You know the worst thing about disciplining? It’s not the yelling. It’s not the tears. It’s not even the behavior that elicited disciplining in the first place. Although all of those things are really awful, it is the guilt infused yelling-screaming hangover that hovers around a parent that, in my opinion, is the worst thing about disciplining.
“Mawmmy. Mawmmy. Mommy. Brown, Mommy. Mommy. Brown. Brown,” he cried as he banged on the door of the bathroom where I was trying to seek momentary refuge. Alas! That refuge was not part of the deal I signed up for when I decided to become a mother.
After taking a deep breath and checking the eye he had just swung at and hurt, I quietly unlocked the door and walked into the living room, not saying a word. He followed. Still crying.
Then, I just sat on the floor and stretched my arms out encouraging an hug. Cautious and somewhat perplexed, he came into my embrace and melted into my arms. I held him close and lovingly tightened my hug around him. He rested his chin on my left shoulder and firmed his hold on my other shoulder, also lovingly. And we just stayed that way for a minute or two. He had already stopped crying and I actually felt the moment when the stress of the situation that he was carrying, disappeared from his gentle heart.
Finally, I walked over to where I had put away his brown marker and gave it back to him. I asked him if he would like to color a new vyu-vyu (fire truck) and handed him a new sheet. He actually did a reasonably good job and tried to stay within the lines for a couple of seconds. I even had time to click a picture. Then, it was back to color saturation.
I wasn’t proud of how I had handled everything in the beginning but I did like how I wrote the conclusion of that blow-up. The reason for this drama – he had started coloring his brown marker all over the image of a fire truck, saturating the sheet and then gone above and beyond by coloring all over his hands, the table, the chair, and even stained the carpet. [I have previously written about how I might actually love my carpet more than my son].
Despite my repeated requests to stop, he had continued his crazy coloring and in a fit of rage had inadvertently slammed his arm against my eye while throwing his marker on the carpet. I had had enough so I took the marker and put it away before walking over to the bathroom and locking the door.
My impatience and imperfections as a mother are legendary on this blog. I have written about how much I fail at being a mom here and here, and in a bunch of other posts. However, I am trying not to yell these days. [This new turn of events was right after I yelled at him for locking me out in the garage without a key. Thankfully, I was able to talk him into unlocking the door but he cannot always get it unlocked and what if today had been one of those times!! With a toddler in the foyer and a napping baby upstairs, I would have been trapped outside without a phone or key!).
Instead, what I am trying really, really hard to do is:
- Stay calm even if that means physically removing myself from the scene for a few minutes.
- Show physical affection – hug him, pick him up, kiss him, caress his hair, wipe his tears – whatever is needed.
- Understand where he is coming from by putting myself in his shoes. I say this out loud to him. I tell him that I understand why he is reacting the way he is.
- Acknowledge his feelings of hurt, anger, being dismissed, or being upset to him. In other words, help me with words for his emotions.
- Try to explain in a way he understands why he cannot do or have whatever it is.
- Give him alternatives including asking if he is hungry and offering food choices.
- Redirect his attention to fun things we did that day or week or to characters in his favorite books and their antics
- Follow through with whatever alternatives I gave him or redirection I encouraged.
I have tried these strategies twice with success and I hope I can stay sane enough to continue doing it long term. None of these are new strategies to more experienced parents or early education teachers but they are to me. I may not always remember to use them but now that I have some resources, I know I will sincerely try them as best as I can.
Later, all calm and his usual self, he even put his fire trucks on the fridge all by himself (normally, I wouldn’t put these on display myself because well, quite honestly, they don’t deserve to be there – these are not even age-appropriate good pieces of art/craft. Display pictures need to be better – Yep, that is a Tiger Mom value but more on that in some other post)
What about you? What are some disciplining strategies you use?