If you have not followed this series of reflections on parenting through my first 5 years you may want to start by reading this post . There are also my post on the first year and the second year if you are interested.
Oh the terrible two's - or was it the terrific two's? I think it was an equal balance of both most days. As I have spent time thinking about this year in both of my boys lives only one big thing has remained on my mind.
Parenting out of preference can easily exasperate your children.
I can't say I learned this with Jake. He is my mostly complacent child. He likes rules and does a fairly good job obeying them. So when He was two I parented out of preference. Of course at the time I did not realize I was doing that. I guess I should explain myself a little. Often times do you catch yourself saying don't do that (whatever that is - you fill in the blank). But in reality it is not that big of a deal that the child does that. It just seemed that at that moment you preferred them to not do that. One example might be screaming when they are playing outside. You are sitting outside and they get really loud screaming and giggling. It can be annoying so you say don't be so loud. But in reality was it really a big deal that they be kids and scream and giggle? Why couldn't you just get up and move away from the noise? Well with Jake we were able to parent out of preference because for the most part he just complied.
Oh this was not the case with Brady. I really thought at one point I would rather you extract my tooth without pain meds than me hear the word why one more time. Anything and everything we told him to do or not do was why why why. This began to really stop and make us question why Brady reacted so differently to our instructions. It also made us really stop and ask ourselves that question. Why don't I want him to do that? Yes I believe that my child should learn to obey without questioning but it was his questioning and hard head that God used to teach me what Scripture means about not provoking your child to anger. So after many tearful conversations John and I (it was me who was tearful) came to a decision that we would set boundaries for and discipline our children for one of 3 things. Disobedience, Danger/Destruction, and Disrespect.
Yes, as their mom I can tell them to stop being so loud outside because I don't want to get up and move away from their noise. And yes I can expect first time obedience and discipline because they did not obey. But it is times like this that provoking would occur. So we try really hard to ask ourselves and challenge each other to being yes parents. There have been many times that we have return to our children and said that we reconsidered and that they could go play in the rain (or whatever we may have said no to) I want them to be children and children do childish things. So if we give them an instruction and they disobey they are disciplined. We just now try really hard to rope in the amount of instructions they get - do's and dont's.
Danger/Destruction - these are not things like climbing a tree or playing with a stick. Yes they could very likely get hurt doing either of those things but that is what boys do. They take risk and they learn from both their success and their failures. These are things like hold my hand in the parking lot because you are small and a car may not see you and they will run over you. Or do not beat on the furniture with your light saber. We have to be stewards of our stuff and destroying it is not being a good steward. Go outside and find a tree or the ground to beat on. Are their lives in danger? Are they not being good stewards and destroying things? If not then we try to be yes parents?
Brady has taught me that it is quite easy to crush the spirit of a child. I know now that I did this with Jake more than I want to admit. Sometimes to the outside eye our children look wild and unruly. Most of the time we are ok with that because there will come a time soon enough that they are expected to sit down and be quiet and keep their love of life and free spirits all bottled up. But know we are not going to expect this of them except when we deem necessary. Quite often I get the "your boys are all boys" or the "man they are full of energy" which sometimes is the politically correct way of telling me that I should get a hold of my child. Even though I am cringing on the inside most of these times I just smile and say yes they are and there is never a dull moment at the Cook house. Then I remind myself that Paul says that we can not serve both man and God. If we are a servant of man we can not be a servant of Christ. And then I remember that Jesus said "Let the little children come to me and DO NOT hinder them from coming, for the kingdom of God belongs TO SUCH AS THESE."
I hope this post made sense.