Thursday, March 28, 2013

Childlike Frustration

I feel frustrated, upset, and conflicted.

Once upon a time, about six or seven years ago, I was witness to a wonderful parenting moment that has helped to shape my entire parenting philosophy. Family friends were staying at my home when their three year old began throwing magnetic balls across our family room, in the path of his, then five month old sister.

Having been raised in a home where that sort of action merited yelling and spanking, I braced myself for a scene. What I witnessed was a scene, though far from the one I expected. This little boy's mother, a woman I am honored to know, asked her bouncing boy to come over to her. She quietly (almost whispering), and calmly-- ever so calmly-- explained to her boy that his actions were not acceptable and that he was to pick-up every tiny metal ball so his mother could pack them away since he had abused his privilege of playing with said toy. He obliged, she thanked him, and the day proceeded.

Fast forward seven-ish years and I am the proud mama of a giggling girl (who also likes to scream at inopportune times). My husband and I have agreed that spanking is not our preference, and we are in the muddy midst of figuring out how to best discipline our outgoing, rambunctious, and quite honestly spoiled little girl.

So, while recently traveling with my dear girl, my mother was witness to my attempt at consistency while remaining calm, and she informed me that she believed I need to "be more stern" with my 19mo old daughter because, if I'm not going to spank her, she needs to hear the difference between my teaching voice versus my disciplinary voice, or so my mother says. And, after my mother cited two specific incidents, I am torn in how I should take my mother's critique.

I admit: my biggest issue with the entire situation is the fact that my mother doesn't approve, and I realize I should probably just put on my big-girl pants and figure out what I actually believe. Unfortunately, even after nineteen months of struggle, I still seek out my own parents' approval in much that I do.

So, the first example of my parental shortcoming was that of my daughter screaming in a restaurant, to which I tried (and miserably failed) to redirect my kid's attention. The screaming ended in us finally leaving. And, I fully admit I allowed the behavior. However, I am frustrated by the example because of the circumstances. My kid was tired, I didn't want to take her to the restaurant because I knew she'd misbehave, my mom decided we should go anyway (we were all on the way to the airport, 70 miles away), and NO one had slept well the night before (for a myriad of reasons). I feel like this was a low blow, to take us at our worst, one small moment, and comment on my entire parenting style. However, I can (to a certain extent) see the error of my ways and I would at least do some of this differently in the future.

The second example is what really pisses me off, because I actually feel like I did a great job of maintaining my cool while also choosing a punishment that fit the crime (and was appropriate for a 19mo old). My daughter chewed up leftovers from the scream-filled lunch, spit them into her hand, and threw them on the floor. My response was to (I felt sternly) tell her the behavior was unacceptable, and insist that she pick-up every piece she spit-out (as I pointed them out) and put it in my hand (so I could throw them away). My mom basically said I shouldn't do the work/punishment for my kid.

It's a lose-lose situation. I'm frustrated. I am sure my mother is frustrated; but, when do us kids become adults?

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