Parents are pretty amazing creatures. They plan, craft, teach, guide, shape, clean, create, and care for their children day in and day out. They have to manage turning dependent little people into independent not-so-little people. Playdates, errands, school functions, extra-curricular activities, the list goes on and on. And they do it all without trees that bloom cash, free maid service, and extra arms (I had a dream once I was an octopus. It was both creepy and wonderful at the same time). Emily just read this over my shoulder and decided to illustrate this for me:
Being a parent is obviously a tough job, and the thing I’ve found to be the most difficult about parenting is knowing whether I’m making the right choices for my beauties. With Emily I was terrified I was doing everything wrong, convinced that every single decision I made was life-altering in some way. I remember that I hardly let my parents hold her days after she was born because I was sure that it would spoil her into thinking that she was going to be held 24/7. (I clearly had no intention of baby-wearing). I was a little better by the time Julia came around 5 years later, and let my parents hold her as much as they wanted, but the fear that I’m ruining my girls is always there.
Parents (especially moms it seems) are very opinionated when it comes to parenting decisions, and there always seems to be a “right” or “better” choice every time. I’ve never seen anyone sharing that their baby won’t stop drinking formula from a bottle the way nursing moms talk about how their child isn’t ready to wean (I never gave mine a choice). I’ve also never seen a post on Facebook telling everyone how many disposable diapers they’ve trashed that day, but I’ve had friends laugh about how many cloth diapers their cutie went through in a 24-hour period.
And that’s okay. It’s alright if there are some clear “winners” in parenting, even though those winners might not work for every family. We formula-fed both girls and are not cloth-diapering. I also used pre-made baby food. No apologies here, my beauties are happy, smart, and healthy. I bear no ill-will towards those moms who talk about their methods, and I don’t feel threatened by them. If anything, I am jealous that I’m not as tough as they are. I’m genuinely impressed by anyone who can handwash poo out of diapers day after day while wearing a baby that is eternally attached to her chest. You go girls.
Here’s where I’m going with this – when it comes to discipline, I’m starting to think that there’s no “right” answer, as long as discipline is happening consistently. Time-outs, spankings, taking away toys or treats, – whatever method parents decide to implement, it all counts. I’ve been guilty – very guilty – of looking at another child and thinking, “There’s no way those parents are disciplining that child.” Yikes.
I’ve come to realize that you really just don’t know what those parents are up to. Now, granted, we all know someone with an undisciplined child – someone we spend enough time with to see that for ourselves. But for the random stranger you see at the mall… the mom you meet up with once a week at playgroup… the relative you see a few times a year… I just don’t think it’s fair to say anything about their child’s behavior based on what little you see.
Our little Julieboo has taught me this more than anything else I’ve learned from her. She’s always been difficult, always bucked authority. Sometimes she likes to voice her opinions (very loudly) in public. When she does we evaluate the situation and decide if it’s necessary to intervene. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. We choose our battles. And Jay and I have seen an amazing change in the girl we used to affectionately call Dragon Baby, just in the short 5 months I’ve been home.
- Using “please” and thanking the employee at the grocery store, then voluntarily sharing her free cookie with me instead of losing her mind if the employee doesn’t show up fast enough.
- Sitting in Time-Out without screaming and without needing me to sit in front of her to be sure she stays.
- Asking Emily’s permission before playing with her toys.
- Giving up the fight much more quickly – it used to take her 30-40 minutes to let go of “her way,” but now she will generally let me know she’s not happy, follow directions anyway, and within 2-3 minutes the attitude is completely gone.
- Saying, “Okay, Mommy” when asked to do something. (Not always, but we’ve seen a HUGE improvement).
She still has her bad days, but the key thing here is that the random stranger, playgroup mom, or distant relative doesn’t have any idea how far she’s come and how proud her Daddy and I are of her progress. SO proud. So when someone sees her throw a mild tantrum and I seem to do nothing, I’m not really worried about what they think anymore, because I know what behavior we are working on and I know that Julia knows what will result in discipline. Yes, she might throw a minor rant when I ask her to do something, but if she does it, that’s a really big step for us. She might throw her toy if it isn’t working, but she will go pick it up and try again when asked – a major change for her. I know myself well enough to know that if I start over-thinking about her behavior, I’m going to start seeing every mistake she makes as a reflection of me, and I’ll go crazy trying to make her perfect so I look good. Which isn’t good.
I think what every parent needs to remember is that you really just never know until they grow up. There’s no way of knowing if your discipline methods are working until your child is fully making their own choices – in the home, in the face of peer pressure, in the real world once they’ve moved out, when they are raising children of their own. And that’s pretty scary. Jay and I believe that God calls us as parents to discipline our children. I have faith that as long as we are disciplining our girls lovingly and consistently that God is shaping them through that discipline to become awesome little people and even awesomer big people.
I’m going to end on this note – something I’ve had to remind myself of on many, many occasions: