Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll all tell you the same thing: Laura is not one to freely hand out praise. I’m not easily impressed, and I expect A LOT out of myself and everyone around me. And then God gave me a 2-year-old…
Granted, my daughter, C, is still very little – though she certainly thinks she’s much bigger than she is! – and it’s easier to have more realistic expectations of her than it is of adults in my life. There are a lot of things she simply isn’t old enough or physically mature enough to do yet. But, I still get really frustrated when she keeps pushing boundaries we have already set for her. (There’s a reason the Danish call this age “the boundary phase.” We just keep dealing with the same ones over and over again!) It takes a boat-load of restraint to acknowledge and correct negative behaviors without crushing her spirit or sending her into a complete meltdown.
Some days, it’s easy to predict what will prompt boundary-phase-disintegration-mode. If it’s been a long day of running around and not a lot of cuddles, I can guarantee C will melt down when I tell her (again) that no, she cannot sit in Daddy’s chair for dinner, so she needs to get down. Daddy needs to sit in his chair, and she needs to sit in her special seat. Instant drop to the floor and wail. Very predictable.
It is in times like these that Ephesians 6:4 becomes my mantra: “Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, bring them up with Christian discipline and instruction.”(GNB) If I know C is going to react poorly in that situation, Paul would tell me to avoid willfully provoking her; I need to find a way to either avoid the position entirely or redirect her so as to sidestep a power struggle.
So, what’s a frazzled mama to do? Being proactive has been my best trick with a 2-year-old. In the dinnertime chair struggle, I try to think ahead and as soon as we approach dinner time, before C even has a chance to climb up in Daddy’s chair, I hand her a drink (knowing she’s likely thirsty) and suggest she go play with Daddy in her room while I get dinner on the table. She’s not sitting there waiting on me to hurry up already with the food, and the chair is a non-issue because I’ve presented another fun activity to keep her occupied. (This particular solution has worked wonders, by the way!)
But, some days I just forget to be proactive, you know? Before I can even form a coherent thought, she’s already up in Daddy’s chair, and I know I’m about to have a fight on my hands. Now, I could still try the “redirect” method and suggest she go with Daddy to her room, but she’s much less cooperative once she has already claimed a chair as her own and can SEE there’s food so close to ready for her.
Enter Love & Logic. I LOVE this stuff. I used it ALL. THE. TIME. when I was teaching, and it’s brilliant with younger kids. In the chair situation, I could say something like, “I know you’re having so much fun in Daddy’s chair, but I need you to go sit in your chair now. Would you like to FLY to your chair? Or bounce over like a kangaroo?” I acknowledge that she’s having a good time and won’t likely want to stop, tell her what needs to happen now, and then offer her fun choices on how to get to the desired end result (that are BOTH fine by me!). Most of the time, this strategy works great with C. She’s a Choleric child, so she LOVES being in charge and getting to make choices about her world.
I will confess, I don’t do this approach well all the time, either, but I’m getting better. Practice definitely improves things! (I’m giving up the idea of ever being perfect. SO hard for me!) I know I have tricks in my Parenting Tool Bag that can help me correct C without having to do something I know will make her angry or frustrated, so I do the best I can. Somedays I just have to ask for forgiveness – both from God and from her – when I screw it all up and we’re both crying hopelessly on the kitchen floor. Here are a couple of other verses I need to print out in big, bold letters and hang up around my house:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) Yes, USE that parenting toolbelt to live at peace with your toddler, Laura. USE IT! And LET IT GO when you’ve done your best and she still freaks out. Breathe and know you’ve done what I’ve asked of you.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27) You have the power to speak good things into your child’s life, Laura. DO IT! Praise her when she does something well and keep encouraging her in every way you know how. That’s all I ask.
If you’re struggling with the “boundary phase” or another parenting trial, I hope these verses give you as much direction and inspiration as they have me. What other verses guide your parenting interactions? How do you help your family “live at peace” with each other?
As a former University Resident Director, Career Counselor, Certified Personality Trainer, and high school Spanish teacher, Laura has quite the “scattered” background — with one underlying theme: education! She writes to teach and inspire women on topics related to faith, family, and lifework. She is also a resume writer, specializing in resumes for moms, career changers, and new graduates.