Isn’t this a pretty little chair? What mommy wouldn’t want a beautifully decorated “time out” seat as a way to firmly, but stylishly, reinforce the rules of good conduct? That’s what I thought when I bought it, but Baby took one look at it and decided that it was her new step stool. She pushed it across the floor. She picked it up and carried it. She brought it over to our big windows, so she could stand on the seat and look outside. The first time she did that, she gave me a huge smile. “Thanks mom!”
So I took away the beautifully decorated “time out” chair, which she protested, loudly. She’ll get it back when she understands that it’s not a toy. Or maybe I should have understood that the chair is not a serious discipline tool, and left it in the store.
So it is with our discipline routine. I think I’m being serious, while Baby just toys with me. Take the Sunday Showdown, for instance. She threw me for a loop on Sunday when she threw a shrieking tantrum in the Lord’s house. But not in the crying room, where one would expect that kind of behavior, and where she’s spent so much time that I’m almost on a first name basis with the mothers of other restless tots. The reason for her fit? Me. I had picked her up from the nursery, where the teacher was delighted to report that she had a good day. That means she behaved so well that I didn’t have to be summoned from the sanctuary to check her out of the nursery and bring her to the crying room. So after picking her up, I carried her from the back of the church to the grand foyer, and set her down so I could rest and organize her diaper bag. And anyway, I had hurt my shoulder on Saturday after some overzealous gardening. Baby wasn’t ready for me to put her down, however. After a brief, but strong and definite windup, she threw herself on the floor of the large entry hall and let out a peal that had never before been done in public. She wanted me to pick her up, and she meant it! Anyone who is anyone, including one of my friends from Bible study, could see and hear the adorable but petulant little girl, and pity the mama who spoils her by picking her up every time she cries.
I did pick her up—right after a brief word (stop!) about polite behavior in public. She stopped short for a second, but because I wasn’t in the mood for a lecture, I just picked her up. She stopped crying right away, and the more experienced moms nearby shook their heads knowingly. One of them is from my Bible study group, and without being mean or judgmental, she said Baby was spoiled.
My friend from Bible study is right: Baby is spoiled, but I haven’t turned her into a brat. Baby will cry incessantly when she’s hungry or teething, but she generally good-natured. I always hug her when she wants, snuggle when she wants, and try to get her to communicate all her needs to me as well as she can, so I can get right on the case. But I realized that Baby, Hubby and I have some work to do in the area of discipline. I indulge Baby on all those things I just mentioned, but we have gone through many an exercise where I tell her to stop that behavior that’s not nice and be a good girl. And she does. I just hope we can raise a child who knows she can absolutely count on getting everything from us when she needs them, whether its hugs and snacks or firm and reasonable boundaries.
My first stop is probably going to be reading this article about a new study that says spanking only makes kids more aggressive later in life. I’ll have to refute that. Mommie Dearest (if you only knew) never hesitated to hit me in public or private, with a borrowed leather belt or one of her own, with her back hand or a slipper, for whatever reason that got into her head. And aside from when someone pushes my last button for the 50th time, I don’t go around picking fights. I’ll never be the same kind of mother to Baby that Mommie Dearest was to me, but you can bet that I won’t apologize to anyone, PhD or not, for the rare and well-placed bottom swat if Baby tries something like … running out into a busy intersection. Or dangling a younger sibling out the window. Or lighting matches in the coat closet (like Hubby and his broker Malcolm). These are real stories, accompanied by accounts of hearty spankings and “I never did that stuff again.”