If Only I Would Have Known…
That my pre-child Views of the World were going to start changing the moment my son
swallowed a demon became a toddler. Before we have our children, I think we all survey our respective upbringings and decide how we “will be and will not be” toward our own progeny in relation to how we were raised. I’m sure at one point when I was seventeen and told I couldn’t take the car out I thought to myself “I’ll NEVER tell my daughter SHE can’t go to the movies on a weeknight!!” Then we’re thrust into motherhood and the technological world overwhelms us and we’re slapped in the face every day by shared posts about how to parent and how not to parent, society’s attempt to push us to one side of the fence on literally every issue imaginable. I know since having Kaleb, I’ve questioned myself a million times about whether or not I was being a “good mom” because some radical idealist out there in cyberspace typed up this blurb that was totally contradictory to how I was parenting at the time. Kind of like how you go on WebMD with a headache and within five minutes you can convince yourself you have brain cancer (an argument for another day).
Today, though, I had a true moment where I realized that my pre-conceived world of parenting needed to change. I had a very blessed childhood – my parents were fair, I wasn’t told no to things I actually needed, we were a very “huggy” family, and I was only ever punished with good reason. I never had to go outside and get my own stick, I never saw a belt outside of the one my dad was wearing, and I never was “bent over a knee”. It’s just funny how things have evolved with this over-cautious politically correct
complete and total crap movement over the past decade or so – a generation ago getting the occasional spanking was no big deal. Now it’ll lose you your kid if the wrong Super Wannabe Vigilante sees you do it. All that to say, I was not raised on the positive-reinforcement-only theory that’s making its rounds today. I believe (personally) that praise and positive reinforcement needs to be coupled with correction, otherwise Kaleb will never learn that sometimes choices we make end up having negative consequences. Life isn’t always sunshine and butterflies – when we do something we know is wrong, good things don’t come from that in the real world. That said, I try to reserve punishment for when he’s doing something that A) he’s well aware is a no-no, B) could hurt him or C) could hurt someone else. Otherwise I try to choose my battles, because I don’t want to be that mom that just runs around yelling “NO!” at the top of my lungs all day.
But today, for the first time, my usually angelic son hit me. I was standing next to him as he finished his breakfast, and as I moved closer to him, he pulled his arm all the way back and hit me right in the face, scowling and all. Immediately, I grabbed the offending hand, poised my own hand above his ready to give it a pop, and said in my Serious Mommy Voice, “We DO. NOT. HIT!” and at that moment, I stopped dead in my tracks. What was I about to do? How had I become so blind to how we often punish our children? There I was, ready and geared up to punish him for an offense…by committing the same offense to him. With tears in my eyes, I dropped his hand and simply told him that it was not nice to hit. But it has stayed with me all day – the shocked look in my toddler’s eyes as I grabbed his hand, as I realized that I had totally contradicted myself as a parent in that moment. If I don’t want Kaleb to hit other people or children, how am I going to teach him how to do that if I am responding to that negative behavior with a “well, I’M the adult – I can do it, but you can’t” attitude? I resolved in that moment to change my parenting style. Does it mean Kaleb will never be punished for doing something wrong or mean? Absolutely not. It just means I’m going to have to do a little work to figure out how to correct him in an effective way as opposed to the quick-reflex way I had never questioned before. I realized my child obviously isn’t going to respond in a positive way to that kind of punishment, because if mommy does it, it’s just going to perpetuate in his incredibly intelligent toddler brain an “if she is doing it, and she’s my role model, then it must be something I should do too” attitude in him. I’ll give my kid credit – he’s a smart one. But he’s making me a smarter mom too. I know when my husband sees this he’ll call me “one of those hippies,” but I feel like God literally stepped in the middle this morning in my kitchen, and gave me my own taste of gentle correction.
As parents, we’re always learning. And the way that your child responds to types of punishment or correction will dictate the way you handle those situations. I have one good friend whose one son was so attached to Skittles that any time he got in trouble he had to take a Skittle and throw it in the trash, and that alone was the worst punishment in the world to him. Being a parent has a huge learning curve, and we all have to do it differently; that’s why I hate so much all the advice columns that spring up and get shared around all day every day – because what works for one parent won’t work for another. Some kids respond to Time Out. Some kids seek your approval and pride and will act in the ways they think will garner them that. Others are more defiant and take repetition and a lot of patience. Listen to your kid, realize that as they grow, the way they respond to you will evolve and your tactics may need to evolve as well. I know as Kaleb grows the way we help him learn right from wrong and consequences of our actions will keep growing with him. And in the end all I’m really trying to say is, never be afraid to keep changing. Parenting is always a work in progress – God gives us these little people for much the same reason he gives us our spouses – to bring our flaws to the surface so that we can work on ourselves through them. I’m sure I’ll start seeing more and more of my flaws as the Terrible Two’s progress, and thanks to Kaleb, I’ll emerge into the Three’s a better mama.
All our love,
Allison and Kaleb