Monday, March 22, 2010

Post Response re: disciplining 2 yr old

I was perusing the boards over at Gentle Christian Mothers and saw this posters question. As I scrolled through the responses, I was in AWE of how WISE and RIGHT the woman who answered her post was. This can be applied to kids of ALL ages and parents of all ages too!! SUCH good wise words.

Original Question: "Mama! Throwing things! Help me stop!"
.. He says while wildly throwing things around the living room. What's the deal?! What's with my suddenly deliberately do-what-i-ask-him-not-to-do child?! And then he makes sure I'm watching and asks me, almost excitedly, to help him stop?!

It's driving me NUTS. I DO NOT LIKE disobedience. I'm just beginning to realize that it makes me REALLY angry on the inside I "accidentally" grabbed him by his hair today as he was running off to hurl something else

And then all the while I think he's acting out because he's terribly emotionally traumatized and somehow that must be all my fault.

WISE Mama Reply:

My first impression of this scenario is that he wants your interaction. He's basically asking for you to physically interact with him.... almost like saying "come play with me". I would not view this as a negative thing at all.

As for the "I hate disobedience" part... I am not convinced that a 2yo CAN be obedient in the true sense of the word. Obedience is intentionally submitting your own will to someone else's, based on an established relationship of trust. (Jesus said "if you *love* me, you will keep my commands" ie. submit your own will and obey me) A toddler can't possibly understand this concept, most of the time they aren't even really clear about what you want or the why's behind it. What most parents think of as "obedience" at this age is actually "compliance". I do not think it is developmentally appropriate to expect a 2yo to be obedient OR compliant with any degree of consistency. To expect or demand this is going to set you up for a lot of frustration and conflict with your child. I honestly don't believe God hates disobedience nearly as much as we humans do, or for the same reasons. God ASKS us to obey, he encourages, guides and corrects us through his Word and his Spirit towards that goal, but he does not expect or demand consistent, instant, or unquestioning obedience. You might want to ask yourself WHY you hate disobedience so much? I know for myself, I used to get angry about it because quite honestly, it makes my life a lot more difficult when my kids don't obey me. It is a lot harder when I have to work at getting my kids to do what need to be done or stop them from getting into mischief. It makes my job as a parent a lot harder... and I resented my kids for that. Why couldn't they just obey? Didn't the Bible say that's what they were supposed to do? Turns out, I had unrealistic expectations. I felt like they SHOULD be obedient, therefore because they were NOT, they were being "bad" or "deliberately defying me", and that gave me the right to be upset with them. The fact is, little ones are just not good at complying all the time, and many of them will require more patience, time and attention than others. That's MY JOB, and if I just accept that and stop being frustrated by my own misguided expectations, then I can treat them the way God expects me to. If I am so busy being offended that my child won't do what I want, I can't focus on teaching them the right way to behave the same way God teaches *me* to behave.

Between you and your child, who do you think God is expecting the higher level of behavior from? If you, as an adult, can't stop yourself from getting angry and frustrated, then how can you reasonably expect your 2yo to keep his own behavior in line? If you can't submit your own will to God in order to display the patience and gentleness He expects you to, is it fair to expect your child to willingly submit to you? Because if you are not walking in love towards your child, you are not being obedient, either. This is something God frequently convicts me of... I need to get my own behavior in line with his will before I can start telling my child to do the same. It is far too easy to want THEM to obey, so I will not have to stretch in the areas of being patient, gentle or kind to a child who is getting on my nerves. It's so much easier to eliminate the source of annoyance than it is to deal with my own weaknesses. But is that really fair?

If your child is wildly throwing things around the living room and asks for your help to stop... show him the character of God and gently help him stop. He does not sound at all "traumatized", he's acting like a normal, active, 2yo boy! I don't see this as "acting out" at all, since every one of my boys acted pretty much the same way at that age, and my youngest one will, too, at some point. All that is required is to gently go to them and help them... if it is a real need for physical activity, then help guide him into a more appropriate activity that will allow him to get this out without hurting anyone or damaging anything. If it is just a cry for attention... then do what you can to make sure his emotional tank gets filled up. Find out the reason behind the behavior and work on eliminating it and the behavior will resolve itself. This is NOT an obedience issue, it is just a matter of finding and meeting your child's needs. Obedience does not really become an issue until your child is much older and can really comprehend what they are doing. For now, establishing a close, loving, trusting relationship is going to set a good, stable foundation for later obedience. I wish I had known this when my oldest kids were little, I got their compliance (through punishments and threats), but I lost the opportunity to teach them real obedience, and when they got older and punishments lost their effectiveness, there was nothing to base obedience on. The bonds of love and trust were not there, so they had no reason to obey me.

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