If you’re a new mother, no doubt you’d like to bludgeon me with whatever is within your arm’s reach ~ you know, the arm that isn’t holding your baby. Not the arm that’s aching and cramping because your baby doesn’t like to be put down; I’m talking about the arm that feels like it might get RSI from overuse pretty soon.
Hear me out. I’ve got a two year old too.
I don’t think there’s a person who knows me or who has seen me with my boys (my boys! I still love that I get to say that now) who would doubt my deep love or undying devotion to them. But some days it’s hard going. Don’t be fooled by my perky posts on lunches or sweet stories of baking in the lazy afternoon. Jensen is two, and I’m no superhero. Things get difficult and frustrating around here some days.
The “Terrible Twos” have arrived in the Jones Household with more than their luggage allowance. We have leaping off furniture, shouting as loud as our two year old lungs allow, pinching Momma, smacking Dadda on the head from behind when he’s sat on the sofa, banging toy pots and pans on anything that creates deafening noise and many more spectacular behaviours. He’s also highly articulate now and will tell me when he isn’t happy with me.
I know I’m not alone and I know that Jensen is pretty kind to me considering what I hear from some of my friends. Jensen generally becomes the “Hulk” version of himself when overtired or frustrated. 95% of the time he’s the most cheerful little boy and he makes me unspeakably proud.
What is also very peculiar about our terrible two year old during that scary 5% of his time is that he will never let his behaviour spill over to impact on his little brother. Oh no. Brother gets kisses and hugs and strokes and love. When brother cries, you can hear the, “Me coming, brother, s’alright!” yell from wherever and whatever he is up to. Brotherly love is what our little adventurer is all about.
I really think that there ought to be some kind of thorough manual for parents to be, listing issues that will arise in the first 5 years of our children’s lives. You know, until the time comes that we can blame the schools and teachers for our children’s behaviour (I’m a teacher, sorry; dry humour). This at least would have given my husband and I a heads up on the “twos”. A chance to fill in some kind of checklist.
You know, one like those quizzes we girls used to fill in as teenagers to tell us what kind of friend we were, or what kind of celebrity we would most likely be suited to marry. Because when the twos hit, I felt like I was in quicksand.
Agreeing on the best way to handle the terrible twos is something that I
never even considered. We were at a loss and pretty much caught with
our pants down. I’m sure we thought we might be exempt from the twos.
I had no idea which was the best route to take on discipline. Not a clue. Even though on a day to day basis I deal with 30 children’s behaviour (or rather, I did before Jensen came along), dealing with your own little sunshine when he does something you’d rather he hadn’t done and that he definitely didn’t ever do again is very different. I tried “the teacher look” which I generally guarantee success with, and was met with a cheeky grin that made me laugh too. I tried the stern voice, asking, “Was that a good thing to do?” to be met with a, “Yeeeeeeeeesss.” in an equally mirth inducing tone. I tried raising my voice even. No dice.
So what was left? Smacking. I was smacked. I turned out fine. More than fine, actually. I had (and still have) great respect for my parents and for any grown up. I wasn’t smacked often and I know that when I was, I had stepped over the line. But I can’t smack Jensen. I’m not passing judgement on anyone else that smacks; I just can’t. If I smacked him, I know I would smack out of anger. I’d smack out of anger and never forgive myself for it. I also can’t see how I can smack Jensen and tell him that smacking is wrong at the same time. Furthermore, I’m the person who is supposed to protect him from physical harm, not inflict it.
I was lost. I decided that I had to really understand what I wanted to accomplish from discipline. I want him to exhibit kind behaviour because he knows it’s
the right thing to do. But how to go about it? Reasoning with a two
year old is not the easiest thing to do; and even though I recognise that his behaviour does indeed reflect his age and developmental level, the undesirable behaviours still need to be addressed in some manner.
I always want Jensen (and Lyoto) to feel safe with me. Not to fear me; fear never bought the best out in anyone. I want them to come to me as the person who loves them the most and who will provide guidance as well as I can in their lives. I finally boiled it down to two important factors for me to consider. Firstly, for me discipline isn’t for getting back at your two year old (although there are times that I quite would like to get a little revenge quite frankly) and secondly I needed the method I used to provide guidance as to correct behaviour, not just deterrence through fear.
Then I read about “Gentle Discipline” in a book by my childhood heroine, Dr. Mayim Bialik (Blossom, from the Series of the same name on TV in the 1990s). It sounded good to me. The name sounds wishy washy, I’ll agree. For parents who never raise their voice and who let their children run riot, I thought. How wrong I was.
I’m no permissive parent. I’ve taught children of parents who don’t set or maintain boundaries in their lives. Not fun. Gentle Discipline isn’t about being a pushover. It’s about educating your child, building them up to make better choices in their actions.
We’ve employed the GD approach in our household, and of course Jensen has boundaries. He also receives consequences to his actions, but he knows why. Each time he receives a consequence, it is fitting and logical. Here’s how it looks in my household:
Terrible Two Incident: Jensen whacks Dadda over the head with his toy (sorry Dadda).
Jensen nine times out of ten will now go over and say sorry. He’ll say why he’s sorry to Dadda and give a kiss. The toy stays removed for a while until he has been playing well and his focus has gone from the toy. Being sorry does not get a toy back, because then he thinks it is for that end that he’s apologising.
I won’t say that if he hits Dadda then he can’t go to the park, because that’s random. That would teach him solely that bad things happen to him if he exhibits undesirable behaviour. I take the toy because it isn’t being used for its correct purpose.
It’s not always that simple in our house, and in the beginning it was wordy for me to do, but we’re making good progress and we’re all learning and growing together. Isn’t that what life is about? None of us are perfect and I learn from other Mommas every day. I’d love to know what happens in your household 🙂
I opened with the line about newborns being easy. Newborn mothers hating me now, call me in two years’ time. I’ll be going through this again and we can swap horror stories 😉