed me.
Things got better but it wasn’t enough. Then, Monday night at
church I went to a devotional on gentleness. I know we have to be
gentle with our kids, but I go crazy when Amelia hurts me…and she
really HURTS. She gave me such a nasty bite last week that 2 days
later someone asked me what was wrong with my arm. Granted, I was
trying to clean her eyes at the time, but still.
What I learned is that gentleness is about NOT complaining, about
quietly accepting even the bad stuff. Now when I am grumpy, I
tend to howl. Amelia has picked up this horrible habit. So
with great attention and much prayer today I did this:
3. Shut Up and Be Gentle
I did scream once, but it wasn’t an easy day, so I’m going to
forgive myself. In fact, I had wanted to scream 100 more times
but didn’t. Know what? It made a HUGE difference. By
the end of the day, Amelia was not happy about it, but going directly
to her time outs. Which brings me to part 3 of my formula:
Every child rearing book out there will tell you to be consistent
with discipline. What they DON’T tell you is that consistency
means UBER-CONSISTENCY. So if Amelia so much as raises her hand
to me, that’s a warning. Then if she hits, or does that thing
where she’s pretending to play but is really hitting me (like an
intentionally too hard high five): time out. If she is playing
with me and gets carried away with the smacking: time out. If she
is trying to get my attention by tapping my leg while my hands are full
of chicken guts and it turns to smacking: time out.
THIS is what consistency means, and it IS HARD.
There you have it. Amelia, in a matter of just a few days, is
starting to listen. She’s starting to do what I tell her.
She’s starting to calm down. My loving little baby is coming back
to me. And oh, how sweet she is!