Following Through

I’m going to deviate a little from my DIY craft and game fun to discuss discipline a little.  I’m naturally the type of person who wants everyone to like them and has trouble with discipline, but my toddler (“J”) has been teaching me a lot about it.

Following through consistently seems to be the most important thing.  You have to stand by your word.  If you say it’s time to clean up, then it has to be time to clean up.  If you say you’ll let your kid go down the slide one more time, it has to be only one more time.  As soon as you deviate from this, your child will sense there may be other opportunities to sneak in a chance at getting his or her way.

It’s hard to stand by things that seem fairly inconsequential to you, but it’s important to do so because your children don’t always know what is and isn’t inconsequential.  For example, a few days ago, J was collecting something — maybe potholders or napkins, I’m not sure.  I was okay with him doing it until it got a little out of control, with things everywhere.  It was almost time for dinner, so I told him he could only have one more of whatever it was he was collecting.  I gave him one more, and of course, he wanted still more.  I thought to myself, “What’s the big deal?  I really don’t care if he has 20 tissues or 21 tissues strewn on the floor.”  I was just about to give in when I realized that I needed to follow through on what I had said, even if it wasn’t a “rule” I felt very strongly about.

Today at one of our classes, a fellow mom was trying to put on her daughter’s coat.  I heard her say, “We can’t go outside until you put on your coat.”  As J and I were leaving, the girl made a dash for the door, and although the mother could have stopped her, she let her slip outside.  She did not take her back inside but rather tried again outside to put on her coat.  The girl screamed and fought it.  She said, “We can’t go over to the playground until you put on your coat.”  But sure enough, a few minutes later, the girl and her mom came into the fenced playground area, and the mom was still trying to get the coat on the girl.

I’m not blaming the mother because I’m sure I’ve done stuff like this before myself, but it was interesting to be able to observe it from the outside.  I could see so clearly why the little girl fought the coat more and more every time her mom tried to put it on — because she had won the battle several times already by fighting!  The mother had not enforced her consequences.

I don’t believe in grabbing a kid and forcing her coat on while she screams (unless it’s an emergency), but I also believe it’s important to set boundaries and follow through with them.  One of the most memorable things our Waldorf teacher has said to me is that toddlers don’t really want to be in charge, even though they act like they do.  It’s scary to be in charge.  Although they want their way, they also want to know that there’s a trustworthy adult who is looking after them and making sure everything goes as it should.