With a two year old running around the house, sometimes I feel like I’m saying ‘no’, handing out time-outs and sending Eva to her room more than anything else. Discipline is a major part of toddlerhood. And, unfortunately, sometimes it feels like it’s the biggest part. There are days when it feels like I’ve been doing nothing but disciplining. And those days are no fun.
Yesterday was one of those days.
But then, in the last hour before bedtime, Evalyn and I had a few moments where she taught me a few important lessons. Maybe sometimes the days feel like this because I make them like this. Because I get exasperated too easily. Because I get stressed too easily. Because I pick out her bad behaviours too easily. Because I am too quick to resort to disciplining.
Maybe some days feel like this because I focus too heavily on the negative and don’t reward the good behaviour enough.
Yesterday, it was just me and the girls from morning to night. Evalyn was at preschool in the morning, had a quick lunch and then had the world’s longest nap. So, it’s funny that I feel like our day was so exhausting considering she and I didn’t even spend a whole lot of time together. But even so, sometimes just a few moments with a toddler can feel long. So long. It was feeling like that.
From 4 pm when she woke up until dinner time, I heard myself say, “No”, “Please don’t do that” and other versions of this same message over and over again. After dinner, I was cleaning up and she was playing with her kitchen toys. She got frustrated with something and I turned around just in time to see her chuck the container of pizza toppings across the room, scattering them everywhere. My first reaction was to yell. But by the grace of God, I didn’t.
Instead, I calmly asked her to use her words instead of throwing a fit. She looked up at me and said, “Play pizza with me”. Lesson number one – sometimes her bad behaviours simply come from the fact that I’m not giving her enough undivided attention. I told her that I would love to play with her but that she would need to pick up the pizza toppings that she threw first.
Within a minute, every single one of those toppings was back into container where they belong.
She picked it up and said, “See Mommy? I pick up pizzas”.
I leaned down to her level, took her by the shoulders and asked her to look at my eyes. When she did, I said, “Thank you for listening and obeying the first time. It makes Mommy very proud when you listen and pick up your toys”.
She beamed. Absolutely and completely beamed. And? For the rest of the evening, she was an angel. Lesson #2 – encouragement and affirmation can often go a whole heckuva lot further than discipline and reprimanding.
After this, she was having a bath and I could tell she was struggling to articulate something important. She often does this and I know she’s trying to say something she can’t fully grasp because she’ll start to ramble and say, “and, and, and” over and over again. Usually, once she thinks about it for long enough, she figures out how to say what she’s thinking – even if the words don’t all come out just right. So, after rambling and tripping over her words for a while, she finally managed to get her thoughts together and said one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard her little 2 year old mouth say. “Mommy, my heart inside. God made it good. God be happy. I pick up my toys. My heart good. You be proud". Bless her heart. Lesson # 3- She soaks it up. She remembers. Every little thing.
And so because of these moments and these (not so profound) realizations that my daughter helped me come to – I am making a commitment - a conscious effort to change the way I parent. To encourage her more and discourage her less.